By Bill Buchanan
An Associated Press article on Christmas Day titled, “Pros brace for labor strife,” talked about possible strikes or lock-outs this year in three of the major professional sports leagues: the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. The article added that baseball, which took about 12 years to recover from its strike in 1994-1995, is optimistic about reaching a peaceful settlement.
I used to be a huge professional fan of all the major sports except hockey. If they canceled the entire hockey season I would not take notice. But I am quickly reaching the “who cares” point with other professional sports. Over the years, the shameless greed, the steroids, the loutish behavior and the apparent total disregard for the fans has turned me off.
I gave up on baseball years ago. The 1994-1995 strike caused the World Series to be canceled for the first time since 1904. The World Series survived the Great Depression and two world wars, but could not overcome an even more powerful adversary Ñ greed. And I am talking about both sides here, players and owners. To allow the playoffs and World Series to be canceled was a slap in the fans’ faces. After the strike and a significant fan backlash, baseball was desperate to return to its former glory. So it sold itself out by allowing steroids to take over the game. Guys who looked like baseball players one season and NFL linebackers the next were suddenly hitting home runs by the basketful. In the late Ô90s the single season home run record was assaulted and eclipsed, then eclipsed again shortly thereafter. The career home run record, held by the ever-classy Hank Aaron, was bested by the sullen and obnoxious Bobby Bonds, who has had the cloud of alleged steroid use hanging over him for years. Baseball’s powers that be turned a blind eye to all of this Ñ- forever cheapening two of the most cherished records in all of sport.
I had not watched a professional basketball game in a long time. But we had Christmas dinner with Ava’s brothers, both of whom are big basketball fans. So as a favor to our guests, we turned on the overhyped L.A. Lakers-Miami Heat game. I have seen things on the gardening channel that were more exciting. I used to enjoy pro basketball. When I was younger, I loved to watch my favorite player, Bill Russell, and his Boston Celtics run up and down the court to title after title. While smaller and shorter than many other centers, Russell was a defensive master who did whatever it took for his team to win. Russell wasn’t interested in personal highlight reels. He didn’t play to pad his stat sheet. He played an aggressive and selfless style of basketball that complemented the other players on his team, and allowed the Celtics to chalk up championship after championship.
At times, Saturday’s game looked like 10 really talented guys who stood around thinking, “What move can I make that will get me featured on ESPN tonight?” There was some amazing athleticism, and LeBron James is an incredible player Ñ able to play any position on the court with all-star skill. But it seemed like most of those guys had written it into their contract that they didn’t have to play defense or hustle after loose balls. When one guy bravely stood his ground, and let guy on offense run into him, taking a foul for charging, the broadcaster practically enshrined him into the Hall of Fame on the spot. Excuse me, but that is what you are supposed to do. The average salary in the NBA in 2009 was over $3 million per year Ñ not including endorsements or other income. For that, you would expect a little effort. If the players worked as hard to make the game as exciting as the announcers and network promoters do trying to make you think it is exciting, it would be an amazing game.
Part of the problem in pro sports for me is all the team-switching. Years ago guys played for the same team pretty much all their career. Mickey Mantle was always a New York Yankee. Bart Starr was always a Green Bay Packer. Bill Russell was always a Boston Celtic. I was a fan of those players, and my loyalty to those teams was at least partially rooted in that continuity. Money has changed all that. Now it seems unusual for guys to go more than five years with the same team. You have to have a spreadsheet to keep track of some of them.
In medical terms, I would say that hockey was stillborn; pro baseball and basketball have flat-lined; and pro football is on life support. I will still watch an occasional pro game, and will watch play-offs and the Super Bowl, but even that is on shaky ground.
In some ways, it is sad to give up something that once gave you so much enjoyment. But I still have college football, even though that season is about to end. And while my Alabama team will not be playing for anything but pride this year, the team that beat us, our cross-state rivals at Auburn, will be playing Oregon for the national championship.
By Misty Volaski
Reports of holiday sales by Ojai Valley merchants ranged from cautiously optimistic to downright positive this year, with few disclosing a decrease in sales.
Hildegard Tallent said her shop, Kava Gifts, “Had an awesome Christmas! We sold a lot of Christmas decor and general decor.” She noted that, although she saw more visitors in town this year, “So many locals told us they were doing their best to shop in the valley. And we’re doing great this week after Christmas, too.”
“It was fun to see many of our local fans and visitors who come back every year to get a special gift,” said Hallie Katz of Human Arts Gallery. “Sales were great during Thankgiving weekend. It slowed down a little during the rains in December but we still kept busy. The week before Christmas the pace picked up considerably. Overall, this season has been much better than last year.”
While several other merchants agreed that the rain slowed store traffic, Ojai Surplus noticed the opposite. “We had a bunch of different sales,” said co-owner Richard Lawson, “but when it rained —we’re the only place in town with rain gear so we were really busy.” He added that overall holiday sales were fairly consistent with last year. “We still sold a lot of flying monkeys. Glow in the dark and sock flying monkeys were new this year. We sold more guns and ammo this year than past years, too, probably due to the new ammo law that’s coming.”
George Alem, owner of Ojai Beverage Company, saw an increase in beer sales this year. “We had a big beer hike this year. We did an event on the 23rd, and over 200 people showed up. It’s been a good holiday season —- I really can’t complain about anything!”
Neither can Geoff Wells, of the Ojai Hospitality Group (which includes the Casa Ojai Inn and Su Nido Inn). Like Kava Gifts, Wells said he was seeing an uptick in reservations for the last week of the year. “Between Christmas and New Year’s this year, especially, things have definitely picked up,” he said. Overall, the holiday season was a good one. “It was about the same, a little better, than last year. The Ojai Visitors Bureau is making a good effort attempting to put Ojai on people’s radars more. We can’t take for granted our position in the marketplace, and I’m glad we’re spending money now to grow ourselves.”
Katz of Human Arts concurred. “We feel that the marketing of Ojai through the efforts of our new Ojai Visitors Bureau is definitely helping.”
Alan Rains, owner of Rains, said the department store “did really well” this year. Sales were “almost 100 percent local — mostly local business and local shoppers. It slowly built up. I think we had a record day for Christmas Eve.”
That was something Joe Barthelemy of Serendipity Toys also noticed. “We had a good season, pretty much in line with last year. But the day before Christmas was the busiest we’ve ever had.”
Katrina Sexton of Treasures of Ojai attributed her good year to a sizeable expansion of her antiques store into the former Rene Derhy store. “With the expansion, we had a lot more to offer, which was really a draw,” she said. “Also, our new consignment clothing store upstairs did well. We’re grateful for the local shoppers who try to support their community.”
Plush Surroundings created a unique strategy for 2010, said Jennifer Sage, designer and buyer for the store. “We had signs out everywhere for Black Friday: ‘Make us an offer!’ And people were streaming down Montgomery Street from Ojai Avenue. It was such a success that we extended the sale right to Christmas. The sales girls had a lot of fun with it, and we got a lot of new customers for the store and our decorating services — the custom drapes, slipcovers, upholstery. We’re busier now than ever!”
More good news came from Fred Leivo of Ojai Village Pharmacy. “Gwen and Ellie have worked here three or four years and they tell me this is the best Christmas season in front-end sales they’ve ever had. Christmas gifts, perfume, candy, all that stuff! The day after Thanksgiving was double what our last busiest day did. We had Santa Claus here, and my wife (Nancy Melet) did a really good job bringing in great merchandise. Prescriptions are constantly going up too.”
Cathy Cluff, of The Oaks at Ojai, said December is typically the hotel and spa’s slowest month, but that they sold more gift certificates, both in the hotel and online, than usual. “We even sold a few on Christmas day!” Cluff said. The Oaks’ return guest incentive plan, which offers a 20 percent discount to those who stay this month and book for the same month next year, saw a large increase. “Of the total occupancy for last December, we’ve already booked 33 percent of that for December 2011! That’s a pretty huge commitment to have one year in advance. It’s the highest number ever” for that program, Cluff said.
Sprint car journalist and documentarian Sean Buckley, left, with brother Derek, who races at Ventura Raceway.
By Matthew Wagner
Bored? Not Sean Buckley. His permanent cure for lack of excitement involves driving around a track sideways at 140 mph. The 32-year-old Ojai native found his inspiration through racing, and now has made a name for himself in the sprint car industry.
Born and raised in Ojai, Buckley started watching the races down at the Ventura Raceway when he was a kid. He was drawn into the fast-paced action of the cars.
In 2004, Buckley moved to Indianapolis, Ind. There, he could follow his dream of covering spring car racing as a journalist. He has appeared on ESPN, the Speed Channel and several others over the last several years, covering such events as the “World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series.”
Recently, Buckley decided to make a documentary about sprint car racing. “I lived in the middle of it. And nobody had really made a movie about sprint cars. It was necessary to make a movie about it,” Buckley said.
So Buckley got to work. He filmed it, directed, did everything by himself; he even financed it. The whole thing took three months. After it was done, he named it, “Follow the Corn.”
After the movie was released, Buckley was nominated and won the prestigious Hoosier Auto Race Fan (HARF) Media Member Award. Dedicated to improving the sport of auto racing, HARF is one of the oldest racing fan clubs in the United States.
“It was quite an honor for me and my family,” Buckley said of the award. “Normally, Californians do not win the award; often it is local people who win. For me, coming from a small town in California, it was a huge accomplishment to win the award.” The reception for the award will be held Jan. 30.
In addition to winning the HARF award, “Follow the Corn” was selected for the International Reel Wheel Film Festival, which was located in Knoxville, Iowa, at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum.
But Buckley doesn’t only make movies; you can see him on your television announcing many of the sprint car races. Periodically he writes articles for Flat Out Magazine.
In the future his plans are to make two more movies. One is due in the spring and the other is set for fall.
Buckley said, “I know what it is like to grow up in Ojai, you feel like you’re stuck there. But I am proof that you can leave and accomplish big things.”
