THOUSAND OAKS — The contenders talk about quashing crime and nurturing business, slashing government payrolls and paying for the Civic Arts Plaza.
But inevitably, they go back to oak trees, open space and orderly growth, which once again appear to be the critical issues in the race for the Thousand Oaks City Council.
Some of the nine candidates vying for two seats in the Nov. 5 election make a point not to align themselves with either the business-friendly faction that has dominated Thousand Oaks politics in the 1990s or the slow-growth minority that has criticized the other side's every move.
But when it comes to development--that always volatile Thousand Oaks issue--the candidates are split into two camps: They either believe the city is mushrooming into another San Fernando Valley or is growing at a careful pace and its pristine lands are in no danger of being bulldozed.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 1, 1996 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 8 Zones Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong spelling--A candidate biography published Sunday with a story about the Thousand Oaks City Council race incorrectly spelled a candidate's name. The correct spelling is Ekbal Quidwai.
"Those are perennial issues in this city," said candidate Dan Del Campo, who is running on an anti-growth platform. "But I think they are of greater importance this time.
"This city is at a crucial point in its history," he added. "We have a lot of open space, and we have grown a lot. Are we going to save the open space, or are we going to allow development to chip away at it?"
Other candidates say another quintessential Thousand Oaks concern--the bickering and infighting that have long plagued the City Council--could wind up doing more damage to the city than mini-malls and housing tracts.
"The only thing that will turn us into the San Fernando Valley is the escalation of the politics we have seen here in this city over the past few years," said candidate Marshall Dixon, who believes the growth debate should take a back seat to nuts-and-bolts issues such as streets and sewers. "Building a few more houses is not going to turn us into the Valley."
The candidates are also split over two ballot measures that could make it tougher and more expensive for developers to do business in Thousand Oaks.
Measure D would quadruple the "bedroom tax" that developers pay for every dwelling they build, with the extra money going to preserve and purchase open space. For instance, for every house of three or more bedrooms, developers would be charged $800, four times the $200 they now pay. Measure E would prevent developments that exceed the densities allowed in the city's General Plan from going forward without voters' approval.
Incumbent Mike Markey, who joined the council last year after a special election, is hoping to win his first full term this fall. Former Councilwoman Jaime Zukowski resigned earlier this summer to move to Colorado, so her seat is open. The race initially had 10 candidates for the two seats, but Lance Winslow, the 32-year-old owner of a mobile carwash service, dropped out Friday, claiming he was being harassed by newspaper photographers and his political foes. His name, however, will still appear on the ballot.
Thousand Oaks has traditionally been the site of the most expensive City Council races in Ventura County, and this year figures to be no different. In last year's special election, for instance, the two leading candidates, Markey and Trudi Loh, each spent more than $30,000.
In addition to the colorful signs and glossy mailers that have become commonplace in local elections, Thousand Oaks candidates are expected to take to the airwaves for television spots--a technological advance spurred by Zukowski in her successful 1992 campaign.
Now there is a new medium for council hopefuls to use--the Internet--and at least one candidate, Del Campo, has already launched his platform into cyberspace with a full-color Web site. Candidate Linda Parks, a planning commissioner best known for her successful initiative drive earlier this year to protect open space, is asking voters to e-mail her with their concerns.
"I'm working on a Web site too," said candidate Ekbal "Nick" Quidwai, an incessant critic of city government. "I think it's a really good way to get your positions out."
The candidates--one woman and eight men--range from a 21-year-old computer consultant to a 71-year-old retired manager of an auto dealership. They also include a retired mechanic, a former transportation consultant and a Compton homicide detective.
Markey, the 41-year-old detective, describes himself as a practical council member who gives everyone from developers to homeowners' groups a fair hearing--a trait that his slow-growth political opponents lack, he argues.
"I tell everyone who contributes to my campaign that I make objective decisions, that I don't enter these meetings with my mind made up," Markey said, countering accusations that he is biased because he accepts contributions from developers. "I like to think that I treat everyone the same."
Among his top priorities are expanding Thousand Oaks' youth sports facilities by bringing an ice rink or a skateboard park to the community, and adding more police officers.