Another Chapter in Escondido’s History of Hatred


By Don Greene / Escondido Democrats

The racial history of Escondido is long and filled with many stories of hatred. In 2004 the council followed the lead of Marie Waldron and called for a state-wide immigration police force. In 2006 the council approved an ordinance that required landlords to only rent to US citizens. Since then, we have had street parking restrictions, garage conversion crackdowns, police checkpoints, the only known hand-in-hand relationship between our police force and ICE, and, most recently, the denial of a company to open a housing complex for unaccompanied minors emigrating from Latin America.

One would think, that after more than a decade of racially divisive policies and practices, people who work for Escondido would be more sensitive to the impression that their actions give to the population.

Unfortunately there continue to be those who either don’t care what impression their actions make, or don’t think about their actions at all.   [Read more…]

Escondido’s Lyin’ King Sees Riches in the Safari Highlands Ranch Proposal

credit: Escondido Democrats

By Don Greene / Escondido Democrats

In one of the more poignant scenes in the movie, The Lion King, Musafa says to young Simba, “Look, Simba, everything the light touches is our kingdom.” It seems that we have a touch of that same attitude on our City Council. As Mayor Abed and the rest of the council majority look out to the east, you can almost hear him say the same thing.

Instead of birthrights and becoming King of the Animals, Abed speaks in our hypothetical of property rights and becoming King of the Developers. The land he looks over is the proposed Safari Highlands Ranch project, a 1084-acre land annexation and subsequent 550-home development, in unincorporated Escondido, just north and west of the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park.

This project, and the means by which they intend to bring it to fruition, fits the S.O.P. of Abed and the council majority; they work the backroom deals with the developers and other agencies and put on a happy face with the public.   [Read more…]

Use of Public Funds without Oversight Mars Escondido Charter Schools

escondido charter

By Nina Deerfield and Rebecca Nutile

Editor Note: This is part three of the series about charter schools in Escondido. Part one here and part two here.

Public education advocates around the country are taking a closer look at charter schools, their finances, their admission and expulsion policies, as well as their questionable academic results. These schools, while privately run, receive millions of taxpayer dollars annually, yet oversight is difficult because charter schools are exempt from much of the Education Code that governs traditional public schools.

Public dollars with little public oversight have created environments in which irregularities and questionable practices–both academic and financial—are thriving. At Alianza North County, we’re taking a closer look at these taxpayer-funded schools in Escondido. One such unusual practice is occurring at the city’s most popular and controversial charter school.   [Read more…]

Religion Permeates Escondido’s Charter Schools

jesus constitution

By Rick Mercurio/ Alianza North County

Escondido’s largest charter schools embrace—some would say, promote–Christianity, despite their status as taxpayer-funded public schools. Reported practices at Classical Academy and Dennis Snyder’s charter schools run counter to the Bill of Rights, which is a sad twist of irony, since Snyder espouses his patriotism and love for American values.

Examples of religion in those charter schools abound, though parents and students who are bothered are reluctant to speak up for fear of retribution. And of course, the vast majority of charter parents do not complain. Many send their kids to charters for that very reason: they want religion in their students’ education, but they want taxpayers to foot the bill rather than having to pay tuition at private religious schools.   [Read more…]

Partisan Politics Go Unchecked in Escondido’s Publicly Funded Charter Schools

escondido charter

By Rebecca Nutile / Alianza North County

In today’s world of education “reform,” the charter school sector has grown beyond its original intent of being a laboratory for public schools, into networks of poorly-regulated schools of varying quality with a quasi-public status. In these publicly-funded/privately managed schools, subtle and not-so-subtle partisan politics often go unchecked. And while charter schools are not required by law to adhere to many parts of the education code, they are supposed to be held to the same standards as traditional public schools in the areas of political partisanship and the separation of church and state.

In Escondido, Escondido Charter High School, Heritage Elementary and Heritage Digital Academy have become points of controversy and division in the community. Most know them as the controversial school with strong ties to conservatives in Escondido City government that took over a heavily-used library branch.   [Read more…]

What Does Día de los Muertos Mean to You?

