When attendance at the lake decreased, the rates for usage increased, and recent rule changes have discouraged some locals from visiting the Marina Café. Why not encourage usage by lowering the daily rate and making the Café more accessible?
The rule for the Marina Café is that if you are only visiting the Café you will buy a special pass for $15 at the gate worth $15 at the Café. This allows people who only wish to visit the Café to enter without the expense of the entrance fee. Pedestrians enter the lake free, so one way of improving concession access would be to locate a pedestrian gate that is closer to the Café.
First off, I love the Marina Café and nothing will stop me from getting to their amazing Chili Verde! But, it is a little confusing. Most people don’t know that if you pay the entry fee, you also can use it as a credit toward your food purchase. So I think it’s a fair deal, but people need to be aware of the credit. We gotta’ find a way to let the locals know about the program.
The primary purpose of Casitas is to provide water for residents and business; a cost-effective system is necessary to maintain our communities, open spaces and agricultural lands. The Lake Casitas Recreation Area is a valuable recreational resource, an independent unit that legally must be financially self-supporting. Casitas needs to promote local use. Few people know that the entrance fee is reimbursed with the purchase of food at the Café. Casitas needs to advertise that fact.
Would you ever consider having a “local rate” for entry into Casitas that would encourage locals to use the facility more throughout the year?
Absolutely! I think a cheaper rate for locals would be terrific. Lake Casitas is a great place to have in our back yard and I think that to the extent feasible the district should lower the barriers for locals to enjoy it. That includes a locals’ discount and other local incentives. Possibly have several “free for locals” days throughout the year.
The local rate is $100 a year. That’s way better than paying the $10 to $15 a day! I really think it comes down to getting the “rate awareness” out as much as possible. Again, need to find a way to promote the rates, etc., etc.
I would consider having a local rate. And I would support other measures (e.g., free days, kids’ events) to encourage locals to use the Recreation Area.
Casitas is one of few remaining recreational lakes in California that does not allow swimming or any type of bodily contact. Do you think the possibility of increased revenue could outweigh potential drawbacks (increased noise, garbage, etc.) to allowing bodily contact with the lake and everything that it entails (water skiing, jet skiing, etc.)?
Lake Casitas is a domestic water supply reservoir and requires caution with regard to water quality. A careful balance must be struck between protecting drinking water quality and recreational use. I believe the question should be revisited and that if the risks are found to be low that the water quality will be adversely affected by bodily contact then those activities should be allowed.
Public swimming in the lake is not a good idea due to all the other issues that come along with it.
The existing treatment facilities are designed for existing conditions. Additional treatment necessitated by body contact would be expensive, resulting in increased user fees at the lake and higher water rates. New activities would have to be carefully managed as some uses (e.g., water skiing, fishing and wildlife viewing) are incompatible. New activities would also involve new liabilities.
The Lake Casitas Store was closed earlier this year due to issues with the CMWD and the concessionaire, Norm Smith. Since then, the store has been closed, and there has been no replacement. Was the board’s decision to terminate Smith’s contract made too hastily and without proper consideration?
It’s unfortunate about the cancellation of Mr. Smith’s contract. I believe the Board had little choice in the matter given the situation. As far as a new store concessionaire, the issue is that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is trying to exercise its control over a local right to have concessions at the lake and won’t allow a new contract. This, in my opinion, is the bigger concern here! We need to keep local control!
From what I heard, it was mutual. Either way, the store needs to open and get some revenue for the lake and the kids need a place to buy marshmallows so let’s get that store open!
It is unfortunate that this long-standing relationship was terminated. But because the decision involves contracts and other legalities and I am not privy to the details, I am not comfortable commenting on the board’s decision. I understand that Casitas has proposed operating agreements, but the Bureau of Reclamation has not given the necessary approval. If elected, I will work with the Board to complete negotiations with the BOR.
I am licensed as a professional civil engineer with 18 years of experience including 11 years as a water district engineer. I’m also licensed with the State as a water treatment and a water distribution system operator. Through my experience and the relationships that I’ve developed over the past 18 years I plan on serving Casitas Municipal Water District with knowledge, commitment and leadership! Visit my website to find out more at www.bobmcdonald4waterboard.com.
In closing, I’d like to thank everyone for giving me the chance to run for Casitas Municipal Water Board. I’ve been coming to Lake Casitas since I was little kid and now come with with my own wife and kids. Whether it be camping, fishing or going to the water park, I realize the importance of taking care of this special place. I think that I can help preserve the important elements and also help in promoting the great recreational benefits that Lake Casitas provides to us.
All our water is local. It needs to be carefully managed to maintain our way of life. As a farmer and biologist with a background in water quality and governmental systems, I will bring a unique combination of technical, financial and management skills to the board. I will focus on the budget to assure that the district is run efficiently and provide thoughtful input into issues facing the board.
Give your education and background.
I graduated from the Holy Cross College with a B.A. in philosophy, and Georgetown University law school with a J.D. I am a civil attorney in Ventura, and have been involved with Ojai’s public schools for the past 16 years. During the last 12 years I’ve been a member of the board of education. I am married to Leroy Smith, Ventura County Counsel. Our three children graduated from Nordhoff High School, and are now enrolled in universities: University of Southern California graduate school, UC Berkeley, and George Washington University.
I received by bachelor’s of science degree in political science and my master’s of science in counseling at San Diego State University. I received my Ph.D. in counseling psychology at University of California, Santa Barbara. I hold pupil services credentials in school counseling, school psychology, and administrative leadership. I hold a license as an educational psychologist for the state of California. I began my school career in Ojai Unified School District as a school psychologist. For the past 27 years I have taught full-time at California State University, Los Angeles as a professor in the Charter College of Education, Division of Special Education and Counseling.
MBA, Northwestern University, master’s in library science and BA-Albany University, SUNY. Married to Rudy Petersdorf, mom of Barbara, Nordhoff senior who has attended Ojai public schools since kindergarten. School board member since 1994, served as president four times.
I moved to Ojai in 1993 with three school-age children. I immediately began volunteering at Mira Monte School, working closely with the principal, Larry Hartmann, and teachers and staff. I served as PTA president and member of the SIP committee at both Mira Monte and Matilija Junior High. After my children finished school, Katherine White asked me to return to Mira Monte to initiate and operate a fundraising program, which I continue to this day. I also help with the same program at Matilija and Nordhoff. My main fundraising goal is to support the teachers in the classrooms. I also volunteered with various other youth groups, such as Girl Scouts, Ojai Valley Gymnastics, AYSO, and Ojai Girls’ Softball.
What do you feel is/are the biggest problem(s) facing the OUSD right now? What do you propose we do to help solve this?
The method of education finance in California is both unstable (it varies from year to year) and unreliable (layoffs are legally required five months prior to state budget enactment). I am president of Ventura County School Boards Association, and in that role, I advocate for finance reform. On a local level, the school district needs to increase revenues through earning income from underutilized district property.
Financial problems are the largest and most far-reaching problem that we face as a district. The state budget, like the economy of California, is faced with the dilemma of doing more with less. Our teachers and staff have been supportive in taking pay cuts in order to keep class sizes down and to make our budget balance. Sacrifices such as these as well as fund-raising by our parents and community have allowed us to keep our standards high. I will continue to support administrators, teachers, parents, students, and the community when making any decisions concerning financial issues.
Dwindling funds from Sacramento result in cuts that have been cumulative over the last many years. We have cut a number of instructional days, staff has taken pay cuts, and class sizes have increased. Use funds we get wisely and with other school boards in Ventura County and employee groups (certificated and classified employees), lobby Sacramento to restore funds to K-12 education. Additionally, try to increase local revenues by leasing/selling the district office property.
The biggest problem facing OUSD is clearly financial. Funding from all levels of government is being cut every year. With dwindling funds, delegating money is a key factor in survival for our schools. We need to explore every avenue of funding available: local, state, federal, and private.
Budget woes aside, what would you like to see most in OUSD schools?
Our students can perform at a very high level. Academic performance should be coupled with training in job skills and creative thinking so that our students can build the future economy upon which our society will depend.
The No. 1 priority for me is the academic success of all students. In spite of the budget cuts, teachers and students have made great achievements. I will continue to advocate for all student groups so that they can reach their potential.
Solid academics and programs that value creativity, individuality and teamwork at all grade levels. Support for our talented and dedicated staff. Partnership with families and community in educating our children. Safe, healthy and friendly schools where everyone feels included.
I would like to see an ideal learning environment for every child at every level, no matter what their learning style, with our teachers and staff given all the resources necessary to accomplish that goal. Our students and teachers deserve our respect and support.
In recent years we’ve had a rash of teen drug overdoses and deaths. Do you feel Nordhoff has a drug problem? And if so, how do you propose we remedy this?
Drug use by teens is not unique to Nordhoff students. It’s a problem when students use drugs at school, or encourage each other to use drugs outside of school. I mourn the teens who have overdosed and died in recent years, and they are greatly missed. Some of our valley’s recent young deaths were not drug-related and should not be lumped into this question. Our schools have responsibility to prevent student drug use during school hours and at school events. Our staff is trained to recognize when a student is under the influence, and the district has very specific procedures for staff to follow when this happens. Possessing or selling drugs at school is not tolerated. Families have responsibility when their teens use drugs or alcohol outside of school functions.
Adolescence and drug use are problems every school community faces in today’s world. Prevention, education, enforcement and rehabilitation are all needed to combat the negative consequences of drug use. Unfortunately, even with these measures children and their parents may experience trauma and loss. As a community we must redouble our efforts and be vigilant in our commitment to alleviate these problems. To that end, the School District offers voluntary drug testing, has a zero tolerance for use and selling of drugs on campus, and maintains a good relationship with agencies and law enforcement to combat this problem. I am supportive of drug intervention programs and counseling for those individuals who require assistance.
Not all of the tragic deaths of our young people have been attributed to drugs and we must not confuse the causes. That said, drugs are in our valley and must be kept out of our schools. Each death of a young person brings great sorrow to the family and friends and is a loss to our community. We educate our students as to the dangers of drugs and work with law enforcement (drug dog) to keep the campuses drug free. Staff is trained to recognize and deal with students who come to school under the influence of drugs or bring drugs on campus. Still, the schools are just one leg of a multi-legged stool that includes parents, law enforcement, community and peers. We must also remember that all adults serve as role models for our children.
The issues facing our teenagers are no different than in any other school district. We need to address these issues and give our students the tools to enable them to make better choices. In addition, Ojai is a small town with limited extracurricular activities. I will work to find funding to support after-school programs, such as the new Ojai Skate Park.
Do Ojai schools have a problem with gangs? If so, how do you propose we remedy this?
Gangs should not grow or flourish in our schools. It is a problem if they do. Recognizing gang affiliation takes close attention from the adults that are involved with the gang members. The best thing schools can do is provide programs in school that give the students an alternative to gang membership that is rewarding and constructive.
Gangs exist in every neighborhood where youth feel disengaged. The Ojai Youth Foundation is one example of a community agency that has partnered with the School District to provide meaningful activities and friendships to youth in our valley. Character education in our schools is another way to impress upon students the importance of positive behaviors. Does that mean that every individual responds? Perhaps, not. But, I know that our community is rich in human resources and will continue to assist the schools in any way possible to steer youth way from the negative consequences of gang membership.
