By Chris T. Wilson
Ventura County’s District 1 Supervisor Steve Bennett announced Tuesday his intention to run for re-election. If re-elected in November, it will be his fourth term.Bennett is running on a track record of campaign finance reform, the co-authorship and ardent defense of the Save Our Agricultural Resources initiative and a strong county budget, among other achievements.Bennett noted in a conversation recently that when he ran for election in 2000 his opponent received a $40,000 contribution from a single constituent, while Bennett limited himself to just $500 per person donating to his campaign.”I pushed through a campaign finance limit law to decrease the influence of big money,” Bennett said. That law, now in place, limits the amount of money any county supervisor can receive from a single individual to $700 per campaign. Seeing expansion of urban sprawl not only inspired Bennett to run for Board of Supervisors for 12 years, but made him realize that most big election money at the county level was coming from developers.Bennett explained that he and the other supervisors are charged with providing for the health and welfare of county areas outside of the cities’ jurisdictions. For example, foster care, adult protective services and emergency preparedness are duties the county supervisors manage. He also said that county levied property taxes and sheriff services fall within the $1.7 billion budget the county oversees.And while many counties across the state are dipping into their reserves to meet their spending needs, Ventura County’s budget is strong. In 2000 when Bennett was first elected, the county had no reserves. Now the county has 9 percent reserves and one of the strongest bond ratings available, he said.”Our bond rating went up while other bond ratings were dropping,” Bennett said. “That’s almost unheard of since we’re subordinate to the state, but we did it by showing a strong enough balance sheet.”Bennett is proud of the fact that in nearly every neighborhood within the Ojai Valley someone has been trained to help their neighbors deal with emergencies. More than 350 valley residents completed the Community Emergency Response Team training, thanks to his efforts.”That came out of a valley-wide discussion,” Bennett said. “And the Ojai Valley Green Coalition came up at the same time. I’ve pushed for lots of green programs. And when the Help of Ojai was looking for a new place, we gave them first shot at what was the honor farm and that became the West Campus.”Bennett said he is proud of the funds he acquired to build new bridges on Old Creek Road and the Ojai Valley Trail at San Antonio Creek. And he’s proud of the amount of care and attention that the 8,500 elderly residents who live in continuing care centers receive. A program he helped implement allows for unannounced 24/7 inspections of continuing care facilities.”That alone has reduced that amount of elder abuse and neglect to a very large degree,” he said.If re-elected, Bennett said he’s going to focus on revamping the County Planning Department’s application process.”We have made improvements, but more has to be done and right now there are still too many instances where people do things but don’t have clarity on the fees and charges and what services they are getting for those fees. We need a clearer understanding of what they have to do at the beginning of the process and not get into the middle of the process and realize they have a whole other set of hoops to jump through.”Bennett said Sheriff Geoff Dean, Ventura Mayor Bill Fulton, Oxnard Council Member Carmen Ramirez, Assemblyman Das Williams and the Ojai City Council endorse him.Bennett was assistant principal and a teacher of economics and advanced placement U.S. history at Nordhoff High School for 20 years before he won the District 1 Supervisor seat. The communities he oversees include: San Buenaventura, Montalvo, Saticoy, Oxnard Shores, Mandalay Bay, Northwest Oxnard, North Ventura Avenue, Foster Park, Casitas Springs, Oak View, Mira Monte, Meiners Oaks, Ojai, Eastern Ojai Valley, and Upper Ojai, and North Coast.
Law enforcement officers from all over Ventura County prepare behind Dahl’s Market to set up the DUI checkpoint in southbound lanes of Highway 33 in Oak View on Saturday.
Report and photos by Logan Hall
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department put DUI drivers in check over the Memorial Day weekend. Stepping up patrols and placing a DUI checkpoint in Oak View on Saturday night, the department pulled out all the stops to help keep drunk drivers off the road.
Law enforcement agencies seem to be getting the message across. According to Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Popp of Ojai’s substation, 1,018 cars were screened from 7 p.m. until around midnight at Saturday’s checkpoint in Oak View. Of those checked, only one driver was DUI and three others were put through field sobriety tests.
The department’s extra enforcement began on Friday night as they sent out an additional patrol car that focused almost entirely on what the department calls DUI saturation. The OVN rode shotgun with Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Valenzuela in the saturation car to document the department’s attempt to hunt down DUI drivers in the Ojai Valley.
Starting at 7 p.m., Valenzuela hit the streets until 3 a.m. Saturday morning, looking for the telltale signs of a drunk driver. “You look for the little things,” said Valenzuela as he scanned the roadway ahead, carefully watching each car go by. “Even just someone driving past you with their high beams on can be a red flag.”
The Ojai Valley’s streets seemed quiet for a Friday night on a three-day weekend, and the extra efforts of local law enforcement personnel appeared to be paying off. After making nine stops all over the valley and conducting two field sobriety tests, Valenzuela hadn’t found any impaired drivers.
Saturday night saw the full force of Ventura County law enforcement as agencies from around the county participated in the Ojai Valley’s DUI checkpoint. Around 30 law enforcement officers from Thousand Oaks, Santa Paula, Ventura and Fillmore Sheriff’s Department substations along with the Oxnard, Port Hueneme, and Ventura police departments, set up shop near Dahl’s Market to check drivers as they left the valley.
“We consider it a success when we don’t get DUI’s at the checkpoint,” said Popp who commented that only one DUI out of more than 1,000 drivers screened was a good sign. Popp also mentioned that the checkpoint was paid for through a grant from the California Office of Transportation Safety.
Although the department only made one arrest for DUI, officers manning the checkpoint seemed ready for anything. Five motorcycle patrol bikes were on hand to take off after any driver trying to evade the checkpoint and two patrol cars were ready to give chase in the event someone tried to drive through without stopping. A sign a few hundred yards ahead of the checkpoint alerted motorists to have their driver’s license ready to show waiting officers. Each car passing through was checked by a line of seven to 10 officers who would look at licenses and check for signs of DUI.
“You can tell if they’re DUI in about 15 seconds,” said Popp. “We’re looking for things like slurred speech and the smell of alcohol.”
One issue facing law enforcement has been the steady increase of the use of text messaging and social networking websites like Twitter as a warning system. Anyone with Internet capabilities on their phone can easily and quickly send out word across the web, alerting other drivers about the locations of checkpoints.
Ojai’s Chief of Police Capt. Chris Dunn acknowledges that the ability of people to alert others about checkpoints could be problematic, but the checkpoint still serves its purpose. “There’s not really much we can do about it,” Dunn commented on the public’s ability to send out alerts. “But I think it’s a success even if we don’t get any DUI’s. If nothing else, it shows that we are actively pursuing impaired and intoxicated drivers. It’s all about public awareness.”
The public’s ability to send out alerts may have a negative impact on law enforcement tactics, but people also might be realizing the serious potential repercussions of driving under the influence. According to the California OTS, in 2008 there were 27 deaths attributed to drinking and driving in Ventura County and a DUI can cost as much as $10,000 in court, DMV and legal fees for first-time offenders. For those who haven’t gotten the message, there are sheriff’s deputies patrolling the valley 24/7 who would love to have a chat.
By Misty Volaski
It’s not magic — the Ojai Unified School District will soon be accepting a check for $20,000, thanks to a huge community effort spearheaded by local philanthropists Bob and Joan Kemper. Last Sunday night’s show, performed at the Matilija Junior High School Auditorium in front of a packed house, featured magicians from Hollywood’s historic Magic Castle — Rich Bloch, Chuck Jones, Amos Levkovich, Dale Salwak and Ryan Salwak.”I was there for the rehearsals,” said Joan Kemper. “I watched them perform twice, and I still can’t figure out how they did it!”The auditorium was filled with cheers, laughs, and attendees of all ages whispering, “Did you see that?!” to one another Sunday night. The performance incorporated audience participation, a disappearing bedazzled assistant, stunning card tricks, doves appearing from thin air, lots of humor, and, of course, the requisite cutting in half of said bedazzled assistant.After the performance, “I spoke to Fernando, one of the audience members who participated (in the cutting trick) and was holding the (rope binding the) assistant’s ankles,” said OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser. “He said he was holding on the whole time and he has no idea how it happened! And the whole lady in the box trick — I just cannot figure it out. These were a group of incredibly talented and professional magicians. We were treated to a unique and wonderful experience.”All funds raised will go directly to the school district to “support music, dance and theater programs, throughout all the grade (levels),” said Kemper. “We reached our goal of raising $20,000 for the night.” With even more steep budget cuts looming on the horizon for California public schools, events like these can make the difference between keeping classes and staff, and having to drop popular offerings. “It’s a difficult, thankless job the school board (members) have,” said Kemper. “And Hank is an excellent administrator. So if anybody can pull this off for Ojai, it’s those folks.”"At a time when we are looking to have to reduce expenditures and staff in all our programs,” Bangser said, “this $20,000 will help alleviate some of the cuts we would’ve had to make.”Kemper said there was very little overhead for Sunday’s event, due in large part to donations from the community. Suzanne’s Cuisine donated the VIP party after the performance; Casa Ojai donated rooms for the performers; wine at the post-performance party was provided by Ojai Beverage Company; Graphics Unlimited designed the programs; coffee came from Ojai Coffee Roasting Co.; Delicate Productions donated lighting and special effects work; Jersey Mike’s provided food for the performers during rehearsals; and the Ojai Valley News, Ojai Valley Visitors Guide, Ojai Playhouse and Ojai Quarterly provided publicity for the event. Other donations came from Procter & Gamble, Holly Roberts Photography and Rabobank, as well as Don and Sheila Cluff, Bill and Karen Evenden, Larry Hagman, Bill and Nancy Hammond, John and Debbie Perry, Bill and Jill Shanbrom, and Tom and Esther Wachtell.”And all the technical people worked really hard and donated their time,” said a thankful Kemper. “It was just a fantastic success! But we still have to put on at least one or two more shows to reach the goal of $50,000.”Asked what those performances might be, Kemper would only say, “I’ve got two irons in the fire for the next two performances.” She did, however, note that each event program came with a survey asking attendees what types of shows they would like to see in the future. “We’re still analyzing those surveys to make sure we’re giving performances the people will want to see.” ”Magic is my favorite form of entertainment, and this show was just amazing,” said Bangser. “And if (the upcoming performances) are as good as this first one, I’m really looking forward to it!”
