By Tiobe Barron
The Ojai Library is in dire need of a few good books. “Living books,” that is —- volunteers with unique careers, backgrounds, lifestyles, or stories who make themselves available to be “checked out” through the Human Library Project. In order for the program to be successful in Ojai, the library needs between eight to 10 people who are available to attend an orientation and can spend 30-minute increments (or more) at the library with a “borrower.”
The Human Library Project was created in 2000 by a Danish youth organization, called Stop the Violence, as a means to alleviate prejudices and create dialogue. The premise of the project is to provide free information and insight into a perspective that one is curious or unknowledgeable about, to break stereotypes, to grow diversity and respect and, of course, for fun — the sheer joy of sharing and learning something new.
According to its website, the Human Library Project “enables groups to break stereotypes by challenging the most common prejudices in a positive and humorous manner. It is a concrete, easily transferable and affordable way of promoting tolerance and understanding.”
Ojai city librarian Mary Lynch was directed to the program by a patron of the library, and she thought it sounded like something people in Ojai would be interested in.
“I think it’s always a good idea to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins, and for people to discuss what someone’s life is like,” said Lynch. In addition to diversity, she sees the project as a great way for youth to have access to knowledge about jobs.
“I would love if students could talk to someone about careers,” Lynch continued. “An awful lot go to school with an idea of what a career is like, but they don’t really have any idea; so many times you don’t know until you actually get into it.” Another possibility of the program that intrigues her is the books as a sort of living history.
“You’ve got someone from Brooklyn, a baker’s daughter, who lived on the East Coast in the ’20s and ’30s — that’s very different from now! What’s that really like?” wonders Lynch.
So far the library only has three human “books.” Volunteers should be open and honest, and, according to Lynch, “a person who has chosen to be a public representative of a certain group.” Examples of other living books from the Human Library include “The Vegan,” “The Funeral Director,” “The Trans-gender Post Operation,” and “The Police Officer.”
In addition to the “borrowers” learning from the “books,” the “books” also report being challenged on their own prejudices, even just in the question they expected to be asked.
Lynch is hoping to get the program up and running in the Ojai Library sometime this spring. To get involved or for more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Ojai Library at 646-1639.
An exciting array of dance styles will be featured at “Dancing with the Ojai Stars” on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Nordhoff High School gym in a fund-raising event for the NHS dance department. Dance Technique students have each choreographed a one and a half minute dance to teach to their “star” partner, drawn from Nordhoff students and faculty and adults in the community.
Finalists in the “Dancing with the Ojai Stars” competition will be selected by a judging panel of dance professionals including Jeff Wallach, Susan Bronstein and UCSB dance major Tenaya Cowsill,along with KTLA weatherman Mark Kriski and Greg Bayless, assistant principal at Nordhoff.Following an intermission, the finalists will again perform for 15 seconds each to the song, “The Time” by Black Eyed Peas, with the audience voting for their favorite team via live texting.
Student choreographers and their “star” partners will be Beth Angelini doing a country line dance with John Hoj; Sophia Botti with Courtney Dickerson, jive dance; Taylor Bowen with Amanda Swezey performing lyrical hip-hop; Georgia Cotsis with Sophocles Cotsis, jazz swing; Kayley Cox and Paige Small doing JC jazz; Samantha Dominguez and Alexis Flores in a salsa number; Nicolette Doolittle with Kaylee O’Malley, jazz lyrical; Makayla Farmer and Avery Paradise performing modern jazz; Jessica Fenley and Jimmy Ojeda moving to Latin jazz; and Kennia Galindo with Nancy Radding in an old school number.
Performing Broadway dances will be Harmony Hartley with “star” Jim Halverson.In the novelty category will be student choreographers Phoebe Huffman with “star” Emily Mostovoy; Hannah Keller with “star” Misty Volaski; Lauren Radding with “star” Bronwen Cull; and Tawny Watson with “star” Deputy Sara Valenzuela.
Contemporary dance will be interpreted by student choreographers Delaney Loes with “star” Joey Chilcutt. Performing hip-hop dances will be student choreographers Reiana Onglengco with “star” T.J. Morrison; Megan Rose and “star” Chris Agh in a hip-hop and novelty number; and Brianna Wadsworth with “star” Promise Wall doing hip-hop jazz.
Salsa dance teams include student choreographers Diana Ortega with “star” Jennifer Cornejo; and Edgar Ramos with “star” Raquel Razo. Rounding out the dance teams will be student choreographers Ava Radding with “star” Julia Pfeiffer, modern dance; and Katie Raymond and “star” Tressa Kahler performing a country line dance.
Tickets for “Dancing with the Ojai Stars” are $5for K through 12 students andchildren, $10 for seniors age 60-plus, $15 general adult admission and $25 for VIP seating. Before the dance competition, at 4:30 p.m., the Lions Club will offer a barbecue dinner in front of the Nordhoff gym for $12 presale, $14 at the door. Tickets for both the dance competition and the dinner are available at dancingwiththeojaistars.com.Seating is limited so purchase your tickets now. Doors to the gym open at 5:30 p.m. Call 640-4343, Ext. 1861, for more information.
Commentary by Hank Bangser
Online editor’s note: Due to an importing conflict, the copy originally posted in this space had run-on sentences that appeared to be misspelled words. This has been corrected. We apologize for the error.
Ojai Valley News editor Misty Volaski and I met recently to discuss the critical financial issues facing the Ojai Unified School District. In that discussion, I stressed that the 2012-2013 school year will represent the fourth consecutive year in which the board of education will be forced to reduce our district staff, increase class sizes, and continue to provide lower compensation for our staff members than in the 2008-2009 school year. Of course, this condition is directly related to the radical decrease in the state’s funding of public schools.
Since the 2009-2010 school year, our students have experienced an annual five-day decrease in their school year — from 180 to 175 days, with the potential in the 2012-2013 school yearof an unconscionable 160-day school year if the state’s voters do not support the governor’s November tax ballot initiative. Since the 2009-2010 school year, class sizes have increased each year because, while the district has experienced a 7 percent decline in student enrollment, our revenue decrease has mandated a 20 percent reduction in the number of teachers and other employees.
Given these realities, the board members and I are committed to moderating the amount of next year’s staff reductions in two ways. First, we will continue to implement as many non-personnel savings as possible. To this end, at the March 6 board of education meeting, our finance administrator and I will present $300,000 in budget reductions resulting primarily from freezing line item balances in this year’s budget. Second, the board of education will continue a policy, first implemented in the 2010-2011 school year, to maintain the lowest fund reserve permitted by the state, a razor-thin 1 to 2 percent of our budget. Let me clarify this figure through a comparison with a family’s annual earnings and savings account. For each $25,000 family members earn in a year, only $250 to $500 would be retained in their bank account in that year to address any unexpected expenditures. That is the financial managementchallenge with which we have been living in the district for the past three years — and will live with for at least the next three years.
In closing, I wish I could appropriately portray the breadth and depth of the professionalism of our district staff. Two examples, among many other potential candidates, are revealing. First, during these years of increased class sizes, our students’ performance on state tests has actually improved somewhat. However, a slight decline was revealed in the spring 2011 data. We will monitor closely the spring 2012 results to determine if a trend can be linked to the higher class sizes. Second, over 95 percent of the staff members voting each year since the 2009-2010 school year have authorized the board of education to reduce their salaries, thus supporting our students by preserving some staff positions and related services. As a result, in the past three years the salaries of our teachers and support staff have declined by a total of 11.5 percent and our administrators by 12 percent. These impacts are projected to increase next school year by at least another 4.4 percent.
In the midst of the pervasive public sector resource decline in our state and district, we are completely committed to the district’s children. That is our promise to the Ojai Valley community.
Hank Bangser is the superintendent of schools of the Ojai Unified School District.
By Logan Hall
Tragedy struck Thursday afternoon when a solo motorcyclist was killed on Maricopa Highway about five miles north of Wheeler Gorge after crashing into a gully. According to a CHP report, Ventura resident Edward Craig Layfield, 52, was traveling south down the highway on a 2002 Yamaha RX6 with two other motorcyclists when he tried to pass one of the other riders. The report indicates that as he attempted to pass the other motorcycle, his front tire came off of the ground. After the tire came back down on the road, he lost control as his bike “began to wobble severely,” the report read. CHP records show that Layfield “hit his brakes but his speed was too great and he could not regain control of his motorcycle as he neared a curve in the roadway … his motorcycle became airborne and traveled through the air and struck the other side of the gully, where he received fatal injuries.”
The report stated that Layfield and his motorcycle came to rest 30 feet from the road.
Multiple emergency units were called to the scene, including the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department search and rescue helicopter. According to VCFD spokesman Bill Nash, the helicopter was called off after the victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
By Logan Hall
Oak View resident Scott Doornbos was released last week after being arrested Thursday for allegedly assaulting Dr. Steve Sallen, owner of the Ojai Valley Village Pet Hospital on West Ojai Avenue.
On Thursday afternoon, Doornbos, 55, turned himself in at the Ojai Police Station and was booked at Ventura County’s Pre-trial Detention Facility for felony battery with serious bodily injury. A press release issued by the VCSD said, “Mr. Doornbos battered the veterinarian causing significant injury.”
Ventura County Sheriff’s Department officials confirm that Doornbos was released on Friday morning after posting $20,000 bail.
Sallen’s wife, Donna, who witnessed the alleged assault, was unable to comment on Doornbos’ release. “I was not aware of that,” she said. After a brief pause, she politely said, “I have to hang up now and make a call.”
She did say that her husband was “doing OK” and is “very strong,” but that he was going to go through CAT scans at the hospital last week.
According to VCSD reports, the trouble began Thursday when Doornbos’ 5-year-old dog died during treatment at Sallen’s hospital. “After being notified of the dog’s death, Mr. Doornbos went to the animal hospital and confronted the veterinarian who treated the dog …” according to the press release.
Soon after Doornbos arrived at the hospital, Sallen was brutally beaten according to VCSD and eyewitness reports.
Doornbos could not be reached for comment, but in an interview with ABC “Eyewitness News” reporter Robert Holguin on Friday, Doornbos said he was sorry for what happened, but that he was defending himself from Sallen. “I’m sure I was wrong for going and being upset,” Doornbos told Holguin, “and I think that he was wrong too in the way that he handled this. I just kind of did a little defensive move to stop him, and I put my hand up, swung my hand up like that, came in contact with his nose, or face, and then he laid back down, and screaming and yelling at me.”
The incident sparked uproar on the Ojai Valley news blog. As of press time on Tuesday night, the online OVN report had 89 comments, most in staunch opposition of Doornbos’ alleged actions. “No one should ever be assaulted with deadly force like that for any reason except for self-defense or if defending a loved one from imminent danger …” read one comment.
Another simply said, “Dear Dr Sallen, I was shocked in disbelief when I learned of this horrific, violent act that you endured. My prayers are with you and your family, (from) Jack’s Mom.”
Supporters of Sallen and his business say that the vet was heartbroken that he couldn’t save Doornbos’ dog and tried his best to help the sick animal. “He was very distraught over the loss of the dog,” said Sallen’s wife.
By Misty Volaski
Ojai mother Cally Houck and rental car safety advocates took a big step this week toward what they hope will lead to federal legislation of the rental car industry’s safety recall policies.
Hertz, the No. 2 car rental company in America, has signed an agreement with the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, supporting the proposed legislation and agreeing to give authority over their recall-related practices to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Hertz wants to do the right thing,” said Houck. “We’re very, very happy they made this very courageous decision. They stepped away from the industry to do the right thing. They were the first to do it.” She hopes others, namely Avis Budget Group, Inc., will follow. The timing of Hertz’s decision is fortunate for Houck’s cause, with the Senate set to vote on the NHTSA highway bill next week.
As it stands now, manufacturers and automotive dealerships are forbidden by law to sell any vehicles currently under a safety recall until the issue has been repaired. However, the rental car industry — the nation’s “largest purchaser of new cars,” Houck says — doesn’t have to operate under these laws. They may sell or rent their vehicles regardless of whether the car has a cosmetic recall, such as chipping paint on a bumper, or a major safety recall, like faulty brakes or seat belts.
Houck has good reason to continue her relentless push for reform. It was an unrepaired safety recall that took the lives of her daughters, Raechel and Jacqueline, Nordhoff High School graduates, in 2004. The girls rented a PT Cruiser from Enterprise Rent-A-Car in October of that year which was under a safety recall for a power steering fluid problem. The car leaked the fluid, causing an under-hood fire which resulted in the loss of steering control — and the girls’ deaths in a fiery head-on collision with a semi-truck. Despite a five-year legal battle which resulted in Enterprise admitting liability and $15 million in damages being awarded to the family, Houck says that still wasn’t enough to prompt Enterprise to change its safety recall policies.
