Author Archives: mmliles

Be Afraid, be Very Afraid—of Authoritarians who Stir-up Fear and Hatred

 

Mayor Sam Abed’s opinion piece in the Times Advocate https://www.times-advocate.com/articles/dont-make-californias-mistake-and-become-a-sanctuary-state/  has so many fallacies—it’s hard to know what to object to the most.  I will start with his comparison of the current immigration situation in this country with the situation in Lebanon forty years ago. Lebanon, under French colonialism from 1920 to 1943, had a government that favored the Christian minority, and the parliamentary structure in place was largely run by the elitist Maronite Christians. After the establishment of Israel in 1948 there was a massive migration of Palestinians into Lebanon, followed by another massive migration in 1967, tilting the demographic balance into one that was heavily Muslim.  During the Cold War, the Maronites were on the side of the West, and the leftist and pan-Arab groups sided with Arab countries aligned with the USSR.  The controversy ignited into a civil war in 1975. To compare our situation in Escondido with war-torn Lebanon is an outrageously false comparison—“…the cause of this anarchy and loss of overall sense of public safety is due solely to the passage of SB54…” Abed claims. Really? I certainly do not sense anarchy or feel unsafe in Escondido.

Like Attorney General Jeff Sessions before him, Abed claims that “SB 54 forbids the sharing of information or offering any level of cooperation between state and local law enforcement officials and federal immigration agents.” As pointed out by Politifact, this is another lie. An undocumented immigrant convicted a serious misdemeanor or felony—some 800 listed in SB 54, can be reported to ICE. http://www.politifact.com/california/statements/2018/mar/07/jeff-sessions/jeff-sessions-misleading-claim-california-bans-pol/  

Abed accuses the California Legislature of being “more concerned with making a political statement against President Trump than they are with the safety of those living in California and the rest of the U.S. They have been blinded by emotion and cannot force themselves to see the chaos that they have created on the streets of California’s cities.” Chaos on our streets? Where? When?

Abed is using a typical tool of those who would like to see an authoritarian state that seems to be his preference and that of other Republicans in their support for a president who insists he is able to pardon himself–an attribute of a dictator. That tool is fear.

In a study completed before the 2016 election, political scientist Matthew MacWilliams conducted a poll of 1,800 registered voters. He found that the way people answered four questions about childrearing was the best indication of whether or not someone would favor President Trump. “Specifically, he asked 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 https://www.times-advocate.com/articles/dont-make-californias-mistake-and-become-a-sanctuary-state/ These are questions that previous research has shown to predict how authoritarian a person’s outlook is. People who choose the first choice in each question, respectful, obedient, well-behaved and well-mannered tend to be highly authoritarian. They tend to be didactic—things are either black or white. They have no patience with ambiguity, subtlety, or anyone who disagrees with their view of what is right or wrong. They tended to favor Trump.

Other research has shown that fear can bring out latent authoritarian tendencies in people. https://www.vox.com/2016/3/1/11127424/trump-authoritarianism   So, it is no surprise that President Trump, and Abed sound the alarm of fear. Fear from terrorist Muslim immigrants, criminal Latino immigrants—false dangers, but believable to authoritarian types who dislike change. Poor, poorly-educated whites who see the dominant place of pale-faces in society slipping away, are particularly susceptible to the drum-beat of fear sounded by Abed and Trump.

Evangelicals tend to have an authoritarian outlook, which may help explain what appears to be their illogical support for a twice divorced, admitted fornicator and constant liar. A man whose behavior makes Bill Clinton look like a choir boy. But when you consider the history of evangelism in this country, it is not as contradictory as it first appears. Since the eighteenth century, evangelicalism often embraces anti-intellectualism, considering it only necessary to read the Bible or, as the nineteenth century preacher Dwight L. Moody said “I do not read any book, unless it will help me to understand the book.” https://newrepublic.com/article/133488/evangelicals-like-trump

For those of us who wish children to be independent, self-reliant, considerate, and curious, this is a fearful time—not from any outside threat, or lack of cooperation with ICE, but from our own citizens, who seem so ignorant of how fascism arose in the past. Those who are familiar with the rise of fascism in 1930’s Europe, can see many parallels in this country today. That is the true threat to our country, not SB 54.

