Ventura City Council Meeting
November 14, 2011
Ventura City Hall - 501 Poli Street
In a marathon meeting of over 5½ hours, Ventura's City Council devoted more than 50% of its time to public testimony and deliberation over the future of library services in the city. Jackie Griffin from Ventura County Library Services spoke offering perspectives. "Ventura County Library is pleased to be part of the process," said Ms. Griffin. It was claimed that a great amount service is being provided county residents vis-à-vis the amount of money that has been invested. In terms of the Eastside, conversations have been centering on the Saticoy area where services are dispensed out of a double wide trailer. A shopping center at Darling and Wells may see the opening of a retail center, which could support a library facility.
Mayor for a Moment – Winner for this month was Will Rogers Elementary School student Nick Coronado for his essay on the topic of Sportsmanship. School Principal Pat Shore selected Nick as the winner who, when called to come forward, strode confidently toward the dais.
To View a listing of the agenda items for this council meeting, go to www.cityofventura.net/meeting/city-council-meeting-82.
Mayor Fulton brought the meeting to order with the call of the roll – all present. It was then asked of Council Member Monahan to lead in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mayor for a Moment – Fifth-grade student essayists from Will Rogers Elementary School participated in this month’s VUSD writing contest, submitting entries on the topic of Sportsmanship. School Principal Patricia Shore selected Nick Coronado as the winner who, when called to come forward, strode confidently toward the dais. With two raps of the gavel Nick began with the declarative, “Sportsmanship means not getting upset when you lose the game.” Winning the game requires maintaining your cool and telling the other team they did a good job. One player once threw the ball out of bounds after losing a basketball game. Then after being coached on what it means to be a good sport, his friend shook hands and displayed goods sportsmanship. At the conclusion of the essay the mayor presented Nick with a placard commemorating his achievement and a lapel pin with the Ventura City Seal, along with the [all important] Key to the City.
Special Presentations and Announcements – Ventura’s Environmental Sustainability Division selected Balboa Middle School as recipient of the 2011 Green School Award. The award goes to a school that displays exemplary efforts in helping to maintain a green city. Paper, bottles, cans and other recyclables are collected along with the offering of an environmental horticultural class where a percentage of the food grown is donated to Food Share. Students actively promote and teach the value of water conservation. This award was presented to a bevy of students, along with Principal Teri Green and faculty members Jose Duenas and Steve Roth who were on hand to accept the award. The principal spoke saying that this was the students’ work. Bill Camarillo from AgroMin, Inc. also spoke, praising the recipients as well as the concept behind the Green School Award. A $500 check was presented to the principal on behalf of AgroMin and the community at large.
Three other schools – Ventura Charter School of Arts and Global Education in recognition of its Eco-Fest Trash-a-Thon was presented with the Community Activism Heroes award. Accepting was Mary Calvin, Director of Operations, and parents of students at the school. Ventura Charter School hopes to bring awareness to the community for Earth Day Eco-Fest and Trash-a-Thon. April 14 represents the date of Ventura Eco-Fest. The Trash-a-Thon was begun four years ago, with children helping to clean litter hotspots while pledges are asked of family and friends. Marcos Vargas spoke as a parent who praised the program for helping to bring positive action to their children’s lives and the community.
Buena High School received the Environmental Leadership Heroes Award. Environmental organizations such as the National Park Service and the Hillsides Conservancy are co-partners in the activity. The Michael York, a faculty member of the school along with students Brian and Hannah were on hand to accept the award.
Juana Maria Elementary School was the honored recipient of the Eco-Friendly Heroes award for its overall culture that supports energy friendly programs to eliminate unnecessary paper generation and reduce waste through dedication in the form of recycling efforts. Gina Wallace as Principal along with Nicholas Aguilera, Cicely Tadeo and parents were present. The program is designed to reduce waste and excessive consumption. A $100 gift certificate from Lowe’s was also presented, as was the cash award to the other schools as well.
Council Communications – Council Member Monahan wished to have the meeting closed in memory of Sam Kyle. Sam was a council member instrumental in bringing City Hall into the former County Government building and it was thought to be appropriate to have the meeting adjourned in his name.
On Wednesday the grand opening of the Veteran’s Resource Center at Cal State University was attended by the councilman. A new Veterans Service Center is built into the complex, called the Bell Tower. The Clark Pavilion as the livestock center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds was the subject of a groundbreaking ceremony – well attended along with the presence of Elton Gallegly and Michael Bradbury. A Veterans Day ceremony was held at the Ivy Lawn Memorial Park to honor veterans. On Friday evening the New West Symphony performed at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium under the direction of a guest conductor from Australia,
Council Member Morehouse said that the Boys and Girls Club had their annual auction on the top floor of the Crown Plaza hotel. The theme was “Bola and Bling.” Mr. Morehouse went to the veterans home and heard featured speaker Jeanette from the VC Star who writes on veterans affairs. This Wednesday is the kickoff breakfast for food share. It was said that Food Share can do more with donations of $1 than it can with donations of household foodstuffs.
Council Member Andrews wished to encourage city residents to participate in the One City-One Meal event. The Ventura Social Services Task Force and church organizations support the event which will be held at the Ventura County Fairgrounds this year. There will be one seating – 12 noon – and there is an interest in collecting additional food (including turkeys) for the event. The event is open to all, along with the entire family, as everyone avails themselves of the opportunity to integrate with those who may be less fortunate and may have fewer options for celebrating the holiday.
The councilman visited the White House for 4-1/2 hours on a tour that included the Executive Office Building, also in speaking with several federal government officials, including the Secretary Housing and Urban Development, the Secretary of Transportation, the Director of the EPA and a senior information technology person. Valerie Gerrit. head of local government division of the White House, was also on hand. White House Chief of Staff William Daley was among those present. The Jobs Bill was mentioned by the councilman, having made it known that a greater understanding surrounding the needs of local communities is critical. The councilman claimed that government regulations are the cause of much counterproductivity between agencies and that regulation should be reduced. It was said that the president spoke TO the group rather than having the conversation flow in the other direction.
In a trip back from the National League of Cities, the councilman was appointed Chair of the Community Economic Development Committee. Mayor Fulton’s blog contains an excellent summary of the report, or so it was said.
Deputy Mayor Tracy asked that the meeting be adjourned in memory of Robert “Nick” Williams, 98, who came to Ventura in the early ‘50s. He was involved in the Pierpont Racquet Club and well-known throughout the community.
Council Member Weir announced that the December 3rd is the date for the annual Tree Lighting ceremony which is supported in part by the downtown Mission. A Winter Wine Walk will be held the same evening.
The mayor attended the National League of Cities meeting in Phoenix with sessions focused on economic development. The idea of nurturing and growing tech businesses was a keynote in the event. The Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation had a dinner at the museum recognizing their 30th anniversary. The firm has built affordable housing in the community and throughout the state. Two additional names to adjourn in memory of were Frank Rennie, father of Fire Chief Kevin Rennie who died on November 10, along with Eugene Radding, a lawyer, a congressional candidate and resident near the beach.
Council Member Monahan said that the flags on the Promenade were installed not by him but by Ken Cozzens and the City Corps. Mayor Fulton thanked members of the community who participated in the election.
Regional Boards, Commissions and Committees – Council Member Morehouse said that on the regular meeting, the third of every month, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) held a joint meeting between the Regional Council and the three Policy Committees. Policy committees are made up of city representatives also, with the full-on presentation of the pending Regional Transportation plan and its sustainable communities strategy. With Senate Bill 375 attempting to improve regional transportation, Staff presented “horrid scenario” over where the state will be in 2030 based on the thousands of bridges around the state in danger of collapsing. Gas taxing was discussed as part of the funding solution along with SCAG’s “standing united” over its disdain for the high-speed rail in the middle of the Central Valley, saying that it’s “totally insane” according to the councilman. December 1st will be the rollout date for detailed disclosure to the public along with the environmental document required under the auspices of CEQA (scag.ca.gov) RTP/SCS.