Find Buckley’s documentary and more information on sprint car racing at jackslash.com
Photo by Logan Hall
By Logan Hall
Construction of the new bridge on Old Creek Road spanning San Antonio Creek took a big step forward this week as crews from Rasmussen General Engineering Contractors began taking down the false work that had supported the structure during the first half of construction. Workers began taking down the steel beams, called “stringers,” which were holding up the main part of the bridge, known as the super structure, until all of the permanent support components were in place.
During heavy rains, San Antonio Creek, which flows across Old Creek Road near Highway 33, can rise high enough to prevent crossing, and residents are unable to get to the main highway.
The County of Ventura hired Rasmussen to build a bridge from the highway to traverse the creek, and allow the people who live on Old Creek Road to make it to the main highway during even the worst storms.
Slated for completion by March of 2011, the bridge will be a 210-foot-long, two-span, cast-in-place concrete box girder bridge designed to clear the 100-year floodplain. It’s supported on both banks of the creek by large abutments. Cables are run through the super structure to the abutments, and are pulled tight to create tension to hold up the roadway. Now that everything is in place, the false work is being removed. The total cost for the project has been estimated at about $2.5 million.
The project encountered minor setbacks due to environmental issues involving an endangered species. During the summer, project biologists found the red-legged frog in the area of construction and certain measures were taken in accordance with Department of Fish and Game regulations to ensure the small reptile’s safety. “Once they found the frog, they had to take some precautions,” said Kurt Thinnes, senior inspector with the county. “We’re catching up now though. For a while, the crews were working 10-hour shifts six days a week.”
The next few months will have the crews conducting follow-up work that will include the approach areas on either side of the bridge, as well as the installation of guardrails. Thinnes says that the project may still be on track to be completed by March 2011.
“There’s still quite a bit more to do,” said Thinnes, “but everybody’s primary concern is to get the job done. The county, contractor, Fish and Game and Caltrans are all working together on this.”
By Misty Volaski
It’s been a dramatic couple of weeks for Dominique David fans. The Nordhoff High School graduate, one of six contestants still standing on Bravo’s “The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection,” had one of the weaker dresses in the fifth episode. But a week later, she captured the design challenge — and lost her good buddy (and romantic interest), David D’Angelo, to elimination.
“I was sad,” she said of D’Angelo’s departure from the show. “Even losing Ro (Rolando Tamez) — we all grew so close. You don’t want to lose that support. But obviously, I have to be up to the challenge — I’ve already made it this far!”
The sixth episode found the designers charged with creating collections using items from the lost and found at a New Jersey train station. Despite having only one day to design, the Ojai native earned praise with an edgy black shift dress made of deconstructed umbrellas and a retooled trench coat.
Her fellow competitors, meanwhile, suffered the disapproving wrath of the judges: former super model Iman, designer Isaac Mizrahi, Harper’s Bazaar features-special project director Laurel Brown, and guest judge, designer Chris Benz.
“I’m not one to work with crazy prints,” David said. “My designs are understated, subtle. I saw the umbrella kind of close to the entrance. It was really worn down, beaten up, but there was something intriguing about it, so I grabbed it anyway.”
Once back at the design studio, David said she “started to dissect it, and I ran with it. It was kinda’ cool! No one else was doing anything unconventional like that.”
But as unconventional as it seemed, David’s fellow House of Nami designer, Calvin Tran, had harsh words for her design, claiming she frequently does the same silhouette.
“I have coffee with the guy every morning!” David said in a rare departure from her usual easygoing manner. “It’s one thing for him to aim fire loosely at everybody else, but I thought we were more of friends. I didn’t expect him to turn on me like that. He’s doing the same thing too. How dare he call me out like that! I thought that was out of line to say something like that.”
Despite the critique, David said, “I loved my look. I thought it was such a brilliant idea, so different. I ripped apart an umbrella — who thinks of that stupidity?!”
But once onstage, David felt doubt begin to creep in. “Iman’s telling us we’re all just terrible, and I’m like, oh my God, maybe it was a bad idea! Maybe I was just tired, thinking something crazy!”
But her fans breathed a sigh of relief when David won the challenge. In a blog posted at bravotv.com, Iman said, “Dominique’s dress was young and fresh, and the trench was beautifully made … (she) was a good example of a great creative mind.” Another blog from the site, written by Kim Moreau of Haus of Bravo, “Dominique really nailed it with her reverse-maneuver, inside-out trench and then, of course, the umbrella dress. Dominique pulled her best Rihanna, while everyone else was desperately trying to cover all manner of sins with lost handbags.”
David was given a choice of immunity from elimination for episode seven, or $500 toward materials should she make it to the finals. She chose immunity.
“We are crazy proud of her,” said dad Galen David. “She’s always been so driven, passionate and such a hard worker, and it’s awesome to see her acknowledged and rewarded for her talents. That industry and this show can be pretty kooky, and we are especially proud of how she is handling all the drama. She has most of Ojai pulling for her! I have a lot of guy friends like ornery softball coach Bill Light, who’s admitting he’s watching a ‘fashion show’ just to support Dominique. Ranger football coach Tyson Hardman and Ranger softball coach Don Rodarte (are watching), too. It’s been a lot of fun!”
Tune in for the seventh episode next Tuesday at 10 p.m. on Bravo, and see bravotv.com
for sneak previews.
By Bill Buchanan
There is no other time of the year that is as special as Christmas. And it seems that there are some people who embody everything that Christmas is supposed to be about — joy, laughter, excitement, unselfishness and good will. Over the years I have known several such people, but the one who will always stand out in my mind when it comes to Christmas is my Uncle John. In fact, it is impossible for me to think about Christmas without thinking about him.
Part of the reason for this is that my uncle always played Santa Claus. And I have never seen anyone more perfect for the part. He was a large man with rosy cheeks, a hearty laugh, and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. But there was much more than just his physical appearance that made him personify Christmas. It was what was inside the man, not what was inside the suit.
Uncle John never had children of his own, so all children came to be his. I can remember him sitting patiently for hours at a time without pay in a hot suit and beard (that he had paid for himself) while child after child would laugh, giggle and share with him what they wanted Santa to bring them for Christmas. No matter how long it took, no matter how many kids there were to see, he was always animated and jolly, as if doing this for the first time.
No matter where we went in our small town, we always saw the same Santa. Uncle John was Santa at local stores, he was Santa at our church, and he was Santa at the town’s annual Christmas parade. Uncle John also had a great trick for those kids who were on the verge of outgrowing their belief in Santa. Before putting the child in his lap, he would conspire with the parents to find out what the kid wanted for Christmas. When the skeptical child would challenge whether he was the real Santa Claus, my uncle would say, “Well if I am not Santa, then how do I know you want a Daisy BB gun for Christmas?” The look on the stunned child’s face was probably my uncle’s favorite Christmas present.
When my sister and I were very young, my uncle started a wonderful Christmas tradition — the Magic Tree. About two weeks before Christmas, my uncle came to our house to have coffee with my parents. He casually mentioned that he thought one of the trees in our front yard had magical powers. When we questioned him, he said that he thought he had noticed something wedged in one of the branches of the tree, and that maybe we ought to go out and see what it was.
My sister and I raced out of the house to find some small toys — one for a girl and one for a boy. We were thrilled beyond words and raced back into the house to show our treasures. Each morning for the next two weeks or so, there was a gift in the Magic Tree. The gifts were small and inexpensive. Sometimes it was just a couple of pieces of fruit. But we thought it was wonderful, and no orange ever tasted as sweet as one that had come from the Magic Tree.
It soon became hard to sleep at night wondering what treasure would be in the tree the next morning. And each day when my mother woke us, my sister and I would race outside barefooted and in our pajamas (with my mother right behind us scolding us to put on some shoes) to see what the tree held for us.
I would not hazard a guess as to how many families my uncle brought joy to down through the many years before his death. But in a time when it is easy to become cynical about everything, including Christmas, it is a pleasure to recall the wonderful memories that we all have about this blessed season and what it means to us and our families.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus — and his spirit lives in the hearts of people like Uncle John. I wish Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and happy holidays to you all.
By Matthew Wagner
In Uganda, a country that has been devastated by over two decades of war, children are often the ones doing the fighting. Because of this, education has been almost completely overlooked. The top five schools in Uganda used to be in the northern region. Now, there isn’t even a school in that area that is in the top 100.
The Invisible Children Organization has noticed these problems. The group was founded by three young filmmakers from the San Diego area, Laren Poole, Jason Russell and Bobby Bailey, after their filming adventure in Uganda. Their mission is four-fold: to use media to inspire young people to raise money for Ugandan schools; to provide scholarships to kids who most likely would not go to college; to get people out of prison camps and back into their homes; and to help abducted mothers restart their lives.
This reality hit 16-year-old Ojai resident Henry Mooney hard during a recent Ojai Valley School assembly on the Invisible Children Organization. Mooney and two of his friends, Jesse Clapoff and Miles Munding-Becker, decided it would be a good idea to raise money for the organization through its Schools for Schools program.
“I thought it was great that it was by kids for kids, I could do it myself, and it was shocking that kids my age were fighting in a war,” said Mooney.
Once OVS headmaster Carl Cooper gave his blessing, Mooney and his friends saw the presentation, went home and wrote a list of ideas on how to raise money. With time running short, the boys opted to sell T-shirts and put on a benefit show, with all proceeds going to the Invisible Children project. They teamed up with the Ventura Improv Theater, which agreed to help put on an improvisation benefit night Dec. 12. Combined with the T-shirt sales, the Ojai Valley School kids collected $2,618. Nationwide, they came in at No. 11 out of 150 schools for total funds raised.
Mooney has done charity work before, and plans on continuing in the future. “Were thinking about getting an early start (next) year, so we can get ahead of the competition.”
By Michelaina Smith
The Ojai Valley Family Shelter is a nonprofit organization that operates from December through March. The shelter provides a warm shower, hot meal, clean sleeping environment and breakfast for the less fortunate in our valley.
Volunteers and the Community Assistance Program (C.A.P.) operate the shelter from the following churches (each night in order from Sunday to Saturday): Wesleyan Church of Ojai Valley, Ojai Valley Grange Hall, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Ojai Presbyterian, Ojai Valley Community (only for December, then Ojai Valley Grange Hall for the rest of the season) and First Baptist.
