By Misty Volaski
Galen David had fallen asleep on the couch Monday night when someone walked in the front door around 1:30 a.m.
“It took me 15 or 20 seconds to realize — it’s Dominique!” he said, of his daughter’s unexpected arrival. “It brought tears to my eyes. She had told me she couldn’t get off work, so it was a total surprise. And our family is not good at keeping surprises! It was just so cool.”
Laughed Dominique, “I am so proud of myself for pulling that off!”
The 21-year-old Nordhoff graduate came home from New York City for just 24 hours on Tuesday, to watch the finale of “The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection” with about 50 friends and family in her Oak View home.
The budding fashion designer competed against 11 others — all of whom were older and more experienced than she — for the grand prize of $125,000 and a spread in Harper’s Bazaar magazine.
David placed third in the finale, behind Calvin Tran, who took second place, and Jeffrey Williams, who took first. The last episode, predictably, offered the greatest challenge yet for the designers: creating 10 pieces in just one week.
While she didn’t win, David said she was proud of her work. “I had already taken so much from the experience, that either way, I was thrilled to be there, that I got to show my collection,” she said. “I was really happy with what I did, proud of where I stood.” At the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, she added, “We had to create 13 looks in nine months. So 10 looks in seven days was a pretty drastic change!”
David’s inspiration for the finale was a bit of a reflection of herself — ambitious girl in a big gritty city. In her usual fashion, David injected a hint of geisha girl inspiration, and took some big risks, implementing new techniques that she hadn’t tried before like dyeing fabrics.
The judges weren’t overly thrilled with the collection, but, said “Fashion Show” judge Iman on Bravotv.com, “She is young and experimental, which takes courage and I applaud her for that. She has a singular vision, but needs to work on her technique and editing. But she is young and gifted, so time is on her side.”
Even the contentious Tran, known as the show’s resident diva, had good things to say about David in an interview with Realtywanted.com. “I really admire Dominique for her fearlessness and taking the form of clothes to another universe. She is a visionary.”
But, “I was kinda’ freaking out in my head,” David said of her designs for the finale. “Maybe I overstepped, overpushed myself; my style is a lot more simple than that. I think I over-dressed it in a sense, striving to be this thing when that’s not who I am. I was at a point where maybe it was a little confused, the inspiration maybe got jumbled.”
But Tuesday night on Sunset Street, there was no confusion about for whom the 50-person-strong crowd was rooting. Each time she appeared on screen, the room erupted in applause. Most of those gathered at the David residence sported “Team Dominique” T-shirts, and dad Galen couldn’t have been more proud. “We’re amazingly proud of her. She’s a perfect girl.”
The cutest quote of the night came from Sage Smith, age 6, who was perched next to David as the finale began. “You had to do nine looks?” Smith asked wide-eyed. David, dressed in a black head scarf and layers of loose-fitting knit, nodded with a smile on her geisha-painted lips. “Wow,” said Smith, “that looks hard!”
“Sage is the daughter of our youth pastor (Ryan Smith, of Ojai Valley Community Church),” said Galen. “She just idolizes Dom, knows every person on the show. When they came over and Dominique was there, they all just lit up and got so excited!”
The future, too, is exciting for David. She’s currently working with fellow contestant Cesar Galindo on Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. line, which will hit the runway Feb. 17. She’ll also be preparing her own line, which she hopes to sell over the internet in the coming months. “It’s still early in development, five to 10 pieces,” she said. “I wear a lot of my pieces, and my friends are always saying, ‘Oh my God, can I buy that from you?’ Like, if I have a dinner party in three hours, I’ll just whip something up. And Isaac (Mizrahi, judge) says that’s when I’m always at my best. So I’m definitely going to put some of those types of things out there, even if it’s just a few pieces.”
Keep up with David on her Facebook page (search “Dominique Pearl”), or visit dominiquepearl.com
By Logan Hall
The Ojai City Council voted 3-2 against a request from the Ojai Visitors Bureau for $160,000 to fund the group for the next year. The council had given the bureau the same amount the previous year, but Mayor Carol Smith, and Councilwomen Betsy Clapp and Sue Horgan decided they needed to look into the city’s financial situation more before granting the request.
Horgan said that “a larger, broader conversation with all of the players is needed.”
The council received a bleak look into the city’s current financial state from interim city manager John Baker, due in part to $1.3 million advance to fund construction of Libbey Bowl. The city is banking on that money coming back in the form of pledges from the community to be repaid over five years, but it leaves the city without cash to fund new projects. Smith said she believed the amount requested was too high and should be lowered.
The Visitors Bureau was formed in order to market Ojai as an overnight destination in hopes of bringing in more revenue to the city by way of the transient occupancy tax or “bed tax.”
Councilman Paul Blatz, who said he has an extensive background in marketing, voted yes and said he believed keeping the momentum of the bureau’s marketing plan was key in bringing in more revenue. “I think that this is the time that we have to take the risk,” said Blatz to his fellow council members. “We are looking into the future, so it’s important for our community to be a success.”
Baker told the council that because the city does not have the funding to finance the bureau for another year, they would have to significantly cut back on current programs, or take out a line of credit.
Several local merchants, including Roberta Raye, owner of Made in Ojai, Laurel Moore, owner of Azu restaurant, and Jeff Haydon, executive director of the Ojai Music Festival, spoke on the Visitors Bureau’s behalf and told the council how integral it is in generating money for Ojai.
Baker said he would put the item on the agenda for the next council meeting for further review.
Look for a full report on this and other council actions in Wednesday’s edition of the Ojai Valley News.
By Bill Buchanan
For someone who loves good food, I am a lousy cook. I am not talking about not quite good enough to have my own show on the Food Network, or pretty good, but not quite gourmet. I am talking about the level of sad where you have to call your wife to ask how to boil eggs or sauté shrimp. I am talking about buying cold water tea bags because you don’t trust yourself to make it hot. I am reminded of just how bad a cook I am at every lunch and every supper — either by enjoying something delicious that someone else has prepared at one of Ojai’s many fine restaurants, or by eating my own lousy cooking. The other night I was slapped hard in the face with this realization when I heated up the wonderful gumbo and rice that Claire Clark brought over to the office last week. Miss Claire, who is Mark Weil’s mother, is from south Louisiana, home of the best cooking in the free world. The first time Mark and I met, he mentioned he was from New Orleans. It is practically impossible to have a conversation about New Orleans without talking about food. So naturally we started talking about south Louisiana cuisine and he mentioned how good his mama’s gumbo was. A few weeks later, I ran into Mark and his family and shamelessly proceeded to beg Miss Claire to save some gumbo for me the next time she made it.
And, bless her heart, she did, and it was terrific.
Food in south Louisiana has been elevated to an art form. I thought people took cooking seriously where I grew up, but when I lived in south Louisiana, food was taken to a whole new level. Down there, you are safer insulting a man’s mama than you are denigrating his recipe for jambalaya. The cooks there are creative and unafraid to spice something within an inch of its life. They also cook and eat things that people in most states would kill and throw in the trash. But they make all it taste wonderful. My wife Ava was always a good cook, but she really flourished when we moved down by New Orleans.
Even though I lived in the center of the culinary universe for three years, none of the magic rubbed off on me. My recipe repertoire pretty much consists of soup le Campbell’s de tomato; re-heated rotisserie chicken ala supermarket with baked potato du microwave; tuna chez Star-Kist; and baloney en croute.
Whenever I attempt anything much fancier than the pathetic list above it usually comes out tasting like burning hair. If grease fires count, then it can be said that I did flambé some chicken a time or two —- but certainly not intentionally. I also fried some dragonfly once, but only because it flew through my kitchen window and landed in the middle of the skillet while I was frying some chicken. It looked very interesting, and I was almost hungry enough to eat it, but elected to toss the blackened dragonfly along with the chicken into the trash.
Part of the problem is that while I have always shown a remarkable interest in eating I just don’t have much interest in cooking. I do not possess the creativity necessary to be a good cook. Great cooks study foods, experiment with different combinations of foods and spices. I do not have the patience for this. One of my favorite cartoons (perhaps because it really hits home) was of a little guy on his knees with his fingers steepled, looking upward. The caption read: “Lord, last night I asked you for patience — what’s the hold-up!” I just want to toss something in a pan and be eating five minutes later —- yet have it be delicious. I guess it doesn’t work that way.
Another deterrent to my becoming a master chef is that Ava is a terrific cook. So there is no compelling reason for me to be in the kitchen, and my presence there is usually just an annoyance —- unless I am helping her clean up.
So now, the times when I am in Ojai and Ava is not with me and I have to fend for myself, it would be nice if I were a little better cook. A few weeks ago, I ran into Joy Grove at the grocery store. She looked in my cart, and remarked on how much wine it held. I replied, “If you had to eat my cooking, you’d make sure you had plenty of wine first, too.”
Maybe I’ll start going out to dinner more.
By Logan Hall
The Ojai City Council announced the hiring of a new city manager Tuesday night as Mayor Carol Smith declared the unanimous approval of Robert Clark.
Clark has held the position in Laguna, Avalon, and for the last seven years, Mammoth Lakes.
“The cities that I’ve managed have had a small community feel and natural surroundings,” said Clark in a phone interview Wednesday. “I was looking for a place that was special and not just any old city. I think Ojai fits that mold.”
Clark is making his transition to Ojai just after the town of Mammoth lost a $30 million lawsuit in the Hot Creek Aviation litigation. According to several different Mammoth area publications, Mammoth signed an agreement with developers in 1997 — about seven years before Clark became manager of Mammoth —- involving a land and hotel project on the outskirts of the town. The developers sold the development rights and the new owner then sued the town for not honoring their contractual obligations.
Clark, who was very open to responding to the OVN’s questions about the suit, says that he inherited the issue and has done his best to make everything right. “I think that the (Mammoth) council was very happy with the way I handled the situation,” said Clark. “At the time I was first interviewed by the Ojai City Council, I really believed we would win the case. The fact that we lost was a big surprise to everyone.”
Ojai City Councilman Paul Blatz, who is a criminal and civil litigation attorney, weighed in on the situation. “We knew about the lawsuit from our very first interview with Rob,” he said. “He’s very forthcoming with the whole thing and he’s fully aware that this is an issue.”
Blatz further described the council’s confidence in Clark. “We independently talked with Mammoth council members as well as the owner of Mammoth Mountain regarding the lawsuit. I believe that he had done everything humanly possible to make it right. He is a really good guy and we are fortunate to have him.”
Ojai interim city manager John Baker added his comments on the council’s decision to hire Clark. “I know that this all happened well before he got there,” said Baker. “The council and I both asked very specific questions in terms of the lawsuit. The council took it very seriously and looked at it in depth, then they made the decision.”
