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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS | ELECTIONS

Incumbents Grab Spotlight and Opponents Cry Foul

October 18, 2000|JENIFER RAGLAND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — In the closing weeks of a spirited reelection campaign, Councilman Mike Markey announced plans Tuesday to bring a multimillion-dollar bowling alley and entertainment center to town.

At the same time, residents of Conejo Creek condominiums, with the help of Councilwoman Linda Parks, held a news conference to review crime data that they hoped would bolster efforts for increased Sheriff's Department patrols in their neighborhood.

Because the Nov. 7 election is only three weeks away, both candidates came under fire from campaign rivals who questioned whether the media events were staged mostly to garner support for Markey's and Parks' reelection campaigns.

"At this time of year, especially with incumbents, you see things showing up on agendas that probably wouldn't appear otherwise," said Joe Gibson, one of seven candidates running for two council seats. "It's a campaign ploy."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday October 19, 2000 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 2 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Neighborhood group--An article Wednesday incorrectly identified a group seeking additional sheriff's patrols in Newbury Park. The group was from the Running Springs neighborhood near the Conejo Creek condominiums, site of a fatal gang shooting in April.

Parks and Markey denied that the news conferences were purposely scheduled on the same day or that they were politically motivated.

"This has been my pet project since I've been on the council," Markey said.

During a news conference at City Hall, Markey announced an effort by Thousand Oaks-based Oz Entertainment to build a Family Bowling and Entertainment Center at an undisclosed location. Markey said he will ask his council colleagues next week to consider a public-private partnership with the developer to help finance the $12-million project.

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Earlier Tuesday, representatives of a Newbury Park community group told reporters about their desire for a full-time sheriff's deputy to be stationed at the Conejo Creek complex, the site of two gang-related shootings in April that left one man dead. In May, Parks unsuccessfully urged her council colleagues to approve funding for a deputy in the neighborhood.

Parks said she advised the Conejo Creek residents to call the news conference to help them get their message out. She also helped the group draft a news release inviting the media, although she didn't attend the event.

"It wasn't spurred from a desire to be elected," Parks said. "It's putting sunlight on a problem that has been swept under the carpet, and because of the attention there will be change."

Other candidates who are vying for the two council seats, however, said they were suspicious of the timing.

"They are politicizing these issues that have been raised by other candidates as well," said challenger Chris Buckett, a community volunteer. "It's not that we don't have the same concerns, but we don't apparently have the same clout to call press conferences."

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Buckett said she, too, has pushed for a bowling alley and other recreation activities in Newbury Park and that she wants a sheriff's deputy assigned full-time to Conejo Creek.

Gibson said he also supports restoring a full-time officer to the Conejo Creek area.

Markey said he has been working for the past four years with Kenneth Brown, president of Oz Entertainment Inc., to develop a 50-lane bowling alley, for which the company has secured an exclusive contract with AMF Bowling.

Brown said his development team--which also includes local investor Robert Kay and architect Francisco Behr--believe now is the time to bring the proposal before the public.

"We think we're far enough along to where this will help us turn the corner," he said.

Markey wants the city to help the plan become a reality.

"Bowling is not a high-profit business, and costs may have kept it from being built," he said. "Because it's such a great community benefit, I think it's worth the city getting involved."

Gregory Charles, a neighborhood resident who is spearheading the push for a full-time officer, has worked with other homeowners since the Conejo Creek shootings. Residents contend that the number of crime reports plummeted last year when a deputy was assigned to their neighborhood during a six-month trial program.

Charles said Tuesday's news conference wasn't politically motivated, but acknowledged his grass-roots group wanted the issue raised before the election so residents could learn which candidates support placing a full-time officer at the complex.

Both Markey and candidate Jim Bruno are opposed to the idea, saying it constitutes micromanaging local law enforcement.

Citing statistics from newspaper stories, Charles said 20% of the city's violent crime has taken place in Conejo Creek in the past 10 years, which is why he said the neighborhood deserves special attention.

Sheriff's Cmdr. Keith Parks, who serves as Thousand Oaks' police chief, said he could not comment on the figures without reviewing the research. However, he said that in the first nine months of this year, Conejo Creek made up 2.6% of all reported crimes in the city and that he doubted the accuracy of Charles' figure.

"For the most part, crime has gone down in Conejo Creek," he said, citing statistics that show a 50% drop in violent crimes from five years ago. "There is not enough crime in that community and it's not dense enough to put an officer there full-time."

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