VSV Candidate Chat – The Incumbents

TO LISTEN TO THE AUDIO, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE AND CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON

I was delighted when both Council Member Michelle Foster and Council Member Glen Becerra agreed to speak to me live on VoteSimiValley.com. Like the challengers a few weeks ago, we discussed topics such as doing business in Simi Valley, the Shop Simi Valley First program, and City Council salary and benefits. I’m pleased to present the recorded playback of our live chat.

For more information about the candidates, see the following links:

There is so much more to cover before the election. I hope to have these candidates back again to cover more issues before the big day.

Thanks go to Michelle Foster, Glen Becerra, and for you for listening in.

Listen Now!
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Last Night’s Explosive Council Meeting

Join me tonight at 7:00pm for a LIVE BROADCAST with Council Members Glen Becerra and Michelle Foster @ VoteSimiValley.com

What a night.  I’m still not sure what I saw. I’ll try my best to recap the evening here.

To cut right to the chase, the City did implement E-Verify as a pilot program to start, intending to run E-Verify checks on City employs with the purpose of evaluating the service for the course of one year. After a period of one year, they will make a judgment on how to expand the program.

Public remarks on E-Verify were strongly in favor of implementing the program. Most people who spoke positively about the program were greeted with applause when they were through speaking. Candidate Bob Huber took the opportunity to recap the city’s response to the E-Verify issue, first mentioning Mayor Miller’s letter calling E-Verify a “flip of the coin,” next referencing his paid ad in the Acorn responding to the letter, and finally pointing out what appeared to be the City’s about face on the topic and its arrival on the Council agenda. Huber masterfully avoided criticism regarding the Ventura County College District’s lack of E-Verify implementation, saying if the College District were to implement it, he would be all for it, but that’s not the issue here. No one pressed the issue.

Steve Sojka led the charge in challenging E-Verify during council discussions. He questioned whether or not the proposed ordinance would be truly free if a system for audit would be implemented to ensure it’s proper usage. Sojka and other’s continued to press hard to determine whether or not liability issues existed in the event of false positives, and the systems accuracy was challenged. Council Member Michelle Foster seemed truly concerned that an implementation of E-Verify without further consideration might indicate the Council is caving to political pressure. Ultimately, however, the program was approved for implementation in a limited fashion as indicated in the first paragraph.

UPDATE: Foster was supportive of implementing E-Verify for City Hall, but was concerned about implementing it for city Contracts.  Her preference was to vote on its implementation for City Hall separately from its implementation for city contracts.

Public remarks were particularly explosive. One gentleman opted to point out that the City has an illegal immigrant problem, referencing “illegals” that loiter behind the Wells Fargo bank branch on L.A. Avenue. When Council Member Becerra asked the man how he knew they were illegal aliens, the man mentioned they stood around, didn’t speak English and rode their bikes, among other things. Becerra made a suggestion that the man might be racial profiling, resulting in dramatic shouting and the man’s loud refusal to “answer racist questions.” This clearly indicated the emotions behind illegal immigration and certainly the controversial positions some have on the topic.

Particularly noteworthy were the public remarks from former Mayoral Candidate Eric David Halub. I’m sure I’ll take a considerable amount of criticism for saying this, but the gentleman made little sense. He seemed to be annoyed, but his inability to connect the dots in his presentations left me wondering if he felt the Council Members were overpaid or were untouchable gods. At one point, he referred to our President as President Obama Hussein. Cute. I found myself glad that my wife and kids weren’t there, and I took comfort in the fact that I was sitting close to the Chief of Police. I might start bringing pepper spray to the Council meetings.

Additional public remarks varied, some even questioning the pay and benefits of sitting Council Members. Sojka took the opportunity to respond on that topic during Council comments, indicating the Council has always been transparent. Members of the audience questioned this openly among one another. While I’ve known about Council salary and benefits since the Simi Valley POA published the details in a paid ad in the Acorn, most have only recently taken notice after the City posted the details on the City website weeks ago.

The fireworks drowned out the excitement behind the Military Banner program which was approved. The Council also discussed the Waste Management landfill expansion, hearing commentary from the public, including Louis Pandolfi, the most outspoken member of the community against the landfill.  The Council agreed to start communicating with the County Board of Supervisors to represent Simi Valley’s interests on the topic.

A weak recap considering the night was full of excitement. I’ll have more later this week, including video.

Don’t forget to join me tonight for my live streaming chat with Council Members Michelle Foster and Glen Becerra! We go live at VoteSimiValley.com at 7:00pm!

Paul Coambs on Signs

I submitted a piece entitled “City of Simi Valley Prohibits Political Signs In Favor of Incumbency” to the Simi Acorn.  they published an edited version as “Sign ordinance is bad for democracy”

Below is the full piece. I hope that you will elect to publish it in its entirety.

