Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn harbor campaign fundraiser event

By George Miller

Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn held a re-election campaign fundraiser at the tony Seabridge Club in the Seabridge neighborhood, one of the newest sections in town. The session was for residents of the Channel Islands Harbor communities Seabridge and nearby Westport.

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Mayor Tim Flynn at reelection campaign event in Seabridge, Oxnard, 8-7-16. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Along with the freely flowing drinks and tasty food was the campaign message and solicitation of donations to fund what will likely be an expensive campaign.

It is a hallmark of Tim Flynn’s style that he has many longtime friends and associates. Accordingly, the session was kicked off by Tammy Ennis, wife of his friend since childhood Tom Ennis. She testified that Tim and his family “would do anything” to help people, that he loves his friends, that he has been in education 23 years, which she admires, since it is also her chosen profession and it helps people. Ennis said that Flynn is just a good guy, honest and that she trusts him. She further asserted that he has provided 4 years of “great leadership” and that “he leads with his heart,” she “believes in him” and that “we all need to support him.” She saved the hard-core monetary solicitations for husband Tom, the closer, later on.

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Flynn’s father John Flynn, who was a long-time County Supervisor, also is lending a hand in the campaign and spoke at the campaign event in Seabridge, Oxnard, 8-7-16. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

The Mayor started off his presentation saying that he wants small business growth in Oxnard and that some impediments to doing that need to be overcome, that he is committed to helping do that.

He summarized his family history. His father John, who spoke at this event, was a popular, respected county politician, County Supervisor, for 32 years. He memorialized his wife Julie, who he was very close to and misses sorely. She passed away just a year ago, after a long illness. His mother was guarding the gate and greeting all attendees. Flynn is very proud of his daughters. I recognized  a couple of them at the event.  He thanked his campaign staff, most of whom were in attendance and supporters. There were about 55 people at the event, consisting mostly of neighborhood residents and supporters.

Flynn said that this election is about quality of life and that he simply wants to get things done. There are high expectations. Oxnard has gone thorough some very difficult times in past years. The city has had major scandals, resulting in departure of key employees. There have been FBI investigations, subpoenas, trials. He said he has been honest, but some mistakes have been made, some by him/council. He said he ran and is still running, on honesty, integrity and trust. He admitted a biggest mistake of not getting rid of certain people sooner.

The hiring of new City Manager Greg Nyhoff in June, 2014, was the most important decision the Council has made in years. While the jury is still out on how good that decision was, most people will agree, or at least concede, that it was a great improvement over the previous status quo. Nyhoff is experienced and skilled. Flynn described him as “one of the most competent City Managers around.” The main criticism of Nyhoff in some quarters is that things are taking far too long to improve, that he is spending far too much on consultants, relying too much on them and often bypassing department heads on important decisions. There has been high secondary turnover on new hires of key people as well, particularly in Finance, Human Resources and public safety.

Flynn now admits that the city “was on the verge of bankruptcy,” but has pulled back from the precipice and is now stable.  Because the city’s most recent audit received “qualified opinions” for most of the city’s funds from the auditors, which means the numbers could not be determined to properly represent the city’s finances. Another recession could be crippling, since reserves are depleted and revenue scarce. If city financials can be believed, slowly growing revenues are now roughly in balance with expenses. But, this was achieved only at the expense of severe cuts in many departments, deferring maintenance and capital spending, cutbacks in police and fire manning and not filling open positions. Also, the city took $16 million from the “Measure O” sales tax fund, supposedly earmarked for public safety-related projects, to balance last year’s budget, after previously telling us it would be a balanced budget. In total, it had to replenish about 300 funds which were depleted and not afforded much visibility.

Flynn said that “you might hear from some fire and police union people that I am not pro-public safety.” He said that is untrue, but he is obliged to deal with the budget problems and that the pension liabilities are especially troubling, not only for the City of Oxnard, but for many government entities. He said that the pension system is not sustainable, that retiring at age 50 with 3% a year is unsustainable.  Taxpayers have to foot the bill.He said Oxnard now pays 46% of the police/fire bill for this. He added that Nyhoff now pays 7% to his pension share and that other department heads will go from 5 to 7%.

