By Tiobe Barron
Mayor Carol Smith was rewarded with applause when she addressed Southern California Edison representatives regarding their presentation on “Smart Meters.”
“This is absurd,” she said at Tuesday night’s Ojai City Council meeting. “The public has been well educated by Edison (in saving energy). I wish they had put the money (toward) solar panels for us.”
SCE representatives gave a presentation at the meeting on what they are calling Smartconnect, the electric company’s conversion from analog meters to Smart Meters. It’s a wireless technology similar to cell phones, which records data about utility consumption and allows two-way communication of that data.
Michael Schulte, a manager of Edison Smartconnect, said that this technology allows for “more of a two-way relationship” between the utility company and consumer. According to Schulte, as part of a state government “mandate,” between 2009 to 2012, 5 million of the existing analog meters will be replaced with the new Smart Meters, in a $1.6 billion project. Three million have already been replaced at this point in time, according to SCE representatives.
According to the representatives, there is a financial incentive for customers to avoid peak use. Schulte says the complete switch-over of all 5 million machines will create a 1,000-megawatt reduction in peak load, along with a 365,000-ton-per-year reduction in greenhouse gases.
The Ojai area, which is part of Edison’s Ventura Service District, is slated to begin the “deployment process” in March 2012. Schulte said there is an opt-out program through the California Public Utilities Commission that is set to be finalized sometime in the first quarter of next year. Edison has also implemented a delay list for those who wish to be skipped in the conversion process, until the judge-ordered opt-out program is worked out.
“Machines do not save power, people save power,” said Marleen Luckman, a certified building biologist, who says she has studied wireless technology for seven years. The billions of dollars in funds spent on meters, she said, “could have gone into public outreach and training.” Luckman asserts that according to her research, there are numerous problems with these meters — biological effects have been documented, including disruption of concentration, fatigue, insomnia, migraines, disruption of white blood cells and DNA, among other things. According to Luckman, the Federal Communications Commission acknowledges that more studies are needed on the effects of the radiation emitted by Smart Meters, and the World Health Organization classified radio frequencies as a class-two carcinogen — putting it in the same category as DDT, lead and methyl mercury.
“Current guidelines are not considerate of public health … and these are guidelines, not standards,” Luckman said, citing Dr. De-Kun Li professor at Stanford University and associate editor of the American Journal of Epidemiology. “There isn’t enough data to create a standard, and that’s kind of scary to me.”
In addition, there are, according to Luckman, incidents of fires and blowouts as well as privacy issues involved with a device that monitors every appliance in your home and sends that data back to Edison. And in order to opt out, Luckman continued, customers will have to pay a fee.
Luckman also shared with the crowd and council that dozens of counties have banned the devices, including Mendocino County, Lake County, Marin County, Santa Cruz County, and others. San Diego Gas & Electric currently has a lawsuit pending due to the new installation of Smart Meters. “I encourage everyone to do their research. Once you have it, you’re not going to get rid of it,” Luckman cautioned.
Council members had some tough questions for the Edison representatives following Luckman’s presentation.
“Ms. Luckman presents a lot of sobering information, especially in regards to the health risks, which … perhaps wasn’t mentioned in your presentation,” Councilwoman Sue Horgan said to SCE representatives.
Glenn Sias, an engineer with Edison, attempted to assuage this concern, saying the devices only emit very low-power signals, even in their peak, a fraction of the FCC standards.
Councilwoman Carlon Strobel asked, “In terms of the mandate from the California Public Utilities Commission, didn’t you file the application and they approved it as opposed to being given a mandate?”
Michael Schulte replied that was correct, adding, “‘mandate’ may have been too strong of a term.”
Leonard Klaif, Ojai resident and attorney, wasn’t shy about letting Edison’s representatives know his opinion. “I came in unopposed to the Smart Meters,” he said, “but you lost me when you lied about it being mandated, and when you lie, I have no reason to believe anything you say.”
For more information, visit Edison’s Smartconnect website: sce.com/edisonsmartconnect. For further information on Smart Meters, visit emfsafetynetwork.org. Those who would like to be placed on Edison’s delay list can call (800) 810-2369.
By Tiobe Barron
Illegal residential rentals in Ojai came under fire Tuesday, as City Council members discussed their stance on what they call “vacation rentals.”
City officials say they have found numerous ads online for properties that are within city limits and in violation of the city’s policy on the “bed tax,” and estimate a loss of $30,000 to $60,000 per year through the illegal rentals.
According to an administrative report prepared by city manager Rob Clark, a “rental of a hotel room, time share, or any portion of any type of residential unit for less than 30 days is considered to be a transient rental and is subject to 10 percent occupancy tax. Owners of these units are required to obtain a business license and to collect and remit transient occupancy tax. Transient rental is not permitted in residential zones without first obtaining a conditional use permit from the Planning Commission.”
How to enforce the policy seems to be up for much debate. Options for fighting the alleged drain on city coffers range from citing those who have complaints filed against them, collecting back taxes, imposing a $1,000-per-day fine, and putting a lien on property as a last resort.
Ojai resident Bob Daddi warned the council to approach the proposed policy with extreme caution. “The fees are outrageous,” he said. “Before you go any further with this and turn it into a disaster, turn to the Fair Housing Act … I’m not asking you to give up money, I’m just asking you not to turn this into a circus … It’s more critical than our little Golden State Water issue. Get the money, get them to comply, charge them the fees, but just do it in a little bit different manner and I think it’ll work.”
Mayor Carol Smith, clearly flustered by Daddi’s remarks, was quick to defend her position. “I don’t like to be threatened,” she said before snapping at Daddi to take his seat. “That’s a big amount of money for us … (and) private property is private property … What can I say, (Daddi’s comments are) melodramatic.”
Councilwoman Carlon Strobel also weighed in on the topic. “For the city, this is almost a new program,” she said. “We need to put the policy in place before we can start enforcing it.”
Most council members seemed in agreement that any policy should be enforced across the board — rather than based solely on complaints — out of fairness to those who are in compliance. There also appeared to be a near-consensus on the need for more public input.
Seemingly more controversial and problematic was whether or not these types of rentals should be permitted within residential neighborhoods in Ojai at all. There was mention of extra wear on the roads due to increased traffic, and a burden on neighbors and neighborhoods due to noise, etc.
Ojai resident Doug Adrianson said he came to the council meeting expressly to thank the members for responding to a complaint he filed about his neighbor advertising his home as a vacation resort replete with a conference center, despite the fact that the neighborhood is not mixed-use.
“I want to thank council for putting some real teeth into this,” he said. “It’s about respect for neighbors, and for the law.”
Councilwoman Sue Horgan also interjected. “I’d like to shut them down,” she said. “Frankly, I don’t want to encourage them. I don’t think they are appropriate.”
Councilman Paul Blatz countered, saying, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to take out some sort of resentment on these types (of rentals) … If we’re going to allow them, we should be collecting taxes and allow public input. If not, we shut them down, let the public address their concerns.”
Resident Kenley Neufeld pointed out that these rentals do play an important function in our community, especially when an event takes place that fills all rooms at the legitimate inns and lodgings. Mayor pro tem Betsy Clapp echoed this sentiment, adding that Ojai has recently renovated the Libbey Bowl to draw larger crowds, and hotel rooms do fill up. Adrianson interrupted council members, after the allotted window for public comments had been closed, to express a clarification that he worried a blanket prohibition would damage Ojai.
“I’d be interested to know what the public’s feeling is on this,” said Blatz.
Horgan and Clapp mirrored this sentiment, and the council agreed to bring the policy back at a future date for further revision.
Other items of note at the meeting included a public hearing on an ordinance amending a section of the Ojai Municipal Code to allow a method for the public to submit their input in regards to whether or not a business is defined by the city as a “formula business,” essentially a chain store. Said Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Eicher, “We must trust (these applicant businesses) but verify. There must be an instrument within the ordinance to verify (the information set forth by the applicant). The ease with which Best Western was granted eliminated the ordinance as we thought it would take effect. It took the guts right out of it.” Councilwoman Clapp agreed, saying, “It was ridiculous. It is an element that needs to be dealt with.”
By Logan Hall
The quiet of a peaceful Monday night in downtown Ojai was shattered by the sound of gunfire as a routine traffic stop by Ventura County Sheriff’s Department deputies quickly became anything but routine.
Officials say that a man, whose name has not been released but reportedly identified as Oxnard resident Augustine Medina, began shooting at deputies after they stopped his vehicle near Cluff Vista Park on Ojai Avenue at around 9 p.m. The suspect fled the scene before deputies could return fire, and a vehicle pursuit led deputies down Highway 33 and eventually ended in Oxnard where a gunfight ensued, according to VCSD Sgt. Steve Arthur. “Three of our Ojai deputies were involved in the firefight,” said Arthur.
Once the vehicle entered the Oxnard area, Oxnard Police Department officers joined the VCSD in the pursuit, which ended in an exchange of gunfire between the suspect and law enforcement officers from both the OPD and the VCSD according to an OPD press release. The suspect was shot by law enforcement, but OPD reports didn’t indicate which agency actually shot the suspect. “We can’t release details like that because of the investigation that is being conducted,” said OPD spokesperson Monica Muñoz. “Right now officers are documenting the evidence.”
Reports indicate that Oxnard officers were looking for the suspect after he allegedly had been involved in a domestic dispute in Oxnard earlier that day. “We weren’t aware at first that Oxnard was looking for the suspect,” said Arthur. “He must have known they would be looking for him though ‘cause he shot at us.”
OPD reports also indicated that the man shot at Ojai deputies as he was fleeing down Highway 33, but that the gunfire first started in Ojai.
Local resident Emily Sandefur was finishing some business at her work on Ojai Avenue near Cluff Vista Park when she was startled by the initial shots that were fired. “I was by myself,” she recounted, “working late in a dark office and I heard gunshots outside. That scared the crap out of me.”
Sandefur says that although she couldn’t see what happened, it was clear that something was wrong. “I heard two gunshots,” she said, “and almost immediately after that I heard squealing tires. I was pretty spooked. That’s definitely not what you’re used to in Ojai.”
Capt. Chris Dunn, Ojai’s police chief, stated that Ojai Avenue was closed in the area of the incident from 10 p.m. on Monday until 3 a.m. Tuesday so law enforcement could collect evidence.
The suspect was hospitalized for at least one gunshot wound and is now under the care of doctors in a Santa Barbara hospital according to Muñoz. No information about the suspect’s condition was available as of press time Thursday.
By Misty Volaski
Ojai property owners will get bit of a break on their property taxes in coming years, announced John Isom of Isom Advisors at last Tuesday’s Ojai Unified School District board meeting.
The OUSD has refunded several outstanding general obligations bonds, a move administrators said would save the district’s property owners more than half a million dollars in taxes. The refunding bonds, totaling $5.445 million, were originally authorized by 71 percent of voters in the November 1997 election and were used to repair and upgrade OUSD elementary schools, as well as Matilija Junior High School and Nordhoff High School. Leaky roofs were repaired, and wiring and plumbing replaced; libraries and classrooms were also renovated, according to documents distributed at last Tuesday’s meeting.
