Vaccines arrive, but so does steady increase in flu cases
By Daryl Kelley
As Ventura County officials continue a special swine flu vaccination program today, Ojai public school officials say they have not seen a spike in student absentees, a telltale marker that the virus is spreading rapidly.
However, at the Ojai Valley Community Hospital, visits by swine flu patients to the Emergency Room are steadily increasing, officials said.
“No, we haven’t seen it,” said Ojai Unified superintendent Hank Bangser. “There’s an increase compared with six weeks ago, but that’s normal for this time of year. We’re not experiencing anything different this late October compared with previous years.”
Bangser said the district’s absentee rate is about 3 to 4 percent now, compared with about 2 to 3 percent six weeks ago.
Yet, the Ojai hospital has seen a steady increase in swine flu, or H1N1, cases.
“We’ve seen a steady and progressive increase in H1N1,” said Gary Wilde, chief administrator of the Community Memorial Health System, which includes the Ojai hospital. “We have had many admissions. But only a fraction of the people who come (with swine flu symptoms) have been admitted.”
Those include children, frail adults and those with compromised immune systems, he said.
To prevent the spread of flu in the Ojai hospital, officials are strictly enforcing a ban on visitors under age 16, he said. “Children tend to shed more viruses during flu season, and we simply have to protect our patients.”
The Ojai hospital is also setting up a station near its entry where all visitors will be asked to stop, and they may not enter if they have colds or flu-like symptoms, Wilde said.
“If we find that is not effective,” he added, “we’ll have to stop people and do a forehead temperature check.”
Ventura County health clinics will continue this afternoon a special program to combat a local swine flu emergency, dispensing a free nasal spray vaccination at a Camarillo park and at four public health clinics.
Authorities say swine flu is no more serious than common flu viruses of the past. But since hardly anyone has built up a resistance, swine flu spread rapidly last spring and has returned aggressively in recent weeks. Millions of cases have been detected nationwide, with more than 100 deaths. But common seasonal flu claims about 36,000 lives a year, mostly among the elderly. The swine flu has been detected mostly among the young.
While local officials are emphasizing the availability of nasal spray vaccine at Freedom Park near the Camarillo Airport, spray vaccinations are also available at clinics in Ventura, Simi Valley and two in Oxnard.
The closest for Ojai Valley residents is a public health clinic at 3147 Loma Vista in Ventura. It is open today from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Vaccinations are administered on a first-come, first-served basis.
But the county is highlighting its special clinic in Camarillo, which drew hundreds of people on Wednesday and Thursday, and long lines are expected to continue today. The clinic is open at Freedom Hall at 515 Eubanks St. from 3 to 8 p.m.
Because of a nationwide shortage of the vaccine, counties have limited vaccinations to specific groups of people: In Ventura County, the spray mist is available only to those aged 2 to 24 and care givers of infants under 6 months old. Pregnant women and those with low resistance to infection cannot receive the spray mist because it is a live vaccine.
Ventura County officials administered several thousand doses of the spray mist last week and expected to use much of the remaining 12,000-dose supply by the end of today, said Sheila Murphy, spokeswoman for the county Health Care Agency.
“We could run through most, if not all, of it,” she said.
Murphy said 5,000 doses of injectable vaccine were expected to be delivered by the end of the week.
Like counties across America, Ventura County ordered thousands of doses of swine flu vaccine last spring, when the flu emerged as a public health threat. But of the 350 million doses ordered by the federal government, only about 23 million had been delivered to the states by Wednesday, with 30 million expected by this weekend, officials said.
Murphy said the categories of people who qualify to be vaccinated may be expanded as more vaccine becomes available. Federal officials have said that a much larger supply should be delivered by mid-November.
State and federal agencies have established priority groups for vaccination. The federal priority groups include pregnant women, care givers for infants, emergency medical and health care workers, children and young adults up to age 24, and people 25 to 64 years old with chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, asthma, diabetes or weakened immune systems.
Swine flu activity is now common in 46 states, including California. The Ventura County Board of Supervisors declared a state of local emergency on Tuesday, not because of a high rate of flu, but to qualify for state and federal funds should they become available to combat swine flu.
County health officials said swine flu has been detected here, but only in spots. It is not yet clear how much it has spread locally, they said.
Some local school districts have experienced absentee rates higher than 10 percent, but attendance in Ojai schools is about normal, officials said.
For more information, call the county hot line at 981-5390.
Audience backs election over appointment to replace DeVito
By Sondra Murphy
The question of how to fill the council seat to be vacated by Mayor Joe DeVito, effective Dec. 31, consumed much discussion during Tuesday’s meeting of the Ojai City Council. DeVito, who has served on the council for 23 years, announced his resignation Oct. 12 with about a year left of his term.
City manager Jere Kersnar and city attorney Monte Widders offered advice as to time line logistics and said the council has two choices in finding a replacement council member. The sitting council may either appoint someone to assume DeVito’s term, which would have expired December 2010, or the members could take the opening to a special election.
Kersnar submitted a recommendation based on Government Code 36512(b) that regulates council consideration for filling a council vacancy “… within 30 days from the commencement of the vacancy …” Much debate was heard as to the definition of “commencement,” which means the start or beginning of a phase or process. The term’s connection with graduation ceremonies served as the primary source of confusion.
Widders said the 30 days must begin prior to the date DeVito will leave office and continue 30 after that vacancy. This would make the consideration and replacement method time line from Dec. 1, 2009 to Jan. 30, 2010. Councilwoman Sue Horgan was concerned that making any kind of decision before DeVito actually left office might be problematic. “If we made a decision before Dec. 31, could that decision be challenged?” she asked Widders. “Wouldn’t we be safest to wait until January?”
Widders replied that as long as the time line window was followed, he believed it would be acceptable to begin discussions or even decide method in December, but said the council could wait until January if they wanted to.
If election is opted for, the time line would allow candidates to be placed on the June 2010 primary election ballot, which Kersnar estimated would cost about $6,000, a considerable savings compared to an independent ballot.
There was support by council members and public speakers to take the process to a special election to let the voters decide. “I’m not a fan of appointment,” said Councilwoman Betsy Clapp. “$6,000 is very little to pay for the citizens’ right to choose representation.”
Leonard Klaif addressed the council on the subject. “As you all are aware, I have a special interest in this item, having declared my candidacy for Mr. DeVito’s seat,” said Klaif, who ran for City Council in 2006 and was neck-and-neck with DeVito during tallying. The community had to wait until Dec. 4 to learn that DeVito edged out Klaif by 76 votes.
Klaif said he has been gathering signatures in support of his candidacy and found most people he spoke to favored a special election. “This is difficult because (council members) are not elected to choose the representatives. That’s the job of the public. So if you are going to take the public’s job to fill the seat, are you obligated to take more of the public’s opinion into account?” Pat McPherson, who has been assisting with the signature gathering, echoed Klaif’s comments.
Suza Francina voiced her support for Klaif because of his legal experience and consistent presence at council meetings. “Probably the only members of the public who have spent more time here is Mary DeVito … or Wendy Hilgers,” said Francina.
Councilwoman Carol Smith thought that six months with only four council members would be too long and wanted to round out the board as quickly as possible.
Mayor pro tem Steve Olsen reminded all that he was originally appointed to serve a six-month opening. That was in 1986 and Olsen went on to serve four terms before taking a break in 2002 and is now in the midst of another four-year term after being elected again in 2006.
Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Eicher requested that, if council decides to appoint DeVito’s replacement, they look for someone “who will act on the issue of improving the local economy. This means appointing someone with direct business experience and who supports promoting Ojai as a tourist destination.”
Kersnar said that, if the council opts to appoint DeVito’s successor, applications would then be accepted from interested city residents with a possible deadline of Dec. 31. If the council moves to hold a special election, Kersnar said they will have documentation on standby to expedite the process. “The other twist in all this is, even if they decide on the appointment method, they would need to make a decision by the end of January,” said Kersnar. “If they can’t decide on an appointment by that deadline, then they would have to call a special election.”
The council may determine which process they will use to fill the seat at the Dec. 8 meeting that begins at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St.
Man at center of bear storm eager to explain policy
By Nancy Gross
California Department of Fish and Game’s Roland Takayama may be infamous to some Ojai residents, who see him as the person who is responsible for the death of the Aliso Street bear on Oct. 10.
He was directly involved in tranquilizing and euthanizing the healthy black bear that mesmerized Ojai for 20-plus hours.
And there are others who see him as someone who performed a necessary if thankless task and kept the public safe.
Despite being at the center of controversy, Takayama readily explains his actions during that fateful day and night.
He says, “I understand the thing. Most people are surprised to know that I actually enjoy these calls of outrage and such because it shows people care. I get to tell people what we do.
“The other alternative is that nobody cares.”
Takayama, who lives in Santa Barbara, and who is contemplating retirement, also admitted that he has chosen to move bears and not euthanize them during hunting season. “On three separate instances I was out of policy and I was reprimanded.”
Takayama describes an incident in December 2002 when he and three other game wardens tried to get a bear out of a stainless steel pesticide and fertilizer spraying apparatus that was stuck on the bear’s head. The bear was flailing about.
They “worked for four hours to get him out. With four wardens that is 16 hours total. We tranquilized him and used lubricant and had to twist the thing to make it come loose. It was like trying to get a wedding ring off a finger that’s swelled up. We were able to get him out of there.
“We let him go. We released him on the same private ranch in back of Carpinteria since it was toward the end of the bear-hunting season. We didn’t work on him all that time to kill him. We saw fit to tag him with No. 13, a bit of warden’s humor, because he’d had bad luck.”
Or some would say good luck, depending on what you compare it to. But Takayama says, “If I tell people this they will ask why I didn’t break policy for this recent bear. There was a bear I released that was darted out of a tree in Los Olivos back in September of 2004. This was a month prior to, and within a mile of, the infamous Dunn School bear. It was a result of the reprimand I received for releasing this bear that I have adhered to department policy more closely.”
“I was under the same supervisor who reprimanded me. I won’t go there. It would have been insubordination, willful misconduct.”
The story of the Dunn School bear is very similar to the story of Ojai’s Aliso Street bear, as the bear was tranquilized and euthanized because it was bear season. A brief account can be found at www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6159975. Takayama says he “received a letter from a boy in Staten Island about that one.”
It doesn’t seem, however, that Takayama simply passes blame off on his supervisors and his organization. As a captain he accepts responsibility for the decision he made within the bounds of his agency, its procedures and his rank. He initially expressed reticence to speak about the times he broke policy because it doesn’t send a good message to the other officers.
He also said, “How much time, how much money do you allow for a particular animal? As a manager I had to think of these things. In salary alone we were spending about $1,000 an hour. Should we have waited another 10 hours?
“It sounds cold to weigh the life of a bear with money, but there are issues of liability and lawsuits, funding, responsibilities.”
