Goals & Accomplishments
Maintain the Long-Term Financial Health of County Government
The Board of Supervisors has stabilized the County budget, and Ventura County does not face the large unfunded pension problems of many other government agencies. During the recent years of increased tax receipts, County government has built reserves rather than spending this money on new programs. Nevertheless, County government will be faced with financial challenges as the State confronts its own budget deficits, the real estate market and economy cool, and the County’s growing population requires more services. The Board has succeeded in resolving the long-standing conflict over public safety funding and has not granted the high retirement benefits that other public agencies have. Supervisor Bennett has rolled-back “perks” paid to newly-elected officials.
Prevent Urban Sprawl
Supervisor Bennett is upholding and strengthening protection for farmland and open space through the County General Plan and Zoning Ordinance, SOAR Ordinances, and Greenbelt Agreements.
Campaign Finance Reform
Supervisor Bennett continues to improve the law he co-authored that limits campaign contributions and decreases the role of big-money contributors.
Combat Climate Change
Supervisor Bennett is working to make County government a leader in the fight against global warming. He has had the County and Air Pollution Control District develop Climate Change Action Plans, and led efforts to convert county fleet vehicles to hybrids, reduce SUVs, install solar electric systems on County Buildings, make new County buildings highly energy-efficient, and encourage green building in private construction. Supervisor Bennett introduced the idea of Countywide Climate Change Action Awards to be awarded Earth Day. In addition, Supervisor Bennett participates in and supports efforts of the Ojai Valley Green Coalition and VCCool.
Protect Mobilehome Rent Control
The 22 mobilehome parks under County jurisdiction provide affordable housing to over 2,000 residents. Supervisor Bennett is leading efforts to protect rent control at the local and state level, including testifying before the State legislature and introducing several measures before the Board of Supervisors.
Restoration and Conservation of the Ventura River Watershed
With a 240 square mile area, the Ventura River Watershed is the sole source of water for its 80,000 inhabitants, thousands of acres of agriculture, and many endangered species.
The County of Ventura, The Ventura County Watershed Protection District (WPD), multiple local government agencies, local nonprofits, and state and federal agencies are all working in concert on a wide range of projects to restore natural ecosystems, maintain independence of imported water, serve water users, increase recreational opportunities, protect homes and businesses from flooding, and conserve the unique and valuable habitat of the river.
Current County projects include:
- Removal of Matilija Dam- Authorized by Congress, this joint County WPD – Army Corps of Engineers project is currently in the design stage.
- Removal of fish passage barriers- The County replaced three fair weather road crossings with bridges.
- Removal of invasive plants- The County WPD has eradicated invasive plants along Matilija Creek and the Ventura River from the headwaters of Matilija Canyon to Highway 150, and along the upper reaches of San Antonio Creek, with ongoing re-treatment efforts continuing. Removal of these invaders restores natural ecosystems, reduces fire and flood risks, and conserves water.
- Watershed planning- The County WPD has produced detailed computer watershed models, groundwater monitoring & modeling, and other analyses that will form the basis of water conservation, supply, and management efforts.
- Flood prevention- Following the flooding of over 40 homes in Casitas Springs by Fresno Creek in 2005, the WPD is in the process of building a new flood water diversion channel. The WPD is planning & design phase of the improvement of levees that were decertified by FEMA in the City of Ventura and Ojai Valley.
- Trail construction- The County WPD constructed a new trailhead and the County’s first inland wheelchair accessible trail on Old Baldwin Road.
Disaster Preparedness in the Ojai Valley
Residents of the Ojai Valley have identified Disaster Preparedness as a top priority. Supervisor Bennett will continue to support and help coordinate CERT training in the Ojai Valley. Since Spring 2008, his staff has been working with interested communities to assist them in the development of neighborhood disaster preparation plans.
Prevention of Homelessness
Supervisor Bennett has been an active participant in the prevention of homelessness. His staff participated on the 10-Year Strategy Working Group and in the Annual Homeless Count. Supervisor Bennett also has a representative on the Ventura Social Services Task Force. Steve will continue to advocate for the prevention of homeless, including continued support for the Ventura Homeless Prevention Fund.
Affordable Housing for Emancipated Foster Youth
Supervisor Bennett is committed to working with his Board colleagues and community partners to increase the number of affordable rental units for emancipated youth, particularly in the west county where the need is most prevalent.
Increase the Number of Foster Homes
Supervisor Bennett believes that increasing the number of Foster Homes in the county is the best way to meet the needs of youths who don’t have the benefit of loving, caring family environments. Supervisor Bennett is working with community leaders to organize outreach efforts through community and faith-based organizations to enlist the participation of families in this vital program. We have a particular need for foster families in West Ventura. If you are interested in more information about becoming a foster parent, please contact Supervisor Bennett’s office.
Foster Respite Care
After talking with foster parents and completing Foster Parent Training himself, Steve became aware that foster parents need support. Steve also knew that there were a lot of people he met that wanted to help foster children, but weren’t in a position to commit to becoming foster parents themselves. Steve initiated a program where community members provide foster respite care to foster families. Respite care providers are people who, when they have time, help foster parents care for their foster children while the parents go to medical appointments or take those necessary mental health breaks from the rigors of daily child care. When this program started there were only 2 people providing respite care in the Ventura County. Right now there are more than 50 and the number is growing. If you’d like more information about this program, please contact Supervisor Bennett’s office.
- Implemented EMT and Advanced Life Support on County Fire Engines with no increase in cost.
- Assisted communities of Oak View, Mira Monte and Casitas Springs in purchase and formation of
Oak View Park and Family Resource Center.
- New energy conservation policies regarding County Buildings, hybrid vehicles, and reduction of SUVs.
- Introduced measures to have both County Government and the Air Pollution Control District adopt Climate Change Action Plans.
- Assisted many Ojai Valley mobile home owners obtain State-funded coach rehabilitation.
- Introduced measures to stabilize and protect mobilehome park rent control, including adoption of an ordinance regulating mobilehome park subdivision.
- Conducted a series of Ojai Valley Wide Discussions involving over 300 people and leading to improved communications, enhanced emergency response, and programs to increase sustainability.
- Together with Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, was able to preserve valuable open space from being developed as Farmont Golf Course.
- Obtained funding for new bridge over Old Creek Road.
- When requested by HELP of Ojai, Supervisor Bennett assisted HELP to find a site to expand their programming at the old Honor Farm Jail, enabling HELP to accommodate the expected doubling
of the senior population over the next 10 years.
- Led the lobbying efforts in Washington D.C. that have moved the Matilija Dam removal project to the first phase of deconstruction.
- Passage of the Water Resources Development Act in which Congress authorizes funding the Matilija Dam removal project.
- Established a mutually agreeable funding formula with County public safety agencies that allows their budgets to increase when revenues are available, but limits spending when tax revenues decline. Years of litigation over funding have been put to rest.
- Secured County funding for development of housing for former foster youth.
- Assisted the Oak View Park and Resource Center secure a $50,000 Congressional Grant for the rehabilitation of the kitchen and multipurpose room.
- Assisted the Oak View Park and Resource Center to bring a Boys & Girls Club to the site,
serving elementary school youth.
- Worked with the Ventura Social Services Task Force in the development of the Ventura Homeless
Prevention Fund to help families and individuals who need one time assistance maintain their housing.
- Coordinated CERT training in the Ojai Valley for approximately 500 individuals.
- Assisted City Corps of the Central Coast with the temporary use of County Surplus building for temporary headquarters.
- Built and opened the County’s first dog park at Soule Park.