By Doug Porter
You have to give Escondido credit; just when you think the city’s politics couldn’t get any skunkier, another malodorous whiff emerges.The city was forced to adopt district voting after getting sued under the California Voting Rights Act for its poor record of electing Latinos. And there’s the infamous “are you brown or have you ever been” checkpoints. And the failed attempt to force landlords to check citizenship papers…
Last week it was the announcement of a recall election for the City Councilwoman Olga Diaz, who just happens to be the first self-admitted person of Hispanic descent (the city is 49% Latino) to be elected in the 125 year history of the city. The reason given by recall proponents is that Diaz, who was first elected in 2008, is “too liberal.” Riiight…
This week we’ve learned about what would seem to be a pay to play combination involving reduced developer fees and campaign contributions. Given the history of “business as usual” in Escondido, this will probably be interpreted as perfectly legal and proper.
Here are the facts:
According to California Fair Political Practices Commission forms filed with the the city clerk last Friday, councilman John Masson and Mayor Sam Abed each received the maximum contribution for their re-election campaigns allowable ($4100) from Pacific Land Investments in two installments. Sandwiched in the middle of those donations was a favorable ruling from the city council granting a $4500 reduction in developer fees for Pacific Land Investments LLC for the first portion of their North Broadway Area development.
The first contribution arrived on November 19th.
On December 4th the council overruled a staff study indicating the $17,000 in developer fees per lot need to be assessed on the project to cover the costs of related infrastructure improvements.
From the Escondido2014 blog:
City Manager Phillips said the fees were based upon the amount of money required to meet needs. Director of Engineering Domingue assured the Council that compared to the effort taken to determine the $17,000 fee recommendation that “there was a lot less work put into the calculation of the $12,000 fee in the past.”
But this didn’t sway the Council Majority. In fact Councilman Masson worried at the last moment “Will the applicant go to $12,500? [Ferguson asked for $12,000] I’d hate to see this go south.
Ferguson assured him it would be fine with his client.
The second half of the political contributions to Masson and Abed (the other two councilmembers voting for the reduced fees were not up for re-election this year) were recorded on December 12th.
One way of looking at this would be to say that the city council made a deal to insure that the project, which ultimately will involve 108 lots built out with potentially 668 units selling for an estimated $600,000 (Each), gets done.
This particular vote covered a reduction in fees for a mere 27 lots. Should the reduction be extended to the entire project, Escondido stands to lose just short of a half million dollars.
From The Coast News:
The city determined years ago that that area, deemed the “North Broadway Deficiency Area,” requires wider streets, sidewalks, larger sewers, and other improvements to sustain its current and future residents.
To accumulate funds for these improvements, officials established a deficiency fee for every new home built in the area. In exchange, developers can build projects sooner without having to wait for the city to eventually obtain financing and build the needed infrastructure.
“The deficiency fee is intended to help the city build the priority improvements that are necessary in the area,” explained city principal planner Bill Martin.
OR you could look at the city council vote the way the local chapter of the Democratic party did:
Well, if you’re on the city council, and you’re running for re-election, it costs exactly $4,100 per council member to get your developer fees reduced.
Fugitive Swindler Arrested in Fallbrook
Go figure. Two North County stories in one day.
When Sheriff’s Deputies and FBI agents arrested fugitive Rosemary Sauter in Fallbrook last Thursday, it wasn’t the kind of story that made the local news.
But for people living in St. Thomas, USVI, the arrest was a big time front page story. In early 2010, she simply vanished. Rumors abounded that she was dead. Or traveling the globe going from casino to casino. Her husband and children were clueless as to what happened.
From the Virgin Islands Daily News:
Sauter is accused of absconding with more than $3 million of her clients’ and fellow investors’ money and she faces charges of embezzlement, grand larceny and obtaining money by false pretenses.
Sauter initially was booked Thursday into the Vista Detention Facility in Vista, Calif., after the sheriff’s department and FBI arrested her at her apartment in the Sunset Pointe apartment complex in Fallbrook, Calif., which claims to be “The Friendly Village,” and also “The Avocado Capital of the World.”
On Friday, the FBI removed her from the local jail and took her into custody, photographed her, fingerprinted her and relocated her to a federal prison, the Metropolitan Corrections Center in San Diego, according to FBI spokesman Darrell Foxworth.
I lived in the USVI for a bunch of years prior to moving back to San Diego in 2008.
