City Council OKs Almost a Million for Museum of Ventura County

Speakers ask… where’s funding for vagrancy and homeless?

By Lori Denman-Underhill

City Council opened up the May 14 meeting by holding special presentations for those who worked to rebuild the city after the Thomas Fire.

They also approved an additional $950,000 for the Museum of Ventura County (MVC), leaving many public speakers puzzled. They stood up at the podium and questioned City Council about the last two weeks of community concerns for funds to assist with local vagrancy and homeless issues.

Prior to the museum topic, there was a special presentation reflecting upon a five-month anniversary of the Thomas Fire. Following the devastating fire, council said an important step in rebuilding the community was debris removal, the act that would allow homeowners to rebuild and move on with their lives.

City Manager Dan Paranick was called upon to offer an update on the city’s progress following the fire and to also acknowledge individuals who assisted in this forward movement.

City Manager Dan Paranick

“On behalf of myself and the City staff, I wanted to thank those persons, including the county, Cal OES, Cal Recycle, along with members of our own staff, for the excellent work you have all done to help us recover from what was called the largest natural disaster in our city,” Paranick said.  “I am very appreciative of the diligence early on and our approach and planning in the days immediately following the fire, that were commendable and it is something I am very proud of. We could not have done it without all of you. On behalf of our staff, and myself and the City, we are very thankful for that.”

Paranick added that within a couple weeks, the total amount of debris of the destroyed homes will be entirely cleared. The city and other partners recognized at this City Council meeting will continue to work with families to approve permits to rebuild their homes.

Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere added to the City Manager’s appreciation for the City, County, State, federal leadership and others for helping with fire efforts. He recognized members of Cal OES, Ventura County Sheriffs, Cal Recycle, Thomas Fire Recovery, the County of Ventura and Ventura’s Public Works Sustainability Division.

LaVere called these individuals, “government at its finest.” Cal Recycle had 579 staff members do the work on the fire efforts. Many were in the audience at the city council meeting and received applause.

Councilmember Christy Weir offered appreciation for those involved in the Amgen Bike Tour. The riders, volunteers and the residents who supported the riders.  LaVere praised individuals working around the clock on the Amgen ride, and that was Marlyss Auster and her team with Visit Ventura and Kevin Clerici and his team from Downtown Ventura Partners.

Councilmember Mike Tracy announced that it is now National Police Officer Memorial week. “In 1962, President Kennedy declared May 15 National Peace Officer Memorial Day,” Tracy explained. “And every year, the week that the day falls on is declared National Peace Officer Memorial week.”

Tracy advised council members and the community of August 7, which marks the 40th anniversary of the murder of Sergeant D. Dowell, the only Ventura Police officer killed in the line of duty. Chief Ken Corney has some special events planned for August at the police station.

City Councilmember Jim Monahan explained his supportive thoughts on the past weekend’s celebration of Island Packers’ 50thanniversary. He described the event as beautiful and well-attended and said it was interesting to learn the history of the company and their beginning.

Following these announcements, LaVere added one of interest about Ventura Fire Department members who play in a bagpipe and drum band. They played at the Santa Barbara Bowl last weekend and opened a concert to help raise funds for the Thomas Fire. A total of $350,000 was raised.

One item for review on this evening was to “Request for Call for Review – Auto Center Freeway Sign.” Speakers supported the sign’s development. Weir said that she does not agree with the sign development because of many reasons, including traffic and also the sign would be “obtrusive and distracting,” and “we are not LA.” She suggests that a new design be considered. Tracy then added that the sign was already approved and “it is appropriate that we approve it tonight.” The motion passed 5-1.

The “Museum of Ventura County (MVC) Funding Request” was the next item for discussion. Previous council action was discussed. In August of 2017, council approved funding of $125,000 per completion of milestones, then in January of 2018, MVC requested a delay due to the Thomas fire. In March, MVC requested a return to council for five-year funding request. The city has already granted $125,000 as an investment to the museum. A speaker gave a presentation about the museum and asked for continued support for $950,000 for the next five years. If the city approved the $950K, then the total money given to the museum will reach $1,075,000.

