Meet the candidates: Ventura City Council

Meet the candidates: Ventura City Council

The VCReporter wraps up its coverage of the Ventura City Council election this week, featuring Brian Lee Rencher and Christy Weir. (Because Melody Joy Baker missed our deadline, her interview is featured online at vcreporter.com.) Election Day falls on Nov. 8, so be sure to remember to mail in your absentee ballots or cast your votes at your local polling places. To find your polling place, go to recorder.countyofventura.org. All interviews and endorsements are available online at vcreporter.com, Meet the Candidates: Ventura City Council 2011.

 

1Christy Weir

Lives in: Midtown

Recent work history: Ventura City Councilmember since 2003. Teacher for nine years.
Division manager at local publishing company for 14 years.

Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council:
• Two terms on the Ventura City Council

• Two years as mayor of Ventura

• Founding board member, Downtown Ventura Organization

• Board member, Ventura Music Festival

• Board member, Community Commission for Ventura County

• Founder, Serra Cross Conservancy

• Member, Midtown Community Council

• Member, Westside Community Plan working group

• City Council liaison to Visitor’s Bureau and Ventura Unified School District

• Dean’s Leadership Council, CSUCI

How would you characterize Ventura’s identity as it relates to tourism, and what aspects of the city’s resources best define that identity?
The leisure and hospitality industry is one of Ventura County’s bright spots in this economy. It’s showing growth now, especially with international visitors. Ventura has been a strong regional tourism leader in many ways. We recently won a nationwide award for arts marketing efforts. The city has attracted a vibrant arts community that brings cultural tourists to town. Studies show cultural tourists stay longer and spend more money. We are also blessed with many recreational and sightseeing opportunities, such as the nearby Channel Islands; Ventura serves as the launching point for many visitors to this national park. Our beaches, Harbor Village and historic downtown with unique shops and restaurants have made us a popular destination for day trips, and our newly renovated hotels attract visitors for longer stays.

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?
I have taken a very active role in recruitment efforts to bring new businesses to Ventura and recently returned from a western regional retail conference in San Diego, where I spoke to many participants interested in locating in Ventura.

Our location and amenities are clearly a draw. We need to stay proactive in business recruitment, identifying available buildings for reuse and areas for businesses to build new facilities. Businesses are attracted to areas that are clean and safe and attractive, so the city needs to continue efforts to revitalize our Downtown, Midtown, Westside and Seaward/Pierpont beach areas.

One area we having been working hard to support is our growing medical community. The expansion of the city’s medical district, with the new $300 million Community Memorial Hospital building and the expanded Ventura County Medical Center, will bring high-wage jobs to Ventura and the businesses that support the medical community. In addition, our Ventura Ventures Technology Center is nurturing local high-tech start-ups.

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?
We’ve been fortunate in the city of Ventura to have employee groups who have made sacrifices in pay and benefits to retain jobs and services in this down economy. These efforts have been appreciated. I do not support the practice of pension spiking. In future negotiations, we need to ensure that pension formulas are based on the top three years of salary, rather than the top single year. We also need to move toward higher retirement ages and increased employee contributions toward their pension costs. The percentage of city, county and state budgets that is dedicated to retirement costs is not financially sustainable.

What does Ventura need more of and less of and how would you implement carrying out the task to improve the city?
As I mentioned before, Ventura needs more high-value, high-wage jobs. We need to not only employ our current population, but work to keep our emerging young, bright talent here at home.

Our infrastructure is aging and we need more resources dedicated to street and sidewalk repair.

We also need to support the citizens’ call for better library services. I support the addition of a new facility to better serve our families on the East Side, as soon as resources are available.

As municipal budgets across the country have tightened due to the loss of revenues from a down economy, public/private partnerships have become a necessity. While Ventura is blessed with many wonderful volunteers, we can always use more. Community service should be nurtured and volunteers recognized for their contributions. Citizens can make a big difference in the areas of cleanliness, the arts, special events and park upgrades (for example, the Ventura Botanical Garden).

In the “less” department, we have a significant homeless population, and this is unacceptable. I will continue to support efforts to help these folks transition into better circumstances. We also need to differentiate the homeless individuals who welcome meaningful services from the vagrants who engage in illegal behavior and whose lifestyles are enabled by handouts. Aggressive panhandling, shopping cart theft, public intoxication, drug use and violence are hurting our businesses, and we need to step up enforcement in those areas.

Though Venturans love their cars, how could public transportation be improved?
The good news is that young adults (ages 20-29) are more open to using public transportation than older generations. The VISTA commuter bus from Ventura to Santa Barbara is heavily used and continues to add more buses.

Our senior population will double in the next 30 years, and transportation will become a challenge for those who are not able to drive. The city will need to work closely with VCTC (Ventura County Transportation Commission, the agency that oversees public transportation) to ensure that our seniors have transportation options.

VCTC is also working with officials in Santa Barbara to extend Metrolink from Ventura to Santa Barbara; however, the cost will be $2 million per year. Ventura County does not have a half-cent sales tax dedicated to transportation as other counties do, so funding is a difficult challenge. Another goal is to adapt the Amtrak schedule to be more convenient for commuters.   

 

2Brian Lee Rencher

Recent work history: Owner: Priced Advice.

Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council:
I am registered to vote in the city of Ventura and have obtained 20 valid signatures of like registered electors affixed to my official nomination papers issued to me by the Ventura City Clerk. Other than that, I guess I know about as much regarding city operations, finances, capital programs, policies, laws, etc., as any other intelligent and well-educated candidate with over 20 years of direct experience in dealing with the complexities of the public’s business.

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’s real economic history has been as a blue-collar working-class town – we seem to have forgotten this. The City Council and the Chamber of Commerce have focused way too much effort for too long on tourism – which creates mostly low-wage jobs. At the same time these people have neglected most other aspects of the rest of the city’s economy for decades. Because of this neglect and shortsightedness, Ventura’s overall economy is now the most under-performing of any city in the County of Ventura.

For instance, from1991 through 2005, the city spent more than $120 million (approximately $8 million annually) in general funds and borrowed money “promoting” tourism while neglecting the attraction of high-tech, high-paying jobs.

Whereas, during the same period cities, such as Thousand Oaks and Camarillo, focused their resources on creating high-wage jobs and, therefore, they have very nice well-kept safe communities because their workers have the taxable income to support and sustain such amenities. Ventura’s voters should ask themselves: After 20 years of Ventura Chamber of Commerce political rule at City Hall, are they better off financially than they were two decades ago? Venturans need leadership that is fresh, intelligent and foresighted, and tourism should take a back seat to real economic development in the city based on real science.

