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North County Report: Digging into the Escondido Council’s Salary Increase

Oceanside is closer to allowing commercial medical marijuana operations, Encinitas must build affordable housing and more in this week’s roundup of North County news.

Sam Abed, right, takes part in a candidate forum held by the held the Escondido Chamber of Citizens and League of Women Voters alongside Kristin Gaspar and Dave Roberts. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

When the Escondido City Council voted to increase its own salaries by 10 percent over the next two years, Mayor Sam Abed made a couple of comparisons to justify the decision.

“The Chula Vista mayor makes $150,000. We’re making $60,000 here,” Abed said. “We should be confident enough to say we’re taking a reasonable compensation. $27,000 for the council is not big money – minimum wage at $15 (per hour) is $30,000 a year.”

Abed’s comparison, however, left out several key points.

First, as council members were quick to point out, only the mayor has a full-time elected position in Escondido. Like most cities in North County, council members are only considered part-timers and receive about $31,700 per year, so the $60,000 figure would only apply to Abed.

Even then, according to the city’s website, Abed actually earns about $73,000 per year – though by email he called that figure “misleading” because it includes a car allowance. Additionally, the minimum wage will be $12 per hour when the council’s salary bump takes effect, not the $15 per hour in Abed’s analogy.

Abed also said at the City Council meeting that the mayor’s salary should be compared against that of his counterpart in Chula Vista. Mayor Mary Salas received $139,415 in compensation during 2016, the latest year for which such information was available on the State Controller’s website. That puts Salas among the best paid mayors in California.

When asked why he used Chula Vista – where the population is 75 percent larger than Escondido’s – as the comparison, Abed said both are large, full-service cities. Escondido pays its mayor less per person when one considers the per capita cost of the salary, he said.

Escondido has a population of 151,613, while Chula Vista has 267,172 people, according to the Census Bureau. The Mayor of Chula Vista’s salary comes to $0.52 per person. In Escondido it’s $0.42 per person, using the $64,000 figure Abed said was his true salary, or $0.48 per person using the figure reported on the city’s website.

Escondido is the only full-service city in North County with a full-time mayor. Oceanside, with a significantly larger population than Escondido pays its part-time mayor $33,000, while Carlsbad pays its mayor $31,226.

Oceanside Moves Forward on Marijuana Rules

After months of work by an ad-hoc committee made up of elected officials and citizens, the Oceanside City Council is moving ahead with allowing commercial medical marijuana operations.

The Union-Tribune reports that the 3-1 vote came after Councilman Jack Feller, long an opponent of marijuana, voted to advance the committee’s recommendations toward becoming law, as long as the law was restricted to medical use.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez cast the lone vote against the committee’s recommendations. Sanchez has also long been an opponent of marijuana, but said she helped shape a ballot initiative to allow commercial marijuana operations in Oceanside.

“I feel that I have been excluded from the dialogue now for – what, six months?” she said.

The U-T also quoted Sanchez as saying she wished the committee’s work had focused on the question of whether to legalize marijuana at all in Oceanside.

New Rules For Housing Elements “Sobering” for Encinitas

An Encinitas delegation that is working on a new affordable housing plan says its recent trip to Sacramento was “sobering.”

The Coast News’ Aaron Burgin writes that city leaders have realized their plan not only needs to be created and adopted – it needs to result in actual new housing.

The trip “drove home the difficulty of the work we have in front of us,” Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz said, according to the newspaper. “Not only the fact that we are way behind, but now there is a greater emphasis on actual construction of these homes.”

Also in the News

Camp Pendleton officials knew that erosion was exposing a gas line, with potentially deadly effects, months before an armored vehicle struck it in September and burned 15 Marines. (Union-Tribune)

The cause of the Lilac Fire may never be known. (Union-Tribune)

Neighbors of a nine-unit housing development in Leucadia have lost a five-year battle. (Union-Tribune)

Escondido is raising its development fees dramatically – though it will now be in line with what neighboring cities charge. (Union-Tribune)

San Marcos officials will consider a six-story hotel off Nordahl Road and State Route 78 next year. (Union-Tribune)

Carlsbad bans the use of toxic pesticides on city-owned properties. (Union-Tribune)

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