Notes from England

Cambridge, 4:00pm

We arrived here by train today, from London. We had flown into London on Tuesday, having left San Diego on Monday. Of all the flights I’ve made to London, this was probably the easiest—ten hours non-stop on British Airways. We took a taxi from Heathrow to the apartment we rented —we said we’d arrive between 5:00 and 5:30 pm, and we were there at 5:05. No one there. We called, but had to leave a message. Called again 15 minutes later—had to leave another message.

As we were waiting, with our luggage, an estate agent (what we’d call a Realtor) came by to show another apartment in the building, and said we were the second family she’d found waiting for that apartment, and, in fact, the apartment was owned by one of her clients, and he had leased it to an individual at 400 pounds per week, and that tenant was now, illegally, subletting it as a vacation rental at well over twice that amount through Booking.com. She added that the owner was aware of the situation, and would not object to our staying there, but we should try to get a refund from Booking.com. After about the 5th call, we actually were able to speak to the guy who was sub-letting the apartment, and he told us he was across town and would be there in 45 minutes. And he did finally show up, after we had been waiting outside with our luggage for almost two hours. It was a reasonably nice apartment, in a great location in Knightsbridge, and we were glad to finally settle in.

After that rocky start, our stay in London was great. On Wednesday we toured Buckingham Palace along with what seemed like about 10,000 other people. It was fun to see the rooms where the Queen entertains visitors like President Obama. Not quite sure that Trump will ever be invited. Even though we had lived in Essex near London (1/2 hour by train) we had never toured the palace. Our tour included a garden tour, but as it was pouring all day that day, we really didn’t see much of the garden. That evening we splurged and had dinner at the Ritz. The food was excellent, and really not all that expensive, cheaper than Mister A’s.

On Thursday we visited the Tate Britain—where the largest Turner collection is. We took two tours, one on the history of English artists, and another on 19th century art. We had lunch at the Tate, then took the tube to the Courtland Gallery, which is in Somerset House. That evening we ate in our favorite Indian Restaurant.  We first ate there in 1999, and it’s still there, in the same location, doing well.

The trains to Cambridge leave London from King’s Cross station. We weren’t sure that our tickets for today, were good for any train to Cambridge, and not just the 10:40 am train. We we’re sure how long it would take to get to the station by taxi, and wanted to get there early, but perhaps not the hour and ten minutes early we actually were. We went to the information counter, and as soon as Roger said something, the clerk said “sorry, we can’t help Americans” smiling as she spoke. I said “we’re anti-Trump does that help?” She laughed and said, yes that helped a great deal. She added that she didn’t understand how the man got elected as all the Americans she met with said they didn’t like him. Roger pointed out that only about 10% of Americans had passports, and it was the un-travelled, un-educated types who supported him. (Well, Roger used a somewhat more colorful language that would not be appropriate for this site.) Our tickets were good for any train that day, so we took the 9:40 am, and were in Cambridge by 10:30 am.

We took a taxi to the Hotel du Vin and Bistro, where we left our luggage (check-in time wasn’t until 3:00 pm,) and walked a block to the Fitzwilliam museum. When we were living in Essex, we had come up to Cambridge several times, but somehow never visited the Fitzwilliam. It was well worth the visit, quite an eclectic collection. We shared a great fish and chips order for lunch, then tottered back to our hotel, and were able to check in. We’ll have dinner at the “Bistro”.

8:50 pm

Dinner was fabulous—especially the chocolate bombe for dessert.

 

 

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Libraries—Much Cheaper than Jails.

Councilwoman Olga Diaz has admirable composure. Had someone “mansplained” to me as Mayor Sam Abed did to her at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, I’d have become angry and “old-lady-splained” back to him.

The meeting had not begun on a very positive note. Under “Oral Communication”, one lady complained about the odor from the Hale Ave. Resource Recovery Facility (AKA sewer treatment plant), and a member of the Escondido Country Club Homeowners’ Organization complained about the lack of oversight to the deserted club and the resulting increase in the homeless people living there, and the increase of criminal activity.

The big item on the agenda, however, was item 6, Adoption of Fiscal Year 2017-18 Annual Operating Budget and the Appropriations Limit (Gann Limit) for Fiscal Year 2017-18. The budget, as presented to the Council can be viewed at: https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/PDFs/Finance/PreliminaryOperatingBudget1718.pdf .

After the staff had made their presentation, only two members of the public spoke. Patricia Borchmann observed that the reliance on an increase in revenue was not realistic. Vanessa Valenzuela wished that the new budget format had included the breakdown of salaries that the older budgets had done. She wondered what was being done to reduce the expense of maintaining the Reidy Creek Golf Course, and noted that $500K (the cost of a new skatepark) was only ½ of 1 percent of the city’s budget. She felt that had the city properly allowed for public input, the budget would reflect what the public wanted. She wondered why the city no longer had a budget committee that met with the public as was done in the past.