“We are averaging about 17 to 20 people for overnight stays, and an additional five people who come for dinner only,“ said Rick Raine, director of OVFS. Attendance usually increases during the rain, added Christy Zaucha, site coordinator at First Baptist Church.
According to the website, last year’s total season attendance increased compared to the 2008-2009 season. The attendees who stay the night has remained moderate though the number of people who come only for dinner has increased. “The increase for dinners only began about three years ago, obviously a result of the economy,” said Raine.
Attendees are now required to have a local family connection or temporary housing during the off-season in order to benefit from the program. Dawn Gorman, board member of the OVFS representing St. Thomas Aquinas Church, said, “We work to help them reconnect with people and places that can become more permanent homes.”
Gorman added that the connection between the volunteers and attendees enables the shelter to connect the attendees with other assistance programs.
“We make every effort to place volunteers on a schedule that works best for them … They choose the night and the job,” said Raine.
Volunteers opportunities such as site coordinator, overnight hosts and food volunteers are available. The opportunities vary in amount of time needed; laundry volunteers are estimated to commit one to one-and-a-half hours per week whereas overnight hosts are estimated to commit 10 hours per week.
“During these many years of operation, not a single volunteer has been harmed at any of our sites. We take safety very seriously, not just for the volunteers, but (for) the guests as well,” said Raine.
The OVFS has determined that they need new foam pads. “They have been in service for many years and are showing it,” said Raine.
The cost has increased from $15 to $50 over the past 15 years for new pads, so the shelter is looking into obtaining heavy-duty vinyl covers for their current pads instead.
Food, clean socks and warm jackets are in constant demand in addition to laundry detergent for the volunteers who wash the linen. Donations are also welcome since the program receives no government funding.
“Even though we have grown so much, our mission remains the same, and that is to help the most needy of the Ojai Valley with shelter, warm meals and compassion,” said Raine.
For more information and volunteer opportunities, visit ovfs.org
or call 804-7094.
Four-year-old Rodrigo Ortiz puts on his poker face as Santa hands him another present at the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Ojai station. The VCSD brought their Toy Drive to Ojai this year, helping several families to have an extra special holiday season. Photo by Logan Hall
Santa, Sheriff’s Department employees present toys to local kids
By Logan Hall
Deputy Greg Harrison gave Santa a break last week by trading in his sheriff’s uniform for old St. Nick’s suit, and handing out gifts to children. The Sheriff’s Department collected toy donations from employees at the department’s Todd Road Jail and Main Jail and selected eight families from the Ojai Valley as recipients.
As children lined up in the entrance to the Sheriff’s Department Ojai Substation, Harrison strode down the hall donned from head to toe in the red and white suit. The department’s Tina Cook and Martha Perez, who organized the event, had hot chocolate and cookies ready as the kids bounded into the room where deputy Santa was waiting with candy canes and a bag full of gifts.
Guadalupe, Sinay, Rodrigo and Nicolas Ortiz were the first to get to hang with Santa. As Harrison began opening up a big bag of gifts next to him, there wasn’t enough room in the building to contain the smiles on the children’s faces. After being handed one present each, taking about a quarter of the gifts from the bag next to Harrison, the children started to head out of the room when Santa exclaimed that they still had more gifts, and the bag next to him was just for the Ortiz family.
“It’s such a great experience for the kids to see Santa,” said Cook. “We could have just said come and get some toys from the box. But Santa is the big thing.”
Sheriff’s Department employees, including deputies from all over the county, donated all of the toys for the event. According to Perez, the two collection points at the jails brought in about 100 toys for various age ranges. Cook, Perez and their team separated the toys according to age groups and gender, giving the gifts a personalized feel for the kids. Each child got at least two gifts with their name on it, and everyone got a candy cane from Santa before leaving.
“The kids were so happy,” said Perez. “It was so great to see them smile like that.”
Everyone involved seemed to enjoy themselves as the kids entered and left the Ojai Police Station, grinning from ear to ear. Because the Sheriff’s Department and its deputies have to deal with a lot of negativity, often interacting with people during the worst moments of their life, the Toy Drive, aside from bringing much joy to children’s lives, gives the community a chance to see the side of the department that can easily be overlooked by the public.
“Its just good community involvement,” said Sgt. Pat Ruby, who was on hand to help with the event. “We’re doing the best we can to make the holidays special for the kids and their families. We’re here for the community.”
School District hopes to expand the new
interactive enVisionMath program
By Joanna Iwata
For the 2010-2011 academic year, the Ojai Education Foundation has provided the Ojai Unified School District with an initial three-year grant of $37,500 to equip 26 classrooms with new technology that includes laptop computers, digital projectors and document cameras.
This project reaches more than 1,100 students in fourth to eighth grades for this year. Next year OEF and the OUSD will roll out programs targeted for grades two and three, and the year after that, to kindergarten and first-grade classrooms.
Hank Bangser, OUSD superintendent, said, “We are extremely grateful to the Ojai Education Foundation for their substantial grant support, recognizing the most urgent and important needs related to the launch of a new math curriculum.”
California education law mandates that school districts adopt new kindergarten through eighth-grade textbooks and programs every seven years. After two years of careful research about the value of a more interactive mathematics program which engages and motivates students through not only creative instructional strategies but also activities and technology, OUSD chose to adopt enVisionMath and new algebra programs to launch in six schools throughout the Ojai Valley.
This year presented a unique opportunity for the Ojai Education Foundation to help modernize the classroom through the use of new technologies that not only enhanced the learning experience for many students, but for teachers as well.
“As a teacher I am able to access the publishers’ website and I literally have every component of the math program immediately available!” said teacher Heather Ramsey of Summit Elementary. “Teaching and learning have reached a new engaging level of interactivity thanks to the technology that OEF is generously supporting in the OUSD.”
Susan Dvortcsak, who teaches pre-algebra and special education at Matilija Junior High School, also noted the importance of the daily use of the new technology within all of her classrooms (especially with the new math adoption), which engages students in the classroom. She emphasized that the online tutorials are helpful to students and their parents for daily lessons and test preparation as well.
For fourth-grade students at San Antonio, Sandra Hansen said, “Our new technology brings enVisionMath to life, with colorful video enhanced with music and song. Math is actually a fun and engaging experience.”
Fifth-grade students at Meiners Oaks Elementary School are noticing the positive differences as well. One student commented, “I used to have my parents help me with math, and now I don’t, and I also think that I’ve been doing better.” Another said, “It’s a lot more fun on the screen than in the book because there are more things that keep my attention such as movement and sound, instead of just reading a book or hearing the teacher talk.”
This also echoes the sentiments of fifth- and sixth-grade teachers at Mira Monte, Vicki Hughart and Kent Houston. Both describe the new technology as exciting, as it raises their students’ attention and interest levels — not only due to the quality of the presentation but also through the new projectors, which they say allow teachers to show both a fun and colorful animated version of the math lesson and more.
Some of the more immediate and positive results in launching the new enVisionMath programs are also reflected in the comments of the elementary principals. “There is a renewed sense of excitement in the voices of teachers when talking about the new technology with which they can teach,” said Theresa Dutter, principal of Summit and San Antonio Elementary schools. “We are deeply appreciative of the support of the Ojai Education Foundation and the community for making this possible.”
John LeSuer, principal at Topa Topa Elementary, agrees. “This technology has been very helpful not only for math, but for all subject areas. I have observed teachers using it for science experiments, writing assignments, art, and social studies projects.”
But the Ojai Education Foundation isn’t done yet. Thayne Whipple, OEF president, said, “One of our immediate goals is to now raise $52,000 to complete the math technology project for the remaining classrooms in grades kindergarten through third. We want this technology to be available to more students in the school system that goes beyond just the enVision program to include other subjects.”
Whipple added, “We also recognize that, as the cost continues to rise to support innovative programs like this in our public school system — along with state budget funding decreasing — support from our donors, local businesses and family sponsors is critical. We have to rise to the occasion. And we hope that many others will join us in this important valleywide fund-raising and OEF Annual Appeal effort.”
The mission of OEF is to provide distinctive educational opportunities that support students with the resources they need to excel in their education goals. For more information on how you can contribute to this important community project go to Ojaief.org
, call 669-3075, or write to: Ojai Education Foundation, P.O. Box 1769, Ojai, CA 93024.
Old Creek Road was closed as a result of several days of rain, with more on the way. Photo by Logan Hall
By Logan Hall
Everything seems to be more difficult in the rain. Even a simple task like getting groceries can become a frustrating ordeal. Trees fell throughout the valley during this most recent storm, causing road closures in some areas. The Ojai Skate Park flooded, filling it to the brim with runoff. Most importantly, the wet weather makes the routine of driving a dangerous prospect.
A total number of traffic collisions for the Ojai Valley during the latest storm was unavailable from the California Highway Patrol. However, many, if not all, could be attributed in some way to the inclement weather, including a crash on Dennison Grade that killed 27-year-old Santa Paula resident Joseph Leon on Friday morning.
“The main thing when it comes to the rain is people need to slow down,” said CHP spokesman Steve Reid. “When the roadway is slick, you need to drive at a speed that is safe for the conditions.”
The Ventura County Public Works Department was out in force trying to keep the roads drivable. Santa Ana Road required cleanup after a small mud slide left debris across the road’s surface. According to the county, Santa Ana Road was not closed during the process although county vehicles were constantly busy clearing fallen rocks off the roadway.
Caltrans was also out helping keep the roads as safe as possible. Rainfall causes the asphalt to expand and contract as it gets wet and then dries. This can cause the road surface to break apart, creating potholes. Because Highway 33 falls under Caltrans jurisdiction, their crews were busy keeping up with the increasing number of potholes in the road.
“This happens when we get weather like this,” said Caltrans spokesperson Kelly Markham. “Our crews have been filling potholes all over the place.”
Several trees fell throughout the valley, including one that closed Cuyama Road in the Arbolada and another large oak that fell in Libbey Park behind the post office.
The Ojai Skate Park became the community pool when drainage issues on the OUSD property, which angles toward the park, caused the Skate Park itself to fill to the top with rainwater. “The drain behind the park plugged up with grass and all that runoff came into the Skate Park,” said Skate Ojai’s Chris Hilgers. “We took care of it. There wasn’t any damage to the park.”
