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VENTURA COUNTY PERSPECTIVE

Bennett, Morgan for Supervisor

October 15, 2000

Change is coming to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 7.

Just how much change is up to the voters; two of the five seats are at stake.

Today, we endorse the candidates we believe are most likely to lead Ventura County toward sensible growth, greater fiscal stability and more efficient government.

DISTRICT 1

There's an appealing intensity to Steve Bennett's passion for democracy and his insistence that Ventura County can accommodate a growing population without sacrificing the farmland and open space so essential to its quality of life.

In four years on the Ventura City Council and in his activism as a private citizen, he has shown himself to be a different kind of leader--a visionary with a populist streak, willing to work hard to build community.

Bennett, 49, lives in Ventura and is an assistant principal and economics teacher at Nordhoff High School in Ojai. As a city councilman, he pushed campaign finance reform law and in this race, he has accepted no contribution larger than $500--raising more than $180,000 nonetheless.

He continues to believe that "the role of money in politics" is a major issue locally as well as nationally. He is concerned about "a county budget that lurches from crisis to crisis."

As co-founder of the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources anti-sprawl movement, Bennett argues that it is not necessary to wait until all the greenbelts have been paved before we start to insist on more creative, more sustainable solutions.

"The question is where are we going to grow and how are we going to grow?" he told The Times.

The 1st District, with 80,000 voters, is based in Ventura and includes the Ojai Valley and a bit of Oxnard. It has been represented since 1980 by retiring Supervisor Susan Lacey, a liberal Democrat.

We like Bennett's big-picture thinking, his support for important issues such as better transit, government accountability, civic empowerment and farmland preservation, and his zeal for building bridges between disparate factions. We support his desire to revisit a policy that gives public safety departments annual inflationary increases out of the county's general fund on top of all proceeds from a half-cent sales tax.

We believe that Steve Bennett is just the sort of new leader for a new century that Ventura County needs if it is to evolve along different lines than the rest of Southern California. We endorse him for the 1st District seat.

DISTRICT 3

Voters who have a beef with the way the Board of Supervisors has managed county finances--or anything else--have a better way to express that dissatisfaction than by passing a punitive ballot measure. They could replace those officials.

Mike Morgan offers voters an alternative to Supervisor Kathy Long in the county's largest and most diverse district, which stretches from Camarillo and parts of Thousand Oaks to Carpinteria to Piru.

Morgan was on the Camarillo City Council in the late 1980s when the city found itself on the verge of bankruptcy. He helped to bring in a top-flight city manager who not only paid off all the city's debts, but, over time, helped make Camarillo the county's most fiscally secure city.

We agree with Morgan's advice to the Board of Supervisors to adopt an ordinance mandating that the tobacco settlement be used only for health care, and to find a fair way to divide the money between the county's medical programs and the private hospitals that offer care to the poor.

The board's biggest mistake of the past two years was what became known as the "mental health merger," a politically motivated shift of the county's mental health agency from the medical bureaucracy to the social services bureaucracy. This action--taken despite the warnings of the county's chief administrator and with appallingly little public discussion--touched off a chain reaction of protests, fraud claims, audits, investigations and fines that has cost the county government millions in penalties.

Long voted for the merger, as did Lacey and John Flynn. Although Flynn soon admitted his error, changed his vote and helped put the county on the road to straightening out the mess, Long was all too slow to admit that the merger had been a mistake.

We appreciate that she has now accepted responsibility, and we acknowledge that she has worked hard on such issues as the Fillmore / Piru Greenbelt, the welfare-to-work campaign, the Heritage Valley tourism program and opposition to Newhall Ranch.

Nonetheless, we endorse Mike Morgan in District 3.

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