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The Economy, the Poor Top Supervisors' Priority List : Government: Board members meet to begin discussing their goals for the year. At the same time, they are mindful of upcoming budget cuts.

January 22, 1992|SANTIAGO O'DONNELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jump-starting the county's economy and helping the disadvantaged will be among the Ventura County Board of Supervisors' top concerns this year, board members said Tuesday as they presented their wish lists for 1992.

Weathering the recession with help from private businesses, establishing a trust to preserve agricultural land, creating programs to help poor mothers and providing incentives for employers who hire minorities were among the pet projects supervisors mentioned during a session aimed at establishing priorities for the 1992-93 budget.

It was the first of a series of meetings that the board plans to hold before budget sessions in May. Since last January, the financially strapped board has made across-the-board budget cuts that so far total 10% and imposed a hiring freeze.

Board members have said they want to avoid further across-the-board cuts and called for meetings to determine where the cuts should be made.

But on Tuesday the supervisors spoke only in generalities. Board Chairman John K. Flynn, one of three members facing reelection in June, said budget-cutting proposals would probably emerge from future meetings.

"This was a start-up session," he said. "Today, we just kind of got started."

Flynn opened the 30-minute discussion with an impassioned plea for "solutions from the grass-roots level" to deal with social problems through open forums and advisory committees.

"We need to involve churches, businesses, blue-collar workers, white-collar workers" in dealing with such problems as teen-age pregnancies, gangs, drugs and street violence, Flynn said.

Flynn, whose district is heavily Latino, called for an incentive program to reward equal opportunity employers. "We have to open up ways so that everyone in this county has the opportunity to be employed," he said.

His colleagues also expressed concern for the county's social service needs. Supervisor Maggie Erickson Kildee said preserving and enhancing the county's health care programs is a top priority.

"We have to make it accessible to women and children to the elderly and to minorities," she said.

Supervisor Susan K. Lacey said she is concerned about the county's poor children and the problems they face--such as teen-age pregnancy, premature deaths and drug addiction. She called for the creation of a system to coordinate social programs for children.

Supervisor Vicky Howard said that encouraging affordable housing should also be a priority. "We live in the greatest nation of the world," she said. "Everyone should have decent housing."

Pulling out of the recession was another dominant theme in the discussion.

Erickson Kildee said her top priorities include the formation of a council on economic vitality with representatives from the private and public sectors.

"As the economy worsens, we will earn less tax money," she said. "The irony is that, at the same time, more people in need turn to the county for help. We need to find ways to stimulate the economy," she said.

Supervisor Maria VanderKolk said she has asked some of the county's top corporations to donate the time of their top financial consultants to advise the county in putting together its budget.

The supervisors pledged support for county farmers as a way to maintain the county's economic diversity.

In contrast to Orange County, where developers have displaced agriculture, Ventura County farmers produce revenues of nearly $1 billion a year, Flynn said.

"Some people seem to think that ag land is undeveloped land, and that's simply not true," he said.

Erickson Kildee proposed reviving the oft-stated objective of creating a county land trust to buy and preserve agricultural fields.

"Agriculture is not just something pretty to look at," she said.

VanderKolk said another objective is to see through the construction of a county jail near Santa Paula and to consolidate local agencies that deal with waste.

"It's going to be an interesting year," she said.

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