OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Chamber of Commerce and MiraCosta College held a City Council candidates debate at MiraCosta College on Sept. 6.
Seven candidates vying for two council seats faced off.
The candidates are incumbents Jack Feller and Esther Sanchez, business owner Dana Corso, businessman H. “Chip” Dykes, community volunteer James “Jimmy” Knott, retail clerk Donald Snyder, and civil engineer David Zernik.
Candidates did not have an opportunity to preview the questions.
The forum opened with individual questions that referred to each candidate’s ballot statement.
Feller was asked how he would attract the private sector to create more jobs. He replied that he is committed to bringing businesses to the city and has represented Oceanside at numerous conventions.
Dykes was asked how he would limit government control to make the city more business-friendly. He said he would build city employees’ confidence by ensuring them “we have their back.” Dykes said increased confidence would free employees to do their work.
Zernik was asked about his promise to provide incentive investments to create jobs. He replied that he would make it easier to get a business permit and business license.
Corso was asked how the ACTION group that she is president of unites citizens. She gave several examples of citizens uniting behind issues including the grassroots campaigns that defeated Propositions E and F.
Knott was asked to clarify how he would decentralize government. He suggested empowering citizens in different “townships” to make neighborhood decisions.
Sanchez was asked about her promise to bring $100 million in jobs and infrastructure improvements to Oceanside. She gave a few examples including her action as coastal commissioner to secure funds from Interstate 5 widening plans to improve the Buena Vista Lagoon.
When it got to Snyder it was noted that his candidate’s statement was blank. Then he was asked how he would encourage businesses to open in Oceanside. He suggested reducing business license rates and added it was better to have lower rates than no businesses at all.
Then all candidates were asked why should businesses open in Oceanside, what was their stand on outsourcing city services, and what did they plan to accomplish in office.
Most candidates were optimistic in their responses to why businesses should open in Oceanside.
“Oceanside is a large town with a small-town feel,” Corso said. “We have a great chamber and a mayor who works very well with city businesses.”
Feller said the process to open a business was friendly and fair.
A few candidates were not so positive.
Zernik said he would like to make the process to open a business easier.
Snyder stated that it would not be his first choice to open a business in Oceanside as 22 percent of downtown businesses are closed.
“Why put a business here if it will be gone in a year or two?” Snyder asked.
Candidates were split about outsourcing city services.
Corso, Sanchez and Snyder said they opposed it and it would cost the city more money.
Zernik said he would consider outsourcing work of departments that were underperforming.
Knott said he would support outsourcing noncritical services such as non-emergency ambulance transportation.
Dykes and Feller also said they would consider outsourcing if it saved the city money.
In reply to being asked what they want to accomplish in office, Knott and Dykes said they want to achieve a more amicable, well run City Council.
Feller said he would like to streamline city processes.
Corso said she would work to preserve resources.
Zenik shared a list of goals that included lowering water bills, helping the homeless and improving people’s quality of life through the arts.
Sanchez shared her plans for smart growth in which city zoning stays as is and businesses are encouraged to open.
Snyder also said he would encourage new businesses and jobs.
There were a couple of questions that stumped a candidate or two.
When Dykes was asked, “What question do you wish I asked you?” his immediate reply was that he was not prepared for the question that was not a question. He followed up by talking about the importance of city commissions.
Snyder struggled when he was asked how he would balance interests in a decision that benefited most of the city, but negatively influenced a neighborhood. It took him some time to answer the question that did not offer a specific example. His final reply was that he would find out what the problem was for the neighborhood group.
A candidate forum for MiraCosta College board of trustees was held earlier that same day.
A debate for mayor candidates and Tri-City Hospital Board candidates will be held at MiraCosta College Sept. 13.