Public speakers at Council and other meetings, such as accountant and Treasurer candidate Larry Stein, retired municipal financial executive Jim Lavery and former Oxnard Finance Director Phil Molina, who brought these problems up from time to time, were viewed as cranks. But they were vindicated by operational and financial audits of the city.  The financial reporting system was in such poor condition that it took a small army of auditors, staff and consultants 10 months to make any sense of it and patch it up enough to get a rather qualified audit (with reservations). A “qualified opinion” in general terms means the auditor were unable to find enough evidence to assure the public that the financial numbers are valid. ​ However, Flynn and the council did hang in there, even through the very costly and time-consuming hiring of extra ​ staff and consultants​; Flynn and the council​ did stick with Nyhoff, continally supporting and funding his efforts, defending him, under withering fire from critics and expanding horrible revelations as more and more bad news was discovered.

At this session, Flynn admitted that he, Nyhoff and all council members were shocked by continually revealed new bad news about the city. They had no idea how bad it was and blamed staff for not telling them. That they are ultimately responsible for finding ways to know what was going on and manage it was not publicly acknowledged by them. It was Nyhoff who did the discovery work via his network of consultants and staff, both new and old.  In some cases, we saw Council members work through whistleblower tips  and neighborhood councils.

Most recently, this year’s  65% proposed increase in utility rates met with enormous outrage and resistance, resulting in a Flynn-brokered compromise of delaying water and trash rate increases, while moving ahead with steep wastewater increases. The latter was done to deal with rapidly exhausting funds and greatly deferred maintenance and capital projects. Perversely, drought cutbacks also greatly reduced water and wastewater revenues, exacerbating the funding problem. City Council candidate and industry financial executive Aaron Starr, a CPA, is warring with the City to roll back the wastewater rate increase and rationalize the capital spending plan, which he says is ridiculous.

​While Flynn was on city council but before he was mayor, Those who follow Oxnard city government events know about the departure a few years ago of a City Manager and Public Works director who were at the center of much controversy. They were kept on staff some say overly long, kept on paid leave of absence and finally terminated. Overly tentative interim assignments were made and little changed-  things were just put in a holding pattern for far too long. Since then, those employees have left and so has every single department head. Now, not all were for incompetence or malfeasance/misfeasance/nonfeasance. Some “retired” and some actually retired. Some went on to “pursue personal interests.” The last remaining pre-Nyhoff department head is leaving on a high note to take a very big job as Phoenix Police Chief- Jeri Williams. Flynn gave Nyhoff credit for “getting rid of non-performing/not honest people.”

At this session, Flynn touted a program to have all roads paved and in good condition within 3 years. He spearheaded that initiative before his last election. Other council members strongly supported it and public works aggressively pursued it, with available funds. He promised significant road improvements and has in fact been delivering on that. Yet we heard withering criticism of road conditions at another candidate’s event earlier that day, where he said the roads are horrible and actually worse. But objective evidence seems to show otherwise. The public has voiced concern that the bonds, which were sold to get the money to do the repairs will remain​ outstanding and due long after the current repairs are washed away. which if correct, makes the mayor’s decision a good political one but a bad fiscal one.

Being a smart and focused politician, Flynn did not ignore local burning issues, some of them unique to the neighborhoods of Seabridge/Westport. For example, how many Oxnard neighborhoods are concerned about being billed excessively for harbor patrol boat services by the county? Only one that we can think of. How many neighborhoods were converted from strawberry fields to canals and harbor front lots and had topsoil stripped down to the bare sand, creating problems for the landscaping?  

Local residents at this meeting were unanimous in agreeing that they were being ripped off by the patrol boat bills. The City has limited leverage, since the County controls this, but there was talk about helping to intercede, or even transferring this function to the City. But this has dragged on for years. Hardly a month or two goes by that some resident doesn’t speak out against it at a city council meeting. On the landscaping issue, there is less consensus. At least one resident disagreed with the diagnosis of the landscaping problem, instead attributing it to substandard work by the landscaping vendor and city mismanagement of the Landscaping Maintenance Districts (LMD’s). This has been borne out by the lengthy, painful dissection of its many faults. Although the Mayor seemed to take credit for straightening that out, it was the West Village Neighborhood Council that took the bull by the horns and finally forced/embarrassed the Council and City Manager to act on it. But act they did and the situation is now improving.

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Longtime Tim Flynn friend and supporter Tom Ennis works the crowd for reactions and campaign donations for re-election campaign. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Flynn stated to the assembled crowd: “you are my boss. I, the City Manager, staff, should serve YOU.”  More government officials should express those sentiments- and practice them. Agree with him or not, it was good to see a candidate getting into issues and policy and being specific about it.


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

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