February 4, 2023
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Colleges threaten to yank $10K from economic conference


Ventura County Community College may withdraw its title sponsorship of the county’s annual Economic Outlook Conference after the region’s largest economic development group came out in opposition of two state ballot measures that would raise taxes to fund public education. That, in turn, has caused the The Ventura County Economic Development Association, or VCEDA, to backtrack and reconsider its stance against those measures.

VCEDA was notified by a board member representing the college district that the group may seek a refund of its $10,000 title sponsorship of the Nov. 7 conference after the group came out in opposition of the propositions 30 and 38, according to VCEDA President Bill Buratto.

“We have received a phone call from an employee at the Ventura County Community College who indicated in that phone conversation that they would like to withdraw their support from the Business Outlook Conference and would like their title sponsorship withdrawn and are withdrawing from board,” Buratto said.

He did not name the member, but VCEDA’s list of board members names Robin Calote, president of Ventura College, as the representative from the district.

Calote told the Business Times that she has asked to step down from the board, but not because of the vote on the propositions. She said that after attending several board meetings she decided she was not the best representative for the college district on the VCEDA board.

“Me sitting there – knowing very little about economic development — I felt that someone from our economic development program would be better,” Calote said. “That’s separate from the chancellor’s decision whether to belong to VCEDA or not.”

Calote said decisions about sponsorships are also made by the college chancellor’s office. She referred media inquiries about the college’s sponsorships and board memberships to a spokeswoman who could not be immediately reached for comment.

The title sponsors for the event are the Ventura County Community College District, which includes Ventura College, Moorpark College and Oxnard College, and California Lutheran University, a private university in Thousand Oaks.

California Lutheran University could not be immediately reached for comment.

Buratto said that VCEDA routinely considers and offers a position on public policy issues that affect the business community.

“We had a good conversation at the board meeting [about propositions 30 and 38] and there were people on both sides of the issues but when the motion was called to the floor for a vote, it was not unanimous by any means, but at the end of the day the majority voted to oppose both measures,” Buratto said.

Given the recent pushback from educational groups, VCEDA’s board and executive committee will meet again on Tuesday, Sept. 18, to weigh feedback on the issues, he said, and reconsider its position.

Dueling ballot measures Propositions 30 and 38 both aim to increase the personal income tax in California and use the new revenue to pay for education. If neither one passes, public schools could face cuts of more than $5 billion, according to education advocates, in addition to the decreases they’ve already experienced. Prop 30 was put forth by Gov. Jerry Brown; Prop 38 is backed by wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger.

Other business groups in the state have refrained from opposing Prop 30. Notably, the California Chamber of Commerce, which has a history of opposing tax increases, has a “no position” stance on  Prop 30. However, it still opposes Prop 38.  “The Munger initiative is a virtually permanent tax increase that would make California’s top marginal income tax rate the highest in the country,” the group said in a statement. “This proposal would further hurt California’s competitiveness and discourage capital formation and business growth.”

Full disclosure: Henry Dubroff, chairman and editor of the Pacific Coast Business Times, has been a member of the VCEDA board for a number of years. In addition, the Business Times is a media sponsor of the Economic Outlook Conference.

Dubroff said that, as a matter of policy, he abstains from votes on issues where the Business Times has not expressed an opinion on its editorial page.  In keeping with this policy, he abstained from the Prop 30 vote at the recent VCEDA board meeting.

“I recognize the VCEDA board vote on Prop 30 was fairly close and that an effort to reconsider the position may be under way. The Business Times will be supportive of VCEDA no matter how the executive committee decides to resolve this hotly contested issue,” Dubroff said in a statement.