Council candidates featured in AARP forum

October 06, 2000
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula Times“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” was a piano tune featured at an Oct. 3 AARP meeting, where candidates for the Santa Paula City Council gathered to introduce themselves and take questions from the audience. The session turned controversial when one candidate said the council will not be able to get along until an incumbent is voted out in two years.AARP President Elaine Price welcomed the approximately 60 seniors who attended the forum featuring council incumbent Jim Garfield, a Realtor seeking his second term as well as agribusiness consultant Al Guilin, firefighter Ray Luna and electrician John Proctor.Garfield said his stand on issues is “Pretty definite. . .I’m a strong supporter of growth into the canyons and leaving the valley floors alone.” Garfield said the city can no longer remain stagnant and development in Adams Canyon would offer mixed housing, golf courses and a resort that would supply a hefty bed tax to city coffers. “We’re sorely in need of money for public safety, street paving and new sidewalks,” he noted.The police and fire departments pay an average of up to 60 percent lower than other agencies in the county, and other city workers are as much as 120 percent behind parity. Industry is also sorely needed, said Garfield, as Santa Paula has people that “need and want to go to work.”President of the Heritage Valley Tourism Bureau, Garfield said tourism is also an important component to the economy. “. . .we need to turn the town around, better our schools, keep improving the downtown and bring industry,” to the city.Guilin agreed that growth is a big issue but but the question is “where to put it and how. . .” But other issues are also of great concern to voters: “People are concerned about how the City Council can solve problems when they have such a difficult time talking to each other,” he noted. “How we govern reflects how we treat one another.”Growth and other issues have not gotten the attention they deserve because the council and residents are “distracted by other issues,” namely council and city litigation, including the voting rights lawsuit filed against the city by the federal Department of Justice.As a vice president of agricultural giant Limoneira, Guilin said his task was to take land, capital and personnel and fit them together for positive results. “The crux was how to move in the right direction, reaching a consensus,” and making the components fit together for wide benefit.The city “Not getting there is an issue that must be addressed,” noted Guilin.Luna said the city needs a “vision and plan for the next 10 to 20 years,” and government should work with the private sector to reach consensus. Seniors need more services but not higher trash fees being finalized by the city. “It’s poor planning,” and seniors should be able to obtain smaller trash cans at a reduced rate.
Luna said he has “worked the Hispanic side of town” and only two east area residents believe the city has racial tensions. “Others said we should blame ourselves as Hispanics for not voting,” he noted.Luna said the city should emphasize promoting and marketing the California Oil Museum to draw more visitors and the city needs to be more business friendly, noting the problems - and expense - one merchant had relocating his business when faced with an uncooperative City Hall. Poor planning and budgeting of past years - Luna used the example of creating the full time fire department - is to blame for many of the city’s fiscal problems.Proctor urged that ways be found to compensate public safety personnel and the city be more aggressive in seeking varied grants. Residents should be aware that in the city’s redevelopment areas a lower-price home is just as valuable to the city as an upper-end dwelling if the property is converted to post Prop. 13 constraints, he noted.Redistribution of sales tax to ensure Santa Paula will get its fair share should be targeted, and a resolution sought with the DOJ, Proctor added.“I’ve spoken to them; the impression I got is they’re flexible,” Proctor noted. He does not believe in district voting, but said the city should try to save litigation costs, now budgeted at $350,000. But, “They decided to fight it tooth and nail from the beginning.”A supporter of land use Measure I, Proctor said its creation was a “reaction against non-responsiveness” on the part of city leaders. Measure I “validates the wisdom of political bodies. . .and we do need growth and homes,” provided in the measure.During the question and answer session, Proctor said the downtown will never be what it was due to a change in shopping patterns and easy access to big box/department stores, but Luna said he thinks Main Street can be revived.Another question centered on city water meter reader teams and wasted manpower; Garfield said he would have the public works director call the questioner and explain the process but Guilin said a look must be taken at the system and time management.When asked if the candidates would get along with other council members, Guilin and Proctor said yes; “I’m more than willing to meeting halfway,” said Garfield, but Luna was emphatic that there will be no change until incumbent Laura Flores Espinosa is “voted out in two years. . .then the problems will stop.”

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