Ego, Hubris, and the curious Amicus Curiae


I hesitated going to the April 4, 2018 Escondido City Council Meeting where Item 12: Request for authorization to support filing of Amicus Curiae brief on behalf of City of Escondido in United States V. State of California Lawsuit. I knew it would be a very contentious meeting, filled with negative emotions on both sides. J. Harry Jones has written an excellent summary of the meeting and the preceding rally:   

As did David Ross: .

In the end I went, and knowing it would be a very crowded meeting, I reached the chambers by 3:30 pm—an hour before the meeting began, joining a very dear Latina friend. As the chamber filled, I did a bit of visiting with old friends, and met a few new people. On returning to my seat, my old friend had been joined by a young Latina, whom she knew. We spoke of the overwhelming majority of Latinos in the audience, when the noisy, anti-immigrant Trumpers entered with their red-white-and blue raiment and MAGA hats, and took up a section near the front, directly between the TV cameras and the podium.

By this time, the chambers were filling up, and a stray female anti-immigrant sat down in a single open seat in front of us. She turned to us and said something really bizarre. “You are traitors. Did you fight in the Revolution?”

I immediately took umbrage and said “My great, great, grandfather…” when she interrupted me saying, “I was not addressing you.” Well, silly me. I’m very much a paleface, she, of course would not have accused another Anglo of being a traitor. My old friend said that her father had fought for this country in WWII, and then wisely decided that the prudent action would be to end this interaction, and she did. But that pretty much destroys the myth that this entire immigration argument is not about ethnicity.

Unemployed Torrance resident, and self-appointed leader of the resistance to California’s Values Act, Arthur Schaper, spoke first under Item 9: Support of the reducing crime and keeping California Safe Act of 2018. (He spoke again under Item 12.) Trump was the best president ever, the most pro-life—defunding Planned Murderhood, strong defender of the Second Amendment, and was fighting California’s lawless legislation. Coal is alive he avowed, and the porn star suing Trump was so ugly, no one would want her company. He seems to aspire to be as obnoxious a jerk as his idol. You can read more info about his idiocies here: . 

Before the discussion about SB 54 began, Councilwoman Olga Diaz read from the city’s conduct of municipal business code, which specifically states that the Council should not make decisions about matters that did not directly affect the municipal operations of the city. To make a decision about a Federal/State matter was not within the purview of the council’s duties. To continue with the matter would violate their own rules. Her objections fell on the deaf ears of her colleagues.

After City Attorney Michael McGuiness explained what the Amicus Brief filing was, Diaz took issue with his comparing the federal suit against SB 54 to the federal suit against Arizona’s SB1070, explaining that in that case, as in the case of Escondido’s infamous rental ordinance, the State of Arizona, like the City of Escondido were taking more authority to act on immigration matters, than was practiced by the Federal government. The courts had found both these actions unconstitutional. In the case of SB 54, the California was limiting federal authority, not giving the state more—an entirely different action.

Paul McNamara began the public discussion by pointing out that the matter was beyond the scope of the city council, they were not going to solve the immigration problem. They should concentrate on city issues rather than national ones. This action would not make a bit of difference in the outcome of the lawsuit and was a xenophobic waste of taxpayer money on staff time.

The supporters of the action had many fantasy arguments. Illegal immigrants cost $23 Billion a year, 68,000 were murdered by illegal immigrants, illegal immigrants were the largest population in the jails, 26 Americans die every day due to illegal immigrants, they cost $135 billion. Most of these poorly informed folks were from out of town or out of state.

Opponents pointed out that study after study showed that the crime rate among immigrants, regardless of legal status,  was lower than among natural citizens. Several argued that the only purpose of the motion was to get the anti-immigrant voters riled up to vote for Mayor Sam Abed, Councilman John Masson, and Councilman Ed Gallo in the November election. One young high school student quoted Abed’s hero, Ronald Reagan on amnesty for immigrants. Others pointed out that immigrants take jobs that no one else would work.

