Photos by Logan Hall
South La Luna Avenue and Soule Park Golf Course appeared to be the most heavily affected with “snow” ligning the streets and driveways. Above, Natasha Matthews and Tim Coburn put the finishing touch on a snowman on the 9th green at Soule Park Golf Course.
Three-year-old Alex nails his mother, Sabine Coble, in the head with a snowball as his older sister Silva shields herself from the icy onslaught on South La Luna Avenue on Saturday evening.
A sheet of white “snow” blankets a home on Cottonwood Avenue on Saturday evening
“Snow” blankets the ground around the Mira Monte School sign on Saturday evening.
By Logan Hall
Some called it hail. Some called it sleet. For others, it was the first “snow” to reach the valley floor in more than 60 years. According to the National Weather Service (NWS) Oxnard office, the valley was hit with ice pellets — also known as graupel — that had accumulated due to cold temperatures.
Some areas in Mira Monte and the East End were blanketed with it, covering cars and rooftops. Other areas including downtown and parts of Meiners Oaks seemed to be mostly unaffected. Residents and visitors alike stopped their cars to get a photo in the “snow,” or to have a snowball fight. South La Luna Avenue, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, and Soule Park Golf Course appeared to be the most heavily affected with ice accumulation, which lined streets and driveways.
“We had about 2 to 3 inches of it covering the whole property,” said Mark Greenslit, director of golf for the Ojai Valley Inn. “The next morning I got a call from our superintendent saying we had to wait until the snow melts to let people on the course.”
For some locals, it was a chance for their youngsters to experience “snow” for the first time. Sabine Coble was driving with her children, 3-year-old son Alex and 10-year old daughter Silva, when they happened down La Luna in the height of the frozen downpour.
The three pulled over to enjoy the phenomenon and Coble’s son experienced throwing a snowball for the first time. “He’s so excited,” she said, shielding herself from another icy barrage from the two children. “This is his first time in the snow.”
NWS weather specialist Stuart Seto is quick to point out that the Ojai Valley did not experience actual snowfall, but accumulations of ice pellets like that experienced by locals on Saturday was unusual. “This wasn’t snow,” he said. “Ice pellets are more associated with hail. They have a cylindrical shape like the end of a pencil.”
According to Seto, the storm that the valley experienced was a low-pressure system that originated in Canada and was associated with a front that divides warm air from cold air. Seto says that ahead of the front there was a lot of moisture and rain, behind that followed cold air. The moisture ascended on an updraft, froze and ultimately fell to the valley floor as ice pellets.
Seto also explains the soft, snow-like feel of the accumulated pellets and the lack of noise when making contact with hard surfaces. “As the pellets are on their way down,” he said, “they begin to melt and become softer. It still falls like hail though. Snow would just float down.”
The fact that there was no official snowfall in the Ojai Valley didn’t deter the community from enjoying the rare sight of “snow”-covered rooftops or dark tracks through a white blanketed driveway. Camera shutters clicked away as people made snow angels or snowmen and lobbed snowballs at each other.
Information obtained from the NWS shows that Ojai was not alone in experiencing ice pellet accumulation. Many communities saw similar scenes including Carpinteria, Moorpark, Valencia, Studio City and Grover Beach, among others. “Basically wherever the storm moved, they got the graupel,” said Seto. “It was everywhere.”
Ojai teacher Kevin White pauses at Anacapa Island’s famous arch before paddling the 10 miles to Channel Islands Harbor last Sunday. Photo by Norm Plott
Farm Field Trips program on track to continue this year
By Misty Volaski
Kevin White, teacher at San Antonio Elementary School, rowed from Anacapa Island to the Channel Islands Harbor on Sunday in the Matilija, a dory he built.
It was all part of an effort to raise money for the non-profit organization Food for Thought. White’s trip contributed $2,500 toward FFT’s goal of $3,500 to fund a program called Farm Field Trips, which takes all fourth-graders in the Ojai Unified School District on field trips to local farms.
Ojai’s Norm Plott supervised the row from the support vessel, Bronco Billy.
“We did not do it on the planned Saturday due to bad weather, and I came down with a bad cold,” said White. The time passed quickly, he added, because he constantly had to correct his rowing stroke to accommodate the conditions.
“The water was fairly choppy and the swell was up, but the wind could not have been better. It was blowing in the same direction I was rowing,” said White. He received encouragement from the support vessel and his family.
White took approximately 7,000 strokes to row 10 miles in four hours.
“We are really thankful for Kevin’s effort and are appreciative of the support the community has shown. We are also thankful to Norm Plott,” said Lori Hamor, program director.
Field trips are already being scheduled for Ojai fourth-graders for late March and early April. The fourth-graders learn about nutrition education and “reconnect to the land that sustains them,” according to the Food for Thought website.
Local skate park proponent Dave England already pledged $20,000
By Logan Hall
Skate Ojai received some forward motion in their push to raise money for and ultimately install lighting at the Ojai Skate Park. The Ojai City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday not to oppose any fund raising done by the 501c3 non-profit Skate Ojai.
The council was careful however, to note that they were not in a position to approve the installation of lights without a substantial amount of discussion and analysis. Dale Summersille, director of recreation for the city of Ojai, read a list requested by new city manager Rob Clark stating the need to address many issues regarding lighting the park.
Groans from the crowd could be heard as Summersille went over the lengthy list citing potential issues like the need for increased policing of the area and the need for input from the Ojai Unified School District, which owns the property.
Clark addressed the groans from the public. “The reason for bringing this list forward,” he said, “… we need to make sure we get these questions resolved before we get too far into this.”
Bob Kemper voiced that the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce supported lighting in the Skate Park, but he too admitted that the chamber had questions about potential issues that mirrored the city’s list.
One concerned citizen raised the question of how the lighting might affect the night sky of Ojai. Skate Ojai President Chet Hilgers responded saying that the proposed lights would conform with the widespread “dark lighting” trend that seems to crucial in some opinions.
“Borrego Springs was the second city in the world to win an award for dark lighting,” said Hilgers. “We’ve talked to the contractor that installed their skate park lights. The (Skate Park) is not going to have as much lighting as a tennis court.”
Capt. Chris Dunn, Ojai’s chief of police, weighed in on possible impacts lighting could have on law enforcement procedures. “This is going to be a curfew issue,” he said, also citing that since its opening, the skate park has become the “No. 1 spot for service calls” for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in the Ojai Valley. However, he alluded that most of the issues at the park have been related to the park’s helmet requirement.
Ultimately the council decided that they needed more information and more discussion before approving any lighting, but Skate Ojai could raise funds for lighting, knowing that the council hasn’t approved the lighting.
Councilman Paul Blatz gave Skate Ojai a veritable light at the end of the tunnel. “When all is said and done,” he said. “I think we will have lights at the skateboard park.”
Magicians to raise money for cash-strapped schools
By Misty Volaski
A burning question for Ojai parents these days is, what will it take to rescue our public schools?
The answer for many: Nothing short of magic.
That is precisely what organizers had in mind when they put together “It’s Magic,” an evening of wizardry and wonder coming to Ojai from Hollywood’s famous Magic Castle on May 22, at Matilija Junior High Auditorium.
Proceeds from this all-star production, featuring top artists from the storied house of mystery in the Hollywood Hills, will benefit theater, music and dance programs in local schools. The event is being produced by the Ojai Performing Arts Theater Foundation.
The Magic Castle, a popular showcase for the greatest magicians from around the globe, is the home of The Academy of Magical Arts, Inc., which offers memberships to amateur magicians, professionals, and just plain fans of magic. The Castle also holds basic classes for adult beginners.
The building now known as the Magic Castle was built in 1908 and has gone through several changes before taking on its present aura of mystery and charm. It has also gained a reputation as a fine restaurant, with magic acts to amuse and divert diners. Out-of-town productions bearing the Magic Castle nameplate are rare.
“We are pleased and honored to have the Magic Castle support this community effort to improve arts education in
A burning question for Ojai parents these days is, what will it take to rescue our public schools?The answer for many: Nothing short of magic. That is precisely what organizers had in mind when they put together “It’s Magic,” an evening of wizardry and wonder coming to Ojai from Hollywood’s famous Magic Castle on May 22, at Matilija Junior High Auditorium. Proceeds from this all-star production, featuring top artists from the storied house of mystery in the Hollywood Hills, will benefit theater, music and dance programs in local schools. The event is being produced by the Ojai Performing Arts Theater Foundation.The Magic Castle, a popular showcase for the greatest magicians from around the globe, is the home of The Academy of Magical Arts, Inc., which offers memberships to amateur magicians, professionals, and just plain fans of magic. The Castle also holds basic classes for adult beginners. The building now known as the Magic Castle was built in 1908 and has gone through several changes before taking on its present aura of mystery and charm. It has also gained a reputation as a fine restaurant, with magic acts to amuse and divert diners. Out-of-town productions bearing the Magic Castle nameplate are rare.”We are pleased and honored to have the Magic Castle support this community effort to improve arts education in Ojai,” said Joan Kemper, who organized the program. “It is also a wonderful opportunity for our community to show its support for saving arts programs in our schools while enjoying a night of magic and fun.”
General admission tickets for “It’s Magic” are $50; VIP admissions are $150 and include reserved seating, parking and a food-and-wine reception with the magicians at Suzanne’s Cuisine after the show.
For information and reservations, call (800) 838-3006 or visit the Ojai Performing Arts Theater Foundation online at ojaitheater.org.
Seating for this performance is limited, and producers urge early reservations.
Triplett gets 10 years, eight months
Photo and report by Lenny Roberts
Former Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Triplett, who served as Ojai’s traffic-enforcement motorcycle officer from 2001 until funding for the position dried up in 2005, was sentenced Thursday to 10 years and eight months in Wasco State Prison after admitting he sexually molested a teen-aged female relative.
In late September 2010, Triplett was accused of 12 lewd acts upon a child, including sexual intercourse and oral copulation. He remained in jail since then. In a plea agreement, eight of the felony charges were dismissed, according to court records.
