Voting Districts & Climate Action Plan Topics at Monday’s Ventura City Council Meeting

By Kevin Harris

The Ventura City Council held its second public hearing on its controversial switch to voting districts, and voted to move forward with a long-term Climate Action Plan during last Monday’s meeting. 

“Vote-by-District” to Comply With California Voting Rights Act

During this second public hearing among a series of meetings, which began on October 23, 2017, the Council, with input from the public, sought to adopt line-drawing criteria for adjusting City Council district boundaries. The “vote-by-district” method will represent a major change though, as each district will vote for just one City Council member, instead of the entire City Council. 

According to city staff, the main idea in establishing districts, or line-drawing, is to “try to group communities of interest together, in what people identify as their neighborhoods.” But this is easier said than done, considering districts must be chosen in compliance with both state and federal guidelines, which seem at odds in some key areas. 

During the Council’s Q&A period after the initial staff presentation, Mayor Erik Nasarenko asked staff for clarification on the discrepancies. 

Mayor Erik Nasarenko

“The Federal Voting Rights Act prohibits racial gerrymandering, where it seems the California Voting Rights Act has a preference for majority/minority districts. How can both coexist?,” the Mayor asked. 

Nasarenko’s question drew applause from the audience, most of whom were present for this issue. City Attorney Gregory Diaz responded to the question. 

“It (California Voting Rights Act) does not say you must have a majority/minority district. What you’re supposed to do is respect the ethnicities of the populations, particularly what they defined as under represented populations,” he said. 

During the public speakers period, numerous Venturans took their turns at the podium. Worth noting is that CAUSE – the youth voting rights organization, was strongly represented in the audience and during the public speakers period. 

Richard Neve, with the Ventura County Socialists of America, said he was in favor of keeping the Westside together – a popular sentiment during the speakers period. “It’s clearly of community interest, even though the CVRA is vague in how it defines community interest,” he said. The City Council asked Mr. Neve where he considered the Westside boundaries should be. 

Lucia Marquez, a Community Organizer with CAUSE, had strong thoughts on district lines. “We firmly believe that the Westside must have its own district. To split the Westside into two different districts would severely dilute the Latino vote in Ventura, and would be a grave violation of the California Voting Rights Act,” she said. She also urged the Council to keep the areas of Montalvo and Saticoy together for the same reasons. 

Lucia Marquez

The next public hearing on the issue was set for December 4, 2017. The Council voted unanimously (with Council Member Mike Tracy absent from the meeting) to adopt the resolution setting forth the legal criteria for the future drawing of districts. 

Climate Action Plan Update

The City Council also heard Formal Item number 10 during Monday’s meeting, which was an update on the city’s Climate Action Plan. During this session, they received and filed a report on details such as how much staff time will be required, and what financial resources will be needed, to achieve the local Climate Action Plan (CAP). 

The Council also directed staff to coordinate with Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance to complete a local Energy Action Plan – which is actually a major part of the bigger CAP.  The primary purpose of the CAP is to improve Ventura’s “green” profile, in order to reduce the city’s pollution and CO2 output, and to better prepare it for any Climate Change damage already underway. 

The Plan will look at the emissions and reduction targets of local energy and transportation sectors; residential communities; commercial/industrial sectors and government. But it will also look at things like adding renewable energy to the existing grid, and the value and performance of current green policies. 

What is not currently in the Plan, however, are transportation emissions – which in Ventura account for 50% of greenhouse gas emissions (internal combustion engines). That information is set to be included later, with a Mobility Plan, a General Plan update, and Adaptation, all of which staff forecasted for 1-3 years out.   

As for the Energy Action Plan, it will not cost taxpayers anything. A $428,000 grant from the California Energy Commission was given, in order to complete EAPs for three cities; Ventura, Thousand Oaks and Moorpark. 

During the Council Q&A session, several council members appeared unclear about the Adaptation phase of the CAP. Council Member Christy Weir said she was concerned that it could take up to 3 years before the Adaptation phase was set to begin, while Ventura’s coastline recedes and other environmental impacts take place. 

When Deputy Mayor Neal Andrews asked for clarification about what Adaptability meant, city staff seemed confused by his confusion, at first. So the Deputy Mayor tried asking again. 

“If all of our worst predictions come true, we will have damage (environmental) to deal with. We need to mitigate that damage. We need to plan for that, we need to concentrate on that. I don’t know if that’s what you had in mind when you talk about Adaptability,” Andrews said. 

Staff’s answer indicated that they believe their Action Plan will ultimately reduce local environmental damage by promoting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – what some might consider a lofty, but unrealistic goal. 

“I think what we mean by Adaptability could be any number of strategies. I think we’re going to have some strategies that are proactive and some that are reactive. What we don’t want to do is to assume that the hillside will be the new beach…

And we’re hopeful in the strategies that we develop, and that the other communities in California develop, that will actually reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to the global reduction in Climate Change.” 

The idea for the Climate Action Plan was first brought to the City Council by local high school representatives of the iMATTER Youth Environmental Group. The vote to pursue the CAP passed unanimously, with Council Member Mike Tracy absent. 

The next City Council Meeting will be Monday, November 13, 2017, at 6:00 P.M.

You can watch this and other past meetings by going to www.cityofventura.ca.gov, then clicking on the “Videos” button, and going to the “available archives” section, where the video can be watched or downloaded.

 

Kevin Harris

Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists having worked for the LA Times and Newhall Signal. He is now also a Realtor and videographer, and lives with his two children in Thousand Oaks. 


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One Response to Voting Districts & Climate Action Plan Topics at Monday’s Ventura City Council Meeting

  1. Steve November 12, 2017 at 7:44 am

    So, the city is going to adapt and implement a Climate Action Plan based on concerns from “local high school representatives of the iMATTER Youth Environmental Group”? How nice and considerate. Did anyone on the City Council research iMATTER’s charter or agenda to see their specific goals, before they took a vote? Or, did they just vote the passage to be politically correct and look good for a special interest group? What will be the consequences to the city’s taxpayers to improve Ventura’s “green profile”? Sounds like Deputy Mayor Neal Andrews was the only one awake, aware and actually thinking about the long term affects or consequences of passing more ordinances. Our city council and planners have already made driving within city limits a nightmare, by eliminating four lane streets and center turning lanes to make car-wide lanes for bicyclists…which are rarely used.

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