“They have billions and billions of dollars,” she said. “It’s not too much to ask” to ensure the safety of the consumer. Houck added, “I’m still a raging lioness. That mother part of me doesn’t care what they do. They won’t be able to fix it for us. But at least they can fix it for other families. We’re certainly not going to back down.”
To that end, Houck and her son, Greg, have teamed with C.A.R.S., Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), among other lobbyists and consumer safety groups, to get the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act attached to the NHTSA reauthorization bill. This would give NHTSA authority over the industry’s recall-related practices and force them to adhere to the same rules as the manufacturers and dealerships on the issue.
“Boxer and Schumer are real champions of this cause,” Houck said. “They’ve become real powerful advocates” for the legislation.
Rosemary Shahan, president of C.A.R.S., echoed Houck’s enthusiasm for the senators’ efforts, and also applauded Hertz’s bold move. The agreement with Hertz is made up of three parts, she said. They’ve agreed to be “on the same footing as the dealerships” regarding safety recall practices, Shahan said. Hertz also agreed that if they get a safety recall notice for a vehicle that’s currently in the hands of a consumer, they will, “Notify them as soon as practicable,” Shahan said. The third part of the agreement states that NHTSA will have jurisdiction over their recall practices.
“This is an indication that they’re confident that their practices are (solid), and that they’re comfortable being under government regulation and oversight,” Shahan said.
Avis, meanwhile, “has expressed interest,” she added, in discussing an agreement for their company. Avis’ vice president of communications, John R. Barrows, was non-committal when asked whether the company will ultimately join Hertz in its agreement with C.A.R.S. “With respect to legislation,” Barrows said in a Thursday e-mail, “it has always been Avis Budget Group’s view that recall issues should be resolved on a federal level … While the Hertz proposal has certain coverage and logistical problems, we welcome an opportunity to discuss these challenges with input from consumers, manufacturers, and fleet owners and operators.To that end, we are currently reviewing and discussing the Hertz proposal and other ideas with Hertz among other parties.”
Still, Houck and Shahan feel optimistic. “That Avis is still talking means that they haven’t written it off yet,” Houck said. “We are crossing our fingers that Avis will come on board.”
Next week, when Congress reconvenes, the Senate will vote on the NHTSA bill. “We’re working day and night with a great coalition of proponents,” said Houck. Until then, Boxer, Schumer, Shahan and the consumer groups, as well as several power players in the Washington, D.C., area, will continue to keep the dialogue open with the rental car industry. Houck also started a Change.org petition Tuesday morning, called “Enterprise Rent-A-Car: Stop opposing a law prohibiting companies from renting out recalled cars.” It has gathered 132,000 signatures as of press time.
One signer, Michael Travere, commented, “I am no longer a happy Enterprise customer wondering how many times did they let me rent a unsafe car. Fix the problem because from here on out I am a Hertz customer. Because they place my safety first. So long, Enterprise no one in my family drives your cars until proven otherwise.”
To sign the petition, go to change.org and search Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
UPDATE Friday, 2/24/2012 5:32 p.m.
According to published reports, Enterprise Rent-A-Car has indicated it may be reconsidering its staunch opposition to federal oversight of the rental car industry.
In a statement issued Thursday, Enterprise said of the proposed legislation, “In the past, we believed this step was unnecessary, but a growing number of people, including our customers and business partners, clearly want more assurance on this critical issue. We hear them and what we’ve heard has caused us to rethink our stance.” It also said the company is “profoundly sorry” for “the tragedy of the Houck sisters’ deaths.”
The proposed legislation would give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration authority to govern the practices of rental car companies regarding vehicles under a safety recall; they would be required to ground and repair vehicles under recall prior to renting or selling them to consumers.
When asked to clarify the company’s position, Enterprise spokeswoman Laura T. Bryant said in an e-mail to the OVN Friday afternoon, “We have not endorsed any specific legislation or amendment to date, but — as previously stated — we pledge to work collaboratively with those individuals and organizations who today are committed to legislative oversight of the recall process.” She did not address a question posed to her, regarding whether or not Enterprise would join Hertz in its agreement with the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety in support of the proposed legislation. She also did not address the question of whether the company would consider making its own agreement with the consumer advocacy group.
Ojai mom Cally Houck isn’t buying into the excitement some expressed when Enterprise issued its statement. Houck, whose two daughters Raechel and Jacqueline died in a car accident caused by safety recalls what weren’t repaired by Enterprise, said, “This is all spin to try to make Enterprise look good. Until they come out and say, ‘We’re supporting the (Raechel and Jacqueline) Safe Rental Car Act,’ until they ground all recalled cars and fix them and don’t rent or sell them until they’ve fixed them, then we have nothing more to talk about. And we’ll just continue this campaign. Right is might. We’re going to continue to put pressure on Enterprise. We want their full unconditional support of the legislation. We want them to stop renting recalled cars unconditionally. We want them to join Hertz.”
By Logan Hall
The Ventura County Planning Division has given the OK to Ojai Rock Quarry owner Larry Mosler to continue operating his business.
In a public hearing on Dec. 15, the County Planning Commission decided to give Mosler a chance to work with county staff to abate violations, and post an adequate amount of money — called the Financial Assurance Cost Estimate — to back up an approved reclamation plan. A reclamation plan details how a mine will be restored to safe and environmentally friendly conditions if the mine shuts down. The hearing had been continued to this morning to give the two parties time to hash out the details.
Since then, Mosler and county officials worked to bring the quarry up to speed with county and state requirements. In this morning’s continuation of the hearing, Ebony McGee, the county’s State Mining and Reclamation Act coordinator, listed the grievances that the county had with Mosler’s quarry, and how he subsequently corrected each issue.
In December, the commission had required Mosler to post $25,000 by Dec. 24, post an additional $25,000 within 30 days, pay $59,875 for permit processing fees, post a temporary financial assurance of $70,600 and to work with staff to finalize a F.A.C.E. and reclamation plan amendment. During the deliberations, McGee showed how Mosler had complied with each of the county’s directives.
Outlining how the county has now accepted a $244,000 financial assurance estimate for the quarry, McGee also showed that Mosler had posted the entire amount. She also said that the state Office of Mine Reclamation would review the F.A.C.E. within 45 days.
McGee stated that the county and Mosler have entered into a new compliance agreement. She explained to the commission that Mosler’s 14 previous violations had been abated and he had included payment for outstanding fees. At one point, the county told Mosler he owed more than $85,000 in fees and penalties regarding the violations. The violations were for using non-permitted machinery, violating operating hour restrictions, mining outside of the required boundaries of operation, truck trips exceeding the 20-per-day limit and trucks driving past Nordhoff High School during non-permitted hours.
Newly appointed Planning Commission Chairman Stephen Onstot inquired about the state OMR AB 3098 list that allowed mine owners to sell their product to government agencies for public projects. The state had taken Mosler off the list due to his lack of compliance with the county at the time. In January, Mosler told the OVN that being taken off of the list would effectively put him out of business.
“It’s a matter of waiting for the OMR to do this,” Mosler told the commission this morning regarding the list. “I still can’t sell to public agencies.”
McGee assured Onstot that the county had sent a letter to the state that outlined Mosler’s current compliance with the county’s regulations.
“We sent the letter to OMR … he should be eligible now,” said McGee.
Mosler believes that the worst is behind him, and expects everything to run smoothly now. “There is no issue any more,” he said after this morning’s hearing. “Everything is resolved.”
Not everyone is happy with the county’s decision though. One item being discussed by Mosler and the county is an allowance for the mine owner to use his rock crusher, which had not previously been permitted by the county. A woman who identified herself as Pat Baggerly with the Ventura County Environmental Coalition told commissioners that she believed that more thought should be put into the quarry’s — specifically, the rock crusher’s — impact on the environment.
“Many environmental issues relating to the quarry have not been resolved,” said Baggerly. “The previous Environmental Impact Review predated a time when steelhead entered the river. The addition of allowing a rock crusher … could have a significant adverse biological impact to the stream. Before Ventura County Planning approves a new plan, a new Environmental Impact Review should take place.”
Ojai Stop the Trucks! Coalition representatives also disagree with the county’s decision. “I think the (county) planning director has far exceeded her authority in this case,” said coalition representative Michael Shapiro. “He (Mosler) was given two years to comply. If someone violates something, they should be shut down. Mosler has been litigious, hostile and arrogant and he’s been rewarded for it.”
Mosler acknowledged that organizations like Stop the Trucks! and the V.C. Environmental Coalition were large contributors to the county’s issues with the quarry, but says the county’s decision speaks for itself. “Shapiro is going to be upset,” he said. “He thought that he had won. It’s been a brutal fight, but the county said that we have everything resolved.”
The Planning Commission continued the meeting again to May 24, which should give the state time to review the submitted material.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Last week, Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order to fly U.S. and New Jersey flags at half-staff in honor of New Jersey native Whitney Houston. What has he been smoking? Christie received a lot of criticism for the action, much of it centering on the fact that the singer would be honored in the same way as distinguished government officials and armed services members who gave their life for their country. The only combat the late Ms. Houston ever saw was during her tumultuous marriage to her equally troubled husband, Bobby Brown. Christie tried to deflect some of the criticism by pointing out that he had issued similar orders to honor all New Jersey soldiers and police officers who had died during his tenure. The governor’s order calls Houston “a gifted singer, remarkable performer, and iconic figure who left an indelible mark upon the popular music landscape in the State of New Jersey and across our nation” and that she “left a legacy in this state that will be cherished for many years.” Despite that, the criticism is justified. Houston was an extremely talented entertainer. While I was not a fan, I readily acknowledge her amazing voice. Unfortunately she lost her voice, her talent, her reputation, much of her fortune, and possibly her very life due to a celebrated drug and alcohol habit. Flying the flag at half-staff is a somber memorial recognizing and honoring a brave soldier or a police officer who gives his or her life in the line of duty. It is flown to honor the passing of a public official who has distinguished themselves in service to their country. It is done as a way to recognize heroism, bravery and patriotism. To honor someone simply because they are a famous celebrity makes a mockery of the honor. It cheapens the gesture for those who deserve it most. Our culture is celebrity-obsessed enough without adding additional recognition — especially recognition that has been traditionally reserved for special service. Last weekend, Houston was honored at a memorial service at the New Hope Baptist Church in a four-hour long “private” funeral extravaganza attended by over 1,000 people and it was covered on cable television. That was appropriate; it was the way her friends and family chose to remember her. Flying both the state flag and the American flag at half-staff is not. It trivializes the memorial. If you really want to honor the life of Whitney Houston, request that her record company (Sony) donate a portion of the tremendous windfall profits they are raking in from her posthumous record sales (the prices of which they jacked up about 60 percent immediately after her death) and fund a documentary about how a beautiful, talented entertainer lost everything because of alcohol and drug abuse. Make it available for viewing by school kids across the nation to serve as a cautionary tale. That would not only be a fitting tribute, it might actually help someone.
By Logan Hall
The sight of shuttle operator Dutch Vanhemert’s big white bus might soon be a thing of the past in the Ojai Valley.
Last month, Vanhemert was convicted by a jury of evading an officer with willful disregard, and could face up to three years in prison and fines up to $10,000 after his sentencing.
Driving a white Chevy Suburban, a minivan, or his 24-foot converted school bus, Vanhemert is best known around town for providing free rides to those who are under the influence of alcohol and need a way to get home. While accepting gratuities, he does not charge riders a formal fee.
Although he has had run-ins with the law in the past regarding traffic citations, the real trouble began in April 2010 when Vanhemert was stopped in downtown Ojai by Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Michael Harris for allegedly honking his horn while driving by the officer.
During a brief confrontation, Vanhemert says he told Harris that he had left his driver’s license at home and that Harris threatened to take him to jail for failing to produce the license. Harris had also cited the shuttle driver on previous occasions for unrelated traffic offenses.
Vanhemert says he feared for his safety and drove away from the scene, after which he headed to the Ojai Police Department with Harris giving chase in his patrol car, lights flashing and siren wailing. According to reports, after arriving at the station, Vanhemert approached the front door of the building and was subsequently tazed by sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Valenzuela; he was then arrested for evading Harris.
“I went to the Police Station because I didn’t feel comfortable with what was going on,” said Vanhemert. “The jury decided that I went from point A to point B without stopping for the cop, though. That’s all they’re looking at.”
