Photo and report by Scott Wintermute
At around 1 p.m. Thursday a minor accident occurred causing the closure of Ojai Avenue at Signal Street for about a half hour. A white Chevy Cobalt with Arizona plates apparently rear-ended a grey Nissan Sentra at low speeds causing the elderly woman driving the Nissan to bump her head. She was taken to Ojai Valley Community Hospital as a precaution, but there appeared to be no significant injuries. Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies drove the woman’s car and her dog to her home.
McClary comes with 11 years experience as Fillmore employee
By Sondra Murphy
City manager Jere Kersnar announced Monday the hiring of longtime Fillmore city employee Steve McClary to serve as Ojai’s new assistant to the city manager. An 11-year employee with the city of Fillmore, McClary will begin his new position next month.
The assistant to the city manager’s job duties include human resources and risk management, analyzing city issues, preparing staff reports for City Council meetings, and serving as public information officer.
According to city manager’s secretary Kaye Maxe, the salary range for the assistant to the city manager is $59,197 to $71,954 annually. McClary said his pay will be in the mid-$60,000 range.
McClary grew up in Woodland Hills and went to college at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., before settling in Ventura County. He lives in Ventura with his wife and three young sons. “I’ve always thought Ojai was a very attractive community, both from the standpoint of where to live, and where to work,” said McClary, adding he is eager to see how things are done “on the other side of the hill.”
The small city environment where people know each other and work to honor the history of their communities is part of what attracted McClary to Ojai. “When you work in local government in a small town, you get to wear a lot of hats,” McClary said. “That’s one of the most enjoyable aspects — the job duties and the priorities are always shifting from day to day or year to year. There is always something new to learn or experience. I am looking forward to getting to know Ojai and I am excited about the opportunity.”
McClary, 39, replaces retiring Paulette Matheson Whiting, who has worked as the assistant to the city manager for seven years.
“I look forward to working with Steve,” said Kersnar. “I know his skills and experience will be a great fit with our organization and with the Ojai community.”
Currently employed as Fillmore’s administrative services manager, McClary has been responsible for a variety of duties, including human resources, film permits, elections officer, public information liaison and champion of Fillmore’s 20-year community plan, dubbed Vision 2020. “Of all the tasks that I worked on during my time in Fillmore, none was more rewarding than Vision 2020,” said McClary. “To be able to work directly with Fillmore residents to dream and plan for the betterment of the community was an enriching opportunity and, best of all, it was just plain fun.”
McClary said it will be hard for him to leave the city where he began his career in 1991. McClary started as a reporter for local weekly newspaper, the Fillmore Gazette, and was editor of the publication from 1993 until 1997, when he was hired as deputy city clerk by the city of Fillmore. “In many ways, I feel like I grew up in Fillmore, in a professional sense,” said McClary. “I was fresh out of college at the time and the small-town experience was something altogether new for me.”
Fillmore city manager Tom Ristau said he plans to analyze current staffing levels before determining how best to fill the position. “Steve will be missed at City Hall. Steve brought a lot of qualities to the table that will be hard to replace,” said Ristau. “I wish Steve the best and congratulate Ojai on a great hire.”
City manager outlines options, expectations
By Sondra Murphy
The state and national economic downturn is hitting the city of Ojai, but the impact on the current budget will not be too dire.
That was the opinion of city manager Jere Kersnar as he gave his report Tuesday to the Ojai City Council, offering projections and requesting direction.
With the midyear budget being reviewed in the midst of regional, state and national economic deficits, projections made last summer have not all been met. Most notably, transient occupancy tax revenues, a large source of income, are down citywide. With an estimated $471,000 less in those tax revenues from poor figures in November and December, staff is hopefully awaiting data for January.
But not all the miscalculations are unpleasant. Staff also budgeted for 10 to 15 percent insurance rate increases, as it has seen in recent years. Those rates only increased up to 3 percent, a $485,000 savings that is helping to offset other revenue decreases.
In recent years, the city has been able to set aside about $500,000 toward the goal of a $4 million reserve. With the changes outlined, Kersnar said it is more likely the city will see a $264,000 excess, which he asked the council to acknowledge.
One change between the written report and the oral one was in the amount of projected emergency fund, from $3.5 million to $3 million come June. The city was hoping to achieve $4 million heading into the next fiscal year.
The bottom line of all the revenues vs. expenditures is expected to result in a squeaky $47,000 surplus in June and that is what Kersnar emphasized needs attention as the city nears the new fiscal year that starts in July.
Kersnar said that the previous years’ frugalities and conservative investment returns have helped the 2008-2009 budget meet many expectations, but recommended cuts be made for 2009-2010. “One of the interesting things about looking at the economy is there have been significant variations in different communities. Some communities are really hurting,” said Kersnar, citing loss of population and industry, as some of the problems other cities are experiencing. “Some seem to be protected and … Ojai seems to be one of them,” he said. Adding, “But next year, if everything goes up the same and you made no changes, you’d come up short.”
Kersnar recommended a staff task team be formed to consider the best course of action in the endeavor, which the council supported. One uncertain element will be the availability of stimulus package funds for new and existing programs that the task team will need to research.
Councilwoman Betsy Clapp asked about the time line. “You mentioned that you were going to get together with a group of people to see if they can figure out how to reduce expenditures. I’m wondering if they can come back to us before the end of April?” asked Clapp, referring to Kersnar’s time line. Kersnar said that he would try to form the team and get reports to the council and finance committee as soon as possible.
“You mentioned cities all over the nation and state that have huge deficits to make up for,” said Councilwoman Sue Horgan. “One of the things you did not mention is many cities lost money in their investment portfolios and we did not.”
“We are very fortunate,” Kersnar replied. “It is a very conservative portfolio and the state could not raid it … and although the yield is not very high, it is very safe.”
“So what you’re saying is despite the drop in the stock market, our investments have gained over 2 percent?” Mayor Joe DeVito summarized.
“It’s not much, but it’s better than a 12 percent loss,” said Kersnar.
After some discussion about funds for staff and service increases, the issue of a city code enforcement officer was raised. Since many people addressed the council requesting code enforcement during the public speaker portion of the meeting, the council requested the subject be put on the agenda for the next meeting so it could be discussed in detail. Besides general enforcement needs, an item on outdoor merchandise displays is to be included.
For a more details about the city budget, see Daryl Kelley’s story at ojaivalleynew.com or in the Feb. 25 issue of the OVN; or go to the city web site at ci.ojai.ca.us.
Camejo, 22, was on dean’s list, set to graduate
Camejo and Kent Daniel Miller, 23, were walking in a north Baltimore neighborhood near Maryland Institute College of Art at about 10:30 p.m. when both were struck by a 2005 GMC Yukon driven by Teresa Jackson, 48.
Miller’s injuries were not life threatening and he told Baltimore city Police that he and Camejo had left a tavern shortly before the accident.
Camejo attended Malibu High School and was an Ojai Studio Artists scholarship recipient in 2007 and 2005. According to a 2007 OVN story, Camejo was interested in expressing dreams and the subconscious in art and hoped to study in Italy. She was a participant in the “Made in Ojai III” and “Made in Ojai V” art exhibits.
OSA member Ruth Farnham remembered Camejo from the OSA scholarship applications. “In Gabriella’s scholarship applications, there were letters from instructors that were really nice, so she was well thought of,” said Farnham, “I knew she was on the dean’s list and was apparently going to graduate in May with honors.”
“She was really talented,” said fellow OSA member Gayel Childress, who added that Camejo’s mother was very supportive of her artistic pursuits. “It’s sad to hear.”
Staff expects to clear $47,000 on $8.2 million budget proposal
By Daryl Kelley
So much for hefty budget surpluses.
After tucking away at least $500,000 each of the last several years, the city of Ojai is expected to be just $264,000 in the black for the fiscal year ending June 30.
And more than $200,000 of that is excess rolled over from the previous fiscal year, making the city’s projected net surplus just $47,000 for 2008-2009 out of an $8.2 million budget.
That’s well short of the $534,000 surplus officials were forecasting only eight months ago.
A sharp fall in fees visitors pay to hotels — the so-called city bed tax — accounts for much of the projected decline, according to a new study the City Council was expected to consider last night.
But expected drops in sales and property taxes also contributed to the new forecast. Those projections are based mostly on actual city income and spending from July 1 through Dec. 31.
“The midyear budget review comes during a significant downturn in the regional, state and national economy,” wrote city manager Jere Kersnar in his report to the council. “The city of Ojai is not immune from these difficulties but … we are weathering the downturn in better shape than many other governments, including some of our neighboring cities.”
Kersnar said that while the $270,000 reduction in anticipated surplus is a “hit,” it’s less than seen elsewhere. Still, he said, Ojai must plan now to cut expenses for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
“This downturn is not likely to reverse soon,” he said in an e-mail to the Ojai Valley News. “So we will have to be extra careful in the remainder of this year, and in putting together next year’s budget.”
Specifically, Kersnar said he is forming a staff task force to recommend 5 percent in additional cuts — about $400,000 — from this year’s budget without affecting services the city provides.
“These cuts must be sustainable and ongoing,” he wrote in his comments to the council.
The city should also begin to track its budget more carefully to detect increasing erosion in revenue, he said.
“Due to the volatility of the city’s financial picture, especially revenues, we need to watch our situation more closely than in the past,” he wrote, recommending that the council’s Finance and Budget Committee meet monthly through the remainder of this fiscal year.
By the end of June, city revenues will have plummeted 7.5 percent, or $663,000, below projections, Kersnar said.
Most of that fall will occur because the city’s bed tax will drop $471,000 below forecasts, he said. But that projection of a nearly 19 percent shortfall is conservative, he said, since it is based on poor performance in November and December, and despite an uptick in hotel visitors in January.
“This revenue, our largest, can be quite volatile, and we have seen that so far this fiscal year,” he wrote. Hotel bed taxes make up about one-third of the city’s general fund revenue for basic services.
Meanwhile, sales and property taxes are off just 5.4 and 3.25 percent, respectively.
This relatively strong sales tax performance reflects the fact that Ojai has no auto dealerships or big box home improvement stores, two types of businesses that have been hammered during this recession.
Property taxes have remained relatively stable, Kersnar said, because Ojai has had fewer foreclosures than the norm as the nation’s housing bubble has burst. The weak housing market has hurt in other ways, however, since document taxes the city receives when homes sell is expected to be off $52,000.
