Paul Mcnamara, Escondido Mayoral Candidate, Denounces Opponent's Last-minute Campaign Mailers
"A desperate, expensive effort to salvage his failing campaign."
Escondido, CA -
“Escondido's civic culture is shaken, when Abed has to rely on personal attack ads on me,” stated McNamara. “As a Marine Corps veteran, I deeply resent his attacks on my integrity and, by implication, all veterans. Everything I have said about Abed and his scramble for dollars for himself and his campaign funds is true and documented.
“The large increases of the mayor's salary during his tenure are clearly documented as are the huge lifting of campaign contribution limits to $4300 from $500 under his watch. Everyone knows Abed gets mean when cornered, so we are not surprised at all in Escondido to see these last-minute desperate attacks. We can do better,” McNamara concluded.
Abed Misrepresents The Truth In A Desperate Move To Win Mayoral Race
My opponent is resorting to "alternative facts" in an attempt to slow our campaign. He has chosen to take an internal procedural dispute at Palomar College and turn it into something that it's not. This distraction tactic is not surprising given how much he has cost Escondido’s taxpayers in avoidable lawsuits. Abed cites a report claiming the College Board gave the president a 27% raise. While the Trustee Board did approve a raise and one time retention incentive, only by adding them together can you achieve the appearance of a double digit pay raise. The compensation package was published for public review prior to the meeting, in compliance with state law. Public discussion, which is now public record, was held prior to the Board vote. Nothing was or is hidden. Escondido needs a mayor who recognizes, and tells the truth.
For more information on where Mac stands on the issues:
Q&A With Escondido Mayor Candidate Paul McNamara
SDUT October 12, 2018
Residents of Escondido will be choosing a mayor on Nov. 6. Incumbent Sam Abed, a Republican, faces challenger Paul McNamara, a Democrat. The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board met separately with each of the candidates. Here is the audio and transcript from the interview with McNamara.
Union-Tribune: So tell us why challenge Sam Abed? Why do you want to be mayor of Escondido?
MCNAMARA: Well, I think I’m like most people. You don’t… you don’t necessarily agree with every… everything a council person does. Nathan Fletcher has a great line. He says if you want to find a politician you agree with 100 percent run for office. I don’t know. That’s his line, but the first time I heard it was from him and… and I kind of agree with that, I think, with most people, but I came here from… I was in the Marine Corps and I came here from Mexico City.
I was a… worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency down there, and I literally stumbled on Escondido... that was a little over 20 years ago and I just thought… I was looking for a house for my children, and it really was this wonderful city. This is a wonderful town and I particularly liked it because I just came from Mexico City, and it had a really strong Latino culture there and I really liked that. So what happened, though, is, you know, as time goes on, like everything, you’ll have people who… they make decisions and you say well I wouldn’t agree with that decision, but I’m not going to die in a ditch over it, but after a while since [Sam] Abed took over as the mayor, I feel the city’s been in a kind of a downward spiral. We’ve been very… we’ve been in this… we’re not really bringing in economic development like you would think. Mostly it’s all housing development, and it’s… there seems to be no project that isn’t approved even when you look at the second and third order effects. A simple example was he seriously considered a water park at Kit Carson Park, which is one of the iconic parks in the city, and, if you know Bear Valley Parkway there, bringing in those thousands of people at the water park… and I’m not against the water park. Just pick the right location. Don’t… don’t take a busy street and then make it so busy that it turns into a parking lot and you can see that with a lot of the projects that they approved, but you didn’t really see any real growth in business development. You see the thing of the… the sense of community. We weren’t as… we weren’t as strong as we were before and I feel as though we used… if you looked at the last… when he first ran he used a very divisive campaign style to split the city and I don’t think you’re really going to grow or you get anywhere if you have… if you divide your city into two camps and I… you certainly are aware of his latest thing with the… the whole sanctuary city which is in my mind… you know, maybe that’s great politics, but it’s not really what… it’s not a mayor’s job. You know, that’s not really what a mayor’s for. A mayor is fix… fixing potholes and looking for development and bringing people together and so I decided well someone’s got to stand up and run against him, and that’s why I decided to run.
Union-Tribune: We certainly asked you plenty of questions about sanctuary city and many other issues that you raised, but you said the mayor’s job is not what Sam did there. Isn’t one of them a mayor’s job is to get attention to his city, his policies? He stood with the president. You can disagree or agree on the issue, but he got a meeting with the president of the United States.
MCNAMARA: Okay. So your question is?
Union-Tribune: Isn’t a mayor’s job to call attention to his city and his policies and his governance?
MCNAMARA: Well I don’t think it’s his…
Union-Tribune: Or her for that matter.
MCNAMARA: His… his disagreement, I think, was with the California Values Act, right? And he felt that he was against that, and he… they voted… the City Council, led by him, to have an amicus brief… right… in support of the government’s challenge to the California Values Act and… which is, in my mind, a waste of our tax dollars because I don’t think the brief would do much for whether the government is going to… whether the courts will rule with the government or with the state and as you well know… you’re an educated man… the state’s rights versus the federal responsibilities have been going on for the founding of his nation. I don’t know what Escondido is going to contribute to that. When… also if you do a detailed study of the brief you’d find that there’s really not much that we can’t… we can’t really do in terms of enforcement of the law. So I felt it was more of a distraction than anything that was going to move the city forward and there are always second and third order of consequences. I mean if… I remember a brief from the Farm Bureau and people talk about the undocumented workers, right? They… the Farm Bureau would give you a brief saying that it supports a billion [dollar] industry in North County, you know, and so they’re second and third order effects to that. You suddenly pick people up. I mean it’s a complicated problem and immigration has been ignored. I think we all would agree with this for years at the federal level and… and whether we would like it or not, we have a complex problem and the mayor of Escondido is not going to solve that problem and the mayor of Escondido wasn’t elected to solve that problem. You know, the mayor of Escondido was elected to run the City Council, work with the city manager, and take care of city issues.
