Tuesday, July 31, 2012
EDITOR’S NOTE: THE ONLY WAY TO VOTE IN THIS CONTEST IS TO VISIT WWW.OJAIVALLEYNEWS.COM AND CLICK ON THE BLUE RIBBON. COMMENTS LEFT HERE OR EMAILS TO NEWSPAPER STAFF WILL NOT BE COUNTED AS A VOTE.
The 2012 Ojai Valley News Best of the Ojai Valley contest opens today and runs through Sept. 3.
Those interested can cast their vote in any of more than 100 different categories by visiting www.ojaivalleynews.com and clicking on the blue ribbon.
Last year, the Ojai Valley News received thousands of votes from area residents choosing their favorites in the community.
The online survey offers the opportunity to write in nominees if they are not included in a category. Only one entry per computer is allowed.
Votes will be tallied and announced in the Ojai Valley News “Best of the Ojai Valley” supplement Oct. 19.
“It’s fitting that the Ojai Valley News highlights the connection between the community and the businesses and people that are important to them,” said Ojai Valley News publisher Tim Dewar. “Everyone wants a Best of Ojai blue ribbon and we are happy to continue this annual tradition.”
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
By Tiobe Barron
So plans for Ojai Day do not fall irreparably behind, Ojai City Manager Rob Clark has appointed his assistant, Amber Young, as the interim Ojai Day coordinator. The city accepted applications from individuals and event-planning companies through July 31. A city-appointed panel will meet Thursday to review the applications and decide which groups and individuals to recommend to the Council at its Aug. 14 meeting.
In the meantime, Clark said he has every confidence in Young and her abilities to manage Ojai Day preparations.
“She has the appropriate experience with this type of event to perform this function. The recreation staff is actively supporting her as well,” said Clark.
He added that the city is still accepting applications for vendors, entertainment acts and Ojai Day volunteers.
Last year’s Ojai Day featured Aztec dancers, a skate “lounge” for teen skateboarders, an area for kids and an “artists’ alley,” along with dozens of booths selling clothing, jewelry, snow cones, vases and even massages.
When asked what types of vendors and entertainment acts visitors can look forward to this year, Dale Sumersille, director of the Ojai Recreation Department, said she and city staff are not ready to reveal that information yet.
According to the Ojai Day website, highlights will include the traditional mandala on Ojai Avenue, a car show, a gypsy gazebo replete with belly dancers and a Chumash village.
The fate of Ojai Day 2012 seemed up in the air after Jody James, the coordinator of Ojai Day for the last 20 years, resigned at the end of June. The Ojai City Council approved funding for the event in this year’s budget, although it is not historically a profitable event. But without someone to manage the vendors, organize the volunteers and plan the festivities — with a mere handful of months remaining until the event arrives in mid-October — the outlook appeared momentarily grim.
Ojai City Council members and residents alike made it clear at the July 10 City Council meeting that they expect the show to go on.
For more information on Ojai Day, visit www.ojaiday.com
Visit www.ci.ojai.ca.us to apply to be an event vendor or entertainer.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
By Monica Lara
By the end of today, day five of the competency trial for the Mira Monte teen facing murder charges, five witnesses were expected to have testified to bolster the contention that Alex Medina is not able to assist in his own defense because of psychological issues.
“All the witness are part of the puzzle to understanding the difficulties Alex has endured and continues to endure,” said defense attorney Robyn Bramson.
Bramson and Scott Wippert are representing Medina in his competency trial, expected to continue into next week in Ventura County Superior Court.
Still scheduled to testify is the prosecution’s list of as many as 13 witnesses, including former teachers, probation officers and court-appointed psychologists.
Medina has been charged with first-degree murder, a felony offense that in this case is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Multiple additional felony offenses, or extensions, could add to his sentence, if convicted. The additional charges include use of a deadly weapon, committing of the crime for the benefit of a street gang, and committing the crime while a participant in a street gang.
Medina is suspected of stabbing and killing 16-year-old Seth Scarminach in April 2009. Scarminach was pronounced dead at the scene of an unsupervised party in the 2400 block of the Maricopa Highway in Meiners Oaks. The incident is believed to have been gang related, according to reports of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.
Medina was 14 when he was taken into custody.
The competency trial will determine whether Medina can assist his counsel during his criminal trial, where he would be tried as an adult. The burden of proof rests on the defense to prove Medina is at least 51 percent incompetent.
Criminal trial proceedings have been suspended while Medina’s competency is being determined.
If the jury finds Medina incompetent to stand trial he will remain in custody until further psychological evaluation determines his competency has been restored. This ruling could open up the possibility to argue other ways to try him, such as in juvenile court.
Competency became an issue in the Medina case when his defense raised doubt about his cognitive skills in 2009.
This week, two witnesses from the Ventura County’s Behavior Health Department testified. Both had spent several years observing and counseling Medina while he was in custody.
Medina’s mother, Jeanine Arellanes, gave permission for confidential doctor’s information to be used in the court proceedings. Various topics in Medina’s background were brought up, including physical and sexual abuse that allegedly occurred to him as early as age 4.
Senior Psychologist Ellen Yoshimura, the last witness to take the stand Monday, attributed the traumatic events as the basis for her diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Physical abuse can cause a person to cope with avoidance, or antisocial behavior, according to Yoshimura. “Nobody else knows what happened except the two of them,” Yoshimura said in court. “You can’t relate to them and they can’t relate to you.”
While canine disaster search teams are trained to find people, this week, they found money, lots of money. The money was in the form of a $1 million donation from a Chicago-area foundation to the Ojai-based Search Dog Foundation (SDF).
The donating foundation, which does not wish to be identified, has moved SDF one step closer to its goal of raising $14.5 million to build a one-of-a-kind training center in Santa Paula. It brings the total raised so far to $11.5 million.
“Time is ticking,” explained SDF founder Wilma Melville. “We must build this training center, it is that simple. There is no other group capable of doing it.” She said her small staff has been stretched thin raising the nonprofit’s annual operating budget each year and the millions needed for the facility. “I am estimating their strength will go to the end of year. We think we will make it, we feel a tremendous confidence, but to do this in a down economy, is that not impressive?”
SDF receives no government funds for its work and relies on donations to fund its operation.
Since its founding in 1996, SDF has rescued hundreds of dogs, many on the brink of euthanasia, and turned them into highly-skilled rescuers. They have trained 138 Canine-Firefighter Search Teams, 72 of which are currently active. Their teams have responded to 84 disasters, including the World Trade Center attacks, Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti and Japan earthquakes as well as scores of local and regional emergencies. SDF will train 15 new teams in 2012 at an average cost of $15,000 per team.
SDF gives dogs and their first-responder handlers specialized training that is not available in one permanent location. The Santa Paula facility is meant to change that. The Center will include a handlers lodge where first responders can stay during their training, a canine pavilion where search dogs will be boarded, trained and cared for, an 11,000-square-foot, covered canine training ground and classrooms.
Melville said training has already begun at the property, although dogs and handlers must be boarded offsite each night. She said the grading will start this week and that the operation will move in incrementally. “We are putting an emphasis on the program, which means the dogs and handlers first. It is important they have a place to live and train.”
The administrative offices, which are currently in Ojai, will be the last to move and Melville hopes everything will be in place before the end of 2013.
As for how she hopes to raise the remaining amount, she said there will be events upcoming where people can donate, but in the meantime, there are plenty of opportunities for smaller donations. “Everyone is welcome to call us at 888-459-4376 ext. 105, they can email email@example.com or our website, www.searchdogfoundation.org has a donations page,” Melville explained. She added that there are still “asks” out to foundations and corporations that should push them closer to the goal. “They are looking at our financials and the pledges we have. People want to bet on a winner and they want to see strong action and I think it is the mission of turning rescue dogs into rescuers and supporting the disaster response system in our nation that resonates. Our mission makes sense to them.”
Friday, July 27, 2012
By Misty Volaski
A fire of undetermined origin on West El Roblar Drive displaced a longtime Meiners Oaks business owner Friday morning.
David Whipple Goldsmith, from where the fire is assumed to have originated, suffered some fire damage, said owner Whipple, “but mostly it was smoke damage. We lost a few pieces of equipment, but all of the jewelry, all the customers’ and our inventory is fine. It was in the safe … Thank God we have insurance, and the property owner has insurance.”
Engine 22, based close by, arrived within minutes after the fire was reported at 7:08 a.m., according to information posted on the county’s Fireline website. Ventura County Fire Department public information officer Steve Swindle said, “There was a pretty quick knockdown … by 9:15 a.m., the last two units on scene left after they did overhaul and salvage.”
Gallery 525. which shares the building with Whipple, appeared to have some minor smoke damage, although Swindle said the fire did not extend into it.
Whipple remained positive. “The store’s wasted from the smoke, but we’re all well, we’ve got a good attitude moving forward.” He said he is moving his store and inventory temporarily “about 50 feet down the street to the old Foxy Lady salon. “We’ll be back in business by next Tuesday. You can’t be sad, life doesn’t end. You just gotta roll with the punches. It’s not that big of a loss.”
Friday, July 27, 2012
By Misty Volaski
It’s not easy being green. Since 1998, the Ventura River Watershed — which includes most of the Ojai Valley — has been listed as “impaired” by algae.
Recent research confirms the impairment, according to Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) senior environmental scientist Jenny Newman. On July 20, LARWQCB — which protects ground and surface water quality in the Los Angeles Region, including the coastal watersheds of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, along with very small portions of Kern and Santa Barbara Counties — released findings of an intensive study of the River’s water quality. It plans to hold a public hearing Oct. 4 to discuss new regulations it is proposing to bring down the level of algae to a level it considers safe.
What’s wrong with the river?
Too much algae creates a reduction in the amount of oxygen in the water, which is harmful to aquatic life including the endangered steelhead trout.
“When the algae dies, the bacteria that eats it consumes oxygen,” explained Newman. “Algae can also smother the habitat for the animals that live in the bottom of the river.”
The algae is fed by excessive amounts of nutrients in the watershed — namely, nitrogen and phosphorus. It’s generally considered to be a natural process, but human activity speeds up the process.
Rebecca Veiga Nascimento, staff environmental scientist with LARWQCB, said that the acceptable level of “algal biomass” is 150 mg per meter-squared. “The river ecology is fairly dynamic, with different algal growth from year to year.” But, she added, “we recorded in the lower parts of the river up to 600 mg per meter-squared.”
Where are the excess nutrients coming from?
LARWQCB, along with other groups including the University of California at Santa Barbara, have invested several years of research into determining the sources of nutrients that are leading to excessive algae.
Perhaps the easiest source to identify is the Ojai Valley Sanitation District’s treatment plant, located just outside of Casitas Springs. After extensive processing and cleaning, the treated water is released back into the Ventura River — making testing a matter of going to the effluent pipe.
OVSD general manager Jeff Palmer said the treatment plant has a permit allowing them to release up to 8 mg of nitrogen per liter into the river each day. “Right now, the plants runs between 3 and 4 mg per liter, well below the permit limits.”
However, they would need to get below 3 mg per liter in the next 10 years, if the LARWQCB regulations for total maximum daily limits (TMDL) are set firmly into place. “Worst case,” Palmer said, “compliance with the 3 mg (per liter limit) would cost about $15 million.” However, he added, there are many ways to reduce that number. The development of improved technology, grant funding from the state and “alternative engineering methods” could push that number down significantly.
But the OVSD — which is regulated by a permit that is renewed every five years — is by no means the only contributor of excess nutrients to the Ventura River Watershed.
“Another big source is the municipal storm water system,” Newman explained, meaning anything that ends up in the storm drains.
Other sources include septic systems, which are regulated; horse facilities and cattle ranches, which are currently unregulated; and agriculture, which operates under a permit waiver but which has strict conditions and requirements.
Natural sources of nutrients, leaching out of the hills above Ojai, are also a source, although Newman said “It is smaller than the other sources.”
Newman also acknowledged that Ojai’s two golf courses could be sources, as well as many other local sources. She added that the LARWQCB will continue to notify and educate all affected parties of the TMDLs.
How much will all this cost?
Newman and Veiga Nascimento said they’ve assessed the economic impact, which is detailed in their report. However, they said, it is still to early to hammer down all the numbers. “We want to make sure that all sources in the watershed are implementing the TMDL. We won’t specify the manner in which they comply,” said Veiga Nascimento — hence the lack of solid dollar amounts. “It (the TMDL) will just tell them their ultimate limitation.”
As for OVSD customers, “I can’t speak to what the rate increases might be,” said Newman. “We’ve tried to allow a long implementation schedule so OVSD could spread out the upgrades (necessary). … overall we’ve tried to provide flexibility as much as possible.”