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?
The first thing the voters should to do, unless, of course, the voters like being poor, is vote out the incumbents because they have obviously failed to create a vibrant and sustainable local economy. But first, the voters have to admit that we have an economic problem and recognize who created it. Gee, remember when Texaco, Kinko’s and even the Ventura County Star newspaper used to call Ventura home? Remember all their support industries and the jobs they provided as well? Remember when the Ventura City Council was business-friendly? What happened?

What this city desperately needs is a structured, reality-based short-, medium- and long-term economic plan created by real economists and forward-thinking business leaders that takes account of the economic paradigm shift that is occurring worldwide so that Ventura can take advantage of its unique attributes. Economies of scale and comparative advantage should be at the forefront of our thoughts and planning efforts. What we’ve had too much of for too long is short-sighted dirty little land deals fomented in the back rooms of City Hall at the long-term expense of the entire community for the financial benefit of the politically connected few. If you have been voting for these politically connected few’s candidates for years on end, then you need to stop unless you like being poor.

I don’t know for certain if any of the other candidates are trained economists and/or bankers, but I do know that I am certified by the State of California to be both. Perhaps it’s time to elect individuals formally trained to address these matters. Just a thought … Either way, it’s going to take much more than seven councilmembers to solve this issue.

But I don’t think the voters are going to solve this ongoing problem by once again electing the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. This city needs professional help!

Public pay and pension has long 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?
Well, if public pay and pension levels bother some voters, then they need to recognize that police, fire and general employee union endorsements are all about pay and pensions — nothing else. The public’s safety and welfare take a back seat with these union endorsements.

If the public’s safety and enhanced city service levels are considered at all by the union representatives during their respective endorsement processes, these concerns have never been openly expressed directly to me during the last eleven city elections (20 years). Maybe they quietly think about it, but don’t say it openly.

If the taxpayers’ concerns regarding the public service levels they pay for are considered at all during the unions’ political endorsement processes — and one should not equate any union endorsement with enhanced service levels based upon my direct experience — we seldom hear about these employee concerns from the union representatives themselves. Union pay and pension benefits are not just a city fiscal problem — it is primarily a political problem based upon voter preferences for voting for candidates with union endorsements. If the voters equate police and fire union endorsements with increased public safety, and S.E.I.U. endorsements with increased public service levels — think again! Ultimately, elected officials must pay for these endorsements with public funds via pay increases and greater pension benefits. This cozy quid-pro-quo arrangement is very expensive for the hard-working taxpayers.

However, don’t confuse the respective unions’ representatives negotiating positions and corresponding political endorsements with the perspectives, attitudes and actions of individual public employees; the vast majority of whom I have personally found to be caring, diligent, motivated, capable and hard-working public servants. If you would like to know more about my perspectives on unionization in the workplace, please read: “Power To Speak” in the Nov. 24, 2010, edition of the Ventura County Reporter.

What does Ventura need more of and less of, and how would you implement carrying out the task of improving the city?
Ventura needs more cleanliness and maintenance of public areas and assets and less graft, greed, incompetence and corruption at City Hall. The city councils over the last 20 years – since the political takeover by the Chamber of Commerce – have failed to keep the city clean and well-maintained. The ruling political machine seems to be made up almost entirely of greedy, shortsighted, self-serving and self-important slobs who see our city’s treasury as their personal piggy bank. What is so hard about keeping the city clean? Why invest in capital projects if we can’t properly operate and maintain them? Maybe we should take care of what we already have before adding more things we can’t afford in the first place! Maybe we should invest in some mops and brooms and spend less on “planning.”

Though Venturans love their cars, how can public transportation be improved?
People are not willingly going to abandon their personal automobiles any time soon, even if gas prices go through the roof. In the meantime (the foreseeable future), the bus lines need to run when and where they are needed most within the constraints of available funding sources.   

Meet the candidates: Ventura City Council

Meet the candidates: Ventura City Council

The VCReporter continues its coverage of the Ventura City Council election this week by publishing two interviews per week. On the downhill slope to Election Day, we have featured eight of the 11 candidates, including this week with Bill Knox and Carl Morehouse. All interviews are available online at vcreporter.com, Meet the Candidates: Ventura City Council 2011. 

 

1Bill Knox

Lives in: East Ventura near Huntsinger Park

Recent work history:
I am vice president of Crescendo Interactive Inc. We serve thousands of charitable organizations and professionals all over the United States. I provide tax and legal support for charities and speak at events all over the nation. In addition, I write weekly newsletters and serve as a contributing author of GiftLaw Pro, the largest and most extensive electronic tax treatise on planned giving.

I am a member of the board of directors of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association and the past president of the East Ventura Community Council. I am a member of the Planned Giving Advisory Councils for United Way of Ventura County and CSU, Channel Islands. I also serve on the Consultative School Board of Holy Cross School at the San Buenaventura Mission.  I have served as the vice chair of the annual Through the Looking Glass Estate and Gift Tax Symposium Committee and continue to serve on that committee.

Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council:
I grew up in Ventura. I have volunteered my time and skills to various community organizations since arriving in Ventura 21 years ago. I know the issues facing Venturans and the history of our city. This experience is invaluable to crafting solutions to our local problems. I have earned a bachelor’s degree, my J.D. and an LL.M. in taxation. As an expert in taxation I know the effects of burdensome taxes and fees on businesses and individuals. This is why I was asked to join the board of directors of the Ventura County Taxpayer’s Association. My long-term connection with the community was honored by my election as the chairman of the East Ventura Community Council. My dedication to and support for local charitable organizations has given me the perspective needed to work with others to ensure the prosperity of our community. 

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 is an iconic city; we could not ask for a better location. Our proximity to the some of the best surfing in the nation, the Los Padres National Forest, premier camping and other outdoor recreation opportunities makes Ventura a wonderful place to live. And it has the potential to be a fantastic vacation destination. 

In recent years our city has neglected its best tourist draw — our beaches. We have no trash cans on our city beaches.

Sand is piling up, damaging private property and making public access impossible in some locations. Violent crime and aggressive vagrants plague our promenade, parks, downtown and the pier. Let’s restore these areas to the tempting and safe locations that they once were by enforcing the laws against illegal behaviors.  All city beaches and parks ought to have trashcans and clean restrooms.  The beaches ought to be groomed and prepared for recreational use. Let’s encourage more amenities on or near our seaside. We can not afford to neglect our shore.

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?
Ventura’s unemployment rate remains high. One reason for this is a lack of business-friendly incentives in our city.

