According to Sheriff’s Department reports, 29-year-old Victor Sanchez is being held in the Ventura County Main Jail on suspicion of stabbing Ismael Montelongo, 39, of Mira Monte after the victim suffered a superficial shoulder wound at about 6 p.m. Friday. Sanchez was arrested at a residence in the 200 block of Lomita Avenue after he allegedly stabbed Montelongo at or near the corner of El Roblar Drive and Lomita Avenue. Sanchez was booked for felony assault with a deadly weapon by means likely to cause great bodily injury, with bail set at $20,000. Sanchez is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 1:30 p.m. in Superior Courtroom 13.
After failing to allow rescue of 54 stranded fish, NMFS
working with Casitas, others to prevent further die-offs
By Daryl Kelley
Following a summer in which at least 54 steelhead trout died in dry pools in the upper Ventura River, federal officials who failed to launch a rescue effort are now devising a strategy that could save the endangered fish when they face death.
In a meeting last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service asked representatives from about a dozen environmental groups and local agencies in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to provide their best information so teams to save the fish may be deployed as streams dry up next summer.
“Our goal is for (the rescue plan) to be ready as soon as possible after the first of the year,” said Chris Yates, who oversees the southern steelhead program from a National Marine Fisheries office in Long Beach.
“We’re looking at when and where and how to rescue the fish. There’s a sense of urgency on everyone’s part.”
The local advisory teams, expert on the nature of their watersheds, will monitor and identify potential rescue situations, Yates said. Then they’ll assist federal and state fish agencies in moving the fish to spots where they have the best chance to survive and prosper, he said.
But there’s much to learn about whether the fish rescues are of long-term benefit, or whether they are simply Band-Aids that make people feel better but really have no impact on the survival of the species, he said.
“We need to learn whether these (rescued) fish are surviving,” he said. “Are we putting them in places that harm other fish? There’s a suite of things we need to work out. There are a lot of moving parts.”
Even with the new rescue schemes in place, Yates said he was not yet sure whether they would have prompted a rescue of the 54 steelhead that died last July in dry pools in the upper Ventura River near the Robles fish ladder, which was ordered built by the U.S. government to help save the fish from extinction.
With very few resources, public agencies can’t spend too much time rescuing fish in streams that have naturally dried up for hundreds or thousands of years, he said. His agency must consider the cause of the drying, and if that cause is man-made, try to lessen man’s impact on the natural process.
“We do feel there are times and places and reasons when fish should be rescued,” Yates said after the 54 fish died last summer. “However, we have to balance that. In Southern California, it’s very difficult to distinguish between what is natural or the result of human activities.”
He has just three or four employees focusing on steelhead issues for a region stretching from San Luis Obispo County to the Mexican border, Yates said.
“The bottom line is I am not inclined to build a broad, widespread fish rescue team,” Yates said then.
But this week, Yates said he had called last week’s meeting with watershed experts in Santa Barbara to prepare for rescues when they are justified.
Over the next few months, local experts have now pledged to provide federal and state fish agencies with detailed information about where steelhead are regularly trapped as pools dry up in the late spring and summer.
Those local experts, including marine biologists who are intimately familiar with the Ventura River watershed, will also recommend to the federal fisheries service and the state Department of Fish and Game the best places to relocate the fish.
Generally, those biologists stressed last week that the fish ought to be placed in year-round pools or streams in the direction of their migration, Yates said.
That would mean that the juvenile smolts that are migrating to the ocean should be placed in permanent streams near the mouth of the Ventura River, while the adult steelhead that are migrating to the upper river to spawn should be placed there.
Still, the rescues and final decisions on relocation would be made by the fish agencies permitted under federal law to handle the steelhead, Yates stressed. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, only agencies with permits may handle the fish. The southern steelhead was designated an endangered species in 1997 after the number of adults dwindled from tens of thousands to a few hundred, authorities say.
Among the biologists who will assist in rescue planning is Scott Lewis, a consultant for the Casitas Municipal Water District, said Casitas Director Russ Baggerly, who will work on the local advisory team for the Ventura River watershed.
“It was a very dynamic meeting,” Baggerly said of last week’s brainstorming session. “They were very receptive, and I think good things are going to come out of this. They’re going to give us a check list of data they need to have so they can make a decision on what to do before it is to late. Everybody wants to save the fish.”
What to do about steelhead trout as they become trapped in drying pools has been an issue for years.
Last year, the federal fisheries service gave Casitas temporary approval to collect several steelhead trout trapped in drying water holes and move them toward the ocean, where the river has water year-round. It is illegal to move the endangered fish without a permit, and violators are subject to fine.
National Marine Fisheries then promised to develop a protocol for rescuing the trout. But as summer arrived this year, that plan still had not received final approval.
Now, that protocol seems to be moving forward.
Paul Jenkin, coordinator of the Matilija Coalition, which is attempting to restore the watershed to its natural state, attended the meeting last week. And he said he was encouraged, but will have to wait and see how the federal effort works out.
Jenkin argued last summer that allowing the 54 steelhead to die was not acceptable. Rescues should take place because fish are being trapped by man-made conditions, including over-pumping of groundwater along the Ventura River, he said.
But he said this week that the meeting was a positive step.
“Hopefully, it’s a good first step,” he said.
And he noted that the extent of steelhead die-off is often underestimated. For example, he said that about 140 steelhead had been detected near the Robles fish ladder before the 54 were found dead. Twelve had been relocated, but the rest probably swam downstream and ended up in other isolated and drying pools.
“My point is that if you see 140 fish in pools that are drying up, you should do something in May or June, before you reach a critical point,” Jenkin said. “Hopefully, this will evolve into something that works. I don’t want to see any more fish drying up this year.”
Lewis, the Casitas consultant, said last summer that the count of juvenile steelhead was way up in the Ventura River, and that perhaps 1,000 lived there.
Over one 100-yard stretch where Casitas counts juvenile steelhead, Lewis said his team saw 130 during a one-day session this year, compared with 13 last year.
Lewis said he can tell young steelhead trout from their rainbow cousins, which are not endangered, because the young smolting steelhead turns silvery in color and becomes skinny as it heads toward the ocean. And adult steelhead are generally larger than rainbows.
FROM: Detective Mark Burgess
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:
Always make sure your vehicle is locked. Double-check it before leaving.
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.
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.
Avoid parking in isolated, poorly lit areas.
Be aware of your surroundings. Report suspicious activity to the police.
UPDATED January 26, 2010:
Fidel Duran was sentenced to nine years in prison for reportedly admitting to the charge of attempted murder. On Jan. 25, 2010, Rutilio Huerta was sentenced to six months in county jail for battery and criminal street gang activity.
By Lenny Roberts
Almost 11 months after a near-fatal stabbing incident on Waite Street, one man has pleaded guilty to multiple felonies and another has been arrested for his complicity in the crime.
No stranger to law-enforcement, 19-year-old Fidel Duran admitted last week that he stabbed 28-year-old Joshua Powers as he walked home from a New Year’s Eve party at 1:45 a.m. Jan. 1. Duran was arrested in June following a five-month investigation by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Gang Unit.
According to authorities, Powers was stabbed 17 times as he lay on the ground after being confronted by Duran and 20-year-old Rutilio Huerta, who was arrested last week. In a statement issued by Major Crimes Sgt. Bill Schierman, the suspects fled, leaving Powers lying unconscious. A short time later, an anonymous person reported seeing Powers lying in the street. Powers was transported to the Ojai Valley Community Hospital where he spent several days after nearly succumbing to his injuries.
Duran was booked for attempted murder and street terrorism. Special allegations of using a deadly weapon, causing great bodily injury during the commission of a felony, and the commission of a felony for benefit of a street gang were subsequently added.
Huerta was booked into the Ventura County Main Jail on preliminary charges of battery and participating in street gang activity. He pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to appear in court today for a preliminary hearing.
Powers’ grandfather, Ojai resident Walter Powers, said his grandson has recovered well from his injuries, but has some remaining nerve damage in his hand. “We want to thank the city and people for supporting Josh,” the elder Powers said.
Walter Powers commented on published comments about his grandson being in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time:’ “We don’t have a wrong place or wrong street in Ojai. They were on the wrong street and now they’re in the right place — in jail.”
Reprinted phone book puts nostalgia on speed dial
By Nancy Gross
Did someone say they were headed up Highway 399 to stop by the Deer Lodge for a drink, a game of shuffleboard and to pick up some ice and groceries? It is likely someone did, in 1954.
