OCEANSIDE — On Super Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly decided to keep the city’s existing system of electing its clerk and treasurer positions, rather than having those positions appointed.
Measure K proposed to allow the city manager to appoint the city clerk and treasurer, rather than have those positions elected by the general public. The measure failed with 22,946 votes (74.54 percent) against and only 7,837 votes (25.46 percent) in favor. Both the clerk and treasurer positions will continue to be elected by city voters to four-year terms.
According to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters website, those in favor of Measure K, including Oceanside Mayor Peter Weiss, and Scott Ashton, CEO of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce, argued that the “growing complexities of municipal governance and finance necessitate highly qualified professionals serving as city clerk and treasurer,” and appointing people to the positions would ensure this.
Supporters of the ballot measure also pointed out that the city’s $350 million-plus investment fund should not be trusted to someone “based on their ability to win an election.”
They also cited the National Bureau of Economic Research’s study concluding that an appointed, rather than elected, treasurer reduces city borrowing costs between 13% and 23%.
According to the NBER, “appointed city treasurers were much better at getting lower interest rates. One reason may be that appointed treasurers often have higher levels of education (often an MBA or MPP degree) than elected treasurers do.”
Weiss, Deputy Mayor Jack Feller and former elected City Clerk Zack Beck supported Measure K. Councilmember Chris Rodriguez also supported making the positions appointed, but said he ultimately wanted voters to decide.
“I don’t want to take Oceanside voting rights away, I wanted this to be an opportunity for voters to make a decision,” Rodriguez said. “Our city is growing and changing and we really need someone in there full-time who has the right credentials.”
Currently, the only requirements for a candidate to be elected as treasurer or clerk are to be a resident of Oceanside, a registered voter and at least 18 years old.
Candidates are not required under state law to meet any other minimum educational requirements or professional qualifications, according to the city attorney.
Both the treasurer and clerk are part-time elected positions. If the positions were appointed, they would be full-time.
Rodriguez also noted that most of San Diego County’s other cities have switched to appointing treasurer and clerk positions.
Now that the decision has been made, Rodriguez said he supports the voters’ decision.
Councilmember Esther Sanchez and current City Treasurer Victor Roy wanted the positions to remain elected.
For Sanchez, it made sense to keep the positions elected given the lack of trust the public currently has in its City Council.
“The only way to restore that trust is to be as transparent as possible and allow as much participation from the public as possible,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said the positions are “watchdogs” for the community and policymakers, while both offices have staff who fulfill the qualifications needed to run the city’s finances and record-keeping.
She also pointed out that many of the people on City Council don’t have qualifications in engineering, planning or housing.
“We are talking about elected officials who are primarily charged with making policies and ensuring the trust of the community in government,” Sanchez said. “Otherwise why would you need a City Council if you already have qualified people running the city?”
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son