Meet the candidates

Meet the candidates

Editor’s note: Our election coverage of the Ventura City Council candidates continues this week with incumbent Ed Summers and challengers Brian Lee Rencher and Mike Tracy. The candidates were asked a total of 11 questions. 

1Ed Summers

BIO: I am a Ventura City Councilman and an active community volunteer. I have worked in senior positions in the banking industry for the past 26 years. A Ventura resident for the past 19 years, I came to the area from Claremont, Calif., where I grew up in a working class family and went on to earn a degree in business and finance from the University of Southern California and an MBA from Drucker Center at Claremont Graduate School. I went on to serve as a city commissioner with responsibilities for traffic circulation, land use and planning and the police department. During my time in Claremont, I was also a member of the board of directors for the Claremont Chamber of Commerce.

Since moving to Ventura, I have devoted much of my time to public service including being vice-chair and director of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County and director of the Boys & Girls Club of Ventura and Casa Pacifica. I have been a council liaison to the Ventura Unified School District and am the past board chair and director of the Ventura County Economic Development Association (VCEDA). I am the past chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission of the City of San Buenaventura, the past president of Ventura Chamber Music Festival Association and am an honorary board member of Ventura Education Partnership.

What has been your greatest achievement on the Council?
Sponsoring two economic/small business summits in the spring that brought more than 150 stakeholders each to City Hall to address resources and solutions to the current economic challenges. Working in public/private partnerships to generate economic activity, improve service to small business and bring more efficiency and clarity to the development process.

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
We have maintained a balanced budget, reducing city expenses by more than $17 million in the past two years. This was accomplished through working with community members to prioritize city services. We worked to retain the highest-priority services and, through planning, were able to accomplish these reductions with minimal impact to staff. This year, with more than an $11 million reduction, we will only have one layoff.

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?
I supported the Inclusionary ordinance. In addition, I sponsored a policy consideration that was approved by council to direct staff to look to using city resources to help generate additional funding for low- and very low-income housing, work with the city’s housing authority to seek addition housing units and provide greater flexibility and options to land owners for including affordable housing in projects.

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
The general plan identifies infill as the direction for growth in our city. I have worked to create strong community boundaries and implement a strategy that meets our future needs. We need to concentrate on greater access to transportation and lead the way for compliance with SB 375, utilize available land more efficiently to help with affordability, and strengthen our community planning in the areas of open space and creation and utilization of recreation space.

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
As a member of the Ventura Educational Partnership, I have worked for several years in creating a partnership between the school district and the city to create programs that assist the school district in motivating and encouraging the development of our future leaders. Our cultural programs help expose students to the arts. It has been proven nationally that students who participate in arts and cultural programs perform better in other academic subjects and score higher on college admissions tests. I have worked to promote after school programs as a member of the Ventura Boys and Girls Club board of directors and have worked with City Corps and PAL to reach and motivate at-risk youth to stay in school and improve academic performance.

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process, and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
I sponsored a policy consideration that was approved by council and also moved recommendations from the Economic Summit into council policy and direction. Specifically, we need clarity in the process through completing citywide coding, a historical resources survey to identify resources, inclusion of the public hearing meetings earlier in the application process and a firm timeline and tracking of projects within the application and entitlement process.

How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
Very important. Building a sustainable community is important to the longer-term viability of Ventura, protects the character of the community, ensures available resources and supports the community economically. Not only economically in the generation and use of resources, but in reducing costs related to storm water, waste water and recycling and waste management. I worked with Councilmember Brennan in the development and adoption of the green streets initiative to require use of permeable surfaces for water retention and greater use of vegetation to help climate enjoyment.

Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
Maintaining our city’s character while meeting the diverse needs of our community members. We can achieve slow thoughtful growth, protect open and recreational space, comply with SB 375, provide affordable housing and avoid sprawl. It takes careful planning and continual communication.

Questions about local initiatives:

What is your position on the sales tax initiative, and why?
I support Measure A. Opponents ask “why can’t the city live within its means?” We do! We have and have maintained a balanced budget. The issue is that we do not have resources to support all the needs that our citizens view as important, and there is a broad base of different opinions on which program or services are the most important beyond public safety and water/waste water services. It is important for the voters to decide what kind of a community we want to have. I helped develop and support the council spending priorities for the increased revenues. Basically, we need stable revenues with local control to be the community a majority of our citizens want us to be.

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
I am opposed to Measure B. I am confident that the priority of this issue was established in the General Plan and that the City Council recognizes and supports the concept. The momentum for the initiative started with a conceptual design presented at the 2004/5 Midtown Charrette. It was a theory and never adopted by the city. The city’s understanding of the importance of view protection was continued through actual design of projects in 2005 and 2006 and a clear acceptance of three mistakes prior to 2005.

Further evidence is the Midtown Corridor codes that included setback for views and solar access, height limitations in designated areas to two stories, and overall limitations. In 2007, I cosponsored the policy consideration to create the Public View Protection Task Force to review what had already been established and recommend further actions in relation to the implementation of the Generation Plan. The Task Force has brought additional recommendations back to council, and staff has been directed to include the recommendation in the development of codes.

I have reviewed the city attorney’s opinion of the legal issues and agree with his findings. It is the job of leaders to take the concerns and priorities of our community and mold policy. Balance the desires of those who do not want to build anything anywhere, the build-anything-anywhere opinions and the majority who want thoughtful and controlled growth. Density is the offset to avoiding sprawl; it is further enforced through compliance with SB 375 and accessibility to transportation, and the need to comply with state-mandated housing requirements through the housing element. I know we can achieve to meet the primary needs of our majority, it just takes balance and consideration of overlapping concerns.

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
I am undecided on Measure C. My conviction is that we cannot use land use ordinances to create social policy; it is the biggest concern I have. Anti-discrimination applies universally in relation to land use. I do not like Walmart, do not shop there and have serious concerns over the labor practices and impact to social services that have been identified. I do see more appropriate avenues to resolve these problems. I would gladly join community members in taking labor concerns to the state, where laws and policies related to employment are created and enforced. I will help to work with the county where the delivery of social services is centered to help prevent abuse.

I need to understand the measure more in relation to the fact it would not stop a Walmart under 90,000 square feet, but will make existing Targets legal nonconforming.

I support the concept that land use is the vehicle (no pun intended) that is used to control congestion and neighborhood character. It was not appropriate to have a superstore or any big-box on Victoria. We have been working to create economic activity in out areas, such as extending Olivas Park Drive. I need to work through this in relation to the Target question and have a better understanding of why retailers with non-grocery sales are excluded.

I am staying undecided because, while I have the concerns as outlined above, this is such an important issue to so many people I respect and consider friends, I want to remain open to discussion and debate.

2Brian Lee Rencher

BIO: I moved to Ventura in 1982 from Camarillo where I attended high school. I sold unregistered securities for eight years and ended that career as a senior account executive prior to going to college. I wanted to start a career selling registered securities, so I started college in 1989 to earn a B.S., in marketing.

As a freshman in college in 1991, I entered politics with a run for Ventura City Council. I found that I could do a lot of good for the community by being involved at City Hall, and decided to continue my public service beyond my candidacy. It turned out that every time I ran for council, I could get something major accomplished for the community.

In 1993, I was able to get our city trees trimmed after years of neglect and began replanting our urban forest. In 1995, I brought school overcrowding to the forefront of public debate and now that problem is solved. In 1997, I took on residential street paving and much of that work is now accomplished. I took on city park deficiencies in 1999, and was able to get two neighborhood parks built with developer money. Because our water and sewer lines needed repairs and maintenance so badly, in 2001 I made that issue one of importance, and much improvement has come of that effort. And, in my last two candidacies, I’ve brought public safety to the forefront of public debate, albeit with limited results to date. Now I am tackling fiscal responsibility and governmental accountability at Ventura City Hall. We’ll see how that works out.

What is your primary reason for running for City Council?
There are many aspects of the city’s operations and capital improvement program’s needs that are constantly overlooked by the Ventura City Council, the city manager, special interest groups and the general public. Therefore, many of these public necessities that are critical to maintaining a safe and vibrant city are severely underfunded. We seem to take these aspects of local government for granted and just assume that everything is all right and put them out of our minds.

I do pay constant attention to these important city functions, which include: developing, repairing and maintaining our water and sewer systems; repairing and maintaining our streets and sidewalks; developing new parks and building a pool on the west side; keeping our public areas clean and well-maintained; building new fire stations and properly equipping and staffing them; ensuring schools are built concurrently with housing to avoid classroom overcrowding; maintaining sufficient police patrols to keep crime levels low; maintaining our libraries, etc.

I have been diligent in ensuring that these important governmental functions are monitored and, if needed, properly addressed and funded to the best of my abilities for 18 years. I am not always successful, but I do try my best as my constituents’ representative on their behalf. The days of electing the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker are long behind us. The complexities of modern government require professionals to do a first-rate job. My years of experience, when combined with my intelligence and education make me ideally suited for this very important job.

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
My first priority would be to consolidate management so as to eliminate a number of redundant top positions. Those that remain (including the city manager and city attorney), if their current contracts allow for it, would take big pay cuts — they are all overpaid — and, eventually, all would be paid much less. The idea that we must pay these huge amounts of compensation to attract top talent is hogwash!

Developers would have to pay full price for the city services they receive. Currently, according to council policy, they pay at most 76 percent of the actual cost of the services they “buy” and, in many cases, even less.

We pay our police officers and firefighters way too much in overtime. With the police department, per capita overtime equates to more than 50 percent above regular hourly pay. In other words, for every two hours of overtime eliminated, we can increase our net total patrol hours by one. Eliminating 80 hours of overtime nets us one additional officer on patrol for a full week. Additionally, increased levels of police service can be achieved initially by taking advantage of the city’s geographic information system (GIS) to better deploy resources to crime “hot spots.”

Some work methodologies can be improved, and capital investment in better equipment and/or modern technology can improve productivity per worker. Some processes are cumbersome and/or excessive and are, therefore, inefficient and/or ineffective. Making improvements will also lower costs and increase efficiency.

These ideas cut costs while actually increasing service levels.

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?
In past years I, and others, used the former residential growth management program (RGMP) housing unit allocation process hearings to get more condominiums and apartments built in the city — as oppose to all single-family detached units being allocated. But with the new housing allocation program (HAP) process, which is developer/staff driven, the public has little influence anymore on what is allocated to whom. Goodbye to open and transparent (not to mention accountable) city government. This is what happens when we elect City Council officials who are wholly in the pocket of the developers that fund their election campaigns and, when elected, go on to treat the public’s concerns with contempt at hearings and elsewhere in the process.

If we could somehow keep the developers from buying our city elections, we citizens could actually develop the housing our community really needs. Assuming that this pie-in-the-sky dream came true, our best approach would be to inventory our current housing stock by category (i.e., type, price, location, etc.) and then begin to allocate based upon the communities’ real needs — not by developer profit margins.

Our real needs would not be based upon our current economic demographics, but upon our projected future demographics. These demographics would be based upon a real economic analysis of where we want our communities’ wealth to be derived from and not — as is currently done at City Hall — as a political fig leaf to cover up short-sighted, short-term, dirty little back room land deals.

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
First and foremost, we must respect, protect and, possibly, extend by renewing our city and county SOAR and CURB laws. Secondly, all agricultural buffers must be absorbed by the developers on their land and not on the farmers’.

Third, the reuse of existing urbanized land and in-fill development must be actively pursued.

However, in-fill developments must consider and be sensitive to existing adjacent uses. Solar access and public views must be protected as well as neighborhood context and compatibility. Just because something could be built does not necessarily mean that it should be built.

Also, farmers create dust and unpleasant smells from time to time, and this aspect must be tolerated. However, herbicides and pesticides can be dangerous and, therefore, closely monitored and, in some cases, banned from areas close to people.

And lastly, land use speculation must be removed to keep farming operations affordable and profitable since the cost of land and associated taxes can bankrupt farming operations.

I should also be noted that globalization of agriculture is a real threat to local farming in that this lowers prices and puts profitability at risk and introduces nonnative pests that can devastate crops.

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
This question is not relevant to Ventura’s City Council elections as the subject matter is outside that governmental agency’s jurisdictional authority.

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process, and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
It is true that the city’s development process is antiquated and labyrinthian in nature. However, to me, “streamlining” does not mean cutting the public out of the public process. If we can create a clear and concise series of events with reasonable oversight, outcomes and timelines, I am all for it. So far, this has not been the case — actually far from it! To begin to answer the question, I offer the following principles:

Develop a clear series of events, guidelines that lead to clear transparent decisions at each stage of the process;

Provide early public notice at the beginning of each event so that all interested parties may fully participate in the process;

Limit the number of events to expedite the process without compromising participation of all interested parties and without sacrificing the quality of projects nor the community’s quality of life;
City cost recovery must be 100 percent, but work done by public employees must be monitored and adjusted to be efficient, effective and affordable;
All interested parties must have equal access to all available information and to city staff;
All laws must be followed — not only in letter, but also in spirit (no back-room deals);
City staff must communicate clearly what is to be done when, by whom, and what is expected of all participating parties or individuals;
City staff must clearly understand what is expected of them;
Any appeal process must be affordable and fair.

