Crime, Economy Mark Mayor's Speech

Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez lamented the gang violence plaguing the city and stressed the need for economic development efforts during his annual State of the City address Tuesday before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Lopez noted that Oxnard's crime rate continues to improve even though the city has a relatively low police officer-to-resident ratio.

"We're going in the right direction despite the things that have occurred since the start of the year," he said, referring to a spate of gang-related shootings.

Still, questions from the audience prompted Lopez to concede that more could be done to deal with the violence, such as regularly convening a special gang task force of police and municipal officials.

"There will be more of an ability to react to incidents," he said.

Applause greeted Lopez's comment that a "mini-revolution" among Oxnard residents had proved pivotal to restoring the municipal planning commission. The City Council approved the commission's revival Tuesday night.

A hearing officer will remain part of the planning process, but Lopez said he hopes to get rid of that position, too.

Such a move would diminish the potential for abuse that exists when one official has such a powerful role, he said.

Lopez pledged to continue economic development efforts to attract and retain jobs. Ways to keep Camarillo State Hospital open would continue to be explored, he said, noting that 40% of its employees live in Oxnard.

He also bemoaned the loss of the Nestle USA food processing facility and its 550 jobs.

"That is a plant that has provided work for many, many families here for 50 years," he said. "We are sorry to see it go, but we have an economic development commission that's pursuing another business to come in there."

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