Report and photo by Logan Hall
Dozens of firefighters and emergency personnel including the Sheriff’s Department helicopter responded to a grass fire near the Krotona Institute just before noon Friday. According to Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Anthony Romero, fire crews gained control of the fire at about 1:15 p.m. just before the fire reached buildings in the area of Krotona.
The trademark blue and yellow Sheriff’s Huey helicopter piloted by Deputy Jim Dalton made four water drops after filling up the chopper’s tanks at the pond at Rancho La Vista. “We saw where the hand crew was working to the east,” said Dalton after landing safely back at Camarillo Airport. “We cut it off on the west end and worked toward the guys on the ground to help them out.”
VCFD Captain Chris Dunbauld was working as the fire crew chief for Dalton as the helicopter swooped in to make its drops and says that the close proximity of the pond was a major factor in how quickly the fire was contained. “With our ability to take water from the pond,” said Dunbauld, “we could make such a quick turn around that we were able to make some quick drops to buy time for the ground crews. If we don’t have a dip site close by, we rely on the engine companies to fill us up. With the pond nearby, we’re fully self-contained.”
About five acres were burned in the large field next to Highway 33 approaching Krotona before responding units were able to contain the blaze. Although Romero says the cause of the fire has yet to be determined, eyewitnesses reported that the fire had started under an electrical pole in the middle of the field. “I thought maybe there were people smoking cigarettes at the phone pole,” said passerby Ruben Silva. “Then there was too much smoke so I told my daughter to call 911.”
Silva’s daughter Laura luckily had a cell phone with her as the two rode past the scene on the bike trail. “We were riding by,” she said, “and my dad was like, ‘look at all the smoke,’ so I called 911.”
Romero said that 15 emergency units had responded to the fire including, along with Ventura County Fire, crews from Ventura City Fire Department, Cal-Fire and the U.S. Forest Service. No injuries were reported and the blaze was contained before any structures were damaged.
View more photos HERE
By Chris T. Wilson
As the plans for modernizing the Ojai Valley Community Hospital continue to come together, a new equipment purchase, two sizable cash donations and the hiring of two new doctors are helping to bring shape to the upgrading process.
Recently it was leaked that $100,000 has been donated anonymously to help in this renovation process. According to the hospital’s new chief operating officer, Haady Lashkari, the money will be used for the modernization of the radiology department, an out-patient addition and improvements to the skilled nursing facility.
Lashkari said the skilled nursing center improvements and renovations would include more private rooms. Also, some triple-occupancy rooms will be transformed into more spacious double rooms, and more bathrooms will be added to reduce the patient-to-bathroom ratio. While some elderly patients at the facility are in long-term care, others in short-term rehabilitation will be more comfortable as they recover from procedures such as hip surgery.
“We’re very excited and fortunate to have such wonderful support from the community,” Lashkari said.
He added that by late 2011 or early 2012, a full assessment of the facility master plan will be able to identify the priorities of the project. That will include the input and feedback of hospital employees, the management team and medical staff, and the public, he added. OVCH will continue to work closely with the city of Ojai and may hold a town hall meeting, too, for input on improving facilities and esthetics.
In other hospital news, Chris Rock, executive director of the Ojai Valley Community Hospital Foundation, has just announced that money raised from the recent “Beach Ball” event has been put to good use. Just over $48,000 of the $50,000 raised at the event has been used to purchase a new high-definition digital camera to be used in performing arthroscopic and laparoscopic surgeries.
“The new camera allows the doctors to blow up and enhance images of the areas they are operating on,” Rock said. “This will help them do their jobs better on a daily basis.”
Active community members Nita Whaley and Don Anderson, who have been involved with raising funds for the hospital for a number of years, put on the “Beach Ball” event this spring. Anderson said he was very pleased with the response. “We’re very proud that the community came forth and provided the money for this important addition for the hospital,” Anderson said. “We want to especially acknowledge Dr. Ian MacLean and his wife, Ginny, for their large gift in support of this important tool for the surgeons that will make their jobs easier and outcomes a lot better.”
The video equipment the doctors have wanted includes a probe and camera, which may be inserted into the afflicted joints of a patient and — via a wall-mounted monitor —- will provide the surgeon a much clearer internal view of the area being treated.
Finally, Lashkari also confirmed rumors that two new staff doctors have been hired. Though specific details are forthcoming, Lashkari said one of the new physicians is an internal medicine specialist and the other is a headache specialist who is an expert in oral facial pain, cluster headaches and neurological pain, Lashkari said. Both are scheduled to start work in Ojai in September. Look for a more complete story soon as more information about the new doctors is released.
By Perry Van Houten
The original title was “Kamikaze Unicyclists Conquer Ojai Trails,” but after spending almost two days with Paavo Stubstad, Seth Horton and trials professional Ty Smith, both on the Pratt Trail and on a makeshift trials course at the Pratt Trailhead, it became clear that there might be a little conquering going on, but certainly not by any sort of kamikaze.
Nor are Stubstad, Horton and Smith the painted, juggling circus clowns of old, riding their one-wheeled pedestals of torture over downhill terrain that would make even pack mules nervous, but skilled athletes playing a most unusual sport, fully aware of the risks and their own limitations.
This is controlled chaos where, it turns out, the trail usually wins.
“On a scale of one to 10, Pratt Trail is almost a 10 for municyclists,” says the 22-year-old Horton, a lifelong Ojai resident. “Horn Canyon is a 10.” Behind Thacher School on the East End, Horn boasts a steep, rocky section made more difficult by a half-buried metal pipe running down the middle.
Municyclists ride “munis,” mountain bike-style unicycles with fat, knobby tires, beefy, rugged components, a more comfortable seat and sometimes even brakes. A good one can set you back about $400.
It was on Pratt while mountain biking in 2006 that I first encountered pairs of armor-plated unicycle riders, and like most first-time, slack-jawed spectators I probably blurted out in awe one of the standard cliches. “’Hey, you’re missing a wheel’ is one of the jokes I’ve heard about a thousand times,” says Stubstad.
A video editor for a Ventura company, the 25-year-old Stubstad is considered by his peers one of the best unicyclists riding the trails today. Goateed, helmeted and wearing plaid knee-length shorts and a CamelBak, along with a pair of black shin guards and gloves, Stubstad says he discovered the sport by accident when a friend went on vacation and loaned him his unicycle. The challenge at first was staying on. “It was a steep learning curve,” he says.
“On a unicycle, you have to keep pedaling or you fall over,” says Horton, “there’s no freewheel, which takes some getting used to. Then balance becomes second nature and the unicycle becomes an extension of your body.”
It could only be a combination of balance, instinct and perhaps painful experience that keeps these riders bouncing down the trail over roots and rock ledges, staying as upright as possible glued to a chair on top of a wheel.
It’s got to be dangerous.
“You fall more often,” says Stubstad, “but it’s a lot safer than mountain biking because your feet usually hit the ground first when you fall. There’s no handlebars to fly over,” he adds. Amazingly, the three have only one broken bone between them — a fractured wrist Stubstad suffered in a non-trail unicycle accident. “I just fell over backwards,” he chuckles.
Another somewhat comical but inadvertent and certainly hazardous unicycle maneuver is “to Superman,” which results in the rider, in heroic mid-air flight, leaving his ride behind in the dust beside the rock or stump he just hit. Stubstad accidentally became Superman our first afternoon but happily suffered no injuries, on what seemed like the most innocent stretches of trail. At least one professional muni rider wears a cape with an “S” when he competes.
Trials expert Smith joins us this sunny, cool June afternoon on Pratt Trail. But unlike Stubstad, Horton and me, he’s planned ahead. Dressed in long pants and sleeves, while the rest of us in shorts and T-shirts get eaten alive by mosquitoes, Smith predicts we’ll be itching our brains out in two days. He’s right.
Smith, 23, has been riding this trail since 2001, but prefers cycles of the two-wheeled variety. He treats us to a series of stunts ascending one leap at a time to the top of a heap of boulders. “Trials is more about piles of rocks,” he says. “It’s all about balance and the only danger is getting too cocky.” Smith and Horton, who also excels at trials, sometimes get together to “ride” the boulders of the Stewart Canyon Debris Dam near Pratt Trail. A strange sight indeed for anyone who even notices the two of them traversing their rocky universe boulder by boulder.
It looks fun, but the learning curve Stubstad talked about seems to apply to trials as well.
“There are probably half a dozen riding municycles in the Ojai Valley,” says Horton. “Not so easy to turn friends on to the sport,” he adds, “because it’s hard for people to get over their fear.”
Trials numbers are even harder to pin down, as “trials riders get lumped in with BMX riders,” says Smith, “and get a bad rap for damaging park benches and stuff.” Just give this lad his bike and a big pile of rocks.
We stop talking for a while in order to ride and take some pictures. My crash test dummies have picked out a favorite downhill section of Pratt Trail that includes a sweeping right-hand turn over boulders and rock ledges, on a single track not much more than 2 feet wide. This is part of the trail that can be tricky to even walk.
Stubstad is first to go and nails the section the first time. But it’s tricky for me to get a good shot because it’s usually a short, fast ride and the path of the rider can be somewhat unpredictable. The next seven or eight attempts over and through the rocks by Stubstad meet with mixed results, but we get quite a few blurry shots of plaid and black shin guard hurtling by the camera.
Later, back in the parking lot at the Pratt Trailhead, I make the comment that mom and dad must be thrilled about the boys’ sports of choice.
“They don’t mind,” says Smith, answering for all.
But certainly some measure of parental concern must have crept in during the two or more years it took for Stubstad, Horton and Smith to master their craft. Maybe the fear that a particularly messy Superman will leave their boy resembling the unicycle: missing parts?
The guys laugh at this sacrilegious remark.
“That’s the other joke we get all the time,” says Stubstad. “Where’s the other half of your bike?”
By Matthew Wagner
The characteristic music signaling the arrival of “the ice cream man” is a powerful thing. It causes people of all ages to stop what they’re doing, scramble for spare change, and frantically chase the colorful truck down the street.