How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
In the long-run, going “green” will be absolutely essential to community activity remaining sustainable — both economically and environmentally.

Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
City finances are a mess. Oversight is lacking and the “investment” of city funds is being done unprofessionally. No one in the city’s treasury department or on the city manager’s investment team (which includes him) possesses a SEC-approved securities license; nor have any of them worked in the banking industry, except Ed Summers, and look what happened to his bank. Yet they are all “in control” of “investing” our $159 million portfolio. Additionally, not one councilmember or senior staff person is a trained and certified economist! What real qualifications do these people have to handle this huge amount of public money? None, really. Is this smart? You know what is said about a fool and his/her money. Unfortunately, these fools are in control of our money. But then again, the voters keep re-electing the incumbents. Figure it out for yourself!

If you don’t believe that the incumbents are making us poorer and poorer every year, then let’s examine some of the facts to straighten you out. In 1995, the city’s portfolio was worth $158,134,547; in 2009, it is now worth $159,680,467. In 1995, the city’s population was 97,393; in 2009 it is 108,787. Therefore, the per capita value of the City’s investment portfolio was $1,623.68 per person in 1995 and is now $1,467.83. But that is not the worst of it.

When we adjust for inflation, today’s per capita purchasing power drops to $1,161.19 when valued in 1995 dollars – a 28.5 percent drop in value! We’re going broke fast under the incumbents.

Questions regarding local initiatives:

What is your position on the sales tax initiative, and why?
If you do believe in fiscal responsibility and governmental accountability, you should vote every incumbent out of office and then vote yes on Measure A. If you don’t believe in fiscal responsibility and governmental accountability, then you should vote every incumbent back into office and vote yes on Measure A.

If we used every dollar the city now receives in the most fiscally prudent, conservative and intelligent way, we still would not have enough money to adequately take full care of all of the city’s functions. This is because the voters keep electing or re-electing people that are not qualified for office and are too busy giving our money away to their campaign contributors to care. These people are incompetent, and many are corrupt.

As evidence, I offer the following: In 1995, the city’s investment portfolio was worth $158,134,547; in 2009, it is now has a market value of $159,680,467. This represents a total increase in value of just less than one percent.

However, if we adjust this figure to account for inflation using the purchasing power of 1995 dollars, the city’s investment portfolio would be worth $126,339,186 — a decline of 20.9 percent. When we evaluate this statistic on a population per capita value, it’s value has declined by a whopping 28.5 percent!

The bottom line is that if you, the voter, want to know the truth, don’t listen to what they say — watch how they vote. And, if you really want to know the truth, just follow the money!

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
I support Measure B. When the Midtown Community Council hosted their Midtown By Design charette, the community reached consensus to a number of principles that would be applied to all development in their area of the city. The following are the principles set by these citizens in regards to how they wanted Midtown to be developed: walkable; green; charming; sustainable; historic; community-oriented and eclectic; safe; diverse; usable; bikeable; and neighborly, colorful and quiet. Also, they wanted to retain a sense of justice that: respects privacy; remains healthy and energetic; retains its cultural heritage, personality, and continues to enjoy its small town feel while remaining a comfortable place to live, work and play.

Then came City Hall with its developer-driven “charade.” The city sequestered the developer-employed architects in one room with tables and professional equipment to work on their plan, and gave the public an “easel” of paper taped to a wall in the hallway to “express themselves.” I noted that these “expressions” were not included in the final plans drawn up by the developers and their stooges at City Hall. Then, the city’s town architect, Dave Sargeant, “reviewed” these plans and declared them “wholesome” for the community. Subsequently, these plans were railroaded through the community development process at City Hall and were officially anointed as law by the City Council.

The developer-driven plans are insensitive to the community’s needs and are clearly derived to maximize corporate profits at the expense of the community’s quality of life.

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
I support Measure C, mainly to protect the grocery union workers from the predatory actions practiced by Walmart’s union-busting superstore grocery sales tactics.

Limiting retailers to 90,000 square feet when their offerings consist of more than 3 percent non-taxable goods does not significantly impair most retailers’ store construction and operations. It does not prevent Fry’s, IKEA, Best Buy and other retailers from opening stores in appropriate locations in Ventura.

We need these types of stores for several reasons. They capture sales taxes within our city that are currently being captured in other jurisdictions. They lower pollution and overall traffic congestion by shortening car trips to the store.

They give us a better selection of goods and services locally, which raises our quality of life. They provide entry jobs to the younger members of our work force as well as management positions.

However, let’s get back to Walmart’s business practices — I don’t like them at all. Their history of destroying communities, unions, suppliers and anyone else who does not serve their corporate interest are too numerous to put into this writing. When I was in college earning my bachelor degrees, I did multiple studies of this corporation and wrote my master’s thesis on Walmart’s goals and practices. I’m very knowledgeable about this entity due to my in-depth studies, and I do not support their goals and methods. It does not break my heart to impair their efforts, and it should warm your heart to vote yes on Measure C.

 

3Mike Tracy

BIO: Best known as Chief Tracy, Ventura Police Department

Favorite quote: “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”

I grew up on Ventura Avenue, the son of Clint and Mavis Tracy, a painting contractor and homemaker. I attended E.P. Foster, Avenue, De Anza and Ventura High schools.

Upon receiving an A.A. degree in liberal arts from Ventura College, and a B.A. degree in sociology from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, I joined the United States Army and served as a medical X-ray technician.

I worked for the Ventura County Probation Department, and later as a social worker in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program of Ventura County. In 1975, I joined the Ventura Police Department. My wife, Linda, a retired teacher of

the Ventura Unified School District, and I met as students at Ventura High School, and have been married almost 40 years.

I was promoted to chief in 1999 and served in that position for six years. As our police chief, I emphasized community policing, and personal involvement in Ventura. I have served on the boards of the Boys and Girls Club of Ventura, Caregivers, the Police Activities League and the Salvation Army. Linda and I have been Founder’s Circle members of the Ventura Music Festival for the last five years.

Our son Matthew is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and is currently serving as a major in the strategic air command in Omaha, Neb. Linda and I enjoy spending time with our son and daughter-in-law and our three grandchildren. I am the primary caregiver for my mother, a Ventura resident since 1946, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

I am running for the City Council because I am grounded here, and want to make Ventura better.

What is your primary reason for running for City Council?
My sole reason for running for the City Council is that I live in Ventura and want to make it better. We need to be on a sustainable economic path, and I believe that I have the experience, leadership and common sense to make that happen.

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
We need a new business plan for Ventura that recognizes the importance of economic development. We need to adopt policies for our city that improve the economic well-being and quality of life. The desired result is to create and retain jobs and provide an adequate and stable tax base. This can include cultural activities, tourism and general business growth and development.

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?
We need a comprehensive housing program that recognizes the need for housing at all economic levels, from entry level “affordable” to executive. We have in-fill opportunities throughout our community. We need to work collaboratively with the development community and federal and state government agencies to make this happen.

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
We should focus on in-fill construction and reclamation of our brown fields while we ensure that our agricultural industry remains viable.

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
While this is primarily in the purview of the Ventura Unified School District, the city can contribute to this effort by doing everything possible to keep our schools safe through the efforts of our school resource officers, and by continuing to contribute and participate in after-school and summer programs designed to help youth at risk.

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process, and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
Right or wrong, the city has a reputation of being unfriendly to business and development. As a lifelong resident of Ventura, I want to maintain our quality of life, and I am not supportive of excessive development. However, we need to redesign our planning process so that property owners clearly know what is permissible, what the process is, and what to expect. Once a project is approved, the city should help facilitate the end result, and the rules shouldn’t change midcourse. Clearly, property owners and developers need to be held accountable as well.

How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
My desire is that Ventura be a leader in promoting “green” initiatives and processes where possible.

Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
The current national economic crisis aside, our most significant problem is that we are not focused on economic development. During the best of times, Ventura lost many opportunities to enhance our tax base and create jobs and opportunities for our citizens. One only needs to drive around and look at the vacant lots, once viable “future” projects, and empty storefronts to realize this fact. And this has not occurred over the last 18 months. It is the result of many years of neglect. Economic development includes a vibrant cultural arts emphasis, a bustling tourist trade and an emphasis on attracting and retaining business and economic opportunities.

Questions regarding local initiatives:

What is your position on the sales tax initiative, and why?
I support this initiative. I believe that we have a critical need for this additional revenue over the next four years, primarily because of the state financial crisis and the trickle-down effect on the city revenues. My commitment is that over the course of my first term I will take the steps necessary with regard to economic development to ensure that this supplementary revenue source will be unnecessary when the tax “sunsets” at the end of 2013.

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
I am opposed to this initiative. The city recently commissioned a task force to evaluate this issue, and there were many creative and innovative ideas that came from that group to address view protection issues, essentially negating the need for the building moratorium proposed under this initiative. The measure is unrealistically restrictive, and if passed the proponents and the city will end up in court to litigate the issues related to compliance with the city charter.

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
I am opposed to this initiative The plan for the Victoria Corridor, recently passed by the council will essentially limit the square footage at the K-Mart site to under 100,000 square feet, which precludes a “superstore” on Victoria.

However, it may be that large retail stores would be appropriate for other locations in more industrial areas of the city.

 

Meet the candidates

Meet the candidates

Editor’s note: Our election coverage of the Ventura City Council candidates continues this week with incumbent Jim Monahan and challengers Phil Mechanick and Maureen O’Hara. The candidates were asked a total of 11 questions.

1Jim Monahan

BIO: I am a Korean War veteran, a native Venturan and a graduate of Ventura High School and Ventura College, and a father of four all raised in Ventura. I am the former president of American Welding, a company founded by my father in 1928. My candidacy is based upon 50 years of community involvement and 32 years of experience in local government. I have worked hard to assure Venturans that your quality of life is protected while providing for employment opportunities.

What has been your greatest achievement on the council?
One of my greatest achievements while serving on the council was planning and building the Veteran’s Home in Saticoy; it has taken 20 years of planning and building to accomplish this. Also, saving the cross, restoration of City Hall, redevelopment of the Ventura County Museum of History and Art to a state-of-the-art building for downtown and working to revitalize downtown. All great and important achievements.

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
To continue to watch our city investments to make sure we have the income to sustain the operations of the city and to be ready to make the necessary adjustments to the budget so we stay within our budget.

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?
I feel the current plan, which requires all development to set aside the required number of units for affordable housing and disperse evenly throughout the city, is sufficient. Also, to speed up the revitalization program, which is available to homeowners who have older homes which the city has programs to assist them in revitalization. I will do my best to make sure there is enough affordable housing to meet our state required housing element.

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
In my 32 years on the council we have never, ever built on the greenbelt, which is the agricultural land surrounding the city. We do have inner city agricultural land that has been set aside for development for 35 years, and it will be gradually developed as our general plan provides.

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
We have nothing to do with that — it’s up to the school board.

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process, and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
I have proposed and am working with the Chamber of Commerce starting a new program called the Ombudsman Program, which will be a program to help developers process their plans more efficiently.

How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
I think there are a lot of “green” projects coming to the council which will benefit the citizens of Ventura. I am a supporter of the “green” building code.

Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
Stimulating the economy to the extent we need to provide more jobs. We need to get people back to work.

Questions regarding initiatives:

What is your position on the sales tax initiative, and why?
Measure A, the sales tax initiative, will provide the city with approximately $8 million per year, we think. Last year, the city was able to cut $11 million out of this year’s budget and $4 million the year before that. We can’t continue to cut that much and provide the services that citizens expect us to provide. As you know, the State of California took another 2.7 million from the city. The sales tax initiative is a four-year plan to bring the sales tax rate in line with Santa Barbara and Oxnard. It will expire in four years, and the State of California cannot touch that money. I support Measure A and I hope you do, too.

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
I supported the view ordinance long before the city decided to draft one of their own. I think there are some areas for taller buildings, but not along Thompson Boulevard because it will bring too much traffic and the density could be much too high. The kind of projects that are being proposed will not have enough parking.

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
I am not opposed to large businesses throughout the city, but I do feel it isn’t fair to group them all into one category. I do not want to regulate the whole city by an ordinance designed for one boulevard. I don’t think Victoria Boulevard is the appropriate area for large business.

2Phil Mechanick

BIO: I have lived in Ventura for nearly 40 years. My parents moved here in 1970 from Teaneck, N.J. My mother, Doris, was a teacher; and my father, Jerry, worked in Port Hueneme. Both are now living in Palm Springs. I have two sisters: Lisa, living in Israel; and Carol, a probation officer in Palm Desert. I attended Pierpont and Sheridan Way elementary schools, Cabrillo Junior High, Ventura High School, and graduated from Ventura College with A.A. degrees in both business and history. Married 18 years to mywife, Rhonda, I am stepfather to Jason Hall, 26 years old, with his first grandchild on the way.
 
As the owner of Ventura County’s first mobile detail service, Custom Car Care, I began building a loyal clientele that included many of Ventura’s top businesses. Ultimately switching from cleaning cars to selling them, I began working a 17-year stint at Barber Ford (1986-2003), rising to the position of sales manager. Between the years 2003 and 2006, I served as the used car sales manager for Thousand Oaks Infinity. From 2006 to 2009, I worked as fleet manager for Barber Ford. Today, I am happily working as the new car sales manager for Paradise Chevrolet. My affection for people, and my special ability to connect with them, has aided my 23-year success in the car sales industry. Many of my clients have been with me for nearly two decades.

