OCEANSIDE — Long-standing Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood will run for re-election in November. A week ago no one thought he faced a challenger. Now mayor candidate Oscar Ortega has thrown his hat in the ring.
Jim Wood, 68, has served on the City Council for 14 years, 12 of those as mayor. Prior to that he was an Oceanside police detective for 31 years.
Wood has lived in Oceanside for 62 years.
“I’m pretty knowledgeable about the city,” Wood said.
He is married, has three adult daughters and four grandchildren.
Wood said he appreciates being mayor and is running to finish up ongoing efforts to improve the city.
He said he would like to see Oceanside move forward and sustain a healthy recovery from the national economic downturn.
The city’s positive recovery includes completion of beach and harbor developments that have seen delays, as well as downtown mixed-use development.
“We have a lot of building, pressure from the federal and state for affordable housing, a lot of construction down by the beach area, we’re moving in a good direction,” Wood said.
Public safety remains a priority.
Road expansion of Interstate 5, and increasing the drivability of state Route 76 also need to be seen through.
As far as Coast Highway improvements that are being considered, Wood said it’s a wait and see on public feedback. He added that feedback so far in the test pilot area, where lane reduction is being tried, has caused traffic to bottleneck.
Wood said he sees the strengths of the city as its beachfront location next to Camp Pendleton, and the wealth of diversity, families and senior volunteers it holds.
Oscar Ortega has a personal, sincere reason for seeking the office of mayor. His younger brother was the victim of a recent stabbing in the Crown Heights neighborhood. The tragedy compelled Ortega to run for office and bring attention to ongoing, unresolved violence in the city.
“Where I come from, $20,000 a year residents see violence more than anything else,” Ortega said.
Ortega said the city’s low-income neighborhoods are not getting a voice in decision-making, or the needed resources to stop violent crimes.
He said the city seems to focus on beach and downtown development without a clue to neighborhood needs.
“A lot of people want to see change,” Ortega said. “All we do is go to school and work, and feel our voices are not heard. I want to motivate people to speak up, they do matter.”
Ortega, 30, works in logistics and freight management. He has lived in Oceanside his whole life, and is the very proud dad of a 7-year-old daughter.
His priority for the city is to improve its economy so there will be funds for needed road safety improvements and additional police officers.
Ortega said he is encouraged by the city’s growing tourism industry. He added now is the time to make a decision on Coast Highway improvements and move forward with implementation.
Ortega said he does not see any of the current plans for Coast Highway as being the best solution to slow down traffic and benefit local businesses. He said more consideration should be given to how to move people along the highway without getting into a car, like a trolley system. He also would like to look at parking options beyond the highway corridor.
Ortega said out of the box ideas need to be considered to significantly move the city forward.
He would also like to implement more solutions to help city homeless, and again sees improving the city’s economy as the best way to secure resources to address the problem.
Ortega said the city’s strengths are its pier, beachfront location and ethnic diversity.
“Samoan, African-American, Mexican-American, Asian, we all have a part in this city,” Ortega said.
Ortega said as elected mayor he will make a difference by pushing forward the potential of the beachfront downtown, and bringing a different point of view to the table that will consider out of the box ideas to better the city. He said he will also renew the urgency to improve public safety.