In 2009, the race for Ventura City Council was surely a heated one. With 16 candidates — the vast majority newcomers — it was as hectic as it was exciting. Three incumbents were re-elected while Councilman Ed Summers lost his seat to former Ventura police chief, Mike Tracy, who is currently the deputy mayor. This year, the race is more focused with fewer people running. The choices have been narrowed down to 11 candidates for three available seats. With two incumbents and nine candidates, some of them new to the race, others throwing their hats in the ring for another chance to be a voice on the council, voters should be abreast of who will best represent them on the council.

For the next several weeks, the VCReporter will be publishing two interviews per week, with the incumbents and candidates in alphabetical order by last name up until the election. While we can’t cover all the important issues, we hope that these questions and answers will give you a good idea where the candidates stand. Watch for endorsements the week before the Nov. 8 election. First up, Ed Alamillo and Martin Armstrong.

 
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Ed Alamillo

Lives in: East Ventura

Recent work history:
I worked as a biologist/inspector for the County Agricultural Commissioner’s office for 14 ½ years. My major duties included quarantine officer for exports and terminal inspections, and fruit and vegetable standards inspector among other duties. I am presently employed with Environmental Health for the Vector Control Division and have been for the last four years.

Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council:
As a quarantine officer I was trained in reading international documents for export, which gave me the legal understanding of international commerce. As one of the lead negotiators for county contracts, I have been able to navigate and interpret labor law for roughly 5,000 county employees. I have been active in this role for the last three contracts with great success and have made a name for myself as a fair and equal negotiator. I believe these qualities and others provide me a broad spectrum of understanding of a government symbiotic relationship with its citizens at large.

How would you characterize Ventura’s identity as it relates to tourism, and what aspects of the city’s resources best define that identity?
We lack a strong general tourism platform. My candidate statement agenda will highlight my vision of the city’s resources that have not been brought to light, such as: publicizing our local harbor, which has whale watching and is one of the West Coast distribution centers for calamari. What about a wine/calamari/seafood festival? How about an Ortega chili festival since Ventura is the birthplace of the Ortega chili? Also, how about a similar Amgen Tour on our local beach bike path that runs from our coastline to Ojai through Santa Paula?

With the loss of a handful of major companies in the area over the years, job and income diversity seems to be diminishing. What would you do as a council member to create high-wage jobs and attract companies to the area?
Retail economic development needs to be addressed at the Ventura Auto Mall, the Downtown area and the Pacific View Mall while creating higher-paying jobs in industrial areas. Halting our moratorium on buildings being four stories or higher. Let’s rezone certain geographical areas like the Auto Mall and Taylor Ranch, which can advertise hotels with an ocean view. Our industrial areas can also benefit without blocking our ocean view. In order to attract quality companies, we must maintain our city services, which would help repair our existing infrastructure like our streets, sidewalks and graffiti removal. The removal of this blight will enhance the quality of our city. In summary, tax incentives and a quality infrastructure would be some of the selling points to attract companies to our area.

Public pay and pension has been a bone of contention for many, especially those struggling in the private sector. If anything, what else do you think needs to be done to even the playing field?
As a councilman, one of my major tasks will be to attract Triple-A companies to Ventura. An example of these companies here presently is Trader Joe’s, UPS and Patagonia, to name a few, that provide our local citizens an even playing field with the private sector.  These are the kinds of companies that balance our economy, which I will be seeking to attract more of.

What does Ventura need more of and less of and how would you implement carrying out the task to improve the city?
Ventura needs more strong Triple-A companies and a strong industrial park area. It needs fewer companies that don’t provide decent pensions and health care, which will burden our tax base. Economic stimulus package for tax rebates for Triple-A companies moving into Ventura with 50 or more employees.

Though Venturans love their cars, how could public transportation be improved?
I would maintain and expand public transit services.  One of the issues that is lacking in Ventura city is the continuity of a service fee that other local cities in our county have maintained.

 
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Martin A. Armstrong

Lives in: Ventura College area

Recent work history: Currently working as a landscape architect

Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council:
Five-year volunteer on the Ventura Parks and Recreation Commission and recent appointment to Ventura Tree Advisory Committee.  Fifteen years working with municipalities throughout California on public and private capital improvement projects ranging from regional parks to downtown plazas and from commercial business hubs to residential subdivision streetscapes. 

I know how to work with teams to complete a project on time and within budget.  Reliability, trust and accountability.

