It Took Guts to Streamline Oxnard's Bureaucracy

Approximately four years ago my wife and I visited the Wilson Senior Center in Oxnard to attend a dance class. At the front door we were taken aback by a noxious odor coming from the outside restroom. We were informed that due to lack of revenues the city had closed the restrooms and as a result people were using the wall as a restroom.

City services were decreasing and quality was being compromised. For a city our size, we were one of the nation's lowest in police staffing. Businesses were leaving at an alarming rate. Every decrease in service was justified because of a decrease in revenue. Our situation compelled new priorities and new solutions.

Approximately two years ago the City Council took on the obligation to establish a mission for the city and identify priorities. Public safety, attracting quality jobs and beautifying our city were top priorities. All operations that could directly affect our ability to provide for these priorities were scrutinized. Streamlining of city administrative operations provided more than $1 million in savings and allowed the public safety department to hire an additional 22 officers.

Due to unacceptable time delays and increasing fees, our entire planning and permitting process was evaluated. This process started more than two years ago and significant improvements have been made. A typical home addition or tenant improvements plan approval has been reduced from three months to three weeks. The implementation of the Land Use Agency was designed to maximize efficiency in projects that involved staff, the Planning Commission and/or the City Council.

I am somewhat dismayed, to say the least, at Mayor Manuel Lopez's attempt to portray this process as something different than it is (Letters to the Editor, Feb. 14). Misconceptions of the proposed changes are that they will reduce public scrutiny, have given policy making authority to staff and will give preferential treatment to developers.

To the contrary, the changes require the same or increased number of public hearings, and the purpose of the hearing officer is to handle straightforward administrative issues. Before any authority is given to the new hearing officer, it must first be approved by the City Council at a joint meeting with the Land Use Agency members. We have the ability to provide more public scrutiny by appointing two additional community members to the Land Use Agency for specific projects. This entire process will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis by the council and the agency.

These are trying economic times. Change is difficult but needed if we are to improve the quality of life for our residents in Oxnard.

THOMAS E. HOLDEN, OD.

Oxnard

Holden is a member of the Oxnard City Council.

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I wish to thank the Oxnard City Council for continuing to take the initiative to streamline and reduce the unnecessary red tape involved in our city's permitting process. I was beginning to wonder how many more businesses we would lose to other states before we got the message.

It is interesting to me that most of the opposition to reorganizing the planning function has come from current and past commissioners and their supporters. These same people question whether this council is representing our needs as residents.

Were our past councils representing our interests when they allowed our police staffing to reach a national low? How about their creative budget savings from closing all the park restrooms? Do you think the gangs would be less attractive if officials hadn't cut the positive youth programs we used to have?

I hear people complain about the way things are. I think we have much room for improvement in this city, but why do some people condemn positive changes to eliminate the red tape and bureaucratic waste? I think that we are fortunate to have a new council with new ideas. These men have the guts to move forward. Remember, the "good old ways" are not always the best ways to do business.

BEVERLY LUCIA

Oxnard

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