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What does this empty room remind you of? You guessed it, a Ventura polling center.

During the primaries last June, I walked into Ventura’s downtown polling place on Santa Clara Street expecting the line of dedicated, vocal Americans to be stretched out the door and around the block.

What I got was something resembling more an Old West ghost town. What was that? The faint sounds of Ennio Morricone? Was that a tumbleweed that just went by?

I could hear my voice echo as I asked the polling volunteer, “Are you open?” It was late morning, the prime of the day, and I thought they had already closed.

Not so. Either everyone showed up early to vote, or nobody cared.

I like to think it was for the former reason, but every indication I get seems to point to the latter.

I’ve attended a lot of forums this season: city council candidate forums, school board candidate forums, ballot measure bickering session forums, Q&A forums. It’s part and parcel of this job to understand what’s up for vote this election, and to know, like the back of one’s hand, the ins and outs of each important issue and the people behind them.

Yet I’ve lamented at the lack of interest — and the abundance of apathy — especially from the younger (read: under 50) crowd, at any one of these important election events.

There was a statistic I recall enumerating that about 60-70% of people in any given American town don’t know the name of their own mayor.

I believe it, especially after all the news coverage we’ve afforded to everything this election season, that people still don’t understand that Measures A, B, C are more than just the first three letters of the alphabet.

Measure C, for example, won’t stop only a Wal-Mart from setting foot in the City of Ventura. (It won’t stop a Wal-Mart at all, actually.) But after some scrupulous news hounding on behalf of us at the Reporter, and vigorous campaigns from both ends of the ballot issue, you’ll still find a hearty amount of misinformed residents who don’t know Measure C from Measure Z from a hole in the ground.

And it’s not enough to close your eyes and vote for the first candidate or two your finger lands on. Each of the 15 people running for our city council stands on different issues with wildly different opinions, policies and personalities. Get to know them all … they’re all unique in more ways than you may think.

The Reporter endorses Measures A and E, and opposes Measures B and C. We also support electing Neal Andrews, Brian Brennan and Mike Tracy for City Council, and Mary Haffner and Velma Lomax for school board. Plus, we like the idea of enacting a temporary parcel fee to help out Oxnard schools.

Check out all of our election coverage at http://www.vcreporter.com … and get out there and vote on Tuesday!

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I would never personally drink this stuff ... but go buy it in Thousand Oaks, and prepare to encounter a warning first.

It must either be a slow news day, or people care about drinking alcohol just a bit too much in these here parts of Ventura County.

Daily paper coverage of new regulations in Thousand Oaks, requiring liquor vendors to post signs in their establishments warning of the dangers of alcohol-energy drinks, has amassed the most reader comments than any other story today.

And that’s about on par with another story of a murder indictment.

I’m not a fan of those hybrid alcoholic energy drinks — think Monster or Red Bull with a 9-percent alc/vol — but walk into a Thousand Oaks liquor store from now on, and you’ll find signs warning that the drinks, apparently from the unique combo of alcohol with heart-amping energetics, are not only impairing, but in bold, INCREASE YOUR RISKS OF INJURY.

It’s all good, right? So then why are some people so irate? Says one reader:

Just another form of Nanny Government. Last time I checked the City had a major deficit and the economy is in the toilet so why are they even discussing this issue when they have zero authority over it. This is nothing more then the council pushing its moral beliefs onto others. What a waste of taxpayers money.

Unless you may think signage is an infringement of your personal rights, I don’t really see how it’s any more harmful than suffering the impairment and injury local authorities are looking to prevent by warning consumers.

Hell, it’s not like the T.O. brass is prohibiting alcohol altogether.

It’s like any other warning, on a pack of cigarettes, for example, or Yield signs on the road … you don’t have to stop your car into oncoming traffic, but if you heed the warning, you just might be better off.

This reader posted their ideas with a bit more consideration to the dangers of alcohol:

I can’t believe it, there was an article on drunk driving and every one was for hanging the guys, the city passes a law to help keep them off the streets, I don’t see how anybody can be against that, the signs do not infringe on anyone they just inform. I have attended to many funerals of drunk driver victims.

