There was a prayer at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, and I had the satisfaction of sitting it out—along with several others. The minister did mention Jesus, but his prayer was mainly for guidance for those present, and did not specify a particular neighborhood as especially evil, as was done on the March 19 meeting.
A group of speakers from Justice Overcoming Borders spoke, asking the Council to cease its program of police cooperation with ICE. They noted that this program destroyed the trust of police that is crucial to effective policing. One of the speakers, William Nava, startled me, a bit, with his claim that blacks never marry, that whites didn’t produce enough children, and so the country needed Latino immigration to provide an adequate work force. As someone who understands that overpopulation of our species is the greatest threat to all life on earth, I always find the insistence that a growing population is necessary for a healthy economy troubling. If we do not stabilize human population, and, indeed, over time, reduce it through natural attrition and reduced birth rates, we will use too much of our planet’s resources and endanger all life on earth. Well, actually, we are already doing so, some 25,000 species become extinct every year. Mexico’s reduced birth rate is one of the factors behind reduced immigration from that country.
The last of three public hearing agenda items was the Charter City Proposal. Comparing the public hearing on the Charter City Proposal, with the workshop on that proposal, I’m at a loss to see the difference in format. Asst. City Attorney Jennifer McCain presented the case for the Charter.
There were thirteen citizens who spoke—all against the proposal. At the workshop, there were four—also all against the proposal. The citizens noted that Escondido voters had decisively voted against this charter in 2012. Pam Stahl said that, if the Council majority insisted on a charter, such a charter should ensure that any change to the General Plan should be subject to approval by the voters of Escondido. She also said that any such charter should ensure that growth be made to pay for itself and that the measurement of that expense of growth be determined routinely.
Nina Deerfield remarked that the current City Council majority was clouded by cronyism—citing the closing of the Library on East Valley Pkwy, and subsequent use by their “good ole boy” friend, Dennis Snyder for his Heritage Digital Academy. She ended with the observation that they couldn’t write a better constitution for the City than the laws that have governed the City well since 1888.
Tom Cowan also noted that their charter had been voted down in 2012, because it was a bad charter.
Pat Mues queried why McCain was presenting a program about the benefits of becoming a Charter City to the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, at a closed venue—open only to Chamber of Commerce members who paid. She opined that the City should offer such a program to the public, free of charge. Hmmm. So City staff member McCain is promoting the Charter. Is she being paid for her services? If so, will the City pay for someone else to argue the demerits of a charter? The City was sued, and found guilty of presenting biased information in the 2012 election, is this not a similar presentation? Mues went on to argue that passing the Charter would give the City Council power to ignore the General Plan, and change zoning, ignore the requirement of General Law cities to have competitive bidding, change the waiting period for city ordinances to become effective, the number required to form a quorum of the City Council, change the time required to approve and implement city ordinances, and even the time and date of municipal elections. I’m not doing justice to all her amazing research, I refer to her blog, http://www.escondido2014.com.
Roy Garrett noted that he had lived in Escondido, “mostly happily” since 1969. He observed that there had been a change in the sense of community in the town since the proposed rental ordinance that had been proposed by Councilman Ed Gallo, Mayor Sam Abed and others several years ago. There had been a distinct movement to the right of the political spectrum; Escondido is now the eleventh most conservative city in the country. Passing the Charter would give more power to the conservative council majority. He cited the Council’s arbitrary closing of the East Valley Pkwy. Library as a reason that many were leery of giving the Council more power.
Andrea Seavey echoed other’s concerns that the conservative majority on the Council in no way represented the population of Escondido citing 2010 census figures.
Chris Nava reminded the Council that, basically the same Charter, had failed in 2012, with 53% of voters against it, and that this Charter had no resident input.
Patricia Borchmann had perhaps the best question of the evening—how much was this revote on the Charter costing Escondido taxpayers? At Abed’s urging, McCain said the expense was minimal at this point, when Borchmann asked the pertinent question “what about staff time?” That caused some obvious discomfort in both Abed and City Staff—turns out there is no computation as to how much time is actually spent by staff on this proposal.
Joanne Tenney also felt there would be too much power given to the City Council. Mark Skok asked why go to the time and expense of putting this Charter on the ballot again after the voters had said no. He referred the Council to the City of La Mirada who had determined that there was no economic advantage to becoming a Charter City. Laura Kohl said there had been no groundswell to revisit the Charter question, when they felt no impetus to revisit the closing of the library. Clarke Dailey asked why now? Why this Charter? And noted this was a bad Charter. He received considerable applause. Abed allowed that one applause was OK.
The public having spoken, the Council had its turn. Councilman Mike Morasco had summed up the public comments as a series of questions to the staff. The staff was quick to assure the Council majority that the Charter would not (necessarily) mean the City could run up a deficit, change voting times, change competitive bidding, etc. Councilwoman Olga Diaz asked that before the next public hearing on the Charter, the city provide background information. The Council majority all agreed that the fears voiced by the public were groundless. Masson went so far as to state that anything that was not specifically specified in the Charter, would be covered by state law.
Then something very unusual happened. Abed opened up the public discussion again. First he recognized William Nava, who had become so irritated during the discussion that he had yelled at the Council. Nava repeated the argument that the Charter had been voted down in 2012. Then Abed recognized Borchmann who deferred to Mues. Mues, read from the League of California Cities website¬¬–noting that they all agreed this was a good website, noting that anything that was deemed a municipal affair, as opposed to a state affair, could be legislated by the council of a charter city. City Attorney, Jeff Epp, actually agreed with Mues—but, of course, that would never happen with this Council. They would never change the date of elections, etc.
The last public speaker, Dan Robertson (sp?) noted that the reopening of the public discussion was the most productive part of any of the Council meeting he had ever attended. Diaz agreed. So do I.
So, the Council majority argues that the Charter will give them local control—but really no more control as a Council than they now have. One wonders why? As others have observed, the obvious answer is to bring out their base to the polls. They will advertise this as a way to get out from under the evil, Democratic state control. They will advertise it will be a blow against unions.