The Conejo Valley Unified School District has made local and statewide headlines lately for its contentious board of trustee meetings. On topics ranging from whether or not to include LGBTQ coursework in the curriculum to disallowing (or making it difficult to choose) controversial novels for discourse, the board seems to have caught the attention of residents who otherwise may not have bothered to wade into the inner workings of their local school system’s governance.

You may not be within the jurisdiction of the CVUSD — but you certainly live within the jurisdiction of your own school board, or sanitation district, or parks and recreation district, and the list goes on. On Nov. 6, your ballot will be personalized to your location and upon it will be a multitude of elected positions that control your day-to-day life, from your city council to garbage collection.

This guide is meant to shed some light on these oft unspoken-of ballot items, from what they are responsible for to what they do, and how long a term in said position is.

State Seats

U.S. Senate
Term: Six years

Senators who seemingly spend most of their time in Washington, D.C., can assist you on a more personal level in dealing with federal agencies through their various staffers. For instance: issues arising in dealing with Social Security, immigration status or veteran benefits can potentially be handled through your senator’s office. A senator can also assist in setting up tours of the White House, U.S. Capitol or House or Senate and can scribe letters recognizing achievements.

Ultimately, your senator may be your most powerful helping hand at the federal level.

U.S. House
Term: Two years

As if 2018’s spitfire political battles in Washington, D.C., weren’t enough evidence that the House of Representatives is where the magic happens, consider this: While representatives are battling it out on CSPAN, their offices are sorting through constituent requests ranging in matter from approving grants to checking up on immigration and citizenship applications. Your representative is much like your U.S. senator in that regard. Through his or her office, your representative is your local voice in Washington. On top of that, a representative writes bills and laws to be voted on and sits on House committees.

The state of California has 53 representatives in the House and, unlike the Senate, representatives are tuned in to their local communities. Most of Ventura County rests in the 26th Congressional District, with a small portion in the 25th.

Congresswoman Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks, procured $1.5 million for a Port of Hueneme infrastructure project in May and toured a local manufacturer in September.

California State Assembly
Term: Two years (up to six consecutive terms)

Assemblymembers are similar to U.S. representatives in that they are responsible for authoring laws, sitting on committees and other tasks. The main difference is that they deal solely with state-related matters and originate from certain districts. California Assembly districts 37 and 44 split Ventura County. Your elected assemblymembers can assist you in dealing with state-related matters such as handling Covered California issues, veterans services and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) matters.
Note: State senators will be up for election in 2020.

Judicial

Supreme Court of California
Term: 12 years

The Supreme Court of California has the final say-so in all legal matters within the state. Associate justices, who work within a particular county’s Superior Court, are elected to 12-year terms via a system of “retention,” meaning whether or not to retain the judge, who is initially appointed by the then-current California governor. From criminal to civil, judges hear it all, depending on the case, but the California Supreme Court’s decisions are binding over all lower state courts. Superior Court judges can occasionally face opponents at the times of their “retention” elections.

This year, two Justices are up for retention votes: Justice Carol Corrigan, who was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, and Justice Leondra Kruger, who was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014.

Court Of Appeal
Term: 12 years

Should either party involved in a legal battle choose, either can file an appeal after a Superior Court judge has made a ruling, which then would be considered by the California Courts of Appeal. The appellate courts consist of six districts, and Ventura County falls into the second. The same system of retention vote occurs here – with the incumbent facing no opponent but rather a vote to retain the judge or not. Judges are appointed by the governor.

City

City Council
Term: Varies by city.

Depending on which city within the county you reside in, your city council can look very different from your neighbor’s. That’s because the councils all fall under various stipulations for their makeup. Check your local city clerk’s website for more information.

A city council has more effect on your personal life than would a state representative in that a councilmember votes on matters related to specifics of the city. The council considers contracts for public works projects, adopts ordinances regarding everything from homelessness to fireworks, and can hear grievances and act on your behalf to handle matters at the city level, such as home additions or complaints.

Starting this year, district-based elections have come to Ventura and Oxnard after threat of a lawsuit forced the council’s hand. Several candidate forums have been (and will be) hosted this month and in the coming weeks. Check your particular ballot and local calendar for more information.

Schools

County Board of Education
Term: Four years

The County Board of Education provides educational support to county school districts. The five-member board, with three seats up for election in 2018, works alongside the county superintendent of schools to adopt an annual budget, conduct appeals on student expulsions and more.

Community College District
Term: Four years

The five-member VCCCD Board handles matters related to Ventura College, Oxnard College and Moorpark College. The District handles matters relating to all manner of policies relating to the colleges, and the chancellor is responsible for seeing that policies approved by the board are carried out. View decisions of the trustees at www.vcccd.edu/board-of-trustees/resolutions.

At a candidate forum held in September, candidates discussed campus safety in the wake of high-profile shootings and becoming more involved with the communities surrounding the three campuses.

