A Ventura citizens group opposed to the City Council's growth plan is trying to regroup in the wake of the council's final vote this week in favor of a population of 115,000 by the year 2010.
But the group concedes that it is only beginning to learn the political basics needed to overturn city policy in an initiative campaign.
Ventura's estimated population now is 90,000. The citizens group, called the Alliance for Ventura's Future, would like a slower rate of growth than the one the City Council approved.
The group has scheduled a Sept. 13 meeting at Anacapa School to plan its strategy in the wake of final City Council approval of the city's comprehensive growth plan initially approved in June.
The Alliance for Ventura's Future originally had hoped to organize a referendum on the growth plan to be included on the Nov. 7 ballot, when four City Council seats will be at stake.
Initial Plans Frustrated
Cathy Bean, vice chairwoman of Alliance as well as a council candidate, said this week, however, that the group's plans were frustrated by the timing of the council's final actions.
She said the council's decision to postpone until Monday a final vote on the comprehensive plan made it impossible for the citizen's group to get a referendum on the November ballot.
The only alternative would have been to force a special election sometime around Christmas, Bean said. Alliance members decided that that would have been politically divisive.
"We started out with the idea of a referendum, but they kept postponing the final date for the council vote," Bean said. "This makes it much harder for us. An initiative campaign is much harder to organize than a referendum.
Involves More Expense
"It has to be legally airtight, and that involves added legal expenses," she added. "We will be discussing the costs and general strategy Sept. 13 with some experts from Santa Barbara who ran a similar initiative campaign."
Ventura City Councilman Richard Francis was among several council members questioning whether an initiative campaign on the growth issue will be successful in Ventura.
"I never want to underestimate the public, but my personal opinion is that there must be some difficulty in the organization or they wouldn't have switched from the referendum approach to this one," Francis said.
The group's present goal, Bean said, is to have the initiative written this fall and placed on the general election ballot next June.
Could Be Rejected
Although Alliance members privately say their goal is to limit Ventura's population to 102,000 by the year 2010, Bean declined to discuss a figure and said any initiative proposal specifying a population limit would be rejected by the courts.
"The language has to be couched in certain legalese," she said. "This is not going to be simple to write. The goal is to stop the rapid growth in Ventura. It will be hard, but I wouldn't be involved if I didn't think it has a chance."
In Santa Barbara, a citizens group collected 10,500 signatures for an initiative campaign aimed at limiting future commercial growth. The Santa Barbara group has delayed filing its petitions, however, because of a city-sponsored ballot question on the same subject.
Ventura City Clerk Barbara Kam said the timing of the city's final approval of the growth plan was not related to the effort of the citizens group in any way, but was simply the result of the lengthy time required in printing copies of the planning documents.
Kam said that any referendum effort launched later than early July would not have qualified for the November ballot. She said an initiative drive aimed at next June's ballot will require the signatures of 15% of the 52,000 or so registered voters in the city.