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By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- In a marathon Oxnard City Council special meeting, the council appointed Gabriel Tehran to represent district two on the council.
The District Two seat became available when former Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez was elected to the Ventura County Supervisor District Five seat.
Tehran will serve on an interim basis, as the council will hold a special election, Nov 2. The winner of that race will complete Ramirez's term.
The council received applications from Larry Barbarine, Justin Beranich, Pedro Chavez, Orlando Dozier, Tai Hartley, Lizanne Nanez, Enrique Petris, Veronica Solis, Vincent Stewart, Christopher Taccone, Tehran, Ricardo Torres, and Alfred Velasquez.
City Clerk Rose Chaparro randomly picked an applicant to tell the council why they'd be the best choice for the seat, starting with Nanez, an Oxnard native who has lived in district two for the last 34 years.
"I have a good overview of the city, and I think I know end-to-end how it works," Nanez said. "I think that I can bring a good perspective to the council, and I believe that I would compliment the council. I am coming from the private sector, and I believe the current council is all coming from the public sector. I can bring in a different perspective and give different ideas."
She feels her master planning controls and cost experience is another attribute she can bring to the dais.
"My role at Proctor and Gamble is equivalent to what is known as the six sigma master plan where I shape strategies and develop key measures and metrics," she said. "I've cut costs, and current value works out of processes, and bring them to ideal situations."
Ricardo Torres greeted the Spanish audience and considers himself an Oxnard product who mostly grew up in public housing.
"I went to local schools, graduated from Hueneme High School, and went to California Lutheran University where I got a degree in criminal justice and Spanish," he said. "I also did a semester in Mexico. I will graduate this May with a Master's in public administration with an emphasis in leadership at California State University in San Bernadino."
With experience in the public housing industry, he's been involved in implementing federal, state, and local grant pilot monies.
"I am familiar with fiscal budgets and the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report)," he said. "The key to my success is my ability to form partnerships. I've been instrumental in forming multiple partnerships through the county, several non-profits, and GEOs."
As someone who is a "really good" liaison, he said it's a key attribute of an Oxnard City Council member.
"As a council member, that is important," he said. "I'm an effective leader and empathic listener and a team player. I'm a neutral candidate, so I don't have a hidden political agenda. I believe I will govern with heart and passion, but I am realistic with the expectations. I'm interested in our present, the future, and the future of our next generation. As a father of two, I want my children to be able to live in the city, and I want future children to succeed that way I have been able to succeed."
He's committed to Oxnard's agricultural roots.
"I believe in public safety," he said. "I have a criminal justice degree and understand community policing and the importance of it."
Tehran told the audience he is the most qualified applicant to fill the district two seat.
He's spent the last 17 years working with Ventura County youth and communities and helps kids struggling with alcohol and drug use. He has a bachelor's degree in information technology and a master's degree in management and leadership. He attended Oxnard College, and while exploring careers, he found the addictive disorders program, which clicked for him.
"I work now with positive health and wellness promotion within our education system in Ventura County," he said. "I directly oversee a $300,000 annual budget that supports four staff within our department. I have to monitor that budget through the year, propose it for the upcoming year, and close it out, as well."
Tehran is the chair of the Fremont South Neighborhood Council and was elected as a member-at-large in 2013. He was voted the chair in 2018 after the neighborhood was dormant for four years.
"The first neighborhood cleanup we had when I the chair was the first neighborhood cleanup we had in almost five years," he said. "One of the accomplishments I am proud about is the navigation center on K Street. The navigation center was previously an overnight warming shelter that had been there for the last 20 years in our neighborhood. We have worked towards consensus and solutions-oriented discussions with the city to make sure it's well run. We're good neighbors."
Tehran advocates restoring city service and understands the residents' frustration with unkempt landscaping and medians.
"I understand why it had to happen and the finances behind it, but now we have an opportunity to restore that in our city to the beautiful state it has been in the past," he said. "We also have to restore services to meet our infrastructure needs."
Tehran also advocates investing in the city's youth.
"My career has been spent with youth," he said. "Many are in underserved populations who are underserved or at the promise of many things coming their way. Investing in our youth now will save us money on many social and financial issues later down the line. If we are able to keep young people from getting into negative behaviors, to begin with, later on, we'll have less need to address those negative behaviors."
He sees the housing stock and homeless issues as being two intertwined issues.
"Our housing stock absolutely needs to be addressed," he said. "We should look at many policy strategies, collaborations, and partnerships with the county and how we can improve and increase our housing stock. We can address a large portion of our population experiencing homelessness because there is not enough housing for them."