Knowing our obsession with delicious cold treats — especially during the Ojai Valley’s hottest months — Chris Crossett has run the Ojai Ice Cream Truck on and off for the last 20 years.
Born and raised in Ojai, Crossett had to make a job change in his adult life after his mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. An ice cream truck seemed to fit in with his schedule, and seemed like a good purchase and source of income. “I noticed that there was no ice cream man in Ojai,” Crossett said. “I thought it would be something cool and fun for Ojai. Plus, I could take my kids with me.”
Over the years, Crossett has come to know his customers well. “It is fun to watch people that I used to serve when they were children, come out with their kids and buy ice cream from me,” he said. Crossett, who used to bring his children on the truck with him to serve ice cream, now enjoys teaching his grandkids the ropes. “My kids learned how to work at a young age,” said Crossett, who has six children and eight grandchildren. “They learn everything from counting back money to customer service.”
There are certain places that the ice cream truck does not venture. “I do not do the East End. It is very hard to do under-populated areas. At the same time, it is hard to go down over-populated areas as well. With the big truck it causes traffic blocks,” said Crossett.
There are different times for different parts of the year that he goes out. “During the school year I start at a quarter to three, normally from 3 to 5 p.m. During the summer I start at noon,” said Crossett. All together Crossett keeps more than 40 flavors of ice cream on the truck at any time.
Crossett has a helper, Lexi May, who helps him on Tuesdays and Fridays. “I truly have fun with it, I hope I am doing something for the community and that people enjoy what I do,” said Crossett. “I do not plan on retiring. If I have any luck I’ll be having my great-grandkids on my truck.”
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Singer Amy Winehouse joined the “27 Club” last week. The 27 Club is the tragic group of talented musicians who all died in their 27th year of life. The group includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. All were very creative and talented, but wildly self-destructive. Sadly, each died of drug overdoses, or in the case of Cobain, suicide that was probably heavily influenced by drug use. At this writing, Winehouse’s autopsy was not completed. No drugs were found at her apartment at the time of her death, but she had been in and out of rehab and was an admitted drug-user. It is difficult to believe that drugs did not contribute in some way to her death.
Being a baby boomer, I still love the music of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison (and The Doors), all of which are featured prominently on my iPod. They were three of the musicians who launched my journey into rock ‘n’ roll. Oddly, they all died within a year of each other. I sometimes think about the phenomenal body of music that was never realized due to their untimely deaths.
The Winehouse death sparked a talk with my 20-year-old niece last weekend about addiction. We talked about friends and family who had alcohol and drug problems and what it had cost them —- their jobs, their health, their marriages and, in some cases, very nearly their lives. My niece told me the story of one of her friends who was smart, funny and had a bright future ahead of him. But he dropped out of college after overdosing at a party, and went into rehab. He has spent the last three months living in a halfway house, and hopes to be out in time to return to school in the fall.
Her friend says he hates living in the halfway house, and that he is ashamed of letting his life get so out of hand. He said he just didn’t realize he was spiraling out of control, drinking more and more and taking harder and harder drugs. Rehab seems to have provided him with some clarity of thought and some introspection into his self-destructive actions. I hope he retains that clarity when he re-enters the “real world.” But the odds will be against him, especially if he returns to the environment of his addiction.
Ironically, Amy Winehouse died almost exactly 40 years after President Richard Nixon declared the “war on drugs.” On July 17, 1971, Nixon told Congress that drug addiction in the United States had “assumed the dimensions of a national emergency” and asked Capitol Hill for an initial $84 million for “emergency measures.”
Forty years and billions of dollars later, the drug problem in this country is arguably worse and more widespread than ever. Crack cocaine and meth are everywhere, and abuse of prescription drugs like Oxycontin and other painkillers appears to be on the rise as well.
We don’t seem to have the answer to drug abuse in our country. We have tried enforcement, interdiction, and increased prison time for offenders. It sometimes seems all we have done is to fill up our prisons. Few seem to have the stomach for legalizing hard drugs, which seems like an invitation to addiction.
Drug abuse is a two-headed snake. Until we find a way to cut off both heads, demand and supply, more and more young people will be lost.
What a waste.
Perry Van Houten
The Ojai Valley got its first look at the new Ventura River Steelhead Preserve last Friday at a sneak peek party hosted by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy and attended by more than 250 guests that included OVLC members and their friends, along with state and local officials.
The new 45-acre preserve for the federally endangered fish was purchased on June 17 and includes one and one-third miles of the Ventura River beside the historic Hollingsworth Ranch on Santa Ana Road.
The preserve provides perhaps the best habitat on the entire river for the Southern California steelhead, which rely on the cool, deep, shaded pools on this section of the river as a staging area on their migration to the ocean. It also adds another mile to the roughly six miles of the river already preserved.
It’s all part of a larger plan “to protect a continuous greenway from Los Padres Forest all the way down to the estuary on the Ventura River,” says project director Bob Thiel of the California Coastal Conservancy. The organization stepped in to provide $500,000 toward the acquisition of the Steelhead Preserve, a key component of the Ventura River Parkway Project, which will some day include open space habitat, recreational trails and natural floodplains.
It’s a huge step in protecting the entire 16 miles of the Ventura River, and a rare acquisition, especially in Southern California, says Mary Larson of the California Department of Fish and Game. Her work was crucial in securing most of the $2 million needed to purchase the property. “It’s a vital part of the river and means so much to the fish and wildlife,” she said. Larson, who first visited the ranch in 2002 and worked with the previous owners on a bank stabilization project, called the purchase a win for both the community and river wildlife, providing “more space for the critters to exist.”
OVLC executive director Greg Gamble says it was the trust’s project partners like Thiel and Larson who proved so critical in purchasing the land and old stone buildings, and gave particular credit to Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett for “greasing the skids of county government.”
“This is certainly a joyful day,” said Bennett, “when you can permanently protect something on the river.”
It’s not just the steelhead that will feel the benefit of the new preserve, but also 29 other rare, threatened or endangered species. The preserve also offers historic buildings, which will be used as a conservation center, hosting scientists, schoolchildren and the public. Gamble told the OVN he thinks it will be a year or two before the preserve is ready for public use, as an additional $250,000 is needed to build a new access road, trails, signage and fencing and to make the necessary modifications to the buildings and landscaping. “It’s like we have a shiny new car, but still need the keys,” he said.
Another matter still unresolved in the preservation of the river is the removal of the Matilija Dam, which Gamble calls “a complicated issue” due to problems like money and the effects the silt buildup behind the dam could have on the river and Lake Casitas. “The main vision,” he says, “is connecting people to a healthy river.”
Music for the evening’s festivities was provided by local bands The Zen Cats and The Three Rivers Band, featuring OVLC’s Brian Stark on bass. The Ojai Vineyard donated wine for the party.
But the real stars of the show were the steelhead themselves. A handful of party-goers were lucky enough to spot two large fish, one of them almost 2 feet long, in one of the deep, shaded pools.
“They’re here,” said Gamble, “and we’re so excited to be able to protect this special place.”
The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust which has been working to preserve the valley’s views, trails, water and wildlife for nearly 25 years. It has protected roughly 2,000 acres in the area, which is about two-thirds the size of the city of Ojai.
By Misty Volaski
While not exactly the prettiest of birds, the California condor has long been revered by the Chumash and is a vital part of the local ecosystem.
So when the Ojai Valley Museum acquired a condor statue by Carlyle Montgomery in 1997, it was the perfect fit. Made of Belgian limestone and local red serpentine, it stands guard over the back courtyard of the museum.
But on June 13, director Michele Pracy noticed something amiss with the life-sized statue. It had been vandalized near its base, and its serpentine head had been badly smashed. The damage isn’t highly noticeable from far away, but, said Pracy, it is extensive, and will be costly to repair.
She has been told that the head must be entirely resculpted, and the wing tip in which the graffiti was carved must be buffed out. The statue — which also features a man spreading his arms — is insured and can be fixed. But the real tragedy, said Pracy, lies in the fact that Montgomery died one year after the condor was installed. “So it will never be 100 percent his artwork again,” she said. “It’s incredibly sad someone would do this. I guess some people were raised without an appreciation for art. This isn’t like graffiti on a freeway overpass. It’s a very valuable work of art.”
A police report was made, said Pracy, but there have been no arrests to date, according to Ojai Police Capt. Chris Dunn. Certainly, he said, the statue’s current location “provides an opportunity to be shielded from public view. Visibility is good for security. You’ll have a harder time getting away with something” if it’s in full view of the public.
Thankfully, plans had already been made to move the 14-foot-tall statue to the front of the museum in the courtyard near the front door. Pracy said she’s already gotten the go-ahead from the city of Ojai to move the statue, and is focusing on fund-raising efforts to complete the move, which she hopes will happen by the end of the year.
“The statue is insured,” she acknowledged, “but that doesn’t cover the cost of moving it. It’s a huge endeavor.” While she’s raised $5,000 so far toward that effort, there is still more than $12,000 left before the move can take place. It will involve a crane to lift the statue up and over the museum building, from the back to the front. A new base will also need to be constructed and a maintenance schedule must be planned. Pracy also wants to add lighting and a new plaque.
“We’d like it to be our flagship,” Pracy said, “sort of to alert people walking by that there must be something artful in our courtyard.” She paused, adding, “The silver lining here is that the vandalism might inspire people to help us move the statue where it’s always in the public eye. That’s critical.”
Those wishing to donate can contact Pracy at 640-1390, Ext. 201, or visit ojaivalleymuseum.org. Those with information about the vandals should call the Ojai Police Department at 646-1414.
By Logan Hall
A major showing of the public forced the Casitas Municipal Water District board of directors to postpone a scheduled presentation by Golden State Water Company at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
With the board’s meeting room seats packed, Casitas officials had to turn people away at the door, most of whom waited outside to hear results from the meeting. After the board began to realize the sheer amount of concerned citizens who were trying to attend the meeting, John Mathews, the board’s legal counsel, informed board members that there were concerns about the meeting room’s fire safety capacity.
