$30k grant secured for creek restoration through Libbey Park
By Linda Harmon
After six months of work, the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, working with area environmentalists and representatives of the city, has obtained a $30,000 grant to finish the creek restoration and renew the ecosystem of the Ojai riparian corridor that passes through Libbey Park.
The Community Wetland Restoration Grant will restore 1.4 acres, at an estimated cost of $50,500.
Biologist Brian Holly, of Ojai’s environmental consulting firm Bio Research Consultants and a chair of the OVGC Watershed Committee, will be the project manager.
“Everywhere I look there is a project,” said Holly. “We have dynamically changed the Earth … Now we need to focus on the system, see how it works and keep it alive. We don’t need a wax museum interpretation.”
It will truly take a village for this project. Holly has several committed and important partners: Carl Thelander, his boss at Bio Research; Paul Jenkin of the Surfrider Foundation; Bill O’Brien of Hawks and Associates, the engineering firm for the city of Ojai; Tom Swetek, a retired Ojai teacher who has worked on the Channel Islands restoration project; John Kertis of the Senior Canyon Water Company; and Derek Poultney of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy.
“We took the momentum of past grant ideas and projects,” said Holly, “and built on them, proposing to continue those efforts with a new team.”
According to Holly, the grant emphasizes community involvement and the proposal combines “a perfect synthesis of that involvement to include OVGC, the city, the Department of Fish and Game, C.R.E.W., OVLC, Tom Bostrom and Associates, and even Boy Scout Troop 405 led by Bill O’Brien.”
The work will have four phases and begin as soon as the city of Ojai signs off on the project, with July to be spent in formalizing a contract to verify the process.
“We will finalize a work plan, adapt a plant palette, and then use an ecologically determined schedule,” said Holly. “We will be building a coalition of volunteers. In late September to early October we will be in the removal phase, working from the descending canopy, manually removing non-native plants. The community will be working right alongside us. Next it’s planting native, drought-tolerant species that will take one to two years to adapt.”
“Next year there will be another wave of maintenance,” said Holly. “It will require an ongoing effort. Our next plan is to move further to the south. That’s the connecting piece that gets us all the way to San Antonio Creek. There is also a county parcel adjacent to Soule Park Golf Course which could be an excellent watershed project. The area has been compacted by off-trail vehicles, preventing the oak trees from getting enough water. It’s really been abused, it’s all trashy over there and could use immediate attention.”
Holly, who grew up in Ojai and has been working on restoration projects for 10 years, is enthusiastic about the possibilities.
“This is going to be a successful project because we are going to make it successful,” said Holly.
If you’d like to get involved contact Holly at Brian@biorc.com or call the OVGC at 653-8445.
After months of empty air, city and school district claim to be close to a deal to restore public programming
By Sondra Murphy
The most puzzling mystery show on TV is public access Channel 10. Local Time Warner Cable customers are wondering when anything other than city meetings or schedules will be aired and the voice of the people may be fully represented.
After initial hesitancy over assuming broadcast duties, a second reading of an ordinance adding a new chapter to the Ojai Municipal Code received unanimous support by the Ojai City Council in early February. The ordinance addresses state video franchises pursuant to Assembly Bill 2987, the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 as it relates to Channel 10.
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.
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.
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 considered the other two components to Channel 10’s broadcasts of enabling community members to create and submit 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.
In November, Ojai Public Works director Mike Culver formed a community task team of interested parties to work on a plan. That team consists of representatives from the City Council, city staff, the School District, Ministerial Association, and Ojai Valley News, 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. 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 begin 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.
A later proposal submitted by OUSD superintendent Tim Baird in February was viewed more favorably by council members. 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.
Council members were more enthusiastic about this proposal, but still wanted assurances of the risks associated with any agreement between the city and OUSD. After the council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance in February, Widders said it would take 31 days to become effective.
After 14 years, Ojai’s “Dr. Lee Fitzgerald Show” is no longer aired on Channel 10, but the show is aired on public access stations Channel 6 in Ventura, Channel 25 in Westlake Village and Channel 15 at Oxnard College. “I understand about the delays,” said Fitzgerald. “I just want to make sure that by the fall, the Ojai Unified School District is handling Channel 10, for the sake of the kids and so the kids can learn about television production.”
Fitzgerald is on the Ojai P.E.G. task team that supported the OUSD proposal to run Channel 10. “We can use the summer to get prepared and by fall, I want OUSD to be in charge,” he said.
“When the Federal Communication Commission changed all the ruling, it put everything into the hands of each individual state,” said April Jo Rogers, producer-director of the “Dr. Lee Fitzgerald Show” and chief executive officer of Valley Video Foundation. “California passed DIVCA and, as of Dec. 31, cable companies were no longer required to provide P.E.G., but they still provide the channels. Each community with a franchise then should provide the programming and Ojai is, by allowing the Ojai Unified School District to run the channel.”
Rogers said that Ojai is fortunate that the City Council accepted the responsibility of a franchise. “I think it’s a wonderful thing the city’s doing and I applaud them,” said Rogers. “Public access is the only means the community has to electronic media and it will also be a way for the youth of our community to gain a career-building opportunity.”
Baird predicted that the district would need to raise additional funds to cover staffing costs, but said the district is the best candidate to do the job for the money, having Media Arts Academy instructors who have a combined 60 years of experience, as well as one who has worked in public access television.
It is now July and the sparse Channel 10 programming continues. Baird announced at last week’s OUSD board meeting and again confirmed yesterday that the city and school district “are close to an agreement.” Culver was unavailable for comment.
For more information about the Ojai P.E.G. Task Team, contact Culver at 640-2560 or email@example.com.
Move comes despite murky prognosis from state, all district staff taking pay cut
By Linda Harmon
Tim Baird, the departing superintendent of Ojai Unified School District, attended his final Ojai board meeting Tuesday night, during which a budget for the 2009-2010 school year was unanimously adopted.
The board did so amid the confusion of the state’s fiscal crisis, knowing the budget could require amending at a future date. The final school budget approved Tuesday was based on a 17-month state budget released in February of 2009, combined with the governor’s proposed revisions from May and June. The total budget plan for the estimated 3,200 students in the district’s seven schools comes in at $23,873,808 this year.
Baird and assistant superintendent Dannielle Pusatere expressed confidence that district plans are in place to weather the immediate worst-case scenarios.
According to Baird, a key to coming up with a workable plan for the budget was the agreement worked out between the Ojai Federation of Teachers and OUSD representatives. The union has agreed to accept a contract with three to seven fewer work days, leaving the number of days adjustable pending funds made available through the final state budget.
“Nobody has built in the leverage that the Ojai Federation of Teachers has built in,” said Baird complimenting the forward thinking of the group. “Their actions enabled us to save jobs now and not wait.”
Members of the board expressed their thanks to teachers and their union.
“You are wonderful and we thank you,” said Rikki Horne. “You are contributing to a spirit of good will.”
According to Baird, everybody districtwide will be taking a per diem pay cut in the next school year, including administrative and classified employees.
Along with the budget, the board also approved necessary job eliminations and reduction of hours due to lack of funds or lack of work. Baird later outlined the status of district layoff lists saying, “There are still about 13 positions on the list which represent nine teachers.”
