Term-limited out of his Fifth District Supervisor seat, John Zaragoza made a case for electing him Oxnard mayor at the Inter-Neighborhood Council Organization’s Sept. 24 candidate forum via Zoom.
Zaragoza’s practiced description of goals was viewed by many as a more experienced than Planning Commissioner Diedre Frank or community activist Richard Linares.
“As your leader I will support our youth, reduce crime and bring jobs,” Zaragoza said when asked why he wanted to be mayor. “I’m very motivated because there’s much to be done.”
Frank said she believes City Manager Alex Nguyen has Oxnard “on the right track, I want to help us to be better,” adding that she opposes all the measures on the city ballot except Measure E.
“These measures are terrible, except Measure E,” Frank said, endorsing the proposed 1.5 percent sales tax. “I want to help Oxnard and I am prepared to do that.”
Linares, an ordained minister, said he was motivated to run because he saw a chance to “bring new blood, a fresh vision, it’s an opportunity to step up and be a good communicator.”
In contrast to Frank and Zaragoza, Linares said he supports all five measures including Measure E, although he had earlier declared opposition to the sales tax on his Facebook page.
“I would side with Aaron Starr, the star that’s shining really, really bright,” Linares said of the sponsor of Measures F, L, M and N. “I support Aaron Starr and every one of the measure’s he’s got on the ballot.”
Like Frank, Zaragoza opposed all of Starr’s measures but supports Measure E.
“It’s very important because it will restore numerous services,” Zaragoza said, noting the Oxnard Police Dept.’s loss of 17 officer positions to budget cuts. “We need to support our youth and seniors and maintain our city; we must address homeless issues.”
Asked how they would bring new business to the city, Zaragoza pointed to his 12 years of experience on the Oxnard’s city council before becoming a county supervisor for another 12 years.
“I was a city council member when we brought in the Collection,” the shopping center in North Oxnard, Zaragoza said. “We revitalized downtown.”
Frank, who is a lawyer, singled out support of education as a key to job growth.
“We should be supporting jobs through education,” Frank said. “We need to build the schools for them to come here.”
Linares cited Measure F, which would radically change the city’s permitting process, as an example of the direction the city should consider going in to attract business.
“I think we need to take a look at what Aaron Starr is doing,” Linares said. “We need our council to be on one page; right now they’re on Alex Nguyen’s page—downtown is crippled.
“Let’s take care of our small businesses, the big ones will come,” Linares said. “But we need to fix the permit system.”
The evening’s strangest exchange and sharpest contrast between candidates came when they were asked about their experience—or lack of it.
“You guys think the mayor is the highest office in the city, it’s ceremonial, it’s not the highest,” Linares said. “The council position is the highest, I qualify for master of ceremonies. I’m tired of this question, it’s ignorant, bye.”
Frank answered, “Are you too blunt? I wish I were a man.”
“I’m a journeyman; do you want a journeyman or a carpetbagger?” Zaragoza asked. “You need someone who has experience, I have 24 years of experience. I’ve been working since I was 10 years old”.
“For you to call it a master of ceremonies, my God, this is not a game,” Zaragoza said. “We’re protecting our residents.”