Hilgers claims that someone had blocked a drain with fencing and wood boards on Aliso Street above the OUSD property, which also contributed to the flooding.
This particular storm brought some high rain totals for the valley over the last seven days. According to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, as of yesterday at 4:15 p.m., Meiners Oaks received 8.67 inches, Lake Casitas showed totals of 9.93 inches and Nordhoff Ridge saw 14.17 inches.
According to the National Weather Service, the totals are high for a seven-day period. “That’s a lot of rain for a week,” said Stuart Seto, NWS-Oxnard weather specialist. “The unusual thing is that it’s been spread out over the week. We didn’t get that usual deluge that happens with the big storms.”
Seto says that this isn’t the last storm that Southern California will be experiencing before the year’s end. “We’ll be looking at thunderstorms and high winds over the next couple of days,” he said in an interview yesterday. “The main threat will be overnight on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
The NWS reports that the storm should let up by the weekend, possibly giving the valley a brief respite from the weather for Christmas.
By Logan Hall (Updated 12/21)
Joseph Leon, a 27-year-old Santa Paula man, was killed Friday morning after launching 250 feet over the edge of Dennison Grade.
According to California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Ayala, who investigated the crash, Leon’s 1999 Chevy Suburban was heading from Santa Paula to Ojai and entered a right-banking curve just above the Ojai Valley Lookout at an “unknown high rate of speed.”
The road surface was wet due to light rain falling throughout the night, and Leon lost control of the vehicle, went through the oncoming traffic lane and struck an asphalt berm. The suburban launched 250 feet through the air, striking a water tower before hitting the ground and tipping on its left side. It continued scraping the ground until tipping back on its tires and finally coming to a stop in a private driveway a few hundred feet from the highway. A woman who is a resident of the property discovered Leon and called 911 at about 7:30 a.m.
The report states that Leon was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the incident but was not ejected from the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.
Barrel 33 donates tires to downtown shuttle
By Misty Volaski
If you decide to drink and drive in Ventura County, that last apple martini could end up costing you a lot more than $10.50. According to local law enforcement statistics, an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol could cost you a cool $10,000. But all too often, DUIs end up costing lives.
It was for that very reason Ojai’s Dutch Van Hemert has run the downtown shuttle service since February 2008. Now, anyone needing a ride to, from or between watering holes can call (805) 340-6850 and get a safe and sober ride.
It began in January almost three years ago, when “Pulp Fiction” screenwriter Roger Avary got in the car after having too much to drink. His wife was ejected from the Avary’s vehicle, and injured but an Italian visitor, Andreas Zini, was killed.
It inspired Van Hemert, Nigel Chisholm of The Village Jester and other local bar owners to organize the downtown shuttle. “It’s hard when you have to wait for a taxi,” Van Hemert said. “Lots of people don’t want to wait long, so they decide to drive. That’s when bad things happen. I didn’t want that to keep happening.”
At first, business was booming, and Van Hemert — who also runs a shuttle service to the airports in the daytime — was getting tips from riders as well as money from local bar owners. “That was great, but it began to taper off after three or four months,” he said, probably due to the recession. Now, he is working for tips only, and things are tight. “One time I got a torn dollar,” Van Hemert said of his worst tip nights. “I just need enough to keep this thing going.”
Tires, of course, are animportant part of keeping the shuttle going, but declining tips meant Van Hemert was unable to afford tires. So he decided to seek assistance once again from local merchants. This time, Norbert Furnee, owner of the new Barrel 33 answered the call.
“My guests getting home safe — that is every important to me,” Furnee said. “We don’t want to be a ‘shooter-slammer’ bar. We want to be responsible. Dutch basically said to me, ‘I need tires, and I don’t have the money for it.’ Being the new guy in town — I’ve been here 29 years, but we’ve only been here at Barrel 33 for four months — it was the right thing to do.”
Furnee’s donation will fund all new tires for the shuttle, which operates weekend nights. Van Hemert said he gets between 50 and 100 customers per weekend, but that often goes up past 200 on holidays and during special events. He has put 45,000 miles on his white Suburban in three years, many of those stopping near Barrel 33 (located in the Arcade where Movino used to be).
“That Norbert would do this for our town is just, wow,” said a grateful Van Hemert. “It’s very generous.”
“Dutch runs an important service,” Furnee said. “When I go out, I get a driver — you just never drink and drive, it isn’t wise. Even if it’s just a block or two like it is for most people in Ojai.”
Donating tires to Van Hemert, Furnee said, “All the way, it’s a win-win-win for everybody. It’s a lot of money for us, too, but this service is just too important. Taxis can be unreliable (in Ojai), but Dutch is there, always, every Thursday to Sunday.”
From left, newly elected City Clerk Cynthia Burrell and Council Members Carlon Strobel, Carol Smith, and Paul Blatz are sworn in by Rhonda Basore, deputy city clerk and recorder, at the City Council meeting on Tuesday. Photo by Logan Hall
By Logan Hall
The controversy surrounding the recent election brought out strong opinions and emotions at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. “Thousands of Americans died defending our rights,” said Jerry Kaplan, retired Air Force captain and valley resident. “The least we can do is continue the investigation of this election until we know all of the facts.”
Agenda item U, the “Declaration of November 2, 2010 Election Results,” had citizens of the community and some council members alike up in arms. After comments from the public and Council Members Sue Horgan, Paul Blatz and Betsy Clapp, Mayor Steve Olsen made a motion to declare the election results, which had already been certified by the Ventura County Elections Division. The motion died for lack of a second, bringing the council to a veritable stalemate.
Sholom Joshua, longtime Ojai resident, said the recent election was a bad way for the city to move forward. “All parties who have an opinion or who are involved acknowledge that there are problems with it,” he said. “Why can’t we insist that it be done right?”
The issue of the election brought up some emotion among the council. Councilwoman Betsy Clapp said the integrity of the process hangs over the election. “Myself and Councilman Blatz are uncomfortable with this,” she said.
Councilwoman Carol Smith, who won the election by four votes over Klaif, responded to Clapp. “It would have been helpful if Betsy Clapp had been here when the county speaker was here,” said Smith in an emotional address to her other council members. “This has been ugly. Lenny Klaif knows exactly why this has been ugly.” (The OVN made repeated attempts to contact Smith to clarify her comment concerning Klaif, but never received a call back.)
Councilman Blatz weighed in on the topic saying he was very troubled by the situation of the election. Blatz, who won his council seat in the election is also an attorney and says the county should be held accountable for their mistakes in the vote-counting process. “When we have a county official that is so out of touch, how can we have confidence in anything the election department does?” asked Blatz. “How can we accept the election results? This has put us in an extremely precarious situation, but what do we do as an alternative?”
Monte Widders, Ojai’s city attorney, said the alternative would put even more strain on the council and their ability to properly govern the city. “If you don’t confirm the election results,” said Widders, “the election officials of Ojai cannot swear in the elected candidates. At this point in time, failure by the council to confirm the election results would result in a lame duck council.”
Widders further emphasized his point. “The election has been certified, period. The council’s only job is to seat the candidates and administer the oath of office,” he said.
Blatz then asked Widders if the county would be forced to take any action if the council didn’t accept the election results. Widders said no, stating again that the council’s job at this point is purely to accept and file the results. The county would have no further involvement unless a lawsuit was filed.
Olsen, who still held the mayoral title until the council was sworn in, said he wished the council would move forward and, if not, Carlon Strobel, councilwoman elect, would not be able to take her position. “I believe Carlon deserves to be up here,” he said.
Olsen then made a motion to declare the election results. However, no one seconded the motion, once again bringing the council to a veritable stalemate.
After several minutes of silence, Blatz made one more statement on the issue. “I’m very upset with the way the election was tabulated,” he said. “I also believe the city needs to move along. I originally wasn’t going to accept the results, if nothing else, to make a stand against the county. But if we don’t accept the results, Strobel can’t be seated. I don’t think it’s in our best interest to protest just to protest.”
Olsen again made a motion to declare the results which was seconded by Councilwoman Horgan. The motion passed 4 to 1, with Clapp being the only dissenting vote.
“I hereby declare that those people are elected,” said Rhonda Basore, Ojai’s deputy city clerk and recorder.
After another brief discussion, newly elected Council Members Blatz, Smith and Strobel and City Clerk Cynthia Burrell were sworn in by Basore. When Basore asked for nominations for the next mayor, Horgan nominated Mayor Pro Tem Smith. Smith then took the seat as Ojai’s new mayor.
Smith nominated Horgan for mayor pro tem, who seconded the nomination. Before the rest of the council could vote, Blatz raised a question about the proper rotation of the council members through the mayoral position. “I’m confused about the rotation,” said Blatz. “How did we get to this order?”
Blatz stated that the current protocols for the mayoral rotation seem to contradict the current order, in which Horgan would be mayor pro tem. After some discussion about the proper order, Blatz nominated Clapp for the position, which was seconded by Strobel and passed 4 to 1 with Smith once again casting the only dissenting vote.
Olsen had some final words for the council that he had served on for so many years.
“Some good advice for the council is to keep a sense of humor,” he said. “Don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Other significant topics included the selection process for a new city manager. Ojai’s current manager John Baker, accepted the position as interim manager until a replacement for former manager Jerry Kersnar could be hired.
Although not on the meeting’s agenda, the floor was opened to public speakers who addressed the council with their concerns about the process of finding a new city manager.
Five citizens voiced their thoughts on the criteria a city manager should meet. Local State Farm agent Bob Daddi stressed the importance of hiring a manager who has a background in areas like accounting and planning. Ojai Community Bank’s Don Scanlin pointed out that aside from hiring the proper person, the contract that is given is also important. “We need to put together a contract that will give the city the greatest flexibility,” said Scanlin. “I think we learned that lesson recently.”
Most agreed that the community should be involved in the selection process. Those concerned believe the city should consult with the public to help find a manager that would be best for Ojai.
“There are many people in town who are skilled in the process you are about to go through,” added Scanlin.