The interest rates on the outstanding bonds from the 1997 authorization ranged from 4.2 percent to 5.1 percent. The interest rates for the new bonds issued in September of this year was 0.67 percent to 3.48 percent. It’s a difference that will save property owners $615,783 over the life of the bond, said Dannielle Pusatere, OUSD assistant superintendent for business and administrative services.
The refinancing of the bonds was authorized by the OUSD board at their Aug. 16 meeting. “Fourteen years ago, the community generously voted to support its schools by improving facilities. When we have an opportunity to save local taxpayers money, we do it,” said Board President Rikki Horne. ” The partnership between the OUSD and the community has been positive and productive for all of us, children and adults alike.”
Said OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser, “Dannielle Pusatere … initiated and managed this important refunding project, which will reduce the tax burden on our constituents for many years.”
The district still has outstanding bonds totaling about $6 million from the 1997 bond authorization. These bonds may be eligible to be refunded in the future, which would further benefit local taxpayers.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
The next time you go to a home football game, look at the advertising banners hanging around the field. The next time you see an ad in the newspaper about an upcoming citywide event such as Ojai Day, the Fourth Of July parade or “Taste of Ojai,” take a look at those who are listed as sponsors. Take note of the donor and sponsor list of the Ojai Education Foundation, the Ojai Music Festival or the Ojai Film Festival. Please let me know if you see Trader Joe’s, Wal-Mart, Staples, Costco or other large out-of-town retailers listed.
You won’t see any. And you never will.
National retailers are interested in one thing: money. They are like TV evangelists who plead with you to give your money to Jesus, but want their name on the check. They do not live in our community, and they are not concerned with it.
Too many small towns have been decimated by big box retailers. It is not a pretty sight. When I lived in south Louisiana in the early 1980s, I saw it firsthand. Lemann Brothers department store was founded in the 1800s and had survived the Civil War, World War I and World War II, only to be taken prisoner and executed by Wal-Mart in the 1980s. The final nail in the coffin of that small Louisiana town was when Wal-Mart decided that the store was not profitable enough, closed it, and left a 50,000-square-foot empty building as a reminder.
I have written many columns urging people to shop at home. I write them because I believe in the absolute importance of keeping as many dollars in the local economy as possible. Not supporting local merchants is like not supporting your family.
And a small town is a family. We live together, work together and play together. We are dependent upon each other for support for common services. That support determines the quality of life we enjoy in our town.
Money spent inside this city stays here. It goes to sustain the people who give jobs to local people. It means tax dollars are available to operate the city government. It gives local businesses the profit they need to stay in business, and to contribute to Help of Ojai, the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation, and the multitude of other nonprofit organizations that perform so many good works in this town — —the organizations and businesses that are the beating heart of Ojai.
Granted, there are some goods or services that are not available locally. But for those that are, local businesses need your support. And though you may be able to find some items or services cheaper by buying them out of town, ask yourself this: What is the real cost of not supporting local merchants?
Report and photo
by Logan Hall
Emotions ran high and tempers flared as Ojai citizens made no secret of their feelings toward Golden State Water Company at GSWC’s public meeting Monday night.
More than 200 people, ranging from citizens to city officials, attended the meeting held at Matilija Auditorium. Although many seats in the large auditorium were empty, several of those who showed up made efforts to have their voices heard. As GSWC attorney Joe Conner presented Golden State’s stance on Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water’s push to oust the company from the city, citizens heckled and retorted from their seats around the auditorium.
“We do not have a system that’s mismanaged,” commented Conner on Golden State’s operations.
“Oh please!” cried one irate citizen, interrupting Conner.
“Yeah right!” exclaimed another.
“That’s bull s—!” yelled a man near the front row who was clearly upset with Conner’s statements.
Prior to outbursts from the crowd, which flared up throughout the presentation, Conner was attempting to explain the legal process of a takeover of Golden State by Casitas Municipal Water District through eminent domain, as outlined in F.L.O.W.’s proposal. “This is not a simple process,” he said. “It takes a long time. It’s not going to be a slam dunk.”
Conner claimed that the expensive process that other cities like Felton in Santa Cruz County have had to endure would happen to the citizens of Ojai if a similar takeover process were initiated in Ojai. Conner represented American Water Works Company in its fight to hold onto its water market in Felton, but the company’s attempts failed. Felton’s water supply is now operated by a public utility, the San Lorenzo Valley Water District.
Conner told the throngs of angry citizens that Golden State was not looking to give up its Ojai market any time soon. “Quite simply folks,” said Conner, whose office is based out of Tennessee, “it’s not for sale. Golden State doesn’t run systems to sell systems.”
Conner, along with fellow GSWC representative and Golden State Vice President of operations Pat Scanlon, had to repeatedly request that citizens act respectfully after continual outbursts from the crowd seemed to derail the company’s presentation.
“I’d say we’re being very respectful,” called out Golden State customer Lenny Klaif, “considering how angry we are.”
Many public officials attended the meeting, including CMWD board members, Ojai City Council members and Ojai city manager Rob Clark, among others. Ojai Mayor Carol Smith gave a statement about Golden State’s steadily rising water rates that seemed to reverberate throughout the crowd. “We have a lot of old people in Ojai that can’t pay for water,” said Smith. “This is unsustainable. What are you doing to help your customers?”
Local citizen Miles Weiss, who is an attorney with the county’s district attorney’s office, spoke to GSWC and his fellow members of the public. “Your returns were up 45 percent,” said Weiss, who stresses that he did not represent the DA’s office and the district attorney has no stance or involvement in the matter. “You beat Wall Street, but you’re still not satisfied. I find that appalling.”
One citizen, GSWC customer and Ojai Valley Sanitary District board member Stan Greene, seemed to captivate the crowd and elicited cheers after delivering his statement. “We own the water,” Greene told Golden State’s representatives. “You don’t. We will hurt you if you hurt us. Don’t underestimate our community. We won’t quit!”
Golden State has set another public meeting for Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. at Nordhoff High School.
Watch the OVN In Depth interview with attorney Joe Conner
Report and photo
by Logan Hall
A 25-foot column of water erupted Monday after a fire hydrant in the Persimmon Hill area was sheared off by an unknown cause. Ventura County Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department officials believe a vehicle struck the hydrant, but no one saw what actually caused the hydrant to blow.
“It looks like someone hit it,” said firefighter Steve Gearhardt, pointing at a black smudge on the hydrant’s yellow paint.
Sheriff’s deputies also believe someone crashed into the hydrant, but say there’s not much information to work with. “We think that it was a vehicle,” said VCSD Deputy Leon Mah who responded to the incident. “There were no witnesses though so we can’t be sure.”
Portions of Saddle Lane were inundated with water but no serious damage was reported. “It looks like a river,” said 9-year-old Eliana Davis, who lives nearby and had just gotten off the school bus as water continued to shoot into the sky.
“All of the kids on the bus were checking it out,” said Stacy Cadenasso, who met Davis at the bus stop. Glancing over her shoulder at the would-be geyser she added, “This is nuts!”
Golden State Water Company technicians were on scene just minutes after water began pumping onto the street and worked quickly to quell the torrent that ensued. The hydrant erupted just hours before a public meeting scheduled to be held in town by GSWC.
By Misty Volaski
For the sixth year in a row, Ojai schools have performed better on state tests than their Ventura County and California peers. Ojai Unified School District students earned an Academic Performance Index score of 803 in the spring of 2011 — 11 points higher than the Ventura County average, and 16 points higher than the overall California average.
The overall district API score is a number based on students’ scores from the California Standards Tests, taken by students in grades two through 11. The individual school API is based on the test scores of the students in the relevant grades; in Ojai, two through six, seven and eight, and nine through 11.
“The API score is used as one indicator to identify the academic performance of schools and school districts,” said OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser. The state standard is to reach a score of 800 by 2014. The API score is completely separate from the federal government’s Adequate Yearly Progress standard, which mandates that a certain percentage of students must reach at least “proficiency” on the various subject tests. That required percentage goes up about 10 percent every year, with the expectation that 100 percent of students will reach “proficiency” by 2014 — “a benchmark criticized by educators nationwide as absurd and ridiculous. I completely agree with that characterization,” said Bangser.
Despite this, and despite larger class sizes, less funding — and therefore fewer intervention programs for at-risk students — OUSD’s 2011 test results weren’t negative as a whole. At Tuesday night’s OUSD board meeting, Marilyn Smith, director of elementary education, Emily Mostovoy, Matilija Junior High School principal, and Greg Bayless, Nordhoff High School assistant principal in charge of curriculum and instruction, presented their students’ CST results, and detailed the steps they’re taking at each school site to continue to work on improvement.
Highlights for OUSD included maintaining a district-wide API score of over 800 for the past three years (808 in 2009, 815 in 2010, and 803 in 2011).
Nordhoff High School
There were significant API gains for special education students at Nordhoff High School. “They had a fabulous year,” said Bangser. According to Nordhoff’s 2011 CST Report, in the area of reading and language arts, students with disabilities “improved dramatically from 2010 .… almost a 100 percent increase in 2011.” In geometry, NHS socio-economically disadvantaged students out-performed their peers in the county by 13 percent. The Caucasian subgroup saw a 15-point increase over 2010 in world history, and the Latino subgroup improved 13 points over their 2010 biology scores.
However, Nordhoff’s overall API dropped for the second year in a row; its score of 776 put it at five points below the county-wide mean. It is also now six points back from the county mean in English Language Arts, and 10 points behind the county in Algebra 2.
Matilija Junior High
At Matilija, from 2009 to 2001, students improved their AYP math proficiency scores 5.4 percent. All subgroups improved, with English learners improving even more as a subgroup (7.8 percent). In the last 10 years, the Matilija has enjoyed a 98-point API gain (from 720 in 2002 to 818 in 2011), and has exceeded the 800 mark for three years. It is 26 points ahead of the Ventura County mean for middle schools.
However, in English Language Arts, MJHS Caucasian students’ scores dropped by 7.6 points, Hispanic-Latino scores dropped 8.8 points, and socio-economically disadvantaged students dropped 4.4 points.
At the elementary level, Meiners Oaks and Summit elementary schools came in with API scores of under 800 (779 and 791, respectively). However, the other three, Topa Topa, Mira Monte and San Antonio, posted above 800, with Mira Monte posting the highest at 853. They’re slightly above the state and county proficiency rates in reading and language arts, but slightly below the county and almost seven points behind the state proficiency rate in math. As a group, OUSD students in fourth and fifth grade met their AYP targets for reading and language arts (sixth grade fell one point short). Scores for math, increased for grade three but declined in sixth grade. Socio-economically disadvantaged students have made “substantial growth” in the last six years in reading and language arts, but math continues to be a problem, particularly for grades two, four and five.
According to the Elementary Accountability Progress Report, “With the second year of enVision math, we believe we can achieve better results in all elementary math instruction especially in the strands of number sense, fractions, decimals, algebra readiness, and problem solving.”