Clark, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley, says that although the lawsuit was and will be an ongoing problem for Mammoth, he is pleased with the things he has accomplished in the town. “We’ve done some really good things here,” he said. “I started up a trolley system, which I am very proud of.”
According to Baker, 63 candidates applied for the position. Baker says he did not hire a recruiter and gathered the applications himself, which the Ojai City Council then weeded down to 10, and ultimately decided on Clark. “I gave the council some tips on the applicants,” he said, “but it was entirely their decision.”
In a press release from the city of Ojai, Smith said, “The final decision on Mr. Clark was made after two extensive interviews, and conversations with the mayor, chief of police, finance director and members of the business community where Mr. Clark currently works. The council felt that Mr. Clark has the right blend of experience, financial and business acumen, and environmental sensitivity to lead Ojai. He also has great interpersonal skills and listens carefully. We feel that Mr. Clark will serve the community very well.”
Clark says that upon his arrival, one of his first orders of business will involve familiarizing himself with Ojai and its citizens. “I know from past experience,” he said, “that when you’re fresh off the boat, it’s good to be in listening mode, and not talking mode. I plan on getting around town and meeting to discuss the important issues of Ojai. Local knowledge is very important.”
When asked to comment on the final decision made by the council, Baker said he has read Clark’s résumé and helped the council with background checks. “I get a good feeling in talking to him,” said Baker.
Clark will soon move to Ojai with his wife, Judy, saying that his youngest of four children will be graduating from high school and will not be accompanying them in their move. “It’ll be me, my wife, two dogs and two horses,” he said. He also says that he and his wife have been looking for a place in Ojai, but need to sell their property in Mammoth before buying in the valley. He will officially take his position as Ojai city manager on Feb. 21.
By Logan Hall
Where do homeless people go when they need to wash their clothes or make an important phone call? Help of Ojai’s Community Assistance Program has begun a renovation to their facility that will help serve the homeless and low-income, at-risk populations of the Ojai Valley.
The building, located on Fox Street in downtown Ojai, was Help’s thrift store until it moved into its new location on Ojai Avenue. C.A.P., specializing in the community’s homeless population, along with the Valley Outreach Program that deals with low-income families, moved into the Fox Street building owned by Help in June last year, according to Terri Wolfe, Help’s executive director. “We are providing homeless and low-income services in the same building,” said Wolfe. “It’s the first time they’ve both been available from the same place.”
Wolfe says that the renovation plans are possible because of a $75,000 Community Development Block Grant that was administered through the County of Ventura in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She said that the plans include the addition of a new central heating and air conditioning system, a new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bathroom, and the “general improvement of an aging building.”
The services offered by C.A.P. are used on a daily basis by the homeless population of the valley, according to Wolfe. Individuals can use the facility to do laundry, pick up mail, use the phone or internet, and get a sack lunch. One local, who goes by the name of “Fuzzy,” says he has lived on the streets of Ojai for about 20 years, and programs like C.A.P. help out when times are tough. “We need places like this in the valley,” said Fuzzy. “There’s really no facilities around here except for a few trailers at some of the churches.”
Fuzzy said that after speaking with the OVN, he was heading to the C.A.P. building to make some phone calls. “I’m going to’ go use the phone and get my grub on,” he said.
Elinore Crawshaw is a volunteer with C.A.P. and has been helping with the program for about four years. She also believes that C.A.P. is an asset to the valley. “Everyone here works so hard and helps so many people,” she said. “Everyone who comes here is really treated with respect. It’s just like home.”
Along with the renovation, they have also removed additions to the building that did not have permits when built. Wolfe says that there is no official record when the additions were made, but the grant money has allowed them to remove the sections that aren’t permitted while making the improvements to the rest of the facility. “We wanted to get the building back to an approved and permitted condition,” said Wolfe.
The County of Ventura is in the process of counting the homeless population, and some of Help’s employees, including Wolfe, hit the streets of the Ojai Valley yesterday to try to get an accurate count. Whatever the number is that they report to the county, programs like C.A.P. will be on hand to continue to help those who are in need.
Judge to set competency hearing date for alleged killer of Seth Scarminach
By Logan Hall
Alex Medina, accused of stabbing to death 16-year-old Seth Scarminach on the 2400 block of Maricopa Highway, will have a hearing on Feb. 14 to set a date for a competency hearing in the Ventura County Superior Court, according to Bill Haney, senior deputy district attorney.
Scarminach was allegedly called out of a party in the early hours of April 26, 2009, and was attacked and stabbed repeatedly. Authorities believed Medina, then 14, was associated with the Ojai-based gang OSL.
According to Haney, a court psychologist will re-evaluate Medina before the next hearing. “There has been a passage of time,” said Haney, “so the court psychologist needs a chance to re-interview the defendant.” Haney says that Medina’s defense attorney will come in to apprise the court of the defense readiness.
If he is found competent to stand trial, Medina could face a sentence of life in prison.
Ojai resident Briana Faulstich stands at Gilman’s Point, just 300 meters from Uhuru — the summit — of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Seventeen year oldl could be youngest American girl to accomplish feat
By Logan Hall
Experts say that if a person were picked up at sea level, and dropped on the summit of Mount Everest, they would die within minutes.
This is the environment that surrounds high altitude mountaineers in their quests to stand atop the world’s tallest peaks. Ojai native Briana Faulstich is going to attempt to join the elite group of climbers who have reached the top of Everest.
At 17 years old, if she succeeds, she will become the youngest American female to make the summit of the highest peak in the world. She will also be making a push to be the youngest American female to ascend the highest peaks on each continent, known as the Seven Summits.
“It’s a big goal,” said Faulstich. “It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not just some spontaneous thing. I’ve been doing a lot of training.”
Faulstich is looking into one of the world’s top high altitude climbing guide services, Alpine Ascents International, to help her get to the top of the mountain. Alpine’s director of programs and climbing guide Gordan Janow, says she has a long road ahead of her if she wants to reach her goal. “This is a very demanding sport,” said Janow. “Not just physically, but mentally. You’re living in extremely harsh environments day in and day out, often for weeks on end. She’ll have to be very careful with everything she does up there.”
Straddling the borders of Tibet and Nepal as part of the Himalayan Mountain Range, Everest towers at 29,029 feet (8,848 meters), according to Wikipedia. It’s one of only 14 peaks on Earth that breach the 8,000-meter height, referred to by the climbing community as “the death zone.” High altitude peaks like Everest are inhospitable places where few life forms can survive.
Although Faulstich has never been on an 8,000-meter peak like Mount Everest, she says she has climbed other mountains and endured harsh conditions. She attempted to climb the 22,841-foot Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest peak in the Americas. She fell short of making the summit when her expedition was forced to turn around less than 2,000 feet from the top due to difficult conditions. “Aconcagua is where I experienced a Rhine storm,” she said. “The wind was blowing about 60 mph and you get cuts on your face from tiny pieces of ice flying through air. One member from another team that we were climbing with died up there.”
Faulstich — who is making her second attempt at Aconcagua at the end of January — further described her descent from the mountain, saying that darkness had fallen, making it much more difficult. “It was dark on the way down and we had to cross an ice river,” she recalled. “If you get wet up there, you aren’t going to make it back down. It was really scary.”
Janow, who has 20 years of experience with Alpine Ascents, says that some of the challenges of high-altitude peaks can be tougher for young climbers and that age can play a factor. “Being patient is hard for younger climbers,” he said. “Knowing when to quit can be the difference between life or death.”
Mountaineering is nothing new to Faulstich. At a young age, her father introduced her to the great outdoors. “When I was a baby,” she said, “my dad would put me in a pack and carry me around on his back. When I was 15, he took me to Tanzania, and we climbed Kilimanjaro. It was such an incredible experience.”
Faulstich is currently trying to raise funds for her upcoming expeditions. The cost of a single trek to Everest can cost upwards of $70,000 per person, according to internet sources. Although she has sponsorships from outdoor gear companies Patagonia and Columbia, she says she needs help to raise enough money to afford the guide services that are integral in getting most climbers to the top. “I don’t have a lot of time left to strategize and get money,” she said. “I’m really trying to get sponsors.”
To donate to her effort or for more information on Faulstich and her quest for the Seven Summits, visit brianafaulstich.com
By Bill Buchanan
Fresh off the public relations nightmare of thousands of delayed and canceled flights over the holidays that left many travelers stranded in airports for days, some major airlines have decided to add insult to injury by piling even more miscellaneous fees on their customers in the coming year.
Granted, the airlines could do nothing to prevent the bad weather. But some airlines did not even bother to alert passengers their flights were to be canceled, then did not answer the phone when people called in to attempt to re-book the flight. Now comes the news that several carriers are looking to add more a’ la carte fees this year. Jay Sorenson, president of IdeaWorks, a company that tracks consumer trends, was quoted in a recent report as saying, “Once considered an aberration only associated with low-cost carriers, ancillary revenue is now a point of pride among senior executives at major airlines.”
Some airlines already charge for things like checked baggage, early check-in and unaccompanied minors. Now there is talk of charging customers for overhead bin space and a fee for small children who sit in their parent’s lap (now free on domestic flights). Yeah, I can see where charging a mother a fee to have a squirming child in her lap for a few hours would make the senior executives’ chests swell with pride.
But since I feel sympathy for the airlines, I have come up with a few suggestions that might help them pad the paltry $22 billion they took in with extra fees last year. For instance, why not start charging people a fee for all those who want to recline their seat? Why should people think they have the right to attempt to find some comfort in these noisy, crowded, ever-shrinking planes? Maybe they could lock each seat in place, then charge people $5 for a key to allow it to recline. Better yet, why not make it like a car wash where you pay more for wheel cleaner or wax? It could be $5 to recline the seat 3 inches, $7 to recline it 6 inches and maybe $10 to let it back all the way.
Another idea would be to post little toll booths at the conveyor sidewalks and charge people an access fee. Why not take advantage of those rushing to make their next flight by asking them to pay a little extra? Never mind that the reason they are rushing is that the airplane was late coming into the terminal to begin with. You could charge them at each sidewalk station, or give them the option of buying something like an “E-Z Pass” in advance that they could just flash in front of the attendant. Maybe the airline could point out that this would save the passenger the hassle of having to come up with exact change. Who wouldn’t appreciate such thoughtfulness?
And why limit fees to just the able-bodied? Why not charge all those senior citizens, the injured, as well as those with disabilities fees for the use of wheelchairs? Why should they get a “free ride” so to speak? Why not turn those skycaps into airport wheelchair taxi drivers? They could charge a flat rate plus mileage — maybe $5 plus 10 cents a foot. I mean after all, if someone has a broken leg, they are at your mercy, right? What choice do they have?
