Chris Orlando has been on the San Marcos City Council for 12 years, but that is not where he started his political career. His experience and knowledge have great breadth and depth as was discovered during his presentation to the club at the monthly meeting.
After acquiring a BA in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara followed by an MBA from George Washington University, he began his career in Washington, DC working for Rep. John Dingell from Michigan, the longest serving member of Congress. He spent most of his time in DC working for Dick Gephart and then for the DCCC on various national campaigns.
In 1998 he moved to San Diego, then on to San Marcos where he has lived for the last 16 years. The San Marcos City Council had been in place with many of the same members for years and Chris decided it was time for a change. The first time he ran he wasn’t successful, but he won the second, and subsequent times such that he has served the fully allowed term of 12 years and was unopposed in his last election. Now he’d like to be our Mayor!
His time on the city council provided more opportunities for him to fully understand the key issues impacting the city and also what is top of mind for residents: development, and the resulting impact on traffic and schools. He spent 6 years on the NCTD Board, helped pass a congestion ordinance requiring developers to donate to transit infrastructure and also served on SANDAG. “Every decision was made with what’s best for the city and its citizens,” he explained.
He says he “takes a common sense approach to development.” He originally supported the Ridgeline development plan and supports more parks to preserve wildlife and habitats, but ever since the Ridgeline ordinance was passed he feels it hasn’t helped too much. He’s been fighting to maintain the right interpretation of it to no avail.
Chris has often been the only dissenting vote in most of the 4-1 votes taken by the Council, mainly because he feels strongly that residents input must be heard first and “that input taken to heart.” That often hasn’t happened. For example, he voted against several development projects because residents weren’t heard regarding impacts. “My candidacy is about the future of San Marcos from a resident’s perspective,” he said. It should be noted that his opponent, Rebecca Jones, has voted for every development project that came before the Council during her tenure.
So what ideas does Chris have to mitigate development impacts? First, he believes that new developments should “bring infrastructure with them and it should be put in place before the first home is occupied.” The biggest issue is Rt. 78, as people are using surface streets to avoid it. “Transit has not been on the minds of any of the Mayors in the 78 corridor,” Chris explained. “We need to do better there.”
The “Regional coalition” that has been in place isn’t working well, according to Chris. He cited the current controversial Newland Sierra project as an example. This project will add 2,135 new homes and contribute almost 30,000 more cars to Twin Oaks Valley and Deer Springs roads plus add over 800 new students to the already overcrowded San Marcos and Escondido schools. “This project will really impact San Marcos’ traffic, schools, athletic leagues but we have no say in the project as it’s being processed by the County. I asked the San Marcos City Council to request a briefing and they wouldn’t do it.” As a result, Chris now feels that “we got it wrong” and need to rethink how to make San Marcos more livable and walkable.
Chris is only the second Democrat to serve on the city council. San Marcos has only had one Democratic Mayor in the last 53 years and that was only for two years. Republicans dominate all levels of government except for a few on the school board. “It doesn’t reflect the electorate,” Chris explained. And our “suburb” is becoming more purple recently. There now are only 1500 more registered Republicans than Democrats and only 1500 more No Party Preference voters than Democrats and the gap is closing.
But Chris needs help. “The Republican establishment is strong and my opponent has already received lots of dollars especially from developers and is supported by the Lincoln Club.” Chris went on to explain that although he has worked well with and appreciates Jones, his opponent, she doesn’t realize that “not every development project is perfect. And if the developers view that someone is always going to say yes to every project they don’t work as hard to mitigate concerns.” Furthermore Chris went on to explain, “if she wins and her council seat becomes vacant, she likely will appoint a Republican to fill her seat giving Republicans the majority.”
Housing projects, shopping centers, traffic, school overcrowding – all issues of concern to Chris as both a resident and a politician. He is determined to work with residents to solve these problems, but he won’t be able to if he does not become our next Mayor.
To read more about Chris and support his campaign you can check out his website.