Entrepreneurs ought to be encouraged, not punished. I propose the elimination of the gross receipts tax for businesses grossing under the poverty line. Let’s open the tech incubator to more types of local businesses and add a business startup program to instruct entrepreneurs on how to create business plans, file loan applications, keep books, create a corporation and file taxes.

I propose the creation of a business enterprise zone within Ventura. These state created designations provide substantial benefits for businesses operating within the boundaries including enhanced equipment deductions, tax credits for hiring local employees, access to financing programs and more.

In addition, the planning process in Ventura is long and arduous. Eliminating the uncertainty must be a priority for our city. Ventura deserves a rigorous set of regulations that allows us to retain the city’s character while providing those interested in building or remodeling assurance that their project will be approved if they follow the code.  Limiting the time the planning committee has to rule on a plan is crucial in attracting new jobs to Ventura. Let’s reform the development code to protect our community and promote Ventura to interested businesses. In short, let’s change the way Ventura does business, so business will want to come to Ventura.

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?
Our public employees perform valuable services to our city. The issue is not one of leveling the playing field. The real issue is sustainability. The current pension system is irretrievably broken. If we do not take the steps necessary to reform public employee benefits, there may come a time when the city is unable to meet its obligations.  

City employees should contribute their full vand fair share toward their portion of the pension cost. The city has been picking up the employee’s share for years. We must move the employee’s retirement calculation to a five-year average rather than focusing on highest paid single or three-year averages. We ought to insist that new employees receive a 401(k) style defined-contribution plan rather than the unsustainable defined-benefit plan. The goal is to ensure the city employees are generously compensated for their service and that the city can continue to operate effectively and on budget.

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 jobs, better stewardship of our tax dollars and less fiscal waste. As the only candidate with a jobs plan, I believe I have the ability to get Ventura working again. 

We need clean beaches, safe communities and to protect our rivers from destructive and polluting vagrant camps. We need to enforce our laws against aggressive panhandling, public drinking and drug use. We need more police on the streets, a plan to keep our fire stations open and adequately staffed. We must work to preserve our historic buildings and cultural assets.

Though Venturans love their cars, how could public transportation be improved?
Ventura needs a transportation system that can quickly and efficiently deliver riders to their destinations. The current network of bus systems in our area provides no efficient way to travel in a timely manner. By creating a dedicated bus line that runs only from high-traffic points to other high-traffic points may be the answer. 

A hallmark of healthy and active communities is a well-developed and -maintained bike and pedestrian system. We should connect, expand and maintain our bike and pedestrian paths across the city.    

 

2Carl Morehouse

Lives in: College Area

Recent work history:
I’ve been on the Ventura City Council since 1999. I’m a retired public servant, having worked for the Ventura County Planning Department for 20 years. In recent years I have also taught graduate-level courses in Urban Planning at Cal State Northridge and participated in many seminars and workshops on this topic.

Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council:
I have dedicated my life to public service. I worked professionally as a planner in government service for 30 years and I am proud of the things I have accomplished in my 12 years on the City Council, including my term as mayor from 2005 to 2007.

Before being elected to the City Council, I was involved in many civic and community activities in Ventura. I served on the city’s Historic Preservation Committee and the Seize the Future Citizen Outreach Committee. I was involved in creating several important strategies for our community in the 1990s, including the first Downtown Specific Plan and the first Community Cultural Plan. I also helped to create the Ventura County Civic Alliance, a broad-based coalition promoting the “three E’s” (economy, environment, social equity), which is affiliated with the Ventura County Community Foundation.

During my time on the City Council I have dedicated myself to making sure that Ventura’s voice is heard in regional and statewide discussions. I am especially committed to “fighting back” when the state tries to steal the revenue we need to provide public services. I’m a member of the Regional Council at our regional planning agency, the Southern California Association of Governments, and I’m currently president of the Channel Counties Division of the League of California Cities. When I was mayor in 2007, I received the Distinguished Leadership Award to an Elected Official from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association, my professional association.

I have also enjoyed participating in a wide range of other community activities, including Read Across America Day in local schools, the Bell Arts Factory Partnership Council, and the Oxnard Salsa Dance Contest. I am a longtime singer/songwriter and was proud to record the theme song for Ventura’s Kinetic Sculpture Race.

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 is a marvelous town to visit and we have many assets – the beach and Promenade, our Mission and other historical features, our beautiful Downtown, Ventura Harbor (the gateway to Channel Islands National Park), and our rivers, hillsides and other unspoiled natural resources. This combination of our history, our quaint downtown, and our outdoor recreation create a compelling destination.

But we don’t always have a strong “brand.” We need to work on creating an identity that people can easily understand and relate to. It’s very important to create a stronger presence on Highway 101 so people will get off the freeway and come into town, as well as a good train depot to welcome visitors to Ventura.

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?
This is a tough nut to crack, but there are many things we can do.

First, we can target and support certain types of businesses that hold great potential to create jobs, including:

1. High-tech businesses such as those currently emerging in our business incubator.

2. Green businesses, especially those focused on producing alternative energy and recycling.

3. Local retail businesses that benefit from our active “buy local” and “live local” campaigns.

4. Medical businesses that can grow because of their proximity to our two hospitals, which in and of themselves produce many high-wage jobs.

Second, we can make sure our development review process is streamlined and clear to applicants so they are not discouraged from locating their businesses in Ventura.

And third, we must continue to work on providing housing for younger families who work in Ventura. Many of us older folks already have our “piece of paradise” and are likely to retire here. So we must be innovative in providing housing for people who will work in the businesses we hope to attract and grow.

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?
We must continue to work on ways to moderate the cost of pensions to the taxpayers so we can use our General Fund money to pay for services, not retirements. I am proud of my efforts here. I voted against the increased firefighter pensions in 2009. I supported the changes this year that require our employees to pay a portion of their pension costs.

Having said that, I think it’s important to note the value of having these public employees in our community. Public employees perform many important tasks and their income – whether working or retired – provides disposable income that is re-circulated throughout our community by eating at local restaurants, buying groceries and health care, going to the movies, getting haircuts, buying gas, etc. At a time of great economic uncertainty, this has helped to stabilize our local economy.

What does Ventura need more of and less of, and how would you implement carrying out the task to improve the city?
What Ventura needs more of is its citizens thinking more cohesively and truly of Ventura. What Ventura needs less of is the fracturing that occurs most particularly at election time.

While we all give lip service to loving Ventura and being proud to live here, the greater sense of community seems to disintegrate at election time when we see each neighborhood surface with concerns about their corner of the world, along with the special interests of the environmentalists, the arts community, the seniors, the mobile home owners, the public employee unions, the social service advocates, the business community, etc.