Board member Pete Kaiser notified the more than 40 people who had made it into the room that Golden State’s presentation would need to be continued at a later date. The board seemed to agree that a much larger venue was necessary to accommodate public attendance. “We need to find a place that can fit the city of Ojai,” said Kaiser as dozens of eager Golden State customers chuckled at the exaggeration.
Some who had driven to CMWD’s office to attend the meeting couldn’t find parking due to the high volume of traffic entering the facility. “I came around the corner and there were lines of cars on all sides,” said Stephanie Midgette, former president of the Rotary Club of Ojai West. “I couldn’t believe how many people were there. There was absolutely no parking there.”
Although it will take time for CMWD to find a proper venue and reschedule the public meeting, they assured those present that they would get the ball rolling as soon as possible. The board’s postponement announcement evoked a few groans from attendees, but morale among the people seemed high as groups gathered outside the meeting room to discuss their cause.
The board did allow members of the public to speak on the matter, but Mathews urged the public to keep their comments on track with the remaining items on the board’s agenda, saving comments about Golden State for the future meeting. “We don’t want to have comment after comment that is bashing Golden State,” said Mathews after the second public speaker ripped into GSWC.
Representatives from GSWC were unwilling to comment on the postponement of the meeting but according to spokesman John Dewey Golden State is “looking forward to presenting to the CMWD and answering any questions the board may have.”
GSWC had requested making a presentation to Casitas to address the proposal by Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water that suggests that CMWD buy out Golden State’s Ojai area coverage through eminent domain. Because of Golden State’s rising rates and what many locals believe to be a failing infrastructure, F.L.O.W. reached out to convince Casitas that Golden State needs to relinquish control of Ojai’s water system.
The meeting with Casitas was set up after Golden State announced another round of rate hikes for upcoming years. According to a rate increase application that Golden State submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission, GSWC requested an increase of 25 percent by 2015. That would increase the average Ojai residential water bill by almost $20 a month. Golden State’s rate application documents show that 2,860 Golden State customers in Ojai are projected to pay $6,816,000 for water in the year 2015. Two years ago, according to F.L.O.W., Golden State’s Ojai customers were paying $4.1 million.
An analysis by F.L.O.W. showed that GSWC’s rates are substantially higher than those of other water purveyors in the valley. According to F.L.O.W.’s data, Golden States is charging Ojai customers 372 percent more for water than Casitas charges their customers.
The Casitas board has not yet given a timeline for when the continued meeting will take place.
By Logan Hall
The Ojai Planning Commission voted to take a closer look at the city’s historical preservation proposal before making a recommendation to the City Council on the issue.
Ojai citizens filled the council chambers at City Hall Wednesday night to voice concerns about the results of a survey identifying hundreds of properties that might have historical significance. If the plan to designate buildings as “historical resources” is implemented as is, a property owner’s process for obtaining a building permit could become longer and more expensive.
As city staff and the Planning Commission have pointed out, preserving historically significant properties can be an important part of preserving history itself, and maintaining the appeal of a tourist-driven town like Ojai. Local experts and property owners, however, have some serious issues with the city’s plan and the way it has been implemented so far. One of the problems on the forefront of the public’s mind is the fact that the city has not notified any of the owners of the properties found on the historic survey list.
“My first concern is that I knew nothing about this,” local property owner Debra Scolari said to the commission. “Something needs to be implemented so we aren’t caught off-guard.”
Several others in attendance also voiced Scolari’s concerns.
“I’m just really kind of shocked that there have been no letters (sent out),” added local homeowner Dulanie LaBarre.
Others in the crowd like Steve Streich, president of the Ojai Valley Board of Realtors, expressed concerns about potential impacts a historical designation could have on property owners. “We don’t want the city to create any more guidelines and regulations for people to have to go through to fix up their houses,” said Streich. “What will end up happening is that people will just decide not to fix up their houses. Nobody is going to want to check with the city for any reason.”
If the city identifies a property as a historical resource, property owners applying for building permits would have to hire a historian to send a report to city planning staff outlining any historical significance regarding the property. The city would then, at its discretion, decide if the property needs further review.
A historical designation would also place a property under the guidelines of the California Environmental Quality Act and the property could be subject to an environmental impact review. An EIR could turn a several-months process into one that takes more than a year.
An EIR is an expensive process and, when combined with other administrative costs associated with issuing and applying for building permits, many are left wondering who will foot the bill. With the city’s budget in a precarious position, however, much of the cost could become the responsibility of the homeowner.
“The city is running on a limited budget and this is just going to create more expense,” said Streich. “It’s going to end up falling on the people.”
Ultimately, after reviewing the historical survey and hearing the community’s concerns and statements from environmental law experts like local attorney Craig Beam, the commission decided to request that the proposal be reviewed by the city’s legal counsel before making a recommendation to the Ojai City Council, which will ultimately make a decision on the matter.
The commission appeared genuine in its willingness to work with the public and take people’s concerns into consideration. “We really appreciate the public’s input,” said Planning Commissioner John Mirk. “I think there is a whole lot more study that needs to go into this.”
Local State Farm insurance agent Bob Daddi seemed to get everyone’s attention when he asked, “How is this going to benefit the people of Ojai?”
$300 fee weeds out recreational pot smokers
Chris T. Wilson
An Ojai-based medical marijuana cooperative has recently announced the opening of registration for new members.
Shangri La Care Cooperative, technically a horticultural social club that operates within the guidelines of California state law, offers memberships to medical marijuana patients. SLCC then provides education, support and access to organically grown medical cannabis through its member network.
Chartered to have up to 99 founding members, the cooperative’s founder and president, Jeff Kroll, said the co-op is in the process of accepting 25 new members into the one-and-a-half-year-old group. To qualify for membership, applicants must have a doctor’s written recommendation to use medical marijuana, be at least 21 years of age and pay a one-time $300 fee. Member information is kept strictly confidential.
The $300 fee, not only weeds out the recreational pot smokers from joining, it also covers the costs of initial double-blind study in which the patient meets with the organization’s directors and discusses their symptoms to determine which cannabis strain and preparation will work best in relieving symptoms.
For example, a patient with chronic pain may take a concentrated extract or tincture, or ingest cannabis in the form of an edible, like a brownie or cookie made with medical cannabis, while a glaucoma patient may smoke or vaporize dried cannabis buds to relieve debilitating pressure in their eyes, Kroll said. The fee is waived for hospice patients and is reduced or waived for disabled members.
“This is about members helping members,” Kroll said. “Everything we do in the cooperative, all members have a vote. We’re interested in the science, the studies and anecdotal evidence that shows the benefits of medical marijuana. I’m 60 and I’ve had health issues where cannabis got me out of harm’s way. Every member can tell stories about how they feel it’s been a real lifesaver for them.”
From late-stage cancer patients on hospice to sufferers of the chronic aches of fibromyalgia and a range of ailments for which cannabis has been shown to provide relief, Kroll said the members of SLCC work cooperatively to help each other find better health and wellness — and not just from getting access to legalized pot. Kroll said that the member gardeners are also raising organic fruits and vegetables that are shared among the members to promote overall health and wellness.
“We’ve got 11 organic gardens that are dealing with the health issues of picking fresh vegetables and then consuming them within four hours to get the maximum benefit of the living plant’s electrolytes,” Kroll said. “Living beings get the most benefits from eating live food that hasn’t begun the decay cycle and the enzymes start to break down.”
It took Kroll and a handful of other founding members about six months to go through the paperwork to become a California state-compliant medical marijuana cooperative. Also licensed as a collective, he said he’s open to the idea of creating a dispensary in Ventura if and when the city ends its moratorium and establishes guidelines for medical marijuana collectives and dispensaries.
One of those founding members, who asked to remain anonymous, has been suffering from painful kidney and bladder disease for more than 30 years. Now nearly 60 years of age, he said he had a hard time coming to terms with the idea of using medical marijuana.
“I had some friends who kept telling me that I should do edibles, but I fought the whole thing,” he said. “When I was in school, I played around with pot, but I didn’t want to be walking around in a daze all the time.”
But after realizing that the ultimatum was a surgically inserted morphine pump, or more pills, or even more drastic surgery, he gave in.
“I had done morphine, Vicodin, Percocet, codeine, acupuncture and Chinese herbs and nothing worked,” he said. “It took almost three years to convince me. Now I make my own stuff and it works for me. I make a tincture extract that I take at night and it brings my pain down to a tolerable level.”
The science behind the 400 or so compounds found in cannabis has been of interest to this founding member and to Kroll. Another way SLCC stands apart is by placing a strong emphasis on scientific testing of the plants its members cultivate. Independent labs such as Strain Genius Labs in Santa Monica and Halent Labs in Sacramento provide extensive testing for active ingredient cannabinoid levels, molds, fungus and pesticides. Kroll insists that all the plants SLCC members grow and use are fully tested and organic.
“In our co-op we’re raising the bar for what a cooperative should be,” Kroll said. “Since April, we’ve had a legal team evaluating SLCC and we came out smelling like a rose. Our law firm said we’re the only co-op that they’re aware of that is set up in the way that will be a model for how collectives should function in the future.”
To learn more about the cooperative visit the website at shangrilacarecooperative.org.
By Misty Volaski
Photo by Logan Hall
It’s hard enough to get a good night’s sleep with a 5-month-old baby in the house. But add in a newborn orphaned foal – and her surrogate goat mother – to the mix, and sleep becomes more of a recommendation rather than a requirement.
“What can you do?” laughs 22-year-old Ojai resident Sarah Lockfort. “Look at her. I had to take her. How could I not?”
That “her” is 10-day-old Hope, a pretty little filly with a personality as comical as her knobby knees. Born in Temecula, her life began in tragedy when it was discovered her mother had ruptured her rectum giving birth.
“I was just down there visiting a friend when the mare foaled,” says Lockfort. But something was wrong, and a vet visit confirmed the worst; the mare had to be put down. Decisions had to be made quickly. “It’s really important that the baby get the mother’s first milk,” Lockfort says, adding that the milk contains colostrum and antibodies vital to the animal’s lifelong health. With her friend understandably distraught over the impending loss of her horse, Lockfort volunteered to help little Hope to nurse from her mother, who was kept heavily medicated to stave off the pain. No sleep was to be had that night as Lockfort got the filly nursing every hour or so while trying to keep her mother comfortable. At 8 a.m. the next day, the mare was put down, and a new question arose: What would become of tiny Hope?