“The bright spot in all this is we have four or five retirees in place, one teacher moving to administration, another moving to secondary education, and three or four taking positions in other districts … If this budget is implemented we may be able to hire most, if not all, elementary teachers back. We may also be able to hire back all four of our secondary teachers.”
Even though Ojai Unified has approved its budget, Baird said many issues are still in limbo pending the final numbers in the state budget. Those issues include transportation funds, which the governor has proposed to drastically cut.
The board approved a new textbook series, “Introduction to Algebra,” as updating of math textbooks is required by state guidelines. The text was reviewed and piloted during the end of the school year. The text includes sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade math concepts to improve student algebra readiness and is structured in week-long, self-contained packets. According to the reviewing staff, the structure encouraged students, is less intimidating than previous texts, and can be updated more readily.
Baird also gave a report on the infant care center located at Topa Topa Elementary. The board had voted during an earlier meeting to transition the center into an independent facility due to budget constraints.
“The infant center transition is moving forward,” said Baird. “They should be incorporated by Nov. 1 and be a completely separate entity. They understand that they need to stay solvent between now and Jan. 1 and that the district isn’t in a position to absorb a loss. Jim (Berube) will be monitoring the situation carefully.”
Baird also reported that the district and the city had reached an agreement on locating the public access station, Channel 10, at Nordhoff and hoped to have it operational by fall. The station will be operated by a student staff as a learning facility and overseen by the media arts department, with additional input from the community.
The board also gave a farewell reception for Baird during a break in the proceedings. Board President Linda Taylor presented him with an “Ojai present,” a sculpture by artist Ted Gall titled “Warrior,” saying it was “in recognition of all your energy, enthusiasm, and hard work.”
“You have gathered a good deal of respect for our district in the face of some ridiculous odds in the eight years you’ve been here,” said Board Member Kathi Smith, “and you have inspired confidence while doing it.”
“I agree,” said Board Member Steve Fields, “and in spite of declining enrollment, time after time, you have come up with creative solutions allowing the district to improve.”
Baird accepted the accolades saying, “I look around the room, at the friends and people I have worked with for a very long time. There are parts of this that are very, very hard. Change is not always easy. I just want to say I appreciate all the support the people in this room have given me.”
The next school board meeting will be scheduled at a later date to announce Baird’s replacement. A closed-door session was held Wednesday to choose candidates for interviews by a “paper selection” review by the board and Leadership Associates, the company hired to find suitable candidates.
According to Berube, interim superintendent, the paper screening is always done in private and former superintendent Van Riley came to Ojai Unified from the same search company.
“We used the company web site (Leadershipassociates@cox.net.) to gather input from the public,” said Berube, “and interviewed all the principals and classified staff to gather the parameters for the search.”
Frustrations with delays apparent as city requests money from Skate Ojai
By Sondra Murphy
The wheels of progress turn slowly, as evidenced by a permanent in-ground Ojai Skate Park project having taken nearly two decades to construct.
Ojai Recreation Department director Dale Sumersille reported that the plans for the skate park are nearly complete and the design will to go to the Ojai Planning Commission next Wednesday in what is hoped to be the first step in making the project official. It is to be located at the downtown Park & Ride lot on Ojai Unified School District property.
Time lines have been modified several times since last year’s goal of $350,000 in project funds was reached through civic and private donations and skate park supporters voiced restlessness with the wait for breaking ground.
“If ever there needed to be a definition of eternity, it could be written ‘the time needed for the humble village of Ojai to build a skate park,’” said Leland Hammerschmitt during the public portion of the meeting. “I first supported the skate park when I had hair and was a young man.”
After others expressed similar frustration with the lengthy process, city manager Jere Kersnar addressed the time line. “I have been working on this project since the day I walked into this job, three and a half years ago,” he said. “What this project shows is the difficulty of developing anything anywhere in California.” Kersnar pointed out that, as both owner and regulator of the project, the city has had to satisfy a “sundry” of items and that many regulating agencies will need to be involved in the process, such as the Watershed Protection Agency to oversee proper drainage. “We have been pushing this project as hard as we can to get it through. I believe we can continue to work with Skate Ojai to get this done.”
“In addition, we don’t have site control. We only have a lease,” said city attorney Monte Widders. “We have to contend with the fact that someone else owns the property.” He added that before the project may invite construction bids, the funds have to be in hand.
Last month, the council had requested the funds donated to Skate Ojai be turned over to the city by June 18. As of Tuesday, the funds had not been received.
Skate Ojai President Chet Hilgers said that scheduling confusion made the group delay turning over the money before items were clarified. He added the Civic Association donation specified that all permits must be issued before they will transfer funds.
Hilgers also said that new issues raised by OUSD and extra easement footage requested by the city further muddied the issue. “Skate Ojai is trying to work with the city in any way it can to get this moving forward,” said Hilgers.
“The additional easement requested is for the construction period only and temporary,” said Kersnar. “The footprint of the park has not changed.” He said that additional area is needed during the build for fences and forms to be installed.
The subject of the Mills Act was brought up by the school district, which the council and speakers struggled to understand. “I have done preliminary research and the Mills Act might apply,” said Widders, who added it “may apply to any project where school children during classroom hours may be present and everybody must abide by (construction requirements) much more stiff than ordinary.” He went on to say that the state architect does not give advisory opinions, so until the project becomes official, the city must wait to get that view.
A new ad hoc committee compiled of two council members, the city manager and two OUSD board members is to be formed in order to address operational issues brought up by the school district. Councilwomen Betsy Clapp and Carol Smith agreed to serve on the committee.
Smith requested the ad hoc committee meet as soon as possible to keep the time line on track. The next City Council meeting will take place July 28, as the one scheduled for July 14 has been canceled.
Both Smith and Clapp said that they hope OUSD is truly interested in having a permanent skate park built at the downtown site. “I see it as having the potential of delaying the project,” said Clapp. “It’s gone on too long, we’ve had volunteers come forward and I don’t want to see anything delay this project further. I’m hesitant to establish a committee to go into any discussion with OUSD if they have no intention of proceeding.”
“Most of the issues raised by the school district were operational issues,” said Widders. “Staff felt like operational issues are something that the board members and council could work out.”
“I’m anticipating bringing this back to the City Council the first meeting in August,” said Sumersille.
“As Dale reported tonight, we’ve just got 60 percent drawings,” Kersnar said. “In order to go to bid, you must have 100 percent drawings. We’re estimating those being ready Aug. 11. If we can get it done sooner, we’ll call a special meeting.”
“Hopefully staff understands that this is a city project and the council is very much in support of this,” said Councilwoman Sue Horgan. She said that she did not expect the ad hoc committee negotiations to interfere with the time line. “The notion of slowing down of moving the project is not on the table for the city. It’s just trying to smooth out the issues in an amicable way.”
Horgan wanted some type of escrow account established right away to receive the project funds. “I think everybody wants to be sure that if something happens to prevent this skate project, they get their money back.” Widders said that the city will earmark a trust account to receive the Skate Ojai donations as soon as possible.
