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Local News March 19th, 2009

Illegal Alien Charged With Torture and Murder of Child

Judge Joan Weber has to decide whether to allow testimony of a then-five year old girl who may have witnessed her younger brother’s fatal beating. Prosecutors say the girl was in the room when her toddler brother received the beating that killed him in 2005. They want to put to death the man who allegedly did the beating.

Jose Maurice Castenada is on an Immigration Hold as an illegal immigrant. Murder charges agains him, however, will take precedence should he be convicted. Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.

Weber is a veteran judge and she now has to decide whether to allow the child to testify. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys have questioned the girl in the courtroom, as has Judge Weber. If the judge decides she is competent to testify about what she saw her monther, Maria Razo, and Castenada, her mother's boyfriend, allegedly do to Cesar Razo, just 2 years old when the couple rushed him unconscious from their Escondido apartment to Palomar Medical Center on June 25, 2005.

He was pronounced dead 15 minutes after he arrived at the Escondido hospital. The couple allegedly claimed that Cesar had fallen from a swing set. Castenada, 24, is charged with murder as well as a special circumstance allegation of torture ---- which makes him eligible for the death penalty if convicted. Two years ago, the child's mother pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and two counts of child abuse.

In exchange for her testimony at Castenada's trial, Maria Razo, 26, will be sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison. Weber did not say when she would make her ruling, prosecutor Keith Watanabe said.

At an evidentiary hearing more than three years ago, Cesar's then-5-year-old sister testified that her mother and Castenada used hangers and TV cable wire and belts to beat the siblings. She said that on the day Cesar died, she saw Castenada attack her little brother, who had been asleep in the closet and woke up crying.

"Mauricio was choking him," she said at the January 2006 hearing. At that same hearing, a medical examiner testified that an autopsy showed the 23-pound boy had about 200 injuries covering most of his body. Castenada's trial is set to begin jury selection in early May.

Earmarks for “La Raza” Draws the Ire of One Congressman

An Iowa congressman says it's outrageous that nearly a million dollars of the proposed Omnibus spending bill would go to an organization that openly advocates illegal immigration. Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) says one of the earmarks in the Transportation HUD portion of the Omnibus bill allocates $950,000 to the National Council of La Raza for "capitalization of a revolving loan to be used for nationwide community development activities."

King says taxpayer dollars should not be going to that organization.

"La Raza stands for 'The Race' -- and they say so openly," the congressman notes. "They are a pro-Hispanic organization; I will call them a racist organization. They base their philosophy on race. They advocate for those minorities that fit within the category that they define as drives them."

In addition, says King, La Raza is a pro-amnesty group. "They are apologists for illegal immigrants -- and we are funding them with your tax dollars in this administration through earmarks," he points out. "It is outrageous. It's an in-your-face act on the part of this Congress."

50th Anniversary Proclamation

photo

Escondido Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler presents the City of Escondido's formal congratulations in the form of a proclamation to Dr. Gary Gallerstein (left) and Dr.Carmine Bausone, partners in Acacia Animal Health Care Center, in recognition of the animal health center's 50th anniversary. The presentation took place at a recent Escondido city council meeting.

Censorship Issue Arises at CSUSM’s Campus Newspaper

The Paper received a complaint from a reader who said their oganizaton, AUHTM (Americans United to Halt Tourism to Mexico), wanted to place an ad in college newspapers that called for a boycott of Mexico due to the increased level of violence that might subject college students, as well as regular tourists, to such violence. The ad also called on law enforcement to enforce existing immigration laws. The same ad ran last year in SDSU's Daily Aztec, recently in both the University of Arizona paper, and in UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Only Jackie Carbajal, a Senior at CSUSM, and the editor of The Pride, the campus newspaper, refused to accept the ad. Because there may be 1st Amendment questions involved (freedom of the press and speech), we contacted Ms. Carbajal to ask her to explain on what grounds she rejected the ad, particularly in view of the fact that other college newspapers had accepted it.

At first she said, as editor, she had the right to refuse any ad. When it was pointed out to her that the 1st Amendment also protected commercial free speech she said she rejected it because it was an ad that dealt in “hate.” Asked what was hateful about suggesting a boycott, given the high degree of violence in Mexico, and what was hateful about demanding that immigration laws be enforced, she said "that was her opinion." She also said it was a "sensitive subject" because they had AB540 students on campus. We asked how that was sensitive since AB540 only dealt with out of state students, including illegal immigrants, being able to pay in-state tuition fees and this ad was not focused on that issue.

We asked her if she had access to, or had consulted with, legal counsel as to possible constitutional law issues that might emerge as a result of her declining the ad, and whether "her opinion" was sufficient cause to deny an idea to be placed in the campus newspaper, whether editorial or paid commercial advertisement, and should opposing viewpoints be freely aired or published? She was unsure if she had access to legal counsel and referred me to her faculty advisor for an answer.

She then started to say, “I've worked with the administration . . . but I don't want to talk on the record.”

We advised her talking off the record was unacceptable because constitutional issues were involved and our readers had every right to know and attempt to understand the editor of the campus newspaper's position as well as that of the University.

This is Carbajal's first semester as editor. We asked to speak with someone who could speak with authority to the issue and were referred to Joan Anderson, a Professor and faculty advisor. As of press time, Professor Anderson had not returned our calls, nor had any other person of authority.

