Report and photo by Logan Hall
The 2012 Sundowners golf league season started off with a bang as players took to the tee box, kicking off the first round of play.
Week 1 was packed with plenty of action at Soule Park Golf Course’s front nine. Most notably, Doug Ragan (Five Blind Mice) pulled out all the stops, bringing out his A-game when he sank his tee shot on the third hole, acing the 135-yard par three.
“We were just standing there on the tee waiting for the group in front of us, talking about this dude that aced the same hole at the City (Championship) last weekend,” said Ragan, recollecting his round on Tuesday. “When they cleared, I gave it a little punch with my 8-iron. We saw it bounce, and then it just disappeared.”
Ragan was skeptical as the other players in his group said that the ball probably went in the hole, but he soon realized that he’d drained his shot for a hole in one. “We walked up and there was only one ball on the green,” he said. “I went up to the hole and there it was.”
His ace on the third hole — said to be the second hole in one in league history — was just the beginning of a once-in-a-lifetime golf round for Ragan. With two par-5s and some tough finishing holes coming up, he needed to keep his cool and focus on his game.
“I just concentrated on my breathing heading to the next hole,” he said.
After leaving himself 220 yards to the green for his second shot on the 505-yard, par-5 fourth hole, Ragan made another good swing.
“I just nutted it,” he said on his solid second shot on the fifth hole. “It rolled onto the green about 25 feet from the hole. I made the putt for eagle, right after Chris (Harvey) knocked it in from 75 feet for eagle. As a foursome, my group played that hole 5 under.”
On the fifth hole, a 475-yard par 5, Ragan drained another 25- to 30-foot putt for an unprecedented third eagle in a row. “I hit that putt pretty hard,” he said. “I wasn’t gonna leave it short for my third eagle in a row. It hit the back of the cup and just dropped.”
Ragan would go on to shoot a 5-under 31 for his round, pulling in 26 points for his team.
“I’ve been playing for 25 years,” he said, “and that’s gotta be the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me in golf.”
Tyson York (Martin’s Leftovers), Soule Park golf professional, said he researched Ragan’s accomplishment, and couldn’t find a comparison. “Afterward,” said York, “we tried Googling the odds of making three eagles in a row. We couldn’t find it anywhere. It just doesn’t happen — ever. Making two eagles in a row is like 13 million to one. It’s just insane.”
Also on Tuesday, Jim Coultas, co-founder of the league, introduced a new competition for this year’s season. Called the Lenny Roberts Trophy, an award will be given at the end of the season for the most coveted of all titles — the player with the most accumulated points for the year. Named after Sundowner’s co-founder and Ojai Valley News senior editor Lenny Roberts, Coultas says it’s a fitting tribute to Roberts and the time he has dedicated to the Sundowners.
“This is to honor Lenny for his many years of service to the league,” said Coultas about his longtime friend. “It’s the most prestigious award that we have now.”
Look for Sundowners weekly results in upcoming issues of the Ojai Valley News.
By Tiobe Barron
Tuesday night found City Hall ringing with accolades, pleas and reprimands for Ojai City Council and its gathered constituents. Mayor Pro Tem Paul Blatz began the regular meeting by informing all present that Ojai City Council had been presented a 2012 Climate Change Action Award by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, primarily for the city of Ojai’s new ban on single-use plastic bags. Ojai City Council received a renewable-source bamboo plaque, which reads, “Think global, act local. 2012 Ventura County Board of Supervisors Climate Change Action Award Winner: City of Ojai.””While it was presented to the city of Ojai, believe me, it’s accepted on behalf of all our citizens. You’re the ones that make this place a very special place to be, and the ones that have really brought the attention for the environment,” said Blatz. Audra Lucas, a resident of Ventura, presented Ojai City Council members with their just desserts: an organic, non-GMO cake. The cake was gifted on behalf of Occupy Ventura and Occupy 805 for Ojai City Council’s resolution passed March 13, which calls for an Amendment to the United States Constitution abolishing corporate personhood. “I just wanted to come and say thank you for passing the resolution to end corporate personhood,” said Lucas. “There have been quite a few people in Ventura trying to get our city manager and our city mayor and the city council to bring it to their attention so they could do the same. You guys did it quite quickly … I think that you guys probably don’t get the recognition that you need.”Blatz suggested the cake be divvied up for all after the meeting, but not everyone was appeased. “Please protect us,” implored Marleen Luckman, in regards to the installation of smart meters that has begun in the Ojai Valley. Luckman mentioned the April 23 joint meeting of the Ojai City Council and the Planning Commission, in which a nonprofit organization called Strong Towns gave a presentation on municipalities, infrastructure, and return on investments. “Obviously this is a huge mistake financially,” Luckman continued. “One thing that stuck out for me at the end of that meeting was Commissioner Merck said how grateful he was that in the 1970s, the City Council had the foresight not to allow a freeway to go through the middle of Ojai and ruin it. And I’m hoping that our City Council can have the foresight not to allow these smart meters.”“I am a cancer survivor of 13 years, and I really would like to keep it that way,” declared Ojai resident Valerie Mince. “I have four meters on my patio wall. Two are analog meters still; they’re on delay. The other two meters belong to the neighbors, which I don’t have any control over, and they’re not on delay. They are 7 feet away from the chaise lounge I used to love to sit on … According to the FCC regulations, part 15, class 2, says that devices classified with the FCC as having antennas cannot be co-located, that is, that they cannot be clustered.”“We need you to help us,” said Ojai resident Barbara Bowman. Bowman said she cannot even use a cell phone, and urged the council to make Ojai unique in more ways than “just a tourist destination.”“I really love this place, I love this community so much,” said a tearful Patty Pagaling. “I appreciate the people here, and this is such an important issue. “Pagaling mentioned that the FCC standards for electro magnetic radiation are based on thermal effects only, and that the current head of the California Public Utilities Commission is a former head of Southern California Edison.Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, a tribal chair of the local Chumash tribe and an Ojai resident, stated that she knew nothing about smart meters until very recently. Tumamait-Stenslie has a son with autism, and there is a smart meter installed right outside his bedroom window.“You stand as a fire wall between we citizens and fascism,” said Ojai resident James Joseph. “All evidence points to the dangers of smart meters.”Ojai resident Sue Williamson pointed out that the money to install smart meters came from California taxpayers, and Southern California Edison is also asking that people pay to opt out. Both Williamson and resident Rae Amey offered their consultation and education services to Ojai City Council, and suggested a volunteer citizens panel be formed to advise council members.“When you folks say, ‘Why are they doing this?’ Are you naive?” queried Councilwoman Carol Smith. “We don’t need more health effect research, it’s already done. It’s easy to sit on Google at 10 o’clock at night. It’s harder to make a commitment to go out two hours a week and stand outside with a sign, protesting … Edison will listen to their customers. It affects their reputation … But don’t do any more public health research. How much more do you have to know?”“I think the individual taking an action can have a tremendous impact, and I want you to do that, rather than expecting the city to do it for you,” said Councilwoman Carlon Strobel. She urged residents to contact the governor of California, among others, to voice their concerns.Ojai resident and local business owner Vicki Cohen may not have contacted the governor, but when she was told her commercial property was deemed not eligible to be placed on Edison’s delay list, she wasted no time contacting Edison itself. Cohen wrote a letter titled, “Notice of No Consent to Trespass and Surveillance, Notice of Liability,” which states, in part, “I forbid, refuse, and deny consent of any installation and use of any monitoring, eavesdropping, and surveillance devices on my property, my place of residence, and my place of occupancy. That applies to and includes ‘Smart Meters’ and activity monitoring devices of any and all kinds. Any attempt to install any such devices directed at me, other occupants, my property or residence will constitute trespass, stalking, wiretapping and unlawful endangerment of health and safety, all prohibited and punishable by law through criminal and civil complaints.” Cohen mailed the letter to Edison April 6, and on April 9, she was notified by Edison representatives that her property was placed on the opt-out list. A copy of Cohen’s letter is available through the city clerk’s office.Blatz directed city manager Rob Clark to draft an ordinance based upon that of the city of Fairfax, with the modification to the language reflecting a permanent ban, rather than a temporary one. Clark and his staff are to draft the ordinance and bring it forward for more discussion at the May 22 council meeting.The next regular Ojai City Council meeting will be held May 8 at 7 p.m. at 401 S. Ventura St.
Report and photo
by Logan Hall
Gold Coast Transit representatives met with Ojai city officials and members of the public on Wednesday, showing details on new bus routes for the Ojai Valley. The meeting was the first of three designed to inform locals of changes in their public transportation.
The new Gold Coast route — still designated Route 16 — has the bus entering Ojai city limits, with new stops along Ojai Avenue. As in years past, the route will once again end at the Ojai Park & Ride lot.
Although now servicing downtown Ojai, in a controversial decision, Gold Coast will be eliminating its route through Meiners Oaks. Company officials and city engineer Greg Grant assured the public that service would remain for those riders in Meiners Oaks and that the Ojai Trolley would pick up any slack left once the change goes into effect on Aug. 19. Officials acknowledged the concerns of regular riders of the bus, but said that due to a decrease in riders and funding, changes were necessary.
“We know there is a demand for service,” said Gold Coast marketing director Helene Buchman. “We just don’t have a choice. If we don’t get enough ridership for the route, we have to change the route. Over the last few years, we’ve had to make some tough decisions.”
Grant believes that the changes will bring a positive outcome for the people though. “We’re going to make sure people can make connections with the bus to get to Meiners Oaks,” he said. “The trolley will now run until after 9 p.m. for those making transfers.”
Oak View resident and regular bus rider Sandra Grotsky says the change will be good for her and other riders. “This is a good thing,” she said. “Right now, I don’t come into town as often as I’d like. This will change that.”
Commenting on worries about a negative impact that the change may have, Grant says the city will adjust the Ojai Trolley schedule to ensure that those who depend on public transportation will be affected as little as possible. “We are going to make sure that we’re still able to get people where they need to go,” he said.
Grant and Buchman also stated that a new stop at Loma Drive has been planned to help bridge the gap between Ojai and Mira Monte. Currently, the Gold Coast bus stops in front of the Rite Aide shopping center in Mira Monte, but the next stop is several miles away at the “Y” intersection in front of Vons.
“We really believe this will be a win-win for everyone,” said Buchman, to nods of agreement from members of the public present.
Officials have not confirmed a date for the next public meeting regarding Ojai Valley’s public transportation system, but say it is scheduled to be held at Nordhoff High School sometime in June.
Catherine Meek is a busy lady. The Ojai resident is the executive director of School on Wheels, an organization that provides free tutoring services for homeless children from Santa Barbara to Santa Ana. And not only is Meek the executive director of the organization, she also still volunteers, tutoring a student in the Ventura Library once a week. Because she has logged more than 500 hours of volunteer work for 2011, she will be receiving the gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award.
Meek recently discussed her organization and volunteer work with OVN reporter Tiobe Barron.
OVN: How did you first get involved with School on Wheels?
Catherine Meek: I started as a volunteer tutor in late 1999, early 2000. I had a business in downtown Los Angeles. I saw a public service announcement (for School on Wheels) on a local cable news channel, saying, “One hour per week is all we need.” And I thought, “I can do that.” I actually became the first tutor on schedule in Los Angeles. Over the years, I became more and more involved. The founder became ill, she actually took to the hospital, and she asked me to take over some responsibilities, which, of course, I did. I retired from my business in L.A., and began to live in Ojai full-time. When Agnes, the director, retired three years ago, I became the executive director.
OVN: Did you envision working with School on Wheels for 10 years when you first started out?
Meek: I definitely did not! I had no idea I’d be doing this, but it’s one of those serendipitous things, it becomes wonderful.
OVN: Which subjects do you tutor?
Meek: Well, I started by working with a little boy who was about 7 years old, basically tutoring him in everything. Which is kind of what we do. You tutor any subject the student needs help in. Most of our students are behind in school, our goal is to fill the gaps. This particular little boy couldn’t read, so we really focused on reading.
OVN: What is the average age of kids you help?
Meek: The average age is probably about 8 years old, and I’d say a 50-50 split between boys and girls. And the average age of the tutors is probably in the 25 to 35 range, but we have volunteers all over the place, thereÕs a chunk who are younger and a chunk who are older.
OVN: What are some of the challenges that face you as you tutor homeless kids?
Meek: Let’s start with the physical. Where do you tutor them? The goal is to bridge the gaps in their education, and you go to where the kids are, this is not a brick-and-mortar institution. So sometimes you go to homeless shelters, battered women shelters, the library, bookstores. Anywhere public the kids can meet. Sometimes when you go to the shelters, there’s a television blaring, kids screaming, and you can’t get the kid (you’re tutoring) to focus.
OVN: Are the parents usually supportive?
