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By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- The conversation with Oxnard Mayor and Ventura County District Five Supervisor Candidate Tim Flynn continues with a potential regional airport, which he says is essential to bring good jobs to the area.
Flynn won the Super Tuesday primary last May and collected 7,475 votes and 29.20 percent. Challenger Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez 7,137 votes and 27.88 percent of the electorate.
Camarillo has plenty of assets for a regional airport and is not near housing, like Oxnard, and the area remains without a viable plan.
"The problem is that nobody wants it in their backyard," he said. "If you want higher-paying jobs and we want to prosper economically, people are going to have to make compromises," he said. "That kind of leadership needs to be on the county level. It's easy to talk about this in the City of Oxnard, but how much influence are you going to have on all this in the other cities? At the Board of Supervisors level, you can have that kind of influence."
In the meantime, Flynn called the Oxnard Transportation Center "vastly underutilized," because the community does not have people who would commute to Los Angeles, Burbank, or other areas on commuter trains.
"That's why we need synergy between redeveloping downtown and a creative class occupying those apartments," he said. "We need a lot of loft apartments in the downtown Oxnard area. That will make the transportation center a corridor and a much more viable entity."
Channel Islands Harbor
When Flynn got elected Mayor in 2012, he met with Former Harbor Director Lynn Krieger, and during that meeting, he wanted to discuss issues the county and city need to work on together.
"She agreed to that and didn't have a problem with that," Flynn said. "I also said I have a problem with the governance issue, and we need to form a joint-use authority with all the stakeholders that will vett issues, like the way the Airport Authority or VCTC (Ventura County Transportation Commission) vetts issues. They act as a closer connection with the public, and they work through all the issues. Then, those decisions are forwarded onto the Board of Supervisors."
He told Krieger that the harbor needs a new system of governance.
"We need to form a pathway of operating more cooperatively," Flynn said. "I've had my finger on this for eight years straight. Fisherman's Wharf, the Harbor Patrol Issue, and it goes on-and-on. Under the previous and current city manager, the county said to us, we'll work with you, but give us what we want first, and then we'll work with you."
The county wanted the Fisherman's Wharf project, he said, and then, they will talk to him about the joint-use authority.
"That's what they told me," Flynn said.
The county offered to cooperate if they get everything they want.
"What contrasts me from Carmen (Ramirez) is that she's has little involvement in Channel Islands Harbor," Flynn said. "I have put a lot of my time and effort into Channel Islands Harbor, for a variety of reasons. I used to live in Oxnard Shores."
He complimented the county and said they've finally listened and under Director Mark Sandoval, formed a resident's committee to create a harbor vision.
"Once they come up with a vision for the harbor, how does that play into what can go at Fisherman's Wharf," Flynn said. "That process is ongoing right now. The county hired Sargeant Town Planning. Dave Sargeant has worked ostensibly with the City of Oxnard and Ventura Harbor to create this visioning process of engagement with representatives. I noticed on the representatives' committee that they didn't have a representative from Silver Strand. A lady I met, named Pamela, said she wanted to do that, so I put her in touch with the committee and Dave Sargeant. I think right now; it's on the right track."
What ultimately needs to happen, he said it would come down to what the market will bear.
"Fisherman's Wharf is a private-public partnership," he said. "It's county land, a developer; Martin V Smith developed that land, and people paid him to lease those buildings. When Martin V Smith died, the businesses died. It was on its way down when he was alive, but it's all about a public-private partnership."
Currently, he said the commercial retail industry is shaky at best.
"The question is what kind of mixed uses should go at the harbor," he said. "The public wants public-serving amenities, like restaurants, shops, and boating. They want to have fun. They don't see 400 apartment units as consistent with having fun, and I agree with them. We need our future vision to be well-grounded in the realities of the marketplace. I've said to the resident's committee that you need to start with a valid, objective market assessment first. That will steer you in a direction when you come up with visioning. You can come up with a plan, and if it's not going to be market-based, it will sit on the shelf, and nothing will happen. It's a vision mixed with that market. If they can do that, I think they will be successful. I have high hopes they're going to do that."
Channel Islands Harbor is an $8 million a year enterprise fund, he said, and the county is spending $9 million a year and losing $1 million each year.
"The county has to break even," he said. "The goal of a public enterprise fund is to break even. The public sector shouldn't be in the business of making money. The harbor should be self-sustaining. The county isn't going to lay out $5-10 million a year for recreation at the harbor unless they're getting the same amount of revenue from whatever development takes place there."
Changing focus and moving forward
Some people categorize the current Board of Supervisors as anti-business, but Flynn doesn't think that's accurate.
"The supervisors need to be more focused on businesses," he said. "In the 147-year history of Ventura County, it's only been since 2017 that the county has had an economic development plan. The county went 145 years without an economic development plan. Now it has one. My job as a supervisor is to work with the other supervisors and say, hey, right now, economic development consumes maybe 1 or 2 percent of the total county capacity of staffing and board supervisor discussions. My goal is to gradually and incrementally bring more focus on economic development issues to the board of supervisors."
The resources are scarce, he said, so this means it will be a difficult task.
"The county has high demands for social services," he said. "Largely speaking, and you can say this about city government too, the county government is largely geared towards providing social services and public infrastructure and public safety. The social services component is one of the largest aspects of the county government. It's going to take a lot to lead the county government and the large bureaucracy of county government that's all focused around public safety, social services, and public infrastructure. It's going to take a lot to devote more attention to issues that traditionally have not been county-led issues. For its first 147 years, the county government has taken a passive approach to county government. I want to change that, work with the other supervisors to make economic development a proactive priority."
With his experience, when he's elected as a supervisor, he must convince the other supervisors to look into the county's role in sponsoring a regional airport.
"I need to get with the other supervisors and get that agendized," he said. "I've got to get the other supervisors to start thinking about what is the county's role in trying to coordinate with businesses and community colleges about job training programs that will produce a highly qualified and trained workforce so the companies will come. What's the county's role in bringing all the cities in Ventura County together for a fiber-optic master plan, as Oxnard has now. The county's economic development has been a quasi-non-profit, government-supported Ventura County Economic Development entity. It's time that the Ventura County Economic Development entity and the county government come together. We need to bring this together and say we're not leaving it up to you to come up with all this. We're going to agendize this and have public-policy discussions on what should the role of county government be."
Flynn has "always" taken a non-partisan approach to government and pledges to work across the aisle.
"Partisanship has no direct role and should have no direct role in filling potholes, building bridges and building a new economy," he said. "That should not have anything to do with partisanship. I have to admit, county government does provide social services, and if you're advocating the expansion of those social services, then maybe it starts getting into issues about partisanship."
This contradicts Ramirez, who he called an outspoken prominent partisan Democrat.
"She's on the progressive wing of the Democratic party," Fynn said. "I don't mention my party affiliation. When you're a mayor, you better be a Republicrat. When I go door-to-door, people ask me what political party I belong to? My job as Mayor and aspiring county supervisor has nothing to do with partisanship. Then I make them laugh and say every Mayor and supervisor should be a Republicrat. I'm the guy who will bring people together and get things done."
For more information, visit tim4supervisor.com.