[Comment] The most unbroken and direct route between major cities is precisely the best place for high-speed rail, which is why engineers who have given thought to the issue would indeed choose California’s Central Valley as probably the most favorable stretch of real estate in the nation for such a project. The councilman, on the other hand, chuckles dismissively at the idea. Apparently he feels that the route should be taken through the highest density regions of the state, which would be fine if “high speed” in his lexicon were to mean 80 mph. And it probably does, since the U.S. is never going to create the new roadbeds which will be necessary to handle speeds of 200-250 mph like the EuroStar. Not only that, but unless the number of stops are limited the train would never reach “high speed” to begin with. We delineated all of this the last time the councilman brought up the issue [ October 10, 2011 ]. The trip from London to Brussels (232 mi.) on the EuroStar is roughly the same as from Bakersfield to Modesto, which would take passengers from Southern California (choose your own starting point) to Northern California (close enough for a rental car) in 1 hr. 43 min. How else are you going to beat time like that without starting at an airport? … by going through every burg along the coast? Give us a break. [Ed.]
Mr. Morehouse continued with a report from the Ventura Council of Governments (VCOG) meeting on November 10, where the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) & VCOG merger talks are still under way. Some amount of negotiating remains, with one city whose name begins with “M” being called a holdout. The economic summit is being held on December 1st with the regional council doing its final release of the RTP. On Wednesday, with the councilman participating in his capacity with a seat on the Local Agency Formation Commission, a discussion will take place regarding the Montalvo Sanitary District. A “fast-track” proviso is expected to expedite the dissolution and reorganization issues that will affect the Auto Center Drive project. Interested members of the public were invited join the group on Wednesday in the Board of Supervisors room.
First Monday Public Communications – Patty Green distributed handouts to the council, and said that as a 50-year resident of the county and a retired county employee, she obtained a real estate license while going through a short sale on her home in 2007. It was said that there was a strong desire to help other homeowners in her condition. Working at the libraries both in Oxnard and Ventura has made it possible for her to help with questions at that will assist those who might qualify for a short sale, thereby helping to keep them in their homes. A class on December 1st at E.P. Foster Library from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. will be held and the public is invited. Council Member Andrews wished to ask if there was a charge for the class. The speaker said that the class is free.
Steve Schlader said that along with his spearheading of the restoration effort at St. Mary’s Cemetery, there is also a web site, restoresaintmarys.org, to help. The photo shown of Mayor Fulton and his family headstone was intended to serve as a reminder that many in our cemetery have not been afforded the dignity of a headstone, and lie unprotected by a perimeter fence to help remind others in their travels that what lies beyond is hallowed ground. The speaker then commenced reading from a list of 3,000 or more individuals who are buried there ~~ Mrs. Jane Babcock died in 1910, buried in the “poor ground.” Phyllis Babcock died in 1908; Dr. Badgley lies in a desecrated grave; the infant son of Carmelita Bagrio died in 1914; Peter Bahas died in 1909; George Bailey died on Apr. 12th 1884; Clara Baker died in 1922; Edwin Baker died in 1913. All, it was said, lie in desecrated graves, and the list goes on.
R. Ellis Smith said that after having gone through another election, Mr. Cole sent the speaker an e-mail saying that everyone enjoys his curmudgeonly comments. He e-mailed back that a wise man once said, “If we want better quality and creativity, then we need to ask better questions.” A question to the city clerk resulted in a letter from new water dept. General Manager Shauna Epstein, saying that the old name was changed to Ventura Water in order raise community consciousness over water, and that recognition of the need for a reliable water supply for the future is critical. It was stated that $27,000 of taxpayer money has been spent to “re-brand” the department with a new identity while also hiring the new general manager for upwards of $200,000 per year – about as much as legislators in Washington D.C. area. 39 city employees made over $150,000 / year. These 39 employees account for $6 million out of Ventura’s annual budget, according to the speaker. Much of this is said by the city to be the result of high pension costs, which is actually nothing compared to the salaries given these 39, or so it was said.
Helen Yunker said the title is how to increase voter turnout. The main reaction from the city election was, “what happened.” The two incumbents were reelected, but some newcomers were denied the opportunity to help correct city problems. The statistics are that 25 percent of voters voted. Not one of the candidates received even 10 percent of the vote, noting that local elections in uneven years always have low turnout. The general election has a much greater turnout and would help eliminate control by special interest groups. The cost of these special elections was requested. On Saturday and Sunday the Ventura County Ballet Company is presenting The Nutcracker at the Oxnard Center, with the speaker having obtained a part in the cast.
Camille Harris spoke saying that she believes in respectful treatment of citizens and Council. The speaker said she focuses on policies and principles while avoiding the focus on personalities. The council sets the tone for the treatment of citizens and other council members. The rotation for deputy mayor has broken with tradition, according to the speaker, and the passing over of Council Member Andrews seemed disrespectful. The new member, Cheryl Heitmann, along with Council Member Morehouse will have the integrity to refrain from this disrespectful treatment, inasmuch as Mr. Andrews should be given his rightful place as deputy mayor.
[Comment] The councilman exhibits a certain flair in behavior that might reasonably be associated with ascendance – behaviors which bring about a certain kind of inseparability between policies, principles and personality – which is to say that you do in fact enter into discussions of personalities when conditions warrant. Remember, all public employees: You’ve been ‘put on notice’ to expect further reductions in your compensation packages thanks to this council member, simply because of your proclivity for running into burning buildings while everyone else is running away from them. And simply for pulling over the intoxicated driver, getting him out from behind the wheel before he kills his next innocent victim. And simply because you get paid to make sure that someone’s faulty wiring doesn’t take out the whole neighborhood. Yet there sits a union buster among us, not far removed from the policies and principles of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who, upon his imminent recall from office, will soon be courting his own fully protected and guaranteed Public Employee Pension benefit. It’s just knee-jerk irrationality, my fellow citizens, to be standing up for Council Member Andrews’ rights while he would so readily deep-six yours. [Ed.]
Martin Johnson said that as a resident living on Overland Avenue north of Loma Vista by Ashwood, it was his desire to thank the council and public works department. Loma Vista was recently slurry-sealed and was reduced from 4 lanes down to 2. Wide lanes and a center left-hand turn lane helps with the traffic to and from Loma Vista School. The speaker was pleased with the decision to reopen Fire Station No. 4.
Dan Cormode said that regarding the Santa Clara River Estuary situation, a video was shown recently claiming that 60 percent of the water that is used goes toward landscaping. The ratio of the wastewater to the water used is 58 percent, wondering how 60 percent for landscaping could be seen to square with the amount going through the district. Also, the river estuary documents fail to address the impact of spreading [gross amounts of ] non-potable water [used for irrigation] into our already threatened [groundwater] aquifers. Lastly, city documents indicate that actions involving tertiary treated flow [effecting nutrient reduction] are feasible only during the summer months while the river delta is cut off from the ocean, causing “closed-mouth” conditions at that time of year. It was thought that $55 million to solve a problem which occurs only during this six-month yearly cycle is a waste of taxpayer money.
Patti Thomas asked a question regarding Ventura College with reference to the fact that the city swimming pool is no longer used and is cracking. It was wondered whether the city could trade renegotiating the lease for the Wright Library in exchange for pool services, thus reopening the library. It was also wondered whether the city’s insurance is still in force on city-owned property.
