Some Observations about the Mayoral Forum

Except for the 45-minute late appearance of a candidate for the 2nd District Escondido City Council Seat, there were no surprises at the September 25th forum held the First United Methodist Church.

The forum started with the mayoral candidates, Paul McNamara and Sam Abed. McNamara thanked the church for hosting the event and stated his belief that the city’s potential was not being reached, and that it was known as “for lease Escondido”. Abed chided McNamara for tearing the city down—the city was excellent, and he had no idea what McNamara was talking about.  Abed made his usual boast that $2 billion had been invested in the city. Well, not sure where that $2 billion was spent—but it definitely wasn’t spent on Grand Ave, where 356 – 340, 249, 141, and 101 East Grand, and 101, 102-106, and 138-142 West Grand are all available for lease. With the proposed building and (at least temporary) loss of Parking Lot 1 across from the City Hall, the number of Grand Ave. vacancies will probably snowball  Abed boasted that “over 2,000 new businesses”, and “over 1500 new jobs” had been brought to Escondido. So, evidently, quite a few very small businesses. The only expansion of businesses I’ve noticed seems to be that of coffee houses—not exactly a font of high-income jobs.

When asked about the homelessness problem, McNamara observed that there could be no one size fits all solution, noting that the police were at the forefront of handling the problem. He advocated partnering with faith groups. Abed agreed that it was a complex problem, then went into to his usual “blame the state” game saying that recent laws had released hundreds of thousands from prison, thus the increase in the homeless population, as usual offering no data to support his premise.

The sale of the city’s parking lot was the next question. Abed insisted that nothing had been decided. Well, actually, the city has entered escrow on the sale of that property for “fair market value.” The decision to add 2,000 units where the parking lot was, was approved by the public when they approved the new general plan in the November, 2012 election Abed insisted. McNamara noted that Abed was again not listening to the people in Escondido, and he would stop the project if possible—arguing that what was needed was more parking, not less.

McNamara felt that the city should reopen a library in the East Valley Pkwy area, and did not think that outsourcing the library services was a good idea. Abed again insisted that the city had to outsource the library services to save $400 K a year in library expense and $10 million over ten years in pension expense. Of course during the period the city outsourced the library the city also hired new people in the city manager’s office, as well as hiring someone to oversee the city’s recreational and library services, making that $400 K savings very debatable.

Abed insisted that developers have to mitigate for any traffic impact their developments bring—yes, all of us who have lived in Southern California for more than a few years know how well that works out, not! McNamara noted that Abed and his colleagues had wanted to use the city’s parks to develop waterparks or bike racing parks—talk about traffic increase!

McNamara cited the success he had on the Palomar College Board in seeking other revenue sources to help solve the threatening pension deficit problem. Abed noted that he had been able to get the city employees to agree to the minimum pension benefits allowed under California law.

Both candidates agreed that housing was too expensive.

Abed railed against SB54, and how the city police cooperation of ICE had deported 2,700 illegal immigrant criminals. McNamara noted that SB54 did on prohibit cooperation with ICE on immigrants who had committed one of 800 crimes. Left unsaid was the lack of trust by the immigrant population that may very well lead to unreported crimes.

When asked to describe a time when they were able to bring a group of diverse people together, McNamara spoke of responding to 9/11 while an officer in the Marine Corps. Abed spoke of how much he and other businessmen on East Valley Pkwy. were able to improve the area.

Abed got a bit defensive when asked if public officials should profit from city business. He avowed he and his colleagues always abstained from any decision where they had a conflict of interest—to say otherwise was simply political grandstanding. McNamara answered with a simple “no”. There should never be any suggestion of a “pay to play” situation.

McNamara said that the solution to gang problems had to include looking at what caused the problem. He felt the police did not get enough credit for what they did. People should be given an alternative to gang life, many joined gangs because they felt they did not belong anywhere else. Abed felt illegal immigration contributed to the problem.

In summing up, Abed said he was very proud of his record and the city was on the right track. McNamara said the city had enormous untapped potential, the downtown could become a thriving community. Its leaders must not continue to regard recreation as an unnecessary expense.

More on the City Council Forum in a few days.


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