“Although this decline in estimated revenue is significant (about 7.5 percent), it is not as drastic as experienced by some other cities, and is balanced somewhat by lower-than-planned expenditures,” Kersnar wrote in his council report.
Indeed, Kersnar expects city spending this year to be nearly $400,000 less than was budgeted.
That’s because the costs for insurance and benefits for the city and its employees have come in well below expectations, with increases of only 2 to 3 percent.
What this means, Kersnar wrote, is that the City Council may need to amend its policy of tucking away at least $500,000 in an emergency fund each year. The city’s emergency fund stood at $3.2 million last July 1 and is expected to climb to about $3.5 million by June 30, he said.
“We had hoped that the actual net excess at year end would enable us to grow our reserves close to $4 million, but in now appears it will be closer to $3.5 million,” he wrote. “The important point is that the council’s current and past conservative policies and practices have gotten us near our policy goal of 50 percent of budget ($4 million) … Unlike some, we have not had to use reserves to get through the current downturn, at least so far.”
But the city must begin cutting expenses if it hopes to be able to pad that reserve much next year, he said. His staff will recommend cuts by the end of April, as the council prepares its next budget, Kersnar said.
While city managers such as Kersnar are expected to budget cautiously, past frugality may help in the year to come. That’s because several major city projects have already been fully or partially funded, Kersnar said.
The city’s $100,000 contribution to the new $350,000 skate park has already been set aside. The $500,000 needed for street resurfacing is in hand from local and state sources. And the city’s $100,000 share of the first $1 million raised to refurbish Ojai’s centerpiece Libbey Bowl is secure, although the project’s total cost is more than $3 million over several years.
Still, some projects are questionable for the coming year. For example, the extension of Fulton Street to Bryant Street to reduce congestion out of the city’s industrial park is questionable. This 10-year effort has finally met environmental requirements and the city now owns the land, but money to build the extension may not be available, Kersnar has said.
FROM Sgt. Joe Evans
Good morning Watchers. Well I was out of the office last week and WOW what happened. Well let me tell you. First of all we had 61 new members sign up for City Watch. I want to welcome all our new members and thank them for joining our team. We are growing at an alarming rate. (If I was a crook I would be feeling out numbered about now.) Keep up the good work, you are sending a strong message to those crooks who think we are not watching. Here is a little something for those crooks who come into our neighborhoods to remember, We are watching and we will call the police and continue to watch as you go to jail.
This weekend a very observant citizen saw two subjects sitting in a car parked in front of the Subway Restaurant. The two subjects just did not look right and were acting suspicious. Our citizen acted on what she saw and called the police. When your deputies arrived in the area the vehicle with the subjects was gone. A quick search of the area found the vehicle and subjects leaving the Circle K market. To make a long story short, deputies stopped the vehicle and found two of our local gang members inside. The investigation led to the arrest of both gang members. Deputies found evidence linking these two crooks to some of our vehicle and residential burglaries and similar crimes in the City of Ventura. They also had burglary tools in their possession and stolen property belonging to several of our victims. Your station Detectives are now trying to link these crooks to other crimes in our area and the city of Ventura.
Your station detectives need your help.
The detectives have recovered several items of stolen property and are trying to find the proper owners. Two of the items recovered are black 30 gig I pod’s. One of the I pod’s has several pictures of an adult male in his twenties holding what looks like his young child. (really a cute pictures) Anyway the detectives are trying to locate the owner of this I pod. If you have had a I pod stolen that has this type of pictures in it please call us. We would like to give this lucky father his property back.
This is still another example of a citizen seeing something that they thought was out of place and calling the police. It seems that more times than not your feelings and suspicions are correct and by calling the police you continue to catch crooks and keep our neighborhoods safe and free from the fear of crime.
WOW not again
I have say that you guys are getting pretty good at this crook catching thing. Since we all got into City Watch your deputies have noticed an increase in the calls for suspicious activity in our neighborhoods.
Just yesterday one of our watchers noticed a suspicious vehicle in the area of the Corner market on Burnham Rd. The watcher thought the vehicle may be involved in drug dealing of some type. Well the call was made and your deputies responded. Deputies stopped the vehicle as it was leaving the area. No drug dealing was found but the driver was driving while under the influence of alcohol and arrested. This is a residential area and we do not want nor will we tolerate drunk drivers in our neighborhoods.
Many of you know that we have a sister program in the Fillmore area called Farm Watch. I receive all the Farm Watch Alerts just as they receive all of our alerts. This relationship is very important and allows the two programs to help with controlling crime in both communities.
Please take time to read the following Farm Watch Alert from my friend Chief Tim Hagel of the Fillmore Police Department. This alert concerns our local farmers and we all know how important they are to our community.
Again thanks for all you do and keep up the good work, your friend and neighbor, Joe
Farm Watch members
We have a member who needs help. Yesterday , one of our Farm Watch members in Fillmore was victim to a commercial burglary. This was a huge burglary. Our Sheriff’s C.S.I and Detectives were on scene through the day… Our Farm Watch member lost over 33 brand new Stihl Chainsaws and Stihl Power Pruner Poles. These are new out of the box machines. These burglars were very organized and were well planned. They forced their way into the business when it was closed and no one was around.
We need your help.
If you have any idea of suspects, call Detective TaurinoFarm Watch members,
We have a member who needs help.Yesterday , one of our Farm Watch members in Fillmore was victim to a commercial burglary. This was a huge burglary. Our Sheriff’s C.S.I and Detectives were on scene through the day… Our Farm Watch memberlost over 33 brand new Stihl Chainsaws and Stihl Power Pruner Poles. These are new out of the box machines. These burglars were very organized and were well planned. They forced their way into the business when it was closed and no one was around.
We need to act fast.
Here is what we can all do as a team.Our Detectives and Sheriff’s Crime Analysis Units are contacting Police agencies around Southern California, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. They will fill them in with the details and see if we can find a pattern or suspects. Our Fillmore Detectives will call all the Stihl Farm Dealers in the same areas and warn them to be on the look out to avoid becoming the next victim.
This is just wrong. we are seeing such a rise in these cases. Can you please keep your eyes and ears open looking for someone trying to sell discounted Stihl equipment. Also, for the next three to four weeks, help us out by watching Ebay and Craig’s List in the four local counties. As you look, don’t just search the net in Ventura County.I searched last night and found only one local for sale. It wasn’t ours.
Watch the Farm and Machinery sections at local online used sales web-sites for someone selling low reserve priced new saws and pole trimmers, backpack blowers. Our suspects will be new listings, not the normal legitimate vendors..
We need your help
If you have any idea of suspects, call Detective Taurino Almazan at 805-524-2233 with the info. If you can’t get him, call me on my cell 805-947-8189 Stay Safe and let’s catch these crooks… We owe it to our Farm Watch friend and fellow citizen Tim Almazan at 805-524-2233 with the info. If you can’t get him, call me on my cell 805-947-8189 Stay Safe and let’s catch these crooks… We owe it to our Farm Watch friend and fellow citizen
SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE:
Location: 11420 North Ventura Avenue, Ojai, CA.
Date & Time/ RB#: 02/22/2009 @ 10:35 am
Unit Responsible: Ojai Police Department, Patrol / Investigations
Reyes Estrada , 26, Ojai
Ricardo Gutierrez Chavez, 24, Ojai
Sheriff’s Deputies from the Ojai Police station were dispatched to investigate two suspicious subjects sitting in a car near the Subway Store in Mira Monte. Deputies contacted the two males and found them to both be on probation with search terms for stolen property, burglary, and assorted other criminal acts. During the investigation, deputies located stolen property from vehicle and residential burglaries in the Ojai Valley and the city of Ventura. Detectives are continuing with their efforts to locate and contact additional victims.
Deputies arrested the two subjects on charges of possession stolen property, possession of burglary tools and being under the influence of controlled substances. The two subjects were booked into Ventura County Jail.
The Ojai Valley has been experiencing an increasing number of vehicle burglaries and thefts from unlocked vehicles. The arrest of these two subjects is the result of community members working with law enforcement in reporting suspicious activity, vehicles and subjects. Deputies and investigators wish to reinforce the need for community members to lock their cars and keep any valuables hidden from plain sight to help reduce the risk of being victimized.
Officer Preparing Release: Senior Deputy J. Popp
Date of Release: February 22, 2009
Approved By: Bill Boyd, Captain / Watch Commander
By Earl Bates
Spring in Ojai is the time and place for many of nature’s beautiful happenings, and it’s prime time to be on the lookout for a tick attack.
Ticks are active all year and they typically become busier following the winter rains. Also it’s the traditional time for people to emerge for a new season of outdoor activities, like hiking into tick territory.
Ticks, the little bloodsuckers, would be obnoxious enough if they didn’t carry a variety of communicable maladies, Lyme disease being one of the most notorious.
“The assumption is that Lyme disease is something you get back east,” said Ojai resident Judy Bysshe. “No. 1, people need to know they can get it here.” To be unaware of that is to leave yourself vulnerable. Also, if you know you have been bitten, save the tick and have it tested. Knowing if the tick carried a disease would be helpful in deciding to seek treatment. Delaying treatment until the patient’s blood test indicates the presence of disease agents could give the disease time to become established, making treatment far more difficult, she said.
“When you hike,” said Bysshe, “hike smart.” White or tan clothing makes the tick easier to see, full-length pants and long-sleeve shirts are recommended to help keep the skin protected. Watch for ticks while you hike, they are easy to brush off before they bite. After your hike, thoroughly check your body for any kind of tick, take a shower and wash your clothing.
Last February, after a hike on one of Ojai’s local trails, Bysshe was bitten by a Lyme disease tick and got the disease because she neglected to heed the rules. “In a rush,” she said. “Had to be some place, left my hiking clothes on, ran off and did my stuff all day long. I just didn’t do what I should have done.”
Bysshe searched online for Lyme disease information. “There are some very distinctive looks that the Lyme tick produces and one is a perfect circle as though drawn by a red pen, and that’s what I had.
“I called my doctor, who didn’t think there was any Lyme in the area. That’s part of the problem locally, most doctors don’t know it’s here. And that’s what I’m hearing from lots of people, they think there’s no Lyme in this area.”