Mayor Fulton went forward with answering specific questions that had arisen during public comment. “What is the cost of a local election when we do it separately,” was addressed by Mr. Cole who revealed that the total cost charged by the county for a separate election is $96,000. What it would be for a consolidated election would probably be about half of that amount or so it was said. Santa Barbara has elections in the off years, now has a 100% vote-by-mail system as a cost-cutting measure. The possibility of moving the election would require vote by the public. To move the election, some council members would be an additional year in office beyond the four years since by state law, council members’ term of office cannot be cut. Those who maybe critical of local elections should know that some incumbents would be given an additional year in office. The Ventura College swimming pool deal was brought up to Mr. Cole. It was not known whether we still maintain the insurance. A lease agreement with the college for the use of the pool for instructional purposes was not immediately known as to any dollar amount. This reduces the cost of operating the swimming pool for the city, and were we to trade, that would be the same as a General Fund expenditure.
According to City Manager Cole, Mr. Smith had a question that involved two factual errors. The speaker had stated that no additional positions were added except the Ventura Water General Manager’s job. Mr. Cole countered by saying the GM slot was created out of the former Assistant Director of Public Works position, which after being divided in half leaving the director in place while sending the assistant director of the city’s largest department to become the new general manager. It was also said that salaries in excess of $200,000 were being paid to people at the top, with Mr. Cole insisting that the actual range at the top level is NMT $171,264. The water business in Ventura is worth $40 million per year, and that were this the private sector, this would be extremely low for someone running a business of that size.
CONSENT// FORMAL ITEMS – There were 9 items on the Consent Calendar and one public speaker. The mayor asked council members for items they may wish to pull for discussion.
Public Communications – Carla Bonney on Item No. 8, Request for an independent study to conduct testing regarding pollution from the wastewater facility – the intent of which is to determine the validity or invalidity of the lawsuit regarding Santa Clara River Estuary being brought by Wishtoyo Coastal Keepers Foundation. This has also caused us to write a new ordinance which will cost the public extra money, according to the speaker. Private groups seeking oversight over public issues means the private sector may affect our oil production and other factors. An outside contractor should be sought to independently detect and make recommendations rather than an advocacy organization.
Council Communications – Deputy Mayor Tracy moved the consent agenda. Council Member Morehouse wished to ask how we became engaged in the Wishtoyo situation and other factors. These violations were self inflicted by the city, according to the city attorney, in that the city has been required to comply and was unable to do so. In 2010 a settlement strategy was determined to be the prudent solution and that Ms. Bonney may be given the requested documents.Council Member Monahan asked if we were cited by the Water Quality Control Board, with the city attorney saying that we paid a fine to the state and had been sued at nearly the same time.
The mayor said that Consent Agenda Item Nos. 1 through 9 were open for a vote. The roll was taken with all members voting yes.
Consent Agenda Item No. 10 – Council Advisory Group Appointment. Council Member Monahan spoke to the Appointments Committee item, saying that the Council Advisory Committee advertised to fill vacancies in two positions. The appointment of Stephen Chou is recommended for a partial term to recommend expire 2013. A motion and a second for item 10 (A) was taken. Stephen said that having received a Bachelor of Architecture degree and as a resident for 11 years, as well as having begun an architectural firm practicing primarily in the Santa Barbara area, he looks forward to working with the design review committee.
Item 10 (B) direct Staff to revise municipal code to allow appeals of decisions of the Local Appeals Board to the Ventura City Council – City Attorney Ariel Calonne had sat in on the meeting and was asked to give advice as to whether the board could be comprised of nonprofessionals. Mr. Calonne said that one issue involved a decision to allow a further appeal to Council subsequent to appeals board decisions which is straightforward and should pose no problems. The second issue was whether a local appeals board needed to retain solely professional qualifications in the building trades, with research showing that under our charter the city council may appoint nonprofessional members to the local appeals board. There was no discussion as to the makeup of the board as far as percentages, professional people vs. laypersons, but the council may direct the staff to come back with proposal in this area.
Council Member Morehouse wished to clarify by asking Mr. Monahan about the appeals board and its makeup, wondering about sacrificing technical skill by replacing them with laypeople, and therefore, would we be working toward making emotional decisions rather than based on technical merit. Mr. Monahan said that there are times with people who didn’t build the structure but instead had purchased a property that was not in compliance.
Council Member Andrews tried to clarify by saying that the issue on the table is to permit the appeal to be brought before the council with issues to be reviewed. The makeup of the board was left pending the resolution of the item under consideration. The city attorney said again the second action is not on the agenda, but that Staff may present the item in the future.
Public Communications – Camille Harris said that she is in support of the measure which would help people experiencing financial hardship. The local appeals board has no authority to arrange for payment programs, which would validate the recommendation for a further review before Council.
Council Member Weir moved to accept the recommendation. With a second having been received, a roll call vote was taken – all members voted yes.
Ventura’s Library Strategic Plan, showing: [Strategic Plan Timeline] – (1) January 2011, Council approved funding and RFP for consultant services – (2) April 2011, Initiate planning process – (3) June 2011, Update to Council – (4) October 2011, Recommendations from LAC and Library Strategic Plan Steering Committee – (5) November 2011 Report to Council
Steering Committee, showing: (1) 20-Member committee invited to steer process – (2) Citywide participation – (3) County Library Cooperation – (4) VUSD and Ventura Community College District [VCCD] representatives
Library Steering Committee and Commission Recommendations, showing: (1) Endorse 9 points for improved services – (2) Staff and Commission to work with County to identify new funding sources
The presentation was turned over to MaryEllin Santiago, who began by saying that we are at the juncture where decisions must be made. The steering committee and strategic planning committee have put together recommendations based on feedback from community members. Steering committee and library Advisory Committee members narrowed the comments down to 9 recommendations. The 10th was one not adopted but that a $1.77 million budget restriction was to get the most possible without asking for additional funds.
Santiago Library Consulting Strategic Directive, showing: (1) 10 Recommendations for improvement – (2) Timeline – (3) Commitments – (4) Next steps [E.P. Foster to be downsized w/ excess funds supporting East End library facility, representing 10th recommendation rejected by both committees]
Ms. Santiago said that if the recommendation were to stand firm on three branches – Westside, East End and Downtown – does not appear reasonable for $1.77 million whether the county or the city handles the program. The city has continued to work with the county with the speaker wishing to have all council members consider taking the lead in the process. The elected officials would need to take this process to the next step. The speaker will be leaving the process soon and it was up to one or more council members to pick up the baton. The question for the beginning of the new year 2012 should be “what is the five-year plan for library services?” If council members can “take this ball and run with it” to establish libraries as a priority, then this should be made to happen in the next few weeks.
Denise said that part of what is recommended in the staff report which was mentioned by MaryEllin, would be the inclusion of a smaller committee and one that could act quickly over the next five months. One member from the Library Commission, one from the Steering Committee , one Council member and one Staff member to engage in ongoing conversations with the county and begin the implementation process.
Recommended Action, showing: “Direct Staff to work towards implementation of the 9 programmatic recommendations endorsed by the Steering Committee and the Library Advisory Commission, and to work with the commission and the county to seek any and all funding sources and community partnerships to support the achievement of those goals.”
Jackie Griffin from Ventura County Library Services spoke offering perspectives. “Ventura County Library is pleased to be part of the process,” said Ms. Griffin. It was claimed that a great amount service is being provided county residents vis-à-vis the amount of money that has been invested. In terms of the East End, conversations have been centering on the Saticoy area where services are dispensed out of a double wide trailer. A shopping center at Darling and Wells may see the opening of a retail center, which could support a library facility. In Saticoy an after school program has been successful in helping low income Hispanic communities, even considering the age and poor repair condition of the facility. In terms of seeking other funding sources, coincidentally it has turned out that someone has left a trust to the Avenue Library of well over $300,000. This was said to be “astonishing.” It was not known whether the trust is limited in any way, but that meeting some of the goals such as outreach to the Spanish-speaking community may be possible. Bookmobile services were mentioned as a “flagship” project. It was said that the county is anxious to work with the city in all ways possible to improve services on Ventura’s East End.