The antidote to gangs is healthy engagement in group activities. Students who feel engaged with peers and guided by adults in a positive way will not turn to the antisocial behaviors and promises of gangs. Schools watch out for any gang-like behavior, including bullying. There are procedures in place for students to get help. We must continue to help students intervene in an appropriate way and not be bystanders who can add to the problem. There is no honor in being a bully.
See above (last question).
Now that the Ojai Skate Park is finished, would you support the inclusion of skateboarding into our schools’ physical education programs?
The great thing about the Skate Park is the freedom and unbridled joy the skaters have when they sail across the smooth swoop of the swale. This joy is enough, if we make it too regimented, it will detract from the experience. However, if the teachers suggest skating for P.E., I would not oppose it.
Any program idea that is supported by students, teachers and staff is something that I would consider seriously. I have been a longtime supporter of the Ojai Skate Park and would welcome any further ideas that would allow students the opportunity to engage in this positive activity.
Support for inclusion of skateboarding in P.E. curriculum? If our P.E. teachers suggest that skateboarding be part of the P.E. curriculum and we can afford the equipment (skateboards and all required protective gear), I would be open to it.
I would have no problem discussing the inclusion of skateboarding in our physical education program.
OUSD student demographics have changed in recent years. Are OUSD programs/services/staff doing an adequate job of changing with the population? If no, what changes would you like to enact?
Because of accountability reforms put in place over the last decade, we pay close attention to all “subgroups” and the demographics referred to in this question. Our schools do a heroic job in addressing these demographics each year, almost student-by-student. Our schools never rest in trying to identify demographic issues and provide targeted instruction to increase performance of at-risk students
Yes, the student demographics have changed in Ojai just as they have in the state and nation. We have state and national mandates that require us as educators to meet the needs of all children. Our administrators, teachers, and staff are well aware of these demographic changes and work tirelessly to individualize instruction so that all students can learn. This occurs on a daily basis and is reflected in one way in the high test scores that our students earn. This is only one indicator but it does allow us to look at the progress of each and every student. We have a range of programs to offer assistance to students who experience challenges in their studies.
Our “demographics” have been similar for the last dozen or so years, except, due to the poor economy, for an increase in the number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. Our staff is acutely aware of how different “subgroups” perform on required accountability testing and is always working to make sure each student is taught to perform to the standards required. Where a particular student requires extra or different instruction, our teachers use all available interventions to help. Back to the money issue, due to the budget cuts from the state we have had to cut summer school at the elementary schools and increase class sizes, both of which conspire against students who need extra attention.
Clearly I believe the teachers and staff are doing an excellent job. Programs and services require funding. It is my intention to explore untapped sources to finance all programs necessary to support and educate our students, both in and out of the classroom.
Do you support the OUSD selling or renting out any of its properties? If so, which ones, and where would you spend that additional revenue?
The district office should be rented out. We need to restore instructional days. This year, we have eight furlough days. These need to be reduced.
The district is currently considering this as an option to raise revenue. The district office property is the location that is being considered. The revenue would be used to decrease class sizes, extend days of instruction, and ensure fair pay for teachers, staff and administrators.
I am in favor of OUSD leasing or selling the property where the district office stands. My dream would be that the property that housed Ojai Elementary years ago would provide revenue to help this and future generations of Ojai students. To start, I would restore instructional days and decrease class sizes. (Oh, and I always promised Vince France that we would keep the school bell in a prominent place.)
I would support any board decision to sell or rent School District properties, not the least of which is the district office land. I will make every effort to see that any funding realized will go directly to the classrooms.
What about the challenger’s suggestion that Nordhoff’s AP students be transferred to Chaparral? We need to concentrate our focus on upkeeping the quality of both public high schools. I applaud Nordhoff’s continued offering of AP courses as well as its academies and AVID courses, which prepare our academic-performing students for successful futures. These students need challenging courses at Nordhoff combined with the variety of extracurricular activities at Nordhoff. This makes them attractive to college admissions deans, and supports Nordhoff in building a solid curriculum for all students during declining enrollment. We also need to offer real alternative education for some students: independent study, credit recovery, and maintaining Chaparral’s curriculum.
Why are you running for re-election? Answer: When I first ran for school board my daughter was a seventh-grader at Matilija Junior High. She is now completing studies at Ventura College. I have always had a commitment to public education and to the goal of ensuring student success for all. It is important to me to represent all parents and community members who want the best possible opportunities for the youth of today and tomorrow through a positive education experience. I am conscientious and will work hard to make this a reality.
Why run again? Along with experience and dedication to public education, I bring openness and creativity to the board. I always try to see our schools through the eyes of our students and know firsthand the issues facing our schools. I visit classrooms regularly and am often at after-school athletic, music, dance and art events as well as meetings of staff, parents and community. My hands-on approach gives me a deep, intimate knowledge of what our students need.
As a school board member, I look forward to supporting our schools in partnership with the teachers, staff, parents, and community. It is my dream to give our students everything they need and deserve. I want to help every student realize their dream, and if that means changing our educational structure, then let’s do it! I have spent the last 17 years volunteering to make our schools better. I want to be a member of the Ojai School Board to see what more I can do.
With the elections coming up Tuesday, the Ojai Valley News posed questions via e-mail to local candidates in the following election races: City Council, Ojai Unified School District board, Casitas Municipal Water District, City Clerk, Sanitation District Division 4, and Sanitation District Division 6. Their answers follow.
City employees now work a four-day schedule. Do you favor maintaining the current schedule, or spreading the same number of hours over a five-day period?
Currently, employees work a 36-hour work week. I actually favor returning to a 40 hour, five-day, work week. We are falling further and further behind in maintenance, workload, and providing adequate service to the public. Yes, this would mean a 10 percent increase to hourly employees’ compensation. Attempting to accomplish more in less time is exhausting, frustrating, and counter-productive for employees and the public. Plus, we never asked the public which would best serve its needs.
I would favor whatever works best to meet citizens needs. If we were to spread hours out over five days it would mean employees going home at 3:30. This makes it difficult to get to City Hall after work. Also our building inspector who now frequently comes in as early as 6 or 6:30 to meet with contractors before they go to the job site would go home by 2 p.m. Certainly the issue needs more discussion.
I favor maintaining the current schedule until the next fiscal year begins in July.
This and the subsequent questions need a thorough public discussion. I think some or possibly all city employees work four nine- hour days. I don’t know how they are compensated for after hour work. Full-time work is usually five eight- hour days but not always. The police work 12-hour shifts for about 3.5 days per week. A five-day work week would seem to serve public needs better.
City Hall should be open to serve the public five days per week.
My informal survey of city employees suggests that they believe the current schedule is meeting the needs of the public and should not be changed. However, I would propose conducting a formal assessment as to the positives and negatives associated with changing to a five-day week, and then having the issue on a council meeting agenda for public discussion. My decision on this issue will be based on which option best meets the needs our citizens.
How do you suggest the city balance the need for tourism while encouraging owners to also cater to locals?
That our local economy relies heavily on tourism, the jobs and revenues generated, is a given. Let’s ask what is needed and/or missing in catering to local residents. Perhaps local businesses can expand to accommodate those needs. Perhaps we can encourage new businesses to fill the void. In addition to tourists, we must market Ojai to our residents and emphasize the importance of shopping locally.
We have many businesses which I use weekly for my shopping needs. Besides grocery stores I would like to see our bread-and-butter businesses advertise their specials and challenge shoppers to shop locally because what they save in gasoline and aggravation is more than worth it. Specialty shops also could encourage local buying with advertisements, coupons and specials.
Excellence in service should be the top priority whether businesses are catering to tourists or locals. Complacency is a big problem. When a customer gets poor service, bad attitude, they’re likely not to return and more likely to pass their experience on to at least 10 people. When a local can suggest a good place to eat or shop or stay, they’re the perfect marketing tool. When a local doesn’t have much good to say about local businesses, it affects tourism.
If Ojai would get its act together and set its priorities according to its own general plan the proper balance would easily be achieved. The primary business of Ojai is the business of love. That means an infrastructure of equalism, not elitism. Locals and visitors would benefit and pay for the experience of a well- rounded community where the “pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” is a felt reality.
I am not sure that the city government can do much, if anything, to encourage business owners to sell any particular products. City government can, however, support programs to get people into the downtown business core, the establishment of “Ojai dollars” to encourage people to shop locally, and support monthly events.
Ojai does not allow discount chain stores which would seemingly cater to locals, and no one is advocating that we change Ojai’s small-town character by allowing these types of businesses. What we can do is try to bring businesses to Ojai that are good for both our tourism interest and our local interest. I support the creation of an economic commission and an economic liaison position to help recruit businesses to Ojai that balance our need for tourist friendly and local friendly businesses … and hopefully these businesses can fill some of our blighted downtown buildings at the same time.
Do you support the annexation of unincorporated areas like Boardman Road and the Arbolada? Why or why not?
Do unincorporated areas desire to be annexed into the city? It is not just the city’s decision. Should an area petition for annexation into the city, yes, I would support such a petition.
Any annexation of areas that are already built upon such as the Arbolada would come as a request by the residents of that area. Everyone who lives in this valley identifies as an “Ojaian” and are shocked to find out that they are actually represented by the Board of Supervisors and they cannot vote for Ojai City Council candidates. Over the years when I meet people they frequently say, ”Nice to meet you Carol, I voted for you,” when I know they live in Meiners Oaks. What they mean is they would have voted for me if my name was in the ballot and I appreciate that sentiment. After all when you buy a house in the Ojai Valley you’re not thinking about if you are in the city or county. Ideally the city should follow the same boundaries as the Ojai Unified School District and I think that is the source of a lot of the confusion.
No. I support the exploration of gradually incorporating the unincorporated areas over a period of time.
The way the city is run now I don’t understand why anyone in the county would want to incorporate. Would the city have passed something like S.O.A.R.? If the city were to become more citizen friendly and a model of safety, independence, caring and sustainability I can see why people may want to join us. Regardless of annexation and money interests, borders in the Ojai Valley are mostly lines on paper.
We are one valley, and the rather arbitrary political boundaries make no sense environmentally, economically, or in any other way.
This question cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Before I could support annexation, the issue needs to be studied and researched. First and foremost, is how the residents affected by an annexation, both those living in the city and those in the unincorporated area, feel about it. Second, is the economic effect on Ojai. The largest single expense on our city’s budget is the police force that we essentially rent from the Ventura County Sheriff. Therefore, it must be determined how much it will cost us to annex those additional areas vs. the additional tax revenues the city would receive.
Specifically, how are you going to balance the budget with declining city revenues?
We need to look at every aspect of the city budget with a fresh eye — police, transportation, legal services, employee benefits. Are there new, different, better ways to fund and deliver services? I would question underlying assumptions. I would make the public’s pocketbook personal, verifying legally mandated expenditures and reconsidering optional expenditures.
The city budget is always balanced, it has to be by law. In fact, revenues this quarter are showing significant improvement over a year ago. The question now is to build our reserves back up to 50 percent of a yearly average budget and then we can start investing in more projects and programs for our residents.
