Ventura County is currently finalizing the update to its General Plan, a process that has not been done in over 30 years. This document will be the template for how our county will evolve over the next generation, serving as the guide for elected officials and county staff as they adopt, fund and implement policies and programs that directly impact almost every aspect of our lives.
The draft plan includes over 400 major policy changes with massive impacts to businesses, health care, law enforcement, agriculture, transportation and energy, just to name a few. Given the importance and the longevity of this plan, it is critical that we be thoughtful and judicious in crafting this update.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused everyone to re-evaluate almost every facet of our lives. We have reconsidered finances, job considerations, education, living arrangements, and so much more. It has had a massive impact on all of us. We have adapted, in most cases making enormous changes to our lifestyles and family budgets. Local governments should be no different, especially when faced with adopting a policy document that will so significantly affect the future of Ventura County.
Just a few months ago, our Board of Supervisors cited “financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic” to substantiate their decision to delay passing the county budget. Similarly, we should be pausing and taking more time to carefully consider the inevitable and far-reaching ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no reason to rush through the process of finalizing what is arguably the most important and impactful policy document the Board of Supervisors can produce.
Moreover, this fast track approval process has played out at a time when the public hearing/meeting process is already challenged due to the need to social distance and limit attendance. Instead of expanding the options for participation, just the opposite has happened. The planned number of public hearings has been reduced, and repeated requests to increase access made by community organizations have been ignored.
The feeling that the final stage of the GPU process is being rushed has been expressed by a wide range of advocates with very different views. People who have traditionally disagreed on most issues at the Board of Supervisors, have agreed that more time is needed to review the impacts of this plan. It is apparent to most observers, that a failure to take into consideration perhaps the most significant societal interruption in recent history, is a recipe for making avoidable mistakes.
Currently, more than 110,000 of Ventura County’s Labor Force of 421,000 (more than 26% of all workers) have applied for unemployment insurance or assistance. That is more than a quarter of all workers in Ventura County who have either lost their job or suffered significantly…