By Chris T. Wilson
First it was a Chevy Suburban, then a more economical Dodge Caravan minivan, but now Dutch Van Hemert is taking his Ojai Valley tips-only shuttle service to a new level.Tonight, Van Hemert of Dutch Personal Services will launch the Kool Buzz, a converted 24-foot 1988 International school bus, complete with ear-splitting sound system and flat screen television, custom upholstery, hardwood floors, tinted windows and beverage cooler. There’s even a dry erase board where riders can leaves notes and comments.”Since September, I’ve been working on the bus to get it ready,” Van Hemert said. “On Friday it makes its maiden voyage.”Van Hemert said he’s invested $15,000 of his own money to convert, upgrade, paint and customize the bus. By the time of the launch, he plans to add two custom movie theater seats, a disco ball, strobe light and laser light show.”It looks like I might get the inside ceiling painted by a graffiti artist,” he said. For nearly three and a half years Van Hemert has been providing the free evening shuttle service to Ojai Valley restaurant and bar patrons. Initially supported by donations from participating valley businesses, after those dwindled, Van Hemert has struggled at times to keep the shuttle service operating on rider tips alone. But he has persevered, often injecting funds from his airport shuttle and auto detailing service to keep the shuttle running.Van Hemert started the shuttle service after a fatal car accident on Ojai’s East End. He heard that the driver had waited for more than an hour for a cab and finally decided to drive. The driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a telephone pole. The accident ejected and seriously injured the driver’s wife and killed a passenger in the car.”Cab service in Ojai can be unpredictable,” Van Hemert said. “I don’t want people to have to drive because they don’t want to wait for a cab, or walk and get a drunk in public ticket.”The Kool Buzz route will run Thursdays through Sundays from 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on a route that goes from Dahl’s Market in Oak View to Bodee’s Restaurant on Maricopa Highway to Boccali’s Restaurant in the valley’s East End, Van Hemert said. The service will use the conventional bus stops for pick up and drop off, he said. While he provided door-to-door service in the minivan, he was limited to a four- or five-person capacity. The Kool Buzz will be able to accommodate up to 10 riders at a time. For more information about Dutch Personal Services or to check the Kool Buzz schedule, call 3406850.”My goal is to make Ojai the first city without a DUI in a whole year,” he said. “And I want it to be fun. People will remember this ride.”
By Chris T. Wilson
Local film editor and activist Sean Keenan has just returned from the Cannes Film Festival in France following the debut of “The Big Fix,” a documentary he edited about the devastation and corruption that surrounded the 2010 BP Horizon Deepwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.The out of competition special screening of “The Big Fix” at Cannes was a lofty but important goal for the film, Keenan said.”We really wanted to premiere the film there because we wanted to reach an international audience,” he said. “We were a little worried that BP would try to come after us and shut down the production with lawsuits, so we kept the project under wraps.”American documentaries are uncommon at the French film festival, Keenan said. But executive producers Tim Robbins and Peter Fonda wrote letters to the festival president, which helped to secure the special screening.Directed by Josh Tickell, whose film “Fuel” won the Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival in 2008, “Fix” serves to ask the question, “How is this possible?” Keenan said.”How can it be that a foreign oil company can come onto American soil and compel the U.S. government to spray insane amounts of toxic dispersant to hide the oil so they don’t have to pay fines?” Keenan asked. “There are millions of people in the Gulf affected by these chemicals. They’re finding a higher incidence of pneumonia and it even causes some people to pee blood. This is not cool. The film looks at how this is possible and goes into corporate and government corruption that allowed it to happen.”Keenan said he got involved in the project when the oil spill was happening.”I knew someone was going to be making a documentary about it and I wanted to be involved,” Keenan said. “I heard that Josh Tickell was working on the documentary and so I sent him an e-mail and said I wanted to work on it. And the rest is history.”Nervous and uncertain about how the film would be received, Keenan said he had a hard time reading the audience reaction during the screening.”We hadn’t screened it for an audience because we’d kept it under wraps,” Keenan said. “I was surrounded by my friends and at the end they started applauding and then they stood and applauded for 10 minutes. Finally Josh the director had to stop them. Even after that happened, I thought, ‘Are we being mocked?’ I couldn’t believe it.”The next step will be to seek distribution for the film and enter into other competitions, Keenan said. When that has been accomplished, Keenan said he will make arrangements for a special screening in Ojai.”The Big Fix” is a collaboration of Green Planet Productions, Reboot Films, and Synergy Productions. It was directed by Tickell, written by Johnny O’Hara, produced and co-directed by Rebecca Harrell Tickell, and executive produced by Tim Robbins, Maggie Wachsberger and Peter Fonda. Director of photography is Marc Levy; music was by Ryan Demaree; editors are Sean P. Keenan and Tina Imahara. It is not rated and runs 112 minutes.Now back in Ojai, Keenan says his life has returned to normal. “I’m back to working on bad TV and looking for the next job.”
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
When you are school-age, is there a more exciting time of year than May? The end of May signals the end of the school year. An entire summer of freedom awaits you. That is, unless your parents were like mine. In that case, summer meant getting a summer job.
I had a variety of summer jobs growing up, most of them either boring, back-breaking or both. One of my earliest summer jobs involved baling hay. For the uninitiated, baling hay meant lifting 40- to 60-pound bales of hay off the ground and throwing them into a moving truck. On the surface, this might sound hot, sweaty and physically exhausting —- but it was actually much worse. Once the truck was full, you had to unload it. For our crew this meant either lifting the bales off the truck and passing them up into a hay loft, or storing them in an old chicken coop. The chicken coop was the worst. The hot summer sun cooked the old chicken manure into a disgusting mess (think Tim Robbins’ escape in “The Shawshank Redemption” here). The odor was so strong that you almost prayed to lose your sense of smell. But it was great incentive for speedy work. No one wanted to hang around the chicken coop for very long. Those trucks got unloaded in record time.
I spent another summer working in the local steel mill. I found the various machines fascinating as we used saws, punches and grinders to shape the steel into a variety of useful products such as rods, grain blowers and silo steps. It was amazing how the machines cut, ground and formed that hard steel. Unfortunately, it was also amazing how those machines could also cut and grind human flesh. I found this out “firsthand,” so to speak, when the piece of steel I was working on slipped off the platform and my pinkie finger hit the grinder.
I tried to be brave as I walked up to the first aid station. The steel mill was a macho place, so I attempted to laugh it off when concerned co-workers saw my bloody glove and asked what happened. “Oh, I needed a little break so I stuck my hand in the grinder,” I told them with a little chuckle. My bravado lasted until I got to the water cooler and washed away some of the blood. When I looked into the wound and saw tendons and bone, I almost passed out. The shot I got at the doctor’s office hurt way more than the accident itself, and the finger throbbed painfully for a couple of days before healing up. I quickly decided my future did not lie at the steel mill.
I later secured a job on the loading dock of a company that built pre-manufactured homes. The houses were constructed on an assembly line. The inside of the homes — the floors, walls, fixtures and ceilings — rolled off the line as finished products. My crew loaded one-half of the house onto a semitrailer, along with siding, ceiling joists and other materials to be added at the construction site. This job had its share of perils as well. For instance, one day I was knocked down by a wall as a crane loaded it onto a truck. The guy operating the crane simply had not noticed me standing there. I was finally able to get his attention by offering to throw my hammer at him.
Another time, I was climbing a ladder to the roof of a house when I suddenly felt a strange sliding sensation. It turns out the bottom of the ladder was missing its rubber safety guards, and it starting coming out from under me. I can tell you this, all the fun in climbing a ladder goes right out the window when it slides out from under you. My attempt to catch myself failed and I hit the concrete floor with a thud. My head rocked back and hit the side of the house. My hard hat kept me from being injured, but I saw stars for a minute. As I was lying on the ground, one of the foremen yelled at me to get up and move the ladder “before someone gets hurt with that thing.” I thought seriously about introducing him to my hammer as well.
But I was better off than one of the guys on our crew. This guy was obnoxious and cocky and no one in the plant could stand him. One day he was walking along the ceiling joists, slipped off, and came down right through the roof. Well, not all the way through the roof. One of the ceiling joists broke his fall —- right between his legs. He sat there straddling the ceiling joist with his legs dangling through the two holes he had made in the finished sheetrock ceiling. He looked like a cartoon character, and was making a noise unlike anything I had ever heard come from a human mouth. Once again, management voiced its tender concern for the well-being of the work force. “This is going to hold up the (assembly) line for two hours,” bellowed one of the foremen.
I learned a lot from my summer jobs. I learned that I did not want to pursue a career baling hay or working in the steel mill all my life. I also received valuable training at the manufactured home plant on how not to treat the people who work for you. And I found that as good as it felt to get out of school for the summer, school looked pretty good when it was time to go back in the fall.
Ojai Mayor Carol Smith announced last night that lawyer Steve Lee will be handling the city’s legal counsel in place of former city attorney Monte Widders.
After the City Council’s regular meeting, a session was held behind closed doors to determine what to do about the city attorney position. Smith told waiting members of the press that the council had voted unanimously to bring on Lee as acting attorney.
Widders says that the decision to leave the position, after 30 years of working for the city, was his. “I have some medical problems that prevent me from continuing to work with the city,” said Widders, who stated that throat surgery he had three weeks ago has adversely affected his public speaking ability. “It’s nothing life-threatening, but I won’t be able to talk at a public meeting where people need to hear me.”
The city confirmed Widders’ reasoning in a press release on Wednesday, “… for medical reasons, he has retired from his position as city attorney,” read the city’s statement.
Smith also commented on Widders’ tenure with the city. “Mr. Widders has served the city of Ojai with intelligence and dedication,” Smith said in the press release. “He has expressed to me his desire to continue to serve the city as our ‘attorney emeritus’ when we need a historical perspective on issues.”
Widders has been part of many of Ojai’s historical events. In the mid-1990s he was Ojai’s city attorney during the Weldon Canyon Landfill proposal that the city and local activists helped squash. “I think if I had to pick a high point in my career,” he said, “it would be the fight against the Weldon Canyon Landfill.”
Because Lee is Widders’ partner, their firm, the law offices of Myers, Widders, Gibson, Jones and Schneider, will continue to charge the city the same fee, according to Lee. City records show that the city currently has a contract with Widders’ firm for a $2,750 monthly retainer and an hourly rate of $175 for services provided beyond the retainer.
Lee says he has been practicing law for 18 years with about 10 years as the assistant to the city attorney and hopes to continue his work with the city. “I will be the city attorney as long as the council will have me,” he said. “That will be up to them.”