Takayama, who was born in Los Angeles’ port city, San Pedro, spent a lot of time in Ojai in the 1970s. “I actually started my Fish and Game career as a seasonal aide at Lake Casitas for two seasons, doing freshwater fish research for an inland fisheries biologist.”
He used to come into town for lunch or dinner “a billion years ago.” He was saddened to see the building that had housed the Ojai company, Widder Electric, makers of some of his favorite motorcycle gear, closed down.
Takayama got his degree in biological sciences in 1976 from the University of California at Santa Barbara, after a short stint studying art with an emphasis on drawing. He describes himself as “a typical outdoors California surfer. I’m surfing out near UCSB. I live close to there. I’ve surfed all my life.”
His wife, Nicole, who works under her maiden name, Nicole Marinelli, is a doctor of veterinary medicine who intended to be a large animal veterinarian when she first came out of Kansas State University. Takayama says, “She is diminutive,” and so switched to small animals. Marinelli consults with Santa Barbara County and contracts with the Humane Society for spay and neuter services.
Takayama’s career progressed from seasonal aide to wildlife conservation aide in 1980. In June of 1981 “they sent me to the Police Academy which meant an automatic promotion to warden.” In May of 1988 he became a lieutenant, and in November of 2004, a captain.
He shares his memories of the first large animal he had to deal with. “The very first one? Boy, it stands out vividly. I was trained as a Marine Reserves Rover covering from the Santa Monica Bay to the San Luis Obispo County line. I was driving north and there was a big traffic accident in Montecito, with a big buck deer that was down and its femur was sticking out.
“It was stumbling, it got up, and fell down and kept stumbling and I was trying to figure out what was the appropriate thing I was supposed to do. This was off San Ysidro. I took it among some bushes and grasses. I knew I was going to have to shoot it in the ear canal. That way it doesn’t resist. It is the safest and the quietest way.
“What these situations really illustrate to me is people care about how it’s done, and how the body is dealt with. They have an initial gut reaction if they hear we’ve taken the animal to the dump. The animals aren’t just laid on top of a pile of trash. In actuality we have them dig a pit deeper than what is usually used for trash. The animals can’t go back into a population.”
Takayama is speaking specifically about the tranquilized and euthanized animals when he mentions the disposal of the body. He says that death stops the metabolizing of the sedatives, so the drugs are highly potent, which is why the animal cannot be buried just anywhere. “We can’t allow another animal to forage off of it.”
“People say we should get rid of bear season. Do you know what would happen? We’d have so many bears. I think there would be an increase in incidents.”
Screenwriter begins serving one-year sentence with work release
By Daryl Kelley
Oscar-winning screenwriter and Ojai Valley resident Roger Avary was booked into Ventura County Jail on Monday to begin serving a one-year sentence for felony manslaughter, and was immediately placed in a work-furlough program.
The work-furlough program allows low-risk inmates to go to their jobs and return to custody after their workdays. Inmates in the program pay the county a fee for their custody.
“Someone like Roger, who can contribute to society, ought to be doing that at the same time as he serves his sentence,” said attorney Mark Werksman, who represents the writer-director-producer. “It allows him to pay his debt to society as he serves his sentence, instead of being warehoused.”
Avary, 44, was sentenced last month to one year in jail and five years probation for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, resulting from a late-night car crash in which an Italian newlywed was killed and Avary’s wife was injured.
When sentencing Avary last month, Judge Edward Brodie directed that a work-furlough screening be completed to see if Avary qualified. So, after Avary reported to the county jail for booking at 7 a.m. Monday, he was directed to the work-furlough detention facility in Camarillo, officials confirmed.
An attorney for the family of crash-victim Andrea Zini could not be reached for comment. But family members, who had flown from Italy for the sentencing, left the courtroom crying and dejected, refusing Avary’s invitation to speak with them.
Prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence of at least six years.
But Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Frawley declined this week to say much about the sentence, or Avary’s acceptance into the work-furlough program.
“I don’t think we want to be commenting on that,” he said. “The judge ruled, so we don’t have any further comment.
“But this sentence is not unique,” Frawley added. “Other people who have killed someone with an alcohol-related crime have received a year in jail, rather than prison. Every case turns on a different set of facts. We argued for prison because of the especially egregious facts in this case.”
Zini, a 34-year-old mechanical engineer, was killed when an impaired Avary lost control of his speeding Mercedes sedan on a curve and smashed into a telephone pole on Highway 150 near Ojai Lumber.
Avary had just met the Italian couple that evening in January 2008, and he invited them to his home after sharing dinner and drinks with common friends. Zini’s wife was not in the car.
Avary admitted guilt to five felonies last month, and faced a maximum of 12 years and eight months in prison, or a minimum sentence of six years and eight months, if Brodie decided to send him to state prison. Prosecutors asked for the six-year minimum.
During sentencing, attorneys announced that Avary had settled for $4.1 million a civil lawsuit filed by the Zini family, after hiring his own independent lawyer to press his auto insurance company for a swift settlement.
That factor, along with Avary’s clean criminal and driving record before the Jan. 13, 2008 crash, were key considerations in his sentence, Judge Brodie said. Avary’s stellar life story, obvious remorse and the need for him to support his wife and two children, were also factors in his decision, the judge said.
Avary, an Academy Award winner for “Pulp Fiction” in 1994, apologized for his admitted crime, and he and his wife, Gretchen, tearfully requested forgiveness from the Zini family.
Brodie said he had considered imprisoning Avary, who he concluded had made “fatal errors,” by drinking too much and driving far too fast.
“What happened was fairly predictable on a country road like that,” the judge said. “A life was lost for no apparent good reason … (but) not because Mr. Avary intended to take a life.”
Brodie chose a more lenient sentence partly because “of the life you have led,” he told Avary.
While Deputy District Attorney Michael Lief had asked for a prison sentence partly because of what he saw as a lack of remorse, the prosecutor said the judge’s sentence of one year in jail, five years probation and attendance in an alcohol education program, was “perhaps appropriate,” given the judge’s explanation.
“This is a case deserving of a prison sentence,” Lief said then. “But I can’t say the court was wrong.”
During the September hearing, Avary told of “the gravity of despair that I feel … I’ve been consumed by grief.”
And he said he would make amends in any way he could to the Zini family, and to his own.
After apologizing to the Zini family, Gretchen Avary asked the judge to give her husband a chance to continue to make a living and to provide restitution.
Werksman noted that Avary is working on two films and that the jobs of hundreds of workers would be affected if he went to jail. Werksman asked that Avary be allowed to leave Ventura County to work on his films while in the work-furlough program.
The judge said that decision would be made at a later time.
Werksman said Monday that he has not yet filed a formal request with the court asking that Avary be allowed to leave the county to work on his films.
Avary pleaded guilty last month to felony charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and causing injury while driving under the influence of alcohol. He also admitted to three felony violations of the state vehicle code.
Prosecutors said Avary had a blood-alcohol level of .11, while a level of .08 or greater constitutes drunken driving in California. Prosecutors also maintained that skid marks showed Avary was driving at 100 mph and that his sedan crashed into the pole at a speed of 25 to 35 mph.
Defense lawyers acknowledge that Avary was driving faster than the 45 mph speed limit, but far slower than 100 mph. They also said that a blown tire caused the accident, and a dangerous road contributed to it.
Theodore Woolsey House damaged, cause unknown
Photos and report by Scott Wintermute
A dramatic fire broke out Monday afternoon at one of Ojai’s historic landmarks, the Theodore Woolsey House on East Ojai Avenue, injuring one Ventura County firefighter and prompting two alarms and the response of 10 engines, along with two support companies.
The call came in at 2:01 p.m. and smoke could soon be seen from throughout the Ojai Valley. Upon arrival of the first fire engines, flames could be seen coming through the roof of the two-story, single-family home. Ventura County Fire Department public relations officer Ron Oatman reported that there was one adult male home when the fire began, believed to be the son-in-law of homeowner Ana Cross, who lived there with her daughter, Kristi Laszlo and Laszlo’s son, Parker.
The injured firefighter was not immediately identified, but he was alert when loaded into an ambulance and taken to the Ojai Valley Community Hospital to be treated for heat-related injuries. His condition is not known.
Besides Ventura County fire crews, Ventura City, Santa Paula and Fillmore fire departments, as well as the Ojai Police Department and building safety crews were on hand to get the fire knocked down at 3:37 p.m.
The Theodore Woolsey House was designed in 1887 with the help of Professor Theodore Salisbury Woolsey, dean of International Law at Yale University for his wife and sons. The house stood s an example of a New England country-style home and represented American Colonial Influence n the Ojai Valley. The extent of the damage is not yet known. It is Historic Landmark No. 3 in the valley.
By Nancy Gross
Less than two weeks after a treed bear was tranquilized and euthanized on Aliso Street, Ojai residents and an unexpected guest from Mammoth Lakes brought passion and knowledge to Thursday night’s meeting at Matilija Junior High School.
Chris Nottoli, Sue Williamson, Tom Farmer and others who hope to prevent the deaths of more wild animals arranged this community gathering with a primary purpose of forming the Ojai Wildlife League.
Similar to Search and Rescue and the Ojai Raptor Center, O.W.L. would be a valley-wide rescue group, possibly under the umbrella of an existing organization, that could share information and resources with other groups nationwide.
Ann Bryant, executive director of Bear League in Lake Tahoe, has already had a letter published in the Ojai Valley News on Oct. 21. In an e-mail to the OVN, Bryant wrote, “I have received numerous calls from residents of Ojai regarding the killing of this bear. Not sure how they all found me except by maybe going online and searching bear groups or having heard of my group when we rescued the bear who fell under the Rainbow Bridge in September of 2007. Several of these folks have been e-mailing me the articles from the Ojai Valley News as well as the Santa Barbara newspaper.”
The surprise visitor was Marianne O’Connor of Bear-With-Us in Mammoth Lakes. She drove seven hours to attend the meeting, and said her organization, which began 18 months ago, is modeled after the Tahoe Bear League, with full permission and support of Bryant. O’Conner lives in a town four square miles surrounded by national forest. They regularly have 30 bears in town, and often have to deal with problem bears that have found human food sources. Her group has published a pamphlet that teaches people about black bears and how to reduce attractants.
O’Connor said she is someone who can kill a spider. “I can kill a fly, but when it comes to a bear just cruising through town, a bear who got waylaid, there has to be some sincere discussion among everybody about how to effect change at the state level.”
O’Connor said that 10 of the bears typically seen in her area have gone missing around the time one problem bear and her cubs were euthanized. Though her organization is suspicious of the Department of Fish and Game, and depredation permits that allow wildlife trappers to be hired to kill problem bears on private property, she expressed a preference for policy change over a blame game.
“Get the Natural Resources Defense Council involved. Get the great local celebrities involved,” O’Connor said.
Someone at the meeting said that Yoko Ono had called regarding the Aliso Street bear, and that the Chicago Sun Times and newspapers in Pennsylvania and New York have included this story in their national news.
