Most Americans would agree the last eight years under the Bush Administration have been a disaster. Two wars, dramatically increased debt, ballooning government size and cataclysmic economic events have strained our country’s resources and tarnished our reputation in the world.

We have also seen an insidious rise in the influence big corporations have on the way our government conducts its business. For example, a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute was allowed to rewrite and soften federal reports on global warming. A scandal alleging the exchange of gifts, sexual favors and illegal drug use between Interior Department employees responsible for collecting oil lease royalties, and oil company workers hit the news in September.

Legislation designed to better police the lending industry, whose greed is at the root of the financial upheaval, has been continually watered down at the urging of the financial services industry. Now we are rewarding this excess with taxpayer-funded bailouts.

A culture of lobbying and outside influences has invaded local politics as well:

• The Republican-controlled Ventura County Board of Education has a $396,000 contract with two outside lobbying firms who have both donated money to Tony Strickland. These lobbyists have produced little more than additional bills for local taxpayers and a possible partnership with one of their own clients, a private Christian college in Indiana, which could help build the college a new $8.5 million building but do little for Ventura County students.

• The Ventura County Republican Central Committee accepted a $50,000 donation from Altria, parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris, on behalf of Strickland’s State Senate campaign. Strickland’s past votes have favored tobacco companies.

• Strickland’s campaign is heavily financed by outside influences including insurance, oil, alcohol, tobacco, gambling and banking. As an assembly member he consistently voted in favor of these interests and against bills to protect the health of our citizens and the environment and to regulate predatory lenders.

• Individual donations to Strickland’s campaign show something remarkable: 66 percent have come from individuals who live elsewhere in California or outside the state. In the case of his opponent, Hannah-Beth Jackson, 62 percent come from individuals who live in the Senate district.

• Assemblywoman Audra Strickland’s campaign contributions show a similar pattern of outside interests with almost no donors from inside the district

It is time for voters to reject this culture of lobbying and corporate greed, which pays politicians to do its bidding. The Ventura County Democratic Central Committee urges voters to cast their ballots for candidates Hannah-Beth Jackson for State Senate District 19, Fran Pavley for the 23rd Senate District, Ferial Masry for the 37th Assembly District, Carole Lutness for the 38th Assembly District, Marta Jorgensen for U.S. Congress and Mark Lisagor and Ramon Flores for the Ventura County Board of Education.

Joseph O’Neill, Chair, Ventura County Democratic Central Committee


The Gay Diaspora
I am truly saddened that we are once again facing the issue of gay marriage.  My issues against Prop. 8 go further than the surface of discrimination, as my family has been directly impacted by discrimination against gays in this country.

Heterosexual citizens have the right to marry foreign partners and bring them legally into the country and seek citizenship. Homosexual citizens don’t have that right; they must either choose another citizen as a partner or leave the country in order to be with their foreign partners. I know this issue intimately because I have several heterosexual friends who have married their foreign partners, who have been able to gain U.S. citizenship. My sister and her partner, who are homosexual are not allowed the same rights. The people who claim to be protecting families are not doing anything to protect mine; instead, they’ve torn it apart. After exhausting all visa options, my sister and her partner realized they would have to leave the country. How do you say goodbye to family members forever? With shaking tears, with having to pull your daughters from the sides of their aunts, that is how. How is that protecting the family? 

There is denial on both ends. The ones who left try to buck it up to loved ones back home and talk about the adventure of living abroad, adapting to a new culture and new way of life. For the family left behind, there is always the lingering hope that something will happen that will allow them to come back; it always floats around the phone call or in-between the lines of the e-mail. It’s part of being loved and being part of a family. I know from talking with my sister that there is a distinct sense that life has just gone on without her, and she is not really part of this world anymore. It’s unsettling for both sides but we have to accept it.

Both of my parents are in good health, and have visited my sister in South Africa once. She comes home once a year for about two weeks. I can’t imagine what would happen if one of my parents were to fall ill, and she had to make a decision to return or stay. I can’t imagine that she will not be at my daughter’s eighth grade graduation this year, or that she will miss another softball and soccer season, or Christmas again or just grabbing a cup of coffee.

