In my last blog about the new theater, I said it was on the corner of Grand and Kalmia–it is, as anyone, including me, should know, on the corner of Grand and Juniper.
Last night’s council meeting was a bit of a love fest. Mayor Sam Abed was present, and was very pleasant. He seems to have accepted his loss.
There were two short-form rent review hearings for mobilehome parks, and the second for the Sundance Mobilehome Park was the one item on the agenda on which there was some conflict.
I have written about the way mobilehome owners in Sundance have had to absorb the park owners’ legal costs for the long-form rent review process, as well as the owners’ increased property tax. The combined long-form rent review increases averaged almost $300. For seniors on fixed incomes this is a large chunk out of their incomes. https://ablueviewescondido.com/2016/08/04/another-major-rent-increase-for-sundance-mobilehome-park-tenants/
This rent review meeting was a bit unusual, as 11 of the 21 mobilehome owners (under rent control provisions of Prop. K) were present to object to the proposed new rent increase of an average $36.54 per unit. Having a majority of the mobilehome owners present to object to the space rent increase meant the council could reject the proposed rent increase.
The owner’s representative, Jeff Fisher, said he would like some verification of the presence of that many mobilehome owners.
Diaz noted the owners had already experienced traumatic rent increases. She again expressed her belief that the situation of the park owner’s property rights versus the rights of the owners of mobilehomes (homes that aren’t really mobile) presented a very difficult conflict.
Representing the mobilehome owners, Bob Wise quoted from the preamble of the Constitution, and stated his belief that the park owners were misusing Prop. K, to the point of elder abuse, cruel and unusual treatment, etc. He listed many ongoing problems with the park’s maintenance, and noted that the park owners had been required by the city to obtain four retro permits (permits for work that was done without prior required permits from the city.)
Councilman Mike Morasco asked Fisher why the park hadn’t obtained permits before doing the work. Fisher hemmed and hawed and said he didn’t have those details. Morasco scolded Fisher, noting that the time to have that information was at the present meeting.
Another mobilehome owner Susie Clark, who is a Realtor specializing in mobilehomes spoke. She had sent copies of mobilehome Multiple Listing Service information to the council, and emphasized the fact that the space rent in Sundance was around $100 more than the average space rent in Escondido parks.
Abed asked City Attorney Michael McGuiness to clarify what the council could do under Prop. K. McGuiness said the council could reject the request, or lower the amount of increase requested.
Morasco noted that a rejection or lowering the rent increase could trigger the park owner seeking a long-form rent increase. McGuiness said the owner could also try another short-form application. Morasco said he feared that a long-form rent increase process would likely be more costly to everyone concerned.
Councilman Ed Gallo said it was, and always had been, the nicest mobilehome park in Escondido.
Diaz thanked Morasco for reminding Fisher that he should have been prepared. She agreed that the short-form process was quicker, but the long form was more transparent even though there might be a greater risk to the mobilehome owners. The long-form process could clear the air.
Deputy Mayor John Masson agreed that Sundance was one of the nicest parks.
Abed repeated Morasco’s refrain about the long-form being more costly.
The rent increase was approved by “three yes votes, Gallo and Diaz voting no.”
The highlight of the meeting was item 13: “Conditional use permit, master and precise development plan and demo permit for 301 and 309 East Grand Ave.” That is, the remodeling of the old Ritz Theater, and the demolition and reconstruction of the building on the corner of Grand and Kalmia into a performance arts complex. John Masson’s company is involved in the project, so he recused himself from the discussion. Well, not so much a discussion as a celebration of the project.
The old Ritz movie theater was opened in 1937, and has a history that is typical of many such theaters, including a short stint (1972-1976) as the notorious Pussycat Theater. I didn’t move to Escondido until 1980—but the Pussycat reputation was still present. Morasco, who grew up in Escondido, said he couldn’t count the number of pairs of shoes he had lost going to the theater. (Referring to the sticky floors.) The city has done a nice job of recapping the history. https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/agendas/Council/2018/12-05-18CCAgendaPacket.pdf (Go to page 54.)
