Supervisors forecast county problems as water, growth, health and homeless

The following article first appeared in the WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9, 1985 edition of the “OJAI VALLEY NEWS” on Page A-1. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Supervisors forecast county problems as water, growth, health and homeless
by
Star Smith


As is the wont of many in the first day of each new year, county supervisors Tuesday looked back on the accomplishments of the past, then peered into their crystal balls, trying to foretell the issues of the future.

THE CONSENSUS: growth, water, health care, and the homeless will be the major issues for the county in the next year or two.

The occasion for the government soul-searching was the swearing in of reelected supervisors Maggie Erickson, representing Ojai Valley, Camarillo, and Santa Paula/Fillmore; John Flynn, Oxnard and Port Hueneme; and Susan Lacey, Ventura.

All three won decisively their reelection bids in June, Erickson taking 64 percent of the District 3 vote; Lacey, nearly 80 percent in District 1; and Flynn, running unopposed in District 5. Tuesday’s ceremony before a packed house in the Government Center boardroom was primarily an upbeat occasion.

Newly chosen chair of the board, Ed Jones of Thousand Oaks, reflected on the years since 1978, when he had last been chair. In that year, Proposition 13 was approved by California voters, and it threw local governments into a belt-tightening turmoil.

But, Jones said Tuesday, Ventura County adapted to the public mandate, and has come through the toughest times, emerging into “a period of cautious optimism, or prudence.”

IN THE SIX years since Prop. 13, inflation has totaled about 70 percent, Jones said, but Ventura County has kept a tight rein on spending. In 1978, the county spent $406 per county resident; this year, that figure is $407 per capita, a miniscule increase, Jones said.

The county has also been conservative in the growth of its staff; while the ranks of county employees have grown, the percentage of county employees to county residents is actually down, he said.

But, Jones warned, local voters evidently are not completely satisfied. While Proposition 36, billed as the measure which would close Prop. 13 loopholes, was defeated statewide in November, it passed in Ventura, a sign Jones said, that the county must continue to “put our own house in order.”

One of the housekeeping chores the board will face in the coming years is planning and controlling growth, predicted Supervisor Erickson. The county will continue to grow, she said, forcing local government into a delicate balancing act. One the one hand, “industry will be coming in, homes will need to be built” to support industry, she said.

On the other hand, the county must “look at the environment,” she continued. “We must balance (the two sides)…so our children and grandchildren can enjoy” the benefits of both.

“We are blessed with natural resources: a beautiful coastline…the Los Padres mountains…oil…agricultural lands…How we use that trust is an issue the board will continue to face.”

The future looks rosier than the past, but it has not been cleaned of stumbling blocks, warned Supervisor Flynn, who reeled off a long list of issues the county will confront.

WATER WILL continue to be a burning issue for the county and the rest of Southern California, he said, but the northern half of the state will not be willing to share in a solution to the problem until the southern half takes some responsibility for its water usage and management. For Ventura County, that means continuing an aggressive conservation program and abating seawater intrusion into the Oxnard Plain aquifer, Flynn said.

The plight of the homeless “is becoming increasingly acute,” Flynn said, and it will be a county responsibility to solve or at least ease the problem locally.

The health care philosophy of the county may have to be re-thought, he said, adding that the county should think seriously about continuing to provide health care for the poor, but “move away from competition with private hospitals” for patients with means to pay.

The county also will have to wrestle with waning authority amid growing responsibility, Flynn said, as state and federal governments mandate more local programs but don’t always give control to local governments. For example, he said, solid waste disposal is a county responsibility, but the cities have the power to override county decisions on the issue.

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