Regards,
Paul Coambs

Mr. Coambs, I’m happy to do so. Your letter appears below in its entirety as you emailed it to me:

~~~

City of Simi Valley Prohibits Political Signs In Favor of Incumbency

In 2006, the City of Simi Valley enacted a city ordinance prohibiting the placing of temporary signs, including pre-election political signs, on the public right-of-way.

The ordinance asserts, “The placement and accumulation of temporary signs in the public right-of-way, on traffic and utility devices, upon public sidewalks or on public easements presents dangerous conditions to the free and safe flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Such areas must be preserved for official traffic signs and official utility notices in order to assure the safe flow of traffic.”  The ordinance justification offered no proof of hazard existing in the City.

The only proof of justification stated within the ordinance concerned aesthetics.  The ordinance states,  “Prior to the adoption of the ordinance, the City of Simi Valley has permitted temporary signs in the public right-of-way, which has resulted in substantial unsightly conditions, as illustrated in evidence presented to the City Council during its consideration of this ordinance.”

The ordinance further states, “A limitation on temporary sign display is directly related to the objective of aesthetics.”

It goes without saying that a sitting member of the city council enjoys a considerable political incumbent advantage over an election challenger.  That advantage is the result of name recognition and opportunities to interact with the residents and business community in the course of conducting city business.

One of the main mechanisms to gain name recognition is the time honored tradition of posting temporary political signs in advance of an election.  There is no greater venue for political signs than the public right-of-way.

By improving the “aesthetics” of the city and forbidding the posting of political signs on the public right-of-way, the council voted a political advantage for themselves.

Limiting candidate free speech robs the public of the opportunity to learn about their prospective city leaders.

City Council challenger Keith Mashburn wants to amend the city sign ordinance to correct the political injustice.  Vote for Keith Mashburn, a man of integrity.

Video: Burgers with Bob

I had a great time at the Burgers with Bob event at Rancho Park in Simi Valley on Erringer and Royal this afternoon. This was definitely one of those events that makes you really open your eyes and ears and evaluate the issues and consider solutions. It’s one thing to debate the issues on a blog. It’s another entirely to discuss these issues in person with people who are affected and see a candidate interact with these people in real time. I’m glad I went, and I sincerely thank everyone who took the time to speak to me personally.

The issues that were covered this afternoon by both Bob Huber and by the guests before and after the presentation and Q&A session were:

  • Bob Huber’s background and qualifications
  • E-Verify – its introduction into the campaign and the City’s response
  • Business Challenges – Bob’s thoughts on the “Business Advocate”
  • Questions asked and answered

Check in during the course of the next day or so! I’ll have complete videos on the Burgers with Bob park event where you can see and hear the details. Plus, join me on Tuesday for the LIVE Incumbent chat broadcast live here on the website.

August 30 Council Meeting

The upcoming City Council Meeting scheduled for August 30th, Monday, at Simi Valley City Hall will be a long, action packed meeting. Among the topics will be a discussion regarding Council Member Steve Sojka’s proposed Cochran Street modifications in response to the Farmers Insurance departure announced a couple of weeks ago. You can read Steve Sojka’s press release on the topic by clicking here.

Also, it’s been rumored that the new Business Advocate will be officially introduced, along with a further explanation of the individual’s role. The Business Advocate has been both well supported and widely disputed as an first step to improving the current processes and communication channels between the city and the business community. Supposedly we’ll get to learn who the Business Advocate is, where they came from and more about what they’ll be doing.

Lastly, E-Verify will be on the agenda. Bob Huber’s team submitted the following press release, urging his supporters to be there to weigh in on the topic:

Huber Urges Simi Valley Residents to Speak Out on E-Verify, at August 30 City Council Meeting

Back on July 17, 2010, Simi Valley Mayoral candidate Bob Huber publicly called for the City of Simi Valley to implement E-verify, the free state-of-the-art, worker verification program, to protect local jobs, administered by the federal government.  On July 30th Mayor Miller publicly refuted the E-Verify program in saying, “Staff has learned that E-Verify is not fail-safe and, in fact, has been highly unreliable.”   He went on to say, “The error rate is no better than a flip of the coin.”  Further, Miller said, “I would be extremely reluctant to direct taxpayer resources or impose a regulation on employers to use such a system.”

Since that time, much debate has ensued with valuable input from the residents of our fine City.  The City has received mountains of emails and phone calls voicing support for this program, in addition to similar letters to the editor and opinions on local blogs. This issue has clearly touched a nerve in Simi Valley and the People are engaged and are sharing their concerns.

On August 6, 2010, Huber said, “The facts do not support City Hall’s assertion on E-Verify!”  and quoted from the official website of The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,  “Westat estimates that overall E-Verify queries result in an accurate response 96% of the time and an inaccurate response 4.1 % of the time ……..since when is 96% a flip of the coin?”  Huber further said, “This whole dispute is about jobs for our residents and I firmly believe that 96% accuracy is sufficient protection to secure jobs for our deserving people of Simi Valley.”

City Manager, Mike Sedell, has announced that at last, E- Verify is being re-considered by the City Council on August 30 as a part of a new worker verification program. Sedell went on to say the City Council will vote on the proposal on August 30.

