County investigating legality of blocking access
By Sondra Murphy
When mysterious boulders appeared near the popular Shelf Road hiking trail off Gridley Road last week, many residents were alarmed. According to two county departments, Shelf Road is a fire road and not a hiking trail at all.
Originally blocking the fire lane, the end-table-to-washing-machine-sized rocks have been cleared aside to allow large vehicle access, but continue to prevent the public from parking at the bottom of the trail.
“The Gridley Road end is really the mouth of the trail there,” said Dick Fernow, who voluntarily supplies water to each end of the trail. “You could park about four or five cars there, but you can no longer do that.” Fernow delivered water to the trail on March 22. “Then Wednesday, when I went back, it was all blocked off.” His best guess was the rocks were placed there on March 23.
“I was floored when I went up there,” said Tia Andrews. “They’ve effectively cut off the ability to park along Gridley.” Anyone familiar with that stretch of Gridley Road knows the narrow and curving street provides sparse parking options.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Department
On March 28, 2010 at approximately 0100 hours, Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a “shots fired” call in the 100 block of Padre Juan in Meiners Oaks. Deputies located several witnesses, broken glass and several spent shotgun shells in the street. As the investigation was continuing, an additional call to Sheriff ‘s dispatch revealed the location of the vehicle and its occupants.
Sheriff’s Major Crimes detectives were called to assist in the criminal investigation. They determined that a physical altercation took place in the front yard of Jason McCoy’s residence between the victims and the suspect. After the physical altercation ended, the suspect armed himself with a shotgun and fired several rounds as the vehicle left the area. The occupants of the vehicle were not injured in the shooting.
McCoy, 19, was arrested and booked at the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention facility for assault with a deadly weapon and shooting at an occupied vehicle with a bail amount of $50,000.
Officer Preparing Release:
Brian Richmond, Detective, Major Crimes
Three-day move-out notice posted Thursday morning
By Logan Hall
The Casitas Municipal Water District board of directors has unanimously decided to terminate the contract with Lake Casitas Park Store owner and valley resident Norm Smith because of a breech of protocol regarding Smith’s boat. Due to the lingering threat of the quagga mussel, all boats arriving at the lake must be cleared by park staff before entering the gates. According to authorities, Smith, who was unable to attend the board meeting, had a key to the front gate and brought his boat through after normal operating hours without park staff knowledge.
“It was a serious offense,” said Director Russ Baggerly, “serious enough for the board to take action.”
With no board members opposing CMWD general manager Steve Wickstrum’s decision, and despite pleas from Smith’s supporters, the termination of the contract between Casitas and Smith will move forward.
The original contract for Smith’s ownership of the concession was signed in May 2003. A 10-year contract, which is said by Smith to have been the agreement, was allegedly never brought forward by the board, and for the past two years, the contracts have been extended by one year at a time which would have to be renewed after Dec. 31, 2010. Smith received a notice on Thursday that he has three days to move out of the premises and surrender the property to the Casitas Water District for breech of contract. As of this time, it is unclear what will be done with the products, which are also owned by Smith, that fill the store shelves, leaving many to wonder what will happen to this local merchant.
Smith claims that he has never had any issues with Casitas prior to this offense, and he and his supporters say that until now the relationship between Smith’s store and Casitas has been very positive. “We have always gotten positive feedback from campers and other customers,” said concession employee Peggy Parry. “He (Smith) runs a tight ship and the customers appreciate it.”
The Lake Casitas Park Store carries a vast assortment of items ranging from camping supplies and toiletries, to food, and also has many Ojai- and Lake Casitas-related souvenirs. In the last few years, the Park Store has carried disc golf supplies for use at the lake’s Coyote Disc Golf Course. According to many of the participants in the sport, it has become one of the top places in the county to purchase these supplies.
When asked about the possibility of Smith appealing the decision, the board stated that Smith had previously had a chance to appeal and didn’t respond, and that all actions will move forward, apparently including the banning of Smith’s boat from the lake for one year.
Call for bids goes out again, council expects construction to begin May 31
By Sondra Murphy
In contrast to watching those skilled with modern fiberglass and polyurethane equipment, the Ojai Skate Park progress seems to move along like an old hunk of wood nailed to an antique metal pair of over-the-shoe roller skates. The ever-decaying temporary skateboard park, in fact, is perfect kin to the homemade skateboards of old and is currently closed for repairs — again.
The construction time line has returned to the bid process, or is pulling a reverb, to borrow some vocabulary from the sport.
After bids were opened in January, several closed session meetings of the Ojai City Council resulted in the members voting earlier this month to reject all bids and begin the process again. On Tuesday, the council approved the designation of the Ojai Skate Park Project as Project PW 2010-01 and authorized Public Works director Mike Culver to facilitate engineering, environmental and economic issues, should they arise. With the approval, a call for bids took place Wednesday, with bid opening scheduled for April 27, evaluation set for April 28 and council award contract to occur May 11.
The new time line sets the beginning of construction for May 31 and post-construction for Sept. 29, taking the grand opening to Oct. 30. One of the early time lines had the grand opening scheduled for June 5.
“Staff has met with Skate Ojai and the project manager to come up with modified requirements,” said Culver about the new bid process. Skate Ojai is a local group of skateboard park supporters who rallied two years ago to help raise $261,000 needed to build a permanent, in-ground 11,500-square-foot facility. The city earmarked an initial $100,000 for the $350,000 price tag.
Mayor Pro-Tem Carol Smith brought up the fact that the temporary park was shut down.
“We’re going to work as hard and fast as we can to effect those repairs,” Culver said.
“I would like to reiterate that that would be a priority,” said Councilwoman Sue Horgan.
During the meeting, the council also held the first reading of Ordinance Text Amendment TA 10-01, which deletes and replace certain language in the Ojai Municipal Code regarding use regulations for the city skateboard park. The regulations are a result of the city working with Ojai Unified School District, which owns the property where the park is to be built, and Skate Ojai. The ad hoc Skate Park Operations Committee struggled for months to come up with consensus on health and safety features and regulations that were also compatible with the Ojai general plan and consistent with city zoning regulations. Staff reported the text amendment qualified for a Class 23 categorical exemption from environmental review of the California Environmental Quality Act, Section 15323 under “Normal Operation of Facilities for Public Gatherings.”
The Ojai Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously approved the rules and regulations in February. Of the 19 Ojai Skateboard Park Rules and Regulations, the primary text change is that park users must now wear helmets, elbow pads and knee pads. The rest of the rules pertain to hours (dawn to sunset), allowable behavior, restrictions of pets, food, containers and certain equipment and is a designated drug-, tobacco-, alcohol-, violence, graffiti- and sticker-free zone.
During the public hearing portion of the agenda item, Len Klaif took issue with one of the 19 rules. “I have never skateboarded in my life and I will die never skateboarding, so maybe I’m missing something here,” Klaif said. “But No. 15, ‘activities which involve stunts, tricks or luge skateboarding are prohibited.’ Stunts and tricks? What else do you do?” He requested the council reconsider that rule.
Horgan and Smith asked the staff for clarification. “What’s a stunt and what’s a trick?” said Smith.
“Basically, we’re in compliance with state law,” said Ojai Recreation director Dale Sumersille.
“These regulations are part of the state ordinance and were drawn from consultation with other cities in Ventura County,” said city attorney Monte Widders. “Exactly what a trick and a stunt is, difference from skating, I can’t tell you. Like Lenny, I don’t skateboard either.”
“If people read this, they are going to think we aren’t serious in enforcing this,” Horgan said.
“Do you think that this is not allowed so if you do it and get hurt, we’re not liable?” asked Council-woman Betsy Clapp.
Widders replied that the method in which the skateboarding park was set up gives the city immunity from injury liabilities. Clapp then moved to amend No. 15 by striking “tricks and stunts” from the text, while retaining “luge.”
According to Wikipedia, “street luge” was born in Southern California as downhill skateboarders found they could reach faster speeds by lying down on their skateboards. The technique is largely ineffective in small bowl settings.
With the change, Widders said the text will return to the council in two weeks for the second reading.
To view project designs, layouts, and updates, go to the city web site at ci.ojai.ca.us and select “Click here” under “Skate Park Project.
OJAI POLICE DEPARTMENT
OJAI VALLEY NEWS POLICY: In felony arrests of this nature, the OVN will not publish the names of the suspects until after they have been arraigned.
Suspects: Two Oak View men, ages 18 and 20
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department’s Ojai detectives and patrol deputies concluded an investigation into a child abuse case in which one suspect kicked a four-year-old male child in the groin while another suspect videotaped it. The investigation started when a patrol deputy was given a found cellular phone. When the deputy attempted to identify the owner of the phone, he located a video in the phone showing a four-year-old male child being kicked in the groin by an adult male. The child abuse case occurred in December of 2009, but was not reported until the deputy uncovered the video.
During the investigation, the two suspects were identified and ultimately arrested for 273a(a) – Child Abuse. At this time, the suspects are in custody in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Attorneys share priority of keeping Ojai quaint
By Daryl Kelley
The two candidates for a vacant seat on the Ojai City Council attempted Monday evening to define themselves as distinctly different from their opponent, despite similarities in political goals and philosophy.
Both Paul Blatz and Leonard Klaif are lawyers.
Klaif is 61, Blatz 58. Both have been active in community affairs for many years and have run for City Council previously.
Both are critical of current city leadership. And both say their primary goal is to keep Ojai the quaint village they love, but with a more environmentally friendly “green” slant.
During a lively but polite two-hour forum before the Ojai Valley Democratic Club, their first joint appearance of the young campaign, Blatz emphasized his business expertise, fiscal conservatism and long study of Ojai’s building codes as a city planning commissioner.
“I am a conservative when it comes to fiscal responsibility,” Blatz told a gathering of several dozen at the Ojai Art Center. “But I’m a liberal progressive when it comes to social issues.”
Klaif stressed his efforts as a community activist who jumps into the middle of issues feet first.