Bysshe self-diagnosed Lyme disease and her doctor provided antibiotics. “If you think you might have it you need to be tested by the Igenics Lab in Palo Alto, they are the experts in Lyme disease,” she said.
According to Randy Smith, Ventura County Environmental Health supervisor, “Yes, we do have Lyme disease here in Ventura County and we do have the type of tick that can transmit Lyme disease along with several other types of ticks.”
The thing with Lyme disease is that the potential for it is very low in Ventura County. Less than 2 percent of the species of the western black-legged tick, a tick that can transmit the disease, are found to have the disease in California. Here in Ventura County that’s even less. Meaning even if you get a tick bite in Ventura County there’s a pretty small chance you are going to get Lyme disease, he said.
The chance of contracting Lyme disease in New England and some other areas is much higher than here in California.
The western black-legged tick seems to be especially fond of some Ojai area habitats. The ticks prefer areas of higher humidity, they are more commonly found along streams and wet areas. In the Ojai Valley ticks can be found in many places. Sisar Creek, Horn Canyon and Soule Park are indicated as areas of high populations of western black-legged ticks, according to field surveys and mapped data from the Ventura County Environmental Health Division.
Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County Public Health officer, said Lyme disease should be on people’s radar but it’s not a major problem in our county. “It can be a major problem for an individual who gets it, but we don’t get that many individuals who get it.
“I can tell you that we think we have anywhere from zero to three cases a year that likely originate in our county and most of those probably originate from the Ojai area,” he said.
From 2003 through 2008, from two to 12 cases of Lyme disease were reported annually in Ventura county, but most of those were contracted elsewhere.
The main early sign is a typical rash, a red raised spot that expands outward and clears in the center, it’s a growing ring-like lesion, said Levin. “It always matters which doctor you see,” he said. “In the best of all possible worlds, most primary care doctors would understand when they saw a ring-like rash they should consider the possibility of Lyme disease.”
More information about ticks and Lyme disease can be found at ventura
.org/rma/envhealth and search that site for the topic “ticks.”
By Linda Harmon
As most people know, the internet can be challenging. According to Jon Reason, owner of Ojai PC Pros and Ojai Broadband, it became even more difficult when approximately 100 Ojai.net e-mail clients found themselves out in the cold last month. Their service stopped, not because of a computer bug or glitch, but because their service provider discontinued all service without warning. Ojai.net owner Tom Sharp failed to return phone calls or e-mails by press time.
“Our internet service was disconnected rather abruptly,” said Moondance Foxmarnick, head of the technology department of Ojai Valley School, a former Ojai.net e-mail client.
Ojai.net’s Bryant Street office was closed each time Foxmarnick went there to make inquiries. She was preparing “a work-around plan” when Reason called.
“Fortunately, from Jon’s quick action we were able to continue without much impact as it was a holiday,” said Foxmarnick. “It could have impacted us greatly had Jon not stepped in.”
According to Foxmarnick, Ojai Valley School had a very good relationship with Ojai.net and went with Reason’s Ojai Broadband, intending to keep their internet vendor local.
“I’m not sure what’s going on but they have shut down all internet service,” said Reason. “Tom called me and said he was shutting it down but didn’t let any of his customers know … A lot of people have been calling me.”
Reason has been contacting as many of Ojai.net’s customers as possible to offer service, migrating the stranded accounts over to his new Ojai Broadband.
According to Reason, Sharp’s customers will have to change their e-mail addresses or pay Sharp $10 a month to keep the ojai.net address and have actual service with Ojai Broadband.
“Tom said he plans on still doing web hosting,” said Reason, who added he was trying to get a smoother transition worked out for the e-mail customers.
According to Reason, he doesn’t have the e-mail addresses of Ojai.net customers to contact them.
“I did my best to call everyone to tell them what was going on,” said Reason, “and transfer them over if they wanted.”
As of Thursday morning the Ojai.net web site was still up and offering e-mail service. The last posted service announcement was dated 5:20 p.m., Jan. 30.
By Scott Wintermute
At about 10:35 AM Wednesday at 209 Fulton St. in Ojai a crane hoisting an air-conditioning unit either on to or off of the roof accidentally bumped into a power line, knocking it down and causing the electricity to travel through the crane and arc to the ground, where the blast left a hole in the concrete. Power was immediately interrupted north of the incident. The line fell across two trees in the neighbor’s yard at 205 Fulton where it caused the tree to crackle and smolder for about an hour before Southern California Edison crews arrived to turn off the power, at which time power was temporarily disrupted to part of town, including the Ojai Valley News office.
The operator of the crane, owned by In & Out Mini Crane Service, reportedly had left the scene shortly after striking the line to get another job site, but immediately returned when called by authorities.
Mira Monte, Meiners Oaks affected
By Daryl Kelley
Hundreds of property owners in Mira Monte and Meiners Oaks have been notified that government crews will soon begin spraying oak and other hardwood trees and plants with an organic pesticide to destroy a “breeding population” of tree-killing gypsy moths.
Officials began hand-delivering notices of the eradication plan to 600 residences and businesses on Friday. A public information meeting was scheduled for Tuesday evening at Nordhoff High School.
“Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on hundreds of kinds of plants and are capable of defoliating trees at an alarming rate,” said a notice distributed by the state Department of Food and Agriculture and the county agricultural commissioner’s office. “A single gypsy moth caterpillar can eat up to 1 square foot of leaves per day.”
Two clusters of up to 100 orange-colored moth eggs were found in Mira Monte last fall, following discovery last summer of seven adults moths in traps nearby, prompting a state quarantine of the area.
“Urgent treatment is now necessary to protect California from the negative economic and environmental impacts the establishment of this pest would cause throughout California,” the notice said.
Steve Lyle, a state spokesman, said spraying of the organic compound Btk is set to begin March 9 and is timed to destroy moth larvae before they hatch. Residents will be notified each time before spraying.
“We want to treat right now so we can prevent this pest from spreading,” he said.
Gypsy moths, which have ravaged forests in the northeastern United States And around the Great Lakes, have not been found anywhere else in California in recent years.
The pesticide, which would be applied from the ground, would cover trees and plants within a 400-meter radius of two sites where the egg clusters were found. It would also cover areas where adult gypsy moths have been found in traps.
A Department of Food and Agriculture notice circulated Friday says of the pest-killing spray:
“This material is a naturally occurring biological insecticide that is registered in California and is commonly used on organic fruits and vegetables. The application is designed to kill the larval stage … thereby eliminating the reproduction of the (gypsy moth) population.”
The eradication area, which is smaller than the area of quarantine, is roughly bounded by West Lomita Avenue on the north and includes areas on both sides of Rice Road and La Luna Avenue. The southern boundary is a few hundred yards north of Baldwin Road.
“It’s typical that the quarantine area is much larger than the area of infestation as a safeguard to try to eliminate the risk of spreading,” Lyle said.
Gypsy moths were discovered in the same area in 2007 and two were eradicated without harm in Meiners Oaks in 2000.
About the latest infestation, a state flier says: “Visual surveys in the fall of 2008 revealed egg masses and larval cast skins on and near a property where a camping trailer had been parked after a trip that originated in the infested area of the northeastern U.S.”
Gypsy moths, which can devastate oaks and other trees such as evergreens, cottonwoods, willow and manzanita, are rarely found west of the Mississippi River.
But some apparently hitchhiked here last year.
“In the northeastern United States, where this pest arrived from Europe in the late 1800s, millions of these caterpillars emerge each spring and devour large swaths of forest and foliage,” said the state notice. “When trees are repeatedly defoliated, they are rendered more susceptible to other pests and diseases, possibly leading to tree death and an increased potential for fire and erosion.”
The Ojai Valley quarantine requires 35 businesses and thousands of residents in Mira Monte, Meiners Oaks and a western slice of Ojai to get a government inspection of anything stored outdoors last summer before it can be moved elsewhere.
That means that owners of boats, RVs, trailers, patio furniture, firewood or other wood products within the five-square-mile quarantine area would need a county permit before the property could be sold or moved.
The quarantine area is bounded generally by Baldwin and Villanova roads on the south, state Highway 33 on the east, Fairview and Meyer roads on the north, and a sparsely populated area near the Ventura River on the west.
The quarantine could last for two years, Lyle said. It could affect, for example, a boat owner wanting to take the craft to Lake Casitas for the day or an recreational vehicle owner who wants to take a trip out of the area.
Although the county agricultural commissioner’s office, which will do the inspections, is requesting voluntary cooperation, a violation of the quarantine would be a misdemeanor crime and subject to a fine under the state Food and Agricultural Code, officials said.
Affected businesses include a plant nursery, a landscaping company, a green-waste facility, a lumber yard, storage facilities and mobile home parks.
While retail complexes such as the Vons shopping center at Ojai’s “Y” intersection are within the eastern edge of the quarantine area, businesses there won’t be affected by the restrictions because they do not store goods outdoors.
Since the summer moth discoveries, the number of traps in a four-square-mile survey area around the catches has been increased from 14 to 144, Lyle said. The state usually maintains two traps per square mile in the Ojai Valley, he said.
In addition, there were 10 state inspectors assigned to the survey, he said.
Masses of eggs, appearing as buff-colored felt, are found on trees and on transportable items.
Any sighting should be reported to a state pest hot line at (800) 491-1899, officials said.
Fillmore boy dies while feeding ducks
By Lenny Roberts
Officials have released the identity of the 4-year-old boy who died Sunday while feeding the ducks at Lake Casitas.
According to Sheriff’s Capt. Ross Bonfiglio, Mason Dollar, of Fillmore, apparently fell into the water, possibly just after a flock of ducks took flight. The boy had been feeding the birds with the 8-year-old son of a friend of the boy’s mother. Dollar’s mother had also taken two other children on the outing. The boy’s death has been ruled accidental.
“This is very, very tragic,” Bonfiglio said. ”We know it doesn’t take very long for this type of thing to happen. How quickly they can occur.”
Both mothers and their children were reportedly in the immediate area of where the boy went into the water, but no one heard him. Bonfiglio said rescue workers in the helicopter located the boy about 15 feet deep in the water in the area where he was last seen. The dock begins near the bait shop and restaurant just past the chain-link fence where kayaks are stored.
Renate Brown had gone to the lake to pick up her 17-year-old son, Troy, who was on a fishing trip.
