Phil Loos On the Issues
1. Do you support the present coronavirus policies of Ventura County and affiliate cities? Do you support current plans to reopen business and other public venues
prior to the general availability of a COVID-19 treatment and/or vaccine? What
would you change?
I believe we have been too eager to open and I was surprised when Ventura County applied for and received permission from the state for early opening. This is not to
say that I don’t completely empathize with those who are suffering because of businesses and schools being closed. As a parent of two young, school-aged
children, I understand the desire to open parks, schools, restaurants, etc. as soon
as possible. I’ve seen the devastation this pandemic has wrought on my friends who
own businesses. However, no devastation matches the loss of life, and that must
what we aim to minimize above all else.
Aside from Councilwoman Luevanos, I don’t believe the local leaders in Simi agree, and that’s unacceptable. Here are a few things city leaders should be doing to prevent the spread here that we currently are not:
• Agree to put aside partisanship and coordinate with one another to craft a coherent message and agree upon behaviors that should be modeled
• Decree a mandate to wear masks at all times in public spaces. The evidence is clear: masks drastically reduce the spread of the virus. It’s also clear that leaving the choice up to individuals is not good enough
• Convey to the public the latest research, best practices and key benchmarks that must be met for reopening
• Be transparent with the community about why certain changes are made and progress towards the established benchmarks
2. If yes, what are the necessary conditions under which a full reopening could take place? If no, why not and to what degree could public and business activities be restored in the meantime?
As far as what the benchmarks for reopening should be, I’m not an epidemiologist and I won’t pretend to be – I believe we should be listening to the foremost medical experts on when it is safe to reopen – however, there do seem to be a few metrics to keep an eye on, and some standards that we can learn from other cities:
• Hospital capacity
o Goal: 3-day average number of hospitalized patients has not increased over the past 14 days
o Goal: 3-day average number of available ICU beds has not decreased over the past 14 days AND accounts for at least 10% of total ICU bed capacity
o Goal: 3-day average number of available ventilators has not decreased over the past 14 days AND accounts for at least 20% of total ventilator capacity
o Goal: Under 1.0
• 7-day average daily number of deaths
o Goal: 7-day average number of deaths has not increased over the past 14 days
• Tests administered
o Goal: 1.5 tests per 1,000 residents done each day over the past 7 days
• Contact tracing compliance
o Goal: at least 90% of COVID-19 cases have had follow-up investigation initiated within 1 day of assignment
• Supply of PPE
o Goal: Simi Valley Hospital has 15+ days of available PPE for the following: N95 Masks, Other Masks, Eye Protection, Face Shields,Gloves, Gowns
3. How, specifically, would you help to improve or reform the local Police Department?
Simi Valley’s safety is one of the reasons why many seek to call Simi Valley home, including myself, and I wish for that to remain the case. We must deal with two realities, however: a) nearly 1 out of every 2 dollars in the Simi Valley budget goes to funding the police and b) we ask the police to do too much outside of the roles for which they are trained.
What we spend on police is significant, and as you can see in the chart below [https://www.niche.com/about/methodology/safest-places/], it may not be necessary. Simi Valley is around the middle of the pack in Ventura County in most crime statistics while spending 3rd most on its police as a percentage of its budget.
It’s clear that there is little correlation between the amount a city spends on its police and the safety of its residents. For instance, two of the safest cities are Moorpark and Thousand Oaks – our direct neighbors – and they spend 41% and 37.7% of their general fund on police, while we spent 48.4% (increased to 49.7% in 2021). They spent $206 and $258 per capita on police, while we spent $285.
Meanwhile, in the past 10 years, all of our city’s departments have experienced difficult cuts and layoffs except for one: sworn police officers.
We have prioritized the police over all else for the sake of safety, but it is not clear we are getting the safety results we think we are paying for.
I believe it’s reasonable to seek to bring our police spend to around 42% of the budget over the next few years, which is just slightly more than Moorpark and Thousand Oaks. This would save the city ~$5 million per year, which could be invested in programs designed to prevent and address the root causes of the crimes to which the police so often need to respond in Simi Valley, such as domestic abuse and substance abuse, and into first line responders better suited to handle the types of events that police often need to address (e.g. homelessness, mental health, suicide calls, etc.).
A model nearly identical to this has been pioneered in Eugene, Oregon, where the program saves the city about $8.5 million per year in public safety costs, plus another $14 million in ambulance trips and ER costs. This model not only helps residents by saving their taxpayer dollars and by responding to their needs with the appropriate type of trained professional, but it should also benefit police officers who no longer need to respond to requests for which they are not properly trained and are not stretched beyond their capacity.
4. If elected, what, if any, remedies to systemic racism would you help Simi Valley implement?
• Establish a mechanism for consultation with various community leaders (young people, artists, community leaders, the police, etc.) in order to take regular stock of the situation with regards to racism and discrimination
• Organize regular forums against racism in order to offer an opportunity to discuss the problems of racism and discrimination in the city, local policies, and their impact
• Commemorate March 21st, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, with a range of initiatives to promote awareness and mobilization among Simi residents
• Establish a scholarship and/or mentorship program in partnership with local businesses to support young entrepreneurs of color who wish to open a business here in Simi Valley
• Utilize the library as a center for diversity and understanding, particularly with dual language immersion courses for students and adults
• Define achievable objectives and apply common indicators in order to assess trends in racism and discrimination and the impact of municipal policies
5. Why are you running for election to the Simi Valley City Council?
This city needs a drastic facelift to bring it into the future. From our council’s out-of-touch and harmful attitudes about race, to their passivity on planning and developing the city to spur economic growth, to which services and departments they choose to fund or not fund, to their political insiders club that controls politics in this city, our leaders, including my opponent in District 1, have left this city stuck in the past. We have a prime opportunity to oust someone who wants to keep things as they are. Because I ran in 2018, I have a solid base of support, and I have some name recognition, so I feel confident my candidacy is the best chance we have to bring forth meaningful change.
