4 Face Off on Airport, Medical Center

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Term limits, health care services and a proposed commercial airport at the Point Mugu naval base were among the issues debated Wednesday by the four candidates competing to replace retiring Ventura County Supervisor Maggie Kildee.

Fillmore Mayor Roger Campbell, Camarillo Councilman Mike Morgan and Kildee aides Kathy Long and Al Escoto are running in the March 26 primary election. The supervisor's 3rd District includes Camarillo, Fillmore, Santa Paula, Ojai and portions of Thousand Oaks.

During Wednesday's question-and-answer forum, sponsored by the Camarillo Rotary Club, the candidates found themselves at odds on some issues.

Long, Morgan and Escoto said they favored the county's proposal to build a $51-million outpatient wing at Ventura County Medical Center.

They said the project, which is expected to be financed with federal grants and hospital revenues, would consolidate several off-site clinics under one roof and save the county about $1 million a year on rent alone.

"It's not an expansion of the medical center, but a consolidation of clinics that serve the indigent, which is the mandate of the county," Long said. "This project is very much needed. It will in fact reduce the cost to taxpayers."

But Campbell argued against the construction of the new wing, saying he preferred having the county enter into a partnership with neighboring Community Memorial Hospital to deliver health services. The private, nonprofit hospital is concerned that the new outpatient wing will be used to compete for private patients and has sponsored a countywide referendum on the issue that will appear on the March 26 ballot.

"We do have to take care of the indigent, but it doesn't have to be with a county hospital," Campbell said. "It can indeed be with the private sector or an amalgamation [of] the county hospital and a private hospital."

On other issues, Campbell and Escoto voiced support for future development of a commercial airport at the Point Mugu naval base as a means to lure new industry to the area as well as help local businesses transport their goods.

However, both said they would work to ensure that commercial airliners would fly over the ocean, not Camarillo.

Morgan and Long, both of Camarillo, strongly oppose a commercial airport for safety and environmental reasons--primarily noise pollution.

In response to Campbell and Escoto, Morgan said no one can guarantee that planes will never fly over the city if a commercial airport is developed.

"When the Federal Aviation Administration takes over, they're going to tell you where the planes will go," he said. "They tell you where they're going to send the planes for safety reasons."

The candidates also disagreed on term limits. Campbell favors three terms and Escoto two terms, while Long and Morgan said they don't believe in term limits for local officials.

The candidates did agree on some issues, including the need to attract more businesses to the county while protecting the region's farmland.

Escoto, a lifelong county resident, said preserving the area's semirural atmosphere is the most important issue facing the county, as pressures mount to develop in unincorporated areas. He said this will be the central theme of his campaign.

"Right now, we're at the crossroads," Escoto said, holding up a map of the county showing agricultural land highlighted in green. "This could be the beginning of the end if we don't have the right people sitting on the board."

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