By Misty Volaski
Next Tuesday, the Ojai Unified School District board members will consider the possible lease and/or sale of its property located at 414 E. Ojai Ave., the current site of Chaparral High School, the school district offices, and the OUSD preschool.
The OUSD has lost over $5 million in state and federal funding over the last four years, and faces between $1.2 and $2.9 million more in cuts for the 2012-13 school year.
An informational hearing and opportunity for public comment regarding the possible sale or lease will begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday; the regularly-scheduled board meeting will follow.
A group of community members, parents and OUSD administrators and faculty — dubbed the Surplus Property Advisory Committee — will present almost nine months’ worth of research, said OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser. The purpose of this committee was to identify OUSD properties that “Might be enticing for a developer to purchase (or lease),” said Bangser, who chaired the committee. The Ojai Ave. property was identified as “A possible revenue source for the district which we desperately need,” he added.
After its research and meetings with city officials, the committee decided, “Almost unanimously — one felt otherwise — that it was to the benefit of the school district and citizens to at least tentatively recommend that the OUSD board approve going ahead with the potential sale or lease of the property,” said Bangser. He added that, should the board decide to move forward with the committee’s recommendation, they will probably opt to lease and/or sell the property in parcels, rather than in one 8.5-acre lump. “The economy being what it is, a developer might not be so interested in ‘all or nothing,’” Bangser said. “We wanted to make this as flexible as possible for anybody who might be interested in developing on that land.”
Bangser pointed out that, “This is not a simple operation.” For instance, alternative locations for Chaparral, the district offices and the preschool might have to be found, and city codes and ordinances would need to be adhered to. However, he said, “At this point, the most important thing to note is that — speaking for myself — in these economic conditions, it is absolutely imperative that we look at every conceivable revenue source to (maintain) as much programming for our students as we can and also minimize the impact on the taxpayers.”
The committee and board members urge locals to attend the Feb. 7 meeting, which will be held in the OUSD boardroom at 414 E. Ojai Ave. For more information, contact Amy Faunt, executive assistant to the superintendent, at 640-4300, Ext. 1011.
Annual walk/run raises funds for American Heart Association
By Tiobe Barron
This year the Ojai Valley will pay tribute to local Doralee Bailey at the 2012 Ojai Classic Heart & Sole Walk/Run, Ojai’s annual benefit for the American Heart Association
“I feel very honored!” said Bailey, whose husband, the late Dr. Harold Bailey, helped organize the annual event with Dr. Fred Fauvre, a local cardiologist. In addition to her husband’s years of service to the event, Bailey herself made a financial contribution to the American Heart Association in memory of her husband. “I feel this is a very worthwhile activity, and I hope it continues through the years. It keeps the American Heart Association before the public, and we have to take care of our hearts.”
Cindy Noboa, of the American Heart Association, agreed heartily. “It’s a great, fun-filled day for family and friends for a worthy cause,” said Noboa. “All money raised from the event goes toward the American Heart Association. It’s important because heart disease is the No. 1 killer (in the United States), and stroke is the No. 4 killer. We (the AHA) go back into the community to educate about heart disease and stroke.”
According to Noboa, usually 200 to 300 people turn out to the Ojai event. Last year the combined efforts of Ojai and Ventura succeeded in raising the local goal of $20,000 for Ventura County.
The Ojai Classic Heart & Sole Walk/Run became an annual event 22 years ago, when Fauvre reached out to the AHA.
“This is done to help American Heart Association promote good health in preventing cardiovascular disease, which is the most common cause of death,” said Fauvre in a recent press release. “Also, Dr. Skankey and I, and the local committee want to promote fitness and a good, healthy lifestyle in the valley.” Fauvre added that he himself does spinning to get his aerobic workout, and he will participate in the 10K run this year.
The Ojai Classic Heart & Sole Walk/Run will take place Feb. 11. The route begins at the First Baptist Church, located at 930 Grand Ave. The 10k run begins at 8 a.m., followed by the 5k run/walk at 9 a.m. There will be a $200 prize for both the top male and top female runners of the 10K. The cost to register for the event is $30 for those 18 years and older who pre-register; add $5 for day-of registration. Youths 17 and younger can pre-register for $10 (price increases to $15 for day-of registration). There will also be a free kids’ 1K run, which will start at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday.
For more information and to pre-register, visit www.ojaiheartandsole.org, or call Cindy Noboa at (213) 291-7050.
Steve Arthur, Sergeant
Ventura County Sheriff’s Department
Ojai Police Department
402 South Ventura Street
Ojai, CA 93023
By Logan Hall
The Ojai Rock Quarry may be going out of business. After construction company Cushman Contracting Corporation recently canceled a purchase order of materials from the quarry, the mine is losing $390,000 in sales to Cushman, according to the quarry’s owner, Larry Mosler. The deal had Cushman buying 10,000 tons of a construction material known as rip-rap from the quarry, to be used in the Ventura Port Revetment Repairs project.
“I have no work now,” said Mosler earlier Monday. “This means they’ve won. It means I’m out of business.”
A letter from Cushman sent to Mosler indicated that due to Mosler’s issues with the government, the company would have to cancel the order with the quarry. ” … the Ventura Port District is unsure that it can procure, and pay for, material from the Mosler Rock Products Ojai rock quarry as there have been certain governmental restrictions imposed on Mosler which prohibit public and local agencies to utilize rock from its quarry,” read the letter.
Earlier this month, Mosler’s operation was taken off of a state list that identifies mining companies that fit state requirements. Companies on the California Office of Mine Reclamation AB 3098 list are given the OK by the state to sell their product for government projects. State OMR officials claimed that the quarry was taken off of the list due to Mosler’s ongoing issues with the county.
Mosler is scheduled to have a hearing conducted by the Ventura County Planning Commission on Feb 23 that will decide whether or not the mine owner is in compliance with state and county guidelines and could vote to shut down the quarry’s operation.
Mosler and the county have been battling over the reclamation plan for the quarry and the money that Mosler needs to post in order to cover the cost of a reclamation of his mine. The county says Mosler has not yet filed an approved plan or the money, called the financial assurance, that would go with it.
Mosler claims that the county has continually made it difficult to comply and has forced him to take his fight to the next level.
“We’re going to the federal court because my civil rights are being stomped on,” said Mosler. “I’m going to have to start selling equipment to have my civil rights attorney fight this.”
Mosler claims that the county — which was tasked by its planning commission to work with the mine owner to resolve the issue — has told him that he needs an unreasonable amount of material to be accounted for in his reclamation plan. The required material in turn needs to be covered financially. He states that other mines in Ventura County have had to account for much less money for the procurement of the same materials.
County officials responded by saying that the costs associated with Mosler’s operation are based on calculations of all the activities that would be involved in providing the required material, should the mining area need to be reclaimed.
“Every operation is different,” said Ebony McGee, the county’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act project coordinator. “The state says there needs to be a cost estimate of all the activities involved in providing the necessary material.”
McGee further explained the process, saying there are many factors to look at when coming up with the estimate. “Mr Mosler has a hard rock quarry,” she continued. “He doesn’t have any of the materials stockpiled. Those things can really change the cost estimate.”
The county planning commission will conduct a public hearing on Feb. 23 when commissioners will decide whether or not to revoke Mosler’s mining permit.
By Logan Hall
After Ojai’s request for a hearing with California Public Utilities Commission was rejected last year, the city has been given notice that a public participation hearing will be held in Ojai regarding Golden State Water Company’s proposal to raise its water rates.
Steve McClary, assistant to city manager Rob Clark, confirmed that the CPUC — which regulates utilities like Golden State — contacted the city this week, setting a date and time for the hearing. McClary said that the hearing will take place on Feb. 27 at two separate times — 2 and 6 p.m. — but that the location hasn’t been decided yet.
Although he said that he hasn’t seen anything in writing, McClary did receive confirmation from the office of the commission’s Administrative Law Judge via phone that a hearing will take place in Ojai. “I consider that sufficiently official,” he said on Thursday.
For Ojai residents paying Golden State for water, the decision by the CPUC offers a chance for citizens to voice their opposition to GSWC’s rate increase request. If the water purveyor gets what it is asking for, Ojai’s water rates will increase 25 percent by 2015. During the upcoming hearing, locals will get the chance to speak directly to representatives of the CPUC to state their reasons for opposing the potential rate increase.
“We’re extremely excited that the CPUC decided to hold a hearing in Ojai,” said Ryan Blatz, representative for the non-profit organization Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water. “This just shows you what everybody can achieve if they work together. It’s really amazing seeing that the people of Ojai are making a difference.”
McClary stated that the city, with recommendations from F.L.O.W., suggested that the hearing be held in Chaparral Auditorium, but the decision would rest with the commission, which will foot the bill.
Both F.L.O.W. supporters and city representatives urge the public to attend the hearing. “Now we’ve got to get everyone to show up and have good questions ready for the commission,” said Blatz.
Echoing Blatz’s comment, McClary said, “We really encourage everyone in the community to come to the public participation hearing so they can be heard. It’s really important that the commissioners and the judge hear directly from the people.”
Getting a CPUC hearing in Ojai is a step in the right direction for those concerned about steadily increasing water rates in the city. Blatz and McClary both point out that there is still a long way to go for the citizens in their fight against Golden State, a for-profit corporation. Blatz said that F.L.O.W. is continuing to increase its momentum and will be working more closely with the city in the next month. “We’re putting together some things that will further formalize the city’s support of F.L.O.W.,” said Blatz.
The city is expanding its involvement by finding out what other cities in California are doing to fight Golden State’s latest rate case. McClary said he attended a meeting in Claremont that outlined a plan for five cities to “pool their resources” together. He stated that aside from Claremont, the cities of Barstow, Cypress, Placentia and Stanton have pledged $5,000 each to support the cause. He also said that Claremont is going a step further by pledging funds to begin the process of acquiring the water company and having the city of Claremont take over. The process would be similar to F.L.O.W.’s proposal to have Casitas Municipal Water District acquire Golden State’s Ojai system through eminent domain.
Although in Ojai’s fight, the city would not be the agency taking over Golden State, McClary did say the Ojai City Council will be given the information obtained in Claremont and that the city would “Explore every possible avenue out there.” The city will also be meeting in closed session with attorney Jeffery Oderman, who won the case for the city of Felton in a takeover of their water system from California-American Water, a subsidiary of the German corporation RWE. The meeting between the city and Oderman will take place in two weeks according to McClary.
The Ojai Valley News will publish the time and location of the CPUC’s public participation hearing in future issues. Numerous attempts to get responses from the CPUC have been unsuccessful.
Citizens living in the Casitas Municipal Water District boundaries voted on Nov. 8, 1960 to approve a payment of $31.4 million to be paid over 50 years to the United State Bureau of Reclamation. The funds were allocated for building the Ventura River Project that included the Casitas Dam, Robles Canal, Robles Diversion Facility, and pipeline system. During the January 25, 2012 regular meeting of the Casitas Board of Directors, the Board signed the last payment of $943,645.96 for delivery to the Bureau.
The repayment dollars have been collected from property owners within the district boundaries as a specific tax for Casitas. Property owners will now see a decrease in the tax collected for the Casitas Municipal Water District. The remaining amount left on the property tax line item will be for the annual debt incurred for State Water, which fluctuates from year to year. In the 2010-11 fiscal year, a homeowner with a $300,000 home would have paid $56.13 on their property taxes toward Casitas’ debt. Approximately $28 of the property tax bill, in this example, has been for the Ventura River Project repayment.
“The completion of the repayment portion of the contract does not mean that the District now holds the “pink slip” to the Ventura River Project,” said Steve Wickstrum, General Manager for Casitas.
The title for the project will remain with the United States unless otherwise provided by Congress. Casitas will continue with its contractually assigned responsibilities to operate and maintain the project. Casitas and the Bureau will continue to coordinate and cooperate under the provisions of the contract.
By Tiobe Barron
The tone of Tuesday night’s Ojai City Council meeting seemed to be that of farewells. Mayor Betsy Clapp adjourned the meeting in honor of Gary Horgan, Councilmember Sue Horgan’s husband, who died Jan. 20.
“Our thoughts are with Sue and her family,” said Mayor Clapp.
The meeting also marked the end of Steve Lee’s service to the council as interim city attorney. City manager Rob Clark brought the matter to the attention of the council, saying Lee “Has been an incredible help to me.”
“I am privileged, thankful, and proud to have served you,” said Lee of his time as city attorney.
The meeting also was the last for the Redevelopment Agency, which will be effectively dissolved by California law as of Feb. 1. Susie Mears, finance director, presented a modified Initial Recognized Obligation Payment Schedule, valid through June rather than through December per the prior draft.
“We took a very conservative approach, including all obligations, understanding that it will be challenged by the county and state,” said Mears.
“We’re trying as best we can to protect every asset we have; there are going to be challenges,” said city manager Clark.
Councilmember Carlon Strobel questioned whether the city was assured of being named the successor agency to the Redevelopment Agency once dissolved. Clark reassured her that in all likelihood that was the case. Mayor Clapp voiced concern over the property assets of the agency and what would become of them once the agency is dissolved.
“All assets in the housing fund will be turned into the new fund,” replied Mears.
“Before everyone panics, there are several kinds of assets,” clarified Clark. “There’s a lot that’s not settled yet; we have to see how it plays out.”
Mayor Clapp inquired as to who was on the oversight board for the process, and Clark answered that there are seven members, and it is heavily biased toward the agencies that would receive the liquidated assets if the city, as the successor agency, is not awarded them.
