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Local News July 24th, 2008

Vista Farmers Market Finds New Home at County Courthouse

After 26 years in the same location, the longest-running farmers market in San Diego county will be moving to the Vista County Courthouse Complex at 325 S. Melrose Drive, less than two miles from the current location starting Saturday August 9th.
The Vista market will keep its Saturday 7:45 am to 11:00 am operating time at the new site. The farmers that customers have been enjoying for years will all be moving to the new location. The Courthouse offers a great deal more parking, a bit more shade, and easy access from Highway 78.

After analyzing 49 possible sites, then narrowing that list to four, the County Courthouse location was the top customer choice of the final four. The Courthouse was made available through the support of Supervisor Bill Horn and the knowledgeable help of County staff. Rated one of the “Best Farmers Markets in the West” by Sunset magazine, the Vista market was the first farmers market in the county (started in 1982).

The Vista Farmers Market will continue at the 600 Eucalyptus Avenue (at Escondido Avenue) location until Saturday August 2nd. The Farmers Market was assisted by the City of Vista in this necessary move due to the long-awaited City Hall reconstruction. The Vista Farmers Market will continue EVERY Saturday at the County Courthouse starting Saturday August 9th.

For more information, please call Mark Wall at 760-945-7425 or (even better) email to mark@vistafarmersmarket.com.

Narcotics Investigation Nets Heroin, Guns, and Cash Seizure

On Wednesday, July 16, 2008, members of the Escondido Police Department's Special Investigations Unit arrested Gabriel Machuca Toscano, 27, of Escondido for a violation Health & Safety Code 11350 - Possession of a controlled substance, H&S 11351 - Possession of a controlled substance for sale, and H&S 11352 (a) - Transportation of a controlled substance.

The arrest of Toscano was the culmination of a multi-day investigation that subsequently led to the seizure of approximately three ounces of heroin, approximately three thousand dollars in cash, and two firearms. The street value of the recovered heroin is approximately nine thousand dollars. Escondido Police continue to investigate area drug and prostitution involvement. They have been quite successful this year and the crime statistics are showing a definite downward trend.

Gabriel Machuca Toscano

Tri-City Bond Issue Drive For Voters Begins

In a battle to secure enough voters to finally pass a bond issue for Tri-City Hospital that has already been rejected by voters twice . . . Measure A, the upcoming $589 million contruction bond measure has already drawn supporters and opponents in what promises to be an interesting election in North County.

Why? Well, for one, the proponents of the bond issue have opted to give the electorate an opportunity of voting for or against the issue by mail and by mail only. Ballots should be arriving in mailboxes within the next week. Leading the opposition is a group known as Stop Taxing Us, a committee opposing Measure A, filed by Gary Gonsalves, a local anesthesiologist, a resident of Carlsbad.

The group, Citizens for Tri-City, supporting passage of the bond issue appears to be well heeled, having filed a financial statement with the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, showing $357,250 raised since July 1 with the Tri-City Hospital Foundation having contributed $250,000.

The group has already begun calling potential supporters and mailing out political mailers, asking voters for support in the mail-only election. On July 28th the registrar is scheduled to mail ballots to every registered voter in the Tri-City Healthcare District. Voters will have nearly one month, until Aug. 26, to fill out their ballot and mail it back to the registrar.

Tri-City needs a super majority --- 66.66 percent of all votes cast --- to pass Measure A, which would help fund a massive reconstruction and renovation of its aging buildings at Thunder Drive and Vista Way. Gonsalves said his group has created a Web site --- stoptaxingus.com --- where it is accepting donations and collecting the names of volunteers; in addition his group has a number of volunteers who have yard signs on order and have begun handing out fliers.

The question appears to be not so much whether Tri-city needs to be updated and remodeled but rather how to fund it. Gonsalves says the hospital, which is showing a profit, should be able to fund it via traditional methods rather than demand that the public be taxed to pay for it. He also objected to the use of an all-mail ballot. While technically legal, he said the method is designed to disenfranchise votes who are not aware of Measure A.

This is the third time the hospital has asked voters for more than a half-billion dollars. In 2006, two similar measures, both for $596 million, narrowly failed to reach the super majority threshold.

A number of observers are comparing Tri-City’s search for bond support with the successful $489 million Proposition BB bond issue which the Palomar Pomerado Health District was able to engineer back in 2004. That story has been fraught with controversy with an ongoing dispute between PPH administrators, city officials, and members of a growing group of critics who are tired of cost overruns, delays, and a lack of information about progress or the lack thereof. They also allege misrepresentation by the administrator, president and CEO Michael Covert, to entice the electorate to support the bond issue. It turns out the $489 million was not enough; one estimate said it would need $1.2 billion to complete the new hospital and renovate the existing Palomar Medical Center. That was later reduced to $980 million. Serious questions remain whether there is sufficient financing to finish the task or whether the project will have to be scaled back. Observers appear concerned as to whether history might repeat itself in the Tri-City bond issue question.

Those who hope to pass the bond issue point to the fact they raised more than $1.2 million in donations during the past two failed attempts and now have a database of supporters upon whom they can rely.

