By Bob Alviani
The business community plays a unique role in a community’s economy. If there is any sector in the economic machinery that understands what it takes to run a city, it is business.
Businesses provide jobs and support families. Businesses know what it takes to earn a dollar.
When it comes to city government, good government is everyone’s business.
It speaks to the need for checks and balances and how to manage finances. It calls for businesses to do more than just accept what a city council tells the community.
If funds are not efficiently spent and decisions are not well thought out, business has the responsibility to question and challenge government before more dollars are taxed.
There is also a deeper reason why businesses must operate independent of government. Any increase in expenses, whether it comes as a tax or fee, reduces a business’s ability to retain employees, make a profit for reinvestment, care for their family and remain competitive.
Sometimes the business community must be more critical and cut through the rhetoric of a political campaign. The business community must also be honest with itself.
When a business organization, like the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, endorses a new tax, chamber members must remember that this chamber is also a tenant of the city.
This places the entire process into question. Conflicts of interest and transparency are important to the integrity of any organization.
So why should any smart business owner support a $270 million, 25-year tax? First, everyone must get over the issue that the city can use more money. The city’s wish list was more than $1.3 billion.
There isn’t a person alive that wouldn’t say they could use more money.
Currently, the city of Ventura has a balanced budget. There are sufficient funds to run the city. Ventura also added funds to reserves and the city council just approved an 18 percent raise for employees.
This is more a question of trust. How have past city councils spent your hard earned tax dollars? They wasted $1 million to study how to narrow Victoria Avenue, not a positive idea for business. They took $1.2 million for a 911 tax that was never refunded to the citizens. There once was $9 million set aside for a convention center that was never built. Those funds were placed in the general account and spent on other things. There was also $10 million in lost investments with Lehman and WAMU, due to poor oversight by the city council.
No one seems to question the “golden parachute” gift of $150,000 on top of the usual annual retirement compensation of over $200,000 to an outgoing city attorney or the $30,000 in legal fees to sue Ventura citizens opposing sales taxes. How about approving a fire department retirement increase from 2 percent to 3 percent per year of service, adding to the city expenses another $1.2 million annually? There was also the $40,000 for an architectural rendering of a plan to create a memorial site at Cemetery Park with a total planned cost of $4 million.
There are more, but for now we’ll just review 2016. This city council spent $140,000 on a consultant for this tax initiative. There was another $1.2 million settlement for having sold the same parking spaces twice in the parking structure.
Finally, we can add thousands for a poor decision to lease to Brooks Institute, plus leaving contractors unpaid with more than $825,000 in liens. Not the kind of action a business community should condone.
Some bad laws start with good intentions. This is a bad law.
This is a 25-year tax going into the general accounts. This has future waste written all over it.
• Bob Alviani is a retired banker and Ventura resident.