Group Urges Funding for Park, Library

Several dozen Ventura residents have formed a group to try to convince the City Council that $8 million set aside to pay for a convention center should be used for park and library improvements instead.

The Voters Coalition for Parks and Libraries plans to lobby council members in coming months in an effort to persuade them that a majority of Ventura residents would prefer to dedicate the money to fixing up the E.P. Foster Library and building a regional park in the east end of the city.

"Without a doubt, this is an issue we believe the unorganized majority supports, but that the council has refused to acknowledge due to the actions of a special-interest group," said group spokesman Steve Bennett, a former Ventura councilman.

Bennett, when he was on the council last year, made a motion to designate the money to park and library improvements, but the motion was shot down 5 to 2. He believes a small interest group--those in and around the Ventura County Fairgrounds, the proposed site of the convention center--continues to hold sway on the matter.

To demonstrate that the group's opinions represent the majority of Ventura residents, the 60 or so core members plan to spread the word in the community, and to ask residents to personally lobby council members to re-designate the money in the coming capital improvement budget.

Mayor Jim Friedman said he would listen to opinions from the group. He has already expressed support for an east-end park and for using $1.5 million of the $8 million in the fund to renovate the library, he said.

"The City Council welcomes any and all ideas on how this money should be spent," he said. "This council does listen to the wishes of the community."

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