Meek: Absolutely! The parents are usually the most supportive. The second challenge is that because these kids are so transient, they’re moving all the time, research shows that on average these kids are always four to six months behind in school. I have nothing but respect for teachers, but when you have a class of 30 kids É (trails off). The third challenge is the human perspective. The economy is the largest reason for homelessness. So many of these families are newly homeless, and the kids are traumatized by the experience, they’ve never gone through it before. School becomes not the first thing on their minds. They’ve lost their first home, and often also their second, their school. It’s a very traumatic and challenging situation to be in.
OVN: What have been some of the best moments for you?
Meek: There have been so many! I’m not being clichŽd. I tutored a little girl at the Salvation Army in Ventura. She was totally scarred. She would be hiding under the table when I arrived to tutor her. So I’d get under the table with her. The first time she got out from under the table, I’d consider that a success. I also had a young lady I tutored go to UCLA. She was homeless for 18 months. I really think she’s going to be president one day. Nothing’s going to stop her! When she was at the shelter, she turned the broom closet into her study area. These kids are courageous, they’re resilient. And they’re also just kids.
OVN: What do you hope to see in the future for the organization?
Meek: We just finished developing our strategic funding for the next three years. Because these are challenging economic times, we’d like to double the number of kids we tutor over the next three years. Of course, that means we need to double the number of volunteers, too, and that can be very tricky.
OVN: How do you go about recruiting volunteers?
Meek: Most tutors come from online. We advertise with Volunteermatch, Craigslist, we post fliers everywhere it’s allowed, word of mouth, college fairs, sometimes we do presentations to companies. We’re always looking for volunteers! Our qualifications are a high school diploma, (the volunteer should be) 18 years old or older Ñ- although we do family packs sometimes, someone under 18 comes with a parent or guardian. We provide the training.
For more information, or to get involved, visit schoolonwheels.org.
Lucy Bellwood is on a tear. If you’re reading this article on Friday when this paper hits the street, then she’s most likely just completed a 122-page thesis for her graduation project from Portland’s liberal arts Reed College.
“This is the longest thing I’ve ever written,” she says in a rapid-fire monologue that can only erupt at the intersection of inspired sleep deprivation, cross-hair focus and looming deadlines.
Her head seems to be on fire. Not just in reference to her shock of red hair, Bellwood’s brain is alight and teeming with ideas and analysis, references and all the stimulation that comes from being an active part of Portland’s burgeoning comics scene and being on the tail end of her soon-to-be-published, 36-page book, “True Believer,” an autobiographical story about having the courage to do what you love.
The 22-year-old Happy Valley School (now Besant Hill) graduate spent the better part of her childhood and youth growing up in Ojai. Here she discovered and developed her love of theater. She departed briefly to act the part of a privateer and sail tall ships. Perhaps she took her first few dance steps here. And falling asleep to the sound of her father, Peter Bellwood tip-tapping away at his typewriter keyboard, Lucy learned to love the power of words.
In Portland at Reed for the past four years, she’s pooled all her resources and parlayed them into a passion for writing and illustrating comics.
“I love Portland,” she gushes. “I think it’s probably got one of the best comic scenes in the country right now. It’s a very creative and supportive group of people.”
So when she decided to publish “True Believer” as her final project for graduation, she chose to enlist the financial support of her friends and community through an online Kickstarter.com fund-raising campaign.
Launched this past Monday and set at a modest $1,500 goal, which would provide enough to print 200 high-quality, large-format copies, as of this writing, 124 individuals have donated and the total sits near $5,000. And she’s still taking donations for two more weeks. All this means that she will likely increase her print run and work to increase distribution of the book Ñ including a few locations in Ojai.
“I didn’t think that no one would give me money,” she muses. “Lots of people support much bigger things. But itÕs impressive to receive $200 and realize I have friends who are software engineers who have the bank to throw down on something like this.”
She’s hoping for more support on this project from her Ojai friends and fans. Bellwood says she will likely make the books available for purchase alongside her “Baggy Wrinkles” comics at Coffee Connection in Meiners Oaks where her dad holds court most mornings during the week.
Not exactly certain when she’ll be back for a visit to her hometown of Ojai, Bellwood said she is getting “itchy to travel,” and perhaps write and illustrate the third comic in her ÒBaggy WrinklesÓ series.
With an enviable work ethic and stunning creativity, Bellwood says that the past six months of creating “True Believer” has taught her a lot about what it takes to get a large project done.
“Now I know what it takes to make myself work and get things finished,” she says. “Rather than looking at the whole project and thinking, ‘How am I going to get this done?’ I can say, ‘OK, today I have to draw page 6.’ And when that’s done I’m done for the day. And then itÕs like, ‘Hey where did this 36-page book come from?’”
To learn more about the artist and be part of her kickstarter campaign, visit lucybellwood.com.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Who else but the federal government would spend twice what a penny is worth just to make it in the first place? If that doesn’t make sense, wait a minute, it gets worse. Part of that high cost is due to the fact that we import the metals used for making the penny. Rather than using good old steel, or some other abundant metal from this country, that might actually create a few extra jobs, we import much of the copper and zinc used to make the coins. “We could save taxpayers an estimated $433 million over 10 years in production if we moved to using steel instead of nickel and copper in nickels and pennies,” says U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, who has introduced a bill to switch to steel coins. “Plus, the U.S. could see a $4 billion profit from recovering the nickel, zinc and copper from old coins currently in circulation.” Why haven’t we done this? Or better yet, why don’t we follow Canada’s lead, and just eliminate the penny altogether? We manufacture 7.4 billion pennies a year. At 2.4 cents each, that is over $176 million dollars a year in savings. Why are we still making these things? Oh sure, someone’s ancient Aunt Tilly in Omaha is sure to get on the evening news and wax nostalgic with a sentimental story from her childhood about the noble penny. But let’s face it; we all hate those nasty pennies. What does a penny buy today? How many pennies do you lose or throw out each year? Who actually uses them? One study shows that the average American wastes 2.4 hours a year handling pennies, or waiting for people who handle them. That’s probably why many convenience stores have little trays where people can either pick up a penny or two so you can have exact change without fumbling through your purse or pockets. And I read somewhere that picking up a penny off of a sidewalk doesn’t even pay the finder minimum wage unless you can pick it up in less than five or six seconds. Who is keeping this metallic dinosaur alive? When Canada announced it was killing off its one-cent coin, The Americans for Common Cents (cute name) started sending out press releases claiming that Americans wanted to keep the penny by a two-thirds majority. The ACC claims it is a consortium of 50 groups who praise the penny. Who heads up the ACC? The zinc lobby. Yes, there actually is such an entity. Something tells me they may not be terribly objective in their pursuit of keeping the penny alive. CNN Money reported that the opinion polls quoted by ACC are 12 to 20 years old. It also stated that the company, Jarden Zinc, spent about $140,000 in 2011 for pro-penny lobbying services. As it turns out, Jarden was awarded $48 million in federal contracts. I’m sure that is a mere coincidence. Like so many other things, deep-pocket lobbyists control a disturbingly large segment of our government. The cost to taxpayers for unnecessary and over-subsidized products and services due to well-placed campaign contributions by special interest groups cannot be easily calculated. And if it were, it would probably scare the hell out of all of us. Anyway, that’s my two cents worth.
Along with being featured in several magazines — Including Sunset and the Ojai Valley Visitors Guide Ojai Pixie tangerine growers were awarded accolades from Japan last week.
Oisix, a major online food retailer in Japan with two retail stores in Tokyo, recently completed its annual online poll of customers’ favorite suppliers, and found Ojai Pixies were the favorite fruit in 2012. The Ojai Valley-grown tangerines have been sold in Japan for several years now.
“Because of the way the relationship developed over the past years, my face has literally been on the label of our Pixies in Japan,” said Jim Churchill of the Ojai Valley Pixie Growers Association. “This past week, a representative of Oisix came to California in large part to present me with an award, which is really an award for Ojai Pixies. I am now in possession of a medal, a proclamation, and 10,000 yen, which are honors for all of us.”
The proclamation is in Japanese; the accompanying translation reads,”Producer of the Year, Fruits Division, Mr. Jim Churchill. Voices of much gratitude and positive feedback of our customers have earned you Producer of the Year 2012: Fruits Division. Adorable appearance and sweetness of your product got our customers, who usually do not eat fruits, addicted. So, in appreciation of your efforts and quality of goods, we hereby award you with ‘Producer of the Year.’ Kohey Takashima, President Oisix Inc.”
Churchill said in an e-mail, “To even have been nominated for Ojai Pixies, which is after all a tangerine, a fruit the Japanese have been growing for centuries, seems to me to be a big deal; to have won seems kind of extraordinary. In any case, that a representative of the company came to California to see Ojai Pixies and to present me with the award is significant.”
The 10,000 yen equals roughly $122, which Churchill said would be added to the Ojai Valley Pixie Growers Association bank account.
By Misty Volaski
Ojai’s Rosie Weir never went to a university; in her words, she was educated “in the school of hard knocks.” But it’s precisely that education that gives her the experience she needs to run Ventura County Teen Challenge, a nonprofit organization which houses 59 women for one year as they recover from drug and alcohol addictions.
“I grew up in the hippie days. I had issues in my youth,” Weir said. After recovering, a friend asked her to speak at a Teen Challenge event in 1986 to “talk about how I overcame these problems.” Finding she liked the Christian faith-based program, she volunteered there for a year before being asked to become a staff member. “I have compassion for them — I was very grateful to be delivered out of (addiction) at a young age. I’ve walked the Christian life since 1975, and I share my experiences with them. I had a broken heart from a divorce but I made it without going back to the ‘easy way’ with sedating myself.”
She counseled and advised women, who are ages 18 and older, at the Casitas Springs center, for seven years before retiring. “Well, I tried to retire,” she laughed. But Weir came back as a 14-year volunteer until 2008, when she was asked again to become a member of the staff as the director of Ventura Teen Challenge. The center keeps women on a specific schedule — something addicts usually lack, Weir said — and they have specific chores. They also volunteer their time at youth events, pancake breakfasts and the May 19 Ojai Valley Community Hospital spring fund-raising event.
Prior to becoming director, Weir helped out with the organization’s global team which went to many different countries to help establish Teen Challenge sites. Among the countries she’s been to are Serbia, Slovenia, India, Romania, and the Czech Republic. “Drug addiction is the same in those countries as they are here,” she said. But adding to the difficulty of helping addicted individuals recover were the Third World conditions in which they lived. “I was asked to go do a training session in Mumbai, India, at the Teen Challenge there,” said Weir. “Their mission is to rescue girls sold into brothels.” Girls, she added, are often kidnapped from their villages around the age of 10 or 12, and are then sold to brothels, where they commonly get pregnant, contract diseases like HIV, and fall into addictions. “In the red light district, we were able to rescue some of the prostitutes,” Weir said. “Once they get very sick, they kick the women out and they’re left to die.” Not only did they establish a Teen Challenge, they also organized a nearby orphanage for the prostitutes’ children so the women could see their kids as they recovered from their addictions.
Weir is also proud of her work in Romania, where children are dismissed from the orphanages homeless and penniless. They often end up living in the sewers, where they eat, have children, and sniff glue. “I crawled down to see what it was like,” she said. After seeing the living conditions there, she came back to the United States and raised funds to open a Teen Challenge in Bucharest.
Weir also spent time in Serbia, where soldiers got addicted to heroin after experiencing the horrors of war. Slovenia, Weir recalled, also had a big heroin problem; she was able to help a couple there raise funds to rent a building and begin a Teen Challenge branch of their own.
Back in Ventura, Weir pointed out, heroin is also a big problem. One woman who went through the program, Kelly, battled it for 30 years. She abandoned her husband and children and lived on the streets. After a stint in jail and time in the hospital — “I had so much poison in my body,” she recalled — she found Teen Challenge. “My life has been amazing since,” she said. She’s now a member of the staff in Ventura, and says that the structured program and its foundation in the Bible brings forgiveness and unconditional love that so many of the women desperately need. “You learn a better way of life, you finally get that peace to fill the void. These women, when they get here, they’re so wounded and broken. I know for myself, I started using drugs because I was looking for love. It’s kind of hard to find hope out there, but there’s hope in here.”
Despite the difficulties and highs and lows of emotions, Weir finds her job “a blessing.Ó It’s not easy she said, and often takes patience. It also takes a serious talent for raising funds to keep the program — which does not charge participants — operating. “Every month we get girls going out and new girls in. When I see the new girls march in, it keeps me fueled to continue to that next month. I see those girls desperate for encouragement and love. I am here to serve. I don’t do anything special, honestly, but it is amazing what love and kindness can do for a person, and that’s not hard to give. Now, I’m addicted to helping people.”
Weir is spearheading a May 5 Teen Challenge fund-raising event at the First Neighborhood Community Center in Westlake Village. For information, call 648-3295 or visit teenchallenge.org.
Two of college tennis’s powerhouse programs and intra-city rivals, USC and UCLA, will compete — and possibly meet for the third time this season —the 112th annual Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament this week. Today marks the beginning of the first Pac-12 Men’s Championships dual-match format event. In previous years, matches had been played in an individual format; but this year, the dual match format means Pac-12 teams are bringing out the entire teams in hopes of solidifying an NCAA championship berth.