 

 

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Self-storage Facilities, Carwashes and Bullies.

Last Night’s Escondido City Council’s meeting was not without its surprises, however, Items 4 and 5, short-form rent reviews for increases in the rent of rent-controlled mobile homes in two parks went as expected—the increases granted.

This in spite of the valiant attempt by the resident’s representative in the Casa De Amigos Park, Meryl Burke. She pointed out a few problems with the amenities, and untrimmed pine trees that were creating messes. Many of the affected residents were living on a fixed income, Social Security, and the $23 increase was a significant increase for them.

After the council discussion, in which Councilwoman Olga Diaz pointed out that unless 50% of the residents of rent-controlled homes showed up at the council meeting to complain, the council was pretty-much obligated to approve the short-form increase. Burke was given another chance to speak and noted that since many of the affected residents were elderly and disabled, getting 50% to the meeting would never happen.

Diaz inquired of staff about the senior rental subsidy that the city offered and was informed that since the loss of redevelopment money, all the funds for the subsidies was being used by seniors already accessing the funds. Diaz also noted that some park owners offered their own assistance to such seniors, and the park’s manager nodded his head—but whether the owner will offer such assistance is an open question. At previous meetings, Diaz has argued that the residents should be allowed to submit written statements rather than having to be physically present at the meetings, but her arguments were lost on her colleagues.

I was sort-of half paying attention during the staff presentation of Item 8: Amendments to the Escondido Zoning Code, …to limit self-storage facilities and maximize the city’s ability to exercise discretionary review of self-storage facility applications. Basically, this makes it necessary for any new storage facility to obtain a conditional use permit (CUP) which demonstrates that it will economically benefit the city. At the present time there are 17 self-storage facilities in Escondido, and three that are approved to be built. It seems to have finally occurred to the city staff and council that these facilities do not provide much sales tax, property tax, or employment to the city. Mayor Sam Abed was praising the wisdom of the item, when he said something that totally grabbed my waning attention. He said that even though it was generally argued that the free market was the best solution, the free market does “not work”. In fact, he almost yelled that last bit. Will be nice to remind him of that statement.

Item 9 was pretty-much the same as Item 8, except it addressed car washes rather that storage units. The Council had made news two weeks ago when it placed a moratorium on the building of car washes. As J. Harry Jones pointed out in his article, a proposed car wash on Broadway had reached the point of almost being approved when the moratorium was passed. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-carwash-moratorium-20180503-story.html  After the staff had completed their presentation, the developer of that proposed carwash, Neil Capin, pointed out that the property he wants to build on has sat vacant for ten years, and argued the city would receive benefit from his project if the council would grandfather his approval.

Councilman John Masson asked staff how much more would be required from Capin if his project was not grandfathered. He was told it would need more review, and would require a CUP. Councilman Ed Gallo said he had visited the area again, and noted that in the immediate area there were car dealerships and a parking lot, and, in his view, the car was would dress up the area a bit.

Diaz was explaining that she felt the city should be fair, and that Capin’s project should be grandfathered in, or, at least, he shouldn’t have to pay the additional fees, when she was interrupted by Abed. Abed insisted that the council was only discussing the item, not discussing a particular project and that Diaz was out of order. Diaz objected. They appealed to City Attorney Michael McGuinness who said that the “chair” (Abed) did have a right to direct the discussion.  Diaz said to Abed, “you can interrupt me, got it.”

Then Masson also said he felt it was wrong not to grandfather Capin’s project, and was also interrupted by Abed (although not as quickly as Abed had interrupted Diaz.) Masson was undermining what the council had decided two weeks ago, Abed insisted. Masson said that the council could take any action they wanted. Abed repeated his undermining claim. Abed then went on to insist that the carwash proposed by Capin was right in the middle of downtown, and the council should consider the noise and traffic it would produce, etc., etc.

Councilman Mike Morasco tried to calm thing a bit, by asking City Manager Jeff Epp if there was some way they could require Capin to do a bit more to screen the noise and improve the looks of the project without making him go through the CUP process. Epp and McGuiness both said that the only thing the council could do for Capin would be to grandfather his project.

An obviously riled Abed said he had never seen this before, the council was completely undoing what they had agreed to, two weeks before.