“It’s a real crime what’s happened with the state and the redevelopment agencies,” proclaimed Clark, “The state government has been really short-sighted.”
Mayor Clapp agreed. “It is. … We had the opportunity to put in senior housing units, and now we can’t,” she said before slamming the gavel down in apparent frustration, concluding the final meeting of Ojai’s Redevelopment Agency.
On a brighter note, Steve Offerman, assistant to County Supervisor Steve Bennett, made an announcement that “I come bearing good news from the County Government Center!” In an effort to improve local transit, rather than curtail it, he said, on Jan. 24 the Board of Supervisors voted 5 to 0 to approve Supervisor Bennett’s proposal the county use its surplus in transit funds to cover the shortfall in Ojai’s transit funds.
“Serving transit-dependent persons and helping get people out of their cars has long been a high priority for me and for the residents of the Ojai Valley,” said Supervisor Bennett in a recent press release. “Fortunately, the county has enough state transportation money available to bridge this funding gap, and to improve regional transit by restoring bus service to downtown Ojai. What was getting lost in all this was the riders, and we need to put them on the bus first.”
Offerman pointed out that prior to the recent cuts to Gold Coast Transit bus service to Ojai, the Ojai route was the second most heavily used route in Ventura County, with about 320,000 riders last year, and the former stop at Ojai Park and Ride was the second most heavily used stop in the county. He proposed returning Gold Coast’s route to the Park and Ride once more, and extending the hours for both the Ojai Trolley and Gold Coast Transit.
“This just shows you how great it is when we work together to get stuff done,” commented Mayor Clapp, as everyone present applauded Offerman’s presentation.
Ojai City Council members also approved a Vacant Property Incentive Program on a one-year trial basis. The program aims to provide an incentive for owners of long-vacant commercial buildings and properties to revamp them as a productive, occupied local business place. The incentive would be funded by future tax flow of up to $10,000 as decided on a case-by-case basis by city manager Clark.
“It’s kind of a carrot and stick. We have both,” said Clark. Ojai resident Bryan Crawford voiced the concern that most new businesses do not make it past the two-year mark, and if that is the case, the city would not recoup the invested money through sales tax as hoped. Clark agreed that there is a shared risk, but maintained that it is “not much.” Mayor Clapp and Councilmember Strobel both voiced opinions that the collective gain to the community from having the blighted buildings fixed up and occupied, encouraging more business in the area, outweighs the risk of the business itself failing.
Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, the city’s director of recreation, Dale Sumersille, proposed an Exchange of Services Policy, which would waive the rental fee for non-profit leagues using the fields at Sarzotti Park in exchange for services provided by members of the non-profit leagues.
Multiple non-profit organizations, including Ojai Valley Girls’ Softball Association, Ojai P.O.N.Y. Baseball and AYSO, submitted letters in support of the policy.
“I think the intangibles are priceless,” said Sumersille.
Robert Roddick, president of Ojai P.O.N.Y. Baseball, said, “I think it’s going to be a fantastic fit for our organization. I see it as a benefit … in the long run it’s going to save you (the city) money. Many projects have been identified. We have people certified and more than willing to give time. Our goal is to not leave one kid behind that fence.”
Though the city stands to lose $9,500 per year in revenue from the lost rental money, most were in agreement that the services offered in exchange potentially exceeded that amount. It was proposed the city draft a wish list of projects for the non-profits to work off of. The council approved the plan unanimously.
“This is a community of incredible people with incredible skills, and it’s just going to make the community better and better,” commented Mayor Clapp. “The skate park is a perfect example. To me, it’s just a win-win situation.”
The next regular Ojai City Council meeting will take place 7:30 p.m., Feb. 7, at 401 S. Ventura St.
George “Machine Gun” Kelly’s chrome shotgun — left behind at Ora Shannon’s Wise County, Texas ranch (where Kelly held millionaire Charles Urschel) — is now up for auction.
California Auctioneers will sell the 1930s gangster relic on Sunday online and live on premises in Casitas Springs to the highest bidder. The auction begins at 10 a.m.
“It’s a great opportunity to own a piece of American history,” said auctioneer Jewels Eubanks. The shotgun is currently owned by 2008 World Poker Tournament ladies’ champion Nancy Todd, also known as the Queen of Diamonds. Proceeds from the sale of the shotgun will be donated to the Hayden Scholarship Foundation.
California Auctioneers has documented the chain of custody, and procured a letter of authenticity from witness and Las Vegas legend Tex Whitson. ”We were going to sell the shotgun previously, but waited to document the provenance,” said Shannon, who was Kelly’s mother-in-law and owner of the famous Wise County ranch house where Boss Shannon (her husband) and Machine Gun Kelly kept Charles Urschel when they kidnapped him.
Shannon gave the shotgun to casino owner and Texas gambling legend Benny Binion. Binion was known for bringing Texas hospitality to Las Vegas at his casino, Binion’s Horseshoe. The shotgun was kept in the vault at the Horseshoe, and shown to friends and patrons (including Mr. Whitson), until Binion gave the shotgun to Billy Bob Burnett, of Billy Bob’s Texas, the biggest Honky Tonk in Texas, in 1985. Later the shotgun was passed to Todd.
In the documentary included with the shotgun, Whitson recalls a trip with Binion to Texas where he drove down “many a dirt road” and found the Shannon ‘s farmhouse.
Also included in the auction is the Benny Binion collection of gamblers guns, from the vault at the Horseshoe, confiscated from unruly gangsters, gamblers and patrons. When asked how Binion knew Machine Gun Kelly and the Shannons, Whitson replied, “Anyone who gambled or drank in that part of Texas (Dallas) knew Benny Binion, and probably owed him money.”
Additional auction highlights include estate items from the ninth governor of Louisiana, Andre Bienvenue Roman, in office from 1831 to 1835. The items include portraits by Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans (1801 to 1888). Also being offered is an important personal collection of pistols from pin-stripe legend Von Dutch, well-known for being the “King of Custom Culture.” He was also a gunsmith. Each has a custom Von Dutch handwritten tag.
For more details, visit californiauctioneers.com, or call 649-2686.
By Lisa Snider
When Ranch House owner David Skaggs agreed to participate in the inaugural Ventura County Wine Trail Local Food and Wine Challenge last Friday night, he said that would do so on one condition: “That we be paired with Ojai Vineyard.”
His decision turned out to be a good one; the two took top honors in the competition, which pitted 11 other area restaurant and winery teams against each other in an Iron Chef-inspired showdown.
Skaggs has long featured the local winery on his award-winning menu. “We’ve had good success with their wines and they work well with the food we have,” said Skaggs.
Before a sold-out crowd of 400 hungry ticket-holders and a panel of judges at Ventura’s Crown Plaza Hotel, teams from all around the county set about to create their best dishes. Skaggs said his choice for the winning entrée was easy.
“Our diver scallops were featured on the Food Network with Iron Chef Cat Cora on ‘Best Thing I Ever Ate,’ so we decided to go with those.”
After tasting the dish against different wines from Ojai Vineyard, the team ultimately decided to present the scallops for judging with their 2008 Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County. Ojai Vineyard’s assistant winemaker Fabien Castel described the wine as, “Racy, sleek and delicate,” adding that, “we wanted to show that subtlety works well in wine pairing and that white wine and fresh seafood is one of the great subtle and simple combinations available.”
Ranch House chef Stuart Farnham grilled the diver scallops until they got nice sear marks and served them on a lightly curried corn sauce with dry vermouth, grilled whole kernel corn and shredded bok choy. The dish is a popular one and is served nightly on the restaurant’s regular menu.
Lauren Belshe, representative for the Ventura County Wine Trail, said that her organization decided to host the event to reveal the best of what Ventura County has in their own backyard. “We have 22 wineries to offer and many amazing restaurants in this area,” said Belshe. “We wanted to bring together the wineries and the restaurants and have each of them showcase their very best.”
Among the 11 other teams from Ventura, Camarillo, Oxnard and Malibu were Ojai’s own Vino V and Old Creek Ranch Winery, who joined with Ventura’s Jolly Oyster. The Ranch House and Ojai Vineyard were declared winners and each received a wine decanter with the event and their name etched on the decanter.
“Honestly, everyone was a winner there,” said Skaggs.
Castel added, “We are also glad for all the other participants and the incredible display of creativity and energy to make this event successful. We hope this event will continue and will become a tradition to further explore the variations around food and wine.”
A portion of the evening’s proceeds went to the Ventura County FOOD SHARE, a food bank that houses and distributes millions of pounds of food each year to the hungry of Ventura County.
For more information about the Ventura County Wine Trail, visit VenturaCountyWineTrail.com.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
As expected, President Obama’s State of the Union speech contained more platitudes than concrete proposals. But that is typical of such speeches, so it came as no surprise.
There is certainly no danger of me ever holding elected office, much less the presidency, but I have composed an imaginary State of the Union speech of my own, in order to offer a few alternative suggestions. Here is how my speech might have gone:
“My fellow Americans, we face a difficult time in our country. The economy is terrible, social security and other programs are at risk financially, we have no energy policy, and we face threats from our enemies. I offer the following plans to confront these problems:
I have made a deal with Mitt Romney to drop out of the presidential race and take a job with the government as its Investment Czar. Whether Mr. Romney would make a good president if elected is debatable. In fact, due to the reluctance of evangelical Christians to bring themselves to vote for someone of the Mormon faith, he is having trouble just capturing the Republican nomination. So, I intend to appoint him to do something he is clearly good at – investing money. He will handle all government money coming from payroll taxes for social security, and invest it. If he does half as good for us as he is doing for himself, we could pay off a significant amount of debt, and social security would be solvent. The only stipulation is that we keep the money here in America as opposed to somewhere offshore.
I have decided to kill the Keystone pipeline project. As many of you know, this proposed project would construct a 1,700-mile long pipeline which would transport crude oil from the oil sands region in the Alberta region of Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast. Sure, the project might create jobs and lessen our dependence on oil from much less stable sources than Canada. And yes, we would be giving money to an ally rather than to those who would use that money to fight against us. But these positive factors are far outweighed by the potential downside of having former Vice President Al Gore re-emerge to fight the project. You remember Mr. Gore. He is the one that flew gas-guzzling private jets all over the country in order to tell us how concerned he is about the environment. Yes, the same Al Gore who did little or nothing about environmental issues when he was vice president, but emerged to make movies, give speeches and write books about climate change when he got paid to do so. And while he achieved much notoriety and wealth in these pursuits, he apparently lost all “global warming” for his wife of 40 years, Tipper. As president, I refuse to simply stand by and watch as the American people are subjected to another movie as boring as “An Inconvenient Truth.”
There are many nations who pose a threat to the United States by harboring and training terrorists. As the recent coup in Libya showed us, removing those in power in such countries is dangerous and messy. I have appointed Newt Gingrich to serve as a paid “historian” to countries where regime changes are needed. As you may remember, Mr.Gingrich was paid $1.6 million to serve as “ historical consultant” for Freddie Mac. He did such a good job that the government eventually spent over $100 billion to bail out this agency. If Mr. Gingrich can be just as effective globally, countries such as Iran, Syria, and Venezuela will pose no security threat to the United States.
Thank you, and good night.”
By Tiobe Barron
Ojai, like cities across the nation, may soon become a plastic bag-free zone. The city is proposing a ban on what they call “single-use carry out plastic bags.” If passed, the ban would apply to all merchants, restaurants, grocery stores, and retail shops within Ojai city limits, except in cases where it would create undue hardship, or in which the health and safety of the public might be affected. Instead of plastic bags, retailers would be required to use recycled paper bags, with no less than 40 percent recycled content, and 100 percent recyclable material. Customers would be charged a minimum of 10 cents per paper bag, though they could opt to use their own reusable bag.
The ban would not be enforceable throughout the entire valley, however, as the areas outside city limits, such as Mira Monte and Meiners Oaks, fall under Ventura County’s jurisdiction.
According to city manager Rob Clark, the proposed ordinance predates his term, and when it was originally discussed, state law stipulated that if a city wanted to ban these bags, they must first conduct a full Environmental Impact Report, which he says is very expensive. Thanks to the city of Manhattan Beach, which challenged the legislation and won, smaller towns are able to forgo the costly study, and Ojai no longer had to table the issue.
“This is a state-wide issue,” said Clark in a phone interview. “We were hoping that the state would adopt a ban. Instead we have to do this city by city. Plastic bags create an ongoing hazard; they are a source of litter that does not break down easily.”
The executive director of the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, Deborah Pendrey, claims that the impetus for the ban stems from that organization’s efforts back in the summer of 2011. She cites a heavy toll on marine life created by the use of plastic bags, and the fact that businesses have the potential of saving money otherwise spent on these bags. She says the Albertsons located in Carpinteria voluntarily stopped using plastic bags, and now the city of Carpinteria is trying to ban both paper and plastic single-use bags.
“The costs far outweigh the convenience,” said Pendrey. “We just have to get used to a new way of doing things that doesn’t harm the environment.” She also said less than five percent of plastic bags are actually recycled, and much of that is not processed in domestic facilities, but actually shipped to China.
The language of Ojai’s proposed ordinance was largely lifted from that of the ordinance passed in the city of Santa Monica. Part of the text itself states, “Plastic debris is a significant pollutant of coastal waters. Some studies show that plastic photodegrades, breaking into smaller pieces and making its way into the food chain. Reducing the use of single-use carry out bags in Ojai will likely have a modest positive impact on improving water quality by preventing the migration of plastic refuse into the storm drains and traveling to the local creeks and out to the Pacific Ocean.” The proposal also cites examples of cities that have already passed various bans on single-use carry out bags, including San Francisco, Marin, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Calabasas, Long Beach, and others.
