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Lawsuit threat did not scare off Jensen recallers

Let Oceanside Vote a costly proposition

Kori Jensen
Kori Jensen

In Oceanside, standing up for democracy can cost you big time. Consider law student Kathy Carbone and retired teacher Arlene Hammerschmidt. They were two of some 125 volunteers loosely organized as Let Oceanside Vote. They say they could not sit by when the Oceanside City Council approved a 585-unit development called North River Farms. NRF would have swallowed up 176 acres of agricultural land.

They collected more than 12,600 signatures to get the NRF question on the November ballot. NRF was snuffed by voters 2-to-1. NRF developer Integral Communities of Newport Beach sued the two for collecting those signatures and the two are now facing about $250,000 in court costs and NRF attorney fees.

The lawsuit, which is unresolved and which Carbone calls totally malicious, did not get them to sit down and shut up. On Friday, Carbone, Hammerschmidt and three other team leaders of Let Oceanside Vote marched into the Oceanside City Clerk's office with 6074 signatures demanding that appointed Oceanside city council member Kori Jensen be recalled. They needed 4484 or 20 percent of the registered voters in Oceanside's District 1. If the San Diego County Registrar's office verifies the signatures this weekend, there will likely be an election on Jensen's tenure as a councilwoman in the first quarter of next year.

"This shows that Let Oceanside Vote is a force to be reckoned with," says Carbone who explains voters should have been given a chance to elect a councilperson for District 1 (Oceanside's northwest quadrant). The position became vacant when Esther Sanchez was elected mayor in November. "We're standing up for the voters who feel completely disenfranchised and who don't trust their city council," says Hammerschmidt.

The Let Oceanside Vote crew railed against Jensen's appointment because they say Jensen misrepresented her home address, is delinquent in more than $50,000 in property taxes, voted to close the Brooks Street pool (later reversed), and voted for selling public parkland to a developer.

"Up until two weeks ago, we didn't think we would pull it off," says Hammerschmidt who stood in neighborhoods like East Side and Crown Heights to collect signatures. "I'm happy to say I got 500 signatures from those neighborhoods," says Hammerschidt.

Carbone says it was a lot harder to fight Jensen than NRF. "This time we had to deal with people not wanting to come to the door because of Covid, pit bulls that wanted to kill us, and gated communities." She says they worked around those challenges by sending postcards to hard-to-reach addresses. "We know the postcards worked because people brought them to Frazier Farms to sign."

Two of the three councilmembers who appointed Jensen have stated they regret appointing her. "They did it for the optics," says Hammerschidt about Peter Weiss and Ryan Keim disavowing Jensen's appointment. "They are the ones who brought her forward without proper vetting. Why do we have to do the vetting? Why can't the city do the vetting and keep these people out of office? I think they just felt that the wind was starting to turn against them."

Those who collected signatures to recall Jensen at Frazier Farms and Buddy Todd Park say they sometimes had to deal with Carlsbad residents who confused Kori Jensen with Carlsbad councilwoman Cori Schumacher who was simultaneously facing a recall. Schumacher abruptly resigned in July after her opponents claimed that enough signatures had been collected to put her recall on the ballot.

Carbone says that anti-NRF signature gatherers were frequently assaulted by blockers who tried to talk people out of signing petitions. She says Jensen did not play dirty. "All she did is have an attorney send us a letter to tell us to quit because we were telling lies about Kori Jensen. We weren't telling any lies. We ignored him."

San Diego attorney Bob Ottilie admits that he sent a letter to the city of Oceanside in May, 2021. "We asked the city clerk what process they have available to correct false and misleading statements; the city attorney responded there is no such process." Ottilie said if the election proceeds, "My client may proceed to file a petition to throw out [the election]."

But when contacted on Friday, Jensen did not mention any plans to sue to stop the election to remove her from office. "If it goes through, all this means is I will have to start my election a few months earlier," says Jensen. The regularly scheduled District 1 city council election is set for November 2022. Jensen says even if she does not win the recall, she plans to run in November as a non-incumbent.

Jensen says she will not resign. "I don't think she will step down," says one well-recognized City of Oceanside employee. "For one, she needs the money too much. Also, her daughter-in-law who she hired as her aide needs the money."City council members in Oceanside are part-time. City council aides get between $60,000 and $80,000 in pay and benefits. "Believe me, they won't leave until they are kicked out," says the Oceanside city staffer.

The cost of the special election is estimated to be about $700,000. "The cost is all on her," says Carbone. "She could have resigned in June."

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Kori Jensen
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In Oceanside, standing up for democracy can cost you big time. Consider law student Kathy Carbone and retired teacher Arlene Hammerschmidt. They were two of some 125 volunteers loosely organized as Let Oceanside Vote. They say they could not sit by when the Oceanside City Council approved a 585-unit development called North River Farms. NRF would have swallowed up 176 acres of agricultural land.

They collected more than 12,600 signatures to get the NRF question on the November ballot. NRF was snuffed by voters 2-to-1. NRF developer Integral Communities of Newport Beach sued the two for collecting those signatures and the two are now facing about $250,000 in court costs and NRF attorney fees.

The lawsuit, which is unresolved and which Carbone calls totally malicious, did not get them to sit down and shut up. On Friday, Carbone, Hammerschmidt and three other team leaders of Let Oceanside Vote marched into the Oceanside City Clerk's office with 6074 signatures demanding that appointed Oceanside city council member Kori Jensen be recalled. They needed 4484 or 20 percent of the registered voters in Oceanside's District 1. If the San Diego County Registrar's office verifies the signatures this weekend, there will likely be an election on Jensen's tenure as a councilwoman in the first quarter of next year.

