First Oxnard Council candidates forum report

Includes KADYTV event videos. Candidates begin to differentiate themselves

By George Miller

The Oxnard Chamber of Commerce held a forum for Mayoral and City Council candidates on Thursday Morning, 9-8-16, at the Marriott Residence Inn, River Ridge. This was the first such event of the 2016 election season in town. It served the purpose of introducing the  candidates to business leaders, some for the first time. This article and the video which will follow should spread it to more residents.

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Oxnard Council candidates at 9-8-16 forum (l-r), David Albanese, Daniel Chavez Jr., Orlando Dozier, Steve Huber, Bryan MacDonald, Enrique Petris, Aaron Starr, Jack Villa; Moderator Bruce Stenslie. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

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Because of the large number of candidates (8 Council, 3 Mayor), two sessions (one for Mayoral candidates, one for City Council), event organizers kept it down to only 5 question and only one minute response times, tightly managed. While this did not provide time for best development of responses, it did force candidates to tightly focus their answers, put them under pressure and tested their communications skills. Only five questions didn’t delve into many of the City’s issues, but it did provide us a window into how the candidates think, how well-prepared they were and how well they think on their feet.  The event was very ably moderated by Bruce Stenslie,  CEO of Economic Development Collaborative – Ventura County (EDC-VC) (correction).

 

These were the questions asked:

Mayoral Candidates

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Oxnard Mayoral candidates at 9-8-16 forum (l-r), incumbent Tim Flynn, Miguel Lopez, Armado Sepulveda; Moderator Bruce Stenslie. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

 

1..How can city council be more effective at decision making?  (For example, not carrying forward agenda items for weeks or not taking hours on a single agenda item.)

2. What can you do differently to educate and persuade state and federal lawmakers to vote for “business friendly legislative” items?

3. How do you address the city’s HR challenges and all of the unfilled positions?

4. Oxnard has one of the highest population growth rates in the county and some sections of the city suffer from overcrowding. How are you going to address this and housing needs without increasing homelessness?

5. What is your plan to spur economic development in the City of Oxnard?

Each candidate also made an opening and closing statement.

 

Council Candidates

1.. What is the most urgent issue the Oxnard city council must address? If elected, how will you address it?

2. What are your views on the need for residential and commercial development at Channel Islands Harbor? How do you evaluate current proposals?

3. How can city council help the Oxnard Police Department lessen the crime rate, particularly homicides within the Oxnard Plain?

4. What is your plan to assist the City of Oxnard to be more “business friendly” such as streamlining the permit process?

5. Do you support adding lifeguards to Oxnard’s beaches? If so, how would you pay for this?

Each candidate also made an opening and closing statement.

 

The Responses

We won’t provide a blow-by-blow account of what was said, just a summary, since the videos below will do that far more accurately and completely.

 

Mayoral Candidates’ Session

Opening statement

A- Mayor Tim Flynn told us “I am running on my record…. rebuilding Oxnard government. An explanation of why the City needs to be rebuilt after eight years of his being in office was better addressed in his long “State of the City” address on 9-7-16 (will be available on CitizensJournal.us).

A- Miguel Lopez, said he is a lifelong resident, that Oxnard has tremendous potential, that he is very concerned for our community and wants to restore trust in its government.

A- Armando Sepulveda is also a lifelong resident, says he has extensive business experience in Fortune 500 companies, PetSmart, Ross, was an executive responsible for turning around sub-standard stores, managing budgets. He says he delivers results, and that these are not being met today. Also wants to create transparency and trust in City government.

KADYTV2Mayor’s Forum video by KADYTV.com (session starts at about 7:00)

 

We also received videos from Dan Pinedo on 9-10-16: Mayor: https://youtu.be/iHuz3eSLnkQ, City Council https://youtu.be/aBHLao_-OXU

Note also: Council candidates Steve Huber, Bryan MacDonald, Aaron Starr, City Clerk candidates Alex Rivera, Bryan Pationo and CC President Nancy Lindholm brief interviews starting about 1:00:00 on the latter video.

 

Q 1..How can City Council be more effective at decision making?  (For example, not carrying forward agenda items for weeks or not taking hours on a single agenda item.) 

A- Tim Flynn- City had more on its plate in last 2 years than he had seen in all his previous years in office combined. He heads up process improvement/procedures improvement committee, limiting staff and council time at meetings, have shortened some. Meetings sometimes went until 1-2 AM, not anymore. Getting through meetings more expeditiously and will do more. (He seems to be focusing on time to decide rather than how effective decisions are).

