Trying to pick Election Day winners from among the horde of candidates racing for a place on Oceanside’s City Council may be as difficult as picking a winner at the track.
On almost every street corner, an array of campaign signs competes for voters’ attention.
On Nov. 8, voters will choose a mayor and two council members to represent them for the next four years from a pool of 14 council candidates and a field of five mayoral candidates.
Incumbent Mayor Larry Bagley and incumbent Councilmen Sam Williamson and Walt Gilbert have hit the forum circuit, boasting of the a revitalized beachfront that has made the Strand, once a seat of crime and vandalism, a focal point for condominium projects and a new municipal pier.
Challengers, however, say the beachfront has come at the expense of the rest of the city. And many of the contenders say City Council has done little to support the Police Department in fighting crime.
The jockeying for position will soon be over, and, when it is, Mayor Bagley hopes the voters will have given him the mandate to lead Oceanside for a third consecutive term.
Bagely, 60, said he plans to find ways to ease traffic snarls in booming North County and pledged efforts to keep improvements on Highways 76 and 78 on schedule.
“I’d also like to get some culture back in the city,” Bagley said. “I’d like to have a marine museum and a performing arts theater for Oceanside.”
Addressing the city’s crime problems, Bagley said he recognizes the Police Department’s deficiencies and said the city is already hiring more officers.
He is being challenged by airline pilot Don Rodee, 47; real estate broker Margaret McKenna, 61; real estate lawyer Lorraine Rosenfeld, 31, and Abe Edlin, 71, who hosts a local radio show.
The mayoral candidates as well as council challengers have relentlessly attacked the incumbents, accusing them of failing to provide sufficient equipment and manpower for the police. According to an independent consultant’s report completed last month, the department is critically undermanned and suffering from operational problems.
Officers Complain of No Support
Interviews conducted with police department members by the consultants revealed that many feel that they have received little support from City Hall and that there is a lack of leadership and long-range goals.
“We have to put our priorities in order and get more help for the department,” said Melba Bishop, 46, a medical administrator and council candidate. “We’re losing our officers to other organizations. We have got to address the morale factor. . . . They feel like they have no advocate on the City Council.”
Bishop served on the City Council from 1980 to 1984, but left the council four years ago when she unsuccessfully challenged Bagley in a mayoral election.
Other council candidates, including Jim Willis, 65, a retired San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy, Tim Peckham, 31, a homeowners’ association manager, Richard Lyon, 65, planning commission chairman and D.A. Oak, 48, a real estate broker, have pledged to bolster the police force.
“One of my biggest concerns that prompted me to run is the council’s inattention to residents east of El Camino Real,” said Augie de la Rosa, 50, an investigator for the district attorney’s office.
“I’ve heard first-hand from police officers that they spend 75% of their time in the downtown area and by the pier, and only 25% in the east side of the city,” De La Rosa said. “The City Council has all the police officers in downtown because they are trying to satisfy the request of the businessmen in that area. They’re being pressured by the businessmen, and that’s why the residents’ concerns are not being heard.”
Hollis Skinner, 47, a city planning commissioner, voiced what is a standard council challenger’s promise.
“Unless the department has an adequate number of people, it will fall short of its goal of protecting the public. Unless you have high visibility, the department won’t serve as a deterrent to criminals. I would favor hiring more manpower,” he said.
Other candidates trying to unseat Williamson, 53, and Gilbert, 78, are Ralph Caballero, 31, a mechanic and member of the human rights commission; Richard Kratcoski, 33, a harbor maintenance worker; Shel Conway, 58, owner of a floor covering business, and Ray E. Metcalf, 55, a photographer.
Candidate Nancy York, 39, a tax attorney and founder of CIVIC, a grass-roots group favoring slow growth, has accused the council of reckless development practices. And other challengers have questioned the success and direction of the city’s redevelopment program.
On the campaign stump, incumbents have pointed to the city’s new pier, a revitalized harbor and the building of the San Miguel condominium projects as proof of a well-run redevelopment. Although praising the accomplishments, several challengers have questioned how efficiently the city has guided such projects.
“We’re getting some good developments, but we should have been able to get a lot more,” said Lyon, the planning commission chairman. Slow progess made by the redevelopment program has contributed to the city’s failure to attract a major hotel builder to Oceanside, Lyon said. In July, redevelopment efforts suffered a setback when lack of financing forced developers to withdraw from a hotel complex designed to bolster the city’s tourism industry.
“If we had placed more emphasis on our redevelopment program and cleaned up more of the city, we definitely would have been able to get a a first-rate hotel project,” Lyon said.
De La Rosa also criticized redevelopment’s slow pace.
“They keep referring to the pier, and the San Miguel
condominiums but those projects have been on the drawing board for a long time,” he said. “Let’s not forget, the redevelopment agency was established in 1975 . . . if that’s all they’ve been able to do, I would say their rate of progess has been unsatisfactory.”
De La Rosa said he would like to redirect the redevelopment agency toward improving entrance areas into the city--the Hill Street and Harbor Drive exits off Interstate 5. “The most important thing is to make travelers stop and come into Oceanside. I would like to go after a restaurant row design to enhance the entrance-ways.”
Bishop, who was on the City Council when the redevelopment agency arranged the deal to build the San Miguel condominiums, said she was pleased with the revitalization effort, but said, “I’d like to streamline the redevelopment process so these projects can come on faster.”