“Of course I wanted to take her,” explains Lockfort, who runs Horse Heart and Soul, a nonprofit organization that pairs dependents of the court and at-risk teens with rescued horses for their mutual benefit. “I had my horse trailer with me, so we sectioned off (a part of) the trailer, laid an entire bale of hay out, and padded the walls” so that the hopelessly wobbly-legged Hope wouldn’t injure herself.
“And that was when the 405 was shut down!” adds Lockfort. “I had to stop every two hours in that insane traffic to make sure she was OK. Turned a three-hour trip into a 10-hour trip! But it was totally worth it.”
These days, Hope lives at Sue Gruber’s Oso Ranch in the Meiners Oaks river bottom. Hope must be fed every two hours for at least the first 30 days of her life. Providing milk is a 1-year-old goat named Sunny. While a surrogate mare would have been the ideal option, Lockfort has yet to find one that will accept little Hope. So Sunny stepped up to lend a hand.
“But it’s working out great,” Lockfort says as Sunny buries her nose in a sack of raisins and Hope nudges at Sunny’s belly for a drink. “Sunny is absolutely her mommy. And she’s a good mom! They cuddle up together at night. Hope follows her all over.”
Playing daddy — or maybe “grandpa” — is 36-year-old Chewy, Gruber’s gentle retired champion horse. While geldings don’t normally play much of a role in a foal’s life, “Chewy just decided Hope was his baby,” said Gruber. He teaches her barnyard manners and keeps her safe around the other horses Gruber boards at Oso Ranch. “Chewy is so gentle with her! He tiptoes around her when she’s sleeping. He just loves her,” Lockfort says. “All the other horses at the ranch do too!”
When Lockfort and Gruber open Hope and Sunny’s enclosure for a walk, Hope trots out slowly at first, then breaks into a mad dash around the ranch, gangly limbs flying out in all directions. But Sunny just waits patiently, knowing her “baby” will eventually tire herself out and return to her side.
While the scene is cute enough to crack a smile on even the crabbiest curmudgeon’s face, it’s not exactly an inexpensive one.
“In eight days we’ve already spent over $1,000,” Lockfort says. Between vet bills, Foal-Lac (a foal milk replacement), yogurt, supplements, goat feed, raisins, stable shavings (which must be changed twice a day to prevent flies and bacteria) and other miscellaneous expenses, Lockfort and Gruber are seeking help from the community. A veterinarian, Dr. Kevin Smith, has donated an exam, and other individuals and businesses are coming forward to help. Both Ventura Hay Company and American Hay & Mercantile have donated items, and both have set up accounts for people to donate toward Hope’s care.
“All the donations are tax-deductible” through Horses Heart and Soul, said Lockfort. “Anyone who donates can come to the ranch and meet Hope if they want!”
For more information on donating, visit Ventura Hay Company or American Hay & Mercantile, or call Lockfort at 338-3326.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
The worst case of poison oak I ever caught was from climbing a hill to throw black paint on a Ku Klux Klan billboard. On a chilly evening in the fall of 1971, my senior year in high school, three friends and I left in the middle of a football game to deface a sign that we felt was an embarrassment to anyone with any sense.
The sign had been posted at one of the gateways to the town. It featured a hooded rider on horseback, and read, “The Knights of the Ku Klux clan welcome you to Fort Payne, Alabama.” That was our hometown, and that sign had to go. So we devised an elaborate plan that involved two of us hauling four cans of black paint up a steep hill to the billboard. With our hearts beating loudly enough to be heard in the next county, we happily dropped our bombs on the offending target. The sign was never replaced.
Afterward, the four of us were jubilant. We were terrified when we thought about getting caught by the police, or the revenge that might be visited upon us if it was discovered who defaced the sign. But the pride I felt in doing something I knew to be right outweighed my fear.
My disgust for racial prejudice came as a result of playing basketball. My school had been integrated when I was 9 years old. In my little town, integration went smoothly and without incident. I had classes with African Americans, but did not have much interaction with black students. That changed when I joined the basketball team in high school and acquired some black teammates.
I came to know and like some of the black guys on the team. We shot baskets together, practiced together, ran sprints together, and joked in the locker room together. Later, when we became comfortable with each other, we sometimes cruised around town together. These were good guys. So when someone said something negative about African Americans, they weren’t just talking about a nameless group of people. They were talking about Donnie, Ralph, Sam and Robert — guys I knew and liked.
The current crusade by some against gay rights reminds me of the civil rights struggles in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Some, including a few presidential candidates, are attempting to make political hay from bashing gay people. This prejudice and marginalization of gay people is as wrong now as the abuse of African Americans was then.
While I joined the fight against racial prejudice early on, I was late to the game on gay rights. For too many years I used gay slurs and told derogatory gay jokes. For this, I am deeply ashamed.
Acquiring gay friends changed my attitude. Perhaps my prejudice was fueled by the belief that people had a choice in their sexual preference. But I learned that belief was mistaken. Every gay friend with whom I have spoken told me that they knew very early in life, even as small children, that they were different. I realized that you are either born straight, or you are born gay — and nothing is going to change that.
A significant percentage of our population is gay or lesbian. They are our friends, our co-workers and members of our family. No matter how you view homosexuality, gay Americans are citizens and deserve the same rights afforded everyone else under the law.
Anything less is morally indefensible.
By Logan Hall
The Ojai’s Planning Commission will discuss adopting a process at City Hall
Wednesday night that could make getting a building permit for certain properties within city limits a much longer, expensive and more arduous process.
The city’s Community Development Department is pushing to designate hundreds of properties in Ojai as potential “historic resources.” As it stands, the issuance of a building permit for a non-historic resource generally takes two to three months before property owners can implement any building plans they have. However, if a property is deemed to be a historic resource, the building permit process could include an environmental impact review, potentially extending the process to more than a year according to environmental law experts like local attorney Craig Beam.
If the Planning Commission recommends and the City Council adopts the Community Development Department’s proposal, the CDD would be able to make discretionary decisions about the building permit applications, which could potentially lead to a requirement for an EIR. Preparing an EIR could turn a three-month process into more than a year and would include extensive fees that the property owner would likely be responsible for paying.
In a survey implemented by outside consultants, San Buenaventura Research Associates, hundreds of Ojai properties are listed as being “potential historic resources.” So far, those property owners have not been notified by the city that their properties are on the Historic Resources Screening Survey list under consideration for adoption this tonight.
One problem that’s surfacing is that the city has neglected to include any detailed information for proposing the designation of identified properties as historical resources. Certain properties listed, like the Ojai Library or the Post Office Tower, seem to be obvious choices. It may be difficult, however, to understand why the city has included more than 20 properties on Bald Street near Sea Fresh Seafood on the list.
If the city adopts the Planning Commission’s proposed resolution, simply installing new, energy-efficient windows or rooftop solar panels in a home could become a multi-staged course of action that could culminate in a lengthy historic resource review process. So far, the city has not indicated who would pay the costs associated with acquiring a building permit for a historic resource, but due to the city’s budget crisis, it seems likely that costs would be the responsibility of the property owner.
“The historic resource screening survey and its recommendations present potentially serious ramifications to the owners of the properties listed,” said Beam, who has practiced environmental law for more than 30 years. “It’s important that they understand the implications of the city’s program.”
Citizens have a chance to weigh in on the issue at the Ojai Planning Commission meeting today at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. Local experts strongly urge the community to attend the meeting to voice their opinions and get a firm grasp on the ramifications of the situation.
Sheriff’s Department Press Release
Early Sunday morning, a patrol deputy observed a red mini-pickup turn south on North Montgomery Street without stopping for the stop sign on East Oak Street. The driver failed to stop and accelerated away at a high rate of speed westbound on East Aliso Street, and a brief pursuit ensued. The driver of the pickup attempted to turn right onto East Oak Street, but due to his high rate of speed failed to complete the turn. The pickup left the roadway and collided with a wooden split rail fence that bordered a residential property in the 100 block of East Oak Street. The driver of the pickup failed to stop before he collided with a vehicle that was parked in the driveway, and the vehicle finally came to rest after colliding with the garage door at the residence.
The male driver then exited the pickup and fled the scene on foot, with the deputy in foot pursuit. The driver was last seen running into the apartment complex at 307 N. Signal St. A Sheriff’s K-9 Unit assisted and was able to track the driver to an apartment within the complex. The investigation for this hit-and-run traffic collision is continuing.
According to an Ojai Valley City Watch e-mail sent Tuesday, “A person of interest has been identified. Investigators are seeking help from anyone that might have witnessed this event.” Anyone who may have witnessed the collision or has information concerning the identity of the driver is asked to contact the Ojai Police Department at 646-1414.
Ventura County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 reward for information which leads to the arrest and criminal complaint against the person(s) responsible for this crime. The caller may remain anonymous. The call is not recorded. Call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (8477).
By Sally Rice
A wide-brimmed straw hat, decorated with soft, pastel flowers is a signature accessory for this Living Treasure. Sporting the floral chapeau is Wendy Hilgers, a beacon among volunteers, whose treasure award was bestowed for her great dedication and service to the children of Ojai, as she supports their pursuit of happiness. Passing from her front porch (a botanical garden exploding in blossoms) into the family room where we sit at a large table containing “work in progress” for the Skate Park, Hilgers says, “I remember what it was like to be a child; I remember playing and having fun, don’t you?”
For Hilgers, it’s all about the children. But, she does not feel her that her important work is so significant, for Hilgers’ belief system rests in the understanding that civic duty and community service are fundamental by-products of the human existence. “I mean, I do these things because it’s normal, and I just want to help.” And so she does. Hilgers might as well be the mascot for children’s rights, where “having fun” is paramount.
