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Inside Oceanside: Recalling the many recalls

“I don’t recall.” 

Former Bush administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez used that phrase 72 times in senate hearings over his alleged misuse of the Patriot Act.

That phrase, or something similar, was also used extensively by Ronald Reagan in the Iran Contra hearings, and by any number of Nixon’s Watergate cronies.

But make no mistake about it. In Oceanside we DO recall!

I can’t think of any other North County coastal city that has ever put a city councilmember recall on the ballot.

In the last 32 years there have been four Oceanside City Council recall attempts that earned ballot certification. Two successfully yanked councilmembers off the council. Two did not.

In 1981 councilmembers Bill Bell and Ray Burgess were recalled when followers of newly elected Councilmember Melba Bishop, flush with fresh ideas about new, clean government, alleged these two were good old boys who used the scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours setup too much. Did they deserve to actually get recalled? That’s a good question.

Then Bishop herself, who successfully got two of her friends elected in 1990, was served with recall papers the next year. Jerry Kern’s recall was on the ballot in 2009. Both of those recalls were completely unfounded. Neither Bishop nor Kern did anything that rose to a level of a recallable offense. But the yearlong mud slinging that resulted from Bishop’s recall ended up hurting her in 1992 when she barely lost reelection.

Kern’s recall on the other hand was a godsend.

It made him a hero who fought back the worthless recall and gave him a push as he won reelection in 2010. In fact that was by far the best thing going for him.

We have two other prominent Oceansiders who have had a date with recall destiny.

Our 12-year Congressman Darrell Issa spearheaded the successful 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis. It was clear to many insiders that Issa wanted to clear the deck so that he could himself run for governor.

That potential candidacy became stillborn when Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped up to the plate. The obviously ambitious car alarm magnate had already run for U.S. Senate in 1998 but was defeated in the GOP primary by Matt Fong.

Multi-millioniare Issa is now in the news all the time as he uses his chairmanship of the main oversight committee in the House to fight corruption, government waste and misconduct.

He has subpoena power and he isn’t shy about using it.

Issa has become a darling of the Sunday morning, talking head news shows, his name is starting to show up in crossword puzzles, and he’s one of the few token Republicans who regularly make guest appearances on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

He is one of the GOP’s most telegenic leaders and he knows it.

It’s clear to me he would love to use his involvement in the successful recall of Davis to help propel him into some future higher office.

Then there is another Oceanside born-and-raised boy whose picture was on the front page of the U-T on July 11.

That would be “environmental attorney” Marco Gonzales, who now lives in Encinitas with his young family but was raised in Oceanside (along with his sister Lorena Gonzalez who was just elected to the State Assembly from the 80th district).

Marco was one of two attorneys who accompanied former councilwoman Donna Frye in urging Mayor Bob Filner to step down.

If he doesn’t exit of his own accord, you can bet the Gonzalez-executed tar-and-feathering will indeed launch a Filner recall.

I must admit that I was somewhat wary of Marco’s motivation. Marco was a knight in shining armor to many of us who knew he played a key role in snuffing Doug Manchester’s awful development that would have usurped Oceanside’s beachfront, public parkland.

But recently many of his former environmental soul mates in his native Encinitas feel betrayed when he helped a developer successfully skirt environmental laws and get the high-density Desert Rose project planned for Olivenhein past the Encinitas City Council.

Then came this Filner thing.

The U-T wrote: “Gonzalez told KPBS he represents ‘multiple women’ who claim sexual harassment by Filner.”

Great! I thought. Marco goes from environmental attorney to anti-environmental attorney to a Gloria Allred. What, I wondered, is Marco running for? Or is profile elevation simply good for drumming up legal business?

But alas I am told that it was Donna Frye who reached out to Gonzalez, and his involvement in the Filner affair appears genuine although it is a win-win proposition for him.

It’s the “environmental attorney” tag line that many of his conscientious Encinitas neighbors now have a problem with.

That is, of course, not to say he shouldn’t get whatever legal business he wants. It’s the “eco-cred” that is the issue.

Oceanside born and raised, Ken Leighton writes columns for The Coast News, the San Diego Reader and is an Oceanside business owner. He may be reached at

1 comment

Linda Sills July 27, 2013 at 10:48 am

So, you have a problem with recalling a scumbag like Filner? Wow! You also seem to have cognitive dissonance. You like Kern, don’t like Issa, and have no problem with a cave man throw-back like Filner? I think you are confused. You need to read some recent history on how the leviathin of this eco-movement garbage got started. Find the truth and the absolutes of ICLEI, The Wildlands Project and Agenda 21, then write another article.

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