Employees currently can retire with full benefits and 80 percent benefits for dependents after only five years of service. It is unsustainable and must be addressed by Nov. 1. That will greatly increase the city’s ability to balance the budget.
With the investment in the new Libbey Bowl comes the prospects of increased tourism revenue. Greater foresight and leadership is needed to ensure that there is a return on the investment into the refurbishing of the Libbey Bowl.
I would balance the budget by creating a town that locals and visitors would want to spend money in and stop the wasteful bleeding of finances. If we’re true to ourselves and love what we’re doing we’ll always have enough money. If we’re false, corrupt and wasteful winning 10 lotteries won’t be enough. If elected I’ll have the authority to do my own investigation of the city kitty’s nooks and crannies.
The budget must be balanced, and has been balanced every year. Our biggest expense is police protection, so the contract with the sheriff needs to be closely scrutinized to ensure maximum effect for the dollar. Hiring a full-time city attorney could save substantial city funds. One thing which will help is for everyone to vote “Yes” on Proposition 22, which will limit the State of California from taking funds from cities.
I believe there may be ways to increase city revenues, without raising taxes, that would help balance the budget. I also believe we should be fiscally responsible whether or not the city budget is out of balance. Therefore, I would look at cutting the budget in certain areas regardless of whether our budget is out of balance. Specifically, I would look at: a) cost savings by creating own police force vs. contracting with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department; b) the cost of all city subcontracted services like the city attorney, city engineer, etc.; c) City Hall administrative operating expenses.
Golden State Water rates seem to be excessive, yet the infrastructure needs repairs. How do you suggest handling this situation with Golden State Water?
First, our ratepayers need an advocate to represent them at rate hearings. Second, citizens could vote a bond measure to purchase Golden State Water Company’s infrastructure (Ojai’s watershed supplies the water), upgrade the infrastructure, and request Casitas Municipal Water District (a publicly owned utility) to manage the system.
Golden State is private for profit water company. What we have to do is make them an offer that makes good business sense. If two-thirds of the parcels who are forced to have Golden State as their water purveyor voted yes on a bond measure we can buy them out. The bond would be payable over 30 or 40 years and would run with the parcel. Felton, Calif. did it and so could we.
Ojai should own its own water supply. That will take decades to accomplish and the infrastructure and procedures to do that must be put into place now. We have to put procedures into place that will maintain the integrity of vital services for years to come.
Negotiate with the final goal of a city-owned water system. The new local manager at G.S. doesn’t disagree with this goal. He said he is working to repair the neglected pipes and believes he’s having success since he’s had few complaints lately. The rate increases are probably beyond his control but he seems to want to work with us and could be a help in dealing with company owners.
The only answer is to begin to study the economic feasibility of taking over Golden State Water, and letting Casitas Water District run it. The deteriorating infrastructure will figure into the valuation of the company. Obviously, we will need the support of the public to float a major bond issue, but we need to control this most valuable resource.
In the short term, we should fight against Golden State Water’s ridiculous rate increases by speaking out at Public Utility Commission meetings and lobbying against the rate increases in Sacramento. In the long term, we need to explore the option of buying back our water system. We can use the deteriorated infrastructure to negotiate a lower price and use the savings on infrastructure repairs. We must act fast on this issue, because Golden State Water is a savvy corporation that is going to start dumping money into the infrastructure to drive up the price to buy it, and to help rationalize their irrational rate increases.
What do you feel is the city’s biggest problem, and how do you propose to solve it?
The right city manager for Ojai has been the problem and is the solution. The city manager is council’s agent in insuring that the citizens’ interests are being protected and served. Ojai needs an experienced city manager who is skilled in municipal finance, demonstrates responsiveness and respect toward the community, and has the ability to motivate and create partnerships between the city, other agencies, and the citizens.
Making sure that our young people and families with kids who work in the Ojai Valley have the opportunity to live here and raise their families in this terrific town. I do not want us to become a retirement or vacation home city. Solving this problem involves fostering opportunities for young families to have a nice two-bedroom apartment which is secure and they can afford. Our town has a lot of service jobs so a family of four may only make $35,000 a year. This means they really should not be spending more than a thirrd of their income on rent. They send their kids to our schools, participate in recreation and cultural programs and service organizations. They have a perfectly good life for themselves and their kids working right here in the Ojai Valley.
The city’s biggest problem is a lack of foresight and preparation for the future. The way to solve that is for all the commissions with the City Council should do a 10 year master plan for the city, addressing all areas of concern. With a plan in place the City Council will be able to better address concerns and put policies and procedures in place for future council members and commissioners to follow.
The city’s biggest problem is that the council, staff and commissions are 90 percent controlled by the elites either consciously or unconsciously. It’s a long habitual history. If elected and I have at least two other council members to work with we’ll change history so that the city is 90 percent controlled by We the People equalists who believe in “liberty and justice for all.”
I do not believe that there is one “biggest” problem. Problems include affordable housing, ever-increasing bills from Golden State Water, environmental concerns. One person cannot solve the city’s problems; I hope to help create an environment where our greatest resource, our people, can get together and best figure out how to respond to our problems.
The biggest problem our city has is a lack of confidence in our city government. Since taking office in July, I have been working hard to bring that confidence back, and I am dedicated to promoting a “community oriented” agenda that focuses on our elected officials talking, listening, and discussing the issues affecting Ojai together. Only with effective communication between our leaders and our residents can we truly understand the issues affecting Ojai and strengthen the confidence in our city leaders.
By Bill Buchanan
Several years ago my cousin, Kathy, who was dying of cancer, called to slap me in the face with that news, and then made a request. After hitting me with the blow that she had terminal cancer, she asked me to write something for her funeral I blubbered to her through my tears that I would.
Kathy always liked being in control, and was no different when she got sick. She not only wanted me to write the piece, but she also gave me the subject. She said she wanted it called “Alabama Cousins,” in honor of all the cousins on my mother’s side of the family who had grown up together. It took a long time before I could get started writing what she wanted. I tried a few times, but nothing came. Finally, one night, I was returning from a business trip on a plane, and the words just started tumbling out of me. I had no paper with me, so I took out two air sickness bags from the back of the seat in front of me, and wrote everything on the plane. It turned out to be one of the toughest things I have ever attempted.
This column is not much easier. When you read this, Lenny Roberts will be finishing his last official day as managing editor of the Ojai Valley News. Lenny has worked at the paper for 20 almost years. He has been the managing editor the entire time I have owned the newspaper. I do not know what it is like for him not to be here, and am not anxious at the prospect of finding out.
Lenny is a great guy, with a highly developed sense of humor. He and I love to sit around, discuss the newspaper business — both where it has been and where we see it going. We enjoy making each other laugh, telling jokes and old war stories. But there is much, much more to Lenny than that. I have worked in the newspaper business for almost 35 years. I have never seen anyone who loved their job more, or was more dedicated to the newspaper than Lenny Roberts. Lenny comes in every day, does his job like a pro. When he is home, he is monitoring the police scanner like a hawk, always ready to alert one of our reporters to go out and cover everything from someone in an accident, to someone landing a plane on the golf course, to a bear sitting in a tree on Aliso Street.
No matter what time I send Lenny an e-mail about something — whether it is Tuesday night, Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, I almost always get an instantaneous reply. Wherever he is, he is on the job. Lenny is always looking for the next good story, the next great photo. He understands that while luck plays into it, hard work and dedication make you a lot luckier. You have to go on a lot of wild goose chases before you find the golden egg. And Lenny is always ready to go on the chase.
But now, due to health problems, Lenny can no longer do the job the way he demands of himself that it be done.I have known for some time that Lenny’s eye problems were serious.He has not been able to drive for quite awhile.But when he came to me a few weeks ago and told me he was going to have to quit, I pleaded him to stay.Lenny said his eyesight was just not allowing him to do the job the way he wanted to do it.I told him I would take his 75 percent over just about anyone else’s 100 percent, but he declined.He is just too much of a professional to accept anything else.
Lenny will continue to work with the paper by doing video and web site projects, and will also mentor and advise new managing editor, Misty Volaski, as well as our other writers and photographers.
He will not be around the Ojai Valley News as much physically, but his influence will be felt around here for many, many years to come.
VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF
FOLLOW-UP: Suspect pleads guilty
Nature of incident: Arrest of suspect in Heroin Overdose Investigation
Location: Montgomery Street and Franklin Street in the City of Ojai
Date & Time/ RB#: October 27, 2010 @ 10:00 a.m. RB # 10-12287
Unit Responsible: Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit
(S)uspects, (V)ictims, (W)itnesses Address Age
(V) Patrick O’Brien, 15
(S) Craig Anderson, 23
Narrative: On May 22, 2010 at 10:00 a.m., 15 year-old victim Patrick O’Brien was found dead in his family home of a heroin overdose. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit along with the Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit and Deputies from the Ojai Valley Sheriff’s substation conducted an investigation into his death.
During the 4-month investigation, Detectives interviewed numerous witnesses and conducted extensive surveillance within the Ojai Valley and the City of Ventura. Detectives identified suspect Craig Anderson as being the person who supplied heroin to Patrick O’Brien.
On October 27, 2010 during a surveillance in the City of Ojai, Detectives watched as Anderson left a home in the area of Franklin Street and Montgomery Avenue. Detectives contacted Anderson and arrested him without incident. Anderson was booked into the Ventura Pre-Trial Detention Facility for 11353 H&S – Providing Controlled Substances (Heroin) to a minor, a felony. He is being held in custody with a bail set at $75,000.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department will continue its commitment in protecting kids and their families of Ventura County, and vigorously investigate those responsible for supplying controlled substances to the youth in our communities.
Officer Preparing Release: Sergeant Joe Evans, Ventura Coutny Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit.
Opponents cite negative impact, protest decision
By Logan Hall
The California Bureau Of Reclamation has approved the Casitas Municipal Water District’s request for a 6-foot chain-link fence to be erected around the northeast border of the Lake Casitas Recreation Area. The fence, which was first approved by the CMWD board of directors in June, will be almost one mile long, has a budget of $140,000 and will be topped with barbed wire.
According to the CMWD, the existing barbed-wire fence was built when Casitas opened in 1960. The aging fencing is in need of replacement and has been cut repeatedly by trespassers. Steve Wickstrum, CMWD general manager, says that there is a need for security for the public water supply that Casitas provides. He also says that the threat of the quagga mussel is still present, and the perimeter of the lake needs to be protected from illegal boat entry.
Not everyone is happy to see the fence go up. The Ojai Wildlife League has expressed concern for the wild animals that live near the lake. “We are still trying to figure out why the fence is necessary,” said O.W.L. representative Marty Fast, who served as a biologist with the CMWD for 12 years until 2001. “They say the existing fence is no longer functional, but that’s not true at all. The barbed wire has been cut, but it has always been repaired.”
O.W.L. claims they are still dealing with the bureau and that the CMWD hasn’t received final approval to build the fence. “Until the fence is actually put up,” said O.W.L. member Sue Williamson, “it’s not a definite go-ahead as far as we’re concerned.”