What we need more of is thinking like a complete community that does have many diverse interests, but putting greater trust in elected officials who can balance all of those interests and keep this city as the truly great place we all believe it to be, without thinking “what’s in it for me” or “what have I got to lose if someone else is going to gain?”

Though Venturans love their cars, how could public transportation be improved?
Public transportation is an important component of our community – for visitors who might arrive on the train, for low-wage workers who must get to work, and for senior citizens and disabled persons who cannot drive. We must continue to support local bus transit, as well as mixed-use opportunities that will permit people to live with less reliance on the automobile, whether they are able to drive or not.

My long-term dream is for Ventura to develop a true “multimodal” transit center. That’s a fancy way of saying that we need an attractive, modern train station somewhere near downtown where visitors, when they arrive by train, can be met by a taxi, a local shuttle bus or a bus that will take them to other destinations outside the city, or where they can simply hop on their bicycles — should they bring them on the train — to hit the trails along the beach and around town.

Such a major effort will probably require state or federal funds. You never know when those funds will become available, so we must put a plan in place for a multimodal transit center so that we can take advantage of funding opportunities when they do come along.   

 

Meet the candidates: Ventura City Council

Meet the candidates: Ventura City Council

The VCReporter continues its coverage of the Ventura City Council election this week by publishing two interviews per week. Three weeks in, we have featured six of the 11 candidates. This week, Ken Cozzens and Cheryl Heitmann. As many Ventura residents will vote by mail, all interviews will be online at vcreporter.com starting Thursday Oct. 13. If it isn’t on the homepage, search for, Meet the Candidates: Ventura City Council 2011. We will also do endorsements in the Oct. 20 issue while interviews will still be published over the next few weeks.

2

Ken Cozzens

Lives in: East-end Ventura (area of Petit and Telegraph)

Recent work history: Retired sheriff’s captain (2007), owner of A Secret Place Salon and Day Spa with wife, Trisha
Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council:

53-year resident of Ventura, member Downtown Lions, member Blue Knights California XVII, site director for Ventura City Corps, consultant for the Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST), liaison for Our Lady of the Assumption Church to the Kingdom Center, member of the Ventura City Flag Committee, M.P.A. Cal Lutheran University, Leadership Ventura, Ventura County Leadership Academy and P.O.S.T. Supervisory Leadership Institute graduate.

How would you characterize Ventura’s identity as it relates to tourism and what aspects of the city’s resources best define that identity?
Tourism is a clean industry and Ventura has many assets to attract visitors. As a member of the Flag Committee and City Corps director, I’ve had the chance to meet with tourists from the United States and Europe and ask them what they like about our city. They’re quick to comment on our beaches, beautiful weather and historical assets, including the Mission, City Hall and museum. They also mention our beaches, bike paths and pier.

However, when I asked if they had seen the Ventura Harbor, visited the Channel Islands Museum or heard about the Channel Islands tours, they replied that they hadn’t. I also suggested they visit the east end of Ventura to see the acres of citrus, avocados and vegetables grown locally. Many were grateful for my suggestions and assured me they would try to visit those areas.

New projects such as the efforts of a nonprofit group to change the Ventura River into a pedestrian/bicycle-friendly estuary, the Botanical Gardens and proposed amphitheater behind City Hall will all enhance our tourist trade. These, combined with our already growing arts community, will help provide the finishing touches needed to make our city the destination spot rather than the stopping-off place on the way to Santa Barbara.

However, for Ventura to become an even greater tourist location, we have to resolve our vagrancy problem in the downtown area. Each visitor commented on the aggressive panhandlers and how they were confronted numerous times while walking either on the promenade or up California Street. A united effort, including a greater enforcement of applicable laws, must be a priority.

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?
First and foremost, we have to change Ventura’s reputation. I will work to reduce the fees charged by the city to build, and strive to streamline a process that is described as bogged-down, causing builders to "jump through the hoops". This will be beneficial in proving we seek new businesses as partners and will work with them to keep them viable.

The expansion of our two hospitals will result in many new, higher-paying jobs. We must capitalize on these new additions and encourage new medical companies to establish locations near the hospital sites. This will benefit the midtown area.

As a council member, it will be my responsibility, along with other staff, to prove to potential new businesses that we have the facilities they need, water and power they require, and qualified workers to keep their businesses strong. We must strive to insure that new clean industries have the opportunity to transport their goods safely on accessible roads. Lastly, we should make potential new businesses aware that both Oxnard and Camarillo Airports have flight accessibility for their executives, negating the need for them to fly into Los Angeles or Burbank.

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?
Ventura is part of the PERS retirement system. This state organization is currently reviewing its retirement plan, including the so called "spiking" of final-year wages. I believe for PERS to continue to function, it will have to seriously consider a two-tier-type system, with new employees paying in to their retirement plans. I respect Ventura’s police, fire and public works employees and feel their pay rates should be on a par with adjacent jurisdictions. All three groups are operating with less than they’ve had and expected to handle more. However, our neighbors are receiving significantly higher sales taxes due to their voters approving a rate increase and/or significantly more retail establishments in their cities. City staff must work with what is available to negotiate contracts.

I’d like to see higher wages for those in the private sector as well, but unfortunately, our economy is stretched to the point that many are downsizing in an effort to stay afloat. For us locally, we have to stress the concept of "shopping local." If area businesses can show a greater profit, hopefully they can pass on some of these benefits to their employees

What does Ventura need more of and less of, and how would you implement carrying out the task to improve the city?
Ventura does not need more drinking establishments. We already have more than 300 locations to purchase alcohol throughout the city. On any given weekend, calls for service at those locations, especially downtown, constantly strain our public safety personnel and prevent them from conducting proactive-type law enforcement.

We need to abandon the California Street off-ramp and work with Cal Trans to build another nearby. That off-ramp is often the first thing visitors see when they come to Ventura. They may be one of the six or seven cars the light at Thompson Boulevard lets through. It’s frustrating and unsafe.

As I mentioned earlier, we need a more concerted effort to sell Ventura not only as a "New Arts City" but "A Business-Friendly City" as well. Unless we work on obtaining a strong economy, we’re doomed to failure.
Ventura needs a big-box-type store. Ideally, these could be located near the auto mall. Shoppers would have the opportunity to drive past the dealerships and possibly stop. Additionally, I’d like to see a big-box retail store in the west end of Ventura. This would attract shoppers from the Ojai Valley and Oakview areas as well as cities and communities north, such as Carpentaria. The additional sales tax incomes would be a major asset for solving our budgetary problems.

