Monday, June 8, 2009

I’m Committed to Serving Ventura

For the last couple of months, I have been thinking about entering the race for 35th Assembly district next year. That’s the seat currently held by Pedro Nava, who will be termed out in 2010. There are already two candidates for the Democratic nomination – Das Williams and Susan Jordan, both of whom are from Santa Barbara.

I thought maybe Ventura deserved a candidate too, and I thought I could do a good job serving our region in the Assembly. I’ve lived in this area for more than 20 years, I know Santa Barbara as well as Ventura quite well, I’m familiar with the most basic issues we face, and I know that the rules of the game that we all must live with are set up in Sacramento. These all seemed like good reasons to consider running.

Well, I’ve decided against it. I’m not going to run for the Assembly this time around. There are a lot of reasons, but the biggest one is that I want to be able to focus on my job as your City Councilmember and Deputy Mayor.

Eighteen months ago, my colleagues granted me the privilege of serving in a leadership position on the Council as Deputy Mayor. If my colleagues continue to support me, I hope to continue in a leadership position for the next couple of years. My time as Deputy Mayor has reinforced the idea that leadership on the Council is an awful lot [asj1] of work. It requires constant interaction and base-touching with my colleagues and constituents, keeping tabs on tons of issues, and working closely with others to make sure we are “ahead of the curve” and moving important issues along.

This level of leadership and involvement is going to be really critical here in Ventura during the next few years. Because of the downturn in the economy, tax revenue is down a lot[asj2] , and that means all of the services we value here in Ventura are at risk: public safety, emergency response, libraries, road paving, parks and recreation, bus and rail service. It will be a tough slog over the next couple of years to maintain these services and build our tax base for the future so we can ensure our continuing quality of life. I know this may sound kind of weird, considering times are so bad, but I am excited about this challenge. It’s tough times like this that make you realize why you want to serve the public—to help navigate through both good times and bad.

This requires a strong and deep commitment on the part of your City Councilmembers – a commitment to work hard every day to help Ventura get through this tough period and lay the foundation for a prosperous and livable future. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I don’t think anybody can make the necessary commitment if they are running for another office.

If I were to run for the Assembly, I would be distracted. I would not be able to devote my time to the interests of my constituents in Ventura. Frankly, I would have to view everything I do as your Deputy Mayor and City Councilmember through the political lens of whether it would help me or hurt me as an Assembly candidate. I may not always be able to speak or act with the best interests of the citizens of Ventura in mind. That’s not something I would feel good about.

I wouldn’t rule out running for the Assembly or some other office sometime in the future – but I’m not going to do it now. I’ve also decided not to endorse either Das or Susan at his time. Both are good people, but I am just beginning to think of them as possible Assemblymembers and I’d like to talk to them more before I decide whether to endorse either of them. Susan is an environmental activist who runs the California Coastal Protection Network; she’s also married to Assemblymember Nava. Das is a member of the Santa Barbara City Council and also works part-time here in Ventura for CAUSE, a local society equity advocacy group.

To all of you, I want to say thanks for bearing with me, and, although times are tough, I am very excited about working with you to help make Ventura a better place in the years ahead.

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