By Bill Buchanan
I was talking to Tom Farmer the other day, and the subject of golf came up. He asked me if I played. I said I used to, and played a lot at one time, but had not played in several years. After I had back surgery, I decided to quit. If I ever re-injure my back, it will be doing something I enjoy more than golf.
I used to love golf. However, I do not possess the right temperament for the game. Any time you throw the club farther than you hit the ball, you might need to take up something else. Or as Tom said, “Your problem is that you are standing too close to the ball after you hit it.” Exactly.
Another frustrating thing about golf is that unlike other sports, you are usually not rewarded much for a good shot. For instance, in tennis, if you hit a good serve, you might ace the other guy and win the point immediately. But in golf, unless you hole out, you have to hit another shot.
Case in point — years ago when I was playing regularly I was having one of those rare days where I was just crushing the ball on my drive — and it was staying in the fairway. We came to a par five, a little over 500 yards. I hit a very nice, straight drive, and decided to go for the green on my next shot. Any attempt to go for the green in two shots had to carry the creek, which ran about 15 yards in front of the hole. The idea being that you had to hit a good second shot, you could not just run the ball up to the green.
I caught all of a three wood, and wound up just over the green in two — two of the best back-to-back shots I had ever hit. I had avoided the sand trap (which was good, as I was famous for pulling an “Adolph Hitler” when in a sand trap — also known as “two shots and still in the bunker”). I was chipping for an eagle three. I was thrilled.
Now the game of golf senses when you are thrilled. It only allows you to experience temporary excitement so it can devastate you that much more when it takes it away. Sure enough, on my next shot, I looked up too soon, and moved the ball about 18 inches. There is a common term for this in golf, but it cannot be published in a family newspaper.
I tried to gather myself, but I was angry — not a good emotion to carry around with you if you want to play your best golf. I hit my next shot far beyond the hole, and proceeded to three-putt. So I went from chipping for an eagle three to knocking it in disgustedly for a double-bogey seven. Perhaps that is why one avid golfer was quoted as saying, “There is nothing I love as much as I hate golf.” Amen to that.
Now there has been a debate for many years as to who is the greatest golfer of all time. Many people feel that the title belongs to Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer or Gary Player. Others hearken back to an earlier age, and make the case for Sam Snead, Ben Hogan or Bobby Jones. The more contemporary theory is that Tiger Woods is the Babe Ruth of golf, and that he will one day be, if he is not already, the greatest to ever play the game.
I am afraid they all labor under a misconception. I humbly submit that the greatest golfer who ever lived was my cousin, Howard — as long as he was allowed to keep his own scorecard.
It’s not that Howard wasn’t a good golfer. He was. Howard was strong, could hit the ball a mile. And he had an above-average short game that allowed him to play well. However, Howard had an ego the size of Texas, and he just couldn’t stand for his score to be spoiled by one or two bad holes. I’m not saying he cheated, but let’s say he just didn’t let the scorecard stand in the way of having a good round.
Many days Howard would be playing well, but would run into a patch where his swing would fail him. When we were kids, his son and I would often play along with Howard, and it might go something like this:
Howard tees up his ball, a Black Titleist No. 4. He hits his drive into the woods, looks around for his ball. He “finds” his ball which has miraculously moved to a different area than it seems it had originally landed. No longer stymied by the trees, he takes a mighty cut at the ball, but nothing happens — “That was just a practice swing,” he mutters. He winds up again and he shoots for the green — but goes over. He then chips onto the green, and now stands over his putt as he says, “Well, gotta’ sink this for my par.” Howard sinks the putt, and I retrieve his Red Slazenger Three from the cup, and toss it to him. No sense in arguing that this is not the ball Howard hit off the tee, as I would only have to walk home.
None of those guys would have stood a chance against Howard.
By Bill Buchanan
I need to lose weight. I don’t mean drop a couple of pounds. I mean lose some weight!
Now while every grocery store tabloid is full of articles with titles like “I lost 20 pounds in two weeks on the Elvis UFO Diet!” many of us have a tough time dropping weight. I have to be careful with any column concerning weight and diet. Years ago, I wrote a column after returning from a beach vacation in which I strongly suggested that some people should not be allowed to wear skimpy bathing suits in public. Now I was not talking about people who were a little chubby. I was talking about someone with a can-be-seen-from-space-with-the-naked-eye-Great-Wall-of-China-sized-behind wearing a thong about the size of dental floss.
The day after it ran, a very irate young woman came into my office and wore me out about the column, explaining how she had battled her weight all her life and it was a struggle and I should be more sensitive and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah. Well, I still feel that if a Greenpeace boat pulls over to shore, and tries to coax you back into the water because they have mistaken you for a beached whale, perhaps a thong bikini might not be the right fashion choice.
Of course, like many other Americans, I wouldn’t mind losing weight so much if only it didn’t involve exercise and cutting down what I eat. Each year millions of diet books and exercise videos are sold with the hope that there is something out there that will allow us to eat whatever we want or exercise for 10 minutes every two weeks and be trim and fit. When you think about it, man has been on the planet for thousands of years. If there were a way you could eat chocolate and drink wine all day to stay in shape, someone would have discovered it by now.
I really thought the absence of my wife, Ava’s gourmet cooking, would give me an opportunity to drop some poundage. However, the restaurants in Ojai are so good, it is a major struggle. I guess now that my apartment is set up I should probably cook more. Eating my own lousy cooking should do it —- or maybe kill me in the process.
Whenever I think of diets, I think of my Aunt Viola, who Ava once said, “had a bust like the prow of a ship.” She was a large woman, always trying to lose weight. Rather than try traditional methods, she always resorted to some kind of “voodoo” diet.
Years ago, my mother, Ava, and another aunt and I ran into Aunt Viola at the Western Sizzlin’ after church. She was alone, and we invited her to sit with us. Ava said, “Aunt Viola, aren’t you going to go through the line?” Aunt Viola replied, “Oh no, hon.” (Note: “Hon” is short for honey.) Spoken in Aunt Viola’s beautiful Southern accent, it stretched out for about 15 seconds, into “huuuuuuuuuuuuuuun.” When that word left her mouth and reached the air, it became one of the sweetest and most comforting sounds imaginable.
“Oh no, huuuuuuuuuuun. I’m on a diet. I’m just going to get me a baked potato from the potato bar,” was her reply.
The four of us went through the regular line and got our food. At one point, Mother looked up and said, “Oh Lord, look at that.” Aunt Viola had emerged from the potato bar carrying something that had to be 3 feet tall. Upon inspection, a potato groaned under the weight of what looked like 14 pounds of cheese, butter and sour cream. Yet she transported it so skillfully that she made to the table without even one calorie sliding off.
As she sat down to join us, she sighed and said, “Yeah, I’m just having me a baked potato, ‘cause I’m on a diet, huuuuuuuun.”
Aunt Viola was one of the most dynamic women I have ever known. She was an amazing combination of sweetness, strength, vulnerability, beauty and compassion.
She pretty much dedicated her life to the service of others — certainly from a cooking standpoint. Aunt Viola had three huge freezers in her house — each of which would hold the equivalent of four dead adult bodies. She cooked and baked and baked and cooked —- then froze. Aunt Viola lived to carry food to those who were in the nursing home or were shut-ins.
Her real specialty was funerals. She once made the statement (without an ounce of vanity) that in the event of an unexpected death, “I can feed 50 on three hours’ notice.” No one who knew her doubted that for a minute.
While Aunt Viola was a large woman, she carried her weight with uncommon grace and agility. And she was the Muhammad Ali of the kitchen —- hands moving almost too fast to follow as she floated around the kitchen filling plates, making notes of who brought what casserole, and cleaning/returning plates to their owners almost before they had a chance to get their coats off.
Once at Christmas, the subject of holiday “depression” came up at a family get-together. Ava asked my aunt, “Aunt Viola do you ever get depressed around Christmas?” Aunt Viola replied, “Oh no, huuuuuuuuuuuuuuun. Whenever I start feeling a little down, I just bake a cake or pie and take it to somebody in the nursing home, and that makes me feel a whole lot better.”
If we had more Aunt Violas, we might have a lot fewer psychiatrists. But I still need to lose some weight.
By Bill Buchanan
I am not a huge soccer fan. What little I know about the game comes from a friend of mine who gets up early on weekends to follow club soccer and absolutely lives for the World Cup. David’s love for the game probably came from watching and coaching his four kids when they played.
Now while I am not a fanatic (or even very knowledgeable), I do enjoy the World Cup. It is kind of like the Olympics only with a singular sport. And people not only take it seriously, it is life and death for many — some almost literally. A friend of mine who is originally from Colombia recently told me her dad had a heart attack while watching his beloved native team in the World Cup several years ago. Fortunately, he was watching with his two sons and they called an ambulance to take him to the hospital, where he was treated and later released. She didn’t say whether her brothers went with her dad to the hospital, or stayed behind to watch the game. I suspect the latter.
Three things stand out to me about soccer — flopping, magic spray, and the penalty or free kick.
Flopping occurs every time an opposing player even looks at a guy cross-eyed. Players seem to hit the ground on any type of contact. Now while some of the contact is rough and physical, other contact is less than you would receive bumping into someone at the grocery store. No matter, whenever an opponent gets close to another player, that guy goes down faster than Lee Harvey Oswald. I guess the idea is to draw a penalty, but it seems like the referees would get pretty tired of it.
Now compare that to American football, where linebackers hit running backs like a June bug hits a windshield. It seems no matter how vicious the hit, the ball carriers often manage to stay on their feet and run or at least dive for more yardage. When they do get popped and go down, they jump up and return to the huddle. It amazes me how hard some of these football hits are. And the guys pop right up. I know some of it is toughness (or craziness, perhaps), but some of it has to do with ego. The ball carrier just doesn’t want to let the defensive guy know that he hurt him. He jumps up like, “Hey, is that all you’ve got?”
The exception to this rule was the great Jim Brown. When Brown played for Cleveland, I was a Packer fan, but I loved watching him run the ball. No one ran like Jim Brown. When they finally did manage to tackle him, Brown would lay on the ground for a long time, and slowly get up and trudge back to the huddle. He was moving so slowly you didn’t think they were going to get the next play off in time. But when they handed him the ball he came alive. He would run over the first guy, put a move on the next guy, then sprint by other defenders and leave them there modeling their shoes while he raced for a touchdown. It was beautiful.
