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Thursday, January 7, 2021

By Chris Frost

chris@tricoountysentry.com

 

Oxnard-- The City Council received a summary report on its 2016-2020 five-year priorities, Jan. 5, that was adopted by the group on May 17, 2016.

 

The group also looked ahead at the 2021- 2025 priority-setting framework and offered feedback to the staff.

 

The city's 2016-2020 priorities were inspirational, but it also experienced plenty of organizational troubles.

 

The item was informational and did not require any decisions by the council. 

 

City Manager Alex Nguyen presented the item to the council and said before he arrived in Oxnard, he knew it would be difficult for the city to achieve its goals.

 

"The broad categories from the 2016-2020 period make perfect sense for this or any community," he said. "The four categories are quality of life, economic development, organizational effectiveness, infrastructure, and natural resources. I believe we still need to focus on those topics, but of course, the council can choose any other to either replace or add when we go forward with this."

 

Quality of Life

 

For some context, quality of life is intended to straighten and stabilize the city's organizational foundation in finance, information technology, human resources, and human resources.

 

"Improve workforce quality while increasing transparency to the public," he said. "In the area of infrastructure and natural resources, the goal was to establish, preserve, and improve our infrastructure and natural resources through effective planning, prioritization, and efficient use of available funding."

 

Economic Development

 

"Quality of life is building opportunities within the community for safe and vibrant neighborhoods which showcase the promising future of Oxnard," Nguyen said. "The economic development focus was to develop and enhance Oxnard's business climate, promote the city's fiscal health, and support economic growth in a manner consistent with the city's unique character."

 

Nguyen outlined the tasks related to the specific goals in each category.

 

"We were not able to get into much detail with any of these," he said. "Overall, we looked at which of these tasks were completed, which of these tasks were started and somewhere in the process, and which were not touched. Overall, we were able to look at a 55 percent rate that we were able to get things done. Put into context a few things. The circumstance of the organization at the time, the challenges and issues the city was experiencing, the fiscal and structural deficit the city was experiencing, and the high rate of turnover. Especially among the executive staff. When those are the circumstances of an organization, it's obvious that it's hard to do everything you aspire to do."

 

Nguyen feels like the city accomplished 68 percent of the quality of life tasks, and about the same for economic development.

 

"In terms of infrastructure and natural resources, we think we got done about 57 percent, and with organizational effectiveness, we got done about 47 percent," he said. That's an area that I want t continue to focus on."

 

Nguyen pointed out the five people served as city manager, six people served as the chief financial officer, and five people served as the public works director in the last decade.

 

"We had six people serve in the human resources position and seven as the fire chief," he said. "It's easy to see that makes for tremendous challenges in terms of trying to achieve a high-functioning organization."

 

With the number of tasks the city had, 131 of them, many of them were lofty.

 

"It's important to be aspirational, but you also have to be realistic about it," Nguyen said. "Some of the assignments were unwieldy, given the resources."

 

Resources

 

Nguyen said all the priorities lacked resources, people, or programs.

 

"Therefore, the completion rate is not spectacular," he said. "The other thing that I noticed when reviewing these back in 2018, and recently, many of these aspirations and goals were not easy to measure based on the way they were framed. It's important to have achievable aspirations and goals with a timeline matching resources and measurable milestones along the way." 

 

Nguyen said the police department met most of its goals, and the city did experience success among its struggles.

 

"There were various goals provided for the recreation department," he said. "In that same period, the recreation department took the bulk of the physical cuts. They have done a stunning job with what they were left with in terms of financial support. It's difficult to set goals to require our recreation staff to achieve, and in that time period, they absorbed about $5 million in cuts. As we go forward into the next round, we need to make them realistic and achievable."

 

Nguyen plans to take the priorities back to each committee so that they can provide feedback to the staff and take the input to the public and refine the priorities for 2021-2025.

 

"We had an ongoing community survey last year, and we want to update that continually," he said. "Based on what we learned at the committees, we want to do a survey with the community during Feb; then we would like to schedule a special council meeting for a workshop for the council to see the results of the survey and see whatever public input we have and see more public input from the surveys and what the council discusses at the committees. We on staff will make some recommendations, but the council needs to have a discussion amongst yourself after you've heard the feedback for the community and staff. The council should then sort out its priorities for the next five-year period."

 

This story will continue on Jan. 15.

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