The jury’s guilty verdict came as a surprise to both Vanhemert and his attorney, Cathy Elliott Jones. “There were some anomalies in the trial,” said Jones. “One of the jurors said he was going into it with an assumption of guilt. He basically said he didn’t believe in The Constitution. There should have been an automatic dismissal of that juror.”
There is still an option for Vanhemert to appeal the court’s decision, but Jones said her client has not made a decision on filing for an appeal yet. “That will be up to Dutch to decide whether we appeal,” she said.
Leroy Wu, the Ventura County District Attorney’s prosecutor handling the case, could not be reached for comment. Due to legal constraints, Sheriff’s Department officials involved in the case were also unable to comment. Vanhemert is scheduled to appear in court on March 16 for the sentencing phase of the case.
By Tiobe Barron
Last week’s regularly scheduled Ojai City Council meeting was preceded by a special meeting with the Historic Preservation Commission to discuss the completed “windshield” survey of historic properties in Ojai.
Mitch Stone, with San Buenaventura Research, the consultant the city used to complete the survey, addressed the crowd, saying, “Study was done over an extensive period of time to streamline the historic resource review process, which resulted in a survey that the council was asked to adopt, which raised some public outcry.” Stone maintained that the council was trying to address these concerns through Planning Commission meetings. “The question is how to move forward on the goals of the survey, but address the concerns of the public,” said Stone.
“One of my concerns when I go through this survey is the lack of standards to apply to the rest of the properties (those not clearly historical landmarks),” said Mayor Pro Tem Paul Blatz. “Even the consultant is indicating that the city has put the cart before the horse by doing the survey without establishing specific standards.” Blatz voiced the concern that if the council adopted the survey as is, they could potentially be putting themselves in a compromising position.
Craig Beam, an Ojai resident and environmental lawyer, agreed with the sentiment that council has put the cart before the horse. “There are no real standards as to why a particular property is listed as a historic resource,” said Beam. “You can’t declare a home a historic resource because you think it’s charming the way it is.” Beam was also concerned the designation of such a broad range of homes as historic resources would put undue hardship on homeowners, many of whom are already struggling in today’s recession.
“The context we’re in now also needs to be considered,” said Beam. “This policy could stifle maintaining Ojai as we’d like to see it. We don’t want to see stagnation, and regulatory hurdles (such as those incurred after adopting a historical survey) can result in exactly that.”
There was some debate on how many properties fell into the Category 3 group — those which, according to the survey, could not easily be examined from the street at the time the data was collected. Documents in the survey seemed to indicate as many as 362 properties, but Stone maintained it was 161 homes on the list. Category 1 homes were defined as those with serious historic resource potential, and Category 2 properties were those with little to no historic value according to the consultant firm.
Barbara Snyder, an Ojai resident, owns one of the homes designated Category 1 by the survey.
“Please know, I know this company, and they do wonderful work. I’m not bashing them at all,” said Snyder, “but our house isn’t historic. It’s cute, but it’s not a Category 1 home.”
Resident Leanna McNeilly echoed Snyder’s comments, adding that the thought of having to endure more expense and bureaucracy when doing repairs or modifications on her home, simply because of when it was built, seemed ludicrous to her. Bradley Smith, another Ojai resident, queried what the cost to the homeowner would be to do a study if their property is one of those designated Category 3 but the homeowner wanted to be removed from the list or excused from review. Ojai resident Stan Greene agreed. “The idea of someone giving you a category and you having to opt out is a burden, and I don’t think that’s right.”
Mayor Betsy Clapp said, “I don’t think we know what we’re trying to achieve. I don’t think anyone’s intention has been to make it difficult for people to take care of their homes. I would like us to define what it is we’re trying to achieve.”
Council members took no action regarding the survey at the meeting that night.
By Tiobe Barron
Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, a Democrat who represents Ojai and other communities in the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, announced on Feb. 13 that he would no longer be running for Congress. When Rep. Elton Gallegly retires at the end of his term, there will be a vacancy for the representative of the new California District 26, an area which includes Ojai and Ventura. Supervisor Bennett was considered by most to be the most viable Democratic candidate running for the position, opposite Republican candidate Tony Strickland.
Supervisor Bennett stated in a recent phone interview that his primary reason for dropping out of the race was an overwhelming concern that his vacated seat in the Board of Supervisors would create a major paradigm shift.
“I thought I could be more effective continuing to serve on the Board of Supervisors,” said Bennett. “I think that with the candidates running, there was the potential for a major philosophical shift on the Board of Supervisors, different policies than the ones I’ve supported.”
Among those policies he has supported and is most proud of are the county’s strong fiscal standing and a record of strong environmental policies. Bennett cites his support of the S.O.A.R. Initiative, leading the charge to stop big housing developments in the area’s remaining wilderness, his desire to preserve the Ojai Valley, and the fact that 10 percent of the county’s budget is in reserves (compared to zero when he took office 10 years ago) as evidence of the work he wants to protect.
Bennett said he felt confident that Assemblywoman Julia Brownley would step forward as an alternate Democratic candidate for representative of District 26. Brownley announced Monday that she would indeed be running in Bennett’s stead. According to her website, Brownley has represented Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Oak Park and Westlake Village as a state assembly member for the last six years. A graduate of George Washington University, her top priorities include protecting Medicare and the environment, as well as creating jobs.
“She is a proven fund raiser,” said Bennett. “I am confident she can beat Strickland, and I am strongly supporting her.” Bennett added that she also has strong organizational support behind her.
Ojai Valley resident Bob Roper, who is running for Bennett’s seat, acknowledged the importance of campaign finance, and the inherent edge that an incumbent candidate such as Supervisor Bennett has in an election. Now that Bennett is no longer vacating his seat on the Board of Supervisors, Roper has perhaps a bit more than expected to contend with in the upcoming election.
“The value of an open race is that there is more of a level playing field,” said Roper. “The incumbent has a treasury; everyone else has to raise money from scratch.” Despite the disadvantage, he maintained that he is a good choice for voters because he grew up in this district, has always resided here, has worked in county government his whole career (including a number of years as chief of the Ventura County Fire Department), and is “Someone people can trust,” he said. “People have the opportunity to choose someone who is very solid in their decisions.” His self-proclaimed top priority is the economy.
“We have to make sure we have a good quality of life,” Roper said. “It’s a balance of jobs, regulations, a healthy environment. We have to protect what we hold dear.”
Voters will have a chance to decide for themselves who best represents them for the Ventura County Board of Supervisors this June.
By Tiobe Barron
Ojai resident Lucas Thayer brought levity and information to the regular Ojai City Council meeting when he sang “Heads, shoulders, knees and toes” to a packed crowd last Tues., Feb. 14. Thayer was playfully underscoring the distinctions between people versus corporations as he urged council to draft and approve an amendment to abolish corporate personhood.
“I’d very much like to discuss an amendment to reject corporate personhood,” said council member Carol Smith in response to Thayer’s presentation. Thayer also urged the city to remove any funds held in accounts with any major banks and transfer the money instead to an account with a small, local credit union. Mayor Betsy Clapp was responsive to the idea, inquiring as to which bank the city uses, and if they are able to move their funds to Ojai Community Bank, prompting cheers from those in attendance. City manager Robert Clark responded that Ojai City Council primarily banks with Rabobank, because it was the most responsive company when the city was looking for a line of credit for Libbey Bowl renovations. While council could indeed open a new account with a smaller local entity, they are obligated to maintain at least some funds in the existing account with Rabobank.
In another hot topic Tuesday night, the discussion of the “smart meters” Southern California Edison plans to begin installing in Ojai sometime this spring was electric. Though council members expressed a desire to place a moratorium on the devices in Ojai, former city attorney Monte Widders advised council that because the California Public Utilities Commission had already granted Edison and PG&E permission to install them, it would not be possible for council to adopt a moratorium. New Ojai city attorney Joseph Fletcher agreed with this opinion, recommending instead that council send a letter to the CPUC petitioning for an opt-out mechanism for entire cities or communities, and to Edison requesting a delay for SmartMeter installation in Ojai. Edison does have an opt-out program in place for individuals should they elect to keep their analog meters, though the resident would then incur a monthly meter-reading fee for the service they are currently receiving.
Marleen Luckman, an Ojai resident, pointed out that in the case of PG&E in Northern California, residents have been charged a $75 initial fee to opt out, and then $10 every month.
“This is another situation where corporations are auctioning off our airwaves, with serious health effects,” said Luckman. “I think people need to understand all the implications of these (devices).” She submitted to the council a study undertaken by the county of Santa Cruz on the levels of radio frequencies emitted by SmartMeters, and the possible health effects thereof. A document cited within the report by Santa Cruz shows the amount of frequencies emitted by SmartMeters at a distance of three feet and left on continuously can be nearly 40 times that of the average cell phone. The Santa Cruz report also states, “Energy usage data, measured moment by moment, allows the reconstruction of a household’s activites: When they wake up, when they come home, when they go on vacation, even when they take a hot bath. SmartMeters represent a new form of technology that relays detailed hitherto confidential information reflecting the times and amounts of the use of electrical power without adequately protecting that data…”
Ojai resident Shalom Joshua argued that the lack of intelligible information being presented to customers from the beginning of this issue in and of itself is objectionable. Though many studies have been done on electromagnetic frequency radiation (EMF), very little data has been gathered on the SmartMeters specifically. Ojai resident Rae Amey also submitted documents to the council, citing in part research done by McGill University at the behest of a Canadian electric company called Hydro-Quebec in order to ascertain the health effects of EMF from power lines on the company’s employees. The study allowed that the human body relies on electrical signals to communicate everything from insulin levels to the release of white blood cells to a specific region of the body, and there is a possibility that EMF could interfere with these processes.
Robin Bernhoft, an Ojai doctor and member of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, submitted to council a letter his group sent to the CPUC opposing the installation of SmartMeters. The letter stated, in part, “The current medical literature raises credible questions about genetic and cellular effects, hormonal effects, male fertility, blood/brain barrier effects, and potential increased risk of certain types of cancers from the level of RF and ELF emitted from smart meters. Children are placed at particular risk for altered brain development, and impaired learning and behavior.”
Ojai resident Leonard Klaiff noted that, “It’s interesting, the inter-connection between these topics. If corporations have control over our water, food, and our politics- Duh! We ain’t got a whole lot left if they have that.”
Also at the Tues. night meeting, council moved and approved a motion to change the regular meeting times from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., with a deadline of 10:30 for agenda discussion items instead of the current 11 p.m. cut-off. Council members also changed the language of the protocol regarding absences and leave of absences. With input from city manager Clark and city attorney Fletcher, council moved to create a line item in the agenda for absences, giving the council more flexibility in addressing recent issues with a government code that automatically creates a vacancy after missing all regular council meetings within a 60-day time frame. Rhonda Basore, city clerk, said the first meeting to start at 7 p.m. will probably not be until April.
By Logan Hall
As identity theft and burglaries are on the rise in neighboring communities, Ojai’s law enforcement officers are urging citizens to report suspicious activity to authorities. The Ojai Valley News received several emails from concerned citizens reporting solicitors and suspicious activity in the area of Foothill Road in including a burglary on one home. Police reports indicate that nothing was taken from the home in question.
Although the burglary was reported to authorities, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department has not received any official reports from citizens on soliciting.
“These are two different events that are not related,” said Sheriff’s Detective Mark Burgess. “I don’t believe that they (solicitors) are part of any burglary ring.”
Authorities, however, confirm that soliciting has been related to burglaries in the past, and is a problem in other communities.
“If someone suspicious knocks on your door, don’t just open it,” said Capt. Chris Dunn, Ojai’s chief of police. “Let them know you’re home by saying you’re not interested without opening the door, then call us right away.”
Dunn explained that sometimes, burglars will knock on the door of a residence to see if the home is occupied. If it is perceived that the home is unattended, they may try to burglarize the property.
“Our guys are aware of this,” said Sheriff’s Detective Mark Burgess. “We are citing solicitors that don’t have a permit when we come across them.”
Call the Ojai Police Department at 646-1414 to report suspicious behavior or dial 911 for emergencies.
Kathleen Schafer has always believed in the power of community. “The community has something to offer everyone and — our communities are stronger when people are giving what they can,” said the Ojai resident. “Ojai is full of artists, scientists and photographers, and why not bring them into the schools and let the kids experience their passion?”
Schafer put that attitude into action recently, when she volunteered to develop the After-school Enrichment Program for Topa Topa Elementary School last fall. She launched it just seven weeks after the district announced that instruction hours would be reduced every Wednesday.