Innovative Plan to Blend New Library into Art Center

Escondido City Councilman (an announced candidate for Mayor two years hence) Sam Abed has offered a plan to incorporate the Escondido Main Branch Library into Grape Day Park and the Cultural Arts Center, Escondido. Abed’s plan would replace the present Escondido city library by moving into the museum section of the Cultural Arts Center. He suggests, specifically, that the library occupy the education wing and museums of the city’s performing arts center. This, he says, would give the city the kind of modern library Escondido residents want . . . and the costs, he reasons, would be substantailly less than the $50 million proposed to build a new library plant. He suggests his plan will help offset the financial struggles the arts center has traditionally suffered and, at the same time, enhance the city arts center.

Trustees for the Escondido Library have unanimously endorsed Abed's plan and some local leaders have urged city officials to study it. But, his council colleague, Olga Diaz, is the only other councilmember that supports studying the idea further. The other three members, Mayor Lori Holt Pfeiler, Marie Waldron and Dick Daniels, are all critical of the idea. They say the plan would not save much money and that it would not provide enough square footage for a modern library.

Daniels and Pfeiler also raised the issues that it would be inappropriate and possibly illegal to locate a library within a facility that city voters approved as an arts center. City staffers are waiting until there are three votes at the council level to support the idea before devoting staff time and energy to study the idea and analyze the impacts.

While critics acknowledge the proposed library facility under Abed’s plan would be smaller than that originally proposed, others also point out that libraries no longer need the wide open spaces they once needed. Much of library reference and reading is done now by computers.

Abed was concerned about the approximate $3 million annual expense of supporting the arts center and also looking for a solution to the expansion of the present library. That’s when his idea began to form, he says.

"This is a great vision for the city that will have so many benefits," Abed said. "It will utilize taxpayer money in a more efficient way, and it will bring many more people to the arts center and Grape Day Park."

Otherwise, Abed said, the city will likely have a 15-year wait to save enough money and secure enough grants for a new library. Or, he said, voters would have to approve a roughly $50 million facilities bond, which would increase annual property taxes roughly $12 per $100,000 of assessed value. Given the recent state of bond elections, that is not likely to be accepted by the voters, particularly after the Palomar Pomerado Health debacle. A statewide bond issue specifically for libraries, Proposition 81, failed in November, 2006. That would have generated $600 million in library construciton funds.

As Abed sees it, the library would move into the roughly 30,000-square-foot education wing of the arts center, which includes the 14,600-square-foot arts center museum, the 8,000-square-foot home of the San Diego North Convention & Visitors Bureau and 6,000 square feet of nearby museum and studio space.

While the city's general plan calls for a library of 80,000 square feet, general plans can be amended to meet changing needs, says Abed. Indeed, Alex Galenes, president of the library board of trustees, said last week that the Internet and other technological advances have dramatically reduced how much square footage a library needs.

"As things have become highly digital, a lot of reference volumes and other books have become unnecessary," he said. “Nowadays, libraries are more about computer terminals, which don't take up much space, than books, which are less space-efficient,” Galenes said.

Abed said the renovations, which might include a small expansion into the park, would be funded by $7 million that has been set aside for a new city library and roughly $10 million from selling the existing library site on Kalmia. Waldron, however, was quick to point out that the city has not been successful in selling its police headquarters on Quince Street. Mayor Pfeiler and Councilman Daniels also raised questions about Abed's money-saving assertions, contending that his idea makes little or no sense.

Daniels said he loves the idea of making Grape Day Park the city's cultural mecca, but that Abed's idea has too many flaws. Councilwoman Diaz said she shared some of her colleagues' concerns about money and square footage, but that it was crucial for the city to study innovative ideas when they are presented.

Escondido Police Officers Association Expensive Flyer May Backfire

In what had already become tense and sometimes difficult negotiations, things may have taken a turn for the worse thanks to a slick, color flyer that the Escondido Police Officers Association commissioned and mailed to Escondido households seeking support in their neogtiations with the city. City Councilmembers expressed dismay at the expensive and controversial marketing campaign and thought the labor union may have “shot itself in the foot” with the flyer.

The glossy four-page mailer was sent to 17,000 homes. The flier claims that "gang members outnumber police officers by almost 6 to 1." City officials suggest the union cooked the books to arrive at that figure, including gang “associates” and “wanna-bes” in compiling the gang numbers.

The flier also claims that recent increases in crime and gang activity make it crucial for residents to protest the proposed compensation cuts at yesterday’s council meeting. At press time, results of the meeting were not known.

Council members were unanimous in suggesting the flier was intimidation tactic and suggested it may well backfire. Union President Michael Guerrero argued that the flier "paints a fair picture of the violence in the city and the fact that it's on the rise."

The union argues that the police officers agreeing to not take raises this year should be sufficient contribution to the down economy and no other compensation cuts, such as were required of other departments, are warranted. Council members have disagreed and said they plan to unilaterally impose the compensation cuts. Council members also argued that it was unfair for other employees have already accepted to see the police officers being declared exempt.

"This was a tacky effort that makes them look like thugs themselves," said Councilmember Diaz.

• • • • •

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