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'Clarifying Measure' on Fairgrounds Plan Called Confusing

July 21, 1988|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

MEASURE E: Asks whether the city "shall loan or give any money . . . to assist in the construction of a multipurpose convention center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds."

MEASURE F: Asks whether the city "should . . . continue to work with the Ventura County Fair in the financing and / or improvement of facilities at the Ventura County Fairgrounds."

Critics of a large convention and exhibition hall planned for the Ventura County Fairgrounds have sharply criticized the Ventura City Council for adding a second measure on the issue to the November ballot.

Judy Eldeb, a leader of the Save the Fair Committee, said the move by Ventura officials was confusing and an insult to the grass-roots drive against the 120,000-square-foot building, which some fear will be an oversized white elephant at odds with a country-flavored fair.

"Something's rotten here," said Eldeb, who led a drive that collected 4,881 valid signatures to qualify a measure aimed at blocking a $9.4-million city loan for the building, which would be the largest of its kind in the county. "All this does is muddy the waters."

But Ventura officials, who last week approved a proposition that asks more generally whether the city should finance any renovations at the fairgrounds, said their intent was to clarify confusion generated by the first measure.

Because critics have come to see the facility as a symbol of commercialization, officials said, a vote against the building could also have been construed as a vote against all the other improvements planned for the aging fairgrounds.

"We didn't want this to be under a gray cloud," said City Atty. Donald S. Greenberg. "There was a feeling that, as long as you have this stuff on the ballot, let's have a clarification."

So far, however, the two measures have generated more heat than light. Council members have offered a range of conflicting interpretations of how they would view the results should one proposition pass and the other fail.

Adding to the uncertainty, Greenberg has said that both measures are merely advisory and that neither will bind the council to any particular course of action.

"In my view, it didn't really clarify anything," Councilman Don Villeneuve conceded.

When the dust settles, Ventura voters will find themselves answering these two questions:

Measure E, sponsored by the Save the Fair Committee, asks simply whether the city "shall loan or give any money . . . to assist in the construction of a multipurpose convention center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds."

Measure F, sponsored by the Ventura City Council, lists a range of planned renovations for the site, including better beach access, improved parking, new livestock pens, extension of the oceanfront promenade and replacement of two dilapidated Quonset huts that house youth and commercial activities.

The measure then asks whether the city "should . . . continue to work with the Ventura County Fair in the financing and/or improvement of facilities at the Ventura County Fairgrounds."

However, the Save the Fair Committee, a group composed mostly of disgruntled fair volunteers, say they never objected to those other renovations, which are part of a $30-million face lift approved last summer by the Ventura City Council and the Fair Board.

"We were very specific, so that none of those other issues would be brought into this," Eldeb said. "To me, this is a 'what in the world are they doing?' type of situation."

But Ventura officials said the question of the events center, which they view as the showpiece of the renovation plan and a boon to the downtown area, needed to be placed in a broader context.

The $9.4-million loan for the facility is part of long-term, $11.4-million no-interest loan planned by the city to help finance the full range of improvements at the 79-year-old grounds.

Omits 'Larger Objectives'

"The initiative focuses narrowly on one aspect of the overall master plan and fails to recognize the city's larger community service objectives," wrote City Manager John Baker in a memo last week to council members. "To let this initiative stand alone on the ballot would preclude the community from making a fully informed choice."

Given a vote on Measure E against the events center and a vote on Measure F supporting improvements, however, there is no clear picture of what would take place at the 62-acre site.

Some council members, for instance, said such an outcome would block the city from contributing to the events center, but leave officials free to finance the other renovations listed in Measure F.

Others said a "no" vote on Measure E could jeopardize the entire plan, regardless of the results of Measure F, because benefits from the building are what justify the city's investment.

And Councilman John McWherter said the results of Measure E might be disregarded altogether, because the question refers to a "multipurpose convention center" and he has never viewed the facility as such.

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