Oxnard: Gang injunctions re-emphasized, budget nearly ready, recycling facility takeover doing well

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Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams discusses gang injunction status

By George Miller

City Council wants a renewed emphasis on the gang injunction program, which has tapered off somewhat, even as gang-related crime has been on the increase.

The city’s anti-gang strategy/program has had broad public support and a fair degree of success, based on arrests, crimes statistics, and perceived improved city livability. A decade ago, some sections of the city were very different than what they are now, with rampant crime, omnipresent gang members and an atmosphere of intimidation. The program has not been without its problems and legal challenges, which were mostly overcome. Crime, although down significantly, is still very high by county standards.

At the June 10 council meeting, Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams was called on by City Council to provide a status and direction of the program. She said that there are approximately 1200 known criminal gang members in Oxnard, about 1/4 of whom have had injunctions served on them, restricting their activities in certain designated zones and ordering a 10pm curfew. Violators are subject to immediate arrests. It was strongly noted by Mayor Flynn that only two new injunctions were issued this year, compared to hundreds in previous years, since the program began in 2006.  The city has taken great care to balance civil rights of alleged gang members against public safety concerns. Williams noted that the gang members have become more adept at ducking police detection of gang qualifiers. She said that someone is only Chiquessubject to an injunction when they commit a pattern of crimes, wear identification clothing, use gang signs and/or associate/congregate with gang members.  There are also characteristic tattoos and speech as well.

While gang members are overwhelmingly Latino, this is because the city is overwhelmingly Latino. We were told that other areas also have skinhead, Asian and black gangs.

The department previously noted and communicated to council a significant rise in crime over the last year and a half.  Some of this is being attributed to mass releases of felons from prisons due to funding shortages and by court order due to very poor prison living conditions problems. Some say that massive releases of felon illegal immigrants and the squeeze of the prolonged recession are also having an effect.

Gang injunction is far from the only tool available to the police, but it is one of the most effective.

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Name Date Duration Agenda Minutes Video
City Council Meeting June 10, 2014 05h 33m Agenda Minutes Video

 

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OxnardMRF

Oxnard Material Recycling Facility (MRF) on Del Norte Road

Oxnard Material Recycling Facility (MRF) is performing much better since the city takeover in February, claiming smooth operation and $1.93 MM in projected annualized savings, according to Facility Manager Todd Housely.

There was much concern about an only a six month transition plan imposed by a combination of the previous operator Republic’s conditions and city council’s desire not to wait another year longer. (see a previous CJ story and also HERE, MORE).

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MRF employees line up to express their gratitude to the city at 6/10/14 council meeting. Photo by George Miller, Citizensjournal.us

The city geared up for the transition under the leadership of Todd Housely, backed by the full support of the Public Works Dept. and other city resources.  Most employees were retained, with some new hires made.  Many employees spoke at the council meeting to express their gratitude on being retained and treated so well. They were very instrumental in the success. The Republic people were gracious when helping with the transition.  It went better than expected and metrics are very encouraging with a $1.9+ million first year savings projected over the previous baseline. When we heard radio spots offering to buy our containers, we knew that change was on the way.

Even though city wages are considerably higher than what the previous operator paid, operating improvements, outside contractor costs, recycled material costs are all more favorable. Council also wants progress on “Zero waste” goals as well. There has already been a significant improvement in “diversion,” which is the percentage of material diverted away from landfills and MRF Metrics 002into other uses.  They even found a way to get more money for old mattresses.

There were previous complaints that the prior operator had neglected some maintenance, but since nearly all equipment is already fully depreciated, there is no legal route to cost recovery.

Gerald Kupucnik presented these recommended metrics for cost, quality, productivity and “Zero Waste” program attainment (see chart).

We’ll never know how that would have compared to using another more efficient operator under a more favorable agreement, but the improvements are greatly appreciated.

 

 

 

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City Manager Gregg Nyhoff getting engaged in the budgeting process 6/10/14- photo by George Miller, Citizensjournal.us

The budget study session was only an incremental replay of other endless meetings.  The main differences were that agreement is closer than before and new City Manager Nyhoff is now engaged in the process. In truth, it’s too late in the game to have much effect on the budget expected to be approved at the June 17 Council meeting, but he plans to be heavily involved starting in September on next year’s budget. Mayor Pro Tem Ramirez stated that the budget can and probably will be amended, since there are important public works priorities needing further definition and funding work.

While utility projects are ratepayer-funded and easier to finance, road resurfacing is much more difficult, since it comes out of the General Fund and Measure “O” appropriations. The Mayor proposed a three year project to finish repaving all streets, but conceded that it may have to be stretched out somewhat if funding is not available. It’s a high priority to fill key public works vacancies and fund major deferred maintenance and capacity increasing projects.

It was stated that $3MM in city funding can enable another $30MM in bond raising (but that increases the city’s debt load).

Mayor Flynn requested and City Manager Nyhoff /Finance Director James Cameron agreed to provide a draft financing plan by the June 17 meeting.

All agreed to do everything legally possible to use local contractors and workers. Multiple Local 567 construction union people spoke in favor of that. City Attorney Fisher cautioned of state laws placing some limits on what can be done about it.

Councilwoman Padilla emphasized that we should include social and homelessness programs in addition to the public works projects.  Mayor Pro-Tem Ramirez stated that we can’t get certain matching funds because we don’t tax ourselves enough. Councilman MacDonald cautioned that some federal transportation funding may go away. Mayor Flynn stated that water and wastewater projects must be highest priority because survival depends on them.

All resolved to address the budget “black holes” deficits of the golf course and Performing Arts Center. It was stated that the latter may never break even but deficits can and should be greatly reduced,

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Downtown management District to shrink considerably

The Oxnard Downtown Management District was able to get enough property owners to vote to keep the petition alive. But, the big change was that a significant portion of owners on the south end of the district have seceded from the district (see maps), taking with them a goodly chunk of the budget, dropping from $526,766 down to $454,094.  Meeting attendees were told by District Manager Abel Mangamo that they felt they weren’t benefiting as much as others in the main business district. Two property owners at the meeting endorsed the District. No one spoke in opposition. The Council voted to continue to the next step.

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George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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