Do Challengers Have the Chops for Simi Valley Budget?

The Simi Valley election this year is critical.  We’ll determine in this election who will be one of the critical decision makers in future Simi Valley budget decisions. And with an economy that’s on the road to recovery, but not yet fully on the up-swing, we need to know if the challengers have what it takes!

Here’s a snippet of a Ventura County Star article describing Simi Valley’s balanced budget. They key players are Simi Valley’s City Management and City Council, including the incumbents in this election.

The Simi Valley City Council has approved a $54.8 million budget, balancing it through a series of savings measures, including compensation reductions and leaving open a number of vacant positions.

City Councilwoman Michelle Foster noted at the council’s meeting Monday night that the budget for fiscal year 2010-11 was balanced without any significant service cuts.

“We don’t take lightly what we had to do tonight, and the impact that it has professionally and personally on so many people” Foster said. “I think our community looks at it and sees that we haven’t had to significantly reduce programs. We definitely have not reduced the level of service that we try to provide to our community.”

Though city expenditures had been projected at $59 million — $4.2 million more than projected revenues — the budget was balanced in large part through a series of “reverse priorities” savings measures, compensation reductions and transferring $1.4 million in building improvement fund money to the city’s general fund.

Nearly $2 million was saved through city department reductions, including leaving vacant more than 10 positions.

The only reduction in the Police Department was to eliminate funding for one vacant traffic services assistant position.

City Manager Mike Sedell, who oversaw the budget process, said police officers and managers throughout city government have taken three-percent cuts in their total compensation packages, which include salary and benefits.

Read the complete article here.

The Simi Valley budget is balanced, and done so without massive layoffs.  Can the challengers really say that our current leadership should be replaced, especially considering Simi Valley is weathering the economic slump better than some cities?  Can Mayoral Candidate Bob Huber and City Council Candidates Mike Judge, Scott Miller and Mitch Green be just as effective or even more effective as the incumbents?

Candidate Sojka’s Economy Bolstering Programs Approved

Sojka delivers Business Advocate, Business Roundtable for City

Pro-business ‘Vision’ adopted by City Council as part of 2010-11 balanced budget

SIMI VALLEY – Simi Valley City Councilman Steve Sojka announces approval of two of his proposals to bolster the local economy in Simi Valley. The addition of a Business Advocate and Business Roundtable for the City of Simi Valley were included as part of the Council’s approval of the fiscal 2010-11 Budget on June 21.

“Even though I can say we are more business friendly than we were 12 years ago, we are not where we need to be,” said Sojka, the leading candidate for Mayor of Simi Valley in the November election. “This is a step toward where we need to be.

“It comes down to streamlining the process, which creates jobs, and more jobs creates a better local economy, which creates a better City budget.”

The Council on Monday approved, as part of the budget for the Community Development Agency, a Business Advocate. This senior management analyst position would focus purely on assisting any business existing or planning to open in Simi Valley with any necessary action such as proposed improvements, relocating here, or application processes.

The Council also concurred on Steve Sojka’s proposal to form a Business Roundtable to bring together businesses that already have gone through City processes, along with City administrators, management and even the City Attorney’s office if necessary to discuss processes and the needs of Simi Valley businesses small, medium or large.

“In tough budget times, it is good to have a vision,” Sojka said, “and that vision is to support, supply, promote and create jobs. With these actions, the City has greatly enhanced its connection to, and liaison with, the local business community,” Sojka said.

The Business Advocate position becomes effective July 1. The Business Roundtable will return to the Council for further discussion in coming weeks.

“I think it’s awesome. Anything the City can do to help a business get through the red tape is a great thing,” said Darrell Coletto, owner of the First Auto Group, a prominent auto dealership in Simi Valley. “The sooner we can help businesses grow and expand, and hire employees, and increase the City’s sales tax revenue and boost the local economy, the better.

“If we can get that done, then these are great ideas,” he said.

Coletto applauded the proactive pro-business actions by Sojka, who currently serves as Chairman of the City’s Small Business Advisory Committee which is responsible for the Shop Simi Valley First campaign.