At Thursday’s sentencing, Judge Edward F. Brodie also ordered Triplett to pay restitution to the victim, take an AIDS test, with the results provided to the victim, avoid all direct or indirect contact with the victim, and register as a sex offender. He was further ordered to pay a fine of $9,520.
In March 2005, Triplett’s son, Tommy, survived a six-and-one-half-hour surgery to partially remove a brain tumor. Fellow officers established a special bank fund to help with expenses, and station deputies and staff donated vacation time so Triplett, his wife and other children could stay in Los Angeles while his son recovered at Children’s Hospital.
By Logan Hall
Although the city of Ventura has slowed the process of annexing areas of North Ventura Avenue from the county, the Ojai City Council put its foot down and took a hard stance on the issue on Tuesday. In a 4-1 vote, the council decided to send a letter to Ventura stating the council’s opposition to any annexation of the areas in question.
After hearing a report from city planner Katrina Rice Schmidt and public comments from concerned members of the community, Councilman Paul Blatz stepped up and made a statement. “We need to take a very strong stand … I think as firm a stand as we can take,” said Blatz. “We need to demonstrate to the city of Ventura that … we’re opposed to doing any annexing.”
As it stands, if landowners want to develop in North Avenue areas like Cañada Larga Canyon, any such plan would have to be put on the ballot for a countywide Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources (S.O.A.R.) vote. If the areas in question were annexed into the city, a county S.O.A.R. vote wouldn’t be required, and it would be a substantially easier process to move forward on any development plans.
Although Councilwoman Sue Horgan cast the only dissenting vote, citing the need for an Environmental Impact Review before making any official opposition, the majority of the council agreed with Blatz. Mayor Carol Smith asked Ojai city attorney Monte Widders if adopting a resolution would be stronger than just sending a letter.
“A resolution reflects council policy,” said Widders, confirming a council vote on the matter would be a more forceful approach.
Councilwoman Carlon Strobel then asked Widders if possible negative impacts on Ojai would be a basis to “successfully oppose” Ventura’s plan.
“I don’t know about successful,” said Widders, ” but anyone, including the city of Ojai has the right to oppose them.”
By Bill Buchanan
When I was younger, there was a time when I was foolish enough to think that I had experienced enough weird events and bizarre people that there were not many things that would shock and/or surprise me.
Boy was I wrong. The stories below appeared recently in the news. I find them both pretty amazing.
Police are investigating the death of a woman who traveled all the way from London to Philadelphia to receive an injection in her buttocks to enlarge it for cosmetic purposes. It is thought the procedure was arranged over the internet.
So many things come to mind. In a country of people populated by many whose behinds are almost large enough to qualify for their own zip code (my own is close), it is difficult to understand why anyone would want to make theirs larger. This country spends billions of dollars on exercise equipment, diet books, diet programs and weight loss videos and we just get larger and larger. This woman would have been much better off to simply spend her travel time eating American junk food. Her behind would have increased appreciably without nearly as much risk.
The next thing that comes to mind is why would you seek anything as important as medical services over the internet? The internet may be fine for ordering a pair of duck boots from Land’s End, but for medical services? Do they have a web page that lets you choose medical procedures? Do you choose a log-in name and password, use a search engine to find what you are looking for, then add “buttocks enlargement” to your shopping cart before you check out?
You hate for anyone to die. But if someone travels 3,500 miles just to die from an unnecessary medical procedure they scheduled over the internet in order to make their butt bigger, then maybe that is just evolution thinning out the herd. And how do loved ones explain the death to friends and family? “Well, at least she didn’t suffer —- the end was quick,” so to speak.
Then there was the choice item about a man attending an illegal cockfight in California, who apparently died after being stabbed in the leg by one of the birds. According to a British Broadcasting Company report, the man had previously been charged and fined for “owning or training an animal for fighting.” The report added (British spelling) that California “is a popular destination state for people involved in the sport as raising the gamecocks, organising matches and attending fights as a spectator are all classified as misdemeanours on the first offence, rather than more serious criminal offences in the state.”
If it is true that cockfighting a misdemeanor in this state, then that is a travesty, and needs to be addressed. But apparently our cockfighting friend “suffered an accidental ‘sharp force injury’ to his right calf.” Translated, this means that the bird, who had a knife attached to its limb, cut or stabbed this idiot in the leg, and he was declared dead at the hospital “where he arrived some two hours after being injured.”
Again, several issues arise. Put yourself in this man’s place. You are sitting there bleeding profusely, knowing you need to probably get medical attention, but you are emotionally torn. You don’t want to just sprint into the emergency room and yell, “Hey, my cockfighting chicken just stabbed me in the leg — how about a little help here!” After all, you are probably a proud representative of the sport, and you certainly don’t want to give cockfighting a bad name.
On the other hand, your life’s blood seems to be pouring, not dripping, away, and you don’t want to just sit there and die. So after the 200 Bounty paper towels, despite the claims on television about being the “quicker-picker-upper” have failed you, you know you need to address the situation.
But what do you tell the folks at the hospital? “Ahhh, excuse me, but I cut myself shaving my calf, can I get someone to look at my leg?” Or do you go with something like, “Well it’s like this, my chicken, who has been diagnosed as bi-polar, went off his medication, and well, you can see the result here for yourself …”
Apparently this genius bled out while thinking of a good explanation. Score one for the chicken.
OUSD hoping for best, preparing for worst
By Misty Volaski
When there’s no more fat in the budget to cut, and the bones have been picked clean, what is a school administrator to do?
“You cut at the marrow,” says superintendent Hank Bangser. That’s the reality facing the Ojai Unified School District, and districts across the country, as unprecedented deficits at the state level are forcing schools to get creative in order to maintain classes and services that people have come to expect.
At best, Ojai schools will have to cut $196,339 from the 2011-2012 budget; at worst, well over a million, at $1,117,699. Both of these scenarios assume that: the two Ojai teachers’ unions would again agree to take eight furlough days; all $509,156 from the federal 2010 Education Jobs Stimulus Funds are used; the state enacts no midyear cuts; along with several other small assumptions.
California Gov. Jerry Brown has told voters he wants them to decide the fate of California schools through a June special election ballot. His plan: extend by five years the temporary tax increases enacted in 2009, which are set to expire this year. Among these increases, says Dannielle Pusatere, OUSD assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, are a 1 percent sales tax increase, a .25 percent hike in all income tax brackets, and an increase in the vehicle licensing fees, among others. Should the measures be approved, Brown expects to keep school funding relatively flat from the 2010-2011 to 2011-2012 school year.
The catch? The state legislature must first agree by two-thirds vote to even put Brown’s proposal to a statewide vote. State Republicans are against this, said Bangser. “Republicans have said they believe the citizens of California don’t want any more taxes … but conditions have changed radically” since voters went to the ballot box last November and voted down a vehicle registration increase proposal to help fund state parks.
As a result, said Bangser, he and his staff must hope for the best, yet plan for the worst.
Last week’s double-dose of parent meetings at Nordhoff High School explained to the 100-plus attendees the possible cuts, and asked for public opinion on classes they felt were most vital in the areas of music and arts, academics and athletics.
Nordhoff teacher Greg Bayless was charged with the task of explaining the types of cuts Nordhoff will see, and estimated that around 15 sections (roughly one class period) must be cut. But not all offerings through the school are created equal when it comes to the budget, he cautioned. For example, one section of AP Physics equals one class period, or about $15,000; but the entire soccer program (girls’ and boys’ junior varsity and varsity) wouldn’t even equal one section. This is because coaches receive a stipend which falls short of that one-section mark. In effect, “You still haven’t eliminated a whole section, but you’d have eliminated four teams,” said Bayless. “None of this is easy.”
Last Tuesday’s crowd consisted mainly of arts and music department enthusiasts who received an e-mail from music department director Bill Wagner, warning of large cuts to Nordhoff’s music offerings. So it was no surprise their passion lay primarily in maintaining that program. One Ranger graduate spoke of how far ahead the Nordhoff music program put her once she was in college. She found that theories and techniques that were status quo at Nordhoff were foreign to many of her college counterparts. Others shared similar sentiments, saying their children’s lives had been greatly enriched by the popular music program.
Also discussed was the possibility of not requiring senior students to take six class periods anymore, as well as reducing the Nordhoff requirement of three years each of math and science to the state-mandated two years.
However, emphasized Bayless in the first meeting, students will not be blocked from their academic goals due to a lack of course offerings from Nordhoff. Bangser agreed. “We want to accommodate the student who absolutely needs a course, however you define need — for college application, for graduation — but we also want to accommodate the student who wouldn’t take a sixth period if they didn’t have to,” Bangser said. “It’s a very complex process, very labor intensive right now, but we’ve got to come out on the other end of it with equity and fairness.”
Gone are the days of seemingly limitless electives, technology upgrades and low student-to-teacher ratios, Bangser and Bayless continued. “In some cases, we’re looking at class sizes upwards of 40,” noted Bayless. Somewhere around 35 will be the norm for the high school. “Class sizes will get larger, but the classrooms themselves won’t,” he pointed out.
Echoed throughout the meeting were suggestions to appeal to the wealthier citizens of the valley for funding. “Aren’t there rich folks in Ojai who want to support the arts?” asked one attendee. Another noted that local donors had supported such causes as the Ojai Skate Park and the Libbey Bowl construction, so that “there is a passion for it! But how do we gear that toward education?”
Yet another attendee asked whether mandatory monetary contributions to the school for certain services would work. These are illegal, Bangser said. Administrators can only ask for contributions, but not require them. However, “Donations are welcome!” Bangser and Nordhoff principal Dan Musick said they would find easy ways for folks to donate to the schools, but said that a good place to start was the Ojai Education Foundation (Ojaief.org) and the Ojai Parent Teacher organizations.
Said one attendee, “It seems to me you’re encouraging me to increase taxes.”
Replied Bangser, “Personally, I’d say, unequivocally, yes.”
Ultimately, the decision of which classes principal Musick and his staff will recommend to cut must be made by mid-March, and the OUSD must inform certificated staff whether they can expect to have a job, or the same amount of work as last year, by that same date. But elections won’t come till June, and an actual state budget could take much longer (last year, the state was without a budget until October).