“I saw the helicopter drop off two divers and then land in the parking lot,” Brown said. Brown added there were people in boats and walking the shoreline in search of the missing boy.
“About 10 minutes later, one of the divers said, ‘I’ve got him’ and we watched them pull him out of the water. His mother was screaming. She was hysterical. They did CPR on him for quite a while and then loaded him into the ambulance. It was terrible. I had a chill go up my spine when they pulled him out. It’s every parent’s nightmare.”
Senior Deputy Medical Examiner James Baroni confirmed Tuesday the boy’s death was due to asphyxia by drowning.
When the boy first went missing, it was feared he might have been kidnapped because a vehicle was seen leaving the area at the same time.
Bonfiglio said that speculation proved false, and the vehicle’s departure was completely unrelated.
FROM Sgt. Joe Evans
Good morning watchers.
Yesterday on of your fellow watchers observed two males acting suspiciously in his neighborhood. This is one of the neighborhoods where crooks had been taking things from parked cars late at night. Well our watcher saw these two and knew they just did not look right. The police were called and one of your deputies arrived in the area. A short time later the deputy found the subjects and made contact with them.
To make a long story short, both these men were wanted and arrested for outstanding criminal warrants. We do not know exactly what these two were up to, but we do know that what ever it was, can now be done from a jail cell. (Yahoo, catch a crook in action)
Great job of seeing something that just was not right and calling the police. This is another example of how important it is for all of us to watch out for our neighborhoods. With all the information that we are sharing it is easy to stay on top of what to look for. Of course it all means nothing if we do not call the police. Remember you never know if the people you are concerned about are the same people we are looking for. So please when in doubt, call us out.
Now onto more pressing matters. We have seen an increase in vehicle burglaries happening during the day time at local parking lots. There was one in Meiners Oaks on El Roblar and one in the Von’s parking lot. This is not something that we normally see. Most of our car burg’s have been either late at night in our neighborhoods or in Matilija Canyon. Please be aware of your surroundings when you park your car and always lock it. Do not leave items of value visible in your car while you are shopping. Lock them in the trunk or leave them at home.
Speaking of the canyon. Since our recent patrol saturation of that area, we have seen a sharp reduction in the amount of thefts from vehicles. I am not sure if it is because of the extra patrols or if the weather has kept more people out of the canyon, giving the crooks less opportunity. Either way I am happy but I still would like to catch that particular crook.
I want to give you an update on the white suburban that was going into the mobile home parks and trying to take advantage of our elderly citizens. The vehicle is still out there and we expect it will surface in the near future. Your detectives have some strong information on that case that should develop into leads. It turns out that these crooks were able to get into one home and steal some property.
I have attached the picture of that vehicle to this alert. Please watch for it and call the police if you see it. You can call 654-9511 or 911 either will do the trick.
If you remember I told you that our original goal was to have 100 Watchers on our primary list by February. One Feburay 1,2009 I told you that we exceeded that by having 200 Watchers on the list. Well all your efforts of spreading the word has really taken off this last week. In the past 13 days you have added 76 additional Watchers to our primary list. We are approaching 300 Watchers and each of you are to blame or thank depending on who you talk to. Keep up the good work.
I would also like to take this time to welcome Ron Roe of the Voice paper. Ron contacted me and will be publishing our alerts in his Ojai / Ventura paper. With both Lenny at the Ojai Valley News and Ron at the Voice joining our team, we will certainly increase the amount of people receiving our alerts and helping protect our neighborhoods. Thanks Lenny and Ron our community feels your support.
Well there is a storm on the way so lets stay safe and take care of all our friends and family. Have a great day and thanks for all you do.
Your friend and neighbor, Joe
District agrees to cover expenses, share winnings with law firm
By Daryl Kelly
In a split vote, directors of the Casitas Municipal Water District agreed Wednesday to continue a costly lawsuit against the federal government by retaining a Washington lawyer on a “contingency” contract under which he’d be paid only if he won the case.The new contract with property rights lawyer Roger Marzulla, however, was controversial partly because the district agreed to pick up all other expenses related to pressing the case except for the fees of the Marzulla legal team.
The expenses charged to the district as the case proceeds, perhaps even to the U.S. Supreme Court, would include those paid for court and jury fees, process charges, court reporting and transcription fees, consultants’ fees, and all costs for expert witnesses.
The district has already spent about $500,000 on the four-year-old case. On Wednesday, officials did not estimate how much more the case could eventually cost if Casitas loses.
Instead of fees, Marzulla would now get 22.5 percent of any award the district receives.
Marzulla has estimated that Casitas could receive tens of millions of dollars if it wins its challenge to the constitutionality of a federal “taking” without compensation of water for migration of the endangered steelhead trout up the Ventura River.
On Thursday, he said in an interview that he didn’t think Casitas would have to spend much more to see its case to a conclusion before the Supreme Court. Depending on lower court rulings, Casitas’ expenses could be as little as a few thousand dollars or as much as $40,000 to $50,000, he said.
“That is, in part, because much of the expense of this case has already been incurred,” he said.
He said he agreed to take a lesser part of any settlement or court award — an attorney’s contingency fee is often 33 percent or more — because he and Casitas decided to split the risks and the costs.
“We agreed we would be willing to split the risk and effectively partner with Casitas in completing this case,” he said.
Under the new contract, if the district decides to quit the case without winning, it would pay Marzulla and his partner $400 an hour for time they’d already spent, while his legal associates would get $150 an hour.
“We believe 22.5 percent is a reasonable fee in this case,” he said. “We’re a small office, and this is our customary arrangement for clients. Our pockets aren’t deep enough.”
On a 3-2 vote Wednesday, Casitas directors said they wanted to continue the case to send the federal government a message that it can’t take Casitas’ water unless it pays for it. They said they felt they owed it to their customers — about 65,000 people and 200 farmers in west Ventura and the Ojai Valley.
Directors Bill Hicks, Jim Word and Pete Kaiser concluded that the chance of winning the case was worth the continued expense, while Directors Russ Baggerly and Richard Handley said the case was a costly long shot that threatens to undermine the federal Endangered Species Act.
“I wish we didn’t have to do it,” said Word, a retired store manager. “(But) the ratepayers deserve every opportunity to break even.”
But Handley, who works for a land conservation group, said: “I think it is a very ill-advised lawsuit to begin with. I don’t think the case has enough merit to go forward.”
Kaiser, a retired county employee and government consultant, remained the swing vote.
It was Kaiser whose vote last year continued the suit, after he’d first said he might kill it because of mounting costs. Finally, he said he’d keep going through an appeal because Marzulla had capped additional fees at $45,000 through that appeal.
Then in September, after a series of setbacks in the case, the district scored a legal victory.
In a split decision, a three-justice federal appeals panel in Washington agreed that the federal government had seized district property by forcing it to provide water for the fish ladder without compensation. The panel also ruled that the district was not entitled to reimbursement for $9 million the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation forced it to spend to build the fish ladder.
But property rights lawyers said that the 2-to-1 ruling could still carry nationwide significance if it remains in place after a review by the full 16-justice Federal Circuit Court in Washington, which hears all appeals of property rights cases.
State and federal lawyers requested just such a review in December, arguing that the three-justice panel had “clearly departed from binding precedent of the Supreme Court and this Court” in requiring that the Casitas case be considered under federal law for the taking of private property instead of under law relating to regulatory restrictions on property.
Indeed, federal lawyers even argued that Casitas had not lost a drop of water to the fish ladder that it had been forced to replace, since the Casitas reservoir and dam project is naturally replenished by rainfall.
The full Federal Circuit Court has still not said whether it will review the panel’s decision to send the Casitas case back to the trial court to be considered under laws dealing with the taking of private property.
But, with the district’s original contract with Marzulla expiring, Kaiser and the board majority decided this week that the case was worth pursuing.
Hicks, a retired businessman, said it needed to proceed to set a precedent that keeps a federal agency from seizing property without pay.
“It’s a big issue that needs to be settled one way or another,” he said.
And Word said the money from a judgment could be spent partly to expand the capacity of Lake Casitas so it could more easily provide water for the fish ladder, even in times of drought.
Baggerly, an environmental consultant, pressed for more information, asking about the leanings of the Federal Circuit Court, which must not only decide whether to review its panel’s decision, but could also hear a subsequent appeal of the case.
The district’s primary lawyer, John Matthews, said the court was appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents and that its leanings, if any, are not discernible. “It looks like a pretty split court,” he said.
Baggerly seemed concerned about committing to a new contract with Marzulla even before the full appeals court has decided whether to reconsider its panel’s pro-Casitas decision.
Matthews said he would not recommend delay, since Marzulla could argue that has already fulfilled the provisions of his previous contract and an e-mail commitment to work for just $45,000 through this appeal.
And Matthews assured the board that it could reconsider its decision to press ahead if the full court sides against it.
“You could stop,” he said. But Marzulla would have to be paid hourly for the work he does before that decision is made.
If the Bureau of Reclamation is forced to pay for water for the fish ladder, the bill could total $1 million to $2 million a year, Casitas officials have said. That compares with Casitas’ annual budget of about $16 million.
Casitas estimates that it takes at least 3,200 acre-feet of water a year to guarantee that the steelhead migration can occur. The district charges farmers $371 an acre-foot for water and residential customers $444. It also estimates that it would cost at least $600 an acre-foot to import water for the fish ladder during a prolonged drought.
That means that the value of the 3,200 acre-feet is at least $1.12 million and as much as $1.92 million, said Casitas representatives. (An acre-foot of water meets the needs of two typical households for a year.)
Lawyer Marzulla has said that an appraiser has valued water the district could lose for the fish ladder over decades at “tens of millions of dollars, and it could go as high as $80 million.”
But no one should be counting their money yet, because this is “a difficult case,” he said.
“We’re going up against the entire array of the U.S. Justice Department,” he said. “And it’s tough to win those cases.”
By Sondra Murphy
Help of Ojai received an early Valentine’s Day gift on Thursday from a former volunteer who remembered the organization in her will.
June Greiving left a bequest of $125,000 to Help. Greiving served on Help’s board for 10 years and is remembered as an RSVP volunteer, Community Assistance Program supporter and friend.