Councilman John Masson said he really liked the new format of the budget. The salary information was available on the city’s website. He explained that the Reidy Creek Golf Course acted as part of the city’s flood control. (I’ve written about this boondoggle: https://ablueviewescondido.com/2016/04/05/beware-of-developers-bearing-gifts-of-golf-courses/ .)

Diaz said that when she had been on the budget committee in the past, there had been robust public input, which she missed. She had agreed with the proposal to end the committee, because she felt that all of the council members should be involved in the development of the budget, and hear from the public. That had not happened, instead there was very little public input into the budgeting process. She also liked the new format, but disagreed that details were unnecessary.

She then began to ask questions, partly, she explained,  in order to make some of the budget information public. Information like the hitherto unknown fact that the city staff, under the guidance of City Manager Jeff Epp, was looking into the possibility of outsourcing the library services. This was something, she insisted, that the public should be informed of, and given the opportunity to comment on. It was interesting to watch the annoyed expression of the rest of the council and Epp as she disclosed this information. She agreed with Valenzuela that the individual salary schedule for the council and staff, should not be collapsed into a single expense item.

At this point, Abed interrupted her to mansplain that she should ask her questions of the staff privately and not take up time during the meeting.

Diaz replied that if there had been more details in the budget, she would have had known the answers to most of her questions. Collapsing the information into single items made it hard to compare to previous years. Besides, the public needed a chance to hear information like the outsourcing of the library.

Epp, barely containing his irritation, said that the staff was just studying the possibility of outsourcing, and he saw no need to rile up the public before they knew whether or not such outsourcing would save the city money.

Diaz again said that public input on such an issue was vital. The Escondido Library had a unique following within the city, it was critical to include the public about any library decisions.

Epp said the staff needed do their job first, before presenting the idea to the public.

Diaz said the public would be alarmed if it was kept in the dark about such decisions.

Councilman Mike Morasco also liked the new format, saying it was very user friendly and expressed the council’s (the council majority’s) belief system. The questions he had about the budget had been explained by the staff, when he had spoken to them before the meeting. (Unlike, he implied, the time-consuming process of asking his questions in public like Diaz.)

Councilman Ed Gallo was more direct. He boasted that he had met with staff before the meeting and they had answered his questions satisfactorily. He too really liked the new format. He credited Epp and the city staff for being “on the ball”.

Abed began by “addressing comments” that suggested the budgeting process had not been transparent, and had been secretive. There had been plenty of time for the public to comment at previous meetings like the council’s “Action Plan” workshop. That meeting, he remembered had not been well attended. (Well, if it hadn’t been held in the afternoon, when most people are working, maybe it would have had a larger crowd.) This meeting, Abed insisted, wasn’t the time to hash over the budget details. It was the city manager’s job, not the council’s, to oversee the details of the budget. All the salaries were posted on the city’s website, so the public had plenty of access.

Abed returned to his usual self-congratulation that the city, under his leadership, had, for the sixth year in a row, a “structurally balanced” budget.

The budget was passed with “four yes votes, Diaz voting no.”

The outsourcing of library services had not been discussed publically before this meeting. Typical of Abed and the council majority. They have expressed the belief that services like recreation and the library, need to take a backseat to police and fire. What they don’t say, but have shown by their votes, is that it is more important to support developers than to fund recreational and library services. They are now trying to squeeze more saving from library services, while previously blithely waiving millions in developer impact fees. The idea that a library, or a school, or a health system should be run like a business is a bit Republican doggerel that ignores the reality that privatizing such services increases the cost and deteriorates the services. Back in the 19th century, people figured out that schools are cheaper than jails. That lesson seems to be lost on this city council majority.

A Town Hall Meeting with ECCHOs of the Past

 

Note: Most of this article is about the Escondido Country Club snafu. For some background on the beginning of this see: https://escondido2012.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/an-eccho-not-a-choice/  The resulting Proposition H ballot initiative was well summed up by the Voice of San Diego http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/news/the-strange-group-of-allies-and-enemies-born-out-of-escondidos-prop-h/ .  The loss of Prop. H was well described by J. Harry Jones: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/elections/sdut-escondido-prop-H-election-country-club-charter-2014nov04-story.html . I wrote about the Abed’s initial reaction to the loss of the City to Slesinger’s law suit   https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/03/18/abeds-dilemma/ . I wrote about his further trying to stay on good terms with ECCHO: https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/05/18/abeds-dilemma-ii/ , and about the final Council agreement with Slesinger: https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/10/07/ecchos-in-the-council-chamber/

There was a pretty good turnout for Mayor Sam Abed’s Town Hall on May 17. The raft of olive-green shirts in the audience made it clear that the Escondido Country Club & Community Homeowner’s Organization (ECCHO) was well represented. As the meeting began at 4:00 pm, the average age of the audience was well over what’s required to be eligible for membership in AARP. I have a feeling Abed is not really interested in hearing what working people have to say.