Darlene Mansfield, whose husband was “the whistling telephone man in this valley” has put out a reprint of the 1954 Ojai Valley Directory, published by the Ojai Publishing Company, its original publisher. Ojai Publishing had already been in business for 63 years in 1954. Some things change, and some don’t change as much, and anyone with an interest in Ojai history or general nostalgia will enjoy being able to compare the present to the time capsule provided by this reprint.
The Deer Lodge’s advertisement in the back of the book is under the heading “Taverns,” and reads, “Deer Lodge, Tavern, Dancing-Shuffleboard, Grocery, Open 7 days a week, Ice-Chevron gasoline, Maricopa Hwy., Ph. Ojai 464.” A map in the back of the directory shows that Maricopa Highway had the designation of Highway 399 in those days.
The Deer Lodge floor doesn’t retain any remnants of the shuffleboard courts, as far as employee Susie Augustsson knows though she remarks that owners Jerry and Lisa Kenton have their own stash of memorabilia on the establishment. “We have customers who come in here now who say, ‘Oh my gosh, my parents brought me here when I was little. They gave me a penny or a nickel to go into the little store while they would get a drink.’ There was something called the ice house,” Augustsson said.
Conversations like this are likely to be heard all over the valley and beyond, as residents purchase the 1954 directory both for themselves, and as gifts for family and friends who have moved away. It is available at Ben Franklin, True Value, and on ebay. “Many people are buying two copies,” Mansfield said.
“This book is really about the people who lived here — they were the nucleus of this community,” Mansfield said. “It shows who we were, what we did, where we went.”
“1954. That doesn’t seem old to me,” Mansfield said, who is brimming with memories related to the valley, augmented by the fact that her husband was more or less “the only telephone installer up here.” She has dedicated the reprint to his memory. “He met everyone who came here. After he retired, he would still get calls. He would go over in his old VW, fix the phone and come back with a plate of cookies.”
She points out the foldout map, where one can find Henderson Airstrip. “It was small, but it was a status symbol, we had our own airfield, mind you.” The sister of a friend of the Mansfields once landed a plane there that was in no sense “an itty bitty private plane.” When told she couldn’t do it, the woman had replied, “You don’t know my pilot,” and indeed, she did it.
Another feature that appears on the map at Woodland and Highway 399 (now 33) is long-gone Mirror Lake, where Mansfield’s mother’s 11-year-old brother used to ride on his bicycle to collect frogs and pollywogs. “He once saw a rowboat sitting there with its oars, and took it out on the lake and it capsized, terrifying him. But he wasn’t hurt, as the lake was only 2.5 feet deep.”
Mansfield grew up in Ojai and only left briefly when she was a young woman. “I went and worked for U.S. Steel in San Francisco.” Her boyfriend at the time was a quarterback for San Francisco State University, and he lost his balance and then lost his life in a serious fall.
Mansfield’s parents wanted her to return to Ojai, so she packed up so that her father could come pick her up: “It was the ‘50s. You didn’t leave home without your ironing board and your lipstick.” She hasn’t left Ojai since, and she married Don shortly after that.
Mansfield points out the three and four digit phone numbers in the 1954 directory. She also says, “We didn’t have a phone. We’d have to go to my grandma’s house. She had a 10-party line.”
The reissued 1954 Ojai Valley Directory is not altered from the original, and begins with an essay about the valley. “Entering the picturesque valley on State Highway 150 from Santa Paula, thousands of travelers pause each year at the summit of Dennison Grade to enjoy the beauty of this rolling citrus valley spread out far below them and surrounded by the nearly continuous range of mountain peaks which give it the appearance of an American ‘Shangri-La.’”
The page after the essay offers a glimpse into the 1950s style of describing families and professions: “Your Ojai Valley directory lists the head of the family, the wife’s given name in parenthesis, occupation, address, mailing address, phone number and the names of minor children.” Apparently, if the wife had an occupation, that went into her parentheses as well, though most listings are without this.
A sample listing reads: “Bowie Wm (Hattie, dep cty clk) Ojai orng assn Grand av Rt 1 Box 17A ph 598-Mina, Bill.” And another: “Bjornstedt Arthur (Lerie, welcome wagon) survyr Cal Prep PO Box 678 Foothill rd ph 2438-Christina Erik.”
Congress is not healthy for children and other living things…or compassionate candidates.
By Peter Strauss
Unbeknownst to most people I recently made a decision not to run for Congress representing our 24th District. I was approached in June and met in Washington with Democratic Party officials and White House political directors. Apparently they saw me as a worthy candidate who might have unseated the 22-year incumbent who is our Congressman.
The decision not to run, reached after days, weeks, and months of deliberation, has left me ill at ease. The problems ahead-health care reform, war, environment, immigration, the deficit and jobs among many others-did not deter me. We are, after all, a country of problem solvers. Nor was I dissuaded by the angry voices of extremists.
I felt secure I have political skills and the passion to devote myself to an idealistic and rational, compassionate philosophy. I was eager to hear and represent the voices of our district. I was ready to make a commitment that would have asked profound sacrifice on the part of my wife and family and to have terminated my career as an actor.
So why did I chose not to run?
Upon closer examination the landscape that lay before me was dour indeed. In fact it appeared completely compromised. What first sobered me was the amount of money I would have to raise to run a Congressional campaign for District 24. Early estimates were 2.6 to 3 million dollars! And therein was a dilemma: how does one accumulate that much money and not owe someone… somewhere…. something? Isn’t that the fundamental conflict of democratic principals?
But it was the perception of powerlessness that really alarmed me, as if Congress is oblivious, blind. I don’t only mean to the poor or those trapped in misfortune.
I mean… all of us!
The greatest crises confronting this country…as insidious an enemy as terrorism…but from within… are the growing power exerted by major corporations to affect any and all governmental decision making… and the devaluation of public education.
Congress has become an entrepreneurial venture.
There cannot be genuine health care reform when almost every politician who casts votes has accepted massive amounts of money from the very industry they are being asked to reform; there cannot be crucial Wall Street reform when Congressional members have accepted millions, yes millions of dollars, from the very industry they are being asked to reform. There cannot be any real reform when all members of Congress stand to enrich themselves and not the people they are pledged to serve; the system that funnels money into their “reelection campaigns” is vote buying. Period.
Are we to let Citi, Bear Stearns, Chrysler, and Blue Cross become the decisive factor in our children’s future??
But we, the people, would seem powerless to change that. Because there is an inherent problem when we turn to government to solve problems when they are responsible for the problems. It’s their game; the anemic compromises they unctuously announce are really “smoke and mirrors.” Fat on bailouts and bonuses corporations become even more brazen as they attempt to sway voters with massive capital investment in campaigns themselves. We are marketed, manipulated, and misinformed… but not fooled. We know this is not the essence of good government we ever subscribed to. Yet our representatives will point to their flag lapel buttons and assure us they are the true patriots. The defenders of capitalism. But when capitalism overrules the people America is not democratic.
Visit the website www.opensecrets.org and there revealed is Congress…in all its ugliness and corruption. Herein lies the real “stimulus” that motivates all Representatives and Senators to make choices regardless of the voices of the voters.
And what of education…that made America great? The dumbing down of America, the tone of coarseness that envelops us from media to sports to government coupled with reduced education funding would suggest a horror film plot of a growing menace. And yet…why do we allow government to feed itself while starving education? In our district students applied to CSU campuses in record numbers this year. Applications are up by 53 percent over last year, but the system is raising fees by 32 percent while cutting enrollment and classes. State funding is down by 7 billion!
This is as obscene as Wall Street bailouts and bonuses.
Under-funding education is shooting ourselves in the foot. It is education that enables us to compete globally. From it emanates the innovation that leads to technologies that foster industries like green and biotech technologies that produce…yup, jobs! That is the road to economic recovery!
Those denied education-especially those from minorities or poverty who need education as stepping-stones are particularly vulnerable and dependent on government protection. Left in limbo they are abandoned-as if unseen-on a precarious landscape that accentuates disparity. And it becomes dangerous. Look at the current divisive and angry tone.
If it is hunger, lack of opportunity, and the absence of education that produces growth in crime … then it facilitates the extremist’s sly demand for tough “law and order.” Unemployment of significant numbers and duration provides fertile ground for those fanning and focusing the fires of hatred-their sights set on immigrants, the poor, and social justice advocates. Add to that none-too-subtle racism and we are divided and conflicted as to the true identity of our American character, especially when we vilify those struggling to transition into their American dream.