Strategies for Improvement
At Nordhoff, reteaching sessions are paramount, said Bayless. Freshmen students failing or getting a D by the first-quarter progress reports are scheduled for reteaching in one or more subjects twice a week and will utilize peer tutors (this is a refinement of the existing peer tutoring program). Students with multiple Ds and F will temporarily forfeit their elective for a study hall. Several other programs are in the works, including summer math programs (computerized), said Bayless, who added that the continued efforts to improve technology in the classroom will “better engage students in their learning … We have seen excellent results in our pilot program to tie second semester grades to student performance on the CST-STAR test.” Further, “We are launching a school-wide effort to improve the frequency of non-fiction reading in all classes, particularly in electives (art, music, etc.) in an effort just to get students reading more, being exposed to relevant content-area specific vocabulary, etc.”
Matilija has similar strategies, said principal Mostovoy, and teachers work closely with sixth- and ninth-grade teachers to ensure the continuation of support programs for individual students. There are two Algebra 1 support classes (requiring kids to give up their elective course), a once-a-month Saturday math class, and an after-school Homework Club, which meets three times a week. For English Language Arts, there’s the Inside Reading Program, the individualized online program, Reading Plus, and tutorial enrichment, among others. “One hundred percent of our teachers will be attending additional professional development workshops,” Mostovoy said.
The five valley elementary schools use various intervention methods as well. “It might be as simple as a homework club after school or a very prescriptive intervention — these students need help with phonemic awareness,’” said Smith. “Many of the elementary schools group students according to ability during a portion of the day to further refine the strategies and delivery of instruction. In November through January the schools will identify all these interventions in the Single Plan for Student Achievement.” She added that each school is specifically targeting instructional programs for English learners, refining the enVision math curriculum to include tech support for teachers.
On Wednesday an Ojai couple was contacted by an imposter posing as an agent for the “FBI,” stating that they were entitled to a large sum of money and that a local law enforcement official would be contacting them to make arrangements for delivery of the money — all they had to do was wire a sum of money to receive their funds.
Thursday morning another imposter, posing as Sheriff Dean, called them confirming it was a legitimate deal and he had all the paperwork necessary to complete the transaction. They were told to meet the sheriff at his office at 1 p.m. to receive the required paperwork. They showed up for their appointment, which is how the Sheriff’s Department found out about this scam.
Remember if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. No law enforcement officer will ever notify you of any winnings, lottery or other inheritance. If you have any questions or have been victimized by this scam, contact your local law enforcement agency as soon as possible.
Do not be fooled by these scam artists, they are very good at what they do. Always protect your hard-earned assets.
By Logan Hall
Golden State Water Company is gearing up to publicly address the citizens of Ojai regarding Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water’s push to oust the company from the valley.
In a notice sent to its Ojai customers, GSWC says the meeting will provide information regarding F.L.O.W’s bid to have Casitas Municipal Water District take over Golden State’s Ojai customer base through eminent domain. The meeting is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. in the Matilija Junior High School Auditorium.
Ken Peterson, GSWC’s coastal district manager, says that experts will be on hand to provide information and take questions from the public. “Our company reps. will have important facts regarding the eminent domain process in California,” said Peterson. “It’s not in the public’s interest for a government entity to attempt a hostile takeover of the GSWC water system for customers in Ojai.”
In a meeting held by Golden State at Nordhoff High School regarding the company’s Urban Water Management Plan, the roughly 20 people present seemed to care little about the company’s UWMP and more about the steadily increasing water rates that Ojai customers are complaining about. This time around, Golden State says they will field questions about their stance on F.L.O.W. and its efforts. “The public will have the opportunity to comment and ask questions at the conclusion,” said Peterson. “Each speaker will be given three minutes. We’re following the procedure of city council meetings.”
Local F.L.O.W. advocate Lenny Klaif, who attended Golden State’s previous public meeting, hopes to see a packed house at Monday night’s meeting. “I hope that we fill the place and make it clear to Golden State that we’d like them to leave town,” Klaif said. “The more the merrier. We have strength in numbers.”
In the company’s last meeting, those in attendance weren’t shy about voicing their disappointment in the company’s planning. Complaints were geared toward GSWC’s inadequate directions to the meeting’s location and the company’s lack of an amplification system. “They should be embarrassed about the last meeting,” said Klaif.
Peterson says that this time around, the company will be properly prepared to address the public. “We will have a microphone and speakers,” he said.
By Logan Hall
Illegal marijuana cultivators’ operations in the mountains north of Ojai are going up in smoke. A growing effort by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department to shut down the gardens has culminated in the eradication of more than 153,000 pot plants this year, an increase of 27,000 plants from last year, according to department records.
In a press release from the VCSD, the Narcotics Unit details some of its efforts in the battle against illegal growers.
In July, the Ojai Valley News reported on a seizure of more than 68,000 marijuana plants by the VCSD and other local agencies near Pine Mountain up Maricopa Highway. “This was the single largest marijuana cultivation in Ventura County History,” read a Sheriff’s Department report. “… (it) has brought to the forefront another dangerous aspect of outdoor marijuana cultivation — the non-regulated use of poisons and the environmental damage associated with it.”
VCSD officials say that poisons and other harmful materials regularly used at illegal grow sites can be devastating to nearby plant and animal life. “In practically every marijuana garden eradicated by narcotics detectives,” the report continues, “large stores of agriculture-related chemicals were found. The unregulated use of commercial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides used by marijuana growers has severely impacted not only the environment near the grow site, but the environment and much of the habitat farther down stream.”
Sgt. Mike Horne, of the VCSD narcotics unit, reiterates the effects chemicals can have on local environments. “They use the stuff as fertilizers and pesticides,” he said. “We’re really stressing the environmental damage that these guys cause. Feel what you want about marijuana, but if you go up there and look at what these growers are doing to the environment, you’d see just how bad it is. Its effects things for miles and miles around.”
The report indicates that certain poisons used in marijuana gardens are also harmful to humans as well as the environment. “Detectives received reports from other county narcotic task forces,” reads the report, “that point to the discovery of some of these banned poisons found in undiluted states. Exposure to these banned poisons, absent any safety precautions, could have perilous effects similar to that of nerve gas on humans.”
VCSD representatives say that 22 people were arrested for marijuana cultivation and that the suspects were originally from all over Southern California, including Ventura, Riverside County and Visalia. Department records show that Ventura County led Southern California in marijuana cultivation arrests.
The Sheriff’s Department urges anyone who uses the county’s backcountry to keep their eyes peeled for any suspicious activity relating to marijuana growers and grow sites.
Horne, who grew up in the valley, stresses the importance of keeping one’s radar up when in local national forests. “I’m from Ojai,” He said. “I know a lot of people spend a lot of time in those mountains. Just be aware. If you start seeing a water line or you see people that look like they don’t fit in, just get away and call us. My guys are getting really good at this. We can do wonders with a location and a vehicle description.”
Anyone with any information regarding illegal marijuana gardens can call Ventura County Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Janis Clapoff is leaving the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, and I hate it. She gave me the news Monday night while I was at Jimmy’s Pub enjoying food and football. I didn’t enjoy much of either after I heard she was leaving.
Janis is a special person, and I will miss her a great deal. I will miss her straightforwardness and her sense of humor. I will miss our lunches together, her 2:30 a.m. e-mails, and her “lead-follow-or-get-the-hell-out-of-the-way” attitude.
The first time I really sat down and talked to Janis was when I started running the newspaper on a day-to-day basis. She knew I was moving to town, and asked me how I was settling in. I told her that Ava had ordered a lot of things I would need, and Victoria Adam had been a big help in setting up my apartment. She asked me what I was missing. I told her I was pretty well set on everything but bed linens, as they were on back order. “We can fix that!” Janis erupted. “We have a lot of sheets!” Janis immediately arranged to loan me a wonderful set of sheets. How can you not love that?
Janis has been dedicated to running a world-class facility in a community she loves. She was instrumental in launching the popular Arts and Leisure Series. Proceeds from some of those events went to local groups such as the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation and the Ojai Education Foundation. She has worked tirelessly to make the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa a partner with the local community. I know that whatever Janis decides to do, it will be done with her trademark professionalism and style, and I wish her the very best.
A banker friend of mine told me a story once about the boss he worked for, whom he called the meanest man in America. An old gentleman also worked at the bank, and had been there for a very long time. He was well-known and liked by the entire community. One day he died unexpectedly, and my friend mourned to his boss, “How will we ever replace Mr. Joe?”
Without missing a beat, his boss said, “The cemetery is full of irreplaceable people.”
His boss was right. People come and go, and life goes on. The inn is a world-class organization, and a top-flight manager will be hired. Resort manager Shaun O’Bryan will act as interim director. Shaun is a great guy, and will do an excellent job. So the Ojai Valley Inn will go on, and the Earth will continue to rotate on its axis as it travels around the sun.
But it’s all going to be a lot less fun without Janis around.
By Logan Hall
Ventura County Fire Department arson investigators have concluded their investigation into a Casitas Springs fire that claimed the life of 70-year-old Thomas Real. Battalion Chief Steve Winter, who is in charge of the VCFD’s planning and investigation, said that his team had not found a definitive cause for the fire, but believe it to be accidental, despite speculation by the victim’s neighbors.
“As far as the cause of the fire itself goes,” said Winter, “we are officially calling it undetermined. We didn’t find any indication of a drug lab and it appears to be accidental, but without the actual cause, or anything that looked suspicious, we’ve closed the case.”
Winter says that because the fire burned most of the home, not much was left to be investigated. “We couldn’t pinpoint an exact cause,” he continued, “due to the extent of the fire damage. It (the home) was a complete loss.”
The OVN made attempts to find out if there was a relief fund for the family, but no indications of a benefit or service has been made public.
“We weren’t called to respond to that,” said Dale Hanson, chairperson of the Ojai Valley chapter of the American Red Cross of Ventura County. “Usually the Fire Department calls us right away if there is a need for us, but we didn’t get the call. They must not have needed us.”
Real was pulled by firefighters from his burning home in the Casitas Mobile Home Park on Nye Road on Oct. 7, but had already suffered third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body. Rescuers were able to revive him at the scene, but he died from his injuries at the hospital later that afternoon, according to Ventura County Medical Examiner reports.
By Logan Hall and Misty Volaski
An Oak View man died tragically in what the California Highway Patrol is calling a non-contact hit-and-run traffic collision. Eusebio Martinez, 50, was pronounced dead at the scene after his Chevy Silverado collided with a big-rig truck on Highway 126 at Old Telegraph Road near Fillmore on Friday, according to a CHP press release.
Family members said Martinez, a father of two, was an Army veteran, motor cross enthusiast and woodworker who specialized in flooring. He died just three days before his 25th wedding anniversary, said his daughter Jessica, 18.
Authorities say a vehicle, described by eyewitnesses as a gold Nissan Murano, was traveling south on Old Telegraph when it turned right, failed to stop at a stop sign, and headed westbound onto the 126. The Nissan entered the highway directly in front of a big-rig truck driven by Ionut Rusu, a 30-year-old British Columbia man, said the press release. Rusu applied the brakes and steered his truck left, veering into oncoming lanes of traffic in an attempt to avoid the Nissan, the report continued.
