Saturday, February 27, 2010

KCET Checks Out Ventura

Check out this KCET web site story on what's going on in Ventura.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Help Us Live Within Our Means

It's February going on March, and for better or worse that means it's beginning to be budget season here in Ventura. For the psat three years, budget season hasn't been much fun. As our revenues have declined, often far below our conservative projections, we have spent most of the spring figuring out how to cut -- how to cut services, how to cut compensation for our employees, how to cut the cost of our contracts. This year is going to be no exception. We're $15 million down from our projected revenue only two years ago, we're going to have to make some tough decisions.

In many cities, the City doesn't really begin to deal with budget problems until May or June -- shortly before the June 30th deadline for budget adoption. (You saw this last spring, when many of our neighboring cities panicked in June.) But here in Ventura, we like to talk. And talk. And talk. And generally speaking, this approach has served us well. Last year, we had a lengthy public discussion about the budget in January and February, and as a result we had made the tough decisions and resolved the tough issues by the time the City Manager submitted his proposed budget to the Council, as is required by our City Charter.

Now we on the City Council are undertaking a process -- admittedly, a quick one -- of reaching out to our constituents so that we can listen to what you have to say as the budget is crafted for the 2010-11 fiscal year. Last night, the Council authorized moving forward with a public outreach plan in March and April that, we hope, will help us reach consensus about what to do.

There will be two big events -- a town hall workshop on Saturday, March 6th, to get your thoughts, and another workshop on Saturday, April 17th, to let you know what we heard. These are not formal meetings of the City Council; they are community workshops.

But this is only part of the process. The councilmembers will also be going out into the community asking questions and listening and all kinds of events in the next few weeks. In addition, there will be all kinds of other ways to participate, including an online survey.

These details have not all been worked out yet, but I'll keep you posted when they are. I know it's quick, but we need to know what you think ... now!

This year, we're also going to ask for your opinion in a slightly different way. For the past two years, we've asked you what to cut. Over that time, we've gotten a pretty consistent set of answers. We're still interested in knowing whether that list of priorities is valid, but this year we'd also like to know how we should cut.

At our council goals-setting workshop back in January, we laid out four different possible ways we can cut. These were:

1. Eliminate low-priority services.
2. Continue reductions in employee compensation.
3. Reinvent city services so that we can deliver the same services more efficiently.
4. "Muddle through," by continuing to provide services in a way that is probably unsustainable in the long run and wait for the economy to get better.

We agreed that we would probably do all 4, but we weren't sure where the emphasis would be.

To this list later on, we added a 5th possibility, which is to increase revenue through economic development and other means (though not raising taxes).

So a major question to you will be, depending on what the priorities are, which of these techniques should we focus on? I hope you can start thinking about that now so you can let us know during this March-April outreach process.

One other thing to think about as we enter into this public outreach period. For the past couple of years, the City Council has functioned under a set of "Budget Operating Principles" -- guidance for our staff and ourselves as we put together the budget. Last night we revised them slightly for the coming here. Here they are:

In the face of continuing national economic crisis, Ventura must continue to ensure fiscal sustainability by living within our means. The City Council rejects the reckless policy of spending money we don’t have. In revising the adopted spending plan for next year, the FY 2011/12 budget will be based on shared contributions for reducing General Fund expenses:

-- Further reductions in lower priority programs and expenses
-- Continuation of employee compensation reductions
-- “Re-inventing” services to reduce costs

The Council seeks to engage the community in understanding and shaping the tough choices that must be made. Rather than compromising the success of high-priority efforts by inadequate funding, the Council recognizes the need to determine what programs could be eliminated, restructured or assigned to others without compromising the core mission and highest priorities of City government.  Although generating additional revenue is not expected to close the projected budget gap for next year, high priority will be given to longer-run efforts to restore prosperity and rebuild revenue to restore desired community services and competitive compensation.

