County SOAR, Sustain VC, and City CURB and SOAR extension measures

Ventura County’s SOAR (Save Open space and Agricultural Resources) and several city SOAR and CURB (City Urban Restriction Boundary) initiatives throughout Ventura County are about to expire. These SOAR and CURB initiatives, if passed, give voters the opportunity to approve or deny major projects proposed on open space and ag land as they pertain to their own cities. The county initiative requires a vote of residents in unincorporated areas. (Note: If a project is on one side of the county, all voters in unincorporated areas can have a say on whether it passes.) These measures were designed to prevent urban sprawl and maintain rural buffers between cities that some counties, specifically Los Angeles, lack. These initiatives have done well in carrying out those goals since they were passed, and we understand the importance of preserving that bucolic landscape many appreciate and call home. There are some issues with the majority of the SOAR and CURB initiatives, though, such as being particularly restrictive for the farmland owners who understand the present and future of farming and their own needs better than the average voter. The biggest concern, however, is the year 2050 sunset of the majority of these measures. While we understand that voters could pass projects they like, should these landowners seek a vote, there are some voters who don’t want anything to change. And for the next 36 years, that seems like an especially long time to have such restrictions. There are city measures in the county that extend until 2030 and we feel that duration is more reasonable.

Conversely, Sustain VC would allow farmers to potentially develop farmland near schools without a vote of the people, allow more acreage (225 versus 12 under SOAR) to build food processing plants, and sunsets in 2036. But there are some serious issues with the lack of defined acreage that a farmer can build on near schools as well as designate for open space.  And with enough legal willpower, we have concerns that those loopholes could spawn the urban sprawl county residents have worked hard to prevent. And there is exponential value in continuing to farm and produce food that is sent all over the world. Ventura County is a player in meeting the needs of a global population and we don’t want to minimize that.

Though all of these measures may have their inherent flaws, being too cumbersome, unclear or running over decades, saving our open space and ag land while preventing urban sprawl is a top priority. Also, it’s not as if no projects will get voter approval. It’s just allowing the residents to have some say on how their cities and the county will shape up. With this, we hold our elected officials accountable to more quickly make the best use of the land already zoned for development and to focus on infill projects and rezoning that will benefit the needs of each community.

Vote Yes on SOAR and CURB extension initiatives, which includes measures, A, C, E, G, J, K, L, P, U and W. Note: Measures G and K extend SOAR/CURB boundaries until 2030. The others extend to 2050.

Vote No on Sustain VC, Measure F.

County of Ventura — Measure AA

Measure AA would help preserve Ventura County’s quality of life by fixing potholes, repaving streets, repairing bridges; improving traffic flow and safety on 101 and 118; keeping senior, veteran, disabled and student bus fares affordable; increasing bicycle and pedestrian safety; protecting waterways and beaches from polluted runoff and restoring watersheds. Ventura County’s sales tax will be increased by one-half cent for 30 years, raising $70 million annually, with independent oversight and audits, and with all funds benefiting local residents.

While 30 years seems long, we understand the ongoing need and the regular complaints about traffic and all transportation concerns addressed in the initiative. Further, the county will finally be able to get millions in matching funds from the state and federal government to take on major projects, such as widening the 101 and 118. We can’t ignore our growing population. Also, we do especially like the accountability clause: independent oversight and audits. Let’s help ourselves by passing this measure.

Vote Yes on Measure AA.

Fillmore — Measure H   

If Proposition 64 passes, Measure H would create a permanent tax, not to exceed $30 per square foot, for the first 3,000 square feet of space, and not to exceed $15 per square foot for the remaining space, used for the cultivation of marijuana, and providing for increases of the greater of CPI (consumer price index) or $1 and 35 cents, respectively, every five years, and that is expected to raise approximately $140,000 in tax revenue for the city annually.

Vote Yes on Measure H.

Fillmore — Measure I

Measure I would create a permanent tax not to exceed 15 percent of all proceeds of marijuana sales in the city, which is anticipated to raise approximately $665,000 in tax revenue for the city annually.

Vote Yes on Measure I.

Fillmore Unified School District — Measure V

Fillmore Unified isn’t regularly asking for tax measures to benefit the district. We feel this is a good time for the district to get out ahead of the curve with necessary updates for the schools.  The Fillmore Unified School District would issue $35 million in bonds at legal rates, with independent citizen oversight audits, no money for administrator salaries, and all money staying local to benefit Fillmore Unified students and schools.

Vote Yes on Measure V.

