By George Miller
The Oxnard City Council at its 2-18-20 meeting approved a plan to save the seemingly doomed Performing Arts and Convention Center (PACC) via turning over event booking and some management to successful event manager Sterling Ventures, operator of The Canyon Club and seven other venues. Some parties expressed alarm at the probable removal of use subsidies for most who were getting them, but this is a matter of the venue’s survival, so tough measures are called for. The PACC received $4 million in city subsidies in the last three years per Mayor Flynn. The public and officials expressed high confidence in Sterling’s capabilities.
Staff presented Council with some ideas for winding down expenditures by the Measure O special sales tax fund, which expires November, 2028. Amounts identified were nowhere close to enough to “wean off of Measure O” as the agenda item described it, but they would at least reduce the load on the fund. Meanwhile the city floated the idea of a hefty 1.5% increase in the sales tax a couple of months ago, which would make the “weaning” moot if enacted.
C. Closed Session Items
City Atty. Stephen Fischer announced the following:
C-1- Council voted unanimously to accept a $119,000 allocation settlement for a case which it was one of the parties to. It involved Verizon providing substandard cell service in public agency contracts.
C-3 Council voted for an undisclosed action on an unidentified real estate issue.
E. CEREMONIAL ITEMS
1. SUBJECT: Presentation of a Resolution to Catherine G. Garcia for Twenty-Two Years of Exemplary Service to the City of Oxnard.
2. SUBJECT: Presentation of a Commendation to Oxnard PAL U14 Girls Soccer Team for Winning the CSL 2019 League Cup Tournament.
They will also be competing internationally.
F. Public Comments on Items Not on the Agenda
PW Robinson (lives in city homeless shelter per our sources)- We have the highest homeless death ratio in the nation at 4.91. Claims 82 deaths of 1600 estimated homeless in Ventura County. Lowest number of sheltered homeless in any county- 6%. Claims there is a conspiracy to conceal this (he accused Citizens Journal, the only publication which has run his council comments, of being part of that conspiracy, in an email to the publisher this week). $965,000 for 6 months to run the shelter is an example of graft. Will talk about the Paradise Project next time.
Ray Blutel- Re: 5 Feb candidate forum at INCO and City Manager presentation on Measure B and Nguyen’s claim of exemption because he is a “professional.” Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. All senior officials should have been included. Still wants full impact of city benefit increases published.
Steve Nash- CA Resources Corp (CRC) PAC trying to buy 3 seats on Board of County Supv. Allegedly Spent $1 million. Attempting to sully the reputation of Ramirez and Stephenson (Dist 3 candidate) . CRC is near bankruptcy- has 17,000+ unplugged wells, trying to escape liability. We haven’t seen the results of their expenditure. Blames Citizens United ruling for allowing this to occur. He didn’t specify which politicians were “bought.” He is opposed to all PACS.
Casey Barker- Heard about a plan to raise property taxes around CenterPoint Mall to help pay for public square. Wants more info.
Pat Brown- Bad ad about Carmen Ramirez. Have seen similar ads against Carmen and Stephenson? Whose money is this coming from? We don’t want out of area people advertising against who we want. Twisted info- not real- amateur quality, big money so they can have onshore/offshore drilling. Wants yes to Measure B which she says would stop corruption.
Al Velsasquez- Join me in voting for Carmen Ramirez.Claims that other candidates have no idea what duties are. or how city govt works.
Andy Devine- Have a 37 employee manufacturing company in Ventura. Can’t move here because street parking not allowed here in industrial areas.
Aaron Starr- Oxnard residents qualified a strong term limits measure for the ballot., Council approval of it was to mislead . Measure B False promises financial transparency- to post contracts, which is already required by state law; Measure B actually reduces transparency. Monthly financial reports, are already required by state, but city refuses to publish them. Gifts greater than $ 500 already prohibited and those greater than $50 already must be reported. Under Measure B, any gift prohibited- you are assumed to be a lobbyist But it would Not apply to Alex (City Manager Alex Nguyen) – most powerful man in City. Campaign finance restrictions- already must file campaign reports. AB571 already signed, imposes state contribution limits. Measure B is blatantly unconstitutional on its requirements for both candidates and ballot measures. Court decisions void it.
