Benjamin Franklin has been quoted as saying, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” While true, he might more have accurately said, “Nothing is certain but death, taxes and election season.”

From the presidency to city councils to school boards, election seasons are as predictable, and often as tumultuous, as the snowstorms of the winter season and the blazing uncomfortable heat of summer. While many may opt out of the democratic process, staying away from the public meetings and polling places, for those who are disgruntled over the way government is doing things, participation is a must. And so, election season has begun for six prominent and coveted positions in Ventura County — three seats on the Ventura City Council for the November election and three seats on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors for the June 2012 primary.

What’s — or who’s — next for the city of Ventura?
While the 2009 City Council race was quite the spectacle — four incumbents plus 12 additional candidates — the 2011 race is turning out to be much calmer and collected in comparison.

Former mayors of Ventura and current Council members Christy Weir and Carl Morehouse have announced their re-election bids, but the city’s current mayor, Bill Fulton, announced Wednesday that he will not be running for re-election, citing a wish to focus more on his work as an urban planner and his debilitating eyesight due to do a hereditary condition.

“I will not be running for re-election,” Fulton said. He went on, saying “In general, I feel good about what I have accomplished, mostly things that are important to me.”

Fulton noted the recent creation of community partnerships for projects that the city couldn’t afford to do on its own, including ArtWalk, which will be presented by local artists later this month. “We have to work together to get everything done,” he said.

He continued, saying he was proud that high-tech development and the incubator have made tremendous progress — something that wasn’t fathomable a few years ago. But he did admit to some tough times.

“Though downtown infill development hasn’t materialized because of the economy, and the city has had to do some cutbacks with the budget, we have been very fiscally responsible in our budget cuts,” he said. “The challenge for the city is to restore those services.”

While there were many heated debates about the parking meters, with both businesses and customers early on, he said the meters have accomplished what they were intended to do: manage parking and even traffic. Fulton said the issue with the meters now lies more on political ideology, a Tea Party agenda, that the meters are taking away our freedom. At this point, only two Downtown business owners appear at City Council meetings to protest the meters, he said.

As for his service on the council, he has a fond appreciation of Ventura and its residents.

“Nobody is indispensable [on the council], but I do love this town more than ever. I am in awe of what this city can do. I get a little frustrated with the polarizing in political debates over certain things. [But] the July 4 street fair had an amazing turnout and our community is resilient,” Fulton said. “Everybody loves living here, and I love being on the council and being the mayor. It’s the greatest job in the world.”

With two incumbents up for re-election and one other seat that must be filled, the race could get interesting. Familiar faces for the November race include muckraker Brian Lee Rencher, Tea Party-backed candidate William Knox and former 32-year Ventura County Sheriff deputy Kenneth Cozzens — all of whom failed to win seats on the council in prior elections. Newcomers include Cheryl Heitmann, known for her civil service work across the county, including serving on the Ventura County Community College District Board, and her current position as executive director of the Ventura Music Festival, and Ed Alamillo, a Service Employees International Union member and employee of the county’s environmental health department.

“I am really looking forward to this. I am very committed to running for City Council and I really think it is important to have new people, new voices on the Council,” Heitmann said. “This will be a great opportunity for that to happen.”
The number of candidates could change in the near future as the nomination period begins July 18 and would ordinarily end Aug. 12, but because Fulton will not be running, the deadline will be extended to Aug. 18.

Incumbents galore for the Board of Supervisors
On the county level, thus far, the 2012 Supervisor race seems to be rather docile compared to last year, when incumbent Linda Parks, supervisor of District 2, ran against former Assemblymember Audra Strickland. Moderate Republican Parks kept her seat with 61 percent of the vote while conservative Republican Strickland received only 38.5 percent despite Strickland’s smear campaign against her opponent. Incumbents Steve Bennett (District 1), Kathy Long (District 3) and John Zaragoza (District 5) announced their re-election bids recently. (The nomination period begins in February 2012 and goes until March 9, but candidates and incumbents must file campaign finance forms before they can begin raising any money. The incumbents’ re-election bids are tied to filing the form.)

Bennett’s District 1 includes upper Ojai, Ventura and portions of Oxnard. Bennett is seeking a fourth term and is known for his work in preventing urban sprawl and protecting open space and farmland, combating climate change and advocating for the homeless. He also authored the county’s campaign finance law.

Long’s District 3 includes Camarillo, the Santa Clara River Valley (Fillmore/Piru), Port Hueneme and southeast Oxnard. She is seeking a fifth term and her accomplishments include the demolition of the Halaco buildings and restoration at Ormond Beach, various transportation projects as well as housing at California State University, Channel Islands.

Zaragoza, whose District 5 covers much of the outlying communities of Oxnard as well as a large portion of Oxnard itself, is seeking a second term. Zaragoza is known for his work on the El Rio sewer project, public transportation and as chairman of the Air Pollution Control Board. He is best known for unseating eight-term supervisor John Flynn.    

michael@vcreporter.com