Finally, our city needs to take a stronger community approach to dealing with quality of life issues. Businesses, nonprofit organizations, schools and city government must all work together to solve them. Working together, we can clean the sidewalks of East Ventura, remove the palm fronds from the Ventura Keys, remove the sand buildup on beach access areas and assist Public Works with handling other problems. We can work together to resolve our aggressive vagrancy problem by working with the charities and educating the public on the importance of donating to organizations such as the Salvation Army, not giving directly to the panhandler.

Though Venturans love their cars, how could public transportation be improved?
Ventura’s bus system is providing services to many, including the handicapped, students and senior citizens. I’d like to see a more functional bus station at the Pacific View Mall, one that protects waiting passengers from inclement weather.

The Ventura Avenue area is travelled often by pedestrians and bicyclists, including children going to and from area schools. There are currently plans to improve the streets and sidewalks in the area.

During the gas crisis, private organizations encouraged their employees to carpool. Even though the gasoline shortage is not as severe today, Ventura should work to get voluntary carpool programs started throughout the city, including our schools. Once again, a united effort between the Ventura Unified School District, Ventura Community College and businesses could significantly reduce our rush hour traffic.

There are many books written about traveling by bicycle, and many deal with bicycling the Pacific Coast. Efforts to welcome these travelers by providing signage that directs them into our city rather than around it would be beneficial.

Ventura as a tourist destination that provides a variety of attractions. I will work with the business community to develop an even more efficient shuttle service to provide transportation to each attraction from our public parking facilities, as well as our hotels. This shuttle could charge a minimal fee and would greatly reduce the amount of traffic in the downtown area.   

 

3

Cheryl Heitmann

Lives in: Pierpont

Recent work history: executive director of the Ventura Music
Festival

Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council: I served for eight years as a trustee on the Ventura County Community College District and was elected president during a financial crisis. I guided the board through challenging times with a budget twice the size of the city of Ventura’s. I know what it means to work as an elected representative of the people and am not afraid to make the tough decisions.

I am currently a member of the boards of United Way, Ventura Chamber of Commerce, Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau and Downtown Ventura Partners. I am a member of Ventura Rotary, Pierpont Community Council and former board member of the Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance and the Ventura County Mental Health Board. I am married with three grown children and one grandchild. In 2008, I was chosen as one of the top 50 women in Business by the Pacific Coast Business Times and in 2010 as one of the Top Nonprofit Leaders by the Pacific Coast Business Times.

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 should be a major tourist destination, not a drive-through on the way to somewhere else. As a coastal community, we have so much to offer: scenic beaches, cherished hillsides, Channel Islands National Park, the harbor, a wonderful Mediterranean climate, the San Buenaventura Missions, a unique downtown, and a rich cultural heritage that is committed to our diverse arts community. I serve on the Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau board. I am committed to maximizing our natural resources to increase our tourist dollars. As the executive director of the Ventura Music Festival, I partner with the Visitors Bureau as well as the Rhodes Scholar program to bring more tourists to Ventura.

If elected, I think investment in our beaches, the Seaward Avenue district, continued enhancements to all of the Harbor Boulevard corridor including the harbor and preservation/maintenance of our historical assets will be key to continuing to draw to the community visitors who seek the special sense of place that has been preserved in Ventura and must be maintained in the future. Additional marketing resources are needed.

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?

1. Reach out to the business community to ensure the city is doing everything it can to help our existing businesses be successful. This can help create a synergy that would attract other companies who will want to share in Ventura’s prosperous business community.

2. Extend Olivas Park Drive to allow for major retail to locate in this area, making it a destination. This will assist the auto dealers with increased sales and provide a boost to our tax base.

3. Consider waiving some of the permit costs for new businesses locating in the city with at least 25 employees.

4. Explore creating health-care related jobs in biotechnology and research partnering with our two hospitals.

5. Support our existing businesses expanding into new markets such as international trade.

6. Work to promote Ventura as a tourist destination.

7. Work to pass an ordinance that, whenever possible, city businesses be given preference for city contracts.
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?

While many private employers have discontinued defined benefit pension systems, the city remains in the California Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). To opt out of PERS would be expensive due to the city’s unfunded liability and before the city considers this, it must have accurate information on the costs. We need to limit abuses such as excessive pension payouts caused by extraordinarily high “executive” pay, pension “spiking” or artificially increasing salaries in the last few years of service.

Our pension system has to be sustainable and we have to continually evaluate it and be willing to make formula adjustments based on the realities of the marketplace.

As a councilmember, I will treat our employees fairly while being mindful of the city’s budget. We need to annually obtain salary surveys from the public and private sectors in surrounding areas to be able to realistically evaluate our salaries. We need to eliminate “signing bonuses” and relocation assistance for city employees. We need to make sure new positions, especially at the executive levels, are necessary. And we need to evaluate our policies for new employees to make sure our obligations to them are sustainable.

What does Ventura need more of and less of, and how would you implement carrying out the task to improve the city?
Ventura needs less planning and more doing. Residents have grown tired of Ventura’s lack of implementation in favor of yet another plan that ends up sitting on a shelf. It is time for the Ventura City Council to get out of its excessive planning mode and transition into an aggressive implementation mode. If we don’t, Ventura will end up planning itself into oblivion.

To maintain our quality of life, Ventura needs more jobs and a sustainable economy. This should ensure adequate public safety resources to meet the community’s needs.

Ventura’s citizens care deeply about this city. We live in a time when we cannot rely on government to provide us will all the answers and requires the participation of our entire community to achieve our common goals and a council that is willing to listen. A recent example is Wright Library. Hundreds of citizens mobilized to save a precious city resource.

More than ever, we need leaders on the City Council who have experience bringing people together to find solutions. I value the input of our residents and, as a councilmember, will work with individual residents and our neighborhood councils to address the needs of our city and our neighborhoods. I will depend on my fellow residents to educate me on the issues they are knowledgeable and passionate about and to come together in a partnership with the city to find the solutions.

Ventura needs less homelessness and vagrancy. Working with the social service agencies, we must do everything we can to help the truly homeless and those who want to be helped. We must also enforce the laws and not allow them to be broken by those who don’t want any help and are infringing on the rights of others. And, as a city, we need to educate everyone in the difference between a hand out and a hand up.

Though Venturans love their cars, how could public transportation be improved?

