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Mikels, Schillo Sworn In as Supervisors

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Promising to hold the line on government spending while boosting Ventura County’s economy, Judy Mikels and Frank Schillo were sworn in Tuesday as new members of the Board of Supervisors.

More than 300 friends, supporters and family members crowded into the board room at the County Government Center in Ventura to watch Mikels and Schillo take the oath of office.

Following the brief ceremony, the new supervisors spoke of their goals for the county’s future, providing a glimpse into their different management styles.

Mikels, who was outspoken in her campaign on her desire to slash government spending, nonetheless kept her comments brief and avoided any touchy issues.

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“I think everybody expected me to show up here today on a white horse with a battle flag,” the 49-year-old former Simi Valley councilwoman said. “But that’s not my style. . . . I don’t agree with divisiveness. And it won’t come from me. I’m a team player.”

In sharp contrast, Schillo wasted no time in laying out his agenda for the coming year, calling for an immediate hiring freeze and for the county to re-examine its budget priorities. The county is facing a $42-million deficit this year.

“We must take a hard, cold look at the county budget,” Schillo said. “If we all agree that no new taxes are the order of the day, then we cannot continue spending as we have before.”

Schillo, 61, also restated his support for dedicating all revenues generated from Proposition 172--a statewide half-cent sales tax measure--to public safety agencies as it was intended. Faced with a large deficit, the board last year allocated more than $1 million of the special sales tax revenue to departments outside public safety, and left another $4 million undesignated.

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Although Proposition 172 funds are expected to be at the center of debate again this year, Schillo said, “The people have spoken, and we must listen, regardless of the consequences.”

Rather than depending on the special tax money to balance its budget, Schillo said the county must find new ways to help businesses grow and generate new revenues. He proposed establishing an economic development corporation to work with county cities and businesses to attract new industry to the area.

During his speech, the former Thousand Oaks councilman also touched on the need for the board to resolve a longstanding dispute over developing a new west county landfill, and to stress the importance of keeping the county’s two Navy bases open. Both the Port Hueneme and Point Mugu bases are threatened with closure because of continuing Pentagon cutbacks.

But Schillo’s primary focus was on the budget, saying the county must prioritize its services to make it easier to decide what should be cut during future budget hearings. He also urged the county to re-evaluate all state and federal grants it seeks for new programs that require the hiring of more workers.

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“We must bite the bullet and say enough is enough,” said Schillo, who was selected as vice chairman of the board Tuesday. “Our vision must be directed to a new way of doing business.”

Supervisor Maggie Kildee, who was appointed chairwoman of the board, agreed with Schillo that balancing the county budget may be the toughest challenge the supervisors face this year.

Kildee reminded her colleagues that several county departments are still reeling from previous budget and staff cuts and in some cases are having difficulty keeping up with their workloads.

Although Kildee did not advocate diverting Proposition 172 funding to agencies other than law enforcement, she did say board members have long demonstrated their commitment to public safety agencies.

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Kildee said $24 million of the $28 million generated from the special sales tax last year went to law enforcement agencies, as well as the county’s criminal justice system.

If public safety agencies are exempt from budget cuts this year, Kildee said, the county will be faced with cutting other programs and services to offset its projected $42-million deficit.

“I’m certainly going to be open to suggestions on how to do that,” she said.

Both Kildee and Supervisor Susan Lacey--who along with John Flynn have formed a Democratic and liberal majority on the board the past 14 years--urged their colleagues to work together to resolve the county’s budget problems.

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But Flynn indicated Tuesday that at least on some issues he shares the same conservative philosophy as Mikels and Schillo, both Republicans. Flynn said he believes that the Republican Party’s sweeping victories in key local, state and federal races in November put politicians on notice to reduce government spending.

“I make some of my Democratic friends a little unhappy when I say I’m rather impressed with the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich,” Flynn said, citing Gingrich’s call for welfare reform. “I think he brings a vision there we need to work with.

“I see a lot of changes coming from the federal level,” Flynn said. “I hope we can have some impact on these new ideas coming around on welfare reform. I hope we’re out front on these things.”


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