A list of the many Day of the Dead events happening this weekend in San Diego

By Brent E. Beltrán

Every year Mexicans celebrate their dead by honoring and remembering passed loved ones or people they may have admired on los días de los muertos, the Days of the Dead. November 1 is for honoring the children that have moved on from this mortal plane. November 2 is for remembering the adults.

How one honors those that are no longer here varies. The meaning does as well. Though it always comes down to remembering.

I asked some people I know, what does Día de los Muertos mean to you? Here are their responses and then a listing of Día de los Muertos celebrations throughout San Diego.   [Read more…]

The Continuing Decline of UT-San Diego

By Doug Porter

 Another six month reporting period has passed and the UT-San Diego continues to lose readers, according to an analysis of data from the Alliance for Audited Media by the Reader’s Don Bauder.

How bad was it? On Sundays, the circulation declined by more than 13%,  Weekdays declined by 8.5%.  The numbers released yesterday include “digital” and “branded” editions. Branded editions for the UT include Enlace, the Spanish language weekly distributed free on weekends, Vida Latina, a Spanish-language entertainment magazine, TV and shopping guide and Enlace Extra, distributed in Tijuana and Mexicali.

As newspaper circulations have plummeted in recent years, the auditing-type people have changed the rules to sweeten the pot for publishers. Paid circulation now includes copies “sold” to non-profits for as little as 1 cent; these groups resell the papers at full price to users of their services (churches are a good example) and pocket the difference.   [Read more…]

DeMaio’s Mexican Ebola Terrorist Border Plan

By Doug Porter

We’re “back to the issues” in the race for the 52nd Congressional District in California.  Taking a page from the playbook once used by Gov. Pete Wilson, GOP candidate Carl DeMaio announced his five weird tricks for better border security yesterday.

“From illegal immigration to terrorism and Ebola, the reasons for securing our nation’s border have never been more clear,” he told a small group of reporters at a campaign headquarters press conference.

Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) whipped up the party base on the immigration issue via conference call hosted by on Monday evening. DeMaio beat him to the punch by a few hours,  accusing incumbent Scott Peters of being a “rubber stamp” for the failed policies policy of the Obama administration.

There was nothing new in the GOP challenger’s plan, but at least it didn’t show up as plagiarized on any internet searches.   [Read more…]

Latino Mayoral Forum Shows Cultural Chasm in Escondido

By Rick Moore / Escondido Democratic Club

You have to give Mayor Sam Abed credit. He tried his best to ‘make nice’ with Escondido’s Latino community, but all he accomplished was to reinforce his image as a disconnected white guy who cannot comprehend how his policies and actions come across. Stephen Siaw was almost as bad, but one wonders whether he may come from a less judgmental place.

The occasion was a Mayoral candidate forum for the Latino community sponsored by the La Raza Law Association of San Diego County, MANA of North County and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. It was held at the Escondido Senior Center October 3. About 50 people attended. Carlos Gonzalez of Univision moderated.

The questions were tough and focused on Latino issues. (They were provided in advance to the candidates.) The answers held few surprises for those who have been monitoring the candidates so far in the campaign.   [Read more…]

Latina Olga Diaz Aims for the Top Spot in Conservative Escondido

By Don Greene

In North County politics, Olga Diaz is an anomaly.  Currently, as the Deputy Mayor of Escondido, Olga has achieved something that no one else has done in 126 years:  She is the first Latina elected to the City Council.  That’s nothing to sneeze at. Once named the 11th Most Conservative City in the United States, Escondido can be a lonely place for a Latina, especially if she fits the description of Olga Diaz.

Diaz describes herself as an environmentalist. She as championed the rehabilitation of Escondido Creek, turning it from a concrete, channelized flood control basin to a 7-mile linear park in the heart of the city.  She also describes herself as a feminist, a progressive, and, if those weren’t enough, a Democrat.

Being all these things should not be automatic detriment to a candidate or politician, but in Escondido, things are a little different.  Recently, at a Republican Central Committee meeting, current mayor, Sam Abed, declared that “Escondido is the Republican capitol of San Diego County.” It is much of that type of bravado that gets the city into a lot of legal troubles.  It was some of that legal trouble that launched Diaz’s political career.   [Read more…]

Escondido’s Proposition H – Compromise or Capitulation on Developing a Bankrupt Golf Course?