Berta Steele acknowledged all the hard work that went into the creation of a strategic plan. The commission working with the steering committee listened to input from all sources and approved the 9 recommendations while adding two more of their own. It was recommended that the Library Strategic Plan be allowed to move forward and that continuing work with the County Library System be allowed to continue while at the same time assuring the public that efforts to date have not been in vain.
Council Communications – Councilman Morehouse said that 2300 people responded out of 110,000 citizens. In the city or operating with two branches as they are today, this would show how to survive on those two branches for $1.77 million. With more people using services, it was wondered whether new construction would result in white elephants once the economy recovers as citizens become comfortable using replacement technologies like Internet services. Ms. Santiago mentioned that smaller libraries with more flexible footprints are the growing norms in the area of neighborhood library systems. It was said that in good times or bad these other types of services that will be as applicable to the future as they are today. Today’s library has been called the “community living room,” and is not going to go away any time soon according to the speaker. In other words, rebuilding is not necessarily the new normal when refurbishing steps are available such as new furniture, roll-a-way shelving, cleaning, painting and providing for the possiblility of multi-use functionality within existing spaces.
Council Member Weir asked when Foster library would be painted? … saying that this was the most important question being asked in her presence. Ms. Griffin said that she has grown “quite fond” of the patches that adorn the front of the building, but that on a more serious note a generous bequest was left to Foster of about $0.5 million. Besides the fact that that a legacy of $300,000 has been left to the Avenue library, some better method of providing the service improvements being considered here – other than repainting the building – could be found rather than spending $85,000 (up from $25,000 on an earlier bid) just for painting. The Foster library is a city-owned building. The councilwoman went on to say that she thought the public wants it painted.
[Comment] Again, the main theme we hear from the councilwoman is, “Why aren’t things more beautiful?” Well perhaps it’s because city council persons such as Ms. Weir simply cannot come to grips with the idea that if you’re going to spend money on “niceties,” you also need an income to match. Here we are seeing in action the conservative notion of today that all budgetary considerations must revolve around austerity first; then we’ll alter our priorities accordingly. What they can’t really sell as well as they’d like is the fact that certain sectors of the economy (like public safety just for starters) should be bearing the brunt of the budget cutting process, allowing us (the council) to pursue our pet projects without going after the necessary revenue increases, essentially buying into exactly what our lame-brained conservative D.C. Washingtonians are saying. Well go ahead and take the money then, Mme. Council person, and spend it for the beautification of railroad trestles and city buildings, letting the problem of rising crime (and crime in Ventura is up, albeit less violent) be handled by a PD that simply needs to work harder, take fewer days off and in all other ways do more while expecting less in return. This failing philosophy is failing ever faster as the days go forward, and there are a certain number of people in high places with a certain type of tunnel vision who will either address the problem head-on, or have it addressed for them. Congratulations, Mr. & Ms. Ventura, on saddling yourselves with this for 4 more years. Ed.]
It was then asked about the old historic library that still stands behind the building seen with its facade on Main Street currently. It was wondered whether or not there were plans to rehabilitate the building, with the answer being that because of its current state of earthquake liability it would not be suitable for public use as a library. The thought was brought forward to convert the space into a coffee bar area, to which Council Member Weir replied, “great!”
The councilwoman wished to know further whether or not line-by-line budget items comparing the county system as a whole to the combined citywide system were available. Ms. Santiago said that a general outline of comparison was available but that the very small variations for each item such as salaries at the individual level had not been tabulated.
Specific geographic locations and building configurations for the East End branch were questioned next. It was explained that this data would be covered in the next phase of the Library Strategic Plan, which will include the overall vision for the project.
Council Member Monahan asked about the number of older books, some of which are rarely checked out, and whether a process exists for culling old inventory. Ms. Santiago explained that in library terminology the councilman would be referring to “weeding.” Ms. Griffin took the question, saying that a long and boring discussion could be had dealing with how librarians maintain fresh inventory.
Mr. Monahan then suggested attention to be turned toward the Ventura County Jail library. Ms. Griffin appeared at a loss momentarily. The next step in moving things along brought up the question of using the library as a natural disaster gathering place vis-à-vis fire stations and/or police headquarters. It was determined that these are part of the new FEMA laws which now designate libraries and their officers as part of the emergency management system.
Council Member Andrews asked about the budget for the Avenue library and its funding sources. The answer – $100,000 with $10,000 going toward the lease and $90,000 into operations, originating from Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). It was also determined that these are dedicated funds and cannot be transferred out. Reading from the report the councilman picked out a figure of $800,000 to support all administrative services, director’s salary, HR and IT, while comparing that to a section listing consideration for an annual operations budget of $1.77 million, all generated by property tax dollars from within the city limits not including funds generated from unincorporated areas. The city contributes $100,000 from CDBG for the Avenue branch, gaining also $800,000 from the County General Fund. It was wondered if the total budget for the city’s two libraries is really $2.57 million.
It was determined that the councilman’s assumption was not correct. Each city does not receive $800,000 for county overhead purposes. Ms. Griffin stated that a portion of those funds go to overhead and other portions are for underwriting services and goes directly to the cities for administrative support.
Mr. Andrews continued by asking if it were true that we receive a county allocation from unincorporated area property taxes, wishing to know the amount. Ms. Griffin replied that an approximation would be $300,000, with a total county budget of around $8 million. Mr. Andrews thought that calculating a 10 percent cost for administration “clarifies a little bit.”
Deputy Mayor Tracy returned to the issue of downsizing EP Foster, asking for an evaluation of how the building could be reused or recycled into other library uses, with it being learned that the steering committee considered loadbearing issues on the second floor and rejected that consideration without pursuing the issue further. Mr. Tracy asked as a hypothetical if additional freed-up space could be used as a revenue generator, being informed that the possibility would remain open.
Mr. Tracy also commented on the reference to the County Jail library, saying that the penalties for returning books late was rather onerous and that separation of the two library systems would be advisable.
Public Communications – Mary Ann Coffey, former Chairperson of the Library Commission, quoted from an L.A. Times article: “Public libraries are about our future as much as they are about our past. The notion that they can be replaced by Google is tantamount to suggesting that Americans are better off with vending machines instead of farmers markets. Research and learning of a higher quality is not possible without public libraries. The move toward privatization represents the devaluation of great institutions that define a civil society and offer hope, security and opportunity even as economic disparity grows.”
The speaker said that We do not want EP Foster closed or cut in half, and through our renewed cooperation with the county we may find our best option in a merger with the Saticoy branch. Libraries are enriching spaces and learning environments for our young people, according to the speaker. Turning taxpayer money over to a private entity focuses energy and resources toward the shareholder or stakeholder, with every Strategic Planning Committee speaker expressing both in English and in Spanish that a library is needed on the East End and that it should remain public. It was further stated that private companies do not reveal financial information and that their employees must sign confidentiality agreements. This level secrecy with the expenditure of public funds is unacceptable, according to the speaker. Public control of our access to information is at the foundation of our democratic way of life, and it was asked that public funds not be transferred into private hands either now or in the future.Shannon Abromovich, speaking as a 16-year resident and a 12-year county employee, expressed her belief in libraries as an important part of any family oriented community. It was the speaker’s claim that the service delivery method for libraries is as important as the structural surroundings. Libraries are in place where children are educated – where the elderly find refuge and where the less fortunate may find hope, and it was the speaker’s position to remain with the county system and to establish a library presence on the East End. With a question having been posed by Mr. Andrews, Ms. Abromovich felt that the library commission’s proposal to extended library services by downsizing the main library was reasonable.
