S.C. Edison still intends to install Smart Meters on every home in Ojai next spring, despite the facts that Smart Meters will not work in Ojai because of the mountains, unless they raise the frequency level so high above the legal levels that the radiation will be unsafe for humans and animals, not to mention likely killing all the bees we need for our lovely orange and avocado orchards to survive.Unsafe levels of radiation means it can kill you and your children and pets with cancer!
And these Smart Meters will have collection stations on random houses (and that may be your house), where the amount of radiation will be roughly equivalent to having a cell tower on your house. And you will have no right to refuse if you want electricity.Studies have shown the incidence of cancer and deaths from cancer are very much higher for those who live near cell towers or within 50 miles of nuclear power plants. And who will pay for that health care? And have there been environmental impact studies done on the health hazards of all of this harmful and potentially deadly radiation prior to installing these meters on our so-called private property?
Our federal government, which already has a huge debt, is planning to spend about $5 billion to install these so-called Smart Meters, while citizens go without needed health care and pensions and SSI is being cut.And who is going to pay for it?We, the taxpayers and clients of Edison, will pay. Now I understand that our federal government has plans for the Gas Company and the water companies to install Smart Meters as well. And who will pay?
And any old wiring will not support the Smart Meters and can cause your house to burn down. Ojai is full of old houses with old wiring, which gives the town character and charm. And many people on low or fixed incomes cannot afford to pay to have their homes rewired.
I have yet to hear any good reason why we need these Smart Meters and many reasons why they are extremely hazardous and a waste of money.
I suggest that we the people of Ojai Valley take steps while we still can to protect the health of our Shangri-La and to ensure that Ojai remains a Smart Meter Free Zone. I hope that the Ojai Valley Defense Fund may undertake to organize this project. And until the temporary so-called Patriot Act is revoked and our constitutional rights restored, the only way to stop Smart Meters is in the courts.Ojai citizens discovered that last year when our state broke into and entered private properties all over Meiners Oaks and parts of Mira Monte and sprayed pesticides on our organic orchards and gardens and yards to kill a few gypsy moths found miles away,despite citizens’ refusals and protests, and we were powerless to stop that invasion to protect our property and organic gardens and trampling of our constitutional right to privacy and to be secure in our persons and homes.
It’s only your’s and your families’ lives and health! To request our City Council to take action to protect us from the dangers of Smart Meters, come to Little House on Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.
L.S. Leiterman is a concerned citizen of the Ojai Valley.
By Michelaina Johnson
Nordhoff High School graduate Catherine Hasbrouck might have gone to South Africa to teach children. But as it turned out, Hasbrouck might have learned just as much from them as they did from her.
The former Ranger track and field runner recently participated in a mission trip to tutor 12- to 13-year-old students in Pretoria, South Africa, through Campus Crusade for Christ at Harvard University, from June 20 to July 20. Twenty-two other students from colleges across the United States also went. The goal of the mission was to educate youngsters about the Bible and academic subjects.
Hasbrouck had to raise $5,000 for the mission, so family and friends contributed and the First Baptist Church of Ojai had a fund-raising event on her behalf.
About 170 Pretoria youths attended the three-week tutor program on the local university campus. Five days a week, students were educated in English, math and science, attended workshops and participated in group activities. Each college student was partnered with a co-teacher to tutor a group of students. Hasbrouck and her co-teacher, Tshepiso, tutored 10 students. She also helped teach the singing, skills development and Bible study workshops.
“We worked a lot on writing. They speak English perfectly fine, but they cannot write well,” said Hasbrouck. “The students said, ‘In school, they (teachers) teach us how to memorize, and not how to learn.’”
So Hasbrouck decided to get a little more creative in her approach.“My favorite memory is teaching them fractions using chocolate bars,” said Hasbrouck. She brought in five chocolate bars to class and demonstrated how you could divide five bars into 10 half-bars to feed 10 people. Afterward they ate the sweets.
One poignant memory came from outside the classroom. “One time we (the college students) were walking through a squatter village. I felt sad, and then something just sparked. I saw two little boys playing and everyone was joyful. I realized that it is more than people making the best of their situation; they were truly happy in their hearts. They have such a sense of community. I doubt there are places in America where the people are below the poverty line and are truly happy,” said Hasbrouck.
Another time, she was walking down a street while singing a native song called “Ha Hona.” Two children saw her, “They smiled and started singing with me and we skipped down the street hand in hand. There were no reservations, no questions of etiquette or ‘do not talk to strangers.’ Their culture is just so much more friendly and joyful.”
In the future, Hasbrouck hopes to study abroad. “I know God has a plan for me. This trip showed me my passion for working with kids and teachings kids abroad … and serving a population that has not been reached,” said Hasbrouck.
To learn more about Hasbrouck’s trip, visit CatinSouthafrica.blogspot.com.
By Logan Hall
Emotions rose about as high as temperatures last week as concerned citizens met with the California Department of Fish and Game about a bear that had been shot on the East End of Ojai earlier this month.
The bear had allegedly been breaking into a property owner’s chicken coop in the area before they had contacted the DFG about the problem, according to agency reports. After a game warden issued a depredation permit, which allows the property owner to kill the “offending” animal, the bear was shot a few days later, but apparently survived the shooting.
Although the property owner was within his legal rights to shoot the bear under the permit issued, many concerned locals, including neighbors of the property owner, questioned the DFG for issuing the permit in the first place.
The meeting, which took place Thursday evening at Theater 150, was arranged by members of the Ojai Wildlife League who wanted to give the community a chance to ask the DFG questions regarding the shooting, as well as clarify the agency’s policies. Three DFG field agents were present at the meeting to help answer questions from the audience, as well as questions from O.W.L. representatives Suza Francina and Sue Williamson.
Andrew Hughan, DFG spokesman, started off the meeting by stating that DFG representatives in the room were not decision makers. “We’re happy to be here,” Hughan told those in attendance, “but we don’t set the policy. The policies are written through legislature. We are here to give information … so this doesn’t happen again.”
The meeting started with O.W.L. representatives appearing edgy and frustrated with the DFG’s responses. “You’re avoiding the issue,” snapped Williamson after receiving a less-than-satisfactory answer to a question about the agency’s policy. “You did not answer the question.”
Hughan says that there was definitely tension in the room at the beginning of the meeting, but he believes that everyone seemed to be moving toward common ground as the evening progressed. “It was pretty hostile in the beginning,” said Hughan. “Which is OK. We understand that. At one point though, I made a statement that ‘This was not a bear problem, it was a people problem, and that the community needs to take responsibility for these things.’ Some rational human being in audience said that we (DFG) are doing the best we can and people need to be responsible for their own property. That kind of changed the mood a little and we made some progress.”
Williamson agrees that progress was made but believes there are still many steps that need to be taken to help prevent future incidents. “I thought it was a great meeting,” she said. “People got to express their concerns and ask questions, so that was good. But there is a difference in our interpretations of their (DFG) policies. We are going to continue to look into how they actually carry out their code enforcement. We have a lawyer looking into that.”
One of the concerns that seem to weigh on the minds of the community, especially those who lived near the shooting, was the discharging of a firearm in such close proximity to neighboring homes. “It was dark when he shot the bear,” said Williamson. “A stray bullet could have killed someone. The neighbors are really concerned about that.”
The Ventura county Sheriff’s Department says there wasn’t a need for a criminal investigation, and the homeowner was within his legal rights to fire his gun. “We can’t find any legal reason why he couldn’t fire his weapon in self-defense,” said Ojai Police Department’s Sgt. Steve Arthur. “We’re not going to let someone endanger someone else’s life, but we didn’t see any violation in this case.”
There were initial concerns that the bear that was shot was a mother, and that a lone cub was sighted in the area shortly after the shooting. Hughan says that there is no evidence that supports either theory. “There are only a few facts of this case that are backed by evidence, he said. “The first is that a bear was legally shot under the permit issued. There is no evidence that supports whether it was male or female or that it was a sow. A game warden saw a bear in a tree that looked about 60 pounds, which quickly ran off. There is nothing that supports it being an offspring of the bear that was shot.”
Williamson wants to stress the need for the community’s cooperation to prevent future wildlife shootings. The DFG has a way to help organizations like O.W.L. protect wildlife in their community — the Natural Resource Volunteer Program, which helps with community education and communication between the agency and concerned groups of citizens. According to their website, the program’s volunteers will be “the eyes and ears of DFG enforcement personnel.”
For more information on local programs, contact O.W.L. at 640-0187. The DFG did not release the property owner’s name since no criminal charges were made.
Submitted by Mary McCormick
The long-range, multi-phase transformation of Ojai Valley Community Hospital is well under way with the latest additions being new automatic doors and a new sign.
In July, crews installed the new automatic doors at the hospital’s main entrance and at the entryway to the Emergency Department. The work was completed by Barringer Construction, DK Electric of Ojai, and American Automatic Doors in Ventura.
This important facility upgrade was fully funded by the Ojai Valley Community Hospital Foundation, and the main lobby door was donated by American Automatic Doors.
The Hospital Foundation also contributed two new facility signs. One directs patients to the Emergency Department, and the other is at the main entrance. The local design team of Rasmussen & Associates and Vogue Signage planned the concrete landmarks. Measuring 4 feet tall and over 12 feet long, the main entrance sign features hand-painted tiles by the artisans of RTK Studios in Ojai. Complementing the structure’s design is an assortment of colorful plants. Special lighting also illuminates the sign, as well as several hundred feet of trees and landscaping, at night.
The installation of the new signs and electric doors follows months of exterior upgrades, including repaving the parking areas and giving the grounds a much-needed face-lift. Lisa Phelps, of Lisa Phelps Landscape and Design, added a variety of plants and flowers throughout the facility, including native Ojai trees. A new irrigation system was also installed.
“These improvements have really changed the facility’s overall appearance,” said Robert Roddick, OVCH support services director. “And it’s wonderful for hospital patrons to see their donation dollars at work.”
As a reminder, the main entrance of the hospital is locked each evening at 9 p.m. Patients and visitors can gain access to the hospital 24 hours a day through the lobby of the Emergency Department.
By Scott West
“Thank You for the Music!” was the refrain from Swedish pop group Abba that brought a packed crowd to their feet as The Gables of Ojai presented the debut performance of Rockin’ It Old School, the senior choral group with a youthful and hip edge.
Joining the group of octogenarians (and greater) was a selection of Ojai Valley youth vocal soloists. “I wanted to spice up the show by juxtaposing the enlivening quality of music that comes from both our youth and our seniors,” said choral director Julija Zonic. This program was the debut performance of the group, which has been holding weekly rehearsals for a year.
For this 50-minute program held last Thursday, Rockin’ It Old School — the senior group that includes both Gables and Ojai community residents — sang modern selections, including songs from the Broadway musical, “Rent,” Elvis Presley, Sting and Bob Marley. In contrast, the youngsters sang classic songs from the ‘30s and ‘40s, from the likes of George Gershwin, Harold Arlen and Bing Crosby.
