• Artist Trimpin designed and built the Libbey Bowl Sound Arch which greets park goers as they enter the bowl’s lawn area. The arch infused state of the art electronics with music to create a work of art that is a fitting entrance to the new bowl.
• The County of Ventura posted notices stating its intent to vacate Shelf Road. The bright yellow notice, which confused and alarmed many hikers frequenting the popular trail, was a notice that the county’s transportation department was vacating the road. The county reassured Ojai’s citizens that the trail would remain open to the public.
• A report by Chris Dunn, Ojai’s chief of police, indicated that the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department’s efforts seemed to pay off as statistics show a low crime rate in the Ojai Valley, particularly within the city limits. Although violent crimes rose slightly, thefts in the valley decreased substantially.
• Advocates of a pesticide free Ojai worked with city officials to use alternate methods to herbicides for weed control. Volunteers worked to pull weeds by hand from areas around Libbey Park.
• Ojai Quarry owner Larry Mosler dropped his appeal of 14 violations issued by the County of Ventura. County officials stated that Mosler entered into an agreement with county planners to abate the outstanding violations.
• A group of concerned citizens claimed that a takeover of Golden State Water Company by Casitas Municipal Water District could save local consumers $1 million in the first year alone.
Due to the continuous increase in Golden State’s water rates in recent years, the group, known as Friends of Locally Owned Water (F.L.O.W.), focused on convincing Casitas’ board of directors to hold an election among registered voters of the affected area to issue a bond not exceeding $33 million that would buy out GSWC through eminent domain.
• Valley citizens were dealt a blow when two Ojai residents were tragically killed in a traffic collision on West Ojai Avenue north of Villanova Road. Thirty-eight-year-old Sonia Miller and 54-year-old Wayne Ortman lost their lives when their Harley Davidson motorcycle collided with oncoming traffic, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and Medical Examiner’s office.
• Ventura County law enforcement officers took Ojai resident Jonathan Mosqueda into custody on Friday — twice.
After being arrested by Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies on a disturbance call in the 200 block of Summer Street, Mosqueda was being transported to the county’s Main Jail when he escaped from the patrol car according to Capt. Mike Aranda, Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. He was arrested in a neighborhood near the main jail soon after.
• The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department honored eight deputies with medals of valor of which six had worked at the Ojai Sheriff’s substation.
The 38th annual event, held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, honored Ojai-based Deputies Traci Salmon, Gunnar Dike, Rolland Ogawa and Chris Loes, Senior Deputy Mark Burgess and Sgt. Luis Alvarez, specifically for their actions following the Dec. 2 officer-involved shooting that nearly cost Salmon her life.
• A proposed wedding and event center on a private olive ranch on Carne Road in Ojai’s East End caused a stir among valley residents and business owners. The owners requested a permit allowing up to 40 events to be held a year on the property. Many neighboring residence adamantly opposed the request.
• The Ojai City Council took an official stance in support of the efforts of Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water Tuesday night.
• More than 100 special education students from around the county competed for the gold in track and field events during the Special Olympics Ojai School Games.
• After more than an hour of deliberation Tuesday night, board members of the Ojai Unified School District made a decision on their process for replacing outgoing member Steve Fields, who is moving out of state.
The board opted not to hold an election, which would have been costly, but rather to make a provisional appointment by soliciting applications from locals residing within the school district boundaries.
• Forty percent of the 41.7 miles of road maintained by the city of Ojai are in poor or failing condition according to a report by interim Public Works manager Ron Calkins.
• Their efforts of Help of Ojai and the U.S. Postal Service food drive helped feed an estimated 1,200 local people in need over the course of six months according to Help’s director Terri Wolfe.
• The Houck rental car bill passed the state assembly after Ojai Mom Cally Houck has relentlessly pushed for the bill since the tragic death of her two daughters when their Enterprise rental car experienced a mechanical failure resulting in a freeway crash.
• The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department arrested seven people on the 300 block of Cruzero Street on vehicle theft, stolen property and drug use charges.
• Ojai F.L.O.W. supporters handed over a stack of petitions to Casitas Municipal Water District on Monday with 1,900 signatures of concerned voters in Golden State’s Ojai district calling for the takeover of Golden State by Casitas.
• Two teams from the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, founded in Ojai, were sent to Joplin MO to help in the search for survivors after deadly tornadoes ravaged the area.
• Longtime Ojai city attorney Monte Widders retired after 30 years with the city. Widders cited medical problems as his reason for retiring.
• Despite weather delays, Ojai’s interim Public Works manager Ron Calkins told the Ojai City Council that the new Libbey Bowl would be completed in time for the Ojai Music Festival.
• A DUI checkpoint held by local law enforcement agencies in Oak View resulted in one arrest out of 1,018 cars screened according to Ventura County Sheriff’s Department officials.
• Even rain and chilly temperatures couldn’t keep the community from celebrating the completion of the Libbey Bowl renovation project and all of the hard work and effort by everyone.
Donning ponchos and umbrellas, people flocked to Libbey Park on Sunday to hear dozens of local musicians take the new bowl for a test drive. Ojai Valley legends like Alan Thornhill, Roger Kellaway, Jonathan McEuen and Rain Perry took to the stage throughout the day to entertain the gathered masses.
• The Ojai Valley lost an icon. Local architect David Bury, 59, died on the opening morning of the 65th annual Ojai Music Festival, hanging in there just long enough to see his final project, Ojai’s new Libbey Bowl, through to completion. A moment of silence was held in Bury’s honor before the first acts took the stage for the festival.
• After hours of deliberation Tuesday night in the Chaparral Auditorium in front of dozens of community members, board members of the Ojai Unified School District selected Thayne Whipple to replace former board member Steve Fields.
• Thousands of visitors and locals alike converged on Libbey Bowl to take in the sights and sounds of the 65th annual Ojai Music Festival; 7,100 tickets were sold for concerts from Thursday through Sunday and most of the shows sold out well in advance.
• The Ojai City Council is faced with the task of trying to reduce Ojai’s transit budget by $100,000 a year to curtail the need for using the city’s dwindling general fund for transit projects. According to city documents, $144,000 of the general fund is expected to be used for transit this year.
• The Ojai Valley Sanitary District’s board of directors has passed a new ordinance to penalize those who illegally connect to OVSD’s sewer lines.
• On May 22, 2010, 15-year-old Patrick James O’Brien was found dead of an overdose of heroin in the family home. A four-month investigation by narcotics officers and detectives from the Ojai Sheriff’s substation led to the arrest of 22-year-old Craig Steven Anderson following numerous witnesses, interviews and extensive surveillance conducted in the Ojai Valley and the city of Ventura.
• Starting July 1, the city had staff available from every department five days a week, getting rid of the four-day workweek that the City Council instituted in 1993.
• Meiners Oaks held its second annual Solstice Festival, which featured live music on two stages, fresh foods, local arts and crafts, and more than 30 vendors.
• A large oak tree fell on the 100 block of South Lomita Avenue on Sunday night, completely crushing one car and severely damaging another, and blocking the road for more than three hours.
• A 48-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of arson on New Year’s Eve 2010 after a structure fire in the 1300 block of Orange Road was reported by a California Highway Patrol officer.
The CHP officer had reportedly smelled gasoline on the suspect who was identified as Valerie Spencer Huntsinger, and saw that her hair was singed. Huntsinger stated that a fire she had lit in the barbecue to keep warm had gotten out of hand.
• The citrus industry in Ventura County was dealt a major blow as the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s recommendation was approved to put a countywide quarantine on growers for a small insect called the Asian citrus psyllid. The pest is known to be a carrier of the huanglongbing (HLB) disease, which kills citrus trees and has wreaked havoc on farms in southern Florida.
• John Steven Atkinson, arrested in December for the assault on Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Traci Salmon, pleaded not guilty to attempted murder last week at his arraignment.
Ventura Superior Court records show that, along with the attempted murder charge, Atkinson also pleaded not guilty to second-degree robbery, and two counts of false imprisonment of an elder or dependent adult.
• The new Libbey Bowl has taken shape after construction crews finished building the trademark shell that covers the stage. The shell consists of wood beams held up by steel supports and has a similar curved shape to the original bowl shell.
• A new project proposed by the city of Ventura to annex areas around Ventura Avenue from the county to the city, raised alarm with the Ojai City Council at its meeting on Tuesday.
• Nordhoff High School graduate Dominique Pearl David surprised her family when she came home to Ojai from New York City to watch the finale of her TV show, “The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection.”
• The arrest of a 15-year-old boy on suspicion of indecent exposure and sexual battery sparked controversy over whether the Ojai Valley Trail is as safe as it used to be.
• Ojai native Briana Faulstich is going to attempt to join the elite group of climbers who have reached the top of Everest. At 17 years old, if she succeeds, she will become the youngest American female to make the summit of the highest peak in the world.
• Help of Ojai’s Community Assistance Program has begun a renovation to their facility that will help serve the homeless and low-income, at-risk populations of the Ojai Valley. Funding comes from a $75,000 Community Development Block Grant.
• The Ojai City Council announced the hiring of a new city manager Jan. 25, as Mayor Carol Smith declared the unanimous approval of Robert Clark.
• A traffic accident on Highway 33 north of Shell Road which caused major injuries to the sole occupant of a southbound-traveling vehicle, hit close to home for the Ojai Valley News. The driver, Evelyn Cervantes, OVN intern and Brooks Institute of Photography student, was rescued by oil workers after about 10 hours.
• The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department arrested two men and two juveniles who were allegedly involved in recent Oak View burglaries. The suspects were booked for burglary and conspiracy to commit burglary.
• The Ojai City Council has voted unanimously to pay $159,000 to fund the Ojai Visitors Bureau for another year.
• Interim city manager John Baker gave the Ojai City Council his mid year report on the 2010-2011 fiscal year for the city; he indicated that the city is facing a $200,000 deficit in its general fund.
• Ventura Sheriff’s Department narcotics detectives served a search warrant on a home in the 300 block of Cruzero Avenue in Mira Monte and found two ounces of methamphetamine, a variety of prescription medications, dozens of syringes, and items that were later determined to be stolen.
• The Heart and Sole 5k and 10k in Ojai raised more than $20,000, which is a record for this benefit event.
• Ojai Unified School District administrators announced that, at best, Ojai schools will have to cut $196,339 from the 2011-2012 budget; at worst, well over a million, at $1,117,699.
• Plans to replace a bicycle and pedestrian bridge on the Ojai Valley Trail at San Antonio Creek received a green light from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.
• Kevin White, teacher at San Antonio Elementary School, rowed from Anacapa Island to the Channel Islands Harbor in “Matilija,” a dory he built. White’s trip contributed $2,500 toward Food for Thought organization.
• Although the city of Ventura has slowed the process of annexing areas of North Ventura Avenue from the county, the Ojai City Council voted 4-1 to send a letter to Ventura stating the council’s opposition to any annexation of the areas in question.
• In early March, the Ojai Valley floor experienced its first “snow” in more than 60 years. According to the National Weather Service (NWS) Oxnard office, the valley was hit with ice pellets — also known as graupel — that had accumulated due to cold temperatures.
• In a true act of brotherly love, Beth Allen successfully donated a kidney to her 38-year-old brother, Danny, in early March at Scripps Green Hospital in San Diego. The operation went well, according to their mother, Carolyn, who said she remains “very cautious and optimistic” for a full recovery for both of her children.
• Quarry owner Larry Mosler is appealing 14 violations brought on his mining operation by the County of Ventura. Mosler will plead his case to the county Board of Supervisors in a hearing set for April 12. He had lost his previous appeal to the county Planning Commission last year.
• The Ojai City Council made a move to protect the city from taking on the burden of a $5.2 million loan to the city’s Redevelopment Agency (RDA).
On March 3, the California State Legislature Budget Conference Committee voted to move Gov. Jerry Brown’s bill to eliminate RDAs to the next step.
• Several members of the community shared their thoughts and concerns regarding a proposed ordinance before the Ojai City Council that, if passed, would change building codes for the city. Many of the changes to the code center on new requirements for construction, inspection and permits.
• On March 11, Humane Society Ojai shelter director Jolene Hoffman was forced to make the heart-breaking decision to put down the Ojai shelter’s cat population, in an effort to end their suffering and avoid spreading their highly contagious and debilitating respiratory virus to other cats in the community.
• The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Aviation Unit as well as Search and Rescue (SAR) teams located and rescued more than 30 people from areas in Los Padres National Forest in the mountains above Ojai on Sunday and Monday. Members from the Los Padres Sierra Club as well as two other unrelated hiking groups were lifted to safety by sheriff’s helicopters after being stranded due to rising levels at water crossings. Four Sierra Club hikers also reached safety thanks to SAR ground crews.
• Ojai mom Cally Houck, California Assemblyman William Monning and several consumer advocates teamed up in Sacramento to present AB-753, a new bill which would prohibit rental car companies from “renting out vehicles that are subject to a federal safety recall, once they have received notice from the manufacturer that the vehicle is being recalled, until the vehicle is fixed.”