Dean Kubani, manager of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability & Envrionment, said his city’s ban — which took effect Sept. 1 — is going well. “We’ve had 24 complaint calls, out of about 1,000 effected retailers … I don’t think there’s any reason this can’t be successful everywhere. It’s simply a matter of changing customer behavior, getting people to bring their own bags. It takes work initially, to get people to change, but I think soon probably this will be more the norm than the exception.”
“If this goes through, I’d be happy,” said Ernest Niglio, owner and general manager of Rainbow Bridge. “I’ve been doing this a long, long time. I tried selling reusable bags back in New York, long before it was fashionable. It’s been a long battle, and we have a big, big problem with the ocean (due to plastic bags). We keep them here because the customers harass us if we don’t. But if they decide to ban them, that would be fine with me. I just don’t want to upset anybody.”
Terry Starr, of Starr Market, said, “My main concern is how this is going to slow down the (checkout) line. It takes more time.” He also pointed out that the reusable canvas bags customers could opt to use must be washed, otherwise bacteria could become a problem.
The Ojai City Council has announced the “public review period” of the proposed ban will take place until Feb. 21, with voting on the ban slated for March 13. The document is available to the public at the Ojai Library, 111 E. Ojai Ave., and at Ojai City Hall, at 401 S. Ventura St.
By Logan Hall
Ojai Valley residents got a chance to don rain gear over the weekend for the first time this year. Small storms dumped their payloads on the valley on Saturday and Monday, and puddles began to form on street corners and gutter. As those puddles dry up however, Ojai still faces drought conditions.
National Weather Service experts from the Ventura County station say the valley has seen less than 50 percent of its average rainfall since July.
“We have La Niña conditions which usually leads to drier weather,” said NWS meteorologist Ryan Kittell. “Right now we’re running at about half of what we would normally see.”
Although a rainy weekend might be an inconvenience to some locals, seasonal rains are vital to the valley and its residents. The lack of substantial precipitation can make life much more difficult for those in the agriculture business, and can even have grave effects on the valley’s water supply in general.
“I don’t like irrigating in the middle of January,” said citrus ranch owner Jim Coultas, who has a well on his property tapping into the local aquifer. “We’re not supposed to have to do that.”
Coultas says that when the valley sees multiple dry years in a row, residents and business owners that use wells have to start buying water from local purveyors like Casitas Municipal Water District or Golden State Water Company. “The big concern,” he said, “is if the aquifer gets depleted and my well dries out, then I gotta go back on Casitas again.”
Supplementing well water with water from companies like Golden State and Casitas can get expensive for those like Coultas, whose ranch encompasses 135 acres, 60 of which are used for agriculture.
“Two or three years ago we had a real dry winter,” said Coultas who has spent his whole life working his ranch. “I had to irrigate in October and September that year. My water bill was like five-grand a month.”
The benefit of Mother Nature’s watering can goes beyond potential financial impacts.
“When you irrigate for long periods,” continued Coultas, “there will be a build-up of salts in the water — things like magnesium, calcium and so forth. When we get a lot of rain, it flushes all that out. It’s really good for the soil. Rain is the best irrigation we’ve got.”
As more and more people depend on Ojai’s groundwater, the supply will continue to be depleted faster and faster during dry years. As Coultas puts it, “The more straws that are in the drink, the more quickly it goes down.”
The NWS reports that Ojai has received 1.3 inches of rain so far in January, while statistics show that the 30-year rain average in Ojai for the month of January is 5.2 inches. The same report shows that Ojai has seen 4.9 inches of rainfall since July, while the 30-year average shows the valley should have gotten 9.5 inches in the same period. Weather experts add that there’s no rain in the immediate forecast. “I don’t see any rain in the next seven to 10 days,” said Kittell. “It’s looking like this is it for January.”
Kittell did state that February is historically the wettest month for Ojai, according to NWS stats. “There’s still hope that we’ll get significant rain in February, but we still have a lot of ground to catch up,” he said.
While ranchers and residents work behind the scenes to mitigate the effects of dry weather, the impact of drought might be more visible in an area like Lake Casitas, which according, to lake statistics, is at 81.4 percent of capacity. The lake depends on water diverted from the Ventura River to refill what Casitas water customers use. A mandate from the federal government stipulates that there must be enough water in the river to allow Steelhead Trout to swim upstream before any can be used to fill the lake.
“We usually need about six inches of rain to start diverting (water into the lake),” said Casitas spokesman Ron Merckling. “We might not have any diversions this year if the weather stays as dry as it has been.”
Those that drive Casitas Pass Road will notice a large ring around the lake showing just how far down the water level is. Although Casitas was designed to continue to supply water even during drought years, the lack of rain can take its toll.
“If we have multiple dry years, we can run into trouble,” said Casitas spokesman Ron Merckling. “That’s why we are encouraging conservation.”
Casitas officials are urging people to attend a free “gray water workshop” this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, which will help inform the public on how to utilize used water after doing laundry. Merckling says the workshop will focus on ways to recycle water from washing machines, which, if done properly, can help individuals and families cut back on water usage. Call 649-2251, Ext. 118, or e-mail email@example.com for more information on Casitas’ water conservation plans or to sign up for the workshop.
Bicycle shop will soon occupy the old Roland’s Exxon site
Chris T. Wilson
As local bicycle shop owners wait for construction permits at their new downtown location, an important environmental milestone has been crossed and a new business stimulus program is getting a boost from Ojai city officials.
For more than 16 years, the former fueling station at 110 W. Ojai Ave., sandwiched between the Ojai Valley Museum and the Oaks at Ojai Spa, has been shuttered and vacant due to a leaky underground fuel tank.
In the last week, four of the seven contamination test wells located on and near the property were capped after test results concluded that ground water was no longer in danger of being contaminated in the area.
The test well capping means the MOB Shop, currently located in Meiners Oaks, is one step closer to turning the blighted building into a viable downtown Ojai business, said John Lamar, a consultant and landscape architect who is helping the bike shop obtain permits and beautify the property.
“This is an important step for us, since for the past nine months we’ve been dealing with the (Ventura) County Environmental Health Division to get to the point where they have contractors come and complete this work,” Lamar said.
Mob Shop founder Kelly Pasco said the drill rigs and earth moving equipment has generated a lot of interest.
“I can’t go anywhere without people asking me what’s going on,” Pasco said. “I went into a restaurant last week and people were talking about it and then they started asking me about it.”
Pasco said that once the city delivers permits and construction work begins, the property will transform pretty quickly.
“We’re setting an aggressive goal for ourselves to be open by April 1,” Pasco said.
But permit fees, planning costs and inspections can run into the thousands of dollars. So Lamar has been pushing city officials to offset some of the fees based on projected sales tax revenue that the new business will generate for the city.
Ojai city manager Rob Clark said on Tuesday that he anticipated a positive response from the Ojai City Council at last night’s meeting, for a one-year trial program, which would be aimed at stimulating business growth in vacant downtown buildings. Lamar has been working closely with Mayor Betsy Clapp and city manager Clark to establish the first blighted building support program.
Clark said the council is very interested in having a program like this to get vacant properties reoccupied and back in use as businesses.
“If they don’t go back in use, then we can’t collect sales tax,” Clark said. “So we consider that found money if we can get them in use.”
Clark said he is recommending a one-year trial program that could cut initial permit and site improvement fees by as much as 50 percent. He also said that the motivated actions of the MOB Shop owners helped to spur the city forward into considering this program.
“I think it’s a great way to activate downtown and make things more interesting,” Clark said.
Thinking ‘way outside the box’ now the norm
By Misty Volaski
Nordhoff High School’s assistant principal, Greg Bayless, summed up what’s going on in Ojai schools in four words: “Sometimes, poverty spawns creativity.”
With the Ojai Unified School District losing more than $5 million from its budget over the last few years — and the possibility of losing $2 million more should various state measures fail — teachers and administrators are “thinking way outside of the box,” said Topa Topa Elementary principal John LeSuer.
Nordhoff, Topa Topa and Matilija Junior High presented their Single Plans for Student Achievement at Tuesday night’s OUSD board meeting, showcasing their school’s strategies for raising students’ academic performance.
“Anybody who has heard any one of these presentations would walk away feeling a true sense of optimism from the principals and staff and parents, in the face of several years of deep expenditure reductions,” said OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser Wednesday. “To me it’s just remarkable … After so many years of a combination of declining enrollment and marginal — at best — funding from the state, the reports this year about what’s being done at the schools academically and in so many other ways (offer) absolute evidence of the commitment to our children. We should be thrilled that we have the kind of people in our schools that can do as much as they do with so little.”
The OUSD’s only high school is taking a page out of college books with the addition of “associate teachers,” high-achieving students who reteach key concepts to their peers each week. Bayless opted to “totally overhaul” the school’s existing peer tutoring program.
“They’re not just there for students to ask questions anymore, they’re actually up there teaching, calling on students, having them work out problems on the whiteboard. They’re like real TAs (teaching assistants),” Bayless said. Associate teachers make contact weekly with their “master” teachers to find out the key concepts for the week, then create lessons to help their peers understand and keep up.
Bayless said that the process of choosing associate teachers was intense. “It was a competitive process — they had tryouts where we pulled a topic out of a hat and they had 30 seconds to teach it,” he said. “We chose the best 15. These are top-achieving seniors, really smart kids — Nick Perkins is going to Stanford, another is going to M.I.T or Princeton. And they’ve really stepped up. It’s incredible. It’s been a home run. And there’s not many of those to be had these days.”
Also in Nordhoff’s SPSA was the reintroduction of The Ranger newspaper, incorporating more reading into all subject areas (even physical education), student-led writing labs, and the continuation of the Better Science Guest Lecture Series. The lecture series is a once-a-month discussion with a local scientist who helps bring the real world into students’ science studies. “The series helps make school more engaging and relevant,” Bayless said, adding that the optional series is popular with the students.
The Ranger students will also work with kids from The Thacher School to develop capstone projects. These are similar to senior projects the students already do, but instead of being for just one subject, students must come up with an in-depth project that touches on several subjects. “These really require the students to do more creative thinking and investigating … It’ll improve critical thinking and problem-solving skills,” Bayless explained.
MJHS principal Emily Mostovoy and her staff are big on ensuring that their Eagles “feel connected to the school and responsible for their success,” she said Wednesday. That means addressing the kids’ academic health as well as their social, emotional and behavioral health. To that end, they have created the Matilija P.R.I.D.E. guidelines for success: “Positive Attitude, Respect, personal Responsibility, Developing Goals, and Enthusiasm.” This will launch next month and “sets the standard for what we as students and staff believe we are,” she said.
In addition, staff are offering interventions in English, math, science, social studies, elective and physical education. There are extra reading classes (which, while not required, are “recommended,” and take the place of a students’ elective class), and several after-school programs, such as Homework Club, Reading Plus, Math Help, and even Saturday “Got Math” programs — all of which are well attended.
Students also take part in tutorial enrichment programs once a month, which gives students the opportunity to relearn concepts within classrooms based on “certain needs,” said Mostovoy. “They’ll relearn a topic, or retake a test — even learn to organize their backpack.” For kids who don’t need the extra tutorial time, other activities are offered, such as science labs with Nordhoff’s health Sciences Academy students.
Although declining budgets mean less money from OUSD, parents and members of the community are stepping up to volunteer their time and skills. One parent, Mostovoy said, is looking into a grant that could win them class sets of Kindle e-readers. “Due to the budget, in the English department it’s been close to 10 years that they haven’t gotten new textbooks,” Mostovoy pointed out.
Another parent has already scored Matilija an $8,000 grant which is being used for the Schoolyard Habitat, where students work with members of the community to create a sustainable garden.
Mostovoy added that it’s the teachers’ commitment that keeps things running in these challenging times. “I can’t thank the teachers enough — I’m continually amazed every day with what they bring to the classroom and their commitment. The only question is, ‘What’s right for the kids?’ It’s at the forefront of every decision they make.”
The OUSD’s largest elementary, like Matilija, enjoys lots of volunteer participation — as well as a strong Parent-Teacher Association and some creative scheduling — to help fill in the gaps left by budget cuts.
“We have an enrichment programs after school,” Topa Topa principal LeSuer said Wednesday. These programs are low in cost to students — only about $10 (with scholarships available to those in need) — and offer both fun and educational activities for kids.
“Science, art, computers, Spanish classes, outdoors games, yoga, drama, basketball — it’s a wholes series of classes,” LeSuer said., adding that about 75 students currently participate. “The kids really enjoy it.” Some of the teachers are members of the community, and others come from the Ojai Recreation Department, with which Topa and its PTA are partnering. “Our PTA is really wonderful,” LeSuer said.
Katie Haydon of Ignite! Learning Creative Learning is offering staff development for teachers, the Ojai Lions Club is donating funds, and the Rotary Club of Ojai is bringing in volunteers to help students with reading skills. “That’s a great program,” enthused LeSuer. There’s also the Art Trek art program, the BRAVO! music van, Ojai Quickstart Tennis, and more. Rotary is also sponsoring an after-school nutrition and cooking class to teach kids about good foods.
In the classroom, LeSuer was able to utilize some funding to bring in credentialed teachers, “So students get a lot of extra help,” LeSuer said. “It’s made a huge impact.” Further, it divides up classes, allowing the students more individualized instruction — something sorely needed with today’s large class sizes.
