In my last post I said Abed referred to the 2000 units in the parking lot area–that was incorrect. He was referring to the downtown area, not the parking lot, where only 100 or so units are planned.
Except for the 45-minute late appearance of a candidate for the 2nd District Escondido City Council Seat, there were no surprises at the September 25th forum held the First United Methodist Church.
The forum started with the mayoral candidates, Paul McNamara and Sam Abed. McNamara thanked the church for hosting the event and stated his belief that the city’s potential was not being reached, and that it was known as “for lease Escondido”. Abed chided McNamara for tearing the city down—the city was excellent, and he had no idea what McNamara was talking about. Abed made his usual boast that $2 billion had been invested in the city. Well, not sure where that $2 billion was spent—but it definitely wasn’t spent on Grand Ave, where 356 – 340, 249, 141, and 101 East Grand, and 101, 102-106, and 138-142 West Grand are all available for lease. http://www.loopnet.com/california/escondido_retail-space-for-lease/. With the proposed building and (at least temporary) loss of Parking Lot 1 across from the City Hall, the number of Grand Ave. vacancies will probably snowball Abed boasted that “over 2,000 new businesses”, and “over 1500 new jobs” had been brought to Escondido. So, evidently, quite a few very small businesses. The only expansion of businesses I’ve noticed seems to be that of coffee houses—not exactly a font of high-income jobs.
When asked about the homelessness problem, McNamara observed that there could be no one size fits all solution, noting that the police were at the forefront of handling the problem. He advocated partnering with faith groups. Abed agreed that it was a complex problem, then went into to his usual “blame the state” game saying that recent laws had released hundreds of thousands from prison, thus the increase in the homeless population, as usual offering no data to support his premise.
The sale of the city’s parking lot was the next question. Abed insisted that nothing had been decided. Well, actually, the city has entered escrow on the sale of that property for “fair market value.” The decision to add 2,000 units where the parking lot was, was approved by the public when they approved the new general plan in the November, 2012 election Abed insisted. McNamara noted that Abed was again not listening to the people in Escondido, and he would stop the project if possible—arguing that what was needed was more parking, not less.
McNamara felt that the city should reopen a library in the East Valley Pkwy area, and did not think that outsourcing the library services was a good idea. Abed again insisted that the city had to outsource the library services to save $400 K a year in library expense and $10 million over ten years in pension expense. Of course during the period the city outsourced the library the city also hired new people in the city manager’s office, as well as hiring someone to oversee the city’s recreational and library services, making that $400 K savings very debatable.
Abed insisted that developers have to mitigate for any traffic impact their developments bring—yes, all of us who have lived in Southern California for more than a few years know how well that works out, not! McNamara noted that Abed and his colleagues had wanted to use the city’s parks to develop waterparks or bike racing parks—talk about traffic increase!
McNamara cited the success he had on the Palomar College Board in seeking other revenue sources to help solve the threatening pension deficit problem. Abed noted that he had been able to get the city employees to agree to the minimum pension benefits allowed under California law.
Both candidates agreed that housing was too expensive.
Abed railed against SB54, and how the city police cooperation of ICE had deported 2,700 illegal immigrant criminals. McNamara noted that SB54 did on prohibit cooperation with ICE on immigrants who had committed one of 800 crimes. Left unsaid was the lack of trust by the immigrant population that may very well lead to unreported crimes.
When asked to describe a time when they were able to bring a group of diverse people together, McNamara spoke of responding to 9/11 while an officer in the Marine Corps. Abed spoke of how much he and other businessmen on East Valley Pkwy. were able to improve the area.
Abed got a bit defensive when asked if public officials should profit from city business. He avowed he and his colleagues always abstained from any decision where they had a conflict of interest—to say otherwise was simply political grandstanding. McNamara answered with a simple “no”. There should never be any suggestion of a “pay to play” situation.
McNamara said that the solution to gang problems had to include looking at what caused the problem. He felt the police did not get enough credit for what they did. People should be given an alternative to gang life, many joined gangs because they felt they did not belong anywhere else. Abed felt illegal immigration contributed to the problem.
