My vision for Escondido
Everywhere I go in Escondido and everyone I speak with, recognizes as I do, that our city has enormous untapped potential. When I imagine what we can do together to release this potential, this is what I see:
- I see a united city with a feeling of community because our residents work together to solve our challenges and take pride in our success.
- I see a robust downtown, a North County “Gaslamp” where people congregate, with storefronts that are occupied with thriving businesses and customers instead of For Rent signs.
- I see a city where families can live safely in harmony with their neighbors, where they have good job opportunities, and know their children will have the opportunities they have enjoyed.
- I see a city with residents who know their neighbors, who celebrate our diversity, and are not divided by fear.
- I see a community engaged with and listened to by its elected officials when they weigh in on decisions of the day, not a community ignored by city leadership.
- I see a city that capitalizes on its weather, parks, recreation, and natural resources to provide a fun, healthy, and family friendly lifestyle, not one that views parks merely as business development opportunities or recreation as an unnecessary expense.
- I see a city that visitors hear about as a place to come, not a place to avoid.
- I see a city that lives up to its motto - a city of choice – because of the opportunities found here and the good quality of life we enjoy.
When I think of the Escondido we can create together, I see a city we can be proud of and one that visitors leave saying, “I wish I lived there.”
Where Mac Stands on Issues that are important to Escondido
Economics 101 – The Question is Tax Revenue
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. While we are told the number of business licenses has increased over the years, why then are we also told we don’t have enough money in the city budget? The answer is obvious: We are not bringing in the businesses that increase our tax base and generate the higher paying jobs. Abed describes our downtown as “thriving,” but even the casual observer can see it is underperforming and needs attention. As the city debates the intricacies of parallel vs. slanted parking and its role in the vitality of Grand Avenue, real vision is needed for the downtown and our city’s economic growth.
Asking/Listening to Local Experts
As I made the decision to run for mayor, I set out asking business leaders this question: If elected, what can I do to help grow your business? I asked this because as a successful businessman and entrepreneur, I know the importance of listening. Many were surprised and said they had never been asked that question, but successful business leaders know it is enlightening and valuable. Listening produces substantive ideas to improve business, which in this case is the city.
The Long-View Approach
Repairing the reputation of the city is the essential first step in attracting quality businesses to Escondido. I will rebuild our image as a welcoming place for all. One of the essential differences between Abed and me is that I know our diversity is our strength. I will reach out to all areas of Escondido through the creation of commissions that will be designed to breed success in addressing the challenges we face e.g. the homeless population, environmental concerns and opportunities, beautification of our neighborhoods, and other areas that limit our city’s desirability and prosperity. Decisions will be made with a long-term view.
Community Inspired Common Vision
As I work with Escondido’s residents and discuss our city’s future, a common vision for Escondido has emerged. This vision covers areas that include all those complementary aspects that make a city attractive: art, music, recreation, environment, safety, schools, etc. But it also includes concrete ideas, e.g. a “Gaslamp”-style downtown - a destination for Escondido residents, San Diegans and tourists. Let’s eliminate the countless “For Lease” signs that leave visitors wanting more. Additionally, our rich diversity should be celebrated and honored similar to San Diego’s Old Town. Downtown Escondido is also a natural place to create a year-round indoor Farmer’s Market. This revitalization of Grand Avenue and the surrounding area will be transformative for Escondido.
Time for New Ideas, New Leadership
Abed has been involved in Escondido government for 14 years. He has had enough time to improve our city and create a vision. He has run out of ideas. And those he had didn’t work. He blames the State for problems he can’t fix. His attitudes are not conducive to the greater business community, and he attracts the wrong kind of attention to Escondido. It’s time for new ideas, new energy, and a new approach.
Poor Decisions are costing us money and growth. We have a problem at city hall.
A review of the facts and claims of Abed reveal the following:
- Abed claims to have always balanced the budget - a General Law City such as Escondido must have a balanced budget. This is simply following state law and is not anything out of the ordinary.