The bright spot of the evening, for me, was the wonderful testimony of young high school Latino students. They bravely plead their case, and condemned the actions that tore families apart. Their courage gives me hope.

Councilman Mike Morasco began the Council discussion by asking that Mayor Sam Abed and Councilman John Masson explain why they had put the item on the agenda.

Abed read a prepared statement with his usual harangue about the core of his mission was to keep Escondido safe, and that since 2010, the Escondido Police Dept. working with ICE had deported more than 2,000 criminal illegal aliens, reducing crime by 33%. But, the awful state laws, AB 109, and AB 450 had turned prisoners loose, creating the homeless problem. He proposed the strange theory that SB 54 puts non-criminal immigrants at greater risk of being detained by ICE because it limits the cooperation between ICE and the Escondido Police. The fact that the Trump administration has doubled down on enforcement, according to Abed, is not the reason that more raids are being carried out by ICE. Abed then stated his real issue. A year ago he had promised Governor Jerry Brown that he would sue the state if AB 54 became law. Now he was fulfilling that hubristic promise. Well, sort of. As McGuiness pointed out, an Amicus Brief is not really suing.

Masson echoed Abed’s public safety sermon, and insisted that he had sworn to uphold the Constitution, and was doing so in protesting the unconstitutional SB 54—Sacramento overreach! He was not, he insisted, racist or xenophobic. The people who called him such things did not know him.  He was going to be building schools in Mexicali with his Rotary groups soon. “If you guys want to make it about division, go ahead.” But, he didn’t get any of that.

Councilman Ed Gallo continued with the upholding the Constitution theme. He had received many more emails for this action than against. He went on to assert that he was Latino, as was Morasco, because they were of Latin descent. (Italian?) He added a strange bit that anyone who was of Spanish, French, or Italian descent were Latinos. Now the Brazilians, he said, were not, because they spoke Portuguese.

Morasco reiterated the “nothing to do with race” chorus. Like Masson, he referred to his charity work—his in South America. He read the oath of office he had taken. AB 54 was an anti-Trump move by the state. He was frustrated by the state. AB 450 was taking away his rights as a businessman. The one thing he didn’t understand, was why, if an immigrant had been in the country for many years, they didn’t become citizens? That statement was met by a spontaneous sputtering of incredulity from the audience majority.

Diaz bemoaned having to deal with this issue since 2006. The words she had heard, hurt, but she had reached a point where she was becoming numb to the continued attacks. The action proposed by Abed and Masson would have zero effect on anything.  There had always been unjust laws in the USA, and the immigration system was broken. But, she said, the whole reason that Abed had made this action was now clear to her—he had promised to sue Governor Brown if AB 54 became law. It was a question of Abed’s ego. However, the large participation by Latinos that night had given her the fuel to go on. The entire exercise was a waste of time. She felt that apologies were needed for the horrible expense of time and money.

And so the fruitless item was passed, “four yes votes, Diaz voting no.” Abed and Masson may have been successful in riling up the voters—but perhaps not the voters they had in mind.



Limiting Campaign Contributions?  

The last Escondido City Council meeting on March 21, had several interesting items on the agenda, but the one that generated the most public attention was number 17: Request that the City Council consider amendments to the campaign control ordinance in the Escondido Municipal Code and provide direction for final changes and adoptions.

Basically this was a proposal to bring Escondido’s campaign laws in line with California’s Political Reform Act (PRA) —for example the city required all payments from a campaign to be made by check, while the PRA allows electronic payments.

Greg Dean and Patricia Borchmann both noted that compared to other cities, the contribution limit for Escondido was pretty high, $4,100 per individual donor, vs. $100 to $1000 in other cities in the county. Borchmann pointed out how difficult it was for ordinary citizens to contribute $4,100.

Councilman John Masson responded that six of cities listed had no limit on individual contributions.

