McNamara and Martinez spoke on Jan. 12 to the Escondido Democratic Club in front of a packed house at the Park Avenue Community Center in downtown Escondido.
Both Martinez and McNamara said they hope to make government more open to the people of Escondido, suggesting more town hall-style meetings with constituents.
“For me, I haven’t forgotten about why I’m there, to make sure that everybody in our city has access to City Hall and make sure that we are an inclusive city,” Martinez said. “And to make sure that we’re passing the right policy that benefits the majority of Escondidans. (H)old us accountable and engage with us.”
One of McNamara’s goals regarding transparency is to hold a “Meet the Mayor” town hall meeting once a month at various venues throughout the city. McNamara acknowledged that means occasionally facing criticism from constituents but said that it “goes with the job.”
“I hope it doesn’t turn into a big complaint department,” McNamara said. “We’ve barely unpacked and we’ve already got people telling us — we’ve got co-council members and co-mayors telling us what to do already, telling us what needs to be done. But that goes with the territory and honestly — and I make kind of a little bit of a joke about it, but I do appreciate it because it’s a lot easier to talk to people who care about the city than those who don’t care about the city. I’d rather have the dialogue and hear your opinion about what’s going on.”
Both McNamara and Martinez said they are working hard to better understand the mechanics of how city government works.
“There’s lots to learn. I’m still in learning mode,” Martinez said. “I feel like that’s just going to keep happening for a while. I’m meeting staff and I’m just learning so much about how our city runs.”
McNamara said that one of the toughest lessons he has learned so far is the reality of bureaucracy despite his policy goals .
“When Consuelo and I got to our offices, we looked for a magic wand, but we couldn’t find one, so we still have bureaucracy to deal with to change things,” McNamara said. “You’ve got to get the staff on board and show the rationale of why you want to do this and you talk of the will of the people and all that.”
One of her first goals out of the gate, said Martinez, will be to shift the starting time of City Council meetings from 4:30 to a later time. She believes that doing so will make City Hall more accessible to residents with standard 9-to-5 jobs.
McNamara said a top priority will be the creation of a budget oversight committee and suggested Vanessa Valenzuela as a potential committee chair. Valenzuela, treasurer of the Democratic Club and present at the meeting, confirmed with The Coast News that she’d take the position if offered.
McNamara also stated that he would like to create a greater number of formal partnerships between the city of Escondido and community organizations which offer a wide variety of important services.
“We all know there isn’t enough money at City Hall to do everything that needs to be done,” McNamara said. “Pick an issue. It could be food, it could be homelessness. We expect (to create) structures and committees where, and I’m not even sure they city is necessarily the leader. They may be the facilitator, but they may be the lead in one area and not the facilitator. And I’ve gone around to city staff and they like that idea.”
The Escondido City Council will convene again for its next meeting at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 23.
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 ouetlet, 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.
A native of Wisconsin and graduate of University of Wisconsin, Steve is a competitive distance runner, with a personal best time in the marathon of 2:43:04 and nine marathons under his belt. He also has served on the film screening committee for the San Diego International Film Festival.