Mayor Paul McNamara gave an upbeat, business and community-oriented “State of the City” address that focused on awards for businesses and volunteers and celebrated a clean vision that the mayor said could and should be based on agriculture. It was the first such address for McNamara. About 450 people attended the event.
The Mayor’s Award went to Phil Henry of Henry Avocado. Other awards went to local businesses and volunteers, including:
•William Toone – Environmental Education
•Bob & Louisa Magoon – Business
•Morgan Lundy – Inspiration
•Glen Brouwer – Service Above Self
•Dennis O’Sullivan – Community
•Marie Tuck – Historic Preservation
•Queen Claifia Docents – Arts
•Matt & Carrie Foster – Service to Veterans
After the Color Guard presented the colors, Father Ken Del Priore of Resurrection Church gave an in-depth invocation and “2018 San Diego Idol” contestant and Miss Escondido 2014 Erica Champagne sang the National Anthem.
Escondido Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Kristen Steinke told the crowd “The Chamber is proud to be the voice of these diverse businesses, but jokingly told the council, “The Chamber is watching” and concluded, “The Chamber is here to help!”
Veteran humorist and columnist Irv Erdos of the San Diego Union Tribune set the mood that, as is his style, poked gentle fun at the city that he obviously adores after 50 years of writing about it. He said that when the city asked him to be the MC, that they emphasized that they wanted him to “keep things moving.” “I think that’s kind of ironic since, at age 75 my morning tradition is a tall glass of prune juice.”
New York City has its Statue of Liberty urges those who “yearn to breathe free” to come here, while Escondido, he quipped, has “The Joor Muffler Man,” welcoming visitors.
After decades of writing about Escondido, Erdos said he now finally lives within the city boundaries and can take advantage of city sewer services, instead of having a septic tank. “For the first time I can boast that I’m the proud owner of a sewer.” He added that the city says, “If you like your sewer, you can keep your sewer!”
He said he had been encouraged by the recent election results and the triumph of diversity. “Thank God, the city is finally represented by the Irish!” he said, but added, “When the hell are we going to get a Jew on the council?”
City council members (minus Mike Morasco, who was ill) and the mayor handed out various awards.
City Council Award – Business
Councilwoman Diaz gave the Business award to Bob & Louisa Magoon of the Grand Tea Room.
“The Magoons opened The Grand Tea Room, a family owned and operated business located at 145 West Grand Avenue, in 2010,” said Diaz. “Louisa had an opportunity for a career change, and had become intrigued with tea rooms after visiting one with a friend. Given the high failure rate of new, independently owned restaurants, the unusual concept, and the fact that the country was in the throes of a recession, the venture was more than a little risky. Nevertheless, Louisa studied and read everything she could about tea, received her certificate as a Tea Specialist and went on to open one of the most successful businesses on Grand Avenue.
“Today, nine years later, The Grand Tea Room is well known throughout San Diego County, and has brought hundreds of new people to historic downtown Escondido who might never have visited. Sadly, Bob Magoon passed away in December after a long and courageous battle with cancer. Bob was an integral “behind the scenes” contributor to the Tea Room’s success. Louisa volunteers many hours serving as the secretary of the Downtown Business Association (DBA,) and the Tea Room regularly donates their tea sandwiches, cookies and cakes to community events.” Accepting the award was Alex MacLachlan of the DBA.
City Council Award – Community
Diaz also presented the Community Award to Dennis O’Sullivan, who, in 2012, purchased the Irish pub of the same name located at 118 East Grand Avenue. “ ‘Saved might be a better term,” said Diaz, “as the pub was at risk of closing due to financial concerns. Dennis, an attorney by trade, took on the enormous task of restructuring the business and got it back on track, allowing the 22 employees of the pub to keep their jobs and ensuring that a downtown Escondido institution remained open for its customers.
“O’Sullivan has hosted numerous fundraisers over the years including Pints for Pups to benefit the Escondido Humane Society, The Climb for 9/11 benefitting firefighters and Wounded Warriors projects. He has also been recognized by his peers, including being nominated for ‘Publican of the Year’ by the ‘Irish Pubs Global Association’ which honors Irish pub owners who make significant contributions to the local community.”
City Council Award: Service Above Self
Diaz presented the Service Above Self award to Glen Brouwer. “Last year,” she said, “The Escondido Downtown Business Association partnered with the City to improve the median landscaping along Grand Avenue. The DBA purchased materials, and the City covered the tree removal and labor, but the one funding gap was in the design. Professional design costs for a project of that type would most likely have put the endeavor out of reach.
