ELECTIONS / VENTURA COUNTY SUPERVISORS : Schillo Hopes to Move His Fight From Thousand Oaks to Board

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As a Thousand Oaks city councilman, Frank Schillo has spent much of the past 10 years battling Ventura County government for more and better services for his city.

Now Schillo wants to take his fight directly to the Board of Supervisors as he campaigns for the seat being vacated by Maria VanderKolk.

If elected, he promises to push for more law enforcement, transit, library and other county services for the people of the 2nd Supervisorial District.

"If I'm representing Thousand Oaks, Oak Park and Port Hueneme, then those are the people I'm going to be fighting for," Schillo said. "I'm going to be fiercely loyal to the people who elect me, just as I've always done."

Schillo has long complained that the county has neglected Thousand Oaks while it continues to ask the city's affluent taxpayers to subsidize services in other parts of the region. It is an issue he does not take lightly.

At one time he proposed that the city break off from the county system and form its own fire department because he believed it would be cheaper to operate. On another occasion he demanded that the county share with its 10 cities $26 million in revenues derived from the Proposition 172 public safety tax measure approved last fall.

Schillo, 60, said he is running for the Board of Supervisors because he believes he can bring a clear sense of direction and strong fiscal leadership to county government.

Rather than setting priorities based on one-year budget projections, Schillo proposes that the county establish long-term goals and then determine what is financially feasible. He also suggests establishing a two-year budget, similar to one adopted in Thousand Oaks, to help in planning.

"The Board of Supervisors needs to set goals for the county, instead of letting department heads do that," said Schillo, a financial consultant. "Once you have goals, then things fall into place from a financial standpoint."

Schillo said he would also push to have the supervisors' meetings televised to make officials more accountable.

"This way people know what's going on," he said. "With television you would be able to decide for yourself exactly why someone voted for a particular thing."

In addition to his Thousand Oaks council seat, Schillo is chairman of the Ventura County Transportation Commission and is both chairman and founder of the Ventura County Council of Governments.

He also sits on a special committee studying a proposal to establish a commercial airport at Point Mugu. The Navy has offered to share its runway with the county to cut its operating costs.

Schillo said the proposed airport could be an economic boon to the county, attracting new businesses and giving the area's large agricultural industry another way to ship its products.

Officials and residents of nearby Camarillo have voiced concerns over the potential noise and the number of flights in and out of the airport. But Schillo said the airport study shows that most flights would approach the Navy base from the ocean and not over residential areas. Only when there is heavy fog, he said, would the flight patterns have to be changed.

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On other issues, Schillo said he backs the development of a new landfill to serve the cities of the west county. Bailard Landfill in Oxnard is scheduled to shut down in 1997, and the candidate said he is worried that the Simi Valley Landfill could become the county's only dump.

Although a landfill has been proposed for Weldon Canyon near Ojai, residents there have successfully fought against a dump for years. But Schillo said a west county landfill site must be found.

"It's irresponsible to say, 'Well, we don't want a dump site, so let's use Simi,' " Schillo said. "That's not a solution."

In the area of public safety, Schillo said he believes that the County Fire Department in the future should receive a portion of Proposition 172 funds. Money now generated from the sales tax measure is split among the county's law enforcement agencies and criminal justice system.

But Schillo said the Fire Department must first take steps to improve its operating efficiency, noting that an audit of the department showed it was top-heavy with managers and spends too much on overtime.

Although he once proposed that Thousand Oaks form its own fire department, Schillo said he has since reconsidered his position. He initially believed the city was paying substantially more in taxes to the county for fire services than it was receiving.

A Fire Department study, however, showed that the city essentially pays $11 million toward fire services and in return receives about $10.2 million of that for its own fire protection.

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Schillo said the difference--$750,000--is not enough to justify a city fire department. To recapture this money, however, Schillo proposes that the County Fire Department perform some building and safety services now done by the city of Thousand Oaks.

"They're doing it in unincorporated areas, so why can't they do it for us?" Schillo said. "That would cut our costs."

Schillo said he has not reached a final decision on establishing a county firefighter paramedic program, though he questions the need for one. The county is now served by three private ambulance companies, which includes Pruner Ambulance, serving Thousand Oaks and Oak Park.

Firefighters argue that a paramedic program would mean faster response times. But Schillo said the county cannot afford to implement such a program now. He said he also believes that Pruner is doing a good job.

Schillo had supported a proposal by Pruner to place an ambulance in the county's fire station in Oak Park, where a study showed response times to be inadequate. The firefighters union argued against such a move, saying it would interfere with the ability of firefighters to do their job.

"It's not going to affect their job or their chances of getting a paramedic program," Schillo said. "Let's get on with it. We have people that could possibly die because there are no services there."