“We did the math, if you added the ages of the six children who sang today with the old folks, the sum wouldn’t qualify them for the group,” said Smitty West, co-director and a popular local musician and songwriter. “Also, the average age of our Rockin’ It group is more than 20 years over the life expectancy for their generation. What a treasure we have to have these wonderful people bringing us the joy of music when they should not even be here!”
Alice Jacobsen, age 89, an alto in the group, never misses a rehearsal. She was a flight attendant on the first commercial airline flight around the world for PanAm. Gwen McNeilley, 84, exudes exhilaration as she says, “Singing is my life!”
On the youth side, classic songs were sung by sisters Eva and Sadie Beebe, Emmy Hilgers, who shared the title role in “Annie” in this spring’s Ojai production, Sophia Montano, who brought energy to the room with Gershwin’s “Summertime,” as well as Clover Griffin and Chiya Newman.
Executive director of The Gables of Ojai, Betsy Smith, said, “We are so proud of our singers in the chorus, and so happy to share the vitality and spirit of our residents. We’ve all noticed how singing and music energize them.The smiles on their faces and the light in their eyes brighten everyone’s day”
Rockin’ It Old School is co-sponsored by Theater 150, and funded in part by a grant from the Ojai Art Commission.This chorus is free to Ojai residents over the age of 60, and meets every Wednesday at 11 a.m. at The Gables, 701 N. Montgomery St. For information on booking a performance or participating, contact West at firstname.lastname@example.org, 640-1004 or www.smittywest.com.
The Gables of Ojai is a senior residential community, offering services for seniors in independent and assisted living. For more information, call Smith or Christine Fenn at 646-1446.
By Logan Hall
Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett has announced that construction on the new sidewalk on South Lomita Avenue in Meiners Oaks has been completed in time for the new school year. The project, costing $329,000 and funded by the State Highway Safety Program, has paved the way for children walking to and from school on Lomita between Meiners Oaks Elementary School and El Roblar Drive.
“We think it’s wonderful,” said the school’s principal, Dawn Damianos. “We don’t have as many buses to pick up the kids as we used to and more and more of them are walking or riding bikes. This makes it a lot safer for them.”
Although the sidewalk was completed in June, the county made the public announcement a week before students have their first day of school (which will be Tuesday).
Schoolchildren aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from the new sidewalk.
Meiners Oaks resident Gedene Felgar frequently uses the new sidewalk on strolls through the neighborhood. “The new sidewalk is great,” said Felgar as she strode toward the school with her dog, Ginger. “I use it all of the time when we go walking.”
County staff has stated that the project is just the beginning of improvements along the entire length of Lomita. The county’s plan is a veritable make-over of the road with the next step involving a total repaving of Lomita along with a widening of the road’s shoulders for improved bike lane safety. Both phases of the project are scheduled to begin later this year. A press release from Bennett’s office says, “The sidewalk project will be followed by the repaving of the entirety of Lomita Avenue from Rice Road to Highway 33.”
Bennett believes that the make-over will benefit the valley as a whole. “The sidewalks together with the bike lanes will make it much safer for kids and families to get to school …” Bennett said. “Next year we will start extending sidewalks up the south side of El Roblar. These projects all help make the Ojai Valley a more sustainable and accessible community.”
The county has tried several times over the years to allocate the money for the project but had fallen short until the safety program shelled out the necessary funds. “We applied for grant funds for this project for several years before we were successful,” said Bennett.
Damianos agrees that the sidewalk project has been a waiting game until now. “This has been in the works a long time,” she said. “The kids used to have to walk on the dirt path and sometimes in the street because there was no sidewalk. Public schools need to have sidewalks in front of them so we’re very grateful for this.”
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
While channel surfing the other night, I came upon an auction program featuring antique cars. Some were before my time, but several conjured up memories of my childhood and teen years. One in particular brought a smile to my face — a 1960s’ model Chevrolet Impala.
My first car was a 1964 Chevy Impala that was given to me when my mother bought a brand-new 1970 Ford LTD. It was extremely plain, and about as no-frills as a car can get — –a leaf green four-door sedan, with no power anything — steering, brakes or windows. It had a lousy air conditioner and no radio. The transmission was a three-speed manual column shift or “three on the tree” as it was known. It wasn’t exactly a hot rod; senior citizens on bicycles could pass that car. But it was mine.
When I was a teenager, cars were vitally important because they meant independence. I grew up in a small town with very little to do. There was no cable TV, and our old Motorola television received three channels if the weather was favorable.
To do anything and to see anybody, you had to get out of the house. And to effectively do that, you had to have a car. Now, it’s not that I didn’t have a perfectly pleasant home life with my mother, my sister and my spinster aunt. But a big Saturday night found us eating supper at five in the afternoon and cleaning the kitchen in time to watch “Lawrence Welk” and “Hee-Haw.” Not exactly the stuff of which a teenage boy’s dreams are made.
I thought my 16th birthday would never come — I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license. Of course, I had friends with cars, and I rode around with them, but it wasn’t the same thing as having your own wheels. In order to be the master of my own destiny, I needed my own car. In my little town, that meant cruising up and down the five-mile-long main drag from one end of town to the other, making a U-turn, and doing it all over again. For variety, you could make a few passes through the parking lot of Jack’s Hamburgers, to see if anyone interesting was parked there. I may have traveled only 10 or 15 minutes from my house on Hamilton Drive, but it felt like I was light years away. And even though I had no radio, blessedly, there were no tedious Lawrence Welk polkas or corn-pone “Hee Haw” tunes.
When I finally turned 16, I passed my driving test and got the keys to the Chevy. When it was officially mine, I did not see a slow, stripped-down, 6-year-old clunker. I saw a thing of pure beauty.
It was freedom on four wheels, and I loved it.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Last Wednesday, this newspaper ran a story about a confrontation between Mayor Carol Smith, Mike Lopez, and Chet and Wendy Hilgers. The dispute concerned kids at the Skate Park not using protective helmets while riding. Several comments appeared on the OVN Blog about who was responsible for monitoring the kids regarding helmet safety. One comment from our blog summed it up nicely, “Where are the parents of these kids?”
Thank you. Rather than depending upon the City Council, the police, Skate Park volunteers, the public, or random people riding by, here’s a radical thought — how about parents taking the responsibility for the safety of their own kids? Did I miss a Supreme Court ruling that absolves parents from monitoring their children? Was there a presidential decree that pardons parents from responsibility,- especially when it comes to their children’s safety? If not, then how about some parents stepping up to the plate?
All that said, I know that kids are going to take chances and test limits. My parents were attentive, loving and strict, but that did not make me immune from doing stupid things. As proof, I submit the following into evidence:
Blowing up jars with cherry bombs. The federal government outlawed the sale of cherry bombs in 1966 under the Child Protection Laws. For the uninitiated, cherry bombs were round red firecrackers with a green fuse that were five to 10 times more powerful than a standard firecracker. No amount of begging could convince my parents to allow me to buy them, but a grade school friend brought some to the house one afternoon and we shot off a few. That was fun enough, but a 9-year-old boy wants to blow something up. So I went into the basement and got one of my mother’s canning jars.
We lit the fuse, put the bomb under the glass jar, and ran. We were about 20 feet away when it exploded, and when it did, we were not disappointed. The jar was demolished, and it sent silvery shrapnel flying in all directions. I remember the exploding glass hurtling toward me, and turning my face away. Miraculously, most of the flying glass missed us, and we got by with just a few scratches.
Hopping a freight train. I was about 10 when my cousin and I walked to the Curb Mart a half mile from my house to get some groceries my aunt needed to make supper. She also gave us a little extra money for snacks. The store was next to the train tracks, and when we came out, a long freight train had stopped; blocking our path. We stood there in the hot Alabama sun and weighed our options. We grew impatient waiting. We wanted to drop off the groceries and go play ball. Even more critical, our chocolate bars were turning into liquid.
We could wait for the train to move, or we could walk around it, but the train stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions, and it didn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. That bought us to plan three. We would simply hop up into one of the open boxcars, walk through, and hop down on the other side. Since we both considered patience an over-rated virtue, it was a no-brainer. Our hearts raced as we placed the grocery bags in the doorway and swung up into the boxcar. We raced to the other side and jumped down, feeling clever and daring. We felt like James Bond.
When we finally got home, my aunt chided us, asking us why it took so long to run a simple errand. I told her about the stalled train, but my bucket-mouthed cousin had to add that we solved the dilemma by jumping on the train and going through the boxcar. I will never forget the look on my aunt’s face. I think she would have been less shocked and upset if he had told her the Russian army was invading Alabama. Of course, my aunt told our parents, and we both got a severe scolding, followed by a belt to the backside. I don’t know which burned more afterward, my ears or my rear.
But I did learn one valuable lesson about the danger of freight trains —- if you hop one, don’t tell your aunt.
I made it to adulthood in spite of myself, but I think the old saying is true: God looks out for fools and small children. But, just in case, kids, please wear your helmets.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
When I first heard that some of the tobacco companies are suing to block the federal government from requiring graphic new anti-smoking labels on cigarette packs, I was incensed. Who do the tobacco companies think they are? After all, according to the government’s Centers for Disease Control, almost a half million people a year “die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.” That is government-speak for “are killed by” cigarettes.
The new labels are very graphic. One of the labels depicts a sewn-up corpse of a smoker, while another one shows pictures of diseased lungs. So why shouldn’t the government force the tobacco companies to put the labels on the packs?
They do not work. So why waste time and effort on new ones? We already have warnings on labels, but I do not know one smoker who has ever been swayed by package warnings. The surgeon general reported that cigarettes were deadly in the mid-60s. That is almost 50 years ago. Is there any adult, with the exception of someone who has been in a coma since 1964, who does not already know that tobacco is dangerous — that it is deadly in all forms? Is the purpose of the graphic packs to say, “Hey, we are not kidding, here? We really, really, really mean it this time?” People have known forever that tobacco is linked to cancer and other diseases, yet 46 million Americans continue to smoke.
This is a shining example of the government doing something totally ineffectual while trying to come across as the great protector of the electorate.
I have no love for the tobacco companies. I think they are evil. I watched the Senate hearings when the executives of the big tobacco companies each took turns, under oath, swearing that they believed their products were not addictive. The same government now pushing for tougher warning labels had a great opportunity to bring some issues to light and put tobacco executives on the hot seat. Tobacco company executives have known for years how addictive their products are, and have manipulated the nicotine in their products to enslave this nation and other countries. But instead, senators allowed tobacco CEOs to sit there and lie to their face without any consequences whatsoever. Congress has been tougher with ex-baseball players about steroid usage than with tobacco executives about tobacco addiction.
So what are these new labels except government intrusion without any real benefit to the public? They are merely a smoke screen — something the government can point to and say, “Hey, how about these new warnings? Aren’t we on the ball? Aren’t we looking out after your health?” It is self-congratulatory, and ineffective, which happen to be two things at which the federal government excels.
If the government is serious about tobacco, it should do the following:
Tax, tax, tax the product. Hitting people in the pocketbook gets their attention. If cigarettes cost $10 a pack, that would work out to $3,650 per year for a pack-a-day smoker. At that price, fewer people would start, and some who were not totally addicted might be persuaded to quit.