Newman said the potential penalties for violating the TMDLs are unknown. “That’s too far down the line to say at this point. The TMDL is a regulatory mechanism.”
What happens next?
The LARWQCB will host a meeting at 9 a.m. Oct. 4 in Simi Valley’s city council chambers, 2929 Tapo Canyon Road, to give the public an opportunity to discuss the Board’s findings, new regulations and implementation plans for the regulations.
Palmer said the OVSD will ask the LARWQCB to extend the 10-year implementation deadline. “We have bond measures, one of which is paying off previous work on the (treatment) plant and expires in 12 years. We’ll ask them to let us pay off what we currently owe before we take on any more debt; give us some additional time.” He said OVSD also will ask LARWQCB to clarify some of the findings in their research presentation.
“Clean water is valuable,” concluded Newman. “We have to weigh the benefits of clean water against any economic impacts.”
Thursday, July 26, 2012
By Tiobe Barron
Thursday, July 26, 2012
By Angelique LaCour
Casitas Municipal Water District took a firm step toward its possible acquisition of the Golden State Water Company’s Ojai operation through an eminent domain merger Wednesday.
The Casitas Board of Directors unanimously approved a proposal from David Taussig & Associates to help them form an Ojai community facilities district that would replace Golden State as water purveyor for its current customers.
The new Ojai district will be similar in structure to the Ojai Valley Sanitary District that currently operates sanitation services in the valley.
Costs associated with the formation of the new district will not affect existing Casitas customer rates, according to Ron Merckling, spokesperson for CMWD.
The first step in the acquisition process is passage of $33 million in revenue bonds that must be approved by two-thirds of Golden State Water’s current Ojai customers.
Golden State was represented at the board meeting by Santa Barbara attorney Steven Amerikaner, who spoke against approval of Taussig’s proposal to explore the costs and steps necessary to establish the new district.
“I believe everyone involved understands that Golden State’s Ojai system is not for sale and there is no likelihood of a negotiated acquisition,” Amerikaner said.
In a four-page statement to the Board Amerikaner asks, “do you have a high degree of confidence that two-thirds of the voters will approve a special tax in this political and fiscal environment? If you roll the dice and the voters say no, this district will be left holding the bag for all of these expenses.”
In the last year, Ojai Friends of Locally Owned Water (Ojai FLOW) submitted petitions to the Casitas Board with 1,900 signatures of registered voters who are GSWC customers, requesting the new district be formed.
“We are very appreciative that the Board has voted to proceed,” said Bob Daddi, one of the seven Ojai FLOW directors. “I am confident that the ‘taking’ phase is assured, and we will successfully meet the challenges that will be involved in the valuation of Golden State’s infrastructure.”
According to Section 8 of the city’s franchise agreement with Golden State, the city can “take” the property through the eminent domain process under certain circumstances.
GSWC is the only for-profit water supplier in the Ojai Valley, and currently charges up to three times the rates of the five other public, not-for-profit water purveyors.
Currently, the Ojai Valley is served by the following not-for-profit community facilities districts: Ventura River County Water District, Meiners Oaks Water District, Senior Canyon Mutual Water Company, Siete Robles Mutual Water Company and CWMD.
GSWC has had a franchise with the city of Ojai since 1967.
David Taussig assured the Casitas Board that his firm has handled the formation of more than 1,000 community facilities districts.
“We believe this is easily achievable,” Daddi said. “The residents are very enthusiastic and eager for relief from GSW’s exorbitant rates.”
Ojai FLOW fears that GSWC customers may see their rates increase 50 to 70 percent over the next three years based on expected improvements to infrastructure planned by GSWC. They say customers may see increases start as early as January.
“This is the end of the beginning to reaching our goal of affordable water services in the city of Ojai,” Daddi proclaimed.
Other Ojai FLOW directors in attendance at the Board meeting were Ryan Blatz, Richard Hajas, Pat McPherson and Stan Green.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
By Tiobe Barron
There is a place in Ojai that to some evokes the magic of youthful summer retreats. Its inhabitants refer to it as “Camp Mallory.”
The Mallory Way Cottages, nestled among vast old oak trees, are Craftsman-style, single-family homes painted the olive green and taupe of summer cabins. Most are floored in Saltillo tile, and many boast exposed beam ceilings.
The first incarnation of the site was a motor court in the late 1940s, when such things were en vogue.
“When I first came here, I could just feel it, could just envision people pulling up in their Packards, the men in their suits, the ladies in their hats and veils and gloves, coming from Los Angeles to have their trysts or get away from the bustle of the city,” says Pat Bruton, a tenant at 412 Mallory Way for the last three years. Bruton, a retired special education teacher who has worked extensively with autistic children, calls the place a haven, a microcosm of Ojai. “Everyone here is creative in some way, and we all help each other out,” Bruton says. “I just don’t know where you could find that anymore. Certainly not condominiums! This is like our own little town, with its own eclectic character.”
“These are definitely not slum quality,” says Chris Brua, the property’s on-site manager, referring to language used by some during public meetings where the cottages future is being debated. “The interiors are completely updated; they’re very nice. Everyone who lives here is thrilled (with the units). The reason they live here is for that historic charm.”
Bruton further maintains that none of the residents worry about crime, as the units all face each other and the residents look out for one another. According to Bruton, one resident was in a car accident recently, and the woman’s neighbor tended to her over the next three days, preparing meals and checking on the concussed lady. Bruton also tells of communal porch parties, potlucks and movie nights, when many of the neighbors gather to chat, joke and share a meal.
However, this will in all likelihood change. For nearly 10 years, property owners Jeff Becker and Willem Jonker, of Matilija Investment Property, LLC, have been fighting for permission to develop the site; demolishing 18 units and renovating seven.
On June 26, Ojai City Council granted Jonker and Becker the official go-ahead to replace the current cottages with two-story condo “bungalows.” After working with the Ojai Planning Commission for close to a decade, Matilija Investment Property LLC contracted the Santa Barbara architectural firm Cearnal Andrulaitis to create a project they say is based on sustainability and low-environmental impact. Among other details, the final approved project features 23 new Craftsman-style condominiums, an extension of Eucalyptus Street and Mallory Way to allow through traffic and the replacement of oak trees which would be removed or damaged during construction.
“The (existing) cottages are very small structures that were originally built and sized for overnight stays, rather than permanent residency,” says Jonker. “We believe the new residences will fill a need by providing quality, reasonably-sized homes within walking distance of downtown with minimal maintenance requirements.”
Jonker does not know what the price range for the new units will be, nor when residents can expect the project to begin.
A July 25 Craigslist post by the Becker Group lists the current Mallory Way Cottage studios at $885 per month, on a month-to-month lease, with cats allowed.
“Basically, 30 people all at one time are going to have to find a new place to stay,” says Bruton. “Nobody’s angry, but that doesn’t mean we’re happy, either.”
Fellow resident Trudy Russo agrees.
“This is a colony of people who are creative, and those are disappearing. Ojai is a community known for its artists, as well as spirituality and small, locally-owned stores. That’s what makes it unique and interesting, without being manicured,” says Russo. “There’s a flavor here. People don’t understand what they’re really losing.”
Another resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, has a slightly different take on the matter. “They (Becker and Jonker) are not (expletive deleted) on anybody. The condos will be beautiful, state-of-the-art places. We just won’t be here.”
“As far as the city losing affordable housing, we have to consider that the structures there (at Mallory Way) are blighted. They are not well insulated. How livable are they?” queries Councilwoman Carlon Strobel. “Until we have a group with the intent to buy and preserve historic properties, I don’t know how we can ask the developer to do that for us. I personally do have concerns, but is that the responsibility of the property owner? I don’t think so. Yes, we need lots of affordable housing, but who is going to pay for it?”
Thursday, July 26, 2012
By Monica Lara
Thursday, July 26, 2012
The Pacific Shores Philharmonic announced Wednesday that it will reschedule the final three concerts of its 2012 summer season to next season, in order to pursue additional underwriting, more sponsorships and to reduce production expenses. The show included “Music for Cowboys & Cowgirls,” Aug. 11 and 12; “The Flame of Tango,” Aug. 25 and 26; and “Sonic Sojourns,” Sept. 22 and 23.
The 2012 season concludes Saturday at 8 p.m., with the Pacific Shores Chorale’s performance of Carl Orff’s ”Carmina Burana.”
“We are delighted at the community’s response to our first concerts in our inaugural year, including rave press reviews and cheering audiences giving multiple standing ovations at every concert,” said Maestro E. Burns Taft, founding music director and conductor of the PS Phil. “We’ve found we need to make adjustments to our programming schedule to make it more cost effective. By watching the economics of our organization carefully, we can insure our longevity in the community for years to come.”
The PS Phil is a professional orchestra employing union musicians, and the Local 47 Musicians’ Union requires the PS Phil to produce all musicians’ payroll in advance of each concert, by the first rehearsal, in the orchestra’s first year. This advance funding requirement, said PS Phil officials, limits the time they have to sell the number of tickets required to meet concert expenses, including the critical ticket-selling week before each concert, a week when large percentages of the total ticket sales often occur.
“Our first concerts saw steady ticket sales, but also were smaller in format than our last three concerts, meaning the first several concerts had lower overall costs,” said PS Phil executive director Nancy Cadwallader Johnson. “The final three concerts of the season require much larger orchestral and production setups, and those bigger costs, coupled with the requirement to advance musician payroll without the necessary full ticket-sales period, creates a potentially difficult financial situation. Rather than incur debt, we made the responsible business decision as a nonprofit to move the last three concerts to next season, while simultaneously pursuing more corporate underwriting and sponsorships to help fill the gaps.”
The cancellations leave several dates open on the Libbey Bowl schedule. “It’s one of those things that just happen sometimes, especially for the first time out for a brand-new nonprofit,” said Libbey Bowl manager Beth Sutherland. “Hopefully, we can put something in at least one of those dates.”
The PS Phil had already submitted nonrefundable application fees to the Libbey Bowl Foundation, “So that’s over and done with,” Sutherland said, but “for a series like this, the Foundation basically has been accepting payments in increments,” and Sutherland said it was too soon to know how much money the Foundation would be losing out on. “Quite honestly, it’s still to be determined. We’ll meet as a board in the beginning of August, look at the agreement we had with them, and work it out so that both parties feel good about it.”
Upcoming Libbey Bowl shows will include one on Aug. 17 by Lissie, who will play a benefit concert for Changing the Tides orphanage in Haiti. The next day, Rey Fresco will perform a concert benefitting the Rotary Club of Ventura East.
The PS Phil box office is contacting patrons who purchased tickets to the PS Phil’s final three concerts and are reportedly offering refunds or the option to reticket to Saturday’s performance.
The PS Phil is also investigating changes to its season production scheduling, as a way to further reduce production costs. “The Libbey Bowl is indeed one of the county’s finest musical venues, but because it does not provide any production resources, all presenters using the venue must provide their own sound, lighting, staff, security, on-site box office, concessions and production equipment,” says Ryan Jimenez, president of the board. “Moving to a festival format is one way we are exploring reducing these significant, yet required costs. By doing so, we would eliminate multiple production costs over the summer, instead staging concerts back to back over a single weekend, creating a ‘destination’ event. We would find the best possible summer weekend, and take care not to schedule conflicts with other presenters who use the Bowl, such as the celebrated Ojai Music Festival.”
Tickets for Saturday’s concert are available at www.psphil.com or by calling 620-1000.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
A local Chumash tribal group is one event closer to having a place to call its own after Saturday’s Sulinanik’oy celebration.
“With a lot of help from the community, it was a big success,” explained Chumas Elder Julie Tumamait.
The fundraising event was a music and arts festival organized to help her group raise money to pay taxes on 6 acres of land in Saticoy donated to them recently.
“We had some of our elders there and that was a highlight for me,” Tumamait said, “to let them know that we will be OK and so they can see the beauty of a community that is loving and supportive of our culture.”
She added that as young ones, many of the elders saw a lot of negative energy and prejudice surrounding being an Indian, so to see the community support their efforts was very fulfilling.
The parcel, which at one time was part of the Vanoni family landholdings, will provide a meeting soak for the tribal group to meet. She said there have been discussions about possibly building a cultural center on the land. Another condition for the donation was that a memorial of some type be constructed to honor Native American veterans.
“We aren’t sure yet just what we are going to do with it, we may not do anything. It will be up to whatever spirit is calling for it at the time,” She added.
Another idea, Tumamait noted, would be to develop a native plant nursery to help teach people the importance of local plants. She said a plant nursery could be a potential source of income for the group as well.