• The Ventura County Fire Department (VCFD) — more specifically in the Ojai Valley — lost an estimated 250 years of experience as some of its top personnel retired this year. Six firefighters from different departments in the valley are moving into the relative calm and quiet of civilian life: Dale Cundiff, former captain of Station 21 in Ojai; Glenn Renner, who retired from his duties at Station 20 in Upper Ojai; Mike Middough and Rick Lajoie of Ojai Station 21; Wayne Maynard of Oak View Station 23; and Kerry Ellison of Meiners Oaks Station 22.
By Myrna Cambianica
On Dec. 13, the Ojai City Council, upon the recommendation of the Historic Preservation Commission, gave its first award for “Lifetime Achievement for Historic Preservation” to David Mason, and the “2011 Historic Preservation Award” to Judy Mercer — both volunteers at the Ojai Valley Museum. Each received a plaque to commemorate the awards and short biographies were read into the record at the council meeting.
Mercer, formerly of Claremont, where she was a docent and collections worker at the Alf Museum at The Webb Schools, began volunteering at the Ojai Valley Museum when she and her husband, Ed, moved to Ojai about 17 years ago to help with the family’s orange groves. She has volunteered in the OVM permanent collections room since then, cataloging and processing artifacts and archival material donated to the museum. When the Museum installed a new moveable shelving system, made possible by the Ojai Civic Association, Judy worked full-time leading the team that cleaned up the collections room; she then re-boxed and re-organized the collection, handling problems with the expertise that makes her an invaluable volunteer. Mercer has recently stepped into the role of lead collections volunteer, training and supervising new volunteers and student interns in the computer input, cataloging, and storage processes. She was selected as the Museum Volunteer of the Year in 2005.
Mason, an Ojai native and occasional Ojai Valley News columnist, has contributed much in the way of historical awareness during his lifetime, writing many articles for publication and giving numerous talks about historical figures and events. His grasp of local history and his retention of current events and the folks who shape them are legendary. The declaration presented to Mason at the council meeting noted that writers and researchers often seek out his assistance in their studies of the history of the valley. Other comments from the meeting included the following: “Mason has … made outstanding long-term contributions toward furthering the protection of the cultural history of the Ojai Valley.”
Museum director, Michele E. Pracy, says she is delighted to have Mason as a volunteer on the staff, as he does four types of jobs at the museum seven days a week. Since his retirement as owner of The Village Florist, he works as a docent, sells in the museum store, does research for exhibits, and mans the Visitor Information office on weekends. He has served on the museum’s board of trustees for 33 years, and is the board’s liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission. In 1985, Mason was the original chairman of the Historical Preservation Commission, then known as the Ojai Cultural Heritage Board.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
The following are wishes and/or resolutions I would love to see fulfilled in the coming year, but I have little hope of seeing them come to fruition, because they make too much sense to ever be passed by Congress:
- Place term limits on Congress. The President cannot serve longer than ten years. Why should Congress be any different? I would set all terms at six years for both representatives and senators. You would then be allowed to serve two consecutive six-year terms. After that, you sit out for six years before you are allowed to run again. Are we really better off with a ruling class of lifetime politicians whose constant squabbling would embarrass most two-year olds?
- Means test social programs and investigate fraud. Social programs are extremely valuable, but extremely expensive. Billions of dollars are lost through those receiving benefits that are either not needed or obtained fraudulently. Why not eliminate such benefits for people who make a lot of money? For instance, Warren Buffet will probably be okay without social security. Hire investigators to ferret out fraud and waste. Give those who are ripping off the system through criminal fraud large fines and stiff jail sentences. They are stealing from those who actually deserve and need assistance.
- Ban anyone named Kardashian from all media for one year. We could all use a rest.
- Develop a comprehensive national energy policy that actually decreases dependence upon foreign oil. We are fighting wars, losing American lives, and spending ourselves into oblivion because no one has had the common sense to establish a national energy policy. Jimmy Carter started the Department of Energy in the late 1970s. It now spends almost $30 billion a year, and we are more dependent upon foreign oil than ever. Take half of the peace dividend we should get by no longer fighting the stupid war in Iraq, and pour that money into renewable and/or plentiful energy sources. Subsidize every viable renewable or plentiful source of energy such as wind, solar, and natural gas. That would create jobs, which we desperately need, and would lessen our dependence on foreign oil – which we also desperately need.
- Fix stuff and create jobs. Take the other half of the peace dividend and repair some of the roads that make you feel like you are on a ride at Disneyworld. Fix bridges before they fall down and the cars tumble into the river. Repairing the infrastructure would benefit the country and put people to work.
- Outlaw Michael Jordan sneakers so that people don’t kill each other trying to buy them. I am not so worried about the sheep that line up hours and hours in advance to pay $180 for a pair of tennis shoes; shoes that someone paid small children in some third-world county about $6.50 a pair to make. If they only injured each other, it would just be thinning out the herd. I am worried about innocent store clerks and passers-by being wounded or trampled.
- Cut off foreign aid to Pakistan. The United States currently gives between $2 billion and $3 billion in military and economic aid annually to Pakistan. I have heard the argument that cutting funds would only worsen the relationship between the two countries. How, exactly? These are the people that allowed Osama bin Laden, America’s biggest enemy since Adolph Hitler and Emperor Hirohito, to live unmolested for years right under their government’s nose. Then they announced they would shoot down anything that entered Pakistani airspace, including American-made drone aircraft. Giving money to this country makes about as much sense as paying another guy to cheat with your wife.
- Bar Donald Trump from running for elective office in this country under any party. Instead, perhaps we could export him to other countries which have recently lost leaders who were egomaniacal jerks such as Egypt, North Korea, or Libya. He could easily fill that void.
Happy New Year.
By Logan Hall
Tyson York knows Soule Park Golf Course.
After more than a decade of professional teaching at Soule, and many more years playing at the facility as an amateur, he could probably tell you how many blades of grass are on the 18th green.
He also knows the community of people that frequent the facility. In particular, he emphasizes the importance getting the youth of the valley involved in activities like golf. York is currently running Soule’s annual free golf camp for kids. His long-term goal is to provide all of Soule’s junior programs to kids for free.
“Times are hard for people right now,” said York, after giving high-fives to the kids on their lunch break during the camp on Tuesday. “This really opens up the opportunity for kids to get involved in something that can be an expensive sport.”
The free camp that York created three years ago is held once a year for now. The other junior camps Soule Park hosts throughout the year, mostly held in the summer, cost participants $190. He hopes that he will soon be able to offer all of the camps free of charge.
“When people don’t have the time or the money to get their kids out here,” said York, “we give them the opportunity.”
York has many of the resources set in place that are necessary to see his dream come to fruition. The tough part, as is the case with many individuals and organizations that provide free services to the community, comes when trying to find funding for the program. “The big thing is that we need one or two major investors,” he said. “Money is what we really need to get this thing moving forward.”
Running a successful free camp requires many things — most of which cost money — on a regular basis. “I donate all of my time,” said York who also indicated that he has to spend money out of his own pocket to fund the current camp. “But we need to cover the food, equipment, other instructors or helpers, prizes and all of the other camp stuff that makes it all possible. We’re really looking for two or three major donors that can give a thousand to two thousand dollars or more.”
Local golfer Rick Brooks’ 12-year-old son Jessie has been participating in York’s classes, free or otherwise, for the last seven years. Brooks says he has donated to York’s cause and believes that the program is beneficial in many ways.
“It’s great to have something that’s free for the kids to do,” said Brooks after dropping off his son at the course. “It’s always tough getting the money for this kind of thing, though.”
York says that help can come in many forms, and that many who frequent Soule are interested in his junior program. “Our (Soule Park) Men’s Club donated $750,” said York, who grew up in the valley playing golf at Soule with many of the course’s regulars. He added that some of his former students, who now attend Nordhoff High School, are also helping the kids during the camps.
Keeping his resources in the valley is a goal of York who says he has leaned away from trying to land large corporate sponsors. “I’ve only approached local places so far,” he said, declining to name names at this point. “They want to see that the programs are creating something really good for the community. I think a lot of the local businesses are interested in that kind of thing. All it has to do is hit close to home for someone that is looking to make a difference in a kid’s life.”
Matt Murphy, also a teaching pro at Soule, is working as York’s assistant instructor during the current camp. He also believes the camp is a positive force in the community. “This is a good opportunity to get the kids into golf at an early age,” he said. “Then they can decide for themselves if they like it. We give them the tools to help make that decision.”
It seems that everyone involved in the program wants to see it succeed.
“My daughter loves the individual aspect of golf, but it’s great that it’s still a group environment,” said Hayley Slobodzian whose 6-year-old daughter Kaiya is in her fourth round of camps with York. “Having it for free is just such a huge benefit. I really hope that it continues.”
Chris Harvey, head professional at Soule, says there are other benefits that will help ensure that the game, and the course itself, are around for generations to come. “We’re losing golfers,” he said. “It’s important that guys like Tyson and Matt are showing how Soule Park has open arms to the kids of the valley. There has always been a consistency of locals coming out here. We need to keep that going.”
York has lived in the valley for 30 years and began playing golf at Soule Park when he was 8 years old. Since graduating high school, he says he has been at the course “all day, every day,” and says it was always his dream to be a professional at Soule. Relating to the younger generation of golfers, York sums up his thoughts on aspiring young linksman in the valley. “It’s all about the kids and the future of the game,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to give back to them both.”
For more information on Soule Park’s junior programs or donations, call the course golf shop at 646-5633.
The Ojai City Council has selected Joseph Fletcher of Tustin to serve as city attorney after a six‐month search to replace Monte Widders, who retired in May after nearly 30 years in the post.
The decision is pending final approval by the Ojai City Council on January 10, when it will consider to approve a contract with Fletcher serving as city attorney and Scott Howard as assistant city attorney.
Both men bring a long list of varied legal experience to the table. Fletcher, a lifelong city attorney, has been practicing law for more than 30 years. He served for 14 years as city attorney for Santa Ana before his retirement in 2010. A southern California native, Fletcher grew up in the Pasadena area. He received his law degree from Pacific/McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. Fletcher began his career in Modesto in 1983 as a deputy city attorney, and followed it with stints in Anaheim and Burbank. Now in private practice, Fletcher currently serves as the interim city attorney for Menifee in Riverside County.
Howard, a resident of Ventura, spent more than 34 years with the Glendale City Attorney’s office, acting as Glendale’s city attorney for 21 of those years. He retired in 2011 and is now in private practice.
Howard grew up in Culver City and earned his law degree from Southwestern University School of Law. Howard and Fletcher have a long history of working together.
Fletcher was selected after the Ojai City Council received 14 proposals and interviewed a half‐dozen firms and individuals for the position during two public meetings held this fall. The Council allowed residents to directly submit questions to be asked of the finalists. City officials said they were pleased with the high number of quality responses received during the search.
Mayor Betsy Clapp stated, “Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Howard both have a broad base of experience in municipal law and a feel for the type of issues facing our community. Thi,s along with genuine enthusiasm, and a desire to do what is best for Ojai, led us to our decision to ask Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Howard to join our team at City Hall.”
If appointed by the Council, Fletcher will begin his duties February 1. “I am honored for the opportunity to become part of the City organization and look forward to serving the Ojai community,” said Fletcher.
On May 24, the City Council announced that it had appointed Steven Lee, another member of the Widders’ firm, to serve as acting city attorney after Widders cited medical reasons for his retirement from the position. Widders had served the City since February, 1981.
Widders’ firm will continue providing services to the City through Feb. 1 in order to provide for a smooth transition from one city attorney to the next.
By Logan Hall
Locals are scrambling to rent one last movie as Blockbuster prepares to close its doors after more than a dozen years of business in Mira Monte.
Ojai Valley store manager Lupe Ruvulcava said he couldn’t comment on the situation, but did confirm that the store is closing. Representatives from Dish Network, Blockbuster’s parent company, refused to comment, and instead sent a generic email that briefly explains why any given Blockbuster store might be closing. “ … Stores can close for a number of reasons, such as the store reaching the end of its lease, a store may be too large in size, or property owners may be unwilling to reach a reasonable lease renewal,” read the email from Danielle Johnson, spokeswoman for Dish Network. “ … We remain committed to maintaining only those stores that we believe we will be able to operate profitably.”
The fate of the store’s employees remains uncertain.
In an attempt to reassure those that may be affected, the response from Johnson indicated that there might be hope for the company’s current local workers. “We intend to relocate as many employees as possible to other stores.”
Employees answering the Mira Monte store phone indicated that the valley Blockbuster will stop renting to customers on Dec. 26 and will close its doors to the public in January after selling its inventory.
Repeated inquiries for more information went unanswered, and Johnson refused to confirm or deny when the store is officially closing.
By Logan Hall
Ojai citizens pushing for an end to privately owned water are steadily gaining momentum as more local organizations are getting on board the effort.
Most recently, the Ojai Valley Defense Fund and the Surfrider Foundation announced that they support Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water in its bid to remove Golden State Water Company from Ojai through eminent domain. The Defense Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was launched by locals who understand the need for a fund set aside for legally defending the valley should an environmental threat arise and a legal battle ensue.