Now, back to soccer — when a guy goes down, and really appears to be injured, they often trot out the magic spray. The magic spray has not been used as frequently in the World Cup as it seems to be in club soccer. For the uninitiated, what I call “magic spray” is something mysterious the trainers bring out when a player is injured. I don’t know what is in that bottle, but it seems no matter how severe the injury, no matter how close to death the player seems to be, when the trainer pulls out that aerosol can and hits the injured guy with the magic spray, he seems to be reborn. He springs to his feet, ready to run at full speed and battle on until the end of the match.
The penalty kick seems to have similar recuperative powers. I have seen players hit the deck and roll around like they were thrown from a motorcycle — but when the referee calls for a penalty kick, they jump up like nothing happened. They get up, kick the shot and most times score the goal. Then, the guy who was just writhing on the ground is suddenly running around doing back flips and somersaults like something out of a Cirque Du Soleil show.
Now it occurs to me that with medical costs spiraling out of control, we should take a serious look at incorporating both the magic spray and penalty kicks into our health care system. Instead of costly hospital stays, let’s just hit the sick with a dose or two of magic spray, and let them go on their way. For more serious injuries, or for those recovering from surgery, offer them the option of a penalty kick.
Now you ask, what or even who do they get to kick? My suggestion would be a BP executive. I’m not talking about a rank-and-file worker, or some guy who works at a BP station or convenience store. I’m talking about taking a high-ranking BP executive and just kicking him around like a rented mule. Wouldn’t that make anyone feel a lot better? Imagine the health care savings.
Since this column deals with sports, I have to include a great sports-related story I heard the other day from Hank Bangser, Ojai Unified School District superintendent. Hank was in the office last week to film the weekly OVN “In-Depth Interview,” and he and I visited afterward. During our conversation, we talked about playing sports back in high school. It turns out that Hank was a three-sport man in high school — football, baseball and basketball — with basketball being his least accomplished sport. As Hank tells it: “I was 6 feet 3 inches, 225 pounds and the coach pretty much told me that my jobs were to set picks (i.e., physically abuse the other team), rebound, and get their best big man into foul trouble. In a word, I was expendable.”
Hank grew up around New York City, and one day his team was picked to scrimmage the undefeated national juggernaut, Power Memorial High School, whose center was a guy named Lew Alcindor. Many might know him better by the name he went by later on — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Hank got in the game in the third quarter, and had the “privilege” of guarding Mr. Alcindor. Hank was determined not to be intimidated, and to hold him to as few points as possible.
Hank told me that he held Alcindor/Abdul-Jabbar to only 20 points. I was impressed, until Hank added slyly, “but that was in only four minutes.” When you do the math, that would be 160 points in a full game.
Hank did say that he was able to dominate Alcindor/
Abdul-Jabbar in one statistic, “TIAHBs.” When I asked what that meant, he said it was “throw-ins after his baskets.” Ha. What a great story.
The column was on sports, but I didn’t get around to college football, and being a major Alabama fan, I will eventually devote a column (or more) to my love for college football — and especially my Crimson Tide. But that is for another day.
By Bill Buchanan
“This is my last next-to-last move. My next move will be to either the nursing home or the funeral home.”
The idiot who uttered that statement was me — in 1992, when my wife and I moved from my hometown of Fort Payne, Ala., to Tuscaloosa, Ala. At the time I said that, I had moved 15 times in 16 years. Some of those moves were across town, and some were across country. Some were made when I was single and one or two carloads would get everything, while others involved professional movers and commercial 18-wheelers. But, at any rate, I was determined to settle into one house and stay put. Period.
That pledge lasted only a few years. So much for putting my foot down. Or I guess you could say that I did put my foot down, it just didn’t stay there long.
Now I am moving to Ojai to run the Ojai Valley News and the Ojai Valley Visitors Guide. While being a veteran of many moves, it is kind of like golf — if you haven’t played in awhile, you get rusty and out of rhythm.
I have had several partners who have “coached” me through this move. I would like to say thanks to:
• Geoff Wells — for providing me a very nice room on very short notice.
• Barry Snyder —for finding me an apartment more quickly than I ever thought possible.
• Jodie, Michelle, Lenny, and Ross here at the newspaper for helping me with my apartment — everything from locating it, to hooking up cable and electricity, to sending me a video of it to view.
• Vic Adam — for locating furnishings for my apartment despite being in the middle of phone book deliveries of the new Ojai Valley Directory. You are my decorating warrior.
• Ren Adam — for staying out of Vic’s way.
• Bill Moses — for lending me a couch.
• Bob Kemper — for lending me a lamp.
As in Olympic diving, all moves have their own degree of difficulty. But the one outstanding thing about my move to Ojai is — I don’t have to move any cats.
Ava and I have always had dogs. I love dogs — all breeds, sizes and personalities. But at one time, along with our dogs, we had cats — lots of them. We inherited the cats years ago, when Ava found the abandoned mother and six nursing babies and took them in. The cats were malnourished and weak. Ava said she was going to let them get a little stronger and find a good home for all of them. And true to her word, she did. Ours.
I know of no one who loves living things as much as my wife, who is sometimes referred to as “St. Francis of Nebraska.” It pains Ava to kill ants. She will catch spiders, bees and other bugs, and put them outside. Ava even refuses to kill snakes (we will save those stories for another day).
So Ava made it her mission to nurse the cats back to health. One kitten was just too small and weak to make it. He died within a few days and was buried in a Velveeta cheese box. But the rest of the cats flourished, growing sleek and strong. One of the cats, a male, repaid our kindness by running off a couple of months later. But the mother and the lone surviving male, as well as the two surviving females, lived with us for many years.
The mother and the male were great cats. They were very mellow and affectionate. The two females could best be described as miniature versions of the monsters in the “Alien” movie series. They were wild and absolutely crazy. They would not come to anyone and refused to be petted. Even if you came up to them casually and in the most non-threatening manner imaginable, they would fix you with a wild saucer-eyed stare, then immediately bolt away.
This did not cause too many problems until it was time to move.
These two cats were always the last things to go. The house would be completely cleared out. Ava would lure the cats into the house with food, shut them off into a confined area, and then attempt to get them into their kennels.
This became known as “The Great Cat Rodeo.”
Ava would place the cat carriers nearby, put on a pair of heavy work gloves, wrap towels around her arms, take a deep breath and proceed to round up the two females. The process would begin with Ava sweetly cooing something like, “Here kitty, kitty — it’s OK, it’s OK …” but would soon evolve into total chaos, with the cats tearing around the room and yowling followed by Ava giving chase and cursing. It was something of a cross between “The Roadrunner and Wily E. Coyote” cartoons and a remake of “The Exorcist.”
On our most recent move, we were down to just one cat. Naturally, it was one of the crazy ones. We tried everything to catch her. Finally, we bought a raccoon trap — a big wire cage with a spring trap door in which to capture the cat. The cat was old, but was still sure-footed and crafty. We hid around the corner of the house to observe the cat. We watched as the cat cautiously entered the cage, ate the food used as the bait, then stepped nimbly over the trip wire, and dashed away. This soon became a daily ritual, and I think, somewhat of a game to the cat.
We were in agony. We were running out of time and patience. Finally, Ava was forced to put the food in the bait dish, and hide behind the corner of the house with a water bottle. When the cat entered the cage, Ava fired a strike with the water bottle, hitting the cage hard enough to trigger the trip wire and capture the cat.
All that makes this move look like a piece of cake. And thanks to those mentioned above, it was.
P.S.: Thanks to the Ojai Independence Day Committee; the fireworks display was outstanding. You made my Fourth.
By Bill Buchanan
My first visit to the Ojai Valley was almost exactly 10 years ago. My wife and I came into town in June of 2000 to look at the area while we considered the purchase of the Ojai Valley News and Visitors Guide from Ren and Victoria Adam. My immediate reaction was, “Wow — this is the nicest small town I have ever seen.”
And I have seen plenty of small towns. My wife and I are both from small towns. The newspaper company I used to work for at one time owned and managed 50 newspapers in 20 states. I worked at eight of those newspapers, and I eventually visited all but two of the markets in which we did business. So I know something about small towns and small-town life. In all that time I have seen nothing that compares to Ojai.
Ava and I immediately took a liking to Ojai, Vic and their dog, Maggie. The jury is still out on Ren. OK, I guess we liked him, too.
After we bought the newspaper, Ren and Vic took us under their wing and introduced us to a several local people. We met great people like Bill Monot, Lori Wyatt, Anne Williamson, Bill Moses, Patsy Turner, Bruce Holley, Bob Kemper and sweet Betty Crosby.
I learned that “Southern hospitality” was alive and well in Ojai. People were friendly and welcoming from the start. In fact, the people of the Ojai Valley are friendlier and more open to “outsiders” joining the community than any place I have ever lived. I guess people here realize what a good deal it is to live in a cosmopolitan town, yet not have to suffer the crime, traffic and general grief of a large city. They share a “Can you believe we are actually living here?” mentality, and can certainly understand why someone would visit, fall in love with the place, and then want to move here.
We immediately felt at home here, and have been back several times to visit. But now, I am not just visiting. I have become the editor and publisher of the Ojai Valley News and Visitors Guide, and will be here on a daily basis.
I am energized at the prospect. I look forward to meeting the people of the community and enjoying the many amenities that Ojai offers. I was able to get a little bit of a head start on that the other night. Kathy Eicher, who works here at the newspaper, left me a note about the chamber mixer last Thursday night. Her husband, Scott, who is the chamber’s chief executive officer, was nice enough to come by and personally invite me. I was about to call Ren to see if he was going when I heard a booming, “Where is he?” from outside my office door. Ren had come by to take me to the mixer and once again came through admirably introducing me to as many people as he could. Vic couldn’t come along as she was home packing for a class reunion trip, where I am sure she wowed them.
Among those I met (please forgive me for leaving some of you out) were Shareen Torres, who did a lovely job of hosting the event at 52 Weeks of Peace, Pete Kaiser, Gayle Bertsch, Geoff Wells, Joan Roberts, Rikki Horne, Andi Bloom and Kathy Hartley.
I also ran into a couple of people I already knew, Sheila Cluff and Bob Kemper. They both looked great. Of course, Sheila always looks great. I have known Bob for 10 years and have never seen him looking fitter. I need to drop some weight, so I asked Bob about his regimen. Unfortunately, it apparently includes watching what you eat and lots of exercise. Like the rest of America, I was hoping for the easy way out.
So I got acquainted with a lot of people in a short amount of time. The quickest way for me to get acquainted with the readers of the newspaper is to abuse you with my newspaper column, which I plan to write weekly.
Writing a newspaper column is somewhat akin to raising a child. When it is good, you are proud of it. When it is bad, you are mortified. And since you are raising this “child” in front of thousands of readers, you want it to behave in a way that reflects positively upon you. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. So please bear with me.
