The presidential campaigns have been brutal for the average citizen. No matter what TV station you watch, which newspaper you read or radio station you listen to, there is no way to avoid the negativity being broadcast in every way imaginable. The consequence of this vitriol may be a lack of interest in politics in general, which boils all the way down to local politics.

While it may seem that who we choose as our next president is the most important political decision we can make, people may overlook the importance of who will be their next councilmember or mayor, or what measures can help the flailing schools their children attend that are being hit hard by California’s budget deficit. Though the president may hold power when it comes to long-term and overarching laws, regulations and international affairs, local power is substantial in our way of life.

In Ventura County, voters may be a bit overwhelmed by what’s on the ballot. From council seats to parcel tax, supervisors to term limits, one might elect not to vote on any of it. But a collective understanding of how this election can change business as usual should get voters engaged in the process.

In the arena of higher education, the Ventura County Community College District has two seats on the ballot. In primary education, more than a dozen school district boards have seats on the ballot throughout the county. As Sacramento legislators hedge their bets on a statewide initiative to raise taxes to fund education, local officials are looking to area residents to help with the shortfall or to make up for sweeping budget cuts over the last several years. There are five measures that would increase property taxes to benefit school districts, including Ocean View School District, Ventura Unified School District, Oxnard School District, Somis Union School District and Hueneme Elementary School District.

As far as the go-to people with city and county concerns, the November election has an onslaught of people running for seats in almost every position. The Ventura County Board of Supervisors has one seat on the ballot, affecting West County. (Supervisor Kathy Long went unchallenged this year.) In Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks (see News, page 6), there are incumbents and challengers campaigning for seats for mayor, city council, city clerk and city treasurer, which varies depending on the city.  Candidates are also fighting for state legislature and congressional seats.

If that isn’t enough, there are 11 statewide initiatives, which include tax increases to benefit education, a ban on corporate and union monies for campaigns, ending the death penalty, repealing of the “three strikes” law, and labeling genetically modified/engineered foods.

Understandably, defaulting to one election — for president — is obviously easier, but when it comes to life right here in Ventura County, it would be better to choose knowledge over ignorance. Now is the time to look at what we like and don’t like about the way things are done at our schools and in our cities. Now is the time to decide on what our overarching principles are, and do some research on making the right choices with our votes. Come Nov. 7 and thereafter, we have no one to blame but ourselves if the choice is not to vote at all.

The VCReporter has published and will continue to publish election-related stories until Oct. 23, when we will release our endorsements. While it will be impossible for us to cover every election and ballot measure, we hope the information we offer will help provide guidance to utilize our most valuable right as citizens — the right to vote.