Escondido, CA

City council deadlocks choosing successor to John Masson

After going through a tortuous procedure to winnow down the nine candidates for city council, the four members, Mayor Paul McNamara, Olga Diaz, Mike Morasco and Consuelo Martinez, deadlocked twice in attempting to choose a successor to the late John Masson in District 2.

They will return in May to try again.

Whomever is picked will serve until November, assuming that they can ultimately agree on a name, will then  have to run for the remaining two years of Masson’s term and then run in two years for a full term.

Giving that complicated process, there were nine candidates who were interviewed during a meeting that last nearly three hours, beginning at 3:30 p.m.

The candidates who began the evening included Nicole Downey, who ran for the office two years ago and lost to Masson; Scotty Lombardi, a business leader who has served on numerous boards, such as Palomar College Foundation and San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation; Vanessa Valenzuela, who was also a candidate for the seat two years ago; Pamela Kleinkauf, an attorney, and law professor at Palomar College;  Jeff Damon Griffith, a member of the Palomar Health Board and a career CalFire captain and paramedic; Barbara C. Aguilar, a development specialist at Escondido Community Child Development Center; Richard Paul, who has served on the planning commission and on an environmental preserve while running a company that employs more than 100; William J. Curtin, a member of the U.S. Navy serving as Operations Officer aboard the USS Detroit; Tina Ostrem Inscoe, a development adviser at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido and a longtime executive of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, member of the Palomar Health Foundation and Escondido Charitable Foundation.

After asking an exhaustive list of questions to the candidates, the council nominated a short list that included Lombardi, Valenzuela, Aguilar, Paul and Inscoe. 

Councilmember Martinez nominated Valenzuela. Her nomination was seconded by Diaz, but opposed by Morasco and the mayor.  A deadlock.

Morasco nominated Inscoe, which was seconded by McNamara, but opposed by Diaz and Martinez. 

There were no other nominations. 

“We have five people on the short list and no nominee,” observed the mayor, who moved to delay the vote to May and further discuss it at that time.

Diaz suggested that a way to cut through the deadlock would be to use a ranked choice process. In such a process, those voting selected their first, second, third, fourth and fifth choice. When these are added together, a “collaborative choice” emerges, “so we don’t get an impasse over and over,” she said. 

“I don’t support that,” said McNamara.

Morasco said he had used that type of ranking system in teaching. “I would not support that either in this case,” he said. 

The mayor told those who hadn’t made the short list that they could always run for the office in November. “After all,” he said, “none of us live in District two.”

The business for the special meeting having been executed, the council adjourned.

14 responses to “City council deadlocks choosing successor to John Masson”

  1. Harry Martin says:

    Does Vanessa Valenzuela have *any* other credentials for being appointed to the seat, other than she’s supported by Diaz and Martinez? That was a healthy list of applicants, all of whom boasted local accomplishments and experience, but Diaz and Martinez ignored that to support someone who was merely a losing candidate for the slot. Where is the logic in that? Olga Diaz and Consuelo Martinez are playing politics with what should be a simple, merit-based appointment.

    • D L Shearer says:

      Yes, Ms Valenzuela ran for the office previously and those of us who follow city politics know her positions on the issues and her love and care for the residents of Escondido. I support her appointment to the Council.

    • Brenda Townsend says:

      Maybe Harry Martin should do his homework before making ignorant comments? Vanessa Valenzuela is a highly qualified Senior Finance Manager with experience in Accounting. She has a background in small business, non profits, and corporations encompassing billion dollar projects. Additional experience in SAS and ERP software, GAAP accounting standards, data analysis, FARR analysis, government reporting, auditing internal controls, tax reporting, contract management, fixed fee T&M billing, and project management. How did.i get all of this secret information? From the document, made public from the city, with all of the candidates resumes included. Vanessa is BY FAR the most qualified candidate on the short list. Did you even watch the interviews?

    • Phil says:

      She’s a controller for the architectural firm Tucker Sadler, previously for the Rancho Santa Fe Association and the Country Club of Rancho Bernardo, and has a background in finance. She says she wants to use that financial experience to help make better long-term financial decisions.
      There’s bits of an interview with her here:

    • Lisa Kusick says:

      Vanessa is more then qualified to fill this temporary assignment. The residents of Escondido’s district 2 will make the call in November. Why not Vanessa?

  2. In June of 2018, Tina Ostrem Inscoe, wrote a letter supporting Propostion B and the Newland Sierra project. Her letter of support for the project was submitted to the County Planning and Development Dept. It appears that Mayor Mac is looking for allies to support his version of “smart growth”. The voters soundly rejected Prop B and the Newland development. Mayor Mac should listen to the voters. Instead he is trying to stack the city council in his and the developers favor by submitting and fighting for Ostrem Inscoe to be on the Council.

  3. Michelle Golding says:

    Seems like an opportunity to update the bylaws with guidance should such a situation arise. The opposition to the rank system was either not articulate in their rebuttal or the journalist did not capture it because it is not clear why? I would also be interested in those who ran previously what their vote tallies were. Public opinion should have some weight.

    • Not sure what you are asking for Michelle. This might answer some of your questions. Vanessa Valenzuela got 4,529 votes in 2018. John Masson got 5899. Nicole Downey got 1302 votes. John Masson spent $40,404 on his campaign. Vanessa spent $7106. Nicole Downey spent $0.

  4. Linda H says:

    Vanessa is absolutely the best choice for the council position. Her strong background in finance and accounting is going to be needed on the council. She is all in for the citizens of Escondido; she has lived here since the age of 6. She graduated from Escondido High School and attended Palomar college. She KNOWS our city and the needs of the city. and works extremely hard already to their benefit as a volunteer and citizen. Vanessa loves our city and she is truly amazing!

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