Photos and report by Scott Wintermute
A three-car traffic accident closed the southbound lane of Highway 33 just south of Woodland Avenue Friday afternoon around 2:45 p.m. resulting in two people being transported via ambulance to Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura.
According to authorities, Jerry Stratman was at the front of the chain reaction in his Dodge Neon and was taken to the hospital after a Lincoln Mark VIII occupied by mother and daughter, Beverly and Sue Hartmann, was struck by a Honda Passport driven by Cheryl Buclklin. Complaining of neck and back pain, Beverly Hartmann was also taken to CMH. Traffic was affected for about a half-hour.
Construction set to begin in June, but $600k still needed
By Sondra Murphy
The money is still being collected, but the Ojai City Council is working to follow the time line necessary for the rebuilding of Libbey Bowl. On Tuesday, council members approved two items associated with the project to renovate the deteriorating facility in the heart of the city.
The city manager was authorized to execute a service agreement be-tween the city and Jones and Jones for construction management services during the approximately $3 million project, scheduled to begin in June at the conclusion of the 2010 Ojai Music Festival. Kevin Jones of the company acted as the project’s cost estimator during the conceptual design phase by David Bury & Company Architects, Ltd., then the city contracted with Jones and Jones directly last June to perform continued cost estimation services to assist in keeping the project design within the budget goal.
Ojai Public Works director Mike Culver said that there is now a need to hire a construction manager to act on behalf of the city throughout the bidding and construction phases. In November, Jones and Jones submitted a proposal to Culver for a fixed fee of $168,500 for construction management services for the duration of the project. “The typical fees for these services range from 5 to 10 percent of the total project cost, depending on the size and complexity of the project,” Culver reported. “This proposal amounts to 5.6 percent of the $3 million project cost.”
Councilwoman Betsy Clapp asked for specifics on the construction management job. “They will shepherd the process through the design phase, make sure cost strategies stay in place, assist with construction docs and bid docs,” said Culver. “Then, once the project starts, they will be the on-site manager.”
“We don’t pick the contractor, it’s let out to bid and the lowest responsible bidder gets the job,” said city attorney Monte Widders regarding the need for a manager to oversee the project.
Reimbursable expenses are anticipated not to exceed $5,000, making the total contract amount approved by the council $173,500. The agreement will include the standard termination clause that allows the city to end the agreement for any reason. Culver’s report said if, for any reason, the project did not proceed, the city would be able to terminate the agreement and would be liable only for expenses incurred to date by Jones and Jones.
Councilwoman Sue Horgan motioned for approval with the addition of a payments disbursement schedule for certain milestones. “I would just hate to run out of money before construction begins,” she said.
“I’m very happy that we have a local company,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Carol Smith. “We’re very privileged to have such an ethical company to work with it.”
The council next approved the recommended public art for Libbey Bowl. “This project requires public art, as does every public project above $300,000,” said city manager Jere Kersnar. “It’s a $40,000 minimum piece of art … the artist agrees it can be done for the budget amount. The amount was announced to all the applicants; we would like to have more, but that depends on donations.”
Kersnar added that the agreement would also include a termination clause in case the project does not come to fruition.
From a pool of 31 art proposals, Trimpin’s sound arch was recommended for selection by the Ojai Arts Commission and seven-member public art jury, which included members from the Ojai art community, Planning Commission, Arts Commission and Ojai Music Festival. Inspired by the curved shape of Libbey Bowl, the 12-foot arch will consist of 24 reclaimed metal tubes of varying lengths with resonators and internal mallet mechanisms that will produce chiming sounds similar to a xylophone.
Positioned at the entrance of the new Libbey Bowl, the sound arch will be activated by a motion sensor to play electronically pre-composed sequences. “The guiding principles of the concept was contrasting both simple and complex elements as well as produce a harmonious sculpture to highlight the Libbey Bowl’s presence,” said Trimpin in his proposal.
The sound arch will begin construction later this year and is part of the city of Ojai’s ongoing Public Arts Program. The sculpture will be officially unveiled during opening day for Libbey Bowl at the Day of Music on June 5, 2011. The drawings and artistic statement will be available on the city of Ojai web site at ci.ojai.us.
The council next heard more on the project itself. “To date we have secured $2.4 million. It’s coming in — in all shapes, forms and sizes,” said Bill Burr Jr., vice president of the Ojai Valley Service Foundation. “We expect that we will be able to fulfill the obligation to get the money in the bank so the city can get this built when it needs to be built. It’s probably one of the most exciting things, not only for the arts, but what it means for the community itself.”
Libbey Bowl amphitheater has been serving the community since it was built in the 1950s and is currently used by as many as 30 nonprofit groups for more than 50 events each year. It is estimated that 1,000 performances of plays, concerts and other civic events, such as OMF, have been staged at the bowl since 1957.
“Our plans are currently in the first round of plan check and we’re hoping to get them back next week,” said Culver. “Our expectation is we’ll come back to you March 23 to authorize bidding, so we’re full steam ahead.” Culver added that the base design cost estimate is $3,055,500, without the dressing room section Bury created, causing the features to become “add alternates” to include as bids dictate.
“We expect bids to come in very good and hope we can get all the add alternates,” Culver said. “We’re shooting for June 21 to start demolition and construction.”
“Save Libbey Bowl” is a communitywide project of the Ojai Valley Service Foundation, partnering with the city of Ojai, Civic Association, Ojai Music Festival, and other arts organizations to rebuild the outdoor amphitheater, the cultural hub of the Ojai Valley where more than a dozen performing arts events are held every year. To make a contribution to the Libbey Bowl reconstruction, call 646-3117 or visit LibbeyBowl.org.
By Nancy Gross
Immigrants from Tibet, Dorjee Tsewang and his wife, Dolkar Tso, said they wake up in their Taormina home every day happy to live in such a lovely place, with good friends close by, and a view of mountains and meadows from their back yard.
They miss Tibet, another place of great beauty, but their Tibetan Aid Foundation ties the two ends of their lives together like a strand of Tibetan prayer flags.
TAF, Inc. is nonprofit and non-political group, providing charitable and humanitarian aid. Having spent their young lives in Tibet, Tsewang and Tso know what kinds of projects can help with quality of life in a place dear to them.
They say it was in Ojai that the idea for the foundation came about, and began to grow quickly. “I feel that American people are very compassionate, very giving,” Tso said.
Tsewang said, “And our culture is based on compassion,” stating that giving back once they received assistance from others was what made sense.
“Our lives were enriched, and getting better in America. We had friends who wanted to help people in Tibet. We wanted to give out of our paychecks to pay back our sponsor, but he would not take the money and encouraged us to give to the people who need help, an extension of our happiness.”
They began TAF in 2004.
“We came to America with empty pockets,” Tsewang said.
“I had $50 in my pocket,” Tso said, laughing.
Their playfulness bears witness to the love they found in a refugee camp in India, prior to being sponsored and brought to the United States. They both agree, “America is a land of golden opportunity.”
Tsewang and Tso had never met in Tibet. He was from a small village, partially nomadic countryside and partially a plateau area with farming. She was from a much larger town about 150 miles away.
As young adults, having finished school, they both found themselves thinking about their future opportunities, and both decided to leave Tibet. Independent of one another, in 1995, they walked across the Himalayan Mountains into India, a journey of close to a month for each one. They met in Dharamsala, the current home of the Dalai Lama, and while they were falling in love with one another, they were also learning English. “The tourists teaching us got to know us. We bonded together,” Tsewang said. A Santa Barbara couple took a special interest in Tsewang and Tso.
Steve Harrison and Judy Flannery contributed funds for education and daily living, and brought Tsewang and Tso to America in 1997, at which time Tso attended an English language school in Pasadena, and Tsewang went to Ventura College. The two were married in 1998 and began living in Ojai.
Since coming to Ojai, Tsewang has worked at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, beginning as a pool boy, and becoming a manager of one of the inn’s restaurants. Tso cares for their two sons, ages 10 and 8.
In 2008, after 14 years away, they were able to take their boys and visit their homeland, reuniting with their parents. Sons Kangchen Tsering (who the family calls just Kangchen), and Kangchen Norbu (who they call Norbu) had another pretty landscape to play in. “They could go up on the mountain,” their mom said.
On Feb. 13 at 4:30 p.m. at the Ojai Theatre, Tsewang and Tso will present a documentary about the emotional reunions when they returned to Tibet. The film also follows the projects of TAF, while giving a glimpse of the land and Tibetan culture. The 17 hours of film shot by friend and Hollywood videographer David Luckenbach, were edited down to 25 minutes by Julia Green.
Luckenbach had insisted on accompanying Tsewang and Tso back to Tibet to capture the precious moments. Tso said, “Maybe it was his wife’s idea.” Luckenbach took his 12-year-old daughter to Tibet also.
Tsewang said, “The Tibetan Aid Foundation has become so many people’s lives. We have 300 donors since 2004.” Projects concern education and health care.
“We sponsor seven kids to go to school. One has become a teacher, one a nurse. We have results.”
A hospital has been built in the Chazhu valley, and more than 3,000 people receive medical care. “We have two villages, 1,500 people receiving mountain spring water. Otherwise, every household has one family member dedicated to walking to get the water. At 14,000 feet above sea level, in the winter you have to break the ice to get the water.”
One family tells Tsewang that by bringing water into the community of people, “It frees up one daughter to go to school.”
Tsewang was one of nine children who grew up in a clay house. At times it would be 30 degrees below freezing both inside and outside of the house.
In early January, Tsewang and Tso both passed the tests to become American citizens. “We’re going to take our oath ceremony on Feb. 5 in L.A.,” Tsewang said.
“Sometimes we knock our own heads. We’re so blessed to be in this country.
“It is our American dream to give back. We’d like to have the whole valley be part of our lives.”
Ojai Theatre will present “Tsewang, Tso and Tibetan Aid Foundation” on Feb. 13 at 4:30 p.m. Visit tibetanaid.org.
Ojai businesswoman, activist selected as Adams’ replacement
By Sondra Murphy
The Ojai City Council appointed Kathleen Nolan to the Planning Commission on Tuesday less than a month after Tucker Adams retired from the position. After 10 years on the Ojai Planning Commission, Adams announced in December that she would be stepping down as of January.
Mayor Steve Olsen said that when he learned of Adams’ departure, he was anxious to get someone with similar skills in landscape design to help keep the commission well rounded. “Having worked with Kathleen Nolan on Libbey Bowl, I contacted her to see if she might be interested, and she responded,” said Olsen.
Councilwoman Sue Horgan also mentioned that she was impressed with Nolan while working with the Ojai Tree Committee.
Many locals are familiar with Nolan’s business, Studio Landscape, in Ojai. It is a landscape architecture design and consulting company. “I’ve had a couple of different business names and different partners,” said Nolan. “I was always attracted to nature and plants as a child and ended up studying horticulture and agriculture at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and then landscape studies and architecture at UCLA.”
This interest has led to her involvement with the Tree Committee, as well as the Ojai Valley Green Coalition. “I do promote sustainability, so it will definitely figure into my thought process on the Planning Commission,” Nolan said. “I helped form the Ojai Tree Committee and am co-chair right now.”
Having lived in Santa Barbara, Nolan said she had visited Ojai before moving here 29 years ago. “We were buying property in Santa Barbara and the escrow fell through and we found out about a property here in Ojai,” said Nolan. “I just fell in love with it and have been here ever since.”
With her background, the appointment seems a perfect fit, for both Nolan and the commission. “Interestingly enough, at one point I looked at the planning graduate program at UCLA,” she said. “I love being involved in the community and one of my favorite things about design is the planning; looking at the long-term ramifications, the big picture, the future, past and present.”
Nolan, 56, has three adult children who all live in Ventura County. “One’s married and I have a little grandchild,” Nolan said. “They’re all local kids.”
The first item of business at Wednesday’s Ojai Planning Commission meeting is the oath of office for Nolan. That meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Ojai City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St.
Good Afternoon Watchers
In our last CityWatch Alert, I passed on how helpful it was for us to record at least the make, model and serial number of our expensive ranch equipment. Let’s expand that thought to all property that a crook might want to take off your hands and add these two steps:
1. Mark your valuables with your driver’s license number preceded by the letters “CA.” Burglars don’t want marked merchandise because it is difficult to fence and evidence of guilt if they are caught.
2. Photograph those items, especially the items that cannot be engraved (jewelry, silverware, antiques….).
Trimpin’s proposed music machine awaits final city OK
By Sondra Murphy
With public art being a priority in Ojai and Libbey Bowl being a centerpiece of the city, the art chosen for the bowl’s make-over will be a crucial feature.
With public art being a priority in Ojai and Libbey Bowl being a centerpiece of the city, the art chosen for the bowl’s make-over will be a crucial feature.
The Ojai Planning Commission gave the go-ahead last week for the Art Commission’s recommendation for that art selection to progress to the Ojai City Council for final approval and it was an agenda item at last night’s meeting. The Planning Commission had previously approved the public art concept for the site, but was asked to verify that the piece selected was consistent with the design permit issued last year before being submitted to the council.