“The difference, I think, is leadership, passion and commitment,” Klaif said. “I don’t think anyone has gone to more council meetings than I have.”
As for what voters can expect before the June 8 special election, Blatz and Klaif seemed ready to stress their own platforms and characteristics, rather than criticize their opponent.
“I’ve known Paul for 15 years or so,” Klaif said in his introductory comments. “I like Paul and he likes me … He’s a good guy.”
But Klaif’s approach was more of an outspoken citizen watchdog, holding the City Council accountable, while Blatz said he wanted to take on the establishment as one who worked within it for nine years as a planning commissioner.
Klaif is a criminal appeals lawyer, while Blatz specializes in business law.
At Monday’s forum there were differences, too, in style and delivery.
Klaif was highly opinionated, sometimes caustic and sometimes funny, but also well informed on the issues. At one point, Klaif proposed replacing city attorney Monte Widders.
“We need a new city attorney,” he said, “because the city attorney that we have is the biggest single impediment we have to finding solutions.
“‘You can’t do that, you can’t do that,’” is how Widders advises the council on myriad proposals, Klaif said.
“The answers are here,” he said. “We just have to do.”
Blatz was generally more careful, while also stating his opinions strongly.
When asked about a series of huge water rate increases by the privately owned water company in Ojai, Blatz responded: “It’s absolutely a crime what Golden State Water is doing.” He said he favors “somehow” turning Ojai’s water delivery over to a publicly managed system. Golden State has failed to maintain its system, while reaping a profit, and it is now saddling ratepayers with the huge cost of repairs, he said.
Klaif said he has a history of testifying against Golden State’s rate requests, and once shook a bottle of its water at a public hearing “and made it rattle” with impurities. He said he agrees with Councilwoman Betsy Clapp that the city should look into a possible condemnation of the Golden State system and taking it over through eminent domain laws.
In a lengthy question-and-answer session, both candidates appeared versed on many details of city government, although Blatz fumbled a question about law enforcement costs.
When asked about the city’s stalled Housing Element strategy that is a legally mandated part of the city’s General Plan for development, Klaif said that if he had to vote today, he’d vote for the current proposal. The City Council, after 18 months of study, recently delayed action on the plan again.
“There are great risks to the city in doing nothing,” Klaif said. The state, which requires local governments to approve a plan for their housing needs every five years, could declare Ojai an “open city” because it does not have a complete General Plan, he said. That would open the city to new, unplanned construction. A housing plan could call for construction of very few new houses, he said.
Klaif criticized city planners for not yet defining how to convert illegal granny flats into legal dwellings, thus helping to meet state mandates for low-income housing.
Blatz said he probably would vote yes on the pending proposal, too, if he had to vote today.
“But I don’t think the council has enough information to vote,” he said. Ojai has a number of issues it has to solve before approving new housing, he said. Those are a shortage of water, traffic congestion and illegal residences.
The state has concluded that Ojai should provide more than 400 more dwellings over the next five years to meet its obligations to provide for growth.
Both candidates expressed frustration with how the city fails to deal with long-standing problems. Klaif noted that when he and Blatz ran for council in 2002 both advocated construction of a new Skate Park.
“Who would have thought we would have a new (national) health plan before we’d have a new Skate Park,” Klaif said to laughter. While at least one council member has expressed embarrassment at the slow pace of building a Skate Park, Klaif said, “It’s not enough to be embarrassed … You have to do.”
Skate Park plans are moving forward within city government and construction is expected this year after completion last year of a $350,000 fund-raising effort, including $100,000 of city funds.
The candidates dealt with numerous other questions, with both agreeing the city should work more closely with the owners of the Ojai Valley Inn, the city’s principle taxpayer, to bring guests at the luxury hotel into the city.
Klaif criticized the inn for not building low-income housing units for employees that were promised when the city approved construction of a new house for the Crown family owners five years ago. Klaif said the inn has tried to keep guests at the inn and away from downtown restaurants and theaters. Blatz said he sees the inn two ways, as a chief employer and taxpayer, but also as an entity that should work more closely with the rest of the community.
Addressing the issue of Ojai’s large cost for law enforcement, forum moderator Sean Keenan said that only three of 16 small cities his group had surveyed used county sheriff’s departments as city police forces, including Ojai. And he said Ojai’s per capita cost was the highest of the 16.
Blatz said he thought the per capita costs were high because the sheriff patrols the entire 35,000-resident Ojai Valley, not just Ojai. But he added, that a city Police Department might make sense. “You look at everything in how it makes sense,” he said. “Why Ojai wouldn’t have our police force is beyond me.”
Klaif said he was open to the possibility of a city police force, but he noted accurately that Ojai city does not pay for policing the rest of the valley. And he said that the city has to consider laboratory and technical services it receives with its sheriff’s contract.
“It’s the cost of the whole thing,” Klaif said. “There are lots of questions that need to be answered.”
(Ojai had its own Police Department until 1980, when it was absorbed into the Sheriff’s Department because of a wider array of services.)
Asked about term limits on council members, Blatz said he’d favor a limit of three terms, or 12 years, to bring in new blood. But Klaif said term limits were “a cop-out. If you don’t like people in office, go out and vote them out. Term limits is the lazy person’s way out.”
Asked what the candidates would do to support the city’s business district, Blatz said the city is now taking steps with the Chamber of Commerce to market Ojai, but that the city needs to recruit new businesses that “cater to people in Ojai, rather than catering to people who come here.”
Klaif lauded the new cooperation between the city and the chamber, “but prior to that there was a lot of antagonism … The city wasn’t very supportive.”
Both candidates stressed their backgrounds: Blatz grew up in a 1,500-person community in Connecticut (“that’s one of the things that drew me to Ojai.”). Klaif is the child of two community activists. (His parents marched in protests. His dad was a volunteer newspaper editor, his mom a PTA president.)
Fout highest local finisher at 688
By Sondra Murphy
More than 25,000 people ran from “Stadium to Sea” during Sunday’s L.A. Marathon, with 20 Ojai Valley runners finishing the race. This year, the 26.2-mile course was run from Dodger Stadium and out along the coastline to the Santa Monica Pier.
“I’m still recovering,” said Sophocles Cotsis, Ojai Recreation Department recreation coordinator. “It’s pretty typical to be barely able to walk after a marathon.”
Cotsis ran the L.A. Marathon once before in 2008. “I trained with Glenn Fout. We started running together a year ago, not for the L.A. marathon, but it kind of morphed into that,” said Cotsis. “We wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon and, to do that, you have to run another marathon in under three-and-a-half hours. Glenn got it, but I didn’t.” Cotsis missed the cutoff by five minutes, 17 seconds.
In Fout’s first L.A. Marathon run, he completed it in 3:27:27. “It was a madhouse down there,” said Fout. “I guess it’s like going to a concert with 50,000 people.”
Fout was pleased that he and Cotsis were able to improve their times from previous marathons they have run. “Old school training is mileage, mileage, mileage, but I found a book that said just run three days a week with a day off in between to do some cross training,” said Fout. “What that meant is I could train and never be sore … Frankly, I’m at the age where I have to give my body time to recover.”
Fout cycled and swam in between to help work different muscle groups while concentrating on his cardiovascular needs. He said he was still sore from the marathon, but “I’m OK as long as I avoid stairs.”
To prepare for the run, Cotsis said he joined the Inside Track Club in Ventura. “That really helped. There were about 50 people training for other marathons or half marathons,” Cotsis said. “It makes all the difference to be able to train with a group of people in terms of staying focused and looking at your time goal.”
Fout agreed. “Any exercise program is so much easier with a training partner,” he said. “The camaraderie with Sophocles was great.”
Nutritional preparation is important, as well. “We ate the typical pasta dinner before the race. My pre-race meal was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.”
“I had a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of water before and, during the run, I took gels,” Fout said. He called the high-energy gelatins “like an energy bar in liquid form” that he ingested at his eighth, 16th and 20th mile.
“The L.A. Marathon is kind of a spectacle,” said Cotsis. “You spend about nine or 10 miles just trying to run out of the crowd to run the pace you want to run.” He said each runner’s time begins when he crosses the starting line.
“It took us 10 minutes just to get to the starting line. Even still, there are a lot of people walking at the beginning. You’re spending a lot of time zigzagging through people,” Cotsis said.
Cotsis plans to run in the Santa Barbara Marathon next autumn in hopes of meeting his time goal. “Something like Santa Barbara is like 5,000 people, so it’s a big difference,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to run your race when you have a smaller core of people.” He added Fout would likely run that one with him.
“We’ve each run two marathons now, so have two different experiences to compare and contrast and try and get a little smarter about what we do,” said Fout. “I like that we were both faster. We were pretty happy that we did better.” He also recommended running a smaller venue to anyone interested in running a marathon.
This year’s local marathon finishers and their overall placements are as follows: 688, Glenn Fout; 992, Sophocles Cotsis; 1,403 Debbie Allen; 2,705, Derek Rodrigues; 2,575, Rebecca DeMoor; 3,527, Lindsay Ferro; 4,289, Tara Ransom; 7,777, Dagoberto Ojeda; 9,832, Mary Nelson; 10,316, Jim Halverson; 11,822, Tyler McCormick; 16,577, Edward Powell; 18,841, Lynn Haag; 18,952, Meg McCormick; 19,319, Connie Isham; 19,659, Jacqueline Francis; 20,265, Carol McCormick, 20,806, Kerry Holden; Norma Bennett and Michael Owen.
By Sondra Murphy
A small community like Ojai can feel the benefits of establishing trusting relationships with its police force, a model that is often lost with rotating staffing methods in the Sheriff’s Department. In contrast, the school resource officer was established at Ojai’s public schools to address the distinctive issues that develop among teenagers in the valley while getting to know students.
Because of working closely with students at Nordhoff, Sheriff’s Deputy Sara Valenzuela looked into a room at Nordhoff High School last week that set off a chain of events that has the valley buzzing.