Union-Tribune: How… what’s your strategy to win? I think the latest poll… excuse me… financial numbers show that he has a four to one fundraising edge on you.
MCNAMARA: That’s not totally correct. I had… I started some… raising some money in the first period, which was last summer of July of 2017, and so I’m roughly around the $70,000 dollars range and then his number also includes $53,000 from his previous campaign and while, you know, most conventional wisdom will say well if you raise more money you’re going to… you’re… you’re going to win the election, but we’ve seen here in the Senate races, here in the state of California, the presidential race... that more money doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to win. More importantly when you look at who he… who donated to my campaign and who donated to his, I have more voters in the city of Escondido who are donating to my campaign rather than he does.
Union-Tribune: Are you worried that cultural issues are (unintelligible) just basic question of whether or not he’s a very good mayor in how some of the voters decide?
MCNAMARA: Well, I think there is a feeling… and this is anecdotal and this is me knocking on lots of doors… that the mayor and the city council do not listen to the voters of the city and that they’re making their own decisions on their… on their terms.
Union-Tribune: The library decision certainly seemed to be kind of (overtalking).
MCNAMARA: Well, that’s… that’s the outsourcing of the library, but in addition even the closing of the East Valley Parkway Library where you’re essentially saying you had… and I don’t want to come across as I’m against public or charter schools where that… that facility went to the charter school, but you still have residents in the part of the city who are… who used that library and there was no plan and there’s still no plan to restore that facility or restore a library to the residents of that part of the city and you know in the summer it can be hot in Escondido, and so libraries are more than just libraries. Sometimes it’s just places for people to go and get cool or moms to take their kids to just go in for the afternoon and read a book, spend some time in air-conditioned space.
Union-Tribune: Where do you stand on the library privatization decision?
MCNAMARA: I don’t really… I stood against it. (Unintelligible) on record saying that I didn’t think it was a good… it was a good idea. There are certainly challenges. I mean no… there’s no city that has enough money to do everything, right? And there are some other ideas about how we can take care of the library, but it seemed like that they picked the most vulnerable to make an example of privatization and when there were… there are other areas that… of the city that you can look at and I’ve… as I’ve gone around and I’ve talked to different people, and the basic question I ask, if I were mayor, what could I do to facilitate your success, right? What would you want me to do? And I’ve gone to superintendents of the schools as well and I’ve gotten different ideas from different people. So it’s not just individuals, but if you’re running a group for… so a social agency or you’re… you own a winery or something like that and you get… as you go around and you talk to people, you get a lot of good ideas of what we could do to improve the city and… and one of the big things is, you know, you want to bring more revenue into the city, and you can’t just do that when you have your… you’re consistently saying the only source of real revenue is to build houses and building houses in the wrong places. I mean…
Union-Tribune: Escondido is one of the most affordable real estate markets for housing in San Diego County. And yet it’s identified homelessness as one its major issues.
Union-Tribune: First, doesn’t that kind of belie the argument that housing and homelessness are related issues and, second, how do you feel they’ve handled the homeless problem in Escondido up until now?
MCNAMARA: Well, I’ve done ride-alongs with the police in Escondido for the homeless and I… at least with the ride-alongs that I’ve done, I feel that… and the police would describe it as the soft side of police work, okay? And that’s the term they use and I was… I thought we had a very compassionate police force and… and candidly I would say the police officers I spoke to had a better understanding of the problem than most people I talked to, and maybe because they deal with it every day and when I say understanding, I mean they understand how complex the problem is and it’s not just one… you know, one size fits all type of solution. There has been… for a long time the city has really kind of ignored partnering… and this is where I think the city’s… one of the issues that I stand on… partnering with those agencies or those institutions who work to fix those problems, right? We don’t have enough money. You’ve got to work with the various organizations who’ve dedicated themselves for whatever the social issue, whether it’s environment or beautification of the city or economic development, whatever… you know, pick one and… and I will say that there has been some movement on the city’s part in… during this election year, just as some of the potholes have been fixed this election year in the direction, but if you’re looking at the long-term track record and public statements on it, you know, they… people would say look, you know, let’s just put them all… put them all in buses and take them away. When you know, even the most compassionate of us… and I think we are compassionate here… would recognize that, you know, adding to the vibrancy of the city is you want to have a public park that looks safe… right… and not have people sleeping in it all day, right? Now… but there’s some middle ground there… right… where you can help that person get back on their feet at the same time and making the parks feel safe so that families can come and enjoy the… that resource of the city.
Union-Tribune: You’ve said that the city’s lost businesses recently, but I saw a report in the Times-Advocate that said under the mayor 560 new businesses have relocated or opened in the city on his watch. How is that losing businesses?
MCNAMARA: Well, it’s kind of interesting when you say that. You have to… you know, that includes people who sell stuff at the street fair… crafts at the street fair and have to get a business license and that’s a new business. It… you… you know, that statement I think he made at the… Abed made at the State of the City back in January, but if you’re… all you’ll have do is walk up and down Grand Avenue and see all the for rent and for sale signs on the businesses to see that we’re not growing.
Union-Tribune: The pension obligations of the city are going to double in coming years. Has the city done enough to introduce a second tier or a third tier or a fourth tier of pension benefits for new hires or do you think the problem’s exaggerated?
