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December 2010 Archives

Why Was Rep. Elton Gallegly Passed Over To Chair A Committee?

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I don't know why the House Republicans have decided to pass over Elton Gallegly to Chair a Committee but I do know that the reason Gallegly gave is not entirely accurate.

Rep. Elton Gallegly said:

Gallegly said he did not ask to become chairman of a full committee because those spots are largely decided by seniority, and other senior House members already were in front of him.

But that isn't entirely true.
Gallegly was first took office in 1987. Here are the new chairs of committees Gallegly has served on and when the new chairs were elected.

Natural Resources Doc Hastings elected in 1995!

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen 1989.

House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith 1987.

So at best Gallegly was tied for seniority on one committee which means seniority played no role. In two other committees he was on the chair will have less seniority.

Other powerful positions:

Speaker John Boehner 1991.

Budget Committee: Paul Ryan 1998!

Armed Services Buck McKeon 1993.

Talkingpointsmemo.com has a great article introducing the new Chairs. Becoming a Chair usually involves loyalty to a party which often involves raising money from special interest groups to help elect other people. Gallegly could make the argument he hasn't played that game well enough but blaming seniority isn't a sufficient answer.

At least he has more class than Rep. Ralph Hall.

What's your thoughts on why Rep. Gallegly won't be chairing a committee?

Maybe his party wanted a commitment that he would run for re-election?

You don't need to register to comment but keep it classy.

I will post more when all of the committee assignments are official and public.

Brian Dennert Here Project: Education Reform Data Collection

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I don't write much about education but that is going to change in the new year. I am a teacher in Simi Valley at Royal High School. Many schools, including Royal High School, are starting to use webgrades to communicate better with families. I am interested in supporting more schools implementing webgrades across Ventura County.

That's where my readers come in.

Can you please post your experience with online grades in your school system? You don't need to register or use your real name to post. Please include the school district, grade level, the name of the program the school uses, and your personal experience with online grades.


State Assembly MEMBER Jeff Gorell Wants Your Budget Ideas

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Connect the song to the post to impress me.

State Assembly Member Jeff Gorell is asking the public to meet with him and share their budget ideas. Here is his press release:

Assembly Member, 37th District

December 22, 2010
CONTACT: Adam Haverstock

Assemblyman to Meet with Public at Thousand Oaks Post Office

Please meet our new Assemblyman Jeff Gorell and offer your input on the state budget. As the legislature works to address this significant challenge, Jeff is seeking public input. Please come by and meet with him in person on Thursday, December 30 in front of:

U.S. Post Office
3435 Thousand Oaks Boulevard
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

The U.S. Post Office in Thousand Oaks is located next to the Sunset Plaza Shopping Center on Thousand Oaks Boulevard between Westlake Blvd and Hampshire Road. For complete directions you can visit GoogleMaps at: http://goo.gl/maps/KB52

Jeff will be holding a card table format from 10:00 am till 12:00 noon.
For additional information, please call Jeff's district office at (805) 230-9167.

The press release would be more accurate if it stated he was interested in ideas to cut the state budget as I doubt he will vote for any tax increases or to continue earlier tax increases. But I am open to being surprised.

Jeff Gorell is likely to be deployed overseas soon so he might not be here for some of the critical votes. But he might be here to vote to put Jerry Brown's reforms and tax proposals on the ballot in a special election.

What cuts would you like Jeff Gorell to push for? I would like to see an incentive for public employees to identify savings in their agencies or departments. It would be interesting to see what savings teachers, firefighters, police officers, and others would come up with if they were directly rewarded for studying the issue.

Here are some proposals I would support:

1. Stop sending out report cards.

I would like to see school districts report grades to families online. If a family would like a printed copy to post they could print a copy from home. That would save money that is spent on printing and mailing report cards. The cost is minimal and many schools are currently set up to let families track the progress of their students online. At the very least we can ask families with online access to help save money by opting out.

