Political Capital: Oceanside, California
Power, influence, and access to decision-making are pivotal components of political capital. Participation, mobilization, influence over government resources and access to resources can be used as key indicators of political capital.
The City of Oceanside has five City Council members who are elected for four-year terms. This is a strong source of positional power within the city. It is their responsibility to make policy decisions and exercise fiscal responsibility in a way that best represents the citizens of oceanside (City of Oceanside, 2016). This assumes that these elected officials will actually exercise the power that they hold. In the City of Oceanside, Jim Wood serves as Mayor, Chuck Lowery serves as Deputy Mayor, Jerome Kern serves as a Council Member, Esther Sanchez serves as a Council Member, and Jack Feller serves as a Council Member. These council members can be accessed anytime via email, though there are specific guidelines to address the city council members at a council meeting. Those wishing to speak can only speak on matters that are on the agenda for no more than 3 minutes and must give their name and address for the record. If individuals wish to speak on matters not on the agenda they can only do so if the city council has declared that an emergency exists where immediate action needs to be taken. If an individual cannot attend a meeting the individual can submit their comments on an agenda electronically a day prior to the scheduled meeting (City of Oceanside, 2016). The objective is for the people to have a opportunity to voice their opinion.
This council meeting format creates a space for increasing the citizen’s voice in decision making, but assurance of changing the status quo is not guaranteed. Arnstein’s ladder of citizen participation would describe this as a level of tokenism, where the community is invited to voice their opinions but the decision-making process is still ultimately in the hands of the city council. This is referred to as consultation and the community meetings can be viewed as merely a way to provide evidence of input (Arnstein, 1969). Analyzation of a community’s power structure and decision-making process is a crucial component when evaluating whether the community’s needs are truly being represented.
Arnstein, S. R. (1969). A Ladder Of Citizen Participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35(4), 216-224. doi:10.1080/01944366908977225
City of Oceanside, CA. (n.d.). History. Retrieved October 1, 2016, from http://www.ci.oceanside.ca.us/about/history.asp