Thousand Oaks City Council Candidate Forum: Written Responses 2018

Thousand Oaks Candidate Forum

1. What is more important for our city right now: building new homes or rehabilitating existing commercial / retail space such as downtown and Thousand Oaks Boulevard?

 

Clifford Zone I believe that both are extremely important to the financial well being of the city. However, rehabilitating our outdated and rundown Downtown business district takes precedence. This will enable us to bring back small locally owned businesses and encourage our residence to stay in town for all of their shopping needs, hence building a health business ecosystem that is self-sufficient.
Don Schmitz All are important, and it should be noted that the primary focus for new housing is within the specific plan for TO Boulevard. These projects will, consistent with the adopted Specific Plan, be comprised of mixed use, with retail on the ground level facing the boulevard, with housing behind or above the same. Accordingly, it is anticipated that following the specific plan will address both rehabilitation of commercial space, and providing additional and more affordable housing. With the rest of the community essentially built out, the most significant remaining area to provide additional housing will be second units or “Accessory Dwelling Units” (ADU’s). State law requires the city to allow ADU’s on single family lots, and this could add a large amount of affordable housing.
Claudia Bill-de la Peña It is important to the City to provide housing for professionals, the workforce, and low-income seniors. It is equally important to re-invent commercial, office and retail space, whether that’s on Thousand Oaks Boulevard or other commercial areas.
Ed Jones I believe improvements on T.O. Blvd. are important, but that hey can be achieved without placing thousands of apartments on boulevard.  I favor all our citizens get involved in town hall meetings to determine future course.  So far only 700 residents have been polled out of 129,000 residents.
Thomas Scott Adams Our business engines must be cranking on all cylinders; that is paramount. Putting in housing before we have revitalized our small-business community is putting the cart house before the horse. About 98% of all employing businesses have less than 100 employees with the vast majority having 20 people or less on the payroll. This is where most Americans enter the workforce. The specific plan, with emphasis on the “Downtown Core”, will make Thousand Oaks a desired location to shop, not only for local residents, but attracting shoppers from Los Angeles and other regions. This creates liquidity in the City of Thousand Oaks allowing people to seek & attain local housing.
Bob Engler Whatever building we do must be with an eye to improve quality of life and housing options that we in Thousand Oaks expect.  Since we are near build-out, re-purposing existing areas such as those along TO Boulevard provides an opportunity to bring in needed housing while creating a tasteful area for residents to enjoy.
Joel R. Price Most important to Thousand Oaks is the re-creation of our downtown core. The Boulevard Specific Plan approved in 2011, calls for the creation of a vibrant walkable downtown corridor that will include mixed-use development. As has been our history since passage of Measure E in 1996, this place-making will be done slowly and deliberately. Each project will be based on it’s own merits and will include significant public benefit. These projects will include housing above retail space and will all have some component of low-income housing. I will continue to require that developers conform to our strict architectural standards and preserve as many of our treasured oak and landmark trees as possible. These projects are critical to our City’s future and conform with the mandates placed upon cities by Sacramento. They will provide much needed housing for area employers and businesses and provide a boost to our local economy.
Dr. Kevin McNamee We have a very desirable place to live. This is due to the people who live in our city care about it so much and the vision of our city founders who established its direction we enjoy today. With such a desirable city comes increased demand to live here. Home prices have risen to where new families cannot find homes they can afford. Companies cannot attract and keep talented employees because of high housing prices. Answer is to not encourage high priced, million dollar Mc Mansions but entry level, starter homes for those who want a foot in the door to our wonderful city. It doesn’t matter if it is on the Thousand Oaks Boulevard or elsewhere in the city. We need more starter homes.