The extremists do not reflect the America I love. America is not a “them” versus “us.” It is a “we.” And it is education that has always served to equalize us.
We, the people, must regain control of our government and away from corporate interference; we need to reclaim the fundamental principles of good governance. When we promote well-being for all, inclusion rather than exclusion, when we end inequities that cause suffering… that is the real American character.
So, problem solvers…how do we do that?
Ojai resident Peter Strauss is an actor and citrus grower. He was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Ojai City Council.
Casitas wants impacts clarified by feds
By Daryl Kelley
The Casitas Municipal Water District has requested that a federal agency seeking to restore endangered southern steelhead trout in the Ventura River to sustainable levels provide more solid information and be more precise and realistic in its goals.
In a letter responding to an aggressive new steelhead recovery plan, Casitas directors agreed Wednesday to ask the Federal Marine Fisheries Service to further research the issue and investigate courses of action that could bring results without having so much impact on the 23 million people who live in Southern California.
The plan, released in draft form in July after six years of study, does not estimate the costs of restoring the Southern California steelhead trout nor list in an order of importance the steps needed to accomplish that goal, Casitas officials said.
“There are some real key critical flaws,” general manager Steve Wickstrum told Casitas directors Wednesday. “Yes, there should be a recovery plan. The question is whether what’s been developed needs to be studied even further. The (fisheries service) needs to focus on where they can get more bang for the buck.”
A central recommendation of the new plan is to remove barriers that keep the southern steelhead — classified as endangered in 1997 — from migrating to the ocean as juveniles and returning up southland rivers as adults to spawn.
The number of adult southern steelhead has declined to about 500 today from an estimated 32,000 to 46,000 before construction of dams and barriers on rivers from Santa Maria to the Mexican border, the report says.
But even those historic estimates have been challenged as far too high by critics who say earlier steelhead counts were flawed and that adult steelhead are easily mistaken for rainbow trout, their close cousin.
Casitas officials, who manage the Casitas Dam and reservoir, the Ojai Valley’s chief source of water, seemed most concerned about a mention in the report of removing Casitas Dam, which is seen as an impediment to restoring the steelhead’s natural migration.
Rather than concentrating on more viable, less costly solutions that do not destroy a water supply for humans, federal officials mention removing dams and other barriers to steelhead migration as a primary objective, Wickstrum said.
“They just attack impediments, impediments,” he said.
The Casitas letter to federal officials says that it is just one of many water agencies that “share common concerns regarding the plan and its proposed recovery actions.
“Casitas concurs with the need for further research to fill the gaps in data and suggests doing so before making decisions to move forward on measures that will have severe impacts to water supplies and the human populations,” says the Casitas letter.
Casitas supports “development of a recovery plan with realistic measures and identifiable goals,” the letter says. “The current plan has reached as far as one can to propose turning the clock back to pre-dam conditions, which would have significant impacts to the environment, public health and safety and socio-economics of Southern California. The plan should be improved to consider the real cost of its proposed measures and alternatives which may lead to recovery goals.”
Those recovery measures should be “effective and efficient,” the letter says.
And it notes that previous efforts on the Ventura River, especially Casitas’ construction of a $9-million fish ladder at Robles Diversion Dam near Ojai, have seen some success. Several adult steelhead have migrated up the ladder toward potential spawning grounds.
Casitas officials noted, however, that the greatest step toward re-establishing a stable steelhead population in the Ventura River watershed would be removal of the Matilija Dam, about two miles upstream from the Robles fish ladder.
Federal and state officials have agreed, and committed to spend more than $100 million to tear down the obsolete, silt-filled dam. But complications about what to do with the silt have slowed that process to a crawl, and now threaten to kill it because of costs that have escalated to at least $155 million.
“If Matilija Dam is removed that might go a long way to restoring the Ventura River watershed,” Wickstrum said in an interview.
Yet, even as the Casitas board voted unanimously to send its letter, two board members with backgrounds in environmental protection applauded the new plan as a step in the right direction, if flawed.
“I have concerns about the tone of the (Casitas) response to the Steelhead Recovery Plan,” said Director Richard Handley, who is also a land manager with the Nature Conservancy. “While I’m not in favor of such measures as taking down Casitas Dam in order to promote recovery, I think we must recognize that steelhead are an important indicator of the balance that is needed to sustain the life-giving properties of our river systems.
“Restoring and maintaining a river system that supports a healthy population of steelhead,” Handley wrote in an e-mail on Thursday, “will help achieve the delicate balance that is needed to insure survival of a multitude of other species within the watershed.”
Director Russ Baggerly, in a personal letter to the Marine Fisheries Service, also called the plan “an excellent guide for local agencies and non-governmental agencies to utilize for a long time to come.”
But Baggerly reflected overall Casitas concerns by saying that “many significant gaps in science still remain” in the recovery plan, and cautioning against its use by federal regulators in issuing permits until the plan is final and complete.
“It is clearly presented in an incomplete form,” Baggerly wrote.
And he recommended, much as the full board, that restoration efforts be listed in priority order.
“Actions are just listed and not prioritized,” he said in an interview. “And some of the recovery actions would be very disruptive to 23 million people.”
On the other hand, Baggerly said, removal of Matilija Dam would be a huge step forward and would not negatively affect many people.
The Steelhead Recovery Plan itself acknowledges that the draft plan is a beginning, a non-binding guideline without regulatory status. And it says that its costs have not yet been determined.
“An implementation schedule describing time frames and costs associated with individual recovery actions is under development,” the plan says. “Estimating total cost to recovery is much more challenging, if not impossible to estimate for a variety of reasons.
“Nonetheless,” the plan says, “the criteria and recovery actions identified in this recovery plan provide a comprehensive road map for recovery and are consistent with many ongoing activities intended to protect and/or restore ecosystem functions in Southern California watersheds.”
To read the draft recovery plan click here.
By Bret Bradigan
Caught between a decline in grants and a desire to expand programs to local youth, the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation has restructured, eliminating three positions, including that of executive director Joanna Iwata, and bringing in board member Dan Burrell to oversee operations.
Also losing their jobs are business manager Marty Reid and program manager Laura Charles. Cindy Jones, development manager, and Meg Wall, program manager, will remain on staff.
Burrell, owner of several local Jersey Mike’s franchises, said the organization was on track to come up with about a $25,000 deficit this year, and with the cuts, should be back in the black. “The truth is, the grants dried up,” he said, though local fund-raising efforts remained steady. The OVYF hosts three major events each year — the annual luncheon, golf tournament and tennis marathon.
The Youth Foundation is retaining its regular programs — including the Youth Leadership Project, Taco Tuesdays, Pizza Night and the Oak View Teen Center — and planning on adding more, such as the recent “Teens Talk, Will You Listen?” event at Matilija Auditorium, which brought in a full house to hear a dramatization of more than 300 teens who responded to a survey.
“Regardless of economic hardship, it is an honor for me to be part of the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation,” said Burrell. “What this organization has done in the past, and continues to do for the youth in this valley, is nothing short of amazing. In the coming months, we will grow this organization, supporting more youth than ever.”
Burrell, who will be volunteering his time, said the OVYF is also planning a new fund-raising event, a barbecue at Nordhoff High School, and is already making one-on-one visits with residents to reaffirm the OVYF’s purpose and direction.
He said departing director Iwata would be missed, praising her work building relations and visibility with the community.
Iwata, who was at the helm of the OVYF for two years, said she is confident that the organization she helped build would remain sturdy.
“I am confident of the new direction Dan and our board members will undertake. As we all know, it takes a whole village to support what we can do by working together on behalf of our youth!”
By Nancy Gross
The Ojai Film Society honored its 2009 Steenburgen Film Studies Scholarship winner on Sunday, and honoree and Brooks Institute student Sean Broadbent’s short film “Une Vie Merveilleuse” screened. The filmmaker and film will also be showcased at the Film Society’s 20th anniversary party Saturday.
Mary Steenburgen presented the award to Broadbent. OFS President Ron Phillips and Vice President George Sandoval spoke. Phillips said, “It’s a delightful film.” Sandoval said that the mission statement of the OFS is “to bring great films to the Ojai Valley, and to help student filmmakers.” When the OFS commends a student filmmaker, they also recognize an Ojai resident who is part of the film community and who contributes to Ojai’s film culture.
Scholarships have been given since 1997, and the first award went to Rosie Castro in the names of Gregory Nava and Ana Thomas. In 2004 the award was given in Sergio Aragonés’ name to Alicia Cattoni, who recently released her film, “Faith in Iran.”