Huber responded, “This is a step in the right direction and good news for the hard working people of Simi Valley.   We will continue to closely monitor this issue until it is fully adopted.  Presidents from George Bush, 41st to our current President  Barack Obama  have supported E-Verify.  With over 700,000 private businesses using E-Verify and dozens of California cities using the program as well, it’s obviously a program that the people want.  This is a program that is part of the solution, to help insure citizens and legal residents get the available jobs.  I urge all Simi Valley residents to attend the August 30 City Council Meeting and let your voices be heard.

Sojka Acts on Farmers Departure

Sojka to propose Cochran Street Recommendations from Businesses

Councilman interviewed businesses most impacted from Farmers move

Simi Valley City Councilman and Mayoral candidate Steve Sojka today announced his intention to introduce for City Council consideration the Cochran Street Recommendations from Businesses – a package of suggestions by local business leaders in response to the relocation of employees by Farmers Insurance.

In response to the recent announcement by Farmers to relocate their Cochran Street Regional Facility, Councilman Sojka interviewed a majority of owners and managers of businesses within the immediate vicinity of the Farmers building at Cochran Street and Galena Avenue. Sojka sought their input and ideas as to how they felt that the City of Simi Valley could be of assistance until a new tenant is found for the 250,000-square-foot commercial building.

“I have walked the entire area and talked with the majority of business owners and managers within eyesight of the Farmers building, listened to their ideas and suggestions, and now plan to propose those recommendations to the City Council for implementation,” Councilman Sojka said. “I was pleased with their openness, and with their ideas to move forward.”

What the owners along Cochran Street, Galena Avenue and Sycamore Drive adjacent to the Ronald Reagan Freeway (118) suggested, and what Sojka will recommend, include:

  • Temporarily removing certain restrictions of the City Sign Ordinance, including limits on temporary signs, banners, and monument signs. Such restrictions would be removed only until the Farmers building again is occupied.
  • Waiving the Business License Tax for small businesses physically located within one half mile of the Farmers building until the building is occupied.
  • Allowing for sidewalk sales and other similar special promotions, which may otherwise be currently restricted.
  • Expediting the process to declare a new Redevelopment Zone that would encompass Sycamore Plaza, the Target Center, the Mervyn’s Center, and the Do-It Center. This would allow small businesses in those areas to apply for low-interest loans from the City’s Community Development Agency loan program, and would also allow them to participate in expedited renovation projects.

Sojka will ask for City Council concurrence of these recommendations at the next City Council meeting on Aug. 30, and request that the Council direct the City Attorney and City Manager to bring back the recommendations for formal City Council action at the Council’s Sept. 20 meeting.

The recommendations would be on top of actions already undertaken by the City since Farmers’ sudden announcement in mid-August which included:

  • The formation of a Red Team to expedite finding a new tenant for the building. The Red Team will include representatives from Farmers (which continues to hold a lease on the building and has a vested interest in finding a new tenant), the City Council, City administration, and the economic development community.
  • Sending letters to more than 1,200 commercial real estate brokers in Southern California seeking their assistance in the tenant search.

“While Farmers’ announcement caught this community by surprise, we need to recognize that this soon-to-be-available building presents an opportunity to go after industry in growing fields such as health care, energy conservation, or ‘green’ industries,” Sojka said. “It is a highly visible and accessible building that can attract clean industry with high-paying jobs which can create new income for our residents and in turn create profits for our local businesses.”

While there has been some speculation that the City had knowledge of Farmers’ intentions to relocate and could have prevented such a decision, the City has received a letter (attached) from Lonnie Sproat, Farmers’ Vice President – Commercial Operations, confirming that there was nothing the City could have done to prevent the consolidation action. “We want you to know that the decision to relocate our employees and consolidate our offices to Woodland Hills was solely a business decision. We have been very happy with the Simi Valley community and the support from the City Council and the Mayor,” the letter states.

“The Farmers announcement was disappointing, and Simi Valley residents who work at the Farmers facility will now need to commute to Woodland Hills, but we are fortunate that no Simi Valley residents will actually lose their jobs,” Sojka commented. “The bad news is 1,200 employees who used to shop nearby before and after work and during breaks will not be around until that building is filled again. Our community needs to join together at this time for these area businesses and assist them. I believe strongly that our businesses can survive this if we all work together.”

Huber’s Central Committee Endorsement

I’ve been told now by dozens of people that there is plenty of unpleasantness about a blog that covers local political issues, especially by someone who isn’t a political science expert. There is one good thing, however, and that is that I’m not opposed to publishing a rumor as a topic for discussion, so long as the source is a credible one.

I’ve learned this morning that Bob Huber, Candidate for Mayor of Simi Valley, will be getting the endorsement of the Ventura County Republican Central Committee. For any Republican Candidate running for local office, this is a huge honor. This endorsement rounds out several recent high profile endorsement announcements, including the Simi Valley POA and the Ventura County Firefighters Association. Bob Huber is now being supported by the organization that supports other high profile Republican candidates like State Senator Tony Strickland (for State Controller) and Candidate Carly Fiorina for United States Senate.

This will surely turn a few heads and generate some discussions among unsure voters on what’s been a very competitive and seemingly close race so far. I welcome your thoughts and comments on what this means for the Simi Valley Mayors race.