Diaz asked if it would be possible to delay the date the zoning change was implemented, providing a time gap that would allow Capin’s project to finish the previous approval process. No, she was told, in a rather lengthy explanation.

Abed again insisted they were defeating their goal, and neighboring businesses would have to deal with the noise and traffic. Diaz noted that Abed had once approved a carwash in a residential area, where neighbors would have to put up with the noise and the traffic. Well, that was different, Abed claimed. To grandfather in Capin’s carwash would contradict their vote two weeks earlier.

Diaz asked McGuiness if their moratorium decision committed the Council to stop all unapproved car wash project. McGuiness said no.

Diaz moved to approve Item 9, while grandfathering in Capin’s project. The motion passed, “Abed and Morasco voting no.”

This argument points out another similarity of Abed to Trump. They both are bullies. They both want complete loyalty from their staff. It wasn’t until after McGuiness was sure of some support by the other council members, he had the courage to say something he knew Abed wouldn’t want to hear—that the moratorium did not mean Capin’s project could not be excepted.

Trump and Abed, two good ole boys together

 

So, Mayor Sam Abed is going to Washington to meet with Trump as a reward for Abed’s fight against California’s AB 54 the so-called sanctuary state law. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-no-white-house-20180510-story.html  I wrote about Abed’s position in my last blog: https://ablueviewescondido.com/2018/04/11/ego-hubris-and-the-curious-amicus-curiae/   Well, Abed and Trump have quite a bit in common, especially their factually-challenged views on immigrants.

Trump is the first President in the current era, not to put all his holdings in a blind trust, or to publish his tax returns. As The Economist reported as early as July, 2017, the room rates of Trump’s hotels in the USA were increased as much as 40% after his election. https://www.economist.com/news/business/21725303-six-months-mr-trumps-conflicts-interest-look-even-worse-how-donald-trump-monetising 

After Trump secured the Republican nomination, the number of buyers of Trump properties that were limited liability companies (that allow the actual purchasers to hide their names) jumped from 4% to nearly 70%. The profits from the sale of those properties goes to a trust that is managed by Trump’s sons, but, as sole beneficiary of the trust, Trump can take money from the trust any time he cares to. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/06/13/trump-property-buyers-make-clear-shift-secretive-llcs/102399558/  So, Trump is receiving unknown sums from who knows who. The public has no access or knowledge of what sort of back room deals are being made by Trump, or with whom they are made.

In the last few weeks we have learned that large companies like Novartis and AT&T paid large sums to Trump’s sort-of attorney Michael Cohen to—well we’re not sure why. But, it’s pretty obvious that it wasn’t for Cohen’s legal knowledge of drug or communication laws. The Cohen story has more turns than the old Grapevine road from L.A. through the Tehachapi Mountains.  The Washington Post has put out a pretty good summary of the Cohen debacle so far: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2018/05/10/a-taxonomy-of-michael-cohen-and-potential-trump-corruption/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0319ca68ec93  . Every day seems to bring a new revelation about the financial benefits Trump is reaping from his position.

Abed is not in Trump’s league when it comes to financial gain from his office, but he’s all for it. Shortly after becoming Mayor, Abed started a firm, Pacific West Consulting, a “public relations firm [that] specializes in how to describe a project to elected officials and the media.” http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/growth-development/sdut-escondido-mayor-sam-abed-development-firm-2013mar04-story.html  Abed maintains that he never advises a developer client about any project that must be approved by Escondido. And that is probably true. But that doesn’t stop him from advising a developer about a project in another city or the unincorporated county, establishing a strong relationship with that developer, then voting on another project the same developer does want to build in Escondido. Nor, from voting on and approving projects that are represented by lawyer Dave Ferguson, whom Abed has advertised as part of his network for Pacific West Consulting. Abed’s actions are not illegal, but they don’t pass my morality sniff test.

I have written about the generosity of Abed and his colleagues in reducing the developer impact fees that would cover the drainage and traffic deficiencies in the North Broadway area, from $17,000 to $12,500. https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/04/25/the-zenner-project-and-allocation-of-community-development-funds/  That generosity would appear to have been rewarded by campaign contributions, half before the vote on the project, half after. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sdut-escondido-abed-masson-campaign-donations-stir-2014feb16-story.html  Abed may not have a Cohen working for him, but he’s doing okay on his own.

