Fall is an exciting time in our area. The weather starts to cool, the high school football teams are in action (and throttling their opponents) and folks are decorating their homes for Halloween. On Tuesday, Nov. 2, we’ll head to the polls for the third time in 2010, this time to vote on a new governor, nine state propositions and a handful of local offices. With that in mind, we’d like to remind parents to talk with their children about these two important issues.

At the top of the list is safety in downtown Santa Cruz and on the windy mountain roads on Halloween night. Because Halloween is on Sunday this year, festivities will take place all weekend long. Parents, please talk with your children about the dangers of drinking and driving drunk. High school students need a reminder around major holidays, especially holidays that take place on weekends. The San Lorenzo Valley in particular has vivid memories of underage young people consuming alcohol and getting behind the wheel. A simple word or two could prevent a tragedy.

Downtown Santa Cruz is the place where many congregate on Halloween night. Police will close down many of the streets, and extra security will deter violence. However, 2010 has already seen a rash of gang-related violence, and there have been several killings in Santa Cruz. It’s a good idea to talk to older teens about avoiding stirring up trouble on the streets of Santa Cruz. Drugs can be a player in this violence, but so can wearing the wrong color. Talk with teenagers about being safe and having fun. Warn them of dangerous situations.

Two days later, parents should talk with their kids about voting.

On this ballot are two issues kids are sure to have an opinion about. Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in California, will have a major impact on the state and on how the drug is viewed and used by teenagers and adults alike. That’s a conversation worth having.

The second issue is Proposition 21, a vehicle license tax to fund state parks. It’s a perfect study for teens, who would pay $18 more to register a car each year, but then would have access to the parks without having to pay. In our area, we often take the state parks for granted. This proposition could help educate young people specifically about the parks and who pays for their upkeep.

It’s a simple message: Be safe, and vote. And talk with your own kids, and other young people you know, about those two things. It might mean more to them than even to you.

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