George Madeiras expressed appreciation for the public outreach that had been performed to date, while opposing the reduction in services proposal as it would affect the main branch. The Friends of the Library along with the city raised money to fund the main library we have today as a two-story facility, and it was the speaker’s desire to see it remain as such. Also in researching via the Internet, LSSI as a library service provider is not required to divulge business information and could not be held accountable for censorship either real imagined, having also declined invitations to participate in the RFI process.
Mary Stuart, City Librarian at the EP Foster library, reflected on conversations between all parties centering on books, furniture, technology, programming and paint jobs. It may not be appreciated, according to the speaker, that the EP Foster library serves 2000 people per day – facilitates 200 computer sessions daily – and circulates 1000 items per day including over 150 DVDs. Some visitors read quietly and others are instructed in the use of databases. Others learn to download videos and e-books from the Ventura City Library web site. The library is a place where people go to seek help and information on everything from referrals to self-help guidance. One young man requested information on suicide. A middle-aged woman approached the staff seeking help with an issue that clearly made her uncomfortable. Eventually she uttered the word “Antabuse®.” [ For those who don’t know, Antabuse® is typically used in the treatment chronic alcoholism and is being studied as a treatment for cocaine dependence. ] Numerous people have been helped to prepare resumes and in the process have been able to secure employment. Libraries are about good people doing good things, said the speaker.
Carol Lindberg on behalf of the College Area Community Council, said that the council agrees with 8 of the 9 recommendations being considered, taking issue with the idea of “Creating a Plan” that would provide library services on the East End and feeling that this language is unnecessarily vague. The speaker’s recommendations that would fill this void included – (1) Advance the agenda item to the next Council – (2) Open Wright Library for 20 hours per week while operating the main library for 38 hours per week – (3) Staff an alternate location for an East End library facility in the event that Wright becomes unavailable – (4) Seek long-term funding to support a permanent library in the Kimball area – (5) Place a line item for libraries in the city budget.
Jennifer Martin began by saying that “public libraries are not obsolete,” citing also the recent voting statistics which proves that we as citizens still have a voice in government. It was suggested that perhaps not everyone these days understands what a democracy represents, saying before Council that you all are not the government – we are. Some hold conflicting positions over the role of government in their daily lives, yet nearly all feel comfortable using a public library. The speaker also identified herself as a service employee, saying that she is dedicated to her job while giving assurances that her compensation is fully translated back into the community. It was said that the closing of Wright was a great disappointment in that with its campus location it was able to serve as the ideal focus point for residents in the area, proving again that libraries are anything but obsolete.
Council Member Morehouse posed a question for Jennifer, wanting to know if she would feel inconvenienced by travel to the Kimball area or beyond just to visit the library. The speaker then informed the councilman that she in fact lives in the Kimball area. This took Mr. Morehouse slightly aback, having thought, apparently, that the young woman was a nearby resident (of his) in the college area, with the speaker stating even more poignantly that being a “big picture” type of person she is not one who expects everything to serve her directly.
[Comment] Wow – Touché, my good man, touché! Perhaps this isn’t the kind of statement one would expect from a public service employee. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to put away some of the animus directed toward public employees in the wake of the Bell scandal. [Ed.]
David Adkins, Steering Committee Member, said that the steering committee rejected the idea of cutting EP Foster in half. Libraries are about offering choices in information, and while he worked in information technology, the speaker recognized the fact that the electronic Information Age still has some growing up to do. Focus needs to remain on the immediate needs which are typically served when an individual walks into a public library. Another issue according to the speaker was the load bearing capacity on the second floor of the library downtown. The speaker also thought that it would be something of a stretch to envision revenue generating services that would be offered beyond the library function itself, characterizing some of the ideas that come to mind as “horrifying.” Privatization of library services carries with it “all sorts of ramifications,” or so it was said, even though the committee produced a split vote – 8-7 – on keeping libraries public.
Laura Gullafson expressed concern over the lack of credibility that seems to be taking place during those times when the conversation takes a turn toward finances. The closure of HP Wright library has all along been understood as an excessively large financial burden to the city, with the speaker saying that a fiscal shortfall of as little as $100,000 has landed the community into this situation. The preceding library commission recommended holding on tight with hours reductions and time-sharing until times got better. It was further claimed that one of the last alternatives and the final fall-back position would be to go ahead with the closure of HP Wright – eventually settled upon and orchestrated solely through the power politics of Mayor Fulton and CEO Griffin, according to the speaker. Three studies and $100,000 later the city is no further along in coming to grips with the future of library services in Ventura, or so it was said. Also disparaged was the idea of opening a storefront library while a functional library building sits amid all the technical amenities present on the college campus. Another bad idea, as characterized by the speaker, was the suggestion of a bookmobile. The speaker was an agreement with a solution that included hours reductions and time sharing until the city finds itself in a stronger financial situation.Patti Thomas began by characterizing the situation as “pathetic,” saying further that at Council’s direction, the city attorney should draft a Charter resolution authorizing a city-run library system. The speaker was prepared with a variety of documents including the Providence report and years worth of Grand Jury testimony. Accordingly, a charter city may establish a public library system under the requirements of the city charter according to the rules and regulations of the charter city, ergo, AB 38 does not apply to the City of Ventura. It was the speaker’s feeling that to continue with the county run library system would be to embrace mediocrity. Documentation sifted through by the speaker included a grand jury report from 1995, stating that “stable funding must be achieved.” Look at the 1997 Needs Assessment report, said the speaker, and adopt those guidelines. Along with other speakers Ms. Thomas favored the inclusion of hours reduction and/or time-sharing among the three libraries until a permanent solution has been agreed upon.
Debbie Giles, Library Advisory Commission and Steering Committee Member, emphasized the majority support coming from the public in its desire for an East End library while maintaining the public administration model we have currently. Once again the idea of a public living room seemed to be resonating with residents from all across the city. The speaker outlined her preference a continuing relationship with the county with an added caveat: A closer, more detailed relationship with county officials will help the city to realize more fully the broader range of benefits coming from the county that most citizens are seeking. By taking what we have in bits and pieces from a strong base at EP Foster and distributing some of those strengths more broadly toward the East End, it will be possible to showcase Foster’s full range of services as we solidify and extend those and other services to the more underserved areas. Programs for teens and seniors were mentioned specifically. The trick is to “stay on top” as the LAC is now doing, according to the speaker. Two additional committee members will help that entity become as big and powerful as the library commission itself – or so it was said.
Council Member Andrews questioned the ability to maintain public focus to the extent necessary in order to achieve the goals just outlined. The speaker responded by saying that the burden will be transferred to the new committee where most of the oversight involving government services will take place. It was thought that in working at the library services level, stronger relationships with the county will improve the outlook for our long-term strategic goals.
Mr. Andrews thought that city contact with county officials was not lacking in reality as much as perhaps in perception due to the fact that the Library Commissioner is a member of this Council, and that a library commission has been formed. Ms. Giles responded, believing that” we haven’t been working on the day-to-day, backing up the position further by saying that the recent public survey has shed new light on many of the old unanswered questions.
Council Member Morehouse questioned the speaker’s logic in not concurring with the consultant’s recommended direction of going out in full force to begin serving the East End, but to focus on the Foster library which would be expected in some way to strengthen the underserved areas as well. The answer given seemed to suggest that a weakening of the main library facility through downsizing would be to lose the platform upon which all further study into the future of library delivery systems would depend.
