OXNARD — Sounding optimistic about the state of his city, Mayor Manuel Lopez told a packed audience Tuesday morning that Oxnard's future was looking much better than a few years ago.
The annual event, held at the Heritage Square chapel in downtown Oxnard, was sponsored by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and attended by nearly 100 people, according to organizers.
"I think we have an optimistic outlook right now," said Lopez after the speech. "When you compare it to what we had before, it's pretty rosy."
The mayor, a member of the City Council since 1977, focused mainly on the city's economy in his speech.
Lopez pointed to the opening next week of Haas Automation Inc.--which will bring with it 500 new jobs--as a sign of Oxnard's positive economic outlook.
In addition, Lopez said four other companies are considering a move to Oxnard.
The proposed expansion of the Port of Hueneme and the possible use of the Naval Air Weapons Station at Point Mugu as a civilian airport could also be a boon to the local economy, Lopez said.
The mayor said he was excited about the renovations underway at Plaza Park and the straightening of A Street, which is currently a winding street. The Plaza Park plan, which includes cutting down more than a dozen trees in the park, has been under fire from some residents who say it will leave the recreation area barren.
On other topics, Lopez said he was looking forward to a City Council retreat scheduled in April to discuss goals and a unified vision for the city.
At the retreat, the council also is expected to outline the qualities they seek in a new city manager. After nearly two months of bitter debate and division within the council regarding the firing of City Manager Tom Frutchey, Lopez said it was time to mend fences and move forward.
Lopez added that the city is continuing to make progress in its fight against crime. He said that he hopes to see more activity with the Neighborhood Watch groups throughout the city. Lopez said he wanted to see a police officer in every school so the students could see the police as "their friends, not an enemy."
While he expressed disappointment in last week's defeat of Oxnard's $57-million elementary school bond measure, Lopez said he hoped to see more focus and emphasis from elected officials on the city's schools.
Francisco Dominguez, head of El Concilio del Condado de Ventura, who attended the event, said the mayor's speech provided a needed boost to the city.
"There is some healing taking place in the city and they are working on a vision" for the city's future, Dominguez said.