Camarillo City Council Candidates answer to the voters

pills times; font-size: 12pt;”>by Logan McFadden

purchase times; font-size: 12pt;”>Residents of Leisure Village gathered on September 15, pills 2014, to hear the eight candidates for Camarillo City Council speak to the issues and their qualifications. The meeting was also broadcast on Leisure Village’s television station.

Three incumbents are up for re-election on November 4, 2014; Charlotte Craven, Jan McDonald and Mike Morgan. There are five other candidates running for the three open seats on the City Council; Jose Espinoza, Daniel LaBrado, Matthew Lorimer, Chris Valenzano and Roy Villa.

Each candidate gave an opening statement. The residents were then given the opportunity to ask questions either to a specific candidate or all of the candidates. The candidates then gave a closing statement.

The Q&A session was lively and informative. Some of the questions asked by residents included the following:

• City permit fees
• Flood insurance map
• Road maintenance in Leisure Village
• Possibility of the City purchasing all or part of the 895 acres formerly known as the Conejo Creek Development Plan or buying the development rights
• The city’s General Plan and re-zoning issues
• Water

There was general agreement among the five challengers that permit fees are too high and should be decreased. The City Council recently voted to raise fees. Charlotte Craven and Jan McDonald voted with Mayor Kildee to raise the fees which are based on the recovery of direct costs associated with providing services for requests benefiting private parties. Councilmembers Morgan and Little did not support the fee increases.

Residents required by a mortgage lender to purchase flood insurance asked for help with the FEMA mapping process which determines homes in flood zones. Mike leisure.villageMorgan said that the City has worked with the FEMA to remove 6,000 out of 8,000 homes located outside of Leisure Village from the official flood map. Jan McDonald said that building a flood wall along the creek adjacent to the perimeter of the Village would be very expensive. She stated that, if re-elected, she would work with Leisure Village on the flood map issue, but made no promises.

One resident asked why the city does not pay to maintain the streets in Leisure Village because its residents pay property gasoline taxes which are allocated to maintain city streets. Councilmember Craven went to the heart of the matter. Since Leisure Village has a gate at each entrance to the Village, the public does not have access; therefore the city is not responsible for maintenance. She did stress that Leisure Village residents benefit from the use of well-maintained city streets.

The City Council recently voted down the landowners’ application to re-zone the agricultural land known as the Conejo Creek Development. Concern was that the re-zoning request may come up again in the future and there is no guarantee that the Council at some future date would vote against re-zoning. Daniel LaBrado suggested that an initiative process to require a public vote would be required to change the General Plan in the future. The three Councilmembers stated that it would not be practical to submit every General Plan change for a public vote. The initiative idea was not dismissed, but it would be necessary to limit the initiative process to development of agricultural land, as an example. Roy Villa stated frequently that he would not vote to change the General Plan with respect to new development of open spaces in the future. He prefers that growth be achieved by tearing down the old to build new when feasible. Jose Espinoza also stressed the preservation of open spaces.

As would be expected the five non-incumbent candidates expressed that city government would improve if elected. On the other hand, the three incumbents defended their records and spoke of some of the positive results the Council has generated over the past several years.

Chris Valenzano proposed the expansion of the Pleasant Valley Hospital and rolling back Councilmembers’ salaries and benefits to 2008 levels. Matthew Lorimer stated that he has attended City Council meetings for six straight years. He stressed the importance of building relationships within city government and the community and also to continue reaching out to the state legislators.

Roy Villa asked the voters if they honestly believe only the same Councilmembers serving in the 1980’s and 1990’s can run the city going forward. Councilmember McDonald pointed out that continuity has taken the city through tough times. She has served on all of the City Council committees. Councilmember Morgan pointed out that Camarillo is ranked 6th among cities in California and 29th of 1,700 cities compared throughout the United States. Camarillo is one of only twenty cities in California with an AAA rating. Mr. Morgan said his primary job is to protect Camarillo. Councilmember Craven stated that continuity is a good thing when you are doing well. She reminded the voters that she has served on the City Council for 28 years and came on board at a time when the city had lost $26 million due to poor investments. New financial controls have since been implemented.

Daniel LaBrado said the City Council is doing a good job but change can also be good bringing a new philosophy and fresh ideas to the table. Matthew Lorimer raised the possibility of selling the 895 acre Conejo Creek land parcel to California State University Channel Islands as permanent agricultural land available for University programs. Jose Espinoza stressed the need to consider wireless data communications guidelines. City staff is currently working on a comprehensive plan for wireless ordinances. Chris Valenzano stated that approved projects are not adequately supported by infrastructure.

Water conservation and long-term availability was addressed. Chris Valenzano said Camarillo needs to work with other cities to reduce imported water. A desalination plant is projected to come online in 2017; however, it will not supply Leisure Village which is supplied by another water company.

The Council members committed to meeting with Leisure Village residents annually. The forum provided for a good exchange of ideas and candidates’ vision for Camarillo.

Logan McFadden is our newest city reporter and a recently retired banker, residing in Camarillo.


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