According to CHP spokesman Steve Reid, Martinez saw Rusu’s big-rig heading toward him and took “evasive action” by steering to the right. Martinez was unable to avoid the big-rig and was struck on the driver’s side of his Chevy by the front of Rusu’s truck and pushed into a dirt and grass area adjacent to the highway.
The Nissan fled the scene traveling westbound on the 126, according to CHP reports. Reid said the driver of the Nissan was not identified. “We’re asking for help from the public,” said Reid. “Anyone that witnessed the incident or has any information should give us a call right away.”
“I understand people make mistakes,” said Martinez’s youngest daughter Jessica. “Sometimes you just have to take responsibility, though. My family is really hurting. My dad was amazing, he always knew what to say to make you feel better. He made me determined to succeed and push myself. Even if (the person) just would have stayed and tried to help him, I would understand. I just want whoever it is that did this, I would just like them to take responsibility for what they did.”
Anyone who has information on the incident is urged to contact Ventura area CHP officers at 477-4100.
By Misty Volaski
Susana Arce just can’t quite leave the Ojai Unified School District. The 1960 Nordhoff High School graduate returned to the valley after college, where she has taught and acted as assistant principal for 44 years before retiring earlier this year. But even in retirement, she’s still actively involved in the community, working with kids and parents independently. She’s also working with Nordhoff High School’s Health Sciences Academy as the community coordinator, helping kids get local health internships.
“I’m still plenty involved! I just care,” she said. “My father taught me that — he was always bringing people home to eat dinner and he gave so much money away, too. Being kind to others isn’t a job or task, it’s just what you are moved to do.”
It’s this commitment to the youths of the Ojai Valley that has inspired the Ojai Education Foundation to honor Arce as its Education Hero of the Year. “I was shocked!” said Arce. “I was stunned. Educators don’t usually get rewards. We do the job because we love what we’re doing, without any expectation for accolades.”
OEF board member Joanna Iwata, along with Nordhoff High School principal Dan Musick and several others, spoke about Arce’s dedication as an educator last Thursday at the OEF’s annual fund-raising breakfast. Ojai Unified School District President Rikki Horne said of Arce, “She is a legend. For her it’s always been for the kids’ benefit. To me, she epitomizes it better than anyone I know — kids first. Kids are her priority and passion. She’s the consummate professional.”
Said OUSD superintendent and OEF board member Hank Bangser, “In my 38 years as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and superintendent in five school districts, I have never met a professional educator who is more passionate about the people who live in her school district than Susie Arce. She is a true treasure of Nordhoff. I am honored to have worked with her in the last two years of her fabulous career.”
But honoring an Education Hero of the Year was only a portion of the OEF breakfast last week. Teachers and administrators presented OEF donors with an overview of the past year’s successes, from the installation of high-tech Smart Boards across the district to the realization of John Slade’s Shakespeare in Action program, thanks to an OEF minigrant. “The OEF breakfast served as the culmination of hundreds of volunteer hours donated by the members of the OEF board of directors, on which I sit as a proud member,” Bangser said. “The board is comprised of citizens who are completely committed to the excellence of public education in the Ojai Valley. The School District is intensely appreciative of their efforts and to all of our donors.”
Iwata noted that it’s the support of those donors, both individuals and businesses, that keep the OEF going. “When we all understand that it does take a whole village to support our teachers and our youth in the valley, we then also understand that no matter how dire the situation is when we are facing major state and federal budget cuts affecting our educational systems throughout the nation — we can make a difference locally!”
Donors echoed those sentiments. For the second year in a row, Vintage Production California, a Bakersfield-based oil and gas company with operations in the Ojai area, donated $10,000 to the OEF. Susie Geiger, director of external relations, said, “Education is really a focus for us. We’re training the next generation of engineers, geologists, HR people, accountants — every (occupation) that makes up our business! But also, we really like to be a part of the community. We have employees who live in the area, in Ojai and Santa Paula, and we really want to focus community efforts where it will make a difference. We are pleased with what (OEF) has been able to accomplish.”
Ojai Community Bank CEO and President Dave Brubaker said OCB chose to support the OEF because “They do great work, and they’re able to put money where the teachers need it. They’re sustainable, they’re consistent — it’s not a one-trick pony. They’re able to build on what they give and make a real difference.”
Ojai Valley News publisher and owner Bill Buchanan said the OVN is happy to donate to the OEF. “Nothing is more critical to the success of our town, state and nation than the education of our children,” said Buchanan. “The OEF provides a vital service to the school system by filling in some of the funding gaps that practically all school systems now face. We applaud their efforts and are happy to play a role in their continued support of our schools.”
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa resort manager Shaun O’Bryan, also an OEF board member and the parent of three OUSD students, said, “The OVYF and OEF are our charities for this year. For us to support the youth of Ojai through through the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation and the OEF is really very important to the Ojai Valley Inn and the Crown family. What keeps Ojai alive is taking care of your youths. I see OEF (successes) in action; those donations are filtering down and getting through to kids. That money is getting back to where it’s supposed to be and it’s making a difference. And what I love is that the people (OEF volunteers) are so very passionate, and they aren’t always parents. A lot of them are just doing this for the well-being of the youth in Ojai. That’s a big statement to me.”
Log on to ojaief.org for information on donating to the OEF.
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa’s owner, Steve Crown, announced Tuesday the resignation of his managing director, Janis Clapoff. Of her departure, Crown commented, “Janis has done an incredible job here at the inn during her three-year tenure, and we are going to miss her, but we wish her the best in her exciting new endeavors. To mention only a few of her accomplishments while at the inn, Janis launched the popular Arts and Leisure Series, she oversaw the construction of our new herb garden pool, she managed the resort in a challenging economy and built a great team as the economy began to improve. We thank her for all she has done for us.”
Clapoff came to the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa from Hawaii three and a half years ago and has been very involved in the community of Ojai. She leaves her position to begin an entrepreneurial project on which she comments, “If I don’t pursue it now, I never will.” Clapoff has served on many boards in the Ojai area and has been involved in several nonprofit groups as well. Clapoff, who has two teenage children at Ojai Valley School and Villanova Preparatory School, has made a pivotal decision to change careers at this stage of her life to spend more time with her family.
“I am saddened to leave the inn at this particular time; however, I leave behind a superb team of professionals who will carry the torch forward. Shaun O’Bryan, our resort manager, will continue to uphold our tradition of excellence until a new managing director is selected,” said Clapoff.
Report and photos by Logan Hall
An unidentified man was taken to Ojai Valley Community Hospital Friday afternoon after his car was allegedly being rear-ended by an elderly woman on Ojai Avenue in front of Matilija Junior High School. According to responding Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies, the man – driving a green Mercedes sedan – was traveling eastbound on Ojai Avenue and was slowing down behind traffic just east of Country Club Drive. The woman, who was driving a blue Honda Accord, was also traveling east on Ojai Avenue when she hit the man from behind, officials said. The woman told responding Ventura County firefighters from Ojai Station 21that she was OK and didn’t need to be taken to the hospital.
Deputy Chris Loes says that the stretch of road where the collision took place is a problem spot. “This is a bad intersection,” said Loes pointing toward the light at Country Club and Ojai Avenue. “A lot of these cars come through too fast.”
At Tuesday’s Ojai City Council meeting, 11-year-old Summit Elementary School student Nick Rainwater was honored with the “Mayor for a Day” distinction. The competition, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Ojai and Ojai Youth Connect, had 74 essay entries from local schoolchildren. Rainwater’s winning entry included ideas for improvements to the Skate Park, the creation of more lookouts for citizens to appreciate the beauty of our valley, and a public pool built at Sarzotti Park. Mayor Carol Smith lauded the youngster, saying, “Our youth are leaders and problem-solvers,” and are one of the valley’s most valuable resources.
Below is Rainwater’s letter:
If I were Ojai mayor for the day, I would put out more benches for people who need to take a breather. One way to raise money for the city would be to go around and sell people everyday items such as flashlights or staplers to help small businesses.
I would hook up the skate park bathrooms to the sewer.I would make pencils out of compressed newspapers and give them to homeless people to sell.
I would have city workers fix broken sidewalks and put up a pretty big bug zapper to punish those annoying gnats. I would invite a world leader to Ojai and have a conference with him.
I would have a toy exchange day at Libbey Park.I could set up tables and have lots of kids come from around town.I could bring a bunch of soccer balls for kids to play with and take home with them if they want to.
I would help raise money to build a public pool at Sarzotti Park for the people who can’t go to the private pools.I would also have more lookouts off the road so people can see how beautiful our town is.I really want to help people and make Ojai the best place it can possibly be, although it is pretty great already.
We can encourage the people to get really energy-efficient cars so that our town can top the nation.We could hold a contest like this every year and make a monument noting all the kids who were mayor for the day for about 10 years or however long we want it to be.
It would be the best feeling in the world if a kid could be mayor for the day so he could spend it helping other people.
So these are the reasons I would like to be mayor for the day. I want to have fun and make Ojai a better place at the same time. I love Ojai. I hope I can be mayor for the day.
If I Were Mayor …
• “I would make every food organic.” — Natasha Kowalczyk, age 7
• “I’d help the homeless to find a home and a job. I would like to help foster children and abused women and children find new homes. I would make mean kids run one lap when they are mean. If people don’t follow the rules they have to walk people’s dogs for free.” — Brayden Malleck, age 11
• “Ojai is having a lot of issues with the schools right now. They don’t have much money, but they are trying and that’s what counts.” — Jennifer Patino, age 12
• “I will give money to the president.” — Josephine Hartmann, age 6
• “Finding homes for stray cats and dogs is one of the things I would do to help Ojai. This would make any town better because citizens will act better if they have a friend. Animals make great friends and everyone should have one.” — Peter Appleby, age 12
• “If I was Mayor for a Day I would have an awesome mustache contest.” — Tyson Lee, age 9
• “I would put a BMX track in (Ojai) because when the BMX people come into the skate park they act like they’re the boss and hit the skaters. When you lay your scooter, bike, or anything metal on the ground it can chip the cement and that makes it dangerous for skaters.” — Ruby England, age 10
• “If I was Mayor I would give kids less math tests and spelling tests and more reading books.” — Jose, age 9
• “I like Ojai because it is a nice peaceful town. The oak trees are old and fresh and they are big and old.” — Angel Gomez, age 10
• “Maybe they should have a parade go down Ojai Ave. every three weeks on Friday night, it would give stores more business.” — Jessica Donohue, age 10
• “I would build an arcade, the kind that has old game machines like PacMan and Dig Dug. It would be where all the kids go after school. It would also be perfect for father-son time. Some adults would even come because it would remind them of when they were young.” — Torrey Nicholson, age 10
• “I will make sure every person has a voice.” — Eden Metzger, age 9
• “If I was Mayor I would pay all the bills and taxes then I’d have some fun.” — Caleb Duke, age 9
• “I would help kids read books and end world hunger.” — Dylan Taing, age 9
• “I would have the old bowling alley up and running so lots of kids and their families could enjoy the beautiful sight of Ojai while playing one of their favorite all-time games. Just think while you walk by the bowling alley you could hear the excitement and happiness of the players that just won.” — Hailey McKay, age 10
• “Ojai should have a mascot and the mascot should be a bear because we have bears come down to Ojai and we have bears in our mountains.” — Tyler Oswald, age 11
• “I would give money to the homeless. Give money to the schools. And free ice cream.” — Oliver Wynn, age 9
• “I would make sure nobody has any weapons.” — Grant Booner, age 9
• “I would make sure the streets are clean and the electricity is working.” — Chase Platt, age 9
• “I would go around Ojai and look for stray animals. Once I found a stray animal I would groom them, feed them and pet them.” — Zoe Damianos, age 9
• “If I was Mayor of Ojai I would make good laws that were new.” — Sebastian Cruz, age 8
• “The first thing I would do is have fundraisers for money. Then I would make sure every student in Ojai schools would have what they needed for school.” — Naomi Declerck, age 9
• “I would make sure if somebody needs help they would get help and if somebody falls I will help them up and cure it.” — Sandy Brown, age 8
• “I would make sure parks are clean, no graffiti at kids parks and all adults get along.” — Christian, age 9
• “I would make sure kids play fair and follow the rules. Most importantly people should not be violent because it is not good for kids.” — Abigail Sustaita, age 9
• “I would put in a cooler, better, bigger and closer water park. It would be cool if one slide was 300 feet and was twisty and you had to sit on an inner tube to go down it.” — Ava Drury, age 10
• “I would make sure that everything is OK and I would want to go to Taco Bell.” — Richie Trevino, age 10
• “If I was mayor I would put sidewalks all along Creek Road because my home only has dirt. I would make a big area on Creek Road that was just a long smooth sidewalk so that people could rollerblade and skateboard.” — Sage Lang, age 10
• “Even though I’m only a fifth-grader, I can still think of great ideas.” — Oliver, age 10
By Tiobe Barron
Skaters and other park users might not be the only ones filling up the Ojai Skate Park rest room pit, according to Ojai city staff reports. At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Greg Grant, city engineer, divulged to the council that Skate Ojai President Chet Hilgers had caught someone illegally dumping unidentified matter into the park’s pit toilets.