If the airlines are smart and greedy, and we know they are at least one of those, they should jump on these and other ideas to gouge travelers as much as possible. After all, what is more valuable, public relations or public pick-pocketing?
The insensitivity of the airlines reminds me of a former football coach at Alabama. To say he had a prickly personality is like saying Bernie Madoff made a few accounting errors. At times it seemed to be the coach’s goal to make as many people mad as possible. In fact, it was said of Ray Perkins that if he were to learn that there was anyone in the state he had not yet angered, he would get in his car and drive four hours just find that person so he could tick him off, too. In the years after he left Alabama, I lost track of him.
He might be working as an airline consultant.
More than 220 vehicles, plus walk-ins, participated in the second E-Waste Collection event held Jan. 8 in the parking lot of Ojai Community Bank.
Sponsored by the Ojai Valley Directory, the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, and Ojai Community Bank, the event is held once each year, and this year drew substantially more participants, according to the sponsors.
“We collected more than 30,000 pounds of electronic equipment, 838 pounds of batteries, 135 pounds of ‘media storage,’ 45 pounds of holiday and other decorative lights, and hundreds of printer cartridges,” said Deborah Pendrey, executive director of the Green Coalition.
“We had cars lined up in both directions from the bank’s drive-through lane,” she added, “and others who simply parked on the street and walked in with their materials.”
One large semi-trailer was filled to capacity with collection bins, and a second large container was brought in to hold the overflow, she said.
The E-waste is delivered to the bank by its owners, where teams off-load the electronics from car trunks, pickup and flat bed trucks, or from paper bags, and is then separated by Harrison Industries Rubbish Hauling. Electronics that are still in working order are set aside and donated to worthy causes within the Ojai Valley.
As a participant in the E-Waste event, Rob Tucker, of Jim & Rob’s Fresh Grill, won $100 cash from Ojai Community Bank with which to open an account.
The next recycling event scheduled by Ojai Valley Directory and Ojai Community Bank is Shredder Day, set for April 16, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the bank’s parking lot. The next E-Waste Day will be Jan. 7, 2012.
By Misty Volaski
Last week’s arrest of a 15-year-old boy on suspicion of indecent exposure and sexual battery sparked controversy over whether the Ojai Valley Trail is as safe as it used to be.
Descriptions from three separate reported “flashings” led detectives to link the incidents and arrest the male juvenile last Thursday.
The first alleged incident occurred last year, on Sept. 1, between Fox Street and South Montgomery streets. The second reported incident occurred Dec. 1 on the trail near the intersection with Country Club Drive. The third reported incident occurred on Jan. 12 on the trail near the intersection with Bristol Road. The juvenile was lodged at the Juvenile Justice Center. Because he is a minor, authorities will not identify him or release additional details about his background.
Responding to concerns that the community should have been informed after the second report of indecent exposure on the bike trail, Sgt. Maureen Hookstra said, “Misdemeanors aren’t given to our detectives; our detectives handle felonies. We had the previous incidents, then we had the one on Wednesday, and it sounded like these were connected. We released the information as soon as we put it together. We didn’t feel the public was in any danger.”
None of the victims were injured, Hookstra said. “One was touched, though. I can’t get into specifics at this time. She was not injured physically — but I can’t say emotionally.”
When asked whether additional victims have come forward, Hookstra said she couldn’t comment, as “we’re continuing the investigation.”
Two deputies on bicycles were deployed Saturday and Sunday to patrol both the trail and the downtown area. These two deputies were out, in addition to the two cars the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Ojai Substation normally has on duty to patrol the city. “It incurs overtime, so we’re limited, but we put them out as often as we can,” said Hookstra.
Lori Volk, a 22-year Ojai resident who has used the trail for years, said she feels uncomfortable using the trail now. “I’m training for triathlons, so I’m doing a lot of running. I’ve already complained about there being people hanging out on the trail, maybe selling drugs, between the (Ojai Valley Athletic) Club and Vons. It’s isolated, and there are a lot of shady characters. I won’t be running that stretch anymore. I’m not using my headphones anymore either. I’m trying not to be paranoid, but I’m a mother of three. I could have been one of these women!”
The Ojai detectives are requesting that anyone who might have witnessed an incident or is an unreported victim of a similar crime during this time frame to call the station at 646-1414.
Performing artist Gill Sotu, right, belts out some rhymes accompanied by his guitar man, Daniel Flores, in Libbey Park during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration hosted by Ojai Valley Youth Foundation on Monday. Photo by Logan Hall.
By Logan Hall
Hundreds of people from Ojai’s community gathered on a warm Monday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Libbey Park, and empty seats started to fill as performer Gill Sotu took the stage.
“I’m going to have all of you up and moving by the time I’m done up here,” said Sotu to the crowd before launching into his first song. Some people were dancing, and some were whistling and clapping. Kids were cooling off in the Libbey fountain while others were busy drawing patterns and pictures on the concrete walkway with colorful pieces of chalk.
Hosted by the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation, the event gave the community a chance to remember and celebrate the life of a man who was so integral in shaping the society of today. Many local artists were on hand to entertain the masses including singer Julie Christensen, the Nordhoff High School brass quintet and performances from schools like Oak Grove and Besant Hill.
“We really try to put something on that celebrates all of the creative outlets,” said Meg Wall, Youth Foundation program director. “It’s such a powerful event. We’re here to celebrate someone who changed the way we view people.”
Local artist Kate Hoffman painted a depiction of King that was up for bid in a silent auction. The starting bid was $1,000 although at the end of the day, no one had bid on the painting, but many stopped to enjoy the vivid colors and historical representation on the canvas. “Someone really took their time painting that,” said local Marty Mellein, pointing at the canvas.
Also featured during the event were different art pieces by kids from local schools that were hung in a row above the sidewalk in front of the park. The art was the students’ interpretation of the event’s theme, “Unity Starts with Understanding.” The Youth Foundation also had local schools submit poetry following the same theme. Four were chosen by the foundation’s MLK day committee to have their poems read to the crowd.
Wall says that the planning and organizing of the event was mostly in the hands of the teens involved with OVYF, and that many other young people from the valley came to help out with the setup as well as the cleanup afterwards. The performers were also chosen by the youth of the valley.
The people seemed to enjoy the different performances, but Sotu really brought down the house with original music from his two albums. “It was such a great show,” said Sotu, who came up from San Diego just to play the event for the fifth year in a row. “This literally is one of the highlights of the year for me. Seeing all of the people come together like that is amazing.”
Sotu added that he believed the event was what America is all about. “It’s really nice to see the young and old of all different colors getting together and celebrating life. That’s what it means to be an American. You can enjoy life without worrying about being segregated just because of the color of your skin.”ols that were hung in a row above the sidewalk in front of the park. The art was the students’ interpretation of the event’s theme, “Unity Starts with Understanding.” The Youth Foundation also had local schools submit poetry following the same theme. Four were chosen by the foundation’s MLK day committee to have their poems read to the crowd.Wall says that the planning and organizing of the event was mostly in the hands of the teens involved with OVYF, and that many other young people from the valley came to help out with the setup as well as the cleanup afterwards. The performers were also chosen by the youth of the valley.The people seemed to enjoy the different performances, but Sotu really brought down the house with original music from his two albums. “It was such a great show,” said Sotu, who came up from San Diego just to play the event for the fifth year in a row. “This literally is one of the highlights of the year for me. Seeing all of the people come together like that is amazing.”Sotu added that he believed the event was what America is all about. “It’s really nice to see the young and old of all different colors getting together and celebrating life. That’s what it means to be an American. You can enjoy life without worrying about being segregated just because of the color of your skin.”
By Chris T. Wilson
With just a handful of months to go until his 10-year anniversary with the Community Memorial Health System, Haady Lashkari has just accepted a promotion and is moving into his new office at the Ojai Valley Community Hospital.
Formerly the assistant vice president within CMHS, Lashkari has now been named chief administrative officer at Ojai Valley Community Hospital and will begin implementing a five-year master plan to overhaul and modernize Ojai’s 50-year-old hospital.
Lashkari praised the local community and the Ojai Valley Community Hospital Foundation and Guild whose members and fund-raising efforts have helped to make Ojai’s hospital one of few small rural hospitals that remains open and that operates in the black. Generous local residents and business owners and the OVCHF’s continued support of the local not-for-profit health system, demonstrate the importance Ojai places on the health and well-being of the community, he said.
“I feel very fortunate and grateful,” Lashkari said. “The Ojai Hospital is very lucky to have the foundation and guild offering so much support. I’m really looking forward to getting more involved with the Ojai community and working closely with the physicians and staff in Ojai.”
As a first order of business after getting moved into his new office, over the coming few months Lashkari will be finalizing the elements and details of the $8- to $10-million master plan, he said. The plan will include a relocation of the CT scan facilities, modernization to the acute care facilities, state-mandated seismic upgrades, an expansion to the outpatient program and various aesthetic upgrades, he said. And although there was one baby born at OVCH in late 2005 when severe flooding blocked roadways in and out of Ojai, there are no immediate plans to offer obstetrics or maternity services in Ojai. Storks are currently under strict orders from CMHS to only drop swaddling bundles of joy in Ventura.
CMH administrator Mike Ellingson added that it was a combination of tenure, skills and qualifications that opened the doors of opportunity for Lashkari at the Ojai facility. And at a time when around 50 percent of hospitals are losing money, it’s rare to have a hospital like the one in Ojai that can operate in the black and handle the health needs of the community. Ojai Valley Community Hospital merged into the CMHS in May 2005.
“Community Memorial Hospital is like a sister hospital to the Ojai Hospital,” Ellingson said. “The beauty of it is if there is an emergent need, Ojai can handle it. And if there is a higher level of acuity, Community Memorial is nearby.”
Gary Wilde, president and CEO of CMHS, added, “We are delighted to bring someone of Mr. Lashkari’s enthusiasm and expertise to the Ojai campus. He is well respected among the Ojai staff, and will provide the right leadership for this important position.”
Lashkari noted that he is a native of Ventura and holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and sociology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in public administration from California State University-Northridge. He is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and active in numerous community organizations and activities in the Ventura County area.
Community Memorial Health System, a not-for-profit health system, is comprised of Community Memorial Hospital, Ojai Valley Community Hospital, and nine Centers for Family Health located in various Ventura County communities.