2. Merge the State STAR tests with the High School Exit Exam.

A student that scores at the highest levels on the STAR test, or a modified STAR test would show they have also passed the High School Exit Exam. Students would be more motivated to work hard on the STAR test because they could earn a few days out of school. The State wouldn't need to pay for as many High School Exit Exams to be created or to be graded.

3. Tax gratuitous references to Hitler and/or Nazism. Godwin's Law could help balance our budget. You know who else wanted to control speech?

What are your ideas? You don't need to register to comment but keep it classy. When I get enough ideas I will create a poll question and send the results to Jeff Gorell.

Guest Blog Entry by Nathan Childress: Net Neutrality

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Send me an email if you are interested in writing a guest blog entry. I don't need to agree with your opinion to post your thoughts. In this case, I do agree with Nathan that Net Neutrality is a critical issue that is being mostly ignored. Guess which party supports Net Neutrality and which party has likened it to a totalitarian government takeover? Nathan would appreciate feedback on his post. You don't need to register to comment but keep it classy.

Here's Nathan's guest blog entry:

Net Neutrality may be one of the most important issues of our century. Decisions made on this issue now will have far reaching repercussions for everyone that uses the internet, from people checking news, writing blogs, or even watching a funny video of cats playing patty cake .
In a nutshell, net neutrality is the idea that all internet traffic should be treated the same by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This seems obvious, and why shouldn't it? We have been taking this for granted because this is the way the internet has worked for many years now. The consequences of eliminating net neutrality are far reaching and potentially endless.

When you type in "google.com" or "yahoo.com" your internet provider can't block one or the other. This sounds preposterous - why would they even want to block a webpage? That is a good question, and currently, there is no incentive do so. But let's say that we don't have Net Neutrality, and the internet service providers (ISPs) are able to what they will with the traffic that comes through their service. AT&T can make a deal with Yahoo that Yahoo should be the only search provider available to their subscribers, for a nice hefty sum of money - and just like that, AT&T users are forced to use Yahoo.com for all their internet search needs.

If the above scenario weren't scary enough, this is an ACTUAL PLAN presented to mobile carriers - monitor everything that you do online and charge you extra for using certain services. Spend a lot of time on FaceBook? You could be charged an additional $0.02/MB. Do you use Skype? How does an additional $3.00 service charge sound? What about Netflix? YouTube? The possibilities are endless. You can read more about this particular piece of tomfoolery on Wired.com complete with a link to download the powerpoint presentation that was given to mobile carriers on how to make us pay more for the services we use. You can use your imagination to envision the endless ways corporations and ISPs could get together in order to restrict access and charge us more for our internet usage.

This is not just an issue of whether or not you have the means to pay more for internet service, or which search engine you prefer. Effective democracy is based on having a public that has access to information about what is going on. CNN, Fox news and the rest certainly aren't doing a great job of getting us the facts we need to make clear decisions for our country - good information from a multitude of sources is available on the internet, for free. We should strive to keep it that way.

Additional reading - Steve Wozniak has a piece up on theatlantic.com

The Senate Will Ratify The START Treaty

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The graphic above is from the Senate Democratic Caucus. Click on it to see their website.

The START Treaty is supported by massive numbers of Generals, most former Secretaries of State, and all of the living presidents that have spoken out on the issue. Who is against it? Fox News Employee and Reality TV Star Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin didn't say she could see Alaska from her house, that was Tina Fey mocking her claims to foreign policy experience. But the point remains that Sarah Palin is far from a trusted expert on foreign policy. The Senate will ratify START with the support of many Republicans. She has done next to nothing to show why she should be trusted on nuclear proliferation issues.

It is obvious her analysis doesn't start with what is best for America but what is the opposite of what Barack Obama supports. Fox News pays her and the other potential Republican candidates ( Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich) to be critical of the president.

She is actually attacking the First Lady of the United States for supporting children eating better and playing more.