"This shows that Let Oceanside Vote is a force to be reckoned with," says Carbone who explains voters should have been given a chance to elect a councilperson for District 1 (Oceanside's northwest quadrant). The position became vacant when Esther Sanchez was elected mayor in November. "We're standing up for the voters who feel completely disenfranchised and who don't trust their city council," says Hammerschmidt.

The Let Oceanside Vote crew railed against Jensen's appointment because they say Jensen misrepresented her home address, is delinquent in more than $50,000 in property taxes, voted to close the Brooks Street pool (later reversed), and voted for selling public parkland to a developer.

"Up until two weeks ago, we didn't think we would pull it off," says Hammerschmidt who stood in neighborhoods like East Side and Crown Heights to collect signatures. "I'm happy to say I got 500 signatures from those neighborhoods," says Hammerschidt.

Carbone says it was a lot harder to fight Jensen than NRF. "This time we had to deal with people not wanting to come to the door because of Covid, pit bulls that wanted to kill us, and gated communities." She says they worked around those challenges by sending postcards to hard-to-reach addresses. "We know the postcards worked because people brought them to Frazier Farms to sign."

Two of the three councilmembers who appointed Jensen have stated they regret appointing her. "They did it for the optics," says Hammerschidt about Peter Weiss and Ryan Keim disavowing Jensen's appointment. "They are the ones who brought her forward without proper vetting. Why do we have to do the vetting? Why can't the city do the vetting and keep these people out of office? I think they just felt that the wind was starting to turn against them."

Those who collected signatures to recall Jensen at Frazier Farms and Buddy Todd Park say they sometimes had to deal with Carlsbad residents who confused Kori Jensen with Carlsbad councilwoman Cori Schumacher who was simultaneously facing a recall. Schumacher abruptly resigned in July after her opponents claimed that enough signatures had been collected to put her recall on the ballot.

Carbone says that anti-NRF signature gatherers were frequently assaulted by blockers who tried to talk people out of signing petitions. She says Jensen did not play dirty. "All she did is have an attorney send us a letter to tell us to quit because we were telling lies about Kori Jensen. We weren't telling any lies. We ignored him."

San Diego attorney Bob Ottilie admits that he sent a letter to the city of Oceanside in May, 2021. "We asked the city clerk what process they have available to correct false and misleading statements; the city attorney responded there is no such process." Ottilie said if the election proceeds, "My client may proceed to file a petition to throw out [the election]."

But when contacted on Friday, Jensen did not mention any plans to sue to stop the election to remove her from office. "If it goes through, all this means is I will have to start my election a few months earlier," says Jensen. The regularly scheduled District 1 city council election is set for November 2022. Jensen says even if she does not win the recall, she plans to run in November as a non-incumbent.

Jensen says she will not resign. "I don't think she will step down," says one well-recognized City of Oceanside employee. "For one, she needs the money too much. Also, her daughter-in-law who she hired as her aide needs the money."City council members in Oceanside are part-time. City council aides get between $60,000 and $80,000 in pay and benefits. "Believe me, they won't leave until they are kicked out," says the Oceanside city staffer.

The cost of the special election is estimated to be about $700,000. "The cost is all on her," says Carbone. "She could have resigned in June."

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Comments
4

Cori Schumacher filed for restraining orders against a pair of Carlsbad residents who opposed her ideas and votes on the city council. A judge decided that she had no reason to fear any sort of harm from them, but rather that she was trying to silence them and ban them from attending city council sessions. Under California's Anti-SLAPP law, the judge both denied the request and then slapped her (pardon the pun) with some severe sanctions for attempting to silence them and stop public debate. Losing that case and facing about $40K of legal fees and fines had to have helped her decide to hang it up.

In this case in good ol' Oceanside with its corrosive politics, those suits against the activists could very well qualify as SLAPP suits. They should, and probably have already, explored use of the Anti SLAPP laws to get those suits dismissed, which could be very costly to the NRF developer. It is most interesting to see two of Jensen's boosters who voted to appoint her now say they regretted their votes to appoint her. But she's a defiant one, or is so far. But note that she says she isn't going to sue to stop the recall. Did she take a lesson from Schumacher's experience with Anti SLAPP?

Sept. 12, 2021

Resigning is the honorable thing to do. That takes humility, and politicians aren't the most humble people.

Pit bulls and gated communities aside, city council members shouldn't be wall to wall flakes. Oceanside deserves better. Otherwise, how do they get anything done?

Sept. 12, 2021

Good points. For far too long that city kept electing city council seat holders who immediately start favoring special interests, such as NRF, regardless of what the voters think they want. But then, what do those voters really want? That's never clear, and most of the voters seem detached from the process. Sometimes I just think that Oceanside will go the way that many So Bay cities and districts have gone totally bad, where the voters have no idea of what/whom they vote for. Those voters get what they vote for, and then often complain. The choices begin at the ballot box, and when voters seem to have no notion of whom they are voting, other than ties of ethnicity, they suffer. But, ya' know, O'side suffers when it has no real reason to suffer. Go figure.

Sept. 12, 2021

Hope Nelson - The sentence you brought attention to was amended. By the the way, when Cori abruptly resigned because she was coincidentally accepted to college, why did she not disclose which college gave her this out-of-the-blue acceptance. Of course she was harassed by those creeps who lied about where she lived among other things. That was unfortunate. But creepy people are a fact of life. The advice to start legal proceedings from lawyer Bryan Pease seems to have been a huge mistake and a very odd and unnatural stance from a pro-freedom of speech figure. Many people who respect what Cori stood for and what she was initially elected on, were wholly disappointed at her many mistakes and her ego-driven personality flaws. She let a lot of people down. Cori's downfall was completely unnecessary. One big unforced error. She did exactly what Matt Hall wanted. Thanks a bunch Cori!

Sept. 14, 2021

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