MCNAMARA: Well, I don’t think it… I don’t think it’s a problem unique to Escondido, okay? I think it’s a problem that’s… that everyone faces. Have… candidly have I… do I have the detail that I would like to have to answer that question? The answer is no. From what I know at a larger level, I don’t think the city has done enough. I think that we have to look at different sources of pensions. I mean we’re just running out of money, and I think that’s a statewide problem, not just limited to Escondido.
Union-Tribune: But most Democrats are against the broader push for big changes in pensions. Are… I’m not sure if you identify as a Democrat for, you know, your personal views one way or the other, and so that’s a problem. If you’ve got the dominant party in the state defending a system that local governments say is unaffordable.
MCNAMARA: You know, people often ask me if I’m a Democrat or a Republican. I’m certainly… I’m a registered Democrat, okay? However I’m also a little bit older than most people and if you ask me to define what a Republican is or Democrat, I struggle with that in today’s world. If you… it’s interesting. An interesting website to check is the Dole-Kemp campaign and… which is still alive from 96th presidential election. I’d invite you to take a look at Bob Dole’s stand on most issues, and I think he would be a Democrat today.
Union-Tribune: I had a Bob Dole bumper sticker.
MCNAMARA: Well, you… you would… it’s really interesting to see what he says about what he would do as president. So I consider myself… I think, like most people, I consider myself somewhat of a centrist. I lean very right fiscally… okay… and I consider myself left on most social issues, but I think if you were to put… if you were to try to define me by say… or put me into a pigeonhole based on TV commentators, based on a channel, I think you… I’d struggle to be in that.
Union-Tribune: Escondido’s had a lot of city managers in recent years and, at least with some of them, their departures have been very hazy. Why is it that the… why can’t there be candor and explanation about the decisions that are being made for people to come and go? City manager is arguably as powerful as the mayor in non-charter cities or even in charter cities. So to me, that’s one of the things that people from Escondido have complained about over the years… big changes are made and no explanations are given.
MCNAMARA: That is one of the complaints in Escondido… is that there is this sense that a lot of decisions are made behind closed doors and that even when people do get up off the couch to make a statement they’re not listened to. So your question is would…
Union-Tribune: Well, are there… are there…
MCNAMARA: …would I change city manager?
Union-Tribune: …even more examples of this than we know about down here in San Diego? I mean how much a problem is it in Escondido that decisions are made without transparency?
MCNAMARA: Well, I think that the city… I know the city manager, and I think he is… and he and his staff are trying to do the best that they can, but city managers to work for a council and… and that influences all their decisions. I… I’ve have talked with the city manager before I started this race and I think he had some ideas for growth in the city, but I’m not sure… and I wasn’t in the room so I can’t say this with certainty, but I’m not convinced that he’s been given the freedom that maybe he needs to help get the staff moving in the direction that it needs to move in.
Union-Tribune: What do you mean by that?
MCNAMARA: Well you… you know, city managers have in a general law city, which we are… are really the people who run the city and they respond to… they respond to a council, although the council gets most of the public exposure, right? I don’t know. One of the things that I would… you know, people say well what would you do on your first day of office? Well I think the first thing… I mean not the first thing, but on the short list would be to cut back on our incredibly high donations that we’re allowed to do. You know, $4,300 dollars. You know, that?
Union-Tribune: Are you talking about political contributions?
Union-Tribune: How can that… how can a city change a state law?
MCNAMARA: Well no, the city… the city… it used to be around $500 dollars, and it was moved up to $4,100 and then it was moved up to $4,300 dollars. So you… essentially you and your wife could donate $8,600 dollars to me, and that essentially, in my mind, puts the city for sale. Now, there are some cities that have no limits at all. I think San Marcos is at $250 and I think the city of San Diego is at $500 as an individual donation, but you know, for the size of our city… I mean think about that. Who can afford the $4,300 dollar donations? And it’s worth taking a look at the Form 460s as to who is donating that… those amounts of money, but back to your question about the… the city manager. One of the… aside from the donations, one of the first things I would want to do is sit down with the city manager and talk about… ask… ask him the same question if I were mayor, what would you want me to do to facilitate your success? And he would have to demonstrate to me that he, in fact, has a vision for the city that I think meets the needs of the city on… on the platforms that are running on and I’d like to think that… that once that’s done we could then move forward in a more productive way.
Union-Tribune: Meaning you might let him go if (overtalk)?
MCNAMARA: No, I think I would… no, maybe give him more reins, all right?
Union-Tribune: What’s your take on the whole fight over the golf course in the estate and over the City Council’s role in trying to decide what happens there or trying to guide what happens there?
MCNAMARA: Well, I think the people there got somewhat of a raw deal. Not somewhat. I think they got a raw deal and… and the City Council could have jumped in earlier to mitigate some of the problems. There were other solutions, but I think what they did was they took somewhat of a hands-off approach and as a consequence they’re down to a… I went to the last ECCHO [Escondido Country Club & Community Homeowners Organization] meeting, and I think they’re in court and their last brief I remember was they were saying it’s a violation of Prop S, which was essentially for projects of that size needed citywide approval and they did not get the citywide approval.
Union-Tribune: But it’s possible, from my perspective, to both have a low opinion of [developer Michael] Schlesinger and to question some of ECCHO’s tactics and ECCHO’s assumptions. Property rights do matter.
MCNAMARA: They do and I… I’m not saying that, but there is also another element to it and that element is, I think… I’ll call it the good neighbor policy, right? I mean you are… I think as an elected official you’re responsible to the voters of that… of your particular district or area and they had some really legitimate concerns. I mean there’s no doubt that if you bought the house there those properties were on smaller lots and on purpose with the idea that you would have this long term view of the… of a golf course and suddenly now that’s gone and, you know, there’s a lot of water under the bridge and I’m not going to throw stones at people what they did or didn’t do or what could have happened in the past, but… but as a general rule, I think that city council could have played a larger role in mitigating what was… what could have happened there.