UCLA snapped reigning NCAA champion USC’s 45-match winning streak last Friday in the Pac-12 regular-season finale with a 4-3 road victory at USC’s Marks Stadium. Previously, USC beat UCLA in Westwood on Feb. 29, 6-1. USC won the doubles point last Friday and got wins in singles from No. 1 Steve Johnson and No. 3 Daniel Nguyen. Johnson, from Orange, won the NCAA men’s singles title last year and has won 58 consecutive collegiate matches. He is currently ranked No. 368 in the ATP world rankings.
Johnson, who won the Pac-10 men’s singles title last year at ÒThe Ojai,Ó said, ÒWe’re just going to work that much harder and we’re not going to want to have this feeling again. I’m excited about the new team format, and I think everyone is. I guess it’s nice for me personally to be the last individual winner, so that’s kind of special for me. I think we will meet these guys (UCLA) in the finals (on) Saturday and hopefully the outcome will be different.Ó
As the top two seeded teams, UCLA and USC advance to the semifinals on Friday at noon and 3 p.m., respectively.
Today, No. 5 Washington plays No. 8 Arizona at 11 a.m., followed by No. 6 Oregon versus. No. 7 Utah at Libbey Park in downtown Ojai.
Tomorrow, No. 4-seeded California will play the Washington-Arizona winner at 11 a.m. and No. 3 Stanford will play the Oregon-Utah winner at 2 p.m. The firstPac-12 Men’steamfinalwill be played Saturday at4p.m.
The Pac-12 Women’s Championships begin Thursday and remain a 32-player singles and 16-team doubles individual event. Four of the national ITA-ranked Top 10 players will all compete, including Robin Anderson (UCLA), Nicole Gibbs (Stanford), Mallory Burdette (Stanford) and Jana Juricova (California).
Other than the Pac-12, “The Ojai” plays host to several other competitions: collegiate Division III West Regionals, community and independent colleges, junior and CIF events, and the open division. Visit Ojaitourney.org for details.
District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced Friday that the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office will commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week with a ceremony and march on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. The program will begin at 11 :45 a.m. at the Ventura County Government Center, Hall of Administration, Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, 800 South Victoria Avenue in Ventura.
This year’s ceremony will include remarks by Ms. Gabriella Aguirre, daughter of slain Ventura County Sheriffs Deputy Peter Aguirre. Deputy Aguirre was murdered in the line of duty on July 16, 1996, while investigating a family disturbance in Meiners Oaks.
Additionally, the District Attorney will present the Crime Victims’ Rights award to Ventura County Sheriffs Deputies Ryan Clark and William Hollowell for their work in a Lockwood Valley case in which a 10-week-old baby was murdered.
Following the program, there will be a march around the Government Center. Lunch will be provided by Interface Children Family Services, the Coalition for Family Harmony, and the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. This event is free and open to the public.
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, first recognized in 1981, is April 22-28, 2012. This year’s theme, “Reshaping the Future, Honoring the Past.” pays tribute to the millions of crime victims over the decades who have summoned the strength to rebuild their shattered lives, families and communities, one step at a time. Similarly, it honors the victim service community whose members have walked alongside these victims, responding to their courage with unwavering commitment and skillful guidance.
By Logan Hall
A Ventura man was arrested last night for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol after crashing into a wooden fence in Upper Ojai at a high rate of speed, according to California Highway Patrol officials.
Hector Silva, 27 of Ventura, was driving Westbound on Highway 150 just East of Walnut Road when he reportedly lost control of his 2003 Toyota Camry as he entered a sweeping curve in the roadway, said authorities. CHP reports indicated that the Camry spun across the oncoming traffic lane, and crashed through a wooden fence, injuring Silva’s three passengers.
“When the Camry went through the fence,” read a CHP press release, “a wooden post came through the back window … and struck the head of Ms. Monica Meza, inflicting severe head trauma.”
Meza was rushed to Ventura County Medical Center and was place in the hospital’s intensive care unit, said officials. Authorities also reported that Silva’s other two passengers, Francis Chapman and Jessica Guzman, were taken to Ojai Valley Community Hospital where they were treated for their injuries and subsequently released. At the time of publication, no information was available on the residency of Silva’s passengers.
According to responding CHP officers, Silva was located at the scene of the crash and “was not cooperative with law enforcement or fire personnel.” The CHP press release stated that “Mr. Silva was … coming from Steckel Park where he and his passengers had been drinking vodka and beer.”
Silva was booked into the Ventura County Main Jail on suspicion of DUI.
By Misty Volaski
Members of the Ojai Unified School District board heard a presentation on the possible lease or sale of its Chaparral High School property Tuesday night. OUSD real estate attorney Andreas Chialtas walked the board through the steps it would need to take to eventually sell or lease part or all of the property at 414 E. Ojai Ave., which contains five parcels of land.
OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser explained the board’s reasoning behind considering the lease and/or sale. “It is incumbent upon us, given the severe financial challenges (facing OUSD), to at least analyze any potential source of revenue other than what we receive from Sacramento, which is completely impossible to predict and has only decreased in recent years.”
“This is not a short process,” attorney Chialtas emphasized. The OUSD board has expressed no interest in moving quickly on the issue. “You do have all the time in the world,” Chialtas told board members. “There are a fair amount of things you need to do” to get to the point of sale or lease.
Bangser pointed out that the board is still “in the analytical stage. We’re not even at a point where we’re thinking what a plan would look like.”
Chialtas said that to move forward from that analytical stage, the board would have to do several things, the first of which would be to pass a resolution declaring the property “surplus.” But to determine this, the OUSD administration would need to first conduct a facilities master plan, which would detail where the OUSD would move Chaparral High School and the district offices, among other things. It would also need to get the property appraised.
“We have no idea what the value of the entire property is,” said Bangser, “and I would even go so far as to say (we need an) appraisal on each of the five parcels.”
Once those things are done and the property is declared surplus, the OUSD board would give its lawyers permission to put out notices to public agencies, which would be followed by a public bid hearing. They could choose to concurrently solicit for both lease and purchase offers, Chialtas said.
The process can be tailored to remain flexible. “There are plenty of options,” Chialtas said in a phone conversation on Thursday. But “all of this is many, many months down the road.”
Should the board decide to proceed with a lease or sale, the use of the proceeds could be limited to “capital improvements,” said Chialtas. But, legislation passed under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would allow some flexibility; funds could be used for a “one-time general fund expenditure É you would have to show that you don’t have any need for those funds for deferred maintenance.” Waivers to the state allocation board might allow OUSD more flexibility in spending those funds.
In short, it’s a long, complicated process. Said board member Thayne Whipple, “Obviously, there are a lot of variables.”
Some members of the public expressed their concerns with the potential lease or sale Tuesday night.
“This land really belongs to the public,” said Ojai resident Dwayne Bower. “This land is our history. When the property sells, the property is gone, then the money is gone, then (we’ll) move on to something else É we should really try to save it. This is something to really think about for the future.”
Board Member Kathi Smith said later in the discussion, “It strikes me that it is easy for the community to come and say, ‘That’s a community gem.’ But we’ve asked for a parcel tax (which failed to pass) É Just because it’s an asset to the community doesn’t mean we can afford to keep it.”
Whipple summed up the board’s sentiments, saying, “It would be irresponsible to take rash actions É but it would also be irresponsible not to look at all actions” the board might take. “We’re looking at the past and future every step of the way.”
Bangser said the board and OUSD administrative staff would continue to analyze the pros and cons of a potential lease and/or sale, and that he did not anticipate any formal action by the board in coming months.
The next OUSD board meeting is slated for May 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the OUSD board room, 414 E. Ojai Ave.
By Misty Volaski
The Ojai Education Foundation awarded 27 education grants totaling $18,656 to Ojai public school teachers at a reception at Ojai Community Bank on April 12.
Teachers, principals and OEF board members gathered to celebrate the good news at Ojai Community Bank, which contributed $1,000 to OEF for the grants. “We’ve got to invest in the kids if we’re going to change the world,” said Dave Brubaker, the bank’s president and CEO.
“The mission of OEF is to help schools,” OEF President Deborah Johnson told the assembled educators. This year, OEF increased the maximum grant for each teacher to $1,000, and was able to provide a record amount for the grant program’s 13th year, she said.
Funds for the grants (formerly called mini grants) went toward multimedia sound systems, interactive whiteboards, document cameras, books, iPads and music.
Nordhoff High School math teacher Chris Agh, a former engineer with a doctorate in mathematics, said the $375 multimedia sound system he applied for will allow all the students in his class to hear the math video clips he uses. Without one, he has to turn his computer volume on high, which is scarcely audible across the classroom. “This will round out the technology setup in the classroom,” he said.
Greg Bayless, another Ph.D. at Nordhoff, who replaces retiring principal Dan Musick in the fall, welcomes the $4,580 granted to 10 Nordhoff teachers for multimedia sound systems, video production equipment, an interactive whiteboard and music. “We are bringing the digital world into the classroom, instead of everyone going to the (computer) lab,” he said. “We are integrating digital learning, research and access into the classroom and weaving it into the daily classroom experience.” With more OEF grants to come to enhance technology at Nordhoff, Bayless said he is ecstatic about having wireless capabilities in the classrooms and putting tablet computers in students’ hands.
Chris Bohney, who teaches world geography and advanced placement government and politics, said that while he can’t take his students on field trips to Africa, OEF grants allow him to do such things as take students on virtual tours of the second-largest continent through the web in his classroom.
Isabelle Turpin, who teaches kindergarten and first grade at Summit Elementary School, said she is looking forward to using interactive games and activities that will be purchased to supplement the interactive whiteboards in the classrooms. “We’re very fortunate to be able to utilize the technology and take it to the next level,” she said.
“Teachers are thrilled” with the $1,000 grant for nonfiction books in the school library, said Dawn Damianos, Meiners Oaks Elementary School principal.
“We had some great technology grants,” said John LeSuer, principal at Topa Topa Elementary School. Seven Topa Topa School teachers received a total of $4,025 for such items as document cameras and interactive whiteboards.
Ojai Unified School District superintendent Hank Bangser, who also serves on the OEF board, welcomed the educators who crowded the bank during business hours. “I wish I could convey our sincerity and belief in what you all do,” he said. “Our only frustration is that we don’t have six or seven times more to give.” However, with OEF’s latest push to invest in more technology in Nordhoff classrooms, Bangser was happy to report: “There’s more to come.”
Ojai Education Foundation is a nonprofit, community-based organization that supports, enriches and supplements the instructional program in the Ojai Unified School District. It will have a booth at the Ojai Youthfest at Libbey Park on Sunday. Its next big fund-raising event, with the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation, is the 12th annual Ojai Golf Classic on June 4 at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. For more information about the golf classic, call 640-2040 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about OEF, log on to www.ojaief.org.
Education Grant Awardees
Matilija Junior High School
Harriette Clise: $1,325 for interactive whiteboard.
Brenda Farrant: $529 for Promethean ActivSlate 60, a notebook-sized computer tablet that works the same as a Promethean interactive whiteboard, but can be used anywhere in the classroom; and replacement lamp for InFocus projector.
Carol Paquette: $1,000 for wireless access point, controller license and projector bulb.
Nancy Welter: $1,000 for two iPads.
Meiners Oaks Elementary School
Teresa Perry and Danon Plott: $1,000 for nonfiction library books.
Mira Monte Elementary School
Vicki Hughart: $539 for Promethean ActivBoard.
Sharon Michels and Chris Hess: $1,080 for Promethean ActivBoards.
June Sears: $700 for integrating play with science and mathematics.
San Antonio Elementary School
Sue Lovelady: $445 for NEC digital projector
Kathy McAlpine: $933 for class set of reading books.
Summit Elementary School
Heather Ramsey, Teresa Lessing and Isabelle Turpin: $1,500 for interactive games and activities to supplement interactive whiteboards.
Topa Topa Elementary School
Amy Bujold: $540 for document camera.
Karin Dingman: $225 for musical play license and portable CD/MP3 player.
Sarah Ferranti and Chris Ando : $1,500 for document cameras and interactive whiteboard.
Jennifer Hankins and Carolyn Burke: $720 for document camera and computer program.
Rosy Lotts: $500 for Read Naturally technology update.
Tracy Oakland: $540 for document camera.
Nordhoff High School
Bill Wagner: $250 for sheet music.
Chris Agh, Chris Bohney, Andrew Buck, Tony Henney, John Hoj, Rene Nakao-Mauch and Ann Inman: $375 apiece for multimedia sound systems.
Patricia Lind: $1,000 for a Promethean ActivBoard.
Tom Friedman: $705 for video production equipment.
Report and photo by Logan Hall
Ojai resident Bob Roper has been a busy man recently. After announcing last year that he would be running for Ventura County supervisor, Roper has been busy campaigning all over the county. He also holds a position on the Red Cross board of directors. On top of that, up until last month, he was busy running the Ventura County Fire Department as the county fire chief.