Jackie Collins, resource manager for the Bureau of Reclamation, counters by saying everything is moving ahead from their standpoint. “We have approved the plan that has been submitted to us by the CMWD,” said Collins. “It’s a done deal. We will need to go back when they start construction to inspect everything and make sure they are building it according to what we agreed upon. Aside from that, it’s out of our hands now.”
Although the project seems to be moving forward, members of O.W.L. still believe there is a potential negative impact that the fence could have on local wildlife. “Raccoons, possums, coyotes, deer and bobcats all come to the lake for a source of drinking water,” said Fast. “The animals can get through the existing fence they have now, but a chain link fence would make it impossible for most animals to get through.”
Wickstrum counters the argument by giving details of their plan to allow animals access to the lake. “Our goal is not to stop animals from accessing the lake,” he said. “We are trying to protect the facility from illegal entry through weak areas in the existing fence. There are going to be areas of non-chain-link fencing to provide access for animals to get through to the water.”
CMWD engineer Neil Cole backs Wickstrum’s statements. “There are going to be at least six low spots for animal passage along the fence,” said Cole. “We will leave the existing barbed wire in sections between the chain link fence to provide lake access for the animals.”
Ron Merckling, manager of public affairs with Casitas, says that the final number of non-chain-link locations in the fence will be higher. “We have confirmed that there will be 10 spaces in the fence to allow animal passage,” said Merckling. “The length of those spaces will total 1,172 feet, which is about 20 percent of the length of the entire fence.”
According to the CMWD, construction on the fence is scheduled to begin in mid November.
Actress-animal activist Tippi Hedren will be the speical guest at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa Oct. 30 as the resort wraps up its Fall Film Series.
By Misty Volaski
You don’t easily forget a Hitchcock film. His eerie tales unravel the nerves and amplify the senses, even today.
That’s why the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa chose one of his most famous movies, “The Birds,” to close out its Fall Film Series on Oct. 30. The movie’s star, Tippi Hedren, will be on hand at the screening, answering audience questions at 6:15 p.m. before the show starts at 7:15 p.m.
“That movie has a life of its own!” Hedren said of the movie’s staying power. “It just goes on and on. It crossed the line for everyone to be frightened. It’s just been amazing.”
Proceeds from the screening will go to Help of Ojai, Share Our Strength and Shambala Preserve, Hedren’s nonprofit big cat preserve in Acton, Calif.
While Hedren is best known for her 1963 role as Melanie in “The Birds,” she has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows over the years, such as “Marnie” (another Hitchock film), “CSI,” “I Heart Huckabees,” and her current project, “Batman: The Brave and The Bold,” an animated TV series.
The animated series, she said, “… is so fun! These are all actors who are doing these broad comic pieces, and we just have a wonderful time. It’s great, I don’t have to wear makeup!”
But Hedren’s passion lies not only in acting, but also in caring for big cats. She founded the Shambala Preserve in 1983, which takes in abandoned and abused exotic cats — some from circuses, some from private citizens.
One, a black leopard purchased for $6,000, lived in a closet in Newport Beach before its owners tired of the creature chewing on shoes and furniture. So they placed him in a big zipper bag in the trunk of the car and brought him to Shambala. “It was absolutely awful,” Hedren said. But with regular compound to roam, the cat is back to full health.
“The whole reason we have this place is to take really good care of them” Hedren said. “It’s a huge problem — keeping these animals as pets.” The Shambala Preserve takes them when they have nowhere else to go.
Hedren got involved with the cats in the ‘70s, when she and her then-husband decided to do a movie about big cats. After five years of filming on and off, the pair had acquired several animals. “We never thought to try to find homes for the animals,” she explained, “because there were none.” Hence, the birth of Shambala.
Today, Hedren, at age 80, still does a number of fund-raising events for Shambala, including “The Birds” screenings like the one at the inn Oct. 30. “It’s very important to us,” she said.
Tickets for the showing are on sale at brownpapertickets.com
(search Ojai Valley Inn & Spa), and will also be available the night of the screening.
“It will be shown in one of our ballroom spaces,” said OVI public relations manager Veronica Cole. “It’ll be very festive. We’ll have decorations and serve holiday movie snacks. We’re thrilled to welcome Tippi, so glad she could come!”
By Bill Buchanan
When this town pulls together in one direction, it is awe-inspiring. For instance, last Saturday was my first Ojai Day, and it was outstanding. It is almost inconceivable that a town this size could pull off an event that big so professionally and seamlessly. On Saturday, Ojai was alive with music, dancing, artwork, antique automobiles, people and animals. You could feel the energy as folks walked, rode, skated and biked along Ojai Avenue. The organizers, sponsors and participants deserve a big round of applause for producing an exceptional event. Even the weather cooperated.
Also in the spirit of cooperation, I have to say thanks and give a “shout-out” to the nice folks at Bonnie Lu’s Cafe for loaning us some chairs for the OVN Ojai Day booth. The moron who was in charge of loading and setting up our booth (me) didn’t think to bring any chairs. Logan Hall scrounged up a couple from somewhere (I don’t want to know), and we got the others from the cafe. Thanks.
One of the standout events of Ojai Day was the long-anticipated opening of the Ojai Skate Park. You could almost hear the heartbeats racing inside the skaters as they patiently (well, sort of) waited through the opening ceremonies before the ribbon was cut and the park officially opened. It was a real joy to watch all the kids jump on their boards and hit the ramps. I was amazed that so many kids were going so fast in different directions, yet no one ran into anyone else. It was controlled chaos on a grand scale. It reminded me of riding in a taxi down 5th Avenue in New York — the way all the cabs switch lanes suddenly, and weave in and out of traffic, and speed up, and jam on the brakes and blow their horns — yet it all happens without incident. It is almost as if the entire scene was choreographed and rehearsed. Either that or the boarders are like bats, and have an inbred radar system that allows them to swerve at just the right time. Whatever the case, it was a bunch of fun to watch.
The Skate Park scene on Saturday could well have been a much more somber occasion. Last Thursday afternoon, news came that the results of the core sample concrete testing on the park showed that one or more areas did not meet the weight test pounds per square inch as noted in the contract. A letter was issued by the Public Works Department stating that the city was not prepared to accept the job as completed unless a change order was issued. If the change order was issued, the city would sign off by incorporating revisions into the contract and receive a decrease in the contract of over $63,000. This issue was contractual; it was not a matter of safety for those who will use the park.
This offer was not acceptable to many, and there was talk of the park not opening on time. But cool heads and a spirit of cooperation quickly prevailed. A meeting was held on Friday morning, and a compromise was reached that allowed Saturday’s opening to go on without a hitch. Interim city manager John Baker acted quickly and wisely in working with Councilwoman Betsy Clapp, Glen Hawks, city engineer, Skate Ojai President Chet Hilgers and Skate Park representative Bob Daddi, to resolve the final issue. All are to be commended for working together to get the deal done and the park opened on time.
We should also commend the City Council for their wisdom a few months ago in voting not to renew the contract of former city manager Jere Kersnar. It is safe to say that the result of this last-minute problem at the Skate Park would have been very different had the former city manager still been in place.
This city has many other projects ahead, and will be forced to deal with the inevitable hurdles that will accompany them. It is our hope that this recent spirit of cooperation continues to carry forward as we meet the challenges ahead. Because as we have shown, we can do great things when we work together.
By Misty Volaski
Just when the fight for the Ojai Skate Park seemed finally, finally over, rumors of a potentially disastrous construction holdup surfaced. Late Thursday night, city officials were made aware that not all of the park’s concrete withstood the contractually specified pressure tests of 4,000 pounds-per-square inch. Of the several core samples taken “last week or maybe the week before,” said interim city manager John Baker, all met or exceeded the 4,000 PSI requirement — except one, which tested at 3,350 lbs. Core samples were taken only recently because the concrete needed time to fully cure before being sampled, Baker said.
This raised concerns that the park, built by California Skate Parks, Inc., would not be able to open on Ojai Day as scheduled. The portion of the park which did not meet the specifications was a flat surface. “It’s called flat-work,” said Baker. “It’s not the bowl or the humps.”
In a letter dated Oct. 14, Public Works director Michael Culver told Mario Rodriguez of California Skate Parks Inc., that “the City of Ojai’s independent testing of concrete cylinders (on the Ojai Skate Park) has resulted in a finding that the slab-on-grade test resulted in a deficiency. The plans and specifications call for 4,000 lb. concrete, and the cylinder sample taken during the pouring of the flat-work tested at 3,350 lbs.”
It goes on to say that “Due to this defective work, the City of Ojai is not prepared at this time to accept the job as completed.” Culver suggested a “Change Order” in the letter, essentially saying that the City of Ojai would accept the park if California Skate Parks would agree to reduce the overall bill for the Ojai Skate Park by $63,270. That would drop the price to $374,584.08.
However, upon further investigation, walk-throughs and discussion with city officials, California Skate Parks’ Joe Ciaglia confirmed that the park would, in fact, open as scheduled.
The area of the park which tested at 3,350 lbs. would not pose any threat to the public, Ciaglia emphasized. “Standard city streets are 2,500 PSI. The skate park is 4,000. It’s that high because it helps with the longevity. You want the concrete surface to be strong, so when (skateboards) hit the ground, they won’t scratch the surface. It’s absolutely safe. It’s actually very, very minor.”
“The skate park will open tomorrow,” Baker confirmed.
But all the fuss, said Ciaglia, “was a complete error on their (the city’s) part. They jumped the gun. For the city to attack us like that the day before the event — it was an overreaction.”
California Skate Parks will be bringing Ciaglia’s World’s largest Skateboard to the event. The company, Ciaglia said, has also helped to raise funds for the park and has also donated several details to make the park even better. “We wanted it to be the best it could be for the city.”
Meiners Oaks kids “have no place to go”
By Logan Hall
Most people would probably agree that there could never be too many programs or facilities that help kids. Dusty Fernandez and the other members of Heal the Community believe that Meiners Oaks needs a place for kids to go in their spare time. The group is rallying the community to support bringing a Boys and Girls Club satellite to M.O.
“Meiners Oaks is the only place in the Ojai Valley that doesn’t have a youth center,” said Fernandez. “Ojai has the Rec. Department, Oak View has the Community Center, there is nowhere for the kids to go in Meiners Oaks right now.”
Instead of taking on the monumental task of bringing in a new club by themselves, Fernandez and HTC are recruiting members of other organizations throughout the valley to help with the project. “There are so many different people doing things for the youth right now,” continued Fernandez. “We need to pull everyone together to get this done.”
According to Fernandez, they have gained the support of the Oak View Civic Council, Ojai Valley Lions Club, Ojai Optimist Club, Ojai’s Rotary clubs, Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and Meiners Oaks Elementary School, among others.
In a meeting held by HTC on Tuesday night, there appeared to be a very positive attitude. Representatives from some of the supporting organizations discussed everything from a possible location for the club, to financial issues and the formation of a steering committee. All in attendance had different ideas and opinions, but everyone seemed to agree that getting support from organizations in the valley is the key to opening the club.
“This is a big step in the right direction,” said Bill Welch, HTC co-founder. “Sustaining the club financially on a monthly basis will be the hardest part, but getting these groups together is huge.”