Union-Tribune: The manure incident… I’ve tried to tell that story to people and they’re always just flabbergasted both that it happened and also at the relative minor quality of the punishment that the developer faced out of all of that. What… what’s your take on how that played out and whether justice was served?
Union-Tribune: The fertilizer.
MCNAMARA: Yeah. I’m… I mean I’m aware of the… I’m aware of the incident. There is a… I mean you know, we can certainly criticize that strategy in terms of trying to win over the residents if you’re trying to do a development. I…
Union-Tribune: Hearts and minds.
MCNAMARA: Winning the hearts and minds. I think that… that was probably in hindsight and… and a lot of people probably in foresight said that’s probably not the best idea and… but in terms of the city, again, I think who… who did the city serve in that, right? And… who did the city leadership serve in that incident? And I don’t feel they served the residents of the city and if you’re… you know, in my mind, I feel that even… you know, we have a reputation for losing some court cases, right? Escondido has lost court cases over some decisions that, candidly, I think are a little bit embarrassing for the city. In my mind, if we were going to lose a court case, I would rather have had lost the court case fighting for the residents of the city rather than for some of the other things that we’ve lost.
Union-Tribune: Which court cases are thinking of there? Is that ACLU and the…
MCNAMARA: Well, when the children came down and who was it? Southwest [Key] was the organization, I think. I have it on the tip of my tongue, but organizations where they had… children were… they… they wanted to rent a home… a retirement facility and essentially so immigration could process the children and they would have a shelter and of course the city wouldn’t let the buses come in, and of course we’re all over the news with our not letting the children come in. I don’t think that really sends a great image. I mean I do a lot of meet and greets and,… as you can imagine because I’m not taking… I have not taken any money from the unions, although I’ve been accused of being a union person. Not… I mean I grew up in a union family and I support unions, but I haven’t gotten any money from them, okay? I see a need for them. I see a need that… and I see a need for police as well but that doesn’t mean that every… every institution we have is perfect or couldn’t use some refinement, but the concern I… I think is the… as I do the meet and greet I find that… one woman told me her friend from London was no longer going to visit Escondido after she read about us or saw us on the BBC and of course I… you know, when you get that type of negative publicity… I mean that’s not the kind that’s going to attract businesses or young families to move there or… or any type of development.
Union-Tribune: Speaking of development, two big projects, housing projects, coming before too long to… through city government, the Palomar Hospital site and, obviously, Safari Highlands Ranch. Where are you in terms of supporting…
Union-Tribune: …or not supporting those projects?
MCNAMARA: Safari Highlands, if you’re familiar with the geography… I haven’t seen the specific plans, but it’s hard for me to imagine … and I… that… to get to that you would… most people would be wanting to access the 15 off of Via Rancho [Parkway]. There’s really only one road, San Pasqual Road, which is this two-lane road that goes by the Vineyard Golf Course and… and the Orfila Winery. In my mind, you’re essentially creating… I mean unless people are going to suddenly start working in Ramona they are… you’re creating one of the biggest cul-de-sacs ever and one of the biggest traffic jams and… unless they’re planning on putting in some new access road. The other thing it goes back to that good neighbor policy and the houses and I just want to say, since we’re on the record, you have the money to own a house on the hill, good on you, just make sure we have it on the right hill. Because we have all the people who live in San Pasqual… right… that area off of… where the fires are right now up there… who bought their homes with the idea that they would have the views of the hills, and then suddenly the hill is now gone and now instead of looking up at a hill they’ve got somebody looking down from their backyard into your… into their backyard and I don’t… so as I… as I understand the Safari Highlands now I would be against it. In terms of the hospital, I don’t know that those… I’m not… I’m not against it. I’m kind of neutral on it because I haven’t seen the plans and I need to… I’d like to do more analysis before I make a decision on that one.
Union-Tribune: And broadly the housing crisis is… excuse me… one of California’s biggest problems.
Union-Tribune: It’s one of the county’s biggest problems. Do you consider yourself pro development? Do you think houses need to be built in… (overtalking)?
MCNAMARA: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean… yeah. You… you’re not going to stop growth, okay? And I don’t see how anybody… I mean you can’t adopt a I’m a board, pull up the rope policy. I mean we need more housing, but because it is so critical and because there is so much coming in we need to be really smart about it, okay? And that’s really the… and that makes it a much harder decision in terms of where the growth is and what we should do and I think in the city of Escondido our… kind of our whole plan for growth needs to be reviewed and why do I say that? I had a number of developer and real estate friends that I know, and I talk with them and I said well do we have the right mix of affordable housing, middle-class, upper-class housing that you need in a city and do we have the right amount of rentals and are they in the right locations? And almost to a person they’ve all told me no, we’re not really… we’re not planning that out correctly and, of course, you want to plan it out in such a way… and this is not without challenge. I’m not… I’m not… want to create that we’re going to wave a wand here and make it perfect, but that years down the road you still look and you don’t come back and say well geez, what happened to Escondido that I grew up in or what happened to the town? Does it still maintain a lot of the ambience that you liked about it, right? Do we still have the parks? Are they still in good shape? Are the schools? And all those things that make Escondido what it is… do you still have those? And I don’t think, as a general rule, the city council looks at the… looks at it in a very short… they don’t look at the second and third order affects of these things, you know. The Safari Highlands, sure, they’re great.
"I mean we need more housing, but because it is so critical and because there is so much coming in we need to be really smart about it, okay?"
