It’s hard to imagine that our perception of things and actual reality can be so different but the facts are the facts. In the last week, it came to light that in, at least two instances, things aren’t quite what they had seemed to be here in Ventura County.
First, Oxnard, Ventura County’s largest city, has arguably the biggest reputation problem and the locals know it. Because of issues with gang crime, including vandalism and violence, and the correlating gang injunction to reduce such crimes, too many think of the city as a dangerous place. And that comes as no surprise because, well, happy stories don’t sell papers. City officials even tried to alter this perception problem by hiring an expensive consultant who, in 2010, came up with a name change — Oxnard Shores — to brand the city as The International City and to build a 100,000-square-foot downtown emporium featuring local produce and restaurants with international menus. None of the suggestions has thus far taken hold, but there is good news: Oxnard ranked No. 7 on the list of safest mid-size cities in the country, right below Thousand Oaks. (Yes, the country, not the county.)
Real estate firm Movoto LLC surveyed 100 cities with populations between 126,047 and 210,309, Oxnard being the biggest of them. The 2013 FBI crime data (which included crimes ranging from burglary to murder) used by the firm revealed that Oxnard isn’t as bad as too many think it is. Though crime jumped by 22 percent last year, it’s still relatively low compared to the 93 other cities that failed to reach such a high ranking on the safety scale. Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez posted the story on her Facebook page, saying, “Yes! Oxnard, my city, is a great place to live! Take that, you negative people!” We hear you, Carmen. It seems that it is a perception problem and not as much of a safety issue as many people think, though there is always room for improvement — this includes addressing the two recent shootings that left one man dead and another injured on Monday night.
On the same day, another surprising finding by the Franchise Tax Board: Ventura County ranked 10th among California counties with the highest median incomes as reported on joint tax returns. While that may not be such a big surprise given what appears to be exponential wealth earned by many in the area, the reality is that the joint median income that ranked that so high among the 58 counties in California is $77,340. Further, Ventura County ranked 18th in individual median income at $37,360. And while the county falls just shy of the average $82,231 estimated to be needed to take care of a two-parent, two-children family, without the assistance of public programs, that shows that we aren’t really doing so badly. There is no doubt that there is room for improvement. There is no doubt that we have some serious issues with income disparity in general and that the financial health of too many in Ventura County should be better. But at the end of the day, compared to other counties in the state, we aren’t doing so badly, perhaps even pretty well.
While we could go on and on about how so many areas of life in Ventura County should be better, the fact of the matter is, at least in these two instances, it’s a perception problem and perhaps we just don’t know how good we have it. Though we can’t control crime and what employers pay their employees to pull us up in the ranks, these findings should give us some confidence that we are, at least, headed in the right direction.