Steenburgen said, “Thank you to the Ojai Film Society. I’m so proud to be part of this community. It is where I raised my children.” Steenburgen remembered how, after living away from Ojai for 10 years, she had dinner with friends in Ojai and “couldn’t stop crying, I missed being in Ojai so much.”
Steenburgen moved back and is pleased to say that her husband, Ted Danson, is as happy as she is living here. Danson currently shooting a show for HBO titled “Bored to Death” in New York.
“People care very deeply about this community and about the arts,” Steenburgen said, and added that as the mother of a young film studies major at American Film Institute, she understands the challenges with budgeting for student films and is glad the $4,500 scholarship will help Broadbent with future endeavors.
Brooks instructor Paul Margolis wrote, “The short film Broadbent wrote, directed and produced in class featured tremendously appealing characters, a well-crafted story line, and most important, a deeper theme that made it emotionally compelling in a way that few student films are. It is a testament to Sean’s passion and seriousness about film that he actually found a cheap fare to Paris, flew there for a weekend and shot footage which he then cleverly edited into scenes filmed locally.”
Broadbent is from Texas. He began college at Lamar University, while concurrently finishing high school. He lived in Ojai for a year and currently lives in Ventura. Broadbent has not passed up opportunities to immerse himself in the film world, and worked as an usher in last year’s Ojai Film Festival.
The OFS has opened the yearly scholarship opportunity exclusively to Brooks’ students for the past three years.
Broadbent spoke candidly to the crowd that filled the Ojai Theatre: “We’re very lucky about the film. It’s kind of a work in progress and a little bit about what this is truly about. It is about the heart. The heart of this film is about love. The heart of love is about forgiveness.”
Broadbent, though choked up as he spoke, said after the event that the film is not autobiographical. Nevertheless the emotion of the film rang sincere with some viewers who spoke to the filmmaker in the lobby.
Ojai resident Linda Phillips said, “I just was able to discover what I really think is a rising young talent. The film told a complete and true story.”
After remarking how this narrative was achieved without any dialogue, Broadbent said, “That was a demand of the class, and it was pretty hard to deal with. You have to rely on subtleties. The first script, I had a different perspective. The idea to do it through the little girl’s eyes is what made it come together.”
The story is about a couple about to split up over demands and challenges that are alluded to more than spelled out. Their young daughter finds their wedding album that contains their memories from a trip to Paris. She begins to try to heal her parents’ widening rift by drawing their attention to the things that once joined them.
Saturday’s OFS gala begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Ojai Art Center. Paid reservations of $50 per person are required. Board member Andi Bloom is busy obtaining items for the silent auction. Il Giardino will cater dinner. The OFS is a volunteer organization with an esteemed history that has at times aided in the organization and fund raising for the Ojai Film Festival and the Ojai Music Festival. The OFS has given out over $40,000 in scholarships.
Merchants seek help from city in promoting Ojai as tourism mecca
By Sondra Murphy
It is no secret the local economy is not immune to the national downturn, especially in Ojai’s core industry of tourism.
On Tuesday, city manager Jere Kersnar offered preliminary figures for the first quarterly budget review to the Ojai City Council.
The report began ominously, as the city sought council recommendation to begin preparation of a budget control plan to be ready by the midyear budget review, if not sooner.
Sept. 30 marked the end of the first quarter, giving a limited view of city finances, since not all revenue sources are received and expenditure patterns are unclear. The 2009-2010 fiscal year general fund budget is $7.9 million.
Kersnar called the primary sources of revenues for the city “the big three,” which are property, sales and transient occupancy taxes. Property taxes are routinely received in the second and fourth quarters and Kersnar said early indications are that the budgetary projection will hold.
Sales tax revenues were down in the first quarter, bringing in $66,578.24 and causing Kersnar to predict those revenues will be about $250,000 short of the full year estimate.
TOT was the main concern, which yielded $447,398.24 in the first quarter. The initial analysis projects a full year shortfall of more than $550,000 from the projected $2 million. No unusual patterns in the collections of other general fund revenues were evident.
The analysis is based on comparisons to the city’s 2008-2009 first quarter, which Kersnar reported were strong and said shortfalls may well be overstated. “That is, the revenues are likely to perform better by the end of the year than the initial projections would indicate. Nonetheless, the projections are of obvious concern.”
OJAI POLICE DEPARTMENT
Nature of Incident: Residential Burglar arrested
Location: Ojai Valley
Dates: Between October 1, 2009 to November 10, 2009
Unit Responsible: Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and Ojai Substation
Suspect: Daniel Lee Allen, 22
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department’s Ojai Detectives have been investigating several residential burglaries and grand thefts during the months of October and November in the Ojai Valley. During the detectives’ investigation, they located/recovered two iPods that had been reported stolen from two different Ojai Valley residents. Detectives discovered the iPods had been pawned at two different pawnshops in Ventura County.
On 11/10/2009, the suspect was identified, located, and arrested. During the investigation, detectives located several items of stolen property from three residential burglaries and two additional grand thefts. The majority of the stolen property was identified and returned to the victims.
Officer Preparing Release: Detective M. Burgess
VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT MEDIA RELEASE
Nature of Incident: Arrest of Attempt Murder Suspect
Crime Location: 200 Block of Waite Street, Ojai
Arrest Date & Time: 11-11-2009 @ 1700 Hours
Unit Responsible: Ventura County Sheriff’s Gang Unit
Suspect Charge(s) City of Residence Age
Attempted Murder & Street terrorism
Huerta, Rutilio, 20, Ojai
On Wednesday, the Sheriff’s Gang Unit arrested Rutilio Huerta for a gang related Attempted Murder that occurred in the City of Ojai on New Years Eve. Huerta was arrested at his residence without incident.
On the morning of January 1, 2009, at about 0145 hours, 28 year old Joshua Powers was walking home from a party in the 200 Block of Waite Street. Powers was confronted by individuals who were attending a nearby party. Powers was attacked and stabbed 17 times. The suspects fled, leaving Powers lying unconscious in the street. A short time later, an anonymous person called emergency personnel reporting that Powers was lying in the street. Powers was transported to Ojai Hospital where he nearly succumbed to his injuries. Powers was in the hospital for several days before being released.
Investigators from the Sheriff’s Gang Unit conducted a 5-month investigation identifying Ojai gang member Fidel Duran as the person who stabbed Powers. Duran was arrested in June for Attempted Murder and Street Terrorism and booked into the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility, Ventura. Sheriff’s Gang investigators also identified Rutilio Huerta as being one of the aggressors and believe that he also battered the victim during the attack. Huerta was booked into the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility on Wednesday for Attempted Murder and Street Terrorism and remains in custody on $1,000,000.00 bail. Fidel Duran has been in custody since his arrest in June and is being held on $645,000.00 bail awaiting trial.
Press release issued by Sgt. Bill Schierman
Proposal to exchange naming rights for $1 million raises public concerns
By Sondra Murphy
Libbey or not Libbey? Could a Hagman, Paxton or Bruckheimer Bowl be in Ojai’s future? If fund raisers for the Libbey Bowl Reconstruction Project had their druthers, a hefty donation to the make-over could come with consideration to rename the venue.
In the ongoing efforts to raise $3 million for the project, a new idea has emerged to help generate donations. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Ojai City Council, staff brought a request to consider renaming the bowl in exchange for a $1 million donation to the effort.
Because the facility has been known by different titles over the decades, including Ojai Festival Bowl, Memorial Bowl and Civic Bowl, the Ojai Valley Service Foundation and the Ojai Music Festival came up with the idea to help garner donations. In his recommendation, city manager Jere Kersnar pointed out that it was not until the downtown park was renamed Libbey Park, after Edward Libbey, that the idyllic stage and shell came to be paired with the name of one of Ojai’s most generous benefactors. That was in the 1980s and 60 years after Libbey’s death.
Kersnar told the council that by approving the concept, it would not create an obligation to rename the facility. “The council would still retain the right to accept any proposed donation, or not, along with any conditions attached thereto,” said Kersnar. “The festival’s fund raisers would like to know if this arrow could be in their quiver while attempting to raise funds.”
“I don’t see it ending the community campaign,” said OMF executive director Jeff Haydon. He reminded the council that the bowl project committees are often asked about management, once the reconstruction is complete, and said additional money would help to run the bowl to its full potential. “Edward Drummond Libbey had no monetary association with the bowl in any way.”