“I was the Planning Commission liaison to the selection committee,” said Commissioner John Mirk. “It was incredible. We had over 30 proposals, narrowed it down to three artists and that meeting went four hours because each of the proposals was great. What we chose with Trimpin’s work is just amazing. People will come from miles around just to see this.”
From three finalists, the selection jury unanimously picked the sound arch concept by Trimpin to serve as the art for the reconstructed Libbey Bowl, set for dismantling after the Ojai Music Festival ends this summer and expected to be finished before its next season in June 2011.
Trimpin is a Seattle-based kinetic sculptor and sound artist who has a history with Ojai. He was honored in May at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa along with Joan Kemper by the MacArthur Foundation Fellows program and was a featured performer at the 2009 and 2006 OMF. His proposed sculpture is a one-of-a-kind work to be created for the bowl.
“The plan is to move the sidewalk from behind the tennis court bleachers out to the center of the lawn,” said city manager Jere Kersnar. The approximately 10-feet-tall by 15-feet-wide arch is to be installed at the new entryway. “It’s two octaves on a musical scale, so you can have all kinds of things.”
The tubular archway is inspired by the shape of the bowl’s shell and can be programmed for recurring tunes or sounds or even set up with motion sensors to create different tones depending on activity around Libbey Park. “I could see sensors that are triggered when a kid goes down the slide, for example, or when someone walks in a certain area,” Kersnar said.
“If you haven’t sent in your personal donation, now is the time to do so,” said Councilwoman Carol Smith, who attended the meeting and called Libbey Bowl a “world-class venue.” The city of Ojai and the Ojai Music Festival have already pledged two-thirds of the $3.3 million needed to rebuild the decaying facility in downtown Ojai. “Remember, they want the last million to come from the public, whether you have $10 or $1,000 to give,” said Smith.
Libbey Bowl amphitheater has been serving the community since it was built in the 1950s and is currently used by as many as 30 nonprofit groups for more than 50 events each year. It is estimated that 1,000 performances of plays, concerts and other civic events, such as OMF, have been staged at the bowl since 1957.
Designed by Austen Pierpont and Roy Wilson, Ojai Festival Bowl, renamed Libbey Bowl in the 1970s, cost $12,000 to build the stage and shell section back in 1957. In recent years, spot repairs have been unable to keep up with the steady deterioration of the largely wooden structure. Termite damage, wood rot and other forms of decay have added safety issues to the list of concerns about the bowl’s endurance.
Last year, the city hired David Bury & Company Architects, Ltd. for the concept designs of the bowl, which received glowing reviews in January 2009 during a historic special joint meeting of all major Ojai commissions and councils.
Bury has designed a number of other Ojai projects, such as the pergola, that merge historical designs with modern considerations. New laws and structural requirements, such as building codes and handicap accessibility, have been incorporated into the bowl’s redesign. Sustainability being a city policy, Bury is aware of green materials and has used appropriate technology throughout the design as the budget allows.
Bury’s plans have moderately increased the shell height and depth of the bowl while lowering the stage floor a bit. Currently, the shell slopes low at the back of the stage, restricting its use. Ramps and doorways that accommodate a variety of set and human concerns have also been incorporated into the plans. Storage, cable conduit and equipment posts will be added to improve sound and lighting.
To learn about volunteering for or making contributions to the Libbey Bowl reconstruction, call 646-3117 or visit the web site at LibbeyBowl.org.
Former president forming Ojai Ventura International Festival
By Linda Harmon
The Ojai Film Festival is a local tradition and its organizers take issue with the actions taken by David Shor, actions they say are capitalizing on their name and hard-won reputation.
“We are going to have to get a lawyer,” said Steve Grumette, the Ojai Film Festival’s vice president, “because it appears that he has appropriated our property.”
Shor, last year’s president and chairman of the board, resigned last month leaving behind bad feelings and a $90,000 deficit that Grumette and remaining board members, President Herb Hemming and Secretary-Treasurer Vickie Baldwin, had to address.
Now Shor has caused new confusion around area film festivals. Historically there have been two, Ojai’s own Ojai Film Festival and the Ventura-based Ventura Film Festival. Last week Shor sent out a press release for a new Ojai-Ventura International Film Festival to take place only a week later than the Ventura Festival in 2011, with similar events and using a logo very similar to the one used by the Ojai Film Festival last year.
On first glance the release appears to be coming from the Ojai Film Festival, but on closer examination, at the bottom of the page in small type, it gives new contact information listing a Santa Barbara address and a web address of ojaiventurafilmfestival
“That web site was originally our web site,” said Grumette, referring to the one listed by Shor. “You could get to our web site from there by entering ojaifilmfestival.com, which was OK last year.”
It is not OK this year.
“He’s creating enormous confusion,” said Grumette. “People think he’s still associated with us. And he’s not.”
The Ventura Film Society is not happy with Shor either.
“He has no affiliation with us at all,” said Jordan Older of the Ventura Film Festival. “We have trademarked the name and have written him several letters to tell him to stop using it.”
According to Grumette, it was under Shor that the Ojai Film Festival used the name, Ojai-Ventura Film Festival, in addition to Ojai Film Festival. Shor also added the additional web address, ojaiventurafilmfestival.com, to drive users to the original site. Grumette said Shor has refused to give the board the passwords he set to maintain the second web site.
They ended up taking away his access to the original site, but, according to Grumette, Shor still has a copy of the original site.
“He had access to it” said Grumette, “and now he’s set up his own site, which we don’t have access to, through Ojai-VenturaFilmfestival.com. He is showing all kinds of information about Haskell Wexler and Peter Graves that he has no right to, that information belongs to the Ojai Film Festival.”
If you Google Shor’s web site given on the press release, ojai-venturafilmfestival.com, you indeed see the home page from the 2009 Ojai-Ventura Film Festival web site which then directs you to Shor’s new web site.
Shor also uses the same logo on his festival’s Facebook page, displaying information from previous Ojai-Ventura Film Festival events and states, “Established in 1999 as the Ojai Film Festival, the Ojai-Ventura International Film Festival, LLC is dedicated to promoting and supporting the art of the motion picture through the presentation of an annual multi-day festival.”
Shor’s press release also advertised special screenings and events March 17 through 20, 2011, including “the third annual Malcolm McDowell Celebrity Golf Tournament,” at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.
“We have not committed to host Shor’s event here,” said the Ojai Valley Inn’s representative Veronica Cole when contacted Monday.
Rich Fortenberry, the contact at Brooks Institute for festival events last year, was in Colorado at the Sundance Film Festival and remaining staff was not aware of any plans regarding the event.
Shor did not return e-mails and was unavailable for comment.
From the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department
Happy New Year Watchers!
Our local crime activity was relatively slow during the holiday season, which is always a good thing. As we leave the holidays behind us, things are still slow. However, a developing trend might put some Ojai Valley ranchers and rural property owners at risk for theft of their high $$$ equipment.
The cold wet weather we’ve been experiencing usually puts a damper on many police-related issues. However, professional thieves steal for a living and never take a break. These crooks often prefer to work in nasty weather. Rain and wind help mask their activity making it difficult for anyone to catch them in the act. We currently have some of these pros working down the Central Coast into our area stealing agricultural equipment under the cover of darkness and bad weather.
Detectives from Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura County have been monitoring an organized theft ring that has targeted pumps, generators, welders, air compressors, and spray rigs on ranch properties. However, anything of value is fair game. They usually break into storage containers (connex boxes, shipping containers) defeating the lock with bolt cutters.
These thieves were last reported to be working the north part of Santa Barbara County and are probably moving south. The Ojai Valley area ranches and rural properties, especially along S.R. 150, are prime targets for this group.
This type of equipment is expensive and often difficult to replace. I would suggest locking all containers, sheds and barns with a lock that has a hardened shackle. This makes it very difficult to defeat with bolt-cutters. Some locks even have modifications that shroud the shackle. These types of locks make it nearly impossible for bolt cutters to get a grip on the shackle.
Recovering stolen property and proving who actually owns it can be very difficult for law enforcement. I would suggest you write down the brand, model and serial number of your equipment. These identifiers are critical in the investigative process and the return of your property.
The information you provide could solve a crime spree that spans across at least three counties. Let’s catch these crooks!
This is a follow-up to yesterday’s alert. One of our Watchers is a retired deputy sheriff and had some previous experience with similar theft rings. He recalled the thieves used pickup trucks towing trailers (i.e. landscape, tree services, etc..) If you see something like this driving around in the middle of the night just right down a license plate if possible, the vehicle description , and the name of any business displayed. These types of work trucks are rarely out on the road late at night. You can then email me the info and I’ll pass it along to our detectives.
Typical user facing 43 percent hike, or $26 over next two years
By Daryl Kelley
The monthly water bill of the typical Ojai residential customer would be hiked 43 percent during 2011 and 2012, on top of a 30 percent increase two years ago, if the Golden State Water Company has its way.
“The new rates would cover the increasing costs to operate and maintain the local water system,” the company says in a press release, “and fund more than $8 million in local capital investments that are critical to providing reliable, high quality water to the area.”
About half of the new revenue would be used to operate the aging water system — some of which is about 80 years old — and half to update it, officials said.
The new rate increases would be far from the last for about 2,900 customers in the Ojai area, according to Golden State officials.
Ken Peterson, district manager for the San Dimas-based company, said Ojai customers should expect rate increases to pay for system replacement until 2030.
“How systems are replaced depends on the need at the time,” he said. Water systems across the state and nation are dealing with the same issues of decay, he said.
“This country is dealing with infrastructure replacement,” he said. “Now it’s catching up to us.”
Golden State’s new proposal includes a 39.2 percent increase for residential customers with a 5/8-inch water meter in 2011, then a 3.8 percent increase for inflation in 2012.
That’s an increase of $23.27 in 2011 and an additional $3.16 in 2012, if the customer uses 1,300 cubic feet of water.
This is on top of a nearly 30 percent increase to about $59 a month in 2008 for customers with the same size meter and usage.
So the total monthly bill would be nearly $86 a month by 2012, including a hike in the basic service fee the company charges regardless of usage, which would jump from $24.15 to $33.75 a month for a 5/8-inch meter. Customers with larger meters would pay more.
About 70 percent of all residential customers, which make up the bulk of those served by Golden State, have 5/8-inch meters.
City manager Jere Kersnar said he had not yet received a copy of Golden State’s rate request. Nor has the city received a report on water quality and system maintenance, as required in a 2008 PUC ruling, he said.
“They came by and alerted us that they were filing for this new rate increase, and they said they’d provide a report,” he said.
Kersnar said he reminded the company that the water quality and maintenance report was overdue.
“They said they were still working on the master plan,” the city manager said.
The city of Ojai has no control over water rates, but it filed a protest letter in 2007 during the review of Golden State’s previous request. And the PUC, as part of its ruling, directed Golden State to provide the city with a detailed analysis of its Ojai service.
In 2007, about 100 angry customers showed up at a public hearing in Ojai. A petition signed by more than 500 upset customers was presented.
But the water company prevailed.
Even before the increases of recent years, Golden State’s rates were much higher than other local water agencies.
With the 2008 hike alone, Golden State’s rate increases in Ojai over the last two decades totaled 107 percent.
Golden State, the subsidiary of a large corporation traded on the New York Stock Exchange, has operated in Ojai under a long-standing, open-ended contract with the city. Its service cannot be discontinued since it owns the pumps and water lines that serve the community, unless local water users buy the waterworks.
And, according to Kersnar, the company has shown no interest in selling.
“That’s a huge issue,” he said. “They have resisted that to the utmost.”
Company officials have said Golden State’s rates are higher than those at nonprofit publicly run water companies because it has no taxpayer subsidies, has to pay taxes and must return a reasonable profit to investors.
The return on base water rates under the 2008 PUC ruling was 8.87 percent a year, lower than the 9.41 percent requested by Golden State but higher than the 8.80 percent requested by the PUC’s Ratepayer Advocates Office.
Under the ruling, the return on company equity was 10.2 percent, compared with a Golden State request for 11.25 percent and the ratepayer advocates’ recommendation of 10.09 percent.
U.S. Supreme Court rulings have upheld a private company’s right to a “reasonable” return on investment when operating a utility for the public, a PUC judge noted in the 2008 ruling.
At the hearings in 2007, Ojai residents and city officials asked the PUC to grant no rate increase until Golden State improved its service and water quality.
But the PUC found compelling Golden State’s argument that the steep increase was needed to upgrade the Ojai water delivery system and water quality.
Indeed, Golden State’s new request maintains that rate increases are needed to improve the quality of service, and to offset increasing costs.
“Costs have increased for items such as wholesale water, electricity, postage, liability insurance, depreciation, materials and supplies, cost of capital, general office support, labor and payroll taxes,” Golden State said in its recent press release.
In addition, costs must increase to pay for construction projects: The company said it spent $6.3 million on such capital improvements from 2000 through 2008.
The $8 million in proposed new projects include replacement of more than two miles of leaking, undersized and aging pipes, installation of a 500,000-gallon storage tank and drilling and equipping a new well, the company said.
