Editor’s Note: Last week local resident Colin Jones joined more than 3,900 others in taking an oath to become an American citizen. The oath was administered by a district court judge at the Los Angeles Civic Center, Thursday, March 22. The Ojai Valley News asked Jones to write a story about his experience of coming to this country, and later becoming a naturalized citizen. What follows is his account of his quest for citizenship, which he calls “Colin Jones, A Citizen.”
Last Thursday, March 22, I, along with 3,958 others, took the “Oath of Allegiance” and became a citizen of this great country. It was a moving ceremony, but I was most touched by seeing the absolute joy on the faces of so many people — people so ready, so happy to become American citizens.
In this time of recession, a rising national debt, a divisive primary and what we all know will be a bitter presidential race, it was particularly heartening to see people who have a choice, choose regardless of the problems faced by America, to embrace and be embraced by this great nation.
I am blessed to live in a town like Ojai which embodies the best of the American spirit in that both are so accepting of new citizens from wherever they hail. Arriving in the U. S. in the mid-’70s from the depressed one-time coal mining and steel making valleys of Wales, I had worked in a steel mill for 10 years and grown up on stories of World War II and the GIs, who to many in wartime Britain, seemed larger than life. With a TV diet of “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide,” and Hollywood’s version of America in movies, I was hooked. Now it was 1974 and I had come to see it for myself!
Flying into New York and taking a Greyhound bus to Chicago, where I answered an ad to deliver a car to Alhambra, Calif., and driving from one side of the country to the other was an adventure, but that’s another story. On reaching Southern California I was immediately taken by the weather, the people, the laid-back feel, yet at the same time things seemed to move faster, things got done in a hurry. I felt freer than I had ever been. Growing up in post-World War II Britain, the class system, though dying, still held sway over the working man, leaving them feeling disempowered, unable to achieve in a system rigged against them and feeling resentful of the people who had status by birthright only. An example would be if you saw someone driving a particularly nice car, the reaction in Britain would be, “Why should he have that car and how do we rid him of it?” Whereas in America, people would be more likely to say, “That’s a nice car — how can I get one?”
When 1982 rolled around I had been married for four years, had a 2-year-old daughter, Lauren, was a green card holder and was starting my own business. In the 30 years since, I have experienced little negativity from employees, customers or competitors regarding my coming from another country. It seems that to accept people is second nature here.
My marriage did not last, but my business did. In 1989 I married my wife, Cindy. Our son, Connor, was born in 1991 and we made the move Ojai in 1999. I am very proud of my Welsh heritage and did not apply for citizenship until after my father passed away a couple of years ago because I felt that I would disappoint him if I changed my citizenship from that of my birth. I am close to my remaining family and the distance has not weakened our bond. My mother is 88 and still lives in Wales.
In all the time I have spent here, no one born in America has asked why I have not become a citizen earlier, but so many in the last few days have welcomed me and congratulated me on becoming a citizen — typical of the independent spirit embodied still in this country which allows people to achieve their personal ambition without interference. Interestingly, the only people who have asked me why I waited so long are other naturalized citizens. I have been asked several times if I feel different now; yes I do, and it like this: some of us from my generation made statements like, “Marriage is just a piece of paper, it makes no difference.” Well, most of us who woke up the day after our wedding know it does make a difference; it represents a personal commitment that you will be there through good times and bad times — that you have someone you can count on and who can count on you.
As I heard on “Saturday Night Live” in the ‘70s, “America has been very, very good to me.” She has, and I intend to do my best to be very, very good to her.
By Tiobe Barron
During time allotted for public comments at Tuesday night’s Ojai City Council meeting, resident Valerie Bullock threatened legal action against the council, claiming her household had “been abused” by city officials, as she compared Ojai’s city government to that of the city of Bell.
“Either you made a complaint against us, or you didn’t,” said Bullock as she claimed the city is in violation of the public records act. Bullock’s frustration stems from a supposedly unsuccessful attempt to receive confirmation from city officials that her property in now in compliance with city codes, as well as a copy of the original citation for being not in compliance. Bullock said she had initially contacted the city manager’s office for these documents on Feb. 2. Mayor Betsy Clapp countered that these were serious accusations to make of Ojai’s city government.
Ojai resident and business owner Vicki Cohen then took the podium Tuesday night to express concern for the effects of the ongoing installation of Southern California Edison’s Smart Meters.
“I have a commercial account and I’m not exempt from the Smart Meters, I can’t get on a delay list,” said Cohen. “I feel kind of trapped. If I don’t want to eat food that has been sprayed with pesticides, I can shop at the health food store. Which I do. I try to do everything I can to remain a healthy individual. But I feel like I have no options here, no choice here. Are we doing anything as a city? Have we gotten on the list of communities that want to ban the Smart Meters?”
Ojai resident Kevin Schmidt also voiced his concerns, urging council to pass an emergency moratorium on Smart Meters, saying, “Stop erring on the side of caution to benefit the CPUC.”
City manager Rob Clark responded that the city is “pre-empted from any action on Smart Meters,” and reiterated that Ojai City Council has written letters to the California Public Utilities Commission, as well as to Edison, requesting an option for the entire community of Ojai to be able to opt-out of Smart Meter installation.
Later in the meeting, council members approved an ordinance which lowers the number of features a business needs to have in order to be considered a “formula business,” from three to two. This change occurs after an outpouring of community dissent when a local franchise was claiming to not meet the criteria of a formula business according to the original municipal code.
Council also expressed support for SB 1364, a bill that aims to alter the way water utility companies seek water rater increases from the CPUC. Council supports the bill in how it pertains to the ongoing issues with Golden State Water Company. Councilwoman Carol Smith encouraged the public to also voice their support of the bill.
Council members then passed an agreement for Ventura County to perform police oversight services and functions for the city of Ojai for Police Department volunteers. According to the text of the agreement, Ojai is the only city that contracts with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department which does not already have said agreement. In part, it waives liability of the city of Ojai for the “negligent or wrongful acts or omissions of volunteers engaged in the performance of volunteer services for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.” To that end, Ojai resident Lucas Thayer spoke out and requested Ojai pass a resolution demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch member from Sanford, Fla., who allegedly shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
The meeting Tuesday night marked the end of service for Capt. Chris Dunn as Ojai’s chief of police. He will be replaced by Dave Kenney. “He’s been accessible and fair,” said Scott Eicher of the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce. “We wish him happy trails!”
Councilwoman Sue Horgan also sang Dunn’s praises, saying to Dunn Tuesday night, “We’ve been in great hands with you.”
The meeting also included a re-introduction of the ordinance banning the distribution of single-use plastic bags by Ojai retailers. The modified ordinance was passed on to a second reading, to be held April 10.
Ojai City Council meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St. Previous Ojai City Council meetings may be viewed online through a link on the OVN homepage.
By Logan Hall
The city of Ojai Public Works Department is hoping to increase safety in the city’s mid-block crosswalks while trying to keep costs down. The city has applied for an encroachment permit from Caltrans that would allow yellow safety signs to be placed in crosswalks along Ojai Avenue that are not regulated by stoplights.
“Mid-block pedestrian crossings are always dangerous,” said city engineer Greg Grant. “They just seem to blend in with everything. This is a way to highlight those crossings.”
Grant, along with Public Works supervisor Ruben Martinez, placed the signs in mock setups on Ojai Avenue on the crosswalk in front of the Arcade, and the two crossings on either side of Montgomery Street. Grant took photos that he said would help Caltrans make a decision on whether or not to give permits for the project. He indicated that the Ventura County Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department were both on board with the idea, but asked that the signs be placed in a manner that would allow the passage of emergency vehicles down the center median of the road.
The city has already placed a sign at the crosswalk on Matilija Street behind the Arcade, and is hoping to add several more to crossings in town. Grant said that each sign costs about $160 —- a substantial amount less than the cost of the electronic crossings in front of Nordhoff High School and the intersection of Ojai Avenue and Ventura Street in front of the Ojai Library. “It cost us about $5,000 to fix the one in front of the library,” said Grant. “Those are very expensive to maintain.”
The neon yellow signs, which read, “State Law, Yield to (Pedestrians) within Crosswalk,” would be bolted into the ground, but would remain flexible. The flexibility allows them to be hit by vehicles without falling over or sustaining serious damage.
Grant says the city is planning on placing the signs at several midblock crossings once given the green light by Caltrans.
By Tiobe Barron
Robert Mullane, AICP, was hired by the city of Ojai as the new community development director. Mullane replaced interim community development director Ann McLaughlin on March 12. It is the first time in nearly two years that Ojai has a full-time director of the community development department.
OVN: What does the role of the community development director entail?
Robert Mullane: The community development director is responsible for the whole community development department, the planning division, building and safety, and code enforcement tasks.
OVN: It seems like code enforcement is a pressing issue right now.
Mullane: I think that’s the case in any community. In part because when the economy gets tough, there’s more potential for people to take shortcuts, and it gets expensive to fix those. When times are good, it’s easier for average homeowner to comply … It’s inherently controversial, especially in this economic climate.
OVN: What challenges face you as community development director?
Mullane: The first challenge is getting intimately familiar with Ojai’s zoning code, the policies and practices that the city of Ojai uses. As the director of the department, I need to know that code inside and out. I want to make sure I have very firm grasp on all the particulars. And to continue to stay in good communication with Ojai City Council, the Planning Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission, to make sure their priorities are being met.
Another is that we have a pretty small staff in our department, and yet we have quite a lot of responsibilities. We are managing a large workload with reduced staff, but I’m very happy that the city has decided to put a (community development) director permanently in place because I really think the work we do is important.
OVN: Are there any specific goals you’d like to achieve in your capacity as director? For example, dealing with the implications of the newly completed Historic Resource Survey?
Mullane: Yeah, there are a few things I’d like to identify as priorities for our department, and that’s definitely one of them. How do we structure our legislation (to) protect historic properties, but still be fair to homeowners?
There’s also code enforcement, which is outgrowth of the building code update. I think myself as well as other staff would like to see that come to closure, to see the city’s code update reflect state update.
And another is to draft a new housing element. The housing element hasn’t been approved, and the state requires housing and community development … The idea is that you (as a town) demonstrate that you can accommodate the housing (required by the state). An effort that began in 2008 or 2009 hasn’t been completed yet, and it’s a long-range plan. It’s the 2006 to 2014 cycle and that’s not been certified yet. There are ramifications to that, and that potentially includes as drastic measures as the state taking over certain aspects of housing (in Ojai). The challenge is that the state wants you to demonstrate that you can accommodate the housing, but in Ojai, there is limited land available for development, so the only way to show we’re capable of that is to go with vertical housing development, which has its own drawbacks … We have to satisfy the state’s requirements, while staying true to Ojai’s values.
I also would like to ensure we’re doing everything we can to consistently help with our applicants, while ideally minimizing time and expense. And I think the department is doing that already, I just want to make sure we keep doing the best job we can.
OVN: What does AICP stand for in your title?
Mullane: It’s a planning certification through the American Planning Association. It stands for American Institute of Certified Planners. There are requirements in terms of years of service, areas of service, and a fairly rigorous exam that you take.
OVN: How did you get started in municipal work?
Mullane: I got my master’s degree from the University of Hawaii working on coastal management issues, shoreline development and erosion issues. Upon completing my master’s program, it became clear changes were needed to the way the four counties — there are four counties in that part of Hawaii, and each have own rules for shoreline development — handled their shoreline development. As a result of the work I had done on my master’s thesis — in geology, by the way, but with emphasis on development —- I was fortunate to land a job with the extension organization, University Hawaii Sea Grant. They serve as bridge between the university research and the people who need to know, for example, elected or appointed officials, or the residents of the area. We put together a position that essentially involved advising these counties. Four years later, I moved to California, took a position at the County of Santa Barbara, in the Energy Division, involving on-shore dealings with offshore drilling. Which was very interesting, and controversial. And that was my first exposure to development in California.
Since then I’ve worked with the city of Goleta, and I’ve spent four and a half years with Rincon Consultants, in a variety of development issues. They are a private firm that works closely with public organizations for environmental and planning needs.
OVN: What are your proudest achievements in municipal work so far?
Mullane: I think in my capacity at Rincon Consultants, I provided staffing of their planning department, and carried forth both important projects, and important changes to their planning code. One of those was setting the building code for city of Guadalupe, which previously had a lot of flaws. That was a good experience.
Another would be a large coastal land swap for the city of Goleta when they hired me. It was a pretty complex land swap, basically it involved selling a portion of a coastal park to a developer, moving (the development) away from a very environmentally sensitive area. Development of that piece of property had been tied up in litigation for years and years. Once the city brought forth the idea of a land swap and gave the developer the opportunity to develop on part of the park, it allowed movement forward of the Ellwood Mesa land swap. And I was involved in the review of that development, some of the arrangement for the land swap. There was $21 million in fund raising (because the size of the new property was substantially smaller than what the developer was giving up). Ultimately, that project went on to win American Planning Association recognition at state level, as well as the Helen Putnam Award. It was a prestigious accomplishment. And it involved a low-scale development of a parking lot, the city of Goleta, the city of Santa Barbara, and UCSB. It’s gratifying to see the parking lot (in the finished development), and also the butterflies in wintertime, raptors, all kinds of hawks. It’s very satisfying. It’s a really beautiful spot.
OVN: So is it fair to say your role is comparable to a mediator or a problem-solver?
Mullane: Well I wouldn’t go that far. I was primarily involved just in the planning. But a lot of work went into that project, and lots of us were involved. Mediation and funding were put into play before I came on board. But we got letters of support from elected officials. The most challenging thing was that the grants we needed come with deadlines, and we needed to actually allow the land swap to occur while still meeting these deadlines.
OVN: You’re based out of Santa Ynez, right? What made you want to work for Ojai, as opposed to other communities?
Mullane: Actually I just recently moved to Carpinteria, but had lived in Santa Ynez for 10 years prior to taking this job.
The opportunity came open here. I had been to Ojai on numerous other occasions. Rincon’s holiday parties actually are held at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, but even before that, I would take day trips and vacations to Ojai. So I’m pretty familiar with it. It’s actually similar to Santa Ynez in a lot of ways. I like the size of Ojai, that it’s part of a larger community. It has unincorporated areas that interface with Ojai, and that contributes to the entire community.
Editor’s note: In 1993, a sheriff’s deputy shot and wounded a dog in a similar event. Click HERE to see that report.
By Misty Volaski
updated 3/31/2012 at 12:05 p.m.
A dog was shot and killed by a Ventura County Sheriff’s deputy Thursday afternoon, while on a call investigating suspicious activity. According to patrol supervisor Sgt. Frank Underlin, officers received a call just before 4 p.m. that someone may have been tampering with vehicles on Orchard Drive in Mira Monte.
Officers went to contact the residents of the house, Underlin said. “They had to step through a side gate to do that. The dog came running around (the side of the house).” Officers, he went on, “feared they were going to be bitten, and had to dispatch the poor animal. It’s a tragic thing, we hate to do it, but at that point we don’t have any other options. (Deputies) didn’t know the dog was there.”
The dog’s owners, who asked not to be identified, said they were both at home when the incident occured. The female owner said when the dog ran outside and started barking, her husband got up to see who had arrived at the house. “Before he got to the door, we heard three shots. (He) opened the door and said, ‘You shot my dog?’”
The call to officers did not come from the dog owners’ residence, Underlin said, adding that he thought the house was split into two residences. Further, “It doesn’t appear that the owners of the dog were related to the vehicle (tampering),” but officers allegedly did not know this at the time of the shooting.
The dog, a boxer, was shot when it came “running around the side of the house,” said Underlin.
The dog’s female owner said the deputy apologized several times and told her he wasn’t able to get his taser out fast enough so he had to use his gun. “Apparently a gun is easier to get,” she said.
The family said they are devastated and shocked that this kind of thing could happen. “Ask anyone, (our dog) was the sweetest dog ever, he’s never ever attacked anyone or bit anyone,” said the woman. “He was great with children, total family dog.”
She added, “This is a horrible situation. I don’t wish anything bad on the officer but this is just really extreme. I mean, this is a neighborhood with children … I thought they (police) were trained to assess for safety. This is not a drug house. We have a little welcome sign out front.”