2. How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in our city? Do we have enough options? If not, explain?

Dr. Kevin McNamee Dr. Kevin McNamee: Traditional local transportation is available but under-utilized by residents. Those I have spoken to who use it who say they are happy with the service. However, our current local transportation system does not pay for itself and need to be addressed. Use of Uber, Lyft and others transportation methods have become more popular. This is an example of how the market finds a solution to a market need. Transportation for those with a destination outside of the city, transportation options do not meet the needs of our residents.  Any solution for this requires multi city cooperation. When one works in Santa Barbara and another works in Glendale, our transportation system is willfully lacking. It needs improvement. Cooperation with other cities may reveal an answer.
Bob Engler Bob Engler: Transit is important to those who do not have the ability to drive. Thousand Oaks Transit is seems to be underutilized but the senior dial-a-ride is a benefit that is valued by our seniors and those with special needs.  There have been advances in modern technologies in web-based systems (such as Uber/Lyft type systems) which could offer a more individualized approach. Some of these benefits could be applied to the current transit providing real-time location of buses with arrival times for patrons.
Ed Jones Ed Jones: I believe we should rely more heavily of dial-a-ride than busses.  There should be a study of bus ridership and only routes with significant ridership should be continued – the balance should be made up of dial-a-ride.  It is evident to anyone who observes busses that almost no one is in them during the middle of the day.
Claudia Bill-de la Peña Claudia Bill-de-Pena: With our City being as spread out as it is, namely 55 square miles, it is challenging to provide effective transportation. Due to the fact that the state and federal governments pose restrictions through their funding, we see big empty buses driving around town. That could all be changed with targeted transportation, such as Dial-a-Ride for residents rather than just seniors, and trying out ride-share programs with Lyft and other similar providers. Transit lanes for buses (and HOV lanes) on the 101 freeway are being considered to ease traffic congestion and to encourage the use of public transit.
Don Schmitz Don Schmitz: Our city has an excellent street system, and a comprehensive bus system which seems to be underutilized. Increasingly the shared economy, with options like Lyft and Uber, coupled with doorstep delivery like Door Dash and Amazon, will reduce trip generation on our surface streets. A smaller vehicle and more nimble public transit system reflective of these services should be explored by the city which could increase ridership. Importantly, the mixed use development envisioned along TO Boulevard will also reduce trip generation as residents will live, work, eat and shop in the pedestrian friendly area.
Clifford Zone Clifford Zone: Part of the Downtown Master Plan includes the development of a foot traffic friendly environment in our new mixed use downtown area. Less auto traffic will further enhance the new downtown experience.
Joel R. Price Joel Price: Thousand Oaks residents have a variety of transportation options available. Our Thousand Oaks Transit system offers clean energy busses on fixed-route schedules. Dial-a-Ride is available to seniors and special needs population as well. Our two transit hubs, one located at the Oaks Mall and the other at the interchange of the 101 & 23 Fwy, offer connections to regional transportation options for those wishing to head outside the city. Various ride-sharing platforms operate within the city and provide another option for residents. As Thousand Oaks Blvd. begins to take shape, I envision bike share and scooter sharing options will also become available. These options serve to solve the last-mile dilemma faced by those who rely on public transportation.  Car-sharing is also an option that exists at two Many Mansion properties in Thousand Oaks. This allows for low cost rental of a vehicle for those who don’t own a vehicle.
Thomas Scott Adams Thomas Scott Adams: TOT (Thousand Oaks Transit) is doing a good job, covering most vital business areas and connecting to key suburban areas. That said, as we may need to look at expanding the routes and/or frequency as the specific plan begins to be realized. As the Downtown Core comes into place, we should consider a Thousand Oaks Boulevard Trolley. This “Boulevard of the Oaks Trolley” or “BOT” system could be electric vehicles that resemble a San Francisco Cable Car, without the cable or rails. This makes for a friendlier shopping experience, allowing people to fill up bags of retail treasures without lugging them long distances by foot. You could park at the Civic Arts Plaza, take a BOT up and down the boulevard and get dropped right back by your car.

3. Some residents say that we have traffic problems. What do you think?

Joel R. Price Joel Price: Traffic issues in Thousand Oaks are largely limited to rush hours in both the AM and PM. While the freeways that intersect our City are largely not under our control, I have and will continue, to lobby in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C. for transit dollars. Over the past several years Thousand Oaks has undertaken several projects designed to improve traffic flow. The latest, flashing yellow arrows at selected intersections, allow motorists additional time to make left turns. This simple “fix” has received positive feedback and reduced travel time for many. Many, if not most of our signalized intersections operate at level of service (LOS) A for most of the day. There are some major intersections that drop in LOS during peak traffic hours but that is to be expected during commute time. I will continue to listen to suggestions and look for solutions to improve traffic flows.
Dr. Kevin McNamee Dr. Kevin McNamee: As I sit in my car waiting for the red traffic light to change, I notice there is no cross traffic but I and my fellow commuters have to wait, and wait and wait for the light to change. I dream of the day when the city installs traffic lights that sense traffic flow patterns and traffic lights change to optimize the flow so commuters spend more time with our families than sitting in our cars. These intelligent traffic signals exist but not in Thousand Oaks. I dream of the day.
Thomas Scott Adams Thomas Scott Adams: I had the opportunity to sit down with Chief Hagel and the topic of traffic was a big part of the conversation. Certainly, the number of cars has increased in recent years, however, Thousand Oaks has far fewer collisions than communities of comparable size, an indication that we are handling our traffic issues in a positive manner. Although the 23/101 interchange can be congested at peak hours, the expansion of lanes on that interchange was a tremendous improvement and one of the great victories of our City Council. There are certain “main arteries” that will always have high traffic flow… that’s a part of having a successful city, but the simplest answer is sometimes the best: Listen to the public as to their traffic needs, then engage the knowledge and experience of the men and women of our Sheriff’s Department to help the council with the best solutions.
Clifford Zone Clifford Zone: I would say that most of our traffic problems stem not from our city residence, but from our neighbors. All of our thoroughfares are clogged daily with individuals who neither work in Thousand Oaks nor live here; for the most part they are passing through to Simi Valley, Camarillo, or a number of other local cities. So it’s more of a Conejo Valley problem then a TO problem.
Bob Engler Bob Engler: Traffic is an issue which is both a local and regional.  As neighboring cities add population the 23 and 101 freeways become subject to traffic.  Locally, the city has been responsive to neighborhood desires to redirect traffic onto arterials.  Recently, the incorporation of flashing yellow left turn arrows has help drivers to proceed when safe in a more timely manner.  There are currently at least 60 synchronized traffic lights in the city.  Increased synchronized arterial traffic lights will aid in flow.
Ed Jones Ed Jones: We do have traffic problems, most significantly on T.O. Blvd. in late afternoon.  The council should consider buying property on north side of T.O. Blvd. at Hampshire, putting Hampshire through to Hillcrest as originally planned.
Claudia Bill-de la Peña Claudia Bill De La Pena: Our traffic congestion is caused by commuters from surrounding cities which are growing more rapidly than Thousand Oaks. While our LOS (level of service) at main intersections drops during peak hours, overall, the City’s LOS is at B or above at almost all intersections.
Don Schmitz Don Schmitz: We have relatively few intersections with a poor Level of Service (LOS), however we should not be cavalier about the issue and make improvements where possible. Improved light synchronization and crosswalks would help, as would a next generation smart and responsive public transit system. It seems that much more could be done to improve bike lanes and safety. The increasing congestion along the 23 and 101 could potentially cause increasing spill over congestion onto our city streets, so we should vigorously engage with District 7 Caltrans to find solutions to the now regular rush hour traffic jams on these freeways.

