It won’t be official until March 22, but Arthur “AJ” Valenzuela Jr. is the apparent winner of the special election for Oxnard’s 6th City Council District.
Valenzuela finished ahead of Michaela Perez and Francine Castanon with 617 votes to 550 for Perez and 300 for Castañon.
“I’ll say I know I am walking onto a moving carousel,” Valenzuela told VIDA Newspaper. “I have to be a communicator, hear the community and learn their concerns.”
Valenzuela supports the plans for a $58 million aquatic park at the city’s vacant lot next to College Park in South Oxnard, which some have criticized for being more expensive than originally planned.
“I think it’s an investment in South Oxnard,” Valenzuela said, pointing out the city is going to keep growing. “It’s supposed to last 50 or 60 years, so that’s an investment of a $1 per year.”
Valenzuela added it’s especially important to have the center “when there are people of color who don’t know how to swim,” and other cities like Ventura have similar aquatic parks.
Valenzuela is also concerned about making sure Oxnard’s immigrant population aren’t victimized.
“It’s important to keep families together,” he said. “We have to make sure our population are not at risk of deportation for things like recreational marijuana usage or parking tickets.”
Another vulnerable community within Oxnard that Valenzuela is concerned about is the homeless population, and he supports the plans for a downtown navigation center to help the unsheltered.
“It’s long overdue, it’s vital for a couple of reasons,” said Valenzuela. “First, it’s just human decency to help them with mental health support and shelter; secondly, it’s going to save money in the long run.”
Valenzuela said the center would also prevent families from being on the streets by providing people with a place to do job searches.
Likewise, he favors helping families and encouraging economic growth by having a minimum wage for jobs in the city, as San Francisco and Los Angeles have done.
“Having a minimum wage ordinance should definitely be considered,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela also supports the Port of Hueneme’s plans for expansion, which the city recently helped by approving a temporary gravel parking lot on Hueneme Road between Perkins and Saviers roads.
“There has to be a comprehensive master plan between the city and the port,” Valenzuela said. “The city has to give input on traffic and carbon emissions”, Valenzuela said to VIDA Newspaper.
With Ormond Beach in his district, environmental concerns are also on his plate, said Valenzuela, who wants to clean up the Halaco Engineering Co. Superfund site.
Halaco Engineering Co. operated a scrap metal recycling facility at 6200 Perkins Road from 1965 to 2004, leaving behind waste that allegedly has contaminated groundwater.
Valenzuela wants the city to apply for state and federal funds to clean up the superfund site, and said infrastructure is another priority for him.
“A lot of people want speed bumps in their community,” he said, adding that he will work with the neighborhood councils to get such projects done.
“All politics are local,” Valenzuela noted. “We made it a point to reach out to these folks early on.”
Valenzuela says that he decided to run for city council after friends convinced him to throw his hat in the ring for the 6th District spot.
“I was thinking of grad school,” said Valenzuela, who has a bachelor’s degree in global studies, “but a couple of friends encouraged me to run.”
A Class B longshoreman for the Port of Hueneme, Valenzuela has been active in Democratic Party politics since he was a student at Oxnard College and first ran for city council once before in 2013.
“I just want to say I’m very proud of my (campaign) team for the work they did the past three months,” Valenzuela said. “We walked in the heat and rain, I’m glad our message of experience is what won this election.”