There was definitely change in policy demonstrated at Wednesday’s Escondido City Council meeting. Actually a change in the atmosphere of the meeting too. It seemed much more open to participation by the public.
There were three such public speakers under “Oral Communications” at the beginning of the meeting. One young man had a complaint about a ticket that somehow had not been properly handled, and, as a result he had an inordinate towing/storage fee, what could he do to get the city to reimburse him? He was assured that if he gave the City Clerk his information, he would be contacted the next day, assured by the City Manager, Jeff Epp, directly.
The second speaker was Michael Allen, who advocated for the bullet train, saying if it could be completed, Escondido would be the only stop between Murieta and San Diego.
The third speaker was Richard Sanchez, who used medical marijuana to treat his pain from cancer, and encouraged the council to reverse the current prohibitions against medical marijuana outlets in Escondido. Mayor Sam Abed would have really bristled at this sort of request.
Now the council was respectful of all three speakers, and Mayor Paul McNamara was willing to let them go beyond their allotted time if needed. A very different attitude than the former mayor.
Councilwoman Olga Diaz pulled Consent Calendar Item 13, Consulting Agreement with PFM Asset Management, LLC to Provide Investment Management Services and Advisory services to the City. She wanted to know if the city could divest itself from any fossil fuel companies. City Treasurer Douglas Shultz responded, that might be a possibility. Had she made this request under the old council, she would have been severely criticized for such a suggestion.
Ken Lounsbery made a presentation about an arch that the Escondido Charitable Foundation, with a grant from an anonymous donor will provide for the city, if all goes well. The arch will go over Grand Ave. on the east side of Center City Pkwy. It will reflect the dome design of Escondido’s City Hall. The council all agreed that this will be a good addition to the city, and thanked the Escondido Charitable Foundation.
The discussion of Item 16: Climate Action Plan Update – Informational Report and Status Update, really spotlighted the difference between the old and new council. The previous council had, at every step towards fulfilling new state regulations to lower greenhouse gas emission and reduce the city’s carbon footprint, made it their policy to do the absolute bare minimum necessary. I wrote about one especially egregious meeting where this antipathy towards efforts to stem global warming was expressed: https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/03/12/invective-and-ignorance/
Representatives of Sierra Club, Climate Action Campaign, Grow the an Diego Way, Escondido Climate Alliance, the Escondido Creek Conservancy, and residents all encouraged the council to adopt a plan with a commitment to 100% renewable energy sources.
Richard Miller Director of the San Diego chapter of the Sierra club, recommended that all new housing to be all-electric since the burning of natural gas was the third largest source of greenhouse gas emission.
Aisha Wallace-Palomares, a student at Del Lago Academy, pointed out that her generation was going to be affected, and argued for a goal of 100 % renewable resources.
Several speakers advocated for the Community Choice Energy program. Others pointed out that land use planning was an essential part of reducing greenhouse gases since sprawl development inevitably added to traffic emission.
Retired science teacher Jim Crouch said the time had come to pay attention to the science; yes, change was stressful, but not as stressful as the outcome of ignoring the science would be—consider how much greater the immigration problem throughout the world would be if entire ecosystems can no longer support human life.
Michael Allen spoke again, this time pointing out that a 2 degree Centigrade increase in global temperatures could mean the throughout much of the South and Southwest could reach temperatures of 131 degrees Farenheit, not just for a few hours one day, but for days—this is significant, because all animals will die at that temperature.
Councilman Mike Morasco began the council’s discussion. He had been in Escondido since 1959 and remembered days when he was unable to be active outside because of the smog, and noting that the actions taken by the state had worked. (OK, at this point I had to pinch myself, was Morasco actually praising action taken by the state of California?) Yes he was, and continuing that the city should do anything that was reasonable, and did not place a huge onus on families.
Councilman John Masson agreed that we should do anything we can to improve the air, as long as the economic benefits and pitfalls were considered. He went on to say that he though the windmills and solar panels had become an eyesore in the deserts.
Councilwoman Olga Diaz said she found the current discussion a refreshing change from the old “do the minimum” council attitude. She noted that in the past the city staff had not included environmental groups such as the Sierra Club in the outreach to the public for input into the Climate Action Plan, (CAP) and they should do so in future. She felt the city should re-evaluate their vehicle purchasing policy—certainly city jobs, other than the police, should not require SUV’s. Also, the city should discourage staff from taking their vehicles home to Temecula or Murieta. Absolutely, the city should investigate Community Choice Energy. The city should collaborate with the school districts and water districts in reducing the city’s carbon footprint. Land use issues must be considered. She noted that resisting change would result in a greater cost in the future, and their decisions should consider the effect on the next three generations.
Deputy Mayor Consuelo Martinez also advocated for a bold plan for 100% renewable energy and Community Choice Energy. She suggested that the city create a Climate Action Commission to work on the plan.
Mayor Paul McNamara did not like the current low ranking of Escondido’s CAP, he wanted Escondido to be a leader. He argued that environmental action was not necessarily in conflict with economic progress. While he was governor, Rick Perry had seen the economic benefit that windfarms would bring to West Texas. The hitch in the windfarm idea was connecting them to the grid. Perry did this by socializing the expense of that connection, and now the windfarms in west Texas were a success.
And so the staff was given some new orders. Aim not for the minimum to fulfill state requirements but aim for 100 % commitment. Do more public outreach, including to environmental groups. Include land use issues in the CAP.