 

4. If elected, what would you like to accomplish in the next 4 years?

Clifford Zone Clifford Zone: My number one Goal to help keep Thousand Oaks Financial Engine humming is to make our city the Permanent Home to the LA Rams.
Bob Engler Bob Engler: Attention to public safety, sustaining our emphasis on our open space and bring a culture of customer service to a budget disciplined city government are always top of my agenda. I have walked to thousands of homes during this campaign and the two issues most often mentioned is quality implementation of the Boulevard plan and the need to focus public attention on homelessness.  These will be my priorities for the next four years.
Don Schmitz Don Schmitz: My first priority is to create the best emergency notification and evacuation program in the country for our city. Excellent first responders and warning systems have proven to not be good enough in Santa Rosa, Ventura, and Redding. The loss of life is simply unacceptable, and will not happen on my watch. Secondly, we must address head on and aggressively the homelessness problem, which is overwhelming communities all around us. We are primed to be next. Finally, I am proposing a massive urban reforestation program for our open space, parks, and urban spaces. The goal is; “1,000 Oaks for Thousand Oaks” by the end of my 4 year term.
Claudia Bill-de la Peña Claudia Bill-de la Peña: I would like to complete the acquisition of 82 acres of open space in the Rasnow Peak area, which are the crucial missing link between two trail systems. This extremely difficult acquisition has been six years in the making. If successful, it would be one of the largest and the most complicated acquisition ever attempted this century!   I would also like to manage the problem of homelessness. Mayor Pro Tem Rob McCoy and I are on an Ad Hoc City Council committee to address homelessness, and it will take time to meet certain goals.  Lastly, I want to make sure that our housing needs are met while respecting nature, especially our oaks and landmark trees. I will not endorse excessive density.
Dr. Kevin McNamee Dr. Kevin McNamee: Move toward water sustainability and independence from importing 100% of our water from Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District. By redirecting the advanced, ultra-pure, water from Hill Canyon Treatment Plant, selling it to Calleguas Water Treatment Plant will generate $11.4 million dollars for the city. Pumping and piping construction to redirect the water to Calleguas is estimated to cost $55 million. The EPA has loans for 50% of such models which will pay for half the project. Breakeven is within 5 years. After that it is a revenue generator for the city. Using money generated through water reuse, build a world class art museum to house California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks and other local art organizations. Reform our government pension system though buyout of CALPERS and replace it with a 401(k) type plan managed by the city.
Thomas Scott Adams Thomas Scott Adams: A weekly Farmer’s Market/ Street Walk! Our current Farmer’s Market is a smattering of tables in The Oaks Mall parking lot. If Culver City can put together a weekly farmer’s street fair, why can’t we? To investigate, I visited San Luis Obispo, a city with 1/3 our population and a street fest that now stretches for miles, and pulls from as far away as San Francisco. As a professional in the food & wine industry, I have organized numerous events of this nature. When properly executed, this becomes a win for everybody, creating a destination event pulling patrons from miles around. We’re a stone’s throw away from some of the richest farmland in the world. A few miles farther and we have fresh seafood. Put these elements together with local business and live music, this can become a business engine unto itself with food, dancing and fun.
Joel R. Price Joel R. Price: In the next 4 years I would like to accomplish the following: secure the Los Angeles Rams permanent offices and in-season practice facility in Thousand Oaks; advance the Thousand Oaks Blvd Specific Plan – continue to advocate for smart, controlled growth in our downtown core; secure a moderate number of additional housing units throughout the City with particular emphasis on areas that have been vacant & blighted for years; continue to focus on quality of life issues impacting residents to include, dealing with the increased homeless population, and acquisition of additional open space parcels.
Ed Jones Ed Jones: I’d like to solve the T.O. Blvd problem – refurbish buildings, add a few tasteful residential buildings – over a few hundred residents. I would like to beautify the core area from Erbes to Conejo School Rd.