F.L.O.W., Defense Fund and Surfrider representatives agree that privately owned water companies can harm the local ecosystem. The three groups claim that private companies like Golden State care more about profits for shareholders than about preserving the area’s vital resources.
“Many people don’t realize that this region is not tied to the state water system and is totally dependent on what falls from the sky,” said Defense Fund president John Broesamle. “By removing Golden State Water Company and replacing it with a public entity, we can have local control and management of our watershed, and in that way we will assure that these vital water resources will be managed for the benefit of the valley’s citizens.”
Broesamle stated that he couldn’t comment on whether or not the Defense Fund will be backing F.L.O.W. financially. “This is the phase of the process that we can announce so far.”
In an email to F.L.O.W. from Paul Jenkins, environmental director of the Surfrider Foundation Ventura County Chapter, the foundation echoes the Defense Fund’s stance. “Your (F.L.O.W.) efforts to bring the community together demonstrate that the Ojai Valley is aware of the threat to our ecosystem when outside corporate interests control a water supply,” read the letter. “There are many examples from around the world and in the United States in which corporations have drastically impacted local communities through profit-motivated actions that overdraft local water supplies … With ever increasing pressure on this limited supply, it is crucial that the community is able to work together in a cooperative manner to ensure future sustainability … Recent actions by Golden State and the PUC demonstrate that they do not answer to the community.”
Golden State representatives, however, disagree.
“We’re managing the groundwater basin in the Ojai area,” said GSWC district manager Ken Petersen. “We’re studying it to make sure we use it beneficially so we don’t get overdrafts.”
Petersen added that Golden State helped form the Ojai Basin Groundwater Agency. “We’re an active participant and member of the agency,” he said.
F.L.O.W. supporters believe that the backing of organizations like the Defense Fund is a major step in the right direction for Ojai’s citizens. “Having the Surfrider Foundation and the Ojai Valley Defense Fund backing us is a big deal,” said F.L.O.W. representative Pat McPherson. “So far, along with the Surfrider Foundation and Defense Fund, we are supported by the City of Ojai, the Ojai Unified School District and the Ojai Valley Board of Realtors. This is an opportunity to control our watershed. Managing our water so we still have it later is a smart thing to do.”
McPherson also pointed out that they would like to see action taken by the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce. “The chamber is really the only one not endorsing us,” he said. “That’s important for us.”
Scott Eicher, the chamber’s CEO, responded with an email statement saying that the chamber has to follow proper procedures when taking an official stance on positions like F.L.O.W.’s. “Ojai F.L.O.W. is aware of our policy,” Eicher stated, “and knows we will hear their presentation and one from the Ojai Valley Groundwater Basin in January. After reviewing this information, the board of directors will confer and then issue a statement or position.”
The Ojai Valley News will continue to report on Ojai’s water supply in upcoming issues.
Chris T. Wilson
With the holidays here and a new year just a few days away, one of Ojai’s teaching artists continues to surround herself with creativity while reflecting on what she’s grateful for and looking forward to the opportunities to come.
In March 2012, Janis’ Art Workshop and Garden Gallery will celebrate its 10-year anniversary. In this past decade, Janis Hansen has been providing a studio space where artists of all ages and abilities can come and try their hands at a number of artistic modalities.
Located at 410 W. Ojai Ave., between Suzanne’s Cuisine and Chantico Inn, the inviting gallery is alive with activity. About 50 local artists sell their work through the gallery, so paintings, sculptures and rich colorful mosaics of all shapes and sizes share space from floor to ceiling. Inside the entrance the air is perfumed by a gardenia candle, and a burst of sunlight beckons students to pass through the front gallery and into the rear courtyard. There a garden area is lined with flagstone pathways and mosaic-encrusted sculptures are punctuated by grinning Buddha statues and trickling fountains.
The workshop and gallery specializes in glass painting, stained glass and mosaic tile work, Hansen said, but offers classes in many other forms of expression. Hundreds of students have learned here over the years. They come from the local community and from surrounding areas. Many are tourists dropping in for a few hours and others come in groups from nearby retreats and hotels. The colorful location has been used for special group events, weddings, and art birthday parties.
And when Hansen, a mother of three daughters and grandmother of one baby boy isn’t busy teaching classes or offering her services as a garden and landscape designer and consultant, she takes the time to volunteer and provide a cost-free learning place for a handful of developmentally disabled individuals from the ARC Ojai Enrichment Center, who come to the workshop to make art projects every week.
“I find a deep sense of personal well-being and joy when working with these special unique individuals who remind me of my many blessings,” Hansen said. “Their smiles of accomplishment and self-satisfaction after completing a creative project keep me inspired to continue my work with them.”
Hansen began the volunteer project not long after learning that the youngest of her daughters was diagnosed with autism. That was 10 years ago and Hansen has been donating facilities and art supplies for the weekly classes ever since.
“I wanted to create a space in our Ojai artist community where locals and visitors could experience a few hours of unleashing their own creativity in a safe and inspiring environment,” she said.
Classes happen spontaneously at times, Hansen said. Often tourists will wander in from the street and then find themselves spending a few hours working on a glass painting or stained glass project.
“Everybody who comes to Ojai wants to be an artist,” Hansen said.
Just such an occurrence recently led to the chance for the workshop and gallery to be involved with Inclusion Studios, Joey Travolta’s Film School for adults with special needs. Hansen is in the process of developing a project with the Burbank-based film school that will take place in the coming year.
Hansen said that among her goals in 2012, she will seek more balance in her life and spend more time with family members. She is gratefully indebted to local supporters and helpers Ed and Michelle Buckman, Sheila Cluff, Janet Mahon, Debbie O’Brien and many others.
And after more than two decades as a valley resident, Hansen is still full of entrepreneurial spirit. At age 21 she started a pastry baking company in Santa Barbara called A Piece of Cake that made artistic cakes and desserts for celebrities including Michael Douglas, Heather Locklear and many more.
Called a “must stop in Ojai” by Los Angeles Times and featured in the pages of Westways Magazine and other regional publications, the workshop is open seven days a week. Visit ojaiartworkshop.com for more information about this local community resource.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
There is no other time of the year that is as special as Christmas. And it seems that there are some people that embody everything that Christmas is supposed to be about – joy, laughter, excitement, unselfishness and goodwill. Over the years I have known several such people, but the one who will always stand out in my mind when it comes to Christmas is my Uncle John. In fact, it is impossible for me to think about Christmas without thinking about him.
Part of the reason for this is that my uncle always played Santa Claus. And I have never seen anyone more perfect for the part. He was a large man with rosy cheeks, a hearty laugh, and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. But there was much more than just his physical appearance that made him personify Christmas. It was what was inside the man, not what was inside the suit.
Uncle John never had children of his own, so all children came to be his. I can remember him sitting patiently for hours at a time without t pay in a hot suit and beard (that he had paid for himself) while child after child would laugh, giggle and share with him what they wanted Santa to bring them for Christmas. No matter how long it took, no matter how many kids there were to see, he was always animated and jolly, as if doing this for the first time.
Wherever we went in our small town, we always saw the same Santa. Uncle John was Santa at local stores, he was Santa at our church, and he was Santa at the town’s annual Christmas parade. Uncle John also had a great trick for those kids who were on the verge of outgrowing their belief in Santa. Before putting the child in his lap, he would conspire with the parents to find out what the kid wanted for Christmas. When the skeptical child would challenge whether he was the real Santa Claus, my uncle would say, “Well if I am not Santa, then how do I know you want a Daisy BB gun for Christmas?” The look on the stunned child’s face was probably my uncle’s favorite Christmas present.
When my sister and I were very young, my uncle started a wonderful Christmas tradition – the “Magic Tree”. About two weeks before Christmas, my uncle came to our house to have coffee with my parents. He casually mentioned that he thought one of the trees in our front yard had magical powers. When we questioned him, he said that he thought he had noticed something wedged in one of the branches of the tree, and that maybe we ought to go out and see what it was.
My sister and I raced out of the house to find some small toys – one for a girl and one for a boy. We were thrilled beyond words and raced back into the house to show our treasures. Each morning for the next two weeks or so, there was a gift in the Magic Tree. The gifts were small and inexpensive. Sometimes it was just a couple of pieces of fruit. But we thought it was wonderful, and no orange ever tasted as sweet as one that had come from the Magic Tree.
It soon became hard to sleep at night wondering what treasure would be in the tree the next morning. And each day when my mother woke us, my sister and I would race outside barefooted and in our pajamas (with my mother right behind us scolding us to put on our shoes) to see what the tree held for us.
I would not hazard a guess as to how many families my uncle brought joy to down through the many years before his death. But in a time when it is easy to become cynical about everything, including Christmas, it is a pleasure to recall the wonderful memories that we all have about this blessed season and what it means to us and our families.
Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus – and his spirit lives in the hearts of people like Uncle John. I wish Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and happy holidays to you all.
By Chris T. Wilson
A small group of Ojai residents have returned from a mission trip to Niger, where they taught natives how to fabricate solar panels to pump clean water, and taught women how to help each other in childbirth.
Leslie Clark of Nomad Gallery in Ojai has been traveling to Niger since the mid 1990s. At first she went there in search of beautiful scenery to inform her artistic expression. But the positive impact she saw from a gift she gave years ago led her to expand her vision and found the Nomad Foundation.
Since 1996 the Nomad Foundation, with grants from Rotary clubs of Ojai and Westlake Village, as well as private donors, has set out to bring flood and famine relief, farming and technical education, medical care and instruction to one of the world’s poorest regions.
From Sept. 29 until Nov. 22, Clark, accompanied by retired Ojai obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Robert Skankey and local volunteer Sol de la Torre Bueno, traveled to a remote northern region of Niger to accomplish the solar and midwife training mission.
Skankey, who created the mid-wife training program, worked closely with five women from five different communities. He taught them hygiene and how to administer basic medications to avoid infection. Following the five-day course, each new mid-wife successfully demonstrated what they had learned and each was given a cell phone and solar charging unit so they can contact the medical clinic in Tamesna, Niger, for further guidance if needed.
Despite the language barrier and the lack of literacy among the trainees, Skankey said he was amazed and pleased at how well the women learned and were able to demonstrate their newly gained knowledge.
“I’m thrilled with how well the program went,” Skankey said. “I had to research the best approach to teaching the women how to take care of other pregnant ladies, and we got a lot of good feedback on it.”
Since this mission has been postponed twice due to security concerns, Skankey has had two full years to develop the program, which Clark said made the entire effort to go smoothly. While in Niger, Nomad Foundation volunteers are accompanied by armed security guards to thwart would-be bandits and kidnappers.
In addition to the mid-wife training, the other intent of this trip was to provide locals with the materials and skills they need to fabricate their own solar panels. Working with solar expert Richard Komp of Skyheat, Nomad Foundation volunteers and natives were able to fabricate 24 solar panels that can be used to power the Nomad’s mobile villages. They also built solar ovens they will be able to use for baking and other food preperation.
Clark said the goal of training the Nomads to use solar is so they can charge cell phones and pump clean well water. Getting uncontaminated water is one of the biggest challenges they face, she said.
“Our next big project will be well drilling,” said Clark. “The only way to get clean water is to have a sealed well. For that, you need electricity. That is really the whole reason for the solar program.”
Clark and Skankey are planning a return to Niger in February 2012. During the three-week trip, they will conduct further trainings and follow up on the work they conducted in the fall of 2011.
In the meantime, Clark is seeking financial support from the community through direct donations and the sale of goods at the Nomad Gallery. One item in particular is a solar powered goose-neck lamp from Unite To Light of Santa Barbara. For each $25 lamp purchased, one is donated to a Nomad.
For more information about the Nomad Foundation, visit the Nomad Gallery at 307 East Ojai Ave, call 646-1706, or visit nomadfoundation.org.
By Logan Hall
Ventura County officials are working with Ojai Quarry owner Larry Mosler to settle a dispute that started back in 2008. During a seven-hour public hearing by the county’s planning commission last week, Mosler and county planners agreed to work together. The commission voted unanimously to allow the mine owner to continue operating while fixing issues raised by the county, and paying the county fees and fines that have accrued — some of which Mosler had refused to pay previously.
The trouble began in 2008, three years after Mosler purchased the quarry, when the county planning division cited Mosler for violating his conditional use permit requirements by mining outside of the area permitted by the county. Although Mosler owns 90 acres of mostly uninhabited land around the quarry, which is about four miles north of Ojai up Maricopa Highway, he is only allowed to mine nine acres. If he plans on mining outside the permitted boundaries, he is required to apply for a temporary permit that must be approved by the county.
Mosler says that he was following a requirement handed down by the federal government’s Mine Safety and Health Administration. County records confirm that MSHA had ordered Mosler to remove hazardous perched boulders which were outside of his mining boundaries. County officials, however, say that Mosler never got a temporary permit from the county to remove the boulders.
“I’ve got the county telling me to do one thing,” said Mosler, “and MSHA telling me to do another.”