Alicia Percell- Measure M is a poorly drafted incumbent protection measure which cannot withstand a court challenge. “Voter guide” is a lie- says it will impose term limits when it actually weakens them. Restricts campaign contributions while he (City Mgr. Alex Nguyen) freely spends your tax funds to promote his own agenda. One sided council forums were held, refusing to let the other side participate in forums. Measure B is not the solution, it’s part of the problem. Referred to web site: NoOnOxnardMeasureB.com. Biggest money is the city.
G. City Manager Report
Nguyen- I’ll provide accurate info on Measure B: Doesn’t cover professional staff because they are professional staff, but because rules already include staff. State passed AB 571 on campaign contribution limits but determines that most cities don’t have their own campaign contribution limits. Their bill was just a “floor,” more suited for statewide races. Local entities not precluded from establishing own limits. Claims not to be the most powerful man in City Hall. Gave examples of people working for him he implied were just as powerful.
Madrigal- 3 upcoming neighborhood meetings (see web site). Praised several Oxnard athletic victories.
Ramirez- Remote call-in to this meeting (hard to hear)- At Sacramento lobbying day. Working on city priorities. Build housing in right area, take care of homeless people.
MacDonald- Submit vote by mail in mailbox.
Perello- A mandated A or B average to play on soccer team is a very high bar. Likes it. Thanks to Police Dept for removing illegal guns on streets. What will happen to Santa Clara Church robber, who is from Moorpark and has been arrested 20 times? Says leadership is doing nothing about Afghanistan war quagmire.
City Clerk Ascencion- Today is last day to register to vote.
Flynn- Job Fair Feb 20 3-7 PM at Oxnard Housing Authority.- 1500 Camino Del Sol, room 21 805-385-7574
Atty Fischer- There are certain statutory and code filers called out in ordinances. He used this to justify the wording of measure B, to claim that officials are not actually exempt from conflict of interest rules and are covered by city requirements. He did not specify what those were, though.
I, J,K- Consent Agenda
Item #4 pulled for discussion by Councilman Perello. Staff verified vendor qualifications. Staff has no reason to doubt trustworthiness.
-#2 Re; CouncilwomanLopez assigned to Economic Development Collaborative. Congrats to her and Mayor ProTem Ramirez is past Chair.
– #4 Harbor Constructor award to Fix Mandalay Bay seawall pilasters, to be paid by Waterways Assessment District. We will continue repairs. Ed.note: The City has been negotiating on and off with a committee of Mandalay Bay residents for at least 14 years over repairs and maintenance of the 45+ year old city-owned seawalls.Some work has been done, but very large deferred maintenance vs scheduled work and funding are making the situation worse and worse. So far, most work has been paid for by funds in a maintenance district paid for by area property owners.
Ray Blutel- Re; K-10 public investments. Why are city officials not subject to conflict of interest code? Measure O Oversight Committee has no teeth, yet they are subject to code and officials are not.
Debbie Mitchell (Mandalay Resident) – Thanks for getting pilaster project approved. This council has been responsive even if past ones weren’t. (Ed. note: several members were the past council). Appreciate honestly and openness of city.
Carol Taylor- Ditto on thanks.
Al Velasquez- Support pilaster repairs but cost?… $635,000 and another $63,000. Then item 4 on K-4, another $63,000 for jack repairs and another $635,000. Are they additional? Is the total $1,286,528, or just duplicate references?
Pat Brown- Community Dev. Dept Rio Urbana development- Streets are narrow, parking is inadequate, may block firefighting equipment in her mobile home park. True with this one too?
Council Vote- Approved 6-1 with Basua abstaining.
K-1 City Treasurer Department
SUBJECT: Monthly Investment Report for the period ending December 31, 2019. (10/5/5).
Treasurer Phil Molina presented….
