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Stadium Issue Causes Another City Council Late Show

September 25, 1996|HILARY E. MacGREGOR

VENTURA — At 7 p.m., the city clerk called the Ventura City Council meeting to order.

At 9:50 p.m., the council began discussing an $18.7-million stadium proposal.

At 11 p.m., council members opened the floor to the public. They ended public comment at 1:20 a.m.

And at 3:15 a.m., eight hours and 15 minutes after the meeting began and after the deputy city clerk warned that only three minutes of recording tape remained, council members passed their final motion and adjourned.

The lateness of the session meant that only the most impassioned people held out long enough to make their voices heard on one of the most contentious issues to come before the city in recent memory.

Why did the issue start so late and go so long?

"I don't think there's any way we could have predicted what happened last night," said Deputy City Clerk Mabi Covarrubias Plisky.

The city staff, which puts together the weekly agendas, tries to estimate how long each agenda item will take and tries not to load up any one week with too many issues.

But once the meeting begins, the schedule is run by Mayor Jack Tingstrom and the City Council.

"The stadium wasn't late on the agenda," Plisky said. "It went late because of the number of people who spoke and the council dynamics, which we cannot control."

She said she used five videotapes and six audiotapes to record the meeting--the longest since 1965.

Determined citizens stuck around until midnight, but many were beginning to nod off.

By the time council members were making the most important decisions of the evening, they were exhausted and bleary-eyed.

Councilwoman Rosa Lee Measures said the long meeting was "not by design."

"We are fairly conditioned to late hours," Measures said Tuesday. "We are a progressive council. We're focused. We're visionary. It is not unusual that we would have late nights."

She said the council has made an effort to reach out and get input from citizens and has even looked into repeat broadcasts of Monday night meetings.

As the meeting neared an end, Councilman Steve Bennett suggested that the panel make the stadium the only item on the Oct. 21 agenda, when the negotiating committee will return with its proposal. But no other council members were interested, and the few remaining citizens were too tired to react.

People will have another opportunity to express their views on the stadium at two public hearings that the council has promised to schedule before Oct. 21. No dates have been set.

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