Other violations from the county against the mine included exceeding the maximum allowable daily truck trips, which is currently capped at 20, running non-permitted equipment — specifically, a large rock crusher — and for operating without an approved reclamation plan or adequate financial assurance that reclamation of the mining site could be paid for. Since 2008, Mosler has been issued 14 violations by the county.
Although the commission’s hearing was centered around Mosler’s lack of an approved plan and financial assurance, the mine’s other violations were brought up by Ojai Stop the Trucks! Coalition representatives during the proceedings. Coalition representative Michael Shapiro says the coalition is not happy with the county’s decision to work with Mosler.
“We’re very disappointed,” said Shapiro. “We think it was a complete whitewash. We were just shocked at the commission’s decision.”
While Mosler and the county agreed to work together to mitigate the quarry’s issues, Shapiro says the fight isn’t over for the coalition. “We’re going to move forward,” he said. “We’re going to have to continue to monitor them (quarry) ourselves.”
Shapiro claims that coalition supporters have counted trucks leaving the quarry and have found Mosler to be exceeding his maximum allowable daily truck trips on a regular basis. When asked for documentation or some kind of record keeping of the coalition’s findings, Shapiro said, “We don’t write that down.”
Shapiro claims that the efforts of the coalition are geared toward preserving Ojai’s small town feel and pushing to keep industry from the valley. “We really got moving when we were fighting the mines that were farther up the highway,” he said. “If all the mines got what they wanted, there would have been 600 trucks a day going down (Highway) 33.”
Shapiro also said that the coalition has sent many official complaints to the county by way of the coalition’s attorney. The coalition receives funding from the city of Ojai for legal fees, which, according to city records, has amounted to more than $25,000 since July 2009. “They do the work and send the attorney’s bill to us,” said Steve McClary, assistant to the city manager. “We review it and pay it.”
Mosler has until Feb. 23 to adhere to the planning commissions guidelines in working with county planners. Aside from gaining approval for the mine’s latest proposed reclamation plan and financial assurance, the county is also requiring Mosler to resume payments on $98,000 that he owes the county in fees and fines.
By Logan Hall
Ojai Rock Quarry supporters butted heads with Ventura County staff and Stop the Trucks! Coalition supporters in a seven-hour-long hearing that ended with county planning commissioners continuing the meeting to Feb. 23, to give the two sides time to work out an agreement.
Dozens of citizens and officials, including the quarry’s owners Larry Mosler and his wife Grace, were present during the planning commission hearing that entertained testimony and opinions from both sides of the issue. County planning division staff had recommended that the commission revoke Mosler’s mining permit, which would require him to cease all mining operations. After county staff issued statements saying that Mosler was operating illegally, experts opposing the county’s assessment shared their insights before members of the public and delivered their thoughts to the commission.
Mosler had been cited by the county for 14 violations of his Conditional Use Permit starting in 2008, including operating outside the mine’s permitted boundaries and operating outside of permitted hours. Thursday’s deliberations by the commission were centered on the county’s accusation that Mosler was operating without an approved reclamation plan — the plan that would be used for restoring the site should mining operations cease. County officials were also concerned that the miner was operating without financial assurance that the reclamation could be paid for.
County staff said that Mosler’s current approved plan showed the need for 285,000 cubic yards of fill material, and that he had not posted adequate financial assurance that would cover the cost of the material. County staff also stated that Mosler’s current posted financial assurance of $22,000 was insufficient, and therefore an approved plan with an adequate amount of financial assurance was needed, as required by the State Mining and Geology Board through the State Mining and Reclamation Act. The county’s argument was that state law requires the plan, along with the assurance, be current and approved by the county.
Mosler’s attorney Derek Cole and geologist Dr. Sandy Figuers outlined reasons why the county’s interpretation of the reclamation plan was flawed and said that there was no need for 285,000 tons of fill material that Mosler and Cole claim would cost $3 million to be trucked in. Although planning commissioners questioned Mosler’s numbers, they did agree the cost would be high, and expressed concern about the substantial increase from the current $22,000 posted. Mosler argued that the county has refused to look over his new plan, which he says would require the posting of a $70,000 financial assurance.
Supporters of both Mosler and the county voiced their opinions to the commission. Local construction companies, and other business owners, spoke on Mosler’s behalf and urged commissioners to consider the big picture.
“Times are tough,” said local contractor Chris Hilgers as he stood at the lectern. “I think you have some obligation to work with Mr. Mosler. There is an obligation to find an answer to preserve jobs and keep this asset.”
Long-time valley resident Ernie Ford says he lives just down from the quarry and supports the mine and its owner. “The quarry is run efficiently,” said Ford. “We can see the quarry from our bathroom window. We have seen no evidence of traffic violations or truck overloading. I hope that the county will work with the Moslers and keep the quarry open.”
Representatives from the Stop the Trucks! Coalition had less than positive things to say about the operation and its owners.
One statement given by coalition representatives told of physical abuse by the Moslers during a break in the hearing. “These people are trying to intimidate us,” said coalition chairman Michael Shapiro, who told commissioners of an encounter with Mosler’s wife outside of the hearing room. “She grabbed my hand … Mrs. Mosler almost pulled me to the ground. That was a threat and I don’t take it lightly. I would like some security when we leave.”
When asked about the incident after the hearing, Mosler laughed and said, “My wife is 68-years-old, 5-foot-3 and about 110 pounds.”
County staff supporters did make some points about the issue that gained the commission’s attention, however. “We had no problem with the quarry, provided they stay within their limits,” said coalition supporter Howard Smith. “But we began to realize there were numerous violations. If you don’t follow the rules, you don’t deserve a permit to stay in business.”
Ojai city manager Rob Clark spoke on the Ojai City Council’s behalf, stating that the council unanimously supported county staff’s recommendations to revoke Mosler’s permit. Because Maricopa Highway runs through Ojai city limits and is a trucking route for the quarry, the city took an official stance in support of the county. The city also funds the Stop the Trucks! Coalition’s legal costs through payments that Shapiro claims equal up to around $18,000 annually. City officials could not be reached before print time Thursday to confirm payment amounts to the coalition.
Planning commissioners heard both sides of the story and came to the conclusion that more time was needed for all involved to come to a conclusion. After discussing possible options with Mosler and county staff, the commission unanimously settled on a continuation of the hearing to Feb. 23, providing that Mosler update his financial assurance to cover the $70,000 specified by the new reclamation plan. Mosler is required to pay $25,000 on or before Dec. 24, with the remaining $23,000 to be paid within 30 days after that. Commissioners also required that Mosler continue to make payments on the almost $100,000 in fines and back fees owed to the county.
“I think the commission bent over backwards to get a solution to the problem,” Mosler said after the hearing. “I didn’t win what I wanted, but I didn’t lose either. The commission understands the catch-22 situation that I’ve been involved in and wants to bring that to an end. They want to resolve this.”
The final installment of this four-part series will appear next week in the Ojai Valley News. The conclusion of the series will deal with additional issues raised by Ojai Stop the Trucks! in opposing the quarry, alleged violations brought against Mosler by the County and the mine owner’s response.
By Chris T. Wilson
When local graphic artist and marketing guru Dustin Byerley won the contract to help Sony launch a new handheld video game, he turned to his local Ojai friends and fellow artisans to put the project together.
Hired by former Ojai resident Andrew Culp, the creative director at ADD Marketing + Advertising of Los Angeles, Byerley’s task was to pitch, design and fabricate several PlayStation PSVita pop-up stores set to launch in select cities nationwide. The pop-up stores are temporary stores built to allow the video gaming public a sneak hands-on peak at the new system.
The project was two-fold. The PSVita Mall Tour launched in late November and will run until the end of December at shopping malls in Santa Monica, Georgia, Illinois, Virginia and Texas. The Mall Tour locations are set up like over-sized kiosks. The second part of the project was the Vita Hill Social Club, which is a hip indoor environment where video gamers can sit and relax and get into the gaming experience. Sony plans to duplicate the social club experience at several locations across the nation in the coming year.
“The pitch I wrote won over six other ad agencies,” Byerley said. And subsequently, he and a handful of other local talents have conceived, designed and built most of the multi-sensory experience here in the Ojai Valley.
Once Byerley learned he had been awarded the contract, he turned to local digital and fine artist Rick Monzon of monzonfineart.blogspot.com to sketch mock-ups of both the Mall Tour and Social Club.
For the Mall Tour, the majority of the fabrication was produced by an outside vendor; but, there were a few local people involved, Byerley noted. David Lenwell of the local sustainable hosting company Hostojai.com produced the data collection and pre-order interfaces for all five cities.
In need of some cut vinyl signs, Byerely chose Richard Clark of Richard’s Sign Service in Meiners Oaks, and all printing for the Mall Tour was produced by Ojai Printing with the help of Ben Skirvin.
For the Vita Hill Social Club, the majority of the art and fabrication took place in Ojai.
“The Vita Hill Social Club was designed to be a 50-50 blend of an old world social club meets the eclectic aesthetic of a DIY hipster,” Byerley said. “We wanted to create a space that we would enjoy spending time in. (The) design that called for large, opulent hotel desks, bars, literature racks, custom tables, stages and more. The first person I thought of was scenic artist Pablo Grande-Weiss because of his extensive background in theater production and work with local Emmy award winning director Jamie Caliri.”
Grande-Weiss assembled a team of eight local scenic artists to take on the job and have since produced over 100 custom-fabricated items, which are being shipped to eight Social Clubs nationally.
“The sheer volume of these large items is visually arresting, but the coolest thing of all is to see people doing what they love while stimulating the local economy,” Byerley said.
To bring the hipster factor to the space Byerley brought in artists Kesina McEuen and Clinton Burger. Kesina has fabricated a number of one-off, artsy elements for the Social Club such as custom vinyl pillows, wallpaper, a chic hand-stitched cloud mobile and a quirky tree topper satellite dish.
Artist Burger’s gentle, handmade style caught Byerley’s eye. Burger produced two original art pieces for the space, which, Byerely said, “Just blew my mind. He’s a natural talent with a unique, heart-felt perspective.”
He also worked with a number of local vendors to produce the rest of the elements. Eric Nicholson at Primarily Wood provided custom framing for a number of art pieces, which Ojai local Julie Purkerson of EXHIBIT printed.
“All in all it was a big risk, but Ojai delivered,” Byerely noted, beaming at a line of people that wound around the block at the Dec. 1 opening of the Vita Hill Social Club. “The overwhelming success of the opening night in San Francisco is a testament to the raw talent and hard work of this town.”
To learn more, visit us.playstation.com and click on the PSVita link.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Last weekend, a woman who works at my newspaper in Tennessee lost her mother. Christy’s mother had been ill for some time, and her condition had recently worsened. My heart goes out to her. She is a valued employee and was a dedicated and loving daughter. I know her mother’s death will be especially tough on Christy, facing the first holiday season without her mom around.
I lost both of my parents many years ago. My daddy suffered an extended illness; we watched a once vibrant man waste away to nothing as cancer wracked his body. Twenty-five years later, my mother died of heart failure. She battled cancer valiantly, but repeated chemotherapy treatments bled the strength from her heart, and she died holding my hand.
There is no easy way to lose someone you love. And though time, good memories, and the family who are still with you ease the pain, there are still moments I feel the emptiness in my life without the loved ones I have lost.
It is easy to get caught up in the rush of the holiday season. There are parties to attend, shopping to finish, gifts to wrap, plans to make and trips to take. Each year Christmas seems to come earlier, and with it, more expectations. We are stressed and harried and sometimes ready for the whole thing to just be over.
But then, something brings you back to reality and reminds you of what is truly important. For me, that came in the form of a message my sister sent last week. The message said, “Jack (her husband) told me about Ava’s idea for the adults not to exchange gifts, and I think that’s fine. I have one request from you for Christmas…come to Elba! With our aging and scattering children, it may be rare when we can all be together. It would be really special if you could also be here.”
So, Ava and I will spend Christmas Day with her brothers. Ava will fix a big meal, and we will spend the day as we have for the past three years. The next day we will travel to see my sister. And we will enjoy more good food, and I will kid my nieces and nephews and say silly things that will make my college-age niece, Meredith, giggle like a little girl. My sister will probably tell the story about how when we were kids, I took the head off her favorite doll and put a bumble-bee inside, and how she ran screaming to our mother to tell on me. We will talk about those we loved who are now gone, but remain with us in spirit.
What better gift can you receive at Christmas than being with those you love? If you ever doubt that, just ask someone who can’t.
May you have what you treasure, but more importantly, treasure what you have.
City also supports library expansion, appoints new mayor
By Tiobe Barron
After two public meetings and much discussion, the Ojai City Council voted to increase the Ojai Trolley fare at Tuesday night’s meeting. The rate increase was deemed necessary because the Ojai Trolley is required to maintain a 10 percent operating expense-to-fare intake in order to continue receiving state funding to cover its operating costs. The new rates will be $1 for general fare, 50 cents for senior citizens and children ages 2 to 5, and 25 cents for those with disabilities and children under the age of 2. The new fares will be implemented in February 2012.
