If the election race in the Oxnard region thus far has been framed as a prize fight of “Flynn v. Chamber of Commerce,” the middle letter in that billing could stand for only one thing.

Measure V, the hotly contested, proposed traffic initiative that has become the focal point for this year’s Oxnard political scene, is also an issue of polar opposites, between the city’s chamber of commerce and the father-and-son duo of

John and Tim Flynn. John seeks re-election to his seat on the county board of supervisors’ Fifth District, and Tim, current city council member, eyes winning the coveted mayor’s spot for 2009.

Both men were absent last week from two separate candidates’ forums – one on Thursday for city council and mayor, the other on Tuesday for the county’s board of supervisors – hosted by the chamber of commerce, further expanding the schism that all parties involved believe boils down to Measure V.

The measure is a traffic initiative that seeks to curb construction of large-scale residential and commercial structures within five miles of Oxnard’s busiest intersection as a means of curbing the city’s congested traffic problems. It has been plugged primarily by Tim Flynn for insertion on the November ballot.

Most of the initiative’s opposition derives from members of the Oxnard business community, whom the chamber represents, with claims that not only will it restrict business growth, but that developers won’t dare build near those intersections because they will have to pay handsomely for any improvements.

“The chamber, basically, I think, because of the traffic initiative, they’re not too happy with me,” said Tim Flynn, who is looking to defeat incumbent Oxnard Mayor Tom Holden. “They’ve taken the traffic initiative very personally. It makes it very hard to work with them.

“In their minds,” he continued, “the traffic initiative is tantamount to a criminal act or a betrayal of some sort.”

However, any speculation that Flynn somehow snubbed or alienated the business folk of Oxnard at last Thursday’s forum, is wrong.

“By not showing up,” he explained, “it wasn’t an intentional act. I just determined up front I wasn’t going to do it.”

Tim Flynn said he opted out of Thursday’s breakfast forum, which included two debates — one between five people seeking an empty council seat, and one for three mayoral hopefuls — because he had other priorities.

“I had to make a judgment call whether I was going to attend the debate or not,” he said. “I normally would not miss an event like that. I just put my students first. (They) ended up being more important.”

Flynn recently started teaching social sciences at Pacifica High School.

To participate in the forums, all candidates were required to complete questionnaires on their political views, prepared by the Greater Oxnard Political Action Committee (GOPAC) in conjunction with the chamber. Neither Flynn answered the form, according to Tom Cady, head of the committee.

But, according to John Flynn, the supervisor never received his questionnaire from the chamber of commerce so he could debate against city council member John Zaragoza, who is looking to unseat the incumbent.

At the Tuesday evening panel, Zaragoza fielded questions alone from Tony Trembley, who moderated both forums.

“I never got the invitation to appear,” John Flynn said. “I had found about it that very day (Tuesday),” he noted, by which time the deadline to complete the form had passed.

Flynn believes there’s a strong possibility he may have been unfairly passed over for the forum for a very obvious reason. It’s manipulation, he says.

“I think they’re upset over the traffic initiative, and they’re trying to blame me for it, which is totally false,” he said.

The blame is untrue, according to the supervisor, because it is a city-based matter championed by his son, not a county problem.

Not so, says Cady of GOPAC, who contends Measure V is important to the future of the entire greater Oxnard area, specifically within the county’s Fifth District.

“We asked the question about Measure V to all of the candidates, including the harbor district, board of supervisors and the city, because we see it as an important issue, not just for the business community but the whole community,” he said.

“I don’t know how John,” added Cady, “knowing how Measure V would have an impact on the harbor, could say it didn’t concern him.”
Cady also confirmed that a questionnaire was mailed to John Flynn’s office. There were two forms, he said, one specifically for council candidates, one for board of supervisor candidates. It may have been a case of crossed wires, explaining why Flynn never received the form.

“I don’t know if it’s a campaign staff issue or what, but we made every effort to apprise them,” Cady noted.

The junior Flynn says he is confident of running a solid race, despite missing one major public appearance, and hopes to engage Mayor Holden in a different type of debate.

“I believe in Lincoln-Douglas-style of debates. I feel the panel style very prohibitive,” he said. “What I intend on doing is challenging Mr. Holden on a one-on-one debate.”

Holden, when asked, said he welcomes the opportunity. According to the mayor, by Election Day, candidates will have gone through at least 15 to 20 debates sponsored by various organizations, most asking similar questions. The issue of the traffic initiative, he said, will doubtlessly arise again.

“No matter where we go throughout the city,” said Holden, “we’ll be asked about Measure V.”