Ms. Giles responded to further questioning from Mr. Morehouse by saying that a library presence near the Kimball Sports Center would certainly make some sense as would working within the existing Saticoy service area. It was also said that the traditional library “footprint” is not as critical as is the need for community services being made available within a defined public space. The challenge is to turn a book repository into a multi-modal facility.
Councilman Morehouse prompted the speaker for an opinion regarding possibility of handing off the decision to the incoming Council. Under this scenario the new mayor will appoint the committee, which the speaker thought would be a good thing, although any delay, short though it may be, could have something of a wet blanket effect on the program, according to the speaker.
Jim Friedman, Steering Committee Co-chairman, praised the work of the steering committee, saying also that the basic underpinning in the committee’s decision revolved around economics. Although public passion was felt for the opening of a new East End library, the committee tried to see past the initial funding and handling of grants which may have been sufficient open a new facility, only to see that economic factors would preclude maintaining a steady and sustainable level of operation over the following one or two years. It was said that this would be a demoralizing start and would all too quickly put the program back into the position from which it had begun, in other words where we stand currently. “Everyone wants everything,” and of course we don’t have everything, said the speaker, and it was his feeling that committee came to a smart and intelligent decision.
Council Member Morehouse wished to hear the speaker’s interpretation of outcomes that lead to the decision enunciated by Debbie Giles, his Co-chair Person, which was to maintain a full level of operations at EP Foster. In solidarity it was said that the two existing libraries would need to point the way toward the future of library services in Ventura by being at their peak of strength and serviceability, serving as the example and the goal to be worked toward in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of those plans and goals.
Council Member Weir asked the former mayor to comment on the possibility of collaborating with school district as a way of expanding library services. “We have about 30 libraries in town,” said the councilwoman, alluding to the fact that every public school has a library. It was said that school districts in other surrounding cities have engaged in time-sharing activities of some type as a “stopgap” measure for getting through lean economic times, and the question was asked of the speaker as to whether the committee had taken similar measures into consideration.
Mr. Friedman was unable to recall a specific instance, but advanced his own assessment of the concept by saying that the security issues would certainly rise to the top of any discussion. After mentioning a few of the obvious problems associated with adults wandering free in a children’s environment after hours without a beat cop on duty, the speaker said it was something that could certainly be looked at.
[Comment] No, it could not be looked at. See, believe it or not, this is why we comment in this magazine. If this is a former mayor talking, then the city is way off in left field when it comes to choosing mayors. Who would be responsible for vetting every adult visitor for possible misbehavior with children before being given access to one of our (30?) school libraries after hours? If it were your child’s school, would you feel comfortable with assurances that all other parts of the building had been locked down? Think bad guys care about locks once they’re inside? What about gang members getting in and stashing weapons away so they can be used the next morning? Are you out of your mind? Okay, fine. Mr. Friedman can't be faulted for giving a diplomatic answer to a stupid question. The horrifying part of this lay in the fact that the questioner is herself a former mayor. The same former mayor, by the way, who apparently sees no problem with cutting PD budgets, salaries and benefits beyond the level of assured public safety. So who ‘ya gonna call to assure your kid’s safety in and around school? … Ghost Busters? [Ed.]
Kathy Thompson, President of the Friends of the Library and a Steering Committee Member, said that there were budgetary considerations for Foster Library and that in enumerating them it was said that the library is providing computer access and comfort services. It was wondered whether in light of the expense associated with these services, such functions would not be better served by entities such as Project Understanding, along with providing the necessary funding to such organizations.
[Comment] What the speaker doesn’t know is that Project Understanding has recently divested itself of providing “comfort services” to the needy public it has been serving for at least 30 years. It all began one day (last March) when an Oxnard man (Rob Orth) showed up to take over the reins at Project Understanding armed with a plan about as well thought out as Ms. Thompson’s – let’s free up some money by closing the drop-in center and let the homeless fend for themselves. What the speaker doesn’t say in so many words is that we don’t want these people in or around our lovely library.
Call it “Paradox Lost,” then, but it is precisely because of policy decisions made unilaterally through the VSSTF and private interest lobbying – not through Council or the public hearing process – over the perceived utility value of Project Understanding that the speaker’s “lovely library” problem is so much worse – sorry 'bout that. Perhaps Mme. President-and-Steering-Committee-Member failed to receive Mr. Orth’s memo, declaring that we tend to “encourage homelessness by the way we give.” For someone with these kinds of titles behind their name to be unaware of ground-level realities that are driving some of the public policy decisions in the City of Ventura is not only shameful, it’s tragic. [Ed.]
David Harris started out by questioning the wisdom of pursuing the privatization model as applied in this instance. “The closing of Wright Library was a tragedy, and the shrinking of Foster would be the same,” said the speaker, and the process that the committee followed was “highly scripted and sculpted” as the end result clearly demonstrates. The Das Williams Bill was brought up, talking about the difference between a charter city and a general law city. The speaker also thought that maintaining a competitive edge in the marketplace would be important to the future of library services, including the necessity for preserving our options. The speaker felt that by not providing an exit plan from whatever program is finally adopted could have ramifications depending upon the outcome of the Williams Bill. The way to avoid this, according to the speaker is to tell the county ahead of the bill that we, the city, “are more provisional than the next guy,” while issuing a final warning: “If you don’t have the ability to drop out, you’ve lost your power.”
Deputy Mayor Tracy queried the speaker, asking for some background on his “highly scripted” comment. Dr. Harris responded, saying that he was outraged over the closure of Wright when that whole process was going down. It became more obvious to the speaker as time went by that the questionnaire itself was slanted in ways that would support desired outcomes by subtly downplaying the East End “void” and remaining with the county. The speaker following this by saying he’d had no qualms about remaining with the county, but that they would need to “produce.”
Leslie Purcell seemed to be making the case for keeping the HP Wright Library open, saying that the facility in its current location served as the ideal community ”living room.” The speaker also appeared to be speaking for (or as) a steering committee member, though no introduction as such was offered. In the speaker’s analysis, it seemed that the public has had problems with openness and transparency during its association with the county library system as relating to finances, while also criticizing the county’s failure to step up and show accountability in the overall decision to close HP Wright. The question was asked as to whether or not the HP Wright Library building had ever been quitclaimed. And finally, even though the remark was made at the beginning, it appeared that voices within the steering committee membership continue to advocate establishing a public library that could be run by a private entity.
[Comment] Of course the closing point (mentioned first) hits upon exactly that which would appeal to this Council – as much private profit as possible, shoehorned into as much public risk as the rest of us will tolerate. In other words, more of what happened to Project Understanding, and more of what got our national economy into the mess it’s in to begin with. Absolutely fandamtastic. [Ed.]
Eunice Couch spoke as a proponent of public libraries as well as public schools, expressing also agreement with the decision to remain with the county as the provider of library services in the City of Ventura. Then in speaking on the Kimball area as a proposed location for a third branch library, it was suggested that in light of the fact that temporary buildings suffice for a wide variety of applications, including schools, the same could be said for libraries and it was wondered why what seemed to be a logical solution has somehow not been made a forthright proposition.
With public speaking having been concluded, Mayor Fulton asked that either City Manager Cole or City Attorney Calonne address the quitclaim issue raised by Ms. Purcell. Mr. Cole relayed that the college is keen to take possession of the building, seeing as how they own the land beneath. Furthermore, the terms of the lease require that the city operate the building as a library and as everyone knows, library operations have ceased. In October the college again requested the city relinquish the building, with the city manager saying that time was needed up until the end of the Library Strategic Planning process. It was said that Council at this meeting could provide additional or further direction, but failing that it was said that the city has no choice but to honor the terms of the lease and quitclaim the building back to the college. This has not been done as of the present.
