Oxnard City Council race heats up again

Oxnard’s June 4 special City Council election became a free-for-all this week, with 13 candidates cleared for the ballot after turning in the required 20 signatures. Oxnard’s City Council scheduled the election to fill the remaining term of Tim Flynn, who was elected mayor in November.

Whoever among this group gets the most votes will serve through December 2014: Bert Perello, Vince Behrens, Susan Rydberg, Elizabeth Wolfel, Martin Jones, Oscar Madrigal, Donald Thibeault, Jo Ann Olivares, Arthur Valenzuela Jr., Orlando Dozier, Mario Quintana, Manuel Vazquez Cano and Paul Ronan.

Several of November’s City Council candidates have come back for a second try, as well as former treasurer candidate Martin Jones and Thibeault, who ran against Flynn for mayor. Madrigal, Dozier, Quintana, Cano, Perello and Behrens were all among the 13 candidates who ran for two seats on the Council in November.

The remaining seat on Oxnard’s five-person council has become a critical swing vote for several looming decisions, including the fate of the controversial SouthShore development project — the topic of an Ormond Beach conservationist meeting Wolfel attended last Monday.

“I live off Hueneme Road and I am very proud to have my neighbors getting involved in such an important issue for South Oxnard development. It reminds me of a very similar park we have in Berkeley,” e-mailed Wolfel, a business consultant who graduated from UC, Berkeley. “It was formed from debris of a new highway and Bay bridge construction. It ended up becoming a place to display art, walk dogs and play soccer.”

American Cleaners owner Vince Behrens, who helped launch annual civic events like the Salsa Fest and Christmas Tree Lane competition, has long argued that city officials should be taking a more active role in making Oxnard more attractive.

“Because I was embarrassed by what’s happened to the city,” he said when asked why he’s running again. “Why would you want to come to Oxnard?”

Behrens, also a Downtown Oxnard Business Management District board member, noted that other coastal communities like Malibu and Laguna Beach have thriving art scenes.

“They champion it, knowing that they want you to have a good time while you’re there,” said Behrens.

Behrens also weighed in on another issue facing the Council, replacing former City Manager Ed Sotelo, whose contract ran out at the end of February. Behrens said he didn’t favor simply promoting Karen Burnham, the acting city manager.

“I like Karen personally, but I’m done with that old guard,” said Behrens, referring to the city establishment whose policies led to a corruption investigation by the Ventura County District Attorney’s office.

“Get some kid from college that rated high in his class,” who would be willing to work for less than what Oxnard paid Sotelo, suggested Behrens. “What’s the city manger do now, anyway? All they’re doing is looking for ways to cut costs. You don’t have to have brains to cut.”