Oxnard special election mayoral race

By George Miller

 

Ironically, this campaign flyer says the council kept you safe, while crime increased 70%, infrastructure crumbled and finances hurt.

With vote by mail ballots shortly going out for the Oxnard May 1 recall election, it’s decision time for voters. They should be asking themselves, are we better off than we were 2, 4, or 6 years ago?  If the answer is no, it may be time for a change. But not unless there are better candidates than the incumbents.

Let’s take a look at the Mayoral race. Five candidates are challenging incumbent Mayor Tim Flynn:

  • Aaron Starr, Local financial executive, recall initiator, Measure M initiator
  • Larry Stein, Accountant, longtime city financial watchdog
  • Modesto (Mory) Navarro, Businessman
  • Dr. Miguel Lopez- Education professional
  • Robert Lee Sumpter- frequent candidate,

Mayor Tim Flynn must get more than 50% of the vote just  to stay in office. Will he get it? It depends on who turns out and what they perceive. If he doesn’t make it, then the biggest vote-getter of the challengers will be next Mayor, even if it’s only 25-20%  of the vote, in a very light turnout election.

 

Frontrunners and Larry Stein

Based on we’ve seen so far, Miguel Lopez and Aaron Starr look most likely to prevail in the challenger race, based on their high visibility, number of supporters and buzz. But Larry Stein could surprise us, as  he did in the 2016 Treasurer’s race, when he was in the lead until Phil Molina passed him in the end as the last ballots were being counted. It was close. He has a reputation as an annoyingly persistent, no-holds-barred muckraker and truth-teller, who can be a little obnoxious at times, but usually knows what he’s talking about.

Stein is big on fiscal responsibility, honesty, transparency, good management. His own leadership and management skills have not been demonstrated, although he seems to have a lot of fans.

 

Dr. Miguel Lopez

Lopez, on the other hand is a different breed of cat. Young, nearly the epitome of what a first generation American born Latino should be. Much smoother, personable, affable, urbane, well-educated. He is obviously lacking in experience. When he ran police dept. community affairs, he was very high visibility, well-regarded and concurrently did complimentary social justice activism on his own.

The Chamber of Commerce, in a rather nebulous statement, endorsed him, because they say “he has no preconceived agenda.” Go figure.

He captured some labor endorsements, including the Laborers “Local 585 is an affiliate of LiUNA—the Laborers’ International Union of North America—the most progressive, aggressive and fastest-growing union of construction workers, and one of the most diverse and effective unions representing public service employees.”

Fire and police unions also endorsed Lopez, but it is unclear what they expect from him. “We are here in support of Miguel for Mayor. We are confident Miguel will bring changes to the City of Oxnard, unite the residents, and help drive a positive change for our families, our city, and for our future,” said Blair Martin, Oxnard Firefighters Association President.” Huh?

Dr. Lopez seems to follow contemporary Progressive policies.

 

Mayor Tim Flynn at Seabridge campaign event in 2016. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Flynn criticized for Police, Fire cuts and more, applauded for achievements

You’d be crazy to write off Mayor Tim Flynn. He has shown resilience, skill, adaptability and persistence for a decade, throwing off all challengers and discouraging others from even running.

The police association’s main bone to pick with Mayor Flynn seems to be that he voted for cuts to the department during the worst of the deficit/public safety crunch. Being that public safety consumes most of the general fund, there weren’t really too many viable alternatives. There wasn’t much to cut and transfer, while borrowing to meet current expenses is exceedingly poor financial policy. He also voted to restore the department at the earliest opportunity. Crime went up about 70% before dropping slightly. Yet, the current campaign door hanger I received today is headlined: “Keep the council that keeps you safe” (see above photo).

What would Miguel have done differently?  Aside from style and ethnicity, I don’t really see too many differences between Lopez and Flynn. Both are native sons, both are in the education field, both are obsessed with politics, both have similar political/issues views, although they got there from very different places. 

Flynn has been heavily criticized for allowing the city to drift, seemingly rudderless for years, as a councilman, then Mayor, in the wake of the City Manager Sotello scandal, suspension, firing and unsatisfactory Interim City Manager period. He shares the blame with other Council members who also permitted it. Meanwhile, severe financial and operational problems built up.

However, Flynn has also been a major advocate of road paving, eliminating graffiti, supporting City Manager Nyhoff and his reforms, stopping the power plant, taking over the recycling facility (but preventing a new bid), indirectly engineering the sanctuary/”safe” city resolution while wiping his fingerprints off it, the risky “green” power plan, district voting  and more.  Some will like these stances, some won’t.

He and Lopez are similar in policy approaches.