By Doug Porter

The email seemed like the basis for a slam-dunk story. It was an appeal to environmentalists for support in defeating Escondido’s Proposition H, a developer-sponsored initiative allowing conversion of what was previously a golf course into 430 single housing units.

Here’s a snippet from the appeal: “The developer, Michael Schlesinger, dumped raw chicken manure on the property a year after turning off the water. The manure burned the land and created a severe air pollution issue, forcing one homeowner suffering from lung cancer to evacuate his home for 5 days.”

I’d seen a bunch of emails in recent weeks from the pro-Proposition H folks and given that they were coming from a source generally known to work the right side of the aisle and the fact this was about Escondido, I assumed the worst– a cartoonish Papa Manchester character running roughshod over an oppressed community.   [Read more…]

Escondido’s Park That’s Not a Park, Owned by the Mayor’s Family

By Don Greene / Escondido Democrats

Budget discussions at the City of Escondido have for the last 4 years focused on a more streamlined approach to spending.  The City Council has cut back on many programs and amenities, none more so than our Parks and Recreation Department.

I drive past Grove Park and Washington Park and admire that the city has set aside outdoor space for its residents. The question always comes to mind as to why would we want to cheapen these areas or outright sell them off?  Why wouldn’t we want to preserve these spaces for the residents to enjoy?

Of course, with budget cuts, the city is having a hard time maintaining the programming at our city parks.  The move to make the Recreation Department as close to a “full cost recovery department” as possible, has stripped away many of the amenities that our parks offered to our residents. Many of the amenities at our local parks have fallen into disrepair and there doesn’t seem to be money in the budget to fix these problems. With limited amenities, our parks are not being used by residents.

There have been proposals such as the Water Park and the BMX Track slotted for Kit Carson Park.  These projects would have been, presumably, a public/private partnership that would have brought more revenue and more visitors to the city.  Opponents of these measures argued that we would lose valuable green space.  But our parks are not the only source of green space in the city.   [Read more…]

Escondido School Board Candidates on Creationism, Prayer, Tenure

By Rick Moore / Escondido Democratic Club

Both candidates competing to represent Area 4 of the Escondido Union (elementary) School District told Escondido Democrats in a forum September 13 support teaching creationism alongside science in the classroom. Incumbent Board Member Marty Hranek said it is “important to offer different viewpoints and state the facts as they are. There’s a lot of very good research out there for multiple philosophies.” Zesty Harper, who is challenging Hranek, said “I’m a Christian and I believe God created the earth. I think we should offer both views… in a non-biased way.” Hranek later sent an email attempting to backtrack from his comments, writing “I do not agree that ‘creationism’ should be taught as curriculum in public schools.”   [Read more…]

Escondido Council Candidate Forum Reveals Stances on Golf Course, Charter City Propositions

By Rick Moore / Escondido Democratic Club

There were few surprises at the Chamber of Commerce Council Candidate Forum September 10, and few in the audience to see them.

The candidates all participated, several of them admitting this was their first time in a forum, giving one of only a few chances for voters to compare them in action. (The League of Women Voters will provide another opportunity at 6 p.m. Thursday, September 25 in Council Chambers at City Hall.)

The 7:30 a.m. start time was clearly part of the attendance problem. There were fewer than 50 people in the audience.   [Read more…]

More Evidence Pointing to Charter City ‘Savings’ Fallacy

by Don Greene / Escondido Democratic Club

Part of the pro-city charter mantra we hear from Mayor Abed and the other members of the city council majority is about savings. Especially savings when it comes to eliminating prevailing wages from city construction projects. In a recently released survey, the ‘savings’ that Sam & Co continue to promote are becoming harder and harder to find.

The City of Carlsbad – a charter city in North San Diego county and the favorite, “let’s-be-more-like-them” example promoted by the Mayor – answered a survey on Prevailing Wages and associated savings. The results were somewhat lackluster. When asked the question, “What savings have been realized on average for those contracts where non prevailing wages have been applied?” the answer was telling:

“We have found savings to be hard to ascertain. Bid prices might be lower on the front end but there is some suspicion that total project costs may impact initial savings (change orders, costly project delays, more labor by city employees, etc.)”   [Read more…]

Abed, Diaz Spar at Escondido Chamber Mayoral Forum

Escondido Democratic Club

There were few surprises as candidates for Escondido Mayor in the November election met for a forum August 20, sponsored by the Escondido Chamber of Commerce.