Steve Sojka is a three-term Simi Valley City Council member, starting in 1998, who twice served one-year shifts as Mayor Pro Tem. A lifetime resident of Simi Valley, he has been a business owner and active community volunteer and leader in Simi Valley for the past 25 years. His father Bob Sojka was Chief of the Simi Valley Police Department; and today Steve Sojka proudly serves on the Board of Directors for the Simi Valley Police Foundation. Sojka and his wife Laura have three children in Simi Valley schools.

Steve Sojka is endorsed for Simi Valley Mayor by current Simi Valley Mayor Paul Miller; Council members Glen Becerra, Michelle Foster and Barbra Williamson; former Mayors Bill Davis, Ginger Gherardi and Ted Grandsen; former City Council member and County Supervisor Vicky Howard; former City Council members Nancy Bender, Dave Reese and Howard Rogo; Simi Valley Board of Education President Jeanne Davis and Trustees Janice DiFatta and Eric Lundstrom; former Simi Valley School Board members Carla Kurachi, Judy Barry and Steven Gould; Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District Board members Gene Hostetler, Mark Johnson and Dee Dee Cavanaugh and former Park District Board member Jim Meredith; Simi Valley Planning Commissioners Mike McGuigan, Tim Shannon and Jim Dantona, Jr.; and former Commissioners Rick Kunz and Bob Swoish.

Sojka also is endorsed by dozens of other leaders from community organizations representing police, education, business and youth sports and services interests. For a complete listing visit www.sojkaformayor.com.

Response to Firefighter Endorsement Editorial

I’ll admit, I didn’t anticipate much of a response to my most recent commentary. Evidently, I struck a nerve.  That wasn’t my intent.  To be fair to all candidates, I’ll post the Bob Huber Campaign’s official response and also clearly indicate that Steve Sojka’s Campaign has no interest in commenting on my editorial.  That said, here is their response and additional clarification from me.

In fairness to our brave Firefighters we must respond to the article posted by Mike Chandler on www.votesimivalley.com June 17, 2010.

Chandler Comment 1: “The Ventura County Firefighters Association did not conduct any interviews. They simply selected Bob Huber as their candidate to endorse for Simi Valley Mayor. ”

This is totally inaccurate as Bob Huber was interviewed at the Firefighters headquarters in Camarillo at length by the Firefighters board members asking numerous detailed questions.

When people or organizations endorse candidates, the key component for endorsing a candidate is their record of service.  The Firefighters when they interviewed Bob Huber were aware of his long term record as a leader in public safety supporting Firefighters including the following:

  • Bob Huber is the key leader in building the state of the art Fire, Sheriff and Police Academy to ensure best trained fire and police officers in the United States serving our community.
  • Bob Huber is former District Attorney known as a tough prosecutor putting criminals behind bars.
  • After the Virginia Tech tragedy, Bob, as College Trustee, initiated the installation of the “Emergency Response System” at all three colleges in order to protect our students.
  • Bob Huber has faithfully served continuously as a Ventura County Judge Pro Tem since 1981.
  • Bob Huber is the former member of the Ventura County Criminal Justice Planning Board.
  • Bob Huber is a Charter Member of the Simi Valley Police Foundation Roundtable.

Bob Huber is current Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Ventura County Community College District and has worked closely with the Firefighters since he was elected in 2004.  The Ventura County Firefighters are trained by the Ventura County Community District and Bob Huber has been a staunch supporter of high caliber training for our Firefighters.  Additionally, Bob Huber has strongly supported the adequate funding and building of the new state of the art Fire, Sheriff and Police Academy where our Firefighters are being trained.  This modern Academy is currently being constructed at the Camarillo site of the Fire Academy.

Firefighters endorsed Bob Huber for election as Mayor of Simi Valley because of his long – term record of supporting our Firefighters and other public safety personnel for the protection of our citizens.

Chandler Comment 2: “Though I don’t know for certain, I have to assume that Mr. Gallegly’s influence inspired the Ventura Firefighters Association to endorse Bob Huber.”