1. A regional approach to our bus transportation system making it easier for a resident to go from one city to the next.

2. A more aggressive ride share, vanpool and dial-a-ride program for seniors and others.

3. The improvement and completion of bike paths.

4. Implement a system that uses some smaller buses, as well as flex cars    

 

Meet the candidates: Ventura City Council

Meet the candidates: Ventura City Council

2Bill Knox


Lives in:
East Ventura near Huntsinger Park

Recent work history: I am vice president of Crescendo Interactive Inc. We serve thousands of charitable organizations and professionals all over the United States. I provide tax and legal support for charities and speak at events all over the nation. In addition, I write weekly newsletters and serve as a contributing author of GiftLaw Pro, the largest and most extensive electronic tax treatise on planned giving.

I am a member of the board of directors of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association and the past president of the East Ventura Community Council. I am a member of the Planned Giving Advisory Councils for United Way of Ventura County and CSU, Channel Islands. I also serve on the Consultative School Board of Holy Cross School at the San Buenaventura Mission.  I have served as the vice chair of the annual Through the Looking Glass Estate and Gift Tax Symposium Committee and continue to serve on that committee.

Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council:
I grew up in Ventura. I have volunteered my time and skills to various community organizations since arriving in Ventura 21 years ago. I know the issues facing Venturans and the history of our city. This experience is invaluable to crafting solutions to our local problems. I have earned a bachelor’s degree, my J.D. and an LL.M. in taxation. As an expert in taxation I know the effects of burdensome taxes and fees on businesses and individuals. This is why I was asked to join the board of directors of the Ventura County Taxpayer’s Association. My long-term connection with the community was honored by my election as the chairman of the East Ventura Community Council. My dedication to and support for local charitable organizations has given me the perspective needed to work with others to ensure the prosperity of our community.  

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 is an iconic city; we could not ask for a better location. Our proximity to the some of the best surfing in the nation, the Los Padres National Forest, premier camping and other outdoor recreation opportunities makes Ventura a wonderful place to live. And it has the potential to be a fantastic vacation destination.  

In recent years our city has neglected its best tourist draw — our beaches. We have no trash cans on our city beaches. Sand is piling up, damaging private property and making public access impossible in some locations. Violent crime and aggressive vagrants plague our promenade, parks, downtown and the pier. Let’s restore these areas to the tempting and safe locations that they once were by enforcing the laws against illegal behaviors.  All city beaches and parks ought to have trashcans and clean restrooms.  The beaches ought to be groomed and prepared for recreational use. Let’s encourage more amenities on or near our seaside. We can not afford to neglect our shore.

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?

Ventura’s unemployment rate remains high. One reason for this is a lack of business-friendly incentives in our city. Entrepreneurs ought to be encouraged, not punished. I propose the elimination of the gross receipts tax for businesses grossing under the poverty line. Let’s open the tech incubator to more types of local businesses and add a business startup program to instruct entrepreneurs on how to create business plans, file loan applications, keep books, create a corporation and file taxes.
I propose the creation of a business enterprise zone within Ventura. These state created designations provide substantial benefits for businesses operating within the boundaries including enhanced equipment deductions, tax credits for hiring local employees, access to financing programs and more.
In addition, the planning process in Ventura is long and arduous. Eliminating the uncertainty must be a priority for our city. Ventura deserves a rigorous set of regulations that allows us to retain the city’s character while providing those interested in building or remodeling assurance that their project will be approved if they follow the code.  Limiting the time the planning committee has to rule on a plan is crucial in attracting new jobs to Ventura. Let’s reform the development code to protect our community and promote Ventura to interested businesses. In short, let’s change the way Ventura does business, so business will want to come to Ventura.

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?

Our public employees perform valuable services to our city. The issue is not one of leveling the playing field. The real issue is sustainability. The current pension system is irretrievably broken. If we do not take the steps necessary to reform public employee benefits, there may come a time when the city is unable to meet its obligations.   

City employees should contribute their full and fair share toward their portion of the pension cost. The city has been picking up the employee’s share for years. We must move the employee’s retirement calculation to a five-year average rather than focusing on highest paid single or three-year averages. We ought to insist that new employees receive a 401(k) style defined-contribution plan rather than the unsustainable defined-benefit plan. The goal is to ensure the city employees are generously compensated for their service and that the city can continue to operate effectively and on budget.

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 jobs, better stewardship of our tax dollars and less fiscal waste. As the only candidate with a jobs plan, I believe I have the ability to get Ventura working again.  

We need clean beaches, safe communities and to protect our rivers from destructive and polluting vagrant camps. We need to enforce our laws against aggressive panhandling, public drinking and drug use. We need more police on the streets, a plan to keep our fire stations open and adequately staffed. We must work to preserve our historic buildings and cultural assets.

Though Venturans love their cars, how could public transportation be improved?

Ventura needs a transportation system that can quickly and efficiently deliver riders to their destinations. The current network of bus systems in our area provides no efficient way to travel in a timely manner. By creating a dedicated bus line that runs only from high-traffic points to other high-traffic points may be the answer.  

A hallmark of healthy and active communities is a well-developed and -maintained bike and pedestrian system. We should connect, expand and maintain our bike and pedestrian paths across the city.  

 

 

cCarl Morehouse

Lives in: College Area

Recent work history:
I’ve been on the Ventura City Council since 1999. I’m a retired public servant, having worked for the Ventura County Planning Department for 20 years. In recent years I have also taught graduate-level courses in Urban Planning at Cal State Northridge and participated in many seminars and workshops on this topic.

Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council:
I have dedicated my life to public service. I worked professionally as a planner in government service for 30 years and I am proud of the things I have accomplished in my 12 years on the City Council, including my term as mayor from 2005 to 2007.

Before being elected to the City Council, I was involved in many civic and community activities in Ventura. I served on the city’s Historic Preservation Committee and the Seize the Future Citizen Outreach Committee. I was involved in creating several important strategies for our community in the 1990s, including the first Downtown Specific Plan and the first Community Cultural Plan. I also helped to create the Ventura County Civic Alliance, a broad-based coalition promoting the “three E’s” (economy, environment, social equity), which is affiliated with the Ventura County Community Foundation.

During my time on the City Council I have dedicated myself to making sure that Ventura’s voice is heard in regional and statewide discussions. I am especially committed to “fighting back” when the state tries to steal the revenue we need to provide public services.  I’m a member of the Regional Council at our regional planning agency, the Southern California Association of Governments, and I’m currently president of the Channel Counties Division of the League of California Cities. When I was mayor in 2007, I received the Distinguished Leadership Award to an Elected Official from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association, my professional association.