Being an avid surfer, wakeboader, skateboarder and hack golfer (I can break 100 most of the time) has made me aware of the unique relationship with the city, protecting its precious natural resources while at the same time growing local business. I feel that caring for the local beaches and parks is as important as promoting the city’s neighborhood and business development.

I am a member of the Ventura Trade Club, have coached for VYBA and Elks Little League, and served as vice president of the Pierpont Community Council.

What is your primary reason for running for City Council?
My first priority is working to make our city, its neighborhoods, its Downtown, its beaches, its schools, streets and parks safe and clean. As well as let its residents know that they can bring their concerns and problems to me at City Hall and have them dealt with. Someone needs to stand up for Ventura’s small businesses and working families; I will be an advocate for the people because I am one of them. I will work hard to make sure that all of Ventura’s neighborhoods are clean, safe, informed and involved. Local government works when we all work together.

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
It would be easy for me to sit here on the outside and throw around clichés we’ve all heard wannabe politicians say about fixing deficits. But that’s not who I am. I will not use knee-jerk, hot-button rhetoric over careful examination and study. I will make you a promise to never promise you something I can’t 100 precent deliver on. As well, I will not, for the sake of getting quick votes, promise to cut anything that may end up jeopardizing the health and safety of Ventura’s citizens, or cause irreparable harm to our community. Most people are aware that we are in the midst of a severe national recession; this, along with rising unemployment, a high foreclosure rate and the credit crisis, have hit Ventura County just as hard as they have hit families and businesses all across our nation. I promise to trim the less essential programs and services, as well as eliminate any redundant positions. We need to consolidate our smaller departments. We must look into renegotiating city contracts and, in some cases, discontinue them. We need to move forward with a series of responsible public-private partnerships which, in turn, could generate hundreds of thousands in new revenue over the next several years. If needed, we must be willing to sit down and negotiate with city employees and their union representatives to help us get through these tough times. How much money could we save if every employee agreed to take off just one unpaid hour per week, or defer automatic pay raises until we get out of the current mess?

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?
For some, the beauty of Ventura is a double-edged sword. With its desirable location and many ocean views and mountain vistas, property values continue to rise, putting affordable housing out of reach for the city’s thousands of hard-working, minimum- and low-income wage earners. This lack of affordable housing has led to a glut of overcrowded, substandard accommodations. Besides the obvious humanitarian issues, these conditions create health and safety concerns that affect us all. Local health-care givers, police and firemen, all note the strain those living in such conditions put on an already over burdened city infrastructure. We need to take advantage of today’s low interest rates and start building affordable housing. Through state funding, state and federal grants, private sector investment, we must do something to stem the tide of the unsafe, unhealthy, sub-standard living conditions for those in need; if not through new home construction, then perhaps by state/federal leasing or foreclosed homes. Some have noted the lack of Ventura’s willingness to work with its neighboring cities to help find common solutions. This is something I would definitely look into ending, if given the opportunity to serve.

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
The combination of a skyrocketing growth in population and reduction in available land is creating a make/break situation for protecting our agricultural legacy. Existing real estate properties in Ventura are soaring in value, real estate developers want more land, and there is only so much to go around. In addition to feeding and clothing us, farm and ranch lands maintain scenic, cultural and historic landscapes while linking us to our agricultural heritage. One doesn’t have to venture far in our city to be reminded of this heritage; the bronze gateways to our old Ventura City Hall, where the City Council meets, are decorated with bouquets of lima beans, reminding us that our county was once the lima bean capital of the world.

Protecting the resources while growing our city in a responsible manner will yield long-range environmental benefits, including wildlife habitats, clean air and water, flood control and ground-water recharge. Responsibly managing Ventura’s open spaces will continue to provide beautiful views and opportunities for hunting and fishing, horseback riding, skiing, dirt-biking and other recreational activities. As a 40-year resident, balancing responsible urban growth while protecting our agricultural resources is one of my main commitments to the city’s voters.

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
I will definitely push hard for more after-school programs. Recent research shows that disadvantaged students who regularly attend top-notch after-school programs end up, after two years, academically far ahead of peers who spend more out-of-school time in unsupervised activities. In a recent article in Education Week entitled “High-Quality After-School Programs Tied to Test-Score Gains,” researchers present an eight state study showing that quality after-school programs are having a positive effect scholastically and behaviorally on children who have regularly participated over the last two years. They found that the students who were more engaged in supervised after-school activities on a regular basis did better academically, socially and behaviorally.

As well as these after-school programs, I want to aggressively find funds to re-establish summer recreational centers like the ones I enjoyed when I attended Pierpont and Sheridan Way elementary schools. Some of these after-school programs presented in the study are funded under the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, launched by President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s. Whereas I promise to seek out federal and state funds/grants to help create these after-school programs, I feel that such programs should also come from money collected from the private sector. I will aggressively appeal to local businesses and national sponsorship to share the cost of these programs. As well, I will ask parents to step up and volunteer and contribute any way they can. We can make a difference. This is a promise I look forward to keeping.

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process, and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
Updating the current process is the first step I would take. Re-evaluating guidelines and regulations, as well as limiting existing voting timelines, would be a positive start. I feel it imperative to streamline the planning process, as well as limiting the time of the plan approval process. The lag time between each approval process can lead to months and months of down time, which in turn can kill a project; we need to identify potential fatal flaws and deal with them. One local government is ready to do the work; others say we need time to get started. Some want to wait until regional, state and federal policies are finalized; others want development to stop until they revise their plans and codes. All of these must be taken into account. Clear intergovernmental objectives are needed to establish and evaluate the success of a station area planning and development program. Much of planning, after all, isn’t really anything more than communicating, problem solving and communicating some more. Every municipality has a different way of doing things; Ventura is no different. Internships would be an invaluable way to give job candidates invaluable on-the-job training that would prepare them to be job-ready the day they are hired. If given the chance to serve, I look forward to working with my Council members to reworking the entire process.

How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
I support the job Ventura City Manager Rick Cole and Public Works Director Ron Calkins have been doing, and look forward to working with them to further Ventura’s commitment to its “green” agenda. They’ve reduced pesticide and herbicide use in our parks to well below an ounce an acre per month, and report that they are close to eliminating it altogether. As well, they report that their commitment to water conservation has been so successful that, in absolute terms, Ventura now uses less water than it did 30 years ago at two-thirds our current population. I support reducing the use of gasoline consumption with local fire and police departments’ vehicles should be foremost in our “green” efforts. We need to hold ourselves accountable, which is critical to reaching any goal — if we are trying to get others to follow. We must look to the examples and standards set by one of our most prominent local businesses, Patagonia, and strive to match them in keeping Ventura a leader in the “green” movement.

Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
I believe that aggressive panhandling and vagrancy has had a profoundly detrimental effect on Ventura’s downtown economic vitality, safety and quality of life, and vow to make this my No. 1 priority when I’m elected. As for the criminals and vicious law breakers who permeate the Downtown and Promenade areas, the answer is swift and easy: throw them in jail! But for the mentally ill and the drug addicts, for those who are truly in need — getting them the help they require will help to get them off our streets and, maybe more importantly, keep them off. That said, criminalizing an activity does not eliminate the problem; it only shifts much of the costs associated with it to the city’s criminal justice system.

Research shows that in many cities, 25 percent of the city jail population is homeless. That’s too much money to throw at a nonsolution.
Strict enforcement simply deals with the symptom rather than directly addressing the real problem; raising taxes is not the answer. We must look to fully fund our local human services agencies. Every dollar invested in our human services providers is money sensibly spent. Research shows that it is cheaper to house people than to have them living on the streets. The average burden, per homeless person, runs between $30,000 and $40,000 for frontline emergency services such as police/fire response, emergency room visits, jail time, etc. The majority of panhandlers and vagrants come from the river bottom. We need to establish a line of defense with increased police presence, along with mobile soup kitchens, converting condemned buildings into shelters and/or low income housing, retraining, along with monitoring them for illness, mental and physical; all would decrease the number of people on the streets and keep them off.

Questions regarding local initiatives:

What is your position on the sales tax initiative, and why?
I am against raising any new taxes. Period. I feel we must look toward creative, “out-of-the-box” ways to raise funds; cutting needless government spending, securing federal grants, large corporate sponsorship, neighborhood investment, are all ways to generate finances.

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
No. Whereas I am adamant about responsible city expansion, and want to vigorously protect our city’s sightline, I believe this is the wrong measure for now. I feel that each proposed building project should be looked at on a case-by-case situation, and not be bundled into an all-inclusive piece of legislation that we later regret. Nearsighted overreaction can sometimes be as damaging as no reaction at all.

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
Yes. But, I say “yes” with certain apprehension. Again, like Measure B, I feel like it’s by a case-by-case issue with location, traffic, local businesses and zoning issues all being contingent of where and what we’re talking about. I feel that the less Ventura needs to drive to the big-box stores in Oxnard, the better it is for all of us. But I am deeply concerned about the effect it will have on local traffic, smaller businesses and parking. I don’t really like the idea of Walmart taking away parking and business from Trader Joe’s. I have spoken to many people who live in the area that are concerned that it may drive out their local, smaller businesses, while adding to an almost unmanageable ovvercrowded traffic problem.

 

3Maureen O’Hara

BIO: The third of five children, I was born in Long Beach, Calif., when my father was stationed there by the U.S. Navy. We moved to Oxnard in 1961 when by dad was transferred to Port Hueneme. My mother was a nurse at St. John’s Hospital until her retirement. I graduated from Huemene High School in 1976.   

My mom and dad were both very hardworking and religious, and they taught me that if I was honest, caring and responsible for myself and others, I would be happy and successful. I have tried to follow their example, and have worked since the age of 15. I have many friends and business associates, and never try to burn my bridges behind me.  People trust me to give them an honest opinion. I say what I mean and I mean what I say.  

I married Sean P. O’Hara in 1978 and we are still in love. We had two sons, Padraic and Ryan. Padraic died in an accident when he was 17, and Ryan is attending UCSB — soon to graduate. Ryan is married to Carolyn, and they blessed me with a beautiful granddaughter, Fiona Scarlett, who is now 2 1/2 years old.  

I worked my way through Ventura College and then UCSB where I graduated in 1987 magna cum laude, with a degree in Law and Society.  I attended law school at night while caring for my family and working full time. I started law school at Ventura College of Law in 1987, but when my husband was transferred to Sacramento in 1989, we moved and I graduated from Lincoln Law School in 1991.   

I was admitted to the California State Bar in 1991 and have been practicing law since that date. I have worked in various areas of law, been a partner at a large firm in Los Angeles, as well as a managing partner where I was responsible not only for my own practice, but the management of a multi-million dollar budget and 25 employees. For many years I have specialized in employment law. I deal daily with the effects of this economic downturn as good people lose their jobs and business fold. 

I am independent and not beholden to any special interests. I believe the role of government is to provide for public safety, to protect private property and to protect the freedom to contract. Our expanding government, on all levels, has and is resulting in loss of our fundamental freedoms and bankrupting us. At all times, but especially in times of economic distress, it violates common sense and experience for the city to raise our taxes, impede growth of new business and place restraints on commerce.    

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
Tough decisions need to be made regarding what is an essential, and what is not an essential, service. We need fire and police protection, we need our streets maintained, and we should promote our city and its businesses or we will lose tax revenues if we cannot protect our tourist and housing industry. The budget needs to be examined line by line in order to eliminate unnecessary and inefficient programs, and the city needs to work on generating more money through increased business and profits.    

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?
I do not know if Ventura needs more affordable housing units. With the economy the way it is right now, and our U.S. taxpayer dollars dedicated to assisting first-time home buyers with home loans, I cannot say I would support our local government’s involvement in acquiring additional “affordable housing units” at this time.

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
Agricultural land should be preserved through planned growth. Ventura County has fantastic soil, and we grow the best lemons, oranges, avocados and strawberries in the country. I want to preserve this. There are open spaces that are not agricultural, and they should be used for development, not our agricultural land. Once you tear up a ranch and build a housing tract, you will never have a ranch again.

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
Eliminate the U.S. Department of Education and allow the states to develop their own curriculum. Of course, this is beyond my control, but I believe the best way to raise test scores and better education locally is to get back to the basics. I believe teachers should receive merit pay when their students excel, and that parents should have more involvement in their own children’s education.

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process, and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
The planning processes are too complicated and burdensome, which results in increased costs to builders and developers. Proposition B on the ballot is an example of what the city should not do if it wants to prosper. This proposition is entitled “save our views,” but what it does is create a complicated system of approval panels, committees and other requirements regarding who will decide if and when a property owner can build. No one will be able to get anything done, and development will come to a complete standstill.

How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
It is important. We all want to eliminate waste and recycle, but I do not think it ranks up there with the most important issues facing the city, the state or the country. We need to be active in protecting the environment, but not overreact to the point where costs are increased dramatically and businesses cannot operate profitably.

Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
Downtown is becoming a major issue. There is an increase in aggressive panhandlers and homeless, which is driving away business. Ventura thrives because of its agriculture and because of its tourist industry. The tourist industry requires a desirable place to visit, and frankly, the city is losing its luster despite the best efforts of the businesses and restaurants downtown. We need to clean it up, enforce the laws, use zoning to limit thrift stores and tattoo parlors, not that I have anything against these businesses, they just need to be spread out and not all concentrated in one area.  

Questions regarding local initiatives:

What is your position on the sales tax initiative, and why?
No on Measure A — no new taxes. The city needs to live within its budget and tighten its belt. Tough choices need to be made regarding what is, and what is not, essential to the city. Also, there is nothing in the proposition that earmarks the money to any specific projects or departments, and once it is collected, it can be used for any purpose.

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
No on Measure B — I believe this measure will face constitutional challenges. Not only is it very complicated and vaguely worded, it attempts to instill property rights in people who do not own property. Why should a committee of citizens be allowed to tell a property owner that they cannot build on their own property? The planning commission and building and safety department already have that job as far as legal requirements. Enough is enough.

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
No on Measure C — Ventura can use the tax revenue and the jobs this would create. The arguments in favor of the proposition do not hold water. We already have large “big box” stores in the city, and how can one argue that a huge, vacant property (K-Mart) is more attractive than a thriving business? Again, it would bring much needed revenue into the city coffers and create hundreds of jobs.

Meet the candidates

Meet the candidates

Editor’s note: Our election coverage of the Ventura City Council candidates continues this week with incumbent Brian Brennan and challengers Camille Harris and Bill Knox. The candidates were asked a total of 11 questions. Five of them will be answered in print, while the rest will be available online at www.vcreporter.com.

Brian Brennan

1BIO:I was born and raised in Galway, Ireland and became a citizen of the United States in 1966. I have resided in the beautiful city of Ventura since 1987 having returned from the Caribbean to take the helm of the Chart House restaurant in Santa Barbara and then subsequently the Chart House here in Ventura. My first term on the City Council began in December 1997, was re-elected to two more terms, and served as mayor from 2003 until December 2005.

I am a lifetime advocate for the environment and sustainable communities, representing the city on several boards and agencies, including, but not limited to the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, the Beach Erosion Authority for the Control, Operations and Nourishment (BEACON), past chair-elect of the Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance and have served as chair of the Ventura Regional Sanitation District.

My interests extend well beyond city appointments, as I am a graduate of the Smart Growth Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland; I was appointed by Governor Christie Todd Whitman to the Environmental Protection Agency’s national advisory council on environmental policy and technology for my work in brownfield and greyfield redevelopment as well as my advocacy for fuel cells and the Hydrogen Highway. I am past chair of the Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau and past chair of the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, continuing to be actively involved in all of these interests.

A professional restaurateur, I have had the opportunity to open restaurants in exotic places from the Hawaiian Islands to the Virgin Islands and ports in between. I have specialized in project design and management for the hotel and restaurant industry with an emphasis in adaptive reuse of historical structures, “green” building technologies and renewable energy efficiencies.

I have one amazing daughter, who resides in Annapolis, Md., who will be joining the college graduating class of 2010.

What has been your greatest achievement on the Council?
You never achieve anything by yourself on the Ventura City Council, as you need four votes to enact any policy. Some of the policies that I have taken the lead role during my terms of office are Westside and Downtown revitalization, Brownfield Restoration Grants, stormwater diversion to our treatment plant, our “Green Streets” program and numerous others that I won’t burden your readers with.

The one policy that I am proudest of is our inclusionary affordable housing program, which is interim at the moment, but when the state certifies our housing element, it will be permanent. This means that any project that has more than 15 units has to provide 15 percent affordable based on the local criteria. This isn’t just in our Downtown, but extends all over our city and means that we have a mechanism for keeping working families here in Ventura.

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
There is not a single silver bullet that can pull us out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Instead, we have a diverse strategy that respects what Ventura is and what its residents want it to become.

We presently have a balanced budget after cutting $11 million in positions, programs and services, but those cuts could go even deeper, depending on property assessments and public spending habits.

It’s obvious that the city, like all our businesses in town, is trying to be creative in our quest to seek new revenues, but we need to do it in a way where the public has a direct say in how we obtain that revenue. I’m supporting Measure A, the four-year temporary sales tax that would generate the funds to address public safety, street repairs, beach and stormwater issues, along with providing direct funding to keep Wright Library open.

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?
My Inclusionary Affordable Housing Policy provides an affordable housing program, which is interim at the moment but when the state certifies our housing element, it will be permanent. This means that any project of more than 15 units has to provide 15 percent affordable based on the local criteria. This isn’t just in our Downtown, but extends all over our city and means that we have a mechanism for keeping working families here in Ventura.

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
As a longtime SOAR board member, I value and treasure our agricultural heritage as a city and a county.

We have a number of SOAR protected properties throughout our city and spheres of influence, but not all farm land is protected. Some of the recent decisions to develop were based on the fact that the land had long been designated with rights to develop, and preventing development was akin to a taking and made the city liable in a lawsuit. In an ideal world, we would have been able to secure conservation easements or buy up the development rights, but as this county has twice voted down open space tax increments, we come up short every time.

In this era of post-peak oil planning, we need to keep our food sources as local as possible, for security purposes as well as for sustainability issues.

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
Unlike other states, California separates local government from education and creates a separate entity, the local board of education, that is responsible for all things education. Now that’s not to say that the City Council can have an indirect effect on the quality of education in our city. By keeping the police resource officers in the budget, we helped keep the schools safer for learning and student development. Through the PEAK, PAL and Boys and Girls Club, we create safe, healthy after-school environments, where kids can flourish both scholastically and athletically and make them ready to contribute as citizens of our great city.

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process, and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
Development is an arduous process in any coastal city in California due to all the competing interests and the rules and regulation that come with development in the coastal zone. Now, all that being said, could it be clearer, more transparent and certain? I believe so, and our new community development director, Jeff Lambert, has been tasked with just such a duty.
 
How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
One of the main reasons I am running for another term is to make sure all the environmental or “green” programs we have been able to enact don’t get thrown under the bus at the first opportunity. As some of us have known for a long time, going green can save you money and build an incredible brand in the process, which is the environmental ethos of this great city. Green companies bringing green jobs recognize what we have and what we want to be, and that is the reason they want to grow their businesses here. Energy efficiency companies to new smart grid technology firms have recently signed up with our business incubator and look forward to growing their business in Ventura. So yes, it is very important that our green initiative is not only successful but goes on to show other communities how we can become sustainable in a world of shrinking fossil fuel supplies. We want and need to be fossil-free by ’33!
 
Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
Again, like a number of cities across this nation the city of Ventura faces a crisis when it comes to its infrastructure needs. Yes, it’s all the things you don’t see and a few of the things you do. I’m talking about old, rusty, cast-iron water lines, wooden — yes wooden — sewer pipes and a myriad of problems associated with water and sewer lines in a 137-year-old city.

Questions regarding local initiatives:

What is your position on the sales tax initiative, and why?
I support the measure and will be voting yes because we have made numerous cuts to balance our budget and need to keep our public safety sector whole.
This measure will have an oversight committee, a four-year sunset, and the funding will go for public safety, road improvements, the Wright Library, along with paying for the new storm water regulations and for beach pollution prevention. 

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
I will be voting no on Measure B.

I’m a firm believer in creating a sustainable, walkable, public transit-oriented city, and I’m concerned this measure could keep us from reaching those goals.

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
I will be voting yes because I’m concerned that a big-box carrying groceries could put a few of our marginal grocery stores throughout the city out of business. That will contribute to longer commutes for groceries and create policing problems in the shuttered sites leading to the demise of the whole shopping center.

Camille Harris

sBIO:Of all the awards that I have received for leadership, the one that means the most to me is from the California State Legislature in recognition of Women Making a Difference. That is what I am all about, helping others when they need it most. Ventura needs it most right now and that is why I am running. The status quo hasn’t worked and I believe I can make a difference. I believe our quality of life is at a tipping point, and I can help us get back on the right track.

As a retired CEO who worked my way up from a garage business to become the founder of my own national company, I’ve worn all the hats, from laborer to executive. After my business was acquired, I invested the proceeds in a gang-prevention nonprofit to save the children of Los Angeles’ inner city. I earned awards for leadership from the legislature, the governor and the mayor of Los Angeles, among others. I founded Ventura Citizens’ Organization for Responsible Development (VCORD) so the voices of our neighborhoods could be better heard at City Hall. I am dedicated to preserving Ventura’s unique character. My faith resides in the collective wisdom of Venturans. I listen to them.

I believe Venturans want:

The city’s spending aligned with Ventura’s core values, their neighborhoods respected and their sense of place preserved, common sense rules applied to code enforcement,
to retain and grow our small Ventura businesses, a focus on creating local jobs, and that they value Ventura’s quality of life and want preserve it.

I helped bring Measure B, View Protection Initiative, to this ballot to give the citizens an equal voice in defining their sense of place through cherished public view retention. I support compatible, responsible development that preserves the character of our neighborhoods.

What is your primary reason for running for City Council?
Our very quality of life is now at risk, and it will take leadership and creativity to save it. Venturans are ready for a proven leader with fresh ideas and common sense. Continuing the status quo has not worked for our citizens.

As a leader, I realized there was no point in saving Two Trees if we could not see them. Community concerns were not being heard. Thus, I became the proponent for the Measure B citizen initiative (10,972 signatures), which will give the community a voice on preserving its views from being destroyed by incompatible development.

Additionally, I spearheaded “Grandfather Ventura” when code enforcement was basically positioned to be self-financed. Inspectors were directed to aggressively and proactively search out code violations — many of which turned out not to be safety-related, but recording-related. The result: Citizens could potentially lose their homes if they cannot prove older improvements were permitted and/or cannot afford the levied fees, fines and penalties. It is common knowledge that city’s records are spotty at best. Currently, community leaders are trying to collaborate with the city for a solution.

City Hall must always remember it works for the citizens and listen and respect their opinions. We must realign the spending choices of City Hall to reflect Ventura’s core values. Above all, we must respect our citizens’ wishes to be included in the process of self-government.

When elected to City Council, I will take the lead in implementing actions to correct problems voiced by Venturans.

To date, my candidacy has received endorsements from the following organizations: Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation, Democratic Club of Ventura, National Women’s Political Caucus and Ventura Citizens’ Organization for Responsible Development.

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
I support the Measure A temporary half-cent sales tax increase, because it supports our quality of life. In these very rough financial times, we need this funding as a stopgap measure to protect vital city services and infrastructure maintenance while also providing desperately needed funds to keep the Wright Library open and operating. There is an old English expression, “penny wise and pound foolish.” That expression applies here. If voters do not support this temporary sales tax increase, which sunsets in four years, then we could lose Wright Library, we could lose important public safety services, and we could let our infrastructure degrade to a point where the repairs will cost us many millions of dollars more than simple maintenance and upkeep would have cost. With the state taking up to an additional $5 million from our projected income, we need these funds to aid us through this recession. If citizens are unhappy with the way our money has recently been spent, we can change the direction with new leadership on the council.

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?
The city must ensure preservation of its current affordable housing stock. I support the mobile home rent-control ordinance. (Mobile home park residents pay into a city fund that aids the city in defending that ordinance.) Keeping our mobile home parks as affordable as possible is paramount.

Additionally, I am working for a solution after “proactive” code enforcement targeted affordable “second units” in Ventura. These second units provide affordable housing and help homeowners meet their mortgage payments. Proactive code enforcement had many unfortunate consequences. There are recorded instances where city inspectors have signed off on permitted improvements, i.e, heaters, water heaters, within a second unit that is now tagged as “illegal.”  In Ventura, more than 70 percent of housing stock is older than 50 years. This kind of retroactive-proactive code enforcement will cause untold misery and eliminate many affordable housing units. The city heretofore demonstrated a persistent practice of “silent grandfathering” of older units that for some reason have “unrecorded” improvements. (Many are perfectly legal, but built before permitting was required or the city/county lost permit records.) The PEPP group is working to establish a grandfathering program to retain these affordable units.

Including affordable housing in new residential developments is important, as are first-time home-buyer programs. (Individual families can guarantee affordable housing in their retirement years by purchasing a home during their working years. With a fixed-rate mortgage, as a family’s earning power increases over the years, the income percentage spent on housing is reduced until that mortgage is paid off, offering affordable housing in declining-earning and retirement years.)

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
I believe that agriculture in Ventura County is a vital economic engine and that locally grown produce is a green endeavor. If we in the Ventura area do not have to import produce from vast distances, we can reduce our carbon footprint. We need to continue to protect farmland; with the recent state legislative vote eliminating the property tax benefits provided by the Williamson Act, this is more vital then ever. (The Williamson Act allowed farmers to sign contracts to agree to keep their land in agriculture for a certain number of years in return for a break on their property tax assessments during those years.)

I support good, compatible infill growth to protect our agricultural and open space lands, including the hillsides. I emphasize “compatible” because there are some that would say, if you support preservation of agricultural and open space, then you must support packing absolute maximum density inside the growth boundaries. I want to make it clear that while I support good, green “infill” development, I do not support “overfill.”  “Overfill” is infill that does not respect Ventura’s sense of place, unique beach-town character, or Ventura’s historical building patterns and resources. 