A- Miguel Lopez- Need a bold leader, set the tone, support staff, inform the community/stakeholders. Short staff- over 100 vacancies.

A- Armando Sepulveda- Officials must be well-informed, every decision affects residents/business owners, do not make abrupt decisions, do homework first, understand the issues, come prepared.

2. What can you do differently to educate and persuade state and federal lawmakers to vote for “business friendly legislative” items?

A- Miguel Lopez- Need a Legislative Affairs Manager (was Deputy City Manager  [Erickson?], position eliminated). Lopez claims to have experience & contacts to do this.

A- Armando Sepulveda- Work with Council Members, unite, talk with state reps., understand business needs. Tax revenue drives the city, must generate revenue.

A- Tim Flynn- Obstacles often need action with state/federal govt. Needs access to lawmakers. He used the case of water pipe access denied by state water resource board, but freed up after City engaged AD44 Assembly Member Irwin to intervene.

3. How do you address the city’s HR challenges and all of the unfilled positions?

A- Armando Sepulveda- Must fix Human Resources Dept. “structure.” City Mgr. should take lead, must have strong HR recruiting to obtain strongest talent. Recruit outside/inside, work with other orgs., universities.

A- Tim Flynn- Up to 150 vacancies+ high retirement rate- intend to recruit within 6 months.

A- Miguel Lopez- Problematic with no full-time HR Director (ed: Asst. City Manager Maria Hurtado also doing this AND CFO!). Need to align priorities- city, business.

4. Oxnard has one of the highest population growth rates in the county and some sections of the city suffer from overcrowding. How are you going to address this and housing needs without increasing homelessness?

A- Tim Flynn- Concerned about substandard housing, conditions, overcrowding. Moving rental inspection program forward (Southwind pilot program). There is a housing crisis. Need comprehensive code enforcement.

A- Miguel Lopez- Projections that population will grow 60,000.

A- Armando Sepulveda- Complimented Flynn’s comments, but real problem is deeper. We face a big crisis, Smart, affordable housing needed. Look at root causes (which he did not enumerate).

5. What is your plan to spur economic development in the City of Oxnard?

A- Miguel Lopez- Work closer with  Chamber of Commerce, EDCO (Economic Development Corporation of Oxnard), increase manpower working on it (only one now), work in sync with business community, Chamber for advocacy, outreach, be supportive, more business-friendly. If business succeeds, community can succeed.

A- Armando Lopez- All answers are here in this room – entrepreneurs/business owners. Flynn has worked hard to attract business. Sepulveda said he would not just talk, but act, to bring in business, make it easier to establish them here.

A- Tim Flynn- Implement the “One Stop Shop,” which he has pushed hard, city do all possible NOT to inhibit business, growth- not over-regulation, do it QUICKLY, not make City an obstacle. Example: Riverpark has been extremely successful, Wagon Wheel underway, too.

Closing Statements

A- Armando Sepulveda- 20 years experience with Fortune 500 companies in field and management, promote believing in business, increasing jobs & tax base to prosper. Make tough decisions.

A- Miguel Lopez- No doubt the last four years have been challenging to all. Two years ago we were told City near insolvency, bankruptcy. This did not materialize. Crime is up 67% . We must feel safe. He is running to inspire, help City realize its potential.

A-Tim Flynn- Four years ago, I promised people honesty and integrity- I delivered. I promised to rebuild government, hiring most competent City Managers in the state- I delivered. I promised to reform business growth, implement 1 stop shop (for permitting)- Delivered. Promised to pave city streets in 3 years instead of 10- delivered (in process,  [$20 million bonds]). Promised to balance budget- Delivered. Promised to improve traffic flow- $9 million traffic control system nearly complete. Promised to eradicate graffiti- delivered. Promised to partner in education- in process.

 

Council Candidates’ Forum Session

Opening Statement

A- David Albanese- Longtime resident, business owners, started sold several businesses, helped others.

A-Daniel Chavez- Born, raised in Oxnard, can work with business, would establish trust, unity, mutual respect. We need businesses in South Oxnard to service residents. Build better business relationships.

A- Orlando Dozier- Project Analyst at Port Hueneme, on Planning Commission, would help improve communications, 20 years useful military experience, would build on 3 “pillars”: residents, city hall and business.