On Friday, the family “went to the station … and the commanding chief was unavailable to speak with (us) so I was given a form to fill out and return to the government center.”
No additional information was available from police as of Saturday.
By Logan Hall
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department presented its 2011 City of Ojai crime report at the City Council meeting Tuesday night. The report outlined crime and arrest statistics in the city, which currently has a population of about 8,000. The report also made comparisons to the city and unincorporated areas of the valley.
The department’s report, presented to the council by Ojai Chief of Police Capt. Chris Dunn, says that, while certain crimes have increased slightly, “serious crimes such as homicide, rape and robbery remain at very low levels.”
In the most significant increase, robberies, rose from one in 2010 to six in 2011. Dunn’s report explained the increase, saying the numbers can be misleading if taken out of context. “Of the six reported robberies, two involved suspects taking marijuana from the victims by force and two involved known suspects taking under $20 from the victims,” read the report. “There was one significant robbery involving known suspects taking the victim’s wallet and money at gunpoint while giving the victim a ride in their car. Both of the suspects in this case were quickly identified and arrested.”
Two rapes were reported in 2011, while zero were reported in 2010. “Both of the rapes reported in 2011 involved adult victims making allegations against suspects they had romantic relationships with,” read the VCSD report. “In one case, the district attorney’s office declined to file charges. In the second case, the victim was uncooperative and refused prosecution.”
Sheriff’s documents show that aggravated assaults decreased from 18 in 2010 to 17 in 2011. Of the 17 assaults, six involved firearms, five involved hands, fists or feet, one involved a knife, and five of the assaults were categorized as “other.”
The vast majority of crimes reported last year — about 70 percent — were related to thefts of varying nature, according to VCSD documents. Those included 15 residential burglaries, three auto thefts, 34 categorized as “grand theft,” and 102 petty thefts.
Theft from vehicles made up a large percentage of thefts in Ojai, according to officials. Dunn’s report states that 51 were reported in 2011, up from 41 in 2010. The number of thefts from vehicles has varied widely through the last five years. In 2007, 84 were reported, while in 2008 there were only 27.
Dunn says that thefts from vehicles remain a problem for Ojai, and much of that problem can be mitigated with the help of the community. “We’re struggling to get people to realize that it’s unsafe to leave belongings in vehicles,” he said, “especially when the vehicle is unlocked.”
The public needs to help be “the eyes and ears” of the department, Dunn said. “We can’t be everywhere at once,” he added. “People need to call us when they see someone suspicious in their neighborhood. It could turn out to be nothing, but it could be something big.”
According to department documents, in 2011, the VCSD received 3,058 calls for service. Of the most significant of those calls, 187 were violent in nature, 406 involved suspicious subjects or vehicles, 89 were for domestic disturbance and 56 were for narcotics. Topping off the list of calls, 693 were categorized as “disturbances,” which include those relating to loud music, parties, loud equipment, etc.
Dunn made several comparisons to the city and unincorporated areas of the valley. One statistic showed that 427 arrests were made in Ojai while there were 768 arrests in the rest of the valley. Of the arrests made in the city, 94 were for felony offenses while 324 were misdemeanors. Arrests made in unincorporated areas included 228 felonies and 525 misdemeanors. Other arrests in both jurisdictions were for infractions. The VCSD report said, “Most arrests in the Ojai Valley are for relatively minor violations, such as warrants, alcohol violations, etc. A majority of those arrested were released on citations to appear in court (and) were not taken to jail.”
Department records show a substantial decrease in serious crimes reported in the last 20 years. Dunn indicated that in 1992, 316 serious or “Part One” crimes were reported in the city. Over the last two decades, that number has dropped significantly. In 2011, only 196 Part One crimes were reported, despite an increase in Ojai’s population.
“We’re looking pretty good,” he said. “When you look at the statistics over the last 20 years, we’re still below the mean.”
Ojai city manager Rob Clark echoed Dunn’s positive outlook at the city’s crime statistics. “If you really look at the long run,” Clark said, “I think everything is moving in the right direction. The reality is that things are going really well.”
The VCSD is contracted by the city of Ojai, which pays the county for coverage from the department. According to city records, the budget for the VCSD contract is $2.6 million a year. Clark says it is money well spent. “We get very good police coverage for the price we pay to the county,” he said. “In a small town like Ojai, I think it would cost about twice as much to have our own department.”
Dunn’s report to the city also included traffic collision statistics. Records show that crashes in the city have decreased substantially since 2005, which saw 155 collisions. In 2011, 90 traffic collisions were reported. Of those, 21 involved injury to at least one person involved. One crash resulted in the deaths of Wayne Ortman and Sonia Miller, when their motorcycle collided with oncoming traffic on West Ojai Avenue.
This week is Dunn’s last with the Ojai Police Department. In a normal rotation within the VCSD, Dunn is being transferred to the department’s Major Crimes Unit. Capt. Dave Kenney, who previously ran the VCSD Air Unit, will fill Dunn’s position as Ojai’s Chief of Police.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I am by nature a cynic. I do not consider myself a pessimist. In fact, I think I am pretty upbeat and optimistic most of the time. But I look at most things with a skeptical eye. But even I could not be cynical about the scene at The Village Jester on March 22 as Colin Jones celebrated a happy event with some friends. Earlier in the evening, Colin had gone to the Los Angeles Civic Center to take the oath with almost 4,000 others that allowed them all to become American citizens. Drinks were bought, toasts were made, hands were shaken, and hugs exchanged. It was a touching sight. These days, the news is full of political posturing, pompous speeches, and polarizing comments. In this, an election year, the rhetoric is especially venomous. Add to that a terrible economy that seems endlessly mired, and then throw in a dash of daily news about another nut-case country acquiring nuclear capabilities, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get down on our country and its political leaders. But then, you witness the unadulterated joy of someone who makes a special effort just to be an American citizen, and it stops you dead in your tracks. It makes you ashamed and proud at the same time. You are ashamed that you take what you have and where you live for granted, and proud that you live in such a remarkable country, a country that thousands of immigrants aspire to call home. There is a memorable scene in the very watchable HBO movie “Game Change” about the 2008 presidential race. The scene centers on Sen. John McCain as he plans his concession speech to Barack Obama, who has just won the presidential election. McCain’s campaign manager talks about the concession speech as a sacred ritual that serves to reunite the nation, and has been a part of the American political landscape since the days of Washington and Jefferson. The transfer of power in this country is a thing of beauty. There is no military coup. There is no bloodbath and rioting in the streets. Regardless of how vitriolic the campaign has been, when the votes are counted and the winner declared, the loser makes a simple, eloquent speech congratulating his opponent, then calls upon all Americans to come together and support the new president —- because no matter what our views, we are all Americans. It is the height of civility. That is just one of the wonderful things about our country that reaches out to people like Colin Jones and his 3,900 “friends” and makes them want to become an American. I guess we all need a reminder now and then of how fortunate we are in America, even in hard times. I got mine that Thursday night as we welcomed home a new American.
New technology provides new ways for teachers to connect with students
Report and photo by Misty Volaski
Teachers are in constant search for what Nordhoff High School assistant principal Greg Bayless calls “the sweet spot.” That’s when, “Kids are laughing, actively engaging and on task.”
Increasingly, hitting that sweet spot involves technology that allows teachers and students to participate in lessons in the same way they do outside of class Ñ through quick access to multimedia.
According to Bayless, about 90 percent of NHS classrooms now feature the one-two punch of a digital projector and document camera. Combined with access to YouTube and a handful of other sites, the technology opens up a whole new world of educational possibilities. YouTube “alone dramatically improves teachersÕ ability to connect with students,” Bayless said. “ItÕs absolutely thrilling for me as an administrator and teacher at heart to see teaching and learning move forward in this way.”
The projectors and cameras were provided by Ojai Education Foundation grants almost exclusively, and teachers raved about them during a recent OEF donor tour through the school. Teachers can project what’s on their computer screens and also show whatever they place under the camera in full color Ñ such as last night’s homework or a specific function on a graphing calculator. Math teachers like Chris Agh and Sean Johnson use theirs to go over math problems up close, step by step. Students can see their teacher’s hand working through equations on the same work sheet students have sitting right in front of them. Teachers can even take photos of what they have on the screen and store them for future use. The cameras also provide the added bonus of saving precious time in the classroom.
The digital projectors “are flexible and versatile,” said Bayless. “They create flow. The writing is clear É you can zoom É it’s changed the way (we) teach.”
Spanish teacher Cintsy Simon used her digital projector last week to flip through photos of celebrities. Students giggled at each other’s comparisons in Spanish on “Jersey Shore” star Snooki and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
“That was golden,” Simon told OEF donors later. “The kids were laughing, focused, dying to participate.”
There’s the sweet spot.
Donors also got the chance to visit social studies teacher Chris Bohney as he went over preservation efforts in the Amazon. He first used the projector to display prompts on writing a proper thesis, then moved on to show a clip from a documentary on YouTube. The video Ñ which featured conservationists’ efforts to document the locations of uncontacted tribes Ñ got students’ attention. Hands shot up in the air. “Do they know we’re here?” asked one student. “What language do they speak?” asked another.
There’s that sweet spot again.
Bohney told donors, “I used to spend hundreds of dollars at Salzer’s every year on videos. Now I can stream everything online.”
After the class tour, Bayless and several other administrators, teachers and OEF board members simulated where they think classroom technology could be heading. Bayless asked his “class” to pull out their tablet computers and look up DaVinci sketches depicting three principles of flight. He explained that teachers would be able to not only restrict the websites students visit, but could also see on their computer screen what each student was doing on his or her tablet computer. “That’s huge,” he said. Once students found a sketch, Bayless described how he could pull that image up on the digital projector and discuss it with the class.
“You see how substantive and engaging it is?” he said. “In real life, we move in and out of the digital world seamlessly.”
“Kids want to explore Ñ ‘Well, what if É’” said math teacher Agh. “And you can only explore so much (by) hand. Kids want to go off on their own” and come up with answers on their own.
Simon said the new digital projectors and document cameras are “right there, instantaneous, right on the money.”
“ItÕs extremely satisfying for me to see É that the instruction they are offering is much more visible and accessible to students,” Bayless said. A recent survey of the students, he added, showed that two-thirds of the students felt “the document cameras and the digital projectors have improved their engagement with lessons.”
However, the document cameras and digital projectors are a small step in a long list of updates needed at Nordhoff. “We still need some new or updated computers for teachers Ñ many are still operating near or over a decade-old computers that canÕt handle the peripheral technology that we are adding very well,” said Bayless. Also on the list: classroom speaker systems, printers, maintenance, better projector screens, formalized tech training for teachers, computer servers, interactive white boards, video cameras and, hopefully, classroom sets of tablet computers.
And the OEF stands at the ready to help. “We’re concentrating on Nordhoff technology in the coming year,” said OEFÕs Carol Holly. “What those teachers were doing in class last week was using the technology any business person would use when they go to a presentation. This is really the first time that we’ve have that kind of opportunity to get that out there for the teachers and in the classroom.”
In the coming months, NHS teachers and administrators will solidify their wish lists, which the OEF hopes to fulfill through location donations and various fund-raising events Ñ because state education funding is expected to continue to shrink.
The OEF is teaming up with the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation for the Ojai Golf Classic June 4 at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. All proceeds from that tournament will go to the two youth-oriented organizations. Visit Ojaigolfclassic.com or Ojaief.org for more information.
By Logan Hall
An Ojai resident was hospitalized and arrested for allegedly driving under the influence early Monday morning after colliding with a tree on Villanova Road, 20 minutes after turning 21 years old, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Alexa Bowen was driving east on Villanova Road at 12:20 a.m. with her passenger, 21-year-old Wesley McAnally from Vista, when she reportedly lost control of her 2001 Honda Passport, and crashed into a tree, said officials.
“Ms. Bowen was driving on a wet roadway while under the influence of alcohol,” said CHP spokesman Steve Reid. “Both she and McAnally were severely injured.”
According to Ventura County Fire Department officials, Bowen was unconscious and trapped in the vehicle and had to be extricated by firefighters using the Jaws of Life. “They got them out pretty quickly,” said VCFD spokesman Steve Swindle. “The victim was out within 15 minutes.”
CHP reports said that Bowen suffered a fractured bone in her face while McAnally received a broken ankle and lacerations. Both Bowen and McAnally were taken by ambulance to Ventura County Medical Center, said Reid. No other vehicles were involved in the crash according to officials.
Photo and report by Logan Hall
See more Kid’s Fishing Day photos here
Hundreds of kids and their families flocked to Lake Casitas Saturday for the lake’s annual Kid’s Fishing Day. Lake officials cordoned off an area of water on the docks in the marina, where 2,000 Nebraska Tailwalker trout were planted. Kids of all ages had the opportunity to catch a fish — often for the first time. Some of the young anglers recoiled with uncertainty as their fish was pulled out of the water by volunteers wielding nets. The majority however, lit up with excitement as fish leapt out of the water, tugging on lines and bending poles.
Fishing wasn’t the only attraction for those who attended though. Crews from the Ventura County Fire Department, as well as law enforcement personnel, set up displays in the marina parking lot, giving the public a chance to see some of the equipment used in emergency situations.
The West Coast Christian Anglers were also on hand to help ensure that no kids went home hungry after catching their fish. According to event planners, hundreds of hotdogs were provided by the WCCA, to feed the hungry youngsters.
By Logan Hall
Scott Doornbos, alleged attacker of local veterinarian Steve Sallen, pleaded not guilty to three felony charges during his arraignment in Ventura County Superior Court Friday morning, according to court records. The three charges, battery with serious bodily injury, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, and making terrorist threats, were issued after Doornbos allegedly attacked Sallen shortly after learning that his dog had died while under the vet’s care.
If convicted, Doornbos could face several years in prison. In the next phase of court proceedings, called the early disposition conference, the judge, prosecutor and Doornbos’ attorney, Ron Bamieh, will meet to discuss the case. The early disposition is scheduled to take place on May 8 at the county courthouse.
By Tiobe Barron
Whether they adamantly oppose them, don’t know much about them, or think they are the wave of the future, Ojai residents are buzzing about Smart Meters. Southern California Edison began to replace the analog meters used to measure a household’s electricity consumption with new, wireless meters nearly four years ago, and the transition has now made its way to Ojai.
David Song, spokesman with Southern California Edison, says this has been a long time coming; the meters are only new to Ventura County.
“There are many benefits to Smart Meters: added reliability, remote activation, conservation,” said Song. “We have in California a decoupling of price rates from consumption rates (of electricity). We need to encourage customers to use less.” Song added that in 2007 the California Public Utilities Commission met with Southern California Edison and PG&E to come up with ways to control demand of electricity, and the wireless meters were the cheapest option.
Opponents of the meters are vocal about the drawbacks of the new technology, citing possible privacy infringement (because the meters monitor electricity usage in each room, for each appliance, then send that information wirelessly), a range of adverse health effects from the microwave exposure, higher occurrences of house fires from Smart Meter and old wiring combinations, and the fact that utility companies will charge consumers to “opt-out” and keep the same analog meter they have been using for years. There have been lawsuits in Bakersfield and San Diego for Smart Meters over-billing consumers, and for a lack of an official opt-out program in place for customers.
A seemingly damning report from the city of Santa Cruz states, in part, “FCC safety standards do not exist for chronic long-term exposure to EMF or from multiple sources, and reported adverse health effects from electromagnetic pollution include sleep disorders, irritability, short-term memory loss, headaches, anxiety, nausea, DNA breaks, abnormal cell growth, cancer, premature aging, etc.” The study, released in January, goes on to state that while the California Council on Science and Technology report on Smart Meters found that the meters would not exceed the average public limit of exposure within distance of 3 to 10 feet, “CCST did not account for the frequency of transmissions, reflection factors, banks of Smart Meters firing simultaneously, and distances closer than 3 feet … It has been aptly demonstrated by computer modeling and real measurement of existing meters that Smart Meters emit frequencies almost continuously, day and night, seven days a week.”