With so much going on in his life, Roper made the decision to retire from the VCFD. After more than 32 years of service with the department, and almost 25 years as fire chief, he handed over the reins to former Deputy Chief Mark Lorenzen. Now, focusing on his family and his campaign for the supervisor seat, Roper is still as busy as ever. “When I announced my candidacy for the board of supervisors last year,” said Roper, “I was going to stay at my position until the election, but the taxpayers who gave me the honor of being fire chief deserve 100 percent of my time. That’s why I made the decision to retire in March.”
Lorenzen is quick to point out that Roper left a solid operation for him to take over. “I don’t think Bob could have left us in better condition,” said Lorenzen, who officially stepped into Roper’s former position on March 30 at 5 p.m. “He’s left us in an incredibly stable financial situation.”
Lorenzen reiterated the legacy that Roper left behind. “The fire chief is responsible for the vision and direction of where the department is going,” said Lorenzen. “Bob put us in really great shape in more ways than one. It’s a testament to his leadership.”
Roper, a California native, knew he wanted to be a firefighter as a young man and in 1978, he became a volunteer with the VCFD at the Meiners Oaks Fire Station. Two years later, he graduated from the department’s academy and was assigned to Santa Paula. His time away from the Ojai Valley didn’t last long though.
“Six months after I got out of the academy,” he said, “I was transferred back to the Meiners Oaks station.”
Five years later, after being transferred to the Oak View Fire Station, he was involved with one of his most memorable experiences in the department, and a historic incident for the valley. In 1985, Roper was one of the first to respond to the Wheeler Fire that ravaged the hills of Ojai. “During the Wheeler Fire,” he recalled, “I remember watching the community’s reaction to the fire invading their neighborhood. There were people driving down the road with horses tied to their vehicles because they didn’t have time to get a trailer.”
The former fire chief was also involved in helping Los Angeles communities while the riots following the Rodney King trial in 1992 raged in the streets of the L.A. area. “I had to take a strike team of engines down to Compton during the riots,” said Roper, pausing between thoughts. “Seeing the civil unrest of our society — it sticks with you.”
The Wheeler Fire and the ’92 riots weren’t the only historically significant events in which Roper played a role. In January 2005, he was on scene in La Conchita after a large landslide buried multiple houses, killing 10 people and devastating the lives of many more. “I was at La Conchita supporting my crews and dealing with the media,” said Roper of the incident that captured the nation’s attention. “Watching the dismay on the faces of the public and the rescuers as they were trying to find survivors — those are the things that you never forget.”
Along with participating in many major incidents, Roper has worked most of the jobs available in the VCFD.
“He’s done just about everything there is to do here,” said Roper’s longtime friend, VCFD Battalion Chief Norm Plott. “We were volunteers together in ’78. Since then he’s been a part of every aspect of the department. He’s been a great asset in the department and he’s really served the county well through the years.”
Plott says that, of Roper’s many strengths, his ability to work closely with many different people really stood out. “He built really good relationships with everyone in the different communities in the county,” said Plott. “From the local Sheriff’s Department up to state and federal agencies, he really works well with everyone.”
Although now he has time to focus on his campaign and his two young grandchildren, Roper says that leaving the department was bittersweet. “I had a great career and worked with many great people,” he said. “Closing my office door for the last time and getting into my car and driving away for the last time was emotional. It was a tough day.”
Praising Lorenzen’s abilities, the former fire chief believes his successor is ready to lead the department into the coming decades. “Mark’s a great person,” said Roper. “He’ll be able to take the department to even better levels of service. The department is well-off and in good hands now.”
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
My birthday was last week. I was an income tax day baby, born on April 15, 1954. It is hard for me to believe I am almost 60 years old. Mentally, I think of myself as about 35. But all it takes is one look in the mirror, or seeing a recent photo to realize that 35 is so far back in my rearview mirror that it is little more than a flyspeck.
About 20 years ago, I was having lunch with a gentleman I used to work for when he suddenly announced, “I hate eating at this restaurant.” I asked if his food was bad. “No, I like the food, but I hate all the mirrors they have in this place.” When I asked him why, he replied, “Because I can’t stand to look in a mirror and see that old man looking back at me.” I laughed.
Twenty years later, it is not nearly as funny. Several years ago I shaved a mustache that I had worn for over 25 years. I’d had the mustache for so long that Ava had never seen me without it. I shaved it because it was getting too white. I didn’t mind my hair turning gray, but I thought my rapidly graying mustache made me look at least 10 years older. One day I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw Wilford Brimley staring back at me. Out came the razor, off went the mustache.
In some ways I feel I have aged a great deal; in others, not so much. I certainly don’t look the same as I did years ago. My hair has gone white, although most of it is still there. I have put on too much weight Ñ my butt is soon going to require its own ZIP code if I don’t reverse that trend.
Some people get more conservative as they get older. For me, that is a mixed bag. Politically, I am conservative on fiscal issues, liberal on social issues. I have become increasingly distrustful and disgusted at the massively wasteful spending of the federal government, becoming more and more conservative in that respect. While I have always been liberal regarding racial issues and the need to respect the religious beliefs of others, I have become considerably more liberal on gay rights in the last 20 years or so.
One stereotype is that old people are “cranky.” While my temper is still a source of embarrassment from time to time, I actually think it has become more manageable over the years. I still lose it more than I like, but I think I am mellowing with age. I have not kicked in any doors, nor put my fist through any walls in a long time. That is actually a pretty big step forward for me. I am also better about yelling and gesturing to people while driving. I am certainly more conscious of it while driving the OVN van. You are not exactly anonymous when your business name is plastered all over your vehicle. If everyone had to put a name and phone number on the outside of their vehicle, we would all be more courteous behind the wheel.
On the upside, the passing years have given me lifelong friendships and experiences I would not trade for anything. As for the most important relationship in my life, Ava and I will celebrate our 34th anniversary next month.
I try to remember that the blessings age can bestow will always trump the vanities of youth. And that makes looking in that mirror a little easier.
In celebration of sustainable living, global awareness, and the joy of nature Food for Thought, Oak Grove School, Ojai Valley Green Coalition, and the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy are teaming up again to host this once-a-year community event, Earth Play 2012, on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The day will include local school involvement, environmental exhibits, arts and outdoor activities for all ages, live entertainment, world foods, sustainable vehicle displays, and more. Everything takes place under the trees on Oak Grove School’s campus, 220 W. Lomita Ave., Ojai. Admission is free. Visitors will also have ample opportunities to find ways to live greener and appreciate the natural wonders we all share. More than 30 exhibitors will share their earth-friendly products and services, provide hands-on activities, and present informational and interactive displays.
According to Deborah Pendrey, executive director of the Ojai Valley Green Coalition, “Earth Day gives us an international day of intention on community, sustainability, and regenerating our planet.” Lori Hamor, executive director of Food for Thought agrees, “This event represents the continued collaboration needed to plant the seeds of stewardship of our planet. We hope to educate our youth that we all have a role in taking care of our environment. Food for Thought is proud to be a partner.”
“Many Earth Day celebrations have turned into vendor fairs with little emphasis on our responsibility to take care of our Earth for future generations,” writes Marti Reid from the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. “The dedication and hard work of the partner organizations has allowed Earth Play to remain a true community event focused on responsible stewardship of land, water, and other natural resources.”
Meredy Benson Rice, head of Oak Grove School, believes that emphasizing our relationship with nature is fundamental to understanding both the impact that we play in our environment and the imperative we must take to preserve it. “Since 1975, the school’s intention has included a love for nature and a mindful presence of our surroundings. Hosting this event gives Oak Grove a chance to help raise awareness of our Earth and also to give back to the dynamic Ojai community we are a part of.”
Trolley rides to Earth Play are free all day, courtesy of Ojai Trolley. Hybrid and electric cars will have priority parking on Oak Grove’s campus and, best of all, valets will be on hand ready to park and secure bicycles for those who travel by that most noble of means.
For the latest information visit www.ojaiearthday.org.
With the change of seasons and the longer sunny days of spring ushering in a world of new life in bloom, itÕs high time to get out on the trails around Ojai and have yourself a good walk in the woods.
Along the trails in and around the valley, a rich and diverse collection of wild herbs and plants offer a world of flavor, aroma and healing enjoyment patiently waiting to be discovered. With the proper guidance the mysteries of local plant life can be unfolded and more clearly understood.
Enter Lanny Kaufer, an educator who since 1976 has led his herb walks in and around Ojai. On most weekends throughout spring and summer, Kaufer and his wife, Rondia, set out on nearby local trails and share the wonders of the local flora and fauna with people wanting to learn more intimate details about the power of nature.
From single guided individual tours to large group walks, the purpose behind KauferÕs offering is to expand peopleÕs awareness of nature and deepen their familiarity with the world of plants. ItÕs an experience that has multiple benefits, Kaufer says.
ÒTaking a walk in nature and breathing fresh air has excellent benefits,Ó Kaufer says. ÒOn the trail youÕre having a multi-sensory experience taking in the colors and textures of plants and wildlife. YouÕre getting natural aromatherapy by inhaling the aromatic oils like sage and bay and yerba santa. With a guide on a walk youÕre learning to ID the plants around you and it begins to enrich the whole hiking experience.Ó
A lifelong educator and a serious student of regional ethnobotany, Kaufer took an interest in herbs and the healing properties of plants in the mid-1960s when he was traveling through the Southwest.
ÒI picked up a Pueblo Indian man who was hitchhiking and drove him all the way home out to his pueblo in the mountains,Ó Kaufer recalls. ÒHe was so grateful that he asked us to stay with his family. So we stayed there for a week.Ó
During that week, Kaufer got a cold and the Indian manÕs uncle brought Lanny some herbal tea and told him it would help him to heal. Kaufer did feel a lot better from the tea and the experience captured his imagination. He bought the Òherbal bibleÓ at the time, ÒBack to EdenÓ by Jethro Kloss, and set out to learn as much as he could. He spent several years studying with some of the areaÕs greatest herbalists.
ÒThe idea that you could gather simple plants and make medicinal remedies fascinated me,Ó Kaufer says. ÒI was fortunate then to have a succession of teachers who turned out to be some of the most important herbalists in the field.Ó
Back at home in Santa Barbara after his journeys through the Southwest, he learned that one of his neighbors was an herbalist. William LeSassier was leading herb walks that Kaufer joined.
ÒLeSassier went on to found a school of natural healing, then moved back east where he became medical herbalist and developed a system of herbal extraction,Ó he says.ÒWhen he moved east by way of Taos I felt like I knew enough about plants to begin leading my own herb walks.Ó
In recent weeks, Kaufer has been in the process of expanding the reach and scope of his herb walks. The U.S. Forest Service has just approved a special use permit that allows Kaufer to lead educational herb walks on national forest land. While the herb walks in and around Ojai last from two to three hours, Kaufer plans to take this opportunity to offer longer full-day trips on trails in the backcountry.
Forest Service land specialist Veronica Garza said the work Kaufer is doing provides an important educational component for the public on how to properly use and enjoy the forest.
ÒThe purpose of providing permits for outfitting and guiding is to educate the public and provide a way for people to spend time in the forest who otherwise might never go there,Ó Garza said.
Diane Cross, a USFS recreation officer, also worked with Kaufer during the permitting process. She said that the impact of any proposed use of the forest must be studied closely and mitigated accordingly. KauferÕs temporary permit to lead walks on forest trails posed very little impact overall, Cross said. The permitting process also seeks to ensure that guides provide adequate care and safety to their clientele. Kaufer carries liability insurance and is trained in CPR. His wife, Rondia, is a registered nurse who joins in on the herb walks and brings up the rear on the trail to make sure everyone has as pleasant an experience as possible.
KauferÕs website herbwalks.com offers a collection of photographs, links, articles and a calendar of upcoming walks. The cost to participate in one of KauferÕs herb walks starts at $25 per person.
Kaufer will also be presenting a lecture and slide show on April 25 at 7 p.m. as part of the World University of Ojai Arts and Lectures Series. Titled ÒMeet Your Local Plant Community,Ó the talk is free, but donations are welcome. Visit worldu.edu/events/ to learn more.
Ojai City public works supervisor, Ruben Martinez, signs for a porta-potty from Mar-Borg Industries at the Ojai Skate Park earlier today.
Photo and report by Logan Hall
Skaters and other members of the public are getting a breath of fresh air as the city begins a project to re-do the bathroom at the Ojai Skate Park.
Previously considered by locals as a glorified Porta-Potty, the bathroom is being overhauled to accommodate running water and flushing toilets. The project calls for the demolition and removal of the old pit used for collecting waste. Replacing the pit, plumbing will connect new fixtures to the existing sewer line on the Ojai Unified School District property where the park is located.
The city contracted Frank’s Rooter and Plumbing Service to handle construction of the project. Originally budgeted at about $50,000, the city has cut a large portion of the cost by eliciting help from other agencies.