Council Communications – Council Member Morehouse asked about particulars of the Avenue Library, wanting to know the terms of the lease there, it having been said that they operate under the terms of a CDBG which is only good for 5 years. Staff replied that a Below Market Rate (BMR) lease is being operated and will be up for renewal in 2013. It was said that the terms of the CDB Grant was not in jeopardy, but that more on the lease situation will be known as time grows closer to signing.
Mr. Cole interjected, saying that the Republican majority in Washington “zeroed out” CDBG in their budget when it went to conference, where it failed, but given the pressure to cut the federal budget, fewer Community Development Block Grant monies could become the new normal and it may be that the Avenue Library could begin to feel the pinch from some of that pressure.
Then in another of the councilman’s “quick questions,” the subject of which was the possibility of constructing a temporary building in the Kimball Park area, it was wondered whether serious consideration had been given to the idea beyond that of a plain storefront facility. Staff replied that “it’s still in the mix,” along with the storefront idea. The strategic plan calls for a library branch on the East End. Also linked are considerations for public transportation and adequate parking. A master plan also exists for the community as a whole calling for a park, but whether a library would be made a part of that development effort, this has yet to be determined according to Staff.
Continuing on, Councilman Morehouse thought that the Eastside Strategic Plan “could certainly” be completed in less than five years, apparently seeing no reason for the park and the larger community development project to cause the library issue to remain in limbo. According to Staff, the consultant’s plan calls for moving quickly and to slow down the process in this way would ”fly in the face” of all that is being contemplated for the library.
Then as “quick questions” kept moving forward, the councilman inquired as to ADA compliance at Wright, where it was noted that a library patron brought suit seeking damages of $600,000 over the city’s failure to provide wheelchair access. [Mr. Morehouse noted parenthetically that “He passed away, didn’t he.”] Apparently the question being entertained had to do with the hourly reduction issue – 20 hrs/wk at Wright and 30 at Foster. Ms. Santiago replied that the $1.77 million would need to be split between the existing branches and the cost of running them vs. acting quickly and finding a third location. If the choice is to maintain Foster and Avenue branches, some resources in terms of personnel and “up-time” from Foster would need to be reallocated to the third branch.
Berta Steele wished to comment, saying that, "Opening an Eastside library in the immediate future is not what the recommendation entails." The recommendation is to explore the possibility of a third branch opening before treating the fact as though it were a done deal. It was reminded of everyone that the danger would be to begin implementing a plan prematurely, only to necessitate retrenchment within a year. The speaker stated further that the Library Advisory Commission did not support the reduction of hours at the two existing branches – the consultant proposed and favors adoption of this aspect of the plan. It was intended to be “Ready, Aim, Fire” even though the mandate was to move quickly, according to Mr. Morehouse, obviating the “Ready, Fire, Aim” syndrome. Mayor Fulton interjected, saying that the condition of “Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim” so often the modus operandi here in Ventura should also be avoided.Council Member Weir wondered ”what might happen if Simi Valley pulls out” [of the county system] and will this affect the financial picture in terms of the county’s support for Ventura’s libraries? Jackie Griffin said that when Camarillo left, they were a “donor library,” meaning that they supported all their own costs with no loss of service being felt in Ventura. Simi is in almost exactly the same position with almost the same dollars as Ventura, resulting in a net gain back to the system of about $300,000, according to Ms. Griffin. Whether those dollars would be redistributed among the cities could not be stated with certainty, since the county system remains cautiously optimistic over the retention of a member city.
Council Member Weir claimed to be in support of Staff’s recommendation, while commenting on the potential resource lying within the old Foster library and raising again the issue of collaborating with the VUSD for the potential uses of some of their resources, including school books. Then bringing up the painting issue one more time, the councilwoman said that we have had the downtown senior center painted (getting a real good deal). Dan Long painted the senior center, and did a real good job, or so it was said, ending with “I know we can do this.”
[Comment] So if the issue is to get your friends together and “do some painting,” tell them it’s your garage you want painted, not your 36,000 square foot home. Sure, Mr. Long painted the modest bungalow of a senior center, giving you a good deal, but how often do you want to keep going back to the well? … this time on your mansion of a city library. (Silly me, did I say garage?) [Ed.]
Council Member Monahan recalled the discussion of a temporary location for the Eastside library, asking whether the Wright library had ever been considered as one of those temporary locations. Staff replied, “No, it wasn’t.” The issue centered mostly upon location, it being thought that it wasn’t far enough east. Ms. Santiago reiterated many of the drawbacks discussed earlier, including the ADA compliance issue. The consultant was also of the view that a short term lease, should it fail, would mean packing up and moving just as programs were starting.
Mr. Monahan seemed concerned over the insurance covering the current lease. City Manager Cole reminded the councilman that the city is self-insured, meaning that all public and city owned buildings are covered.
Council Member Andrews asked whether the city would be entitled to compensation if a quitclaim is necessary. The answer was no. The suggestion arose that the building might be moved. The city attorney said that any improvements would go with the building, but to move the building remained an uncertain question. Mr. Andrews asked what the projections were for the county system’s budget in the coming year based upon the revenue stream relied upon as of now. Ms. Griffin responded by saying that the budget heavily weighted toward property tax income, approximately 80 percent, which remains relatively flat. State funding for libraries has become a minor factor in the funding process, or so it was said. “Changes in the way libraries are used can be expected to produce savings over time,” according to the speaker. Factors include the size and weight bearing load of building designs in the future. Electronic services are also expected to become more useful and efficient.Mr. Andrews produced a letter describing the bequest left to the Avenue library, confirming $342,300. It was asked how these funds would be spent. Ms. Griffin said that she too had only just received the notification, but a quick review this evening of the nine points indicated to the speaker that the Hispanic community would certainly benefit. The Inman Trust for Foster has allowed the county to “step up” to certain challenges and that a similar situation can now be afforded the Avenue.
Mr. Andrews proceeded to question whether the $1.77 million budget is not the true figure, but that rather something like $500,000 in addition would approach a more exact number assuming the city remains with the county system. Ms. Griffin agreed, saying “roughly” so. The councilman proceeded to ask for a follow-up discussion on the Simi situation, phrasing his question as “what are the odds” of Simi remaining in the system. Mr. Cole responded by saying, “Well, there are snowballs in hell, I suppose, but they don’t last long,” It was his view that they are determined to leave. Mr. Andrews then redirected the question toward the county representative.
With the ball having been tossed into her court, Jackie Griffin said it was her feeling that they (Simi) are being pushed along by AB 438 and talking about doing some sort of RFP this spring. It became an interesting situation in that the county does not contract separately with the cities for library services, according to the speaker. It was also said that there was a huge public outpouring of dismay over the lack of progress and non transparency of the process going forward, with this being all that Ms. Griffin cared to volunteer concerning the situation.
City Manager Cole volleyed back, saying that Simi feels that because of the state legislation they must serve notice on January 1st. Being committed to the RFP process as they are, the county cannot help them in this regard in that they don’t manage libraries and don’t hire managers. They are instead a library system. Mr. Cole pointed out that at the same time the county does operate within the sheriff’s department in a fashion analogous to that being suggested by some, perhaps, for libraries. It was explained that among dwindling options there would remain the possibility of following Camarillo into LSSI or establishing a city owned and run library system.
Ms. Griffin said that because Simi Valley started so late in the withdrawal process, this leaves interesting questions open including the fact that the entire property, both the building and the land, has been deeded over to the county. The county representative indicated great uncertainty over the likelihood of sorting out the many complex issues facing Simi on or before January 1st. Council Member Andrews conjectured that the county would proceed to play “hardball,” using the property as leverage and getting in his digs as well by saying, ”… But you can’t do that here.”
Council Member Andrews continued by questioning Mr. Cole’s comments concerning Simi’s current RFP situation and other extenuating circumstances, wondering how a “hybrid” city/county library could be discounted out of hand for one member city (Simi) and yet feel that we in Ventura can negotiate special deals and customizations.