Overfill is trying to line our commercial corridors that thread throughout the city with overly tall, commuter condo buildings that will steal the community’s public views to our surrounding natural environment. To fight against current coding that allows such overfill, I brought the Measure B View Protection Initiative to this Nov. 3 ballot, giving citizens of Ventura a voice in defining their environment, protecting public views and protecting our quality of life.

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
I am a big supporter of education. If we have a well-educated local citizenry, this will attract companies with high-paying jobs to locate to this area. Strong local education programs also increase the ability of local citizens to have the skills necessary to start and run their own businesses. These “homegrown” businesses have great staying power, because the business owners already love Ventura’s quality of life and feel loyalty to the city.

As our schools have had to cut back library services, keeping Wright library open and available for educational purposes is important. Wright Library also serves as an after-school safe haven for our latchkey children.

If elected, I would favor opening a more balanced discussion that includes the citizens who would subsidize as well as those who would profit from redevelopment projects in Ventura. I didn’t understand the downside of redevelopment until I Googled “Redevelopment the Unknown Government”  (www.missionviejoca.org/pdfs/rug_2004.pdf ). Redevelopment can siphon needed funds away from our education system and impoverish other local government agencies that are supposed to receive that property tax increment money. I am against taxpayer money funding private developers. (Additionally, the 20 percent of redevelopment money that is earmarked to support low-income housing is often held by redevelopment agencies and never spent.) I want this hard-earned taxpayer money that can be diverted by redevelopment to go back to supporting the education programs and the local government agencies that it was meant to support.

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process, and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
The public buy-in that the Measure B View Protection Initiative would provide could expedite developers’ projects and help get good, compatible infill projects on the ground.  I think one of the big problems with Ventura’s current coding is that citizen input was not given enough weight in the coding planning process. Because of this, citizen groups are often formed to fight development projects that they feel are incompatible with the surrounding development patterns and the character of the area. Measure B’s process is designed to allow citizen input and provide direct district representation for different areas of the city. Although the main focus of Measure B is to protect important public views, it may also help to moderate the density permitted by limiting building heights in certain view-sensitive areas of the city.

How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
Extremely important! We need to move forward with all possible efforts to be more environmentally friendly, not only for the well-being of the city and its citizens, but for the well-being of the world as a whole. We need to act locally but think globally. 

There are two perspectives on green. One is that in order to save the planet, we must cram as many people as possible into as small a space as possible. This can create concrete jungles and “canyonized” corridors that obliterate our quality of life. It creates urban heat islands and is truly not green. This perspective has created a movement dominated by those who financially profit from extreme density.

My view is that clean air is green, gardens are green, vistas and views are green, sustainable local jobs are green, lack of traffic congestion is green. We need balance and moderation in all things. With carefully planned, paced development, we can grow and still be green.

Pacing our growth to be fiscally and environmentally sustainable is green. We must take care not to overshoot the population that is sustainable on our available local water and financially overburden our residents for forcing them to subsidize unpaced growth. It is imperative that this issue is seriously addressed.

Solar access is green and is a goal of Measure B. If this current coding remains unchanged, the ability of existing adjacent-property residents to employ passive solar heating and active solar energy generation (now and in the future) will be irrevocably compromised.

Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
A major problem surfaced when the city changed a historic policy of “complaint-based” code enforcement to a policy of “proactive” code enforcement. Current administration did not understand that the majority of Ventura’s properties could be cited for some kind of undocumented improvement, and some good citizens would be “criminalized” as having “substandard” properties, even though their properties were safe. Current codes allow properties to be foreclosed upon if the owner cannot pay penalties, fees and fines — many of which were recently doubled. This situation breeds fear, quells dissent and dampens civic engagement.

Code enforcement employees directed to become self-financed had little choice but to focus on revenue generation. Implementation of aggressive proactive code enforcement allows subjectivity and raises legal questions. It is unfair to require public safety officers to be self-financed. They deserve more respect.

City officials admit many building records are incomplete, lost or destroyed; nevertheless, code enforcement is forcing citizens to prove their innocence — civil rights violation? Older homes have had many owners. Buyers often do not request improvement documentation. Until the change to proactive code enforcement, “silent grandfathering” was the pattern and practice of the city. Punishing citizens retroactively, often for improvements that existed when they purchased the property, has resulted in general turmoil and created potential lawsuits against the city. We need a process to work with citizens — not against them.

We must find a less punitive grandfathering solution that includes a process to get “non-conforming” units documented in order to retain this valuable affordable housing.

Questions regarding local initiatives:

What is your position on the sales tax initiative, and why?
I do not want to see our citizens suffer and our community’s quality of life further sacrificed; I support this temporary half-cent sales tax. As more prisoners are released, crime increases, children require more support as schools cut back, and the state takes millions of more dollars from the city — voters need to make this very hard choice. We all hate taxes, but in these rough financial times, we need this funding as a stopgap measure to protect vital city services and infrastructure maintenance while also providing desperately needed funds to keep the Wright Library open and operating. If voters do not support this temporary sales tax increase, which sunsets in four years, we could lose important public safety services, and our infrastructure could degrade to a point where the repairs will cost us many millions of dollars more than simple maintenance and upkeep would have. This is a quality-of-life issue. We need these funds to aid us through this recession. No one is fond of adding an extra tax, but in this case, the alternative is worse.

Many citizens are unhappy with the way public money has been spent and invested. If I am elected, I promise to work toward ensuring that our taxpayer money is spent carefully and wisely — and in ways that align with the core values of Ventura’s citizens.

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
I support Measure B, because I support good, compatible infill growth to protect our agricultural and open space lands, including the hillsides. I emphasize “compatible” because there are some who would say, if you support preservation of agricultural and open space then you must support packing in the absolute maximum density allowed inside the growth boundaries. I want to make it clear that while I support good green “infill” development, I do not support “overfill.”

“Overfill” is infill that does not respect Ventura’s sense of place, quality of life, unique beach-town character, or Ventura’s historical building patterns and resources. Overfill will line our commercial corridors that thread throughout the city with incompatible, overly tall, commuter condo buildings that will steal the community’s public views to our surrounding natural environment. To fight against current coding that allows such overfill, I brought the Measure B View Protection Initiative to this Nov. 3 ballot so that the citizens of Ventura could have a voice in defining their environment, protecting public views and protecting our quality of life.

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
I support Measure C because it is targeted to limit a Walmart-type superstore from going into an inappropriate site on Victoria Avenue where the additional traffic load would be detrimental. Measure C will not limit an Ikea or a Fry’s, etc., from locating in Ventura.

Walmart-type stores have a pattern of using predatory-pricing policies in an attempt to drive other competitors from the market — only then to raise its own prices. Adding a Walmart-type superstore to Ventura will not bring more sales tax dollars to Ventura city coffers, but will only cannibalize sales tax that is now collected at other existing Ventura businesses, including large existing businesses like Sears, Lowe’s, Penny’s, Target and small mom- and pop-retail businesses that currently exist in Ventura. One is not going to buy a laundry detergent at one store and then again at another. It is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul.

As smaller businesses that cannot compete fold their tents, local jobs will be lost. Smaller businesses are the backbone of America. Statistically, smaller businesses employ over half of the American workforce. We need to protect our city’s smaller businesses because they recirculate money directly in our local economy. Collectively, these small businesses are a quiet, constant economic engine for our city. These small businesses bank locally and use local suppliers, keeping money available for active use in our own community. Walmart superstores send profits back to Arkansas.

Bill Knox

dBIO:I am a tax attorney, and I received my law degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where I interned for Congressman Elton Gallegly from 2003 to 2004. I received my LL.M. in taxation from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, and am an expert in charitable and planned giving. I am the president-elect of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Ventura, and serve as a member of the planned giving advisory cabinet for United Way of Ventura County and the St. John’s Healthcare Foundation Annual Symposium planning committee. I am endorsed by the Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation. I attended Anacapa Middle School, Buena High School and Ventura College before graduating from California State University, Chico. I am married to my lovely wife, Sara, and we have a one-year-old daughter.

What is your primary reason for running for City Council?
In a race overflowing with 15 candidates, it is important for the citizens of our city to know who is on their side. In recent years, Ventura has witnessed increased homelessness, deteriorating revenue streams, increased taxes, gross fiscal waste and the creation of super-high-density developments. The City Council needs to be joined by a member who does not place too much faith in taxes, fees and fines to cure its problems. I am that City Council candidate.

As an attorney with an LL.M. in taxation, I understand both the need for a fiscally conservative system and the methodology to implement it. In short, Ventura needs new leadership. I believe that my education, training and experiences have prepared me to step in and stop the fiscal waste and poor decisions left by a reckless City Council.

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
Keeping better control of the city’s purse strings is paramount to restoring fiscal discipline to the City Council. Many millions have been wasted by our City Council on frivolous items and agendas. In recent years, the City Council has proposed and/or allocated more than $12,750,000 on wasteful and unnecessary pet projects. I will ensure that the hard-earned money the city collects from its citizens is used in a prudent and effective manner. With even the smallest increase in fiscal discipline, the woes of our city can be cured without the need for higher taxes, fees and fines.

In addition, the City Council should work harder to bring more retailers of every size to Ventura. Let’s increase the sales tax revenue by increasing sales, not taxes.

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?
The dream of most Americans is to have a family and a nice house to call home. I believe that Venturans want a little breathing room, a home to raise children, and a sense of community, not super-high-density, dormitory-style housing. I believe that the best way to make homes affordable in our city is to insist that the majority of new developments are designed for single-family homes with adequate lot sizes, not zero lot lines. In this regard, I oppose new super-high-density infill developments in the city. For instance, the Parklands development off of Wells Road jam-packs 499 homes on less than 67 acres!

Similar high-density infill has tacit approval of the City Council in areas such as Ventura Avenue, Pierpont and more. You see, building such high-density developments creates higher costs at all levels. New condos cost more than most entry level buyers can afford. With more and more super-high-density developments being built, the cost of single-family homes goes up, putting them out of reach for many mid-range and entry level buyers. Emphasis should be placed on building homes in a sustainable and desirable fashion, not on reckless over-development of our open areas.

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
The Ventura General Plan needs many modifications. From better use of our vacant lots to more attention to the east end of town, the current version is found lacking in many ways. I think that creating a new category for permanent protected open space is a step in the right direction. However, the restrictions placed on the new category need to be narrowly tailored to achieve the goal of preservation without limiting public use and private ownership rights. Partnering with all involved parties will be the most effective way to ensure that quality open space is preserved for all generations.

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
Research demonstrates that student test scores and grades improve when parents become involved in the educational process. I propose a program where parents are invited into our local classrooms to observe the students and teachers on an unannounced visit, known only to school administrators. Based on the observations the parents make, a commission should be created at each school to make recommendations on the class structure. In addition, parents attending the classes as observers should be given the opportunity to evaluate the teachers and present their findings to the administrators and the school board. Holding teachers accountable for performance, holding students accountable for attendance and administrators accountable for implementation and instruction will go a long way in ensuring a quality education for all students.

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process, and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
The planning process in our city can be a long and arduous one. Limiting the length of time the committee has to rule on a proposed development or building plan is a crucial step in reducing the uncertainty and time it takes to gain approval. Conditional use permits, zone changes, variances, subdivisions and general plan amendments are all subject to the whims of committee members. More cogent guidelines and regulations on what role the judgment of committee members should take in the decision-making process would also help streamline the process. Finally, the city should recognize and provide more deference to ownership rights. Developing clear regulations on the committee is a major issue that must be addressed.

How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
The success of our city is found in the individual citizens and businesses that make up our population. We are blessed with a caring and active citizenry that bands together to tackle the tough issues that face our city. Efforts by the City Council to “go green” are admirable in that they attempt to use environmentally friendly methods and technologies. If these efforts will result in new opportunities for workers and business has yet to be determined. I do not believe that our city’s future lies in the implementation of a less-than-clearly defined notion of “going green.” I place my faith in the citizens of Ventura, not the government of Ventura.

Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
I believe that the single greatest threat facing our city is the reckless spending and misplaced priorities of our current City Council. As I previously mentioned, I will ensure that the hard-earned money the city collects is used in a prudent and effective manner. The current City Council’s over-reliance on new taxes and fees during the worst economic crisis in a generation demonstrates their disregard for the problems facing average Venturans. At a time when citizens are forced to do more with fewer resources, the City Council has the audacity to dig deeper into the taxpayer’s pockets. The proposed sales tax increase is simply the latest assault on taxpayers.

In 2008, the City Council imposed an illegal and immoral 911 fee. Starting in November of this year, water and sewer rates will increase by 14 percent despite the fact that the city uses less water today than it did in 1970 even though the population has more than doubled in that time. And in January of 2010, the city will re-install expensive and unnecessary parking meters downtown that will surely result in lower sales for downtown businesses and more expense for would-be shoppers.

Questions regarding local initiatives:

What is your position on the sales tax initiative, and why?
I oppose any and all new taxes within the city. I believe that we pay enough. We citizens have tightened our belts and made our own resources work. For the City Council to take even more from taxpayers is irresponsible and offensive during such harsh economic times. Furthermore, I do not believe that the City Council will use the funds raised by a sales tax increase solely in the manner which they have proposed. The fact of the matter is that the City Council will have full discretion over where and how the funds are spent. The council further promises that the tax will expire after four years. I am not so gullible as to believe that four years from now the current City Council will allow this tax to disappear. By that time, the council will feel that the citizens have grown used to the tax and will, I am sure, authorize the continuation of this horrible measure. The council often touts that it lives within its means. If so, no tax increase is warranted or necessary.