If the Ojai Planning Commission approves the design review permit on Wednesday, staff expects to return to the council in August for authorization to go to bid on the project. To view the design plans, learn about lesson opportunities and accomplishments of the Ojai Skate Team or donate to the project, go to ojaiskatepark.com.
By Linda Harmon
Pete Seeger, the 90 year-old icon of folk music, is still lending a voice and a hand to good causes. The Ojai Center for the Arts is the honored recipient of Seeger’s attention this time. When Seeger heard that his neighbor’s tribute band, Work o’ the Weavers, was doing a benefit for the Art Center he agreed to not only donate some items for auction, but also granted a rare interview.
During the interview last week, Seeger did not talk immediately about himself but instead said, “So tell me a little bit about this art center of yours.”
I must admit I was so star-struck talking to him I rambled a little and with short, tongue-tied sentences told him the Art Center is the oldest nonprofit, continually operating art center in California run by volunteers. Then recovering a bit, I added a thank-you for granting an interview and donating items personally signed by him for the event’s auction.
At that point, knowing about Seeger’s environmental activism, I told him the Art Center hoped to use some of the concert funds raised to go solar and decrease our energy bill, which is one of the largest expenses the Art Center has.
We then talked about one of Seeger’s favorite causes, cleaning up the Hudson River in upstate New York where he lives. He lent his name and efforts to the project years ago and launched an organization, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, to preserve and protect it.
“I remember when we first started you’d flush your toilet and it would go right out into the Hudson,” said Seeger. “It’s cleaner now and we have people swimming in it.” He went to add, “I have been bringing people together with music for a long time now.”
What an understatement.
Seeger says his efforts for the project aren’t finished yet and neither is he. In fact, he just took part in a N.Y. benefit, “The Clearwater Concert,” on his 90 birthday that raised funds for the organization.
Seeger then went on to talk about the role of music and the arts in preserving what’s good in the world.
“American music is loved around the world,” said Seeger. “Sometimes people get a little particular about things. People think you have to do it a certain way, but we have been making little adjustments. Through the ages people have experimented and added things, and here in our rainbow nation, we have music that has African rhythms and European harmonies, melodies played on a violin that maybe started off in Russia. Who knows? People listen and decide what they like … My father was an old professor and he said don’t bother arguing if it’s folk music or not. The folk process has been going on for thousands of years, all around the world, and it will keep on going.”
He said that’s what he did with “Turn, Turn, Turn,” took 2000-year-old words and “made them rhythm a little bit better. I just added a couple of words of my own,” said Seeger, “’turn, turn turn,’ so people could sing along.”
Seeger then waned philosophical saying, “The arts are going to save the world. Who knows? I’m optimistic.”
Then, with our limited time ending, Seeger added what sounded like a heartfelt apology, “I wish you all well out there with your art center. I wish I could come out, but I rarely travel anymore.”
His words will travel for him today and into the future. Thank you, Mr. Seeger.
The Ojai Art Center, 113 S. Montgomery St., will present Work o’ the Weavers on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. For reservations call 640-8797 or go online at ojaiact.org.
By allowing existing second units to be approved, city could come closer to
meeting state goal for 427 new housing units
By Sondra Murphy
The city is talking about ways to attract applicants to its upcoming second unit amnesty program.
After the Ojai City Council approved a Housing Element draft in March, the city’s Community Development Department brought a crucial portion of it as a discussion item to the Ojai Planning Commission last week.
The second unity amnesty program is a component of the Housing Element that is hoped will reduce or eliminate the number of new housing units the city will be required to build to be in compliance with the state mandate. An Ojai Housing Element was to be submitted by last summer, but community concerns over preserving Ojai’s character and about the valley water supply delayed a council decision until such apprehensions could be addressed.
The Housing Element is a required plan to accommodate new housing to be certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development and is based on the Regional Housing Needs Assessment mandated by state housing law as part of the periodic process of updating local Housing Elements of the General Plan.
The RHNA quantifies the need for housing within each jurisdiction during specified planning periods.
In May, council members said they were not ready to adopt a plan to accommodate 427 new housing units required by the state. In December, the council December, the council determined it could not support any of the three options presented to accommodate a state mandate that conflicts with the city’s growth management plan.
The result was the development of an option that includes an amnesty program for existing second units that are not currently figured in the housing count.
Planning and redevelopment consultant Tom Figg called the amnesty program, “A cornerstone of the Housing Element for Ojai,” as he began his presentation to the commissioners. Figg said the program would help limit new construction, maximize existing housing and retain local control, all priorities of the Housing Element Committee, as well as community members and elected officials who had addressed the subject. The submitted plan is currently under review by HCD.
Figg said that examples were sparse when it came to researching California cities that included amnesty programs in their housing element plans. “The successful ones got an outpouring of applications,” said Figg. “The unsuccessful ones were unable to waive fees, creating a fear factor. That’s what I saw and I tried to tailor ours around the things that did work.”
The amnesty program would allow people with second units, such as granny flats, the opportunity to register those units with the city without facing fines for construction that was done without permits. Eligibility requirements determined by the state are as follows.
Units are to have no individual addresses as of the last census, have no permit of record and have been constructed prior to Jan. 1, 2006. Owners will likely be required to live on the property the second unit is housed on and comply with housing and building codes and zoning standards. In return, the city will waive fees in exchange for affordability covenants.
Commissioner Cortus Koehler expressed concern that giving amnesty to those who have not followed the rules would cause resentment in those who paid their fees and followed the law. Figg said that communities that adopted second unit amnesty programs had wide support and no complaints.
Vice Chair Troy Becker pointed out that some garages used to be able to be built on lot lines and, since many second units originated as garages, he anticipated some challenges in qualifying residences on property lines.
The city wants to stress that applicants will not get in trouble by applying for the amnesty program, even if it is determined that their proposed space is not suitable to be counted as a housing unit. Dale Hanson addressed the commission in support of establishing a partnership with local Realtors for help in identifying potential candidates in a non-threatening way, as well as helping local real estate agents understand some of the details of the program.
Doug LaBarre also supported the program, but had a request. “I can understand safety issues, like exposed wires, sewage and kitchens that should be addressed,” he said. “But I think there should be a concerted effort to educate the public … A lot of people just don’t plug into what is going on in the community and I think it needs to be talked about to create a buzz.”
Commissioner Tucker Adams agreed. “I think we need to let people know it’s in place and the city is going to have to be prepared to spend money to make it known,” she said. Figg is recommending the program have a fixed life and suggested 2014 as the expiration date.
“I think staff was surprised that HCD did not respond all negatively,” said Chair Susan Weaver of preliminary communications from the agency.
“We haven’t gone through all the comments, but it is true that the initial comments that HCD did not focus on this amnesty program and they did not seem directly concerned with this program,” said city manager Jere Kersnar.
“What surprised me is that they have made such comments in other communities and, perhaps, HCD is starting to reflect about the housing market and the economy.”
Kersnar thanked the commissioners for their comments and told them staff would continue to work on the issue.
Community still searching for answers after April fatal stabbing
By Nancy Gross
Early in Thursday’s town hall meeting on gang violence, facilitator and Ojai Valley News Publisher Bret Bradigan urged all to reflect after each point made, and reminded participants that while the panel had given up time and put energy into being available, the general meeting was about the needs, desires and concerns of the citizens who attended. Heated discussions were expected, even welcomed in hopes of healing in the wake of a murder and an attempted murder in the valley this year. The meeting lasted just under three hours with an estimated 300 people in attendance.
