By Amber Lennon
If technology has come at the expense of a cohesive community, Ojai’s new Facebook pages are proving that an online community can help keep residents connected. It started with Ojai Unconditional Give or Take, the online site for anyone in the valley who has a need or has something to offer for free. From there, the site’s co-creators, Jeff Foster and Ellen Johnson, along with Barbara Keenan, recognized an immediate demand for sister sites that could accommodate the community’s growing online needs.
The Ojai Barter Bin allows members to negotiate goods and services during these times of limited financial resources for many people. “People have stuff they need to get rid of,” said Foster, “whether it’s a service they offer or an actual item. People are trading massages for flowers, things you don’t see in a classified ad.” The site is also a way to trade the community’s abundant backyard garden harvests, which so often go to waste.
Next, Foster and Johnson created the Ojai Community Network page. Here people have a chance to talk about local politics or any other Ojai-related subject; advertise businesses, services, and events; get community references; or even simply share a beautiful Ojai moment, like the recent post of a rainbow at sunrise. Johnson noted one resident who posted the discussions of the Ojai City Council meetings as they were happening. “Topics were brought up, and people actually went (to a City Council meeting) for the first time because they didn’t know you could go there and speak,” she said. “That’s really important.”
As a musician herself, Johnson also saw the need for a site to support the community’s diverse music scene. So she created the Ojai Valley Music Network for musicians to post local events, find out about venues and talk shop with others in the business. “There are a lot of events in town that get missed, or you wouldn’t otherwise see advertised, whether it be a performance, a play or discussion,” said Johnson. She recognized that the online community also reaches a younger demographic of users who rely almost exclusively on the Internet for networking.
For all other discussions, the Ojai Gab Fest group emerged, which is the virtual coffee shop of the online community. Covering everything from national news, to stream-of-consciousness writing, to angry complaints of corporate debauchery — anything goes. “It was difficult to keep on-topic with the other group pages, so here people can go in and post whatever they want, talk about anything they want, and it lets people have a voice and hang out,” said Johnson.
Foster started a technical community for Adobe in the budding years of AOL more than 20 years ago, so he’s familiar with the benefits of online networking. “It breaks the ice and gets you to connect with people, and people really do meet in the real world as a result of this. Maybe from bartering, they get to meet the person, and when they run into them at the grocery store, they aren’t just strangers protected by a screen in an anonymous form,” said Foster. “I’ve got lifelong friendship just from that type of community.”
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Coming out of the grocery store the other day, I saw a license plate that read, LUVOHI. It made me smile. The plate was a testament to the joy of living in a great town.
And while there are downsides to any city, Ojai is by far the nicest small town in which I have lived, and I have lived in eight others. We have the best of both worlds —- small-town quality of life but with many amenities you would usually find only in a much larger city. We have unique shopping, great hotels, world-class entertainment and outstanding restaurants. Add to that the sheer beauty of the Ojai valley and the surrounding mountains, and it’s just about as perfect a community as I can imagine.
We are spoiled here. I know from experience. I have lived in some dumps. Not all of my eight previous towns were bad, but none came close to the package here. The license plate made me think about some of my previous homes.
One of my early jobs was in Hot Springs, S.D., in the late ‘70s. It was a nice little western town in the Black Hills about 30 miles from Mount Rushmore. I liked the people, and the country was beautiful. Think of the stunning vistas in “Dances with Wolves,” and you get the picture. I arrived in April, and enjoyed a beautiful spring and summer; then the reality of a South Dakota winter arrived about the middle of November. Growing up in the South, I always said I could stand the cold better than the heat. I didn’t know what I was talking about. The cold was bone chilling. At one point during the winter, the thermometer never rose above 10 degrees below zero for two weeks. That entire winter felt like sitting naked on a block of ice.
Later, we moved to south Louisiana, about an hour from New Orleans. It was great being close to the city, and the food in south Louisiana is wonderful. But at times, I felt like I was in a foreign country. The French influence is very strong, and at first I had a tough time understanding the dialect and the surnames. I was used to Smith and Jones. I was not ready for Thibodaux (pronounced “tib-a-dough”) and Scioneaux (“see-a-no”), much less Oubre (“oob”) and Lieux (“leer”). It is easier to turn left on Ojai Avenue than to spell and pronounce those names. By the time I learned, it was time to leave for north Louisiana, where I had been transferred.
Ojai is very fortunate to have as its largest employer the beautiful Ojai Valley Inn & Spa — a world-class resort right at our fingertips. The largest employer in Bastrop, La. was a paper mill. For the uninitiated, here’s a lesson: paper mills smell nothing like paper. They smell like a hog farm. The water quality was the worst I have ever seen. We rented a cooler and had 5-gallon jugs of water delivered to our house on a regular basis when we discovered that tap water in Bastrop resulted in beige ice cubes. A local told us that before the pesky EPA showed up, waste water from the mill drained directly into the stream running through the middle of town.
And then, there was West Virginia. There is a line in the great movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter” about employment prospects in post-war eastern Kentucky. One guy tells another that his options are “coal minin’, moonshinin’ or movin’ on down the line.” The same statement could have applied to western West Virginia in the late ‘70s. Ava and I were married in Madison, W.V. in 1978, and the hardworking third- and fourth-generation Appalachian coal miners living there had just emerged from a three-month-long strike. The mood was delicate, to say the least. When we answered an ad for a house to rent, we were given directions to a remote “holler” tucked far back in the fog-shrouded mountains. We finally arrived, and parked the car in front of the landlady’s house. She came out and pointed to a little cabin about a quarter-mile up a steep hill. It, too, was straight out of “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” When we asked about access to the house, she answered, “Well, if you have a truck, you can drive across the creek when it ain’t too high.”
Ojai may not be perfect, but it’s pretty close.
Guest editorial by Robert Sprowls
An open letter to the residents of Ojai
Golden State Water Company is proud to serve you.We take this responsibility seriously, and our employees work diligently to ensure Ojai residents and businesses have reliable, high-quality water service. We’ve been here since 1929, and look forward to many more years of partnership with the community.
We are writing to provide you with our perspective on efforts by a group called Ojai F.L.O.W. to convince Casitas Municipal Water District to use eminent domain and take over our system.Ojai F.L.O.W. is affiliated with Friends of Locally Owned Water, a national group whose mission includes actively promoting hostile takeover actions against selected water providers.We have great respect for our colleagues at Casitas and work closely with them on a variety of water-related initiatives, including joint conservation efforts. We have met with them to provide facts against F.L.O.W.’s position and communicate that our Ojai water system is not for sale.
You may have heard about an analysis produced by Ojai F.L.O.W. that claims Casitas customers will not have to spend a penny more than their existing rates to pay for the eminent domain takeover, ongoing operations of the Ojai water system and future improvements to maintain the system.That’s not true or realistic.Here are the facts:
• F.L.O.W. has an agenda. Their objective is only to convince Casitas Municipal Water District to spend millions and use eminent domain to take over our Ojai water system. They cannot guarantee any of their claims about costs, rates or how they intend to have you pay for the system.
• Ojai F.L.O.W. undervalues the Ojai system.A licensed, certified or accredited appraiser did not prepare their analysis, and a historical review of past takeovers revealed that the final cost to buy a water system would be 100 to 500 percent more expensive than initial suggestions.
In 2002, a group called Felton F.L.O.W. claimed that the San Lorenzo Valley Water District could take over the local water system for $2 million.After six years and more than a million dollars in legal fees and expenses, the Felton system sold on the eve of trial for $13.4 million or approximately $10,100 per customer.
• Ojai F.L.O.W.’s financing analysis is flawed. It was not prepared by a licensed professional in municipal finance and is not consistent with accepted standards of practice.Moreover, there is no need for a public agency to take on millions in taxpayer debt to condemn a tax-paying business.Ultimately, despite much fanfare, there is no justification for Casitas Municipal Water District to expose customers to a multimillion-dollar eminent domain process.
Golden State will continue providing the best possible water service and support the Ojai community. That includes an honest dialogue with customers about our operations and rates, as well the negative consequences that would result from an expensive, time-consuming and divisive eminent domain takeover.
We welcome any questions and encourage you to visit www.ojaiwaterfacts.org to learn more. You can also contact our Customer Service Center at (800) 999-4033 anytime day or night to speak with a company representative.
Robert J. Sprowls is president and CEO of Golden State Water Company.
Report and photo by
Ojai citizens were left disappointed after Golden State Water Company held a public meeting Tuesday evening. In a poorly planned effort, GSWC attempted to reach out and address the public on the company’s water management plan.
Without a PA system or other means of amplification, Golden State representatives, planning manager Ernest Gisler and coastal district manager Ken Petersen, gave those in attendance a brief rundown on the company’s Urban Water Management Plan. State law requires water purveyors to implement an UWMP plan for water systems that serve more than 3,000 customers, and although Ojai only has about 2,900 GSWC customers, GSWC is voluntarily doing the survey. The plan is intended to help GSWC reduce ratepayer water consumption 20 percent by 2020.
At the onset of the meeting, those who attended immediately began questioning GSWC’s lack of vocal amplification. “We can’t hear you,” cried several annoyed citizens in the sparse crowd.
“You are addressing the public,” yelled out Nancy Rains. “You should have rented a mike.”
Although Gisler and Petersen tried to keep the crowd’s inquiries and comments on the topic of the company’s UWMP, citizens were not reserved when asking questions about Golden State’s water rates and meter charges.
“What are you doing,” asked GSWC ratepayer Len Klaif, “besides charging us more for less?”
Although Gisler and Petersen tried to keep up with the public’s questions, many inquiries were met with the two GSWC representatives stating their need to “look into that.”
Local physician Rob Feiss asked why Golden State rate increases were so much higher than other residential and commercial utilities, such as gas and electricity. Petersen responded by simply saying that prices of every utility are rising.
Bob Daddi, Friends of Locally Owned Water representative, brought up the issue of the company’s meter charges, “50 percent of your previous water rate increases were for meter charges.”
Petersen and Gisler alluded to the option ratepayers have of filling out a form to request a smaller meter size. This would reduce the customer’s water bill, as the company’s meter charge is a flat, bi-monthly rate that varies depending on the meter’s size.
Del Webb, Ojai’s Golden State operations superintendent says their customers do have the option to request a survey, but the customer doesn’t have to fill out any forms. “It’s an internal form that one of our technicians fills out when they survey a property,” said Webb, who was helpful and willing to answer questions. “They do a fixture count to find out how many hoses, toilets, showers, etc. are connected to the water supply. Then we add it all up and come up with a number that shows what the meter size should be for the property.”
While the argument about GSWC’s rising rates goes back and forth, the company does offer some ways to help its customers conserve water. All Golden State customers can pick up a free water conservation kit from the Golden State office in town. The kit includes a low flow showerhead, water-saving irrigation drip line, seven-pattern water-saving hose nozzle and several other conservation related devices, along with literature on ways to conserve water.