If you go to Bob Huber’s website – Huber for Mayor.com – you will see that twenty-three current or former public officials have endorsed Bob Huber to be the Mayor of Simi Valley.  These public officials include not just Congressman Elton Gallegly, but also the current State Senator and immediate past State Senator, the current State Assembly Member and immediate past State Assembly Member, three former Simi Valley Mayors, current School Trustee, five former School Trustees, the four College Trustees that serve with Bob Huber and the former immediate past College Trustee from our area.

Firefighters endorsed based on a long, solid record by Bob Huber of leadership and public safety and not on other endorsements.  To say otherwise is to insult the integrity of the Ventura County Professional Firefighters Association.

Chandler Comment 3:  “In past elections, the Ventura County Firefighters Association has endorsed Steve Sojka for Simi Valley City Council.”

Attached is Steve Sojka’s Endorsement page from his 2008 City Council race.  There is not an endorsement by the Ventura County Professional Firefighters Association on Sojka’s 2008 website.

Bob Huber received the endorsement of the Ventura County Firefighters Association because of his substantial credentials and his history of working with Firefighters and public safety for many years.

Now, to clarify my position, because it really is simple and by no means meant to put anyone on the offense.

If I was incorrect regarding the past endorsement of Steve Sojka of the VCPFA, then I’ll admit here that I was wrong. I conduct a lot of my searching in internet archives after candidates tear down their websites.  If I pulled inaccurate data, then I’ll admit my mistake and apologize to my readers.  On everything else, I stand firm.

[UPDATE: The VCPFA donated money to the Steve Sojka for City Council Campaign in 2008, 2004 and 2000.]

Often, a press release in its basic form consists of the basic principles of who, what, when, how and why.  The press release I received regarding the Firefighter endorsement didn’t include the how, which allowed me to draw some conclusions.  I do not believe my conclusions were entirely false.  Steve Sojka was NOT interviewed.  The Firefighters Association didn’t interview everyone, they interviewed one person.  I assumed no interviews were conducted, but it was actually just one, which seems even worse.  Even though the Steve Sojka Campaign has no comment, I know he was not interviewed and that I am correct — only one candidate was interviewed.  This looks more like a favor than a result of due diligence.  Let me explain more.

The IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) donated to Congressman Gallegly in 2006 and 2008.  This information is available online (God bless the Internet – see my hyperlinked years).  Do you see the IAFF insignia in the VCPFA logo? There’s an existing relationship between these two parties.  With a press release that spawns questions, I’m inspired browse around to find these links. I’m not trying to pick a fight, but it looks obvious to me that Congressman Gallegly asked the association to endorse Bob Huber and he got it.

Representatives of the Simi Valley Police Officers Association recently had a meeting with Congressman Gallegly.  Would anyone be surprised if a press release comes out soon with another big Bob Huber endorsement?  Honestly, probably not.

And again, I’m not saying that any of this is dirty or wrong.  I raise the question because BOTH candidates have talked to me about endorsements but neither have given voters enough to chew on to make a solid decision on one versus the other.  THIS is why my site exists.  I no longer want this to be about who you know, who your friends are, how long you’ve lived in Simi Valley or what your city-centric nickname is or should be.  And candidates, neither should you.  All of the effort to pull in these endorsements SHOULD be (but likely never will be) a waste of time.

And another thing… Sojka supporters, I’ll cover more news on Sojka when his campaign sends me more news.  Huber supporters, forward your news to Brian Dennert as well.

Firefighters Association Never Interviewed Sojka

Last week, I mentioned that the Ventura County Firefighters Association endorsed Bob Huber for Mayor of Simi Valley.  I received a handful of comments on the post, some good, some definitely not, but enough to inspire me to look into why this announcement got people emotional.  It turns out, there’s a lot to say on the subject.

In past elections, the Ventura County Firefighters Association has endorsed Steve Sojka for Simi Valley City Council.  It’s natural to believe they’d do the same for his campaign for Mayor, but maybe not. An organization like them would surely conduct some level of due diligence before choosing a candidate to endorse.  In fact, I’m reminded of a phone call I had with Glen Becerra when I had some questions regarding his current campaign for City Council.  He had to call me back because he was right about to start an interview with the Simi Valley Police Officers Association — part of the POA’s process for choosing the candidates they wish to endorse.

