Oxnard State of the City: Better

By George Miller

Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn told a crowd of residents, officials and staff that the City is better off now and explained why. The event was sponsored by the Inter-Neighborhood Council (INCO) Watch Oxnard INCO video. It was held in a cavernous hall at the Performing Arts Center which was also the venue for a social hour, pizza, drinks and exhibits from various city departments to explain their missions and services.

Flynn said that this year’s presentation would have a neighborhood orientation, at the request of the sponsor. Flynn emphasized the positive, launching into five areas where significant improvements were made and are slated to continue.

  1. Graffiti Abatement
  2. Street Paving
  3. Neighborhood Cleanup
  4. Growth in Neighborhood Councils
  5. Safe Homes/Safe Families

Flynn’s speech starts at about 9:00 on the video (link below).

Event video:

 

1. Graffiti Abatement

Graffiti had (past tense) been a blight on the community. It imparted a xvomewhat third world, post-apocalyptic feel to the city. It was one of the biggest complaints by residents and left an immediate negative first impression on visitors. Politicians and staff responded and Oxnard now has one of the most successful graffiti abatement programs anywhere. Notice that we wrote “abatement” not just removal. Why? Not only is the visibility of graffiti almost nil now, but the creation of it has dropped by over half as well, from 46,000 (yes thousand) reported incidents in 2015 to 21,000 last year. That’s still a heck of a lot, but down dramatically. Not mentioned by Flynn is that the efficient 24 hour response program is also expensive. It has cost over a million annually in the and is about $800K now. Significantly, hardly anyone complains about it or wants to eliminate it.

 

2. Street Paving

People were complaining, are still complaining about the condition of the streets. The City got way behind on road maintenance and in recent years has been trying to catch up. The main problem is not lack of capability by Public Works and contractors, but lack of funding. This is estimated to be a needed $20 million annual effort for a long time and that money simply is not fully available to meet the need. Some will come from the General Fund and special sales tax money in Measure “O.” Some will come from state  and federal funding.

Tim Flynn and the Council in general have embraced that and provided what priority and funding that they could. To avoid politics and preferences, they have set project priorities based on “road index” (condition) of paving. Because some roads are funded by state or federal monies, these priorities can become distorted, based on what money is available for what road projects. The mayor told us that the City repaved only 7 neighborhoods between 2007-11, just 6  more from 2012-16, but 8 in 2017-18, with 30 more intended for future years.

Greg Nyhoff mentioned that the new 12 cent gas tax will provide funding for roads, but provided no estimates of how much. Next to public safety (police/fire), roads are the most expensive thing paid for via the general fund. Grants will be key to closing the funding gap.

Flynn told the crowd that alleys are a completely different story and are not included in the residential street program. An estimated $60 million is needed just to repave the alleys. A “green” alley program could address some of the needs more creatively, and include such things as permeable paving for better drainage, lighting signs, landscaping and other amenities. The city has applied for 7 figure grants to help fund some of the cost.

 

3. Neighborhood Cleanup

Trash dumped and left in some areas is another blight on the community, particularly in alleys, outlying, and transition areas. The City has promoted neighborhood cleanup efforts and provided dumpsters, personnel , publicity and pickups to support it,  This effort has gone from 12 neighborhoods so serviced in 2012 to 30 in the last year, a huge gain.

 

4. Growth in Neighborhood Councils

The Inter Neighborhood Council (INCO) has been playing a greater role in City government, with the full support of the City Council, staff and many residents. Not only that, but it has aggressively moved to activate more neighborhood Councils. Currently only 15 of the 47 neighborhoods do not have active Councils. Past INCO Chair Jack Villa and board members mounted the effort to make that happen.

 

5. Safe Homes/Safe Families

Overcrowded homes, many people densely packed into illegal multiple rental units, are compromising safety and creating overcrowded conditions, including parking problems.

Flynn dramatically described the situation as “third world living conditions in a 1st world country,” deplored resistance to efforts to alleviate it and praised the support of Chamber of Commerce, INCO, Board of Realtors, housing activists.

People like Mayor Flynn, INCO Board Member and retired code enforcer Joe Aguilar and others have been pushing for increased code enforcement. The Council this year has taken some steps to put teeth in that.

 

 

While much of this seemed a bit self-congratulatory to some we talked to at and after the event, it’s true to the best of our knowledge. The City has made significant progress in the last few years and credit is well-deserved.

 

6. etc….  Missing from Mayor Flynn’s State of the City address ….

Just as significant as what was in the  Mayor’s speech, though, was what was not.

For example, nothing was said about major efforts made to improve long-neglected wastewater and water utilities. There was much controversy and massive increases (some say too much and misplaced) in rates were passed. But it will result in improvements and increased reliability. But, all this helped trigger a recall initiative, now underway, for 4 of the 5 council members.

Nothing was mentioned about the City’s massive and controversial efforts and expenditures to stop the proposed “Puente” Mandalay power plant replacement proposal by NRG.

Nothing was said about the City’s massive and expensive efforts to incorporate highly controversial and likely very expensive “sea rise” estimates into planning and regulations.