Councilwoman Olga Diaz noted that she had voted for the increase in the campaign limit from $560 to $4,100 in 2013, since she felt that was a better option than no limit at all—which had been proposed at the time. She dislikes one of the PRA rules that allows up to $100 of individual anonymous cash contributions.  She felt the code should be changed to allow up to $100 of cash contributions, but the donors should not be anonymous.

Councilman Ed Gallo agreed with the changes, and agreed with Diaz that anonymous contributions should continue to be disallowed in Escondido.

Mayor Sam Abed agreed that there should be no “unanimous” contributions allowed, and suggested that the limit should be increased to $4,300 in line with the PRA.

Masson liked that idea too—we should simplify, he insisted, and tie everything to the PRA. Staff explained that the PRA $4,300 limit was specific to those running for the state legislature.

After a little more back and forth, the council voted to approve the suggested revisions to the code, with the exception that anonymous contributions would continue to not be allowed, and the limit be increased to $4,300.

In arguing for the increased limit, Abed said that such checks represented less than 1% of the total checks. Well, that’s not quite true for Abed. His Schedule 460 for the July 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017 shows a total of $117,100 in contributions to his campaign. Of that total, $53,971 was transferred from his 2014 mayoral campaign account, meaning that he received a total of $63,129 in contributions in that six-month period. Of that total, four of the 98 checks received were for $4,100—or about 5% of the number of checks, but 26% of the amount of money he received.

Abed also pointed out that donors could have their spouses or family members contribute as well, so an artificially low limit was easily overcome—perhaps explaining his lack of reluctance to disallow anonymous donations.

One of those $4,100 contributions to Abed was from Safari Highlands Ranch. Yet, I’m sure Abed will not recuse himself from voting for that project. There is no law that would force him to do so. This is just one more example of how embedded the crony capitalist system is in our system.


Abed’s State of the City


I watched Mayor Sam Abed’s State of the City address on video—going in person would mean going somewhere before 10:00 am, something I seldom do. It was quite an event, held at the California Center for the Arts, sponsored by the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, and well attended by that group of predominantly white business people.  Most of the attendees had forked out the money to attend the breakfast at 7:30 am, but it was possible to view the event for free at 8:00 am.

Police Chief Craig Carter was the emcee. He explained that when he had been asked by Abed to be the emcee at the previous year’s State of the City address, Abed had informed him that he was not his first choice. This year Abed allowed that Carter was his first choice to be emcee. When the Chairman of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce Board, Kevin Svetich welcomed the attendees, he also noted that when he had been asked by Abed to be emcee two years ago, Abed had told him he was not Abed’s first choice, and that Abed had reminded him of that fact every year since.

After the welcoming by Svetich, the City Council members: John Masson, Olga Diaz, Mike Morasco, and Ed Gallo all gave out awards to citizens who have given outstanding service to the community. They each gave out two awards—except for Diaz, who only gave out one. As this gave her a little extra time, Diaz said she wanted to speak for a minute. She quoted Martin Luther King who said that it was not the words of your enemies that you remembered but the silence of your friends. And, as she wanted to be a good friend to Chief Carter and Svetich, she wanted to remind Mayor Abed that he was not her first choice either.  Well Abed  couldn’t let that bit go by, and one of his opening remarks was that he didn’t mind not being her first choice because he was the people’s first choice—a line that actually go him a few boos from the audience if what I  heard on the video was accurate.

If you were a complete stranger to Escondido and California politics, and listened to Abed’s speech, and believed him, you would have been convinced that everything good that has happened to Escondido since he was first elected in 2010, was due to his efforts, and everything bad was due to the action of the Democratic Legislature in Sacramento.

He too presented an award, and thanked his family, the Chamber, city staff, etc. He showed a video highlighting many of Escondido’s high points from avocado farms to high tech industry.  After showing the video Abed assured the audience that the video was entirely prepared by the city’s staff at no cost to taxpayers. So—were the staff working on their own time to prepare this? Volunteering their time?

