Oceanside voters have an opportunity to steer that city in a new direction as two city council seats are at stake in November. This is the first election since the City created council districts two years ago, and two incumbents are battling head to head in District 1, northwest Oceanside.
Chuck Lowery, a councilman since 2014 and currently serving as deputy mayor, will face long time councilmember Esther Sanchez. Both Lowery, and popular former mayor Jim Wood, have criticized Sanchez for her contentiousness and inability to get along with others.
“I enter into decisions by gathering more information rather than simply coming in with my opinion and ignoring everything else,” Lowery said. “Esther Sanchez is happy to have her limited information drive her decision-making process, something that may have been fine in the year 2000 but doesn’t fit in 2018. The world has changed in the past two decades and we have to change with it.”
Lowery is a native of Oceanside, having been born and educated in the city. He founded and operated a successful business, Pacific Bakery, which he sold after 24 years in order to serve his community. He prides himself on his home’s low-water-use, native plant landscape, and he often rides his bike to City Hall.
Some of the issues Lowery is most passionate about include helping seniors, veterans and working families. Providing livable wages for workers is also important to him, and he did so while running his own business. He wants to encourage housing opportunities for lower income residents, as well as address homelessness. In addition, he supports construction of additional parking, better pedestrian safety, and more infrastructure for bicycles.
Below is an edited version of Lowery’s responses to Alianza’s questions.
Chuck Lowery, 67
What are your qualifications?
I understand how to listen compassionately to others. I enjoy the art of compromise and can tolerate those who refuse to work cooperatively. I know the value of a dollar and how to use it wisely to improve our community.
Why are you running for Council?
I’m running for re-election to Oceanside City Council because this is where I was born and raised and I’m uniquely qualified to represent my community. I’m at the end of my first term and I’m running against a career politician who still has two years remaining on her term. If she knocks me off council, the entire city will lose because it takes more than one voice to get anything done.
I’m very concerned about our seniors, veterans and working families who benefit from our limited rent control program. In addition, I’ve been addressing our housing and homelessness issues. In my first term, I went to Washington, DC to secure funds to house homeless vets and came back with money after my first trip. Oceanside had never before benefited from this program and we were able to secure it for three years, getting residents out from living under bridges and into real homes. My opponent, though in office for 18 years, has never done anything like that.
When a developer comes to town, they historically pay a fee into a housing program rather than building affordable housing. I met with one company who was considering building 38 apartments for working families as part of a larger project. When they told me they’d build it on their own, the first time in Oceanside’s history, I voted to approve the project. My opponent, while claiming to care about people in poverty, voted loudly against the project and continues to attack me for supporting it. I met with a family who moved into one of the units and they were very grateful to no longer live in their cars and weren’t bothered by any of the made-up problems with the homes.
Explain your position on budget/taxes/financial issues in the City.
The City is fiscally sound but the pressure of funding pension retirement benefits is tremendous. The State forced cities to participate in their retirement system and currently the State is unable to pay the costs associated with this top-heavy system. Our staff management is always working to keep all systems in order and the council MUST support their efforts to keep financially alive.
Explain your feelings about SOAR (Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources).
SOAR is a scam sold to the public as a way to “save our parks, open spaces and farmlands.” The problem is there are no parks to save because no one wants to sell them, all the open spaces are Federal or private property, and the farmers must have flexibility to continue in business. SOAR locks down the farmland as it is right now, preventing farmers from making simple decisions like building access roads, constructing warehouses (unless they fit into narrow parameters of SOAR) or creating agritourism systems, something the City and farmers have been working on for several years.
What SOAR does is keep the wealthy estate homeowners happy because they will have little growth around them and that’s what they want. Very unfair to farming families who’ve been growing our food for up to three generations.
Why should voters elect you over Esther Sanchez?
I’m enthusiastic about my job. I work collaboratively, not combatively. I know what needs to be done and I work hard to do it. If I need to learn more about issues of concern, I meet with staff, specialists and residents. I am at the end of my first term. My career opponent is halfway through her fifth term and wants more. This sort of behavior creates instability in government business because the council is unable to give positive direction to City staff. I want to move the City forward into the future, not drag it back into the past where we had ongoing financial issues. Oceanside must continue with carefully planned growth and not “just say no” to every new idea. I’ve earned the public’s trust and want to continue doing my job.
Rick Mercurio is Alianza North County’s Lead Reporter.