Vote on a Proposed Oceanside Charter, Measure K (June 2010)
With the adoption of the city charter, Oceanside became legally recognized within California as a "charter city" rather than as a "general law" city. Charter cities have more independent autonomy and authority than general law cities. Fresno, Vista and Carlsbad are charter cities. A city charter has approximately the same relationship to a city's governance as a state constitution does to a state.
- Oceanside City Council member Jack Feller supported the measure. Councilmember Feller said that adopting the charter would save Oceanside money because it would free the city from state control and give it more flexibility in awarding contracts. He particularly mentioned that from his perspective, it would be good if Oceanside had the flexibility not to have to participate in the state government's mandate for cities to pay prevailing, or union-scale, wages on municipal projects. Council member Feller, who authored the Charter, used identical versions from neighboring cities to ensure legal compliance, and added three additional sections "to protect taxpayers by allowing fair and open competition to reduce costs for public construction projects and contracts...Currently, well over $30 million of Oceanside’s funds are subject to prevailing wages as a general law city. This amount would be exempted from prevailing wages under the proposed charter, saving millions of dollars for Oceanside...The estimates of savings by adopting a charter in Oceanside range from 6 percent to 37 percent on each city project, depending on the type. Even with a conservative estimate of 10 percent savings on $30 million, the city of Oceanside would save $3 million." Feller also said, "The charter ensures worker protections for both contractors and employees, both union and nonunion, so all qualified and state-certified workers have the same rights and opportunities to compete for municipal construction projects...Worker protections are also taxpayer protections. The added costs of union benefit agreements include higher labor costs and decreased efficiency by interfering with general contractor jurisdiction decisions and existing contractor labor agreements."
- The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association endorsed a yes vote. President Jon Coupal wrote, "The proposed Oceanside City Charter is good for Oceanside Taxpayers because it lowers costs for public works and municipal services, and it provides more local control and less intrusion from Sacramento politicians."
- Oceanside City Treasurer Gary Felien and Oceanside Taxpayers Association President Mickey McKenna supported a "yes" vote on Proposition K, saying, "The charter gives Oceanside citizens more local control, thereby protecting us from Sacramento politicians...The city currently has a $29 million annual public works budget that requires paying prevailing wages. If the charter passes, the city (and taxpayers) will save $3 million to $9 million annually...For example, the city spent $10 million on the El Corazon Senior Center. Because of the additional $2 million of prevailing wage expense, the kitchen portion of the project could not be completed...The charter will prohibit the creation of project labor agreements that add an additional 40 percent to the cost of any project by restricting bidding to only a few politically connected, overpriced union shop contractors...Charter cities, just like general law cities, require a vote of the people to raise any taxes. This requirement is part of Propositions 13 and 218 in the California Constitution. No charter can overturn this requirement...Restore local control and save taxpayer money by passing the charter ---- Vote YES on K."
- The San Diego County Taxpayers Association endorsed Measure K. The Association's Executive Director, Lani Lutar, said, "...if Oceanside became a charter city, it would not have to require private developers to use union workers for public projects. The city also would be exempt from state public contracting and prevailing wage requirements, and city employees would have to opt in before union dues could be spent for political purposes...Historically, SDCTA has supported municipalities becoming charter cities...Doing so allows citizens to hold government to a higher standard of accountability."
- The Associated Builders and Contractors helped draft the proposed charter, according to their spokesman Bill Baber.
A group called "Citizens Against The Charter" opposed the measure. Nadine Scott and Dixie Bales were co-chairs of the group. Scott, an attorney in Oceanside, said, "This is really a transparent attempt to let the developers determine the future of the city."
Charter cities in California
As of June 2010, when voters weighed in on Measure K, the voters in 117 California cities had previously approved converting to charter city status. Charters that are very similar to the proposed Oceanside charter had been adopted by supermajority vote of voters in 9 of Oceanside's north county neighbors, including:
- Carlsbad with 82% voting yes to convert to a Charter City during the June 2008 election: City of Carlsbad Adoption of a City Charter, Proposition D (June 2008).
- San Marcos adopted a charter in 1967
- Santee with 69.7 percent voting Yes for a Charter during the November 2008 election: (City of Santee Adoption of a City Charter, Proposition P (November 2008)).
- Vista with 67.4 percent voting Yes for a Charter during the Jun 2007 election.
Voters approved converting to charter city status because charter status allows cities "to assume greater power over municipal affairs such as council salaries and other local matters." Under state law, city council salaries are set to rise 10% on January 1, but under a charter, the city council could instead form a committee to help recommend salary levels.
The San Diego County Grand Jury (2001-02) issued a report recommending the county's 14 general law cities adopt charters, maintaining that the "potential benefits" far outweigh any costs. The report noted that charter cities are exempt from state requirements to pay prevailing wages, generally union-scale wages, on city projects, an exemption that can lead to substantial savings. The city of San Marcos, the report said, saved more than $1 million in the eight years since its 1994 charter was enacted because it didn't have to pay union wages on construction contracts.
- Full text of Proposition K
- List of local ballot propositions on the June 8 ballot in San Diego County
- Pass the Charter, website advocating a "yes" vote on Measure K
- San Diego County Taxpayer Association endorsements for the June 8 ballot
- Future of Oceanside on ballot
- Election results
- San Diego Union Tribune, "Oceanside charter ballot measure meets opposition," February 21, 2010
- San Diego Union Tribune, "Oceanside Charter Battle All About Local Control"
- San Diego Union Tribune, "Charter would protect workers and taxpayers"
- North County Times
- San Diego Union Tribune, "Taxpayers endorse ballot to make Oceanside a charter city," March 4, 2010
- The Truth about Project Labor Agreements, "Wall Street Journal editorial blasts Obama gift to Big Labor"
- List of California charter cities
- North County Times, Carlsbad charter adopted
- North County Times, "Registrar certifies Vista election," June 9, 2007
- San Diego Union Tribune, "Charter status is not likely to be obvious," November 13, 2008
- North County Times, "Prevailing wage key to charter," March 31, 2010