ESCONDIDO — It’s a new dawn in Escondido after a liberal majority took over the City Council in a 3-2 split, shifting the council from its previous 4-1 conservative balance.
Mayor Sam Abed was defeated by Paul “Mac” McNamara for the mayor’s seat while Ed Gallo lost to Consuelo Martinez in District 1. Stakeholders in Escondido politics, including City Council members, activists and advocates, expressed varying degrees of excitement about the new coalition voted into office.
“I think Abed underestimated the power of our combined forces,” Jackson said. “We are elated that we have a new mayor here in Escondido, Mac, who will work at representing all of our community, not just special interest groups.”
One major issue facing the City Council in 2019 is the Climate Action Plan, for which the city’s Planning Commission is in the middle of examining update options. Under California’s 2006 California Global Warming Solutions Act, cities must update their Climate Action Plan every five years. Escondido last updated its plan in 2013.
“The Escondido Climate Action Alliance is looking forward to continuing to work with the city of Escondido on its Climate Action Plan,” said Marian Sedio, who helps head up the North County Climate Change Alliance. “It is our goal to see a Climate Action Plan in place that will serve the residents of Escondido well and mitigate the impacts of climate change. We are confident that the new mayor and incoming council member share this goal.”
Olga Diaz, who served nearly a decade as the lone liberal vote on the council, said she has high hopes in many different policy areas for the new coalition. She called the election results her “dream come true” and something she has been “dreaming about for 12 years.”
Diaz said that two of the items near the top of her agenda, as the most senior member of the City Council, are the Climate Action Plan and restoration of the Escondido Creek, the latter of which flows through the urban core of the city. She sees restoration of the body of water as a potential economic opportunity for the city in the months and years ahead.
For the Climate Action Plan, Diaz said she believes opportunities exist to make it “much more substantial,” including potential implementation of a community choice energy grid policy, something other cities throughout San Diego County have explored, as well. Escondido did not participate in that regime, said Diaz, because the “political will” did not exist to do so under the old City Council.
“I have a greater sense of optimism with this new city government and incoming council for a variety of reasons,” Diaz said. “In my time on the council, there’s always been a toxicity around partisan control and one of the advantages of having not just a new person, but specifically the person that’s coming in, Mayor McNamara, (is) he’s a very collaborative person. His instinct is to include people in conversations and decision-making.”
According to Diaz, one of the first conversations will take place in a City Council policy ideas workshop at City Hall in February that will be open to the public.
“I’m excited about this time where the five of us can get together in this workshop format and plan what happens over the next two years,” Diaz said. “Instead of shutting anybody out, I think we’re all finally going to be able to have some say.”
Mike Morasco, part of the new conservative minority on the Escondido City Council alongside John Masson, said that though the dynamics of the new City Council will be different, he looks forward to the challenge and working together with his new colleagues.
“I happen to like and get along with all of the former council members, as well as the up and coming council members, so I anticipate that we’ll work towards the betterment of Escondido and work towards those goals,” Morasco said.
Morasco says he hopes the City Council will practice financial prudence and emphasize safety during the next two-year session.
“I’m hoping to enhance infrastructure: roads, sewers, water — everything possible for all areas of the city,” Morasco said. “It’s quite daunting and very expensive, but we can get it done, as well. And then continuing to market Escondido for what it is, which is an extremely viable location for businesses, for industry, for families and that will all be dependent on the type of growth we’re able to see as far as provision of the necessary housing is concerned.”
Martinez also said she believes in the importance of housing and infrastructure, as well as in “restoring or adding community services where it’s needed most,” particularly within the city’s eastern half. She also plans to maintain her campaign promise to hold regular in-district town hall meetings with her constituents.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity to further serve my community and city in this new capacity,” Martinez said. “I am hearing from people who moved out of Escondido that now say they want to return. I will work hard to improve our city and also be an inclusive leader than unites our city.”
McNamara and his campaign director, Nina Deerfield, did not respond to repeated requests for comment by the time of publication.
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.