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Ventura County

Moorpark Race Hardly a Competition

Council candidates' positions are so similar, there's no basis for animosity. Two of the three will be elected. Mayor runs unopposed.

November 02, 2002|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

As Ventura County's youngest city approaches its 20th birthday, politics in Moorpark has calmed a bit.

After a bitter City Council contest in 2000 when two incumbents lost, Mayor Patrick Hunter is running unopposed this time. Just three candidates are seeking two available council seats -- and they are all being very polite about it.

Among the candidates is a 10-year council veteran who has taken the uncommon step of endorsing his challengers.

"I thought the only fair thing to do was endorse both of them," said Councilman Clint Harper, 55, a member of Moorpark's initial council in 1983.

"To endorse only one suggests one is not qualified to be on the council," Harper said, "and I'd be pleased to serve with either one of them. I've told people ... that either two you pick will do a good job, so you can't go wrong."

Former council member Bernardo Perez, 53, figures this campaign is "generally slow and quiet" because the candidates have so much in common.

"You have three individuals who are issue-oriented, who have been around, working in the community," said Perez, a project manager with Cabrillo Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit housing agency. "I don't think there's any animosity, period. So there's none to carry over to our campaign effort."

The top two vote-getters will win council seats.

Campaign issues in this fast-growing bedroom community of 33,000 include reducing truck traffic along California 118; attracting jobs and commercial development, including upscale stores and restaurants; and increasing the number of dwellings available for residents with modest incomes to buy or rent.

All the candidates endorse so-called smart growth, which clusters homes near jobs and de-emphasizes the automobile. They also want to cut red tape at City Hall, while improving the quality of new homes and stores built in town.

Unlike council candidates in neighboring Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, Moorpark's contenders are spending little money to get their names and messages out.

Planning Commissioner Janice Parvin, the third council candidate, spent less than $3,300 through Oct. 19, according to spending reports. Perez had spent $2,900, Harper about $3,200 and Hunter nothing.

Parvin's primary strategy since July has been to knock on the doors of thousands of potential voters.

"You don't know how many hills we have in Moorpark until you start walking the town," she said. "I really did lose 16 pounds since the campaign started."

Director of human resources for a Thousand Oaks company, Parvin, 48, thinks city officials should meet regularly with the Chamber of Commerce to brainstorm ideas for supporting local companies and bringing new ones to town.

As former chairwoman of Moorpark's Parks and Recreation Commission, she said "greenbelts and open space are near and dear to me." She wants bike trails expanded to link Moorpark, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks.

Perez, a councilman on and off from 1987 to 1998, is a longtime supporter of low-cost housing.

Now he wants the city to build a community swimming pool near Moorpark High School, work with federal officials to expand the post office on Los Angeles Avenue and provide more financial help for the nonprofit Moorpark Food Pantry, which is seeking a permanent home.

Like Parvin, Perez suggests the city should work better with homeowners by speeding up building plan evaluations, inspections and the permitting process.

Harper, a Moorpark College physics and astronomy instructor, is running for what he said would be his final term. He hopes to continue monitoring the city's efforts to revive its downtown, including construction of a new City Hall and police station.

But his most important continuing role may be as a city negotiator with Messenger Investment Co., an Orange County firm that failed in its 10-year effort to build a 3,200-home community north of town.

The company is now proposing a downsized project with half the number of homes, a 2,200-acre nature preserve and a large man-made lake.

Harper and Councilwoman Roseann Mikos helped lead the fight against Messenger's huge Hidden Creek Ranch project four years ago. The project was eventually rejected by voters, but only after the City Council had approved it.

"They realize this has got to be very attractive to the community or nobody is going to vote for it," Harper said.

Hunter, extending his decade-long council stint, is assured of a fourth, two-year term as mayor.

"Running unopposed is a very humbling experience," Hunter said. "It's an indication that residents are satisfied with the direction the city has taken. It makes me want to work that much harder."

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