The Topa Topa after-school program is revenue-neutral and currently offers 75 students from kindergarten through sixth grade a chance to enroll in academic and physical enrichment classes such as art, computers, dance, Spanish, yoga, playground sports and basketball for two hours every Wednesday afternoon. The cost per student is $10. The program, which has two supervisors and is supported by the Topa Parent-Teacher Association, also offers scholarships based on the free and reduced lunch program. Kids even get a snack. Schafer’s youngest son, Jake, attends Topa Topa and also participates in the after-school enrichment classes.
With a 20-year career as a leadership coach, teacher and author of the newly released book, “Living the Leadership Choice: A Guide to Changing Your Life and the World,” Schafer walks the talk. Her background is in practical applied politics and policy — essentially, how to create change in the world. She’s all about actually getting things done.
Schafer’s first question to her clients and to herself is, “Are you actually doing what you want in the world and having a positive impact?” The Topa program is the perfect example, she said. “There was a need. There was a lot of potential with people in the community who could help and there were these kids who wanted to learn more. I did something about it.”
Schafer worked with Topa Topa principal John LeSuer and Sophocles Cotsis of the Ojai Recreation Department to develop and staff the program with passionate teachers from the community based on models of programs she was familiar with on the East Coast.
“Kathleen is a parent at our school and has done a fabulous job organizing people to teach our classes and supervising the program,” LeSuer said. “When the opportunity presented itself, Kathleen just took it and ran with it. The kids are really benefiting from the wonderful programs.”
Small-town Ojai attracts some interesting urban-savvy residents. Schafer spent the majority of her career in Washington, D.C., discovering Ojai through her oldest son, Nick, and his participation with the Weil Tennis Academy. Schafer’s career includes founding her own company, Leadership Connection, developing the original political leadership curriculum and teaching courses at The George Washington University for 16 years, chairing the Maryland Women’s Commission, and coaching, teaching and speaking to thousands of people worldwide to encourage leadership skills.
Schafer’s book, “Living the Leadership Choice” is a 28-day self-guided course to identify one’s greatest assets, potential and purpose. “What is it that you want to do in your everyday life? How do you take your passion and that desire to change the world and put it all together into a career or an opportunity that you can really do?” These are a few of the questions Schafer asks her clients, whether politicians, CEOs, college-bound students or folks in mid-career crisis.
“I believe that everybody has something important to offer that is needed by the community, and that the community is going to be better when you offer it. That community could be your family, a religious affiliation, your neighborhood or it could be the state of California. It’s different for everyone. It’s really up to you to decide.” Schafer said.
For more information, visit www.leadershipconnection.net.
By Logan Hall
Do you know what to do in the aftermath of a major natural disaster or an emergency situation? What would happen to your neighborhood if emergency personnel couldn’t help right away?
The valley’s high school population will get a chance to participate in a free Community Emergency Response Team course that is geared toward teaching citizens what to do in the event of a disaster or other major emergency. The free course, which begins Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Arc Enrichment Center, will teach kids how to respond in a major disaster in the event that emergency crews aren’t available right away.
Although CERT has mostly consisted of adult graduates, recently, supporters of the course have started getting the youth of the county involved in the program. After a CERT course was successfully completed by Oak Park High School students, word began spreading about the importance of youth participation in the program.
Wanting to take a step forward in expanding the valley’s emergency readiness, Rotary Club of Ojai-West Disaster Preparedness Committee members contacted Supervisor Steve Bennett’s office to request a similar program for Ojai’s youngsters.
“When the valleywide discussions took place in 2008, disaster preparedness was a big issue,” said Stephanie Midgett, chair of Rotary West’s Disaster Preparedness Committee. “We approached Bennett’s office to see if we could get funding for the classes.”
The CERT course, which costs the county about $7,000 to hold, is taught by members of the Fire Department and consists of general emergency and medical training. Those who graduate learn how to extinguish small fires, assess priorities in injuries in the field through a process called triage, and are taught search and rescue techniques, among many other skills.
“CERT classes provide all of the background and training you need in a situation no matter where you are,” said Brian Brennan, executive aide to Bennett and a trained CERT member.
According to county officials, since 2008, around 500 people in the Ojai Valley have passed a CERT course and are now ready to help their fellow citizens through tough situations if the need arises. Now the youngsters of the valley have the same opportunity. “This is the first time we’ve really targeted the youth,” said Brennan. “We really hope they’ll see this as a priority.”
Rotary Club members and county officials aren’t the only ones pushing the program in the valley. Becky Beckett, Health Science Academy director at Nordhoff High School, is helping spearhead the effort to get kids involved and stresses the importance of the issue. “We live in a valley where there are only three ways out,” said Beckett, who is also CERT certified. “If there was a major disaster, it is possible that we might not have a way out. Some people would have to be on their own for a while. The more that are trained, the better off we all are.”
According to teachers at Oak Park, which was the first school in the county to hold a CERT course for students, the 25 kids who graduated from CERT training last year are already benefiting from the lessons learned.
“I had a student that had graduated last year’s class that was home cooking with his mom,” said Brenda Pasqua, Oak Park sports medicine teacher and CERT-trained citizen. “Something in the oven caught fire and he was able to put it out right away. He told me he was so proud that he knew how to maintain calm and stay confident to handle the situation. These kids can take these skills anywhere in life.”
Although mainly centered on major natural disaster readiness, CERT also emphasizes other areas of life that are important for kids to learn. “The whole program is all about teamwork,” added Pasqua. “It’s a great experience and the kids love it. I would love to see it in every single school.”
The course designed for the valley’s high school population will be held three consecutive Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. starting on Feb. 25. Space is limited and those involved are urging anyone interested to sign up before the class fills. Call Supervisor Bennett’s office at 654-2703 for information on signing up.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I was truly sickened by the halftime show during the Super Bowl. Not because of Madonna’s halftime show itself, which seemed over-produced and generally, pretty lame. And not because of the obscene gesture made by the singer known as M.I.A.
No, I was upset because the entire episode smacked of premeditated manipulation. This is a blatant example of the publicity tactic gaining popularity among celebrities, and celebrity “wannabes.” First you do something “outrageous,” then someone claims how “outraged” they are by your words or actions, then someone “sincerely” apologizes for the original action and everyone is happy — not due to any heartfelt apologies, but because everyone involved receives tons and tons of free publicity.
It is really ingenious, and it seems to be very effective. It is also highly irritating.
M.I.A, a Sri Lankan-born singer who now makes her home in London, was, as far as I know, not a household name here in the states. She made an obscene gesture during Madonna’s halftime show at the Super Bowl, a game that was later reported to be the most-watched program ever. Madonna was said to have been “very upset.” She later phoned a morning radio show and upbraided M.I.A for the gesture, saying, “I was really surprised. I didn’t know anything about it. I wasn’t happy about it.”
Right. She was about as surprised as Capt. Renault was about gambling in Casablanca. First of all, who had ever heard of M.I.A before this little stunt? Anyone? I know I am not exactly on the cutting edge of pop music trends, but I have not talked to anyone of any age who knew anything about her before the show, but everyone certainly knew who she was afterward. Do you suppose that exposure helped her career any? Do you think anyone went online to read about her? Do you think she sold any CDs or music downloads from people who were curious?
Then, Madonna expresses her indignation over the episode. Isn’t this the same person who has made a wildly successful career out of wearing provocative outfits and producing soft-core porn music videos while occasionally singing? Isn’t this the same woman who shed her clothes in movies and produced a book of blatantly sexual images titled “Sex?” Do we really and truly think she was shocked?
Only a cynic would think that this whole thing was staged to give notoriety to the unknown M.I.A, and also serve to boost ticket sales for Madonna’s upcoming world tour, where a floor seat will run you more than $350 per ticket. OK, then I’m a cynic.
I am from a generation of music stars who certainly pulled stunts that were brainless and obscene. Jim Morrison of The Doors was arrested in Miami in 1969 and charged with indecent exposure while onstage. His allegedly lewd act was attributed to prodigious amounts of alcohol.
Morrison’s alcohol-fueled stunt was selfish and stupid. But it still somehow seems a lot more honest to me than a series of coldly calculated publicity stunts. If I am wrong here, I will apologize to any offended parties. Who knows, maybe I’ll get some free publicity out of it.
By Tiobe Barron
At Feb. 8′s regular board meeting of Ventura River County Water District, board members discussed a water main break which occurred at 2:30 a.m. the same day on Saddle Mountain, at the corner of Feliz and Encino drives. A 3-foot-long, 4-inch-wide gash in the asbestos-cement pipe resulted in a loss of 667,992 gallons of water. While there was no property damage, the break lasted two hours and 35 minutes, spewing out over 4,000 gallons per minute, and resulted in a loss of $1,330.63 to the water utility company.
Bert Rapp, general manager for VRCWD, said there was no visible corrosion or wear to the asbestos-cement pipe in question. He also made it clear the type of pipe, popular in the 1940s and ‘Õ50s, is only dangerous if it is cut with a saw and particulates are inhaled; otherwise, he said, the asbestos remains bound in the cement, posing no harm.
VRCWD has attracted the attention of local customers recently when a 12 percent increase in water rates last month occurred nearly simultaneously with the retirement of previous general manager, Matt Bryant, last December. Bryant had received a raise in salary in July of 2010, after an independent consultant, Andy Belknap, ascertained Bryant had been underpaid by between $9,000 to $41,000 per year, compared to the salaries paid to equivalent general managers. The study cost the VRCWD $6,700 and resulted in Bryant receiving a $14,000-per-year raise, applied retroactively for three and a half months. The raise also resulted in a bigger pension for Bryant when he retired, causing some to question if the district was guilty of pension-spiking.
“The board acknowledged that it should have done this a few years ago. They didn’t even think about the retirement pension at the time, they just wanted to make sure they were paying the correct salary (for the general manager), bring it up to the market rate,” said Rapp, Bryant’s successor. “Matt was an outstanding general manager. He did a lot for our district. He developed our standard operating procedures, put it all in writing; he defined the proper procedures for working with our electrical systems; he made the district more cost-effective and efficient.”
Rapp conceded that 1 percent of the 12 percent rate increase is going to cover the expense of Bryant’s salary and pension raise. However, Rapp said the primary purpose of the rate increase, the other 11 percent, is to begin raising funds for necessary maintenance and repairs that are estimated to cost an additional $4.5 million over the next 10 years. Even after the rate increase, a comparison of median usage-based monthly rates places VRCWD at the third lowest rate in Ventura County, and Golden State Water Company as the highest.
Also at the meeting, the VRCWD board approved a letter of support for Mosler Quarry, discussed the direction to take in seeking local groundwater assistance grants in preparation for the impact of California’s upcoming total maximum daily load report for Ventura River, and expressed extreme concern for the lack of rainfall this year.
“You can see that if it continues this way, we’re going to be out of water,” said VRCWD President Ed Lee, as the group examined graphs showing annual inches of rainfall and monthly water levels in the company’s wells. According to the graphs, so far for 2011-2012, the Ojai Valley has received a little over 5 inches, compared to the 30-year average of 24.25 inches.
VRCWD will be capturing rainwater from the front of its building, thanks to the efforts of Andrew Rapp, general manager Rapp’s son, a Boy Scout with the valley’s Troop 503. Renee Roth, of the Ventura County Surfrider Foundation, presented the group with an award for their new ocean-friendly garden. The younger Rapp and his troop spent 466 hours and over $800, which they raised themselves to transform the swath of yard in front of the VRCWD’s building into an ocean-friendly garden. Where a flat expanse of rock bordered by oleander bushes once stood, the volunteers reshaped the ground to catch rainfall from the roof of the building and off the street and walkways, and planted a variety of native and drought-resistant plants, creating a garden that has been certified as both ocean- and wildlife-friendly.
“This is wonderful for Andrew, and for the community,” said Roth. “It’s really putting Ojai on the map for ocean-friendly guidelines. A lot of work was done in a really short amount of time.” A handout Andrew Rapp passed out at the meeting made it clear the project was done at no cost to the district, and involved none of the district paid staff.
The VRCWD board meets the second Wednesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at 409 Old Baldwin Road. Their meetings are open to the public.
By Amber Lennon
After a presentation of the documentary, “Queen of the Sun,” at the Ojai Playhouse in July, a growing awareness of the dwindling bee population has emerged in Ojai. Bee lover Glenn Perry responded by launching the Ojai Bee Club for all bee-interested folks to ask questions and learn the basics of apiary start-up.
The club, which meets on the second Thursday of every month from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Farmer and The Cook, invites speakers who offer their expertise on everything from constructing beehives to marketing the sweet “liquid gold,” which can be a lucrative business. But most people at last Thursday’s bee meeting appeared to be gathered more for the love of bees than making a buck. A short round of introductions revealed that aspiring beekeepers are a diverse bunch, including a retired Oak Grove teacher, a young CSA farmer from Upper Ojai and the owners of Ema’s Herbs, to name a few.
