Southern Comfort

The automobile was given the backseat in Ventura County’s future as supervisors voted unanimously to forge a transportation future relying on buses, trains, and bicycles. Although few specifics were outlined — especially where cash was concerned — the Ventura declaration was simultaneously welcome and frustrating to Santa Barbara alt-transportation advocates. Just a few months ago, Ventura County officials made it plain they had no interest in sharing the costs for a commuter rail link between the two counties, and without Ventura’s active participation, commuter rail in southern Santa Barbara is all but dead.

The Ventura City Council effectively put plans to locate a Wal-Mart store on Victoria Avenue in downtown Ventura on ice for at least another year, and probably forever. The council voted to delay any action on the proposed Wal-Mart — or any other “big box” outlets — until the neighborhood could undergo the rigors of a comprehensive community plan. Only if Wal-Mart were compatible with the resulting plan would it be considered.

Ventura County Judge Charles McGrath petitioned Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant clemency to convicted killer Michael Morales, given the death penalty by McGrath 24 years ago. Morales’s conviction, argued McGrath, was based on the testimony of a jailhouse informant who testified that Morales described to him — in Spanish — exactly how he planned to rape and kill his victim. McGrath made his clemency plea upon learning recently that Morales — a fourth-generation American — speaks no Spanish.

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