In summing up, Abed said he was very proud of his record and the city was on the right track. McNamara said the city had enormous untapped potential, the downtown could become a thriving community. Its leaders must not continue to regard recreation as an unnecessary expense.
More on the City Council Forum in a few days.
I attended tonight’s forum for the mayoral and city council races at the First United Methodist Church in Escondido tonight, and will write my impressions of the event later this week. But tonight’s appearance by newcomer to the race for the councilmember for Escondido District Two, Nicole Downey, brought back memories I would like to share. I don’t know what John Masson ever did to Downey, but I don’t think she likes him very much. I wrote a piece that was published in the North County Times back in November of 2012 when Masson was first appointed to the City Council. The one who accused him of being drunk and jumping into a pool, naked, was Nicole Downey. She made similar accusations tonight. But this was one of my better efforts—would like to refer you to the original piece in the North County Times, but all the old issues of that paper were “disappeared” when the San Diego Union Tribune took over, and dissolved it. So here is my copy:
Except for the accusation that one applicant for the council seat vacated by Marie Waldron had once, while drunk at a party, stripped naked, flipped off his audience, and jumped into a swimming pool, things went pretty much as expected at Wednesday’s Escondido City Council meeting.
Fateful agenda item 13, “Discussion and possible action or appointment to fill council vacancy,” began with statements from the applicants, even though Mayor Sam Abed and Councilman Mike Morasco preferred to get the bothersome comments from the public out of the way first. Councilwoman Olga Diaz was able to point out the logic of starting with the applicants.
Their comments about their backgrounds, concerns, and views included: strengthening Escondido’s infrastructure, praise of the current Council, need to increase revenue, praise of the current Council, eligibility due to being a 10th generation American, praise of the current Council, view from a new resident, being a third generation Escondidan, praise of the current Council, and need for graffiti removal. Several had strong resumes, including the two favorites, John Masson, the anointed Chamber of Commerce candidate, and Don Greene, the third highest vote getter in the November election. But, I found the most compelling speaker to be someone who wasn’t a candidate, Miranda Griffith, who spoke for her mother, Carmen Miranda. I’d like to see Griffith on the City Council.
Then the public spoke. The speakers who pleaded for either a special election for filling Waldron’s seat or the appointment of Don Greene, were intermingled with the “suits” who spoke for John Masson. The one surprise was a comment from highly respected Escondido historian, Carol Rae, that perhaps the appointment of Don Green would balance the Council between the interests of the business community and ordinary citizens.
Mayor Abed quoted the laws giving the council the right to select Waldron’s replacement.
Diaz suggested that the law was the minimum of what the civic obligation of their council should be. She urged her colleagues to suspend their haste, glean the most eligible from the list of applicants, hold a public forum where these applicants could be questioned by Escondido’s citizens, and then decide.
Morasco smugly asserted that any vote for him was also a vote to fill Marie Waldron sainted seat with someone with her values. It was Marie Waldron who initiated Escondido’s infamous proposals to make landlords immigration agents, and to restrict parking in order to discourage extended (read Latino) families from occupying a single family houses.
Councilman Ed Gallo argued that never before had an appointed council member been the third highest vote getter. Diaz noted that mindless adherence to the past meant that there could never be change for the good.
Gallo moved to appoint Masson. Hearing no second, Abed seconded the motion. The motion carried with Diaz voting no. The good ole boys won again, but for how long? Latino citizens have begun to organize. The times they are a changing, and the good ole boys aren’t going to be ready.
If you’ve ever been discouraged by the lack of convenient parking in Escondido, you will not be too heartened by City Councilman Ed Gallo’s prediction that “someday it will get done.” He was commenting at last Wednesday’s council meeting’s Item 8: DISPOSITION OF PROPERTY: 137-151 WEST VALLEY PARKWAY. Yes, that is correct, the city, with the current council majority’s approval, has entered into an agreement to sell the parking lot across from city hall. A lot that I have always found most convenient to downtown. If you’re interested in the details, you can see some of them on the city’s website: https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/agendas/Council/2018/09-19-18CCAgendaPacket.pdf .
