Oxnard– As the summer of Covid-19 rages on, election day is coming and Oxnard Mayor Pro Tem and Ventura County Supervisor District Five candidate Carmen Ramirez has launched her campaign with her sights set on the Nov 3 election.
She faces Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn in a runoff. During Super Tuesday, the unofficial results had Flynn with 3,254 votes, while Ramirez had 2,284. Neither candidate reached 50 percent of the electorate, so they’ll match up again in Nov.
Although it may seem like Ramirez has done nothing because of Covid-19, Campaign Manager Robert O’Reilly said volunteers have over 2,000 postcards to send out on Ramirez’s behalf that will be mailed in late Aug.
“We’ve done many Zoom calls,” he said. “We have a fundraiser lined up for tonight, Aug. 13, and we’ll have another one lined up in a couple of weeks.”
When you compare the two candidates, Ramirez said, although she and Flynn both like campaigning door-to-door, right now, that might not be the best idea because of Covid-19.
“If there is a way to do that safely, I will do it,” Ramirez said. “I have always loved getting somebody who’s intimidated by that because you will encounter people who don’t want to hear it. We have to all transition and do it safely. I have volunteers, a phone, and Zoom.”
She stands on her record of social, economic, and environmental justice.
“I’m not new to the game, and I have been working on this for pretty much all my life,” she said. “Especially with social justice, and I am a lawyer since before you were born. I have fought for the rights of all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. I’ve taught law school, and I have been on the governing board in my profession and believe in the rule of law. I believe in getting to yes, but I never lie about what we have to do. That has earned me some enemies and adversaries, but it also earned me support.”
She sees a better way forward and will never be the status quo candidate.
“I am not saying my opponent is status quo, but I am the leader in a lot of things,” she said. “I appreciate the rest of the council, including the mayor, that has gone along with what I have initiated.”
Ramirez said Ventura County faces less of a precarious financial situation because of Covid-19 than Oxnard, which faced a difficult decision before the pandemic.
“We were about to come out of this,” she said. “We’d already hit bottom, and we were starting to ascend with stability. Our S&P ratings were going up, and we were considered stable. Then, the pandemic hit, businesses had to close, people lost their jobs, and people were afraid to buy, shop, and spend.”
Ventura County is stable economically, she said, and its pension system is in great shape.
“They’re not tied into the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS),” she said. “They have their own way of investing, and I am a pensioner. I worked for the court for almost 10 years. I have a modest pension, and I am appreciative of it.”
She said the county, along with cities, is hoping the federal government will help with funding.
“All of the relief bills we’ve been hearing about did not include cities or states to support essential services,” Ramirez said. “Meanwhile, the state has dug into its rainy-day fund. Our city has spent down to the bone and is borrowing from its enterprise funds. We really need that federal relief.”
As a supervisor, Ramirez said she would do what’s needed to get people to shop on Main Street and stop ordering online from big-box retailers.
“I was contacted by a group that supports small businesses, and I think that small businesses have not gotten their fair share of assistance,” she said. “The Lakers got paycheck protection. There has not been a lot of accountability at the federal government. Who got the money and how we are going to spend it. The majority of these businesses are doing the right thing and keeping their employees on the payroll. It is a problem for small businesses.”
She wants to help small businesses use the internet so people can make purchases.
“People can make purchases and pick up curbside,” she said. “There’s a safe way to go to the grocery store, and there is a safe way to go to our smaller retailers. With restaurants, a lot of them have curbside pickup, but a lot of them are switching to outdoor dining. The City of Oxnard is facilitating that, but some people don’t have space.”
She’s been contacted about closing streets to spur business, and Ramirez supports that idea.
“I want to see our small businesses survive and thrive,” she said. “The more ways we can encourage these creative ways, the curbside and outdoor dining, let’s do that.”
She noted that Covid-19 is not going away soon.
“We’re not going to have a vaccine soon, no matter what Vladimir Putin says, that’s effective and safe,” Ramirez said.
With the Harbor Department and the city locked in a dispute over Fisherman’s Wharf, she said the relationship is not broken, although it might look that way to the casual observer.
“The county supervisors have been good about a lot of things and have supported the city’s efforts for a long time about the homeless shelter, including the armory, where it already is,” she said. “They have bent over backward to provide support to small businesses. I am on the oversight committee that was formed by the Ventura County Community Foundation. They, along with the Economic Development Collaborative that I chaired last year, have agreed to oversee the Business Grant Program, the Rental Grant Program, and the Undocufund. That’s a lot of work for the Community Foundation.”
For small businesses and rental assistance, she said the county put in the money, and the supervisors voted for the programs.
“There’s the effort on the pandemic, and we can always improve that,” Ramirez said. “The big thing is getting the word out to the public, and the public that wants to do the right thing will do the right thing.”
She applauds the work done by the Ventura County Animal Shelter Commission, where she serves with Supervisor Steve Bennet and council members from every city that’s part of the contract.
“I think they’re doing a fantastic job with the animal services,” she said. “The shelter has been impacted like every other aspect of our lives, by the pandemic, and the county supports that. So, when you say our relationship is broken, it’s a longstanding problem that I think Jack Ainsworth, who’s the director of the Coastal Commission, he said it yesterday, and I agree that the county has gotten itself into a tight spot with the developer. To me, that is the crux of the problem. The developer, they have a plan; they have never moved an inch from it. The community, and not just the people who live near the harbor, are not pleased with it because it is only this huge number of units. It takes away public access from an existing park; it takes away a lot of public space; it takes parking away and is a gated community with high-end luxury places.”
Ramirez said there is collateral damage in play.
“You heard from people in construction trades that want to build,” she said. “I don’t blame them. They are hurting for work. They have to go to L.A., and I know that. They want to build wherever and whenever, so they oppose SOAR (A series of voter initiatives that require a vote of the people before agricultural land or open space areas can be rezoned for development). SOAR doesn’t mean no housing; it means housing in the right place, vertical, not horizontal, to keep our quality of life.”