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Cities seem likely to lose prevailing wage case; Charter argument weakened

In a “tentative” ruling, a San Diego County Superior Court Judge says the state can force cities using state funds to pay prevailing wages on construction projects. While the ruling is not yet final and is certain to be appealed, it appears to further weaken the case for Charter City status for Escondido.

While prevailing wages are not mentioned in the proposed Charter, they are, in fact, the primary motivation for those who back the change. The movement to get small and middle-sized cities to change from general law to charter status has been promoted by the construction industry in an effort to pay lower, non-union wages to construction workers.

To head off that effort, Democrats in the state legislature passed a law requiring charter cities to pay prevailing wages or lose state funding. The suit was brought by the cities of Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista and El Cajon to challenge the law.

Claimed savings by not paying prevailing wages has been a primary argument for Escondido changing from general law to charter city status. General law cities are required to pay prevailing wages on construction projects.

Read more in UT San Diego.
Read the ruling.

More evidence pointing to charter ‘savings’ fallacy

Prevailing Wage Survey by City of Carlsbad

City of Carlsbad answers to prevailing wage survey.

by Don Greene, President

Part of the pro-city charter mantra we hear from Mayor Abed and the other members of the city council majority is about savings. Especially savings when it comes to eliminating prevailing wages from city construction projects. In a recently released survey, the ‘savings’ that Sam & Co continue to promote are becoming harder and harder to find.

Continue reading…

Mayor Abed’s deceptively ‘showy’ chart

by Don Greene, President

Mayor's Budget Chart - No Substance, All Show

This chart, while ‘showy’ doesn’t tell the real story about the city’s economy.

For those of us at the Mayoral Forum put on by the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, we really saw Mayor Abed come alive when he was able to show one of his props to the audience. And while the chart on “financial stability” that he presented paints a “pretty” picture, it is deceptive in the information which it provides.

Before we can understand how it is that this chart is deceptive, let’s take a moment to understand basic municipal finance. This is by no means a comprehensive look at municipal finance, but neither is the Mayor’s chart.

Continue reading…

Abed, Diaz spar at Chamber Forum

ChamberMayoralForum8-14-500

There were few surprises as candidates for Escondido Mayor in the November election met for a forum August 20, sponsored by the Escondido Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Sam Abed and Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz repeatedly demonstrated the starkly different choice before voters. Perhaps the ‘news’ was the presence of Stephen Siaw, an unexpected newcomer to the race and to city politics. It was Siaw’s first appearance at a public candidate forum. The approximately 100 people in attendance welcomed him warmly.

Chamber Governmental Affairs chair Kevin Svetich asked a wide-ranging mix of questions that covered the key issues. Here’s a quick summary of significant responses:

Continue reading…

Diaz supports Lakes initiative

LAKES InitiativeDeputy Mayor Olga Diaz announced in an email to supporters August 19 that she will support the Lakes initiative, Prop. H on the November ballot, as “the first and only written compromise” that “provides a path to resolving an expensive legal dispute.”

Diaz went on to say “I have considered the options, removing the emotion of loss (from both parties) and considered only the measurable outcomes to determine that The Lakes Specific Plan Initiative is worth supporting. I believe it is actually a pretty good plan. Not perfect, but good.”

In a Chamber of Commerce forum August 20, Mayor Sam Abed was asked his position and said “Let the voters decide and we will work with Stuck In The Rough. I’m committed to providing a solution.” (Stuck in the Rough is the developer’s firm seeking to build 430 homes on land previously used as the Escondido Country Club golf course.) But Abed never said whether he was for or against the initiative. He noted that he “never took sides” and from the beginning has sought a compromise. (See a history of his positions on the Escondido 2014 blog.)

Candidate Stephen Siaw, also at the forum, said “I’m a big individual liberty guy,” and that he supports the initiative because a property owner has the right to develop his property.

Read the entire statement from Deputy Mayor Diaz.

Read coverage in UT San Diego.
Read coverage from KPBS. 