Robles-Solis believes in Oxnard's promise as a beautiful city, and she's deeply rooted, raising her family and feels a special connection to the land and community.
She's a social worker and helps senior citizens and people with mental health needs. For people with disabilities, she works to support them and give them skills for their life.
"As a social worker, I recognize specific barriers and inequalities that lie within our society," she said. "I believe my academic background and experience as a social worker provides me an excellent foundation to serve alongside you as a council member."
She advocates adding to the council's work and support the city's backbone, its small businesses.
"We need to revitalize downtown Oxnard," she said. "With the pandemic, we have more bike-riders around our neighborhoods. We need to make sure our city is bicycle and pedestrian-friendly. I believe public safety is essential. We need to prioritize public safety and bring back community-based policing. Public safety within our neighborhoods, it's essential to our economic development in our city. I believe we have a great responsibility to make sure our police and fire departments have the resources they need to make our city safe."
She's worked with many homeless individuals who suffer from mental health issues, and housing is still an option.
"There are many homeless individuals who have mental illnesses or substance abuse," she said. "We need to look deep into families who have been displaced or families who are homeless and living in vans. Each situation is different and unique. The city has a plan that will be successful if we all work together. The city cannot work alone, and we need the county's support."
She understands the city's investment in its youth and advocates investing in partnerships between the city, school board, and local non-profits to meet their needs.
"Tonight, you are going to hear from other community members who want to serve our city, but I want to tell you that my candidacy is unique," she said. "I have worked with underserved members of our community, and I know the work and challenges that lie ahead. As an elected member of the Oxnard School District, I have gained valuable experience that makes me ready to contribute as a city council member. I have a demonstrated record of commitment to our city and building bridges, delivering on commitments made, and serving with a faithful heart from the minute I take the oath. I believe my work is not done."
During public comments, Angel Garcia supported Tehran and called him a valuable community asset.
"Gabriel Tehran has done amazing work in the community and has dedicated himself to education," Garcia said. "He has little to no critics in opposition, but the critics he does have, which is a vocal minority, make outlandish accusations that he is a yes-man to the council. These comments have no merit and only serve to add toxic discourse to our community. Gabriel is not a yes-man."
Alicia Percell does not support Tehran, called him a City Manager Alex Nguyen yes-man, and the accusations are not unwarranted.
"Mr. Tehran faithfully repeated the city manager's talking points about a number of issues in the months leading up to the Nov election," she said. "All the videos (produced by Tehran) that people have been mentioning tonight didn't seem to be his independently generated thoughts; he used the city's slides from the presentation at the council to present carbon copies of what the city manager wanted said."
Percell pointed out that residents could have watched the council meeting themselves and got the same information.
"You had 13 applicants for this district seat, which demonstrates a high level of community interest," she said. "Surely, out of all these applicants, you can appoint someone qualified who isn't a personal friend of the city manager."
After a brief recess, each member presented their two top applicants, starting Mayor Pro Tem Bryan MacDonald, who endorsed Tehran and Torres.
Councilman Bert Perello endorsed Torres and Nanez, and Councilman Oscar Madrigal endorsed Robles-Solis and Torres.
Councilwoman Gabriela Basua endorsed Robles-Solis and Torres, and Council Member Vianey Lopez supported Robles-Solis and Tehran.
Mayor John Zaragoza endorsed Tehren and Chavez.
All the councilmembers thanked the applicants and their willingness to step out and serve Oxnard.
During council questions, Perello asked Tehran about an endorsement that contrasts the council and planning commission.
"As a council member, if I was appointed, I may not always go with what my colleagues go with," Tehran said. "I have to look at what the research says. I have to look at evidence of what we can do to increase and improve our housing situation for our residents. At the end of the day, residents are struggling because they don't have access to housing. I looked at the information provided to all the applicants I agreed with many of the stances they had and policies that have in place.
Zaragoza asked Tehran how he would balance citywide issues with District 2 needs?
"I think it's important to take a holistic view on everything we do," Tehran said. "I have to do this when I am working with an individual student or a student group, or if I am working with the staff at a school or an entire school district. When I have district-specific issues that come up, I have to know the resources available to us."
After the council questions, Tehran, Robles-Solis, and Torres got votes for the open seat, but no one got a majority. The council voted twice.
The council voted to suspend the rules, per City Attorney Stephen Fischer's advice, and Torres dropped off the ballot with the fewest votes.
On the third council vote, Tehran prevailed with 4 of 6 votes.
The council approved a resolution saying that a special election will take place on Nov 2.