Escondido mayor candidate Paul McNamara
You know, you go back to that. You know, you put big executive homes up on the hill and they look great until you have the traffic jam. I mean it’s the same thing with Country Club. Oh, well we’re going to… this guy has a right to develop houses. He does, but the… it turns Country Club Road and El Norte Parkway into park… into another parking lot and you’re not thinking through where the growth should be or whether or not we should make it denser or we should, as a city, decide to… one… one developer up there said… and again I’ve asked a lot of people for a lot of opinions because I don’t consider myself an expert on every single thing and you really have to get community involvement on this because there are people who know more about… pick an issue… more about homelessness than I do, know more about development than I do and you really need to work together as a community to kind of solve these problems and, you know… and this individual is a very successful developer and he… over… over the years and he said he thinks we should buy the Safari Highlands from the county and… and then do something along the lines of… of a Daley Ranch where it becomes... keep it as a green belt for the city.
Union-Tribune: So we’re in an era in which the establishment, meaning us, believes we’ve got to have much, much more housing, but we’re also in an era in which public skepticism about official wisdom in North County is tough to exaggerate. I still can’t get over the fact the Caruso project was rejected by Carlsbad voters. If the Caruso project can’t get through, what does that say about how North County people feel about their leaders, about the trustworthiness in the planning process, about being able to count on elected officials to do what’s right by them?
MCNAMARA: The Caruso project was the Carlsbad where they… okay, I remember that and you’re… and they voted… the city of Carlsbad voted against that, right? Well, I know that, one, I don’t think Escondido is the same as Carlsbad and I think we’re… there’s a different vibe there and there’s a different…
Union-Tribune: Do you think it’s a difference sense? Because I’ve got this view all the time from people in North County. We don’t want growth is their view. They reject the idea that growth is a must because we have to take care of the housing crisis. That’s not how they see it.
MCNAMARA: Well, I won’t deny that there are people in North County that feel that way. When I go around and I talk with people and I ask them the questions… and, you know, common themes occur, right? What is your hot button issue? What do you care about in North County? I don’t find in Escondido that housing is as a high priority as, say, some other things in the city, okay? But I… but I would also say, though, that when we do… when I do talk about it with them people say… there’s an acknowledgement that we have to do growth. So I wouldn’t characterize… if we have to label Escondido, I wouldn’t characterize them as being anti-growth, okay? But I think they are pro-smart growth, okay? They’re… they’re reasonable people and they’re looking for a reasonable plan. I would say that if I had to… and, again, we’re labeling lots of people here… that they feel that there is not a… that plan doesn’t exist, especially when you see the City Council giving the developers cuts on their… on the building fees and you’re saying well, wait a minute, how can you say we don’t have enough money, but then you’re giving the building fees… the… the builders a cut on their fees? So it’s a… it’s a challenge and that’s why I think that you… and I go back to… and I’ve gone around and I’ve said this many times. I think the way you… you move the city forward is engagement policy with the various community groups or individuals who are concerned about certain things, whether it’s education or homelessness or why do we have a stronger wine industry, say, in Temecula than we do in Escondido when we have some great wineries up there, right? And work with those people to say okay, what’s the best solution that we can… we can move forward with?
Union-Tribune: Escondido has a grand design for its urban core with the Arts Center, Grape Day Park and Grand Avenue. And now you tell us that these areas are struggling (unintelligible).
MCNAMARA: They do. I mean… and they recently had a meeting about how can we develop Grand Avenue? And the major topic of discussion was whether they should go from parallel to diagonal parking. Yet I think most people who have ever been up to Grand Avenue would suggest that it has potential to be a mini Gaslamp for North County. It has the character of it, has the stores, that there are some other things that could be done and it wouldn’t require, you know, a huge bond issue, but it’s… it’s the idea of does the city have the vision for that, you know, and is the city thinking about that?
Union-Tribune: Well can it be turned into a destination more than it is now and would maybe housing… more housing for that area be the answer to that?
MCNAMARA: Well, it… my personal opinion? Oh, yeah, I think we could do a lot more for the downtown. You talk to the people… you know, one of the… you talked about the Center for the Arts. When my children were small 20 years ago, I would take them to that… had five or six shows a year, and they talk about it now and they still view it as dad, my friends never had that exposure to all the various… you know, the Moscow Ballet, the Blind Boys of Alabama, the… the flamenco dancers and all the different things that they would have there and, you know, when I talk with the Center now it’s their… their schedule has changed somewhat because they’re in competition with the casinos, right? And that’s a challenge for them, but I think that we could still… it… it’s still one of the… it’s still a great draw to the city and we need to popularize it. I think… are you familiar with the artist Niki de Saint Phalle from the Queen Califia? You know, they recently did an exhibit there, right? That exhibit was shown in four places in the world. It was in Barcelona, Paris, the Guggenheim in New York and in Escondido and we had people from all over the world, but I don’t know that anybody even knew about it. I knew about it and so I think we have a… we have a lot to offer. We just need to change the attitude of the city and I think one of the problems is when all you ever… when the only press we ever get is immigration issues or being sued and things like that you… it… it’s… well I mean part of it is just believing. Is this a great city to live in or isn’t it, right?
Union-Tribune: Does that message resonate with folks when you talk to them? You… you’ve said you’ve talked to a lot of folks, but when I looked at your website I don’t see any endorsements. Maybe I missed them, but do you have a list of locals or regionals (overtalk)?
MCNAMARA: Oh, I have people who have endorsed me. I’m just not listing them and here’s the… and there’s… and that was a conscious decision. You know, we live in a world of identity politics, okay? And I can give you a list of people who might endorse me and there are some endorsements people have sought to go after endorsements and… and as you probably know, when you go after an endorsement there is typically a litmus test they ask you fill out, right? You’ve seen those sheets of paper? Yes? I’m looking for a head nod here.