So as you go to the polls, consider the rights of all families to be family, and vote No on 8!

Karrie Keyes, Ventura


Holden speaks about Oxnard issues
What does Central Park in New York, the FBI’s InfraGard program, the SouthBay Expressway in San Diego and Oxnard’s Downtown development have in common?

They are all examples of the tremendous success of public-private partnerships. When government marries private industry in carefully established and managed partnerships, the results for the public are as diverse as better parks, better crime-fighting, betters roads and better shopping and entertainment options.

More than five years ago when the City of Oxnard entered into a public-private partnership to revitalize the downtown area, there were skeptics. It is easy to see why. This was a new way of doing business. No city in Ventura County had gone out on a limb like this before.

Now the downtown area is filled with residents shopping, enjoying restaurants and movies.

The city is enjoying financial rewards as well. The gross domestic product of Oxnard is 2.5 percent higher than the GDP of Ventura County since we began the public-private partnership in downtown. In addition, the amount Oxnard invested in the project was relatively small — $1.2 million. By comparison, the city of Ventura spent about $11 million for a theater project.

There are many good reasons for public-private partnerships. The first is financial. While the vital signs in Oxnard’s financial health are good, the same cannot be said for the state of California. The amount of money returned to the city from Sacramento has been reduced drastically.

Yet, residents have a right to expect quality services for their hard-earned tax dollars. In many cases, these partnerships place some of the financial burden on the private side so the city can save its dollars for basic services.

Some private companies are willing to pay the upfront costs for providing these services. They are willing to make capital investments so that taxpayers do not have to.

In most American cities, roughly 23 of 65 vital city services are provided by some form of public-private partnerships.

Throughout the country, well-managed public-private partnerships have been utilized to benefit the citizens. Oxnard has set up such programs and they are working out well for our city.

Tom Holden, Mayor, City of Oxnard


Sneaky supervisors, Measure T
Measure T would be acceptable if it were not for the sneakiness of the supervisors. Two four-year terms would be preferable. But three four-year terms would be acceptable. However, what the devious supervisors have done is to give themselves a time-out of four years after being in office for 12 years, then they can return for another 12 years.

Measure T should be defeated and, hopefully, an honest term limits initiative will someday appear on the ballot.

In the meantime, shame on the shifty supervisors.

Robert S. Kennedy Jr.. Camarillo


Futility of the traffic initiative
I wish this initiative did do something to solve traffic in our city. The problem is simple.  It does not. And the problems it will cause are not simple.

The supporters of Measure V state that this is a grass-roots effort, and they are being countered by a well-financed effort to defeat it.

The fact that the initiative was created by people with no planning experience,  unfortunately, is the problem. The funding of an effort to defeat the initiative is due to the fact that so much potential for harm exists. 

The requirement of improving all intersections within a five-mile radius of a project is an impossible request. The cost and risk of placing projects on the ballot would be too high.  Therefore, we have brought the city to a halt. I realize that some people might think that is just fine, except for the following:

1. Traffic will, in fact, grow worse due to exemptions and accepted limited growth with no funds for future traffic improvements.

2. Small businesses will not be able to expand, and large businesses with needs greater than 10,000 square feet will relocate, and associated jobs will be lost.

3.  The areas of the city that need to be redeveloped will be left neglected and remain as eyesores.

These are a few of the reasons that a countereffort had to be made on this measure.

I hope all can see that NO on V is how we must vote.

Donna Stiles, Oxnard


McCain’s bloodthirsty campaign
As a former Ronald Reagan conservative Republican that has evolved into a liberal Democrat, I have a perspective that needs to be shared. 

There is no truth, to the myth that Republican fiscal policies are better for the economy than Democrats. Compare the last eight years of the Bush administration to the eight years of the Clinton administration. Clinton left us with a budget surplus, and Bush is leaving us with a record deficit. The current financial crisis is surely bipartisan, but many Republican ideas such as paying for our wars with tax cuts for the wealthy are obvious Republican failures.

