By George Miller- Opinions on the event and candidates ranking ….
All five VC District 5 (mostly Oxnard) Supervisor candidates differentiated themselves at the 1-23-20 Latino Issues Forum at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center. The event was sponsored by Clinicas del Camino Real, LULAC District 17, Santa Paula Latino Town Hall, LiUNA Laborers Local 585, CAUSE, Cabrillo Economic Development, Mixteco Indigena Community Organization and Peter Placentia Photography. They brought a panel and audience questions focused on issues of interest to the Latino community.
Unsurprisingly, Latino issues are for the most part like all people issues, but with a few twists. Many Latino residents are immigrants or children of immigrants. With many of those lacking in wealth, education and good jobs, quality of life is affected by lower incomes and lack of access to good housing, jobs, health care, education and amenities. Immigration issues also figure in. These circumstances can have an adverse affect on family life and help create more stressful situations. Statistics and surveys verify all of this and some were presented. Many are forced to live in high crime, more dilapidated areas and seek to improve their circumstances. So, they are really interested in what government and politics can realistically do to help them improve their lives. By the way, at least 3/4 of Oxnardians identify as “Latino” or “Hispanic.” Hence this forum. Many are my friends and associates.
This free forum was well done and even included a buffet style Mexican meal. The 23 questions (a large number for such an event) were mostly relevant and well targeted, although some were a bit ideological. We observed that it was mostly very positive, not “us vs them” and only ideological in a few places. It was very clear that they wanted real answers. Moderator Arnoldo Torres sometimes scolded the candidates for not delivering and exhorted them to try harder.
It quickly became evident that social worker and Oxnard School Board member Veronica Robles-Solis was out of her depth, not yet ready for prime time, although she looked stronger in education and mental health issues. But it’s good that she’s out there and we hope she keeps learning and growing.
Oxnard Mayor ProTem and civil rights attorney/activist Carmen Ramirez came across as very knowledgeable on the issues and processes, but strongly ideological, to a fault. If you agree with her extreme positions, she’s your candidate. She claimed credit for stopping the offshore LNG port, halting the new power plant project and championing Oxnard’s “Safe City” (try sanctuary city) resolution, pushing “comprehensive” immigration reform, anti oil-gas, somewhat anti-ag, as well as fighting guns and opposition/threats to radical Simi Valley Council Member Ruth Luevanos. She declared “Climate Change” an urgent, existential crisis requiring drastic and immediate action, alleging that (debunked) 99% of scientists agree. This would radically change government policies if actually implemented, drastically affecting housing, public works, transportation, food, energy, industry, taxation and impose draconian government controls in ways that most people cannot imagine. Think AOC’s “Green New Deal.”
Mayor and retired Oxnard HS District teacher Tim Flynn is also very knowledgeable on the issues and processes, deftly positioned himself a bit to the right of Ramirez and left of Burum, pushing “The American Dream” and a more moderate stance, although he and Ramirez are closely allied and vote very similarly on the Oxnard Council. He has consistently chosen her as Mayor ProTem and never picked anyone else. He is a bit more nuanced on the wedge issues than Ramirez. He has a solid educational background, in the USA and Germany, worked for the U.S. Congress and private industry before finally settling into education.
Both Ramirez and Flynn touted some successes, but are heavily weighed down by longtime failures of the Council which have generated consistent deficits, fiscal and operational mismanagement, decaying infrastructure- wastewater/roads/landscaping,/buildings, exploding gang membership, homelessness, decay, crime, assaults, shootings, murders, impediments to business development, traffic, and parking problems. They consistently blame it on past administrations- but they ARE the past administration at this point. How long can they keep blaming predecessors? Flynn has been in office almost continuously since 2004, Ramirez nearly as long. At one point when Flynn said things were going well, a number of people in the audience started laughing out loud. But don’t count them out, as they have beaten down all challengers for over a decade, even a well-funded recall effort. They are entrenched, networked and skilled campaigners.
Harbor Commission President and Longshoremen union official Jess Herrera turned in a very good performance. He didn’t have the same mastery of all government issues as Ramirez and Flynn, but he has substantial knowledge of and claimed success of working with agencies all the way from local to Federal level-US Navy. He’s been a union president, worker, Harbor Commissioner President and knows his territory. The tiny Port of Hueneme is a success story by any measure and he has worked his way from the ground up there over many years. He doesn’t seem to have the baggage that the Council members do, but it’s not certain how much of that success was due to the commission vs the able staff. He was amused about other candidates promising to study economic issues/job growth, saying he’s already been creating growth/jobs for many years. He’s very proud of helping to create the “Greenest port in the nation.”
Retired Air Force Major/USAF Academy Assistant Professor/CFO/CPA/Investment adviser Jeff Burum has the most solid knowledge of finance, large scale budgeting and project management, investments, pensions, working with agencies and private organizations of any of the candidates. He hasn’t held local office, doesn’t have the same depth of local government and issues that Flynn and Ramirez do, but has come up the power curve substantially in recent years. He was heavily involved in veterans affairs, sparked by his own Gulf War Syndrome problems. He’s still involved, but also spends considerable time in charity work with gangs/at risk youth Home Boyz, etc. and civic affairs. Burum has a different take on climate change, conceding that there is climate change, but saying it has always changed, that the primary driver is not human activity, but that we should still take action, although it would be different action. He is more worried about toxic pollution of the environment and effect on health/quality of life. He expressed receptivity to going with constituent priorities.
At the outset of this event, I believed that all five candidates might be able to do the job. All are intelligent, articulate and accomplished. But I had to scratch Ms. Solis from our list.
Flynn and Ramirez are too badly stained by their failures on the Council, which unfortunately outweigh some good stuff they have done and their extensive skills, knowledge and contacts. There is also the matter of the affect that very Progressive policies have on government, fiscal performance, social behavior and quality of life. It even appears that they want to raise taxes. Considering all the factors, promoting them to six figure positions for a county of 850+ thousand people with a $2 billion budget is not prudent.
By default, we’re left with Jess Herrera and Jeff Burum. Both could do the job. It may be time for a newer broom to sweep clean, if a septagenarian and a sexagenarian can be considered newer brooms. I’m partial to Burum because we badly need the financial, budgeting, taxation and project management skills/knowledge he has which are presently lacking in the Board of Supervisors. The military experience doesn’t hurt either. Yes, that’s an endorsement.
But, I would not be terribly upset if my second choice Jess Herrera won. He has the experience, communications skills and ability to work with people.
While it wouldn’t be the end of the world if one of the other two won, you could see it from there. Just look at the City of Oxnard.
Just two of these five candidates will make the cut and be be selected in the March 3 primary to run in the November general election. Vote or shut up.
Content Warning: This is an OPINION editorial. For an objective news report of this event, see our article written by Michael Hernandez: POLITICS | Latino Issues Forum featured Ventura County Fifth Supervisorial District candidates and/or the event video below.
Event Video by Dan Pinedo:
George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.