If there was one word to describe Oxnard, it would be “enigma”: mysterious, puzzling or difficult to understand.
At a quick glance, Oxnard is a diverse community, offering a place for everyone, from the rich to the poor, with neighborhoods flush with different cultures and ethnicities. It’s abundant in job opportunities from the fields to the towers, from manufacturing to marina workers and everything in between. It’s a place rife with potential and people who care. But with all the positive, the balance of problems is practically equal, from apparently dysfunctional government to strong NIMBY attitudes and more. So what could one reasonably wish new City Manager Alex Nguyen to accomplish? Here’s the top five:
- Improving community trust
We give Greg Nyhoff credit for coming in under the worst of conditions, right after the former long-term City Manager Ed Sotelo came under scrutiny by the District Attorney for the mess known as Oxnard’s finances. City Councilmembers were also voted out or did not run again back then, in connection with the dysfunction found at City Hall. For three and a half years, Nyhoff managed the city to the best of his ability. But still, the mistrust goes on, at least to some degree. We look forward to Nguyen working with residents and seeing how he can address their needs and concerns along with the demands of government.
- Balancing environment and industry demands
Many Oxnard residents, impassioned individuals and groups have long felt that the city has been overburdened by polluting facilities and projects, but the city is also the largest in the county in size and population and should take on some of the responsibilities that would overload other cities. But we digress. We hope to see responsible job and industry growth whereby Nugyen is able to both keep progress going and keep necessary burdens to a minimum, such as the 30-year extension request by Anterra, an oil waste disposal site. What is the best for Oxnard and the industry in the area?
- Gang violence and poverty
While managing a city doesn’t necessarily include figuring out how to reduce violence and gang activities, Nugyen is in a prime position to work with city leaders and advocates to figure out what the community needs to shift those dynamics into a more peaceful and productive way of life. This may go beyond the regular duties of a city manager, but maybe if the right opportunities came to his desk, he would push them forward.
- Oxnard’s financial woes
When Nyhoff took the position in 2014, possibly one of the biggest fumbles of his tenure was pushing forward substantial increases in wastewater fees to address a deteriorating system. The fee increase would have gone up by 87 percent over five years, angering residents so much that it led to an initiative to reverse the fees and to an effort to recall the City Council members who voted for a lower increase after the original increase was blocked in court. In June, however, Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, led the efforts to allocate $9.5 million for wastewater treatment system repairs. When it comes to fiscal problems in Oxnard, perhaps Nugyen will take the opportunity to see how funding can come from sources other than cash-strapped residents.
- Internal staffing combustion
Oxnard is not alone when it comes to internal staffing issues, empty executive positions, etc., but there are certain elected officials who keep staff on their toes, questioning and demanding more information about financial transactions and ways of conducting business. It’s hard to say for sure if all their questions are reasonable or not, but the interrogation tactics are enough to drive many away. We hope Nugyen can find a path to bring together staff with over and overtly suspicious elected officials in such a way that all parties can work in a productive manner for the residents of Oxnard.