I look forward to getting to know each other.
Photo and report by Logan Hall
Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies on the ground and in the air responded to a call of an armed robbery at Baskin Robins ice cream store in Mira Monte Thursday at around 10:30 a.m. An undisclosed amount of cash was taken after the suspect reportedly handed the clerk a note. Arrested at 3:15 p.m. on Fairview Road by Sheriff’s Department Gang Unit officers was 30-year-old parolee Tomas Sambolin, of Oak View. Above, Ojai Chief of Police Chris Dunn gathers information while Sgt. Steve Capuano cordons off the store’s entrance with yellow caution tape. After being questioned at the Ojai Police Station, Sambolin was booked at the Ventura County Main jail on suspicion of robbery and kidnapping.
Editor’s Note: Many of the comments posted on this blog allege that Tomas David. Sambolin is an illegal alien. The suspect is a convicted felon and a parolee. It is safe to assume that as an illegal alien, he would not have been granted parole after his convictions in 1998 for vandalism and grand theft by embezzlement, for which he was sentenced to a year in County Jail, and his 1999 conviction for carjacking. These off-topic comments are irrelevant to the arrest made and charges to be filed in this case.
Revised agreement reduced to 25 years
By Mary Long
Tuesday night the Ojai City Council unanimously approved the finalized lease with the Ojai Festivals with the enthusiastic support of both council and festival members. Jeff Haydon, executive director of Ojai Festivals, said, “The Festivals are pleased to be working with the city on building this historic project and codifying a relationship that has been in existence for more than 50 years.”
“I appreciate your great work and your commitment to the project,” said Councilwoman Sue Horgan. According to Paul Blatz, the newest member of the council, the lease made “all the sense in the world” and after many hours of the committee working out the details with council and the festivals, he said, “What we negotiated and what we told staff we wanted is exactly what the Ojai Festivals agreed on.”
City attorney Monte Widders walked the council and audience through the basic tenants of the lease and explained why there had been so much misunderstanding of its provisions. “It’s not your traditional commercial lease … they will pay their rent, virtually most of the cost of the building, up front — $1 million paid when we execute the lease, we already have $500,000 in our account, the other $500,000 will be paid to the city within three days of executing the lease … an additional $1.7 million by the Festivals to the city over the next five years, primarily coming from community pledges. So close to $3 million is being paid by the Festivals and their other fund-raising partners, the Ojai Service Foundation and the Ojai Civic Association, to the city, virtually up front and not over time. That’s the reason … the monthly rent is a nominal figure … we needed the money to rebuild the bowl, we couldn’t wait.”
The terms of the lease have been revised from the original and will be for 25 years instead of the 99 years first released; 14 days will be allocated for the Music Festival with 11 days to be designated by the Ojai Festivals for other performances of a similar quality. The lease has been adjusted to make a provision for an additional 25-year lease possible, linked directly to the amount of pledge money the Ojai Festivals has raised. This creative financing then builds into the lease an extra incentive for them and their fund-raising partners to continue their efforts to secure gifts and pledges. The city of Ojai will continue to maintain Libbey Bow, but Ojai Festivals will be required to carry their own liability insurance and fire and casualty insurance which will cover 90 percent of the value of the bowl.
The cash deposit agreement between the city and Ojai Festivals was also mutually agreed upon. As pledges are collected, the money will be turned over to the city in monthly intervals. That money can only be used for the construction of Libbey Bowl or to repay the city for the advancement of construction funds. According to Councilwoman Carol Smith, “We have poured $35K to $40K a year scotch-taping it together.” She said, “This new bowl will be for everyone,” and restated her support for the lease agreement which includes the provision that the local groups which have legacy events in Libbey Bowl will have their dates protected.
With money collected by Ojai Festivals outpacing expectations, the council was able to approve the construction of the dressing rooms, currently with the construction of the shell and stage, which will be an additional saving. Money has already been secured for the seating areas, which will not be constructed, until sometime next spring. At the time of this initial construction, compacting and excavating of the base will be done for the entire building plan as the compacting will be good for years. By preparing the site all at once, more money is saved and the base will be ready for construction of the rest of the alternates as soon as funding permits.
When contacted for comment after the meeting Haydon expressed his excitement with the entire project and said that the bowl could be used under Ojai Festivals for performances other than classical music as long as they were quality events. He said that in the history of Libbey Bowl they have hosted Shakespeare productions in the late ‘40s and produced jazz at Ojai Festivals between 1961 to 1983, which featured such notables as Roger Kellaway, the Dirty Dozen Super Band, Benny Carter, Phil Woods, and Bobby Sheu. “The initial premise of the (Ojai) Festivals was to produce multiple festivals,” said Haydon.
Architect for the rebuilding project, David Bury, was contacted for comment after the meeting and wanted to correct the council’s supposition that the “reasonable life span” of the bowl was only 50 years. “This bowl is built out of concrete and steel to last,” he said, stating that a more reasonable life expectancy for the new bowl would be 100 years. “Donors need to know that this bowl is built for the ages.”
Other topics of action for the Tuesday City Council meetings were the approval for the application of Sharrows on Grand Avenue, which had been recommended by the Planning Commission last week. They also provided for the restriping of center and fog lines on Grand to be done at the same time.
Reports came in from Ojai Trolley driver Jay Simons on ideas to increase trolley ridership with a goal of doubling their revenues.
The 2009 Preservation Award was presented by Blatz to Lou Torres, who accepted the award on behalf of the Rotary Club of Ojai-West, for their creation of the 2007 Rotary Community Park at the entryway to Ojai. The city of Ojai Historic Preservation Commission had nominated them for the Historic Preservation Award which was ratified on July 13.
City Council then retired to closed executive session.
By Mary M. Long
Ojai city manager Jere Kersnar was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday night by the Ojai City Council for undisclosed reasons.
Retiring to an executive closed session, council members deliberated for nearly an hour over the fate of this highly paid city employee. Pursuant to Government Code Section 54957(b), the public employee discipline-dismissal-release code, Kersnar was officially relieved of his position immediately following the meeting. Council vote on this action was unanimous with all council members present. The city will be seeking an interim city manager until the position can be filled permanently. Asked to comment on this action, Mayor Steve Olsen replied that he was unable to do so. The official announcement was released at 10:55 p.m. Tuesday.
Kersnar was hired in October 2005, coming to Ojai from Lodi, where he served as deputy interim manager. He replaced Dan Singer, whose contract was not renewed.
Council members had not expected to make a statement Tuesday night, but were advised by the two attorneys who were present, city attorney Monte Widders and his associate Steven Lee, that since the council had taken a vote, they had a legal obligation to make an official announcement. The first vote was to put Kersnar on paid administrative leave and the second vote was to hire an interim city manager.
According to Steven McClary, assistant to the city manager, he received a phone call from Olsen Wednesday morning, confirming his position as de facto interim city manager until Monday. McClary automatically fills the seat whenever the city manager is indisposed or unable to hold office until the council can make further decisions. McClary accepted the position of assistant to Kersnar in March 2009, relocating from the city manager’s office in Fillmore where he held the position of administrative services manager.
Wednesday afternoon Olsen confirmed that former Ventura city manager, John Baker, will be taking the position of interim city manager of Ojai. Baker has served in this position in previous instances at the request of the city of Ojai.
Kersnar held the position of city manager of Ojai since Nov. 14, 2005 after the City Council, consisting of Rae Hanstad, David Bury, Sue Horgan, Joe DeVito and Carol Smith, voted to not renew Dan Singer’s contract in May of 2005. After months of research and interviews, Kersnar was appointed to the city manager position with a starting salary of $145,000, a $17,000 increase from his predecessor’s salary.
Kersnar was chosen from a pool of 67 potential candidates for the job who were selected by the independent executive research firm Bob Murray & Associates of which seven were invited for interviews with the Ojai City Council.
Reasons given at the time for their selection of Kersnar were that “he has a very strong city management background, including financial management and city planning,” according to then-Mayor Hanstad.
Kersnar, who said he was excited about accepting the position, cited similarities between his home town of Carmel and Ojai as both being tourist destinations. His ability to handle the fine balance between meeting the needs of local residents and enhancing the city as a tourist attraction were cited as reasons for his appointment.
Reached for comment on Wednesday, Hanstad said that in 2005 when Kersnar was being considered for the position she and Councilwoman Sue Horgan traveled to Carmel where Kersnar had held the position of city manager and interviewed the mayor of Carmel and council members who gave Kersnar an excellent recommendation. “I felt excellent about his appointment at the time,” said Hanstad, claiming that Kersnar had taken the position in Ojai at a “critical time” when Ojai was in a financial crisis and had been unanimously approved by the City Council.
Kersnar was reached for comment Wednesday, to which his reply was an official “no comment” response. Kersnar’s current salary from the city of Ojai is listed as $159,000 plus benefits.
Report and photo by Scott Wintermute
Tragedy struck, as it has so many times, on Arnaz Grade when a flat black BMW F-Series motorcycle collided with a Chevrolet Equinox minivan head-on Monday afternoon, killing an Ojai resident identified as Jerry Myers, 50. The driver and lone occupant of the minivan, Blanca Rosa Garcia Ortiz, 48, also of Ojai, escaped serious injury as an array of air bags deployed in the family vehicle.
The accident occurred shortly after 3 p.m., about a quarter-mile past where the grade begins to angle up toward Oak View before Creek Road. Traffic was interrupted until about 4:30 p.m.
One motorist, who was behind the minivan and declined to be identified, had this to say: “She (Ortiz) was completely legal. All of a sudden I just saw brake lights and an explosion, he (Myers) must have been trying to pass or something.”
Early speculation has revolved around a bee sting, 10 minutes before the accident. People close to Myers said that he was rushing to the hospital in fear of his life as his body succumbed to anaphylaxis. When asked about the presence of a bee sting on Myers, Ventura County Medical Examiner Investigator Michael Tellez stated, “We believe that it happened, his friend said he pulled out the stinger,” but “there was no evidence that the airway was compromised to indicate he was in anaphylactic shock.” The official cause of death listed in the incident is multiple blunt force injuries caused by an accident. Myers was wearing a helmet and other protective equipment.
By Logan Hall
The veritable war that law enforcement has waged on marijuana growers seems to be never-ending, and the mountains above Ojai have often been the battlegrounds. Until recently, however, most of the marijuana eradications in the area have not involved the arrests of the individuals connected with the growing operations. In the last year, Ventura County Sheriff’s narcotics officers have put an emphasis on catching the growers themselves, along with the eradication of the marijuana plants.