I don't recall Democratic Presidential candidates attacking Laura Bush. Sarah Palin shouldn't complain for changing around that Russia joke when she said on her reality show that Michelle Obama said "we should not have dessert". The First Lady didn't say Americans should never eat desert.

Michelle Obama supports kids eating healthier and exercising more. That's not left wing or right wing. President Eisenhower helped to create what became the Presidential fitness Award.

John McCain made a mistake by giving her a national platform.

Merry Digital Christmas

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Our technologies change but the story remains the same:

Here is the top viral Christmas video of this season so far:

Merry Christmas!

DADT Will Be Repealed.

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I fully support repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Many of our military leaders and a large majority of the public wants to allow gay people to serve openly.

US Military members currently serve with openly gay soldiers from our allies including Canada and The UK. If British and Canadian troops are professional enough to serve with openly gay military members I trust American troops can too.

DADT will be repealed. The question is will it be repealed by a vote of Congress or by a Judge. A vote to repeal it by Congress will allow the military to repeal it according to their rules. A vote to keep DADT is a vote to have a court order it repealed. Rep. Elton Gallegly voted to not allow the military to repeal DADT.

Firing Arabic translators for being gay during a war against Al Queda doesn't serve our national security interests.

Gay service members deserve equal treatment under the law. They deserve to have their earned benefits apply to their families. They deserve to send and receive communications with their family without fear they will be discovered as being gay. They deserve to be greeted at the base by their family when they return from war. They deserve our respect.

I support allowing openly gay troops to kill terrorists.

Netflix And Politics

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Netflix has a feature where you can see their most popular movies and a feature that allows you to see what movies are being rented with more frequency in your area than others. Here is the higher frequency list for Simi Valley:

1.Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
2.The Science of Sleep
3.Lie to Me: Season 2
4.Schindler's List
5.Pirates of the Caribbean: Black Pearl
6.The Karate Kid
8.The Post Grad Survival Guide
9.Clash of the Titans
10. The Mutant Chronicles

I'm not sure what this list tells us about the potential voting behavior of Simi Valley but let me make some stuff up. Simi Valley is a family orientated town ( 1, 5, 7) where people are either working harder because of the economic situation ( 2, 8) or trying to remember their childhood by seeing an updated version of an old favorite ( 6). There is also passion for history (4) and justice (3). Go ahead and post your area results and their implications for politicians. Alternatively you can use the top movies posted in the screenshot to argue for the entire United States.

I am really enjoying their documentary section lately. I have watched films on heroin addiction, The Taliban, and the film rating process. I am looking forward to watching Waiting For Superman. Have you seen any good documentaries lately?

A friend of mine is very critical of the movie Crash. This poll is for him:

Simi Valley Landfill Taskforce Turns Green

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The Simi Valley Landfill Taskforce has added past city council candidate Mitch Green to their team. Mitch Green is a fiery and outspoken lawyer and will be their attorney.

He is also among the funniest local politicians I know. He ended a story about being suspended from the city for yelling at another attorney in court by telling me he spent the time off going to Burning Man. You really need to watch the videos ( One posted above and one by clicking on continue reading) I took of him at a Democratic Club meeting.

I look forward to learning more about the expansion plans and the potential impacts from Mitch Green. He worked at city hall at a time when many critics have argued that the city could have been better at adding transparency to the process. It will be interesting to learn if his work at city hall provides him any unique insight. I will provide a forum here for him to provide his insights and to make his case with those critical of the task force.

The taskforce is not a part of the city government.

Click on continue reading for their press release.

Assemblymember Das Williams Announces His Committee Assignments

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Legislators are announcing their new committee assignments in email press releases. Here is the news from Das Wiliams:

Assemblymember Das Williams Announces Committee Assignments

SACRAMENTO -- Assembly Speaker John A. PĂ©rez has appointed Freshman Assemblymember Das Williams to the Education Committee, Health Committee, Assembly Rules Committee and the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

"I am honored by these appointments," Assemblymember Williams said. "Education policy is a passion of mine and the Education Committee gives me an opportunity to help craft solid California Education policy."