Councilwoman Sue Horgan asked Haydon what the chances were of raising the last $1 million still needed for the project, regardless of renaming. “I think we’ll be able to raise the last million dollars, but at bare bones minimum,” he said.
“So basically, we’re looking at a fourth million dollars,” said Councilwoman Carol Smith. “I think it is a potential gold ring for a donor who wants to leave a legacy.” She added that she would like to get opinions from the Ojai Civic Association, Ojai Historic Preservation Commission and the public before deciding on the concept.
The other council members agreed with that sentiment. “I would also like to have it come before the Parks and Recreation Commission, too,” said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Olsen.
The majority of public speakers were against the idea. “I don’t think we honor Mr. Libbey as much as we should,” said David Mason, who added that, besides the park property, the Libbey Foundation was instrumental in helping establish museum and library sites, as well as in rebuilding the pergola. “We’re putting in more than 30 trees. There are a lot of naming opportunities there.” Mason suggested mimicking the pergola’s donor plaque placement at the bowl.
Claire Hill, Pat Hartmann and Larry Hartmann concurred during their addresses. “I would think anybody donating to the renovation is doing so because they love music and Ojai,” said Hill. Much of the speakers’ expressed concern was in naming the facility after someone not associated with Ojai.
“I think it’s clear that it wasn’t always named Libbey Bowl and it’s clear the Mr. Libbey wasn’t egotistical about his name being used and that he was very philanthropic,” said Councilwoman Betsy Clapp. “It would be rebuilding something very integral to this community, so I don’t want to get too affixed with what Mr. Libbey would have thought of it.” That said, Clapp supported getting more feedback from the community.
“My suggestion is to try everything else first,” Mason said. “If someone wants to donate $10 million, I’ll be back before you saying, ‘Go for it.’”
“I have received a lot of public reaction over the last several days and it has been overwhelmingly negative,” said Horgan. “But two others said ‘$1 million, I don’t know; $10 million and we’ll talk.’”
Kersnar pointed out that it could very well be an Ojai pioneer family that gives a donation warranting name-change consideration. He said the issue would return to the council Dec. 8, giving the city time to hear more from the community.
Heal the Community organizes poker run, car show to bring in Segue speakers
By Sondra Murphy
Organizers of last weekend’s Mentor Madness Poker Run and Car and Motorcycle Show are happy that the event was a success. “Approximately $7,000 was raised and there were a little over 100 poker run participants,” said Heal the Community co-founder Dusty Fernandez. “We had five vendors who want to be mentors and 250 raffle items. The music was great, the food was great and we got nothing but compliments.” The raffle raised $760.
Proceeds will benefit bringing the Segue Career Path Mentors Program to Nordhoff High School. Nordhoff has begun scheduling community speakers who volunteer to serve as mentors. “How cool was it for Segue to put this program up before we had funding for it?” Fernandez said. “They had complete confidence in us. Between the first town hall meeting and the day of the event it was four-and-a-half months.”
Fernandez said 10 motorcycles and 67 cars were entered in the shows and three Best of Show awards were given, plus 13 surprise plaques sponsored by local community groups. “Both winners of the poker run donated their money back to the Segue Mentor program,” said Fernandez. “Our new motto is ‘go big or go home.’” The Optimist Club of Ojai helped sponsor the event held at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Fernandez said Heal the Community plans to make Mentor Madness an annual event and intends to keep the poker run stops in the valley in the future for expediency.
The group will have little time to bask in the glory, as they are busy working with Segue for the next phase in the program.
For more information about becoming a mentor, call 640-0995 or 649-1466 or go to healthecommunityojai.com. There is a Segue link on the home page.
Bennett talks about Ojai’s high unemployment rate, growing need for services
By Nancy Gross
Help of Ojai’s 2009 annual meeting combined efficiency with a warm sense of community, which is what Help is known for.
Dave Neville welcomed members and Jeff Holland, Ojai Presbyterian Church pastor, gave the invocation, offering thanks for “the privilege of serving our neighbors.”
Peggy Russell, who stocked the refreshments table with some of her famously good cookies, succinctly read the minutes from the 2008 annual meeting.
The firm of Soares, Sandall, Bernacchi and Petrovich was brought in to conduct this year’s audit, and Rick Heldwein, senior partner, went over the statements of financial activities, which is equivalent to a balance sheet in a for-profit company, and the statements of activities, which would be the income statement in a for-profit business.
Heldwein clarified the numbers, and addressed the gathering, “Good job to the whole organization. You came out with a positive result this year, which even many for-profits will not be able to say.” He commended the improved accounting practices, and new executive director Terri Wolfe, who has been with Help for nine months, later acknowledged the contribution of the board and the staff who “did some really hard work before I got there. Through controversial times they kept going and making things work, serving the community.”
The positive result does not mean Help of Ojai is without funding needs, by any means, but rather that this fiscal year which commenced in July, began in the black when in prior years it has been in the red. In a phone call Tuesday Wolfe said, “We’re healthy financially, and that is a good time to donate because your money is not going to fix accounting or administrative problems, but rather is able to go directly to services.”
Before Wolfe went over the mission and program update, 1st District Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett gave a presentation. He began by saying, “It’s a pleasure to be back here and to see a healthy Help. Help is one of the strongest and best safety nets in all of Ventura County, and one of the real measures of a civilization is how they take care of those who need help.”
Bennett went on to say, “The economy is in the worst shape since the Great Depression. Our latest figures show that Ojai has a 13.3 percent unemployment rate compared to 11.6 percent in California. In June of 2008, state unemployment was at 7.1 percent.
“There is no quick end to this. An artificially raised standard of living eventually has to drop,” Bennett said, and he continued with concern that as the United States changes economically, the hardship “will not be equally distributed.” He said Help is “a model I hold up over and over again to my fellow supervisors.”
The other statistics Bennett offered are that CalWorks recipients have grown approximately 13.5 percent in the county and the Ojai Valley, food stamps recipients are up 32 percent, which in Ojai translates to a jump from 600 to 900 individuals or households receiving food stamps this year.
In Home Support Services, which is a program that helps pay families and care givers to clean and shop for their elderly and disabled members is up by 11 percent, and active homeless cases are up 30 percent in Ventura County.
SSI has also been reduced on two occasions in the past year, and funding for Alzheimer’s day care centers has been cut by $68,000 in Ventura County.
The theme is one we are becoming familiar with. Local and state government has fewer resources to give out on a per-person basis. Ninety percent of revenue in Ventura County comes from property taxes, and Bennett said, “for the first time, property tax turned down. There is now question that demands are raging while resources are getting tighter and tighter. We want to continue to hold our head high when we say we live in a really civilized Ojai Valley.”
Senior Legislature Sen. Larry Hartmann spoke briefly and said that Ojai is famous at the state level. “Everyone knows of Help of Ojai, and we’re the only senior center that prepares its own food,” a testimony to the small-town heartfelt care Help offers.
Wolfe then presented and said, “We’re in the vortex of what’s going on in the community.” She gave special recognition to Community Assistance Program’s Karen Kaminsky, Jessica Murray and Laurie King.
As far as program numbers, Wolfe said, “We served 8,000 congregated meals, and 15,000 home-delivered meals. In transportation, we gave 7,400 rides. Oak Tree House provided 6,800 hours of care, which is not just care to the seniors, but rest and relief to the care givers at home.”
Wolfe said that the senior programs are alive, well and healthy, but reminded members of the mission of Help as a basic needs organization, stating that Help will continue to fund basic needs over activities when a choice must be made.
In 2008, 51 percent of Help’s budget went to fund senior programs; 34 percent went to income-based programs, and some of the beneficiaries of these programs are also seniors; 15 percent went to administration and development. “2009 was about the same,” Wolfe said.
But because of the “explosion of basic needs” among Ojai residents undergoing struggles in this economy, the budget for 2010 contains “an even distribution of 43 percent senior services to 43 percent income-based services. We were able to drop admin and development by 1 percent.”
Development director Chris Poynter spoke later in the evening saying, “The grant world is the most bleak it has been in my tenure of grant writing.” And both Poynter and Wolfe thanked those present for their generous support, while continuing to remind of the need for contributions. Wolfe said, “Outside Ojai, we’re not a very compelling story. That’s why we keep coming back to Ojai. Our commitment to our donors is that we take care of the Ojai community and the Ojai community funds us. You are our only donor base.”