Overall Priority Statements
1. Emphasize economic prosperity to ensure sustainable funding for necessary city programs and to meet critical needs, including maintaining the high priority City Council has placed on public safety, financial stewardship, and streets and public utilities

Revenue Operating Principles
1. Move toward recovering the full cost of any fee-based service except where the Council and the community see a clear public interest in full or partial subsidy
2. Without lowering standards of quality, streamline regulations and processes that impede business investment and economic prosperity
3. Assure sufficient resources to actively pursue Federal and State funding opportunities
4. Programs, and initiatives that produce income rapidly, or save future expenses rapidly should generally be given higher priority than those that simply consume revenue

Expense Operating Principles
1. Reorganize to cut costs and improve effectiveness in order to submit a structurally balanced budget
2. Use the green strategies whenever we can demonstrate a short-term net reduction in operating costs
3. Emphasize pro-active prevention over reactive responses to reduce costs
4. Make strategic use of volunteers, partnerships and collaborations, including with other public agencies, to meet community needs and/or provide services.
5. Do not use “one-time money” for ongoing operations.

Stay tuned, and I hope to hear from you in March and April.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Keeping The Vision Alive

If you look closely at the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting, you'll notice a ceremonial item recognizing that February is Retinitis Pigmentosa Awareness Month.

Retinitis Pigmentosa is an umbrella term for a group of genetic eye conditions that cause the gradual deterioriation of the retina in some people -- impairing the vision of all who have RP and causing complete blindness in some. Representatives of the Foundation Fighting Blindness will be present at tonight's meeting.

There are lots of good causes out there to highlight, and many of us up on the dais do our best to call attention to them and encourage people to help out. So why, tonight, have I placed Retinitis Pigmentosa Awareness Month on the agenda?

Because a few months ago I was diagnosed with having Retinitis Pigmentosa.

Those of you who know me well have surely noticed a deterioration in my vision in recent years. I don't always see you because I have blind spots. (Most embarrassingly, I now have a blind spot right where people stick out their hand for me to shake it!) I often bump into people or trip over things that you can see but I can't. In the council chambers, I frequently look at the TV monitor to watch our public commenters, rather than look straight at them, because I can see them better on TV. (The lighting in the City Council chambers is pretty bad -- and in the Community Meeting Room it's even worse!)

RP runs in my family, so I always knew I was at risk for it. But I didn't really notice symptoms of it until I was in my 40s -- about 12 or 13 years ago. At that time I was tested at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, where the experts acknowledged that I had the symptoms but did not diagnose the condition. About a year ago, I began to notice significant deterioriation, especially in my right eye. So last fall I went back, and this time I was diagnosed.

You can take a few steps to arrest the progress of RP (this is why I usually wear the outsized "solar shield" sunglasses). But it is impossible to predict how rapidly the condition will progress or how much sight I will eventually lose. I can only hope that because I was diagnosed fairly late in life (in contrast to many men in my family), I will retain at least some vision for the rest of my life.

Even though the diagnosis was no surprise, I have to admit that it is taking me a while to get my head around what all this means. The mental and emotional adjustment is huge. It is not easy to wake up on the morning and say to yourself, "I am a person with a disability" -- much less understand the consequences. Yesterday I was on the treadmill at the gym (and, of course, the recent Ray Charles biopic was on the TV) and it dawned on me that sooner or later -- maybe even now -- I will have to stop running on the promenade because I won't be able see all the things I need to see. Meaning, I will have to surrender one of the greatest pleasures of my life.

I have already changed my lifestyle some -- for example, I live along Main Street in Midtown and work Downtown partly because it is a very easy bus commute, and I am trying to cut down on driving generally. But it is clear I will have to adapt a great deal more in the future. A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with my friend Michael Levine, a local disability rights activist who suffers from retinoschisis, a different retinal degeneration condition. Mike's persistence in advocating for disability rights can sometimes make life difficult for us in public life (as our City Manager Rick Cole noted in his blog a while ago in writing about the Americans for Disabilities Act and our efforts to implement it here in Ventura). But I appreciate his vigilance (some of my visually impaired relatives are also disability rights activists, like Mike) and his caring and concern for me has been very meaningful to me.