“Fortunately, the team was introduced to a local landscape architect named Glen Brouwer. Glen owns a North County landscape architecture firm called Integration Design Studio, Inc. Save for a few crazy years after graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, Glen has lived his entire life in Escondido,” said Diaz.
“Glen attended a couple of planning meetings, and subsequently put together a professional landscape design for the Grand Avenue project. The thoughtful design incorporated colorful yet hardy drought-tolerant plants. Glen did this work at no charge. In addition to the downtown beautification project, Glen has used his professional skills to help other organizations including the Escondido Little League and Calvin Christian School.”
Mayor’s Award – Henry Avocado (Phil Henry)
McNamara presented the Mayor’s Award to Phil Henry. He said, “Henry Avocado was founded in 1925 and has been family owned and managed ever since. The company was among the first to plant avocados in San Diego County. They are considered one of the pioneers of California’s avocado industry, inventing new technologies to increase production and efficiencies. I am happy to report that their new 50,000SF headquarters in our industrial area is their permanent home.
“Henry Avocado is a member of the Escondido Growers for Agricultural Preservation, and contributes to local causes including the Escondido Foundation, the YMCA, the Escondido Boys & Girls Club and local schools,” said McNamara.
“Escondido’s agricultural roots run deep. Ag is an important economic driver, as well as a source of identity for our city. Henry Avocado is an institution in the Escondido agriculture world, and I am proud to present Phil Henry with this year’s Mayor’s Award.”
City Council Award – Historic Preservation
Diaz presented the Historic Preservation to Marie Tuck of the Escondido History Center. “In 1990, Marie started a part-time job, three hours per week, at what was then the Escondido Historical Society. Her paid job turned to a volunteer gig when funding for the position was lost, but she continued to maintain her work schedule for the next seven years, unpaid. In her part-time position, which thankfully regained funding, at what is now known as the Escondido History Center, she dedicates herself to preserving Escondido’s past, and volunteers countless hours over and above her allotted weekly schedule.”
Diaz added, “Part of her dedication to honoring Escondido’s history was reflected in her baking of Concord Grape Pies for the annual Grape Day Festival. The first year the event was revived in 1996, she made two pies and donated them to the bake sale. They were a big hit, and the next year she made 12 pies, then 16 pies. Marie hit her peak of 31 pies, each hand-baked in her own oven, made from grapes hand-picked from vines on the west side of town whilst fighting off ants and yellow jackets in the late summer heat.
Marie also organized a quilt committee for the History Center, manages the “Trash to Treasures” rummage sale and does whatever it takes to support the Center.”
City Council Award – Service to Veterans
John Masson presented the Service to Veterans Award to Matt & Carrie Foster. He said, “Matt and Carrie Foster were nominated for a City Council award by an Escondido resident and former Marine who was personally helped by this special couple.
“Matt is a retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant and the Commander of the VFW Post 1513 here in Escondido. Carrie helped Matt create the post’s auxiliary two years ago and serves as its president. Their other volunteer work includes cleanup of the Wall of Courage and Obelisk in Grape Day Park and the Valley Center Cemetery. Matt also serves as President and Carrie serves as Chief of Operations for the North County Veteran Stand Down, which helps homeless and at-risk veterans and their families.
“Carrie is also a talented artist and member of the Escondido Arts Association. She creates beautiful relief sculptures which she has gifted to veterans.”
Masson concluded, “Matt and Carrie have helped countless veterans cope with difficult challenges and are shining examples of service, and for this reason I am proud to present them with the City Council Award for Service to Veterans.”
City Council Award – Inspiration
Consuelo Martinez presented the Inspiration award to Morgan Lundy, the woodshop teacher at Classical Academy High School. “He is a self-proclaimed ‘dumpster diver’ who regularly pulls his truck over to salvage wooden pallets to be transformed into hand-crafted creations by his students,” she said.
“His intent in the classroom is not only to have his students build wood projects, but also to build character. He will occasionally stop the regular lesson to drop what he calls one of “Lundy’s Life Lessons.”
“One of his contributions to the community is called ‘Signs of Hope.’ After learning about the Mountain Shadows program for severely disabled adults, Mr. Lundy had his students start creating beautiful, hand-painted signs depicting inspiring messages. Each semester, they take a field trip to Mountain Shadows and install the signs in residents’ homes. This coming April will be their fourth trip delivering Signs of Hope.”
Martinez concluded, “Last November, Mr. Lundy was recognized by NBC 7/39 News as the San Diego County Inspirational Teacher of the Month. Today, we recognize him with a City Council Award for Inspiration.”
