Pictured: Candidates for Ventura City Council, District 2. Photos submitted. 

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

District 2 includes the foothills and downtown area from California St., stretching east to Lemon Grove and Dunning St. Two candidates are challenging incumbent Christy Weir. 

Candidate history and background

Doug Halter: I am 60 years old, and have been in business 29 years as the owner Halter-Encinas Landscape Inc. (plus 3 retail businesses over the years). I have a bachelor of science degree in Chemical Engineering from UC Santa Barbara and have sat on dozens of boards, presided over many, and helped to found many more. 

Skills: Problem solving/thinking out of the box. Building bridges and relationships with others. Always have several viable paths to achieve a goal. Ventura is the best of old California. Never take no for an answer. Say what you are thinking because others are most likely thinking the same thing. Question authority. Respect all people and find that commonality. Each day, each friendship, each memory is a gift that becomes a part of who we are. Always be humble, know we all have a unique gift. Share yours and strive to help others find what their gift is so that we all can benefit together. Campaign website: www.doughalter.com

Dist. 2 in Ventura (Orange). Interactive map of Ventura districts is online HERE.

Doug “Dougie” Michie: I am a 65-year-old financial advisor/lawyer, and hold a PhD in Urban Planning from Texas A&M University and a law degree from Pepperdine. I retired in 1999 from the U.S. Air Force, National Guard. 

When I was 30, I did what the Australians call a “walk about” for one and a half years, spending half that time traveling through nearly half the countries in Africa. I saw firsthand what poor governance can do to a city, and how residents can hunger for good government. 

I entered Uganda right after the National Resistance Army ousted general Tito Okello, ending a year’s long civil war, and establishing a new government. That government was in shambles, and the cities lacked local government with experience and knowledge in finance and city planning.  I visited cities without operating electricity, running water and with no functioning sanitary system.  

This experience is one that led to my passion for city planning and my desire to understand the relationship between the fixed environment and the urban quality of life.  As a result, years later, I returned to school and earned a PhD in urban planning. Campaign website: www.dougie4district2.com

Christy Weir: A current Ventura City Councilmember and former mayor, with a bachelor’s degree from Cal State University, Channel Islands. 

It has been my honor to represent the people of Ventura as a mayor and city councilmember. I am running for reelection in Dist. 2 to make sure our residents are heard as we make decisions that will shape Ventura’s future. My husband and I raised our children here, and now their families live in this community.  Four generations of my family have been fortunate to call this beautiful community our home, and I am committed to enhancing Ventura’s livability for all ages. 

As we recover from the economic and cultural impacts of COVID-19, it will be important to have councilmembers in place who are experienced, knowledgeable and creative. 

In the next four years, my priorities will be environmental and fiscal sustainability, and quality-of-life improvements for all Ventura residents, including children and seniors. As a centuries-old town, we have challenges with aging infrastructure, but also enjoy the unique character of our historic buildings and cultural heritage. Our spectacular geographic location, bounded by the ocean, two rivers and hillsides, is truly our “good fortune,” to be celebrated and protected. Campaign website: www.christyweir.com

Why are you running for this office now? If you are serving in office now, or have run before, what made you seek elected office?  

Doug Halter: We need change. The challenges of today require bold, innovative leadership with vision. I have proven many times over the years my ability to take an idea, plan out several possible paths, and make it a reality. I problem solve all day long in my daily business and nonprofit work. We need this skillset on the city council to look at new ways of doing business and finding the best solutions for the challenges of today.   

Dougie Michie: I am not a long-time Ventura politician like the other candidates. I have never served in a political office, and I am seeking this political office for the first time. I have taken no funds from PACs or their members, labor unions or their members or special interest groups or their members. As a result, I am not obligated to vote in the interests of any special interest group.

I have given a great deal of time to our community. For a decade I coached, and refereed the games of our young boys in the AYSO organization. I gave to our youth, as I felt it was important to help them learn teamwork and to develop leadership skills.

I was on the site council of my son’s elementary school for several years. I spent several years as an ambassador for our chamber of commerce, attending ribbon cuttings and helping small businesses establish themselves in Ventura.

My youngest son is now a junior at Ventura High School, and I have reduced my hours of work.  This has freed up the time to commit to contribute the time that a position on the city council requires.

