I suppose I should not have been surprised when Mayor Paul McNamara voted for the obvious Chamber of Commerce’s candidate, Tina Inscoe, in tonight’s virtual city council meeting to appoint someone to fill Councilman John Masson’s seat. After the way he threw Councilwoman Olga Diaz under the bus in her run for the supervisorial seat, I should not have been surprised since he seems to have gone over to the dark side, or perhaps, he just doesn’t like uppity women. But I was. Surprised, and very, very disappointed.
I watched as Republican dominated councils appointed Councilman Mike Morasco to fill Marie Waldron’s seat when she was elected to the California State Assembly. Morasco was then able to run as an incumbent two years later. Then John Masson to fill Sam Abed’s seat when Abed became Mayor. Again Masson was able to run as an incumbent two years later. And I thought, “well, at last!” The council can appoint a Democrat this time, if only for a half year or so. They could appoint Vanessa Valenzuela, who could then run in this November’s election as an incumbent. But, it is evidently not to be.
McNamara said at the beginning of the meeting that the council would select a short list of candidates to consider, after the council members had asked the candidates questions. Each question would be answered by all candidates. The candidates would each begin with an opening statement. Each council member could nominate one or more candidates for the short list, and a second by one other member would put that candidate on the short list.
The questions did not go as smoothly as could be desired. For some reason Nicole Downey was not able to be on screen, they were able to get her voice heard, so we could hear her answers. Usually the audio was not in sync with the picture. Jeff Griffith looked as though we were seeing him in a fun-house mirror. But, considering the difficulty of putting such a virtual session together, it really went pretty well.
Altogether there were nine candidates who had applied for the vacant council seat, including three perennial candidates, Nicole Downey, Jeff Griffith, and Rick Paul. The candidates all seemed well qualified, well except for the naval officer who is still in active service in the Navy and living for the nonce in Florida.
I thought Councilman Mike Morasco’s question as to what each candidate felt was a more important quality in serving on the council, articulating their ideas or listening to others, was a unique and excellent question. One of the candidates, Scotti Lombardi, said jokingly he loved answering trick questions. But all of the candidates emphasized that both abilities were pretty essential. They all liked the direction the current council was taking the city, but also all recognized that the Covid 19 pandemic would make keeping the city going very difficult.
Five applicants made the short list, Barbara Aguilar, Inscoe, Lombardi, Paul, and Valenzuela. Then McNamara asked if any council member wanted to nominate a candidate to fill the seat. Councilwoman Consuelo Martinez nominated Valenzuela, and Diaz seconded the motion. That’s when my jaw dropped. Martinez and Diaz both vote yea and McNamara and Morasco voted nae. Then Morasco, of course, nominated Inscoe, and again the vote was split in the expected (newly expected by me) way.
Diaz came up with what could have provided a compromise, suggesting that perhaps at the May meeting, the council could vote for the five on the short list by ranked voting—that is, they would show their first, second and maybe third choice for the seat. But McNamara didn’t like that idea, and neither did Morasco. I guess they think they can convince Martinez’ or Diaz’ to vote for Inscoe. Have to admit, Inscoe seemed very nice, far from uppity. But, I hope Martinez and Diaz will hold strong. .And that’s the way it was left. It will be taken up again at the May 6th meeting.
I suppose it is all pretty minor in the scope of today’s overwhelming Covid disaster. Frankly I’m surprised that many people would volunteer for what will, I’m sure, turn out to be a difficult if not impossible job. Since Escondido depends on sales tax, which, except for groceries, gas, and other essential businesses, has pretty much dried up as a source of revenue. Things are going to be very tough. I think having a financial expertise like Valenzuela’s would be very helpful at this time.