Using fraudulent evidence, Republicans led us into the Iraq war that will cost us trillions of dollars, has killed over 4,000 of our soldiers, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, weakened our alliances abroad and devastated our international standing.

And there is little or no difference between McCain and Bush policies. McCain has already reversed his few “Maverick” policies for the sake of Republican Party unity.

McCain is arrogant and has violent tendencies. During our inglorious Vietnam War, he repeatedly volunteered to drop bombs in Southeast Asia, and he has admitted to cheating on his first wife. I found his singing “Bomb Iran” to the Beach

Boys’ tune Barbara Ann chilling, and it was fitting for him to chant “Fight! Fight! Fight!” as the finale of his Republican convention speech.

Former senator Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican, said this about McCain: “His temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him.”(Washington Post 4/20/08)

Hopefully, Obama will wage peace throughout the world with a return to the primacy of diplomacy and lead us away from failed fiscal policies and partisan bickering.

As a Republican, I was stuck on the philosophy of the survival of the fittest. But over the years, I have evolved to believe that everyone should have a chance to survive.

John McNally, Ventura


Measure V is “no growth”
I said “No Growth,” not slow growth. The people who are terrified that someone may actually own a business or earn a living in Ventura County are at it again with this radical measure.

Earlier this year, the same people approved a quadrupling of the traffic mitigation fees on projects in Oxnard. Now they don’t even want to collect that money that pays for road improvements because Measure V would prohibit the projects that pay those fees.

It makes no sense. Putting even modest projects up to a public vote will make it next to impossible for businesses to survive in Oxnard. These projects include older, developed properties that want to rebuild with no new square footage and already-approved projects that are in the plan check or permits phase.

There are even some projects just finishing construction where the final phases will be caught in Measure V and require a public vote. How ridiculous is that? Hate entrepreneurs? Hate business owners who provide jobs? Hate opportunity?

Then Measure V is for you. As for the level-headed, logical majority in Oxnard, I am confident they will vote “NO” on Measure V.

Jim Slaught, Oxnard


Palin’s fruit fly tomfoolery
When Sarah Palin gave a policy speech on Friday supporting more research for childhood disabilities like autism, she mocked the very research that may lead to cures for autism and birth defect disorders:

“Sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.”

Scientists at the University of North Carolina have shown that a protein called neurexin is required for nerve cell connections to form and function correctly. The discovery, made in Drosophila fruit flies, may lead to advances in understanding autism.

Palin compounds her ignorance with her pretence at being knowledgeable (“I kid you not”). In making such a fool of herself, she is merely expressing the profound knownothingness at the heart of her religious fundamentalism.

This is a really morally dangerous place to come from because those who make a mockery of science also make a mockery of the truth.

Clive Leeman, Ojai


The rich spend less with high taxes
Several months ago, there were two reasons for me to cut back on my spending. The first was listening to presidential candidates offer ideas of what they would do for the people who live in the United States. Their ideas would need funding, and I knew that would lead to higher taxes or higher prices. The easiest way for any level of government to get increased funds is to raise taxes.

If high-income people are selected for those higher taxes, many people will go along with the plan that doesn’t increase their own taxes, and there are fewer high-income people who will protest.

Those higher-income people often own businesses and will pass along the cost to their customers. They also donate more and spend more than the rest of us. If more of their money goes to taxes, less goes for donations and spending, leading to less money for charitable organizations and higher unemployment. If people have less money to invest in other businesses, that will lead those businesses to also make cutbacks. The prospect of higher taxes or prices led to trimming my budget. The second reason was minimum wage hikes. Of course, those hikes led to hikes for all the folks who already made more than minimum wage. To fund it, the businesses had to increase prices. People who were in starter jobs where they could prove their productivity and value to the owner were then paid an artificial amount set by the government rather than what their work was worth. As prices rose, I bought less.

As you prepare to vote, please think about the ramifications of your choices. Things aren’t as simple as, “I’ll do great things for you” from a politician. I’ll be watching the election results to see whether or not I’ll be making more cuts in my spending.

Barbara Kronewitter, Ventura