“Sara had received information, which is why she was suspicious,” said Sgt. Maureen Hookstra about Valenzuela walking in on custodian Brandon Hoffmeister and three male students allegedly smoking marijuana in a Nordhoff classroom. “She did an excellent job.”
“He will be fired as soon as the paperwork clears all the processes,” said Hank Bangser, Ojai Unified School District superintendent, of Hoffmeister, adding he was hired as a substitute custodian in 2006 with California Department of Justice clearance. “He was working for us more recently in the last several months because we had a custodian out for physical reasons.” Hoffmeister had no local arrest record prior to last week’s incident.
“His behavior was reprehensible and completely inconsistent with the way our custodial personnel deal with our students,” said Bangser. “I’m very appreciative that he was caught.”
Hookstra said because the students were not in possession, they were not arrested. Nordhoff principal Dan Musick confirmed Tuesday the students allegedly involved were first-time offenders and received five-day suspensions, counseling and the revocation of other privileges.
The school’s resource officer position is paid for by the city of Ojai, OUSD and the Sheriff’s Depart-ment. In 2007, assistant principal Susana Arce gave up $75, 000 in salary to pay for part of the SRO’s salary specifically and by contract. According to Bangser, that arrangement was amended this year.
Financial woes at OUSD had the SRO set for elimination at the end of last year, but, with the murder of Seth Scarminach in April, the district recanted and scraped together their portion of the bill and committed to its share of this year’s funding. Last year, the School District and city each contributed about $81,000 toward the salary and costs associated with the SRO, while the Sheriff’s Department reassigned Valenzuela during the summer months and covered just more than $26,000 in costs and salary.
With the state’s financial crisis impacting police services, OUSD’s revenues expected to shrink further and the city’s hotel and business tax revenues declining as well, Ojai Police Chief Chris Dunn expects the SRO position will be eliminated at the end of this school year. “The School District is not likely to have their portion of the funding, so it doesn’t look good,” Dunn told the Ojai City Council last month.
The School District regrets the loss. “I would have been pleased to retain all or part of the SRO position. However, given the circumstances, we face the full elimination of the position. That’s on my list to go to the board for consideration as the budget is being discussed,” said Bangser. “That position is almost certainly not going to be part of our high school management program. The biggest impact will, of course, be on Susie Arce. She, Dan (Musick) and (assistant principal) Greg Bayless will need to work with the staff to be ever more vigilant,” said Bangser.
He added that he has confidence in Nordhoff’s administration to overcome the loss. “Nordhoff is a very well-run, disciplined environment,” Bangser said. “We’re going to have to work out a new relationship with the Police Department.” Bangser pointed out that the SRO loss is only one of the many staffing challenges OUSD must accommodate in years to come and that there are only two other deputies working for the city. “The SRO position is the only one where someone else’s budget is being affected,” he said, referring to the Ojai Police Department.
OUSD delivered 51 pink slips to teachers earlier this month because of more anticipated losses and statistics on other staff reductions have yet to be reported.
“This is Sara’s third year as SRO,” said Hookstra. “She was born and raised here and genuinely cares about the community.” Hookstra said that Valenzuela also coaches softball at NHS, organized and put together the curriculum for the Citizen Academy and runs the Explorers Program for youth interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement. “She really gives a lot to the community.”
While the SRO focuses on the high schools, it often goes beyond those realms. “I’m responsible for all the schools,” said Valenzuela, “but when I’m not free, I will call in another deputy.” She said the day before the Nordhoff incident, a student at Matilija Junior High had been caught selling prescription drugs on campus and was ultimately arrested. “Now there is harassment stemming from it,” said Valenzuela. “Another student was arrested over the weekend for threatening another via MySpace.”
Valenzuela said she is not sure what the School District will do without an SRO. “I’ve given them some suggestions of what they can do. I just don’t know what they’re going to decide,” she said. “Teachers want to be in a safe environment, just like students.”
That point is part of the reason the SRO was placed in Ojai to begin with. “We’re there as a resource to help teachers and staff,” Valenzuela said. “This is not their area of expertise.”
Hookstra added that Valenzuela helps keep order on campuses. “The School District will really have to step up to do what Sara does.”
“It’s not going to be as easy as when Sara was there, but there’s going to be a lot of situations that are not going to be easy throughout the district.”
The district contracts with a private company for its K9 drug search units, at a cost of $250 per district-wide inspections that periodically patrol schools, most recently two weeks ago. “That I’m planning on keeping,” said Bangser. “I hear from all the principals that it’s a very positive deterrent.”
Nordhoff has specific disciplinary procedures for drug offenses. According to the NHS student handbook, possession of drugs, alcohol or paraphernalia and being under the influence of drugs or alcohol will result in a five-day suspension and possible police citation.
For more details, go to ojai.k12.ca.us, select “Nordhoff HS” from “Schools” menu, then “Student Handbook” from the left menu.
Watchers we need your help in catching these crooks! The Sheriff’s Department Fillmore Station team has identified a fraud ring using a lottery scam operating within Ventura County. These criminals are targeting farm workers and the elderly within the Spanish speaking community. I’ve included Fillmore Captain Tim Hagel’s Farm Watch notice to explain the details of how the scam works.
As a previous Fillmore Detective, I have worked very similar cases that had the same M.O. These cases are extremely difficult to solve, but not impossible with your help. Spread the word and encourage anyone that has been a victim or witness of this scam to immediately report it. A license plate, tattoo description, or other small detail might be all that we need to track these crooks down.
PLEASE PASS THIS ALONG TO ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES. THE POWER OF CITYWATCH IS THAT EACH OF US NETWORKING CAN COLLECTIVELY REACH THOUSANDS OF OTHERS BY FORWARDING THIS EMAIL.
Farm Worker Alert:
This just happen last week: A group of four criminals stole money from Ventura County farm workers and Spanish speaking residents in a California lottery scam. Theses criminals single out Ventura County residents who use Spanish as their strongest language. They prefer female victims of adult or elderly age, but on occasion will prey on males.
They are excellent actors and you will never know that all four are connected. When you read the story, remember they change it up once a while mixing in fictitious IRS Agents, Fictitious Notaries and Fictitious Attorneys.
Here is the scene:
They hit while your farm workers are in a shopping center, parking lot, picking up kids from school or public building, they are approached by a Spanish-speaking female.
On occasion they use a male. The male or females are actors, and will tell the farm worker that he or she just found a State Lottery ticket and that they think it was the winning number.
Next, a passerby will approach as a random person and unknown to your farm worker. Usually the passerby will be well dressed as a businessman or woman. They will speak in Spanish to make the victim comfortable.
The two actor-criminals will both be excited about the lottery ticket. The actor-passerby will use his or her cell phone to call the State Lottery officials and see how to cash in the ticket. The person on the other end of the cell phone is not a lottery official, but part of the four person criminal group.
The criminal on the other end who is acting like a lottery official will tell the group that one must be a citizen to cash in the ticket.
The original female that held the ticket will start crying and tell your farm worker and the passerby criminal-actor that she is not a citizen. The passerby actor will ask your worker if they are a citizen? No matter what they reply, these well polished crooks will pull the farm worker in as a victim.
Then, the criminal/actor passerby will call a friend who is an immigration attorney. The fictitious attorney is the 4th actor. The criminal/actor passerby will put the victim on the cell phone to talk to the fictitious Spanish speaking attorney who will then describe a fair plan how all three can all cash the ticket in as a group.
The attorney actor on the phone will suggest that the three of the strangers split the lottery since the winner is not a citizen. Suggesting each will typically receive a third of $500,000 to $2,000,000. The attorney actor on the phone will suggest that since none of them know one another, that they each make a good faith deposit to him for $1,000 to $10,000.
He will tell them that they can all go to their banks or houses together for their cash deposit and drive together to the attorney’s or Lottery Office in Ventura. The attorney will meet them there.
Of course everyone is excited, his or her lives are about to change. In our recent case, the original female actor began to cry with joy that she was able to make her way back to Mexico and retire. Our farm workers have been excited to be a part of it and readily hand over their life savings to the criminals.
Next, they actors will drive everyone and will stop on the way to the attorney office and get the victim to walk into a store for food, shopping or a meal. When they are not looking they will slip away with the good faith deposit.
If your workers are approached on this lottery scam: Write down the license plate of the actors and call 911 immediately. Our 911 Center will speak to them in Spanish and send help to catch the criminals.
SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT PRESS RELEASE
Sgt. Maureen Hookstra
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department/Ojai Substation, has launched a new program that offers a convenient confidential drop box where Ojai Valley residents can deposit unused or expired pharmaceuticals in an effort to divert harmful drugs away from the environment and children. Pharmaceuticals are medications, including prescription drugs such as painkillers, hormones, antidepressants, antibiotics, cold/flu remedies, over-the-counter medications and veterinary medicines.
There are many risks associated with storing prescription drugs that are not part of a current drug therapy.
The prescriptions may be outdated and not effectively treating the symptoms they are intended for. If prescription drugs are being stored and the person they are prescribed for is not taking them according to the prescription, it is possible they could be taken by mistake or potentially stolen. If prescription drugs are disposed of in our water supply, a potential for contamination to the water, our environment, and our residents may occur.
Ojai Valley residents are encouraged to utilize the collection bin located in the public lobby of the P.D. during normal business hours, Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This program is not intended for commercial use, and is restricted from receiving mail, batteries, trash and syringes – as placarded on the exterior of the bin.
Police say school’s janitor furnished marijuana to students and smoked it with them in classroom
By Lenny Roberts
There have been many allegations of drug use at Ojai’s public high school, but blatant activity in a classroom allegedly involving a school employee may be a first.
According to Ojai Police Administrative Sgt. Maureen Hookstra, Sheriff’s Deputy Sara Valenzuela was on foot patrol on the campus of Nordhoff High School when she became suspicious after seeing an empty janitor’s cart near a vacant classroom.