Public attendance to the meeting was light and some speculated that GSWC’s lack of proper directions on where the meeting would be located contributed to the low number of attendees. Of the roughly 25 citizens who were present, most shared the sentiment that finding the meeting’s venue — Nordhoff High School’s cafeteria — was difficult and urged GSWC officials to properly post signs in the future.
Although notices from GSWC said the meeting would take place at NHS, the company did not specify which building on the school’s expansive campus would hold the meeting. An 8.5-inch by 11-inch sign was posted on the door to the school’s main office, which indicated the general direction of the meeting; another similar notice was posted on the cafeteria building itself.
“I assumed it was in the gym,” said Klaif, who was not shy about letting GSWC representatives know his discontent. “They didn’t have any signs posted saying where to go.”
Several calls to GSWC’s public relations officials — requesting comments on the meeting — were not returned.
Read the previous report HERE
By Misty Volaski
Barely more than a week before school started, Summit Elementary School got the news it was hoping for: the return of its third teacher.
By far the Ojai Unified School District’s smallest campus, Summit was faced with losing the equivalent of one full-time teacher, as were all OUSD schools, due to steep budget cuts. But that reality would have taken an especially hard toll on Summit School. It would mean going from a total of three classes — combination classes of kindergarten through second grade, third and fourth grade, and fifth and sixth grade — to just two, kindergarten through second grade, and third through sixth grade.
“Our teachers are very experienced and have really strong skills with multi-level classes, and it can be done very successfully,” said Summit principal Theresa Dutter. “But I had yet to see in my firsthand experience how a four-grade combination class would be configured.”
“We knew the excellence of our teachers (at Summit), and knew they could handle it, but we were concerned with what that would do, down the line, in terms of enrollment,” said parent and PTO Secretary Marianne Ratcliff.
So she, along with PTO President Kimberly Rivers, asked the OUSD board and superintendent Hank Bangser for options. Luckily, a change in OUSD policy allowed for open enrollment — meaning Summit could recruit kids from outside the Ojai school district in order to boost its enrollment to numbers that would justify keeping a third teacher on campus. With around 50 students enrolled at the school in early spring, Summit would need about two dozen additional students to qualify for extra state funding needed for teacher Teresa Lessing to stay on board.
“We knew there was a demand for students to come to this campus,” said Ratcliff. “Once we had support from the superintendent, it was a matter of letting people know that Summit exists.” They put out fliers and postcards, created a banner, maintained a blog site for the PTO (summitschoolpto.blogspot.com), and networked with Santa Paula’s Mupu and Briggs school districts.
Bangser cautioned the Summit PTO, however, that he could not promise anything until they had a sizable waiting list. “I told them in so many words, if you can generate enough extra students to offset the cost of an additional teacher, then I’ll look at it.”
The process was “tricky,” admitted Dutter. “We wanted people to come up (to Summit), but couldn’t promise them a spot. Most parents want to have a firm plan when it comes to their children’s education.”
Still, the PTO had faith in the tiny school. “It kind of sells itself when people see it in action,” said Ratcliff. “The rural atmosphere, a high-quality education system … Everyone is really close and the parents are very involved.”
“It really is an idyllic country setting,” said Rivers, who drives her son from their home in Piru to attend Summit. “It has the feeling of a small private school in terms of the way parents and families are involved. We have a super-active PTO, a great music program, the Art Trek program, a hands-on garden, field trips, the after-school program … Summit does all this really well.”
Ratcliff agreed, “Summit also really promotes the interaction of different students of all ages. The kids really get along and that’s nurtured by our buddy system. We also emphasize good behavior by handing out ‘Caught Being Good’ certificates every week.”
Dutter added that the environment allows for a more “wholesome and well-rounded” educational experience. “All the classrooms are wired with digital technology and smart boards. But the kids also get to go outside and get their hands in the dirt and link up to the natural environment.”
By midsummer, those factors were catching on, and enrollment kept creeping up. With 74 students ready to attend Summit in the fall, that was enough to convince Bangser and the OUSD board to bring teacher Lessing back to Summit and return to the three combination classes model.
The solution “is actually making us (the OUSD) money!” Bangser enthused. “It’s the only school (in the district) that really had an opportunity like this.”
Things are going smoothly with the addition of 20-plus new students, Dutter said. “There’s a really good vibe on campus,” she said. “Everything fell into place naturally, the kids are really meshing well. We allow the kids the freedom to run around and just be a kid, and yet we have really good oversight with amazing teachers, support staff and parents. We’re really like a family.”
This year, Summit Elementary School is celebrating its 100th anniversary in Upper Ojai. Alumni interested in participating in centennial activities can call Summit at 525-3038, or visit summitschoolpto.blogspot.com.
Report and photo
by Logan Hall
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department showed the public what its taxes were paying for on Saturday with the Ojai Police Department’s open house.
According to Ojai’s Capt. Chris Dunn, 300 to 400 people attended the event, getting an up-close and personal look at some of the department’s most vital assets; “300 to 400 people was a conservative estimate,” said Dunn. “The station was packed in the first hour. We really had great attendance.”
Citizens who attended the free open house got to closely examine the department’s vehicles including the sleek, black, 19,000-pound Lenco Bearcat S.W.A.T. truck and the department’s prisoner transportation bus. VCSD S.W.A.T. team personnel showed the public some of the weapons and gear they use in their fight against the county’s criminals. Youngsters who attended with their families climbed into VCSD patrol cars and poked their heads out of the Bearcat’s turret with the help of some of the station’s deputies.
Also on hand was Ojai’s volunteer Search and Rescue team whose members showed the tools of their trade to inquiring individuals. Ojai’s own K9 team, Deputy Collin Witchell and his partner, Waro, a 21-month-old German shepherd, posed for photos with families and answered questions.
“It’s impressive,” said local resident Colleen McGee as she pointed toward the lineup of vehicles and department personnel. “I feel safer already.”
Dunn says that he plans on holding additional open houses in the future and believes the event will be even better next year. “We’ll get more stuff out here next year,” he said, adding that all involved had volunteered their time. “We’re doing this on zero budget. That’s how dedicated these guys are. They all volunteered to be here.”
The VCSD Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money to help supplement the department’s budget,- handed out stickers to kids and sold T-shirts to help raise awareness for their cause. Citizens also had the opportunity to tour the building’s interior, getting glimpses of the holding cells and inner workings of the station.
“It was great to show everybody some of what we have to offer the community,” said Dunn. “We’re just happy to do it.”
By Logan Hall
The County of Ventura is giving the Ojai Valley Trail a facelift on a section that has plagued trail users and environmentalists for years.
According to county officials, the current concrete crossing at the confluence of San Antonio Creek and the Ventura River is scheduled for removal, and a new bridge will be built that will help restore the natural order of the watershed by allowing for the passage of southern steelhead – an endangered species. The new bridge will also prevent the county from closing the section of trail during the winter when rain runoff can cause the creek to swell and overrun the usually dry crossing.
Ron Van Dyck, deputy director of the county’s General Services Agency, which is overseeing the project, says construction should begin by Oct. 15, and is scheduled for completion after February 2012. The particular section of trail in question, according to Van Dyck, will be closed for the duration of construction, but will be worth it. “There’s no way of rerouting traffic on that section of the trail,” said Van Dyck. “There’s a marsh area on one side and the river on the other. There’s just no way to put in a temporary route. The long-term effect is going to be great though, because we won’t have the winter shutdown that we have now.”
Records show that the project, budgeted at $1.8 million, received funding from different sources ranging from $17,000 raised by the Channel Islands Bicycle Club to $595,000 granted by the California Coastal Conservancy. The conservancy, initially awarding the county’s project a grant of $405,000 in March, granted an additional $190,000 after several grants were turned down by agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In a meeting by the conservancy’s board of directors held last Thursday, the board agreed to give the additional funding to the county to offset the lack of funds from NOAA. The Coastal Conservancy, which is funded by voter-approved bonds, has also paid about $8.7 million of the $24 million that has been spent on the ongoing fight to remove Matilija Dam according to Conservancy reports.
“The San Antonio Creek crossing is a typical type of project that we fund,” said Joan Cardellino, the conservancy’s south coast regional program manager. “We try to remove barriers to fish passages that include dam removals or removals of other projects that have been built that impede fish migration.”
Although the county is ready to begin the project, Van Dyck says there has not yet been a construction contract awarded. “It was an open bid,” said Van Dyck. “There were nine contractors that bid and the county will be awarding the contract in the next couple of days. We can’t say which company is getting the contract until it’s awarded though.”
County officials believe the project to be straight forward, and don’t anticipate any major challenges. “There is a frog habitat in the area,” said Van Dyck, referring to the endangered red-legged tree frog that threatened construction on the Old Creek Road Bridge earlier this year. “We’ll have biologists on site to monitor the project and make sure the area is clear of any endangered species.”
Van Dyck also stated that construction crews might find a challenge when working in the area. “The project site is not an area where we’ll have a lot of room to maneuver,” he continued. “They have a tight footprint to work with.”
According to financing records, the county has also received funding from the County of Ventura Parks Enterprise Fund ($496,000), Federal Pacific Coast Salmonid Recovery Funds ($483,000), Ventura County Transportation Commission ($190,000), National Fish Passage Program ($135,800), and the American Rivers Initiative ($17,000).
Report and photo by Logan Hall
A woman was taken to the hospital Friday morning after being struck by a van while riding her bicycle on the east end of Ojai. At around 8 a.m., a woman driving a gray Honda Odyssey was heading East on Ojai Avenue when the van struck the cyclist as the driver turned left onto Gorham Road according to responding California Highway Patrol officer Mike Trenery.
“The sun was rising and was right in her eyes,” said Trenery about the woman driving the van. “She couldn’t see and ended up hitting the bike.”
The injured cyclist was taken to the hospital for treatment of possible broken leg.
On Wednesday morning, September 21st, at approximately 11:20 AM, the Ojai Valley Station patrol deputies responded to a call for service reference a suspicious subject in the 1200 Block area of Foothill Road. This is the unincorporated area of Ventura County just north of the Ojai city limits. A concerned resident observed a man, later identified as Ryan Torres, loitering near her house. The resident greeted Torres and asked if he lived in the neighborhood. Torres started shouting profanities at her in response to her inquiry. The alert resident also witnessed Torres enter several properties in the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Foothill Road. At one point, Torres was riding a purple BMX style bicycle. Concerned that Torres was casing her neighbors’ properties, she immediately called the Sheriff’s Office to report the suspicious activity.
Ojai Valley Station deputies met with the resident, who pointed out the last place Torres was seen on Foothill Rd. During that conversation, Torres appeared back on the Foothill roadway a short distance away. Deputies detained Torres and quickly identified that he was under the influence of an illicit drug and in possession of possible stolen property. Torres was arrested for misdemeanor charges of Prowling and being Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance.