Greiving’s nephew, Randy Stricklin, presented a check to Help’s executive director Terri Wolfe in the presence of other volunteers, many of whom worked with Greiving. “She loved this activity and always put her heart and soul into it,” said Stricklin. “She had a great life here in Ojai. She was a good woman and my favorite aunt.”
“All of her work was truly appreciated,” said Wolfe as she thanked Stricklin. “In speaking with others who knew June, she brought a spirit and dedication to Help of Ojai.”
Stricklin agreed that his aunt was a vigorous presence. “In business, she cracked the glass ceiling before anybody,” he said, explaining that Greiving worked for the Hughes Corporation and advanced in graphic design.
Kathleen Tarrats shared her remembrances with Stricklin. “June was always such a lady,” said Tarrats, who mentioned Greiving’s brochure designs and the back-and-forth process it took to get them just right. “She always helped with all the activities and never lost her patience with us. I loved her dearly.”
Nona Kingsbury spoke of Greiving’s golf efforts. “June got me involved in the senior golf tournament,” said Kingsbury.
“She loved doing all the registrations and all the pros,” Stricklin recalled. “I have pictures of her with Arnold Palmer.” He said Greiving did not start playing golf until she retired and continued playing until she was 79. “She was pretty strong and joined the Ojai Valley Country Club as a single woman.”
Wolfe presented Stricklin with a plaque to commemorate and express appreciation for the bequest. A rose bush and name plaque honoring Greiving will be planted later this spring at Help’s Little House. A bequest is a welcome method to ensure that Help can continue enriching the quality of life for others in the community through its many programs.
People who want more information about making a bequest to or financially investing in Help of Ojai may contact Chris Poynter, development director, at 646-5122, Ext. 16, or email@example.com.
OUSD partners with city staff on Channel 10
By Sondra Murphy
After months of static over logistics, Ojai is sharpening the picture on local public access television.
A second reading of an ordinance adding a new chapter to the Ojai Municipal Code received unanimous support by the Ojai City Council Tuesday. The ordinance addresses state video franchises pursuant to Assembly Bill 2987, the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 as it relates to cable Channel 10, the public access station for the Ojai area.
AB 2987 opened up the prospect for the city to assume management of Channel 10 and receive additional funds for the effort. The City Council voted in 2008 to take on management of Channel 10 and its equipment, which would otherwise have gone dark Jan. 1.
In November, Ojai Public Works director Mike Culver formed a community task team of interested parties to work on a plan. That team currently consists of representatives from the City Council, city staff, School District, Ministerial Association, and Ojai Valley News, as well as individuals experienced in emergency preparedness, technology and public access TV production.
The funding to run the station will continue to come from a percentage of Time Warner’s Ojai franchise profits and is estimated by the city to be about $17,600.
In November, Ojai Unified School District offered to run the station through its Nordhoff High School Media Arts Academy in exchange for the $17,600 to kick-start the effort and had hoped to begin in January. That offer was supported by task team members, but negotiations between the city and OUSD stalled over operational logistics, as well as plans that were not detailed enough to satisfy the City Council.
OUSD superintendent Tim Baird submitted another proposal to the city this month which council members viewed more favorably. In the proposal, Baird outlined a curriculum design for station management to be incorporated into the Media Arts Academy in order to provide eight hours of daily programming and allow for community involvement in several areas. Besides an advisory board of local media specialists, OUSD’s proposal encourages community submissions .
“Why do we need public access TV? Because it is the voice of the people,” said Baird during his address to the council. “The city can’t run the station alone. Funding can only be used for facilities and equipment. From a business standpoint, this is a crummy deal for the district. But from an educational standpoint, this is a wonderful opportunity for the students.”
Baird said that the district would need to raise additional funds to cover staffing costs, but said the district is “uniquely positioned to do this with instructors who have a combined 60 years of experience, one of whom has even worked in public access television.”
“Nobody else can do this for this kind of money,” said Baird. “The community will get public access TV back on the air and a chance to see public access TV as they’ve never seen it before in Ojai.”
Others spoke in support of the deal, such as Len Klaif. “I would urge the city to pass the ordinance, and that the council do all that it can to encourage staff to find the right documents to get this moving and use this incredibly valuable resource for the community,” said Klaif.
“I just wanted to say that everywhere I go now, people ask me, ‘Where’s the television show you do for the city of Ojai?’” said Lee Fitzgerald of the public access program bearing his name. “And I tell them, ‘Be patient, we’re not only going to have the station, but have the kids be a part of it.’ And people love that.”
Council members were more enthusiastic about this proposal than the previous submissions, but still wanted assurances of the risks associated with any agreement between the city and school district. Councilwoman Sue Horgan asked city staff several times to list any risks, but they were unable to offer any downside. “What would happen if this doesn’t work out?” she asked.
“You can always repeal the ordinance,” said city attorney Monte Widders.
Mayor Joe DeVito wanted people to understand that passage of the ordinance would likely translate into an increase of their cable rates. “I want the public to be aware that this is an increase in their fees,” he said. “It’s very, very minor, but I want the public to be aware their rates will go up 1 percent.”
“If we don’t pass the ordinance tonight, I don’t want to spend any more time on hammering out the service contract,” said Councilwoman Carol Smith. “I’m very comfortable passing it tonight and then attending meetings and hammering out the details.”
Nordhoff principal Dan Musick addressed concerns over risk and content in his address. “I’d like to call this an investment,” he said. “Nordhoff High School is a California Distinguished School. They don’t just give those away. We have experience in the community to draw from and we had such great synergy in these planning meetings, I guarantee this will be a success.”
After the council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance, Widders said it would take 31 days to become effective. This gives the city time to begin the process of collecting the additional funds and finalize the contract with OUSD.
The city of Ojai currently gets 5 percent of Time Warner’s revenues from customers in the city limits, which Culver estimated at the Jan. 27 council meeting to be $88,000 annually and earmarked for the general fund. City staff has estimated that Time Warner will increase subscription fees by 1 to 2 percent in order to procure the additional funds they need to pay individual governments or nonprofit groups assuming management of public access channels.
From: “OjaiValley CityWatch”
Good evening Watchers.
Your deputies are looking for a 1986 GMC Suburban that is white in color. We have a partial California license plate number of 5CJ_548. This vehicle was involved in three different incidents today where they tried to take advantage of the elderly people we have living in our valley. In all three cases these suspect tried to pass themselves off as home repair people. They tried to talk their way into the victims homes by being very pushy and intimidating. In one of the incidents a good neighbor saw what was going on a began writing down their license numbers. Well they saw this and were gone in a matter of seconds.
This is not the actions of honest contractors who work in our area. Their actions are very suspect and we are lucky that they have not been able to complete their crime as of yet.
This vehicle has been described as having two or three males in it at the time of each event. One of the younger males is described as being “pushy”.
If you see this vehicle please call the police. We would like to have a short talk with them about their actions in our neighborhoods.
Please forward this alert to anyone you know living in mobile home parks or any other area where the population is primarily elderly.
I have attached a picture of the suburban that was supplied to me by one of our own Watchers. I am telling you this is a small town and the crooks need to be worried.
Thanks for all you do and lets catch these crooks. Joe
NOTE: To sign up for City Watch, call Joe Evans at 646-1414
or e-mail your name, address and phone number to him.
In wake of Measure P’s narrow defeat, some in community getting organized
By Sondra Murphy
Like others in this community who voted in favor of Measure P in November, Sara Beeby was disappointed by its failure. The measure, also known as the parcel tax, sought to garner $89 annually for seven years from parcels in the Ojai Unified School District boundaries for the financially struggling district.
A two-thirds majority fell less than 1 percent shy of the 66.67-percent margin needed for the measure to have passed, or just 77 votes. Tim Baird, OUSD superintendent, estimated the measure could have generated about $600,000 per year during its seven-year span.
But 7,140 people voted in favor of the measure and those are the ones Beeby is challenging to put their money where their votes are.
Beeby is urging everyone who supported the parcel tax to send a donation to OUSD. “Any amount is acceptable and most appreciated,” said Beeby. If each person who voted in support of Measure P sent OUSD $89, it would total more than $635,000. Beeby expected that not all supporters would be able to afford that amount, but hopes others might be able to send more than $89. Beeby and husband, Bob, sent their donation in December.
Beeby said her campaign is supplementary to ongoing efforts by the Ojai Education Foundation, which perpetually endeavors to support public education by raising funds for specific programs that benefit OUSD students.
Some of the items being considered for cuts by the OUSD board include athletics, class size reduction, counseling, custodial support, elementary physical education, intervention classes, librarians, music, school material budgets, technology staff, textbooks, transportation, as well as certain secondary electives not yet determined. The board will also revisit class size increases across all grade levels, salary rollbacks and school closures.
Those watching the School District’s struggles during the past several years will recognize on that list departments and programs which have taken repeated hits as declining student populations have combined with state budget crises and unsupported federal mandates to near-lethal results.
Many California school districts have already succumbed to the financial disaster and are in various processes of state takeover, such as in King City.
For the first time in its history, Ojai Unified School District filed a qualified budget report in December and projected that it may not be able to meet its financial obligations in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. School district administrators are required to submit two reports to the governing board each fiscal year, the first covering the financial and budgetary status of the district for the period ending Oct. 31.
Reports are then either certified as positive, qualified or negative. Qualified certifications may pertain to the current year and/or the subsequent two years. In the case of OUSD, its dwindling cash reserves are also impacting the certification status.
In preparing its interim report for the governing board, Dannielle Pusatere, OUSD assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, determined that, based on financial projections from the state of California, the school district may not be able to sustain any more deficits and remain fiscally solvent. The district is closely following efforts to rescue the state budget in hopes of some good news for schools.
In January, Baird announced anticipated reductions of $800,000 for midyear, a reduction of $1.6 million to $2.4 million for the 2009-2010 school year, and at least another additional $800,000 in 2010-2011.
Donations made to OUSD are tax deductible and donors may designate which programs they want their money to help support. “We have actually received more than $1,200 in donations so far,” said Pusatere. “I’m calling it the ‘We lost the parcel tax’ fund.”
For more information, contact Andrea Pendleton, OUSD executive assistant to the superintendent, at 640-4300, Ext. 3. Donations may be sent to OUSD, P.O. Box 878, Ojai, CA 93024.
Level lowest in two decades, though assaults show rise
By Daryl Kelley
Serious crime in Ojai fell last year to one of the lowest levels in two decades, as thefts from automobiles plummeted even as felony assaults ticked up from 2007, according to new crime reports.