Speakers and councilmember Cheryl Heitmann voiced the idea of supporting the museum’s ambitious goals with fundraising. Councilmember Erik Nasarenko applauded the efforts of the museum and added that government should support the arts.

Councilmember Tracy said he would support funding for a year, but not multiple years, due to the recent Thomas Fire. Tracy added that there is a homeless crisis. Those two issues are top priority, from the perspective of the community, while he also does not doubt the importance of a museum. The fires and the homeless issue can “affect our revenues,” he added. He said the museum is “not an essential city service.” He said he would support one year of funding at the 250K level.

Paranick said that if there was not an anticipated $5 million in fire costs to cover, then he would consider more funding for the museum. Paranick said that he is comfortable with $250K for this year only at this point. Weir also approved that amount and offered a good “check in” for every year.

A public speaker said that it is not realistic to give funding to the museum, especially following the fire and the death of Anthony Mele. That the funds should be used for what the community needs, including safety and emergency disasters.

City Attorney Gregory Diaz said that a project without a vote by the people requires other things. That there should be a contract in place between the museum and the City if they agree to give funds. This contract would account for a discussion and possible end to funds if there is an economic downturn or emergency disaster and the City could not pay for those emergencies. He recommended a contract be developed and a motion to include those provisions that include a “non-appropriations clause and milestones for performance measures.”

LaVere said that he struggles with the long term commitment but he did support the motion to fund the museum $950,000 for the next five years. He wants the museum founders and Board to revitalize the west end of downtown. To “be the true book end of the west end of downtown.”

The motion for the city to fund the museum on a five-year plan passed 5-1.

Concerned Citizen

The Public Communications portion began. A public speaker thanked Police Chief Corney for spending time explaining his point of view on the homeless issue. This speaker said that her home has been robbed twice and she is afraid to get gas at night. She also said that she heard that a lot of arrests were done and she noticed a clean-up. She said the police should receive more funds to be able to do this clean-up. She said that concerning the museum funding, that the city should focus on “cleaning the city up.” She said that there are empty beds at the shelter. She’d like to see more funds used for the mentally ill homeless.

Another public speaker said that the city’s crime problem is underfunded. That there is an “arrogance” in saying “business as usual,” when referring to vagrancy, homelessness and the Thomas Fire.

The speaker added, “You are spending that money (on the museum), following two weeks of City Council meetings of people crying for funding for help for our city’s issues that include clean up of the city and what I see as criminal vagrancy? You have a handful of people using that museum. And you just gave out darn near a million dollars. Think about that. It’s almost shameful. We need more resources. It’s not common sense, realistic spending or realistic governing. There’s a problem here. I don’t care what side of the fence you are on… But when you give out a million dollars to a small percentage, there is something the matter here. Shame on you.”

City Council Meeting Agendas – Ventura, CA:

May 14 Meeting Agenda:

City Council Meeting Videos:

May 14 Video:

Closed Session:

Lori Denman-Underhill has been a professional journalist since 1996. She has worked as associate editor for the Los Angeles Daily News TODAY Magazines and has freelanced for LA Weekly, and more. She is now the Ventura reporter for Citizens Journal.

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C E Voigtsberger

I wonder how much of Telegraph, Loma Vista and Telephone Roads could be paved for $950 thou? Throwing a shovel full of cold patch in some of the potholes is like using a magazine splint on a compound leg fracture.

For too long the Ventura City Council has spent like they could afford champagne when in actuality they have a beer budget.

Sure, supporting the COUNTY Museum is a good idea — if you have extra bucks laying around that you don’t know how to use. We have infrastructure problems that have been unaddressed for many years. We have an enforcement problem with multiple, habitual offenders, both petty and felony running lose in the city. Yet the city council, with looming unaddressed pension liabilities continues to spend money as if they had Bloomberg’s fortune in the bank.