District 2 challengers criticize Council majority

AugMeet2014-wide-300The three candidates who seek to unseat appointed Council member John Masson each criticized the Council majority and took positions on several hot-button issues in a forum before the August 9 meeting of Escondido Democrats. Nicole Downey, Chad Hunziker and Rick Paul each seek election in the Second Council District, which covers the north and northwest areas of Escondido. Incumbent John Masson, who was appointed in 2012 to fill the remaining two years of Marie Waldron’s term following her election to the State Assembly, has never stood for election.

Paul, who said he was running because of Masson’s long list of campaign contributions from developers, said he would “confront cozy cronyism” and would make “new development pay its way” if elected. He said the overriding issue is “the deteriorating quality of life in Escondido… caused by developer excesses.” Nicole Downey said “I don’t think our council is doing what’s best for the residents. They’re focused mostly on developers and developers’ needs and lining their pockets.” Chad “Shad” Hunziker criticized the current Council for its vote on the golf course project, saying “the Council could have made it a better situation by taking time to proceed. Instead they were looking for their own interests” in an election year. “I think we need leaders who are going to put the needs of the community before their own,” he concluded.

In the end, Escondido Democrats chose to rate Hunziker “acceptable,” took “no position” on Downey and Paul, and rated Masson “unacceptable.” Because none of the candidates is a Democrat, the Club is prevented from making an endorsement in the race.

Watch video of the forum on the Escondido Democrats YouTube Channel.

Continue reading…

ACLU appeals Planning Commission denial of migrant kids shelter

The San Diego ACLU has formally appealed the decision of the Escondido Planning Commission denying permission to place a youth care facility for migrant children in a former nursing home in the city.

The appeal to the City Council is on behalf of Southwest Key, the firm that proposed to open and operate the facility. It argues that the facility’s impact on the surrounding area would be equivalent to its earlier operation as a nursing home, that traffic, parking, noise and security issues are not problematic. It also dismissed the commission’s claim that the facility would create crowding in the neighborhood.

“Because the city has a long history of trampling on the civil and human rights of immigrants in the U.S., and because this proposed shelter would serve unaccompanied immigrant children seeking refuge from increasing violence in their homelands, the ACLU seeks to ensure that the City of Escondido does not continue its history of discrimination by using unlawful pretexts to deny a permit,” said David Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

Read the entire ACLU release. 

Read coverage in UT San Diego. 

Fundraising reports show high stakes in city campaigns

Fundraising totals April through June, reported  to the City Clerk’s office, show that spending in the race for Escondido Mayor is set to increase dramatically over the 2010 race. Mayor Sam Abed has already raised nearly twice as much as he spent in the entire campaign in 2010, reporting income of more than $216,000. He has $195,001 in the bank for his campaign. Challenger Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz reported raising a total of $105,765 and has $62,000 on hand for her campaign. The campaign totals are likely to increase, since candidates are still fund raising.

In the First District Council race, incumbent Ed Gallo reported raising $16,595 since April 30 for a total of $28,370 this year. He had funds he carried over from previous reporting periods that leave him $32,827 in the bank. Challenger Consuelo Martinez reported raising $17,564 and has $9,308 available for her campaign.

In the Second District Council race, incumbent John Masson, appointed in 2010 but in his first-ever election, reported raising $21,005 since April 30 for a total of $49,405. He has $45,549 available to spend. Of the $21,005 raised in the reporting period, $12,300 came from three development-related donors, all from outside Escondido, who gave Masson the maximum $4,100 each. Masson’s other donors in the reporting period include a developer, a real estate agent, and two home builders. Masson’s totals dwarf his opponents. Nicole Downey reported contributions of $8,088 for the campaign; Rick Paul has raised less than $2,000. Chad Hunziker and Lynda Rose have ‘pulled papers’ to file for the seat but have not reported fundraising.

See the reports: Abed /Diaz / Gallo / Martinez / Downey / Masson / Paul

See coverage in UT San Diego.
Read commentary by Logan Jenkins in UT San Diego.