 

 

 

Ego, Hubris, and the curious Amicus Curiae

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I hesitated going to the April 4, 2018 Escondido City Council Meeting where Item 12: Request for authorization to support filing of Amicus Curiae brief on behalf of City of Escondido in United States V. State of California Lawsuit. I knew it would be a very contentious meeting, filled with negative emotions on both sides. J. Harry Jones has written an excellent summary of the meeting and the preceding rally: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-escondido-sanctuary-20180405-story.html   

As did David Ross:

https://www.times-advocate.com/articles/council-supports-fed-lawsuit-against-sanctuary-state/ .

In the end I went, and knowing it would be a very crowded meeting, I reached the chambers by 3:30 pm—an hour before the meeting began, joining a very dear Latina friend. As the chamber filled, I did a bit of visiting with old friends, and met a few new people. On returning to my seat, my old friend had been joined by a young Latina, whom she knew. We spoke of the overwhelming majority of Latinos in the audience, when the noisy, anti-immigrant Trumpers entered with their red-white-and blue raiment and MAGA hats, and took up a section near the front, directly between the TV cameras and the podium.

By this time, the chambers were filling up, and a stray female anti-immigrant sat down in a single open seat in front of us. She turned to us and said something really bizarre. “You are traitors. Did you fight in the Revolution?”

I immediately took umbrage and said “My great, great, grandfather…” when she interrupted me saying, “I was not addressing you.” Well, silly me. I’m very much a paleface, she, of course would not have accused another Anglo of being a traitor. My old friend said that her father had fought for this country in WWII, and then wisely decided that the prudent action would be to end this interaction, and she did. But that pretty much destroys the myth that this entire immigration argument is not about ethnicity.

Unemployed Torrance resident, and self-appointed leader of the resistance to California’s Values Act, Arthur Schaper, spoke first under Item 9: Support of the reducing crime and keeping California Safe Act of 2018. (He spoke again under Item 12.) Trump was the best president ever, the most pro-life—defunding Planned Murderhood, strong defender of the Second Amendment, and was fighting California’s lawless legislation. Coal is alive he avowed, and the porn star suing Trump was so ugly, no one would want her company. He seems to aspire to be as obnoxious a jerk as his idol. You can read more info about his idiocies here: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-arthur-schaper-trump-conservative-20170603-htmlstory.html . 

Before the discussion about SB 54 began, Councilwoman Olga Diaz read from the city’s conduct of municipal business code, which specifically states that the Council should not make decisions about matters that did not directly affect the municipal operations of the city. To make a decision about a Federal/State matter was not within the purview of the council’s duties. To continue with the matter would violate their own rules. Her objections fell on the deaf ears of her colleagues.

After City Attorney Michael McGuiness explained what the Amicus Brief filing was, Diaz took issue with his comparing the federal suit against SB 54 to the federal suit against Arizona’s SB1070, explaining that in that case, as in the case of Escondido’s infamous rental ordinance, the State of Arizona, like the City of Escondido were taking more authority to act on immigration matters, than was practiced by the Federal government. The courts had found both these actions unconstitutional. In the case of SB 54, the California was limiting federal authority, not giving the state more—an entirely different action.

Paul McNamara began the public discussion by pointing out that the matter was beyond the scope of the city council, they were not going to solve the immigration problem. They should concentrate on city issues rather than national ones. This action would not make a bit of difference in the outcome of the lawsuit and was a xenophobic waste of taxpayer money on staff time.

The supporters of the action had many fantasy arguments. Illegal immigrants cost $23 Billion a year, 68,000 were murdered by illegal immigrants, illegal immigrants were the largest population in the jails, 26 Americans die every day due to illegal immigrants, they cost $135 billion. Most of these poorly informed folks were from out of town or out of state.

Opponents pointed out that study after study showed that the crime rate among immigrants, regardless of legal status,  was lower than among natural citizens. Several argued that the only purpose of the motion was to get the anti-immigrant voters riled up to vote for Mayor Sam Abed, Councilman John Masson, and Councilman Ed Gallo in the November election. One young high school student quoted Abed’s hero, Ronald Reagan on amnesty for immigrants. Others pointed out that immigrants take jobs that no one else would work.