When describing her contributions, humility reigns, and Hilgers is quick to pass credit to her husband, Chris, her son, Chet, and her 23-year-old grandson, Casey Myers. “You know it’s a family business, and we all help out whenever we can, it’s not just me.” Indeed, the grading and excavating business that supports the Hilgers clan has donated time and materials to many of our parks and public resources over the years. The Hilgers have planted trees at Libbey Park, Topa Topa Elementary, Matilija Junior High, and Cluff Vista Park. They were instrumental in the restoration of the Pergola, as well as the San Antonio Elementary Amphitheater. Most recently, the enormous job of getting the Ojai Skate Park constructed has taken up much of Hilgers’ free time, and she is currently trying to raise funds to complete the project.
“We just need four lights so the kids can skate at night,” she says. “We’ve raised $23,000, but we need $60,000 to get the job done.”
Hilgers reminisces about the activities that were available to her own children, Heidi and Chris, when they were growing up in Ojai. “My kids used to love going to the bowling alley, and playing miniature golf. They’d ride the train tracks to Devil’s Gulch, or play at Matilija Hot Springs. There were so many things for kids to do.” Hilgers wants to keep that spirit alive, as she dedicates her time to making sure the children of Ojai have plenty of activities and places to go to keep them busy having fun.
Born in New York, Hilgers became a California resident when her parents and six siblings moved here in 1955, when she was in the ninth grade. Her husband Chris was born in Santa Monica, and together they moved to Ojai in January of 1969 with their two children, then ages 9 and 4, to help relatives repair their ranch after heavy rains that hit the Ojai Valley that year. They had come from Vista, Calif., where the Hilgers owned a nursery farm producing proteas, the national flower of South Africa. But the climate there was not conducive to support the delicate flower, and when family members needed help restoring their property in Ojai, Chris and Wendy moved here with a dump truck and a tractor to help restore the ranch. It wasn’t long before they decided to make Ojai their permanent home.
When her children enrolled at Topa Topa Elementary, Hilgers began volunteering in the classroom, helping with art projects and afternoon school programs. Later, she helped decorate at school dances and performances held at Matilija Junior High and Nordhoff High School. Together with fellow longtime Ojai resident Nancy Hill, Hilgers helped organize the Youth Pageants in Libbey Park, as well as the “Wall of Fame,” commemorating our soldiers on Memorial Day.
Community service is part of Hilgers’ day-to-day life, and the spirit of “volunteering” runs in the family. Keeping with the family tradition, Hilgers’ granddaughter Emily, age 10, will be singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the county fair. “Everyone likes to help, and participate. It’s what we do.”
Photo and report by Logan Hall
A fire that started in an unattached garage severely damaged a house on the 600 block of Fairview Road late Sunday morning. One man, a neighbor who had tried to help fight the fire before emergency crews arrived, was taken by ambulance to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
No other injuries were reported, but the fire, which quickly spread to the attic, burned one corner of the house and will likely leave extensive smoke damage according to Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Mike Lindbery. Although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Lindbery says that a breezeway physically connected the garage and the house and flames were able to cross from one structure to the other.
“There was a heavy fuel load in the there,” said Lindbery about the accumulation of material that could potentially be flammable. “That makes things much more complicated. We’re going to’ be here for hours mopping up.”
Neighbors first knew something wrong when they noticed the smell of smoke. “At first it smelled like someone was burning trash,” said Fernando Flores Jr., who lives next door to the residence. “Then we saw flames so my brother called 911.”
Flores says that the two occupants of the burning building were at first unaware of the danger. “They didn’t know what was going on,” continued Flores, “so I went in and told them to get out of the house. Luckily the Fire Department responded quickly.”
Flores and his brothers attempted to help the homeowners fight off the blaze until fire crews arrived. Flores’ brother, Jesus, was taken to the hospital after suffering from smoke inhalation while helping the family defend the property from the onslaught of flames.
“We grabbed the garden hose but it was already too late,” said the property’s owner who was only identified as Al. “Fire was just pouring out the front door.”
According to Lindbery, 40 firefighters from stations all over the county, including Ventura County Stations 20, 21, 22 and 23 from the Ojai Valley, responded. Fire crews from Camarillo, Rincon, Fillmore, Somis and Ventura were also dispatched to fight the two-alarm blaze.
Fire crews remained on scene for several hours mopping up after the fire was knocked down at 12:49 p.m. Firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 11:36 a.m. and arrived on scene at 11:40 a.m. according to fire dispatch records.
Nature of Incident: Marijuana cultivation /eradication
Location: Los Padres National Forest north of Ojai
Date & Time/ RB#: July 13, 2011
Unit Responsible: Special Services – Narcotics – West County Street Team
In June of 2011, Sheriff’s Narcotics investigators located a large marijuana growing operation in the Los Padres National Forest, north of the city of Ojai. Several large plots were found on the north slope of Pine Mountain, east of Highway 33 and south of Lockwood Valley Road.
On July 13, 2011, members of the Sheriff’s Narcotic Unit, Sheriff’s Air Unit, Sheriff’s Gang Unit, Sheriff’s Intelligence Unit, Ventura County District Attorneys Office, Ventura County Fire Department, Oxnard Police Department and the United States Forest Service (USFS) participated in the eradication operation.
After being airlifted to various sites on the mountain, investigators discovered several campsites used by the growers. These consisted of several hundred pounds of equipment including tents, propane stoves, sleeping bags, fertilizers, pesticides, along with and an enormous amount of trash. Detectives located a 9mm handgun, a .22 calibre rifle and ammunition for a variety of other handguns and rifles. There was evidence of poaching as the remains of deer and other small animals were located near the camps.
Several water reservoirs, lined with plastic tarps, were found dug into the terrain. These reservoirs were supplied by water diverted from their natural course. Gravity fed irrigation lines led to the cultivation locations. Several thousand feet of irrigation hose was spread throughout the hillside to provide water to the plants.
Huge sections of land had been terraced and the underbrush removed, leaving only a thin canopy to hide the growing marijuana. Bags of fertilizer, pesticides and poisons were found within each of the cultivation areas.
Approximately 68,488 marijuana plants were eradicated during this operation, making this the single largest cultivation seized in Ventura County history. Estimated street value of the marijuana is $205,464,000. This brings the season total for eradicated marijuana to over 100,000 plants. No suspects have been arrested at this time, however, the investigation is continuing.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office would like to warn those using the Ventura County backcountry to be on the lookout for marijuana growers. The high rain fall this year has produced optimum growing conditions in the mountains. If suspicious activity is found, please notify law enforcement as soon as possible.
Officer Preparing Release: Sgt Mike Horne
By Misty Volaski
The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is bringing back its outdoor movie festival this summer, and kicking off the festivities this season is “American Graffiti” on July 31.
The film, released in 1973 but depicting teenagers in the summer of 1962, helped jump-start the film careers of several Hollywood legends-to-be, such as George Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford and Ron Howard, among others.
The Ojai Valley Inn’s screening will feature a question-and-answer session beginning at 7:45 p.m. with star Candy Clark, who played the saucy Debbie Dunham, followed by the film itself at 8:45 p.m.
Pete Crooks from Diablo Magazine is helping the inn contact stars again this year, said OVI public relations manager Veronica Cole. “Pete has worked with Candy before. He told me how entertaining she is and that she’s a great person to interview. So that clinched it for us!”
Although Clark has been to Santa Barbara before — once unexpectedly, as she broke down with co-star Charlie Martin Smith (“Toad”) en route to San Francisco for wardrobe fittings —- this month will mark Clark’s first time in the Ojai Valley.
“I can’t wait! I can tell it’s just superb there,” she said, adding that she’s excited to be hosting an event that will donate proceeds to the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation and the Ojai Education Foundation. “If it helps them, I’ll definitely be there.”
So why does “American Graffiti” have such staying power? “American kids are essentially the same,” said Clark. “Kids still want to go to the prom, get some liquor, smoke some cigarettes. They still want to be in the ‘in’ crowd, don’t want to be on the outer fringe like Toad. You don’t want to get your pants pulled down at the drive-in! A lot of people think it’s like a scene right out of their youth.”
Clark says even after almost 40 years, she isn’t tired of the film. “I’m proud to be a part of all this. A lot of actors don’t have a film they can talk about all the time, don’t have one that people love like this one. I’ve seen it at least 50 times — it’s hard to walk away from when you get started.”
These days, Clark is still acting, and loves going to screenings like the one at the Ojai Valley Inn. She’s also a regular at hot rod shows. The film “is definitely one of the hot rodders’ favorites!” Clark said. “People tell me (‘American Graffiti’) was where they took their wife on their first date. One guy showed me his upper arm and there was a tattoo of Debbie, but naked!”
Clark added that she still talks with several cast members. “We do a lot of hot rod shows together. We have a really good time together!”
“American Graffiti” will be the first of three movies in the inn’s series. Aug. 20, the inn will screen “The Sound of Music,” with a question-and-answer session with Angela Cartwright (who played Brigitta). “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” will wrap the series on Sept. 20, with Louise Fletcher (Nurse Mildred Ratched) in attendance. “Tickets are $20 and can be found at brownpapertickets.com or at the gate. For more information, see ojairesort.com.”
Adding to Golden State Water Company’s recent problems is the Wednesday afternoon breakage of a water main on East Ojai Avenue.
Emergency crews and utilities employees scrambled to quell rising waters from a burst Golden State Water Company pipeline this afternoon. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department was called in to help Caltrans workers divert traffic around a 10-foot crack in Ojai Avenue that was spewing water from the busted pipe. Crews from Golden State worked rapidly to shut down water pressure to the 1000 block of Ojai Avenue. Golden state workers said that water would be shut down from the east side of Bryant Street to the east side of Shady Lane until repairs to the pipe could be made.
Photos and report by Logan Hall
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
“You are probably the only 57-year-old uncle in the country who brought his 20-year-old niece over to the house to watch a Disney movie together.”
