By Mark Day
La Prensa San Diego
When Escondido residents go to the polls next Nov. 4, they will choose between two mayoral candidates, both from immigrant backgrounds, with radically different philosophies.
Sam Abed, the incumbent mayor, is a conservative Republican, born in Lebanon. Councilwoman Olga Diaz, a Democrat, born in Salinas, Calif., is the daughter of a Mexican farmworker family.
Both say they stand for what is best for Escondido. Abed looks upon the city’s 49 per cent Latino population as a source of problems—poverty, blight, crime and urban decay. But Diaz sees her fellow Latinos as a challenge and an opportunity for positive change.
In attempts to control the city’s immigrant population, Abed and other conservative council members pushed through a failed rental ordinance in 2006 and have backed traffic checkpoints against unlicensed immigrant drivers. The rental ban failed in court at a heavy cost to tax payers.
Diaz says these policies have caused division and racial tensions, and have given the city a black eye not only nationally but internationally.
Mark Day interviewed Diaz recently for La Prensa about these issues and her goals if she is elected mayor of Escondido.
Mark Day: How do you compare Escondido with your native town of Salinas?
Olga Diaz: Both towns are roughly the same size and with similar demographics. But I never felt any racial pension in Salinas. Civil and human rights struggles were things I saw me movies, but not something I experienced first hand. I was really shocked to find it here in Escondido when I arrived in 2002.
Day: Do you see things changing now in Escondido?
Diaz: I see a very small part of that change. What I try to do is to reduce fear of the unknown. We all have a lot in common with each other. We want the best schools and parks for our kids, better shopping centers, better streets, and so on. We just express it differently. It’s about building community and making sure that everyone’s needs are taken care of.
What’s good for Latinos is good for everyone. What’s good for everyone works!
Day: Some feel that you are just a candidate for Latinos only…