As the weather in Ojai continues to blaze, the political climate is also about to heat up.
Three candidates — incumbent Mayor Betsy Clapp, insurance agent and community activist Robert Daddi and landscape contractor Severo Lara — have emerged to compete for the two open seats on Ojai City Council.
“I’m very much unhappy with a number of enforcement codes and the extra codes that get inflicted on the population,” said Daddi, an Ojai resident since 1997. “They city staff seem to be for more enforcement, fees and permits instead of protection and safety. I’d like to stop all that nonsense.”
Daddi said discussions in Council chambers need to start with examples of how certain agenda items will benefit the residents of Ojai.
“I don’t hear that. I don’t hear how it will help the community,” he said.
Lara, like Daddi, is a regular fixture at City Council meetings. He said he is happy with the direction the current Council has guided the city. But Lara, 29, said his age and heritage can reach a cross section of Ojai that isn’t always well-represented.
“I’m Latino, with different constituent groups versus the other Council members,” said Lara. “There is a disconnect between city government and local Latinos and young adults. I have always been a role model in this city since I was young, so I can fill that void.”
Lara said he would encourage the Council to start thinking more creatively about low-income housing strategies and youth programs.
And then there is Mayor Clapp, who has served on the Council for the past four years. Clapp, a 21-year Ojai resident, has no regrets about the past four years and wants to remain on the frontlines, where she, along with other Council members, has been showing some fang of late.
They voted unanimously to make Ojai the first city in the county to ban single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and other retailers, and they remain committed to fighting a corporate juggernaut for local control of the water supply.
“Serving on the City Council has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” said Clapp in an e-mail. “To have the opportunity to work with the community to make Ojai an even better place to live has been the most rewarding.”
If elected, Clapp wrote, her primary goals would be “helping Ojai FLOW (Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water) succeed in the effort to regain control of our water” from Golden State Water Company, a for-profit water purveyor charging up to three times the rates of the local water supplier, revitalizing the Recreation Department and reforming the Code Enforcement Policy.
“I really like all three candidates,” said Dale Hanson, Ojai resident and government liaison for the Ojai Valley Board of Realtors. “I want to see Betsy (Clapp) get in because she’s been there for us and has spoken out against Golden State.”
Hanson added that arbitrary code enforcement has handcuffed property owners, and that Daddi “has his finger on the pulse” of local code issues.