She clarified that this specificity does not make it harder to get grants or stimulus money that came to Ventura County. “The fact that we serve Ojai is considered a strong attribute, we’re very focused. It is just a numbers thing, sheer numbers competition for money, because we don’t have the population density.”
The meeting shifted to the focus on the board and the election of new members.
Two board members who are stepping down, Karen Evenden and Terry Twichell, were presented with gifts and got to speak about the way that serving has enriched them. Evenden will be missed for her talents of organizing special events and donor appreciation work, but she intends to continue to volunteer for Help. Twichell was honored for his “countless hours, common sense, knowledge, smile and enthusiasm.”
Other board members are Dave Neville, Peggy Russell, Karen Ghormley, Alan Rains, and the newly elected Tucker Adams, Jeff Holland, Kelly Randall and Katrina Rice Schmidt, who all garnered support from more than 50 percent of those who voted.
Before the voting, Adams spoke about coming into Help through the hospice team, and later doing yoga with the seniors. She feels the activities are very important to the well-being of the populations served by Help of Ojai, as things like the flexibility attained through yoga can aid in preventing injury.
Holland quoted a 90-year-old member of his congregation who told him, “If you do the things you think really matter, you won’t be bothered by worrying about all the things you won’t get done.”
Randall expressed appreciation for “the privilege of serving on the board for two years. I’m still learning the way it goes about doing the business of helping.” He wants to raise the visibility of Help in the community.
Rice Schmidt wants to bring additional energy to the board, and finds it heartwarming to have the safety net of Help in Ojai.
By Nancy Gross
The Ojai-Ventura Film Festival is no copycat film festival. Many times throughout the weekend, participants expressed pleasure at being part of this singular festival’s 2009 event.
At Saturday’s awards gala it was remarked that there really isn’t another film festival that kicks off with a golf tournament. Moreover, Mike Donohue conceived a clever plan that put the golf tournament in a class by itself. Donohue must be a father, because he said he “worked out the plan with care bears and mock-ups.” Players in the Celebrity Golf Classic rotated six times, giving them a chance to be grouped with six different celebrities during the course, with one participant commenting that he’s been in about 100 golf tournaments, and none were managed as well as this one.
Maureen McCormick, who was the “Brady Bunch’s” Marsha in family rooms all over America in the 1970s, said, “It’s been glorious. It’s been Shangri-La. They wanted me to golf. I don’t know how to golf and I didn’t want to hold up the game. So they decided I could just be there to cheer people on.”
Ojai’s own Malcolm McDowell, who heads up the golfing, is going to be in a film based on Michael Murphy’s book “Golf in the Kingdom,” a classic book in the style of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” and known by golfers. The filmmakers chose a Mackenzie golf bag to be carried by character Shivas Irons, and Todd Rohrer, president of Mackenzie Golf Bags, was happy to respond when McDowell requested he attend the Celebrity Golf Classic and bring a bag for the silent auction.
The first screening of “The Most Dangerous Man in America” kept a good part of the audience around for the question-and-answer period, and Daniel and Patricia Ellsberg managed to make the evening warm and intimate, even when it was getting colder and colder on the lawn at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Ojai Valley News owner Bill Buchanan was eager to thank the Ellsbergs for having kept him out of Vietnam, as their bravery helped end the war when his draft time was approaching.
Filmmaker James Savoca, who brought “Around June” to the festival, enjoyed the friendliness of Ojai, and the generosity of Steve Grumette opening his home. Some other filmmakers echoed the sentiment from Saturday night’s awards ceremony podium that Ojai was the friendliest of the festivals they’ve attended.
Ojai Mayor Joe DeVito and Ventura Mayor Christy Weir were in attendance at the Lifetime Achievement and awards ceremony at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.
Sheila Dvorak, associate producer, assistant director and acting coach for the winner of Best Narrative Feature, “Children of Invention,” said, “Ojai is certainly the most enthusiastic crowd.” Dvorak has a long history working with director Tze Chun, and spoke of the timeliness of the film on account of the current economy: “It tells the story of what it is really like to struggle, not sure if you are going to get it.” The film is loosely autobiographical for Chun.
Dvorak told the audience at a Sunday morning screening of the film that the children who acted so convincingly in the film had no prior acting experience, and that freshness comes through in the low budget but high quality movie. She added, “They both have agents now, and 8-year-old Crystal Chiu has recently been on ‘Sesame Street’ and met Michelle Obama.” The “Sesame Street” segment has Mrs. Obama planting a garden along with Elmo and a few children, and can be found on You Tube.
“Fenceline” won for Best Narrative Short. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for Best Student Film went to “Acholiland,” and the Best Animated Film award went to “Red Rabbit,” a German film about a man coping with an enormous purple bunny in his apartment.
For the Best Student Film, Panavision gave a $60,000 package to “Acholiland,” and Suzanne Lazotte of Panavision said, “We really like to support this film festival because they have emphasized camera equipment usage and artistic vision.”
Grumette presented the award for the film that best fit the festival theme of “Enriching the Human Spirit Through Film”: “Garbage Dreams,” about two boys born into Cairo’s trash trade, and surviving by recycling in the world’s largest garbage village.
The Best Documentary Short honored Ojai and Rich Reid for the film “Watershed Revolution. Reid accepted the award, saying, “I did a short documentary about our water, and never expected this!”
Ojai’s three-time Oscar nominee Diane Ladd presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Haskell Wexler, and she spoke of how, when in 1984, she was starring in “Alice,” she had been asked to visit Latin America with Bella Abzug and others. “What I saw, what we all saw, shattered our belief in our country’s policies, but not a voice was speaking up. Then in 1985 Haskell came out with ‘Latino.’ That I get to come here tonight and present an award to this incredible talent who has held a mirror up to us all … I’ve always thought that you could not do great works unless you let that greatness into yourself.”
And Ojai’s Peter Strauss, fondly remembered for his roles in “The Jericho Mile,” “Rich Man, Poor Man,” and others lit a match and encouraged the audience to join with him in mimicking the “Mission Impossible” theme as he brought Robert Hays onto the stage to present the festival’s other Lifetime Achievement Award to Peter Graves.
Graves’ business manager of 54 years also spoke about his first collaboration with Graves, and how Graves’ reply to the offer was, “Let’s do it.”
This has been the longest artist-manager relationship ever in Hollywood.
The 83-year-old Graves got his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame on Oct. 30. He honored his wife Joan, of 59 years, from the Ojai-Ventura Film Festival podium, telling how “she was holding my hand when it needed holding, and there were certainly times it did, and applauding when things were going right.”
Graves also said, “The film industry has a uniqueness to it in that you live a whole number of lives, with each production you do. You become a member of an entity, a film company. It is exciting.
“And you become a family in the amount of time it takes you to wrap a project. And then you go through it again. With other kinds of work you don’t get that completeness of a subject that you get doing a picture.
“You never really retire from this business, unless they make you retire. I must be on a roll that I’m still doing this. Well, that’s a wrap!” Graves said as he descended the stage to visit with admirers and colleagues as dessert was served.
School board drops opposition
By Sondra Murphy
The next chapter in the Ojai Skate Park chronicles is complete. On Tuesday, the Ojai Unified School District board approved the city’s plans for downtown skate park construction, but not without some adjustments.
During his presentation, Ojai city manager Jere Kersnar asked the school board to approve plans and specifications for the expanded Ojai Skate Park. The site location is where the temporary skate park is currently housed, in the downtown Park & Ride lot, which is on OUSD property and leased by the city. The lease agreement requires school board approval on designs, then City Council, before it may advance to bids.
“This has been, as you know, a long process to get to this point tonight,” said Kersnar. “It’s been well more than a decade that we’ve been collectively working on this project.”
The sluggish pace in which the project appears to move prompted a special committee of city and school district representatives that has been hammering out the specifics since summer and led to the creation of dated goals.
The city committed to $100,000 toward rebuilding the Skate Park. Skate Ojai, an independent group, helped raise the remainder of the $361,000 in the summer of 2008 through a series of benefits and donation requests.
This is considered a small budget when compared to other skate parks throughout the county and Southern California, but the group worked closely with city recreation officials in coming up with plans that would build a permanent, in-ground skate park at that cost.
Negotiations between city and OUSD have been cautious at best, and committee meetings brought up issues that the city hoped to address during Tuesday’s presentation.
Kersnar explained that the plans were scheduled to go to the City Council next week, but first needed OUSD approval. He presented documents that addressed four outstanding issues: fencing, drinking fountain, benches and a rest room.
