by Res Publica
We want to outline the critical campaign issues facing City Council candidates in 2022.
If you live in Districts 1, 4, 5 or 6, you have a critical decision to make in this election. Your choice for City Councilmember will shape Ventura’s future for decades. How the candidates address the current campaign and the issues that confront our community today should guide your selection.
What campaign issues do you want your candidate to address? Your answer may depend on the district you live in but, regardless of your district, there are some citywide issues every candidate must address.
Water Is Among The Top Campaign Issues
Water and wastewater treatment will be among the costliest issues the City Council and, ultimately, you will face in the next four years. Ventura Water is asking the Council for over $259 million to complete VenturaWaterPure.
Ventura Water convinced the City Council to raise water and wastewater rates by 43% to pay for the project. They claimed the benefits would be another reliable water source by 2025 and, by doing so, we would comply with the Wishtoyo Consent Decree of 2012. Their message was that “your wastewater” would be the “reliable water source.”
Since the Council agreed to the rate increase, the project has had several significant changes. First, the city relieved the supervisorial duties over VenturaWaterPure from then-Ventura Water General Manager Susan Rungren and turned them over to Linda Sumansky inside the City Manager’s office. Placing VenturaWaterPure under the oversight of the City Manager’s office takes water and wastewater decisions away from trained engineers and water employees and turns them over to politicians.
Second, Ventura Water reduced the scope of VenturaWaterPure significantly. Ventura Water will no longer build a state-of-the-art water treatment plant by 2025. Instead, they will treat the wastewater and dump it into the ocean. As a result, what’s known as the Ocean Outfall will be completed by 2025 to fulfill the 2012 Consent Decree. The advanced water treatment plant will be completed by 2030 if all goes according to the revised plans.
Third, the Water Commission approved none of the changes to the plan for VenturaWaterPure. Ventura Water is taking the changes to the City Council, circumventing the Water Commission’s input.
Any discussion about water in Ventura should be about the cost of producing and delivering water to the citizens of Ventura. And that cost is rising. Ventura Water presented to a VenturaWaterPure Ad Hoc committee in August 2022. Ventura Water stated the planned expenditures would increase another $76 million, bringing the entire project to over $373 million.
Find out from your candidates where they stand on VenturaWaterPure.
Homelessness increased by a staggering 34% between 2020 and 2022. The city’s homeless count is 713 people. Only Oxnard, with a population twice the size of Ventura, has more.
Shouldn’t the Council and Ventura’s citizens know how much homeless services cost and how they get allocated? What should Ventura do for those not housed in the shelter? Some of the remaining homeless are vagrants. They choose to live the lifestyle and panhandle. How do candidates plan to combat vagrancy, so Ventura is more welcoming?
Public Employee Pensions Is The Toughest Campaign Issues
Ask the candidates running in your district if they will work with the city’s unions to reform public employee pensions. The last time the City Council modified pensions was 2010, and those changes were modest.
The city staff believes pensions will level out in six or seven years. Yet, the bill came from CalPERS for this year’s contribution to the unfunded pension liability, and it was staggering. Ventura will pay $19.9M to CalPERS. Can Ventura last that long amid its other financial burdens?
The elections in 2020 were the costliest in history. Since district elections began, candidates have been spending more each election cycle.
The rising expenditures seem odd. By moving to districts, each candidate needs to reach a smaller number of potential voters (15,000 instead of the entire city). City officials intended district voting to help candidates spend less to be elected. Rather, district voting has had the opposite effect.
Growth Is Always Among The Key Campaign Issues
Growth means different things to different people. Yet, it’s inescapable that Ventura needs to grow.
Ask if your candidates acknowledge that growth, jobs and water availability are inseparable. They also need to recognize and respect the opposition to building more houses with greater density and height throughout the community. Forward progress on growth means accommodating, integrating and compromising.
Voting works best when people take the time to learn about campaign issues. Educate yourself on the candidates’ positions on the campaign issues for 2022. We’ve provided a framework to ask pertinent questions.
Don’t succumb to the political feel-good clichés candidates use to attract your vote. Ask yourself, “Do these candidates have the capabilities to solve these problems?”