OCEANSIDE — As quickly as the newly-adopted city charter was OK’d by City Council an amendment to the charter may be put on the June ballot.In a 3-2 vote Feb. 15, City Council directed the city attorney to draft a charter amendment that it will vote on at a special City Council meeting Feb. 29.
The proposed charter amendment will establish numbered council seats to be elected to, call for a first round and runoff election for candidates who receive less than 50 percent of votes, and limit special elections outside of June or November to mail-in ballots only.
Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted against the proposed charter amendment.
“It’s a train that I didn’t realize left the platform,” Sanchez said. “There was no discussion. There were no staff reports.”
“They did it again without any public input,” Wood said. “There were 14 items (initially proposed). Some were possible with review.”
Councilman Gary Felien called for the special City Council meeting Feb. 15 and initially proposed more than a dozen amendments to the city charter.
After community input and no council discussion, Felien narrowed his recommendation to one amendment.
The final proposed amendment asks council candidates to name the numbered council seat they are running for when two seats are open, instead of all candidates running in a race for either of the two seats.
It also calls for candidates to win by a majority vote of more than 50 percent.
City Attorney John Mullen said the proposed charter amendment can be drafted, but the timeline is short to do so, have it voted on by council and have all materials in to the Registrar of Voters by March 9 for the June election.
“Basically it needs to be drafted tomorrow,” Mullen said.
Some residents support the proposed charter amendment.
“The city of Oceanside overwhelmingly voted in the charter,” Tom Morrow, an Oceanside resident, said. “We need to address things in a more big-city fashion. Numbered council seats is a good item to address. Election by 50 percent or more is the way it should be.”
There was also community support for the formation of a citizen advisory committee on charter amendments. Felien recommended that each council member appoint two citizens to the committee, but after no council discussion, he did not include establishing a citizen advisory committee in his proposed charter amendment.
Other suggestions shared by residents were not to adopt a proposed strong mayor form of government, and to allow more time to discuss and consider charter amendments before they are brought to a citizen vote.
The rush to put a charter amendment on the June ballot was the chief concern of many residents who spoke.
“This is the poorest timing in the world for this to be brought forward,” Joan Brubaker, an Oceanside resident, said. “There’s too much on the plate. I’m not much in favor of anything on this.”
“Here we go again,” Ellenor Moore, an Oceanside resident, said. “This is far too important to be rushed through without citizen review and input. KFF (Councilmen Jerry Kern, Felien and Jack Feller) are loading up the ballot in an attempt to grab more power and a place in office for themselves.”