After further investigation with the assistance of the Ojai Station Detectives, deputies were able to determine Torres was in possession of a stolen wallet containing another victim’s identification and credit cards. Detectives later determined Torres stole the wallet from an unlocked car at a location on Lyons Street in downtown Ojai.
Torres was subsequently arrested for an additional charge of Possession of Stolen Property and then booked into the County Jail on all three charges.
Ojai Station Detective Mark Burgess is requesting help from anyone with information regarding several other possible stolen items found in Torres’ possession: The purple BMX style bicycle, a unique handcrafted bracelet, and an old nickel coin. Please contact Detective Burgess directly for follow-up on this case at (805) 646-1414.
As a reminder, this incident highlights the importance of locking your car and residence doors to prevent loss of your valuables.
Ventura County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 reward for information, which leads to the arrest and criminal complaint against the person(s) responsible for this crime. The caller may remain anonymous. The call is not recorded. Call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).
By Logan Hall
Golden State Water Company has scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. at Nordhoff High School to discuss the California Urban Water Management Planning Act.
In a notice from GSWC, the company explains that it will be discussing the UWMP report and soliciting comments from the public regarding the plan. The notice states that the “discussion will be limited to the Ojai water system’s UWMP.”
The plan coincides with the Water Conservation Act of 2009 and will lay out the ways that the company can help the state achieve a 20 percent reduction in urban per capita water use by December 31, 2020. According to plan documents, “Urban water suppliers with more than 3,000 service connections … are required to submit a UWMP every five years to the California
Department of Water Resources.”
Although Golden State has about 2,900 Ojai customers, the company decided to move ahead with the plan even though it wasn’t required by state law. “It’s a good way for us to learn more about Ojai’s water use,” said GSWC spokesman John Dewey. “Ojai was under the requirements but it was close so we’re doing an UWMP.”
The notice of the public hearing was sent to the city of Ojai after GSWC coastal district manager Ken Petersen addressed the Ojai City Council at the regular council meeting on Sept. 13. Petersen, who greeted the council and Mayor Carol Smith without acknowledging the presence of the public, paraphrased a letter he submitted to the council regarding Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water’s proposal for a takeover of GSWC’s Ojai service by Casitas Municipal Water District through eminent domain.
“It should be understood that our water system is not for sale,” said Petersen, reading from his letter, “and any effort to condemn the Ojai water system will result in a lengthy, costly and unnecessarily divisive legal process.”
Petersen’s letter also cautions ratepayers against the accuracy of Ojai F.L.O.W.’s conclusions. “Ojai F.L.O.W. has provided you with a fatally-flawed ‘study’ in an attempt to garner support from the city council.”
The letter was accompanied by a list of GSWC’s reasons that attempt to disprove F.L.O.W.’s analysis. One point on Golden State’s list reads, “The report grossly underestimates the fair market value of Golden State’s Ojai system … The document makes no attempt to follow (or even recognize) generally accepted appraisal standards.”
Robert Sprowls, president and CEO of Golden State’s parent company, American States Water Company, echoed the points made by Petersen’s letter to the City Council. A copy of a separate letter sent by Sprowls to GSWC customers in Ojai, was given to the OVN by F.L.O.W. representative Pat McPherson. In the letter Sprowls, whose total annual compensation exceeds $1 million according to Forbes.com, states, “Ultimately, despite much fanfare, there is no justification for Casitas to expose customers to a multimillion-dollar eminent domain process.”
F.L.O.W. has been actively protesting Golden State’s rising water rates and has sent protest letters to the California Public Utilities Commission and several state and local government officials. “We sent about 2,000 pages of paper to the PUC,” said F.L.O.W. representative Richard Hajas in a press release last month, “including copies of all of our petitions, and we copied Governor Brown, State Senator Strickland and (Ventura County) Supervisor Steve Bennett.”
Golden State has filed for rate increases that will total 25 percent by 2015 for its Ojai customers.
Go to gswater.com/csa_homepages/documents/OjaiUWMPPlan.pdf to view a PDF of GSWC’s Urban Water Management Plan.
So when a local general contractor and his hairstylist wife came to terms with that after visiting the impoverished island nation, they decided to do something about it.
It’s been a little over a year since Cheryl Simms, a stylist at Contempo Hair Design, returned from a trip to Haiti. She and her daughter, Hailey, went there to help put on a sports camp. Overwhelmed by what she experienced there, she decided that she and her family could do more.
“I saw those tent camps that were set up after the earthquake and poverty everywhere that I looked,” Cheryl says. “I thought, ‘That’s not going to change unless we do something.’”
Knowing her husband, Vance, would be moved by the opportunities to help there, the couple began developing a vision and a plan of action. Then when Haitian Benite Jeune visited Ojai to talk about the loss of his ministry compound there after the earthquake in January 2010, he and Vance became friends and began planning ways to work together.
“We stayed up till 1 o’clock in the morning talking,” Vance says. “We really hit it off and talked about the idea of starting a youth center there.”
Vance took the flight back to Haiti with Jeune and he’s been there 15 times since.
“I’m going once a month and trying to take people from the community with me who want to help,” he says.
After helping with the rebuilding of Jeune’s ministry compound at Vignier near Port-au-Prince, and realizing the need in Haiti was so overwhelming, Vance did more research, and traveled around to find a location to build an orphanage and school. He settled on the town of Jacmel about a four-hour drive from Port-au-Prince.
The couple, along with Changing Tides board members Lori LaSeur and Lynn Gardner, just returned from the newly opened and operating Changing Tides Orphanage. The orphanage has been operating for the past 10 weeks, Vance says, and the school has just opened. Food, a bed to sleep in and education are Vance’s main missions in establishing the new nonprofit group that will fund the school and orphanage.
“Kids want to learn and they have only been getting one meal a day there,” Vance says. “We are also starting a feeding program for other kids in the neighborhood. We want to make sure they get a healthy meal of fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Thus far all money has from their own pockets, but the Simms will be holding their first fund-raising event at their home, 240 Boardman Road, on Oct. 8 at 6 p.m. The $75 per person event with cocktails, food and music will give people a chance to learn more about the Changing Tides project and how they can help.
Changing Tides board member Gardner said she’s been very moved by Vance’s humility. “I asked him how he was paying for all of this,” Gardner says. “He told me he sold his Porsche and he said, ‘It’s just a car.’”
To learn more about the school and orphanage visit the website changingtidesorphanage.org or find their Facebook page by searching for “Changing Tides Orphanage.” To attend the benefit at the Simms’ home or to donate, call LaSeur at 816-4521 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ojai has found a temporary replacement for former community developer Katrina Rice Schmidt. Longtime local resident Ann McLaughlin has been hired by the city as the interim community development director while searching for a permanent replacement.
McLaughlin comes to the city of Ojai from similar positions in Ventura and Santa Barbara. According to a press release from the city, McLaughlin spent 13 years with the city of Ventura as senior planner. More recently, she worked as a special planner with the Santa Barbara Energy Division where she compiled a detailed report on offshore mineral management services. She believes that her years of expertise ranging in many different fields will be an asset to the citizens of Ojai.
“I can really do the hands-on work that needs to be done with Ojai’s projects,” she said. “I have the ability to conduct an environmental review and I like to look at the broader picture. You know, five or 10 years into the future.”
McLaughlin holds a double degree in environmental studies and geography from the University of California at Santa Barbara, according to the city’s press release. “The appointment of McLaughlin as interim director will enable us to keep many important projects moving forward,” said city manager Rob Clark, “including the lighting ordinance, the plastic bag ordinance … and the complete streets master plan. We are very fortunate to have such a highly qualified professional right here in our community.”
The city’s plan is to search for a permanent replacement for Schmidt while McLaughlin takes care of business for the next six months. “My focus is going to be on trying to finish outstanding projects that the city has wanted to complete,” said McLaughlin, who lives near Mira Monte with her husband and has a daughter attending Nordhoff High School. “It’s important to get that done before someone else comes on.”
McLaughlin also says she is looking forward to working with the public and making a presence in the community. “I enjoy the public and their questions,” she said. “I love finding the positive ways we can work together.”
Unlike her predecessor, McLaughlin will be working full time on tasks like the environmental review of the city’s proposed ordinance banning plastic bags. According to city records she will be earning an hourly wage of $54.38 and working about 36 hours per week.
“She has really hit the ground running,” said Clark. “She’s up to speed on all of the issues. Things are going very well.”
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
There was a gallery on the web the other day featuring photos of actors who were labeled “the hottest TV stars in the fall.” As I went through the list, my first thought was, “Who are these people and why are they celebrities, and why should I possibly care?” This is also known as the “Kardashian effect.” On a positive note, I do know who Charlie Sheen is, and I have seen little in the news about him lately. I am very thankful for that.
My lack of knowledge of popular culture, as well as my lack of interest in the same may signal that I am officially becoming an old man.
Like many other baby boomers, those of us who thought we would never grow old, I have done just that. We are no longer in the most desired advertising demographic. TV shows and movies are no longer targeted specifically at our age group. The music many of us like is no longer called “rock” or “rock ‘n’ roll”, but “classic rock.” I guess marketing folks do that to lessen the sting of the realization that our music is no longer in the forefront of current popular culture. To me, that is kind of like putting lipstick on a pig. You can dress it up, but it is what it is.
I have found that it is true that you change as you get older. At one time, I really enjoyed shopping for clothes. But now when it comes to fashion, style sometimes takes a backseat to comfort — especially when it comes to shoes. I remember one February in Wisconsin when I foolishly wore my tasseled loafers in an effort to be stylish. The snow came over the tops of my shoes and my feet got wet. It was minus 15 degrees outside, and my feet soon became painful blocks of ice. I learned firsthand (or first-foot if you will) one of the universal truths of this world —- if your feet hurt, you cannot enjoy life.
I also dress more casually now. I have worn a tie maybe five times in the past year,- mostly to weddings and funerals. I used to wear a coat and tie to work almost daily. Early in my newspaper career, I was meeting with an advertising account in South Dakota, where people regularly wear cowboy boots and cowboy hats. Dressing up is putting on a string tie. The guy owned a restaurant and bar with live music. As we were discussing his advertising for one of the bands, a friend of his sitting at the bar commented on my style of dress. He said something to the effect of, “Hey, you know you might have more luck selling if you took off that tie.” I told him that meant a lot coming from someone who was sitting drunk at a bar at in the middle of a workday. I can’t say whether he was right or wrong, but I sure don’t miss the tie.
My musical tastes have changed as well. I still love rock, blues and jazz. I always loved the Allman Brothers, and they sound even better to me now than they did 40 years ago. But the Moody Blues sound overly produced, and I rarely listen to them now. Bruce Springsteen is still “The Boss,” but The Eagles don’t get much play time on my iPod. James Taylor is still great, but Dan Fogelberg just doesn’t sound the same to me. I don’t think I will ever get tired of Billie Holiday or Buddy Guy, but the Rolling Stones don’t “start me up” like they used to.