Low-income customers may qualify for a 15 percent reduction in rates, the company said. A scale with income qualifications is available at the company’s local office at 1002-A E. Ojai Ave., across from Soule Park Golf Course. For example, households with one or two residents qualify if total income is $30,500 or less.
By Daryl Kelley
For the latest storm totals, visit the OVN Weather Page
The strongest series of storms since 2005 rolled through the Ojai Valley this week, and as a final downpour hit Thursday evening, farmers and local officials said the results had been surprisingly benign — with little damage, flooding or mud slides.
The Ojai area did have six road closures by Thursday morning, but all were because of usual water flows during storms, said Gary Hart, battalion chief for the county Fire Department division that includes the Ojai Valley.
“We’re having the normal calls we have during storms,” Hart said. “Minor flooding because of water flows in roadways.”
Those temporary problems should be over by this afternoon as the fourth and final storm of the week passes, he said.
Temporary closures occurred on Highway 33 near Wheeler Gorge, on Camino Cielo, on McNell Road at Reeves Road, on Grand Avenue between McNell and McAndrew roads, on Matilija Canyon Road behind Matilija Dam and on Lockwood Valley Road at Chico Larsen.
A few buildings did experience minor flooding, Hart said.
“It’s all normal and we responded with sandbags,” Hart said of a few homes and Vons grocery at the “Y” intersection.
For farmers, the steady rains were all good news.
“We’ve had about 5 inches so far, so we don’t have to irrigate for maybe a month, I guess,” said farmer Tony Thacher. “But you know farmers like to complain. Right now we can’t pick anything. We’re itching to get back out and pick some tangerines this weekend.”
Steve Wickstrum, general manager of the valley’s largest water agency, said the four storms that began Sunday night had resulted in runoff that had only begun to fill Lake Casitas, the area’s primary source of water.
“I’ve been watching the storms, and we haven’t been slammed like some of the other areas,” Wickstrum said Thursday morning. “We’ve had some nice rains.”
By midday Thursday, however, those rains had resulted in diversions to the lake of only a few thousand acre-feet of water, said Wickstrum, who runs the Casitas Municipal Water District.
The huge Lake Casitas reservoir, which holds a maximum of 254,000 acre-feet, had risen only from about 73 percent full to 74.6 percent by noon Thursday. That’s an increase of about 4,300 acre-feet. (An acre-foot supplies two families for a year.)
“We’re at 189,531 acre feet right now,” Wickstrum said. “And we expect another 1,500 acre-feet by Friday. So it’s not the lake filler we had in 2005, but it’s not the catastrophe we had in 2005 either.”
A month of storms in 2005 filled the lake, but those rains also did a lot of damage, Wickstrum said.
“These storms have been very nice to us,” he said.
Wickstrum said he’d been tracking storms on his computer all week, but the yellows and reds that show downpours had consistently steered north or south of the Ojai Valley.
“Right now there’s a large area of heavy rain north of Santa Barbara and a squall through Thousand Oaks,” he said, awaiting what had been forecast as an intense local storm for Thursday afternoon.
Even as things stood at midday Thursday, the valley had received significant rain.
For example, Matilija Canyon had received in excess of 10 inches, while Ojai itself got more than 6 inches. Nordhoff Peak had received more than 7 inches, while the Upper Ojai’s total was about 6 inches. Casitas Dam had also received about 6 inches.
During this rainfall season, which began Oct. 1, precipitation has been about twice as much as normal, officials said. The largest rainfall months of the year are usually January and February, followed by March and December.
Officials are still hoping that the mild El Niño forecast last spring arrives.
A precursor was a 5-inch storm in Ojai last fall, which provided the wettest October in the last half century.
The Ojai Valley has received several significant rains since, but until this week, none had produced more than 2 or 3 inches.
In the winter of 2004-2005, Casitas Dam and the city of Ojai received more than 50 inches of rain and Nordhoff Peak drenched in more than 80 inches.
During the last rain year, the Ojai Valley received about 60 percent of normal rainfall, lowering the Lake Casitas, 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.
Update of zoning laws top discussion
By Sondra Murphy
Troy Becker was elected by his peers to chair the Ojai Planning Commission at Wednesday’s meeting, with Steven Foster assuming vice chair duties. Former Chair Susan Weaver stepped down as she passed the gavel to Becker for the remainder of the meeting and the light agenda facilitated much discussion about internal business of the commission and how best to spend the next several months.
City planner Katrina Rice Schmidt brought a discussion item to the agenda regarding zoning ordinance revisions that have been identified for amendment. She asked for commission direction for prioritizing the issues.
Schmidt reported that the most recent comprehensive update of the city’s zoning ordinance was adopted in 2004, with few changes since. She cited notable changes, which include an amendment to the commercial and manufacturing district development standards in 2005, adding a section regarding formula business establishments in 2007, revisions to the sign ordinance in 2008 and changes to allow outdoor displays in certain zones in 2009.
Schmidt said much of the needed changes were to create local codes that match new state regulations and a general cleaning up of language, omissions or areas of the ordinance that overlapped or clashed due to recent adoptions.
“Other areas that are probably worthy of more Planning Commission discussion are development standards for special housing, the downtown commercial overlay, and we probably need to modify our land use tables,” said Schmidt.
Commissioners briefly touched on the differences between guest houses vs. second units, animal uses, renewable energy sources, fence heights and lighting ordinance as areas they would like to update in the ordinance.
“There’s a lot of material for us to go through here,” said Foster. “It’s going to be a time-consuming process.”
“We’ve compiled ordinances, but haven’t don’t the formal drafting of the words,” Schmidt said.
“Another aspect would be some public outreach,” said Commissioner Paul Crab-tree. “We might want to invite certain civic groups or organizations to address some of these.”
Weaver pointed out that many of the revisions needed were simply to bring the city in line with other laws and so little discussion would be needed. “Probably 80 percent is primarily cleanup,” Schmidt agreed. “Staff could draft ordinances and bring it to you and if you have different ideas, you could pull and discuss them.”
Crabtree had a number of recommendations on discussion items, including multiple family dwellings, zero lot lines and front setbacks in the business districts and the Maricopa Highway area near the “Y” intersection. “It’s got the imprint of Caltrans on it and looks like a truck corridor,” he said. Crabtree also mentioned new storm water regulations were soon expected that the city would need to incorporate into its ordinance.
“All the technical materials and manuals are still under development, but we need to be cognizant of that,” city manager Jere Kersnar said. “How about if we come back to you at your first February meeting with breaking it down into chunks of the apple just to identify areas and you can tell us what order you want to take them in?”
The commission agreed to the idea, with Weaver requesting other items not referenced in Schmidt’s report being included, such as parking.
“I was excited when we had the forest master plan come through with neighborhoods and I would like to see that in the zoning ordinance too,” said Commissioner John Mirk.
“We ought to consider where we’re going to plug in those neighborhoods for planning and really have a discussion on them,” said Becker.
“It seems to me neighborhood plans should come from the top, from the general plan,” Schmidt said. “If we had it in the general plan, basically anything we did would come from that.
The Planning Commis-sion generally meets two Wednesdays a month at 7:30 p.m. in Ojai City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St. As of press time, the next meeting had not yet been scheduled.
County adopts procedural change in block grant funding application process
By Sondra Murphy
Changes in Ventura County procedures for applying for new Community Development Block Grant funds prompted the Ojai City Council to vote last week to serve as an evaluation committee to make recommendations to the county pertaining to any applications for public service organizations from Ojai.Each year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides funding to local communities through the CDBG program for both public service and capital projects. “The process for evaluating CDBG grant process has changed since last year,” Ojai Public Works director Mike Culver told the council. He said that previously the county would hold a hearing and then submit appropriate requests directly to cities, which would hold their own public hearings before making recommendations to the county.
Under the new system, applications will be given directly to Ventura County, who will forward them to appropriate jurisdictions for review and recommendations. Local jurisdictions are no longer required to hold public hearings regarding the allocation of funds.
The county held its initial application hearing in December and requires jurisdictional recommendations by Jan. 29. A second public hearing is scheduled by the county on March 10 to formalize the final allocations of funding, which are to be submitted to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in May for final approval.
It is hoped the changes will streamline the process for all while continuing to allocate funding proportionally to each jurisdiction. Culver said smaller cities often have to roll over projects from year to year as funding is accumulated to initiate and complete them, such as the recent Boyd Center renovations at the Recreation Department.
“Rolling over presents a problem for the feds because they’re allocating money that’s not getting spent,” said city manager Jere Kersnar. “One of the criteria is for projects that they are ready to go.”
“The concept here is public service projects should receive the same fair share of funding that we were previously allocated within a 5 percent variance,” said Culver. He gave the council three options to adjust to the changes. The first option would involve the full council in review and recommendation of local grant requests. The second option would create an ad-hoc committee of two council members for grant prioritization. The third option was for no council involvement, allowing the county to administer without Ojai recommendation. The city recommended the second option in its report.
Help of Ojai executive director Terri Wolfe addressed the issue. “One of the key issues here is, in the past, the city of Ojai was pretty much guaranteed we would get public service money … Ojai projects were compared to Ojai projects. We are no longer in that position. Ojai projects must now compete with other projects in the county.”
Culver said the funds amounted to about $40,000 a year in the past and allocation is based on the income demographic of the community members.
Wolfe said applying projects will need to be very strong to compete for the funds. “I believe small cities and unincorporated are one group and large cities, like Ventura and Oxnard, are another, so we aren’t competing with them,” said Wolfe.
“I really think the full council should be involved in this because, although in the past the amounts of money have not been huge, they have been very important,” said Councilwoman Sue Horgan. She moved to adopt for full council involvement, which was unanimously supported, and asked that staff bring this year’s applicant list to the next meeting.
Trenches dug just in time to protect horses from flooded corral
By Nancy Gross
Friday was a pleasant day to be outdoors, and Navy volunteers from the Port Hueneme Naval Base visited Ojai to do a service project.
The Navy volunteers dug an extensive trench to get rid of standing water so that the health and comfort of rescued performance horses at The Equine Sanctuary would not be compromised during the rains.
The project was the next step after local builders installed shelters to keep the horses dry. Watkins Fence Co. made a sizeable contribution by doing the labor for free when providing roofs and fences, and Lee Rennacker donated the engineering for the drainage project.
“The fact that your guys are here doing all this digging saves us thousands and thousands of dollars,” said Equine Sanctuary founder and director Alexis Ells to one of the Navy officers. There were a few women among those working; the property, with pristine mountain views in either direction, was full of activity.
The volunteers helped with trench digging, or with clearing the horse corral of stones. “Rocks are a horse’s nemesis. They destroy their feet,” Ells said.
Mike Case from New York has been a Seabee for just over two years. Seabees are the Navy’s construction battalion; they build bases, roadways, and air strips, along with other military construction projects.
Case teased that he would like to go AWOL and “move up here. It gets us out of the classroom.”
Case was digging beside his buddy, Gerald Chandler, from San Diego, who said, “It’s good to be out here away from the base, to do some work.” He said that otherwise they would be having weapons training in class. “We’re going to Afghanistan. I’m not worried too much about it, though. We’re pretty safe over there.”
Xavier Spencer, from Panama City, Fla., said he’s been in the service for 11 months. “It’ll be a year in February. I’m going to Afghanistan in August. It’ll be fun. I’ve lived in Germany. My dad is military. He retired five months ago from the Air Force.
“It’s a nice place out here. I want to climb some of those mountains I’m seeing,” Spencer said.
Ells said the Navy has sent volunteers in the past to help TES, which has been in Ojai for 10 years. “But we are in constant need of volunteers,” Ells said.
“These famous horses, these athletes, when they’re injured, they’re not wanted by the industry anymore. This place is not just about the horses, it is also about the educational experience that teaches that life is not disposable.”
The rescued and rehabilitated horses have been racehorses, polo horses and other types of show event horses. If they can no longer perform and are seen as a burden and financial drain, they would typically be slaughtered, and their meat sold on the black market. “We have nine horses here now, and 22 up in Santa Ynez. They are our good will ambassadors for therapy, for foster kids, for developmentally disabled kids, for schools who visit.
“It’s just like with people. They have to be hand walked because of their injuries or their muscles will get stiff. They have to be fed and cared for in every way. This is a seven-day, 24-hour-a-day operation.”
Ells said most of their volunteers come from out of the area, and this leaves the sanctuary in a tight spot when weather makes it hard to drive. “It always surprises me that National Geogra-phic has featured us, but we need to have more needs met locally. I would like to see more volunteers from Ojai, people who love horses, people who want to make a difference.”
Of Rennacker she said, “He and his wife and daughters have been longtime volunteers. He took so much time to figure out the way the gutters would perform with different amounts of rainfall, and to design the grading, trenches and French drains. It was a major project.”
Some Navy helpers left partway through the day because not enough shovels had been supplied. Ells believes these were from among the Navy Fleet, and that the Seabees were the ones that stayed to the very end of the work.
