John Franklin, newly elected Mayor of the City of Vista, can feel the clock ticking. During his 8+ years in public service, he has learned how quickly the years can go by and how essential it is to be persistent daily to advance policy.
“It is my objective to be an agent of change,” said Franklin. “I do not seek to simply be a steward. Being an agent of change is significantly more effort and more work.”
Franklin’s way of leading requires a lot of communication with and solicitation of the public to join him to create the political will necessary to create change. He said he has knocked on many thousands of doors to get to know Vista’s residents and find out what matters to them. He also gives out his personal cell phone number to be available to his constituents.
“I want people to know how to reach me directly, and people are always surprised when they call, and I answer the phone. They think they’re going to get somebody else,” he said with a laugh.
Chief Customer Service Officer
Franklin fondly referred to his mayoral position as “the chief customer service officer for the city.” During his first year as a city councilmember, he remembers receiving about 10 total requests for help with city concerns. Now, he receives upwards of five calls per day to assist residents with issues they are facing with the city.
Franklin and Vista’s city councilmembers serve on numerous boards and agencies that provide municipal services, such as the Encina Wastewater Authority, the Regional Solid Waste Authority, and the North County Transit District. Through all these duties, Franklin strives to create positive change, no matter what legacy was created before him.
“It takes courage to do what’s right, and it’s very easy to just allow the status quo to prevail,” said Franklin. “Leaders need to be courageous enough to subject themselves to the public review. Voting for the status quo so that you can keep your job is not enough. That’s not serving the people.”
Falling in Love with Vista
Franklin first set eyes upon the City of Vista in 2003 while working with constituents in Congressman Darrell Issa’s district office, which ultimately led him to make Vista his permanent home. The beauty of Vista (literally “view”) with its many green spaces and incredible views stunned him.
“I knew early on that I’d like to live here someday. I thought this was one of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever been to, and obviously the weather couldn’t be any better,” said Franklin.
Since moving to Vista in 2009, Franklin has made many great friends who have become like family to him. He enjoys being part of the community, and he and his wife have also established a small business providing public relations and marketing services for elected officials, nonprofits, and some businesses.
As a business owner himself, Franklin thinks “the uniqueness of the small entrepreneur, the small business owner, and the small maker is really what’s special about Vista.” Vista is “a city of makers,” with a focus on small entrepreneurs and unique manufacturers such as Haro Bikes. Vista also has a thriving brewery and artistic business scene, as well as a few major manufacturers like Solatube and Dr. Bronner’s.
Franklin’s Take on Regional Housing Issues
Having enough housing for all these talented makers is a problem the City of Vista shares with the rest of the region. As the push for density increases, Franklin and the city council are focused on ensuring that there is enough housing for future generations without compromising the city’s unique suburban and semi-rural character.
“We need to build enough housing for our children without becoming Los Angeles,” he said. “I don’t have any problem with a high-rise community (in downtown San Diego) where we already have high-rise structures. We want to be building housing where the jobs are centered to reduce greenhouse emissions.” The city is also working on creating enough jobs for the people who live in Vista so that fewer residents need to commute long distances.
Serving the Unsheltered
Scarcity is not the only housing issue Vista faces, as homelessness has risen 30% in the last year alone. Franklin believes that drug addiction is a significant factor in homelessness. He estimates that over 95% of unhoused individuals are addicted to narcotics, particularly fentanyl, which is causing an alarming number of overdose deaths.
To combat this issue, the City of Vista built a team of 12 individuals to form a homelessness outreach task force. Last year, this team contacted 358 unique unsheltered persons and had over 3,200 conversations offering shelter, healthcare, mental health services, addiction recovery services, transportation services, nutrition services, housing navigation services, and more. The city is also building 50 permanent supportive housing units, which Franklin said is “very progressive” in this small suburban commuter city.
However, those 358 individuals only accepted the offered services 6% of the time. Without a compulsory process, the only way to help individuals is to keep offering services and hope to gain their trust.
“We offered every service that a reasonable person could think to offer somebody who was in need of help,” said Franklin. “The question now is, what do we do to serve the population of people who are too ill to know that they need help, would benefit from help, but are refusing help?”
What Can We Do?
To support the City of Vista in addressing the problem of homelessness, Franklin has called for the public to educate themselves on the issue and put pressure on elected officials to serve the interests of unsheltered people who suffer from mental illness and drug addiction.
“It is the responsibility of every citizen to engage in the governing process,” said Franklin. “Citizenship is a great privilege, but it comes with the burden, the responsibility, the duty of participation. It takes time to engage, to educate yourself, and to speak up for what you believe.”
Read the story covering Dr. Sunny Cooke, President of MiraCosta College here for more content.
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About the Author
Caitlyn Canby loves to discover and share people’s stories. She has her bachelor’s degree in Communications, Print Journalism with over 8 years of journalism experience. An Escondido native, she just moved back from Catalina Island to North County with her husband and two children to the town of Fallbrook. Caitlyn enjoys collaborating on projects as Marketing and Events Coordinator at SDNEDC, traveling, and exploring new restaurants, venues, experiences, and cultures.