Educate young people to discourage them from starting. Use some of the above tax revenue to have programs in the schools and public service advertising. Run public service ads with Justin Bieber, or someone young kids idolize, talking about why they do not smoke and why it is un-cool to start. Get someone in Hollywood to produce a short anti-smoking video, or a series of them. I am talking about something slick and high quality, Stephen Spielberg high quality, with cameo roles by stars who appeal to youth. It would be something witty, not preachy, that kids would want to watch.
Put strict penalties on anyone who sells tobacco to minors. Current fines are a slap on the wrist. If you fined someone $5,000 for selling tobacco to under-aged children, they would probably think twice about doing so. And I do not mean fine the business, fine the individual who sells to minors.
Would it work — who knows? But it seems a better use of time and resources than stronger warning labels. The government should make a real effort or just butt out.
By Logan Hall
Heal the Community is revving up its engines as the organization prepares for its third annual Mentor Madness Poker Run/Car and Motorcycle Show fundraiser this weekend.
Proceeds from the event will go towards H the C’s ongoing effort to bring an after school program to Meiners Oaks.
“We hope that people will come out and kick back in the shade and checkout some cool cars, hot bikes, and amazing food,” said event coordinator Dusty Fernandez. “We’ve got live music, barbecue, and ice cream cart, and stuntman Monte Perlin will be there with his famous Globe O’ Cross.”
Along with good food and good company, people can expect a raffle for various prizes like a hand painted flame mailbox. There will also be a 50/50 raffle where 50 percent of raffle ticket sales will go to the winner, and 50 percent will go to the cause.
The poker run is scheduled to take participants through Santa Paula and Ventura before heading back to Ojai. Folks will need to stop at various locations along the route like Johnny angel’s Chop Shop in Santa Paula and the Hut in Meiners Oaks.
Fernandez hopes to see a big turnout for the event with the hope that the festivities will help generate money for the youth of the community.
“The main thing is to get something for these kids to do after school,” she said. “We want to get something going for them as soon as possible.”
This year’s event will be dedicated to the memory of Wayne Ortman and Sonia Miller who were killed earlier this year in a motorcycle crash.
By Chris T. Wilson
If you’ve got a book that you’ve written, are writing or that’s knocking around in your head trying to get out, a local author, editor and writing coach has just released a new book to help you get it out there.
“Promote Your Book,” by Patricia Fry offers “over 250 proven, low-cost tips and techniques for the enterprising author.” This is Fry’s 34th book, which is technically an update to a more compact “75 book promoting tips” she published in 2000.
“I knew I was ready to revise this book, so I contacted a publisher, Allworth Press, and expanded the book to over 200 pages, it was only 67 pages before.”
Although she says she’s not sure why, Fry’s writing career began with a dream to be a magazine writer. Realizing that businesses in the Ojai Valley were coming and going, she got her writer’s feet wet by writing a business column for the Ojai Valley News in the 1970s.
“I did that for about three years,” she says. “Then I got started writing magazine articles for horse magazines because I grew up in a family involved in horses and thought, ‘I have so much information on horses.Õ My first articles were for beginning riders and tips for the backyard rider.”
Then one day, she was at Bart’s Books and then-owner Gary Schlicter told her that since there wasn’t a comprehensive history of the Ojai Valley, perhaps she should make that her next project.
“So I did it.”
“The Ojai Valley, An Illustrated History” was completed and published in 1983 and then completely revised and reprinted in 1999. And though she’s made a career of writing how-to books, she says the Ojai book is one of her favorites.
“The Ojai book has a special place in my heart,” Fry says. “I’m a fifth-generation Ojaian and my great-grandson is eighth-generation Ojai.”
But her “how-to” writing career didn’t happen by chance. In fact, she resisted the advances of other writers who asked her advice. She would say no, she was too busy with her own writing and wasn’t interested in other writers’ projects.
“Then one day I said, ‘Yes,’ and I have really enjoyed working with other writers,” she says. “I consult with people related to publishing their project. I give them information they need to make the right decisions and get the point across that the author is responsible for promoting their book. Some of my clients have done quite well and that is quite heartening.”
One client self-published a book and proved she could promote and sell it and now Scholastic Books has picked it up and is publishing her next two books. Another client who took Fry’s online book proposal course openly credits Fry for her success. That client is going to be published by Houton Mifflin.
“You have to think about your audience first,” she says.
Nowhere near stopping, Fry has self-published a number of her books through her own company, Matilija Press. She offers courses and consultations through the organization she chartered which is called S.P.A.W.N., the Small Publishers, Artists & Writers Network. To learn more visit matilijapress.com and spawn.org on the Internet.
So while Fry hasn’t made billions in publishing, she has done well and is happy with her life and career.
“I live in Meiners Oaks and I have a reasonably decent car that I can afford,” Fry says. “It’s been a good ride. I’m not living in a mansion and I don’t drive a Bentley, but I have everything I need and I feel really good about it.”
By Misty Volaski
Few in the developed world consider things like electricity, plumbing or medical care as “luxuries.” But for people like the nomad tribes of Niger, 12 hours out of each day can easily be dedicated to the task of finding access to and hauling water.
Having seen it time and time again during her African travels, Ojai artist and humanitarian activist Leslie Clark has made it her mission to give these nomads not just food and supplies, but also to arm them with knowledge that will help them help themselves for decades to come.
She’s hosting a benefit sale and presentation this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Nomad Gallery, 307 E. Ojai Ave., Suite 103.
Already, Clark and her nonprofit organization, the Nomad Foundation, have helped dig more than 40 water wells and started a medical clinic — among many other projects — in Africa. The Nomad Foundation is now moving forward with a multi-tiered mission which will incorporate midwife education, solar panel construction and the digging of water wells.
“This is not a one-step deal,” said Clark. “We’re in this long-term. We’ve always been in it long-term, taking baby steps. The whole point is to help create things that (the nomads) can carry on themselves, where they don’t need to ask for outside help, so they can help themselves with things they’re not already capable of doing like herding.”
Clark said compounding the difficulty of the poverty in the country is access to items big and small, from vitamins to well drilling equipment. “There are no well drilling companies in the north part of the country,” Clark said. “It’s cost-prohibitive to bring them in (the nearest company). It’s 1,000 miles!”
So, along with local Rotarians like Larry Beckett, Clark is hoping to purchase a drill. It would be used not only to drill water wells; it’ll eventually be turned over to the nomads, who will be trained in its proper usage and will be able to open their own well drilling company.
Existing water wells are manual, Clark said, adding that another goal of the upcoming mission is to update them to electric pumps — greatly diminishing the risk of water contamination. To do that, Clark said, the Nomad Foundation is going to teach the nomad people how to construct their own solar panels.
“All we need to import is the little lightweight photovoltaic cells,” Clark said. “Everything else, the heavy parts like glass and aluminum frames, can be bought in-country.”
The nomads will be trained in the panels’ construction — “none of this will be done in just in one session, but in several,” said Clark — and they will eventually be able to establish their own business making panels for others. “They don’t need complex (solar panel) systems. They just need ones to pump water out of the ground” and charge things like cell phones.
“They need other income strains other than herding,” Clark said.
But none of that matters if a population cannot survive childbirth and childhood. While there are no reliable statistics for newborn mortality rates, Clark says the number is one of the highest in the world.
And, of course, she’s got a plan to reduce that: midwife training. “These are nomads,” she explained. “They usually don’t go to cities for medical care until it’s too late. A woman (having trouble with) childbirth will just give birth and die out there and nobody knows about it.”
By training midwives the Nomad Foundation — working with Rotarian and retired Ojai obstetrician-gynecologist Bob Skankey — hopes to not only give the nomads the materials, but also the training and skills to help themselves.
The existing medical clinic, which is on the nomads’ trade routes, will serve as a training center, from which midwives will return to their villages armed with basic supplies and skills as well as a cell phone (and a solar panel battery charger).
The phone will give the midwives a quick and easy way to contact the nurse practitioner at the medical clinic — and save lives.
But all of this takes time and money — which is the reason for the Nomad Gallery’s sale this weekend. For those who cannot make it, log on to nomadgal.com and click on the “Nomad Market” link.
By Logan Hall
Lake Casitas officials released a statement this morning, saying that Lukas Branaham, owner of a boat that sank in Lake Casitas Sunday evening, was not telling an accurate account of his actions after the sinking.
In an OVN article in today’s paper, Branaham is quoted as saying, “I looked for someone at the front gate, but the office was closed and there was no one in the booth.”
After seeing Branaham’s statement in the OVN, Casitas’ recreation manager Carol Belser reviewed surveillance tapes from Sunday that showed Branaham exiting the front gate with an empty trailer, according to Casitas spokesman Ron Merckling. “Video surveillance indicates that staff were present and that the vehicle did not stop,” said Merckling. “The time was approximately 7:30 p.m.”
Further reports indicate that Branaham’s boat sank earlier in the evening. Gary Petrowski, who was sailing around Casitas’ island with his wife, says he saw an unusual scene unfold on the northwest corner of the lake. “I saw two boats in the water,” said Petrowski, “and one looked like it was towing something submerged. At the time, I couldn’t really see what it was, but now that I know a boat sank, I think that is what they were towing.”
Petrowski says that he offered the boaters a hand but was asked to stay out of the way. “I was close enough that I could yell over to them,” he said, “but they told me they didn’t need help. I think they didn’t want me around them.”
Petrowski also says that he saw the boaters sometime before 6 p.m. “I don’t know why he says there was nobody around,” Petrowski continued. ” There was plenty of time to call for help and I offered to let them use my cell phone. He could have gotten help if he wanted to.”
Check for further updates online as the story continues to unfold.
By Logan Hall
Ojai’s city planner Katrina Rice Schmidt has resigned from her position with the city. According to city manager Rob Clark, Schmidt gave her two weeks notice for personal reasons yesterday morning.
Clark says that her resignation was unexpected and he is now tasked with finding a suitable replacement for the position of city planner. “It caught me by surprise,” he said. “I’m going to find someone qualified that can perform her duties on an interim basis. That will give me and the City Council time to figure out what we are looking for in a permanent replacement.”
Clark said that he values Schmidt’s contributions over her nine years with the city of Ojai. “Katrina was doing a really, really good job,” he said. “I think the things she has done have really done a lot to preserve the beauty of this community.”
By Logan Hall
The owner of the boat that sank off the western shore of Lake Casitas on Sunday is cooperating with officials in attempting recovery efforts. However, the red-and-yellow 1977 “jet boat” has not been located yet, according to Casitas spokesman Ron Merckling.
Original reports from Casitas stating the boat was in 80 feet of water were inaccurate and the depth of the boat, along with its precise location, were yet to be determined as of press time yesterday evening.
The boat’s owner, identified by Casitas as Lukas Branaham, recounts the traumatizing ordeal. “I was heading back in at the end of the day when I felt the whole boat shudder,” he said. “All of a sudden the back was full of water. It came to a standstill and the nose rose up. Within 30 seconds, my boat went down. I didn’t hit nobody or nothing. It was just a freak accident.”
