Despite repeated requests by Ventura Avenue residents for more money to maintain neighborhood streets and sidewalks, the Ventura City Council has postponed a request by one of its members to make repairs in the area a priority.
As the council reviewed the 1994-95 budget at Monday's meeting, City Councilman Gary Tuttle proposed shifting the city's street maintenance allocations by taking money usually designated for other parts of Ventura and concentrating the funds on the crumbling roads and sidewalks of northwestern Ventura.
"I'd like to have the council make a commitment to give the Avenue first choice," Tuttle said.
However, in unanimously approving the $103-million budget late Monday, City Council members said they needed more information on how the city's computerized system selects streets and sidewalks for priority funding before deciding whether to favor one area of the city over another.
"I would support evaluating the entire city," said Councilwoman Rosa Lee Measures. "I would hate for us, out of an emotional concern, to do this now."
The budget approved Monday sets aside $1.7 million for street maintenance and $50,000 for sidewalk maintenance in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Traditionally, Ventura public works officials survey streets and plug information on road conditions into a computer, which produces an annual maintenance list showing which blocks and sidewalks are most in need of attention.
But Tuttle said that process may not be as scientific and objective as it appears.
"I think (streets and sidewalks on the Avenue) get a little less priority than other neighborhoods," he said Tuesday. "I mean, just look at who elects people, where the votes are in this city, who makes donations to the campaigns, and then look at where those people live."
Mayor Tom Buford said he doubted that politicians were more likely to give preference to streets where the town's wealthier residents live.
"I don't know if that's true or not," he said.
Ventura's council members came under increasing pressure to pay attention to the neighborhood around Ventura Avenue, after a series of random, night-time shootings left residents frightened and clamoring for more city help in dealing with crime and other problems.
At an emotional community forum two weeks ago, residents blasted the city for skimping on police protection and failing to repair potholes and build sidewalks. Meanwhile, residents charged, streets in the city's more affluent eastside neighborhoods are maintained on a regular basis.
Tuttle, Buford and Councilman Jim Monahan attended the meeting and pledged to help Avenue residents improve their neighborhood.
Jesus Camilo, who lives on Franklin Lane just off Ventura Avenue, complained at the town meeting about the poor quality of his and neighboring streets.
On Tuesday, Camilo said he was pleased to hear that the council may consider Tuttle's proposal.
"I've been trying to get that (before the City Council) for four years already," he said. "I've been pushing to make the Avenue more decent, you know what I mean? I hope they do it. Not just say it, but do it."
Buford and Councilman Gregory L. Carson, however, usually Tuttle's allies on the council, on Monday sided with other council members, saying his proposal was too politically charged and not well-planned.
"I think everybody has a right to access to public services and this proposal is not conducive to a community that has to live together," Buford said Tuesday.
The Avenue area is not the only neighborhood in the city in need of money for street maintenance, Carson said.
Carson pointed out that his mother lives in eastern Ventura and has to mow the street in front of her house because of all the weeds that sprout up through the cracks.
"It's a worthy discussion to say you have to prioritize, but I don't know what you would prioritize (the Avenue) against," he said.