This meeting had its own distinct visual appearance as numerous attendees had on jackets or vests asserting participation in various motorcycle groups: Hells Angels, Demons, Los Barrachos and Bikers for Christ. Others wore red T-shirts made as memorials for Seth Scarminach, the 16-year old murdered April 26 in Meiners Oaks.
A law enforcement panel included Ojai Police Chief Chris Dunn, Bill Shireman of the Ventura County Gang Task Force and Detective Sgt. Steve Rhodes of the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit. Clergy council present included Joe Jaramillo, a Biker for Christ, and Pastor Paul Bergmann of Ojai Valley Community Church. Representatives of the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation and S.A.F.E. Coalition were also seated on the stage and spoke of programs for youth and new efforts to help at risk kids. Others present included a representative of the Ventura Boys and Girls Club, teachers, former correction officers and therapists.
Residents who took a turn at the podium told their own stories and aired opinions more often than asking questions of the panel. One longtime teacher, Jim Lang from Hueneme High, spoke of his school’s mandatory semester-long personal growth program for freshmen, a self-esteem building curriculum, and mentorship training for teachers, which had great success. Several speakers, pastors and educators, insisted that junior high is pivotal. “Testosterone kicks in, kids are more alert to signals, to the media and may start to posture,” said Bergmann. Tim Petticord, former teacher in Los Angeles inner-city schools underscored, “Junior High is the last chance to make a connection.”
Though hope through education was a major theme, anger at community organizations and officials was another. Bridget Campbell, a friend of Scarminach, commented ironically on the panel’s pride in programs available in the valley for youth when she said that Scarminach’s suspected attacker, as part of sentencing for other wrongdoing, “did his community service at the rec. center.”
Hostility toward law enforcement and toward the gang OSL came from another attendee, Claudia Decker, who claimed her son’s hand was cut off by OSL members more than 10 years ago, but who also acknowledged, prior to getting heated in her comments, her own spiritual healing from “the dark side” in her life.
Police Chief Dunn reminded people who criticize the police for not being tougher in surveillance of gangs, “There is a little thing called The Constitution,” he said. In addition, gang task force head Shireman implored residents not to make this a racial issue, stating that white gang members in the Ojai Valley outnumber Hispanic gang members.
One speaker critiqued law enforcement in a proactive manner, with a well-researched comparison of Ojai’s response to gang violence with Santa Barbara’s response and effectiveness, while maintaining that budgets for the two areas are inevitably different. Shireman defended his task force by stating that Ojai has the lowest amount of gang crime in Ventura County, and that 100 percent of reported gang violence has been resolved. He also commended the community by citing the “unprecedented cooperation” of over 50 witnesses in the Scarminach case; fear of retaliation is not paralyzing our citizens, there is hope.
The grandmother of New Year’s Day stabbing victim Joshua Powers expressed appreciation for the community member who found and reported her wounded grandson, and for the police investigation. “The problem is ignorance,” she said.
One speaker mentioned that Hispanic presence was low at the meeting. Nevertheless, one woman admitted to being both a relative of the Hispanic suspect in the Scarminach case, and the mother of an alleged skinhead. Another mother of a family of mixed ethnicity, including Latino, expressed sorrow at the fear and polarities in the valley that weren’t here years ago, she said. A landscaper of 23 years, Joaquin Lara, spoke of caring for his five now-grown children by showing them a lot of love and keeping them near him, busy, working: “The police can do some but they cannot do the whole thing,” he said.
Another forum is planned in late summer to continue this dialogue and these efforts for peace.
Estimate of each person’s value set at $1,000 for federal, state grants
By Sondra Murphy
With the feeble federal and state economy persisting, the 2010 Census is expected to be very important to local communities.
Ojai Complete Count committee members met June 13 to discuss strategies to count every citizen next year. Census efforts will run from April 1 to June 30. The 2010 Census will be a 10-question short form people will receive in the mail in early spring. Census takers will circulate among communities in order to complete information from addresses they have not received replies from. All data given is confidential for 72 years.
Confidentiality is something the U.S. Census Bureau wants to emphasize. Data is important to gather so that government representation and funding may be properly allocated.
In 2000, the bureau estimates that the Ojai count was short by at least 5 percent. Dave Rodriguez said that seniors and new immigrant populations are historically challenging to tally for a variety of reasons and encouraged the Ojai Complete Count committee to think of places and events that would allow both populations to get facts about the importance of the census.
“We’ve estimated that it’s about $1,000 per person, per year,” said Rodriguez of the collected census data. The figures influence federal state and grant funds awarded to communities, as well as schools. “So stimulus packages, as they continue, are based on the new census figures.”
Rodriguez said projections are that the current economic trend will continue for two to three years, so accurate census numbers can be a great help to small communities like the Ojai Valley. The committee hopes to attract members from the unincorporated areas of the valley, churches and people who work with the homeless, as well.
“When do they actually have data available to use?” asked Steve McClary, assistant to the Ojai city manager.
“I believe in late 2010,” said Rodriguez. The Census Bureau must count everyone and submit state population totals to the president by Dec. 31, 2010.
The U.S. Constitution mandates a head count every 10 years of everyone residing in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Island Areas. The first census was conducted in 1790 and has been carried out every decade since. Its original purpose was to determine congressional districts.
Questions on the census mailer include type of dwelling, contact phone number, number of residents, names, ages, genders, birth dates, relationship and ethnicity.
“We don’t have any specific expectations,” McClary later said of 2010 Census figures. “Generally the Census count comes in lower than the state Department of Finance estimates. We know that Ojai is the slowest-growing city in the county and expect that trend to continue in 2010.”
In the 2000 census count, Ojai was listed as having a population of 7,692. Of that, 47 percent were male and 53 percent female. Among those numbers, 1,405 are listed as being over 65, 5,901 are listed as being between 18 and 64, and 386 were found to be under 5 years of age.
Whites were counted at 6,919, African American or black were counted at 47, American Indian or Alaskan Natives were tallied at 39, and Asian, 124. Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders made up 13 of the total number, other races, 492, and two or more races, 228. Hispanic or Latinos of any race were counted at 1,245.
Total housing units in Ojai were said to be 3,229. Single-family owner-occupied homes were calculated to be 1,648 with a median home value of $272,100.
The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size is listed at 3.06. The median age 10 years ago was calculated to be 42.
Median household income in 1999 was $44,593 and the median family income was $52,917. Families living below the poverty level were listed at 155, while individuals living below the poverty level came in at 790.
If recent trends in Ojai Unified School District are any indication, an increase in group quarters populations and Hispanic or Latino numbers may be recorded in 2010. Because OUSD includes schools in the unincorporated areas of the county, the impacts on the city figures are uncertain.
The Ojai Complete Count committee meets again Aug. 3. For more information about assisting with the Ojai Valley 2010 Census efforts, contact McClary at 646-5581, Ext. 101.
Summer swim program continues at different location after Nordhoff pool not made available
By Sondra Murphy
Break out the sunscreen.