The bright spot of the evening, for me, was the wonderful testimony of young high school Latino students. They bravely plead their case, and condemned the actions that tore families apart. Their courage gives me hope.

Councilman Mike Morasco began the Council discussion by asking that Mayor Sam Abed and Councilman John Masson explain why they had put the item on the agenda.

Abed read a prepared statement with his usual harangue about the core of his mission was to keep Escondido safe, and that since 2010, the Escondido Police Dept. working with ICE had deported more than 2,000 criminal illegal aliens, reducing crime by 33%. But, the awful state laws, AB 109, and AB 450 had turned prisoners loose, creating the homeless problem. He proposed the strange theory that SB 54 puts non-criminal immigrants at greater risk of being detained by ICE because it limits the cooperation between ICE and the Escondido Police. The fact that the Trump administration has doubled down on enforcement, according to Abed, is not the reason that more raids are being carried out by ICE. Abed then stated his real issue. A year ago he had promised Governor Jerry Brown that he would sue the state if AB 54 became law. Now he was fulfilling that hubristic promise. Well, sort of. As McGuiness pointed out, an Amicus Brief is not really suing.

Masson echoed Abed’s public safety sermon, and insisted that he had sworn to uphold the Constitution, and was doing so in protesting the unconstitutional SB 54—Sacramento overreach! He was not, he insisted, racist or xenophobic. The people who called him such things did not know him.  He was going to be building schools in Mexicali with his Rotary groups soon. “If you guys want to make it about division, go ahead.” But, he didn’t get any of that.

Councilman Ed Gallo continued with the upholding the Constitution theme. He had received many more emails for this action than against. He went on to assert that he was Latino, as was Morasco, because they were of Latin descent. (Italian?) He added a strange bit that anyone who was of Spanish, French, or Italian descent were Latinos. Now the Brazilians, he said, were not, because they spoke Portuguese.

Morasco reiterated the “nothing to do with race” chorus. Like Masson, he referred to his charity work—his in South America. He read the oath of office he had taken. AB 54 was an anti-Trump move by the state. He was frustrated by the state. AB 450 was taking away his rights as a businessman. The one thing he didn’t understand, was why, if an immigrant had been in the country for many years, they didn’t become citizens? That statement was met by a spontaneous sputtering of incredulity from the audience majority.

Diaz bemoaned having to deal with this issue since 2006. The words she had heard, hurt, but she had reached a point where she was becoming numb to the continued attacks. The action proposed by Abed and Masson would have zero effect on anything.  There had always been unjust laws in the USA, and the immigration system was broken. But, she said, the whole reason that Abed had made this action was now clear to her—he had promised to sue Governor Brown if AB 54 became law. It was a question of Abed’s ego. However, the large participation by Latinos that night had given her the fuel to go on. The entire exercise was a waste of time. She felt that apologies were needed for the horrible expense of time and money.

And so the fruitless item was passed, “four yes votes, Diaz voting no.” Abed and Masson may have been successful in riling up the voters—but perhaps not the voters they had in mind.

 

Limiting Campaign Contributions?  

The last Escondido City Council meeting on March 21, had several interesting items on the agenda, but the one that generated the most public attention was number 17: Request that the City Council consider amendments to the campaign control ordinance in the Escondido Municipal Code and provide direction for final changes and adoptions.

Basically this was a proposal to bring Escondido’s campaign laws in line with California’s Political Reform Act (PRA) —for example the city required all payments from a campaign to be made by check, while the PRA allows electronic payments.

Greg Dean and Patricia Borchmann both noted that compared to other cities, the contribution limit for Escondido was pretty high, $4,100 per individual donor, vs. $100 to $1000 in other cities in the county. Borchmann pointed out how difficult it was for ordinary citizens to contribute $4,100.

Councilman John Masson responded that six of cities listed had no limit on individual contributions.

Councilwoman Olga Diaz noted that she had voted for the increase in the campaign limit from $560 to $4,100 in 2013, since she felt that was a better option than no limit at all—which had been proposed at the time. She dislikes one of the PRA rules that allows up to $100 of individual anonymous cash contributions.  She felt the code should be changed to allow up to $100 of cash contributions, but the donors should not be anonymous.