Hookstra said Valenzuela, who serves as the school’s resource officer, entered the classroom and saw a thick cloud of smoke and smelled the odor of burnt marijuana. According to Hookstra, Valenzuela saw janitor Brandon Hoffmeister with three male juvenile students. “As Deputy Valenzuela directed the Hoffmeister and the students out of the classroom, Hoffmeister ran from Deputy Valenzuela,” Hookstra said, adding Hoffmeister was located on campus a short time later and placed under arrest.
During the investigation Valenzuela discovered an empty plastic baggie in the classroom, which contained marijuana residue, according to the report. “Hoffmeister admitted to providing marijuana to students over the past two months and having smoked marijuana with students on campus approximately 20 to 30 times over the two-month period,” Hookstra said in her report.
Hoffmeister was booked at the Ventura County Jail for possession of a controlled substance on school grounds, furnishing marijuana to a minor over 14, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and resisting arrest. Bail with set at $100,000.
Invasive plant overruning hillsides, capable of taking down oak trees
By Logan Hall
The hills surrounding Highway 150 near Lake Casitas are being overrun by cape ivy, an invasive plant that can destroy its surrounding ecosystem. Oaks and other native trees and plants are being smothered and, in many cases, officials say, the weight of the vine alone can pull down and devour entire trees. Spreading rapidly, it blankets the ground and hinders the new growth of almost all other vegetation. Soil erosion can then become rampant, which could lead to mud slides. If left unchecked, entire hillsides can be stripped of most other species including many animals that need native vegetation for their habitat. It’s happening now, and right here in Ojai.
Experts have discovered that cape ivy, originally found in the mountain forests of South Africa, was brought to the eastern United States in the 1850s as an ornamental vine. By the mid-1960s, it had staked its claim in Golden Gate Park in northern California. From there it spread over the West Coast and has been mapped from southern Oregon to San Diego being carried by water runoff, migrating birds and human traffic, among other things.
“It’s a phenomenon,” said Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales. “It’s like a forest fire in slow motion. It rises to the top of the trees and kills off native species. It’s an opportunistic weed, and it will continue to spread.”
One of its more serious implications is the vine’s ability to turn live trees and brush into veritable piles of dead lumber, making the hillsides much more susceptible to forest fire. Paul Rogers, one of Ojai’s leading experts in native vegetation, believes fire could be a legitimate concern. “The big thing is the potential for fires,” he said, studying a photo of an oak being taken down by a thicket of cape ivy taken just a few miles from his home. “This is very serious.”
Not only is it a potential fire hazard, the vine also destroys the habitat of many animal species. Animals such as squirrels and woodpeckers that depend on the oaks for acorns and shelter could be losing viable food sources. Oaks and other native trees are also habitat for many endangered or protected species, including bald eagles, that use the trees for nesting.
“It really disrupts the ecology of the area,” said David Magney about cape ivy. Magney, who is an Ojai resident and runs his own environmental consulting firm, has tracked the vine’s invasion of Ojai and the surrounding hillsides. “It just takes over. It kills everything and will eliminate the habitat for a wide variety of species. It needs to be dealt with.”
Therein lies the tricky part. Because cape ivy is so extensive, and spreads so rapidly and indiscriminately, it is nearly impossible to eradicate. The sheer manpower, funding and other resources required for such an undertaking is almost immeasurable. County and state officials all over California are being faced with similar challenges.
“Our first step is to map its locations,” said Gonzales. “Then we need to conduct a survey of property owners to see who is affected. After that we need to educate them.” It’s at this point that the plan seems to run into the economic wall that has a tendency to stop government projects in their tracks.
“Effective control strategies are not cheap,” said Gonzales. “You need a regional effort to control a weed like this. I just don’t have the resources.”
Doug Johnson, executive director of the California Invasive Plant Council, has similar concerns. “Cape ivy is not really possible to eradicate,” he said. “It’s so hard to contain that the federal government is working on a bio-control for it.” Different from pesticides, a bio-control uses insects, animals or even other plants that naturally hinder the growth and progression of a particular invasive species. “The research has been done. Now they need to do extensive testing on the bio-control agents,” he added.
The impact of the vine has gotten the attention of ranchers and farmers throughout the hills beyond Casitas, for whom its implications could be the most serious. Some are engaged in a year-round fight with it, which increasingly seems to be a losing battle.
“That stuff is crazy, man,” said local rancher Richard Palato about the cape ivy that has overrun his property. “I had this big oak tree … that stuff took it down and killed it.” Palato owns and operates Rancho Encino just past Casitas Pass up Highway 150 where he grows various cut flowers and avocados. Having spent more than 20 years in the agriculture business, Palato seems to be an expert in the local vegetation. “This plant is bad news,” he added as he pointed to a patch of the weed a few yards from his front door.
Most experts and officials say that awareness and education are the first steps in the eventual control of cape ivy. The more people know about it, the more it can be dealt with on individual properties. Until an effective control strategy is developed, this problem will continue to spread with no signs of stopping.
Approval pending enactment of Senate bill, EIR evaluation
By Sondra Murphy
Traffic, growth control, affordable housing, water supply and sustainability.
Look through any OVN archive from its nearly 120-year history and one will find these issues passionately addressed.
The topics are revisited in each of the city of Ojai’s efforts to finalize a Housing Element Plan — a required plan to accommodate new housing to be certified by the state based on the Regional Housing Needs Assessment mandated by state housing law as part of the periodic process of updating local housing elements.
The RHNA quantifies the need for housing within each jurisdiction during specified planning periods. In May 2008, City Council members said they were not ready to adopt a plan to accommodate 427 new housing units required by the state. In December 2008, the council determined it could not support any of the three options presented to accommodate a state mandate that conflicts with the city’s growth management plan.
In March 2009, the council voted to submit to the state a new Housing Element plan that would eventually add 427 legal dwellings in Ojai, using as a cornerstone an amnesty program that would encourage owners of about 300 illegal dwellings to upgrade them to legal standards. A June 2010 deadline for compliance and the beginning of implementation of a housing plan is set by the state.
The state responded positively to the amnesty proposal and, in July, the council directed staff to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Report complete with community comments, of which 16 were received. But when city consultant Tom Figg, brought the update to the council earlier this month, the process backpedaled.
The objections had not changed. While the council supported affordable housing as a concept, it was still skeptical about Ojai’s ability to accommodate more than 400 units.
“The council’s heart is in the right place. We want to build affordable housing,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Carol Smith, who added that she had faith in the amnesty program. “I want to spend money on doing programs to build affordable housing … I don’t want to spend another dime of taxpayers’ money on items that are not housing our very poor residents.” Smith said the council should stop paying consultants and move forward with the Housing Element plan.
But Councilwomen Sue Horgan and Betsy Clapp were not sold. “I feel we are being dictated to by the state,” Clapp said.
“This still doesn’t make sense to me,” said Horgan. “We’ve got environmental concerns bumping up against this housing mandate … Developers don’t have the money to develop anything. We have all these competing interests.”
Horgan brought up Senate Bill 375 and MS-4 as examples of these conflicts.
SB 375 strives to control greenhouse gas emissions by curbing sprawl. It provides emissions-reducing goals for which regions can plan, integrates disjointed planning activities, and provides incentives for local governments and developers to follow new “conscientiously planned” growth patterns, such as placing housing developments near transit hubs and jobs.
MS-4 refers to storm water discharge requirements. The city of Ojai is co-permittee under the Ventura County Storm Control Board and bound by the “requirements to implement pollution reduction and control measures for surface water discharged attributable to new development through low impact development and best management practices.” In addition to incorporating MS-4 requirements into their environmental review processes, cities must include water quality management considerations and policies in their general plans whenever amendments may impact land use, housing conservation or open space elements.
Also of concern to many of the public speakers, as well as the council, were the water reports cited in the DEIR, which are dated anywhere between 1959 and 2005 and include data from the Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency, as well as Golden State Water Company and Casitas Municipal Water District. Jim Ruch, OBGMA board member, reminded the council that the agency is in the midst of a water study that could impact the Housing Element plan. “I strongly recommend you recognize that we do, indeed, have a resource restraint,” said Ruch.
“We have another water study under way that’s going to be very extensive and is going to be critical for us,” said Clapp. “I don’t feel the least bit uncomfortable waiting for that.”
Horgan agreed. “This is bad legislation that is being foisted upon us,” she said. “I’d like to look for some of the specific things we can do now, but I’m not able to support this Housing Element right now.” Discussion touched on the RHNA-mandated number of units Ojai would be required to create.
“You asked what is the magic number. The answer is, whatever you want it to be. One way you can do it is to rely on existing units. You can even require occupancy restrictions,” said Figg. “There are ways to get to the numbers you want, so if you want to do a senior project, you can. I just recommend that you decide on something, whatever it may be.”
“The history of the RHNA numbers is the county said, ‘If you do not accept these numbers, then we will impose higher numbers on you,’” said Smith.
Clapp read from Biggs’ memo, page 3-161, stating that, “the city could legitimately find that the significant and unavoidable environmental impacts that would result from adoption of the Housing Element as identified in the DEIR violated the Congestion Management Program of CEQ and are to great that they pose a significant health, safety and general welfare risk to the community that cannot be overcome.”
“Help me with that,” Clapp then said. “It sounds to me that we can legitimately lower our numbers.”
“This difference, of course, is while that is true in that context, there are other considerations involved,” said Julie Biggs, Housing Element legal counsel to the city. “The reason this exists is because of your own city standards. In other words, you’ve created your own health and safety issue. It’s a trade-off in all of these things.”
Biggs then pointed to the next paragraph that said the DEIR has found water availability is not a significant issue. Clapp argued that the DEIR does not say that at all.
“All of this is very speculative,” said Smith. “To end this, either we resubmit to HCD without changes and say, ‘What do you think of this’ or we self-certify. Does anyone see any other choices?”
“We were told this is an urgent matter. I’m not there,” Horgan said. “One thing I don’t know how to get around is traffic impact. If we add one traffic trip to Highway 33, we can’t do it.”
