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Election 2020: Oceanside Mayoral Race

OCEANSIDE — Twelve people, including three current councilmembers and a former state assembly member, are vying for the mayor’s seat. The Coast News asked each of the 12 candidates to fill out a survey, asking what issues they prioritized for the city. Of the 12 candidates, eight responded.

Rocky Chávez

Rocky Chávez formerly represented District 76 in the California State Assembly from 2012 to 2018, which covers Camp Pendleton and the coastal cities from Oceanside to Encinitas.

Chávez’s top priority is transparency and accountability within the Oceanside city government, particularly for the role of mayor.

“The mayor of Oceanside selects commissioners,” Chávez said. “I would ensure that each commission is balanced and not dominated by one special interest.”

Chávez believes the city needs to continue growing its revenue from tourists “to meet the social needs of our community.” Oceanside currently receives about $29 million annually from its transient occupancy tax (TOT) and sales tax.

Chávez disagreed with the council’s decision to approve the North River Farms project last year, which is now the subject of Measure L on this year’s ballot. He said he disagreed on the city council’s decision to approve the project without approval from the Planning Commission.

“I believe local government needs to be transparent and follow a process,” he said. “Adherence to rules and procedures benefits all members of the community.”

Fernando Garcia

Candidate Fernando Garcia also prioritizes government transparency. He doesn’t want the mayor or council to be “tied to special interests, big donors, or developers.”

“I am running to service our city’s residents by looking out for their best interests and not the donors,” Garcia said.

Garcia also disapproved with the North River Farms decision and how “some council members handled it” despite objections from the Planning Commission and community members.

Garcia also prioritizes public safety. He wants Oceanside to create a “common sense emergency evacuation plan” in case of fires or other natural disasters, as well as additional training for police on community relations and cultural awareness.

Housing affordability was his lowest priority. Though he understands that housing is important, he said the city doesn’t have the right infrastructure to support more people, which would add to traffic congestion. Instead, he wants Oceanside to have a “better traffic plan” with improvements made to roads, installations of smaller traffic lights, widening state Route 76 and expanding North River Road.

Rob Howard

Rob Howard is a current member of the Measure X Oversight Committee, which oversees the sale tax revenue approved by voters to use for public safety and essential city services. He has also served on Oceanside’s Police and Fire Commission.

“I bring a collaborative approach to leadership,” Howard said. “I have worked with government, business, community and the education community, and all need to be engaged if we are to have a successful economic recovery from COVID.”

Howard is prioritizing small businesses, government transparency and COVID recovery.

“We need to listen to the science and work with microbusinesses, fewer than 20 employees, on necessary resources to move the economy,” he said. “We need to update our general plan so that we have a roadmap that gives us a housing plan and the business development plan that integrates our climate actions to support our community.”

Howard said the city needs to look at what those smaller businesses need to get back on their feet as well as potentially lobbying for more funding to promote economic growth.

Ruben Major

A paramedic educator who owns an EMT training program and runs a local non-profit animal rescue, Ruben Major is prioritizing addressing the city’s homeless crisis, COVID-19 and public safety.

“The homeless crisis is my top priority,” Major said.

Major, who said he also was once homeless at a young age, said the city is wasting money citing and ticketing homeless people.

“If a person is homeless, they are permitted to live in public in front of storefronts and the riverbed if there are not enough beds for them,” Major said. “I believe tiny houses can help address the issue.”

Major wants to “eliminate wasteful spending” including police overtime, which he said is one of the city’s highest expenditures. Instead, the money going to police overtime could be spent on public works and the city’s fire department.

Major also noted his opposition to the North River Farms project and his disapproval of how the council handled it.

In November 2019, the council approved the controversial project in a 3-2 vote. Councilmembers Esther Sanchez, another mayoral candidate, and Ryan Keim voted no on the project while Mayor Peter Weiss and two other mayoral candidates, Deputy Mayor Jack Feller and Councilmember Chris Rodriguez, approved the project.

“It is a monumentally unsafe project and the fact that the council did not listen to the community is a true travesty and represents why we need major change,” Major said.

Fabio Marchi

Fabio Marchi, who owns La Constructora Better Homes Co., wants to change the city’s “old boys club mentality.”

Marchi lists government accountability, helping small businesses, bringing in jobs, fixing infrastructure, adding more sand to beaches and making housing affordable as his top priorities.

“A balanced government is key to success for the entire community as the weakest link can destroy us,” Marchi said. “City employees must focus on public service.”

Marchi disagreed with Measure X, passed by voters two years ago, explaining that he would have preferred to cut taxes instead of increasing them. Additionally, he believes the current budget is “skewed toward police and fire” and wants to “reallocate monies to social programs and infrastructure” to balance the budget.

