OCEANSIDE — Mayor Jim Wood, Councilman Jerry Kern and former Mayor Terry Johnson faced off in a mayoral debate at MiraCosta College on Sept. 13.
Questions addressed a variety of city issues including the Gregory Canyon landfill, outsourcing city services, balancing the good of the city with individual neighborhood interests, and the spike in Oceanside’s crime rate.
The impression of most residents who attended was that candidates stuck to their platforms.
Residents said the debate reaffirmed their choice for Wood or Kern, who stood clearly apart on their replies.
A bit of a surprise was that most of the same residents said Johnson would be their second choice. His answers ping-ponged between agreeing with Wood on some issues and Kern on others.
When asked where they stand on the Gregory Canyon landfill, Wood and Johnson said they opposed the OK’d landfill that will sit on top of a city groundwater source.
“It’s outright wrong,” Wood said. “The most valuable commodity we have in Southern California is water.”
Kern said he supports the landfill, which county voters OK’d.
“Voters want to do something with our trash,” Kern said.
In response to whether to outsource city services, Kern and Johnson said they would consider it.
Kern said the city is in the service delivery business and outsourcing should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Johnson also noted the importance of considering outsourcing to reduce city budget costs.
“The city is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy,” Johnson said.
Wood said he opposed outsourcing services. He said outsourcing is unlikely to save money and will reduce the quality of services. He cited that city paramedics can provide more medical services to patients than outsourced EMTs and city workers can be called in to help after hours if needed.
When questioned about balancing decisions that provide good to the city, but negatively impact a specific neighborhood, Kern said he supports decisions that benefit the good of the city.
Wood and Johnson said they consider the impact on neighborhoods, which collectively make up the city.
Wood said he puts people first and gave the example of opposing vacancy decontrol that directly affected the mobile home community and was eventually defeated by voters.
“It was wrong and mean spirited,” Wood said.
Johnson also spoke about the need to ensure quality of life for residents. He said some long-debated issues like adding the Melrose Drive extension that is not needed and cannot be funded should be put to rest.
Candidates were also asked their assessment of the 7 percent rise in the city’s crime rate.
Johnson said the crime rate needs to be reduced with a greater police presence in the downtown area.
Kern said the increase in property crimes correlates with the early release of nonviolent offenders from California state prisons.
Wood also noted the impact of the early release of state inmates. He said that fact along with with Oceanside being a location that has a parole unit and the police department being downsized 12 officers has led to an increase in the city’s crime rate, which had dropped 33 percent over the previous three years.