In the kindergarten classrooms, where class sizes are at about 30 students, half the class arrives an hour early, and the other half stays an hour later. While students end up with the same amount of time in the classroom, this system allows for more individualized attention — vital at this period in their development, said LeSuer.
“We don’t have nearly the money we used to have,” he said. “Things are definitely tough. But we’re looking at a lot of things to make this work.”
To volunteer at Nordhoff, Topa Topa, Matilija or any of the OUSD schools, call the OUSD office at 640-4300, or visit www.ojai.k12.ca.us.
By Logan Hall
Federal agents arrested local property owner John Appel last week on charges of illegally dumping debris on his 30-acre property near the Arnaz Grade.
Agents from the Environmental Protection Agency took Appel into custody on Thursday, after which he was arraigned in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and released after posting a $15,000 bond, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the court, in an E-mail. Appel pleaded not guilty to four counts of “knowingly discharging dredged and fill material into the Ventura River,” according to the indictment by the court. Mrozek said the case will go to trial on Feb. 21.
This marks Appel’s second arrest for similar charges since 1995, when he was convicted of dumping debris into the river over a four-year period.
Appel says he spent a large sum of money fighting the previous case and ended up spending time in the Ventura County work furlough program after his conviction. He claims that the government is unjustly targeting him now. During an interview at his property, Appel was asked if he had discharged debris into the river. “Heavens no,” he said while pointing at the area of the river in question. “I spent $300,000 of my own money fighting this before. Why would I just go and do it again? I can’t figure out why, but someone really wants this property bad.”
According to the U.S. court, if convicted of the charges in the latest indictment, Appel could be facing hard time. “If convicted of all charges in the indictment, the statutory maximum sentence is eight years in federal prison,” said Mrozek.
Appel says he has been relentlessly harassed by the government and by members of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. “The guy from the Land Conservancy followed me around every day for six months,” said Appel.
“The guy” Appel referred to was Rick Bisaccia, preservation manager for the conservancy. Bisaccia, who claims he is a witness in the case against Appel, was reluctant to discuss his role in monitoring Appel’s property, but did confirm that he watched the property owner’s activities on more than one occasion. “I was monitoring some of his activities that I could see,” said Bisaccia.
The conservancy owns land on three sides of Appel’s property, according to Bisaccia, and Appel claims that the conservancy wants to acquire his land for its own purpose. “They really want to get their hands on this land,” said Appel. “They even admitted that they’re trying to own all of the land in the river bottom. I don’t know what it’s all about, but I’ll bet it has to do with the steelhead (trout). Steelhead is just another word for money.”
Bisaccia confirms that steelhead trout are definitely a major concern of the conservancy, but says that Appel’s claims of property takeover are unfounded.
“I guess he could make that conclusion, ‘cause he’s in the river,” said Bisaccia, “but that isn’t what this is about. Quite a bit of it does have to do with the steelhead.”
Repeated calls to Nadine Hettling, Appel’s court-appointed federal attorney, went unanswered. Attempts to obtain comment from the EPA were also unsuccessful. “We are unable to comment on ongoing investigations such as these,” said Nahal Mogharabi, spokesperson for the EPA.
Look for upcoming issues of the OVN for a full report on Appel’s case with the federal government.
By Chris T. Wilson
A local “Move to Amend” group will join forces in Libbey Park tomorrow afternoon as part of a national campaign to override the 2010 Supreme Court decision that established corporations as people and money as speech.
The public is invited to attend, learn more and participate.
According to current estimates from Ojai-based event organizers, more than 300 cities nationwide are hosting protests tomorrow to gather signatures and support for adding a Constitutional amendment that would end corporate personhood and “reclaim democracy.”
The national campaign is largely organized by the groups Public Citizen (citizen.org), Move to Amend (movetoamend.org) and Common Cause (commoncause.org) and many other smaller groups, organizer and local activist Bill Haff said.
Haff, a freelance graphic designer who has lived in the Ojai Valley since 2009, is one of the main local organizers. He said that over the next several months the group hopes to gather a few thousand signatures to get support from the Ojai City Council and as part of the larger national campaign for a new amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“We’re hoping the Ojai City Council will approve a resolution supporting the idea of a constitutional amendment that the word ‘persons’ is defined as human beings only, and not legal entities such as corporations,” Haff said. “We will also be sending the signatures we gather to the group working on the national movement.”
According to the Public Citizen organization’s website, democracyisforpeople.org, in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case called Citizens United v. FEC that corporations have a “right” to spend unlimited money influencing elections.
“I’ve been interested in this issue for over 10 years,” Haff said. “I became involved with groups in my home state of Massachusetts who were working on it and I became more interested in it as it became more prevalent because of the Supreme Court’s decision.”
Following speeches and signature gathering by local activists in Libbey Park, the event will then move to The Village Jester, 139 East Ojai Ave., for continued live music and more signature gathering until 7 p.m. Slated to perform at the event are local musicians Patricia Cardinali, Julie Christensen and Jonathan McCuen. Los Angeles-based rock band Rooftop Revolutionaries, fronted by power vocalist Eleanor Goldstein, will also perform.
This is the only event representing the national movement in Ventura County, Haff said.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting people from all around the Ojai Valley and around the Ventura County and Santa Barbara area,” Haff said.
Write an E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. A Facebook page has also been established: facebook.com/groups/CorporatePersonhoodOjai/ or search “Abolish Corporate Personhood Ojai Valley” on Facebook or Google to find the page.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the incessant demands of cell phones, internet messages and the myriad other demands of the modern world that max out our stress levels.
Well, I found the cure. Ava and I recently spent a long weekend in the “Cowboy Cabin” at Bodee’s Rancho Grande in the beautiful Rose Valley. It was just what the doctor ordered. I don’t know if Bodee’s owner Michele Cromer-Bentivilio instructed the ranch’s caretakers, Ken and Ruby Mellinger and their daughter, Hannah, to pamper us, but they sure did.
There is no cell phone service at the cabin, so there were no annoying tri-tone signals demanding attention. The cabin does have internet service, but I pretended there wasn’t – at least most of the time. I checked my e-mail only twice that weekend, which may be a personal record for me.
Instead of being glued to the computer or television, we found other pursuits. We read a lot. We took the short walk to Lake Michael, (named for Michele’s son), past Matty’s Creek (named after her other son, Matthew). Ava cooked in our cozy kitchen, and we dined by candlelight at our own private table for two.
On Saturday, we boarded the hay wagon and went out among the ranch’s docile herd. As Ken forked hay to the cattle, we sipped wine and shelled peanuts as a beautiful, nearly full moon rose over the valley. It put me in mind of feeding the cattle with my Daddy on our small farm in Alabama when I was a little boy. When I was a kid, I used to love to go out and walk the fields with Daddy while he fed the cattle. He would call them and talk to them, and he would sometimes lift me up on the back of one of those gentle giants for a short ride, all the while holding on tight to me.
In the truck bed, ahead of the hay wagon, were the Mellinger’s two dogs; a beautiful golden retriever named Nicky, and Bandit, their intrepid Queensland heeler. When the truck stopped for Ken to distribute the hay, they were immediately on the job. Bandit diligently surveying the herd; and Nicky acting more like a headwaiter – weaving among the cattle to make sure that each was enjoying the feast. I have never considered myself much of a farm boy, but I can’t remember a nicer evening in a very long time.
On the next evening, we enjoyed a glass of wine as we watched the full moon rising over the mountains surrounding the beautiful Rose Valley. We looked up at the stars and the vapor trails of jets far above and far away, while enjoying the beautiful quiet, interrupted only by the occasional barking dog, or the clucking of a chicken, settling down to roost for the night.
In fact, the only time the quiet was really disturbed was Saturday afternoon, when I came down the mountain to make a run to the grocery store. I encountered four Ferraris tearing down the road behind me. I pulled over to let three of them pass, one guy tooting his horn in appreciation. But there was one idiot who blew around me on a blind curve, endangering both of us, not to mention anyone who could have been coming the other way. I thought about asking Michael Shapiro to consider renaming his coalition “Ojai Stop the Trucks and Ferraris!,” but that does not exactly roll right off the tongue.
I want to thank Michele, Ken, Ruby, and Hanna for the wonderful weekend. I can’t wait to go back.
By George Levin
Local teens put on an event honoring a civil rights hero this week, while other residents around the community gave up part of their valuable vacations in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
About 250 people paid tribute to King at the Libbey Park fountain Monday, according to organizers Zelda Grove, the executive chair of the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation’s MLK Day committee, and Gus Hoffman, a 2010 Nordhoff High School graduate who helps put on the event. The celebration in the park has been organized by the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation for seven or eight years, says Hoffman. The high school students put it together, and grammar school classes across the valley made posters which were hung in the park, visible from Ojai Avenue. The event included face painting, speeches, food, kindergarten choirs, and folksy resistance songs of the 1960s.
Local resident Kate Russell expressed her admiration for the students who had taken it upon themselves to commemorate the hero of their parents’ generation. She explains that the student volunteers have a saying for the day: “‘It’s a day on, not a day off,’ is what they tell each other,” she says with a laugh. She adds, “The official slogan this year is ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.’”
While many residents attended the celebration in Libbey Park, others volunteered their time at the Ojai-based Humane Society of Ventura County, the Ojai Valley Community Hospital or other locations around the valley. Their efforts are part of the nation-wide Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service initiative, an 18-year-old program designed to encourage Americans of all ages and backgrounds to use King’s legacy as an inspiration to make their communities better by working to make a difference in any way they are able. Humane Society volunteer coordinator Kate Nelson said, “There are people who come in every day of the week, though I don’t mind anything that motivates people to come out!”
By Linda Harmon
Thanks to area environmental councils and a grant from the Federal Department of Energy, Ojai residents and visitors can get their electric vehicles charged for free at either of two charging stations while visiting the downtown area.
“The upgraded charging locations are not new,” says Kent Bullard, board director with the Sustainability Council of Ventura County and an EV owner himself. ”Ojai’s existing EVS (electric vehicle service) stations were installed about ten years ago, but have just been upgraded to a meet a new industry standard.”
EVS charging equipment is located at the Ojai Park & Ride, 450 E. Ojai Ave; City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St.; and at Lake Casitas.
According to Bullard, before this standardization there were three different models of chargers out there. He feels the newly arrived chargers will eliminate one of the biggest stumbling blocks faced by EV owners — having the correct hook-up to charge their vehicle.
The new equipment has all been upgraded to the new standard, level 2 J1772 connection, by EVS company Clipper Creek. Electric Vehicle manufacturers have agreed to install compatible equipment on all future models, including Toyota, Nissan and Ford.
According to Bullard, another bit of good news is the development of high-speed chargers that work off a higher wattage system, which are currently being strategically placed in each county throughout the state.
Bullard says that these new efforts, paid for by federal and state grants, have been augmented by for-profit companies jumping into providing EVS services. Companies in the private sector are now working on plans to install “pay as you go” chargers, using either a charge-for-fee basis or club-based access, making electric vehicles more feasible for long distance commuting.
Bullard and his wife have an electric vehicle, and his wife uses it to commute to work in Thousand Oaks. They charge it at home with an “over-sized” solar system that they had installed for just that purpose.
“On average at 110 watts, an hour of charging equals four n nmjn n miles of range,” said Bullard, “So if she plugs in when she gets to work, the car is recharged by the time she leaves. The chargers at City Hall use a 220 current that gives you 10 miles of range for every hour of charging. The new high-speed fast chargers work even quicker on a higher current, 440 volt. They are looking at putting in a fast charge station at either Ventura or Santa Barbara to extend the travel range up the coast.”
For a list of regional EVS locations, go to ojaivalleygreencoalition.com/GoldCoastEVChargingLocations-11-30-11.pdf.
For information on an EVS workshop set for Jan. 29 in Camarillo, visit energycenter.org/cvrp-events.
Photos and report by Logan Hall
An elderly woman driving a white Toyota Camry crashed through the window of a business next to Nordhoff High School earlier today. The incident happened just feet away from the front door of insurance agent Bob Daddi’s State Farm office on Vallerio Avenue. Although the woman was reportedly uninjured, the crash damaged a large glass window, and a wall inside the building. “I was in the back and heard the crash,” said Daddi. “I thought it was an earthquake. The car hit the wall and shook the building.” The building’s owner, Dean Vadnais, said that the tenants of the damaged unit — formerly the Pregnancy Clinic of the Ojai Valley — were in the process of moving to a different location and no one was in the building at the time. “It’s not that bad,” said Vadnais after surveying the shattered glass and broken frame of the floor to ceiling window. “No one was hurt thankfully.” This incident isn’t the first time the insurance office has had to deal with cars crashing through walls. In 2006, another white sedan plowed through the wall of Daddi’s office, sending one of his employees to the hospital with minor injuries. Reasons for the crash are unknown at this time.
By Tiobe Barron
Ojai City Council voted Tuesday night to approve a multitude of permits which allow the Weil Tennis Academy to expand its existing facilities. The project plans include a lot expansion, the creation of four new tennis courts, and a complete revamping of the dormitories.
“I have a great staff,” said Weil Academy owner and Ojai resident Mark Weil, “but the dormitories have always been, ‘Bring the parents in with blindfolds!’ I want to make it inviting and attractive.”
Abe Leider, the contract planner, gave a presentation to the council on the project plans. Among the provisions detailed were tree permits — to remove old and diseased trees, as well as to plant new ones — the inclusion of public art in the new facilities, and allowances for parking, among many others. There was laughter from the public and council members alike as Councilwoman Carol Smith read off the extensive list of permits, amendments, and certificates to be approved.
