ESCONDIDO — It may look like an uphill battle for the District 4 city council seat, but the challenger is doing all she can to reach voters.
However, attorney Ingrid Rainey is going up against veteran incumbent Mike Morasco, who was appointed to the council in 2010. The two, though, are both running in their first district race after the city was sued and forced to move to district elections in 2014. The election is Tuesday.
Nevertheless, Morasco presents a formidable obstacle for Rainey as he has been part of the city’s economic recovery and aggressive to push for new projects and redevelopment throughout the city, especially downtown.
In addition, he also served three terms on the board of the Escondido Union High School District.
“I decided to run because I wanted to serve,” Rainey said. “I live here and I’m invested.”
The newly created districts, however, create a different challenge for candidates as they must identify issues specific to those residents, along with maintaining a city-wide mandate.
Morasco said District 4, which covers southern Escondido, has numerous assets such as Kit Carson Park, auto dealerships, Westfield North County and borders Lake Hodges.
“There are a number of phenomenal venues … and individuals who reside in the district,” Morasco said.
For Rainey to bridge the gap and gain name recognition, she has been walking the district and meeting with groups to reach as many people as possible. She said she’s met about 1,000 residents, although the voter registration in the district is a concern.
Rainey said of the more than 36,000 residents in District 4, about 17,000 are registered. She encouraged those not registered to become so because elections are the fundamental base for democracy.
Rainey said her grassroots style is gaining momentum toward the final days before Tuesday’s election.
“I lived in developing countries where people would give their right hand to vote,” she added. “I’m doing old school door to door. This is very new for people. I’m a firm believer of meeting people and shaking hands.”
As for Morasco, the areas he wants to address, however, include graffiti, crime prevention and develop what little space is available. Morasco said the development opportunities are centered on South Escondido Boulevard and South City Centre Parkway, but there are several projects in the works.
“The neighborhood revitalization programs we have going on, we currently have one on Tulip Street,” he added. “We hope to continue to do that to reduce the gangs, graffiti and some of the other not so desirable activities in that district as well.”
Rainey, meanwhile, is touting her legal expertise as a selling point, noting she drafts, reviews and negotiates contracts for Fortune 1,000 companies, which the city would benefit if elected. She specializes in business and compliance law.
She also touts her world perspective, having lived in six countries and speaks four languages.
“I was able to see a lot of countries and how they work,” Rainey said. “I learned at a young age how blessed we are to live in the United States.”
One of her passions, though, is crime prevention. Rainey is the vice president of the Boards of the FBI San Diego Citizens Academy Alumni Association and said reaching kids before they turn to a life of crime is essential to reducing crime in the city.
Public safety is one of her top priorities and is involved with working with the FBI and local law enforcement.
“Ensuring the vulnerable youth use their efforts in more positive activities,” Rainey said. “There is no fine line where a criminal is saying I’m not coming here. It all seeps in. I’m really big on preventative measures.”
As for Kit Carson Park, Morasco said it is one of the jewels of the city, and he wants to remain as such. However, he said a watchful eye is needed to maintain the constant work to keep the area in good condition.
Rainey added upkeep is critical for the continued health and use of the park. She said getting the community involved could alleviate pressure from the city to maintain the area.
Morasco said upgrades are a must for the sports facilities, which hold an array of local, regional and sometimes national youth tournaments, and the amphitheater.
“I’d like to see further improvements and utilization of Kit Carson Park,” Morasco explained. “I’d like to the see the amphitheater more of a functional facility. It’s such a well-used park. We could see further expansion of the lake, better access to Queen Califia. There is so much we could do there. It’s just a matter of funding and imagination.”
In addition, he said continued efforts to revitalize the South Escondido Boulevard and South City Centre Parkway corridors. Although efforts are ongoing, Morasco said those projects would only add to the city’s economic strength and vitality.
Rainey, though, said the council’s efforts for smart growth have fallen short and pointed toward the blight in downtown as an example.
She also touted Stone Brewing’s new plans for a hotel as a model of smart growth and long-term thinking as an example of how the council must view development.
“Not necessarily downtown, but throughout Escondido there are empty buildings,” she added. “Why is that? We are so centrally located. It needs to improve. Most big-picture decisions are made with consultants and I think it’s really important to listen to the consultants and see what the long-term affect is.”
He said expanding the city’s housing is a goal within his district, whether it comes as apartments, condos or townhomes.
In addition, continued relations with Westfield is a priority, Morasco said, as he is enthusiastic about more expansion of North County’s largest mall.
“There are other possible proposals they have to make that an even more attractive destination,” he added. “We’ve got a very good working relationship with Westfield. They put a lot of resources into the renovations.”
Downtown renovations and revitalization are a priority for Morasco, who noted the city is old and aging.
Rainey, though, said the council must be able to work with developers aiming to redevelop areas of blight with low interest loans and bringing buildings up to code.
“There are people who want to come and build,” she said. “There are a lot of cities out there and have incentives. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, do some research and see what they are doing and what’s working.”
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.