MCNAMARA: Okay. All right and… and a lot of the questions on those are, are you totally for this or are you totally against that? And life isn’t that black and white. I mean sometimes you’re 90 percent there with them, but sometimes you’re… there… you know that there are times, just like in our own lives, that you have to make exceptions, right? And… and so in a world of identity politics, I’m not looking to really have you put me in a pigeonhole. I’m looking to build community in Escondido and get the city moving forward so that your children and my children and our grandchildren live in a… in a city that you’re proud of and that you… you’re… you feel good about.
Union-Tribune: But endorsements are what endorsements are, I agree, but to say that they put you in a pigeonhole, they also let Escondido voters know that this group or these individuals support you when your opponent has a list that would fit on a scroll and roll from one end of the room to the other. I mean it’s a stark difference.
MCNAMARA: It’s a stark contrast. I’ve looked at all of his endorsements, you know, of individuals and of course, you know, they… they lean right, okay, in a lot of the endorsements, and they’re heavy on developers and they’re… they’re heavy on builders, but they’re not the residents of Escondido. They’re not the voters of Escondido and I have… and, you know, you might say well this was a bad political decision later on November 7th or maybe, you know, the night of November 6th, but I don’t think you can go in there in a nonpartisan race and say… and say look, I’m not here to build community, but I’m on this side of the fence,… right… or I’m just one person or I’m saying I don’t… I… I’ll go back to the… Nathan Fletcher’s comment about finding a politician you agree with 100 percent. If I’m with you for 80 percent of the issues and I disagree on 20 then that’s a good thing and if you’re on one side of the aisle and I’m on another I want to work with you. I don’t want you to suddenly label me because I’m on the… because I… I’m on the… on some of the aisle you don’t agree on because we’re not going to move forward that way and we’re not going to… we’re not going to develop community, and that’s what I think we need to do.
Union-Tribune: Let me get at the question of politics and political leadership then. Noteworthy that… that Sam Abed says that Ronald Reagan will “forever” be his favorite president. Who’s your favorite president and why?
MCNAMARA: Favorite president? Probably George Washington and the reason why is because I think he doesn’t get the credit that I think he deserves. Granted… and… and I think that’s true of a lot of the founding fathers. When you… and clearly they were imperfect, right? No one’s… they’re not… they’re not perfect, but when you put it in a context of the time where you’re living in a divine right… okay… I mean kings ruled by divine right. I mean the people believe God gave them the power to… to rule and you had essentially wealthy men… George Washington among them… who decided that this was wrong, that you needed to do things. I mean you read the Declaration of Independence, right? I mean that’s not just a Dear King George, III, we’ve had enough, see you later. I mean it was a legal document, right? They made 27, I think, arguments of why and they say in there that if you have the obligation to change things you should and he… and they put it all on the line for… for an idea, and then Washington… you know, they were big fans of Cincinnatus. Are you familiar with him? The Roman, right? The Roman farmer who became the general who saves Rome then gives up his rank and when you look at all the revolutionaries of the world and you see how many of them ever gave up their power, I mean that was really a huge deal and a lot of people don’t… I don’t think they give him credit for that. You know, he’s chopped down a cherry tree or something, you know and… and it clearly we’ve had some good presidents after him, but… I mean for that one act, I give him a lot a lot of credit.
Union-Tribune: Love those hemp growers.
Union-Tribune: Hemp grower. You like the hemp grower?
Union-Tribune: In 2013, 2014, one of the more peculiar recent situations I’ve ever seen unfolded in Escondido is when the planning commission [objecting to a] 99 Cents store. To outsiders it looked like Escondido both was virtue signaling we’re too good for poor places, we’re too wealthy for this, and also being ignorant because Escondido is not entirely a rich community. Of course there would’ve been a niche for a 99 Cents store and the estimate that it would generation $5 million dollars a year in sales tax, yet the planning commission still said no. What do you take away from that and what it says about Escondido and Escondido’s attempts to project an image to the world?
MCNAMARA: Well, you know, it goes to, I think, a larger issue. Escondido is not a… is… doesn’t have the wealth of say… say one of the coastal cities (unintelligible). Put it that way and so you have to have, as you’re suggesting, a more realistic approach as to who you are residents and what do they need? And it comes to this, I think, your whole philosophy about what is a city and how do you raise a city to come up, right? And if you… if the argument was oh, if we put a 99 Cents store in there we’ll attract the people who only want to shop at a 99 Cents store, right? But the counter argument being, well, we have people who need a 99 Cents store, right? And so the question becomes what… what are you supposed to do as an elected official? In my mind, you’re supposed to meet the needs of the people who elected you, right? Now, at the same time, concurrently you’re trying to raise the city, right? And you can raise the city and it’s not just… there’s no one thing that’s going to bring a city up, right? I mean people are attracted to it. Is it safe? Does it have good schools? Does it have a nightlife? Does it have things for the family, good parks? All that sort of thing, right? And everybody… there’s numerous variables and you’re always as a… I think as a city you’re trying to improve those variables, right? You’re trying to… and then that… then the city… this is almost a cliché anymore, but you know, a rising tide floats all boats and so that maybe one day the 99 Cents store is no longer necessary because the… because the city has risen to a point where it wants a Nordstrom in there or some other type of store, but you don’t say I’m not going to put in a 99 Cents store when that meets the needs of the city and especially, as you said, it raises $5 million dollars in revenue. I mean… and then say well we don’t have enough money in the city to keep the Washington Street pool open and then say oh, but the kids are joining gangs, right? I mean it… your… it’s… that’s why I think we’re in a downward spiral or why I feel we have a very limited view. You know, if you say we have a rainy day fund, which they did, but then say well I balance the budget, which you’re required to do, but you don’t use the rainy day fund to keep those elements of a city that make it a better city… for example, giving kids something to do… right… of keeping a program alive… well then you’re just being, you know… what’s the expression… penny wise and pound foolish because long term you’re putting the… you put the city in a downward spiral, not a… a rising spiral.