Hilgers was driving by the area with his wife and child Monday around 8:30 p.m. when he observed something peculiar: a white Ford truck, possibly an F-350, parked by the rest rooms rolling up a sewage line from the restrooms into the bed of the truck. Hilgers immediately turned around as the truck pulled onto Ojai Avenue heading eastbound, and followed the vehicle until he was able to obtain the license plate number. He then called the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, which ran the plate number. The department let Hilgers know the plate number was “conflicted,” meaning it had two registered addresses, one in Santa Paula, one in Simi Valley, and was in all likelihood a stolen vehicle.
Hilgers described the driver as being a white man, approximately in his 60s, wearing glasses and a blue-collared shirt. In the meantime, the city was alerted of the incident, and is having to spend approximately $900 to have the liquid that was dumped tested for contaminants. “This adds a wrinkle to the whole ‘wilderness toilet’ thing,” said Hilgers. “It begs the question, ‘Why didn’t they take the (approximately) thousand gallon tank somewhere else?’”
Frank Sheltren, of Frank’s Rooter, who is responsible for regularly removing the waste from the wilderness bathrooms at the Ojai Skate Park, said he doesn’t know if the liquid matter being dumped was sewage from a recreational vehicle, or waste from a meth lab. According to Sheltren, it could be anything the culprit did not want to be responsible for. Until the city gets the lab results back, it will not know whether the matter is organic. If the dumped matter is contaminated, it will not be able to be removed in accordance with normal procedure. According to city officials, if that is the case, the bathrooms at the Skate Park could be closed for Ojai Day, necessitating the use of Porta-potties for the event, which would also be at the city’s expense.
The Ojai Unified School District, which owns the property that the park occupies, was recently granted permission to link up to the school district’s existing sewage line, allowing for more permanent, conventional rest rooms at the park. Hilgers said he really would like to “compliment the city, the Sanitation District, and Bob Daddi for being so diligent on that,” and for seeing the plans for the upgrade through.
Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call Sgt. Steve Arthur at 646-1414.
By Tiobe Barron
The Ojai City Council and Redevelopment Agency are currently looking for ways to spend approximately $25,000 in RDA funding within the city. The council discussed, at length, its Home Rehabilitation Loan Program Policy during Tuesday night’s council meeting.
According to city records, the agency can distribute the funds in either direct or deferred loans, which will allow home rehabilitation to people of need. The applicant must have a household income of $57,000 per year or less for a family of two, or $71,200 per year for a family of four, in order to be eligible. Steve McClary, assistant to the city manager, said he expects more interest in this program, due to the fact that it is much more difficult in today’s market to obtain loans.
The document detailing the policy does have some bugs that need to be worked out. Council members brought up concerns such as inadvertent use of the term “grant” with regard to the funds to be parceled out, who has the authority to issue the loans, how to go about selecting applicants, the distinction of applicants between owner-investors versus owner-occupants in need of assistance, the requirement that the occupant provide council with all prior permits for remodeled homes, and how the workload would be distributed.
The majority of the council seemed in agreement that they should handle the loans in-house, and keep the banks out of it. McClary emphasized his need to “make it clear to the council — this policy currently exists, and it’s time for an overhaul.”
Councilwoman Carlon Strobel voiced her gratitude that the issue had come before the council, because it offers the opportunity for clarification. She said she believed the loans are “an excellent idea, but we need to be very careful how we do it.” Strobel then moved to redraft the document and bring it forward again at a later date.
Councilwoman Sue Horgan requested that the staff re-prioritize the agenda for the next scheduled council meeting. Mayor Carol Smith bemoaned the increasingly extensive agenda, stating, “It leaves me with the sense that nothing is being accomplished.” She suggested they address the issue at the council’s upcoming goal-setting meeting on Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ojai Recreation Department gymnasium.
Two items were pulled from the agenda, due to a need for language clarification and correction of typographical errors. The council will therefore discuss the Parks and Recreation Commission’s volunteer policy and documents — as well as a resolution establishing ticket and pass distribution guidelines in accordance with Fair Political Practices Commission regulations — at the next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 25. Strobel expressed a desire to not table these issues outright, saying, “I prefer going through these discussions openly.” Mayor pro-tem Betsy Clapp added that these concerns were “better asked in public.” Mayor Smith maintained that she “prefers to wait (to discuss the items) until they come back.”
In another topic brought up during Tuesday’s meeting, citizen Leonard Klaif stood to voice a concern that the Ojai Art Center gave the city an easement for property bordering City Hall 15 years ago, with the provision that the neighboring fence be maintained. Klaif displayed recent photos showing the fence in utter disrepair, and citing a complaint he had previously filed with the council, and declared the neglect “disgraceful.”
OVN reporter Logan Hall contributed to this report
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
As another baseball season enters the playoffs and the World Series, Major League Baseball is considering doing something that should have been done long ago — banning chewing tobacco and dip tobacco from the field. It is likely that this issue will be included in the next players-management agreement discussions.
It is long overdue.
Aside from the fact that spitting tobacco juice all over everything is pretty disgusting, health organizations have argued that the ball players set a bad example for the youth who look up to them.
Despite repeated warnings from the Centers for Disease Control about the dangers of using “smokeless tobacco” (a nice euphemism for chewing tobacco or dipping snuff), a 2009 CDC survey found that 15 percent of high school boys used smokeless tobacco; a significant increase from 11 percent in 2003. These statistics are sobering when you consider that the CDC says smokeless tobacco is addictive and can cause oral health problems, including cancer.
Predictably, some players are already whining about the possible ban. Phrases like “We’re all adults” and “We should get to make our own decisions” are already being bandied about. I’m sorry, that just doesn’t cut it.
Where is it written that baseball players are different than other athletes? Chewing tobacco and snuff have been a part of baseball for many, many years. But why? You don’t see tobacco used in other sports during the course of a game. Basketball players aren’t spitting tobacco juice just before a jump shot. You don’t see soccer players firing up a cigarette before attempting a penalty kick. Football players don’t celebrate a quarterback sack by lighting up a victory cigar. So why is it acceptable in baseball?
Kids idolize athletes. Players who use these products while on the field and in front of television cameras are promoting a dangerous product to impressionable young people — people who are not old enough to make an informed choice. They see their heroes do it, so they figure it is OK.
Charles Barkley, one of my favorite athletes, once said that his job was not to be a role model; his job was to wreak havoc on a basketball court. He once stated, “I don’t believe professional athletes should be role models. I believe parents should be role models.” I agree with him. The only problem is that it doesn’t work that way in real life. Kids see the players as heroes, and they want to emulate them. It was the same when I was a kid. When I was growing up, if Mickey Mantle had said, “I eat a bag of dirt every morning to help me hit home runs,” I would have been ingesting real estate by the bucketful.
The complaining players are right — they are adults. And they ought to be adult enough to put the tobacco away for a few hours. If they are not willing to do that, then they are either not acting responsibly, or they have such a strong addiction that they can’t.
Either way, failure to ban chewing and dip tobacco would be a big strike against baseball.
By Logan Hall
Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water representatives were baffled by the Ojai City Council’s discussion of Golden State Water Company at Tuesday night’s meeting. As confused F.L.O.W. supporters looked on, the council discussed the potential loss of more than $40,000 a year in franchise fees from GSWC if the company is taken over by Casitas through eminent domain.
“Waiving the right to a franchise fee …” said Mayor Carol Smith, “is a big deal in our little city.”
Smith told her fellow council members and Steve McClary, assistant to the city manager, that she hadn’t considered the waiving of the franchise fee and had some reservations about doing so. McClary, who was taking the spot of absent city manager Rob Clark, wanted the council to understand the potential for the loss of the fee if the take-over is successful. “Both Lee (city attorney) and I are concerned,” said McClary. “We’re not convinced that this is the best way to go.”
Although McClary, Smith and the other council members seemed alarmed at the possibility of losing $40,000 a year in compensation, the topic was presented earlier this year and was met with a much different response by city officials. In a previous Ojai Valley News story, Clark was asked about the potential loss of the franchise fee and whether or not the city was concerned about that. “We’re not worried about the franchise fee,” Clark told the OVN in April, in stark contrast to city official’s comments on Tuesday.
“I thought that was dealt with,” a visibly frustrated F.L.O.W. representative, Pat McPherson, told the council about the franchise fee. After the meeting, McPherson alluded to a private meeting between F.L.O.W., Casitas and the city, although he did not disclose details of the meeting’s purpose.
Tuesday’s meeting seemed to frustrate city officials and citizens alike. Smith seemed frustrated with the pace of the discussion and urged her colleagues to quickly finish their statements. “I have one more comment,” said McClary, who was giving a detailed report to the council.
“Make it the last one, please,” Smith told him before other council members made it clear to Smith that the discussion wasn’t over yet.
No decision was made on Tuesday night as to whether the city would give up the franchise fee.
Another topic discussed by the council was the city’s need for legal counsel on the Golden State issue. City staff in conjunction with Ojai’s city attorney, Steve Lee, are urging council members to hire the law firm of Rutan and Tucker, LLP, and more specifically, Jeffery Oderman, a partner with the firm. “Oderman was key in the battle for Felton,” said McClary on Felton F.L.O.W.’s bid for a similar takeover in its town. “We definitely know he’s the guy.”