Mike and I met for lunch at Danny's, and we talked a lot about things, like giving up driving and using a white cane -- things I will probably have to confront sooner or later. Then we went for a walk around the neighborhood and over to the Ventura Transit Center. The thing that really strikes you when you are losing your vision is how important the small things are -- sounds that signal something ahead, textures on the ground that serve as warning signs. It's funny -- I've spent a lifetime as an urban planner, devoting my life to creating what we call "the built environment," and there are so many things about the built environment that I never noticed before or I am just beginning to learn about.

I can't tell you whether I'll become an aggressive and vigilant disability rights activist, like Mike or my relatives. I can tell you that I am already more aware, every minute of every day, of how difficult it is to navigate the world if you are a person with a disability; and that awareness will inevitably creep into my thinking as an urban planner and as one of your elected representatives.

One thing that has really struck me in recent weeks is that we are all physically fragile, and as we live longer, most of us face the prospect of some sort of disability -- impaired vision, impaired hearing, impaired mobility. In other words, I can view myself as a person with a disability and you as a person without a disability, or I can view myself as a person with a disability now and you as a person without a disability yet. It seems to me that if I view the world that way, then I can actually be a better City Councilmember -- not necessarily advocating for the rights of those with disabilities in a world sometimes hostile to that cause, but as kind of an advance scout for my constituents, trying to understand what they will need in the future and how to plan for it. Which, come to think of it, is why I went into the field of urban planning in the first place.

Opening Day

Yesterday I had the privilege of throwing out the first ball in the Tri-Valley Girls Softball League opening day ceremonies at Ventura College. Seeing hundreds of girls ages 5 to 14 -- dressed in uniform, lined up together, proudly displaying their team sign -- was a valuable reminder of how vibrant and wonderful our community life here in Ventura is. I have always loved watching kids play on the playing fields of Ventura -- whether at the college, at Cabrillo Middle School, or wherever -- with the beautiful backdrop of the hills behind them.

It also brought back memories for me from the day, almost fifteen years ago, when my daughter (who's now away at college) was a T-ball player in the Tri-Valley League. Then, as now, I was moved by the energy and excitement of the girls. And for my daughter, that Tri-Valley opening back in 1996 was kind of a political eye-opener. She watched then-Mayor Jack Tingstrom, attired in a Bill Cosby-style sweater, throw out the first ball, and she said to me: "Dad, who the heck is that guy, and why is he here?"

And, as it turned out, this year's Tri-Valley opening was fraught with politics as well -- at least, the politics of budget cuts. As City Manager Rick Cole reported in his blog this week, budget shortfalls at Ventura College forced the college to ask Tri-Valley for a big rent increase for using the fields this year. But thanks to the intervention of College President Robin Calote and Athletics Dean Tim Harrison (as well as Rick and our city's recreation supervisor, Judy Devine), Tri-Valley got a one-year extension on the old lease. So now they're playing ball.

And, by the way, I threw a strike -- to everyone's surprise, especially mine.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Photos of Parking Pay Stations

Some folks were wondering what these will look like. Here are a couple of images of the pay stations the city will be installing:

Ventura's Big Read: To Kill A Mockingbird

Today begins the annual Ventura Big Read -- a month-long celebration of reading where everybody in town reads the same book, discusses it, and participates in many, many events surrounding the book's themes. The Big Read is coordinated countywide by the Ventura County Library Services Agency.

Last year's Big Read book was Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya. This year's book is To Kill A Mockingbird, the classic story of crime, race, and justice in a small Southern town during the depression, written by Harper Lee and published 50 years ago this year. The kickoff event for The Big Read will take place today at 5:30 at the former Elks Lodge on the corner of Main and Ash.