Ojai resident Kyleen Sagowski said cannot drive due to an eye impairment; yet, as she works in both Ojai and Ventura, she said “the trolley and Gold Coast are my lifeline.” She urged City Council members to remember riders like her, who are completely dependent upon public transportation.
Jay Simons, a trolley driver for three years and a longtime Ojai resident, said, “It’s important to build on this momentum,” speaking about the Ad Hoc Transit Committee’s work. He proposed the Council make the committee ongoing, and perhaps consider modifications to the trolley route seasonally — for example, a summertime route that would carry riders to Lake Casitas. He believes there are many more issues that were tabled by the committee that still need addressing. Steve Brown, of the Gold Coast Transit Committee, said Tuesday that they are working currently with the Ventura County Transportation Department. He said that in an ideal world, the end result would be a transit district in western Ventura County, for which the funding would be pooled, would provide the coverage that’s most needed, and would give the area transportation more permanence.
Councilman Paul Blatz explained, “The city is on the lower end of the totem pole, so when it comes to funding (from the state), when they say they’re going to take it, they just take it. We share (Ojai residents’) frustration.”
Also at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the Council “re-organized,” as the one-year term allotments dictate, and Mayor Carol Smith was replaced by incoming Mayor Betsy Clapp. Blatz replaced Clapp as mayor pro tem.
In keeping with the re-organizing theme, Cynthia Burrell submitted her resignation as City Clerk, and suggested her Deputy City Clerk, Rhonda Basore, as her replacement.
Councilwoman Carlon Strobel said, “I want to thank Cynthia for her 20-plus years of service, for all she taught me, for her compassion and dedication to the job.”
Blatz reminded those in attendance that, “The City Clerk is here to represent the people, and make sure the government does what the government is supposed to do. As a public records custodian, it is important that person be impartial, not just a member of staff.”
Ojai resident Pat McPherson offered that he has worked directly with Basore, and said, “She is an excellent choice for city clerk, unbiased, totally for getting the truth.”
Basore accepted the nomination to the position, and thanked Council members for their support and confidence.
When it came to supporting the Ojai Friends of the Library’s request that City Council use some of the library funds to help in the future with the maintenance of the proposed meeting room, Councilwoman Strobel still had many questions. “Is the project approved by the county? If so, is it the county’s position that they would pay for the annex building, but not the electricity, etc.? Does it require more staff? How will that be paid for? These things have a tendency to snowball, and I want to make sure we go into this with our eyes wide open.”
Councilwoman Smith indicated that the revised plan of support, which would limit the city’s yearly and total financial contributions, was “A good deal, and these things always have unintended consequences.” The motion to support the project passed.
Jenny Newman of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board also spoke at the meeting, in regards to a legally required assessment of the Ventura River watershed total maximum daily load. The assessment needs to be completed by March 2012. So far, it has been found that the Ventura River area has increased nutrient loading — meaning nitrogen and phosphorous, primarily from agricultural runoff and animal waste, which has led to excessive algae. Excessive algae in the watershed can create myriad problems, including killing off local fish populations and harboring bacteria harmful to humans, such as E. Coli. Newman emphasized that the study is not self-implementing, and that provisions will have to be made in future to lower the nutrient content. The TMDL report will be released for public review and comment in May 2012.
By Joanna M. Iwata
Generous donations to the Ojai Education Foundation have allowed the nonprofit organization to present a check for $45,000 to the Ojai Unified School District, which will be used to pay for new laptops, projectors, speakers and interactive whiteboards in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.
Last year, the OEF gave $37,500 to the school district to pay for new classroom technology in fourth through eighth grades that helps promote the visual learning and interactivity stressed in the enVisionMATH California curriculum recently adopted by the OUSD school board.
“The $45,000 grant to OUSD for enVisionMATH technology in grades K to 3 in 2011 is the largest grant by OEF to date, and follows our grant of $37,500 for grades 4 to 8 in 2010,” said Phil Caruthers, OEF treasurer. “We are very proud of this accomplishment and very grateful for the generous contributions of more than 200 donors and many of our community businesses and sponsors for making what we do possible. Among them, Vintage Productions California LLC has been instrumental in bringing such important resources to the school district by providing matching grants of $10,000 for the past two years.”
Hank Bangser, OUSD superintendent, noted the importance of both OEF grants. “The decision of the Ojai Education Foundation board to fund the entire K through 8 mathematics technology initiative in two years, rather than the originally planned three years, was a tremendous morale and educational boost for our faculty,” he said. “I wish every OEF donor and parent could be with me when I see how much our teachers and students are the beneficiaries of the new creative software and technology available to them now, directly attributable to the $82,500 in OEF grants for the program.”
All the OUSD school principals agree the new technology has exceeded their expectations. “Because of the generosity of the Ojai Education Foundation, our classrooms have come alive with technology,” said Dawn Damianos, Meiners Oaks Elementary School principal. “Students are engaged in the lessons and teachers are able to ‘read’ students’ faces (as they are looking up to the screen in the front of the room) and see whether or not they are understanding the lesson.” Teachers use their new teaching tools not only for math, but for science, social studies, language arts and current events as well, Damianos added.
Parents Katie Metzger and Sandy Ulrich have seen the positive impact of the new technology in their children’s classrooms. “I am fortunate that I get to see firsthand how my kids and the rest of the children in the class become so excited and engaged in what they are learning,” said Metzger, who volunteers twice a week in her son’s first-grade class and her daughter’s fourth-grade class at Meiners Oaks Elementary School.
“I have noticed that both the kids and teachers love this new technology, especially the whiteboards,” said Ulrich, who has a kindergartener at San Antonio Elementary School and a middle-school student at Matilija Junior High School. “Since it is an electronically driven and interactive system, it instantly engages the students,” she said. Ulrich also said her daughter raves about the new handheld device that looks like a cell phone, which she uses in her life science and social studies classes. “Students can type answers right away so that the teacher and everyone can see them,” she said.
As Kathy White, Mira Monte Elementary School principal, said, “Technology as a tool for delivery instruction has become so important to the majority of our teachers that some have commented they feel like they are in the dark ages without it.”
John LeSuer, Topa Topa Elementary School principal, agreed. “Our teachers are feeling more comfortable with the technology,” he said. “It is making such a positive difference in our schools. Students often express that it makes learning fun and easier to follow. Teaching is also more interesting and motivating to the students of all grades and it holds their attention.”
Teacher Chris Ando at Topa Topa also concurs. “My teaching is better because I can show the students concepts and they can watch as they are presented. I didn’t know all the benefits until I started using it and I now use their technology for all subjects, not just math.”
Special-education teachers Laura Van Auker at Meiners Oaks, and Harriet Clise at Matilija, value using the new technology to make the math curriculum accessible to students with disabilities in ways that keep them active, engaged and learning in an inclusive way with other students.
Debbie Johnson, president of the OEF, is gratified by the ongoing support of OEF donors and business sponsors. “I am proud to be part of such a hard-working, all-volunteer organization,” she said. “I look forward to the future as we continue to work with OUSD to determine where our fundraising efforts will be put to the best use.”
“We are seeing what exciting things can happen for our young people, their teachers and our school system when we fund special initiatives that can transform how teachers teach and students learn,” said Marianne Ratcliff, OEF board member and parent of two children at Summit Elementary School in Upper Ojai. “The Ojai Education Foundation is committed to investing in our youths’ future through its annual educational grants and larger multiyear projects.”
OEF is a community-based, nonprofit organization that promotes excellence in public education by building community support and providing resources to our schools. For more information, log on to www.ojaief.org. Donations can be mailed to OEF, P.O. Box 1769, Ojai, Calif. 93024.
By Logan Hall
Part 2 in a multipart series
County officials are preparing to hear Ojai Rock Quarry owner Larry Mosler’s case during a public hearing scheduled for Thursday morning. Among other issues, Mosler is refusing to submit financial assurance for a reclamation plan that he says will cost him almost $3 million.
Staff from the county’s Planning Department say they have given Mosler many chances to comply with their need for a Financial Assurance Cost Estimate — the amount of money it should take to properly reclaim the mine if it were ever abandoned. Mosler says the county is asking for an unprecedented amount of fill material to be accounted for that would fill in mined areas of the quarry if the need arose for reclamation.
Brian Baca, the county Planning Department’s commercial and industrial permit manager, says both the county and the State Mining and Geology Board’s Office of Mining Reclamation have reviewed Mosler’s approved reclamation plan, which has been in place since 1995, and have reported that a new plan addressing the need for 285,000 cubic yards of fill material be factored into his plan. Along with the amended plan, Mosler is required by county and state law to submit his F.A.C.E. and a means of facilitating that assurance through a cash deposit, bond or other approved means.
County officials say that Mosler’s claim that the fill material could cost close to $3 million are not associated with county or state reviews, and that the mine owner is responsible for providing a professional cost estimate for the plan which, in Mosler’s case, now includes 285,000 cubic yards of material. “The county has never asked for a specific dollar amount for his plan,” said Baca. “We made our own preliminary estimate which was just over 300,000 cubic yards. The state made a review and said 285,000 cubic yards of material was necessary for the plan, so we went with the state’s estimate. As far as the cost, they (Mosler) have not given an engineer’s estimate. He (Mosler) has not submitted anything to us for review.”
Dr. Sandy Figuers, a geologist with Norfleet Consulting, was hired by Mosler to prepare reports for the county on the stability of the mine. Figuers, who holds his doctorate in geology and is a registered civil engineer, disagrees with the county’s assessment that the mine needs large amounts of fill material for reclamation. “What the county is asking for is called a global buttress fill,” said Figuers who says he has 30 years experience in the field. “The state of knowledge of how to analyze a slope is much better than it was 20 years ago. Since that time advances have greatly increased. The assumption that the slope is unstable is no longer valid.”
Figuers points out a slope cut by Cal Trans to construct Maricopa Highway. “Just look at the other side of the highway where Caltrans cut almost vertical rock slopes that are 200 feet high,” he said. “Those slopes are way more vertical than anything on Larry’s mine. All you will see there are small rock falls.”
Explaining the reclamation process, Figuers commented that reclamation plans are designed to deal with large-scale failures. “In reclamation,” he continued, “we’re looking at large failures of slopes that address major safety concerns.”
Figuers says that the bottom line is that the slope is much more stable than county officials claim. “In my professional opinion,” he concluded, “a global buttress fill is not necessary.”
Mosler gave documents to the Ojai Valley News showing statements that his previous financial assurance hasn’t been more than $48,000, and county records show his previous submitted F.A.C.E. was $22,322. Mosler questions the decision to require the large quantity of material in the reclamation plan and says his attempts to provide an updated F.A.C.E. have been ignored by county staff.
“No one has ever brought up this dirt issue in the last 16 years,” said Mosler. “I’ve been submitting new F.A.C.E. plans but the county won’t accept or reject them. Rick Goacher with RGP Planning and Development Services prepared a new F.A.C.E. In it I raised the financial assurance to $48,000. That’s when Baca came up with the plan that will cost me $3 million to import dirt.”
Cost estimates for the type of fill material required by the county for Mosler’s reclamation plan are not easy to come by. Most require an analysis of distance from the source of the material to the recipient and also depends on the specific material required. Attempts by the OVN to obtain a cost for hauling 285,000 cubic yards of fill material showed that prices could range from $3 to $15 per cubic yard depending on distance and type of material used.
State Mining and Geology Board documents regarding previous reclamation plans from Mosler have addressed many issues with Mosler’s plan, including the removal of perched boulders and hydroseeding to stabilize hillsides. None of the previous documents refer to the need for fill material in the amount specified by the county and the SMGB in the latest requirement for Mosler’s reclamation plan. Baca says that prior to his involvement with the Ojai quarry, county staff mishandled Mosler’s case and that the SMGB was not aware of the area that needed fill material. “This all came from the past year’s inspection,” said Baca. “His original plan (in 1995) shows a large fill area and he has mined extensively beyond that since then. It’s quite simple really. This is what is specifically required for his facility.”
Mosler is quick to point out that his mine is small, and out of 12 mines in Ventura County, his financial assurance is second only to one of the county’s largest mines, P.W. Gillibrand Topa Canyon mine in Simi Valley. According to county documents presented by Mosler, Gillibrand’s current F.A.C.E. is $3.1 million. “I have the smallest mine in the county,” said Mosler. “What they want me to do means I have to come up with $3 million. I can’t pay that. Who has that kind of money just lying around?”
Ojai Stop the Trucks! Coalition representatives suggest that Mosler has corporate backing and could easily afford the costs. “Mosler and his people are liars,” said coalition representative Michael Shapiro, who says that Mosler’s operation is backed by a major corporation, Tri County Trucking, and that money is readily available. “They aren’t the mom and pop store they claim to be.”