Mayor Sam Abed and Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz repeatedly demonstrated the starkly different choice before voters.

Perhaps the ‘news’ was the presence of Stephen Siaw, an unexpected newcomer to the race and to city politics. It was Siaw’s first appearance at a public candidate forum. The approximately 100 people in attendance welcomed him warmly.

Chamber Governmental Affairs chair Kevin Svetich asked a wide-ranging mix of questions that covered the key issues.   [Read more…]

Escondido Mayor Abed Paves Over Inconvenient Facts

By Don Greene / Escondido Democrats

In the past month, much ado has been made over a parking lot located at 540 W. Grand Ave. The blog,, ran two posts on the parking lot and the potential of some funny business involved in the paving of that lot.

The owner of the lot is Escondido Mayor Sam Abed. He owns not only the vacant lot in question, but the adjacent office building at 562 W. Grand (the corner of Grand and Quince). The office was recently home to a fitness business that used the unpaved lot next door as a track area for outdoor exercise. Now that the office building is vacant, the formerly dirt lot has become a paved parking lot.

The paving of this lot has raised many questions and they were addressed in the posts on Did the Mayor overlook – or get a pass on – state storm water regulations? City storm water regulations state that any lot being paved over 5,000 sq feet must conform with state storm water regulations. The actual city document is 130-pages long and covers a variety of mitigation factors which appear not to have been implemented when this lot was paved.   [Read more…]

Gone with the Wind Escondido Style

Many expressed their sense of shame of living in a city that is fearful of Brown people and children.

By Fredi Avalos, Ph.D.

The City of Escondido, California represents a civilization gone with the wind. Well, almost. The shifting political winds were easy to observe at the City’s planning commission meeting July 22. In front of more than 200 people and an estimated 250 who rallied outside City Hall, the commission reaffirmed their previous vote not to allow a foster care facility to operate for refugee children fleeing their countries’ violence and repression in Central America.

The children would have been housed in a vacant elder care facility in a quiet semi-rural neighborhood. The facility has its own parking and would be funded entirely by federal money. It is estimated the facility would bring in at least 100 jobs paying well over minimum wage and would increase revenue for the city a total of $8.5 million a year. Escondido tax payers would pay nothing but would gain a great deal fiscally. So what is the problem?   [Read more…]

A Proud Day of Activism for Labor, Refugee and Environmental Advocates

By Doug Porter

Tuesday, July 22 was a remarkable day for San Diego. Starting with an early morning prayer vigil at San Diego City Hall in support of a higher minimum wage and ending with hundreds of Escondido residents calling for a humanitarian response to the border refugee crisis, people stood up for causes they believed in.

At noontime a broad spectrum of supporters of organized labor rallied in Mission Valley, vowing to support workers for Food-4-Less should they go on strike. And in the afternoon environmental activists testified before the city council, urging Mayor Kevin Faulconer to move ahead with a review process needed to consider an ordinance curtailing the use of plastic shopping bags.

People chose to make a stand on issues that were important to them. They faced off against institutional and political hostility, along with a corporate media all-too-willing to give a platform to those willing to spew ridicule (the UT’s Greenhut) and venomous language (Escondido’s nativists). They stood up and said “we’re not going to take it any more” (UFCW’s Kasparian). They testified that now is the time to protect the environment (representatives of Coastkeeper, Surfrider and the Sierra Club).

It was a great day to be an American. It was a great day to be an activist.

  [Read more…]

ACLU Investigating Escondido’s Hasty Decision on Shelter

Requests records from Planning Commission

By ACLU Sandiego-Imperial Counties

SAN DIEGO – Concerned that the City of Escondido may once again be undermining the rights of immigrants in its community and possibly violating the law, the San Diego ACLU requested a number of records related to the Escondido Planning Commission’s decision Tuesday evening to reject a proposed shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children.

In an official California Public Records Act (CPRA) request, the legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, David Loy, requested copies of all reports and records submitted to the commission relating to the proposed facility, the permit for the construction and operation of the intermediate care facility, and any video, audio, or written record of the Planning Commission meeting on June 24, 2014.   [Read more…]

What’s at Stake with the Proposed Escondido Charter?