The federal designation, although a time-consuming and difficult process to achieve, would entitle the band to become a sovereign nation, receive equation scholarships for its members and provide access to low-interest loans to purchase other properties.
This weekend’s event was held on the east Ojai grounds of Larry Carnes’ The Pottery Studio. Carnes has been helping the group develop its plans for the purchase of the property for a few years.
“About four years ago,” Carnes explained, “a gal who was renting a room from me came back from a hike with pictures she took way up in the mountains of some artwork she found in a cave. The images were beautiful and I knew I wanted to use them in my artwork.”
Carnes said he spoke with Tumamait at that time who explained to him the images were very spiritual. “I explained that I would treat them in a very spiritual way, and that I wanted their permission to use the images. I told them I would donate 10 percent of the value of the pieces to the Chumash and that’s how we got started talking about the land. So when we started talking about having an event, I told them I have an acre that we could do it here until the property is ready down there.”
Carnes estimated that the group reached about 60 percent of its goal of $10,000. Tumamait said they hope to be able to use that as seed money to garner matching funds from corporations and individual donors.
Those interested in donating can do so by sending checks to CAUSE, 2021 Sperry Ave. #18, Ventura, CA 93003. She said donors can also visit www.coastalalliance.com for more information.
For his part, Carnes said he was pleased with the event and how so many came together to show their support. “I am not an overly spiritual person, but I believe the ancestors were speaking to us that night. It was very moving.”
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
By Misty Volaski
If all goes according to plan, 24 low-income housing units could be built in the Ojai Valley in the next two to three years.
Last week, the Ojai Planning Commission conducted a conceptual review of a proposed housing development on the corner of Hermosa Road and West Ojai Avenue/Highway 33.
The property is owned by the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, which has teamed with the Area Housing Authority of Ventura County on the project.
Should it be built, the complex would fulfill a 2005 requirement by the city
that the Inn provide a minimum of 10 low-income housing units as one of the conditions of approval for a major renovation of the Inn.
“There was no requirement of where (to build the housing),” said Peter Ells, OVIS managing director. “It could have been on our property, or we could have purchased something else. We thought this was a nice piece of property.”
Although available to anyone who meets the income requirements — a combined income of less than $22 per hour for a family, said AHA executive director Douglas Tapking — developers say they hope to attract low-income families currently living or working in the Ojai Valley. Legally, AHA cannot exclude anyone living outside the valley, but “We’ll advertise (the units) exclusively up there in Ojai,” said Tapking. “That’s not to say we’ll let a place go vacant. But there will be a priority for people who live and work there … there’s an obvious market for Inn employees, but it’s not being built for the Inn. It’s not employee housing.”
The project’s current design calls for one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, which Ojai’s community development director, Rob Mullane, said may rent for approximately $435 to $1,286 a month. It will likely include walkways, parking garages, a playground, several additional trees and a bridge to the OVIS central services building where many Inn employees check in to work.
According to Mullane, concerns voiced by the Planning Commissioners last week include keeping pedestrians off of Ventura Avenue, possibly by way of a sidewalk along the property’s frontage. Other ideas voiced at the meeting included the possibility of adding more trees along the project’s frontage, adding more architectural detail to the facade and relocating the “tot lot” to a place closer to the three-bedroom units.
AHA is working to obtain tax credits, which will be used along with startup money from the OVIS to make the project a reality. Once the development is built, it will be turned over to AHA, which will collect the rent money to “pay the debt, and for operating and maintenance costs,” said Tapking.
There is an element of time sensitivity, he added, because the tax credit paperwork must be submitted to the state of California by March 2013 in order to be considered for funding.
“That’s the real challenge, lining up the funding,” said Linda Fisher-Helton, AHA community relations manager. “All the stars will have to align.”
Many things must still be done before that can happen.
“This was conceptual review only,” said Mullane of last week’s discussions by the Planning Commission. “The project will ultimately need to go through environmental review and hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council. The project will need a Parcel Map, a rezone, a Design Review Permit and a Tree Permit.”
The environmental review will look at the potential impact on any wildlife or wildlife areas — such as the riparian area over which the bridge to OVIS will run — and a possible relocation of trees. A traffic study will also be required as part of the environmental review, Mullane said.
Ells noted that they will likely need to look at the possible historical significance of the house on the property that is currently being used as temporary housing for new OVIS employees. “Right now, we let them live there till they get permanent housing,” said Ells. “There are two people currently living there, who moved in about a week ago. They’ll be out in about a month or so.”
Still, Tapking said, “In the first round, this is by all accounts a sweet spot project, meaning it’s the right size — not too small, not too big — it’s in the right location to get to all points necessary (to get the tax credit); all amenities are within appropriate distances.”
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
By Monica Lara
Ojai residents have two weeks left to file to run locally in the election this November.
Four positions are open including two seats on the Ojai City Council, and for the position of city clerk and city treasurer. All positions are four-year terms.
So far, no candidate has completed the nomination process, according to Rhonda Basore, city clerk.
Council members up for re-election are Mayor Betsy Clapp and Counclwoman Sue Horgan.
Clapp has requested nomination papers and said she plans to run for re-election.
“I love our town and want to help make it an even better place to live, starting with my support of Ojai Flow’s endeavor to regain control of our water,” Clapp said. “We have made great progress over the last few years and know we can make even more progress over the coming years.”
Horgan had not requested nomination papers as of Tuesday, according to Basore. She could not be reached for comment.
So far, only one other Ojai resident could be seeking a city council seat. Robert Daddi, a State Farm Insurance Agent and active community member, has requested nomination papers. He said he has not yet decided whether he will return them.
“I am interested in the process,” Daddi said. “There have been a lot of people urging me to run.”
City council members are responsible for passing legislation, authorizing the city’s annual budget and appointing the city manager, city attorney and other advisory positions. Mayor and mayor pro tem positions are filled by a vote of the council.
City Treasurer Alan Rains, who has served since 1996, is up for re-election. He could not be reached as of Tuesday to confirm his intent to run for re-election.
Basore said she plans to run for re-election, and has filed her election papers. She is waiting for the Ventura County elections officials to qualify the signatures.
“I am interested in continuing to serve the people,” Basore said.
Any Ojai resident interested in filing for candidacy must contact the city clerk’s office to pull and file nomination papers. Although a detailed filing calendar, rules and materials are available on the city’s website, Basore said questions should be addressed to the clerk’s office, as well, to ensure all filing requirements are met.
Contact the clerk’s office between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 646-5581 ext. 120, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. “The earlier the better because they have to check signatures,” Basore said. “Each candidate is required to get 20 qualified signatures.”
The filing period began July 16 will continue through 5:30 p.m. Aug. 10. If no incumbent files by then, the period could be extended to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 15 to give non-incumbents another chance.
Voting for local candidates will be held from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 6. Write-in candidates will have an opportunity to file from Sept. 10 to Oct. 23. Residents can register to vote until Oct. 22.
Visit the city of Ojai’s website at www.ci.ojai.ca.us for more information.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
By Tim Dewar
An Ojai-based horticultural social club plans to go to court if necessary to force the city of Ventura to reconsider its position on issuing the club a business license.
Shangri-La Care Cooperative founder Jeff Kroll said Tuesday that the members-only club is tired of what it sees as feet-dragging by the Ventura City Council to avoid setting rules that will fairly regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
Kroll said the city of Ventura has adopted two, 12-month moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries supposedly to give it time to study the issue. “The city has abused that moratorium policy. They do it not to study the subject, but just not to write any rules at all or, eventually, just so they can extend the moratorium again. They are not supposed to use this as a stonewall tactic,” said Kroll.
In the suit, filed July 18 by Ventura attorney James B. Devine, the group seeks to have the courts rule that the city’s refusal to issue a business license to them is unconstitutional and that a social club such as theirs would not violate the city’s zoning laws. If the group prevails, the court could order the city to issue a business license to the group and to award attorney fees and other costs incurred by bringing the suit. This would allow them to move forward with their plans to have a physical location available to its members in addition to the website it currently maintains.
The dispute started Aug. 31, 2011 when Shangri-La filed an application for a business license in Ventura in which it listed itself as a horticulture social club. “The gist is they altered our application without our consent,” Kroll noted. “City staff wrote on our application that we were a medical marijuana dispensary and then they denied it because the city’s zoning ordinance doesn’t cover businesses with that use.”
In a Sept. 12 denial letter to Kroll, Janey Dunn, city of Ventura’s treasury supervisor, suggested the group work with the city’s associate planner, Brian Randall, to pursue an administrative remedy. “We don’t feel it’s appropriate to be billed thousands of dollars to help the city write its rules. It’s not our job to fund them for what they don’t know,” Kroll explained.
He said if the group prevails, its goal is to open a storefront in an industrial area of Ventura within one to six months of receiving the license. He added that the area they have in mind is far away from schools, parks or other facilities that are distance-regulated.
“We would like to open at least a social club,” Kroll explained. “This would not be a walk-in dispensary. People can’t just walk in off the street and purchase medicinals. They have to request membership in Shangri-La, they have to pay $300 to join and they have to be approved by the Board of Directors. We are what is known as a closed-loop cooperative. We don’t buy or sell products outside of the membership.”
Inside the secure facility, Kroll stated, members would have access to holistic counseling, classes in vegetable and herb farming and access to member-grown medical marijuana products. “It will be a full-service kind of get-healthy facility,” he said.
Although the group currently has a business license to operate in the city of Ojai, Kroll said a Ventura location makes much more sense. “We could be adding hundreds of car trips on Hwy. 33 through Casitas Springs and that would have to be mitigated,” he said. “And in Ventura, we would be a little more centrally located for our members in other areas of Ventura County.”
Kroll said he is optimistic his group will prevail. “As far as we are concerned it is almost a slam dunk.” He cites a recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion that he said was a searing criticism of district court decisions that allowed cities to ban dispensaries altogether.
Andy Viets, senior assistant city attorney for Ventura said Tuesday the city had not been served a copy of the lawsuit so he could not comment about the specifics of the case. In general, he said, after a complaint is filed it can be anywhere from a few days to two or three months before a defendant is served with a copy. After that, he said, they usually have 30 to respond.
Because each case is different, he would not comment about possible actions either his office or the City Council might take at that time.
Monday, July 23, 2012
By Lenny Roberts
Sixteen engine and support units responded early Monday afternoon to a structure fire in the 2100 block of Woodland Avenue in Mira Monte. The fire, which reportedly began in the garage, quickly spread to the residence . According to the Ventura County Fireline and scanner reports, live power lines were on the ground, and there was a substantial amount of unknown-caliber ammunition on the property. There were no immediate reported injuries and the cause of the fire is being investigated.. Public Information Officer Capt. Steve Swindel said two adults and two animals were displaced by the incident, and the Ventura Chapter of the American Red Cross has stepped in to offer assistance.
Raw video: 07-23-12woodlandhousefire
The OVN has confirmed 29-year-old Air Force Reserve Sgt. Jesse Evan Childress, grandson of Ojai artist Gayel Childress, is one of the victims killed in the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting incident. Publisher Tim Dewar extends condolences to Gayel and the Childress family.
Condolence comments to Gayel and the Childress family are welcome here.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
By Tiobe Barron
California legislators recently passed a bill that requires all businesses that generate 4 or more cubic yards of trash per week to participate in commercial recycling. The bill, AB 341, went into effect July 1, and also applies to apartment buildings with five units or more. The bill also sets a goal of a 75 percent diversion rate of trash from landfills for all of California by the year 2020.
Although the law is new to the state of California, the policy within it is old hat for those living and working in Ojai.
“Ojai is ahead of the curve,” says city engineer and Public Works director Greg Grant. “The city is already largely compliant with the intent of the rules. All the commercial accounts we are aware of already have recycling.” Grant explained that the 75 percent diversion rate is a goal, not a mandate from the state, but Ojai is already close to that percentage. To get the city of Ojai even closer to the goal, the Public Works Department plans to do outreach to local businesses within the next month or so, in the form of fliers, posters and training employees.
“In Ojai, we have found no one who doesn’t already comply,” agreed Nan Drake, spokesperson for Harrison Industries, the trash utility company that services Ojai. Drake also clarified that Harrison has already long been in the practice of sorting through the waste the company collects to remove recyclables at its facilities, thereby diverting as much as possible from the landfills. To that end, she said, the company has partnered with Gold Coast Recycling and Agromin, to assure that natural matter and recyclable materials are processed in the most effective way.
