OCEANSIDE — Nine candidates for two seats.
This is scenario for Oceanside voters in Districts 1 and 2 come Nov. 6. And in District 1, two incumbents, longtime Councilwoman Esther Sanchez and Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery, are running against each other, along with Susan Custer and Michael Odegaard.
In District 2, the candidates are former Mayor and Councilman Terry Johnson, Dana Corso, Kristopher Kagan, Lawrence Kornit and Christopher Rodriguez.
On Oct. 16, eight of the nine (Dana Corso was absent due to a personal matter) discussed several issues during a candidate’s forum at St. Mary Star of the Sea. Since there were eight candidates, only three were allowed to answer a specific question, but could go back during their closing statement and address any topic.
The city’s finances, meanwhile, was a major theme, as each candidate noted how revenue is not what it once was and the council must be creative and innovative to increasing funds.
Measure X, which calls to raise the city’s sales tax by 0.5 percent and will raise an estimated $11 million per year, was the topic of one question. Custer said she is against the measure and said raising the Transient Occupancy Tax (hotel tax) is a better solution. In addition, she said the city’s ability to collect short-term rental tax has increased 30 to 40 percent over the last several years, so being more aggressive with those collections can also help.
Kagan said the city must look to bring in more startup and technology-based companies, which will in turn bring higher-paying jobs and more tax revenue.
Lowery, meanwhile, said he has been pushing for making marijuana a legal crop, but can’t get a third “yes” vote.
Another issue many of the candidates referenced was the outdated General Plan, which was approved in 1976 and has not been updated since.
Lowery said the council has never had support to update the document, and now “spot” zoning has become an issue. Spot zoning is zoning a piece of property differently than its adjacent property.
Kagan referenced downtown and how the area has had success with a more organized plan for revitalization. However, he noted Oceanside is 42 square miles and new and innovative ideas are needed.
Kornit championed more mixed-used development and building around transit hubs, but cautioned new developments must remain with the character of close-by neighborhoods.
As for the beach and sand replenishment, Sanchez leaned on her 18 years of experience on the council, noting she has once been a California Coastal Commissioner, which is critical when forming and continuing relationships to replenish sand on the beach. She said its costs between $3 million to $3.5 million per year to contract the work with the Army Corps of Engineers, but one way to keep the money flowing is possibly raise the Transient Occupancy Tax.
Johnson, also a former coastal commissioner, said it is critical to continue to lobby Congress for funds and to continue working with the San Diego Association of Governments to ensure beaches are replenished.