- His idea of a balanced budget is to never dip into the city’s reserves, regardless of the impact to the community’s vital services, which ultimately decreases the city’s appeal and increases crime. Short-term usage of a small portion of the reserve funds to keep the heavily-used library branch available to the public should have been explored/considered.
- Abed voted to cut almost $1 million from the library budget. He led the effort to shut down the East Valley Pkwy Branch of the Escondido Library. The library was closed, books and other assets sold for pennies on the dollar. The library that used to serve thousands of Escondido’s youth—gone.
- Abed cut developer impact fees. The city staff recommended for a housing development a fee of $17,000 per lot, the developer offered $12,000. Abed compromised at $12,500 per lot — a loss of millions to the city. Strong negotiating skills are crucial to conducting city business.
- Abed gives short shrift to the fiscal responsibility of the city to provide the recreational activities provided by city parks, pools, and community centers. He often insists that such activities should provide the city with “full cost recovery,” so the use of the facilities built by and for the taxpayers of the city, should only be available to those taxpayers if it doesn’t cost the city. However, the lack of facilities and opportunities for our youth and seniors are costing us dearly. Recreational activities and programs are standard offerings in most communities and are factors that determine where people want to live and spend their money. Abed’s outlook is short-sighted and harmful to our financial well-being.
Escondido needs a fiscally responsible municipal leader
It is time to restore open and honest financial policies for our city. A leader who:
- Recognizes that providing educational and recreational activities to its citizens is every bit as important as providing police and fire protection.
- Understands that residential development does not bring in enough new property tax income to provide the infrastructure needed for that new development, and that developer impact fees are needed to take most, if not all, of that new infrastructure burden off the backs of taxpayers.
- Understands that pursuing policies that are guaranteed to provoke discord among residents, and lawsuits against the city is fiscally irresponsible.
- Is able to judge proposed business or economic developments by considering the viability of the proposition, and the long-term (50 – 100 year) benefit or harm of the project to the welfare of the city’s population.
As Mayor, I will be committed to operating the city in an open, inclusive, and accountable manner, so residents know how their tax dollars are spent, and that their views will be considered when setting fiscal priorities.
A mayor who serves Escondido’s residents, not special interests. No Pay to Play.
I will not take contributions from any person or business that could be seen as a conflict of interest. Nor will I engage in consulting efforts that help developers push their projects through the regulatory process. I will avoid even the appearance of cronyism under my leadership, because if we want to attract first-rate businesses, we have to ensure there is no pay to play in Escondido.
One of the pillars of any city’s success is a good Public Safety Record
Abed claims that under his leadership crime has fallen to the lowest level since 1980. What he fails to mention is that the decrease in crime follows a national trend, and has nothing to do with his personal efforts. More importantly, Escondido still has the highest crime index in comparison to the San Marcos, Vista, and Poway rates.
I support a balanced approach
Chief Carter of the Escondido Police Department (EPD) is often quoted as saying that one “cannot arrest the problem away.” The unstated wisdom of that comment is that Public Safety requires not only enforcement but prevention. I have seen through ride-alongs and discussions with the EPD, that, first we need to strengthen and support the prevention and “soft” police work prevention initiatives of the EPD. Secondly, we need to establish and support partnerships with those civic organizations that address the problems (homelessness, drugs, abuse, exclusion, etc.) that lead to crime. And, lastly, we need to create a greater sense of pride in our city to improve cooperation by restoring city services to those that need it most, by focusing on neighborhoods that need a boost, and through saluting positive gains. As a community, we can address and solve the public safety issues.
Abed’s approach continues to put the city in a downward spiral.
Abed states that his narrowly focused approach of partnering with ICE, enforcing gang injunctions, and supporting traffic safety check points, while ignoring preventative efforts are what caused the lowest level of crime in our city since 1980. The Abed solution simply has not worked as evidenced by our crime rate in comparison with our neighbor cities. This approach in fact has had the second and third order effect of creating a negative public image of this city in the county. It is counterproductive to attracting new residents and business, and in addition misrepresents the nature of our community and its residents.