City Council Award – Arts
John Masson presented the Art award to the Queen Califia Docents, a group of individuals who volunteer their time so the public can enjoy Queen Califia’s Magical Circle – the City’s world-renowned art piece and the only American sculpture garden by internationally acclaimed artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
Masson said, “Located in Kit Carson Park, Queen Califia is a priceless treasure that would not be accessible to enjoy without her dedicated docents: Don Anderson, Matthew Cowell, Devon Crowe, Perry Crowe, Petey Dietz, Gil Eastman, Pam Hammond, Howard Irwin, Natalie Mates, Laura Makey, Karen O’Neill, Melanie Parker, Carla Santoro, Jan Seeley, Paul Seeley, Bill Smith, Patricia Spann, Marty Tiedeman, Lucette Tommasini, and Ana Marie Velasco.”
City Council Award – Environmental Education
Consuelo Martinez presented William Tune with the Environmental Education Award.
William Tune is the founder of ECOLIFE Conservation, an international nonprofit located on Grand Avenue. ECOLIFE uses conservation as a tool to both protect habitat and improve human lives.
She said, “Bill’s previous career includes over 35 years with the Zoological Society of San Diego, with much of that time at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (back then it was the Wild Animal Park) leading efforts in the recovery of the California Condor. He has traveled to remote corners of the world teaching conservation.
“Today, ECOLIFE provides school-aged children with STEM curricula and educational classroom kits that inspire students to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues surrounding our food system. They also recently unveiled their new Aquaponics Innovation Center in north Escondido, which raises fish and grows produce using a fraction of the water and space required by traditional farming methods. Bill also gives lectures on conservation at California Center for the Arts and throughout San Diego County, and has been a spokesperson for endangered animals and plants for nearly 40 years.”
McNamara’s address included a short review of the past year of the city and the second is a vision for the future. After a five-minute video produced by city staffers Teresa Collins, Jorge Martinez and their staff, the mayor introduced the city manager, city attorney, assistant city manager, department heads, fire chief, police chief and others who keep the well-oiled gears of the city turning.
“They work tirelessly to execute the will of the council and improve our city. They are the public servants whose job it is to get to ‘yes’ and they come to work every day with that goal in mind,” he said.
McNamara shared some of the city’s accomplishments of the past year that included cleaning up 27,408 graffiti tags last year with the average response time being hours from the time of reporting. They picked up 5,100 shopping carts. They filled potholes and re-paved 94 miles’ worth of new lanes and replaced more than a linear mile of sidewalk. They added and replaced another 5.6 miles of bike lanes.
“Last year Escondido PD arrested 5,108 bad guys, and more than 3,600 of those physically ended up in jail,” said the mayor. “Our combined police and fire dispatch handled more than 49,000 citizen calls. (that’s about 134 calls a day if you’re doing the math). Our firefighters put out 203 fires last year. Our paramedics and ambulances took 11,239 people to the hospital. And they also helped 186 mobile home residents get smoke alarms in their homes.”
Two big projects included widening East Valley Parkway going up the grade, within budget and on schedule and restoring Grape Day Park and keeping it clean and safe.
The city also produced 3,316 acre feet of recycled water. “As one of the few cities that has a local water supply, we also produced nearly 800 AF of local water through Lake Wohlford and Lake Dixon. And let me tell you, we’ll have a lot more this year!” said the mayor.
The city unrolled a new online utility billing system and will soon introduce online business license renewal and payment. With online services for building, planning, and engineering to follow this year. “We’ve moved ahead aggressively with carriers to implement 5G for our citizens, synchronized the Bear Valley Parkway corridor signal system, with the El Norte Parkway being next. The 1,327 solar permits we issued last year (2018) were the most in the city’s history – and we’re on pace to issue even more this year,” he said.
He noted that last year over 200 volunteers contributed 26,000 hours of service to the Escondido Public Library. Community members also volunteer at city hall, the police department, and at parks.
Transitioning to dream weaving for the future McNamara declared, “I believe that good business growth is the economic engine and key element to a city’s health. But in order to attract, sustain and grow good business we need all those other elements that make a city desirable to be good as well, like public safety, education, quality of life, and smart development to name a few. You can’t fix or improve one element and expect results, it must be a holistic approach.”
He told a story about a man who was lost in the woods. “Eventually he encountered another man walking in the woods and after he told him he was lost, the man asked him, who are you and where are you going. The lost man thought they were such good questions he asked them to himself every day of his life since. So, who are we and where are we going?” This vision, he said, was “an amalgamation of hundreds of conversations that I’ve had with our city residents that I believe reveal and define who we really are. And offer you a vision for the future.”