Councilman Ed Gallo agreed with the changes, and agreed with Diaz that anonymous contributions should continue to be disallowed in Escondido.

Mayor Sam Abed agreed that there should be no “unanimous” contributions allowed, and suggested that the limit should be increased to $4,300 in line with the PRA.

Masson liked that idea too—we should simplify, he insisted, and tie everything to the PRA. Staff explained that the PRA $4,300 limit was specific to those running for the state legislature.

After a little more back and forth, the council voted to approve the suggested revisions to the code, with the exception that anonymous contributions would continue to not be allowed, and the limit be increased to $4,300.

In arguing for the increased limit, Abed said that such checks represented less than 1% of the total checks. Well, that’s not quite true for Abed. His Schedule 460 for the July 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017 shows a total of $117,100 in contributions to his campaign. Of that total, $53,971 was transferred from his 2014 mayoral campaign account, meaning that he received a total of $63,129 in contributions in that six-month period. Of that total, four of the 98 checks received were for $4,100—or about 5% of the number of checks, but 26% of the amount of money he received.

Abed also pointed out that donors could have their spouses or family members contribute as well, so an artificially low limit was easily overcome—perhaps explaining his lack of reluctance to disallow anonymous donations.

One of those $4,100 contributions to Abed was from Safari Highlands Ranch. Yet, I’m sure Abed will not recuse himself from voting for that project. There is no law that would force him to do so. This is just one more example of how embedded the crony capitalist system is in our system.

 

Abed’s State of the City

 

I watched Mayor Sam Abed’s State of the City address on video—going in person would mean going somewhere before 10:00 am, something I seldom do. It was quite an event, held at the California Center for the Arts, sponsored by the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, and well attended by that group of predominantly white business people.  Most of the attendees had forked out the money to attend the breakfast at 7:30 am, but it was possible to view the event for free at 8:00 am.

Police Chief Craig Carter was the emcee. He explained that when he had been asked by Abed to be the emcee at the previous year’s State of the City address, Abed had informed him that he was not his first choice. This year Abed allowed that Carter was his first choice to be emcee. When the Chairman of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce Board, Kevin Svetich welcomed the attendees, he also noted that when he had been asked by Abed to be emcee two years ago, Abed had told him he was not Abed’s first choice, and that Abed had reminded him of that fact every year since.

After the welcoming by Svetich, the City Council members: John Masson, Olga Diaz, Mike Morasco, and Ed Gallo all gave out awards to citizens who have given outstanding service to the community. They each gave out two awards—except for Diaz, who only gave out one. As this gave her a little extra time, Diaz said she wanted to speak for a minute. She quoted Martin Luther King who said that it was not the words of your enemies that you remembered but the silence of your friends. And, as she wanted to be a good friend to Chief Carter and Svetich, she wanted to remind Mayor Abed that he was not her first choice either.  Well Abed  couldn’t let that bit go by, and one of his opening remarks was that he didn’t mind not being her first choice because he was the people’s first choice—a line that actually go him a few boos from the audience if what I  heard on the video was accurate.

If you were a complete stranger to Escondido and California politics, and listened to Abed’s speech, and believed him, you would have been convinced that everything good that has happened to Escondido since he was first elected in 2010, was due to his efforts, and everything bad was due to the action of the Democratic Legislature in Sacramento.

He too presented an award, and thanked his family, the Chamber, city staff, etc. He showed a video highlighting many of Escondido’s high points from avocado farms to high tech industry.  After showing the video Abed assured the audience that the video was entirely prepared by the city’s staff at no cost to taxpayers. So—were the staff working on their own time to prepare this? Volunteering their time?

After the video Abed bragged about the economic development of the city saying the city leads the region in business attraction and private investment, citing 35 upper-scale projects either approved or going through the process. Guess that number includes one of the sponsors of the event, Safari Highlands Ranch. Abed has also received over $8,000 in campaign donations from developers of the Safari Highlands Ranch project, so the approval of this abominable devastation on natural habitat is probably in the bag.

