Matt LaVere

Why are you running for Council?

 The reason I am running for Ventura City Council is simple: I want to make sure that the Ventura my young daughter inherits in 20 years is even better than the Ventura we know today. That means balancing respect for Ventura’s unique history, while also having a bold and strategic vision for Ventura’s future. My sole focus is improving Ventura, specifically, creating jobs, fighting ever-increasing crime rates, expanding the use of our parks and open spaces, and ensuring that our town builds the housing we need. I have a diverse background and proven track-record of working to enhance our great city. I believe that Ventura can benefit greatly from a new voice on the City Council — someone with fresh ideas who will proactively work to create the safe, family-friendly and prosperous city we all desire.

What has prepared you for the job of Council member?

I am an attorney and small-business owner. I have the real-world business experience which the current council is sorely lacking. Because I represent numerous Ventura-based businesses, I know their needs and concerns. I also know what the city can do differently to help these businesses grow and prosper. The fact that not a single current Council member has recent business experience is quite obvious based on the numerous complaints you hear from local business. On top of my business experience, I am also an appointed Ventura Parks Commissioner and on the Board of Directors for the Ventura College Foundation (where I spearheaded a first-of-its kind diesel mechanic program that created 55 local jobs), Project Understanding (where I am working at the ground level on helping resolve our city’s homeless and vagrancy situation), and the Downtown Ventura Rotary Club. Through all of these positions, I have gained firsthand knowledge of the numerous issues facing this city and I believe my well-rounded experience makes me uniquely qualified to be a Council member.

What major goals are you hoping to achieve in your term on Council?

Bringing more jobs to Ventura and truly revitalizing our local economy. Developing cultural and outdoors opportunities, specifically, expanding use of our parks and open spaces for concerts, plays and other offerings which bring our community together. Specifically addressing our city’s homeless problem with proven, creative solutions. And increasing our city’s housing supply in order to help all those forced to pay blatantly high rents.

How will your contribution benefit citizens?

 If I am elected, I will proactively work to bring economic and family-oriented opportunities to Ventura. Obviously, I am significantly younger than most of the current Council members and I think that is a good thing. I will bring a new vision and fresh perspective to Council deliberations. It is my belief that current Council decisions have been incredibly short-sighted and I will concentrate on making decisions that I think will benefit Ventura’s citizens both right now and as we move into the future.

What are your thoughts on the state of local businesses in the city?

One of the primary reasons I am running for City Council is because I believe the current City Council has not done enough to drive economic growth. There is a profound shortage of good-paying jobs in Ventura, and the flow of companies leaving our city is alarming. When business and jobs leave Ventura, what does that mean? It means fewer Venturans are able to work in their home city and are forced into long commutes. It means more people on the roads and increased traffic problems. It means no jobs for our children to return to after college, and forcing our city’s best talent to move away to find work. I believe that people working close to their homes is the foundation of a strong city because it allows people to spend less time commuting and more time with family and giving back to the community. By helping Ventura-based businesses expand and create jobs, we also get increased tax revenue — money which is desperately needed to fund public safety, infrastructure and other improvements throughout the city. Rather than simply raising taxes, this is the kind of revenue growth I would champion. However, the truth is, our city’s current policies discourage employers from hiring more people and discourage new companies from moving here. It is absurd that the current council lists “economic development” as 1 of its 4 stated objectives, but has only one inexperienced employee working on this issue. I am the only candidate running for office (including incumbents!) who has created a jobs program that will employee 55 local residents with high-paying jobs. And I will build on this program by creating similar programs that truly drive economic growth. As a small-business owner and an attorney who represents dozens of Ventura-based business, I know their needs and concerns, and I know what City Hall needs to change in order to achieve job growth and business expansion. With our local economy lagging behind neighboring communities, now is not the time to elect someone with no business experience. This is precisely why I was recently endorsed by the Ventura Chamber of Commerce.

 What are your thoughts on current public safety issues?

