Council approves ad hoc committee
to address public safety needs

March 13, 2015
Santa Paula News

Mayor John Procter and City Councilwoman Jenny Crosswhite will be serving on an ad hoc committee with citizens interested in finding solutions to public safety issues a move that led another council member to urge wider participation.

At the March 2 council meeting City Manager Jaime Fontes noted those citizens who supported Measure F — which sought voter approval on a 1 percent sales tax to benefit public safety and roads — “Remain interested,” in finding solutions to ongoing public safety issues working collaboratively with the city.

Fontes noted he and Procter had discussed such a collaboration with Citizens for a Safer Santa Paula, which had sponsored Measure F on the November ballot to raise about $1.6 annually to split between police (50 percent), fire and road work (25 percent each).

Limoneira Co. spent $25,000 on the Measure F campaign that although garnering 58 percent of the votes failed to reach the 67 percent needed to pass the specific initiative.

The measure was created after police resources dwindled by about 40 percent and a series of homicides struck the city. Starting in May 2013 there were 9 homicides in an 18-month period, including the murders of four women, one struck by a stray bullet after a mid-afternoon gang confrontation turned violent in the street outside her High Street home.

Over the previous nine years, from 2003 to 2012, there had been a total of 8 homicides, including an officer involved shooting.

In the wake of the killings, residents of the Oaks’ area of the city including Ronda McKaig spearheaded Citizens for a Safer Santa Paula.

Said McKaig, “We’re just so thrilled to have this item on the agenda at a time when the city is facing so many important issues,” but public safety must remain a priority. 

“I can’t wait,” she added, “to get started … ”

“I don’t have any problem with a sub-committee,” said Councilman Ginger Gherardi, “but I feel very strongly that your group,” should be active in goal setting workshops and budgeting process, rather than the council relying on the feedback of others on the panel that would serve the ad hoc committee.

“You have a group here that will not sit back and let others carry the water,” when an issue needs attention said McKaig, who noted there are many interested in public safety.

“If you don’t have a safe community you don’t have community health,” but Vice Mayor Martin Hernandez said improving public safety won’t be an overnight process or one that can be addressed to the detriment of other pressing issues or monetary allocations. 

Hernandez said he would like to serve on the committee but Gherardi noted Councilman Jim Tovias had been very active with the Measure F effort and she suggested he might wish to serve.

Although he would like to Tovias said he has other obligations and suggested Councilwoman Crosswhite and Procter serve, a motion seconded by Hernandez.

Crosswhite asked McKaig if there had been any discussion of inviting others.

“There are a lot of untapped resources in our community, we don’t want untapped resources,” but rather said McKaig have them become a part of the solution.

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