OJAI POLICE DEPARTMENT
VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Nature of Incident: Sexual Battery and Indecent Exposure
Arrest Location: 200 Block of Vallerio Avenue, Ojai
Date & Time: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at approximately 8:50 am
Unit Responsible: The City of Ojai Patrol Deputies and Detectives
On Thursday, January 13, 2011, at approximately 8:50 am, Ojai patrol officers and detectives arrested a 15-year-old male juvenile for indecent exposure, a violation of 314.1 P.C. and sexual battery, a violation of 243.4(e)(1) P.C.. The arrest of the juvenile was based on an on-going investigation involving three previous incidents along the Ojai Valley Bicycle Trail within the Ojai city limits. The victims were all adult females on or near the bicycle trail when they were accosted. The first incident occurred on Wednesday, September 1, 2010, between Fox Street and South Montgomery Street. The second incident occurred on Wednesday, December 1, 2010, on the bicycle trail near the intersection with Country Club Rd. The third incident occurred on Wednesday, January 12, 2011, on the bicycle trail near the intersection with Bristol Road. The juvenile was lodged at the Juvenile Justice Center.
The Ojai detectives are requesting anyone that might have witnessed an incident or is an unreported victim of a similar crime during this time frame to call the station at (805) 646-1414.
Officer Preparing Release: Sergeant Randy Watkins
Local stuntman Dave England speaks about the Ojai Skate Park at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Photo by Logan Hall
By Logan Hall
A new project proposed by the city of Ventura to annex areas around Ventura Avenue from the county to the city, raised alarm with the Ojai City Council at its meeting on Tuesday. According to documents obtained by the OVN, the Ventura Westside Community Planning Project plan calls for 2,800 acres along “The Avenue,” including Cañada Larga Canyon and the old Petrochem Plant, to be developed with 2,100 homes.
Jim Hines, from the Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation (VCHP) board, addressed the council, outlining the possible negative impacts such a development could have on Ventura and Ojai alike. Hines stated that time is running out to act on the matter and that a tough fight is ahead of the VCHP. “We’re facing one of our largest battles,” said Hines. “We want the plan stopped before the train leaves the station.”
Council members immediately expressed concern and requested more information. “I would like to have this become a major discussion item,” said Councilwoman Betsy Clapp. “I am personally opposed to these developments and I would like to see the City Council fight this. (We need) to step forward as a community.”
Councilwoman Sue Horgan added, “I would like to direct staff to get more information on this.”
Ojai interim city manager John Baker says there is no immediate cause for concern although some council members seemed to feel the situation was a little more urgent. “They are doing a notice of preparation right now,” said Baker. “Then there are a series of steps they have to take including an Environmental Impact Report. This is not going to happen in the next couple of months.”
Maggie Ide, Ventura’s project manager for the development says the city has a lot of work ahead to make their plan happen. “We are still in the very preliminary stages of the project,” she said. “We have a preliminary draft that we sent out to get feedback. We have yet to write a complete plan.”
Although still in its conceptual stage, the development of the hillside would undoubtedly have an impact on the surrounding communities, including those in the Ojai Valley. Hines says there are many issues that the Ojai Valley needs to be concerned with regarding the project. “There are two major impacts to Ojai Valley that have been historic issues with the area,” said Hines after the meeting, citing issues from the past like the Weldon canyon Dump proposal in the 1990s. “Air quality and traffic will both be a big problem. The air blows one way, from the ocean to the valley, so people of your community are going to be the ones affected the most. We’re angry about this, and people of the Ojai Valley should be too.”
The council members stated that they will include the Community Planning Project as an agenda item for the next council meeting.
A group of concerned citizens then called attention to the situation with the bathroom at the Ojai Skate Park. The bathroom currently has no plumbing and must be emptied consistently as waste builds up. Locals Deborah Moe, Wendy Hilgers, and MTV personality Dave England all expressed their thoughts on the subject. “The bathroom situation is getting really bad,” said England in an interview after addressing the council on Tuesday. “Human waste is just rotting in there and wafting through the vent. It’s creating a horrible stench that triggers the gag reflex. Nobody should be subjected to that. It’s embarrassing for our community.”
Moe told the council, “There’s no running water to wash your hands. It’s a safety and health issue.”
When one concerned citizen asked about the city’s schedule for emptying out the bathroom, Mike Culver, Ojai’s Public Works director, responded by saying the city does not have a plan yet for a permanent schedule. Appearing to be caught off guard by the question, Culver explained that the city has been monitoring the bathroom and will have it pumped as necessary, and that he is waiting to see how often emptying is needed before making a schedule.
For now, Culver says the current bathroom is going to have to suffice. “We don’t have the funding right now,” he said when asked if plumbing would be added to the bathroom. “There is no plan to do so at this time.”
Also weighing on the minds of Skate Park supporters was the disappearance of a fund-raising thermometer that the nonprofit organization, Skate Ojai, had put up to track donations for a push to get lights at the park.
“I ordered the sign be taken down,” said Baker after Skate Ojai President Chet Hilgers expressed his dissatisfaction with the city on the matter. “We don’t want people donating to something that may not happen. We did not authorize that sign.”
The council agreed to put Skate Park items on the agenda for the next council meeting as well.
Council members later voted unanimously to approve a resolution for the “organization for operation of Libbey Bowl,” which will include the selection of a board of directors that will oversee the management of the bowl. Baker said he has taken the agreement between Santa Barbara County and the Santa Barbara Bowl board of directors, and has used it as a template to help guide the council in selecting a board. He recommended a structure where nine board members consisting of three representatives from the Ojai Music Festival, three from the Ojai Valley Service Foundation and three appointed by City Council, would be responsible for hiring and overseeing a management company for operations at Libbey Bowl. “This would give the board a good rounding of representation of Ojai,” said Baker. “We need to have the board to make sure the bowl is properly maintained.”
Music Festival executive director Jeff Haydon and Service Foundation President Alan Rains were present to speak on behalf of the two organizations, and voiced their support for a Libbey Bowl board of directors.
Valley resident Ryan Blatz, son of Councilman Paul Blatz, got the council’s attention with his insight into management of the bowl. Blatz suggested a 5-2-2 structure where five representatives from the city would serve on the Libbey Bowl board. “A 3-3-3 structure leaves a lot of private interest,” said Blatz to the council. “A 5-2-2 configuration would have the city on top.”
Blatz also suggested that the aging Ojai trolleys, three of which had just been voted as surplus to the city by the council, be used as shuttles from various possible parking lots around town for events held at the bowl. “I think parking would be one of the first problems that occurs,” said Blatz. “We don’t want people scared away on their first trip because they can’t park.”
Council members seemed genuinely interested in Blatz’s suggestions. “I love the idea,” said Clapp.
Horgan agreed saying, “Using the trolleys is a good suggestion.”
Most agreed that tackling the organization of the Libbey Bowl board, and subsequently hiring a management company is important to do soon. “If there is no management company, city Public Works will have to foot the bill,” said Culver, estimating the city would need to shell out a minimum of $35,000 a year in maintenance costs.
The council agreed to discuss potential board members at the following meeting.
Other items that were discussed during the council meeting included the following:
• Authorization to purchase seating for Libbey Bowl for the amount of $149,799. Item passed unanimously.
• Allocation of $12,700 for purchase of video and audio equipment for government Channel 10. Item passed unanimously.
• Adopt resolution for Historic Landmark Designation and Historic Landmark Property Agreement for the Libbey Lodge House located at 1001 Foothill Road. Item passed unanimously.
The next City Council meeting will take place on Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. The meeting will be open to the public.
By Misty Volaski
By now, Nordhoff High School graduate Dominique David is used to unusual challenges. One of the five designers left on “The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection,” she’s created dresses inspired by the human body, ripped up an umbrella for a mini-shift, and crafted a wedding dress for a lesbian bride, among other things.
This week, she brought the barnyard to New York City with a black-and-white pig coat. Yeah, a pig coat — to go with a sparkling pink pig purse, of course.
But eccentric glamour was the name of the game in the eighth episode, as Barney’s creative director Simon Doonan charged the designers with the task of incorporating funky vintage accessories into high-fashion outfits.
After all, Doonan asserted — and judge Isaac Mizrahi concurred, “There is no fashion, there is no real glamour, without a slight bit of eccentricity.”
Along with the pig purse, David was given a Victorian-era bustle. Staying true to her do-it-different attitude, David wasn’t satisfied with placing it in its usual place just above the derriere. Instead, she attached it to the shoulders of a long dress and draped the whole thing in flowing beige chiffon. It was inspired by a friend from the L.A. Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, who had made a sketch of a similar dress but never had the time to make it. “When I got the bustle I was like, oh my God! That sketch was burned into my head, it was so striking to me,” David said.
The effect? An elegant, exaggerated cape that bounced jauntily as her model walked down the runway.
Weird? Perhaps. Fitting of the challenge? The judges thought so — but not enough to keep her out of the bottom two designers this week.
Both the coat and dress were borderline “cringe-worthy,” judges agreed. But Mizrahi justified David’s creations, saying, “When you look at the challenge and it’s called eccentric glamour, you say, ‘No my dear, look at the things she was given. How is she supposed to do anything but have a great big sense of humor?’”
Said judge Laurel Brown, Harper’s Bazaar features-special projects director, “Her guts are, I think, the most appealing thing about her.”
David’s fellow House of Nami designer, Eduardo de las Casas, was also up for elimination this week. While judges expressed pleasure at his mastery of the ruffle, they had grown tired of seeing the same sort of thing from him each week. “It’s sellable,” Iman said, but didn’t disagree when Doonan said, “I think people are shocked that we’re giving Dominique so many compliments. To many people, what she did was … kinda’ ratty, but the creativity was there, the magic was there.”
Nevertheless, David said she wasn’t shocked to be in the bottom two this week.
“Not as an excuse or anything, but I just graduated,” she said. “You can’t expect me to be master of construction yet. It’s OK, I will get there! I felt that was the main critique. Of course, it’s not going to be a perfectly tailored dress — give me 24 hours for one dress instead of 12 for two! But I’m very lucky the judges decided to take a chance with on me.”
De las Casas was deemed “out of fashion,” putting David — the youngest designer in the competition, and also the only remaining woman — in the final four.
David said that even if she’d been the one eliminated, she still liked her pieces. “If they would have sent me home for construction, I would have understood. But I could have gone home happy — I was thrilled with (my designs). Design-wise, I wouldn’t have changed anything. This show pushes you to grow, do things that are kinda’ crazy. I mean, a year out of school, I’m finding my voice, finding, OK, I do have good ideas! I just feel very, very blessed.”
