A lack of leadership and refusing to repeal a utility rate increase were reasons commonly given in Oxnard’s May 1 special election by the candidates who answered a series of questions emailed to them by the VCReporter.
Other frequent motivations are the city’s financial crisis and an underfunded, understaffed police department.
Several people who were running — in fact, half of them — did not respond to emails or to follow-up contacts. Following are the answers given by five who replied to the email and two who were interviewed in person. NOTE: Not all candidates answered all of the questions.
VCReporter: Why are you running for office now as opposed to waiting until November to ensure a four-year tenure?
Angel Garcia: “It is currently March (when questions were sent), November is eight months away, that is a long time,” Garcia said, adding that he hopes to inspire other young adults (Garcia is an Oxnard College student) to serve their community. “Why should I have to wait to make a change? Why should I wait to be the voice of the people of Oxnard?”
Miguel Lopez, who ran against Mayor Tim Flynn in 2016: “First, (the fact that) the recall election is happening. Mayor Flynn’s failed leadership failed to prevent the recall from happening; now, this wasteful recall is costing us taxpayers nearly $1 million in election costs and associated legal fees.”
Enrique Petris: “I’m running now because I want to offer you a councilman who will have integrity and be honest. The city needs these qualities now.”
Larry Stein: “I only want to be mayor for six months,” Stein said, explaining that if he couldn’t make City Hall more efficient in six months — or even three months — there wouldn’t be any point in running again in November.
Robert Lee Sumpter: “I am seeking the office of mayor now to get seen as an asset to the city and make a complete run in November if I am not elected now.”
Al Velasquez: “I oppose the excessive (wastewater) rate increase. I promise, if elected, to establish a rate committee to do a study” to determine what the actual rate increase should be.
Why is it worth the extra cost to have a special election?
Garcia: “This is the price the council has to pay for defying the will of the people. The council decided not to compromise, and this is their consequence — for every action, there is a reaction; this is that reaction.”
Lopez: “It is absolutely not worth the cost to have a special election — it is wasteful and unnecessary when we already have California’s June primary scheduled only 34 days later,” Lopez said, again citing Flynn for not getting enough support to prevent a recall.
Modesto “Morey” Navarro: “They could have waited until the primary. I wasn’t going to get involved, but the turmoil that’s going on in City Hall made me decide I had to get involved to stop the insanity.”
Petris: “It’s worth the extra cost in order to recall a councilman who promised not to raise rates but raised them anyways. When I make you a promise, I keep that promise. If elected I will never lie to you.”
Stein: “It isn’t. We have a mayor, a city manager and a city attorney who refused to negotiate in good faith to address the valid issues raised.”
Sumpter: “We need to remove the current council now, as they do not listen to the public. They have their own agendas.”
Velasquez: “It’s the residents’ constitutional right to hold a special election — period. As for the cost, I can only hold the City Council responsible, the reason being that I personally believe the present council showed poor leadership.”
What specific qualities do you want in the new city manager?
Garcia: “I want a city manager who is honest, educated, experienced and a local. Having a local as a city manager would be fundamental in order to thoroughly address the needs of the city.”
Lopez: “I am looking for an individual who can drive strategic change, a transformational leader who shares an appreciation for multiculturalism and diversity, and a passion for social justice, equity and community. I will be looking for clear record of achievement and distinction.”
Petris: “Extensive experience in municipal budget and finance to reduce costs, increase city revenue and safeguard city investments; excellent organizational skills to integrate the various city departments and manage the sometimes-conflicting city priorities; powerful skills in motivating employees to work hard in providing the best municipal services effectively and efficiently.”
Stein: “I would like a candidate who already understands the local issues and doesn’t need a team of consultants to study the issues for 18 months.”
Sumpter: “We need a manager that is committed to the job, not one who will move on after a short term. Education is important, but hands-on experience is more creditable.”
If you are elected, what will be your top three priorities?
Garcia: “My top three priorities will be public safety, infrastructure and business permits,” Garcia said, adding that he wants to make sure the police department has what it needs in order to reduce crime. “I feel these are necessary in order to make Oxnard flourish.”
Lopez: “The city’s biggest challenges remain crumbling infrastructure, sputtering economic development and evolving public safety challenges,” Lopez said, adding that the city is not any better today than it was after the last election. Lopez said that he would make it a priority to collaborate with other public agencies, the business community and other stakeholders to address homelessness and development of blighted parts of the city such as downtown, South Oxnard and the Harbor District.
Petris: “To offer integrity and honesty to every decision I make as your new councilmember. I will always ‘tell it like it is’ even when it would not benefit me, because I want the best for you.” Petris said he would also use his extensive budget and finance expertise to reduce expenses and safeguard the city’s limited resources, and to maintain an open-door policy so that residents know exactly what the other councilmembers are doing.
Stein: “What would an ideal Oxnard downtown look like and what would you do if you were on the council to achieve it?” Stein asked rhetorically. “In the short term, a large public safety presence; the substation is being under-utilized and no one is monitoring the cameras. … Eliminate the no-parking signs for street-sweeping days.”
Velasquez: “My No. 1 priority will be stabilizing the city’s finances. The city has been hemorrhaging financially for years.” His second and third priorities will be more funding for Oxnard’s police department to hire more officers, and less use of consulting firms to advise the council on courses of action.