The main priority now, according to Drake, is to up the level of “curb-side service,” to make sure the accounts’ needs are matched by the level of service they are receiving. For example, if a business is producing more recycling than regular trash, their bins should reflect that.
“Mostly people are interested in doing the right thing, they want to recycle,” says Drake. “It’s a simple way to save the planet.”
It appears that most local business owners and employees agree.
“I’m really happy. We already do that (recycle),” says Diane Silvester, owner of Soul Centered. “It seems a shame that they need to pass a law to teach people. Recycling is the only thing that makes sense!”
“We think it’s a really positive thing,” concurs Susan Swift Willey, an employee at Rains in Ojai. “We already have our bags in order, we’re already on board.”
Grant believes the only hitch now is to get people to understand what is recyclable, and what is not.
To learn more, visit Harrison’s online guide to recycling, at www.ejharrison.com/guidelines/residential.html, or call the Ojai Public Works Department at 646-5581, Ext. 291.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
By Monica Lara
The man accused of assaulting an Ojai veterinarian after his dog died will wait a bit longer to learn his fate after Superior Court Judge Nancy Ayers granted a continuance for his preliminary hearing Wednesday.
Scott Doornbos, 55, of Oak View, is being accused of battery and assault, as well as several additional felony charges. Doornbos allegedly assaulted Dr. Steve Sallen, owner of the Ojai Village Veterinary Hospital on Ojai Avenue Feb. 23.
“They’ve postponed it like three times now, so it’s nothing new,” said a frustrated Donna Sallen, the veterinarian’s wife. “We just have to wait and let the system do what it does.”
According to police reports, the alleged incident occurred after Doornbos learned his 5-year-old dog, Zeeka, died while under the hospital’s care.
Preliminary hearings are held to determine if a crime was committed, if it occurred within the jurisdiction of the court and whether the defendant could reasonably be considered a suspect. Ayers will preside over the hearing and will determine whether Doornbos will be bound over for trial or if the case against him should be dismissed.
Defense attorney Ron Bamieh had court obligations for a different case this week, which resulted in the continuance, according the Deputy District Attorney Brian Weilbacher.
“Could take anywhere from 45 minutes up to one day long,” Weilbacher said. “It will depend on how many witnesses and how much time is needed with each party.”
Bamieh could not be reached for comment.
Dr. Sallen’s wife, Donna, said her husband “… is doing really well. We’re still working hard taking care of the cats and dogs. We’re just really grateful and thankful for the community support.”
Thursday, July 19, 2012
By Misty Volaski
More than 50 years of service went down the drain Monday, when the outdoor restrooms at the rear of Sarzotti Park were ripped down.
The old facilities were “so far gone,” said Greg Grant, the city’s director of public works — they had no doors on the stalls, major wood rot in the flooring and only one large sink outside the restrooms. “And we had to bring it up to ADA (American with Disabilities Act) standards.”
The new restrooms will feature skylights, two stalls with doors in each restroom, stainless steel sinks, tiled walls, open timber ceilings and an exterior design that will match the nearby Boyd Center. It will also be 200 square feet larger than the previous facilities.
“It’ll have really good ventilation and wrought-iron doors on the exterior,” Grant added.
It’s important to keep restrooms at that location, he said, because of the playground, and “because the (adjacent) barbecue area is heavily used on weekends and they’re also doing the summer movies in the park. They get good crowds for that and the Recreation Department programs.”
Construction of the new facility, by Tomar Construction of Santa Paula, is expected to be complete by the end of October. Until then, Grant said, temporary restrooms are available at the site.
Cost estimates for the project are approximately $175,000, two-thirds of which came from a Community Development Block Grant. “They’re federal grants which promote infrastructure in lower- to moderate-income areas,” Grant explained.
The city has been working since 2009 to obtain those funds, but has had to jump through some hoops. “We had to do a full historical and environmental report,” said Grant, with a laugh, “since it was more than 50 years old. To make sure we were not tearing down a landmark.”
But the CDBG money didn’t cover everything — so the Ojai Civic Association stepped in. “They very generously donated one-third of the funds to get the project going,” Grant said.
The park’s other restrooms, on the south end of the park near the baseball fields and snack bar, were renovated a few years ago.
Up next for the city are two other construction projects: the Fulton Street extension and the bus shelter and pullout at the “Y” shopping center. “And we’ll be having a grand opening of the Skate Park flush toilet Aug. 6 at 9 a.m.,” Grant pointed out.
The Fulton Street project will extend that street from Pearl Street, across the Ojai Valley Trail, to Bryant Circle. “It’s part of our circulation plan to have alternate routes” to Ojai Avenue, said Grant. “We just had a pre-construction meeting and will start in about a week,” said Grant.
Both that project and the bus shelter are expected to be complete before Christmas.
“We’re awarding the bid next month to provide two bus shelters like the one at Rotary Park,” Grant said.
For updates on the projects, see www.ci.ojai.ca.us, and future editions of the Ojai Valley News.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
By Hanna Day
The pilot episode of “Euston Prep,” a murder-mystery web series in the style of a modern Sherlock Holmes, will be filmed at Villanova Preparatory School this weekend. Directed by Kacy Bartleigh, this web series, a television-type show broadcast only on the Internet, is the combined effort of several young entertainment industry professionals, many of whom work as assistants in Hollywood.
According to executive producer Annie Liu, the group “got together to create a web series for ourselves (and to) show what we can do.”
Extras who can pass as high school students are needed Saturday through Tuesday. Extras should bring a light-blue, button-up dress shirt, khakis, navy or gray sweater, and school supplies and accessories. Some uniform pieces will be available.
The positions are not paid, but lunch and DVDs will be provided.
To become an extra, email Liu at email@example.com. Filming will be from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday and Monday, and 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m. Tuesday.
For more information about the story, cast and crew visit www.eustonprep.com.
Villanova Preparatory School is at 12096 N. Ventura Ave.
Thursday, July 19, 2012
By Maria Saint
The Ojai Trolley Service will have expanded hours and changes to its route beginning Aug. 19. This coincides with the return of the Gold Coast Transit bus to downtown Ojai’s Park & Ride lot.
“The county of Ventura said they would pick up the tab to bring Gold Coast back into downtown Ojai,” said Drew Lurie, the city’s transit operations supervisor.
Lurie explained that the agreement between the city and county to extend the Ojai Trolley hours is an attempt to encourage rider transfers between the two services.
The trolley service for now typically ends at 6 p.m. on weekdays and 5 p.m. on weekends. The change will extend the hours to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and 8:30 p.m. on weekends.
“It’s an opportunity for our local residents and riders to use the trolley in the evenings if they want to go downtown to the movies or go out to dinner,” Lurie said.
He added that the trolley service will also start earlier with the first pickup at 5:36 a.m. Mondays through Fridays at the Arcade stop, 6:36 a.m. on Saturdays and 7:36 a.m. on Sundays.
Despite the changes, trolley fares will remain the same but riders will also see changes to the route.
He said an Origin and Destination Study conducted several months ago led to the elimination of a couple of non-productive sections of the route.
“The trolley used to go by City Hall, that is being cut. Service to Topa Topa School is being cut with the exception of providing service during school hours once in the morning and again in the afternoon to ensure that students can get to and from Topa Topa. There are a couple others as well, but those details are better to explain at the outreach meetings,” he said.
Trolley service will be extended onto the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa property as well. According to Veronica Cole, marketing and public relations manager, the inn is paying for the change to make it easier for guests to access the downtown area.
“We are very pleased to offer this service and look forward to sharing Ojai’s downtown shopping experience with our guests,” Cole said, adding that the trolley will come to the inn every other hour.
“We’re almost done with brand-new schedules which will reflect all these time differences and the revisions,” Lurie said. “We’ll be issuing them to the public probably the first week or second week in August. We’ll canvas the community with that and it will also be on our website.”
The city will also host two public outreach meetings for those who want to learn more about the changes. The first meeting will be in Spanish from 6 to 7 p.m. Aug. 1 at the Meiners Oaks Library. The second meeting, in English, will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 8 at City Hall.
Another change in the works for trolley riders is the addition of NextBus.
“It’s sort of like a GPS-tracking system which allows people with iPhones or their computers to pull up the NextBus information that shows in real time where the trolleys are. You can look up the schedule, but if you want to know if it’s running late or where the trolley is …,” he said. “It’s pretty common in the transit industry in bigger systems. We’re just getting it installed and we should get it up and running probably in mid- to late August.”
For more information, visit http://www.ojaitrolley.com or call 646-5581, Ext. 207.
By Michelaina Johnson
Ojai resident Leroy Thomas recently qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, by winning the Buffalo Springs Lake Half Ironman in Lubbock, Texas.
Battling against about 830 participants, Thomas took first in the age 40 to 44 category, and earned fourth overall in the Amateur Division, with a time of 4 hours and 20 minutes.
The Half Ironman presented challenges, he said, including 100-degree weather and “the pressure … to win the race” in his age category to qualify. But, he added, “I committed to running all out … and the gamble paid off.”
Set for October, the World Championship Ironman consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and then a 26.2-mile run (a marathon). “He is looking to get (a finish time) of under 11 hours,” said Eugene Byrne, Thomas’ running coach.
Thomas has qualified for the race twice before, but says, “This year will be a special race for me as I have felt more motivated than ever to train hard, race smart and ultimately toe the line with the best endurance athletes in the world.”
Thomas has begun training harder, including increasing his tough strength workouts on the bike and in the pool, and has started resting more between key workouts to boost recovery.
He has also been focusing on having a balanced diet, which “has been pretty tough, as I do have a sweet tooth, but I am experiencing great results from eating right for what my training requires.”
“When I think of Leroy as a competitor, he is very dedicated … He is an inspiration and his qualification shows that,” said Byrne.
Thomas was an All-American track and cross country athlete for Cumberland University and has competed in triathlons and Ironman competitions for eight years.
“My goals for this year’s race (are to) have the best race I can for me … give everything on race day and more … and have absolute faith in my own ability. And smiling, because I love racing the Ironman in Hawaii,” said Thomas.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
By Misty Volaski
A lot has changed in school cafeterias in the last few years.
Thanks to new state and federal mandates — not to mention innovative strategies by administrators — kids in Ojai’s public schools will find healthier and more varied choices in the cafeteria this fall.
Carnitas tacos, chicken pasta parmesan, tamales, even pizza and burgers will be on the menu, and all will be home-made. Even better, says local director of child nutrition services Suzanne Lugotoff, nothing will contain trans-fat, per federal guidelines.
“We’re focusing on whole-grain, low-fat, kid-friendly, appealing items,” she said, “and whole fresh fruits and vegetables.”
But fresh, healthy foods are often more expensive than those that are pre-made. And in the current economic climate, achieving a healthier menu meant getting inventive.
So Ojai Unified partnered with other Ventura County school districts — Ventura, Hueneme and Rio — to combine their purchasing power, allowing them to save money while also buying better quality items.
“We went out to bid together. It’s a significant financial savings,” said Lugotoff. “For us, it was between 45 cents a case to $4 a case in savings.”
The districts agreed upon a five-week cycle of menu items. “We’re committed to good nutrition,” said Lugotoff. “With the meals, students have a variety of entrees, side dishes, fresh fruits and vegetables. Meals also include nonfat chocolate milk on special days, or 1 percent (fat) white milk every day. Students (who purchase meals) are now required to take a fruit or vegetable at lunch.”
Breakfasts cost students $1.75 at the elementary schools, and $2 at Matilija Junior High and Nordhoff High School; lunches cost $2.50 and $3, respectively. The high school also offers a la carte items, and all schools offer the free and reduced-lunch program. Lugotoff says her food budget is about $335,000 each year and that OUSD serves 900 meals each school day, not counting a la carte items.
Although the menus are pre-set, OUSD students will still have plenty of options in the lunch lines. “We will continue to offer three entrees per day,” Lugotoff said. There will also be the choice of a “fresh express boxed salad each day, too — I think it’s good to offer choice. The community here likes that.”
Ojai Food for Thought executive director Lori Hamor applauds OUSD’s efforts. “We’re really excited about the changes she (Lugotoff) has put in place, and about the collaboration with other districts.”
The head of the nonprofit organization added that Food for Thought will continue its own partnership with the OUSD, to educate children on healthier food choices through food tastings and school gardens.
“Foot for Thought has also purchased refrigerators for us, funded my management staff to get recertified in food safety, paid for our knife sharpening, lots of things!” said Lugotoff.
Both she and Hamor said the local elementary students have come to look forward to the monthly visits from the FFT “Harvest of the Month” volunteers. “The kids flock up to see what the taste test is,” Hamor said. “Broccoli, kiwi, cabbage — it’s amazing some of the things they’ve tested … when they see that cart with the red-and-white checked table cloth, the kids are just all over us, coming back for seconds.”