Episode nine airs next Tuesday at 10 p.m., on the Bravo network. For extra clips, blogs and previews, visit bravotv.com
By Misty Volaski
Meiners Oaks Elementary School students wowed Ojai Unified School District board members Tuesday with extensive presentations on what they’ve been up to this year at school. After expressing their excitement over the school’s new enVision Math programs, recess activities and trash-sorting efforts, among several other things, board members offered praise both to the students and faculty.
“It’s a significant effort,” said superintendent Hank Bangser, of the trash-sorting practices, adding that all the OUSD schools now have “green” initiatives. “It’s helping students learn about how critical it is to take care of the planet.”
Following Meiners Oaks’ presentation was an update on the goings-on around Nordhoff High School. Like Meiners Oaks’ presentation, Nordhoff’s was interactive. Students from the Media Arts Academy produced a video with several Ranger students, quizzing them about their most and least favorite aspects of the school. Kids said they loved the various electives and academies offered, the freedom of an open campus, as well as the school’s small size.
They expressed frustration over a lack of language classes, and more than one asked for home economics classes. Also a downer for some students: the new rules for off-campus passes. Once given to almost any junior or senior, students now must maintain a 2.5 grade point average, have no absences, tardies or suspensions, among other things. The Nordhoff administration was happy with the plan, however, saying that some kids need that extra reason to keep themselves on the straight and narrow.
“You always want young people to do well for their own sake,” Bangser later said, “but the reality is, some students react more positively if there’s an incentive.”
Nordhoff teachers, meanwhile, said that their new technology equipment has “changed the way I’m teaching. A lot of teachers are saying that!” said teacher Greg Bayless. “That’s the way to improve right now. We desperately need help from the community.”
Teachers also said they were concerned with class sizes, but were heartened by their colleagues’ willingness to “go the extra mile to protect students” from the realities of the budget cuts, said teacher and athletic director Dave Monson. “My colleagues are always sacrificing for the better of the students — it makes me feel like I should be doing more, too. But because they are going the extra mile, I can see the exhaustion setting in. The public doesn’t have that perspective. But what if you doubled the number of kids in your household? That’s what we are dealing with here. I feel like I’m not doing as good of a job as I can because I’m stretched so thin.”
“Some of the motivation, some of the creativity, suffers, because we’re so focused on what we have to get done,” added teacher Bronwen Cull-Michels.
Later, addressing Board Member Steve Fields’ inquiry about the sports facilities and whether the community would be willing to volunteer, Monson explained, “The facilities are deteriorating faster than we can do repairs. But it’s not from a lack of effort, it’s just stuff that’s beyond our control right now. None of it is unsafe, though. We’ve got parents helping, donating their skills as carpenters, donating (money), or helping set up soccer goals, keeping score … I’m shoveling dirt into the mud puddles on the field” before soccer games.
“Wait, you’re shoveling dirt, and you are worried you’re not doing enough?” said Rikki Horne, board member and president. “You are doing enough!” Other board members concurred.
Assistant principal Susana Arce said she felt a need for additional counselors at the school. “Though we do have the Clinicas (del Camino Real) counselors, there is still a great need for counseling.” When the Clinicas therapists are on-site, she added, “the (time slots) fill up fast every time.”
Later, Bayless described a new option administrators have been giving seniors and juniors this year, allowing them to opt out of electives they don’t need to graduate. “We’re seeking juniors and seniors who don’t need the elective credits to give up their seats to underclassmen,” said Bayless. “It’s a major policy shift.”
For example, 80 art students would require two separate classes due to class size limits — but the budget may not allow for it. But a shorter school day for older students should allow the school to keep more elective options available to those who still need credits.
“I feel sad that it’s come to that,” said Board Member Linda Taylor, a former Nordhoff art teacher.
“Programs, in these times, are measured by holding on to what we have,” said Bayless. But eventually, he admitted, “We’re going to run out of creative solutions. But we are still looking!”
“That optimistic attitude that these people bring to the job, it shows possibilities,” said NHS principal Dan Musick. “Our main concern is keeping teachers supported as they do a whole lot more with a whole lot less.”
Bayless also described a new “digital Nordhoff” virtual school, which would be the public school system’s answer to independent study programs such as Laurel Springs. Attendees to that program would not be charged, but would bring additional funding to the School District.
Theresa Dutter then took the podium to discuss San Antonio and Summit elementary schools, also reiterating that despite cuts, fun and beneficial programs still exist for the students of those schools. Teacher Kevin White is helping students build a full-size boat outside their classroom. Dutter also introduced Maria Paniagua, a bilingual aide who herself was an Englislearner when she came to Ojai schools. “I know how it is,” Paniagua said. “They might know what a word is, how to read it, but do they know what it means? We work on that a lot.”
Later, board members heard from Dannielle Pusatere, assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, on how California Gov. Jerry Brown plans to keep funding flat for the 2011-2012 school year — despite a $25 billion shortfall. Much is dependent on a June special vote, which would essentially ask the voters whether they’re willing to pay additional taxes and extend existing taxes to keep funding going for a wide range of government services. The plan is a shaky one, said Pusatere, explaining that several scenarios could be possible. For one, the California congress must agree by a two-thirds vote to put the issue to a statewide vote, and Republicans have said they would fight this.
“Best-case scenario? Funding stays flat,” said Bangser. But even then, expenses will most likely not stay flat. Health care insurance almost always goes up, and even things like the cost of diary products or toilet paper or electricity could throw off the budget and result in more cuts.
What does that mean for the OUSD? Lots of time putting together several possible budgets, each one addressing a different outcome of the coming months. Worst-case scenario? Referring to a statement he made a few months ago, Bangser said, “We had cut the fat, the flesh. We’re down to bone.” But if the tax bills don’t pass, and California must cut billions of dollars more than they’ve already done, then, said Bangser, “… we’ll be down to the marrow. If we had fluff to cut, I would. But we don’t have any fluff left.”
By Tracy Wilson
More than 400 students, faculty members, and staff attended Ojai Valley School’s 100th birthday celebration on Wednesday. Old-fashioned games, face painting, ragtime music, and cupcakes were enjoyed by students at the lower and upper campuses. The event kicks off the centennial celebrations for Ojai Valley School, which was established in 1911.
“A lot of great people have graced these lawns, dormitories and classrooms over the years,” OVS President Michael Hall-Mounsey told those in attendance. “You are lucky to be here at this time. As we go forward in the 21st century we are going to be working on many more fun, challenging and new things for you to experience.”
OVS began Jan. 3, 1911 when Ida Lamb began teaching Charles and Philip Van Patten in their Ojai home. When Miss Lamb married in 1912, her sister, Mrs. Walter Bristol, took charge of the Van Patten children’s studies, added more pupils and founded the Bristol School at the corner of Bristol Road and Ojai Avenue, near the current site of Ojai Valley School’s lower campus.
A decade later, Edward Yeomans, a Chicagoan educated at Phillips Academy and Princeton University, moved to Ojai and purchased the good will and equipment of the Bristol School. Students transferred to the newly named Ojai Valley School.
At the core of Yeomans’ beliefs was the concept that children learn best through experience. Yeomans considered his own education to have been dull and stifling, and wanted to establish a school that would emphasize experiential learning and a love for the outdoors. He envisioned a place where music, art, and woodshop would be taught alongside math, history, and languages. Yeomans declared that “Integer Vitae” — the wholeness of life, symmetry of life, soundness of life, and, therefore poise and strength of life — would become the school’s motto and philosophy.
Today, the breadth of learning experiences offered at OVS is Yeomans’ legacy. The school has grown from a one-room classroom serving 12 pupils to a two-campus boarding and day school for more than 300 students in pre-kindergarten to 12 grades.
As he watched younger students and older classmates playing together Wednesday, senior Amit Pandya, who serves as student body president at the Upper Campus, said he is looking foward to graduating with the 100th class at OVS.
“OVS is such a rich educational experience and to be here in the 100th year makes it that more special,” Pandya said. ”I’m honored to be part of the 100th class.”
By Bill Buchanan
I did not want to write a column about the tragic shooting this past weekend in Arizona — not because I have become so anesthetized from past mass murder shootings in this country that one more doesn’t make that much difference. I had already written this week’s column on a completely unrelated subject. But the shooting this weekend has been gnawing at me ever since I first learned of it. I can’t really put my finger on why I felt compelled to write about this particular shooting. It was senseless and horrific, but probably no more so than the many other multiple shootings that have occurred in recent months, recent years.
Perhaps part of my hesitation has to do with my frustration at not being able to offer a quick solution to this disturbing phenomena. I would like nothing better than to say, “You know, in the future, if we did so and so, it would stop all this madness.” But I don’t have anything very specific to offer.
There is always the extreme gun control argument that we should just outlaw guns, period. Well, as we have learned with alcohol and drugs, prohibition in a free society is not an easy task. For another thing, if you totally shut down gun production today, there are already more than enough out there to go around. According to FBI estimates, there are more than 200 million privately owned firearms in this country alone. When you add in guns owned by law enforcement agencies, the military and other sources, the figure climbs to around 350 million, roughly one for every man woman and child in the country. So that cat is out of the bag. Anyone in this country who really wants a firearm can get one, either from disreputable dealers or on the black market if legal avenues are not available to them.
Also, there is that pesky little Second Amendment to the Constitution that states: “… the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” That is not going to be changed anytime soon, and it should not be. People should have the right to own certain types of guns for hunting, target shooting and home protection if they desire. But the gun that was recovered at the scene of the shooting in Arizona was a semi-automatic handgun with an extended ammunition clip. The shooter was able to fire 31 shots before having to reload. Fortunately, he was taken down before he could put in another 30-round clip. Does anyone outside of law enforcement or the military really need a 31-shot handgun or some type of machine gun or assault rifle? No. It may be your constitutional right to own a firearm, but unless you live in Beirut or Afghanistan, regular citizens do not need a tank for personal protection. The law should limit the amount of firepower available over the counter to just anyone.
And now liberals and conservatives are pointing fingers back and forth as to who is to blame here and terms like “blood libel” are entering the discussion. At the time of this writing, it was expected that House Speaker John Boehner will offer up House Resolution 11 to honor the dead and injured and recognize the brave acts by some on the scene. In part, the text of the resolution states, “The House of Representatives condemns in the strongest possible terms the horrific attack which occurred …”
Well, that ought to do it. Passing that resolution is certain to prevent this type of thing from ever happening again. I’m sorry, I know people mean well, but pointing political fingers or wringing our hands is just not enough. There needs to be a frank and non-politicized effort to do something to stop this madness from escalating. How about commissioning a panel of distinguished people to study the problem from several angles? I am talking about a small (five or so) group of respected national figures meeting with experts, studying the problem and making very specific recommendations to the president and Congress. I don’t think you are going to stop this kind of violence, but maybe we can at least slow it down.
