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3 Incumbents Win in Ventura

November 10, 2005|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Ventura voters returned three well-known faces to City Hall in Tuesday's balloting, and added a fourth member who shares the council's vision for rebuilding the seaside community's historic downtown.

Incumbents Jim Monahan, Brian Brennan and Neal Andrews easily won reelection to the seven-member panel. Ed Summers won the seat left open when Councilman Sandy Smith decided not to seek a new term.

Summers said the results indicated that city voters are generally satisfied with the city's direction.

"Things can always be improved and that's what the City Council is for," the councilman-elect said. "But there isn't some overriding issue that has the community upset and that's a good thing."

As in past years, the proportion of residents voting in the county was higher than statewide, an election official said. Ventura County turnout was nearly 52%, compared with the state's 43%, elections chief Philip Schmit said.

"History shows that off-year elections run in the 40% range in Ventura County, sometimes below that depending on what's on the plate," Schmit said. "So people were motivated to get to the polls, whether it was to show support or displeasure for the governor's measures."

A Ventura measure imposing a 15% tax on the city's sole card club passed with nearly 70% of the vote. It was not opposed by the card club's owner and is expected to generate $150,000 annually for the city.

Elsewhere in Ventura County, two Fillmore measures produced mixed results. Voters in the tiny farm community overwhelmingly turned down a measure that would have allowed up to 100 units of low-income rental housing.

But a second initiative seeking a parcel tax to pay for maintenance of a city swimming pool may have squeaked by with 66.6% of the vote. A final tally has not yet been released.

In Ventura, the 70-year-old Monahan, entering a record eighth term, was the top vote-getter with 18.8% of balloting. Brennan, 53, the city's mayor, followed with 16.3% of the vote, and Andrews, 62, a businessman, received 13.4%.

Summers, 51, took 12.8% of the vote in his second try at a council seat. He lost by 422 votes in 2003.

The City Council campaign was low-key despite 10 candidates vying for four seats.

In the past, candidates' starkly divergent views on growth defined the city's electoral politics. But this fall the candidates essentially agreed on a new growth plan that calls for the city to stop annexing new subdivisions. The General Plan instead advocates "smart growth" through redeveloping vacant or decrepit lots in its downtown corridor, building denser residential units, and clustering schools and shopping centers near homes.

Last year, the city hired Rick Cole, a savvy former Pasadena mayor, to execute its goals. Condominiums, upgrades of aging downtown buildings and a crop of new shops and restaurants are evidence that the transformation is already underway.

Monahan, Brennan and Andrews helped write the plan and said they would use their new terms to see it fully realized.

Summers, who also supports smart growth, said he expects to also work closely on city plans to build a cultural center to lure more tourists to arts and music events. The city has identified a site for the center in the downtown area.

Andrews, who won a second four-year term, said he also wants to focus on expanding cultural offerings, as well as building a transitional shelter for homeless families. He said the council also must decide when to annex small parcels in the North Ventura Avenue area to accommodate businesses that want to relocate but need room to build.

"I want to see all these things move forward," he said. "I'm also committed to bringing more affordable housing and economic development to the city."

The city plans to build a transit center and to use commuter shuttle buses to link its downtown area with a distant mall and harbor. Efforts are also in the works to create a commuter train between Ventura and Santa Barbara.

Council members say they also need to address the city's persistent homeless problem downtown. In response to business complaints about panhandling, the city recently adopted an ordinance making it a misdemeanor to loiter in the downtown area.

"People who are homeless because of economic conditions we need to continue to help," Monahan said. "There are others who don't want our help. They want to live off the land and not be a contributor to society. And we have to deal with them."

Andrews disagrees on the city's approach. He was one of two council members who opposed the criminalization of loitering, which was previously an infraction.

"We already say they can't be on private property, and to turn around and say they can't be on public property either is to say they cannot be," he said. "That is preposterous and unconscionable."

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