There were moments when Nottoli had to remind people that this is a first meeting in what might be a lengthy process. He said it was a time to get experiences, ideas and feelings out on the table. He went over a timeline of his experience observing the bear from the time it entered his neighborhood until the time it was tranquilized and encouraged others to speak about whatever they might know or have heard, including information from communication with officials and experts in an attempt to separate rumors from facts.
Current and former game wardens, forest service workers and biologists are among the people who have been contacted and questioned by Ojai residents looking for alternatives.
Nottoli said he wants the group to become one that “city government likes, local law enforcement likes, and is respected by larger government organizations.”
There was evidence presented that the group’s objective to look into influencing policy at the state level already has some momentum. Pedro Nava, California Assembly member from Santa Barbara, is asking for an informational hearing or investigation into the Department of Fish and Game’s policy on euthanizing wild animals that enter human communities. Nava has contacted Jared Huffman, chairman of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, and his letter mentions the Ojai bear incident and Ojai community members who have contacted his office as a prime reason for pursuing this inquiry.
Nava also addressed the way that the many wildfires sustained regionally may result in an increase of bears coming into populated areas when there is habitat loss.
Several attendees at Thursday’s meeting mentioned that Donald Koch, director of DFG who was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in April 2008, resigned Thursday for unknown personal reasons, and they wondered if this recent controversy is part of Koch’s decision. An Internet search confirms Koch’s resignation.
Earlier in the week a private meeting was held between Julia Di Sieno, executive director of the Santa Ynez-based Animal Rescue Team, and Ojai Police Chief Chris Dunn and Ojai residents Nottoli, Julie Tumamait and Ramey McCullough. Others at the meeting included representatives from both Nava’s and State Sen. Tony Strickland’s office, and a University of California at Santa Barbara biologist , formerly of the Yosemite Parks Department.
Nottoli said the reason for visiting Di Sieno was “to look at an organization like Julia’s to see how she does it. We saw bobcats in cages and a big ass turkey.” Nottoli also expressed appreciation for Dunn attending the private meeting. In a phone call Friday, Dunn said there is groundwork to be done on the organizers part, but, “We’re always open to other options and resources as long as we have the backing necessary.”
For Thursday’s meeting chairs were placed in the front of Matilija Auditorium, so an intimate circle could be created. It was a time for neighbors to come together. A website is in the works.
Graves among luminaries to be honored at Nov. 5-8 Film Festival
By Linda Harmon
Peter Graves, the silver-haired 6-foot-2 pilot from the classic comedy, “Airplane,” will be among the luminaries the Ojai-Ventura Film Festival will bring to town the first week of November. Celebrities and film lovers flock to Ojai for the 10-year-old festival which this year will honor Graves for his work in more than 50 films and hundreds of television roles with the screening of “Airplane.”
Graves took a chance when he starred in the 1980 film along with other Hollywood icons, Robert Stack and Lloyd Bridges.
“I was scared during the whole production,” said Graves, who had never attempted comedy before. “I didn’t know if I could do it. I talked to my wife and the producers, David and Jerry Zucker. They were these two young guys and after I met with them I saw what they were looking for. They were getting together a marvelous cast. I still wasn’t sure, but I said yes.”
According to Graves, the film was shot in so many pieces he had no idea what to expect. “None of us knew it was going to be that funny.”
Graves still wasn’t sure about his performance until the movie premiered at the Director’s Guild Theater in Hollywood.
“There’s no more professional audience than that — and suddenly they were laughing,” said Graves. “They were laughing and hooting and hollering, and clutching their sides and slapping their knees! And I said, ‘My god, I’m funny!’”
The veteran actor, funny and a delight to talk to, describes himself as a “law-abiding, all-American fella.” His leap into comedy may have been a gamble, but proved to be a popular and critical success.
During his 60-year career Graves has avoided many of the myriad pitfalls of Hollywood. To illustrate, one need only note the survivor of Hollywood’s famous short attention span will soon be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in front of the famed Musso and Frank’s restaurant. This occurs in the same year he will celebrate his 59th year of marriage to the love of his life, Joan. Their marital longevity is deserving of another kind of star, even if he weren’t a respected player in Tinseltown.
The Minnesota-born Graves, blessed with the rugged good looks that Hollywood is famous for, made his film debut in the 1951 film, “Rogue River,” after only a year in Hollywood.
He went on to co-star in many westerns and the iconic World War II favorite, “Stalag 17.”
“What a good film. It was a thrill working with Billy Wilder and Bill Holden,” said Graves, remembering the filming. “What a pack of great actors and what a luscious part. It did cause me a little trouble after it first came out though; we’d run into guys in restaurants and coming out of bars calling me a rotten Nazi. But we lived through it.”
Many recognize him as the impervious Jim Phelps of the 1960s-era television show “Mission Impossible,” the calm anchor of A&E’s “Biography,” or his recent deadpan delivery in the Geico Insurance ads, but far fewer know him as the single father in the earlier “Fury” or that he made his directorial debut with an episode of “Gunsmoke,” in which his brother, James Arness, starred.
“Good family fare,” remarked Graves after I mentioned I was a “Fury” fan in my childhood. “They still show it all over the world. It was playing in Germany when I was there, seven o’clock, five days a week.”
Then I added I’d heard that “Mission Impossible” is also about to be released to a whole new generation of video watchers.
“Yes, they’ve packaged the whole series in DVD,” said Graves, noting the timing is fortuitous, coming out right before the Film Festival.
Just like his career.
“Well, it worked out,” said Graves, a master of understatement, commenting on his 60-year-long career in show business, a statement the Film Festival and many of his admirers are sure to agree with.
Graves will be on hand to answer questions after the noon to 2 p.m. screening of “Airplane” at Matilija Auditorium, 703 El Paseo Road, on Nov. 7. Early bird tickets are still available at ojaifilmfestival.com. Additional information is available at 640-1947.
Report details incident with Aliso Street bear from start to tragic finish
By Nancy Gross
The official Wildlife Incident Report from the California Department of Fish and Game, dated Oct. 10, 2009, documents the occurrences that led up to the shot heard around the county and beyond, still resounding 13 days later.
The report narrative begins, “On or about 0150 hours (1:50 a.m.), on 10-10-09, Warden B. Huber returned a telephone call to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department about a bear within the city limits of Ojai, CA.”
Huber “discussed various options with the Sheriff’s personnel to include keeping their deputies and citizens at a distance to allow the bear to exit the tree and find its way out of town.” There was talk of non-lethal force.
Huber told the Ojai Police Department “because it was bear season, any tranquilized bear would have to be euthanized,” and the report says, “DFG was not asked to respond at that time.”
Lt. Chris Long returned another call from the sheriff’s office at 8:30 a.m. “regarding the bear that was still treed in a residential area two blocks from the downtown shopping area.” The report says Long discussed “normal bear behavior, safety concerns and again the idea that a tranquilized bear would have to be euthanized.” Long told Sgt. Joe Evans that “DFG could respond and tranquilize/euthanize the bear for them, but it would be at their request. The Sheriff’s Department decided to wait for the bear to come out of the tree and attempt to herd it out of town.”
At 1:15 p.m. Evans alerted Long that “the bear would not leave the tree, there was media presence and large crowds of people were forming. He requested DFG assistance, expertise and a physical response.” DFG supervisors then made arrangements so that Capt. Roland Takayama, Long, “and seven wardens from three counties responded.”
After that DFG and the Sheriff’s Department collaborated to create a perimeter, closing two city streets, hoping to guide the bear out of town using vehicles and non-lethal force once night fell.
“The bear never made any attempt to exit the tree. Because the bear would not leave the tree, it had been in the ‘same’ location for approximately 24 hours and concern for the safety of the public, the bear was tranquilized at 2200 hours (10 p.m.) with telazol. The bear was transported to the Fillmore Fish Hatchery, humanely euthanized, and placed in a freezer pending necropsy.”
In a telephone conversation Monday Takayama spoke about whether directing the bear out of town could have been successful had the bear exited the tree: “We were taking a definite risk. They never go the way you want them to. The only time this works is when there are no obstructions to open wild land.” He said the bear “will end up getting buried, or incinerated — cremated, if you prefer. We can’t allow any other animal to forage off of it.” He said the bear has become “400 pounds of medical waste that we have to safely dispose of.”
As of Thursday, Harry Morse, who handles public information for DFG, attempted to contact the Fillmore Fish Hatchery to find out if the bear’s body is still there.
The hatchery provides no telephone number to the public. Morse said, “It’s in the hatchery because the wardens have use of the cold room. The wardens are not answering the phones. They are out doing fish hatchery business. This is departmental business. They cannot respond to calls from the public or the press.”
Ojai-Ventura Film Festival hosts dual screenings of ‘The Most Dangerous Man in America’
By Linda Harmon
Daniel Ellsberg, the subject of the film, “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” is coming to the Ojai-Ventura Film Festival to make a point; someone needs to step forward and take a stand for governmental transparency on the war in Afghanistan and U.S. involvement in it.
“My message, and what I’ve been saying since I saw the war coming,” said Ellsberg, “is don’t do what I did (during Vietnam).
Don’t wait until the war is started when the bombs are falling, don’t wait until thousands more have died. If you know you are being lied to in a hopeless war do what I wish I had done earlier, in ‘64-’65. Go to the press and to Congress with documents to show that the public has been misled.”
Daniel Ellsberg is no longer a household name. In fact, he and Patricia Marx Ellsberg, his wife of 39 years, agree that if you ask most people under 50 they wouldn’t have a clue who he is.
So, who is Daniel Ellsberg?
According to the Nixon White House, he was one of the most notorious men in America. Ellsberg was responsible, along with his wife and co-worker Anthony Russo, for copying and leaking top secret papers he obtained while he was a political analyst at the Rand Corp. The documents that became known as “The Pentagon Papers,” were a project commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara on the history of the Vietnam War. These documents showed four presidents had pursued the U.S. policy that their own military and political analysts knew was unwinnable, for purely political reasons.
After the Nixon White House failed in its attempt to get an injunction to halt their publication, it proceeded to look for information to vilify Ellsberg in the press. The ill-fated “Plumbers” operation to break into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s Watergate office was an attempt to find incriminating information about Ellsberg.
It was the cover-up of this burglary that led to the downfall of the Nixon presidency and his resignation before impeachment. The break-in only came to light during the prosecution of Ellsberg and fellow defendant Russo, arrested for leaking “The Pentagon Papers” under the Espionage Act of 1917.
The film captures the day-to-day details of the Ellsbergs’ lives during this period.
“It is really a wonderful film.” said Patricia Ellsberg. “It was done completely independent of us. It is heartening, and one of the reasons we are so supportive of the film … is that it does encapsulate the history of that period in reference to the Pentagon papers and the war. It is beautifully done.”
It was during their first year of marriage that they began sending out the papers explained Ellsberg, “when Dan heard the plan was to escalate.”
