City Council: Lorrie Brown

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Emily van Deinse

INTERVIEWER: What is your background as a Venturan?

LORRIE BROWN: So I was born at Community Memorial Hospital in 1974 and my parents moved out here years ago. They’ve been here about 50 years and they met here.

My mother went to Ventura College and became a registered nurse. My dad was a Vietnam veteran and he came to the City of Ventura to marry my mother and then he worked for Union 76 for over 20 years. I grew up here, went to all the local schools: Portola, Anacapa, Buena, Ventura College. And then I later ended up at Cal Lutheran University where I got my postgraduate degree.

Which measure on the ballot are you most passionate about and why should students and their families support it?

BROWN: I say the… I can’t pick one because they’re all tied together. So when you’re talking about water, affordable housing, and the general plan, they all go together. Because the general plan has built in protections to protect and certain quality of life in the City of Ventura and also allows for affordable housing to be built through policy called Inclusionary Housing. But there are persons on the council currently who want to repeal that, who want to see that go away.

And so what I always say is, I seek to be a voice on the council for college students, for seniors on a fixed income, for young families, for anyone who would benefit from having affordable housing and be able to live affordably in the City of Ventura.

So two measures it seems Foothill families care about are Measure R and the Measure extending the SOAR initiative. Do you support either, both or neither of these measures?

BROWN: I’m not sure what Measure R is. […] I was ready to answer questions about local measures. And as far as SOAR goes, the County SOAR, I know my position on that. But the Measure R one, I’m assuming it’s the transportation one.

[Reporter finds and reads Measure R description]

BROWN: Yeah, that sounds good to me. I’m for the schools. Right now I sit on the, I’m one of the advocates for Ventura County Arts Council to promote arts in the schools, to fill in the gap where budget cuts have left classes cut and not enough teachers to teach extracurricular courses. I one hundred percent support any funding that will help bring some of that back for the schools so we don’t have to use consultants.

How do you plan to strengthen the partnership between the school district and the city and involve more students in local government?

BROWN: So I sit on the Ventura County Women’s Economic Roundtable. It’s an advisory board to the County Board of Supervisors. And what we have right now is called the Young Women’s Advisory Council and that Young Women’s Advisory Council advises our board on things that young women like yourself would like to see happen. We have a biannual conference and they give input from their perspective, from their cultural perspective, from their age group perspective.

And so, for me, whenever the City of Ventura has any convening, if you will… So at one time, the city had a homeless workshop and they convened all these organizations in the county who are really concerned about homelessness and how it affects them. There were City Council members there, there were politicians there, there were non-profits there and county agencies and some city agencies. And so what was missing was the youth component.

And so, what I would like to see is for anytime we have a convening, we have a community council meeting, we have a… any sort of gathering that requires input from the community, I would like to see at least one or two percent of the people of that group to be from the youth in the community.

What do you think is the most pressing issue facing our city today and how can it be addressed?

BROWN: Water is the biggest issue right now. That’s what’s on everyone’s mind. We’re in a drought. We’ve been in a drought for over five years. We have some very complex water issues going on in the City of Ventura.

So just to give you little background, so I work for the Ventura County Watershed Protection District and so I’m in a unique position to understand the water issues in the City of Ventura. Right now we have the Mound Basin which is water underground which services the water needs for the East Side of Ventura and then we have the Ventura River that services the water needs for the West Side.

At one time, Ventura’s East Side ran out of water and Ventura West Side was piping water over to our side and there’s some fiscal issues with that I won’t get into but we ended up getting into a lawsuit with Casitas which is the lake that feeds the river. They said we’re pumping too much water and then on the East Side they said, “Well why don’t we ask Oxnard?” and the Oxnard Basin allowed us to get water and then we were getting too much and they said “No more.” So now we’re in a situation where the drought may not let up in the next five years.

So the question is, the competing issue is, all these approved development projects that we have. Are we going to continue to move forward with them? Or are we going to respect our water resources and halt development? And so what the City of Ventura has done is they have something called “net zero” where it’s a policy where if our water situation gets to level five I believe, there is an automatic moratorium on development which means they’ll stop development which is good.