The nut of the mayor’s address was the city’s “agricultural roots.” “We are a city that is based in the values of agriculture and that is who we are. . . . I want us to be a city of affluence, imported luxury cars and sophisticated tastes, after all we live in cool and hip southern California, we are not some caricature of the Grant Wood’s painting “American Gothic.” Well – I would argue that agriculture made us a city of faith and values and because of that we are in fact richer than our neighbors.
“Agriculture doesn’t produce headlines that say, Farmer indicted for ____ fill in the blank. Agriculture creates community, it makes you talk to your neighbor. It makes us an extended family with different opinions where members remain family at the end of the day. It makes us compassionate, helping our neighbor get back on their feet without creating a culture of dependency. It makes us good stewards of the land and by extension environmentalists, fiscally prudent, and hard workers. It makes us grateful and enlightened. We do not live in fear, because we have each other’s back. We are not a soulless bedroom community but rather a city that runs deep. It gives us character that we want to pass on to our children and makes us a place that people want to live in.
“Those values also gave us foresight and belief in the future and ourselves, all you have to do is look around and see our parks, our Center for the Arts, Daley ranch, the quality of life we offer, the innovation and accomplishments of our schools, the history we cherish, even our location as a gateway to agriculture and the backcountry. Couple that to the richness of our diversity, and we have more to offer than any of the coastal cities or even our neighbors. But somehow, there are those that think we are something less. I guess if you call something ugly or undesirable all the time, after a while you might start to believe it. But this city is far from undesirable, and if you bought into that narrative you need to stop. We are fortunate to live in this beautiful city with its rich history and culture.”
Agriculture offers the opportunity to create “a prosperous and affluent future. And not just financial, but through the application of its community values help us solve the challenges every city faces.”
He gave some examples, such as Deanna Smith owner of Deanna’s gluten free bakery, who started it to help her niece who had Celiac disease and who. now ships her products all over the country. She wants to start a garden for elementary school children as sort of a summer school to help them learn patience and nurturing.
Or Abner Medrano of Victory Outreach church who deals with gang members and says that a key deterrent to gang membership is activity and purpose for youth.
“We have food insecurity here in North County, so imagine with me youth at a crossroad in their lives choosing to work to help feed those in need. Think of the purpose and self-worth that would give them,” he said.
“Greg Anglea from Interfaith is working on a social enterprise concept that takes those who have fallen and gives them the last step they need in the recovery cycle. After they are back on their feet and clean, he will give them work in a food pantry concept which allows them to come back to society healed and productive.
“Phil Henry is looking to put us on the map as an avocado center. Alex MacLachlan who puts on the Tamale festival wants to start a music festival. Doctor Joi Blake from Palomar College wants to start vertical farming at the Escondido campus. We are also going to talk to UCSD about their interest in going into agriculture. And this is important – remember the incubator for the bio tech industry was the R&D at UCSD. And our city’s economic development plan has Ag Tech as one of its goals. And speaking of technology, do you know Escondido Disposal saves from the landfill over 125,000 tons of recycled waste every year, uses renewable gas for its vehicles and has in work a cutting edge technology plant to recycle our food waste to create renewable gas. By the way Palomar Community College also stepped up to help us provide library services to the residents in the East Valley area. That’s partnership,” he said.
Nothing that, “No city has the money or the staff to do everything. That’s why we need and have community initiatives. But I think you would also agree we need better partnerships and dialogue with each other. We need partnerships between organizations that work on challenges like music and art but also homelessness, food insecurity and youth sports. And partnerships between those organizations and the city so that we work together efficiently, with harmony and toward common purpose.
He said, “I will propose to the members of the council in the next few weeks that we restructure, reform and expand our current commission program. We need strategic citizen groups that have strong ties with the city government, and are populated with subject matter experts,, They will offer voice to those who have a passion for a particular topic, set actual goals, and report periodically on their progress. And most importantly, they will care about their community.”
The mayor concluded, “We are blessed to live in Escondido. Living here, I think of the bumper sticker I saw when I was stationed in the Marine Corps in the South. It said, “American by birth, Southern by the grace of God.” I like the second line because I think of myself as an Escondidan by the grace of God. I hope you do too! Please join me in reaffirming the values that have made this city, and let us go into the future as a caring community whose values and faith are the bedrocks we build our future on. Thank you. God bless you and your family, and God bless our United States.”