As usual, the Town Hall began with a video praising the wonders of Escondido. I was surprised to hear that there had been some 1,700 events in Escondido—as I had heard of about a dozen of them. But, I think that says much more about my asocial tendencies that any lack of promotion for those events. Abed boasted about the increase in business and sales tax, bemoaned the homeless problem, and once again cited the 22% reduction of crime in Escondido, which he attributed to the deportation of 2000—without offering any evidence to support that claim. He promised to fight SB 54 if passed. He insisted that the prosecution of gangs was greater than ever in Escondido. He then made the interesting claim that the homeless population had doubled, because of Props 47 and 57 which reduced sentencing and increased the chance of parole. Again, he offered absolutely no data for that claim, but then, many ultra-conservatives like Abed seem to be unimpressed with empirical evidence, much preferring to make their decisions based on their emotional inclinations.  As Bill Maher would say, Abed doesn’t know why what he says is so, he just knows it is.

Abed was happy that the poverty rate in Escondido had decreased from 20% to 15.7%. He again patted himself on the back for maintaining a “structurally balanced” budget for the six years of his tenure. By emphasizing this term, “structurally balanced”, Abed has finally recognized that all general law cities in California (as opposed to charter cities), are required to have a balanced budget. Abed has always thought that using the city’s reserve funds for any function, was not balancing the budget. So, even though it would have required only $100K of reserve funds to keep the East Valley Pkwy Branch of the Escondido Library open in 2011, he, and his colleagues, refused to do so. There were many of us, at the time who felt that such a use was exactly what “reserve” funds were reserved for. So, for Abed, to be really balanced, “structurally balanced”, there is to be no use of reserve funds.

After his “introduction” of almost 30 minutes, Abed opened up the session to questions from the audience, inserting a rare moment of humor by saying any questions were welcome except those about the Escondido Country Club. The first question about the Country Club included a question about whether or not Abed would run for Mayor again in two years, considering the two big messes he faces—the problem with the pension debt, and the mess that was the Country Club.

Abed said that he had maintained the exact same position to the Country Club for the last three years, and that he had been criticized by ECCHO and by the developer, which means, he ascertained, he’s looking for a solution. He complemented ECCHO on changing their position from golf course only, to a reasonable development. (Now Abed had also changed his view about this, after the City lost its lawsuit with the developer—but somehow that’s “maintaining the exact same position…”) Abed was obviously prepared for the ECCHO assault. He said that New Urban West’s proposal of 392 homes was offensive. The proposal in Prop. H that was voted down, city-wide, by 61% had included 430 homes. He then put up on the screen a diagram of a proposal for some 270 homes with 7000 square-foot lots, and “lakes” separating the new development from the old. Abed noted the average lot size in the neighborhood was 7000 square feet. The “lakes” were necessary to handle the drainage of the area. Even that proposal did not have enough green space Abed noted—so maybe some 250 homes? And, when asked again, he admitted he would run for Mayor again in two years.

The next question from an ECCHO member suggested that 150 homes would be more appropriate. Abed countered that the problem with fewer homes would be that there would be fewer amenities. Another ECCHO member asked why there couldn’t be a senior housing development as in Rancho Bernardo. That would be up to New Urban West Abed responded. The next questioner asked why Schlesinger was able to remodel the Stoneridge Country Club successfully, why couldn’t he do the same with the Escondido club. Abed said he had asked Schlesinger that question at least 25 times. The next speaker complained that Schlesinger was not supposed to be a part of the process at all—just New Urban West, and what would they do about the traffic in the area? Abed said that all developers were required to mitigate the impacts of their developments. The high cost of those impact fees was one reason developers requested higher densities. Schlesinger was still the owner of the property, and so it was a property rights issue, and the City could not be arbitrary in their treatment of developers or they would be sued—as Abed should know only too well. Later, someone asked Abed directly where he was with Schlesinger? Abed answered that he did not deal with Schlesinger, only New Urban West. And, the City had to accept the application from New Urban West for 292 homes. The final decision on the matter would be made first by the Planning Commission, and ultimately the City Council. The EIR for the proposal was expected to be ready for publication in June.

So, after five years, and tons of city money spent in staff time and legal fees, the ECCHO folks are looking at a project of 392 homes instead of 430, with fewer amenities than the project proposed in Prop. H. Thirty-eight fewer homes. ECCHO will fight the project. Abed says he finds it offensive, but will he fight it? New Urban West has begun the usual PR work at convincing the neighbors of what a great development they are proposing. They’re probably the organizing force behind the new group, Renew Our Country Club. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-country-club-20170509-story.html  So, what will Abed do? Should be interesting.