The city of Ojai and Villanova Preparatory School have announced the return of the swim program to the Ojai Recreation Department this summer. Villanova Preparatory School has offered the use of its pool for swim lessons, lap swim and open swim programs during the month of July.
The city had used the pool at Nordhoff High School for at least 45 years until this year, when maintenance and scheduling conflicts interfered with ORD being able to hold classes there. A Screen Gems production company will use the campus until June 30.
“Villanova Preparatory School is honored to join the city of Ojai in fostering recreation opportunities for the youth of our community,” said Villanova President Fr. Gregory Heidenblut, O.S.A. “Augustinian education is traditionally based on the three core values St. Augustine borrowed from sacred Scripture, truth, unity and love. We understand unity as our responsibility to the ‘community.’ This gives us an opportunity to model for our students the importance of sharing our resources with others for the common good.”
The deal was negotiated by Ojai City Councilwoman Betsy Clapp. “It was important that the city provide swimming lessons, so I asked around to see what pools were available. Villanova was excited about the opportunity to serve the community,” said Clapp. “Everyone, particularly elected officials, need to explore alternative solutions and possibilities throughout the community and find ways to make things happen.”
Advisory group considers public’s input on areas to be protected
By Sondra Murphy
The Ojai Municipal Advisory Council continued its review of the Scenic Resources Protection Program May 18. Bruce Smith of the Ventura County Planning Division was again on hand with slides of the Ojai Valley and areas nominated by residents in March as areas to be considered for protection.
“To break this into digestible chunks, tonight we’re going to be concentrate on mapping,” said OVMAC advisor Steve Offerman. Policy changes are to be discussed at the next meeting in June.
The OVMAC went through the mapped areas slide by slide in order to make sure they were familiar with the zones in question, especially in clarifying federal or private land from county areas the Ojai Area Plan has sway over. Chair Russ Baggerly led the meeting.
“It is absolutely essential there be equitable application throughout the process,” he said. The decisions they made as to which new areas they would recommend be added into the SRP were based largely on visibility from public roads and highways and include slopes from prominent ridge lines as the main focus of the remapping.
Agricultural land and slopes beyond the official boundaries or the OAP were determined by the council to be beyond their jurisdiction. Included in the new proposals are secondary ridgelines and hillsides leading up to prominent ridgelines already protected by the existing SRP language. Based on community suggestions received at a meeting in March, the county recommended slopes with a 25-percent grade or greater be assimilated into the update. Most of these are outside of Ojai city limits, but well within the vast jurisdiction of Ojai Valley Area Plan, which the OVMAC protects and defends.
With the consensus of new inclusions, the county will mail out notices to impacted property owners so they may attend subsequent meetings and voice their perspective on the proposals. The council members will also be considering whether to recommend any valley streets in the unincorporated valley be designated scenic. “You’re not bound by the same criteria as scenic highways,” said Smith. “You’re free to develop your own criteria.”
The scenic protection issues will not be heard in June by the OVMAC, but more likely in July, after the county has had time to update the SRP process and return to the council with final recommendations.
The next OVMAC meeting is July 20 at 7 p.m. in the Oak View Community Center, 18 Valley Road. For more information, contact Supervisor Steve Bennett’s office at 654-2703.
Prompted by cuts in bus routes, changes to take effect July 12
By Sondra Murphy
Changes to the Ojai Trolley transit routes were approved Tuesday by the Ojai City Council. Due to Gold Coast Transit changes to Ojai Valley service, the city altered many routes to accommodate budget reductions, as well as the GCT route reconfigurations.
With anticipated cuts to transit funding, the council voted in April to overhaul the trolley system. Public Works director Mike Culver got busy surveying riders and drivers to determine key stops along the trolley routes, which he then used to create the framework for the new itinerary set to begin July 12.
Recent cuts in state funding resulted in a $33,761 deficit in the city’s transit budget for 2008-2009, from total revenues of $1,064,925 against expenses of $1,098,686. Culver kept this in mind when he worked to reconfigure the trolley routes. The route revisions and transit spending reductions are expected to yield a $9,655 surplus in 2009-2010 from anticipated revenues and expenditures totaling $1,039,166 and $1,029,511, respectively.
Culver made efforts to ensure the new system provided adequate service to existing riders while making routes more time and cost efficient.
With GCT reducing the range of its Route 16 into Ojai, as well as eliminating the express routes from the valley into Ventura, Culver looked at ways for the remaining routes to best serve the needs of the community. “Gold Coast has reduced Route 16 to turn around at Vons, so we reconfigured Ojai Trolley to serve as a feeder service for passengers in the unincorporated areas to ride to Vons, connect with GCT and ride down to Ventura from there.”
The new routes will use a continuous figure 8 loop to cover the city so unincorporated routes and passengers will no longer have to change trolleys to travel from one end of the valley to the other. Another advantage is that the new schedule will be able to hit each key stop every 30 minutes. “I believe this increased efficiency will attract riders,” said Culver.
The routes include stops at all key shopping areas, Ojai Valley Community Hospital, all public schools and Oak Grove School. Service will be provided as far south as Woodland Avenue and Highway 33 in Mira Monte and as far north as Topa Topa Elementary School in Ojai. Trolleys will continue serving the Whispering Oaks Senior Community with minor changes in the stop location. New stops will be added to Sarzotti Park and Libbey Park Pergola.
“And at Help of Ojai’s West Campus, they have a back gate that can accommodate a stop,” Culver added.
GCT’s northbound route will arrive at one minute past the hour every hour throughout the day and will have a 24-minute layover before starting the southbound trip at 25 past the hour. Trolleys will be scheduled to arrive at 10 to 15 minutes past the hour for the transfer connection, allowing time for passengers to transfer to or from either system. On weekdays, routes will begin at 6:55 a.m. and the final loop for each route will end at the “Y” shopping center at 5:40 p.m.
On weekends, routes will begin two hours later and end service one hour earlier at the “Y” at 4:40 p.m.
Eliminated from the new schedule are trolley stops in Meiners Oaks north of El Roblar Drive and those south of Woodland Avenue. Of these, Culver said the most significant cancellation was to the Barbara Street area where the maximum walking distance to the GCT stop will be seven-tenths of a mile. In Meiners Oaks, passengers may have to walk nearly half a mile to the nearest trolley stop.
The proposed routes do not currently include regular stops at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, a decision based on low user statistics, but staff is proposing a call-in arrangement to request services as needed by OVIS patrons. OVIS had contributed $3,100 annually to the city’s transit service until 2006 based on a previous agreement. Culver projected the elimination of this route will be a time saver and, since he has built-in time buffers in the routes, said the inn could be easily accommodated when they have guests interested in trolley service.
“I am concerned we don’t have a stop at the Ojai Valley Inn, because I think it’s important to our merchants to bring those guests to town,” said Councilwoman Sue Horgan. “And an issue that has not been brought up is that there is not currently a stop that services Villanova Preparatory School. There are 350 kids and no safe way for those kids to get in and out of town.” She asked if there was a way to add a morning and afternoon stop at VPS.
“I agree with Councilwoman Horgan that we need to get a stop to the Ojai Valley Inn,” said Councilwoman Betsy Clapp, who also voiced support for a Villanova stop.