"All Californians should have access to affordable healthcare and as a member of the Health Committee I can help clamp down on runaway health care costs. As a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, I will have the opportunity to ensure that the California Department of Veterans' Affairs is offering quality programs to our veterans."

Assemblymember Das Williams represents the 35th Assembly District, which includes Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Valley, Ventura and portions of the city of Oxnard.

I noticed that he uses the proper gender neutral term of Assemblymember whereas the press releases I get from Republicans use the term Assemblyman. What do you think accounts for the divide on which term to use?

I haven't seen anything from Representative Gallegly yet but he seems to have been passed over yet again for chairing anything above a subcommittee. This isn't a seniority issue as many of the new Chairs were elected to the House after him. I wonder if he signaled to his party that he was planning on retiring or if it is because he hasn't donated enough to other candidates. What do you think?

You don't need to register to comment but keep it classy.

Jobs Available: Energy Commission

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It's not as great as the commissions that legislators get themselves appointed to when they term out but it pays. Here's the job information my friend Panama forwarded to me:

Thank you for your interest in working with the Energy Commission on our very exciting new existing buildings program. This email is designed to explain to you how to become eligible to be hired.

You need to take a State exam NOW!! As soon as possible! See below to
see how and why you need to do it now!!

The first thing a person needs to do is to qualify for hiring. This is
done by taking an exam for the particular classification (Associate
Energy Analyst, Electrical Engineer, etc.) you are interested in. Some
exams are open continuously, meaning you can apply for them whenever you
want by filling out the exam and sending it in to the Energy Commission.
Other classification exams are only offered on a set date. The best
source of information about whether an exam is continually open or when
one is scheduled is the Commission's Career Exams page:
http://www.energy.ca.gov/careers/exams.html and the list serve that
is on the Commission's Career page: http://www.energy.ca.gov/careers
page. By signing up for this list serve you can get updates when exams
are scheduled and jobs are available.

On the Commission's Career Exams page:
http://www.energy.ca.gov/careers/exams.html you can click on the link
for each exam and see information on how to take the exam. For those
exams that are continually open you can take the test by filling out
information on the form behind the link and mailing it into the
Commission. For those that only happen on a scheduled date information
on how to take the exam will be in the notice announcing when it will be

Once you take an exam, it is scored and you are placed on a list with
everyone else that took the test in order based upon your score on the
exam. The group is divided into ranks based upon groupings of like
scores. The top three ranks can be hired from when there is an open

If you are on the list then we can hire you! This is the most
important thing you can do as quickly as possible.
When a job opening becomes available at the Commission we then post it
to the Commission's Job Openings website:
http://www.energy.ca.gov/careers/jobs.html and send out a notice on
the list serve. In the announcement there will be a description of the
job and directions for applying using the State's Standard State
Application available at the State Personnel Board website:

We then check the applications and call you in for an interview. After
you impress us, we offer you and job and hire you! Then together we
fight climate change, reduce consumer energy expenses and build an
economy based on clean energy.

We are very excited about the AB 758 program and want to have the best
list of candidates possible to hire from to make the program a success.
In order for that to happen we need you to take the exams and get on the
list. This process can take a bit of time and we do not have much. We
plan on sending out the announcements within the next two months and
once they are out we have to use the list as it was when we release it.

So take that exam so you are eligible!! Sign up for the list serve and
get ready to take part in the most exciting policy development in the

A note: All Energy Commission Jobs are in Sacramento which is going
through a wonderful renaissance right now. Easy access to the Bay Area,
Tahoe region, great hiking, two major rivers, snow and ocean within 90
minutes, great farmers markets 6 days out of the week 7 months out of
the year, exploding slow/local food movement, great art and music scene
and cheap housing: $1 a square foot for rentals.