Overall, Ojai experienced 189 serious crimes in 2008, compared with 263 the previous year and 257 in 2006, reported the county Sheriff’s Department, which polices Ojai and the rest of the Ojai Valley.
That’s a 28 percent overall drop in crime in Ojai last year compared with 2007.
“Ojai continues to be a safe place to live and visit,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Dunn, who functions as Ojai’s police chief.
Crime has been lower in Ojai in only one other year since 1990, with 177 offenses in 2001, data shows.
And last year’s total of 189 offenses compares favorably with Ojai’s average of 222 crimes a year this decade and 251 crimes annually during the last two decades.
That’s likely because of the “vigilance of our residents and business owners,” Dunn said.
Meanwhile, crime in the Ojai Valley’s unincorporated areas, such as Meiners Oaks, Oak View and Casitas Springs, dropped slightly last year, from 446 offenses to 439, with a sharp drop in vehicle burglaries and a big increase in home burglaries. Violent crime was up slightly.
The police chief, who was scheduled to present an analysis to the City Council on Tuesday evening, said crime plummeted in the city last year because local residents responded to a spate of thefts from autos in 2007 by being more careful to lock their cars and stow valuables.
Thefts from autos dropped two-thirds in a year, he said, from 84 to 27. But he also warned that auto burglaries are up sharply in 2009 and that residents must not become complacent. Auto thefts have spiked this year, for example, at hiking trailheads, he said.
Meanwhile, crimes of violence in Ojai increased from 10 to 15 last year, because felony assaults more than doubled, from five to 11. There were no murders in Ojai in 2008, just one rape and three robberies.
The 15 acts of felony violence are lower than the annual average for Ojai this decade and well below the city’s rate of violence in the 1990s.
“It should be noted that … homicide, rape and robbery remain at very low levels,” Dunn said in his report.
The sole rape charge resulted from a 15-year-old girl reporting a sexual assault by her boyfriend, he reported. And the three robberies resulted from incidents in which three young friends stole from a fourth, a suspect stole prescription medication from a victim who refused to turn it over and a junior high school student was assaulted in a bathroom.
While assaults often surge during times of high youth gang activity, Dunn said that was not the cause of the jump in Ojai last year. He said domestic violence was up and assaults came from throughout the community.
Indeed, in his report to the city, Dunn said the Ojai Valley has a lower level of gang activity than elsewhere in Ventura County.
“We are fortunate that the gang members in the Ojai Valley area are less sophisticated and maintain fewer members than most of the gangs in other cities in the county,” the police chief wrote. “While their membership continues to remain relatively small, we understand that even a few can distress an entire community.”
Yet, Dunn noted that two small rival gangs remain active in the valley, an Ojai-based Latino gang and an Oak View-based gang that holds white supremacist beliefs.
“Conflicts between these two groups normally occur throughout the Ojai Valley and the Ventura Avenue area (of Ventura),” he wrote.
Statistics for the valley’s unincorporated areas show that violent crime was up one offense overall, as rapes increased from three to five and robberies were up from eight to 11. But there were no homicides and felony assaults dropped from 39 to 35.
And a midyear report found that some gang activity, which jumped in Ojai in 2006 and 2007, had shifted out of the city to Meiners Oaks and Oak View.
A Sheriff’s Department anti-gang unit operating in western Ventura County, including the Ojai Valley, has also led to a reduction in gang-related assaults. Just three of the 11 assaults in Ojai have been tied to gangs so far, Dunn said. Also, a spate of gang-related violence in 2006 prompted the conviction of a dozen youths, taking them off the street at least temporarily.
Other indicators also suggest a drop in criminal activity in 2008, at least in the city of Ojai.
Arrests dropped from 569 to 525 in Ojai last year, while arrests were up slightly in the unincorporated area of the valley, Dunn reported.
Calls for police assistance also dropped last year in Ojai, from 3,545 in 2007 to 3,471 in 2008. Last year’s level was slightly below average during the last six years. Still, a breakdown shows that reports of violent activity were up during the last year as were disturbance calls, while vandalism and suspicious activity calls were off sharply.
In the unincorporated area, police calls were up slightly and reached a six-year high at 6,490, up from 5,268 in 2003.
In the city and the rest of the valley, police response to calls was also quicker in 2008, Dunn reported. The time it takes to get to a possible crime scene during an emergency fell from 7.82 minutes in 2005 to 5.55 minutes in 2008, while non-emergency response times also dropped. Response time in unincorporated areas fell from 11.53 minutes in 2005 to 8.75 minutes last year.
“For emergency calls the city of Ojai has the shortest response time of all the contract cities,” Dunn noted.
Ojai is the smallest of the five local cities in which the Sheriff’s Department provides police protection. And in other city-to-city comparisons, Ojai does not fare as well.
While Ojai’s crime rate, the number of crimes per 1,000 residents, dropped dramatically last year, its rate of 23.17 was still the highest of the sheriff’s contract cities and higher than the incidence of crime in the unincorporated area the Sheriff Department patrols.
By comparison, Thousand Oaks had 15.03 crimes per 1,000 residents, Moorpark had 16.76, Camarillo 17.20 and Fillmore 19.7.
However, Fillmore’s violent crime rate was substantially higher than Ojai’s as was the incidence of violent crime in the county’s unincorporated areas, including much of the Ojai Valley.
Of Ventura County’s 10 cities, Ojai was the only one without a homicide last year. Oxnard had 13 and every other city besides Ojai had at least two.
Dunn said that Ojai has a higher crime rate than other cities patrolled by the sheriff, because it is the center of activity in the 35,000-resident Ojai Valley.
The city’s allure also draws many tourists on weekends, which attracts thieves.
“Our main drag is a highway,” Dunn said. “And just possibly if you’re an opportunistic thief, you’re going to go where the money is.”
Receiving special note in Dunn’s report was the effectiveness of the city’s so-called Social Host Ordinance.
That three-year-old ordinance carries a fine of $1,000 for anyone who allows underage drinking at a residence. So far, 11 city residents and 25 residents of the rest of the valley have been fined, the police chief said.
But, in 2008, just one city resident was cited for hosting a party at which underage children were served alcohol, while eight residents in unincorporated areas were cited last year.
Deputies and state investigators also cited seven local businesses for selling alcohol to minors.
“It is my opinion that the Social Host Ordinance and alcohol sales operations have been and will continue to be successful in combating underage drinking,” Dunn reported to the council.
Ojai Valley City Watch
Date: February 7, 2009 12:30:57 PM PST
Subject: City Watch Alert
From: Sgt. Joe Evans
The following areas are experiencing the type of crime listed above.
The first area is our friends in the housing tract off Rice Rd. between Alviria and Camille. Then there is the area of Burnham Rd. between north Rockaway and the corner market. Last but not least we have seen an increase in the North Ventura Ave. area, in the Norway St. tract.
If you know anyone living in these areas please encourage them to call the police when they see people walking the streets late at night. If the are not members of City Watch, sign them up.
On another note, during this rainy weather it is common for your deputies to respond to many 911 hang up calls. While some of these are calls for police service, many are just a result of the rain causing problems in the system. In any event the deputies will respond to all the calls as if it were an emergency. If you have a problem with your phone line and a deputy responds to your house, please be patient. The deputy will need to talk with you and determine that there is no emergency. This may take a few minutes of your time but it is important to make sure everything is alright.
On behalf of your deputies, I want to thank you for all your help and patience during this rainy season. If you have any questions about your deputies responding to your home for a 911 call feel free to ask.
Again thanks for all you do and lets catch some of those crooks looking in our cars at night. Joe
Stars turn out for Ojai Playwright’s Conference
By David Mason
“Where’s the Money? Show Me the Money!” was the wonderful title of the 2009 gala benefit celebrating the Ojai Playwrights Conference. As the Matilija Auditorium filled to capacity, there was an air of excitement everywhere.
I had the extreme pleasure of having Sharon Gless as my guest for the evening, so with the wonderful actress, Tyne Daly, performing on the stage, I guess you could say that “Cagney and Lacey” were back together again.
Listening to the loud applause, I believe Ms. Daly realized that her trip from New York to Ojai was well worthwhile. I certainly enjoyed her performances on the television series, “Judging Amy,” each week after “Cagney and Lacey” had stopped running.
Having fun on the Matilija stage, was the young actor, David Burtka. He has been on many stages throughout America, but surely none had welcomed him as much as the Ojai audience did. David’s films included “Hollywood Ending” and “24 Nights.” His television credits include “The West Wing” and “Crossing Jordan.” Recently a new group of admirers have enjoyed him on the funny series, “How I Met Your Mother.”
Everyone’s favorite, Dick Van Dyke was in rare form, he even received a “partial standing ovation” from the audience. Dick will probably always be remembered for his performance on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and in “Mary Poppins.” Some years ago, I was invited to the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the Gypsy Awards and Dick was the recipient of that prestigious award that evening. It is truly amazing all of the wonderful shows this gentleman has been a part of.
I couldn’t help but notice how much Helen Allen and Lynn Doherty were enjoying the show. These two women certainly support the arts in Ojai and I, for one, appreciate all they do.
Another lady on the stage was one of my favorite “Desperate Housewives” actresses, Dana Delany. She is such a delight in everything she does. I remember her in one of my favorite films, “Tombstone,” with Bill Paxton.
Jane Leeves brought her great humor to the stage. Ms. Leeves was such a delight on the television series, “Frasier,” as Daphne Moon; the part brought her Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Her duet part with Kim Maxwell was one of the highlights of the evening. I always enjoy Ms. Maxwell’s entertaining and this evening was no different.
Appearing in the next Paramount Pictures’ “Star Trek” in the role of Spock is the exciting actor Zachary Quinto, who was in 23 episodes of “24” and has just joined the board of directors of the Ojai Playwrights Conference. Such a talented man, I am more than sure that he will bring a great deal to the conference, which was created to celebrate writers.
I have been a fan of Steven Weber since the series “Wings” was on the television. Now I get to enjoy him on “Brothers and Sisters” and all that involves around the show’s dealing with Ojai Foods. Steven took over for Matthew Broderick in “The Producers” back in 2002. The big screen had Steven in “The Shining,” “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Jeffrey,” to name just a few. It’s always a joy to welcome Steven back to Ojai.