And like the root of the word, to inform is to relay information, which never killed anybody before. But drinking and driving has, all too often on Ventura County’s roads. And there’s no doubt there’ll be a lot of it happening on Halloween this weekend, once again.

Here’s hoping for a safe holiday, and that people will learn to read before they drink.

With all the talk of the need for affordable housing in the City of Ventura, we sometimes seem to overlook other local cities, and no other city is focusing on that need than Fillmore.

Fillmore has had a rough year, coping with the exodus of several city officials — some of them under fire for questionable acts — and now, a dispute over rent control and senior citizens rights in Fillmore’s low-income, mobile home tenant community.

This is the basis of what Measure F proposes for Nov. 3: a mobile home exclusive zone,  rent control for mobile home tenants, and easier conversion of mobile home rentals to ownerships.

And with all the talk of Measures A, B, C and E, it’s become like Alphabet City around here … with the exception of F.

Since our paper doesn’t predominantly cover Fillmore, this blog provides a good opportunity to endorse Measure F.

Like allegations that seniors in Ventura had been treated unfairly by code enforcement rules, the heart of Measure F is really all about senior citizens. Whether working or retired, many don’t have a lot of money; renting a mobile home in their twilight years is often all they can afford. Where can they turn to if landlords keep jacking up their rents?

Some people on online message boards posited that many seniors can move in with family. But why should they if one is still capable of independence at an old age? Greed has displaced one too many low-income people one too many times. It’s harder when someone is over 65 and not upwardly mobile any longer.

Measure F would establish better rent controls in Fillmore, specifically, at the El Dorado Estates, for those who qualify.

One reason why it’s called the Fair Rent and Home Ownership Initiative is because Measure F also looks to adopt better, easier standards for renters looking to purchase their mobile homes. Stabilize rent for those who do, and allow better ease of purchasing that same rented home.

Within all this, Measure F’s focus on mobile home exclusivity is another, third factor: to change Fillmore’s zoning laws so certain areas in town are zoned specifically for mobile homes.

It’s one of the most important parts of Measure F because it ensures that mobile homes aren’t squeezed in wherever there’s a random parcel available.

Let’s hope Measure F passes so we can see similar initiatives across Ventura County in the future.

Last year’s presidential election set a precedent for change in these harsh economic times. People demanded some major changes from the status quo when voting in Obama, the polar opposite of GW.

In the year since, it seems like nothing that arrives on ballots is a small or insignificant item; in 2009, the standard is to enact big-time change.

It’s none so more evident than in Ventura, where we’ll be faced with voting on three ballot measures that could forever alter the city forever.

City officials have asked voters to approve a half-percent sales tax called Measure A to supplement and add to their budget weakened by the economy and state cuts.

Measure B, a citizen-driven initiative, looks to impose a 26-foot height limit on buildings across the entire city.

And Measure C, the “big box ballot,” looks to prohibit superstores by limiting the amount of square footage a retailer can expand to.

Here are what some proponents and opponents have said so far, summed up:

-Measure A is good because the city needs funding for services like public safety. Without the revenue, they could be cut further or deleted altogether.

-Measure A is bad because it gives people less incentive to spend. People are spending less in this economy anyway.

-Measure B is good because it preserves ocean views and halts rampant development that makes every building in town a skyscraper.

-Measure B is bad because it prevents growth.

-Measure C is good because it stops larger corporate retailers from coming in and squashing smaller stores. Plus, it curbs traffic and crime.

-Measure C is bad because it prevents growth (and a free retail market).

Without taking an official stance yet, my take is that the measures are intertwined … and any combination of pass/fail could yield different, permanent results.

If people are less compelled to spend with higher sales taxes, businesses could, in effect, be discouraged from coming here. They could be discouraged further if they’re prohibited from building to certain heights or expanding to certain lengths. Profitable retailers may forever rule out the Ventura coast as a viable location.