There were several concerns raised with the potential hiring of Oderman as counsel for the city. Because of the city’s franchise with Golden State, hiring Oderman could create a conflict of interest if Casitas needs to retain Oderman’s services for legal proceedings in the event of a takeover. “We could find ourselves a defendant in the case,” said McClary. “Oderman can’t represent Casitas and us.”
Councilwoman Betsy Clapp agreed that a conflict could jeopardize the process. “I don’t want to see the whole thing fail because of this conflict,” she said.
An administrative report by the city said that Oderman’s firm would cost $375 per hour, not including any other fees. Council members directed city staff to include a $5,000 cap on attorney fees should the city hire the firm.
The council voted to have staff present a revised proposal that would address the council’s concerns.
By Ruth Ballin
In continuing efforts to promote Ojai as a year-round visitor destination, the Ojai Visitors Bureau is bringing two distinct groups for a visit this month to experience firsthand the variety of attractions and activities available for travelers to the Ojai Valley. A group of 15 front-line concierge staff and volunteers from the California Welcome Center Oxnard will come to Ojai on today for a farm trip that includes an innkeepers tour, lunch in the village, a tour of the Ojai Olive Oil ranch, and other popular places. Then from Oct. 19 through 21, the OVB will roll out the red carpet for six travel writers during a three-day press trip themed “Bountiful Ojai: Art, Culture and Cuisine,” highlighting Ojai as a culinary and arts destination. That itinerary will include art studio and gallery tours, a visit to the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, tour of Boccali’s Ranch and Winery, a cooking class at the Ojai Culinary School, a dine-around experience during the Ojai Village progressive dinner and restaurant meals featuring locally grown ingredients.
The group press trip is the fourth such trip hosted by the Ojai Visitors Bureau since its launch in spring 2010; these organized press trips, along with ongoing visits from individual travel writers, have contributed to more than 130 travel articles published about Ojai in the past 18 months.
“The travel media outreach has been a very effective and affordable strategy for increasing tourism revenue for Ojai,” says Cathy Cluff, chair of the OVB Advisory Committee. “More visitors translate into more money for city services and a better business climate for those who rely on tourism for their livelihood.”
The city of Ojai reported an overall 8 percent increase in transient occupancy tax through July 2011 compared to the same period in 2010, and a dramatic increase of 17 increase in sales tax revenue in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same quarter 2010.
The farm trip is the first of its kind since the bureau launched, resulting from a new partnership formed with the California Welcome Center Oxnard, part of a statewide system of 20 welcome centers sanctioned by the California Travel and Tourism Commission. Located right off the 101 freeway at Oxnard Boulevard, just 30 minutes from Ojai, the CWC Oxnard caters to northbound travelers seeking recommendations for a place to stay and things to do as they head up the Central Coast.
“Having an Ojai presence in the California Welcome Center Oxnard, and providing training for front-line staff on what our destination has to offer, will help keep Ojai top-of-mind as a place to recommend when visitors come through the door,” adds Cluff. “Personal experience and knowledge can make all the difference when selling a destination, especially when there are so many options to choose from in this region.”
Funded by the city of Ojai, the Ojai Visitors Bureau is managed by the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce in partnership with an all-volunteer OVB Advisory Committee and the team at Ruth Ballin Marketing and Public Relations. The $160,000 annual destination marketing program is aimed at creating awareness of Ojai as a destination through well-placed travel articles, an enticing destination website (ojaivistors.com), social media efforts, a trip advisor marketing campaign, rack brochures, and other targeted promotions through the year.
“Successful efforts to increase tourism will have a direct impact on the entire Ojai community,” says Chamber CEO Scott Eicher. “Tourism, and specifically increased tourism, is the source of funding that pays for paving our streets and sustaining city services that will keep this town a great place to live. It’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that the OVB efforts are successful.”
By MIsty Volaski
The Ojai Music Festival has been getting a lot of attention this year — first, a prestigious award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; then, the Ventura County Arts Council’s Art Star award for bringing national recognition to Ventura County.
Last week, the organization announced more good news: it has received a $325,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation to “advance financial sustainability within a challenging economic environment.”
Jeff Haydon, OMF executive director, said the award was a major recognition and will provide funds for much-needed infrastructure upgrades to the OMF.
“It’s money to invest in things nobody else really wants to give money for,” he said. “It’ll be used for technology, consulting, infrastructure, audience research.” This will include the further development of the OMF’s website, Ojaifestival.org, as well as the purchase of financial management software, said Haydon. It will also allow OMF to bring in “some real key consulting,” and “to make sure we have ample staff to implement our business operations.”
The technology aspect is vital to any business’s success in this day and age, Haydon went on. “If you think about how the world has changed in the past three to five years, technology has had a huge impact. Now we’ll have the venture capital to say, yes, the website needs to change, and how does the way we communicate with our audience change? How do we track donations?”
And, since the OMF must comply with many regulations and requests from both the government and various foundations, “… we need better tools to do that more effectively,” Haydon pointed out.
The Irvine Foundation, which has given the OMF a grant once before,- will dole out their grant to the OMF over a period of three years, and will provide support throughout those three years. “They’re very interested in tracking our results —- ‘You said you were going to do this, so how’s it going?’ It’s not just a check that comes once a year,” Haydon said. “To me, one of the most invaluable parts of it is that we get to communicate with other arts organizations that are also recognized leaders. We get together once a quarter — dance organizations, museums, performing arts centers, orchestras. So there are a lot of different kinds of arts (groups involved), and lots of cross-pollination of ideas. We also get access to consulting, which really helps as well.”
OMF’s $325,000 grant is only a small part of the Irvine Foundation’s donations this year —- two other Ventura County organizations, the Rubicon Theater and the Museum of Ventura County, got $350,000 and $300,000, respectively, while four Santa Barbara groups got $800,000 combined. In all, the Irvine Foundation awarded $3.7 million to 13 California organizations this year. The Irvine Foundation is a “private, nonprofit grant-making foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California to participate in a vibrant, successful and inclusive society,” according to its press release.
“This (the Irvine grant) is so important,” said Haydon. “It assures that we have the necessary funds needed to support the institution, so the next round of money we raise can go straight toward artistic and educational development. These are cornerstones for business success.”
The 18th annual Ojai Day-Ojai Night celebration is slated for Oct. 15 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in downtown Ojai and Libbey Park. Residents of the Ojai Valley and visitors to the event need to be aware of the several road closures that will be in effect:
Ojai Avenue downtown will be closed to through traffic between Blanche Street and Fox Street starting at 8 p.m. on Oct. 14 through 11 p.m. on Oct. 15.
Side streets to be closed to through traffic beginning Oct.14 at 8 p.m. through Oct. 15 at 11 p.m. are: Ventura Street from Matilija Street to Topa Topa; Signal Street from Matilija Street to Santa Ana; Montgomery from Matilija Street to Willow; and Topa Topa Street from Signal to Ventura.
Ojai Chevron at the corner of Ojai Avenue and North Montgomery Street will be open during their normal business hours during the street closures, but must be entered and exited from Montomery Street as the Ojai Avenue driveway will be closed.
The businesses along South Montgomery Street will be open as usual, including Wachters Feed and Grain, Ojai Café Emporium, Ojai Art Center, Massarella’s Firehouse Pottery, and the Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room. If safety permits, cars may be allowed to park on lower South Montgomery; otherwise, parking will be at Willow.
All Ojai Day participants, including vendors, artists, musicians and exhibitors, will be sent access and parking instructions in their Ojai Day information package shortly before the event.
Ojai Day organizers appreciate everyone’s cooperation with the street closures to ensure the safety of residents, visitors, workers and volunteers throughout the event.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Department
|On 10/07/11 at approximately 6:50 AM, a female driver in a red Kia sedan was driving southbound on North Ventura Avenue, when she was struck from behind by a small blue Honda SUV being driven by a male. The male failed to stop for the accident, and then continued driving southbound on North Ventura Avenue. As he drove through the Villanova Curve, he lost control of his vehicle, went off onto the south shoulder of the roadway and drove through a recently planted landscaped area. His Honda SUV continued through the landscaped area, eventually striking a tree, which caused his vehicle to roll over.Deputies arrived on scene, and discovered that the male was suffering from complaints of pain due to the collision. He was eventually transported to the Ojai Valley Community Hospital for examination.
The female driver also had complaints of pain and went to the Ojai Valley Community Hospital for examination as well. Both vehicles suffered major damage. The male was cited and released for 20001(a) VC / Hit-n-Run with injury and the investigation is continuing.
By Logan Hall
A fire in Casitas Springs on Friday afternoon claimed the life of a 70-year-old local man in the Casitas Mobile Home Park on Nye Road. Thomas Real, who suffered third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body, was transported by ambulance to Ventura County Medical Center where he died from his injuries according to a Ventura County Sheriff’s Department press release.
Speculation by the victim’s neighbors as to the cause of the fire was in no short supply. Sgt. Joe Evans of the Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Unit said Tuesday that the cause is still under investigation. “All possible sources of ignition are still being examined,” said Evans. “The ongoing investigation is being handled by both the Ventura County Fire Department’s and the Sheriff’s arson units.”
Real was pulled from the building by VCFD firefighters before paramedics began CPR and advanced life support intervention. “He was severely burned,” said VCFD spokesman Capt. Ron Oatman, “and he was in full arrest when we got him out.”
Oatman said paramedics and firefighters were able to get the victim’s heart beating again at the scene of the fire. Senior Deputy Medical Examiner Armando Chavez stated that thermal burns and smoke inhalation were the causes of death and that Real succumbed to his injuries within several hours after the incident.
Earlier, before authorities had arrived on scene, local teenagers pulled a second resident of the home out of the burning building as she struggled to escape the blaze. “We were just standing here waiting for our friend,” said 17-year-old Sean Mullikin, who was obviously shaken. “We saw smoke coming out of the swamp cooler and I could see a lady inside trying to push the door open.”
Mullikin says the woman appeared panicked and was pushing the door instead of pulling it toward her. “She just collapsed in front of the door,” he continued. “I ran over and started pushing the door so I could get her out, but she was passed out right in front of it. I finally just pulled her out.”
Fourteen-year-old Brandon Costanza was right behind Mullikin as the woman collapsed. “The lady kept saying there was someone else inside the place,” said Costanza. “It was real scary.”
According to Danny Swenson, the on-scene Ventura County Fire Department battalion chief, the woman was also transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation and second-degree burns covering 50 percent of her body.
Swenson also stated that Bob Roper, VCFD fire chief and valley resident, was one of the first trained emergency personnel to respond. Along with a crew from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention that was also passing through, Roper began tending to the female victim. “Chief Roper was passing by when the call went through,” said Swenson. “He administered first aid to the woman that was pulled from the building. Cal Fire did a great job too. They were the first on scene.”
