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Column: Money can’t buy you everything

Out-of-town developers massively overspent Encinitas townsfolk to defeat Prop A, the proposition that basically said you can’t put high density/high-rise residences in our town unless the people approve it.Insiders say the final tally will show they spent over $150,000, which is seven or eight times more than what the Yes on A people spent.

And yet they still lost.

The bottom line: out-of-town developer money doesn’t always get you what you want. The locals still rule their own destiny in Encinitas.

So what does this mean in Oceanside, a much bigger city, which has many of the same developers drooling over high-density residential developments?

Oceanside is currently run by a three-person majority, Jack Feller, Jerry Kern, Gary Felien, on the City Council that has no problem lining up with big developers. Nothing wrong with that. It’s part of our political system.

Two of those three, Kern and Felien, happen to be up for reelection next year.

They are known to be fond of developers and the San Diego Republican machine.

But the problem is that most of us don’t share their unabashed appreciation of big developers and the GOP.

Last year their political soul mate Jerome Stocks was booted off the Encinitas City Council.

Local politics is about fixing potholes and making our city better.

People want to feel connected with their local leaders. Kern and particularly Felien seem overly devoted to the San Diego GOP Central Committee on which they have served.

The fact that their Encinitas counterpart (Stocks) was flushed may or may not prove to be a hint of what will happen in Oceanside.

Working in Kern/Felien’s favor is the fact that the city’s economy has turned around. They will undoubtedly say that they were the responsible adults in the room who steered Oceanside in the right direction.

And of course there’s that incumbency thing.

It’s easier to raise money when you’re on the inside. And they’ve got name recognition.

I think both will run for reelection although some have said they heard Kern will not. In considering their reelection chances, there are some other realities in play that cannot be ignored.

The biggest elephant in the room (GOP pun intended) has to be that Mayor Jim Wood cleaned Kern’s clock in the mayor’s race.

Wood bested Kern by almost two-to-one. I just don’t think Kern shares Wood’s relatability. Felien is worse. He is distant, aloof and detached.

Making my point that the pro-business troika may not be such a hot commodity is underscored by what happened in the race for the two council seats last November.

Sure Jack Feller was re-elected, but Esther Sanchez got 4,600 more votes than Feller, and political novice Dana Corso was only 1,000 votes away from overtaking and unseating him.

There are other factors, too. Both Felien and Kern pushed hard for ex-Marine and Chamber of Commerce member Chip Dykes.

Their endorsements didn’t work. Dykes got 6,000 less votes than Corso.

All three endorsed Propositions E (vacancy decontrol) and F (charter amendments) in the June election. Both failed miserably.

When the three pulled the ultimate power grab and took away many of the mayor’s appointment powers and gave it to themselves, they said they had a mandate since there were three of them, and that meant they represented the will of the people. The trio’s support of failed causes and poor showings at the polls does not seem to indicate any kind of voter mandate.

Of course, it matters who else is out there that could give the incumbents a run for their money. Some insiders have said that Corso may try again. And then you have Jane Cinciarelli-Brunst, a 30-year employee of the city of Oceanside who was urged to run last year but decided against it at the last minute.

She has deep roots in Oceanside and has all the charm and warmth that Felien lacks. She could be the charming and classy antidote to a council known for its harsh infighting.

It is doubtful that Dykes will run again. After all, if he runs he would assuredly take votes away from either Kern or Felien and they don’t want that. Especially if it is a close race.

Oceanside born and raised, Ken Leighton writes columns for The Coast News, the San Diego Reader and is an Oceanside business owner. He may be reached at [email protected]



Bonnie Wright June 29, 2013 at 2:08 am

Thanks to the Coast News for allowing the voices of Oceanside voters, who believe it’s imperative to replace Kern, Felien, and Feller, to be heard. Unlike the U-T and NCT. Special thanks to Ken Leighton for his eye-opening column. Strange, isn’t it, that the KFF troika is willing to spend multiple millions of dollars, completely at taxpayer expense, for road extensions and on/off ramps that Oceanside residents and Caltrans are against while the potholes have made our roads a hazard to drive. And why are they supporting Gregory Canyon Landfill against environmental engineers and the Water Authority Board’s advise because of probable polution to Oceanside drinking water? Could it be because Felien is so chummy with the Gregory’s? It’s well known that they support developers, not Oceanside residents.

FOBESQ June 28, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I agree with L. Walshaw, we need to dump Kern & Felien in 2014!!!!!

L. Walshaw June 28, 2013 at 4:34 pm

The reason for Oceanside’s budget surplus has NOTHING to do with Kern, Felien & Co. It’s from redevelopment funds refunded to the City from the state and the $5.6 million sale of Laguna Vista Mobile Home Park. Although the trio will, no doubt, spend that budget surplus (beach sand, bathrooms, etc.)to curry the public’s favor before the 2014 elections. The VOTERS overwhelmingly elected Jim Wood with full powers of office as Mayor and regional representative of Oceanside, NOT 3 guys on a Council. Oceanside’s Charter was written not by our City Attorney, not with public input, but by a lobbyist for the Building Industry Association and gives 3 council votes the power to overrule Oceanside VOTERS. Those same VOTERS haven’t forgotten and will DUMP Kern & Felien in 2014.

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