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Kirk Effinger: View from inside Escondido political silo different than out

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 or follow him on Twitter at @kirkeffinger


Chris Nava November 6, 2013 at 9:55 pm

As someone who has attended most of the Districting Commisison meetings, and two of the mapping meetings, I regard your leap to judgements and allegations that there has been an effort to manipulate the map drawing lines to exclude Cassie Lieurance on the basis that she is not hispanic is baseless and irresponsible. This is a very serious accusation that need to be backed up with proof – you have none. My experience as an attendant at the Districting meetings and map drawing sessions is that these Commissioners are extremely conscientious about the enormity of their responsibilities and are taking careful measures to assure that all COIs – Community of Interests – have been taken into consideration in drawing the maps. It appears that the mal-contents have gotten to you.

Kirk Effinger November 8, 2013 at 10:58 am

Since Lieurance lives in the heart of downtown Escondido, I find it difficult to understand how her residence could not be included in a district assumed to be in the heart of the city.

As to the goings-on at the meetings…I’m sure they all had the appearance of being above board. I am equally sure the commissioners…at least some…are yielding to political pressure from their respective constituencies to achieve the desired goal…an Hispanic district with an Hispanic candidate elected to the council.

Chris Nava November 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Mr. Effinger,
The reason Lieurance is not in the current draft for District 1 map has nothing to do with a vendetta against Lieurance. I doubt that all the commissioners even know the name. The fact of the matter is that how the Commission draws the lines is governed by federal and state legal requirements as well as criteria specific to Escondido. Those of us who have attended the many public meetings have sat through the power point presentations that preceded each of the meetings – so much so that the Q2 Consultant joked that some of us attendees could well give the power presentation! Further, those of us who attended the meetings witnessed first hand the Commissioners at work as they wrestled to meet the criteria.
For those who have not attended meetings, or have little idea of what the work of the Commission entails, I submit the directives handed down to the commission: “The U.S. Constitution requires districts contain roughly equal population and it and the Federal Voting rights Act also prohibits discrimination because of language minority status in addition to practices that have a discriminatory effect, such as at-large elections or districts that make it harder for a racial or language minority group to elect a representative of choice.
Escondido’s decisions will also be governed by specific criteria resulting from a consent decree in a California VRA case. In ranked order, the Commission must address the following criteria:
1. All districts comply with the United States Constitution. This includes that each district contain about the same number of people.
2. All districts comply with the federal Voting rights Act. This could mean drawing one or more majority-minority districts, if it is possible to do so.
3. All district must be contiguous and encourage compactness.
4. All districts should respect neighborhoods and communities of interest. (including racial, ethnic, and language minorities, but excluding relationships with political parties, incumbent or candidates.* the 2010 Census data gives latest data which we call the Census blocks/boundaries. This criteria becomes a challenge for the Commissioners because the Census blocks cannot be broken. Herein lies the challenge for the Commissioners. It has nothing to do with Lieurance.
5. Districts must not be drawn to: (a) favor or discriminate against an incumbent, candidate, or party; or (b) with consideration of the place of residence of incumbents.”
I doubt that the critics of the work of the Commission have spent significant time being part of the process.

Kirk Effinger November 12, 2013 at 9:25 am

Thank you for regurgitating the rules, Chris. I’m not unaware of them, but thanks anyway.

Since you have brought up the supposed “impartiality” of the commission and how it is unaware of where people live, perhaps you can explain how all the incumbents are conveniently ensconced in the new districts? A miracle, I suspect.

Kimber Allison November 11, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Kirk does make a good point here…but the reason of excluding in the heart of downtowns partners either has to do with census tract lines or they have not been brought to the attention of the commission.

I was going to bring it forward and was told it would appear too political since I support Casdie Leurance as a friend and candidate. However, it is because she announced her candidacy early to get a head start is why she did not speak for herself regarding her COI. No one else has had the nerve to speak for her and all of her neighbors and fellow heart of downtown tenants.

I regret not stepping to the mic the other night and not advocating for the Southern District 1 line to be moved from Valley Parkway to 2nd as far west as S Quince to include residential apartments in the Mercado and the very few between there and where Valley Parkway, Grand and 2nd merge at Hickory.

Regardless of where Leurance lives…those residential units should be included in District 1 and no one should accuse anyone of being political for advocating that these units be included in the urban core.

People are so fearful of Gerrymandering that they have themselves convinced that anything on the map that looks like a fingerling projection is not politically correct.

Let me remind all here…the line drawn on the map where the term Gerrymandering was coined…it was really long…it looked like a Salamander. This was done long before Sat maps…now I wonder if that section ended up looking that way as a result of topography.

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