Originally, fencing along the front of the skate park was to be low, while benches and plumbed features were expected to be added in a future phase as more funds were raised. In response, the city agreed to extend the fencing around the park to 8 feet. Because the other three features were not reflected in construction plans, the city included them as bid alternates during that process, meaning construction companies were encouraged to include the features in their bids.
Kersnar and Ojai Public Works director Mike Culver were hopeful that the competitive construction market would allow for the inclusion of the features.
The rest room as approved by the Ojai Planning Department, is a vault rest room with multiple stucco and tile roofing options, as dictated by the city Redevelopment Agency ordinance. “It is a prefabricated rest room facility, not a port-a-potty by any means,” said Kersnar. “The concern is cost. It is a considerable expense.” Including installation, Kersnar estimated the rest room would run in the $30,000 to $40,000 range.
“I think it’s very exciting that we have reached this point,” said President Linda Taylor. “It’s going to be a beautiful facility.”
Board questions ranged from operational to liability issues. Vice President Kathi Smith asked what the plan would be for rest room maintenance. “We have a schedule where, on a daily basis, we check all bathrooms and this will be on that schedule,” said Culver.
There were also concerns voiced about the side effects of loitering. “We recognize this is a city facility and we need to assume responsibility as if we were owner,” said Kersnar. “I can’t say we’ll never have any problems, but I hope we will find a way to reduce incidents significantly.” He said police patrols of the current facility would continue.
Kersnar also suggested the special construction operations committee “morph” into an operations oversight committee to assure that the park continues to meet community standards.
“I think it would be important to have clearer, more specific language than what’s in this as to what we would be approving,” said Steve Fields, board member. “In essence, more descriptive language of these areas.” Fields then circulated a copy of text changes that required the bid alternates be mandatory features in the first phase of construction. His concern was that if OUSD gave oral approval this week, the City Council might amend it next week.
Clerk Rikki Horne concurred. “I think that as specific as we can be serves everyone,” she said.
Kersnar said that, without City Council direction, he was unable to assure specific amendments.
Smith said that she liked the vagueness of the language. “It depends completely on the accuracy of what Jere said tonight, so if anything changes down the pike, we haven’t approved that.”
“I don’t like the term ‘bid alternates,’” said Horne. “I wish the other members would be willing to amend the language.”
“I don’t see how the city can have a facility that doesn’t have a bathroom and a water fountain,” Fields said.
“It would be ludicrous for the public sector to think these two bodies are hung up over a bathroom,” said superintendent Hank Bangser. “I don’t think that’s where we want to be. In concept, we need to make this work.”
Member Pauline Mercado commented that she was concerned that discussions were degenerating. “I think the city heard what we were saying and yet I see us regressing back to points and demands discussed months ago.”
Mercado asked for a friendly amendment. After much discussion, language was agreed upon:
“Approve the city’s submitted plans and specifications for the Ojai Skate Park, including the items described in Mr. Culver’s memo and subject to approval by the Ojai City Council; specifically, an 8-foot fence to completely surround and secure the skating area, a drinking fountain, benches and a rest room.” The vote was unanimous to collective sighs by city and Skate Ojai representatives in attendance.
“Skate Ojai is happy that the Ojai Unified school board has approved the plans for the Skate Park,” said Wendy Hilgers, longtime skate park supporter. “City staff will be working with them to resolve the remaining issues as the project continues to move forward.”
The plans will be heard at the Ojai City Council meeting Tuesday. If approved, a formal agreement will be brought back to OUSD. To view Ojai Skate Park design plans, go to ci.ojai.ca.us and click on project update on the right side of the home page.
By Nancy Gross
Two close friends who have known each other since kindergarten, have fished together and hunted together from their youth, are now together toughing out the tragedy that came when they had a day where nothing was quite as usual, and nothing went just right.
Erik Mason, 29, and Bryan Haley, 30, are accustomed to spending time all around the Haley Ranch, but their time together as outdoorsmen included visiting other places. They had just gone on an elk-hunting trip in Lone Pine in early October.
For their Oct. 25 outing Haley had talked Mason into showing him his secret destination for hunting mountain quail north of Ojai, near Portrero Seco Road. Haley was not familiar with this territory.
And then Mason, who also usually wore a hat, didn’t. He normally never takes off his sunglasses, but when he felt the urge to take off his long sleeves, he took off his shades as well. Mason’s wife, Heather, says, “Pretty much everything they normally did, they didn’t do, and they did everything different than they normally do. ”They typically holler at each other. where they are, and they didn’t do that. They were just kind of losing each other.”The panic that was to come clouds either man from having an exact memory of what came next.
After Haley fired at some birds, Mason came over a ridge right as Haley was firing at another group of birds. Somehow Haley accidentally fired in close range of, or right in Mason’s direction, and birdshot pellets from the 12-gauge shotgun struck Mason on his head, neck, shoulders and arms. Heather says, “They were large size pellets; a higher upgrade that are supposed to shoot further and harder in a way that keeps them all together more.”
Both Heather and Haley’s wife, Lindsay, are angered by online comments that have appeared after the Ventura County Star ran a short article about the accident. Lindsay says, “They were safe, experienced hunters; they have been hunting together all their lives.”
Both of the men and their wives have stated that “It was a total accident,” and the friends are getting counseling both together and separately as Mason recovers from the harrowing ordeal.
Heather says “I’ve seen so many men cry lately. I can’t handle this. Bryan feels terrible. I’ve never seen him like this, sobbing. He never left Erik’s side. Bryan was at UCLA from Sunday to Tuesday. Now that Bryan has been home for a week, he came over and mowed our lawn. I’ve had to tell him, ‘We’re not mad at you. If you had killed him, I might be a little bit mad at you. Sit down Bryan, you’re going to pass out.’”
Heather tells the story as she has heard it that Mason “thinks he got shot at 9:15 or 9:30. Bryan said,’Let me call 911,’ and Mason kept saying, ‘No, just get me the hell out of here,’ and he made Bryan walk the mile or more to the truck holding him and guiding him. He kept saying, ‘Just get me to CMH.”
Mason wouldn’t let his friend call 911 because he thought they would send an ambulance and it would take too long to get to them. He didn’t think a helicopter would come. The two hiked about an hour to get to the truck, and Mason’s eyes were swollen shut while Haley led, and then it was 35 minutes to Community Memorial Hospital.
Mason had been treated at CMH four years prior when he had a stroke brought on by a chiropractic treatment, and he wanted to go back there. At CMH he was taken in immediately and put on an IV drip and given some light pain medication, but physicians otherwise did not know what to do. They didn’t have a specialist on hand, and began calling all over the state.
“We got a bunch of ‘I don’t knows,” says Heather of that first long day when even the University of California at Los Angeles’ Medical Center said they were too full to accept her husband. Somehow that changed, and at 9:30 p.m. Mason was taken to UCLA by helicopter.
“Once he got into UCLA we had such a great experience. The specialist, Dr. Amelia Shah, met him in the ER and has been seeing him all the way through. They are trying every option possible, trying to save his left eye,” Heather says.
One pellet went right through the center of Mason’s left eye, and another through the white of the eye. “He had a pellet go under his right eye and fracture the bone. He was in a pretty big panic and thought he was going blind,” Heather said.
“One is stuck in his sinus cavity. He has three stuck in his forehead, one stuck above his ear, two stuck in the left side of his neck. His whole entire face, his arms and his neck, we’ve lost count.” Mason’s right eye will be OK, and he may have to have several surgeries on his left eye to restore some sight. An ultrasound on Monday was promising about some recovery in his left eye, but the pellets cannot be removed from many locations because the removal might cause more damage. In addition, the stroke Mason had four years ago makes it a little hazardous for him to receive anesthesia.
Mason and his wife met at Chaparral High School and have been together for 12 years, as Heather says, “attached at the hip ever since.” They have two children, Devin, who turned 2 on Oct. 15, and Addison, who was born July 30.
Heather says of Mason’s employer, West Coast Air Conditioning, “Oh my gosh, they’ve been amazing. They’ve taken care of all his disability paperwork. Everyone from the office has been bringing us meals, which is good because he doesn’t want to eat if I have to cook. He’s always been the cook. Erik has a recipe for everything. He’s also a baker.”
Lindsay Haley says, “we have had so many calls, e-mails, texts from people who want to donate or help, a tremendous outpouring from the community. Lindsay has set up a fund at Rabobank, Erik Mason’s Benefit Fund, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Debate focuses on expediency versus privacy
as talk of vote to change law discussed
By Sondra Murphy
Rights to privacy vs. public record were discussed at great length Tuesday during the Ojai City Council meeting. The instigating item concerned the city practice of opening council members’ mail.