“This is not ideal,” said Bangser, summing up the situation. “None of this is even close to ideal. But it’s where we’re at right now.”
One more meeting will be held at the NHS library on March 2 at 6 p.m., and will focus on possible cuts to athletics. The public is encouraged to attend. Those who cannot attend may write to Bangser, firstname.lastname@example.org
, or Musick, at email@example.com
A lone cyclist crosses the aging San Antonio Creek Bridge on the bike trail north of Casitas Springs, while Ventura residents Wally and Kris Lampe rest after crossing the bridge on foot. Photo by Logan Hall
By Chris T. Wilson
Plans to replace a bicycle and pedestrian bridge on the Ojai Valley Trail at San Antonio Creek received a green light from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors recently.
The bridge will correct a weak point in the trail that has been damaged by annual flooding several times since the trail was created, said officials from Supervisor Steve Bennett’s office.
It is estimated that the bridge will cost around $500,000 to construct. Bennett said he was optimistic that the supervisors, who voted unanimously to fund the project, would be able to offset much of the cost of the construction with a number of grants and insurance payments that are available.
“This has been the Achilles’ heel of the trail ever since it was constructed,” Bennett said. “It’s a real safety issue for the thousands of people who use the trail daily to commute to work, if they have to be diverted out on to that narrow section of Highway 33.”
John Mirk, vice president of the Channel Islands Bike Club and an Ojai resident, uses the trail two or three days per week to commute to work at Patagonia in Ventura. He said that the club has offered $16,000 from its annual budget to help pay for the bridge construction.
“We’re really excited to see a real bridge put in there,” Mirk said. “We call that section of Highway 33 ‘The Death Ride.’”
The CIBC is the largest bike club in Ventura County and uses the trail regularly, Mirk said. Each year the club holds a fund-raising ride called the Cool Breeze Century to raise money for the club and for Kiwanis. A portion of those funds have been set aside to help fund the bridge-building project.
Cycling activist, Green Coalition member, and former Ojai Mayor Suza Francina also spoke in favor of the bridge. She echoed the sentiments of others who see this primarily as a safety issue for commuters who bicycle to work. She emphasized the importance of removing any hazards that discourage cyclists from using the trail.
“With the increased traffic congestion through the Arnaz Grade and Casitas Springs, I anticipate that it will soon be faster to just coast down the trail on a bike than sit in traffic,” Francina said. “All of the improvements that we’re working toward are a part of a broader vision to bring a more balanced transportation system to Ventura County.”
Steve Offerman in Supervisor Bennett’s office also noted that San Antonio Creek is a habitat for steelhead migration and storm debris in years past has clogged the present bridge, potentially making fish passage impossible.
Preliminary designs for the bridge are complete and some environmental review has also been completed. Offerman said the next step will be to put the project out for bid and complete the funding process. Construction is expected to begin later this year, he said.
5K/10K race breaks Ojai record for Heart Association donation
By Michelaina Smith
The Heart and Sole 5k and 10k in Ojai raised more than $20,000, which is a record for this benefit event. The money will be donated to the American Heart Association for research on strokes and heart disease.
The race attracted 270 participants for the two races. “This is the most participation we have ever had,” said Cindy Noboa, volunteer.
Both races started at First Baptist Church on Grand Avenue. The 5k route wound through the neighborhood near Topa Topa School and the 10k route went into the East End and back.
Jose Zavala earned first place for men in the 5k with a time of 17:43. Garret Khougaz placed second at 18:36, followed by Stuart Griffith at 18:54.
“It was nothing compared to a cross-country race,” said Khougaz.
Angelica Griffith won the 5k for women in 21:42, followed by Michelaina Smith at 21:45. Kaitlyn Jones came in third at 22:38.
“The race was fine. (I was) being challenged by the Nordhoff team constantly,” said Angelica Griffith.
“The race was a bit of a challenge, but I kept positive thoughts,” said Kaitlyn Jones.
Aaron Sharp won the 10k for men at 32:21. Gustavo Sanchez earned second with 37:11, followed by Matthew Russell at 37:11.
“It was a long race,” said Sanchez.
“I am used to doing 5k (races) — a step up, I guess,” said Russell.
Mary Jones earned first place for women in the 10k, with a time of 37:34. Jen Todd came in second at 39:20 and Ashley Ramirez got third place with 41:07.
Dr. Fred Fauvre, cardiologist and event chair for 21 years, also ran the 10k. He is a heart disease survivor.
“I’ve always been a runner, mainly for fitness,” Fauvre said. “I have done three marathons, May 1981, February 1995, and October 1995. I continue to actually walk now, because of my back, on a daily basis, and actually participate in putting on two 10Ks, one for American Heart in the spring and one for the hospital in the fall.”
By Chris. T. Wilson
The Ojai Playwrights Conference seems to have a way of outdoing itself each year when they put on their annual play reading and dinner benefit. And this year is to be no exception.
Veteran film, television and theater actors Stacy Keach and Ron Rifkin have just been announced as new additions to the upcoming OPC annual benefit gala to honor longtime OPC collaborator and award-winning playwright, Jon Robin Baitz.
Now in the final stages of development, the fund-raising event, titled “Substance of Desire: Love, Lust and Laughter in the Plays of Jon Robin Baitz,” will also feature actors David Burtka, Neil Patrick Harris, Jane Kaczmarek, Stephen Weber, Noah Wyle and surprise guests, said OPC artistic director and producer Robert Egan. A dinner, celebrity auction and other surprises will follow the event.
“It will feature a series of scenes from the body of (Baitz’s) work, performed by these fabulous actors,” Egan said by phone from his office in Los Angeles. “We’re very proud to be celebrating his work.”
Baitz, a “veritable darling” of the OPC, has workshopped three of his plays at the Playwrights Conference that have gone on to critical acclaim. “The Paris Letter,” which starred Rifkin and ran in New York in 2005, “Chinese Friends,” directed by Egan and starring Ojai resident Peter Strauss, ran in New York in 2004, and “Other Desert Cities,” which is running in limited engagement currently at Lincoln Center and stars Keach and Stockard Channing, were all developed during the summer conference in Upper Ojai prior to release, Egan said.
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Brazil and South Africa, Baitz has written many plays, as well as writing for film and television, for such shows as “The West Wing” and “Alias.” He is also set to write the stage adaption of Hollywood legend Robert Evan’s memoirs, “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” according to an article in New York Times from May 7, 2010.
“I’ve been a longtime collaborator with Robbie,” Egan said. “I directed and dramaturged his first two-act play, ‘Film Society,’ in the mid-’80s.”
The approximately 90-minute play-reading show, being held March 26 at 5:30 p.m. at Matilija Auditorium, will be followed by a gala dinner and celebrity auction at 7:30 p.m. at Thomas Aquinas Hall. Celebrity chef Michael Hollingsworth, who has created culinary magic for the likes of Bill Clinton, Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Taylor and Barbara Streisand, will prepare the dinner.
The gala reading and dinner event, which accounts for as much as 40 percent of the Playwrights Conference’s annual budget, is key to making the OPC a success for playwrights and American theater, Egan said.
By Logan Hall
Heal the Community is continuing their push to establish a Boys and Girls Club in Meiners Oaks by holding a fund-raising auction at Greg Rents in Oak View tomorrow. The auction is being conducted by Casitas Springs-based California Auctioneers and will feature furniture and “yard art” made from wood from a local 100-year-old pine that was milled at Greg Rents in January.
“We’re going to have some cool furniture to support a good cause,” said Greg Webster, owner of Greg Rents. “I got some palm fronds so we’re going to try to make a cocktail table with a palapa.”
According to local John Eubanks from California Auctioneers, who will be the auctioneer for HTC’s event, the auction will be much like those seen on television or in the movies with some fast-paced wheeling and dealing. “Because people have to be able to understand what we’re saying,” said Eubanks, “we’re not as fast as tobacco or car auctioneers, but we try to give the people some entertainment. We really try Heal the Community’s Dusty Fernandez says that some of the items available at the auction will include a tiki, table tops, bar tops, and bench seats. Webster added that the auction will also feature raw beams that can be customized into whatever the customer wants. Webster also has a barbecue planned to help feed the throngs of people he is hoping will show up for the event.
“This is going to be a great chance for people to get some great homemade stuff and improve their landscape,” said Webster. “Hopefully we can get a lot of people involved.”
Heal the Community has been making progress in their bid to bring a Boys and Girls Club to Meiners Oaks. After receiving some help from the Ojai Unified School District, the group may have found a suitable starting location for the club at Meiners Oaks Elementary School. HTC hopes the upcoming auction will help give them a boost in the right direction.
The barbecue is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. with the auction beginning at
Call Greg Rents at 649-2590 for more information.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Department
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Brandon Jones, 23, Ventura
Male Juvenile, 16, Ventura
A passing off-duty Ventura County Deputy Sheriff saw a known tagger, Brandon Jones, using his cell phone camera to photograph his graffiti vandalism he had freshly applied to a road sign. Upon further investigation by the deputy, it was discovered Jones and a male juvenile accomplice had also spray painted Jones’ graffiti moniker of “Doco” under a bridge at the location. The deputy detained both suspects until Ojai Valley deputies arrived to take them into custody for felony vandalism. Jones has recently been responsible for graffiti vandalism throughout western Ventura County, including the City of Ventura and the Ojai Valley. Damage estimate by the Ventura County Watershed District who maintains the bridge is believed to be $600.
By Bill Buchanan
A few days ago, Gayle Bertsch and I were on the phone discussing the upcoming Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce gala. The local gala will be held at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Thursday, Feb 24, and sounds like a fun night. If you have not already purchased your tickets, you may call the chamber office at 646-8126, or go on the website to order them.
In the course of our conversation, I told Gayle about one particular chamber of commerce banquet I attended in south Louisiana. I have been to many chamber of commerce and other board functions over the years, but that Donalsonville Chamber of Commerce event was the one I shall never forget.
