Mayor Sam Abed accused me of “character assassination” tonight. Well, not assassination, or he’d be out of office. I definitely impugned his character.
I spoke on items 10 and 11, the approval of grading exemptions on two, 16-lot (each) projects in the North Broadway Deficiency Area. I referred to the August 14, 2013, City Council Meeting when the City approved the petition to declare the Escondido Country Club open space. I reminded Abed that he had stated at that meeting that Developer Impact Fees were used to offset the cost of the infrastructure the new construction would require and that the property taxes are a “break even analysis”, at best.” I reminded the Council that at that meeting City Manager Clay Phillips stated that, typically, residential developments were not money makers for the City. In the case of the residential development for the Escondido Country Club, Phillips estimated that the total annual revenue from the project would be $245,000, while the annual cost to the City for the development would be $450,000. Therefore cutting the Deficiency Area fees from $17,000 per unit to $12,000 per unit would be an over $3 million subsidy to the developers of the 658 lots within the Deficiency Area. This, I added, pretty much summed up the Council majority’s position—the $22,000 subsidy for the Tiny Tots program needed to be studied and analyzed for further “efficiencies”, but over $3 million for developers—no problem! But, of course, I added, the users of the Tiny Tots program aren’t part of their good ole boy cronyism network.
Then, I did get a bit personal. I noted that Abed ran Pacific West Consulting which listed Dave Ferguson as part of the firm’s network, and since Ferguson represented the developer of these properties, Abed ought to recuse himself. A person of high ethics would recuse himself, I added. As the vast majority of the audience consisted of City staff, there was a shocked silence as I left the podium.
Deputy Mayor Diaz said she thought the project would be a good one and would vote for these exemptions, though she still was concerned about how the City was going to make up for the Deficiency Area fees. She noted that there were lots of similar situations throughout the City. Would it not be a good idea to address all these deficiency situations and try to plan how to handle them?
Councilman Mike Morasco avowed that the over $20,000 in fees per unit the developers would pay would mean they were paying their way. He also couldn’t resist noting that he found “that person’s comments” (meaning my comments,) were beyond him at times. Regarding my accusation of cronyism, he doubted “that person” even knew who the developer for the projects was. No, but I know who the developer is represented by, and that person, Ferguson, is a part of the local good ole boy network.
Councilman John Masson noted that there was a need for good housing, and this would be good housing. Councilman Ed Gallo philosophized that building these homes would provide a step-up in housing for those with starter homes in the flower or presidential streets, and that would mean more starter homes would be available for first-time buyers.
Then Abed noted that he had been submitted to a personal attack and character assassination, but that was OK. He had received two congratulatory letters from the FPPC for his conduct. Would really like to see them—would also like to see his diploma and/or engineering degree.
The saddest part, I think, is that Abed has no concept that running a “public relations firm [that] specializes in how to describe a project to elected officials and the media…” (http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/Mar/02/escondido-mayor-launches-consulting-firm/) while still Mayor of Escondido is just not up to snuff.
You have nothing to apologize about and you were right on task. I had the same discussion with my husband before the meeting and the UT Article backs you up. I too would like to see those letters that our mayor referred too.
My thoughts exactly on fees, the conflict of interest and that any person of high ethics would have recused themselves.
Hurray for you Margaret! You said what needed to be said. Isn’t that the beauty of open Council meetings? Somebody has to watch; and somebody did and somebody will continue to watch.
Thanks you Sid, Rick and Karen. Hope we can change the situation this November.