When I was growing up in Ventura it was one of the safest cities in the county. Now, Ventura has the worst crime rates in the entire county. It is unbelievable that we had more police officers patrolling our streets in the 1990s than we do today despite large population growth. What would I do about this? I am a firm believer in the mantra that “getting tough on crime means getting smart on crime.” I am proud to be endorsed by both Ventura Police Officers and Ventura Firefighters. Both public safety groups support my campaign because they recognize that growing our economy will help provide us the resources we need to properly address our city’s public safety shortfalls. Also, it is important to know that over one-third of all calls to police in Ventura are vagrancy-related. I would strengthen the recently created vagrancy task force and commit to fighting vagrancy and criminal activity in Ventura’s parks, commercial areas, beaches and the beachfront promenade. Lastly, I would focus on putting additional resources toward PAL and other after-school activities as a means of reducing youth violence. The after-school activities at Westpark and the VUSD PEAK program provide the perfect model for what an after-school program should look like. Both programs have done an incredible job of providing Ventura’s youth with positive after-school options, and I would ensure that these programs receive all resources necessary to continue their great work.

What are your thoughts on the housing shortage in the city? Does the city need more lower-cost housing?  Does it need executive housing?

There is a profound shortage of housing in our city across the board. We need more executive housing, we need more affordable housing . . . we need more housing of all types. Why? because only 25 percent of local residents can afford median-priced homes. That means close to 75 percent of people locally are forced to rent, and Ventura has some of the highest rents in the nation! In fact, there has been a 20 percent increase in rents in the past three years. This negatively impacts business’ ability to hire and retain employees. In a rent survey of local CEOs, 72 percent said housing costs were the biggest problem in hiring and retaining employees. Residential units are being permitted at recession levels locally. Comparing Santa Barbara to Ventura, our neighbor to the north has permitted approximately the same number of residential units recently even though Santa Barbara has significantly less population than Ventura. In terms of my priority, I believe we should first focus on infill housing development. There are so many blighted properties in our urban core that are ripe for redevelopment. We should concentrate on building the housing that meets the needs and benefits of the community at large — to me, that mean’s high-density housing close to our commercial districts. This allows residents to ideally live close to work and also local shops and restaurants.  This is the type of housing I would support first and foremost.

How important are the city’s natural resources to you and what are you doing about it?

One thing that makes Ventura so unique and such a wonderful place to live is its amazing collection of parks, beaches and open spaces. Growing up in Ventura, I spent countless days taking advantage of Ventura’s amazing access to open space. Now, as a father, I’m busy creating these same memories with my young daughter. That is why, as a Commissioner on Ventura’s Parks and Recreation Commission, I have worked hard to ensure that children and families in Ventura have access to clean and safe parks, beaches and open spaces. During my tenure, I worked with my fellow commissioners to achieve important results, including: banning smoking in all Ventura parks and beaches, implementing the Parks Ambassadors program which places ambassadors in several parks in order to prevent vagrancy and criminal activity, finishing the construction of additional youth softball and soccer fields in the highly used Ventura Community Park, and obtaining necessary permits to allow the city to use reclaimed water for purposes of watering the grass and trees in our city’s parks. Attractive and safe parks and open spaces should be the cornerstone of any great community. As a City Council member I would concentrate on increasing city revenue in order to put more money toward preserving and expanding our city’s parks and open spaces.

How do you feel about changes to the city’s Charter, election of a mayor, Council by district and term limits?

I think the Charter absolutely needs to be amended to introduce term limits. The Ventura City Council largely lacks proactive leadership, and I believe that is because several incumbent members serve too long. I believe it is vital for healthy city councils that new members get elected, with new visions and new ideas. Ventura’s Council has become stale with long-serving members and a true lack of vision. There is no way someone should serve more than three terms on the council — if you can’t accomplish your objectives in 12 years, then you are clearly doing something wrong. I also support direct election of a mayor, rather than it being a position passed around among friends. And I have some concerns about going to district elections for Ventura City Council (namely, I would hate to see seven fiefdoms where Council members only fight for the concerns of their district rather than the good of the city). However, the way the California Voting Rights Act is written, Ventura is ripe to be sued for not having district elections and I would not want to waste precious city resources fighting such a lawsuit which we would likely lose.