ELECTIONS / THOUSAND OAKS : Council Candidates Target Local Issues at Forum
The issues were growth, traffic, crime and the neighborhood’s relations with the rest of Thousand Oaks. And the City Council candidates on hand were stepping up their efforts to woo the vote in Newbury Park.
They tested their stump speeches Wednesday night during a 2 1/2-hour forum before two dozen Newbury Park residents. While the voters scribbled notes, each candidate addressed issues of local concern, mindful that Newbury Park could carry considerable clout in the upcoming election.
Newbury Park’s voter turnout has traditionally been lower than other regions of Thousand Oaks, such as the central city and Westlake. But some candidates expect more people to hit the ballot booths this year, because of high interest in issues such as the Broome Ranch parkland, Dos Vientos residential tract and the Seventh-day Adventist shopping mall development.
“You have a very large group of people out here who are feeling very disenfranchised, very bitter, very vocal,” local activist Diane Doria said. “It’s going to be a very tight race.”
And with more than 26,000 residents--nearly one-quarter of the city’s population--no would-be politician can afford to ignore Newbury Park.
“Every vote, of course, is important,” dentist Greg Cole said. In winning past elections to the Republican Central Committee and the Ventura Community College District Board, Cole said he has always tried to draw support from Newbury Park. And he plans to continue that effort.
But he will have plenty of competition, as Wednesday night’s forum made clear.
The first question put to the candidates was bluntly parochial: “What is the biggest issue facing Newbury Park, and what would you do about it if elected?”
In response, nearly every candidate mentioned the huge Dos Vientos development, which will bring 2,350 residences to a rolling ranch just a few hundred yards from state and federal parkland. They then went on to describe their pet projects for Newbury Park.
Cole spoke of the region’s notoriously gridlocked intersections and said he would like to rethink the local traffic flows and strengthen infrastructure.
In a similar vein, incumbent Judy Lazar and former councilman Lee Laxdal both argued that the city must continue to expand its economic base to keep the money flowing for public works fix-it projects.
Sounding his key campaign theme, firefighter Andy Fox talked about fighting crime through stronger Neighborhood Watch programs and more police patrols. Meanwhile, homicide detective Michael Markey and real estate broker Chuck Morsa promised to fight for more sports facilities and after-school programs.
Retired businessman Marshall Dixon emphasized the need to link Newbury Park with the rest of Thousand Oaks, and put an end to the “us-against-them state of mind, (which is) probably the biggest problem to overcome.”
Taking the opposite tack, incumbent Elois Zeanah urged residents to secede and form an independent city if they remain dissatisfied with their elected officials. “You have the financial base, with the Rancho Conejo Industrial Park,” she said, shaking her fist as if rallying her troops.
Zeanah has already won an endorsement from the local slow-growth group Residents to Preserve Newbury Park.
In flyers circulating through the neighborhood, the group has also backed retired filmmaker M. Ali Issari and city Operations Manager David Hare, who sent his mother, Barbara, to represent him at the forum.
Leaders of Residents to Preserve Newbury Park will not identify the group’s members or estimate its size. But one spokeswoman, Michelle Koetke, said she is convinced her group will be able to marshal votes for the slow-growth slate.
“Newbury Park has turned the tide a number of times,” Koetke said.
Repeating the positions that won them the endorsement, Zeanah and Issari Wednesday swore to defend Newbury Park from more malls, more housing and more bulldozers.
Laxdal, who co-authored Thousand Oaks’ growth-control ordinance, took a similar approach, telling the gathering: “It’s time again for the homeowners to take over the city.”
Such tough-on-development stances win praise from the dozens of residents who routinely pack council hearings on projects such as the Dos Vientos housing tract and the Seventh-day Adventist shopping mall.
But Councilwoman Lazar, angling for support from more moderate voters, insisted that the city needs steady growth to survive.
“Unless we have a strong economic base, we’re not going to have any (development projects) to worry about in Newbury Park because the unemployment lines are going to get longer and property values will fall,” Lazar said.
“I could tell you that I will vote for everything that anyone in Newbury Park wants, but that would be wrong,” Lazar added. “Council members represent the entire city.”
Only one candidate--salesman Ekbal Quidwai--suggested changing that system of broad representation by carving the city into districts.
“We have to be parochial about Newbury Park,” said Quidwai, who lives in the neighborhood. “We have gotten the shaft from the very beginning.”
The other council candidates are financial services manager Michael Friedman, public access television producer Jeannette Scovill, Planning Commissioner Irving Wasserman, mobile carwash owner Lance Winslow, and mortgage broker Bill Williams, who did not attend the forum.