While the sound of those little honey-makers sends most people into a panic, these folks are ready to invite them to live on their property. Last Thursday’s meeting began with a sampling of two imported Italian honeys followed by a presentation by guest speaker, Casey Abbott, who explained how to go about attracting or capturing bees. Abbott became interested in beekeeping when knee injuries forced him to retire from his lifelong career as an arborist. Now he hopes to grow his apiary into a commercial enterprise to capitalize on California’s almond crop, which yields more almonds than anywhere in the world and provides the most income for large-scale beekeepers. When the almond blossoms emerge in February, commercial apiaries ship their bees from all over the country to California’s Central Valley for pollination.
Abbott gave a thorough and enthusiastic breakdown for backyard beekeepers on the methods for populating new hives, including swarm captures and purchasing bees, among others. After a short question-and-answer session, the crowd mingled and their passion for bees swarmed in conversations about the bees’ dynamic social structures, their loyalty to the queen, and the medicinal and nutritional value of honey. But more than these practical benefits of beekeeping, many noted a deep sense of connection to the bees, and some described beekeeping as “life-changing.”
The Ojai Valley’s diverse habitat and Mediterranean climate provide ideal conditions for maintaining apiaries. Said Perry, “In California, you have all of these different bloom times and re-bloom times because of the variety of agriculture and the temperate climate.” Abbot mentioned the various sage species, orange blossoms and even poison oak as bee favorites for pollen collection, and the relatively short, mild winters allow colonies to survive year-round.
“Queen of the Sun” has inspired many to start apiaries simply to bring balance to the ecosystem of bees, without which the entire food chain faces total collapse. “I believe this is the spirit that interested Ojai in having a bee club,” said Perry. “There’s something about Ojai that fosters this type of vitality.”
Visit the Ojai Bee Club’s Facebook page to find out more about beekeeping and the next bee meeting.
By Logan Hall
The sight of steel grates, orange cones and buckling asphalt has been a regular one for those commuting down Ojai Avenue past Cluff Vista Park. A Golden State Water Company construction project scheduled to repair a section of Ojai’s main thoroughfare was delayed last week due to inclement weather according to GSWC representatives. The repair project is now set to begin today.
Construction, which was slated to start last Thursday, is intended to fill several “voids” under the road’s surface that cause a sagging effect in the pavement. Although Golden State claims the cause of the voids is unknown, company officials admitted that a leaking water main might have been the cause. “It’s possible that it was the result of the water leak,” said GSWC district manager Ken Petersen, addressing the voids.
The sagging pavement was noticed after Golden State subcontractor, SH Construction, replaced a leaking water main with a section of new 8-inch pipe under Cañada Street next to Ojai Avenue.
Petersen says construction to repair the road should be completed by Friday. No road closures are expected but lanes will be narrowed to allow the passage of east and westbound traffic.
Golden State announced yesterday that the company would be undertaking another water main repair project on Feb. 27 that will replace about 800 feet of a 73-year-old 6-inch-diameter pipe with a new 8-inch pipe under Ojai Avenue between Country Club Drive and Bristol Road. “This will provide further fire protection and better quality water to the Ojai Valley Inn,” said Petersen.
A Golden State press release indicated that the work could take up to 45 days to complete and that normal service to customers in the area would be uninterrupted except for “a few hours near the project’s conclusion when customers on West Ojai Avenue are switched over to the new water main.”
The same press release also indicated that, although construction would close the westbound lane of the highway, there would be no road closures on Ojai Avenue during the project. “Westbound traffic will be diverted to the median,” read the release. According to Golden State, the project will cost the company $320,000.
By Linda Harmon
On Jan. 22, a Ventura County Environmental Health inspection shut down a 12-year-old vendor, Ideal Seafood, at Ojai’s Certified Farmers’ Market and also threatened to close the market itself.
Regulars at the Ojai Farmers’ Market may have missed Alicia Tharp with her ready smile and coolers filled with fresh off-the-boat seafood during the past few weeks. What they may not have been aware of is the drama over the market itself.
At January’s inspection Cynthia Korman, who manages the market she established in 1991, was told by Environmental Health inspector Graciela Garcia that the market’s certification was in danger for repeated violations.
According to Environmental Health representatives, state health regulations require rest rooms within 200 feet of regulated farmersÕ markets so that food workers have access to hot water and soap, preventing illness and protecting the public welfare.
According to Korman, the market had access to rest rooms, but they were 220 feet away. These city-provided public rest rooms are across the street, behind the Arcade.
Environmental Health’s position is that the market has been in repeated violation regarding rest room access for its workers and the department had allowed leniency in the past.
According to Korman, the endangered market was “ahead of the curve” in the popularity of farmers’ markets for a while, but has now grown to include more than 60 vendors and people have come to depend on it as a food source.
“We have the highest percentage of organic farms at our market in the whole county and some of the best farmers,” said Korman at Sunday’s market. “We’re not doing too badly for a small town. The market has been a real draw and we’ll even be mentioned in the upcoming March issue of Sunset magazine.”
According to Korman, the market is no longer in danger because a local businessman “came to the rescue.” Chiropractor Russell Kun offered Korman use of the rest rooms of his new business, located at 214 E. Matilija St.
Korman said she hopes the threat is over as the rest rooms should meet the requirements of the Health Department.
“These markets should be supported,” said Kun, who is new to town and happy he can help solve the problem. “I’m committed to my clients’ health and to access to a great Farmers’ Market.”
As for the Tharp’s reopening at the FarmersÕ Market, that is a complicated issue but may be resolved as well. Tharp was told by Environmental Health representatives that the health codes allow Ideal Seafood to sell only whole fish, which was confirmed by Environmental Health.
“This issue came up in the past,” said Tharp, speaking from her 11512 N. Ventura Ave. location, “but they told us because we had a place to process and a permit from Fish and Game we were OK, but not this year.” Tharp got that January order to stop selling and an additional violation for selling from ice chests. Environmental Health representatives told Tharp she needed to sell from a refrigerated vehicle. This was also confirmed by Environmental Health.
“At the market, ranchers are selling packaged beef, pork and chicken from ice chests,” said Tharp, “but they were telling us something different.”
According to Tharp, when she asked why selling meat is different from selling fish, she was told the rancher raises the animals.
“The ranchers are regulated by the Agriculture Department so the regulations are different,” said a frustrated Tharp. “What are we supposed to do, farm the fish?”
After a month-long saga, Tharp now has hope that her issues are resolved.
“The Health Department told us we can get re-permitted to sell as we were,” said Tharp by e-mail Saturday. “As long as Cynthia gets permission to use a rest room within 200 feet it looks like we should be back at the market next week Ñ Bless the chiropractor’s office.”
Cuts of $1.2 million ‘best case scenario”
By Misty Volaski
Should Governor Jerry Brown’s tax ballot initiative fail to pass this November, things could go from dismal to desolate in the California education system. For Ojai Unified School District, the failure of the initiative — which calls for a half-cent sales tax increase and a two percent income tax increase on those making $250,000 or more a year — would mean the reduction of almost $3 million from the 2012-13 budget.
That is on top of $5 million in cuts administrators have already been forced to make since the 2007-08 school year.
The impact that would have on Ojai would be immense. It would mean more pink slips for teachers and classified staff, and significantly decreased pay for those still on the payroll. It would almost certainly mean a further reduction in the number of days in the school year from 175 down to 160. It would mean even bigger class sizes, fewer electives, the possible sale or lease of OUSD property, among other things.
Bill Wagner, head of the NHS music department, could’ve been speaking for the entire district when he said in an e-mail that “The teachers and administration at Nordhoff have worked so hard to keep the previous years of cuts away from our classrooms, but I’m afraid we’re not going to be able to hide this next round of cuts from anyone.”
“These are very unfair conditions. I’m angry about it — for the students, the parents, the staff. I’m angry,” said OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.”I hope people understand that the November ballot is not a salvation. It creates not one additional dollar for us. It keeps us where we are this year … but, that’s so much better than the alternative (of a failed vote).”
Class sizes have already increased significantly in the last few years. For ninth grade, the average class size has gone up from 20 in 2007 to 32 this year; for kindergarten through third grade, it’s gone up from 20 to 30 in the same time period. We’re also spending $1,017 less to educate each student annually (from 2007 to 2012).
Since 2008, the OUSD has had to lay off the equivalent of 61.4 full-time staff members (the true number of employees laid off is actually much higher, as several who were laid off were part-time employees). According to a handout from Tuesday’s meeting, that “represents a 20 percent decrease in staff positions in a period when enrollment dropped by 7.1 percent.” Bangser pointed out Tuesday that that means we’ve lost three times as many staff members as students.
In the event that the ballot fails to pass — and the schools were forced to cut the school year an extra 15 days — teachers would be forced to take an additional 8.8 percent pay decrease for the 2012-13 school year. That’s on top of the cuts that have already been made from their salaries and through furlough days. But, assistant superintendent Dannielle Pusatere explained, because the ballot results won’t come in till after the 2012 school year has started, she wouldn’t be able to implement that pay decrease until around January. “It’s an 8.8 percent drop for the year,” she explained Tuesday. “Normally I’d spread that out over a year of pay. But because I’d only have half the year to implement it, (teachers would see) a 18 percent cut on their checks from January to June.”
If the ballot passes, the picture is slightly better. But not much. The OUSD will have $1.2 million less to spend in 2012-13 than they did this year — and that assumes the Ojai teacher and classified staff unions will agree to take eight furlough days yet again. In years past, the OUSD has been able to staunch the funding hemorrhage with one-time funds, like insurance rebates, federal dollars from the jobs bill, etc. But this year, says assistant superintendent Pusatere, those don’t exist. “Every year was unique in terms of cuts,” she explained Tuesday. “Budgets based on one-time dollars … it’s not illegal (but) ‘best practices’ say we shouldn’t do it. But we did it to save jobs.” Ojai has now reached the point that “That money’s not there anymore. We can’t find it anymore.”
Board member Kathi Smith said Tuesday, “I keep hoping some unthought-of solution is going to occur (to the administration) … but there’s none. I thought this year would be the worst.”
Because 86 percent of the district’s budget lies in staffing costs, the simple fact is that that’s where large portion of the OUSD cuts will have to come from — whether it’s the best-case $1.2 million or the $2.9 million should the tax ballot initiative fail to pass.
Smith went on to talk about the “societal cost — that’s decreased buying power for the whole community … (The state is) squandering human capital.” Board member Linda Taylor, a former art teacher at Nordhoff, agreed, saying that she could relate to the situation teachers currently face. “Where is the rage?” she asked Tuesday, referring to the lack of reaction from the general public. “Where are the people marching in the streets?”
Nordhoff’s head of fine arts, ceramics teacher Gray Duncan, also issued an e-mail statement along with studio arts teacher Kate Thomas. “With these cuts the class sizes have increased,” they said. “And as teachers we felt stretched thin, which is a common consensus amongst faculty. More cuts will be creating even harder times and more stress for all … All of these cuts are hurting our students most of all, it is selling them short by diminishing the value of their education.”
Winter in California is not only a great time to enjoy the beach and do a little surfing. It’s also a good time to plant native and other climate-adapted plants. Boy Scout Troop 503 in Oak View took that advice seriously this past month. The final phase of construction for their demonstration Ocean Friendly Garden at the Ventura River County Water District, 409 Old Baldwin Road, was to install the plants. Following Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Garden principles of CPR – Conservation, Permeability and Retention, the scouts have been constructing a garden that is “looks great, uses rainwater to irrigate the plants and prevents runoff,” says Andrew Rapp, the Boy Scout leading the project. The purpose of the Ocean Friendly Garden program is to “provide a framework for people interested in conserving our natural resources in their own yards,” explains Renee Roth, a volunteer with the Surfrider Foundation’s Ventura Chapter and a Ventura County Regional Coordinator with G3/The Green Gardens Group. Roth is one of two advisors on the project and is currently heading a Schoolyard Habitat project at Matilija Junior High School in Ojai. “Our goal is to focus people on what they can do to help revive the health of our watersheds and oceans.”
Cinnamon McIntosh, Water Conservation Specialist for Casitas Municipal Water District, the second advisor on the project, emphasizes that, “With the average home spending more than 50% of their total water use on landscaping, providing an example of ways to conserve water while enjoying an attractive landscape serves the public and helps us all to protect one of our most precious natural resources – water.” McIntosh notes that, “We all have a responsibility to be good stewards of our world.” Noting that there are several free water-conservation programs available, McIntosh encourages residents to contact her at the Casitas Municipal Water District office for additional information.