“I want to thank you all for hearing us tonight,” said Weil, “It’s taken us 17 years to get here!”
Greg Grant, Ojai’s public works director, was quick to point out that while 17 years is indeed a long time, the Fulton Street extension has been in the making for 25 years.
“The funding is completely secured now; we’re ready to start the construction,” Grant said. Caltrans will be funding the actual road construction, and has been working with the Complete Streets Subcommittee, hammering out details to make the project safe, accessible, and aesthetically pleasing. Council members approved the resulting suggestions to the extension project, which include landscape strips to provide a buffer area between pedestrians and vehicles, narrowing the planned traffic lanes from 12 to 10.5 feet to slow traffic speed, and creating curb extensions and bicycle path crossings to increase visibility and reduce cyclist/pedestrian crossing time.
Scott Eicher, CEO of the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce, proposed taking even more precautions for cyclists and pedestrians along the Fulton extension.
“Why not put a stop sign at both places?” he asked regarding a four-way stop for vehicles and bicycles at bike path crossings.
“That way no one is running through feeling like God is on their side,” Councilwoman Carlon Strobel proposed the suggestion to Grant, who agreed the idea could be considered.
Council members also closely looked at their health benefits. At council’s request, finance director Susie Mears researched other city councils; health benefits throughout Ventura County, and presented her findings. According to her research, active and retired city council members in Ventura and Filmore receive no health benefits. The city of Thousand Oaks just decreased the amount covered by their health benefits policy for active and retired council members from a maximum of $2,357 to $112 per month. The matter was brought to the attention of Ojai City Council on Nov. 8 when Dick Thompson of the Ventura Taxpayer’s Association urged council members to reconsider the use of taxpayer dollars toward this end. The issue sparked controversy, as council members sparred over who should receive coverage, and for how long.
Councilwoman Strobel said, “My position is that this applies only to incoming council members, not sitting or retired.” Mayor pro tem Paul Blatz suggested perhaps the benefits could be offered until a sitting or retired council member becomes eligible for Medicare, at which point they could elect to continue the coverage offered at their own expense, or rely on Medicare alone. He agreed with Strobel that any changes should apply only to members elected after November of 2012.
“Why is it taxpayers should pay healthcare benefits to someone who is very part-time?” asked Councilwoman Smith. “Ventura is paying nothing! How is it a little city like Ojai is paying this much? Done!”
Mayor Betsy Clapp responded, “Clearly there’s a huge problem with healthcare in this country, and everyone deserves healthcare. It’s easy to say we work ‘part-time.’ I work 30 hours a week, depending. I don’t like the work we do to be diminished. This thing we’ve stepped into deserves compensation. It’s a difficult thing to do.”
All council members, except Councilman Blatz and Mayor Clapp, moved to direct the city manager to create a resolution to change City Council health benefits.
Also on the council’s plate Tuesday night was the issue of the State of California effectively dissolving redevelopment agencies across the state. The council voted to have the City of Ojai designated as the successor agency to the Redevelopment Agency, and also to support SB 659, a bill petitioning Governor Jerry Brown to temporarily postpone the Feb. 1 dissolution of redevelopment agencies. The council also voted to approve the contract naming Joseph Fletcher the new city attorney as of Feb. 1, and to continue the current arrangement with the Ojai Valley Visitors Bureau through the end of June of this year, and provide funding to the tune of $109,000.
The next regular Ojai City Council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 24, at 7:30 p.m., at City Hall.
By Chris T Wilson
A 2009 Nordhoff High School graduate, now attending a liberal arts college on the East Coast, is about to embark on a 250-mile sea kayaking adventure. And she’s enlisting the community for support.
At 19, Haven Whipple now a junior, will the youngest among a group of six Gettysburg College students to spend six weeks on the Baltic Sea kayaking from Helsinki, Finland, to Stockholm, Sweden, as part of an experiential education program at the college. Over the next few months Whipple will continue working as a waitress near campus to raise the $7,000 she needs to fund the trip, and she’ll be seeking sponsorships from Ojai area individuals and businesses as well.
Whipple joined the Gettysburg Recreation and Adventure Board college fellowship this past semester to participate more in outdoor sport opportunities. An active backpacker, water sports enthusiast and world traveler, the G.R.A.B. fellowship also allows her to receive a small stipend to take freshman on hiking and kayaking excursions.
In addition to kayaking and mountain climbing day trips near campus, the fellowship also engages in longer adventures, spending up to two weeks climbing in Arizona, camping off the coast of Georgia, and spending the whole summer trekking through Ireland, she said. About 30 students are involved in G.R.A.B.
“I’ll be flying back to school on Saturday, and then Monday, I’m going backpacking for a week in the Appalachians,” Whipple said.
To train for the Baltic Sea Kayak trip, Whipple and her five fellow students who will be on the trip will work on endurance training, which means a lot of long distance running — and, of course kayaking.
She got her initial taste of kayaking working at the Lake Casitas Marina Café.
“I would take out kayaks almost every day last summer,” she said. “That was my first long stretch in an ocean kayak.”
During the coming trip on the Baltic, the longest stretch they will paddle in a single day is 25 miles. As an educational component of the trip, the students will study marine life and its relationship to climate change and report on that, Whipple said.
No stranger to adventure, Whipple said she has traveled to 16 or 17 countries. Last spring, she spent five months in Kenya as part of an economic development program through her college. There, she had to contend with large, intimidating gorillas and menacing monkeys and live next to one of the largest slums in the world, she said.
“I was doing a project studying the degradation of the coast in southern Kenya,” she said. In part, her task was to study the local culture there and help to create systems that could help improve environmental conditions there. As a child, she lived with her family in Bangladesh for one year. She was in first grade when she moved to Ojai with her family. Her dad, Thayne Whipple, is a past president of the Ojai Education Foundation and the newest board member of Ojai Unified School District.
Whipple said knew she wanted to attend college on the East Coast and was inspired to apply to Gettysburg by NHS history teacher Andrew Buck, an alum of the small liberal arts college.
Now involved in the G.R.A.B. program and closing in on her last year of college, she settled on globalization studies as a major and business as a minor.
“I changed my major about six times,” she laughed. “I don’t think my advisors were too happy about that.”
But she’s been inspired by her G.R.A.B. colleagues and the experiential education staff to pursue a career that involves outdoor adventure of some kind.
To learn more about this program, visit www.gettysburg.edu and search for G.R.A.B. Individuals or businesses interested in a sponsoring Whipple can E-mail her at email@example.com.
Report and photo by Logan Hall
Ojai citizens fed up with rising water rates might get a chance to have their voices heard by the government.
The California Public Utilities Commission — which regulates utilities like local water purveyor Golden State Water Company — had previously rejected the City of Ojai’s formal request for a CPUC public participation hearing regarding GSWC’s most recent rate case, in which they requested an increase of 25 percent to their rates for customers by 2015. Ojai’s rejection caused an uproar amongst Golden State’s opposition in the valley, prompting Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water representatives to say the CPUC was the real problem in Ojai’s fight for affordable water.
Help for F.L.O.W. came in the form of the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, an organization that helps keep the regulators regulated. DRA officials had written to CPUC Administrative Law Judge Richard Smith requesting that the commission hold four additional hearings in Bell Gardens, Calipatria, Placentia and Ojai.
The letter to Smith stated that DRA representatives had visited the town of Ojai, and had seen evidence that enough people were protesting Golden State to warrant a hearing in the city. The DRA had also cited that articles in the Ojai Valley News had gained their attention.
“ … DRA conducted a site visit to Ojai on October 5, 2011 and observed signs on many customers’ front lawns stating their unhappiness with Golden State’s rates. Also, while in Ojai, DRA noticed two articles in the local newspaper and magazines regarding Golden State Water Company’s proposed rate increases,” read the email sent to smith by Selina Shek, the DRA’s co-counsel.
Smith responded by stating in a report that, “Given the widespread interest in and substantial attendance at the PPH’s (hearings) in this proceeding, the commission will consider holding additional PPH’s.”
In addition to the DRA’s support for Ojai, letters were sent to the CPUC from former mayor Carol Smith and Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett. “ … A hearing in the Ojai area is needed to properly afford local citizens the ability to participate in the CPUC process,” read the letter from Bennett.
Attempts to gain comment from CPUC spokesman Christopher Chow were met by an E-mail response giving a web link to Smith’s report. On more than one occasion, CPUC representatives — who are responsible for looking out for the public’s best interests — have refused to answer direct questions about Golden State’s current rate case.
Although the CPUC appears to be brushing the concerns of Ojai’s citizens aside, F.L.O.W. supporters believe that Ojai’s collective voice will be heard.
“Ojai F.L.O.W. is confident that a public participation hearing will be held in Ojai by April,” said F.L.O.W. representative Bob Daddi.
Golden State released a statement supporting additional public hearings. “We’re very supportive of a proposal for additional public participation hearings in Ojai as well as other communities,” said GSWC spokesman John Dewey. “These hearings are another example of accountability that is built into the process. It’s important for customers to have a voice and input into this.”
Trouble for Golden State has been mounting as two big settlements regarding violations within the company have surfaced recently. Last year, Golden State agreed to pay more than $12 million to their customers in several areas, including Ojai. The company had grossly overpaid a construction firm for projects — some of which were never even started — more than 10 years ago that sparked an investigation into the company, when it was found that company executives had deliberately withheld the information from the government. Ojai customers stand to receive $1 million in compensation from GSWC in the form of credits in coming years.
In 2010, another major blow to the company came when the California Regional Water Quality Control Board slapped them with $15,000 in violations regarding the San Antonio pump station on Grand Avenue in Ojai’s East End.
The violations were directly related to excessive amounts of chemicals and other anomalies in the water supply. The violations for the pump station were for excessive chloride, total residual chlorine and biological oxygen demand — which refers to the amount of oxygen that is consumed by bacteria in the water supply. GSWC had not properly filed with the control board regarding the violations, resulting in fines to the company of $105,000.
That fine could have been substantially more, however.
The board cited that Golden State was 1,054 days late in properly dealing with violations. GSWC could potentially have been fined $3,000 a month until the company took care of the problem, which would have added up to $216,000. If referred to the attorney general for prosecution, the superior court could have imposed a fine of $25,000 per violation for the five violations read the report. Golden State settled out of court, paying a total of $120,000 including the cost of the individual violations.
GSWC representatives claim that the company hadn’t sent the required reports properly, and therefore couldn’t prove that they had responded to the violations in a timely manner. “While we have every reason to believe the report was submitted timely,” said GSWC district manager Ken Petersen, “the Company did not send the report via certified mail and thus has no way to prove the report was received by the Regional Board.”
Petersen stated that, despite fines imposed, the company had corrected the problem. “The violations were corrected upon installation of new filter media at one of its plant sites,” he said.
The San Antonio pump station borders San Antonio Creek and is undergoing renovations that Golden State officials say will help provide a better quality of water and service for their customers. Welders from Paso Robles Tank are currently working to install a new 500,000-gallon water storage tank to replace the facility’s aging 50,000-gallon forebay tank.
“If some of our wells go down or there is a natural disaster that knocks part of our system out,” said GSWC’s Ojai area manager Del Webb, “we’ll have 500,000 gallons of stored water that we can use immediately.”
Other plans for the pump station include another well that would be drilled on the other side of the creek from the new tank.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
If the rest of the New Year goes as well for me as Monday night did, it’s going to be a banner year. That is because my Crimson Tide soundly defeated LSU and won the national championship in college football. So at least three people in Ojai were happy, me and my friends Carl Greenfield and Mark Burgess, who are also big Alabama football fans.
I know that a lot of people do not share my enthusiasm for football, especially college football. While I have met some USC and UCLA fans, they do not seem as rabid as the fans in the South. That certainly is not a knock on them. In fact, football in the South, and Alabama in particular, is crazy. People behave irrationally, and do some bizarre things.
People gawk at me in amazement when I talk about how crazy Alabama football fans are. Alabama’s legendary coach, Bear Bryant, wore a signature hound’s-tooth hat when he coached. The hound’s-tooth design has been trademarked and licensed by the University of Alabama. Replicas of the hat are worn by hundreds of coeds at games. The design now appears on everything from cup holders to dog collars – and Bryant has been dead for almost 30 years. One Tuscaloosa couple I know illustrates the passion with which football is approached; while he is rabid Alabama fan; she pulls for Auburn. In Alabama, this is what is known as a “mixed” marriage. The rivalry is so fierce between Auburn and Alabama that this couple takes separate cars when that game is played in Auburn so the “loser” of the game will not have to make the 160-mile, two-and-a-half hour trip back home listening to the other one celebrating their team’s win.
Football is fun, and people enjoy it. It is also an economic engine in many college towns. In Tuscaloosa, the chamber of commerce estimates that each home football game generates $6-8 million in revenue for the town. Multiply that times six or seven home games, and you’re talking about major money.
But it’s even more than that.
In the early sixties, Alabama was ground zero of the civil rights movement. Terrible acts were committed by both the Ku Klux Klan, and also by those in positions of authority. Horrific images of Selma, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Montgomery were captured on film and tape, and were seen on television and in newspapers around the country and the world. Alabama became the poster child of racial prejudice and discrimination. The state was disgraced, and rightly so.
During this time, Paul “Bear” Bryant, through his successful football program, gave the state some positive press and a source of pride when those things were in very short supply. And it gave those in the state who were horrified by the racist acts that were committed, and who were embarrassed and ashamed of the state’s terrible image, a chance to restore a little bit of their self-respect, even if it was only through football. It became something positive to rally around.
