O’side divided over city charter proposal

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside residents will vote on a proposed city charter on June 8 that would give more control to city government. Some see advantages to more local government control, but others do not want to give City Council more power.
Councilman Jack Feller proposed the charter that was approved for the June ballot in a 3-2 council vote last December. Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted no on the charter.
“The process began last year at the end of June,” Feller said. Feller collected and reviewed charter documents of surrounding cities to put together the wording of the Oceanside charter. Bill Barber and Doug Sain, who had been part of the successfully passed charters in Vista and Carlsbad, provided Feller with neighboring city charter documents.
Feller said he had been considering proposing a city charter since he took office, but did not support previous charters that called for district representation.
Oceanside has tried unsuccessfully to pass a city charter in 1980, 1986, 1990 and 1996.
Feller said the timing was right in December to propose the city charter after the recall of Councilman Jerry Kern failed and while Rocky Chavez was still on the council.
Feller said the city attorney reviewed the charter to determine that it was legal and defensible before it was brought before council on Dec. 16. “It was a quick process to finalize it,” Feller said. “We crossed the Ts, dotted the Is and made sure it
is legal with the city attorney.”
“It never had gotten to the table before this,” Feller said. “It’s the basic document I had hoped for and now it’s on the ballot.”
Feller supports the charter because he said it gives Oceanside greater control
of its destiny and city spending.
“To keep the dysfunctional state out of our city business whenever possible is the bottom line for me,” Feller said.
Feller said the charter will help move the city forward. “We’re going through some pretty tough times, our success is all based on progress going into the future,” Feller said. “Local government should have control over all the issues it can have control over.”
The charter allows the city to control tax dollar spending; open municipal contracts to nonunion bids; set term limits for council members; determine land use and zoning issues; and adopt ordinances and procedures. “The positives by far outweigh any minor negative thinking,” Feller said.
A contentious issue is opening municipal contracts to bids that do not pay prevailing wage. Feller sees this as a cost-saving measure that opens bidding to nonunion contractors. “It opens opportunity in tough economic times,” Feller said.
Another term of the charter that is being questioned is that political contributions cannot be taken from city employee wages without the employee sending a written consent to the city. Some feel this interferes with union contributions.
Citizens Against Charter is a grassroots group that opposes the charter. The group’s co-chairs Dixie Bales and Nadine Scott feel Oceanside does not need a charter.
Bales has opposed previous charters and campaigned against the last two charters that were proposed.
Bales worries the charter may cost the city more money if lawsuits are filed over the charter term that does not require the prevailing wage to be paid on city projects. A lawsuit has been filed against the charter city of Vista over the failure to pay prevailing wage.
Prevailing wage must be paid on any municipal projects that receive state and federal money. Bales said that all recent city projects fall into that category.
“The huge reason we should not have a charter is it gives City Council too much power,” Bales said.
Nadine Scott added that there is no public support for the charter. A charter is a taxpayer agreement, but there was no citizen input, Scott said.
The city charter proposal is posted online at www.ci.oceanside.ca.us.

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