By Logan Hall
Ojai Valley citizens will get a chance to show their American pride by entering this year’s Fourth of July parade. Time is running out though as the deadline for entries into the parade is less than a week away.The official deadline for parade entries is June 1. The parade committee will accept entries beyond that date, but if participants want to be in the contest, they need to sign up by Wednesday. “People need to get their applications in as soon as possible,” said Nancy Hill, parade chair. “Last year, late entries were a really big problem. We had people calling on Thursday that wanted to get into the parade on Saturday.”One group will definitely have its application in on time. Dan Cerminaro and his martial arts school, the Ojai Valley TaeKwonDo Academy, have been showcasing their skills in the parade for 23 years. Cerminaro and his students march the parade route and demonstrate martial arts techniques including the ever-popular board-breaking routine.”The fun thing about the parade is that the whole town shows up to watch,” said Cerminaro, who usually has 60 to 80 students participate. “We always get a lot of encouragement from the crowd to stop and do a demonstration. I think it empowers the kids and makes them feel special.”One of Cerminaro’s longtime students, 17-year-old Nordhoff High School junior Conan Nelson, has been participating in the parade with the academy since the age of 4 and is looking forward to marching the route again this year. Nelson has worked his way through the ranks of the school, earning a third degree black belt level four. Along with being one of Cerminaro’s students, Nelson is also an instructor at the academy and will be responsible for helping lead his comrades in the parade.”The parade is definitely something that I look forward to,” said Nelson. “There’s that kind of rush you get from wanting to do well in front of everybody.”Nelson says that although he won’t have a set routine in place until closer to parade time, he and his fellow students are constantly working on technique and that they will be ready when the time comes to march down Ojai Avenue in front of the scrutinizing eyes of parade judges. “I have certain things in my head that we’ll pull out for the parade,” he said. “I help the others prepare and I’m always working all year to get better. I’m looking forward to doing it again this year.”
By Janet Reineck
Two National Disaster Search Dog Foundation canine-firefighter teams based in Oklahoma City — Brent Koeninger and Huck and Jason Smith and Jagger — have been deployed to Joplin, Mo., as part of Oklahoma Task Force 1 to search for survivors of the tornado that has devastated the area.The teams started searching at 2 a.m. Central time on Monday, working in shifts along with two Tulsa-based search teams. Smith reported via text message that their canine partners are in good spirits and working well.They searched approximately 40 structures during their first shifts. During the early morning hours Huck showed interest in several vehicles buried in rubble. His handler later learned that someone had been pulled from one of those vehicles a few hours earlier, which was the “residual scent” Huck had detected but not alerted on.Huck and Jagger are both “rescued dogs turned rescuers.” Huck was discovered at San Francisco’s East Bay SPCA, Jagger at the Haven Humane Society near Redding in northern California.“As the minutes tick by, more and more folks are being accounted for. So proud to be a part of the rescue operations, a part of Oklahoma Task Force 1, and part of the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation,” said Jason Smith of the Oklahoma City Fire Department.SDF is training 21 new search teams in 2011. Four Los Angeles teams were partnered May 10. Four new Tulsa handlers and one Dallas handler began their training Monday in Santa Paula, at the site of SDF’s future National Training Center. They are working with veteran SDF dogs, learning the skills they’ll need to respond to future disasters in the tornado zone. They’ll be partnered with their own dogs next week, and will then begin the year of training to become certified and deployment-ready.
By Logan Hall
Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water has reached another milestone in their efforts to oust Golden State Water Company from Ojai. The group’s supporters handed over a stack of petitions to Casitas Municipal Water District on Monday with 1,900 signatures of concerned voters in Golden State’s Ojai district.
F.L.O.W. organizers and supporters hit the streets over the last two months to get the signatures that would hopefully show Casitas that the citizens of the valley demand a change after repeated rate increases by Golden State over the years.
“It went very well and was very well received by Casitas,” said F.L.O.W. representative Pat McPherson on the handoff of the petitions. “We got all of our signatures in just five weeks. We’ve done really well in a very short period of time.”
CMWD has yet to take an official stance but is beginning the process to look into F.L.O.W.’s plan. “We’re going to look at this rationally and objectively and make decisions on how to move forward,” said Steve Wickstrum, CMWD general manager. Wickstrum indicated that Casitas would be putting together a committee to figure out how to move forward. That committee would then advise the CMWD board of directors on decisions that would need to be made.
The process, however, will not be quick and easy.
“This isn’t the kind of thing that is going to happen tomorrow,” Wickstrum said. “There’s a lot to it. This isn’t something we do every day.”
Casitas has a lot on its plate without the added responsibility of taking on another entire coverage area. They also have to look out for their current customers, making sure that their rates would not be affected by a potential buy-out of Golden State by Casitas. “We’re working on our own district right now,” added Wickstrum. “We also have to look out for our current ratepayers. We have to factor all of that in when making these decisions. There’s going to be a long process we’ll have to go through.”
F.L.O.W.’s plan includes the protection of Casitas’ current ratepayers. The buy-out would be funded by a $33 million bond that would be paid back through a $2.50 surcharge per 746 gallons of water used, only by customers who had been Golden State ratepayers. F.L.O.W. insists that customers who are currently with Casitas would not incur any additional costs. The bond would be paid back strictly by customers that Casitas would inherit from Golden State.
Skepticism about support for F.L.O.W.’s plan might be answered by the sheer number of people who signed the petition. “We delivered 1,900 signatures today,” McPherson said on Monday after the handoff. “I think that was recognized by Casitas.”
A local author, who wrote an Ojai Valley-based, pocket-sized hiking and trail guide in 1999, recently updated and expanded the book with the help of her daughter and granddaughter.”Roam: Ojai’s Hip Little Hiking Guide” is available in many area museums and stores, and now includes new sections on cycling trails, rock climbing and horseback riding. Author Gael Belden originally wrote the book in 1999 when she found she was recreating herself and was writing essays about nature.”I had a wolf-hybrid dog named Epiphany,” Belden recalls of her original inspiration for writing the book. “She needed to walk a lot; to run far twice per day to settle her down.”This required lots of time on the valley trails and soon revealed itself as an opportunity to share the wonders of Ojai’s natural landscape with others.Further inspired by author and adventurer Rick Ridgeway — who wrote the book’s foreword — Belden sat down and started to write about the trails of the Ojai Valley that she was spending so much time exploring.What resulted was the first edition of “Roam.” But in late 2005 when torrential rains caused extensive flooding, thousands of the books were damaged and had to be thrown out. This created a shortage of the book and a demand that drove prices to as high as $200 for a used copy on ebay.com, Belden says. About 15,000 copies of the book have sold thus far, she says.Gael’s daughter, Dawn Belden, a local teacher and educational consultant, is also an avid cyclist. It was Dawn’s idea to come together as a family, expand, update and republish “Roam.”"The book hadn’t been printed in a long time and I wanted to republish it,” Dawn Belden says. “I bike a lot, so I added that part.”Gael Belden also noted that her granddaughter, Dawn’s daughter, Amanda Belden, a professional aerialist and aerial arts instructor, contributed extensively to the writing and line editing of the book.”Amanda and her boyfriend are avid rock climbers, so they added that part to the book,” Gael Belden says. “She also did a line-by-line edit of the book.”At just under 90 pages, the book fits easily in a back pocket. It is printed locally on recycled paper by Ojai Printing and Bigger Love Press.Selling for $13, “Roam” can be found, among other places, at the Ojai Valley Inn, The Ojai Foundation, Ojai Surplus, The Farmer and The Cook, and Project Ride.
By Logan Hall
Valley citizens who reside on Old Creek Road should get a break from traversing the flooded crossing over San Antonio Creek during the next big storms. The County of Ventura is nearing completion of the $2 million, federally funded bridge project that will give residents access to Highway 33, even in a 100-year flood.The county’s project manager, Glenn Derossett, says the bridge should be open to traffic in about a month, but there are still several more issues that need to be tackled before the project can be considered complete. The county is still waiting for federal approval to remove the old crossing from the creek. Because of the potential threat to steelhead trout and the red-legged tree frog, which are endangered species, removal of the old crossing needs to follow very specific guidelines. “We just can’t go in there with an excavator and start ripping up concrete,” said Derossett. “They want to be able to review our plan.”Despite concerns about endangered species in the area, Derossett says that the different government agencies, which include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are in favor of the bridge and the removal of the old crossing. “Every time we build a bridge we usually end up fighting with the different agencies,” he said. “This time, they are all for the project.”One issue arose when project plans called for the relocation of Old Creek residents’ mailboxes. Unconfirmed reports indicated the Ventura post office would not drop off mail if the boxes were moved, and that the Oak View post office would not deliver that far down the highway.The OVN contacted U.S. Postal Service spokesperson James Wigdel who assured that service to customers on Old Creek Road would not change. “We’d prefer to leave boxes where they are,” said Wigdel in a phone interview, “but nothing will change as far as delivery goes and there won’t be any address changes. Residents will still get mail from the same carriers. We’ll definitely get the mail delivered one way or another.”Although some people believe the bridge is a waste of time and money for the county, and some have called the project “the bridge to nowhere,” residents of Old Creek say the bridge will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood. “It’s a benefit for us,” said Old Creek Road resident Tim Wolfe. “There’s no question about it. There are specific times in the year that the creek is uncrossable. There are people on our street that need medical attention on a regular basis. If the creek floods, they can’t get across.”
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Just when you think politics cannot get any stranger, suddenly Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich are running for president — and then Trump suddenly announces that he will not run after all. I know that we all have our political differences, but come on, Donald Trump or Newt Gingrich for president of the United States — leader of the free world?
Donald Trump’s blustery, self-aggrandizing style has always greatly irritated me. In the past, whenever I saw him on television, puffing up and going into hyperbole mode, I simply chalked it up to an entrepreneur using shameless self-promotion to further his business interests, and changed the channel. When he announced that he was running for president, I could not believe that anyone, other than himself, would actually take his candidacy seriously. But while a candidate, he was near the top of the heap in the early polls.
“I have made myself very rich,” he said recently, “and I would make this country very rich.” Well, there are at least 300 people who might argue with that statement. They would be the folks who bought condos that carried his name, such as Trump Tower and Trump International and who are currently suing Trump as some of those deals have unraveled financially. The people in the suit assumed that Trump was the developer, and marketing material certainly gave that impression. In some instances, Trump even made appearances at the properties to court buyers. But it turns out that Trump only licensed the use of his name. He was not the actual developer of the projects, and they did not have his financial backing. Some of those projects are now in dire financial trouble and investors have lost millions of dollars while Trump took home large licensing fees. Many of these people are understandably unhappy, and in the fine American tradition of “why blame myself when I can sue someone else,” they are taking him to court.
