OCEANSIDE — A citizen action group in Oceanside is prepping residents for an upcoming workshop to discuss campaign contributions, aides, pay and term limits for City Council.
The group, Represent Oceanside, is a local chapter of Represent Us, a national organization that advocates for transparent and ethical government and equal access for public participation in government.
Earlier in August, the group held its first “community meeting” to discuss the future of Oceanside’s governance and where it currently stands today.
During that meeting, attendees and volunteers decided on what they thought were the top three problems with Oceanside’s governance: the lack of an official ethics code, no cap for campaign contributions and the lack of a “citizens action committee.”
According to Joe Hill, a Represent Oceanside volunteer, though there are certain ordinances here and there in the City Code that discuss conflict of interest, there is “nothing as far as a code of conduct or ethics document.”
“We do not have one in this city,” he said.
Hill noted that city’s Planning Commission has its own ethics code.
Hill also said that forming a citizen action committee would help more of residents’ issues within the city be heard. He has a problem with how, currently, the only way an item can be presented to council is to have two council members sign off on an item before placing it on the agenda.
A citizens action committee, according to Hill, would be a five-member group comprised of members from each of the city’s new districts and one at-large person that works with City Council to place items on the agenda.
Other issues the meeting discussed included appointment reform, something that Represent Oceanside’s co-leader Arleen Hammerschmidt is passionate about.
“The problem with the city regarding appointment reform is that there’s no standard way to do it, whether it’s for filling a vacancy for treasurer or filling a vacancy for a council member … or filling the vacancy for the mayor,” she said.
Hammerschmidt was referencing a series of recent appointments to elected positions in the city.
In January, council appointed former Oceanside police officer Ryan Keim to its vacant council seat. Later in February, council appointed Zeb Navarro, a Palomar College broadcasting instructor and radio station manager, as city clerk.
In January 2018, Peter Weiss was appointed to his current role as mayor.
“Every time those seats were filled it was by a different process and the council made it up on their own with very little opportunity for public input or much less participation,” Hammerschmidt said, adding that she couldn’t get a full list of people who had applied for the last council vacancy.
Hammerschmidt wants to see an ordinance to create a standard way to fill vacancies so the public knows what to expect and exactly where there is room for public input.
“When we know what to expect, everything is a lot calmer,” she said. “We trust our government more.”
Represent Oceanside’s next community meeting is on Sept. 7 at 10:30 a.m. in the Oceanside Mission Branch Library Community Room. During that meeting, the group will figure out its strategy of highlighting its top concerns with city governance at the Sept. 18 council workshop, which will discuss pay, aides, term limits and campaign contributions for City Council members.
Photo Caption: Represent Oceanside volunteer Michael Odegaard highlights the importance of transparent government during a meeting that aims to inform residents about city governance issues. Photo by Samantha Taylor.
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