I’ve been away from Escondido politics for a while—family matters demanded my attention elsewhere. But, at tonight’s City Council meeting, I felt as though I hadn’t missed a beat.
The meeting began with its “moment of reflection”, that is, the assembled were treated to the usual Christian prayer. But in this cleric’s “moment”, he asked for his god’s help in curing the evil in the Mission Park neighborhood—a comment that drew my attention away from my crossword puzzle for a moment. Is there really more evil, more greed, and more avarice among the poor of this neighborhood than among Chamber of Commerce circles?
Escondido’s lead record keeper, Pat Mues (www.escondido2014.com) drew the Council’s attention to the fact that Escondido’s retention of Council meeting videos on the Escondido website (2 years) was much shorter than any other city in north San Diego County. Mayor Sam Abed seemed to agree that the videos should be kept available, and said he would gladly bring that suggestion forward at a future council meeting. However, when, at the end of the meeting, Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz offered to work with him to increase public access, Abed backtracked faster than a cat entering a dog kennel.
No, there were no surprises in the meeting. A familiar older white woman made familiar complaints about all the “shooting going on at night” and “lots of stabbing”. Councilman Ed Gallo once again voted himself absent.
The so-called workshop on the Charter City Proposal was also all too predictable. Abed avowed that he wanted input from the public while explaining that since it was basically the same charter that had been presented in 2012, there wasn’t really much need for a workshop. Councilman Morasco said he envisioned a workshop as an event in a gym, with people meeting at various tables and brainstorming, and thought that might not be a bad idea. Diaz concurred with Morasco. Abed assured everyone that he would be open-minded. Diaz emphasized the need to not only hear from the public, but to actually incorporate their ideas into the proposed charter. Councilman John Masson echoed Abed’s claim that the Charter would give them autonomy from the tyrannical State of California. Morasco dittoed Abed and Masson, and preached the virtue of a simple, short charter, two or three pages—like the Constitution of the United States. Well, my copy of the Constitution is actually 50 pages long, but it is a pocket edition. Still, I do think simpler is better—certainly better than the California Constitution which could easily fill 50 volumes. California needs a new Constitution—Escondido? Maybe not.
Four Escondido citizens were then given their chance to speak in this “workshop”.
Escondido native Katherine Fromm pointed out that public input into the development of the charter was crucial, since the success of a democracy depended upon the trust of the governed in their government. She pointed out that a charter drawn up by a citizens’ commission, who determined what was best for all the citizens of Escondido—not just the citizens represented by the Anglo-male majority of the City Council—would inspire more trust.
Don Greene quoted a surprising source, Ronald Reagan, to point out the weaknesses of the arguments for the Charter, noting that it will not protect Escondido from California’s pre-eminent ownership of tax funds, that it has proven more costly to the city of Oceanside, and that the charter had been written by, and for, the members of the Building Industry Association.
Rick Moore, representing the Citizens’ Charter Watch, stated that the Citizens’ Charter Watch sought not to protect Escondido’s Citizens from the state legislature, but from them, the City Council. A charter should include a control on total compensation to the council members, term limits for council members, and assurance that the mayor-council-city manager system of government be retained. He added that Council vacancies of more than 480 days should be filled by election not appointment. Moore ended by noting that the Council majority and the Mayor would not welcome his suggestions, as Abed had basically said that a charter created by a citizens’ commission would be different from the charter he and his council majority wanted.
The final speaker, Patricia Borchmann, dittoed the other three speakers’ request for citizen input into the development of a charter.
So, end of workshop.
Morasco concurred with Greene that the state had basically diluted the power of charter cities. He also agreed with Moore that there should be some limit on council members’ total compensation in the charter language. He, I think, rather wisely, noted that when speaking of someone in office we agree with we refer to them as an “elected official” and those we don’t agree with as a “politician”. He then went on to comment that Moore and Greene had been, and were Presidents of the Escondido Democratic Club, and, therefore, politicians. So—being a president of a local Democratic Club makes you a politician???? Of all the thing I have been, or ever will be, I will never be a politician. And, yes, I was the President of the Escondido Democratic Club. As a proud, secular-humanist agnostic, I wouldn’t be elected to, or even consider running for, any office.
Then, not for the first time, Abed drifted off into his fantasyland. He laughed that Don Greene would criticize the lack of input into a city charter while Greene was actually offering input. Note to Abed—to have input into a city charter doesn’t mean just hearing people state their opinions and ignoring them, it means actually considering their views and accommodating them in that charter. Abed then went into some sort of hallucination by stating that his “side” had suffered under 15 years of rule under Jerry Harmon and his Proposition S. Harmon had no more than four years in his thirty years of service as a Councilmember and Mayor, in a majority.
Abed then went on to say that the differences expressed in the night’s meeting, were political, and there should be respect on both sides, and that personal attacks on him and his colleagues reflected more poorly on those who made them, than on himself—that there should be mutual respect.
Sorry, and maybe this reflects badly on me, but I cannot respect someone who pays so fast and loose with the facts as Abed. I cannot respect someone that, while Mayor, thinks it’s Ok to run a business to tell developers how to get their projects approved by city councils.
The fact is, the city charter that Abed and his cohorts are presenting is a document written by developers, for developers, and of developers. Abed and his three male colleagues are basically procurers for developers as is evidenced by their amiable waiving of developer impact fee after developer impact fee—handing over those expenses to the taxpayers of Escondido.