I have also enjoyed participating in a wide range of other community activities, including Read Across America Day in local schools, the Bell Arts Factory Partnership Council, and the Oxnard Salsa Dance Contest.  I am a longtime singer/songwriter and was proud to record the theme song for Ventura’s Kinetic Sculpture Race.

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 is a marvelous town to visit and we have many assets – the beach and Promenade, our Mission and other historical features, our beautiful Downtown, Ventura Harbor (the gateway to Channel Islands National Park), and our rivers, hillsides and other unspoiled natural resources. This combination of our history, our quaint downtown, and our outdoor recreation create a compelling destination.

But we don’t always have a strong “brand.” We need to work on creating an identity that people can easily understand and relate to. It’s very important to create a stronger presence on Highway 101 so people will get off the freeway and come into town, as well as a good train depot to welcome visitors to Ventura.

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?

This is a tough nut to crack, but there are many things we can do.

First, we can target and support certain types of businesses that hold great potential to create jobs, including:

1. High-tech businesses such as those currently emerging in our business incubator.
2. Green businesses, especially those focused on producing alternative energy and recycling.
3. Local retail businesses that benefit from our active “buy local” and “live local” campaigns.
4. Medical businesses that can grow because of their proximity to our two hospitals, which in and of themselves produce many high-wage jobs.

Second, we can make sure our development review process is streamlined and clear to applicants so they are not discouraged from locating their businesses in Ventura.

And third, we must continue to work on providing housing for younger families who work in Ventura. Many of us older folks already have our “piece of paradise” and are likely to retire here. So we must be innovative in providing housing for people who will work in the businesses we hope to attract and grow.

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?
We must continue to work on ways to moderate the cost of pensions to the taxpayers so we can use our General Fund money to pay for services, not retirements.  I am proud of my efforts here. I voted against the increased firefighter pensions in 2009. I supported the changes this year that require our employees to pay a portion of their pension costs.

Having said that, I think it’s important to note the value of having these public employees in our community. Public employees perform many important tasks and their income – whether working or retired – provides disposable income that is re-circulated throughout our community by eating at local restaurants, buying groceries and health care, going to the movies, getting haircuts, buying gas, etc. At a time of great economic uncertainty, this has helped to stabilize our local economy.

What does Ventura need more of and less of, and how would you implement carrying out the task to improve the city?
What Ventura needs more of is its citizens thinking more cohesively and truly of Ventura.  What Ventura needs less of is the fracturing that occurs most particularly at election time.

While we all give lip service to loving Ventura and being proud to live here, the greater sense of community seems to disintegrate at election time when we see each neighborhood surface with concerns about their corner of the world, along with the special interests of the environmentalists, the arts community, the seniors, the mobile home owners, the public employee unions, the social service advocates, the business community, etc.

What we need more of is thinking like a complete community that does have many diverse interests, but putting greater trust in elected officials who can balance all of those interests and keep this city as the truly great place we all believe it to be, without thinking “what’s in it for me” or “what have I got to lose if someone else is going to gain?”

Though Venturans love their cars, how could public transportation be improved?

Public transportation is an important component of our community – for visitors who might arrive on the train, for low-wage workers who must get to work, and for senior citizens and disabled persons who cannot drive. We must continue to support local bus transit, as well as mixed-use opportunities that will permit people to live with less reliance on the automobile, whether they are able to drive or not.

My long-term dream is for Ventura to develop a true “multimodal” transit center. That’s a fancy way of saying that we need an attractive, modern train station somewhere near downtown where visitors, when they arrive by train, can be met by a taxi, a local shuttle bus or a bus that will take them to other destinations outside the city, or where they can simply hop on their bicycles — should they bring them on the train — to hit the trails along the beach and around town.

Such a major effort will probably require state or federal funds. You never know when those funds will become available, so we must put a plan in place for a multimodal transit center so that we can take advantage of funding opportunities when they do come along.
 

Meet the candidates: Ventura City Council

Meet the candidates: Ventura City Council

For the next several weeks, the VCReporter will continue its coverage of the City Council election by publishing two candidate interviews per week. With 11 contenders vying for three seats — two incumbents, several familiar faces and a few newcomers — it is important that Ventura voters get an in-depth look at potential council members and make an informed decision come Nov. 8.

2

Carla Bonney

Lives in: Downtown Ventura

Recent work history: Art Framing, Art Sales, Vacation Rental

Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council:
I felt compelled to run for City Council after spending the past three years observing local government and working with a very large number of Ventura residents wanting an increased voice regarding local issues. While in this capacity, people freely expressed their feelings about the city and what should be changed. Some of what has been communicated is a need to respect small businesses. I agree. Without them, where would we be as a city? Not every job can be filled by a large company. And in reverse, not every job can be filled by a small company. So I promise I will respect our businesses. I will vote to let them function with as little government interference as possible.
A second item is that within the boundaries of the Constitution of the United States, and the State Constitution, I will legally represent our people, while guarding their guaranteed personal rights. In the past, our city has offered its residents happiness and opportunity. If elected, I will do my best to again have residents feel we offer happiness and opportunity with the actions we take as a Council.

How would you characterize Ventura’s identity as it relates to tourism and what aspects of the city’s resources best define that identity?
Since I have a vacation rental, I have talked with many visitors. They love downtown Ventura and the ocean. The restaurants in our area are great and always enjoyed by our guests.

Our area is very accommodating; however, there is still room for extra attention paid toward getting the word out.

Sometimes our visitors state that they didn’t know about Ventura as a wonderful vacation area. They have said things such as, “We came to your town because Santa Barbara vacation rentals were booked.” However, if they come here once, they usually make a return visit. So an important thing to consider is, what more can we do to get visitors to decide to vacation in our town? We all benefit if they come.

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?
I will be very aggressive with trying to attract business. If a large business relocates here, we can estimate what a bonus it will mean for the city. But in order for a business to want to come here, we have to have our housing market seem inviting. For example, if someone is checking out our town with a realtor, will the realtor say it is easy to remodel? Or will the realtor say that the city is very hard with permitting in a timely manner.

If a company looks at moving here, how hard will it be to find a suitable building to purchase? If they find a building and need to make changes to the building, can we assure them we will bend over backward to make their transition smooth? I don’t believe we have many new success stories to share with them that will put them at ease. Actions will speak louder than words, and I believe many of our actions of today need to be changed so that tomorrow, we will become a realistic site for new businesses.

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?
It is always a joint effort when discussing public pay and pension. So, as in the past, all Council members will be diligent in achieving sustainable solutions with the unions.