The scouts had already incorporated two of the three principles of Ocean Friendly Gardens – Permeability and Retention – in the demonstration garden. They prepared the soil and used permeable pavers to allow water to soak in. In addition, they created contours and basins to retain rainwater. Plants will be able to tap into that water during the dry months. The garden also captures the ‘first-flush’ or the first – and dirtiest – part of a rain storm, keeping it from running to the ocean.
The other principle – Conservation – was applied with the planting of the landscape. The plants included in the demonstration garden were selected based upon their climate-appropriateness and attractiveness. One of the goals of the scouts was to develop a garden that was both attractive and water-conserving. The plants selected are either California natives or are from areas with similar, Mediterranean climates. All the plants were provided by Nopalito Native Plant Nursery in Ventura and Flora Gardens Nursery in Ojai. The plants and planting locations were soaked with water prior to planting. They were placed in wire baskets which protect the roots from voracious gophers and firmly packed in with soil and deeply watered. The plants were spaced to allow for growth without requiring regular pruning, thus providing a relatively maintenance free garden. The garden is watered using a subsurface drip irrigation system controlled with a simple hose timer. The drip system and timer were provided by AquaFlo Supply in Ojai.
After the landscape was planted, the scouts spread wood chip mulch donated by Ojai Valley Organics and Crane Tree Service over all the surfaces of the garden. The mulch was watered down to knit it together and to provide a moisture barrier for the soil.
As an added bonus the scouts were able to incorporate a natural birdbath in the garden. The birdbath was carved out of a large rock in the garden area. Water was brought to it from the drip irrigation system so the birdbath will be automatically refilled whenever the system runs. 5 minutes after the birdbath had been carved out of the rock and filled with water a black phoebe came to test it. Apparently it passed with flying colors.
“Taking a simple rock garden and turning it into a colorful, Ocean Friendly Garden which will beautify the District office and show how you can conserve water and still have an attractive garden has been a challenge. But I’m really glad we took on the project, we’ve learned a lot from doing all this research and work.” Andrew Rapp, Boy Scout Project Leader. “It looks amazing.”
Report and photo by Logan Hall
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department has released statistics regarding part one crime in Ojai. Information from the VCSD shows that, while reported part one crime in Ventura County has gone down by 11 percent, the same statistic has risen by 7 percent in the city of Ojai. Part one crimes include burglary, theft and arson as well as violent crimes like homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
The percentages may have gone up, but department officials say that crime statistics for the city can be misleading if taken out of context. “Ojai has about 8,000 residents that are surrounded by unincorporated areas of about 25,000,” said Ojai’s Chief of Police Chris Dunn. “The unincorporated area is almost three times the population of the city, and yet the city is still the hub of activity for the valley. Our raw (crime) numbers are much lower. We have an extremely low part one crime rate in Ojai.”
As in 2010, no homicides were reported in Ojai in 2011. Numbers of some violent crimes, however, have risen over the last year. Sheriff’s statistics show that two rapes were reported in 2011 — up from zero in the previous year, while 17 aggravated assaults were reported in 2011 — down from 18 in 2010. Of the assaults reported last year, firearms were used in six — up from one in 2010, knives were used in one — down from four in 2010, and hands, fists and or feet were used in five of the assaults —- down from seven in 2010. Assaults categorized as “other” accounted for five of those reported, which was down from six in 2010. One robbery was reported in 2010, while six were reported in 2011.
Petty theft accounted for 52 percent of all part one crime reported in 2011. In total, 102 petty thefts were reported in 2011 — up from 95 in the previous year. Residential burglaries were up slightly with 15 reported last year while there were 14 in 2010. Grand theft also rose slightly as 34 were reported in 2011 —- up from 33 in 2010. Reported auto thefts declined from four in 2010 to three in 2011.
“If you look at the raw numbers,” said Dunn. “Ojai is very low in reported crime. It’s a very safe place to live.”
Sheriff’s officers say that while they do their best to keep criminals off the streets of Ojai, the public needs to do its part to ensure the valley remains a safe place. “Part of our overall crime prevention is to make sure the community is involved,” said the Ojai Police Department’s Sgt. Randy Watkins. “We get feedback from the Community Watch program and if we put out basic information about what we’re looking for, we can have a lot more eyes on the ground. We get some great leads from the public and solve a lot of cases in the valley with the community’s help.”
Dunn echoed Watkins’ emphasis on community involvement with law enforcement. “We can’t be everywhere at the same time,” said Dunn. “We need the public to keep calling us about suspicious subjects so we can keep coming out when we’re needed. We’re a 24/7 business. You can always call us.”
The department also reaches out to the public through programs like its upcoming Citizen Academy. The academy consists of 10 sessions that can give the public a chance to take an in-depth view into the department. Those who participate receive tours of some of the department’s facilities, including the aviation unit at the Camarillo Airport and the county’s main jail complex. Various speakers from the department’s units including the narcotics division, bomb squad and S.W.A.T. team provide information and demonstrations on law enforcement methods and equipment.
“The Citizen Academy gives people from the community a chance to be involved in the department,” said Watkins. “They can then be more educated about it when they talk to their friends or family about it.”
Watkins explained that some participants go further than the academy. “Some of them have a passion for it and they usually become volunteers,” he said. “They help the police with another set of eyes and ears. That frees up our officers to conduct investigations.”
The Sheriff’s Department Citizen Academy begins next week. Sessions will be held Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. Department officials involved with the program said that there are still openings for those wanting to participate, and there is no charge. Contact the Ojai Police Department at 646-1414 for more information.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
People in Ojai are not shy about sharing their opinions. As a newspaper publisher, this is a dream come true. It makes for lively debate on the editorial pages as well as our online blog. Along that line, few issues have generated as much reader response as the proposed ban on plastic bags now under consideration by the City Council.
Earlier this week, I printed out 12 pages of blog comments devoted to the proposed ban. Those on both sides are passionate. Some voiced environmental concerns about the bags. Others resented being told what to do, and threatened to take their grocery business to stores outside of Ojai.
There are relevant points on both sides. Plastic bags are handy for lining my trash can and taking to the farmers’ markets, but they are also a giant pain. Like coat hangers, they seem to multiply on their own. One day you have three bags, a week later you have 57, and suddenly they are taking over your pantry.
Plastic bags are not good for the environment. But as several people pointed out, they are probably not as bad as the heavier grade plastic bag many of us would use in their place to line our trash cans. Another consideration is that Ojai is a tourist destination. Since most people do not carry their reusable canvas bags with them on vacation, what are they going to put their groceries in when they come in for supplies? Do we really want our local stores to charge folks 10 cents a bag for paper bags? Is that the message we want to send to our visitors?
There is also an enforcement issue with the ban. For instance, are we going to have plastic bag police scouring stores to catch offenders? Are we going to station undercover cops at the Farmers’ Market to “rough and cuff” those scofflaws who dare to put their blueberries in a plastic bag?
As with many environmental issues there seems to be no easy answer, no magic bullet that solves all our problems. I prefer the canvas bags for shopping. They are heavier, and hold more items. I would much rather carry three or four heavier bags than have to deal with 10 flimsy plastic ones. There is nothing to throw away, and they are useful for carrying things other than groceries — like when I take 10 or 12 novels back down to Bart’s Books to exchange for new ones. One problem I have is remembering to carry them with me to the store. I probably have 10 reusable bags, but they seem to herd themselves into the pantry, not into the van where I really need them.
As evidenced on the blog, people don’t like the word “ban,” and many have a negative reaction to it. We already have a myriad of rules and regulations governing our actions. People simply resent being told what to do and what not to do. I contacted a very environmentally conscious friend who was a source for this column. I asked him about the ban. He felt it was a little extreme. I thought he put it beautifully when he said, “This angers people for marginal (environmental) gains.”
So here is a thought — how about instead of a ban, we simply encourage the use of reusable bags? The city could issue a statement, stating that they support their use, and local stores could post signs encouraging shoppers to do the same. It might make a nice project for one of the art classes to have kids design clever and colorful signs to post inside and outside local stores advocating the bags, and reminding people to use them. A lot of this is habit. If you get into the habit of putting the bags back in your car after you empty them, then they are always accessible the next time you make a trip to the store.
Ojai is the most environmentally aware place in which I have ever lived. I really believe people would make the effort to shop with reusable bags if encouraged, rather than brow-beaten, to do so. Why not try it?
If it doesn’t work, the council can always vote to ban the bags later on.
There seems to be much confusion regarding Ojai Valley Community Hospital’s home-generated sharps collection policy. A recent thumbs-down submitted anonymously to the Ojai Valley News stated, in part, “When you make people suffer the indignity and humiliation of waiting 30 minutes and tell them that they have to make an appointment, you’ve turned a simple routine process for the public into an inconvenience that makes throwing needles into a dumpster seem like a better alternative.”
The chief administrative officer of the hospital, Haady Lashkari, said in a phone interview that any changes to the policy have been made for infection control purposes, to bring the facility into compliance with Ventura County health regulations. He emphasized that the service is provided to the community at no cost, at the expense of the hospital.
“We prefer an appointment for record-keeping purposes … I’ve been here a year with no complaints,” said Lashkari. “There are other things happening here at the hospital that are much more news-worthy.”
According to the Ventura County Environmental Health Division’s website, “‘Home-generated sharps waste’ is defined as hypodermic needles, pen needles, intravenous needles, lancets and other devices that are used to penetrate the skin for the delivery of medications derived from a household, including a multifamily residence or household.” Since Sept. 1, 2008, California law has specifically prohibited discarding this type of waste in regular trash containers, like those used at residences regularly serviced by trash collection companies such as E.J. Harrison. The Ventura County Environmental Health Division produced an informational flier titled “Don’t get stuck with used ‘sharps’!” which listed guidelines and various locations available in Ventura County for proper disposal. A call to the Oak View Centers for Family Health, one of the locations included on the flier, confirmed no appointment is required at their location, which is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. According to this document, Ojai Valley Community Hospital is the only location listed that specifies, “Appointment required, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. only.”
“We still have walk-ins, that’ll never change,” said Robert Roddick, director of support services at OVCH. He clarified that county regulations have changed, requiring each employee handling the waste to be certified, and stringent records to be kept each time the waste is collected, including the patient’s name and address. Roddick said every year the county reviews the paperwork involved, and the staff at OVCH wanted to “step it up,” and have better control over the paperwork, and demonstrate the efficacy of the program.
“We haven’t changed the policy, we’ve actually enhanced it back in October to better protect staff and the public,” said Roddick. “This service is free, the hospital pays for it. A lot of places are getting away from doing it.” He confirmed that while in prior years the hospital accepted sharps waste at the admitting station in the front of the building, the staff now recommends people come “around back,” by the Emergency Room entrance.
Roddick emphasized that his facility is not able to take other medical waste, including vials and chemotherapy waste, though other locations, such as the Sheriff’s Department, may be able to. However, the Ojai Police Station said that because this type of material is considered bio-waste, they cannot accept it. Those seeking such disposal services can find approved drop-off (or mail-in) programs at www.ventura.org/rma/envhealth.
“The No. 1 concern is we want to keep everything from the landfills, and also workers from the sanitation district … You wouldn’t believe some of the containers we’ve seen. One soda bottle looked like a porcupine!” Roddick said. He defended any modifications to the OVCH program policy, saying, “Before, a lot of the time paperwork was incomplete. We took control and we’ve seen an increase (in the use of the program), whether that’s due to better documentation, or people being more aware. We just wanted to create a better, safe receiving process.”
Ventura County’s Medical Waste Compliance Guidebook stipulates just three requirements for the home-generated sharps waste consolidation points: that all sharps waste be properly contained, that sharps containers ready for disposal not be held for more than seven days without the written approval of the EHD, and that the sharps waste be treated at a permitted medical waste treatment facility.
Martha Ramirez, a medical waste and body art program specialist with the Ventura County Environmental Health Division, has done inspections of OVCH in the past. She was adamant that the county does not require any patient information from collection locations for the home-generated sharps waste program.
“We provide the home sharps waste containers to the hospitals, it’s up to them how they run their program,” said Ramirez. “When we do our inspections, we look at all the items the hospital generates itself .… The home sharps waste collection program, because of the Medical Waste Management Act, is exempt from regulation. We don’t regulate home-generated sharp waste.” When asked point-blank if incomplete paperwork by the hospital would result in any action taken by the county, she said, “We don’t look at that. That’s not something we require.”
By Chris T. Wilson
He struggled in grade school, cheated and fudged his way through high school, but attention deficit disorder and dyslexia didn’t stop Ojai’s Larry Chambers from conquering a mountain of goals and heroic achievements.