After the video Abed bragged about the economic development of the city saying the city leads the region in business attraction and private investment, citing 35 upper-scale projects either approved or going through the process. Guess that number includes one of the sponsors of the event, Safari Highlands Ranch. Abed has also received over $8,000 in campaign donations from developers of the Safari Highlands Ranch project, so the approval of this abominable devastation on natural habitat is probably in the bag.

Abed was “looking forward” to working with Integral Communities to develop the now defunct old hospital downtown, going on to praise the “outstanding healthcare” provided by Palomar West. Ah, Palomar West—Michael Covert’s monument to himself. I wrote about that boondoggle:  . The $496 million bond issue passed by voters in the Palomar Hospital District in 2004, (it is a public hospital,) wasn’t enough to build the edifice Covert sought—the hospital had to borrow another $568 million. We taxpayers in the district have already seen an additional increase in the amount of property tax we pay to support the bond, and the financial burden on the hospital made it impossible to keep its promise to Escondido that the downtown facility would be kept open.

Abed also seemed to brag about the council’s passage of the 380 unit Country Club project. Does he not remember his impassioned spiel when he voted against the project? Perhaps he would like to believe that the ECCHO folks won’t notice his sudden change of tune.

There were 723 new businesses started in Escondido last year, according to Abed—would like to see an actual list of those businesses. The old downtown’s Grand Ave. still seems to have vacancies. He went on to boast that since he had become Mayor in 2010, the city had added over 2,200 new businesses. So, how many businesses were lost during that period?

Abed said that the sales tax had increased from $23 million in 2010, when he was elected Mayor, to a projected $40 million this year, a 57% increase over eight years. I couldn’t find similar figures for the state, but the total sales tax revenue for the state increased from $27 billion in 2010, to $50 billion in 2015, a 54% increase over five years. So, it would seem Escondido is behind the state average there.

As usual Abed bragged about balancing the city’s budget, without dipping into the city’s reserves, since he became Mayor. Of course city recreational services were severely diminished and a library shut down to reach that supposedly positive achievement. Many residents felt it would have been far better to have spent some of the city’s reserves to keep the library open.

Escondido has the best police and fire protection in San Diego County, Abed avowed. And, (even better he seemed to indicate,) Escondido had banned marijuana from the city claiming “marijuana is out of our city, period.” But, as J. Harry Jones pointed out, his belief that banning pot is what Escondido citizens want is not supported by the 2016 vote where 52.1 % of Escondido’s voters voted to legalize weed.

He also declared that Escondido would continue to do everything it could, in spite of the passage of SB 54—which he referred to as the “sanctuary state” and claimed had made law enforcement more difficult—the city will continue to do everything possible, under the law, to make sure criminals, including gang members, “here illegally” will be deported. His next comment was that he would “continue to build trust with the community we serve.” So, having the Escondido Police Department in close cooperation with ICE is building trust? How many instances of domestic abuse go unreported, because the abused victim is undocumented and afraid to call the police?

Abed promised Stone Brewing Company that when they submitted plans for their new hotel, it would be approved in sixty days. Really? What if they propose a marijuana bar as part of the amenities?

When briefly lauding education facilities in Escondido, Abed gave equal billing to the Heritage Charter Schools, the Classical Academy (where they teach Bible stories as history,) and Escondido public schools. All the schools he mentioned are public schools, but Heritage Charter and Classical Academy are public schools run like private schools with little oversight of the spending of taxpayer funds. His main compliment to the non-charter public schools was that they were being made safer.

Abed emphasized only two of Escondido’s challenges, the pension fund liability and homelessness. He attributes the homelessness problem to “state bad policy”—AB 109, Proposition 47, and Proposition 57. He claimed that 33% of the homeless in Escondido were either on probation, parole or had serious mental disabilities or substance abuse problems. AB109 and the two propositions had turned released criminals out onto the streets. So, Abed seems to disagree with the bipartisan belief that the USA puts too many people in jail. He seems to believe all those homeless should be in jail. Does he realize how expensive jails are?