“We’re so worried about the radiation from Fukushima while we’re talking on our smart phones in front of our WiFi computers with Smart Meters on our houses,” says Ojai resident Christine Golden. “Most people I know are putting delay tags on their meters, because there clearly is not enough data proving the safety (of the meters).” In addition to speaking at City Council meetings and writing a letter to the editor, Golden sent out an e-mail to over 200 people in the valley, urging people to call Edison to be put on their delay list rather than have the Smart Meters installed right away. One of the points the e-mail makes is, “The data collected from the Smart Meter installed on your home gives a picture of your personal habits including when you wake up, what appliances you own and even whether or not you’re likely to be home.”
Former CIA director James Woolsey has said in a recent interview with Energynow.com the “smart grid is … really, really stupid.”
But not everyone feels that way.
“The argument that (the utility companies) are spying on us is paranoid and bizarre,” says Ojai resident Al Stroberg. “They already know how much electricity we’re using. It’s a specious argument. And the argument that somehow the meters are going to harm us is an inappropriate, hysterical response to misinformation.” Stroberg cited the outpouring of community concern when the radio tower was installed near Ojai about 10 years ago, and “nothing happened.” Stroberg sees the concern primarily as anxiety of the unknown, and would rather people focus on definable, verifiable issues, such as the emissions from cars known to cause asthma in children, or the use of fossil fuels that is unsustainable.
Meanwhile, Sholom Joshua, another Ojai resident, expressed in a recent letter to the editor the belief that Smart Meters do pose a definable, verifiable threat to public interest. In his letter, Joshua points out that, “You won’t see Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) certification on the meters because there isn’t any.” He queries whether those with solar electrical equipment will still be able to sell excess electricity back to Edison when the Smart Meters replace the analog meters. Jodi Brandt, owner of Curly Willow, tried to call Edison to have her business put on a delay list, and was told that there is no delay list for commercial properties.”
Edison spokesman Song verified that, “The delay list and any opt-out program currently under consideration is only for residential customers who are on their own rate schedule.” In terms of the charges associated with keeping one’s old analog meter, Song said, “This is our new standard system. To go outside of that costs money, to maintain two separate systems costs money. There aren’t many manufacturers of analog meters anymore, we had to build in that cost somehow. It wasn’t meant to be punitive. We’re all about customer choice.” Song assures Edison customers with solar equipment they should still be able to sell back excess power with the Smart Meters. Regarding the health concerns and lack of UL certification, Song maintains that the EMF emitted is in keeping with FCC exposure limits, and the Smart Meters meet the ANSI C12.10 standard, the comparable standard to UL for electric meters.
“We don’t have a lot of people voicing opposition in our service territory,” said Song. “We’re pretty much at the home stretch in the installation process, and it hasn’t been as contentious as people suppose it to be. Sometimes with new technology there is fear or anxiety, and that’s understandable. But we haven’t had too many concerns.”
Ojai City Council has written letters to the CPUC and to Southern California Edison requesting the installation process be delayed for the city of Ojai until the CPUC rules on a final opt-out program.
To be put on the delay list for your home, call (800) 810-2369.
Report and photo by Logan Hall
Truck driver Gary Raymundo narrowly escaped injury after his semitruck went over the side of Dennison Grade on Highway 150 this morning.
Raymundo said he was driving up the grade when he swerved to avoid a deer that was crossing the road. The truck driver lost control of the semi and went over the side of the road, hanging sideways over the steep hillside below.
“The deer just jumped out from nowhere so I just swerved,” said a visibly shaken Raymundo, pointing at his truck perched on the edge of the drop. “It was just instinct, I guess. When I hit the edge, I thought I was going to go down the mountain, so I jumped out as fast as I could.”
Raymundo admits that he was very lucky that he was able to walk away from the crash adding that his trailer was empty at the time of the crash.
“If the truck had been loaded,” he said pausing briefly, shaking his head, “I would have rolled all the way down there. The firefighter told me that I had an angel riding with me.”
Raymundo says he was on his way to meet a contractor near The Summit Restaurant in Upper Ojai.
No one was injured and no other vehicles were involved in the crash. As of publication time, the semi was still on the side of the road as heavy tow vehicles were called to assist. California Highway Patrol officers are currently investigating the incident.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I thoroughly enjoyed last Friday’s Rotary program, featuring John McKay Jr., son of legendary USC football coach, John McKay. He has a lot of his father’s wit, and I loved the stories he told about playing football for his dad, both in college and in the NFL. I have always been a big football fan, and when I was growing up, USC was one of my favorite teams. I loved watching all the great USC tailbacks play. I was also influenced by the fact that Alabama’s coach, “Bear” Bryant, was good friends with John McKay. McKay is remembered for many things. He was a terrific coach, winning four national championships in college before taking the reins of the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he suffered 26 straight defeats before finally getting a victory. He was also known as a great wit, even in defeat. After one particularly humiliating loss, McKay told his players, “The bus leaves in an hour — anyone who needs a shower, take one.” Another time a reporter asked McKay about his team’s execution. McKay replied, “I’m all in favor of it.” But many may not know the role he played in integration in the South and, in particular, with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Shamefully, the Alabama football team was still not racially integrated as late as 1970, due in large part to four-time Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Wallace was a strong segregationist, and his infamous 1963 “stand in the schoolhouse door,” when he attempted to bar African Americans Vivian Malone and James Hood from registering for classes at the university held Alabama behind, even as other schools were progressing. After tremendous success in the early and mid-1960s, Alabama’s football team was in decline. Bryant wanted to recruit black players, whom he knew he needed, but was hesitant to do so. Wallace was a powerful governor. Bryant did not fear the man himself, but he knew the governor and the state legislature held the purse strings to funding that the university depended upon. So he proceeded cautiously. Bryant had a stroke of genius. He scheduled a game with his old friend, John McKay, and his powerful USC Trojans for the fall of 1970. USC had a number of very talented African American players. Bryant had already recruited one or two black athletes, but none were on the team yet. So, it was an all-white team playing for Alabama when they took the field on that fateful night in Birmingham. One of the top black players for USC was a running back named Sam “The Bam” Cunningham. At 6 feet 3 inches and 225 pounds, he was huge for running backs of that day. Cunningham was known for his punishing running style and majestic goal line touchdown leaps. He was a man against boys on the field that night. Cunningham ran through Alabama like Sherman through Atlanta, dismantling their defense almost single-handedly. That night all six USC touchdowns were scored by African American players. With a final score of USC 42, Alabama 21, the Crimson Tide faithful were shocked and dismayed. Bryant had convincingly demonstrated that if Alabama was to compete in the future, it needed to recruit talented black players. It was hard to argue with 42-21. After that, more and more African American players were recruited at Alabama, as well as at other previously segregated universities, and athletics played an important part in racial integration. After the USC game, Alabama assistant football coach Jerry Claiborne quipped, “Sam Cunningham did more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 20 years.”
Report and photo by Logan Hall
Heads turned and eyes gazed upward as the Ojai Valley Museum’s condor sculpture soared into its new position in front of the museum on Wednesday.
The 5,000-pound sculpture, donated to the museum in 1997 and titled “Soaring in Stone,” was previously located in the courtyard behind the building. Over the course of two days, with the help of two cranes and a crew of volunteers, the statue was moved to a prominent location in the garden in front of the museum, in full view of those traveling on Ojai Avenue.
According to museum officials, after vandals severely damaged the sculpture last year, the museum’s fine arts insurance plan covered the restoration, and plans were quickly set in motion to have the condor moved to the front of the property. Those involved hope that moving the statue to a substantially more visible location will accomplish two goals: it will allow law enforcement to see the sculpture on a more continuous basis, thereby reducing the likelihood of vandalism and, perhaps more importantly, will give the public a better opportunity to view the work of art.
“This thing needs to be seen,” said JoAnne Duby, who was part of the original team that finished the sculpture. “When we first walked around the property 17 years ago, we wanted to put it up front. It’s so amazing watching it happen now.”
Designed by renowned local artist Carlyle Montgomery, the condor has a wingspan of 10 feet and is made from Belgian fossilized limestone. Montgomery died after a battle with cancer before seeing his work completed, but artists like Duby finished the piece, helping Montgomery’s design come to fruition.
Montgomery’s nephew, Aaron Ogden, lived in Meiners Oaks next to the property where the artist had worked on the sculpture. Ogden, who was on hand to watch his uncle’s work be placed on its new spot, said he was glad that he was able to be part of Montgomery’s vision. “I got to watch him create so many amazing things,” said Ogden. “It’s so beautiful for this to happen. I saw the sculpture after it was vandalized. It looks amazing now.”
Montgomery’s brother, Oak View resident Duane Montgomery, was also glad to see his brother’s work placed where many more people can see it. “Now it can really be appreciated by everyone,” he said about the sculpture. “It will be appreciated the way he wanted it to be.”
On Monday morning, a crew from TNT Crane moved the concrete base of the sculpture. On Wednesday, after volunteers prepared the base, the condor was moved by Waycasy Crane Service, and placed on its base at the front of the museum. Volunteers from Art City and other members of the community helped crane operators, ensuring that the sculpture didn’t sustain damage during the move. According to museum director Michele Pracy, the move cost about $18,000, which was raised by the museum through donations from the community.
Pracy, like the others who attended, watched as the sculpture “took flight” from its previous location, landing at its new home. “This is such a great thing for this community,” she said. “A lot of people worked very hard to make this happen. It looks so incredible there. We’re very excited about it.”
Report and photo by Logan Hall
Ventura Police Department detectives arrested three Ventura Residents in Oak View earlier today after following a vehicle that had been reported stolen in Ventura last week.
Although initial reports indicated that the car had been located in Oak View, according to a VPD press release, the department’s Street Crimes Unit located the stolen car ‑‑ a white, 2005 BMW — on Frazier Lane in Ventura at 12:30 p.m. Detectives followed the vehicle, reportedly driven by Joseph Grazzaffi, 33, into Oak View where Grazzaffi and his two passengers allegedly “broke into several mailboxes and stole mail from residents,” according to the report.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Department deputies came to assist the VPD as detectives continued to follow Grazzaffi, said authorities. As Sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene in patrol cars and a search and rescue helicopter, Grazzaffi allegedly fled in the vehicle and evaded law enforcement for several minutes until the car was located unoccupied in the 100 block of Rockaway Road, officials said.
” … officers began to search the surrounding residential properties. Grazzaffi was located first, hiding in a residence in the 400 block of Riverside Drive … At the conclusion of the investigation, Grazzaffi was booked into the Ventura County Main Jail on suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of stolen property, resisting arrestt, and a parole violation,” read the press release.
A short time after Grazzaffi was apprehended, Sheriff’s deputies located the two women that had reportedly been in the car with Grazzaffi. Natalie Torres, 31, and Michelle Geving, 45, were found by deputies walking north on Burnham Road, according to authorities. Deputies detained Torres and Geving until VPD detectives arrived to make the arrest.
Geving was booked for possession of a controlled substance, being under the influence of a controlled substance and resisting arrest, while Torres was booked for an outstanding felony warrant.
VPD officials stated that all stolen property recovered during the investigation was returned to the rightful owners.
By Misty Volaski
Since he began teaching at Nordhoff High School in the late ’90s, Greg Bayless, Ph.D., has been among the students’ most beloved teachers. A solid sense of humor and passion for teaching made his lessons accessible and memorable, remembers former student Meghan Clark. “I was fortunate to have Mr. Bayless for both psychology and history, but it was his teachings on life and being a good person that I remember most,” she said. “He will always be one of my favorite teachers.”
Three years ago, Bayless left the classroom to take over as assistant principal.
And on Tuesday morning, it was announced that he would succeed Dan Musick as principal at Ojai’s public high school, starting in July.
“Nordhoff is very lucky to have a person like Greg Bayless taking this leadership position,” said Musick. “He is bright, energetic, and innovative. I especially admire how engaging he is with everyone, students, faculty, staff, parents, and the community. He honors the traditions of the school, and he has excellent ideas to move us forward. I feel very good about the future of the school, and I know he’s going to be an outstanding principal.”
When Musick decided to retire at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, Ojai Unified School District superintendent Hank Bangser began the search for a suitable replacement. Principal Musick, he said, “established an exemplary bar for what it means to be ‘Mr. Ranger.’ He was the consummate professional supporter and cheerleader for students and staff.”
Bayless said he’s learned a lot from Musick over the years. “Working with Dan has been one of the highlights of my career. He’s one of the most dedicated teachers and mentors of kids that I have ever met.”
Retired administrator Susana Arce agreed. “Dan has been such a wonderful principal,” said Arce of Musick, who has led the school for the past 11 years. “He brought such energy and enthusiasm to the job. And Greg is the same way. He gets things done. He has a way of tackling things and seeing them through … He is also a lot of fun to work with.” She added that because Bayless has a doctorate, “his curricular knowledge is excellent.”
Fellow teacher Chris Bohney sang Bayless’ praises, saying Bayless will be “super involved with the community and kids. He’s always been involved in rallies and was MC for a number of years for the homecoming halftime show. He will bring a great new energy to the position, and I think he’ll bring a really good focus on good teaching and getting the best out of the staff.”
Although it was ultimately up to Bangser to decide on who would succeed Musick, he formed a committee to give him input and help him in his decision. “Greg did receive strong support from the committee,” Bangser said.
OUSD board members, including Kathi Smith, supported Bangser’s decision. “Dr. Bayless’s brand of educational leadership is going to make the school’s reputation in the Ojai Valley in this next era. I’m confident about the future self of NHS in Dr. Bayless’ hands.”
Board member and parent of OUSD students, Thayne Whipple, concurred. “As new technologies continue to shape our future, I feel confident that his skills and attitude will serve our students well in facing and embracing opportunities.” Another board member and parent, Rikki Horne, echoed Whipple’s sentiments. Bayless, she said, “brings great intellect, passion and integrity. His sense of humor will be helpful in relating to students, colleagues and community … I look forward to seeing his vision enacted in the next years. Clearly public education is hurting financially and it will take an energetic leader to shepherd Nordhoff through the challenges. Greg is that leader and we are fortunate to have him.”
Bayless said he was “thrilled” when Bangser called him Monday evening to say Bayless had been chosen to lead the Ranger crew. “I love working here and I’m excited to serve Nordhoff in this new capacity,” he said. He acknowledged that when he began teaching history and social science at Nordhoff in 1996, he wasn’t very interested in moving into administration. “I won’t lie — if you had said 10 years ago that I’d be doing this, I’d have thought you were crazy! … I didn’t have the desire to be a principal. I had the desire to be principal here at Nordhoff.” He gave credit to his colleagues, who he said are “an absolute pleasure to work with. It’s cliche but it’s a joy to work with people who are good at what they do and take the job seriously.”
Despite budget shortfalls, Bayless remains optimistic that students and staff can work with what they have and come up with creative ways to improve. “I’d love to see more interdisciplinary work,” he said. “Better, richer, more in-depth work … Right now I look out my window and see a video production class filming other students. They’re solving problems right now —- lighting, sound, interacting with each other. I love seeing them solving real problems, not just trying to memorize facts — things that maybe don’t show up in test scores but have a lasting impact on education.”
He’s already done some of that with the school’s new independent study program. Digital Nordhoff High School, “is directly attributable to Greg’s creativity,” said Bangser. Bayless has also been instrumental in the formation of the hands-on Science Ingenuity class, as well as the new Associate Teacher Program, a beefed-up peer tutoring program which the kids have embraced.
“Greg Bayless has excelled in every role he has undertaken at Nordhoff in the past 16 years,” said Bangser. “Greg (has) brought a host of initiatives forward to improve educational choices for our students and present research-based options to our faculty.”
While Bayless said he’ll get “some summer” free time with his wife and three young sons, he said he’s already busy preparing for the fall. “My job is to preserve as many of the gains we’ve made as we can,” said Bayless. “There’s still a lot of upsides and potential. The school has a good community of dedicated teachers and it’s always going to be a great place to be.”
Report and photo by Logan Hall
A traffic collision between a bicyclist and a Chrysler Pacifica on North Ventura Street sent one man to the hospital Tuesday afternoon.