But while the high school English teacher —- who nearly flunked him out of school — found brief infamy for writing one of the worst novels ever, Chambers has hunt-and-peck typed more than 50 published books and hundreds of magazine articles.
And now more recently, burnt out on the advice articles and how-to books that he’s been churning out for the financial services industry, Chambers has picked up his secret childhood love of art again and begun to paint.
“I painted as a kid, but I hid it,” Chambers said. “Boys weren’t supposed to paint, they were supposed to play football.”
He did play football and basketball, and he boxed, but then after graduating from high school in the mid-1960s, he volunteered for the draft and shipped off to South Vietnam.
Enlisted for six years, he completed two tours in Vietnam in the F-58th Infantry LRP and the originating L Co. 75th Rangers 101st Airborne (“Merrill’s Marauders”) company organized as the parent unit for the separate long-range reconnaissance patrol companies 1968 and ’69.
While in Vietnam, jumping from helicopters and sneaking behind enemy lines and back again, he snapped pictures of his buddies, the helicopters and the dense jungle scenery.
Also in Vietnam, Chambers found that the “problems” that held him back in school gave him an uncanny edge as a soldier.
“Distractibility, risk taking and impulsiveness were liabilities in school, (but) became survival traits in combat,” he noted. “I would notice things others overlooked, a blade of grass bent in the wrong direction or VC snot dripping from a tree leaf. Without being able to explain why, I’d know when things were about to happen.”
From the black-and-white photos Chambers took, he has spent the past five years creating a series of paintings that he calls Nam-Art. The paintings are his way of offering a soldier’s perspective that honors Vietnam veterans and their families.
“I thought it would be fun to paint one photo of my Rangers team,” Chambers said. “Once I got started then I got obsessed and started painting more and more of my old photos. They felt so completely different than most of the news photos that were published during the war. I thought, ‘Here’s a story that hasn’t been told.’”
In late 2011, Chambers was awarded a first-place prize for his art by the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Fayetteville, Ark. His paintings have been picked up by military museums and printed on the cover of American Legion Auxiliary Magazine. And many of the works he’s had reproduced into limited edition prints for purchase at www.nam-art.com.
Interestingly, much of Chambers’ creativity and the most interesting stories he tells come from shame. And by examining the concept of shame and how it plays a counterproductive role in most cases in peoples’ lives, Chambers has developed a theory and concept that transforms shame into success.
“When I stand up and speak, I’m exposing all the shame from all these years,” he said. “It’s all that self-judging, lack of self-worth and being a phony. Shining a light on it is where all these great stories come from.”
This is the subject of his forthcoming book, “Sixth Sensers and the Guardians of Meaning.” Chambers will be discussing this topic on Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. at the World University of Ojai, as part of the Monday Night Arts and Lecture Series. His lecture is called “Shame: The One Thing Everyone Has in Common.”
Report and photo by Logan Hall
If you know anything about the world of skateboarding, you’ve probably heard the name Rodney Mullen. The professional skater has been continuously reinventing the sport since the 1980s. He was barely a teenager when he exploded into the world of skating. He’s starred in countless skate videos and games, like the successful Tony Hawk series of video games that has sold millions of copies worldwide. Now living in Ojai with his wife Traci, the legendary skater is celebrating the success of a new film that documents the beginning of the modern era of skating.
The film, called “Bones Brigade: An Autobiography,” features Mullen and five other legends of skateboarding as, at a young age, they embarked on a journey into professional skating. Big names like Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain and Tony Hawk join Mullen in telling the story of how they have lived their lives doing what they love most.
“This is the story of us getting together,” said Mullen as he stood in his backyard overlooking the Ojai Valley. “That’s when skateboarding was much more of a blank canvas. None of the stuff we do now had been invented yet. We helped lay a lot of ground for street skating today.”
After being accepted into the Sundance Film Festival and receiving rave reviews, the documentary premiered in Santa Barbara last week where Mullen and most of the cast met with fans and answered questions after the showing. “We all had such a great time doing this,” he said. “People are really into it.”
Reviews following the debut at Sundance seemed to confirm that the people are embracing the film. “Deep, rich and resonant, Bones Brigade will provide fans with an enticing portal to revisit skateboarding’s glory days and introduce the era to a whole new generation of enthusiasts,” read one review from The Hollywood Reporter.
The film tells the story of the six original members of the “Bones Brigade,” and how they helped redefine the sport in the ’80s. The documentary was put together by Stacy Peralta, who wrote the blockbuster movie, “The Lords Of Dogtown,” and “Riding Giants” Peralta was also responsible for bringing the young, unknown skaters together to form the original Bones Brigade team, which is what the new documentary is all about.
“It’s a coming of age film,” said Peralta in a phone interview. “It’s the life story of six skateboarders that were determined to find their voice at a young age.”
Peralta says that Mullen, along with playing a major role in the film, has also been instrumental in shaping modern skateboarding. “Rodney basically invented modern street style skating singlehandedly,” he said. “The tricks he invented in 80′s would then go on to be the starting vocabulary for modern skateboarding.”
Peralta further describes Mullen’s style. “When you see the film,” he continued, “you’ll discover that he’s not only the most articulate skateboarder, he’s also one of the most articulate athletes. He expresses himself so beautifully and perfectly. He really just takes people apart when they watch the film.”
Bones Brigade tells Rodney’s story and gives people a glimpse into the lives of some of the world’s best athletes as they went from young, unknown kids to superstars. Now, after almost 30 years, the team is still influencing the sport.
“Stacy had a certain resolve to make something that lasted,” said Mullen on Peralta’s formation of the Bones Brigade. “I was 13 or 14 when he found us and Tony was the same age. We were completely unknown. In the end, 30 years later, most of us are heavily involved in skating on some big level. That’s powerful.”
Mullen, while enjoying the success of the new film, is intensely focused on his passion. At night he heads out to Los Angeles to work on skating in the empty streets of the city. “I skate every single night until the sun comes up,” he said. As he put it in one interview, “It’s like a big playground out there.”
Although a pioneer of many of the popular modern skateboarding tricks, Mullen is constantly trying to evolve and reach for the next level, which is why he dedicates so much time to the sport. “If you do something enough,” he said, “your body adapts to it … The board really becomes an extension of the body.”
Mullen’s film has yet to be released to the public, but those looking for updates can log on to skateone.com. “We are considering offers on distribution of the film,” said Michael Furukawa, promotions director with Skate One. “We have no date for its release at this time.”
For Mullen, the love of skating and the crew that he grew up with come before any glitz and glamour that usually follow the success of professionals operating on his level.
“We lived skating,” said Mullen. “Some guys used to call us Boy Scouts ’cause we weren’t into partying. We got our high from skating. We didn’t need anything else.”
By Misty Volaski
The Ojai Valley has its fare share of centenarians. The newest one to join the club is longtime valley resident Jerry Barut, who turned 100 on New Year’s Day. He celebrated the milestone at the Oak View Community Center, surrounded by dozens of friends and five generations of family.
Not only does Barut still live by himself, he does it with a style all his own. He loves to cook, especially traditional Philippine dishes like curried chicken and adobo, which he made for his birthday guests. His daughter Jeri Hooten says he’s cooked the family’s Thanksgiving turkey for decades. Barut is also partial to Starbucks coffee, Ojai Pizza, gardening and raising roosters, Hooten added. And now that he has a TV — something he resisted for decades, but only consented to get after his family bought him one last month — he’s found a new love in “American Idol.”
In response to the “What’s your secret?” question often posed to those of advanced age, “He always says, ‘You got to keep doing something!’” said his daughter, mimicking his slight accent. She also credits his long life to his strict exercise regimen and a strong memory, which he keeps active by reading the newspaper, “From front to back every single day,” and chatting with family and the Starbucks staff. Her dad also likes to joke that being a bachelor keeps him spry. “He’ll say, ‘I don’t want nobody to tell me what to do!’” Hooten laughed.
When Barut, a World War II veteran and chef, bought his house in Oak View in 1956, there were only eight homes in his neighborhood. Everyone in town knew him by his burgundy 1960 Corvette, in which he transported fish to his old Santa Barbara restaurant, House of Fish and Chips, Hooten remembers. He was also chef at Blair’s, Taylor’s, Mira Mar, and John’s at the Beach, among other places.
Of his birthday celebration, Barut told everyone, “This is the happiest day of my life!” Along with the TV his family purchased for him, he also received a letter from the president and the American flag which was flown at the White House on his birthday.
By Tiobe Barron
The Ojai City Council will confer with Ojai’s Historic Preservation Commission in a special meeting Feb. 14 at 6:30 p.m. to provide the opportunity for the public, the council and the commission to discuss the Historic Resources Survey, completed for the city of Ojai by the San Buenaventura Research Association.
“There recently was a survey done of the historic buildings and homes in the city of Ojai,” said Mayor Betsy Clapp in a recent phone interview, “This is a chance for the commission and council to come together, to see how these surveys were used in other cities, to discuss the whole process.”
Ann McLaughlin, the interim community development director, said that no action will be taken at the meeting; it is merely a workshop to discuss the survey, examine the background information, look at what the next steps might be, and give the public the chance to speak on the matter. McLaughlin said other cities have used these types of surveys for planning, as a reference tool, but can also choose to adopt them as-is.
The survey in question is what is typically referred to as a “windshield survey.” According to the text of the survey itself, a windshield survey is when “Large areas of a community are investigated at a low level of detail in order to locate historic buildings and their distribution, architectural styles, and period of construction.” It is the first part of a three-step plan of completing a comprehensive inventory of historic resources within the city, the next being the completed Historic Context Statement, and lastly a future intensive-level survey of historic properties in Ojai. The data for the completed survey was gathered between March 2008 and January 2009, and the criteria included visual quality, integrity, and date of construction. To be considered a historic property by the survey, a building must be 45 years old or older. Depending on how stringent the city wants to be with criteria, the data collected varies wildly on how many properties would potentially be affected. There is a range in the data sets of how much a building has been altered, which time periods are to be included or most valued, how much a building is visually significant, etc.
It is the recommendation of the consulting firm, via the survey, that the city conduct an intensive-level survey “completed in phases as funding permits.” In the proposed first year first phase, around 100 properties would be examined, selected as those properties from this completed windshield survey that fall into the 1872 to 1897 as well as those with the highest levels of visual significance and integrity. Or, using the geographic data from the completed survey, the next, more intensive survey could be based on the area with the highest concentration of potential historic properties. The next survey could also be theme-based, highlighting a particular architect, for example, based on the findings of the Historical Context Statement.
Ojai resident Craig Beam, an environmental lawyer and former city attorney, has reservations concerning the survey.
“There are serious unanswered questions about it,” said Beam. If the council decided to adopt the recommendations of the consultant, that may change the building code, what time an environmental review would require, and may create the presumption that historic properties have resource value. The particular attributes a property should have as defined by law in order to be considered “historic” are not delineated; rather, they are broad-based criteria as set out by a private firm.
“There are an awful lot of aspects that are never mentioned or discussed,” Beam continued. “We don’t know how long the (intensive-level) survey will take, who is going to pay for it, what the cost to the applicants will be, or how many properties will be affected. There are policy issues as to where this affects property value, and that’s a real problem as it has the potential to price younger families out of the market, which creates an aging demographic. It creates uncertainty, because no one can tell what the requirements may be at this point.”
The completed survey and historic statement are posted on the city’s website, .ci.ojai.ca.us.
By Logan Hall
Locals strolling through the park behind Libbey Bowl might have noticed a change in the area’s scenery. In an effort to restore Libbey’s native ecosystem, Concerned Resources and Environmental Workers is trying to rid areas in Libbey Park of invasive species of plants as they undertake the Libbey Park West Barranca Restoration Project.
According to C.R.E.W. officials, non-native plants — most notably the Himalayan Blackberry — have been slowly choking native species in the area behind the bowl near the old Ojai Jail. The dark green blackberry bush has blanketed the area in question for decades.
“The primary reason why Himalayan Blackberry is a problem is that it’s in an area where it has no competing plants,” said Brian Holly, the project’s ecologist. “It’s also very aggressive. It takes over the entire area.”
Holly explained that when an invasive plant takes over an area like Libbey’s barranca, the effects on the local ecosystem can be devastating. “When u have a lack of diversity in plant life, you have a lack of habitat,” continued Holly. “That lack of habitat takes away from a multitude of species that would be in the area.”
After clearing a large portion of blackberry from the barranca the last two Saturdays, Holly and the C.R.E.W. began finding that the area near the old jail is part of the local watershed, and that most of the water had been sucked up by the invading blackberry. “We actually found a creek under all that stuff,” said Wally McCall, the C.R.E.W.’s CEO.