If you have any questions about the State's hiring process, the
Commission's exam schedules or classifications please contact the
Commission's Personnel office at: 916-654-4309

Your public servant,

State Assembly Member Jeff Gorell Holding Public Events

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I didn't get this post up before the event but I am posting it now because I support our elected officials meeting with the public in scheduled and open events. Our local delegations to Sacramento and DC all do it except for Elton Gallegly, who does not see the value of open and scheduled townhall meetings.

Jeff Gorell will likely be shipping out to Afghanistan soon but if this is the type of elected leader he continues to be I will be glad.

Here is my suggestion for Jeff Gorell:

I would like to see standardized testing be condensed. I don't want to remove accountability from schools but if the STAR exam and the High School Exit exam were merged it could result in more instructional days and a significant cost savings. This move could free up resources for other programs and could draw broad based support.

What suggestions would you give Jeff for the budget?


Assemblyman to Meet with Media and Public at Moorpark Restaurant
Please meet our new Assemblyman Jeff Gorell and offer your input on the state budget. As the legislature works to address this significant challenge, Jeff is seeking public input. Please come by and meet with him in person on Friday, December 10, at:

Grinder Restaurant
1 W. Los Angeles Ave
Moorpark, CA 93021
The Grinder Restaurant Deli & Catering is located on the corner of Moorpark and Los Angeles Avenues in the Ralphs Shopping Center in Moorpark. For complete directions you can visit GoogleMaps at: http://goo.gl/maps/c6cD Jeff will be holding a card table format from 10:00 am until 12:00 noon. For additional information, please call Jeff's district office at (805) 230-9167.

California Democratic Party Raising Money Based On Their Opposition To The Tax Cut Compromise

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I was surprised by this email from the Chair of the California Democratic Party:


Did you hear the news?

Democrats in the House of Representatives soundly rejected the proposed tax cut for billionaires that Republicans in the U.S. Senate had forced on the administration in exchange for extending unemployment benefits for millions of out of work Americans.

The voice vote prevents the proposal from coming to the floor of the House in its current form and will force further negotiation.

Please click here to contact your Congressional representative and thank them for rejecting this unconscionable giveaway to millionaires and billionaires.

Your Democratic representatives are listening but we have to keep up the pressure.

Thank you for all that you do.

Peace and friendship,

John Burton
California Democratic Party


Party Chair John Burton is helping to organize opposition to a compromise negotiated by the leader of his party. And he is using it as a fundraising opportunity. That is surprising.

Maybe in the next email he will explain how he would get a better deal out of the new House of Representatives.

New Mayor of Thousand Oaks Selected

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Many cities, including Simi Valley, vote directly for mayor. In Simi Valley the term for mayor is two years and the term for council member is four years. The mayor does have more influence then the other council members but in many ways they are just another member of the council.

Thousand Oaks elects their city council and then their city council selects their mayor. This gives opportunities for factions to choose a member of their group to serve as mayor. Often an unwritten tradition develops of rotating the position between the council members. In Thousand Oaks there is a debate over how to choose the mayor.

The Conejo Post has more on the latest maneuvers.

Trash Politics

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The debate over expanding the Simi Valley landfill/dump has seen the addition of two new websites recently.

The 1st website is put together by The Simi Valley Landfill Task Force. That group is not officially affilated with the city government of Simi Valley.

The 2nd website is put together by a local critic of the task force. The main goal of the page is to counteract the influence of the task force.


2010 Political Campaign Volunteer Awards: Kevin Underwood

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Kyle Quiroz, the co-creator of the most viral video for a local candidate in Ventura County, nominated a fellow supporter of Steve Sojka. Team Sojka didn't win in the end but they put together a great campaign. Here is Kyle's nomination:

I would like to nominate Kevin Underwood who did so much for Steve Sojka's campaign. Although Sojka did not win, Underwood coordinated events by emailing updates and helping to manage the Run Steve Run facebook page. He was there through everything. From precinct walks to street corner rallies, and he stayed there until the end of the campaign party. For someone who's not even related to Steve he did a heck lot more than a lot of us. That's why I nominate Kevin Underwood for an award. Kyle Quiroz

2010 Political Campaign Volunteer Awards: Gayle Washburn

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I have an open call for nominations of great campaign volunteers. If you would like to honor a volunteer on a campaign send me a short nomination with a photograph.