Foods students try at the testing cart on a Tuesday will then be featured in a lunch entree two days later. “The kids have been really excited about it,” Lugotoff said. “They’re not shy at all about trying something new.”
“We’ve noticed a big difference in kids’ awareness of food, even the younger kids,” Hamor said.
In addition to the FFT partnership, OUSD is teaming up with Rickie Beagler, a registered dietician with Ventura’s Landon Pediatric Foundation who is volunteering her time to help Lugotoff (also a registered dietician) look at menus and nutrient specifications.
OUSD free and reduced-priced meals program
As in years past, the Ojai Unified School District is again offering free and reduced-priced meals for children served under the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program.
Household size and income criteria will be used to determine eligibility for free, reduced-price, or full-price meal benefits. Children who receive Food Stamp (FS), California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payments (Kin-GAP), or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) benefits are automatically eligible for free meals regardless of the income of the household in which they reside. Eligibility for a foster child is based on a separate application and solely on the amount of the child’s “personal use” income.
Application forms are being distributed to all households with a letter informing them of the availability of free and reduced-priced meals for enrolled children. Applications are also available at the principal’s office in each school, as well as online at www.ojai.k12.us (search “Free/Reduced Lunch Application”).
To apply for free or reduced-priced meal benefits, households must complete the application and return it to the school for processing. Applications may be submitted at any time during the school year.
Parents or guardians can contact Suzanne Lugotoff at 640-4300, Ext. 1079, for more information.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
By Hanna Day
Volunteer work can draw a community together by allowing people to give and receive. Second Helpings, an auxiliary facility of HELP of Ojai, does exactly that.
Previously managed by Donna Long, the thrift store and donation center is staffed entirely by volunteers. The store tries to provide “the necessities and more” for families in need and bargains for other shoppers. After being promoted to program director for HELP of Ojai, Long hired Barbara Bartok in February as the new manager. Out of the pool of applicants, Long considered Bartok to be a “people-orientated person” whose “experience as a volunteer” would make her “great with volunteers” and a good candidate for the position. According to Long, she “has done a very good job working well with the volunteers.”
Bartok says she loves working with the volunteers and costumers. She sees everyone from students from local high school theater departments coming in to look for costumes to the occasional tourist who trickles in. When they do, Bartok said she makes sure to engage them and welcome them to the store.
Her previous experience, driving the wheelchair access van for HELP of Ojai, she said gave her a keen sense of the difference HELP of Ojai makes to so many area residents. Before volunteering, Bartok worked with teenagers as the Associate Dean of Students at Cate School, where she worked for 30 years. Her experience as an express-wish advocate in Ventura, where she was responsible for insuring residents’ rights were being honored, also reinforced her love of community.
“The community makes it [managing the store] so appealing,” said Bartok, referring to the volunteers and the shoppers.
Organizing, pricing and shelving donated items are some challenges that Bartok faces. She claims that “working with the hangers” and donated clothes was difficult at first. “I’m learning to get to know hangers,” said Bartok, “[it's about] getting in the groove.” Both Bartok and Long emphasize how these tasks are made easier with more volunteers.
“We’re always in need of volunteers,” said Long, “in just about any capacity.” Bartok claims that “without the volunteers, none of this would have happened. What I hope folks will have a chance to read is the good fortune I feel for having the opportunity to work with so many amazing folk.” She also stresses how the community’s willingness to donate time, money and items make “a [positive] difference to many folks in need of help and support.”
The revenue generated from the Second Helpings Program goes to all of the HELP of Ojai ‘s auxiliary programs, such as Oak Tree House, Senior Nutrition, Community Assistance Program, Valley Outreach, Transportation, Caring Neighbors and Student Grief and Loss.
For those interested in volunteering at Second Helpings or HELP of Ojai, contact Bartok at 646-5812 or Long at 649-9292.
The store is at 841 E. Ojai Ave.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
By Monica Lara
Heroin overdoses and deaths are down in the Ojai Valley and officials hope to make it a trend.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department reported no heroin deaths in 2011 in the area. The number of overdoses dropped from four to one. The statistics put Ojai at the lower end of heroin usage compared with Thousand Oaks with 16 overdoses, Camarillo with six and Moorpark with three.
Reports show an improvement since the death of 15-year-old Patrick O’Brien, who overdosed in 2010, but more work has to be done, according to Rae Hanstad, substance abuse public consultant for Ventura County Behavioral Health.
“There was one death in 2010,” Hanstad said. “I am happy with the new numbers but from where I sit, I do not see that as a trend.”
Hanstad is part of a work group that is gathering data on drug abuse trends countywide.
“We have been working to identify products and looking at the people and places where this occurs,” Hanstad said.
Heroin is popular because it is cheaper than many other drugs, according to Hanstad.
Although use of other drugs, such as methamphetamine, appears to be declining as well, Hanstad said it remains a problem for the Ojai Valley Police Department.
“We still have a huge meth population in Ojai Valley,” agreed Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Steve Arthur.
Methamphetamine remains a drug of choice, as well, among abusers in Ojai Valley, along with marijuana and prescriptions drugs, such as oxycotin.
In addition to its regular, aggressive drug enforcement, the department has made extra effort to watch for drug activity in certain areas around the valley, including Libbey Park and Libbey Bowl in downtown Ojai.
A prescription drug drop-off site was added to the department in 2010 for residents to turn in unused or expired medicines.
“It’s noteworthy that just in Ojai alone they have collected 65 pounds of unused prescription drugs. That is 65 pounds of pills not on the street,” said Hanstad.
Visit www.venturacountylimits.org for more information.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Overnight visitors to the Ojai Valley may soon face higher hotel bills to help fund efforts to draw even more tourists to the area. Beginning in November, guests staying at hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals and retreats could be charged an additional 1 percent assessment of their room bills. The money collected would be used to promote the Ojai Valley through the work of the Ojai Visitors’ Bureau.
“At the goal-setting meetings we had, we established that one of the city’s highest priorities is marketing the city of Ojai,” said city manager Rob Clark at the June 26 Ojai City Council meeting. “We’ve been working for about a year with the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors’ Bureau on a new way of funding the marketing. One way of doing that is through a Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) … essentially they (these businesses) are taxing themselves, controlling the money and they are the beneficiaries.”
The City Council, the Ojai Visitors Bureau and the Ojai Valley Chamber of Commerce have drafted the TBID to include not only those hotels, bed and breakfasts and inns within the Ojai city limits, but also those in Oak View, Casitas Springs, Meiners Oaks and Mira Monte. These areas fall under the jurisdiction of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.
“We’ll be as cooperative as we possibly can,” promised Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett at the June 26 Council meeting. “Tourism is one of the essential things to the economy of the Ojai Valley, I think we all recognize that.”
Tuesday, Bennett said he expects the Board to vote on the matter before mid-August, and while the Brown Act prohibits him from asking how his peers will vote, he said he does not foresee any problems. Bennett also clarified that the County will not receive any money from the TBID, but believes all businesses and agencies stand to gain from increased tourism in the Ojai Valley.
The City Council vote June 26 to move forward with the TBID process.
Assuming the TBID is approved by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, owners of affected properties throughout the Ojai Valley would vote sometime in August on whether to establish and participate in the TBID. Votes will be weighted based on how much T.O.T. each establishment pays. In other words, the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa’s vote will be counted more than properties that do less business and generate less T.O.T.
“I believe that, strictly speaking, the answer is yes (smaller businesses could be forced to comply). However, we have the support of almost all the lodging facilities within the city limits,” said Eicher.
The petition process has not yet begun, but both Eicher and Clark dismissed the possibility of the TBID not being approved, either by the Board of Supervisors or the applicable businesses.
If the Board does not approve the TBID, that would narrow participation to businesses within the Ojai city limits only.
“I think the Board is likely to approve it because there is support from the affected businesses,” said Clark. “The other hotels seem to be supportive. Joint marketing affects all levels of lodging, from five-star to economy. It also is good for retail, dining and activities. Overall, when these businesses thrive there is more money for everyone in our community.”
Clark estimated that money collected from the assessment should total about $200,000 annually, which the OVB can then dedicate to marketing the Ojai area.
The city of Ojai stands to gain from increased marketing and tourism, in the form of increased transient occupancy tax and sales tax. City staff determined its “fair share” contribution to the OVB would total around $50,000 per year or about 1.5% of the TOT and sales tax collected by the City. The city had been paying approximately $159,000 per year to support the OVB, according to Clark. The TBID is a way for the OVB to wean itself off city funds, switching instead to the businesses that profit from the promotion the OVB is responsible for.
“Now that the worst of the recession has passed, the businesses are in a position to support the TBID and hopefully have an even stronger program,” Clark explained.
Typically, a TBID takes 12 to 18 months to establish, but those involved are working to push this through in six months.
“In short, it’s a cash flow issue,” says Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Eicher. “The Ojai Visitors Bureau has been wholly funded by the city of Ojai since January 2010. The city agreed — as much as it could without committing future Councils — to fund the OVB for three years. That funding will cease as of Dec. 31, 2012. At that time the OVB will need to have cash on hand to maintain the marketing effort.”
Eicher explained that there is a two-month delay between the collection of the assessment fee and its disbursement. Therefore, if collection begins in November, the OVB should receive funding by January 2013.
Local business owners Hallie Katz, of the Human Arts Gallery; Cathy Cluff, of The Oaks at Ojai; Meg Goodwin, of The Ojai House; and Roberta Raye, of Made in Ojai, all spoke in favor of the TBID, encouraging the Council to promote marketing Ojai as much as they are able.
“The bottom line is the TBID has become so commonplace in California…We can feel comfortable putting this on the bill without hesitation,” said Cluff.
“To the best of my knowledge, no one ‘stands to lose’ in this equation,” said Eicher in a recent e-mail. “Even with this OTID assessment, our hotels charge lower fees than most other tourism destinations in California, so while the visitors will pay 1 percent more, overall it will still be less than most other areas around the country.”
He cited Santa Barbara and Palm Springs as communities charging between 12 percent and 15 percent transient occupancy tax alone. Ojai visitors currently pay a 10-percent TOT and those staying in the unincorporated areas pay an 8-percent rate.
Visit www.ojaivisitors.comto see how the OVB is promoting tourism in Ojai.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
By Tiobe Barron
The fate of Ojai Day seems to have been decided, at least as far as the Ojai City Council can control. Although they took no action Tuesday, Council members reaffirmed to City Manager Rob Clark their desire to have the city sponsor the event this year while it searches for options for the future.
“We have approved the money, we like the event, we hope you’ll (city manager) be successful in finding someone,” Councilwoman Sue Horgan stated.
“I’m confused,” said Mayor Pro Tem Paul Blatz. “Our budget had it in the budget. But we’re being told that because this individual resigned we can’t do it this year. That’s what I’m hearing. And we have a parks and recreation department that doesn’t want to do it. So, what are we really being asked to do tonight?” he asked Clark. “When it comes to personnel matters, I think that’s your job.”
Jody James, the woman responsible for coordinating the event for the past 20 years, resigned in June, throwing an unexpected wrench in the works for the city.
“I do think the change of coordinator at this late date diminishes our ability to put it on as well as we may have in the past,” Clark said. “If we decide to go forward and produce it ourselves by hiring a coordinator, the Recreation Department will be responsible for that because they have the expertise and the knowledge to do it … We, the city staff and the city departments, do what you, the council, tell us to do. It’s not what we want to do or what we think is best. We make recommendations to you, but you’re the boss, and what you decide, we implement.”
Randy Haney, the chair of the Ojai Parks and Recreation Commission, spoke to the Council Tuesday. “There’s a lot to be said about what happened two weeks ago to Ojai Day. Maybe part of it was an over-reaction to the budget, maybe we reacted poorly, I take responsibility for that. We felt money was being taken away, so let’s give that day to another entity,” said Haney. “Jody’s done a wonderful job. I’m sorry she left us, sorry we might have been part of the entity pushing her out the door … We value her, we value what she did for this community.”
“I believe such a breach has occurred between our citizens and our rec department,” explained Councilwoman Carlon Strobel. “I don’t even know if that breach can be repaired. But I do support Ojai Day, I do believe it’s important, and I do believe if we have any chance of making it work, it has to come under council’s purview, at least this year.”
Assuming city staff finds replacement for James, that coordinator will have approximately two months to organize the event.