Mosler, however, says he has nothing to hide and, when asked, promptly produced the deed to the mine, which was sold to him in 2005 by Schmidt Construction for $1,003,643. Mosler pointed out that he did receive financial backing from the Marietta family, who owns Tri County Trucking, but that he doesn’t have access to funds from the company. “I used to work with the Mariettas when I had my portable rock crushing business,” said Mosler. “Schmidt wanted a million. I had $400,000. The Marietta family trust loaned me $600,000, which we have paid down to about $70,000. They played bank.”
Mosler says the Mariettas wouldn’t give him the money for a F.A.C.E., and says the mine isn’t worth enough to warrant a loan for the reclamation plan. “It’s questionable if the mine is even worth that kind of money,” continued Mosler. “No one would front $3 million for a reclamation plan. The Marietta family doesn’t have $3 million to loan me.”
If the County Board of Supervisors upholds county staff’s recommendations, Mosler would need to cease all operations of the mine within the time specified by the board. Mosler’s attorney Derek Cole has filed an appeal with the SMGB on their decision.
The board is scheduled to conduct a public hearing Thursday at 8:30 a.m. in the Ventura County Government Center supervisors hearing room. Citizens concerned with the matter are urged to attend the hearing.
By Chris Wilson
After 15 years of intimately produced live performances in Ojai, the curtain of a local theater company is about to fall for the final time.
The Theater 150 board of trustees has announced that it will cease professional theater operations on Dec. 23 following the final performance of the current production of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
In January, the theater will reopen as a non-equity company that specializes in productions and classes for children and youth. Operating under the name Ojai Yes Entertainment Studio, it will continue the T-150 tradition of classes for adults, and offer a range of music, comedy and other special performances from local groups and artists.
The OYES will be co-artistic directed by Krista Kim and Rick Kuhlman, both of whom have presented at Theater 150 and have years of experience in youth musical and dramatic productions, and classes.
Kim and Kuhlman have both said they are thrilled about the new direction the theater is taking and are hoping the community will feel the same. But Kim also says she has mixed feelings.
“I’ve been at Theater 150 for two years and I love everything about what they do and what they are working on,” Kim said. “I hate to see parts of that go away and I hope we can continue some of the great traditions that we’ve established.”
In addition to wanting to see the adult writing classes and independent projects continue, Kim said her goal is to see all age groups from the community involved in productions and classes.
The changes are blamed in part on a sluggish economy. Theater 150 board of trustees chairman Tom Krause issued a statement explaining the decision to end theater productions, which was run as a letter to the editor Dec. 7.
“A handful of dedicated donors have carried the weight of expenses, doing so with the belief that successful productions would stimulate sufficient support,” Krause stated. “This has not happened, and recent fundraising made clear that the money needed to launch a new season simply was not there.”
Outgoing producing director Chris Nottoli, who held the position of co-artistic director with wife Deb Norton from 2005 to 2010, agreed that the decision made sense.
“When it became apparent that the current model was no longer tenable we had to make some tough decisions,” Nottoli said. “The new model is a very good outcome, frankly, for the theater. Rather than closing down, selling off the furniture and abandoning the building, what’s happening is actually pretty cool.”
In spite of the face-forward fund-raising efforts Nottoli and Norton put forth, which included their wedding musical “Deb and Chris Get Married,” held in Libbey Bowl in May 2010 and other campaigns, the costs of running a small equity theater in Ojai was not sufficient to stay open, Nottoli said.
And while he plans to still be actively involved with Theater 150, he will also be independently pursuing writing and producing opportunities. “Now it’s going to be much more accessible to the community and I think you’ll see an explosion of theater in Ojai,” Nottoli said. He said he plans to bring some improv-style sketch and stand-up comedy nights to the stage of theater.
“Right now it’s wide open,” he said. “This was the right thing to do. Some of the donors might be upset by the decision, but it’s a victim of the economy like so many things are.”
The small theater was started by actors Kim Maxwell and Dwyer Brown in an abandoned pool hall on E. Ojai Avenue in 1996, and then moved to a former funeral home downtown in 2008.
The news hit donors last week, and reactions were mixed. “As a former student of Theater 150 and as someone who has believed in their cause and donated a few dollars to that cause over the years, it’s a huge blow,” said local writer Lisa Snider.“It’s a complete 180 and kind of disappointing. Where are we going to get that kind of experience again in Ojai? What they’re doing sounds great and I really hope they succeed, but it’s not what I donated to.”
For the time being, tickets are available for Theater 150′s swan song performance of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” directed by Richard Kuhlman. It runs through Dec. 23. Tickets are available at theater150.org or at the box office. To learn more about the Ojai Youth Entertainment Studio visit oyes.org
SB-1445 seeking bipartisan support
By Misty Volaski
The battle for rental car safety legislation on Capitol Hill is heating up, but Ojai’s Houck family is “not going to be deterred,” said matriarch Cally. “We’ve got a very committed coalition and the support of some top lawmakers — (Barbara) Boxer, (Charles) Schumer, (Dianne) Feinstein, (Richard) Blumenthal, (Kirsten) Gillibrand. This is my top priority. There is nothing more honorable than to continue to participate” in getting Senate Bill 1445 passed. “It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s ‘when.”
Houck has good reason to be so passionate about getting recalled — but unfixed — rental cars off the road. Her two daughters, former Nordhoff High School students Jackie and Raechel, were killed in 2004 in a firey car accident when they lost control of their rented PT Cruiser. The vehicle had a safety recall, but no repairs had been made; an under-hood fire caused Raechel to lose control, and the girls were killed when they slammed head-on into a semi truck. After five years of litigation against Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a jury found in favor of the Houcks, awarding them $15 million.
But for Cally, that was not justice for her girls; the only thing that can bring justice, she says, is to get legislation enacted which would force rental car companies to abide by the same recall laws that manufacturers must follow.
A California bill has already been introduced, and currently, New York Senator Schumer and others are working at the federal level to get SB-1445 attached to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s reauthorization bill.
After Thanksgiving, for the first time, Cally brought along Raechel and Jackie’s younger brother, Greg, with her to Washington D.C. to help promote the bill and gain bipartisan support. Thanks to advocate Pamela Gilbert, a well-respected lawyer and former board member at the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety group, the Houcks got access to the staffers of some key legislators. “It’s very difficult to get in to see even a low staffer,” said Houck. “Pamela opened doors for us.” Greg and Cally spoke with staffers in the offices of Arizona Sen. John McCain, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, as well as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, among others. Kerry’s staffer, Houck said, indicated that “He was going to take this directly to John Kerry. We felt we were very well received” by all the staffers they met,” she added.
Currently, the bill is in a committee, but the Houcks hope a vote will come soon to move it one step closer to law. “It’s much easier to get it attached to a bill that has bipartisan support (like the reauthorization bill),” said Houck, “but we’re willing to do whatever it takes.”
Rosemary Shahan, president of C.A.R.S. and a staunch advocate of the Houcks’ crusade, said, “Cally (met) with staff on both sides of the aisle, and she debunked a lot of misinformation. We’re rebutting what the industry is putting out. It’s really absurd stuff, pretty outrageous.”
Needless to say, the rental car companies are putting up a fight against industry regulation. Huge sums of money are at stake. “We knew they would (fight hard), going in,” said Houck. Still, she remains confident that the bill will eventually pass. After all, as several consumer safety activists have pointed out to Houck, “It took 10 years to get the airbag law passed.”
While the industry claims that pulling all vehicles with safety recalls from their fleet would be a financial burden, Houck points out that profits run into the billions of dollars for the privately-held Enterprise corporation alone. It’s not about getting back at them, she said, it’s about keeping the consumer safe. Houck explained, “Companies that put dangerous products into hands of consumers — bad food, cribs that are dangerous for infants — those companies have to take the products out of the hands of consumers. So, why are the rental car companies exempt from that? Why are they exempt from consumer protection laws?”
Shahan pointed out that she’s seen lots of contradictions from the rental car industry in D.C. “They contradict themselves all the time,” she said. “On one hand, they say they don’t need regulation because they’re already taking care of the problem. But 10 to 20 percent (of the safety recalled vehicles) even after 60 days still haven’t been fixed by their own admission. Then on the other hand, they’re saying they don’t want to ground these cars right away, that they want to have a committee to decide whether it’s unsafe enough to justify grounding them. But this is a simple idea — whenever a dealer has to ground a car because it’s so unsafe that they can’t sell it, then a rental car company shouldn’t be able to rent or sell it either.”
“It’s common sense,” Houck said. “The reaction from both sides of the aisle has been that this makes complete sense. But they said that just because it makes sense doesn’t mean it’s do-able; there’s another factor called politics. But we’re just going to move forward.”
Her son Greg, a budding songwriter, was inspired after his D.C. trip to write a song about his experiences in D.C. An excerpt follows:
“Let me tell you about rental car safety protocols
It’s a fact that there’s no protocol at all
I’m on Capitol Hill, trying to work on a bill
But the rental car companies are fighting us still …
Recalled cars rented out to us
Without us knowing, stopping it is a must
Houck Senate Bill 1445 or bust!
So then once again we can gain the trust.
Some corporations corrupt the world
A recalled car rented out is how I lost my girls.
There is no law, to stop it at all
So I’m on Capitol Hill, fighting for the cause.”
OJAI POLICE DEPARTMENT
|Ojai Police are warning Ojai Valley residents of an increase in reported phone scams. The suspect(s) have been targeting elderly residents and posing as family members in need of large sums of money or an official calling on the behalf of the family member because they are in jail and need money to bail out. Victims have reported the suspect(s) request the victim(s) to send the money to locations in Vancouver, B.C. Canada, or overseas to countries in the Middle East. If any area residents receive phone calls of this nature, or any other suspicious nature, they are encouraged to call law enforcement. This type of phone scam is one of many that occur throughout the year and increase during holiday seasons. Here are some recommendations to protect yourself from telephone scams: 1. Always know whom you are talking to and get information on the business and a call back number. 2. Never provide your confidential information, such as date of birth, social security number, or bank account numbers.3. Discontinue transactions if someone coaches you on how to send money or respond to questions from money order service employees.4. Always check with other family members when a suspect calls and poses as a family member requesting money and call the family member the officials are talking about. The Ojai Police officers and investigators wish the Ojai Valley residents a joyous holiday and are ready to help with your concerns.|
Report and photo by Logan Hall
An Ojai family escaped tragedy earlier today after Ventura County Fire Department firefighters knocked down a garage fire that threatened the family’s home on the 100 block of West Aliso Street. Fire crews were quickly able to douse the flames, however, and although the garage appeared to be extensively damaged, the main house remained unscathed.
According to officials, a fire engine from Ojai Fire Station 21 was passing by shortly after the blaze started. After seeing thick, black smoke coming from a residential area, firefighters from 21 managed to get to the fire just minutes after it began.
“We got the call at 5:21 p.m.,” said VCFD spokesman Capt. Bill Nash. “The fire was knocked down very quickly by about 5:27 p.m.”
No injuries were reported but some of the family’s belongings, including important business documents, may have been lost. “We have everything on our computer,” said Tammy Bernardi. “We’ll be fine.”
Part 1 of a multi-
Report and photo
by Logan Hall
The County of Ventura is on the verge of making a decision that could shut down a local business.
The Ojai Rock Quarry has been under fire as numerous violations have been filed by the county against Larry Mosler, the mine’s owner. Mosler and his supporters claim that the County – in particular district one supervisor Steve Bennett – is unjustly targeting his business due to unrelenting pressure from the local activist organization, Stop the Trucks! Coalition. Officials in both the county’s planning division and supervisor’s office say Mosler continues to fail to comply with required government guidelines for his mine and operating procedures, and that the County will be deciding on whether or not to uphold a revocation of his mining permit.
While Mosler points the finger at the county supervisor’s office, Bennett says that he can’t, and hasn’t acted on the issue until it goes before the board of supervisors. “There’s a clear line here,” said Bennett. “I cannot sit at the hearing of the Mosler revocation permit and represent the citizens if I have instructed the planning department what to do.”
Bennett did say that county staff has “tried to work with Mosler on this and feel they have taken the right steps.”
What, at face value, could seem like a proverbial “he said she said” argument goes much deeper.
Coalition advocates say that increasing truck trips from mines like Mosler’s are detrimental to the quality of life in the Ojai Valley and cause safety concerns to those frequenting Maricopa Highway. Mosler, however, claims to have greatly improved the mining operation since he purchased the quarry in 2005 and says he has done everything he can to comply with the County. He also has five employees that live in the Valley that depend on the mine to support themselves and for some, support their families.
Daryl Williamson has lived in the Valley his entire life and has worked for Mosler for almost 16 years cutting stone and operating a variety of heavy equipment. He relies on his salary from Mosler to take care of his family. He says that he’s just an average American that loves the town he grew up in, and is thankful to be able to raise his family here. “I have three kids and two of them live with me full time,” said Williamson, a single father and Nordhoff High School Graduate. “My family has been in the Ojai Valley since 1926. My kids go to Nordhoff. I’m just trying to get by.”
Williamson says that times are tough for him like so many other blue collar Americans in the nation’s workforce. In the harsh economic world today, he says he is grateful to have employment. “There aint no jobs out there right now,” he said. “If the county shuts us down, I guess Obama can pay for me.”
