Community Commentary

Lack of civility by Escondido’s supposed civic leader

Near the end of the March 4 Escondido City Council hearing regarding a proposed 65-home development on land currently in the county and proposed to be annexed into the city, Mayor Sam Abed took it upon himself to criticize my firm and some of the good neighbors who had come out to express their concerns about the project.

He called out aspects of a comment letter I had written a couple days earlier, decrying what he labeled as “complete ignorance.”

Mayor Abed alleged my letter incorrectly claimed the city’s General Plan calls for a 50-foot buffer to protect wetlands.

Yet city staff put that very language up for all to see — Escondido General Plan Water Resources and Quality Policy 6.8 requires: “A minimum of a 50-foot buffer and setback for development.”

City staff had claimed that the language also mentions an exception might be possible where wildlife agencies approve of a smaller buffer, but two things are problematic with that assertion:  (1) the wildlife agencies have actually called for a 100-foot buffer and (2) even if the wildlife agencies had said a smaller buffer might work, my comment was still valid, since the General Plan clearly expects a minimum of 50 feet and the project has buffers as small as zero feet.

He also asserted my letter incorrectly claims that the development would create an island of city land.

City staff made the rather ridiculous claim that the land was not an island because one tiny corner of the project site will touch a tiny corner of existing city land.

But again that does not make my comment incorrect.

Merriam-Webster defines “island” to mean “an isolated group or area.”

In this instance, the project, a gated community surrounded by county land, will create both an isolated group of residents and an isolated geographic area.

But I wouldn’t even bother to write this if his only attack was on my work.

Unfortunately, Mayor Abed next unleashed his vitriol on some of the good area residents who had taken so much of their time and energy to express their concerns.

He reminded everyone of the applicant’s “property rights.”  Of course, under both the state and federal constitutions, everyone has a right to express their opinions.

He may disagree with those opinions, but they were completely within their rights to express them.

Perhaps Mayor Abed was angry, since some speakers (but not the people he attacked) expressed concerns about a possible conflict of interest.

One speaker said a consultant to the project was on his staff, and another speaker noted that he is listed in minutes from a city council meeting several years ago as “Co-President” of the very applicant who was seeking project approval.

But that anger could not justify his venom against the good citizens who were there in the hopes their voices would be heard.

And here’s the worst part about Mayor Abed’s diatribe: earlier during the same hearing, he commended everyone (both supporters and opponents of the project) for being “civil.”

He congratulated the speakers for not engaging in personal attacks.  Yet like a cowardly bully, he didn’t ask me or the other residents about our statements when we were up at the podium.

He didn’t give us a chance to respond or clarify anything he thought he might have heard.

He waited until the hearing was closed, and then he engaged in personal attacks.

In fact, when one of the residents stood up to respond, he pounded his fist on the dais and reminded him that the hearing was closed and his turn to speak was over.

At one point he said my comment letter was “embarrassing,” but I think Mayor Abed was the real embarrassment that evening.

It’s one thing to know you have the power to wield the mayor’s gavel and vote against the wishes of area residents.

But it’s quite another thing to abuse that power and to abuse those good people who come before the City Council to express their concerns.  Mayor Abed should be ashamed of himself.

Everett DeLano is a lawyer with DeLano & DeLano in Escondido.

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Michael O'Connor March 13, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Sam Abed , from the day he took office his ego went thru the roof, becoming a pure bully to anyone that had different views or question his personal agenda. I have caught him in lies and he just plain disrespects the public he serves. His view is the law no matter what unless you take him to the carpet in the media and public eye and speak the truth about his underhanded backdoor deals . Escondido had a chance to get rid of him but they believed lies from those powers to be and played backdoor games against Olga ,, FYI ,, maybe someday the alarm bell will be loud enough to wake the Good Folks of Escondido ,, Hang in there Escondido I still love ya

