Wednesday, July 2, 2008

We’ll Always Have Poli Sci 101

I’ve never been one for local politics. I majored in political science at UCLA when Kissinger was Secretary of State. It was one of his books that got me hooked on international relations. Since then, I’ve become more interested in national politics, especially the last 8 years. But local somehow just didn’t have the same panache.

Oak Park is unincorporated. I’d always thought of us as kind of like flour than hasn’t been mixed well into the batter. But it refers to government, not baking. It means we’re not part of any municipality. We’re governed by Ventura County.

We do have a Municipal Advisory Council. Residents elect five members who serve as representatives of the community, advising Supervisor Linda Parks, our go-to person, who is elected to the County Board of Supervisors from District 2.

For years I saw signs announcing MAC meetings. Last week I went to my first one because I needed to start at the very beginning. Since we don’t have a home owners association in our development, MAC was my political center.

What went on in these get-togethers? Was it like a CSPAN broadcast from the House of Representatives with the Gentle Man from Florida handing off his speaking time to the Gentle Lady from California?

What could go wrong in our idyllic little corner of the world? I had no requests that needed to be brought before the king’s representative. What could they do for me? I sat there wondering why I’d come and if I’d admit to myself to being just a teeny bit bored.

  • Then I saw that people cared and there were issues at the beginning of the political food chain:

  • Water, its quality, where it came from, who owned it, gray water recycling

  • Building cell phone towers in the middle of housing developments and the effects of radio waves

  • Land use and how to protect against development of our open spaces when the law that controls it expires. (Who knew it could expire?)

  • Reports on ambulance response times

  • Oversized vehicles parking all night

  • Landscaping

  • Sanitation

  • Adequately reviewing the parking for a Farmers Market set to open in the area

And that was just one meeting. The chair ran a tight ship, courteous, listening to and acknowledging everyone’s comments. He was civil, which according to the Random House Webster’s Dictionary means:

  • Of citizens

  • Of the ordinary life of citizens

  • Civilized

  • Polite

Like we’re all in this together so maybe we should just get along.

Two seats on the MAC will be up for election in November. In the past, I’d either checked off a random name I might have recognized or skipped the local section completely. Now that I know what MAC means, I’ll not only be watching the races at the national level, but reading what The Acorn and the Ventura County Star, our local weekly and daily newspapers respectively, have to say about the candidates.

So Henry, don’t take it personally. I haven’t really given up on geopolitics. The effects of American international relations, or lack thereof, are with me every time I get in the car. It’s just that your political theories are destroying my world. But we’ll always have Westwood.

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