OCEANSIDE — The fifth City Council candidate forum was held May 7 in the Ocean Hills neighborhood. The forum included a debate on the proposed city charter and a question-and-answer session with candidates running for the seat left empty by the resignation of Councilman Rocky Chavez.
Councilman Jerry Kern spoke for the proposed city charter. He said it allows more local government control. Kern said the charter provision, which does not require the city to pay prevailing wage on general building projects, would give the city more bang for its buck. Kern added cities neighboring Oceanside have successfully become charter cities.
Jerry Slayer, former Chamber of Commerce president, spoke against the charter. Slayer said prevailing wage ensures good reliable workers. “Who would want a minimum wage lifeguard or paramedic?” Slayer asked. He also asked who would want a minimum wage worker on a city building project. Slayer warned the provision that not paying prevailing wage might incite costly lawsuits against the city.
Slayer also pointed out that the charter proposal was drafted solely by Councilman Jack Feller without citizen or city manager input. “I don’t recall Jack Feller going to law school,” Slayer said.
City Council candidate opening statements and one-minute timed responses to audience questions followed the city charter discussion. Questions focused on the economy and city spending.
Candidates Ken Crossman, John Dowell, Charles Lowery, Michael Lucas, Ward O’Doherty and Lloyd Prosser were asked if they support the charter. All but Lloyd Prosser said no. John Dowell, who said he supported the charter at a previous forum, said he no longer supports it. “This one was not done well at all,” Dowell said. “I absolutely changed my mind.”
Candidates were asked if they accept campaign donations from unions or political organizations. All candidates said no except Prosser, who said he did not accept donations from unions, but is backed by the business community.
It was also asked if candidates would consider reducing police officer and firefighter pay, including Fire Department overtime. Candidates replied with a variety of answers.
Lowery said city negotiations with the police and fire departments are under way right now. He added minimum staffing with overtime pay has been determined to be cheaper for Fire Department services.
Lucas suggested contracting out for police and fire services. He said that Oceanside pays officers the highest rates in the state.
O’Doherty agreed that firefighters are paid close to the highest rates in the county and said he would look into public safety pension plan costs to save money.
Prosser suggested browning out a fire engine on a rotating basis to cut costs.
Dowell criticized public safety unions for contributing heavily to campaigns.
Crossman acknowledged that public safety is expensive, but stressed police and fire services are vital to the community. He suggested mitigating the retirement issue.
The election to decide on a City Council member and the charter city proposal will take place June 8.