The seven candidates running for three seats on the Fillmore City Council agree that their agricultural city of 11,048 stands at a crossroads.
Developers are clamoring for permission to build 1,500 houses and increase the city's population by 35%.
Civic leaders say industrial and retail businesses are needed to shore up tax revenue and create jobs in Fillmore, which has an average annual per capita income of $6,054, the lowest in Ventura County, according to the 1980 Census.
And many residents are still smarting from a sexual harassment scandal at City Hall that led to the resignation of Fillmore's city manager in September.
None of the candidates support a controversial card club that had been proposed earlier this year and would have brought gambling to Fillmore. They are also leery of an industrial airport proposed for the edge of the Santa Clara River, near an undeveloped industrial park site.
Slow Growth Favored
All of the candidates said they favor slow or moderate growth. And all said the city must take a closer look--or even scrap--the Fillmore Meadows project, a 900-house development proposed outside the city boundaries that would affect city roads, sewers, schools, fire protection and other services. The project is contingent on the city annexing the land.
Ethnicity is also playing a role in the campaign. The three Latino candidates said the City Council should reflect Fillmore's ethnic makeup. Latinos were 48% of the city's population, according to the 1980 Census. They said the council--which is all Anglo--has done little to reach out to their community.
Ethnic issues polarized Fillmore 3 years ago, when the City Council declared English the city's official language. Latino groups were outraged, but the council never rescinded its resolution.. Council members said the issue became moot in 1986, when an initiative approved overwhelmingly by California voters declared English as the state's official language.
Council members are elected at large and serve 4-year terms. Two open seats are those of Mayor Gary Creagle and Councilman Pat Quinn, who are not seeking re-election. Roger Campbell, an incumbent seeking his second term, holds the third seat.
The other candidates are Terry Metzler, Scott Lee, Ernest Morales, Enrique Villasenor, Michael McMahan and Ben Aparicio.
Growth Limits Proposed
"In the past 4 years, there's been very little representation on the City Council of anyone in town," McMahan said. "We need a council that will represent the wishes of everyone in Fillmore."
McMahan is vice president of Fillmore's Chamber of Commerce, works in his family's oil-field supply business and has lived in Fillmore for 18 years. He is proposing to limit new homes to 150 to 200 annually. He said that he opposes the Fillmore Meadows project, and that attracting retail businesses and light manufacturers or warehouses employing no more than 500 people is critical to Fillmore' financial well-being.
Enrique "Rick" Villasenor, 40, a third-generation Fillmore resident, is a sales manager for a Fillmore car dealership and serves on the city Planning Commission. Villasenor said he wants to provide Latinos with political representation, is concerned about maintaining Fillmore's rural beauty and favors moderate growth.
"Expansion of city services in this town should be paid for by the developers who come in and profit, not by the residents," he said.
Villasenor said he is also concerned about what he calls a "potential conflict of interest" in the city's contract with the Horizons Group, the Westlake Village-based consultants who are helping Fillmore draw up a master plan for much of the unincorporated land near the city.
Horizons is also the consultant for two developers who have proposed building 250 to 300 luxury homes on hills overlooking Fillmore.
Don Mallas, Horizon president, said his consulting work for Fillmore excludes the area where Horizon has proposed building the luxury homes. "There's no conflict in my opinion. It has nothing to do with us," Mallas said.
Economic Development Urged
Scott Lee, 41, an economics teacher at Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard and a former vice president at the Bank of A. Levy, said he is concerned about the Horizons contract, which he called "a definite conflict of interest."
"I want us to adopt the amended general plan that allows for 100 homes a year and balanced growth that includes low, moderate and expensive homes," Lee said.
He also wants the Fillmore Chamber of Commerce to establish an economic development committee to encourage businesses elsewhere to relocate in Fillmore. Lee, who has served on the boards of redevelopment committees for Fillmore and Thousand Oaks, said he would call on his business and banking background if elected.
Lee said Fillmore should upgrade its streets, sidewalks and buildings by using redevelopment funds that are idle. He also thinks the City Council acted imprudently and demonstrated its lack of financial expertise in handling the sexual harassment case.