If local elections in any way reflect the national attitude on politics, then the Ventura City Council race is proving to mirror some of the frustration Americans are feeling. While many of the incumbents did prevail in the last two elections, it really says something when two newcomers win their seats with more votes than any of the incumbents. But as it goes with every politician seeking re-election, they too become incumbents and face disappointed constituents. This year, there are four available seats with three seeking re-election after four-term Councilman Brian Brennan announced he will not be running again. Also, six candidates are vying for the open seats, some familiar faces and some new, but the pool from which to choose is much smaller this year — making it that much easier and, equivocally, that much more difficult to choose those we feel are best-suited for the job.
When it came time to do endorsements, we considered a variety of things — experience, leadership qualities, vision, focal points, attention to detail, etc. In our selection process, we found three people really fill the bill, though each one is equally different. And while there are some candidates who show potential, we feel that more time is needed to cultivate a well-informed and balanced perspective on local politics. What we felt seemed to be lacking on the Council, however, that really swayed us to choose these three candidates, is that they represent balance and passion. We hope with this election, whoever is on the Council will make it a priority to change the city charter to hold elections on regular years versus off years. It’s a waste of taxpayer money, and voter turnout is always low on off years and doesn’t truly represent the makeup of the population.
Incumbent Neal Andrews
Say what you will about three-term Councilman Neal Andrews — a lone wolf, muckraker, maverick — he has remained firm on what he believes: fiscally conservative while socially compassionate, and that combination is unusual to come across.
Andrews has spent years on the Council developing economic strategies to keep the budget balanced during times of hardship and has played a significant role in creating the high-tech incubator at City Hall, a program that has been designated as a model for other cities to replicate. He was the lone dissenter on the controversial 911 fee and seems to have taken the lead on efforts to rein in rising salary and pension costs for safety and fire personnel. On the other hand, Andrews is an advocate of social equity, representing the elderly, impoverished and those with mental health challenges as well as veterans. He also advocates for affordable housing and is well-known for his work on the Working Artist Ventura project. Recently, city staff was directed to move forward with analyzing a plan to suspend the inclusionary housing ordinance. He was with the majority that ultimately voted against the plan.
In the past, he has been known to be rather abrasive and disagreeable, which seems ultimately to have led to his fellow Council members repeatedly passing him up for mayor. But his long list of varied endorsements, both liberal and conservative, speaks to his ability to represent both sides. It seems, however, that in recent years, Andrews has been more amicable, and it may just be time for his colleagues to pass the torch his way. Andrews represents the balance and passion we need on the Council. Vote for Neal Andrews.
Candidate Richard Francis
With Councilman Brian Brennan exiting office, we can’t think of a better candidate to take up the cause for environmental advocacy than Richard Francis. In fact, the former Ventura city councilman and mayor is the co-author of the SOAR initiative, Save Open-Space and Agricultural Resources, which passed in 1995 in Ventura and, in 1998, countywide, and gives citizens the right to vote on developments on open space and ag lands outside city limits and limits development within cities, including the hillsides of Ventura. While controversial, some blaming SOAR for limited housing stock, it really speaks to Francis’ passion and dedication to preserving our environment for generations to come. And such representation is pivotal for any local council.
But it isn’t his dedication to the environment that really impressed us, or his advocacy for affordable housing, or even his overwhelming institutional background on creating city and county policies. It’s his concern over the lack of vision on the City Council for Ventura’s future.
Francis recalled a major undertaking at the turn of the millennium, when city leaders brought 300 stakeholders together and discussed Ventura’s future. And what came from that meeting was a vision that focused on sustainability — the economy, the environment and equity. And so Rick Cole was hired as the city manager to carry out that vision. Though Cole wasn’t known to be a charmer, he was following through on the implementation of this vision, as he was hired to do. As leadership on the City Council changed over the years, that vision apparently took a back seat and Cole resigned his position last year after it was clear the Council was ready to move on. We aren’t quite sure that the current Council actually has a vision for Ventura. But we feel Francis is the only candidate who will advocate for an all-inclusive process to, once again, more accurately define what Ventura residents envision for their future.
Francis is by no means a passive person, but we don’t think everyone on the Council should be. We hope he will create balance on the Council that we feel would be lopsided otherwise. Vote for Richard Francis.
Candidate Erik Nasarenko
It’s easy to understand why Deputy District Attorney Erik Nasarenko, a relative newbie to Ventura (a three-year, eight-month resident) has received endorsements from both sides of the political fence — just talk to him.
No. 1 — Nasarenko’s relatability level is high. Whether one is pro-public safety or pro-social advocacy, he has managed to cover both grounds with ease. With his service in the district attorney’s office, he represents public safety, prosecuting domestic violence and child abuse crimes and, on the other hand, he recognizes the need for affordable housing, libraries and parks. Having come from a culturally and economically diverse background where he lived in a dense urban core in Los Angeles, he understands the need for balanced representation in local government. And we like that.
No. 2 — Nasarenko is a 43-year-old family man working a full-time job. We need a voice that represents Ventura residents who are still working and raising children. Currently, the majority of Council members are retired with their children already out of the house.
No. 3 — Nasarenko seems to be a genuinely nice person. When it comes to politicians, many of them seem to have a particular unmatched aloofness. Not Nasarenko. But you can’t take our word for it. Pull him aside at a forum. It’s easy to see. And with that apparent positive personality trait, we feel fairly certain that should he gain a seat on the Council, he will remain available to actually listen to the needs of his constituents.
Vote for Erik Nasarenko.