He castigated the state for not doing something about the pension liability.

He talked about “exciting” new developments in the coming year—the Springhill Suites in La Terraza, the Stone Hotel near Stone Brewing will become a reality, transforming the old hospital into an “urban living environment”, paving more streets, the continued work on the recycled water project, going to paperless utility billing, using technology to improve pretty much everything, and “an actual draft policy” for the business park at Interstate 15 and Highway 78. It will soon be ready for “technology companies to create more good paying jobs.” Think some magical thinking is involved in that fantasy, if the old technology park around the new hospital is any example.

Uncharacteristically, he ended with a plea to practice the tolerance, understanding, respect and love that the Founding Fathers preached, making a plea for more civil discourse. Well I’m in complete agreement with that. Wished he practiced more of those good habits while conducting city council meetings.



A Question of Ignorance

So, another thing the City Council tried to sneak by on the consent calendar at their February 14, 2018 meeting was another $70K for the Reidy Creek Golf Course. Whoa, I’m jumping the gun a bit here. I just realized I didn’t mention in my last blog that the sixteen-year extension of Heritage Charter School’s lease was also on the consent calendar. Things on the consent calendar are usually voted on without discussion or debate. Consent calendar items can be pulled from the calendar by a Council member or by the public, so the item can be discussed and debated. Paul McNamara had pulled item ten about the Heritage lease. Patricia Borchmann pulled item five containing the increased funding for the Reidy Creek Golf Course. The item 5 was innocently entitled: Financial Report for Quarter ended December 31, 2017 and Budged Adjustment. Borchmann objected to this attempt to sneak the increased funding by the public.

Councilwoman Olga Diaz said that every time the expense of the golf course was more than anticipated. There never seemed to be an answer provided to the council about what to do about this problem. One golfer had complained to her that only one person was manning the golf course when he was there. She noted that J.C. Resorts (the company the city hired to run the course) ran several golf courses successfully, and held lots of tournaments. Was the city prohibiting such tournaments? Assistant City Manager Jay Petrek told her that neither the city or J.C. Resorts prohibited tournaments, but the small size of the clubhouse limited the range of such tournaments. He noted that there were always at least two or three employees on duty, but that they were working with the city to save money, and staff was the most expensive expense for the course. Deputy City Manager of Administrative Services, Sheryl Bennett, explained this year the tunnel under North Broadway on the course had been flooded, and that had significantly reduced business.

Diaz suggested that perhaps the city should look into getting another company to run the course. She wanted to read the city’s contract with J.C. Resorts.

City Manager Jeff Epp patronizingly explained to Diaz that the contract with J.C. Resorts had been approved by the city council, and it could be difficult for the city to dissolve. He pointed out the golf course did pay, in part, for the city’s debt service on the bonds the city had issued to pay for the course and the flood control basin, and if the course was closed, the city expenses would increase. He said he would be “more than happy” to let Diaz read the contract with L. C. Resorts, sarcastically adding that it was great reading.

Councilman Mike Morasco started his comments with “[i]gnorance is bliss!” I found his comments to be so uncalled for and rude to Diaz, that I had to go back to the video of this part of the meeting to rehear his statements as my anger distracted my attention for a few minutes. He used the golf course at least three times a month. He said there were always six employees, and he knew them all. They loved what they did, and were always very cordial. He knew that many coaches, teams and clubs used the course. It was an executive golf course, which meant it did not offer all the services of a full blown course. The flooding of the tunnel had discouraged regular customers, because they did not like to drive across Broadway.

Mayor Sam Abed accused Diaz of always picking on that golf course. The city had a $4 million recreational department—why didn’t she look at some of the other programs to save money?

