Vote No on Measure N and Q

First, I believe that voters have pretty consistently advocated in recent years for the right to vote directly to elect the mayor of Ventura. These proposals do not provide for voters to elect their mayor. The method of selection of the mayor will remain as it has been for many decades whether these proposals are passed or not. The selection of the mayor will remain with the Council majority. That’s the way the current Council wants it.

Second, Measure N takes the decision on how Councilmembers are elected out of the Charter and puts it in the hands of the Council, where it can be changed on any given Monday night by majority vote of the Council. If you think of the City Charter as, in effect, the Constitution of the City, removing the process of election from the Charter is a grave usurpation of power by the Council. As long as the process of election remains within the Charter, it is protected from tampering and political manipulation.

Changing the Charter requires a vote of the citizens, not just the Council. Keeping the election process within the Charter assures that the voters have a say in how or when it might be changed. This proposed change is intended to give the Council the ability to sidestep a potentially complicated and possibly costly election process if the federal government ever decides to force the city to have elections by district. However, it opens the door to the possibility of serious mischief and invites potential partisanship and gerrymandering. If we ever are required by the federal government to elect by district, it is safer to define carefully the method by which district boundaries are determined in a public process where citizens can see, hear and have a say in the process. This approach will have far greater likelihood of winning public support and assuring the perception of fairness and openness in city government, which is the foundation of people’s belief in the legitimacy of their political system.

As for Measure Q, its major effect is to place term limits on elected Council members. This is often seen as a good thing by citizens. In my opinion, it is not. In every instance that I am aware of where term limits have been imposed, the quality of government has suffered. That’s because term limits have the effect of arbitrarily throwing the good elected officials out with the bad. Bad elected officials can be removed from office on any election day. All it takes is for a challenger to have the courage and will to take the necessary steps to show why the bad elected official is not competent or has not served the public well, and why the challenger could do a better job. That’s what elections are intended to do.

If you were an employer, why would you, every so many years, fire all your good workers along with the bad ones? If you participate in a worthy public organization, your church or your PTA, why would you fire all your good workers, pastors or volunteers and deprive yourself of the advantages of their experience and knowledge — experience and knowledge which may have taken years to develop — and instead replace them with people who would now have to be trained and who may require closer and more costly supervision. Term limits are not a good idea.

Please vote NO on Measures N and Q. However well-intended was the Council’s original decision, it should be asked to go back and rethink these issues.

Neal Andrews
Deputy Mayor, Ventura

Vote Yes on Measure AA

Taxes. It’s a loaded word for many. And this Nov. 8, citizens of Ventura County, and especially the cities of Ventura and Santa Paula, will be faced with a question about whether or not to support the passage of additional sales taxes to pay for different things. While I am a member of the Ventura City Council, and I am friends with the members of the Santa Paula City Council, and I am supportive of both cities’ efforts to pass sales taxes to help their respective General Funds, I am writing today, instead, in support of the efforts of the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) to pass Measure AA, a transportation-related, countywide sales tax.

As past president of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), I have suffered for years at being the butt of jokes about how Ventura County is the only county in the SCAG region whose voters haven’t passed such a “self-help” tax. Now, just because Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties (and San Diego and Santa Barbara counties, though they are not members of SCAG) have a self-help tax doesn’t mean we have to; however, there is a much more compelling reason to have such a tax. That reason being, to get this county’s fair share of state and federal funds to help our transportation needs.

You may be aware that when you buy gasoline at a commercial pump you pay a percentage of that price in federal taxes. That proportion goes back to Washington, D.C., to add to the federal pot of money for transportation needs. Also, if you are currently paying federal income taxes, then, for every dollar you send to D.C., as a Californian, you are only getting back between 80 and 90 cents of that dollar — the rest going to places like Montana, Arkansas, Texas, West Virginia or wherever. Bottom line: Californians, and especially residents of Ventura County, are losing dollars that you have already paid to some other jurisdiction. And the reason for that, in part, is because when it comes to providing federal transportation money to jurisdictions, particularly in Southern California (including Santa Barbara County) the dollars go to those jurisdictions that have some matching funds available to meet those other moneys. Hence, the name “self-help” tax. Right now, because Ventura County does NOT have a self-help tax, we’re leaving all kinds of money on the table and all of the surrounding counties are getting a portion of our share.

Now, back to the concern that this is a “tax.” Yes, it is. But it is NOT a tax on your personal annual income.  And it is NOT a tax on your personal property. What it IS is a tax on items that you purchase that are subject to such a tax.  So, yes, when you buy such items, you will be taxed.  But the nice thing about this is: a) you buy stuff anyway, so a little bit added to that purchase is incremental; b) when you buy something within Ventura County those dollars stay here; and c) other people who are not residents of Ventura County are also buying stuff here, and when they do, those dollars stay in Ventura County as well. Hey, when you go to Los Angeles, Santa Barbara or some other county and buy stuff, you’re leaving your sales tax dollars there. Does that stop you from going there and spending money? Then why not capitalize on getting money out of our visitors, who also use our transportation system to get here.

So here it is.  This is your chance to help make sure Ventura County bridges and roads stay repaired and safe.  Here’s a chance to get more money for adding needed lanes to Highways 101 and 118, for improving local streets, creating better bikeways, improving our transit systems, be it buses or rail, and even a chance to better protect the environment. And it’s all spelled out in the adopted spending plan, which includes a sunset date, and calls for a citizen oversight committee to make sure that future Commissions are spending the money correctly. Plus, if you live in the city of Ventura or Santa Paula, and your General Fund sales tax passes, it takes even more burden off of that pot of money to have to be spent on capital projects like streets and bridges, and allows the General Fund to be better spent on other worthwhile items.

I strongly urge you to review all of the information from VCTC to better understand the importance of this sales tax — remember, it’s a sales tax —  and how it is to be spent, then, this Nov. 8 vote in favor of Measure AA.  You will be doing yourself and all of Ventura County residents a great service.

Carl E. Morehouse, AICP
Councilman, Ventura
Ventura County Transportation Commissioner
Past President, Southern California Association of Governments

Vote Yes on Proposition 55

As Chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District and on behalf of the VCCCD Board of Trustees, we recommend and urge passage of Proposition 55, the California Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare Initiative.

During the recent recession, the state cut more than $56 billion from education, health care and other critical services. Public schools statewide experienced unprecedented funding reductions and apportionment deferrals. California public schools rank 42 out of the 50 states in per-pupil spending and they are among the most crowded in the nation. Many California school children come from low-income families that lack access to the health-care services needed to keep these children in school and learning.

While the passage of Proposition 30 in 2012 provided an increased investment in California’s K-14 school spending by allocating funds directly to K-12 and community college districts through the Education Protection Account, the revenue from Proposition 30 will decline after 2016 and will disappear completely after 2018. Proposition 55 would extend Proposition 30’s temporary income tax rates for the top 2 percent of earners through 2028.

Unless Californians extend Proposition 30’s temporary tax increases, our public schools and community colleges will suffer significant budget cuts in the years ahead. The elimination of funds from the Education Protection Account would represent an estimated cut to California’s community colleges of about $210 million annually.

The Ventura County Community College District joins K-14 school districts and community college districts around the state, and the Community College League of California, in support of Proposition 55. We urge the legislature to work with the public education community to identify stable, long-term, adequate funding solutions for public schools and community colleges.

The District strongly recommends the passage of Proposition 55.

Bernard Luskin, Ed.D.
Ventura County Community College District