Changing tastes are one thing, but if you ever hear me say how much I love Elvis and rap music, you’ll know I am ready for the nursing home.
For the fifth year in a row, the Ojai Peace Coalition will award its Noble Peace Prize to a local citizen whose activism work, professional endeavors, and/or personal life exemplify the organization’s values and furthers development of a “Culture of Peace.”
The award is given annually on or near the International Day of Peace (Sept. 21), and past recipients have been Clive and Marion Leeman of the Ojai Peace Vigil, Tara Blasco and Lyn Hebenstreit of the Global Resource Alliance, Sally Carless of Global Village School, and John Broesamle of the Ojai Valley Defense Fund. The award consists of a medal and a cash donation to the honoree’s organization or cause of choice.
“The people doing some of the most amazing work to create peace in their homes, in our community, and in the world at large are often the ones who are the most quiet and humble about it,” says Ojai Peace Coalition founder and director Evan Austin. “One of the building blocks of culture is our legends and heroes, real or invented. Giving this award is a way of shining a light on and creating a hero out of someone each year who is living those values that build healthy, compassionate human beings who have nonviolent conflict resolution resources.”
The International Day of Peace was established as a day of global cease-fire and nonviolence by the efforts by Jeremy Gilley and the Peace One Day organization, which has for several years in a row successfully expressed the day as a period of literal cease-fire in conflict-ridden areas, where humanitarian aid and other services have been permitted to move and be administered. Locally, the Ojai Peace Coalition and Living Peace in Ojai have marked the International Day of Peace in some way, ranging from simple gatherings to weekend-long festivals, since 2007.
This year, the Noble Peace Prize will be awarded today at the Libbey Park fountain in downtown Ojai, in a candlelight gathering planned for 7:20 to 8 p.m.The entire community is invited to attend the gathering, to recognize and lift up the valuable work of this year’s honoree, and to be together for a brief time of intention for lasting cultural peace.
The Ojai Peace Coalition was founded in 2005 to organize the local community of peace-minded citizens into coordinated action. The International Day of Peace was established on an annual fixed calendar date (Sept. 21) in 2002 by the United Nations.
The City Council meeting on Sept. 13 found members considering a ban on plastic bags. Ten cities and four counties in California have already enacted similar bans, and many more are considering it.
Ernest Niglio, partner and general manager of Ojai’s Rainbow Bridge Natural Foods store, had mixed emotions on plastic bags. He had recently made the decision to remove them from the store, but was compelled to bring them back after receiving numerous complaints.
“We got yelled at because we stopped carrying them,” Niglio said, “so we brought them back, and got yelled at again. We do know that (plastic bags) are bad for the environment. We’ve been encouraging people to bring in their own bags for 10 years, way before it was fashionable. If there is a ban, I would support it, but I wouldn’t ban them on my own.”
Ojai City Council members directed city manager Rob Clark to proceed with an initial study for a proposed ordinance that would ban plastic bags for Ojai businesses after a 4-to-1 vote with Councilwoman Sue Horgan being the dissenting vote.
Agenda items also discussed at the meeting included:
• Requests to construct three water wells at private residences in the city of Ojai on East Ojai Avenue, North Signal Street and Oak Glen Avenue were approved via a 4-to-1 vote with Mayor Carol Smith carrying the dissenting vote.
• The council voted unanimously to approve a revised agreement with the Area Housing Authority to use Payment in Lieu of Taxes fund to support senior needs at Whispering Oaks.
• The council unanimously voted yes to use Thomas Consulting as facilitator for the City Council goal-setting workshop.
• The council voted unanimously to have all five members of the council participate in the interview process as Ojai looks into hiring a city attorney to take the place of interim city attorney Steve Lee. The initial, rejected proposal suggested the council form a committee of two council members that would conduct the interviews.
The next Ojai City Council meeting will be held Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St.
By Logan Hall
Southern California Edison customers were in the dark yesterday as a major power outage left 168,000 ratepayers without electricity according to SCE reports. At 11:28 a.m. Tuesday, SCE customers in the Ojai Valley, Ventura, Camarillo, Oxnard and Port Hueneme experienced a loss of power due to unknown causes said SCE spokesman David Song.
“We’ll be conducting a detailed investigation,” said Song, “that could produce a variety of reasons for the outage. Our crews will have to look across a number of substations and circuits to find the cause.”
No injuries have been reported relating to the outage, and the Ventura County Fire Department has not reported an increase in calls for service. “There hasn’t been anything of any significance that I have heard about,” said Capt. Ron Oatman, VCFD spokesman.
SCE reports indicate that power was restored to most customers at 11:38 a.m., 10 minutes after the outage, all SCE customers were back on the grid by 11:57 a.m. It’s still unclear, however, as to how many communities lost power, and where the outage may have originated. “We’re still figuring out which areas were affected,” said Song. “The outage was big enough that we’ll have to pinpoint where it all started.”
On 9-19-11 at approximately 12:22 pm, Ojai Valley Patrol Deputies responded to the Thrifty Gas Station at 795 North Ventura Avenue in Oak View for a report of a robbery.
A witness reported seeing a male subject dressed in black, wearing a black hoodie sweatshirt, run out of the Thrifty Gas Station and drive off in a black Chevrolet pick-up truck west bound on Mahoney Avenue.
Deputies contacted the store clerk, who stated the above described subject entered the store also wearing white gloves. The subject demanded money, however, when a patron in the store ran out the front doors of the business, the subject also ran out of the store without getting any money or property.
An extensive search of the area was conducted with several patrol units including detective units and the Sheriff’s Office Helicopter. A detective unit observed a black Chevrolet pick-up truck parked along the side of the road on Burnham Road in the area of Los Encinos Road. The driver, Ojai resident Ryan Tracy, 25, exited the vehicle and started to walk away from it. Tracy was contacted and detained for further investigation. After further investigation, a black hoodie, black pants, and white/gray work gloves were found inside the vehicle.
Upon reviewing the security video, Tracy was taken into custody for the attempted robbery. During the interview with detectives, evidence was obtained to arrest Tracy for the crime. Tracy was booked for Attempted Robbery and being Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance. The investigation is being handled by the Ojai Station Detectives.
By Chris T. Wilson
If you haven’t heard the phrase “Nope, Chuck Testa,” by now then you’re probably not spending enough time on the Internet.
In the past week, the soft-spoken Meiners Oaks taxidermist who’s been mounting dead wild animals for more than 20 years has gone from being an everyday valley citizen to an overnight YouTube sensation. (Official Ojai Valley Taxidermy TV Commercial – YouTube)
Thanks to viral marketing team Rhett & Link, whose series of low-budget, quirky commercials were featured in an IFC television program called Commercial Kings this past spring, a number of small -town businesses have been featured on television and online. Testa’s Ojai Valley Taxidermy was one of the small=town businesses. Testa’s home garage-based shop is buzzing with activity since the video commercial went viral last week after being shared on a number of Internet news and links sharing sites.
According to knowyourmeme.com the Internet commercial was uploaded to youtube.com on August 14 by user ojaivalleytaxidermy and went viral after being linked to popular link aggregate website reddit.com on September 15 by user LunaMclovin with the submission title “This is probably the funniest low-budget commerical I’ve ever seen.” The commercial features a number of people surprised see an apparently live wild animal only to have Testa popup and say his signature line: “NOPE, Chuck Testa.”
The commercial, which features Testa’s son, Cody and daughter, Chelsea and nationally recognized gunsmith Larry Amrine, has since been viewed more than 2.4 million times on YouTube. All this attention has Testa’s wife and five children in a bit of shock.
“I think theyre in a state of disbelief,” he said. “Since I’m just Chuck, I get no respect, literally.”
Further, the commercial has spawned an Internet meme with dozens of Photoshopped images being uploaded online all with “NOPE, Chuck Testa” as the punchline. The meme-themed jokes proceed as follows: image of thing thought to be alive in the first frame, followed by that thing on a stick held by Testa in the second frame with bold yellow “NOPE” as the punchline.
According to Testa’s soon-to-be son-in-law, Oliver Lee, who has become a full-time volunteer Internet manager, it’s been non-stop work keeping up with updating their own website, creating new videos and managing the huge response and traffic on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube. Lee is engaged to Testa’s daughter, Chelsea, seen with a bear in her bed in the video.
“We’ve gotten nearly 100,000 hits on our website, ojaitaxidermy.com,” Lee said. “And we’ve gotten about 100 direct submissions to our meme contest.”
Testa, who says he’s enjoying the attention and wants to “roll with it,” and get what he can out of the recognition, has staged an online meme contest on his website.The contest allows Testa fans to upload their own Photoshopped creations to be judged and awarded a prize. The contest ends Wednesday.
“We’re still deciding what to give as a prize,” Lee said.
Testa said he’s given interviews on radio stations on the East Coast and will be on the Today Show and Fox. The story and video have also been featured on BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and Tumblr.
“I don’t even know how Rhett and Link found out about me,” he said. “A producer called me but I thought it was some kind of hustle. I’m rolling with it and hoping that I get some work out of it.”
Testa said he ordered a do-it-yourself kit for $9.95 out of the back of a hunting magazine in 1980.
“Honest to God, that’s how I got started,” he laughed. “Now I’ve done more pieces than I can count. I do this because I really enjoy it and I don’t want to have a real job. And living in Ojai, I wanna live here.”
By Misty Volaski
Without Ojai residents Nancy Samuels and Rick Gentsil, there might not have been a Whole Foods in Sonoma County. “Rick and I opened up a natural foods market in 1989, I think it was,” recalled Samuels, who owns Hip Vegan Cafe on East Ojai Avenue. “It eventually was bought by Whole Foods, and the people who bought the store from us made about $25 million for the three stores they opened up before selling to Whole Foods.”
But Samuels and husband Gentsil didn’t begin their careers in the healthy foods industry.
“I never stepped foot into a kitchen until I got thrown into one when I went to live on a kibbutz in Israel in 1969. I always loved to eat, though, and it was there that I found out I also loved to cook,” Samuels said. “I started cooking for the vegetarians on the kibbutz and soon became one myself.”
At the time, she went on, she was uneducated about the consequences of eating meat. But she got “a rude awakening when I saw chickens dead all over the floor waiting for the rabbi to walk through and say a blessing to make them kosher.”
Upon returning to the states, Samuels said she converted to a vegan lifestyle, and continued to develop her love for cooking by feeding anyone who would eat her food. “Then I started making vegan wedding cakes and doing some very small catering jobs. This was in addition to working, going to school and raising my son.”
Gentsil came into Samuels’ life through a business opportunity in 1987. The pair became partners, along with two others, in a San Diego County cafe they transformed into a vegetarian buffet. “We kept it only one year, but in that time Rick and I became more than just business partners!” said Samuels. “The last 23 years have been spent opening and selling veggie restaurants from here to Arizona. We’ve had six together, and Rick had one in the ’70s in the Mojave Desert before I knew him.”