Abed was “looking forward” to working with Integral Communities to develop the now defunct old hospital downtown, going on to praise the “outstanding healthcare” provided by Palomar West. Ah, Palomar West—Michael Covert’s monument to himself. I wrote about that boondoggle:  https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/03/03/tweedledee-tweedledum-and-the-master-of-legerdemain/  . The $496 million bond issue passed by voters in the Palomar Hospital District in 2004, (it is a public hospital,) wasn’t enough to build the edifice Covert sought—the hospital had to borrow another $568 million. We taxpayers in the district have already seen an additional increase in the amount of property tax we pay to support the bond, and the financial burden on the hospital made it impossible to keep its promise to Escondido that the downtown facility would be kept open.

Abed also seemed to brag about the council’s passage of the 380 unit Country Club project. Does he not remember his impassioned spiel when he voted against the project? Perhaps he would like to believe that the ECCHO folks won’t notice his sudden change of tune.

There were 723 new businesses started in Escondido last year, according to Abed—would like to see an actual list of those businesses. The old downtown’s Grand Ave. still seems to have vacancies. He went on to boast that since he had become Mayor in 2010, the city had added over 2,200 new businesses. So, how many businesses were lost during that period?

Abed said that the sales tax had increased from $23 million in 2010, when he was elected Mayor, to a projected $40 million this year, a 57% increase over eight years. I couldn’t find similar figures for the state, but the total sales tax revenue for the state increased from $27 billion in 2010, to $50 billion in 2015, a 54% increase over five years. So, it would seem Escondido is behind the state average there. http://www.boe.ca.gov/annual/pdf/2010/table2_10.pdf

As usual Abed bragged about balancing the city’s budget, without dipping into the city’s reserves, since he became Mayor. Of course city recreational services were severely diminished and a library shut down to reach that supposedly positive achievement. Many residents felt it would have been far better to have spent some of the city’s reserves to keep the library open.

Escondido has the best police and fire protection in San Diego County, Abed avowed. And, (even better he seemed to indicate,) Escondido had banned marijuana from the city claiming “marijuana is out of our city, period.” But, as J. Harry Jones pointed out, his belief that banning pot is what Escondido citizens want is not supported by the 2016 vote where 52.1 % of Escondido’s voters voted to legalize weed. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-escondido-pot-20180212-story.html

He also declared that Escondido would continue to do everything it could, in spite of the passage of SB 54—which he referred to as the “sanctuary state” and claimed had made law enforcement more difficult—the city will continue to do everything possible, under the law, to make sure criminals, including gang members, “here illegally” will be deported. His next comment was that he would “continue to build trust with the community we serve.” So, having the Escondido Police Department in close cooperation with ICE is building trust? How many instances of domestic abuse go unreported, because the abused victim is undocumented and afraid to call the police?

Abed promised Stone Brewing Company that when they submitted plans for their new hotel, it would be approved in sixty days. Really? What if they propose a marijuana bar as part of the amenities?

When briefly lauding education facilities in Escondido, Abed gave equal billing to the Heritage Charter Schools, the Classical Academy (where they teach Bible stories as history,) and Escondido public schools. All the schools he mentioned are public schools, but Heritage Charter and Classical Academy are public schools run like private schools with little oversight of the spending of taxpayer funds. His main compliment to the non-charter public schools was that they were being made safer.

Abed emphasized only two of Escondido’s challenges, the pension fund liability and homelessness. He attributes the homelessness problem to “state bad policy”—AB 109, Proposition 47, and Proposition 57. He claimed that 33% of the homeless in Escondido were either on probation, parole or had serious mental disabilities or substance abuse problems. AB109 and the two propositions had turned released criminals out onto the streets. So, Abed seems to disagree with the bipartisan belief that the USA puts too many people in jail. He seems to believe all those homeless should be in jail. Does he realize how expensive jails are?

He castigated the state for not doing something about the pension liability.

He talked about “exciting” new developments in the coming year—the Springhill Suites in La Terraza, the Stone Hotel near Stone Brewing will become a reality, transforming the old hospital into an “urban living environment”, paving more streets, the continued work on the recycled water project, going to paperless utility billing, using technology to improve pretty much everything, and “an actual draft policy” for the business park at Interstate 15 and Highway 78. It will soon be ready for “technology companies to create more good paying jobs.” Think some magical thinking is involved in that fantasy, if the old technology park around the new hospital is any example.