So if you see me or Carl or Mark running and jumping around and acting a little crazy, it is just a little football insanity. It isn’t permanent.
But it will pick right back up again next fall.
UPDATE: Sources confirmed Sue Horgan’s husband, Gary, died this morning. Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, (date corrected) at their Ojai home.
By Tiobe Barron
At a special Ojai City Council meeting Tuesday night, Councilwoman Carlon Strobel questioned the recent absences of Councilwoman Sue Horgan, and if those absences should affect Horgan’s future on the Council.
“There was a question about vacancies on the City Council,” said interim City Attorney Steve Lee after Mayor Betsy Clapp began the regular meeting by requesting that he brief the public audience on the discussion that took place earlier. “My opinion stated was that because the Nov. 22 and Dec. 27 regular council meetings were officially canceled, the absences of all City council members were deemed excused, and therefore there are no vacancies on the City Council created by absences at this time.”
Horgan’s absences were questioned because California Government Code Section 36513 stipulates, “If a city council member is absent without permission from all regular city council meetings for 60 days consecutively from the last regular meeting he or she attended, his or her office becomes vacant and shall be filled as any other vacancy.” According to Steve McClary, assistant to the city manager, the vacancy would occur automatically. However, because two of the regular meetings were canceled, the clock was reset, so to speak.
Ojai resident Leonard Klaif questioned Lee’s advice regarding the possibility of a vacancy. “What I’m gonna say next involves the vacancy or non-vacancy. It is not an attack on Ms. Horgan. It is an attempt to make sure the city is protected,” Klaif said. “The opinion offered strikes me as being nonsensical. It (the statute) doesn’t talk about number of meetings, it talks about number of days. End of discussion.”
Klaif further suggested a need for more transparency — more information given to the public by City Council. “There’s nothing posted anywhere that this was going to be discussed in private this evening. The agenda says ‘possible litigation.’ I didn’t think it involved this.” Mayor Clapp was quick to clarify that the matter was addressed at the beginning of the special meeting, during the public portion, and that the closed session was strictly directed toward Redevelopment Agency issues. Councilwoman Strobel added, “It was open and public. There was nothing discussed in closed session.” Klaif interjected that he did not want to argue with Strobel, but “I don’t think that resolves the situation. The public, all along, has been in the dark. And you are our representative. While you do have a private life, you are still our representative. The only thing the public knew was that when roll call was called, there was a silence when Councilwoman Horgan’s name was mentioned … Then before the regularly scheduled meeting, when people would normally show up, you discuss it and come up with this totally absurd legal opinion.”
Ojai resident and former two-term council member Rae Hanstad offered a different perspective. “I’m, I guess, satisfied that you’ve solved the technical issues on your announcement regarding the vacancy, but I wanted to share another side of it. Which was, in my last term, I had an illness and family emergency that lasted over a month. I took a leave of absence. The city manager helped me rearrange my schedule. One council member cooked for me. Another council member drove my kids to school. council members volunteered to take over some of my assignments at the planning commission liaison level, or other regional assignments. I had an FPPC tardiness and fine, and the city clerk helped me straighten that out. Everything was done by my colleagues to help me through a difficult time so that I could be of service to my constituents and still take care of family matters. What I see here and what I hear makes me wonder: If you cannot, as a body, be of service to each other, and be compassionate at a time like this, then I’m not sure how you can serve the public.”
Mayor Clapp urged the public speakers to understand the issue was not a lack of sympathy, but a need to clarify things from a legal standpoint. “We welcome Councilwoman Horgan back, and believe me, we are all wishing her well, and her family well. There was never any intention to imply otherwise.”
Reached Thursday afternoon via telephone, Strobel said, “For me, it’s about the office, not the person. If we had a vacancy, it calls into question the validity of the agenda, and might compromise the integrity of City Council … it could have an impact on all agendized items. We were never given the opportunity to support a request for leave of absence. It should have been placed on the agenda, but it was never placed. The easy thing to do would be to ignore the matter, but that’s not my way. But the city attorney’s advice is that there is no vacancy. He’s the attorney, I’m not. It was just my concern that any action we took on any issue would be illegitimate. I have a great deal of respect for Sue Horgan, I know exactly how much she’s given to this city.”
Horgan could not be reached for comment at time of publication.
By Logan Hall
The California State Assembly Transportation Committee rejected a bill that proposed a restriction on the length of trucks on Maricopa Highway on Monday.
The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Das Williams in February 2011 and backed by Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett and Ojai Stop the Trucks! Coalition members, was rejected after the committee voted 4-7 to deny the proposal during their hearing, according to Williams’ communications coordinator James Joyce.
Joyce says that problems arose when it was discovered that there were “gaps” in the law regarding state highways. “Caltrans does not have the authority to restrict trucks that are between 30 and 38 feet,” said Joyce. “They can regulate trucks that are more than 38 feet, but there is a gap in their authority.”
The rejected bill presented a restriction on trucks in excess of 30 feet, which left the gap in the proposal. Joyce said he didn’t know the reason behind the gap, and said that the transportation committee would need to look into it more.
Although the bill is dead, Williams’ cause might still be moving forward. Joyce claims that Williams and the transportation committee are working on a solution to a problem that isn’t limited to just Highway 33. “They really wanted to find a solution that is more systemic rather than looking at one road in particular. (Williams) had good conversations with the chair of the transportation committee and Caltrans and things are moving forward.”
Although a 1989 study by Caltrans claims the highway may be unsafe for large trucks, not everyone wants to see truck restrictions on Maricopa.
“All of the major industries and contractors lobbied to the state to kill this bill because it was so bad,” said mine owner Larry Mosler, whose quarry lies within the bill’s proposed boundaries. The bill would have covered Highway 33 from Camino Cielo Road (just south of the Ojai Quarry) through to the Santa Barbara County line.
Bennett was unavailable to comment Tuesday, but repeated attempts to contact his office were met with a press release, which neither confirmed nor denied the bill’s rejection.
“Following testimony yesterday from Supervisor Steve Bennett and Assembly Member Das Williams, the Assembly Transportation Committee Chair invited the introduction of a new bill to address truck size on the mountainous portions of Highway 33,” read part of the press release sent by Bennett’s assistant Steve Offerman on Tuesday.
No indication was made as to how the “new bill” would differ from the one rejected by the committee on Monday.
Although Mosler and his quarry may have dodged a bullet, the committee denied the bill less than a week after the Ojai Quarry was pulled from the state’s AB 3098 list that allows miners to accept local government contracts. The State Office of Mine Reclamation took Mosler off of the list due to a lack of an approved reclamation plan for the mine and the financial assurance to cover the plan. While off the list, Mosler will not be permitted to sell his product for government projects, a sizeable portion of business for many mines and quarries.
Ventura County officials have been working with Mosler to come to an agreement on a plan and the corresponding financial assurance after the county planning commission voted unanimously to allow Mosler to continue to operate while in negotiations with the county.
“My reclamation plan hasn’t been approved yet,” Mosler said on Tuesday. “The state had to take me off the list temporarily. As soon as we get everything worked out I’ll be back on the list.”
Mosler says he will post an additional $25,000 that he hopes will bring the financial assurance up to an acceptable level for the county. “We’re real close to working something out with the county,” he continued. “We’re making real progress.”
State officials confirm that the mine owner will be put back on the list as soon as his issues are resolved with the county. “Once he’s back in good standing with the county and they have an approved reclamation plan,” said Don Drysdale, spokesman for the state OMR, “he should be back in good standing with state. He can get back on the list but it will take some effort on his part.”
The county planning commission will conduct a hearing on Feb. 23 when commissioners will decide whether or not to revoke Mosler’s mining permit.
By Logan Hall
Warm weather is a staple in Southern California. When the East Coast is slammed by blizzards and ice storms, folks in the Ojai Valley are getting out their hiking shoes and bike helmets. Hearing a phrase like, “another summer day in January,” is not uncommon.
Warm days aren’t the only things getting people outdoors though. The valley is below its 30-year average as far as rainfall is concerned. According to the National Weather Service in Oxnard, the Ojai Valley received .28 inches of rain in December, which is about 10 percent of normal. The 30-year average for December is 2.94 inches. NWS stats also show that from July 1, the valley has seen 3.22 inches of rain, while the 30-year average is 5.9 inches in the same period of time.
Although the warmth and lack of rain may seem unseasonable, weather experts say it’s all part of the normal cycle. “Everything varies,” said Bonnie Bartling, NWS weather specialist. “It all depends on the weather patterns. A lot of low-pressure systems have stayed up north. In Southern California, it depends on whether those storm systems get all the way down here. It all averages out, though.”
Bartling says that daytime temperatures will cool throughout the week but should warm up again by the weekend. “There is a low pressure system that’s sitting off the coast in the Pacific,” she said. “The high for Ojai should get back down to 67 degrees. We have influence from a ridge over the great basin, so Thursday and Friday will be warmer again.”
Though Ojai has seen warmth during daylight hours recently, temperatures tend to cool down rapidly after the sun sets. “Ojai hasn’t had a lot of wind, so it’s been chilly at night,” added Bartling. “Also, it is winter time, and you don’t get as much warming from sun. You notice that in the afternoon the air starts chilling down because the angle of sun is going down. There aren’t as long daytime heating hours.”
A forecast of “partly cloudy” might help keep the nights from getting into freezing temperatures this week. “Over the next week the lows shouldn’t be as cold because there will be some cloud cover,” said Bartling.
Many are getting out and enjoying the warmth while it lasts. Marlene Higgins and her husband, Dave, say they are grateful they live in Southern California, soaking up the rays. “How lucky are we that we are able to do this in January?” she asked as her husband launched their boat at Lake Casitas on Tuesday morning. “I’m here to bird watch while he fishes. We’re gonna need lots of sun tan lotion for a gorgeous winter day.”
By Chris T Wilson
For anyone who believes that a good education requires a fresh, healthy and informed diet, there’s a local non-profit group for you.
Since 2002 Food For Thought Ojai has upheld the vision “to reconnect families to the earth through food, education and community.”
On Jan. 28, Food for Thought will host “Dinner & A Movie,” a fund-raising event in Ojai with a showing of the film, “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” A question-and-answer session with director Bill Paxton and actor James Paxton will follow the film. And a live auction and dinner featuring locally grown produce prepared by local chef Jeri Oshima will take place at the Ojai Woman’s Club afterward. Two items of particular interest at the auction will be a 1966 Trini Lopez Gibson Guitar and a weekend golf package at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.
At the head of the diverse group of Ojai community members involved with this effort is FFTO co-founder Jim Churchill, known for his tangerine farming expertise. Churchill said the event is set to raise awareness and money to pay for the fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as the program’s two staff members and the bussing and fuel costs associated with the field trip.
Churchill said the FFTO works with the Ojai Unified School District to educate students about food and the meals they eat.
“We do school gardens with a garden-based curriculum that allows students to get their hands in the dirt and see how their food grows,” Churchill said. “We take the fourth graders on a farm tour so they can see what their food is, and what it takes to raise it. They get to participate in the harvest and then work on a nutrition education curriculum in the classroom.”
Another aspect of the FFTO curriculum is a full school recycling awareness program where students gather all the school’s waste stream to see how it is a part of the food cycle. Students separate and weigh all the waste, and learn about where everything goes and how it all fits together as a system.
The group’s two staff members are executive director Lori Hamor and garden coordinator David White.
“He’s just a great teacher and a gardner,” Churchill said of White. “One thing we’ve learned from this program is that if there is no gardener there’s no garden. Most garden programs try to rely on volunteers and it just doesn’t work as well.”
The FFTO program has served hundreds of children over the past decade and has had support from both local donors and grant funding. Food for Thought Ojai operates on about $100,000 annual budget, Churchill said.
Ticket sales for the event began last Sunday at the Ojai Farmer’s Market. The group’s first “Dinner & A Movie” event in 2004 — with Tony Shalhoub — sold out.
The Jan. 28 event starts at 4 p.m. at the Ojai Playhouse. It will also include Claud Mann, star of TBS’ “Dinner & A Movie,” who will moderate the question-and-answer session with Paxton.
For more information about the event visit www.foodforthoughtojai.org.
By Michelaina Johnson
Meadows Montessori, a recently opened bilingual preschool, teaches students based on the Montessori teaching philosophy in both Spanish and English in order to meet the growing need for more bilingual citizens. Teaching focuses on interactivity and hands-on experiences, rather than the usual classroom method.
“Our goal is to provide a safe, loving environment for the children to grow and learn, but the core of it is to provide a place for them to become who they are destined to be,” said Jennifer Wing, teacher at the preschool.
The preschool’s faculty consists of administrator Clare Ochoa, Spanish-speaking teacher Marta Esquer, and Wing, the English-speaking teacher. Esquer and Wing both have complete ATI (Association Montessori International) training and more than 15 years of teaching experience. Wing also earned her bachelor in English at UC Santa Barbara.
The preschool teaches children ages two-and-a-half to six math, geography, natural science, music exploration and practical life skills. The staff also plans to grow a kid‘s vegetable garden. “It is all hands-on. The child gets to do the lesson right after the (demonstration). Everything is concrete; they can touch it, feel it, hear it and manipulate it,” said Wing.
Wing teaches the lessons in English, while Esquer repeats the lesson in Spanish. “Research shows that the time to learn a new language is when you are young. Before the age of 12 is the best time,” said Wing. The students learn the alphabet, counting, songs and stories in both languages. “The kids just absorb it naturally,” said Ochoa.
