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Ventura County Perspective

Judy Lazar's Experience Is Irreplaceable

Thousand Oaks will miss her voice and her commitment on the City Council.

November 15, 1998|BEVERLY KELLEY | Beverly Kelley hosts KCLU's "Local Talk" on Monday nights at 7. She teaches in the communication arts department at Cal Lutheran University. Address e-mail to kelley@clunet.edu

In "Fahrenheit 451," futuristic firefighters have an ironic job description. In the bleak tomorrow proposed by Ray Bradbury, published documents of any sort are prohibited. Firefighters ferret out concealed contraband and subject musty tomes and tattered paperbacks alike to their rapacious flamethrowers.

Yet those who worship the written word find a way. They commit their best-loved volumes to memory. The so-called "book people," who can recite great literature on demand, are all that remains of human knowledge. Bradbury, like his audience, mourns their dwindling number.

As part of the fallout from this month's elections, Thousand Oaks forfeited one of its most valuable "book people," namely Councilwoman Judy Lazar. Despite her tenure of eight years on the council and five years on the Planning Commission, the voters handed Lazar her walking papers.

While term limits hold a certain appeal as a way to get back to those so-called "citizen representatives" initially envisioned by the framers of the Constitution, what a difference 222 years makes. Government, even at the municipal level, requires a level of expertise rarely achieved by today's harried and hurried elected officials.

The Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources campaign certainly made land use the top priority; however, can Thousand Oaks afford to seat a single-issue candidate? Council members must be knowledgeable about all sorts of mind-numbing minutiae, including the less-than-sexy issues surrounding sewers, water and trash.

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While land use may be critical to other corners of Ventura County, planning perplexities will hardly crowd future Thousand Oaks council dockets. If you don't believe waste management is critical to the fate of a city, allow me to call your attention to the yet unfinished business involving the unfortunate spill that closed 29 miles of beaches, damaged crops on the Oxnard Plain and promises to come in with a multimillion-dollar price tag.

Seasoned vet Lazar didn't just put in a couple of hours as the not-so-subdued "voice of reason" every Tuesday night; she showed up at the Triunfo Sanitation District and served as past chairwoman of the Ventura Regional Sanitation District, two positions that taught her how to talk trash.

As an alternate on the Local Agency Formation Commission (an organization soon to busy itself with those folks sore about SOAR), board member of the Air Pollution Control District and steering committee member of the Economic Development Collaborative, Lazar picked up enough smarts to provide her city with an informed if not wise counsel.

Warning: Trying to figure out Thousand Oaks election results may cause you to pull out your hair. While Thousand Oaks seemed to buck the national trend of favoring incumbents, the wisdom of the voters did not include throwing every bum out of elected office. Andy Fox, who spotted big trouble on the campaign horizon, pulled out all stops with respect to expending shoe leather and energizing his supporters. He was rewarded with second place at the polls.

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Had the voter turnout come in at the 62% figure projected by the county registrar rather than the abysmal 52.9% who actually voted, true believers on either side would not have wielded so much clout. With higher turnout, it is doubtful that any of the "clean sweepers" would have finished in the top three. Still, Dan Del Campo did best Lazar (by fewer than 300 votes), served well by the seeming synergy provided by those who bestowed a Conejo Valley Unified trusteeship on his wife, Mary Jo.

Will the new City Council configuration of Del Campo, Fox, Dennis Gillette, Mike Markey and Linda Parks reduce the contrapuntal caterwauling? Probably not. The council remains split, and both sides excel at playing "good contrarian, bad contrarian" to the government-channel cameras.

When "Fahrenheit 451's" leading lady asks a firefighter why he burns books, he contends it's because they make people unhappy. Books sometimes do make people unhappy.

Judy Lazar's critics requested she emulate retiring Councilwoman Elois Zeanah by stepping aside. Since Lazar adored the process of running a city more than she abhorred dealing with contentious colleagues, she ran again.

Let's hope that with the high degree of heat expended during this campaign, it's not the residents of Thousand Oaks who get burned.

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