He also disagreed with the council’s recent approval of a $20 million water meter upgrade, explaining that he would have used that money to remove asbestos from the water pipes.

Marchi said he wants to reduce building permit fees and time, help existing businesses and invite new business and reduce taxes. He also wants to “fire the highest-paid employees and hire an in-house crew to rebuild infrastructure,” and “optimize and make more accountable” the police and fire departments.

“Efficiency and accountability are my goals,” he said.

Alvin L. McGee

Alvin L. McGee wants to bring the community together as mayor.

“I’m running as a community volunteer,” McGee said.

McGee explained he was also motivated after a violent crime was committed against him.

“I had a brother and my cousin killed and no one has been brought to justice for these crimes,” he said.

Because of this, public safety is one of McGee’s top priorities. He accused the city’s elected officials and law enforcement of not communicating with the community affected by street gangs.

McGee is also prioritizing housing affordability, small businesses, government transparency and public safety in his campaign.

“Our number one focus is bringing affordable housing and some kind of rent control to our city,” he said.

According to McGee, Oceanside needs more public health facilities. He also wants to see the vacant buildings be used for programs like “skillshare organizations,” to plant a habitat garden and bring back a community swap meet.

Christopher Rodriguez

Councilman Christopher Rodriguez, one of three current councilmembers running for mayor, said he has a vision to deal with Oceanside’s “greatest challenges,” which he said are homelessness, public safety, business development and infrastructure.

For Rodriguez, public safety is the top concern.

“My first duty and highest obligation is to Oceanside’s public safety,” Rodriguez said.

According to Rodriguez, “illegal homeless encampments,” crime and drug use are “reaping havoc” on Oceanside. As mayor, he would address those issues by enforcing vagrancy laws while also providing a shelter resource that offers vocational job training programs and access to mental illness and drug addiction.

Rodriguez called economic development and job creation “essential.”

“We must cut waste through technology enhancements and better systems,” Rodriguez said. “Streamlined business development entitlement pathways that minimize staff hours and present a business-friendly environment.”

Rodriguez was one of the three councilmembers who approved the North River Farms project in November 2019.

David Turgeon

David Turgeon listed saving Oceanside’s sand and jetties, finding ways to lower property taxes, bringing jobs that pay above the poverty level, affordable housing and new development projects that employ local labor as reasons for why he is running for mayor.

While lowering property taxes for Oceanside residents, Turgeon would like to see tourists taxed more to improve the city’s finances.

“Tax the tourists, not the locals,” Turgeon said.

Turgeon is also prioritizing small businesses, government transparency, social services and more open spaces and recreation activities. In terms of recreation, Turgeon added he would like to see a skate park built by the beach.

Turgeon also believes Oceanside’s way of life is being destroyed by “sun-blocking, unaffordable luxury townhomes.” He would prefer to see such developments install two-story max underground parking with smaller, more affordable units.

Alvarez, Feller, Sanchez, Uridel

Candidates Perry Alvarez, Deputy Mayor Jack Feller, Councilmember Esther Sanchez and Louis Uridel did not respond to The Coast News questionnaire.

Both Sanchez and Feller have been councilmembers for 20 years.

Sanchez, born and raised in Oceanside, is the first Latina to run for mayor. For years she worked in the public defender’s office and became involved with community and police relations in Oceanside.

According to her campaign website, Sanchez is prioritizing affordable housing, sheltering the homeless, smart growth, more jobs, the business community and protecting Oceanside’s open spaces and habitat.

“I love Oceanside. I was born and raised here, so our current economic and environmental sustainability is so passionately important to me,” Sanchez previously told The Coast News. “We must move now to implement a strong climate action plan, community choice energy, affordable housing and employment centers.”

Feller wants to maintain and improve the quality of life for residents of Oceanside through business, housing and job creation. Feller is also a strong supporter of the city’s police department.

“I will not stand for any de-funding of our police and public safety divisions,” Feller said in a statement responding to the protests following George Floyd’s death.

Feller’s entire statement can be found on his campaign website. Feller was also one of three councilmembers to approve the North River Farms project.

Louis Uridel is the owner of Metroflex Gym in Oceanside. According to his website, he is a strong proponent of small businesses in the area and wants to strengthen Oceanside’s small business community by not increasing taxes and providing new outlets for tourism.

Uridel is also a strong supporter of the police and is opposed to defunding the police as well.

“Our police force should be amongst the highest paid,” Uridel states on his website.

Candidate Perry Alvarez does not have a campaign website and has not responded to The Coast News’ request for comment.

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