It was grand. The Escondido City Council’s Special Meeting tonight was grand. From the Escondido Police and Fire Color Guard’s flag salute to the Mariachi band playing under the dome, after the meeting, it was grand.
Mayor Sam Abed opened the meeting. After the flag salute, the Escondido Center Chorale led us all in the National Anthem. Even the invocation was refreshingly non-sectarian.
There were four members of the public who spoke under “oral communication”.
Michael McSweeney, Sr. Public Policy Adviser for the Building Industry Association of San Diego County spoke first, insisting he wasn’t there to represent the BIA, but to praise the staff for their aid in assisting his work with the Housing Collaborative, an organization that works to provide housing for people with developmental disabilities.
A representative of the new State Senator Brian Jones invited everyone to the opening of his new office in El Cajon.
Rick Paul said he was optimistic about Escondido’s future. Paul noted that he had run against Councilman John Masson four years ago, but had since found Masson to be a good representative of his district, and was happy to vote for him. Paul also said he had a great respect for Councilman Mike Morasco.
Greg Angela, CEO of Escondido’s Interfaith Communities thanked the city staff and council for all their aid for the homeless.
The final speaker, after apologizing for introducing a sour note in to a celebration, complained about the state of the library.
After the City Council certified the election results with “five yes votes” City Manager Jeff Epp presented the outgoing Mayor Abed and City Councilman Ed Gallo with plaques from the city staff. Epp noted that Escondido was a full service city, with its own police, fire, water departments, etc., with 1000 employees. The city depended on direction from the city council. Council members received between 20 and 30 complaints from the public daily, and the public constantly told the council how to do their jobs and spend taxpayer money. Abed and Gallo, Epp said, had always responded to the public, and had always been very supportive to the city staff, often thanking them for their work.
Then it was time for “COMMENTS FROM OUTGOING OFFICIALS”. Gallo began, saying it felt like deja vu all over again. He had been there before. (He lost to Olga Diaz in the 2008 election. That was before there were district elections. He then won a seat back in 2010.) He thanked his family, spoke of his 26 years in public service, bragged of balancing the city’s budget without using reserves resulting in the upgrading of the city’s credit rating, the city’s rapid removal of graffiti, and that Escondido was no longer the city with the lowest average income in the county. He ended his comments with a tearful quote about only passing through this life once, showing kindness and doing good to the audience by not deferring or neglecting his conclusion.
Mayor Sam Abed was not so kind or good. As far as I can tell, he reiterated his state of the city and campaign speeches, leaving no detail unmentioned. He added that he always was focused on doing what was good for the city and its citizens, not on getting re-elected. He ended by recommending that citizens should return to the values of the Founding Fathers of respect and love, and more civil discourse. That comment about civil discourse was too much for some in the audience who, very uncivilly, yelled their disagreement. Abed restored order, and soon concluded his “comments”.
Then came the moment most of us came for, the swearing in of the new council members. The Honorable Judge Sim von Kalinowski administered the oaths, beginning with our new Mayor, Paul McNamara, who took the oath with his family by his side. The audience broke into applause, and other expressions of approval. At that point, as Abed’s name plate was replaced by his, McNamara took over the meeting.
Consuelo Martinez was then sworn in, with her family behind her. Then the jubilation of the crowd in the hall exploded in loud exaltation. Finally, there was a council that was more representative of Escondido’s citizens. I can’t remember being around such joy since 2008, when I was in the Escondido Democratic Office with other Democrats and the election was called for Obama.
Then it was re-elected Councilman John Masson’s turn. His family was not present. He looked a bit worn. Don’t think this moment was as happy for him as it was for Martinez or McNamara.
Next on the agenda was “COMMENTS FROM NEWLY ELECTED OFFICIALS”.
Martinez did an amazing job of thanking her family, campaign, and her goals for the city, including uniting the city into one community, and reaching out to all neighborhoods, in both English and Spanish, smoothly transitioning from one language to the other.
Masson thanked his family and the voters in District Two.
McNamara began with a graceful thankyou to Abed and Gallo for their years of service. He thanked the citizens for their support. He said that the city did face challenges, but those challenges would be solved by everyone working together. There was going to be a lot of transparency and inclusiveness in the city. He thanked his family, and gave a special thankyou to his campaign manager, Nina Deerfield. Nina, he said, was the only other person, besides himself, that was certain he could win the election.
It was grand.