Granny Flats and the State

Mayor Sam Abed is not a fan of Laura Hunter. He’s been especially critical of her since he found out that she had been on citizens’ advisory panel to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, which drew up the rules that Escondido must follow in order to comply with California’s Clean Water Act. I wrote about the Council majority’s objections to these rules before, https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/03/12/invective-and-ignorance/. I noted that these rules had been violated by Abed when he repaved the parking lot he owns at 540 W. Grand Ave. The San Diego Union Tribune published a comprehensive article on the matter: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sdut-abeds-parking-lot-skipped-stormwater-rules-2016jan24-story.html . So, it was not surprising when, at tonight’s City Council meeting, Abed allowed applause for other speakers under Oral Communications at the beginning of the meeting, but objected to the applause for Hunter as she finished her remarks. Abed doesn’t like applause for his critics. He’s a bit like Trump that way.

Hunter had asked the Council to reconsider the positions they had taken at their April 5th meeting on AB 805 and SB 54.  I wrote about this meeting in my last blog. They did not reconsider their position. In fact, at the end of the meeting, in his SANDAG report, Abed complained that all the wonderful, great things accomplished by SANDAG were being ignored because of one miscalculation about Measure A.  Guess Abed thinks that a miscalculation of $4 billion is a minor problem. As Hunter pointed out, SANDAG is out of control. She added the fact that Transnet I and II have been underfunded disasters, placing too much emphasis on cars and not enough on public transportation.

Item 12: Amendment to Article 70: Second Dwelling Units of the Escondido Zoning Code (AZ 16-0007) brought about an interesting discussion. Basically this was just and advisory item for the council describing the amendments to Article 70, now being developed by a sub-committee of the planning commission, to bring the Escondido’s zoning code into compliance with new state law. The new state law basically makes it much easier to build what they call accessory dwelling units (ADUs), AKA granny flats. State law makes it mandatory that approval of such units be ministerial—rather than going through the planning commission and city council. The new law requires such applications be considered within 120 days, requires one additional off street parking that can be tandem parking—which can be waived if the unit is within one-half mile of public transit, allows garage conversions, and setbacks of only five feet for rear and side yards of such additions. With a few exceptions, such additions will be exempt from CEQA requirements. Director of Community Development Bill Martin ended his presentation by noting that such ADUs would help the city provide more housing for low- and moderate-income households. After the planning commission subcommittee finished its work, he would report back to the Council. See https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/agendas/Council/2017/4-26-17CCAgendaPacket.pdf for more information on these changes.

Councilwoman Olga Diaz had lots of questions for Martin. How many stories would be allowed for such projects? Would the units be metered separately? Would such units be allowed on any lot size? What about units within Home Owner Association developments? Was there a limit to the number of bedrooms? Would studio apartments qualify? Was a separate entrance required? What actually made such an addition an ADU?

Martin said the planning commission subcommittee would have to work on all those issues, and he would have to get back to her, but he could answer one question, what made an addition qualify as an accessory unit was a kitchen.

The four public speakers on the issue all spoke in favor of the proposed amendments, speaking of the convenience of having a home for their parents on their property.

Councilman John Masson was a bit surprised that California would exempt these projects from CEQA requirements. What about storm water runoff? Would the city have any flexibility? He agreed with one of the public speakers who suggested that there should be a tiered system for the square-footage allowed for such ADUs, making larger units permissible when the lot size was greater.

Councilman Mike Morasco agreed that there should be a tiered code for the size of the ADUs. He wondered why the setbacks were reduced to only five feet. He noted that for many garage conversions there would be no room for tandem parking—what then? What were other cities doing? He grumbled that the city had spent a lot of time and money fighting illegal garage conversions.

Councilman Ed Gallo wondered what would happen if the city received ten applications for ADUs in the same neighborhood? No CEQA? He too thought garage conversions was going to create many problems, especially with parking. He also wondered about the set-back reduction—wasn’t that an issue of fire safety?

Diaz said that she was concerned about the time line for these amendments. She did not want the city to sit on the issue for six months. Martin hemmed and hawed a bit, but Diaz was able to get a commitment for bringing the issue being back before the council within two months. Diaz also expressed some concern about what would happen if neighbors didn’t like an ADU—she didn’t want the city to be in the middle of a law suit in such an instance.

As usual, I found it difficult to follow Abed’s arguments. But, as near as I could make out, it seemed to run along these lines. The state of California had caused the housing crisis by its over-regulation, and now was imposing this attempt to fix the crisis on Escondido. The state was now considering adding prevailing wages to building requirements that would further increase the price of housing. The affordability index in San Diego County was now 10%–only 10% of the population could afford to buy a home. The state had put us in this situation. The state had a haphazard approach to everything. When the city approved new housing, the developer had to mitigate everything—schools, roads, police and fire, infrastructure—everything. Would these ADUs have to do that? Martin replied that the types of fees charged for such additions were very limited. We already have parking issues, Abed continued his rant. The state is too harsh. The ordinance developed should meet the state requirement minimum, not more. The responsibility for land use issues should be decided by the local government only—not the state! Where does it end? The state is going in the wrong direction. Someone in Sacramento doesn’t have a clue about local issues—it was the local government that should make these decisions.

