Raw tactics in Oceanside
2:00 a.m. August 22, 2009
NORTH COUNTY - Police and firefighter unions are often influential players in local politics. Thanks to the respect the public has for their professions, the unions' endorsements are a highly valuable chit for most politicians.
But in Oceanside, public safety unions have become so out of control that they should inspire fear, not respect. Their successful campaign to force a recall election of Councilman Jerry Kern is raw power politics at its worst.
Along with just about every other elected official in California, Kern had a hugely difficult task this spring: fashioning a 2009-10 budget in an era of plunging revenue. He first angered the public safety unions when he considered but eventually decided against supporting privatizing Oceanside's ambulance service. He eventually helped win approval of a budget that included the elimination of three firefighter positions.
At this point, the police and fire unions decided to show Kern - and Oceanside City Hall - who was boss. Rather than wait to target Kern when he ran for re-election next year, they spent $46,000 to gather the 11,389 valid signatures necessary to trigger a recall.
It will be held on Dec. 8. City officials estimate it will cost $483,000 - money that will be excruciatingly difficult to squeeze out of a very lean budget.
Absurdly enough, union leaders now claim the recall isn't really about their fury over not getting their way on the budget. Instead, they say it's based on Oceanside residents' reaction to Kern's alleged rudeness and his pro-development votes.
But if it really is about those issues, then why did virtually all of the recall campaign funding come from the police and fire unions?
Union leaders can't answer this question because they know the truth: Their campaign is all about securing a pro-union majority on the Oceanside City Council - three members who will do their bidding.
We hope Oceanside voters figure this out by Dec. 8.