Gentsil got into the restaurant business after a traumatic near-death experience, he said. “I went on a spiritual quest that ultimately led me to become a vegetarian for moral reasons in 1975. In 1979 I became vegan and have remained vegan for 32 years.” He opened his first vegetarian restaurant in 1978, and opened six others between then and now. But Gentsil said his interests are broad. He’s been a business consultant, negotiated leases, and worked as a commercial real estate agent. “I have always had that entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “My last ‘job’ for someone other than myself was when I was 21. I have always desired to be my own boss and create my own job.”
Samuels’ and Gentsil’s Ojai restaurant will most likely be their last, said Samuels. “I have said no more cafes!” she laughed. “But I really love it here. I think it’s a service that is needed in Ojai.”
Hip Vegan Restaurant offers a selection of foods designed to appeal to new vegan eaters and non-vegetarians, up to strict vegans and those on raw foods diets. “I have a hip wrap which consists of a raw spicy almond paté that is rolled in collard greens with guacamole inside too,” she said. “My favorite item on the entire menu is my ‘extremely raw salad’ which has so many different textures and flavors. I also always have a couple of raw desserts — raw chocolates, raw fudge brownies, possibly my spirulina pie and/or cheesecake. I have baked desserts too and lots of gluten-free items, both sweet and savory. Our most popular meat-like item is either our tempeh burger or the seitan barbecue. I also have some Mexican food. Who doesn’t love a burrito or tostada?”
Summing up their passion, Samuels said, “It’s pretty basic. I just can’t stop cooking and I love feeding people (must be the Jewish mother in me). I guess I have one more in me! I love my job!”
By Logan Hall
Mayor Carol Smith was shot down by her fellow council members Tuesday as she urged everyone to consider stepping up enforcement of rules at the Ojai Skate Park — specifically involving the community’s youth and the park’s helmet regulations.
Smith pleaded with the council to see the issue from a moral and ethical viewpoint. “… I begin to think about little children that are basically at risk for suffering from traumatic brain injury,” Smith told the council. “I am very sure that we need to have some kind of monitoring to prevent that kind of horrific tragedy.”
Smith appeared to run into a brick wall, however, as her colleagues began opposing her statement.
“I recall that we went over this thoroughly,” Councilwoman Betsy Clapp reminded Smith. “The bottom line is that if we monitor the park, we acknowledge liability. It is very clear that we’d be putting ourselves in jeopardy.”
Ojai’s city attorney, Steve Lee, agreed with Clapp, saying, “You are correct that there is a risk.”
Councilman Paul Blatz also weighed in and followed suit with the other council members. “Our job is not to monitor that skateboard park,” Blatz told Smith. “The ultimate responsibility lies with the parents of the children using the park.”
At one point, Smith stumbled through her words as she attempted to explain her stance to those present. “I know that I never hardly pass (the Skate Park) without noticing that teenagers on skateboards without helmets is the regular procedure, which is against the rules,” she said later, adding, “We can’t assume that parents know best for their children. You’ve all known parents that should never have had children.”
Others in the room, including Blatz, appeared confused by Smith’s statement. “Are you suggesting that we should legislate that parents not have children?” he said.
More than once, Smith strayed from the topic, talking about babies turning into “bullets” when not properly restrained in cars when she was a child, then discussing mothers addicted to cocaine and premature babies.
Although Smith had difficulty having her point understood, she did seem genuine in her concern for the community’s youth. “I am not concerned about litigation issues,” said Smith, who is a former pediatric nurse. “I’m concerned about children getting brain damage for life.”
Smith requested that local pediatrician Dr. Tim Williamson help explain the need for monitoring the Skate Park to prevent child injuries. Williamson, while agreeing that children can receive serious injury from accidents at a skate park like Ojai’s, also opposed Smith’s reasoning Tuesday night. “I agree with Paul Blatz,” said Williamson. “I don’t think it’s the duty of the council or the Police Department to enforce that. This is up to the community and the parents to take responsibility for this.”
Clapp relayed to the council that other cities have implemented plans to help curtail youngsters’ desire to shun protective gear in skate parks. “The city of Arcata recently implemented … a program that is really successful,” she said. “The (Arcata) Police Department is providing helmets for children that can’t purchase them.”
According to Arcata’s Parks and Recreation Department, their outreach with the city’s youth and safety at their skate park has paid off. “We actually have a skate camp and a skate after-school program,” said Heather Stevens, Arcata’s recreation division manager. “What’s really exciting about that is that everyone is wearing pads and helmets in the program. Sometimes the kids think it’s not cool to wear helmets, but when they are all in it together, it is more likely to change their way of thinking.”
Stevens added that Arcata ran four weeks of skate camps that involved 115 kids over the summer. “I think we really increased the likelihood of those youth using pads and helmets,” she said.
Ojai City Council voted unanimously to have the city’s Skate Committee meet and discuss ways to encourage kids to start wearing protective gear.
By Misty Volaski
Hundreds rocked out to the concert that never was last Saturday in Ojai’s new Libbey Bowl. “Relive The Magic,” an Ojai Valley Museum benefit, brought Rolling Stones cover band Jumping Jack Flash and The Beatles cover band Abbey Road together on stage. Each band alternated sets until a grand finale brought them both out to perform John Lennon’s “Imagine” and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” together, said event producer Frank Malle. Costume changes and accents completed the recreation of two of rock ‘n’ roll’s most legendary acts.
“You could tell they were really reliving the magic! Fifty and 60-year-old people danced the night away!” Malle said.
Exactly how much money was raised or exactly how many tickets were sold won’t be known until the end of the week, Malle noted, estimating that about 500 to 600 tickets were sold.
Proceeds will go toward the Ojai Valley Museum, Malle added, pointing out that it would not have been possible without the 60 volunteers who helped with everything from hanging banners (Steve Grumette in a scissor lift) to Sunday morning clean-up (20 youths from the Church of Latter Day Saints).
“This event was a success in so many ways. Everyone who was there looked like they were having a lot of fun,” said volunteer coordinatr Marleen Luckman.
In an e-mail to Malle and Luckman, museum director Michele Pracy said, “I bow at your feet, volunteer crew of the Relive the Magic Benefit Concert! Marleen eloquently expressed our heartfelt appreciation and I am simply adding our humble thanks. All of you were so congenial, helpful, kind and tireless; because of each of you, our public was treated royally! You made our event the best that it could possibly be!”
Museum president Ann Scanlin wrote, “It was great PR for the museum. There were all ages at the concert from young children to old people like Don and me who were having great fun together.”
Malle gave a special thanks to local Emmy Hilgers for singing the Star Spangled Banner, as well as to sponsors Ojai Community Bank, Agave Marias, Ojai Valley News, Simple Printing, VC Reporter, Ventura County Star, and Greg Rents of Oak View.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Last weekend saw a plethora of programs commemorating 9/11. We remembered the victims —- those who died trapped in the towers; those who died trying to rescue the people in the towers; those who bravely stormed the cockpit on United Flight 93 to prevent it from being another terrorist missile, sacrificing their lives in the process. We remembered the first responders who risked their lives to help those in need. We remembered the government officials who acted with courage and common sense to reassure a shell-shocked nation.
It was fitting that we offered these tributes on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack; the people and events of that day need to be remembered. But there is something else I wish we could remember and retain, and that is the feeling of solidarity that ran throughout our country after the attacks.
Perhaps the only positive thing to come out of 9/11 for me was the feeling that the country was truly united. Whether you talked to friends or to strangers, you could hear the concern in their voices, and there was a palpable feeling of unity. The general feeling was, “Yes, we have been attacked, but we are going to pull through this together.”
And for a while, comfortingly, that was the case. The country seemed as proud and patriotic as I can ever remember seeing it in my lifetime. I’m not talking about the faux patriotism too often displayed by those with a political agenda. I mean real pride in the country, and a commitment to pull together to fight our enemies.
But it seems our nation lost that at some point. I am realistic enough to know that the intense feeling after 9/11 was unsustainable, but we have become so alarmingly divided along political lines that it is damaging our country. There is a troubling trend of non-compromise and political payback that is unhealthy and destructive.
The increasingly polarized political lines have catapulted candidates that would have once been considered fringe players into the mainstream. Where this behavior is concerned, both political parties are guilty.
When the Democrats assumed power, rather than going to work on the troubled economy, they sought to pass a hastily cobbled together health-care plan. Does health care need to be revamped? Of course it does. But it needs to be a well-crafted plan that will be effective and affordable. Who can forget the famous Nancy Pelosi comment, “But we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” The Democrats were more interested in sticking it to the Republicans than they were in finding a meaningful solution.
Once the Republicans had the numbers on their side, they responded by almost shutting down the government. That was not about fiscal responsibility regarding the budget. It was about embarrassing their Democratic rivals.
Fanfares, bands playing, flags flying and television specials are all fine. But that is window dressing. If we really want to commemorate the spirit of 9/11, we should put aside petty political games and work for the common good of the country.
By Logan Hall
Valley residents have a chance to give back to man’s best friend as the Humane Society of Ventura County prepares to hold its “Hogs for Hounds Motorcycle Ride, Vendor Faire and Pet Adoption Clinic.” Scheduled to be held at the fairgrounds in Ventura on Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the event will provide adventure and entertainment in the name of helping animals in Ventura County.
According to a press release, the event boasts fun and activities for the whole family including vendors, raffles, educational and informational professionals, a K-9 demonstration, and the opportunity to adopt animals from the Humane Society.
Event organizers say there is no admission fee, but attendees are asked to bring one or more listed items for donation, including blankets, toys, towels, pet food, old newspapers, leashes, collars, litter boxes, pet carriers, pet beds, brushes, cat litter and tarps.
No personal pets or animals are allowed at the event. For more information, call 383-7515.
By Logan Hall
Ojai residents are looking for answers after reportedly hearing a loud explosion in downtown Ojai early Monday morning. Ventura County Sheriff’s Department reports indicate a deputy was dispatched around 12:30 a.m. to areas that citizens speculated the explosion came from, but was unable to locate any evidence of a blast.
“We’ve been getting calls about this all morning,” said Sheriff’s Department office manager Tina Cook. “Our deputy searched for an hour but didn’t find anything.”
The Ventura County Fire Department was also dispatched after receiving two separate 911 calls regarding the alleged explosion. According to VCFD spokesman Capt. Bill Nash, firefighters from Ojai Station 21 came up empty-handed after searching the area. “Engine 21 was dispatched but was unable to find anything,” said Nash. “Our fire chief, Bob Roper, lives in the area and he confirmed hearing it though.”
One area resident, Gordon Branchaud, was near Signal Street with some friends when he heard the noise. “It was definitely an explosion,” said Branchaud. “It was distant but it was just like—- boom! It was really loud. We all stopped what we were doing but we couldn’t see anything.”