97.74% of idle available cash is invested, but interest rates are quite low at 1.9%. But Oxnard’s rate of return is 2.096%
$15,841415 in Treasurer’s bank accounts
Invested total is $245 085,037. Bought much at discounts to face value, due to “inverted” investment returns.
Unfortunately, investments are being called by issuers due lower rates now available.
Al Velasquez- Question- does it include all unrestricted cash reserves from 175 special funds excluding enterprise funds? A: yes. Molina says that he did a previous presentation on this. All is funneled into a “pooled cash investment fund.”
Perello- Thanks for presentations and to staff and you. Can we charge credit card fees for utility payments to ratepayers or banks? Molina- will attempt this. Costing a half million annually. Perello- please put this on committee agenda (ed note: most Council items are first run through/vetted by committees).
No vote required.
L-2- Award Agreement with Sterling Venue Ventures for the management and operations of
the Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center. (10/15/15)
Harrison Terrell presented: Wonderful opportunity to keep the PACC running. In July, an RFP was initiated, VenuTech was selected but later withdrew. The process was cancelled. Staff/Board were introduced to Sterling Venue Ventures, which operates 8 venues, has 20 years experience, does 1000 events/year.
$2750 per use of auditorium, city pays utilities up to $121,800, city gets half of all concessions. Meeting room deal- Oxnard received
52 auditorium events per year with a target of 104.
A breakeven is projected. Includes $118,00 annually in restoration expenses.
Lance from Sterling- Says he’s a corporate skeptic (but runs a corporation). Can help city out.
Ray Blutel- Congrats on making this deal. Why is it not like the AGC deal? Re: 4.2 doesn’t say city will pay for use of auditorium? City should help Sterling get a liquor license.
Rebecca Rawling- With New West Symphony- does concerts for grade school kids, also provide training materials to teach kids music. March 16 concert planned.
Mike Doddy- Member of PACC Board. Pleased as punch about contract. Board will oversee community side of PACC. Need “eclectic” mix of programs/access at a reasonable rate. Want to guarantee diversity in programming. Want to “loosen” up fee structure for non-profits. Will also seek grants, raise funds, but want assurances on rates.
Gary Blum- PACC Chair. Thanks for selecting Lance Sterling. He (Blum) is cognizant of financial realities. A powerhouse of nonprofit participants. Want a cap on the $90,000 profit share. Want flexibility on rental rates to optimize profitability vs local events. Wants a partnership with the nonprofit for maintenance.
Len Shulman- Board member- agrees with two previous speakers. Board/staff worked very hard to keep PACC.
Stephanie Hijarawa- President Of Oxnard Gem and Material Society- Supports/uses PACC. Great increase in fees is a big problem. $6 million in insurance. PACC was created for affordable rates. Please save the PACC.
Pat Brown- Great but allow nonprofits to continue. Where is sheet of upcoming events? Haven’t seen it. Please restore.
Al Velasquez- I have first hand knowledge of what Sterling can do and his successes. It is evident that board/management could not make PACC profitable. If this man can’t make it work, nobody can. You don’t want to be subsiding anyone anymore.
Jack Villa- Chair of Hobson Park East (home of PACC) and INCO Chair. I and residents want Sterling to succeed in Oxnard. Local park near there isn’t pretty. City must help maintain the nearby park.
Ramirez- PACC has been an ongoing issue- glad we finally have a workable solution. Sterling has to have this work financially. What is your relationship with the board? Sterling- He will operate and book. Board will operate community center- they will split revenue with city. They will sponsor entertainment for the other side. Ramirez asked about Latino show market. Sterling says it’s huge and he has lots of such events. Owning multiple venues makes it easier to put tour deals together.
Director Terrell Harrison- 104 show goal leaves room for capital improvements- $118,000.
Madrigal- Hopefully this works out for city- we were on verge of closing the PACC. Canyon Club (a Sterling venue) is properly run- great company.
Basua- Really happy we can keep the PACC open, but what about the prices? We used to have a nonprofit discount. is that still possible? Harrison: using 2018 rates now. We can change the rates
MacDonald- recused himself due to living nearby.
