The effort to recall several Oxnard City Councilmembers got wholehearted support from Congressional hopeful Antonio Sabato Jr. on Thursday at a forum for candidates hoping to unseat Mayor Tim Flynn and three City Councilmembers.

“When people are not doing their jobs, they must be removed,” Sabato Jr. said as people arrived at Corner Pocket Billiards in Oxnard, where the candidates were to be seated in the literal boxing ring. “What I have found out is that the people of Oxnard are not getting representation; they’ve had enough.”

Sabato’s point was made again later by challenger Kari Cryder, an Oxnard property manager and consultant trying to unseat incumbent City Councilman Bert Perello.
“The City Council has ignored us, they’ve forgotten we put them there,” Cryder said. “We’ve got this recall because the City Council ignored the people’s vote.”

But Perello countered that he is a target of the recall election because of how he voted on a specific issue, not for being indifferent toward voters.

“I’m being recalled for voting to raise the sewer rates, not for going against the voters,” Perello said. “Why did they need to be raised? Because the city’s bonds were in default; it’s a big deal.”

Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn underscored Perello’s point in a Monday phone interview, explaining that he skipped the forum because it wasn’t limited to debating the rate increase that prompted the May 1 special election.

“(Other issues) aren’t relevant to the context of a recall election,” Flynn said, addingthat the forum’s sponsors were distracting voters from the real point of the special election by “morphing it into a regularly scheduled debate for a regularly scheduled election.”

But Measure M, the ballot measure that Oxnard voters approved to repeal the wastewater rate increase, came up again in one of the questions candidates were asked.
Measure M has been held up by a legal challenge from the city; a judge is expected to rule soon on whether it can go into effect.

Francine Castanon, who is challenging Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez, said the council could have avoided a special election by meeting with Aaron Starr, the CPA and activist who gathered enough signatures to get Measure M — and later the recall election — on the ballot.

Besides the rate increase, candidates were asked about the search for a new city manager, what to do about Oxnard’s homeless population, management of Channel Islands Harbor, how to improve the city’s downtown and whether the city should allow marijuana growth and distribution.

Starr, one of Flynn’s challengers, supported having a developer improve and manage Oxnard’s harbor and said that the city should create the right environment for marijuana growth and distribution.

He said that there are only two types of homeless people — those with mental health and drug issues, and those “who choose to be homeless here. We need to find out what we’re doing to attract them here.”

U.C., Santa Barbara, Academic Program Director Miguel Lopez, who is also challenging Flynn, said it would have saved money to hold the special election in concert with the state’s primary election.

“With a June primary just days later, that certainly could have been pursued,” Lopez said, adding that the cost of a special election “when it’s all said and done is going to be close to $1 million.”

Other candidates included incumbent Oscar Madrigal, Modesto “Morey” Navarro, Robert Lee Sumpter, Daniel Chavez Jr., Angel Garcia, Miguel Martinez, Enrique Petris, John Ragan, Ambrosio Casanova and Alfred Velasquez; Flynn challenger Lawrence “Larry” Stein did not attend.

Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez is in Washington, D.C., attending the annual National League of Cities conference and said she is also visiting representatives to talk about the Halaco SuperFund site.

The boxing-themed forum featured the candidates in a boxing ring, with four to five candidates in three rounds answering prewritten questions from moderators Pablo Ortiz and Manuel Arriola.