Trump has been involved in other questionable business dealings over the years, including Trump University and Trump Institute, which were started to educate the general public about the Trump philosophy of real estate and moneymaking savvy. The schools have come under fire with many claims filed with attorneys general in several states. The Better Business Bureau gave Trump University its next to lowest rating, a D minus, after receiving 23 complaints.
As if all that wasn’t embarrassing enough for Republicans, Newt Gingrich has also announced his candidacy. Poll numbers show him in the middle of the pack, and he is certainly being taken seriously by some. You will remember Mr. Gingrich as the man who brought divorce papers to his wife’s hospital room the day after her cancer surgery, and fought her at every turn on alimony and child support as she recovered from her illness. Gingrich’s wife confronted him about his marital infidelity. She chided him about the hypocrisy of traipsing around the country giving “family values” speeches while carrying on an adulterous affair. She claims he replied, “It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say.”
How silly of her to assume that he should be held to the same standards as the rest of us.
I never believed Trump thought he could take the Republican nomination, much less win the general election. I don’t think Gingrich believes he can win either with all the negatives he brings to the campaign. I look at these two guys and wonder how anyone can truly believe they have any motive other than gaining free publicity for themselves.
If fact, I think that is exactly what they are doing. They are in it for the publicity. Period.
Think about it. What else could you do that would guarantee you to get millions of dollars of free publicity to push the inevitable book deal or drive up the ratings of your reality show? Sarah Palin has provided the blueprint on how to turn political celebrity into cash flow. I think Trump and Gingrich knew well ahead of time they had no hope of ever being elected, and so are following in Palin’s footsteps to the bank.
This pre-meditated plan may be good personal economics for them, but it is a sad commentary on the state of American politics. The only thing sadder would be if one of them ever actually got elected.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department arrested seven people on the 300 block of Cruzero Street on Wednesday after deputies responded to a report of a stolen vehicle located in the area. The vehicle, a small white pickup truck, was allegedly stolen from Padre Juan Avenue earlier in the morning and subsequently spotted on the suspect’s property being dismantled for parts according to Sgt. Randy Watkins. One suspect, Matthew Reeves, was arrested for the theft of the truck, while another suspect was arrested for possession of stolen property related to the stolen pickup. “He had some dismantled parts from the stolen vehicle in his possession,” said Detective Steven Michalec who was on scene investigating the case. The remaining suspects were arrested for drug charges according to the VCSD. One suspect, Tim Creech, was arrested in a previous drug bust on the same property in February on drug charges. Above, suspect Shane Young is handcuffed and taken by deputies to a waiting patrol car after being arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance at the property on Cruzero Street. Photo and report by Logan Hall
By Misty Volaski
Franklin Roosevelt used to say that when you come to the end of your rope, “tie a knot and hang on.” Ojai mom Cally Houck has done just that for the past six years, gripping tightly to the belief that one woman can change the business practices of an entire industry. For her, passing the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Rental Car Safety Act is not an “if” but a “when.” She’s attempting to establish new legislation in California that would, according to the bill’s text, “prohibit a rental company from renting, selling, or distributing a vehicle to a person after the rental company has received a safety recall notice for that vehicle pursuant to specified provisions of federal law, unless the repairs necessary to correct the defect or noncompliance have been performed on the vehicle.” Essentially — rental car companies would be prevented from renting out vehicles for which a known recall exists.Houck has already garnered support from Assemblyman William W. Monning, who sponsored the bill, and Republican Sen. Tony Strickland, who just agreed to support the bill. Most recently, the California State Assembly passed the bill, also known as AB-753, and has turned it over to the State Senate.That’s where Houck feels she and her team of activists will have some work to do.”We have always argued that this is a non-partisan issue,” she said. “It’s about keeping people safe. It puts rental car companies on the same playing field as car dealerships.”Houck wants AB-753 to prevent families from having to suffer the agony she’s endured since Oct. 7, 2004, when her daughters, Raechel, 24, and Jackie, 20, were killed in a head-on collision with a Freightliner 18-wheeler. The car they rented, a 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser, from a northern California Enterprise Rent-A-Car, was under a recall due to defects that could cause the loss of power steering as well as under-hood fires. But the girls were never informed of the fact. A few hours later, they were dead, having lost control of the car. After more than five years of fighting Enterprise, the Houck family was awarded $15 million for the wrong and unreasonable deaths of the two girls.But Houck feels that that’s a tiny slap on the wrist for a company that garners billions each year. It’s not money she wants, she said. It’s the prevention of further tragedies through state legislation — and, eventually, through federal legislation. But, she continued, the companies are already pushing to have the bill modified into a two-tiered system that would basically allow them to choose which recalls to repair. Others have pushed to move the bill from the civil code (where there is no fiscal impact) to the vehicle code (where there would be). Still others have implied that the Houck sisters’ deaths are a rare occurrence — something with which their mother vehemently disagrees.”We don’t need more bodies,” Houck said. “We don’t need more cases to prove (this bill) needs to be passed. If Raechel and Jackie aren’t enough, then there is something really, really wrong with our system.”The best way to support the cause, Houck said, is to call Sen. Strickland at 306-8886, or visit his website to send an e-mail at cssrc.us/web/19. Refer to AB-753 and ask that he continue to push for bipartisan support of the bill.And, Houck added, it’s always good to be a conscious consumer. “If you have to rent a car, ask them if it’s got recalls,” she said. “If they can’t tell you, ask them to get the information. And if they can’t, walk away or try another car or rental company. If it’s clear (of recalls) and is in good operating condition, ask them to put that in writing.” Rosemary Shahan of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety said anyone considering renting or buying a vehicle should check the vehicle manufacturer’s websites for recalls. The Center for Auto Safety website, autosafety.org/campaigns/14, offers information about recalls and links to manufacturers’ websites.”It’s a built-in principle — the people that (the rental car companies) are deriving their profits from are entitled to be put into safe vehicle,” said Houck. “We need something that will hold them accountable for that.”
By Bryan Florer
During the grand opening of Ojai’s new Libbey Bowl this June, a 3-foot steel box will be placed in the ground filled with items from all over the Ojai Valley. The time capsule will not see light again until Ojai Day in the year 2061.Ojai Valley News senior editor Lenny Roberts originally came up with the idea for a time capsule. “I wanted to do a time capsule for a long time and had to wait for the opportunity to come,” said Roberts. The opportunity presented itself twice within the past year; it was going to be either the Skate Park in October of 2010 or the new Libbey Bowl grand opening in June. “We decided on the Libbey Bowl grand opening because it is on city-owned land,” Roberts said.The Ojai Valley News and Libbey Bowl organizers are seeking public input and items to be included in the time capsule. Thus far, the response from the community has been “enthusiastic and inventive,” according to Misty Volaski, Ojai Valley News managing editor. “We have gotten some terrific responses, and are excited to see what else people come up with.”A drop-off day has been organized for this Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ojai Valley News, 408-A Bryant Circle. Items should be smaller than a basketball, and be relevant to the Ojai Valley (like trolley tokens, newspapers, and photographs) and/or life in the current day. Those who cannot make the drop-off day should e-mail ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at 646-1476.Finishing touches are still being put on both the time capsule and Libbey Bowl. One of the questions still to be answered is where in Libbey Park the time capsule will actually be placed. The city offered one spot, Roberts said, but it was not very good for people to see it go into the ground during the ceremony. How the capsule will be sealed is also still in question. The box has been modified from its original design in order for the lid to fit properly. It will be bead welded on, and coating the entire box with a truck bed liner is being considered.Fifty years is a long time, but “(We decided on 50 years) because people who see it go in could be around to see it again,” Roberts said.
By Logan Hall
Ojai Valley’s mail carriers delivered more than the usual mail on their routes Saturday. Local citizens, Help of Ojai, Villanova Preparatory School and the Ojai and Oak View post offices came together on Saturday for the national “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive. Their efforts will help feed an estimated 1,200 local people in need over the course of the next six months according to Help’s director Terri Wolfe. According to Wolfe, about 3 tons of goods were donated by valley residents along Ojai and Oak View postal routes. “We had an increase of about 25 percent over last year’s drive,” said Wolfe. “We received everything from canned meats and pastas to pet food and personal care items.”Mail carriers from the two post offices picked up donations from their customers while on normal delivery routes throughout the valley. Pam Mathis, officer in charge of the Ojai post office, said that all carriers working that day were involved in the food drive. “We had 15 carriers participate,” said Mathis, who also said the drive wasn’t limited to postal routes. “The customers with P.O. boxes were just as involved. They brought food into the office.” The Ojai post office wasn’t alone in its effort. Oak View mail carriers also used their routes to benefit the drive. “I’ve done this about 10 times over the years,” said Oak View mail carrier Peter Siebert, “and it was a very good turnout this year.” The carriers then dropped off their loads at Help’s Little House where 20 students from VPS, led by English teacher Julie Hedrick, sorted and dated the food. Help volunteers then transported everything to the organization’s West Campus facility, where it will be organized and stored, also by Help volunteers. “It will take them a month to get all that food on the shelves,” said Wolfe about the volume of donations. “We feel confident that this will really help us almost until our Holiday Food Drive.” Wolfe also stressed the importance of Help’s volunteers who work year-round for the organization. “They are invaluable,” she said.Those who were involved with the drive are proud to be participating. There seems to be a personal sense of satisfaction for the people who give their time for a cause like the food drive. “I enjoy doing this for people,” said Siebert. “Help of Ojai is a good company. I’m glad it’s going to them.”Mathis also believes the food drive is a positive thing for post office employees. “It’s really been encouraging to the carriers to see how many people are participating,” she said.