“We are still friends with Randy (Kehler),” said Ellsberg of the then anti-war activist and anti-nuclear activist, since active in the National Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, the Peace Development Fund, and the Working Group on Electoral Democracy. It was Kehler who inspired her husband to take the risk of leaking them to end the war.
According to Ellsberg, she and Dan had trouble earlier in their relationship because of her opposition to the war, and it was only after he began doubting the government’s true motives that he began attending events with speakers opposing the war.
Ellsberg has written about his “epiphany’ attending a War Resisters League in the book “The Right Words at the Right Time.”
“There was no question in my mind that my government was involved in an unjust war that was going to continue and get larger,” wrote Ellsberg. “Thousands of young men were dying each year. I left the auditorium and found a deserted men’s room. I sat on the floor and cried for over an hour, just sobbing.”
According to Ellsberg, that is when he decided he was willing to go to prison to help end the war by leaking the Pentagon Papers, which were at home in his safe at the time.
Much time has passed, but the Ellsbergs’ commitment to the need of transparency concerning our country’s foreign policy hasn’t dimmed. An opponent of the Iraq war, Ellsberg is on continued alert and feels our policy in Afghanistan is steering us into dangerous waters once again.
“There is a quote that ‘imperialism killed the republic,’” said Ellsberg, adding he was happy the film premiered in Washington before President Obama made his final decision on whether to increase the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. “With the troops the generals are asking for now, they are only talking about the immediate short run steps but you can be sure Obama has been hearing about much bigger figures 600, 000 or 800,000.”
Patricia Ellsberg is worried too.
“My husband is possibly one of the remaining leading experts on the failure of counter-insurgency in Vietnam,” she said, speaking about the wartime tactic in Vietnam. “That really was his field, and from everything he knows and sees in the papers and on the internet, the parallels are so real. He feels it is a disaster to go in … We are unaware how as foreigners we don’t really know what to do. There is a nationalist passion. We think we know what to do, but we really are outsiders, particularly when there is a military presence there. He is distraught that it might be the end of Obama.”
The Ellsbergs fear that President Obama will have to deal with his own generals and the right wing if he fails to increase the troop numbers and follow through with his pre-election promise to pursue the war in Afghanistan, even though he may realize that may not be the wisest course of action for the long term.
Ellsberg hopes Obama remembers his history, but doesn’t hold up much hope that he will act on it.
What is Daniel Ellsberg’s solution?
“Its going to take someone going public with the real numbers, not the 60,000 troops we are hearing about now to stop it,” said Ellsberg.
Those who lived through Vietnam era may remember the slow, painful build-up of troops, eventually becoming a huge deployment of our military that led to massive causalities on both sides and a political, military, and social nightmare.
“The parallels are becoming all too clear,” said Ellsberg of the Vietnam era. “That’s my message and that’s the message of this film.”
The film by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith has been critically hailed as “detailed, clearly told, persuasive” by Mike Hale of The New York Times. It will be shown free of charge as part of The Ojai-Ventura Film Festival in the recreation field of the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 and again, as a ticketed event, on Nov. 6 at Brooks Institute at 5 p.m. Both screenings will be followed with a Q&A with the Ellsbergs and the filmmakers.
State grants $219,000 to measure groundwater basin, effects of wells
By Daryl Kelley
In a move that should make the Ojai Valley better able to survive a drought, the state has awarded $219,000 for a definitive study of how the Ojai groundwater basin works.
The grant from the state Department of Water Resources will pay for a study of hundreds of wells already sunk into the 10-square-mile Ojai Basin, a subterranean bowl filled with layer after layer of sands and gravel separated by clay.
In some places, experts say, the basin is 900 feet deep and may hold perhaps 75,000 acre-feet of water, about one-third as much as is stored in the Lake Casitas reservoir.
But what is not known is precisely how that water is stored there at any given time, how the water moves between layers, how it’s drawn down by over-pumping, and how much rainwater it takes to refill it.
Of particular concern, is the relationship between wells on the perimeter of the basin-bowl, which tend to dry up during drought, and wells at the center of it.
That information is important because water managers want to use it to help pumpers work together to prevent dry wells, and to develop more underground storage as a hedge against drought. They’re already developing a new spreading grounds near Carne Road from which water can be pumped down into the basin during wet years.
“The study will determine the structural nature of this basin,” said farmer Jerry Conrow, chairman of the Ojai Basin Ground-water Management Agency, an oversight group formed amid severe drought in 1991.
“We think we know what we’re talking about,” said Conrow. “We think there are three different levels of water-bearing sands. But it all depends on where you are. We think there are about 75,000 acre-feet of water in the basin, but we don’t really know if that’s accurate.”
An acre-foot of water covers one acre, 1 foot deep. Two families of four water each year.
The study, expected to take about 16 months, will be conducted by Jordan Kear, a hydro-geologist who has worked with the Ojai agency for six years. Kear’s master thesis was a study of the Ojai Basin.
“The basin is like a layer cake of sands and gravel and clay,” Kear said. “There are about 20 distinct strata.”
What he doesn’t know, Kear said, are the characteristics of each layer. Some layers may be highly permeable and some not. Some may confine water, and some not. And every well drilled into the basin provides clues to this information.
“Every driller was taking notes on what was found at what level,” he said. “And we’re now going through all the data on those hundreds of wells. We’re looking at how much water a well makes at what level.”
Kear is also charting the depth at which water was found for each well, and how that changes from spring to fall and from wet year to dry.
Wells in the basin range in depth from about 100 feet to 1,300, he said. And the typical well is probably about 450 feet.
And water levels can vary a couple of hundred feet depending on time of year and how much rain was received, he said.
“This year, some wells that were at 70 feet in the spring are at more than 200 feet now,” he said. Recent rains probably will add several feet to the water levels of local wells, he said.
Basic questions, such as how much natural recharge of the basin occurs during wet winters, may be determined by the new study, he said.
A key goal of the study is to determine the inter-relationships of wells: for example, how pumping of a deep well affects production at a shallow well nearby, or how pumping of wells near the center of the basin affects wells on its edges. Some perimeter wells dried up during the extended drought of 1986-1991. And shallow wells sometimes have to be re-drilled during dry years even if there is no prolonged drought.
Kear said that even a well located at the center of the basin could cease production during dry periods if it is only 100 feet deep.
One of the goals of the new basin model is to be able to “predict pumping scenarios so we can be most efficient in our water use,” Kear said.
Farmer Tony Thacher said the new study will be “hugely important.”
“Right now, we really don’t know how much water is in the basin and how much of it is usable,” he said. “And with the rise in Casitas (Municipal Water District irrigation) rates, more people have drilled wells. So I think we could get to the point where we draw the basin down seriously. And we really need to know how much we can store in this basin.”
Casitas Water District Director Russ Baggerly, who is also on the Ground water Management board, said the new study could be invaluable.
“This is a major step forward in getting firm data on how to organize and run the groundwater basin effectively,” he said. “There may be lenses of clay that separate aquifers within the basin. Some may fill faster than others. We need to know how the basin works, so we don’t overuse it.”
The basin stretches about five miles from the valley’s East End near Ojai Valley School to about Foothill Road on the west. It’s about two miles across, beginning at the base of Black Mountain near Soule Park on the south and curving upward at the foothills on the north.
By Scott Wintermute
Golden State Water Company was quick to respond, Tuesday to a broken water main on Ojai Avenue just east of Bald Street, getting the valve shut off in an impressive 13 minutes after the gusher was reported at 12:50 p.m.
“We’ve been maintaining our valves on a daily basis, and that’s why we were able to get this shut down so quick,” said Golden State foreman Paul Lopez. The valves in question have been in place since 1939 and 1947, explained Lopez, adding, “When they’re exercised and maintained, they work just fine.”
Five local businesses were left without water for several hours while the main was repaired with the help of S.H. Construction, but Golden State was quick to supply a case of bottled water to each of them.
According to reports, a 49-year-old Oak View woman was killed Monday morning in a single-vehicle crash off Highway 33 near Casitas Springs.
Laura Hanson was southbound on Highway 33 about 7:35 a.m. when her SUV crashed just south of Nye Road. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.
OJAI POLICE DEPARTMENT Media Release:
Ojai Police detectives are warning Ojai Valley residents of an increase in reported vehicle burglaries and thefts from vehicles. Most of the crimes are occurring during nighttime hours. The suspects are targeting unlocked vehicles and locked vehicles in which property is in plain view. Access to locked vehicles is typically gained by breaking a window. The types of property stolen recently have included laptop computers, purses, and jewelry. The vehicles targeted have been parked in various locations such as driveways, streets, and parking lots. They have been unattended for as little as 30 minutes.
Please be aware thefts and vehicle burglaries will increase as the holiday season approaches.
Here are some recommendations to protect yourself from being a victim:
1. Always make sure your vehicle is locked. Double check it before leaving.
2. If you are shopping, place all of your purchases in the trunk. Do not leave items in an area where they can be seen from outside the car.
3. Do not hide personal property underneath the seat. Lock your personal property in the trunk.
4. Even for short periods of time, do not leave your purse, laptop computer, cellular phone, wallet, backpack or anything else in plain view inside your vehicle.
5. Avoid parking in isolated, poorly lit areas.
6. Be aware of your surroundings. Report suspicious activity to the police.
Officer Preparing Release: Det. Mark Burgess
From: Sgt. Joe Evans
Greeting to all you Watchers.
Santa Ynez-based organization offers aid,
training for Ojai effort, volunteers step forward
By Bret Bradigan
In the wake of the killing of the black bear that took up residence in an East Aliso Street pine tree, efforts are underway to establish a well-trained and well-equipped volunteer animal rescue unit.
Tom Farmer, former Ojai Search and Rescue team member, offered to be the contact person for this effort. “I’d be happy to spearhead such an effort,” he said.
He said as long as Ojai has avocados and water, it will attract bears, and the chance of a repeat of Saturday’s bear killing will be likely.
Farmer, who described himself as a “recovered bear hunter,” witnessed the bear incident Saturday. “I’ve studied bears in their natural habitat and read all about them. It didn’t have to happen. (California Department of) Fish and Game could have just waited until night and let the bear go on his way … he’s got as much right to be here as we do.”
Julia Di Sieno, executive director of the Santa Ynez-based Animal Rescue Team, offered assistance and the umbrella of the California Department of Fish and Game permits she has for the capture and care of bobcats, mountain lions and deer fawns.
“We have lots of experience working with veterinarians, extensive training, proper facilities and holding pens,” she said. Di Sieno and her crew recently captured and took under their care two orphaned mountain lions. “The Ellen Degeneres Show” featured a photo of one of their fawns cuddled up with a bobcat cub which were rescued during the Tea Fire last year.
She said the killing of the bear was perfectly avoidable, and offered to bring a veterinarian and holding cage to Ojai on Saturday.”
She also said she works with a bear biologist with specific knowledge of how to return the bears to the wild, such as in an 8,000-acre preserve near Santa Ynez set aside for that purpose.
