The race for Port Hueneme

The race for Port Hueneme

It all rides on Measure M, beach erosion

By Chris O'Neal 09/04/2014


This November’s elections will involve many city council races that could potentially have a dramatic effect on local city governments, especially in Port Hueneme, where the controversial Measure M is forcing candidates to take sides.

Measure M would update the city’s business license tax code originally drafted in 1978. The measure would eliminate taxes on home-based businesses, establish a minimum $100 on commercial businesses that base their taxes on gross receipts, and add new types of businesses to the code — including maritime and federally funded businesses, i.e., businesses operating in the harbor and on Naval Base Ventura County.

The measure would also allow the City Council to lower or suspend rates from the maximums, and includes a “consumer price index” inflator in future years for flat rates.

The city has five members of the community running for spots on the City Council, three of whom are incumbents.

Mayor Jonathan Sharkey, Incumbent

Jonatnan Sharkey

Mayor Sharkey is a five-term councilman who helped write the city’s charter in 1998 and, famously, defeated the so-called “view tax” that would have implemented an extra fee on homes with views of the ocean. Sharkey first ran in 1994 and has been mayor four times.

“I don’t necessarily have to introduce myself the way I did in 1994,” said Sharkey of the easiest part of being a long-term councilman. “It’s amazing how you go from being the young radical to the old fart.”

Sharkey says that his most important task is keeping the city’s infrastructure up to date, specifically noting that water pipes need to be considered for improvement.

When it comes to the controversial Measure M, though, Sharkey is just as passionately in favor of it as he is a proponent of fixing the city’s aging infrastructure.

“This is something I’ve wanted to tackle for many, many years,” said Sharkey. “I look at some of our small businesses and they’re paying hundreds of dollars [in business license fees]. My intent was to reduce the burden on local businesses.”

Of contention are the businesses in the Port of Hueneme that pay no business license tax or a minimal amount, which Sharkey says is “not fair.”

“A company like Del Monte bananas, there’s no category for them in our current business license structure. The fact is, they don’t have a business license, they’re paying zero, nada, zilch,” said Sharkey. “It’s not fair; it’s 37 years old and it needs to be changed.”

Sharkey says that the backlash regarding Measure M has been manufactured by the Harbor and other parties, and he finds it curious that the opposition has sprung up in the midst of the pending litigation between the city and the Port of Hueneme, in which the city claims that the port owes several million dollars in back payments.

Sharkey contends that “anybody opposed to Measure M is opposed to Port Hueneme.”

“Look at who they’ve got on the No on M committee: Pacific Maritime Shipping Association based in San Francisco. The bank they’re using for their campaign is in Sacramento. I guess there’s no local bank they could use; they had to use a bank in Sacramento. That’s really supporting local business, isn’t it?” said Sharkey. “Also, one of the folks on the committee is from [NYKCool]; that’s the company that was just sold to Russia. You know, if Measure M passes, I’m expecting Vladimir Putin to send in the troops.”

Though Measure M was a fiery topic for the mayor, Sharkey says that he is also passionate about solving the beach erosion issue. Sand is due to be pumped into the Hueneme Harbor from Channel Islands in October.

Councilman Ellis Green, Incumbent

Ellis Green

Ellis Green has previously served as mayor of Port Hueneme and is presently on the City Council. For Green, if re-elected, his next term will be focused on the city’s aging infrastructure, challenges regarding the ongoing drought and improving entertainment opportunities for the city’s residents.

Like Sharkey, however, Green is a proponent of Measure M and says that its passage could assist in accomplishing all of the city’s goals.

“Port Hueneme is not like some of the other cities. We don’t have auto malls; we don’t have shopping malls,” said Green. “We have to get the most [out] of our income streams.”

Green said that he wants to make sure everyone “pays their fair share” and said that the citizens and labor unions have “done their part,” but “some of the businesses have not.”

“The harbor department has put all of these scare tactics out saying that it’s going to drive businesses out of the city and the county,” said Green. “Why would we, needing a revenue stream, create a tax that drives someone out of business? It’s ludicrous and they know that.”

Green says that if Measure M passes, the City Council will hold hearings to set the nominal rates.

“There’s a reason that we seem to be a feisty little city; we have to be,” said Green. “We have to be, because otherwise what happened to our beaches, that’s what would happen to our contract with the Harbor District or wherever. We have to make sure that we are the providers for the residents in our community.”

Tom Figg, Challenger

Tom Figg

Tom Figg has been a self-employed land use and redevelopment consultant, specializing in urban planning and neighborhood revitalization, and has lived in Port Hueneme for 39 years. Figg says that what made him go from the private sector to a potential term in the public is the need for a “sense of purpose” on the City Council, which he says is in need of leadership.

“I’m concerned by the lack of involvement of our partners,” said Figg, referring to the Navy, the Harbor and the school district. “There seems to be a preoccupation on moving forward without embracing our partners in the problem-solving process.”

Figg is opposed to Measure M on the grounds that the measure wasn’t crafted with input from neighboring businesses.

“I don’t disagree with the premise that we need to cultivate new revenue,” said Figg. “It’s this particular measure, the way it’s been crafted and presented and advertised doesn’t square.”

Figg said that “the voters are being asked to sign on blindly” due to the City Council’s failure to disclose “what this measure is as it relates to all the businesses in the community.”

“Sharkey was leading the charge to undo, disapprove the view tax,” said Figg. “Here we are, 20 years later. Now he’s trying to defend a measure that is certainly, on the surface, a whole lot worse in terms of its defensibility.”

Also of importance to Figg is the beach erosion issue. Figg says that the city had the ability to prevent the erosion problem, but failed to act.

“These kinds of erosion problems don’t happen overnight; it’s the lack of paying attention to how much sand is being replenished,” said Figg. “In other words, the City Council has been asleep at the switch.”

Jim Hensley, Challenger

Jim Hensley

“I think it’s more important to listen to the people and see what they want,” said Hensley, who had been a member of the Channel Islands Beach Community Service District Board of Directors.

Hensley said that he had been asked to run for City Council before, but initially didn’t want to run against his friend Ellis Green. Then, according to Hensley, when current Mayor Pro-Tem Norman Griffaw released a statement saying that he wouldn’t run, Hensley decided to put his hat into the ring because of that fact. After filing, Griffaw changed his mind and reentered the race; Hensley decided to stay in the running despite Griffaw’s reentrance.

“I’m seriously concerned about this community,” said Hensley. Of top priority: doing something in regard to the lack of crossing guards at community schools.

“By state law, as far as I can figure out . . . it states that the city is supposed to pay for it,” said Hensley. “[The city] unilaterally decided to terminate the crossing guard program, all of a sudden having a few hundred to a thousand kids going to school with no crossing guards. It’s not right.”

After the state discontinued redevelopment funds and the money went directly to the schools and other agencies instead of to the city, the city ended the crossing guard program. The five crossing guards cost $65,000 a year, according to the city’s financial director Robert Bravo.

Hensley says that if Measure M is voted in, the crossing guards could be reinstated, which he says is his main concern, though he is not a proponent of the measure.

“I see that there are a lot of loopholes in it; it’s very broad and very vague,” said Hensley. “It’s kind of inappropriate the way they put it together. Instead of having a full public hearing . . . they pretty much ram-rodded it through.”
Hensley calls Measure M “almost Draconian.”

As far as the beach erosion issue, Hensley is passionate about rejuvenating the area.

“If I’m elected, I will make darn sure that that sand is properly allocated.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Norman Griffaw did not respond to numerous attempts to arrange an interview before publication.

The Port Hueneme elections will be held on Nov. 4. For more information on the ballot and the candidates, visit



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