By Kathleen Kaiser
The annual October pilgrimage to the artistic heart of Ojai now brings hundreds of art lovers to 50 artists’ studios to see their latest creations, view works in progress and enjoy a weekend of fine art and conversation. All proceeds contribute to Ojai Studio Artists’ Art Outreach programs and its annual Scholarship Fund, which is awarded each spring to student artists.
This year the 28th annual OSA Tour takes place Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. For many years, the second weekend in October has been a frenzy of creative activities throughout the Ojai Valley with the Ojai Art Center on Montgomery Street as its hub.
The Ojai Art Center will display an exhibition of works by the Ojai Studio Artists, host the artists reception Saturday night and be the starting location where visitors can view a sample of work by each artist participating in the Ojai Studio Artists Tour this weekend.
The Saturday reception will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Held after the studios close, all of the artists gather at the reception to greet visitors and continue the conversations. A raffle will be held featuring themed gift baskets, each created around an original piece of artwork and including other items from Ojai merchants and farms. All proceeds from the evening benefit the OSA Scholarship Fund.
Tickets are available in advance ($26) at the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce, 201 S. Signal St., 646-8126 or online at ojaistudioartists.org. They may be purchased the day of the tour at the Ojai Art Center, 113 S. Montgomery St., for $30. Children 12 and younger are admitted free. Read the rest of this entry »
By Logan Hall
Lake Casitas Recreational Area officials have given bow hunters a chance to join anglers in sport fishing. On Oct. 1, the lake began permitting bowfishing strictly for carp — -a species of fish that, according to a press release from Casitas, “can have a devastating effect on the spawning sites of other fish.”
Bowfishing is exactly what it sounds like; the hunter draws a barbed arrow back using a bow and releases the projectile at a fish. Carp can be found in abundance near the surface of the water during much of the year, making hunters’ targets easy to spot.
Lake Casitas is not the first recreational lake in California to allow bowfishing. Big Bear Lake and Lake Cachuma have introduced similar programs that emphasize population control of the fish. Steve Heule, general manager of Big Bear Municipal Water District, says the program has been successful for their fishery. “We’ve had our annual carp roundup for bow hunters for the past several years,” said Heule. “It always seems to end up removing 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of carp. Our fishery has improved dramatically since we started this.”
One question that seems a touchy subject for officials is whether or not the sport is considered humane. When entering a search for bowfishing on YouTube, several videos depict — in great detail —- fish being struck by arrows, dragged onto a boat using line attached to the arrow, and then subsequently being smashed in the head repeatedly with what appears to be a baton in order to kill the, usually thrashing, fish.
When asked if bowfishing was a humane method of carp population control, Casitas park services manager Carol Belser said, “I’m not going to answer that,” before adding that the California Department of Fish and Game does permit bowfishing in the state.
“It can get pretty gory,” said Heule when asked the same question. “It all depends on an individual’s sensibilities. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) certainly wouldn’t approve, though. I think the type of community has a lot to do with how people react to it, and it’s not an issue up here.”
Belser agrees with Heule that the sport should benefit the lake’s ecosystem. “Carp are invasive,” she said. “They don’t have any real predators. In the long run, this will really help our fishery.”
At Casitas, the carp is second in size only to large catfish that dwell in the lake’s depths. Ojai’s own archery expert, bowfishing advocate and archery store owner, Bob Pergson, confirms that Casitas has big carp. “They got some 30- to 40-pounders in there,” Pergson said. “People need special equipment to do this, which I carry some of in my shop. I think it’s fantastic though. They (Casitas) should have done this 20 years ago.”
Dealing with sharp projectiles fired from a moving platform in a public area presents obvious safety concerns, which are addressed by Casitas staff through regulations put in place for bowfishermen.
“They can only bowfish along shorelines that aren’t accessible to the public,” said Belser. “They also have to pick up a permit on a daily basis. You can’t just bring in bowfishing gear without a permit.”
Heule says that Big Bear’s bowfishing programs have gone smoothly so far. “There has never been an accident that we’re aware of,” he said.
Casitas prohibits bowfishermen from disposing of their catch at the lake, requiring them to take the fish off the property once they have killed it. According to the Casitas press release, the carp that are caught can be used as an effective fertilizer. “Our fish grinders can’t accommodate carp because they have huge scales,” said Belser. “Until we get a system in place, people have to take the carp out of the Recreation Area.”
Pergson believes that the Casitas’ program might not take off as quickly as some might hope. “The problem,” he said with a laugh, “is that nobody likes carp.”
For information on bowfishing for carp at Casitas, call 649-2233.
Report and photo by
Locals scrambled to get rain gear Wednesday as an early winter storm dropped about 1.5 inches of rain on the Ojai Valley according to the National Weather Service. Gutters spilled onto walkways and puddles filled street corners while many struggled to find dust-covered jackets and umbrellas.
Many, unable to locate packed-away all-weather gear, flocked to local businesses to stock up on winter clothing and supplies. Ojai Surplus, which carries many rain and all-weather-related items, seemed particularly packed full of soggy shoppers on Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve been busy all day,” said Ojai Surplus co-owner Joy Grove with a chuckle. “One little raindrop and they all come running in for the ponchos and boots.”
Valley residents also experienced some cooler days as the storm passed through the area. NWS experts say the colder temperatures experienced this week will get back to normal for this time of year. “It looks like we’ll be on the backside of this low-pressure through the rest of the week,” said Stuart Seto, NWS weather specialist. “There’s going to be some nice warm days next week starting Saturday.”
Seto continued to explain that temperatures could reach the low 90s early next week. “It looks like it’ll be 87 degrees on Sunday and 92 by Tuesday,” he said.
No serious water damage has been reported in the valley and the Ventura County Fire Department says there was not a significant increase in calls for service. “We really didn’t have any extra activity during the storm,” said VCFD dispatcher Rhonda Pabst. “We had some vehicle accidents around the county, but that’s typical.”
NWS records show that the city of Ojai saw 1.33 inches of rain while Oak View residents reported 1.5 inches and Lake Casitas weather monitors tallied 1.60 inches. Nordhoff Peak had the most rainfall with weather monitors recording 1.89 inches.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I have a terrible temper. It pains me to admit it, but it’s true, as far back as I can remember.
When I was 11, I received a James Bond Road Race track for Christmas. The 1965 Sears Christmas catalog was dog-eared and worn from my grubby little fingers thumbing through the pages to marvel at this wonder, and when Santa brought me my heart’s desire on Christmas morning, I was ecstatic. But after it was assembled, James Bond’s Aston Martin failed to make more than a couple of laps in a row without stopping. I was crestfallen, then furious. If a nuclear-class temper tantrum was capable of repairing defective plastic toys, mine would have run perfectly.
Over the years, my temper has been a source of embarrassment to both me and my loved ones. When I really lose it, reason and common sense seem to take a vacation. I honestly don’t know how my wife has put up with me for 33 years, but I thank God that she has. I have “lost it” in public and in private, more times and in more places than I care to remember.
On one occasion, in the early ‘80s, I published a small newspaper in south Louisiana. The newspaper had an adversarial relationship with the mayor and several members of the city council because of stories we had written decrying the appalling management and corruption of the city government. In keeping with the fine Louisiana tradition of crooked politicians, the mayor was later convicted of an ethics violation.
One day, when I was having a very lively “discussion” with a council member over the phone, I became so enraged that I ended the conversation by cursing him and slamming the wall-mounted phone down so hard that I tore it out of the wall.
Our office building had two stories. Unbeknownst to me, a lady had been sent upstairs to speak with me. It was after 5 p.m., and I assumed everyone was out of the building. I had been yelling at the councilman so loudly that I did not hear her come upstairs. As the phone separated from the wall, I turned to see a woman who looked like Mother Teresa in a polyester pantsuit staring at me in abject fear and horror. I apologized profusely, and then asked if I could help her. Timidly, she held up a piece of paper, and in a trembling little voice said, “I wanted to put this engagement announcement in the paper —- but it can wait.”
I was embarrassed, disgusted, and mortified. But the damage had been done. It’s like the old saying: You can pull a nail out of a piece of wood, but there’s still a hole.
Fortunately, things have changed. My temper has improved greatly in the last two years, and I believe it’s due to my CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. I finally agreed to Ava’s repeated urgings that I visit a sleep center for testing, and it has been one of the best decisions I ever (finally) made. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and after years of being chronically sleep deprived, I am a changed man. It’s been an epiphany. While no one will ever describe me as mellow, I can say that I am happier, and more in control of my emotions. Now that I’m actually rested, the “meltdowns” are far fewer, and less severe.
The process is no day at the beach. At the sleep center, they paint your face and body with a gluey-goop so they can attach about 200,000 wires to monitor you. As I attempted to go to sleep below a surveillance camera, I felt like a lab rat. But viewing the video footage the next morning, and learning that I stopped breathing or held my breath for a minute or more several times during the night made me see the severity of my problem.
Getting used to the CPAP mask was a challenge. I looked like a fighter pilot preparing to shoot down enemy planes. And though I was told that some people had difficulty adapting to the mask, I found “bourbon therapy” to be a helpful aid.
With time, I adjusted, and the sleep mask is a much better solution for holding my temper than something ridiculous like “counting to 10.” All counting to 10 ever did was just to make me even madder.
Commentary by Richard H. Hajas
Robert Sprowls, president and CEO of American States Water Company, the parent company of Golden State Water Company, mailed letters to the residents of Ojai and the letter appeared as a guest editorial in the Ojai Valley News. Mr. Sprowls made the following claims regarding Ojai F.L.O.W. and the proposal by the residents of Ojai to replace Golden State with Casitas Municipal Water District:
• Ojai F.L.O.W. has an agenda.
• Ojai F.L.O.W. undervalued the Ojai system.
• Ojai’s financing analysis is flawed.
Golden State’s claims are inaccurate and unsubstantiated. The following are the facts about Ojai F.L.O.W.:
1. The Ojai residents working with Ojai F.L.O.W. are not affiliated with any outside group. From a political perspective the founding members of Ojai F.L.O.W. are about as diverse a group as you will find in Ojai. The origin of the name “Flow” is an informal group of Ojai residents in 2005 who joined together to find a solution to Golden State. The group of residents who developed the most recent proposal simply continued with the same name.
Golden State is correct in stating Ojai F.L.O.W. has an agenda. Our agenda is to stabilize water rates, and place the control of our water and water rates in the hands of the local community. Our desire is to be able enjoy the same benefits from our local water resources as all of our neighbors.
2. Golden State has made a broad and unsubstantiated statement that a “historical review “reveals that the final costs of water systems are “100 to 500 percent more expensive than initial suggestions.” Suggestions made by whom, historical review of what? Golden State conveniently omitted the source of the statement and source of any detailed data behind it. Ojai F.L.O.W. has clearly stated the basis of its estimated value of the Golden State system and cited the sources of data used. The proposal estimates the value of Golden State between $16.0 million and $21.5 million. The value may vary based on the actual condition of the water system. The value may be slightly higher depending on the value of several small real estate parcels owned by Golden State. There are very few other variables. Golden State does hold water rights in some of its other service areas, but not in Ojai. It has no entitlement to the water and no adjudicated allocation of water (American States Water 2010 Annual Report). Ojai F.L.O.W.’S proposal includes significant flexibility in the use of the proceeds from the proposed $33.0 million bond sale to fund the purchase.
