What does it mean to be a local citizen?

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Laura Rearwin Ward, publisher Ojai Valley News


Given the times, it is hard not to get sucked into the turbulence of our national politics.
Passion for the topic du jour quickly bubbles to the surface as people share the latest facts or their personal outrage. Too often, national news is presented on television as entertainment, leading some to get caught up in the newscycle not as participating citizens, but as fans ... hobbyists. Think Raiders vs. Broncos. Polarized political “teams” create the black-and- white thinking that has splintered the nation as well as small-town communities. Ojai is not immune. (One example is the vitriol over a half mile of roadway — the ATP.) 
The fandom created by national politics and sports teams generates little to no effect on outcome. “Engaged” participants merely shout opinion and advice at the TV and their social media echo chamber, gaining the emotional reward of being a part of a group. 
The opiate of national news overconsumption can lead to feelings of disconnection, depression and helplessness. Such national political hobbyism only promotes division and discourages problem solving. 
To the overexcited news junkie, reading about local water, economy, school, infrastructure and government is boring in comparison to drama on the national stage. Finding solutions to these pressing local issues requires a different mind-set because it’s easier to state an opinion than to take action. 
However a lack of understanding of local laws, policies, government process or the history of an issue can sometimes cause setbacks to local progress. For evidence look to the Ojai City Council negotiation of the city’s contract with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. The effort to update the 40-year contract could save our cash- strapped city more than $1 million annually. The sheriff has miscalculated the city’s responsibility and the county saves money by looking the other way. Those complicating the negotiations with the subject of police conduct reform are giving them more cover. For a tiny city to make a roar, an informed, active citizenry is essential. 
Instead of being negatively affected by national politics, over which we have limited control, we can more effectively channel our collective energies here at home. One way to tune in is to do what readers of the Ojai Valley News are doing now, subscribing to their local news source, volunteering for worthy causes, and participating in City Council, school board and other agency meetings, to name a few. Local news readers are committed Ojai Valley citizens. 
We recommend residents leverage their local newspaper. The OVN covers meetings many may not have time to attend, and our news reporters objectively unpack it for you. We are your advocate. Help us to ask the right questions and dig up the truth. Share the tips and the triumphs .... You can also read or share issues on the Opinion page and in the “Thumbs” column. 
Local government may not offer the allure of constant national scandal and intrigue, but it is exactly where informed citizens can make the most difference. Your local newspaper is offering up our Ojai Valley story every week. The OVN — the valley’s record for 130 years — strives every day to be a resource, “reporting for the people.” Hand in hand we create the Ojai Valley we deserve. The Ojai Valley News ... if you live here, you get it. Subscribe at:

Believer in local news, 
Laura Rearwin Ward

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