As an author, I have to say that few books have had such an enormous impact on me as To Kill A Mockingbird. By now everybody knows the story of author Harper Lee, who based the book on her experiences growing up in Alabama during the Depression, and based the supporting character of Dill on her chlidhood friend Truman Capote (whom she later helped research In Cold Blood.)

To Kill A Mockingbird is a deeply affecting story about how people lived in such a segregated society, and how all of them are trapped in the mores of the society without any prospect of release. This is not only true of Tom, the African-American man unjustly accused of raping a white woman; but also Tom's accusers, the townspeople, the shy Boo Radley and even Atticus Finch himself -- the lawyer who is the father of the young narrator Scout and Tom's defender in court. Only the children, inlcuding Scout, can see past their own prejudices and understand what is really happening. It is a short book, one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read, and one with a plot "payoff" both haunting and rewarding. (Harper Lee has never written another book, but as an author I think I understand. It is an almost perfect novel, and what would be the point of writing more?)

Recently, the best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article in The New Yorker about the book -- a kind of revisionist approach in which he argued that Atticus is not really so much of a hero as the book makes him out to be. After all, Gladwell points out, Atticus doesn't challenge the unfair system that keeps Tom down; he simply operates within it. Gladwell seems to be making the argument that Atticus is overrated and so is the book.

Gladwell's right, of course; Atticus is bound up in the mores of his time and place, just and unjust, as much as anybody else. But I think that's what makes the book such an important one. To Kill A Mockingbird reminds us that none of us is perfect, not even the noble Atticus Finch; we all must operate within the context of what's possible in the time and place we live; and this humanity is what drives both the good and the bad within us. As a reader and an author, I have always appreciated this suble insight in To Kill A Mockingbird; and I hope it is not diminishing the book to say that as a politician I appreciate the book's qualities as well.

I hope you read To Kill A Mockingbird this month and participate in the Big Read events.

State of the City 2010: Prosperity and Sustainability

Mayor Bill Fulton

Ventura State of the City Address

Feb. 1, 2010

Mayor Fulton:

On behalf of the City Council, I’d like to welcome all of you to San Buenaventura City Hall.

There is no question that in this economic climate, the state of our city government is challenged. As is the state of our school district, our county government, our Chamber of Commerce, and any number of other agencies and organizations around town. Money is short; businesses and institutions we depend on and cherish are at risk, and we are often at the mercy of events and circumstances beyond our control.

But the state of our community – the state of Ventura as a living, breathing, thriving place of 100,000 people – is stronger than ever.

The people of Ventura bring an enormous amount of passion and energy every day to task of sustaining our community as a terrific town: soccer leagues, little leagues, community organizations, arts and cultural activities, education, music, and businesses that are born and grow and prosper. It is all of you who make our community strong and give us the passion and the energy to deal with hard times.

And these are indeed hard times. But if you think back over the last decade, it’s remarkable what Ventura, as a community, has accomplished:

* We have paved almost every street in town. This may not be the most headline-grabbing accomplishment in history, but it’s one that affects everyone’s life every day and we should be proud of it. It shows we can focus on the basics and get them done.

* We have built a world-class aquatics center at the Community Park and a nationally recognized links golf course at Olivas. These new facilities enhance the quality of life for our local residents. But they also bring in many tourists and visitors, adding to our emerging “brand” as a center of outdoor recreation that also includes the Channel Islands, boating, surfing and kayaking, bicycling and hiking.

* We established downtown as a regional attraction that benefits local residents and again, brings visitors and their money into our town. There is nothing like our downtown scene, our art, culture, music, and restaurant scene anywhere along the coast between Santa Monica and Santa Barbara. And people are discovering it. How many other retail “draws” anywhere in the country can say they have increased their business in the last two years?

* Up here on this dais, we eliminated a structural deficit and have maintained a balanced budget every single year. This has involved making tough choices, and you may not like the way we’ve done it, but we have faced these hard issues head-on.

