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Hopefuls Pledge to Keep Port Hueneme's Momentum Rolling

The five contenders for City Council say they want to build on the many successes the beach town has enjoyed in recent years.

November 02, 2002|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

The economy is in good shape in the beach town of Port Hueneme, and the five candidates in Tuesday's City Council election say they have thrown themselves into the race to ensure things stay that way.

Councilman Jon Sharkey and Mayor Anthony Volante and challengers Steven Kinney, Helen McPherson and Maricela Morales are vying for three seats on the council.

All five candidates said they are satisfied with the current council's work and would like to build on its success.

The 67-year-old Volante, who has served two terms on the council and two years as mayor, said he is "staying positive" that voters will remember the current council's work.

"It's been quite a run, one that's been very successful in accomplishing the business of the people," said Volante, a retired Air Force colonel.

Volante and Sharkey said they are proud of the housing developments the city has built in the last several years, a new water treatment plant and the city's home buyer assistance program. But they said Port Hueneme needs experienced leaders to deal with financial issues, the construction of a new sewer system and beach erosion problems.

A Bustling Market Street

Sharkey, 53, a semi-retired piano repairman who came on the council at the same time as Volante, said he would like to make Market Street, in the city's old downtown, a town center bustling with homes, shops and restaurants.

"I think we've got great potential, and it'd be nice to be around to see it through," Sharkey said. "The larger things that are hard to do take time, but this has been my area of interest and I don't know who else would pick up the ball."

In the last decade, Port Hueneme has undergone a slow transformation from a World War II Navy town to an appealing, albeit sleepy, city by the sea. This was no easy task in a city with few ways of expanding its business base. But with the use of redevelopment funds, the council was able to give Port Hueneme a new look and feel.

Abandoned lots became city parks, modern condos sprang up along beachfront streets and a business district was developed along Channel Islands Boulevard. Trees were planted and medians landscaped. City sewer and water systems were improved. A library and community center were built.

Focusing on Finances

Challengers Kinney and McPherson are stressing the importance of good financial management.

Kinney, 54, who has served as president of the Economic Development Corp. of Oxnard for eight years, said his career has prepared him for the challenges of leading a city like Port Hueneme. The development group helps businesses expand and attract new jobs and investments to the Oxnard and Port Hueneme area.

"Given the fact that we can't expand physically, we need to focus on business development within our borders," Kinney said. "It's what I do for a living."

Kinney would like to see the revitalization of the old downtown area, between Ventura Road and the entrance to the port. He would also push to increase tourism and promote the beach area.

McPherson, 59, a retired procurement negotiator and administrator with the federal government, said the city needs someone with a business background to keep its finances in order. She would like City Hall to communicate better with residents through its Web site, newsletters and bulletins.

Senior citizen services are also a concern for McPherson, who has served on the homeowners association of the Hueneme Bay retirement community.

Living-Wage Advocate

While most of the incumbents and challengers are focused on economics and city services, Morales said quality-of-life issues, such as bringing a living-wage ordinance to the city, are her priorities. The 32-year-old Morales is associate executive director for the nonprofit Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, a community planning and policy research center.

"Yes, let's make sure that our finances are in order, but I see those as nuts-and-bolts issues that all city councils must deal with," Morales said. "But there are other issues, such as community programs for youth and affordable homes, that I consider the heart of the community."

Morales said she also wants to start a "Shop Hueneme" campaign to encourage residents to spend their money in town.

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