As 2008 draws to a close, we look back with gratitude and look forward with determination and commitment to accomplishing what matters most to our residents.

We are blessed to live in the beautiful city of San Buenaventura, between two rivers, the Pacific Ocean and the foothills. Over the past 12 months, we celebrated progress and confronted challenges as a community. Before its winter recess, the City Council made the tough but clear decision to repeal the 911 fee that has made headlines and caused headaches since May. Although intended to bring much-needed revenue to our police and fire services, the fee was unpopular with residents, who wanted a decision-making role in raising new revenues for the community. We heard their concerns and agreed unanimously to repeal the fee and look elsewhere for funding Ventura’s priorities in this tough economy. We welcome your ideas at  

Community activism was in full force in 2008, on behalf of our environment and our views, and against big-box retailers. Ventura Citizens for Responsible Development placed a measure designed to limit building heights on the November 2009 ballot, and the Citizen View Protection Task Force has been formed in support of the goal of preserving Ventura’s valuable viewsheds while maintaining a moderate, healthy growth rate. Joining VCORD on the November ballot will be residents organized against the possibility of a Wal-Mart Supercenter, or other grocery-selling big-box stores, within the city of Ventura. The community will continue its lively debate leading to the vote in the fall.

Cultural richness remains a trademark for our community, including the February ground-breaking of the Working Artists Ventura (WAV) live-work housing downtown, as well as the unveiling of M.B. Hanrahan and Moses Mora’s Tortilla Flats mural at the Figueroa underpass this past April. Project Encore reinvigorated the historic Elks Lodge with physical upgrades and a lively array of musical and theatrical productions. The Rubicon Theater Company brought us another outstanding, award-winning season.

Tourists continued to visit Ventura and support our locally owned businesses, exploring our downtown cultural district during weekend ArtWalks, the Ventura Music Festival, Ultimate Boarder and other special events, as well as enjoying the Harbor Village and beach activities. We welcome their vital role in the success of our boutiques and restaurants and cultural venues.

Kevin Costner brought excitement this summer when he premiered his latest film, Swing Vote, and performed a free, open-air concert at California and Main streets. His visit coincided with the grand opening of the much-anticipated Watermark restaurant, which attracts locals and out-of-towners with its rooftop views and exquisite renovation of a historic landmark. Ventura is a city filled with entrepreneurs who are creative partners with the city government in shaping our future. We are fortunate to share their success by enjoying all their businesses have to offer.

A multimillion-dollar sewer, water and street-paving project was completed downtown, providing much-needed improvements in the oldest part of town and adding to the growing revitalization of this historic district. The Downtown Ventura Organization and Chamber of Commerce played key roles in keeping our local economy healthy by assisting small businesses and adding aesthetic improvements to our downtown shopping district.

The City partnered with Pierpont beach residents to grant coastal permits for the removal of sand that has been building up and threatening property for years. Several beach and downtown cleanup days involving hundreds of citizens and city staff, as well as 500 California Lutheran University freshmen, descending upon the Ventura River bottom to clear five tons of trash, made it clear that cleanliness is a shared priority.

Multi-use sports fields are a welcome new addition to our popular Community Park/Aquatic Center. Please join us for the Grand Opening celebration on January 17 from 10 a.m. to noon.
Looking ahead, we are tasked with reducing the City’s budget by $8 million over the next two years while the federal and state economies falter. City revenues continue to decrease. But we are committed to success and sustainability at the local level. We will be making hard choices as we examine existing City services, aiming to increase efficiencies and preserve essentials while taking necessary steps to protect and enhance our revenue sources and keep them local.

2009 will bring new opportunities and challenges, and we look forward to meeting them creatively as we serve this community together.