2012 race CAUSE hosted the first Oxnard City Council candidate forum of the election season on Aug. 20.

The race has officially begun

Oxnard Council candidates debate at forum

By Shane Cohn 08/23/2012

On Aug. 20, Oxnard residents got their first look at the candidates vying for three potentially open seats on the City Council come November.

Eleven candidates sat side by side in the South Oxnard Community Center during the hot summer evening, introducing their ideas for lightening up the dark perception of the county’s largest city.

“This city right now needs a whole lot of hope,” said candidate and downtown Oxnard merchant Vincent Behrens. “We need a city manager that interacts with the people and that would make a huge difference, somebody that you actually see, somebody with a sense of humor and somebody who will walk around the city and see all the potholes.”

Oxnard exceeds 200,000 residents, but only about 70 appeared at the candidate forum, hosted by CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy), to hear the candidates weigh in on issues ranging from public transportation and city management and reducing drug and criminal activity.

Candidate and 50-year Oxnard resident Bert Perello’s responses during the forum elicited continuous applause from the crowd, requiring the moderator to remind the audience multiple times to hold applause until the end of the forum. Perello has been a City Council watchdog over the past several years, and he is on record as having discovered the $300 per month supplemental retirement perks authorized by City Manager Ed Sotelo without the Council’s approval.

“We need to support law enforcement,” said Perello. “But when you have a district attorney’s report that identifies the leadership of this city has broken the law and there has been no repercussions, how do you tell a mother and father whose kid is being arrested for graffiti that the district attorney has identified that the city manager has broken the law multiple times but there is no repercussions?”

The other candidates at the forum were Oxnard Union High School District President Dick Jaquez, educator Manuel Vazquez, La Colonia community organizer Rudy Salvio, Army National Guard NATO peacekeeper and public works employee Daniel Rydberg, Cal Lutheran University administrator Dorina Padilla, teacher Oscar Madrigal, therapist Deshay Ford, civilian budget analyst Orlando Dozier and merchant Manuel Altobano.

Incumbent Bryan MacDonald and candidate Al Velasquez could not attend the event.

“I live in La Colonia and know firsthand how difficult it is for our youth to get involved in after-school activities because there are no funds for these programs,” said Salvio. “We have Colonia Rec, but it falls short on funding. We have four computers with no Internet. But we can’t have kids walk from La Colonia to the new Boys and Girls club. It is really important to properly distribute the money.”

When the candidates were asked about whether or not they’d support a community benefits agreement that would hold developers accountable to hire local workers for construction projects, Ford said, “I’m a union person, so number one would be to give it to union people. The citizens of Oxnard should have first priority.”

“I would definitely be on a policy of Oxnard-first,” said Dozier. “I would look for any contractors to first go through local craftsmen.”

A recent CAUSE survey in Oxnard, explained the moderator, revealed that generating funds for street repair was the most important issue for residents.

“Measure O will not fund and fix this problem,” said Jaquez. “It would help, but we need money from the outside. Our staff that we’ve hired to be good at their business needs to come up with some money and ways to fund that.”

Rydberg, a city employee, was responsible for the pavement management system for the past 10 years.

“We’re squeezing every single penny we can from every single source,” he said. “It’s not a city problem. It’s a state and national problem. We have about $145 million in work that needs to be done. … There are no funding sources that will be able meet those needs. It will come down to our residents willing to come up with a new tax or new assessment district. Beyond that, we are probably on a 10- to 15-year or longer program based on the current funding levels from the state.”

All candidates, except Jaquez and Altobano, said they would likely support Prop. 30, an initiative on the ballot to tax millionaires to raise funding for education and other state services.

Councilwoman Irene Pinkard, whose term ends this year, is running for mayor. Council members Tim Flynn and Carmen Ramirez, who are in the middle of their terms, and Donald Thibeault are also running for mayor. Should Flynn or Ramirez be elected as Oxnard’s next mayor, his or her council seat will be open.

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