The Ojai Search and Rescue team, one of three in Ventura County, is a possible model for the Animal Rescue Team, through its cooperation and participation with the Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department.
It contains about 20 volunteers, funded partly through the Sheriff’s Department and partly through local fund-raising efforts. According to long-time team member Larry Beckett, the team performed about 12 rescues last year. “It’s an unbelievable resource,” he said. ‘They can be anywhere in the county in 20 minutes.”
Among their duties are locating missing and stranded people and aiding deputes in backcountry coverage, as well as swiftwater rescues during storms. Among the more dramatic missions was the recent rescue with complicated climbing ropes and techniques of the boy stuck halfway up a 300-foot cliff near Rose Valley Falls.
Ojai Police Chief Chris Dunn said he’d not be adverse to working with a local rescue team, “as long as we had the blessing of the controlling entities. We’d love to use that and have these bears survive this sort of thing.”
The Ojai Police were on scene for 20 hours during the bear ordeal, he said. “We were standing by for public safety, with no intention of harming that bear,” he said.
An alterative to the tranquilize-and-euthanize procedure, Farmer said, would be to back up a double-axle truck with a padded bed under the tree, then tranquilize the bear and take it up to a safely remote location in the Sespe or Pine Mountain areas. “When Vince France was police chief, he called me out to help him with a bear on Descanso Avenue. We tranquilized him and released him up to Potrero Seco.”
Di Sieno said that if an animal rescue unit is called, the animals, whether it’s a bear, coyote or mountain lion, can be released back into the wild. “If a warden gets called, it’s over. They’re strictly law enforcement.”
Farmer can be reached at 320-1414.
By Daryl Kelley
Just beginning a new rainfall year, the Ojai Valley has already experienced its second wettest October in the last half century, relieving farmers of steep irrigation costs during a historically dry month and bolstering prospects of a rare wet winter.
With steady rains starting Monday night and continuing until Wednesday afternoon, the valley experienced the perfect storm: one that dropped inch after inch of cleansing rain while causing almost no damage, flooding or mud slides.
“This was a wonderful storm,” said farmer Tony Thacher. “It was like dropping quarters from heaven. It will keep us from irrigating for at least three or four weeks. And that will probably save us $6,000, including labor costs.”
In just this one 48-hour storm, Nordhoff Peak received more than 10 inches of precipitation, while White Ledge Peak just north of Lake Casitas got nearly 11 inches.
Matilija Hot Springs and Matilija Canyon received between 9 and 10 inches, Sisar Peak, 8.31 inches, and Sulphur Mountain, 7.22.
The city of Ojai received nearly 5 inches, Oak View more than 4 inches and the Upper Ojai about 6.5.
In every location, those totals amount to nearly half of all the rain received for the previous 12 months.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Ron Merckling, water conservation director for the Casitas Municipal Water District. “Matilija Canyon has received nearly 10 inches in one storm, and I don’t know when was the last time that happened. It looks like we’ll have some minor (water) diversions into the lake, and it’s really rare to have that happen in October.”
At Casitas Dam, Merckling’s historical point for comparison, 5.12 inches fell during this week’s saturating storm, compared with an average of .68 inches there for all Octobers since 1960. Last October, only .16 inches fell at the dam, while .46 fell in October 2007, .22 for the same month in 2006 and .97 in 2005.
Which brings us to the downpours of the winter of 2004-2005, when several October rains produced 7.09 inches as a precursor for 51 inches at Casitas Dam for the season. (Nordhoff Peak soaked in more than 80 inches that year.)
In addition to October 2004 and this October, the other rainy Octobers in the last half century occurred in 1984 (4.88 inches at the dam), 1997 (4.06 inches) and 2000 (2.75 inches).
“This is very unusual,” Merckling said. “Since 1960, there have been 16 Octobers when we’ve received zero rain and several others in which we’ve received almost nothing.”
Thacher, a longtime valley farmer, said Ojai could use another storm just like this one in a few weeks.
“It has to do with how dry the ground is and how much it can absorb,” he said. “In the first part of the rainy season you can always take 12 inches of rain. And we got 7 or 8 in this one. So we could take a similar storm and be all right.”
Beyond the money the storm will save in irrigation costs, there are benefits beyond the obvious, Thacher said.
“It leaches salts out of the ground, it fills up reservoirs and it even tamped down the mulch we’ve put around our young trees,” he said. “It’s a huge benefit.”
Merckling said the storm could be a sign of things to come.
“A lot of predictors were saying this could be a dry, or mild, El Niño season,” he said. “That means that the ocean temperatures are 1 or 2 degrees warmer than usual, instead of 4 or 5 degrees (as occurs during a strong El Niño surge.) It’s still early, but hopefully we’ll get a lot more rain.”
During the last rain year, which ended Sept. 30, the Ojai Valley received about 60 percent of normal rainfall, lowering the Lake Casitas reservoir, dropping groundwater levels and forcing farmers to water crops even during the wettest months.
It was the fourth extremely dry year in the last decade.
For example, only 11.55 inches fell at the Oak View measuring station last season, just 54.8 percent of the normal of 21.07 inches.
Only 12.61 inches fell at Casitas Dam, just 56.4 percent of the historic average of 22.37 inches.
Only 12.68 inches fell in Ojai, just 62.4 percent of the average of 20.33.
And at the wetter Matilija Dam station, only 16.53 inches fell, 61.1 percent of the average of 27.06 inches.
But with this promising start, prospects are good.
“Let’s hope this wasn’t the high point of our new year,” Merckling said.
“This was only one rain, and we know we’ll get more.”
Trouble bruin: DFG makes call for euthanasia
after bears pends day, night downtown
By Nancy Gross
After spending 24 hours up a pine tree under the constant gaze of Ojai residents, it was a hard, final fall for a large adult male black bear Saturday night.
But judging by the outrage he won’t be quickly forgotten.
Department of Fish and Game officers shot the bear with two tranquilizer darts. Captain of the Fish and Game Dispatch, Roland Takayama, said the bear was not killed by the darts or the fall but that, “We gave it a double dose of the tranquilizers, two darts, and another was administered when it hit the ground, knowing it would be euthanized. It was the most humane thing we could do at that point.”
Community reactions range from outrage to sadness, with many questioning the need for the “kill order.”
Residents questioned agreed that a large wild animal in a populated area poses a considerable potential threat. At the same time the bear did not behave aggressively at any time, according to those whose yards it went through, and many other onlookers.
Tom Farmer, who described himself as a recovered bear hunter, and is a former Search and Rescue team member, said that according to his experience, the bear was about 8 years old and weighed 375 pounds.
Chris Nottoli, the producing artistic director for Theater 150, wrote these words about the bear, which he watched from his home and yard across the street: “It’s a perfect bear. Big, well fed, black as coal. And completely non-aggressive. Deb (Norton), myself and the cops were within feet of it and it just tried to get around us.”
Sharon Hall said, “I drove under the bear at 11:30 in the morning. We talked to the officer. Fish and Game had already been called and was cordoning off the area. We were told they were clearing the area so that the bear would be more likely to come down. The community feels betrayed.”
According to Ojai Police Department officers on scene Saturday, the original intent was to allow the bear to come down from the tree once evening fell and the streets were empty, then make his way out of residential areas into Black Mountain to the south or up the Pratt Trail to the north.
What some Ojai citizens are wondering, however, is if the bear’s demise was sealed once wardens from the California Department of Fish and Game arrived. The assertion that if the bear had to be tranquilized, it would then be euthanized, was expressed by Fish and Game wardens within earshot of several onlookers. Capt. Takayama said Tuesday that “tranq and release is not an option. Starting two weeks prior to, or toward the end of bear season, we cannot release an animal with those drugs in its system.”
Takayama said the state of California doesn’t have the facilities to hold the bear for the two weeks it would require for the drugs to fully metabolize, “It is almost impossible to do. How do you feed a bear and care for a bear for two weeks without the bear considering a human a source of food?”
He remarked that his wife is a veterinarian, and that she was able to read in his body language that evening that they were not able to save the bear. It was hard for him to know he was going to disappoint her.
Takayama said that people want to demonize their department, and yet “We’re responsible for that bear and everything that it does once it gets down out of that tree,” and he listed the possible scenarios that could arise where someone could be harmed.
Fish and Game waited three hours once evening fell. Takayama said, “The bear was reported to have been in that tree from 1 a.m. the prior night. That was the second night that bear was in that tree. I’ve never seen a bear not come out of a tree once we block everything off and everyone goes away. As soon as they feel the pressure’s off, they come down.”
Takayama further said that concerns that the community was misled about the hope that the bear would come down and be herded out of town were misguided.
“I would not have had nine men on the scene, five percent of the game wardens in the state of California, if that were the case.” he said.
As the ranking officer on duty in this incident, Takayama did feel it was irresponsible, financially and logistically, to keep that number of officers on hand when the bear was not behaving in a typical manner, and there was no way to know when it might leave the tree or what it might then do.
The policy to use Talezol and to then euthanize bears posing a potential threat during bear season is mandated by Fish and Game’s official veterinarian, Dr. Pam Swift in Rancho Cordova, Takayama said.
Sgt. Maureen Hookstra of the Ojai Police Department was not on the scene, although Sgt. Joe Evans, Sgt. Pat Ruby and Police Chief Chris Dunn were. Hookstra said, “We had the report on Friday night. Saturday morning about 9, we created a perimeter. Fish and Game was contacted about 10 a.m. Noonish, Fish and Game responded.”
Hookstra said that the incident was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Fish and Game and that the decision to dart the bear and subsequently euthanize the bear was entirely their call. She does not know what shots were fired exactly.
There are only two known witnesses, other than game wardens or police, to the bear being tranquilized and then falling from the tree to be taken away. Nottoli was one of them. He says that the fall was rather dramatic, like King Kong being shot and flailing backwards off the Empire State Building in the original “King Kong” movie. Although a Fish and Game truck was in between him and the shooters, he did see a tranquilizing dart hit the bear’s backside, and heard one warden tell another warden to give the bear another shot of medication in the shoulder once it was on the ground, having smashed a fence and a cactus plant in the fall.
Public information for the California Department of Fish and Game is handled by Harry Morse in Sacramento. He said, “What we have is called a public safety policy. We handle all animals that can be a risk by this policy.” He said the officers on the scene made the decision to tranquilize and take the bear to be euthanized because of “the fact that the bear came into town repeatedly and did not want to leave town.” He said they were thinking ahead to “if it came into town at a time when we were not available, if it came down and we weren’t there. We had approximately 10 officers who laid out the best plan possible to provide an escape route.”
Morse added, “Bears are potentially dangerous. People have the idea from Disneyland that they are soft and cuddly. But a 400-pound bear going through people’s back yards could harm a child in its path.”
Takayama said that, as bear hunting season began this weekend, the bear could not be released into the wild if it was darted, because its meat could then poison someone who hunted and ate it. He also remarked that a displaced bear does not readily return to life in the wild.