Also attending the meeting was HTC co-founder Cindy Sauceda, HTC members Joe Jaramillo and Sharyn Mathews, Don Diaz, Oak View Civic Council members Lynn Smith and John Herndon, Wayne Ortman, honorary Oak View Mayor Greg Webster, Ojai Valley Lions Club members Dave Hunt, J.D. Drury and Doug Winbury, M.O. Elementary School principal Dawn Damianos and J. Cuervo Sosa, vice president of Addictive Disorder Studies and the Peer Leadership Club.
Standardization test scores up despite drop at San Antonio
By Misty Volaski
Despite losing millions of dollars from the Ojai Unified School District budget over the last few years, OUSD students are still performing well overall, according to California state standardized test results.
OUSD board members got good news at Tuesday night’s meeting, when principals from the elementary schools, Matilija Junior High and Nordhoff High shared their schools’ Academic Performance indexes. As a group, OUSD students posted an API score of 815 points —- that’s a seven-point increase from 2008 to 2009.
“It went up considerably,” said superintendent Hank Bangser. “It’s the highest in the history of the district.”
That 815 figure comes from the Standardized Testing And Reporting (S.T.A.R.) exams, which are multiple tests in English-language arts, math, science and history-social science. Given to students in grades two through 11 each spring since 1997, the tests determine the academic health of counties, school districts, schools, and individual students themselves. School districts are mandated to get their schools above 800 points by 2014, something the OUSD students already accomplished in the 2009 testing.
While students don’t receive academic credit for the tests, and do not suffer penalties for doing poorly, the tests are useful in helping schools, teachers and administrators change and improve their teaching methods, Bangser said.
The OUSD, he added, had the second-highest scores in Ventura County, of all the unified school districts (districts that include kindergarten through 12th grade).
An addition, “Every one of our elementary schools except one (San Antonio) has a higher API score than last year,” Bangser said. But although San Antonio’s score dropped over 20 points from last year, it still boasts the highest score in the district, with 874 points. Meiners Oaks went up 10 points, to 812; Mira Monte increased 12 points, to 870; Summit increased 20 points, to 844; and Topa Topa improved 18 points, to 833.
At Matilija, students scored significantly higher, at 822 points, than the rest of the county (797) and the entire state of California (779). It was a 19-point increase over last year.
Nordhoff, meanwhile, saw a three-point drop, from 783 to 780. Still, the students did better than the county average of 777. Discussion at Tuesday’s board meeting included questions about NHS students’ motivation, which teacher Greg Bayless addressed. “Twenty-five percent of students reported giving 50 percent or less effort on the test,” he said Tuesday. Bangser later added that most students, over two-thirds, reported that they at least tried, or tried hard.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to think our high school students take (the testing) any less seriously or any more seriously than any other high school,” he said. “So it’s just high school kids being high school kids? “Exactly!” Bangser said.
Still, improving student proficiency across the board continues to be the main priority of all teachers and administrators.
“You can’t just keep progressing to the next lesson,” said Matilija principal Emily Mostovoy. All OUSD schools are testing or improving programs to reach out to students who need extra help. “This is in addition to creating exciting programs for talented students,” Bangser said. “We’re proud of how our students are doing.
By Bill Buchanan
Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s there was a very average television show called “That’s Incredible.” It featured stunts and outlandish stories, and after each segment ended, one of the hosts would lead the studio audience in a lame cheer of “That’s incredible!”
OK, it might not have been a great show, but it was a guilty pleasure and I used to watch it. And, OK, part of why I watched it was I thought Cathie Lee Crosby was hot.
Well, there were several items in the news lately that made me want to say some form of “That’s Incredible!” —- or in some cases maybe “That’s incredibly stupid!” or even “That’s incredibly sickening!”
One item of note is the upcoming Proposition 19, the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010,” which would decriminalize the personal use of marijuana. Proponents of the bill claim it would save money by allowing the police and courts to focus on more serious crime issues than running around arresting people for small amounts of marijuana. They also claim the new law would be a revenue producer by taxing the legal sale of cannabis, which they say might bring over $1 billion in new taxes and fees. This is very tempting for a cash-strapped state.
But no matter how you feel about marijuana, the act leaves much to be desired. According to an information sheet provided by the California Chamber of Commerce, “Prop. 19 creates a new protected class of workers and prohibits discrimination against marijuana users, just like age, gender and ethnicity.” It goes on to say that “even though pre-employment drug testing is not per se prohibited, an employer cannot use the results of a positive marijuana test as a reason not to hire an applicant.”
Are they serious? I mean, why can’t you discriminate against dope smokers? I don’t remember reading in the Declaration of Independence that our “unalienable rights” are life, liberty and the pursuit of a really good buzz.
Proposition 19 is opposed by the California Police Chiefs Association, in part, because it does not include a definition of “driving under the influence.” This could potentially allow people to drive or operate heavy machinery without any test to determine their degree of impairment. The way the bill is written seems to prevent companies from taking action against someone who might be impaired until after there is an accident. Does anyone actually want school bus drivers or over-the-road truckers not to be screened for drugs before they operate vehicles? Is there anyone who really thinks that is a good idea?
Another item that caught my eye (and turned my stomach) was the story about the South Fulton, Tenn. firefighters who stood by and watched as the home of Gene and Paulette Cranik burned to the ground. It seems the Cranik family had the bad luck for their home to be located in a rural area of the county, which does not offer fire service. Rural residents must pay an annual fee to get firefighting service from the nearby town of South Fulton. The family had paid the fee in the past, but had forgotten to pay this year.
Since the family had not paid the fee, the firefighters were not contractually obligated to put out the blaze that consumed the house. And not only did the family lose all their possessions, they also lost four family pets —- three dogs and a cat. So four defenseless and terrified animals burned to death because the Craniks neglected to pay a $75 fee.
Lest you think this story might not have a happy ending, the firefighters did manage to keep the flames from spreading to the property of the owners nearby who had paid the annual fee. I know I feel much better now.
Note to South Fulton: Do you think maybe your policy needs to be retooled a little bit here? Could you just raise taxes a little bit and give everyone protection so property and animals don’t have to perish unnecessarily?
This story only proves to me that Lily Tomlin was right when she said, “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”
Finally, there was an article recently about a production group who is seeking to create a southern version of MTV’s “Jersey Shore.” For those who are unfamiliar with this cultural phenomenon, “Jersey Shore” is a reality show about young people from New Jersey whose main purpose in life seems to be to dress flashy and trashy, get drunk a lot, seduce someone, and rake in enough money from the show to buy gold chains, hair gel and make multiple trips to the tanning salon. Lofty goals, indeed.
The proposed title of the southern equivalent is “Redneck Riviera,” which is a popular moniker for the beaches of the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. The article I saw says the production company’s website is seeking auditions for the show, and apparently wants lots of Confederate flags, pickup trucks, etc.
This is really good news for Alabama, and the South in general. What the South’s image desperately needs is a show that features drunken white trash idiots driving pickup trucks and sporting Confederate flags. Maybe we could have them hanging out the windows hollering and waving firearms, too. That would be great — especially for tourism.
Unfortunately, television executives have discovered the benefits of reality shows. They are relatively inexpensive to produce. For instance, you are not required to pay actors for the show. In our present culture that seems to value celebrity over all else, there is an endless supply of people who will do absolutely anything to be on television. They will happily subject themselves to all manner of humiliation and danger for any amount of air time, and will say or do anything the director asks of them — so you don’t have to waste a lot of money on those pesky writers who might insert something witty or clever into the show.
So, these shows are televised simply because they are cheap and easy to produce. Not exactly the Golden Age of television. The sad part of this is that these shows garner viewers at all. The even sadder part is that in some cases they acquire a very large audience. All this makes me think that we may be in the middle of an evolutionary U-turn. We may be on our way to return to the slime that emerged from the ocean all those years ago. I guess having shows located at the Jersey shore and Gulf Coast are pretty handy — the slime doesn’t have far to travel to return to the sea.
Shephard O’Brien and his dog, Blitze, sit outside of their house on Golden West Avenue.
By Logan Hall
The sound of frantic barking and growling in the streets could be enough to make many people uneasy about venturing outside their homes. After a dog attack Thursday, residents of the neighborhood surrounding Golden West Avenue are thinking twice about walking their dogs on the street. At 10:42 a.m., a 911 call was made by a concerned resident that three pit bulls were attacking a local man and his dog.
Shephard O’Brien and his 9-month-old black Labrador, Blitze, were enjoying the weather on the 200 block of Golden West. O’Brien, who rides his skateboard while Blitze pulls him along the pavement, noticed three, full-grown pit bulls being walked by another neighborhood resident. According to O’Brien, the woman walking the dogs had difficulty controlling them. “We were just about to go home when I saw this lady walking three pits,” he said, “one lady, walking all three, full-grown pit bulls. She couldn’t control them at all. As we went by, all three started to attack my dog.”
One neighborhood resident, who prefers to remain anonymous, saw the attack and called for help. “I heard the sound of dogs fighting so I went outside,” she said. “I saw a young man hitting a dog on a leash. At first I thought the boy was abusing the dog. Then I realized that the pit bull he was hitting had another dog by the neck. That’s when I ran back inside to call 911.”
As the pitbulls attacked Blitze, O’Brien tried to pull them off and subsequently ended up getting bit. “They wouldn’t let him go,” he said as he described how he had to resort to desperate measures. “I couldn’t get them off of my dog. I finally started hitting the pits with my skateboard until they finally let him go.”
“The Lab was in really bad shape,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Lowes, who was one of the responding officers on scene. “It’s bad news when these pit bulls attack someone.”
O’Brien’s dog suffered multiple puncture wounds, and blood at the scene indicated that Blitze had bled profusely. O’Brien’s sister took the dog to get him emergency care. “I was covered in blood and there were pools of blood in the street,” said O’Brien. “My sister tried to take him to the pet hospital in Ojai, but they said they couldn’t help him until the next morning. We got him to the Oak View Animal Clinic and they saw him right away and got him stitched up. I’m really thankful for them. Blitze is going to be OK. He’s definitely going to make it.”
The pits also injured O’Brien, who was treated at the Ojai Valley Community Hospital for puncture wounds to his left arm. He claims that the owners of the pit bulls have refused to take their share of responsibility, telling O’Brien that they had already received a ticket from Animal Control. “I’ve paid about $600 out of my own pocket,” said O’Brien. “I have receipts from the vet and the hospital. We will have to settle this some way. If they don’t want to take care of this, we will take them to small claims court.”
The owners of the pit bulls, who live on the 1100 block of Anita Street, claim that this is an isolated incident. “This has never happened before,” said the owner, who refused to give his name. “My dogs have been around other dogs a lot of times, but this is the first time this has happened.”
O’Brien and Blitze aren’t the only ones in the neighborhood who have had problems with dog attacks. Residents of the area have come forward to express their concern, including Hal Moore, who lives on Anita Street with his family. Moore has experienced issues with dogs loose in the neighborhood. “It’s getting ridiculous,” he said. “Last year, a rottweiler had killed a small terrier down the street, and I’ve seen those pit bulls loose before. I’ve had to tell people walking by to watch out. It’s not a good situation. You are taking a chance walking your dog through the neighborhood nowadays. Nobody is safe.”