Christy Weir: When I first ran for city council, I was concerned about land use decision making, because each development has long-term impacts on our residents’ quality of life. It is crucial that these decisions are made with transparency, welcoming community input, and considering neighborhood compatibility, traffic and water constraints, and safety.

Prosperity and livability are not a result of unlimited, unsustainable growth. To ensure our community is prosperous and livable in the future, we need to focus on the preservation of Ventura’s historical character and natural environment, prioritize enhancements to our public spaces and support our local businesses and nonprofits. 

The state is attempting to take away local control by preempting our land use decision-making authority. This is not good for Ventura or California. There are water supply constraints, emergency evacuation constraints, and limits on our traffic, infrastructure maintenance and public safety capacity. A well-planned city needs to take all of these into account when approving new development. I support a public process in which neighborhood concerns are heard and respected, and quality of life is protected for our residents, as we grow responsibly.

What is one issue in Ventura that is a priority for you? Why is that a priority and what is one of the first things you would do if elected to start to address that issue?

Doug Halter: The one issue that affects all others is economic vitality. I know what it takes to have a business here and where the issues are that prevent others from staying or becoming a part of our community. I would work to simplify and clarify our process and provide more certainty for property owners and businesses.  That’s not to compromise public input, but ensure it happens at the most effective time to help incorporate concerns and ideas.  Being an ambassador for our city and encouraging those who can help us reach our goals to participate and encourage our citizens to work together, believe in themselves and their importance to our community, and help be a part of the solutions that we need.  Look for the many “win win” opportunities and ways to encourage behavior and activity that benefit our community, as well as provide barriers to those things that harm our community.  Educate and dedicate environmental and historically important aspects of our community. Seek ways to better use staff resources and financial resources while we plan for improved revenue that vitality will bring.

Dougie Michie: The state has begun making zoning changes for cities like ours, because the cities have placed obstacles in the path of adding low-income and moderate-income housing.  And the changes the state is making are not pretty.

For the last 20 years our city council has sidestepped the issue of the provision of affordable housing. Its artificial constraints to slow growth, such as oversized planning fees, numerous hearings and years of delays, only raise the cost of new housing. This has led to the state beginning to apply its planning to Ventura.

My number one priority issue is making more housing available at all income levels. The first thing I would do is charrettes to inform residents of what is currently being proposed by the state. The charrettes would also cover mixed-use planning areas to accommodate the RHNA [Regional Housing Needs Assessment] goals the state is seeking. I believe that buy-in by all residents is important in planning.

I also want to streamline the planning process by merging committees and reducing hearings.  I would lower fees for new housing. Additionally, I want to reexamine our exclusionary zoning to provide for mixed-use zoning that encourages smart growth in all parts of our town.

Christy Weir: Each city is required to have a General Plan with sections on mobility, housing and climate action. Ventura is in the process of updating our General Plan.  We will need steady, responsive leadership during this process that will result in a document that guides our future with policies that balance conservation, quality of life and growth. 

My vision for mobility includes accelerated street paving and active transportation, with increased walkability and bike-friendly enhancements. 

When adopting a new housing element, long-term water demand must be considered. With drought and increased usage, our local water supply is declining. Our diminishing underground aquifers are shared by many communities and agriculture. 

Our new climate action plan will need to address sea level rise, clean energy and fire risk as immediate local impacts of the worldwide climate crisis. We must include vulnerability assessments, hazard mitigation and emergency response strategies.

I currently serve as vice-chair of BEACON, a multi-county joint powers authority, which works on coastal erosion and resiliency policies and projects, as we adapt to climate change impacts to our coast.

I am also on the board of Clean Power Alliance, a new community-based power company giving our citizens the option for 100 percent renewable energy.

What is one thing you have accomplished that you had a leadership role in? How did it impact you and your community? 

Doug Halter:  I’ve been very involved in our community, and as a founding member of the Ventura Botanical Gardens, I am proud that our future will include this world-class garden and other beautiful amenities that add value to our quality of life. The VBG is more than a garden, it is a showcase of the beauty of climate appropriate plants and the importance of biofiltration to protect our ocean. It provides an entrance to the pathways and hiking yet to come across our hillside open space, and a place for research, lectures, educations, events, amphitheater, art, and community building in the site that most exemplifies why we all live here!