Oak View resident Jerry Jones has also lived in the valley his entire life. He’s worked for Mosler as the mine’s truck scale operator for three years and also relies on his income from his work at the quarry. “I have to pay rent like everyone else,” said Jones in between weighing trucks exiting the property to ensure they fall in line with government standards. “If this all goes down, I’ll have to start job hunting. It’s pretty slow everywhere though. There’s not much out there.”
Mosler’s employees aren’t the only locals that could be affected if the mine shuts down.
Some business owners and members of the community also believe that Mosler has been treated unjustly by the County. Long time valley resident and Ojai Rotary West member Les Gardener says Mosler is an honest businessman that has given back extensively to the community. “When we built Rotary Club Park next to the ‘Y’ intersection,” said Gardner who owns the Attitude Adjustment Shop in the “Y” shopping center, “we needed stone for the park’s wall. The planning commission said there wasn’t any money to fund the park, so we went to Mosler to see if he could give us a discount.”
Gardner says that Mosler was more than willing to help. “He donated all of the stone to the club,” he said. “It wasn’t just a little either. It was about $70,000 worth of stone and he allowed members to come up and pick it from his quarry. He’s a hard working guy trying to run his business.”
Others seem to echo Gardner’s thoughts. Cody Evans, an Ojai native who owns and operates Evans Excavating, which provides grating and underground utility service, says he also belives the county is unjustly going after Mosler. “I’m dumbfounded by how much pressure that poor man is given.” said Evans. “He’s just trying to run a business here.”
Evans also states that his own business and subsequently he and his wife and eight-year-old son, depend on the material that Mosler provides. “I buy a lot of material out of there,” he said. “It’s good quality stuff and I use it for everything like French drains, landscaping and roads. That gravel is a huge asset for the valley. The beauty is that it’s right here in town. If they shut down the quarry, it would stop my business.”
Evans says that the problem lies in the availability of the material that is vital for his operation. “Because his mine is closer,” he continued, “his stuff is more affordable for the people. If he shuts down, we’ll have to go somewhere else. The nearest rock quarry is Grimes Canyon near Fillmore. That means our trucks have to travel much farther to get the necessary material. That would effect everyone big time.”
Ojai native Blake Nielsen who owns and operates Nielsen Sand and Gravel based in Ojai, says he and his customers also rely on Mosler’s operation. “We get a lot of dirt and sand out there and it all goes to Ojai,” said Nielsen who has lived in Ojai his whole life. “If they shut him down, we’ll have to go much farther away. Everything will get more expensive and it will create more pollution.”
Greg Webster former honorary mayor of Oak View and owner of Greg Rents agrees that Mosler’s operation is a valuable asset to the community and, like Gardener, says that Mosler has given back to the Valley. “His gravel is the best,” said Webster. “All of my customers love the stuff. We need Larry’s business in the Valley. He donated the ‘Welcome To Ojai’ rock at the ‘Y.’ I don’t usually get involved in politics, but this is different.”
County officials admit that the closing of the mine could have potential negative impacts on the Valley. “There’s no doubt that there will be negative impacts on the local economy,” said Bennett’s assistant Steve Offerman. “It’s unfortunate that Mosler couldn’t meet the requirements to continue operating.”
Kim Prillhart, the county’s planning director also says that there could be serious negative impacts to the community if the mine is closed, but reiterates Offerman’s assessment that Mosler is to blame. “Mr. Mosler has a responsibility to follow the laws,” said Prillhart. “He understood that this was the way the mine needed to be operated. An employer needs to do the right thing by his employees. Mister Mosler needed to take appropriate action to protect the jobs of his people. This is not a one-sided story. The County is not trying to shut a local business down.”
David Pressey, who has lived in Ojai for 56 years and is a Korean War veteran, says he doesn’t own a business and doesn’t know Mosler, but believes the issue of the rock quarry impacts everyone. “People that do honest work keep finding that the rules are getting tighter and tighter,” said Pressey. “When I see an industry shut down and that five local families will be out of work, I need to speak up. When we fought wars, we were fighting for people like them. There’s so much hypocrisy in all of this. This goes way beyond just Ojai.”
The decision on the fate of Mosler’s operation is scheduled to be made in a public hearing On Dec. 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the County Government Center, Board of Supervisors hearing room in Ventura. Mosler supporters and county officials urge citizens to attend the hearing.
By Misty Volaski
It’s no secret by now that the state of California is having an increasingly difficult time funding education. School districts — including Ojai Unified — have not only had to cut back services dramatically, they’ve even had to borrow to cover funds what the state already owes them (although the state legislature promises those funds will be coming next June).
At Tuesday night’s Ojai Unified School District board meeting, that lack of resources was at the top of the list of reasons why keeping scores high on standardized tests is becoming more and more difficult.
Mira Monte Elementary School principal Kathy White explained it best in her school’s Single Plan for Student Achievement presentation.
“Imagine if a significant percentage of the doctors in the valley suddenly didn’t exist, and each doctor took 50 percent more patients during the same number of hours,” White said. “Patients would have to wait for a long time to get an appointment. When the doctor examined the patient, they would be rushed because their waiting room would be full of patients becoming restless; services supporting the patients would also become overwhelmed. Wellness-type visits to the doctor would be few and far between. Some ill patients wouldn’t see the doctor soon enough, and would become so ill that they’d need hospitalization. This would be intolerable. This is what is happening with primary education.”
Despite the dismal metaphor, White said Mira Monte is dedicated to finding those at-risk students and providing intervention programs. “Many of our goals are targeted (at) the Hispanic/Latino population with a focus on those students still classified as English language learners,” she said. Like several other schools — including Summit and San Antonio, which also presented their SPSA’s Tuesday night — Mira Monte has a homework help club after school. White said her school has both paid employees and volunteers from Nordhoff’s FLAMA club assisting students in smaller groups, which will help to offset larger class sizes. Online programs like Reading-Plus, which can be accessed both at school and at home, are helping with English language arts and mathematics.
Theresa Dutter, principal of San Antonio and Summit Elementary schools, said her schools are taking similar actions. At San Antonio, second-grade students are being pulled out of class and into the computer lab for in-depth math learning with teacher Tiffany Bauer. This, Dutter said, allows teachers of the combination classes to focus on teaching just one grade level — and allows for more more individualized instruction. “It’s not optimal, but it’s working!” she said. “We’re able to deliver better math instruction through this type of creative programming.”
At Summit, the Parent-Teacher Organization is helping to fund extra hours for a teacher’s assistant that the district used to be able to pay for in better financial times.
On top of all the teachers’ and administrators’ wish lists? “I wish we could reduce the number of students in each class,” lamented Dutter. “That solves a lot of issues that come up with budget cuts — they become non-issues.”
The next meeting of the OUSD board is set for Jan. 17 at 5:30 p.m. Topa Topa Elementary, Matilija Junior High, and Nordhoff High Schools will present their SPSAs at that time.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Syracuse men’s basketball head coach, Jim Boeheim, has come under a great deal of fire recently for defending charges of sexual abuse against his longtime assistant coach, Bernie Fine. Boeheim disparaged Fine’s accusers, claiming they were lying to extort money. Defending his actions, Boeheim asserted, “What I said last week was out of loyalty. I acted without thinking. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
Well, believe it, Jim. Unfortunately, sexual predators are all around us. Several high profile sexual abuse cases have surfaced recently. These come on the heels of the Catholic priest abuse scandal a few years ago. If it sounds like we are surrounded by cases of predators abusing children, it is because we are. They are real and they are more plentiful than many of us realize. Even when abusers are discovered and convicted, their prison sentences are often ridiculously brief.
I was visiting with friends recently, when the topic of abuse came up. Three of the women present said they had been victims of abuse. In each case, it was by someone they knew. These were not the acts of random strangers – the ones we were warned about as children. These heinous acts were perpetrated by people they knew and trusted. In two cases, adults suspected, or were told of the abuse, but failed to act. Like those in some of the high profile abuse cases, they either could not believe it or they did not want to accept it. And so the abuse continued.
I was very lucky in this instance. No one ever touched me inappropriately, much less abused me. But many, many others have not been so lucky. They have had something stolen from them that they can never replace. Their innocence has vanished like smoke up a chimney.
Sexual predators are real. They walk among us, ready to prey on those who cannot protect themselves. We must warn and educate our children, and we must be vigilant for strange and unseemly behavior. I know it is hard to accept that a trusted friend or family member might commit such an act, but sexual predators do not have “I am an abuser” tattooed on their forehead. If we are alerted to such behavior, we must see that it is investigated thoroughly, not dismiss it out of hand. Sticking our heads in the sand will do nothing but allow predators to go unchecked.
If we want to protect the innocent, the time for shocked denial is over.
By Misty Volaski
The Oaks at Ojai has gone through many renovations since it was commissioned by Edward Drummond Libbey in 1918. The latest, a restoration of the lobby, follows the mission-revival style of the building’s exterior, both of which were designed by the late Ojai architect David Bury. It began on Sept. 6 and was completed Dec. 2 — just one day behind schedule.
President and CEO of The Oaks, Cathy Cluff, said they couldn’t be happier. “It’s gone so smoothly, smoother than we could’ve predicted. It came out really well,” she said. “The staff is happy to have such a great new workspace, and it definitely has the look and feel we were trying to capture. You never know exactly until the actual materials are in place, but it’s just beautiful!”
Making the space even more special is the fact that it was designed by Bury. Cathy and her mother, Oaks founder Sheila Cluff, decided several years ago that they wanted to have Bury design plans for several renovations which would take place in coming years. “We wanted to have a series of renovation goals for the coming years,” Cathy said. “For about the last five years, we’ve been able to do one renovation project per year. We are so, so fortunate to have David’s plans for this and future renovations.”
The downtown hotel started life with Spanish-influenced architecture, but over the years that theme strayed as new additions were built. When Sheila Cluff took over the property in 1977 and transformed it into a destination fitness spa, renovations — or, more appropriately, restorations — were always on her mind.
What excites the Cluffs is that this restoration hearkens back to the building’s original style. The original stonework of the fireplace was uncovered and restored, custom-designed carpet was installed and Spanish-style arches and wrought iron fixtures were added. Cathy Cluff is particularly proud of the fact that this renovation, like the others they’ve done recently, utilized local companies.
Ojai’s Jon Hartmann installed the electricity, Alco took care of the plumbing, and the lumber came from Ojai Lumber. Wes Theis did all the custom-carpentry work. RTK Tile laid the fireplace tile, and fireplace work was done by Allen Shook. Scott Loomis Construction did the framing, Ventura’s Mark Albright did the painting, while cabinets came from Camarillo’s California Designers Choice Custom Cabinetry. The hand-loomed, super soft carpet came from Don Gil of Ventura. Local contractor Tim Droney and his wife, interior designer Maraya, also lent their services.
Many of them have worked with The Oaks in past years, as well. “We absolutely love working with local companies,” said Cluff, “primarily because they take so much pride in their work. Being that we’re right here in center of town, we’ve heard from many of the guys that it’s a showpiece for their work as much as it is for us.”
During the project, The Oaks offered all of its usual services, but due to the inconvenience of the temporary lobby and construction, the Cluffs came up with the “hard hat special,” a 25 percent discount off usual room rates. Happily, Cathy said, “we actually increased occupancy for November over this time last year.”
Cluff describes the new lobby as “understated elegance, really fitting of the mission revival style. We’re getting great feedback from guests. They said we should do yoga on the carpet!”
The Cluffs invite the public to come view their new lobby any day of the week. They will have an unofficial unveiling of the space Jan. 26, when The Oaks will host the January Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce mixer.
Report and photo
by Logan Hall
Ojai Trolley and Gold Coast Transit riders are paying close attention as the city of Ojai is trying to cut its public transportation budget by $150,000. The city needs to drastically reduce spending on public transportation in order to stop drawing money for transit purposes from its dwindling general fund.
City staff and a special transit committee are recommending to the City Council that the city no longer pay to have a GCT route that includes bus stops within city limits on Maricopa Highway. Other changes include the raising of trolley fares from $.50 to $1 for the general fare, and from $.25 to $.50 for seniors and children ages 2 to 5. Also, instead of being free, the fare for children under 2 will be $.25. City officials are also considering increasing the headway at trolley stops from 30 minutes to one hour on weekends, but since statistics indicate that the trolley is used much less frequently on Saturdays and Sundays, the impact on the community should be minimal. If adopted by the council, the changes would take effect July 1, 2012.
According to city records, the trolley’s operating cost was $822,482 for the city’s fiscal year from 2010-2011, and the transit fund is projected to have a deficit of $160,871 at the end of the current fiscal year in June 2012. “There was a substantial decrease in federal funding this year,” Greg Grant, Ojai’s city engineer was quick to point out. “That really contributed to this deficit.”
Ojai city manager Rob Clark also weighed in on the importance of eliminating the transit deficit. “The general fund is very limited,” he said. “We’re not doing things we should be doing, like paving the roads. Our roads and our recreation facilities are very neglected. It’s a matter of setting priorities. The goal is to keep the transit fund in the black and still provide good service to the community.”