However, in regards to measures C & A, a series of big box retailers could crop up around town and put out of business other smaller stores, producing a boycott reaction from people who are once again less compelled to spend because their favorite stores have fallen by the wayside.

It’s double-edged, in a way and there’s little in between. Ventura could easily become the new Los Angeles, or the town resistant to anything remotely metropolitan and urban.

Whether or not these results are good or bad are in the eyes of the voting public.

We need to find that balance, though any combo of votes on measures A, B or C will have effects that, once in place, can change the face of this town forever … fiscally and culturally.

The thing is to just get out and vote … and vote wisely.

Or did they ever exist to begin with?

Aside from myself, some student camera people, and one or two stragglers, there didn’t seem to be a single person under the age of 50 at last night’s candidates forum at Ventura College.

The forum, hosted by the local branch of the League of Women Voters, was a question-and-answer panel between all 15 candidates for the Ventura City Council: 4 incumbents and 11 challengers.

It was well attended in the campus’ sizable Guthrie Hall, by the most dedicated, passionate members of our middle aged and senior citizen communities. Women sitting on either side of me were keeping what looked like scorecards on each candidate, scribbling down answers and notations, while exchanging some important, election-themed, whispered banter between themselves, listening intently to each word, each campaign promise, spoken by the 15-member panel.

Maybe evening classes were in session. Or maybe there was some party or downtown bar to be at. Whatever was the priority at hand, there were no young people at this forum to voice their opinion on how they want their city to be led.

It’s another bad sign that this is a terribly apathetic town. It’s a shame; for all of the issues facing Ventura this year, caring community involvement is what we need now.

We’ve faced millions of dollars in cuts leaving our city’s budget in the hole. The crime rate is not going down. Our homeless problem: it’s unacceptable to have so many people living on the streets.

Not to mention the fact that we have choice in so many matters because we’re allowed to vote, not just for four of 15 candidates, but for three ballot measures that will determine how much we pay in sales tax, how high our buildings can be built, and how large some corporate retailers can expand to.

There are voter registration tables set up at many of these forums for the younger residents who may not have done so. And there’s plenty of opportunity; the LWV is holding two more forums next week (Oct. 13 & 15) at the same location on campus.

Heck, at least stand in the back of the room and pretend like you care.

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It’s confirmed. The Wagon Wheel motel/restaurant/bowling alley that was a Ventura County institution for 50 years, will be torn down, according to a superior court judge’s ruling today.

Those who have lived in and around the Oxnard area may remember the Wagon Wheel as a little slice of pure Americana, a novelty throwback to the pioneer Old West, and “the last stop along Route 66,” during a period when simpler times prevailed.

Still others have viewed it as a major eyesore — run down, falling apart, somehow stuck in a time warp while the rest of the freeway’s structures around it grow, expand, and build up anew.

Simply put, the Wagon Wheel has become another good example of one man’s treasure being another man’s junk.

At what point do we decide to put in the effort to preserving something, or make way for something newer?

We can answer that question with another question: Might the Wagon Wheel’s newer, shinier replacement someday become historic itself?

Developers want to spend about $100 million to erect an Italian-styled commercial/residential complex, combining office space with luxury apartments and condos. Conservationists wanted to spend about 10 percent of that cost to rehab the Wagon Wheel to its Fifties heyday, with intentions to make use of the roadside property to hold events like farmers markets and car shows.

A better question might be: Is this all a matter of profit vs. preservation?

Regardless of the cost, there comes a time when we must move on in life. There’s a difference between appreciating the past for what it was, and simply being stuck in the past.

No amount of spit and polish will immortalize the Wagon Wheel before it starts showing signs of decay again. It’s like spending countless dollars to restore and fix an old car, only for it to break down again, when buying a new car is simply more economical in the long run.

On the other hand, like the Working Artists Ventura project under construction in the city’s downtown, providing a new, work/live space for people actually adds to the local economy.

The real preservation of antique places like the Wagon Wheel, demolished or not, depends on our collective appreciation, not the actual structure. Because, like they say, nothing ever really dies if someone is there to remember it.