OCEANSIDE — The 11,389 signatures needed to hold a recall vote for Councilman Jerry Kern have been collected and are now being verified, according to city clerk staff. The recall election is expected to be held in December 2009. The ballot will ask voters to cast a yes or no vote to recall Kern and have a section to select a new councilmember if the recall passes.
The citizen-initiated recall, which began in January, accuses Kern of causing irreparable harm to the city and neighborhoods. Some specific accusations are that Kern puts developers’ interests above the interests of Oceanside residents, discourages public input by verbally assaulting citizens at council meetings, and held meetings clandestinely with a private company to privatize paramedic services, which violates city open bidding requirements.
Kern says the accusations are false and that the recall is a move to swing the 3-2 majority vote from pro development to pro union.
“The public employee unions are funding it,” Kern said. “If they get me out of there they can control the council. Follow the money and you’ll follow the real story of the recall.”
Firefighters and police have donated funds to the recall campaign, but the recall was initiated by citizens who want rent control and their interests to be put before the interests of developers, said Chuck Lowery, who is running for City Council in November 2010.
“The residents started this process,” Lowery said. “I support citizen initiatives.”
“Citizens are concerned that for the last two and a half years the council majority has not made decisions that consistently favor the residents of Oceanside,” Lowery said.
According to Lowery, Kern has voted against rent control by failing to support the state rent control proposition, and voted for the cement plant (that was voted in, but will not go forward because of the company’s failure to complete an environmental impact report) despite 1,000 letters of opposition and 200 residents showing up at a council meeting to protest the plant.
In recent votes, Kern voted to ax department budgets and did not support firefighters’ negotiations to take a salary cut to save positions in the department.
Kern says that despite the economic downturn, Oceanside is doing well and needed services are being provided within a balanced budget. “It’s a good thing we have three fiscal conservatives,” Kern said.
Reduced state funds have had a big impact. “These are conversations we’re going to have throughout the state of California,” Kern said. “The poor economy rackets it up because we’re going to have to make real serious decisions on employment. Unions are scrambling.”
Kern objects to the cost of the recall election, especially with one year left in his term. “The $500,000 for the election is such a huge waste of taxpayer money,” Kern said. “It’s a misuse of the recall process. I’ve performed no malefactions or wrongdoing. They just don’t like the way I voted.”
Lowery said the recall process exists for the very situation in which citizens are dissatisfied with how a politician votes. The process is in place so that citizens can remove a politician who is not representing them.
Council has not yet set a date for the recall election, but a date may be determined at the Aug. 12 council meeting. Once a date is set candidates may announce that they are running for the council seat if the recall passes.
Lowery has not decided if he will run during the recall election. His campaign for the November 2010 election is already under way and a decision to run in an earlier election will mean stepping up his campaign timeline and spending the rest of the year pounding the pavement for votes.
Kern is presently gearing up to raise funds and rally support to keep his council seat in the recall election.