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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

D.A. to Investigate Ventura's Role in Redevelopment Plan

May 15, 1999|ROSEANN LANGLOIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The district attorney has agreed to investigate a claim the city of Ventura may have engaged in illegal campaign activities involving next month's referendum on the Midtown Redevelopment Plan, authorities said Friday.

The investigation was prompted by a letter from an attorney representing Ventura CARES (Citizens Against Midtown Redevelopment Excesses), which said the city was campaigning through a mailer inserted into utility bills, said Gary Auer, chief deputy of the Ventura County district attorney's office.

Midtown redevelopment opponents contend that city employees and postage funds were used to create and mail a newsletter supporting the Midtown Redevelopment Plan.

"It's wrong for the government to use its power to influence a campaign," said Christopher Sutton, an attorney for Ventura CARES.

City Atty. Bob Boehm said the city is not allowed to campaign, but it can educate the public.

"It's part of our responsibility to members of the community to keep them apprised of the facts," Boehm said. The city mailer, enclosed in monthly water bills distributed January through April, contained a question-and-answer article on midtown redevelopment.

It states redevelopment would assist in private property renovation and public improvements in midtown, while generating $53.1 million to reinvest in midtown over the next 45 years.

The mailer also states redevelopment is funded through property tax growth from new construction, property taxes or inflation in the redevelopment area.

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