 

5. What do you think makes you the most qualified for the job?

Don Schmitz For over 30 years I have been a professional land use planner. I am the only candidate who has actually written land use plans, zoning code, and specific plans, and who has dutifully designed and entitled projects consistent with applicable regulations. I have planned parks, trail systems, woodland restoration projects, equestrian centers, resorts, wineries, commercial and residential projects, sewer treatment plants, and roadways. My practice requires an aptitude at negotiating with the relevant decision makers in federal, state, and local agencies, as well as community outreach and consensus building. I have a proven track record of getting things accomplished for the communities that I represent.
Thomas Scott Adams I live by the philosophy that most obstacles are opportunities in disguise. In 2009 the wine industry experienced a huge collective layoff. I wrote and patented a business model for a temp-agency specialized to serve the industry. It comes from a creative mindset that says there is always a way to overcome an issue. It doesn’t matter how big the mountain, there’s always a way over, under, around or through… and I don’t give up until I find that path. This mindset is the direct antithesis of the bureaucrats in Sacramento who live and die by the status quo. Thousand Oaks deserves someone who will listen with empathy to all parties and groups, then work cohesively with my fellow council members and engage in a creative, fruitful path forward allowing the people of Thousand Oaks determine the direction for Thousand Oaks.
Ed Jones I believe my education, knowledge and especially my experience in local office: 4 yrs. on T.O. City Council; 12 yrs. on Ventura County Board of Supervisors; 8 yrs. on Conejo Rec & Park Board.
Claudia Bill-de la Peña I am qualified because I do not consider myself a politician. I am a representative of the people, ALL the people. You see my lawn sign at a mobile home and at a mansion, because I am accessible, independent, trustworthy and reliable. My independence provides me the freedom to do what is needed, and to do what is right and fair. I worship with my family at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church almost every Sunday. My boys are acolytes and lectors; they help feed the homeless. My upbringing, my family, my experience and my faith guide me to do what is just.
Clifford Zone As a long time entrepreneur and business owner, I have the knowledge, grit, determination and business experience to keep our city prosperous.
Bob Engler The position of city council is a policy making board for municipal government and I had a 29 year career as a municipal employee and policy maker for the fire department of Redondo Beach.  I served two years as a member of the Civil Grand Jury acting as a watchdog on County and Local government agencies throughout the county.  I have been a member of non-profit boards in the city and know the value of city/private sector partnerships in multiplying the return on tax dollars. Most importantly I have a life time of placing service as part of my core approach to life. I ask nothing more than to serve the citizens of Thousand Oaks.
Joel R. Price My entire adult lifetime has been steeped in public service, from my career with the Los Angeles Police Department to my service on the City of Thousand Oaks Traffic & Transportation Commission, Planning Commission and now the City Council. I have served on the Board of the Conejo Valley YMCA, Thousand Oaks Police Charitable Foundation, Our Community House of Hope, and helped create The Nicole Parker Foundation for Children. I have been in the role of Councilmember for 6 ½ years and developed relationships with individuals at all levels of our State and National government. I am an active member of the League of California Cities and hold a Board position with the National League of Cities. I have and will continue to  be a vocal advocate for Thousand Oaks residents through my service in both organizations. I have a proven track record with results to back it up.
Dr. Kevin McNamee The city’s challenges require a diverse background in leadership and problem solving skills. Sacramento is imposing its will upon our city. Water availability and independence is a challenge. Pension reform is needed to protect our beloved city employee’s retirements. We have a homeless crisis caused by policies from Sacramento which changes our quality of life. As a 30 year business owner and doctor in clinical practice, I have NOT benefitted from a secure, guaranteed government job and retirement funded by tax payers. Like most American’s, I have experienced and successfully thrived in an ever changing regulatory and economic environment. I am proud of opening and growing several businesses, providing jobs for many employees, meeting payroll demands while providing a needed service.  Ensuring fiscally soundness requires the ability to understand a budget and financial statements to ensure the city vision can be fulfilled.