By Chris Wilson
The Oak View Park and Resource Center needs to raise money to grade and re-sod their playing fields, and site manager Barbara Kennedy is betting that what comes naturally from cows is all she needs to raise the cash.On June 4 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the center will host Cow Chip Bingo, in which three lucky winners will share $2,000 in prize money. The way the game works is that the field will be painted with a grid of 2,000 squares and each square will be sold for $10. Then the cows are let onto the field to let the chips fall where they may. The first cow to plop on a square will bring the square holder $1,000, and if they are present and make it to the announcer’s booth within 10 minutes, they will win a $250 bonus. The second cow pie drop is good for a $500 prize and the third $250.All the proceeds will go directly to repairing the field. Kennedy is hoping to raise $20,000 from ticket sales and corporate sponsors. So far, Ojai Valley Moose Lodge 1417, Ojai Valley Lions Club, Oak View Shell, T & T Truck and Crane, Westco Intl., Rabobank and Friends of the Oak View Park and Resource Center have pitched in to help. Kennedy said she has been dreaming of holding such an event for the past 10 years, ever since the former grade school was transformed into a community center. Having a well-maintained and safe playing field has become a priority for the center, she said.”We got the gophers under control, but the fields are atrocious,” Kennedy said. “We want to make sure the kids have a place to play and not get a broken ankle.”The facility is a busy hub of daily activity, Kennedy noted, with programs such as Boys and Girls Club, Smart Start, Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center, Oak View Teen Center, Ojai Valley Little League and Ojai Valley Girls’ Softball, among others, using the former Oak View school as a place for learning and fun.Along with music from Up the Creek and Kruse Knight, there will be food and games for the whole family to enjoy and, of course, the cows.American Hay and Mercantile in Oak View will provide the cows for the event. The daughters of owners Danny and Brenda Miles — Mikayla, 12, and Karley, 16 — have raised the cattle through a 4-H program. Mikayla’s cow Harrietta is a young heifer and Karley’s steer, Intimidator (nicknamed Gator), will be joined by Gunner, a steer from Santa Paula raised by Donita Mullins, who has helped the girls with past 4-H projects.”Cow chip bingo is a fun game because you never know when the cow is going to go to the bathroom, or if you’re going to be a winner or not,” Mullins said.The Oak View Park and Resource Center is located at 555 Mahoney Ave. in Oak View. For more information and to buy Cow Chip Bingo tickets call 649-1605 or 340-1883.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Mother’s Day slipped up on me as it has the past several years. I suppose when your mother has been gone for more than 20 years, you think more about her on Mother’s Day itself and the days afterward than you do in the time leading up to it.
My mother was an exceptional person. She died from a heart weakened as much by the chemotherapy as the cancer it was supposed to control. I held her hand in the hospital as she died. She was there with me when I came into the world and I was with her as she left it —- a painful symmetry, but one for which I am thankful.
When my daddy died, she was suddenly saddled with two young children — thrust into the roles of mother and father as well as breadwinner — all with no blueprint to guide her. All this landed on her as she was in the throes of grief and mourning over the loss of her husband. My mother handled it all so expertly that I am in awe of her to this day. I sometimes think one of the reasons I chose not to have children was because my mother set the parental bar so high I was intimidated. I knew I would never be selfless enough to come close to her as a parent.
Years ago I wrote a column about mothers, in particular my mother. My sister took the column and needlepointed the words onto a canvas, which we framed as a gift to my mother. The column could have used some more work, and the stitching wasn’t perfect, but we never gave my mother a gift she treasured more.
I have included the column here to honor the women who have made such a difference in our lives.
What Is a Mother?
A mother is someone who —
Sits out and bakes in the hot sun so she can watch you while you go swimming
Goes to all your little league baseball games and cheers her head off — –even when she doesn’t give a hoot about sports
Somehow stretches a meal so that everyone always has plenty — –even when you show up for dinner with four unexpected guests
Gives up something she wants so you can have something you want — –and never complains
Washes, irons, mends, cooks, cleans, and in general performs tasks for you a galley slave would object to — all without asking so much as a “thank you”
Warns you about watching a “scary” movie — then sits up with you when you can’t sleep
Knows when to talk to you, and, just as importantly, when to listen
Gives up her weekend to type your term paper
Gives you a boost when you’re down, and brings you back to earth when you’re overconfident
Laughs at your jokes — even when they’re not all that funny
Makes your friends feel like part of the family
Shares your dreams
Suffers more over your setbacks and enjoys your successes more than you do
Knows right from wrong — and makes sure that you do, too
Administers discipline — even when it would be easier just to give in
Seems to get smarter each year
Always seems to know what to say
Loves you so much she would keep you forever — but loves you enough to let you go your own way when the time comes
Gives everything — and asks very little in return
What is a Mother? A Mother is perhaps God’s greatest invention — and I’ve got the best one he ever made.
Happy (late) Mother’s Day.
By Logan Hall
Staying on the subject of city streets, the council next discussed the ongoing issue of street sweeping. The city is required to sweep its streets according to state law, but due to parked cars constantly lining designated sweeping streets, street sweepers can’t perform a thorough job.
Interim Public Works manager Calkins showed the City Council several options for mitigating the problem. Of the options being considered, one seems to stand out. Faced with a lack of compliance from citizens in moving parked vehicles, the city is seriously considering placing “No Parking” signs on designated streets and subsequently using the contracted Ventura County Sheriff’s Department for enforcement.
One resolution that was not passed in a 2 to 2 vote was for a pilot project that would include placing signs on the five most affected streets in Ojai:- Montgomery Street, Vallerio Avenue, Fulton Street, Fox Street and Shady Lane. Calkins stated that the signs would be placed about every 175 feet on both sides of the road and would cost around $175 each. He said the city would need about 85 signs to cover the five “pilot” streets and about 2,000 signs citywide.
“My issue all along has been the visual blight,” said Councilwoman Sue Horgan on the aesthetic impact of the signs. “I can’t support putting up 85 signs on five short streets.”
The council did pass a resolution to streamline the city’s street sweeping days, having all city streets swept on the first and third Tuesday every month. Council members also included in that resolution a plan to have streets in commercial areas like Ojai Avenue and Bryant Street swept before 7 a.m. to mitigate the effects on businesses in the area.
Council members agreed to hold a public hearing to get citizen input on the matter.
By Matthew Wagner
During the holidays food drives are very strong, and people are concerned about giving food to charities. But what happens when that food starts to run out? This Saturday, communities across America will participate in the Stamp Out Hunger drive, the largest one-day food drive in the nation. By simply leaving a sack or two of nonperishable groceries by their mailboxes, ordinary people can help underprivileged families in need of food.
Due to the demand on food banks intensifying around this time of year, postal workers on Saturday will not only pick up the normal mail, but also nonperishable food donations left at mailboxes by customers. Then the letter carriers will deliver the food to local charities. In the Ojai Valley, the food will be brought to Help of Ojai’s Little House, at 111 W. Santa Ana St. There they will use around two dozen volunteers from Villanova Prep and other schools to date and sort through the food. After this critical step is completed, they will send it to Help’s West Campus on Baldwin Road where they will store and distribute it to families around the valley.
Based on previous years’ statistics, this year Help of Ojai is estimating the amount of food they bring in from the Stamp Out Hunger event should last for six months. According to Help of Ojai’s executive director Terri Wolfe, there should be 2 to 4 tons of nonperishable food items that will feed 400 families. “This is a real important food drive, because people generally give a lot of food during the holidays. Normally by now the food is gone,” said Wolfe. “People need help. Us providing them with food helps them put their money in different areas like their bills.”
The food drive is mainly sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers. “People have been very generous in our community. I really enjoy the community spirit. It’s really a great effort,” said Wolfe.
If you want to participate on Saturday, leave nonperishable food items in a bag near your mailbox. For more information, visit Helpofojai.org or call 646-5122.
By Misty Volaski
After more than an hour of deliberation Tuesday night, board members of the Ojai Unified School District made a decision on their process for replacing outgoing member Steve Fields, who is moving out of state.
With an already-tight budget and even steeper cuts anticipated for the 2011-2012 school year, the board opted not to hold an election, which would have been costly, but rather to make a provisional appointment by soliciting applications from locals residing within the school district boundaries.
An election would have cost the school district “a minimum of $80,000,” said OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser, after research and discussions with the Ventura County Office of Elections. “That’s more than the salary and benefits of a full-time teacher,” he added. During the meeting Board Member Linda Taylor said, “I would hate to see any money other than what it would cost to advertise (the position) in the paper. It wouldn’t be fair to our staff.”
Those interested in joining the OUSD board have until May 31 to turn in paperwork to the district office. On June 7, the OUSD board will conduct interviews in a public forum during their regularly scheduled board meeting time. They hope to debate, hear public comments and make a decision that night — although they may vote to extend the time in which locals may apply to allow for more applicants, should they feel it necessary. Public comments can be in support of or in opposition to any applicant, and will be limited to two minutes per speaker. Applications may be obtained by calling the district office, 640-4300, Ext. 1011.
Board Member Pauline Mercado emphasized the importance of the role in Tuesday’s meeting, saying, “This is long term. It’s a year and a half. (Filling the vacancy) isn’t a temporary fix. We need someone like Steve to carry on with us.”
“The job has a steep learning curve,” said OUSD Board President Rikki Horne.
“There’s a lot that goes into it.”
Several board members were concerned with making sure the public interviewing process was fair to everyone, hence the long deliberation. “We must be prepared for eventualities,” Taylor noted. Bangser summed it up Tuesday, saying, “It’s a messy, personal process.” By law, he continued, the process must be done in a public forum.
For more information on the position, call the district office and see Page A8 of today’s OVN.
Earlier in the meeting, Dannielle Pusatere, assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, offered up a bit of good news when she explained that the district received an unexpected $121,000 from the state of California. The funds will be carried over to the 2011-2012 budget, which will keep the OUSD in the black. “The state requires us to perform certain duties during the year such as negotiate with unions, abide by the Brown Act, student hearing tests, the list continues. Quite a few years ago the state stopped paying us for these duties, but still required the duties. Lawsuits happened. They currently suspended most of the duties but still haven’t paid us for the past claims,” Pusatere explained in an e-mail. In the current budget act, she continued, “They set aside some funds to pay us for past claims (duties).” So essentially, the $121,000 is money the school district was already owed, but wasn’t expecting to see this year.
Those funds are especially welcome in times like these when the cuts keep coming down the line. The board, classified union and teacher’s unions agreed Tuesday to carry forward to 2011-2012 the same work furlough agreement they had for the current school year. The only difference is that, instead of taking eight furlough days like the teachers, the classified staff (secretaries, janitors, support staff, etc.) will be taking a ninth day to help save co-workers’ jobs. That day will come in the form of an unpaid holiday where once there was pay. The administrative staff will still take 10 days and Bangser will take 12.
The board also considered on Tuesday night a resolution to support the efforts of Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water (F.L.O.W.). The local group — which is gathering signatures to convince Casitas Municipal Water District to take over Golden State Water Company through eminent domain — has asserted that their plan could save the district $22,000 in the first year alone. The board agreed and added their support to the group, which has a similar resolution from the city of Ojai.