City records show that for 2010 to 2011, the trolley saw 117,616 riders. Many of those riders pay a reduced fare or no fare at all. While seniors and children pay half of the general fare, infants and those covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act aren’t required to pay to ride. The trolley also accepts transfer tickets from Gold Coast riders, which take the place of the rider’s fare. About 70,000 riders paid the full, general fare, while around 12,000 paid reduced rates and about 29,000 weren’t required to pay a fare according to the city’s statistics. These factors have steadily put strain on the city’s transit budget.
The potential increase in fares could force riders to find other means of transportation, but Grant says it will help the city take a big step toward eliminating the transit deficit. City figures show that fare increases would account for an additional $43,000.
The largest contributing factor to the city’s goal of a deficit-free transportation system would be the savings if the Gold Coast route were cut from the budget. Currently, the city is paying $100,000 a year for a small portion of GCT bus route 16 from Ventura to Ojai. “Our real cost-saving measures are cutting Gold Coast,” said Grant.
The Gold Coast bus route through Ojai constitutes a small percentage of the company’s business. According to GCT documents, Ojai’s route contributes 1.3 percent to Gold Coast’s overall business, with the company’s largest area of service being Oxnard. Helene Buchman, Gold Coast’s director of planning and marketing, says that GCT relies heavily on the revenue from local governments like the City of Ojai. GCT records confirm that by showing that from 2010 to 2011, revenue per passenger was $.77, while the cost of operation per passenger was $3.92.
Although Buchman assured that, if the council votes to cut the route, Gold Coast would work hard to continue the same level of service to the area, there are still many unknowns. “Anything is possible,” she said. “Because of the unique way we’re funded, a lot will depend on the city’s decision.”
Budget cuts would inevitably affect locals in the valley, but both the city and Gold Coast representatives seem to want the best for the riders, even if the future is uncertain. Gold Coast officials assure that busses, often called “the blue bus” or “the 16” by its riders, traveling route 16 should continue to haul passengers up the route despite local economic issues. “We don’t intend to strand people,” said Buchman. “As of now, we do not know what will occur. However, will work very closely with city of Ojai and the county to continue to provide the best service possible.”
Because route 16 services Mira Monte, Oak View and Meiners Oaks, the county of Ventura has also been involved in the process.
Ventura County senior transportation analyst Kathy Connell says the county is on the same page with concern for the riders. “If they (Ojai City Council) make the decision to cut Gold Coast out of the city,” she said, “something would need to be done. We don’t want to see a loss of service.”
Although Ojai’s public transportation system might be in crisis mode, city officials believe they have a solution that could end up benefiting the people. Grant says that one of the proposed changes could increase trolley operating hours, filling in the void for transferring bus riders that are left stranded and forced to walk before or after current hours of operation. “This change will actually end up increasing our level of service,” said Grant.
Riders like Meiners Oaks resident Ernest Cook hope they will still be able to rely on their public transportation system. “I use the trolley often,” said Cook, who depends on the service to get around the valley. “I’ve been riding it almost everyday for about 15 years. It always gets me where I’m going.”
Ojai’s transit committee was comprised of officials and citizens that have met once a month since July to try to figure out the city’s transit issues. The committee included a cross-section of community members, from a trolley rider and driver to Help of Ojai executive director Terri Wolfe and Ojai Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Eicher.
City officials urge the public to attend the Ojai City Council meeting on Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Ojai City Hall, when the council is set to decide on the city staff recommendations on the transit system.
By Logan Hall
The County of Ventura is stepping up its disaster preparedness in the Ojai Valley. By stationing a second cache of emergency supplies, called a Mass Casualty Trailer, in Oak View – the other trailer is currently at Ventura County Fire Station 22 in Meiners Oaks – emergency crews will have access to crucial supplies in the event of an accident or disaster where many people need medical attention.
According to county officials, the MCT will be stocked with supplies that would not be available on an ambulance in mass quantities. Items like stretchers, bandages, medical tape and other general first aide supplies are stocked in the trailers and kept at secure locations and are ready to be deployed if needed. No drugs or needles are stocked in MCTs.
“We’ll now have a trailer on the east and west end of the valley,” said county supervisor administrative assistant Cindy Cantle. “If there’s a disaster, we’ll have the same capabilities on both ends of the valley. We’ll have those supplies right there in Ojai.”
The tandem-axle, Journey-model trailer, made by Pace American, will be under the control of the local Community Emergency Response Team, and will help with supply needs during anything ranging from a natural disaster to an accident involving multiple victims like a bus crash. Ojai resident Norm Plott, who is the Ventura County Fire Department Emergency Medical System battalion chief, says the trailers could help substantially in a major incident. “In event of an earthquake or other significant incident,” said Plott, “those trailers are designed to treat a lot of people.”
Plott also says that in the event that Ojai became isolated from outside communities, emergency supplies would already be in the area in the form of the two MCTs. “Back in the floods in the early 2000s,” he said, “the (Highway) 150 was closed and other areas near Creek Road washed out. Those trailers can help treat a lot of people.”
The County will deliver the trailer to the Oak View Park and Resource Center on Thursday.
Commentary by Lenny Roberts
It amazes me the way people have to watch what they say for fear of offending someone else. Don’t even get me started on the African-American thing. Caucasians are white, Negroes are black, and if you were born here or have become a citizen, you are an American. Barack Obama is half white, half black. He is not an African-American. He was born in Hawaii and raised in Kansas. Or vice-versa. I’m not sure and I really don’t care. End of story.
But this is not about what color the president is. This is about “the holidays.”
My intent here is not to sound like Bill O’Reilly or to upset Christians — especially the ones who go to church on more than just Christmas and Easter. But to me, Christmas is not about the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. You really think he was born on December 25? Christmas is about toys, family, and the look in a child’s eye on Christmas morning. It’s about decorating a tree and going through all the headaches of shopping, online or in a crowded store. It’s about remembering the sound your Lionel train made as it circled the Christmas tree. It’s about standing outside while it’s snowing and not being cold. It’s about the aroma that fills the house ahead of the Christmas dinner your mom has been working on for days. It’s about worrying how to pay for all the stuff you bought. It’s about hoping your choice of gifts was right, and it’s about hoping you got what you wanted. Sorry, but that’s what Christmas means to me, and probably a whole lot of other folks regardless of their religion or ethnicity.
Now we get holiday cards that provide us with holiday wishes, usually sent from people who greet you with “happy holidays” as if they are afraid to offend just in case. My response has always been and will always be “merry Christmas.”
I will not attend a holiday party, sale or event, send holiday cards, have a holiday dinner, or, yikes, put up our holiday tree. I will not celebrate the holiday season. So let’s just call it what it is. It’s Christmas.
By Misty Volaski
At the age of 8, Ojai veterinarian Steve Sallen found his life’s calling through tragedy. The family kitten fell ill and died of feline distemper. “I felt really helpless about that loss,” recalls Sallen. Their vet was a family friend who Sallen got to know well over the years with his family’s menagerie of pets — dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, even a raccoon.
He eventually attended Colorado State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree, going on to earn high honors and a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the College of Veterinary Medicine at CSU. Sallen worked in Colorado for a few years before venturing West with a fellow vet in 1979 to set up a practice in California and work for the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
By 1986, Sallen had founded his Rosemont Pet Hospital in La Crescenta, where he specialized in small animal care. He has been accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association for 20 years.
He and his family — his realtor wife, Donna, and sons Loren and Dustin — have lived in the valley since 1999, but Sallen had been commuting to La Crescenta ever since then. The practice grew, and even began attracting interest from Ojai-himarea residents, who would call Sallen at all hours of the day for help. “I picked up a number of animals in this area, transported them to (Rosemont) and brought them back,” he said.
More and more, Sallen thought about moving his business closer to home. “After traveling the three-hour round-trip for years, I finally decided to open locally,” said Sallen. “Donna’s been having me consider it for 12 years, but I’ve been considering it seriously for about the last three years.”
So Steve and Donna began looking for locations, finally deciding on one across from Cluff Vista Park, on West Ojai Avenue. “We tore the place apart, rebuilt walls, refortified it,” he said. “There’s a great parking lot, too.” Tomorrow, Sallen will celebrate the grand opening of his Ojai practice, the Ojai Village Veterinary Hospital. OVVH had a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
At his new facility, Sallen offers many services, and specializes in dentistry, skin conditions, senior pet care, and cardiology for dogs and cats. He has high-tech equipment, which allows him to better diagnose and treat his patients.
“We have a digital x-ray machine that allows us to get an image in 10 seconds, and emits less radiation,” Sallen said. “If the patient is under anesthesia, you don’t have to wait eight minutes. And, you can send it over the internet to other specialists.”
The facility also features a cutting-edge intensive care unit that delivers oxygen to the patient, and keeps the temperature and humidity controlled, among other key features. “It’s a full life-support ICU,” Sallen says. He also offers safer spay and neuter techniques, and has an in-house lab capable of producing complete lab results and chemistries in less than 10 minutes.
Dentistry, he says, is an often overlooked aspect of pet care. Many owners will take their animals to a groomer to get primped, which often includes a scraping of the teeth “To make them look pretty. But doesn’t save the teeth,” he explains. Sallen does deep cleaning under the gum, polishes, and keeps the focus on the “preservation of the teeth.”
Skin conditions are very common in both cats and dogs, and can often have to do with food, flea or pollen allergies, Sallen said. Anyone who has had a dog who scratches a lot has seen the level of discomfort it brings their pet. Luckily, Sallen said, there are many treatments to help. “Food allergies often manifest as chronic ear infections, red face, chewing paws or rear ends,” he says. “But the most common thing I see is flea allergies. I’ve seen more fleas since I’ve opened (in Ojai) than I had seen the whole rest of the year. Year-round flea control is important and we have oral and topical treatments.”
But some health problems aren’t quite so obvious, Sallen says. Chronic coughing might seem like no big deal, but it can be a symptom of heart disease — that’s why Sallen chose to specialize in cardiology.
His No. 1 tip for keeping pets healthy? “Honestly, yearly checkups, every year, are the most important thing,” he says. “Especially after 7 years old — that’s like a person in their 40s. They need to start getting routine bloodwork and checkups.”
This Saturday’s grand opening party will run from 1 to 4 p.m. at the office, 311 W. Ojai Ave., and will feature a tour of the facility, demonstrations of state-of-the art equipment (on stuffed animals), and an iPad raffle, with proceeds going to the Humane Society of Ventura County, located in Ojai.
By Logan Hall
Ventura County residents in unincorporated areas are receiving a break on flood insurance.
After county officials enacted a federal program that rewards a community’s flood preparedness level, property owners in places like Ojai’s East End along San Antonio and Thacher Creeks will receive a 20 percent discount on flood insurance. The helping hand comes at a time when some homeowners are paying large sums to protect their property from flooding costs.
“We’re paying $1,700 a year for flood insurance,” said Christine Roe, who has lived four houses away from Thacher Creek in the Siete Robles tract on Ojai’s East End since 1966. “And that doesn’t even cover what the damage requires.”
Help comes in the form of a Federal Emergency Management Agency program called the Community Rating System, which rates cities and counties that have taken action in flood preparedness. According to FEMA statistics, about 20,000 communities participate the National Flood Insurance Program. Few of those adopt FEMA’s CRS program. Even fewer qualify for the program’s 20 percent insurance discount. Out of 86 participating communities in California, only five received greater discounts than Ventura County, and most didn’t reach the 20 percent level.
“Only about one percent of communities (nationally) in the CRS program achieved the 20 percent discount level,” said county supervisor Steve Bennett. “This is the result of our county watershed district doing incredible work.”
FEMA looks at several criteria when determining a community’s eligibility for the different levels of the CRS program including the reduction of flood losses and the promotion of awareness of flood insurance. Bennett says that he and his staff began looking into the program after discussing flood issues with citizens on the East End. “I saw how high their rates were,” said Bennett of the property owners in the flood plain on the East End after touring the area. “They are going to have substantial annual savings now.”
Although the county has to spend money to make the program a success, officials believe it will be worth it and say much of the funding comes from federal grants. “There are enough people in the flood plains to justify the costs to the taxpayers of joining the program,” said county administrative assistant Steve Offerman. “There were some big-ticket items like the countywide hazard plan. That was fully covered by FEMA. Over the long term, it will save flood plain property owners a lot of money.”
Although Offerman says the county has done all it can to adopt the program, they’re still waiting on FEMA for final approval before residents can expect to see a lower insurance premium. “Judging by the slow pace of FEMA,” he said, “our staff says it could be six months before it takes effect. It’s just a matter of waiting for an under funded federal agency, but we’ve given them everything they need.”
Roe says that flood insurance is a big issue in her neighborhood, which has seen severe flooding throughout the years. “The big one was ’69,” she said. “It (flood) didn’t come into the house that time, but it went right through the rest of the property. We’ve been affected nearly every time it floods. A big discount on insurance would help.”
Log on to vcfloodinfo.com for more information on Ventura County’s CRS program.