Mayor Sam Abed was conspicuous by his absence at last Wednesday’s council meeting. I was trying to remember if I had ever attended a council meeting where he was absent, but couldn’t. I have been told this was the first time he had ever missed a meeting. His absence certainly made a difference in the atmosphere. Deputy Mayor John Masson ran the meeting—and he did a good job. He was respectful to all those who spoke, and moved the meeting along without making anyone feel rushed, or unwelcome. The change in the atmosphere was palpable.
Item #10: “Repeal Escondido Municipal Code Chapter 18, Article 2, Community Services Commission…” on the consent Calendar was pulled. Ana Marie Valesco, Laura Hunter, Chris Nava, and Patricia Borchmann all asked the council to delay the motion until the new council took office. They all agreed that public input to the city should be encouraged, and that doing away with the commission would close one avenue of such input.
City Manager Jeff Epp said that, when asked, commission members felt the commission was not working and that it was time to go back to the drawing board. Diaz said the appointment to the commission process, a political process, was a problem. She repeated her oft stated view that there needed to be more engagement between the community and the council. She would like to see the council make the commission work.
Councilman Ed Gallo said he took exception to blaming the commission’s failure on the political process. He felt the commission just made more work for the city staff and delayed matters. He said he had 14 days left on the council. Councilman Mike Morasco then joked that Gallo would probably spend the 14 days telling a story. Gallo was not offended. He added that members of the public speaking before the council shouldn’t give their address, because once someone who spoke before the council, and did give their address publicly, had their home egged after the meeting. Now, I have been very critical over the years about Gallo, but I have to hand it to him, he is a really good sport, and is handling his defeat with good grace, and can occasionally come up with good advice.
Morasco thought the item could be moot, since the new council could readily reverse their decision on this matter, but he felt that the staff’s recommendation and notation that the current situation can delay the city’s response to problems meant he would vote for the item.
Masson echoed Epp’s notion that there should start fresh. Diaz said that rather than doing away with the commission, it should be remodeled.
The motion passed with “three yes votes, Diaz voting no, Abed absent.” It had been the most pleasant, civil council discussion I had witnessed in years.
Even though the new council is not yet in office, the fact that there will be a new majority on the council made a difference in the way the current council voted on two items. The first, Item 12, basically extended the time for a developer of a ten-unit subdivision off Bear Valley Pkwy. The developer proposes extending Lion Valley Road beyond its current cul-de-sac, into the vacant parcel for the development. David Ferguson, the lawyer for the developer, asked that the agreement not include the provision that the existing portion of Lion Valley Road be resurfaced after the construction process, adding that (exhibiting a picture of the road) the road was in very good shape. Michael Farr, representing the developers, said that repaving the road would be a burden and a slurry coat would be sufficient. Morasco questioned the staff about the need for a new overlay. Director of Engineering Service, Julie Procopio, said she was positive that after all the new construction traffic, the road would need repaving. Gallo said he liked the way the street looked, and didn’t think repaving the street should be a condition. Diaz wondered why the “Cash payment of $10,000 to be used by the City for infrastructure/roadway maintenance within Kit Carson Park” (an agreement the city reached with the developer) shouldn’t be going to the park closest to the new development, Mountain View Park. Director of Community Development, Bill Martin said that it was difficult to get funds to maintain city parks, and Kit Carson Park had immediate need for maintenance. The motion was passed with four yes votes—without any more concessions to the developer. I truly believe that if the old council had been reelected, they would have given the developer more leeway on repaving the road.
Item 14: “Climate Action Plan Update – Informational Report Status Update” was the second item definitely receiving a different vote. Several members of the public, who have been active in fighting global warming, had come to the meeting to ask that it be delayed. The Sierra Club had made several recommendations to make the proposed plan more effective. But their comments were not needed. Masson suggested that the item be postponed until the new council could consider it—and the rest of the council readily agreed.
It was altogether a very pleasant meeting. Abed’s absence made it so.