Dale Somersille, the Ojai Recreation Department director, confirmed that around 20 vendors have already paid entry fees for the event.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Ojai resident Wendy Hilgers spoke to the Council. “The citizens are increasingly unhappy with what’s going on at the parks and recreation department. It’s intimidating to speak in public about something, especially when you own your own business. But maybe we should consider making some changes, having a facilities manager, contracting out sports programs, show the city you care.”
Blatz then noted there is a joint workshop of the Recreation Commission and City Council scheduled for Aug. 14. It will be open to the public.
Also during public comments, Ojai resident Dennis Leary thanked Councilwoman Carol Smith for her “no” vote on the Mallory Way development at the June 26 council meeting. Smith was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
“It showed courage, and consistency,” said Leary. “I feel sad about what happened at the last meeting. It seems like a no-win situation.”
The Council also discussed an appeal of a Planning Commission decision that denied a Blanche Street design review permit. The project has been under city review for several years, much to the dissatisfaction of property owner Scott Loomis.
“My grandfather built the first house on Park Road, and I don’t think he had to go through what I’ve had to go through just to get to this point,” said Loomis.
City development director Rob Mullane clarified that although city staff recommended the Council approve the project in February, they reversed that recommendation following a vote by the Planning Commission.
“Let’s have some consistency here,” argued Ojai resident Bob Daddi. “Don’t allow the process to take longer than a year. The city should refund this man’s money. The city is responsible for some of these neighborhood issues.”
“I agree with Mr. Daddi, four or five years is too long,” said Horgan. “I like the design of the project. I’m sorry for the process this has gone through, but I’m happy to have the opportunity to support it, which I do.”
Council directed city staff to draft an approval of the project, with all except Mayor Betsy Clapp voting in favor.
The Council also voted to continue until Aug. 28 the discussion of an ordinance that mandates the spay or neuter of stray pit bulls found roaming within the city limits. Council members wanted to have the discussion when a representative of Ventura County Animal Services is present. The city contracts with VCAS to provide its lost and stray animals services.
Dale Hanson, an Ojai real estate agent, said although she had originally pushed for the Council to consider the ordinance, she has done more research that showed her that mandatory spay/neuter laws do not work in favor of animals or the cities involved, but rather result in higher animal abandonment rates and higher kill rates.
Also at the meeting, the Council voted in favor of interim standards and permits for pedicabs, which are bicycle-powered rickshaws.
The city received a pedicab application in February, but there are no ordinances covering the regulation of this type of business. Some of the requirements the Council approved include having insurance coverage, posting of rates and limited routes and hours of operation.
The next regular Ojai City Council meeting is scheduled for Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. at 401 S. Ventura St. The city’s website, www.ci.ojai.ca.us, contains videos of previous city council meetings available for public viewing.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
By Monica Lara
Pedestrian crossing signs were installed on Ojai Avenue Tuesday as part of a low-cost test to find ways to reduce pedestrian-related traffic accidents.
The stanchions are in place in three crosswalks on Ojai Avenue with two signs at each location. Designed to catch drivers’ attention by warning them to pay extra attention to pedestrians using the crosswalks, the signs were installed on the edge of traffic lanes in the street itself.
Each sign cost the city $150 bringing the totaling cost to implement the project to around $900. Of several options considered, this effort will cost the least, according to Greg Grant, city Public Works director.
“The main thing with this program is it is a trial period,” Grant said. “We tried out Matilija Street and people were happy with it, and now we’re trying things out on Ojai Avenue.”
The first signs were installed on Matilija Street behind the Arcade in October.
“It is a precaution more than anything else, especially nowadays with a lot of people using phones,” said Sgt. Steve Arthur of the Ojai Police Department.
Arthur said the exact number of pedestrian-related accidents in the area has not been calculated, but at times there are many.
“It is something that comes in waves — there’s a lot of accidents in a short period of time or barely anything will happen in months.”
The signs are being received rather well since they have not caused much conversation with the staff or neighbors at Rainbow Bridge Natural Foods, 211 E. Matilija St., according to Ernest Niglio, partner-general manager.
“It certainly does stand out,” Niglio said. “Whether drivers will get used to it and will start to need something else I don’t know, but as an average driver it’s hard to miss those things.”
The new additions are not aesthetically pleasing, according Rachel Bishop, a hair stylist at Hair by Rachel, 312 N. Signal St.
“I think they are overkill and look really ugly,” Bishop said.
Ojai mother Jayleen Morrison, who crossed Ojai Avenue Wednesday with her son, Breyen, in one of the crosswalks with the new stanchions, said, “They are a little jarring, but I have a little one so I am glad they are there.”
After Beth Sutherland crossed, she was enthusiastic in her support. “They are outstanding! It’s about time.”
To show support or express concerns residents can call 646-5581, Ext. 103.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
By Misty Volaski
Turn on the television these days and you’ll eventually come across one of those commercials showing abused animals with big, sad eyes, pleading for your donations to one of several animal rescue groups.
“People are confused — they see the HSUS or SPCA commercials and they think that money comes to us,” says Humane Society of Ventura County shelter director Jolene Hoffman. “But they don’t fund us at all, and we don’t get any government funding. We’re not part of the national Humane Society. We’re a separate entity, a nonprofit organization. All our money comes from donors.”
The group must raise about $900,000 each year to operate. That money provides food, shelter and care for up to 70 dogs, about 40 cats and several horses at the no-kill shelter as well as fund several programs under the HSVC umbrella including upkeep on the no-kill shelter, pet adoption services, a spay and neuter clinic, pet therapy visits to local convalescent homes, humane education classes in local schools, humane officers to investigate accusations of cruelty to animals, assistance requests from needy individuals to pay for veterinary care for their animals and other smaller programs.
Donations have kept the Ojai-based HSVC going for 80 years now. And that, says Hoffman, is a good reason to celebrate.
The shelter will host a party July 21 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., featuring games, contests, tours, exhibits, agility demonstrations and more. Dogs can also get micro-chipped, licensed or get vaccinations updated at Dr. Curtis Lewis’ low-cost shot clinic.
The event will also commemorate the grand opening of the new spay-neuter clinic, that will now accommodate twice as many low-cost operations per day.
All of this started in 1932 with a group of area residents who formed the Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Children. One member, Maxine Robinson, brought animals into her Casitas Springs home, while another member, Claire Ladigan, started a spay and neuter program. Eventually, the animals were moved to a shelter established in Santa Paula. “But the shelter became dilapidated and needed to be torn down,” Hoffman explained. That’s when Ojai’s Bayless family stepped in. “If it wasn’t for Slim and Sara donating the land (for the current shelter), and the many donors who came forward to help get the building done …” Hoffman trails off.
The HSVC broke ground in 1981, and in May 1982, the doors opened to the public. Hoffman started as a volunteer a month later, and has remained with the organization ever since. “This is something I really believe in,” she says. “We do good things. It’s an incredible group of people here.”
But despite an “incredibly supportive” group of employees, board members volunteers and donors, many improvements need to be made. An expanding human and animal population — and three decades of wear and tear on the Bryant Street shelter — means more renovations will have to take place soon.
Thankfully, philanthropists Harry Valentine and Howard Boroughs stepped in with significant donations, allowing the construction of a new visitor center — which opened last year — and the renovation and expansion of the new spay and neuter clinic. “Sometimes we’ve been backed up (on spay-neuter scheduling) for three months at the clinic,” says Hoffman, “so we really needed this!”
The next step, she says, dog kennel renovations.
“The kennels are getting old and sort of crumbling,” explains Lynn Malone, marketing and development director. “We keep Band-Aiding them, and getting by … but we’ve gotta build new kennels.”
The new kennels will need specialized plumbing and drainage, she says, along with heating, air conditioning and ventilation. “It’ll be more expensive than you’d imagine!” Malone says. “Well over a half-million dollars.”
Hoffman said the number could be around $700,000 and for an organization that already must raise $900,000 each year, she says, that’s a challenge.
“But that’s a big reason why we’re having the birthday bash!” Malone points out.
“We’re kicking off the fundraising efforts next weekend to help make the dogs’ lives much better than they already are,” Hoffman says. “We desperately need help. We need new fencing, new plumbing. We need a new roof. We need to add more extra-large kennels for when we get the Pyrenees and Great Danes in.”
The 80th anniversary of the Humane Society of Ventura County will take place at the shelter, 402 Bryant St. Call 646-6505 or visit humanesocietyvc.org for more information.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
By Misty Volaski
It’s been a little longer than a month since the 100 for Ojai Schools movement began, and already, more than $25,000 has been raised.
However, organizers say they still need thousands more to help stem teacher layoffs and keep class sizes low in Ojai’s public schools.
“We have $25,000 now. And we’re deeply appreciative of those who have contributed so far!” said 100 for Ojai Schools cofounder and former school board member, Karen McBride. “But we’d still like to come up with a lot more — another $50,000 in the next month,” she added.
That would give the fund $75,000, or about the cost of one fulltime teacher in the Ojai Unified School District (OUSD).
OUSD parent and 100 for Ojai Schools organizer Elisa Oliver said she was inspired to start the effort after seeing what was happening in her three kids’ classrooms. Larger class sizes, fewer aides and more stress on teachers prompted her into action. “People are shocked when I tell them my daughter was in a second- and third-grade (combination) class and she’ll face the same thing next year,” said Oliver.
“All of us (in the OUSD) have experienced larger class sizes this year than in years past,” said Mira Monte Elementary School principal Kathy White. “My hope is that they raise enough money to offset class sizes. Or, if it can’t be for that, maybe it would be enough to provide assistance for teachers in the form of aides.
OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser said he has specific ideas for where the funds would be used, but that depends on variables including how much is raised and the number of enrollments between now and the beginning of the year.
“$30,000 would absolutely cover the cost of two sections,” or about two class periods at Nordhoff High School, Bangser said.
With the teacher-to-student ratio already high, late enrollments could prompt OUSD administrators to add a class to accommodate the new students. The funds could also be used at Matilija High School or the elementary schools in similar ways.
Although the OUSD does have some funding set aside for enrollment adjustments, “we’re definitely pushing an already tight budget,” said Bangser. “We’ll absolutely fund additional staffing if we need it, but without them (100 for Ojai Schools), we’d be paying 100 percent of the cost” which could be difficult.
Oliver said 100 for Ojai Schools has input as to how the OUSD uses the funds and the group is leaning heavily on Bangser and the OUSD administrators to advise them where best to spend it. “We want to put the money where it will help the greatest amount of kids,” Oliver said. “We want to make class (sizes) smaller, make more teachers available, keep sections open, that sort of thing.”
About 200 individual donations have come through so far, said Oliver. Donations have ranged from $25 to $500. “That represents about 2 percent of households in Ojai,” she said. “We’re really hoping more people will come through.”
In early June, the group started the effort by sending fliers to every household from Oak View to Upper Ojai, Oliver explained. The group had a presence at several end-of-the-year schools events, and organizers began putting signs in residents’ yards and banners and fliers in local stores shortly thereafter.
Donation boxes are placed at Wells Fargo Bank, Ojai Community Bank and at Rains department store. “We’ve also been at the Farmers’ Market, and a P.O. Box, and the website … and we’ve been making announcements at the local Board of Realtors meetings, too,” Oliver said.
Most recently, the group marched in Ojai’s Fourth of July parade, with local schoolchildren hoisting posters they’d made themselves. McBride said she is also working on getting permission to put fliers in grocery bags at Vons.
“A lot of people I talk to say they fully intend to donate but they haven’t yet,” Oliver said. “I’m really hoping we can prompt people to donate!”
For more information or to make a donation, visit www.100forojaischools.com or one of the group’s drop boxes. Checks, made payable to “OUSD — 100 for Ojai Schools” can be mailed to P.O. Box 1235, Ojai CA 93024.
Tuesday, July 10,2012
By Hanna Day
With summer rolling around, many turn to the Ojai Library for summer reading. One of the many who help run the library and keep people interested in reading is Mary Lynch.
Lynch, Ojai’s city librarian, transferred from Ventura County’s Wright Library and began working in Ojai three years ago.
Lynch said she enjoys “the books and the people, though not necessarily in that order.” She is responsible for ensuring the library runs smoothly. She is responsible for hiring, training and scheduling library employees, including custodians and gardeners.
One of the many challenges facing Lynch is money. “[Money is] a challenge that librarians have faced for five or six years,” said Lynch. With less and less money, she still has to buy books to put on the shelves, particularly popular books not donated from the community.
Integrating technology makes cataloging and organizing the collection easier, but that too is a challenge because of money. “We have access to a lot more information,” said Lynch, “but a lot of it is expensive.”