The item was passed with the usual “four yes votes, Diaz voting no.”

I’ve written about this fiasco before.

One thing that Bennett said caught my attention when she was explaining about the flooding, she said there were water table issues. Now just recently, the council approved the North Avenue Estates project, where the council was assured by the developer’s engineer that the additional drainage into the North Broadway area would not increase the water table level. (See: ) If the existing water retention basin is already so saturated it is flooding in the tunnel under Broadway, how can it handle additional runoff? The city reimbursed New Urban West for its costs in constructing this water basin, which doesn’t seem to be working effectively.

Many more people used the East Valley Pkwy branch of the Escondido Library than this golf course. Councilman Ed Gallo, Morasco, and Abed all voted to close that library. But, unlike many of the golfers, the users of that closed library were not part of the good ole boy network. To close that library and privatize the one remaining public library in Escondido, is an exercise in true ignorance—ignorance of the value of libraries and the value of an educated populace in maintaining a democracy.

Crony Capitalism is Alive and Well in Escondido

The city council majority approval of item 10: Extension of Lease Term with American Heritage Charter Schools at 2285 and 2269 East Valley Parkway, at their February 14, 2018 meeting, was a sweet Valentine’s Day present to their old buddy Dennis Snyder and his Heritage Charter Schools. For many Escondido citizens, this is a heartache rather than a Valentine.

Where the Heritage Digital Academy is now, there once was a branch of the Escondido Public Library. The City Council voted to close that branch when they approved the city’s budget in June of 2011.  Mel Takahara beautifully summed up why that was not a good decision: . The full study by Escondido’s Future and CSUSM can be read at: .

The vacated library branch was first leased to Heritage Charter School two years later in June 9, 2013. That was another turbulent city council meeting, as described by David Garrick: . That was the first time I accused the council majority of crony capitalism. As Garrick noted, Councilman Ed Gallo was offended, saying he didn’t sell his soul for political contributions. The lease at that time was for ten years, expiring in May, 2023.

Gallo also bragged that Heritage was the best school in California. If that was ever true, it doesn’t seem to be the case now, based on anything I find. But, there’s no doubt that Snyder, his school, and the Heritage Foundation do everything they can to promote conservative propaganda in a way to please conservatives like Gallo, as Rebecca Nutile itemized in her excellent article: .

On December 9, 2015, the City Council Majority voted to extend the Heritage lease until December of 2030. At the same time the council majority agreed to lease the property that had been leased to the Escondido Community Child Development Center at the 2269 address to Heritage, also until December of 2030. The stated reason for such a long lease at that time was: “because Chater intends to use the same lender that funded the improvements at Heritage Digital Academy…”  See:  In other words, they needed to have a longer lease to obtain a loan. And in 2016, they were able to obtain backing for another bond issue with a thirty year yield—until 2046.

So it’s not surprising that Heritage now wanted to extend its lease until 2046, to satisfy its bond purchasers. And Snyder’s cronies on the Escondido City Council obliged.

At the Valentine’s Day meeting, Paul McNamara objected to the extended lease. Why extend any lease that long, he asked. Why commit to a rental increase of only three percent a year? Why was there no consideration of returning that space to a city library? How can the council possibly anticipate the financial modes of the next 25 years?

Councilwoman Olga Diaz agreed. Such an extension was unnecessary, and eliminated the possibility of returning the property to a library facility

Councilman Mike Morasco, explained that the obvious reason for the extension was to extend the lease for the length of the bond. He went on to say that there was still public use of the facility, that the space can be leased, that the computer center was available on a sign-up basis, and that the school had made tons of improvements to the building and had enhanced the entire area.

Gallo reminisced that the building had first been a Big Bear Market attached to a strip mall, and that the city had purchased the property and put in a gym, which was still open to the public. (Well that’s true, the gym is available to the public for about 20 hours a week.) But, of course, the city also remodeled the building to accommodate a library branch that served east Escondido residents. He also opined that it was not uncommon for the lease to correspond with the bond.

