I have spent many months talking to my neighbors and others throughout the city. These are the issues that come up the most:
Focus on Service
After years in the Assembly and Senate helping citizens and officials in three counties solve problems, I am committed to doing the same for the citizens of Ventura as a Councilmember. People need to feel listened to. Good customer service is critical. The past months have seen an exodus of good public servants from City Hall. We need to work on retaining and supporting these workers.
With the combination of pent-up market demand for housing and favorable economic conditions, Ventura has seen a lot of residential growth in the past few years on the east and west ends. While our General Plan calls for “Smart Growth” favoring walkable corridors close to economic centers and services, east Ventura has not evolved that way and we are feeling it. A softening in the retail market has contributed to the decline of our commercial centers. I will advocate for higher quality retail and good restaurants in east Ventura and more connectivity between neighborhoods.
At the same time, we are in need of affordable housing so our children are able to stay in their hometown and not move to less expensive areas far from family and friends. Priority should be given to denser growth in our more urbanized walkable commercial centers near transit opportunities, such as Downtown. There are more than 3,000 residential units in this city that have already been approved but not yet built. We need strong leadership to push for improved infrastructure to accommodate any future growth.
Of special note, the Thomas Fire has caused us to shift our planning focus into helping families rebuild their lives. We should make this process as easy as possible.
As our area experiences a continued drought, current water resources are very tight. Careful consideration needs to be given to all new projects while we continue efforts to develop water resources through indirect potable reuse, building a connection to the state water project, and possible desalination.
The failure of our water infrastructure during the Thomas Fire has led residents to feel less safe. I support significant investments in equipment to make sure the pumps are reliable during power outages.
As was amply demonstrated during the Thomas Fire, our city fire and police force does outstanding work. However, while Measure O funding now keeps our east end Fire Station 4 open, our first responders are only meeting their goal of arriving at an emergency in five minutes or less 56 percent of the time because of an ever-increasing call load. Serious violent crime is up in our city by 25 percent, the highest totals since 1992. New police officers are being hired and trained, but we need to working on boosting our emergency response times.
Criminal activity in our public areas continues to be a problem in our city. Stepped up security and policing will help deter crime and make our residents and tourists feel safer. But getting at the root of the problem is complex and will require more coordination with behavioral health and substance abuse professionals.
Ventura needs a year-round shelter with accompanying services which will transition homeless individuals into better living situations. Finding an operator to run the shelter and the appropriate funding should be a priority.
Measure O allocations will help keep our roads in better shape in the future, but traffic continues to be a problem. For the residents on the east end, Wells Rd./Hwy. 118 is a major thoroughfare that connects us to jobs and shopping. The area is currently gridlocked at certain times of the day. This problem area will be a focus for me. My expertise in dealing with state issues will be an asset as we work with the state and county to improve this corridor.
One of our highest priorities should be attracting new employers who can offer good-paying jobs to the people who live here. We chose Ventura for its quality of life, but that experience is degraded significantly when we are out on crowded freeways commuting to other regions. We spend less time with our families and purchase fewer local goods and services. As a public relations professional for many years, I worked with local businesses on improving their bottom line. I will continue to be a strong supporter of our business community.
Open Space and Recreation
The area along the Santa Clara River has untapped recreational possibilities. An existing and well-utilized bike and pedestrian pathway behind some of our river neighborhoods could be extended from Saticoy all the way to Johnson Drive, permitting bike access to Oxnard and the ocean. Property currently owned by the Nature Conservancy could soon be transferred to a locally managed entity. Bird watching, biking and hiking are great family activities. I would encourage development of this resource and the extension of our urban bicycling and walking paths through all our neighborhoods. See map.
Our Community Park on Kimball is a wonderful recreational space for the east end, but after many years it remains unfinished. Finding the resources to complete our vision for this park is important.
Making sure our senior population has the resources they need to live happy, self-sufficient lives is important to me. I cared for a family member and I understand the tremendous burden our caregivers are under. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, more resources will be needed to assist this population. Transit such as dial-a-ride, expanded senior center opportunities, and in-home care and assisted living are critical.
As a 12-year member of the city’s Cultural Affairs Commission, our local arts community has been a focus for me. Not only does it bring joy into the lives of our residents, but it fosters cultural tourism. These visitors to our area tend to stay longer and spend more money in our community. I have helped bring public/private partnerships together to support our annual ArtWalk and raise private funds for cultural projects.