“I was so grateful for all of them.” Ells said that several years ago she was contacted by the Navy Chaplain’s Office to see if sailors could come out to TES to do work as a part of helping them deal with deployment stress.
Preservation Commission grants status, owners may
get tax reduction to help with restoration, renovation
By Sondra Murphy
Ojai has a new historic landmark. Last week, the Ojai City Council unanimously approved the status for property owned by Robert and Tiese Quinn, located at the northwest corner or El Toro and Foothill roads. It is now Historic Landmark No. 16.
“Under the Mills Act Ordinance, owners of landmarks may enter into agreement to reduce taxes in order to put those funds into restoration, renovation and rehabilitation of the property,” city manager Jere Kersnar told the council. “The Historic Preservation Commission added not only maintenance of the exterior, but interior as well to maintain the historic condition of the property in general.”
Known as the George Washington Smith “Spec House A,” the owners applied for landmark designation status and a historic landmark property agreement with the city of Ojai, which was reviewed by the Ojai Historic Preservation Commission in December. Included with the application was a historic resources analysis report prepared by San Buenaventura Research Associates, which claimed the main residence and land of the subject property is significant because it meets several criteria of Section 4-8.07 of the Cultural and Historic Preservation Law, as follows.
• The property is significant for the role it played as one of the three speculation houses in the initial development of the Arbolada, which was part of Edward Drummond Libbey’s vision for the beautification of the residential development of the Ojai community.
• The property is significant for its identification with Libbey, who made important contributions to the economic and cultural development of Ojai and was one of the final projects that transformed the architectural image of Ojai to Mission and Spanish Revival theme.
• The main residence embodies the distinguishing characteristics of the rural Spanish architecture of the 1920s.
• The main residence is identified as the work of master architect George Washington Smith, whose work influenced the development of the community and creating an architectural theme that would harmonize with the natural beauty of the Ojai Valley.
• The main residence embodies elements of the medieval architecture of rural Spain as it was interpreted by Smith.
• The main residence has retained its integrity of location, design, materials and workmanship. Additions made to the residence were done using a compatible design, materials and workmanship.
Interior and exterior features were identified in the report. The OHPC toured the site last month and recommended to the city additional features that should be preserved and protected. Included on this list are tile floor, wall tiles, wrought iron stair railing, wood-beamed ceiling, wooden stairway grill and a built-in bookcase in the living room.
Exterior features recommended for preservation inclusion by the commission are Spanish clay tile roofs, tile vents, multi-paned wood casement windows, French doors, decorative grills, decorative Spanish tile and heavy-troweled stucco finish. Of landscape features, OHPC also recommended for preservation the tiled fountain and surrounding brick walkway and stone wall. Exteriors may use any of the three spec. house color palette combinations originally determined by Smith.
With landmark status, the property is subject to the Ojai Municipal Title 4, Chapter 8, Cultural and Historic Preservation law. Any proposed modification to the property will require review for compliance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.
The status allows for certain property tax reduction in exchange for the owner’s commitment toward restoration, preservation and maintenance. The ordinance authorizes local governments to enter into contracts with owners of historic landmark properties.
With their application, the Quinns submitted a proposed preservation and rehabilitation time line plan for expected maintenance of the property and are required to maintain all significant historic interior and exterior features as identified in the conditions of agreement.
Kersnar reported that property tax for the property will be re-evaluated by the Ventura County Assessor’s Office on the income approach to value, rather than market approach to value typically used. Property taxes may be reduced by as much as 60 percent, saving the owners as much as $11,200. “The city’s share of the loss would be 12.79 percent, or $1,422 per year,” Kersnar said.
Rain moves annual event
from Libbey Park to Chaparral
By Sondra Murphy
Where can one find herself shaking hands with Julie Tumamait and Julie Christensen? At an Ojai event that celebrates cultural diversity in all its forms.
The dramatic weather did little to daunt the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In fact, moving the event into Chaparral Auditorium allowed keynote speaker Toni-Mokjaetji Humber to incorporate images via PowerPoint into her address.
Colorfully adorned with artwork from local students, the hall was rocking previous to Humber’s time from Gill Sotu’s music. Sotu is an Ojai MLK regular and uses powerful music with audience participation to connect with the diverse audiences who attend the event. Sotu’s verses of “We shall” and “Overcome” were echoed by the crowd, on its feet and clapping in time before guitarist D-Flox ended the set with some impressive footwork of his own. “We always look forward to coming here,” said D-Flox as he stepped down from the stage. “This is the whole essence of what Gill Sotu does: unity. The power of music to change things, we live it.”
Humber was introduced by Gus Hoffman, who contacted her to appear last year. But when Barack Obama won the presidency, Humber had to decline the invitation, but agreed to show this year when Hoffman again asked her to speak.
Before beginning her address, Humber convinced the crowd to join hands. “I always start my classes in a circle,” said the professor of ethnic and women’s studies at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. “It’s powerful for me … I started it after 9-11. It’s a check-in time and I find it is a connection between people.”
Humber spoke about King’s involvement in the civil rights movement by reviewing the climate he grew up in and events that led to his leadership role in the movement. “He brought a voice,” said Humber, “a strategy for protest.” She drew a connection between the civil rights movement and her own life, talking of her family. “My parents were products of the rural South,” said Humber. “They were what’s known as the ‘new negro’ moving to the urban areas.” She grew up in Watts then moved into the suburbs of Southern California, “… when I learned what the N-word means and how it pertains,” she said.
Reviewing indignities of the imagery of African Americans during King’s lifetime, Humber explained that the man “led a comfy life in a segregated world. He lived a
middle-class life, was a P.K. — a preacher’s kid. He did not have to get involved.”
Humber reviewed the events that became the catalyst for King to get drawn in to the civil rights movement, such as the famous Brown v. the Board of Education decision mandating integration in schools. Humber listed names of others who were working for equality. Charles Houston, who was the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review and, as a lawyer, played a significant role in dismantling the laws allowing segregation; Linda Brown, the girl who sued the Board of Education in Kansas to attend a school in her own neighborhood; Rosa Parks whose arrest for refusing to give up her bus seat in 1955 Alabama prompted King’s involvement in the ensuing boycott; and Emmett Till, the 15-year-old who was brutally beaten to death over allegedly whistling at a white woman.
“This began indignation that got international attention,” said Humber. Quoting King’s “Letter for Birming-ham Jail,” Humber said King declared the world is “in dire need of creative extremists” akin to Jesus Christ, who he called “an extremist for love, truth and goodness.”
Humber also made mention of the many contributions Africans have made to humanity, recommending Imhotep, Ivan Van Serima, Gaspar Yanga, Vincente Guerrero, as well as Ruby Bridges and Harriet Tubman as people whose efforts and writings people should become familiar with in the quest for equality.
Before leaving, Humber presented Hoffman with a bracelet inscribed with, “Leaders inspire leaders.” Hoffman has been on the OVYF MLK Day Committee for six years and a co-chair with Mackenzie Russell for the past three years.
“It’s been good,” said Hoffman, a high school senior. “I might come help one more year.” He also said he wants to be involved in humanitarian efforts as he moves toward his college career.
The MLK Day Committee has met weekly for the past four months in preparation for the big day. Other student committee members this year were Emily Cohen, Andie Mendoza, Rocio Garcia, Noemi Hernandez, Zelda Grove and Matt Russell, plus the Oak View Teen Center volunteers. Adult committee members were Kate Hoffman, Lanny Kaufer, Rondia Kaufer and Kate Russell. OVYF staff Meg Wall and Laura Charles also participated in this year’s efforts.
The following is a press release from the
Ventura County Sheriff’s Department:
Nature of Incident: Stranded Hikers
Location: Potrero John Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ventura County
Date & Time: 1-18-10 / 2:00 p.m.
Unit Responsible: Ventura County Sheriff’s Department / Aviation-SAR Unit
(V)ictim City of Residence Age
John Beckett, 60, Ojai
Dylan Beckett, 17, Ventura
Jonathan Fulthorpe, 17, Ventura
On 1-16-10, Jonathan Fulthorpe and Dylan Beckett went hiking and camping on the Potrero John Trail. They had planned to camp until Tuesday, 1-19-10, at which time they would hike out and be picked up by Dylan’s grandfather, John Beckett.
Today, 1-18-10, John Beckett decided that the camping trip should be cut short due to the incoming weather conditions. He drove to the trailhead and hiked up the trail to the camp. Once there, he told Dylan and Jonathan that staying the extra day was a bad idea and they should pack up and leave right away. Dylan and Jonathan agreed and broke down camp immediately.
On the hike out of the canyon, the trail crossed the river. The river had risen, but the group decided to cross anyway. All three of them were swept downstream in the river and separated. Jonathan managed to get out of the river after several attempts, but could not locate John or Dylan. He hiked out of the canyon and flagged down a passing Caltrans vehicle. The Caltrans employee called the Sheriff’s Department and reported the incident. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department sent it’s rescue helicopter, Copter 6, and a patrol deputy to the location.
Meanwhile, after several attempts, John and Dylan managed to get out of the river too. Shortly after getting out, a major mudslide roared through the canyon and wiped out the trail. In addition, large amounts of debris clogged the canyon and blocked any attempt for them to hike out. They decided to hike east and over a ridge to the next canyon in an attempt to get to Highway 33, which was still about one mile away.
Copter 6 arrived on scene and began a search of the canyon. They located the campground and the freshly used fire pit. Then, after a brief search, located a sleeping bag where the trail was washed away. Copter 6 continued their search and located Dylan on a ridge. The helicopter was able to hover next to the ridge top and load Dylan on board. Dylan then directed the helicopter to his grandfather, John, who was in the bottom of the canyon east of Potrero John. Both Dylan and John were flown to a landing area near the trailhead where they were evaluated and released. The hikers were all tired and cold, but none of them were injured in the incident.
The Sheriff’s Department would like to remind everyone that participating in outdoor activities during times of severe weather is a bad idea. Flash floods, mudslides and debris runoff from recent burn areas create huge dangers. Please use caution and avoid these danger areas.
Officer Preparing Release: Sr. Dep. Shane Matthews
Building in Haiti where three girls were rescued by SDF Search Teams.
We received this update today from our Search Teams in Haiti via cell phone:
Sunday was a very successful search day for Los Angeles County Task Force (CA-TF2), with a total of five rescues.
On Sunday the BLUE TEAM (Bill Monahan & Hunter, Jasmine Segura & Cadillac and Jason Vasquez & Maverick) rescued a woman from the rubble of her hotel. The appreciation shown by locals for the Search Teams and their Task Force was overwhelming. As soon as the woman was pulled from the wreckage, Haitians gathered in the street and began chanting, “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A….”
After this the teams helped dig out three more women from under three stories of another collapsed building. Two of the women, 19 and 20-year old sisters, were located when they called out to rescuers, but the third woman, a 31-year old, was deeper in the rubble. With the electronic listening devices signaling that there may be someone below, Search Dogs Cadillac, Maverick and Hunter were sent in and all showed interest in the same area, confirming the findings of the listening devices.
During the rescue, Task Force members crawled into tight spaces to reach the area where the Search Dogs had shown interest and found the third woman still lying in bed. She was pinned to her mattress by the ceiling of her bedroom, just inches from crushing her. When handler Jasmine Segura was able to get close enough, she could see the woman waving to her and heard her say, “Thank you,” in English. Rescuers cut out the mattress that the woman was lying on and were able to safely slide her out.
During Sunday’s shift, L.A. County RED TEAM (Ron Horetski & Pearl, Ron Weckbacher & Dawson and Gary Durian & Baxter) assisted the Task Force rescue squad in extricating a 50-year old woman from a collapsed building. She was successfully brought to safety, dehydrated, but with only slight injuries.
The Blue Team arrived back at the Base of Operations at 9:30 a.m. just as the Red Team got back to work. The teams have not been told when they will sent home, and are prepared to stay in Haiti as long as it takes.
SDF Executive Director Debra Tosch comments: “The rescues in Haiti underscore the critical importance of Canine Search Teams in finding survivors in the aftermath of major disasters. This is our mission, and we’re honored to be part of the Haiti rescue effort in conjunction with the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the L.A. Country Task Force.”
All of SDF’s Search have been standing by, ready to deploy to Haiti when called upon by their Task Force. Our Orange County and Sacramento teams were activated for deployment shortly after the earthquake struck, and were at March and Travis Air Force Bases since then waiting to depart. As of Monday morning, they were de-mobilizing and will be going home today.
Please share this with friends and family who may want to follow the Search Teams on facebook or twitter:
For the newest video footage of SDF’s Search Teams, please visit our website atwww.searchdogfoundation.org.
A series of significant big-time winter storms could leave as much as 8 inches of rain on the valley’s floor, and up to 20 inches of rain in some local mountain areas between tonight at Friday, according to a National Weather Service forecast issued Sunday morning.
CLICK for the latest weather information.
