2008-05-30 / Front Page

Race for supervisor's seat a 2-woman contest

By Michelle Knight knight@theacorn.com

Socorro Lopez Hanson
Citing the need for diversity in county leadership and a listening ear for all voices in the 3rd District, Socorro Lopez Hanson is running for the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

Hoping to unseat incumbent Kathy Long in the June 3 primary, Democrat Lopez Hanson, 60, said the biggest problem facing Ventura County is a shrinking budget.

With state funds likely to decrease next year and the county receiving less money from property taxes, supervisors have to ensure county money is spent responsibly, Lopez Hanson said.

She pointed to a county contractor under investigation for illegal dumping and criticized Long for taking a position she said seems to defend the contractor.

"You want to look at what's being done with tax dollars," Lopez Hanson said of the 12-year veteran supervisor.

Lopez Hanson, a Camarillo resident and executive director of a local nonprofit, was elected to the Oxnard Union High School District board in 2002. The campaign for supervisor is her first shot at county politics.

Her biggest accomplishment, she said, has been helping to establish the International Baccalaureate Program at Rio Mesa High School. The "prestigious" and "rigorous" course, which began this year, brings to western Ventura County course work that prepares students to be citizens of the world, she said.

Newbury Park High is the only other Ventura County school offering the program.

A longtime board member on the National Women's Political Caucus, Lopez Hanson said she would bring diversity to the Board of Supervisors and serve as a role model, particularly to women and minorities. Latinos have gained some political seats in the county but seem to have reached a plateau, she said.

"I want equal representation, and I didn't see anyone doing it," Lopez Hanson said. "It's important to be involved."

She admits Long may have the "power of incumbency" but said she has an abundance of grassroots support and volunteers willing to walk the district and post her signs.

"I think it's an uphill battle; I think she's a political machine," Lopez Hanson said of Long. "But I have a lot of community support. People want change."

Long, who was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1996, has become entrenched in her position as county supervisor and out of touch with the people she serves, Lopez Hanson said. Long listens to a "core group" of advisers instead of all constituents in the 3rd District, especially those living in the fringe communities of Port Hueneme and South Oxnard, she said.

"I know I can do a better job," Lopez Hanson said.

She said limiting county supervisors to 12 years or three terms was "a good move" by the supervisors. It's enough time on the board for a supervisor to establish relationships, reach goals and show constituents what they can accomplish, Lopez Hanson said.

Regarding homelessness, Lopez Hanson said she's seen more homeless women with children come to her nonprofit agency for assistance over the last two years.

It's the county's duty to ensure the public's welfare, and that means having enough affordable housing in Ventura County for its workers, she said.

"We need to do more in that area," Lopez Hanson said.

As a supervisor, she said she would aggressively promote carpooling, which could help alleviate two mounting problems- rush-hour traffic and the rising cost of gasoline.

"It's going to be almost a necessity, because as the price of fuel increases, you're going to have to do something," Lopez Hanson said.

In addition, supervisors can't take a myopic approach to resolving county issues, she said.

Freeway gridlock, for example, calls for long-term county plans that include citizen input and partnerships with cities and other agencies in improving mass transit services.

"We have to make it a priority," Lopez Hanson said.

Employment is another area where long-term planning can pay off, she said.

The county could form a partnership with California State University Channel Islands, businesses and the city of Camarillo to identify the type of workers needed here in the future and then create the appropriate course work at CSUCI for residents to fill those jobs, she said. The venture could also strengthen ties between the board and the county's only public university.

As for the push to take some 3,000 Camarillo and Somis students out of the Oxnard Union High School District and create a K-12 school district in Camarillo, Lopez Hanson said she's not opposed to the concept but to the lack of a plan.

So far, no one has prepared an academic program for the high school students, Lopez Hanson said.

"They haven't planned for the future," she said of unification proponents.

Last week, the Pleasant Valley School District hired a consultant to help it prepare for the influx of high school students should voters approve a Camarillo unified school district in November.

Lopez Hanson and her husband, Richard Hanson, have two adult daughters and one grandchild. The Hansons have been married for 37 years.

"See, I make promises and I keep them," Lopez Hanson said.

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