On July 21, the narcotics officers seized more than 23,400 marijuana plants and arrested 11 suspects believed to be involved with the large-scale growing operation that included several marijuana growing sites along Highway 33 to the north of the Ojai Valley. Two of the suspects were arrested at the grow sites while the others were found nearby. Authorities were able to link all 11 suspects to the plants that were seized.
In past years, although seizing thousands of plants, authorities have had difficulty in making arrests of the people involved in the gardens. Now, after adapting their tactics to counter those of the growers, the department has successfully made 34 arrests since 2009.
The next step for authorities is to go after those who are running the growing operation. “We always like to get to the top of the food chain,” said Narcotics Bureau Sgt. Mike Horne. “The people that we arrested are pretty low on the seniority list. They’re mostly farm worker types, but we are looking for a connection to the top.”
One of the main concerns of officials is the seizure of weapons when the arrests were made. Marijuana growers are often armed in order to protect their crops from potential invaders. The danger lies when unsuspecting citizens stumble into a grow area and accidentally confront the armed growers.
According to Horne, two of the suspects on July 21 were armed, one with a .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun, and the other with a .22 caliber long rifle. “We often find weapons or evidence of weapons at the grow sites or when we make the arrests,” said Horne. “Last year we got a guy that had an AK-47.”
Since the time of the arrests, there have been no further developments in the prosecution of the suspects. “Right now we’re putting the reports together,” said Horne. “We haven’t found anymore grows in that area that we can tie to the same guys.”
The Narcotics Bureau spends a lot of time and effort in trying to put an end to the pot-growing activity in Ojai’s mountains. The eradication process alone takes considerable manpower and the investigations can last months. The department works closely with other agencies to help curtail the multi-million-dollar growing operations. “We use the U.S. Forest Service law enforcement division for surveillance and eradication,” said Horne. “and we also utilize the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (C.A.M.P.) in our eradications. The Forest Service is a big help and C.A.M.P. can cut more weed than anyone I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Although much progress has been made in the ongoing battle, authorities seem to constantly be playing cat and mouse with the growers. “We have some historical grow sites that we check every year,” said Horne. “After we eradicate the grow, they’ll go back and use the site again. We have to stay on top of them.”
Horne and his team are hoping to eradicate more pot-growing sites and make more arrests before the season is over. Last year, the Narcotics Bureau seized 11,100 plants with an estimated street value of $16 million in a similar bust of two large marijuana cultivation sites in Matilija Canyon. That helped make 2009 a record year for marijuana eradication with about 110,000 plants seized along with 23 arrests made. With the marijuana growing season still in full swing and more than 70,000 plants seized so far, Horne is hoping to have another record year of weed eradication and arrests.
By Logan Hall
The Ojai Valley has been the subject of many publications over the years. Whether through the use of colorful pictures, or stories about life in the community, there always seems to be something about the valley that was meant to be seen and heard.
Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History Series has brought a new book to the shelves of Ojai that takes a look into the history of the valley through postcards that have been submitted to the authors and the Ojai Valley Museum. The book boasts 200 black-and-white postcards of various locations around the valley that are complete with detailed captions describing the pictures — from Creek Road, long before it was paved, to Matilija Reservoir when it was a popular destination for recreation. “It was a lot of fun to make the book,” said Craig Walker, co-author of “Ojai.” “They’re all vintage postcards. It was great meeting the people that donated them. There are some great stories out there.”
Walker and one of his co-authors, Richard Hoye, who sadly passed away before the book was printed, would study a postcard, conduct research and compile it all to create an informative caption to go along with each picture. “We would talk about it together and one of us might have a lead,” said Walker. “With some of the cards, we would go and talk to people to get information. David Mason helped out a lot to help ensure our accuracy, but Richard was the principal researcher. I really learned a lot working with him.”
Tom Moore, another co-author of the book, said it was hard work and took a lot of careful planning, but was well worth the effort. “I did a lot of scanning and some Photoshop work,” said Moore, who had worked on the Ojai book from a few years back and has done two similar books for Carpinteria. “We had a great time with the people though, and I love the old photographs and working with the museum. It was great getting the community involved.”
“I grew up in Ojai,” added Walker, who was a teacher at Matilija and Nordhoff for 35 years altogether, “and with all of our local knowledge, the three of us made a really good team.”
“Ojai” can be found on shelves in bookstores and gift shops in the Ojai Valley or can be found online at arcadiapublishing.com.
Injuries avoided in Wednesday mishap
By Logan Hall
A loud crack, followed by shaking ground and the sound of shattering glass would send anyone running for safety. As he was jumping out of the way of a collapsing roof, and dodging broken glass and debris, Aaron Singer thought he was caught in the middle of an earthquake. After clearing the crumbling walls behind him and checking on his brother, he quickly realized that the chaos was due to a giant valley oak tree that had uprooted and crashed down onto his bedroom.
“The tree shook the whole house,” said the 15-year-old Nordhoff High School student who was enjoying summer break by playing his ukulele on his couch. “I jumped up and ran into the living room and the roof was collapsing. It scared the crap out of me.”
According to certified arborist Mark Crane, the tree had been fermenting, meaning it was rotting internally. “These valley oaks are more prone to this kind of thing,” said Crane, who owns and operates Mark Crane’s Tree and Arborist Services. “This time of year, they are very active and are pulling a lot of water from the ground the roots to the canopy. The wood gets too heavy and the tree comes down. We call it summer branch drop.”
The tree itself actually sat on the adjacent property, but had fallen toward the Singer residence on Park Road. Giant limbs and branches littered the rooftop and back yard, and a large portion of the house itself was pulverized. “I got the call and had to leave work to get over here,” said homeowner and former Ojai city manager, Dan Singer. “The tree took out about a third of the house.”
Singer’s wife Olga was outside walking to their next-door neighbor’s house when she heard the crashing that had sent her sons scattering out of harm’s way. “It happened in a matter of seconds,” she said. “I heard a crack and saw this huge tree fall on the house. I ran inside to check on my kids and got them out of the house. I’m just thankful that no one got hurt.”
Crane says that the Singers’ ordeal is not an isolated incident, but their’s was more brutal than most. “That’s about as bad as it gets,” said Crane, who had pulled his crew off a job in Santa Paula to respond to the Singers’ emergency. “There was pretty severe damage to the home and we filled up a 40-yard roll-off bin with wood. One of the large leader stems of the tree weighed 15,000 pounds. We had to block off most of the street to get the crane in there.”
Although it’s a bad situation for the family, the Singers believe they are lucky and are thankful that they all made it out unscathed, and say that the estimated $100,000 in damages will be covered by their insurance.
While not uncommon, the trees that fall and create havoc could, oftentimes, be prevented with proper upkeep. “With proper pruning and care we can prevent these beautiful trees from dying and save people’s property,” said Crane. “If you see any wounds or cavities in the tree, it should be inspected by an ISA-certified arborist. We don’t want people to overreact and start cutting down a bunch of trees, but they should be aware and respond to problems if they need to.”
For more information about consulting a certified arborist, contact Mark Crane’s Tree and Arborist Services at 646-9484 or visit markcranestree.com.
‘Sharrows’ approved for Grand Avenue
By Mary M. Long
Ojai’s Planning Commis-sion took steps Wednesday evening to enhance Ojai’s attractiveness as a people-friendly, pedestrian-friendly, historic city. Sharrows, a coined term which combines the words “share” and “arrow” were approved for Grand Avenue. A sharrow is an international biking sign which, when painted on streets, works to remind the driver that the roadway is to be used equitably by both cars and cyclists. The commission’s decision was based on what they felt was the most practical and economic solution to the ongoing bicycle safety problems on Grand Avenue.
One sharrow will be painted just past each intersection and on intervals of at least 250 feet from Signal Street on the west to Orange Road on the east, a total of 60 sharrows plus five “Share the Road” signs. The commission hopes that the county may pick up the thread and continue the sharrows farther east on Grand.
Suza Francina, former mayor and chair of the Ojai Valley Green Coalition Transportation Commit-tee, was reached for comment after the meeting and expressed her approval at the commission’s actions. “I’ve been working on this for 15 years and I’m happy to see that this will finally become a reality,” she said. This implementation of sharrows follows the lead of many other cities, such as Long Beach and Santa Cruz, but is just part of the long-term vision to make Ojai’s streets equally safe for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. More than 10 years ago the City Council had created an Ojai Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, but had not made much progress until a few months ago when the commission appointed a Complete Streets Committee, consisting of Planning Commissioners Susan Weaver, Paul Crabtree and John Mirk. Weaver stressed that they as a committee were seeking “pragmatic solutions” to city issues with the cash they have in hand.
More study was recommended as the commission reviewed the application of the Anthony and Suzanne Bohnett family on their proposed four-lot subdivision, from the two existing lots 708 and 712 Drown Street. Council was reserved about the prospects of the proposed development, citing as many as 13 similar lots in Ojai. “How many other lots are there like this and what kind of precedent are we setting,” said Weaver, who expressed discomfort with the proposal. If passed,we could be looking at this another 13 times,” said Commissioner Kathy Nolan. Mirk and Weaver did comment that the project might be more suitable under the “planned unit development” strategy which would create additional units as condominium-type developments without having to subdivide existing lots.
Ojai Presbyterian Church representatives were at the meeting to exhibit their plans for a proposed remodeling and enlargement of the Foothill sanctuary. Neva Williams explained the remodel plans while the need and immediacy to enlarge their facility to accommodate their growing congregation was expressed by Dr. Jim Halverson. While the commission was complimentary on the church’s growing membership, they felt that the historic architecture of the church needed to be carefully protected. Crabtree recommended that they “bring in someone who is a specialist in church architecture,” to study their remodel design. Architect for the past Presbyterian Church remodel, Marc Whitman, was mentioned, and complimented on the current design, which commission hopes can be preserved with the proposed expansion.
Closing the meeting, newly sworn-in City Councilman Paul Blatz, liaison to the meeting, took the lectern to compliment the committee on their approval of the sharrows for Grand Avenue. He said he was looking forward to working with them to implement a “blighted building” ordinance for Ojai and to pursue the construction of a permanent bus shelter at the “Y” intersection.
The sharrow approval will come before the City Council on July 27, and will be open for public comment at that time.
Nordhoff 2000 graduate donates healthy
organ to fellow Fresno firefighter
By Misty Volaski
There’s an old saying about firefighters: they don’t preach the brotherhood of man. They live it.
That’s something Josh Henderson takes to heart. A 2000 Nordhoff High School graduate, Hender-son has been an engineer with the Fresno Fire Department for more than six years, and knows a thing or two about taking care of his fire “family.”
