Stabbings on sale

May 20, 2010

They should never have closed the Ventura Police Department annex at the Pacific View Mall.

It’s still vacant after having shut down for over a year now … no replacement vendors, nothing. That was well before the failure of Measure A, the ambitious sales tax increase, 40 percent of which would have boosted our public safety services.

Would having the police annex do anything to curb crime at the mall? I certainly think so. Take the stabbing which occurred yesterday at the mall.

From what we’ve heard, two young men were accosted by three other young men at the mall, a fight ensued, and mall security were summoned to break up the fracas, already unnerving to shoppers and visitors.

But that wasn’t enough. After getting kicked out of the mall, another fight broke out, and one of the two original victims was stabbed. It was only then that the police were called. Arrests were made, yes, and suspects are in custody with some damn serious charges against them (attempted murder, street terrorism, etc.).

But had the cops been there to begin with, it’s likely the stabbing wouldn’t have happened, in my opinion, because arrests may already have been made. The suspects were gang members and could have had existing warrants. Or just the sheer intimidation of the law would have cut off any scuffle right there.

Instead, the mall, which I always thought was pretty safe, earns a shady reputation.

The argument isn’t really over the hypothetical “what-ifs” of the situation had the police been there first or not. It’s *why* the police weren’t there to begin with. I say it’s because of trust.

Yes, we’re still feeling the fallout of rejecting Measure A because we didn’t trust our elected officials to pump money into public safety funding through a sales tax increase. It’s a very familiar feeling that doesn’t go away: this week, we got news on the closure of a fire station, also from a lack of public safety funding.

It makes me wonder where else fights will break out … the frozen foods aisle of the grocery store?

It’s only primary election season, so we don’t have any important tax increase ballots this time around, with a public safety option, in Ventura. Still, it’s worth remembering this stuff for June 8, and in future elections:

Know the *real* details of ballot measures and proposed legislature in your city … and give elected representatives a second chance to fund critical services. How many stabbings or shootings do we need to realize that?

The mall might be a great place to go to fund stuff on sale, but aggravated assault isn’t one of them, no matter how deep the discount — or the knife wound. I’d pay an extra sales tax for that.

Last year’s presidential election set a precedent for change in these harsh economic times. People demanded some major changes from the status quo when voting in Obama, the polar opposite of GW.

In the year since, it seems like nothing that arrives on ballots is a small or insignificant item; in 2009, the standard is to enact big-time change.

It’s none so more evident than in Ventura, where we’ll be faced with voting on three ballot measures that could forever alter the city forever.

City officials have asked voters to approve a half-percent sales tax called Measure A to supplement and add to their budget weakened by the economy and state cuts.

Measure B, a citizen-driven initiative, looks to impose a 26-foot height limit on buildings across the entire city.

And Measure C, the “big box ballot,” looks to prohibit superstores by limiting the amount of square footage a retailer can expand to.

Here are what some proponents and opponents have said so far, summed up:

-Measure A is good because the city needs funding for services like public safety. Without the revenue, they could be cut further or deleted altogether.

-Measure A is bad because it gives people less incentive to spend. People are spending less in this economy anyway.

-Measure B is good because it preserves ocean views and halts rampant development that makes every building in town a skyscraper.

-Measure B is bad because it prevents growth.

-Measure C is good because it stops larger corporate retailers from coming in and squashing smaller stores. Plus, it curbs traffic and crime.

-Measure C is bad because it prevents growth (and a free retail market).

Without taking an official stance yet, my take is that the measures are intertwined … and any combination of pass/fail could yield different, permanent results.

If people are less compelled to spend with higher sales taxes, businesses could, in effect, be discouraged from coming here. They could be discouraged further if they’re prohibited from building to certain heights or expanding to certain lengths. Profitable retailers may forever rule out the Ventura coast as a viable location.

However, in regards to measures C & A, a series of big box retailers could crop up around town and put out of business other smaller stores, producing a boycott reaction from people who are once again less compelled to spend because their favorite stores have fallen by the wayside.

It’s double-edged, in a way and there’s little in between. Ventura could easily become the new Los Angeles, or the town resistant to anything remotely metropolitan and urban.

Whether or not these results are good or bad are in the eyes of the voting public.

We need to find that balance, though any combo of votes on measures A, B or C will have effects that, once in place, can change the face of this town forever … fiscally and culturally.

The thing is to just get out and vote … and vote wisely.