Others who live in town were also startled by the unidentified noise but say they did see evidence of an explosion. “… it woke both of us up,” said local Alan Bell on the OVN blog after the story hit the web Monday. “I could see what appeared to be the flash and what also appeared to be an afterglow, Similar to what you might see with fireworks. I assumed it was a transformer, but without any blackouts that assumption seems incorrect.”
Reports of the explosion were received by the Sheriff’s Department from Foothill Road and out toward Reeves Road on the East End. Although the OVN and the Sheriff’s Department received many calls questioning the noise, no one has reported seeing any evidence of an explosion in Ojai. The cause of the noise was still unknown as of print time today.
A similar event was reported Feb. 25, 2010, and never officially identified. Read those comments HERE.
Funds just in time for new school year
By Misty Volaski
When the going gets tough, the Ojai Education Foundation gets tougher. As budget cuts continue to slice staffing and services in the Ojai Unified School District, the OEF has continued to help fill in the gap with its mini-grants program. The small organization, made up entirely of volunteers, “upped the ante this year,” said OEF board member Joanna Iwata. “Last year we funded $10,000 in mini-grants. This year it’s over $12,000. Given the economic climate — the money’s just not being funneled into schools to support these types of initiatives —- we will continue to grow, because these needs will only grow!”
The latest round of mini-grants are mostly for new technology. San Antonio Elementary School got a Student Response System and Smart Board, which allow each individual student to participate in every question the teacher poses. The teacher can use the interactive smart boards to graph students’ answers and prompt discussions. The cell phone-like SRS devices are easy to use for students, as “they’re already really good at texting,” said San Antonio fifth-grade teacher Sandra Hansen. “It’s great because every student can participate individually and get instant feedback. It opens a community dialogue with the kids, and how they think about the questions and why they chose which answers. The kids get really excited —- there’s times when it’s almost a game show atmosphere, with the kids racing to get answers in. It’s very gratifying whenever you can make learning fun and interesting. Everybody wins.”
What’s more, the system allows teachers — but not other students — to monitor each child’s response. “That’s one of the things that really sold me” on the system, Hansen went on. “It allows us to find the reluctant learners, and those who never raise their hand. You can wait until they answer, or cue them,” or offer extra help.
The boards and SRS are something both Matilija Junior High School and Nordhoff High School have already started utilizing with great success.
At Nordhoff, teacher Chris Bohney uses the smart boards to open the world to his world geography students. “He has traveled extensively and is able to program in slide shows and use Google Earth,” said NHS principal Dan Musick. “It’s also very efficient —- he does all his lessons in PowerPoint, so it’s easy to read, and he doesn’t waste time writing out notes on the board. But none of this could happen without the kind of enthusiastic support we get from them (OEF).”
Matilija principal Emily Mostovoy echoed Musick’s enthusiasm for the OEF’s contributions.
The program “is a phenomenal financial support program for our staff,” Mostovoy said. “This past year, seven of our teachers received funding for improving and using technology in the classroom. Many of our staff wrote grants for docu-cameras, a wonderful tool to enhance instruction and student engagement. It is the continued support of the Ojai Education Foundation that allows our teachers to teach with the best instructional tools, attend professional workshops and provide our students with a classroom environment that is inviting, with high academic standards and student success.”
Also included in the mini-grants this year were digital projectors and document cameras, which allow teachers to scan in any document, photo or page of text and manipulate them in real-time on a large screen. The interactivity factor increases student participation, said OEF board member and retired OUSD principal Carol Holly. “It really allows the teacher to expand the type and quantity of authentic documents they’re able to bring to the kids, and exposes them to so much more. We’re engaging students more than ever before.”
Other grants were: reading books for Topa Topa and Mira Monte elementary schools, teacher training for elementary music programs, computers for all students in lab at San Antonio, physical education stations for primary grades at Meiners Oaks Elementary, another smart board and an art program computer at Matilija, a geometer sketch pad and projectors for Nordhoff, and music administration software for Nordhoff.
Both Holly and Iwata gave credit to local residents who make their work possible. “Without their generosity we just couldn’t do this,” said Iwata.
Holly concluded, “My dream is that OEF will be able to meet our fourth goal, of funding teachers’ higher education.”
For more information on the OEF, visit OjaiEF.org.
VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF
On 9-3-2011, at approximately 10:20 PM, personnel from the Ojai Police Department responded to a report of a hit and run traffic accident at the corner of Emily St. and Summer St. in the City of Ojai. When patrol units arrived, deputies were informed by multiple citizens that the driver of the crashed vehicle fled the scene and was running eastbound on Summer Street. The deputies began to chase the driver but lost sight of him as he ran through several backyards and through other rural areas in the neighborhood. Approximately 20 minutes later, deputies detained Raul Huerta, 25, at the intersection of Grand Ave. and Drown St. Huerta fit the description of the suspect fleeing the scene, was sweating profusely and had grass stains on his clothes. When questioned by deputies, Huerta admitted to being on parole and fleeing the scene of the accident. Huerta was arrested for driving under the influence, hit and run, and on a no-bail parole violation.
Chris T. Wilson
You may know of them as the Pink Ladies, Ojai Valley Community Hospital’s volunteer arm, but this isn’t just a do-good group for grandmas anymore.
In recent months an informal campaign is beginning to take shape that will help to coordinate, expand and fetch more men and young people into this local volunteer opportunity.
One of the women who has been inspired by the program, got involved and now wants to help it grow is Leticia Flores. When her husband spent some time rehabilitating in the Continuing Care Center, she saw a need and responded to it. Because there was always a lot of activity from family members visiting with Flores, she became aware that there were others in Continuing Care who weren’t being visited by anyone and were quite alone.
“I would be in the hallway and people in wheelchairs would come by and look at me and I would smile at them,” Flores said. “I told my husband, ‘When you get well, I’m not going to forget about this place.”
And she hasn’t forgotten. Flores has recently accepted the role of president of the auxiliary at OVCH, although she more humbly refers to herself as a membership coordinator. Her goals now are simple and straightforward: to get more people to be of help to their community by volunteering at the hospital.
“When I started, I read to people,” Flores said. “I would read from the Bible or whatever they wanted. Sometimes I would just talk with them. I asked, ‘Who doesn’t ever get any visitors?’ and that’s who I would go talk to.”
Giving all the attention a patient needs sometimes goes beyond what doctors and nurses can provide. Auxiliary volunteers offer smiles and a helping hand where needed.
Outgoing President John Mason said there’s a real need for more people to get involved.
“We experienced a very big loss of volunteers recently, most of it through people passing away,” Mason said. “Right now we do not have enough volunteers to do all the services well. We have enough to get by, but we need all of our services covered and we are expanding our services.”
Current duties for an auxiliary volunteer could be as simple as visiting with patients in the hospital or Continuing Care Center, delivering flowers to a bedside, bringing magazines and books, and keeping medical supplies stocked and organized. Other duties include basic tidying of rooms, Mason said. Further, auxiliary volunteers run the hospital gift shop and the program is expanding to include a non-narcotic prescription drug runner service from the pharmacy to the Continuing Care Center.
While this has traditionally been the volunteer opportunity for women wearing pink jackets, both Flores and Mason are quick to note that the auxiliary is an equal opportunity organization. Several high school-aged students are involved and a few men have been a part of the auxiliary for years.
Currently though, while the Ventura branch of the auxiliary has about 200 volunteers, there’s just over a dozen now who help out in Ojai. Mason said he’s involved in large part because he wants to know that the hospital is going to be there for him if and when he needs it.
“It’s a very rewarding volunteer experience,” Mason said. “It’s one where you come away from your shift feeling good about accomplishing something. Because a lot of the volunteers, when they deliver meals, deliver more when they talk with patients, answer questions, break up hospital stays and make it a little easier — all sorts of amenities we try to furnish.”
New members require a background check and there are some basic qualifications to work in the hospital. If you are interested in joining or would like more information, call 646-1401, Ext. 224.
Smoldering embers glow behind a Ventura County Fire Department firefighter as he hangs on to his chainsaw, waiting for direction from the VCFD Incident Command Post at a small brush fire on Casitas Pass Road Wednesday night.
Report and photo by Logan Hall
A half-acre fire that started near Rincon Mountain on Highway 150 west of Lake Casitas was started by an unknown arsonist, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.
Dozens of firefighters scrambled to attack the brushfire that started next to Casitas Pass Road on Wednesday night. After the initial call was dispatched at 9:34 p.m., crews began arriving from Ojai, Carpinteria and other Ventura County stations to quell the blaze before it spun out of control, according to VCFD spokesman Capt. Ron Oatman.
Although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department received reports from several eyewitnesses that indicate the fire was started intentionally. “It started out as a domestic call where a male and female were arguing in their car by the road,” said Ojai Police Department’s Sgt. Randy Watkins. “The male got out of the car and the female drove away. We had reports that a male matching his description was setting fires.”
Watkins says that law enforcement officers are working with VCFD arson investigators to find the suspect who, reports from witnesses say, is a white male in his 30s with red or blond hair who was wearing a white T-shirt and shorts at the time of the incident. The car is described as a Toyota sedan, possibly a Camry.
Both the VCSD and the Fire Department are currently investigating possible causes of the fire, but both agencies agree that the incident was not an accident. The VCFD dispatched an arson investigator who proceeded to photograph and physically inspect the area around the roadside, but so far, no conclusion has been made. “It is definitely arson,” said Oatman, “but everything is still under investigation.”
Winds were light at the time, and although working in darkness, firefighters made short work of the burning shrubs and trees. Five engines and several other units, including two hand crews, were on scene using hoses and shovels to keep the smoldering embers at bay after the fire was contained at 10:40 p.m. “The fuel up there was very thick,” said Oatman about the brush surrounding the highway. “The hand crews had to use chain saws to clear it away from the affected area.”
The size of the fire was initially reported as one to two acres, but after taking a GPS survey of the mountainside, fire crews found that they had kept the blaze to just under a half acre. “Fires always look bigger at night,” said Oatman.
Anyone with information regarding the incident should contact sheriff’s detectives at 646-1414.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I am interested to see what the president offers in his “jobs initiative” speech. Since this column is written before the speech, I cannot offer any critique of his plan. So I will address what I hope the program contains in order to put some people back to work.
First of all, I hope the president’s plan is a little more organized than his “kickoff” address on Labor Day. One of those who spoke at the rally before President Obama was Jimmy Hoffa Jr., national president of the Teamster’s Union. Hoffa said unions need to fight a war against Tea Partiers and congressional Republicans. He added, “President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let’s take these SOBs out and take America back to where we belong.” Minutes later, the president called for congressional cooperation, saying, “There is work to be done and workers ready to do it … We just need Congress to get on board. Let’s put America back to work.”