Mayor Sam Abed said that opponent’s problem with the lease with was with the charter school. He asked staff if this lease were any different from any other lease with the city—he was assured that it was market rate. Well market rate less a $2,600 per month credit for tenant improvements. This will add $6.6 million to the general fund. (Well, over the next 28 years.)

The lease amendment was passed four to one—Diaz voting no. After the vote, Dennis Snyder got up to leave, Ed Gallo waved at him—as if to say here’s to you, Coach. The crony-capitalist good ole boy society is alive and well in Escondido.

A Question of Who’s Bullying Whom?

It’s been over a week, yet I still get a bit upset when I think about one women’s “oral communication” at the January 24th City Council Meeting. She spoke of her daughter who was half American Indian “on her father’s side” and looked Hispanic. Her daughter, she claimed, had been bullied by illegal immigrants who had accused her daughter of being a disgrace to her race, and acting white. She then said two sons of her mother’s gardener who did well in school had been bullied by gang recruiters. All these bullies, she insisted were now “dreamers”. And Paul McNamara, who was “running for Mayor against Sam” as a member of the Governing Board of Palomar College had declared the college a sanctuary. Of the three million dreamers only 900 were in the military, only 44% had graduated from high school, and they were eligible for Medical, using taxpayer dollars. She encouraged people to vote Republican, and not for the “traitor” McNamara.

This was upsetting because she gives voice to an attitude shared by so many supporters of Mayor Sam Abed and his male colleagues. Her daughter was bullied by “Mexicans”, how does she know they were not born in this country? Does she have any idea of how brown people are routinely looked down upon and demeaned by Anglos? Talk about bullying! Perhaps she should ask her daughter.

Only 900 in the military? Does she not understand that immigrants aren’t usually allowed to join the military, only those who have enrolled in DACA were granted special permission, in 2014, to enlist. While it is true that there are over three million immigrants eligible for DACA only 800,000 signed up for the program.

Only 44% have graduated from high school? Yes, well 31% of those eligible for DACA are still in high school. Twenty percent are now enrolled in college, those who have graduated from high school but are not enrolled in college make up 33%; 11% have completed some college, and 5% have completed a bachelor’s degree.…/DACA-Occupational-2017-FINAL.pdf

I’m sure Paul McNamara would be surprised to learn that he alone of the six member of the Governing Board of Palomar College acted to declare the college a sanctuary for dreamers.

To call Paul McNamara a traitor is beyond the pale. He served for over 27 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring at the rank of colonel. He served in Beirut, Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War, and in Operation Desert Storm, risking his life for the nation.

Throughout his years as a Councilman and Mayor, Abed has played to anti-immigrant people like this woman. He voted for the ordinance (later overturned by the courts,) that basically would have made Escondido landlords ICE agents. He enthusiastically supports the cooperation given by the Escondido Police Department to ICE, which has given Escondido the nickname of Little Arizona. He voted to shut down the East Valley Branch of the Escondido Library, which served so many Latino students. His overall goal seems to be to make life more difficult for poor people in Escondido hoping they will move away, so the average income in Escondido will rise.

Abed is a bully, but his bullying is appreciated by people like this women who spoke so vehemently against McNamara.

Same ole Crony Capitalism


The more things change the more they stay the same. That was my reaction to the January 10th city council meeting. There was really only one item on the agenda, Item 8: Extension and revision of a tentative subdivision map, master development plan, development agreement, prezone, and annexation – North Avenue Estates Proposal.