Earlier this year, Hender-son’s fellow firefighter, Gary Schafer, went in for a checkup and was found to have only 13 percent of normal kidney function. Dialysis or a transplant seemed inevitable. So when Henderson heard the Fire Department was seeking volunteers to test for a possible match, he didn’t hesitate to sign up.
“It was a pretty easy decision for me,” he said nonchalantly. “Others got tested too. I was just the better match.”
“It came down to Josh and one other guy, depending on their physicals, but Josh ended up being the guy,” said Schafer. “I just felt very relived that it was going to work out. I was really close to dialysis.”
Fresno Fire Capt. Miles David Talmage said he wasn’t surprised when he heard Henderson was going to go through with the procedure.
“When he first told me he was going do it, I said, ‘That’s awesome! So are you nervous?’ He just said, ‘No, I have two kidneys. I only need one. And Gary needs one.’ And that was it. No second thoughts. It is an amazing act of generosity, but I have known Josh long enough to know that this wasn’t out of character for him. That’s just the way he is. These are the model firemen, what we all strive to be.”
When Henderson told his family about his decision, his mom, Pam, “… kind of fell apart,” she said. “I said, ‘Oh my God, but we almost lost you two years ago (in a dirt biking accident)!’”
“My mom was kind of worried at first,” Henderson said. “But once I explained the procedure and they got more educated about it, they became a lot more comfortable with it. They were really supportive through the whole thing.”
After several months of testing showed the two to be a perfect match, Schafer and Henderson went to San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center on June 9 for the transplant procedure.
“That’s all they do, is transplants,” said Pam. “The doctors were amazing, the nurses were so helpful. It was an emotional roller coaster, but a great experience. Josh gave Gary his life back.”
“Now Josh is an extension of our family, and our family is an extension of his,” said Schafer. “I’ve got a whole new family — I’ve got a little brother!”
Just after the surgery, Schafer’s kidney function more than doubled, and he is “feeling great,” said Henderson. “We both are!”
Henderson downplayed the healing process. “I’ve had back surgery, knee surgery, lots of surgeries before. This was a pretty straightforward deal. Just some abdominal pain and a few weeks of not lifting anything. My girlfriend, Misti Sanders, is a police officer, so she understands the ‘brotherhood,’ and made it really easy on me. She was like my own private nurse.”
Both Henderson and Schafer were out of the hospital in a matter of days, and both are scheduled to return to work before the fall — Henderson in August, Schafer in September.
Said Schafer: “Ojai should be proud of Josh Henderson.”
Blatz assumes seat vacated by DeVito after winning special
election, but will face opponent and others in November
By Mary Long
Cheers and applause greeted the swearing in of Paul Blatz, Ojai’s newest City Council member. Finally filling the seat vacated by the departure of Joe DeVito, Blatz lost no time in removing his jacket and settling into his position. “He’s rolling up his sleeves,” joked Councilwoman Sue Horgan, to the amusement of fellow councilmen and members of the audience. With Blatz beating out Leonard Klaif in the June 8 special election with a vote of 1,019 to 710, the long process of certification of the vote was over and Blatz was ready to get down to business. After a noisy moment of congratulations the council reconvened with only Councilwoman Carol Smith absent from her seat.
Klaif congratulated Blatz on taking office, and joked that there was a certain irony in being sworn in the day after they both pulled papers to run in the November City Council election. He ribbed Dennis Leary about his “awful poetry,” but observed that Leary raises some very important questions about the lack of affordable housing in Ojai. Klaif also pointed out that in his opinion the council has exhibited a double standard in how they have treated the Libbey Bowl project as opposed to their treatment of the Skate Park or Mallory Way issues.
E.J. Harrison & Sons was approved for their proposed rate increase of their waste collection services which they provide for the city of Ojai. This will be a 1 percent increase for residential accounts, and a 2 percent increase for commercial accounts. For the average homeowner this will mean an increase of about 30 cents per month. For a 3-yard trash bin it would be an increase of between $2 and $3 per month. Horgan thanked them for their services and commented on their generosity to organizations in the community.
Public comment then opened for the closed session topics. Horgan informed those in attendance that there had been some confusion over versions of the proposed lease for the Libbey Bowl to the Ojai Festivals. “The lease that was in our packet on the 22nd of June was the correct version,” said Horgan, who stated that the provision requiring the city to bear the cost of relocating the festival if the bowl rebuild wasn’t completed in time for the 2011 Music Festival had been removed.
Kathy Richards, a resident of Ojai, spoke about her concerns with the lease. Her first caution was the wisdom of “diving into a 99-year lease,” when the city has no experience with this type of situation. She pointed out that the Ojai Festivals are only bound to the lease for 10 years at which point they may terminate it “without cause.” She also noted that the lease had required the festivals to have construction money in place, which has not happened and felt that the lease “was too favorable for them under those circumstances.” She also questioned the wisdom of giving the Ojai Festivals the right to sublet Libbey Bowl and recommended that the city retain a lot more control, including keeping some rights for the city to retain a percentage of profits. During these events the city is still liable to provide security in the park, even though Ojai Festivals are required to provide security within the bowl area during concerts. Since half the annual city budget is for police, she was concerned that the city was taking on too much of the cost for park security. “Alcohol is an issue in my opinion,” she said. “If alcohol concessions are allowed in Libbey Park it could generate an influx of money which would also go to the festivals. At this point the city prohibits the sale of alcohol within the park, and it would require a change in the city ordinance to allow it.”
Richards said that she hoped there would be a public hearing on the subject of the lease before the city signed any long-term agreement with Ojai Festivals.
Council adjourned to go into closed executive session with the city manager and city attorney to deliberate on the proposed lease agreement for Libbey Bowl which is expected to come before the council for a vote on July 27.
Councilman seeks new ordinance for blighted buildings
By Mary M. Long
Newly elected Ojai City Councilman Paul Blatz responded to the following questions before being sworn in Tuesday night:
Q: Tonight you will be sworn in and you will take your seat on the City Council. How does that feel?
A: It feels good. You know, I was on city commissions for so long, an excess of 10 years on the Planning Commission, that it’s nice to be getting back involved.
Q: What issues are you most anxious to take on?
A: The first issue that I’m going to take on, and I’m going to take it on tonight, is that of the empty blighted buildings on Ojai Avenue. One of the things that I feel that I have been mandated to do is to have an ordinance put into place to address the blighted buildings. For instance, the gas station across the street from The Oaks, the old Bronk Vreeland building, the Mandulay building and the bowling alley. I will be asking staff to begin preparation of an ordinance to have those buildings declared as public nuisances if they don’t agree to a landscaping plan and a guideline for design, if they are going to be vacant for more than 90 days. If they don’t go along with the ordinance, then I’m proposing that the city charge them $1,000 a month.
Q: Have there been proposals that didn’t pass on some of these properties?
A: The bowling alley has had a couple of proposals. The owners and the purchasers have not come together on the price — same thing with the old Texaco building across from The Oaks.
The second thing I’m going to do is, not having a shelter at the bus stop at the “Y” is absolutely ridiculous. It’s taking too long … I was involved with the construction of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga., and it was constructed in one-third of the time that it took the Skateboard Park to be approved. The other thing I will be concentrating on is to make sure that the management of the Libbey Bowl reconstruction is done properly. That’s probably the biggest thing in the city right now.
Q: Have you studied the Music Festival’s proposed Libbey Bowl lease and what do you think about it?
A: Well, first of all, the lease as it currently exists, is not a lease that was proposed by the Ojai Festivals. The Festivals proposed a lease and it was given to the city, and now the city has negotiated it and has written the lease which is before us now. However, the council is going to be going into executive sessions tonight with the city attorney and the city manager to discuss the negotiations of that lease.
Q: You mentioned the possibility of the city taking over the water company. Are there any precedents out there for this?
A: There are plenty of cities where the public utility is owned by the city. Whether or not there is precedent out there for a city to take over as dilapidated and run-down a system as ours is, I can’t tell you. Because of the condition of our water system … I tend to believe that you could build a new water system for less than it would cost to bring that one up to date.
Q: You are taking over Joe DeVito’s seat and then you have another election coming up in November. As I understand it, both Steve Olsen’s seat and Carol Smith’s seat are coming up again so there is a possibility that you could be running for election at the same time as Lenny Klaif. How would you feel about working with Lenny if you should both be on the council at the same time?
A: I would look forward to working with Lenny. We just finished a campaign which I think the city should be proud of. We focused on the issues … clean, which is how campaigns should be run everywhere, but particularly in a small town. I think Lenny has a lot of valuable talents to bring to the council.
Q: You mentioned in the campaign that you were interested in forming a commission to attract business to Ojai. What do you think that would add to the budget?
A: I would treat it very similar to the Visitor’s Bureau, which is really a committee.
Q: The budget for the Visitor’s Bureau has been set at $160,000, right?
A: The Chamber of Commerce was charged with the responsibility to operate the Visitor’s Bureau to bring tourists to Ojai and to promote Ojai as a destination city. Well, when that happened, that’s when the City Council authorized the $160,000. That’s in this year’s budget.
Q: Would the Business Bureau be a similar expense?
A: I don’t think it would be as much. My idea is to contact businesses and attract them to Ojai. For instance, I think an excellent use of the bowling alley would be if we could find a university, a Cal State University, UCLA, or USC … some university with an arts department that could use it as a classroom facility and utilize local artists to be professors. They could use it as a summer facility or something like that.
Q: I have wondered why we don’t have a summer theaterfest like the Old Globe does in San Diego, or the Black Hills summer stock company in South Dakota or the Solvang Theatrefest in Solvang.
A: You see, you wouldn’t hold the performances at the bowling alley but you could turn that into an art and music and drama center and then with the new Libbey Bowl, look, you would have a perfect venue for it.
Q: I come from an agricultural family. How do you feel about preserving agriculture, do you feel that is still an important part of Ojai?
A: Yes, I think it’s just as important a part of Ojai as anything is. One of the things that I am an absolute and firm believer in, if you are building a community, is that you have to be very cognizant and appreciative of its past. One of the things about Ojai is that it has been agricultural and particularly when it comes to citrus. It’s very important to maintain that.
Q: You are for a valley-wide city. What areas do you propose be annexed on to the city?
A: I am for a valley-wide city from the standpoint that I believe … that a lot of the services that we are proving outside our city limits we are paying for indirectly, particularly the police. I would think that the areas that I would first be looking at are those that would generate a little more tax revenue for us. Meiners Oaks, for instance, and Mira Monte. The problem is that …. Ojai doesn’t allow chains, and Mira Monte because it’s in the county has them. So you have a McDonald’s, you have a Subway … so what do you do in those areas that don’t conform to the Ojai strict sense ordinance? It makes it difficult.