So you have the son of a thug calling for the heads of the very people the president will need to work with to reach an accord — not exactly greasing the skids. It is a free country, and Hoffa can say what he wants. But the president should have enough sense to distance himself from Hoffa and his ilk. Of course, that is difficult because the unions are a source of huge support to the president, as well as to the Democratic Party. So the president is forced to grit his teeth because he is beholden to the unions, and cannot afford to anger them.
It is no different with the Republicans. They, too, have certain groups they feel they cannot afford to cross, like big business and big oil. A friend of mine once posed the idea that instead of suits and ties, politicians should be required to wear NASCAR-type uniforms sporting the logos of all the major contributors to their campaigns so the public could see who owned them. What a great idea.
I hope the plan goes further than acting as a temporary economic Band-Aid. Early outlines of the initiative call for billions in construction work on infrastructure — bridges, roads, schools, etc. It is good to put money into tangible items. A few years ago, when Washington bailed out Wall Street firms, much of that money later went for bonuses to the very people whose reckless financial products helped wreck the economy in the first place. That is kind of like the guy who poisons your dog asking to be reimbursed for the hamburger and strychnine. Construction jobs are good, but are not a long-term solution to this troubled economy.
I hope the speech offers something to small- and medium-sized businesses. Those are the people who are in a position to create good, sustainable jobs. Find a way to give hiring incentives to those businesses.
I hope the speech addresses job training. People who have lost their jobs to outsourcing overseas need to be retrained. The industrial giant, Siemens, claims it has 3,000 jobs that need to be filled right now, but cannot find qualified workers. We spend billions of dollars each year on education and technical school funding. How can it be possible in this economy for 3,000 good jobs to go unfilled? How about incentives to businesses for training and hiring unemployed or underemployed?
Finally, I hope the speech is long on specifics and short on rhetoric. Politicians tend to speak in platitudes and offer pep talks in lieu of blueprints. It is much easier to come up with catchy phrases than a concrete plan that will allow some folks to go back to work.
We don’t need talk; if rhetoric and bluster from Washington created jobs, we would already be at full employment.
By Misty Volaski
Ojai Community Bank recently released what it called good news for its second quarter with “sustained profitability, improved credit quality and stable deposit levels,” according to a press release.
Bank President Dave Brubaker said after overhead and salaries, the bank was left with a profit of $516,000 for the second quarter, and total assets are approximately $125 million.
A consent order was issued to OCB back in March by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, asking that the bank address several aspects of its business to ensure its strength and continued growth. “Consent orders are designed to assist, not penalize,” said Brubaker. “We’re on track with the things they laid out in the order. Specifically, one of the requirements was to put together a plan to decrease the problem loans, so we’ve put one together and are executing it so that the problem loans are lower than they were before. We’re quite pleased with the success of that.”
The press release adds: “The bank has been working diligently to resolve issues and manage the loan portfolio. We partner with our customers to find mutually beneficial restructured payment plans and in many cases our borrowers were able to catch up and become current on their payments … since Dec. 21, 2010, the bank has reduced its problem assets by 45 percent.”
Brubaker went on to say that OCB has met all its FDIC consent order due dates thus far, and believes the next one coming up — increasing the bank’s capital ratio to 10 percent by Sept. 30 — is reachable. “I’m confident … we’ve begun the process to achieve that goal,” he said, adding that these are his opinions. As of June 30, he said the ratio was 8.8 percent, and has gone up since then. “The minimum capital ratio is 5 percent, so we’re way below that. Our risk profile is lower today than it was a year ago … We’ve made great progress, and understand the stock market is really volatile … but I am very satisfied with where the bank is. To see our credit rating improving is great.”
When questioned whether the late 2008 acquisition of OCB’s two Santa Paula branches (Santa Paula Community Bank) put a strain on the bank’s resources, Brubaker said, “That transaction is working very well for us. It’s producing positive earnings and the credit quality is very good. That was actually a very good transaction for us.”
The community has been supportive since the consent order was issued, Brubaker added. “They’ve been great. We’re here in the community to work with people so that everyone can ride the storm together. And we have a lot of positive things going on right now that I can’t comment on yet.”
By Misty Volaski
Ojai may be a coveted vacation spot, but even locals need to get away.
The Cromer family is offering just that this Saturday at Bodee’s Rancho Grande for the third annual Roundup and Branding Family Event.
Located just 30 minutes north of Ojai in Los Padres National Forest, Rancho Grande will play host to a day of live music, a barbecue, games, and much more. The historic ranch, whose buildings date back to the late 1800s — including the old Rose Valley schoolhouse now dubbed the Cowboy Cabin — is entirely off the grid. The Cromers purchased it a few years ago and have since restored it to its former glory.
The branding event “started with a small herd of cattle, maybe 15 or 18 years ago, with my wife and a close friend going to the (Ventura County) Fair every year and buying these heifers from the 4-H kids,” explained Mike Cromer. Then, ever since the family purchased Rancho Grande, they’ve had to do a yearly branding, inoculations and castrations of the bulls. “It started small, with a few friends,” Cromer said. “That’s how cowboys are, you get together help each other out, and then barbecue a steak.”
His daughter, Rancho Grande owner Michele Cromer-Bentivolio, said, “It’s just grown and grown over the last few years. First it was friends and family, then someone said we should open it up to the public. It’s a great opportunity to share the beauty of the property and just have a good time.”
The ranch will open Saturday at 9 a.m. with the rounding up and branding of Rancho Grande’s small herd of cattle, some of whom are donated each year as 4-H projects.
“A lot of people have never seen what that is like, running the cattle through the shoots, giving inoculations, all that,” Cromer said. His daughter added that Rancho Grande cattle have names, and new calves are cause for celebration. “We’ve had so many babies this year, we’ve got to get them all ready!”
Besides horses and cattle, Rancho Grande also houses Picasso, the mini-horse, who will be giving pony cart rides Saturday, as well as chickens and goats also purchased at 4-H auctions. “It’s evolved into a petting zoo up there!” laughed Cromer.
Once done with the branding, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, the festivities begin with a horseshoe tournament, hay and pony cart rides, swimming in Rancho Grande’s private lake, and arts and crafts activities hosted by the Mellingers, the ranch’s caretakers. “Bring the kids and jump off the pier into the spring-fed lake,” Cromer-Bentivolio said, whose children can often be found doing just that. “It’s the perfect time of year.”
A California cowboy-style barbecue of tri-tip, chicken, sausage, chili beans and all the fixings will begin at 4 p.m. Then, as the barbecue winds down, the Corsican Brothers will heat up the stage with oldies, rock, country and blues till 9 p.m.
But despite the festivities, the Cromers say, Saturday’s event is about togetherness and enjoying nature. “It’s remarkable,” said Cromer. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and yet I drive 13 miles from Bodee’s restaurant and I feel like I’m up in the High Sierras without having to drive 10 hours to get there.”
“You can get away without having to go far — we’ve got this amazing forest right own back yard!” said Cromer-Bentivolio.
Rancho Grande is located about 15 miles from Ojai. Tickets to the Roundup and Branding Family Event can be purchased at Ventura Hay Co., or by calling 646-5300.
By Logan Hall
Two Ojai Valley youths avoided becoming a tragic statistic on Friday after a traffic collision sent one of the teens to the hospital with serious injuries, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. A 17-year-old male and a 17-year-old female were traveling westbound on Cuyama Road at around 7:45 a.m. when they collided with another vehicle while attempting to make a U-turn according to VCSD reports.
The female passenger was transported to Ventura County Medical Center by ambulance with an unspecified “serious injury,” according to Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Ron Oatman. “We had to perform one minor extraction on the primary patient,” said Oatman, referring to the female occupant. “The drivers of both vehicles were transported to Ojai Valley Community Hospital with minor injuries.” Due to the ages of those involved, no information is available on the injured female’s current condition.
The outcome for the two teens, however, could have been much worse.
Valley resident Shari Herbruck is reminded of the potential deadly outcome of traffic collisions every time she thinks about her son, Weston, who was killed in a car crash in 2007. A 17-year-old Nordhoff High School senior at the time of accident, her son was a good kid and just made some bad choices that he paid the ultimate price for says Herbruck.
“He didn’t drink and he didn’t do drugs,” said Herbruck who, along with her husband, has since come to accept and embrace her son’s death. “He was driving back from Pine Mountain by himself when he skidded off the road and flipped into a rock. He was dead on impact. I was just leaving work when my husband called and told me to get home really quick. I didn’t know it right then, but the coroner was at our house standing on our front porch. It was all quite a whirlwind.”
Herbruck believes that her son was living, like many other teenage drivers, with a need for speed. “His addiction was always to speed,” she said. “He didn’t do anything bad. He just drove too fast.”
Traffic collisions are the leading cause of death for American teenagers according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA’s most current available statistics show that “people age 15 to 20 make up 6.7 percent of the total driving population in the U.S. but are involved in 14 percent of all fatal crashes.”
Scrolling down the Teen Crash Statistics page on the NHTSA website, one can begin to see the severity of the issue.
“Sixty-five percent of teen passenger deaths occur when another teen is driving,” reads one statistic.
“In the last decade,” says another stat, “over 68,000 teens have died in car crashes (in the U.S.).”
Sheriff’s Sgt. Pat Ruby says young drivers need to pay extra attention to the road and their surroundings to avoid catastrophe. “The big thing that they need to do is revert back to the basics,” said Ruby, who works on patrol in the Ojai Valley. “They need to make sure traffic is clear and above all, don’t take chances. Accidents happen in the blink of an eye and can change the course of someone’s life in seconds.”
The Ojai Police Department is currently investigating the incident to determine the cause of the collision. Anyone who may have witnessed this accident is encouraged to call the Ojai Station at (805) 646-1414.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I went to Ojai House last week to buy some greeting cards. I love Ojai House — they have hilarious cards, and Meg is a sweetheart and always fun to talk to. One of my favorite cards stated that the biggest problem with the younger generation is that we’re not in it any more. Boy, I can relate to that.
Meg and I started talking about growing up, and about how much things have changed, especially in the realm of personal safety.
Take air bags, for instance. Every new car comes equipped with them; we take them for granted. But when I was growing up, our family car didn’t even have seat belts. The first car my family owned that was equipped with seat belts was a 1964 Chevy Impala. And while seat belts were installed in some cars as early as the 1950s, they were not mandatory until 1968.
I don’t know the statistics, but I cannot believe those old belts saved many lives. When I was young I cannot recall a single person, except for my old maid aunt, who ever actually fastened a safety belt. The belts in our car were usually stuffed in the seat crevice so you wouldn’t accidentally sit down on them — not exactly a well-thought-out safety plan. The early belts were merely lap restraints designed to hold your body in place and keep you from flying out of the car. They did nothing to control anything above the waist, including your head. In the event of an accident, there was nothing to keep your head from bouncing on the dashboard like Magic Johnson dribbling a basketball down the court on a fast break. And since the old dashboards were made of metal, if you had any type of serious accident, all the old seat belts did was to make it easier to find the body.