SEVERAL STORMS WILL AFFECT THE REGION THIS WEEK...BRINGING HEAVY TO EXCESSIVE RAINS AND MOUNTAIN SNOWS AND A POTENTIAL FOR FLASH FLOODING AND DEBRIS FLOW. PERIODS OF GUSTY WINDS AND LARGE SURF WILL ALSO CAUSE PROBLEMS ACROSS THE SOUTHLAND THIS WEEK. A VERY POWERFUL WEST TO EAST JET STREAM SAGGING SOUTHWARD THROUGH THE PACIFIC WILL ALLOW A SERIES OF STRONG STORM SYSTEMS TO TRACK INTO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WHILE MAINTAINING A RICH SOURCE OF SUBTROPICAL MOISTURE. SIGNIFICANT AND POSSIBLY EXCESSIVE RAINFALL WILL OCCUR OVER SOUTHWESTERN CALIFORNIA DURING THE UPCOMING WEEK. LIGHT RAIN WILL LIKELY DEVELOP NORTH OF POINT CONCEPTION TODAY...THEN RAIN WILL SPREAD SOUTHWARD INTO VENTURA AND LOS ANGELES COUNTIES TONIGHT. RAIN COVERAGE AND INTENSITY IS EXPECTED TO INCREASE ACROSS THE REGION MONDAY...WITH RAIN HEAVY AT TIMES MONDAY AFTERNOON INTO MONDAY NIGHT. THERE WILL ALSO BE SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS MONDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING. RAIN WILL BEGIN TO TAPER OFF BY LATE MONDAY NIGHT OR EARLY TUESDAY. THIS FIRST STORM SYSTEM IS EXPECTED TO BRING 1 TO 3 INCHES OF RAIN TO MOST COASTAL AND VALLEY AREAS FROM TONIGHT THROUGH MONDAY NIGHT...WITH 3 TO 5 INCHES ACROSS FOOTHILL AND MOUNTAIN AREAS. LOCAL AMOUNTS UP TO 6 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE ACROSS FAVORED SOUTH FACING SLOPES. THE STATION BURN AREA IS EXPECTED TO RECEIVE 3 TO 6 INCHES OF RAIN WITH THIS FIRST STORM SYSTEM...WITH THE HEAVIEST RAINFALL EXPECTED MONDAY AFTERNOON AND EVENING. PEAK RAINFALL RATES BETWEEN 0.75 INCHES AND 1 INCH PER HOUR ARE POSSIBLE MONDAY AFTERNOON INTO MONDAY EVENING...WITH LOCAL RATES UP TO 1.25 INCHES PER HOUR ACROSS FAVORED SOUTH FACING SLOPES...INCLUDING THE STATION AND MORRIS BURN AREAS...AND NEAR THUNDERSTORMS. VERY STRONG TO DAMAGING SOUTH WINDS WILL LIKELY AFFECT SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY...MUCH OF SANTA BARBARA COUNTY AND THE ANTELOPE VALLEY MONDAY INTO MONDAY EVENING...AND HIGH WIND WATCHES ARE IN EFFECT FOR THOSE AREAS. DAMAGING WIND GUSTS TO 70 MPH ARE POSSIBLE IN THE MOUNTAINS. WIDESPREAD WIND ADVISORIES WILL LIKELY BE NEEDED IN MANY LOWER ELEVATION LOCATIONS OF VENTURA AND LOS ANGELES COUNTIES AS WINDS COULD GUSTS BETWEEN 30 AND 45 MPH. PLEASE REFER TO (LAXNPWLOX) FOR ADDITIONAL WIND INFORMATION. IN THE MOUNTAINS OF LOS ANGELES AND VENTURA COUNTIES...THE POTENTIAL FOR HEAVY SNOW AND DAMAGING WINDS HAS PROMPTED THE ISSUANCE OF A WINTER STORM WATCH FOR LATE TONIGHT THROUGH TUESDAY. SNOW LEVELS WILL START OUT AROUND 7000 FEET TONIGHT AND MONDAY...THEN LOWER TO BETWEEN 5000 AND 5500 FEET MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY. THE POTENTIAL EXISTS FOR 1 TO 3 FEET OF SNOW ABOVE 7000 FEET...AND 8 TO 12 INCHES OF SNOW ABOVE 6000 FEET. PLEASE REFER TO (LAXWSWLOX) FOR DETAILED INFORMATION ON THE POTENTIALLY SEVERE WINTER WEATHER. ANOTHER BUT WEAKER STORM SYSTEM IS EXPECTED TO AFFECT THE REGION ON TUESDAY. THE THIRD AND MOST LIKELY STRONGEST STORM SYSTEM IS EXPECTED WEDNESDAY INTO THURSDAY. A COLD AND UNSTABLE AIR MASS WILL CONTINUE TO KEEP A THREAT OF SHOWERS INTO AT LEAST FRIDAY. SNOW LEVELS WILL GENERALLY RANGE FROM 4000 TO 5000 FEET WEDNESDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. FOR THE ENTIRE WEEK...THERE IS THE POTENTIAL FOR RAINFALL TOTALS OF 4 TO 8 INCHES IN COASTAL AND VALLEY AREAS...AND 8 TO 16 INCHES IN THE FOOTHILLS AND MOUNTAINS. LOCAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS OVER 20 INCHES ARE QUITE POSSIBLE ACROSS FAVORED SOUTH FACING COASTAL SLOPES. THIS WILL LIKELY BE THE WETTEST WEEK SINCE EARLY 2005. ADDITIONAL HEAVY SNOW TOTALS ARE EXPECTED IN THE MOUNTAINS WEDNESDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. THE LARGE AMOUNT OF EXPECTED PRECIPITATION...AS WELL AS THE POTENTIAL FOR HIGH INTENSITY RAINFALL...WILL BRING A SIGNIFICANT THREAT OF FLASH FLOODING AND DEBRIS FLOWS...ESPECIALLY TO THE RECENT BURN AREAS. SINCE THERE WILL BE THE POTENTIAL FOR HIGH INTENSITY RAINFALL...THERE WILL ALSO BE A THREAT OF URBAN AND SMALL STREAM FLOODING AND NUMEROUS ROCKSLIDES...ESPECIALLY LATER IN THE WEEK AS SOILS BECOME MORE SATURATED. IF THE STRONG STORM MATERIALIZES FOR THE WEDNESDAY/THURSDAY TIME FRAME...THERE COULD ALSO BE SOME MAIN STEM RIVER FLOODING CONCERNS. DANGEROUS WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED ACROSS OUR COASTAL WATERS THIS WEEK. PERIODS OF GALE FORCE WINDS...HIGH SURF CONDITIONS...DANGEROUS RIP CURRENTS...COASTAL FLOODING...AND EVEN WATERSPOUTS WILL ALL BE POSSIBLE. FOR FURTHER MARINE INFORMATION...PLEASE REFER TO THE LATEST MARINE WEATHER STATEMENT AND COASTAL FLOOD STATEMENT. RESIDENTS OF SOUTHWESTERN CALIFORNIA ARE URGED TO STAY TUNED FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION ON THESE POTENTIALLY STRONG STORM SYSTEMS. LISTEN TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO OR YOUR FAVORITE MEDIA SOURCE...OR VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT WEATHER.GOV/LOSANGELES FOR THE LATEST UPDATES OF FORECASTS AND WARNINGS.
Ojai-based National Disaster Search Dog Foundation rescue teams are on scene in earthquake-ravaged Haiti
MONDAY UPDATE: Search Team Makes More Rescues
At 1:15pm local time, an SDF Search Team in Port-au-Prince located three girls, trapped alive since Tuesday in the rubble of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.
Bill Monahan and his Border Collie, Hunter, were searching a neighborhood near the Presidential Palace, concentrating on a large bowl-shaped area of rubble which was all that remained of a 4-story building.
After criss-crossing the area, Hunter pin-pointed the survivors’ scent under 4 feet of broken concrete and did his “bark alert” to let Bill know where the victims were. Bill spoke with the survivors, then passed them bottles of water tied to the end of a stick. As they reached for the water one of the girls said, “Thank you.” Highly trained rescue crews from California Task Force 2 are now working to extricate the girls from the wreckage and provide first aid.
Bill and Hunter continue to search, as do the 6 other SDF teams on the ground in Haiti:
California Task Force 2 – Los Angeles County
. Gary Durian & Baxter – L.A. County Fire
. Ron Horetski & Pearl – L.A. County Fire
. Bill Monahan & Hunter – L.A. County Fire
. Jasmine Segura & Cadillac – L.A. County Fire
. Jason Vasquez & Maverick – L.A. County Fire
. Ron Weckbacher & Dawson – Civilian
Florida Task Force 1
At Search Dog Foundation headquarters in Ojai, CA, SDF Founder Wilma Melville received the news with silent gratitude. “This moment is what SDF Search Teams train for—week in and week out—throughout their careers together. When one SDF team succeeds, ALL of our teams succeed. Our thoughts are with our teams in Haiti, who continue to comb the rubble into the night. Their perseverance, skill, and strength in the face of extreme challenges make us all proud, and give us hope.”
Captain Jayd Swendseid of CA-TF2 confirmed earlier today that the 72-member team Task Force with 70,000 lbs of rescue equipment is actively looking for victims around-the-clock. “The teams are working in 12-hour shifts so they have time to rest and recuperate. Yesterday the team put in a long and exhausting day. Roads are closed and there is a lot of debris that is making transportation difficult, but the team is managing to get to buildings and make rescues. Morale is good and supplies are sufficient so far.”
The teams of CA-TF 2 are now assigned to one of two squads to enable round the clock searching. The Red Squad (Dawson, Pearl, and Maverick) is in rotation with the Blue squad (Hunter, Baxter and Cadillac). The squads connected briefly with SDF Team Julie Padelford-Jansen and Dakota—deployed as part of Florida Task Force 2—before Julie and Dakota were assigned to search a different neighborhood.
SDF Executive Director Debra Tosch: “All SDF handlers are experts in reading their canines, pacing them throughout their shift to ensure the dogs are kept safe, healthy, happy and motivated. The canines are literally the Task Force’s most precious tool in the hunt for survivors: their well-being is mission-critical.”
SDF is grateful to all of our supporters around the country who are truly PART OF THE SEARCH, having made this rescue possible.
For up to the minute updates on SDF’s Search Teams in Haiti and at home, join our Facebook fan page and follow us on Twitter:
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Governing body forced to close infant center
By Linda Harmon
Cuts to education were again the elephant in the room at Tuesday night’s Ojai Unified School District’s board meeting. Even though the budget was barely discussed its effect was felt as the board voted to close the district-run A Place to Grow Infant Center, effective June 30.
Cuts to education were again the elephant in the room at Tuesday night’s Ojai Unified School District’s board meeting. Even though the budget was barely discussed its effect was felt as the board voted to close the district-run A Place to Grow Infant Center, effective June 30.
“At the December meet-ing I articulated the issues that brought us here,” said superintendent Henry Bangser. “It is one of the hardest things to do as an administrator, to close an effective program … The reason is our declining resource base and our need to do anything we can do to stretch our resources. Closing the center allows us to focus on our preschool expansion.”
According to Bangser, “in an optimal world,” he would keep the center open and have early childhood education available to everyone as an entrance to kindergarten.
Supporters of the center hit the same note, but asked that the center be given a chance to become self-supporting.
“I believe a cost-effective program is possible,” said Jean Smith, an educator with a background in early childhood development and a parent of former students. “Whatever you vote, I hope you learn from the experience of having an early childhood program.”
Mary Mashburn, an Infant Center parent, also asked that the center be spared and, if not, that special arrangements be made so that students now in the program and younger than 3 next fall, can be accepted into the expanded preschool program.
“Let these children who have already made friends and are secure with the staff be integrated into the program,” said Mashburn, whose 1.5-year-old son is in the center two days a week. “Where else am I going to put him? … This is a great preschool.”
Director of the Infant Center, Bonnie Patton, closed out the public comment.
“It’s been a long time, four and a half years now. I want to thank you for your patience and support,” said Patton. “I have children in my program from out of the district, we bring children into the school district … We don’t have to stay in this building. If you do close us, we’d like to see our 2-year-olds accepted into the new program.”
While Pauline Mercado, board member, noted she considered the center part of the district’s “vision,” the majority of the board expressed regret but spoke in support of closure.
“I have been continually moved by the discussion both inside the meetings and outside of them,” said Board Member Rikki Horne, recommending closure. “I remember a year ago talking about this and discussions of it becoming independent of the district. I still encourage it be pursued outside of the district.”
“I have been very supportive of the Infant Center all along the way … The issue I see as the problem is budget cuts,” said Board Member Linda Taylor. “I don’t think we can continue with all our staffing cuts. We can’t even have summer school for our kids who are struggling. If making it revenue neutral were possible, I think it would have already happened.”
“Although inspired by Pauline’s comments I don’t think we have the where-with-all to support the program,” said Board President Kathy Smith. “I don’t think the issue of the 2-year-olds is a board decision. I think the administration has the flexibility to make a decision about letting the 2-year-olds into the program along the way … We all appreciate Bonnie and the contributions she has made to the valley. It is a gem and I think it should be allowed to continue somewhere, somehow, maybe in a church.”