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
I am opposed to the current City Council’s plans for large-scale, super-high-density development within our city. I am sympathetic to a building height limit. However, the limit proposed in Measure B of 26 feet is something I cannot endorse. I believe that such a low level will effectively eliminate the building of desirable and permitted home additions, second stories on existing office and workplace structures that are not located within the rigidly defined corridors listed in the text of Measure B. While I understand the moratorium would be in place for two years, I do not think that this is the appropriate time to eliminate the rights of property owners to take advantage of the lower costs associated with a down market to improve one’s home or business. Had VCORD selected a building height in the area of 36-42 feet, I may have been able to support this measure.  Yet I, and all other voters, am only able to vote “yes” or “no” on the measures as presented. 

Be assured, if elected to City Council, my vote will be used to limit new super-high-density developments, implement reasonable height limits and protect the beauty of our city and its surrounding geography.

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
In recent years, Ventura has witnessed increased homelessness, deteriorating revenue streams and increased taxes. All of these problems will increase if Measure C passes. Retailers, like Walmart, bring competition, jobs and savings into the local economy. At a time when the city is struggling with lower revenue, forbidding new business from coming to our town is unwise. With new business come new sales. New sales increase local sales tax revenue and eliminate the “need” for an increase in tax rate. I believe that the council should work harder to bring more retailers of every size to Ventura. Let’s increase the sales tax revenue by increasing sales, not taxes.

We are facing a time when many skilled and unskilled workers are unable to find work. Encouraging new business to employ our working population is a responsibility of our local government. Measure C is nothing more than a union-backed group’s attempt to prevent an ununionized retailer from providing competition. Measure C could do so much damage and absolutely no good for our city.

 

 

Meet the candidates

Meet the candidates

asdNeal Andrews

BIO: I recently retired as the owner of Horizon Management Services, a business consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, management and marketing. I focused especially on assisting corporate clients to develop and execute appropriate strategies to support new business initiatives or to respond to new business challenges.
I have had a varied career, moving back and forth several times between the private and public sectors. I have been a university professor at major academic institutions, a hospital administrator, a senior manager in one of the largest and most successful health care corporations in America, a high-level state government administrator, the executive director of a regional medical services organization, an entrepreneur, and an author and popular speaker for regional and national conferences.
My undergraduate degree is from Duke University and my graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania. I also completed post-graduate studies in health care administration with the University of Michigan School of Public Health and in public policy administration and public law at the Michigan State University School of Public Administration.
I have been a Scholar Diplomat under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and was a National Defense Fellow and wrote Foreign Policy & the New American Military. I have also authored many articles and papers on a wide variety of business, health care and public policy issues and have served on the faculty of the Conference Board, the California Medical Society, UCLA’s Anderson School Health Care Management Program, and the National Managed Health Care Congress, among many others.

What has been your greatest achievement on the Council?
I have accomplished a great deal during my time on the Ventura City Council. I led the fight against the ill-conceived 911 fee and ultimately secured its repeal. I’ve led the way on water policy and in water conservation, saving millions upon millions of gallons of water annually. I helped draft and secured adoption of the Ahwahnee Water Principles that are employed statewide to guide development with respect to water issues. Ventura was the first City in the State to do so.

I led the effort to assist owners of historic property to preserve local landmarks.

I led the effort that culminated in the City’s endorsement of the Plan to End Homelessness. Our Homeless Prevention Fund was recently recognized as a national model program.

I led the effort to establish a formal Economic Development Committee and crafted a meaningful economic development strategy for the City for the first time.

I led the effort to create a program to stimulate business investment and business development in the City, the Jobs Investment Fund (JIF). This fund also spun off the City’s economic development incubator. The JIF program was also recently cited by Nation’s Cities weekly magazine as a national model.

I initiated the program to assist employees to purchase homes in the city with employer assistance that costs the taxpayers absolutely nothing.

I led the effort to secure passage of the State Constitutional Amendment (Prop 65 and Prop 1A) that limits the ability of the State to confiscate local tax revenues and forces the Legislature and the Governor to pay back any funds they “borrow” within three years with interest.

I led the effort to bring a cultural arts center to the City and to make Ventura truly the cultural pearl of the Central Coast and the New Art City.

However, I think that my most important achievement is probably one of the least understood, and that is the introduction of Performance Based Management that I championed, and its companion program, Budgeting for Outcomes. Performance Based Management forces an organization to identify what are truly the most important things it must accomplish and provides a means to clearly measure the productivity of its various activities vis-à-vis those most important goals and objectives. It helps managers focus their attention and energy on the most important things. From a budgeting perspective, it helps them re-align their resources to optimize their effectiveness. Instead of measuring how many medical calls the fire department responded to, for example, we ask how many lives were saved? Then we put the resources available into those programs that save more lives. I think that has been my greatest single contribution to the City.

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
There are only three ways to balance our budget without sacrificing services, programs or jobs. The first is to become more productive and efficient. I have introduced Performance Based Management to do this, and we are seeing good initial results. The Performance Based Management approach, along with its corollary, Budgeting for Outcomes, allowed us to cut nearly 15 percent from our budget over the last two years without layoffs, while preserving our most important programs and focusing on our most essential services.

The second way to maintain jobs and services is to increase natural growth in our core revenue streams. This approach comes down to maintaining a prosperous local economy. In this we have not done as well. We have devoted less than 1 percent of our General Fund budget to this goal. Of course, we naturally cut back on even this small effort.

However, I believe that, as we begin to come out of this recession, one of the first places we need to realign investment is toward economic development. If we can be successful in these endeavors, we can grow our natural revenue streams in tourism and retail sales without a tax increase. That will support a natural rise once again in property values, and we will all be richer, plus the property tax base will once again be restored.

The only other way to maintain current jobs and services if revenues continue to decline is to raise taxes and add fees. I believe that this approach is counterproductive in the long run. Taxes are generally a poor way to try to respond to a recession, especially one of this magnitude.

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?
We have ample housing units already approved for the City to provide more than enough housing to meet demand for the foreseeable future. The critical issue here is, first, affordability, not availability of housing, and, second, getting the housing built, not simply having it approved on the books. The Council has already adopted an “inclusionary” requirement for every newly approved development in the City that assures that a significant proportion of every development is affordable. This requirement is meaningless, of course, if no housing is being built.

The simple fact is that none of the housing we have approved is going to be built until the economy improves. The economy is stubbornly resisting the efforts of the Federal government to buy our way out of recession with trillions of dollars of printed money that has no real value.

The simple truth is that the ideal of an affordable single family home for most lower-middle class or lower income citizens is probably out of the question for the foreseeable future. What we need are more and more affordable, rental units.

One of the major problems we face in the City is that precisely these types of rental projects are the most likely to be resisted by every neighborhood council and NIMBY community group that harangues against higher density housing in its neighborhood and argues that building this type of affordable housing, with its typical height and mass, undermines their perceived property values or takes away from their views.

It takes a courageous Council to approve this type of housing in the face of the onslaught of strong neighborhood resistance. Still, we have approved about 500 such units in the last few years, and they are among the most likely to be built first as we begin to emerge from this recession.

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
First, I place great value in protecting the green space around our urban communities and in maintaining the distinctive separation we have worked so hard to preserve between our urban centers in the County. Second, I view our hillsides open space as a valuable natural asset that we should bend every effort to maintain, both as a scenic treasure and as a potential recreational asset. Third, I believe one of the more significant deficiencies of our current development planning is the failure to set aside sufficient green space and open space for adequate parks and recreational facilities within the City.

That having been said, we have to recognize that there have been errors made in the past in managing our urban plan. These errors have resulted in hop-scotch or step-out development and an undesirable sprawl that extended beyond the reasonable reach of the capacity of our infrastructure, stretching our resources and service capacity too thinly and making it far more expensive to provide basic services than it need have been if a rational development plan had been followed.

The only way to correct those errors is to focus in the future primarily on concentrating development within the City on those open space or agricultural areas that have been skipped over in the past — i.e. infill development.

As with all things political, it is always a matter of who pays and who receives benefits. Those who receive the benefits of those open fields do not want to give up their benefits, while those taxpayers who must pay a larger burden, because the denser population areas of the City are paying more for basic services than they would otherwise have to if the intervening areas were properly developed, are unhappy about carrying an unfair tax burden to subsidize the lifestyle of their suburban neighbors.

We need to achieve a balance of interests between these two elements of our community. As for the property owners, especially the agricultural operators who are caught in the middle between these two forces, we need to be particularly sensitive to their dilemma. We want generally for them to remain in productive agricultural operation for as long as possible, while at the same time we want them to operate as much as possible in a manner compatible with their urban neighbors. That means we need to protect them from undue restrictions desired by Johnny-come-newly neighbors, who feel they have paid a premium for their homes and are entitled to freedom from the side-effects of an agricultural operation next door, and at the same time we have to facilitate the gradual assimilation of their properties in to the urban context — often the exact thing that the Johnny-come — newly neighbor does not want. At the very minimum, we need to make it the responsibility of those who wish to develop the land adjacent to these agricultural operations to bear the cost of mitigating the impacts of the agricultural operations on the urban residents, not vice versa. If there have to be buffer areas set aside, for example, they must be paid for by the urban developer, not the farmer.

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
The responsibility for raising test scores or bettering education in the school system is not generally a responsibility of City government. However, to the extent that providing safer, more gang-free schools or making available more wholesome after-school recreational and educational activities or giving kids greater opportunities to be exposed to cultural experiences and enriching programs in the arts would contribute to better education or higher test scores, we have a serious obligation to continue to make sure these opportunities not only remain available, but that they remain accessible to the least able to afford them among our community. While these are the very programs that are among the first to be cut in times of economic stress, I believe they have been cut far out of proportion and that we need to restore many of them quickly as soon as economic realities permit.

My first priority would be to beef up, once again, our school policing operation to assure safety on our school campuses. Second, I would provide a much stronger grants program for our private non-profit organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Project Understanding, the Rubicon Theatre or the Music Festival or the New West Symphony and others to increase their after-school support and tutoring programs, continue to provide cultural enrichment at far lower cost than could otherwise be achieved by the School District, and, with the cooperation of our local business community, enhance the sports and recreational activities available to our young people. Third, I would restore City subsidized education and recreational opportunities like the sailing program, learn to swim program, basic computer skills programs, etc and others that have been cut back, as soon as we had the resources to do so.

A strong and vibrant community that has an appreciation of the arts and music and recreation and that provides for the needs of the whole student, body and mind and spirit, will be a far more successful educational community.

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
The process today is what I call “Give me a rock” planning. By that I mean, today the developer goes to the city planner and asks for guidance, and the planner says, “Give me a rock.” The developer dutifully goes out and brings back what in his mind is a beautiful rock, often at considerable expense. The planner says, “Well that’s a pretty nice rock, but I wanted a gray rock.” So the developer again at significant additional expense goes out and comes back with a gray rock, and the planner says, “No, I meant a gray rock with little white specks in it.” Well, you see where this is going.

I placed before the Council in January a set of proposals to definitively stop this practice.

My proposals require the planning department to establish a definitive template of requirements that define a complete plan so that the developer knows more precisely what he has to do. They require a pre-submission meeting with all relevant city departments to review the developer’s concept and advise on any changes.

They require that in no case may a plan be remanded to the developer for changes more than twice at any level of review. If they are rejected twice the developer, then may appeal directly to Council.

They require that the planning staff complete all phases of review in specific timeframes and within a total time allocation not to exceed twice the mandated minimum time permitted by State law. In each instance where a major project is involved and a timeline is not met, staff must report that failure directly to Council in a formal report.

If the total time allowed is exceeded, the City is required to refund all planning fees to the developer.

This is Performance Based Management, the system that I have advocated and we have established within the operations of many of the City departments. In July the Council finally adopted these changes.

They are still in the process of implementation, and I will dog the staff until they implement them in every particular

If re-elected, in this area my focus will continue to be to secure greater developer certainty as to the requirements for a successful project, improved efficiency of process, speedier approvals or denials, and generally reduced costs for both the developer and the City. Hopefully it will also lead to more successful housing projects and lower priced housing.

How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
The City’s “Green” agenda is a significant program for the future of the City and consistent with our obligations to identify and implement programs that could result in significant savings of taxpayer dollars. This latter point is significant. I insisted that it be formally incorporated into the statement of budgetary principles that were unanimously adopted by Council earlier this spring and that set the guiding framework for the Finance, Audits and Budget Committee, which I Chair, as we went forward to develop the 2009-10 budget and set the initial parameters for the 2010-11 budget. Those guiding budgetary principles specifically state that our “Green” initiatives must demonstrate that they will not only have positive effects environmentally, but that they will actually reduce net costs of operations for the City and will in no case add net costs.