Where we’re at right now is we have to figure out where are we going to get more water now. Even if development stops and people stop moving to the city, which some people, they don’t want any more people to move to the city. What I tell people: the issue is not whether more people move to the city, it’s the fact that the people who live here are having children and generations of people don’t have places to live. And so, it’s about conservation and the city has a program about water conservation but, I don’t know you can stop me if I’m talking too long.

No, you’re good.

BROWN: But, so the other issue is paper water versus actual water. So we buy credits from the state. We’ve been doing this for years because we know we have droughts every 10 years and we’re trying to cover ourselves. But the state is saying that we don’t have that much water.

And so even if we try to cash in on those credits, the water may not actually be there. And even if it was there, we don’t have the infrastructure in place to get it. So it would have to be driven in on trucks which is extremely expensive and so we’re left to discuss “Do we create a desalination plant?” which is extremely expensive, “Do we wheel the water in?” which is extremely expensive.

So, the conclusion that everyone has come to is it’s going to be really expensive no matter what. Because currently what the City has done is raise the water rates. So it’s a discussion that has to be brought to the community and it;s something that we’re going to have to work through over the next five to ten years. There’s not going to be an easy solution to it either way.

Our City Council representatives should embody the values closest to our hearts because these values will guide their decisions in office. They should also act as leaders not only on Monday nights in City Hall but through term in their interactions with the community. What values do you embody and how do you act as a role model for the youth of Ventura?

BROWN: So, first I’d like to say I’m a mother so I have three boys that also went through the school system. They went to Montalvo, Citrus Glen, Anacapa, Buena. And my middle son, he’s the lance corporal for the United States Marines. I like to say I come from a family that serves because my family has always taught me and everyone in our family that service is important and so that shaped my career life.

My entire career has been dedicated to public service. I started working in redevelopment for our city as an intern project manager for economic development projects, Capital Development Projects. So basically it’s improving the appearance of small businesses for the effort of economic development. So the idea is that more people will shop if it looks nicer. The more people that shop, the more money that is spent, the more sales tax revenue the City gets. That’s the idea and then we bring in enough money and then you’re able to fund affordable housing projects. That’s the short of it.

In addition to that, I volunteer as a program coordinator for a young ladies mentorship, leadership and service learning program and so I’m no stranger to mentoring young women. When I ran in 2013, I garnered unprecedented support from the State all the way down to all of the organizations and I got 6,883 votes and got within 50 votes of unseating an incumbent of six years and I did that people people believed in me, because I believed in the issues the community believed in.

I used to say I have a heart for people and a mind for business. And I still do but that’s not what I’m saying this time around. This time I’m saying I’m committed to working for the City of Ventura as an educated and experienced woman of this community who… I have a graduate in bilingual studies and a postgraduate and master’s in public policy and administration. As it relates to youth, I also, when I worked, I worked at the Boys and Girls Club for several years as a learnings director here in Ventura off Johnson.

Of course with my boys, I raised my boys to be respectful of women. It was really important to me because I have all boys, I don’t have any girls, so that’s part of why I started the mentorship program for girls. It was my opportunity to have surrogate daughters. And just understanding that in all the capacities and all the leadership positions that I’ve held, including the one on the Women’s Economic Roundtable, I insisted that the young women be involved because we don’t have a future without our young women, and men.

I have my specific interests. It’s cliche and it’s said over and over and over again but our youth are our future and if we don’t take care to train and lead and create a place for our youth, then when we get to a certain age, then they’re not going to have the skill and ability that they need to have in order to move into those positions once they’re ready to move out.

Do you have anything else to add?

I can say that I want to help continue, I want to help Ventura to continue to move forward and… My mind’s going blank. End of the day, I’m exhausted. I want to help the City of Ventura to continue to work together to continue to move forward to enhance the best living in the City of Ventura. Outside of that, I think you were pretty thorough in your questions. I don’t know what else to say.

What do you think?