6. Where are your favorite places to spend time in our town?

Thomas Scott Adams Thomas Scott Adams: My wife and I have always enjoyed going to Conejo Creek Park for summer concerts…cover-bands doing popular tunes and a picnic with some friends under an oak… it’s a good time. We also love casual dining. We like the fancy-schmancy places too, but we spend a lot of time in local breakfast / lunch houses. Sunday brunch with my wife and my mom happens almost every week after church.
Dr. Kevin McNamee Dr. Kevin McNamee: First place: Anywhere in the Conejo Valley where my wife Kathryn and I can sit so I can listen to her tell me about her day. Second place: Riding my horse Tommy on the many trails in the mountains of Newbury Park. No cell phone. No interruptions. Just enjoy the beautiful scenery. Be quiet and think – or maybe not.
Clifford Zone Clifford Zone: I am a business enthusiast who believes our priority is to keep the City’s financial engines humming, but my other love is the outdoors. I am an avid hiker, biker, rock climber, camper and any chance I get to get away to nature is cherished.
Ed Jones Ed Jones: I love to spend time walking in our lovely residential areas and recreating in our beautiful parks and open space.  I believe Thousand Oaks is as close to paradise in most areas of the city as one can get.  We should thank our earlier councils and park district for creating this wonderful environment.
Claudia Bill-de la Peña Claudia Bill-de la Peña: We are an equestrian and musical family, and so we love spending our free time, of which there is little, either on horseback, on stage, or in the audience of a show. We thoroughly enjoy performances at the Civic Arts Plaza by 5-Star Theatricals, the New West Symphony, and the Pacific Festival Ballet, all resident companies of our City. We support the arts with family season subscriptions, and we encourage everyone else to do the same, because the ARTS POWER THE ECONOMY! We also spend time with our wonderful female German Shepherd, Eiche (ayshay), which means ‘Oak’ in German, on the trail in our treasured and voter-protected open space.
Don Schmitz Don Schmitz: My back yard with the family of course! The most fun I have ever had in Thousand Oaks has been watching my son’s high school football games, and my daughters horse jumping competitions at Foxfield riding academy. Our movie theaters are the best, and we love to stroll the Promenade. My wife and I are foodies and have our favorite restaurants, and while she loves to go shopping at the TO mall, I am happiest shopping at the Home Depot. Of course our open space parks are a sublime place to hike and walk the dogs, and a night time boat ride on Westlake is so beautiful it is hard to believe it is real.
Bob Engler Bob Engler: There are so many!  A play at Kavli Theater. A hike in our open spaces. Taking part in volunteer opportunities with any of the multiple non-profit and school events each week. Enjoying summer evenings at the Concerts in the Park.  Shakespeare Festival each year at CLU. Hard to pick just one!
Joel R. Price Joel Price: While there are many places I enjoy spending time in Thousand Oaks, our ring of open-space is likely at the top of the list. With 15,000 acres forming a ring around our city there is no shortage of trails that one can hike or bike. Hiking to the top of the Santa Monica Mountains to view the Pacific Ocean is a special treat. After working up a sweat, I enjoy spending time at several of our local wine tasting rooms on the Boulevard and I know already I will enjoy spending time relaxing at the new Tarantula Hill Brewery that will open early next year. I was instrumental in changing our zoning ordinance to allow such businesses and I expect we will see others as the boulevard takes shape. I also enjoy spending time attending concerts and plays at our world-class Fred Kavli and Janet & Ray Scherr Forum theaters.

