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Charter city put on June ballot

OCEANSIDE — Council majority voted to put a “cut and pasted” charter city proposal on the June 8 special election ballot at the Dec. 16 council meeting. Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez voted no on the item.
The charter city proposal was a late addition to the agenda of the last council meeting attended by Councilman Rocky Chavez before his resignation was effective Dec. 18. Chavez supported the proposed charter city in a predictable 3-2 vote.
Wood said he is displeased with the rush to put the charter city on the ballot that sidestepped community input and council review. “This item is explosive at best,” Wood said. “There was no preview to it.”
The proposed charter maintains Oceanside’s council-manager form of government in which the council establishes the policies of the city and the city manager carries them out. The big change is that the charter city allows city governing to be more defined by the charter document rather than state or national laws.
Wood said the wording in the proposed charter raises many legal questions that need to be vetted. “I have dozens and dozens of questions,” Wood said. “It’s being forced down our throats without any scrutiny. Lets go through the standard process.”
Wood said he is concerned that the city attorney did not write the proposed charter.
Councilman Jack Feller said the charter wording came from other city charters. “It’s a boiler plate of Vista, Carlsbad and Fresno, with attorney input,” Feller said.
Feller said he consulted Bill Barber and Doug Sain of Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego on the document and had a brief discussion with city attorney John Mullen on document wording.
One concern city attorney Mullen said he has is with the wording of section 305 that states political contributions cannot be deducted from employee wages without city authorization. Mullen said it will not be legal to enforce the restrictions with all present union contracts. There is wording in the charter that does allow for exceptions.
Barber and Sain of Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego said they provided Feller with the charter documents of other cities to help compose the Oceanside charter. Barber said the Oceanside charter city document does not say anything out of the ordinary. Barber said all paragraphs are cut and pasted from other cities except section 305. “I don’t know where that came from,” Barber said.
The fact that Associated Builders and Contractors members provided information for the charter city raises a red flag for many. “This thing is pro-developer there’s no doubt about it,” Wood said.
Feller said the proposed charter city does not leave out unions. “Union contractors can still bid for city projects,” Feller said. “We’re portrayed as strictly being developer-friendly. Developers do pay the bills. We need progress to move forward.”
Feller said the proposed charter city will increase local control at a time when the state is not making prudent decisions. “It gives more local control, more efficiency, more jobs,” Feller said. “It strips away special interest rules. It more efficiently delivers city services.”
Section 302 in the charter also drew attention from a lot of people. The section states that city contracts are not required to pay workers the prevailing wage.
“Getting rid of prevailing wage is anti-competitive,” Evan McLaughlin, political and legislative director of San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, said. “Everyone should be clear about the genesis of this. I don’t think you’re targeting the right people.”
The benefits of prevailing wage providing workers a reasonable wage and training opportunities were shared.
“Prevailing wage laws create opportunities for apprenticeship,” Tom Lemmon, business manager of San Diego County Building and Construction Trade Council, said. Lemmon shared the benefits of the Veterans in Piping and Helmets to Hardhats apprenticeships that help military veterans gain employment. “Take away prevailing wage and those opportunities would go away,” Lemmon said.
Vista is currently facing a legal battle with the State Building and Construction Trade Council over its charter city waive of prevailing wages. “There are real legal problems here risking significant litigation,” Ricardo Ochoa, attorney with the Law Offices of Dennis J. Hayes, said.
The wording on the charter city proposal can be changed up to 88 days before the election. That leaves a few months to make any changes before the June 8 special election. A charter city has been proposed several times in the past and has been voted down by Oceanside citizens.