The Administrative Report very carefully avoids the term “negotiations,” according to Mr. Cole, and as a member city of the county library system we have a significant voice in the allocation of services and resources in a collaborative way. As for the city’s part, we will be coming back April to decide whether or not the county has “stepped up” to the plate and delivered on its end of the bargain, which in many cases has gone to a higher level than most people realize, or so it was said. “Credit needs to go where credit is earned,” and that between now and April we need to determine what the county is prepared to do for a member city whether that means to “cut them loose in six months” or simply challenge the results. Careful evaluation of the 9 points within the next months will be an essential exercise in making the judgment as to who has performed and who has not. Mr. Cole emphasized in rather dramatic fashion that expectations must match our budgetary constraints, noting also that citizens typically expect more in the way of services than the city is able to pay for including police, fire, public works and library services.
Ms. Griffin wished to respond to what she had just heard, saying that the county library system has consistently over the years tried to show is commitment to its member cities, one example being the underfunding of the unincorporated area libraries in favor of the larger city programs. The City of Ventura has over many years received portions of funds that would have gone to smaller libraries, typically as much as $300,000. The county intends to work within the nine recommended points with the money it has available, according to the speaker, noting also that this is being undertaken with no additional funding coming from the city. It was said that Ventura would rank in the bottom 5 percent in the expenditure column of cities running a library system with the kinds of services that are available to citizens.
Council Member Andrews rejoined the debate by asking whether there is any other general fund money outside the county library representative’s salary that goes into the library system. Ms. Griffin volunteered the number of $600,000. This brought up again the issue of the $828,000 of “backup” which seemed to remain at the forefront of Mr. Andrews’ thinking. Ms. Griffin immediately surged ahead to say that this money goes toward not just her salary and expenses but represents the total general fund contribution, with $600,000 also helping to support libraries in the unincorporated areas and is what actually creates the $300,000 of funding used by Simi Valley, Port Hueneme, Ojai, Fillmore and Ventura.
Mr. Andrews seemed willing to tag the $800,000 as general fund money, but still couldn’t seem to understand whether or not this was the library-designated portion of the property tax. Ms. Griffin suggested that the councilman might be conflating two separate issues, saying that there is an administrative support portion which the $800,000 underwrites for many things – albeit general fund money.
Apparently satisfied, Mr. Andrews turned to City Attorney Calonne, asking whether the decision to act sooner rather than later to give notice of separation would be to avoid the risk of lawsuit expenses in the event that AB 438 should fail us. This was acknowledged as essentially correct. The statement was then made by the councilman that if Simi Valley pulls out, 3/5 of our County Board of Supervisors would be left with “no skin in the game” relating to the county library system, giving a majority of board members adequate impetus to reallocate $800,000 worth of found money. This was called a high-risk relationship with the county if we don’t separate now.
The councilman then appeared to go directly from advocating separation to supporting the 9 points, saying that to cut services for Foster and distribute those services more widely on the East End would be the way to go. “We need to do it fast – as soon as we can,” or so it was said. Also, “By golly … you can’t be always cutting these secondary services just to provide some [additional] element in the public safety side.” It was said that our citizens are getting squeezed time and time again, budget after budget, because we haven’t been able to grapple with the “other side” of this budget. Wright Library “got shot down,” according to the councilman, “because philosophically the county didn’t agree with us maintaining neighborhood libraries, then saying that he would not support Staff’s recommendation (waiting to see what goes forward) but favoring alternative “C.”
[Comment] This councilman uses every opportunity to point his lethal weapon toward the people’s right to organize and negotiate the terms of just compensation in the workplace. It’s his One-Note Samba, and here it is seen again in the middle of library negotiations as he can’t help but draw a bead on his favorite open target – the “other side” of this budget. Well let us just say two things: May we honor those at this Holiday Season who are able to put the turkey, the ham and the roast beef on the table for their families while risking their lives each and every day for the citizen they’ve never met and, if they perform properly, never will. Happy Holidays to them all.
Number Two, The man in question has fooled many into thinking that he serves the wishes of the people, and if that means riding the wave of expediency by going after the union salaries and benefits of those who protect and serve the community at large, he will do just that. There’s no real reason for this other than misplaced priorities. In his monologue, quoted from above, the councilman stresses the expectation rights of the public in such things as library services while assuring them that if he alone could play Santa Claus, they’d surely get their wish. In the meantime there’s a minority block of voters out there who seem a bit too fat, dumb and happy going about playing cops and robbers all day. It’s a sad commentary but there is a plausible explanation … (WARNING: The following may be too intense for immature readers. Discretion is advised.) We’ve known others who’ve had one or a hundred too many parking citations. [Ed.]
On the councilman’s comment concerning 3/5ths of the county supervisors having “no skin in the game,” Ms. Griffin begged to differ, saying, “Council Member Andrews I hate to disagree with you in public.” Supervisor Zaragoza has the Soliz (El Rio) Library, Supervisor Bennett has the Ventura and Ojai Libraries, Supervisor Long has Fillmore and Piru and Supervisor Parks has Oak Park and all of the unincorporated areas around Thousand Oaks. Only Supervisor Foy might be excluded, said the speaker, and yet all of the unincorporated areas of his district are represented by the county. Mr. Andrews finally would agree only to “limited skin.”
Council Member Brennan said that we’re not going to solve that which is in front of us this evening. Then in recalling ADA a requirements mentioned earlier, it was thought that the costs were around $200,000, the upshot being “just going over there and reopening doesn’t help.” It was said that we tend to think of the Wright Library as the East End, and yet Victoria is starting to look like the center of town. Speaking about the downtown library, the councilman agreed that the county has indeed stepped up. Also in revisiting the bookmobile idea the councilman mentioned having attended the America’s Cup in San Diego where “a village,” much of it on wheels, was created in less than a week. Then at the conclusion everything was packed up and gone in less than three days, suggesting that there are still creative options out there. Additional book drop boxes in convenient locations including city park areas could be seen as a solution to traveling longer distances.
Councilman Brennan decided to go ahead and advance the motion to accept Staffs recommended action for implementing the 9 programmatic steps recommended by the Library Steering Committee and the Library Advisory Commission. A second was obtained.
Deputy Mayor Tracy voiced his observation that through all the discussion that had taken place over the course of the evening, only one comment seemed to reflect negatively on the process that has brought us to this point (Dr. Harris). It was wished to know whether or not a fair and balanced outreach to the public had been orchestrated by Staff, the library commission and the steering committee. Ms. Santiago replied with the fact that out of 2300 direct participants there were thousands of citizens who were reached by other methods. The survey was hosted by Zumerang, a national survey company, which at no time indicated there were problems with the survey coming from the users.
Mr. Tracy felt that a considerable amount of common ground had been identified in what has been a lengthy process, concurring with the idea that libraries are not obsolete and that an East side library is essential to the community. Consensus would seem to lean toward public libraries over private contracting. Funding sources also weigh heavily in the mix, according to the deputy mayor, as is making sure that those sources are sustainable. It was also noted that our interrelationships with the county seem to be improving and that for the most part cooperation is on the upswing. Mr. Tracy indicated his support for the recommended action.
Mayor Fulton agreed with Deputy Mayor Tracy and asked that a roll call vote be taken on the motion to accept the 9 programmatic steps recommended by the Library Advisory Commission and the Library Steering Committee. Brennan, yes; Weir, yes; Morehouse, yes, Andrews, no; Monahan, no; Tracy, yes; Mayor Fulton, yes. The measure passed 5 to 2.
The mayor announced a short recess after which the Library Advisory Commission expansion issue would be taken up.
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