7. How do you plan to solve the pension crisis that so many municipalities are now facing?

Joel R. Price Joel Price: I, along with others on the Council, recognized some time ago that we had to get our arms around our unfunded pension debt. Our first step was to discontinue paying the employees share of the pension obligation. Through negotiations that I was part of, the employees agreed and are now contributing their fair share. The next action I  was part of took place a few short weeks ago when I voted in favor of placing $22.5 mil into a revocable trust fund managed by the city and the re-financing of the balance of the debt from 30 to 15 years thereby saving taxpayers $30 mil in interest. . These three decisions, all of which I was part of, insure that our pension system will be fully funded once the debt is paid off.
Claudia Bill-de la Peña Claudia Bill-de la Peña:  This question is super important, because the answer negates any suggestion that Thousand Oaks isn’t doing enough regarding pension reform. To the contrary, Thousand Oaks has avoided all the pitfalls and shortcomings of pension costs! I was a leader in reforming pension costs in 2012, when we were finally able to negotiate successfully with employee unions! Employees now pay their share of pension contributions, whereas before, the taxpayer was on the hook for that. And just this summer, we refinanced our employee pension plan, saving $30 million dollars in pension costs over 15 years!  Thousand Oaks’ solid finances helped make this happen, and we are proud of that! No other city in Ventura County or perhaps California, for that matter, can claim that!
Dr. Kevin McNamee Dr. Kevin McNamee: We appreciate our dedicated city employees who serve us, but the pension crisis raises the question, “At what price?” One-third of baby boomers have less than $25,000 saved for retirement. Many view their inheritance as the answer. American worker wages are stagnant leaving little to no money for retirement. CALPERS pension guarantees an very generous 8% annual return regardless of fund’s performance. Any shortfall is paid by city taxpayers, leaving less money for city services.  Nowhere else can one get such a generous retirement plan other than a government job. Last year approximately 4% of the budget paid CALPERS retirement. This year it is climbing to approximately 11% and our city pension program which is underfunded at only 76%. Solution to this mess, 1) Buy out the city CALPERS retirement for current employees and 2) Provide a 401(k) retirement program which is on par with the private sector employees.
Clifford Zone Clifford Zone: Again, true capitalism solves all problems. Cities with slowing or negative financial growth are also the cities with the most problems solving their pension issues. If our city is financially prosperous we should not have any problems handling the other things like, funding the pensions, maintaining our wonderful open spaces, helping our Veterans and our Aging population.
Don Schmitz Don Schmitz: Our current council has done well in moving up the funding timeline for our city pension requirements, but there is a looming crisis at the state level that must be addressed. I would draw on my experience consulting with the league of cities to work with that organization to aggressively work with the legislature to seek solutions to the pension bomb ticking with CalPERS. There seems to be a lack of political will in Sacramento to address this issue which will have repercussions for all cities in the state, and the league is the most effective organization to push for reform. Additionally, our council should engage our assemblywoman and senator to work with us directly on this statewide issue, which will clearly reverberate back to our local finances.
Thomas Scott Adams Thomas Scott Adams: Thankfully we have a city manager who has done a lot of the solving. In my meeting with Andrew Powers, one of the first things I brought up was the issue of pensions. The state of California has set up some “interesting” policies regarding pensions, namely “CALPERS” (…a topic for another time) which covers our city employees.  The short answer is that we’re caught up and staying current, which is a matter of fiscal responsibility. We know this is a nut we must crack, so, I commit to working with city management and fellow council members to stay within our means while honoring all obligations. The pending storm is a state that’s over $1trillion in debt and pressuring cities and citizens for more and more taxes. I propose we join with other cities, raise our voices and demand fiscal responsibility from our state government.
Ed Jones Ed Jones: I don’t believe there is a crisis.  The city, park district and school system have and are making prudent decisions for the future.  In a way this is a made up crisis – no governmental or private business entity ever has enough money on hand if all their people chose to ret ire at once.  It’s like buying insurance; you have to make prudent decisions based on likelihood of % of retirees in ensuing years.
Bob Engler Bob Engler: The city must always focus on providing the highest possible return on tax dollars invested. The City Council has recently taken concrete action that I support to fully vest our pension liability within 15 years saving the city millions of dollars in the process.

8. City residents have complained about homeless populations and panhandlers. How do you plan to address the challenges with the local vulnerable populations?

Don Schmitz Don Schmitz: Few issues confronting communities and government in California are as complicated, and intractable, as Homelessness. Last year there were significant outbreaks of Hepatitis in Southern California, and now we are suffering an outbreak of Typhus, all linked to homelessness. The obvious health risks of people relieving themselves in public areas are manifesting, which is why we have established laws against it. Not often mentioned is the environmental impact to our local waterways from the illegal encampments, with fecal chloroform polluting the streams and wetlands, which obviates the gains we have made at great expense to address urban run-off. Furthermore, destructive fires were ignited in Bel Air and Malibu last year by homeless cooking fires, destroying millions of dollars of property, and costing millions more in precious public funds to fight the fires. It is only a matter of time before Thousand Oaks suffers a similar avoidable tragedy. Lastly the degradation of the quality of life for all the members of our community are apparent when they are confronted with aggressive panhandling when trying to shop or enjoy a restaurant, often times shockingly with profanity in front of our children.
Ed Jones Ed Jones: Big problem.  I believe we should hold public meetings to arrive at a decision.  Public and private entities should work together to solve the problem.
Claudia Bill-de la Peña Claudia Bill-de la Peña: Mayor Pro Tem McCoy and I will present the first report on homelessness at the October 23rd City Council meeting. This first report is a culmination of seven months of research and work, and will be the first step toward reducing homelessness in Thousand Oaks. It is important to remember that neighboring cities have many more homeless people, but we want to make sure that our problem here does not worsen.
Thomas Scott Adams Thomas Scott Adams: In my meeting with Chief Hagel, he said we have about 300 homeless here. A portion have mental challenges. For those, we should employ mental health professionals to provide aid. Chief Hagel shared a story about a homeless woman who was delusional. She had run out of medication and couldn’t get more for 3 days. Our officers got her enough to tide her over. Great deed, but we can be proactive. Those that have chosen this lifestyle, Chief Hagel asks that we not offer money, but to direct them to organizations that provide food and other needs. Those who break the law, we continue to arrest them and push back towards the state regarding bail standards and penalties. Our greatest hope is faith-based organizations that help people put their lives back together. There are some great stories of people who just needed a hand to get back up.
Clifford Zone Clifford Zone: As a veteran I am very active in helping homeless Vets get back on their feet. I am a firm believer that we must give the homeless a hand up and not a handout.  Most people are aware that giving away handouts decreases incentives to work and that, generally, welfare is the enemy of freedom. This perpetuates the problem and makes these people completely dependent on the handouts forever. I am for a system that is offering treatment and sobriety and participation in job training programs as a condition for affordable housing.
Bob Engler Bob Engler: I had interactions with homeless people most of my career.   The last such person I encountered in the field was belligerent, combative, and a police issue until we found him to be ill from a medical condition which altered his mind.  I learned that a compassionate, pragmatic approach is always needed.
Joel R. Price
Dr. Kevin McNamee Dr. Kevin McNamee: Nothing is kinder than helping someone in need. But help should be that which discourages pauperism and dependency. Assistance should preserve ones self-esteem, self reliance and not be harmed by ill directed charity. Firstly, the city should partner and support of our cost effective faith-based and service organizations who provide for immediate needs. Second, long term solution include the goals of self-reliance and independence. Most homeless suffer from drug addictions and/or mental illness. Homeless are the product of Proposition 47 and 57 that released them from our jails and prisons onto our streets. Their food, shelter and medication source vanished, however our jails and prisons are not equipped to be mental health and drug addiction treatment centers. We need to reassess our mental health offerings and drug treatment options. We should provide opportunity for the homeless to find purpose, become self-reliant and help them get up after being down.

