Santa Paula Times

Fred Robinson: City native returns to Santa Paula and is thrust into city politics

November 03, 2006
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesA city native who returned to Santa Paula three years ago was thrust into local politics by the proposed Fagan Canyon development, activism that led Fred Robinson to run for the City Council.Robinson, the longtime executive director of ARC Ventura County, which serves the developmentally disabled, said he sees Council duty as a “form of public service... but one thing that deeply troubles me is the division in the city.” Noting that recent letter to the Editor from an incumbent’s saddened spouse “touched my heart,” Robinson said “...I will not speak ill of any candidate, at no time would I ever say anything about the character” of present Council members or candidates.Commitment is key, he noted. “There’s probably not a harder worker than (Councilwoman) Mary Ann Krause... but, I’d like to see the city come to some sort of consensus and move on” into bettering the community’s future. And that requires new leadership on the Council, which has “repeatedly made decisions not in keeping with the will of the people, thrust us into costly litigation, and wasted valuable city resources. The rancor must end,” said Robinson.Robinson so opposed the proposed Fagan Canyon development of 2,147 homes that he started to appear before the Council to object to the plan. He’s not sure if the appearance of more citizens who opposed the development would have resulted in a different plan.“A number of us felt overwhelmed by the proponents; it was more than a little uncomfortable at the hearing to walk in and see the overwhelming support for it. No one likes to stand up” and oppose the Council. Robinson said the attendance at most Council meetings shows that “most people don’t bother to engage themselves.”He sees a bright future for Santa Paula. “With leadership and vision, we can assure that our beautiful city remains a safe, clean and comfortable place to live.”His experience will serve that future well. “I bring leadership and business expertise as a CEO of a $14 million company, serving 800 people with developmental disabilities,” and 300 employees. “I value ethical and professional dialogue, and will work together to bring our city together to achieve common goals.”His top priority “will always be public safety,” and means must be developed to offer a competitive salary. “We need smart growth, improved housing opportunities and economic growth,” the latter preferably through new high-tech, “environmentally friendly” firms. “We also have an opportunity to build on our historically-rich arts and cultural heritage,” noted Robinson.He believes that a “much stronger” economic development effort is needed, and that doing business with City Hall is “cumbersome, and fees discourage new business. Too much policy is directed by staff... the Council should establish priorities and managers should be held responsible for implementing them.”Robinson said that the reopening of Santa Paula Hospital was the biggest accomplishment of the present Council, but his main concern for the future is that “We need to develop a shared vision of acceptable growth and move forward.”He said that public safety compensation, housing and business development, revitalizing Downtown and the wastewater treatment plant are the top five issues faced by the city.
Of the latter, Robinson noted that “First, I would want to clarify our options. I’ve heard that the plant is old and obsolete, but I also heard that it was upgraded and modernized in the 80s. Clearly, we must meet health and safety standards... if improvements are necessary, or if a new plant must be built, I would want to vigorously pursue federal and state funds to assist. It’s a serious problem, but I am not a 100 percent convinced that the existing plant is obsolete.”Area residents have been looking into the issue and are “hoping to find a way to add a third process to meet state standards... if we have to build,” any cost would easily double with a bond. “I don’t think our rates are outrageous, but we can’t keep raising them, especially” because of the impact on the city’s low-income residents.Robinson believes that Adams Canyon presents the opportunity for “real upscale development,” including a spa and resort that would bring revenues to city coffers... “even maybe perhaps looking at more units (about 500 custom home sites) than people are proposing,” as the location would allow access “without overwhelming our little streets.”Robinson said he had initial concerns related to the agriculture at East Area 1, also proposed for development, that have been overcome. “Limoneira has always been good stewards of the city,” and would bring improvements to the gateway and entrances east of the city.“Some development in Fagan Canyon would be a fine start,” with the 450 units adopted in the city’s 1998 General Plan update. “The problem with Fagan was that, despite the best efforts to mitigate the traffic,” for existing city residents it would have been excessive.Robinson said he approves of Redevelopment Agency Housing programs and is “generally supportive” of Measure K6, which would allow the creation of 150 units of affordable housing through purchase or construction, but “I would have to study the issue more.”Robinson said that he is “not inclined to be okay” with the proposed dumping of sludge in Toland Road Landfill, and is definitely against a proposed - the application was later withdrawn but is expected to be resubmitted - asphalt plant.“Santa Paula has the reputation of being the dirty little dumping ground,” with not enough of those living outside the city aware of its great charm. “I would like to see it marketed as the beautiful, charming and historical town that Santa Paula is, and I don’t believe such projects add to the characterization of the city we want to create.”Married for 38 years, with two sons and grandchildren, Robinson - who has a BA in history and English and Master’s in social work from San Diego State University - served as president of the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill, Ventura County Leadership Academy and the Ventura Kiwanis Club. Honored as the 2003 Ventura Citizen of the Year, Robinson said he also volunteers and supports numerous community nonprofit organizations.Radio and newspapers are his primary sources for news. His favorite film is “Casablanca,” and Robinson said his favorite book is “1776” by David McCullough.