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ELECTIONS / VENTURA CITY COUNCIL : Collart and Tuttle Make Overtures to Business

September 26, 1993|PEGGY Y. LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Ventura City Councilmen Todd Collart and Gary Tuttle first ran for office in 1989, the dominant issue was growth. Supported by the environmental community, they rode to victory on a slow-growth platform, promising to curb development and preserve a high quality of life.

Four years later, in the midst of a relentless recession, the two are running for reelection Nov. 2. But this time, they are downplaying environmental causes and emphasizing economic issues.

Critics and supporters alike say Tuttle and Collart are cozying up to the business community to win reelection, which the candidates deny.

In any case, environmentalists maintain that Collart and Tuttle are still voting correctly on the big issues. Some business leaders agree with that assessment--and wonder whether they can trust Collart and Tuttle to support their interests.

"They moved closer to the middle. They seem to be voting along the business line," said Guy Wysinger, president of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce. But given the economic environment, he said, that's not surprising.

"It doesn't make any political sense now to stand against reasonable development, because that's what brings in the money. It's political suicide. I'm not sure where they would be in a non-election year."

Collart and Tuttle and their supporters say they have been forced to soften their stances and concede some issues because they are a minority on the seven-member council, which is dominated by pro-business interests.

"I've grabbed hands with the other side and held on to my principles," Tuttle said. "We're in the minority anyway. I don't want to lose on every vote."

Collart says he is campaigning differently this time because the issues are different.

"Four years ago, we didn't have the state yanking millions and millions of dollars from the city's pockets," Collart said. "The economy is much different now. I don't think philosophically my position has changed."

Ventura voters will select four council members from a field of 14. In addition to Tuttle and Collart, Councilman Jim Monahan is seeking reelection and can count on strong support from the business community. The fourth incumbent, Cathy Bean, is not running.

In their campaign literature, Tuttle and Collart highlight economic concerns such as revitalizing downtown, retaining businesses and attracting tourism. Collart is distributing a seven-point plan to promote business.

Four years ago, the pair's ballot statements were devoted almost entirely to environmental issues.

Collart and Tuttle, both 45, came to politics from vastly different backgrounds.

A land-use planner for the county, Collart was on the Parks and Recreation Commission for nearly 10 years and sat on the city's Planning Commission and the Citizens' General Plan Advisory Committee. He spent $19,211 in his first election and was the top vote-getter, with 11,304 votes.

Tuttle, a former world-class runner, owns an athletic shoe store in Ventura and got involved in city politics through grass-roots environmental groups. Like Collart, Tuttle was heavily backed in his first race by the Patagonia company, a local outdoor clothing manufacturer. He spent $11,048 in his first election and came in second with 11,018 votes.

On the council, they exhibit very different styles. Collart's colleagues say he tends to study issues in depth and sometimes gets caught up in details. Tuttle, they say, has a more populist streak and responds more to emotional appeals from residents. Along with Bean, they are viewed as the council's environmental bloc.

Their problems with the business community began early in their terms.

Five months after they were elected, Tuttle and Collart supported a resolution backing away from the city's support for building a Cal State campus at Taylor Ranch.

Business leaders thought the university would pump millions of dollars into the local economy, and many have not forgiven Collart and Tuttle for opposing it.

"People have long memories," the chamber's Wysinger said.

Both Collart and Tuttle said their vote against the university will not be a major campaign issue because a new site has been found in Camarillo.

"I ran on a platform of not having a university and carried through," Tuttle said, adding that he would vote the same way today.

Collart said not all Ventura residents wanted a four-year university in the city. "We had a community that was divided," he said.

While opposing the university four years ago on environmental grounds, the two are now joining all the other candidates in supporting the proposed expansion of Buenaventura Plaza. Their stance dismays some environmentalists.

"I think because of the economic climate they feel like they have to say they're in favor of it," said Karen Mayer, a mall neighbor and a vocal opponent of expansion. "They might feel that the whole business community would come down on them."

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