Kevin McNamee On the Issues
The Covid-19 pandemic: preventative practices versus reopening of local business and recreation
Many of my favorite business are closed due to Covid-19.
Many are businesses that will never open again. The lives of both employee and business owner have been changed directly and indirectly due to Covid-19. Policy maker decisions regarding the pandemic are decided at the county and state public health levels. The City Council does not have a role in the decision process of preventative practices versus the reopening of local businesses. What the city can do, to ease the blow to our economy and help business owners and their employees, is expedite requests for outdoor permits for activities like restaurants, hair stylists, gyms, martial arts studios, etc. My hope and desire is for an effective, low cost treatment method and vaccine to be developed. Until then, the city is in this together to make our way through these trying times.
Police reform and systemic racism
We are fortunate to have a very responsive police department with officers who are appreciated by the people of Thousand Oaks. The police know how much we value their service to us. As a retired LAPD reserve police officer, I am committed to law and order, NOT looting and rioting. My recommendations to address the root of issues facing us today regarding law enforcement abuse of power are as follows:
(1) Officers are to be trained to de-escalate situations as the first option, not a show of force. This training must begin in the police academy and should continue through their careers. (2) Remove the primary barrier to removing bad cops – Police Unions, which protect bad officers that should be removed. The fellow officers know who the bad cops are, but their hands are tied by a union who keeps the bad cop on the job. Pierce the police union’s protective shield and much will change for the better.
Wildfire and earthquake preparation and alert systems
Some 25 years ago, a U.S. Forest Ranger told me that their fire prevention services included clearing dead brush, thinning forests, and clearing the brush below power lines so that when lines fall, there is minimal to no brush to ignite. All these and more techniques prevented wildfires, encouraged healthy forest growth, and when a wildfire does happen, it can be quickly extinguished. That Forest Ranger then predicted an impending wave of wildfires in California. I asked why he thought this will happen. He said that Sacramento legislature is changing wildfire prevention methods of the Forest Service. The policy of wildfire prevention became “let nature do what it will do.” Well, history has proven the Forest Ranger’s prediction to be correct. Mother Nature will do what she will do when the forest is overgrown – burn the dead brush that was previously cleared by Rangers. The dead trees that prevented new growth and shut out other plants became explosive tinder for a wildfire. High winds blow down power lines which ignite the brush under them to become another wildfire. We are the fall out of this cycle of growth and burn. We can minimize the damage to lost lives, homes, and property by returning to the time-tested, proven methods used by our U.S. Forest Service.
Law enforcement and fire personnel have been told by geological experts that the next earthquake could take down services like water, sanitation, electric, etc. for not days or weeks, but most likely months before services are back online. As an instructor at Ventura College, I teach students who want to enter the water treatment and wastewater treatment professions. During my run for city council in 2018, it became very clear that Thousand Oaks and Ventura County are extremely vulnerable to running out of drinkable water in such an earthquake scenario. My call for a meeting with the Manager of Calleguas Municipal Water District and Thousand Oaks Project Manager about our city vulnerability in such a situation was agreed to. We discussed the following and came to a solution:
1. Ventura County and Thousand Oaks are almost 100% dependent on imported water from Los Angeles through the Metropolitan Water District.
2. Water revenue for Ventura and Thousand Oaks water services leaves the city to benefit Los Angeles.
3. Calleguas Metropolitan Water is our water treatment provider for the city and Ventura County. Its holding reservoir, Lake Bard, has only a 30-day supply of water.
4. Were our supply lines from Los Angeles to fail in an earthquake, it could be months before water service is returned to normal. This would exhaust Lake Bard’s holding supply.
The creative solution is to place water reserve tanks in the surrounding hills of Thousand Oaks which can be drawn upon if all water is cut off from Los Angeles. Also, a connection with Las Virgenes Water District could allow for the sharing of water in such a disaster.
Homelessness and affordable housing development
Volunteer clinical work at the city’s free clinic has given me insight into the homeless situation and its many challenges. What has been most effective to address the homeless’ immediate needs is the intervention by our city’s faith-based and service organizations which are more efficient than government to provide these services. Anything we do should promote self-reliance, not pauperism and dependency. Inexpensive temporary homeless housing can be accomplished using architect and designer Michael Bedner’s model of transforming shipping containers into modular homes. The homes would allow the homeless to be out of the elements and have a place to engage in vocational rehabilitation, drug addiction treatment, and mental health services. However, any homeless person wishing to live in such housing must participate in programs to get them independent and find purpose in life. It has become clear to me that government policies for mental health services are stifling any effort for the homeless to escape their situation.
Part of the problem is a MediCal Catch-22 that mental health experts can’t get out of. MediCal provides free counseling and medication for the homeless. Once the person is stable, they enter the work force and transitional housing, eventually moving into their own housing. But to qualify for MediCal services, a person can have no more than a dollar maximum in the bank. So, if a mentally ill person is benefitting from these services and gets housing and a job, as soon as they accrue above the maximum in savings, they lose their free counseling and medication. The patient cannot afford the medication and counseling services and becomes unstable, loses their job and housing, and are back on the street. Now they’re eligible for the counseling and medication that will get them stable. The cycle continues. The current maximum savings cap rule to qualify for MediCal needs to be adjusted upward to accommodate today’s cost of living.
