ESCONDIDO — After months of discussing drastically lowering the city’s campaign contribution limits, the Escondido City Council met on Wednesday, Oct. 21, and approved, 3-1, reducing campaign contribution limits for the mayor and council members.
Of cities with limits, Escondido previously had one of the highest with parties able to donate up to $4,300 to a City Council or mayoral candidate.
At last week’s meeting, the council voted to lower the limit for district-only council seat campaigns to $1,000 and reduce the limit for citywide races for mayor and city treasurer to $1,750.
Councilman Mike Morasco was the only no vote.
The council had previously discussed adopting a provision similar to that in San Marcos, where if someone donates to a candidate’s campaign, that candidate may not vote on the donor’s project for a year before and a year after the donation; however, the council agreed to revisit the issue once the new council is seated after the upcoming election.
Laura Hunter, Chair of the Sierra Club NCG Conservation Committee, submitted a public comment at the council regarding the decision:
“Sierra Club’s NCG’s Political Committee supports the reductions and campaign limits for mayor and council races. The limits are still quite high, but significantly lower than before so we support them. However, we also request the council add limitations on those with financial interests before the city as part of this ordinance … we strongly support campaign dollar and time limitations for persons with decisions in front of the City Council … as our city moves in a more positive and visionary direction, our decisions must be as clean as possible, meaning the public needs to have confidence in them.”
Hunter added that the Sierra Club recently took issue with three Escondido council candidates, including Morasco, accepting campaign donations from Safari Highland LLC, proponents of the controversial Harvest Hills development, noting that an ordinance would be the first step in avoiding “conflicts” like this one.
Morasco responded during the meeting by pointing out that different groups, parties, organizations and individuals will inevitably support “individuals who they think have the like-minded perspective and interest that they do.”
He added that he has always been someone who supports “growth, development, business and housing.”
The new law will go into effect after the current election and will be in place for the next general election in November 2022.
In comparison, the City of San Diego sets contribution limits at $600 for council candidates and $1,150 for mayor/city attorney. Chula Vista has a $350 limit. Santee has a $700 limit, Vista is at $300, Encinitas and San Marcos are at $250, Solana Beach and Poway are at $100, and Lemon Grove has a $1,000 limit.
Five cities in the county have set no local limits, defaulting to a recent state law that limits campaign contributions to $4,700. These cities are Carlsbad, El Cajon, Imperial Beach, National City and Oceanside.
The council also approved permits to develop a 42-unit condominium at 2608 S. Escondido Boulevard and to demolish an adobe (formerly Hacienda de Vega restaurant) classified as a significant historic resource.
A 2% inflationary adjustment to fees for public facilities, park development, traffic impact and drainage facilities was discussed and were to be voted on at the council’s Oct. 28 meeting.