The issue was brought to the council in September, when public speakers requested that confidential letters to council members remain so. Councilwoman Betsy Clapp then requested the subject be itemized. During open discussion Oct. 13, more information was requested of city attorney Monte Widders, bringing the item back before the council this week.
The result was a nine-page memorandum Widders submitted regarding the ordinance background and history governing how city manager forms of government, like Ojai is, must proceed. In it, Widders gives historical overview of the law voted in, 1,286 to 640, on April 10, 1956 following City Council submittal.
The ordinance was then codified as Section 2-3.04 under Title 2, Chapter 3 outlining city manager duties and authorized by the California Government Code Section 34851 and continues to require that cities adopting city manager forms of government may only abolish it in the same manner it was adopted.
Included in the city manager’s duties is, “(r) To receive and open all mail addressed to the Council and give immediate attention thereto to the end that all administrative business referred to therein and not requiring the Council action may be disposed of expeditiously.”
There was differing opinion among council members and public speakers about what the phrase “addressed to the Council” actually means. Some, like Clapp, thought it meant when correspondence is not addressed to a specific member. Others, like Councilwoman Carol Smith, believe it meant letters addressed to any council member to assure prompt action to requests.
Widders said that the public has, “the right to see virtually everything we see. It’s the right of the people to know their own business. Balanced with that is the right of the people to petition anonymously.”
Widders further advised that the issue is not about who opens the mail, but who reads it first and whether information might be inappropriately disclosed. “I think that’s what the members of the public want, that their complaints aren’t disclosed to anyone else and that’s the problem because the state political reform act does not allow that,” said Widders. He said balancing confidentiality with the California Public Records Act is tricky because the act intends to keep government accessible to its citizens.
“There are three criteria. 1) is it in writing, which includes e-mails, 2) does it pertain to city business, and 3) is it retained by the city,” Widders said. “Once all those prongs are satisfied, it is a public record no matter who it is addressed to.” He added that because oral communications do not meet all three prongs, they rarely count as a public record.
Len Klaif suggested that council members had leeway to determine whether letters addressed specifically to them may be opened by staff or not. Pat McPherson said that notions of expediency in the ‘50s differed from today and he did not think action would be much delayed if letters were first opened by individual members. “Will somebody say something to you as City Council members if they thought there would be some sort of reprisal?” he asked.
“When personal correspondence with council is reviewed by a city manager, it has a chilling effect on communications between the public and the council,” said Scott Eicher, Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO. He added that having mail returned to sender unopened would only worsen the impact and said OVCC members supported placing an initiative on the June election ballot asking voters to prohibit city staff opening personal mail addressed to council members unless so directed by individuals.
“I think the public absolutely has the right to communicate privately with us. Whether we needed hours and hours of legal opinion on it, go figure,” said Smith. She and Mayor Joe DeVito said they had never had any problems with staff opening mail. “I’ve worked with four city managers and my mail has been opened for almost 24 years and I have never had a complaint from anyone who has written to me,” said DeVito. “All the city managers have always been very professional.”
Kersnar had no opinion as to the direction of the council but wanted to address confidentiality concerns. “The implication that somehow there is a danger of staff opening letters, that we would seek retribution against negative comments, if there is any evidence for that, I would like to know about it. That is just not appropriate,” he said. “If there are complaints about staff members or about me, especially about me, I would like to know about them.”
Smith agreed with that sentiment.
The council members agreed to two of Widders’ three recommendations on the issue. A notice will be placed on the city’s web site informing people that written communications are public records and will be opened by the manager’s office. It will also direct people seeking confidential communications to seek a personal interview or contact council members at their private phone numbers or e-mail addresses. Council members who wish to share their private addresses will also make them available on the web site.
Council modified the third recommendation by the city attorney by requesting that any letter addressed as confidential be forwarded to their private addresses and a letter mailed to the sender regarding the city policy on private communications.
Kersnar said the modifications would be made to the directive and brought back to the council as a consent item.
Fears, hopes of 300 local youth explored on stage
By Linda Harmon
After hundreds of Ojai teenagers volunteered their innermost thoughts, a talented troupe of students and the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation brought those feelings to the stage. “Teens Talk … Will You Listen?” was performed last Thursday evening at Matilija High School Auditorium to a packed house. The audience was treated to a riveting, fast-paced, and thought-provoking evening.
“We have over 300 students represented tonight,” said the evening’s director, Kim Maxwell.
Maxwell, currently director of Besant Hill communication and annual fund, introduced the performance, saying, “Tonight is the brainchild of Meg Wall and Dan Burrell.”
According to Maxwell, OVYF program director Wall and OVYF board member Burrell took on the daunting task of getting students to open their hearts and minds. In a process which took only a month and a half, they first culled questions from parent groups in schools throughout the area, private and public. They then distributed the list of questions via the schools’ English classes. To make sure students felt comfortable responding honestly, answers were kept private.
It was Wall, a 23-year-old not much older than the students being polled, who compiled the responses and gave them to Maxwell. Maxwell, also a professional writer, drama teacher, and a founder of Theater 150, then molded the material into the readings that the 12 students performed on stage.
“They really only had three rehearsals,” said Maxwell, who added they made the last revisions the day of the show. “I was really impressed by the level of commitment of the students who participated.”
“Wasn’t it great?” said Joanna Iwata, executive director of OVYF, after the performance. “And these are not professional actors.”
The troupe that took the stage for the readings were: Brianna Bohnett, Kim Del Manzano, Mitch Edelson, Karla Flores, Lumi Grasso, Sierra Hoskins, Giani Interiano, Lily Mays, Tyler Mikkelson, Henry Monny, Daniela Razo, and Journey Zephyr. The supporting ensemble included: Maggie Angeles, Kayla Arnold, Angela Cimmarusti, Sandra Hernandez, Khalil Lennon, Jacob Morgan, Ashley Pulido, Freya Randle-Helgesson, and Yesenia Sanchez.
The dialogue was formed around a series of questions including: “What inspires you?,” “Why do you hate me?,” “Why don’t you like yourself?,” “How do you feel about the future?,” and “Is it OK to read a teen’s text messages?”
It felt intimate and personal even though the readings took place from the stage in a crowded auditorium. Teens told parents they drink too much and embarrass them, that they complain too much about the other parent, and that they miss having time to talk to a parent absent, whether physically or emotionally. There were tender moments too, like when a teen wrote no matter how depressed they got they always kept trying because their parents kept trying and kept caring.
There were also readings delivered about the April stabbing of 16-year-old Seth Scarminach. Starting with free verse about the peaceful Ojai night sky that gave way to violence, students used words like terror, anger, despair, guilt. Monologues told of facing violence, “that happens here.” Teens asking, “How did we get here?” and “How do you heal the rage?”
Throughout the performance the dialogue came straight from the heart, at times sad and funny, at others scary and touching.
At the end, I, for one, felt inspired. Inspired that 300 students trusted enough to be part of something bigger than themselves. Through their words, they reminded everyone in the audience how very precious and besieged, yet tough and resilient, each young adult can be.
Wall said it best in her closing remarks, thanking the audience and her readers. She closed her remarks by thanking “every teen who submitted anything, every spoken word, every monologue and bit of poetry. This is what made this script so incredible.”
According to Iwata, the evening is only the first in a series of events the Youth Foundation plans for the coming year as part of their outreach programs to valley youngsters and their parents.
Iwata mentioned the upcoming return of the organization, Straight Up from Ventura, on Nov. 14.
To find out more or volunteer go online to ovyf.org or call 640-9555.
And if you missed Thursday’s performance, take heart. Burrell announced the event was filmed by Jim McEachen and an eight-member student crew who will be submitting it to film festivals.
Report and photographs by Scott Wintermute
At about 1:27 p.m. Wednesday, a young woman, covered in blood, was found walking along Maricopa Highway near Matilija Canyon Road by a Fed Ex delivery driver.
She appeared to have suffered multiple stab wounds, and was transported via helicopter to the Ventura County Medical Center.
Shortly thereafter, there were reports of two males walking down the riverbed and a Ventura County Sheriff’s Department helicopter was seen patrolling up and down the canyon.
As of this time there have been no arrests, though police do have a person of interest in the case.
The release of the identity and condition of the victim is being withheld pending further investigation, but the OVN has learned that she is an Ojai resident in her mid-20s.