This was a development first proposed in 2006, and in reviewing its history, staff referred to tract 916-R. I don’t usually remember numbers, but that number, 916, stirred up a memory. I remember speaking against the issue at the time. That was before the revised General Plan (GP) was adopted, and the proposed project was approved with much smaller lots than the existing GP called for, arguing that it was clustering the houses and providing more open space, not really increasing the total number of houses that could be built. Ummm, the problem with that concept was that the open space proposed was over the San Diego County Water Authority aqueduct easement. By definition, that has to be open space, to crowd in more houses around that and call it clustering was a wild exploitation of the clustering definition in the GP at this time. I don’t know about the current GP—it’s so watered down that such a definition of clustering might actually be spelled out in it.

David Ferguson, the go-to lawyer for developers, who had represented the developer in 2006, was representing the developer again last Wednesday, presenting the same clustering argument. It was interesting to note that Councilman John Masson recused himself from discussion or voting on this item because his company had worked on it. Now Ferguson is now listed as a resource for Mayor Sam Abed’s Pacific West Consulting firm. When Abed first opened Pacific West Consulting, Ferguson had been listed as part of Pacific West’s network, guess that definition smelled a little too much of cronyism to last. Abed never recuses himself when Ferguson presents a development for the city—he claims he never earns a penny from those projects.

This proposed project is just east of a much older development of homes along Laurashawn Lane. These homes have, at most, half-acre lots on flat ground, on septic, in what is a 100-year flood plain. When the project was finally submitted to San Diego Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCO) in August of 2008, to approve the annexation of the new project land into the City of Escondido, LAFCO balked. The project, as approved by the City, placed the responsibility for any failure of the septic systems in the Laurashawn properties resulting from the grading for the new development on the developer. It would be up to a majority opinion of the City Engineer, a County Environmental Health Department representative, and a forensic engineer to determine if such septic failure was due to the new development. If they decided the septic failure was in fact due to the developer, then the developer would either have to pay for the septic repair, or pay to have the Laurashawn property connected to the city sewer system. LAFCO ruled that it would be up to the County Department of Environmental Health alone to decide if the grading activities put any of the septic systems at risk for failure. If the County so determined, than the City of Escondido and the developer would be required to connect the affected Laurashawn property to the city’s sewer system, at no cost to the owner of the affected property. The city did not accept LAFCO’s changes. The recession hit. And the project died.

Well not so much died, as gone into suspended animation. The revised project has a new report from the geotechnical engineering firm of Geocon, claiming that the ground water flow will not be affected by the grading, and will not cause a rise in groundwater. But, just in case, the project will have a 12.5 foot buffer between the Laurashawn properties and the new development, on which there will be no grading. Also, all the new state requirements for control of storm water runoff will be met, as well as the construction of new drains and culverts.

Sounds fine and dandy—for the developer. As Patricia Borchmann pointed out for the Escondido Chamber of Citizens, the $12,500 fee per lot for the North Broadway Deficiency area is $4,500 less that what the city staff had recommended at the December 4, 2013 City Council meeting. The staff had determined that the deficiency in traffic and drainage infrastructure needed for the six-hundred or so possible homes that could be built in the North Broadway area to be $17,000 per lot. I wrote at the time, “[s]o, taxpayers of Escondido, and surrounding neighborhoods, there’s where the interest of the male majority of the Escondido City Council rests—ninety percent for developers, ten percent for residents.” Councilwoman Olga Diaz said she had understood that that reduced fee had only been for the two tracts under consideration at that meeting. Director of Engineering Service, Julie Procopio, said that the staff’s understanding was that the $12,500 deficiency fee had been established by the City Council for the entire area. I remember that meeting very well, but just to be on the safe side, I watched the video of that section of the December 4, 2013 meeting. When the discussion was coming to a close, Abed specifically stated that the fees under discussion were only for that project, not for other projects in the deficiency area. So, it would seem the staff’s assumption about the fees are incorrect. However, the project was approved, with the reduced fees, as well as a $100,000 credit in drainage facilities fees. One of the Councilmen mentioned that LAFCO shouldn’t be a problem this time, because, after all, Abed was the Chairman of LAFCO.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Same good ole boy crony capitalist fleecing of taxpayers.