Who’s Paying for the Barrio Logan Initiative?
The effort to overturn the Barrio Logan Community plan is being financed by some of America’s biggest military contractors, according to a report by Matt Potter in the Reader.
Donors to the referendum effort, which has since qualified for the ballot, weren’t known until January 31, when a campaign fund calling itself “Protect Our Jobs Coalition” was required by law to file a disclosure report covering the period between October 1 and December 31 of last year.
According to that document, the group spent a total of $729,463 on its effort, raised $432,550 in cash, and was $287,483 in debt.
The biggest donor was National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, owned by military contracting behemoth General Dynamics, with $200,000; second largest, with $75,000, was giant British-based military contractor BAE Systems; in third place, with $50,000, was Continental Maritime of San Diego.
The congressional campaign of ex–city councilman Carl Demaio, an unsuccessful GOP candidate for mayor in 2012, made an in-kind contribution of $800, the report says.
Coke Super Bowl Ad Brings Out the Knuckle Draggers
I know, I know. The Coca Cola company is an evil corporation seeking to poison our children with high-fructose corn syrup, among other things. But they did run one of the more noticeable commercials during the Super Bowl, featuring all kinds of people singing ‘America The Beautiful’ in a variety of languages. This, of course, enraged Real ‘Mericuns around the country and incited them to call for a boycott of Coke, along with Girl Scout Cookies and too many other things to list here.
It sure would be nice if all those ‘patriots’ knew that ‘America…’ isn’t the national anthem.
So, since they can’t drink Coke anymore, I guess it’s back to Kool-Aid full time. (Yes, I stole this off the Internet.)
Keystone XL Candlelight Vigil Set
The State Department released its long awaited assessment of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline late last week, and environmentalist groups fear the report could create a political opening for the Obama administration to approve construction.
The Los Angeles Times editorialized this weekend:
The report is bad news for environmentalists, who had taken heart from President Obama’s pledge last year to base his decision regarding Keystone XL on whether the pipeline would be a significant contributor to global warming. The report paves the way for his approval.
But approval would be premature at best. Running side by side with the State Department’s largely rosy assessments have been continuing concerns by the Environmental Protection Agency that State is giving short shrift to some of the potential dangers — especially leaks that could foul groundwater or wilderness areas. TransCanada, the company proposing to build the pipeline, has a bad record when it comes to pipeline spills, and the EPA has raised concerns not just about possible effects on groundwater but also about emissions at the refining end of the journey, in the Gulf. The oil does little if anything for U.S. energy security; gasoline consumption has been declining in the United States, and much of this oil would be for export in any case.
Obama should place heavy emphasis on what EPA scientists are telling him; these are the nation’s top experts on the environment. And even if the Canadian tar sands extraction would not be, by itself, a devastating new source of greenhouse gases, the Keystone XL would be a sorry symbol of the world’s continued reliance on fossil fuels.
Local activists SanDiego350.org, with support from Citizens Climate Lobby, Sierra Club San Diego,Women Occupy San Diego, are calling for a candlelight vigil this evening in front of the Federal Building, (880 Front Street, San Diego) starting at 6pm.
Organizers are appealing to the public to join the movement to convince the President that the KXL is not in the national interest. Hundreds of other vigils will also occur Monday across the country.
On This Day: 1690 – The first paper money in America was issued by the Massachusetts colony. The currency was used to pay soldiers that were fighting in a war against Quebec. 1947 – Percival Prattisbecame the first black news correspondent admitted to the House and Senate press gallery in Washington, DC. He worked for “Our World” in New York City. 1959 – Buddy Holly (22), Ritchie Valens (17), and the Big Bopper (28) died in a plane crash in Iowa.
Check Out the SDFree Press Calendar
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Craig Casey says
Steve Siaw announced he’s running for Mayor. He’s a regular guy and a fresh change from team diaz / abed that Escondido has had for the last 4-6 years.
Doug Porter says
THank you for submitting a comment on our article that appeared back in February. Our most recent story on Escondido includes the news about Mr. Siaw joining the race. http://sandiegofreepress.org/2014/08/abed-diaz-spar-at-escondido-chamber-mayoral-forum/#.U_lizfmwJig
Craig Casey says
Thank you, that was an accurate synopsis of the meeting. Mr. Siaw will be grabbing some headlines in the very near future, exposing Big Developer Sam and Union Olga. This race is going to get very interesting.