Society has changed radically since I was a kid. I know I sound old when I say this, but when I was growing up, there was only one incident I can ever remember in my small town where a fight between two guys escalated into murder. If you had a serious disagreement with someone, about the worst thing that would ever happen is that you would meet after school and get into a fistfight. A few punches would be thrown, someone would get a split lip or a bloody nose, and that would be it. I cannot remember anyone pulling a knife at one of these arguments, much less a gun. Now it seems too many disagreements end with a bullet instead of a black eye. That radical change in social behavior needs to be addressed.
There are many victims of the Arizona shooting. There are those who were killed and injured and their families who will be racked by worry, grief and loss for as long as they live. And there are those who witnessed this terrible event and will carry it in their nightmares for years to come. I sympathize with them all, and my thoughts and prayers are with them. But the image that stands out to me is that of the little 9-year-old girl who went to that rally because she was interested in learning more about politics. She was born on a day of tragic events (the 9/11 attacks) and died on the day of another one.
It is time our leaders find the courage to tackle this issue and undertake a serious plan to limit murders in this country. I don’t know whether such action will stop future tragedies like this one from occurring, but political posturing and spouting platitudes sure as hell won’t.
By Matt Wagner
Music moves people; after all, we Americans spend billions each year purchasing CDs and attending concerts. Knowing how hard it is to break into the industry, local music enthusiast Patrick Westfall has found a way to give musicians just starting out a chance to make it big. He calls it Ojai Free Song Studio. The organization’s mission is to promote local songwriters, musicians, and other artists by providing free recording services, free venues for showcasing music and art, and also free songwriter promotional services.
Westfall was born and raised in Ojai. When he was younger he tried to play instruments but found that he was not quite the best. As time went on, however, he found the skill to record music. “I wasn’t a fantastic player myself, but I love the craft of song writing,” said Westfall. “It’s always been a hobby of mine (recording) — once I acquired the materials and the know-how.”
Currently, Westfall is holding songwriter showcases and open mike events every Friday night at the Deer Lodge. Using donations to fund his efforts, Westfall records the tracks and gets them ready to go within a week. That gives the budding musicians the ability to promote themselves. Musicians can use them as demos to send to record companies, or simply as a sample of their music to make it easier to book gigs at local venues. Westfall also uploads the recorded songs to reverbnation.com.
Already, Westfall has recorded 240 original songs from nine shows that happened last year. Ojai Free Song’s goal for 2011 is to record at least 1,000 songs by 100 local songwriters.
Some of the organization’s overall plans for the future include a community music club, and presenting music events at local schools, churches and day care centers. The music club would be an open-daily, open-mike club; it would have tutors in music and academics during the day for kids, and then during the late evenings it would be open for adults (coffee and soft drinks only, no alcohol).
Westfall is also interested in recording personal stories from local residents in nursing homes and making them available to family and friends, as well as to the community of Ojai.
In order to realize Ojai Free Song’s goals, Westfall is seeking volunteers to help with artistic design (fliers, posters and CD covers), and photo and video services (covering the events and helping with artist promotion). He also needs a “street team” to collect blank CDs, hard drives, PA gear and instruments.
“Wind River Redemption” playwright Lisa Snider exchanges notes with actor Doug Friedlander, who plays Howard, during rehearsals at Petit Playhouse. Snider’s first professionally produced play opens Friday as part of the Elite Theater Company’s One-Act Festival. Photo by Evelyn Cervantes/Brooks Institute
By Misty Volaski
He had only been there a few times in his life, but Bill Snider just happened to be in Wind River, Wyo., when his wife Lisa left him an ecstatic message. “They’re producing my play!”
Coincidentally titled “Wind River Redemption,” Lisa’s play is about a man and his two sons on their annual hunting trip. But something goes awry, Snider says, leaving “a father guilt-ridden, one son resentful and another confronting a secret that has been haunting him since returning from the war.”
The 25-minute play will open this Friday as part of the Elite Theater Company’s 2011 One-Act Festival, which runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., through Feb. 6 at Oxnard’s Petit Playhouse.
Inspired by her husband’s own hunting experiences, “Wind River Redemption” is Snider’s first play to be professionally produced.
Snider credits Deb Norton’s play writing classes at Theater 150 for helping her perfect her writing skills. “The great thing about the class Deb Norton runs is that she takes you through every possible scenario so your work is as polished as it can be,” said Snider. During her Theater 150 class, Snider and her fellow playwrights had the opportunity to help each other improve their work. “We’d help each other find a better line, a better arc for the story, creating characters, developing dialogue. Everything is (geared) toward improving your work so that it’s audience ready. It’s a very positive environment. They are so great at helping nurture novices like me.”
At the end of the class, Snider’s 10-minute comedy, “Millennium Dream,” was read and well-received. She then took another class at Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre, further fine-tuning her work.
But while a self-professed novice playwright, Snider is not new to writing. Her articles have been published in the Ojai Valley News, Ojai Valley Visitors Guide, Ventana Monthly, Ventura County Star, Santa Barbara Independent, 805 Living, Edible Ojai, and several other publications. She just never thought she would become a playwright. “I took the classes as a means to help me improve my writing overall,” Snider said. “But it turned out to be fun and rewarding.”
A play with a hunting theme was appealing because it was different from what her playwright classmates were doing. It was also a subject with which she was familiar, having heard her husband’s stories for years. But it was just enough outside her comfort level to present a good challenge.
“The main reason I wrote this was because I wanted to do something dramatic, something completely different, a little outside my comfort zone,” Snider said. So much of what is currently out there, she continued, “is from the point of view of a woman who has been divorced, or is in a bad relationship. Don’t give me a monologue about a woman going through divorce! I want something fresh, original. And I wanted Bill to enjoy coming to the theater. I wanted (to write a play) where a man could have something he could take away from it.”
Further, she felt that hunters often “get a bad rap. It’s hypocrisy. My husband is harvesting an animal that is humanely raised and slaughtered. To me, that’s completely organic. This winter, I had antelope about five ways — meat loaf, stew, everything! So part of me really wanted to tell that side of the story.”
But getting to that point took work. Although married to Bill for several years, Snider was not a hunter herself. “When I first started writing this, I would give Bill a few pages, and he would object to the technical parts of it.
So I stopped giving him pages, and would interview him first, then give him pages.”
Finally, when it was done, Bill was relieved that she’d gotten it right and captured the essence of the male bonding that was taking place. “I didn’t want to embarrass him — the characters are inspired by my husband and his family.”
But then came the hard part — getting the play produced. She submitted it to Elite Theater Company which chose to produce the play. At that point, said Snider, the play is in the hands of the director. “You’ve got to let your work go,” she said. “You have to let the director and actors do with it what they will. I went to rehearsals and offered some technical tips — how to hold a gun, things like that.
And some lines are read differently than I’d envisioned. But hey, that’s OK! You have to let them do their thing, be artists, too.”
Snider is also working on a full-length play, as well as a novel, which picks up where “Millennium Dreams” left off.
Tickets to the ETC’s One-Act Festival can be purchased at elitetheater.org.
Other Ojai Valley residents are involved in the festival, including Frank Malle (“Jake and the Knight of the Road”), Steve Grumette (“Christmas in July”), and Lisa Kalechstein and Helene Benjamin (“Eulogy in F Minor”).
UPDATE: In a hearing on May 10, Judge Kevin DeNoce heard testimony and reviewed the evidence and ordered Atkinson held to answer for the alleged crime. Atkinson is next scheduled to appear in court on June 15 for arraignment. He remains in custody on $1M bail.
Suspect remains in jail on charge
of attempted murder of deputy
By Logan Hall
John Steven Atkinson, arrested in December for the assault on Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Traci Salmon, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder last week at his arraignment.
Ventura Superior Court records show that, along with the attempted murder charge, Atkinson also pleaded not guilty to second-degree robbery, and two counts of false imprisonment of an elder or dependent adult.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, Atkinson attacked Salmon while she was investigating a 911 hang-up call on Highway 150 just beyond Casitas Pass on Dec. 10. A struggle ensued and Atkinson gained control of Salmon’s Taser and fired the weapon, hitting her in the upper body, said authorities. Officials said Salmon drew her sidearm and shot Atkinson once in the lower extremities. Atkinson then allegedly gained control of her sidearm and attempted to shoot her before fleeing into a residence. After a two-hour standoff, Atkinson surrendered to authorities and was placed into custody.
Salmon was taken to the hospital for minor injuries but quickly recovered. According to Sheriff’s Department sources, Salmon is doing well and is eager to get back to her job.
Atkinson is being held in the Ventura County Main Jail with a bail of $1 million. His next court hearing is scheduled for March 2 at 1:30 p.m. in Ventura County Superior Courtroom 12.
By Logan Hall
The Ojai City Planning Commission met Tuesday night to review a preliminary request for an addition to the Ojai Library. The proposal, which would be financed by the nonprofit Ojai Valley Library Friends and Foundation, calls for an 11-foot-high, 687-square-foot meeting room on the east side of the existing library that would complement the current Mission Revival style of the building.
According to Ojai’s city librarian Mary Lynch, the library is a host to many public meetings, including an after-school homework program, that may take place at any given time. Busy days at the library find the groups trying to coexist with individual library patrons. While libraries are well known for being quiet places, group meetings usually make noise and Ojai Library staff has been struggling to keep a happy medium.
“We always have a lot going on here,” said Lynch. “We have Story Time, a Shakespeare group and the Library Homework Center.”
Lynch describes the limited space as being part of the challenge. “It’s a small library and we get crowded,” she continued. “There’s not a lot of meeting space here now. We’re really looking forward to getting the addition.”
The request for the addition is not a formal submission but a concept review. It’s a chance for the architects and the financiers to show the city their plans and get feedback from the commission.
At the forefront of the commission’s feedback was the need to address the effect the addition would have on future plans to conduct an extensive remodeling of the library, which both the commission and library supporters believe will be necessary.
“There needs to be some kind of plan for how this would fit in with a major (remodeling),” said Commissioner Kathy Nolan. “I would really like to … get an idea of how the addition would integrate into a future project.”
John Lambert, president of the OVLFF board, says they have given some thought about the future, but want to focus on helping the community now also. “There is no question that the library needs to be remodeled,” he said. “It’s grossly undersized for the use it gets. It needs to be looked at, but when you walk in, there’s almost always a group meeting. I think the commissioners are really trying to be helpful, but they need to look at the needs of the whole city. There are many nonprofits that could benefit from a new meeting room in town.”
