Agreement more than combativeness has marked the 14-candidate race for three seats in next week's Ventura City Council election.
Virtually the entire field has pinpointed growth as the key issue, and the call for it to be slowed, managed or controlled has been the theme of the Nov. 3 contest. Most of the candidates, however, have refrained from severe criticism of the current council, acknowledging that fundamental controls are already in place. Consequently, incumbents Russ Burns and John McWherter only infrequently have been called upon to defend their records.
In fact, only a handful of candidates has engaged in sharp debate about anything; most have preferred to stress their own qualifications and positions without directly challenging those of their rivals.
Seven Filed Statements
Seven of the candidates have filed financial statements the city requires for those raising more than $500 in campaign contributions. They are Richard Francis, Tom Buford, Don Villeneuve, Edward Buckle and Billy Graham, as well as Burns and McWherter.
The other candidates are Barry Epstein, Carroll Dean Williams, Terry Lee Shain, Alan DeCotes, Troy Waltrip, Frederick Hoff and Jack DeLong.
Francis, a 38-year-old lawyer who has lived in the city nine years, set a record for raising funds after his campaign statement filed last week showed that he had received $18,523 in donations.
An unsuccessful council candidate in 1981, he helped block construction of a planned shopping and office complex earlier this year by gathering signatures of 11,000 residents opposed to the project. He has advocated limits on industrial and commercial construction, opposed the development of a two-year Cal State University academic center on Harbor Boulevard and suggested that Ventura's water shortage be remedied, in part, by replacing the fresh water used to pump oil from the city's oil fields with recycled water.
"I've been making a difference in the community from the outside for some time," said Francis, who sits on the city's Mobile Home Rent Review Board and is organizing a nonprofit organization for the aid of hyperactive children. "I'd like the opportunity to try to make a difference from the inside."
Buford, 39, an attorney who has lived in the city for 25 years, has raised $8,092 for his first run at public office.
Buford is president-elect of the Greater Ventura Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the city's Pier Steering Committee. He has stressed his independence and leadership skills.
He said he is concerned about growth but opposes setting a limit on industrial and commercial development, supports the city's efforts to examine Taylor Ranch as a site for the university center and advocates a cooperative approach among Ventura and the neighboring water districts to investigate a full range of alternatives for bringing water to the city.
"I think I make good decisions and I enjoy the decision-making process," said Buford, who has a seat on the county's Mobile Home Rent Review Board and the board of directors of the Ventura Kiwanis Club. "I maintain my independence by speaking my mind and making sure I'm informed on the issues."
Villeneuve, 57, a Ventura College biology professor who has lived in the city 26 years, has emerged as one of the campaign's more critical voices.
'Blueprint for Disaster'
An unsuccessful council candidate in 1985 and a former Planning Commission member, he called the Comprehensive Plan Review Committee's forthcoming recommendations for a population of 122,000 in the year 2010 "a blueprint for disaster."
He supports restrictions on industrial and commercial growth, opposes a university center on the Harbor Boulevard site and has advocated using recycled water for the city's oil wells.
"I've been disturbed by the direction the city's been going in for the last 10 years," said Villeneuve, who has raised $8,919 for his campaign. "We've had rapid increases in development without any effort to address the problems created by this development."
Buckle, 52, an attorney who has lived in Ventura for three years, has also been critical of the city's approach to development.
A professor of business law at Oxnard College, he has accused city officials of letting developers determine the ground rules on such issues as commercial construction and the university center. "Who's minding the store?" is the headline on his campaign advertisements.
He supports restrictions on the number of residents who can live in various areas of the city, opposes the development of the Harbor Boulevard university center and has called for a regional approach to solve the water problem.
"You have to set some sort of guidelines so we can begin to absorb new people," said Buckle, who has raised $3,420 for his campaign. "I don't think we can handle 122,000 people until we first get the ability to move the 122,000 people around."
Burns, 69, who is seeking reelection to a second four-year term, has chosen to focus more on Ventura's attributes than its problems.