Q: Many ranchers on the East End are against annexation because of the building moratorium putting even more restrictions on large land parcels and more government controls, more zoning issues.
A: A lot of people don’t want it because of that.
Q: I have a quote from Thomas Jefferson that I would like to get your response to, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” We’ve just discussed a number of things that are more government, more bureaus, more committees, bigger budgets. How do you feel about this quotation?
A: Jefferson probably had the insight to see that more and more emphasis is going to be put on the government, over time. Whenever the government becomes entrenched in our lives we give up certain liberties. There’s no question about that. I, for the most part, want to keep government as far out of my life as I can. However, there are certain times when because it goes to the general common good, that government has to be involved. When I speak of the general common good, I’m talking about the environment, the water we drink, the air we breathe. When it comes to calling a vacant building a public nuisance, then government has to take a step to do that.
Q: You don’t feel that flies in the face of property rights?
A: No I don’t. And the reason that I don’t is because we’re not taking any property rights away. We’re simply saying, “If you’re going to have vacant building, then here’s what you have to do.” Just like if you have a non-vacant building, we have architectural and landscaping guidelines. That’s an intrusion into property rights, sure, but is it an onerous intrusion? No … I don’t believe it is. The reason that these buildings are vacant, is not because they can’t be rented, it’s because the owners are absentee owners, for the most part. The people don’t have to look at it, and they have them so ungodly high-priced they will never sell. I don’t care if they don’t want to sell, but keep it clean! That is the biggest eyesore, across from The Oaks, that I have ever seen. You don’t have to sell it, but if it’s going to be in Ojai, and it’s going to be vacant, it had better look nice!
Help of Ojai teams with OUSD to provide special counseling
By Misty Volaski
This is the third in a series of articles about the myriad services offered by Help of Ojai to residents valleywide.
It’s not easy being a kid. Statistics suggest that youths today have higher levels of stress than ever before.
But in Ojai, there is help. Whether it’s everyday stressors like homework and friendships or the death of family member, kids can find someone to talk to right at their schools.
Help of Ojai and the Ojai Unified School District have teamed up to offer the Student Bereavement Program, which gives students a place to process their problems. Unique to the county (and most of the state), the program offers confidential counseling, at no cost to the student.
Funded by Help of Ojai, OUSD and a grant from the Harriet Samuelsson Foundation, the program began seven years ago and offers a therapist at each school site.
“We recognized that children’s mental health needs to be better served,” said John Shallenberger, OUSD’s director of student services. “Especially for grief counseling. But that can get very expensive. We have great private mental health in Ojai, but many families cannot afford to access those services.”
So it was only natural that Help of Ojai get involved. Student bereavement fits in well with Help of Ojai’s mission — “to respond to identified unmet basic human needs of individuals in the Ojai Valley.”
“This is definitely a basic human need,” said Help of Ojai executive director Terri Wolfe. “It’s an access issue. But at school, it’s free, it’s completely accessible.”
OUSD students from kindergarten up can access the program in many ways. Most commonly, it is through the recommendation of a teacher, school psychologist, principal or other administrator to the program directors, although friends (and sometimes the students themselves) have also reached out on behalf of others. Some call Help of Ojai, which refers children to the program.
“Everyone needs to talk and manage stress,” pointed out Jeanine Murphy, mental health clinician and clinical supervisor for Student Bereavement. The program sees, on average, about 100 students per year, with about 50 to 60 appointments each month; most students see a therapist more than once. Students are equally spread between boys and girls, and are about half Caucasian, half Latino.
Currently, the program has five interns (who have already completed graduate school and are earning hours toward their license) and two trainees (who are still taking classes). Many interns, like 2001 Nordhoff graduate Nichole Sandefur, are closer in age to the students they are counseling, which can make students feel more comfortable about opening up.
“But we’re careful to draw the line at ‘friends,’” Sandefur hastened to add; that is not the purpose of the program. Neither are the therapists meant to be “mentors.” Being younger simply helps some students in that “I’m able to relate to their stories, and validate their feelings,” Sandefur explained.
OUSD students from sixth grade down are often given art or play therapy, in which therapists let the children play individually and watch for patterns. “Patterns in how they play, what they play with. And they can often sort out (their issues) themselves through the play,” Sandefur said. She also does “life books” with students, where kids can write poems or letters, and make drawings in a book. “It’s a different way to process their feelings” other than just talk therapy, she added.
Older students usually meet one on one, but all students can access group or family therapy should the need arise.
When Seth Scarminach was murdered in April 2009, Nordhoff held a meeting to let students know about the Student Bereavement Pro-gram, and also opened up its cafeteria and allowed students to make memory books, talk as a group, or talk individually with a therapist.
“The school was really supportive,” said Murphy.
During summer school this year, there is also an intern therapist available at Nordhoff, so students almost always have access.
New this coming school year will be Teen Topics, a group session where kids meet to discuss family, friends, study habits, drugs and alcohol, divorce, stress management, and any other topics the youngsters feel are important to them.
Help of Ojai and OUSD are seeking donors for the program to give interns and trainees more time at each campus. The program currently operates on less than $40,000 per year. Those wanting to donate to the program should contact Help of Ojai.
VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF
On July 15, 2010 at 12:03 a.m. Ventura County Sheriff’s Department / Ojai Police Department responded to call of an ambulance follow-up of a male victim who had been stabbed in the 600 block of Oak Street in the city of Ojai. Prior to the arrival of deputies, the suspect(s) fled the scene. An extensive search for the suspect(s) was conducted with negative results. The victim received multiple stab wounds and was transported to the Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura. The victim did not receive life-threatening injuries and is listed in stable condition. Investigation revealed an undisclosed amount of money was taken from the victim during the attack.
Ventura County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 reward for information, which leads to the arrest and criminal complaint against the person(s) responsible for this crime. The caller may remain anonymous. The call is not recorded. Call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).
Animals recovered from East End euthanized,
distemper found in local raccoons
By Misty Volaski
Wildlife is not an unusual sight around Ojai —- indeed, it is part of the valley’s charm. By now, most people know the best way to live together with the wildlife is to observe from a distance and keep pets away.
But, that’s not enough anymore. The wildlife — coyotes and raccoons, especially — are getting smarter.
In July alone, the Humane Society of Ventura Count, based in Ojai, was forced to euthanize three coyote pups due to advanced parvo infections.
Parvo — which is easily transferred from coyotes to dogs — affects the animal’s intestinal lining and vital organs, causing diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, fever and, in some cases, death.
“Parvo can become epidemic if we don’t vaccinate our animals,” said Jolene Hoffman, Humane Society shelter director. “We have to be very careful right now.”
The Humane Society works closely with the Ojai Raptor Center, which brings infected animals to either be treated or euthanized at the Humane Society. They also keep in touch with local vets to track any patterns that might emerge.
The three parvo-infected coyotes were found in the East End of Ojai near Grand Avenue and Gridley Road, and Hoffman said there have been reports of an adult female with parvo-like symptoms in the same area. “We just haven’t caught her yet.”
In the pet world, there have been a few suspected cases seen by Humane Society employees, but none confirmed. Hoffman was forced to turn away a litter of dog pups recently. “They had no function in their back legs,” she said.
Another concern of Hoffman and crew: raccoons with distemper. Also a highly contagious illness, distemper begins like a cold, with the animal getting a runny nose and “goopy eyes, and trouble breathing,” said Hoffman. “Then they begin walking in circles, lose mobility of their back legs, then the front legs. Then they go down.”
Badgers, too, are susceptible. One was brought up from Ventura last month with what Hoffman suspected was distemper.
Like parvo, pets can become infected by distemper quite easily. Something as simple as drinking from the same water bowls can spread the infection quickly. Hoffman recommends bringing in both pets and their food and water bowls at night. “If you’re going to keep the bowl outside, dump the water and turn the bowl over.”
There is a vaccine for both parvo and distemper, which most dogs receive with their puppy vaccines at 6, 9, 12 and 16 weeks of age. Keeping vaccinations up to date is the surest method of prevention, Hoffman said.
She cautioned that while neither illness is transferred to humans, “… the vet bills you incur sure will! Be responsible. Keep your pets and food bowls inside at night, especially. And remember, coyotes are out in the daytime, too.”
If you see an animal behaving erratically or with the symptoms above, stay clear and call the Humane Society at 646-6505.
Hoffman has also received reports of coyotes surrounding and chasing people walking their small dogs, and recommends carrying a quick-release umbrella to “shield you and your dogs against the coyotes.”
By Misty Volaski
The prospect of losing one’s home can seem like the end of the world. But for the clients of Help of Ojai’s Community Assistance Program, that reality is only the beginning of what can seem like a hopeless journey. Since 1998, C.A.P. has made a mission of tackling the myriad issues that come with being homeless, and the issues that may have led to homelessness. Some needs are easily filled — a box of nonperishable food, a fresh pair of socks, or simply a caring ear. But other needs, such as getting a client medical care, require time, patience and, perhaps most importantly, building trust with the client.
“Trust is a big issue,” said C.A.P. program director Jessica Murray. “We have to build relationships with our clients, especially those with mental issues, to get them the help they need.”
C.A.P.’s office, located at 108 Fox St., offers individualized assistance for the homeless and near-homeless. Clients can come in daily for a sack lunch, to make phone calls, pick up mail, do laundry, get a shower, or check e-mails. There’s also an emergency food pantry with pre-packed boxes of nonperishables, with special pop-top items for the homeless. But that’s only a small portion of what Help of Ojai offers through C.A.P. Should a client need clothing or household items, thrift store vouchers can be handed out; so can trolley and bus tokens. Murray and her mostly volunteer staff can drive clients to appointments, or help them fill out forms to register for food stamps, Healthy Families (a low-cost health care program), Home Energy Assistance Program (which gives low-income residents lower electricity and gas bills), or help prevent an eviction.
But the services aren’t limited to those named above. As much as possible, Murray and crew offer individualized help based on each person’s unique needs.
Many clients qualify for veteran’s benefits, Social Security, or other state and federal assistance programs, but they have no idea how to “walk the labyrinth of the county system to get it,” said Murray. Many don’t know they even qualify for help in the first place. “There is one case manager for the whole county. So there are limited resources. It takes patience and persistence” to get the client what they need.
This is especially true with clients suffering from mental illness.
