2016 was a fascinating and challenging election year at all levels of government. The City of Ventura was no exception. Voters elected a new City Council Member and passed two City Charter amendments. Most remarkable of all, Ventura voters approved an increase in the sales tax. This will impact Ventura for 25 years.
The city staff and City Council promoted an extra 1/2 percent sales tax. The increase will raise another $10.8 million per year. That amounts to $270 million for city services over the next 25 years.
THE OVERSIGHT OF A NEW TAX IS UNTENABLE
The final vote count was 28,987 yes and 20,359 no votes. Measure O promises all voters strict oversight of the new money. Measure O mandates: 1) strict accountability 2) a citizens’ oversight committee 3) annual independent financial audits and 4) a public review of expenditures. Yet, the city hasn’t revealed its plan to put this strict oversight in place.
A lack of plan contradicts one councilwoman’s official position. She stated that her reelection was a signal from the voters. She believes voters think the City Council was spending the taxpayer’s money wisely. The 20,359 citizens that remember the Brooks Institute failure might disagree.
A LONG HISTORY OF BROKEN PROMISES IN VENTURA
Ventura citizens must hold City Government to its word. Promises are sometimes forgotten or even ignored when it comes to money. One example happened in 1991—26 years ago . City government promised to reduce water and waste water rates after the drought. The water and waste water rate increases they imposed were temporary. The drought ended. The rates never returned to their previous levels before the drought began. Once they got your money, the promises evaporated.It was also 26 years ago that our city promised desalination as a new water source, if voter approved. Venturans approve the city’s call for desalination, but nothing happened. Yet, Venturans still pay for State water rights because of the city’s nonfeasance.
Ten months ago, the city promised economic vitality when Brooks Institute moved downtown. Brooks Institute filed for bankruptcy. The project failed. The City Council and the city staff pointed fingers at each other for that debacle. There was plenty of blame to go around, though. The staff failed the Council by not performing its duties completely. The Council failed to ask the right questions before approving Brooks’ long term lease.
Afterwards, some City Council members reached a difficult conclusion. They realized the city staff lacks the expertise to assess complex real estate opportunities.
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