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Election: Oceanside and Chula Vista Roundup


We continue our primary election coverage with a look at Chula Vista's Proposition G, and Oceanside's Prop K and City Council race.

GLORIA PENNER (Host): But now let’s take a quick trip north to Oceanside, which is having some fiery election issues of its own. And I’m going to start with a caller, and the reason is that Fredi from North County has been on the line holding on ever since the beginning of the show, waiting for us to get to North County. So, Fredi, this is it, this is your moment.

FREDI (Caller, Oceanside): Thank you so much, Gloria. Earlier in your show you asked us to express our concerns about voting generally and I wanted to answer that. I wanted to raise a specific concern about one of the candidates for sheriff, Jay La Suer, and then a general concern about the absence of a recognition of how the growing tide of racism against Latinos generally in our country but, certainly, in North County is being used to support at least three of the candidates presently under review. Jay La Suer, candidate for sheriff, is tied to extremist groups like the San Diego Minute Men. And I won’t go into that because the Minute Men have been much discredited. But even the two frontrunners for supervisor, Gronke and Horn, both support laws like those passed in Arizona. So we are – there are many of us, in particular – I’m a Mexican-American and so my concerns are even more heightened but we’re very worried that things are going to get worse for us in North County. We have a very racist city council and we struggle with these sorts of issues all the time. And I thank you for allowing me to put that – these concerns on the table.

PENNER: Fredi, when you say racist city council, which city you talking about?

FREDI: Well, we’re – I’m talking about Vista.

PENNER: Vista, okay.

FREDI: I live in Vista.


FREDI: Yeah.

PENNER: …very good. All right, Fredi, thank you so much and I’m going to ask Kent Davy to respond since he’s with the North County Times.

KENT DAVY (Editor, North County Times): She’s correct about La Suer’s position and if you look on Jay La Suer’s website, you will see connections back to various kind of what I would consider anti-immigrant kind of material, groups and associations. He is clearly running on the right edge of that issue and kind of a very, very – I think Scott or somebody mentioned earlier, you know, Joe Arpaio kind of mold of we’re going to be tough on immigrants all the way through. I think that is his principle calling card in this election. And I think it will be very interesting to see whether or not that works to pull substantial votes away from the other two candidates because I think he’s kind of a wild card in that.

PENNER: Okay, let’s turn now to what Michael was raising before, this whole resurgence of the labor dynamic in the county. We are seeing that happening now in Oceanside as well where Oceanside has Proposition K on the ballot and this is a proposition that would turn Oceanside from a general law city to a charter city. Now that may sound like Inside Baseball gobbledygook but it is contentious because of the labor issue. Explain.

DAVY: Okay. In Oceanside’s tangle of politics, Oceanside being no second place in political messes, last fall one of its sitting councilmen stepped out and took a job with the state, that was Rocky Chavez. As he did, his last act was to agree with his two colleagues, Jerry Kern and Jack Feller, to put a charter ballot – charter city issue on this ballot. The charter itself, rather than being written in some sort of open process, was a document that Councilman Jack Feller and his associates or his allies in the building industry put together themselves and put it on the table, put it at – the three-two vote put it on the ballot. Rocky left and went to Sacramento. That left the council at a two-two split. The two-two split of Jim Wood and Esther Sanchez are very much on the left side, a position I think and supported by public service unions, Jack Feller and Jerry Kern on the right side. In this whole mess, was the recall election last November of Jerry Kern, which was unsuccessful but was supported by Wood and Sanchez and labor against them. So…

PENNER: But, in other words, labor failed to get that recall election through and what you have now is a paralyzed city council. You have two for labor, two for business, and now they’re going to fill that fifth seat to break the tie.

DAVY: That’s exactly right. And I talked to – I’ve talked to several of the insiders on the pro-charter position about what they – what was going on, what they were thinking. And what they – what was explained to me was they thought that the Senate – the GOP primary races in the Senate and the gubernatorial would turn out enough interest in Republican voters that there would be Republicans come out. Not so much for the Democrats. And they could slide this charter thing through and perhaps elect or reestablish their majority on the council with the council race.

PENNER: That is a very interesting point. Michael and Scott, I’d like you to reflect on that. I mean, can – would we see, let’s say, the statewide races that might pull out a bunch of Republicans to vote for U.S. Senate and for governor that might, indeed, just change the dynamic in all of these races that involve labor issues?

MICHAEL SMOLEN (Politics Editor, San Diego Union-Tribune): You know, I mean, it certainly – there’s more Republican interest because of those races. To the degree it changes the dynamic, I don’t know. It certainly makes it harder for a Democratic or a labor push than it would in the general election when you would have, you know, greater competition, you know, among Democrats and Republicans and so forth. But I think, you know, Kent, is one of the issues with this charter amendment kind of bringing it back to this whole issue of it would allow the city to avoid prevailing wage kind of things and labor benefits like we talked about from – that would happen with Prop G in Chula Vista. And that seems to be one of the big rubs of this.

