New Ventura Officials Eager to Learn

Times Staff Writer

They may not come armed with political experience, but the two newcomers to the Ventura City Council bring a wealth of community involvement and an eagerness to tackle tough issues in the year ahead.

City voters reelected Carl Morehouse and installed rookies Bill Fulton and Christy Weir to the seven-member council Tuesday.

Fulton, 48, a nationally recognized urban planner and author well-versed in California politics, has never before been elected to public office. But he has served on civic commissions and was involved in the campaign last year to stop hillside development.

Weir, 50, a freelance writer, recently led the drive to raise money to buy the Grant Park cross, which the city sold in September to avoid a lawsuit over separation of church and state. She has also served on the Midtown Community Council.

The new members will be sworn in Dec. 1., replacing Mayor Ray Di Guilio and Councilman Jim Friedman, who both decided not to seek reelection.

As Fulton and Weir prepare to assume office, they are promising to work hard to get up to speed on critical issues facing the city while also learning about their new roles. The first issue they are expected to tackle will be hiring a new city manager. The council is then scheduled to begin revamping the city's Comprehensive Plan, a state-mandated blueprint for development. And repercussions of the state budget crisis are not far behind.

On Wednesday, Weir, still reeling from her dark-horse victory, said she was eager to get started. Among her chief issues is moving forward with the redevelopment of downtown Ventura. "Also, I am very interested in moving the cultural arts center forward -- not necessarily throwing lots of money at it, but just as a priority to give [the arts foundation] guidance," she said.

Fulton said that one of his top priorities will be formulating an economic development plan to boost revenue at a time of rising city costs. He also hopes to foster a collegial relationship among council members.

"From my point of view, I flooded this campaign with ideas about how to do things," Fulton said. "Now it is time to determine which are urgent. I think we know what the issues are, it is just a matter of organizing the council so that we can prioritize and get things done."

Weir also expressed a desire to bridge disparate views on the council to efficiently deal with the challenges ahead."We have a lot of issues that divide us, and it's easy to kind of get hung up on, 'I think this and I think that,' and pulling on each other, which makes a stalemate," she said before the election.

On Wednesday, Weir said she was surprised by her finish in the race. She had no endorsements, no campaign manager and very little money in contributions compared with other candidates. While Fulton raised nearly $31,000 and Morehouse raised nearly $22,000, Weir pulled in a little more than $10,000.

She attributed her win to a grass-roots campaign as well as her simultaneous effort to raise $104,000 to buy the Grant Park cross, which allowed voters to see organizational skills.

Weir will become the 12th woman to serve on the council, and hopes to inspire others to seek public office. "I would love to motivate other women to run," she said. "It's not as scary as they make it out to be."

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