9. How do you plan to solve the pension crisis that so many municipalities are now facing?

Joel R. Price Joel Price: I, along with others on the Council, recognized some time ago that we had to get our arms around our unfunded pension debt. Our first step was to discontinue paying the employees share of the pension obligation. Through negotiations that I was part of, the employees agreed and are now contributing their fair share. The next action I  was part of took place a few short weeks ago when I voted in favor of placing $22.5 mil into a revocable trust fund managed by the city and the re-financing of the balance of the debt from 30 to 15 years thereby saving taxpayers $30 mil in interest. . These three decisions, all of which I was part of, insure that our pension system will be fully funded once the debt is paid off.
Claudia Bill-de la Peña Claudia Bill-de la Peña:  This question is super important, because the answer negates any suggestion that Thousand Oaks isn’t doing enough regarding pension reform. To the contrary, Thousand Oaks has avoided all the pitfalls and shortcomings of pension costs! I was a leader in reforming pension costs in 2012, when we were finally able to negotiate successfully with employee unions! Employees now pay their share of pension contributions, whereas before, the taxpayer was on the hook for that. And just this summer, we refinanced our employee pension plan, saving $30 million dollars in pension costs over 15 years!  Thousand Oaks’ solid finances helped make this happen, and we are proud of that! No other city in Ventura County or perhaps California, for that matter, can claim that!
Dr. Kevin McNamee Dr. Kevin McNamee: We appreciate our dedicated city employees who serve us, but the pension crisis raises the question, “At what price?” One-third of baby boomers have less than $25,000 saved for retirement. Many view their inheritance as the answer. American worker wages are stagnant leaving little to no money for retirement. CALPERS pension guarantees an very generous 8% annual return regardless of fund’s performance. Any shortfall is paid by city taxpayers, leaving less money for city services.  Nowhere else can one get such a generous retirement plan other than a government job. Last year approximately 4% of the budget paid CALPERS retirement. This year it is climbing to approximately 11% and our city pension program which is underfunded at only 76%. Solution to this mess, 1) Buy out the city CALPERS retirement for current employees and 2) Provide a 401(k) retirement program which is on par with the private sector employees.
Clifford Zone Clifford Zone: Again, true capitalism solves all problems. Cities with slowing or negative financial growth are also the cities with the most problems solving their pension issues. If our city is financially prosperous we should not have any problems handling the other things like, funding the pensions, maintaining our wonderful open spaces, helping our Veterans and our Aging population.
Don Schmitz Don Schmitz: Our current council has done well in moving up the funding timeline for our city pension requirements, but there is a looming crisis at the state level that must be addressed. I would draw on my experience consulting with the league of cities to work with that organization to aggressively work with the legislature to seek solutions to the pension bomb ticking with CalPERS. There seems to be a lack of political will in Sacramento to address this issue which will have repercussions for all cities in the state, and the league is the most effective organization to push for reform. Additionally, our council should engage our assemblywoman and senator to work with us directly on this statewide issue, which will clearly reverberate back to our local finances.
Thomas Scott Adams Thomas Scott Adams: Thankfully we have a city manager who has done a lot of the solving. In my meeting with Andrew Powers, one of the first things I brought up was the issue of pensions. The state of California has set up some “interesting” policies regarding pensions, namely “CALPERS” (…a topic for another time) which covers our city employees.  The short answer is that we’re caught up and staying current, which is a matter of fiscal responsibility. We know this is a nut we must crack, so, I commit to working with city management and fellow council members to stay within our means while honoring all obligations. The pending storm is a state that’s over $1trillion in debt and pressuring cities and citizens for more and more taxes. I propose we join with other cities, raise our voices and demand fiscal responsibility from our state government.
Ed Jones Ed Jones: I don’t believe there is a crisis.  The city, park district and school system have and are making prudent decisions for the future.  In a way this is a made up crisis – no governmental or private business entity ever has enough money on hand if all their people chose to ret ire at once.  It’s like buying insurance; you have to make prudent decisions based on likelihood of % of retirees in ensuing years.
Bob Engler Bob Engler: The city must always focus on providing the highest possible return on tax dollars invested. The City Council has recently taken concrete action that I support to fully vest our pension liability within 15 years saving the city millions of dollars in the process.

