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Andrews Urges an Aggressive Economic Plan for Ventura

Council: Newest panel member says 'a concrete strategy' for development is needed to stave off a major downturn.


Newly elected Ventura City Council member Neal Andrews urged his colleagues Wednesday to join him in developing an aggressive economic development plan to stave off a significant downturn.

"The country is close [to], if not already in, a recession," said Andrews, a 58-year-old management consultant. "We're hearing of layoffs of major Southern California employers. We're just not immune. We need a concrete strategy."

The recent announcement by copy giant Kinko's that it would relocate its headquarters to Texas underscores the need to keep jobs in town and attract new, environmentally sensitive and good-paying employers, with an emphasis on biotechnology and high-tech companies, he said.

Andrews took the fourth-highest number of votes in Tuesday's election, unseating incumbent Donna DePaola. Incumbents Jim Monahan, Brian Brennan and Mayor Sandy Smith were the top vote-getters among 12 candidates. They will be sworn in next month.

Colleagues said the addition of Andrews also could bring renewed pressure on City Manager Donna Landeros to cede some control to the seven-member council and tone down a management style criticized by some as brusque.

"Donna Landeros is very capable and doing a good job," said Monahan, one of Landeros' more vocal critics. "It's the style of how she does it and how many heads have had to roll that bothers me. We'll possibly take a look at the city manager's position and see if we can get some more cooperation."

While DePaola had been one of Landeros' strongest defenders on a council sometimes split 4 to 3 in support of its city manager, Andrews could swing the balance in the other direction.

He said repeatedly during the campaign that a city manager should take direction from the council, not the other way around. He said Wednesday he would reserve judgment on Landeros until he has had a chance to work with her.

But, he added, "All of the people who got reelected have said, 'We want to reassert policy control.' "

DePaola's departure also leaves the council with no female representation for the first time since 1965, City Clerk Barbara Kam said.

It is unclear what DePaola's departure will mean for a "living wage" ordinance expected to go before the council for a vote next year. DePaola led the effort to consider a plan, similar to one adopted by the county, requiring that city contractors pay employees a predetermined wage--perhaps $11.25 an hour, or less--for companies that provide health benefits.

Andrews has voiced reservations over such an ordinance. His campaign, however, was backed by the city's largest employees' union, which supports the living wage concept.

Meanwhile, Ventura voters, by overwhelmingly passing Measure P, reserved the right to block the extension of water and sewer lines to newly proposed housing projects in hillsides and canyons north of the city. A consortium of developers has proposed building as many as 1,900 homes on 6,100 acres bordering the city. More detailed plans could be unveiled next year.

Also Tuesday, in the Ventura Unified School District contest, incumbents John B. Walker, Cliff Rodrigues and Velma Lomax were returned to office, fending off a challenge from Terry Towner.

In the race to fill an unexpired term on the board of the Ojai Unified School District, Bob Unruhe soundly defeated Michael B. Boggs.

And in the Las Virgenes Unified School District, which includes a sliver of eastern Ventura County, incumbent Judy Jordan and candidates Gordon Whitehead and Cindy Iser took the top three spots among five contenders.

Al E. Fox defeated Tad T. Mattock in the contest for a seat on the Camrosa Water District. And Robert A. Roddick, Carrie G. Mattingly and Troy Whitteker were elected to three seats on the water district in Meiners Oaks.

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