After Abed ended his tirade, Diaz said she though the change was a good idea. Masson wondered if Prop S would apply to the change—Martin replied that it would not, because there would be no change to the General Plan’s overall housing density. Morasco wondered if the fire sprinklers would be required for the new units. No, they would not. Gallo wondered if units over the garage, carriage houses, would be allowed. Yes they would. That was the end to the discussion of Item 12, no vote was required.

Abed blames the state for the housing crisis. I blame the growth industry—Realtors, developers, builders, banks, etc. Abed is a part of the growth industry. One of SANDAG’s endless themes is that we must add new jobs, so San Diegans will have more job opportunity. The problem is that new jobs always bring people in from outside the county to fill those jobs—there is never any guarantee that the new jobs will go to existing residents. More residents mean the need for more housing. More housing, more people, means a need for more jobs, and so the cycle continues. It is always a mystery to me how otherwise intelligent people think that there can be infinite growth in a finite area. It is time to change our thinking to a sustainable economy.  Projects that Abed would support like Safari Highlands Ranch, that destroy, forever, natural habitat, should not even be on the drawing board at this point in time when our planet is undergoing the sixth extinction event. The fifth extinction event, the one that did in the dinosaurs, was probably caused by a large meteorite. The sixth is a very unnatural event, cause by human overpopulation and overuse of the planet’s resources. Granny flats will not destroy habitat, they will not need new roads, sewers, etc. They will add to traffic in a gradual way, and hopefully public transit will be improved to mitigate that increase.

 

A Dark and Stormy Night!

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, actually the weather was quite lovely that night, but inside the Escondido City Council Chambers at the April 5th meeting, it was overcast and thunderous. The two main items were item 11 City Response to AB 805, and item 12, the City Council Response to SB 54.

Abed open the discussion on AB 805, saying “me and Deputy Mayor Masson” had put the item on the agenda. Well, I know Abed speaks about five languages, which is four more than I do, so I really shouldn’t criticize, but it reminded me of my 9th grade English teacher. I can imagine her roaring at Abed, “Deputy Mayor Masson and I!!!” When you are admonished by a strict grammarian like Mrs. Carter, you do not easily forget.

Abed heatedly railed against AB 805, and its sponsor Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, referring to her only as Assembelymember Gonzales. This bill would disenfranchise many cities. It was overreach by the state. It was political grandstanding. It would eliminate the tally vote so San Diego and Chula Vista would decide everything. It was a power-grab by the unions. It would mean that SANDAG would spend every dollar on public transit. There’s been quite a bit written about this bill, but I found nothing in it even remotely indicating a power grab by the unions. Masson added that it was a classical overreach from Sacramento, and if passed would mean all the money for transportation would stay in the south. http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/the-fight-over-gonzalez-fletchers-sandag-reform-bill-is-taking-shape/ http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/the-fight-over-gonzalez-fletchers-sandag-reform-bill-is-taking-shape/

Councilwoman Olga Diaz pointed out that it was not Sacramento, but a local representative from the San Diego area who had introduced the measure. It would be nice, she chided Abed and Masson, if they would refer to her preferred name, Gonzalez Fletcher. She noted that the fiasco of SANDAG’s over its purposeful overstatement of the benefits of Measure A, showed that SANDAG needed better oversight. See http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/omg-wtf-sandag-knew-its-forecasts-were-wrong-went-to-voters-with-false-promise-anyway-emails-show/ for information about that fiasco. She did not like the proposed weighted voting called for in this overhaul of SANDAG, but felt it would be better to write a letter to amend the proposal rather than just opposing it. It was not a labor union power grab, the bill would make the mayor of San Diego the permanent chair of SANDAG, and that mayor was a Republican. She strongly favored the independent audit committee for SANDAG AB 805 proposed.

Abed insisted it was not giving power to Mayor Faulconer, but to the San Diego City Council, with their Democratic majority. Councilman Ed Gallo opined that Measure A had not failed because of the amount of money it was projected to raise, adding that the South County liked public transit more, and North County like cars more. Councilman Mike Morasco noted that Transnet I and II had underserved Escondido, and this change to SANDAG would make things worse for Escondido. The audit committee makes sense to Morasco, but the rest was malarkey and a power grab. Diaz pointed out that SANDAG had been formed by an action of the state legislature, and this was a push for accountability.

The measure was approved with “four yes votes, Diaz voting no.”