Original reports also indicated that Branaham had fled the scene without notifying officials after the sinking and getting a ride to shore by another boater. But Branaham, says he did everything he could to help resolve the situation.
“I notified someone in the bait shop and they said they couldn’t do anything about it,” recalled Branaham. “I looked for someone at the front gate, but the office was closed and there was no one in the booth. I was wet and freezing, and it was dark outside, so I went home and started making calls.”
Progress was finally made on Monday morning. “The next morning I got a hold of Paul at Vessel Assist,” continued Branaham. “I paid him a thousand bucks out of my own pocket to get everything started. I spent all day on Monday, Tuesday and yesterday (Wednesday) out on the lake trying to help.”
Paul Amaral, salvage master and owner of Vessel Assist, which specializes in locating and retrieving downed vessels, said attempts to lock down the boat’s location have been unsuccessful. “The depth of the area and the terrain of the bottom have made it difficult to pinpoint the location,” said Amaral. “Unfortunately, it’s stuck in an area that is deep and tough to work with. We have an idea of where it is, and we saw something on sonar that caught our attention, but we haven’t found anything yet. At this point Casitas is going to have to decide how they want to move forward.”
Although Amaral says Vessel Assist is, “on hold at this point,” Casitas officials are indicating that Branaham is still responsible for the boat’s removal.
“Lukas has been notified that he needs to take action,” said Merckling. “If the boat is not removed shortly, we will be taking additional action.”
Merckling says there are no fines involved, and no disciplinary steps have been taken toward Branaham at this time, but that Casitas staff is consulting with legal counsel on the matter. “The only thing being done at this time is that we’re seeking advisement from our attorney,” said Merckling.
Although there have been some concerns raised about the boat causing issues with the water quality of Casitas, which is a public water source, Merckling says there is no indication so far that water quality will be affected. “We have a dividing line on the lake to keep vessels away from the water intake,” said Merckling. “If one should sink, it would be far enough from the intake that it shouldn’t cause any problems.”
Branaham admits that this has been a tough week for him, and that it isn’t over yet. “We’ve lost something very valuable and it’s costing us a lot of money,” he said. “That boat was my heart and soul. I’m doing everything I can to make this right.”
By Chris T. Wilson
An Oak View author’s new book, due to be released in September, offers a system for readers to achieve peace, happiness and self-realization by exploring questions of human existence.
“The Soul Solution: Enlightening Meditations for Resolving Life’s Problems,” by author, counselor and spiritual teacher Jonathan Parker, Ph.D., brings together years of experience and thousands of counseling sessions into printed form.
“My background is in psychology,” Parker said. “In the past 35 years, I’ve done more than 30,000 sessions with people, and when you do this kind of thing that many times, you start to figure out how things work and what to look for. My experience has enabled me to tune into people and I’ve developed an intuitive ability to get into the inner workings of the mind.”
The vast majority of Parker’s session work is conducted over the phone, though he does make himself available in person to his clients, either in private sessions or in a group setting. On Sept. 17, Parker will give a lecture and provide a guided meditation at Sacred Space Studio in Ojai.
At age 66 Parker has sold more than 10 million audio programs that he says have helped millions of listeners to realize their true potential. In the mid-1980s, Parker moved to the Ojai Valley. He started Gateway Research Institute and sold audio-cassette programs of his positive affirmation and guided meditation sessions through late-night infomercials. At its height, Gateway employed about 150 people, he said. Since then the business has shifted to MP3 downloads and is a more streamlined operation run by Parker and his wife through his website, jonathanparker.org.
“What I’m calling the ‘Soul Solution’ is the means to connect with the inner light within a person,” Parker said. “Some call it the higher self, the divine self or authentic true self. What I find is that it has a pure balanced radiance with all the qualities that we admire in the luminaries and saints throughout history. When you make the connection with the soul, you move into a sense of synchronicity. Things go your way naturally and you experience universal harmony as life takes on the quality of a fluid dance. There’s not so much struggle and suffering.”
Delivering content for many years in audio format and through meditation retreats, people began asking Parker when he was going to write a book.
“I put it off for years,” he said. “But then during a retreat something hit me while I was reflecting on the process and I thought, ‘I need to write this stuff down.’ So I locked myself in my room, gathered the information and put this book together and it seems to be working for the people who have read it.”
When Parker conducted a lecture and group session at Sacred Space in January, the event sold out in less than a week. And although the event lasted just a few hours people flew cross-country and others drove for hours to attend.
Registration for the Sept. 17 event is open. Register online at jonathanparker.org or call (630) 306-3435 for more information.
By Michelaina Johnson
The Ojai Valley Lions Club recently donated $2,000 to Nordhoff High School to buy new technology for teachers’ classrooms. Principal Dan Musick would like to see the money used to purchase three camera projector-document cam combinations, much-needed updates to the school’s aging technology.
Nordhoff and the Ojai Unified School District will be purchasing the equipment in the next few weeks. However, installation may not be completed right away, due to OUSD budget cuts resulting in the reduction of maintenance staff.
Still, it’s a step in the right direction that began last year when Nordhoff was able to replace some teachers’ 9-year-old computers last year. “We have a real profound need for updated technology,” said Musick. “Our goal is to get every teacher with (updated) technology in their classroom, if not by this year, then by next year.”
Dave Settem, math teacher at NHS, agreed, adding, “Any donation would be good, but it is never enough. Many teachers have it (updated technology) and many do not.”
The $2,000 donation is not the only thing the Lions Club has done recently for the school. Earlier this year, the Lions Club built a new ticket booth for Ojai Valley Community Stadium; they also give out scholarships to high school students.
“Anytime we ask them (the Lions Club) for things, they step up to the plate. They have been very supportive,” said Bill Holling, president of the Nordhoff Parent Association and a member of the Ojai Valley Lions Club.
The Lions Club, along with the Ojai Rotary Clubs, Nordhoff Parent Association and the Ojai Optimist Club “have really been wonderful over the years,” said Musick.
Taggart recently sold his vintage motorcycle collection to Mecum Auctions and is preparing to watch his former prize vehicles sold at one of the largest automotive auctions in the world this weekend. Taggart looked on as Chris Milius, owner of Mach1 Transport, and employee Jay Krazy, loaded 60 of Taggart’s bikes into two, double-decker, semi-trailers that were headed to Pebble Beach for the auction.
“Oh no,” sighed Taggart as he watched Milius wheel out a 1963 Harley-Davidson 750 KR flathead dirt track racer, “I love that bike.”
Taggart seems to have had a little of everything in his collection. From a 1929 Norton CS1 OH Cam TT racer, to a 1967 Triumph Tiger 500cc Twin, the collection is a historical look into American and British motorcycle history. “You want stories?” asked Taggart. “I’ve got stories. Every one of these bikes has some history attached to it. Bud Ekins won the Catalina Grand Prix with that 1957 Matchless ‘Machine’ right there. There were only 10 of those ever made.”
Gavin Trippe, head of Mecum’s new motorcycle department, said Taggart’s collection is as diverse as it is unique. “Taggart’s collection is all across the board,” said Trippe. “It’s got a bit of everything. It’s really a wonderful collection of American and British street and race bikes.”
Taggart says that Mecum wasn’t the only auction company that wanted a piece of the action. “RM Auctions offered $650,000 for it,” he said. “They got into a bidding war with Mecum and Mecum ended up outbidding them by almost $400,000.”
Taggart’s history seems to be as diverse as that of his former bikes. Born and raised in Indiana, he was the grandson of Alexander Taggart, who invented Wonder Bread in the 1920s. After serving in the Korean War, Taggart decided to leave his hometown and his family fortune behind to pursue a life of teaching. Taggart moved to California, but it was on his way to pursue his doctorate at Stanford University when he made a little stop in the Ojai Valley. “I was told by a friend to stop by this little town called Ojai to have lunch,” he said. “I never made it Stanford.”
In 1994, Taggart’s mother died, leaving him with a hefty inheritance. After meeting and befriending fellow local automotive collector, Guy Webster, Taggart began his own collection. “We found this 1967 Moto Guzzi Le Mans,” said Webster on the start of Taggart’s collection. “That bike was incredible.”
According to Trippe, Jay Leno will be on hand at the event to auction off one of the many bikes that will be featured. Trippe also says there is no telling how much the various bikes will fetch at auction. “The bikes can go for anywhere from $2,500 to more than $200,000,” he said. “It all depends on how rare they are and how much someone is willing to pay for them. Bikes have been underexposed and undervalued. Now they’re going to hit the mainstream.”
The Ojai Wildlife League invites the community to attend a meeting with representatives from the Department of Fish and Gameon Aug. 25 at 7 p.m., at Theater 150, 316 E. Matilija St.Attending will be Lt. Mike Stefanak, the warden supervisor for the Ojai area,and Andrew Hughes, public information officer. In addition, Marc Kenyon, the DFG bear biologist, hopes to attend. Individuals from local wildlife organizations will also participate.
This is an opportunity to have a discussion about the recent shooting of a bear on Thacher Road and to educate ourselves on ways to prevent incidents like this in the future. Learn how to bear-proof your chicken coop and trash cans and simple bear aversion techniques.
For more information call 640-0187 or visit Ojaiwildlifeleague.com.
By Misty Volaski
Children around the world, confess: you didn’t know that a “doe” was a female deer, or that a “re” was a drop of golden sun until you watched “The Sound of Music.”
The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is bringing back those happy memories with a screening of the international blockbuster movie this Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Special guest Angela Cartwright, who played Brigitta Von Trapp, will be available for a question-and-answer session before the movie.
“The Sound of Music” is the second of three movies the inn is screening this summer, all part of the Arts & Leisure Series. “American Graffiti” screened July 31, and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” will wrap the series on Sept. 24 with special guest Louise Fletcher.
Cartwright says she’s excited to come to Ojai again. “I love it there!” she said. “I attended a wedding at the Ojai Valley Inn last year. I just love the area.”
She added that she’s done several question-and-answer– events over the years, both for “The Sound of Music” and other films and TV shows she’s been a part of, such as “Lost In Space.” As with many child stars, Cartwright got into the business young, at the age of 3. By the time she was picked to play Brigitta, she was already a veteran, having been in several movies and played Linda Williams on “The Danny Thomas Show” for several years.
But “The Sound of Music,” Cartwright said, gave her the opportunity she had been longing for; the opportunity to act with children her age. “‘The Danny Thomas Show’ was ending,” she said. “I’d done that for seven years — what’s next? Then I got the part (of Brigitta) and I thought, ‘Yes!’ It was really cool.”
Cartwright says she’s still close to the other child actors from the movie. “We pick up where we left off,” she said. “We all genuinely like each other.”
The group has so much fun together, Cartwright added, that they’ve published a scrapbook of their photos and memories of “The Sound of Music.” “It’s called ‘The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook,’ and it’ll be available in october on Amazon.com,” she said. “It really is a scrapbook — it’s got pockets with pull-out premiere tickets, call sheets, different notes from Julie Andrews, stories we wrote on the set as kids. I think each of us struck a chord in different children who saw the movie, and this is a glimpse of who we were as kids. There’s a ton of never-before-seen pictures!”