The experience of the Fish and Game warden is that bears that have come into town will come back again, because they get accustomed to sources of food and water.
Takayama also said that the bears cannot resume a wild life in just any territory with any bear population, and it is not known where this bear came from specifically. Even so, he said that they would have tranquilized and released the bear “if it had happened in April,” or another month outside of bear hunting season.
Another source said, however, that bears that are dealt with in this way are typically what are called “problem bears,” and that this bear appeared to have become disoriented, and lost, but was not otherwise showing the behavior of a problem bear, which would be going into houses, or repeatedly foraging in dumpsters.
Some reports say the bear wandered through Libbey Park, drinking from the fountain.
Diane Squire, a marketing, research and sales consultant, brought up the example of a bear that was in a tree in Meiners Oaks in July of 2008. That bear was tranquilized but not euthanized. It was returned to the Rose Valley wilderness. Ojai Valley News archives for July 23, 2008 show photos of this bear among the branches, and then being shown to school children while it was tranquilized. Hookstra says that the reason this most recent bear was dealt with differently probably has to do with it being bear season, which Takayama said.
Squire states that she is newly CERT and ham radio certified, and is disappointed with the way this was handled. She would like to see community responses that call upon more of the skills, minds and hearts in the valley. “If they can’t think outside of the box with something like a bear, what will they do in a major disaster?” Dunn returned a call to her Monday, and her sense was that, “Police Chief Dunn sounded like a really caring person. It wasn’t his intention that the bear get harmed. They had to follow policy.”
Nottoli and Norton are hoping that this doesn’t turn into a situation where people want to fight with the attitude that, “My values are better than your values.” Nottoli and Norton would like hunters and so-called hippies to see that they might have more in common value-wise than they would tend to think. Hunters may well be conservationists and have very humane views on the treatment of animals. They hope a better plan can be arrived at for future incidents. They cite Ducks Unlimited as an example of a group of duck hunters who did much to enhance and preserve wetlands for a number of reasons, including their desire to hunt the ducks. Nottoli says, “The solution is easy if we listen to each other. Everyone has a piece in this puzzle.”
Mark and Marsha Benkert live directly across the street from the tree the bear was in and told how the bear was awake on Friday night and slept some of the day on Saturday. “He would hammock between two branches,” Mark said. “Sometimes he would hug the tree. He had paws as big as dinner plates. We named him Eliot. He was like an English gentleman,” Marsha said. Unable to sleep the night after the bear was darted and hauled away, Mark, who is a welder, spent the morning making a bear out of a sheet of steel that had belonged to John Farnham, a metalworker and the deceased husband of local artist Ruth Farnham. “Now he’s bulletproof.”
Mark said that the authorities “knew the bear’s character. They didn’t think he would hurt anyone. When he had encountered people in their yards he had gone around them, not right at them.” The Benkerts felt a need to allow for their and others’ grief, and the men in the neighborhood helped Mark place the sculpture in the tree using heavy chains to secure it. The sculpture mimics the pose the bear often took with its back toward Aliso Street.
ORIGINAL REPORT: Bear Climbs Aliso Street Tree
Elderly, parents of young adults targeted
Sheriff’s Department Press Release:
Ojai Police detectives are warning Ojai Valley residents of an increase in reported phone scams. The suspect(s) in the phone scams have been targeting elderly residents or parents of young adults. They pose as either a family member requesting money to post bail or an official (court or law enforcement officer) requesting money to post bail on behalf of a family member. The suspect(s) typically have some vague information about the person they are impersonating. Victims have reported the suspect(s) request the money be wired to locations in Vancouver, B.C. Canada or London, England.
If area residents receive phone calls of this nature, or any other suspicious nature, they are encouraged to call law enforcement. Do not wire funds to any location unless you are absolutely certain as to the identity of the caller. This type of phone scam is one of many that occur throughout the year and increase during holiday seasons. The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to be cautious and educated.
Here are some recommendations to protect yourself from telephone scams:
1. Get the name and any information verifying the identity of the caller and/or the entity they represent. Obtain a call back number and use it confirm what a caller has told you.
2. Never provide confidential information, such as your date of birth, social security number, or bank account numbers.
3. Be weary of calls in which the caller possesses detailed knowledge of procedures to send funds. Always discontinue the transaction if someone coaches you on how to send money (i.e. Western Union or credit cards) and you are uncertain as to the identity of the recipient. Do not respond to questions from money order service employees.
Always check with other family members if you receive a call from a subject whose identity is not confirmed or you are unsure whether the caller is legitimate.
Attempt to call the family member in need directly and verify they are in fact requesting money.
Officer Preparing Release: Det. Mark Burgess
City may hold special election
By Sondra Murphy
Longtime Ojai City Council member and current Mayor Joe DeVito submitted his resignation from the board Monday, to be effective Dec. 31. DeVito said that there is no crisis or concern prompting his decision, which he has been considering for several weeks. “This particular decision was not a spur-of-the-moment thing,” said DeVito. “This is one of those things I’ve been discussing with my wife, Mary, for years.”
DeVito said the City Council will have 30 days to decide how to deal with his absence and that they may hold a special election, leave the position open until the next election, or appoint a replacement. “This gives them two-and-a-half months to reorganize,” he said.
DeVito has served on the City Council nearly 24 years and has been a helpful resource on the history of the body and its decisions. He said his 27 years working for the Ojai Unified School District prepared him for his work with the City Council. “People are people and elementary kids are very perceptive, honest and up-front,” said DeVito. “You attempt to listen to them.”
He said he has had the most difficulties in dealing with people who do not have all the information about an issue. “If I’m gong to serve on the council, I need to do all my homework — and staff does some research for you. You really need to have all your facts.”
He is especially proud of his contributions to the city’s work to establish the Ojai Trolley system, Ojai Valley Youth Foundation, the Ojai Valley Museum and the retrofit improvements made to the downtown Arcade. “Ever since I moved to the valley in ’65, I’ve been really involved in the community,” DeVito said. He also felt good about the recent progress of the Ojai Skate Park and Libbey Bowl reconstruction. “I’m extremely grateful to have a wife who supported me all these years. All I’ve accomplished I owe to my wife, my family, my friends and the Lord, who has been a priority in my life,” said DeVito. He said he wished there could have been more accomplished with the bowling alley and Exxon station, but felt confident the City Council will continue those efforts.
DeVito said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife and family and hopes to make more trips like his recent one to Nashville, Tenn., to watch his granddaughter play volleyball. “I guess the bottom line is it’s time for me to get a life,” said DeVito. “I have yet to hear people say, as they age, ‘I wish I had spent more time in meetings.’” He will have plenty to keep him busy, such as completing a few household projects and skiing at Mammoth. “I’ve got my season pass and I’m ready to go.”
He added that he feels privileged to have served his community. “Ojai’s a great place to live and there are a lot of fantastic people. I feel so fortunate to have been part of the community in so many ways,” said DeVito.
By Scott Wintermute
A large black bear made its way into town early Saturday morning, climbing a tree near the corner of Signal and Aliso streets at around 1 am. Crowds gathered throughout the day to get a look at the big critter, whose backside was plainly visible from Aliso Street as it lounged on a branch.
Ojai Police and California Department of Fish and Game officials decided that the best way to deal with this particular bear, who was quite placid and seemed content to spend some time on his perch, was to let him be and leave under his own power. The strategy for this plan was to allow just enough people to hang around and gawk as to dissuade him from coming down during the busy Saturday with all of its yard sales, playing children and art-touring. When night falls, it is hoped that crowds will have dispersed, allowing the bear to come down on his own, and leave town quietly, thereby avoiding the stress of being darted and hauled to the wilderness in a truck.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In light of the outcome of this situation, we are awaiting a statement from authorities.
Additional photos from Rob Clement, Erin Ellwood and Ray Smith. Our thanks.
Business owner named as one of Ventura
County’s top philanthropists
By Nancy Gross
The American Red Cross of Ventura County recognizes Kathy Hartley’s gracious outreach and public concern. She will be the recipient of the Philanthropist of the Year Award this Saturday at the sixth annual Clara Barton Gala and Awards at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks.
Hartley is not one who seeks out the spotlight, and she stumbles a bit trying to express how she feels about earning this level of appreciation: “I feel so honored to be recognized. You just grow up and Red Cross is always there to help communities.”
Restoring and preserving historic buildings is one of Hartley’s passions. This capacity to treasure the art and heart of a structure, along with its relation to the surrounding community is displayed in the renovation and running of two local businesses owned by Hartley and her husband, Mark: Lavender Inn and the Ojai Theatre.
Hartley’s community spirit also has her helping in the revitalization of downtown Ventura, where the Hartleys own and manage The Watermark restaurant.
But what may have been a decisive factor in Hartley’s nomination is that she cares deeply for people as well. Hartley began INNcourage this year, a remarkable retreat for women, particularly those of low income, who are undergoing treatment for cancer. Maria Sanchez of the American Red Cross of Ventura says, “The nominees come from the community. These are not Red Cross women. There was arecord number of nominees and fewer awards this year.” The other two awards are the Humanitarian of the Year and the Lifesaver of the Year, being given to Dr. Priscilla L. Partridge de Garcia of Camarillo, and Lesley Whitehouse, emergency room nurse. “We couldn’t be more proud that Kathy is one of the three for all she does for the county,” Sanchez says, “not a lot of nonprofits honor people outside of their organizations.”
Clara Barton, who in 1881, at age 60, became the founder of the American Red Cross, exemplifies the spirit of caring and active volunteerism. She was the organization’s leader for 23 years. Prior to this, during the Civil War, Barton risked her life to bring aid and supplies to soldiers in the field.
When Hartley launched INNcourage, her intention was to provide women with cancer a break from their worries, and an opportunity to explore some healthy lifestyle options that could support healing and quality of life.
Hartley collaborated with the Ventura County Medical Resource Foundation, which seeks to enhance the quality and availability of health care services to Ventura County residents, to form a partnership with Evan Slater, M.D., and his staff at the Ventura County Medical Center Oncology Unit. Slater selected eight women to participate in the program. The women who attended the retreat received a number of services from Ojai businesses while relaxing and experiencing a warm sense of family with one another.
Hartley plans to host INNcourage retreats yearly, and she presented this concept at this year’s conference and trade show for the California Association of Bed & Breakfast Inns, in the hope that other innkeepers might donate their space for philanthropic purposes from time to time.
It has been a busy and full season for Hartley. She and Lois Rice just helped to organize a sit-down dinner for approximately 900 people at the Gene Autry Museum in Griffith Park. “That was nice. We helped to design the whole decor.” She acknowledges that she received another accolade, a Woman of Distinction Award from the Girl Scouts two weeks ago.
