The following was written to me by Dr Ed Brenegar, who heads up the Community of Leaders
It was written in reference to a close look I am taking at the Ventura City Council’s decision to implement pay parking in my town. What at first glance, was described to be a rather benign plan to regulate business traffic in downtown, quickly became rather apparent, to instead be a near Draconian attempt, based on poor business decisions and supposition, to change my town forever.
I have people I am accountable to, and advised by. Ed is one of those advisors. This is what he said to me regarding my town.
We are at a point in time that is historic. So much of what comes across my screen are attempts to understand, and to promote a particular view that is intended to be the final answer or resolution to the complexity of life. What I see in a lot of this is the attempt to simplify the issues to one thing. I don’t think things are simple at all, and attempts to make them so end up trivializing the issues and some really good ideas. People are searching for meaning and fulfillment, and all the traditional forms, but ideological and institutional are at best inadequate, if not failing to provide a way forward. If there ever was a time where faith mattered, it is now. Not a blind faith of hoping against hope in the dark, but a faith that searches and creates a path of living that is able to manage the ambiguities of life. It isn’t simplistic, or sentimental, or ideological or divisive. It is clear, focused and action oriented. From my perspective, the issues aren’t ideas and relationships, but systems, structures, infrastructures and the mechanism for how we will work together in the future. Power based systems, like our current system of government, are failing because they are providing no check on individual greed, because there is no real accountability. I don’t have the answers to these big questions, but I do know that we are on an unsustainable course.
I learned a little while ago that it appears the pay parking plan starts in Downtown Ventura on Sept 14th, and will eventually be implemented elsewhere here as well. So what is the big deal, you may ask, doesn’t somebody have to pay?
You already do, with taxes on basic commodities and in your property taxes, if you own a home. Your local merchants pay as well.
Where is the projected income from the pay parking supposed to go? Two thirds goes to support the meter system which is based on a three year contract. The remaining third is slated to go for maintenance of downtown City bathrooms etc. Downtown has a city bathroom. Yep. Two that I know of. If you want to be robbed, stabbed or otherwise accosted, one is located right behind our new Ventura County Museum.
In other words, the meters are potentially fiscally pointless. In fact, if they follow some of the other poor choices, like our City traffic light camera program, they could potentially cost the taxpayer a fortune. Then there is also the reality of the infringement on personal freedoms the enforcement of paid parking will place on the public. Also the unfair strain and ill will it will bestow on an already over burdened enforcement and legal structure. I won’t go into the affect regulation has on free market economies. Suffice it to say, retail traffic goes on the path of least resistance and cost.
Seth Godin speaks on the affects of something being broken here.
So now civic responsibility and obligation to future generations, requires me to question those that govern me. I do not take this lightly. I am not happy about it either. With business and personal pressures, and creative projects, demanding more of my life’s remaining moments than ever before, this was not something I needed, asked for, or wanted. I did not run for City Govt. I voted for it.
When someone holds political office they engage a sworn duty to protect the public trust and interest. It is so important, this tenet, that we actually have laws regarding conduct of elected officials. Here is a look at one aspect of violation of the public trust.
Ventura and many California towns have an unpublished history of passing into law (Municipal Code) things that are sometimes possibly in violation of State and Federal laws. They do this,( in the same manner that PRIVATE business entities do), to satisfy basic income needs, in order to provide for the continued existence of City infrastructure. Typically, these local ordinances stay in place till someone mounts a legal challenge. The fait acomplis in this, is that the City is in service to it’s Citizens. So if they do something to hurt that legal relationship, there are severe consequences.
When a challenge occurs, the City has several courses of action that it may take. Here are some:
Ignore the entity which will either go away, possibly having been marginalized, and convinced the action is imprudent.
Change the law.
Settle the claim out of court and file on the City liability insurance coverage, which may require the claimant to agree to not speak about the settlement (law stays in place generally, as the legal claim disappears).