“The rules are changing all the time, even as we speak, because of the recession,” said Mayor Steve Olsen. “If we do nothing, it might change again. We may never be able to reconcile the environmental impacts and housing impacts. They don’t go together.”
After spending nearly two hours on the agenda item, no progress was made. “Tonight’s action is conceptual approval of the DEIR,” said Olsen. “I’m not hearing that.”
“You don’t have a consensus on the element itself that underlies it,” Biggs observed. “What you submitted to HCD, that is what the draft EIR is predicated on. So what you submitted you are saying you are not comfortable with.”
Council members further discussed if they could modify a plan for submission before Horgan moved to table the decision, “Until such time as the information from OBGMA and Golden State is available.” The motion passed 3-1, with Smith casting the dissenting vote.
Blatz, Klaif qualify for June special election as Corbin
falls one qualifying signature short on filing deadline
By Daryl Kelley
Two Ojai lawyers involved with community groups for years have applied to fill a seat on the City Council vacated in December when veteran Councilman Joe DeVito retired. Both are critical of current city leadership.
But a professional actor and teacher who also submitted nomination papers on Friday fell one signature short of the required 20 eligible voters, and did not qualify for the June 8 election.
A split City Council voted in January to fill the last few months of DeVito’s term through a special election, instead of appointing a temporary replacement to serve until the fall general election.
Now, two candidates have qualified for the June ballot: Leonard Klaif, 61, who specializes in criminal appeals, and Paul Blatz, 58, who is primarily a business lawyer.
But actor Demitri Corbin, 49, a city arts commissioner, was notified by City Clerk Carlon Strobel on Tuesday that only 19 of his signatures qualified.
“So I won’t be a candidate,” Corbin said. “I’m surprised and still a little bit shocked.”
Corbin said he submitted 26 or 27 signatures, but apparently some of those who signed in support of Corbin did not live inside city boundaries.
“But there’s still an election in November,” Corbin said, “and I’m going to run.”
In addition to DeVito’s seat, two other council positions will be on the November ballot.
Klaif and Blatz have run for City Council before, and Klaif narrowly missed being elected in 2006. It would have been Corbin’s first run for council.
Blatz, a 26-year resident of Ojai, has served on both the city’s Redevelopment Commission and the Planning Commission, of which he was chairman.
Klaif, who has lived in Ojai for 17 years, is a trustee of the Ojai Art Center, and was president of that board for five years.
Klaif and Blatz said they are running to preserve the small-town qualities that attracted them to Ojai in the first place. And in interviews, they both criticized current city leadership.
“I’ve been watching and attending City Council meetings for all of the 17 years I’ve been in Ojai,” said Klaif, who has been endorsed by former Mayor Suza Francina. “Ojai is incredible, unique. And I think I can help preserve that small-town charm. The quality of the arts is top-notch.”
And he added: “The biggest issue, because it really encompasses everything, is leadership.”
Blatz, a former professional sports agent, said his goal is also preserving the charms of this bucolic community.
“I grew up in a 1,500-person community in Connecticut,” Blatz said. “Ojai has all of the small-town qualities I was used to. But it seems like the city is lacking leadership. It seems tired. It’s an attitude. It seems like the people at City Hall, that we’re there for them rather than they’re there for us.”
The candidates have nearly three months to sway city voters. Neither anticipated spending a lot of money to make his case.
Klaif, who frequently speaks at City Council meetings, missed winning a council seat by 76 votes in 2006. And this time, he has campaigned aggressively, lobbying for an appointment to replace DeVito by placing an advertisement in the OVN while gaining the signatures of about 200 supporters.
Now, in kicking off his spring campaign, Klaif said Monday that he will bring to the council a zeal to get things done.
“How is it possible that we still do not have a permanent Skate Park?” he said. “Why is the public access cable channel without programming? Why do we not have a visible Visitor’s Center? Why is City Hall’s roof covered with a tarp? Why did the bicycle racks purchased by the city sit in storage for years? Why don’t we have a bike plan in place? A major part of the answer is lack of leadership, passion and commitment from the City Council.”
Klaif said that as president of the Ojai Art Center board, he led a renovation campaign and enlisted the city’s support in finally linking the center to Libbey Park with a foot bridge, an improvement planned since 1937.
Klaif stressed his history of taking staunch positions against projects that could erode Ojai’s small-town allure, “our villageness.”
He said he has attended an anti-chain store conference in Massachusetts, spoke against a permit for gravel trucks in Santa Maria, and argued against a cell phone company’s proposal to build 60-foot towers that would have marred views of Ojai Valley residents.
“I regularly attend City Council meetings, speaking clearly, emphatically, passionately, and occasionally caustically, in support of ‘small town’ in what is essentially a battle with ‘big money,’” Klaif said.
If elected, Klaif said he would also be a champion of the burgeoning “green” movement in the Ojai Valley. “The city should better utilize the expertise available from individuals and groups such as the Ojai Valley Green Coalition,” he said.
Klaif is also is a supporter of Theater 150 and the Ojai Film Society.
Blatz, who lost in council runs in 1996 and 2002, stressed his experience within government as an appointed city redevelopment commissioner for two years and planning commissioner for nine.
As a commissioner, “I learned what it takes to address and resolve important issues,” he said.
“I am acutely aware that what we cherish most about living in our beautiful valley could be easily lost without leadership on our City Council focused on protecting our village character and quality of life,” he wrote in his candidate statement.
“We must maintain the proper balance between our environmental and economic interests and appreciate and preserve our history in order to safeguard our future and achieve sustainability.”
Blatz said he is particularly bothered by the “eyesores” that dot Ojai’s main street —- two vacant gas stations and the old bowling alley.
“They’re right in the heart of our city,” he said. “Maybe the city code should be reworked” so officials can force improvements faster, he said.
Blatz said he would also like the council to focus on the escalating rates charged by Golden State Water Company to Ojai residents. “This is going to be a terrible burden on our citizens.”
Blatz cited his efforts with several local organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, Land Conservancy, Rotary Club, Pergola Committee and Performing Arts Theater Foundation.
“As a member of the Ojai community for 26 years,” Blatz said, “I’ve worked with these Ojai organizations to make Ojai the best possible community it can be.”
Reported crimes-per-1,000 residents up, but fourth-quarter arrests stop trend
By Sondra Murphy
The city of Ojai is known to be one of the safest communities in the county and 2009 data supports that claim.
Ojai Police Capt. Chris Dunn presented the 2009 crime and arrest statistics to the Ojai City Council Tuesday. The information contained in the report was compiled from Ventura County Sheriff’s crime analysis records, Ojai Police Department records and the California Highway Patrol traffic reporting systems.
Broken down into Part I Crimes and Part II Crimes, Dunn showed that little has changed in the city since the last report. He recommended viewing the figures critically because the numbers are so low that minor fluctuations can cause the percentages to jump drastically.
Part I crimes fall into two categories: crimes against persons — homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault —- and crimes against property — burglary, grand and petty theft, auto theft and arson.
In 2009, violent crimes against persons increased by two cases. This overall 13-percent increase consisted of an increase in rapes, from one to three, compared to 2008. As a stand-alone statistic, this means rapes increased by 200 percent.
Dunn said the number of robberies and aggravated assaults remained the same in 2009 and 2008, with three reported robberies and 11 reported aggravated assaults.
Reported property crimes also showed an increase. Residential burglaries increased by five, or 36 percent, over the previous year and petty thefts increased by 20 reports, or 23 percent. The number of felony thefts from automobiles decreased 71 percent, going from seven reports in 2008 to two reports in 2009.
“Since the early ‘90s, we’ve been on a downward trend,” said Dunn about total reported crimes. “All year long, I’ve been telling you about vehicle thefts. It went up 189 percent.” This figure came from a total of 78 reported thefts from vehicle in 2009 compared to 27 in 2008. “It took us until the last quarter to get enough evidence to make arrests and, since then, our numbers have been virtually nothing. So we hit the right crew.”
Part II crimes are made up of all other classifications and showed a 17-percent decrease in 2009. “The most significant decrease was in the area of vandalism and we attribute that to our aggressive gang efforts,” Dunn said. “Our gang unit is hyper-sensitive to the gang problem.” He said that even though the gang-related murder of 16-year-old Seth Scarminach last April took place outside of city limits, the resulting increase in gang unit officers seems to have impacted overall gang activity.
Stop the Trucks effort continues to eliminate most valley deliveries
By Sondra Murphy
It is a question that comes up randomly in conversation or whenever a 30-ton tractor-trailer grinds by. “What’s going on with the gravel truck efforts?”
Stop the Trucks Coalition was formed about three years ago when residents were disturbed by gravel truck traffic along Maricopa Highway and began complaining to each other. Looking into the matter, they discovered Ozena Valley Ranch Mine trucks were one of four companies contributing to the disturbance and found conditional use permits that restricted the hours for deliveries. Since then, the coalition maintains that there have been numerous violations by gravel trucks traveling along this Highway 33 corridor during forbidden hours.
According to Dan Klemann, manager of the commercial and industrial permit section of the Ventura County Planning Division, Ozena delivery trucks are limited to traveling through the Highway 33 restricted route between 6 to 7 a.m. and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. They are further limited to 50 round trips during any given 24-hour period and may not exceed 10,197 trips in any given year.
Stop the Trucks Coalition Chairman Michael Shapiro spoke to the Ojai City Council recently regarding its continuing work to reduce gravel truck travel through the Ojai Valley. Shapiro reported that the group had been meeting with representatives from Ozena Valley Ranch Mine.
“It seemed like we were in agreement to (eliminate all valley deliveries) except for two locations: Copus Concrete Ready Mix and Ojai Lumber,” Shapiro told the council. “We thought that sounded fair, but we wanted to know how many per week or month, and they said they would get back to us.”
That was November. Shapiro reports no further contact from mine representatives has been received despite coalition efforts to continue discussions. “So we began to challenge and had complaints investigated by the county,” said Shapiro. “We’ve tried our very best to settle this. The other side is just not ready, I guess.”