Oxnard — Measure M

Direct democracy is a dual-edged sword. When voters feel that their elected officials are not serving their best interest or, even worse, that these officials are creating legislation and ordinances that actually harm voters, being able to take up causes through the voter-driven initiative process can be empowering. Measure M, however, is not the right case for direct democracy and could set a dangerous precedent for Oxnard residents. Measure M would effectively repeal the City Council’s approved increases for wastewater rates and return them to the previous rates. In the meantime, residents complain about the city’s reactive responses to wastewater problems rather than being proactive about preventing them. We know Oxnard has had some serious financial issues in the past, but blocking the City Council’s effectiveness to address obvious problems is not the best path to go down. We recommend that residents continue to protest rates at City Council meetings and also at the ballot box by voting for new leaders.

Vote No on Measure M.

Oxnard School District – Measure D

Measure D would allow Oxnard School District to be authorized up to $142.5 million to acquire, construct and modernize additional classrooms and support facilities to reduce overcrowding, replace portable classrooms and older schools with new permanent facilities, increase student access to computers and modern classroom technology, improve student safety, reduce operating costs and qualify to receive state funds, with an independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee, annual audits, and no money for administrator salaries.

Oxnard School District voters just approved a bond initiative (Measure R) in 2012 for $90 million. The district needs to figure out how to better use the money it has available rather than continuously asking district residents for more money.

Vote No on Measure D.

Santa Paula — Blanchard Library District Measure B

In 2012, Santa Paula voters passed a local measure to increase the spending limit to $350,000 more than the Gann Limit for the Blanchard/Santa Paula Library District, which makes up for about half of the $670,000-plus annual budget. Santa Paula voters have continuously approved this spending increase limit for the library district since 1994. For the sake of reading and knowledge and the importance of libraries, this measure should be extended yet again, from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2022.

Vote Yes on Measure B.

Santa Paula — Measure T

While this measure may be well-intended, the focus of the 1-cent-sales tax increase for 20 years is specifically on police and fire, with whatever is left over going to street repair and that’s not clear. This proposed tax seems a little high and for too long for only police and fire to receive majority of the benefits. Further, with such an increase, local residents may be forced to shop elsewhere, where the sales tax rate is lower.

Vote No On Measure T.

Ventura — Measure N

This initiative seems clear, that the selection of mayor and deputy mayor will occur in even-numbered election years and the Ventura Unified School District will be on its own, subject to state law versus being beholden to the city Charter. One thing that we can’t ignore is the vague language about having the selection process for the City Council being determined by ordinance. What that means exactly is unclear and clarity is of the utmost importance in passing legislation.

Vote No on Measure N.

Ventura — Measure O

At its present 7.5 percent, Ventura’s current sales tax is the lowest in the state.  It’s true that the city is old and has an infrastructure that is in need of work. This is the story that the city manager and mayor are telling, and while their points are plain to see, we wish that this tax measure would target infrastructure improvements alone.

Increasing tax revenue is only one of several solutions that the city needs to focus on so that Ventura succeeds in the future. The others are reasonable growth of businesses and population (read: housing), both of which will generate more tax revenue for the city. Ventura is naturally seeing growth in tax revenue with a stronger economy but is not as robust as many other areas in the state that are seeing larger increases, in part due to stronger economic strategies.

And we find it odd that three of the few donors to this campaign are the mayor, city manager and police chief. 

When the economy heads sideways (as it will after a seven-year upward trend) we’ll need more than a half-penny tax to keep us moving in the right direction. City Hall has given voters cause for pause with some of the decisions it’s made in the recent past, leading some to distrust how money is being spent. While a population growth of half of 1 percent is nice for those who pine for the old days to return, Ventura must face the future or suffer from an aging population who will not be in a position to pay more taxes. We’ll be watching to see if the money is well-spent or a reflection of changes needed in City Hall.

Vote Yes on Measure O.

Ventura — Measure Q

Term limits can pose obvious problems when it comes to effective leaders being able to carry on for the common good, especially given the fact that local voters can elect new leaders with every election cycle. Unfortunately, with smaller cities, such as Ventura, the familiar name will get voted in for every relevant election cycle because, simply, it’s a name voters know. Further, Ventura voters are not always aware of how these individual elected officials shape and mold their cities, and then these same voters get frustrated that the status quo isn’t working out to their benefit. We feel that term limits would help shake things up in Ventura and bring new ideas to the City Council.

Vote Yes on Measure Q.

Ventura Unified School District — Measure R

Measure R would aid in preserving and improving academic programs, including reading, writing, music, art, science and math; fund computer technology; retain qualified teachers; and assist in maintaining career and technical training programs. This measure would renew Ventura Unified School District’s existing $59 parcel tax for four years, so long as an independent citizens’ oversight committee is required, all funds are spent on neighborhood schools, and no money is used for administrative salaries or taken by the state and spent elsewhere.

Ventura residents passed this same initiative as Measure Q in 2012. It seems to have served the district and the students well. It was, however, passed during harder economic times. An annual parcel tax of $59 isn’t much to ask.

Vote Yes on Measure R­.