The project’s architect, Jon Dieges, who is working pro bono for the library, made it clear that the small addition wouldn’t adversely affect the future of the property. “In no way will this put aside the possibility of future expansion and remodeling,” he said.
Troy Becker, chair of the Planning Commission, says they want to work with OVLFF and the library to meet their goals. “The Planning Commission is all about working with the applicant, not setting up roadblocks,” he said. “It’s my job to listen to what everyone has to say and make the best decision. We really are all about trying to help people get their projects done.”
Other concerns that the commission had involved the library’s minimal space for parking. Currently, it has seven spaces on the property that breaks down to four public spaces, and three reserved for staff.
Lambert says there will not be a need for further parking because the addition will house meetings and events that are already happening at the library. “It’s going to be business as usual,” he said. “It will just be in a different area.”
Becker responded by saying the parking issue needs to be addressed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean altering the design plans. “The issue of parking is just something that we need to look at,” he said. “There are definitely alternatives to adding new parking to the facility. The Planning Commission may give the OK for street parking and there’s a possibility of using adjacent properties.”
One of the issues that kept rising during the meeting was the aesthetic quality of the property, and keeping the architectural integrity of the original design of the building.
“I see it as an important historical and civic building for our town,” said Commissioner Paul Crabtree. “Some of the details I see concern me. It looks to me like it’s just a slap-on addition, and it’s not respectful of the existing architecture.”
Lambert agreed that the look of the building is important in keeping the historic feel of the library alive, and Dieges says he has integrated that concept into his design. The plan also calls for an enclosure around the trash and recycle bins on the property, which will be reduced from three bins to two. Currently, the three bins can be seen from the street.
Although Lambert wasn’t shy about voicing his frustrations with some of the commission’s feedback, and the commission itself needs to see the issues addressed, both sides seem to be trying to move forward and are excited about potentially helping the community.
“The Friends group will meet with the architect to discuss the commission’s suggestions,” said Lambert. “The review was a disappointment, but we still want to move forward on this.
By Misty Voaski
and Matthew Wagner
John-Clark Levin knows how to shake hands.
Don’t believe him? Check out the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records. The Ojai resident is listed as the record-holder for the world’s longest handshake, for an effort back in October 2009.
The idea for beating a Guinness World Record came from when Levin was a kid. “I had always looked through the book when I was younger. In 2009, I found the handshake record. It wasn’t something that was too hard for me to do,” said Levin.
Born in the San Fernando Valley, 21-year-old Levin moved to Colorado with his parents in his early years, but has lived in Ojai for the last 13 years. He has attended Ojai Valley School and Laurel Springs, and graduated from Villanova Preparatory School in 2007. Now a junior at Claremont-McKenna College, Levin is planning a double major: linguistics, and PPE (philosophy, politics, economics). Last year, he became editor-in-chief for the Claremont Independent, the political magazine at Claremont-McKenna. His work there earned him the prestigious Eric Breindel Journalism Award, part of which includes an internship with either Fox News, the New York Post, or the Wall Street Journal. Levin chose the latter, and had several articles published — including one on his handshake record efforts.
Levin has held the world record for longest handshake twice before — one at 10 hours, 10 minutes, and 10 seconds, then at 15 hours, 5 minutes, and 5 seconds. But both records have since been broken.
Unofficially, Levin and a friend logged 20 hours of continuous hand-shaking, as preparation for their newest venture: at least 24 hours of shaking, this time, in New York City’s Times Square.
On Jan. 14, starting at 8 p.m., Levin will team with a new partner, Joe Luchsinger, in their attempt to best some of the world’s top record-holders, including the Australians who beat Levin’s first effort and the Nepalese, who beat his second.
The event could easily run longer than 24 hours, said Levin, with his competitors training hard all over the world. His usual strategy — pacing himself — won’t work this time, since the competition isn’t capped at a certain number of hours.
So, Levin and Luchsinger will try to keep their minds strong, Levin said. They’ll also try not to drink or eat much, so they can avoid using the bathroom as much as possible. Guinness rules do allow bathroom use — and sitting, laying down, and even sleeping — but the handshake must continue, and the Guinness crew must join you in the rest room. Other than that, despite the January cold, the pair will opt out of using gloves due to the risk of slippage, and will dress in light layers.
“The whole thing takes mental focus,” Levin said, summing up their strategy. Each of the approximately eight hand-shaking teams are also using the event as a fund-raising event for their favorite charities. Levin’s team will be competing for Teach for America, a nonprofit group seeking education reform. In his past two efforts, he’s given proceeds to Cancer Research Institute in New York, raising more than $1,000 for the organization.
The Jan. 14 event will be captured on video and streamed live at shakinghistory.com.
Elsa Fraki, left, practices wrapping an ankle properly on Wednesday in Nordhoff’s Health Sciences Academy. Students in the three-year program learn about the myriad job opportunities in the medical field, and explore them through innovative hands-on techniques. Grant funds from the government and Ojai Education Foundation have helped the program flourish.
By Misty Volaski
If you graduated from Nordhoff High School more than five years ago, do yourself a favor and take a walk around campus one of these days.
Notice all those new, freshly painted buildings near the gym? Growing inside each of them are innovative programs that seek to answer that ageless high school student question: When am I ever going to use this stuff in real life?
“We noticed that kids think a lot of what they do (in school) is not relevant, not practical,” said NHS principal Dan Musick.
So with the help of government grants and local organizations like the Ojai Education Foundation, the Rangers are now offered such programs as the Dance Academy, Media Arts Academy and Health Sciences Academy.
The latter offers students a three-year program in which they learn about various medical occupations and study biology, anatomy, chemistry, and several other often-troublesome subjects — all in a hands-on setting that relates directly to dozens of careers.
Students have interned with local doctors’ offices, Ojai Valley Community Hospital, St. Joseph’s Health & Retirement Center, and their own NHS football team. They bring in speakers from various health fields, and have a virtual doctor’s office in which to practice.
“It’s all about enriching what the students are doing,” said OEF board member John Whitman.
The inaugural class will graduate from Nordhoff this June, with HSA certificates of completion in hand and a significant leg up on their educations.
Suddenly, the “relevance” question has been all but silenced — and the grades are going up.
“This is the perfect way to let students see practical application in school,” Musick said. “With science, now, it’s ‘Oh, I can use this!’ They’re not getting mired down in theory.”
Instead, the HSA allows students to delve into their many options, and helps them pare them down to something about which they’re passionate. “When you’re 15, 16, you may not know what you want to do — join the club, few know that at that time (in life),” said Ojai Unified School District superintendent Hank Bangser. “Two years later, the student may say ‘Yes! that’s absolutely what I want to do!’ But one of the great things about giving students opportunities and access to different things is that they realize maybe, ‘No, that is not what I want to do, but I really want to pursue science. The latter is as or more important than the former.”
Junior Hailey Johnson said she’d known for several years that she wanted to go into the medical field, but “didn’t know much about it.” Now, “I really like it. I want to be a pediatric oncologist,” she said.
Junior Elsa Fraki said she wholeheartedly agrees. “This program gets you interested and you can go so far (with the knowledge). When I was a freshman, my mom and I looked into it and we were really impressed.” Although still deciding on an exact niche, she’s interested in nursing and traveling, and is looking at colleges in Sweden.
Fraki’s mother, Karin, is excited about the doors that the HSA is opening for her daughter, and has seen Elsa mature through her education. “The academy really made her understand what her focus would be, her career path. She’s excelled overall in school. She’s really blossomed — she has direction like you can’t even believe. She signed up for a class at Ventura College the other day! The teachers have been wonderful in helping her channel her focus.”
Senior Spencer Laird, who will be attending the UC-Davis veterinary studies program this fall, said Nordhoff’s HSA “really opened my eyes to the health careers that are possible. And it also gives us the opportunity to be in three classes with the same kids, and we’re really bonded. That’s one of the best things about it.”
Students in the program come from various ethnic and economic backgrounds, as well as different academic skill levels and social circles. But chat with any of the 75 students, and you’d never know it. Indeed, the academy seems to foster a sense of community, one that is the antithesis of what we see in Hollywood movies.
“The kids are very much connected to each other,” said Musick. “It’s like a family, a school within a school. They really look out for each other, and that’s one of the most positive offshoots of this (program).”
“They help each other all the time,” said Dr. Sidhu. “If one student is out sick, the others say, ‘Well, let’s call her right now! She should be here, let’s tell her about this!’ And they’re there for each other, not just in school, in everything. It’s amazing.”
“It goes beyond just the education part,” echoed OEF board member Joanna Iwata. “It’s about self-knowledge, confidence, and building a sense of empowerment — yes, I can do this! They’re learning new skills, everything from how the body works, how to address high blood pressure, taping ankles. Everything they’re trained to do, it all gives them a sense of what they can truly accomplish.”
But without the OEF, getting such a program off the ground would have been difficult.
According to OEF Treasurer Phil Caruthers, the nonprofit organization donated seed money to the program — $3,000 in January 2008, $2,000 in February 2009, and $1,500 in November 2009.
“We are very proud to have played a part in getting this program off the ground,” said Caruthers. “We have had enthusiastic students speak at two or three of our functions, and they have universally praised the program and Dr. Sidhu, not only for helping them prepare for a possible career, but for the self-improvement and self-confidence they have gained by participation in the program.”
The funds donated by OEF went toward a variety of things, but chiefly, said board member Whitman, it went toward helping to promote the program through brochures handed out to students and parents. Dr. Rano Sidhu, who is one-half of the HSA staff (along with another teacher, Becky Beckett), said the money also went toward researching other schools’ programs to find out how best to execute the one Nordhoff hoped to cultivate.
Sidhu and Beckett also worked with now-retired NHS administrator Cheryl Widders — who Whitman said is “passionate” about the program — to write grants. The first year, the program got $100,000. The next, they asked for $50,000, but got $75,000. “How often does that happen?” said a delighted Sidhu. “Almost never, let me tell you!”
The students are currently raising funds themselves to go to a Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) competitive event. In past years, students have fared well, bringing home first-place and fourth-place accolades.
The HSA students have organized dinner fund-raising events in the past, and frequently send out e-mail blasts and donation requests to local businesses.
Next Saturday, the kids will host a bake sale and rummage sale beginning at 8 a.m. at the school. It will be open to the public.
While they’re no longer seeking baked goods or items to sell, monetary donations are always needed.
Contact Dr. Sidhu at 640-4343, Ext. 1865, or e-mail email@example.com. Checks should be made out to Nordhoff Health Sciences Academy.
You can also donate directly to the Ojai Education Foundation, which allows donors to designate specific projects for which they’d like the money used. See ojaief.org
for more details.