I know that many in the audience, including John Grant, Pam Melone and Karin Quimby were certainly having a great time.
Neil Patrick Harris, what can you say about Neil Patrick Harris that has not been said a million times? — one of the most enjoyable actors on the stage, and on television. At this time, he is the main star of the series “How I Met Your Mother” as Barney the womanizer.
However, many of you may remember him as the fun-loving “Doogie Howser, M.D.” when he was just a kid.
It was so good to see Harry and Ann Oppenheimer again, I am sure they came west from Chicago just to attend this delightful show.
The audience certainly was made up of many of our local celebrities, including Chris Trumbo and his delightful wife, Nancy Escher. Buddy Wilde, who always make the Ojai Art Center stage come alive, along with Carole Jo Adams, Edmund Andreas Arredondo and Herb Hemming.
With Kim Exon out of town, I had the pleasure of her husband, Jim Exon’s company for the evening. Jim arrived at the gala in a striking Armani outfit that certainly added a lot of class to the special event. I always appreciate Jim’s friendship and his contribution to Ojai.
To say that the evening was a success, would be an understatement, it was more than a smashing success and I certainly had a wonderful time.
A lifelong dream came true. I had always wondered what it would feel like to drive up to the great and magnificent gates of Paramount Studio and be waved through. Not unlike Gloria Swanson when as Norma Desmond she went through the same gates for her close-up for Mr. DeMille. It was an exciting experience.
I was invited to attend the screening of Hope Anderson’s “Under the Hollywood Sign.” Ms. Anderson took the crowd of 200 people through a journey of the development of Hollywood and the influence it had on the Ojai Valley.
The film showed an early view of the Beachwood section of Hollywood, right below the famous sign. Krotona had its early beginnings in this section of Los Angeles before coming to the Ojai Valley and many of the exotic buildings remain today. The Hollywood Krotona Court, with its aura of the mystical east which is suggested in the Islamic domes and cusped arches, was designed by architects Frank Meade and Richard Requa, who were also responsible for the design of the Ojai post office, Arcade, Pergola and El Roblar Hotel (now The Oaks at Ojai).
The movie had incorporated many of the early pictures and text from the book, “Krotona of Old Hollywood” by Joseph E. Ross, a longtime Ojai resident. It also told the story of how Krotona’s dramatic productions, with featured Shakespearean actor Walter Hampden and famed dancer Ruth St. Denis, inspired the building of the Hollywood Bowl.
Ms. Anderson took the audience sitting in the Sherry Lansing Theater through the history of the Hollywood sign and its tragedies. From the caretaker who got drunk and drove into the “H” and knocked it over, to the many restoration projects, which included Hugh Hefner’s important event at the Playboy mansion that raised a considerable amount of money to restore the famous sign, and the sadness of Peg Entwistle who in a depressed state over the failure of her movie career, had jumped from the top of the letter “H.”
The film also would show the large mosaic wall in the Beachwood community that included a tribute to the famous Ojai potter, Beatrice Wood, and the history of the famed English novelist Aldous Huxley, who lived in the Beachwood area and founded the Happy Valley School (now Besant Hill School) in the Ojai Valley. Huxley would serve on the board of the school for 15 years.
The movie was not shown in its final stage, but was still in need of editing and some color corrections, however, I so enjoyed watching each scene and each word as it was presented.
Layoff notices going to one-sixth of county’s teachers
By Linda Harmon
Once again a litany of economic woes topped the Ojai Unified School Board meeting last Tuesday night. Superintendent Tim Baird outlined the grim economic picture he was given over three days of statewide meetings. “Ventura County will be giving layoff notices to about one-sixth of their teachers,” said Baird. He detailed the downward economic trends predicted for education over the next several years, adding, “We have to proceed with our certificated layoffs. We have to still assume the worst scenario.”
Baird said the state and federal governments’ plans will directly determine the immediate future of education in Ojai and California, adding education is the third-largest job market in California.
“There is a lot that’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks that’s going to change that picture. We have to wait for the state and federal plan to guide our decision making,” Baird said.
At this date the state did say they have a plan, but according to Baird the district shouldn’t count on that.
“In the best-case scenario, we may be looking at one elementary education full-time staff reduction,” said Baird. “In the worst-case scenario, we could lose 20 elementary, 15 secondary, and eight district-level full-time employees.”
He went on to recommend the next steps to be taken to “gather further data and staff recommendations for reductions” in additional areas and begin negotiations with unions to address changes in contracts, possible larger class sizes, and a shorter school year translating into teacher pay cuts.
The board approved Resolution 08-09-23 to provide temporary relief from cash flow problems caused by the state budget crisis. The resolution allows inter-district cash pooling to handle possible cash shortages during the period between budgets at lower interest.
In one hopeful moment, Baird did say that with the House passing bailout legislation of $819 billion and the Senate voting on their version of a package at $880 billion now, states could see some relief as early as 30 days from passage and the districts could see some funding 30 days after that.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised a very quick implementation, but Baird is still worried that Ojai may not see enough of an increase in funding to avoid the pain.
Earlier in the meeting, the board approved the science textbook, “The Human Body in Health and Disease” for use in the district to be purchased with previously allocated funds.
The board was also treated to an overview and update by Sandra McElwaine, the technology department head. McElwaine outlined a project list of future needs to service and upgrade existing technology at all school sights. The district had previously set aside $96,000 in categorical funds over three years to meet the expected $100,000 price tag. That money will now be swept into the general fund to aid the cash-strapped district.
McElwaine has a staff of three employees that install, maintain, troubleshoot and repair the technology districtwide. This includes classroom and staff computers on 25 school sites, communications, and all classroom equipment such as projectors. McElwaine was lauded by the board and members of the audience for decreasing the wait for service and beginning the standardization of equipment that streamlines staff needed for maintenance.
Although many improvements will be sidelined, the board expressed hope that a monitor for indoor temperature and conditions in the district’s equipment room, expected to cost around $800, be budgeted sooner rather than later.
Baird also updated the board on the proposed joint venture between Nordhoff High School and the city to provide a public access station in Ojai.
“The opportunity is there and we are uniquely positioned to provide this service,” said Baird. “We have the teachers and the students to provide the service and the equipment in place. It’s too unique of an opportunity to not make this happen. I just need to clear up any misconceptions and answer some questions the council has. We are going to deliver eight hours of quality programming. I think we will come to an agreement with the city.”
Calling it a win-win situation, Baird urged all board members and parents to attend the upcoming City Council meeting to address their support, saying “In five or 10 years we could have the best public access station out there.”
FROM THE CHP, VENTURA
On February 3, 2009 at approximately 12:51 p.m., a major injury traffic collision occurred on SR-150, west of Loma Drive. The drivers of both vehicles were transported to Ojai Valley Community Hospital. Kenneth Ballard, 49 years of age from Ojai, was driving his 1999 Porsche Boxster and was stopped facing eastbound on the south (bottom) shoulder of SR-150, just west of Loma Drive. Julie Gaynor, 27 years of age from Oak View, was driving her 2006 Nissan Pathfinder eastbound on SR-150 and was approaching Ballard from his left side. For unknown reasons, Ballard failed to observe Gaynor’s vehicle approaching from his left and he attempted to make a left turn across the traffic lanes. As he did so, his vehicle traveled directly in front of Gaynor, who was unable to stop in time. The front of her Pathfinder then collided into the left side of Ballard’s Porsche.
Emergency crews responded to the scene, and both Ballard and Gaynor were later transported to Ojai Valley Community Hospital for their injuries. Ballard suffered a broken neck and several broken ribs. Gaynor had minor injuries and complained of pain to her upper body. The cause of the collision is still under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.
REPORT FROM SGT. JOE EVANS
Police need help identifying suspect
Good morning watchers.
Your station detectives are looking for your help. Please review the attached pictures. We are trying to identify the female seen in the photos. If you know this person please send me her name and any contact information you might have. I will relay the information to detectives and your name will remain confidential.
This is the first time I have sent you this type of information. I am hoping to share more information with you in these type of cases in the future.
Oh one more thing. Welcome to the Ojai Valley News. Lenny Roberts at the paper is now listing our alerts on their web site. If you use their web site please send them a message welcoming them to our team. This is a great example of how local business can support the community that supports them. I have been told that there are a number of business’ posting our alerts at their locations. It would be great to see more local business’ join our team. If you know local business people, please forward them our alerts and ask them to join.
Remember the stronger our team, the more crooks have to worry about us. Keep up the good work and thank you for all you are doing.
Your friend and neighbor, Joe
By Linda Harmon
Gus Hoffman, a 17-year-old Nordhoff High School junior, has done something most students and many actors can only dream of, he’s co-starred in an original movie that will be broadcast into hundreds of thousands of living rooms across the nation. The TNT original film in which Hoffman appears, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” debuts Saturday at 8 p.m. The film tells the story of Carson’s journey from a frustrated inner-city kid to director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.
Hoffman spent three weeks last September on location in inner-city Detroit, only a few doors down from where the Oscar-nominated Clint Eastwood movie “Gran Torino” was finishing up.
“I didn’t get to meet him, that would have been awesome,” said the young actor of Eastwood. Instead he not only met, but also co-stars with Cuba Gooding Jr.
Both Hoffman and Gooding play Carson. Hoffman plays him as a teenager, growing up in an impoverished section of Detroit. Gooding plays the adult Carson who becomes a world-famous neurosurgeon. The film follows Carson’s rise, and is based on Carson’s book, “Gifted Hands.”
“Carson has done some remarkable things for children suffering from brain seizures,” said Kate Hoffman, Hoffman’s mom and chaperon on the film. Carson, whose bad eyesight as a child hindered him academically, went on to be a pioneer in his field and was the first to successfully separate Siamese twins conjoined at the head.
“Carson is so famous even my mom’s doctor knows who he is,” said the thoroughly impressed young actor.
One pivotal scene in the film is Hoffman’s, as the young Carson loses his temper and takes a knife to another student, the blade’s point is broken off by the intended victim’s belt buckle. Carson takes it as a sign, prays for guidance and learns to change his ways.
The film is one of Johnson & Johnson’s presentations focusing on inspirational stories like “Door to Door,” the award-winning production starring William H. Macy.
According to Hoffman, in the future he would like to direct and produce movies and projects that have messages “giving people something to think about.”