Nothing was said about the major and still underway effort to clean up the awful Landscape Maintenance District mess. Much progress was made, initiated by Neighborhood Council member Mike Gleason, who spoke about it later. The City has responded well to this, but much still needs to be done.

Nothing was said about the largely successful massive, expensive consultant-reinforced effort to clean up the City’s terrible financial system, although City Manager Nyhoff brought it up later.

Nothing was said about the City’s controversial sanctuary/safe city initiative which may put it on a collision course with constitutional federal immigration law enforcement.

Nothing was mentioned about the significant effort to begin revitalizing downtown, including the much-heralded “charrette” effort to engage residents in developing approaches, now about to begin agreement for implementation priorities.

Nothing was said about the City’s continuing de facto policy of increasingly dense and congested development resembling the San Fernando Valley. However, Flynn later alluded to state policies that are unfavorable to single family homes.

Nothing was said in the speech about economic development, which the City lags in, although there was some hopeful reference to it in comments afterward.

Nothing was said about Treasurer Phil Molina and staff’s massive efforts to clean up Treasury, disbursements, accounts and permissions, which has been more controversial and hard-fought in the shadows, due to long-established practices, turf battles and contradictory regulations.

Nothing was said in the Safe City section about the massive increase in crime in recent years and the City/PD effort to start bringing it down again, although that did come up later in comments and Greg Nyhoff’s responses (see below) ….

 

Police/Crime

City Manager Greg Nyhoff announced that crime is down 15%. Actually it was 15.8%, according to a fact sheet he gave us, with violent crime down 6.4%, property crime down 17.2%, injury collisions down 13.9% and hit and runs down 11.6%. What he didn’t initially mention but did later is that crime first ramped up 56% in recent years.

A conversation with police Chief Scott Whitney later that evening covered the disastrous effect of prison release policies, AB109, Prop 47, etc., some federal policies and more things which release prisoners, reclassify many crimes, lessen penalties, etc., having the combined effect of more crimes and more criminals at large. The department is struggling with all of this and has managed to reverse the trend. Restoration of staffing has helped. The results speak for themselves. Whitney confirmed that many arrestees are quickly back on the streets. He was unable to provide any statistics and explanations of why when we asked.

The department has reached out with the Neighborhood Watch Program, which was big in the late 1990’s, withered away, but which they are now bringing back. A look at the OPD website did not show the program, but we found an old page on a Google Search and a lot of mentions on NextDoor. One new factor in it is the incorporation of NextDoor.com networking system, which has been very well received and embraced by the community and police to enhance the partnership. Chief Whitney told us today that NW is not an official Police Dept. program, but they have supported it.

 

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Fire Department

It was announced that the Oxnard Fire Department (OFD) will be finally fully staffed, with the recent largest ever graduating class (19) of the Fire Academy. The department just had its ISO response time rating improved from 3 to 2, which means greater safety for residents and also lower fire insurance rates.  OFD handles a large number of calls for its size, over 44,000 year to date so fa- see stats: YTD Calls for Service – All Areas

The National Weather Service recognized the department as being both storm and tsunami-ready.  OFD is supplemented in those efforts by Oxnard CERT, an OFD organization utilizing civilian volunteers. A large scale emergency such as a tsunami, bad storm, earthquake., etc., would quickly overwhelm the rather small numbers of the City public safety resources, so a well-organized and trained civilian auxiliary group could be very helpful in such emergencies. CERT welcomes new members desiring free training in disaster response.

 

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


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3 Responses to Oxnard State of the City: Better

  1. Tom September 10, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Will Ordinance No. 2921, proposed at the 7/10/2017 city council meeting result in a financial disaster for the city. Section 2C states that when there is a mandatory reduction of water usage, the city will increase the cost of water by the same percentage as the usage was decreased. It gives the example of a mandatory 20% reduction in usage and a 20% increase in cost.

    In the table below Col 1 is the volume used in HFC before the reduction; Col 2 is the variable cost of water for a SFR before the mandatory reduction; Col 3 is the variable cost of water after the reduction. These are my calculations; the city gave none.

    6 20.16 19.35
    7 23.52 22.58
    8 26.88 25.80
    9 30.24 29.03
    10 35.40 32.26
    11 40.56 35.48
    12 45.72 40.00
    13 50.88 44.96
    14 56.04 49.91
    15 61.20 54.86
    16 67.34 59.82
    17 73.48 64.77
    18 79.62 69.72

    Reply
  2. Dotty Pringle September 10, 2017 at 8:29 am

    What was left out, speaks VOLUMES! More left out that spoken about means we are NOT better off.

    Maybe the mayor will consider a real Question and Answer Meeting?

    Reply
    • Citizen Reporter September 10, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Even with the stuff left out, we’re better off. However a real state of the city is not just a brag session- it should also look hard and honestly at the failures and problems, too, which Oxnard has more than its share of.

      They did offer an opportunity for anyone who had questions and comments. There weren’t many.

      Reply

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