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2 Incumbents, 2 Challengers Square Off for 2 Hueneme Seats


PORT HUENEME — The race for two City Council seats has turned into a classic contest between those on the inside and those on the outside looking in.

The incumbents, Mayor Murray Rosenbluth and Councilwoman Toni Young, cite their records and accomplishments. But challenger Duilio "Dooley" Pansini criticizes the City Council and Young in particular. Helen McPherson said she will bring a fresh perspective and common sense.

Pansini said city officials rely too much on consultants, particularly in the case of former Police Chief Steve Campbell, who resigned under pressure in August.

"People have solutions, but [council members] don't hear anything but the consultants," Pansini said.

Rosenbluth and Young said the city needed the consultants to help them make a better decision about Campbell and the police.

"What do the citizens know about hiring a chief?" Young said. "I mean, please. We don't stick our fingers into the day-to-day operations."

Homelessness, especially in the west county, also has generated debate. While Oxnard and Ventura offer services to help people, Port Hueneme can do little more than it does, Pansini said.

Young agrees that a lack of affordable housing makes it difficult for the city to address the needs of homeless people.

McPherson prefers that private organizations, rather than public agencies, help homeless people.

"You have a personal connection that way," she said.

Rosenbluth said the city gives $26,500 a year to the Ventura County Homeless Coalition and contributes to Oxnard's winter warming shelter. While that seems to work, he said, "it's always possible to do more."

While other issues carry more long-term importance, much of the debate this election revolves around the 3-foot-high wall on Surfside Drive.

The wall affects the views of a few dozen residents along Surfside Drive, but it has turned into a symbol for candidates and voters alike of what is wrong--or right--with the city.

Now, Rosenbluth said the city could have given residents a clearer idea of how the wall would look. He has asked city staffers to review the wall to determine its effect on public safety, graffiti and the ocean view.

Part of a larger beach renovation project, the wall is meant to stop sand from blowing onto roadways and into residents' yards and pools. It will also show how much sand was lost each year, and a dredging project, currently underway, will rebuild the beach after two years of erosion.

"When they see that, they'll see how much sand was really blown away," Young said. "If they can be a little bit patient, I think they'll see we have a much longer or wider beach."

McPherson sympathizes with condominium residents and said she would consider lowering the wall or allowing temporary partitions during the winter months.

Pansini said the wall problem is another example of the council's tendency to listen too much to consultants.

Pansini, a native of Argentina, has also made Latino involvement in local politics an issue. If elected, he would be the first Latino on the council since 1958.

Latinos make up about 42% of the city's population, but just 27% of its registered voters, Rosenbluth said, adding that he didn't have a specific way to increase Latino representation, other than for them to become more active.

Young said good representation doesn't depend on ethnic background, and she hasn't heard complaints from the Latino community.

In fact, she said, the five council members "make a pretty good team. It's that diversity of who we are that brings that cohesiveness together."

Despite what Young calls a good team, McPherson said she promises "a fresh outlook, a different background."

McPherson, a retired Navy contract administrator who has lived in Ventura County for 30 years, is president of the board of directors of the Carefree Living Assn. in Hueneme Bay. She helps manage 713 homes with a budget of $1 million a year.

Pansini, a dentist who has lived in the United States since 1976, campaigns as an outsider. He sees the council as "an exclusive executive club without community participation."

Much of what the city does is out of date, Pansini said, and the council is "anti-business" and lacks vision.

Rosenbluth, a former Army officer and retired engineer, is also chairman of the Ventura County Library Commission. He has worked to increase the amount of money going to the Port Hueneme library, the second-poorest in the county.

Young, the only woman elected to the council in the past three decades, serves as chairwoman of a number of local governmental boards, including ones dealing with solid waste, transportation and energy and the environment.

She cites her record of fiscal conservatism, and believes that by participating in so many government agencies, she helps Port Hueneme head off problems that she hears about in other counties before they arrive here.

Elected in 1992, Young is the veteran member of the council. She said she holds the institutional memory of the budget cuts of the early 1990s. Rosenbluth has served one four-year term.

"I'm the only one who remembers the parks and recreation department almost disappearing," Young said. "All of our department heads have changed in that time."

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