The pit bulls’ owner and O’Brien said that the dogs that attacked are being quarantined by Animal Control for 10 days, then it will be determined whether the dogs are allowed back at the residence or if they will have to be put down. Despite repeated attempts, the Ojai Valley News was unable to reach Animal Control for comments.
Newly appointed Ojai records manager Rhonda Basore is looking forward to her job and new home.Photo by Mary M. Long
Baker hires former Murietta
assistant city manager
By Mary Long
Rhonda Basore has accepted the position of records manager for the city of Ojai. A native of Nebraska, moving to Ojai gives country girl Basore the opportunity to return to a small-town way of life. Leaving her job as assistant city clerk for the city of Murrieta, Basore will also enjoy a pay raise, moving from $58,000 a year to a starting salary of $60,000 for the city of Ojai. “I was topped out in Murrieta,” said Basore, who hopes that the Ojai job will also offer her more opportunities for advancement as well as giving her the chance to work in a smaller office, which she prefers.She became aware of the job opening through her membership in the City Clerks Association of California, and started the application process. She was first interviewed by a panel including Ojai’s interim city clerk Cynthia Burrell, city manager’s assistant Steven McClary, and city manager of Port Hueneme’s assistant Carmen Nichols. According to McClary, it’s a common practice to bring in representatives from other cities to sit on interview panels to “help maintain the integrity of the hiring process.”Impressing the panel, Basore advanced to an interview with interim city manager John Baker, who she said, “… made me feel very comfortable in the interview process. To me, he’s very down to earth and he’s very smart.” Basore has impressive credentials holding the title of master municipal clerk which is a designation that’s given by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. “It’s quite an accomplishment,” said Basore, with only about 600 city clerks in the state of California holding that level of qualification, which requires a bachelor’s degree and completion of additional studies. With over 20 years working in city government, Basore has spent the last 15 years working in the city clerk and records management field. While she stayed only one year in the city clerk’s office in Murrieta, she earned the respect of her co-workers, according to City Clerk Kay Vinson, who said Basore proved to be “an ambitious, hard worker, who provided excellent customer service.”
Prior to accepting a job in Murrieta, Basore spent 10 years in northern California in the small town of Pittsburg, where she held the title of deputy city clerk. According to McClary, one of the qualities they were looking for was “somebody with the experience level that could come in and do the job right away,” which he feels they have found in Basore.
Moving to Southern California is like coming home for her husband, Duane, who was born in Alhambra and grew up in Temple City. Relocating to Ojai, fulfills their desire for small-town living and still keeps them within driving distance of two of their three children. Daughter Amber is attending UCLA and son Sean is enrolled in the University of San Diego, while their oldest son, Kyle, makes his home in Michigan. Basore and her husband will be looking to buy a home in Ojai where they hope to eventually retire with their husky dog, Nala. While her husband is looking forward to trying out Ojai’s tennis courts, Basore can’t wait to enjoy Ojai’s extensive walking and cycling paths. She also hopes to renew her equestrian skills and is looking forward to living in a community where she can walk to work.
“We’ll be moving this weekend,” said Basore, whose busy life still includes plans to attend Ojai Day as the kickoff for her involvement in her new community of Ojai.
Judge Joe Brown, from his self-titled syndicated TV show, takes notes about the chilis up for judging at the Rotary Club of Ojai-West’s “Big Chili Cook-Off” at Lake Casitas on Saturday; 27 entries in the cook-off’s four categories squared off under the scrutiny of the judges. Photo by Logan Hall
By Logan Hall
With its close proximity to Los Angeles and Hollywood, the Ojai Valley is home to several superstars of film and television. Judge Joe Brown, of the hit TV show by his own name, is proud to call the valley his home. On Saturday, Brown put down the gavel and picked up a spoon to be a judge in the Ojai Rotary Club West’s “Big Chili Cook-Off” at Lake Casitas. The OVN caught up with him between rounds to talk Ojai, television, and the youth of America.
OVN: When did you move into town and what made you decide on Ojai?
JB: I had lived in Los Angeles for many years. My wife was staying in Ojai, so when we moved in 2001, we came here.
OVN: Ojai has been your home for almost 10 years. What are some of the things about the valley that you like the most?
JB: I enjoy riding the bike and going hiking on the trails around here. My wife, Deborah, enjoys running and hiking with her friends. We enjoy coming out to the lake and walking around toward the dam. There are many fine events that take place here like the Wine Festival and the Chili Cook-Off.
OVN: What were your first impressions of the valley?
JB: The first thing that I noticed was the eclectic group of people that have inhabited this fair land. It’s a very interesting mix. I also noticed all of the lovely pastel shades of dirt. It took awhile, but I finally found some green grass too.
OVN: What are some of the other things you do in your spare time?
JB: I enjoy taking pictures with any of my cameras. I like the new digital aspect of taking photos, but I will always have a special interest in the old film cameras. You have to adjust everything by hand and you usually only get one chance to get the shot. I always like to be doing anything that involves the great outdoors. This is a beautiful area and we need to keep it that way.
OVN: You have had great success with your TV show, “Judge Joe Brown.” What have you accomplished with the series since it began?
JB: This is year 13 for the show. It’s the No. 3 daytime-syndicated show on TV and No. 10 overall. We’re sharing the success of daytime television with Oprah.
OVN: All of the proceedings on the show appear to be very realistic. Are the cases that come through your courtroom the real deal?
JB:: This is not just a TV show. The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that what we do is binding and contractual.
OVN: What are some of the things that you have seen in your years with the show?
JB: I’ve noticed that something is going wrong with the American public. There seems to be a complete and total ignorance of rules of the game in this country. Hollywood icons display it, and all of the kids follow in the footsteps of their idols in music and TV.
OVN: You mentioned the kids that are heading down the wrong path. What are some of the issues that you have seen with the youth in the United States.
JB: They have the idea that their dreams will come even if they don’t work for them. There seems to be a profound lack of sweat, blood and personal investiture in what they want. The youth of America today is trending toward a sense of entitlement.
OVN: How can the current issues with youth be resolved and turned in the right direction?
JB: Well, I’ve been involved with Rotary Clubs all over for the last 30-something years. They seem to be the ones that can help get the kids on track. I’m glad we have Rotary locally that is getting involved, and teaching kids about civics and civility. Someone needs to be teaching the kids common courtesies and that life isn’t a free ride. You have to earn it.
Schools say most junior high school incidents go unreported
By Misty Volaski
Who doesn’t remember being bullied on the playground? Maybe you were a little pudgy. Maybe you got shoved against the lockers, or your pigtails pulled, or your milk money stolen. It was cruel, sure. But, with the advent of texting, MySpace, Facebook, and the like, memories of schoolyard tiffs suddenly seem like the good ol’ days.
Now, when students dislike each other, there are multiple venues for them to vent their hostility — mass text messages or e-mails, post threats and comments on MySpace pages, steal each others’ passwords and send hurtful messages, take inappropriate pictures and post them on Facebook walls — the list is only limited to the bullies’ creativity and access to technology and the internet.
Several studies have been conducted, but the actual number of cyberbullies and their victims varies widely. According to the i-SAFE Foundation, more than one in three young people have been threatened online; the Hartford County Examiner reported the number was more like 50 percent; Cyberbul
lying.us, meanwhile, found 20 percent of kids 11 to 18 had been bullied.
Schools, however, are treading on delicate ground when they get involved. Typically, schools stay away until there is a direct connection with the school or if the bullying will directly affect day-to-day operations at the school. Over the last few years, most school districts, the OUSD included, have created specific rules against bullying and cyberbullying.
“The OUSD won’t get involved unless we find there is a nexus between the student and school,” said Ojai Unified School District superintendent Hank Bangser. “A harassment lawyer would say, ‘It happened outside of school, you can’t do anything about it,’ but I say that’s wrong. If a person feels there’s a safety issue involved, physical or emotional, I’d rather err on the side of getting involved. I’d rather do something than wish we would have done something.”
Thankfully, although cyberbullying has gained national attention in the last few weeks, the problem doesn’t seem to be severe in Ojai Valley public and private schools. Administrators at Matilija Junior High and Nordhoff High School say they give assemblies at the beginning of each school year to educate youths on the types of cyberbullying, and the effects of those actions.
“Online actions equal offline consequences,” reads the last page of the NSteens.org presentation, which is used at Matilija. “That is really what we stress more than anything,” said Matilija principal Emily Mostovoy. “Most of the time, the kids didn’t understand that it’s not funny.”
“We are intolerant of bullying and harassment,” said Susana Arce, assistant principal at Nordhoff. “I spend a lot of time on who is doing what to whom. We take it very seriously — they need to be educated that what they’re doing is bullying. If something comes up, very often it’s just a conversation to get the student to remove (the offensive post). When the sender understands the impact, they say, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe that, it’s not what I meant.’”
“It’s intent vs. impact,” added NHS principal Dan Musick.
“Slang can be interpreted very differently,” said Mostovoy. The junior high sees a much higher number of incidents, she added. Since 2007, Nordhoff has seen 10 harassment-bullying cases of any kind, said principal Musick. But just in the 2009-2010 school year at Matilija, there were 17 suspendable offenses for bullying (with or without an electronic act), and there have been five more so far in this school year. “They’re still learning social skills,” explained Mostovoy of the higher numbers. “Everyone is trying to define who they are. They’re going through so many changes physically and emotionally, with higher academic expectations. (Bullying) is much easier to do online and through texting than through face-to-face and rumor spreading.”
As a response to these incidents, each school site states its rules to students very clearly. Both MJHS and NHS have a harassment-bullying complaint form, which is available online and at school, said Mostovoy. The assemblies are also a big part of the anti-cyberbully strategy.
The Thacher School created a broader approach, said head of school Mike Mulligan. “Our central tenets are honor, fairness, kindness and truth, and they are overarching; they don’t spell out every situation. But we absolutely have policies (detailing) appropriate behavior, and they apply to the world of the internet as well as to the school. Respect for others, for self, no hazing, no sexual or physical harassment. We have high expectations of student behavior and only a couple times have students come up for judicial review.”
Will the issue ever go away? “We have to deal with it, stay on it,” said Arce, adding that, “to some extent, these are “natural behaviors when teenagers gather together for a long time in a small space.”
Administrators urged parents to stay active in their children’s lives, both in person and online. “Be a part of it!” said Mostovoy. Get a Facebook page, and have your child add you as a friend. Get them to share their passwords, or keep the computer in the living room, “so the kids know I can check,” said Arce. “My granddaughters are on Facebook, and I see what they write.”
Ojai’s first rain of the season kept people in the valley scrambling for cover throughout the day on Wednesday. Meiners Oaks resident Robert Morton takes advantage of the quiet evening, casting a line into Lake Casitas as the sky begins to clear and a rainbow points to the pot of gold. Photo by Logan Hall
By Logan Hall
The Ojai Valley encountered its first rainstorm of the season on Tuesday and Wednesday after the lightning show last week. Different parts of the valley received varying amounts of rainfall over the course of the storm. Although receiving less than an inch in most parts of the valley, the storm was enough to bring down an oak tree in Meiners Oaks.