“We are just very pleased that they recognized the potential savings and that they’re supporting what we’re asking Casitas to do,” said Ojai F.L.O.W. member Pat McPherson on Wednesday.
City lacks funds to implement maintenance of failing roadway
By Logan Hall
The citizens of Ojai are watching their streets fall apart. Forty percent of the 41.7 miles of road maintained by the city of Ojai are in poor or failing condition, according to a report by interim Public Works manager Ron Calkins.
After showing Ojai City Council members a grim look at Ojai’s road conditions at Tuesday’s council meeting, Calkins stated the city has no immediate plan for implementing repairs. He emphasized that road maintenance isn’t cheap. Just repairing the aging pavement enough to curtail further deterioration would cost the city roughly $500,000 a year, and bringing the roads up to “good condition” would take 10 years, costing up to $2 million a year. Maintaining a roadway that is in “very good condition” could cost as little as 40 cents per square foot. Maintaining a failing road could cost as much as $12 per square foot.
Calkins reports the city has shelled out $900,000 in the last 11 years on road maintenance. Of that, 86 percent has been spent in the last two years. “There were seven years where the city didn’t spend anything on the roads,” he said, also showing the city’s lack of money for road repairs. “This city, like a lot of other cities, doesn’t have a … source of funding dedicated to city streets.”
Although the majority of Ojai’s roads aren’t yet considered “failing,” Calkins data did show that Ojai is below the state average for road conditions. The Pavement Condition Index, developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is a scale from zero to 100 that rates the condition of a given road. After briefly touring the city’s roads and accessing their condition, Calkins estimated Ojai’s PCI at 55 while the state average is 66.
The blame, Calkins told the council, could, in part, be pointed at the original construction of the roads around 50 years ago. He said that many of the roads weren’t made with an adequate gravel base, which leads to the commonly seen “alligator cracking” and rutting that can occur on heavily used roadways. “There’s not much you can do about that,” he said.
The issue was an informational item on the meeting agenda and was not open for discussion by the council, although Councilwoman Carlon Strobel asked Calkins if the city could force people who disrupt the pavement to pay for it through permits. Calkins told Strobel that it was possible, but it is difficult to track how much damage an individual or company is inflicting on a public road.
Because of such high maintenance costs, it seems Ojai will have to wait to implement any repairs on the roads. Due to the city’s lack of reserve funds and the need to take out a line of credit to fill in the city’s financial gaps, Calkins said there is no funding to repair the streets. Calkins, however, did say that this is not a problem that is unique to Ojai. “Every city that I know of in California is battling the same problem.”
Longtime Ojai Valley residents and ardent community supporters, Oscar and Gloria Melendez have been chosen as the 2011 grand marshals in this year’s Fourth of July parade, says Nancy Hill, Ojai Independence Day committee chairperson.”They have helped out in Ojai for years and years,” Hill said. “They are just wonderful people and it was time they were recognized for their work.”Soon after marrying, the couple moved to Ojai from West Los Angeles in 1967, when Oscar took a job transfer to the Ventura offices of the California State Compensation Insurance Fund. Gloria spent 11 years working in accounting for the city of Ojai. They raised a family and became active in the St. Thomas Aquinas Church parish and began enjoying the social activities the valley had to offer.”We got involved with the Mexican Fiesta and then ended up as chairpersons on the committee,” Gloria recalled. “Then we both served as president of the Mexican Fiesta Committee.”The couple was instrumental in moving the fiesta from downtown Ojai to the St. Thomas Aquinas church grounds in Meiners Oaks. They have been hands-on in a variety of Ojai Valley schools, groups and social activities over the years, participating in the Mira Monte Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association and volunteering in the classrooms, tutoring and volunteering at Topa Topa Elementary School and the Laubach Literacy Program, fund raising and planning for the Matilija Junior High PTA, helping to found the local Latinos Unidos Por Educación (L.U.P.E.), coordinating trips for World Youth Day, and organizing the Passion Play at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. One job that Oscar was proud to mention was that he has been the traffic director at the end of the Independence Day parade route for several years.”When they told us that we were going to be grand marshals, I asked them who was going to direct traffic,” he said. “They told me that after we ride through the parade route that I could just get out of the car and get to work,” he added with a laugh.Oscar is also proud to have been named an Honorary Irishman by the Ojai St. Patrick’s Day Committee. He earned the award because he cooks the corned beef and cabbage for the annual event.And though Oscar says he’s more social and out in the community more these days than Gloria, who says she’s content doing as little as possible, there’s no doubt these two are a team. “I’m more involved in the background than he is,” she said. “But I say that a husband and wife stay together if they work together.”Be sure to watch for the Melendezes in this year’s Independence Day parade.Want to enter a float or group in the parade lineup? Registration forms are available at the Ojai Recreation Department, 510 Park Road, The Ojai Hair Company, 807 E. Ojai Ave., and at American Hay & Mercantile, 101 W. Short St., Oak View. Forms must be returned no later than June 1. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.
The Special Olympics Ojai School Games were held last Saturday at Nordhoff High School. More than 100 special education students from around the county competed for the gold in track and field events ranging from wheelchair events to running and throwing events. Everyone was a winner as young athletes put their skills to the test. Above, 10-year-olds Gabe Nicol, left, and Vivien Heuling, right, fly down the track in the 50-meter race as volunteer Ryan Cowles keeps pace behind. Also on hand was the Ventura County Professional Firefighters Association who brought out their barbecue and cooked burgers for participants and their families. Organizers sent out a special thank-you to the Ojai Boy Scout Troop 504, whose members set up all the canopies, every table, every chair, and all the throw stations. “Without them,” said Jan Radnoti, sports manager of Special Olympics Ventura County, “the event would not have happened. They deserve the most recognition for their gallant volunteer effort. And Luke Prestridge spent over 250 hours for his Eagle Scout project in making the putting greens and … bean bag toss boards for the students to enjoy in between their races.” Medalists in Saturday’s event included Anna Maldonado, who won the gold in the standing long jump and a silver in the 100-meter dash; Emily Fajardo, who won a silver in the 30-meter wheelchair slalom; Lupe Maciel, who won a gold in the 50-meter dash; Pedro Cerda, who won a gold in the 100-meter dash; Andrew LaFarga, who won a gold in the 100-meter dash; Jazmine Romero, who won a gold in the tennis ball throw; and Spencer Austin, who won a gold in the softball throw.
While I’m still young enough to remember the 1950s, the memories I treasure most are those of having loving parents, playing baseball, kissing my first girl, thunderstorms, a Christmas Eve snowfall, and my dad’s ‘55 Olds convertible.
There are TV shows and movies that stayed with me, too. One I remember well is the 1956 science-fiction film, “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” in which a beautiful actress played the lead role of Becky Driscoll, Dr. Miles Bennel’s girlfriend. Like the others, Becky fought the urge to go to sleep, knowing that if she did, it meant being replaced by an emotionless duplicate that always seemed to be growing in the next room. There was no need for green screens and zillion-dollar special effects in this $300,000 classic that was made in just 19 days.
As managing editor of the Ojai Valley News, I received an e-mail one day in 2002 from Dana Wynter. I immediately recognized her name, mostly because, as an adult, I saw the movie probably a dozen times. Ms. Wynter wanted the OVN to be aware of an incident of animal neglect — a cause for which I would learn she devoted much of her life. I responded to her, in part, by asking her for an interview, even adding the P.S., “Don’t go to sleep, Becky,” which, as anyone who has seen the film knows is a key line spoken by her co-star, Kevin McCarthy. Like a giddy schoolboy, I buttered her up in hopes that she would consent. Her gracious response confirming that interview made my month. We became pals after that interview (ojaivalleynews.com/wynter.html), and later that year, I learned the Ojai Film Festival was saluting low-budget, black-and-white scary movies of the 1950s. When I saw the lineup, and realized my favorite sci-fi film was not included, I spoke to the powers that be and informed them that Ms. Wynter was an Ojai resident, and I would try to get her to appear if they would show her signature effort.
Ironically, Dana was a serious actor with credits including “Playhouse 90,” “Studio One” and “Robert Montgomery Presents.” She shared top billing with Robert Lansing in the short-lived television series, “The Man Who Never Was,” and had acting roles alongside James Cagney, Robert Taylor, Joan Collins, Diana Dors, Sidney Poitier, Rock Hudson and others. Her last appearance was in 1993 as Raymond Burr’s wife in “The Return of Ironsides.” But it was her “Body Snatchers” performance and the chemistry with McCarthy that truly made her a star. My suggestion to include the film in the 2002 festival was overwhelmingly welcomed. When I asked her if she would not only attend but watch the film sitting next to me if I promised not to say each line before they were spoken, she said she would love to. But what about her leading man? She said he lived in Encino and she would call him, but we might have to send a car because of his advanced age. To everyone’s delight, he, too, accepted. So, with my wife, Kay on one side, I got to sit between them at the Ojai Playhouse as we watched the movie she had never seen. Talk about a thrill.
Dana informed me the day after McCarthy died last year, at 96 of natural causes, that despite being a founding father of The Actor’s Studio, he was never asked to be a guest on the program. She was also angered because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences never asked him to be an Oscar presenter. Too bad for them.Dana Wynter died May 5, 33 days shy of her 80th birthday. Her son, Mark, called me two days earlier, saying she did not have much time left. Kay and I went to the Ojai Valley Community Hospital’s intensive care unit on Wednesday afternoon and spoke with her for the last time. I fought the urge to tell her, “Don’t go to sleep, Becky,” but she and I knew it was her time.
From time to time, I will re-read her witty e-mails I have saved over the years and remember her as the sweet and special person she was. She always addressed them to Mr. Lenny and his Kay. I always addressed her as myPod.
Sweet dreams, Becky.