The city hired Frank’s Rooter and Plumbing Service — which was the low bidding company at $17,600 — to handle construction, but according to city officials, the big savings came with help from the Ojai Valley Sanitary District and the OUSD. The two agencies approved a request by the city to run plumbing of the bathroom to the existing sewer line on OUSD property. The alternative for the city would have meant placing new piping under the property’s parking lot, and out across Ojai Avenue to the main sewer line — a process that would have been much more costly and time-consuming.
“The Sanitary District gave us a variance that allowed us to connect to the exiting sewer,” said city engineer Greg Grant. “That’s key. It probably saved us 30 to 40 grand. Going across the parking lot would have been a major headache.”
The money saved on the project has been allocated for various needs throughout the city. According to Grant, $3,500 will go to storage software so the city can keep massive amounts of files organized and protected; $4,500 will provide the city with a new Geographic Information System that Grant says will help the city’s Complete Streets Program make the roads more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. The remaining funds, about $15,000, will go toward improving the city’s deteriorating roadways. “The roads need a lot more than that,” said Grant, “but every little bit helps.”
The city has included several amenities in the new design including a new, stainless steel toilet and sink, and a waterless urinal. “We had a major discussion about using porcelain or steel for the fixtures,” said Grant. “We liked the look of porcelain, but ultimately we thought they would get smashed up. The stainless looks a little more institutional, but it’s tough stuff.”
Grant says that vandalism was definitely on everyone’s mind during the design phase of the project after the drinking fountain at the park was vandalized shortly after the park’s opening in 2010. “We were going to install a baby-changing station,” he said, “but we’re leaning away from that. We don’t want to install things that are easily smashed up.”
Those who use the Skate Park regularly, welcome the project with open arms.
“I think it’s great,” said local skater and MTV stuntman Dave England. “It should have happened a long time ago, but I don’t want to complain about the past. Let’s just say that it’s a long time coming. It’s really a good thing for the whole city.”
Skate Ojai President Chet Hilgers agrees that the new bathroom will be a benefit to more than just skaters. “It will really serve the whole community,” he said, “especially for those that use the school on the weekends like the Peddlers’ Fair. It’s a great deal for everyone. We really want to thank the Sanitary District and the school board for helping.”
The project is scheduled for completion by May 18 and officials say the park should remain open during the process. A Porta-Potty has been placed near the bathroom for use while the bathroom is closed for construction.
Good Morning Ojai.
I can’t believe that summer is behind us and the heat is still here. And your favorite police department is working to keep you safe while wearing wool and Kevlar. Oh well, it is all part of the job.
Recently here at the police station we have seen an upswing in thefts of scrap metal. Now why would anyone want your old junk? Have you ever heard the old saying, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure?” Well, that is true in this situation. Scrap metal is a valuable commodity at recycling centers. Throughout the region, prices have increased steadily in the past few years.
We have all seen people going through trashcans that have been put out for collection. As long as the harvester is not creating a mess and littering, this is perfectly legal. The problems we are seeing is when thieves enter farms, ranches and storage yards and remove huge amounts of piping, scrap metal, and copper tubing that is earmarked for other purposes. That can cause the victim thousand of dollars in replacement costs.
I recently went to a call where a man had the catalytic converter stolen off his truck. All total, Ojai got hit for five catalytic converters that day. Now you might ask why anyone would want a catalytic converter. It is for the same reason, scrap metal. Catalytic converters contain precious metals and are hugely valuable at recycling centers. Our crooks are targeting late-model Toyota pick ups. The reason for this is that Toyotas are designed for easy replacement of the converter. They are held in place with only 4 bolts, where other cars have them welded to the exhaust pipe. If you have an early 90’s Toyota truck, it might be worth it to go to your favorite mechanic and have them weld the catalytic converter in place. A little bit of money now might save you a bunch later.
A big problem for residents of the Valley is when crooks enter abandoned, vacant or otherwise unoccupied buildings and strip wire right out of the walls! All the wiring in your house is made of copper, as are the pipes in your plumbing system. Copper prices have skyrocketed recently due to the need for copper in electronic devices such as cell phones and computers. Unscrupulous crooks are ripping out drywall and cutting the pipes and wires out of the walls. Often, no one is aware until someone enters the building and sees the damage.
So how do we stop these crooks? That is where we ask you, the readers of CityWatch, to be our eyes and ears. If you see suspicious behavior, call 911 and get deputies moving out that way. If you of know someone with a considerable amount of scrap metal and they didn’t have it yesterday, that might be a clue to criminal behavior. Jot down the license plate if you don’t know who the person is. Try to get a description of person. You can then call your favorite police department at 805-646-1414. We’ll come and get the information from you. Even in the heat. If you don’t want to do that, you can always send an email to me at email@example.com and I’ll pass it on to the guys in our detective bay.
Until next time Ojai, take care of one another.
Ojai Valley Station
402 S. Ventura St.
Ojai, Ca 93023
Senior Deputy Ed Beauvais is a 16-year member of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. He has worked a variety of assignments, from gangs in El Rio and Saticoy, to Elementary and Middle School Resource Officer in the city of Camarillo. He is now assigned as the Beat Coordinator for the city of Ojai. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tiobe Barron
Finally, and with comparatively little fanfare, the Ojai City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday night banning the distribution of single-use plastic bags within city limits. The ban will go into effect on July 1, to give retailers time to run through their current, already-purchased stock of plastic bags. The ordinance also requires grocery stores to charge 10 cents for recyclable paper bags distributed to customers, to dissuade consumers over time from using single-use bags altogether. Restaurants, however, are exempt from the ban; their single-use bags of either paper or plastic are still permitted for the transportation of food.
“Well, everyone wants to clean up the planet,” said Ernest Niglio, co-owner and manager of Rainbow Bridge Natural Food Store. “I’m a little worried about how we’re actually going to do this. We have to wait to see how many paper bags are needed when our customers are checking out, they might have to wait a little longer. But it’s just logistics. I think a lot of customers will be glad. I think it’s a good thing, overall.”
The purpose of the ban, as stated in the text of the ordinance itself, is to minimize litter, conserve resources, and to protect Ojai’s environment. The ordinance was passed without comment from council members, nor from the numerous members of the public present at the meeting.
Everyone had considerably more to say about Smart Meter installation, however. For a few moments, Mayor Betsy Clapp fought to wrest control over council chambers from an audience that was visibly and audibly angry over a perceived lack of action on the part of City Council.
Ojai resident Kevin Schmidt presented council members with a letter from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine to the California Public Utilities Commission stating, in part, that the Federal Communications Commission guidelines for electromagnetic emissions are inadequate for use. Schmidt argued that Smart Meters present a clear and immediate threat to the health and safety of Ojai residents, and urged City Council to pass an emergency moratorium on the installation of the devices.
“Will you please pass a resolution tonight?” asked Schmidt. When he received no response from council, he persisted, “Can you please answer that for me?” Which initiated a tense, silent stand-off, until city clerk Rhonda Basore answered that as the item was not on the agenda, no action could be taken. Outbursts from the crowd ensued.
“I understand this is a volatile issue, but there are a lot of legal things involved, questions that need to be answered,” said Clapp as she pleaded with audience members to maintain order and council procedures.
“I think if your lawyer is telling you, ‘Gee, no, we can’t do anything,’ you need to get a new lawyer,” suggested Ojai resident Susan Williamson. Local business owner and resident Meg Goodwin noted it was ironic that Ojai will soon play host to an ecotourism forum, when Southern California Edison has already begun installing their devices in the Ojai Valley.
“We need to stand up for this. I don’t feel the electric company is qualified to tell us what is safe,” said Goodwin. “How much longer are we going to let these corporations run our lives?”
“The onus is on Edison to prove (Smart Meters) are safe, not on us to prove they are dangerous,” contributed Ojai resident L.S. Lieterman. Lieterman also noted that calling the utility company to be put on a delay list is no guarantee the company won’t eventually install the devices anyway; he cited the spraying of pesticides by companies that obtained a court order to do so, against property owners’ wishes. Ojai residents Elizabeth Maderas, Carol Adams and Sholom Joshua also spoke out against the Smart Meters, urging council to pass a moratorium on the devices, citing the council’s duty to protect the welfare of its citizenry.
“One of our most important responsibilities is to protect the health and safety of our citizens,” agreed Mayor Pro Tem Paul Blatz. “But if we enact an ordinance that happens to be illegal, we have no ability to enforce it. And if we do, litigation could ensue.” Blatz questioned city attorney Joseph Fletcher on the definition of an “emergency” item, which would be allowed on the agenda the same night.
Fletcher answered that while an emergency item is one which poses a threat to the health and safety of the citizens, he still did not believe council had legitimate cause to take immediate action, and that the CPUC has jurisdiction over the matter, not Ojai City Council.
“Our next step should be to direct staff to gather data, information, analysis that would bolster our case,” said Fletcher. “My job is to give you the best legal advice that I can. This would be a huge dedication of resources.”
“This reminds me of the protest against the (Vietnam) war,” said Councilwoman Carol Smith. “What I want to see is civil protest, with as much publicity as we can get. A private, for-profit company is doing something that the people obviously do not want … But the fact that you think an ordinance is going to control (Edison) is just naive!”
Another topic of contention at Tuesday night’s meeting was the recent shooting of a resident’s dog by a local police officer. “I’m very alarmed at what happened,” said Ojai resident Suza Francina. “We don’t want spin. We take this very seriously, and we want to know exactly what happened.”
Said Ojai resident Matthew Read, “Most dogs, not just guard dogs, either trained or by instinct, are going to alert when strangers appear. When somebody walks into a dog’s back yard, when he comes around the corner, barks at them, and their response to it is to shoot it three times, I personally can have very little confidence in any officer who truly believes their life is being threatened by an alerting dog. I would like to know the whole truth of what happened, and how this can be uncovered and put into the public view. Very, very many people in this community are deeply distressed by this.”
Council members also discussed a possible ordinance banning oversized vehicles from parking on city streets, though no action was taken. The next regular City Council meeting will be held at 401 S. Ventura St. on April 24 at 7 p.m.
By Logan Hall
Local shuttle operator Adrianus “Dutch” Vanhemert has been granted a 40-day reprieve from beginning his jail sentence by the Ventura County Superior Court, according to his attorney. Vanhemert was convicted earlier this month of evading Ventura County Sheriff’s Department deputies after a traffic stop, and sentenced to 180 days in county jail and three years probation.
According to court records, the shuttle operator was mandated by the court to report to the Ventura County Main Jail on April 16 to begin his sentence. Vanhemert, however, recently hired local attorney Paul Blatz to help him apply for the county’s work furlough program. After appearing in court This morning, Vanhemert was granted time to present his case to the county probation office, which runs the work furlough program. His sentence is now scheduled to begin on May 21.
“He’s going to apply to serve his time through work furlough,” said Blatz shortly after appearing in court with his client This morning. “You have to be screened for it though. He’ll have to fill out some paperwork and go through an interview process.”
Blatz says that the furlough screening wasn’t part of his client’s previous probation sentence. “When he (Vanhemert) came to us,” said Blatz, “we immediately went to the judge to ask for the work furlough screening. We’re going to talk to the supervisors of the program. We’re assuring that we make every effort to see if we can get that approved.”
The work furlough program allows certain qualifying inmates to spend up to 12 hours away from the furlough detention facility — located in Camarillo — working their jobs. Vanhemert seems to be cautiously optimistic about his chances at serving his jail sentence through the furlough program. “I don’t know if that system is designed for what I do,” he said. “I’m like a frickin’ butterfly out there. I’m all over the place. I don’t know if they’ll be cool with that. But, hey, at least for now it’s keeping me going for another 40 days.”
The probation office looks over each work furlough application individually and approves or denies a potential inmate’s eligibility based on different criteria, including the inmate’s offense or offenses, job description, job hours, etc. “Until we go down there and explain how he works and what he does,” said Blatz, “we have no assurance of whether or not it will go through.”
Although his client might be skeptical about the process, Blatz believes Vanhemert has a good chance at being eligible for the program. “We’re optimistic that we’re going to be able to work something out for work furlough,” said Blatz.
In the meantime, Vanhemert says that, as long as he is able to, he will remain open for business, including the continuation of his gratuity-based downtown shuttle service. “I’m still around and still going,” he said. “I haven’t stopped. Even after the trial I have not stopped. Every Friday and Saturday from 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. I’m out there giving people rides.”
By Tiobe Barron
The Besant Hill School theater department is doing revolutionary things with the Bard this spring. The school’s latest play, “A Rose,” is the performing arts department’s self-professed “most ambitious theatrical extravaganza to date.” It is an adaptation of an adaptation of a long-lost play by William Shakespeare —- or a play, within a play, within a play, if you will.
It all began with the Cardenio Project. Playwright Charles Mee and Harvard professor Steven Greenblatt collaborated on a play based on one of Shakespeare’s lost works. Mee and Greenblatt then made the resulting play available for adaptation worldwide, with one caveat: If you want to perform the play, you must adapt it to your own region, your own culture, your society’s mores.