Concerning her personal taste in literature, Lynch is a fan of science fiction writer Frank Herbert. She considers “Dune” his best works. Another favorite author is Marion Zimmer Bradley, who wrote the science fiction series “Darkover.” When not reading Herbert or Bradley, Lynch also enjoys reading non-fiction.
Lynch encourages a love of reading through various library events.
Story times for small children are held Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. For adults, a book discussion group meets the first Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m.
There’s even a Shakespeare Reading Salon which meets the first and third Monday of each month at 7 p.m., and a writer’s workshop each Thursday from 5:50 to 8 p.m.
“I’ve been very impressed since I’ve been in Ojai,” said Lynch. “For a small library, it is well-used by the community.” She lauds the community’s willingness to donate money, books and time to the library.
Lynch earned her B.A. in Psychology at UCLA and studied library science at Cal State Fullerton. After school, she worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District, where she was in charge of running libraries in Area G. Her experience there, as well as with Wright, helps her run the Ojai Library.
Contact Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the library.
The Ojai Library is at 111 E. Ojai Ave. and it is open Mondays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
Updated Thursday, July 12, 2012
By Misty Volaski
Ojai mom Cally Houck’s battle for safe rental car legislation made two huge advancements this week. Tuesday brought the announcement of a U.S. House of Representatives bill — the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2012 (HR-6094), sponsored by three Democratic representatives from across the country.
A day later, Republican Congressman Elton Gallegly, who represents the Central Coast area including the Ojai Valley, expressed his support for the bill and said he will join Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA-23), Congressman Eliot Engel (NY-17), and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-9) as a cosponsor of the bill.
This gives the new piece of proposed legislation bipartisan support.
“I’d like to express profound appreciation for Congressman Gallegly’s support for HR-6094, introduced by Lois Capps,” said Houck Thursday. “As a constituent, we all hope our representatives would be so diligent in protecting our interests. We’re just thrilled to have bipartisan support! It’s better than we’d all hoped for. Enterprise (Rent-A-Car) has been working the House for quite a few months now, trying to get someone to write a bill for them. So we’re thrilled just thrilled.”
Rosemary Shahan, president of the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, expressed enthusiasm for HR-6094, saying it “sends a clear message to Enterprise, Dollar and Thrifty, which have been working behind the scenes to oppose Cally Houck’s efforts — it’s time to stop playing ‘rental car roulette’ with their customers’ lives.”
Houck and Shahan will join Capps and a representative from Hertz — the only rental car company to publicly support Houck’s efforts — in a press conference today at the Santa Barbara Airport’s rental car lot from 12:30 to 1 p.m.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
By Michelaina Johnson
The number of vehicle burglaries at trailheads in Ojai has more than doubled in the past two weeks in comparison to the previous month.
In the past two weeks, two cars and one motorcycle have been stolen from trailheads. One had been recovered as of Monday.
Nathalie Selleslags, who hikes regularly in Ojai, recently encountered the results of a burglary at the Matilija Hot Springs trailhead. “My friends and I went to the hot springs and when we were got back to the car a couple’s car had been broken into and the front window had been shattered. Apparently, an iPod had been stolen. I went immediately to check my car and make sure my purse had not been stolen. It shocked me. I always trust people in Ojai. It was a warning signal to me.”
The number of vehicle burglaries “had gone up, then went down to practically zero, but now we are seeing a spattering here and there, a few a month,” said Captain Dave Kenney, Ojai chief of police. “The other cities (in Ventura County) are having the same problem.”
Thieves usually break a window to get in to vehicles, quickly snatch any appealing items and flee the crime scene, explained Ventura County Sheriff’s detective Mike Harris.
The most stolen items include cellphones, global-positioning systems (GPS), purses, wallets and “anything of value…even clothing items.”
Kenney suggests hikers lock their car and leave valuables at home. If they need to bring valuables, he said they should be left in the trunk. Hikers can also write down or use their cellphone camera to photograph the cars and license plate numbers of the cars around them, added Harris, “it gives us something to go off,” if a car is burglarized or stolen.
The more unsafe trailheads are the ones that are farther away from the city, including Matilija Hot Springs and the trails in Rose Valley, according to Kenney.
For more information or to report a theft, call the Ojai Police Department at 646-1414.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
By Misty Volaski
With the power of Vivaldi and the nuances of Mendelssohn, the Pacific Shores Philharmonic struck a chord with delighted audiences last weekend in its first concert at Ojai’s Libbey Bowl.
Conductor E. Burns Taft and principal concertmaster Yue Deng led the strings section of the brand-new group, in a performance of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and Mendelssohn’s “Octet.”
“One of the things we want to do — we don’t want to present music that is stuffy,” Taft emphasized after the concert. “We want them to really enjoy the mix of music.”
To that end, the philharmonic has several types of concerts scheduled throughout the summer, from percussion-fused Latin jazz (July 14 and 15) to a vocally explosive “Carmina Burana” (July 28 and 29), even a night of movie music from films such as “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars” and “Dances with Wolves” (Aug. 11 and 12).
Prior to beginning the PS Phil’s first concert, Taft started a tradition of sharing with concert-goers fun stories about each piece with the clarity and eagerness of a lifelong music lover. A popular professor at Ventura College, as well as a conductor, Taft explained that Vivaldi had written music for orphaned children in Venice, Italy, which they performed for audiences who came from all over Europe in the early 18th century. Taft asked listeners to keep their ears open for the nuances of Vivaldi’s work, like the twittering birds, the crash of thunder, “even the barking of a dog,” which mark the changing of the seasons.
After a standing ovation and intermission, concert-goers settled back into their seats to hear Taft explain that Mendelssohn was just 16 years old when he wrote “Octet.” Taft called him perhaps the truest childhood prodigy of music, and went on to say that although Mendelssohn wrote the piece for eight musicians, the PS Phil would be using 16.
The ambitious move worked; the fullness of the music and the awe-inspiring synchronization of those on-stage again brought the audience to its feet for several minutes of applause and cheers.
“You’re limited by how much rehearsal time you have and the quality of the players,” Taft said a few days later. “Last weekend, however, we were not limited by the quality — they were just spectacular! Especially our young concertmaster (Yue Deng). She is so brilliant. She’s not limited — she can do any type of music you want. She just knocked it out of the park.”
The audience apparently agreed. One concert-goer exclaimed of the Chinese native (and current Ojai resident), “She’s a rock star!” A few rows back, another whispered, “She’s like a princess up there!”
“Rock-star princess” seems an appropriate description of Deng, whose commanding stage presence was accented by regal grace — and a bright yellow floor-length gown.
And Taft wasn’t so bad himself. The son of a high school band director said he was surrounded by music “all the time.” His mother gave him music lessons each day before school. So, when it came time for college, Taft said, “It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to continue my education along those lines — to do what I had always done. I can’t imagine life without music.”
He received his master’s degree from the University of Colorado, attended Yale and Stanford, and eventually received his doctorate from USC. “I also attended seminars in Europe,” he said.
But despite his love of music, he never thought he would end up a conductor. “When I was quite young, I didn’t think I wanted to be one. It always seemed such a great responsibility,” he said with a laugh. “Then it seemed like every place where I was making music, they were always like, ‘Well, there’s a need for someone to lead us.’ So I would say, ‘OK, yes, I will do it.’ I fell into it naturally.”
The Ventura County native worked with Frank Salazar of the Ventura County Symphony Orchestra, led the Master Chorale of Ventura County for three decades, and was the founding music director of the Ventura Music Festival.
As the conductor, Taft has a big job indeed. “I see all the music being played — the entire musical score. When the cellos look at the music, they only see theirs, not the violin, not the viola. I coordinate everything. Often, you give them a glance, point to them when it’s time for them to start playing … or stop playing, so the whole thing fits together nicely. I’m guiding and developing a particular interpretation (of a piece). It’s sort of like reading a book or a play. There’s different speeds, different nuances.”
And Taft isn’t bad with an instrument himself. He can play trombone, trumpet, French horn and clarinet “rather well,” as well as many of the woodwinds and the viola. “My specialty was keyboard or piano, along with harpsichord. Most (conductors) are familiar with every instrument.” But, he admitted with a laugh, “The one I have the hardest time keeping up with is percussion! There used to be bass or timpani, but now the range is so vast — we’re bringing in all these world instruments from Africa, the near East, Asia. When I went to school — I still have my old textbooks — I looked up marimba, and it said, ‘This is an exotic instrument not used in concerts.’ Now, that statement’s ridiculous!”
When not studying music, Taft harbors a love of horses and cooking. “I love Julia Childs,” he chuckled. “I can’t claim to be a good cook, but I am a good eater!”
Catch Taft and the PS Philharmonic next weekend, July 14 at 8 p.m. and July 15 at 2 p.m., when Pete Escovedo and his Latin Jazz Orchestra make their debut on the Libbey Bowl stage. For tickets, visit psphil.com.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
By Tiobe Barron
Ojai City Council may have passed an ordinance banning the installation of Smart Meters within Ojai city limits, but confusion still abounds as to the implications of this piece of legislation. According to the city’s website, “At a special meeting of the City Council May 29, the City Council (Horgan absent) voted unanimously to adopt an urgency ordinance that imposes a moratorium on the installation of Smart Meters in the City after May 29, 2012. Although the moratorium is effective immediately, the California Public Utilities Commission retains the ultimate authority over utility companies.”
The California Public Utilities Commission, the governmental body responsible for most rules pertaining to utilities in California — whose president, Michael Peevey, served as president of Edison International and Southern California Edison — ruled in 2007 that electric companies had the option of providing wireless meters as a way to save money and control demand of electricity. PG&E began installation of Smart Meters in northern California first, in 2006, and, whether due to mass hysteria or legitimate health concerns, complaints about the new devices began to crop up. On Feb. 1 of this year, the CPUC responded to the complaints and ruled to allow an opt-out program for PG&E customers, granting them the ability to have their Smart Meters swapped back for analog ones. In April 2012, the CPUC made similar concessions for SCE customers, though the issue of an opt-out fee awaits final judgment this fall.
“Basically the city of Ojai, as well as a number of northern California cities, adopted moratoriums (on the installation of Smart Meters), and the PUC came back and ruled the moratoriums ‘illegal and unenforceable,’” clarified city manager Rob Clark in a recent phone interview. When asked if the city would try to enforce the ordinance regardless of the CPUC’s ruling, Clark stated, “We have to look at what our chances of prevailing are, too. Right now we have no resources allocated for that.” Clark added that the city is still appealing to the CPUC for a community-wide opt-out program, and maintains the moratorium passed by the Ojai City Council is still a “statement of position and policy.”
“The city should at least enforce the law, if not the ordinance,” argued Ojai resident Sue Williamson. “It is federal law that you need people’s permission to come on to your property and install something. The city has to be held accountable for allowing these things to be installed over people’s objections … the PUC has a lawsuit against it now because it refused to deal with people’s health concerns.”
Williamson posited that the main problem surrounding Smart Meters is confusion, that the utility companies are giving customers misinformation, and “trying to cram this down people’s throats without any real community input.”
Williamson insists that no one has to have a Smart Meter. However, “Only residential customers can opt out, there is no opt-out program for commercial properties at this time,” SCE spokesman David Song clarified. He added that Edison is honoring those wishing to keep their analog meters, on residential properties, provided they pay the opt-out fee, which he says is used to cover costs associated with the maintenance of a “legacy” system. Song was unable to explain why commercial properties have no opt-out option available to them.
Local business owner Vicki Cohen is one such commercial property SCE customer who very adamantly does not want a wireless meter installed. When the Corix (the company sub-contracted by SCE to install Smart Meters in Ojai) representative showed up to install the devices on her, and her neighbor’s properties, Cohen insisted the man leave, then she went to the Ojai Police Department. She spoke with the woman at the front desk, who left to confer with the officers on duty. The receptionist returned and told Cohen that, yes, the Police Department would enforce the ban. When the Corix representative returned the following day to again attempt to install the Smart Meters, Cohen called the Ojai Police Department, who sent an officer out. Cohen claimed that the officer, whose name she cannot recall, supported her, and asked the Corix representative to leave the premises.
“I can’t speak to individual calls, but in general the Sheriff’s Department will respond to calls, though their role is not to prevent installation, but merely to keep the peace,” said city manager Clark. “The officers in the field have to make the decision how they handle each situation under their police powers. It’s not their position to enforce the ordinance.”
The ordinance is viewable in its entirety through the city’s website, at ci.ojai.ca.us.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
By Hanna Day
For many with a green thumb, finding gardening supplies in Ojai has become easier due to the efforts of local entrepreneurs. Longtime Ojai resident Carolina Murillo runs Flora Gardens, a retail store that sells plants and gardening supplies. Murillo took over when the previous owner announced that Mountain Meadows (the previous name of the nursery) was going out of business.