Brian Sipes was elected to the Fillmore City Council. Here is his nomination of a critical volunteer:

I am proud to nominate my campaign manager Gayle Washburn. Gayle handled everything; all mailers, newspaper ads and inserts, as well as community relations. We had minimal volunteers which made it more challenging.

Thank you,
Brian Sipes

Thanks Brian Sipes!

Ventura County Democrats Taking Action Against Deceptive Slate Mailers

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Are you frustrated with people disguising their party affiliation on slate mailers? In the last cycle I have seen Republican candidates supported by their party pay to be included on slate mailers that appear to be from Democrats. Local Democratic candidates have done it too. To purposefully attempt to mislead voters while claiming to be running a honest campaign is a tough task.

If you want to do something the local Democratic Party would like your help. I have copies of most of the mailers if you need to include them with your letter.

I am glad the Ventura County Democratic Party is organizing this letter writing campaign. Here is their request:

Demand Truth in Political Advertising: Send an Email to the FPPC Now!

You see them cluttering your mailbox every election cycle. If you're like many California voters, you may even have been fooled by them: deceptive slate mailer advertisements that are meant to trick voters and hide the big money, special interests who pay for them.

Using patriotic pictures of eagles and made-up names like the "Voting Information Guide for Democrats," they fool many unsuspecting voters into thinking they are actually reporting official Democratic Party endorsements, when in fact space on these mailers is often sold to the highest bidder -- in some cases giant oil, insurance, and utility companies! These purported Democratic mailers often take take positions that are the exact opposite of the Democratic Party's values.


We urge you to send a letter now asking for serious reform of deceptive slate mailers!

California's Fair Political Practices Commission now has a Political Reform Act Task Force that is collecting public comments on reforms of the rules governing slate mailers. The Ventura County Democratic Party has joined groups like California Clean Money Campaign and California Common Cause to ask for SERIOUS slate mailer disclosure reform to put an end to these deceptive practices.

The proposals would institute truth in slate advertising by requiring non-official Democratic Party slate mailers to:

* Clearly say they are "NOT the Official Slate of a Democratic Party Organization" wherever they use the word "Democrat" or "Democratic" Party.
* Identify right under the title when they are "Paid Political Advertising."
* Make absolutely clear that the listings are "Paid" endorsements everywhere paid endorsements are shown and indicate who is actually paying for them.


Send a letter asking for serious reform of deceptive slate mailers now!

Our easy letter-writing tool will provide you a draft letter that includes the Ventura County Democratic Party's recommendations. (See the rest of our recommendations when you send the email!)

Thanks for everything you do for clean money and fair elections,

Richard Carter, Chairman,
Ventura County Democratic Party

Ventura County Post Election Analysis

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National and Statewide campaigns frequently have post election panel sessions to discuss the results and to share insider stories. I look forward to this tradition being extended to Ventura County politics. It would be great if video of the event is later posted online.

Here is the announcement from some local Democrats:

Ventura County Campaign 2010 Forum: What worked and didn't
Thursday December 9, 2010, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)

We invite you to come hear from campaign experts and candidates about the results of the local election in Ventura County, learn about all the facets of the California Democratic Party's Coordinated Campaign, discuss the campaign techniques that worked and didn't, and begin the planning for the 2012 election. If you volunteered during the 2010 election cycle, your attendance at this event and input is important.

This event is sponsored by the Democratic Campaign Council of Ventura County and is open to registered Democrats only. It is free of charge, though we are always happy to accept donations. Snacks and beverages will be served.

For information, call the Democratic Campaign Council of Ventura County or email Brian Leshon at BLeshon@VenturaCountyDemocrats.com.

