COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Charter City bad idea for Oceanside

Hey Oceanside voters! Did you know there’s an extremely important issue on the June 8 ballot? Councilman Feller and his developer lobbyist friend drafted a city charter in secret, with zero resident input and got it placed on the June ballot. That issue alone should make you vote “no.”
What is a charter city? It gives the City Council tons more power and takes away citizens’ power. The city can make new rules about almost anything. This charter was drafted by developer lobbyists, so you can count on the fact that developers will make a huge power grab in Oceanside. Do you remember the Robertson’s concrete plant? They wanted to put it in between three nice neighborhoods on Loma Alta Creek. Citizens fought that proposal and were forced to go to Superior Court to stop that harmful project.
With a charter, citizens will have less power to stop these projects. Asphalt plants, concrete plants and liquor stores can be put anywhere in town, right by your neighborhoods. Charter cities don’t have to ensure projects are consistent with the general plan. Charter cities can ignore the plan. A winning argument against the concrete plant is that it was “not consistent” with the General Plan. With a charter, that can no longer be used and the citizens would probably have lost. Concrete dust anyone?
Also, the proponents of this charter say it “could” save the city lots of money. That isn’t true at all. Vista thought they’d save tons of money with their charter but they ended up paying prevailing wages and more than $173,452 in lawsuit costs so far. It turns out they had to hire the most skilled laborers and paid prevailing wage scale for these skilled workers like carpenters, plumbers and heavy equipment operators.
Prevailing wage is a pay schedule that cities are required to pay to skilled workers in the region. It’s not about unions or anything else. It’s about paying the best skilled workers on city projects to get a safe, reliable project built. Whether Oceanside is a charter or not, prevailing wages have to be paid on city projects that use any state or federal money. All of the big projects in Oceanside use those funds. So charter or not, Oceanside would still have to pay prevailing wages. Besides, studies show that agencies don’t save by not paying prevailing wage and in fact can lose huge tax revenues if they do that.
The San Diego County Taxpayer’s Association endorsed the charter and has almost exclusively developers and lobbyists on its board. The employer of the lobbyist who drafted this secret charter, Associated Builders & Contractors, sits on the board. This group no longer represents the average taxpayer but does represent out-of-town developers and lobbyists that have donated to Mr. Feller’s campaign. The lobbyist for Howard Jarvis’ group thought Oceanside required Project Labor Agreements. Oceanside does not and has not ever required PLAs. Don’t be misled. Those groups do not represent taxpayers or they would know this charter will cost us all money.
This charter will cost extra money in the form of new assessments, new business taxes, higher taxes on your cable and utility bills and will let the council members raise their salary as high as they want. It also includes new layers of bureaucracy that have to be paid for and will certainly generate a lawsuit similar to Vista’s. It cost $106,000 just to put on the ballot and will probably be amended at a cost of more than $100,000 because citizens have to vote on the amendments. San Diego and Chula Vista have amended their charters numerous times.
Further, competitive bidding isn’t required in a charter city. The council members in power can award contracts to their friends, cronies and campaign donors without regard to price or quality. Right now Oceanside requires open and competitive bidding and always has. What can the motive be to make a serious change in the way Oceanside is governed? You can imagine the lobbyists and developers who contributed to the council members who voted to put the item on the ballot will be expecting some kind of payback. Let’s keep open and transparent competitive bidding and vote no on this charter.
Oceanside residents and business owners simply cannot afford this power-grabbing, fee-raising charter. Let’s all join together and vote “no” on Proposition K on June 8.
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Nadine Scott and Dixie Bales are Oceanside residents and co-chairs of Citizens Against Charter.


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