Many Voters Mistrust Ventura’s City Council
The City of Ventura hopes to raise an additional $10.8 million per year from the ½¢ sales tax increase designated Measure O on November’s ballot. The average Ventura family will pay an additional $170 in sales tax, if Measure O passes. The tax will remain in effect for 25 years, generating $270 million over that time.
Considering the large sum of money Measure O will generate, voters should be cautious before voting in favor of the tax increase. There are several compelling reasons to vote against Measure O.
Citizens Mistrust Ventura’s City Council
There is widespread mistrust among voters that Ventura’s City Council will spend the money wisely if Measure O passes. Many citizens look at the past eight years as a harbinger of spending mistakes to come. Since 2009, the City Council has misspent $66 Million on projects like the investment in the WAV building, the Wishtoya Wastewater Settlement, narrowing Victoria Avenue, traffic cameras, charging for 911 calls and downtown parking meters. In 2016 alone, multiple millions have been wasted. The City Council paid $1.2 Million to settle a dispute over public parking spaces sold simultaneously to the downtown movie theater and Lure’s restaurant. Council also paid $1.2 Million to settle the Harbor Church matter. And, most recently, the City Council is on the hook for construction costs to renovate city-owned properties for Brooks Institute now that Brooks Institute is closing its doors. The total amount is not known at this time, but it will be in the millions.
Residents Speak Out
Citizens Ron Baker and Allison Carlson expressed the sentiment many others feel at the May 23, 2016 City Council meeting. Mr. Baker said, “Instead of promises and assurances on how this (tax) money is spent, I want to see evidence.”
Mrs. Carlson took it a step further. In her view a sales tax should be the last resort but an effective oversight committee was important if the tax is adopted:
“…Who are these people, who are they going to be, who approves them and puts them on the committee. If it is the City Council I would suggest that they have a conflict of interest. I want to know it will not be a rubber stamp committee and want to make sure there are watchdogs on the committee and I want to know that the committee oversight happens before the money is spent. It is not fair for the City to spend the money first and then say this is how we spent the money.”
Overstating Ventura’s Needs
The Ventura City Council wants to convince voters the City needs the money to run. “We have an old city,” is the rhetoric they use. But, does Ventura really need the money?
Compare how Ventura’s General Fund matches up against the General Funds of other cities in the County and General Fund income/revenue spent per each citizen compared with the revenue of the General Funds spent on their citizens throughout the County. Ventura has the second highest per capita amount to spend on its citizens. Only Ojai is higher.
Based on these figures other cities in the county have less money to spend, in general, and significantly less money to spend per person than Ventura. Those cities provide police, fire, streets and operational costs with the money they have yet the Ventura City Council claims it does not have enough.
Clearly, the Ventura City Council wants you to approve more money so they can continue to misspend your money.
Measure O Is Flawed
There is $270 million at stake if Measure O passes. That amount of money attracts many special interest groups that are lining up in favor of the measure. The City has already spent $140,000 to convince voters to approve the measure, and it may spend more in the remaining days before the election. If one examines Measure O it becomes clear Measure O is nothing more than a grab for more taxpayer money. Many voters already mistrust how Ventura’s City Council spends tax dollars. Should we trust them with $270 million more? No.