As an adult, Cartwright continued to act, but found herself focusing more and more on art. Being on camera for most of her life naturally sparked Cartwright’s interest in photography. Now a mixed-media artist who works with a variety of mediums, Cartwright also loves treating photographs as a “canvas,” and paints over them — with electrifying results. She has also written books and is in the process of designing her own clothing line. In between, she plays mom to two grown children, creates jewelry, writes a blog (“Said & Done,” at acartwright.blogspot.com), produces an art magazine (Pasticcio Quartz) with friend Sarah Fishburn — in addition to designing all her own websites.
But again, the memories of “The Sound of Music” are close to Cartwright’s heart. “It’s not just a U.S. thing. It’s international,” she said. “It was such an amazing role to get. You can go your whole lifetime without a movie so recognizable. I’m grateful to have been part of such an iconic film. It’s timeless.”
See angela-cartwright.com or acartwrightstudio.com for more information on Cartwright.
Purchase tickets to the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa’s Saturday screening via brownpapertickets.com or at the gate.
Profits will benefit the Ojai Education Foundation and the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation.
By Logan Hall
Lake Casitas officials are scrambling to protect one of the valley’s water sources after a recreational boat sank in 80 feet of water at an unknown location in the lake.
According to Ron Merckling, spokesman for Casitas, a boat sank sometime on Sunday evening, and the owner, who has not been named by Casitas, left the scene without notifying Casitas personnel. “Another individual of unknown relation to the owner called in yesterday (Monday) and indicated that a boat had sunk,” said Merckling. “The owner of the boat is cooperating at this time.”
Merckling says that protecting the water supply is at the forefront of Casitas’ priorities and specialists will be monitoring the water for any signs of fuel or oil contamination. “We are working to recover the boat as quickly as possible,” he said. “There is no indication that there are water quality concerns and it’s unlikely that it will become an issue. We are going to get our water quality person out there though. We’re just taking the necessary steps at this time.”
Abandoning a vessel in a waterway is illegal according to state harbors and navigation code, but Casitas has not yet indicated if there are any criminal implications for the boat’s owner. Merckling indicated that few details are available at this time, but Casitas employees are working to resolve the issue.
By Chris T. Wilson
A handful of downtown Ojai business owners got caught off guard recently by an as-yet-unidentified shopper allegedly passing counterfeit travelers checks.
Described by several downtown business owners as a white male in his mid- to late-’50s, the alleged perpetrator made small purchases of about $25 with the $100 travelers checks on Aug. 6 and then received change for the purchase in cash.
Ojai Wells Fargo Bank branch service manager Tiffany Owens said three customers brought the phony checks in for deposit.
“We knew as soon as we saw them that they were counterfeit,” Owens said, noting that the checks did not contain any security features such as raised lettering or watermark. “We put a little water on one of them to test it and the ink just ran right off.”
Employees at the Ojai branch of Bank of America and Ojai Community Bank said they too had received two of the checks, which were designed to look like Thomas Cook Master Card travelers checks.
Ojai Police Capt. Chris Dunn said the case is still under investigation. “The deputy (in charge of the case) has been to four businesses today and is seeking out other victims,” Dunn said.
Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Eicher said he was alerted to the counterfeit checks last week and sent e-mails to other area chambers alerting them to the issue.
Kava Gifts owner Hildegard Talent said the man seemed nice and typical of customers who come into the store, and that she hasn’t seen a travelers check in many years.
“For the most part people who come through are very nice and they’re here on vacation and we don’t have any problems,” Talent said. “In my 12 years in business I’ve only had three checks bounce that I’ve written off as bad debts and they were all from outsiders. So maybe we become complacent.”
Jodi Brandt at Curly Willow on North Signal Street said she should have been more cautious about accepting the check even though the man seemed nice.
“He was very chatty, but there was something weird about him,” Brandt said. “He picked out a necklace and said that he wanted it gift wrapped. He said it was for his wife for their anniversary. It was the first travelers check I had taken.”
Lauren Lee Henry of White Sparrow, a woman’s clothing boutique in the Arcade Plaza, said the man also bought a necklace with one of the checks in her store.
“My store was packed, so even though he seemed a little strange, I didn’t think anything of it,” Henry said. “I’m going to’ be more careful next time and be more hesitant, but lots of local people like to write checks and I don’t want to turn them away. I want my business to thrive.”
While it’s a painful lesson for local business owners to be more careful, each seemed more concerned for other small community business owners who may fall victim to similar scams.
“What bothers me more than anything is that this guy left town and we can’t do anything about it,” Henry said.
Brandt said she hopes there’s a quicker and more efficient way for local business owners to communicate with each other if something like this happens again in the future.
“I think it’s a really good idea for us to notify each other if something gets ripped off,” Brandt said. “It’s really sad to think that this guy was here for one day, then went to one small town after another. What a jerk.”
By Misty Volaski
Ojai P.O.N.Y Baseball players and parents, along with members of two Ojai senior baseball teams, are calling foul after a contentious Ojai Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Aug. 4.
According to P.O.N.Y. Baseball board member Bryan Crawford, the Ojai Recreation Department is charging the youth baseball organization more than twice the 2010 rate for using the baseball fields at Sarzotti Park. The ORD charged P.O.N.Y. $1,568 for the use of the fields in 2010, Crawford said. They got an unwelcome surprise when the 2011 bill came this year;
“$5,500 was the first billing that we received,” Crawford said, “and that was then lowered to $3,868.50 as the original billing was trying to charge us for the use of our Shetland field (T-ball), which Ojai P.O.N.Y. built with our own money and labor. We then had the bill revised again due to some rain-out days, so the final billing was $3,256.50.”
Dale Sumersille, director of recreation for the city, could not provide dollar amounts that P.O.N.Y. paid either in years past or for the 2011 season. She did, however, say that according to her records, the fields had been used 497 hours in 2011 almost twice as many as were used in the past four years. But the invoice provided by the city of Ojai to Ojai P.O.N.Y. Baseball on June 16 of this year shows only 279 hours of field time (24 hours in February, 53.5 hours in March, 108.5 hours in April, and 94 hours in May).
“The number, 497, sounds high to me,” said P.O.N.Y. President Robert Roddick. “I don’t see how that’s feasible.”
‘We had four fewer teams (in the league) this year than last year so that doesn’t seem to make sense,” said P.O.N.Y. parent and board member Nikki Crawford.
While the billing for the Gold Coast Senior league teams in Ojai was significantly less, said Sumersille, “The seniors (teams) have never been charged properly, anyway. That was done by previous employees who were supposed to be charging them.”
Sumersille hastened to add that rates for most ORD programs have been raised, and that several programs had been reduced or eliminated as a result of the city’s mandate that the Parks and Recreation Department cut its budget by $150,000 for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Sumersille also said that an independent review of field use rates other communities in the area found Ojai’s prices to be “reasonable. Out of 15 agencies, we’re still one of the lowest price-wise.”
While price is certainly a concern, one of the main sources of frustration from both P.O.N.Y. and the senior teams seems to be the maintenance of Sarzotti Park.
“It’s a hazard waiting to happen,” said Bob Hill, of the senior softball group. “We went out one night and there were piles of dirt in front of the dugout, piles of grass in the outfield where they cut part of the grass for the soccer fields. I’m out there worried that our seniors are going to fall and break a hip! The current recreation director doesn’t maintain the fields in the way they’ve done in the past. I know that’s partially because of budget restraints, but this comes down to safety. I’ve lived here my whole life and this is the worst I’ve seen Sarzotti ever maintained.”
He went on to say he was turned down when he offered to have his players come out to Sarzotti and “cut weeds, sweep, pick up trash, clean things up, in return for helping us out a little bit (on the rates they’re charged for field usage).” He says a similar offer was accepted by Ventura County for use of the fields at Soule Park, and that he and the teams wouldn’t be returning to play their games at Sarzotti until ORD “management changes were made.” At Soule, Hill said, “ we repainted, replaced the boards, fixed fences, added new benches, got volunteers help, got Ojai Lumber to donate, and they (the county) are giving us (usage of the) fields free, and free admission for our fans.”
P.O.N.Y. Baseball board members said they felt similarly frustrated, but have not made a decision whether or not to move their program. “That’s the hard thing for me we maintain the fields, we line them, we paid for our own dirt and brought it in, graded everything,” said P.O.N.Y. board member Randy Bertin. “I don’t know that we got anything in return as far as a price break.”
Bryan Crawford elaborated: “To our knowledge no credit was made in consideration for all of our league’s time and efforts that we spent this year. We had three different work days that were at least four to six hours in length with 10 to 15 volunteers.”
Sumersille said that she and the Parks and Recreation Commission only have advisory power, and that only the City Council has the power to make adjustments and changes to the price schedule. However, she added, she and the Parks and Recreation Commission are recommending that the city consider reduced field rates for nonprofit groups and in-kind donations; they also worked out a deal with the city to start cutting the grass every week once again, from March to September (then it will switch to every other week).
In addition, she noted, a committee has been organized to discuss policy and how to best move on from this point. “It consists of Parks and Recreation commissioners, City Council members, the city attorney, myself, the Public Works director, city engineer and a few (park) users.” Sumersille said a final decision on the rates and policies is being looked at but probably would not be done before September at the earliest.
Crawford said P.O.N.Y. is “hopeful that some resolution will come from the (committee).” He expressed gratitude to the Parks and Recreation Commission, who “in my opinion were very receptive to our comments and seem to want to make the changes needed. (But) if the rates continue to go up I am sorry to say we may be forced to shut down Ojai P.O.N.Y. Baseball. I would kill me if we had to do that.”
By Chris T. Wilson
Figuring out what to do with roughly 2 million cubic yards of fine silt deposits resting behind the obsolete Matilija Dam is likely one of the largest and final challenges facing those who want to remove the defunct dam and restore the natural flow of the Ventura River.
This past November a work group convened to find and develop solutions for managing the fine sediment and to produce a report on their findings. That report, now complete in draft form and in its final editing stages will be central to discussions that take place when the Design Oversight Group meets again on Sept. 14.
According to Paul Jenkin of the Matilija Coalition, the main gist of the report is that Ventura County Public Works has agreed to look at notching the dam down to the silt line in an effort independent of the Army Corps of Engineers, and at the same time look at bringing in outside expertise on how to best move the fine sediment that continues to slowly build up behind the dam.
“This is a pretty big deal, and we could see some real progress toward actually removing the dam,” Jenkin said.
Further notching of the dam would eliminate what is left of the dam’s reservoir, which is now holding approximately 400 acre-feet of water, Jenkin said.
“That’s not a lot compared to the dam’s original capacity of 6,000 acre-feet, or when you compare it to the 256,000 acre-feet of water that Lake Casitas holds,” Jenkin said. But it would keep the problem from getting worse, he added.
Plans to pump and slurry the silt down stream were dropped for being too expensive or too controversial. And new plans that would include notching the dam to the current silt level and restore a channel upstream from the dam and pile the silt in designated locations alongside the new channel would potentially be able to rely on the power of natural flooding cycles to move and redeposit the silt downstream.
