The Coast News Group

Mayor hosts his 11th town hall meeting

ESCONDIDO — A town hall Wednesday gave residents to ask Mayor Sam Abed about the state of the city, future and past projects, while the second-term mayor put his city on display.

Abed began his 11th town hall meeting with a 10-minute video featuring all the city has to offer, from its business friendly policies to balanced budget and crown jewels such as the Palomar Medical Center. The video hyped the city’s economic growth and expansions, noting 25 major projects are ongoing or going through the approval process. In addition, 1,000 homes are being built or in the process.

Abed also touted the city’s website as a beneficial resource for residents.

As for the city’s economic health, he said in fiscal year 2014-15 the entity collected $33.6 million in sales taxes, the most over the last 10 years. The city’s recovery from the Great Recession is notable as it only collected $21.8 million in 2009-10, resulting in “letting people go,” from the city, Abed said.

He also chided “slanted” media coverage about the budget, assuring those in attendance the city’s finances are balanced.

“We don’t use our reserve budget,” Abed said.

As for the rise in crime rates, Abed said the Escondido Police Department has been stressed since the state opted to release thousands of criminals from prison, many of who returned to San Diego County.

“They sent thousands and thousands of criminals to San Diego,” Abed said. “In 2014, our crime rate went down 22 percent. Last year, everywhere saw more crime because of the release of criminals.”

Abed also said a hotel chain is looking to construct on land between City Hall and the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. He did not get into specifics, citing the Brown Act, which bars the disclosure of negotiations of city property until financing and other measures are met.

SpringHill Suites, Abed added, is breaking ground on a new hotel and construction is expected to take 12 to 18 months.

He said it took longer for a hotel to break ground due to the recession and the reticence from banks to finance them. Since occupancy rates have climbed back up, Abed noted they are at about 74 to 75 percent, financing is becoming more available to hoteliers.

He requested no questions about his run for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.