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Local News June 28th, 2007

Escondido’s ACT Performs

Escondido Councilmember Sam Abed, who initiated the legislation calling for $1 million to be set aside for proactive enforcement by ACT, (Appearance and Compliance Team), is delighted with the great success of the program.

Sam Abed

Councilmember Sam Abed

“I’m very proud of the council support for this approach,” he said. “We have successfully established an ACT team with all the departments of the city working together to implement the rules and regulations of the code enforcement process. Prior to this legislation we’ve had a lot of laws on the book but they had not been implemented till now. We are now regularly pro-active. It used to be complaint driven and that approach simply took too long . . . now we go out and measure the situation and respond. There has been a change in philosophy and we have created a model that could be used for other cities as well. It’s a tremendously successful program. I want to eradicate graffiti. We want to get rid of graffiti . . .and we’re getting there. We arrested 169 people last year, 45 this year. That averages out to about 15 per month. We are offering rewards of $1000 to lead to catching graffiti vandals. It’s just been a tremendous success. Next thing, we want a gang free city. Some folks laugh at me when I say I want a gang free city, but if we don’t have high expectations, we won’t get there.” The statistics supplied by the city seem to bear Abed out. Recently, the Escondido Appearance and Compliance Team (ACT) continued its ongoing efforts to improve the city’s safety and appearance by conducting a sweep in the area between 5th Avenue and 9th Avenue to the north and south, and Centre City Parkway and Escondido Boulevard to the east and west. The sweep covered approximately 99 parcels.

The City’s Code Enforcement Division inspected 99 properties and issued 51 Notices of Violation. The largest percentage of violations was for visible trash, junk and debris. 55 graffiti tags in 22 locations were removed by Community Services’ Maintenance and Operations staff working alongside Urban Corps. Maintenance and Operations staff also whipped a large number of weeds in the alleys of the sweep area, trimmed or cut 20 trees and removed junk and debris. The Fire Department inspected parcels within the sweep boundaries and found 21 safety violations. Police issued 15 parking citations and 16 “red tags” (72 hour notices) in addition to providing assistance with inspections and backup to other sweep personnel. ACT supports Escondido’s commitment to improving the City’s attractiveness by proactively addressing appearanceissues, including graffiti. Monthly ACT sweeps are a part of this effort. The next sweep is scheduled for Thursday, July12 and will cover the area from Lincoln Ave. to El Norte Pkwy, from Harding St./Conway Dr. to N. Rose St.
Community members are encouraged to report graffiti violations by calling (760) 839-4OFF.

Escondido Hearing Loss Chapter Awards Scholarship

The Escondido Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America at its June 9 meeting awarded its 2007 Scholarship for a North County graduating High School Senior who has a severe hearing disability. The recipient was Alyse Laseter, an outstanding Senior at Poway High School. Alyse was able to graduate with a 3.77 point average, along with demonstrating her leadership abilities and excelling in sports, by applying the principles that Hearing Loss Association promotes to itsmembers. Alyse is a role model for all HLA members.


Alyse Laseter, with Gil Needle

After being presented with the $1000 scholarship by HLA member Gil Needle, who located Alyse, and a certificate by Eric and Dorothy Wormser, opresidents of the Chapter, Alyse spoke to the assembled members about the methods she employed to be such a successful student and leader, in spite of her hearing difficulties. Nancy Simpson, Deaf and Hard of Hearing teacher in the Poway school system, described how she worked with Alyse and her parents for the last 8 years to help Alyse overcome her hearing hurdles. Hearing Loss Association of America is a self help organization for the hard of hearing. The Association promotes the hard of hearing learning how tosucceed in the mainstream society in spite of their hearing disability.