What will be covered:

* Ventura County Election Results
* Ventura County Election Analysis
* California Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign
* Volunteer Input


* Brian Leshon, moderator
* David Atkins, Ferial Masry Campaign and Ventura County results
* Timm Herdt, journalist, Ventura County results
* Sandra Kinsler, CDP Coordinated Campaign overview
* Tom Mullens, candidate

Breakfast With Tony Strickland

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State Senator Tony Strickland invited me out to have breakfast with him and we met up this morning. We discussed basketball, the statewide elections, education policy, environmental policy, the viciousness of comments on blogs, and more.

I'll write more about it this weekend but I wanted to thank State Senator Tony Strickland for his time. No matter how critical I have been of him he has always been gracious and friendly.

Thanks Tony.

Guest Blog Entry: Omary Masry On The Automall Sign

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A friend of mine, Omar Masry, asked me to post his comments about a proposed automall sign in Thousand Oaks. I don't have an opinion on this issue. Here is his guest blog entry:

The proposed Thousand Oaks Auto Dealers Freeway Monument sign design is simply lazy. I would hope the City Council would send this design back to the drawing board and maybe consider brushed aluminum and redwood paneling (think Apple store meets high-image sustainable corporate headquarters) with non-exposed LED lighting on storefront facades and freestanding 3D lettering for the freeway monument sign. This design would create a modern image that blends well with the woodsy heritage of Thousand Oaks.

The proposed sign appears out of scale and context with the surrounding area. I've always been particularly pleased by the transition for northbound drivers to the Conejo Valley as they pass the former GTE (current Baxter) building, which is so well contoured into a hillside. The proposed sign would be an opportunity lost to create a true sense of uniqueness and a visual break from the San Fernando Valley for those arriving from Los Angeles to Thousand Oaks.

Ventura County History: Straw Roads Book Review

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Straw Roads: A story of Simi Valley from 1908 to 1960 by Gerald Haigh

Straw Roads is a book from a different era. Although published in 1975 the stories inside feel like they are part of TNT's big summer hit " Into the West". From the start to the book is a collection of tales told just like your grandpa would tell them. In fact most of the stories were told to the writer in an old blacksmith shop. Tales range from long forgotten trails to the killing of mountain lions the size of which would shock you ( and backed up with photos).A recurring theme in the book is the poor folk wondering through town.

The book starts out by discussing the hobos cooking pancakes on a old shovel they found in the dump. It tells of the hard work locals would need to do to survive. But more than that it tells how they lived. The title of the book is how farmers would work together and put straw on the roads to keep the dust down. Of course this was before cars came along and because of the threat of sparks ended the tradition.

Different groups are covered in the book. From women, farmers, Mexican-Americans, to kids the daily lives of the people were well covered. Women were an especially tough breed. As Haigh Brags "Could you shoot a tramp in the pants with a shotgun and take him to jail? Could you go out and wring a chicken's neck for supper or kill a mess of quail? Simi would not only could but did these very things and raised a band of kids to boot!"

Overall the book was a kick. From the folksy writing to the hand drawn maps. I learned a lot about early Hindus, farming, ranch families and natural history. I would hope for more political content such as the effects of WW I and II or campaign politics. My favorite part though has to be the map in the very beginning. You can see which camp or ranch your home resides in.

If you want to check out the book one of the very few copies available is at the Simi Valley library. The library has an extensive collection of Ventura County History either in stock or available for order from other branches check it out! And while you are there go to The Friends of The Simi Valley Library Store located by the entrance. There you will find an amazing amount of quality books for about a dollar. Recently I found a book called Guns, Germs, and Steel that I had spent $20 from Borders for only a buck! In addition the Left Behind Series, Romance Novels, Children books and other genres are ready for you to take home. Don't forget the students in your family. They can buy classics for school for a great price. Beats waiting for a library copy, or paying top dollar at Borders.

Brian Dennert here

This blog is dedicated to Ventura County politics. Send in ideas for posts to briandennert@gmail.com
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