“One of the beauties of this type of design is, as long as we’re hitting all the key points, Loop A could hit different points, while Loop B is hitting others,” Culver said. “We can make diversions. For example, we don’t necessarily need to stop every 30 minutes up at Topa Topa.” He added that he would meet with OVIS and VPS staff to get input on the system.
Earlier in the meeting, Culver reported that a grant application for federal stimulus funds for the purchase of new trolley buses was approved by Caltrans and forwarded to the Federal Transit Administration for final approval. Anticipating funds to be made available by September, the new vehicles would be delivered in spring of 2010. “The past two trolleys purchased are powered by liquid propane gas,” said Culver addressing noise pollution concerns. He said five out of six active vehicles run on LPG are very quiet and the same types of trolleys would be bought again by the city.
Funding mass transit is a complicated process. FTA section 5311 provides Transportation Development Act funding for public transit in non-urbanized areas with a population of fewer than 50,000 and is apportioned to each state annually. The California Department of Transportation is one of the delegated grantees, but 75 percent of total funding is distributed through transportation planning agencies. The Ventura County Transportation Commission acts as a recipient of these funds, with the city of Ojai as a sub-recipient. The city of Ojai is the only agency in the county that currently qualifies to receive these funds.
Culver said the reconfigurations of the trolley and GCT routes has accomplished its goal of balancing the transit budget for 2009-2010, but that he expects increasing costs and decreasing resources in the coming years to create additional challenges. Staff will look into strategies to increase revenues while reducing expenditures for 2010-2011, including the possibility of fare increases, commercial route guarantees, advertising and service adjustments.
The new Ojai Trolley time schedule has not yet been finalized. Updates will soon be posted to ojaitrolley.com, as well as reported in the OVN.
SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE:
On Saturday, 06/13/2009, the Sheriff’s Gang Unit arrested Fidel Duran for a gang-related attempted murder that occurred in the City of Ojai on New Years Eve. Duran was in custody at the Ventura County Mail Jail on other unrelated charges at the time of his arrest.
On the morning of 01/01/2009, at about 1:45 a.m., Joshua Powers, 28 years-of-age, was walking home from a party in the 200 block of Waite Street. Powers was confronted by individuals who were attending a nearby party. Powers was attacked and stabbed 17 times. The suspects fled leaving Powers lying unconscious on the street. A short time later, an anonymous person called emergency personnel and reported that Powers was lying in the street. Powers was transported to Ojai Hospital where he narrowly survived his wounds. Powers was in the hospital for several days before being released.
Investigators from the Sheriff’s Gang Unit conducted a 5-month investigation and identified Ojai gang member Fidel Duran as the person who stabbed Powers. Gang investigators believe Duran did not act alone and they expect to make more arrests. Duran is being held at the Ventura County Jail on $505,000 bail on charges of attempted murder and street terrorism.
OUSD, OFT agree that teachers will take furlough day for $100,000 in budget deficits
By Linda Harmon
Not much has changed with the state’s budget impasse, which continues to freeze the local school budget process, but thanks to some local players our school district has seen signs of a thaw. Representatives of the local teacher’s union have come up with some new solutions to mitigate the bloodletting.
According to Ojai Federation of Teachers President Martha Ditchfield, she and Linus Raibys, the head of the Budget Committee, were able to obtain union approval for teacher wage concessions to help mitigate the anticipated upcoming budget cuts.
“After months of negotiating the teachers have come to a tentative agreement that if the governor and the state legislate (to allow cuts of) the five to seven school days we will agree to take them, not all at once, but one day at a time.”
The agreement is worded such that for every $100,000 in additional cuts the state mandates in the Ojai Unified 2009-2010 school year budget, the teachers will voluntarily give up one paid work day in their school year contract.
According to Ditchfield, the union membership is prepared to adjust their contract up to seven days. The greater the shortfall, the more the teachers are scheduled to give up in their 184 day contract. If the anticipated additional budget shortfall doesn’t happen the negotiated contract stands without the cuts.
“I have to credit Martha and Linus with drafting the language on this,” said superintendent Tim Baird. “They have worded it so that we have a range of possible solutions. It says if the state does this, then we do this … We have been able to hire back 16 teachers because of the furlough.”
Ditchfield said it isn’t an easy choice.
“We worked it out so it’s not an all-or-nothing thing,” said Ditchfield, who has appeared on local news programs and been contacted by other union officials wanting to know about the precedent-setting agreement. “It’s a half of percent of salary per day and people have families to support … Every body said we should wait and taking a pay cut is really hard for everybody, but I can’t look those teachers in the face and say I’m going to keep one and a half percent and you have no job.”
Baird told the board he had hoped for greater clarity from the governor’s office at last Friday’s budget conference, but “unfortunately, the state is still in a fairly large mess.” He said the agreement reached with the union is the one bright spot in the budget. The district is now only looking at cutting three full-time teachers from the larger elementary schools, and maintaining a 22-to-1 K-3 class size across the district. If the situation worsens, Baird laid out a fall-back position using the contract concessions to limit teaching staff cuts of seven and a half full-time positions and a 25-to-1 K-3 class size.
“At that point the state better be in a better place,” said Baird. “If we were only dealing with declining enrollment, after retirements, we probably would be able to retain all our employees.”
Baird then discussed the big “bad surprise” on Friday, the cutting of 65 percent of the state school transportation budget that includes funds for special education transportation that is state mandated.
“We’re losing $300,000 out of a $500,000 budget,” said Baird. “The question is, what are we obliged to do? If we used all of that remaining money we could almost pay for special education transportation.”
According to Baird, he is especially concerned about the Upper Ojai area students getting to junior and senior high schools because they have the farthest to travel.
Baird said he found the governor’s actions ironic.
“We have a man who is saying he is an ‘environmental’ governor taking school buses off the road and putting thousands of vehicles on the road in their place,” said Baird. “I don’t think the green organizations have caught up with this yet. People need to know about this and should be calling the governor.”
In earlier business OUSD voted to maintain the school resource officer for the remainder of the Nordhoff school year. Concerns were raised that the district was paying for what is perceived as a public safety issue during this time of dire budget constraints.
While Pauline Mercado called the expenditure “a compelling priority,” some did not seem to agree. Kathi Smith stated she believed the goal should be to move away from paying non-educators and mentioned that the Thousand Oaks police had opened up a substation in the Thousand Oaks Mall in return for free space.
“Why can’t we do that here?” said Smith. “We could donate space at Nordhoff.”
Steve Fields asked that the board consider bringing the issue back in the fall after doing more research, but more discussion followed.
“I was a teacher for years and I worked with these officers and they did a wonderful job,” said Board President Linda Taylor, but she also pointed out that the whole $90,000 school budget for elementary physical education will be cut. “I see that these officers have a lot to offer, but we are faced with hideous choices. I can’t say that these funds are better spent on a SRO.”
After final comments the board voted to instruct staff to pursue a contract with the city for 2009-2010. The OUSD estimate for the SRO officer is $84,000, but it varies year to year based on what the city pays and what the Ventura County Sheriff bills. There is as yet no written contract with the city.