Golden State further claims that Felton, a Santa Cruz County community that successfully acquired its water system from Cal-American Water Company in 2008, estimated the value at $2 million and it actually cost $13.4. Again, what is the source of this statement? The fact is the statement is false. The community of Felton voted in support of Measure “W” in July of 2005, which authorized $11.0 million in bonds to acquire the water system. The final sale was the result of a settlement agreement (between San Lorenzo Water District and Cal-American Water Company, May 27, 2008) in which San Lorenzo Water District agreed to pay $10.5 million. The settlement included the assumption of a $2.9-million loan on an existing water treatment plant. The settlement also deeded non-operating assets, including 250 acres of Santa Cruz County property, appraised at $2.24 million to the San Lorenzo Water District.
3. Golden State is correct in stating that Ojai F.L.O.W.’S financing method was not prepared by an expert in municipal financing. However, as with all of the conclusions developed in Ojai’s proposal it is based on a very conservative analysis. The proposal estimates the annual debt service will be approximately $2.2 million on $33.0 million in bonds. The actual cost will depend on interest rates at the time of sale, the credit-worthiness of the issuer and a variety of other variables. The debt service will be paid with the difference between Golden State and Casitas water rates. Currently, Casitas’ rates are $3.15 million per year lower than Golden State and will be $4.40 million per year lower, if Golden State’s most recent proposed rate increase is approved. It does not require a licensed professional financial analyst to figure out that Golden State’s extraordinarily high rates make funding the purchase of the water system very affordable to the residents of Ojai.
What is glaringly missing from Golden State’s response to Ojai’s proposal is any acknowledgement that there is a problem. The problem is Golden State’s rates are outrageously high and they fully intend to raise them higher. They have not denied that the average water user in Ojai, now paying $179 every two months for water, will be paying $438 in just 15 years. Ojai residents would welcome an open dialogue with Golden State regarding how they plan to trim costs, cut overhead and reduce water rates in Ojai. We do not, however, welcome self-serving false claims and the distortion of facts aimed solely to preserve the status quo and Golden State’s financial grip on our community.
Richard H. Hajas is a member Ojai F.L.O.W.
Report and photo by
Cameron Carlson claims his Chain Link Lizard Car can drive over anything. After seeing the one-of-a-kind homemade machine in action, it’s hard not to believe him.
Carlson and his four-wheel-drive machine, which has its tires attached to four independently controlled hydraulic arms, was featured Oct. 5 on the National Geographic channel during the network’s hit show, “Mad Scientists.”
In a sneak preview of the show that can be seen on Youtube, host John Bowler takes the wheel of Carlson’s creation to test the machine’s unusual features. “I said, ‘Where can I drive it?’” Bowler says to the camera in one scene during the show. “He (Carlson) said, ‘Anywhere, dude!’ No one has ever said that to me before.”
With more than 6 feet of vertical travel on the front hydraulic arms, the Lizard Car might just be able to drive anywhere. With his wife and two sons present during a photo shoot with the Ojai Valley News at his Meiners Oaks home, Carlson approached a large 8-foot-tall storage container with the machine as he began to raise the chassis up into the air using the hydraulics. “You’re about to see something that no other four-wheel-drive in the world can do,” he said just moments before driving the front right tire up onto the top of the container. “There you have it. Notice how the three other tires are on the ground still.”
The idea for the machine came to him 11 years ago while he was on a job site where heavy equipment was part of everyday life. “I kinda’ got the idea from the back drive of a motor grater,” said Carlson, who is a self-proclaimed gear head. “The chain link design I used gives the wheels so much travel. The machine actually gets more stable as you get crazier with it.”
According to Carlson, the machine puts out plenty of power with the stock Ford Mustang engine that he installed, and its electronic fuel injection system allows it to crawl and maneuver in ways that other off-road vehicles simply can’t. “You can just turn on a dune totally sideways,” confirmed Dillon, Carlson’s son. “It’s pretty fun.”
The machine’s popularity has been growing over the years and one Youtube video of the machine posted by a friend of Carlson, that can be seen HERE, has received almost 2.4 million hits so far. “It’s been getting more famous lately,” said Carlson. “Its always turning heads. People trip out on it when they see us towing it down the highway.”
Catering to the “Mad Scientists” theme of regular people creating unusual things, Carlson says that aside from his Lizard Car, he’s a pretty average guy. “I’m just a normal guy that built an abnormal machine,” he said.
“Are you sure that’s not the other way around?” asked his wife, Wendy, as the two shared a laugh.
By Chris T. Wilson
Artists, art lovers and members of the Ojai Art Center have yet another reason to be proud of their community arts organization.
Not only is it the longest continually operating nonprofit arts center in California, Ojai Art Center has recently been recognized as the best nonprofit arts organization in Ventura County.
On Sept. 21, The Ventura Arts Council held the annual lArt Star awards and honored the Ojai Art Center as the organization that has contributed the most to the county in all areas ofart, and the organization that best serves the community and local artists alike.
More than 200 people attended the awards dinner held at the Tower Club in Oxnard. With a panoramic view of the coastline from the 22nd floor, the honorees were treated to cocktails and dinner while waiting to hear the results of who had been selected as the best in their category.
The competition was formidable with many deserving artists and organizations in the running. Ojai Art Center Board of Trustees President Ruth Hemming and Teri Mettala, OAC director, accepted the award.
“It was so exciting to receive this award and receive recognition for what we’ve been doing for over 70 years,” Mettala said. “It was a real honor to hold the beautiful plaque and look out on our neighbors from the Ojai Valley Museum and the Ojai Music Festival and realize what good company we’re in.”
The OjaiArtCenterwas founded in 1936 by Dr. Charles Butler as a means of providing a central facility for the expression of art, theater, music and dance.In recent years photography, literary and film branches have been created by OAC members.
Located in the center of town, the Art Center provides opportunities for people of all ages to come together with working artists to explore the horizons of creativity while remaining in the community.
The Ojai Art Center is governed by a 17-member board of trustees with three part-time employees. The Art Center is open from noon to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, and is located at 113 S. Montgomery St. For more information, visit Ojaiartcenter.org or call 640-0117.
For its 12th year, the Ojai Film Festival will be welcoming seasoned, award-winning filmmakers to the valley Oct. 20 to 23, with screenings in Ojai’s downtown venues.
The Ojai Film Festival will feature 77 artistically diverse films this year, in addition to insightful panels and an invitation-only awards ceremony.
Continuing this year are the Gold Coast screenings of films by regional filmmakers, as well as the admission-free Oct. 20 outdoor screening of “South Pacific.” It will feature a rare appearance by the film’s star Mitzi Gaynor, who played the iconic Ensign Nellie Forbush.
Also, like its namesake community, the Ojai Film Festival includes several surprises, such as a Best Film Award to be presented by actress Catherine O’Hara.
According to Ojai Film Festival executive director Jamie Fleming, “We’ve become a bit like the ‘Dancing with the Stars’ of film festivals, hosting an exciting yet eclectic range of accomplished, award-winning film industry professionals as well as the new crop of upcoming and still-to-be-discovered filmmakers.” Fleming added, “We find our festival attracts many of the ‘unsung heroes’ of the film industry, curiously reflecting the low-key stature of Ojai itself.”
Veteran Ojai Film Festival artistic director Steve Grumette said, “Our judging procedures are as stringent as ever with 77 films selected from the hundreds of submissions. Still, our panels offer Hollywood-insider access and insights unparalleled by any film festival.”
For example, Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree and five-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Owen Roizman (“French Connection,” “Exorcist,” “Tootsie,” “Network”), will discuss his works during a panel on Oct. 22.
Other panels on Oct. 22 will feature actors Lea Thompson (“Back to the Future”), Chris McDonald (“Happy Gilmore”), Brett Cullen (“Apollo 13″), Bo Welch (five-time Oscar nominee for production design), director Howard Deutchman (“Pretty in Pink”), and screenwriter Steven de Souza (“Die Hard,” “48 Hours”), in addition to many others.
Awards will be given in the following categories: Best Narrative Feature, Best Narrative Short, Best Documentary Feature, Best Documentary Short, Best Animated Film, Best Student Film, and Best Film Exemplifying the Festival Theme.
For updates and additional information, visit ojaifilmfestival.com.
By Logan Hall
Local skaters are ready to take a breath of fresh air as officials from the Ojai Valley Sanitary District made a movement on plans to upgrade the existing Ojai Skate Park restroom.
The OVSD made a decision last month to grant the Ojai Unified School District, which owns the Skate Park property, permission to connect the park’s plumbing to existing lines on the School District’s property. The Ojai City Council voted to set aside $50,000 for the project earlier this year but has been waiting for the sanitary and school districts to hash out the legal and pre-construction logistical details. The two districts will need to finalize and sign the agreement before any work on the project can begin according to Ojai city manager Rob Clark.
“This is a great example of three public agencies working together,” said Clark. “There will have to be a minor adjustment to the lease though.”
The property that the Skate Park sits on is owned by OUSD, but that particular section of property is on a separate parcel. OVSD regulations demand that the park restroom’s plumbing connections be hooked up to main lines in front of the property under Ojai Avenue. “We would have to address the other utilities that are in the way if we go out to the street,” said Clark about gas and electrical lines that crisscross under the city streets.
The OVSD granted the School District special permission through a code variance, which allows OUSD to hook up the park bathroom to the district’s sewer connections on the property. “This is a big win for the city financially,” added Clark. “The project probably would have cost the city more than $60,000 without the variance. Our city engineer’s educated guess is that it will cost us about 15 grand to complete now.”
Clark says that the top priorities for the project are installing plumbing to the toilet as well as the installation of a new sink. The current restroom, installed by the city prior to the park’s opening in October of last year, has no plumbing and consists of a toilet and a pit that collects waste. The pit is pumped out when city officials deem it necessary according to the city’s Public Works Department. Many park users and other concerned locals believe the city should have taken care of the issue before the park opened.
“I think it’s an embarrassment,” said Dave England, local skater and MTV stuntman. “Why put a wilderness pit toilet in the middle of town? They should fix this problem right away. It should really be done before Ojai Day.”
Clark, however, says the project will likely be completed next year. “It’s all going to depend on how quickly they get the paperwork finished,” said Clark, “but it should be done in the spring of next year.”
England says he thinks the city and the two districts are dragging their feet. “Spring of next year is unacceptable to me,” he said. “The Skate Park is always downwind. There’s no way we should have to smell raw sewage while we exercise. Sometimes it’s unbearable.”
Taking matters into his own hands, England says he will do what he can to help his fellow park users. “I put signs up there but they (city) pulled them down right away,” he said, referring to signs he posted on the bathroom that had protested the poor conditions of the existing facility. “My buddy put a plastic bag over the top that sealed the vent. It didn’t smell for like three days out there. We took it down cause it was getting too bad inside.”
The project itself, once started, should be a relatively quick one, according to the OVSD. “I would think it will be a pretty small job,” said Brenda Krout, OVSD clerk of the board. “It wouldn’t take more than a day or two.”