Council thanks voters, Diaz absent for installation ceremony

Council thanks voters, Diaz absent for installation ceremony
Mayor Sam Abed thanks his wife, Mona, left, and two daughters Julie and Linda during the installation ceremony for the new Escondido City Council on Wednesday. Photo by Ellen Wright

ESCONDIDO — City Council voted to approve the election results, officially accepting Mayor Sam Abed for his second term and Councilmembers John Masson and Ed Gallo in their respective districts.

This was the first election in which voters chose a councilmember based on the district they live in, voting Gallo for District One and Masson for District Two.

Councilman Michael Morasco from District Four was named deputy mayor, which is a rotating position based on seniority.

Former Deputy Mayor and Councilwoman Olga Diaz did not attend the installation ceremony, a point that Abed commented on during a vote to approve Morasco.

“Four yes votes, Diaz absent,” City Clerk Diane Halverson said.

“Exactly,” Mayor Abed replied.

Diaz will continue to serve the final two years of her term. She ran against Abed for mayor and lost with 35 percent of the vote.

Abed received 59 percent of the vote.

During the election season, Diaz was the only councilmember to say she was in favor of Proposition H, or the Lakes Specific Plan, which would have allowed developer Michael Schlesinger to develop over 400 homes on the Escondido Country Club.

The plan failed, with 60 percent of voters voting against it. Diaz had said she believed it was a compromise that would save the city from a costly legal battle.

Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization, or ECCHO, attended the ceremony to cheer on the winning candidates.

They lobbied council to declare the country club golf course permanent open space, which the council approved in August 2013.

The developer, Schlesinger, is taking the city to court because he believes the city unlawfully made the land he purchased worthless.

Abed, who didn’t choose a side on the Lakes Specific Plan during the election, congratulated ECCHO for their campaigning during the election and on the failure of the passing of the Lakes Specific Plan.

“Congratulations to all the country club community for your hard work, for your perseverance,” Abed said. “I’ve never seen a community come together like this in my 28 years and now is the time to find a solution to this problem that can make not only our country club community, but our whole city proud.”

Masson thanked ECCHO for their support and promised to help their cause in the future.

“I want to thank ECCHO. All you guys stood behind me as I did behind you and helped to get me elected,” Masson said. “I look forward to supporting you in the next chapter that we need to go through to get our community back.”

Another controversial move that may have cost Diaz the election was her vote on the shelter for unaccompanied minors in October.

She was the only councilmember to vote to appeal the planning commission’s decision that the 96-bed shelter violated land-use conditions.

“I may lose an election but I will not lose my humanity,” Diaz said at the time of her vote on Oct. 15.

A nonprofit agency, Southwest Key, was funded by the federal government and tried to convert a former nursing home facility on Avenida del Diablo into a temporary shelter to house unaccompanied migrant children who crossed into the country illegally.

Gallo thanked his family and his volunteers among others and said out of the five elections he’s ran in, this was the first one he used a campaign consultant.

“I’ve never used a consultant before, but this time I did because it was kind of a different type of election,” Gallo said of his consultant John Franklin.

This was Masson’s first time being elected, since council appointed him to the position two years ago.

“It’s really a good feeling to be vindicated by the voters, after serving as an appointee for two years,” Masson said.

After giving thanks to his family, supporters and volunteers, Abed talked about the future of the city.

“We must continue to build strong families and a strong community,” Abed said. “Let us make every family more prosperous, let’s make every business more successful. Together we can make Escondido the best city to live, visit and do business (in).”

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