2012-07-26 / Front Page
Off and running
7 have filed paperwork to seek City Council office; deadline is Aug. 10
The early roster of candidates competing for two open seats on the Thousand Oaks City Council is filled with names familiar to local voters.
Mayor Jacqui Irwin, who is serving her second term on the City Council, is one of seven residents who’ve completed paperwork to get their names on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Six of the seven have previously run for political office.
If reelected, Irwin said, she would continue to run the city in a fiscally responsible way and remain committed to combating substance abuse among the community’s youth.
“I think it’s really important to support the police chief to educate about underage drinking and heroin use,” said Irwin, who was named the 37th Assembly District’s Woman of the Year in April and is on the executive boards of the Boy Scouts and the Ventura County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
In eight years, the president of Thousand Oaks Titans Youth Football has served on several council committees, including the Crime Prevention Task Force, Conejo Coalition for Youth and Families, and the Capital Facilities Committee.
Irwin noted her involvement in public works projects such as the installation of solar panels on two buildings on Hillcrest Drive. She’s also proud of bringing recreational opportunities to T.O.
“I was instrumental in helping to get the Amgen (Tour of California) here, which put the city on the map,” Irwin said.
Attempting to put himself back on the map is challenger Ed Jones, who served on the council from 1970 to 1974. He served on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors from 1975 to 1987.
The longtime T.O. resident, who’s been on the board of directors of Conejo Recreation and Park District since 2010, was part of the committee that completed the original Thousand Oaks master plan in 1969.
“I helped to originate the General Plan, and I would like to see that carried out the way it was intended,” Jones said. “I want to continue high standards for development here in Thousand Oaks.”
Jones has a policy of responding immediately to the concerns of residents.
When he heard complaints about a large bush blocking the view of drivers making a left turn on a neighborhood corner, he took the problem to the city and the bush was trimmed within days, he said.
“If it requires going there, I go there and observe the problem and try to solve it right away. Another reason I’m running is to show people that government really works.”
The 81-year-old Jones said his age is not an issue.
“I walked to 8,500 houses two years ago while running for the park board. I will surpass that this time. I’m in excellent health.”
Jones isn’t the only familiar name in the field.
Debbie Birenbaum, who also sought election in 2010, is a mediator and also works for Conejo Valley Unified School District as a paraprofessional educator. She has lived in the community for 50 years.
“I think that anyone who lives here is qualified to serve the community (on the council),” the Newbury Park resident said. “I understand the value system here.”
If elected, Birenbaum said, she would work to bring a senior center to Newbury Park, secure funds to alleviate traffic congestion between the 23 and 101 freeways, and fill vacancies on Thousand Oaks Boulevard.
“We obviously live in a good city,” she said. “I would like our money to be better spent locally and not so self-serving for our bureaucracy. We have pension issues and inflated salaries for some employees.”
Jim Bruno, a one-time Westlake Village City Council member and former T.O. planning commissioner, said the recent death of former Councilmember Tom Glancy influenced his decision to return to public service. The two served together on the planning commission for more than five years.
“The most compelling reason that I see today comes out of feelings of both compassion and deep love for Tom Glancy,” Bruno said. “He was an intelligent and fair councilperson. His passing had a huge impact on me and rekindled a desire to get back into the public arena in honor of his legacy.”
The financial planner, who was chosen as a finalist by three council members during March’s appointment process to replace Dennis Gillette, sits on the city’s investment review committee.
If elected, he said, he would encourage new businesses to come to Thousand Oaks Boulevard and “beautify (existing) businesses to make that corridor even more attractive.”
“One of the biggest challenges that I’m anxious to take on is to find ways of enhancing the city’s revenue stream,” said Bruno, president of Bruno Financial in Westlake Village.
Al Adam also wants to attract new business to the city.
“The city needs to be more business-friendly,” he said, referring to empty lots on Thousand Oaks Boulevard.
Adam said his goals are to bolster the struggling theaters at the Civic Arts Plaza and to enact pension reform.
He said he wants the retirement age for city employees to be raised from 55 to 60 or 65 and believes city employees should contribute to their retirement; the city pays their entire contribution.
“I don’t think taxpayers can afford to pay for active and retired government,” Adam said.
The former planning commissioner, who is on his third run for the council, fell 150 votes short of unseating Gillette in 2010. He ran on a slate with Councilmember Claudia Bill-de la Peña, who received the most votes.
“I’ve got unfinished business. . . . I feel I have a lot of support out there,” Adam said.
Since 2010, Adam wrote a term-limits measure set to go before voters in November.
The measure, which received about 8,000 certified signatures of support, limits council members to three consecutive terms but wouldn’t apply retroactively to the current council.
Councilmember Andy Fox, a known rival of Adam’s, is in his fifth term.
Adam said the measure’s purpose is not to keep people out of office but to give others the opportunity to serve on the council.
“It’s very difficult to unseat an incumbent,” he said.
Fellow initiative author and T.O. Planning Commissioner Mic Farris, who started the Right to Vote initiative that was passed into law by the City Council this month, will also run for council after an unsuccessful bid in 2004.
Farris said one of his priorities will be making sure the council is responsive to resident concerns to maintain the high quality of life in T.O.
“I want to make sure we’re working together to address all aspects of what make this city a great one,” he said.
And while he believes the downturned economy is T.O.’s biggest challenge, Farris said the city shouldn’t sacrifice fundamental rights such as voting to solve short-term economic problems.
“I want to make sure we’re standing up for things we believe are important,” said Farris, who collected more than 8,000 countycertifi ed signatures for his voting initiative.
Newbury Park resident Vernon Williams is the only political newcomer in the field.
He spent 14 years working in Amgen’s engineering and training departments before his job was cut in a round of layoffs.
He’s now a service engineer at UCLA Medical Center.
If elected, Williams said, he would enlist the police department to keep Newbury Park teenagers from “roaming the street at 2 a.m.”
“Nothing good can come of that,” he said.
Like his opponents, he said he would make sure the council spends frugally.
“Hopefully I can do some good. I’m excited to have this opportunity,” he said.
The filing period for the general municipal election began July 16 and continues through 5 p.m. Fri., Aug. 10.
--Story updated Thurs., July 26 at 10:23 a.m.