Ventura’s city hall might be only a few short blocks from Mission Park, but apparently the Ninth Annual Ventura County Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Diversity and Pride Festival Saturday, Aug. 25 was far from many local officials’ minds.
Unlike its neighbors in Oxnard and Pt. Hueneme, Ventura failed as a government to recognize the event, which was organized by the Ventura County Rainbow Alliance.
“My biggest concern was not with the County of Ventura, but with the City of Ventura, that they’re not more involved with what we do,” said Jay Smith, the executive director of the Ventura County Rainbow Alliance. “We would have liked a proclamation from the mayor of Ventura, the way [Oxnard] Mayor [Tom] Holden did for us and has done consistently year after year.
According to Smith, his organization received letters of support from officials from many local cities, but that he didn’t have ill feelings towards those who didn’t attend.
“When their comfort level is there, we’ll accept that,” he said.
Clearly, comfort levels differ. In June, Ventura’s city council readily issued a proclamation declaring the city an International Book City despite a distinct dearth of book stores. So how difficult would it have been to recognize the integral role of the LGBT community — which arguably makes greater contributions to Ventura’s economy and civic life?
Mayor Carl Morehouse — who also is up for reelection — emailed the Reporter to report that he missed the event because he has been out of the country since Aug. 18.
Still, people like Oxnard’s Holden and Pt. Hueneme Mayor Maricela Morales, who also appeared, are making an effort even when there isn’t an election at stake. Even the Oxnard Police Department understood the event’s importance when it accepted the invitation to host a booth at the festival.
Their companions from Ventura? Not so comfortable. Smith said his organization offered a free booth to the Ventura Police Department but never received a response from them.
“Ventura couldn’t get it together,” he said.
What’s more, this year’s crop of candidates for the city council offered a mixed bag when asked to confirm reports that no candidate or sitting city councilor attended the event.
Jerry Martin, a challenger, said he did attend for a short time. Christy Weir, an incumbent running for reelection, planned to stop in, but a nasty flu kept her from an appearance.
Bill Fulton, another incumbent seeking another term said he had hoped to go but was stuck at a commitment in Los Angeles connected to his day job as president of Solimar Research Group.
Another candidate, Doug Halter, said he had a long-standing annual family reunion planned in Pismo Beach and he sent a representative instead. He did say that he planned to meet with Smith Aug. 29 for many reasons, among them “most importantly, to state my support and appreciation for diversity in our community and to encourage support and participation.”
City council members Ed Summers, Neal Andrews, Brian Brennan and Jim Monahan (whose seats are safe), and challenger Lou Cunningham, did not respond to emails asking why they could not make it to the event. Challengers Brian Lee Rencher and Mike Gibson could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile candidate Carroll Dean Williams, who is also running for a seat on the Ventura Unified School District board, said he was not invited and wanted to know why he was not invited.
We don’t know why he was not invited. But in this day and age, events like the Pride Festival are well-publicized, and candidates who believe they can truly represent the city of Ventura, or any city, should make an effort to find out what is going on in the community they hope to serve.
Ignorance is not an excuse that will get anybody elected, and it certainly is not an excuse for those already serving the city, such as the Ventura Police Department, which needs to make a better effort to protect and serve the entire community.