Two weeks ago The Times-Advocate reported that the city council had deadlocked 2-2 on accepting a traffic safety grant of $515,000 (“Council rejects $515K in traffic safety funding.”)
Two council members, Olga Diaz and Consuelo Martinez voted to oppose accepting the grant. Both expressed concerns that such traffic stops target certain ethnicities and neighborhoods and don’t address root causes of the DUIs and traffic fatalities they aim to prevent.
City manager Jeff Epp decided to accept the grant anyway. After doing some research he determined that accepting a grant does not require a council action. He advised council members via email: “At the meeting this past week, the Council deadlocked on whether to approve the City’s receipt of a $515,000 grant to enhance traffic safety programs in the City for the upcoming year. The City planned to use the grant funds to improve community safety by focusing on drunk driving, distracted driving, excessive speed, pedestrian safety, and bicycle and motorcycle safety. Generally speaking, traffic safety is a significant problem in Escondido based upon recent statistics and these grant funds are extremely valuable. Indeed, our community experienced a particularly heartbreaking incident this past year when an impaired driver struck and killed four victims that were members of the same family and were out on their regular evening walk. The victims included two adults and two children.”
Epp continued, “Because the City Council did not provide definitive policy direction either way, and for many past years has routinely accepted this grant by either majority or unanimous votes, I determined to accept the funds and process the grant on the City’s behalf after learning that the grant program did not actually require consent of the legislative body. Indeed, this same Council approved the grant last year. Future Council action will be in the form of budget adjustments to accommodate revenue and expenditures.”
The city manager concluded, “From an operational standpoint, the traffic safety issues in our community certainly warrant accepting any assistance we can get, including these grant funds. Moreover, in light of our structural budget deficit, the ability to have more than half a million dollars of grant money to augment one of our core functions is critical. We will review the tape of the discussion of the policy concerns raised by the two ‘nay’ votes, including concerns about data, additional information on the grant allocation process, and the use and effectiveness of checkpoints and make sure we address those.”