Whether or not it was Oceanside city councilmember Jerome Kern's intention to turn the December 8 recall election into a war against labor unions is speculation, but one thing is for sure -- that's what happened.
In the months since the recall campaign began -- an effort brought forth by 20 Oceansiders accusing Kern of being in the pocket of big development -- it has grown into a war between labor and non-labor factions. According to Kern and his supporters, Oceanside's police and firefighter unions provided much of the funding for the recall campaign.
At Wednesday's city council meeting, one Oceanside resident added fuel to the political fire.
"Councilmember Jerome Kern really was looking out for the rights of our citizens," Woodrow Higdon said yesterday during public comment, blaming the unions for unfairly targeting the conservative councilmember. "Councilman Kern made the mistake of starting to talk about privatizing different elements of the union for the police and fire departments. No sooner did he start talking about privatizing union operations...did a recall campaign materialize against him.... If you speak out against union, you're going to find yourself in a recall campaign."
During an August 19 phone interview, Kern shared some of the same views, accusing the unions of targeting him because of his anti-labor union, free-market stance. He says the unions are willing to spend thousands of dollars to kick him out of office as a way to prevent him from casting a vote in the upcoming December 31 labor negotiations.
Evan McLaughlin, spokesperson for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, says Kern is fighting an imaginary enemy.
"Jerry Kern has become an obsessive demigod. We didn't start the recall effort, we haven't funded it, but we'll support it as long as Jerry Kern makes it his primary responsibility to make it harder for working people to improve their lives....
"Jerry Kern has a political problem.... He is a bad politician and has pissed off people in his community."