The item was on the Consent Calendar. This is a group of items that usually don’t need much discussion by the council or public, e.g. approval of minutes, second readings of items that have been approved, but by ordinance, have to be covered twice in council meetings, minor budget adjustments, etc. Putting this item under the Consent Calendar seemed odd, but it was pulled from that calendar by the public.
Assistant City Manager Jay Petrek made a presentation about the proposed purchase. The buyer, Touchstone Communities, will pay the city “fair market value” (yet to be determined) for the lot. Another strange feature of this proposal. What they will build on the lot is also undetermined—another unusual facet. On Touchstone’s website they have a picture of a six-story building which they describe as “two brand new residential projects, which will bring additional parking to the area.” http://touchstonecommunities.com/portfolio-posts/downtown-escondido-redevelopment/ Well, actually, in the proposal they are only required to provide 76 public parking spaces to replace the 118 spaces now available in the lot. To me, the suggested design looks like something you would build with Legos—very out of step with the buildings on Grand Ave.
After Petrek’s presentation, Councilwoman Olga Diaz had some questions. Was there ever, in the city’s history, an example of the city entering into a contract without knowing the sales prices, or what would actually be built? She wanted to be consistent in her decisions and felt this proposal was totally inconsistent with prior city policy.
City Manager Jeff Epp answered that their sales agreement of the old police department building had been entered into without a complete plan for what would be built. Diaz responded that agreement had some structure to it—this proposal had none. Mayor Sam Abed interrupted with the assurance to Diaz that the city wasn’t selling the property with this agreement. City Attorney Michael McGuinness explained that, actually the city was selling the property, but could back out of the deal if they did not approve of the appraisal—as could Touchstone.
Five members of the public spoke about the proposal. Robert de Fillippi, owner of the restaurant on Grand by that name, noted that his restaurant added many thousands of dollars in sales tax to the city’s budget. Taking away that parking lot, would kill his business as well as others. Jim Crone, who owns a lot of Escondido’s business property, including two buildings on Grand, concurred, noting that Mike Morasco would not be happy if Dennis Snyder were to preempt some of his parking for Morasco’s physical therapy clinic for Snyder’s school. A member of the Downtown Business Association agreed with de Fillippi and Crone. Maria Bowman said she would be very happy to see such development. David Ferguson, representing Touchstone, went into some of the details of the agreement, including a reference to a selling price of around $1.4 million.
Diaz said she did not like the item being placed on the Consent Calendar. In the initial discussion about the project there had been talk of a parking structure being built on the city’s parking lot at the corner of Kalmia and 2nd. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-escondido-touchstone-20170630-story.html That was no longer on the table, apparently. She was opposed to the way the project was being approached, reiterating her comments on the lack of precedent for approving an agreement without much information about what the end product or sale price would be. She felt there should be much more allowance for public comment. If there were problems with the project later in the process, the developers would use the argument that they had done so much it would be unfair to deny them a chance to finish.
And then she pointed out what she felt was a big hurdle against the project, Councilman John Masson’s engineering firm’s participation in the project. Now Masson had recused himself from the discussion and vote on the project, and had done so in previous closed session meetings where the project was discussed. But, Diaz pointed out, in the ethics class she had just taken, as recommended by the city staff, that very scenario was discussed and concluded to be unethical. This could leave the city open to a lawsuit and invalidate every action the council took on the matter.
Gallo allowed that anyone who was involved with real estate knew that the buyers first determined the entitlements on a parcel before trying to build anything since they didn’t want to buy a pig in a poke. He did not explain why that process required the actual signing of a sales agreement before determining the feasibility, or why an appraisal and price couldn’t be determined before opening escrow. He then philosophized about the parking problem in the city, noting that in his own tracking of parking availability, he had never observed a time when there wasn’t plenty of parking in the lots. He then expressed his belief that a lot of the parking problem was due to the usurping of good parking by the retail stores’ owners and employees.
Councilman Mike Morasco didn’t think that the process had been “the opposite of transparent.” The council was not trying to “slip one by”. He elaborated on this “not clandestine” theme for a bit, and said that putting something on the Consent Calendar was not trying to hide it—since it could always be pulled. Then he echoed Gallo’s sentiment that parking was always a problem, maybe diagonal parking?