By Misty Volaski
Identified needs don’t often go unanswered in the Ojai Valley. So when folks at the Rotary Club of Ojai discovered the difficulty in researching services offered to local youths, they decided to create a website that would provide information on a wide range of topics, all in one place — ojaiyouthconnect.com.”After some research and talking to parents, we found that there was no central source of information regarding the programs and services available to youth and their families,” said Mike Weaver, said Rotary Club president. “This was particularly a problem for new families moving into the area and those who needed help in a crisis.”So where does one start when compiling such varied types of information? Meetings were held and surveys sent out to parents and teens to learn what, exactly, they felt they needed most. In addition, “We had a booth at the recent YouthFest, are sending brochures to various civic groups (and) handing out postcards to every child in the schools,” said Weaver. What they’ve found so far is a huge, incredibly varied list of services and programs. Some responses weren’t new; Ojai students often complain about a lack of things to do in town, for example, so the Rotary Club committee began putting together a list of activities and hangouts. That list featured classes and activities in music, arts, drama, language, and sports, among many others. A click on the ojairec.com link alone will take you to dozens of classes and sports teams organized by the Ojai Recreation Department. Whether youths are interested in discovering new hiking trails, trying tae kwon do, locating a summer camp or just finding a cool place to “chill,” Ojai Youth Connects offers links to them all.But ojaiyouthconnect.com is about much more than answering a need for recreation. “We currently have over 200 listings on the website,” said Weaver. In economic times like these, a one-stop shop for scholarships is a useful tool, and the OYC site combines both local scholarship information with links to federal aid sites, national scholarship sites, and the Nordhoff High School College and Career Center. There are also links for local places of worship and youth groups, extensive resources and contact information for family and individual counseling (both emergency and non-emergency), and a list of all the local schools.Students required to perform community service for class projects will find several places to volunteer — from Theater 150 to the Humane Society of Ventura County. Those needing an little extra academic help can click on the tutoring, leadership, career development or English as a Second Language categories.”By working together along with local community leaders, Youth Connect does allow us to fill an important need in the Ojai Valley that is relevant to both youth and parents through a centralized communication effort that never existed to this extent before,” said Weaver.”This innovative valleywide project devised by the Rotary Club of Ojai represents the collective ideas of many different community leaders (youth and adults) throughout the valley representing civic organizations, local schools and businesses, spiritual and religious groups who worked together in the careful planning and design of this website,” said Joanna Iwata, a volunteer with the project.It’s been a monumental effort by several people, added Iwata, who offered credit and thanks to “Mike (Weaver) and his core planning team members which include Maggie Cerminaro, Hank Bangser, Bob Skankey, Judy Gabriel, Scott Smith, Bret Bradigan and Tyler Suchman (website designer).”And the Rotary Club group isn’t finished yet. At the top of the home page, they ask site visitors to suggest ideas for additional listings. Weaver also noted that the Rotary Club will be holding more community meetings soon, the dates for which will be posted on ojaiyouthconnect.com once they’re set.”Our vision,” said Weaver, “is to improve the physical and mental health of the youth in the Ojai Valley, take a holistic approach to the issues impacting our children and their families, and connect the available services to those who can and want to use them on a 24/7 basis.”For more information, visit ojaiyouthconnect.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Chris T. Wilson
A 10-year-old Mira Monte girl with a love for traditional Irish dance has just returned from her second trip to Ireland where she competed with thousands of other dancers from around the world.When Maggie Fitzgerald was just 2 years of age, her mother, Laurie, bought a video of Riverdance. She put the theatrical performance of traditional Irish step dancing on for Maggie and watched as the rapid, rhythmic tapping transfixed her daughter, and then Maggie started tapping her feet along with the dancers.Thus began a focused, passionate fascination with the traditional dance of her ancestors and at age 5 Maggie began taking lessons with the Irish Dance Company Claddagh in Ventura.“She loves it and it’s in her heritage,” Laurie Fitzgerald said. “It’s a lot of hard work, it’s not just about dancing, it’s about costumes and presentation. These dancers are real athletes.”In April, Maggie competed against more than 4,500 dancers representing 32 countries from around the world at the World Irish Dance Championship in City West, Dublin. Irish President Mary McAleese attended the opening ceremony. Maggie placed fourth with her team out of 78 teams and was just shy of winning a medal in the solo competition.“Maggie was so happy to even be qualified at such a young age,” Laurie Fitzgerald said. “She really enjoyed it. She’s good-hearted. She just loves to dance. And you can’t be an Irish dancer and not be smart. It’s all counting and she’s an advanced student in school.”In just five years, under the guidance of Máire O’Connell who moved to Ventura from Galway, Ireland 33 years ago, Maggie has progressed steadily from a beginner, to novice, to prize winner, to preliminary champion, to open champion.“She’s a very serious little girl,” O’Connell said. “She’s very focused and very determined. She knows what she wants.”At the Claddagh Dance Company Maggie trains up to 16 hours per week. O’Connell said she started the company 26 years ago because she wanted to teach her sons to dance.“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would become one of the biggest Irish dance schools in America,” O’Connell said.Along with the direction from O’Connell, Maggie also enjoys the mentorship of the older students who are champions in their own right. Claddagh has turned out dozens of champions. A namesake for Maggie is 21-year-old Maggie Darlington who studied at Claddagh, became world champion in 2007 and now dances with Battle of the Dance, a professional troupe based in Anaheim.“She eats lunch with them, does her homework with them,” Laurie Fitzgerald said. “They’re like family.”Of the hundreds of dancers who have passed through Claddagh, 14 have become champions who then went on to become credentialed teachers. Of those 14, five have returned to Claddagh and now teach at satellite locations from Sacramento to Murrieta, O’Connell said.In February 2012, Maggie will return to Belfast for another competition.“I don’t push her,” Laurie said. “It’s her not me. I tell her, ‘As soon as you’re not having fun we stop.’ But she says, ‘No, I’ll never quit this.’ I like that she loves it.”
By Lenny Roberts
The acclaimed actress best known for her role in a 1956 low-budget classic, “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” died at the Ojai Valley Community Hospital’s Continuing Care Center May 5 at 5:30 p.m., according to her son, Mark Bautzer. She had suffered from heart disease in recent years, and was transferred from the hospital’s intensive care unit earlier in the day. Bautzer said she was not expected to survive, and “she stepped off the bus very peacefully” 33 days shy of her 80th birthday.
Wynter, a longtime Upper Ojai resident, was born Dagmar Winter in Germany in 1931. Her ashes will be buried at her other home in her beloved Ireland, according to Bautzer.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
“Oh my God, look at the size of that thing!” was the last thing I heard just before the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, Ala. last week killed the power to my television set — the one on which we had been monitoring the storm. Ava saw the monstrous funnel cloud on a TV sky-camera as it approached town. Suddenly, the sky-cam went blank. Our electricity flickered and went out. Ava and I and our two dogs, and our friend Lisa and her dog waited anxiously in my candlelit basement, listening to a small battery-powered radio as the storm roared into town. At my house, you could not tell anything had happened. There was a little bit of rain and some wind gusts, which only knocked down a few twigs and leaves. But two miles down the road, the tornado was destroying everything in its path, forever changing the landscape and lives of everyone in Tuscaloosa. Images on the internet and television, while dramatic, do not really do justice to the degree of destruction. I saw only a small part of the devastation live, and it sickened me. I saw the area where a friend’s business had collapsed on top of him and two co-workers. Thankfully, all survived. I saw cars twisted into corkscrew shapes; large trees uprooted and snapped in two; and open spaces where industrial buildings had once stood. Entire neighborhoods were flattened. In some photos I cannot recognize the location of the shot because no landmarks were left standing. One report said that you could stand in the parking lot of University Mall and see all the way to the basketball arena. Here, that would be like standing outside the Skate Park with only rubble between you and the Ojai Valley Inn.As always, disasters bring out the best and worst in people. There have been disgusting stories of looting. My stance on this type of behavior is quite simple. Not only do I believe it should be within the law to shoot looters, but there should be special tax credits given to those who do.But those stories are far outdistanced by the heroic stories of those who serve the needs of others —- the people who rescue and treat the injured, who provide shelter to those who have lost their homes, and who feed the victims and the rescue personnel, including my wife and our friend who was with us in the basement. There are also stories of survival — like that of a friend’s nephew who got into a utility closet with his roommates, emerging unscathed from a house that was a total loss. Another friend was out driving in his truck at the time, which is about the worst place you can be. He saw the tornado, floored the vehicle, and raced for cover underneath an overpass. The storm roared past him, shaking his truck violently. He said he was certain he would be overturned and rolled, but the truck stayed upright and he survived. They say that God looks out after fools and small children — and he is no child. As in every epic tragedy, there are horror stories that are beyond comprehension. But there are also stories that touch your heart and offer some hope. A few days ago, our friend Lisa was driving around town with other volunteers, handing out water and boxed lunches to those in some of the most devastated areas. While she was out, she stopped by to check on a friend’s mother, who lives in one of the communities hardest hit by the storm. The mother, Peggy, is diabetic, and Lisa was aware that she was without electricity. Peggy was low on gasoline, which powered the generator that kept her life-saving insulin within the proper temperature range. Lisa had to wait for a few minutes as workers cut up and removed a large tree that had been felled by the storm and was blocking the entrance to the subdivision. When the barrier was cleared, a man who was waiting on the other side of the tree flagged her down. He said he had gas and a generator, and asked did she know anyone who could use them? Lisa gladly took the gas and went to her friend’s mother’s house where she used it to run the generator to preserve the insulin. Peggy’s generator had stopped running five minutes earlier. Lisa called that her “God moment.”The generosity from outside Tuscaloosa has been heartwarming. Massive amounts of water, food, clothing and other supplies have arrived in town, donated by those who want to help. All of this has caused me to ponder the question — are tragedies like this some type of mystical wake-up call —- something that challenges and/or shames you into being a better and more selfless person than you would be otherwise? Ava and I know several people who lost houses and businesses. There are still hundreds missing in Tuscaloosa, but as far as we know, there was no loss of life within our circle of friends and family. For that we are extremely thankful. We have also been touched by the outpouring of concern from friends here in Ojai. I have had numerous calls and e-mails from those concerned with our safety. I even had people come up to me in person at the Tennis Tournament this weekend to offer condolences about the damage, and let me know that they were thinking about us. That touches me more than you can know. Thank you all.
