INTERVIEWER: So tell me about your background as a Venturan, a Ventura city citizen.
MICHAEL GRAVES: I’ve traveled around a lot. I went to school in Camarillo, Camarillo High – go scorpions! – then after high school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I took a year off, which ended up being a couple of years off. I did some traveling and ended up in Sacamento. Since then I’ve lived in Sacramento, San Fransisco, I lived in Berkeley for a while, I’m from San Diego initially, but something just kept drawing me back to Ventura.
There’s something really awesome about this place. I’ve been back since 2009 predominantly working with… when I initially came back, doing security work and whatnot. Then I decided I wanted to do something a little more creative so I started working with Tandy Leather, locally here in Ventura. They’ve since moved to Oxnard. And for the past four years I’ve been working with adults with disabilities.
Very cool. Tell me about the measure on the ballot you’re most passionate about, and why.
GRAVES: Well, there are a number… Locally, with Measure O, I’m definitely against Measure O. Working with adults with disabilities, knowing a lot of individuals with low and fixed incomes, I just know personally that Measure O, the proposed tax increase, would adversely affect a lot of individuals who are on fixed incomes. Someone’s got to stand up for them, you know?
One one hand, we’re having the city say that we need more money for more services and yet during the past three years, from what I’ve read, we’ve had a 20 percent increase in our income and we have plenty of money in our reserve.
The city’s income?
GRAVES: Yeah. The reserve is at its minimum but I think there are better ways we could be spending our money as well so I don’t think it needs to be creating a tax that would adversely affect the poor.
Aside from that, on the 8th, Prop 64 is very important to me. Working, again, with a lot of adults with disabilities and having a lot of friends who were in Iraq and have come back with anywhere from PTSD to severe injuries who use medical cannabis and it’s really beneficial for them.
Unfortunately, here in Ventura we have a ban on medical cannabis storefronts, which just blows my mind. If you look up and down Thompson and Main Street there are plenty of places where you can get a happy ending and not a single place where a patient can get the medication that they need. It’s absolutely confounding.
It seems like a lot of Foothill families are invested, one way or another, in Measure R and the SOAR initiative. What are your stances on these two initiatives?
GRAVES: Well with SOAR, I’m definitely backing SOAR myself. Measure F, which is competing with SOAR, seems to have a number of loopholes which give a lot of power to large landowners and rich developers who want to find a loophole to go ahead and develop on the farmland. And here in Ventura, we do a lot of farming. I don’t see how we’re ever going to outgrow farming, so I’m definitely backing the SOAR initiative.
And Measure R is the parcel tax that would go to fund education. Do you have any strong feelings on that?
GRAVES: I still need to do a little more research on that, to be honest with you. But I’m a big proponent of investing in the youth.
How do you plan, as a City Council member, to strengthen the partnership between the school district and the City of Ventura to work on projects together?
GRAVES: Strengthen the partnership between the City of Ventura and the school districts… You know, I haven’t thought of anything in particular. A lot of my focus with my campaign has been mostly hinged on helping the disadvantaged, helping the homeless, helping adults with disabilities, and helping a lot of individuals who are often overlooked. But I’d love to do, obviously, more research into how to better partner the city with the school districts so that we can meet everyone’s needs. But again, I’ve got to do a little more research on that, I’ll be honest with you.
Yeah. So you’ve already covered it a little bit, but I’m going to ask anyways. What do you think is the most pressing issue affecting our city right now and what is your plan to fix it?
GRAVES: Well, one of the biggest things affecting our city, as well as all of California, is water. I think we need to go ahead with innovative ways to conserve water, reuse water. I think we’re not doing enough recycling of water. I think there are lots of innovations we can use when it comes to water, along with development to really fight the shortage we’re having.
One thing I’d love to see is with any new development – this may seem minimal but it’s really a great idea – any public development where they have restrooms, they should have waterless urinals. A single waterless urinal saves I think 145,000 gallons of water in a single year, and that’s just one. Now imagine that multiplied with any new development in the public restrooms, for any new businesses.
Imagine if we gave rebates to anyone who switched from their current water urinals to waterless. We’d be saving tons of water. Very little things done by many people create a huge difference. So just little things like that can make a huge difference, along with recycling and all that.
So you’re proposing incentives for people to switch?
GRAVES: Oh definitely. It pays for itself in the long run, and we have no idea how long this drought is going to be. We want to invest in our city’s future, in the future of our water. And I would definitely propose incentives for doing things that are green and smart.
We like to think of our city council members and people who represent our city as being leaders not only in politics but socially and morally. What are the core values that you embody and how do those lead you in your work? Well, I like to think I’m not someone who goes along to get along. If I have a conviction about something, I go with it regardless of whether it’s particularly popular. So integrity is a big one for me. I have integrity regardless of whether it’s popular or not. I just say what I believe.
Furthermore, I think that working with adults with disabilities has really opened my eyes to lots of disadvantages that certain people in our community face. I want to be sure that our City Council bridges that gap between what needs to get fixed, and what needs to be done for these individuals, and what’s currently being done.
One such thing is infrastructure repair. I know one individual, who is a friend of mine, who is blind. He is constantly bemoaning how the sidewalks are just cracked up where he lives, lots of uneven places, which for you and me don’t sound like much, but for people who can’t see it’s a huge deal. And we’ll go and we’ll talk to the developers, the same individuals who have helped us actually put in a lot of talking lights, they’ve been a decent help about this. But you know, things are slow, there are other priorities, and personally I’d like to see some of those priorities align with adults with disabilities.
Is there anything else I didn’t ask that you feel is important to your platform or your campaign?
GRAVES: Nothing in particular. Again, an important part of my campaign is rolling back the current bans we have on medical dispensaries here in Ventura. Like I said, I do believe it is a moral issue, I know a lot of individuals who use medical cannabis.
My grandfather, for example, has prostate cancer, and he’s been dealing with that for about four years now. Unfortunately, it’s not something he’ll be able to overcome, but one of the silver linings of it is, for a while he was wasting a way and just wasn’t looking good, and with the introduction of medical cannabis through edibles he’s been able to gain weight and he’s actually going to be able to live with my uncle and live the rest of his life there. And that’s really made me happy. So I think any patient of Ventura deserves that kind of quality of life and happiness.