Baker and the council listened to what the people had to say, but did not have any public discussion on the matter.
Tackling another item on the agenda, the council voted 5 to 0 to provide operating money for the Libbey Bowl construction project. The resolution called for the city to “set aside $1,315,000 from the General Fund Reserve to advance the Libbey Bowl construction costs with an understanding that the advancements will be paid back with the community pledge collections over a five-year period or less.”
Baker says that so far, the donations from the community are on schedule and says that the amount of the city’s advance should go down every year. “Every indication is that the donations will come,” he said.
After the meeting, a reception with cake and coffee was held to honor Olsen and the new City Council.
By Bill Buchanan
Ojai is home to a constant parade of motorcycles pretty much every weekend. There are massive Harleys, blazingly fast “rice-burners” and the much tamer bikes that feature radio headsets and pull little “mini-wagons” behind the riders.
I think any male who came of age in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s and saw the movie “Easy Rider” dreamed of someday powering a huge motorcycle down the highway. The fantasy included flying down the road with your hair blowing freely in the wind, kicking back to enjoy the scenery, and congratulating yourself on the envious stares of those poor souls forced to travel this land by less heroic means. Somewhere along the way, you would stop in a small town and a lovely young girl would admire your bike as well as your rough, outlaw demeanor. After letting just the proper amount of time to elapse so as not to appear overanxious, you would utter a pithy and completely cool invitation, and she would jump on the back of your bike and hug you tightly as you roared down the highway with “Born to Be Wild” blasting in the background.
From the time I was around 8 until halfway through high school, I always wanted a motorcycle. My mother was completely against the idea, and no amount of begging, whining, pleading, hinting or discussing the matter could change her mind. During those years, the closest I got to being “Easy Rider” was coasting down the hill on a friend’s tiny Honda with the engine off. Not exactly Captain America.
But then one day when I was older, my friend Travis was looking to buy another motorcycle. He came by the house one night on a huge chopper and asked me to go test-drive it with him. Although my mother was not crazy about the idea, I was older, and I guess she figured we had enough sense not to do anything totally stupid. Boy, was she wrong.
It was a hot summer night and we were both dressed very lightly — tank top T-shirts and cut-off blue jeans. Neither of us had on shoes, much less a helmet. I was all pumped up with adrenaline when we took off around the small lake near my house, and felt a thunderous surge of exhilaration as we accelerated onto the main road.
Now there is often a gap between fantasy and reality. For me, my real experience on a bike was more like a Grand Canyon of difference from my fantasy. My exhilaration soon turned to sheer terror as Travis wound out each gear until we were hurtling down a road under repair with a 35-mile-per-hour speed limit at about twice that rate. We passed piles of dirt and bulldozers that were merely a blur as our speed increased. I finally got up enough courage to fight through Travis’ long hair (which was hitting me in the face like a thousand tiny needles) to check the speedometer. When I saw it was on 85 and climbing, my first reaction was to scream. I didn’t. Not because of a sudden shot of courage, mind you, but because I was just too scared to do much of anything. Plus, I figured if I opened my mouth, I would have a hard time explaining how I swallowed all of Travis’ hair. All I could do was to look down at the road flying by under us and think, “If we were to turn over, that pavement would just eat me alive — there wouldn’t be enough left of me to fill up a coffee can, much less a casket.”
After what seemed like about 10 years of tearing up and down the highway, we finally returned to my house. When we pulled back into my driveway, my knees were knocking out the “Hallelujah Chorus” and I didn’t know whether to shout, faint or kneel down and kiss the finally motionless ground.
That was my last time on a bike. I still think they are great — from a distance.
Oak View Civic Council supports idea, looks at river bottom as possibility
By Logan Hall
The Ojai Valley has lots of places set aside for residents and visitors to participate in many different activities. From golfing and horseback riding, to fishing and target shooting, the valley might seem to have it all. Greg Webster, Oak View’s honorary mayor, says there is one thing missing. He is starting a push to build a dirt bike track in Oak View.
Currently, there are only a handful of locations that are designated for riding off-road vehicles such as dirt bikes — and all of those are at least an hour from Ojai. “We need to give the kids a place to ride,” said Webster, who rides professionally and competes in hill climb events all over California. “Right now you have to go to places like Ballinger or Gorman. Our objective is to create and support a local dirt bike facility for the community.”
Although still in the early stages of planning, Webster has supporters ranging from the Oak View Civic Council to local contractors who want to pitch in and help out. “We would love to see this happen,” said Oak View Civic Council Parliamentarian Dusty Fernandez. “It’s been Greg’s passion to get this thing going for years, and more and more people are getting into the idea. He’s really getting a positive response.”
Webster says that the proposed site for the track would be an area in the Ventura River bottom in Oak View known as Devil’s Gulch, but that the location could be problematic when it comes to noise complaints. “People used to ride Devil’s Gulch back in the day, but it was shut down because of the noise,” he said. “The noise would be an issue, but we would work it out so the track would only be open certain hours.”
The Civic Council seems to be playing a vital role in the effort and is inquiring about insurance for the project. Webster says that the facility would be staffed by volunteers but the Civic Council would be the governing body behind the operations.
The idea has sparked interest in some local residents and Webster and Fernandez say that they will have help when the time comes to build the track. “Right now I’ve got a property owner that says if we get insurance he’s OK with us using his place,” said Webster, adding that they will need the community’s help to make their vision come to life. “We need the public’s support to make this happen.”
Webster has proposed a membership system that will include a reasonable annual fee that would go toward equipment and upkeep of the track.
One idea he had was to have members take and pass a safety course after which they would be allowed a key to the facility.
So far, the project exists only on paper, but proponents of the plan are optimistic about its success. “I think that once word gets out that something like this is possible, it will spread like a wildfire,” said Fernandez. “As soon as we get the green light, we’ll all be moving on it.
Photo by Logan Hall
By Logan Hall
and Lenny Roberts
After being shot in the face by her own Taser, Ojai-based Sheriff’s Deputy Traci Salmon was transported to Ventura County Medical Center Friday morning for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. But it could have been a lot worse.
Salmon was responding to a 911 call placed at 9:42 a.m. from David’s Ranch in the 4900 block of Casitas Pass Road when an alleged confrontation with John Atkinson turned violent, according to Capt. Patricia Salas. Atkinson, Salas said, was able to gain control of Salmon’s Taser before allegedly firing the Taser at the deputy. Salmon responded by firing her service revolver, hitting the suspect “at least once in the lower extremities.“
UPDATED 12/15/2010: Atkinson, according to the police report, was able to take Salmon’s handgun from her. He then put the gun to her head and pulled the trigger. The weapon did not fire.
After being shot, Atkinson retreated into the house. Salmon was able to call for backup, but was the only officer on scene, fending for herself for approximately 10 minutes. A California Department of Fish and Game agent was nearby and was the first officer on scene after the shooting.
More than 80 units, including two Sheriff’s Department helicopters, responded to assist. After a standoff, the suspect came out of the house voluntarily and was arrested by deputies at about 11:30 a.m. He was transported to the Ventura County Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.
Atkinson was booked for attempted murder of a peace officer and is in the early stages of being interviewed. The reason for the 911 call was not released.
Highway 150 was blocked off to all traffic north and south of the property for about two hours while sheriff’s deputies secured the area.
The following information was released Saturday, prepared by Major Crimes Captain Rick Barrios:
• The circumstances of what prompted the 911 call were unknown. The Sheriff’s Communications Center attempted to obtain further details by calling back to the residence, but could not get information from anyone inside.
• When Deputy Salmon approached the front door she was immediately attacked and a very violent struggle ensued. Atkinson assaulted Deputy Salmon and was able to gain control of her Taser. Atkinson then tazed Deputy Salmon in the upper body. Deputy Salmon fired her service weapon striking Atkinson in the lower extremity. Atkinson continued fighting with Deputy Salmon until she eventually was able to withdraw from the residence and call for backup. Atkinson armed himself with a firearm and remained inside the residence as additional deputies and other law enforcement officers arrived.
Deputy Salmon, 31, has been employed as a deputy sheriff for five years and previously served in Iraq as a member of the United States Army.
• Atkinson was released from the hospital and booked into the Ventura County Jail for attempted murder on a peace officer and the taking of a peace officer’s weapon. His bail has been set at $1,000,000.00.
Ojai Community Bank's Judy Gabriel, left, Pacific Western Bank's Martha Downden, Rabobank's Cari Guerrero, Bank of America's Janet Mahon, and Wells Fargo's Silvia Overton visit Help of Ojai’s food pantry, which their One Ton Challenge is helping to restock.
By Misty Volaski
Give yourselves a pat on the back, a round of applause, and a couple of high-fives; we’re on track to meet the One Ton Challenge Food Drive for Help of Ojai’s food pantry.
Spearheaded by Ojai Community Bank, the program placed donation bins at OCB, Bank of America, Pacific Western Bank, Rabobank and Wells Fargo.
Managers at each branch agree — “The response from the community has been incredible!” said Cari Guerrero, Rabobank vice president branch manager.
“Our customers have been so generous,” said Janet Mahon, Bank of America’s vice president banking center manager. “They’re actually sneaking in, putting things in the bins without anybody seeing. They want to be anonymous! We’re so happy we have the bins here.”
Guerrero concurred. “It’s so fun to watch the display by the front door. People are slipping in, dropping bags, and slipping out — trying not to bring attention to themselves.”
Ojai Community Bank employees said an elderly man stopped in and asked what was needed most. They told him nonperishables, such as cereal.
Give yourselves a pat on the back, a round of applause, and a couple of high-fives; we’re on track to meet the One Ton Challenge Food Drive for Help of Ojai’s food pantry.Spearheaded by Ojai Community Bank, the program placed donation bins at OCB, Bank of America, Pacific Western Bank, Rabobank and Wells Fargo.Managers at each branch agree — “The response from the community has been incredible!” said Cari Guerrero, Rabobank vice president branch manager.”Our customers have been so generous,” said Janet Mahon, Bank of America’s vice president banking center manager. “They’re actually sneaking in, putting things in the bins without anybody seeing. They want to be anonymous! We’re so happy we have the bins here.”Guerrero concurred. “It’s so fun to watch the display by the front door. People are slipping in, dropping bags, and slipping out — trying not to bring attention to themselves.”Ojai Community Bank employees said an elderly man stopped in and asked what was needed most. They told him nonperishables, such as cereal.
