By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- A great crowd showed up at Plaza Park, June 30, as residents celebrated Oxnard's 117th birthday.
The socially distant event featured cupcakes and treats for those attending, along with music and a proclamation for the city. The city was officially born on June 30, 1903.
Event Organizer Richard Linares said the world is dealing with protests, the pandemic, and the political season right now, which spawns a lot of division and animosity in the community.
"I believe strongly that God has a heart for the city, and it's up to us to celebrate the City of Oxnard," he said. "The city became incorporated on June 30, 1903, and today, Oxnard turns 117. As a Christian, Pastor, and hustler out here on the streets, I think it's important that we remind everyone that God loves this city, we are the citizens, and it's going to be us who make the difference."
Linares believes the entire world will see Oxnard become a light on top of the hill full of love and peace for everyone.
"Today, we're here to celebrate Oxnard, all the citizens of Oxnard, and say it is one of the most amazing places on planet earth," he said.
Linares said he plans to announce his candidacy for mayor of Oxnard.
"I am positioning myself," he said. "I have an appointment on July 13 to go before City Clerk Michelle Ascension to pick up a packet to give me whatever I need to be a candidate."
Linares has lived in Oxnard for 10 years, and he has seen the division and politics in the city.
"As a minister and someone who has advocated working with the homeless and impoverished communities, I think it's time we have a leader who's willing to speak up, step up and not be afraid," he said. "I don't have a degree or any formal education, but what I do have is experience working on the streets and working with mental health."
Linares acknowledges that he is a recovering drug addict, prostitute, and whore, and said he could bring to the table something no other candidate has.
"I come from the worst, and I am here to be able to speak up," he said. "People think I am crazy, but God has enabled me not to be ashamed of my past and use it as a platform to be able to tell this community that they need a voice that is not afraid of politicians. A voice that does not need to be funded by political campaigns, and a voice for the people. I was made in Mexico and born in Phoenix, Arizona. God brought me down to Oxnard to feel the call of God and love this community."
Linares said he would be the voice of truth in Oxnard.
"The leading cause of death in America is chronic heart problems," he said. "It attacks people with weakened immune systems. As a person who is a glutton himself, we have to change the way we eat and change our lives. The coronavirus is a reminder that we will all die one day. We have to choose; are we going to continue to consume foods and products that kill us from the inside out, or are we going to be healthy wholesome individuals who can beat this virus?"
As an advocate for the homeless, he said it's sad that it took over 90 days to get a bathroom and shower in downtown Oxnard for the homeless community.
"The sad thing is they've justified it being only three hours a day on Wednesday," he said. "They keep telling me to wait and wait. I keep telling them we need to enact a one-stop emergency center in Oxnard, but there is too much red tape."
He was downtown the other day, couldn't find an open restroom, and had an accident.
"It was the most embarrassing thing ever not to be able to find a public restroom in this community," Linares said. "We've had all these crises, and this is the best we can do for our community? It's sad."
Rescue Mission Graduate David Dockter brought his rolling drive by van and entertained the crowd.
"I used to be a production company and was working for Oxnard and Port Hueneme High School, and because of COVID-19, I lost both accounts," he said. "I converted this thing into a rolling drive by van. I can roll up, have a party with people, with wireless microphones and practice social distancing where they stay in the house, and I stay on the street."
He said his business is doing well and is a lot of fun. The van has a disco ball, and people are drawn to the attraction.
"The response was overwhelming, so I did the whole van up," he said. "This work is like charity, and if I don't have an account, I'll go work for free."
He loves seeing people smile when he rolls up.
"If I were rich, I would do this all day long," he said. "You've got to cover costs. I'm cheering people up and bringing them out of this whole COVID-19 thing."
Casa de Vida Co-Founder Julie Moreno brought her kids to the party and said it's important to recognize Oxnard's birthday.
"I've known Mr. Linares for a few years," she said. "He loves this city and all the people. I don't think the kids are going to dance."
Oxnard resident Alex Garcia recently became homeless, and Linares helped him.
"He's a mentor and guided me from moving out from being homeless to looking for shelter and more stable and permanent living," Garcia said. "I relied on the hope that something would breakthrough. Richard kept popping in and checking up on me. That's how I found a room for rent and started getting my life back together."
Garcia is applying and interviewing for work.
"I'm looking for something to come my way," he said. "I've been keeping a positive attitude and helping Richard with the community."
Tisha Bolen has known Linares for a few years and said his boldness is contagious.
"I like the fact that he cares about people and has compassion and empathy," she said. "He's the real deal. I'll dance if they play the right song. I'll dance if they play "Happy" by Pharrell Williams."
Bolen was born in Port Hueneme, but she loves Oxnard.
"I wouldn't want to live anywhere else in California," she said.