The project is being developed by the New Vintage Church, and there will be some religious services in the building, hence the need for a CPU. But, everyone who communicated with the council was positive about the project. Every public speaker from the head of the Chamber of Commerce to the folks at the next-door Patio Playhouse were elated. Both Gallo and Abed said it was a great way to end their time on the council.
I have to agree with Gallo and Abed for a change. This will be a great improvement to Grand Ave. I think Grand Ave. and the old neighborhood to its south, are Escondido’s greatest jewels.
It was another, for the most part, very pleasant meeting.
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.
I have written before that Trump supporters tend to be authoritarian. https://ablueviewescondido.com/2018/06/12/be-afraid-be-very-afraid-of-authoritarians-who-stir-up-fear-and-hatred/ His supporters are likely to choose the first answer in four questions about child rearing. “…whether it is more important to raise a child to be (1)respectful or independent; (2)obedient or self-reliant; (3)well-behaved or considerate; and (4)well-mannered or curious.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201702/childrearing-beliefs-were-best-predictor-trump-support I was responding to a piece that Abed had written for the Times Advocate. https://www.times-advocate.com/articles/dont-make-californias-mistake-and-become-a-sanctuary-state/ I noted that Abed was using the tool of fear, because research has shown that fear brings out the latent authoritarian tendencies in people. https://www.vox.com/2016/3/1/11127424/trump-authoritarianism
Now President Trump is using that same fear-mongering tactic with his ridiculous response to the “caravan” of Hondurans seeking refuge. He is sending over 5,000 troops to the border to “protect us” from these refugees—people fleeing violence and grinding poverty, coming together for protection—an alternative from being at the mercy of the infamous “coyotes”. Refugees of unarmed men, women and lots of children. A caravan about 1,000 miles from our southern border. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/24/caravan-migrants-what-is-it-where-from-guatemala-honduras-immigrants-mexico Now, there may be as many as 7,000 people in this caravan. If it’s like a similar caravan in April only about a third will actually reach our border. And even if all 7000 should reach our border and ask for asylum or enter illegally—it will be a small fraction of the almost 400K immigrants detained at our border between October, 2017 and September, 2018 without any assistance from the military. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/26/world/americas/what-is-migrant-caravan-facts-history.html Yesterday, Trump threatened as many as 15,000 troops. What a waste of taxpayer money! The military assessment of the so-called threat is that it’s not really a threat. The military does seem to worry about the “[e]stimated 200 unregulated armed militia members currently operating along the southwest border. Reported incidents of unregulated militias stealing National Guard equipment during deployments. They operate under the guise of citizen patrols supporting CBP [Customs and Border Protection] primarily between POEs [Points of Entry]”. https://www.newsweek.com/trump-administration-migrant-caravan-border-troops-1196855
Trump wants to stir up the fear, get the authoritarians to vote. There are “unknown Middle Easterners” in the Caravan, Trump insists—without any proof at all. There’s absolutely no proof that anyone is funding or organizing the group other than Hondurans, but Trump allies would have you believe that it is the evil George Soros behind it all. He blames the Democrats for not passing immigration reform, even though the Republicans have controlled Congress since he’s been in office. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/five-myths-about-honduran-caravan-debunked-n922806 Trump wants people to fear immigrants as criminals, even though study after study indicates that the crime rate is lower among immigrants here documented or undocumented. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-trump-immigration-murders-20181102-story.html?fbclid=IwAR0kWmpQJaoW19GUOkWVpRB-XObzGJADF-ZR9Qy-U7KkcZeJAECfbyligBM
Congressman Duncan Hunter is now joining in the fear mongering with his disgusting assault on Ammar Campa-Najjar. Even the far-from liberal San Diego Union Tribune has found Hunter’s ads distasteful. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/opinion/editorials/sd-ed-50-district-duncan-hunter-campa-najjar-utak-20180928-story.html That paper has published an article that explains Campa-Najjar’s history, and endorses him. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-me-najjar-family-history-20181030-story.html But Hunter is just following the lead of Trump—make people afraid, get the authoritarian vote out, trying to visit the sins of a grandfather (who died sixteen years before Campa-Najjar was born) on the grandson.