Development along Thousand Oaks Blvd. and Civic Arts Plaza
Development must preserve the look and feel that brought us here and what we cherish. I am pro-business and pro-development. However, I do not want Thousand Oaks to become Sherman Oaks. Big money developers have contributed heavily to the campaigns of those running for re-election. The developers want to push through major building projects which will change the city’s personality and appeal forever. This happened in Goleta, CA, just north of Santa Barbara. Big money came in and was able to get their people elected to City Council, resulting in massive building projects. Goleta residents are unhappy with what happened, but now can never go back. Those who contribute to my campaign do so knowing that I am grateful for their support, but it will not curry special privileges, favors or votes.
Transition to renewable energy through the Clean Power Alliance and Southern California Edison
I asked a student in my water management class, “Why did you buy that sandwich from that store and not the one next to it?” The student thought about why he chose one and not the other. The answer: He liked both sandwich stores, but the one purchased cost less. People select the highest quality product or service at the lowest price. Why pay $100 for the same sandwich you can get one for $5? The sandwich store that sells $100 sandwiches will go out of business due to being overpriced for the same product in the market. The same concept applies to the Clean Power Alliance. If the CPA provides the same energy for the same or lower price, it will be the dominant player. As the price of natural gas, oil and coal go up, making the energy produced more expensive than renewable energy, the transition to renewable sources will be like a ride down a slide in the park. It is just a matter of time before the slide begins. It is happening.
Mitigation of traffic congestion
Align building development, especially Thousand Oaks Blvd., to encourage smooth traffic flow. The removal of a lane of traffic to increase the sidewalk at the Lupe’s Restaurant development is an example of what not to do. The city’s traffic congestion is a reflection of the City Council approving building projects with inadequate parking and poorly thought out plans. The California State Legislature has imposed its will on Thousand Oaks and all California cities by changing our building codes, which in turn impact traffic. It is about time we as a city say no more to interference by Sacramento politicians. Band together and take on our state legislature that imposed building codes that do not align with our city. I will stand up for Thousand Oaks.
Habitat and open space preservation
A very attractive feature of Thousand Oaks is the Ring of Green that provides the beautiful vistas we all enjoy, places for families to walk, hike, ride bikes and horses in our wonderful open spaces. As a water science instructor at Ventura College, I appreciate the need to preserve nature and work in harmony with it. To change or damage our open spaces is to change the face and feel of Thousand Oaks. I will support the tranquil atmosphere of our city and its surroundings.
Improved access to healthcare, including the upgrading of local hospitals
Our wonderful local hospitals are to be supported in the areas where government can help. These healing facilities are operated by individuals who are navigating their way through the changes in healthcare brought on by Covid-19. The improved access to healthcare and hospital upgrades are heavily influenced by forces outside of what city government can do. That said, anything we as city government can do should be done.
Cultural facility development
The arts, music, and dance are part of cultural development and enjoyment in our city. The facilities for such events are best left to private enterprise to run. Outside of what it does best, government cannot provide a product or service as efficiently or economically as the private sector. What government can provide to cultural facilities development is to allow and encourage culture. One example: During COVID-19, government owned buildings and parking lots can be utilized as “drive-in concerts or movies”.
A recent report from the Ventura County grand jury says that “without major, immediate changes, Ventura’s water shortages will be at a scary level within five years.” The report concluded that cities must address water needs. “Ventura County may have survived the worst of the state’s drought but . . . several cities rely too much on imported water and haven’t developed plans for an emergency water shortage.” It’s clear that our cities need to address the issue because Sacramento legislature is not. Ventura County cities are on their own to solve this one.
Doing back-of-envelope calculations reveal a creative, economically viable solution including a continuous infrastructure revenue stream. Calleguas Municipal Water District, which supplies the drinking water for Thousand Oaks and most of Ventura County, annually purchases 87,541 acrefeet of water, costing $82.5 million, from the Metropolitan Water District. After conventional water treatment, Calleguas distributes the drinking water to the city and county.
An innovative solution to consider, in order to make the county less dependent on imported water, is to redirect the ultra-pure effluent back to Calleguas for reuse. It would save $11.4 million dollars for the city, which would lower the rates for the average homeowner about $600 annually. The purpose is for Thousand Oaks to become less dependent on imported water in Los Angeles, and also for Central Valley farmers to have more water as well as a continual revenue stream to maintain water and wastewater systems without raising rates or floating construction bonds.
Thousand Oaks’ main source of revenue for the services we enjoy is through the sales tax in our local economy. With the drop-off of business and flow of money in our local economy, a fiscal crisis is looming on the horizon. We can weather the storm but it will take leadership. I ask voters to consider the candidate’s skill set, education, experience, leadership, and past accomplishments, not just their political party affiliation or the backing of big developer money. I will help make ours a government that is efficient in delivering services that the people need, one that keeps taxes and fees low. I believe in smartly written, necessary regulations that are enforceable, protect the consumer, and that do not please an excessive tax burden on the people.