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Assemblyman Gorell Holds Sidewalk Office Hours

44th District Assemblyman Jeff Gorell chatted with Port Hueneme City Councilmember Sylvia Munoz Schnopp during one of Gorell’s scheduled sidewalk office hours held last week at Anacappucino Coffee in downtown Port Hueneme. (Photo Credit: Tim Pompey)

By Tim Pompey

State Assemblyman Jeff Gorell came to Anacappuccino Coffee in Port Hueneme on Friday, June 7 to hold what he terms “sidewalk office hours.”

Gorell, who won the election last November for the State of California’s newly redrawn 44th Assembly District, is getting out and about to get to know his constituents.

He was previously elected in 2010 to serve in the 37th Assembly District, which covered portions of eastern Ventura County and stretched across the San Fernando Valley toward Los Angeles.

The 44th Assembly District covers most of Oxnard, El Rio, Camarillo, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks and a northwestern corridor of Los Angeles County.

Holding sidewalk office hours is not new to Gorell. “We’ve done this every month since I was elected in 2010,” he explained. “It’s one of the better parts of our outreach efforts in terms of connecting with people who might otherwise not come to a legislator’s office.”
For Gorell, the district as it’s been redrawn is much more logical. “When you look at it on the map, it makes more sense,” he said. “At the same time, it’s really a microcosm for the whole state. People often ask me how this particular policy idea works for the 44th District because if it works in my district, it may work statewide. That’s because of the diversity of the district.”

Gorell addressed the budget as it’s currently being  debated in Sacramento. He insists that despite some differences between Governor Brown and the state legislature, the budget will be passed on time. More tax revenue coming in. An improved economy. A budget that can be passed with a simple majority.

He also notes that Brown himself is being somewhat of a fiscal conservative when it comes to spending. “The great debate right now is over how the governor and the Republicans say that we should be more conservative about estimates on the revenue that will be received while the Democrats are saying we should spend a little more.”

Gorell says that one of his major priorities as a legislator is to create more economic development here in Ventura County. He is currently focused on the aviation industry in the form of space and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) development.

He would also like to ensure additional funding for California’s school districts. But for Gorell, he prefers a different approach to the one proposed by Brown. “I’m working closely with the governor’s office to develop an alternate to his local control funding formula,” he said, “one that increases the base grant and thereby doesn’t hurt other school districts that are also seeking to recover from years of underfunding.”

Gorell spoke about the impact of California’s new open election format. As one of the first elected officials to pioneer this approach, he believes that the push for better representation in California is headed in the right direction.

He also feels that the legislators who showed up for this year’s session are much more pragmatic and open minded because they know that they have to appeal to their entire district. “There was a lot of politicking to redraw these districts,” he said, “but in the end it made more sense because you don’t have districts drawn that look questionable on a map.”
The challenge now for Gorell is to get to know his new and very diverse constituents. “I need to spend more time in Oxnard,” he said. “I’ve moved my district office west to Camarillo where I’m better positioned and I need to meet some of the neighborhood town councils.”

Gorell hopes to return after the legislature finishes its current session in Sacramento and spend a considerable chunk of time meeting people. He plans to schedule another sidewalk office hour session in Oxnard. “When the legislature gets finished in the fall, I’ll come back for four or five months and spend most of my time here in the district,” he said.

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