* As a community, we created a community Vision; and as a city we have translated that Vision into a new General Plan, new development codes that are much more understandable, and a more predictable development process.

These are remarkable achievements for any community in any decade, and we should be proud of them. They remind us not only that Ventura is a great town, but that even in hard times, we remain a community capable of pulling together and getting things done.

Now is the time to rely on that passion and energy to lay the foundation for the future that is both more prosperous and more sustainable. In working with the City Council since the swearing-in back in December, it has become evident that achieving long-term goals requires us to focus on three things:

n Creating and sustaining an enduring prosperity;

n Sustaining the environment that supports us; and

n Reinventing the way we provide our public services so that we can sustain those services at a high level in the long run.

Our most important job is to do everything we can to restore prosperity to Ventura.

Here at City Hall, we tend to think of prosperity in terms of the tax revenue that supports vital city services.

But to the community at large, prosperity means far more. It means creating jobs that give all of us a sense of security and stability. It means creating business opportunities that allow the entrepreneurs among us to innovate and thrive, and creating wealth for our community so as to create an endowment for generations to come just as we continue to benefit even today from the endowments bestowed upon us generations ago by the Bards, the Fosters, and other pioneers of our community.

Over the past few years, we’ve raised our development standards, and this is beginning to pay off with high-quality projects such as the new beachfront Embassy Suites Hotel approved last year. But we’ve also made adopted many new plans and codes – literally from Downtown out to Saticoy – that will make it easier for us to keep our promises to both neighborhoods and developers. New projects can and will protect the quality of life in our neighborhoods; and new projects that follow our codes and plans can and will be processed more quickly.

These reforms in the development process are very important. But all by themselves they will not get us where we want to go. Just as important as high-quality developments that will be built are the businesses that will occupy them.

Enduring prosperity comes from a robust entrepreneurial climate for businesses to thrive. This requires us to do three things:

First, encourage business sectors that are growing rapidly and will enhance Ventura’s wealth rather than deplete it.

Second, encourage the growth of business opportunities that will provide our community with high-wage jobs.

And third, encourage retail and visitor opportunities that are unique – that you can only find in Ventura – instead of those you can find anywhere.

I am proud to say that we are doing all of these things, and they are beginning to pay off.

We are fortunate to be located close to two major economic engines – institutions that constantly spin off startup businesses in the high-tech and biotech centers: UC Santa Barbara to our north and Amgen to our south.

In the past two years, Ventura has made a major effort – unlike any other city in this region – to connect with these institutions, with startup entrepreneurs, and with venture capitalists, to encourage spin-off businesses to locate and grow here in Ventura. And it’s working. Today - for the first time - we are part of the high-tech/biotech business ecosystem.

Just last Thursday, more than 200 people gathered for a launch party for our Ventura Ventures Technology Center (V2TC) business incubator, located only a few steps away from where we are standing right now.

The incubator was designed to foster a creative environment where high-tech companies and entrepreneurs can network with each other, brainstorm their ideas, and grow their businesses. At that’s exactly what the 10 firms now located in our incubator are doing right now here in Ventura today. Here are a couple of examples:

* The Trade Desk is an exchange for online ad networks. It was founded by Jeff Green, whose last startup was sold to Microsoft after two years of operation and now employs 50 people in Carpinteria.

* is a web site that allows you to donate money through PayPal as a meaningful and fun gift. With the assistance of our venture capital partner DFJ Frontier the City participated in Lottay’s financing out of the City’s Jobs Investment Fund (JIF).

* In addition to bringing Lottay to town, our Jobs Investment Fund and DFJ partnership also helped to attract Ventura’s first venture capital firm to Ventura.

Peate Ventures manages the BuenaVentura Fund and their offices are headquartered in Downtown. It’s said that venture capitalists have a tendency to “invest in their back yard” and already the BuenaVentura Fund has invested in Lottay and one other Ventura company.