Reports indicate that at around 2 p.m., local resident Sierra Chavez was driving north on Ventura Street when a man on a bicycle, traveling east on Oak Street, allegedly ignored stop signs and collided with Chavez’s vehicle. The unidentified man, who Ventura County Sheriff’s Department deputies said was in his 60s and from Ventura, was taken by ambulance to Ventura County Medical Center after complaining of a pain in his ribs said authorities on scene.
Chavez was uninjured in the crash, but says that she was startled by the lone cyclist. “I was just driving, going about 20,” she said. “All of a sudden he came flying out at me. He just blew through that stop sign. I jumped right out … and called 911.”
A woman who claimed to be a friend of the cyclist arrived on scene shortly after the crash to help comfort the man and load his bike into her car. “He was heading up here to go for a bike ride with me,” said the woman, who quickly left the scene to head to the hospital.
Report and photo by Logan Hall
Partiers who rely on Adrianus “Dutch” Vanhemert’s free downtown shuttle service may have to find another way home from the bars this summer. On Friday in Superior Court, Vanhemert was sentenced to 180 days in Ventura County Jail and given three years of formal probation for evading Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Michael Harris in April 2010. According to court records, Vanhemert also has to pay a formal probation fee of $134 a month along with other costs including a probation investigation fee of $1,664. He has filed for an appeal, but says he is still required to show up at county jail on April 16 at 7 p.m. to begin his sentence.
Last month, Vanhemert was convicted by a jury of evading Harris after the deputy had pulled him over. Harris claimed that he was on a traffic stop, when Vanhemert drove past and honked his horn.
The shuttle driver, who allegedly has a history of run-ins with Harris, says that he feared for his safety, and drove to the Ojai Police Station to seek help. He was subsequently tazed by Deputy Jacob Valenzuela as he approached the front door of the station after failing to comply with orders from deputies. “I wasn’t evading anyone,” said Vanhemert, who also owns Dutch’s Detailing. “I drove to the Police Station. Why would I go there if I was trying to evade the cops? I just wanted help. Now I’m going to jail for it.”
Ojai’s Chief of Police Capt. Chris Dunn says that the reason for Vanhemert’s arrest is simple. “Mr. Vanhemert drove off after the deputy stopped him for a legitimate traffic violation,” said Dunn. “He violated a traffic law, then he violated the law again by evading deputies. The jury obviously agreed.”
Dunn declined further comment on the case saying that a complaint filed against him by Vanhemert was still pending.
News of Vanhemert’s conviction and jail sentence sparked outrage among those who support his service. “Dutch is a tremendously valuable resource for this community,” said Nigel Chisholm, owner of The Village Jester, a popular bar in downtown Ojai. “He does what he does to keep drunks off the road. What he does for this community is beyond reproach. He should be honored by the city and the Police Department.”
Vanhemert says that he will try to hire an appeals attorney to help him with his case. He says that the right lawyer could possibly help keep him out of jail during the appeal process, but doing so would be expensive. “I filed for an appeal five minutes after they sentenced me,” he said. “This is all costing a fortune though. I’m already out about $20,000 and it will cost another $20,000 to do the appeal.”
The shuttle driver says he has opened an account at Rabobank on Maricopa Highway where people can donate to his cause. Rabobank officials declined to go on record but did confirm that Vanhemert has an account set up for donations, also adding that the bank held no official position on his case and was simply facilitating an account for a customer. “If someone wants to help out with my legal fees,” he said, “they can tell Rabobank they want to donate money to the free downtown shuttle.”
Vanhemert says he is just trying to help the community, and says the Sheriff’s Department is harassing him unjustly. “They’re like a business,” he said. “They see that I’m cutting into their DUIs and taking revenue away from them. They’re just trying to harass me every chance they get.”
Dunn denies that the department is harassing Vanhemert. “That’s absolutely untrue,” said Dunn. “He broke the law and a jury of his peers decided as much.”
John McKay Jr. combined humor with enthusiasm as he entertained a packed house of the Rotary Club of Ojai at the Ojai Valley Inn on Friday. McKay addressed the club about the status of University of Southern California athletics. McKay became senior associate director of athletics at USC in July of 2010 when he was offered the position by high school and college teammate Pat Haden, who serves as athletic director. “My wife and I were on vacation at the rim of the Grand Canyon when my phone went off,” said McKay. “My wife looked at me and said, ‘Really’?” He said he had to take the call, that it was Haden. The call was to offer him the job as associate director. McKay said he accepted on the spot, and immediately quit his job as a real estate attorney. When his wife asked what he was going to be paid in his new job, he said, “I don’t know.”
Haden and McKay, the quarterback-receiver tandem that was so successful in the early ‘70s at USC have hooked up again to reinvigorate the school’s athletic program, particularly the football team, which received stiff penalties from the NCAA, limiting scholarships and banning bowl appearances. McKay and Haden have proven to be up to the task. Last year’s team lost only two games, and is expected to begin this year as preseason No. 1.
“I’m proud of where we are. We have a great future. And I cherish our history,” said McKay. He added that USC has put a big emphasis on upgrading facilities. He said he hopes USC can take over management of the Los Angeles Coliseum from the city and county governments and raise private money to make needed repairs to a “great old building.” After traveling all over the country to get a look at the athletic facilities at other top programs, McKay stated, “I am amazed at what we have accomplished with where we are (facility-wise).” He added he is excited about the new 110,000-square-foot athletic complex. “My dad would be so proud that this was named after me,” he joked, as the building will actually bear the name of his dad, legendary USC coach, John McKay.
McKay regaled the crowd with stories about his time playing for his dad. He recounted his days in high school as he and Haden were recruited by a number of colleges. He said they wanted to continue as teammates, and finally narrowed their choices down to a few schools. McKay said they were seriously considering going to Notre Dame, one of USC’s chief rivals. He said his dad told him, “Son, I don’t care where you go to school, but I need a quarterback (Haden).” The pair chose USC where they established a remarkable record, winning two national championships and losing just three games in three years.
One of the games they almost lost was against rival Notre Dame. USC was behind at halftime, trailing 24-7. McKay was asked what his father told the team at halftime in the locker room. “Dad said, ‘You cannot make a great comeback unless you get way behind.’” The team responded by staging one of the great comebacks in college football history, scoring 48 points in the second half, and winning, 55-24.
McKay said that while he was proud of USC athletic successes, that he felt a big part of his job was to “help kids graduate.” He quoted the statistics that each year 1.2 million kids play high school football, but out of that number, only 12 will play to age 30 in the NFL. He said the need for the players to get an education is obvious, and he is proud of the 84 percent graduation rate USC athletes have achieved.
At the end of the program, the Rotary Club announced that it will make a $2,000 donation in McKay’s name to the USC Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund “Swim with Mike.”
The following is the Ventura County Superior Court transcription of the sentencing of Adrianus “Dutch” Vanhemert Friday, March 16, 2012:
The Imposition of Sentence is suspended.
03/16/2012 The Court has released you on formal probation for 36 months. You are subject to and must obey each of the following conditions. If you fail to do so, the Court may impose any sentence previously suspended. If you fulfill all of the conditions you may then apply for a dismissal of the charges.
03/16/2012 You must report to the Probation Agency, 800 South Victoria Avenue, Ventura, California, Criminal Justice Center (Sheriff’s Building) Room A, Second Floor. Report immediately after leaving court or upon release from custody. Bring this form with you. You must comply with the following terms and conditions: 1. Be under the supervision of a probation officer and report as directed. 2. Maintain regular employment as approved by the probation officer. 3. Not leave your county of residence for more than 72 hours or change your residence without prior approval by your probation officer. You shall not leave the State of California without prior permission of your probation officer. If you are on Felony Formal Probation then the following applies: “The defendant waives extradition to the State of California from any jurisdiction in or outside the United States where the defendant may be found. The defendant further agrees that he/she will not contest any effort by any jurisdiction to return himself/herself to the State of California”. 4. Participate as directed in any treatment program designated by the probation officer and authorize release of information between your probation officer and any treatment program.
03/16/2012 You are to obey all laws, city, county, state and federal.
03/16/2012 You are ordered to serve 180 Day(s) with credit for 0 Day(s) actual time served in the Ventura County Jail.
03/16/2012 Defendant is entitled to credit for time served of – 5 days actual time and 4 days of 4019(b)(1) and (c)(1) time, for a total credit of 9 days, (calculated at the rate of 2 days 4019 for every 4 days sentenced).
03/16/2012 Report to the Sheriff to begin your jail sentence on 04/16/12 at 07:00 PM . Please be advised that the personal property you may bring is limited to the following: 1) Valid driver’s license or identification card 2) Court papers 3) Car keys 4) Cash (no personal checks-money will be put into trust account for commissary use).
03/16/2012 You shall pay a fine of $240.00 to the State Restitution Fund.
03/16/2012 You are directed to pay a monthly formal probation fee of $134.00 .
03/16/2012 You are to pay Prob. Investigation fee of $1,664.00 .
03/16/2012 The defendant hereby consents to a search of person, vehicle, residence, business, or any other personal or real property under the defendant’s control at any time by any law enforcement officer or probation officer, with or without a search warrant, warrant of arrest, or reasonable cause, to determine the presence of any of the items prohibited under these terms, or evidence of any of the behaviors prohibited under these terms.
03/16/2012 You shall provide buccal swab samples, right thumb print, and palm prints pursuant to Section 296(a)(1) of the Penal Code.
03/16/2012 You shall not own, possess, have under custody or control or immediate access to any firearm, ammunition, oleocapsicum pepper spray, or tear gas pursuant to Section 12403.7(a)(1) of the Penal Code.
03/16/2012 Not drive unless properly licensed and insured.
03/16/2012 Show proof to your probation officer that you are properly licensed and insured.
03/16/2012 The court finds that you have the ability to pay and orders you to pay all costs, fines, fees and restitution.
03/16/2012 You are to pay Crim Justice Admin fee of $356.34 .
03/16/2012 Your fine/fee(s) is/are payable at $100.00 per month beginning 07/15/12 and on the 15 day of each month. You are directed to pay an administrative fee (ARF) of $35.00 . Pay your fine and/or fee(s) to the Superior Court Collections Unit, at one of the following locations: *Appear at 800 South Victoria Avenue, Room 205, Ventura or mail to P.O. Box 6489, Ventura, California 93006-6489; phone (805) 639-5010. *Appear at or mail to 3855-F Alamo Street, Window 5 or 6, Simi Valley, California 93065. *Appear at the Juvenile Courthouse, Room 122, 4353 Vineyard, Oxnard If you are in custody you must report to the Superior Court Collection Unit within 5 days from the date of your release.
03/16/2012 The fee ordered is a civil judgment and can be enforced by execution of wages and property. Notify this office immediately if there is any problem with payments. You may petition the court at any time to modify or vacate this judgment if there is a change of circumstances in your ability to pay.
03/16/2012 The defendant has been advised of his/her right to appeal.
03/16/2012 Defendant accepts probation as stated by court.
03/16/2012 The court orders the defendant released on probation.
03/16/2012 Signature Required
03/16/2012 Court orders bail bond exonerated.
03/16/2012 File located to Ventura Records.
03/16/2012 Notice of Appeal filed by defendant pro per,
03/16/2012 Request for appointment of counsel on appeal by defendant.
Corporate personhood condemned at Tuesday meeting
By Tiobe Barron
The Ojai City Council joined a growing number of locals in voicing its opposition to corporate personhood at its regular Tuesday night meeting. In addition to asking that the government abolish the Supreme Court ruling, the resolution tasks Ojai City Council with calling upon other communities to pass similar resolutions, and to educate the public about the threat corporate personhood poses to American democracy. The resolution was prepared by city clerk Rhonda Basore and states, in part, that it asks “our elected federal representatives to join the tens of thousands of citizens, grassroots organizations and local governments across the country in the move to call for an Amendment to the Constitution to abolish Corporate Personhood and return our democracy, our elections, our communities back to America’s human persons and to thus reclaim our sovereign right to self-governance.”
Norm Garber, a former English professor, urged the council to pass the resolution, pointing out that while the resolution itself might not have a direct effect on federal legislation, the action contributes to groundswell, which does catch national attention if grown large enough.
Bill Haff, an Ojai resident with the Abolish Corporate Personhood organization, said this grassroots group has been petitioning, mostly at the Ojai Farmers’ Market, and has more than 750 signatures of support thus far. Ojai resident Lucas Thayer complimented Basore on the “beautiful text” of the resolution.
“I will not be able to support this,” said Councilwoman Sue Horgan. “I don’t believe this is an issue that should be before the City Council. I think it’s a political issue that belongs at a different level.” The remaining members of council voted in favor of the resolution.
The council tabled another controversial agenda item, the proposed plastic bag ban.
“I think this is an example of terrible governance,” said Horgan regarding the handling of the proposed ordinance. The decision on the ban was postponed for two weeks, when nearly two hours of debate made it clear the council still had unresolved issues with the ordinance as it stood. The remaining problems with the ordinance included: the specification of the exact percentage recycled material in the paper bags merchants would still be allowed to dole out to consumers, for a 10-cent charge; the record-keeping associated with retailers’ use of said paper bags; and whether the 10-cent charge should be required across the board, or merely of larger retail stores.
“I don’t want to bury it in committee,” said Mayor Betsy Clapp in response to Horgan’s suggestion they table the ordinance rather than deal with the wording of it immediately. “Let’s get it over with.” Council members continued to hammer out specifics, and the modified ordinance will be up for another reading at the next regular council meeting on March 27.
Council members did agree to co-sponsor a Bike to School Week event proposed by Kelly Pasco with the MOB Shop. The involvement will cost the city approximately $1,300, but is in keeping with the city’s Complete Streets Program.
“Well, this is financially painful, but I’m going to make a motion that we support (this),” said Councilwoman Carlon Strobel.
Council also deliberated on whether or not membership of the various advisory commissions should be restricted to city residents only. Horgan queried if there was some specific incident that caused the issue to be brought up at the meeting. Basore clarified that it was simply a matter of setting standards.
“Can somebody from Oak View really have an appreciation for the issues of Ojai?” wondered Clapp.
“Well, they think they do,” Horgan responded. But, she added, “I think this is a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Council took no action on the matter, save to adopt the proposed city of Ojai Board and Commission Handbook.
Council also adopted the ordinance changing the regular City Council meeting times from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The first meeting to take place beginning at the new time will be held April 24. Ojai City Council meets regularly every second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 401 S. Ventura St.
By Logan Hall
Ojai Valley Trail users won’t have to worry about rising creek waters during storm season stopping them in their tracks. The County of Ventura completed construction on a new, 480-foot bridge that spans San Antonio Creek at its convergence with the Ventura River near Casitas Springs. The new design is an upgrade from the trail’s previous concrete crossing.
The county utilized steel in the construction of the $1.8-million bridge, and officials state the new span will withstand a 100-year flood. It will also allow passage of the steelhead trout, an endangered species.
The county celebrated the bridge’s opening by holding a ribbon cutting on Tuesday. Those in attendance, among many others, included Supervisor Steve Bennett, members of the public, and the Channel Islands Bicycle Club — which, according to county reports, donated $20,000 for the project.
“We had a huge turnout,” said Bennett. “There had to be about a hundred people there. About 75 were on bicycles.”
Bennett says that the new crossing will be beneficial to the community, and will solve some issues that have plagued that section of the trail for years. “The bridge will be safer and more usable for everyone,” he said. “Now, when it rains, the trail won’t be closed down. It’s a great investment for the community.”
In a press release from the county, officials noted that the bridge “was completed nearly one month ahead of schedule, and within budget.” The structure itself — prefabricated by Excel Bridge Co. — consists of eight 60-foot-high segments and features arching steel beams. Many who have seen it compliment designers on the aesthetic qualities of the new crossing. “It really is a beautiful piece of public works construction,” said Steve Offerman, Bennett’s assistant.
In order to fund the project, the county received grants from various government agencies. A county fact sheet handed out at the opening ceremony read that the California Fish and Game, through their fisheries restoration grant program, allotted $502,000 to the span’s construction. The county paid $497,000, California Coastal Conservancy gave $405,000, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration granted $210,000 and the Ventura County Transportation Commission gave $190,000 to the project, plus the $20,000 from the Bicycle Club mentioned above.
