OCEANSIDE — While it is well ahead of the July 14 start date for candidates to file their nomination papers for the November City Council race, former Councilman Chuck Lowery announced on Facebook that he plans to run.
Lowery previously ran for City Council in 2008, June 2010 and November 2010.
He won the June 2010 race, and served on City Council for five months. In November of that year, Gary Felien, who currently holds a council seat, defeated him.
Lowery said he is compelled to run because of city giveaways he sees going to big developers.
Lowery said he is all for thoughtful downtown development and major hotels coming to Oceanside, but does not agree with the 15-year fee deferral the current City Council approved for hotel developers.
He said this courtesy to big developers puts off collecting needed funds that could pay for maintenance on water, sewer and roadway infrastructure the hotels use. It then puts the burden of paying for infrastructure maintenance on residents and smaller businesses during the 15-year wait.
“The current City Council is pouring money down the drain for four years, and I can’t take it any longer,” Lowery said.
“We’re behaving like we are a bank, giving away interest-free loans to big developers.”
One critical need the city faces is funding repairs for the La Salina Wastewater Treatment Plant. Lowery points to this expense as one example of the importance to collect developer fees up front.
“We should have the money to maintain it,” Lowery said. “It’s just about to break. There could be huge penalties.”
Lowery said keeping city infrastructure up to par benefits all residents and businesses.
He added the need to maintain infrastructure was a lesson learned when he voted against repairs on the Haymar sewage pipe while on City Council. The pipe broke, spilled sewage, and cost the city fines, cleanup expenses and the price of the emergency pipe repair.
He said the council majority over-focuses on downtown development, with the hope it will benefit the city down the road. He added the focus should remain on overall city prosperity.
Lowery said it is his priority to balance the city budget long term, and build healthy city reserves.
“If we don’t develop a viable economic engine, we’re going to be in trouble.”
Felien and eight-year incumbent Jerry Kern both confirmed they would run for re-election.
Felien said he is a fiscal conservative who will continue to keep an eye on the budget and employee pensions.
“My issue is fiscal solvency, budget and pensions (reform),” Felien said. “We cannot afford anything else — parks, streets infrastructure — without long-term financial solvency. We need to make sure we’re focused on the long view.”
He said city reserves of $12 million were squandered down to zero by the previous City Council.
He also criticized earlier labor contract agreements.
Felien said a major challenge for Oceanside and all California cities is anticipated increases in CalPERS pension costs.
He said frugal budgeting and continuing to improve the city’s economy are critical.
Kern said he shares many of the same beliefs about city governance as Felien, but is more of a more a social moderate.
Kern said he decided to run for re-election because the business community asked him to run.
He added he is pleased city revenues have increased over past three years. There has been a steady increase in taxes and TOT and service fees collected.
The rewards for residents have been increased quality of life and added safety.
“We restored services, put more cops on the streets, we have a (police Homeless Outreach Team) HOT Team to deal homelessness,” Kern said.
“We’ve done a very good job with fiscal responsibility.”
Kern said the November election would be his final City Council run.
Candidates have from July 14 to Aug. 8 to file their nomination papers.