Tania Bowman March 14, 2015 at 8:23 am

Escondido has the mayor they elected; an arrogant, self-interested thug who does whatever he needs to get ahead. Point in fact, before the election, the mayor of Escondido refused to take a stand on a controversial development at the failed country club area. This was an unusual move for a mayor who never met a development that he didn’t love. The mayor knew that it would be political suicide to take the side of the developer against a group of vocal residents of the area, so he simply kept quiet. His stand and the council majority’s decision to not negotiate a deal, has cost the city of Escondido taxpayers, thousands of dollars in litigation and possibly millions in damages.
The mayor doesn’t care about the taxpayer, however, whom he often puts at the end of the line for his personal and political gain. But the mayor isn’t only a bully in city politics; he is known to chastise opponents and be vindictive for their opinions. A few days ago, the mayor announced that he would no longer submit his “Mayor’s Message” to an Escondido publication that publishes all the North County mayors’ messages. He didn’t explain his reason, but it was clear to those of us who follow city politics that this was his payback for the publication’s endorsement of his opponent, Olga Dias, for mayor. The best example of the mayor’s mean-spirited character is the manner in which he has treated Ms. Diaz after the election. She, at all times, has been gracious, ethical and exemplifies true leadership. He, on the other hand, has criticized and consistently marginalized her on the dais. It seems that the mayor covets what an election can never give him: respect. The mayor instead relies on fear and acquires “loyalty” by intimidation and revenge.

Mandy Barre March 14, 2015 at 11:43 am

By all accounts, DeLano is an excellent attorney and a gentleman. Don’t let that old gasbag Abed rattle you!

Laura Hunter March 16, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Everett Delano is an amazing attorney and always will stand up for what is right! Thanks Everett for all your amazing work for communities. Escondido is LUCKY to have you active in our area. Thanks for calling bad behavior out!

Julie Graboi March 16, 2015 at 6:20 pm

I have worked with DeLano and DeLano on more than one issue, and I can’t recommend Everett and Dare DeLano highly enough. They are true environmentalists and specialize in the representation of citizen groups.

David R. Shibley March 16, 2015 at 10:06 pm

I read the Delano letter concerning bad behavior by Mayor Abed and I completely disagree and contend that the pseudo environmentalist group led by Laura Hunter were the disrespectful ones, not the mayor,and when the mayor properly chastised them for presenting false information and distorting the truth they rudely got up and left like petulant children while the major was speaking. Attorney Delano fails to mention that wildlife agencies have the final determination on buffer zones and if they determine they are inadequate they can overrule the City. He also fails to mention that the property in question has two connections to the City for annexation, one at Felicita and Hamilton and the other at Hamilton and Alexander at the I-15 Freeway. Staff pointed this out at the hearing but obviously Attorney Delano was asleep or more likely it is another example of mistruths and distortions presented by him and the Laura Hunter group. It is also interesting that Laura Hunter is not a citizen of Escondido as she lives in the incorporated area and has a history a traveling to other jurisdictions with similar non factual allegations. The preparation by her and her group is deplorable. At the first EIR hearing on the Oak Creek project her group stated that only one visit was done on site for birds. They also stated that no alternatives were considered. The EIR was 3,600 pages long and clearly stated that 8 visits were made for bird surveys and 4 alternatives were considered in the EIR. In other words she and her group did not even bother to read the EIR and they simply show up and throw allegations on the wall like mud and hope something sticks. The real unstated purpose of the Hunter group was to use the existence of the Chatham Barrel Yard and its lingering groundwater contamination that has actively been under remediation by The Department of Toxic Substance and Control (DTSC)for over 20 years as an excuse to deny any new housing projects in the neighborhood. At least one other councilman attended a hearing by DTSC on Chatham and the others may have viewed a video of the hearing which clarified that Chatham was not the danger alleged by the Hunter Group and was in fact being monitored and remediated on a regular basis that would eventually clean the water table. The barrels of contamination were removed in the l990s and all soil around the barrels was exported and burned in the 1990s. All councilmen did their homework and knew this except for Olga Diaz. Diaz admitted during the meeting that she was not as familiar with Chatham as the other council members as she had only been on the council for six years. The question is what was she doing during those six years and if she admitted as she did that she had not done her homework why did she even vote. It seems that rather than stating “it is a beautiful project but I cannot support it because I do not know enough about Chatham”.How can a council member vote yes or no on a project if you admit you did no homework on the project. Her proper course of action should have been to abstain from voting and do her homework in advance of future council meetings. She could have attended the hearing on Chatham or at least watched a video. Instead she spends sometimes up to half an hour asking questions that she would already have the answers to prior to council hearings if she had done her homework or talked to staff. It is no wonder other council members and the mayor may sometimes be impatient with her as they have done their research and are prepared to make a decision and Diaz comes completely unprepared and she consistently does this on other matters before the council. She draws a salary to be prepared and as a citizen of the City that helps pay part of her salary I am getting little if any return on my investment.

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