Good Leadership is necessary because decisions have consequences
Residents of Escondido know all too well the dangers of wildfires. Fire safety and emergency access are high priorities, particularly in proposed development areas where residents and experts have voiced infrastructure concerns. Taxpayers will ultimately end up paying for shortsightedness and poor planning.
Quality of Life
A truly great city has a great Quality of Life
Abed reported in his 2018 State of the City address that the city is “dynamic and inspiring…and more vibrant and better than ever before.” This is not true. The residents of this city see the steady decline of services in the city like recreation and the library, as well as the lack of support for those ancillary entities like history, art, music, and entertainment. They’ve heard the divisive rhetoric that destroys a city’s sense of community. They’ve been publicly ignored and treated with disrespect. They’ve even witnessed unwelcoming and illegal actions that have made many residents feel disenfranchised and isolated from their community. No city rises with this strategy; it decays and falls.
Quality of Life starts at the top - A good mayor cares for and fights for everyone
I believe that improving the quality of life in our town will be my single greatest focus. It is one of the key elements to the success of a city along with public safety, economic development, quality schools and city services that move a city forward so it rises, rather than decays and falls. Businesses want to locate where their employees can live, work, shop and play -- all in the same city.
Respect and Pride - Essential for building community
I will address the contentiousness and lack of respect for dissenting opinion. I will work to embrace all residents of the city, and help develop a sense of community through partnerships with city organizations. In this way, we all take ownership of our challenges and work together to overcome them.
Recreation programs and facilities, like our pools, need work and need better access, especially in areas of the city that need them most. Fees charged by all Escondido recreation facilities need to be fair and should not favor certain users over others in order to expand use. Our children and residents need places and activities that welcome them and nurture their growth in a safe environment.
I will support clean energy and water programs, and will advocate at SANDAG for increased Mass Transit, and fight to keep our parks, open spaces, and trees because they enhance our community’s health.
Our library is the most-used city service, so I will expand library services to address the East Valley library’s abrupt closure, and remove politics from the Library by supporting the creation of a Library District.
Music and Arts
I will help the California Center for the Arts to offer and promote performances, exhibitions and educational programs to residents of Escondido and beyond. Additionally, I will work with private arts organizations to bring more visual and performing arts to our community. The arts enhance our quality of life by building community and bringing joy to people of all ages.
I will work closely with the city departments and those private organizations that work to overcome the various challenges we have in sectors of our city like - homelessness, drug abuse, hunger, etc.
Boards and Committees
Appointments to boards and commissions will be based on skill and life experiences, not given as rewards to political friends. They will serve as the connecting tissue to the city government in determining the direction of the city. They will also serve as a feedback loop for the city’s vision
Education is a key metric in the value of a city
As an elected trustee and current President of the Palomar College Board of Trustees, I understand the intersection of education and government. Strong educational institutions are essential to a thriving city.
Partnership is the tide that floats all boats
As Mayor of Escondido:
- I will partner with our schools in ways that promote and highlight the many accomplishments of our students and teachers. Escondido’s schools offer a variety of innovative and award-winning programs that need to be highlighted and will attract young families to our city and build our future workforce.
- I will seek creative solutions, such as home loan programs, to make it possible for our community’s teachers to work and LIVE in Escondido. Since Escondido Union School District is our city’s second largest employer, it makes sense on many levels to facilitate home ownership within our community.
- I will work closely with our School Districts’ leadership to help create partnerships with other sectors of the community e.g. helping the High School district acquire internships with Industry to bridge the critical gap between school and career.
By supporting Escondido’s children and their educators, we will invest in our city’s present and future.
Abed’s efforts = grade “F”
No city rises without a strong education system and its complementary institutions like libraries. In addition to not working closely with our school districts and helping them, Abed led the charge to close the East Valley library against the advice of its Board and the will of the surrounding community. He also led the privatizing effort to give away our remaining library, again, against the advice of the board and bringing another lawsuit against our city. In so doing he has sent the wrong signal of what this community values and how it feels about its youth and education in general.