6. Have you previously held public office? If yes please provide a list with dates.
7. Please list key published articles/books if applicable (include links where possible).
8. Please list and describe any pro bono or community service work, including name(s) of organization(s).
• Teaching 2nd grade, 5th-6th grade, college ministry – Cornerstone Church (through 2018)
• Still Waters Dinners (Homeless service) – Shepherd of the Valley Church
• Founding member of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Simi Valley chapter
9. Name up to three ways that you will contribute to improving Simi Valley through its City Council.
• Push for tangible policies to tackle racism in our city, as listed in question 4
• Improve the lives of working-class families and seniors with by prioritizing the construction of affordable housing with all new building projects
• Engage and inform the residents of Simi on the most important elements of the performance of local government through increased transparency and better use of social media and technology
• Re-energize the local economy through more forward-thinking city planning that involves horizontal mixed-use development
10. Name the three most important current public issues that Simi Valley currently faces, or that you expect it to face during the course of your term in office.
1) A culture of intolerance. Our city council has done little to make people of color feel welcome and safe here, from the SB54 vote to criticism of the Black Lives Matter march to downplaying racism in the city to voting down body cameras for police officers, and it’s earned us an embarrassing reputation. Their insistence that racism doesn’t exist and that they don’t have racist bones in their bodies makes them out of touch and a relic of the past.
2) Housing costs. Rents have risen sharply in the past few years as landowners gauge tenants – both commercial and residential – because they can. Tenants have little recourse other than to move. Without more affordable housing options, without increased supply of housing options, without more diverse housing options and without some kind of rent control, our working-class families, elders and young people will be priced out of this city. This lack of housing in mixed-use developments is leaving us behind and hurting our economy. The way cities think about city planning can have an immense impact on the health of the city’s growth and economy, and to this point, we have been largely behind the curve when it comes to city planning in a way that will allow us to grow and prosper.
3) Budget/spending choices. There are two parts to this equation – expenditure choices and revenue-generating strategies. Let’s start with expenditure choices.
Since 2008, we have trimmed the city staff by 18% (from 599 employed staff in 2018 to 492 employed staff in 2019) and frozen salaries for all union employees in order to balance the budget and prepare for impending CalPERS obligations. A recent change in the discount rate and payment methodology for the CalPERS Pension Fund will result in a 33.1% increase in PERS costs to the City's General Fund from 2019-20 to 2023-24, equating to an increase in expenditures of over $5.2 million, so the financial prudence is understandable. However, or current city staff have felt the brunt of that, as they’re expected to do more and more every year with fewer resources for less pay. This is not sustainable. One department remains relatively untouched, however: the police department. Since 2010, the planning department has seen a 44% cut in staff and community services a 21% cut, but sworn police officers are at the exact same level in 2019 as they were in 2010. In 2019, we spent 48% of our General Fund budget on police – 2nd highest in Ventura County - yet we are middle of the pack when it comes to most crime statistics. For comparison, Moorpark spends 41% of its budget on police and gets a great bang for its buck, with some of the lowest crime statistics in the county almost across the board. Thousand Oaks spends 38% of its budget on police and outperforms Simi Valley in almost every crime metric, from assaults, to rapes, to robberies and burglaries. I would like to see us set a target of 40% general fund spending on police which will bring us in line with surrounding cities that have even better crime statistics and will allow us to allocate some of those funds to other underfunded departments.
The second part of this equation is revenue-generating strategies. To boost revenues, the city has relied nearly entirely on an increase in fees (e.g. user fees and developer fees), which is a mere stopgap, not a long-term solution. I think we can generate enough revenue to save jobs and give well-deserved raises to city staff if we implement a combination of mixed-use planning (i.e. three-dimensional, pedestrian-oriented places that layer compatible land uses, public amenities, and utilities together at various scales and intensities) and the legalization and taxation of the sale of recreational cannabis.
11. Do you plan to run for higher office in the future?
12. Please list candidates you have endorsed publicly, if any.
Annie Cho for the AD38 special election in March 2020
13. Please list candidates and organizations that have endorsed you, if any.
Simi Valley Leaders and Elected Officials
John Casselberry, Vice Chair, Simi Valley Planning Commission
Mary Platt, Budget Advisory Committee Member, City of Simi Valley
Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, Local 805
International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 12
Local Elected Officials
Bernardo Perez, Ventura County Community College District Chair & Trustee, District 4
Carmen Ramirez, Mayor Pro Tem., City of Oxnard
Susan Santangelo, Vice Mayor, City of Camarillo
Murtaza Mogri, Vice Chair, Agoura Hills Planning Commission*
* Title used for identification purposes only