Take the claim to trial in court where it will be examined for compliance with State law first and ultimately Federal. If the city is found to have violated those laws, defense is very difficult, as the City has in it’s employ, litigators, also known as City Attorneys. So if found to be in violation of the law, the blame game comes to a halt pretty quickly, as you see exactly where the buck stops.
The last choice, is what Cities do not want to ever occur. Here is why. If a City Government, which is an incorporated entity, has been found guilty of violation of State or Federal law in the writing of and enforcement of it’s municipal codes, and on examination, it turns out that they have been making claims on their insurance for errors and omissions, the Insurance provider will generally be required to cancel that Corporation’s policy, as legally as you cannot insure crime. Why was it a crime? Because the City has in house legal counsel. They know the law. This demonstrates intent.
Then, as the corporate structure evaporates, the officers of that city which wrote the municipal code, become potentially individually liable for crime, and in turn are open to civil litigation for the damage wrought by that code.
What can occur, as now the City has in effect, killed its ability to govern, is that the duty of Governance may be turned over to the county. What this does is completely eliminate a layer of government (and expense to taxpayers). This is not as implausible or positive, as it appears to be at first.
Fiscal viability of an entity is based on the simple law of cause and effect. Public inability to pay for Government creates pressure on Government to survive. If that Government collapses, the obligation to Govern goes to the next highest authority. With a City collapsing, the burden of governance can fall on the County. This has been seen lately. So the fiscal system is intertwined. The public must thrive for Government to exist. If it falters, and the cost of Governance stays rigid, it all collapses in on itself eventually.
Ventura is in trouble financially, because California is in trouble, and State budget funded income streams are fast disappearing. What the disappearance of State and in some cases Federal funds does, is place extreme pressure on the City to survive. So the City makes fiscal choices based on increasing income. And Ventura has made some possibly poor legal and business choices as Government typically does not run their business according to benefit being equal to or in excess of cost. This is due to the historic existence of external capitalization via State and Federal funding and tax revenues etc. Need I elaborate?
Time for my town to do something. It starts with me. I hate battle. Someone always has to die. But I have little choice in this one. That makes me angry. It may do the same to you as well if you take a CLOSE look at what has been happening to the people and your town itself.
A parable. Author unknown.
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people….
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
“One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
On Saturday, Sept 11 (YEP) at 11 am at Cabrillo Middle School at 1426 East Santa Clara St. Camille Harris and a group of deeply invested Venturans, will meet with the City of Ventura over what are purported to be onerous violations of Civil Rights and breech of law by various Ventura City department employees and contractors in the area of Code and Permit enforcement.
Over the past year I have watched Camille and other concerned citizens stand before City Council (You can watch it on local Cable access television) and be marginalized, talked down to, and ignored by some people in City Govt. If you own property, a business, have family history or intend to raise a family in the City of Ventura in the future, it would be in your and this town’s best interest to show up.
If you do, marginalizing your concerns and sweeping municipal code under the carpet as being legal, because the City says it is, may become a rather imprudent choice for your City Government.
I believe in this town. I know many of the folks in and from here, from the streets, on up to high ranking levels of Government and finance. It is one of the reasons I live in, work, and promote Ventura globally through my work and network of colleagues. I have a vested interest in protecting this place, because of those close personal relationships. I am accountable for what I do, or neglect to do, that goes beyond a salary. I think that we all do.
It is not ABOUT parking meters. It is about how Ventura wants the future to appear after current City management and leadership have moved on, and we are all just a memory. What will remain is what we did.
So do it. Input and affect YOUR Government. You voted your Government in to office. They get paid, by you. Better make sure that it is YOUR interests being protected, and the laws of your Country being abided by. You can either do it together and stand as a community where everyone will benefit, or fall, one by one. This is it for our country today. Just as it was when our Ancestors came here. Time to choose.
Time to help Camille and your neighbors
Time to support our teetering Country.
It starts at home. Pretty song, by Carina. It says a lot.
On a lighter, but still serious note: Bill Mahr in an American commentary.