Hartley also says, “I’ve worked 26 years on the board, and as a room mother in the schools.” This service has spanned from when her oldest of three sons was in kindergarten, to this year, when her youngest is a high school senior. “This is my last year. I’m retiring from public service in schools.” She will miss this aspect of her community involvement and remarks, “That’s my favorite.”
The American Red Cross of Ventura County responds to 50 to 70 tragic local disasters with approximately 1,200 volunteers each year, and trains 35,000 community members in lifesaving skills. Their phone number is 987-1514. To learn more about the organization, and for a fuller biography of Clara Barton, visit arcventura.org.
Resignation of bus driver in wake of DUI arrest announced to board
By Linda Harmon
The Ojai Unified School District board meeting Tuesday night began with a short announcement that a district bus driver has resigned after being arrested last week.
Kim Fullenwider was arrested after being involved in an accident driving a bus filled with 21 Ojai schoolchildren, allegedly while intoxicated. Fullenwider, a 16-year employee of the district, had a previously unblemished driving record.
The board expressed regret that the incident was even possible.
Superintendent Henry Bangser said the district had accepted the driver’s resignation effective Wednesday, and would be looking at what can be done to prevent this from happening in the future.
The remainder of the meeting was again filled with figures, but not strictly financial ones. Most of the figures presented to the board were performance figures for the entire district, kindergarten through high school.
Bangser introduced the hour-long presentation by a panel of teachers and principals who gave a detailed report looking at proficiency testing results since 2005. Bangser stressed the panel made up of Greg Bayless, Emily Luna, Karen Williamson, and himself was looking at the results to better address any existing weaknesses.
Overall the news about the district’s performance was positive, meeting or surpassing state-mandated targets.
“Ojai has done beautifully,” said Bangser, who added he didn’t feel he could yet tell the board where the district stood, due to his recent arrival. He added, however, “I did see two systemic issues we need to address. One is mathematics and second is the issue of special education.”
According to Bangser, he doesn’t feel that that is a result of the performance of any one school or teacher, but more a reflection of the needs of particular “sub-groups” that need to be targeted with special attention.
During the presentation four subgroups of students were identified, the economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, English learners, and Hispanic-Latino.
According to the panel, the goal is improving district instructional programs to meet all students’ needs.
“It is important to note that the last five years have been stressful for all OUSD employees,” said Williamson, presenting the information for the elementary level and referring to the declining budget. “Despite these pressures … and significant increases in academic accountability, our staff has proven to be resilient and dedicated which is reflected in our solid academic achievement.”
“We have to look at the glass half full,” said Luna, representing Matilija Junior High on the panel. “We have to think out of the box right now.”
After looking at where performance seems to dip in the district, issues were brought up by the panel and district principals in attendance; the lack of new mathematics textbooks and support materials, elimination of elementary physical education teachers, and the elimination of summer school due to budget cuts.
The math textbooks adoption is not budgeted in the coming year due to cutbacks. The elimination of P.E. teachers ends up cutting down preparation time for teachers and adding an additional subject to teach. With the elimination of summer school, students that are already struggling to keep up have no way to get in extra class time.
“Is it so critical that we need to make it a priority?” asked Pauline Mercado, board member.
“This report says a lot about what you can do with what you have,” said Board Member Kathy Smith, “but what do you need? We need you to tell us that.”
Bangser also brought up another hurdle facing all school districts, namely the acceleration built into the proficiency standards. Each year schools are expected to increase their performance by 10 percent until 100 percent proficiency is achieved. In effect, the standards create a moving target.
“If there is any more ludicrous expectation than 100 percent proficiency in U.S. educational history,” said Bangser, “then I need to be shown.”
After congratulating the panel on their work, the board heard advice from the attorney hired to look at the possible sale of surplus district property. The district has been considering selling surplus property to cover anticipated budget shortfalls in the future. The attorney, Craig Price, handed out an outline of necessary steps to sell district property vs. leasing or exchanging. The document listed seven points that need to be resolved to allow a sale.
“In summary,” said Price, “there are problems with timing, money, obtaining a reasonable value for property, and finding an application where those monies can be spent.”
To which Smith asked, “How would you defend us if we did it?”
Smith then offered several scenarios for circumventing restrictions to which Price responded somewhat more favorably.
Bangser followed up with another question about selling surplus property asking, “What are other school systems doing out there?’
Price suggested the district would be better served not using his services to answer that question but instead use district personnel to which the board agreed. Bangser said he would research the issue and report back to the board.
According to the Associated Press, Ojai is playing host to American International Group Inc, but the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, citing confidentiality, declined to comment.
The AP link from Yahoo is as follows:
AIG is again hosting some of the top U.S. financial advisers and says that this time, the gathering at a California resort will cost it just $30,000.
The insurer, sharply criticized for holding an executive retreat that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars after AIG accepted government bailout money, said it had arranged for sponsors to pay $1.27 million, most of the cost of the event beginning Sunday at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Ojai, California.
Roughly 200 independent financial advisers and 20 members of senior management from AIG’s Advisor Group will attend the meeting, which the company is calling a Business Leaders Forum.
AIG said it is paying $30,000 for airfare, hotel rooms, meals and ground transportation of the 20 Advisor Group members. Additional guests, including spouses, have to pay their own way. All recreation — golf outings, spa treatments — will also be paid by the attendees or by the sponsors, the New York-based company said.
The government gave AIG a bailout package worth $182.5 billion after the company almost collapsed a year ago from investments in mortgage-related securities that went sour. Now, it says, it’s trying to get back to working in a normal way.
“What we are saying is we are back to the business of being in business,” AIG spokesman Mark Herr said. “Last year was a long year, but we’re in the marketplace competing, we are doing business.”
The conference is expected to generate $400 million in new business, Herr said, adding that the company’s business strategy is aimed at repaying the government. The Government Accountability Office said that as of early September, AIG’s outstanding balance of government aid was $120.7 billion.
“We are committed to repaying the taxpayer,” Herr said. “This conference is one way we are getting back to the business of being in business.”
Asked why the meeting was being held in California and not AIG’s corporate headquarters in New York, Herr said, “These are 200 of the highest producing, highest achieving advisers.”
“If you are going to recognize them, honor them, woo them, you are going to do it in a nice place.”
Other companies have also been criticized for hosting conferences and retreats after receiving government bailout money. In February, Wells Fargo & Co., which received $25 billion, canceled retreats to Las Vegas after being criticized for its plans.
AIG was rescued in September 2008 by the government with an initial package worth $85 billion. The company was criticized by Congress for spending $440,000 on spa treatments for executives just days after it received the bailout. The company then canceled all such future outings.
In exchange for the bailout, which eventually grew to $182.5 billion, taxpayers received a nearly 80 percent stake in the company. AIG is shedding assets and cutting costs as it restructures.
The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa stated: “Regarding OVIS guests, in an effort to respect and preserve the privacy of all our guests’ experiences, we do not divulge any information about their stays at the Inn.”
Kramer’s $25k joins Top Tennis Town prize for reconstruction
By Sondra Murphy
Many former competitors of the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament have expressed affection for their experiences here. Former tennis great Jack Kramer was one those players who gave back to his community which, fortunately for us, included Ojai.
“The Ojai Valley Tennis Club had committed to reconstruct three of the old tennis courts at lower Libbey Park and, as part of that project, to construct a junior tennis court and practice wall,” said OVTC President Wayne Bruce. “That total project was going to cost about $250,000, so we had been soliciting funding for a year to raise the money and we had done the design and had applied for a United States Tennis Association grant and we were still a little short of having enough money to go to bid.” Bruce said staunch supporter, Bob Shaffer, then approached Kramer about possibly donating to the effort.
“And Jack, without asking too much about it said, ‘I’ll do anything to help ‘The Ojai.’” Bruce added, “He had fond memories about it and began reminiscing. So he bridged the gap with a $25,000 donation to the Tennis Club specifically to reconstruct the court and build the junior court.”
In 1942, Kramer won “The Ojai’s” open men’s singles and men’s open invitational doubles with G. Richards. Kramer went on to win the U.S. championships in 1946 and 1947, and won Wimbledon in 1947. His dominating performance on the court and advocacy for the game all his life would lead Kramer to be known as “Mr. Tennis.”
Bruce said OVTC received Kramer’s donation just days before he died of cancer in September. “So it was probably one of his last big contributions to tennis,” said Bruce.
OVTC is considering bids this week, with construction scheduled to begin Oct. 26, after World Team Tennis wraps up autumn league play, and completion expected in January. “So those three courts will be out of service during that time, but we will keep one court open for use at all times,” said Bruce.
There is still a bit of financing needed to meet the schedule, however. “We had anticipated a $50,000 USTA grant and, on Friday, we just got word that they awarded $35,000, so right now we’re scratching for another $15,000,” Bruce said. Monetary support from the community has helped with the construction goals, including $20,000 from Pac-10, $25,000 from the Monroe Foundation as a memorial to William A. Lucking Jr., a past OVTC president, and a pledge of $75,000 from the Ojai Civic Association.
For Kramer’s contribution, Bruce said the club will dedicate one of the courts to Gloria and Jack Kramer and embed a plaque. “He insisted, saying, ‘During my tennis career, I neglected my wife and I want to honor her also,’” Bruce said.
Kramer also hoped to inspire other tennis legends to donate to the effort of refurbishing bleachers and other needed improvements, but did not have a chance to issue his challenge before his death.
Bruce is hopeful that the remaining $15,000 will be procured by the time construction is set to begin. Donations of $5,000 will get the donor’s name set in a plaque at one of the tennis courts.
Volunteers manage OVTC, so correspondence patience is requested. Donations may be sent to Wayne Bruce, President, Ojai Valley Tennis Club, 10210 Encino Drive, Oak View, CA 93022 or, for more information, leave a message for Bruce at 649-6991.
Pentagon Papers figure to headline expanded Film Festival event
By Linda Harmon
Now in two cities and four locations the Ojai-Ventura Film Festival is growing by leaps and bounds, and that’s just what Chairman and President David Shor had planned when he was given the reins three years ago.
“A film festival has to keep growing to be successful,” said Shor about the 10-year-old Film Festival’s expansion this year to Ventura and the additional venues. “The proviso when I came on board was that the festival would enter into an expansion model, otherwise I wasn’t interested.”
Last year’s Ojai Film Festival had more than 5,500 attendees with its theme of “Enriching the Human Spirit through Film” and this year, as the Ojai-Ventura Film Festival, hopes to attract many more.
“The association with Brooks Institute has been big for us,” said Shor. “It was like getting the Ojai Valley Inn as a sponsor.”
Shor says the year-long process of mounting the festival will be easier this year because of the expansion.
According to Shor, besides having more room for screenings and panel discussions, the entire student film program will be at the Brooks campus, and, most importantly, they will have more room to grow in the future.
“This year we will be screening 62 films and last year it was 55,” said Shor, “plus we have our special honoree screenings, and are offering every film twice.”
Each year, a panel views, reviews and selects the films that will be presented at the festival from films submitted from around the world.