Beyond being complex in scope and feasibility, the costs associated with the process have held back progress. Jenkin said he hopes that by changing course and looking at the new plan to dredge a channel and pile sediment up stream a lot of the originally projected costs can be lowered.
“The prospects for federal funding look fairly unlikely,” Jenkin said. “That why we’re hoping to do the notch down to the silt line with state and local funding.”
Meanwhile, California Coastal Conservancy project manager Bob Thiel said that he’s hopeful that the findings and recommendations of the Design Oversight Group will lead to progress in the near future.
“We are encouraged, but, of course, the devil is in the details,” Thiel said. “We want to make sure we can scope out the technical studies and provide requisite findings for the study to answer the questions it raises. The answers to those issues are key to resolving the fine sediment issue, which is the last major technical issue that needs to be resolved for the dam project to move forward.”
Both Thiel and Jenkin noted that working with the government is a very slow process, and even if fast-tracked and well-funded, it would be a year or two before any concrete is actually cut out of the dam, or any heavy equipment is brought in to begin dredging the fine sediments.
In the coming weeks, an agenda and location for the Sept. 14 meeting will be finalized and announced, Thiel said. Details for that meeting will be published in the Ojai Valley News.
For further information and details on the push to remove Matilija Dam visit venturariver.org/ and click on the Matilija Dam Removal link.
Report and photos by Logan Hall
Ojai’s mayor has allegedly ruffled the feathers of some local citizens. Chet Hilgers, local contractor and president of Skate Ojai, claims Mayor Carol Smith deliberately harassed Hilgers, his family and his friend, fellow Skate Ojai advocate Mike Lopez, on Sunday.
Hilgers, along with his mother, Wendy, and Lopez, stood in front of the Ojai City Council on Tuesday night and gave council members a detailed account of their encounter with Smith.
“This person pulled up to the Skate Park and began honking at us,” said Hilgers, who was at the Ojai Skate Park with his friends and family at the time of the incident. “She began harassing us about the kids on bikes in the Skate Park. She was very rude and her behavior was uncalled for. That person was our Mayor Carol Smith. It was very bizarre.”
After Hilgers addressed the council, Lopez took to the lectern to give a similar account of the run-in with Smith. “We were minding our own business,” said Lopez, “when Carol Smith pulled up and double-parked her car. I was so flabbergasted and disturbed by what she said. She was shoving her finger in our face. I found her behavior to be totally disturbing and bizarre.”
Hilgers’ mother also spoke briefly to the council, stating her dissatisfaction in Smith’s behavior. “It was so shocking to me. I just hope it never happens again,” she said.
Smith and her fellow council members refrained from commenting during the meeting, but Smith later claimed the whole thing was blown out of proportion. “I wasn’t yelling or getting in anyone’s face,” said Smith after the council meeting adjourned. “There were 8-year-old kids in there on bikes with no helmets.”
Smith points the finger back at Hilgers and his crew saying that she was mistreated. “They were screaming at me,” said an emotional Smith. “I was so shocked. Obviously they are just trying to cover their asses.”
When asked about the incident, Ojai city manager Rob Clark declined to comment, simply saying, “I wasn’t there.”
Lopez, who addressed the council with fervor, expressed his desire to inform the city what had happened. “I want the incident to go down in public record,” he said. “Carol, you are a bully. You represent the city. You’re here to serve Ojai. We’re not here to serve you.”
By Logan Hall
A neighborhood on the East End of Ojai is reeling after a bear was allegedly shot by an area resident according to some locals and the California Department of Fish and Game.
DFG spokesman Andrew Hughan says an unnamed resident near Thacher Road reported that a bear was damaging a chicken coop on their property. After a DFG game warden investigated, Hughan says the property owner was issued a depredation permit by the warden, which allows the resident to kill the bear either by hiring a professional or doing it personally if they have a valid hunting license and are in a rural area.
Hughan says the DFG was called in on Sunday morning when the resident reported having heard a disturbance outside, subsequently exiting the house with a firearm before allegedly firing shots at an unidentified animal. “On Sunday morning,” said Hughan, “someone on the property thought they heard a bear and came out shooting and injured an animal.”
A DFG game warden was again dispatched to investigate the property where animal tracks and evidence of blood were inconclusive. Hughan added that, “The game warden couldn’t determine what kind of bear had been shot or even if there was a bear at all.”
However, the homeowner in question, who requested to remain anonymous, claims to have seen the bear get shot. “I saw the bear,” said the owner of the property. “We are really upset that it had to be injured. We had built what we felt was a really secure coop that had electricity attached at night. We have been here for many years and have never had a problem like this. We did what we could to get the bear to leave us alone.”
Hughan claims the DFG is operating under state law and that state legislation requires DFG field agents to issue depredation permits if they are requested and evidence of injury or property damage can be presented. “We are tied by legislation,” he said. “If someone asks for a permit, we have to issue it.”
Local wildlife advocates believe there are many alternatives to killing an animal and believe that the DFG was wrong in issuing the depredation permit. “An animal shouldn’t die for something that is a person’s fault,” said Sue Williamson, co-founder of the Ojai Wildlife League. “This man still had the same chicken coop after the bear had already gotten to it a few times. We want to educate people that if they have something that is attracting unwanted wildlife, they need to fix the problem.”
Hughan says that bears don’t intentionally harm people or their property, but certain things are more likely to attract animals like bears. “The bears are just doing what bears do,” he said. “They’re looking for food. People really need to clean up their trash and never leave food lying around. Chicken coops are just setting up a live table for the bear.”
Williamson echoes Hughan’s thoughts on the matter. “It’s like putting out bait and then shooting the animal that shows up to get it,” said Williamson. “It was unacceptable for them to shoot the bear when they wouldn’t fix their coop.”
Williamson also believes that the DFG could have done more to prevent the alleged shooting. “We have a big bone to pick with the DFG,” she said. “They shouldn’t have given them a depredation permit. They screwed up and we’re going to let them know about it.”
Hughan, although not addressing Williamson’s concerns specifically, said that DFG personnel really care about the animals and never want to see something like this happen. “The last thing in the world that any DFG employee wants to do is destroy an animal,” said Hughan. “Sometimes it happens and it’s a sad and unfortunate part of the job. When public safety is an issue though, that comes first.”
One neighbor of the property in question, who also requested to remain anonymous, believes that more could have been done to prevent the alleged shooting. “We live in a place that’s along a wildlife corridor,” said the neighbor. “When the bears don’t have any food, you can’t expect them not to take advantage of something like a chicken coop. They know they made a mistake though.”
The resident who allegedly shot the bear hopes that other people can learn from the experience and help prevent similar situations in the future. “We now have better ideas on how to secure our chicken coop,” said the property owner. “We want to live here in harmony with the bears, but I also want to protect my home and pets and family. We will use Sue’s (Williamson) guidelines and see if we can prevent any more incidents. We are not bear haters.”
For information on proper ways to prevent bears from entering a property, contact the Ojai Wildlife League at 640-0187 (also see Williamson’s guest editorial on Page A5).
By Misty Volaski
Ojai’s Jacqueline Houck would have been 27 yesterday. But instead of celebrating together in the sun, her mom, Cally Houck, spent the day planting banana trees in memory of her youngest daughter.
Along with her sister Raechel, Jacqueline died Oct. 7, 2004, when the girls lost control of their rental car and careened into an 18-wheeler. After five years of litigation, Enterprise Rent-A-Car admitted fault for the girls’ “wrongful and unreasonable” deaths in a PT Cruiser that had a serious safety recall but had not been repaired.
While Enterprise did have to pay the Houcks for the sisters’ deaths, said Houck, “They weren’t held accountable. I thought, we’ll take it to court, get accountability there. But to me there was none; to me, justice is accountability. This is a multi-billion dollar industry we’re talking about. These companies won’t be ‘accountable’ until they suffer real consequences, feel that pain.”
And making them face those consequences is what Houck is out to do. She already has had legislature introduced to the California legislature (AB-753) through Assemblyman William Monning, which is sitting in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
And Houck’s latest achievement goes even further. SB-1445, The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2011, was introduced July 28 at the federal level. The bill would require rental car companies to fix all vehicles with safety recalls before renting them out to the public. Currently, in the eyes of the law, rental car companies are treated much like individual consumers; they are notified of the safety recall, but are not required to repair it before renting it out. Auto manufacturers, however, may not sell a vehicle if it has any unrepaired safety recalls.
Houck says she would simply like to see the rental car companies governed by the same rules as the auto manufacturers. “It’s not that complicated — fix the dang cars, offer people safe cars,” said Houck. “Right now they’re putting dangerous weapons — cars are deadly weapons —- into the hands of unsuspecting drivers. Why don’t they care about the safety of their customers?”
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is leading the charge for SB-1445, and already has garnered the support of Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), as well as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). Houck hopes more members of Congress will come on board soon.
“This (bill) is much more restrictive, more comprehensive,” said Houck. “Sen. Schumer is not entertaining any compromises with the rental car industry. And we don’t expect this to be easy fight.”
But Houck said getting the state and federal bills passed is what drives her. “I can’t believe this bill won’t pass,” Houck said. “No, not can’t — won’t. Can’t is definite. Won’t is a choice. I won’t believe that it will not pass. I stand at the ready.”
In a July press release, Sen. Schumer said, “We are now one step closer to making sure that families who rent cars are not getting behind the wheel of a vehicle that could have a dangerous defect,” said Schumer. “This law will make it clear that if there is a defect in car, it either gets fixed or it doesn’t get rented.”
Sen. Boxer agreed with Schumer in the press release. “Consumers have the right to expect that the cars and trucks they rent are safe and that companies are not renting them vehicles that have been recalled. We should honor the memory of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck by ensuring that no one will ever again unwittingly rent a vehicle that is under recall and unsafe to drive.”
Houck said there were many people to thank for helping her to organize and find someone to sponsor the state and national bills. “I am so grateful to Assemblyman Monning for putting it out there. Being the advocate that he is for the people, I look at him as a springboard for what’s taking place at the national level. He was the guy who went out on a limb and authored the first bill — and that the (federal government) has picked it up is great!” Houck said. “And the consumer advocate groups are just amazing. They know how lobbyists work, they know how the system works. And Sens. Schumer, Blumenthal, Feinstein and Boxer, having them on board is just huge. They did the right thing —- they’re incredible consumer advocates. I’m very hopeful that we can generate some kind of consumer movement. Grass-roots movements do change things.”
For more information on SB-1445 and to follow its progress, join the group Stop! Dangerous Rental Cars on Facebook, or visit Schumer’s website, schumer.senate.gov, and search Houck.
900 Block of E. Ojai Ave, Ojai, Ca
Date & Time:
August 1, 2011, 1:30 P.M.
Ojai Detectives and Patrol Units
Arrestee City of Residence Age
Frowein, Ronald Ojai 47
On August 1, at approximately 1:30 pm, personnel from the Ojai Police Department executed a search warrant based on information obtained about a convicted felon (Ronald Frowein) possibly in possession of a machine gun. Ojai Police organized a search warrant team utilizing resources from patrol as well as detectives to serve the warrant. The search warrant was then served at the location and deputies seized a machine gun as well as drugs, drug paraphernalia, and other contraband from the location. Mr. Frowien was arrested without incident.
