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Complaints from Issa’s office fueled protest restrictions, Escondido library plan meets resistance and more in our weekly roundup of news from North County.
District election lawsuits continue to track down the coast, and have touched down in Encinitas.
Earlier this month, Encinitas received its letter from attorney Kevin Shenkman, threatening a lawsuit if the city didn’t drop at-large voting, in favor of district elections.
As with Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, Escondido and San Marcos, Shenkman alleges that by holding at-large elections, Encinitas is violating the voting rights of Latinos by diluting their voting power.
Shenkman cited Encinitas’ infamously racist first mayor, Marjorie Gaines, and her behavior in the 1980s as stifling political participation by the city’s Latinos for years after she held office.
Latinos comprise 13.7-percent of the population in Encinitas, and Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath told The Coast News that the city has in fact had two Latina council members since Gaines left office: Mary Lou Aspell, who served one term, and Teresa Arballo Barth, who served two.
Most cities have chosen not to fight Shenkman, since no jurisdiction has won such a lawsuit. The city of Palmdale is often held up as the example of what could happen if you chose to fight: In 2015, Palmdale settled with Shenkman and had to pay $4.5 million to the attorneys, in addition to their own legal fees.
As a result, Encinitas is expected to voluntarily take up the switch to avoid a lawsuit, when the City Council resumes meeting this month.
Rep. Darrell Issa’s office contacted the city of Vista at least three times over four months to complain about disruption caused by weekly protests outside the congressman’s office, the Union-Tribune reports.
The city first began requiring an event permit for the protest in March, after Issa called the city. When the first event permit expired in April, the city tried to move the protests to a different location, and then said they could remain outside Issa’s office, but on a narrow dirt patch across the street.
The city also tried to put a series of restrictions on the event’s organizer, which resulted in the ACLU intervening on the protesters’ behalf.
The Sheriff’s Department had expressed some concerns about the protests – mainly crowds walking in and across Thibodo Road was a problem on a stretch of road with limited visibility for cars.
On May 30, Issa and a constituent left a voicemail with the city, speaking to the disruption caused by the protesters. But Issa may have undercut his own argument by describing the protesters as backed by his political opponents.
“Whether it’s George Soros or the ACLU or the various groups that help them organize, they haven’t trained them how to do compliant protest. Would you please come and enforce?” Issa said.
A fight over the future of the library system is galvanizing residents in Escondido who are upset about the city privatizing a core city service.
The city is exploring outsourcing the library to Library Systems & Services LLC, a Maryland company that operates other library systems in California. The city is also considering contracting with the county library system to save money.
“It is looking like the city will save somewhere between $300,000 and $500,000 a year by staffing our library with employees from the private sector, and we can have the library open at least one additional day per week — nine to 11 hours more per week,” City Manager Jeff Epp told the Union-Tribune.
Residents say it’ll hurt the community, result in less affinity for the library and jeopardize opening a new library.
“I do worry that people will be less likely to want to donate money and time to get a new library up and running when they know that any financial benefit is going to go to a for-profit company instead of staying in the community,” Shelley Spisak told the library’s board of trustees.
Residents said they’ll flood the next meetings of the library board of trustees and the City Council, although it’s not clear when the City Council expects to take up the issue.
Locally, Oceanside once considered privatizing the library, but the City Council abandoned that plan after widespread opposition.
Kern County also considered a switch to outsourcing library services to Library Systems and Services – the same firm Escondido is considering.
At the time, Michael Hiltzik delved into the workings of Library Systems and Services for the L.A. Times, and wrote that privatizing the library was “a sign that local political leaders are intent on giving up all pretense of working for the public interest.”
• Bus drivers and mechanics say they are owed thousands of dollars from First Transit, the private firm that operated the bus service for years, until a new firm took over this month. (inewsource)
• Oceanside farmers are looking to commercial marijuana to save the farms. (KPBS)
• As homelessness increases in Oceanside, the city is looking to enact an ordinance that would make it illegal to sit on a sidewalk. (Union-Tribune)
• Two men studied to become police officers at Palomar College: One was arrested for allegedly setting fire to a church and school in Encinitas, and the other went undercover to catch him. (Union-Tribune)
• Carlsbad updated its sea level rise adaptation plans, and paints a costly future for the city: higher bridges, more sand replenishment and retreating from the coast. (Union-Tribune)
• The Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board found that the 2014 shooting of an unarmed man in Vista was justified, even though the three deputies involved in the case gave three different versions of what happened. (Union-Tribune)