Shapiro later said besides Ojai Lumber and Copus Concrete Ready Mix, Ozena representatives requested they be allowed to deliver to Concrete Express on Ventura Avenue near Brooks Institute. “I immediately objected because I don’t consider that local. I indicated that I could not speak for the coalition, but was confident I could enter into negotiations on what constituted ‘local,’” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said he met with representatives of Ozena and Alliance Ready Mix, Inc., who has subsequently leased the Ozena mine site, on two more occasions, “to try and iron out small points. This led to a willingness to have a formal settlement agreement meeting.” This meeting included Alliance President Brandt Robertson, Ozena consultant John Hecht, Kate Neiswender, attorney for the Virgilio family trust that owns Ozena, and the Stop the Trucks attorney, Jan Chatten-Brown.
The coalition thought it was on the verge of a settlement. “Just as we had made a settlement with Troesh Materials and Diamond Rock Mine, we thought maybe the Virgilio family might have realized the cost of challenging the conditional use permit and environmental impact reports was not cost effective,” he said. “I pointed out to Mr. Hecht that instead of having the Virgilio family trust and Alliance paying lawyers and consultants to defend against our legitimate challenges of operations, that we were more than willing to sit down and negotiate a settlement agreement.”
The snag at that final meeting appears to be the Concrete Express deliveries. “We did not agree that the customer down on the Avenue constituted ‘local delivery’ and, until we could agree, we would be open for them to continue supplying delivery to Ojai,” Shapiro said. “We just wanted to know how many days a week or how many days a month the deliveries occurred … We felt those numbers were reasonable and put it out to them that there was a good possibility that a settlement was in reach. John Hecht assured us that they would get back to us right away. That was early November.”
According to Shapiro, attempts to follow up resulted in surprise by Hecht and Neiswender that the data had not been received. “It was obvious to us after waiting all those weeks that it was not happening,” he said. “This led the executive committee of Stop the Trucks to conclude that there is no desire for them to negotiate a settlement and we had no choice but to move forward with a very aggressive and timely challenge of all aspects of the Ozena-Alliance operations, including to challenge their EIRs when they are available for us to do so.” Shapiro said the coalition sees an “abundance of areas of deficiencies that will allow us to challenge every step of the way.”
Shapiro reiterated that the coalition is not anti-truck or anti-gravel. “The coalition understands that local businesses need to have a ready supply of gravel. We totally recognize the need for these materials —- for example, the No. 1 use for these aggregates is for the construction of new septic systems, and we certainly don’t want to interfere with that,” he said. “We would just like the other side to give us a good faith estimate on the number of trips they will make.”
The coalition works under an explicit ideology. “We believe that Highway 33 is completely unsafe and utterly unsuited for the kinds of widespread and large-scale industrial use such as is being proposed by both Diamond Rock and currently by Ozena for massive and heavy-duty trucks of this weight and speed, as well as the trip numbers,” said Shapiro. “Stop the Trucks is continuing to challenge the safety of Highway 33 for this kind of industrial use,” Shapiro said, “while at the same time always being open to resuming honest, ethical negotiations to work out a settlement agreement, if that’s possible.”
Shapiro praised Neiswen-der and Hecht for their willingness to meet with the coalition but is puzzled by the sudden halt in the process.
“We can never talk about negotiations,” said Neiswender when she was contacted for this report. “All I can say is the application is still with the county and they’re processing it. The county takes a long time to process these things, so we’re just waiting. There’s not much going on right now.”
Klemann said the application is still incomplete. “There have been some changes in the project description that had some consequences in the processing of the application,” said Klemann. “Late last summer, the applicants approached us and informed us they were taking out certain components. All they’re looking to do is expand their operations.” Dropped from Ozena’s application is an aquaculture plan, while they seek to expand mining operations to an area adjacent to that currently being mined.
Since the Stop The Trucks Coalition was initially organized, an executive committee representing some broad interest and leadership from throughout the Ojai Valley has led it. “Howard Smith was the first chairperson and I’m the second,” said Shapiro. “In the coming weeks and months, we’re planning on expanding the executive committee to encompass representatives from Meiners Oaks, Oak View, and Mira Monte.”
Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Press Release
Nature of Incident: Commercial Burglary, Vandalism and Petty Theft
Location: Nordhoff High School, Ojai
Dates: Between February 20, 2010 and February 21, 2010
Unit Responsible: Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Ojai Substation Detectives
Suspect City of Residence
Ian McMahon Meiners Oaks 18
Male Juvenile Oak View 16
Male Juvenile Ojai 16
Male Juvenile Ojai 16
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department’s Ojai Detectives concluded an investigation into a commercial burglary and vandalism that occurred at Nordhoff High School between the evening of February 20, 2010 and the morning of February 21, 2010. Deputies initially responded to the school reference a flag that had been stolen from a local Jewish camp and was found flying from the football stadium flagpole at Nordhoff High School. When Deputies arrived to investigate the stolen flag incident, they found that the suspects had forced entry into two snack bars in the area of the football stadium, the announcer’s box above the bleachers in the stadium, a metal storage container and the girl’s locker room. The deputies also found that the school’s pool and marching band equipment truck had been vandalized and a swastika had been painted on the asphalt of the southwest parking lot.
During the investigation four suspects were identified and property stolen during the incident was recovered. The suspects were ultimately arrested for 459P.C. – Commercial Burglary, 594(b)(1) P.C. – Vandalism over $400.00, and 484(a) P.C. – Petty Theft. Three of the four suspects were juveniles. Based on the investigation a hate crime could not be established.
Ramirez family again
By Sondra Murphy
The Oak View Community Center and attendees looked dashing Saturday during the annual Miss Oak View Pageant of Excellence.
Layla Ramirez is living proof that persistence pays off. A three-time pageant contestant, the very poised Ramirez took home the Miss Oak View 2010 crown.
Besides the excitement of the young ladies walking down the runway, the event served to debut the new chairs purchased due to January’s “Treasure for Chairs” benefit, collaborated on by Oak View Civic Council and Oak View Recreation Commission and supported by the many community groups who regularly use the center.
Following dinner prepared by the Ojai Valley Moose Lodge, the pageant began with a dance number to “All That Jazz” by all 15 contestants, plus last year’s winners, while Meagan Rose sang two songs to entertain between competition events, as well as “The Star-Spangled Banner” after Boy Scout Troop 503 presented the colors.
The music, sound and lighting provided by Roger Phelps Sound ‘n’ Eyes helped keep the event more festive than ever, especially as each contestant walked the runway to a tune she picked herself. Tonya King brought grace and experience to the night in her role as mistress of ceremonies over the course of the evening. Raised in Fillmore, King is a former contestant of many pageants and now directs or consults with state competitions, such as the Miss Montana USA Pageant.
Judges interviewed the contestants earlier in the day and the evening competitions included the Personality on Parade event, in which each girl dressed in a style to exemplify her goals or hobbies, and the Evening Gowns and Speeches competitions.
During the speech portion, contestants spoke of their experiences visiting various residential care facilities throughout the valley. Each told stories about the people they met and the impact they felt from the meetings. Contestants also performed to the song, “The World Is a Rainbow,” using American sign language as coordinated by Jan Key.
“The pageant gives you so much confidence,” said Ramirez afterward. “The directors encourage good morals. This is the best pageant.” Last year’s winner, Amanda Ramirez, had the honor of placing the tiara on her younger sister’s head during the coronation.
Ramirez was one of three contestants for Miss Oak View 2010, while the Miss Teen and Miss Pre-Teen categories had six contestants each.
The Miss Teen Oak View winner was Beth Angelini and first runner-up was Melani Woolwine. Carley Heath was named Miss Pre-Teen Oak View winner and first runner-up was Victoria Neumann. In addition to the sash and tiara, winners received Barnes & Noble gift cards.
The 2010 court consists of Miss Oak View, Cathia Flores and Caitlin McComas; Miss Teen Oak View, Jordan Alvarez, Kiley Brunner, Karrissa O’Hearn, and Lexi Hicks; and Miss Pre-Teen Oak View, Cheyanne Lake, Mariah Hanline, Megan McGraw, and Shyanne Ordoñez. Like Layla Ramirez, many contestants enjoy the Miss Oak View Pageant enough to repeat the experience and several have indicated they plan to be involved again next year. All contestants are assimilated into community service as the Civic Council pageant “court ladies” and will help with events throughout the coming year, including the upcoming Easter egg hunt, Memorial Day parade and the awards dinner and mayoral selection in June.
“It was wonderful,” said pageant executive director Kim Armstrong. “These kids were incredible.”
All three 2009 winners, Nikki Neumann, Chyanna Trush and Amanda Ramirez, expressed appreciation for their year of reign, the latter bidding a tearful farewell to pageant competition as she moves on to continue her college career.
Port Hueneme naval escorts Anthony Morales, EO2, Matt Gallagher, BO2, Jacob Higgens, EO3, and Dustin Nicholas, EOCM, accompanied contestants to the runway. This year’s judges were Cheryl Hamilton, Jimmy Harvey, Scott Miller, Jeannie Nelson and Margaret Tonius.
The Oak View Civic Council is a traditional supporter of the pageant, as well as other service events throughout the year. The council is still working to raise enough money to supply a total of 300 new chairs for the Community Center. The council’s next big event is the Easter egg hunt at the Oak View Park and Resource Center on April 3. Meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Oak View Community Center, 18 Valley Road. For more information, go to oakviewca.org.
Nonagenarian ‘kills’ at Woman’s Club show
By Logan Hall
Ojai has long been known for being a town of artists and creative minds of many types. Last weekend seemed to prove that, indeed, Ojai has talent. Hosted by the Ojai Valley Woman’s Club, with more than 20 acts scheduled ranging from a LED-light hula-hoop routine to live folk music, the show had something for everyone.