Jeff Green, CEO, The Trade Desk

Harry Lin, CEO,

Frank Foster, Managing Partner, DFJ Frontier

John and Dan Peate, Principals, Peate Ventures

All of the companies I mentioned are raising capital creating new jobs and stimulating the local economy. Those that succeed will grow rapidly, creating many new high-quality jobs for people who live in Ventura - exactly what our General Plan and our long-term economic development strategy call for.

We’re also working closely with Community Memorial Hospital to help facilitate their $300 million expansion, which should break ground in 2011.

The new Community Memorial will be a tremendous asset to all of us in Ventura by ensuring that we will have access to very high-quality health care for decades to come.


Gary Wilde, CEO, Community Memorial Health System

But the expansion of Community Memorial is also a crucial part of our ability to nurture and grow biotech companies here in Ventura.

Part of the expansion, we hope, will be to create the all-important “wet lab” space that biotech startups require in order to do their work – space that is currently lacking in Ventura, which is one of the reasons why biotech startups are going to neighboring cities.

The expanded Community Memorial can also help give biomedical entrepreneurs a real-world partner where they can learn more about what patients and doctors need, making Ventura even more attractive to biotech companies.

All of these efforts will bring high-quality paying jobs for our residents and with the path-breaking assistance of Ventura College, which is a real innovator in technical training.

I am sure that as these companies grow, we can provide them with a highly trained “green collar” workforce. In fact, Ventura College has just received a grant from Southern California Edison to pursue a Green Jobs Education Initiative.


Ramiro Sanchez, Executive Vice President, Ventura College

During this deep recession, the success of our downtown and our other unique destinations has been a remarkable story. Business downtown has continued to grow even as retail sales have dropped precipitously elsewhere. Our visitor and convention business has held its own as Channel Islands National Park and other local attractions have continued to draw people from California and throughout the world.

In a world where retail and tourism is changing rapidly, we must work hard to differentiate ourselves and focus on those things that are unique to Ventura – that people can get nowhere else. So we must further promote and develop these unique attractions – not just our downtown and the arts and music scene there, but also our remarkable array of outdoor recreational opportunities, including the islands and the Ventura Harbor, Olivas Links, surfing, and great hiking opportunities nearby.

Indeed, the combination of our terrific downtown and the outdoor recreation opportunities may be the biggest attraction Ventura has. We’ve also got to make sure that the very precious remaining space we have for retail opportunities, such as the Ventura Auto Center, which is close to many of those outdoor opportunities, is strategically used to reinforce the unique experience Ventura offers.

And, by the way, the more we are able to strengthen and promote these unique experiences in Ventura, the more attractive Ventura will become as a place for entrepreneurs and innovators in the high-tech and biotech industries. And create more jobs for people who live here.

Over the next year as we move forward with these efforts we will continue to work with the Chamber of Commerce and our business community to pursue the goals we crafted at the Economic Summit last spring. We’ve already put into place a business ombudsman, whose job it is to help businesses navigate the permit process at City Hall.


Randy Hinton, Outgoing Chair, Chamber of Commerce

Dave Armstrong, chair, Downtown Ventura Organization

Doug Wood, General Manager, Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach

Let me turn now to the underlying foundation of our future prosperity - sustaining this beautiful and fragile location where we live.

As former Mayor Brennan often says, living in Ventura is like living on an island. We are bounded by the ocean, two rivers and a mountain range. It’s easy to forget that this is a very fragile place to live. We are reminded only occasionally when we are inundated … as were last week, or when fire threatens to overwhelm us, or when we are cut off temporarily from the outside world.

Yet people have made this small piece of land their home – living sustainability with the environment – for many thousands of years. It’s been two and a quarter centuries since the Mission was founded and almost a century and a half since the creation of Ventura as a municipality.

Sustaining our lives in this beautiful and fragile place has never been easy, but we have always been able to do it somehow. In order to continue doing so, we’re going to have to find new ways to live sustainably on this small piece of land we have claimed as ours.

