What achievements are you most proud of in the past four years?
Accomplishments over the past four years include:
Improvements to the Midtown Wellness District, with two new hospitals nearing completion and a parking structure to meet the needs of Community Memorial Hospital as well as businesses in the surrounding area.
The acquisition of land for Kellogg Park on the Westside, and progress on a design and funding for the new park.
New playground equipment in many of our city parks.
The planting of 500 new street trees, made possible by the use of recycled water.
Ventura Water’s new Recycled Water program, which allows our residents to pick up free water for landscaping.
The formation of a Water Advisory Commission to make recommendations to the City Council regarding water supply and demand as well as user rates, and the creation of a “net zero” policy for new development.
The creation of a Downtown Ambassador program, which has been very successful at keeping our downtown clean and safe, and helping homeless individuals to get the help they need.
Identifying specific changes to our General Plan that will ensure neighborhood compatibility for future development.
The city’s partnership with the Ventura Botanical Gardens, facilitating improvements to Grant Park, including a new hiking trail.
Decrease in our homeless population from 700+ to 300 due to the efforts of the city partnering with social service agencies to provide services and housing.
What are the major issues of concern to you in the future?
- The prolonged drought has caused a decrease in our water supply that affects our residents as well as new development. We have enacted a “net zero” policy for new development, requiring them to provide water or pay an in-lieu fee which will be used for new sources of water. Additionally, we need to enact growth management policies that will prioritize development projects that are of most benefit to our community so we do not jeopardize our long-term water sufficiency by allowing unsustainable urban growth.
- A main concern for many years has been deferred maintenance on our 150-year-old city’s infrastructure. Our roads and parking lots and sidewalks need repairs and there are insufficient revenues to keep up with the needs. Gas tax revenues have been our main source of funds for street paving, but those revenues have decreased over the past few years.
- Keeping our oceanfront promenade in good condition will be an ongoing challenge as erosion from high tides and storms increases.
- Vagrancy is an issue that needs constant attention. Our homeless population has gone down over the past several years, but we still have many people in Ventura who need help. The impacts of vagrancy on our public areas include serious concerns about safety and cleanliness.
What are your thoughts on the state of local businesses in the city?
Many local businesses are thriving. We have the highest number of small businesses in the county. Our sales-tax revenues are increasing at the highest rate in the county. Businesses such as the Trade Desk , Patagonia, Hishmeh Enterprises, Community Memorial Health Systems and Kaiser Permanente are growing and providing quality jobs. The Trade Desk, which has grown from a few employees in the city’s Incubator space to a billion-dollar publicly traded company, is a good example of the impact of quality of life on attracting and retaining business. Ventura is a desirable place to locate a business because employees enjoy living and working here. Our downtown has become a vibrant hub for innovative and creative businesses such as DuPuis Group, an international design firm, and many unique restaurants and shops. The Market Street area is attracting many food-related businesses such as wine tasting, breweries, caterers and Ventura Limoncello in addition to the many successful construction-related businesses. Sales at the Ventura Auto Center are up and hotel occupancy and room rates have risen to record levels.
What are your thoughts on current public safety issues?
The safety of our residents is a top priority, and we have excellent police and fire departments. Challenges include an increase in drug use (mostly meth, heroin, Vicodin, Oxycodone), which results in more burglaries and car thefts as well as violent crime. With the enactment of Prop 47, many drug-related crimes are now misdemeanors, meaning that our police officers have the extra challenge of minimal consequences for drug crime. We no longer have a Gang Task Force, which makes it more difficult to investigate and prevent gang-related crime.
Our Fire Department’s responsibilities include emergency medical response. A large percentage of their calls for service are for homeless individuals who need medical attention but refuse long-term care, so the result is many repeat calls for the same health problems. Fire Station #4 is currently being funded with a federal SAFER grant. The cost to keep the station open is $1.4 million per year. Should we not receive the grant next year, we will need to seriously consider ways to fund the station without negatively impacting other city services.
What are your thoughts on the housing shortage in the city?
Ventura is a desirable place to live and there is a constant demand for new housing. However, it is crucial that we consider the serious constraints we have on new development — increased traffic, decrease in our water supply and impacts on quality of life in existing neighborhoods. We need to carefully manage our growth to ensure that new housing development does not replace existing industrial or commercial uses that provide jobs, that higher density projects are compatible with surrounding homes, and that future demand for water is balanced with our supply.
Does the city need more lower-cost housing? Does it need executive housing?
Every city needs a balance of housing to meet the needs of individuals and families, from very low-income to high-income. In Ventura, we have a healthy variety of housing, from small apartments to large single-family homes. Our General Plan states that “We desire to grow slowly and sustainably,” and that we need a “range of housing types.” As we grow, we must be careful to maintain that balance so that all of our workforce, from entry level to executive, has the opportunity to live in the city where they work.
How important are the city’s natural resources to you and what are you doing about it?
Ventura has a very unique geography, surrounded by two rivers, the ocean and hills. They all need our protection. Portions of our beachfront bike path are crumbling because of erosion, and my goal over the next few years is to complete Phase 2 of the Surfers Point improvement project. Phase 1 has been very successful, with the expansion of the sand and dune area and a new bike path that is located further back to ensure protection from high waves and extreme tides. I sit on the BEACON (Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment) board, which is a joint powers authority to address coastal erosion in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. We are working on adaptation plans for sea level rise because the coastline is our biggest environmental, economic and recreational asset.
I have also been involved in the Ventura River Parkway project, which is creating public access to our beautiful river and removing invasive arundo and trash from the river bottom. The river ecosystem is gradually returning to its natural state, as illegal encampments and debris are removed. I support the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy, which owns and preserves several sections of the Ventura River and whose goal is to preserve and make publicly accessible thousands of acres in our hillsides.
How do you feel about changes to the city’s Charter, election of a mayor, Council by district and term limits?
The election of a mayor would have very little impact on the way our government operates. Our Charter requires a city manager form of government, in which the City Council hires a full-time city manager to run the day-to-day operations of the city. The Mayor is a mostly ceremonial role, the main responsibility being to preside at Council meetings, oversee the meeting agendas and represent the Council at various events. An elected mayor would have the same role, unless the Charter was changed by the voters to create a “Strong Mayor” form of government in which the mayor is also the city administrator. The main challenges with this would be the fact that a person who is elected mayor may not have the skills and experience of a professional manager, and the possibility that a new mayor could be elected every two or four years, which does not provide needed administrative continuity and in-depth experience.
There are two main problems with district elections. Each City Council member needs to understand and consider the common good, what is beneficial to the entire city. District elections can contribute to a “territorial” mindset, creating friction between areas of town. District elections also disallow a voter from voting for all City Council members. A voter would only be able to vote for one candidate every four years, rather than casting votes for all seven Council members. That is a loss in the influence of each voter.
Term limits have pros and cons. After serving on the Council since 2003, I have come to appreciate the value of experience and institutional knowledge. We want leaders who have depth and understanding of government, and term limits prevent long-term service. The benefit of term limits is an enforced turnover resulting in broader representation and fresh perspectives.