Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Laying the Foundation for the Future

This has not been an easy year for us here in Ventura. At City Hall, at the school district, elsewhere in town – and also in our personal lives – we’ve had to cut back.

Nobody likes cutting back, especially if it means our community’s quality of life is at risk. Fewer libraries, fewer police officers, fewer fire stations, reduced bus service, reduced park maintenance, less street paving – the list goes on and on, unfortunately. And most of our time and effort at City Hall in 2010 has been spent figuring how to manage these reductions in a way that will maintain the city’s overall solvency without harming the community too much.

This is essential work these days for local government officials and we are right to devote so much attention to it. But even as we manage these reductions, we must also devote ourselves to renewing our community – appreciating what we have here in Ventura, looking ahead, and understanding how we can protect and enhance our city’s unique characteristics.

So let me begin by saying that, despite all the bad news, 2010 was a pretty good year here in Ventura. We have successfully sown the seeds of several efforts that will pay off in years to come, both for our prosperity and our quality of life. Although it went almost unnoticed, perhaps the most important accomplishment was the approval of Community Memorial Hospital’s major expansion in midtown. Starting early next year, CMH will build a new building adjacent to its old one – simultaneously upgrading our medical care, freeing up space in the old building for important economic ventures such as biotech research, and helping to improve an already wonderful, walkable commercial neighborhood around Five Points. We’re lucky to still have a community non-profit hospital, and the fact that there was so little controversy about the CMH expansion is a testimony to the way the hospital and the community understand the value of their relationship.

We also saw the expansion of our V2TC business incubator behind City Hall, with several new businesses opening up and one – The Trade Desk – moving to bigger quarters elsewhere in the building because it is growing so fast. In addition, we saw an increase in all kinds of creative and innovative businesses downtown – everyone from architects to venture capitalists and, yes, brassiere designers moved in.

There’s so much more I could talk about, but let me just sum it up by saying that nothing is more important to me as mayor than laying the foundation for Ventura’s future prosperity and quality of life. It’s sometimes hard to see this progress in such a down economy, but we here at City Hall are working hard – in collaboration with our neighborhoods, our businesses, and many others – to make sure that as we emerge from the recession Ventura will remain a great place to life and work for another generation at least.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thankful for the Lights and for our Diversity

Ventura is a great place to spend the holidays. It’s warm during the day yet wintry at night, with a splash of rain from time to time. So we can enjoy the best of both worlds – vigorous outdoor activities during the day and cozy moments by the fire at night.

We can also celebrate the fact that here in Ventura our community includes many different faiths, each of which brings something special to our community. One of the things I love about Ventura is that it’s a diverse place. The fact that we all respect and appreciate each other – and we all work together for the benefit of our community overall – is one of the most wonderful thoings about our town.

On the first Saturday of December, it was great fun to join Santa Claus in lighting our community Christmas Tree in the mini-park on Santa Clara Street next to the parking garage. It’s the first time we’ve had the tree in that location – thanks, Kathleen Ericksen and Downtown Ventura Organization – and the turnout was great. So was the music, thanks to four great choirs – the Ventura Youth Choir, the Channelaires, the Trinity Lutheran Church Choir, and the First Assembly of God Church Choir.

Over the past several months, I have visited more than a dozen churches in Ventura on Sundays, with special emphasis on evangelical Christian churches. Thanks to their ceaseless efforts, the Kingdom Center is now making a dent in the homeless problem in Ventura. And several of our churches are helping temporarily homeless families through our “safe sleep” program. (If you haven’t heard anything about that program lately, that’s because it’s working – with no problems and no incidents)

The next day it was my honor to participate in our annual community menorah lighting program at the Ventura Harbor. Rabbi Yakov Latowicz of the Chabad Center here in Ventura – and his colleagues from around the country – always do a great job of putting a program on. This year, I had the special privilege of sharing the stage with Yuli Edelstein, a former Russian diplomat and currently Israel’s Minister of the Diaspora and Public Diplomacy, who went some 30 feet up in the air in a cherry-picker to light the huge menorah.

And just a few weeks ago, I had another great privilege – cutting the ribbon for the grand opening of the Ventura County Hindu Temple, the first such temple in the Tri-Counties area. The Temple opened just in time for Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

In these dark times, we in Ventura should be grateful that we still have wonderful sunshine during the day – and so many ways to celebrate the light in our community.