The board voted 4 to 1 for closure, with Mercado voting no.
With the votes concluded, the board received “the best possible report” on the annual districtwide audit from Kevin Brejnak of Nigro, Nigro, and White Certified Public Accountants. Brejnak’s company gave an unqualified report on the 2008-2009 school year for Ojai Unified and the Valley Oak Charter.
In the superintendent’s report, Bangser laid out plans for the upcoming district teacher in-service later this month, focusing on communication and correlation of math programs in grades kindergarten through 12 that will allow teachers to “learn from each other.” The day will be spent with grades divided into four subgroups, with a math expert at each level, going from an elementary level to high school level classrooms, to learn respective teaching methods and content.
“At the end of the day they will get back together to discuss what they’ve learned from each other,” said Bangser, who added Ojai’s relatively smaller size made that possible. “That’s a great advantage we have over Ventura Unified.”
By Lenny Roberts
yes its our dad! he apparently found a beautiful tree and sat under it and passed away….. thank you to all our friends and family for love and concerns and support!!!!!! love jenny
In a short posting on the original news report, Jenny Newell, daughter of Walt and Bonnie Lu Dohrn, confirmed the skeletal remains found near Cherry Valley over the weekend are those of her father, who disappeared July 5, 2009 after visiting friends in the desert community.
The remains, discovered by a group of boys riding off-road motorcycles Sunday afternoon, were identified Tuesday by dental records following an autopsy by the Riverside County Medical Examiner’s office.
Riverside Sheriff’s Investigator Robert Pierson said there was no evidence of foul play, adding there was no estimate of when or how Dohrn died.
Since July, Niles Dohrn has made several trip to the area in search of his father. He said Thursday the discovery was made about a mile-and-a-half from where the his father was last seen. “We were so close,” Dohrn said.
Dohrn described his father as his very best friend.
“He will be missed like crazy. Everyone loved him. I appreciate all the help and support from the people of Ojai and to the detectives in Cherry Valley. The people who live there are super sweet. They were just great. And special thanks to the search party who came from Ojai.”
So many applicants, so little time
By Sondra Murphy
Tuesday’s meeting of the Ojai City Council was a bit anti-climactic. After voting 3-2 last month to appoint a replacement for the exiting Joe DeVito, the council reversed its decision Tuesday night and voted 3-1 in favor of holding a special election.
Finding a council member replacement has been a focus of the city since DeVito’s October announcement of his resignation effective Dec. 31. DeVito’s term would have naturally expired in 2010. His successor will therefore only fill the position through the next general election and so will need to run as a candidate on the November ballot to have a chance of continuing on the council.
Councilwomen Carol Smith and Betsy Clapp voted in the minority back in December, both supporting an election to fill the position. DeVito and Council Members Sue Horgan and Steve Olsen voted in favor of appointment, citing the time line and important issues needing the council’s immediate attention, such as fiscal concerns, Skate Park construction and Libbey Bowl renovation.
The council members acknowledged that the approximate cost of including a special election on the June primary ballot, estimated at $6,000, was not a lot compared with an individual special election, which would likely be between $30,000 and $36,000.
A June election means that a new council member would not be sworn in until July or August for a seat that will expire within a few months.
Since the decision for appointment, six city residents have applied. Ojai Unified School District board member Pauline Mercado submitted her application late Tuesday afternoon, joining Paul Blatz, Demitri Corbin, Mike Lenehan, Leonard Klaif and John Mirk. Blatz and Klaif are both attorneys active in the local community, while Corbin, Lenehan and Mirk serve on other city commissions.
Smith, who had voted for election, believed that the council should go through with the appointment process out of respect for the applicants. Mayor Olsen had spent time and energy developing the process to be used but was willing to discuss a change in how the position should be filled.
But it was Horgan who moved to reconsider. “We now have six very well-qualified people,” she said. “I want to discuss with my colleagues whether the city has been served well and if the applicants have been served fairly. Unfortunately because we didn’t put a time line on when the applications were due, not every applicant has had a chance to talk to us.”
“I don’t see how we can back pedal at this point,” Smith said. “I feel we really have no choice but to go through with it.”
Olsen said that he has had many discussions with constituents since the appointment decision and felt swayed by their arguments in favor of election.
The council listened to public comment. Ojai Valley Municipal Advisory Council Member Jerry Kaplan spoke in favor of appointment. “I come before you as one who believes in the election process,” he said. “We’re dealing with the ideal vs. the practical. This council has many important issues to deal with now, not six months from now, not nine months from now … By not appointing somebody now you are losing 20 percent of the mental input plus the expertise, plus the potential of having a split vote.”
Like most of the speakers, Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Eicher said the members continued to support letting the voters decide DeVito’s replacement. “The chamber urges you to proceed with a special election,” he said.
“But what about the people who showed up to speak,” asked Smith. “It’s like you show up and have the rug pulled out from under you. I’d like to hear from the applicants.”
“I disagree,” said Olsen. “I think this decision from the very beginning has been the council’s decision.” He said he would allow the applicants to speak following a decision about reconsidering, which was then unanimously supported by the council.
Among the applicants, only Corbin chose to speak, stating that he applied in order to have some cohesion in the months leading up to the November election. “I jumped into this fray because I knew that there were important issues and to finish what has been started from someone who knew the history,” he said. “To go through an election process will take me away from other work that I am doing for the city.”
Following public comments and council discussion, the members voted in favor of putting the item on a ballot. Smith cast the dissenting vote.
Horgan then moved for staff to come back to the Jan. 26 meeting with the necessary resolutions.
City attorney Monte Widders offered legal opinion about several technical questions, including split votes and quorum count. “If you deadlock, then no action is taken,” he said and added that even on a four-member council, three is considered a quorum for discussing business items. He also said the time line has been met for inclusion on the June ballot, but time was of the essence.
City Clerk Carlon Strobel said documents would need to be submitted to the county by Feb. 1 and the nomination period for June primary election inclusion would be Feb. 13 through March 12. She will return to the next meeting with more information about the time line and ballot process. That meeting is scheduled for Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Ojai City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St.
By Scott Wintermute
At around 12:30 Friday afternoon a late model Chevrolet Corvette Z06 was destroyed in a dramatic crash and ensuing fire near Mile Marker 30 on Maricopa Highway. Despite the presence of a rescue helicopter the driver of the $70,000 sports car was transported by ambulance to Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura as a precautionary measure. He apparently avoided major injuries, and was responsive and answering questions when CHP officers arrived.
Authorities became concerned when the man indicated that there was a gun in the car, kept in a lockbox in the trunk.
All indications are that the accident happened at a very high rate of speed as the car became airborne and rolled several times before coming to a rest and burning to a pile of scrap that could hardly be identified as a car.
The Corvette Z06 is an lighter, tighter and faster version of the famed muscle car, capable of reaching speeds just under 200 miles per hour. It appears that the driver was unable to keep the 505 horsepower vehicle on the ground. He lost control heading northbound after coming out of a sweeping turn and wrecked on the eastern side of the road.
Defense attorneys want second opinion
By Daryl Kelley
A psychologist has found a 15-year-old murder suspect from Mira Monte competent to stand trial, but defense attorneys are now seeking a trial to determine if Alex Medina is mentally capable of assisting in his own defense.
Medina has pleaded not guilty to charges of killing 16-year-old Seth Scarminach, a Chaparral High School student, at a teen party in Meiners Oaks last April.
A Superior Court judge on Friday continued Medina’s competency hearing for a week after defense lawyer Robyn Bramson requested a full competency trial March 5.
Prosecutor Bill Haney countered with a request that the judge simply continue the hearing until next Friday so attorneys for both sides could study the issues. Judge Edward Brodie granted that request.
“I’m not entirely sure what her issues are,” said Haney in an interview.
But previously, Bramson had asked that Brodie appoint two psychologists to examine Medina. The judge ruled last month that the defense was entitled to just one evaluation.
But after Santa Barbara psychologist John Lewis concluded in a six-page report that Medina was competent to stand trial, Bramson requested a full trial on the issue.
Haney said she is legally entitled to such a hearing if she persists in her motion after arguments on Friday.
Bramson could not be reached for comment after the hearing.
But previously, Scott Wippert, co-counsel for the defense, said his legal team had requested evaluation of Medina’s competency because there is a question about whether the youthful defendant is capable of assisting in his own defense.
“If an attorney has a doubt of a client’s competency to stand trial, he has to bring it to the attention of the court,” Wippert said.
Wippert would not discuss what led him and his colleague, Bramson, to petition the court for an evaluation. But he said there are unusual factors when a 14-year-old is charged as an adult and tried in adult court, as is the case with Medina.
“In the case of a 14-year-old, there could be many different issues,” Wippert said. “It could range from a developmental disorder to mental issues. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to get into any details. But there are some differences when it’s a juvenile charged in adult court. That’s why we asked the judge to appoint experts.”
The Medina case is the second in the last year in which the same Studio City defense team has declared a doubt about the competency of a young defendant charged with murder as an adult. A judge declared Brandon McInerney, an Oxnard junior high school student accused of killing a gay classmate, competent to stand trial after an evaluation requested by Wippert’s law firm.
Two doctors evaluated McInerny, but Brodie ordered Medina evaluated by just one, as the judge said is required by law.
Prosecutors allege that Medina, who investigators say was an associate of an Ojai street gang, commit- ted a gang-related offense. He faces a charge of homicide with the use of a knife, and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
That gang-related charge makes the potential penalties more severe. The maximum sentence that could be sought is 25 years to life in prison. Medina is not eligible for the more-severe sentence of life without the possibility of parole because of his age, prosecutors have said.
According to autopsy results, Scarminach died of multiple stab wounds shortly before 2 a.m. on April 26 during an unsupervised party at a house in Meiners Oaks.
The alleged gang involvement, along with the heinous nature of the crime and the young age of the victim and alleged perpetrator, prompted a community outcry, culminating in a town hall meeting in June attended by about 350 people.
Hearings geared toward an early disposition of the case have led nowhere.
Fullenwider sentenced for DUI, child endangerment
By Daryl Kelley
An Ojai woman pleaded guilty Friday to driving a school bus filled with students while intoxicated, and was sentenced to a month in jail and four years of probation.
Kim Fullenwider, 53, was also ordered to pay $3,326 in fines and restitution after admitting that she endangered 21 children on her Ojai Unified School District bus by driving with a blood-alcohol level in excess of .04 percent. That is the legal limit for an operator of a commercial vehicle in California.
Fullenwider’s actual blood-alcohol level was between .07 and .08, according to a breath test conducted by the CHP after her school bus and another vehicle collided at about 7:15 a.m. Sept. 30, 2009.
The rear of the bus was struck at a slow speed as Fullenwider made a U-turn at Baldwin and Los Encinos roads. Officers decided the accident was her fault and that she had been drinking. No one was injured.
A bus driver for the Ojai district for 16 years, Fullenwider resigned her position two days after the Sept. 30 accident. Her driving record was unblemished previously, district officials said.
“She’s extraordinarily unlikely to get another job driving any type of passenger vehicle, nor does she intend to seek one,” said her attorney, Jay Leiderman
“She feels absolutely awful,” Leiderman said. “But her plea and her almost immediate surrender of her job is, we’re hopeful, a reasonable way to accept responsibility for this.”
Before the accident, Fullenwider had driven buses for 36 years and had never had even a traffic ticket, her attorney said.
But she does not dispute that she was intoxicated when she took the wheel to take kids to school that early Wednesday morning last year, he said.
She’d drunk an uncertain amount of beer the night before, he said. “It was enough to have her in excess of .04 in the morning.”
Fullenwider’s sentence was the result of a plea agreement under which she pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors – driving a commercial vehicle while intoxicated and endangering the health of a child – while a third misdemeanor was dropped.
Fullenwider was directed to begin serving her sentence Feb. 5.
By Sondra Murphy
On Tuesday, Ojai City Council members will be deliberating on applicants for the vacancy created by the resignation of Joe DeVito last month.
As of press time, five men had applied for the position, four of whom have previously been featured individually in the OVN: Paul Blatz, Demitri Corbin, Leonard Klaif and Mike Lenehan. Ojai Planning Commissioner John Mirk submitted his application Wednesday evening, and so is featured in today’s issue.
On Dec. 8, the Ojai City Council voted 3-2 in favor of appointing a replacement for the position vacated by Joe DeVito, whose term would have naturally expired in November of this year. At that time, it was the council’s hope that they would have enough qualified applicants from which to appoint the replacement on Jan. 12, but they would also be within the appointment time line if a choice was made at the Jan. 26 council meeting.
With DeVito gone, who voted with the majority for appointment, there is a possibility that the seat will go to special election. The council has not yet established dates for such an election. If embedded in the June primary ballot, the city has estimated the cost to be about $6,000. As an independent ballot, the cost to the city could be as high as $36,000.
“The choices are there, it’s now up to the council to decide what to do,” said city manager Jere Kersnar on Wednesday. The council meeting will be held at Ojai City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St., Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Following are the applicants, listed alphabetically.