The food, cooked by local chef John Folse, who later had a cooking show on TV, was fantastic; the attendance, probably 350 or more in town of 7,500, was impressive; and the speaker, a popular columnist for the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, was entertaining. But those things had nothing to do with why it was such a memorable event No, that distinction was reserved for the town’s mayor, “Big Ralph.”
For the uninitiated, everyone who runs for any political office in south Louisiana has a nickname. For all I know, it may even be required by state law. Almost every politician we ever wrote about had an additional moniker. Many of these nicknames were based upon physical appearance. Hence, you had “Boxcar” (a large, blocky man); “Smiley” (who displayed a really cheesy grin); and “Needlenose” (one look at him and no was explanation necessary). Some of the nicknames were given so long ago, and were used so often that people did not recognize the person by their given name. If you had written about Milton Vicknair, people would have said, “Do you mean Needlenose?”
Louisiana politics are famous, or some would say infamous, for a lot more than just nicknames, and have provided some great stories over the years — both real and fictional. For instance, one of the great stories was that of a state official who had been accused of wrongdoing. When confronted by a reporter, he is supposed to have replied, “I strongly deny the allegations and demand the right to confront the allegators.”
The story of the mayor’s election was no different. He ran against three other opponents. One dropped out immediately. Of the two remaining, one was the incumbent mayor —- and also Big Ralph’s uncle. The uncle won the election, but did not have a majority. Big Ralph and his uncle were slated for a run-off election, but shortly before the contest was held, the uncle died of a heart attack. Big Ralph was then declared mayor with well less than 40 percent of the popular vote.
As we fast forward to the chamber banquet, it was my job to introduce the speaker for the evening. After the introduction, I was to ask the mayor to say a few words and present the speaker with a key to the city.
The mayor sat all night at his spot at the head table, moving only to refill his Scotch on the rocks. I finished my introduction of the speaker, and nodded a cue to the mayor to come up and present the key to the city. The mayor rose from his seat, but instead of walking purposefully to the podium as scripted, he performed what can best be described as a half-gainer —- diving backward into a lattice-work facade, knocking it askew. As the mayor hit the floor like he had taken a shot to the jaw from Mike Tyson, a collective gasp went up from those in attendance. I think I probably gasped, too.
Nothing really prepares you for such a situation. There is no class you take in school, nor any professional seminar offered along the lines of “Public Officials/Public Drunkenness — What Everyone Should Know.”
Now most normal people would have been embarrassed beyond belief if they had fallen down drunk at a public function, especially with a few hundred people in attendance. I mean, after all, most of us turn a little red-faced when we trip on the sidewalk if other people are around. Of course, most of us have a little pride and a conscience. Not Big Ralph. The master of ceremonies and I rushed over, picked him up, and walked him over to the podium. He slurred a few barely coherent words to the speaker, handed him the key, then the emcee and I walked the mayor back to his chair. Big Ralph calmly sat down and acted as though nothing had happened.
It almost made me wish we had left him on the ground. But it certainly made for a memorable chamber banquet.
By Misty Volaski
In what can only be described as an unusual turn of events, two interns of the Ojai Valley News have been involved in automobile accidents within two weeks.
The incidents, which are unrelated, were both single-car crashes which occurred on a Thursday, and were about two miles apart from one another.
Evelyn Cervantes, an OVN photography intern studying at Brooks Institute, suffered a compound fracture to her left femur, a broken hip and collarbone, and a shattered right ankle after losing control of her vehicle on Highway 33 north of Shell Road on Jan. 27. Cervantes is recovering at her mother’s home in Utah, but hopes to come back to California by the end of the month.
Then, on Feb. 10 — exactly two weeks after Cervantes’ accident — Matthew Wagner, an OVN reporting intern, lost control of his 1996 Ford Explorer on the southbound 33 just north of Cañada Larga. He was on his way to Ventura College for class, he said, when his right rear tire blew out. In the struggle to regain control of the vehicle he drifted toward oncoming traffic, jerked the wheel and flipped the Explorer three times. Wagner was ejected from the vehicle “I think 10 or 15 feet,” he said, and was taken to Ventura County Medical Center with various injuries.
“The last thing I remember was hitting my head, then being airborne. I was unconscious until I got to the hospital (VCMC),” Wagner said. “It took me a minute to recall what had happened.”
After about 24 hours at VCMC, Wagner was released Friday on strict orders for six weeks of bed rest. He sustained a chipped left wrist, scrapes and bruises, a concussion, bruised lungs and a lacerated spleen, but is expected to make a full recovery.
“I’m having a hard time walking — my body hurts if I move around too much,” he said. “I do get dizzy when I stand up, because of the concussion. But I’m just really blessed to be alive, really thankful. A lot of people don’t live through this kind of (accident) — and I didn’t even get that many major injuries. If I can tell anybody anything about this, it’s be safe on the roads, be prepared, and take care of your vehicle.”
By Logan Hall
It took more than 22 rounds of fierce competition for 13-year-old Matilija Junior High School student Dylan McEttrick to move on to the county level of the National Spelling Bee.
Eighteen kids from Ojai’s elementary and junior high schools competed against each other for the chance to take on other youths of the county, and, if prevailing through subsequent rounds of competition, they could take on the nation’s best for the final round in Washington, D.C.
“He’s taking it all the way to the top this year,” said McEttrick’s dad, Mike. “We’re on our way to D.C.!”
Sixteen of the original participants in the local competition, which is sponsored by the Ventura County Star, had been eliminated by the 11th round, leaving McEttrick battling head-to-head with fellow Matilija student Alana Adelman. The two slugged it out as the words grew increasingly more difficult. Ultimately, McEttrick won, spelling the word “impervious.”
“It was really hard and Alana was a tough competitor,” said McEttrick, who has participated in the spelling bee three years running. “I thought she would beat me. I was really happy to win.”
McEttrick’s dad says hard work is what led his son to top of the local competition. “Dylan has been working on this for three years,” he said. “We study every night. I’m real proud of him.”
According to John LeSuer, coordinator of the local spelling bee and principal of Topa Topa Elementary School, close to 100 people from parents and teachers, to friends and siblings, showed up to support the kids, and they weren’t disappointed by the fight for first place that ensued. “It was a real intense competition,” said LeSuer. “The kids all tried really hard and there were some tough words. They did really well though.”
Emily Mostovoy, principal of MJHS, says she believes the fierce competition was a testament to the hard work the valley’s students have put into their studies. “This type of event really represents what education is all about,” she said. “I’m very proud of Dylan and Alana.”
The panel for the local bee consisted of individuals from various walks of the education system. Hank Bangser, Ojai Unified School District superintendent, was the pronouncer, Rikki Horne, president of the OUSD board, and Rebecca Kirkland, teacher at Topa Topa, were judges, and Theresa Dutter, principal of San Antonio Elementary and Summit schools, was the checker.
McEttrick will go on to compete against the 12 other area finalists in the county competition held at CSU-Channel Islands on March 14.
When asked how he planned on preparing for the next round, McEttrick said, “I’ve got a lot of studying to do.”
By Logan Hall
It’s tough times ahead for the city of Ojai. Interim city manager John Baker gave the Ojai City Council his mid year report on the 2010-2011 fiscal year for the city last week. In it were numbers that indicate economic hardships are going to continue for the city.
Ultimately, according to Baker’s information, the city is facing a $200,000 deficit in its general fund. Sales tax is projected to be down by about $120,000, and the city’s advance of $1.3 million to fund construction of Libbey Bowl until pledges come in has also put a strain on the city’s cash flow.
Baker explained that the deficit stems largely from the fact that Ojai will have had three city managers in one fiscal year. Former city manager Jere Kersnar’s controversial contract left him with a severance package that, according to city records, equaled the remainder of his salary. Kersnar has received regular paychecks from the city since Sept. 7, 2010 and they will continue through June 6, 2011. Along with the regular salary, Kersnar is also being paid 100 percent of his accrued vacation pay, 50 percent of his sick leave pay, and a housing allowance. These benefits combined with his regular salary will equal $198,262.28 through the nine-month period he will be receiving checks.
Records also show that after Kersnar was fired by the city, Baker received his wage of $65 an hour with no benefits. According to Susie Mears, Ojai city’s finance director, Ojai’s new city manager, Robert Clark, is salaried at $160,000 a year. The combination of wages paid to Kersnar, Baker and subsequently Clark, puts a serious dent in the city’s pocketbook. “We’re going to need to keep spending to pay bills,” said Baker, “but we won’t have cash.”
Baker says that because services in the city will have to continue, the council will need to take out a credit line. “We have no estimate of the total cost of a three-year line of credit,” he said. “We figured about $25,000 to $30,000 in interest.”
One of the concerns brought up by the council at its last meeting was the deteriorating condition of city-owned streets in Ojai. With a deficit in the general fund and the bowl pledges being paid over a five-year period, the streets may continue to suffer until Ojai can get back on its feet. “It’s an area we have neglected for far too long,” said Baker.
The city will be able to tap into its special revenue fund and Baker says that some streets might get taken care of this year. Overall, however, the city’s streets will continue to deteriorate. “Unless they (council) set aside money from something else,” said Baker, “I think you’re going to have to pray …”
By Misty Volaski
When Ventura Sheriff’s Department narcotics detectives served a search warrant on a home in the 300 block of Cruzero Avenue in Mira Monte last Wednesday, they found the drugs and paraphernalia they were expecting, but also allegedly discovered a 7-year-old child within the home.
Four Ojai residents were arrested: Eugene Vandenburgh, age 52; Darcy White, age 45; Timothy Creech, age 42; and Shawnie McMakin, age 46. The juvenile found in the home is the child of Vandenburgh and White, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
A VCSD press release explained what was found during the search. “Detectives located two ounces of methamphetamine, a variety of prescription medications, dozens of syringes, and items that were later determined to be stolen. Methamphetamine and methamphetamine paraphernalia were found in the living room, in an area accessible to the child, creating the potential for a very dangerous situation. Following Drug Endangered Children protocol, Child Protective Services was notified and responded. After their investigation, CPS personnel removed the child from the home.”
