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: https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/03/03/tweedledee-tweedledum-and-the-master-of-legerdemain/ . 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. http://www.boe.ca.gov/annual/pdf/2010/table2_10.pdf
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. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-escondido-pot-20180212-story.html
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.