Abed, Trump, Hunter are all using the tool of making people fearful, to bring out the vote of their authoritarian supporters. I can only hope that a majority of our citizens can see this ruse for what it is, a phony threat created by leaders afraid of losing votes.
The city’s statement on this indicates that the trees were disrupting the concrete around them. The site of those beautiful trees being cut down enraged me, and I overreacted. I have never claimed to be a journalist, but I do try to be factual. I was wrong in my conclusions about this instance.
So, I was accused of being mental because I reacted (OK overreacted) to the cutting down the trees around the fountain at Escondido City Hall. Now, I’ve attended most of the city council meetings during the last year, and I do not remember, ever, any discussion of removing those trees. And I do remember times when the cones of those Podocarpus were underfoot and making stains on the sidewalk. But a danger to the public? Couldn’t the sidewalks be swept daily during the month or so they drop their cones for less than the cost of removing the perfectly healthy, robust trees? Trees that shade the fountain and absorb carbon dioxide?
Now, according to John Masson, those trees were removed due to the request of the city staff for “maintenance and safety”. Somehow, this, to me, represented the general attitude of the current city council and their reaction to anything that would enhance the environment or art or culture. Cut them down. They’re making a mess! Close the library, it costs too much money, and it mainly only serves brown people. And our voters don’t like brown people—who speak Spanish. Outsource the library—the library staff cost too much money, and we can hire two people to help out our buddy the City Manager, ex-City Attorney Jeff Epp by hiring two more people in his department. Never mind that he is already highly paid. https://www.californiacitynews.org/2016/07/californias-top-paid-city-managers.html
The city has outsourced the maintenance of its parks, to its detriment. I remember when my son played soccer 30 year ago in Kit Carson Park. It was lovely. The city cared about its parks. Now they’re a mess. I remember when going to the library was a pleasure, where people could relax and study. The library has lost over 200 years of library experience. I mentioned that to Councilman John Masson, and he shrugged his shoulders. Had I told him the city had lost 200 years of police experience, he would have reacted with alarm. That’s the current city council’s blighted values. They seem to have forgotten the truth that was realized in the 19th Century, that schools are cheaper than jails. They are all for removing graffiti without addressing the underlying cause of graffiti. They are penny wise and pound foolish.
Mayor Sam Abed has a business called Pacific West Consulting that “specializes in how to describe a project to elected officials and the media.” http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sdut-escondido-mayor-launches-consulting-firm-2013mar02-story.html He see no conflict of interest. He finds no problem accepting contributions from developers and then voting for their projects. It is all perfectly legal, but moral?
Children love the fountain at the Escondido City Hall. The trees provided shade over that fountain. The majority of children playing there are brown. Masson said the decision to cut down the trees was driven by staff. Maybe, but a staff employed by a mayor and city council who have often voted to make life more difficult for brown people who also speak Spanish. Those who are anti-immigrant, who support the current council majority, don’t differentiate between immigrants with green cards and those undocumented. I have observed their behavior. They object to brown people speaking Spanish. Those are the people to whom Abed et al. want to appeal. That’s why they join with Trump’s suit against California’s SB 54—another boondoggle waste of city money. https://ablueviewescondido.com/2018/04/11/ego-hubris-and-the-curious-amicus-curiae/
That’s what is dividing Escondido, the good ole boy network that stirs up anti-immigrant passion to stay in office and continue their pay-to-play politics, and the rest of the city. Not to see this truth is what is “mental”.
I am posting, in its entirety, without any editing, the following article from the October/November issue of Alianza North County. This makes clear what many of us have known about Mayor Sam Abed for a long time. I am doing this with permission from the editor of Alianza North County.
My Meeting with Sam Abed
October 9, 2018
Most people in Escondido are not required to meet with the mayor. I had to and was outraged. The following account is all from one meeting with Sam Abed. It gives you a good idea of who he is and what drives his policies.
As the local arts agency representative, my task was to present data about cultural tourism in Escondido and North County.
At the start of my meeting with Mayor Abed, he told me right off…My first priority as mayor is my personal finances.
I could not believe he said that out loud. The mayor’s priority was his own personal finances… Is he serious? Our tax dollars go to serve him?