“So he went to Starr Market and bought $200 worth of food!” said Judy Gabriel, OCB community relations director. “There were at least eight huge boxes of food! He just kept unloading more. Then he asked what else was needed, and we said, ‘Well, they’ll need milk to go with the cereal.’ So he came back with 12 gallons of milk! He wasn’t necessarily wealthy, but just wanted to help others in need. And he didn’t want recognition or anything. It was just amazing.”
Although OCB issued the “challenge” to the other banks, said Gabriel, “It’s not really about which bank brought in the most food. It heightened the awareness that there’s a need in our community. Everyone goes to a bank, so this was a way to make it easier to drop off food.”
Help of Ojai executive director Terri Wolfe wholeheartedly agreed. “This really increased the visibility of the (food pantry) program. Because of the increased visibility and increased conversation around town, people have donated more at the markets as well. We’ve already received a lot more than we did this time last year.”
“We’re really proud of the awareness this has brought, more than anything!” enthused Martha Dowden, Pacific Western Bank vice president branch operations manager. “I love that we’re all able to cooperate for the good of the community, the good of everyone!” The biggest needs for the Help of Ojai food pantry, said Wolfe, are proteins of any kind, such as canned meats, as well as fruits and vegetables. Folks can bring in their extra homegrown produce as well.
Personal care items, such as shampoo, soap and toilet paper are also needed. “That stuff is expensive,” Wolfe said, “and a lot of times those are the first things families go without.”
Gift certificates, too, are very helpful. “If they buy $20 gift certificate for Vons, Starr, Costco, Smart & Final, wherever they shop, then families can get whatever they need, like a turkey or a pie” to complete their Christmas, said Gabriel. “And you can still bring things into the banks! The challenge ends next Wednesday.”
But that doesn’t mean we should stop donating, said Help of Ojai’s Wolfe. “We’ll have distributed about 50 to 75 percent of that by the end of the holiday season,” she explained. “So we’ll need to replenish our pantry to get us through till our next food drive in May.”
Donate at Ojai Community Bank, 402 W. Ojai Ave., No. 102; Bank of America, 205 W. Ojai Ave.; Wells Fargo, 202 E. Matilija St.; Pacific Western Bank, 110 S. Ventura St.; and Rabobank, 1207 Maricopa Highway. Donations are also accepted at Vons and Starr Market.
By Misty Volaski
Contention over Ojai’s City Council election race has been widely covered. Regardless of one’s personal opinion on the outcome, the race made one thing clear: each vote truly counts. Further emphasizing that fact was the Ojai Unified School District board race, which found just nine votes (.06 percent) separating incumbent Pauline Mercado from challenger Susan Malkin.
“I’m happy to have been re-elected,” Mercado said. “I look forward to serving.”
During Tuesday night’s OUSD meeting, Judge Fred Bysshe swore in incumbents Mercado, Rikki Horne and Kathi Smith for another four years. They return to the board with Steve Fields and Linda Taylor, who will be up for re-election in 2012.
Once the swearing-in process was complete, board members unanimously voted Horne as board president, Mercado as vice president, and Fields as clerk. Smith was unanimously voted into the position of representative to the Ventura County Nominating Committee on School District Organization.
Also Tuesday night, the board approved small changes in its agreement with the Ojai California School Employees Association (CSEA). “They’re minor,” said superintendent Hank Bangser. At the most, he added, “They will have a maximum yearly impact of $8,000″ to the OUSD budget.
Mira Monte Elementary, Topa Topa Elementary and Matilija Junior High each presented their Single Plans for Student Achievement, something each OUSD school is required to do annually. “They’re always approved,” Bangser said, adding that the rest of the schools had either already presented their reports or would at the Jan. 11 meeting. “We make it a point to give each principal the opportunity to highlight whatever they feel are important items that came out of last year’s work.”
Each school detailed plans for continued improvement, especially in the area of standardized testing. Mira Monte, for example, met almost all of their growth targets, but suffered a statistically significant drop in its language arts scores for the 2009-2010 set of third-graders. Principal Katherine White explained plans to remedy this, including keeping certain at-risk students in during P.E. classes to work on specific trouble areas. Several other measures have been implemented, she added.
John LeSuer, Topa Topa principal, explained how the school’s Parent-Teacher Association is currently raising funds to hire classroom aides, having identified the importance of help for teachers who have larger class sizes this year due to budget cuts. “‘We’re also using the computer lab for interventions,” he said. A Saturday school date is planned for February, he added, along with other measures. Topa’s English Language site coordinator Petra Battleson said, “Any games help, especially memory games” when teaching English as a second language. In addition, she volunteers Tuesdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m., to help Spanish-speaking parents learn English through the same Rosetta Stone programs their children use in class.
Matilija principal Emily Mostovoy submitted detailed plans to the board as well, and also chose to create a video displaying the school’s everyday activities. “It embodies the spirit of the school and our commitment to the students,” she said. In addition, she and the staff are implementing a tutorial enrichment program, whereby teachers identify students who are having a tough time in a particular subject. Once a month, those kids get together with a teacher to go over their problem areas. They’re pushing the philosophy that these extra help classes are “not consequences. They’re opportunities,” Mostovoy said. “It gives them opportunities to relearn subjects they didn’t grasp.”
Board members received tentative good news on their 2010-2011 school year budget. “There were pretty significant revenue changes,” said Bangser. “The revenues, at this juncture, are better than they were back in May.”
Laurel Meisch, director of financial services, and Dannielle Pusatere, assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, explained that funds from the federal jobs bill had come in. And, the governor has come up with a budget that “provided a somewhat better revenue flow to all districts than we were originally told to project back in May.”
However, he cautioned, the School Services of California organization is advising school districts not to spend those funds unless it’s necessary.
“They are strongly recommending that whatever additional revenue we’ve obtained in the 2010-2011 school year, beyond what we had already planned, shouldn’t be spent this year,” Bangser said. When it comes time to create the state’s 2011-2012 budget, he added, “… they are projecting a $25 billion budget shortfall, which could be very ugly” and mean even steeper cuts to education budgets.
The next school board meeting is slated for Jan. 11.
U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Sue Exline
By Logan Hall
The U.S. Forest Service has a new district ranger. Sue Exline, who came from the Sierra National Forest near Clovis to accept the position, has had a couple of months to settle in. The OVN sat down with Exline to get an insight into what she will be bringing to the Forest Service Ojai District, and to discuss some of the issues of the Los Padres National Forest.
OVN: Being new to the area, how do you familiarize yourself with this district?
Exline: The first month I really tried getting to know the district and the different issues that we face here. I’ve been meeting with different folks and agencies like the Sheriff’s Department, Ventura County Fire Department, and the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. I’ve been hearing some of the concerns and seeing how everyone operates. My goal in the first six months is to understand the district. I’m not going to make any knee-jerk reactions.
OVN: Have you found any similarities between the issues here and your previous district?
Exline: One thing I’ve seen is people who live near a National Forest have a real passion for it. The public also has a lot of expectations as to what the land is used for. Most people see it as a place for recreation.
OVN: There have been issues recently with recreation areas like Cherry Creek and other target shooting locations relating to vandalism and littering. What are some of the things people are doing that damage the Los Padres?
Exline: I visited Cherry Creek recently and it was a real eye-opener for me. Signs have been shot up and people leave their trash behind. People are using things like TVs and computers for targets and then leaving everything. We’re also seeing bathrooms and other buildings being shot up in some areas. It’s very disappointing.
OVN: How does the Forest Service deal with these issues?
Exline: In 2005 the (Forest Service) came up with a land management plan that would involve making shooting legal only in designated areas. We’ll go in and do an environmental analysis to determine whether to open or close certain areas to shooting. We want people to realize that they need to have some personal responsibility when they are in the National Forest.
OVN: The Adventure Pass that people purchase through the Forest Service allows them access to certain areas of the Los Padres. There has been some controversy over this through the years. What is your view on the Adventure Pass?
Exline: The Adventure Pass seems to have gone through many evolutions and the Forest Service has listened to the people and their concerns. In most areas, you no longer need a pass just to park within the forest. I believe that the passes are quite a bargain though. There are many facilities for people to use, and we most likely couldn’t have those without selling the pass. We don’t really hear the concerns about it that the district has heard in the past.
OVN: Recreation isn’t the only thing happening in the Los Padres. What are some of the challenges that you face when it comes to industry or commerce?
Exline: I think there’s a real concern with Highway 33. It’s become a very popular highway. I’ve heard about some issues with the trucks. The only thing on my mind with them is safety. We talked to a superintendent at one of the mines. We have to stay engaged in insuring that the companies that operate up there know we have concerns and that we all have to work together to make the forest safe.
OVN: You also work with some of the other local agencies like the Fire Department. What are some of the common goals that are shared?
Exline: Fire protection is something that we all see as a priority that we need to work together on. We need to have these partnerships to handle the problem areas of the forest and the district. We have to be aggressive in responding with fire fighting, and the public expects us all to work together.
OVN: Any final thoughts on the Ojai District?
Exline: All of the challenges we face never take away from our employees who are always trying to make a difference. Everyone here really seems to be passionate about what they do. They all really care. Ojai is a great place, and I want to figure out how to tap into people’s connection with the land and their passion for the environment. My goal is to really get more involved in the community.
By Bill Buchanan
Ojai will soon have a new city manager. John Baker, interim city manager, will be leaving the post after having served admirably in that role. Baker came into a difficult situation after the termination of previous city manager Jere Kersnar. With major projects in the works like the Skate Park and the Libbey Bowl construction, he had to hit the ground running. He did. We commend him on the job he has done. In particular, Baker acted swiftly and wisely in resolving a last-minute conflict concerning the concrete in the Skate Park. Baker called a meeting of the principals involved and a compromise was quickly ironed out so that the Skate Park, after many years of delays, was able to open as planned. That is the type of leadership the city needs, and Baker will be missed.