By Bill Buchanan
This being my first column of the New Year, it would make sense for me to write about all the New YearÕs resolutions I should make and talk about how I am going to become a much better person in all respects in 2011. I could pontificate about how I am going to lose weight, be more patient, hold my temper in check, and keep Christmas in my heart all year round.
And just in case anyone out there is at a loss on how to achieve self-improvement, there are about 10,000 lists this time of year from various media sources offering innumerable suggestions. For instance, Parade magazine tells me I need to purge my closet, track down my forefathers, look to the stars, catch up with high school pals, and be my own life coach.
That all sounds very nice. And there are many things that I certainly need to aspire to do. But given the reality of resolutions in years past, several of which were broken before mid-January, maybe it is time for more realistic reflection.
After reading some of these self-help lists, it would be nice to see what the authors do in their own lives. Are they following their own suggestions, or are they like the overweight family doctor with a pack of cigarettes in his pocket who tells you that you need to choose a healthier lifestyle? It is easy to tell everyone else what to do. Doing it yourself is a little tougher.
So, I have decided to tackle one thing this year, and try to do that well. I am going to be less fearful. I don’t mean less fearful of situations in which you would be a fool not to be fearful Ñ- like crazy people with guns, earthquakes, fires, massive explosions, or going to any movie that features Vince Vaughn.
No, I am talking about not buying into all the national media-driven fear that you hear on every news channel and read in every national publication or see on the internet almost daily. We are constantly bombarded by reports of something that is going to kill, maim or ruin you if you do not take immediate action Ñ or at least do some serious fretting about it.
For instance, right now, it seems the crisis du jour is “mysterious” bird deaths. The plot thickens? Dead birds found in Sweden” was the headline a few days ago, as if there is some vast ornithological conspiracy at work. It turns out that mass bird deaths are not uncommon. According to the U.S. Geological Service’s website, there were about 90 mass deaths of birds and other wildlife over a six-month period this year. In other words, mass deaths are a fairly common occurrence, often caused by parasites or E. coli.
But the media has to play it up, imply some mystery, conspiracy or plague is at work. For instance, do you recall the big media scares in the past about things like radon gas and bird flu? Television news channels ran teasers like, “Is there a silent killer in your home? You could be next. Tonight, see our special report on radon gas.”
And remember bird flu? A few years ago you could not turn on TV and or pick up a national newspaper without seeing 10,000 people wearing masks during the bird flu scare. How bad was it? According to the World Health Organization, 320 people have died of bird flu in the last seven years worldwide.
Please. More people have probably died worldwide from choking on beets than have died of radon gas exposure and bird flu combined.
This just seems to escalate with the popularity of the internet. Some of the stuff you read on the internet is wilder than the supermarket tabloids. If you think that articles in the tabloids like “I lost enough weight on the Elvis UFO diet that I now date Angelina Jolie but Brad doesn’t know” -are bad enough, get on some of the internet nut-case sites sometimes and see their take on the news.
I also refuse (and hope that others do as well) to get sucked into the flames of fear and that are fanned by the ravings of political extremists like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Keith Olbermann (who was suspended recently for contributing to political campaigns). Because they appear on national programs, these men are given a cloak of respectability as “news” commentators that they do not deserve. They and their ilk (both on the right and on the left) have helped divide the country. They have drawn battle lines along issues that make it harder and harder for national politicians (generally not a courageous bunch to begin with) to seek any type of compromise. Even the appearance of working with the other side is now used against the candidate in the next election as someone who is soft and does not tow the party line ideologically.
These people are not news commentators. They are entertainers, taking extreme positions to appear controversial in order to garner ratings, and sell books and merchandise. They remind me of some of the TV evangelists who wail and cry and beg you to send your money to Jesus, but want you to put their name on the check. They are in it for the fame and money.
So this year, I am going to take things a little less seriously. I will try to limit my worrying to the really important stuff Ñ- like whether I really do love Jesus and support our American troops overseas even though I don’t forward all those e-mails to at least 15 people on my address book list.
I wish you all a happy and less fearful New Year.
Asian citrus psyllid could carry tree-killing disease
By Logan Hall
The citrus industry in Ventura County was dealt a major blow Dec. 30 as the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s recommendation was approved to put a countywide quarantine on growers for a small insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. The pest is known to be a carrier of the huanglongbing (HLB) disease, which kills citrus trees and has wreaked havoc on farms in southern Florida.
The psyllid’s first appearance in the county was in a citrus grove near La Conchita, where it was found by the CDFA last month and, most recently, in an orchard near Santa Paula. So far, HLB, also known as “greening disease,” has not been found in California, but most experts agree that the disease isn’t far behind the insect.
“We believe it’s just a matter of time until the disease is detected in California,” CDFA spokesman Steve Lyle told the OVN. “We’ve seen it happen all around the world with HLB. The disease follows the pest.”
The quarantine still allows commercial growers to export their crops, but under strict CDFA guidelines. All citrus shipped out of the quarantine area, which covers many counties in Southern California, has to be stripped of leaves and stems, the part of the tree on which the psyllid thrives.
Local growers are already feeling the heat that the tiny insect has brought with it. “We’ve been following the situation all along,” said Tony Thacher, owner of Friend’s Ranch north of Meiners Oaks. “We’re extremely nervous that it will get here and we’ll have to treat for it, which is expensive.”
According to the CDFA, once detected the disease is treatable only to the point of stopping its spread to other groves or individual trees, including those in people’s own back yards. There is no cure for HLB and infected trees will deteriorate and then die. “Contracting the disease is a death sentence for a tree,” said Lyle.
Growers in Florida have battled HLB extensively since finding it in two trees in Miami-Dade County in 2005, seven years after finding the Asian psyllid.
Extensive and expensive containment techniques, most of which involve pesticides, have been employed across the 34 counties affected according to Florida Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Denise Feiber. “It takes a lot of management to keep up with HLB,” she said in an interview. “Surveying has become key. If a grower sees symptoms of disease, they submit samples to our lab. If it’s a psyllid, they take measures to control it.”
Ed White, president of Red Hill Groves in Brevard County, Fla., says that while his trees haven’t suffered the worst of the disease, it still has to be dealt with on a continuing basis. “We’re doing a lot of spraying now,” said White. “It’s expensive though at about $20 an acre. We only have 50 acres here, but I’ve got friends that have more than a thousand acres. Do the math. It adds up quick.”
White says that while management of the disease has made it more difficult to run his business, it is possible to keep HLB in check and have a healthy productive grove. “A lot of growers in the area are finding great success with nutritional spraying,” he said. “Everybody seems to be taking care of it. It isn’t something you want, but it’s just one of those things. Another pest you have to deal with.”
Feiber says the Florida Department of Agriculture is working with researchers on alternative control agents to pesticides or nutritional sprays. “There are some biological control insects that we are working with,” she said. “There’s a particular parasitic wasp that we’re hoping will at least knock back the population of psyllids. The wasp is very small gnat-sized insect that harms nothing else other than Asian psyllid.”
The CDFA says they are working with the Citrus Research Board to increase insect trapping in susceptible areas and agricultural commissioners’ offices in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Riverside counties are also contributing to the effort to detect the psyllid. Several phone calls to the Ventura County Agricultural Department were not returned.
Anyone, including in residential areas, who thinks they have found the insect or symptoms of the disease should call the CDFA hot line at (800) 491-1899 or log on to californiacitrusthreat.org.
Tony Cuccio, Ventura County senior tree trimmer, directs his crew in preparation for removal of a large oak tree from a Dodge Charger that had been flattened in Meiners Oaks on Sunday night. Another car, a Honda Accord, was also severely damaged.
Photo by Logan Hall
By Logan Hall
A large oak tree fell on the 100 block of South Lomita Avenue on Sunday night, completely crushing one car and severely damaging another. Brandon Sheff was less than 15 minutes from getting into his girlfriend’s 2008 Dodge Charger to pick her up from work when he heard a loud noise outside.
“It sounded like a million gallons of water pouring onto the lawn,” said Sheff. “I came out front and the car was just gone.”
The tree had fallen at around 8:30 p.m., totaling the Charger and possibly totaling the family’s Honda Accord that was in the driveway. Part of the tree had also fallen on the family’s third vehicle, a Ford F-250 that was parked in front of the demolished Charger. The Ford suffered a few scratches and dings but had survived the incident.
Part of the tree had fallen across Lomita Avenue, blocking the road for more than three hours according to Tony Cuccio, senior tree trimmer with Ventura County Public Works. Cuccio and his crew worked into the night on Sunday to clear the road, and on Monday morning began the task of removing the rest of the tree from the property.
A few hours later, the county had cleared the debris from
Photo by Sebastian Ramirez
By Lenny Roberts
and Logan Hall
A 48-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of arson on New Year’s Eve after a structure fire in the 1300 block of Orange Road was reported by a California Highway Patrol officer.
According to the CHP online dispatch summary, an officer responded to a traffic accident involving a green Kia which had crashed into an orange tree on Orange Road just north of Grand Avenue at 8:19 p.m. At 8:38 p.m., the on-scene CHP officer told dispatch to advise county fire of a “large bonfire,” approximately 20 feet high, and to determine if the fire was permitted. At 8:41 p.m., the CHP officer reported “possibly half a building and trees and large amount of brush” was burning, and to advise “County Fire to roll Code 3.”
According to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Mike Aranda, the CHP officer had reportedly smelled gasoline on the suspect who was identified as Valerie Spencer Huntsinger, and saw that her hair was singed. Huntsinger was detained by the CHP until sheriff investigators arrived on scene. Aranda says Huntsinger stated that a fire she had lit in the barbecue to keep warm had gotten out of hand.
According to nearby resident Jim Coultas, firefighters advised him to stay away from the scene because live rounds of ammunition, presumably stored in the home, were exploding. Capt. Ron Oatman, Ventura County Fire Department information officer, said, at one point, emergency personnel took cover behind nearby vehicles as more than one small explosion could be heard coming from the residence, which was fully engulfed in flames. The explosions were believed by the Fire Department to be propane canisters or “some kind of gun powder.” Oatman further explained that evidence was found of large amounts of ammunition in the residence.
According to Oatman, the home was vacant but fully furnished and the suspect sustained minor injuries relating to the traffic collision. There were no other injuries reported.
Huntsinger was taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies at 9:27 p.m. and booked into the county’s Main Jail in Ventura on suspicion of felony arson of an inhabited structure or property with bail set at $50,000. She was released on New Year’s Day.
Court records show a temporary restraining order and notice of hearing was filed against the suspect by Eric Huntsinger on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010. Huntsinger is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday in Ventura County Superior Court.