Perello- Thanks to those who made this possible. Neighborhood needed cleanup. We shouldn’t pick nonprofit winners and losers. We gave too many things away over a long period of time. Previous Manager Chelsea Reynolds complained that facilities were booked at very low special rates. There is a price that things cost.
Ramirez- Many groups depended on discounts, city was able to provide it, but deficits were unsustainable.
Lopez- Worked hard, had tough conversations to keep the PACC open. Want to maintain diversity of the programming, see great stuff.
Flynn- PACC an Oxnard institution since 1968. He, family and friends participated. Excited that PACC will stay open and that Sterling will be in charge. City subsidies of $4mm in the last three years. It will not cost the taxpayers anything anymore. Will offer venues to the public. Thanks to City Mgr. People are saying do this, but just don’t cut our program. Fiscal realities dictate a different course.
Vote- 6-0 approved (MacDonald recused)
L-3 “Wean Off” of Measure O.
Also reviewed by Measure O Oversight community.
Asst. City Mgr. Klima- Beginning to wean off Measure O. Seek Council feedback on cuts.
Measure O sunsets in November 2028, so we should start thinking about what to do, consisting of savings, reductions, reabsorption (other funding) and cuts (of entire projects). There is debt service through 2031 for Fore Station 8 debt.
Ramirez- we need revenue to keep up our city services and infrastructure. Not enough money for everything everybody would like.
Lopez- How much is owed on the fire station (#8)? A: Not sure, will get back to you. Nguyen- City will own it at the end of payments. Want to reabsorb some programs.
Perello- Appreciate the hard look. re: Ormond Beach and safe homes/tenant relocation. Would we be in legal trouble by reducing this? Asst. City Mgr. Ashley Golden- No. Owner must provide.
MacDonald- it takes 18-24 months to hire and train public safety personnel, so be careful in funding, ramping up and ramping down manning levels.
Basua- re: parks 1 time reduction. Some parks require additional work.
Madrigal concerned about strong needs for existing programs and impact of a likely future recession.
Flynn- Measure O was supposed to add programs, but it’s mainly just keeping up with needs. Need to evaluate effectiveness of programs, use priority-based budgets. Want to evaluate effectiveness of entire departments, programs. Discussed raising additional revenue “however that’s done.” He used the term “revenue enhancement” without ever mentioning what or how.
Nguyen- we asked for feedback, you (Council, public) gave it to us, so we will go back and massage it.
MacDonald- Property owner bears burden of moving/relocating people out of substandard housing.
Reductions identified seem a long way from weaning off. However, these appeared to be pretty well thought out although some would be hard to implement. A big item of discussion was payments for the expensive Fire Station 8. There was talk of paying it off early, but the Finance Dept was unable to say if the City could call the loan/pay off early.
A few people we talked to think that this exercise is a way to help set the stage for the huge new taxes being contemplated, such as the 1.5% sales tax increase previously floated, on the grounds that they may claim that the city needs most of this and much more.
I-4- Amended MOU (Memorandum of Agreement) concerning sale of Rule 20A credits to City of Laguna Beach.
These are credits that Oxnard possesses for burying utility lines underground and will sell to Laguna Beach at a discount of 55 cents on the dollar. Previous totals carried on the books were calculated incorrectly by SCE.
RECOMMENDATION: That the City Council:
1. Adopt a resolution and enter into an amended Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the
City of Oxnard (City) and the City of Laguna Beach (Laguna Beach) for the sale of $3,231,245 in
unallocated Southern California Edison (SCE) Rule 20A credits from the City to Laguna Beach in the
amount of $1,777,185, and apply one-time revenue from proposed sale to the General Fund reserve; and
2. Issue a payment to Laguna Beach for the difference between the original MOU and amended MOU
in the amount of $403,998; and
3. Authorize the City Manager to take whatever actions are necessary and appropriate to carry out the
purpose and intent of the resolution.
No Public Speakers
Perello- Lamented errors
Vote- 7-0 unanimously approved.
George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.