The child, said Sgt. Mike Horne, is now in custody of CPS.
Complaints from the community to the Ojai Police Department led to an investigation, on which the Ojai Police worked with county narcotics detectives. “Patrol deputies up there (in Ojai) were starting to get some information, and starting to see some traffic to the house,” said Sgt. Horne. “We work real close with the (Ojai) patrol.”
With information from “a couple of informants,” he added, investigators “sat on it for a day, watched what they believed was narcotic activity, and based on that we wrote a search warrant.”
Creech and McMakin were arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance, while Vandenburgh was arrested for child endangering, possession of methamphetamine for sale, possession of narcotic paraphernalia, maintaining a place where narcotics are used, and possession of stolen property. White was arrested for child endangering, under the influence of narcotics, and possession of methamphetamine for sale.
Horne couldn’t speculate on the types of penalties each suspect may face, but explained that possession for sale is a felony, while maintaining a place where drugs are used is a misdemeanor. However, “The most important charge is child endangering — that’s a felony,”
When Ventura Sheriff’s Department narcotics detectives served a search warrant on a home in the 300 block of Cruzero Avenue in Mira Monte last Wednesday, they found the drugs and paraphernalia they were expecting, but also allegedly discovered a 7-year-old child within the home.Four Ojai residents were arrested: Eugene Vandenburgh, age 52; Darcy White, age 45; Timothy Creech, age 42; and Shawnie McMakin, age 46. The juvenile found in the home is the child of Vandenburgh and White, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.A VCSD press release explained what was found during the search. “Detectives located two ounces of methamphetamine, a variety of prescription medications, dozens of syringes, and items that were later determined to be stolen. Methamphetamine and methamphetamine paraphernalia were found in the living room, in an area accessible to the child, creating the potential for a very dangerous situation. Following Drug Endangered Children protocol, Child Protective Services was notified and responded. After their investigation, CPS personnel removed the child from the home.”The child, said Sgt. Mike Horne, is now in custody of CPS.Complaints from the community to the Ojai Police Department led to an investigation, on which the Ojai Police worked with county narcotics detectives. “Patrol deputies up there (in Ojai) were starting to get some information, and starting to see some traffic to the house,” said Sgt. Horne. “We work real close with the (Ojai) patrol.” With information from “a couple of informants,” he added, investigators “sat on it for a day, watched what they believed was narcotic activity, and based on that we wrote a search warrant.”Creech and McMakin were arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance, while Vandenburgh was arrested for child endangering, possession of methamphetamine for sale, possession of narcotic paraphernalia, maintaining a place where narcotics are used, and possession of stolen property. White was arrested for child endangering, under the influence of narcotics, and possession of methamphetamine for sale.Horne couldn’t speculate on the types of penalties each suspect may face, but explained that possession for sale is a felony, while maintaining a place where drugs are used is a misdemeanor. However, “The most important charge is child endangering — that’s a felony,” said Horne. “You’re going to see a lot more child endangering cases. We’re involved in the Drug Endangered Children program. We’re training throughout the whole county, so you’ll see a lot more of those.”
By Logan Hall
The city of Ventura has slowed annexation plans for the Ventura Westside Community Plan, but is still moving forward with the effort.
The plan is divided into three distinct areas. The lower Ventura Avenue development includes an area around the Avenue that is already within the city limits of Ventura. The other two areas, Cañada Larga and North Ventura Avenue, including the Petrochem Plant area, would need to be annexed before the city could go forward with any development project.
Most of the opposition to the plan is directed toward the two components that would require annexation. Because the lower Avenue portion of the plan involves areas with empty lots or abandoned buildings, many of which are in disrepair, the opposition isn’t as concerned with that particular component and, in some cases, are in favor of it.
“We have no problem with the lower Avenue aspect,” said Jim Hines, representative of the Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation. “They need to fill those empty lots.”
Hines says the real issue is with the North Avenue and Cañada Larga components. He also believes that the city of Ojai is dragging its feet in their involvement with the project. “Ojai is like the last body to jump on the bandwagon,” he said. “They should have been the first. Where are you city of Ojai?”
The question then should be: What can Ojai really do if taking a position of opposition?
According to Ojai interim city manager John Baker, if an Environmental Impact Report states that there could be negative impacts on the Ojai Valley, the city could take legal action. “The city of Ojai would be in a position to give input and then challenge the project,” said Baker. “If you can provide appropriate questions, it will stop them and make them rethink things. If they don’t, that’s when you can take legal action.”
Ventura’s plan seems to have an effect on many different people from all walks of life. Some believe housing developments are part of progress; others believe if the area is developed, it will have serious negative impacts to the area.
Buz Bonsall, whose family owns 6,500 acres near the proposed site, with 800 of those in the Cañada Larga area that fall in the potential annexation zone, says he would need to see more information about any development plan before he could say whether the annexation would be a positive or negative thing for his property. “Everything is all conceptual at this point,” said Bonsall in a phone interview. “It will only happen if it’s feasible and makes sense.”
Bonsall says that out of the 800 acres, only 200 acres consisting of flat pastures, out of range of the 100-year floodplain, would be available for future development. When asked if he would be selling property if the plan does move ahead he said that selling isn’t what he is interested in. “I don’t want to sell, I want to be involved in the property,” he said adding, “The ranch is not for sale.”
By Misty Volaski
Don and Ann Myers received a rude awakening early Thursday morning as a blue SUV jumped the curb, broke through a fence, and slammed into the side of their home — just feet away from where they lay sleeping in their bed — at the corner of Grandview Avenue and Sunset Place.
The aftermath indicates the vehicle, allegedly driven by 26-year-old Ojai resident Richard “Taylor” Moore, also sheared the gas meter off the Myers’ house and broke a gas main, prompting deputies from the Ojai Police Department to evacuate residents in the immediate vicinity for about 30 minutes.
“The gas main was broken,” said Sgt. Maureen Hookstra. “Large amounts of gas were escaping, so deputies immediately evacuated the area. The gas company responded and controlled the leak.”
“Eveything was under control by 2:300 a.m. There was one gas outage, and 20 homes were evacuated as a precaution. Temporary repairs were completed by 5:20 a.m.,” said Southern California Gas Company spokesperson Anne Silva.
“I woke up to what sounded like a car trying to turn over or rev its engine, and then a hissing sound. So I thought I had left my sprinklers on,” said neighbor Penny Wooff, “but it was the gas main hissing. I could actually hear it inside my house. Just a couple minutes later, police cars drove up — I was amazed at how fast they got here.”
“My husband heard the impact,” said another neighbor, JoAnn Johnston. “Pretty quick, we could hear the gas hissing, then we smelled it.”
Around the corner on Sunset Place, Candee and Tony Volaski got a call from Candee’s sister Wooff, saying she’d just been asked to evacuate, and that deputies were headed toward Sunset Place. “He (the deputy) pounded on the door a few seconds later, and said, ‘Do you hear that hissing? Do you smell the gas? You have to get out, now.’”
Wooff, her two young daughters, and the Volaskis evacuated to their parents’ house a few blocks away. Other neighbors met up in the Topa Topa Elementary School parking lot, including former teacher, Maryann Scheele. “We stayed up there a little while, it seemed like more than 30 minutes before it was safe to come back,” she said.
According to Ann Myers, as soon as they felt the collision, she called police while her husband ran outside to find the SUV stuck in the dirt pile.
“Don grabbed him and said, ‘You gotta get out, you gotta get out.’ Don scraped up his arm, was bleeding pretty good.”
Witnesses said Myers held the suspect until law enforcement officials arrived on-scene and arrested Moore on suspicion of DUI. Court records show that Moore was also arrested by the Oxnard Police Department in December 2009 and pled guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol. He was also arrested in May of last year for public intoxication. Moore was released Thursday morning, and came back to the scene to apologize to the Myers.
Ann believes a pile of dirt — one she had recently asked her husband to clear away — prevented Moore’s vehicle from doing more damage, or even driving all the way into their bedroom. “It was very lucky no one was hurt,” she said, adding that she’s now considering leaving the dirt pile where it stands — and topping the mound with a big rock. “It’s not the first time this has happened. It’s the third time someone’s done something like this in this neighborhood.”
Editor’s note: Penny Wooff and Candee and Tony Volaski are related to reporter Misty Volaski. They are her aunt and parents, respectively.
By Bill Buchanan
No wonder so many people choose to live in California. While much of the rest of the country digs out from the last major snowstorm and braces for the next, we have seen temperatures in the 70s and 80s here. Dallas made news last Sunday when ice and snow posed travel problems with many trying to get to the Super Bowl. Earlier that week some workers were injured prior to the game when they were hit by ice falling from the stadium. On Sunday I watched the game sitting outside on a friend’s patio, enjoying a flawless day. It is wonderful.
People in the South are going through some abnormally cold weather with ice and snow on roadways and bridges. Those in the Northeast and Midwest are enduring absolutely brutal weather. One of Ava’s cousins in Nebraska wrote to say that the wind chill was -37 below zero last week. Even writing that number makes me shiver.
When chatting with friends, I can hear the envy in their voices whenever the subject turns to the weather. “It was 18 degrees here last night. I guess it’s perfect out there in California,” they say, their voices dripping with sarcasm. “Well,” I answer, “not really. It was only 74 here today. We’re hoping some warmer weather will move in soon.” Chuckle, chuckle.
I cannot print what they reply to that.
I have lived in some cold climates, and do not exactly long for them. My first job out of college was in Missouri, just south of St. Louis. For someone who had lived his entire life in the South, the winter there was a shock. I was an advertising salesman, which meant a lot of driving on snow and ice. Sliding around in the car, desperately trying to avoid the other poor souls sliding around in their cars, got old quickly. One morning I was running late and didn’t finish drying my hair properly. I spent a considerable amount of time scraping ice off the windshield that day before finally arriving at the office. Note: It was then that I learned the definition of an ice scraper —- something that falls out of the glove compartment all summer, hides in the winter, and breaks when you try to use it.
