On Monday night, the Ventura City Council and residents said goodbye to outgoing Councilman Brian Brennan, who had served on the Council for four four-year terms. Later in the evening, newcomer and Deputy District Attorney Erik Nasarenko was sworn in. This was followed by the Council appointing the new mayor, followed by the nomination of deputy mayor. Of course, Deputy Mayor Cheryl Heitmann was appointed as mayor, but something too similar and a bit disheartening happened — Nasarenko was appointed as deputy mayor. He is the third newcomer in a row to be appointed to the position, and consequently it was the third time that now four-term Councilman Neal Andrews was skipped over for the nomination. Outgoing Mayor Mike Tracy and former Mayor and current Councilwoman Christy Weir stated, in essence, that Andrews didn’t have the qualities they felt were needed to be mayor.
In a news article in the VCStar on Tuesday, Weir was quoted as saying, a good mayor was able to take every member’s differing goals and personalities and still be able to work as a team; an effective mayor “values everyone’s opinion in the process.” When looking at the makeup of Ventura’s new City Council, it’s clear to see that the idea of “differing goals” isn’t really a valid statement. Truth be told, Councilmembers Jim Monahan, Tracy and Weir often agree with one another. While Heitmann and Nasarenko, apparently, based on prior conversations and decisions, tend to lean toward more progressive position on social issues than the aforementioned three, we are concerned that going along to get along may turn out to be the name of the game. And that’s a big concern.
Based on the vote to pass over Andrews once again, 5-2, with Councilman Carl Morehouse and Andrews voting against Nasarenko’s appointment to deputy mayor, it seems the majority will be Heitmann, Nasarenko, Monahan, Tracy and Weir. The voices that Morehouse and Andrews represent might become muffled by the new majority on the Council.
It’s clear that these nonpartisan positions attract those of distinct political parties. We just hope there is balance on the Council moving forward. In the end, however, had Ventura had a better voter turnout, had it been closer to what we see during gubernatorial or presidential elections, had candidate Richard Francis tipped the scale over Monahan with the mere 40-plus votes he needed to take a seat on the Council, perhaps Andrews would have had more support to be mayor. Perhaps we wouldn’t have had the third novice councilmember become the next deputy mayor. Perhaps we could have had the first black woman on the Council. Anything could have been possible. But it takes more than a 25 percent voter turnout to turn things around.
Tracy was reported as saying that the mayor must reflect the views of the entire City Council. Historically, a Council is supposed to reflect the entire views of a city’s voters, but we wonder why it’s such a high priority that Ventura’s mayor reflect the views of the entire Council when the election of our Council reflects only a quarter of Ventura’s registered voters let alone a smaller percentage of adults in the city? We have to believe the perspective is skewed at City Hall.
In order for Ventura City Council to more accurately reflect the views of the entire city, not just a small number of voters, we look at the words of our new deputy mayor, Nasarenko, in his response to our pre-election candidate’s questionnaire:
“It’s time for our city charter to be reformed . . .. I believe strongly that our municipal elections should be held on even-numbered years, mirroring the gubernatorial and presidential elections, rather than on the current off-year cycles. Reforming the charter in this regard should lead to greater voter turnout and help to decrease election-related costs. (It’s also the way virtually all Ventura County cities currently hold their elections.) Further, I believe we should consider moving to an all-vote-by-mail election, a voting trend that is already reflected in the fact that the vast majority of voters no longer cast ballots at the polls but rather vote absentee.”
We agree with you, Deputy Mayor Nasarenko, and hope to see some of these changes made in your first term.