The Ojai Valley Little League and the Montessori School of Ojai joined in the dedication ceremony for the new Peggy Rose Memorial Little League Baseball Field at the Montessori School of Ojai located at 806 W. Baldwin Road in Ojai on May 31.
The ceremony began at 1 p.m. just after the three-week cloud cover cleared with bright sunshine and a light breeze. OVLL President Bob Boyd began by relaying to the assembled crowd, who numbered over 40, the background of the field and the meaning behind the dedication.
“Need has met opportunity” said Boyd, “and here we stand today dedicating this great facility to the memory of a great contributor to Little League and our community as a whole.” Later, in a story of his early days in Little League, Boyd alluded to his introduction to finding out who to go to for all the answers. “We simply ask Peggy Rose,” he was told time and time again. Rose lost her battle with cancer on July 4, 2007.
The official dedication honors were bestowed on the Rose family, Keith, Keegan and Meagan, husband, son and daughter, respectively, of Peggy Rose. The family took to the field, landing the first footsteps in the freshly prepared infield, and took their positions with Keegan on the mound throwing to his father, Keith, behind the plate and daughter Meagan as umpire.
After the first pitch was thrown, the emotionally-moved crowd, made up of a wide and diverse cross-section of the community, all friends of Peggy Rose, gathered around the stone monument behind the backstop for the unveiling of the plaque, which stood there hidden by the numerous Little League banners and draped in a U.S. flag. With a picturesque view of the mountains in the background and the new field before them, Boyd called for a moment of silence to honor the memory of Peggy Rose.
That silence was broken by a resounding, “Play ball.” The Rose family was called to the monument and the flag lifted revealing a bronze plaque commemorating the dedication of the field and with the inscription, “For the betterment of the community and the love of the game.” A phrase more fitting the spirit and actions of a person could not be written.
MSO director of the school, Janet Lindquist-Lang, said, “This is a wonderful thing that, working together, we’ve been able to accomplish for our students, Little League and the community. Peggy Rose was a great person and her son Keegan went to MSO along with my son, Scott, so this has special meaning to me and all of us here at MSO.”
OVLL and MSO board of directors member, Eric Baldwin, said, “While this project started out slowly, and had a few hiccups along the way, the end result is just what we had in mind and was worth all the effort. This facility provides our 13- to 14-year-old-players who have graduated from an outstanding facility at Oak Dell Park, a full-sized and well-equipped practice field with batting cage and bull pens that will allow them to keep developing as players and successful young members of our community. Not to mention, look around , it’s a beautiful setting as well. On top of all that, it will help provide an introduction for new parents and students to the educational oppor-tunities available at MSO. Peggy Rose would have approved.”
Boyd added, “Being able to stand here today on this fantastic field gives OVLL and the board a great sense of pride and accomplishment. This is our third field renovation in four years and the level of support we’ve received from the community and the selfless involvement of our league and volunteers really defines this great community we live in. Being involved is the best thing we can do for our kids and will only serve to set a good example and help future generations. Our Junior program now has a regulation practice facility to get the kids ready for high school baseball,” he said, referring to the 90-foot bases. “We’ve also plugged in 60-foot bases for our other teams and Ojai Valley Girls ‘Softball Association to practice here when our juniors are not using the field. This joint venture with MSO has helped free up other fields in town to allow other organizations access to more practice fields.”
Special thanks for all their efforts in support of this project go to Kent Millar, Matt Construction; Jeff Jenkins, Orion Landscapes; Progressive Landscape; and Stan Schneider of MSO.
SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE:
During the first week of June, Sheriff’s resident deputies at the Lockwood Valley sub-station received reports of suspicious circumstances surrounding a property in the 16,000 block of Lockwood Valley Road. On several occasions, an electrical transformer adjacent to the property had malfunctioned, causing power outages to the surrounding area. A deputy responded and detected an over powering odor of marijuana coming from the residence.
Narcotics Detectives served a Search Warrant for the property on June 4, revealing a sophisticated hydroponics marijuana cultivation operation. The entire main house, garage, and an outbuilding were dedicated to growing marijuana. Each room was equipped with large plastic growing containers, special grow lights, and an array of electrical connections and extension cords to power water pumps and fans. Ventura County Building and Safety officials responded for the many electrical and Building Code violations. Over 1000 marijuana plants were found growing in the three buildings, although total capacity is estimated to be several thousand more. No one was living at the residence at the time of the Search Warrant.
On June 9, detectives met with the owner of the property, Steven Kall, 54, of Granada Hills, and arrested him for cultivation of marijuana. He was booked into the Sheriff’s Main Jail.
Grassroots group teams up with police for June 18 event
By Sondra Murphy
Ojai Valley residents who want to work proactively to eliminate gang violence are encouraged to attend a town hall meeting on June 18.
Sponsored by Heal the Community, a group of local parents and residents impacted by the April gang-related murder of Seth Scarminach, the forum will allow residents to discuss the issue of gangs in our valley with a panel of community leaders and experts.
The panel will include deputies from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Division and Gang Unit, Ojai Valley Community Church pastor Paul Bergmann, members of the S.A.F.E. Coalition and Ojai Police Chief Capt. Chris Dunn.
Heal the Community has arranged Spanish translation simulcast into wireless head sets during the meeting. “Our main goal at Heal the Community is we want to provide a public forum for people to make statements, ask questions and get answers,” said HTC member Dusty Fernandez. She said that there will be a suggestion box that the club will use to help direct the focus of future meetings. “We will take all the information from this meeting and present it back to the community at a meeting in August. That will steer us in the direction we’ll go next.”
People will also be able to sign up for Neighborhood Watch programs, donate to HTC and get literature on many related issues and programs. “We’re not discriminating against anyone in this valley,” Fernandez said. “We want to bring all groups together in a peaceful meeting. We’re excited. We think there’s going to be a really big turnout.”
The June 18 meeting is at 6:30 p.m. in the Matilija Junior High School Auditorium.
For information on becoming a part of Heal the Community or to sign up to help with the meeting setup or cleanup, call 649-1466 or 640-0995.
FROM: Sgt. Joe Evans
Greetings Watchers. Well it has been three weeks since our last alert. Our area has been very crime free for this time. There have been some isolated incidents but nothing to really worry about. During this time your detectives have been able to start catching up on their caseloads. Your patrol deputies are staying busy arresting drunk drivers and the always present drug users and dealers. Domestic violence is still a problem and we have made a number of arrests. Our vehicle burglaries and residential burglaries are under control for the time being.
City votes 3-2 to accept plan with Music Festival for $3 million renovation of landmark
By Sondra Murphy
To commemorate the many contributions the Ojai Music Festival has made to the city, the Ojai City Council presented the organization with a Lifetime Achievement Award last week.
Jeff Haydon, executive director of the OMF, reviewed the history of the nonprofit organization that began in 1947 and listed some of the many up-and-coming composers who have graced the stage at Libbey Bowl during the annual festival.
Chris Drucker, OMF board president, accepted the award on behalf of the festivals. “Who knew at 63 we could feel so young,” she said.
Festival staff and supporters stayed seated through a busy agenda to address a bit of business when the City Council approved a new memorandum of understanding between the city, redevelopment agency and Ojai Festivals, Ltd. that will provide the framework during the Libbey Bowl reconstruction project.