As I was taking off my overcoat, I felt a strange sensation on the back of my head. I touched my hair to find that it was frozen. I didn’t even know that could happen. That was it for me. I chucked my briefcase, flung my coat to the floor, and announced to all present, “You are all idiots for living up here in this mess! I am an idiot, too,” I continued, “but the difference is that I will be gone from here this time next year!” The folks in office found my little rant amusing.
But true to my word, I did get transferred before the next winter. However, my transfer took me to Hot Springs, S.D. — which made Missouri look like San Diego. That winter, we were treated to 10 days in a row where the temperature (not including wind chill) was 10 degrees below zero or colder, dipping down to a nippy -22 degrees below one night.
My Southern friends asked me how cold that felt. I explained that when it was -22 below, no matter how many clothes you had on, you felt like you were sitting naked on a block of ice.
As if to add insult to injury, they called our little area of South Dakota “The Banana Belt.” The first time I heard this phrase I asked how you could possibly call a place where the current temperature sat at minus 5 below 0 with 6 inches of snow coming down “The Banana Belt”? The reply was that the Black Hills sheltered us from the “bad” weather —- and that it was currently colder with even more snow in both Rapid City north of us, and in Chadron, Neb., south of us. Hence, the term “Banana Belt.”
When I heard this, I didn’t know which to dread most —- the harsh winter ahead, or Midwestern humor.
Obviously, I survived, but I always kept an eye toward working my way to a warmer climate. And now when walking around Ojai enjoying our short-sleeves weather, I cannot help but feel compassion for those poor people in other parts of the country who have to shovel the snow off their roof. And, if I am honest, I sometimes feel the guilt of a man on vacation who lounges around out by the pool holding a margarita as those around him go about their daily labors.
Fortunately, this usually passes quickly.
By Logan Hall
The Ojai City Council has voted unanimously to pay $159,000 to fund the Ojai Visitors Bureau for another year. Two weeks after the council’s 3-2 vote denying the OVB’s request for funding, the skeptics, councilwomen Betsy Clapp and Sue Horgan, along with Mayor Carol Smith, concluded that the bureau’s funding was vital in strengthening Ojai’s economy.
Dozens of business owners and concerned citizens from around the valley came to the council meeting on Tuesday to show support for the bureau’s efforts. Nineteen people filed public speaker cards to voice their opinion to the council including, Jerry Dunn, renowned travel writer, Veronica Cole, public relations manager for the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Hallie Katz, owner of the Human Arts Gallery, and Roger Varian, owner of True West Fashions. All were in favor of the continued funding of the OVB.
“This is an investment that we have to make,” said local Realtor Bob Kemper. “It’s really not optional at this point.”
Cathy Cluff, president and CEO of The Oaks at Ojai, and committee chair of the OVB, also urged the council to grant the group continued funding. Cluff cited the bureau’s ability to seek out and attract travel writers who can produce stories about Ojai in major publications like the Los Angeles Times and Westways magazine. She also stated that “Good Morning America” is planning on shooting a “Weekend Window” segment in Ojai. “Marketing is all about traction and building relationships,” she said. “We finally have the ear of the press. Do you really want to pull the plug on ‘Good Morning America’?”
After another bleak look into Ojai’s financial future from interim city manager John Baker, it seemed that the bureau could be facing its second let-down in as many weeks. Baker reiterated to the council that the city does not have the cash to fund the project, and would have to make significant cutbacks to current services, or take out a line of credit.
Horgan, Clapp and Smith appeared to struggle with the decision while Councilman Paul Blatz and Councilwoman Carlon Strobel were still in full favor of granting the funds.
“I am very moved by how you have brought together the business community …,” said Horgan. “(But) I can’t see how the city can do this.”
Clapp echoed Horgan’s statements saying several times, “We don’t have the money.”
Ojai city attorney Monte Widders told the council that because a motion to fund the bureau for $160,000 was denied in the previous meeting, one of the dissenting voters would need to make the motion again, or a different motion would have to be made.
Strobel then made a short-lived motion to fund the bureau with quarterly payments of $40,000, equaling the requested $160,000 for the year. Her motion was denied 4-1, but the first step was taken toward a motion that would work.
Blatz then made a statement that seemed to have a strong impact on his fellow council members. “Let there be no mistake that as a council, we have a very important role to fiscally manage this community,” he said. “I understand the difficult financial (situation) we’re in, but we’re at a crossroads, and I look at this as necessary. This is, in my opinion, the worst time for us to consider not funding the Visitors Bureau. The worst time for a business to cut ad dollars is when business is down. To cut it (funding) out is irresponsible; $160,000 is a drop in the bucket in generating fuel for the fire of revenue. We can’t possibly pull back on marketing now.”
Blatz then laid his cards on the table saying, “I’ll make a motion to approve $159,000.”
After some discussion, Horgan, Smith and Clapp began to change their viewpoint, voicing support to grant the request.
As the council unanimously voted yes, a cheer erupted from the throng of supporters in the council chambers. A crowd of people who had been defeated two weeks earlier left the council chambers Tuesday smiling and congratulating each other, and applauding the council on their decision.
When asked by the OVN what had brought about her change of mind, Smith said simply, “They convinced me.”
OEF hopes to implement math programs in all OUSD elementary classes by fall
By Misty Volaski
A surprising e-mail arrived in the Ojai Education Foundation in box just before Christmas. It was from a company in Bakersfield, and read, in part, “I saw an article in the Ojai Valley News regarding your current campaign to raise $50,000 for the purchase of computers benefitting local Ojai schools. My company would like to donate to this effort. Please give me a call so that we can discuss the specifics.”
Phil Caruthers, OEF treasurer and member in charge of answering e-mails, was a bit wary at first. The OEF had not previously had any contact with anyone from Bakersfield, and Caruthers said he was unfamiliar with the company mentioned in the note. But, he decided to call as the e-mail had requested.
It’s a good thing he did, because within a few weeks of receiving that e-mail, Thayne Whipple, president of OEF, was handed a giant check — for a whopping $10,000. Those funds will help provide technology and software for the Ojai Unified School District’s new EnVision Math program, and OEF hopes to have the technology available in every elementary and junior high school classroom by next fall.
“It’s a significant step toward reaching our goal,” said an enthusiastic Caruthers.
That fateful e-mail came from Susie Geiger, director of external relations for Vintage Production California LLC in Bakersfield. Along with Dick Oringderff, president and general manager, Geiger emphasized that her e-mail was real, and that Vintage Production California did in fact want to support the new math program adopted by OUSD.
Vintage Production California, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, has extensive oil and gas production in the Bakersfield area, but also has properties in Upper Ojai — hence their interest in supporting good causes in the area. The company has also recently given funds to the Ventura County Office of Education, the Ventura County Science Fair and its Impact II program, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, and the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clara Valley.
Geiger and Oringderff explained that their company wanted to “support organizations that are making a difference in the communities where we work and live.”
The EnVision Math program that the Ojai Unified School District has adopted features interactive software that provides visual and audio cues to help kids learn mathematical concepts. With music, cartoons and other fun stuff infused into the math lessons, students are “getting it” more often, and more quickly, said Meiners Oaks Elementary School principal Dawn Damianos at a recent OUSD board meeting.
“It just makes math so much more interesting to students,” said Caruthers. “Today’s kids are so tech-oriented, and this uses technology most of them are already familiar with. It does a really good job of bringing home the principles of math.”
Two other significant donations were made — one by an anonymous donor, and the other by The Bruce & Marilyn Wallace Foundation. These donations, along with the donation from Vintage Production California, have put the OEF within $5,000 of reaching its goal of acquiring the technology to implement the math program in all the OUSD elementary classrooms from kindergarten through third grade.
By Ren Adam
The Ojai Valley Community Hospital is a resource of infinite value to the Ojai Valley, and few communities the size of Ojai even have hospitals, let alone a hospital that enjoys the support of so much of the populace it serves.
So say Nita Whaley and Don Anderson. They are both longtime Ojai Valley residents, ardent supporters of Ojai Valley Community Hospital (OVCH), and both chair people of the OVCH Foundation Guild’s spring fund-raising event, the Beach Ball, set for May 14 at St. Thomas Aquinas Center.
OVCH celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010, and as with many entities of that age, whether flesh and bone or brick and mortar, the hospital needs near constant attention. Not only does the physical plant require ongoing maintenance, advances in the medical field demand constant upgrades in the equipment and procedures that go along with being a community hospital.
To that end, the Hospital Foundation Guild, the primary fund-raising arm of the hospital, conducts two fund-raising events each year — the spring event, and the Nightingale Ball, in the fall.
“This will be the ninth annual spring event,” Whaley said, “and is designed to be more casual than the Nightingale Ball. We’ll have dinner, a DJ for dancing, a photo booth, handwriting analysis, hula lessons and raffle, in addition to a limited live auction.
“All the funds raised will be used for ongoing improvements to the hospital and the Continuing Care Center,” she added.
OVCH is a part of the Community Memorial Hospital system, which includes CMH, OVCH and the Centers for Family Health, which are located throughout West Ventura County.
Whaley said she has a history with OVCH, which even further solidified her long-term commitment to the hospital.
“I was recently a patient at the emergency room, and had the opportunity to really experience what a first-rate facility we have.
“All this would not be possible were it not for events like the Beach Ball, and Nightingale. I feel like all the work we’ve all done over the years has really paid off.”
Whaley is a counselor for Medicare beneficiaries through the Heath Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP), and has also been on the OVCH Foundation board, as well as chaired the Nightingale Ball four years ago. She and Anderson have been members of the guild since its inception in 2001.
“I know how important it is for the community to have access to medical services like those provided by OVCH, and for the community to be involved in the hospital,” Whaley said.
Anderson admits to being a true “seasoned citizen,” and appreciates the fact he may well need the services of the hospital in the future.
“The needs of the hospital never go away,” he stated. “In fact, they grow with each new technology and each new treatment. The facility constantly need upgrading, so hospitals like ours need grassroots support to make them work.”
