By Armando Vazquez
Oxnard Election Overview: In 1903 the city of Oxnard was incorporated. For the greater part of the previous 115 year history the city voters elected their city council members through an at-large election system. On October 7, 2017 the city of Oxnard received a Notice of Violation from the legal offices of Jason Dominguez, representing his client and local voters, advising that the city’s method of conducting elections was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. On November 27, 2017 the City Council adopted a resolution indicating their intent to transition to district based elections. Public input was requested from the city council with regards to the development and creation of a city wide election districts that would, “improve voter turnout and help governments respond to community concerns.” On November 3, 2018, the first districted based election in Oxnard history took place to fill the two new Southside city council positions.
The important 2020 Presidential Election and its down ballot impact: All Americans, the entire world for that matter, know full well that there has been massive crippling and destructive abuse on what seems to be every institution, department and governance facet of our democracy at the national level by the president and his complicit and outlaw Republican Party. We have learned at terrifying warp speed that one evil tyrant, with help of bootlickers can bring a mighty government to its knees. Further, we have witnessed what can happen in states like Georgia, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin, to name but a few states, where local government officials have done everything in their power to suppress the vote and the will of the people.
We cannot let this happen in Oxnard. We have worked too hard and long for district wide city council representation by and for the people. As I write this piece, the City Council is deciding whether to appoint a new city council member to the seat that will be vacated on January 4, 2021, by Carmen Ramirez as she takes her new position as the Ventura County Supervisor of the 5th District. Or instead have a special election and have the voters of that district decide. An appointment by the city council of a favored “son or daughter” is highly problematic and will come with the inevitable strings attached. That appointee will be beholden to the political powers that put her/him in office.
What next Oxnard? By law the city council must fill the current vacancy by appointment or by calling a special election within 60 days of the vacancy commencing. If the city council decides to appoint someone they still have to determine what the process or method will be to fill that vacancy. To complicate the appointment process, Oxnard will have a new mayor, and his significant influence added to the appointment mix, which undoubtedly will be a secretive hush-hush affair and presented as a total surprise to the bamboozled local electorate.
Another factor, being floated that will certainly impact the process to fill the vacant council seat is of course money. It has been reported in the newspapers and in other news outlets that a special election in the city would cost in the neighbourhood of $200,000 dollars. In a cash strapped city like Oxnard it is reflective logic for officials to argue fiscal restraint and attempt to save tax payer dollars. This argument is a Red Herring that stinks of hypocrisy and would be yet again another example of local officials playing on the gullible and undiscerning vigilance of the electorate even in these perilous political time. We have all witnessed in the past two decades how irresponsible city councils and a small army of top management officials have spend tax payer money like drunken sailors on highly questionable city projects without community input. So to sacrifice the right of the people to exercise their right to vote because the city officials have been horrible fiscal managers only adds insult to injury and deprive the people of their inalienable right to vote for their government representative, and is just flat wrong and undemocratic.
Oxnard Must Have a Special Election: If the people fight for and win the right to a special election, the government code requires that the election be held no earlier than 114 days after the vacancy. It would appear that the most likely date for the special election would be in November of 2021. There will be strong resists from the sitting city council members and they will argue that November, 2021 is too far away. That with the absence of one council member the city council of 6 members would have the issue of 3-3 tied votes. Both concerns are non-issues as the city for 115 years had only 5 city council member. Yes they will have 6 council members and is it not the central key objective of democracy to govern by consensus. So if these current sitting city council members deadlock on 3-3 votes, then it is their job, their responsibility to deliberate and negotiate that will lead to consensus. Finally, we will hear from all sectors of the community and city hall that the $200,000 dollars is just too costly. The city of Oxnard can come up with the money, if the people demand a special election. There is no way that the city council can get around this basic democratic right to vote for their representation.
The Power of the Vote: Democracy demands vigilance from those that seek to abuse it and manipulate the system to meet their self-serving ends. Evil forces are always threatening our democracy, on a national level we have witnessed and felt the effects of Trumps tyrannical power grab. It is there to seen by every American, yet half of the country appears oblivious, or worse still in blind support of his full-court assault on our democracy. On the local level, our democratic political institutions are compromised and abused more often than not in what appear to be benign incremental, often secretive, steps. Preventing the people of Oxnard from voting for their representative is not a small step. The city council by appointing a “puppet” cuts to the core of the power dynamic of a true democracy where there are safeguards against tyrants and authoritarians and their power grabs. The vote helps to preserve and strengthen the power of the people, but only if the people have the power to vote!
Armando Vazquez, M.Ed. is Executive Director of Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.