OCEANSIDE — Shortly after Mayor Jim Wood won reelection the Council majority of Jerry Kern, Gary Felien and Jack Feller worked dogmatically to remove Wood from his seat on the SANDAG board. A 3-2 vote Jan. 2 finalized his removal.
“The SANDAG representative should represent the majority view of the city,” Felien said. “The Mayor has been critically disappointing.”
Felien criticized Wood for not securing SANDAG funds for pro-growth roadways, in particular the Rancho del Oro interchange at state Route 78 and Melrose Drive connection between state Routes 76 and SR 78.
“We all need to work together to do our share in the regional growth structure,” Felien said. “I don’t believe the Mayor shares those views.”
Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez explained that residents and regional agencies have strongly opposed the Rancho del Oro interchange and Melrose Drive extension projects, which are controversial and unlikely to receive funding.
Wood and Sanchez also said the post-election SANDAG board will be more likely to lean towards funding mass transportation projects and railways rather than expanding roadways.
“There’s a motion on the dais to remove a very, very popular mayor from SANDAG,” Sanchez said. “We’re loosing our public relations with other cities. It’s embarrassing.”
“There’s no reason to focus on one or two highly controversial projects,” Sanchez added. “There are positive projects that would receive funding.”
Ten citizens spoke on the item.
An Oceanside resident and one Fallbrook resident supported the Council majority’s view to appoint a new SANDAG representative who would push for dollars to expand thoroughfares.
The eight other speakers opposed removing Wood from SANDAG. They said the Council majority was grabbing power and not listening to voters.
“The voters of Oceanside are the majority — not three men on council,” Linda Walshaw, vice president of ACTION citizen’s group, said.
Following Wood’s removal from Sandag questions still loom on what will happen next.
Feller is the alternate to replace Wood on the SANDAG board, but Wood said a Council vote might be needed to find his replacement and new alternatives. He suggested the vote to remove him also nixed appointed alternates.
Legal actions might also halt the process of someone new taking the SANDAG seat. Wood said he has secured legal representation that is looking into the procedures that were used to remove him from SANDAG.
He said he vows to represent citizens who voted him into office.
“It really hurts voters,” Wood said. “That’s why I stood up and said this is not right.”
The legality of the series of rushed meetings to gain the Dec. 12 vote to empower Council members to initiate appointments and recalls of city representatives to regional positions is being seriously questioned.
City Council will revote on the amendment Jan. 16.
Wood said residents are also taking steps to right the situation and will likely begin collecting signatures to overturn the City Charter and return Oceanside to a general law city.
“The bad person in this is the charter,” Wood said. “They (Council majority) pushed the charter through and it’s given them power to do things they couldn’t do under general law.”
If 8,300 signatures are collected the City Charter will go to a citizen’s vote.