Of many highlights, one in particular seemed to get the crowd going: 94-year-old Irene Janousek, The Gables of Ojai resident and longtime comedian, carefully made her way to the microphone. With a little help from a walker and her daughter-in-law, she squared up to the crowd and began to deliver a series of jokes. Some of which weren’t entirely G-rated. “How do you make holy water?” asked Janousek into the mike, followed by a brief pause. “You boil the hell out of it.”
Born in Grafton, N.D., in 1916, Janousek moved to California in 1962 where she owned a beauty shop for more than 11 years in Glendale. “I told jokes to my customers,” she said on developing her act, “… and at our parties and family get-togethers.”
Janousek, who has seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, moved to Ojai six years ago and now lives at The Gables where she performs regularly for the other residents. “She’s hilarious,” said Gables marketing director Christine Fenn. “Her jokes are amazing.” Everyone seems to get along with Janousek. She is quick witted and definitely seems willing to chat with her fans. “She’s so easy-going and a pleasure to be with,” added Fenn. “The other residents love her.”
Also performing later in the show was a trio of young gentlemen who paid homage to the forefathers of rock ‘n’ roll by firing off a few classics such as Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” Dressed up in black shirts and leather, they quickly had the crowd cheering for an encore.
Soon after, St. Thomas Aquinas College freshmen Liam Collins on the fiddle, and Daniel Bagdazian on acoustic guitar, proceeded to wow the audience with a few Irish jigs and folk instrumentals. The two seemed to have a chemistry that worked well, and everyone was tapping their feet and clapping in rhythm.
All in all, it would seem as though ticket holders got their money’s worth. With proceeds from ticket sales being given by the Woman’s Club to scholarships and various charities, the event has been a way to get the community together to share their talents and give something back. “This is really something special for Ojai,” commented Woman’s Club President Irene Petroff.
Does Ojai have talent? Come out to next year’s “Ojai Has Talent” show to find out.
By Nancy Gross
“This is very nice, very special,” said Ojai Studio Artist Ruth Farnham early Thursday evening, and indeed, the third Annual Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala allowed chamber members to unwind, have fun and socialize in elegant comfort at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa.
And to wear some fancy clothes. Chamber president Bob Kemper of Troop Real Estate said, “I don’t think I can recall seeing so many well-dressed people in Ojai, especially at the same time.”
Yet, coupled with the pleasures of talking and mingling, the gala is a significant opportunity for businesses to be invigorated by the work ethic, innovations and successes of one another. Monthly chamber mixers fulfill these aims also.
Kemper said, “The six businesses that will be recognized represent only a small segment of the excellent businesses in the Ojai Valley. This is an important event for all, a congratulatory event.”
The gala was also a time to reflect on the year. Roberta Raye of Made in Ojai said “I just keep thinking of where I was last year compared to this year. Right after this event we formed the co-op, and the chamber has been so supportive.”
The chamber’s chief executive officer Scott Eicher offered a statistic that testifies to the tenacity and forward thinking of Ojai business owners. After last year’s gala, the chamber held a series of workshops to help businesses cope creatively while facing a nationwide economic recovery. Eicher said that according to Bruce Stenslie, of the Economic Development Collaborative of Ventura County, the rest of the county had similar programs going, but Ojai’s were the best attended.
Additionally, it was mentioned that chamber services provide for many needs of nonmember businesses by default. “We are the voice of business in the Ojai Valley.”
During the cocktail hour some guests shared their thoughts about how they are managing while the economy moves sluggishly toward health. Interior designer Philip Brocious of Kava said, “I’ve been doing a lot of redesign which involves rearranging and fine tuning, suggesting paint colors. I charge per room and it is a lot about making suggestions.” He said it allows people to make small changes to their surroundings, and make purchases over time. “It shifts the energy completely and it spreads throughout the house.”
Amy Segovia, front office manager at The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa said the inn benefited from Valentine’s Day being on a long President’s Day weekend, and that spring break is about to start, and, due to different school schedules, it will cover many weeks.
Segovia added, “Guests enjoy going into town. We compliment the city and the city compliments us.”
After chatting, drinks, appetizers and photographs, Steve Vera’s large group of employees and family from Smart Technology Enablers, who offer managed services for computer networks, posed for a shot by one of the inn’s fireplaces, the guests moved over to the awards ceremony.
Before the awards were given to six businesses who had won through a balloting process, Eicher recognized his executive assistant Shannon Allen, who has gone above and beyond in her 10 years with the chamber, “improving the weekly e-blast and website, helping both the Lions and Woman’s Clubs meet their financial goals, changing the business and shopping map from a two-color map to a four-color map,” and creating an interactive online map that a visitor on the way to Ojai can access to navigate into and around town. Allen was awarded a spa day at Spa Ojai.
Roger Phelps handled the video and audio, as each of the three nominees in each category had been taped in their businesses by Olga and Aaron Singer, often speaking about the honor of being chosen, the privilege of working in Ojai and the benefits of working with the chamber.
The first category, Small Business of the Year, recognized a for-profit, locally owned business with no more than 10 employees, with an innovative approach to customer service. Emily Sandefur of Heritage Financial presented, and Feast Bistro took the prize.
Susan Coulter, chef and co-owner of Feast Bistro with Beryl Schwartz, accepted the award and said, “We’re all in this together. We rely on each other. We need each other. It’s important to be a part of the community. The chamber is the way to go” She especially thanked the merchants in the Arcade, and said, “I hope we’re around for a long time after this.”
The next honor was presented by Eicher, and Ojai Valley Directory’s Ren Adam, for the best Environmentally Conscious Business, and E.J. Harrison and Sons was chosen. Myron Harrison, the owner, who said he began driving a trash truck in 1965, accepted and also said, “I’d like to thank the chamber and the city of Ojai for all their efforts. “This is a family business. We love this valley,” Harrison said.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit award, presented by Kathy Hartley of the Ojai Theatre and the Lavender Inn, and Olga Singer of Graphics Unlimited, went to Lara Moga of Casa Bella residential care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Her moving acceptance speech brought silence to everyone else in the room. She began, “I’m the luckiest person in the world because I get to take care of people.”
She thanked her father for his “grace and courage under unbelievable circumstances,” and told him repeatedly that she loved him, and that he had given her a great life. She also said, “Nobody gets anywhere alone. My husband Dorulet is my rock. As an engineer, he built Casa Bella for me.” She added some special phrases to Dorulet in Romanian, and lastly acknowledged her father one more time for being someone who “showed me you could do anything in life. He always asked, ‘why not?’”
The Tourism Development Award was given by Janis Clapoff, managing director for the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, and Dave Brubaker, president and CEO of Ojai Community Bank. Ojai Studio Artists won in this category.
OSA president Linda Taylor accepted the honor and said “I’m very excited. We’ve had our open studio tour for 27 years. The chamber helps us so much. They sell our tickets. I want to thank Scott in particular. He is such a great support and always gives us so many great suggestions.”
The Heart of Ojai award was then given to a nonprofit chamber member offering enhanced quality of life for those living in the Ojai Valley. The Ojai Valley Youth Foundation took the honor, and Dan Burrell, interim executive director and Meg Wall, program manager accepted.
Burrell said, “I so wish that Cindy Jones was here,” and he commended her for her outstanding fundraising ability, saying that at a recent luncheon she was able to “raise 45,000 in one hour and 15 minutes, from this community, in this economy.”
Burrell also said that Wall “began with the Youth Foundation when she was 12 years old, and is now our amazing program director,” and Wall expressed thanks for the way the valley supports its teens.
The final award was the Cornerstone Award, given to a chamber member with more than 10 employees, making an investment to grow business in the valley. Dawn Shook, executive officer of the Ojai Board of Realtors, and Martha Dowden, branch manager for Los Padres Bank, presented the award to Rains Department Store.
Alan Rains was videotaped saying the store began in 1914. He kept his comments brief, expressing appreciation and thanks. “We’re not new to the block. We are a specialty department store. We are honored and humbled. Being a chamber member for more years than I remember is an asset to us.”
Throughout the evening, chamber members returned to the topic of tourism, and enthusiasm was expressed for the work of the chamber in securing $160,000 from the city of Ojai to begin a public relations and marketing campaign for Ojai as a tourist destination. Ruth Ballin’s PR firm has been chosen for this enterprise. Ballin currently oversees the Ojai Playwright’s Conference.
Eighty-five percent of budget goes to employee wages and benefits
By Daryl Kelley
For a decade, some Ojai teachers have received pink slips in mid-March, notifying them that their services might not be needed in the fall because of declining enrollment. Usually, most of those notices were rescinded.
But this time, the Ojai Unified School District may have no way to keep dozens of threatened teachers in their classrooms, because state and federal cuts, and fewer students, have left it with a nearly $3-million deficit next fall, a huge drop from this year’s budget of nearly $25 million.
Distraught district trustees voted Tuesday evening to notify 51 part- and full-time educators, including several managers, that they may have no jobs after June. Pink slips went out on Wednesday and Thursday.
That’s fewer than the 76 termination notices sent last year, when few teachers were actually laid off. But this year, officials said, there is little wiggle room in the state budget, and no new federal stimulus money such as the $1.3 million that rolled in this year.
The district could balance its budget by laying off 27 full-time educators, including three managers, but 51 were notified to give the district more flexibility in where and how it makes cuts. State law prevents a teacher from being dismissed unless notice is given by March 15.
This year’s “pink slip list” is especially grim, superintendent Hank Bangser told trustees. And it could reach “a significant distance down the seniority list” of teachers in the district.
Because 85 percent of the district’s budget goes to employee wages and benefits, that’s where trustees must look to cut, Bangser said.
Trustees will also consider soon proportionate reductions in the size of the district’s non-teaching staff, such as aides, secretaries, custodians and bus drivers. Fifteen full-time non-teaching positions need to be eliminated to balance the budget.
“Nobody is feeling there is going to be any relief,” Bangser said. “This is the end” of dodging the budget bullet, he said.
“This is a structural deficit, which means it doesn’t go away.”
That means that Ojai’s public schools will have fewer teachers, fewer class options and more students per class, officials said. There might also be fewer days of school. But just ow that shakes down is still up in the air.