A Vacant Building on Grand
Prior to this meeting, when I was operating the city’s art gallery, a fellow came in who said he was a friend of Councilmember Abed. He said Abed told him a hotel was coming to downtown Escondido, so he was going to buy the building where the city gallery was located, then triple the rent…so he could make a lot of money. Well, it turns out the city gallery, the gallery that belongs to all the citizens of Escondido, couldn’t pay the high rent Abed’s friend wanted, so it was forced out.
It turns out no one else could pay his rent either (three times the market rate). Thus, the building still sits vacant, as it has for the past eight years. This vacant building on Grand Avenue was brought to you by the man who is all about his own personal finances.
Does not believe in public education or public libraries
More shocking statements from the meeting: Abed said, I don’t believe the government should sponsor public education or libraries.
Again, I was shocked by what I was hearing. Whoa…he doesn’t believe in public education? The government should not fund public education? Why? Isn’t this a really fundamental thing and a basic tenet of American democracy? In what century is this guy living? Does he only want certain people to have education or access to education?
It seems Abed’s philosophy is in direct conflict with what Horace Mann, the father of public education believed, and what most Americans believe: Mann hoped that by bringing all children of all classes together, they could have a common learning experience. This would also give an opportunity to the less fortunate to advance in the social scale and education would “equalize the conditions of men.” Moreover, it was viewed also as a road to social advancement by the early labor movement and as a goal of having common schools.
Luckily, as mayor of Escondido, Sam Abed has not been able to close our public schools, but the library in an economically depressed part of town was permanently closed.
(Editor’s note: This piece was written before the Escondido Library was privatized.)
Opposed to Women in the Workplace
Another quote from Abed…I don’t think women should work.
I could not believe it. He had just been elected mayor and seemed almost high on power. I don’t know why he chose to tell me that. Was I supposed to be intimidated? It was not a surprise to me (after this meeting) when the mayor took office and got rid of the two high-ranking females at the City. He also immediately cut funding for female run non-profits in the city providing services to the community.
Despite Abed’s opinion, it has been illegal to discriminate against a person because of their gender for several years now. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
As an aside, if you have been the subject of discrimination by people like Abed you might be interested in reading a speech by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard which raised the issues of “sexism and misogyny” in a government. She also started the Global Partnership for Education Institute, which offers advice on how women and girls can overcome discrimination based on Gillard’s own experiences of gender discrimination. Gillard was the first and, to date, only woman to hold the positions of Deputy Prime Minister, Prime Minister, and leader of a major party in Australia.
Open Space and “Nature” are not a priority
During this first meeting, Abed continued to talk about his dislike of “open space.” If you see him, please ask Mayor Abed about “nature” or “open space.” It will be an eye opener, especially in North County where we love our vistas, vegetables, farming, lagoons and trails. He also rambled on about federal programs that he doesn’t have any say over, but he wants a say.
In case you were wondering where all the funds from these cuts would go…he didn’t mention returning money to taxpayers for all of the services he wanted to cut or has cut. In fact, he gave himself a raise soon after this meeting.
What “spending on the arts” really means
Before I moved away from Escondido, I heard Abed tell a large group of people that he spent more money on the arts than any other mayor in North County. Just to clarify: the city is required to maintain the Center for the Arts, meaning they must fix the plumbing and pay the utility bills and such. He views this as “art support.”
On the contrary, this is just a contract Mayor Abed cannot legally break. This is not “support” for the arts but merely building upkeep. Among his arts funding offenses, Abed refused to match National Endowment for the Arts funding for arts programs and artists in the city as well as cutting all funding for the Local Arts Agency and Municipal Gallery.
As mayor of Escondido Sam Abed has additionally reduced funding having to do with preserving the history of our region, arts and culture, job resource programs for high school students, as well as community services and education programs for children and seniors.
I think and “feel”(as he likes to say) that he is a terrible representative of anyone but himself.
Wendy Wilson is the past Director of the Escondido Arts Partnership, Escondido Municipal Gallery. She is the past curator of Niki de Saint Phalle, Mythical California and Contemporary Constructions, Matthew & Iris Strauss Family Foundation.