Wednesday’s City Council meeting was difficult to sit through.
The only one to speak under “oral communications” was a Realtor, David Shibley. He congratulated the four members of the City Council for “castigating” those who had spoken against the Oak Creek Development. He accused “that group” of being very divisive in the community, bringing up his, evidently long standing, grudge against the Growth Management and Neighborhood Protection Act (Prop. S). Prop. S requires Escondido’s voter approval of zoning changes that increase residential density or change residential land to industrial or commercial use. It was passed by a large majority in 1998. It’s still in force, but the new General Plan, approved by voters in 2012, is so “flexible” as to make Prop. S superfluous. Shibley blamed Escondido’s ills on Prop. S. Which is interesting, as other cities including Poway, Solana Beach, Newport Beach, and now Encinitas have similar ordinances.
Meanwhile, not only has Everett De Lano responded to the slanderous allegations made by Mayor Sam Abed et.al. on this blog., but Fred Progner and Ron Forster, have published an annotated version of their op. ed. which cites all their data sources https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6kjEpyeqigfeHh4dnU3bWF3aTg/edit?pli=1
The only real item on the agenda was the MUNICIPAL STORMWATER PREMIT R9-2013-0001. “Request Council receive and file the staff report concerning Municipal Stormwater permit R9-2013-0001. This provided the four councilmen to vent their rage (and ignorance) about the Clean Water Act, and efforts to enforce it. This permit, adopted by the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) in May of 2013, requires the City of Escondido to update its policies in improving stormwater, and non-stormwater runoff, reducing the pollution of watersheds and the ocean. Before she was five minutes into her presentation, Environmental Programs Manager Helen Davies was interrupted by Abed, with questions about how the citizen advisory panel to the RWQCB was chosen because Abed had spotted Laura Hunter’s name on that panel. Davies, with difficulty, was able to reassure Abed that the panel was merely advisory, and was made up of individuals from the Building Industry Association (BIA) as well as from other businesses and, yes, a few environmentalists.
The invective against these requirements really became extreme. Councilman Ed Gallo declared that soon “floppy haired” water police would be going around with their clipboards citing people.
Abed wanted assurances that the City was doing absolutely no more than was required. He considered the permit requirements were a “huge overreach” of the State and Federal Governments that burdened property owners and the City with “huge costs”.
Councilman Mike Morasco wondered what would happen if the City just ignored the requirements, the City could be fined Davies answered. Morasco went on to state that this was an example of the “road to hell being paved by good intentions.” I’ve no doubt that Morasco feels the well-intentioned requirements are hell to abide by. These are “unfunded mandates” he declared, adding something about the camel’s nose being in the tent. It was a big night for trite metaphors. He too criticized Laura Hunter’s position on the citizens advisory panel—saying he had no confidence in her.
Councilman John Masson repeated the “unfunded mandates” conservative mantra. What would it cost the City if it just paid the fines? The figure Davies gave him was $16,500 per day per violation. He changed the subject quickly to echo Abed’s concern that the City do no more than was absolutely required for compliance. Masson went on to make the extraordinary claim that pretty soon, when there was no more stormwater runoff, there would be no more wetlands. What, I wonder, gave him the notion that the goal of this process was to stop runoff rather than ensuring the runoff was free of pollutants?
Councilwoman Olga Diaz, spent her time trying to educate her colleagues and the public about the goals and purposes of the permit. Judging from their expressions of boredom and exasperation, I’m afraid she wasn’t very successful. She wondered why she had not been notified that the City had received a Notice of Violation from the RWQCB in February. City Manager Clay Phillips noted that the water board was difficult to work with, and the City had until April 13, 2015, to respond to the board.
Gallo too felt the permit requirements were “way overboard”. He went on to repeat Masson’s strange theory that soon there would be no wetlands because there would be no runoff. He then meandered into a story about a ship taking a year to reach the West Coast from Japan after the catastrophic earthquake. His point? I have no idea.
Morasco went back to the “road to hell” motif, adding that there was no scientific data to support the requirements of the permit, adding that, obviously, no one would purposely pollute. Abed had to get in one final dig by saying that he had no patience with people like Laura Hunter who were against any development.
It seemed the invective against environmental regulations was turned up several notches during this meeting. Why? Perhaps it has to do with that Notice of Violation that the City received. The notice listed seven properties where violations of the municipal storm water permit requirements were noted. One of those properties is located at 540 West Grand Ave., a parking lot. A parking lot owned by Sam Abed.