The air of animosity and frustration has lingered in Oxnard for quite some time. From the start of the district attorney’s investigation of Oxnard City Hall and various officials in August 2010 to the release of the results of the investigation this past April, residents have expressed their wariness of, even consternation about, local leadership. It’s a difficult situation to get over, the idea that certain officials took advantage of their positions, intentionally or not, for their own good and consequently gave developers an apparent upper hand in the approval process. Numerous officials have also been fined for their errors in reporting meals and gifts from developers, with the latest string of fines being handed down by the California Fair Political Practices Commission this week.
In August, we pressed the residents of Oxnard to move forward into a better future, with optimism that transparency would be the name of the game. Many were not ready to let go of the wrongs they felt they has been dealt by elected and appointed officials. The results of the November election, however, have set the stage for a new era for Oxnard.
On Tuesday, Councilman Tim Flynn was installed as the mayor, incumbent Bryan MacDonald as councilman and newcomer Dorina Padilla as councilwoman. Flynn, son of former longtime Ventura County Supervisor John Flynn, served on the Council from 2004 to 2008 but failed to win his mayoral bid against Tom Holden in 2008. In 2010, he was re-elected to council and won the mayoral bid in November. He is known for fiercely questioning major developments and their impacts on the city of Oxnard while his colleagues often fell in lockstep with then-Mayor Holden in approving them. Flynn was recently sent an advisory letter by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, however, for failing to report two meals in 2005 and 2006, costing more than $50 each, which is the limit for reporting, but the meals were long enough ago to be outside the statute of limitations and no fines were imposed. His tenure on the City Council has remained consistent and we have faith that he will not come under any scrutiny for such practices in the future.
Incumbent MacDonald is somewhat of a wild card, since he usually fell in step with Holden during the last four years and in essence took positions contrary to Flynn. He was also fined, along with Holden, for failing to report meals and gifts, but has relayed that it will never happen again. He also noted that those incidents happened within his first six months as a councilman. With Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez and Flynn typically on the same side of the fence, it would be nice to see MacDonald broaden his thinking and voting process to best suit all of his constituents rather than appearing just to side with the top official, or perhaps whoever has the deepest pockets.
Newcomer Padilla, 24, became Oxnard’s next new councilwoman using a hands-on approach, knocking on doors and introducing herself to residents, funding only a $600 campaign budget from her hard-earned savings. Her platform — the city wasn’t being accountable for how money was being spent. It’s a great platform to run on and we certainly hope she keeps that in mind as she moves forward on the City Council. But she is a political novice. We hope she finds her bearings as a strong councilwoman and represents her constituency with a due diligence that is needed after those daunting past two years.
The next order of business is filling Councilwoman Irene Pinkard’s seat, since she failed to win her bid against Flynn. Along with that is, how will this person be chosen? By a special election that could cost up to $100,000 or by appointment? There are many intricacies to consider with either decision. Also, with City Manager Ed Sotelo’s contract up in February, who will be the next city manager? When will that process begin? Interim City Manager Karen Burnham, like many of her colleagues, was also fined earlier this year by the commission for failing to report meals. The new City Council has a lot to consider in the next few weeks. We hope that the City Council finds harmony with the residents of Oxnard while using its institutional knowledge of the city’s inner workings to bring the city to its greatest potential.