Thus, events like the Beach Ball and Nightingale Ball, and their need for sponsorships and support from the community, through attendance.
“Sponsorships are the backbone of the ongoing fund-raising efforts of the Hospital Foundation Guild,” Whaley said, with Beach Ball sponsorships geared toward the great beaches of the world.
“If you fund a sponsorship, you can choose a beach — Ipanema, Bali Hai, Copacabana, Malibu — even Surfers’ Point.”
For information about the Beach Ball, or sponsorship opportunities, call Chris Rock at the OVCH Foundation office, 640-2317.
By Logan Hall
What would happen to the Ojai Valley if 2,100 new homes were built between Casitas Springs and the 101 freeway? The city of Ventura sent a representative to give a presentation to the Ojai City Council and the Ojai Planning Commission on Wednesday, outlining the Ventura Westside Community Plan project that proposes such a development.
Dave Ward, planning manager for Ventura’s Community Development Department, showed the council and commission details regarding the project, and let Ojai’s representatives know about recent changes to the plan’s time line.
According to Ward, there was an outpouring of comments from the public opposing the project last week at Ventura’s City Council meeting. Ward said that because of the public feedback, the Ventura council has decided to slow down their efforts to annex areas of Ventura Avenue from the county to the city. The annexation would be necessary for Ventura to move forward with development plans in the Cañada Larga and Petrochem plant areas.
When pressed further by the OVN in a phone interview yesterday, Ward commented that the Ventura council’s decision was also based in no small part on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to end redevelopment, as part of California state budget cuts. If Brown’s proposal passes, possibly later this year, Ventura may not be able to use state funds for the project. “Our Westside development effort had an implementation strategy that included redevelopment,” said Ward. “Since redevelopment statewide is under question, the council is questioning whether the redevelopment project proposed will still be valid. It’s sort of a waiting game at this point.”
Jim Hines, representing the Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation, told the OVN he believes Ventura’s reasons for pushing back the effort is a veritable smokescreen. “Dave really put on a dog-and-pony show last night,” said Hines, who was an Ojai resident for 40 years before moving to Ventura. “He will keep pushing and pushing though. They want you to think they are running into problems and this project will be pushed back. But they’ve spent a lot of money on this thing and it’s not just going to go away.”
Several local citizens spoke to the Planning Commission and the Ojai City Council in opposition of the project, including Larry Rose and Peter Cantle. The council and commission also asked Ward questions regarding the possible impact the project would have on the valley.
Councilwoman Carlon Strobel and Commissioner Cortus Koehler asked about the possible effect the project could have on air quality in the valley. “When do you stop sending air pollution our way?” asked Koehler.
Ward responded to most of the questions by saying all would be addressed in Environmental Impact Reports that have yet to be conducted.
According to Ward, the Ventura City Council will be conducting a market and fiscal analysis of land usages before their next meeting on the project taking place on April 18, where they will determine whether or not to proceed with the costly and time-consuming EIR process.
So far, neither the Ojai City Council nor Planning Commission has taken any formal action on the matter. Katrina Rice Schmidt, Ojai city planner, sent a letter to Ward on behalf of the commission expressing certain concerns without actually taking a stance. The items are expected to be added to future Ojai council meeting agendas.
The Ojai Valley News is committed to continue reporting on the Ventura Westside Community Planning Project. Look for a full report on the latest developments in next week’s issues.
By Chris T. Wilson
Equal parts of phenomenon and mystery surround recent reports of the disappearance of colonies of honeybees. While some see it as a real problem potentially affecting the future of humanity, others aren’t so sure, and think this is a non-issue perhaps getting a little more buzz than it deserves.
The mystery has inspired much speculation, but definitive answers are harder to come by. Some blame pesticides; others suggest that cell phone tower radiation is disturbing bees’ ability to navigate (a new study, published Thursday by the Times of India, echoes this sentiment). Still others say their disappearance is probably caused by invasive mites that feed on honeybees and transmit diseases to them.
In a Planet Green TV special, “The Last Beekeeper,” scientists describe colony collapse disorder, which they say has wiped out an estimated 33 percent of honeybee hives in America. However, neither the documentary, nor a 2009 CNN story covering it, offers a definitive explanation for the loss.
In the Ojai Valley, a few amateur beekeepers noticed a disappearance last fall and then again in late December, which has them both confused and concerned. Lori Pye, an eco-psychologist and a first-year beekeeper, lost all three of her backyard colonies. One hive appeared to have been compromised, perhaps by aggressive Africanized “robber bees,” she said, but the two others just all disappeared. Pye thinks it’s pesticides.
“Scientific research is showing that it’s pesticides,” Pye said, citing evidence she’s uncovered in her own search to understand what happened to her bees. She’s found such films as the documentary, “Colony,” which explores the disappearance of thousands of bees nationwide in recent years. “Even if someone has just put powder on their roses, the pesticides, herbicides and fungicides bees are exposed to are cumulative and are affecting the immune systems of the bees.”
Pye said she sees this issue from an eco-psychological standpoint. “All things are interconnected,” she says. “I don’t see this as much of a surprise, it’s really more of a tragedy.”
Richard Hertz and Pamela Burton, who have owned a five-acre citrus grove and home in the East End for the past 25 years, say they, too, are confused and concerned about the very recent collapse of several of their bee colonies. They’ve been tending a handful of hives for the past 10 years.
“The colonies were very healthy and active throughout the summer,” Hertz said. “We collected a lot of honey. The bees survived December, and were thriving.”
But then in mid-January the hives saw a dramatic drop in population, Hertz said. A few of the hives had a lot of dead bees in them, but others simply were empty. Hertz speculated that it could be pesticides, disease-carrying mites or something else. He’s not sure, but he will be getting more bees from supplier David Saraf, owner of A Bee Man of Agoura Hills, this weekend.
Saraf, who supplies bees to hundreds of keepers all over Southern California, said he’s heard reports of bee colony collapse from many of his customers. And he’s had trouble with his own hives as well recently.
“I wish I knew what the answer was, but I don’t know,” Saraf said. “This is very unusual. The colonies were very strong through the summer, then around September or October, something happened. But it’s very difficult to pinpoint what it was.”
Saraf said he doesn’t think it’s pesticide related, because in his opinion, pesticide use is going down, and the pesticides that are still in use are less toxic than they used to be. He and his business partner, Phillip Klein, suspect that subtle shifts in the Earth’s magnetic fields may be causing bees to lose their way when out collecting nectar and pollen.
“Bees have kind of a GPS tracking system they use to get back to the hive, and I think they’re getting lost,” Klein said. “But it’s not just the bees that are disappearing. There’s been a big loss of other insects too. This is affecting butterflies, bumblebees and bats too.”
But Brian Cox of Ojai Valley Bee Farms said all his hives are doing really well, and suspects that the die-off for other beekeepers is probably related to mite infections.
“All the beekeepers I’ve talked to are doing fine,” Cox said. “I think a lot of this is just hype from people who want us to go back to medieval farming practices.”
Cox, who takes about 150 hives to pollinate almond trees in the San Joaquin Valley each year, said this isn’t the first time this has happened. In the early 1900s, there were similar widespread reports from American farmers.
“It was called ‘disappearing bee disease,’” Cox said. “If rainfall patterns change, bees sometimes go after different plants than what they usually frequent, and some have pollen that is toxic to bees. I think that the people who are making a big deal out of this have an agenda.”
By Bill Buchanan
The recent article in the newspaper about the Ojai Art Center lining up dogs for the role of Sandy for its production of “Annie” brought back a lot of fond memories for me. Ava and I had our own Sandy who came to us when Ava played the part of Miss Hannigan in a community theater production of “Annie” several years ago.
Sandy was chosen from several other “actors” at the local Humane Society. He was taken from the pound and given to a local dog trainer to be taught a few simple commands for the show. Sandy learned quickly. In fact, the trainer said he was the smartest dog with whom he had ever worked. He said Sandy learned things in minutes that it took some other dogs hours or even days to learn. Ava came in each night after rehearsal talking about what a wonderful dog he was, and how cute he was, and so on.
During the play Sandy behaved well, and hit all his marks. On several nights, when the young girl playing the lead character belted out her big number, “Tomorrow,” Sandy “sang” along, howling for all he was worth. He was a huge hit.
A few nights before the end of the play, Ava came home with the news of what was to become of Sandy when the show closed. She said the plan was to take him back to the pound for a couple of weeks, and hold an auction for him, with the money going to benefit the Humane Society. Ava was very upset that he would have to go back to a cage after living with the trainer, and being fawned over each night by the entire cast. I thought maybe she was lobbying me to adopt him. I stated emphatically that we already had three dogs (and three cats), were at our dog quota limit, and did not need another one. She asked that he just stay with us during the interim period, and then we would turn him over to the new owner. She begged and I relented, repeating that the situation was only temporary.
The first time I saw Sandy, I was reminded of a line from one of my favorite plays, “The Glass Menagerie,” “… and they also began to smile at me as people smile at an oddly fashioned dog who trots across their path at some distance.” Sandy was definitely that “oddly fashioned dog.” In fact, Sandy was a distinct combination of three different breeds. He had the blocky head and mottled tongue of a chow. His body was muscular and regular-sized with a lovely coat and bushy tail like that of a golden retriever — all sitting atop his short, stubby basset hound legs.
Sandy may have been funny-looking, but he was so affectionate and about the smartest animal I have ever seen. As hard as I tried not to, I fell completely in love with him. Before the three weeks were up, I called the director of the theater and told him I could not possibly give up the dog. I offered to make a nice donation to the Humane Society if we could dispense with the auction and we could just keep him.
So that is how we wound up with Sandy. He spent 15 wonderful years with us. Out of all the dogs we have had, he was my favorite. I still miss him jumping up on the couch, scrunching up his nose and licking my face.
So go and enjoy the play, which starts tonight. You never know, you might be inspired to go to the Humane Society and take home a Sandy of your own.
From OVN staff reports
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department arrested two men and two juveniles who were allegedly involved in recent Oak View burglaries last week.