A- Steve Huber- “Common sense not common in Oxnard.” He has ability, skills, experience, 20 years as Destroyer Captain, head of PH Naval Surface Warfare group,  $2000 people/%+$600 million budget. He is a small business owner, Chair of Planning Commission, in Neighborhood Watch, other commissions/orgs. Can provide leadership, purpose, motivation, instill responsibility, work on/improve budget, people, infrastructure, programs, trust.

A- Bryan MacDonald- 8 years on Council. Brings common sense (referring to Huber’s previous comment). 3 Priorities: public safety, “economic gardening,” trust in City Hall. Will use your money wisely, judiciously, focus on getting the house in order.

A- Enrique Petris- Don’t have a clear picture (?) now. “They” don’t know what they are doing. They say everything is good, but it isn’t.

1.. What is the most urgent issue the Oxnard city council must address? If elected, how will you address it?

A- David Albanese- Deal with crime, work with new police chief, increase local business profit, attract new business,- know what they need, obtain more revenue for city.

A- Daniel Chavez- Multiple issues. Get fiscal house in order, lost our CFO, finances not in the best shape, reach out, retain City employees, attain financial stability so that City may address other issues.

A- Orlano Dozier- “Maslow” (famous psychologist’s “hierarchy of needs, starting with physical security), addressing the City’s 100+ “material weaknesses”, establish/follow a time line to get well, 1 year review.

A- Steve Huber- Too many issues, too little time. Budget to address priorities, good CFO hire, clean up the financial books, buy modern software for finance, implement zero-based budgeting- fresh slate, reduce number of consultants, get an internal auditor/Controller.

A- Bryan MacDonald- Public safety is priority 1, police are understaffed, crime going through the roof, make the city safe, prosperous so people  want to come here, make City self sufficient in disasters, clean, prosperous.

A- Enrique Petris- Crime rate is high, even though millions spent on police, doing nothing, demand that crime be reduced or fire police chief and cut the budget 1/3.

A- Aaron Starr- Focus on getting more revenue, make it easier to do business in Oxnard/come here, use a model similar to Phoenix. We now have the highest business license costs in county- need to make it the lowest.

A-Jack Villa- Fiscal responsibility, build reserves, bettre policing, safety #1- personal, property, create the ability to afford that, address whistleblower policy.

2. What are your views on the need for residential and commercial development at Channel Islands Harbor? How do you evaluate current proposals?

A- Daniel Chavez- Better relationships, simplify business license process. Now 2-3X more expensive than county average. Develop business, jobs, new development for a vibrant community, bring in more revenue.

A- Orlando Dozier- Happy that City got County proposals for harbor development projects, make sure City picks up its share of costs, make the harbor a travel/tourism destination. We should build a pier.

A- Steve Huber- Channel Islands Harbor is a gem- in the rough- polish, improve it. Make full use of community, develop resources. Bring in the right business, residents, meet City needs. Build win/win relationships. But harbor is county-run, while land, roads, access are City. Traffic impact of development must be considered.

A- Bryan MacDonald- Need harbor development, it is old and tired, worn out, needs improvement, County-owned. Coastal Commission involved in use decisions. Build collaboration with residents and address their concerns, make part of a strong local business environment.

A- Enrique Petris- 100% for development, economic growth. Growth is inevitable, so plan for it Create jobs, tax base. Create private/govt. partnerships, entice business. He plans to help create 100 jobs/year in the City.

A- Aaron Starr- County ownership has not done well for the past 40 years, mismanaged. Should be private owned/controlled, solicit bids, City could use eminent domain to take it from the County, then have private financing, development. Great potential. As long as govt. controls it, it won’t be, though.

A- Jack Villa- Harbor was vibrant, Casa Sirena/Lobster Trap were THE places to go- 30 years ago. Not now. It can come back. Great asset, for tourism, etc. Significant hotel tax revenue potential.

A- David Albanese- The new Collection is fine- imagine that at Channel Islands Harbor. Comedy Club, etc., would drive tourism, business. Opposed to eminent domain takeover. strong leadership needed. Pursue development.

3. How can city council help the Oxnard Police Department lessen the crime rate, particularly homicides within the Oxnard Plain?

A- Steve Huber- People and equipment needed, but also innovative ideas. Predictive analysis- where and when is crime likely to occur and then be there to prevent it. Jobs, education needed for young people, teach what is need, provide youth programs

A- Bryan MacDonald- Police budgets were cut $1MM, 15-25  positions eliminated, Oxnard has one of the lowest per capita police ratios, almost last in County, Need community policing, but is call-driven now. Up to 25 calls pending sometimes.

A- Enrique Petris- Ask police for a plan to address crime problem, give them one year to do it or cut budget 1/3.