The tree, which had split in half, damaged an apartment building and a home on the 200 block of Carrizo Street at around 7:15 a.m. No injuries were reported, but the home, which was occupied by Diane Treanor and her family, suffered extensive damage. “We were all in the house when it fell,” said Treanor, who was helping her daughter, Angela, get her granddaughter ready for school. “Angela was in the room when she heard the crash. She rolled toward the middle of the room and it came down right were she had been.”
Tony McHale, with Ojai Station 21 of the Ventura County Fire Department, says this a common occurrence this time of year. “These oaks are deadly this time of year,” said a civilian-clad McHale, who was in the neighborhood on his way to the station downtown when he saw the Station 22 fire engine down the street. “I’ve seen some bad ones the last couple of years,” he said.
Although Treanor was unable to reach her son, the owner of the house, to find out if insurance would cover the damage, she was optimistic as she looked at the large limb covering the roof of her home. “We were planning on renovating the house,” she said. “This wasn’t part of the plans, but maybe it will kick it into gear.”
Aside from the tree, there was at least one minor traffic collision in downtown Ojai, and some residents had to deal with flooding.
According to the Ventura County Watershed website, the Meiners Oaks area received about .85 inches. The East End saw more than 1.3 inches, Matilija Canyon saw about 1.4 inches, and Sulphur Mountain experienced more than 1.6 inches of rain.
By Bill Buchanan
At Tuesday night’s City Council candidates forum, Dennis Leary, he of the slogan “Love Ojai, Vote Leary,” decided to declare his lack of love for the present City Council by using a vulgar four-letter word we cannot print in this newspaper. He made the comment while decrying the Libbey Bowl lease negotiated and approved by council members.
Dennis — really — was that word absolutely necessary to make your point? Did it slip out in the heat of the passion you felt about the lease? Or was the remark premeditatedly uttered to elicit shock among those present at the event, and with the additional goal of putting “Leary” on the lips of all those in Ojai in the coming days through the inevitable publicity you would receive?
The Ojai Valley News does not generally endorse candidates, and this is not an endorsement of anyone opposing Dennis Leary in the upcoming election. But that word has no business being uttered in a public forum, and he should be ashamed. You are better than that, Dennis, or certainly should be.
In one way, I owe Dennis Leary a debt of gratitude. I had decided to write my column about the coarsening of our culture. The above is a perfect example.
I am not a prude. And I do not plan to campaign for a return to the Victorian era. I remember my Aunt Inus, born in 1901, telling me once how in her youth, the word “bull” carried sexual connotations, and was not used in mixed company. In polite society, if women were present, a bull was referred to as a “male” or as a “yearling” — even if he was 20 years old.
Those days are behind us, and I am not advocating their return. But it does seem that a lot of our society is just not very social —- and not very polite. There are countless examples of this, such as the New York gubernatorial candidate who recently yelled, “I’ll take you out, buddy!” at a journalist during a confrontation. I don’t think he meant he would like a date with him. Then there was the member of Congress who yelled out, “You lie,” during President Obama’s address to the nation. And there was the punch thrown by one Alabama state senator at another while on the floor of the state legislature that was a huge “YouTube” video hit a few years ago. The list goes on and on, and it isn’t just political —- although I cannot remember another time in my life when political parties seemed more divided and nastier to each other.
I believe there are three main contributors to this phenomenon:- becoming desensitized, anonymous communication and a lack of consequences for unacceptable behavior.
Many of us have become desensitized. A lot of people now communicate via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and texting as opposed to actual personal interaction. We type what we want to say instead of talking on the phone, or in person. Typing and/or texting tends to be abbreviated and less expressive. Without personal contact, you do not hear or see the effect your words have on the other person. You do not sense the emotions your words may cause. When you communicate face-to-face, if you say something that hurts the other person’s feelings, you often realize that right away, and may back off a little or even apologize for what you have said. You don’t usually get that same feedback from a text.
A lot of our communication is anonymous. People post comments to blogs under fictitious names. This gives some false courage. They take this liberty to say hurtful, nasty and abusive things about others that they would never post if required to give their name. We face the decision regarding the pros and cons of such communication here at the Ojai Valley News on an ongoing basis. We require letters to the editor to be signed, and we verify that the signatures are accurate. We publish the names of the author. But we do not require published signatures on “Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down,” which is one of our most popular features. We also do not require identification on blog posts. Consequently, we get some marginally acceptable and even unacceptable comments. It is a dilemma, and one that Lenny and I debate routinely.
Society accepts unacceptable behavior. Parents often tolerate behavior from their children that amazes me. I have seen absolutely abysmal conduct from the children of some of my friends go completely unpunished. I have heard those parents try to reason with their children about “making better choices” and even criticizing other adults for making negative comments about the child’s actions.
I was raised a different way. Bad behavior had consequences. I was certainly not a model child. In fact, I was very difficult. But I knew if I behaved badly and got caught, I was in for something unpleasant. When my daddy was alive, he was the master of corporal punishment. When I stepped way out of bounds, Daddy would tell me to go wait in the bedroom, and he would be in later “with the belt.” The sense of doom and dread while waiting was always worse than the actual whipping. Sometimes I was tempted to go to the door and yell, “Please get in here so we get this over with!”
My mother had a different approach, especially as I grew older. I was very close to my mother. And while we had the inevitable disagreements that teenagers and their parents have, there was no one I wanted to please more than her. Mother knew this, and so when I acted inappropriately, she would sit me down for a talk. She would calmly explain how my behavior was bad, and that it had hurt her deeply, and that she was worried about my future if I didn’t correct my mistakes, and so on. My mother became the travel agent for guilt trips. After one of those talks, I would not have felt any worse than if you had tied me to a tree and beaten me with a logging chain.
Did I turn out perfectly? No. Am I a better person than I would have been if my bad behavior would have gone unpunished? Absolutely.
How do we correct all this? Well, publicity about road rage incidents has probably cut down a little on discourteous driving and obscene gestures behind the wheel. The thought that the person you want to yell at or gesture to might come after you with a gun or golf club probably acts as a deterrent for some. But some type of vigilante threat or martial law is not a good answer.
Maybe if we all just stepped back and gave a little more thought before we talked or typed. Maybe if we thought, “Would I say or do this if everyone knew it was me —- would I say or send this if I thought of the effect it might have on the recipient — would I do this if I knew it was going to cause trouble or pain?”
Emily Post said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.”
That might be a good start.
Fiery City Council candidate Dennis Leary didn’t hold back his anger Tuesday night at the forum staged at Soule Park by the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce. Seated are candidates Paul Blatz, left, Carlon Strobel, Lenny Klaif, Carol Smith and Demitri Corbin. Photo by Mary M. Long
By Mary M. Long
It didn’t take long for the highly anticipated and well-attended candidates’ forum at Soule Park Tuesday evening to turn sour as two City Council incumbents faced off against four challengers.
Chamber President Bob Kemper opened the meeting with introductions, and then turned the microphone over to Scott Eicher, chamber CEO, who acted as the master of ceremonies and moderator for the forum. With three council seats up for election, the field was bigger than usual, including incumbents Carol Smith, Paul Blatz and challengers Demitri Corbin, Leonard Klaif, Dennis Leary and Carlon Strobel. In advance of the meeting the chamber had solicited questions from its members which were provided to the candidates. The candidates’ written responses to those questions were available at the door to attendees. In keeping with the chamber’s mission to promote the economic vitality of its members, the tone of the questions reflected the interests of its members. According to Kemper, “This forum is designed to ask these candidates, ‘What is your vision for the economic revival of Ojai?’’
After introductions, questions which had been provided by chamber members were randomly given to one or more candidates who had two minutes to respond to his or her question.
Candidates not only defined their approach to city government, but the opportunity to interact with the public also gave them a chance to define their personalities, personal strengths and weaknesses.
Strobel defined her qualifications for City Council as having worked for the city for the past 20 years, holding the elected position of city clerk for the last 10 years. Strobel, quietly serious in her responses to questions, spoke with a knowledge of the history of city government citing the years when Nina Shelley served on the council as an example of effective advocacy. According to Strobel, when the city was threatened with a water rate increase, Shelley flew to Sacramento with the city manager and addressed the Public Utilities Commission in person. “That was the best result,” she said. “The water company still received an increase but it was held very low.” She pointed out that the state, not the city of Ojai, regulates water rates, but suggested in her closing statement that it would be advisable for the city to consider buying the water company. She noted that the benefits of that action might not result in savings for many years, but would positively affect upcoming generations.
Corbin defined himself as being a unique candidate for the council in the fields of arts and education. He has been a volunteer on the Arts Commission for 10 years and believes that he can represent the arts like no other candidate. “Libbey Bowl is my classroom, I have taught hundreds of children on that stage. With that, I can say that when I walk down the street two out of three of the kids that are in high school, I have taught.” In response to Smith’s comments that Libbey Bowl would be bringing tourism to Ojai, he reminded the audience that “all of our arts organizations need support so that they can also bring in tourism money.”
Klaif drew chuckles from the audience when he said that he was both an attorney and a licensed massage therapist, which made his qualifications unique. “You can laugh, but they require different skills and reaching into different places for knowledge.” He also reminded the audience that he had led the Ojai Art Center board for five years, so that he is also well-versed in the arts community. He was the only candidate to endorse other candidates stating that he planned on using the two votes that would not be spent on himself voting for Carlon Strobel and Paul Blatz. He described Strobel as “an incredibly dedicated public servant … who loves the people of Ojai and who has an enormous treasure trove of knowledge on how the city works.” Some of the most caustic comments of the evening came when he pointed out that he did not think that Smith deserved another term. He said that when both he and Smith ran for office eight years ago they both ran on the platform of supporting the Skate Park, and that if he had been elected it would not have taken eight years for the park to be built. “I have a hard time sitting here while Carol takes credit for the Skate Park. Why did it take seven years and 10 months into her tenure, yet we’re going to have a Libbey Bowl at 10 times the cost in a year and a half?” he asked.
Incumbent Smith fielded the question of whether or not the position of city attorney should be a paid staff position or a contracted position as it is now. Smith made the observation that “right now our attorney is a contracted position who works on a 30-day notice — the council can terminate his services without giving a reason — it would take four people on the council to do that.” She pointed out that if the city were to hire a single person instead of a firm, it would require the city to carry health benefits for that person and “after a six-month trial he would become an employee which would involve everything that involves letting an employee go,” if they did not work out.
At his first opportunity Klaif jumped on this, bringing the house down with cheers and laughter as he claimed, “If I can go back to the city attorney, we may be able to get rid of him in 30 days, but he’s been there almost 30 years — at least 10 years too long!”
Blatz reiterated his campaign promises and said, “I would be honored to serve the citizens of Ojai for a four-year term. He urged citizens to “say yes on Proposition 22 which would not allow the state to come in and take our property tax money.” He responded to the question of whether or not the city should re-establish the position of director of planning as a position separate from that of city manager by citing fiscal responsibility as the first consideration.