Dougie Michie: While I was commander of a company of drill sergeants, we were ordered to active duty to train a company of young recruits at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.There were over 200 soldiers in this military community.

Drill sergeants train new soldiers how to perform under stress, and how to act as a cohesive unit.This often resulted in friction between the trainees and the drill sergeants.  As leader of this compact community, I worked to ensure the friction did not go too far, and that mental distress the trainees were experiencing did not result in death or injury.

I recall one young man who manifested suicidal thoughts. I stepped in and rationalized with him the temporary nature of his current environment and restored his resolve for completing his commitment. I also determined that a drill sergeant was not emotionally stable enough, and I had him reassigned. Maintaining the stability of this military community allowed them to complete their training without any significant mishap.

These young men and women went on to contribute to and serve our country. This leadership experience showed leaders can positively impact their community, and how a proactive leader can improve the well-being of that community.

Christy Weir: The founding of the Downtown Ventura Partners (DVP) organization is an example of my collaborative leadership. Over a decade ago, downtown Ventura was struggling with the issues of blight, cleanliness and safety. I brought together business and property owners to focus on revitalizing clean and safe efforts, initially with volunteers, then with the formation of a Business Improvement District funded by property owners through a self-imposed assessment. The DVP employs paid staff and full-time ambassadors who clean and monitor the downtown area. Hundreds of businesses have moved in, and our downtown is the most vibrant business district in the county.

In 2020, the COVID pandemic has caused our local businesses to suffer. To help our restaurants and retailers survive, I led the creation of Main Street Moves, opening up our downtown for outdoor dining in a pedestrian atmosphere. The city council extended the Main Street closure until February because of its success and popularity.

As nationwide retailers are in crisis, evidenced by mall and chain store closures, we are fortunate to have a vital, historic downtown with a mix of offices, locally owned shops and restaurants, entertainment and culture. I am excited about more downtown and midtown enhancements in our future!

What is one thing that you have not been asked about that voters should know about you? 

Doug Halter: “Who was the most influential mentor in my life?” My grandfather. As an Italian immigrant, he shared his pride of America. His work ethic, his faith in people, the satisfaction of working with land, the serenity of the redwood forest, and the tranquil boating on the Pacific. He taught me that if you never expect anything from anyone you will never be disappointed. While a therapist would love this, he meant that every hello, every smile, every friendship, and every time someone extended a hand, it was a gift not an expectation. He taught me that “if your roots are strong there is no need to fear the wind.” Many have enriched my life, but he gave me the foundation and confidence to overcome obstacles, strive for what I believe in and never take no for an answer.

Dougie Michie: The issue of the pending revenue shortfall seems to be missing in the candidate forums I have participated in. We are in a deep recession, and the city’s revenue will be impacted. I have not been asked if I will vote to increase taxes to help cover this shortfall.

My answer is; I am adamantly opposed to increasing our already high taxes. With COVID restrictions on business hurting revenues, the wrong answer is to increase taxes on them or their employees. Government must not continually increase taxes.  

Income tax, social security tax, property tax, sales tax, vehicle and personal property tax, use tax, utility tax and other miscellaneous city fees and taxes — more of a taxpayer’s income goes to pay taxes than goes into their wallet. This is wrong. I will oppose any and all proposals to increase taxes on Ventura’s citizens.

Christy Weir: My previous careers were in education and publishing. I spent a decade as a teacher, then fifteen years as a division manager at a local publisher. I earned a bachelor of arts degree in art at CSUCI. My hobbies include painting and sculpting, cycling, singing and folk dance. 

It was in my management position that I first dealt with multimillion dollar budgets, accounting and personnel. These skills have served me well in local government, as the city council makes strategic financial decisions. I currently chair the city’s Finance, Audit and Budget Committee, helping to ensure that our spending is fiscally responsible and transparent. 

Each year, I have come to more fully value all that Ventura offers. In listening to our residents, this is the vision that I hear and share: We value a safe and clean community. We support our local businesses. We will grow slowly and sustainably. We will preserve our rivers, beaches, open space and natural environment. We will insist on the highest quality of architecture and design. We will maintain our small-town atmosphere. I would be honored to have your vote.