A- Aaron Starr- Can’t be a full-service city. Not focused now on core services. Law enforcement is a top priority. Police Dept. needs resources, not distractions by things like enforcing smoking ordinances. Beef up Neighborhood Watch.

A- Jack Villa- Properly staff Police Dept., need youth, mentorship programs and  apprenticeships for 13-24 year-olds. No bad kids, just bad decisions. Emphasize Neighborhood Watch.

A- David Albanese- Crime is a real issue. no one understands safety issues. Need equipment and personnel, but it won’t work unless addressing the real issues. Help parents understand their kids. Issues at home.

A- Daniel Chavez- Equipment, personnel needed. Oxnard is largest City in County. Need recreation, business development, bridge the gap, “it takes a village.”

4. What is your plan to assist the City of Oxnard to be more “business friendly” such as streamlining the permit process?

A- Bryan MacDonald- Not working now. Recent exercise to meet with a prospective company and provide all City resources needed at one table seemed successful. Make it more business friendly, work on simplifying regulations, work with involved regional/state agencies, too.

A- Enrique Petrice- Need a fact-finding commission, study on how to make it more effective, bring  in good-paying jobs, create 100 new jobs/year.

A- Aaron Starr- Simplify permitting, use Phoenix’s approach, consider self-certifying architects, engineers, same day service, outsource the permitting process. City cannot mange it effectively on its own.

A- Jack Villa- Streamline the permitting process, whatever it takes to get business moving.

A- David Albanese- He has seen ice cream shops bogged down for 18 months in city bureaucracy, need one stop shop, steps in the right direction. He questions outsourcing of the process, wants to make it more effective inside the City.

A- Daniel Chavez- 1 stop shop a great idea., but nobody to manage it, need services manager, break City up into districts. Process is taking 7 months or more and costs 2-3X what other cities charge.

A- Orlando Dozier- Strengthen the process, change perception that it is hard to do business in Oxnard. Have City and Chamber of Commerce-sponsored business expos, where prospects can meet/work with current local businesses/organizations.

5. Do you support adding lifeguards to Oxnard’s beaches? If so, how would you pay for this?

A- Enrique Petris- Add lifeguards.

A– Bryan MacDonald- Yes, need lifeguards, via County, paid through general fund.

A- Aaron Starr- Not at this time. Need to focus on existing public safety, getting the murder rate down more important.

A- Jack Villa- Yes, supports it, but need fiscal responsibility, must find the money. partner with County.

A- David Albanese- Can’t control mother nature- need lifeguards. Have equipment companies pay for it in return for advertising.

A- Daniel Chavez- Supports the need for lifeguards. Consider VCCD college interns, pay from general fund.

A- Orlando Dozier- Supports it- parents concerned that there are no lifeguards. City pay 1/2, use students.

A- Steve Huber- Need them. But first get fiscal house in order. Need marine safety officer to manage.

Closing Statement

A- Jack Villa- Has volunteered his service for 35 years, provided leadership, has experience, ready to take another step. Retired postal worker who can now focus full time on the job.

A- Aaron Starr- He’s a get things done guy, got an initiative on the ballot even with heavy City resistance, a champion for you, pro-business, pro-law enforcement.

A- Enrique Petris- If you want change, someone to make decisions, not care if he is re-elected, move to a dynamic economic system, change right away, not in 2 years, it might hurt, but benefits all, plan to create good jobs, address crime.

A- Bryan MacDonald- Here to serve what you need, won’t work just 7-8 hr/week, but full time. Completely focused on this.

A- Steve Huber- He is doing this not for himself, but for the City, as he did his military service for the country. This is greater than ourselves. Ready to roll up his sleeves and work.

A- Orlando Dozier- A lifelong public servant, military background, budget analyst, program manager for programs of 100’s of millions of dollars, done on schedule, below budget cost.

A- Daniel Chavez- Doesn’t have the requisite experience, but since February, has done an extensive requirements study, gone to every City Council meeting and some commissions and orgs., asked questions, spoke, to learn what it takes.

A- David Albanese- Understands local business- has owned, operated, sold, assisted many local business owners. Ready to move forward, provide planning and vision, Used a Mike Tyson quote that anyone can come in the ring with a perfect plan, but he will smack him out.

Update: The Chamber endorsed Bryan MacDonald and Steve for City Council and Al Jones for Treasurer after the forum.

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Thanks to the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce for hosting this worthwhile event.


George Miller is Publisher of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.

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