Politics can be hard to swallow. But when it’s served with enchiladas and steak, it’s not so bad.

Last week, the Oxnard Noontimer’s Lions Club hosted an Oxnard City Council Candidates’ forum that was less rigid and formal than previous forums. Candidates dined on buffet cuisine while mingling with the attendees at Residence Inn Oxnard River Ridge.

The forum was moderated by Lions Club member Timur Taluy, and attendees shot off-the-cuff questions to the candidates.

Responding to a question about whether his incumbent status put him at a disadvantage, candidate and current City Councilman Bryan MacDonald said he believes it’s an asset because, among other things, he has experience working with city staff.

“City Council is the policy makers, the visionaries. We’re not day-to-day working people dealing with contracts. That is staff. That is the way the system works,” said MacDonald, a retired assistant police chief. “When it comes to us, it should all be staff-driven and we make the final decision if we agree with staff’s decision.”

Candidate Bert Perello, who has had a strong showing in previous candidate forums, said that incumbents may be in for a rude awakening come Election Day. He took issue with MacDonald’s statement.

“We are responsible to let staff do their job,” Perello said. “We’re supposed to hold them accountable to bring us positive and negative information. The current councilman running for re-election has stated he didn’t want to review staff’s work because it was their responsibility to give the best answer.”

MacDonald fired back.

“I disagree with Mr. Perello. I normally don’t and I actually like him,” said MacDonald. “We need to review staff work, not interfere with them. And there is a difference there.”

While the majority of the 13 council candidates had confirmed their intended presence at the forum, only six, including MacDonald and Perello, actually showed up.

Candidates Manuel Altobano, Deshay Ford, Daniel Rdyberg and Dick Jaquez also participated.

In response to nearly every question that was posed to the candidates, Ford, as he has done throughout previous candidate forums, railed on about the city’s corruption and replacing incumbents.

“This is about image,” said Ford, a retiree. “To improve our image we need to bring in a brand-new set of people.”

Rydberg, a public works employee and National Guardsman, continued to show his knowledge of city contracts and operations. When asked about why trash pickup is more expensive in the city of Oxnard than it is for the county, Rydberg, who spent about six months as the solid waste superintendent, said the initial “contract agreement was very bad, and it’s costing the city $2.5 million more than it should be,” adding that the contract “should be fixed as it is going out to bid very soon.”

 
Jaquez, a member of the Oxnard Union High School District board, said the biggest issue facing the City Council is the hiring of a city manager. “I’ve been on the group that hired four superintendents,” said Jaquez. “We will be able to be certain if they can lead us.”

Altobano, a retired electrical engineer, said that the main thing he’s learned during his campaign is that City Council members generally do not listen to their constituents. If elected, he would be a “go-getter” for the people, he said.