This coming election cycle in Escondido is shaping up to be one of the most interesting in years.
Activists who are opposed to the current status quo on the City Council are digging up — and in some cases ginning up — all sorts of controversies to throw at voters to entice them to make changes.
Add the effects of the nascent council district line-drawing efforts and various factions wanting to have things their way, and you have the makings of an electoral donnybrook one year from now.
The folks who are discontented with the council majority have convinced themselves they are riding a wave of public anger over the direction of the city. I see many problems with that view, beginning with the fact that they are mostly talking among themselves — and inside the silo looks very different than out.
There are so many different splinters within the group who oppose things as they currently are; they are beginning to eat their young.
Some activists doggedly pursuing the notion of a demographically pure council district that would in their view allow an Hispanic candidate to be elected to the council have gone so far as to advocate drawing the lines to exclude Cassie Lieurance, the only announced candidate in the downtown area, strictly on the basis that since she is not Hispanic, it will set back the cause.
They also ignore the reality there will likely be an incumbent who will have something to say about all of this come election time.
There are other tensions, as well. Some seem more focused on maintaining Kit Carson Park in its current state than they do entertaining the thought that the park might need to evolve to meet changing community needs.
The one item of general agreement that could spell trouble for Mayor Sam Abed and his current city council allies is the controversy over the firing of former police Chief Jim Maher. The continued secrecy surrounding this affair has proved to be fertile ground for rumor and innuendo, enveloping more people in the city’s power structure every day.
The latest is the revelation by Maher that his first knowledge that he was going from “paid leave” to “fired” was delivered by City Attorney Jeff Epp and Escondido Charter High School’s Dennis Snyder. What many people are asking is what was Snyder’s involvement in this and why was he there?
There could be a valid explanation. But the suspicion this raises, especially on the heels of Snyder’s dealings with the city on the East Valley library site and rumors of his designs on Mountain View Park could easily be dispensed with if a full explanation of the Maher case were made public.
Absent this, whispers and rumor will continue to mount, and unanswered questions become fodder for campaign posters. Sunlight would seem to be the answer. It is puzzling to me why the powers that be don’t see the light.
Kirk W. Effinger was born in San Diego and raised in Southern California. He and his family have been residents of San Marcos for the past 30 years. His opinion columns have appeared regularly in the North County Times and, later, the San Diego Union-Tribune since 1995. He can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @kirkeffinger