“The nature of mental illness is that it makes it hard to connect with each other,” said Murray. She brought up the example of a woman who showed up at a local hotel one day. Unsure what to do with the woman, the hotel called C.A.P. After Murray worked with her for a while, it was determined the woman was from Arizona. Her parents were contacted, and gave C.A.P. “enough details to where we realized her situation could be an emergency,” said Murray, who called Ventura County Mental Health. “She had nowhere to go. So VCMH came to get her and helped her out.”
Another woman grew up in the Ojai area, but had long suffered from untreated mental illness. She had communication problems, and lacked continuous medical care. C.A.P. took her to the doctor, got her CT scans and other tests to find out if the woman suffered from anything else. “With this kind of case, you have to find the right person to help,” said Murray. And that person needs to be able to commit a significant amount of time to that client. Murray said she had spent well over 100 hours outside the facility with this one client alone, “but sometimes that’s necessary. It’s the trust issue, and knowing how to help keep them calm. It’s very individualized, one-on-one care.” Eventually, consistent medical care was set up, and V.A. back-payments began coming in to the C.A.P. office on the client’s behalf. That allowed C.A.P. to help get the woman into housing.
Last year, C.A.P. helped about 900 clients; most were single, male, and between ages 30 and 50. A trend is beginning to show a new segment of “chronic homeless”: adolescents aged 18 to 24.
“It’s a long way from homeless to being housed,” Murray added. “If they qualify for federal assistance it’s possible.”
Funding for C.A.P.’s programs — which operate on a “very efficient” budget of about $90,000 per year — comes equally from private donations, grants and the city of Ojai.
“We get no state or federal funding,” said Help of Ojai’s executive director, Terri Wolfe. “The city has been very generous to us, as have our donors.”
Additional donations — of money, time, or food for the emergency pantry — are always needed. Murray has a sign-up list for those who want to donate food for the sack lunch program. Donors commit to one day per month to bring 15 sack lunches for that day. “It should include a sandwich, drink, fruit and snack — healthy items, if possible.”
People with experience in dealing with those who have mental issues are also frequently needed to partner with and mentor clients. Bilingual volunteers for any service or program are always in demand.
Also needed: a dentist who would agree to donate a small amount of time each month to the dental needs of the homeless. Right now, there is a medical van that comes up once a month, but it does not offer dental services. “The closest dental services for these people is the Salvation Army in Oxnard,” said Murray.
C.A.P.’s Adopt-a-Family program, which gives low-income families a good Christmas with a full dinner and toys for the kids, will begin looking for adoptees in October.
And those who receive help from C.A.P. also give back. “They want to help us,” said Murray. “Whether it’s moving boxes, sweeping the parking lot. They’re very appreciative.”
For more information, or to donate or volunteer, see helpofojai.org or call 646-5122.
Barrier materials, not height, concern Skate Ojai backers
By Mary M. Long
Chet Hilgers, representing Skate Ojai, squared off with Ojai’s Planning Commission Wednesday to wrestle with a decision over fencing materials for the Skate Park perimeter fence which is now beginning construction.
Rebuking city manager Jere Kersnar, Hilgers chided him for presuming knowledge of the construction. “What I would like to say to Mr. Kersnar,” said Hilgers, “is you haven’t been out there once. So I don’t know how you could talk to any of the guys to figure out how we’re going to install the fence.”
The fence heights were decided on June 22, dividing the fence into three levels, but no decision was made at the time on what type of fencing or materials would be used. The lowest section of fencing will be a 4-foot fence on the parking lot side, which could be expanded to 8 feet if necessary. According to Hilgers, the requirements that this fence be built to facilitate a taller fence in the future are being met by installing fencing posts in a concrete wall. “These posts can be easily cored out and replaced if the fence needs to be extended in the future,” said Hilgers. In an attempt to satisfy the demands of Ojai Police Department that the fencing be easy to see through, coupled with the demands of the Ojai Unified School District that the fence be non-scalable and those of the designer who recommends durability, seemed to leave the commission with two unhappy choices, either the tubular steel prison-style fencing, or a fine mesh PVC link material which is currently in use in correctional facilities. Either choice is oppressive to Skate Park advocates.
The meeting nearly unraveled when the discussions reverted back to the original question of why there is a demand for any fencing at all. With the Skate Park in the center of town and an attraction to residents as well as tourists, Skate Ojai and many of the Planning Commission members would have preferred a clean vista. Santa Barbara, Fillmore and Venice Beach were named as examples of skate parks which are not fenced and are considered to be assets to the community.
“We’ve been there, so let’s not go there again,” said Vice Chair Steven Foster. The No. 1 recommendation of the fencing companies for durability was the steel tubular fencing, similar to that which Santa Paula has erected around its skate park. With the commission dismissing the need for 30-year fencing, since the park has only a 14-year lease on the property, a frustrated Hilgers waved his hands and reminded the commissioners that they have already wasted 14 years in stalling the park project. However, Wendy Hilgers was quick to remind the commission of the possibility that the lease could be extended at any time. Durability and aesthetics were discussed with the possibility of using standard PVC-coated 2-inch chain link fencing similar to that which is in use at Soule Park and many other recreation areas in Ojai. Originally rejected because it has a tendency to sag or bow after exposure to stress, the commission kept returning to it as the best option. Chain link is also considerably safer than the tubular fencing which may entangle arms and legs with its rigid structure. With practical simplicity, Commissioner Foster suggested that if a section of chain link failed, it could simply be replaced piece by piece if necessary. The prospect of installing a non-climbable fence was a subject of some derision for the feisty Bob Daddi who took the lectern to humorously explode the myth of the un-scalable fence. He expressed his opinion that the issue wasn’t really about fencing but about creating a barrier. “If we want that, I’d rather go with the bars, at least everyone would know what they are for,” said Daddi. Chet Hilgers also expressed his frustration with the Skate Park being singled out among other recreational facilities for perimeter fencing. “Why do the kids at the skate park get subjected to this and nobody else?” questioned Hilgers.
The commission and representatives of Skate Ojai kept returning to the standard 2-inch coated chain link as the best choice, with the possibility of using square instead of tubular framing and adding cap embellishments to enhance the appearance of the fencing. Let’s “kick it up a notch,” was the attitude of the commissioners. With heads nodding, and the meeting appearing to reach a consensus, Kersnar nonetheless insisted that a vote be taken to avoid any future altercation over the decision process. With the vote quickly taken, there was only one “no” vote and that was from Commissioner Cortus Koehler. Koehler’s dissenting vote was an objection to there being any fencing at all.
When asked for comments after the meeting, Chet Hilgers agreed that the city requirement for perimeter fencing was unnecessary. He claimed that the park could easily be power washed when necessary and that many parks maintain their facilities this way without any fencing at all.
Hilgers feels that the fencing requirement is a control issue for Dale Sumersille, who is the director of Parks and Recreation and under whose authority the park will fall. According to Hilgers, he received an ultimatum from Sumersille at the building site, “You get the correctional fencing or I’ll stall the project.”
“That was the edict from Dale to me,” said Hilgers, “which infuriated me, and I think she ought to be fired for that.”
At this time Hilgers is not only representing Skate Ojai, but also is acting as volunteer liaison for the construction project and is on the building site daily.
Sumersille is currently on vacation, and was unable to be reached for comment.
Mayor Steve Olsen was in attendance as the liaison for the City Council and Councilwoman Betsy Clapp was in the audience.
City workers remove the ‘1954 rock’ from center stage
By Logan Hall
Another milestone has been reached this week in the Libbey Bowl saga. One of the final remaining pieces of the original bowl was removed by city workers from the site on Wednesday. The “1954 rock” that was imbedded in the center of the stage at the bowl was carefully taken out by Public Works employees Ruben Martinez and Scott Davis and will be preserved for future generations to get a glimpse of the bowl’s history.
The rock that was removed was part of the original construction of the bowl when it was built in 1954. Although an insignificant part of the overall construction project, the “1954 rock” symbolizes the history of Libbey Bowl and holds special meaning to some locals.
Martinez, Ojai Public Works supervisor, has lived in Ojai his whole life and has been involved with the bowl many times over the years. Martinez is responsible for overseeing the Public Works employees in their day-to-day operations in Ojai and was working at the bowl to salvage some of the old fixtures and materials when he realized that no one had considered the “1954 rock” in the center of the stage wall.
“I brought it up at one of our meetings,” said Martinez. “A lot of people didn’t even know that rock was there.”
Although he is proud to be involved, and looks forward to having the new bowl completed, Martinez seems to have some mixed emotions about the demolition of the old bowl. “It’s hard to see it go,” he said as he looked up at the stage. “It’s kind of sad, but it’s really exciting seeing this thing move forward.”
“We’ve maintained it over the years,” added Davis. “It’s great for us to see this happening, but we won’t forget the old bowl.”
Aside from taking out plumbing and electrical fixtures to be reused around Ojai, the city is also using the wood from the old benches at the bowl, to help refurbish picnic tables and bleachers in the parks in Ojai. “We’re trying to reuse as much material as we can,” said Mike Culver, Ojai Public Works director. “Rather than have it all go to the dump, we can salvage some things and use them in the future.”
After the city removes any significant material from the site, including the old railings for the stairs, and the plaques indicating sponsors of the old bowl, the construction process can finally begin.
The first step in the construction plans will be the demolition of the old bowl. Before that happens however, McGillivray Construction, who won the bid to handle the demolition and ultimate construction of the new bowl, has many loose ends to take care of. “The first thing we have to do is make a plan for how to get it all done,” said Steve McGillivray, owner of the company. “We’ll have a lot of preliminary construction meetings. We have to meet with Edison, the drainage people and the contracted grader to make sure everything is in place.”
McGillivray continued to explain they will have the base plan ready in about two weeks, and will also get the final signatures from the city, at which point the physical construction can begin. “We’re scheduled to get the notice to proceed from the city this week,” said McGillivray. “We’ll have many things to get completed before we start turning dirt, but as soon as the mayor inks the paperwork, we’ll get started.”
Judge disallows request for accused killer to attend great-grandmother’s funeral
By Mary M. Long
Tuesday, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Bruce Young continued the competency hearing for 15-year-old Alex Medina, of Mira Monte, until Sept. 14.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Bill Haney, who is prosecuting the case, has maintained that there is no evidence that Medina is incompetent to stand trial.
In January, a psychologist determined Medina was competent to stand trial, but defense attorneys asked the court for a trial to determine if he is mentally capable of assisting in his own defense.
Medina is accused of killing Seth Scarminach, 16, of Meiners Oaks, at around 2 a.m. on April 26, 2009 outside a residence in the 2400 block of Maricopa Highway — the site of a teen party.