Abed said he wanted to address the trust issue. According to the City Attorney, Masson’s actions were perfectly all right, and putting McGuinness on the spot by asking for his agreement. An obviously uncomfortable McGuinness said that was true as far as he had observed. At one time or another, Abed continued, everyone on the council had a conflict of interest including Diaz, whose husband had worked on the police force. He admitted that there were issues with parking, but there would need to be a transitional parking plan.
Diaz said again that she disagreed with the process, and that elected officials making a profit on a project was a problem, as she learned in her ethics class. She was not accusing anyone of wrongdoing, but felt the situation was one that could lead to future litigation for the city. She noted that when her husband had worked for the police department and she was on the council, the situation had been reviewed by the legal department in depth, and it had been decided that there were so many layers between her position, and the position her husband held, there would be no conflict. In this case, there were no layers between Masson and Touchstone.
As expected, the motion was passed with “three yes votes, Diaz voting no, Masson abstaining.”
Banff Springs Hotel
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
We arrived in this beautiful spot around noon today from Calgary. We’re half way through our trip.
We flew from San Diego to Salt Lake City last Wednesday, and spent the night in Ogden. The next day we drove up to Teton National Park. On the way, near Soda Springs, Idaho, we visited an historical site where you can still see the path of the Oregon Trail immigrants. My great-grandfather, William McCown and his extensive family, traveled over that trail in 1852.
I like believe that the Grand Tetons probably got their name from the branch of Sioux by that name rather than a French work for a part of the female anatomy, but that may be my feminist prejudice showing. They are overwhelming. We spent the night, and a considerable fortune staying at the Four Seasons. That was underwhelming. The last time we had splurged on a Four Seasons was about 18 years ago in Istanbul, Turkey. That had been a fantastic experience. In the Teton Village branch, every time you turned around, they charged for an upgrade. The food was very good, but about four prices.
There were no bears to greet us when we drove into Yellowstone the next day. The last time I had visited the park, I was about six years old, in 1951 (?), and I can still remember all the bears begging for food as my father drove our Desoto station wagon into the park. The only other think I remember from that first visit was the herds of buffalo and Old Faithful. Well, Old Faithful is still there, but we saw only to young male bison, and no bears. I’m sure the bears are much healthier now that people are no longer allowed to feed them.
We started our visit to Yellowstone at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. The West Thumb is a portion of the Yellowstone Lake. There is no East Thumb, but there is a South Arm and a Southwest Arm. The West Thumb is thought to be a caldera from one of the many volcanic explosions in Yellowstone’s geological past. We learned that the thermal hot springs pools varied in color due to a variation in their temperatures. The most beautiful clear blue pools, aare that way because their temperatures are over 140 degrees Farenheit, and nothing can live in them.
We traveled around the northwest shore of the lake, then north to see the mud volcano, then back to the lake and west to Old Faithful. We too a ranger led tour about the history of Old Faithful, the Old Faithful Inn, and Yellowstone Park as we traveled around Old Faithful, which faithfully went off about halfway through the tour. I have a new phone, and was having a disagreement with it, evidently, while I tried to take a picture of the geyser spouting, so didn’t get a picture. The phone has a good camera, but it changes setting if I hold my tongue wrong or something.
We spent that night at the Old Faithful Inn in the older of the two wings—1920’s sometime. We ate dinner at the Inn, and the food was good and prices reasonable, and the wait interminable. As we were leaving the Inn the next day, the Steamboad Geyser went off—much bigger than Old Faithful, but not nearly as predictable.
The next day we traveled to the Mammoth Hot Springs, stopping along the way at many varied hot springs and geysers. The Mommoth Hot Springs terraces were one of the highlights of our visit.
We then traveled east to Tower Fall and then south through the Dunraven pass to Canyon. The scenery was spectacular, and from the pass we caught another glimpse of the Tetons. In the foreground of this picture, you can see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.
We spent the night at the new hotel in Canyon, and again had a good, reasonably priced dinner.
The next day, before setting out to our next destination we took the Canyon Rim Road, and caught a view of the Lower Falls with a rainbow.
