Tip O’Neill famously said that all politics is local. And so as the calendar turns to October, we’re taking a look at some key issues up and down the Central Coast.
Parking, or perhaps more precisely, parking meters, could be a stealth issue in Ventura’s City Council race. Tea Party enthusiasts have seized on meters installed roughly a year ago as a government overreach issue. A blog and Facebook posts blame the meters for very slow mid-week business in the city’s downtown.
A revolt against the deeply unpopular meters could put some powerful momentum behind several Tea Party candidates. But the reality is a bit different from the rhetoric as the decidedly annoying meters actually pay for all sorts of amenities, including free Wi-Fi, street amenities and other perks in the downtown corridor.
While politicians weigh the costs and benefits of meters in downtown Ventura, it’s also clear that demand is the key to driving additional business — parking meters don’t help because they suppress demand, but how much natural demand there is for parking space in downtown Ventura is up for debate.
Some day, the Poinsettia City may actually have the kind of parking woes that plague San Luis Obispo, which has meters, and Santa Barbara, which has strict limits on free parking and tons of paid lots. But not quite yet.
Speaking of Santa Barbara, anti-capitalist protesters briefly occupied De La Guerra Plaza on Oct. 3, with a rowdy demonstration that harkened back to the days of the peace movement. While pundits dismiss the protestors and the protests as idealists with no real agenda, there is an anger in the populace that politicians and Wall Street oligarchs can only ignore at their own peril.
Finally, these notes.
Santa Maria will get new leadership for the first time in many, many years as longtime Mayor Larry Lavignino announces his retirement. Santa Maria has struggled mightily in the Great Recession, but Lavagnino has not lost his sense of humor or his pro-business attitude.
In San Luis Obispo, the administration of Mayor Jan Marx has embraced an economic development strategy built around sustaining local businesses and making government more transparent. Those are big steps forward.
We note with sadness that two important business leaders in our region have passed away recently.
Philip A. “Phil” Steiner of San Luis Obispo was a top intellectual property attorney and a supporter of many entrepreneurial ventures in the region. Trained as an environmental engineer and equipped with an MBA and a law degree, he was uniquely suited to understanding the legal issues involved in patents, copyrights and trademarks. An avid outdoors adventurer and scuba diver, he was just 55 at the time of his death. He’ll be missed.
Burton S. Sperber of Malibu was the founder and chairman of ValleyCrest Landscape Cos. Although technically based in Calabasas, ValleyCrest has large operations in Ventura County and the Los Angeles Times described it as the largest landscape services company in the nation. Beginning with the acquisition of a single nursery in the 1940s, Sperber built an empire but he still preferred the title of “head gardener.” He was active in the company he built but in 2008 handed of much of the day-to-day management to his son, Richard. He died Sept. 30 at age 82.