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O'side council ignores public again

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
January 14, 2002


Some things never change. The sun always rises in the east and sets it the west. The city of Vista gets uglier with each passing year, and the Oceanside City Council always treats it's residents as if they are too mentally impaired to make decisions for themselves. Case in point is the latest ruling handed down from Oceanside's dysfunctional dais.

Oceanside City Council has, for years now, been trying to give away city funds and property to a San Diego developer. Not content with changing the face of downtown with a wall of stucco 12 stories high, city officials are stumbling over each other in their attempt to give away 445 acres of prime real estate in the heart of the city.

Doug Manchester, the aforementioned carpet bagging developer, has decided a coastal boondoggle is not enough, and is asking Oceanside for the El Corazon property to build yet another overpriced hotel and an accompanying golf course. The council members, except for Esther Sanchez, drunk with visions of grandeur have thrown common sense out the window for the promise of tourist dollars, which may or may not materialize.

Luckily there is thousands of Oceanside residents have done the math and realize this corporate give away is more about shirking responsibility than wise civic planning. Understanding their elective official were representing the interests of Dougie Manchester, and not the people of Oceanside, these citizens circulated a petition to put the question to before Oceanside voters once and for all. As you can imagine this did not sit well with the council.

The residents who started the petition see the 445 acres as a future city park. Oceanside like every other city in our fast growing region has a glaring deficit of park space. The athletic need of every child in Oceanside could be met at this location, with room to spare for hiking trails, a botanical garden, and other passive usages. If the city were to sell this land, the money could be used to purchase of future park space. Giving it to a developer didn't make sense, hence the initiative.

The petition was soon delivered to the registrar of voters for verification, with more than 10,482 valid signatures. The county stopped counting signatures once the initiative qualified for ballot status. Democracy in action is a good thing right? Well, not if you happened to be a city council member who has promised a certain developer his project will go through regardless of the will of the people.

Unwilling to allow the voters to have the final say without a propaganda campaign, a Manchester specialty, the Oceanside City Council voted 4-1 to "study" the impact the initiative would have on the city's finances. In other words, the council gave city staff 30 days to find a reason to give away 445 acres of public property, after which the spin cycle will begin. Friday, February 8th, according to my calculations.

The council said it's main concerns was loss of revenue from the sale a piece of property not being given to Doug Manchester, lost taxes if Mr. Manchester's hotel is not built, and the cost of providing the people of Oceanside a park. Councilwoman Betty Harding, with the smoking gun of honesty, said she feared the initiative would pass if the vote were held today. Ms. Harding, Mayor Johnson, and council members McCauley and Felton voted to delay the special election.

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