The discussion of item 12 was quite a bit more tempestuous than item 11. I wrote about State Senator Joel Anderson’s “coffee” where Anderson lambasted SB 54, https://ablueviewescondido.com/2017/03/13/fear-of-felons-or-fear-of-change/  Abed’s fellow in bringing this item before the council was Morasco, but it was Abed who led the charge. He belittled the bill’s title “California Values Act” as total BS, nothing of value here, he insisted. It was a very unprecedented overreach by the state into local government. In the last ten years, Abed bragged, Escondido had deported 2,000 criminals. Changing his usual theme of how the crime rate was increasing due to various new state laws, he insisted that Escondido’s cooperation with ICE was the reason there had been a 22% reduction in crime. He continued to parrot all of Anderson’s talking points (the Republican Party’s talking points,) with the false statements about how serious criminals would escape deportation when their time in jail was finished. He then insisted that the state’s action would result in the state losing millions in federal funding if the bill passed. The state was $500 billion in dept. It was the most overtaxed state. It has a pension crisis. To continue with these state policies was insanity. The far left ideology would take us over a cliff. AB 54 was insanity, “cowardness”, and violates the oath to uphold the constitution. (I may have left out a few of his pejoratives.) He ended by vowing that he would do what he could to ensure the sovereignty (of Escondido?), and would refuse to comply with the law if it were passed. Maybe they would deport him, and he would come back as an illegal alien, then he would have protection in California.

Morasco, a bit more calmly, said SB 54 was complete overreach by the state. Its name was asinine, as it had no value. Though he was philosophically opposed to big government, he did not want to have federal funding eliminated. SB 54 was an overreaction to the Trump’s positions on immigration. It would hamstring officers of the law, and prohibited effective communication with ICE.

Diaz asked if her colleagues had read the bill. She had. She pointed out that if California were a nation, it would have the eighth largest economy in the world. She read from the bill noting that the bill specifically did not prevent any state law enforcement agency from:

Participating in a joint law enforcement task force, so long as the primary purpose of the joint law enforcement task force is not immigration enforcement, as defined in subdivision (f) of Section 7284.4. 7284.4, and participation in the task force by the California law enforcement does not violate any local law or policy of the jurisdiction in which the agency is operating. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB54

Escondido could develop such a policy she explained.

Masson was having none of Diaz’s arguments. SB 54 he insisted was just a way to retaliate against the President, just a political gesture. Gallo echoed Masson’s sentiment, saying that people just couldn’t get over the results of the last election.

The measure passed with “four yes votes, Diaz voting no.”

The hypocrisy of Abed, Masson, Morasco, and Gallo can take my breath away. Abed and Gallo were on the Council when Marie Waldron introduced, and passed, a measure essentially making landlords ICE agents. The measure was subsequently thrown out in court—costing the city hundreds of thousands in legal expenses. But that measure was intended to bring out the anti-immigrant faction in town—Abed, Gallo and Waldron’s base. It had nothing to do with keeping Escondido’s citizens safe and everything to do with bringing out the vote of the racist Anglos. As Abed et al. would say, it was a purely political action.

And, the Republicans are still at it. Just this week, the Republican Party of San Diego County has put on its Facebook page a hit piece on Diaz.

Escondido’s Democrat Councilmember Olga Diaz voted last week in support of shielding convicted, violent illegal immigrant felons from federal immigration authorities. Really? Pleas SHARE and help us get the word out about Olga Diaz refusing to stand  with Escondido residents who want to live free from these types of predators. Have the Democrats no shame?

This is fear mongering at its worst. Have the Republicans no shame.

A win for farmers and Escondido residents.

There were a couple of interesting items on the agenda at Wednesday’s Escondido City Council meeting. First was item 6:  Authorization to enter into standardized agreements for purchase and sale of recycled water for agricultural use. Basically, this allows those farmers who wish to commit to using the recycled water, once all the systems are in place to provide that water, may sign up now, for three years, and receive potable water at the proposed rate for that recycled water, $2.70 per 1,000 gallons. After Director of Utilities Christopher McKinney made his presentation, Councilwoman Olga Diaz asked him why couldn’t this have been done earlier, as she was sure the farmers would have been more than willing, the Council had always been told that to do so would have violated state law. McKinney explained that until now, they would have been pressed to justify giving the farmers such a significantly lower rate, because, before this time, they would have had some trepidation about claiming the benefit to the city from the proposed project, because the project was too far off—not eminent enough.

The project benefits all the city’s water customers, because it eliminates the need to build an enlarged outfall pipe from the Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HARRF) out into the Pacific—an expansion that would cost billions. Also, being able to show that the city had guaranteed customers for the recycled water would make it easier to obtain loans to finance the city’s project, loans with lower interest rates, again saving all the city’s customers money.

