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

Scott Miller for Simi Valley City Council

Scott Miller intends to submit his paperwork on Monday to run for Simi Valley City Council.  I’ve known Scott for a couple of years and know that he’ll put a lot of passion into his campaign.  But I’ve also seen passion behind the work the incumbents (Michelle Foster and Glen Becerra) have done during their time in office.  I had some questions for Scott about his campaign and he was gracious enough to answer them for me.

Q: Scott, I’m curious.  What’s inspired you to run for Simi Valley City Council?  And how will your presence in City Council be better for the City than by simply re-electing the incumbents?

A: Mike, one thing is that I am not seeing enough done for the small new business person. Also, I keep hearing from young people there is nothing to do in Simi Valley. Mike, I see a synergy there someplace. I feel that I bring a different look at things. My kids go to public school. My wife is a teacher. I am a business owner who is changing the way I am doing business. There are dozens of businesses that have closed in Simi Valley, my store being one of them. I am passionate about my city. I am the guy next door. I know I will bring a different spin on things.

Q: Name recognition is an important thing in local elections.  How will you “get your name out” to Simi Valley voters?

A: Mike, I know lot of different people from all walks of life. People know me from Tutu’s Shave Ice. I have been in Simi Valley for a long time. I make a point of not being a wall flower and I enjoy talking to people. My kids and friends make fun of me because when we go out, people come up to me and start talking!

It’s true!  I’ve seen this.  A chat with Scott outside the grocery store turned into a marathon of people shouting “Hi Scott!”  People know this guy!  But will that be enough to squeeze out one of two popular City Councilmembers?  Time will tell.

Best of luck to Scott Miller on his campaign!  More to come, I’m sure!
Scott Miller at his shop, Tutu’s Hawaiian Ice Cream Shack

Candlelight Nightclub and Campaign Reform

An email from Brad Jashinsky, former candidate for Simi Valley School Board, to Brian Dennert sparked my interest in this story. According to Brad, Candlelight Nightclub in Simi Valley is the source of drunk drivers that have a bad habit of destroying property in nearby neighborhoods. This is the partial story according to Brad:

At 2am on Saturday November 29th I heard a loud explosive noise, and ran outside to see what had happened. I came out to see my sister’s car in the condition above with the obvious drunk driver getting away up the street.

Brad emailed me and told me he planned to be at the City Council meeting tonight to speak about the issue. I strapped on my video camera and made my way to council chambers to record the issue. More to come on this issue… That video is being edited as we speak!

Campaign Reform was another topic touched on this evening. Here’s a brief video of Steve Sojka who brought up the subject. Apparently, the Council will cover the topic of campaign reform and address the recent issues about campaign financing over the course of multiple sessions. Meanwhile, please watch the video and share your thoughts.

Moorpark Does it Right

Councilmember Janice Parvin of the Moorpark City Council is now the city’s new mayor.  Of course, this opens a vacancy on the Moorpark City Council.  In the city of Simi Valley, our council would appoint someone to the vacant position, which is what was done when Michelle Foster filled the vacant position left by Paul Miller when he was sworn in as mayor.

I like Michelle Foster a lot, but I didn’t vote for her (well, eventually I did… but not then).  It almost seems undemocratic to elect some members of city council and not others.  Further, I believe Steve Sojka was also appointed when Bill Davis was elected mayor years ago.  Again, I’ve since voted for Sojka many times, but it wasn’t the voters who positioned him as the incumbent on every election since his appointment.

Here’s an article from the Acorn on Moorpark’s handling of the vacant council position:

Eighteen local residents submitted applications to fill a shortterm vacancy on the Moorpark City Council. The deadline to apply was last week. City officials will interview the candidates at a special meeting next Wednesday and select one on Dec. 17.

The interim appointee will replace Councilmember Janice Parvin, who was sworn in as the city’s new mayor on Wednesday, until voters elect a new person to complete her Council term on June 2.

Read more here…

I think that’s a solid, democratic way of handling it, even if a special election (which can be costly) is in order.

Simi Valley Headlines – December 5, 2008

Simi Valley Police Get a Pay Raise

Simi residents Al and Nan Kay believe that Simi police work hard for their money and the couple has no problem with the community’s cops getting a raise.

“I think it’s great,” Al Kay, 42, said. “They deserve all the money. They do a good job.”

Denise Rusiecki, 62, had mixed feelings though.

“I realize we need them but these are tight times,” said Rusiecki, who has lived in Simi for 35 years. “It’s tough justifying them getting raises when there are people that can’t afford to buy food and are losing their homes. It’s a tough call.”

Read more here…

School District Employees Lose Their Jobs

Simi Valley Unified School District, which has already shed $187,577 from this year’s budget, notified 16 classified employees this week they will be fired.

The 16 employees—including 11 custodians, four clerical workers and one information technology staff member—were given 45-day notices that their jobs have been terminated.

And more cuts may be on the way soon.

This is awful. While this opinion may not be well received, I think it’s hard to justify pay increases for (already well-paid) police officers while school employees get terminated.

Read more here…

City Council says ‘Wait a minute’ to Simi Couple’s farm animals

Miller explained that the Bridle Path HOA has covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that prohibit homeowners from keeping certain animals and that just because the planning commission approved a conditional-use permit does not make it OK.

“The CUP doesn’t trump the CC&Rs,” he said.

Williamson, who serves as treasurer for her own HOA, agreed.

If I can possibly get away with it, I will never again live in a community that is governed by an HOA. Then again, I wouldn’t have 8 cows and 2 pigs living in my backyard either.

Read more here…

Barbra Williamson Campaign Finances Challenged by The Star

Glen Gerson donated $3,000 under the names of three separate corporations, including The Vineyards, in this year’s council race. He said he gave money to Williamson after she asked him for support in her bid for a fifth term.

“When a local politician comes up and says ‘Donate to my campaign,’ I’m going to do it,” Gerson said. “We make donations to have people leave us alone.”

I’m fascinated that the Simi Valley Acorn doesn’t touch this story. It makes me wonder if they think it’s a wild goose chase.

Read more here…

If you have some SImi Valley government news that you’d like to share with my or publish for my readers, please contact me.

Incumbents Take It

With numbers leaving little doubt, the incumbents in the major Simi Valley elections score a victory, but not without first proving that some candidates made a very worthy first shot and what will no doubt become a political future for some.

Simi Valley Mayor

Paul Miller is our mayor again, with 78.66% of the vote.  Bruce Witkin comes second with 13.29%, with Ed Lang bringing in just over 7%.

Simi Valley City Council

Barbra Williamson and Steve Sojka get to keep their jobs as City Councilmembers, earning 29.02% and 35.77% of the votes respectively.  Mike Judge pulled in impressive numbers with 17.21%.  Something tells me we’ll be seeing more of him…

Simi Valley School Board

Debbie Sandland earned 22.92%, Janice DiFatta took 18.21% and Rob Collins took 23.95% of the vote for Simi Valley Board of Education, making the incuments the victors in this election as well.  Ray Cruz came close with over 15%, rounding out the totals with over 10% to Eric Smith and just over 8% to Brad Jashinsky.  I firmly believed both would make good candidates, but I don’t think enough people got a chance to see or hear more of them.

Congratulations to all!