Bilingualism enriches a child’s mental development, teaches about another culture and broadens the possibilities for the future, added the teachers.
One native English-speaking student, age two-and-a-half, “Repeats everything that Marta says in Spanish. It is incredible,” said Wing. She added that within the preschool, “We are giving to the children the ‘keys to the world,’ as Maria Montessori said.”
For more information, visit www.ojaimeadowsmontessori.com.
Plaza Pantry owner Beryl Tognazzini first came to Ojai in 1958 to visit relatives. And though she has traveled extensively throughout the years, Tognazzini’s shop, which specializes in English goods, has remained firmly planted in Ojai. Plaza Pantry celebrates 30 years in business on Jan. 21, a milestone the shop will commemorate with an open house — complete with drinks and snacks — from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Originally a schoolteacher, Tognazzini eventually moved on to catering. Decades ago, as the expansion of businesses around the arcade and the construction of new buildings created a demand for a lunch spot for locals, Tognazzini’s friends suggested she fill this opening. And, about a year after her shop opened, a similar shop in Ventura that specialized in English goods closed down, creating further opportunity.
Today, the Pantry offers an array of English grocery goods — a broad selection of teas, English biscuits (quite different, Tognazinni points out, from American biscuits), Marmite, Birds custard powder, HP sauce, candies or “sweets” from Roundtree, among many others. The shop also has two menus, one English and one American. Specialties include scones made in-house, Cornish pasties, shepherd’s pie, and sausage rolls. The proprietress recommends newcomers try the “banger butties,” a conversation-starter hailing from North England, where “banger” means sausage, and “butties” is slang for bread and butter. In the afternoon, tarts, pieces of fruitcake, and other sweets are available to try individually for $1 a piece, and if the customer enjoys the desert, they are able to purchase a whole package from the grocery side. In addition, the first Wednesday of each month, the Pantry holds English high tea, available by reservation. Tognazinni claims hers is the only “proper” tea place this side of Calabasas.
However, it’s more than what’s on the menu that makes the Plaza Pantry unique. Tognazinni maintains she has kept her prices low for the sake of accessibility. “I want people to get out and enjoy themselves,” she says. She has deliberately created an atmosphere that is homey and casual, that friends and regulars refer to as “Mother’s kitchen.” Tognazinni says it is not uncommon for a regular to help themselves to a drink from the refrigerator, and leave the money for said beverage on the counter, an act that sometimes leaves new customers aghast. Tognazinni’s background as a school teacher translates to a love for “youngsters,” who have been allowed on occasion to come behind the counter to help with the register, offering a learning opportunity and special experience for a kid.
When asked what she hopes the coming years will bring, Tognazinni replied, “That I can continue as I’m doing, that the business will hold its own. I’m not out to be a millionaire. I just want people to enjoy and keep coming. People are very at home in my shop, its friendly, relaxed. We don’t put on airs and fancies, people can help themselves. I’m very thankful for all the good support from everyone, I’m very fortunate. I never thought we’d make it 30 years!”
Plaza Pantry is located at 221 E. Matilija Street, Suite G. For information, call 646-6325.
By Misty Volaski
Chances are good that if you grew up in Ojai or have ever been in the emergency room of the Ojai Valley Community Hospital, you’ve been treated by Dr. Tim Williamson. The Ojai pediatrician’s 33 years of dedication to children has earned him the title of finalist in Parenting Magazine’s “Peds” Doing Good Deeds Contest.
Along with 11 other doctors from around the country, Williamson has the chance to win $5,000 for the charity of his choosing should he garner the most votes.
“I don’t think I’m supposed to say which (charity) I’ll choose, but it would definitely go to a very worthy organization that supports the activities of children and infants,” he said.
Good luck determining which charity he’s referring to; the doc has worked with several in the area over the years, including the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation, the Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center, the Ojai Education Foundation, and the Boswell Clinic in Ventura, among others. He’s also volunteered with the American Heart Association and was instrumental in the installation of the OVCH’s neonatal unit (which was cut seven years ago due to budget restrictions). He said the unit was one of his proudest accomplishments. “I’m certainly not the only one who developed it, but it’s one of the things I’m most pleased with. it was one of the better delivery systems in the county, capable of taking care of and stabilizing infants. To me it was a real service to the community.”
Williamson has also underwritten the rent for the OVYF for a number of years, helped develop and promote programs at the NTNC, and works with developmentally disabled children at Boswell. “Children that come to Boswell have fairly severe developmental handicaps,” he explained, “like cerebral palsy and genetic diseases. I provide pediatric consultation for directing their treatment and medical intervention.”
But Williamson added that the work he does at Boswell is very much a team effort, crediting the whole office, including Ojai’s Dr. Al Stroberg, for making it “one of the better systems in the United States.”
His work there helped inspire a recent trip to Roatan, Honduras, where he worked in a “makeshift clinic, especially when it came to pediatrics.” What began as a hypertension and diabetes clinic for adults has expanded over the years to include pediatric services due to overwhelming need and lack of funding for such services from the Honduran government.
The work was as inspiring as it was heartbreaking. “Medically, these are very very underserved people,” he said. “With developmental disabilities and genetic syndromes, in order to maximize their ability to function, they need special diagnostic tests, special medications or treatments. Most of them need physical and occupational therapy.” He told of the 9-year-old polio sufferer who was severely muscularly disabled from the disease. “He could barely walk. He was extremely off-balance,” Williamson said. “This is a child that, if he were in California, child services would’ve been able to pull him into Boswell and he would’ve received occupational therapy and physical therapy on a regular basis, and orthotic braces.”
He said he’ll keep the child’s name with him for his next trip, which he hopes will happen soon. “That’s the difficulty with international work — identifying the need is only part of the story. Then you have to be able to have someone or an organization that can provide (ongoing) services that these children need,” Williamson said, noting that he would be searching for groups in 2012 that could help fund such a venture. “This will be an ongoing process.”
His volunteer work and 24/7 dedication to the children of Ojai — a call at 4 a.m. on Christmas morning is practically routine by this time — make it easy for his colleagues to praise him. Said Haady Lashkari, CAO of the Ojai Valley Community Hospital, “In the short time I’ve gotten to know him, he’s been very supportive of the hospital and the community. We’re proud he is practicing in the Ojai Valley.”
Fellow doctor Betsy Patterson, said, “I have worked with Dr. Williamson for 20 years in the emergency department, and he has been a dedicated physician, not only for his patients but for all the children in the Ojai Valley that come to the emergency department, with life- or limb-threatening problems. He responds to the call for help whenever needed in caring for critically ill children and is always (literally) available for advice and guidance in treatment of sick children. He has watched our two sons grow from toddlers to young men and has been a thoughtful caring physician for them.”
But Williamson brushes off the praise, saying he is simply happy to “have a real connection to the community and especially the youth of the community. It’s very rewarding watching everybody grow up.”
Vote for Williamson — and help a youth organization in the Ojai Valley earn a $5,000 donation — at parenting.com/pedsdoinggooddeeds. More than one vote may be logged per person, and repeat votes are encouraged. Voting closes Jan. 31.
By Tiobe Barron
During the time allotted for public communications at Wednesday night’s Ojai Planning Commission meeting, Ojai resident Bob Daddi urged commissioners to get a move on in reviewing the “antique and out-of-date” building codes. “It’s like mildew in the shower; it keeps coming back,” said Daddi. “We have other things we need to work on.”
After Kathy Nolan replaced Steven Foster as chair, and Marleen Luckman was elected vice chair of the commission, much if the meeting was spent reviewing the Ojai Valley Library Friends & Foundation’s plans for the proposed community meeting room. The plans, designed by architect Jon Dieges, were originally brought before the Commission at the Dec. 7 meeting, then reviewed by the Historic Preservation subcommittee. The main concerns discussed included the shape of the proposed windows, the accuracy of the interior columns, and the layout of the modified parking lot.
John Lambert, with the Ojai Valley Library Friends & Foundation, gave a Powerpoint presentation showing specifically where the trash enclosure would be moved to, what the front double doors would look like, and photos of other proposed details, such as vents and railings that will be included in the community meeting room. Vice chair Luckman and commissioner Foster had considerable reservations about approving the proposal as it stood, because of potential problems with the modified parking lot. While the law only requires one parking space be designated and designed for ADA compliance, the proposal included three. There were concerns about the logistics of one such parking space, and ramp leading into the meeting room. Lambert urged the Commission to approve the plan regardless, saying “We’d be happy to submit that in a separate time frame; we still have to go to county (for approval).”
Commission chair Nolan asked Lambert, “Do you have an estimated time for starting the project?” Lambert replied, “Ideally when the rains stop, sometime this year.”
Commissioner Foster moved to adopt the plan, with the condition that the applicant (OVLFF) submit a revised plaza proposal in May, for the parking issues left unaddressed for the time being. The motion passed with a majority vote.
Also brought before the commission by city manager Rob Clark were the City Council’s ideas to modify the current process by which a business in the community is defined as a “formula business;” in layman’s terms, a chain store. Currently a business must meet three of six criteria in order to be labeled as such. Due to public outcry over a business that had previously not met the criteria by the council’s standards — but was largely deemed by the public to be a chain nonetheless — the council is considering lowering the number of criteria to be met from three to two, or in instances of two criteria being met, having the specific case be referred to the Planning Commission for review and public input.
Said commissioner Troy Becker, “There wasn’t really a mechanism of getting here (before), I think that’s where the controversy occurred.”
Scott Eicher, CEO of the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce, pointed out, “Part of the problem that came about was the applicant answers ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to six criteria, with no method to verify. That specific form, to a lot of people’s minds, was not filled out correctly, honestly.” The commission moved to continue the issue to the Feb. 1 meeting, pending more information from City Council.
In discussing the proposed Fulton Street Extension, commission chair Nolan had two items that she wants added: stops signs on Fulton for vehicles — but thru-way for bicycles — and a limit on the commercial trucks down Fulton. Public works director Greg Grant responded, “That’s certainly something we can look into.”
Commissioner Becker was concerned that while the original plan was approved in 2008, the modified plan had not been reviewed by the Planning Commission. “We need to be really careful of subcommittees and side-stepping approval. Subcommittees should not act as a de facto Planning Commission. There’s a public issue there, too. It needs to come back to us for approval. The procedure is what I’m concerned about.”
Commissioner Foster clarified that the issue was brought to the table at this meeting as a courtesy before the matter comes before City Council, at the Jan. 10 meeting, at which point there will be opportunity for public input. That meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night at City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St.
Next week, the State Assembly Transportation Committee will vote on a bill that would restrict large trucks on Highway 33.
In 2011, Assemblymember Das Williams introduced a Ventura County-sponsored bill to address truck safety on the mountainous portions of Highway 33, also known as Maricopa Highway. This state legislation, AB-538, would limit single-trailer trucks to a 30-foot trailer length from Camino Cielo Road — about four miles up Maricopa from its intersection with Highway 150 — to the Santa Barbara County line. The bill will be heard in the Assembly Transportation Committee on Monday.
This bill would implement the recommendations of a 1989 Caltrans study of highway safety as related to truck length. This Caltrans truck safety study of various California highways compared the turn radii of the highways with the turning radii of trucks. For the mountainous portions of Highway 33 in Ventura County, this study concluded that trucks with trailers over 30 feet in length may not be able to stay within their lane. This study also recommended that state legislation be adopted to enable Caltrans to make appropriate restrictions of truck size. That legislation was not adopted, and the 30-foot truck length was posted as an advisory only. AB-538 would make the Caltrans advisory a mandatory regulation.
The Williams bill grew out of discussions between Assemblymember Williams and Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, in response to citizen concern regarding truck safety, particularly following the fatal runaway truck crash on Highway 154 in Santa Barbara in March 2011.
Supervisor Bennett said, “I am very grateful to Assemblymember Williams for carrying this bill to protect the safety of Highway 33 users. I have received many complaints from highway users who have witnessed trucks driving out of their lane, reports of bicyclists run off the road by trucks, and reports of trucks in the center of the narrow tunnels. I am traveling to Sacramento to testify in support of this important piece of legislation.”
In order to proceed to a vote of the full Assembly, the bill must first be approved by the Transportation Committee, which is scheduled to vote on the bill on the afternoon of Jan. 9. If approved by the full Assembly, the bill will then move to the State Senate.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Findings in a recent study by the Transportation Department show drivers are distracted. “What’s clear from all of the information we have is that driver distraction continues to be a major problem,” said David Strickland, the top U.S. auto safety regulator and head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
How much are we paying you for these astute observations? It is certainly is reassuring to know that my tax dollars are being spent on vital research — research which provides information that everyone who has driven a vehicle in the last 20 years already knows. Yes, we are distracted. We are in constant communication with each other through e-mail, phone calls and texting. A hundred years ago, people in rural areas went weeks — even months with little or no outside contact. Today, if you don’t return a phone call or text within about 10 minutes, people start contacting local funeral homes, assuming you are dead. They send urgent follow-up “did you get this” messages, so that even more time is needed to sort and answer communications. We spend great chunks our lives sending and returning messages.
And while some messages are important, a great many are just ridiculous. For instance, I have two old fraternity brothers who forward every e-mail they receive. I get about five or six e-mails per day from each of them. These generally fall into four categories. First, there are the political ones. Since both are very conservative, these e-mails beat up on the president and all other Democrats. Then, there are the patriotic ones about supporting the troops. The next group consists of religious e-mails, also known as the “If you really love Jesus you will forward this immediately to 12,000 people.” Ironically, these are the same guys who also send dirty jokes and risqué photos. I don’t have the heart to tell them, but I just delete whatever they send before I even read them.