Enter Scott Campbell, chair of performing arts at Besant Hill School. Campbell and 11th grade student Noah Lashly rewrote the play and made it “Ojai,” referencing businesses, phrases and community history with which locals will readily identify. This will be the first adaptation to premiere on the West Coast.
“We’re creating a modern parable from old classics,” said Campbell in a recent press release. “It’s filled with nostalgic Ojai moments and local haunts like Azu, Boccali’s, The Hub, and Osteria Monte Grappa.”
Even the set features environmental aspects, paying homage to the nature of Ojai. Students are involved in all aspects of the production, from the set, to lights, to costumes. They have help with sets from Matt Jacobs, who has worked on “Heroes,” “Lost” and “Army Wives.” Aiding the students with materializing the attire to do the play justice is Mandy Jackson-Beverly, a teacher with Ojai Valley School’s upper campus.
“It’s fascinating working with a different group of students,” said Jackson-Beverly in the press release. “The valley is such a small place with an abundance of fabulous schools. We’re very lucky to have so many creative opportunities here.”
When asked about the process of taking a play from conception to production, Campbell quipped, “It ain’t easy!” Campbell imposes few constraints on his students. Music is usually incorporated into the production, though that doesn’t translate always into creating a “musical.” Students’ varied talents and passions, like carpentry and aerial dancing, are tied in, if possible, to allow the kids to shine.
“The kids I get to work with this year are extraordinary,” said Campbell in a phone interview. “The process itself is pretty informative for students. There is no stage crew. They really get a sense of what modern theater is like. Some theater productions can be stuffy, overly formal. This is much more vital, vibrant. It often involves multi-media. There are no rules.”
Besant Hill School premieres its production of “A Rose” on April 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Zalk Theater, 8585 Santa Paula Road. There is a suggested donation of $10. For more information, call 646-4343.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Fittingly, Las Vegas has just opened a mob museum. Few places are as closely associated with the mob as Las Vegas, which was a sleepy desert hamlet before Bugsy Siegel built the Flamingo Hotel and Casino and money started pouring into the city, which became a gambling mecca. Officially known as the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, it boasts 17,000 square feet of exhibit space. About half of the archives are devoted to mobsters like Bugsy Siegel, Al Capone, and John “The Teflon Don” Gotti. The other half features the lawmen who fought them, like Eliot Ness and J. Edgar Hoover. We all have guilty pleasures, and one of mine is the mob —- books, movies, I can’t get enough. I first read “The Godfather” in high school, and vividly remember driving 50 miles to stand in a line around the block to see the movie with my girlfriend when I was a senior in high school. The sequel, with Robert De Niro as the young godfather, was certainly as good as the original. Many would argue that it was better. This is the 40th anniversary of the original movie (ouch, that makes me feel old) and it has been on television recently. Whenever “The Godfather” is on, I still get engrossed, drop what I am doing, and spend hours watching — even though I can just about quote both scripts verbatim. I don’t include the third “Godfather” movie in this discussion. “Godfather III” was one of the great disappointments in movie history for me. It had little in common with the first two movies. It was like it was made on a different planet. “The Sopranos” is still one of my all-time favorite TV shows. I was devastated when the series finally ended. There was nothing like hunkering down in front of the tube with a glass of red wine on Sunday nights and enjoying a new episode. Tony and Carmela became like family — pun intended. Wonderful writing, terrific acting, and fascinating story lines made it a classic. I felt the series lost its way a bit in the final two years. But even on its worst day, it was better than the reality-laced pabulum that is now offered up by network television. A little side note: I was in Las Vegas a few years ago for a meeting. I was sitting at the Bellagio playing blackjack, and a guy sat down at the table beside me. To my surprise, it was an actor who had a minor, but recurring, role on the show. We played a few hands, and I looked over at him and said, “The last time I saw you, you were being shot down in the street.” He grinned and said, “Yeah, I guess I should have been nicer to Tony.” My fascination with the mob and the good guys was developed early. I remember watching “The Untouchables” with my daddy as a young boy. Each week, Eliot Ness, played by Robert Stack, battled and triumphed over the bad guys. My mother was mortified by the violence on the show, which was “deemed excessive and senseless” by critics at the time. Boy, how standards have changed: “Jerry Springer” episodes are more violent than the old “Untouchables.” At any rate, I loved every minute of it. Hollywood has done an incredible job of glamorizing mobsters and making the glorified mob life interesting. In reality, mobsters are obnoxious goons and thugs, and hold little allure for me. My only real brush with the mob in real life was when a friend of ours confided to Ava and me that her uncle was one of the first guys called in for questioning when Jimmy Hoffa disappeared. Ava, ever curious, said had the courage to ask her if he had actually killed Hoffa. Our friend simply replied, “Well, all I can say is that is one body that will never be found.” That was over 30 years ago, and her answer sends a shiver up my spine to this day. I like my mobsters on television or in the movies — not in real life. An invitation to the mob museum is an offer I can easily refuse.
By Tiobe Barron
The Ojai City Council and Ojai Planning Commission met to discuss the building code update, where city manager Rob Clark opened the meeting by explaining the document the Planning Commission has been working on, and their ultimate advice to the council in terms of how to address the building code update.
The main points of consensus that commission members wanted to convey to council members included: due process, education of the public on their rights, the appeals process, not creating any new fees to increase the cost to applicants, and a policy of not recording notices of non-compliance. The Planning Commission re-iterated that the current policy does not require existing non-conforming structures to come into compliance when a homeowner needs to remodel or do a home repair, except in cases of immediate health and safety hazards.
“It was a big point of concern in the various public outreach and public input meetings,” said Clark last Tuesday night. He went on to say most of what is being suggested by the Planning Commission is about making the policy and application process accessible. He stressed that the process is not complete, and that the commission is still reviewing comments made by the public. Additionally, the zoning code has “a number of ambiguities and areas that need change,” Clark continued. “Taking on a zoning code update is a major project … We don’t really have the capacity to do this right now. We’re going to be focusing on the housing element. After that is done, we can decide what the next big project priorities are.”
Mayor Betsy Clapp asked whether the reason for not recording reports of non-compliance is that it would encumber the property, forcing the seller to come into compliance before the property could be sold. Clark clarified that while that was not necessarily the case, the owner would have to disclose to potential buyers that a problem exists with the property that needs to be addressed, which has the potential of discouraging buyers.
Councilwoman Carol Smith worried that the tax liability inherent in not reporting additional square footage of those properties not in compliance for additions made the city of Ojai complicit in “tax evasion, a felony.” Councilman Paul Blatz, who has experience as a lawyer, assured Smith that the city is not liable, not responsible for tax collection, and is not guilty of a felony.
Other points of concern raised at the meeting included the appointment of an appeals board, whether the board would have the final say in the appeals process, or whether there should be an additional step.
Councilwoman Carlon Strobel wanted to know if the council does a zoning code update, could it be done entirely in-house, to which Clark responded that it would depend entirely, taking a “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it” approach.
Ojai resident Craig Beam urged council members to have an over-rule process for any appeal board, to consider the gravity of the codes, and the context of Ojai.
“This code will last a long time, it will outlive probably everyone here tonight,” said Beam. “There are a number of flaws in the proposals here. I think you should adopt the mandatory state codes, period … I don’t know of any city that requires inspection as a part of getting a building license. We have enough vacant properties as it is.”
Ojai resident Bob Daddi echoed these opinions, stating, “Fifty-five percent of our homes are from 1965 and older. We need to rehabilitate what we can. Please make it to where people want to come in, want the help, not want to hide and go underground.”
Commissioner Troy Becker agreed that there are a few controversial issues with the code, and stressed that the commission went through the entire document line by line. Mayor Clapp praised the group’s efforts, saying, “You have been vigilant and fair, and overall I’m pretty impressed. But it’s true: We do have aging housing stock, and you don’t want people to be afraid. We do need to make it easy … If we save these homes, we keep this town’s character.”
The next Planning Commission meeting will be held April 18 at 6:30 p.m.
By Misty Volaski
The golf course at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful in the world. With breathtaking views in every direction, the award-winning course is the ideal setting for a benefit golf tournament.
On June 4, two of Ojai’s nonprofit organizations — Ojai Education Foundation and the Ojai Valley Youth Foundation — will join forces for the 12th annual Ojai Golf Classic. As in years past, the two groups will share the organizational duties, as well as proceeds, of the tournament.
“The first few years, the Golf Classic was all OEF,” said Olga Singer, board member for the Youth Foundation. “Then we joined forces to do it together. It helps us and the OEF — it’s a huge undertaking.”
“It really requires a village,” agreed Joanna Iwata of the OEF.
The groups are hoping to field 144 golfers in order to fund several existing youth-oriented programs and bring back OVYF programs which have gone under as a result of the economic downturn. For $275, tournament entrants get what Iwata called “the VIP treatment — golf, a golf cart, and lunch and dinner.” A discount is being offered for golfers who sign up before April 16. Awards will be given out to the tournament winners, and the dinner will include a raffle and auction. Those who do not golf can attend the dinner after the tournament for $95 per person. The tournament and dinner are both tax-deductible.
“It’s a really nice dinner, a really fun environment,” said Singer. “Plus you’ll get to hear what both organizations are doing.”
With the funds raised, the OEF has its eyes on improving technology at Nordhoff High School‚ as well as bolstering its Educational Grants fund. Already, the OEF has purchased tens of thousands of dollars worth of technology for Ojai Unified School District elementary classrooms. The interactive, kid-friendly enVision Math program OEF purchased is already a favorite of elementary teachers and students districtwide. Seeing the need for more technology at the high school level, the OEF has helped fund the placement of document cameras and digital projectors, and will be working closely with NHS administrators and teachers on what steps they’d like to take next to help students learn — by moving seamlessly in and out of the digital world.
This year, thanks in part to the 2011 Ojai Golf Classic proceeds, the OEF was able to award $14,000 in educational grants, more than they’ve ever given away before. These grants are awarded to individual teachers for everything from class sets of books to student response systems, which allow students to answer teachers’ questions digitally. “We expect to be able to make a sizable grant to Nordhoff,” said Phil Carruthers of the OEF.
The OVYF, meanwhile, has a few specific goals it hopes to reach with the Ojai Golf Classic funds. “We’ll funnel the funds into programming, to keep current programs” and restart defunct programs, said Singer. “The leadership program — that’s junior high kids partnering with high school kids and adults — has been dormant for the last year and a half due to lack of funding. We’re hoping to reinstate it in the fall.”
Singer said OVYF hopes to continue to provide the papular Building Lives Incorporated program, which connects youths with adult mentors to hear them speak “about what’s out there in the big bad world,” said Singer, “to demystify the myths. What’s it really like to be a doctor or chiropractor or cop or someone in food service.” OVYF program director Meg Wall brings in kids from many backgrounds to listen to different speakers for the two-hour program which runs every Monday from 5 to 7 p.m. The first hour, students play ice-breaking games and “talk about personal stuff going on in their lives,” Singer said. The second hour, students get to listen to and talk frankly with guest speakers. In the interest of gaining student trust and encouraging them to speak openly, there are no adults allowed except program administrators and speakers. “They really break down stereotypes,” said Singer. “With Latinos and white kids, they realize, ‘Wow, you’re not that different from me.’”
OVYF funds will also be poured into the successful Girls’ Empowerment program.
Spots are still available for both the Golf Classic tournament and the dinner only, and several levels of sponsorship are still being offered. Call 640-2040 or e-mail email@example.com to register or request additional information.
By Logan Hall
After a sudden illness in November of last year, local musician Randy Purdue lost his left leg below the knee, and nearly lost his life. Although rocked by rising medical costs and a time of hardship and uncertainty, he and his wife, Barbara, are getting help from the community.
This Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m. at Help of Ojai’s Little House, Purdue’s friends and fellow musicians are scheduled to hold a benefit concert to help raise money for the struggling couple. Among others, big names like Alan Thornhill and Martin Young, Smitty West and Julija Zonic, Patricia and Don Cardinali, and the Lynn Mullins Pickup Band will all perform to help the Purdues through a difficult time.
The trouble began for the family the day after Thanksgiving last year, when Purdue was taken to the hospital for what they thought, at first, was a severe case of the flu.
“He’d been sick all weekend,” said his wife. “Then, he said that his heel hurt and there was a small bruise on his foot. That bruise quickly grew until it covered his whole foot.”
Purdue was rushed to the emergency room at the Ojai Valley Community Hospital. After being treated for his immediate symptoms, he and his wife received staggering news.
Purdue had contracted a rare, flesh-eating bacteria, known as clostridium septicum.
“They took him to surgery right away to drain his foot,” said his wife. “Dr. Menninger saved his life.”
Doctors were forced to amputate Purdue’s leg just below the knee to prevent the aggressive bacteria from spreading further. After five separate surgeries, including the amputation, he was released from the hospital on Christmas Eve.