That quote came from Ava after my niece, Meredith, came over to eat pizza and watch “Tangled” with me while my wife was at rehearsal. The oddity of two adults from different generations enjoying a children’s movie together didn’t really sink in until she said that. Meredith and I had a great time. We talked for awhile, ordered a pizza and laughed at the movie. Afterward, we visited some more before Meredith returned to her apartment.
It is easy to complain about young people. In fact, one of the (few) privileges of getting older is complaining about people who are younger than you. Most of us are guilty of ranting about the younger generation, and some of these tirades are justified.
For instance, I have a real concern about the lack of information young people are receiving in the “information age.” I am not concerned about the amount, but the quality of the information they receive. Many get their “news” from unreliable internet sources, and while the internet can provide an amazing wealth of information, there is a lot of garbage in cyberspace. Unfortunately, a viable organization like CNN is often given the same search status as something like www.Iamstupid.com. So, something that is an unsubstantiated rumor or perhaps an absolute lie often receives as much credibility as news from a legitimate source. I realize that network news can also be somewhat slanted — both to the left and right, depending upon the channel, but network news is generally vetted for accuracy while many internet “reports” are not.
I’m also troubled by kids who have parents that do everything for them short of breathing. The “Wizard of Westwood,” UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, is quoted as saying, “The worst thing you can do for your children or people you love are the things they could and should do for themselves.” Amen to that. The terms “hover mother” and “mama drama” have entered the lexicon, and with good reason. Many children seem so absolved of responsibility that they will be all but paralyzed when they reach adulthood. By doing everything for them, their parents have stripped them of those pesky traits like self-reliance and motivation which are necessary to successfully function in the real world.
Now my niece is certainly not perfect. She is in summer school to repeat the economics course she failed last spring. She smokes, which I hate. She doesn’t smoke in front of me, and is embarrassed that I know about her habit. That said, she is a great kid and I love her very much. She is cute, smart, funny and mature. I have always enjoyed her company, and I am happy that she seems to enjoy mine.
It seems that just about the time I am ready to write off the younger generation, I spend some time around Meredith, or other bright, energetic young people like Ojai Valley News interns Evan Cooper, Michelaina Johnson and Matt Wagner, and my hope returns.
Maybe I should spend less time ranting, and more time visiting with the right young people.
Photo and report
by Logan Hall
The Ojai City Council voted unanimously in closed session Tuesday night to allow local event promoter Howard Freiberg to put on his annual classic rock festival at Libbey Bowl.
After an initial decision by city manager Rob Clark denying Freiberg permits for the concerts, which are scheduled for August, Freiberg and his attorney, Cathy Jones, who also attended the meeting, threatened the city with litigation on the issue. After hearing public comments and discussing the matter behind closed doors, the council decided to overturn Clark’s decision.
With Mayor Carol Smith and Councilwoman Betsy Clapp absent, the council heard comments from Freiberg and his supporters that included a heated statement by Freiberg’s production manager, Ardas Khalsa.
“The city manager has chosen to overstep his authority …” said Khalsa to the council in a raised voice. “It’s discrimination, and it’s illegal.”
Freiberg and Khalsa alleged that Clark’s original denial of the application stemmed from Freiberg’s unpaid debt to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department regarding permits for a previous event held at Lake Casitas.
“The debts came from my battle with cancer,” said Freiberg. He admitted to the debt but said everything had been worked out with the VCSD. “I have past debts,” he continued, “but that’s in the past.”
Freiberg and Khalsa also stated that Clark told them he didn’t think their concert would have the proper image for the bowl. Clark says that he never had any problem with the type of music Freiberg was planning but there were some concerns. “This is the first event outside of the Music Festival that permitted alcohol,” Clark said in an interview. “Since alcohol at Libbey Bowl is new and somewhat controversial, we want to make sure it’s done the right way and in a controlled way.”
In his reasoning for denying Freiberg’s initial request, Clark says that the city relies on event promoters to handle aspects of the events like security, fencing, and how much alcohol is sold and for how long. He said the unpaid debt with the Sheriff’s Department indicated that Freiberg’s event might not be the best to lead the way with alcohol sales at the bowl.
Clark, however, did point out that Freiberg and his crew had done a good job on previous events held in the valley. “These guys do have a good track record,” Clark said. “They’ve put on a number of events that have had alcohol and those events went well. At the end of the day, we’re relying on that track record.”
Ultimately, the council decided to grant Freiberg permission to host his event.
“We’re in cooperation mode now,” said Clark. “We plan on working professionally with him and making sure his event goes smoothly.”
By Sally Rice
Dressed in a long blue and white paisley gown, and wearing an ecru lace bonnet tied at the chin with a blue ribbon, Ojai Living Treasure Cricket Twichell brings history to life through storytelling. In costume, Twichell takes on the persona of Zaidee Soule (1878 to 1957), a prominent figure among Ojai’s founding families — also a historian and local librarian for over 25 years. It was Soule who donated the land now occupied by Soule Park Golf Course.
As Soule, Twichell shares interesting and informative tales about the history and culture of the Ojai Valley as it was from the 1800s to the present. She shares the stories with local public schoolchildren, special interest groups, and the Ojai Valley Museum, where she has been a board member for 16 years.
The proverbial apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Twichell’s mother performed a similar role in their pre-revolutionary home located deep in the Hudson River Valley, formerly owned by a general from the Revolutionary War. As part of an historical home tour, Twichell’s mother gave talks to visitors, educating them on the history and traditions of the 18th and 19th centuries. Twichell shares a framed photograph taken when she was a small child, seated on her mother’s lap, both of them dressed in costumes dating from the 1800s. Call it foreshadowing, as it would be decades before Twichell would consider performing history talks as Zaidee Soule in Ojai. First, she had to build a family and, second, she needed to overcome her terror of public speaking.
Twichell graduated with a degree in English from Wells College in Northern California. After marrying her husband, Terry, a math teacher, the young couple settled in the Berkshires, and within four years, they had three children. In 1969, after teaching math for six years, Twichell’s husband wanted a change, and the two decided to pursue job opportunities west of the Hudson River.
“Terry applied for a position at Thacher School, among many others, but almost immediately the headmaster contacted him and came to our house for an interview,” said Twichell.
According to Twichell, the Thacher interview was to be a “practice” interview, as the couple had no desire to relocate to California. However, fate intervened, and following the interview, Thacher’s headmaster made an offer on the spot, demanding an answer within 24 hours.
“We had a pillow talk, and decided to come to Ojai for a few years, just until Jonathan, our oldest, began school. That’s when we planned to move back to the Berkshires.” Needless to say, Ojai’s charm took hold of their destiny, and the Twichell clan sprouted roots that over the years have grown strong and deep.
Raising small children in the early years, Twichell volunteered in the classrooms at San Antonio Elementary School, and soon after, she became the head of the local PTA. “That’s how I got my feet wet volunteering,” she said. As her children grew, Twichell became active with The Thacher School, becoming a faculty advisor for the Foreign Student Club, since she herself had participated in an exchange program to Japan, where she studied for three months between her junior and senior year in college. “I loved Japan; it was an experience that changed my life, one I’ll never forget. ”
When Thacher went co-ed in 1977, Twichell was officially hired as the assistant director of admissions. “They needed a token female in administration, so they hired me,” she says. Part of her new duties included traveling the country, giving talks to encourage kids to go to Thacher. That’s when Twichell hit a brick wall. She was petrified of public speaking. A friend intervened, taking her “kicking and screaming to a Toastmasters meeting.” That move proved instrumental and through this organization Twichell overcame her fears.
“Ojai’s history was my love, and I got on board with the Ojai Museum about 1982, and together with Dave Mason, we created ‘Our Town,’ a series of oral history talks describing the history of Ojai,” Twichell says. That project paved the way to ‘Street Talk,’ where Twichell gave historical accounts about the people who had streets named after them.
“‘Smart & Sassy’ followed, with oral histories of pioneer women who had been dominating forces in Ojai,” Twichell says, sipping iced tea at her dining room table, surrounded by antiques from days gone by. Over the years, Twichell has acquired an extensive collection of historical tools and household items she shares during her talks — props that help bring the stories to life. Her character, Zaidee Soule, was borne from this experience.
In addition to oral histories, Twichell helped organize yet another important community event called “Outlook.”
“We invited interesting people to come to Ojai and give speeches about what they do. John Sharp, who was Canadian, and manager of the Ojai Valley Inn got on board, and we offered the speakers one free night at the inn as a carrot,” Twichell explains, laughing. “We didn’t earn a penny, but we managed to get the former prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Frazier, to be our first speaker. That lasted four years, and our last speaker was Cristo, the artist. ”
Twichell stands in the Presidential Suite, a guest bedroom in her home furnished with a bed and dresser once owned by President Martin Van Buren, whose term ran from 1837 to 1841. Twichell’s grandfather purchased the set at auction, and her own father was born on the bed.
“President Van Buren was from Old Kinderhook, N.Y., and became known as the O.K. candidate — that’s where we get the expression ‘OK’ from,” Twichell explains.
Twichell’s current volunteer work is through the botanical garden, Lotus Land in Montecito, where she volunteers as a docent, teaching visitors about nature and wildflowers, her current passion. She is also on the board of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, where she gives nature walks.
When asked where she gets her inspiration, Twichell is quick to bring up her friend, Jack Huyler. “He’s got such pizzazz and energy. I asked him what his secret was, and he told me he never lets six months go by without learning something new.” She has incorporated this philosophy in her own life.
As an Ojai Living Treasure, Twichell explains, “It’s humbling, and I’m inspired by these interesting people, and it makes me wonder what I can do to make contributions to my community.”
By Misty Volaski
This Saturday, Ojai will send one of its most beloved architects out in style. Beginning at 10:45 a.m., members of the community will host a tribute to David Bury in the new Libbey Bowl. After an illness, Bury — who designed the Libbey Bowl renovation and a host of other local landmarks — died June 9. It was the opening day of the 65th annual Ojai Music Festival and just a week after the bowl’s grand opening.
“It’s a devastating loss to the community,” said former Mayor Steve Olsen, who served on the Ojai City Council with Bury. “He’s irreplaceable in terms of what he’s done for us.”