As he sits talking about his tennis players, the smile on Mark Weil’s face couldn’t stretch any farther. His eyes twinkle and his brows move animatedly as he recalls how his Weil Tennis Academy students performed at the 111th Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament.”We took four out of five juniors singles championships,” he says. He ticks them off on his fingers: Kenadi Hance, Girls’ 14 Singles champ; Tess Bernard-Feigenbaum, Girls’ 18 Singles champ; Aidan Jiang, Boys’ 14 Singles champ; and Ciro Riccardi, Boys’ 16 Singles champ. The Weil kids also picked up a win in the Women’s Open Division as Monica Turewicz bested fellow Weil athlete Ashley Dai.That Weil’s students are dominating “The Ojai” is no surprise. The 14-year-old academy draws kids from all over the world to train with Weil and his accomplished coaching staff. “And these are just great kids,” Weil says.Hance, he said, comes from a family of lifelong tennis players and coaches. She was No. 1 in the nation for Girls 12s last year and has trained with the WTA off and on “since she was 9,” Weil said. “She normally plays in the 18s, but we told her, ‘See what you can do in the 14s, and she beat (teammate) Dominique Schaefer.”Turewicz has dominated in the tournament the last three years, having won the Girls’ 16 Singles in 2009, Girls’ 18 Singles in 2010, and the Women’s Open Singles this year. “She beat Ashley Dai, who won the Girls’ 16s two years ago, and was a semifinalist last year,” Weil said. She’ll be going to Duke University on a full-ride scholarship this fall after having trained with WTA for the last four years. “She’s top 50 in the world right now,” said Weil.Dai has also been a WTA powerhouse, who has committed to North Carolina University. “It’s great — she and Monica will be playing each other in college too!” Weil pointed out. “Both of those girls will be in the top 10 in college eventually, I’m sure.” The girls’ WTA teammate, Riccardi, has been at the school for three years, and during that time has made significant improvements, Weil said. “When he came to us he was almost a beginner. But he’s pushed his way up to the top 30 in the Boys’ 16s in Southern California.” Just a few weeks ago Riccardi beat the No. 2 seed and reached the semifinals of the USTA Spring International Championships. At “The Ojai,” Riccardi lost in the Boys’ 14s in 2010 — making his Boys’ 16 Singles title this year even sweeter. “He’s one of our hardest-working players,” said Weil. “He does a lot of extra work. He’s really dedicated.”"That was my favorite match,” said Craig Fugle, Ojai Tennis Club Junior Division committee chairman, referring to the Boys’ 16 Singles final. “It was a long three-setter. Ciro was great!” Fugle also noted that “true Ojai local” and WTA student Jesse Ross was a standout as well. “He had a really good tournament. He actually barely lost to the guy that Ciro beat in the finals (Alex Giannini), gave him a good match (6-3, 6-4).” ”He’s a dark horse — he works so hard,” Weil said of Ross. “He’s on the cusp of being a nationally ranked player.”Jiang, meanwhile, is ranked in the top three in China’s Boys’ 14 Singles. This year at “The Ojai,” he beat the son of USC tennis coach Peter Smith, Weil said proudly. When Jiang first came to WTA in November 2010, Weil said, “he wasn’t really that competitive. But he soon got a taste for competition! After (winning ‘The Ojai’), it was like he won Wimbledon, he was so excited. He’s got a lot of potential.”Girls’ 18 Singles champ Bernard-Feigenbaum has earned a scholarship to Purdue University, despite the fact that she’s only a junior this year. Like Riccardi, Bernard-Feigenbaum lost last year in the finals (Girls 16s), but came back to take the tournament in 2011. “She really proved her competitive instincts,” Weil said. “She was down love-three then won 11 of the next 12 sets (she won 6-3, 6-1). That girl knows how to get it done!”Local High School ResultsAlso competing from Ojai were Nordhoff High School’s Evan Edwards, Joseph Quackenbush and Tucker Ring; Villanova Preparatory School’s Patrick Lenz, and The Thacher School’s Jacob Nelson, Mackenzie Combs and Jesse Garrett. Although each are doing well in their respective CIF-SS leagues — Nordhoff especially — Fugle pointed out that “Southern California tournament play is really high level. I know their coaches are working to get them to that level, and the High Performance Tennis Clinics we (the Ojai Valley Tennis Club) organize are helpful in that I think.” Edwards went out in the first round, losing 6-2, 6-0; Quackenbush and Ring lost in the first round, 6-2, 6-0. Nelson lost, 6-0, 6-0, in the first round; Combs and Garrett lost, 6-1, 6-0 in the first round. Lenz lost in the first round, 6-2, 6-2.Said Weil of all the juniors, “It’s so tough to go out there and know you could lose. It takes courage to take such a risk, in front of a crowd especially. The best thing you can do is go out and just fight your hardest. If you do that, it’s a great honor — you’ve achieved something great.”
By Logan Hall
Fire season is quickly approaching Southern California as the Ventura County Fire Department pushes to get people and their properties ready. County residents and property owners have less than a month to comply with the VCFD’s June 1 fire hazard reduction program (weed abatement) deadline. According to the department, if a property borders a natural area, known as the wildland urban interface, their risk of wildfire largely increases. Properties that are within one mile of a natural area are in what is known as the ember zone. There, properties are at risk from wind-driven embers.
Although late rains have slowed the onset of fire danger, the Fire Department stresses the importance of individuals taking responsibility for their own property. “Everyone needs to take a look at their defensible space,” said Capt. Ron Oatman, VCFD spokesman, when describing the need for weed abatement around homes. “Realistically, every year could potentially be the worst year for wildfire. What can you do to protect your home if you have to evacuate and firefighters can’t get to your property?”
Oatman continued to describe some ways people can increase their defenses against fire. “People can take certain measures like getting leaves off of roofs, not keeping wood piled up close to the home, and moving plastic trash cans and outdoor furniture that can catch fire.”
The department has dedicated a website to wildfire preparedness (vcreadysetgo.org) that details the steps individuals can take to maximize their protection in the event of a wildfire. “You have to do as much as you can ahead of time,” said Oatman. “You need to have a good evacuation plan, knowing that property can be replaced.”
Oatman was also quick to say that while the heavy rains the valley had allowed the region to get deeper into summer before the seasonal brush dies and becomes fuel, that can also be problematic. “The rain certainly helped,” he said, “but it grew a lot more grass that dies easily. We need homeowners to help us help them.”
For those who don’t comply with the department’s June 1 deadline, the VCFD will have contractors come in to do the work, but property owners will be responsible for all costs, plus penalty fees. Oatman say that individuals are “best off doing it on their own.”
The department offers home safety inspections to property owners who have completed their fire hazard reduction, but have questions or concerns as to whether it was done properly. After the inspection, the department may give recommendations to those who need further effort to do their part. For information on fire hazard reduction and home safety inspections call the VCFD’s public information line at 389-9769 or log on to vcreadysetgo.com.
“The bottom line is that we live in Southern California,” said Oatman. “We always need to be prepared.”
Ojai Valley News publisher Bill Buchanan and wife Ava were in the basement of their house in Tuscaloosa, Ala. during the tornado that devastated that town last week. Buchanan gave a brief first-hand account of the storm to the newspaper.
“Weather forecasters had been predicting the possibilities of severe weather for about a week before the storm. Wednesday morning several tornadoes were spotted throughout the state, some touching down and causing heavy damage. By Wednesday afternoon, we were tracking three tornadoes that were all headed in the direction of Tuscaloosa. One system veered to the north, another to the south. But one storm moved directly toward Tuscaloosa.
“Ava, our friend Lisa, our dogs and I were in the basement, watching the progress of the storms on television. The storms were severe enough that local television programming was suspended, and stations devoted all their air time to tracking the tornadoes. The dogs were agitated, and we did our best to calm them. We were all very worried. As the tornado in our path approached, Lisa and I went into the interior of our basement — the room with no windows and no exterior walls. The newscaster directed everyone to take cover immediately. As Ava was moving to join us in the interior room, she saw the storm appear on one of the TV sky-cams. ‘Oh my God!’ she exclaimed. ‘Look at the size of that thing!” The picture went blank; the power flickered, and then went out completely.
We had flashlights, candles and a battery-powered radio that we used for news of the storm. After what seemed like an eternity, reports came in that a massive tornado had hit Tuscaloosa, causing extensive damage. We had heard nothing outside. When we walked out to check on my house, you could not tell anything had happened. The sky had a funny cast to it, but there was very little rain and no appreciable wind. The yard was free of leaves and tree limbs. The storm had missed us completely.
Shortly, reports of incredible damage starting coming over the airwaves. While we had been spared at my house, several other parts of the city were devastated. Hundreds of houses and businesses were damaged and/or completely leveled by the storm. One friend rode out the storm at his business. His building was destroyed and he was trapped in the rubble, but he and two of his employees were safe and uninjured. Another friend, who owns a number of rental homes for college students, lost 12 of his houses to the storm. Miraculously, none of his renters were killed. I later found out that another friend’s nephew’s house had been completely destroyed, but he and his roommates were in an interior utility room, and were able to climb out of the debris unharmed. Another friend was foolishly in his truck at the time. He saw the tornado approaching and raced for an overpass for shelter. If he had driven a half mile farther, he would surely have perished in the storm.
While our house sustained no damage whatsoever, two miles south of my neighborhood looked like Nagasaki and Hiroshima after the atomic bombs were dropped. Entire neighborhoods lay in rubble. Eight hundred people went to the local hospital with injuries. Almost 300 more are still unaccounted for, and the city immediately began a massive cleanup and rescue effort.”
Buchanan said he wanted to publish this account due to the large response from the people in Ojai who inquired about his safety.
“I want to thank all my Ojai friends who have contacted us to voice concerns over our safety after the tornado in Tuscaloosa,” said Buchanan. “I replied to many of you as best I could, but storm damage and power outages hindered communication. Ava and I were very lucky. We are safe, as are our friends and family. There has been no loss of life within our group of which we are aware. Please know that your thoughts, concerns and prayers are greatly appreciated. We would ask that you turn your thoughts and prayers toward those who have lost homes, family and loved ones.”
Buchanan added that his wife and several friends have been involved in relief efforts for the town. “Some people have asked me about making donations,” he said. “For those wishing to donate to relief organizations, I offer the following:
The United Way of West Alabama is accepting donations by calling (205) 345-6640. Donations by credit card are also accepted, all of which will stay in Alabama, by visiting the website at www.uwwa.org. The American Red Cross has set up temporary shelters across the damaged states and is providing meals and medical assistance to families. You may donate $10 to relief efforts, by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999. Donations are also accepted online at www.redcross.org or by calling (800) RED-CROSS. The Salvation Army is providing food to displaced families. Donations of $10 can be sent by texting “GIVE” to 80888. To donate online, you may visit salvationarmyusa.org. By phone, call (800) SAL-ARMY and say you would like to designate the donations for the “April 2011 Tornado Outbreak.”
Buchanan will give more of his personal account of the storm in his regular Friday “Passing the Buck” column, as well as in an online interview, “Ojai Valley News In Depth,” which may be found on the newspaper’s website at ojaivalleynews.com.