ESCONDIDO — Mayor Sam Abed lauded the economic accomplishments of Escondido and highlighted his own political agenda during his state of the city address on Wednesday.
“We promised you a better city, and we delivered,” he said before a few hundred North County politicians, city staff and community members at the California Center for the Arts.
Abed emphasized the economic growth of the city over the past year. He recognized a number of new businesses that have been brought to Escondido, including the Cheesecake Factory and WalMart. He mentioned the successful efforts to revitalize the city’s downtown area with new high-density upscale housing, events, restaurants, and a public garden.
He continued his speech by featuring the improved fiscal state of the city, pointing out that after building a nearly $16 million deficit from 2007 to 2010, Escondido has developed an almost $6 million surplus from 2011 to 2013.
He also pointed out efforts to enhance public safety with the hiring of more staff for the police and fire departments as well as the city’s variety of educational institutions including a number of private and charter schools.
The mayor briefly rebuked the criticism the city has encountered over the past year.
Escondido has been the subject of negative attention for the high-profile fallout between the city and its former police chief late in 2013 and City Council’s decision to lower developer fees for a few dozen homes last December.
Abed did not cite a specific type of disapproval of city affairs, but urged people, “not to be deterred or discouraged by idle criticism.”
The mayor continued by saying that the city faces challenges ahead that can mainly be attributed to the state. He said that the state was restricting the police’s ability to impound cars and deport criminals, as well as funding for charter cities.
He said that California’s prison realignment, which is requiring certain low-level felony offenders to serve their sentences in county jails rather than state prisons, is “releasing hundreds of criminals to our neighborhoods.”
Approaching the end of his four-year term as mayor, Abed outlined several personal political goals during the second half of his speech.
He strongly advocated for a city charter proposal that will be on the upcoming November ballot. He asserted that becoming a charter city would reduce the interference and overreach of state government in Escondido.
“To the state of California I say, ‘Leave us alone, we can run our city better than you,’” he said.
He also promised a new business park with an adjacent public works yard, and mentioned a desire to bring a full-service hotel to the city.
Abed concluded his speech with a series of quotes from former President Ronald Reagan about values and government.
He received a standing ovation after he ended his address with, “I promise you a great city, and I will deliver a great city.”
The mayor did not discuss the new voting districts that were established in the city in compliance with a lawsuit settlement, though the change was mentioned in a video about the city shown before Abed’s speech.
Council member Ed Gallo referred to the districting when he shouted, “I’m number one!” at the end of his presentation before the state of the city address. He had to clarify that he was referring to voting district one.
Gallo is up for reelection in November, the first election that will utilize the district.
ACLU legal assistant and co-founder of the Escondido Human Rights Committee, Consuelo Martinez just announced on Feb. 20 that she would be challenging Gallo for his seat.