Within the last few years, the city of Oxnard has worked on numerous projects from beautification, restoration, to providing shelter for the homeless population. Oxnard City Manager Alex Nguyen was appointed to his current position in 2018 and feels that the city has come a long way since – physically, financially, and more.
Nguyen describes his time in office so far as exciting, difficult, and invigorating. He says that one of the most significant projects that has been completed during his time is straightening out the city’s financial management.
“We have financial stability now and I think that’s the most significant thing in terms of just having the baseline in order to provide services and programs for the community,” Nguyen said to VIDA Newspaper.
When Nguyen talks about Oxnard’s financial stability, he is referring to the city’s bank account and how it’s managed.
“Having the community entrust us with Measure E has a large part in providing us the ability to move forward,” Nguyen said to VIDA Newspaper. “Voters entrusting us with Measure E was just an amazing fork in the road for this community. Had it not been for that we would continue to be in structural deficit, and we will continue to cut back on programs and services and the city would continue to degrade.”
Nguyen mentioned that the city has worked on its appearance by making sure trees are trimmed, improving landscaping, street paving and pothole filling.
“We’ve also started with fixing the alleys, and the various alleys in this town haven’t been touched for decades. So, there’s a lot to catch up on,” Nguyen said to VIDA Newspaper. “We’ve been able to restore more programs for youth and seniors – it’s all about restoration.”
Other Oxnard city projects to come include an Oxnard Aquatic Center, a skateboard park in La Colonia, and a new senior center.
“Those are all exciting projects coming. They’re ahead of us in the next several years and we’ll continue with making the city look better… We have some challenges in the economy and the world around us today that I think are going to slow that progress down, but the key is we’re going to keep the forward momentum,” Nguyen said.
A few of the challenges Oxnard faces are inflation, energy costs that have increased, the need for more employees, and the unknowns of the pandemic.
“The longer it takes us to catch up, the older things get. So that’s a challenge. They’re always in any organization,” Nguyen said to VIDA Newspaper. “One [challenge] that I find the most fascinating and perplexing to me is the so called ‘great resignation.’ We’re having a really hard time hiring right now.”
Another issue that Oxnard faces, like many other Southern California cities, is the rise in the homeless population. To address this matter, the city approved the construction of a homeless shelter in Downtown Oxnard last month.
“That particular project is going great. We’re going to have a groundbreaking early this summer. I’m very happy and proud of the progress the staff have made,” Nguyen said. “We’ve made tremendous progress in Oxnard, but there’s still a ton to do.”
Nguyen says that sheltering is a temporary alleviation – not a solution. “We’ve got to get various forms of housing – I argued this when I first got here, and I continue to argue this. The only solution to end homelessness is housing.”
Other items that the city of Oxnard has had to take on are the initiatives that have been pushed on by resident Aaron Starr, who has run for Oxnard City Council and Oxnard City Mayor. Starr has pushed for measures that Nguyen says harm the community. This includes Measures M and N – Measure M dictated changes to how legislative bodies must run their meetings and Measure N directed how a general tax is to be spent once it is enacted, which was deemed invalid (and illegal).
“In the time I’ve been here, Starr hasn’t done anything that’s been positive for the city,” Nguyen said to VIDA Newspaper. “If you study the initiatives, if you break them down and read the fine print, it’s actually quite undemocratic.”
Aside from Nguyen’s and the city’s typical duties, Nguyen would like to focus on the education of those within the Oxnard community.
“Over the next several years, I have another focus that I believe is truly significant. I believe that the key to Oxnard’s future is Oxnard College,” Nguyen said.
Although part of Nguyen’s tasks includes helping improve the physical aspects of the city (streets, parks, buildings, etc.), he says that it doesn’t actually improve the quality of life for the bulk of the community.
“What good are perfect streets if families are struggling just to live, just to survive? What good are perfect streets if families are struggling to make ends meet, and if they and their children don’t have any healthcare,” Nguyen said.
The Oxnard City Manager has started an ongoing project in partnership with Oxnard College and the Chamber of Commerce called the Oxnard Employee Pipeline.
“We’re trying to get working adults even if they just get a few classes and additional training. I’m not suggesting everyone has to go get a degree… but if they just get enough training, so that they’re competitive for many of the jobs that are already here,” Nguyen said to VIDA Newspaper.
Nguyen has also reached out to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Chicano Studies Research Center to help figure out what the main barriers are to people getting additional education. This project will start this summer.
Nguyen says that there are a lot of projects coming ahead, and he looks forward to seeing how they all unfold.