 

Starr a Star or not?

Businessman Aaron Starr offers the clearest differentiated choice in the entire field of 14 challengers and 4 incumbents. He and Navarro offer the greatest business orientation. Starr has been an accountant, CPA (currently in inactive status) and now a key financial executive for Haas Automation, the largest, most successful manufacturer in Ventura County (most of the larger Amgen’s manufacturing is done elsewhere). 

?

He is very business, public safety, fiscal-prudence and smaller government-oriented. If elected, he would be the only such person with all of those attributes on the council, unless certain other challengers get in, too.  Starr’s big attraction is reinforcing  the council’s Achilles heel- an almost complete lack of business and financial acumen. This has hurt the Council/City badly in the past. But can one guy turn the Council? He says yes and by the way, vote for the others on his slate for council, consisting of Kari Cryder, Francine Castanon and Miguel Martinez.

His style would likely be very different, with far fewer meetings, far fewer ribbon cuttings and lunchtime speeches, which he says he would delegate most of to other Council Members and staff, as well as fewer, clearer and stronger policy priorities.

He makes noises about strong public safety, but we have yet to see his plan. How would  he make police and fire stronger without more money? Is it all about priorities and management improvements? What are they and how would they be done?

 

Morey’s Junk

As far as junkyard businessman Morey Navarro…  Those who have watched the political scene a  long time remember him. Most are fairly positive about him and his work on the Planning Commission. He’s pro-business and for a clean and safe environment- hard to argue with that. But even if he’s the best candidate ever, he’s been relatively invisible for years. He is running a rather uninspiring campaign and not much information about him, his views or plans, is to be had. Our multiple calls and requests for a candidate profile yielded nothing, although the VC Star succeeded in getting a response.

 

Who is Robert Lee Sumpter?

As for Robert Lee Sumpter? Well, we ask you to just watch a little debate footage. I rest my case.

 

Reason for the Recall?

(this section added 4-7-18) For recall initiator Aaron Starr and much of the public, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the huge increase in wastewater rates. Not only was it huge, but the rationale and methodology left much to be desired and triggered Starr’s Measure M, a voter initiative passed with a 72% majority  which mandated rolling back the rates. The City has spent a fortune, first trying to prevent Measure M, then fighting the outcome by getting an injunction, then litigating against Starr on Measure M,  plus another Starr lawsuit challenging what appear to be illegally levied “infrastructure fees” to tap utility funds without a vote or taxpayer approval. Starr has proven in court that the numbers the city used to justify the increases were incorrect. He has pointed out that the city’s capital plan could be cut considerably. He has pointed out that they are not following their own capital investment guidelines. He has pointed out that the city terminated a dialogue with him on the wastewater budget and capital plan. He has pointed out the absurd, heavy-handed, kangaroo court city management of the URAP (Utility Ratepayer Advisory Panel) process. A decision on Measure M is pending on the city’s case against Measure M. Starr’s challenge of Oxnard utility infrastructure fees has not yet been heard.

We don’t agree that the wastewater fiasco alone is sufficient grounds for the recall. We think that Starr’s proposed capital budget was too low. But we also believe that the city’s numbers are too high and and that they want to borrow way too much, creating decades of future debt slavery for residents, their children and grandchildren. Starr points out that a $750 million capital budget for a $30 million business doesn’t make sense. But there are plenty of other issues to consider for the recall. Read some HERE.

 

Recommendations

I know and like the top four candidates (don’t know the other two). So, it’s no fun to pick a candidate endorsement, which we based upon our policy preferences and belief that they could be implemented, while setting the right climate for effective government.

Our preference is to bring in some new blood with business and financial knowledge, experience, with the energy, motivation and skills to get at least some policy improvements implemented. Parts of local government need to be scaled back and parts strengthened. We badly need to change the tenor and direction of policy in Oxnard. If voters are concerned about checks and balances, consider that we have the rest of the council, City Attorney, City Manager and staff as counterweights. The change in dialogue and direction would be refreshing and is badly needed. We endorse Aaron Starr for Mayor.

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George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.


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2 Responses to Oxnard special election mayoral race

  1. Eileen Tracy April 7, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    After reading this, George; I can’t tell if you are for or against Starr, so I’ll have to disagree because I have big hopes for the city under Starr’s direction. There’s nothing like financial management background for a city trying to recover from too many years without recommended financial policies (even tho the recent audit provides some hope).

    Reply
    • Citizen Reporter April 7, 2018 at 5:31 pm

      Hi Eileen: I tried to cite pros and cons, but what part of “Aaron Starr for Mayor” did you NOT understand?

      Reply

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