The City Council will soon take up the task of selecting Baker’s replacement. There are a couple of issues we think important for the new person to tackle right away, and for the city to look for in hiring the new person.
We would like to see the next city manager take a very hard and objective look at city finances. While the economy is improving, there is no denying these are difficult financial times for everyone. There are few if any businesses or individuals in this country, who have not been forced to take a very hard look at their financial situation and make changes to accommodate the economic slowdown. In many cases these changes have been substantial, even drastic, and often painful. But they were necessary. City finances should be no different. We need someone to come into the city manager’s office and take a fresh look at everything. There should be no sacred cows.
The new city manager will need to get up to speed quickly on the Libbey Bowl construction project. This is a large and important venture. It is easy on a project this size for things to get out of hand quickly. It needs to be managed as though the money being spent was the city manager’s personal money, and not just “someone else’s money.”
We would also like to see the city manager have a service-oriented outlook. In the city manager form of government, the position of city manager wields a lot of power. It is easy for that power to be misused or even abused. The city manager should remember that he or she works for the people of Ojai, not the other way around. We have heard unfortunate terms such as “the City of No” and “No-jai” used to describe our town, especially in regard to construction. The Skate Park, for instance, took many years to come to fruition. Local businesses such as Sea Fresh Seafood and Su Nido Inn have experienced great difficulties in getting various projects approved. It is very important to protect the visual integrity of the town. But within that framework, we need to find a way to help local businesses make improvements without lengthy and costly delays. That should be the mind-set going in.
That service-oriented outlook should also apply to the general public. We feel the city manager should take a hard look the current city employee work week. Many people find that City Hall being closed on Fridays is extremely inconvenient. We would urge the new person to see if there is a viable alternative schedule that would still be economically feasible, but would be more customer-oriented for the public.
In selecting and hiring the new city manager, we would hope the City Council will carefully consider and review the terms of the contract. The previous contract contained provisions that inflated the cost of the city manager’s compensation, and terms that made it very difficult for the council to dismiss him. We are not saying that the cheapest person is necessarily the best, but careful consideration of compensation and terms is needed.
The City Council has wisely encouraged local citizens to provide their input into the selection of the new city manager. In a news story in Wednesday’s edition of the Ojai Valley News, the council openly solicited input from the community, asking for opinions on “the attributes considered most important in making the selection.” It is important to note that people living in the immediate surrounding areas of the city limits are also greatly affected by decisions that are made by the city manager and council, and their input should be considered.
The Council is asking citizens to rate the following six characteristics to consider during the selection. They are:
• Responsive to community issues
• Is personable
• Active in the community
• Properly manages staff
• Is knowledgeable
• Gives straightforward answers
The public is asked to rank these characteristics one through six in priority order (one being the highest, six being the lowest) and to submit responses to the City Council at P.O. Box 1579, Ojai, CA, 93024 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
We commend the City Council for soliciting input, and urge the citizens of Ojai to let the council not only know what characteristics are important in the selection process, but to also let them know what issues you feel are important and need to be addressed.
The city manager’s job is an important one. Please let the council know how you feel.
The City Council is in process of selecting Ojai’s next city manager. The council has interest in receiving community input on the attributes considered most important in making the selection. The following are six characteristics persons may rate for the City Council to consider during the selection:
• Responsive to community issues;
• Is personable;
• Active in the community;
• Properly manages staff;
• Is knowledgeable; and
• Gives straightforward answers.
To provide your input, rank these characteristics in priority order (“1” being the highest; “6” the lowest) and submit your response to the City Council via mail (P.O. Box 1579, Ojai, CA 93024) or e-mail email@example.com
Nominations for best local businesses open today
By Ren Adam
The Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce will hold its fourth annual gala, “Celebrating Business in the Ojai Valley,” on Feb. 24 at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Nominations for business awards open today.
The gala will culminate more than three months of nominations, balloting and finally, honoring the six chamber members in five categories, including one category that will be divided.
Chamber members will be recognized for Community Service, as the Best Small Business of the Year, the Best New Business of the Year, for Customer Service in both retail and service divisions, as a Cornerstone Business recognizing a larger chamber member, and a special Outstanding Achievement Award.
Only current chamber members may nominate fellow chamber members. However, when the nominating process ends on Dec. 30, the top three nominees in each of the six categories will be announced, with valleywide voting on the 18 nominees set to commence the week of Jan. 5. Voting will close Jan. 31.
To encourage the chamber members to step up and nominate themselves, or their favorite businesses from amongst their fellow members, all those who submit nominations prior to Dec. 17 will be entered in a drawing for two free tickets to the gala, a $190 value.
“Nomination forms will be available online at ojaichamber.org, and chamber members will be sent a web link as well,” according to Scott Eicher, chamber CEO. “We are also going to have a repeat of last year’s very successful raffle, in which we will sell 400 tickets at $50 each, or five for $200. The opportunities for winning are maximized with this format,” he said.
One raffle prize will be a spa getaway at the Four Seasons-Westlake Village, during which the prize winners will spend two nights at the glamorous spa, enjoy two spa treatments, breakfast for two, and one dinner at Hamptons. Reservations and restrictions will apply (value $3,000).
Second prize is a California Coastal Getaway, which includes three nights, with breakfast, at the Ritz Carlton-Laguna Nigel in Laguna Beach, followed by a drive up the California coast to the Ritz Carlton-Half Moon Bay for an additional three-night stay. The two stays do not have to be consecutive. Reservations and restrictions apply (value $5,000).
The grand prize will be an overnight stay at the Casa Elar, located on the grounds of the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Casa Elar is the inn’s 10,000-square-foot Italian villa, which accommodates five couples, and includes a dinner for 10, prepared by chef Jamie West and pastry chef Calvin Yeap. Dinner will include local wines selected by the inn’s wine sommelier, David Brodowsky, as well as breakfast for 10 the following morning. Restrictions and reservations apply (value $35,000).
Tickets for the “Celebrating Business in the Ojai Valley” awards gala, and the “Big Ticket” raffle are available at the chamber office, 201 S. Signal St. in Ojai; online at ojaichamber.org
, or call 646-8126.
Meiners Oaks needs facility, says HTC
By Logan Hall
Local nonprofit organization Heal the Community has made progress in their push to bring a Boys & Girls Club to Meiners Oaks. After putting together a steering committee and having meetings to discuss ways to move forward, HTC is looking toward the community to help make their vision happen.
Most recently, they’ve spoken with the Ojai Unified School District to discuss the possibility of utilizing unused rooms at Meiners Oaks Elementary School for HTC’s upcoming programs.
“We’re very pleased with the school district’s help,” said HTC’s Dusty Fernandez. “It looks like we’re going to be able to use one of the classrooms at Meiners Oaks Elementary. As soon as we hammer out the details with the school board we can really get going.”
Although OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser says they haven’t worked everything out, the school board seems to be supportive of the effort, and says they will do what they can to help out. “They are very much in the exploratory stage of the process,” said Bangser. “They’re still in the early phases of fund raising, but we want to help.”
Bangser added that because HTC is in such an early phase of their efforts, the OUSD has not made a final call on whether or not a room at M.O. Elementary can be used by the group. Currently, the nonprofit organization Smart Start uses the school grounds for their after-school care program for low-income families.
Dannielle Pusatere, assistant superintendent of the OUSD, says they have made a verbal commitment with Fernandez, but want to make sure HTC’s programs don’t intrude on Smart Start. “We would consider being a partner with HTC as long as their services are not in direct competition with Smart Start,” said Pusatere. “We’re not really sure what Dusty’s vision is, but if she can develop that vision into something that complements Smart Start … we are for it.”
Bangser said that the cost for use of the room has yet to be determined and will be based in part on what HTC plans to do with the space. According to Pusatere, the current rate for a classroom rental by a nonprofit organization is $25 for two hours.
Fernandez’s vision appears to revolve around having a safe, reliable environment for kids. She is hoping to eventually have a six-hour summer program that would take place Monday through Friday where the kids could gather for activities. “We want to get it out there that we have great ideas here,” she said. “We want to give teens a safe alternative to hanging out in someone’s back yard getting drunk.”
HTC will be doing what they can to raise funds over the next couple of years. They will be holding a four-man Texas scramble golf classic benefit at Soule Park Golf Course in May, and will have the third annual Mentor Madness Poker Run and Car and Motorcycle Show in August. For details on HTC, call 649-1466.
By Misty Volaski
When a parent is incarcerated during the holidays, does Santa still leave presents for their children?
The Angel Tree project aims to answer that question with a resounding “yes.” For the 1.7 million children in America with a parent behind bars, Christmas can be a difficult time. Angel Tree is the only organization in the United States that makes sure those kids aren’t left with nothing on Christmas morning.
For more than 25 years, the Moreheart family, owners of Wachter’s Hay & Grain, have been donating a portion of their Christmas tree sales to the nonprofit organization. For each tree sold, a portion of the funds go toward purchasing gifts to insure that no child is forgotten.
“Wachter’s donations help the Angel Tree program provide prisoners’ children the gifts the children have requested, but the parents cannot provide,” said longtime employee Lorrie Malloy.
The tree inventory, she continued, “has a great variety of trees and prices for everyone’s budget.” A portion of the proceeds from each tree automatically goes to Angel Tree.
“I’ve seen what the owners provide the Ojai Valley in the way of donations,” Malloy said. “Whether it be goldfish to the schools, churches, or gift certificates that are needed for silent auctions — they are very caring and generous people, and the Angel Tree program is another way they give to those in need.”
Wachter’s is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information on the Angel Tree organization, see angeltree.org
or call (800) 55-ANGEL.
Alliance blames economy, pressure
from Stop the Trucks! Coalition
By Logan Hall
The Ozena Valley Mine up Maricopa Highway has withdrawn its application for a conditional use permit modification and time extension. Alliance Ready Mix, operators of the mine, have halted mining and will be moving off the property, relinquishing control to the property owners.
Ozena has supplied gravel to Ventura County since 2001 and has used Maricopa Highway to transport material from the mine in Lockwood Valley to its customers.