An even more complicated job is choosing the annual special honorees and invited films. According to Shor, a film producer and former board member of the Tahoe and Reno International Film Festival and the producers’ panel of the Cannes Film Festival, he is comfortable with what is an “opportunistically” driven process.
“Although the particular honorees are definitely a part of the process,” said Shor, “it also involves what’s out there, what’s opening, what we can get to screen. Is there a premiere available?”
In other words, not only does a film have to be available, but it needs to have someone associated with that film that is suitable to honor and available to speak. Even though the film is frozen in time, its stars, directors or subjects are not.
“This year it was a pretty easy decision,” said Shor of the selection of Daniel Ellsberg as one of the honorees, and showing the documentary, “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” about Ellsberg’s leaking of the Pentagon papers in 1971. Shor added, “It’s a pretty timely film. One of our board members was at a screening and got some phone numbers for us. We made some calls and they were both available to come.”
Shor went on to explain that when they selected Peter Graves, a second honoree, they were looking at screening either his 1953 appearance in “Stalag 17,” where he appears as a Nazi plant in a German World War II prisoner of war camp, or his 1980 appearance in “Airplane,” as the airplane captain in the zany comedic release.
“Obviously we chose ‘Airplane’ because we figured there would be more cast members available for the Q and A afterwards,” explained Shor.
The Film Festival schedule also includes honoring Haskell Wexler, and will be screening his documentary film about working conditions in the film industry, “Who Needs Sleep?” with a question-and-answer session afterward where Wexler will discuss his film.
Although the Film Festival prides itself on its event planning, in an odd twist of fate they will be screening a selected film that stars Wexler’s wife.
“I hope it’s not happening during the same time as his screening or his panel discussion,” said Shor, laughing at the odd twist of fate. “It had nothing to do with honoring Wexler. Her film was selected by our review panel.”
Hopefully this is the only possible glitch in the expanded schedule a year and half in the planning.
“Our web site is pretty complete,” said Shor, going on to list some of the events. “This is the second year of our celebrity golf tournament, which was a huge hit last year, the parties on Friday and Saturday night, and we’ll have lots of interesting people and celebrities on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It’s been a really good year, even with the economic downturn and less films being made, I’m happy with our lineup.”
Shor wants to remind film buffs “early bird tickets” are on sale until Oct. 15, and offer special pricing for all the events.
For more information go to ojaifilmfestival.com.
This is part of the special report on Nordhoff High School’s first 100 years in the Oct. 7 edition.
By Misty Volaski
I’ve always thought of my grandma, Sandy Wooff, as the go-to person for insider information on the people and places of the Ojai Valley. With the exception of about five years, she has lived in Ojai her entire life. As a kid I loved her “Only-in-Ojai” stories — the fruit-picking parties, barn dances and the candy shop, horses tied to the Arcade, the day the Pergola was blown up.
So when I heard Nordhoff was turning 100 this year, I realized with delight that this would be another opportunity sit down on Grandma’s couch and soak up the local lore. But what was supposed to be an interview turned into something much more. It became a conversation, a compare-and-contrast of our respective experiences at Nordhoff High School.
I was pleasantly shocked at her Ranger revelations of the late 1950s —- girls couldn’t wear pants to school, but still hazed each other to get into the Girls’ Athletic Association. Teachers were strict, but acknowledged a prank was just a prank (and not grounds for a lawsuit).
As we talked, I found myself longing for the days of felt poodle skirts and hand-knitted argyle dice hanging from the rear-view mirror of my boyfriend’s car.
I had thought our antics were clever — boys riding dirt bikes through the quad on Senior Ditch Day, or the night we filled the male teachers’ classrooms with pink balloons during Battle of the Sexes Week.
But the things my grandmother’s class did were much more inspired — and difficult to pull off. There were stories of stealing underwear from teachers’ clotheslines and running them up the flagpole.
Then there was the time a teacher was particularly mean, and a group of burly football players picked up his car and put it in a courtyard surrounded by a fence with cement pillars. He was, of course, reduced to asking the students to help him get it back out again — the students won.
I never felt like we really won (which is probably why we tossed around silly string and tortillas and a blow-up doll during our graduation ceremony).
And the camaraderie she had with her classmates! When a student dropped a small firecracker into the radiator, no one would give up the name of the culprit — even when the entire class was faced with weeks of detention. But there was a distinct pecking order — “the upper class men were really very nice to the junior kids, but we stayed off of their lawn or they would sit you in the water fountain!” she recalled.
And although my class did get away with things like wrapping the ASB president in Saranwrap during a rally, Grandma Sandy’s class held Slave Days to benefit the sports clubs — all without a peep from the ACLU
“You could ‘buy’ a junior or a senior for a day,” she remembered, “and they would wash your car, pick you up in the morning, carry your books — nothing bad, they’d just wait on you, and no one thought it was wrong or racist.”
Neither was it wrong or odd to be married or become pregnant during high school — by their senior prom my grandparents were already married.
Amazing how so much has flip-flopped in 50 years. Amazing how our high school experiences were so different in the same small town. Amazing how much you learn — about your town, your family, yourself — when you listen to your elders.
Ojai Valley Community Hospital hosts ceremony to launch $1.8 million facility
By Sondra Murphy
The wait is over. Ojai Valley Community Hospital unveiled its new Emergency Room during a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday before about 200 supporters.
The public was invited to tour the new department and speakers included Gary Wilde, president and CEO of the Community Memorial Health System, established in 2005 when OVCH merged with Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura. CMHS also includes nine family-practice health centers throughout the county.
Soon after OVCH became a not-for-profit organization in 2000, the community was asked to identify needed improvements. That input gave priority to a larger and more modern Emergency Room for the 40-year-old facility.
The project began with seed money from Ojai philanthropist Chilant Sprague, then CMHS covered nearly half the $1.8 million in funds needed to build and equip a state-of-the-art E.R. Numerous benefit events hosted by the Ojai Valley Community Hospital Foundation and Ojai Valley Community Hospital Guild and supported by valley residents helped procure the remaining amount needed. “Staff are thrilled to have this new facility and it will be a benefit to this community,” said Mary Jo Garrett, chief administrative officer of OVCH. “The project actually started two years ago, when we had to clear out this space for construction.” After about a year spent clearing the departments to make way for the new E.R. area, the ground-breaking occurred in December in anticipation of a summer completion.
“It couldn’t have gone any better,” said Robert Roddick, OVCH director of support services, about the construction time line. He added that once the E.R. is open for use, phase two of the project will involve clearing out the old emergency facility in order to build a surgery recovery area.
OVCH critical care manager Stephanie Boynton said hospital staff and community support helped keep the project on time. “No services were ever interrupted. Our hope is to have a smooth transition,” said Boynton. “Without Chilant’s donation, we don’t know when we could have started this. She really pushed for it.”
Boynton said one more inspection is required from the Department of Health Services before the new department may receive patients.
New features include a larger emergency department within the hospital that boasts double the space as before, with six private treatment bays, a private consultation area, clinical support space, a new admitting and waiting area, the latest technology and equipment and a new ambulance bay connected to the department.
Project architects Barry Mosesman and Nancy Vogel were glowing with pride over the end result. Besides the interior projects, Mosesman said they are upgrading the roof as each new area is under construction.
“Slowly but surely it will upgrade to become a state-of-the-art facility,” said Vogel. “Having a supportive community helps, and staff have been great.”
“We’re here to show our support. We’re excited that there’s a bigger E.R. in there,” said LifeLine paramedic Darryl McClanahan. He and emergency medical technician David Lombardi stood near the awning that will soon be the ambulance bay, but was serving as a shaded seating area for the occasion.
Admitting manager Terri Colmenero and admitting clerk Estrella Lopez were also enthusiastic about the upgrades. “Especially because admitting will be separate and staff will be enclosed,” said Colmenero. The current admitting and waiting areas are cramped and privacy is challenging to achieve.
The collective effort was shouldered with grace by all involved. “Everybody in the hospital worked hard,” said Lopez. “The patients are worth it.”
Ojai Valley Community Hospital was built in 1960 and functions as a nonprofit community-based acute care facility to serve the residents of the Ojai Valley. Besides emergency services, the 103-bed facility provides inpatient and outpatient care and skilled nursing services. OVCH is licensed by the California Department of Health Services with full accreditation by The Joint Commission, an organization founded to aid hospital standardization and performance.
The hospital had 1,200 total admissions, 18,576 outpatient visits and 7,938 emergency room visits in 2008. OVCH also performed 703 surgical procedures, 17,111 radiological procedures, 19,660 physical therapy treatments, 64,628 laboratory tests and filled 130,557 pharmacy prescriptions in 2008.
“We’re just really excited and glad the city of Ojai supported us through this change,” Boynton said. “We look forward to treating people in the New Year.”
For more information, or to view the floor plan of the new emergency department, go to cmhshealth.org/ovch/ovch.html.
By Misty Volaski
The Erickson-Brosius family is still sorting out their lives after a quick-moving fire engulfed and destroyed their Grand Avenue residence last Thursday morning.
Although the family lost almost everything they owned — a band member’s Fender Mustang guitar, medical records, baby pictures — Tom Erickson, Judith Brosius, their son, J.T., and two other residents have been overwhelmed by the community response so far.
A one-year anniversary celebration for the local store Made in Ojai turned into a benefit for the Erickson-Brosius family, and that, combined with other donations, has garnered about $1,200 so far, plus help from the Red Cross.
“They are in such appreciation and awe at the love and support that has come in from the community,” said family friend Judy Gabriel, whose son Zander skateboards with J.T. “Bags of oranges and fresh figs show up on the doorstep with a sweet note and poem of inspiration; a new skate deck and shirt for J.T. donated by Five Points skate shop in Ventura; $175 collected from folks who were here from Hawaii and don’t even know the family.”
“I want to thank Judy Gabriel and Roberta Raye (of Made in Ojai) right away for getting right on it,” said a grateful Tom Erickson.
Martha Ditchfield, Wendy Hilgers, Susan, Virginia, and Kim Smith helped out by “doing a ton of laundry, really helped us out,” Erickson added. “Kim got us early entry into the Nordhoff rummage sale” to get items they needed most, like clothes that fit. More clothes are needed: Judith needs drawstring medium pants and medium shirts; Tom need pants size 32-30, medium shirts; J.T. needs pants size 28, large T-shirts, and skate shoes, size 8.
Erickson, who builds chicken coops for a living, lost his work truck and almost all his tools, including a 10-inch compound mitre saw and 10-inch table saw.
Also lost were couches, a single and a double bed, a laptop computer and several musical instruments for J.T.’s band, the Sidewalk Slammers. Five guitars were lost as well as amps, a P.A., keyboard and drum set.
To donate items, e-mail info@MadeInOjai.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A bank account has been set up at Ojai Community Bank under “Erickson/Brosius Fire Fund.” A web site has also been set up — OjaiHomeFire.com — as well as a Facebook Cause page.