Frowein was booked at the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility for possession of a firearm by a narcotic addict, possession of a machine gun, possession of ammunition, possession for sale of a controlled substance and being under the influence of a controlled substance, all felony charges.
Officer Preparing Release: Sgt. Mark Franke
Photo by Logan Hall
Residents of Buena Vista Street dodged a bullet on Wednesday night when a massive oak tree fell, narrowly missing houses and cars as it crashed down. The giant tree did, however, damage power lines that had Southern California Edison crews working through the night to restore power to the area. “It was a classic old tree,” said former Ojai mayor Steve Olsen who lives near the downed oak. “It added a lot of character to the street.” One area resident, Jim Schindler, believes the tree could be more than 200 years old. “My landlady was told it was a 200 year tree,” said Schindler. “It’s a huge one. When it fell … it sounded like a bomb went off.” SCE repaired power lines and restored electricity on Thursday morning.
By Logan Hall
Ojai native and world-class touring golf professional, Beth Allen, took a shot at 144 of the world’s best golfers last week during the Women’s British Open at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland. Allen finished the tournament at one-under-par, tying for 30th place, outscoring some big names like Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis. The OVN had a chance to catch up with Allen before her next tournament to chat about her experience at the top of a fiercely competitive sport.
OVN: So how does it feel to give the world’s best athletes a run for their money?
Allen: Playing the Open was awesome, but I didn’t really think much about who else was playing. I try to just focus on what I do at each event and treat them all the same. Besides, I played on the LPGA tour for four years and it was a similar field to what I used to play on then, so it wasn’t too different.
OVN: You went up against some pretty big names out there. How do you keep your head in the game in four consecutive golf rounds?
Allen: It was a long week for sure. I had to qualify for the event on Monday as well, so I had a practice round on a different course Sunday, played in the qualifier, had Tuesday to walk Carnoustie and practice a bit, then played the event. I just stayed in the present and took every day as it came. I was just so happy to be participating in the British Open it was easy to enjoy myself and just play golf.
OVN: Was there any competitor in particular that you enjoyed playing with? Any that made the tourney more challenging for you?
Allen: I am not really fazed by who I play with anymore. I enjoyed all of my pairings at the Open, to be honest. The first two rounds I was out with a fellow European Tour player and then Saturday with Anna Nordquist, who I played in the final group of European Tour School with a few years ago, and then Sunday Eun Hee Ji, who won the U.S. Open. Everyone was really nice to play with. At a golf course like Carnoustie, you really have to pay attention to every shot and not anything else. Everyone is in the same boat, so there isn’t a lot of talking going on!
OVN: I know you have been touring in Europe for awhile. How has your experience been across the pond?
Allen: Europe has been phenomenal. I feel much more comfortable playing golf on tour over here. I have been more successful and gained some confidence. Plus, I enjoy the European culture so much and being able to see the world and do what I love is fantastic.
OVN: I’m sure getting to where you are in your career didn’t happen overnight. What kind of recent work and/or training led up to your latest accomplishment?
Allen: I think that as I have become older and more experienced I have found balance in life and golf. I have better practice habits now because I have found what works for me as opposed to when I first turned pro. I used to over-practice and would often feel guilty thinking I wasn’t doing enough. I have now figured out what works for me and am happy on and off the golf course. I have also done a lot of work with my swing coach, Johnny Gonzales in San Diego. He has been a great help to me since my dad died because he was my coach. My dad and Johnny were friends and he understands my swing and the foundation of my swing.
I have also been working with Dr. Joe Parent for about three years and have made big strides in my putting and mental game. Before I left for the Open I had a three-hour session with him working on my course management, putting and short game, and it did wonders. I really committed to what we worked on during the event, especially with my putting. It was instrumental to my success there because I putt very well. I am very lucky to have a really good team behind me.
OVN: Is there any golf hole or a particular shot from the tourney that stands out to you?
Allen: The first round I teed off last at 3:28. It was a long round and mentally grueling. I finished around 9 p.m. and birdied the last to shoot one under par. I holed about a 20-footer and played really solid. It felt really good to be under par the first round of the Open so I think that was really good for my momentum and helped me sleep a bit better that night!
OVN: You gave your brother Danny a kidney earlier this year that saved his life. Did that factor into your playing?
Allen: I gave Danny a kidney March 1, so not that long ago really. I was back on tour two months after I had surgery. I think about what I did for him a lot actually. It was really important to me to help him and it has made me really happy. Golf doesn’t seem so important after you deal with some of the things I have. A bad round isn’t as emotional any more because I know that isn’t all that my life is all about. Danny is doing really, really well and I couldn’t be happier with the result. He can lead a normal life now and that was what is important to me. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
OVN: You’ve come a long way from practicing on the driving range at Soule Park Golf Course with your high school golf team. Did you ever think you would be playing in such a huge competition?
Allen: To be perfectly honest when I was living in Ojai and playing on the team at Nordhoff I wasn’t really thinking that far in the future. Back then I was just hoping to get a scholarship to play golf in college and then it evolved into a career that I love! I am really proud of what I achieved last week and always hoped I would compete in a British Open. To have had a little success is like icing on the cake.
OVN: Any plans on getting back to the valley in the near future?
Allen: I will probably be back in Ojai sometime in November or during the holidays. I will be out of the country for the most part until mid-October. Dr. Parent works out of the Ojai Valley Inn so I would like to see him as well as some of my old friends. I also really enjoy coming back and playing Soule Park because I have so many memories from growing up playing there.
OVN: So what’s next?
Allen: This week I am playing in the Ladies Irish Open near Dublin. Then I have a week off and will play in Scotland in the Scottish Open the following week. I then leave the U.K. and go over to Europe, playing in various places. I come home for a few days in October and then go to China for two weeks and come home for a bit before I go to India and Dubai in early December.
By Chris T. Wilson
Arguably some of Ojai’s finest live entertainment will grace the Zalk Theater and Matilija Auditorium stages in the coming week. And theater lovers are taking notice, grabbing up tickets for Ojai Playwrights Conference 2011 “Summer New Works Festival,” which runs from Aug. 9 through 14.
In its ever-evolving tradition of exploring and developing the works of bright and emerging playwrights, the 2011 conference welcomes award-winning and Broadway-produced writer Stephen Belber in collaboration with Adam Duritz, who is best known as the front man and primary composer of the musical group, Counting Crows. Belber and Duritz are developing a musical called “Black Sun” that will feature an impressive cast of actors including Evan Rachel Wood (“Whatever Works,” “The Wrestler”) and Rob Morrow (“The Bucket List,” “Northern Exposure”) to be read, sung and discussed at Ojai’s Matilija Auditorium on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Belber said that the concept for “Black Sun” emerged about five years ago when Duritz told him about some songs he had written for a few characters in his head. Shelved until a few months ago, Belber told Duritz that OPC would be a perfect place to develop the concept, which follows a handful of New Yorkers who experience strange phenomena when the sun goes dark. Belber, who has been a part of three previous conferences, applied and got accepted.
“It’s not an eclipse, it’s more of a weird event where something shifts and strange things start to happen,” Belber said of “Black Sun.” “Lovers reacquaint, one speaks to their dead mother, and another grows wings, and sometimes what happens is really good and sometimes not, but it explores what happens if you have a second chance in life.”
Belber said the conference is the perfect place to develop the play because of the smart, non-judgmental artists involved and the excellent feedback they provide. With the first act written and a few songs completed, this will be the first time Duritz has written music to be sung by someone other than himself, Belber said. With actors and singers together putting a voice to the written words, the OPC fulfills its mission to help playwrights develop and fine-tune their works for a larger audience.
“Black Sun” is one of two “intersection” performances during the festival. The other is Father Greg Boyle’s “Tattoos on the Heart.” Boyle founded Homeboy Industries as a gang intervention program in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood. “Tattoos on the Heart,” which will be performed by Boyle on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Matilija Auditorium, is a series of dramatic parables based on the pastor’s 20-plus years working with young people in one of L.A.’s most highly concentrated gang neighborhoods.
“This is a great performance for young people to attend,” said OPC artistic director and producer Robert Egan. “Boyle will bringing a few members of Homeboy Industries that are ex-gang members to perform with him.”
Egan also said that Friday night’s All-Star Cabaret will include some powerful performances, including the return of Steve Connell, who just finished the run of his play in New York, and writer-comedienne Anabelle Gurwitch, who will be performing a new piece. “And Saturday morning’s family event will include three top magicians with circus skills, which promises to be hugely entertaining,” Egan said.
With emerging playwrights such as Don Nguyen working alongside returning playwrights Rick Cleveland and Bill Cain, the 2011 event will be full of the rich diversity theater lovers and playwrights have come to expect from OPC.
“We have a great group of writers and actors working on plays that are all grappling with very contemporary issues that look at where are we right now as a people and a country,” Egan said. “Asking, ‘Where do you find faith and belief?’ It’s always exciting to hear great writers explore these issues.”
For more information, a schedule of events and to purchase tickets, visit ojaiplays.org or call 640-0400.
But the movie that’s suddenly garnering Wiseman acclaim at dozens of film festivals and screenings — including the prestigious Sundance Film Festival — is anything but typical.
Trailers for “Bellflower” reveal a deeply personal story examining the potentially destructive power of relationships, juxtaposed with violence, flame-throwers and explosions. Richard Brody wrote in The New Yorker that “Bellflower” is “agonizingly intense, almost unbearably beautiful first feature … Framing everyday intimacies on a terrifyingly grand scale, (writer-director Evan) Glodell blasts open a new dimension in the cinematic imagination.”
Wiseman plays Milly in the extremely low-budget independent film, which is screening in New York City and Santa Monica tonight, and will come to Ventura’s Century 10 Downtown Thursday before showing in selected theaters across the country. The cast — including the “Medusa,” the movie’s flame-throwing 1972 Buick Skylark — will be at the Ventura premiere.
“It’s been crazy! ” said 29-year-old Wiseman, who graduated from Nordhoff High School in 2000. “Since Sundance, we’ve been on tour and done, I don’t know, over 100 interviews and screenings.”
Wiseman was performing in a play back in 2003 when Glodell approached her. “From there, we started doing short (films) together,” she said. “Then he started writing this script.” Eventually, they acquired a rag-tag cast and crew of just 11 people, and filmed the movie in 90 days back in 2008.
“It was so grueling, so emotionally draining on all of us,” acknowledged Wiseman. But the group, which calls itself Coatwolf Studios, knew that “basically, the only way this was going to’ work was if we all really, really loved the project and really, really believed in it. We loved the script, the characters, everyone we worked with. If any of those elements weren’t there, it wouldn’t have worked. You see it all the time, a low-budget movie that doesn’t go anywhere.”
The Coatwolf clan wasn’t going to let that happen. “They pooled their money for gas,” laughed Wiseman’s mother, Dee. “One review said they made it on a budget Hollywood would consider lunch money!”
