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Ventura County Perspective | LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Adding Our Voice to the Chorus

On this editorial page we offer our views, and welcome yours, on issues facing Ventura County, which we all call home.

June 29, 1997|BILL OVEREND | Bill Overend is editor of the Ventura County Edition of The Times

This is a special place for many of us, a little corner of Southern California that hasn't been gobbled up by the world's mad race. It's a place of beaches and mountains and rivers. And very little traffic and very little crime. Most of all, it's a place where most of us can still believe there is yet no problem so big that it can't be solved.

But Ventura County has changed with every year, and it will continue to change in the years ahead. As that change comes, the questions center on how to save the best of what we have already and how to plan most effectively for the county's future. How to make things a little better instead of a little worse.

And that comes down to setting an agenda for ourselves.

Since The Times launched its Ventura County Edition in 1990, we have tried to help set that agenda on a dozen different fronts. We have looked critically in our news columns at subjects ranging from the secret financial perks our county's leaders once lavished on themselves to such ill-advised schemes as a major gambling casino for Oxnard.

Now we have added a dimension we have always wanted--this editorial page, where The Times can speak out on the issues of the day and add our voice to the chorus. But it won't be just our voice. There will be your voices, too. The more the merrier.

What can you expect from us?

Well, the first thing is that the major concerns for you are essentially the same for us. Just like you, we have picked Ventura County as our home, the place to raise our children, to build our lives, to smell the roses, walk the dogs and watch the sun go down.

So that means we care about upgrading the quality of our schools and cultural institutions. We care about keeping our crime rates low and the local economy strong. We care about preserving the environment in this green and lovely county. And we care about maintaining a proper balance in all these things as we face the challenges of growth in the years ahead.

The only problem is that none of that is easy.

In the first place, all these apple pie quality-of-life issues have a nasty way of colliding with each other once politics enters the mix. Keeping the county safe from criminals, for example, has left us with a county budget controlled by law enforcement interests--with library programs and any number of other worthy options usually running a distant second on local priority lists.

And, second, this place that is so special for many of us isn't very special at all for some residents. Along with the mountains and the rivers, there are deep pockets of poverty and streets almost as dangerous as any in the nation's toughest cities. Our beaches? The sad fact is that many of us wouldn't dream of strolling them at night. Our problems? From the bottom rungs of the ladder, they still look enormous.

We remain a county that lacks a four-year Cal State campus, a county whose two economically crucial military bases seem increasingly threatened by the national base-closure movement, a county trying to hold on to its farmland heritage while flirting with one big development proposal after another.

Like every other community in this country, too many of our children are being lost to drugs and violence. There is still too much intolerance. And too many politicians still think the best way to cut a deal is in a back room someplace where nobody can see.

Our task on this page in the coming weeks and months will be to take our stands and, to paraphrase the role of the free press as articulated by H. L. Mencken, to try to comfort the afflicted and, at times, afflict the comfortable.

And to do so in a reasonable tone of voice that tells you we value your opinion just as much as we hope you value ours.

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