Diaz put McKinney on the spot when she asked him about the use of the recycled water by the proposed Safari Highlands development, would they be eligible to get the discounted rate? McKinney began by saying the city utility staff was not making this recommendation for the benefit of the farmers, but what would be best for all the ratepayers. He added, that when the system was in place they would have to develop a fee schedule for various users of the recycled water, and Safari Highlands would not qualify for the agricultural rate. The item was approved by the entire council.

The other interesting item was number 7: Undergrounding in lieu fee waiver request for centerpoint 78 project ADM 13-027.  Centerpointe 78 is a project, previously approved by the council, for a supermarket and fast food franchise with a drive-thru (Starbucks, maybe) project to replace the old Toyota of Escondido building, across from Lincoln school. Assistant City Engineer Homi Namdari explained that the city requires projects of over $23,800 in value to put utility lines underground if possible. If the utility lines include a 69kV line (as in this case, along Lincoln Ave.) then such undergrounding is considered infeasible. In such cases the developer is required to pay and “in lieu” fee of $457 per linear foot to the city, or 5 percent of the valuation of the project whichever is lower. In this case, the 5 percent was the lower figure—well, not so low, $240,474. City staff recommended that the council deny the request for the waiver. In their request for the waiver the developer claimed to have been unaware of the fee requirement as it was not separately listed in the city’s conditions for approval. Namdari explained that the conditions did specifically require the payment of “all applicable fees”.

The representative for the developer, Jim Simmons, repeated the complaint that the fee and its size were not known until he had already obtained financing, and though the additional cost of a $240,000 would make additional financing difficult.

Councilman Ed Gallo reasoned (using the term very loosely) that since it was infeasible to bury the 69kV line, and the line would always be above ground, and the in lieu fee would be used by the city to bury utility lines elsewhere, why should the developer have to pay?

Councilman Mike Morasco wondered why this fee wasn’t specified on the requirements, with a specific amount. City Engineer Julie Procopio explained that the city did not traditionally make a comprehensive list of all the fees in a projects requirements because the list of fees was subject to change during the approval process, and the city traditionally referred to the city’s fee schedule.

Councilman John Masson thought he remembered that the city had made some concessions in the transportation mitigation fees when the project first came before the Council. He felt that would have been the time to negotiate for lower fees.

Councilwoman Olga Diaz observed that the above ground utility lines dated the city. She wished it were possible to bury all lines, including the 69kV lines. She pointed out (perhaps for Gallo’s benefit) that burying the lines anywhere in the city, improved the city, and therefore was an ancillary benefit to any development in the city. She did find it hard to believe that a developer would miss such a substantial fee, and hoped the staff would take steps to ensure it did not happen again. She noted that the location had a great deal of traffic, including people waiting to get on the 78 in the morning—sort of a captive audience for a Starbucks.

Mayor Sam Abed was obviously in a quandary. His basic instinct is always to aid the developers, and so he put forth the idea that the council should reduce the fees by the maximum the city had previously waived, $72,500. The new City Manager Jeff Epp (previously City Attorney) pointed out that such arbitrary figures would put the city staff in a difficult position, since it would be a precedent that future developers would refer to. The council, Epp said, needed to give some rationale about why they were waiving the fee.

Morasco said he still didn’t understand how such a substantial fee wouldn’t have been pointed out to the developer. Epp said that the city staff assumed the developer would have checked the current fee schedule, and understand that all the fees so listed would need to be paid.

The staff’s recommendation to not waive the fees was approved three to two, with Gallo and Morasco dissenting. Score one for the citizens over developers, for a change.

 

Fear of Felons or Fear of Change?

I had never paid much attention to State Senator Joel Anderson before his “Community Coffee” last Thursday evening.  I knew that he was a very conservative Republican, but also knew that he and my other state representative, Assemblyperson Marie Waldron, (the ex-Escondido Councilwoman who thought making landlords ICE agents would be a peachy idea,) couldn’t do much damage in the state government.

I arrived early, 5:30 pm (the affair started at 6:00 pm), showed my ticket, and was told I could go right in. There were protestors with signs on both sides of the immigration issue (a dozen or so on each side) outside the VFW post where the town hall took place,  a little loud, but pretty peaceful. The hall was filling up rapidly, but I was able to nab a seat on the aisle—I always like to be able to make a quick getaway, a little paranoid I guess. But, to quote my husband’s favorite saying, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” However, as the room filled, it became apparent that the teanderthal types I worry about were definitely outnumbered by progressives.

Councilman Ed Gallo began the proceedings after some difficulties with the mic. I’m afraid my opinion of Anderson dropped a bit when Gallo’s first words of praise for Anderson were that Anderson had supported him from the “beginning”.  Mayor Sam Abed welcomed the audience, saying that he was a proud immigrant, who had known Anderson for years, and was proud to say that Escondido was the largest city in Anderson’s district.