Once produced and edited, a friend who had seen the movie called Glodell, said Wiseman, and told him he should enter it into the Sundance Film Festival. “It cost $100 to enter, and Evan told him, ‘Dude, we need that money to eat, we’re broke.’ And the guy told him, ‘Seriously, I’m not hanging up till you do this. You have to.’ So they entered it on the last day of submissions.”
A month later, Glodell got a call from someone claiming to be from Sundance, telling him his entry had been accepted. “He didn’t believe it at first!” said Wiseman.
“We would’ve just been happy with a DVD to show our friends,” said Wiseman. But the cast piled into three cars and made the trek to Park City, Utah for the premiere. “People loved it!” Wiseman said. “All of a sudden we were ‘film festival famous,’ and people were coming up and wanting to take pictures with us. It was so cool!”
At Sundance, offers came pouring in to buy the movie. “There were a bunch of people bidding on it!” recalled Wiseman. “We went with Oscilloscope Laboratories. They’re not the biggest company, but they’re absolutely the best fit for us and the movie.”
Since then, they’ve made appearances at the SXSW Film Festival, Comic-Con, the Nashville Film Festival, and several other locations. Wiseman said she’s now in a holding period, waiting to see how “Bellflower” will be received nationwide in the coming weeks and months. “This is already beyond our wildest dreams. Everything thus far has been a surprise.”
Wiseman has come a long way since her days at Nordhoff High School and Theater 150 here in Ojai. She credits a class with Kim Maxwell as getting her “hooked” on acting. “She definitely put the pure passion into me, and doing it for the right reasons,” Wiseman said. “If I could ‘not’ do this, if I could just have a normal life and be a hairstylist and have a house and kids, I would. But I just can’t. This is my life! I curse Kim and thank her at the same time, to have put something into me like this that’ll make my life very difficult. I just can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Rottentomatoes.com gives the movie an 89 percent positive review by all critics, and a 100 percent positive review from “top critics.” For more information, trailers, screening times and more, visit Bellflower-themovie.com.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
If starting a car involved anything more than inserting the key in the ignition and putting it in gear, I would just have walk. To say that I have no mechanical aptitude is like saying that Ernest Hemingway drank a little. In that respect, I am a dismal failure as Southern male of my generation.
I grew up around guys who rebuilt cars, repaired sinks, mended fences, and drove heavy equipment. My Uncle John could fix anything, and given enough duct tape, bailing wire and twine, could probably have rebuilt the Libbey Bowl by himself.
Many of the guys I grew up with worked on cars. These shade tree mechanics would talk for hours about carburetors, manifolds and alternators while I sat there as silent as a lost ball in the tall weeds.
It’s not that I can’t learn to operate equipment. I had little trouble learning to drive (although if my mother were alive she might beg to differ). I worked at a steel mill one summer and learned to run a variety of machines. I would even say I became proficient on a few; although the fact that I almost cut my finger off on one of those machines might weaken that argument somewhat. It was at the steel mill that I became an ace forklift operator. I could pick up a load of steel and set it down on a dime. Later on, I flew an airplane a couple of times and loved it. I might have earned my license if it were not for all the tedious studying and mechanical knowledge that was necessary. I hated the book work, and dropped the lessons.
But if something breaks, I have no clue. It stays broken until someone else fixes it. I am not one of those people who can take something apart, look down in it, and say, “Ah, there’s the problem. Hand me those needle-nose pliers and we’ll get this fixed in a jiffy.” Instead, I’m the guy that says, “If cursing at this thing for 10 minutes doesn’t fix it, we need to call somebody.”
Fortunately, the person I usually call is my wife, Ava. She is incredibly adept at home repair. One of the best gifts I ever gave my wife was a complete set of Craftsman drill bits. Her eyes lit up like I had handed her the Hope Diamond. Ava does a lot of community theater and after her final performance she will always be found, with drill in hand, striking the set. Her newest toy is a pole trimmer with an extension that allows her to trim limbs and vines 18 feet high. She is like a kid at Christmas with that thing.
At various times, Ava has re-plumbed toilets; unclogged sinks and garbage disposals; fixed flats; painted almost every place we have ever lived; refinished furniture; reupholstered chairs; rewired lamps; installed electrical fixtures; caulked windows and bathtubs; and mended fences. She became skilled at repairing screen doors as the result of a German shepherd we used to own. Baby was terrified of storms, and would tear through the screen door every time it thundered. The list goes on, but it’s accurate to say that Ava has saved us thousands of dollars over the years that would have been spent hiring repairmen.
Ava even fixed a hole in a sheet-rock wall several years ago. She went to the lumberyard, and spoke at length with a salesman about how to repair the hole, and what materials she would need for the job. When the guy asked Ava, “Now, how big is this hole?” Ava replied, “About the size of a man’s fist.”
But that is a story for another time.
By Misty Volaski
Few kids can resist asking their math and science teachers those age-old questions: “Why do we have to learn this stuff? When are we ever going to use this?”
Thanks to a generous donation from Al Stroberg and his wife, Betsy, Nordhoff High School students will now find relevant answers to those concerns through a new class called Science Ingenuity.
The class, says Al Stroberg, will allow students to use their creativity to solve real-world problems through the employment of math, science and engineering concepts. Robots will be built; science fairs entered; critical thinking boundaries pushed. But, most importantly, Stroberg said, fun will be had and interests sparked. “We’re most concerned with getting kids engaged and involved,” said the physician. “We want them to make stuff, to do things they can see and touch. Ceramics class is always really popular for that reason.” He added that the history of science will also be taught, and guest speakers brought in regularly. A group of local scientists will help guide the class through its early years.
NHS administrators and teachers are also excited about this year’s inaugural class, which is billed as an elective rather than a science class to allow for more exploration and less memorization.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of room for that in regular science courses,” said teacher Greg Bayless said. “It’s … a product of the current education system, which is more test-driven. This (class) gives kids a chance to try their hand at applied science. It’s a dream come true for us.”
Bayless said he has long wanted to offer a class that finds kids “engaging in process of science, as opposed to being passive recipients, passively sitting in desks, writing.” The curriculum will focus on “engineering, trial and error, and coming up with elegant solutions to problems. Not theoretical problems, but real problems.”
“The key here is that this class is not about memorization of things like the periodic table,” Stroberg said. “It’s more of, ‘Why does the table look like that? How do we know that stuff? What can we do with it?’”
And Science Ingenuity takes the concept of a science lab class one step further. Instead of doing a lab experiment — which, with its various ingredients and steps, is a lot like following a recipe out of a cookbook —- Science Ingenuity will give students the tools, but not the step-by-step instructions.
“I just want to get kids interested in science,” said teacher Peter Hickok, a 2001 Nordhoff graduate himself, who will teach Science Ingenuity. “It can be a little ‘cookie-cutter’ in regular science classes. I’m looking forward to the robot competition, (where kids) get a kit with a bunch of pieces you can put together any way you want” to create a robot that performs a specific task, like picking up pingpong balls. “It’ll be a lot of fun to see what they come up with.”
The economic downturn has resulted in the loss of a few classes and teachers, not to mention devastating budget cuts. So without the Strobergs’ donation (as well as their enthusiasm, Bayless emphasized), there could certainly be no Science Ingenuity class. After the success of last year’s popular, not to mention voluntary, science lecture series —- in which scientists in various fields discuss their occupations and how they use math and science every day — the Strobergs knew they were on to something.
The Strobergs joked about their donation, thanking their sons, Wylie and Ragnar, for getting scholarships and fellowships in college, which allowed their parents to donate money to Nordhoff that would have otherwise been spent on their sons’ educations.
Turning serious, Al Stroberg said, “We all have a stake in what goes on in public education. (Our goal is to make) public education so good, it would be silly to go anywhere else. Nordhoff already has a marquee music program. We want it to be a marquee program in two areas! Science Ingenuity isn’t ‘the’ solution, but it’s a solution.”
For more information on the NHS Science Ingenuity class or to inquire about registering your student, call 640-4343.
A little before midnight on Monday, Brown’s 17-year-old daughter, Brittany, and her friend, Lindsey Sweetland, heard a rustling sound in the bushes outside their Grandview Avenue home.
“Brittany opened the door, and saw our cat hanging in the tree,” Brown said, shuddering.
Someone had grabbed their 1-year-old grey tabby, Hinez, wrapped a shoelace around his neck like a noose, and left him for dead tied in a tree in the Browns’ front yard. Brittany yelled for her mother as Lindsey and Brittany’s younger brother, 14-year-old Taylor, ran out to see what they could do to help the cat.
“Taylor was holding him up so he wouldn’t keep choking, and Lindsey was trying to cut the shoelace to get him down,” Brown said. “I was just sort of frozen in place for a second. I’ve never heard my son scream like that.”
Once they determined that Hinez was still breathing, the family promptly called 911. “Even the police were shocked,” Brown said. “They said it’s definitely cruelty to animals and a felony. I just can’t in my right mind think of how someone could do something like this to an animal.”
Ojai Police returned to the Browns’ home around 2 a.m., Gracie said, asking for the shoelace, which Brown said had blood on it. She said she also found drops of blood on her porch, but when they examined Hinez closely, he was not bleeding. Brown speculated that Hinez might have scratched and/or bitten his attackers before they got the best of him.
Not surprisingly, no one at the Brown residence got much sleep that night.
“My 11-year-old Kelsie had a really hard time. I mean, it’s absolutely terrifying,” she said. “The police asked if we had any trouble with the neighbors, or with people at the kids’ schools, but we couldn’t think of anything. How do we know this wasn’t like a threat — ‘You’re next’ or something? Or was it just someone on drugs, or some sick joke?”
Brown said that, along with a group of friends, she is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect or suspects.
According to Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Mark Franke, “As of now, we have no suspect information. We’re looking into it. We consider cruelty to animals to be a very serious crime. We’ll do everything we can to follow up. We’ll be showing more of presence in their neighborhood.”
“Everyone loves Hinez,” said Brown. “My kids got him for me for Mother’s Day last year.” She added that the cat is now drinking and eating a bit, and acting more normal. But she worries about what impact the violence will have on his personality. “The kids won’t let him out of their sight now.”
Anyone with information about the attack should contact the Ojai Police Department at 646-1414.
By Logan Hall
A power outage left many Ojai residents and businesses in the dark Monday night as the Ventura County Fire Department was called out to determine the source of smoke venting from the street. At about 9:30 p.m. a retired Los Angeles firefighter noticed the power outage followed by smoke venting from an electrical vault under the pavement on Matilija Street and called 911 according to Capt. Mike Eul of VCFD Ojai Station 21. Eul confirmed that there was smoke venting from the vault, but said there was no fire damage. “When we got to Matilija Street,” said Eul, who had responded to the call with his crew, “we noticed an electrical vault in the middle of the street that was smoking. We blocked off the road to traffic until Edison arrived.”
More than 2,500 Ojai Southern California Edison customers north of Country Club Drive and west of Gridley Road had their power interrupted due to a “failed underground component,” said SCE spokesman Paul Klein. SCE crews restored power to all customers at 10:53 p.m. according to Klein.
Both the VCFD and SCE stated that no fire was involved with the incident, but the crew from Station 21 stayed on scene until Edison gained control of the situation.