On Friday, at approximately 9:40 a.m., Ojai patrol deputies received a call of suspicious circumstances on the 100 block of Olive Street in Oak View. The Olive Street residents were inside their home when two strangers knocked on the front door. They did not answer the door since they did not know the two males, later identified as Christian Gallegos and a 16-year-old male from Ventura. A few moments later, both suspects jumped over a fence and entered into the back yard. These suspects were about to gain entry into the house when the resident asked what they were doing in her back yard.
The two suspects fled in a black Mitsubishi Galant with a loud exhaust, but remained in the area and drove to a nearby residence in the 100 block of Rio Via, also in Oak View. Gallegos and two juveniles then burglarized the house while the resident was not at home. They used the same method to verify that the residence was unoccupied by knocking on the front door, then going through an unlocked window to gain entry into the house. The suspects stole approximately $500 worth of coins, jewelry, prescription medications and tequila. The fourth suspect, Abel Tadeo, remained in the car as the lookout and getaway driver during both crimes.
Deputies searched the area and stopped the four suspects leaving the neighborhood in the same Mitsubishi Galant. Ojai detectives then arrived and assisted with the investigation. The resident from the Olive Street address identified the juvenile as one of the two suspects prowling on their property, along with the car used to flee the scene. The suspects also made incriminating admissions related to their activity that led investigators to believe they planned the crimes prior to arriving in Oak View.
Tadeo and Gallegos were booked into the County Jail for burglary and conspiracy to commit burglary. The two juveniles were lodged at the Juvenile Justice Center for the same charges.
This is an ongoing investigation and Ojai detectives have linked at least one other residential burglary to these same suspects. Police are asking anyone who is an unreported victim of a similar crime to call the Police Station at 646-1414.
By Chris T. Wilson
Bob Lanquist found retirement not to his liking.
He needed something to do after nearly 30 years as a Ventura County Sheriff’s deputy.
“I was bored to tears,” he says sitting on the bench in front of True Value Hardware at Ojai’s “Y” Shopping Center. “One day I was shopping and I saw the owner and I said, ‘When are you going to put me to work,’ and he said, ‘Be here tomorrow.’”
And that’s how it began again for Lanquist, who retired from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department in 1992 only to find that retirement, even with a decent pension and Social Security benefits, left something to be desired.
These days, he’s keeping busy, helping Ojai shoppers with their home improvement projects as one of the team members at the hardware store that focuses on personal service for its customers, he says.
“Today I helped a gal with suggestions on how to turn an old trumpet into a lamp,” he says. “It’s something different every day. That’s what I like about it.”
Working in a hardware store turned out to be the perfect transition for Lanquist. He says it’s so much different than his days at the Sheriff’s Department.
“When you’re in law enforcement, it’s a service job, but you have to be very stand off-ish,” he says. “Here, I get to be very outgoing and I love it, and the customers love it too. I get to work with people and come up with ideas. I’ve been told the reason people come in is because of the attitude in the store and the service they get here.”
Born in Ventura, Lanquist’s earliest memories of life are of Casitas Springs, where he lived until he was 6 years old. Then the family moved north to Oregon. In 1947, the family returned to Southern California and settled in the Ojai Valley, and Lanquist has never left.
As a deputy, he patrolled the Ojai Valley, which at that time was considered a bunch of rednecks, he says.
“But I always liked it up here,” he says. “I understood the people.” As he approached retirement, he worked for several years as a bailiff in the courthouse.
And, ironically, despite having continuously lived here or in Ventura for most of his life, he views himself more of a Midwest soul, even saying he’s not sure why, but for some reason he’s always had this “Okie accent.”
Now 70, Lanquist tinkers with computers and puts in his part-time hours at True Value. A few years back, he had open-heart surgery.
“I had three heart attacks,” he says. But that hasn’t stopped him, and he’s grateful that he’s been able to get the time off when he needed it and still have a job at the hardware store following recovery.
“I’m not planning on quitting any time soon,” he says. “I’m going to’ keep going until it’s not fun anymore, then I’m outta’ here.”
By Logan Hall
The Ojai Visitors Bureau squared off with the Ojai City Council last week as they tried to convince the council to provide another year of funding. The request for $160,000 to continue operating the bureau, the same amount that was awarded the previous year, was denied in a 3-2 vote by the council.
Ojai interim city manager John Baker showed the council that Ojai’s economy relied heavily on the bed tax. Representatives of the Visitors Bureau claim that they have played a major role in helping generate that bed tax through marketing Ojai as an overnight destination, but without further funding, they will not be able to operate,
“If there’s no funding, there’s no bureau,” said Scott Eicher, bureau secretary and CEO of the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce. “All of our momentum will be lost. It will essentially be a waste of the money they spent last year.”
In a presentation put together by the Visitors Bureau, the effects of marketing Ojai were itemized for the council to see. One of the focuses of the presentation was a WestWays Magazine cover story written by travel journalist Robin Jones featuring the Ojai Valley as a destination. “The happiness I felt … came flooding back on a recent visit we took together to Ojai,” reads an excerpt from the Jones story.
Eicher said in an e-mail that in addition to the various articles written that include the Ojai Valley, the TV show “Good Morning America” contacted the bureau’s public relations firm, saying they were interested in filming a “Weekend Window” segment on Ojai. “They may begin filming as early as Feb. 14,” he said.
Baker had painted a grim picture for the council, showing them the city’s financial future. Due in no small part to the $1.3 million the city had paid up front for the construction of Libbey Bowl, which is expected to be paid back through pledges over a 5-year period, Baker said the city does not have the funding to back the bureau. The council, he said, “would need to cut back significantly on current programs or take out a line of credit.”
The council members who voted against the bureau’s funding said they needed to talk more with everyone involved. Mayor Carol Smith said she believed there were certain parts of the funding request that could be cut back to reduce the proposed sum. Smith stated that there was an increase in personnel cost from the previous year, and questioned the necessity of such an increase. A financial statement in the Bureau’s year-end report said expenses for administration/personnel in 2010 were $25,154, while the proposed budget for 2011 calls for $48,550 – a $23,396 increase.
Eicher responded by saying the proposal took into account a raise in salary for staff. “If you have an employee for a year, you try to give them a reason to stay,” said Eicher.
Despite the substantial increase in personnel expenses, the overall expenditure of the Bureau increased from $158,194 in 2010 to the projected $163,450 budget for 2011. The year-end report also says that Ojai’s revenue generated from the bed tax has in creased 9 percent from $1,227,767 to $1,353,435 since the Bureau launched its efforts.
Local merchants showed their support by voicing to the council how they believed the bureau had helped them bring in business.
“As a business owner,” said Darrell Schwartz, co-owner of Feast Bistro. “I can personally attest to the efforts of the Visitors Bureau.”
Hallie Katz, owner of the Human Arts Gallery, says she has been in business for 35 years in Ojai and shares a similar view as Schwartz saying, “The Ojai Visitors Bureau has delivered promising results.”
Other merchants also agreed that the bureau is a vital part of the city’s economy.
“I have been here as a restaurant for nine years,” said Laurel Moore, owner of Azu restaurant, “and this is the first help I’ve had from the city. I would like to see this (Visitors Bureau) continued.”
The OVN spoke with Roberta Raye, owner of Made in Ojai, to discuss the council’s decision. “To stop marketing efforts in Ojai is a big mistake,” she said. “It’s incredibly shortsighted from a business standpoint.”
Raye further explained the impact the bureau has had on her company. “My business is completely local,” she said. “It’s become a destination. In part because the Visitors Bureau has been great about making reporters and visitors aware of what we have in Ojai.”
Other supporters who spoke on the Visitor Bureau’s behalf were Jeff Haydon, executive director of the Ojai Music Festival, Dale Hanson, member of the Ojai Valley Realtors board of directors, Bob Daddi, owner of the local State Farm Insurance branch, and activist Dennis Leary.
Councilman Paul Blatz, who claims to have an extensive background in marketing, and Councilwoman Carlon Strobel voted to give the requested sum and agreed that the bureau is an integral part of Ojai’s economy, and should receive another year of funding.
The funding for the Visitors Bureau will be discussed at the next council meeting on Feb. 8. The meeting is open to the public.
By Logan Hall
A traffic accident on Highway 33 north of Shell Road which caused major injuries to the sole occupant of a southbound-traveling vehicle, has hit close to home for the Ojai Valley News.
The driver, Evelyn Cervantes, OVN intern and Brooks Institute of Photography student, lost control of her vehicle and careened off the highway, hitting a tree before coming to a stop out of sight of the highway on Thursday evening, according to the California Highway Patrol.
“I was driving on the highway at about 8:45 pm,” recollects Cervantes during a phone conversation from her hospital bed. “I was there for like 10 hours. I finally saw a truck drive by and I just screamed like you have no idea.”
CHP Officer Steve Reid said a 911 call came from oil workers that had stopped to help Cervantes after driving by and hearing her screams. The call was received by CHP dispatch at 6:24 a.m., with units arriving on scene at about 6:35 a.m. according to Reid. She was transported by ambulance to Ventura County Medical Center.
Cervantes said she sustained a compound fracture to her left femur, a broken hip and collarbone, and a shattered right ankle.
Cervantes told the OVN that her condition is improving and she will be released from the hospital today. “I’m doing so much better,” she said, sounding cheerful. “My mom and dad are here and all of my friends have been here. I’ve gotten a bunch of flowers and teddy bears.”
After her release, she will go back to Salt Lake City, Utah to recover with the help of her mother.
“Evelyn is so amazing,” said friend Audra Arbas. “She is doing really good, all things considered. She can’t wait to get up and moving around again.”
During her time with the OVN, Cervantes has had several of her photos featured on the front page. Her most recent assignment involved capturing George Wilson, of Wilson Auto Services in Meiners Oaks (“M.O. dino doc still truckin’,” Jan. 21).
“Evelyn has only been interning with the OVN for a few months,” said OVN managing editor Misty Volaski, “but in that time, she has impressed us with her dedication, creativity and integrity. We know she is tough and will soon be back to the craft she so loves.”