Will Bergwill-berg

66, Port Hueneme resident, director of marketing and public information

What are the major city issues of concern to you in the future?

Financial hardship, safety and a combative culture both within city walls and outside organizations present the most immediate and pressing challenges.  Our city is in economic distress while we see our local and regional economies show signs of recovery.  Why the opposite directions?  There is nothing more important that effects our daily lives and the future of our city for the next four years.  We can’t ignore what is happening today.  We need to make decisions for the betterment of our community.  Doing nothing new and hoping for different results will not get our city out of the situation it has found itself.  We need a fresh outlook with new ideas.  I will strive to create a new culture, one that is collaborative and embraces a new way of thinking to achieve a fiscal turn-around and create opportunities for our citizens.  By way of example, I have a passion to create ladders of opportunity for our youth.  In my current job at the Port and through the various boards for which I serve, I connect our high school kids to career tracks that create hope and promise for their futures.  I commit to these types of initiatives, ones that are result-oriented and make a real difference.

What issues in the past do you feel are not being addressed? 

When Gov. Brown recalled community development dollars in 2012, he created a shock to our local economy.  In these moments, leaders need to step up, build partnerships, make tough decisions and solve problems with innovative strategies.   This was the time to retool our financial and budgetary processes and develop policies that obligated the City Council to balance the budget without causing a further drain on reserve funds.  Instead, we saw an adversarial approach where we isolated our community partners, including the School District, Port and Navy.  Lack of open transparent processes prompted poorly thought-out ballot measures, budget cuts in safety and other key areas while the city manager got a raise, all creating more community angst.  The citizens rejected these ideas, but leadership still did not change its course.   We need to develop management tools that link performance to annual goals and budget appropriations.  In short, we need a new way of doing business and managing our resources through fiscal restraint and setting the right priorities.

What are your thoughts on the state of local businesses in the city?

Small businesses need to be well-served and welcomed by the city.  The sorry truth today is that our small businesses are very under-served.  Small businesses ask, what’s the value of locating in Port Hueneme?  We need to create business incentives and a tool kit that fosters a business-friendly environment.  We can boost small businesses’ growth by fast-tracking regulatory processes and facilitating acquisition of permits.  We need to generate tax revenues, but they need to be sustainable to the employer.  I think working with the business community to organically grow strategies that works for the city and business community is the opportunity we need to pursue for a more prosperous future.  The city must also demonstrate that it can competently handle revenue. 

What are your thoughts on current public safety issues?

Public safety must be made a top priority.   The economic health of our communities can’t exist without a safe environment.  Standard public safety formula calls for 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents.  Utilizing this would result in 33 officers for the city of Port Hueneme.  Our current manning stands at 22, including our interim chief and an administrative officer, leaving 20 officers to patrol our streets.  As officers take vacation or are otherwise unavailable for service the remaining officers must take on more hours to cover shifts.  Excessive overtime hours wears down our police department.  Compounding the damage due to this shortage of officers and other pressures such as Prop. 47 and AB 109, our police department has increasingly become a responding department rather than the proactive department which they were initially trained to be.  Our police department needs the city’s immediate attention.  We must immediately hire two officers, understanding this is only a band-aid on a severed arm.  Newer, more modern equipment, including police dogs, must be incorporated into response programs.  State and federal security grant programs available to the Port and Homeland Security teams can be collaboratively pursued to fulfill this need.  We should strongly consider managing the city’s lifeguard program under the Police Department. 

What are your housing concerns for the city?  How will you address them in the future?

Communities are judged by how they treat those most vulnerable, young and old.  Our city ignores our seniors.  Any visit with the seniors at the city-run and -managed Mar Vista complex will be telling.  It took two years to get something as simple as the apartment’s individual air vents cleaned following years, perhaps decades, of neglect.  The hang-up?  Rental agreements named the tenant responsible for cleaning work.   I’ve met some of these seniors on fixed meager incomes and too frail to perform some of the general building maintenance the rental agreement specifies.  The city must take more responsibility for maintaining all city-owned and -managed properties. 

We also need to take a hard look at our housing policies.  Housing prices in Port Hueneme are the lowest in the county, while we watch housing prices boom throughout Southern California.  Creating a safer, more business-friendly community could profoundly impact the volatility in our housing market.

 How important are the city’s natural resources to you and what are you doing about it?

Port Hueneme’s most precious natural resource is its residents.   A 2013 economic impact report by an expert firm, Martin Associates, identified 191 direct jobs related to operations at the Port of Hueneme.  An updated study performed in 2016 indicates than now 413 Hueneme residents are directly employed at the Port.  The Port depends on our hard-working citizens and by any measuring stick, this employment rate is a good thing.  We need to nurture this kind of symbiotic connection between the city and the Port and bring in Naval Base Ventura County, which employs hundreds more of city residents.  Rather than attacking these job-generating entities, the city must partner with them to create even more opportunities. 

Also, of utmost importance is our pristine beach resource.   This calls for a proactive, not reactive, strategy.  We must pursue a tact of partnership with all the players engaged in the bi-annual beach re-nourishment project to ensure we do not lose this precious resource to erosion.  I commit to participating in these partnerships and bringing a collaborative voice to make our community heard on the urgency of getting sand to our beaches. 

Discuss other concerns you have with your city and what you will do to address them. This may include water issues, the state of your city’s school districts, the city’s financial stability, unemployment, etc.

Water issues driven by the drought pose very real challenges.  Solutions need to be found by collaborating with our sister communities, the Metropolitan Water District through the Calleguas Water District and the state.  Prior to our drought, no finer water could be found in the tri-counties than at Port Hueneme.   Today the city’s expensive double-membrane filtration system remains shut down due to clogging further aggravating the problem.  We need to take a good look at how we might fix this system and/or seek formulas for segregating blended drinking water from other (outside) uses.   I commit to working to find these types of solutions and finding innovative ways to address the drought condition that burdens California and our city today.

School District Port Hueneme is an under-served area, yet accomplishes great things through citizen involvement.  I sit on the Neighborhood for Learning Executive Committee, which distributes federal and state dollars in support of free early learning.  It provides health and family strengthening resources to children prenatal to age 5 living in the Port Hueneme/South Oxnard area, including early learning, health and family support.  This is a great organization that uses volunteers to help this highly under-served community.  Rather than fight with the local school district over who should pay for crossing guards, our city’s leaders need to roll up their sleeves and find ways to deliver the best possible education to our youth. 

Financial Stability rises to the top of the list as a must-fix issue.  Our city’s economic solutions are not simple nor will they be achieved overnight.  First and foremost, we must retool our financial and budgetary processes.  This includes policies that obligate the City Council to balance the budget without causing a further drain on reserve funds.  New initiatives and expanded services, no matter how worthy, should not be entertained without identifying a corresponding funding source to offset costs.  We need also to develop management tools that link performance to annual goals and budget appropriations.  In short, we need a new way of doing business and managing our resources through fiscal restraint.

Port Hueneme needs a new direction and a new attitude, a solutions-based economic development plan relying on collaboration and partnership complimented with competent revenue management.  I’m a 17-year Hueneme resident, all in Harbor Lights where I served for six years on the HOA Board, five as president and community watch contact with the Port Hueneme Police Department.   My career has grown with the support of my community.  I’m excited about the opportunity to work collaboratively with others to help guide the city into stronger economic growth.  I deeply care about Port Hueneme and want to leverage the resources of the Port and the Naval Base to generate even stronger relationships that will positively impact our community, our small businesses, our families and our quality of life.