With a chill in the air, undeniably announcing fall is well on its way in Ventura County and summer is coming to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on what has happened over the last couple months and what’s in store for the fall.
In Camarillo, city officials have managed to avoid making any serious decisions about the controversial Conejo Creek development, a 740-acre master-planned project that includes 2,500 homes and apartments, 218 acres of parks and open space, an elementary school, retail shops, and industrial and office buildings. Many Camarillo residents protested the project, saying that traffic, water and environmental concerns were too much to mitigate. Despite not necessarily finding solutions to their concerns, the planning commission had scheduled to vote on the project in February. Then the vote was expected to happen in the early summer. Since the summer has come and gone with no votes, we look to the fall and winter months, wondering just what the planning commission will decide. Certainly, numerous Camarillo residents are thinking the same.
In Ojai, after years of concerns about the egregious rising costs of Golden State Water Company services for roughly 4,800 residents, these Ojai residents will finally have their say — at the voting booth. A special election will be held on Aug. 27 when residents can vote on Measure V, which would levy a special tax to pay for the Casitas Municipal Water District to obtain the Golden State system and authorize a maximum of $60 million in bonds for the purchase, construction and attorney fees. While it seems the consensus of these voters that Measure V will pass, elections are always a gamble. We think it’s a good idea to give power over such utilities to the people, though the costs may be more than expected. It’s a gamble worth taking but it will take a 2/3 majority to pass.
In Oxnard, two hot topics: First, will the City Council find a suitable candidate for city manager who will satisfy the council while gaining trust of the residents? Those will be tough qualifications to fill as the various new voices on the council find their stride. The next big task — moving forward with the City Council’s decision to take over the operation of its solid-waste facility. It’s a massive operation and the city’s most profitable contract. Is the city ready to do this in order to save residents money or will it turn out to be a big headache? More details to come this fall.
In Ventura, affordable housing advocates went to work after city staff recommended getting rid of the inclusionary housing element — a mandate that new developments must have up to 15 percent of their housing projects for low and very low income earners. Staff recommended it to stimulate development. Fortunately for affordable housing advocates, the majority of the City Council didn’t agree and the inclusionary housing element stayed. But city staff has to get their wheels moving soon — the one stipulation for keeping the inclusionary housing ordinance was that developers could have options other than only providing affordable housing, such as paying in lieu fees, etc. And coming up with those options falls on the shoulders of city staff. We look forward to seeing something sooner rather than later.
On another note, the majority of Ventura’s City Council decided that a ban on storefront medical marijuana dispensaries wasn’t enough. It was time to eliminate all access to medical marijuana until the state came up with a better way to handle the legalization of med marijuana or until the county is able to come up with a consensus on how to administer the potent weed. We aren’t holding our breath that there will be a solution that results in safe access any time soon. Unfortunately, some still perceive marijuana as the gateway drug that ruins lives. And we agree that it ruins lives. According to FBI data, 750,000 people were arrested for marijuana in 2011. We can’t help but wonder what our prison system and how the arrest records would look like if pot was legal and how much money could be saved and then spent on more productive endeavors.
As local officials wrap up their summer breaks, we hope everyone has had plenty of time to reflect on what has happened and how they are shaping our future. If you agree, then fall should be easy. If you don’t, it’s time to get to work.