By Misty Volaski
Last April, a homesick friend posted a photo on Facebook, which she’d snapped at a grocery store near her new house in Grand Rapids, Mich.
It was a display of Ojai Pixie tangerines.
“No freaking way!” read her caption. “I about screamed!”
Over the last several years, Ojai’s juicy little citrus fruit has spread throughout the United States and as far away as Japan. They have gained attention in news outlets like Slow Food USA, NBC News, PBS, Los Angeles Times, and Sunset magazine, and others.
This year’s crop, estimates grower Emily Ayala, should come in at around 2.5 million pounds — a little less than last year but still a good haul. And all of it comes from 42 local families, who grow on a total of about 250 acres on several ranches in the Ojai Valley. “Loved by local growers in Ojai, CA,” reads the label on the packaging.
The Ojai Pixie Growers Association keeps their operations relatively small. They hire about 24 pickers and a forklift driver from Magaña Labor Service each season to pick the entire crop. They lease packing space from a Sunkist warehouse in Fillmore, and from there, the fruit is distributed to stores and wholesalers nationwide. The Pixies that don’t quite meet the size standards set by the Food and Drug Administration — but that are still perfectly good — are sold at-cost to various school districts, or are donated to Food Share.
Picking season runs from early March through the end of May, and local businesses are capitalizing on the simple goodness of the home-grown treat. Agave Maria’s Restaurant and Cantina uses them in their popular Pixie-rita Margarita. They’re also a staple in the springtime at The Oaks at Ojai, where, “We use a ton of them in the kitchen,” says president-CEO Cathy Cluff. “We keep a basket (of them) available for guests, and they’re so sweet the guests just gobble them up!” The folks at Suzanne’s Cuisine are big fans as well. The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa celebrates them each spring with a special Pixie Package, which includes a crate of Pixies as a welcome amenity, a breakfast of waffles with Pixie topping, Pixie Twist cocktails and a Pixie body polish treatment at Spa Ojai. “We also keep a display in the front lobby,” says the inn’s public relations manager, Veronica Cole, “along with a poster that tells how Pixies are indigenous to Ojai, and how generations have grown them at Friend’s Ranch. It’s really a celebratory time here.”
Tony Thacher of Friend’s Ranches looks forward each spring to his wife’s Pixie creme bruleé and cookies. His daughter, Ayala, loves eating the Pixies fresh off the tree. “Pick and peel,” she says. “Our kids love them!” The fruit can be found at the local independent grocery stores in Ojai, as well as at the Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market every Sunday.
Although Pixies are grown in other areas, the Ojai Pixie Growers Association asserts that the Ojai Valley produces the best fruits. “Like certain types of wine (varietals), Pixies are micro-climate specific,” explains Thacher. He talks about a farmers’ conference he attended last weekend, when a Pixie grower from Bakersfield admitted, “Yours just taste better and are better looking!” The Ojai Pixie Growers Association is sending Thacher’s son, George, to a convention in Iowa to spread the word about Pixies to grocery store representatives. “He’s our Pixie ambassador,” laughs Tony.
The Ojai growers are quick to explain the difference between other tangerine varieties like Clementines and Cuties. “Pixies are naturally seedless,” says grower Carly Ford, “and sweeter!” She tells the story of her father, who at the age of 80 “… saw what they were doing with Pixies and went crazy. He planted tons of trees.” Now, Pixies are in her blood.
Ojai growers like Ford worry about rain, water rates, and the citrus psyllid, a nasty bug that feeds on citrus trees’ leaves and can wipe out entire crops. But luckily, said grower Bill Palladini, of Bella Colina Ranch, “The closest they’ve been found is Santa Paula.” He added that local growers are extremely careful about keeping the pest out of Ojai. They used to keep some leaves on the fruit for aesthetic value, but have stopped to prevent the possible spread of the psyllid.
At Thursday morning’s OPGA meeting, held at Ojai Café Emporium, the camaraderie of the group is clear. “This table is a diverse cross-section of landowners,” says Thacher. “We’re all just growers, no presidents or officers, no bylaws. It’s pretty casual.”
Those interested in learning more about Pixies and many other varieties of citrus can take a tour at Friend’s Ranches on Saturdays (visit friendsranches.com for a schedule), which includes a history of the fruit and the ranch, as well as an opportunity to pick your own fruit.
Want to grow your own Pixies? “Most good nurseries can order you Pixie trees,” said Thacher. “Now through May is a good time to order them.”
By Logan Hall
A new project to upgrade Libbey Park should shed some light on night usage at the park’s tennis courts. The Ojai Tennis Club raised funds to replace and upgrade the existing lighting on both the upper and lower courts. The project calls for 64 new light fixtures, 24 single extended arms and four new double extended arms on all eight courts. According to the club, the lighting is valued at $42,254.
In an effort to expand the court’s playability during the annual Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament — a world-renowned amateur event that decides the Pac-12 Conference tennis champions — the Tennis Club has donated the lights and related funds to the city. The Ojai City Council voted on Tuesday to accept the donation and move forward on the project.
In past tournaments, players vied for individual titles. This year, tournament officials have changed the event to a team format, which could see matches played throughout the day and into the night.
“The bracket and start times for matches are such that we could possibly see some lengthy matches,” said Erik Price, assistant commissioner of the Pac-12 conference. “If a match goes four or five hours, let’s say, it could go beyond 8 o’clock.”
Price said that the Pac-12 Steering Committee had toured the facility, and had made note that the current lighting on Libbey’s eight courts wasn’t sufficient. “What they found,” he said, “was that the most important issue was having enough light and visibility. When you have almost guaranteed night play, you need that lighting. If we do need it, we need it to be adequate. The coaches felt that the lights weren’t quite enough.”
Ojai Tennis Club’s Sam Eaton says the project will be a benefit to everyone involved — including the city. According to Eaton, after a low bidding contractor dropped out of the project, the city stepped in and claimed the Public Works department could do the job for half of the $16,000 estimated by the previous low bidder. The club will give the city $8,000 — which Public Works officials say includes the cost of installation and a scissor lift to aid in installation and maintenance of the lights.
“Basically, everyone comes up,” said Eaton. “The Pac-12 coaches will be happy. The city will get $55,000 in lighting (and labor costs), and this will help encourage physical fitness with the youth of the valley.”
Greg Grant, Ojai’s Public Works director, agrees that the deal is a good thing for Ojai. “Usually when the lights go out,” he said, “they’re really tough to replace. We have to have a two-man crew set up scaffolding. That scissor lift is going to be really handy for that, and other stuff too.”
Eaton said that funding for the project came as donations from several different sources.
“We got about $18,000 from the Ojai Civic Association,” he said. “One of our local supporters, Michael Taggart, donated $10,000. Pac-12 gave us $6,000. Visionaire Lighting gave $2,000, and NJP Sports wrote a check for $1,000.”
The rest of the funding — $20,000 — was donated by the Ojai Valley Tennis Club, Eaton said.
According to Grant, the light fixtures and scissor lift should arrive at the beginning of April, and construction is scheduled to start soon after. “We should get started on this in the first week of April,” he said. “The project should take about two weeks to complete.”
Grant said that they needed to finish everything before the Pac-12 competition, which starts April 24. He also stated that Libbey’s tennis courts would remain open during construction.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Like most people, I had pooh-poohed the prediction that the world is going to end on Dec. 12, 2012 — that is, until I heard the Rev. Pat Robertson say he is in favor of legalizing pot. If the famous TV evangelist, known for his extreme right-wing opinions, is suddenly advocating that pot be regulated and treated like alcohol, perhaps I need to rethink all this end of the world business. Maybe it’s a lot closer than I thought.
Uncharacteristically, Robertson’s opinion was based not on religious views, but rather upon practical considerations. The minister made national headlines when he stated that the government’s war on drugs is a multi-billion dollar failure. He added that the cost to the country was more than just taxpayer dollars, that the nation’s incarceration rate was taking a toll on society at large.
I absolutely believe marijuana should be available by prescription for medical purposes. But I remain on the fence when it comes to legalizing any drugs for recreational use, even pot. Pot is probably no more dangerous than alcohol, but it is far from harmless. Outside of its medicinal value, there is little to recommend it. But it should be decriminalized. It is not like we have a shortage of people already in prison. When your incarceration rates are higher than those of Russia, you can’t really say, “Well you know, I just don’t think we are putting enough people in jail.” Prison should be for those who pose a significant danger to society — those who steal, maim and kill. I don’t lock my door at night for fear of some stoner stumbling into my house in search of a giant-size bag of Doritos to satisfy his munchies.
On the economic side, legalized and regulated marijuana would be a huge windfall tax-wise to cash-strapped states and the federal government. Some of the dollars that now disappear into the underground economy would at least come back to governments in the form of tax dollars that could be used for schools, infrastructure repairs and other worthy projects. To those who would object on the basis of moral grounds, we do not turn down tax dollars generated through the sale of alcohol and cigarettes, each of which kills many more people annually than pot. As distasteful as it might be to have our state governments partially funded by pot taxes, much of those revenues now go to finance criminal activities of gangs and the mafia. While I know these criminals won’t just disappear if we legalize pot, I would rather see a new school built with that money than see it go into the pocket of a mobster.
I wish I had the answer. This is a complicated problem, with strong arguments on both sides. However, I think most people would agree that the current policy is not working.
I do not know if Pat Robertson is right or not. But maybe one good thing to come out of all this would be a national debate on the issue that will take us in a positive direction.
By Logan Hall
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the safety of Tico Road after citizens in the area voiced concern following a fatal crash last week at the intersection of Tico Road and Pala Drive. On Friday at about 10 a.m., CHP officers responded to a head-on traffic collision between a Honda scooter and a Toyota Tundra pickup truck on Tico near Lomita Avenue.
CHP Sgt. Robert Granieri, who responded to the crash, said that 59-year-old Vicky Solomon, from Decatur, Texas, was on the second scooter in a line of four that were heading northbound on Tico Road. According to Granieri, when the four scooters approached the intersection at Pala Drive, Solomon, for unknown reasons, veered left, crossing the double yellow line into oncoming traffic, crashing into the Toyota driven by Ojai resident Angel Gonzalez. Granieri said that Solomon was traveling at about 25 mph, while Gonzalez was driving about 30 mph as the two came toward a gradual curve in the road. Solomon was taken by ambulance to the Ventura County Medical Center where she died, suffering from blunt force trauma injuries sustained in the crash Granieri said. He added that Solomon was wearing a helmet.
According to friends of Solomon, the Texas resident was riding with her two sisters at the time of the crash. “She was here vacationing with her sisters, Paulette and Jana,” said Rae Hanstad, who attended Solomon’s retirement party in Texas last year. “(Riding scooters) was one of the activities that they had planned together.”
According to CHP spokesman Officer Steve Reid, there have been 24 collisions on Tico Road since 2005 — including Friday’s incident. CHP records indicate that of those, 17 involved at least one injury.
“Tico Road is a thoroughfare,” he said. “When you have a road like that, where people use it as a shortcut from one area to another, they tend to go a little faster.”
Reid says that safety and awareness are key, and need to be priorities for drivers.
“Whether riding a motorcycle or driving a car,” he said, “you have to be careful, and make sure you’re paying attention. We really need to remind folks that they need to slow down.”
When trying to mitigate potentially deadly traffic collisions, Reid says a joint effort of law enforcement, community and other local agencies is critical. “The bottom line is that it has to be a community effort,” he continued. “It all starts with getting information out there. A collaboration between the community, CHP and local newspapers can really get the word out effectively.”
Reid stated that fatal or injury crashes can often be avoided if people adhere to posted speed limits, obey traffic laws, and increase their general sense of awareness. The heart-rending effects of a traffic collision are all too real for Gonzalez, Hanstad and Solomon’s family.
“She always truly made everyone around her smile and laugh,” said Hanstad. “She had that Texas-style sense of humor. This was really a very tragic accident and it’s a terrible loss for her family and friends.”
By Misty Volaski
Attention spans aren’t what they used to be. Combine that with bigger class sizes and teachers stretched thinner than they have been in decades, and the reality is that more students may end up falling behind.
Predictably then, faculty members have been searching for better ways to reach the students. That’s where the Ojai Education Foundation aims to help, providing exciting, interactive technology and activities to keep kids engaged in the learning process. Since 2006, the OEF has awarded teachers tens of thousands of dollars in “mini-grants” for everything from fun new reading books to “smart” white boards. Teachers need only fill out a grant request form, said OEF’s Carol Holly, explaining what they’re asking for, its cost, and how it will “enrich the educational experience for students.” This year, the grants have been renamed from mini-grants to educational grants, because, Holly says, “We’ve had a big change in the single applicant limit, from $750 to $1,000. That’s the reason we changed the name, because there’s really nothing mini about that!”
A big year of fund raising — “Despite this recession economy, we’ve raised more than ever before,” points out a proud Holly — has been the main reason why the OEF board or directors were able to increase the grant limit. They now have a total of $13,000 to award, although the board may choose to increase that amount should the need present itself.
“In this day and age, that teachers can look around and think, ‘Wow, what would I do in my classroom if I had $1,000?’ That’s really exciting,” Holly enthused.
The grant application form has also been simplified and is now just one page. The goal is to streamline the process, making it as easy as possible for busy teachers to get what their students need. Teachers can find the application online at ojaief.org and are encouraged to apply; the deadline is March 30. The OEF will notify teachers of their grants by April 10, so, Holly said, “They can place their orders before the end of the year, and have the summer to play around with them and fine-tune it so they’re ready when school starts in the fall. These are tools teachers need to have in order to meet the needs of kids who can really learn and become proficient if they have the right tools in front of them.”
What the OEF has already been able to provide in classrooms so far through the grant process is significant. Teachers in more and more classrooms are requesting and being granted student response systems, essentially “buzzers” for each student to individually answer questions posed by the teacher. Said Topa Topa Elementary School principal John LeSuer, “Teachers are going to know right away who gets the concept and who doesn’t. One of our teachers said it really makes the kids want to be more involved, and she loves how she can tell which kids are and aren’t paying attention. It makes it so they kind of have to pay attention.”
“It works so much better than the ‘thumbs-up if you understand’ method,” said Holly.
“With the response system, teachers can tell who’s really getting it and who isn’t, and whether it’s worth the time to review certain things as a whole class, or if it’s just a few kids who she can review with later.”
LeSuer agreed. “It really helps a lot.” Other grantees have requested grants for comparatively low-tech projects, such as Topa Topa’s Barbara Brown. “She takes her kids to the meadow every year to do science experiments,” said LeSuer. “The kids love it and it’s not a lot of money.” Others simply need class sets of novels, something that is getting more and more difficult to fund as budgets get tighter.
Nordhoff dance teacher Kim Hoj, meanwhile, also touts the indispensability of the OEF, noting that it was a $500 OEF grant (which was then matched by the Nordhoff Parent Association and the School District) which helped her get the training she needed to take the school’s popular dance program to the next level back in 2006. “A grant from OEF in 2005 funded my participation in a six-day intensive teacher training which focused on all the major areas of instruction within our dance program, allowing me to reconnect with my dance skills and develop content appropriate for classroom instruction,” Hoj said. “OEF is still here supporting us by funding a portion of a brand-new computer … to make it possible for us document student dance works and our existing dance repertory. I am greatly appreciative and confident that OEF will be there at that time to continue to support creating a powerful dance education program at Nordhoff for students.”
Krista Kim, co-artistic director at Ojai Youth Entertainers Studio and mom of three elementary-age children in Ojai, has discovered that good things happen when you ask the universe.
Kim grew up in Yorktown, Va., and earned a degree in music education from James Madison University. There, she participated in “Show” choir, similar to “Glee,” performing across the eastern seaboard on school breaks. Kim soon realized that she also enjoyed creating the choreography, choosing the music and directing.
Moving to California in 1994, Kim taught general music and chorus in Beverly Hills and worked in musical theater with Youth Academy of Dramatic Arts. After a hiatus as a stay-at-home mom, she ached to put her talent, skills and passion to work again, so Kim started a musical theater group in her daughter’s school. She immediately appreciated the freedom of coordinating the productions.