“My family and I were there at Randy’s home when he got out of the hospital,” said Purdue’s friend and benefit organizer, Jim Landsman. “We had decorated his house so he could come home and celebrate Christmas.”
Landsman says he immediately understood the family’s need for assistance with their situation. “He and his wife definitely needed some help,” he said. “As soon as he was out of the hospital, we came up with the idea to do a benefit because we knew he would have huge medical costs.”
The cost for Purdue’s treatments have been mounting steadily as he takes on the challenge of physical therapy, and he recently got fitted for a temporary prosthetic leg that is also a very expensive process. His wife says that her husband had signed up for Medicare last year after turning 65, but hasn’t yet received the full coverage that would substantially decrease the out-of-pocket expense for medical costs.
That’s where his supporters come into the picture.
The Ojai Mardi Gras Wake-Up Krewe, spearheaded by Scott “Smitty West” Smith, helped with the cost of the prosthesis, but Smith admits that there is still a long way to go in helping the family. “The Wake-Up Krewe donated $1,300 to kick off the fund-raising efforts,” said Smith, who will be performing with several different musicians on Saturday. “That was the lead gift for his prosthetic leg which was very expensive. I know they just have a ton of medical costs.”
The benefit concert showcases many of the valley’s most talented and well-known musicians, but Landsman says there are several ways they plan on raising funds.
“We’ve got a great silent auction planned,” he said. “We were able to get a guitar to Kenny Loggins to sign that we’ll raffle off. We’ve also got some great gift certificates, and a custom surfboard that were all donated for the auction.”
Renowned guitarist and entertainer Thornhill says that this kind of benefit is nothing new for the valley. “Musicians have traditionally been known to do this kind of thing for one another,” he said, “but I really think that it’s just the community we live in. We all really stand by each other in times like this.”
Generosity seems to have cycled back around for Purdue and his wife. His friends and fellow musicians say he has often put others in the community before himself, and, in the past, has contributed to benefits much like this one.
“Randy is a very giving person,” said Landsman. “He’s helped out a lot of people in the valley, and he’s done repairs on guitars and amplifiers for kids and some of his friends.”
Purdue was recently hospitalized again after suffering from stomach pain, but information on the cause of the latest illness, or whether it was related to his bout with clostridium septicum, was unavailable at the time of publication. He remains under the care of doctors in Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura.
The family, however, is keeping their spirits up, even in the face of adversity.
Purdue’s wife says that, although life has been tough in recent months, there are many things for the family to be thankful for. “His friends have been phenomenally wonderful,” she said, emotion saturating her voice. “They’ve really outdone themselves with helping us. It’s really amazing what they’ve all put together for us. We are so blessed and grateful.”
According to event organizers, a donation of $10 for adults will be suggested at the door and kids will be able to enjoy the show free of charge. Donations can also be sent to: Kenneth “Randy” Purdue, P.O. Box 403, Ojai, CA 93024. For more information, call 646-3424 or 646-6397.
Report and photo by Logan Hall
An unidentified man was hospitalized this morning after losing control of his vehicle and flipping over the side of Santa Ana Road. According to officials on scene, the victim was driving a blue Toyota 4Runner southbound on Santa Ana Road.
For unknown reasons, he reportedly lost control, drove over the oncoming traffic lane and off of the road, subsequently coming to rest upside down about 15 feet down the steep embankment.
The man was unconscious when emergency crews arrived, but woke up as firefighters were extricating him from the Toyota, said responding California Highway Patrol officers. Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Steve Swindle said the victim suffered unknown injuries and was taken by ambulance to Ventura County Medical Center for treatment.
According to CHP reports, the crash was reported by a passing cyclist who called 911. “We don’t know how long he was there before someone found him,” said CHP officer Tim Putzel at the scene of the incident. No other injuries were reported and no other vehicles were involved, said Putzel.
The accident remains under investigation.
By Misty Volaski
Ventura County Sheriff’s Department officials have now released the name of the deputy who fatally shot a boxer last week at the dog’s Orchard Drive home. According to sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Don Aguilar, the officer is Jonathon Witkoski, who has been with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department for six years. Aguilar said he had no knowledge of Witkoski ever having had complaints lodged against him, or ever having been involved in any other shooting incident. He did not know how long Witkoski had been with the Ojai Substation.
As previously reported, Witkoski and two other law enforcement officials with VCSD were responding to a call of vehicle tampering when the incident occurred. Witkoski allegedly feared for his safety when the dog ran toward him barking, so he opted to discharge his firearm three times, killing the dog. The dog’s owners claim that the animal, an 8-year-old male, has never bitten anyone and was carrying out his usual routine of running out his dog door and barking at visitors.
Aguilar said police have guidelines in place for when it is appropriate to use different levels of force to be able to control a particular incident. “Field supervisors will look at it (the incident), and if it warrants more investigation, he reports it to his (superior). That’s not the case here … it was an officer safety issue … Yes, there were other options to consider, but when the officer was asked to make a split-second decision, he felt at that time that option” to use force was necessary.
At this point, Aguilar clarified, “There is no violation or deviation from any policy. There is no ongoing investigation … The officer is still on duty. It’s business as usual.”
Aguilar said he did not think the dog’s owners had filed a formal complaint against Witkoski, although earlier this week the family had expressed their intentions to do so. There is an option for the family to file a claim with the VCSD Bureau of Risk Management, Aguilar went on, because the dog is considered property which was damaged by VCSD officers. Although he did not know how much the family might receive as compensation, he emphasized, “They can apply for a claim and they’ve been informed of that.”
Parents of kids who travel to Topa Topa Elementary School on foot, bike or scooter can breathe easier when Kris Ambarian is on duty. Dressed in signature uniform of shorts, orange vest, baseball cap, boots and sunglasses, her job is to keep children safe as they use the school’s main crosswalk. Ambarian is Topa Topa’s official crossing guard, and when the gatekeeper is at her post, you play by the gatekeeper’s rules.
A resident of Oak View, Ambarian grew up in Fillmore and has two children —- a first- and a fourth-grader — who attend Topa Topa. She got the gig two years ago when the school put out the call for a new crossing guard. “They needed someone who’s not shy, and I was perfect for the job because I have a big mouth,” she says.
The need for school crossing guards is very real indeed, judging by a national study that revealed about two-thirds of drivers broke posted speed limits within 30 minutes of school hours, and many disobeyed stop signs in school zones.
Ambarian has had a few run-ins with motorists. Once, she was struck by a careless driver whose side view mirror whacked her as the car passed by. Another time, a confrontation turned physical with the driver of a truck who, she says, “nearly ran over a kid in the crosswalk.” After contacting the Sheriff’s Department, Ambarian was able to arrange some extra patrols before and after school, which resulted in citations for a few unsafe drivers.
Traffic danger is one of the factors leading to a decline in the number of children walking to school, according to a study. In the ’70s, 90 percent of kids living within a mile of school either walked, biked or found another mode of self-transportation to and from school. Nowadays, that figure is more like 60 percent.
Ambarian says that traffic rules apply to the children, too. They must wait for her commands —- and bikes, skateboards and scooters must be walked across Mountain View Avenue, a residential street that gets incredibly busy for about 15 to 20 minutes every school day around 8:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.
There was no formal crossing guard training, although Ambarian says she picked up considerable background in traffic law from her husband, who served as a motorcycle cop in Thousand Oaks.
Her only on-the-job equipment is a neon yellow, self-standing sign that warns, “Slow — Student Crossing,” and a hand-held stop sign. “When I’m holding up the stop sign, drivers need to obey it like the flashing red lights on a school bus,” says Ambarian. “I don’t care if motorists get impatient. The kids are my main priority.”
By Logan Hall
A Ventura County Superior Court Judge ruled on Monday that the court would hold a competency trial for 17-year-old accused killer, Alex Medina. The teenager was charged with the murder of 16-year-old Ojai resident Seth Scarminach in 2009.
Records show that early on in the case, Medina’s defense attorneys, Scott Wippert and Robyn Bramson, declared doubt in their client’s competency to stand trial. Both the defense and prosecution were scheduled to meet with Judge James Cloninger Friday morning for a status conference and competency trial setting.
“This is a very complicated case,” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Bill Haney, who is currently prosecuting the case. “At the present time, the determination of when the competency trial will proceed is largely dependent on several expert witnesses. It depends on the readiness of experts on both sides.”
Bramson agrees that the case is complicated. “We’re going to have to figure all of that out tomorrow (Friday),” she said. “After that, it will be up to a jury to find out whether or not Alex is competent to stand trial.”
Court records show that Medina’s defense filed a motion with the court to dismiss the case, and in a separate motion, to recuse the Ventura County district attorney’s office from prosecuting the case. The reason for the motions, the defense claims, is that the prosecution withheld evidence that would be in favor of Medina. According to officials, the motion called for U.S. Attorney General Richard Moskowitz, who was present during court proceedings on Monday, to take over prosecution.
“Both motions are based on the same facts,” said Bramson. “The DA’s office withheld evidence that is favorable to Alex in what we call exculpatory evidence. The evidence came in to the prosecutor and was suppressed by them. It wasn’t disclosed until almost two years later after we filed a motion for recusal.”
Bramson declined to go into detail on the alleged withheld evidence, but court records indicate that the defense claims prosecutors suppressed evidence that pointed to a third party involved with the killing.
Haney says both he and Moskowitz oppose the defense’s assertion. “Both the DA’s office and the attorney general were prepared to vigorously defend our position that their motion is frivolous.”
Cloninger ruled that the recusal and dismissal motions be tabled until the completion of Medina’s competency trial. “When exactly that might happen,” commented Bramson, “I have no idea.”
Medina is accused of stabbing Scarminach to death at around 2 a.m. near the in the 2400 block of Maricopa Highway in Meiners Oaks on April 26, 2009 during a party.
Commentary by Bill Buchanan
You know, you would think that as much practice with killing as we have had in this country, we would be able to get it right. I am speaking of the Trayvon Martin fiasco that has dominated the news lately. There is so much incompetence, hyperbole and deception in this case, it is hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the police. Florida, like many other states has a “stand your ground” law, which allows a person to use deadly force when faced with the threat of serious injury or death from another person or persons. That sounds reasonable. If someone attacked me or a loved one, I would be justified in using whatever force necessary to repel the attack. While I don’t mean to convict George Zimmerman, as so many have already done, the early reports do not seem to indicate that Zimmerman was directly threatened by Trayvon Martin. Rather, 911 tape transcripts indicate that Zimmerman followed Martin, even after he was instructed not to do so by the 911 operator. If this is accurate, Zimmerman was not exactly “standing his ground.” It sounds as if he was stalking and perhaps confronting Martin rather than the other way around. If so, how could the police possibly justify not placing Zimmerman under arrest? Years before, Zimmerman was charged with “resisting an officer with violence” and “battery of a law enforcement officer.” Zimmerman’s ex-fiancée also filed a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence. This does not convict him, but he doesn’t appear to be Gandhi either. Given his record, how could the police simply allow him to go free? Then, adding fuel to the fire, factor in Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Spike Lee. These men, and others like them, have called for protests, rallies and demonstrations. Spike Lee gave out Zimmerman’s address so he could be hounded by the public. Unfortunately, he gave out the wrong address. Consequently, an innocent elderly couple was continually berated and threatened. I hope they have a good attorney. As for Al and Jesse, the main goal here is not to address injustice or racial bias. The main concern seems to be “exactly how much publicity can we get out of this?” I would feel much safer coming between a suicide bomber and his target than coming between Jesse or Al and a TV camera. At least with the bomber, you have a chance. These are the same guys who have been virtually silent about young black men being murdered by other young black men, a problem of epidemic proportions in our country. Where is their outrage and anger on that issue? Why are they not holding rallies to try to stem that violence? Additionally, let’s not forget our old pal, the national media. Just when you think the national media has slashed its standards as much as it can, it digs the hole a little deeper. First, there were the comments by that editorial embarrassment, Geraldo Rivera. Rivera claimed that the “hoodie” worn by Martin was as responsible for his death as the shooter himself. He later issued a weak apology for his inane remarks. Finally, there are the photos. The national media has almost unlimited resources. But rather than obtain current photos of the two men involved, both photos which were initially released of both men were several years old. In Trayvon Martin’s case, it makes him appear much younger, and more vulnerable. In George Zimmerman’s case, he is shown in an old 2005 booking photo. He is overweight, unshaven, and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit. They might as well put a big “I am guilty” label across it. The photo is in stark contrast to more recent photos that have surfaced. It is an intentionally manipulative attempt by the media to sway public opinion and try the case before it gets into the court system. It is pitiful and insulting to the American public. There are many issues in this case that deserve serious consideration and discussion. But instead of using this tragic event to have constructive discourse about legal, racial and criminal issues that confront our country, it has disintegrated into a media circus. That is sad. You would think that with as many senseless killings as we have in this country, we would know what to do. Unfortunately, we can be assured of getting a lot more practice.
