ESCONDIDO — Two months into the new City Council session, leaders of both Escondido’s Democrat and Republican parties are reserving judgement about the new council.
While the Democrats spoke of excitement about having a 3-2 liberal majority seated on the City Council, Republicans expressed cautious optimism that they, too, can work with new Mayor Paul McNamara. McNamara spoke to The Escondido Republican Club at its January meeting just days after speaking to the Escondido Democratic Club.
“I think right now we’re still being very happy over the election results,” said Shelley Spisak, the vice president for communications for the Escondido Democratic Club, at the club’s membership meeting held on Jan. 12. “We talked in our planning meetings about our motto, which is creating an Escondido for everyone. And so we want to expand our membership and especially reach out to younger voters and to the Latino community and kind of expand the diversity of our membership. And so then we can focus on issues that are concerning to everybody in Escondido.”
Spisak also mentioned that the Democrats would like to see City Council move to reverse the privatization of its public library system and reopen the east valley library branch, which shuttered in 2011.
“There are a lot of people that live out in the east part of the city,” Spisak said. “Seniors and lower income. They maybe can’t get to another library. So, that was an important resource for them and that’s just gone.”
Democratic Club President Georgine Tomasi, who also serves on the Escondido Unified School District’s Board of Education, also encouraged members to get involved in advocacy around education issues. She pointed to the two Escondido school districts’ — the other being the Escondido Unified High School District — large budgetary allotments and residents pushing to have a say about how they spend money.
“It’s a big body without any monitors and I want people to hold me accountable,” said Tomasi. “I would love to see 200 to 300 people at a board meeting since so much of our tax money goes into school districts and sometimes in some communities we’re the largest employer. And so, I’d like to see people yelling and screaming at us sometimes if we don’t make a decision that really benefits the education of their child.”
The Republicans, for their part, said they were pleased with what they heard from McNamara at their January meeting. But at the same time, early on in the new City Council, President Jim Murtland said that time will tell how the city GOP will interact with the new liberal majority.
“So far he’s taking our input,” Murtland said. “He says publicly that he wants to be a mayor of all the people. Right now, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s a good step forward that he came in and talked to us.”
Murtland did express displeasure, though, with the new City Council’s involvement in voting for a resolution to ban offshore oil drilling in the Pacific Ocean. He also said that it was hypocritical because, when he spoke at the meeting, McNamara — who voted “yes” on the resolution — said he would not involve himself in political issues not directly governed by the city of Escondido, such as the sanctuary city debate. Pacific Ocean offshore drilling is predominantly an issue overseen by the federal government.
“That’s what we’re afraid of,” Murtland said. “That they’re stepping into these areas which are not germane to Escondido.”
Pointing to past club President Joe Garcia, Murtland further stated that the local Republican party remains open to all, but that it attempts not to play the “race card” in member and candidate recruitment.
“Anybody that wants to come, they’re welcome to come,” Murtland said. “We’re not playing the race card. Anybody’s welcome. Of course, we don’t have many blacks because there aren’t many blacks in Escondido, but we’d never turn anybody down.”
Supervisor Jim Desmond, former mayor of San Marcos, will speak at the March 18 meeting for the Escondido Republicans. It will be held at noon at Cocina del Charro Mexican Restaurant, situated on 890 West Valley Parkway in Escondido. Democrats will meet on March 9 at Park Avenue Community Center, located at 210 E. Park Avenue in Escondido, beginning at 10 a.m.
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news outlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.