When Kim’s husband, a motion film graphic designer, began free-lancing in 2009, the family moved to Ojai. Three months later, Kim jumped headlong into directing several casts of “High School Musical” with Topa Topa Elementary School students at Theater 150. By fall 2011, Kim opened the classes to the entire community and soon had three casts for her “Aladdin” production, completing the 2011 season.
Anne Gard, whose 9-year-old, Kaden, participated in Kim’s first “Aladdin” production, said that the experience brought him out of his shell. “I’m so grateful for Krista. She’s created this great experience for my quiet kid, especially as a boy who was new to theater and gave him skills for speaking in public and how to present himself,” said Gard. “The kids were allowed to be silly and have fun and work on skills at the same time.”
Kim never seemed to have enough time in the theater. She knew she needed a space of her own. “I literally had this ‘ah-ha’ moment. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I just knew that somehow I was going to open my own theater,” Kim said.
Four days later, the universe provided the catalyst. Chris Notolli, former artistic director at Theater 150, asked Kim if she wanted to take over the non-profit organization on Jan. 1 this year. Hence, Ojai Youth Entertainers Studio was born. “I love what I do. I love doing musical theater. Every day, I wake up and I’m asking for the right people to come through these doors and see the vision,” Kim said.
Kim asserts that no one just becomes a theater or music lover, actor, writer or director without being inspired by it. The OYES mission is: “To challenge, inspire, educate and entertain children and families in the Ojai Valley through the experience of quality theater, dance and music.” Of course, to provide high-quality programs and bring in professional actors and singers as mentors, the tuition for working families must be offset with donations and grants. Even with the landlord’s break in rent, the cost for operating the non-profit venue is high. Kim and co-artistic director, Rick Kuhlman, currently forgo any salary. Together with Frank Eller, OYES office manager, who runs the studio and books the evening events, Kim also helps to sell tickets, raises funds, finds teachers, books classes, teaches classes and even cleans the theater.
OYES currently will offer a tiny tot and three children’s productions of “Beauty and the Beast,” with performances in May. In addition, there are “Mommy and Me” classes, acting and improv classes for all ages, and evening events. On tap for OYES this summer are two-week camps in opera, disc jockeying, rock band, musical theater, mask making with storytelling, and drumming.
“I hope that people in the community will support her. I would highly recommend that they get their kids involved,” said Doug Irwin, whose 11-year-old niece, Abigail Bassart, will perform as Belle in one of the “Beauty and the Beast” productions.
For more information about OYES, visit ojaiyes.org.
Report and photo
by Logan Hall
Tragedy struck Friday morning when a woman was killed after her Honda scooter collided head-on with a Toyota Tundra pickup truck on Tico Road, according to the California Highway Patrol.
CHP Sgt. Robert Granieri said that 59-year-old Vicky Solomon, from Decatur, Texas, was the second scooter in a line of four that were heading northbounnd on Tico Road near Lomita Avenue at about 10 a.m. According to Granieri, when the four scooters approached the intersection at Pala Drive, Solomon, for unknown reasons, veered left, crossing the double yellow line into oncoming traffic, crashing into the Toyota driven by Ojai resident Angel Gonzalez. Granieri said that Solomon was traveling at about 25 mph, while Gonzalez was driving about 30 mph as the two came toward a gradual curve in the road. Solomon was taken by ambulance to the Ventura County Medical Center where she died, suffering from blunt force trauma injuries sustained in the crash Granieri said.
Several Ventura County Fire Department units and three CHP patrol cars responded to the collission. Tico Road between Pala and Lomita was closed while emergency crews cleared the roadway.
No other injuries were reported in the incident.
The Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual awards gala late last month at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Said chamber CEO Scott Eicher, “Our 2012 awards gala was our most successful to date with a turnout of 140 people.”
Eight awards were given out; nominees were voted upon by the public through the Ojai Valley Chamber or Commerce’s website.
Winners were: Small Business of the Year, El Paca Pastures; Retail Customer Satisfaction Leader of the Year, Wachters Hay & Grain; Service Customer Satisfaction Leader of the Year, Olga Jones, Ameriprise Financial; Best New Chamber Member, La Fonte; Spirit of the Ojai Valley, Ojai Community Bank; Cornerstone Award, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa; Spirit of the Arts Award, Gayel Childress; and President’s Award, Bob Kemper.
This year’s gala, again hosted by master of ceremonies Peter Bellwood, added the dimension of artwork from locals. “We invited 30 local artists to show three pieces of their work in a gallery setting during the cocktail hour preceding dinner,” said Eicher. “It was an excellent opportunity for artists to network with the business community. We want to express our appreciation to the many local artists who put in a lot of work for a one-hour show, and to those artists who lent their sculptures for table centerpieces.”
Ojai’s Jeff Foster and Ellen Johnson of Sound Visions Media produced a video about art in the Ojai Valley, which can be found on YouTube as well as at Ojaichamber.org.
Eicher thanked the chamber’s 20 sponsors, including premier sponsors Heritage Financial, Ojai Community Bank, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Bob Kemper-Troop Real Estate, Ojai Valley Directory and the Ojai Valley Community Hospital. “Of course,” Eicher said, “there would not have been a gala had it not been for the dedication of our volunteer gala committee: Veronica Cole, Emily Sandefur, Olga Singer, Gloria Jones, Debbie Godfrey, Tennay Fortier, Yvonne Puth and Laura Salinas.”
The next Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce event is set for March 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Libbey Bowl Foundation, 110 S. Ventura St.
Nordhoff High School graduate John Defterios had big dreams when he was a kid. Listening to his heroes broadcasting sports and news to millions of listeners over the radio, he imagined himself one day being the voice that reached the masses.
Now, hosting two CNN International television shows, “Global Exchange” and “Marketplace Middle East,” Defterios’ dreams have truly become a reality. The Ojai Valley News had a chance to catch up with the award-winning TV anchor to talk about Ojai, family, the Middle East, and his new show.
OVN: So you grew up in Ventura County and graduated from Nordhoff High School after your family moved to Ojai. What memories of the area stand out to you the most?
Defterios: Ojai is etched in my mind. In fact, I have two photos in my office in Abu Dhabi —- one of the “Pink Moment” and the other of the East End. We live in the Arabian Gulf, which is a vast desert landscape, so Ojai is indeed Shangri-La. It remains a terrific place to be from and has preserved its uniqueness, which is a struggle since most main streets in the U.S. have a tendency to look the same. That is not the case in Ojai, which always feels like a welcoming nest when we come home.
OVN: Do you get to visit the valley often?
Defterios: We don’t visit often enough, but we make it a point to come once a year to visit family. My mother, Leonora, has lived in Ojai since 1977 and my sister, Paula, lives in Ojai with her husband, Brian, and my four nephews; so there is a strong bond. I would like to visit more often, but it’s challenging with a 16-hour travel time.
OVN: What’s your favorite way to spend your time when you come back home?
Defterios: I am a Californian —- which means I try to soak up the natural beauty in the East End, sit and have a coffee in town and say hello to people I don’t see often enough, play a round of golf with those I did in high school, or wander around in Upper Ojai near Aquinas College. On my last visit I explored the grounds and library at the Krotona Institute. If time permits — not easy with two younger children —- I find it is a treat to wander up Highway 33 to the very end, which is like exploring a different world in a day.
OVN: How did you discover that TV news reporting was your calling?
Defterios: I am one of those rare souls who knew what I wanted to do when I was 7 years old. I listened to Vin Scully on the radio with his play-by-play commentary of the Dodgers. My original goal was to be a sports broadcaster and Nordhoff had an excellent media production class in my time. Believe it or not, we did four camera production shoots of the Rangers’ basketball games and I was the play-by-play announcer in 1977-79. The games would be broadcast the next night on Channel 8. That was my humble but incredibly useful start. I studied journalism and political economics at USC (following my mother’s initial plan before she reared our family) and interned at CNN during its first two years on the air and ABC News in Los Angeles. Both of those internships and the people I worked with shaped my career.
OVN: What brought you to CNN?
Defterios: Having been at CNN during its infancy we were given a great deal of responsibility as interns and also as free-lance producers when I was at university. I was taken by the entrepreneurial spirit of its founder Ted Turner — whose poster I had on my wall at USC, which said, “I was in cable before cable was cool.” That spirit lives within the organization today. So after eight years working as a producer, then reporter for PBS’s “Nightly Business Report” and then Reuters Television in London, I joined CNN in 1992. One of the people I had the chance to learn from as an intern at CNN is now the CEO of the network.
OVN: So what’s your new show all about?
Defterios: It is called the “Global Exchange,” which by design, it is an exchange of investment, business, trade, ideas and culture. The daily one-hour program is all about growth in the fast-growing emerging markets of the world from the Middle East to China, into Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. We are at the crossroads of east and west in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), which means as a journalist you can see the world in a very different way from here. The economies I cover are growing from 5 to 10 percent a year, very different than the outlook in the U.S. or Europe right now. We are only 200 miles away from Iran across the fabled Strait of Hormuz, so there is always a great deal happening around a region that sits on two-thirds of the global energy reserves.
OVN: You said that you now live in the Arabian Gulf with your family. Was it difficult to adapt to your new surroundings?
Defterios: I first came to the region when I covered the first Gulf War in 1990-91, so I have been visiting here for the better part of 20 years. More frequently in the past five years, since I also host a weekly CNN program called “Marketplace Middle East.” I am fascinated by the region, have traveled the 17 countries of the Middle East and North Africa and never stop learning. It is a whole new experience to be here with my Italian wife, Manuela, and our two girls, Lara and Alexandra, who are 9 and 6. They are studying Arabic in the British school and we together are exploring the region and hopefully providing them something that will enrich their lives forever.
The UAE is described as the Switzerland of the Middle East. This is a young country, just celebrating its 40th anniversary last year, and its development has been extraordinary considering four decades ago they were traveling via camel caravans with no roads or infrastructure. It is a highly modernized society, sitting on 8 percent of the global oil reserves and using that blessing to diversify its economy. I think most would be very surprised by what they would find here. I have lived and worked in Washington, New York, London, Los Angeles and Rome, so this is a whole different experience from the West.
OVN: I’m sure you’ve come across some heavy hitters out there in your extensive travels. Are there any in particular that you have worked with who stand out to you?
Defterios: Having done this for 20-plus years, I have come across many people at the top of their game as a correspondent, producer and now anchor-editor. Most notables have to be, President Ronald Reagan and the interview we did at the Oval Office, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the fabled CEO of Fiat, Gianni Agnelli upon his retirement, at least 25 presidents and prime ministers and, most recently, exclusive interviews with the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Ali Al Naimi, the veteran oil minister of Saudi Arabia.
OVN: Anything interesting happening right now?
Defterios: Due to the role at CNN, we are constantly pursuing newsmakers and providing live coverage of our remit, so I recently provided live coverage of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (where I am a media leader) and plan to be at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in Russia in June as examples of the work that remains both fascinating and challenging.
By Misty Volaski
The Ojai Unified School District is moving forward in its process of examining the feasibility of leasing or selling part or all of its property located at 414 E. Ojai Ave. The property is made up of five parcels and houses both the district offices and Chaparral High School.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, the OUSD board members accepted a report from the 7-11 Committee, which has met several times since its formation in May 2011, to look into all aspects of the potential sale and/or lease. According to a report available at the meeting, “The general purpose of such a committee is to advise a board on the use or disposition of school buildings or space in school buildings which is not needed for school purposes.”
The 7-11 Committee report indicated: “The strong majority” — that is, nine of the 10 members — “favored offering the potential buyer or lessee the flexibility to use all or part(s) of the property.” However, it acknowledged that a facilities master plan would need to be completed to determine things like where Chaparral and the district offices could be moved to, and the costs associated with such a move. OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser said Thursday: “The board would never move ahead to sell or lease the property, even if they knew exactly what revenue would be coming, unless they knew what the cost (to move) would be.”
The committee also said in its report: “There is a clear recognition that significant interaction with the citizens of Ojai and with the city of Ojai’s planning processes will be required if the board of education decides to authorize the sale or lease of the district office and Chaparral property.”
Among dissenters in the community is Chuck Crawford, an OUSD maintenance employee, who spoke Tuesday night. “The significance of the money is kind of missing the point,” he said. “I’ve seen this happen before (in other communities). This decision will totally change the city.”
Responding to Crawford’s and other citizens’ concerns that a part of Ojai history would be lost if the district ultimately decided to sell the property, Bangser noted Thursday that the board’s acceptance of the 7-11 Committee’s report, “Doesn’t mean that everything’s going to be torn down. That’s not what this is. One of the things we could be looking at is having the Ojai Avenue frontage area remain the same but maybe have the back corner up on Matilija and Montgomery be developed.”
He added that, “We may never do anything. All this (report) allowed us to do was move ahead and do more analysis.”
Three of the four present board members agreed to accept the 7-11 Committee’s report, with Board President Pauline Mercado dissenting.
Board member Rikki Horne said, “I want to say we explored everything.”
Mercado noted, “We can still say it was considered, the report considered the pros and cons. Say we got $10 million, which is ludicrous, it’s not worth it for the lifestyle of Ojai … Engaging further in this process beyond what we have done, I can’t see it will be any more fruitful than it is now.”
The discussion will continue at the next OUSD board meeting April 17, when the district’s real estate attorney will be present to answer questions and clarify the board’s options.
Also discussed Tuesday night was the projected budget for next year. Assistant superintendent Danni Pusatere announced that instead of the $1.2 million in cuts that had been announced for the 2012-2013 school year, that number has dropped to $640,844. This was due to several factors, including: receipt of more state funds than expected for transportation; mid-year budget cuts which were less than anticipated; an insurance rebate of $53,000; additional lottery monies of $20,000; increased revenues ($23,000) in the preschool program; and “non-personnel budget reductions” for the current year in the amount of $300,000. According to the 2011-2012 Second Interim Report and State Budget Update, OUSD director of fiscal services Laurel Meisch “feels highly confident that the budgets can be reduced by $300,000.” Those reductions “came from maintenance, school sites, merit commission and utilities.”
All of this assumes two things: that the teachers’ and classified unions would agree to again take the same furlough days they did this year, and that Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiatives get on the ballot and pass in November. Should the initiative — a half-percent sales tax increase and 2 percent income tax increase on those making $250,000 or more per year — fail to pass, the OUSD estimates it would be forced to cut an additional $1,007,510. According to the report, “The governor has stated that this … is equivalent to more than 15 days of school, on top of the five instructional say that have already been reduced.” As more developments from Sacramento come in, Meisch and Pusatere will provide updates.
The next OUSD board meeting is slated for April 17 at 5:30 p.m. in the district offices. Find more information and an agenda at ojai.k12.ca.us.
When Roberta Raye moved to Ojai in the summer of 2007, she did it, in part, to finish her novel.
“I wanted a place to get out of the city and live the quiet life,” Raye said.
And within a few months of arriving in the Ojai Valley the book was basically finished, she said. But then it sat in manuscript form for nearly four years while she launched the Made in Ojai store for local artisans and co-founded the Ojai WordFest event for writers.
That was until about one year ago.
“It was after WordFest this past year that I really started up again,” she said. And by October 2011 she finished the final edits and her own complete out-loud read-through of every word in the book.
On Monday at 7 p.m. the Ojai Art Center Literary Branch will host Raye’s first discussion and reading of “Open with Love,” which is currently selling at Made in Ojai and on amazon.com.
Raye said while the book is inspired by her own process of self-discovery following a divorce 10 years ago, it truly is a novel, with only a few characters and events lifted from actual events.
“This is something I want to talk about at the Art Center,” Raye said. “How do you take your life and allow it to inform what you’re writing about without it being your actual life.”
“Open with Love,” follows an unhappy woman searching for inner peace who looks to her inner goddess for answers to the problems that plague her.
“I had done a lot of self-discovery work and I wanted to share some of the amazing things I had learned,” Raye said, “but I didn’t want to become a psychologist.”
Drawing on her acting background, she looked inside for a character who could tell this story.