The Ventura County Firefighters Association did not conduct any interviews.  They simply selected Bob Huber as their candidate to endorse for Simi Valley Mayor and they did so relatively early. Another potential candidate can throw their hat in the ring and be well qualified for the job, but the Ventura County Firefighters Association has already made their decision, and they did so without speaking to both candidates or even considering that in this early stage, another candidate can materialize.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that having the support of Elton Gallegly, former Simi Valley Mayor and current U.S. Congressman, can easily help influence these decisions.  I realize that’s a bold statement, and I welcome any comments or criticism you have regarding the remark.  However, I want to put that out on the table to make my point.

Does having friends in high places make for an uneven playing field in a local election?  Honestly, what motivates us to vote for our Mayor?  Is it the number of people endorsing the candidate or the caliber of these endorsements?  Is it the issues that face our city and the candidates’ proposed solutions?  I’ve always been concerned about a general disconnect between Simi Valley citizens and Simi Valley government.  I’ve worried for many years that people simply vote “incumbent” or vote for the name on that sign they’ve seen so much of for the past so many months, without regard for our city’s issues.  It’s that concern that motivates me to publish this site, and to compose this very article.

I’ve been voting for Elton Gallegly since I could vote.  He’s a well respected member of our community and a well respected politician.  He has real influence, and has many of his own influential supporters. Though I don’t know for certain, I have to assume that Mr. Gallegly’s influence inspired the Ventura County Firefighter’s Association to endorse Bob Huber. And please note, if I’m wrong, I’ll gladly admit it openly here and humbly absorb some much deserved verbal or written abuse.

The bottom line is that it’s likely I’ll receive more news from both campaigns for Simi Valley Mayor announcing endorsements.  I hope the Simi Valley voters can understand that we’ll never fully know what’s behind these endorsement decisions. Your decision on who to vote for should be based on your own educated effort to understand the issues as they pertain to you and who you believe best fits the bill to resolve these issues.

Bob Huber on East County Jail Closure

MAYORAL CANDIDATE BOB HUBER WANTS EAST COUNTY JAIL TO STAY OPEN

Simi Valley candidate for Mayor, Bob Huber, spoke at the Ventura County Board of Supervisors meeting today in defense of keeping the East County Jail open.

Due to the fiscal crisis facing the County and State, there is a possibility that financial considerations would cause the Supervisors to close the East County Jail, used by Simi Valley Police for bookings and detention.

If closed, the Simi Valley police would have to travel to the city of Ventura to perform the same procedures–each trip costing the safety of the people of Simi Valley four hours of protection by our men and women of law enforcement.

Huber noted four reasons to keep the East County Jail open:

1.  There are four entities that will be impacted by the closure of the East County Jail: City of Moorpark, City of Simi Valley, City of Thousand Oaks and Moorpark College (Ventura County Community College District Police Department).

2.  Simi Valley Police Chief Mike Lewis said recently in the newspaper that if the East County Jail is closed it will take an officer off the street for approximately four hours which includes booking.

3.  Typically in the City of Simi Valley there are six to eight patrol vehicles during a shift.  If, for instance, two officers make arrests and have to travel to Ventura to the jail it will significantly reduce the response times to calls for service in Simi Valley.

4.  Sheriff elect Geoff Dean has stated that he will make every effort when reviewing the budget to find a way if possible to keep the East County Jail open.

Bob Huber told the Board of Supervisors, “I understand the tough economic times and we, The City of Simi Valley, The Ventura County Community College District and the County, are dependent upon Sacramento.  I request that the Board make every effort to find a way to avoid closing the East County Jail.  The safety of the people of Simi Valley is the first responsibility of government.”

Huber is asking Simi Valley city officials to join him in publicly calling for the continued use of the East County Jail.  “This is a matter of public safety, not politics.  While revenue is limited we need to maximize the use of our law enforcement officers.  Traveling from Simi Valley to Ventura and back is a waste of important policing efforts.”

