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Dick Daniels

Escondido councilman sees Arts Center as center of city's economic development

In his first year on the Escondido City Council, Dick Daniels already has a clear path of what he wants and where he hopes the city will go.

"I came on the council with an economic development agenda," he said. "I want to look at a stronger proactive economic development program (in 2008)."

After more than 17 years of living in San Diego County's fourth largest city, Daniels ran for his first elected position in 2006 and won.

"It's a learning curve," he says of his experience as a rookie on the council. "I think that it's important to be sure what is necessary to improve quality of life, but also bring new ideas to the community."

His local leadership includes serving as chairman of the 800-member Escondido Chamber of Commerce and as president of the Escondido Rotary Club.

Daniels hopes to bring the California Center of the Arts to its prime. An asset of the city, the center has seen financial problems in the past and experienced difficulty in agreeing with the council.

"We haven't always seen eye to eye," he said.

With his colleagues, Daniels hopes to garner more support for the center on a regional level. Council is in the process of initiating the planning process to attract regional participation and interest in the center.

"It's been my intent to forge a better partnership between City Council and the center," said Daniels. He credits the center for the arts for attracting new business and creating groundwork for revitalization in Escondido.

"It's been pretty much responsible for everything that has been taking place," he said, pointing to the two Marriott hotels, the Lexus dealership and various businesses that plan to set up shop in downtown Escondido in the coming years.

"It really emphasizes the importance of that facility to our overall economic growth," he said.

In 2008, Daniels expects to weigh in on the city's general plan update. The plan was last revised in 1990, when the population of Escondido was approximately half of what it is now.

"We have different needs and different land uses," he said.

In 2004, voters approved a $500 million bond measure to improve facilities in the Palomar-Pomerado Hospital District. Daniels expects the city to keep building the Palomar Medical Center, a $900 million acute care hospital in Escondido.

Escondido made headlines last year for passing an ordinance banning landlords from renting units to illegal immigrants. The ordinance passed before Daniels' election, but his first months as councilman were marred with the legal aftermath of the issue.

"I think my colleagues' intent was to deal with overcrowding by dealing with (illegal immigrants)," he said. Daniels believes that increasing drunk driving checkpoints and cracking down on illegal garage conversions would better curb overcrowding in neighborhoods and on the roads.

"Those are reasonable and proper things a city should do, rather than deciding (based on) where a person come from," he said. "Leave that to the federal government."

One year into his first elected official position, Daniels has formed a philosophy for his leadership -- one he will use for the remainder of his term and beyond.

"It's balancing between listen to the community, making sure I'm in step, and leading," he said.

"That's a delicate balance."

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