Bury, also a former Ojai mayor in addition to being a multi-term councilman, is credited with designing the Pergola in front of Libbey Park, renovations of The Oaks at Ojai, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Salzer’s Records in Ventura, as well as designing other high-end resorts throughout the country.
“David did so much for our community,” Olsen said. “He worked well with everyone, had a great sense of humor, and was really an inspiration. He did a lot of things pro bono. He just had such a positive impact on this community.”
Saturday’s event will feature several local colleagues, friends and family members sharing memories on the stage, as well as music by local musicians like Jimmy Calire.
“All valley residents are welcome,” said Joan Kemper, a friend of Bury’s who is organizing the event. “This is a tribute to all he’s done for our city and county.” She added that a plaque is being created for Bury which will be placed in Libbey Park.
There is no need to RSVP — just show up at the park Saturday.
Photo and report by Logan Hall
Joel Wolfgang narrowly averted tragedy after his car flew off of Dennison Grade Monday afternoon. Wolfgang, was uninjured after going over the side of the road and plummeting more than 50 feet down the steep embankment.
“He was kind of tailgating me so I was watching him in the rear view mirror,” said local Carol Holly who made the 911 call. “I saw the car just fly off the edge. I was scared to death when I saw that.”
Holly pulled over and flagged down a passing motorist, upper Ojai resident Collin Sage, who immediately went down the near vertical hillside to try to help. “I was on my way home from work,” said Sage. “I knew by the way Carol was waving and pointing that something was up. I jumped out and just bolted down the hill.”
Sage says he found Wolfgang still in the car with his two dogs. “He kept saying that he was alright,” said Sage, “but I could see that his hands were shaking. These guys (firefighters) got here pretty quick. I grabbed the pooch and walked up the hill.”
With the help of fire crews, Wolfgang made his way back up where he was checked out by waiting paramedics. He reported that he was uninjured and was given the ok to leave the scene.
“Everything is fine,” Wolfgang said after speaking with the California Highway Patrol officer on scene. “About halfway down, I figured I better hit the brakes. Not that the brakes did any good though. It was no big deal. I just went off the edge.”
Adamson’s Towing Company was able to winch the BMW from the side of the cliff relatively unscathed. After checking out his car and signing some papers, Wolfgang loaded up his two dogs into the tattered and dirty, but otherwise fully functional BMW and drove off. He said he needed to look for his third dog that had run into the woods after the crash.
“I’ve been on a lot of calls up here when cars go off the edge,” said Adamson’s driver Gary Ferguson as Wolfgang drove off down the highway, “but I’ve never seen anything like that.”
By Logan Hall
Ojai’s Golden State Water Company customers may soon be getting a break on their water bills. GSWC came under fire this month as the California Public Utilities Commission went public with information about a $12 million settlement regarding Golden State contracts that included the Ojai area.
According to settlement documents, Ojai customers stand to be repaid $1.2 million by GSWC through “surcredits” in monthly bills over a 36-month period. Customers would begin to see the changes in their bill after the CPUC reviews and accepts the proposed settlement, which could take several months.
According to GSWC records, $23.7 million was paid by Golden State to Richardson Engineering Company for more than 100 contracts primarily in Region 1, which includes Ojai, dating back to 1989. The commission concluded that many of those contracts violated competitive bidding policies, which, in turn, affected Golden State’s ratepayers. “GSWC’s inclusion of the $23.7 million in the calculation of rates has exposed GSWC’s customers to unjust and unreasonable charges, and up to $31 million of past ratepayer harm,” read the CPUC’s report. The report also indicates that Golden State will have to pay a $1 million penalty to the state of California.
The trouble began in 2003 for Southern California Water Company, which became Golden State in 2005, after senior management found that two of the company’s executives had awarded contracts to Richardson Engineering without following proper competitive bidding protocol. According to the report, GSWC fired the executives in question, and then launched an internal investigation without notifying the CPUC, which was also deemed by commission staff to be a violation.
When pressed for answers, Golden State had an outside source handle questions regarding the settlement. The Saylor Company, which is a public relations firm that specializes in, as they advertise on their website, “high stakes problems,” responded to the OVN’s questions with a general press release from GSWC which included a statement from Robert Sprowls, president and CEO of Golden State’s parent company, American States Water Company. “I am pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that is good for all parties,” stated Sprowls. “The settlement reflects our commitment to our customers …”
The nonprofit organization Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water has been fighting to remove Golden State from Ojai due to rapidly increasing water rates and has a different opinion on the company’s tactics. “Not only was Golden State doing something wrong,” said Ryan Blatz, Ojai F.L.O.W. representative, “they covered it up. They got fined $1 million. There’s a lot of admitted culpability when you are talking about that much money in fines and settlements. They know they did something wrong.”
When asked why Golden State did not report the findings of its internal investigation, which concluded that ratepayers could be adversely affected, Saylor representatives referred to section 2.7 in the settlement document which reads, “… GSWC evaluated whether it was obligated to report the results of its REC (Richardson Engineering) investigation to the commission. After analysis, including consultation with its former regulatory counsel, GSWC determined that it had no such obligation …”
In 2007, Golden State representatives informed the CPUC about the internal investigation and their failure to disclose the information to the commission. This prompted the CPUC to conduct an investigation of its own.
The commission found that Golden State, after concluding their internal investigation, continued to file for applications of rate increases that commission staff found to be, “excess costs associated with the Richardson Engineering Company contracts …”
The city of Ojai decided to take a formal stance on the issue by becoming a party to the action, which gives any comments made by the city official status with the CPUC in the case against Golden State. “We told the commission that our situation needs to be looked at as they go through this process,” said Ojai city manager Rob Clark. “We made a general argument that (GSWC) ratepayers in Ojai are paying excessive rates. Being a party to the action, they have to take our comments into consideration.”
The CPUC will review the settlement and decide on approving it, possibly by the end of the year.
“This settlement is just with one company,” concluded Blatz. “They (GSWC) are going to be audited for everything. Who knows what that is going to turn up. They really got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.”
The Topa Topas and Ojai’s famous “Pink Moment” are visible from Tim Setnicka’s back yard over brush planted on producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s property. Rancho La Vista, Bruckheimer’s home, is visible in the left center of the photo. Recently, local homeowners reached an agreement with Bruckheimer saying that he would keep the vegetation trimmed to preserve resident’s views.
Photo and report by Logan Hall
A bitter feud between neighbors in the Ojai Valley appears to have finally been resolved this month. With Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett mitigating, movie and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer came to an agreement with neighboring homeowners that effectively ended a more than two-year battle regarding vegetation planted on Bruckheimer’s $20-million property, Rancho La Vista (formerly Milner’s Ranch).
“As long as everyone is happy,” Bruckheimer told the OVN, “we’re happy. We always try to support the community.”
After moving to the Mira Monte property, Bruckheimer — whose producer credits include the “CSI” TV series and blockbusters like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure” — began a massive landscaping undertaking that involved planting trees and large shrubs along much of the property’s perimeter, which encompasses 400 acres between Villanova Road and Tiara, Sumac and Valley Meadow drives. A large part of the estate is visible from dozens of homes in neighborhoods along those roads. “They want privacy and we all respect that,” said homeowner Tim Setnicka, who shares a property boundary with the Bruckheimers. “But it was affecting me because the planting they did along the edge of the property grew up and obstructed my view of the Topa Topas.”
The homeowner’s association in the area filed a complaint with the County of Ventura but county officials stated that the Bruckheimers weren’t violating county code and no action was taken. The association filed for an appeal which one area homeowner, who requested to remain anonymous, said the county only gave the citizens two days to come up with $2,000 to pay for the appeal. “We were within our rights according to county code,” said the anonymous resident, “but the county said there were no violations. It became a really bad issue.” The money was quickly raised, however, and the appeals process was set in motion.
Setnicka, meanwhile, had a different tactic.
He believed that all the fighting could be remedied by using a simple method — talking directly to the Bruckheimers. “Everything was just automatically escalated to sub-litigation level,” said Setnicka. “It was ridiculous. No one had bothered to reasonably approach the Bruckheimers yet.”
Setnicka says that his encounters with the family and their representatives left a good impression on him. “My experience with the Bruckheimers has been 100 percent positive,” said Setnicka. “I got a personal response from the Bruckheimers saying they wanted to be good neighbors. The letter was very positive. I’m very, very appreciative of them working with us like this.”
It was right around that time that an article was written in the Los Angeles Times about the issue by columnist Steve Lopez. Some involved believed that the piece written by Lopez might have been a catalyst that brought the issue to the forefront. Bruckheimer says he wanted to help solve the situation long before the story was ever printed.
“We’ve been trying to do the right thing all along,” said Bruckheimer. “That was always our intention.”
The article seemed to have been a red flag for county officials, however. “I got involved right after the L.A. Times article came out,” admitted Bennett.
Starting by making a visit to the neighborhood, Bennett began to develop a dialogue between longtime residents and the Bruckheimers. Through negotiations, Bennett says he was able to get both sides to come to an agreement. The agreement, which is in writing and signed by Bruckheimer according to area residents, stipulates that Rancho La Vista landscapers regularly trim the acacia trees and other vegetation that border neighboring properties to restore their views of Ojai’s mountains.
Although there seems to be mixed feelings among homeowners about the issue itself, most involved said that Bennett was a major help in moving negotiations along.
“Steve did a magnificent job in handling the issue,” said Setnicka. “He came out and looked around and started discussing what could be done.”
Another resident, Jackie Kuehn, who also has property bordering the Bruckheimers’, shares Setnicka’s thoughts on Bennett’s involvement. “We owe Steve Bennett a lot,” she said.
Everyone involved who spoke with the OVN agreed the problem has been solved, and as long as the Bruckheimers stick to the agreement, everyone should remain copacetic.
“At this point,” said Kuehn, “we have a great relationship with the Bruckheimers. We would have never gotten this done without the support of the community though.”
Bruckheimer says his family likes the valley and wishes he could spend more time in the area. “Because of my travel schedule,” he said, “we don’t get up there as often as we’d like. But I hope to change that soon.”