Because of hard economic times and pressure from Ojai’s Stop the Trucks! Coalition the operators decided to withdraw the application and discontinue mining operations. Alliance says their lease of the property will be terminated on Dec. 17 and it will be the owner’s responsibility.
“The costs were unfeasible as far as being able to extract and access more aggregate reserves,” said Brandt Robinson from Alliance. “We were no longer able to bring the trucks through Ojai. The Stop the Trucks people have been pressuring the county. It just doesn’t make sense to continue business up there.”
Michael Shapiro, co-chair of stop the trucks, believes that the coalition is making an impact on the local agencies involved with mining operations and the highway. “I think we have raised the sensitivity to the situation,” said Shapiro. “The issue is has really been put on the radar of Ventura County.”
Shapiro says that although the coalition is making headway within the county, they are still being ignored by state agencies. He alleges that Caltrans, who is responsible for Maricopa State Highway 33 has refused their repeated request to obtain public documents on the findings of safety surveys done on the highway. “People’s lives hang in the balance,” he said. “Thousands of people use Highway 33 for recreational reasons. Those people rely on the studies that say the highway is safe. Caltrans has a legitimate responsibility to assure their safety.” He says that the tunnels up Maricopa are reason enough for concern. “The tunnels are of such inadequate size to handle those trucks,” he continued, “and mixing that in with motorists and cyclists, it’s a tragedy waiting to happen.”
Shapiro states that the coalition’s attorneys have made repeated attempts to obtain documents that may have information about the safety of the highway for industrial traffic. “They gave us documents about two years ago that consisted of e-mails within Caltrans. Those e-mails had alluded to the existence of a red folder that contains documents about safety issues of Highway 33,” he said. “Our lawyers have made three formal attempts in requesting the red folder and all of the documents within. Caltrans is illegally refusing to honor our requests to see those documents.”
Shapiro also says that the coalition is ready to go to any length necessary to get what they’ve requested.
“If Caltrans doesn’t comply with the law under the Freedom of information Act, we fully intend to take them to court and sue, and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”
Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler refused to comment, saying they are looking into the allegations but will need time to gather information.
The push to have the County of Ventura conduct a recount of votes in the Ojai City Council election race between Carol Smith and Lenny Klaif is over. The group of local citizens who had requested the recount have come to the end of a hard-fought battle. According to Pat McPherson, who was spearheading the effort, the group had raised almost $1,500 toward the $7,083 deposit required by county election officials.
The county sent notification to McPherson Thursday morning, saying that they were going to conduct the recount today, and would have needed the deposit Thursday. It proved to be too soon for proponents of the recount.
“It’s over,” said McPherson. “When I had asked them how long it could take to do recount, they said seven to 10 days. We wouldn’t have wasted everybody’s time if we knew it would only be two days. It just wasn’t enough time to raise the money.”
Although the election is over, Klaif and McPherson believe there are still many unanswered questions. “There’s still something real weird going on with the way the county conducted this,” said Klaif. “I was told they knew that they had lost votes, and now I’m told they didn’t know. There’s something wrong with that. It all comes down to accountability.”
The ordeal seems to be over, but Klaif said he will send a letter to the county to address the concerns he still has. “I have no expectation that this would have an effect on this election, but for the future, someone with authority needs to look into what happened,” he said.
County Addresses Election Questions (12/2/10)
Klaif’s backers raising funds for ballot recount
Lenny Klaif looks for clarification of counting problems at Tuesday night’s City Council Meeting. Photo by Logan Hall
By Logan Hall
The County of Ventura sent a representative to speak at the Ojai City Council meeting on Tuesday about mistakes made by the county during the recent elections and the subsequent recount request by concerned voters. The election was not on the agenda for the meeting, but after requests from Lenny Klaif, the council felt it was important to hear the county’s side of the debate.
Jim Becker, assistant county clerk and recorder, stood behind the lectern and spoke for more than 30 minutes about the reasons for the mixup in the election process. Sometimes repeating himself, trying to clarify the complex nature of the way that votes
The County of Ventura sent a representative to speak at the Ojai City Council meeting on Tuesday about mistakes made by the county during the recent elections and the subsequent recount request by concerned voters. The election was not on the agenda for the meeting, but after requests from Lenny Klaif, the council felt it was important to hear the county’s side of the debate.Jim Becker, assistant county clerk and recorder, stood behind the lectern and spoke for more than 30 minutes about the reasons for the mixup in the election process. Sometimes repeating himself, trying to clarify the complex nature of the way that votes were counted, Becker admitted right away that he wasn’t the foremost expert on the situation. He said he had been sent by Mark Lunn, Ventura County clerk and recorder, to explain the county’s version of events.
“What happened was — there were two anomalies,” said Becker referring to the race between Klaif and Carol Smith. “One was that the spread or margin of votes had changed.”
Becker explained that the second was that one of the candidate’s total votes had gone down, but said it wasn’t the first time they’ve seen such anomalies. “We’ve seen both of those in prior elections. Neither would necessarily give us pause,” he said.
According to Becker, the mistake came when an IT person, who manages the voting database, recorded incorrect numbers taken from a ballot scanning machine. After running a batch of mail-in ballots through the scanner, the database manager read and recorded a number that Becker said, “I think was 278.”
But that number, he said, had nothing to do with the vote by mail ballots.
“Now you have numbers that are off,” Becker continued. “We found the error pretty quickly. We took out the bad number and put in the one that should have been there.”
The county hadn’t caught the mistake quick enough, when Klaif and supporters like Pat McPherson checked the numbers and saw an extreme fluctuation. That’s where the trouble began. Now, after officially requesting a recount from the county, Klaif’s supporters and others concerned are questioning the county’s integrity. Speaking at the meeting, newly elected Councilwoman Carlon Strobel said the situation is “like a cloud hanging over the election results.”
McPherson also addressed the city, giving his reasoning for requesting the recount. After five minutes of speaking, McPherson was told by Mayor Steve Olsen he had one minute left. McPherson responded by stating that Becker was allotted more than half an hour of speaking time. He said he felt he deserved the same. Olsen again told McPherson he had one minute. “How about I just end here?” said McPherson before walking out of the meeting.
McPherson later told the OVN that he believes the council violated the rights of the community by not putting the election item on the agenda for the meeting. “Anything discussed publicly has to be on the agenda,” he said. “They’re usually sticklers when it comes to that. If you are going to have something discussed in a public meeting, you need to let the public know in advance. They didn’t do that.”
Ojai city manager John Baker later explained his reasoning for not adding the county speaker to the agenda. “I sent an e-mail to the county asking them to come up and give an explanation,” he said. “I had already posted the agenda before the county responded, and there was no action for the council to take, so therefore there was no reason to put it on the agenda.”
Olsen also responded, backing the decision made to include the election item in the meeting. “I think the city manager did everything legally,” he said.
Most of the council seemed to be satisfied with the county’s reasoning on the subject of the mistakes made. Councilwoman Sue Horgan, although at first unclear on Becker’s explanation, said she understands what had happened. “I think the case he presented was that the process was not perfect,” said Horgan in an interview. “It’s very technical. He was trying to get across that they made a mistake, but they corrected it.”
Horgan said that the city sent their experts, city clerk Cynthia Burell and deputy city clerk and records manager Rhonda Basore, to speak with the county. Both are the election officials for the city of Ojai. “The county explained what happened and how they rectified it,” said Basore. She stated that everything the county told them made sense and she felt good about the explanation.
Supporters of Klaif are currently trying to raise money for the recount itself although some have called on the county to conduct a “voluntary” recount. If a recount takes place and there is no change in results, the requesters of the recount have to foot the bill, which can be as much as $20,000 if done by hand.
By Bill Buchanan
If things go well, when you read this I will be back in my Ojai home after enjoying Thanksgiving with Ava and friends at my Alabama home. Since I will be flying again soon, I have been reading with interest the new TSA airport security measures. I am more than a little astounded at all the uproar over the increased screening measures, including the now-famous line, “Don’t touch my junk.”
People are going nuts over “pat-downs.” There have been threats of passenger boycotts which thankfully didn’t materialize during the Thanksgiving travel rush. Now there’s a brilliant idea. Let’s see, how can we make holiday travel any slower — I know, we will boycott the screening process —- yeah, that will make Thanksgiving and Christmas so much better for all of us. There have been reports of people punching security agents, and there was one story of one woman who even head-butted the TSA officer who was searching her laptop.
My comment about all this is — are you serious?
I understand that pat-downs are a little intrusive. And the thought of having your body scanned and displayed on a big screen is not all that appealing to anyone not named Kardashian. On the other hand, at this point in my life, I think I would be grateful for whatever attention I can muster. But, seriously, what is the big deal of a slightly intrusive pat-down when weighed against the possible alternative? What if the government makes TSA back off the policy of full body imaging or pat-downs, and then some idiot climbs on a plane like that fool last year about this time (you remember, the one with the bomb in his underwear), gets by security and blows up a plane with traveling families on board?
What would the outcry be like then? The people who would probably be yelling the loudest about security failures are the same people who are yelling the loudest right now about how their dignity has been taken away by these invasive search techniques (which assumes they had some in the first place). I would ask,- would you be more uncomfortable watching a strange hand pat you down, or watching some fool take out a bomb to blow up your plane so that you spiral down about 35,000 feet and leave a big hole in the ground? Which would cause you more anxiety and discomfort?
Unsubstantiated paranoia is one thing. But if you truly believe that there are people out there who do not like us, and I think the World Trade Center bombings pretty much bear out the fact that we are not universally loved, then we need to take some fairly aggressive measures to combat terrorist activity.
I have no problems with the full body imaging or pat-downs or whatever within reason. We are not talking about strip searches that are videoed, and then streamed directly onto the internet. We are talking about taking steps to insure safer travel. If the new measures find and stop one device that would have brought down a planeload of people headed home to see their families during the holidays, then inconvenience and a little embarrassment are a pretty small price to pay. Even if they do not find anything, perhaps just the fact that a potential terrorist knows he might be patted down could act as a valuable deterrent.
We need to stop whining and just get on the plane — perhaps with the reassurance that we may be a little safer than we were before.
Happy travels to you and yours during the holidays.