There are a variety of ways to assess “importance” in this matter. Already the City of Ventura is being recognized as a leader in environmentally friendly practices and programs all around the State and Nation. I helped draft the Ahwahnee Water Principles and brought them to our City Council as guidelines for development related to water use and conservation, for example, and Ventura was the first city in the State to adopt the Ahwahnee Principles as planning guidelines. That enhances our stature and attractiveness to corporations and employers looking for places to locate that maintain high “quality of life” standards. It is no surprise, then, that we were identified as one of the best places in the nation to start a new business, in part because of our green emphasis and in part because of the creative programs I have been primarily responsible for initiating in jobs development and business investment. We recently received accolades in the Nation’s Cities Weekly, in fact, for developing a model Jobs Investment Fund approach to business development that was cited as a model for all cities to emulate.

Clearly, we are achieving progress in environmental practices that are very cost-effective and that produce real savings, which are our highest priority. Our focus on “green” friendly businesses as we move forward with our economic development plan could become a major differentiating element in our competitive posture.

Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
I think the single greatest problem the City faces is inseparable from the economic crisis. On the one hand, from a narrow City government perspective, there is the terrible constraint the economic crisis has imposed upon our City budget and our ability to meet the needs of the City in every arena from the most important public safety functions to the least services of the groundskeepers who are largely responsible for maintaining the beauty of our community. On the other, there is the immense impact that the economic crisis has had on unemployment, home foreclosures, poverty, homelessness, and illness within our community. All these vitally affect our quality of life. I think it is the latter considerably larger general impact on our community that is the greatest problem our City faces!

Our community, to its great credit, has risen in response in remarkably dramatic and profound ways to these challenges, and we are a better City for it, but in fact only a few know it. We must make it a torch we carry with pride, not a candle that we hide under a basket. We were recognized this year as a national model of excellence for our Homeless Prevention Fund program undertaken by our volunteer Ventura Social Services Task Force, an entirely privately funded initiative that has saved many families from being driven into homelessness. Our Social Services Task Force and its Faith Committee brought the entire City together in the One City One Meal celebration of Thanksgiving last fall where not a single homeless person was left unfed or uncared for at least for that day.

We’ve seen every one of our social service organizations from Project Understanding, Catholic Charities, The Salvation Army, the Turning Point Foundation, Family to Family, Food Share, to all the service clubs and individual church congregations and many more step up their efforts to help meet the dramatic increase of needs among the poor and homeless in our community. It has been an inspiration to watch, and it gives me great faith in our community. What it has proven is clearly that government is not the solution. At best it is a small part of any solution. It is our fellow citizens who are the real solution, and they will respond if properly led. That is my great comfort. Ventura is a great City, and I am proud of her!

Questions regarding local initiatives:

What is your position on the sales tax initiative and why?
I believe that voters have the right to decide for themselves whether to approve a tax increase or not. I will respect their decision.

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
I do not support Measure B. It is a misguided effort to establish a “property right” to a “view” that is totally arbitrary and unnecessary and has never existed in law before, is so poorly thought out that it will invite massive litigation virtually immediately if passed, actually benefits only very few residents as a practical matter, though many may feel that somehow it protects their interests if they fall unthinkingly for the propaganda of its proponents, actually takes away from most property owners very real and well-established property rights long protected by the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, gives the authority to draft legislation to a self-selected and un-elected group who can operate in a private back-room environment not subject to public scrutiny, if they choose, and simultaneously imposes a dreadful moratorium on almost all construction for up to two years at precisely the time when we should be encouraging building as a part of our effort to pull the economy out of this recession.

Get past the hysteria and the “populist” exaggeration.

Ask yourself if your views have actually been threatened by any development next door to you in the last 20 years? Ask yourself if you really expect any of your neighbors to build something next door to you soon that might impact your views? Ask yourself if the current rules haven’t actually done a pretty reasonable job of protecting against massive large-scale buildings in your neighborhood in recent years? Ask yourself if there aren’t places that you think should be allowed to develop multi-story buildings and where such buildings would not be offensive or unduly interfere with anyone’s views? Ask yourself if you really want to place yet another obstacle in front of efforts to move our economy forward out of recession in these challenging times of unemployment and terrible economic stress?

Measure “B” is simply totally unnecessary, probably illegal, and will be immensely costly to the City if passed by the voters.

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
I do not support Measure “C”. Measure “C”, for all its fanciful language and arguments about traffic and environmental impacts, is simply a disguised effort to prevent a Wal-Mart Superstore that sells groceries from coming into Ventura. All the arguments about how bad a Wal-Mart store would be or about how many bad effects might come about if a Wal-Mart store opens on Victoria Avenue are actually irrelevant. Measure “C” does not and will not prevent a Wal-Mart store on that site. It just prevents a Superstore.

Measure “C” is designed exclusively to benefit one labor group, the unionized grocery clerks, and their corporate partners, the large chain food stores like Vons, Albertson’s and Ralph’s, who do not want to see a major corporation like Wal-Mart enter the Ventura Market and bring with it significant food price competition. Our citizens, especially our seniors on fixed incomes and the poor, deserve the benefit of lower food prices if they are available. Labor goals, if legitimate, should be achieved through the collective bargaining process, not through one-sided ballot measures. Price competition is a cherished basic concept in a free enterprise economy. The opposition to Wal-Mart is simply antagonistic to the free enterprise system upon which America is founded.

Measure “C” should be rejected by the voters as a classic example of abuse of the initiative process and an abuse of land use policy. It serves only narrow “special interests” in opposition to the broad public interest.

One of the worst unintended consequences of Measure “C” is that it would also prohibit other large-scale stores like Target, who offer groceries, from building new stores in Ventura, and it may even make some of the existing stores illegal and subject to closure. We do not need to see additional employers closing up operations in Ventura because our voters failed to get the real facts before voting. Nor do we need to waste millions of dollars fighting about it in court, which we would be obligated to do if Measure “C” is passed by the voters and one of these major corporations decides to sue the City.

As the cartoon character Pogo once famously said, “We has met the enemy, and he is us.”

 

Mike Gibson

dBIO: I am a community activist and volunteer in the city of Ventura. I have become known in the community as a passionate advocate for taxpayers, with a reputation as a fiscal conservative and an ardent supporter of a common sense approach to local government. 

I am currently employed as the business manager for the Santa Barbara County Parks Department, where I have worked for the past 15 years. Prior to this position, I worked for the city of Oxnard as a management analyst with the Community Development Department. I have also worked for the city of Simi Valley in the Public Works Department and Transit Division and for the city of Garden Grove in the City Manager’s office. My experience in local government has been primarily in the areas of fiscal and budget management. I also have significant work experience in planning, economic development, redevelopment and code enforcement.

My professional affiliations include serving as chair of the Channel Islands Coast Region of the Municipal Management Association of Southern California (MMASC) and as secretary/treasurer of the Santa Barbara County Management Association (SBCMA).

I hold a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Cal State, Fullerton, and a master of public administration (MPA) from Cal State, Northridge.

I am active in community-based service groups and nonprofit organizations, including the Ventura Commerce and Education Foundation (VCEF), Ventura Family YMCA, Santa Barbara County Park Foundation and Ventura Chamber of Commerce committees.

What is your primary reason for running for City Council?
I am running for Ventura City Council to help change the culture at City Hall from one of an inefficient, ineffective bureaucracy that is detached and unresponsive to the citizens that it is supposed to be serving to one of openness, efficiency, and a city government that functions in a common-sense, effective, business-like manner when it comes to problem-solving and policy-making. Currently, there is an “ivory tower” mentality that pervades at City Hall. That is, the majority of those in elected and policy-making positions for the City somehow believe that they are all-knowing and all-seeing and that the citizens are simply misinformed, or worse yet, ignorant, to what’s going on. This attitude has to change in order for Ventura to be able to move forward as a City.

I am running to help restore fiscal sanity to City Hall by helping make it operate leaner and more efficiently by introducing some very basic business and economic principles to City government. Key among these principles would be not to resort to fee and tax increases to generate revenue for the City. The time and the economy are not right for raising taxes right now. But, our City leaders don’t seem to understand this.  

I think I can bring a whole new outlook and perspective to city government — one of honesty, approachability and practicality, when it comes to solving some of our most pressing problems. I have worked in local government for the last 28 years in various capacities, and I believe that experience has given me a keen sense of how effective public policy-making occurs. The key, of course, being listening and responding to those in the community that must live with the decisions that are made at City Hall. I have significant experience in financial management and working with government budgets and I believe that experience will serve me well on the City Council, especially in today’s environment of fiscal constraints.      

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
My solution is twofold:

1.) Generate more tax dollars for the City by improving its economic vitality and by attracting new tax-producing businesses to Ventura. This first component involves having a more cohesive strategy for economic development that promotes the City’s assets as a desirable place to start and grow a business; and 

2.) Reform and restructure the City’s development review process to make it a more understandable, affordable, and user-friendly system for businesses. 

Currently, the City projects an image of a non-business friendly community because of the plethora of unnecessary requirements that are loaded on project applicants seeking to open or expand a business in the City. Not only are the requirements too stringent, but then they get to try and fight their way through a cumbersome, lengthy planning permit process that scares many of them away from the get go. 

This needs to change or Ventura will find itself like the State, struggling to balance its budget year after year.

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?

I firmly believe that the private sector should take the lead in providing affordable housing in the City. With the current real estate market, this has been difficult to accomplish, but things will turn around. However, I think the City can play an important role in encouraging affordable housing units by conditioning a certain percentage of affordable units on developers through its inclusionary housing program and by partnering on projects with nonprofit housing developers like the Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation.

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
With the passage of the SOAR measure in 1995, which restricts development on agricultural land, and the City’s hillside protection measure in 2002, which severely limits development in the hills above the City, I believe adequate protections are already in place to preserve agricultural land in the west end of Ventura County. With the passage of these two measures, the City is essentially limited to in-fill development projects on vacant parcels within the City limits. So, I believe the restrictions and limits are already in place to maintain the City’s character and quality of life relative to its agricultural history. 

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
Although the City doesn’t play a direct role in efforts to raise test scores and bettering education locally, I think City leaders should be working closely with the Ventura Unified School District and other educational institutions to promote educational advancement, college preparation, and diverting at-risk kids to more healthy and productive lifestyle choices. On the latter, the City, through the Chamber of Commerce and other private and nonprofit entities, sponsors and promotes the City Corps program that results in many young people achieving valuable training, counseling, mentoring, and work experience opportunities that helps prepare them for the real world once they graduate from high school and have to make major choices in their lives.

I support the City’s involvement in programs like City Corps, and I also sit on the Ventura Commerce and Education Foundation (VCEF) that provides funding for this and other similar programs. 

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
Ventura’s planning process is completely broken, which is causing more economic distress on a City that is already starving for additional revenue to pay for vital public services like police officers, fire safety, and street, beach and park maintenance.

I would propose that the City completely revamp its planning review process to establish guidelines and procedures that are easily understandable to applicants, provide reasonable timelines for approval of projects and issuance of permits, and charge fair, reasonable, and predictable fees to the applicants for getting their projects through the process. The current system, besides being extremely non-customer friendly, slow, cumbersome, and lacking predictable rules and guidelines for developers, builders, and contractors to follow, results in unnecessary delays for projects being constructed, which deprives the City of additional tax revenue. 

The Embassy Suites Hotel project near the fairgrounds, which took 11 years to get through the process, is a classic example. Had this project come on line several years ago, as it should have, in my opinion, the City would have benefited greatly by the additional Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) as well as the additional sales tax provided by hotel guests spending their money in town. This could have mitigated some of the $11 million in cuts the City had to do to balance its FY 2009-10 budget.

The City recently hired a new Community Development Director, Jeff Lambert, who has a wealth of experience in both the public and private sectors in the areas of planning, land use, development, and permit processing. He has seen how the process works, and doesn’t work, from both sides of the counter. If elected, I would urge the City Council and City Manager to assign Mr. Lambert the task of working with the development community to develop new planning processing guidelines and procedures that will streamline the current system and make it more understandable, user-friendly and responsive.

This will go a long way towards helping the City rebuild its image as a non-business friendly community to one that welcomes opportunity and becomes more prosperous as a result.          

How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
I believe it is both wise and prudent to be as environmentally-conscious and mindful of our limited natural resources as we can in today’s world. I think it is commendable that the City is trying to lead the way in this regard by actively promoting a “green” agenda.  However, as with any promotional campaign, the benefits to the community can be somewhat overblown or exaggerated.

I think City leaders should always have a balance of the community’s interests in mind when they embark on these types of programs. In other words, the “green” agenda shouldn’t take such a priority so as to adversely affect a much-needed economic development effort by the City at a time when generating new revenues to provide for vital City services should be at the top of everyone’s priority list in the City. Just because a particular business doesn’t meet the City’s definition or criteria as a “green” operation shouldn’t mean that it’s automatically excluded from consideration by planners and City leaders. Again, “balance” should be the overriding principle.

Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
Besides the economic crisis, the single greatest problem facing the City is the lack of an economic development strategy to attract high quality businesses to the community to improve its tax base and, related to this, is the broken and dysfunctional development review process.  If elected, I would make development of a comprehensive economic development strategy and business outreach program a top priority for the City. 

Questions regarding local initiatives: 

What is your position on the sales tax initiative, and why?
I am steadfastly opposed to the sales tax initiative (Measure A) for two basic reasons:

1.) A sales tax is a regressive tax and, therefore, an increase would have a disproportionate impact on the poor and unemployed who are already suffering the most from the economic crisis.  This would add insult to injury.