Union-Tribune: The city… it looks to be… I’m not sure if this is true, but it’s looks to be very retail-oriented in its business with the car dealerships and the restaurants and stores and things like that. Is there a good manufacturing sector up there and is that the kind of jobs that Escondido should be going after?
MCNAMARA: No, it’s mostly mom and pop stores really when you go up there. I mean it was kind of interesting. I… you know, you hear a lot of really great ideas from different people about different things and the old CEO of Palomar Hospital… I went up and I spoke with him… if you remember Bob and I say Bob, if I were mayor of this city, what would you… would you do to… what would you want me to do to facilitate your success? And he said to me, well, acknowledge we’re the second-largest employer in the city. Okay, a little acknowledgement and then I had said well you know, Bob, would you do things that were… would you do more cooperative things that showed the city office being hey, we’re the healthy city, right? We could have… we don’t need Omgen up there or Amgen the bike race. We could have a local bike race. We have a lot of cool places to ride a bike. Make it a healthy city. That’s something that people might say hmm, let’s go to Escondido and go participate in that event, right? And then they might notice that we have the Center for the Arts and then they might notice some other things and of course people… one thing leads to another, right? You’re getting almost a public relations campaign. So Bob said to me… he goes well you know, we’re the… he says do you know which hospital is the second largest hospital for orthopedics in the state? And I said I’m guessing Palomar. He said yeah and he says well, why doesn’t anybody go and recruit an orthopedic supply company or open a business there or open a satellite office? And I said Bob, I don’t know why and I don’t know whether that would work, but I do know that talking with Bob and talking with people you get ideas like that of how we could get things done… right… as oppose to constantly just saying well we’re going to build more houses on this green space and that’s how I think you get… you have dialogues with people on how do you think we can do this? Another woman… the building’s not available anymore and I don’t know whether this would pan out, but I think it was worth exploring and you know this. Before 2008, we had kind of an art vibe going on in downtown Escondido for a little bit, and with the fall of the housing market that kinda faded. Still there a little bit, but not as strong as it used to be, but you know, he said something as simple as well why don’t we have a permanent indoor farmer’s market? And I thought that was not… that’s an idea worth exploring because there will be an element of people that would say let’s go to Escondido’s permanent indoor farmers market. Now, I’m not saying that that’s going to solve all our problems, but it’s those types of dialogues that you need with the community. That’s why you can’t… you know, when people say, well, when you hear the accusation that the Council and… and city leadership is off by itself just making their own decisions, when in fact you talk… when you… when you’re out and about talking with people you get some pretty good ideas and even if they don’t pan out they’re worth exploring, worth considering.
Union-Tribune: Any other questions from anyone? If not, give your 30-second close for the voters.
MCNAMARA: I think that, as you’ve heard me say… that Escondido has lost its sense of community, and we need to regain that and it’s not just oh, we all need to go out and go on a picnic together. It’s the idea of we need to start talking with each other and talking about all the problems that we face and… and we sort of need to have a stronger engagement process because once you have people engaged in a problem they become the owners of that problem and by becoming the owners of that problem you can get… you can move forward and solve it and so I hope and… that I can get… I can convince enough voters that they see it the way I’m describing it and that we would be able to restore, what I thought when I moved here 20 years ago, a city that worked together to make it the city that it… that it once was and it… and could be tomorrow.
Mac Joins Candlelight Vigil For Mental Health Awareness
Suicide is the number one killer of youth in San Diego County, and there has been a 70% increase of suicides in adolescent girls.Last week, Mac joined Escondido Together, a gathering of Escondidio faith leaders, in a candlelight vigil for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
Mayor Candidate McNamara Challenges Abed’s Claims
Times Advocate Article October 11, 2018
Mayoral candidate Paul McNamara challenges some of the claims that incumbent Mayor Sam Abed is making on the campaign trail and in forums they are jointly attending. It’s about a month until the city election.
The challenger starts with Abed’s claim that the city has created 2,000 new businesses and 1,500 new jobs. “They are counting small businesses operating out of their homes,” says McNamara. “Businesses where you pay $40 to the city for a license. It’s not true that all new businesses pay taxes. You can’t claim you have created two thousand new businesses and say that you aren’t collecting enough sales tax revenue.”
McNamara points to Grand Avenue, “where you have ‘for lease’ signs everywhere. You can’t have it both ways. Where are the new businesses? You can’t say ‘We don’t have the sales tax to pay for things but we have all those new businesses.’ ”
He also criticizes Abed for talking about how the board has balanced the budget. “They always talk about balancing the budget. Well, you are required to balance the budget. Don’t you have a staff that balances the budget? It’s like saying, ‘I stop at red lights.’ Of course, we do!”
He adds, “A better claim would be ‘We have a budget that reflects the priorities of the people.’ That’s the claim I would make if I was the mayor.”
McNamara also challenges the mayor’s boast that crime has gone down on his watch. “To listen to him you would think he is personally responsible for the lower rate. Our crime rate follows the national trend. It’s not any lower than in San Marcos or Vista.”