But officials with Pruner, which this week received a contract extension with the county, said they now plan to open their own station in Oak Park in the immediate future to avoid any problems with the firefighters' union.

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Schillo said he supports the proposed $30-million expansion of the Ventura County Medical Center. The plan has sparked an opposing campaign by neighboring Community Memorial Hospital, which considers the public hospital an emerging competitor for private patients.

"It's the responsibility of the county to serve the indigents of the region," he said. "It's unfortunate--the physical location of the two hospitals. But other (private) hospitals" will not be hurt by the expansion.

Despite his strong name recognition and his government experience, Schillo said he has not received any major endorsements from any county organization or county leader. But Schillo said he is not bothered by this, adding that the only endorsements that matter will come from the voters.

Since elected to the Thousand Oaks City Council in 1984, Schillo has come under attack for some of his decisions over the years and at one point was even the target of a recall.

Schillo and Councilman Alex Fiore were accused of ramming the $64-million Civic Arts Plaza development through the City Council without heeding concerns of some residents over its price, design, size and location.

The recall group collected more than 10,000 signatures, but the county registrar invalidated several hundred, so the petition fell short of the number required for a recall election.

Schillo defends the project, saying it is financially solid and that the public was given ample opportunity to speak out on the issue.

"There are some people who don't like it and I understand that and I respect them," he said. "But that's not the majority in this town."

Schillo has also been criticized by some of his opponents for helping to create an atmosphere of pervasive mudslinging and personal attacks that has come to characterize the current City Council.

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But Schillo said others, not him, are to blame for the bickering that goes on. "I've been trying for the longest time to get things focused on the issues and not on personalities," he said. "But in order to have success you have to have cooperation."

The most frequent criticism of Schillo among his opponents for supervisor is whether he would be able to fairly balance the needs of the county with that of his own city.

Schillo upset some county officials earlier this year when he demanded that Thousand Oaks receive at least $400,000 from the Proposition 172 sales-tax measure to pay for school crossing guards and additional police services.

Instead, most of the $26 million generated from the tax this year will go toward the Todd Road jail under construction near Santa Paula, increases in sheriff's patrols and added staff at the district attorney's office. Although county officials argue that Thousand Oaks receives substantial benefit from all of these services, Schillo disagrees.

"The fact is we got screwed with Proposition 172 in Thousand Oaks," he said, adding that his city has been forced to pick up the cost of providing school crossing guards. "For me to be for the county when the citizens I represent are getting screwed is not my idea of fairness."

Although now guarded in her comments on Schillo, opponent and former county Supervisor Madge Schaefer has been particularly harsh in her attacks on the councilman over the years on the issue of county versus city responsibilities.

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In several letters to the editor, Schaefer has sought to "educate" Schillo, whom she referred to in one instance as the "Marie Antoinette of Thousand Oaks (minus the hair)," on the subject.

"The (county) has the responsibility for providing services of last resort for children, the aged, disabled, medically indigent, hungry and homeless," Schaefer, also a Thousand Oaks resident, wrote in one 1993 letter.

"(Schillo) should learn compassion for those less fortunate and gratitude for the fact that he lives in a city that has few citizens in need. While his city was pondering whether to enter a city float in the Rose Parade, his county government was closing health clinics and making across-the-board cuts in county services."

Schillo said he understands the county has responsibilities to provide services for the needy, and said that is why he supports the public hospital expansion.

"I'm for it," he said, "and I don't think that's going to benefit anyone in Thousand Oaks."

Schillo concedes he was hurt by remarks made by Supervisor Vicky Howard when he insisted his city receive a share of Proposition 172 money. Howard stated how she too had once served in city government, but learned that when she became a county supervisor she had assumed different responsibilities.

"That sounded to me like you have to forget where you came from," Schillo said. "I'm not going to forget where I came from."

Profile of Frank X. Schillo

Frank Schillo is one of five candidates competing for the seat being vacated by Ventura County Supervisor Maria VanderKolk, whose 2nd District includes Thousand Oaks, Oak Park and Port Hueneme.

Born: January 3, 1934.

Occupation: Thousand Oaks city councilman; president of Schillo Financial Corp.

Education: Bachelor's degree in business from Notre Dame University; master's degree in business administration from the University of Dayton.

Background: Elected to the Thousand Oaks City Council in 1984; chairman and founder of the Ventura County Council of Governments; chairman of the Ventura County Transportation Commission; member of the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency; member of executive committee exploring a proposal for a commercial airport at Point Mugu.

Quote: "The Board of Supervisors needs to set goals for the county, instead of letting department heads do that. Once you have goals then everything falls into place from a financial standpoint."

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