“And that’s how the older woman’s voice appeared,” she said. “It was almost like channeling. So I started writing even though I didn’t really know where it was coming from. I had no idea if it was valid or not, and that’s where the other characters appeared. I set out to write a self-help book and it became a novel.”
Since the book is full of writing prompts and other tools for self-learning, Raye said she plans to write a sort of workbook that readers can use to “tease out” some of the techniques the main character goes through in the book.
To learn more about Raye and the book, visit her website, openwithlove.com.
A $5 donation is suggested for the Monday evening event. The Ojai Art Center is located at 113 S. Montgomery St. The Literary Branch hosts an event on the second Monday of every month.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
On his radio show that reaches millions of listeners, Rush Limbaugh recently called Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute. Fluke is the Georgetown law student who testified before House Democrats advocating health insurance coverage for birth control. In addition to calling Fluke a slut, Limbaugh made fun of her sex life, and suggested that she repay taxpayers by posting sex videos on the internet.
Limbaugh gets paid a reported $56 million a year for being outrageous, and often coming across as a flawless moron (a term borrowed from the late author, Robert B. Parker, a favorite read of mine). What a sweet gig. When I was a child, my parents used to whip my behind for saying things that are much less offensive than what he gets paid millions to spew on a regular basis.
I defend Rush Limbaugh’s right to utter whatever inane utterances he wishes to, well, inanely utter. I am a capitalist, as well as a defender of free speech and the First Amendment. As the famous quote says, “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
My problem with Limbaugh is that he waited to apologize until his sponsors started sprinting away from his show. As more sponsors dropped, he apologized again. He did not issue a sincere, “I am deeply sorry for my stupid comments” kind of apology, but more the non-apology kind of apology that has come into vogue among certain celebrities and politicians. Limbaugh said he chose the wrong language, not that he was truly sorry for the grief and embarrassment he caused.
I am kind of amazed that we are having this retroactive national birth control debate in the first place. Didn’t we settle this about 40 or 50 years ago? Do people really not want women to have access to affordable birth control? If so, are those same people prepared to raise or subsidize the cost for raising all the unwanted babies that would be the result?
Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has made contraception a high-profile issue in his campaign, forcing other Republican primary candidates to debate the issue as well. Lately, Santorum seems more interested in limiting contraception than in dealing with the economy and other major problems facing the country.
Those politicians who jump on this bandwagon are headed for a steep cliff. The Republicans are alienating a large group of voters with their throwback comments of “slut” and “just put an aspirin between your knees, gals.” President Obama and the Democrats must be jumping up and down for joy.
Beating up on women for trying to control their own bodies will prove to be costly. It has cost Rush Limbaugh several advertisers and radio stations, and it will likely cost the Republicans the election in the fall.
Limbaugh was typically bold and brash when he made his comments about Ms. Fluke. But once the money starting leaving, he quickly recanted. Who looks like the prostitute now, Rush?
By Logan Hall
Ojai residents and law enforcement officials are scratching their heads once again after an unexplained “boom” rocked the valley over the weekend.
Speculation is abundant as citizens try to come up with answers that would explain a loud “explosion” that was reported at about 3:30 a.m. on Sunday. Ventura County Sheriff’s Department deputies responded to calls regarding the incident, but authorities were unable to locate the source of the noise. “We got a lot of calls about that,” said Tina Cook, office manager at the Ojai Police Station. “Deputies responded, but they didn’t find anything.”
The incident bears a striking resemblance to an occurrence in 2011 where locals reported similar noises during early morning hours.
In September, the VCSD and the Ojai Valley News received many calls questioning a loud “boom” that could be heard from locations across the valley. Sunday’s incident seems to echo those of previous years.
“There was one huge boom,” said Sara Schraeder, who lives behind Soule County Park on Boardman Road. “It wasn’t a crash. It was definitely a boom. It was loud enough to make me sit up in bed and go downstairs. I couldn’t figure out what it was though.”
Guesses as to the cause of the noise were in no short supply on the OVN blog. “It sounded just like dynamite,” read one blog post. Another stated that the sound originated “from a buildup of sewage gasses under the streets.”
VCSD Sgt. Steve Arthur commented by saying that the department had “no idea” what caused the unidentified noise.
By Logan Hall
The Ventura County District Attorney’s office has upped the charges against
Scott Doornbos, alleged attacker of Ojai veterinarian Steve Sallen.
Doornbos was originally charged with one count of felony battery with serious bodily injury after allegedly assaulting Sallen in the Ojai Village Veterinary Hospital last month. Doornbos faces felony counts of making terrorist threats, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and the original charge of battery. The district attorney also added sentencing enhancements to the charges that would authorize a judge to impose harsher penalties for Doornbos if he is convicted. If Doornbos is found guilty, he could do hard time.
“Because a serious felony is alleged,” said Kim Gibbons, senior deputy district attorney, “the defendant can possibly receive a state prison sentence.”
According to police reports, Doornbos attacked Sallen after learning that his 5-year-old dog died while in the vet’s care. Witnesses had stated that the dog was “very sick” when brought to Sallen on the morning of the alleged assault. A Ventura County Sheriff’s Department press release stated that Doornbos came to the animal hospital where he “… battered the veterinarian causing significant bodily injury.”
Sallen, who was initially hospitalized after the incident, says he is recovering, and that for him and his practice, it’s back to business as usual.
“I’m mending just fine,” Sallen said in a phone interview yesterday. “We’re open and seeing patients. We’re back in full operation.”
Both Sallen and his wife say that the community has rallied behind them, showing support both for the family, and Sallen’s business. “I’m just amazed at all of the community support I’ve gotten,” he said. “I’m so grateful for the letters and calls.”
Sallen’s wife Donna reiterated the vet’s sentiments toward the community. “The people need to know how really, truly thankful we are at the continued support of the entire Ojai Valley through this rough time,” she said. “That has really helped him to heal and continue doing what he loves doing — helping animals. That is truly what he lives for.”
Doornbos is scheduled to be arraigned in the Ventura County Superior Court on March 23 where, sources say, he will most likely plead “not guilty.” Ron Bamieh, Doornbos’ attorney, says he is waiting to see all of the evidence, known as the discovery, before he can move forward with the case. “Once I get all of the discovery, I’ll review that and have a discussion with the DA,” said Bamieh, who also represents the Ventura County Star.
Bamieh says he’s seen “evidence that’s a contradiction to some facts seen in the paper,” but he “can’t get into specifics at this point.”
Bamieh claims that Sallen was the aggressor and that someone other than Doornbos caused the vet’s injuries. A line in an article in the Star on the incident read: “… He (Bamieh) said Doornbos was assaulted and that Sallen’s injuries were caused by someone else …”
When asked to clarify the Star’s reporting, Bamieh told the Ojai Valley News that “there’s evidence to corroborate that.”
Doornbos, however, seemed to contradict Bamieh’s statement in an interview with ABC Eye Witness News reporter Robert Holguin. The ABC report, which aired on Channel 7 the day after the incident, said, “Doornbos says most of the physical contact between him and the veterinarian was accidental. ‘I just kind of did a little defensive move to stop him, and I put my hand up, swung my hand up like that, come in contact with his nose, or face, and then he laid back down, and screaming and yelling at me,’ said Doornbos.”
When asked about his client’s statements, Bamieh responded by saying he hadn’t seen the ABC News report. “I haven’t been able to find that interview so I don’t know what was said,” he stated.
Repeated calls to contact Doornbos were not returned.
Soul Centered will be hosting a concert and silent auction to benefit the new Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center Saturday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. SPARC is a no-kill animal shelter opening this spring. The program director of the shelter is Ojai’s own Karen Klingberg and the executive director is Holly Graczyk.
The benefit concert will feature the talents of Bob Ryman, a master of the violin well-versed in Celtic, classical, and country tunes. There will also be a silent auction, and a drawing for a cornucopia of items including Disneyland “Park Hopper” passes, yoga books, jewelry, gym memberships, spa passes, and gift baskets. Donors include The Oaks at Ojai, Vicki’s Pink Thrift, Walt Disney Studios, The Farmer and The Cook, Fox’s Fine Jewelry, and Trader Joe’s, among others. Soul Centered owner Diane Silvester also just announced one more addition to the silent auction lineup: a lithograph signed by comic book legend, Stan Lee.
While the concert is free, donations of towels, blankets, other pet accoutrements, or contributions of $10, will be gratefully accepted.
Soul Centered also held a fund-raising event for Ojai’s Humane Society of Ventura County on Feb. 18, dubbed “Howl at the Moon.” The Ojai Songwriters Anonymous group performed songs honoring animals, with a songwriting competition and a silent auction that raised $620 for the Humane Society. Prior to that, Soul Centered also had a psychic faire that raised $500 for victims of Hurricane Katrina, as well as more funds, washing machines and 50 bags of clothes for those affected by the Joplin tornado in 2011.
Soul Centered is located at 311 N. Montgomery St. For more information on the fund-raising event for the Santa Paula shelter, call 640-8222 or go to soulcentered.com.
Brows knitted, hands clammy, cheeks flushed, mind racing: there’s nothing like the feeling you get in the moments before you go on stage.
With almost 700 friends, family and community members looking on, 24 dancing pairs took the stage one by one in Nordhoff High School’s first “Dancing with the Ojai Stars” fund-raising event. The money raised will go toward sending the NHS dance students to the prestigious Pasadena Dance Festival, where they’ll be immersed in performances and classes in all forms of dance.
For the guys and gals who competed last Saturday, the nerves came from more than just being onstage. It was about the culmination of a month’s worth of rehearsals, countless hours of volunteer work, bragging rights, and proving that, despite hard financial times, Nordhoff is producing heaps of talented dancers and choreographers.
“I am so proud of all of my students,” said NHS dancer instructor Kim Hoj. “Their professionalism and responsibility demonstrated both on and off the stage speaks volumes about the value of providing an arts-based experience for all students.”
Hoj called the event, which was held in a packed NHS gymnasium, one of “the highlights of my 19-year career.” She estimated: “We will have well over $5,000 raised … I am so honored that the Ojai community came to support Nordhoff students and to share in the magic and joy of dance.”
That joy of dance — swing, hip-hop, jazz, country, modern, and more — was plain to attendees, as performers displayed their dancing skills to a packed house. Twelve NHS dancer students were paired with a fellow student in the student-student division, and 12 were paired with local “stars” (including this humble reporter) in the student-adult division. Out of those 24 teams, the five-judge panel chose four finalists in each division to compete in a “Dance Off.”
Voting then got turned over to the audience, who voted by text message and paper ballot for their favorite teams.
After several minutes of nervousness backstage, contestants filed back onstage and master of ceremonies Dave Cohen announced the winners.
In the student-adult division, first place went to Ojai star Sophocles Cotsis (of the Ojai Recreation Department) and his daughter, Georgia, with their rendition of “Soul Man.” Second place went to Ojai star Jackie Van Etten, a 2007 Nordhoff dance alumni, and her partner, Megan McFarland, with a performance of “Beautiful.” Third place went to Ojai star Chris Agh, a Nordhoff math teacher, along with partner, Megan Rose, with a performance of “Outta Your Mind.” Fourth place went to Ojai star Julia Pfeifer, a local artist, and her partner, Ava Radding, with “Come As You Are.”
In the student-student division, first place went to Rosemary Helvey-Byers and Jake Kunde (choreographed by dance student Madi Miller). Second place went to Courtney Dickerson and Sophia Botti. Third place went to Kaylee O’Malley and Nicolette Doolittle. Fourth place went to Promise Wall and Brianna Wadsworth.
First-place winners received a spa day courtesy The Oaks at Ojai, as well as a three-month membership to Bryant Street Health & Fitness.
The buzz throughout rehearsals and the performance itself was overwhelmingly positive — everyone was having a great time.
Tressa Kahler, owner of Bryant Street Health & Fitness and partner of student Katie Raymond, said, “It was so fun to be a part of it … I felt like Kirstie Alley on ‘Dancing with the Stars!’”
Teacher Bronwen Cull-Michels, who danced with student Lauren Radding, agreed. “It was such a positive experience for me!I learned so much from my partner …It was amazing to watch all of the students, teachers, parents and community members make such a huge commitment to the event, and then see all that hard work pay off.Just another reason to be proud to be a Nordhoff Ranger!”
Junior dancer Cotsis said, “I really enjoyed seeing how all of the dance students choreographed their individual pieces. It showed how much creativity everyone has learned.” She added that she loved competing with her dad. “Teaching him was fun (most of the time) and a great learning experience. I’m glad that our performance was so successful considering he has no dance background!”
Her dad was modest, giving the credit to his daughter and the event organizers. “It’s a huge understatement to say thatI’m incredibly proud of my daughter, Georgia, but I was alsopleasantly surprised bythe camaraderie and good vibesthat all the participants shared. I have a renewed faith in our up-and-coming generation.We have an incredible dance programand an amazingly dedicated dance teacher in Ms. Hoj. The outpouring of support for the eventis what makes our town so great.”
Dance instructor Hoj deflected the praise, saying the event wouldn’t have been possible without the help of several locals. “I am extremely grateful to our Steering Committee, without whom this event would never have taken place.Jody James, Nicole Botti, Lesa Caputo, Carla Cotsis, Mary Ellen Broeffle, and Becky Grant were instrumental in making the magic happen for our students.” She also thanked the Rotary Club of Ojai and the Rotary Club of Ojai-West, and the Ojai Valley Lions Club. James of the Steering Committee said, “I would love to highlight the participation by the Lions Club. They always step up to the plate in supporting local groups. They not only gave the department a large donation, but they also showed up to do all the food concessions for us.” Hoj also sent a special thanks to the judges.
Nancy Radding of The Oaks at Ojai danced with Kennia Gallindo and noted that, “The Steering Committee was so energetic and kind to accommodate everyone’s lives, I think they deserve the trophy!”
Botti of the steering committee said, “I am still in shock at how successful this event turned out to be! It all started out with two moms talking at a football game, then talking to some more moms and before you knew it, we had an event on our hands! It takes a village.”
A video of the event from Nordhoff’s Video Productions class will soon be available. For more information or to obtain a copy, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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By Lenny Roberts
An Ojai woman familiar with incarceration will be spending her 32nd birthday locked up on suspicion of having committed multiple burglaries, the most recent of which may have been Saturday in the 1400 block of Foothill Road according to Sheriff’s deputies assigned to the Ojai substation.
Ventura County Court records indicate Andrea Barrack has numerous arrests and convictions ranging from traffic violations to burglary, possession of stolen property, petty thefts and possession and being under the influence of controlled substances.
According to authorities, during the months of February and March several residential burglaries were reported to local police. In most of the cases, the suspect(s) removed jewelry and other valuables, sometimes after casing the area and posing as a door-to-door sales person. On Saturday a suspect entered a residence in the 1400 block of Foothill Road and removed jewelry and an electronic music player. The suspect left behind shoeprints and fingerprints. The items were recovered as evidence during the processing of the crime scene.
On Monday, deputies assigned to the Ojai Valley Station, assisted by detectives, conducted a probation search of Barrack, after developing her as a person of interest in the case. During the search, deputies located hundreds of items of jewelry that appeared to be related to the ongoing burglary crime spree. Items related to the Foothill burglary victim were located among the property, and evidence located at the suspect residence were matched to evidence located at the burglary crime scene. Barrack was arrested first-degree residential burglary, receiving stolen property, and possession of a device used to smoke illicit drugs. She was booked at the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility for these charges. This investigation is ongoing.
Deputies warned homeowners to lock all doors and windows when leaving home, and to be on the lookout for strangers canvassing residential areas. Any suspicious activity should be reported immediately. Call 646-1414 or 911 in an emergency situation. Police say jewelry, particularly gold, which can sell for about $1,800 an ounce, is in obvious high demand.
Report and photo
by Logan Hall
A woman was taken by ambulance to the Ojai Valley Community Hospital today after receiving minor injuries in a traffic collision on Ojai Avenue, according to Ventura County Sheriff’s Department deputies on scene.