Elementary and High School Districts
Term: Four years

The various school districts throughout the county handle matters associated with kindergarten through 12th grade. Districts handle the ins and outs of schools within their jurisdiction, from counseling to lunch services. Members of the governing board are elected and approve budgets, amend and create policies, and assist parents and students with questions and concerns.

Unified School District
Term: Four years

In spite of what the Board of Trustees of the Conejo Valley Unified School District may have taught you, board members are responsible for far more than banning books and infighting. Governing boards hear from the community regarding various issues, approve instructional material and handle district employee matters.

In May, the Ojai Unified School District voted to move its sixth-grade students to Matilija Junior High School, where they will join seventh- and eighth-grade students in an effort to better manage the requirements of Common Core curriculum.

Special Districts

Advisory Council District
Term: Four years

Municipal Advisory Councils, of which there are four (Oak Park, Somis, Santa Rosa Valley and Casa Conejo), advise on planning, public works, health and safety, and welfare matters for their particular areas of unincorporated Ventura County. These councils report to the County Planning Director and Board of Supervisors. The particular county supervisor or planning director for the district in which the council resides has oversight of these councils. These councils oversee permits for oversized vehicles, zoning and more.

For instance, in August, the Ojai Valley Municipal Advisory Council reviewed a development permit for a proposed restaurant and retail business in Meiners Oaks.

Community Services District
Terms: vary

These districts handle various tasks such as garbage collection, sanitation and water distribution, as well as street maintenance and repair. Each districts has a five-member board of directors, elected at large from residents within the community. The Camarillo Health Care District maintains community health and wellness programs. A board of directors manages budgeting and programming for the district.

The Channel Islands Beach Community Services District, one of several with board members up for election this year, is responsible for having approved so-called “smart” water meters to be installed this fall.

Drainage District
Term: Four years

Oxnard’s Drainage District is the oldest special district in the county, with two districts formed in 1918 and 1926. Districts 1 and 2 both have three-member governing boards. Both districts’ purpose is to maintain drainage systems for use in Oxnard’s agricultural fields and to conduct service reviews to assure that systems are in operating order.

Library District
Term: Four years

It’s in the name with the Library District. The Board of Trustees enacts policy relating to the Blanchard Community Library District in Santa Paula.

Recreation and Park District
Term: Four years

The boards of directors for the various park districts throughout the county handle maintenance, programs and events in public parks and community properties such as pools, historic sites such as McCrea Ranch, and performing arts centers. They also issue permits for special uses, such as filming or park reservations.

The Conejo Valley Parks and Recreation Department’s $7.5 million project, Thousand Oaks’ Sapwi Trails Park, officially opened in September. It, along with five other so-called community parks, is just one project that the District is responsible for. Similarly, the Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District and the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District reviews and spearheads such projects.

Sanitary District
Term: Four years

Again, the name says it all. Sanitary District Board of Directors makes policy regarding wastewater collection, sewage treatment and green initiatives such as composting and water quality.

The Triunfo Sanitation District, serving more than 30,000 (Oak Park, Lake Sherwood, Bell Canyon, and the Westlake and North Ranch  portions  of  Thousand Oaks); raised sewer rates for its customers by 2.5 percent this year. Triunfo Sanitation District is an independently elected and governed board that contracts with the Ventura Regional Sanitation District for its operations and administrative services .

Ventura County Regional Sanitation District and consists of a five-member board, three of whom are up for election this year as they contend with Regional over higher fees, which could lead to yet another rate increase.

Oxnard Harbor District
Term: Four years

Operations at the Port of Hueneme are controlled by the Harbor District, which is run by a five-member Board of Harbor Commissioners. The commissioners set policy for the district, apply for grants and hear communications from area residents.

Oxnard Harbor District recently acquired a $3 million grant for use toward zero-emission and green energy projects at the Port of Hueneme.

Fillmore-Piru Memorial District
Term: Four years

This district commemorates veterans living in the Fillmore-Piru area and maintains the Veterans Memorial Building in Fillmore.

Water Districts
Term: Four years

Turn on the faucet in your home and you’ll have your particular water district to thank for its functional operation. From source to sink, the various boards tasked with maintaining the county’s water supplies have a tough job in an increasingly dry environment. From environmental protections to conservation, the district is required by law to carry out natural resource management programs, not limited to water, contrary to the name. Districts can advise landowners on the best use of natural resources and lead projects on creek restoration, fish passages and fire prevention education.

The United Water Conservation District recently lost in court when a federal court judge ruled that the District failed to protect endangered steelhead trout in the Santa Clara River, violating the Endangered Species Act. The Wishtoyo Foundation filed the lawsuit on the matter in 2016. United was given until 2020 to work with the National Marine Fisheries Service in designing and constructing a replacement for its current fish ladder at the Vern Freeman Dam. Three District board seats are up for election this year, for Divisions 1, 2 and 3. The District also organizes efforts to battle the invasive quagga mussel and manages the Lake Piru Recreation Area.

To learn more about your various elected officials, visit the Ventura County Clerk for a sample ballot and information on who’s up for election at https://recorder.countyofventura.org/.