Trustees must make those difficult choices during the next three months, giving final notice to teachers by mid-May and approving a budget by June 30.
“We’re really at this sort of precipice that we’ve never been at before,” Trustee Pauline Mercado said.
Even programs that are popular with parents and teachers are on the chopping block this time.
Size reduction of primary grade classes — kindergarten through third — are at risk. Those reductions to the current 20 students per class could be replaced with classes of 30, saving the district $400,000 as about 10 jobs are eliminated, Bangser told trustees.
“This is not a recommendation,” he said, “but it might be a place we have to go.”
Other options include a compromise, keeping primary classes at about 25 students, which would still save more than $200,000 annually.
John LeSuer, principal at Topa Topa Elementary, asked the board to do everything it can to keep class sizes down.
“At Topa Topa, our low economic sub-groups have doubled,” he said. “It’s really important that we try to keep these class sizes down.”
Advanced placement classes at Nordhoff High School are also in jeopardy, principal Dan Musick told the board. He has already decided to cut Spanish 5 and AP World History from the curriculum next fall, because the budget simply cannot support them any more, Musick said.
“This is the first year that we’ve said we are not going to have these classes next year,” he said. “We’re still going to have Spanish 4, a college-level class. And we still have three AP offerings in history — U.S., European and government.”
A shortened school year is also a distinct possibility.
Last year, teaching days were cut by five to 175. And the president of the Ojai Federation of Teachers, Martha Ditchfield, said that might be an option teachers prefer instead of layoffs. The district saves $100,000 for each of these so-called furlough days.
The teachers’ union distributed a survey this week, asking instructors to list their preferred cuts. The survey should be back by Monday, Ditchfield said.
“We’re asking: ‘What’s most important for you to keep?’” she said. “’What are you willing to give up?’”
If the district follows its 51 educator notices by laying off the equivalent of 27 full-time teachers and managers, and then another 15 non-teaching staffers, that would cut $2.8 million from the 2010-2011 budget, district analysts said.
It would also cut 41 people from the district’s full-time work force of 281: That’s nearly 15 percent of workers.
Under the new budget plan, the district would also reduce its emergency reserves from $742,000 to $217,000, just 1 percent of the total budget. State law requires a 3 percent reserve, but a waiver can be granted in dire economic times such as these.
Board President Kathi Smith asked Bangser to do all he can to survey parents as well as teachers.
And trustees agreed that the district should place a survey form on each school’s web site to gather parents opinions.
She mentioned that district voters had defeated an $89 per parcel tax that could have helped balance this year’s budget by yielding $600,000. Sixty-five percent of voters approved the tax, but it failed by 77 votes.
“Our taxpayers are asking us to diminish the education in this district,” Smith said. “It’s going to get worse.”
Other trustees also expressed dismay.
“I don’t understand the world, almost,” Trustee Rikki Horne said. “Yet, with all that, we’ll continue to educate our kids.”
Linda Taylor, a board member and former teacher, said she can hardly sleep with the responsibility: “All the gains of the last 15 years are really being wiped out, just flushed down the toilet.”
Trustee Steve Fields noted that the district has been shrinking for a decade as Ojai has grown older more rapidly than the rest of the county or state. The 3,000-student district is down about 50 more students this year, but seems to be stabilizing.
“We’ve been cutting, cutting and cutting,” Fields said. “In spite of that we’ve been able to keep what makes the district great.
“But it’s a slow bleed,” he added. “And it’s wrenching.”
California native recalls discrimination, jail time in Virginia
By Nancy Gross
Things were different in 1960, especially in the South, where the movement toward civil rights was slow and discrimination was overt. Courageous people had to take a stand — or a sit — for fairness.
As part of Black History Month in February, Ojai resident, Gloria Claudette Grinnell returned to Richmond, Va., to mark the 50th anniversary of the downtown sit-ins in which she participated as a Virginia Union University student.
Grinnell had grown up in San Francisco and San Diego. Discrimination in her youth in California, she said, was covert. “The South was different, quite different.” Richmond had been the capital of the Confederacy, and Grinnell, though she had experienced racial slurs and stereotypes, was not used to the way the community’s black people were repeatedly spoken down to. She didn’t fully understand their difficulty speaking up.
The college, however, was an all-black school, and Grinnell said it was the first place she learned any black history. Her teachers and classmates called her “California.”
Martin Luther King Jr. had spoken to humanities classes at VUU. His message of nonviolent resistance rang in the years of two VUU ministry students, Charles M. Sherrod, now a college professor in Albany, Ga., and the late Frank G. Pinkston. They recruited students in the cafeteria to take some action.
For three days, hundreds of dressed-up VUU students went into downtown Richmond and sat down at department store lunch counters where only whites were served. In stores like Thalhimers, Woolworth’s and Grant’s, Grinnell said “You also couldn’t use the facilities. You couldn’t try on clothes.”
The students were denied service, but refused to leave.
The first attempts only caused the lunch counters to close for the day. The arrest on the third day was what the organizers were looking for, to call attention to the inequality in such a way that Jim Crow laws would come under legal scrutiny.
It was the holiday for George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, 1960, and 34 students, who came to be called the Richmond 34, were arrested at the Thalhimers lunch counter.
Grinnell said, after hours in jail, “The vice president of religion put his house up to bail us out.”
The students inspired others to picket, boycott and protest; within a year the stores opened their lunch counters to everyone. Three years later NAACP lawyers won a suit in the Supreme Court, and the arrests of the Richmond 34 were called unconstitutional.
These were important birth pains leading to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Lake Casitas site of nesting pair
By Logan Hall
The Ojai Valley is home to many wild animals. It’s not uncommon to see a deer in a back yard or a coyote running down the street. Lately, one thing seems to have the wildlife community buzzing. The American bald eagle has recently been sighted hunting fish and small birds out at Lake Casitas.
Known for its trademark white head and yellow beak, the bald eagle is found in most of North America, but mainly resides in Alaska and the west coast of Canada. The bald eagle was once abundant in Central California, having a large population on the northern Channel Islands. Due to hunting and pesticide chemicals such as DDT, breeding eagles had disappeared from the islands by the mid-1950s. In 2002 Channel Islands National Park began reintroducing tagged bald eagles back to Santa Cruz Island, which have been spotted at the lake several times. The particular eagles that have recently taken up roost at Casitas, are not tagged. “The fact that they have no tags is exciting,” said Kim Stroud, director of the Ojai Raptor Center. “These are wild birds.”
The birds have mostly been sighted by boat on the northern part of the lake, but a few people have been lucky enough to see them from shore. Raptor Center volunteer and avid bird watcher, Becky Donahue, was walking along the east shore when she spotted an incoming eagle. “This bird just came out of nowhere,” she said. “It was so beautiful.”
Aside from a few fishermen and bird watchers, most people are unaware that America’s national bird is right in their own town. “I’ve never seen them out here,” said Lake Casitas park officer James Martinez. “I’ll be looking for them now though.”
So far, it appears that there is one adult male (white head and tail) and possibly a female and two juveniles. With a large food source available and very few predators to threaten them, the local eagles may have found a seasonal, if not permanent, home at Lake Casitas.
The American bald eagle, although no longer on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s endangered species list, is still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Anyone encountering the birds is urged to observe them from a distance, being careful not to disturb them.
For more imformation on the Ojai Raptor Center. visit ojairaptorcenter.org.
Navy pilot, Colorado transplant steps in as former director is remembered
By Nancy Gross
Bill Murphy has been appointed to fill the Division 7 seat on Ojai Valley Sanitary District’s governing board of directors. Division 7 covers the eastern portion of the city of Ojai, encompassing the Oak Glen-Gridley Road area, Golden West tract, Topa Topa School area, North Fulton and North Drown neighborhoods.
Murphy, his wife, Diane, and their daughter, Rae, moved into that area in June of 2009, after spending seven months renting in Mira Monte. Before that they lived in Colorado Springs.
“I want to try to make an impact on the community, to be a good steward,” Murphy said. “I have not served on this type of board. I have been on the alumni board for my college, Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky.” He has also sat on boards in the military. “I served 24 years as a Navy pilot.”
Murphy likes that he can walk to his work as program manager for the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. “I volunteered for about six months before they hired me on.
“I like what they do. Nothing is the same day after day.”
Murphy is filling the seat vacated when Bill Lotts died on Jan. 2.
Lotts lived in Ojai beginning in 1948. He sat on the OVSD board for 21 years. Also a military man, he was at Point Mugu for 38 years, working in the weapons center.
Lotts’ friend Bruce Dunwoody said that Lotts’ last assignment at Point Mugu was being a target director. “I think he was flying drones.
“When he retired in 1985 he started an electrical contracting business,” Dunwoody said.
Dr. Fred Fauvre, who became Lotts primary care physician for 20 years said Lotts had been his electrician since he moved to the valley in 1975. “He occasionally made emergency visits when the electric stove or oven were on fire and took care of all of our electrical needs. Old houses have electrical needs.”
Like Murphy, Lotts was community service-minded. He was a charter member of Rotary Club of Ojai-West. Fauvre said he remembers serving with Lotts on Rotary projects, “including the Matilija portfolio project, interviewing Matilija Junior High students and giving them an exposure to a job interview and adults.”
Dunwoody said Lotts “was a pretty salty character. He had a moment of fame in 1992 when he went before City Council and demanded that they preserve the old jail building in Libbey Park, saying it was a historical building.”
Both Fauvre and Dunwoody shared the story of how Lotts had apparently spent one night in that jail. “He and a policeman were competing for the favors of a lady,” said Dunwoody. “Somehow he got locked in the jail, at least overnight, relating to that,” Fauvre said.
Lotts was also a substantial property owner in the valley, and raised five sons with his wife, Peggy. After Peggy’s death he married Gwen.
Two of Lotts’ children have relocated to Bakersfield and Reno, and of his sons who remain local, Fauvre said, “They are now populating and serving the valley in an honorable way — actually two of them are electricians.”