Lyle Davis, publisher of The Paper, who has followed the PPH story closely, and is a severe critic of Palomar CEO Mike Covert, has stated he will monitor and report further activity on the proposed bond issue for Tri-City. It is quite likely The Paper will take an editorial position on this issue, he said.

San Marcos: Injunctions Equal Less Gang Activity

Neighborhood activity has begun to take on a more normal atmosphere now that the court injunctions against hard core gang members have been used. Areas that used to attract groups of gang members now attract families instead. November's updated gang injunction has had a profound and welcome affect on the neighborhoods according to Sheriff’s Department spokesman, Sgt. Gary Floyd.

Gang members are still out there but they are aware of the conditions called for by the injunction and they have taken a low profile. Last year, San Marcos Sheriff’s Deputies made 142 gang related arrests through June; this year the number has dropped to only 58 gang-related arrests for the same time frame.

The injunction prohibits the gang members from engaging in already illegal acts ---- drug possession or use, weapon possession or use, drinking in public, graffiti, violating curfew ---- plus other restrictions, including being with another documented gang member or wearing gang clothes.

Gang members listed in the injunction who violate the terms of the court order can be arrested and face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each violation, county District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said. A new generation of gangsters not under injunction had become active in San Marcos recently. The injunction updated last November restricts 93 documented gang members instead of the original 22 and dramatically expands the safety zones to include swaths of the western, central and eastern parts of the city.

Of the 93 documented gang members listed in the November injunction, just 11 have been arrested for violating its terms, Floyd said, which indicates they're sufficiently deterred by the injunction. The two known gangs, Varrio San Marcos and South Los, have simmered down with less and less ‘turf wars’ that used to be a common occurence.

The gang members under the injunction, while keeping a much lower profile, still remain in the gang, according to Sgt. Floyd. Recruiting has slowed down, however, and that’s a good sign. Perhaps, in time, school officials and law enforcement officials hope that the gangs will dwindle down to a not so precious few.

"Benji" Joins Helen Woodward Animal Center Board of Directors!

BenjiOne of the most-recognized actors in the world may not be allowed on the meeting room furniture now that, "Benji" and her owner Joe Camp have joined the Board of Directors of Helen Woodward Animal Center. HWAC President Mike Arms is officially welcoming Benji and Joe to one of the most recognized and respected animal welfare organizations in the world.

"Joe Camp and Benji have been friends of the Center for many years," says Arms. "They live here in San Diego County and have always been very supportive of Helen Woodward Animal Center's programs that benefit animals and people in-need."

The current Benji is the fourth dog that Joe Camp, his wife Kathleen, and their three children adopted from animal shelters and turned into internationally acclaimed movie stars. This Benji was rescued from the Humane Society of South Mississippi.

"She's one amazing dog," says Joe. "Those eyes simply melt everyone she comes in contact with, and she is absolutely the brightest of some very bright predecessors."

Camp's credits include five Benji movies and a short film, a dog training DVD, a TV series, a novel, "Benji" book, and soundtrack CD's from the Benji movies.

Arms admits that Helen Woodward Animal Center's staff was star-struck when they first met Benji. "It's humbling to look down at this little dog that you've seen on the big screen. But then she rolls over for a tummy rub and you see that she's the same sweet dog in-person that she is in her movies."

Benji and Joe Camp join Academy Award-winning actress Diane Keaton and other animal lovers on the HWAC Board. Along with Arms and existing board members they will continue to carry on the wishes of the founder by making Helen Woodward Animal Center a place where, "people help animals and animals help people."

For more information visit Helen Woodward Animal Center at 6461 El Apajo Road in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, call 858-756-4117, or log on to www.animalcenter.org

Trustees to Consider $98 Million Bond Issue

Escondido Union High School District trustees meet this evening to consider whether to place a $98 Million bond package on the ballot for this November 4th election. A $43 million bond was adopted in 1996; this bond issue, if adopted, would extend that tax rate that property owners are already paying from the 1996 issue.

The new money would be used to build a magnet school in western Escondido as well as pay for permanent classrooms and other campus improvements. The district officials and trustees have been involved with recent surveys of residents to guage support and identifying projects to improve the various high schools. The results of those surveys will be presented this evening.

If approved by the trustees and if passed by the voters, the $98 million extension would raise the annual tax rate for homeowners from $14 per $100,000 of assessed valuation to the 1996-approved tax rate of $18.50 per $100,000. This is the maximum amount allowed to levy.

While trustees have expressed overwhelming support of a measure which would generate the funding needed to ease crowding on the district's three comprehensive campuses --- Escondido, Orange Glen and San Pasqual, not everyone is supportive. Each of those schools serve between 800 and 1,300 more students than the 1,500 students they were built to hold, district officials said. Many observers question how many of the students served are illegal aliens and should Escondido taxpayers be required to fund education for either illegal aliens or the children of illegal aliens. They argue that support of this bond issue would just encourage, rather than discourage, the further influx of illegal immigrants. Given that this subject is a hot issue within the community this could well determine if the issue passes or fails.

Other concerns are increased traffic, quality of life, and safety issues, others feel in a slow economy, now is not the time to ask the taxpayer to take on yet another financial burden. The board's public workshop is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the District Service Center, 302 N. Midway Drive.





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