Attorney Scott Wippert who is representing Medina, has requested that the court release Medina, under custody, to attend his great-grandmother’s funeral. Judge Young denied the motion “without prejudice.” According to Wippert, although Young denied the oral request, the court will study the logistics and expense of releasing Medina to attend the funeral. “I’m requesting this on behalf of my client,” said Wippert outside the courtroom after the hearing. “I’m doing this for him.”
According to investigators, Scarminach, a Chaparral High School student at the time, sustained multiple stab wounds, and Medina, who was 14 at the time, was an associate of an Ojai street gang. Medina was booked on suspicion of homicide while using a knife and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang.
That gang-related charge makes the potential penalties more severe. The maximum sentence that could be sought is 25 years to life in prison. Medina is not eligible for the more-severe sentence of life without the possibility of parole because of his age.
Loss of job, home adds
to strain on family
By Amber Lennon
When Marisa Knupp took her baby boy, Nathan, in for a routine six-month exam, she couldn’t have anticipated the tumultuous road ahead of her. Sure, Nathan’s head had measured larger than average, but doctors attributed this to his parents’ larger frames.
Marisa didn’t get concerned until she noticed her son’s eyes “shaking and wandering,” which she brought up at the routine doctor visit. “He’d open his eyes real wide,” says Marisa. “He was pretty much going blind.”
The doctor recommended an ultrasound through the soft spot on Nathan’s head. The excessive water around his brain, called hydrocephalus, was determined moderate to severe, and the doctor ordered an MRI from Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.
After three weeks of finagling with insurance companies and doctors’ receptionists at Children’s Hospital, Nathan finally got an appointment with a doctor who didn’t believe Nathan had a serious condition and ordered a CT scan. The scan revealed the devastating news of Nathan’s glioma brain tumor, which turned the Knupp family upside-down.
Multiple tests confirmed the results of the CT scan, and brain surgery was performed a few days later. When the surgeon emerged from the operating room five hours later, Marisa received yet another round of bad news. “They said the tumor was worse than expected because it had fingers and had grown,” she said and remembers thinking, “The more we get into this, the worse it gets.”
Numerous trips to Los Angeles for treatments, sleeplessness and financial stress wreaked havoc on the Knupp family. Marisa’s husband, Jestin, simultaneously lost his job, and the family lost their house. Dire circumstances put strain on the couple’s marriage, not to mention the emotional trauma suffered by their two other children. “It was really scary to watch my family fall apart, and I couldn’t work because taking care of Nathan was my job,” said Marisa.
After one year of weekly chemotherapy treatments at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, Nathan’s tumor has been 75 percent removed. Jestin is happy with his new truck-driving job at TNT Trucking, the couple has regained their relationship stability, and Nathan’s siblings have adjusted. Life has done one of those miraculous turnarounds that make it possible for Marisa’s family to get to know Nathan as a growing little boy.
Marisa recalls this story about Nathan: “We were in the hallway at Children’s, and there was a boy about 16 years old in a wheelchair who looked pretty out of it with fresh bandages on his head. This kid being a teenager, I didn’t know if he was going to like Nathan coming up to him, but (Nathan) held one hand to the wheelchair and with the other hand he was sort of rubbing the boy’s leg, and then he started dancing and smiling and looking at him, and the boy, I could tell, really appreciated it. (Nathan) just has an extra dose of strength and compassion.”
To help with exorbitant medical costs, the family is holding a fund-raising event on Aug. 15 at the Oak View Park and Resource Center. “The fund-raiser is result of the outpouring of love in the community,” said Barbara Kennedy, who manages the Oak View Center and donated the facility for the benefit. The event offers music by singer-songwriter Ted Lennon, barbecued food, a beer and wine garden, and a silent auction and raffle with donated items like Dodgers tickets and a day of spa treatment at The Oaks at Ojai. Kids can enjoy a Jolly Jump, face painting and other activities. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and can be purchased at Attitude Adjustment next to Vons and Papa Lennon’s Pizzeria in Meiners Oaks.
“Nathan’s Journey” bracelets are also available for $5 at Cowboy Babies in Ojai and A Secret Place Spa in Ventura. Proceeds benefit the Knupp family.
For more details on how to get involved or to keep up to date on Nathan’s progress, visit “Nathan’s Journey” on Facebook or nathansjourney.web.com.
Side of Arnaz Grade bluff being graded for safety
By Logan Hall
Residents of Old Creek Road have had their share of difficulties over the years when trying to access Highway 33. In the event of heavy rains, San Antonio Creek, which flows across Old Creek Road near the “33,” can rise high enough to prevent crossing, and residents are unable to get to the main highway.
The county of Ventura hired Rasmussen General Engineering Contractors to build a bridge from the highway to traverse the creek, and allow the people who live down Old Creek Road to make it to the main highway during even the worst storms. According to county specifications, the bridge will be a 210-foot-long, two-span, cast-in-place concrete box girder bridge designed to clear the 100-year floodplain. The total cost for the project has been estimated at about $2.5 million.
For those who use Old Creek Road on a regular basis, the bridge will provide them with much-needed relief from the stresses of being stranded and cut off from their only access to the rest of the valley.
Old Creek Road resident Dave Wilk has had experience dealing with the pitfalls of living next to a watershed like San Antonio Creek. Wilk and his wife had been out of town during a storm two or three years ago. When they returned later that evening to take care of their niece, who was living with them and couldn’t be left alone due to a debilitating brain injury, they found that getting home wasn’t going to be easy. “By the time we came home the stream had risen considerably,” said Wilk. “We had to get home to our niece so we attempted to drive across. Unfortunately, we misjudged the water and the car stalled out in the middle of the stream.”
After calling 911, they crawled through the sunroof and were eventually rescued by the Fire Department. Although they escaped unharmed, Wilk believes that the situation could have ended much worse for him and his wife. “Fortunately, the car didn’t move,” he continued. “Had we been pushed downstream, the car could have toppled over and been submerged. It could have been a life-threatening situation.”
Some locals, while understanding the necessity of the project, are not happy with certain aspects of the construction. Part of the plan includes the grading of the hill that lies directly behind the sign at the Rancho Arnaz cider barn on the corner of Highway 33 and Old Creek Road.
“I got a little sentimental when I saw them taking down that hill,” said valley resident Mark Metzner. “That hillside has been there for as long as I can remember.”
Glenn Derossett, engineering manager for the County of Ventura Public Works Agency transportation department, says there is good reason for grading the hill and that engineers on the project are doing everything they can to keep the natural surroundings as they are. “We are not completely removing the bluff,” said Derossett. “There are a number of factors that established the location of the new intersection, which required us to cut back the bluff alongside State Route 33. From a technical perspective, the safety and design factors include improved sight distance, clearing the 100-year floodplain, minimizing the length of the bridge, minimizing the reduction of the current climbing lane on State Route 33, and (adhere to) Caltrans’ requirements for slope stability.”
“Cars come around the corner from Oak View very fast,” added Wilk. “It’s important to improve sight lines for leaving the street. Otherwise there could be a disastrous accident. Nobody wants that.”
Locals like Metzner wish there could have been a way to build the bridge while leaving the current surroundings the way they are. “I’m all for them putting in a bridge for the people there,” said Metzner, who has lived in the valley since 1957. “I just wish they could have found an alternative to taking down that hill, cause once it’s gone, you can’t put it back.”
With completion of the project scheduled for March of 2011, engineers and construction workers on the project have a lot ahead of them, but all involved have expressed their efforts to minimize the impact on the surrounding environment. “The cider sign and the building are staying there,” said Mark Mayfield, grading foreman for Rasmussen. “All that we are taking away is dirt.”
The bridge is scheduled for completion by March 2011.
$140,000, 6-foot barrier proposed to stop illegal entry
By Logan Hall
In a world of heightened security, coupled with the snowballing effort of the nation to “go green,” the struggle of man vs. nature is at best an ongoing argument. At worst, it manifests into pseudo terrorism where extreme ideals can disrupt people’s lives, or even bring about physical harm to people or property.
In the Ojai Valley, man vs. nature comes in many forms. Many valley residents were appalled when the bear was killed in downtown Ojai, and residents have battled floods and fire as the urban sprawl of humanity edges closer to the natural domain.
Recently, the struggle involves a new 6-foot fence topped with barbed wire around part of Lake Casitas that has been proposed by the Casitas Municipal Water District and is pending approval by the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the land where Casitas is. The new fencing, which has a proposed budget of $140,000, would be erected around the northeast shore of the lake commonly referred to as the Wadleigh Arm. The new addition would replace the current barbed-wire fence that was built 50 years ago upon the lake’s opening in 1960. The new fencing will border Santa Ana Road in an attempt by the CMWD to stop people from entering the property without permission.
“It’s really a question of man vs. man,” said CMWD general manager Steve Wickstrum. “We aren’t putting up a fence to keep animals from getting to the lake. We’re doing it to protect the lake from people that cut and trample the existing fence. We have a job to do for the public. Many areas that people have gotten into have been damaged.”
Wickstrum explained that the CMWD believes that a boat was brought into the lake illegally through a section of cut fence. “We still have to worry about the threat of the quagga mussel,” continued Wickstrum. “We have to make sure that boats can’t enter without being inspected.”
Sue Williamson of the Ojai Wildlife League, believes that Casitas is going too far to keep people out, and the impact the fence will have on local wildlife isn’t worth the benefits that the fence will bring. “It’s really about them not wanting people in there without paying,” said Williamson. “Their concern is keeping people out. They don’t care about the wildlife. They didn’t even do an environmental impact report on the impact on the wildlife.”
Williamson argues that there aren’t enough culverts, or spaces in or below the fencing to allow passage of animals, to permit the local wildlife access to the lake as needed. “Without the proper culverts, animals like deer, coyotes or even bears won’t be able to get to the water,” she said.
Wickstrum counters by staying the issue of animals needing access has been taken into consideration. “We are keeping 4-foot-high barbed-wire sections of fence in certain areas where they can get through,” he said. “The idea that we are keeping animals out is a misconception.”
According to Wickstrum, the plan to put the fence in will move forward and is now awaiting approval from the Bureau of Reclamation. “We received the request from Casitas to put up a fence and it is now under review,” said Pete Lucero, the bureau’s public information officer. “This action involves a disturbance of land, which may require some sort of environmental review, especially if there is controversy involved.”
Lucero went on to say that the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act might come into consideration in their review of the fence proposal. If that is the case, there will be another chance for the public to voice their opinions to officials in the process. As of this time, the Bureau of Reclamation has not given a time line of when they will approve or disapprove the fence request.