2.) A sales tax increase at this time would be counterproductive to anything the City is trying to do to strengthen its economic vitality.  It would negatively affect sales of such big ticket items as automobiles, computer and electronic equipment, furniture, major household appliances, etc., thus reducing, rather than increasing, sales tax revenue to the City.

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
I am opposed to the view protection initiative (Measure B) because I believe it sets arbitrary height limitations on buildings (26 feet), in the mid-town section of the City, which make absolutely no sense to me. During a time when the City should be doing everything in its power to encourage development in the City, particularly in the mid-town area where redevelopment is desperately needed to jump start the economy there, Measure B will have the opposite effect by setting undue restrictions on building heights.  It is not needed and I believe it will have a detrimental impact on the entire City if it passes. 

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
I am absolutely opposed to forbidding the addition of new “superstores” (Measure C).  This ballot measure, which obviously is intended to prevent a Wal-Mart from coming to town, can have harmful effects that extend far beyond stopping Wal-Mart from coming into the City.  In fact, the way the measure is written it could actually allow a Wal-Mart as long as it is no larger than 90,000 square feet. The current plans that have been submitted to the City call for a 98,000 square-foot store to be located at the old K-Mart site on Victoria Avenue. So, if Measure C passes, Walmart could simply downscale its footprint and still move into the K-Mart location.

However, this measure could, by virtue of the square-foot limitation, prevent other highly desirable retailers that may want to come to Ventura (like Home Depot, Fry’s Electronics, Costco, IKEA, Best Buy, Bass Pro Shops, Target, etc.) from coming here. In my opinion, this is foolhardy. It results in throwing the baby out with the bathwater and potentially depriving the City of reputable retail stores that could benefit the City tremendously with significant ongoing sales tax revenue to support important municipal services (like public safety and street maintenance).

I also have a philosophical issue with limiting free enterprise in such an arbitrary and capricious manner, which is what Measure C does, in effect. Walmart has as much right to submit plans to build a store in the City as any other business or retail establishment does. As long as it abides by the City’s General Plan, zoning, traffic mitigation, parking requirements, and all other planning and building regulations, it shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other prospective business in the City. 

Measure C clearly targets Walmart because its proponents do not like Walmart as a business entity. It seems to me consumers should have a choice in the matter and shouldn’t be dictated to by a particular group of community members who have branded Walmart as the enemy. Therefore, in the name of free enterprise, consumer choice, and the City’s economic future, I will be voting “no” on Measure C.      

 

Wendy Halderman

wBIO: I have been a Ventura resident since 1973. I am an honors graduate of Buena High School, Ventura College and CSU Channel Islands, where I studied art, accounting, business law, economics, real estate and environmental design. I also completed coursework through UCSB and UC Berkeley.

My company, Halderman Design, specializes in marketing communications for the financial services industry. My prior work includes projects for Patagonia, Big Dogs, QAD, Pepperdine University, Seminis, Gold Coast Broadcasting, KVEN/KHAY and many others. I am co-author of the “Adobe Creative Suite Bible” published by J. Wiley and Sons.

An award-winning artist, my work is in numerous private collections.

My community involvement spans many decades and includes volunteer work for the New West Symphony, Community Memorial Hospital, Ventura County Fair and the American Cancer Society. Currently, I serve on Ventura’s Public Art Commission. I previously served as chair of the First Sunday in the Park Art Critique Committee, and recently assisted the City of Ventura’s Blue Ribbon Budget Committee and Economic Summit Hi-Tech Working Group.

I live in east Ventura and have three sons, ages 24, 21 and 16.

What is your primary reason for running for City Council?
Over the years, I have watched our Council make decisions, which were highly counterproductive to the long-term financial viability of the community. Time and time again, they voted against wider community interests, and squandered money on frivolous and extravagant expenditures, even in times of financial shortfall. Community trust in government is now severely damaged.

Ultimately, I decided to run because of the 911 fee fiasco. It is entirely mind-boggling and wholly inexcusable that our Council voted to endanger public safety under the guise of defending it. To rub salt in the wound, they apparently thought citizens wouldn’t notice. So, when bad policy endangers my family and friends and prioritizes special money interests over community safety, there is no choice but to get involved.

What is your solution to keeping our budget balanced without sacrificing services, programs and jobs in the future?
The City can keep the budget balanced while also maintaining all services, programs and jobs by 1.) increasing City revenues in desirable ways; and/or 2.) decreasing the total cost of delivering services and programs.

Desirable ways to increase revenues include aggressively marketing and selling products, services and events to people outside the community so that more profit is brought into the city. Ventura has failed miserably at competing for a healthy share of the regional economic pie, and assets such as to-die-for 101 Freeway frontage and unique geographic resources remain extremely underutilized. In the past, millions of dollars from new development would also have been realized, but the City did not move forward on these opportunities.

Desirable revenue does not include raising taxes and fees on citizens during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. These strategies do not bring in increased profit; they simply weaken the private sector further by shifting money from individuals to the government. And I don’t know anyone now who thinks government is a wise guardian or sane spender of taxpayer money.

Maintaining current City services will require decreasing costs. Personnel is by far the biggest expense, so the option is to cut some services and jobs, or keep all services and jobs by decreasing compensation costs to stay within budget. Generous pensions and benefits that were guaranteed to certain employee groups are unsustainable, and were given at our peril. These increasing unfunded liabilities could eventually bankrupt the City.

What is your plan to acquire or build more affordable housing units in Ventura?
I don’t think we’ve seen any “affordable housing” for quite some time. The concept itself is perplexing. Affordable for whom? And with what government subsidies? It’s virtually impossible to build unsubsidized, market-rate housing right now that is affordable for the average citizen. To compound the problem, the tightened credit market makes it extremely difficult for buyers to qualify for loans. And the number of unemployed, underemployed and homeless will continue to grow in the short-term.

Zoning regulations are so restrictive, building codes so rigorous, and quality standards so high that few people can afford to abide by them at the moment. This is probably why we see such odd workaround decisions by the City Council such as using taxpayer money to facilitate sleeping in cars and erect “tent cities,” while simultaneously declaring otherwise-safe garage conversions or second dwelling units illegal and uninhabitable simply because they lack a formal building permit.

For the short-term, we need more mid-range options; that is, something between a tent/car and a house/apartment. In certain areas it may make sense to at least temporarily change zoning to allow for denser development, more units, and/or increased flexibility of use. Dorm-style buildings would provide viable options for young singles. We should also keep in mind the likelihood of a growing “mobile community” that permanently lives in RVs, and we should anticipate how to best accommodate them.

The community may ultimately not want these things, of course; they are simply new options to consider.

What are your thoughts on protecting agricultural land while continuing with urban development?
We have a dilemma with the way our city has developed over the years. Numerous small pockets of agriculture remain interspersed with residential/commercial. This is not ideal, because the two uses don’t mix well at all. The pesticide overspray at Mound Elementary School is a perfect example of the severe problems that can result.

Ideally, the City will be able to preserve larger agricultural parcels that are in areas well-suited to ag, and are further removed from population centers and urban development, while also being able to convert the smaller pockets of agriculture into developable areas. This seems to make the most sense for the both the land owners and the community at large.

What is your proposal for raising test scores and bettering education locally?
Our students are doing pretty well on test scores, which is good. But there’s always room for improvement.

New technologies must be utilized in order to keep kids engaged and learning at a quicker pace. This generation of students has learned to access and process information instantaneously via the web, and “old school” teaching methods may no longer be optimal.

We must continue to value education in the community, encourage parental involvement, keep curriculum relevant, and underscore the link between education and future success. Children may feel worried about the current state of affairs, but we can’t let them lose hope for a better future.

I am very proud of Ventura’s teachers. Having three children, who attended VUSD schools (one is still at Foothill), I can speak with confidence that our teachers are some of the best, brightest and most committed you will find anywhere.

Still, they need more support from us now than ever to maintain a quality educational experience for our children.

What do you feel about Ventura’s planning process and how will you work with developers and city planners to expedite these processes to keep projects on track?
The planning process certainly needs to be streamlined, with clearer guidelines and timeframes for both developers and city staff. Fortunately, we have a new community development director, and I am optimistic he can get things going in the right direction. Sadly, the fact remains that many opportunities were missed that will never return.
Ventura has had a notoriously obstructive planning process, which chased away many millions of dollars in desirable development, including a CSU campus and numerous residential and commercial proposals that would have revitalized key areas. This is inexcusable.

Ventura may have a great plan on paper, but it does no good if there is no implementation. The City failed to capitalize on one of the greatest growth cycles in history. Investors lined up with money, but deals were not closed; they were instead put on hold and asked to jump through hoops. Ventura completely missed the boat.

How important is the success/failure of the council’s “green” agenda to the well-being of the city?
Right now we must consider whether a “green” agenda has ultimately held back economic growth and long-term viability for the community. Were the benefits gained equivalent to the things that were lost?

To the extent that “going green” promotes real sustainability and community health —and is not just a trendy jump-on-the-bandwagon catch-phrase — we will have benefited. But my guess is, in the near-term, “green agenda” may take on an entirely new meaning, as the community may, by necessity, shift its priority away from protecting the environment to looking for dollars. Time will tell.

Aside from the ongoing economic crisis, what is the single greatest problem the city faces?
Every other issue I can possibly think of is tied to economic viability. The challenge going forward will be to address the problems caused by lack of money: loss of jobs, increasing homelessness and crime, decreasing property values and overall quality of life.

We desperately need fiscal responsibility at City Hall. We must to be more economically competitive in the marketplace. We must be incented to join together as a community and stop working at cross-purposes. We all must be aligned on the same page in order to get through these difficult times.

Questions regarding local initiatives:

What is your position on the sales tax initiative, and why?
While this seems to be a viable short-term solution for gaining some “temporary” funding, I am against an increased sales tax for two reasons: 1.) I believe it would bring net harm to the community by ultimately interfering with an economic recovery; and 2.) the City must first prove it has ceased all unnecessary and frivolous spending and that it runs a truly lean organization before asking the taxpayers for more money.

Sales tax is regressive, which means it disproportionately burdens lower-income people and small businesses. In wealthier communities and during economic growth periods, this is less of an issue. But we are in a period of severe economic contraction — the greatest since the Great Depression — with many people already impoverished and unemployed, homeless or close to it. When taxes were raised during the Great Depression, it sent the economy back into another tailspin.

Let’s not repeat this mistake.

It is not appropriate to burden average citizens even more. It would cause many additional families to suffer, businesses to close, residents to move, and further depress real estate values, which would further reduce city revenues and ultimately make stable funding more difficult. I think there are better ways to boost government revenue without further harming the economic condition of our community right now. We can not tax ourselves into prosperity.

What is your position on Measure B (view protection initiative), and why?
This is a tough issue because midtown is in desperate need of revitalization and development. There has been virtually no building in midtown, or any substantial refurbishment, during the entire time I’ve lived here (36 years). Can we make it profitable for developers, and for the entire community long-term, if we impose height restrictions on new construction in a major commercial corridor? While I am all for a “livable community,” I think the community’s long-standing no-growth stance is now causing financial duress.

That said, I think we should trust the initiative process. The measure’s temporary height restriction would have little effect because new building is at a virtual standstill because of the bad economy. Plus, the Council or voters would have final say on the proposed view protection ordinance, which would allow time for further community dialogue on the issue.

Ultimately, the community will decide, but to me, Measure B simply highlights the dire need for the City and residents to become better aligned to find mutually beneficial solutions. It’s unfortunate that the community does not trust the government to look after average citizens’ best interests. I would much rather see collaborative, win-win solutions, and would push for policies and procedures which facilitate compromise between the City and initiative proponents before a measure goes to the ballot.

What is your stance on Measure C (forbidding the addition of new “superstores”), and why?
Measure C does not limit all “big box” stores, only those larger than 90,000 square feet with more than 3 percent of the sales floor devoted to non-taxable goods (e.g., groceries). The measure protects our neighborhood grocery stores for the near future. I welcome stores such as IKEA and Costco as long as they are in appropriate areas, such as near the Auto Center.

Neighborhood grocery stores, which are easily accessed by walking or biking, are in keeping with the New Urbanism ideals that our City planners recommend. I think it’s in our best interest to preserve these neighborhood stores despite the push for “centralization.”
 

 

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    June 16 @ 2:00 pm - 4:30 pm
  3. Ojai Pops Orchestra- Free Community Concert

    June 16 @ 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
  4. Conejo Valley Quilters Monthly Meeting

    June 17 @ 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
  5. WEEKLY SOUND BATH – THOUSAND OAKS

    June 19 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
  6. The Longest Day – Poker Night Benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association!

    June 21 @ 6:00 pm - 11:30 pm
  7. The Elite Theatre Company Presents: VANITIES

    June 21 @ 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm
  8. The Elite Theatre Company Presents: VANITIES

    June 22 @ 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm
  9. Summer Solstice Nature Hike on Pine Mountain

    June 23 @ 8:30 am - 3:30 pm
  10. The Elite Theatre Company Presents: VANITIES

    June 23 @ 2:00 pm - 4:30 pm

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