Aaron Starr kicks off his Campaign for Oxnard City Council

Largest county city's woes leave election wide open

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Aaron Starr takes the stage at his Oxnard City Council campaign kickoff at Tomas Cafe. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

By Raven West, Dan Pinedo & George Miller

Aaron Starr is a local civic activist and high-powered Controller of Haas Automation, a nearly $1 billion Oxnard manufacturer of numerically controlled machine tools. He held his City Council campaign kickoff at Tomas Cafe on downtown “A” Street on Sunday, 8-8-16.  He brings strong finance and business experience to the table and promises to advocate focusing on a core government mission of public safety and infrastructure, while enabling reasonable economic growth.

 

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(left) Alex Rivera of Corner Pocket Billiards at Starr Oxnard City Council campaign kickoff. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Downtown businessman Tom Garcia of Tomas Cafe (event host) and Alex Rivera (Corner Pocket Billiards) spoke up strongly for Starr’s candidacy. Rivera asserted that Starr is experienced and qualified for the job, that he can do things that no incumbents can do. He added that he is the most experienced and qualified. While Starr has not held elective office, he has extensive management, business, financial and project experience. Rivera said that when challenged directly by the council (lawsuit filed against him to stop his Measure M initiative), Starr did not run away, but instead stood up at great personal expense and fought for stakeholders. Rivera said that this year’s election is the most important in a generation. He also supported Starr’s Ballot Measure “M”, which would roll back the utility rate increase.

Event Video by Dan Pinedo

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Host Tom Garcia of Tomas Cafe at Starr Oxnard City Council campaign kickoff. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Aaron Starr then took the stage to talk about his candidacy, difficult city problems to be solved, the lack of respect for Oxnard, to thank his supporters and solicit more support- people and donations.

He then referenced his powerful campaign to stop and roll back utility rate increases.  The council retreated from its February attempt to raise water and trash rates when confronted by thousands of written protests and over 500 people showing up for the City Council hearing on the subject, mostly instigated by Starr’s Moving Oxnard Forward activist organization. However, the Council did approve the wastewater rate hike- about 87%, which would ultimately raise prices $326/year for a typical customer. They felt that they had to do this in the face of impending exhaustion of wastewater fund reserves. So far Starr’s team  has won multiple court battles over this and beaten the City’s expensive legal arsenal at every turn. Starr and the city legal department are now wrangling over the critical vote-influencing language describing Ballot Measure “M.”

At this session, he pointed out that the proposed $675 million in wastewater capital expenses, $568 million just for  a new wastewater plant, is absurd- particularly when the plant only generates $30 million in annual revenue. He said such proposals would only benefit consultants (and presumably, contractors). He claimed that an alternative proposal could renovate it for about $80 million. He strongly criticized city staff proposals in general  as lacking in alternatives and making an adequate business case.

Starr said while there are many hardworking, productive city staff members, the city doesn’t know how to do some things very well. He suggests focusing on core competencies and outsourcing things they are not good at. He also said that certain things might benefit from being brought in-house. He was critical of the “full service city” model, citing more successful cities such as Camarillo and Thousand Oaks, which outsource trash collection, water and more.

Next, he criticized the unfriendly business environment that the city has created. He said his company was relocated here from the SF Valley and walked through the process in record time, with a 400,000 square foot plant (now 1 million sq. ft.) built in only seven months. But he doesn’t think that could happen here anymore.

Starr said he learned from his last unsuccessful attempt to win office and said he has a much stronger campaign than two years ago. He is much more engaged in civic affairs, with his Moving Oxnard Forward group, involvement in attempts to streamline business licenses and permits, the fight against wasteful utility practices leading to higher rates and general commentary on city issues.

He told us that Oxnard needs his management, business and financial expertise.

When asked by Gerard Kapuscik why he didn’t run for Treasurer instead of Council, he responded in a Reaganesque way that he didn’t want to take a pay cut, wants to volunteer to help (compensation is nominal), wishes to serve and loves his Controller job.

He was also asked how he could cobble together 3 vote majorities to get his ideas passed. He replied that he has a history of working on committees and ending up running them and also has  a talent for selling things based on the merits of the ideas.

When further asked how he would opine on investment policies, he replied that he would leave it up to the new Treasurer, smiling and referring to Treasurer candidate Larry Stein, in the audience.

Starr said he is willing to take on big fights, will be residents’ champion, that somebody has to step into help, to reform the city, to make this work. He said he is someone who can do that and is offering himself on that basis.