For example: Unlike most communities, we have the privilege of actually seeing the entire “life-cycle” of water and how it gets polluted – from the moment rain lands on the ground and runs across our driveways, down through the storm drains, down the barrancas, and out into the ocean, picking up whatever there is along its path. When my daughter Sara was young, we used to try to race the rain to the sea.

Today we face enormous pressure from State and Federal regulations to be even tougher on ourselves in protecting water quality and we are responding with green streets and green landscaping and green stormwater improvements that make our community more inviting and beautiful, while at the same time making water quality better.


Paul Jenkin, Environmental Director, Surfrider Foundation

Similarly, we are engaged in an enormous effort at City Hall and community-wide to green our operations so that we consume less energy and pollute less, which, by the way, means we save money as well. We power much of our city yard through photovoltaic cells on the roof. We use co-generation to produce energy at our Community Pool. We’ve reduced electricity use citywide by more than 25 percent.


Ron Calkins, Director, City of Ventura Public Works Department

And of course Ventura is proudly home to some of the greenest businesses in America, most especially Patagonia, which has been declared by no less than Fortune Magazine as “The Coolest Company on the Planet.” Patagonia has much to teach the rest of us in Ventura about being truly green, and I hope we spend a lot of time learning from them over the next couple of years.


Pedro Lopez-Baldrich, General Counsel, Patagonia

Now, however, our community faces a very real and very grave environmental threat to our long-term survival.

To most people, climate change is an abstraction. To us it is not. No matter what causes climate change, as a result the sea level will rise. As a result, it will rise in this city and it will rise in our lifetimes.

Throughout the state, scientists are forecasting a rise in sea level of somewhere between 16 and 55 inches – that’s somewhere between one and a half and four and a half feet – by 2050. If that seems a long way off, think of it this way. In 2050, Alec Loorz – the Ventura teenage activist who went to Copenhagen to fight for a climate-change accord will be about the age that I am now. For Alec and his generation – including my daughter Sara and so many of our children – climate change will shape the world they live in and the lives they lead.

So we have to start planning now to protect our community from the rising sea level. How will we protect our harbor and our Keys and Pierpont communities? How will we protect our sewer plant?

How will we protect the investments we make along the Promenade and Downtown? How can we work together with our neighboring communities, with the Navy (which is also dealing with this problem), and others who are at risk?

No matter whether we can stop the process of climate change, we must take steps – by reinforcing our traditional infrastructure and creating new, greener infrastructure – to protect our community from inundation.

As I have said before, we can’t prosper if we are drowning. But we can prosper if we take the lead in finding ways to deal with sea-level rise, not just attacking the problem, but nurturing businesses that can lead the way with green solutions.


Rachel Morris, President, Ventura Climate Care Options Organized Locally (VCCOOL)

Finally, I’d like to speak about the third theme that has emerged as vital to our community: how we can provide our constituents with the quality of life they rightly expect at a time of steep declines in our revenue.

In these hard times, we have had to make difficult decisions to cut services. We have lost some of our most cherished businesses and community institutions, and many more are at risk. This in turn has understandably led to tension over how to live within our means today.

On this question, it often seems as though Ventura is being torn apart by two warring camps.

On the one hand, there are those who zealously believe that we must continue to do things the same way we have always done them… and raise taxes to pay for it.

On the other hand – the polar opposite – there are those who zealously believe that we must continue to do things the same way we have always done them… and cut everybody’s wages to pay for it.

But I’m afraid that if we frame the debate about the future of our community this way, we will never get past the logjam.

No wonder our City Manager often likes to repeat a quotation – often attributed to Winston Churchill – about Great Britain’s dire financial situation in the middle of World War II. To the Cabinet, Churchill supposedly said:

“Gentlemen, we have run out of money. Now we have to think.”