Uncharacteristically, he ended with a plea to practice the tolerance, understanding, respect and love that the Founding Fathers preached, making a plea for more civil discourse. Well I’m in complete agreement with that. Wished he practiced more of those good habits while conducting city council meetings.

 

 

A Question of Ignorance

So, another thing the City Council tried to sneak by on the consent calendar at their February 14, 2018 meeting was another $70K for the Reidy Creek Golf Course. Whoa, I’m jumping the gun a bit here. I just realized I didn’t mention in my last blog that the sixteen-year extension of Heritage Charter School’s lease was also on the consent calendar. Things on the consent calendar are usually voted on without discussion or debate. Consent calendar items can be pulled from the calendar by a Council member or by the public, so the item can be discussed and debated. Paul McNamara had pulled item ten about the Heritage lease. Patricia Borchmann pulled item five containing the increased funding for the Reidy Creek Golf Course. The item 5 was innocently entitled: Financial Report for Quarter ended December 31, 2017 and Budged Adjustment. Borchmann objected to this attempt to sneak the increased funding by the public.

Councilwoman Olga Diaz said that every time the expense of the golf course was more than anticipated. There never seemed to be an answer provided to the council about what to do about this problem. One golfer had complained to her that only one person was manning the golf course when he was there. She noted that J.C. Resorts (the company the city hired to run the course) ran several golf courses successfully, and held lots of tournaments. Was the city prohibiting such tournaments? Assistant City Manager Jay Petrek told her that neither the city or J.C. Resorts prohibited tournaments, but the small size of the clubhouse limited the range of such tournaments. He noted that there were always at least two or three employees on duty, but that they were working with the city to save money, and staff was the most expensive expense for the course. Deputy City Manager of Administrative Services, Sheryl Bennett, explained this year the tunnel under North Broadway on the course had been flooded, and that had significantly reduced business.

Diaz suggested that perhaps the city should look into getting another company to run the course. She wanted to read the city’s contract with J.C. Resorts.

City Manager Jeff Epp patronizingly explained to Diaz that the contract with J.C. Resorts had been approved by the city council, and it could be difficult for the city to dissolve. He pointed out the golf course did pay, in part, for the city’s debt service on the bonds the city had issued to pay for the course and the flood control basin, and if the course was closed, the city expenses would increase. He said he would be “more than happy” to let Diaz read the contract with L. C. Resorts, sarcastically adding that it was great reading.

Councilman Mike Morasco started his comments with “[i]gnorance is bliss!” I found his comments to be so uncalled for and rude to Diaz, that I had to go back to the video of this part of the meeting to rehear his statements as my anger distracted my attention for a few minutes. He used the golf course at least three times a month. He said there were always six employees, and he knew them all. They loved what they did, and were always very cordial. He knew that many coaches, teams and clubs used the course. It was an executive golf course, which meant it did not offer all the services of a full blown course. The flooding of the tunnel had discouraged regular customers, because they did not like to drive across Broadway.

Mayor Sam Abed accused Diaz of always picking on that golf course. The city had a $4 million recreational department—why didn’t she look at some of the other programs to save money?

The item was passed with the usual “four yes votes, Diaz voting no.”

I’ve written about this fiasco before. https://ablueviewescondido.com/2016/04/05/beware-of-developers-bearing-gifts-of-golf-courses/

One thing that Bennett said caught my attention when she was explaining about the flooding, she said there were water table issues. Now just recently, the council approved the North Avenue Estates project, where the council was assured by the developer’s engineer that the additional drainage into the North Broadway area would not increase the water table level. (See: https://ablueviewescondido.com/2018/01/15/same-ole-crony-capitalism/ ) If the existing water retention basin is already so saturated it is flooding in the tunnel under Broadway, how can it handle additional runoff? The city reimbursed New Urban West for its costs in constructing this water basin, which doesn’t seem to be working effectively.

Many more people used the East Valley Pkwy branch of the Escondido Library than this golf course. Councilman Ed Gallo, Morasco, and Abed all voted to close that library. But, unlike many of the golfers, the users of that closed library were not part of the good ole boy network. To close that library and privatize the one remaining public library in Escondido, is an exercise in true ignorance—ignorance of the value of libraries and the value of an educated populace in maintaining a democracy.