Professionally, Hoffman is an Equity actor and has co-starred in three seasons of TV’s “Lincoln Heights,” moving from an awkward side character to a main love interest before being “killed off” last season. He also had a part in the 2008 movie, “Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins,” and has had numerous smaller TV parts.
“From the minute he started working people were impressed with how calm he was,” said his mom, who says he approaches acting kind of like a sport. “He does the best he can and then doesn’t worry if it works out.”
It sounds like it is working out just fine. Hoffman, who started out acting in Recreation Department classes in grade school and as a sixth-grader was the youngest “moth” on record in the Ojai production of Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” will be starring as the very picture of the modern major general in Nordhoff’s upcoming spring production of the Gilbert & Sullivan classic, “Pirates of Penzance.”
By Sondra Murphy
Local cable TV subscribers may have noticed the programming on Channel 10 has dwindled to city meetings and a sparse bulletin. Starting in January, the city of Ojai took over the running of the public access television station and the council wants to proceed slowly in developing a plan before accepting other content.
Assembly Bill 2987, the 2006 Digital Infrastructure and Competition Act, proposed to equalize competition among cable providers by allowing them all to franchise with the state. Intending to open up access to various media providers by altering franchise regulations, cable providers such as Time Warner, which provides cable to Ojai, were able to reduce the number of local cable stations they facilitated.
The city of Ojai voted in 2008 to take on management of Channel 10 and its equipment, which would otherwise have gone dark on Jan. 1. In November, Ojai Public Works director Mike Culver formed a community task team of interested parties who are working to create a plan for the logistics. That team currently consists of representatives from the City Council, city staff, School District, Ministerial Association, and OVN, as well as individuals experienced in emergency preparedness, technology and public access TV production.
Culver also convinced Time Warner to turn over to the city equipment to run the station, which is now housed in the basement of Public Works.
Public access television must focus on three areas: public information, education and government (P.E.G.). With the city covering the government portion, the task team is striving to provide the other two components to Channel 10’s broadcasts by enabling community members to create and submit content.
In December, the council was updated on the committee’s progress and requested a detailed plan be brought back this month, if possible.
The funding to run a station will continue to come from a percentage of Time Warner’s Ojai franchise profits and is estimated by the city to be about $17,600, a restrictive amount in light of the scope of the effort in terms of staffing and technology. Ojai Unified School District offered to run the station through its Nordhoff High School Media Arts Academy in exchange for the $17,600 to kick-start the effort and had hoped to begin this semester.
Last week, the council was unimpressed with the preliminary drafts submitted by OUSD and so cable viewers may expect to see city content only on Channel 10 for the time being.
Meanwhile, community groups and independent producers of programs, such as the “Dr. Lee Fitzgerald Show,” must find other venues at which to air their programs.
The city of Ojai gets 5 percent of Time Warner’s revenues from customers in the city limits, which Culver estimated at the Jan. 27 council meeting to be $88,000 annually. This amount goes into the general fund. City staff has estimated that Time Warner will increase subscription fees by 1 to 2 percent in order to procure the additional funds they need to pay individual governments or nonprofit groups assuming management of public access channels.
One difficulty in commencing with a plan is determining what that additional percentage may or may not be used for. Another is the fact that all Ojai Valley cable subscribers would benefit from a station that only city revenues will support. A further tricky issue is that the City Council and staff have expressed interest in retaining some of the additional 1 or 2 percent in order to service and maintain the cameras and equipment.
And until the city passes an official ordinance about Channel 10, the task team is powerless to collect cable revenues or raise additional funds to support the station. The city has also expressed reluctance to raise local cable customers’ rates without having quality content to show for it. Some cable subscribers have noticed their rates have increased, regardless.
“The committee determined that, in fact, we’re not getting that money unless we pass an ordinance,” said Carol Smith, councilwoman and P.E.G. task team liaison, during last week’s council meeting. Task team members and the public expressed frustration over the delays.
“We already have five producers waiting in line who have ideas,” said task team member Lee Fitzgerald to the council. “I’ve done my show for 14 years and I want the Ojai Valley community to have the best community TV in the county.”
His producer, April Jo Rogers, continues to submit DVDs of the show to public access stations Channel 6 in Ventura, Channel 25 in Westlake Village and Channel 15 at Oxnard College, since this is the only option they have and despite the fact that much of the show’s content centers around Ojai. “Time Warner will not be coming out to film the Independence Day parade. Unless somebody steps up, we will lose it,” said Rogers. “Let us work with the students.”
Rogers added that before the city took over Channel 10, the community could submit items to air and had access to cameras and equipment. “Time Warner allowed a lot of people to have shows and we want that to continue,” she said. Rogers got much of her early training from Channel 10’s previous coordinator, Carole McCartney, before going to school to expand her skills. Such trainings are not yet in the mind-set of the city management of the channel, while OUSD is anxious to involve the public, as well as its students, in the process.
“This country is an open marketplace of ideas. It’s one of the things that makes this nation different,” said Len Klaif, adding that public access TV is often the first place that ideas for social change are aired. “As far as the 1 percent, if you have basic minimal cable, it costs $20 and that 1 percent equals 20 cents, so I don’t think that concern is legitimate.” He reminded the council that the city has been collecting 5 percent of the cable revenues “since forever.”
“Does anybody have the ability to have their productions shown?” Mayor Joe DeVito asked.
“We have the physical ability, but not the staff,” said Culver.
Two of the advantages OUSD offers is experienced professional instruction by its Media Arts Academy video teacher and student interns to provide staffing, which is still hazy as far as funding. “In speaking to (city attorney) Monte Widders, we’re still researching how the 1 percent could be spent,” said city manager Jere Kersnar. He went on to say that the city could likely structure a service agreement with the school district to give OUSD all the responsibility of managing the specifics.
DeVito was not convinced, stating that the draft proposal given to the city by the school district looked one-sided. “From the school district’s perspective, they get all the pennies.”
Leland Hammer-schmitt offered dissenting comments about the task team and OUSD’s offer to manage Channel 10. He suggested the school district’s motivation was greed, recommended that Nordhoff instead initiate advanced English, technology and math courses and objected to the station being “run by amateurs.”
P.E.G. task team member and director of community relations for OUSD, Jim Berube, answered some of the criticism in his comments. “Our fine arts, our creative learning are all part of the educational process,” he said. “We need to adopt that ordinance as quickly as possible, work on an agreement between the city and OUSD as soon as possible, and we need to get the $17,000. I disagree with Mr. Hammerschmitt. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the students of Ojai.”
“We have so many great organizations in the community, the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, Food for Thought, CERT, Help of Ojai, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, the Ojai Valley Museum, the Ojai Center for the Arts, the Film Society, and the Ojai Music Festival,” said task team member and OVN reporter Linda Harmon. “These are only a few that can contribute content. Some are already producing it for other media.” She, too, urged the council to move toward an ordinance. “Asking this committee or OUSD to come up with a detailed plan before we begin is a catch-22,” said Harmon. “We urge the City Council to finalize the contract with OUSD. In our opinion, it is the only reasonable starting point to improving this community’s rightful public access to local television production.”
“What I am concerned about is the disconnect between the P.E.G. committee and the city staff about this plan about what the city really wants from them,” said Councilwoman Betsy Clapp.
“In fairness to the committee, my position at the last meeting was maybe we should proceed slowly, get a plan in place,” said Culver. “The majority of the committee disagreed with me. The consensus was to move ahead with this quickly.”
“I see now that we need to get things going, but I want to see a budget,” said Councilwoman Sue Horgan. The council voted unanimously to advance the item to a second reading and for city staff to progress in contract construction with OUSD.
For more information about the Ojai P.E.G. Task Team, contact Culver at 640-2560 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
REPORT FROM SGT. JOE EVANS:
Vandalism On Rice Road Takes Toll
Good evening watchers.
Last night our friends living in the area of Rice Rd. and Lake St. in Mira Monte were victimized by vandals. Four different families had multiple tires on their cars punctured. This happened between 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM this morning. There were also two vehicles that had items stolen from them. At this time there are no leads to may have done this.
I am asking for anyone living in that area to please watch for people walking the streets late at night. If you notice people on the street late at night or early in the morning, please call the police. Your patrol deputies will be spending a significant amount of time in that area over the next week or two. If you find yourself being stopped by a deputy while walking late at night, just explain that you are a resident of the area and the deputy will thank you for your time.
While our presence may help keep these crooks hiding in the shadows, it will be your calls to us that will catch these crooks.
Back in October when we started this program, our goal was to have at least 100 families and friends signed up by February 1, 2009. These families and friends would be forwarding our alerts to all their friends, families and neighbors. This would allow us to create a large community of people who wanted to keep the crooks out of our neighborhoods.
Well tomorrow is February 1, 2009. We now have exactly 200 friends and families in our program. Each of them are forwarding our alerts to all their friends and families in the valley. As a result of this communication system you have been responsible for the arrest of four criminals and reduction of crime in several areas of the valley.
As you know if each of you are forwarding alerts to only 15 people, we are reaching at least 3,000 people. This does not count the third and fourth generation of the alerts being forwarded. At this time I have no way of telling how many third and fourth generations there are.
I am so impressed with how seriously you have all gotten involved. I have lived in this valley for 24 years and worked here off and on for 28 years. In that time I have never seen the community get involved like you are right now. As a neighbor and friend I just want to say thank you to each and everyone involved. You are truly making a difference.
Now to a more fun topic. A big thank you to the folks at the Golden Oaks Mobile Home Park. We had our first City Watch neighborhood watch party Friday night. I was stoked to see 50 to 60 people crowding the community center waiting to talk about personal and home security. Well as you know I love a party and this was a great one. We talked for almost two hours about a variety of topics. We talked about home security, local crime trends, personal security and even a little disaster preparedness.
The great thing about this talk was the exchange of ideas from the people living in the area. There are some people with a ton of experience out there and they sound like they are going to rid their neighborhood of crime at all costs.
Well again thanks for all that you are doing and please lets catch those crooks who punctured those tires last night. We need your help.
Remember 2009 is the year of the neighbor. This should be a bad year for crooks.
Please forward this alert to all your friends and families.
Your friends and neighbor,
NOTE: To sign up for City Watch, call Joe Evans at 646-1414
or e-mail your name, address and phone number to him.