It is important to not discount the input of residents regarding public jobs since their taxes are used to pay for services. It is also important to be respectful with public employees. They are employed because there is a true need for their position.

Important consideration must be given to the current economy and budget allowances. It is not the same economy as it was in 2004, and therefore, every discussion we make must be well thought out and realistic.

What does Ventura need more of and less of, and how would you implement carrying out the task to improve the city?
Recent actions of the city could be deemed as infringing on Fourth Amendment rights. Therefore, one of the first things I would do would be to try to get a consensus to remove Google maps from our city website. I believe that this invades our privacy and the right to curtilage.

I do not think it is wise to turn one resident against another, so I would vote to stop having private citizens doing “volunteer code enforcement.” Our Code Enforcement Department at the city knows the job, and knows how to do it legally. It has the responsibility to do the job without violating the rights of residents. 

I believe it is the responsibility of the city to not spend more than it has. When funds are not available, then the answer should be, “Do not spend the money.” I don’t believe in borrowing money from one account to pay for spending in another direction. Our budget should be easy to review, and this kind of borrowing is not easily seen.

Our city has become involved in spending failures, while our streets remain bumpy and in need of paving. I know that my street went for over 27 years before it recently was paved. I know there are still many stories like that. I want to be proud of our streets. That type of spending helps everyone and is not wasted.

Though Venturans love their cars, how could public transportation be improved?
Smaller buses and more trips could possibly be something that would offer more to residents. I think current routes serve the needs of residents; it is the timing of bus routes that make people inclined to not ride.

If more businesses were actually located in Ventura, instead of Camarillo or Santa Barbara, bus usage could actually increase within the city. But, I do not believe in current city discussion to charge employers for transit passes in order to increase bus usage, or force them to subsidize this form of transportation. This is one of the things that will “drive away” businesses from Ventura.

 

2

Danny Carrillo

Lives in: The Imperial Mobile Home Park close to the Kohl’s and Barnes and Noble shopping center off of Telephone Road.

Recent work history: I retired from the grocery business in 2001 after working 20 years in that industry. I also worked in sales and in the financial services field. I was employed as a member services representative by SEIU in 2005. I still hold that position.  

Accolades and credentials that qualify you to run for council: I have a track record of community service, starting with my service to our country when I entered the U.S. Marine Corps right after graduating from Buena High School. The leadership skills that I learned are second to none and helped me to attain the rank of sergeant based upon merit after only three years of service. I was honored to have been named Veteran of the Year for 2011 by Assembly Member Das Williams.

I have been a negotiator for the last six years and I know how to achieve consensus to reach an agreement. During negotiations, I have learned about budgets, including the city’s budget, and how they work.

I also serve on two nonprofit Boards, CAUSE and CAVC (Community Action of Ventura County) both as Treasurer and Secretary/Treasurer and work with their budgets. Because my work requires me to interact with elected officials, I am familiar with what it takes to make decisions that affect employees and residents. I am also a past District 17 Director for LULAC where among other things we addressed, I was on the planning committee that recognized local veterans with a dinner.

I was also in the Big Brother/Big Sister program and coached and umpired youth sports. Because my roots are here in Ventura, I share the values of our residents who want safe neighborhoods, quality parks and library services, programs for our youth and seniors, protection of our environmental resources and public input in setting budget priorities.  We all want to keep Ventura a special place to live, work and raise a family.   

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 a rich historical identity that also serves as the county seat for other surrounding communities and feature many more attractions. Here in Ventura, we have the Mission and the rejuvenated downtown area. We also have the Olivas Adobe, our harbor and marina, the pier and beaches, although we need to work to improve these areas. We also have worked with local artists to continue bringing in outside artists for various art shows. Ventura has also worked with various organizations to bring musical artists and shows here, including the Musical Festival. The annual County Fair also brings tourists to our town where local merchants get a financial boost in serving them. Because of our coastal climate, tourists often stay in Ventura while visiting other attractions such as the Reagan Library and sites in Ojai, amongst many others.   

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?
The Community Memorial Hospital expansion is a good example. Not only will the building trades be able to work on this project, but after completion, good-paying jobs in the medical field will be available where workers will be reinvesting and spending their paychecks into the local economy. I will look into reviewing the permit process to streamline and attract companies to this city. If any city grants or other city assistance can be offered, including RDA monies to these companies, the return and stipulations must include the use of local labor, offer a living wage, be safe to our environment, be sustainable and pay for itself and not create any unfair competition with our local businesses. Green jobs-related businesses would be another area that I would look to recruit to build here in Ventura.

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?
There are some changes that need to be looked at to keep these pensions sustainable. No “spiking” in the time just before retirement that will add to the annual retirement income and no “holidays” for employees who stopped contributing to the retirement system because the plan is doing well in the market. These retirement monies should have been kept separate and used for the retirement system, not spent on unrelated things.

I support public workers who entered public service because they wanted to serve the community, even though their wages and retirement were not equal to the private sector.

Often, employer contributions to their retirement were in lieu of pay increases. This was done as a cheaper alternative to wages being compounded on an ongoing basis. The average non-safety worker for Ventura will receive around $25,000 a year in retirement. He or she will not receive Social Security.

Our teachers, librarians, nurses and other hard-working public workers have not entered these fields to get rich, but they do expect to be part of the middle class.

All workers, public and private, deserve a decent, secure retirement in return for a lifetime of service. 

What does Ventura need more of and less of, and how would you implement carrying out the task to improve the city?
There needs to be a balance between what Ventura needs more and less of. This city, as with all other public agencies, needs more revenue and resources. Without more dollars, the city will continue to struggle to provide services that we are accustomed to having, wanting and needing. We need to improve the staffing of not only our police and fire personnel but in all areas of the city where it is needed and where workers are doing more with less.

With more revenue, we can improve services in the Westside to build parks and maybe that long-awaited swimming pool. We can improve our library system, including services in East Ventura. I plan to work with other local elected officials as well as state legislators to attract more grants and to keep the state from raiding city coffers. I already mentioned other ways to attract companies that will build and offer good paying jobs that in turn will help our local economy to grow.

Though Venturans love their cars, how could public transportation be improved?
I am a big supporter of better public transportation. Ventura County is one of the only major counties in this state where we do not have a transportation tax. If this were to pass, more dollars could be spent to improve our transportation system. We need more bus routes that pick up and deliver more frequently and during the times that residents need them to go to work, school, shopping and medical appointments. We would also be able to improve our bike lanes so that this mode of travel could be encouraged and utilized. We also need to locate transportation centers and bus stops that will allow for workers to leave their cars at home and be able to get to work and get home on time.   

 

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