He adds, “While the crime rate has gone down, the mayor is not telling us that when you divide the city as he has done that you end up with a lot of unreported crime. The tactic of dividing the city is emboldening the criminal element. The police are not going to be able to maintain their informants because people are afraid of them It’s a failed policy.”
McNamara criticizes Abed for his donors, claiming that he (McNamara) doesn’t take campaign money from outside developers. “He just raised $91,000. That’s outrageous for a city our size. Abed gets all his money from special interests and developers. I personally think it makes it look like our city is for sale.”
At a recent forum Abed criticized McNamara for accepting a donation from Jack Raymond, whom he called a developer. “ ‘How is he any different than the donors that give to you?’ “ Abed asked.
“Jack Raymond is the man whose name is on the Chamber of Commerce building,” said McNamara. “He donated $1,000, not thousands of dollars like the developers who have given to Sam. But what’s important is that he’s retired. He is not doing developments now. That’s not the same as taking money from people the city is doing business with. Is the mayor really making that same comparison?”
McNamara says his typical donation is $10, $25 and $50. “A few are more than that. Mostly, they are small and from people who vote in the city.”
Asked to comment about the recent action of the city council to put Parking Lot #1 up for sale, he said, “I don’t know why they are doing that. When I think of revitalizing Grand Avenue; how about we put in a second level of parking and not additional housing? To make it easier to go downtown. Build a parking structure to encourage people to go there. Of all the plans we are developing I don’t see the benefits of this one. But I see the downtown and you are going to put people without parking there.”
McNamara supports “infill,” “but what are the second and third order effects on traffic and parking if you do that? I don’t think the current leadership thinks that through. It’s more important to create businesses that will bring people to the downtown. If you are reenergizing the downtown you should create a reason for people to come there. If you have houses but vacant business buildings it becomes less attractive. It’s not like we don’t have people at the downtown now. But they roll up the streets at 7 p.m. So where are the people going to go?”
The candidate says he has talked to businesses in that area who tell him the city doesn’t want people to stay out late. “I’d like to see a mini-Gaslamp instead of people having to drive ten or fifteen minutes to other cities or to the coast. Why not come here? But the city doesn’t want to encourage businesses to stay open late. So what’s the point in trying without later hours?”
He favors a more “holistic approach” that involves paying more attention to facilities that not only local residents but visitors use, such as soccer fields. “You can’t just do one thing,” he said. “When you have someone come here to play soccer from out of town and they say, ‘I only know the city by that feature’ and they say it’s not maintained well. It becomes part of the city’s reputation. That doesn’t lift the city up.”
The reason is because the city outsources some maintenance of city parks to private companies. “If you are putting the city into a downward spiral, what’s the point?” asks McNamara. “We don’t celebrate what we have and we what we do have we are putting into slow decline. We are not addressing things in a holistic way.”
He feels that many residents care about their city and issues such as sports, the hospital, nonprofits or parks, “but they don’t have a connection to the city and they feel ignored.” He adds, “No city has endless money to spend, nor should it. But the city can help connect the dots that are concerned with a particular issue. I would make sure we have special committees for these issues to show that we are listening to the residents.”
Such committees exist for the city library, and the council ignored them, he says. “The library has a foundation and a board that advised against the library outsourcing. Why have such committees and not listen to what they recommend or even attend their meetings? You will always have guns or butter decisions but you need to have dialogue. What bothers me is the process.”
Still talking about the library system, McNamara shifts his attention to an old festering political sore with many residents: closing the East Valley Branch several years ago and eventually selling the land to the Escondido Charter High School. “They never made the case to the residents that that library wasn’t being used. Or that the use of the Charter High School was more important than that use,” says McNamara.
“Then you take a donation from that same source? Is it legal? Sure! But what are you doing taking that donation from the same people you are making a decision about?”
McNamara says, “I’m a big if we can work together we can get a lot done kind of guy. Let’s work together as a community to fix problems. In Escondido we are small enough we can work together to make our parks better and our sports better. As a mayor you need to ask, ‘Where are we at?’ ”
Sometimes just showing up is important, says McNamara. That is why recently he showed up at a suicide awareness event. “Just to show them that I think what they are doing is important.”
Join Us To Support Mac
We still need walkers and callers. Now’s the time!
Here are dates and location for sign waving for Mac:
Friday, October 12 - 4-5:30, Mall entrance by Macaroni Grill
Thursday, October 18, 11:30 - 1:00 , Plaza Las Palmas at Petco Shopping Mall on West Valley Parkway
Thursday, October 25, 11:30 - 1:00 at Escondido auto Park corner of West Valley Parkway and Auto Parkway
Mac Defines Differences At Candidate Forum
On Tuesday, candidates for Escondido's Mayor & City Council met face to face at the Escondido First United Methodist Church to present their positions on policies and issues facing Escondido. Paul McNamara clearly defined what challenges Escondido faces in the next four years, and how many of those challenges are a direct result of eight years of Mayor Abed's policies. Help Mac change the direction our city is going in by volunteering or donating to the campaign. And please register to vote by October 22nd. We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you on election day!
Is This A Vision For Grand Avenue?
At last Wednesday's council meeting, the City voted to enter into a purchase-and-sale agreement with developer Touchstone Communities to sell the parking lot should the six-story, 106-unit condo project known as The Aspire win approval. City Attorney Michael McGuinness explained that, actually the city was selling the property, but could back out of the deal if they did not approve of the appraisal—as could Touchstone. (SDUT, BlueView Escondido).
Economic growth in Escondido continues to be hindered by its leadership’s focus on development only, and its inability to attract enough companies that offer high-paying jobs, or even support the businesses that have made Escondido home for decades. Businesses like Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. Join me on November 6th to end this short-sighted planning, and Vote for a better Escondido.