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DECISION 2000

Slow-Growth Majorities Take Reins

Cities: Thousand Oaks and Moorpark elect new council members. Simi Valley returns pro-development incumbents.

November 09, 2000|JENIFER RAGLAND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Even before all the ballots had been tallied, incumbent Linda Parks and millionaire attorney Edward L. Masry--who ran on an aggressive slow-growth platform--were planning their future together on the Thousand Oaks City Council.

At a victory party at the Hyatt Westlake on Tuesday night, they vowed to make government more open and responsive by calling town hall meetings on major city issues. They also said they would fight excessive development.

"I feel tremendous because now I know my wife and I don't have to move farther north," Masry said, referring to the couple's migration four years ago from the development-choked San Fernando Valley. "I'm in a position now where my voice will be heard."

Those who lost the race, however, predicted more divisiveness on the council and even tougher campaign finance reform laws in Thousand Oaks.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday November 30, 2000 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Council Candidate--Articles Nov. 9 and Nov. 10 contained inaccurate information about the background of Moorpark City Council candidate Keith Millhouse. He served on the Moorpark Planning Commission between 1996 and 1998.

Parks and Masry each won about 22,000 votes in a landslide against five challengers, including incumbent Mike Markey, according to election returns.

The spirited campaign in Thousand Oaks was one of nine city council and mayoral races in the county, most of which ended predictably. There were some surprises in Moorpark, where two incumbents were ousted, and in Santa Paula, where incumbents trailed three political neophytes.

But Masry's involvement thrust the Thousand Oaks contest into the spotlight. The flamboyant Westlake Village attorney made famous by the movie "Erin Brockovich" spent a record $155,000 on the campaign and received national coverage about his first run for public office.

In addition to calling for town hall meetings, Masry said he would ask the council to revisit some development projects endorsed by the panel, including a proposal to build a new theater complex next to the Civic Arts Plaza.

With a solid ally on her side and the potential to form an alliance with Councilman Dan Del Campo, Parks promised to further her slow-growth agenda over the next four years. Parks has had numerous proposals shot down during her tenure by political rivals.

"Lang Ranch, Broome Ranch and Ahmanson Ranch--that's where I'm headed," she said, listing the three areas of the city she wants to ensure are protected from developers' bulldozers.

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She plans to push a proposal to preserve an ancient oak grove at Lang Ranch on a site where a new dam is proposed. Parks also said she would try to reinstate a full-time police officer at the Conejo Creek Condominium complex, the scene of two shootings earlier this year, one of them fatal.

Other items on the team's agenda include testing local drinking water supplies for chromium 6, cleaning up city creeks and making Borchard Road safer for motorists.

Money was a big factor in the race, said Markey, who, along with Planning Commissioner Jim Bruno, received less than 10,000 votes. Bruno and Markey said more election reforms may be in the city's future as a result.

"They've set campaign reform back a decade in this community," Markey said Wednesday. "They've made it so people who have lots of money can have council seats."

Tuesday's election also shifted the balance of power in Moorpark, where Roseann Mikos, co-author of Ventura County's Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources initiative, was the top vote-getter.

Mikos will join Mayor Pat Hunter--who trounced challenger Michael Wesner with 74% of the vote--and sitting Councilman Clint Harper in a new slow-growth majority. Keith Millhouse, a county planning commissioner, edged out incumbents Chris Evans and Debbie Rodgers, both of whom did not support SOAR in a 1999 special election.

"We walked the town and did not have a lot of money to send out fancy fliers," Millhouse said. "People were receptive of our message: Deal with traffic, protect youth programs, sports and parks."

Growth topped much of the debate in the Simi Valley City Council contest, but developer-backed candidates were victorious. Council candidate James Mackelburg, who attacked incumbents for accepting contributions from out-of-town builders, came in last.

And Mayor Bill Davis cruised to an easy victory with 76% of the vote. Davis said many of the anti-development arguments raised by challengers were faulty because several projects now under construction in the city were approved in the 1980s.

That is why Davis and Councilman Steve Sojka--who was reelected along with incumbent Barbra Williamson--have pushed for a quicker turn-around on development projects, he said.

"We've learned from our mistakes," Davis said. "We're working on a procedure where these projects can't stockpile anymore."

There were no big surprises in Fillmore, where Mayor Evaristo Barajas, the lone incumbent, was the top vote-getter in the race for three seats.

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