RR Electric Service Goes Above and Beyond

I enjoy sharing news and information about local politics because I think local government has an impact on the quality of life in Simi Valley. Today, it was apparent to me that it’s also the outstanding businesses in town that help make Simi Valley one of the best places to live.

I experienced amazing service today that compelled me to occupy the featured article space on this website.  These guys are good, and I couldn’t be happier that I chose to call them.

RR Electric to the rescue... they're also VERY skilled at parallel parking.

A mysterious electrical problem left me without lights in both of our bathrooms and our garage on Friday afternoon.  My less than novice knowledge on home electrical circuitry compelled me to call RR Electric Service.  Bright and early the next morning, I was greeted by Jose, an RR Electic Service Certified Repair Specialist.  After a few quick diagnostic checks using specialized equipment, Jose couldn’t say definitively what the problem was but his experience led him to believe the problem was related to inside wiring.  The only way to find the cause was to search the outlets and switches for problems, and based on the specific symptoms, he knew where to start looking.  Without wasting any time, Jose called for assistance and within minutes, I had two trucks parked in front of my house, each with the familiar RR Electric Service logo emblazoned on the side.

My home was built in 1964. I believe this was around the start of one of the early real estate build-outs in Simi Valley.  Back then, there was a significant amount of emphasis on starting and completing home building phases quickly.  There was a lot of open space in Simi Valley and the real estate developers were hot to build and sell homes as quickly as possible, so they could move on to their next series of projects.  Shortcuts were a temptation without a doubt, and while I’m not critical of the quality of our home, our new friend Jose did show us that some of the original electrical outlets in our house do not have sturdy electrical connections, as demonstrated by the cause of our problem — an overheated and burned out electrical outlet.

This outlet looks bad, and we're glad our house didn't burn down.

We shared other problems with Jose that we’ve experienced over the years, such as dimming lights when appliances turn on, and a strobe effect in the bathroom when the washing machine runs the spin cycle.  To make a long story short, Jose patiently worked with us to identify some of our power deficiencies, laid out a plan for fixing them, and based on his expectations and RR Electric’s track record for prompt turnaround, our house will be up to snuff and ready to power whatever we throw at it by the end of next week.  Not bad!

I highly recommend RR Electric Service in Simi Valley: (800) 510-4740

Bob Huber’s Words on Townhall Meetings

There are several questions floating around about Simi Valley Mayor Candidate Bob Huber’s proposal for Townhall style meetings in Simi Valley.  I directly asked Bob Huber’s campaign for more clarification on Townhall meetings and was delighted to receive a prompt response.

Please share your remarks about the proposal and Bob Huber’s response.  One of the biggest concerns is whether or not a Townhall Meeting would truly be “no cost” even if it is managed by a panel of volunteers.  I’m inclined to believe there would be no cost if it’s held in public and managed by volunteers, but maybe I’m missing something.  I invite your comments.

Here’s Bob Huber on Townhall Meetings:

My goal is to bring our City Government closer to the people it serves. My vision for the town hall meetings is very simple and has absolutely no cost. I invision having monthly meetings in a public place such as in front of the mall, a shopping center or in a park with a table and few chairs under an eazy-up. Nothing fancy or complex. Just an hour or two once a month, to meet with the people of Simi Valley to hear their  concerns, problems, thoughts and ideas.

The reason I feel so passionate about this approach is that many people are intimidated speaking in public. Let alone standing at a podium in counsel chambers, staring up at the five council members sitting on a raised dias looking like judges, while watching the 2 minute clock tick away their time to speak. When you think about it, it’s not a very inviting way to hear from the citizens of our community. Especially when the council members don’t even respond to what you say when your finished. It can feel very discouraging.

These town hall meetings would be in addition to my proposed Ombudsman program of community volunteers that would field concerns from the citizens of Simi Valley. Again, this would be at NO COST, as they would be volunteers who are committed to improving the quality of life for all of us who live here Simi Valley.

I’m sure that the very informal and casual setting will be inviting and encourage more people to share whats on their mind and be participants in our Government. Leadership that listens isn’t a slogan… it is my leadership style.