DAVY: That is the principle argument for the charter is that one of the council members did a – or his staff did a study and determined that for existing projects in the City of Oceanside, they could save $2 million in labor costs. Well, this is a city that’s dealing with a $10 million, two-year budget deficit and is struggling to figure out how to close that gap. So there’s a lot at stake for these guys.

PENNER: So let’s round this out a little bit. So we have labor issues that have surfaced in Oceanside and in the South Bay. Do we have similar issues going on in the City of San Diego that might be affecting the way the races are being run?

SCOTT LEWIS (CEO, Well, think about it. Just recently, the – well, not recently but Lorena Gonzalez is now the head of the local AFL-CIO and think about what that means. She was a former politician herself, had tried to get into politics. She was the political director for the union and then she ascended to the top spot. And I think that that – there’s a reason why that was. It’s that labor right now is a politician and legal, lawyerly effort. It’s to get laws that are beneficial and to oppose laws that are against what they define as their interests and that. And I think that that’s why these battles everywhere are being played out, is because what they’re trying to do is codify their power through laws. You know, just like I said, the power of a union is to organize and obstruct. That’s the fundamental power of a union. And if you can codify that power in laws, then that’s – then you can have lawyers enforce those laws. And that’s why it’s such an interesting dynamic. On the other side, they want to codify the laws that show that they’re not as powerful and so this is a struggle. It’s a political struggle right now and it’s going to be playing out for many, many years.


DAVY: The elephant in the room in all of this issue of politics with labor and at least in the city councils are the city pensions, the pension funds for public service employees. You had the City of Carlsbad move as a first step among all the, at least the North County cities to impose pension cuts on new-hires and require employees to start making contributions. That is one of the drivers inside the Oceanside City Council race between – and the two frontrunners in that race would be Lloyd Prosser and Chuck Lowery. Prosser is a business consultant, retired Marine. Lowery is a head of business as a bakery – as a baker. They more or less line up on the pro-business side, the pro-labor side, and the real issue on the table is how much contribution and – will the city employees make, and will there be a two-tier pension system.

PENNER: Are there any indications as to which one, let’s say, has gotten more money or is ahead in the polls or what?

DAVY: Prosser has had – has raised considerably more money than Lowery. Lowery, this is the either second or third time that Lowery has run. He finished a very close third in the last election, so many people suggest that they think he has some name recognition that might carry him over but…

PENNER: Just quickly, are the – We said there was a divided city council.

DAVY: Yes.

PENNER: Are those who are identified with labor supporting Lowery and those who are identified with business…

DAVY: Yes, yes.

PENNER: …supporting Prosser?

DAVY: Yes. Yeah, no…

PENNER: It’s that clear?

DAVY: Yes, absolutely.

PENNER: Okay, Michael.

SMOLENS: I just, you know, getting back to sort of the countywide picture, I think what we’re seeing is that labor has been successful over recent times to get people elected, particularly as they – like the City of San Diego went to district elections. Labor’s influence has increased and so you’re starting to see these ballot measures to try to preempt or make it more difficult for labor-friendly councils, should they get majorities there to enact these projects and these contracts that with labor benefits. It doesn’t, you know, if not bend them outright, just make them more difficult because I think that’s what’s going on here, certainly with Proposition G in Chula Vista and, to an extent…

LEWIS: Okay.

SMOLENS: …Prop K up in Oceanside.

PENNER: In the seconds we have left, is this all being driven by the rotten economy that we’re in, the slow economy, by the need for jobs? Is that what’s really the driving force in this election? What do you think, Michael?

SMOLENS: Oh, you know, I think these issues come up regardless of the economy. I think that adds a certain intensity and an argument on the people trying to, you know, work against the labor agreements saying this will open up jobs for more people, not just labor folks and that’s, I think, an appeal when jobs are tight.

PENNER: You get five seconds, Scott. You get the other five, Kent.

LEWIS: I think this is driven by the type of economy that we have that the political structure is governed in this county largely by the dynamic of construction and development and that has a lot of people who make money on that and who work on those projects…

PENNER: Okay, Scott.

LEWIS: …and so that dynamic is going to play out as long as that is the driving force of…

PENNER: And the driving force now is time, so, Kent, we owe you.

DAVY: It’s city pensions. It’s all public service pensions…

PENNER: Thanks.

DAVY: …and that’s the whole.

PENNER: Thanks so much. It’s Kent Davy, Scott Lewis and Michael Smolens, a yeoman’s job. Editors Roundtable, I’m Gloria…

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