Candidates Weigh Clinic, Libraries and Airport Plans

The Times has asked the four candidates seeking the 3rd Supervisorial District seat on the March 26 ballot to respond in writing to questions about three key issues

Saving Libraries

Q. What should we do to save our financially strapped county library system?

Roger Campbell: Ventura County and its cities have the resources to fully fund our library system. Those funds, however, are allocated to lesser-deserving services and programs. In addition to giving our library system greater priority in the budget-setting process, Supervisor Frank Schillo's proposed Library Federation concept must be given our full attention. Savings achieved by this program, which proposes to consolidate overhead functions and costs, will be an additional boost to library coffers, while giving greater control of the local branches to the communities they serve. Government plays a game--take away what citizens want and they'll tax themselves. This is wrong and, in the case of recent bond measures throughout the county, it is obvious that it does not work.

Al Escoto: First of all, we have to recognize that there is not sufficient general fund money to permanently provide adequate library services. The parcel tax is one way to consider funding the library system. However, the voters are sometimes reluctant to pass a tax measure. Supervisor Schillo's federation proposal is another avenue, but it needs more specifics regarding overhead costs. I believe the real solution is to form a coalition of local government agencies and lobby the state Legislature hard to restore the funding. The state should reexamine their priorities. They took it away. They can reinstate it.

Kathy Long: The County Library Agency is a "special district" funded by the state. Fifty percent of those funds were shifted to Sacramento. I will work to force legislation to recover those shifted funds, bringing them back to our libraries, as my first priority. I am actively working with Camarillo and Piru community library groups that support their local parcel-tax measures, and researching private foundation fund-raising as possible long-term revenue sources. The future master plan for the 21st century library should implement the mission and goals for the public information and technology needs of our citizens. I will work to develop and implement the master plan.

Mike Morgan: Money was taken from special districts by the state of California in 1992 in a property tax shift from local government to fulfill the state's educational requirements. Since that time, library services have been in a downward spiral due to decreases in funding. As a first step, the county of Ventura should work with other counties to lobby the state for a share of its recently declared "surplus funds." If unsuccessful, the county must find other methods to preserve the library district. Cooperative efforts with cities is an approach often mentioned in recent months. We must find the most efficient ways of providing the service to our public. Public-private partnerships in funding should be encouraged.

Outpatient Clinic

Q. Should the county move forward with construction of a new outpatient clinic at the Ventura County Medical Center?

Campbell: No. Why should Community Memorial invest so much in fighting this proposal if it were not such a dire threat to its solvency? If Community Memorial is threatened, how about the smaller hospitals throughout the county? Public enterprises should be operated as private enterprises only to maintain their efficiency and stability. They never should be operated to compete with private companies, which the county would be doing under this proposal. A needs-assessment study of our countywide health delivery system has not been completed, which leaves too many unanswered questions. Why would they keep it in Ventura, where the least number of people need it, rather than position it in a centralized location or in an area whose citizens rely on it more? Although the county would gain more in state monies in the short run, in the long run it will cost us much more in terms of jobs and other hospital closures.

Escoto: It is wise fiscal policy and good business sense to go ahead and build the Ambulatory Care Center using state and federal funding under SB 1732. This Ambulatory Care Center is desperately needed and will replace condemned facilities as well as consolidate clinics operating in leased space. The claim by Community Memorial that the county's ACC proposal would drive the county deeper into debt and ultimately be used to lure private patients from other hospitals lacks validity. Statistics show that the county clinics serve primarily the poor, the uninsured and Medical patients. I feel our communities can best be served by having two strong medical systems in place.

Long: Yes. The Ambulatory Care Center project contributes to a cost-effective health-care delivery system, which serves one-third of Ventura County's population lacking health-care benefits and which is not served by the private sector. The center will save at least $1 million annually by consolidating off-site lease costs. This will enhance the public-private partnership clinic model, which provides for the indigent care mandated by the state while lowering county contributions from $7.9 million to less than $5.5 million. Construction will be 50%-funded by state Medi-Cal, with local bond issuance funding the remainder. Local taxes will not be raised. Managed care with compassion is the model I support.

Morgan: The county of Ventura is mandated by the federal government to provide health care for the indigent. At the present time, the county leases several specialty outpatient clinics that provide health-care counseling and medical treatment. These leases cost the county an estimated and projected $1 million per year. The proposed outpatient specialty clinics at the Ventura County Medical Center would eliminate this financial burden. Additionally, the county has received a commitment from the federal government to pay 51% or greater of the construction costs. There may also be personnel cost savings from this consolidation of services. If the county were forced to contract indigent services with other hospitals, the price would eventually be more costly for the county.

Point Mugu Airport

Q. Do you support the development of a commercial airport at Point Mugu Navy base?

Campbell: With the ever-present threat of downsizing facing our military bases, the proposed closure of Camarillo State Hospital and the itinerant status of our university, there is no way we can automatically wipe a proposal of this economic stature off the table without a full investigation. Noise created by such a venture is my primary concern. If the noise problem can be solved, the project has potential. If it cannot, it must be opposed. In Fillmore, when an airport was proposed, the noise problem could not be solved, so I fought to stop it and it never was built.

Escoto: I have no doubt that commercial dual-use at the Point Mugu facility would be both technically feasible and economically beneficial to the county. I also feel strongly that the money available for that conversion would make existing operations safer and less intrusive. Dual use will make thousands of jobs safer in the next round of military cutbacks. However, the tremendous public concern for this project leads me to listen to the public's heart and not to the bureaucrats' numbers. I cannot support the airport's commercial dual use until public sentiment supports it. My constituencies' wishes will be heard, and supported, if I am to represent them as supervisor.

Long: I am opposed to joint military/civilian airfield use at Point Mugu. A commercial airport is not an acceptable remedy for Ventura County's economy. Mitigations for air traffic, noise and loss of agricultural lands either are not feasible or are based on assumptions. Start-up operations will cost at least $11 million, could eventually top $140 million, all on the premise of "if we build, they will come." The cost of convenience is too much to pay. The quality of life that we enjoy here in Ventura County is too precious to lose.

Morgan: A joint usage commercial airport at Point Mugu is not warranted for many reasons. Air quality and its continued degradation is of primary concern. Ventura County is a non-air-quality attainment area at the present time and significantly more emissions caused by increased jet aviation will only aggravate the situation. If the county of Ventura doesn't mitigate this problem sufficiently, the federal government could apply sanctions removing funding, such as highway funds from the county. Another problem involves noise caused by projected increases in jet traffic. Increased traffic will also have significant impacts on our roadways causing even further air-pollution problems. A regional airport will change the overall environment of Ventura County. Do we want this change and the effects it will have on the future of our children?

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