With only two candidates running for Oxnard’s city treasurer this November, voters must choose between Phillip S. Molina and James J. Aragon.
Although both admit to coming from different political backgrounds, they agree on two platforms—financial transparency to Oxnard’s residents and the importance of Measure L.
Essentially, Measure L would create an elected treasurer position that would oversee the city’s finances. In essence, it would make the city’s chief financial officer an elected position. Without Measure L, Aragon and Molina said the city treasurer’s role and abilities will be limited.
Molina and Aragon spoke to Vida News about what voters can expect to see if either is elected and about the importance of financial transparency from the city.
Phillip S. Molina
Oxnard’s current city treasurer, Molina previously worked for 30 years as a Financial Director in local cities as well as the chief auditor for the State Department of Insurance. During his time as treasurer, Molina said he’s seen the City Council and City Manager, Alexander Nguyen, fail to provide the public with “good financial information.”
Although accurate, Molina believes the information given to the public is not easily understood or read. If the annual financial report is 200 pages, Molina asked one city council member to point out a detail and explain what it means.
“Until we provide the public with the information [financial report] in a way that’s easy and clear to understand, they frankly won’t know what they’re voting on,” Molina said to Vida News.
If re-elected, Molina said he hopes to publish transparent and clear financial reports, updates and information to the public regularly. However, he urges voters to vote yes to Measure L because if it doesn’t pass, the city treasurer will have their “hands tied.”
Without Measure L, Molina said he cannot look or comment on the financial report or converse with the staff about it. Consequently, making his job difficult and inefficient.
In his duties and goals as city treasurer, if reelected he aims to uncover, and report cases of embezzlement or other illegal activity found in accounts and companies. Previously, as a city finance director he said he found a police chief who was embezzling city assets, and Molina, along with the city manager and city attorney submitted the evidence to the County DA, who determined and took the ‘proper’ legal actions.
“But in Oxnard I was stopped by the city manager from performing those same accounting procedures that concluded with these guilty verdicts, and I wonder why,” Molina said.
With regards to the Hispanic community in Oxnard, Molina said he is tired of the city referring to Hispanics as the “poor little brothers and sisters” and not taking action to aid and enhance the community.
Molina referenced the condition of the streets in La Colonia, which he said he complained for about three years. He said the city needs to identify the condition of the streets, not only in South Oxnard, but in the entire city and begin improvements.
“We deserve to have all of the taxpayers’ money that we’ve been paying in property and sales tax used. We want to see it used to better the condition of all of the streets in Oxnard and we want to see that included in our neighborhoods as well,” Molina said.
James J. Aragon
Aragon attended high school in Oxnard and maintained an interest in politics and in the city even as he joined the Air Force. Aragon’s entire family has lived and remains in Oxnard and if elected city treasurer, Aragon hopes to enhance the resident’s financial literacy and understanding of where and why money is moving.
“My whole goal was to make sure that number one, residents understand what the how money is being invested, and what the return looks like. They understand that the money is trying to be worked,” Aragon said.
If Measure L is passed, Aragon said he’ll be given the power to be transparent with the city and convince the City Council they don’t “need to hide bad news” from the residents. He said Measure L would grant the city treasurer to run internal controls, money spending and enhance efficiency.
With Measure L, instead of having one city council and manager spending the city’s money, the city treasurer can assist and oversee the finances. If the city treasurer acts as a third party to the finances, Aragon believes it will build more trust in the city government and gather more participation from the residents.
“When people don’t think that the government’s working for them, but they just shrug their shoulders and they don’t get engaged. They don’t get engaged with the community and if elected I want to see that change,” Aragon said.
If elected, Aragon promises more engagement and visibility on his behalf. He said he is an honest and upfront man who likes to make life and experiences fun. In order to boost engagement between the government and residents, Aragon hopes to pass by every individual neighborhood in Oxnard and allot people the opportunity to ask questions and meet him.
“Visibility is and would be everything to me as the city treasurer,” Aragon said. “I’d want to make sure the people know me and can ask questions whenever.”
Aragon’s father is Mexican, and his mother is Caucasian—growing up in a bilingual household, he said everyone in Oxnard, regardless of their legal status or occupation, should be treated equally. Despite not being fluent in Spanish, Aragon said he plans to have a translator adjacent so he can remain accessible to the Hispanic community.