By Don Greene, President, Escondido Democrats

In a 4-1 vote, the Escondido City Council approved the draft of the proposed city charter to be put on the November ballot. Incredibly, the charter was approved with at least two of the council members not understanding the document that they were approving.

Case in point:  During the June 18th hearing, Council member Ed Gallo very magnanimously told the assembled crowd and those watching at home that the council “could have done themselves, but they chose to put it on the ballot.”  Um, no.  Charters must be approved by a majority of the residents of the affected city according to state law.  Mr. Gallo also stated that “this is the same document that we started with in May” and that the city had gone through “4 public hearings” on the matter.  Neither of those points is correct. It would be nice to be sure that our Council members actually understood what they were voting for.

  [Read more…]

Riot Control Drone Comes with Pepper Spray, Paintball Guns and Blinding Lasers

By Doug Porter

The BBC released a story today trumpeting the initial sale of a remotely controlled octo-copter built specifically for crowd control situations. South African manufacturer Desert Wolf says its eight rotored “Skunk” can fire 80 doses of pepper spray per second from a storage tank holding 4000 pepper spray paintballs, plastic balls or other “non-lethal” ammunition.

Call them drones, RPVs, UASs, UVAs, SUAs or whatever. Remotely controlled robots are a big business in San Diego. A recent Voice of San Diego series covered the nascent industry’s impact on the local economy (more than a dozen companies),along with the uncertainty surrounding their use and development.

While I’m sure these machines can and should be be used for good purposes, the BBC story brings to light yet another moral dilemma facing society as technology continues to advance.  

  [Read more…]

The Bahati Mamas : Seeds for Change

Chasing Freedom and Opportunity

By Binti Musa / AjA Blog

The Bahati Mamas are a group of five Somali Bantu women living in City Heights who started their own farming business. The women are Somali Bantu Refugees who were forced to leave their home in 2004 to seek refuge in the United States because of the civil war in Somalia.

The Somali Bantu refugees had to leave everything they knew. As part of their resettlement, the International Recuse Committee (IRC) helped the refugee families find jobs, learn English and help their children get an education. The refugees faced many challenges while learning American customs; one of these challenges was finding good, quality, organic produce for the families in their community. This served as an impetus for people of the Somali Bantu community to begin efforts to farm like they did in their old home.

  [Read more…]

The ‘Big Deal’ about Prevailing Wage in Escondido

By Don Greene / Escondido Democratic Club

At the final public hearing on the proposed city charter, Mayor Abed was cavalier enough to admit that he was “championing the charter proposal” and that while it was about home rule, mostly it was about preventing the city from having to pay prevailing wages. What’s the big deal with prevailing wages, anyway?

In a report issued by the Center for Policy Initiatives (CPI), the outlook for working families in San Diego county is bleak. For a family of 4 with a preschool aged child and infant, both parents need to make an hourly salary of $20.06 for the family to be self-sufficient. That’s not a combined minimum hourly wage; each parent must make the $20.06 to live a basic life in San Diego without relying on public or private assistance.

County-wide, there are 13,395 workers in the agricultural industry, with 65.2% of these workers living below the standard of self-sufficiency. This is the population hardest hit by salary inequality. 40.9% of those in construction are below the self-sufficiency standard and 37.7% of those in retail sales positions also fall short. In terms of ethnic groups, Latinos (who make up 49% of the population of Escondido) are effected the most with 58.9% of those workers living below the self-sufficiency threshold.

These numbers are particularly telling for Escondido.   [Read more…]

“We Are More Than Just Workers — We’re People.”

By Lisa Maldonado Robinson/ Escondido Democratic Club

It takes an hourly wage of $13.09 and a full-time job to be able “to make ends meet” in San Diego County, according to Lisa Maldonado Robinson of the Interfaith Center for Worker Justice (ICWJ). Robinson spoke to Escondido Democrats at their April 12 meeting about the ICWJ’s ongoing program in San Diego County in which religious leaders strive “to lift workers out of poverty.” The program has a North County component and Robinson described efforts to organize workers at Casino Pauma and Northgate Markets.   [Read more…]