At least three vehicles were involved in the crash but VCSD Deputy Matt Ogonowski stated that there were reports of a fourth vehicle involved that fled the scene before law enforcement personnel arrived. The three vehicles, a white Toyota pickup truck, a silver Jeep Rubicon and a white Ford utility truck were reportedly heading east when the collision occurred. The vehicles came to rest bumper to bumper in the eastbound lane of Ojai Avenue between the “Y” intersection and Country Club Drive near Matilija Junior High School’s sports field. The Jeep’s front end had wedged under the bed of the Toyota, lifting the rear of the pickup. The Jeep appeared to have sustained significant damage. The utility truck appeared to receive minor damage.
Deputies confirmed that there were injuries in the collision, but were investigating the crash and could not comment further. Brent Baker, who was driving the Toyota, said that the woman received a head injury in the crash. A circular crack was visible in the Jeep’s windshield in front of the driver’s seat. “She totally plowed her head into the windshield,” said Baker, who claimed to be uninjured at the time.
John Powers was riding shotgun with Baker when the collision occurred and says they were rear-ended while waiting on cars ahead to move forward. “It was a pretty good jolt,” said Powers, saying they were on their way to the auto parts store before the crash. “We bumped into an SUV in front of us but they took off … I hope I can move my neck when I wake up tomorrow.”
According to VCSD records, emergency crews were dispatched to the scene at 2:37 p.m. arrived on scene at 2:38 p.m. and had cleared the roadway by 3:16 p.m.
Report and photo by Logan Hall
Ojai’s citizens made no secret of their feelings toward Golden State Water Company yesterday during two public water rate hearings. The public participation hearings, held at 2 and 6 p.m. in Chaparral Auditorium, regarded GSWC’s latest rate case. The company is requesting a 25 percent increase in water rates by 2015.
The California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees privately owned utilities like Golden State, gave the floor to locals, letting them vent their growing frustration toward rising water rates in Ojai. The CPUC’s Administrative Law Judge Richard Smith, who will ultimately make the decision regarding GSWC’s rate case, listened to the complaints of dozens of citizens through the course of the two hearings.
One local GSWC customer, Vicky Clarke, elicited whoops, hollers, laughter, and ultimately wild applause after offering Smith a pitcher of water claimed to be from her home tap. Although refraining from sampling the pitcher’s contents, the judge smiled, motioning for Clarke to bring the pitcher to his table on the auditorium stage. “I’ll take a look at it,” he said.
Clarke also held up a plastic dish drainer mat that she said regularly comes into contact with Golden State-provided water as she lets her dishes dry. She proceeded to show a white buildup of material that she told Smith was a direct result of poor quality water. “I wiped one side with ArmorAll and left the other side with all the gunk on it,” she said after the hearing. “See how bad it is?”
Clarke was far from being the only one in attendance who had something to say about Golden State. CPUC officials on site counted 297 people attending the two hearings, and reported that 57 of those stood up to speak, addressing Smith with concerns on their rising water bills.
“We all live here,” said GSWC customer Karen Dingman during the CPUC’s 6 p.m. hearing, as she swept her hand over the gathered masses. “We are not going to take it any more.”
Many others echoed the complaints of Dingman and Clarke throughout the evening.
“Real estate in Ojai has been really hurt by the water rates,” said local Realtor Dale Hanson. “People can’t afford to water their lawns.”
Commenting on Golden State’s request to charge Ojai customers more for their water, local flower shop owner Jodi Brandt painted a grave picture. “This almost put my business under,” she told Smith. “That’s my livelihood.”
When the judge asked if there were any public officials present that would like to speak, Ojai Mayor Betsy Clapp stood up and headed for the microphone. “I don’t have anything prepared because I’m speechless,” said Clapp. The mayor cited grievances with Golden State, including “unnecessarily high rate increases” and “unfair billing practices,” as well as the company’s controversial meter charge. “I beg you to not give Golden State a single-percent increase, and if at all possible, a reduction,” she concluded, getting cheers from the audience.
Cindy Cantle, who represented Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, read a statement from Bennett on the matter that said, in part: “I object to the subject rate increase request … Far greater and more regular oversight must be exercised by the CPUC to assure that customers are protected from overcharges and unnecessary or inflated capital expenditures.”
Earlier in the day, Ojai city manager Rob Clark and Ojai City Councilman Paul Blatz also spoke on the citizens’ behalf. Other speakers included Friends of Locally Owned Water representatives Bob Daddi, Lou Torres, Ryan Blatz and Pat McPherson.
Before speaking out against GSWC, the citizens who had packed into the auditorium listened quietly as Golden State regulatory affairs manager John Garon outlined the company’s business practices in Ojai.
“Golden State’s rates reflect the cost to provide service and maintain the infrastructure,” said Garon, reading from a prepared statement as many of the evening’s public speakers did. “We only recover our operating expenses on a dollar-for-dollar basis and earn a ‘rate of return’ on capital investments that helps pay financing costs. The California Public Utilities Commission must approve these rates, and this Public Participation Hearing is an important part of this process. Local input is important and gives every Golden State Water Company customer a voice and influence in the outcome.”
Representatives from the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, an independent arm of the CPUC, recommended that the commission grant a much smaller increase than that requested by Golden State. A report given to Smith by DRA program and project supervisor Lisa Bilir outlined the DRA’s stance. “GSWC proposes a revenue increase of $788,920 or 14.7 percent for 2013. DRA’s report recommends a smaller revenue increase of $255,300 or 4.7 percent,” read the report.
Judge Smith told the audience that he appreciated their comments and thanked them for participating, but that he could not consider the day’s statements to be evidence.
“I’m very sympathetic to what I’m hearing,” Smith said in an interview after the hearing. “I can’t base my decision off of these comments though. The people who commented today were not sworn in, but I got good information from them though.”
Smith said that evidence would be considered during the CPUC’s evidentiary hearings that are scheduled to take place in April. “Ultimately, I have to rely on the oral and written testimony from the (evidentiary hearing),” he continued. “There will be a time when I have to grind through it all. Hopefully it will all be ready by October.”
A decision on the rate case, Smith explained, has to be made by the end of the year or temporary rates will have to be used. GSWC’s current rate case includes requests for increases starting next year. “The earliest time that a decision would be made would be in November,” he added.
By Tiobe Barron
On Tuesday night, Ojai City Council approved a second reading of the proposed ordinance that would ban retailers within city limits from providing single-use plastic bags. If passed, the ordinance would prohibit the distribution of the bags as of July 1, with the end goal of reducing the valley’s contribution of plastic trash, not only to landfills and litter, but also via the Ventura River,to the ocean. Not all plastic bags would be banned, merely the so-called “T-shirt” bags; thicker plastic bags with printed logos, as well as produce bags would be exempt from the ban. If the ordinance is approved on March 13, Ojai would be one of more than 40 cities in California to pass legislation restricting the bags. It would be the first in Ventura County to do so.
A large portion of the nearly four-hour meeting was spent debating the finer points of the ordinance: Whether or not restaurants should be exempt from the ban, whether the 10-cent charge for paper bags (required by the ordinance to both cover retailer’s costs and to dissuade consumers from using disposable bags altogether) should be applied universally or only to larger businesses, and whether the record-keeping forms for the 10-cent charge required by the ordinance were too cumbersome for business owners. Council members parroted the comments posted to the Ojai Valley News blog; some posited that the ban goes too far in infringing on personal rights, while others wondered if the ordinance did not go far enough in taking steps to protect the environment.
A tearful Deborah Pendry, the executive director of the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, pleaded with the council and the large crowd gathered. “It’s time again for government to step in and say, ‘We, the people, care,’ even when individuals say, ‘I don’t care if this non-essential item uses up finite resources, clogs waterways, contributes to litter, pollutes oceans, kills and injures marine life. I want the convenience for my purchases and I want the convenience for my trash cans and dog poop.” Pendry relayed the story of one David Todd, who observed as the stomach contents of a starved gray whale found dead near Seattle were examined. The contents included rope, a golf ball, a towel, and several plastic bags.
“In our small, land-locked valley, we cannot disconnect ourselves from a whale hundreds of miles up the coast starved to death by plastic bags and other trash,” Pendry insisted.
Morris Wells, a Ventura resident who donned 500 plastic bags and called himself the “Bag Monster” to demonstrate what one year’s worth of the bags for the average shopper looked like, disagreed with Pendry on the matter of Ojai being land-locked.
“I live on the Avenue, West Ventura, and I am exactly 15 miles downstream, and Ojai is not landlocked,” said Wills. “Ventura River drains this area, and it’s about a quarter mile from my front door. Anything that gets in the waterways, as other people have much more eloquently explained, gets in the water, it does make it to the ocean.”
Bob Davidson, a Ventura County resident of 37 years, pointed out that these “urban tumbleweeds” do find their way into our waterways. About 150 billion single-use plastic bags were produced in 2010, he continued, and because they do not biodegrade, he sees that as problematic. Davidson added, “We didn’t have them until 1977, and we seemed to get by.”
Ojai resident and small business owner Meg Goodwin told the sizable audience that it takes 20 million barrels of oil to produce the plastic bags used by Americans in a single year, and an estimated 300,00 tons of plastic bags wind up in landfills.
“If not now, when? We have to start somewhere,” said Goodwin of the proposed ordinance.
Attitude Adjustment owner Les Gardner pointed out that in nearly 30 years of doing business, his store has never used plastic bags.
“I’d like a little applause,” said Gardner jokingly, to which the crowd readily obliged. Steve Sprinkel, co-owner of The Farmer and The Cook, said he “never even contemplated using these kinds of materials,” as he urged council members to widen the ban to include bags doled out by restaurants as well as Styrofoam packaging. Hildegard Tallent, owner of Kava Gifts, concurred. “I care about the environment so much, I don’t even put my name on my bags,” she said. “Why soil the bed you lie in?” Ojai resident Marleen Luckman stated that the single-use bags in question are not even comfortable to carry, and they break often.
Not everyone is in support of the ordinance, however. Local grocery store owner Terry Starr, of Starr Market, submitted a letter to council urging members to reconsider, due to the concern that the ordinance would cause customers more time in line and undue aggravation. The California Grocers Association also submitted a letter to the council, stating that while it does not oppose the ban outright, it urged all restrictions and charges to be applied universally to all retailers, regardless of type or size.
While some have wondered if the ban would negatively effect tourism, Andy Shrader, a Los Angeles resident who frequently visits Ojai, said in yet another letter submitted to council that upon his last visit here, he was “dismayed to find stores still offering us plastic bags. I guess we expected Ojai to be leading the charge on environmental protection and beautification, as that is your reputation and, well, aura.”
Ojai resident Suza Francina summed up, “There’s a part of me that’s incredulous that this is even necessary … If we can’t do something this simple, there’s no hope.”
The City Council will make its final decision at the March 13 council meeting. View the agenda and additional city documents at ci.ojai.ca.us.
By Tiobe Barron
The proposed ordinance banning plastic bags in the city of Ojai wasn’t the only emotionally charged issue on the table at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. (See separate report). Access to health insurance also got blood boiling.
Councilwoman Carol Smith and Mayor Pro Tem Paul Blatz simultaneously vied for an opportunity to offer their two cents.
“I don’t have a problem with the health care benefits stopping when someone’s not on the council as long as they’re still able to obtain the benefit,” said Blatz.
“They can obtain health insurance,” argued Smith.
“Well, that’s not true, Carol, because the motion you made last time did not include that, it prohibited it,” countered Blatz.
“I’m just saying they can always obtain it privately,” maintained Smith.
“No, they can’t always,” said Blatz. “We’re not all as lucky as you, Carol.”
“Oh, come on, Paul!” interjected Smith. “I noticed you have a Corvette the other day. I noticed you own Rolex watches. What do you mean, you can’t get insurance?”
Ojai resident Leonard Klaif, a former council candidate, urged council to rethink the scaling back of health insurance benefits they are considering for future council members when they are no longer active.
“I ask you to vote no on this,” said Klaif. “I could not afford to be a member of the council … It would cost me money to be on the council. And the only way that would be fiscally possible would be if the health insurance costs of my family were covered … I just don’t get the need to cut back this benefit. How much money are you going to be saving for the city as opposed to how many people who would otherwise consider running but won’t (because of this)? Do you really think that even with the benefits for family that you all are overpaid for the amount of hours that you put in?”
The matter of cutting back city official’s health insurance benefits was brought to light last November, when Dick Thompson, of the Ventura Taxpayer’s Association, attended a regular Ojai City Council meeting and urged council to give up lifetime benefits at the taxpayers’ expense. In response, council drafted a resolution proposing to change the policy for those elected after Nov. 1, 2012. Benefits would be limited to active members only, with the option of paying out of pocket for any dependents.
“Nobody’s suggesting that you add benefits, just that you not cut them back,” concluded Klaif. “The cost savings to the city is miniscule … It’s penny-wise, and pound-foolish.”
“I feel that health care is a human right,” contributed Ojai resident Lucas Thayer. “I feel that if Ojai taxpayers are going to pay for anyone’s health insurance in the city of Ojai, then Ojai’s taxpayers should pay for everyone’s health insurance in the city of Ojai.” Thayer also urged council members to pass a resolution banning hydraulic fracturing, practiced by Halliburton in nearby Oxnard. In addition, he suggested council endorse a “global general strike” to be held May 1, and that Ojai take steps to specifically label any and all genetically modified food. Ojai resident and business owner Meg Goodwin agreed that the labeling is something the council should at least look at.
Tuesday’s meeting was also the last for Ann McLaughlin serving as interim community development director. City manager Rob Clark commended her on doing a year’s worth of work in a six-month time frame. She will be succeeded by Rob Melane, who has worked for San Luis Obispo and Goleta.
The next regular Ojai City Council meeting is scheduled to take place March 13 at 7:30 p.m. at 401 S. Ventura St.
Ojai will also celebrate Arbor Day on March 5 from 10 a.m. until noon, with four trees planted for the occasion, at least one of which will be dedicated to the memory of the late Gary Horgan.
Commentary by Biull Buchanan
The headline of the Associated Press article read, “Child support change could leave 275,000 men destitute.” In another newspaper, the same story’s headline shouted, “Rule change could leave 275,000 men penniless.” The accompanying article explained that beginning next year, the Treasury Department will pay and deposit all government benefits via electronic transfer instead of checks, a move that will save an estimated $1 billion. This new system would make it easier for state governments to freeze and seize 100 percent of that income for men who are past due on their child support payments. The story quotes an attorney named Johnson Tyler, who represents some of those who would be affected as saying, “It’s kind of Orwellian, what’s being set up here for a segment of the population. It’s going to be a nightmare in about a year unless something changes.” The article offers the touching example of a man whose bank account had been frozen repeatedly in the last few years because he had injured his back and had fallen behind on child care payments. The man even had his son come and speak to the court on his behalf. It painted a very sad picture of a poor man pitted against the big, bad government. The article made me a little sick. It was unnervingly sympathetic to the plight of the men, who are, in reality, dead-beat dads. If seizing assets of dead-beat dads is Orwellian, failure to seize them often leaves children in circumstances that are Dickensian. It is hard to get too worked up over the plight of men who have financially deserted their children. The failure of so many men to step up and care for the children they father is a major problem in this country. Not surprisingly, single income households are many times more likely to end up in poverty. The children in such households are much more likely to drop out of school, which, in turn, makes it likely that they, too, will live in poverty. When they grow up, the cycle often starts again. I agree that seizing all income is draconian. But people who do not support their children need extreme incentives to either pay up, or not father the children in the first place. Of course, if you look hard enough, you can find and trot out before the TV cameras some desperate guy who is now disabled or otherwise incapacitated who has fallen behind in paying for the child he spawned. Politicians on both sides of the aisle do it all the time. They elicit our sympathy to enlist support for their policies. But actions have consequences, and bad actions have bad consequences. We should not let our sympathy for isolated cases seduce us into making bad policies for the many. In the last few years, states have become increasingly aggressive in collecting past due welfare benefits. Much of that zeal has probably been born out of the necessity to balance the state budget rather than a benevolent desire to help the children affected. Whatever the reason, it is a good thing, and it needs to continue. If the consequence of not paying child support is going to be dire, let those who caused the problem pay the price, not those who are the helpless victims of it.