He said the roads “are horrible and getting worse.” This was in marked contrast to a Mayor Tim Flynn neighborhood campaign meeting later on that afternoon. At that session, Flynn told an upscale Seabridge/Westport audience that great progress in the road program had been made and he promised that every street would be paved within three years. The public works roads plan does appear to call for that, subject to funding availability, but alleys won’t be done,

He said his efforts would not just be about helping to get the city to do things better, but in some cases “to get the city out of the way.” That came up when he was asked how to get downtown business moving along better.

 

Some Other Supporters

The group of mostly hard-core supporters plus a few of the curious listened to Starr, a few supporters who spoke and some questioners.

Louise Capristo – Owner of “The Box Ladies” says she’s very impressed with Starr and  his platform that is pro-business and his work to reduce utilities tax. She also said tat EDCO (Economic Development Corporation of Oxnard) is now needed to thread the way through the bureaucracy to get things done. She fears retaliation if she complains. She said it took all day to file a new business license for a second enterprise they started 3 years ago. They have run their other business in Oxnard for 40 years. Starr replied tat he had heard stories of retaliation and EDCO was needed because the city is unable to satisfactorily service business requests on its own. He said he is not personally worried (because his company has higher visibility).

Bob Valles – Aaron is genially concerned about the residents of Oxnard. His experience will help create jobs and make it easier for new business to come to Oxnard.

Larry Stein – candidate for Treasurer says Starr is a very accomplished business person, knows finance and will address the needs of the entire community, not just a privileged few.

Other supporters who signed nomination papers said they support Starr because he’s someone they feel will work for the people, keep the rest of the city council accountable for their actions and someone they trust.

 

Oxnard Business Owner Louise Capristo

Oxnard Business Owner Louise Capristo of “The Box Ladies”.  Photo: Raven West/CitizensJournal.us

Louise Capristo – Owner of “The Box Ladies” says she’s very impressed with Starr on his platform that is pro-business and his work to reduce utilities fees.

Aaron and supporter Bob Valles

Aaron and supporter Bob Valles. Photo: Raven West/CitizensJournal.us

Bob Valles – Aaron is genially concerned about the residents of Oxnard. His experience will help create jobs and make it easier for new business to come to Oxnard.

Supporter Candidate for Oxnard Treasurer Larry Stein

Supporter Candidate for Oxnard Treasurer Larry Stein. Photo: Raven West/CitizensJournal.us

Larry Stein – candidate for Treasurer, says Starr is a very accomplished business person, knows finance and will address the needs of the entire community, not just a privilege few.

Aaron Starr led the campaign to put a measure on the November ballot to roll back the Council’s vote to raise Oxnard utility ratepayers’ fees to cover infrastructure refits to the city’s aging wastewater system.

Other supporters who signed nomination papers said they support Starr because he’s someone they feel will work for the people, keep the rest of the city council accountable for their actions and someone they trust.

Starr for City Council Volunteers

Starr for City Council Volunteers at Tomas Cafe Sttarr campaign kickoff. Photo: Raven West?CitizensJournal.us

Starr ran in 2014

Mr. Starr ran for the council in 2014, spending $100,000 on his campaign, which  might be a record sum. He didn’t finish in the money, though. Local followers of politics have said that he lacked visibility and any kind of local political track record. Since then, he has greatly raised his profile, running campaigns to streamline permitting, business licenses, fighting what he says are unjustified utility rate increases and spending plans and opining on many city issues. Not all constituencies are supporting Starr.

Some union members feel threatened by his statements about outsourcing and addressing spending problems. Some disagree with his initiative to rollback the wastewater rate increase. He does not dispute that more funds are needed, but questions how much and what the plan and priorities should be. Finally, not all are on board with the sharp focus on public safety and infrastructure. But many are.

 

Our area reporter, Raven West, was also on hand to snap photos and talk to those who support Mr. Starr’s run. CitizensJournal.us videographer associate Dan Pinedo provided the event video.

 

Website: www.StarrForOxnard.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AaronStarrforOxnard

Some Prior Articles on Mr. Starr’s campaign to against the rate hike:

 Aaron Starr wins another round against Oxnard utility rate increase

Aaron Starr 2, Oxnard 1, in utility rate battle

Oxnard moment of truth coming on utility rate increases- Tuesday

Private group mounts blitz to stop Oxnard utility rate increase- watch your mailbox!

More: https://citizensjournal.us/?x=0&y=0&s=utility+rate+increase

Photo Credits: Raven West, George Miller. Videographer: Dan Pinedo

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