Paul Blatz, age 58
Education: George Washington University, B.S.; Ventura College of Law, J.D.
26-year Ojai resident
Affiliations: Rotary Club of Ojai-West; Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce; Ojai Valley Living Treasures board; Ojai Performing Arts Theater Foundation; Ojai Pergola Committee; California and Ventura County bar associations; and Ventura County Superior Court Judge Pro-Tem
Concerns: Assuring fiscal responsibility while protecting the character of Ojai through preservation of open spaces, addressing traffic impacts and supporting youth programs.
“I felt the council, in terms of who they appoint, should have as many applicants as possible. And I truly believe that my presence on the council would help assure the sustainability of the community.”
Demitri Corbin, age 48
Occupation: Professional actor
Education: Illinois State University, B.S. in theater; Chautauqua Professional Actor’s Studio
Eight-year Ojai resident
Affiliations: Ojai Arts Commission; Virginia Avenue Project; Peachtree Theater Company; Cardboard Fairytale Theater; Ojai Playwrights Conference; Ojai-Ventura Film Festival; Theater 150; Ojai Shakespeare Festival; Ojai Performing Arts Theater Foundation; Ojai Valley Youth Foundation; and Ojai Library After School Homework Lab
Concerns: Better utilization of the city’s nonprofit status in applying for public and private funding for artistic and educational projects to help promote tourism to Ojai.
“I want to be on City Council because I think I would bring insight into the arts community when decisions are made. All of these things lend to the profile that Ojai has as an artists community.”
Leonard Klaif, age 61
Occupation: criminal attorney
Education: University of Iowa College of Law, J.D; State University of New York at Buffalo, B.A. in economics; Institute of Psycho-Structural Balancing, massage technician certificate
17-year Ojai resident
Affiliations: Ojai Art Center; Theater 150; Ojai Film Society; California Appellate Project; California State Bar; California Appellate Defense Council, South Bay and Ventura chapters; and Los Angeles County Juvenile Bar Association
Concerns: Fostering the arts, supporting local businesses and protecting the valley’s beauty and open spaces.
“I believe that I can make a valuable contribution as a member of the City Council. I am familiar with the issues as I regularly attend council meetings … We have incredibly interesting, smart, caring people in our valley and the city needs to better harness this most valuable resource.”
Mike Lenehan, age 49
Occupation: federal investigator
Education: University of California at Santa Barbara, B.A. in law and society; Santa Barbara City College, A.A. in law and society; U.S. Army Command and General Staff College graduate
Nine-year Ojai resident
Affiliations: Ojai Parks & Recreation Commission; U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, retired; Ojai American Legion; Veterans of Foreign Wars, Ojai; Knights of Columbus, Ventura; Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association; Emerald Society of Federal Law Enforcement Agencies; Santa Barbara Irish Festival; and Nordhoff High and Villanova Preparatory schools, coach
Concerns: Promoting youth recreation programs while offering a conservative perspective to the collective decisions made by the city.
“I have a common person perspective that I think appeals to people who are in a like situation.”
John Mirk, age 58
Occupation: IT support technician
Education: William Marsh Rice University, B.A. in architecture
16-year Ojai resident
Affiliations: Ojai Planning Commission; Housing Element Task Force; Ojai Public Art Review Committee; Libbey Park Public Art Selection Committee; Ojai Raptor Center; Theater 150; Patagonia Environmental Grants Committee; Nordhoff High School music department; Volunteers in Service to America; and Channel Islands Bike Club
Concerns: Affordable housing and developing standards and programs to enhance the city’s future while maintaining Ojai’s special character.
“I’ve enjoyed my service on the Planning Commission and am ready for new challenges. I consider service on the City Council to be one of the most demanding duties in our town, and see the chance to be directly responsible for the well-being of Ojai as one of the most rewarding opportunities in public service.”
Longtime Ojai Studio Artists member known as experimental expressionist
By Nancy Gross
Abstract expressionist Alberta Fins did not want services held for her after she passed away from stomach cancer on Dec. 17. But friends and admirers cannot stifle the desire to honor her for her work and her wonderful personality.
“She was such a natural artist. It came from her response to the world around her,” said friend and fellow Ojai Studio Artist, Karen Lewis, who paints landscapes and portraits somewhere between dreamy realism and hyperrealism.
Lewis added, “She was a longtime member of OSA and she was a good friend. She really had a unique art capacity. Her contributions to art are much more experimental, expressing herself with spontaneity, really trying to be ahead of the curve. She was not a figurative artist. She painted from emotions.”
Fins said of her own work that it was rarely sold in Ojai, but rather it would go straight from her studio into museum collections.
Donna Granata, of the Focus on the Masters program said, “I’ve always loved her work, which is so challenging for people to deal with because it is so dark. But it has a very sophisticated flavor. The most seasoned art lover would appreciate the work that went into it.”
Focus on the Masters is a nonprofit project that archives information about extraordinary local artists. Interviews, biographies and museum quality photographs of the artists and their work are collected and stored to support the artist and the art community. Additionally, the resources may be used for lectures and other kinds of educational outreach. A committee of leading art professionals including curators, gallery owners and participating artists, chooses artists for inclusion in FOTM.
Granata continued to describe Fins’ output, saying, “She could get pent-up emotions out by the physicality of making the work.” Fins is remembered for her superb sense of humor, but private challenges like the loss of her husband, and her own illness, were translated into her projects, which incorporated fabrics, cellophanes and canvases, where Fins would sometimes pour active chemicals, causing the images to deteriorate.
Fins tended not to speak about the sorrowful parts of her life, but she could not escape the difficulties. Granata photographed Fins peering out of a curtain while in a gallery containing her canvases, because this seemed the perfect metaphorical shot.
“She literally spilt herself into these canvases, which was very public,” but yet they offer a window into “what was private, behind the scenes,” Granata said. “I knew her very well, I had a tremendous affection for her.
“One of the big goals that we have at Focus on the Masters is to help people understand more challenging work and different subject matter,” Granata asserted.
Some of Fins’ works are referred to as assemblages; they use painting only as a starting point, and they extend beyond two dimensions. Granata believes Fins’ technique evolved when she was experimenting with ways to transfer images onto silks. As chemical reactions caused things to start rippling and bubbling, she found satisfaction and catharsis in what resulted.
Some of her training is grounded in the methods of print making, and Fins was a member of the Los Angeles Printmaking Society. She shared her love of printmaking with mixed media virtuoso, Linda Taylor, who said “I adored her. She just worked away — she had her own unique individual vision she was true to. She was in our Studio Artists from the very beginning. She was very dedicated to art.”
Taylor also said that while Fins was exhibited in many places, she did not brag, and “she supported her less well-off artist friends by purchasing their work.”
Fins was born in 1931, and a with move from New Jersey to California she began her formal study of art at Pasadena City College, Valley College and the University of California at Los Angeles.
Lewis also remarked that Fins was sensitive and troubled by political realities. “She was almost a news junkie. She had to watch the news and she’d lament and comment on the world situation in her art.”
In a 1991 Los Angeles Times article by Josef Woodard, Fins said, “I think art is what keeps me normal. I really have a sense of humor. I’m an up person and I do a lot of laughing. I think I have that side of me because I’m able to express the other side in the studio.”
Gayel Childress, another fellow OSA member, responded about Fins’ passing by saying, “What a loss, what a hole for our art community. She was an artists’ artist and I just loved her spirit. She twinkled inside.
“She had such serious art, when I met her I expected a very serious person, but she was so much fun. As a beginning artist, new to the art world, I visited her house, which was like a museum.
“Yet, she cherished a small whimsical piece, and seeing that in Alberta let me know my whimsy was OK. She kind of validated my quirkiness without her knowing she did. You never know when you are going to touch someone.”
Planner joins four others seeking city appointment
By Sondra Murphy
The city of Ojai has received a fifth application for the open council seat. Ojai Planning Commissioner John Mirk submitted his application Wednesday. His name joins those of Paul Blatz, Demitri Corbin, Leonard Klaif and Mike Lenehan.
Mirk is an IT support technician at Patagonia and has lived in Ojai for 16 years. He is married to book editor Marquita Flemming and they have two children, Dan and Sarah, now grown. Mirk is also a registered architect in California, having a bachelor’s in architecture from William Marsh Rice University.
“I’ve enjoyed my service on the Planning Commission and am ready for new challenges,” said Mirk. “I consider service on the City Council to be one of the most demanding duties in our town and see the chance to be directly responsible for the well-being of Ojai as one of the most rewarding opportunities in public service.”
In addition to serving on the Planning Commission for 12 years, Mirk is on the board of directors of the Ojai Raptor Center and was treasurer at Theater 150 in 2003 and 2004. Theater is one of his hobbies. “For the past 10 years, I have been the technical director for the Nordhoff music department spring musicals,” Mirk said. “Working with Dr. Marty Babayco, I designed the sets for everything from ‘42nd Street’ to ‘The Pirates of Penzance,’ then helped the students and parents build the sets.”
Mirk also is the Planning Commission’s representative to the Housing Element Task Force, and is a member of the Public Art Review Committee and the Libbey Bowl Public Art selection committee. He is also one of seven representatives to the Environmental Grants Committee that allocates a portion of Patagonia’s “1-percent for the Planet” funds to nonprofit environmental groups and is on Patagonia’s Environmental Internship Committee that provides up to one month’s paid leave for employees to work with nonprofit groups.
He is frequently seen cruising the valley on his bicycle. “I am an avid bike rider,” said Mirk. “I am a member of the Channel Islands Bike Club and edit the club newsletter. I commute to Patagonia twice a week by bike and, on the weekends, I can often be found riding up the Dennison Grade or over Casitas Pass.”
He credits his two “notorious” 15-year-old Siberian huskies, Milo and Tasha, with facilitating the meeting of many Ojai residents. “In their youth, they were wont to escape our fenced-in back yard and wander the streets of Ojai,” Mirk said. “One of our early introductions to our Ojai neighbors — the lady at the Christian Science Reading Room, and avocado farmer up on Gridley Road, and our own Ojai Valley News carrier — came when people called or stopped by to apprise us of the whereabouts of our dogs at one time or another.”
Mirk sees housing as an important issue to Ojai.
“Having spent the past year as the Planning Commission’s representative to the Housing Element Task Force I am acutely aware of the increasing demand for affordable housing in Ojai and the need to maintain viable jobs within the city,” he said.
He has other ideas for improving Ojai, as well. “I believe that as a city we need to set standards and develop programs which will enhance our future while maintaining the essential qualities that make Ojai a unique and special community,” said Mirk. “The year ahead will present many challenges. Our citizens comprise a tremendously talented community, with a fierce dedication to preserving the essence of Ojai. It is incumbent upon the council to work together so we can effectively focus on addressing the needs of our city.”
For more information about the City Council appointment and information on all five candidates, see related story.
Kersnar hopes to protect $3M in surplus cash
By Daryl Kelley
For Ojai, the new year is sure to herald an era of strict limits on municipal government, as revenues continue to fall and city services are likely to be cut.
A sharp decline in hotel and sales taxes has eliminated a once-robust budget surplus and the city is likely to dip into reserves before the end of this fiscal year on June 30, city manager Jere Kersnar said this week in a stark analysis of Ojai’s financial health.
“How to balance our budget will be the overwhelming issue in the coming year,” Kersnar said in an interview.
“We’re just starting to get the numbers, and they’re not good,” he said. “There’s a significant drop in revenue, so we’re going to have to look at cuts. And no one knows how long this is going to last.”
During the next few months, the City Council will face tough decisions about whether to use the city’s emergency fund to maintain services at current levels, or to balance its budget through cuts, Kersnar said.
“We have just over $3 million (in reserve), so we’re OK,” he said, “but good fiscal management says you shouldn’t go into your next year depending on your savings to balance your budget.”
As city analysts prepare a budget update this month, Kersnar said it should become clear how much the faltering economy has curtailed city revenue. But he said preliminary figures for the six months ending Dec. 31 already show a sharp decline.
“It is a significant drop,” he said. “It’s a lot in percentage terms.”
The council has already cut back spending by about $400,000, from a projected $8.4 million, for the 2009-2010 budget cycle, Kersnar said. But more cuts are needed to balance the city ledger next year, he said.
Since nearly one-third of the city’s general fund budget goes to police services, Ojai’s contract with the Sheriff’s Department will be analyzed, Kersnar said. “But they tell us we’re pretty much at the low end of the service level as it is right now,” he said. The city’s $75,000 contribution to place a deputy at Nordhoff High School might also be in question for the next school year, he said.
City staffing, 25 full-time employees, will also be eyed for reduction, he said. But the staff is already lean. One area in which a reduction might occur is elimination of the position of redevelopment manager, because the agency’s director, Kathleen McCann, retired last week.
In recent years, Ojai had been in a relatively good financial position because hotel bed taxes make up an unusually large portion of the city budget, about one-third. And local hotels, primarily the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, have done relatively well until the last year, he said. Now, bed taxes are down sharply.