By Tiobe Barron
Chris Coudert can’t get enough of helping kids. A retired teacher and baseball coach, Coudert now directs the Boys and Girls Club of Oak View. The club serves approximately 70 kids from Sunset Elementary School on a daily basis with after-school programs. The Boys and Girls Club of Oak View got its start in 2007, when Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett reached out to the national Boys and Girls Club organization to fill the deficit of amenities for schoolchildren in the area.
The Oak View branch is based out of a former elementary school, a site it shares with the Oak View Library, which is handy as many of the kids desperately need help with reading. The property affords the kids room to play, as well as to grow their own organic garden.
“It’s really the ideal place for it, because of the proximity to the library, the kitchen on site, the room for the kids to play,” says Nancy Gregg-Keller, the director of development and marketing for the Boys and Girls Club of Ventura. Kids who participate in the program in Oak View are able to grow their own food in the onsite garden, the result of a community collaboration.
The club in Oak View also offers a broad array of activities for kids to partake in. There is an art club, offering both basic painting and more in-depth fine arts projects; a computer club, where kids can learn to make their own websites and even use software to develop their own computer games; and fitness programs, ranging from the standard basketball to heptathlons, in which kids compete in seven different track and field-style games. The group even had their first poetry slam last month.
Rabobank has teamed up with the group, donating documents and time to teach kids about balancing checkbooks, investing, and planning for long-term goals. The bank has created the Star Program, which rewards kids for good behavior and academic achievement with pizza parties and personal “accounts” the kids can use to spend their earned funds in an in-house club store (which offers goodies donated or purchased from local thrift stores). Kids can also choose to continue to save and expand their funds, or re-invest in “stocks” with the Boys and Girls Club. Gregg-Keller proudly points out that one club member has already earned $440 in investment returns. This teaches the kids penmanship, fiscal responsibility, math skills, and teamwork. All this, is in addition to the state-required tutoring, homework time, and games built specifically to supplement the current curriculum being taught at Sunset Elementary.
And that’s just what’s offered regularly during the school year.
During the summer, there are surf clubs, weekly field trips to places such as the Santa Barbara Zoo and various museums. Kids love the weekly bike rides — which often ending in trips to the local ice cream parlor — yoga classes, a brand-new theater improv group, a language club offering lessons in German and Spanish, as well as multi-cultural cuisine. There’s even a group called the Torch Club that has raised money for cancer research and beach cleanups.
“This is what we want: continual fun, and continual learning,” says Coudert. He and his team of five — Noel Magana, Diana Lopez, Aaron Walker, Courtney McGrath, and intern Cassi Taylor —- keep kids off the streets, healthfully active, and academically prepared. Gregg-Keller proudly points out that the kids from Boys and Girls Club have a 97 percent graduation rate. She praises Coudert’s efforts with the community’s kids, saying, “He’s really done amazing things.”
Both Coudert and Gregg-Keller emphasize that the program would not exist or flourish without extensive community support. The Oak View Boys and Girls Club will be hosting a Taco Tuesday on April 17 at 7 p.m., with food donated by El Charro Restaurant; $5 buys you a plate of two tacos of your choice, rice and beans, and supports the haven for local children.
Gregg-Keller adds that the group is always looking for volunteers with skills, from reading, writing and arithmetic, to gardening and sports.
“We really need as much community involvement as possible,” says Gregg-Keller.
Summer Camp for the group begins June 18, with enrollment beginning next week. It costs $50 per week, with daily lunch and two snacks provided. While the after-school program is limited to Sunset Elementary kids, the Summer Camp is open to kids ages 6 to 14 in the Ojai Valley.
“It’s a great program, I wish we could extend it to even more!” says Coudert.
For more information, to get involved, or to enroll in the Summer camp, call Coudert at 649-9000.
By Misty Volaski
Investigations are still ongoing surrounding the fatal shooting of a dog by a Ventura County Sheriff’s deputy last Thursday.
According to police, a call came in just before 4 p.m. Thursday that someone “was seen removing license plates from a vehicle and putting them on another vehicle” at a home on Orchard Drive in Mira Monte, said Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Frank Underlin on Tuesday. Two deputies, he added, walked in the front gate of the residence, one heading up a flight of stairs to the front door. The dog, a boxer, allegedly came running around the house toward the other deputy, who had remained just inside the gate on the property. According to Underlin, the deputy, whose name is not yet being released by police, “feared” he would be bitten, so he pulled his gun and fired three times, killing the animal.
“It’s a tragic thing, we hate to do it, but at that point we don’t have any other options,” Underlin said Thursday.
A woman who claims to have witnessed the entire incident from her porch two houses down said, “I saw him raise his gun and shoot three times … I have the highest respect for police, but I think the officer was rather young and overreacted.”
The family said they are devastated and shocked that this could happen. “Ask anyone, (our dog) was the sweetest dog ever, he’s never ever attacked anyone or bit anyone,” said the female owner, who asked not to be identified. “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 said they “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.” The female owner added Tuesday afternoon that they will definitely be filing the complaint.
The Thursday call to officers did not come from the dog owners’ residence, Underlin explained, and the owners were not involved in the alleged vehicle tampering — although deputies allegedly did not know this when they responded to the call. Deputies have the name of a person of interest in the vehicle tampering case, Underlin added, but as of press time Tuesday had not arrested anyone.
When asked why the deputy did not pull out his taser instead of his gun as the dog approached, Underlin replied, “If we have time, we would go to a taser or OC (pepper spray) or a baton. But this happened so quickly, (the deputy) didn’t really have time — the dog was coming quickly.”
Anytime an officer uses force, “it is reviewed by the Sheriff’s Department,” Underlin explained. When asked what repercussions the officer may face, he said that if the officer is found to have employed excessive force, “he could receive some sort of discipline.”
He added that deputies do not take drawing their weapons lightly. “For us to draw and exhibit weapon generates reports that we have to write, and no officer wants to be writing extra paperwork for no reason.”
Sadly, this is not the first animal that has been shot by deputies responding to a call, Underlin said. “We go to hundreds, if not thousands, of residences every year. We do on occasion shoot dogs —- it’s rare to have to shoot dogs, but yes we do.” He added that another dog was almost “dispatched earlier in the week, a huge rottweiler.” Guns were drawn but as the dog didn’t advance, deputies were able to back out of the yard, Underlin said.
Although the owners of the Orchard Drive dog were unaware that the police were coming to their residence, Underlin said that any time residents do know, they should secure their pets. “Always secure (your) dog, tell the officer what you’re doing, and the officer will give them the opportunity to put it in another room.” Another option he said, would be to purchase a “Beware of Dog” sign.
“It’s just one of those unfortunate circumstances,” Underlin said. “We’re saddened still that we had to dispatch the dog. But in retrospect very little could’ve (been) changed … It’s an ugly situation that took place … and for the officers’ well-being we can’t expect them to be bitten. (That) potentially could be a very serious problem. The dog came very, very close.”
Report and photo by Logan Hall
A firefighter and a civilian sustained minor injuries on Tuesday when a fire broke out in a shed on Riverside Road near Burnham Road in Oak View, according to officials. Ventura County Fire Department crews were dispatched to the scene and quelled the blaze after it burned the shed and nearby outbuildings, but before flames could spread to nearby homes and vegetation, said VCFD officials on scene. Fire Department spokesman Steve Swindle says that a firefighter from Oak View Station 23 suffered burns on his finger and was taken to Ventura County Medical Center for treatment. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the property owner, an unidentified male, also sustained severe burns. Swindle stated that a civilian did suffer first-degree burns, but was unable to comment on whether the victim was the property’s owner. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation, according to Swindle.
Kenney transferred from Sheriff’s Department Air Unit to Ojai in normal rotation
Report and photo by Logan Hall
There’s a new face in charge of the ranks of law enforcement in the Ojai Valley. On Monday, Capt. Dave Kenney transferred to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Ojai Substation, taking the place of former Ojai Police Chief Capt. Chris Dunn. The transfer is part of a normal personnel rotation within the department.
Kenney, whose father spent 34 years working in law enforcement, was aviation manager of the VCSD’s Air Unit at the Camarillo Airport before taking his post as Ojai’s chief of police. For the last three years, Kenney was responsible for overseeing aviation and search and rescue missions for the Air Unit.
He’s no stranger to the Ojai Valley, though.
“I started out on patrol in Ojai right after graduating the academy in 1990,” said Kenney, who lives in Thousand Oaks. “It’s definitely not my first time here.”
Since his graduation from the academy, Kenney has taken on many duties within the Sheriff’s Department. Aside from his days in Ojai as a patrol deputy, he’s worked as gang officer, classification unit supervisor at Ventura County’s Todd Road Jail, field training officer, patrol field supervisor, and patrol watch commander, among other things. In 2008, he was assigned to the department’s Detention Services division, where he administered the division’s $120,000 budget.
He’s also worked as the resident deputy in Lockwood Valley in the most northern part of the county, where he says he encountered some issues similar to some of those facing Ojai. “There are a lot of people hiking and camping up there,” he said. “People, especially day hikers, will leave valuables in their car and some will take advantage of that.”
Like in Ojai, Lockwood Valley had problems with thefts from vehicles — often those parked at trailheads. Kenney is following Dunn’s lead in approaching the problem and says that community outreach and education are important. Aside from working with the community, Kenney also believes that it’s vital to keep an eye on those who have been convicted of crimes in the past, and who are currently on probation or parole.
“I think we can prevent crime with diligent parole and probation searches,” he said. “We really need to aggressively go after those offenders.”
During his time running the Air Unit, Kenney worked alongside many different agencies in the state and county. He says that cooperation is a must in law enforcement and those experiences will carry over into his new duty. “The Air Unit is a whole different world,” he said, “but we were always working with all of the other agencies. Being a police chief is all about working with different officials and agencies.”
When it comes to settling into the position of running Ojai’s law enforcement operations, Kenney says he is taking a proactive approach to observing the community and finding out what makes the valley tick. “I went out on foot patrol through the Arcade for about an hour and a half on Monday,” he said. “Right now I’m just trying to determine what the needs of the community are. I’m just going to be meeting folks and seeing what the community needs.”
With the VCSD making several headlines in Ojai in recent months, Kenney seems to have his plate full, but says that, in his business, there is always something that demands attention. “You have to be ready for anything when you take on a new position like this,” he said. “You really have to be willing to tackle any challenge that comes along. There are always going to be issues that make people upset. I think the previous captain did a great job though, so that makes my job easier.”
Dunn is confident in handing over the reins to Kenney and says he will do the valley justice in his new position. “Capt. Kenney is a very experienced law enforcement officer with a great deal of leadership and management experience,” said Dunn. “He is a very outgoing person and very easy to talk to. Dave takes his responsibilities very seriously and takes pride in his work. I believe he will be an excellent fit for the city of Ojai and the greater Ojai Valley.”
Dog Shot During Alleged Church Break-in
By Lenny Roberts
From the OVN Archives 10/18/1993
A startled sheriff’s deputy shot one of two charging dogs early Sunday morning after the owner allegedly illegally entered an abandoned Meiners Oaks church.
Following his arrival shortly after the 7:45 a.m. call of a break-in at the Church of Christ at 619 W. El Roblar, Deputy John Fox, with gun drawn, approached the side of the vacant church where he was said to have been confronted by two dogs which appeared from behind the corner of the building.
Three other city and county units responded to the scene and arrived almost simultaneously. Senior Deputy Rick Barrios reportedly witnessed the shooting. Fox fired once, hitting the dog on top of the nose before the injured animal crawled to a block wall near the partially opened door. The dog’s owner, 20-year-old Indi Phillips, a known unemployed local man, was found hiding inside the church where he said he was “looking for a place to keep warm,” according to Deputy Ray Bornand. Phillips was taken to the Ojai Substation Jail where he was arrested on a charge of illegal entry before being transported to the Ventura County Main Jail.
The dog, described as part pitbull by Animal Regulations Officer Richard Lambert, was taken to the shelter in Camarillo for medical attention. Lambert estimated the stocky black dog to be about 18 months to 2 years old with a weight of around 50 pounds.
Sgt. Don Cunningham said anytime a police officer discharges a firearm, an investigation follows. “Generally, in the situation that Fox found himself in, all he needs to do is document it in a supplemental report that he writes to the crime report that was taken. Copies of that are then distributed throughout the Department,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham added that a shooting of this nature is not an uncommon situation anymore, saying, “It does happen.”
The initial call to the police was made by neighbors who heard noises coming from the church. The side door to the church appeared to have been forced open. The dog, whose injury did not appear to be life-threatening even after being shot a close range, cowered into a corner of the church yard before being taken for medical treatment.
Director Kathy Jenks of the Animal Regulation Department said in a Monday telephone interview with the OVN that the female dog, officially described as a “10-month to 1-year-old lab mix,” suffered a broken nose, and was scheduled to have surgery to remove the lodged bullet later in the day by Dr. Craig Koerner. “The dog is in good shape other than that,” said Jenks.