Anderson began with a short review of his background, claiming that he had never any intention of becoming a politician, but only did so out of a sense of serving the community. He then went into the main theme of the evening, Senate Bill 54. He railed against it, stating over and over and over that 11,661 illegal immigrant dangerous felons could be turned loose on society instead of being deported when they finished their terms of imprisonment, or were paroled. He expanded on his theme by avowing that if they could find a country dumb enough to take all of such felons (not just the illegal immigrants) he would like to do that also.

A young woman tried to point out that the bill actually required the notification of the FBI of the release of any violent felons. Anderson cut her off, saying that no, the only violent felons so covered were murderers—rapists, etc., would not be included. I asked him, why, if that was his main concern with SB54, he didn’t try to amend it. He insisted there could be no fix. I pressed, asking why it couldn’t be fixed. He said that would be unnecessary since such a fix would make it the same bill as the 2013 California Trust Act.

Anderson lied. He lied on both issues.

SB54, the California Value Act specifically states that:

3058.11.

(a) Whenever any person confined to county jail is serving a term for the conviction of a misdemeanor offense and has a prior conviction for a violent felony listed in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5 or has a prior felony conviction in another jurisdiction for an offense that has all the elements of a violent felony described in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5, the sheriff may notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the scheduled release of that person, provided that no local law or policy prohibits the sharing of that information with either the Federal Bureau of Investigation or federal immigration authorities.

(b) The notification may be made up to 60 days prior to the scheduled release date. The only nonpublicly available personal information that the notification may include is the name of the person who is scheduled to be released and the scheduled date of release. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB54

Section 667.5, subdivision (c) includes murder, manslaughter, mayhem, rape, etc. http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=667.5.

So, there is nothing to prevent the notification of the feds of the release of such violent criminals.

The California Trust Act prohibits law enforcement official of California cities and counties from detaining individuals solely to turn over to ICE. SB54 extends that prohibition to school police and security departments. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB4

SB54 also goes beyond the California Trust Act by Having the Attorney General

“ within three months after the effective date of the act that added this section, in consultation with the appropriate stakeholders, shall publish model policies limiting assistance with immigration enforcement to the fullest extent possible consistent with federal and state law at public schools, health facilities operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state, courthouses, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement facilities, and shelters, and ensuring that they remain safe and accessible to all California residents, regardless of immigration status. All public schools, health facilities operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state, and courthouses shall implement the model policy, or an equivalent policy. All other organizations and entities that provide services related to physical or mental health and wellness, education, or access to justice, including the University of California, are encouraged to adopt the model policy.”

Anderson’s arguments beg a couple of other questions. Why do our prisons fail so miserably at rehabilitation that such felons who have served their time still represent a danger to society? Why should we be especially worried about these 11,661 when there are around 60,000 prisoners convicted of violent felons in California’s state and federal prisons?[1] Is it morally acceptable to send the prisoners that we have failed to rehabilitate back to their home countries?

Anderson exposed his libertarian leanings when he was asked why he voted against making texting while driving a moving violation. He said his daughter, when a toddler, used to take delight in throwing her cup at him from her car seat in back of him. That he said was distracting—should that be made illegal? Well, not sure how many accidents have occurred due to sippy cup mayhem, but doubt it competes with the number caused by texting while driving. Sure, after an accident, a driver could have been cited for not paying attention to their driving and causing the accident, but, unless it’s a violation, law officers would be unable to ticket someone for texting while driving before the accident occurs—preventing such accidents and their cost to society.

I don’t doubt that Anderson sincerely wants to protect society from dangerous felons. But, there’s more to his motives than that. It was clear in the VFW post Thursday evening the audience was split into two sides on the immigration issue. Those who view undocumented immigrants as people wanting make their lives better, just like my great, great, great, great-grandfather who emigrated from County Donegal to Philadelphia, and then Virginia in 1740. And, those who viewed the undocumented as law breakers who brought down wages, and posed a threat to their way of life and their culture. They represent what Van Jones has called white-lash. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/van-jones-trump-2016-presidential-election-231048 You could feel and hear their resentment when Anderson fed their fears.

Anderson, Abed, Gallo, and Waldron are all politicians that have played on this anti-immigrant, xenophobic passion, just has Trump has done. That passion got the vote out in the November election. But there was another passion present in that room Thursday, the passion of people enraged by the display of white-lash with its ugly underbelly of prejudice and lack of compassion, a passion that has brought some hope for the future into my outlook—something that has been missing for a few months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.bop.gov/about/statistics/population_statistics.jsp

http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports_Research/Offender_Information_Services_Branch/Annual/ACHAR1/ACHAR1d2013.pdf http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports_Research/Offender_Information_Services_Branch/WeeklyWed/TPOP1A/TPOP1Ad170308.pdf