By Logan Hall
A local woman charged with elder abuse and credit card fraud remains in jail after her arrest last week.
Rosalba Hernandez, 24, of Oak View, was arrested on June 29 for allegedly stealing from the 82-year-old woman for whom she was hired to provide care. The woman, who was bedridden due to illness and under hospice care, died on May 27 after the theft had been reported, according to Sheriff’s Detective Mark Burgess.
“Hernandez came in and took advantage of an elderly couple,” said Burgess, who investigated the case. “She stole from them.”
Burgess said that Hernandez had taken jewelry from the couple’s home and had used the woman’s credit cards to make purchases. Investigators also found property paid for with the victim’s credit cards in Hernandez’s home, according to a press release issued on Wednesday.
The woman’s 85-year-old husband, who requested to remain anonymous, said it was a big surprise to him. “She had a really good personality,” said the husband about Hernandez. “I never would have seen it coming.”
However, the victim’s portrayal of Hernandez’s personality does not reflect her history.
On June 25, Hernandez and an accomplice were allegedly giving an unidentified male a ride heading east on Highway 150 toward Santa Paula. According to Burgess, Hernandez pulled a gun on the victim and demanded his wallet. After the man handed it over, Hernandez ordered him out of the car before fleeing the scene. Released after posting bail, Hernandez is still facing a court appearance on charges of armed robbery and making criminal threats.
According to Ventura County Superior Court records, Hernandez has been arrested multiple times for drug use and other offenses. Her rap sheet includes charges of being under the influence of a controlled substance.
“We believe that she committed these crimes and that the justice system will prevail against her,” said Burgess.
Hernandez remains in custody at the Ventura County Main Jail on $110,000 bail.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Attend just one Ojai Independence Day parade, and you’ll know why people put their chairs out a week in advance. What a great parade and what a marvelous day.
I found a great place to view the parade, right in front of Ojai Village Pharmacy. I was shielded from the sun by the Arcade, and even caught a gentle breeze blowing through now and again. Simply put, it was a sensory delight.
People smiled and spoke as they made their way to their vantage points. The mood was friendly, courteous and light-hearted. I saw several people I knew, and one gracious lady, Rae (forgive me if the spelling is incorrect) stopped to introduce herself to me. I guess she recognized my photo from the newspaper; it may have been from our Independence Day parade supplement. Yes, that is my picture Photoshopped onto one of the drummers on the front cover. Not only did I not know that was coming, no one told me after the fact. The staff wanted to see if I would catch it.
I did. As I looked through the paper Friday morning, and glanced at the cover of the parade section, something seemed amiss. I looked down, and there I was, in Revolutionary War garb banging a drum. I have to admit I thought it was pretty funny. Apparently several others noticed it too, as I have endured some good-natured ribbing.
Red, white and blue was everywhere, and in a variety of creative combinations, including tank tops, shorts, headbands, hats, T-shirts, necklaces, earrings, sun visors, and even flip-flops.
You could not swing a dead cat without hitting a flag. They were everywhere. Children watching the parade held small flags. People wore shirts, dresses, hats, skirts, and all other manner of clothing depicting the flag. Flags adorned jeeps, tractors, antique cars, floats and some vehicles that defy description. Flags were emblazoned upon balloons that floated above highly polished Corvettes. Flags were placed in dog collars, stuck behind ears, and attached to stuffed animals. One small girl crawling on the sidewalk next to me even had a small flag in her mouth — at least until her mother saw her.
Parades like this one are important. Not only do they serve to remind us of our freedom, but also of those who paid a dear price that we may enjoy it. It was heartening to see and hear people wave and applaud the veterans as they rode by. It was also gratifying to see people of different ethnicities, backgrounds and philosophies put aside prejudice and difference of opinion to celebrate a common event. Over the din of the crowd, I heard Spanish and what I believe was Chinese being spoken as two different groups passed by. Members of both groups were holding American flags. I thought about the many immigrants that come to this country desperately seeking the freedom and opportunities that we take for granted. America has many problems and challenges, but you won’t read any stories about a boatload of Americans who drown while trying to get to Cuba, Libya or Venezuela.
A lot of work goes into an event like this, and the parade committee organizers, judges, police, volunteers and participants all deserve a hand for an outstanding job.
Ceremonies like this draw us all a little bit closer, and that’s what America needs. I’m already looking forward to next year.
Maybe I should go ahead and set my chair out now.
This is the fourth in a series of six profiles on the 2011 Ojai Living Treasures, honored by the Rotary Club of Ojai and the Rotary Club of Ojai West.
Lavonne Theriault sits on a black leather couch in her Ojai home surrounded by drums, a tambourine, and sheets of music. She’s busy preparing for two symphony concerts where she will perform as principal percussionist.
Petite, with short brown hair and sparkling eyes, Theriault is one of six recipients of this year’s Ojai Living Treasure award, honored for her extensive contributions in the field of music —- both as an instructor and performer. The list of organizations, orchestras and symphonies she belongs to reads like an epic poem.
When she’s not performing or teaching music, Theriault finds time to volunteer at the Ojai Valley Community Hospital Auxiliary, where she works as a “pink lady.” In addition, she has volunteered for Help of Ojai since 1996, and she is an active member of the Community Emergency Response Team.
One of six children, Theriault was raised in the Black Hills of South Dakota. As a child, she watched Mount Rushmore being constructed, and once she ate a brown bag lunch on George Washington’s head. Later, she was educated at MacMurray College in Illinois, University of Wyoming, University of Michigan, and UCLA, for post-graduate courses. Music, specifically percussion instruments, has always been the focus of her studies.
In 1954, Theriault and her husband, Doug, ventured to Ojai, with the intention of staying for one year before transferring to the Bay Area. However, following the birth of their daughter, April, plans changed. “The mystique of Ojai worked its charm on us, and we decided to stay,” says Theriault.
Over the years, Theriault’s involvement in the musical community has grown extensively. For more than 50 years, she has been a volunteer for the Ojai Music Festival. She is also on the advisory board for the Ojai Youth Symphony and the Ojai Camerata.
As a percussionist, Theriault is a member of the Channel Islands Chamber Orchestra, the Ojai Band which performs summer concerts, Ventura County Symphony, Ventura County Concert Band, Ventura Opera Society, and the Camarillo Community Band, to name a few of her musical affiliations. Recently, she joined the British Brass Band, consisting of brass players who perform regularly throughout Ventura County.
As an instructor, Theriault teaches percussion for the Bravo! music van, an organization that brings musical instruments to elementary schools for demonstration and student participation. In addition, she lectures to local civic groups on the history of music in our community, an activity she says that “brings a few smiles to listeners.”
Indeed, Theriault’s many contributions to our community are extensive. When asked how she feels about her award, she laughs, as she recounts how she received news of her award in a most unusual way.
“I had nominated someone else to be a treasure. Then I got this e-mail telling me that my vote didn’t make it. The next day I got a telephone call from Kathy Doubleday saying, ‘Congratulations, you made it.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean, you told me yesterday that I (my vote) didn’t make it; what did I make?’ That’s when she told me that I was a treasure,” Theriault says, laughing. “I had no idea I had even been nominated.”
Hands folded in her lap, she smiles, adding, “For someone who has worked through an inferiority complex all of her life, you know, smarter older brothers and sisters, always wondering if I would measure up —- and then to be acknowledged by my community? It’s a very high honor, and it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling.”
VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Nature of Incident: Criminal Threats – Hate Crime Arrests
Location: Woodland Avenue and Silverspur Street, Ojai, CA
Date & Time/ RB#: June 30, 2011 @ 6:10 p.m.
Unit Responsible: Ojai Valley Patrol Deputies and Detectives
(S)uspects, (V)ictims, (W)itnesses City of Residence Age
(V) Juvenile Male, 17, Mira Monte
(V) Juvenile Male, 17, Mira Monte
(S) Daniel Dockery, Meiners Oaks, 22
(S) Shauna Criner, Meiners Oaks, 19
Two male juvenile victims were criminally threatened while standing near the intersection of Woodland Avenue and Silverspur Street in the Mira Monte area of the Ojai Valley. The crime was hate-motivated and was identified as a hate crime.
Daniel Dockery and Shauna Criner drove up in a vehicle to confront these teenagers. One of the victims is of Hispanic decent. Dockery identified himself as a “Skinhead” and that he hated “Mexicans.” Dockery continued to shout sexual and racial slurs at the victims. Dockery continued to question the victims to determine if they were part of the local Hispanic criminal street gang known as “OSL”, which they are not members. Dockery got out of the car then slapped one of the victims in the face. Dockery claimed to have a handgun in his possession then threatened to shoot the victims in the head if they were still at that location when he returned. Criner escalated the threats urging Dockery to steal their wallets and bicycles. Dockery and Criner drove away then returned within a few minutes. Dockery drove his car towards one of the victims narrowly missing him as an additional final act of intimidation before fleeing the scene.
The victims were in fear for their life and immediately reported the attack to a parent. Patrol deputies assigned to the Ojai Valley Station responded and met with the victims. The deputies quickly determined the criminal threats were hate-motivated and started a search of the area. Within the hour, deputies found that the suspects had returned to the nearby Circle K store in their vehicle. Dockery and Criner were arrested for the criminal threats. Xanax and Klonopin prescription drugs were found in the suspects’ car that were not prescribed to either party during the vehicle search incident to arrest.
Detective Steve Michalec immediately responded and continued the investigation due to its serious nature. Based on the initial patrol investigation and detective follow-up, this hate-based crime appears to be an isolated crime of opportunity where the suspects and victims did not know each other prior to this incident.
Dockery was booked into the County Jail for Penal Code section 422 – Criminal Threats; Penal Code section 422.7 – Hate Crime Enhancement; Penal Code section 242 – Battery; and Health and Safety Code section 11375(b)(2) – Possession of a Controlled Substance.
Criner was booked into the County Jail for Penal Code section 422 – Criminal Threats and Health and Safety Code section 11375(b)(2) – Possession of a Controlled Substance.
Officer Preparing Release: Sergeant Randy Watkins