“We are pleased to bring before you an MOU with Ojai Festivals,” city manager Jere Kersnar said. “I think rather than go through all the details in which both parties are in agreement, I’ll focus on the one area of contention that remains, the city’s share of cost.”
Kersnar said that the total estimated cost of the renovation is $3 million and the Ojai Festivals got the ball rolling by raising the first million, with the understanding the second million would be funded by the city and Ojai Civic Association. The City Council had previously allocated $500,000 and much discussion was had about how to come up with the remaining $500,000 that OMF expected as part of the city’s $1 million contribution to the project.
City attorney Monte Widders explained to the council a few changes he had made to the MOU that appeared before them. “The city is not a private party, therefore the city cannot contract in the normal way a party may contract,” said Widders. He added that constitutional restrictions apply about how a city council may or may not bind future councils to projects and, even though an MOU is just an understanding, he tried to construct it so as not to obligate future councils in their discretionary authority.
By approving the MOU, the council consented to the full $1 million in support with the money to be procured at a later date. Some of that amount will be covered by the city through the absorption of certain fees that are a normal part of any construction project in the city.
“The issue is to get this project moving on time and if we need to take the money from the general fund, so be it,” said Councilwoman Carol Smith.
“What’s important is getting this bowl rebuilt. It’s a city asset that’s not being fully utilized because it’s so dilapidated,” Council woman Betsy Clapp said. “We have a city nonprofit willing to step forward and raise money for property that isn’t even theirs. It just makes financial sense for the city and is a morale boost for the city.” Clapp also suggested a task team be formed from various people in the city to create a management plan for Libbey Bowl once the make-over is complete.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable if you’re asking the city to commit another amount of money, but we still have a long way to go before we get to the $3 million,” said Councilwoman Sue Horgan in explaining the council’s caution in committing to more funds. “This is a city facility and, if the money cannot be raised, the city will have to stand up and pay for the remaining costs and I think we need to be prepared to pick up additional costs at the end,” Horgan said.
“As Councilwoman Horgan said, we did exactly what we said we were going to do,” said Councilman Steve Olsen. “It’s awful scary not knowing if we’ll need to come up with money at the end of it.”
Mayor Joe DeVito recommended the council look at the additional fund contributions in a month after more information about the city’s budget and redevelopment funds is reported.
Smith moved to authorize the execution of the MOU, which passed, 3-2. Horgan and DeVito cast the dissenting votes.
Haydon was thankful to the City Council for taking a leadership position in the project and was hopeful that it would inspire confidence in the community to be as generous. “The festivals has raised $1 million, the city’s put up $900,000 and the Civic Association has put in $100,000,” Haydon later said. “So that’s an impressive $2 million.” The last $1 million needed to retain the Ojai landmark is optimistically anticipated to come from additional private donations.
Independent studies undertaken last year concluded that the 52-year-old Libbey Bowl has been irreparably damaged by years of improper drainage and termite damage. As a result, the city of Ojai, the Ojai Music Festival, area foundations, and the Ojai Valley community joined together to raise the money needed for the rebuilding project. Construction is projected to begin the summer of 2010 following the 64th Ojai Music Festival and to be completed in time for its following season in June 2011.
The Rebuild Libbey Bowl campaign needs volunteers to help with the project. To learn about volunteering or making contributions, call 646-3117 or visit the web site at LibbeyBowl.org.
Ojai-based director rents Nordhoff for 38 days of shooting
By Linda Harmon
The old Ford dealership on Ojai Avenue has once again been put to use, as the temporary production headquarters for the Screen Gems production of “Easy A.”
“We’ll be in town for five weeks,” said Cliff Rogers, the production supervisor who is in charge of all the physical needs of the production. “It’s a high-school-aged film in the vein of ‘Juno.’ It’s a young girl’s tale of a rumor gone awry she tries to fix. Everything comes out well and it’s got comic overtones, a real person’s story.”
According to Rogers, the film’s director, Will Gluck, lives here and wanted to film it in Ojai “since he first read the script.”
“We already had a casting call for paid extras two weeks ago and we had lines wrapping around the door,” said Rogers. “Now we are asking if students want to be seen in the film.”
Rogers says he’ll be explaining what goes on each day during filming and “running promotional activities” for those students who are participating as non-paid extras.
“We will be giving away Sony electronics every two or three hours during filming to keep the students coming back,” said Rogers, “the biggest of which will be a flat screen TV.”
According to Rogers, it is a motivational tool he has used with success before, on the production of his stint on “The Mighty Ducks” series.
“The kids we use will have a one-in-50 chance for winning something,” said Rogers. “If they come back all four days they’ll increase their chances. They have to be high school age or look like it.”
Filming at Nordhoff High School, beginning Friday, June 12, and ending June 29, requires high school age extras for a band, orchestra, cheerleaders and baseball, football, basketball, soccer, track, and dance teams. They will be using up to 200 students a day for “background.”
“It can be the same students each day,” said Rogers. “If more than 200 people show up, so much the better.”
So what do students have to do to participate? Show up and fill out a form.
“We have a form they have to fill out,” said Rogers, who has already distributed 650 forms through the school. “We get anxious if we don’t know if people are going to show up, but they can bring it the day of.”
Rogers has been on the movie for five weeks and will be on it for two weeks more after filming ends to wrap it up.
Holding tight rein on the script, Rogers did say Emma Stone is cast as the headliner and Thomas Haden Church, who appeared in “Sideways,” will play an as-yet-undetermined role.
Rogers says that a role is not yet cast is not unusual, and a lot of his decisions are at the last minute, especially casting.
“One of the hardest-pressed departments of all is wardrobe,” said Rogers. “They usually have to work 24 hours a day because they can’t fit them (the actors) until the last minute because they aren’t cast until the last minute. It’s an interesting balancing act what we do.”
Rogers has taught his profession at UCLA and says the job entails monitoring each decision and expense all the way down the line.
“You’re collaborating with a hundred different people,” said Rogers, who has been doing it for 31 years. “You make it as much of a family as possible.”
Rogers says the school board has been “terrific.”
“Usually we put people out when we film,” said Rogers. “Here it’s been the school system that has made concessions when there has been a problem.”
That may have a lot to do with the much-needed funds coming to Nordhoff and the city, and the money spent on lodging and food during filming.
According to Ojai superintendent Tim Baird, the school system will receive “$50,000 plus donations to the school, individual teams and groups.”
“We are excited to have Screen Gems use our campus for their upcoming movie,” said Baird. “This venture will provide needed resources for the district, help support our local economy, and give many of our students summer work.”
According to assistant city manager Steve McClary, there is also a small $50 filming application fee, a $275-per-day encroachment fee, $15-per-day car fee for city street parking, and site permits where applicable that are paid to the city.
McClary also added that although most of the filming will be at Nordhoff, the crew has applied for a camera testing permit for the downtown area on Ojai Avenue between Rincon and Fulton for tomorrow afternoon, and will be filming at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Meiners Oaks that morning.
“Hopefully we are bringing a lot of positive action here to the community,” said Rogers.
If students are interested in participating in the filming they can call Nick at 646-4220, or just stop in to the old dealership at 987 W. Ojai Ave.