10. City residents have complained about homeless populations and panhandlers. How do you plan to address the challenges with the local vulnerable populations?

Don Schmitz Don Schmitz: Few issues confronting communities and government in California are as complicated, and intractable, as Homelessness. Last year there were significant outbreaks of Hepatitis in Southern California, and now we are suffering an outbreak of Typhus, all linked to homelessness. The obvious health risks of people relieving themselves in public areas are manifesting, which is why we have established laws against it. Not often mentioned is the environmental impact to our local waterways from the illegal encampments, with fecal chloroform polluting the streams and wetlands, which obviates the gains we have made at great expense to address urban run-off. Furthermore, destructive fires were ignited in Bel Air and Malibu last year by homeless cooking fires, destroying millions of dollars of property, and costing millions more in precious public funds to fight the fires. It is only a matter of time before Thousand Oaks suffers a similar avoidable tragedy. Lastly the degradation of the quality of life for all the members of our community are apparent when they are confronted with aggressive panhandling when trying to shop or enjoy a restaurant, often times shockingly with profanity in front of our children.
Ed Jones Ed Jones: Big problem.  I believe we should hold public meetings to arrive at a decision.  Public and private entities should work together to solve the problem.
Claudia Bill-de la Peña Claudia Bill-de la Peña: Mayor Pro Tem McCoy and I will present the first report on homelessness at the October 23rd City Council meeting. This first report is a culmination of seven months of research and work, and will be the first step toward reducing homelessness in Thousand Oaks. It is important to remember that neighboring cities have many more homeless people, but we want to make sure that our problem here does not worsen.
Thomas Scott Adams Thomas Scott Adams: In my meeting with Chief Hagel, he said we have about 300 homeless here. A portion have mental challenges. For those, we should employ mental health professionals to provide aid. Chief Hagel shared a story about a homeless woman who was delusional. She had run out of medication and couldn’t get more for 3 days. Our officers got her enough to tide her over. Great deed, but we can be proactive. Those that have chosen this lifestyle, Chief Hagel asks that we not offer money, but to direct them to organizations that provide food and other needs. Those who break the law, we continue to arrest them and push back towards the state regarding bail standards and penalties. Our greatest hope is faith-based organizations that help people put their lives back together. There are some great stories of people who just needed a hand to get back up.
Clifford Zone Clifford Zone: As a veteran I am very active in helping homeless Vets get back on their feet. I am a firm believer that we must give the homeless a hand up and not a handout.  Most people are aware that giving away handouts decreases incentives to work and that, generally, welfare is the enemy of freedom. This perpetuates the problem and makes these people completely dependent on the handouts forever. I am for a system that is offering treatment and sobriety and participation in job training programs as a condition for affordable housing.
Bob Engler Bob Engler: I had interactions with homeless people most of my career.   The last such person I encountered in the field was belligerent, combative, and a police issue until we found him to be ill from a medical condition which altered his mind.  I learned that a compassionate, pragmatic approach is always needed.
Joel R. Price
Dr. Kevin McNamee Dr. Kevin McNamee: Nothing is kinder than helping someone in need. But help should be that which discourages pauperism and dependency. Assistance should preserve ones self-esteem, self reliance and not be harmed by ill directed charity. Firstly, the city should partner and support of our cost effective faith-based and service organizations who provide for immediate needs. Second, long term solution include the goals of self-reliance and independence. Most homeless suffer from drug addictions and/or mental illness. Homeless are the product of Proposition 47 and 57 that released them from our jails and prisons onto our streets. Their food, shelter and medication source vanished, however our jails and prisons are not equipped to be mental health and drug addiction treatment centers. We need to reassess our mental health offerings and drug treatment options. We should provide opportunity for the homeless to find purpose, become self-reliant and help them get up after being down.

 

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