Congressman Brian Bilbray Announces Funding Initiatives For Fiscal Year 2008
Congressman Brian Bilbray (RCarlsbad) announced today that he has posted his 2008 funding requests on his congressional website. In the past, much of the funding requests that have come directly from Members of Congress have been requested behind closed doors, out of the public view.
“The appropriations process needs to be transparent,” Congressman Bilbray said. “I have said many times in the past, if you’re not willing to put your name by a request, you probably shouldn’t be asking for it. Funding requests should be done in the public light so that the American people have the opportunity to review what we’re asking for and why we’re asking for it.”

The appropriations process requires members to submit funding priorities, but there isno funding guarantee. The House Appropriations Committee is ultimately responsible for evaluating the initiatives and determining which requests will be approved. Congressman Bilbray requested federal funding for 20 local projects.

“San Diego County is a growing region with significant population, infrastructure, public safety and national security responsibilities,”
said Congressman Bilbray. “The projects I am advocating funding for are of the utmost importance to maintaining the safety and quality of life of residents of the 50th District of California.”

Bilbray’s funding initiatives for Fiscal Year 2008 include a $1.5 million request for Citracado Parkway/West Valley Parkway to Interstate 15 for the City of Escondido. That request has been submitted to the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. If you wish to view Congressman Bilbray’s website, the address is: s/ca50_bilbray/03302007.html

Illegal Immigrant Arrests in Escondido Represent 25% of All County Arrests

Councilman Sam Abed told The Paper that recent arrest activity showed 27% of those arrested were illegal immigrants. The North County Times reported a similar figure, but for the entire county. According to their study, a disproportionately high number of suspected illegal immigrants picked up for crimes countywide in May were arrested in Escondido. A quarter of all the suspected illegal immigrants detained by immigration agents at all seven of the county's jails in May had been arrested in Escondido, the data show. With 141,000 people, though, the city represents only about 5 percent of the total county population, estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau at 2.9 million.

In response to strong concerns and direction by the Escondido City Council, Escondido police began a new effort in May to track the number of illegal immigrants arrested in the city. Of the 520 people arrested or cited that month in Escondido, 449 were sent to a county jail, where immigration agents who work out of the facility detained 109 of them for being suspected illegal immigrants, according to Lt. Bob Benton of the Escondido police. Those 109 people represent 25.5 percent of the 427 illegal immigrants that immigration officials say they detained in county jails during May. About 15 percent to 20 percent of criminal gang members in North County are foreign nationals, some of whom are undocumented, officials report. "It's a concentrated area for illegal gang activities," they report. Also, North County has a large Latino population, and undocumented immigrants tend to locate to areas where there are people who share their culture and background. For example, Escondido is 43 percent Latino, according to city demographics.

Mira Costa Settlement Raises Questions

A number of eyebrows were raised when it was announced that the Board of Trustees at Mira Costa College reached a settlement with current President Victoria Muñoz Richarthad that gave her $1 million in the form of a buy-out of her contract. Board President Charles Adams has now acknowledged that the settlement was reached, in part, to avoid the hazards of a potentially even more costly result if the matter went to court. In an all night session the trustees agreed, by 5:40 a.m. the next day, to sign off on a “compromise settlement.”

The settlement requires Mira Costa to pay Richart $650,000 in damages. She is also getting her salary for the next 18 months, as prescribed as a condition of termination in her contract, which was renewed in June 2006 and was to run until June 30, 2010. Richart's salary is $18,155 a month plus $3,150 for expenses for 18 months, for a total of $383,490. Richart, 58, also gets medical benefits for herself and her husband to age 65, payment of Medicare supplements to age 75 and five years of additional retirement credit, estimated as costing about $275,000.

Richart at a news conference in May 2006 announced a probe into the illegal sale of palm trees donated to the college in 1998. Three administrators have left the college unwillingly as a result of the probe, but only one, Alleen Texeira, the former head of the horticulture department, has been charged with a crime. In April, she pleaded guilty to felony grand theft for overpaying her then fiance $306 related to the palm-tree sales. Richart's last day is June 30, unless the college has not made good on the settlement. In that case, she would remain as president.





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