Ventura County has a lot at stake in the 2016 election.
Voters on Nov. 8 will be asked to weigh in on two key issues that will help chart the future of the county and surrounding areas.
The first is transportation. With Measure AA, which this newspaper has endorsed, voters are being asked to approve a transportation tax that would give Ventura County a self-funding mechanism for roads, rail and public transit.
Ventura County should seize the opportunity to join Santa Barbara and other major counties — as well as San Luis Obispo County if it passes Measure J — to secure its long-term transportation future. For Business Times readers, it would create a regional vehicle to fund improvements along the Highway 101 corridor.
The second is land use. Measures C and F are competing measures that relate to the Save Our Agricultural Resources or SOAR measure that was passed in the 1990s.
SOAR proponents want to pass Measure C, which would extend SOAR to 2050. But farmers, who have been stung by SOAR limits on land use, are proposing measure F, which would open the window for food processing and farm-related activities on small parcels of land.
We’re going to endorse Measure F, which extends only until 2036, with a big caveat. Ultimately, we think SOAR should be scrapped and replaced with a market-based system that allows farmers to preserve their land, and the county’s open space, through the sale of easements to nonprofit entities.
Rather than rob profits from hard working farmers, we think that a broad-based coalition needs to convene to plot a win-win strategy for the future of the county.
Mattew Fienup, the new head of the California Lutheran University Center for Economic Forecasting, Patagonia co-founder Yvon Chouinard, the Nature Conservancy, land owners, experts from the Bren School of Environmental Management at UC Santa Barbara and others could surely turn Ventura County into a model for land use success.
Right now, SOAR is a lose-lose proposition. Farmers can’t monetize their land holdings, depriving them of the resources they need to plan for the future. Cities are constrained by high land costs within their limits. Housing is increasingly unaffordable for the middle class.
Measure F provides a way forward for farmers to add value to their crops and it will provide badly needed jobs that pay better than field work but don’t require a college degree.
The Business Times doesn’t endorse candidates but we do weigh in on issues from time to time. Here are our positions on some of the 2016 ballot initiatives:
• No on Proposition 61, the ballot measure that would attempt to control California prescription drug costs. It’s a flawed measure that doesn’t offer comprehensive reform and could lead veterans to pay more for drugs.
• Yes on Measure AA, the Ventura County transportation tax. It’s a broad-based program that makes long overdue investments in county infrastructure.
• Yes on Measure F, Sustain Ventura County. It’s a viable interim solution until the county can create a permanent way to preserve open space.
• Yes on Measure O, a city of Ventura sales tax increase. It will enhance public safety and speed improvements in the city’s downtown core.
• Yes on Measure J, a San Luis Obispo County transportation tax that would improve Highway 101 in the northern third of the Tri-Counties.