How would you characterize Ventura’s identity as it relates to tourism, and what aspects of the city’s resources best define that identity?
Ventura has an extremely diverse identity as a tourist destination as it relates to the arts, sporting events, our beaches and open space. We hold a wide range of annual events (concerts, streets fairs, parades) on our downtown streets and throughout our communities that utilize our roadways, buildings and park systems. Having a strong public safety system and highly qualified city staff, we can offer these events knowing our community will continue to support all efforts to offer these events each and every year. 

I believe we can continue to provide citywide revenue-generating events such as music festivals, restaurant cook-offs, art shows and sporting events at low operating costs.  Utilizing open venues such as our beaches, marinas and parks, we can continue to show the world the amazing and unique opportunities we have in our backyard as citizens of Ventura, thus drawing in potential new businesses and jobs. Tourism is marketing at its finest, and is something we should capitalize on by working with our Community and Economic Development Department, our Chamber of Commerce and our Visitors and Convention Bureau.

With the loss of a handful of major companies in the area over the years, job and income diversity seems to be diminishing. What would you do as a councilmember to create high-wage jobs and attract companies to the area?
For decades, Ventura was the center of commerce for the entire county. New companies came here to get started and establish strong business relationships before they expanded beyond the county and the state. We need to redevelop ourselves as a first-tier commerce center by: 1. Bringing in high-yielding manufacturing businesses in agriculture and sustainable green products. 2. Re-establishing our link to the railway system as a method to mass-distribute local products. 3. Strengthening our educational system to meet future demands.

Agriculture has been the strongest and most consistent source of jobs in our county. We have lost our connection with the industry in the past decades as surrounding cities have taken the distribution and corporate operations. Our county specializes in the production of food, yet the city of Ventura does not play a very strong role in this market. We need to bring in manufacturing companies to provide the machinery and processing equipment and become a strong supportive backbone for this lucrative industry. In turn, we can look into reusing our link with the railway system to bring in raw materials for manufacturing of goods and products needed to keep our farms working efficiently and providing a centralized hub for the sales of large machinery and equipment.

Every city across Southern California is competing for high-profile employers, and Ventura has just as good a shot at bringing in another Amgen as any other city. Winning over companies by providing relocation assistance, tax incentives and a strong source of viable educated employees is critical. We will soon have one of the largest medical hubs in Ventura County when CMH and VCMC complete their expansions in the coming years, and we should continue to work with our colleges to ensure the medical programs can sufficiently meet the anticipated demands of these newly arriving high-wage jobs. 

Public pay and pension has been a bone of contention for many, especially those struggling in the private sector. If anything, what else do you think needs to be done to even the playing the field?
Leveling the pension issues has been a high priority in the past, and I believe there is still some room for negotiations. Overtime pay, retirement spiking and out-of-pocket contributions for health care costs are three of the areas I would like to bring back to the table. I like the direction recent negotiations have gone and would like to see the numbers come down to meet the levels of the statewide average. 

What does Ventura need more of and less of, and how would you implement carrying out the task to improve the city?
Outside of the obvious need for more jobs, my primary goal is to promote a sustainable community, based around a strong educational system, economic growth and accessible open space, while reducing our homeless population. This translates into a greater public safety presence (increased fire and police personnel), more parks and more partnerships to improve our educational system for all ages.

One such method I would like to promote is the creation of foundations to save our libraries and diversify our park and recreation system. The benefits of creating foundations allow us to maintain our current level of services and take them to a new, higher level by utilizing development grants and private sources of funding not available to cities. By bringing together our school districts and public interest groups, we can help expand our libraries and open-space systems instead of limiting them. Now is the time to grow and plan for the future.

Though Venturans love their cars, how could public transportation be improved?
Two improvements I would be supportive of include buses and bikes. I would like to see our bus system increase the number of trips and destinations and see a reduction in the size of our buses. We are a small city, and I believe we can provide a more efficient mass transit by using a smaller bus size, one that better represents the size of our city.

Routes with a higher demand will justify some larger buses, but across the transit system as a whole, we should look into a shuttle system that provides more frequent trips and more stops to key city destinations: hospitals, grocery stores, government centers, beaches and parks. 

Transportation costs are high and bikes are cheap, and getting the public to second-guess taking the car and opting for the bike is a step in the right direction. City staff is nearing the completion of a citywide bicycle plan showing how bikes can safely access every community across our city. I feel we should take the necessary steps to implement as much of these ideas and make Ventura a healthier and greener city.