So maybe it’s time to think about more than simply how to pay for continuing business as usual. Maybe it’s time to think about how to do things differently; reinvent things; ask ourselves questions we’ve never asked before; questions such as:

Does every fire truck have to be attached to a fire station?

Does every library book have to be attached to a library building?

Does every person who wants to travel by bus have to be attached to a 40-foot, 20-ton vehicle?

We have always taken these things for granted. But thinking this way is very expensive. It requires us to build separate buildings and create separate systems for everything we do. But we can’t afford to think this way anymore. We must think differently.

We’ve already made some progress on this front – for example, our Fire Department greatly increased response times during the time we had Medic Engine 10, which is essentially a fire and emergency response vehicle not tied to a particular fire station.


Kevin Rennie, Chief, City of Ventura Fire Department

We’ve had to park Medic Engine 10 for the moment because of budget constraints, but I suspect it will be back because it’s exactly the kind of innovation we’ve going to have to focus on in the months and years ahead. Indeed, reinventing public services through this kind of creative thinking was the one unanimous high priority that came out of our City Council goal-setting workshop a couple of weeks ago.

So we’re going to keep asking these kinds of questions: Can we find a way to make sure that everybody has access to library services even if they don’t live near a library?

Is there a way for firefighters and police officers and code enforcement officers to work together as they traverse the streets of our community, keeping an eye out for our well-being? Can’t we work with together with nonprofit organizations like the Serra Cross Conservancy, the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy, and the Ventura Botanical Garden to manage Grant Park and actually make it better than it is now, at less cost?

Similarly, we must think about how to create and strengthen our neighborhood gathering-places no matter what role they might currently play.

Here in Ventura, we have terrific parks and schools and senior centers and recreation centers and libraries. Every neighborhood should have all these things.

But it’s clear that we will never be able to afford to provide every neighborhood with each one of these things.

So how do we find a way to provide every neighborhood with a civic gathering space where they have access to all these things in the same place in a way we can afford?

This kind of transformation obviously requires creative thinking and an open mind, but it also requires a collaborative heart. We here at City Hall can’t do everything by ourselves. To reinvent the way we do things in Ventura, all of us must emerge from our silos and work together: our city, our college, our school district, our county agencies, our nonprofits, our philanthropies, our businesses, and of course, most important of all, the people of Ventura.

The people of Ventura are truly remarkable in their commitment to our community and their passion and their energy and their ability to constantly both reinforce our community and reinvent it so that it can continue to thrive. We do this not just through the political debates that we engage in up here in this dais, but more importantly – every minute of every day – when we volunteer to coach soccer or little league, help with the PTO bake sale, join a service club, or help out at a school, or sit on a committee to plan the future of our libraries, helping our police department, or working on a weekend beach cleanup.

That’s why I am grateful to my predecessor Christy Weir for making sure that Ventura was one of the first cities in the country to sign up for the national “Cities of Service” effort started under New York mayor Bloomberg, which highlights volunteer efforts in communities all over the nation. And Ventura is beginning to get national attention for our commitment to volunteer service. Friends: we need all of your to help us through this time of need in laying the foundation for the future.

This is a time of great change and uncertainty in our society. Old ways of doing things are falling by the wayside quickly and new ways are emerging rapidly. Such times can be frightening, but they are also pregnant with great possibilities. We in Ventura are very determined and well positioned to take advantage of those opportunities in order to reinforce Ventura as a great place to live and work.

Ten years ago this spring, in this very chambers, the Ventura City Council agreed to move forward aggressively to accept a new vision for our community created by the community itself and turn it into a reality. The result has been a decade of remarkable progress toward our commonly held goals.

Now, at a difficult moment in history, is the time for us to look forward to 10 years from now – to 2020 – and once again work collaboratively and aggressively to ensure Ventura’s future prosperity, and for another generation, to sustain the wonderful quality of life that we all enjoy. I look forward to working with each and every one of you over the next year in taking the first steps to making that prosperity and sustainability a reality.