When cleared out, Holly believes the area could be a breeding ground for species like the endangered red-legged tree frog. “There are pools of water under that blackberry that have been under shrubs for last 20 years,” he said. “By opening up that pooled area, the red legged frog can use the pools as a breeding area.”
Once the blackberry is cleared, one of the negative impacts of the bush, in the form of dead or dying oak trees, becomes much more visible. “We found two dead oaks that had fallen and were buried by the blackberry,” said McCall while pointing to a large log in the middle of the clearing. “There are two more that are dying that are still standing. All of them have been choked out by the blackberry.”
Although the area may be unsightly during the early stages of the project, both the City of Ojai and the C.R.E.W. assure that the plan address the aesthetic quality of the area as well. Plans include the planting of various native species including, willow, oak and sycamore trees, as well as plants like deer grass and mugwort.
“The clearing is just the first phase,” said Ojai city manager Rob Clark. “In the spring they’ll plant native plants down there. What people are seeing right now is a project that is only half finished.”
McCall stated that the project would hopefully be completed by springtime next year, but that efforts to replant certain areas will begin much sooner. “It’s an enormous job,” he said, “but we’re going to start planting one section as soon as possible. We should have something in there by the time all of the festivals come to the park.”
Funding for the project was provided by government agencies and local organizations as well as the C.R.E.W. According to McCall, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation provided a $40,000 grant, $3,500 came from Patagonia and Bank of America donated $1,000. McCall says the Ojai V alley Green Coalition will donate 160 hours of volunteer labor for the project in coming months.
While the funding is taken care of by various organizations, C.R.E.W. workers are doing most of the hard labor. Saturday morning’s effort had 16 workers of varying backgrounds and ages cutting and hauling several tons of blackberry from the barranca. Eight students from Nordhoff, and Beasant Hill High Schools were among those swinging sharp-edged metal, McLeod Fire Tools and wielding chainsaws as they cleared the invasive bush. McCall says that wages for the laborers range between $9 and $17 with the more experienced workers earning the higher pay.
“I love working here,” said Beasant Hill sophomore Gavin Ames between swings of his fire tool. “It’s good money, but once you start working, you kinda forget about the money. It’s just great to be out here.”
The next step for Ames and his fellow workers will be to deal with the extensive root system that the blackberry’s left behind. McCall says that removing the roots will take a considerable amount of effort. “The root system is unbelievable,” he said. “They’re everywhere. We’ll have to dig ‘em out or lay down sheet mulching to cover them. Either way, that has to be done before we can begin replanting.”
By Tiobe Barron
Ojai resident Akiva Werbalowsky has placed himself in the running as a candidate for the U.S. Representative for the new 26th California district, formerly the 24th district, an area based in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties and represented for 25 years by Elton Gallegly, who will be retiring when his current term ends. Werbalowsky is choosing to run as a Republican candidate, opposite the party-endorsed Tony Strickland, of Moorpark, and Linda Parks, of Thousand Oaks.
Werbalowsky said in a recent interview that he attended the Obama inauguration, and returned “So inspired, I’m running as the most conservative Republican in the race”
Werbalowsky originally hails from upstate New York, near the Hudson River Valley. After earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, he followed his brothers to Los Angeles. “I couldn’t handle L.A..,” he said. He relocated to Santa Barbara, and when clients such as The Thacher School and a compost company called Harmonious Technologies brought him to Ojai, he stayed.
“There is an absolute quality of life and community awareness,” said Werbalowsky of Ojai, “It’s a blend that suits me well.”
Werbalowsky said he has worked as a director at Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello and as the regional director for three counties with Princeton Review. He went to grad school at the University of California Santa Barbara, helped create and manage ecological agriculture programs at California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo, taught permaculture for three years in Israel, taught for Apple, and is currently writing and using his revenue from Apple to develop programs in bioregional food security.
“Anything to do with a more nuanced relationship with the natural world has appeal to me,” said Werbalowsky. “I like to feel the dew on my feet when I’m out in the morning with my headlamp, looking at my plants … I believe the appreciation I have for the place I live is best embodied by public service … Since I don’t see the leadership I want to see, I’m called to be that leadership.”
He describes himself as an “Earth-conservative Jeffersonian Republican,” acknowledging that Alexander Hamilton advocated some necessary concepts, but preferring Jefferson’s simultaneous focus on liberty and tribute to ideas such as the commons, as well as Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy.
“I don’t believe we’re fully appreciative of what the Constitution is as a resource,” Werbalowsky said, “Even though I recognize the benefits of things like central banks and global relation advocated by Hamilton, Jefferson presented the more enduring model of democracy. The U.S. government is about protecting liberty, not giving charity, though it should enable the heart-full abundance of private citizens to be charitable … When red tape gets in the way of good will, adjustment needs to be made.”
Central to Werbalowsky’s platform is a focus on protecting local resources, and using that focus to create jobs, which creates a positive feedback system. He points out that one cannot easily put a price tag on the commons, those areas and resources utilized by everyone in a community. He cites the recent efforts to restore Surfers’ Point in Ventura: Even though the project is occurring in the middle of a recession, it creates healthier waterways in the area, which should improve fishing, tourism, and real estate.
“Ecological health is my core issue, because it’s a reliable indicator of our shared endeavors and of the quality of our livelihood as a community,” said Werbalowsky. “Any jobs that are degrading our environment, I don’t see the upside, other than short-term profit. This is my home ecosystem. Any policy that will result in the degradation of water quality, air quality, etc., I’m not ready to support. I’m not amenable to accept that.”
Part and parcel with this, Werbalowsky believes, is the traditional Republican concept of scaling down government. He suggests that the sheer volume of legislation and government programs have become unwieldy, and a better option might be to focus on those programs and actions that show success, while eliminating those that do not, for the sake of efficiency and voter trust.
“We need to identify those things that are done best, build on that, and minimize any stories of obscene waste. How can government of any kind inspire confidence when billions of dollars are unaccounted for? The scale is more than we can effectively manage, it’s just pragmatic,” Werbalowsky summarized. “I’m getting the impression that people are getting uninspired and backing off from being involved. I don’t like unlimited, untracked corporate bailouts. Somebody’s got to say, ‘We can do better than this. We’re America.’” He added that the government shouldn’t mandate social values, other than what is clearly delineated in the Constitution and its amendments, and voiced his distaste for Citizens United, calling it a “shammed gaming of the system.” He bristled at being dubbed a supporter of Ron Paul for president, clarifying that he simply noticed Paul publicly referencing the Constitution the most out of the presidential candidates, and it is that aspect which he admired.
The bottom line for Werbalowsky? “I just want to be part of a story where good representation is happening,” he said. “I want to be a living voice for our bioregion. If (Supervisor Steve) Bennett or Strickland can do that better than me, I’ll support them … I’m changing the language of the debate. What I’m participating in is an exposition of merit, and I thank the other candidates for bettering it in their own ways … I wouldn’t be replacing Gallegly. He’s retiring. I’m coming in to this with a fresh, new perspective of someone who is not already beholden. I will speak the truth of one registered voter, attracting the support of other registered voters. Other politicians are focusing on dollars, not what those dollars represent, and we’re going to debate on that. It comes down to policy preferences, and what I’m promising is to show up and be real.”
He encourages everyone to register to vote, and educate themselves on their district, especially since California changed the official districts last November.
“People need to be aware, or they could be disenfranchised,” he concluded.
By Chris T. Wilson
The vast majority of the Matilija Dam still stands, shouldering its payload of water and silt. But a recent gathering of officials, concerned with the prospect of tearing down the defunct structure, are shedding new light on what is to be the next best step.
The team of officials — dubbed the Technical Advisory Committee — met Jan. 12 and 13 and included officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Fisheries, Department of Fish and Game, Army Corps of Engineers, National Fish and Wildlife Service, University of California at Santa Barbara, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Stoeker Ecological, Matilija Coalition and Casitas Municipal Water District.
CMWD general manager Steve Wickstrum said he thinks bringing in a few fresh faces to look at the issue will be beneficial in determining the best way to deal with the dam removal process. Wickstrum emphasized that maintaining water quality and supply in Lake Casitas is the most important concern for the Water District.
“We have to look at the material as it moves downstream and we’re concerned with water supply,” Wickstrum said. “If the nutrient loads and dissolved oxygen result in an algae bloom it could result in very expensive treatment, so we need to avoid those scenarios.”
The question of where to put the roughly 2 million cubic yards of fine sediment trapped behind the dam continues to be the concern at issue for the agencies involved in studying the removal process.
The goal of this most recent meeting was to look at the specific recommendations and major gaps in data from the Fine Sediments Study Group’s Final Report, which was issued in August 2011. From that the group could make recommendations for additions. Further, the group was asked to identify and prioritize future studies that address these recommendations and find a cost-effective scope of work and a budget for each study.
Both Wickstrum and Matilija Coalition’s Paul Jenkin say no hard dates are set for future meetings, but they anticipate that within the next few months a scope of work will be determined and a call for bids will go out to bring in a consultant group to determine the best process for silt removal and tearing down the defunct dam.
Jenkin maintains that periodic notching of the dam may be the best way of bringing the dam down. He said in 1965 the dam was notched 35 feet, which brought the original 200-foot dam down to 165 feet. With incremental notching, he stipulates, Mother Nature can possibly deal with the silt problem, thus removing the need for expensive slurrying or dredging procedures.
“We’re looking at ways to reduce costs and make this thing feasible from a cost perspective,” Jenkin said.
Recent dam removals in the perpetually rainy Pacific Northwest offered perspective and room for more debate about the best ways to deal with silt. Jenkin thinks notching the dam once per year down to the silt line could be a good way to move forward.
“All of the dams removed in the northwest have used natural transport to move sediment out,” Jenkin said. “But obviously it rains all the time in the northwest and here we sit around and wait for the rain. So that makes things very different.”
Since the mid-January meeting, the members of the TAC have continued to communicate. Jenkin and Wickstrum both said they anticipate that a consultant will be brought in within the next few months. That consultant will be funded by the California Coastal Conservancy, and should result in a final recommendation of the next steps in the dam removal process.
For more information on the Matilija Dam removal process, visit www.venturariver.org.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I read the other day that you officially become an old fogey when you turn 50. I can attest to the fact that I have indeed achieved fogeyness. While I have sensed this for some time, it was made painfully evident to me as I watched the Screen Actors Guild Awards. I didn’t recognize a lot of the people who were nominated and won; and many of the actors I did know seemed to have aged so much that I almost didn’t recognize them. The notable exceptions to this were an ageless Dick Van Dyke and Linda Gray, who looked fabulous — like she just stepped off the set of “Dallas.”
When you are younger, you are a lot more involved in pop culture. For one thing, it is aimed at your demographic. I doubt there are many network producers involved in intense planning meetings about upcoming shows who are screaming, “Hey, what we really need is a show tailored to all the 57-year-old guys out there!”
Like most of my fellow baby boomers, we are spoiled. For years and years we owned pop culture —- or at least we thought we did. Television shows, movies and music revolved around us and our tastes. Other generations’ tastes didn’t seem to even exist, much less matter. And while some of us may be caught in a time warp, here is a sobering fact —- the 50th anniversary of Woodstock is just seven short years away. I think it’s safe to say, when it comes to popular culture, our time has come and gone.
For those who may be unsure whether or not they are a cultural old fogey, I have devised a short test below:
1. Sports —- which answer would best describe your feelings about the NBA:
a. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson couldn’t carry Kobe Bryant’s jock.
b. LeBron James will bring the championship to Miami this year.
c. I haven’t watched an NBA game since Michael Jordan retired.
2. Television — how would you describe the show “Two and a Half Men”:
a. It is a ground-breaking comedy, and the best show on TV.
b. I liked it better with Charlie Sheen.
c. Charlie Sheen? Isn’t that the guy who made a brief career out of lunatic rants on the “Today Show” and the internet? Was he on a TV show?
3. Movie Stars — what would you say about the work of Minka Kelly, Jessica Biel and Jessica Alba:
a. Jessica Biel is my favorite. In addition to acting, she is also a writer and producer, and seems to be the one to watch for the future.
b. I think Minka Kelly has a real future starring in romantic comedies.
c. I can’t tell them apart.
4. Music — how do you feel about rap music:
a. I enjoy rap, have a section of my iPod devoted to it.
b. While I am not a huge fan, I appreciate the music’s passion and underlying themes.
c. Rap music is nothing but noise, and the only thing I can tell you about it is what I read in police reports.
If you answered “C” to any of the questions above, I’m afraid that you, too, have achieved fogeydom. You have earned it, so just enjoy it.