When Francisco Romero discusses his bid for the Oxnard City Council, he rarely uses singular pronouns. It’s always “we,” “our,” “us.” Technically, he’s referring to All Power To The People, the grassroots electoral campaign he and partner Jose Moreno, who’s running for the Oxnard Elementary School Board, hope will bring a fresh, progressive perspective to local politics. But on a deeper level, when this 30-year-old middle school teacher and longtime activist speaks plurally, it’s because he’s including the entire community: those who want to see open space preserved, who want a living wage for city workers, who want to see gang violence curbed through increased employment opportunities and cultural programs rather than jail time. These are the people Romero is seeking to represent. And considering the size of the May Day protest in Plaza Park this past spring, he feels the time for change is now. The only trick, he believes, it getting everyone to the polls on Nov. 7.
What is the greatest problem facing Oxnard today?
To list them in order is very difficult, because if you go into one sector of the community it’s one issue, if you go to another sector it’s another issue. But we do believe an important issue that must be addressed is the issue of having representation from different areas in the communities, particularly more of the working class sector, the poor communities. Of 180,000 people, 40,000 are registered [to vote] in Oxnard, and of those 40,000, maybe half come out to vote regularly. We’re talking close to 10 percent of the population in Oxnard deciding the future of how the infrastructure is going to look for our city, where public funds are going to be targeted to improve the “quality of life” of our residents and how those different programs are going to reach those communities. We really want to look at how we can begin to involve more people in the decision-making process. That’s our No. 1 priority.
Did the turnout for the May Day protests indicate to you that people in Oxnard are ready for a change in leadership?
We’ve seen and felt and understand that this is a new phase in our organizing efforts and a new phase in the reality of people taking a stand. That was big-time, a million people marching in L.A., five to seven thousand marching here. We had two elected officials that went on the stand and supported the gang injunction, and we remember clearly the deputy district attorney, Karen Wold, saying, “These are the true leaders of Oxnard,” meaning, “these are the representatives.” And that really made us consider the need to be in these type of positions. Because if the establishment only recognizes elected bodies as leadership, and not the community grassroots leaders, whether they’re in the clergy, whether they’re in the unions, whether they’re educators, whether they’re just workers getting organized and trying to find solutions to getting their kids out of gangs — the natural leaders — then we need to seriously look at being in these type of positions.
How would you assess the job the current City Council is doing?
As far as getting out there and talking to people, there’s a system already in place where you target those who you know are going to support you. To a large degree, that tends to happen if you’re not grounded in community organizations. Everybody up there, they’re not tied to a community organization on a day-to-day basis, like a lot of us are. You do lose a sense of what’s really going on. I really believe the current Council has lost that sense. We believe we can make and democratize the City Council by bringing that progressive, forward-thinking perspective from the ground, meaning, we actually live in the poor communities and understand the pain of what it means to be poor, seeing the violence, seeing the graffiti, seeing the trash on the street. We come from that. So we believe we have an important role to play on that council.
What do you feel makes you qualified to step into the role of a Councilmember?
We have a deep-rooted history of working within our community, listening to the community and even debating with those in our community who may not agree with us. We believe we can communicate the issues, deal with the issues and ask the questions that need to be asked up there. More than anything, we believe we can involve everybody. Once you step up onto that podium, it’s almost like you’re at another elevated level, physically and politically. What we want to do is be down on the ground with the people. That means you have to open up your doors, and maybe not have your office up at the top of the third floor of a city building. Maybe just do what we will be doing and setting up consultations in the park, consultations on the street corner — things we already do by nature because we’re organizers. We believe we can make that happen, and we will make that happen.