Now our next destination was to have been Whitefish on the west side if Glacier National Park. However, we found out that our Glacier National Park was closed due to the fire, so we made reservations in Great Falls, Montana instead. That way, we could visit the Canadian part of Glacier National Park, which was open.
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Chateau Lake Louise
Great Falls Montana is a very pleasant city, with a definite western flavor. The stores in the strip mall near our hotel were very much like those you find in Escondido, but then, so did the stores in the strip mall in Airdrie, a town, really a suburb, north of Calgary, where we spent the next night.
From Great Falls we traveled northwest to the east side of Glacier National Park, and actually went through Saint Mary, the eastern entrance to the park. On the way we had some beautiful views, but then it clouded over, and was raining by the time we got to the Canadian Park, which was very beautiful, even though we couldn’t see very far up the mountains. Our best views were from Highway 17 towards the park.
The drive from Airdrie to Banff was really spectacular, but our drive yesterday, through the Icefields Pkwy. northwest of our marvelous hotel at Lake Louise. The sun was in the wrong direction to take really good pictures, but I was able to get one that gives some idea of the magnitude of the beautiful views.
This view is but a sample of the views along the parkway—they were all pretty amazing,
And this is a view from our hotel window here in Lake Louise.
I’m sure that the Paul McNamara campaign would be surprised to learn that he is going to build a detention center in Escondido and declare it a sanctuary city if elected mayor. That was what Melinda Santa Cruz, the first speaker under oral communications at last Wednesday’s city council meeting, claimed she had heard—adding that one would have to be really stupid to support that.
She began her comments with a strange anecdote about a friend who had a girlfriend who worked for the San Diego City Schools. Very few of her students spoke English, so therefore when this friend developed a case of bacterial meningitis it must have been due to his indirect contact with his girlfriend’s students? She said he wasn’t diagnosed until six hours before death. Did he die? Before she had made this outrageous statement, she referenced Dr. Michael Savage’s Diseases Without Borders, listing a long list of diseases brought by immigrants into the country, including chicken pox, T.B., malaria, as well as lice and scabies (which she did not differentiate as infestations.)
I would like to write-off the woman as a nut case—but I think that there are many in Escondido who have similar fears about immigrants, and Mayor Sam Abed and company are only too happy to stir up that fear. Abed is not shy about breaking the rules and responding to those who are critical of anything he does during oral communications from the public, but in the case of this woman’s outrageous statement about McNamara’s intentions, he remained silent. The fact that a detention center would be a concept that is totally contrary to a sanctuary city seems not to have occurred to this woman.
Just a few weeks before, at a City Council/Mobilehome Rent Review Board meeting, a man, representing the residents in a mobilehome park, during the discussion of a request for a short-form rent increase item, began his complaints about the maintenance of the park by thanking Abed for keeping Escondido from being a sanctuary city. Here’s a mobilehome owner subject to rent increases that are almost automatically approved by the Escondido City Council in their role as the Mobilehome Rent Review Board, still supporting Abed, even though Abed receives lots of campaign donations from mobilehome park owners, and consistently votes to support the park owners’ interests. His fear of immigrants evidently outweighs his fear of rent increase.
No matter how you look at the current political situation, here and abroad, the rise of extreme anti-immigrant rightwing political movements is basically about racism, and fear of “the others”. Rightwing politicians know that increasing fear of immigrants by outrageously exaggerated claims of their bringing disease and crime will increase the number of people who support their politics, as I pointed out in more detail in my last blog.
How can we overcome this fear? Education? There were two cases of meningococcal disease in San Diego County in 2017—was this woman’s friend one of them, or one of the three cases so far this year? https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/dam/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs/documents/Monthly_CD_Report_March2018.pdf I’m sure this woman’s convinced that there is a major epidemic caused by immigrants. Never mind that it might very well have been an endemic source. It is spread by droplet infection—was her friend’s girlfriend sick too—or was her friend in his girlfriend’s classroom?
It’s been my experience that you can provide tons of empirical evidence to people who still support Trump, or Abed, but it’s like talking to a brick wall. Facts don’t seem to matter anymore—they’re written off as fake news. But I will continue to try.
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.