Many large businesses, stung by criticism of excess spending on conferences in these tough economic times, don’t want to risk the public relations damage a stay at a five-star resort could cause, Kersnar said.
“The biggest dip — in hotel tax — seems to be a decline in business traffic,” he said. “Groups are not coming to the Ojai Valley Inn. Lots of businesses, even though they could afford it, have cut back.”
Sales taxes from local shops have also dropped, he said, but Ojai has been hurt less than many other cities, because it has no huge major retailers. Only about 15 percent of Ojai’s revenue comes from sales.
Not only have hotel and sales taxes plummeted, but housing prices have also reached levels not seen for nearly a decade. But the hit in property taxes has been modest, Kersnar said.
That’s because even with lower prices and widespread lower appraisals by the county assessor’s office, the turnover of houses tends to increase the tax base, since it brings dwellings that were taxed low under Proposition 13 up to current value.
Another big issue facing the city is change on the City Council itself. Three of its five seats are on the ballot in November, and the council will decide next Tuesday whether to appoint a replacement for Joe DeVito, who retired with a year left in his term last week.
If the remaining four members cannot decide on a replacement, the DeVito seat would be filled in an election — either the June statewide primary or the November general election.
“My sense is that it will end up in an election,” Kersnar said.
Indeed, the council split 3-to-2 in deciding last month to replace DeVito by appointment. And now there are only four votes left on the council. “I don’t sense there is a majority for appointment,” Kersnar said.
In December, Sue Horgan and Steve Olsen voted for appointment, while Betsy Clapp and Carol Smith favored filling the seat by election.
Regardless of its composition, the council will be faced with major issues in 2010.
First, it is set to conclude its lengthy ruminations about a new $350,000 skateboard park by awarding a construction contract at its Jan. 26 meeting. Four builders have been pre-qualified to do the job and have submitted bids, Kersnar said. The city has donated $100,000 to the project with the bulk raised through community donations.
The council will also monitor progress toward the $3.5 million reconstruction of Libbey Bowl, to which the city has contributed $750,000 and about $150,000 in services, the city manager said.
“These projects are there and they will proceed,” Kersnar said, although backers have yet to raise the final $1.5 million needed for the bowl rehabilitation.
Other construction projects are also expected to move forward in the coming year.
In March, the city plans to spend $350,000 to $400,000 in federal stimulus money on street resurfacing. Another pot of stimulus money could also yield a similar amount for street repair, Kersnar said.
In addition, the city has received word that it will get $900,000 in stimulus money to replace its two aging trolleys.
“It’s just a matter of getting all the state approvals,” Kersnar said. “People talk about federal delay, but the major problem is getting the money approved by the state.”
Still, some long-planned projects won’t happen this year. For example, the extension of Fulton Street to Bryant Street to reduce congestion out of the city’s industrial park is on a back burner. This 10-year effort has finally met environmental requirements and the city now owns the land, but there is no construction money, Kersnar said.
Another variable is how the state’s yawning $20-billion budget deficit over the next 18 months is going to affect Ojai, Kersnar said.
Although this city depends less on state funds than most, it could still be hit with cuts, he said.
Historically, in tough economic times, the state has balanced its budget by withdrawing tax money from local governments that it has pledged to pass through. These so-called SB 90 dollars are supposed to pay for programs the state has required local governments to provide without reliable funding.
Ojai could lose about $50,000 this way, Kersnar said.
Another $100,000 in state law enforcement grants could also go away, he said.
But the largest potential hit is in state attempts to capture redevelopment money from local governments. If the state is not blocked in court, Ojai would have to write a check for $592,000 to Sacramento in May, which is more than half of the $1 million the city receives in redevelopment property tax each year.
Courts struck down the state’s attempt to take local redevelopment money last year, but state officials have tried to change law to patch legal loopholes, Kersnar said.
“But our experts say what they’re doing is still unconstitutional,” he said.
Also near the top of the council agenda is the question of how it should meet state mandates to provide more affordable housing. One possible answer is to grant amnesty to those who have allowed illegal dwellings on their property if they will bring those substandard dwellings up to city code.
A city report determined that there are more than 300 illegal dwellings in the city. But the city has suspended discussions on that issue until after an environmental report on the city’s overall housing plan is complete in the next few months.
“We haven’t figured out how to do the (amnesty) plan,” Kersnar said.
At issue overall is how the city can address a state quota that requires it to provide 465 new affordable dwellings, despite a shortage of bare land and the traffic and smog problems that growth would bring to this narrow valley served by two-lane highways.
The council must also deal with a second bench mark plan within the first few months of 2010 — how to extend the life of its Redevelopment Agency.
The council, acting as the city’s Redevelopment Agency board, must focus on how it can continue to refurbish the city’s core as the agency approaches a cap on how much it can collect in property taxes.
Since its founding in 1972, the Redevelopment Agency has captured about $20 million in property tax that would otherwise have gone to other government entities. But, with soaring property values during the last decade, the agency is now approaching a $23.2-million cap on how much it can collect.
That means that by 2012, the agency could be effectively out of the redevelopment business, and the city would be hard-pressed to find another source for the $1 million a year the agency collects.
A top redevelopment lawyer has said the city may extend Redevelopment Agency collections, however. That’s because Ojai’s collections cap may apply only to its original redevelopment zone, its aging core, and not to two newer, smaller redevelopment zones for east and west Ojai Avenue and Bryant Street, the lawyer said.
The County of Ventura has challenged this move, and negotiations are under way to try reach a compromise that would allow Ojai to amend its plan and still collect millions more dollars during the next 30 years, while passing some along to the county.
Kersnar said he thinks a compromise could be reached by spring.
Even as the city and the county squabble over who would get extra taxes from new development, Kersnar said that for the first time in years there are no pending new home construction projects before the city, other than a long-standing plan to replace several cottages on Mallory Way with new condos.
Several small projects approved over the years still have not been built, but there’s nothing new on the horizon, he said.
“One thing that’s truly fascinating,” he said, “is that we have nothing residential in the pipeline.”
City, school board to resume talks for Channel 10 control
By Sondra Murphy
Last season’s mystery of Channel 10 ended with a cliffhanger and local cable television subscribers have yet to learn the outcome.
Time Warner Cable customers are still waiting for the public access station to air more comprehensive content about the Ojai Valley. Despite station management and funding logistics being a topic of much debate and effort last year by the Ojai City Council and staff, sparse offerings continue to be aired, consisting primarily of City Council and Planning Commission meetings with occasional calendar items.
Ojai Unified School District was meeting last spring with the city to hammer out a memo of understanding enabling its Nordhoff High School Media Arts Academy to manage Channel 10 when OUSD superintendent Tim Baird tendered his resignation. Baird’s departure and the search for and selection of current superintendent Henry Bangser, coupled with focus on Skate Park negotiations between the city and School District, sidelined further progress.
“I received a request from the School District to sit back down at the table with them,” said city Public Works director Mike Culver. “It kind of got put on hold with the new superintendent coming in, but now they’re ready to talk about it.” Culver expected he and city manager Jere Kersnar would meet with OUSD this month.
“Mike and Jere and I and a couple of leaders from the district, particularly Dan Musick and Greg Bayless from the high school, are going to be getting together in the next week or two to talk about some options for moving the issue forward,” said Bangser. “I have a few ideas and thoughts from people in the district and I want to see if they mesh with what the people over in the city want to help us accomplish.”
Bangser cited the Skate Park negotiations, infant center closure and educational issues for part of the break in talks, as well as time needed for him to learn the history of local public access efforts. “We haven’t dropped it. We’re getting up to it now in early 2010.”
Assembly Bill 2987, the 2006 Digital Infrastructure and Competition Act, proposed to equalize competition among cable providers by allowing them all to franchise with the state. Intending to open up access to various media providers by altering franchise regulations, cable providers such as Time Warner, which provides cable to Ojai, were able to reduce the number of local cable stations they facilitated.
AB 2987 also opened up the prospect for the city to assume management of Channel 10 and receive additional funds for the effort.
The City Council voted in 2008 to take on management of Channel 10 and its equipment, which would otherwise have gone dark Jan. 1, 2009.
After slow progress and hesitancy over assuming broadcast duties and responsibilities, a second reading of an ordinance adding a new chapter to the Ojai Municipal Code received unanimous support by the Ojai City Council in February 2009. The ordinance addresses state video franchises pursuant to Assembly Bill 2987, the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 as it relates to Channel 10.
The city has long gotten 5 percent of Time Warner’s revenues from customers in the city limits, which Culver estimated to be $88,000 annually that goes into the general fund. The council voted unanimously to pass the ordinance in February and, while supportive of taking over Channel 10, they still wanted assurances of the risks associated with any agreement between the city and OUSD.
Since March, the city has been collecting the extra amount from a percentage of Time Warner’s Ojai franchise profits into a special fund. “What we’ve gotten so far is $14,579,” said Kersnar. “It varies. We get paid quarterly, so it looks like we’re getting about $5,000 per quarter.” The amount is approximately 1 percent more than the city previously received and is figured by calculating the number of Time Warner Cable subscribers in the city of Ojai.
In November 2008, Culver formed a community task team of interested parties to work on a plan. That team consists of representatives from the City Council, city staff, the School District, Ministerial Association, and Ojai Valley News, as well as individuals experienced in emergency preparedness, technology and public access TV production. Once the station is capable of airing more comprehensive programming, the committee hopes to explore methods of collecting revenues for the unincorporated areas of the Ojai Valley, since these customers also have access to Channel 10.
Culver also convinced Time Warner to turn over to the city equipment to run the station, which is now housed at Public Works. The problem is there is no staff to accept and air content from the community at large, a crucial element in the concept of public access television.
Public access television must focus on three areas: public information, education and government (P.E.G.). With the city covering the government portion, the task team considered the other two components to Channel 10’s broadcasts of enabling community members to create and submit content.
In November 2008, Ojai Unified School District offered to run the station through its Media Arts Academy in exchange for the then-estimated $17,600 to begin the effort and had hoped to begin in January 2009.
That offer was supported by task team members, but negotiations between the city and OUSD stalled over operational logistics, as well as plans that were not detailed enough to satisfy the City Council.
Council members favorably viewed the later proposal submitted by Baird in February. In the proposal, Baird outlined a curriculum design for station management to be incorporated into the Media Arts Academy in order to provide eight hours of daily programming and allow for community involvement in several areas. Besides an advisory board of local media specialists, OUSD’s proposal encourages community submissions.
Again the community awaits an agreement between the two public organizations governed by procedural law and advised by often-conflicting legal representation. And so, like any engrossing mystery, the case of Channel 10 is to be continued.
Friends unite to stop home foreclosure
By Nancy Gross
On Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m., the parking lot of the New Wine Fellowship on Church Road will again be sudsy with love and service. A fund-raising car wash, like the one held last spring for the grieving Scarminach family, is being staged to help Frances Fraser hang onto her house. Fraser has been a gracious presence in Oak View and Ojai for many decades.
“She helps with everything. She’s losing her house to foreclosure,” said Sharyn Mathews, who is one of the organizers of the event. Mathews was also instrumental in making last year’s car wash benefit for the Scarminach family so successful, with thousands of dollars contributed by valley residents and businesses.
“It’s just a heart kind of thing. I remember when I went to Ventura High School and she was one of the security officers there, like a lunch cop. And she’s always been at H & R Block when I do my taxes,” Mathews said.
Another helper at last spring’s car wash, Claudia Decker, is assisting again. She said that Fraser “goes up and down the street and helps all the neighbors. She just had an operation, and she’s still helping others.”
And sure enough, when Fraser’s warm voice returns a phone call she missed, she says, “I have a friend who’s in a wheelchair and I was sort of watching her out in the yard while her husband did yard work.”
Fraser has lived in her house at 104 Grapevine for 50 years. “My son was just a baby when we moved here. I grew up on Burnham Road, on another part of the same property. I’ve always lived here since.
“I’m on Social Security. I do work at H & R Block during tax season,” Fraser said.
Danny Miller, pastor at New Wine Fellowship, said, “Her monthly mortgage is not terribly high. But she has been behind several of her mortgage payments.” He said there was some fraud to her bank account that brought about her current crisis.
“I just heard that the bank is holding off (on the foreclosure) until March. We’re trying to raise as much as we can to be a blessing to her,” Miller said. “She’s been part of the church for a couple of years, and she’s been active in the community.” Fraser has helped with food distribution at the First Baptist Church, and many people knew her as the scorekeeper for softball in the valley.
The Fraser family has long been integrated into the community, both giving and receiving. Daniel Fraser, one of Fraser’s sons and a well-loved softball player and manager, died in a car accident in 2002. “When my son died the Rec. Department and men’s softball put on a big tournament at Sarzotti Park.”
Fraser is waiting for more information from her bank, but hopes that several thousand dollars would allow her to get out of foreclosure. She could then return to making her monthly payments in the peace of the home she’s lived in for so long.
The event will commence Saturday at 8 a.m. at New Wine Fellowship, 441 Church Road, rain or shine. If you want to donate but cannot attend, call Mathews at 223-4314, or contact the church.