Many Americans are fed up with the current political and economic climate. We know that politicians are taking most of the blame for all that is wrong in our country right now. In many instances, the blame has been aimed at the right people, though there is no exact science in the game of politics and most political decisions aren’t made by just one person.
While we would love to see Lincoln-type leaders running for City Council, the batch of candidates and incumbents presents a truly eclectic bunch. For many of the candidates, however, the platform they have boasted before and through their campaigns seem to be too focused on one issue — from parking meters to public unions to more green space. Only a handful seems to have the right perspective on how to get things done at the city level. That is why we are endorsing incumbents Christy Weir and Carl Morehouse and candidates Cheryl Heitmann and Bill Knox. (There are only three open seats, so we’ll leave the final decision on who should serve to you.)
For those frustrated with the council and some of its recent decisions, we wanted to explain our endorsements for the incumbents. The 911 fee debacle remains one of the biggest mistakes, a decision some councilmembers regret, including Weir and Morehouse. Downtown’s parking meters also caused backlash, but, undoubtedly, the intention of parking management has been realized (though the timing of the installation and perhaps the type of meters themselves may have been a bit off the mark.) The closures of Fire Station 4 and the Wright Library have been contentious issues, but with few options, the council made decisions, based on recommendations of staff and even the fire department itself, without sacrificing other services we simply could not live without. The $10 million worth of investments that went sour may not have been predicted, and clearly were not predicted — other municipalities, private entities as well as millions of Americans endured major losses with the Wall Street fall out.
We aren’t going to pretend we understand all the intricacies of government or what it is like to give many hours a month of one’s personal time almost freely to receive so much flack. But those whom we have endorsed, we feel, have the institutional knowledge and experience for the job to keep Ventura a great place to live. We also encourage all the candidates to keep up their mission for transparency and the betterment of our city.
No matter the outcome of the upcoming election, we hope that the City Council will take a hard look at the city charter and consider making some changes, including moving city elections to major election years and whether it is time that we should elect our mayor. Obviously, falling in line with gubernatorial and presidential election years to improve voter turnout and save money — estimates are around $100,000 to $125,000, according to City Manager Rick Cole — is a logical step in having Venturans’ voices truly represented.
Carl Morehouse — longtime public servant
Carl Morehouse is a man of detail. With his background working as a planner for government for 30 years and his 12 years sitting on the council, very little gets past him. If you want to get into the nitty gritty of government function, Morehouse will give you an earful. His institutional knowledge and experience working, not only on the city level, but also with various state committees, makes him the right person to continue as councilmember.
To date, Morehouse’s accomplishments on the council include the efforts for the beautification of downtown; infrastructure improvements, including better access for people with disabilities; better signage for upcoming projects; and revising the housing allocation program to better accommodate all income types.
We hope that Morehouse will keep a watchful eye on Ventura’s budget and how monies are being spent so that the council can avoid various problems such as closing important facilities. He admits remorse about the 911 fee, so we feel he will avoid such a mistake in the future. He also demonstrated strong leadership qualities in voting against pay and pension increases for firefighters, even risking losing their endorsement, though he secured it this election season.
We endorse Morehouse with the hope that he will continue working toward improving the quality of life for residents and that the time he gives to various other committees, such as Ventura Council of Governments and the League of California Cities, will be fruitful for the city of Ventura.
Christy Weir — keeping the balance
For the last eight years, Christy Weir has stood her ground, not only as a leader with a passion for balance, but as the only woman on the council. She is known for being diplomatic and, some may say (she even said it herself), motherly qualities.
As a councilmember, her reach has been felt throughout the city. She founded the Serra Cross Conservancy, which has kept the ideal location open to visitors. She was also one of the founding members of Downtown Ventura Organization and has consistently kept a watchful eye on the happenings in the area while seeking solutions to solve problems to maintain a healthy district, including putting an end to aggressive panhandling. Her goals include working on the vagrancy issues, deferred maintenance throughout the city and improving Seaward Avenue business district.
Weir has demonstrated that she is capable of being a good leader, even when the odds are against her, including going against the majority of the council on pay and pension increases for firefighters at the onset of the economic meltdown. As a voice of reason and playing the watchdog for better amenities for families, we feel she is a valuable member of the community and should remain on the council.
CherylHeitmann — the practical candidate
Some have said Cheryl Heitmann is a shoo-in for council. And we have to admit — we agree, but for good reason.
With her background in social work and having sat on various boards throughout the city and the county, her dedication to improving the lives of those around her is obvious. The eight years she sat on the Ventura County Community College District board has prepared her for not only working as a team but also for answering to the public.
One of her best attributes, however, is not her experience, but how she relates to others. In conversations with her, one can easily gather she isn’t a career politician — she simply has good ideas on how to make things run better and is willing to put her time, energy and money where her mouth is. Whether or not she gets people to back her, she is willing to take risks and go against the consensus to reach the best decision for the big picture — just look at her track record as a trustee and president on the college district board. (She, along with other board members, has voted on a budget items even though she risked losing the support of the employees.)
She has already displayed leadership qualities by finding various problems on the city level that can easily be resolved, saving the city money and even perhaps finding additional streams of revenue. She also lives in Pierpont, an area long in need of an advocate. Furthermore, we feel having a more diverse council is important — a blend of men and women to make decisions to best suit the city of Ventura.
Bill Knox — a fresh perspective
We have been following Bill Knox through the last two election cycles. We didn’t feel he was prepared to take a seat on the council the first time around, this year we decided that Knox’s perspective might be a refreshing change at City Hall. Although endorsed by factions we don’t agree with (Tea Party, Republican), these positions are supposed to be nonpartisan and we like this guy.
Over the last few years, Venturans have been fairly vocal about their feelings on the way the city has been run. The main issue — the city isn’t managing its finances very well. With the failure of the half-cent sales tax initiative in 2009, residents maintained that they didn’t feel the money would be spent effectively and efficiently. The closure of Fire Station 4 and the Wright Library and the discontinuation of the gang unit with the Ventura Police Department, among other public services and programs, left locals frustrated about the city’s ongoing budget issues. With Knox on the council, however, with his background as a tax attorney and his work with the Ventura County Taxpayer’s Association, we feel that he may have the expertise to scrutinize the budget and save vital services without asking more from area residents.
While Knox hasn’t personally tried to overhaul the city’s budget and work on labor contracts, he brings up some good points. For instance, why did the city pay $89,000 to install the Palomar Gate near Ventura High School? He also questioned spending $320,000 on a wheelchair ramp at City Hall. While city officials didn’t discuss the high cost when they voted unanimously to approve it last month, Knox feels such expenditures need to be thoroughly investigated and talked about in a public forum before voting on them. He also feels that city employees should pay the full nine percent toward their retirement. Labor negotiations are difficult but are still needed to avoid an unsustainable future.
Having lived in Ventura for 21 years, and most recently, living on the East End and serving on the East Ventura Community Council, he seems to have a handle on local issues and Ventura’s evolution. We hope Knox, if elected, will be the budget watchdog he promises to be and a voice for a community that is not represented now.