No one ever wore a bicycle helmet. They didn’t exist; no one would have even considered putting on a helmet to ride their bike.
I continued along this line over lunch one day with John Broesamle. He pointed out that we have progressed light years concerning the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. He added that whereas now we are extremely restrictive about areas in which you are permitted to smoke, there was a time when people thought nothing about smoking in confined spaces, including the family car. In fact, if the weather was cool, they didn’t even roll down the windows — you just inhaled whatever the smoker was smoking.
Even rolling down the windows didn’t necessarily mean you were safe. My daddy, who was a heavy smoker, used to flip his lit cigarette out of the driver’s side window, only to have it blow back in and ricochet off my head as I sat in the back seat. Come to think of it, that probably explains a lot.
No air bags, no helmets, constant exposure to cigarette smoke — the list goes on and on. For those of us who grew up in those times, it’s amazing we survived long enough to make it out of the younger generation at all.
Chris T. Wilson
Spraying of herbicides along California Highway 33 in Mira Monte raised concerns from local residents and activists recently.
Cynthia Grier of Ecologic Life posted a note on the local Facebook group, Ojai Community Network, on Aug. 9 asking if other OCN group members had been affected by the spraying.
“I was driving with my windows open and a man in a Hazmat suit on a golf cart was spraying using a garden hose-size sprayer,” Grier noted. “He was on the bike path spraying into the barranca and toward (and hitting) the road and the cars. There was a mist that came into my window off of it. I just heard of a friend that was driving with a convertible top down and was sprayed.”
Grier noted in the comments that she was informed that the spraying was being conducted by the Ventura County Parks Department and that the herbicide being applied is Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide made by agribusiness corporation Monsanto.
This was confirmed by Steve Offerman of Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett’s office, who said that the Ventura County Parks Department was doing its annual spraying of Roundup.
“It would be unfortunate if there were any instances of over-spraying,” Offerman said. “I have asked the Parks Department to look into the use of alternatives and how that might impact the situation.”
Offerman said he asked to be alerted if any citizens placed a formal complaint to the Parks Department but hasn’t heard of any complaints yet. He said that the county has used goats as an alternative to chemical spraying in fire breaks but that with 550 miles of roadway in the county and 10 miles of Ojai Valley Trail to maintain that no other option is feasible with the level of resources currently available.
“We’d love to be able to do it without herbicides, and we are using a product that is available over the counter that is on the lowest end of the toxicity scale,” he said. “We are applying it in limited, cautious, responsible fashion.”
Theresa Lubin, program administrator with the County Parks Department, said she has not received any direct formal complaints from the Aug. 9 incident, but that she heard from Offerman about it.
“The staff person out there realized there was some road construction going on and traffic had stopped,” Lubin said. “Because of the backup in the area he realized conditions were not right to continue and he stopped. But nobody called me directly.”
Lubin confirmed that the Parks Department uses Roundup, Rodeo and Aquamaster in their weed abatement program. She said the staff person who was working along Highway 33 has worked for the county more than 30 years.
Grier’s Facebook note raised eyebrows from other community members who commented on the post.
Patty Pagaling of Transition to Organics, formerly Pesticide Free Ojai, said that she’s gotten sick from spraying of similar herbicides in Matilija Canyon. She mentioned a report about the damaging effects of glyphosphate, the main ingredient in many herbicides, which are known to drift from their intended target.
The report Pagaling cites is from Californians for Alternatives to Toxics: “14 to 78 percent of glyphosate has been found to drift away from the sprayed target, and glyphosate residues have been detected up to 1,300 feet from where it was applied,” says the report.
Ojai-based physician Robin Bernhoft said studies show that spraying of glyphosates has been linked to leukemia and myeloma.
“I’ve done a fair amount of testifying against use of herbicides,” Bernhoft said. “There’s a reason this has been banned in Denmark.”
Referring to the use of similar herbicides to control the spread of arundo donax and other non-native species in Matilija Canyon, he said that spraying of arundo in Topanga Canyon had to be averted because it was ineffective.
“They sprayed somewhere between 12 and 15 times and it didn’t kill the arundo,” Bernhoft said, noting that an alternative of cutting the arundo and laying plastic over its roots was more effective at eliminating the hardy tall bamboo-like grass. “The Roundup would knock it down, but then it would grow right back. I’ve got a problem dumping toxic stuff like that, especially when it doesn’t kill the alleged visitor.”
But Offerman defended the county’s efforts and said the spraying along county roadways and bike paths is a standard method of controlling weeds that would otherwise creep in and destroy asphalt. He also said spraying in Matilija Canyon has been beneficial in controlling weeds there and to improving the canyon’s ecosystem.
“There has been a dramatic improvement in Matilija Canyon,” Offerman said. “This is strongly supported by all the resource agencies.”
By Logan Hall
Who gets to make the rules about where someone can sleep? In the city of Ojai, city code and state and county laws provide the guidelines for would-be “squatters.”
Several concerned citizens have contacted the OVN, asking why there are recreational vehicles constantly parked on Bryant Street and Ojai Avenue. Some have even speculated that there are families or individuals living in the RVs on public streets. As far as the rules are concerned, anyone living in a vehicle on a public street is breaking the law.
“It is illegal for someone to live in a vehicle on a public street,” confirmed the Ojai Police Department’s Sgt. Steve Ruby. “If they’re on private property though, they can sleep in whatever they want.”
Along with state and county laws, Ojai does have its own municipal code that addresses the issue. Section 5-2.02.1 of the city code book states that within city limits, “no person shall occupy a mobile home … or motor vehicle as a living or sleeping accommodation for a period in excess of 24 hours, except in a mobile home park.”
A couple of concerned citizens, although not wanting to go on record, said that they believed there are several RVs that are regularly parked on city streets for many days at a time, often with people living in them. Ojai city manager Rob Clark says the city can only enforce the codes if there are complaints. There is no budget to have someone check for violations of codes such as the one pertaining to the vehicles in question.
“Our enforcement procedure is based on complaints,” said Clark. “It all depends on the individual situation, but some violations have to do with zoning, others have to do with vehicle code. If we get a complaint, Brian Meadows (Ojai building official) will go take a look at the situation to see if there is a violation.”
Clark says there have been few, if any, complaints about RVs parked on public streets in Ojai and the city planning department agrees. “I can’t think of any that have happened this year,” said Ojai’s planning and budget technician, Shari Herbruck, “and there isn’t anything in our complaint log.”
Clark says that, although the issue most people have seems to be related to neighborhood aesthetics, problems can arise when people try to illegally hook up to the city’s electrical grid.
“There can be a safety problem when someone hooks up illegally,” said Clark. “There can be a tripping hazard, and many times people won’t realize that they’ve run electrical lines through a wet gutter. So there are safety issues. Most of the time though, people just don’t want to see those types of things in their neighborhood.”
By Linda Harmon
The local founder of Yoga Blue, Winifred Wilson, was in the right place at the right time. She was at a Michael Bolton Charity event in Connecticut when the international entertainer and philanthropist decided to expand his East Coast Michael Bolton Charities Inc. (MBC) for children and women at risk.
This Sept. 10, Yoga Blue will be one of the recipients of the charity’s second annual “Michael Bolton and Dave Mason Celebrity Golf Classic, Benefit Concert and Dinner,” hosted by the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.
It all began when Wilson was introduced to Bolton by her “significant other,” performer Dave Mason. Mason, who had joined his friend Bolton for several charity events, suggested Bolton expand the MBC’s scope and bring it to Ojai. He also suggested he consider supporting Wilson’s local nonprofit organization. Bolton liked the idea of an expansion and Wilson’s project, Yoga Blue.
Yoga Blue, which focuses on women at risk and recovering substance abusers, has been a beneficiary of Michael Bolton Charities, Inc. for two years now.
According to Wilson, she wasn’t always as confident or assured as she is today. It was yoga, which she discovered during her own recovery process, that helped her stay on the path to health and heal her body and soul.
“I wouldn’t be so passionate if I hadn’t gone through it myself,” said Wilson.
Yoga Blue now services more than 500 individuals a month, the majority of which takes place in Ventura County. Branches are beginning in Utah, Oregon, and Nevada for those recovering from substance abuse.
“I knew I wanted to do this but I was scared to death,” said Wilson, who needed a little encouragement. She found it in her teacher, Kira Ryder, the founder of the Ojai yoga studio, Lulu Bandha’s. “I stayed after class one day and started asking questions about teaching. We talked and I told her my own story and what I wanted to do for other women in recovery. She told me to just do it. So we made up some fliers and I just started in with a class on Saturday evenings at Lulu Bandha’s. Kira was a huge help.”
Wilson’s yoga passion has stayed with her as she established Yoga Blue’s nonprofit status. She grew the organization to include six disciplines.
Most of her students are individuals with no previous yoga experience.
“They may come to Yoga Blue directly off the street or from jail,” said Wilson, whose website says the program “is not about fixing addicts, but about being present for those afflicted so they may find the antidote for themselves, from within.”
That was three years ago and Wilson has continued teaching a recovery class based at Lulu Bandha’s and also teaches at Oxnard’s Prototypes, a women’s 50-bed residential treatment center.
“Things are going really well but I couldn’t have done any of this without the help of so many people,” said Wilson. She added “Everyone in the organization is a volunteer.”
According to Wilson, several more treatment programs, sober living houses, and Kaiser Permanente have all recently expressed interest in the program.
“The program is primarily rooted in recovery from substance abuse,” said Wilson. “As I have gone deeper and deeper into these practices I’ve discovered it’s really about quieting the mind. And the trauma, whatever it is, sooner or later surfaces … In the beginnings of recovery, the women in the treatment centers tend to be ill at ease. They are dealing with all these heavy issues, agitated, and cut off from all the substances they have reached out to in the past to help deal with them … Yoga practices can be very, very helpful.”
Wilson knows the difficulties these women face because she’s been there herself.
“Yoga was so very effective for me, but I always offer the classes with the caveat that they may not work for everyone,” said Wilson. “It is no magic silver bullet but it can quiet the mind so that you can really listen to your own internal callings. In the end, you may be drawn to gardening or painting but yoga can help you find that passion, whatever it is.”
Bolton’s charity event will help provide funds for yoga equipment mats, blocks, bolsters, etc.
Yoga Blue will be offering attendees of the Ojai Valley Inn event a 90-minute class, poolside lunch and fashion show. Also included will be a cocktail reception, silent auction, dinner, and star-studded concert rounding out the evening. Part of the proceeds raised will then go to Yoga Blue, along with two other MBC charities, the Santa Barbara Food Bank and Work Vessels for Veterans.
Wilson and crew invite you to come experience Yoga Blue and be part of the event. Who knows, you might meet a celebrity or two and it may lead to somewhere new and exciting like it did for Wilson and her students.
For more information about the event or to purchase tickets go to michaelboltoncharities.com. To find out more about Yoga Blue go to yogablue.org.