By Bill Buchanan
When this town pulls together in one direction, it is awe-inspiring. For instance, last Saturday was my first Ojai Day, and it was outstanding. It is almost inconceivable that a town this size could pull off an event that big so professionally and seamlessly. On Saturday, Ojai was alive with music, dancing, artwork, antique automobiles, people and animals. You could feel the energy as folks walked, rode, skated and biked along Ojai Avenue. The organizers, sponsors and participants deserve a big round of applause for producing an exceptional event. Even the weather cooperated.
Also in the spirit of cooperation, I have to say thanks and give a “shout-out” to the nice folks at Bonnie Lu’s Cafe for loaning us some chairs for the OVN Ojai Day booth. The moron who was in charge of loading and setting up our booth (me) didn’t think to bring any chairs. Logan Hall scrounged up a couple from somewhere (I don’t want to know), and we got the others from the cafe. Thanks.
One of the standout events of Ojai Day was the long-anticipated opening of the Ojai Skate Park. You could almost hear the heartbeats racing inside the skaters as they patiently (well, sort of) waited through the opening ceremonies before the ribbon was cut and the park officially opened. It was a real joy to watch all the kids jump on their boards and hit the ramps. I was amazed that so many kids were going so fast in different directions, yet no one ran into anyone else. It was controlled chaos on a grand scale. It reminded me of riding in a taxi down 5th Avenue in New York — the way all the cabs switch lanes suddenly, and weave in and out of traffic, and speed up, and jam on the brakes and blow their horns — yet it all happens without incident. It is almost as if the entire scene was choreographed and rehearsed. Either that or the boarders are like bats, and have an inbred radar system that allows them to swerve at just the right time. Whatever the case, it was a bunch of fun to watch.
The Skate Park scene on Saturday could well have been a much more somber occasion. Last Thursday afternoon, news came that the results of the core sample concrete testing on the park showed that one or more areas did not meet the weight test pounds per square inch as noted in the contract. A letter was issued by the Public Works Department stating that the city was not prepared to accept the job as completed unless a change order was issued. If the change order was issued, the city would sign off by incorporating revisions into the contract and receive a decrease in the contract of over $63,000. This issue was contractual; it was not a matter of safety for those who will use the park.
This offer was not acceptable to many, and there was talk of the park not opening on time. But cool heads and a spirit of cooperation quickly prevailed. A meeting was held on Friday morning, and a compromise was reached that allowed Saturday’s opening to go on without a hitch. Interim city manager John Baker acted quickly and wisely in working with Councilwoman Betsy Clapp, Glen Hawks, city engineer, Skate Ojai President Chet Hilgers and Skate Park representative Bob Daddi, to resolve the final issue. All are to be commended for working together to get the deal done and the park opened on time.
We should also commend the City Council for their wisdom a few months ago in voting not to renew the contract of former city manager Jere Kersnar. It is safe to say that the result of this last-minute problem at the Skate Park would have been very different had the former city manager still been in place.
This city has many other projects ahead, and will be forced to deal with the inevitable hurdles that will accompany them. It is our hope that this recent spirit of cooperation continues to carry forward as we meet the challenges ahead. Because as we have shown, we can do great things when we work together.