2005-07-01 / Front Page

Assemblywoman Strickland addresses local concerns, issues

by Sylvie Belmond belmond@theacorn.com

by Sylvie Belmondbelmond@theacorn.com

Assemblymember Audra Strickland (R-Moorpark) supports the governor’s budget proposals and reforms, but she is frustrated by the partisan gridlock currently stalling progress on matters that affect Californians greatly, she said at an informal morning coffee talk event in Moorpark last week.

Strickland recently hosted several coffee talks within her district to hear her constituents’ concerns with state issues.

“Some of the reforms that I think would be critical to help Moorpark and Ventura County out sometimes get pushed aside,” she said. However, a reform can’t take place without consensus, which is not easy to attain since the district Strickland serves is a minority vote.

Budget and schools

Fifty billion dollars go to education every year, but no one truly rns, issues

knows where the money is going,

said Strickland. Education is very

important to her but there are

problems that need to be ad

dressed.

More money is going to

schools but less is going to the

classrooms, said Strickland’s

Communications Director John

Hrabe in a later interview. Only

60 percent of the state funds are

used for instructional spending

and Strickland wants to change

that.

The problem is at the state

level because of the bureaucracy

and funds are set aside for non

educational purposes, Hrabe said.

“It’s frustrating because teachers

are not provided with the needed

materials.”

Teachers make all the differ

ence in the classroom, but it’s

also clear that California chil

dren are not leaving high school

able to compete in the global

market.

“Although everyone says we

need more money for schools, it’s not going to fix everything,” said Strickland. “Teachers’ unions and administrators need to be accountable and until we can tell where the money is going, we can’t take action.”

But these words were not reassuring to some Moorpark residents who attended the informal gathering. Beth Grasel, a PTA member, and Lou Langkusch, incoming PTA president, expressed their concerns about the governor’s budget. This year’s $7.1 billion increase for schools doesn’t amount to a factual net gain because it doesn’t take inflation and increased enrollment into consideration, they said.

Moorpark Police Captain Richard Diaz, whose wife and daughter are both teachers, was concerned about the governor’s view on teacher tenure and competency. “Where did they get that teachers are incompetent?” he asked. “There are parents out there who shouldn’t be parents and some kids don’t get the support at home.”

Strickland responded that there are 300,000 teachers in the K-through-12 system and there is a problem with the system in some areas, albeit not in Ventura County.

Although he didn’t attend the event, Larry Brown, assistant superintendent of business services for the Moorpark Unified School District, said in a later interview that Moorpark schools know where the money is going at the local level. Districts are required to balance their budgets on time while the state is always late balancing its own books. Most of the money goes to teachers here, he said.

Moreover, the governor is pretending he didn’t make a commitment to educators. Now he is promoting initiatives to eliminate the State Teachers’ Retirement System, which would shift the responsibility to local districts, said Brown. The governor also wants to dismantle Prop. 98, which guarantees minimal school funding.

California pays more to teachers than in any other state to cover the cost of living, said Scott Mosher, director of the Moorpark Boys & Girls Club and chairman of the board for the Moorpark Chamber of Commerce, who also attended Strickland’s event. It will be a challenge for voters to interpret all the pre-election information about the budget reforms, he said.

But Strickland said she understands the dilemma and she’s working to help find solutions. Speaker of the Assembly, Fabian Núñez, appointed her to serve on the Little Hoover Commission, a bipartisan, independent state body that promotes efficiency and effectiveness in state programs.

Supports North Park

As she sat at a breakfast table

with several Moorpark residents,

Strickland, who lives near

Moorpark College, said she sup

ports the North Park Village and

Nature Preserve project even

though the development will have

a direct impact on traffic in her

neighborhood.

“California is in desperate

need of additional housing and

North Park will help the property

values in Moorpark,” she said.

But several issues still need to be

worked out to make sure the de

veloper and the city do as much

as they can to mitigate some of

the problems generated by such a

big development.

“I think that there are many ad

vantages and obviously some dis

advantages in the short term,” she

said, agreeing the added traffic

and affects of the construction

trucks are a serious concern for

her neighborhood.

Redistricting

Stickland supports the idea to have judges recreate the assembly district boundaries. “The way the lines are drawn now are basically created by politicians and I don’t think that’s fair. Voters should decide,” she said.

Voters feel more motivated when they know they can make a difference and Strickland said that’s what politics are all about. The redistricting would provide fair representation and fair districts that are a bit more competitive.

The 23 Freeway

Scott Mosher expressed con

cerns that plans to expand the 23

Freeway may be dismissed as the

California Transportation Com

mission prioritizes its list of work

to be completed in the coming

years. “It’s important for us as a

community to advocate that our

freeway stays on the top of the

list.”

This is a major issue that will

have an impact on residents and

businesses, Mosher said. He

asked Strickland to ensure that the

local matters are represented at

the state level so competing inter

ests in other communities don’t

take precedence over the 23 Freeway improvements.

Strickland agreed and indicated she would continue to fight for the 23 Freeway project. Work should begin in spring 2006, according to the plan.

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