I have another friend who sends the same e-mails and YouTube videos you get from others, but Susan’s arrive about six months later. It is as if her computer is trapped in some type of time warp. When she was working full-time she sent these out in groups of four or five at a time. Now that she has retired, I look for that number to double.
As I enter 2012, perhaps I should consider taking a page from the playbook of an old friend I replaced as publisher in south Louisiana years ago. LaJeune, named after the Marine Corp training base, Camp LeJeune (someone in the family was not a great speller), was the definition of old school. LaJeune considered the electric typewriter hi-tech. Years ago, when the Internet was fairly new, the newspaper company I worked for held a seminar on the Internet and e-mail. I asked Tay Smith, one of the younger publishers, how the seminar went. “Pretty well,” he replied. “Some of us have been using the Internet and e-mail for some time, and so we were already familiar with it.”
I said, “What about LaJeune? How did he do?” Tay replied, “He looked like a hog staring at a watch.”
He may not have been in touch with the latest fads and gadgets, but every day, as I go through the mountain of e-mails and texts on my computer and phone, I think LaJeune may have had the right idea after all.
• The County of Ventura and Rasmussen Construction opened the new Old Creek Road Bridge to traffic. The entire project cost $3.4 million.
• After months of discussing the management of Libbey Bowl without taking action, the city of Ojai finally made a decision. Entering into a temporary, one-year agreement with the Ojai Valley Service Foundation, the City Council voted to sign a contract that will give the foundation control over all aspects of Libbey Bowl events.
• A feud between neighbors in the valley was finally resolved as county officials work with T.V. and movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer to settle with neighbors over a dispute about a large shrub wall that Bruckheimer installed on his Ojai property.
• A local woman was charged with elder abuse and credit card fraud. Rosalba Hernandez, 24, of Oak View, was arrested on June 29 for allegedly stealing from the 82-year-old woman for whom she was hired to provide care.
• Joel Wolfgang narrowly averted tragedy after his car flew off Dennison Grade Monday afternoon. Wolfgang was uninjured after going over the side of the road and plummeting more than 50 feet down the steep embankment and drove his battered, but otherwise intact BMW away from the scene after it was retrieved by tow truck crews.
• Golden State Water Company came under fire this month as the California Public Utilities Commission went public with information about a $12 million settlement regarding Golden State contracts that included the Ojai area. Ojai customers stand to be repaid $1.2 million by GSWC.
• A fire that started in an unattached garage severely damaged a house on the 600 block of Fairview Road late Sunday morning.
• A major showing of the public forced the Casitas Municipal Water District board of directors to postpone a scheduled presentation by Golden State Water Company at 3 p.m. on Wednesday that was set to address a proposal by Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water to oust GSWC from Ojai.
• More than 2,500 Ojai Southern California Edison customers north of Country Club Drive and west of Gridley Road had their power interrupted due to a “failed underground component.”
• Citizens gathered along Highway 33 and watched as dozens of firefighters and emergency personnel, including the Sheriff’s Department helicopter, responded to a grass fire near the Krotona Institute just before noon Friday. The blaze was quelled before nearby homes were damaged.
• Ojai Native Jessie Wiseman starred in the independent film “Bellflower” garnering her acclaim at dozens of film festivals including the well know Sundance Film Festival.
• A neighborhood on the East End of Ojai is reeling after a bear was allegedly shot by an area resident according to some locals and the California Department of Fish and Game.
• Lake Casitas officials are scrambling to protect one of the valley’s water sources after a recreational boat sank in 80 feet of water at an unknown location in the lake. According to Casitas representitives, a boat sank sometime on Sunday evening, and the owner, Lukas Branaham, left the scene without notifying Casitas personnel. Branaham later cooperated with Casitas officials but the boat was never found.
• Spraying of herbicides by Ventura County workers along California Highway 33 in Mira Monte raised concerns from local residents and activists.
• Two Ojai Valley youths avoided becoming a tragic statistic on Friday after a traffic collision sent one of the teens to the hospital with serious injuries, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.
• A half-acre fire that started near Rincon Mountain on Highway 150 west of Lake Casitas was started by an unknown arsonist, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.
• Locals recently noticed a giant dotted line and scissors spray painted on the wall of the Matilija Dam just off Maricopa Highway. Sgt. Pat Ruby said Ojai Police were not notified about the graffiti, and have no additional information. Some people have speculated it could be the work of environmental activists seeking the removal of the dam..
• If you haven’t heard the phrase, “Nope, Chuck Testa,” by now then you’re probably not spending enough time on the internet. In the past week, the soft-spoken Meiners Oaks taxidermist who’s had more than 4 million hits on his video on youtube.
• Southern California Edison customers, including many in the Ojai Valley, were in the dark as a major power outage left 168,000 ratepayers without electricity according to SCE reports.
• Ojai citizens were left disappointed after Golden State Water Company held a public meeting Tuesday evening. In a poorly planned effort, GSWC attempted to reach out and address the public on the company’s water management plan.
• Local Cameron Carlson and his Chain Link Lizard Car were featured on National Geographic Channel’s hit show, “Mad Scientists.”
• The city of Ojai, Ojai Unified School District and the Ojai Valley Sanitary District came to an agreement that will provide sinks and flushing toilets in the Ojai Skate Park Bathroom.
• On Oct. 1, the Lake Casitas began permitting bowfishing strictly for carp — a species of fish that, according to a press release from Casitas, “can have a devastating effect on the spawning sites of other fish.”
• A fire in Casitas Springs on Friday afternoon claimed the life of a 70-year-old local man in the Casitas Mobile Home Park on Nye Road. Although speculation from neighbors as to the fire’s cause was abundant, officials said there was no criminal activity involved.
• The Ojai Music Festival announced it has received a $325,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation to “advance financial sustainability within a challenging economic environment.”
• Ojai F.L.O.W. representatives were baffled by the Ojai City Council’s discussion of Golden State Water Company. The council discussed the potential loss of more than $40,000 a year in franchise fees from GSWC if the company is taken over by Casitas through eminent domain.
• A growing effort by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department to shut down the gardens has culminated in the eradication of more than 153,000 pot plants this year,
• Emotions ran high and tempers flared as Ojai citizens made no secret of their feelings toward Golden State Water Company at GSWC’s public meeting Monday night. More than 200 people, ranging from citizens to city officials, attended the meeting held at Matilija Auditorium.
• Illegal residential rentals in Ojai came under fire Tuesday, as City Council members discussed their stance on what they call “vacation rentals.”
City officials say they have found numerous ads online for properties that are within city limits and in violation of the city’s policy on the “bed tax,” and estimate a loss of $30,000 to $60,000 per year through the illegal rentals.
• The quiet of a peaceful Monday night in downtown Ojai was shattered by the sound of gunfire as a routine traffic stop by Ventura County Sheriff’s Department deputies quickly became anything but routine. Officials say that a man, whose name has not been released but reportedly identified as Oxnard resident Augustine Medina, began shooting at deputies after they stopped his vehicle near Cluff Vista Park on Ojai Avenue around 9 p.m.
• Ojai Fire Station 21 is setting an example for the community. The Ventura County Fire Department crew at 21 has steadily been transforming the station into a “green” facility by installing specialized equipment, like solar panels, new energy-efficient lighting and, most recently, by revamping the station’s landscaping that now includes plants which need little or no watering.
• On Oct. 29, 80 volunteers removed over 2.5 tons of trash from the Cherry Creek shooting area up Maricopa highway North of Ojai.
• The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy is a new nonprofit partner of 1% for the Planet, an alliance of more than 1,380 member companies in 43 countries that give 1 percent of revenues to environmental causes.
• Ojai citizens are fed up with the California Public Utilities Commission. At their water meeting Wednesday night, Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water, a nonprofit organization comprised of Ojai citizens, was clear in its message to the public agency that approves utility company rate increases.
• Ventura County District 1 Supervisor Steve Bennett announced his plan to run for the 26th Congressional District seat in 2012. After serving the county for more than 10 years as supervisor, Bennett has set his sights on Congress.
• Ventura County Fire Department Fire Chief Bob Roper, an Ojai resident, announced his bid for county District 1 supervisor at a press conference on Monday. Roper made his announcement just days after current Supervisor Steve Bennett announced his campaign for the 26th seat in the U.S. Congress.
• A major eyesore and safety hazard was removed from the side of Highway 33 Monday after a crew from Greg Rents in Oak View decided to step up and take care of business. Greg Webster, the company’s owner, removed a small recreational vehicle shell that had been dumped on the side of the highway near Nye Road in Casitas Springs.
• Plans are approved and under way to transform the shuttered and abandoned Ojai Texaco gas station into a hub of cycling and green community transportation. The MOB Shop, a bicycle sales and repair shop in Meiners Oaks, will relocate to the presently fenced property at the corner of West Ojai Avenue and North Ventura Street.
• Senior volunteers across the valley got a letter from Help of Ojai dated Nov. 15, announcing the end of the long-running Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) as of Dec. 31.
• 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 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• After two public meetings and much discussion, the Ojai City Council voted to increase the Ojai Trolley fare at Tuesday night’s meeting. 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.
• Local artist Leslie Clark and a 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.
• Locals scrambled to rent one last movie as Blockbuster prepares to close its doors after more than a dozen years of business in Mira Monte.
• 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 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 at his post.
• Local golf pro Tyson York and Soule Park Golf Course are hoping to get community support that will help York and the golf course provide free clinics and camps to junior golfers year ‘round.
By virtue of the rotation policy, Ojai City Councilwoman Betsy Clapp became mayor on Dec. 13, 2011, succeeding Carol Smith. Ojai’s mayor pro tem is now Councilman Paul Blatz, who should become mayor in December. The following responses to questions asked by OVN reported Tiobe Barron were submitted by Mayor Clapp.
OVN: How long have you been in Ojai?
Clapp: I’ve lived in Ojai since my daughter was 13, she was born in 1977, so 21 years in Ojai, and 30 years in Ventura County.
OVN: What drew you here?
Clapp: We lived on a sailboat up north. We wanted a warmer climate, a smaller community, a smaller harbor. And that drew us to Ventura Harbor.
OVN: Where did you go to school? Which career did you dream of getting into?
Clapp: I was born in Pomona and raised in Upland. What did I want to be? Oh, a gazillion things! All kinds, from working on an airline to being a P.I. to a pastry chef, you name it! I even wanted to own a ranch. I had a very eclectic range, I was never career-oriented, more life-oriented.
OVN: How did you get into municipal work?
Clapp: I have always been very politically-minded, very aware of the importance of local politics. I moved to Ojai partly because this is an area that’s more like where I grew up. Ojai reminded me of Pomona as a little girl. And if you care about your community, you don’t just complain and not do something. So I couldn’t complain and not step forward. This is a community that deserves protection; that’s why I got involved.
OVN:How does your role as Mayor differ from Mayor pro tem, or the rest of the council?
Clapp: You don’t have any more power is Mayor. You do work with the City Manager on the agenda. We run meetings, represent the community as necessary. We’re supposed to be a figurehead or representative for the community, but there is no more power.
OVN: What, for you, is the best part of serving on council?
Clapp: The best thing is engaging with the community, and working with my constituents, to help represent them, and hopefully move forward on the things that are important to them. One of the most satisfying things is being responsive to citizens, and listening to them.
OVN: What is the best part of being a part of our community in Ojai specifically? What makes Ojai so special?
Clapp: That is one of the hardest things to articulate, because it is different things to different people. To me, it embodies the quintessential Southern California town: It is small and intimate; it has natural beauty. To me it’s really important to protect those things, and it’s challenging too, because different people have different ideas of “protecting.” To me, it’s keeping that sense of small town. And it’s a tall order.
OVN: What are some of Ojai’s biggest challenges currently? And are there any issues you’d like to see City Council address in the coming year?
Clapp:: Well, one of the biggest challenges is having the financial resources to provide citizens with services, that would be, for example, maintaining roads, the recreation department (and) parks. How can we accommodate these things on a limited budget? There are a lot of things we’d like to do, but we’re restricted by money. And there’s the question of how do you keep business healthy, support business and tourism, keep the economy vibrant; what role does government have in that?
But the No. 1 concern right now is water rates. It’s the hugest problem we’re facing. Water is becoming unaffordable. It puts businesses at risk, when your water bill is really high, sometimes higher than rent or mortgage. It really puts the pressure on them (businesses). And there are people on limited incomes — they can’t grow their own gardens. It’s an important right to grow your own food. It’s part of this community.
Then there’s also planning the building code update, which is one of those things with a lot of confusion about it. A building code comes down from Sacramento, we can adopt it or add on to it; what are we going to add? There’s the circulation element, which is huge too. It’s about how to get to school safely, get around town comfortably as a pedestrian, or for those in wheelchairs. How do we make to community more accessible to all?
So there’s a lot going on! Right now we’re establishing goals as Council — where we want to go. And then we have a clear direction to take as council. My main goal would be to get that done, so we can get those things done. Instead of sitting around chatting about it, we can implement them as a group. I’d rather work together — you can accomplish more if you’re already in agreement — so these goal-setting meetings help establish what we want. And they’ve been helpful because the Brown Act restricts us in our ability to communicate (in council meetings). It’s hard sometimes, restricts what we can say. The goal-setting meetings are more an open forum, and that’s been extremely helpful.
OVN: What are your proudest achievements as a council member so far?
Clapp: I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. It was reaching consensus on the new Libbey Bowl. It was an important community asset that will now be enjoyed for generations.