On development, Klaif commented on the fact that “development should not be cheap. I like the fact that somebody can’t come in and tear down 23 affordable housing units and put up 30 condominiums in six months.” Smith mentioned that another way to fulfill the city’s mandate to provide affordable housing as “offering amnesty” to non-compliant housing, so that those units could count toward the housing element requirement to identify 400 affordable units. Smith also reminded the audience that Ojai would not have a dog park if it wasn’t for her, listing it as one of her proudest accomplishments.
Leary said his campaign slogan is “Love Ojai” and wore a Love Ojai T-shirt to the meeting, sporting red block letters on a white background. Opening with his traditional poetry he went on to quote Jack Benny on the subject of money woes and made the observation on the question of balancing the city’s budget, “You can only balance a budget in two ways, you can spend less or you can tax more. Spending less makes the most sense.” He addressed the fact that over half the city’s budget goes for police and said, “Our community is safe because of the citizens, not because of the police … Love Ojai, love people, and the law will take care of itself.” Unlike Klaif who was the only candidate to endorse some of his fellow running mates, Leary concluded his closing statement with a rousing un-endorsement. Claiming that the Libbey Bowl lease was a fraud perpetrated on the people of Ojai, he said that “… on the night of the signing of the lease the public was totally excluded, pushed away, a matter like this is supposed to noticed, 72 hours, put on the agenda. It was not. In effect what the council said that night was ‘f—— you,’ you’re just the public.” Calling the incumbents “liars and thieves” he was nearly shouting when he chanted, “I will not vote for Blatz, I will not vote for Smith, I will not vote for Clapp, and I will not vote for Olsen, if he runs again.” Gasps were heard from the stunned audience, followed by silence. Present in the audience Monday night were Mel Bloom, Wendy Hilgers, Bob Daddi, John Broesamle, Jeff Haydon, Ren Adam, Bret Bradigan, Dale Hanson, Suza Francina, and members of the Green Coalition, among others. The candidates’ forum was sponsored by Heritage Financial, Ojai Community Bank, Ojai Valley Directory, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Ojai Valley News, and Plush Surroundings.
By Bill Buchanan
As I write this I have just returned from a cookout with a few hundred friends, known locally as “Taste of Ojai.” This was my first time at the event —- it will not be my last. The “Taste of Ojai” offers a great opportunity to sample local food, beer and wine while you enjoy the splendor of our town framed by the beauty of the 10th green at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. An added benefit is that since it is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Ojai, the proceeds of the event go to fund service projects here in the community. Everyone benefits.
It was a lovely day. My congratulations go to the food and beverage vendors who provided outstanding eats and drinks, to the Rotary Club for managing a complicated event and running it so smoothly, and to the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa for their usual great job of event hosting.
It is no secret that Ojai has great food. Local restaurants and some of their signature dishes, as well as locally produced wines will be featured in the upcoming edition of the Ojai Valley Visitors Guide. The fall edition of the Visitors Guide should be available by the time you read this.
It is easy enough for anyone who has seen me to know that I love to eat. I have great admiration for fine cooks —- those who can take the same ingredients that are available to me and create something wonderful while most things I make tend to taste like burning hair.
I was not always such a pitiful cook as I am now. While no one would ever mistake me for Julia Child in the kitchen (I believe she was taller), at one time, I did know how to make a few dishes. Well, OK, about five. And there were actually a couple of things I cooked that weren’t bad. I made very good scrambled eggs as well as great fried chicken. The fried chicken would certainly not be considered a big deal as cooking good fried chicken is pretty much in your DNA if you are a Southerner. In fact, in the South, the general rule is that if it doesn’t move quickly, it gets fried.
The unenviable job of teaching me to cook fell to my maiden aunt, who had lived with my family as far back as I can recall. Actually, she volunteered for the duty, much as a brave soldier would volunteer for a suicide mission in times of war. So, one day years ago, Aunt Inus pulled me aside and said that since I would be going off to college soon and would be living in an apartment, I needed to know how to make a few simple dishes. In her perfect teacher-script (which was still lovely and legible well into her 80s), she proceeded to hand-write recipes outlining how to fry chicken and how to cook a roast and how to make other dishes she thought even I could handle. Today, it might be called something like “Cooking for Dummies 1.0.” Under her watchful supervision, I would make a different dish each day. At the end of the week, no one in the family had died while eating my cooking. The project was declared a success.
Throughout college and my work-bachelor years, I probably ate out a lot more than I cooked in. But from time to time I would make the recipes Aunt Inus had taught me. This usually worked out OK, but there were some notable exceptions. Once when I was living in a lousy little trailer in Missouri where I worked, I was cooking my never-to-be-famous fried chicken. The chicken was frying up nicely, turning a lovely golden brown. My mouth started watering like Pavlov’s dog. Just as the chicken was ready to be taken off the heat, a moth the size of something out of an old Japanese movie flew through one of the giant holes in my window screen, and executed a perfect three-point landing in the middle of my skillet.
It had been a very long and busy day. In fact, it had been so busy I skipped lunch that day. As I watched the moth sizzle in the frying pan, strange thoughts suddenly ran across my mind. I thought about scooping up the moth, throwing him out, and eating my chicken. Who would know? I even thought about how good the moth looked once he crisped up some. I began thinking, “You know, a little salt, a little pepper, maybe some Worcestershire sauce …” but I wound up tossing the whole pan of food out the door for the neighbor’s dogs to enjoy.
My limited cooking ability served me until I got married. Ava is an outstanding cook and does not tolerate my bumbling around in the kitchen. I am out of practice, and have forgotten how to cook four of the five things I ever learned to make. Now that I am a “bachelor” again while in Ojai, the challenge is not to whip up culinary masterpieces, but to prepare a few things without burning down the apartment or getting salmonella. Actually, salmonella would probably be an improvement over some things that come out of my kitchen. I guess practice makes perfect — that is if it doesn’t kill you first.
Back on the subject of “Taste of Ojai,” we are blessed with a lot of quality of life elements here. I have lived in many small towns, and most are no bargain. A few of them were nice, some were tolerable, and some of them were terrible. There was never any place like this. I would rather be in jail in Ojai than be the mayor of some of the places I have lived. We all take the town in which we live for granted. We rave about how great things are in other places, especially when we travel vast distances to “discover” this restaurant, or that hotel or a special shop. We sometimes downplay or fail to appreciate how good something is if it is local, even when it is just as good or perhaps even better than the things we travel to experience. I guess some of that is due to the effort we expend in the pursuit itself. Food, wine, shopping and lodging may seem better to us if we have to go farther or work harder for it — even if it is no better than what we have in our own back yard.
Ojai has many excellent restaurants, some fine locally produced wines, great shops and world-class lodging (for friends and family to stay when they are in town).
We can choose to take them for granted and ignore them, or we can frequent them and enjoy ourselves while supporting the local economy. Which makes more sense?
By Logan Hall
As wildfires are beginning to pop up in Ventura County, fire season is in full force in the Ojai Valley. Brush and grass fires have burned in Upper Ojai and Matilija Canyon. Although quickly contained by local fire crews from the Ventura County Fire Department and the U.S. Forest Service, the small fires that burned less than an acre could have easily spread under windy conditions. The VCFD said the fuel moisture content of local vegetation has dropped to extreme levels. The brush is drying up and is in prime condition to spread a wildfire. “The fire fuel moisture is at a seasonal low,” said Capt. Brendan Ripley of the VCFD. “If a fire starts and the wind picks up, it spreads very rapidly. When you have the wind component coupled with dry fuels, it makes for a bad scenario.”
Ripley stated that the weather in Southern California is following a La Niña pattern and that historically will bring more Santa Ana winds to the area through the fall. According to Ripley, with a 30 to 40 mph wind, a fire could spot, or jump, two to three miles. “When I was out at the Hampshire Fire in Thousand Oaks today (Tuesday), I did some calculations,” he said. “The 12 mph wind put the spotting distance at .7 miles.”
Capt. Ron Oatman, spokesman for the VCFD, said in a press release that this is the right time for people to reassess their level of preparedness. “The time to prepare is before a fire starts,” he said. “Right now residents should be re-checking the brush clearance around their homes, going over evacuation routes, assembling emergency supplies and making sure flammable items are moved away from their houses.”
“We’ve been communicating with homeowners,” added Ripley. “We’re telling them that now is the time to get their homes ready and keep up on maintenance like getting leaves out of the rain gutters.”
For more information on wildfire safety and preparedness log on to vcreadysetgo.org.
Tickets, service groups, boosters provide much-needed funding
By Misty Volaski
Ojai Valley Community Stadium swelled with over 1,600 people last Friday night as the Nordhoff Rangers took on the Ventura Cougars. In a stunning upset, the local boys edged the Cougars, 26-20, in the teams’ first football matchup since the 1970s.
“It was bigger than the (Bucket Game) against Villanova, bigger than the Centennial game last year,” said Nordhoff High School athletic director Dave Monson. “It was definitely bigger than we expected.”
With a solid group of past NHS Bronze Shoe Award winners augmenting the NHS coaching staff — including Jessie Hawkins, Micah Reed, Brandon Titus and Cory Sandefur — the Rangers came out to improve to 4-0 on the season.
Nordhoff maintains its position at No. 1 in the CIF-SS Northwest Division, and Maxpreps.com ranks them at No. 92 in the state, and No. 53 in the CIF Southern Section.
And the win is not only a victory for the football team. Indeed, it’s a win for all Nordhoff athletes. Nordhoff’s football program is the school’s “biggest financial draw,” said Monson, helping fund Nordhoff’s athletics programs. With only four home football games last year, Nordhoff brought in about $50,000 in home game gate sales.
But without three major service organizations — the Nordhoff Parent Association, the Ojai Optimist Club, and the Gridiron Club — the sting of major budget cuts over the last few years would have been felt much more intimately. The NPA donates revenue generated from its snack bar at each home game, helping pay for such things as tournament entry fees, athletic awards and varsity letters. They also offer funds to nonsports groups in need, added NPA President Bill Holling. “We’ve funded academic decathlons. We also gave funds for needed computers, overhead projectors — it’s a laundry list of things.”
The Ojai Optimist Club, meanwhile, sells its famous tri-tip sandwiches at each home game, along with various other events throughout the year. Half of the Optimist Club funds generated go back to Nordhoff programs — athletic and otherwise, said Dawn Shook, club secretary. The rest goes to college scholarships and to other schools and programs in the valley.
The relatively new Gridiron Club began three years ago primarily as a football booster, but has expanded to begin assisting other athletic teams as well. The Gridiron Club sells programs (they sold 200 at the Ventura game) and merchandise such as Ranger sweaters and beanies. They also hold fund-raising events such as the annual Casino Night, said Gridiron Club Vice President Michael Dawkins. “We’ve raised $46,000 so far this year,” Dawkins said. Those funds go toward a myriad of things, such as helping with field repairs and helping pay insurance fees for gridders whose parents cannot afford it. Funds are also contributed to the Doo-A-Lot scholarship (created earlier this year in memory of Cody Doolittle).
So Ojai football is not just a football game; it’s a way to provide all Rangers — be they athletes or artists — the opportunities to excel.