Murillo said it was a big surprise when she became the owner two months after being offered the business. A self-labeled “plant junkie,” Murillo has been running the store since 2009, alongside store manager Jodie Irvine. Both say they love what they do, especially working with their customers.
Since opening the store, Murillo had to learn more about flowers and other plants, since she and her husband began working with trees. Her husband, Carmen, owns a tree-trimming business. Although he does not work at Flora Gardens, he drops by every so often to help his wife.
With only half an acre of space, Flora Gardens utilizes every inch of space, covering it with all sorts of plants, including succulents, cacti, perennials, even bonsai trees. Murillo and her son, Danny, who works at Flora Gardens, even grow tomatoes in pots outside the store. “When spring comes around I like to bring in something new for them (the customers) to see,” said Murillo.
According to Murillo, one of the most important things about gardening is knowing where to put the plants. The plants are meticulously organized in the store according to their sun, shade and watering needs. While a huge variety of plant life is stuffed on every shelf and table, Murillo admitted that she does try to specialize. “We try to go for the tougher plants,” Murillo said, “so that they can survive Ojai’s temperature extremes.”
Murillo also organizes seminars and events. One of the bigger events Flora Gardens participates in each year is “Tomatomania,” a huge tomato sale with around a 150 varieties of heirloom tomatoes offered to customers for tasting and buying. She also offers seminars once every month, although the store plans to bump it up to twice a month. Flora Gardens’ most recent seminar instructed people on the importance of water, including harvesting and reuse.
Murillo’s next event will be the “Ojai Harvest Exchange” on July 14, where those with produce are welcome to come exchange and sell their goods. The event runs from 10 a.m. to noon, and there’s no charge or sign-up fee. “We’re encouraging people to bring their fruits, veggies, flowers, seeds, along with any recipes they may want to pass along,” said Irvine. “We ask that people just make a fair trade, and only take what they can use and leave what they can.” It’s the first time the store has done something like this, but Irvine added: “We’ve been throwing around the idea for a while, and we’ll be doing it twice a month through the heavy harvest time.”
Irvine believes that “Ojai is ready for a full-service nursery.” One purpose of the store is to offer the services of a complete nursery to Ojai residents so that no one has to drive to Ventura for plants or supplies. “We make sure that everything is here,” said Irvine. Murillo agreed, stating that if something is not at the store, then they make sure that it is there. “We help people with their plant problems,” said Murillo, “even if they did not buy the plants from us.”
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
By Tiobe Barron
The ban against certain types of shopping bags, that went into effect Sunday, prohibits retailers within the Ojai city limits from providing customers with single-use plastic bags. The ordinance also requires retailers to charge customers 10 cents for each paper bag they use.
The Ojai City Council passed the ban April 10. Retailers had until now to use the plastic bags they had in stock. The grace period of a little less than three months was not enough for at least one retailer, however.
Terry Starr, owner of Starr Market, says he has approximately 15,000 plastic bags at his downtown store and to two pallets off-site. The grocer pays $24 per case of plastic bags, and each pallet holds 36 cases, leaving him with a $1,700 loss. To recoup some of that money, Starr has been selling the bags to customers.
“There are a lot of customers that want those bags,” said. “We can’t use them. We’re not like Vons, we can’t just move them (the bags) to another location, so I’m getting rid of the ones we have on hand.”
Starr said he placed his last order for bags around the time the ordinance passed.
To prepare his customers for the change, he and his employees talked to customers and posted signs and the actual letter from the Council on the market’s front doors. Despite these efforts, Starr said the change was still unacceptable for some customers.
“We get a lot of irate people, who say things like, ‘I’ll never shop here again!’” he noted. “It’s not us doing this, it’s the law. We have no say-so. I’m actually surprised at how upset people got. It’s amazing how many people won’t pay the 10 cents for paper bags, just dump the groceries in their car. It’s an adjustment and they’ll get over it. It’s not like we’re the only ones; with the other stores (in Ojai), it’s the same thing.”
Sharon Casanta, head cashier at Rainbow Bridge, said she is noticing that customers there are generally supportive of the change.”"There is a little issue of having to pay 10 cents for a paper bag, but I think that’s accomplishing what it’s meant to accomplish.” Casanta estimates that between 60 to 70 percent of people decline paper bags because of the fee, and even those customers who take them realize it is cheaper and easier for them to bring their own reusable bags.
“The only people who are remotely upset are the tourists, simply because they were unaware of the ban,” continued Casanta. “I haven’t heard anyone local complain about not having plastic bags, not one person.”
A representative of Westridge Market declined to offer a comment or reaction to the ban, saying only, “This is a hot topic, I want to stay out of the middle of this one.”
Access.www.ci.ojai.ca.us to view the ordinance.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
By Misty Volaski
Veteran Ojai Day coordinator Jody James resigned from her position last week, leaving the future of the annual event uncertain.
After organizing the event for 20 years, James said she felt it was time to move on. “I voluntarily resigned,” she said. “It was one of the saddest, most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.”
Ojai city manager Rob Clark confirmed that he had accepted her resignation. “Jody James resigned as the coordinator of the event. She has done an excellent job for many years and we appreciate all of her efforts in that role.”
While the Ojai City Council voted recently to fund the celebration this fall, because the event loses money each year, Clark said its future is uncertain.
“It varies from year to year. We estimated (it would cost the city) $17,000 this year,” he said. “We’re hoping maybe someone, an individual or a group, can figure out a way to run it without a city subsidy … so it becomes self-sustaining. A number of festivals comes to mind — the Lavender Festival has gone on year after year without funding from the city.”
Dale Sumersille, Ojai’s director of recreation, said the city would be open to proposals of making the event smaller or moving it from Ojai Avenue — therefore removing the need for the costly and time-consuming permit process from Caltrans. “There are ways to do it,” she said.
“Some (events) like these are money-makers,” Clark said. “I think it (Ojai Day) probably could be, if done right.”
The city is soliciting applications and proposals from individuals — who would replace James as the position currently stands — as well as from groups interested in taking over the event.
According to paperwork released by the Ojai Recreation Department, “The city is open to considering changes in the format of the event so that it may be self-sustaining and/or profitable and options may be negotiated to manage and operate the event for additional years if the management consultant meets the expectations and goals of the city.”
Its solicitation for individuals to replace James — which offers up to $17.87 per hour depending on qualifications — reads, in part, “The ideal coordinator will have a thorough knowledge of professional services and activities involved in planning and organizing a communitywide special event, including volunteer management and the engagement of various community organizations.”
The deadline for applications is July 31.
If the City Council agrees to hire a replacement at its Aug. 14 meeting, that person or group would have about two months to prepare for the Oct. 20 event.
When asked whether the hired group of persons would have enough time to pull it off, Sumersille said, “It may be more difficult to put it on; we had no idea Jody was going to leave us … a special event person might be able to do it. Our department would be helping to the best of our capabilities.”
Answering the same question, Clark said, “It takes time to request proposals, evaluate them … it would only give them a few months. Hopefully, they would’ve thought of their approach before that time.”
However, Clark cautioned that the City Council may opt to cancel the event this year entirely, so the issue is included on the Council’s July 10 agenda. “I am sure the Council will be interested in hearing people’s opinions about the event and how it will be managed in the future,” Clark noted.
James said her decision to vacate the position was due in large part to politics. “Constantly, every year, I’ve had to go back to the City Council and on some level fight for Ojai Day (to be included) in the budget,” she said. “That’s one thing, when you have the full support of the department you’re working with. But this year, Dale (Sumersille) made it extremely clear that she wanted it out of her budget.”
James said the first time she heard the recreation department wasn’t interested in keeping Ojai Day as part of its budget was at the last Parks and Recreation Commission meeting. “When I sort of got thrown under the bus,” she said, “it’s like, ‘Why am I doing this?’ Everyone has their own style of management, but that’s just not a style I’m comfortable working with … I love Ojai Day, I absolutely love it. But when it becomes political …”
Sumersille said that when one of her department’s workers — who had helped with the organization of Ojai Day — left her job, it was decided that the city would not include funding for that position in the budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. “They elected to freeze that position. That was part of the cuts that came down from the budget,” Sumersille said. “At that time, we asked to reinstate that person, or give Ojai Day to another organization or department. It benefits local merchants and businesses — so maybe the Visitors Bureau … or, it would be natural for the (Ojai Valley) Chamber of Commerce. Local merchants are benefactors of it (Ojai Day).”
Even if funding for Ojai Day was moved from the Ojai Recreation Department’s fund, the money still comes from the city’s general fund, Clark maintained. And it would not be feasible to move the organization of the event to the Visitors Bureau, he added. “It’s not really within our authority.”
To request an application for the position, contact Sumersille at 646-5581, Ext. 302.
Public comments will be heard at the July 10 meeting of the Ojai City Council, which begins at 7 p.m. and is held at City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
By Monica Lara
At a hearing Monday for Alex Medina, the Mira Monte teen accused of murder, Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger granted two motions in favor of the prosecution. The court set a date of July 12 to argue whether documents subpoenaed by the prosecution will be released, as well.
“I want the trial to be fair. I want for everyone to be prepared, important documents in hand and for witnesses to do their jobs,” Cloninger said at the hearing.
Set for July 25, the competency trial will determine if Medina, 17, is able to assist his attorneys, Scott Wippert and Robyn Bramson, during his criminal trial. He is accused of stabbing and killing Seth Scarminach, 16, in April 2009.
Medina is charged with first-degree murder and multiple additional felony charges. He is scheduled to be tried as an adult.
Medina was taken into custody when he was 14.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Bill Haney filed the two motions to assist the prosecution-appointed doctor, psychologist Susan Ashley, in her competency assessment of Medina.
The motion to compel discovery was granted by Cloninger to order the release of supplemental information the defense-appointed doctor, psychologist Donald Hoagland, used to arrive at his findings. However, the motion was edited from its original form due to objections made by the Bramson that it went beyond what should be permitted.
The original motion was edited to exclude Hoagland’s personal notes, including those made during his examination of Medina.
“I can live without the raw notes,” said Haney at the hearing.
The second motion was submitted at the request of Ashley to perform an additional test during her examination, which is expected to take place this week.
The defense objected to the newly introduced test because Ashley did not include it in her list of tests she planned to administer when she took the stand June 20.
“I don’t think the test is necessary unless she goes and conducts her tests and suspects maybe an assessment needs to be done,” Bramson said.
Ashley was appointed to administer several psychological examinations, and review Hoagland’s report to provide advice to the prosecution. Cloninger approved the additional test.
At the meeting Thursday, the parties will argue whether documents recently subpoenaed by the prosecution will be released.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
By Misty Volaski
Golden State Water Company is drilling a well at its Grand Avenue pumping station. The new well will produce about 500 gallons per minute, said GSWC district manager Ken Petersen. According to a press release issued by GSWC Tuesday, the new well will “eventually replace a well that is more than 60 years old that developed a hole in its casing.”
Petersen said the construction phase will last about three months and will cause no interruption of services to customers. “You have wells that because of their age, stop producing,” he said. A drill rig has been brought in and will drill down about 1,000 feet. It will then be cased in steel and equipped with a motor control center, electrical and pumping equipment and piping. GSWC estimated that the well will be fully functional and begin drawing groundwater by the end of 2012.
“It will serve all (GSWC) customers in Ojai,” Petersen added.
The company’s press release went on to explain, “The project will involve filling and sealing a separate well that is more than 85 years old. The estimated cost to drill and equip the new well and fill and seal the old well is approximately $2.2 million.”
Of GSWC’s five Ojai wells, this is the first in about 10 years to be replaced, Petersen said, “and we haven’t scheduled another one” anytime soon.
“Operating and maintaining our own wells also produces savings for customers in the long run,” the press release quoted Petersen as saying, “since it is less expensive than purchasing wholesale water.”
The water company has other infrastructure improvements planned for the summer as well. Two pipeline projects — the fourth and fifth so far this year — are coming “toward the later part of the summer,” Petersen said, “one on Foothill Road and one on Del Norte Road.”
These will affect traffic, which will be diverted around the streets, and will take GSWC between four to six weeks to complete. When asked whether customers would lose water service, Petersen said, “There will be some when we switch over, but it will not totally shut off.”
Both projects will run for about 1,300 feet; Del Norte will cost about $200,000, while Foothill will be about $400,000.
“The financial impact is built in already,” said Petersen, saying that these repairs have been planned for some time.
Customers with questions about the projects can call Golden State’s 24-hour line at (800) 999-4033.