Category Archives: Featured News

Project understanding announces new leadership

Tom Hilton and Brandy Beesley

Project understanding and its Board of Directors has selected Brandy Beesley as the organization’s new Executive Director. Brandy is a local resident and comes with a wealth of knowledge in the nonprofit sector, as well as years of administrative and business management work.

“I am honored to be part of Project Understanding’s vision and mission as the new Executive Director. I am thankful for the confidence entrusted in me to help build the future of the organization and its impact on our community. Going to work each day knowing you are able to make a positive difference in the lives of so many, is a huge blessing. I look forward to continuing the growth and accomplishments of an organization with 40 years of success.”

Tom Hilton was selected as their new Vice President of Development. Tom comes with years of fundraising experience and will help take the organization’s fundraising efforts to the next level.

Brandy and Tom are sure to provide the organization with remarkable guidance and success, in supporting the mission and growth of Project Understanding, while improving their practices and programs and increasing overall effectiveness.

The Democratic Club of Ventura’s first “KEEP IT BLUE” fundraiser a success

Diane Underhill, Carol Lindberg and Steve Bennett accepting Social Justice Award.

The Democratic Club of Ventura’s inaugural summer fundraiser Sunday, July 30, sold out with more than 200 guests in attendance. The fundraiser will support Democratic candidates and causes now and leading up to the 2018 election. Club campaign funds increased by thousands of dollars due to impressive ticket sales and sponsors whose support will help the Democratic Club of Ventura (DCV) promote good candidates.

Attendees filled the Historic Ventura City Hall’s Atrium with energy and enthusiasm as community members and elected representatives met and discussed important issues while attendees enjoyed great music and food prior to the start of the program.

Following opening remarks by DCV 2nd Vice Chair & Fundraising Chair Diana Sparagna, DCV President Matty Park introduced the master of ceremonies, California State Democratic Party Chairman, Eric C. Bauman. Speakers included Ventura Mayor Erik Nasarenko, Ventura Councilmembers Cheryl Heitmann and Matt LaVere, Ventura County Supervisors Steve Bennett and John Zaragoza.

DCV Awards Chair Carol Lindberg presented the Social Justice Award to Maricela Morales, Executive Director of Central Coast Alliance United for A Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) and the Environmental Award to co-recipients Diane Underhill, Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation (VCHP) and Steve Bennett, Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR).

The afternoon wrapped up with photo opportunities and more discussions on issues of importance by those in attendance.

Watch for events to come from the Democratic Club of Ventura at or look for Democratic Club of Ventura on Facebook.

Barking out loud

K9 and VPD officer showing their stuff at June 10 event held in the Harbor by the Herman Bennett Foundation to raise funds for our K9 officers.

by the VPD

On Friday, August 18a, from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., the Ventura Police Department (VPD) will hold the 6th Annual “Bark Out Loud” Comedy Night benefiting the department’s K9 Unit. The event takes place at the historic Olivas Adobe.

The evening begins with a cocktail hour from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., dinner will be served at 7:00 p.m. and the comedy show will begin at 8:00 p.m. Comedy will be provided by the Ventura Comedy Club.

K9 Teams will be on site conducting demonstrations throughout the evening and also roaming the crowd so individuals can meet the officers and their partners. The evening’s festivities also include a silent auction and raffle.

Tickets are $60 and are available for purchase at:

On average the cost for a canine is $12,000, with an additional $8,000-$10,000 for training and certification, all of which is paid for through donations to the VPD K9 Unit. All of Ventura Police canines, past and present, have been purchased through community donations and event fundraising. The K9 Unit appreciates the support of the community and the many businesses and organizations that have sponsored the crime fighting team!

The Ventura Police Department currently has three K9 teams and two K9s in the canine academy. K9s are assigned to the Patrol Unit so that a team is on-duty seven days a week, providing around the clock service to the community. We have used K9 teams for over twenty years. Our agency was one of the first law enforcement agencies in Ventura County to use canines. All of our canines are German Shepherds and they live at home with their handler/officer and their families.

Our department, along with other law enforcement agencies from Santa Barbara and Ventura County, train weekly with Dave Inglis, one of the foremost K9 trainers in the United States. Weekly training sessions typically cover such skills as searching, apprehension, drug detection, obedience, agility, and confined searches.

K9 teams are used for a variety of public safety assignments. The two most frequent uses are to locate fleeing suspects and to find illegal drugs. Canines can search an entire warehouse, for example, in much less time than a team of officers could perform the same job. Canines can sniff out hidden suspects thereby making them more effective in this situation than their human counterparts. Using K9 teams allows us to perform a variety of dangerous tasks in a quick and safe manner.

Ventura Emergency crews respond to house fire rescuing family pet and rendering medical attention to occupant and neighbor

A single story residence was involved in a structure fire shortly after 3:30pm on Friday, August 11 in East Ventura in the 10000 Block Darling Avenue. The resident of the home was taking a nap and awoke to the smell of smoke, fire alarms sounding, and a neighbor who was pounding on the front door. The
occupant of the home and the neighbor attempted to contain the blaze, but both were quickly overcome with smoke and retreated outside. Firefighters arrived quickly thereafter and initiated an attack on the fire. It was quickly identified that the resident and neighbor would need medical attention. Additional engine companies arrived and were informed by a family member that a pet was still inside.

Rescue crews searched the building and found the family pet in a bedroom and removed the animal to safety. Paramedics assessed the victims of the fire. The truck company performed vertical ventilation of the structure in coordination with the fire attack company. Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the garage. Assigned firefighters were also tasked to limit the smoke damage to the interior of the residence. The damage was extensive throughout the garage, and the house was yellow tagged for only temporary habitation. One firefighter sustained a minor injury. The preliminary fire investigation revealed that a faulty electrical appliance started the fire. The resident and the neighbor were assessed and treated on scene and did not need to be transported to the hospital.

New school superintendent hired

David C. Creswell has been a teacher, principal and district administrator at all school levels for 35-years.

The Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) Board has selected David C. Creswell, 59 as the new school superintendent. He is the fifth superintendent in the past 30 years. His salary is $222,000 per year.

Creswell has an extensive school background including Fontana Unified School District’s associate superintendent of human resources and the associate superintendent at Fontana Unified. Assistant superintendent in Ontario from 2007 to 2013, an assistant superintendent of administrative services at Cucamonga School District from 2006 to 2007 and an administrator of alternative education from 2003 to 2006 at Alvord Unified School District in Riverside.

In 2016 has was selected as a Human Resources Leader of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators.

He and wife Debra are passionate people helping victims of child human trafficking. For the past seven years, they have traveled to Southeast Asia to help young children who have been victimized. Creswell said he is looking forward to learning about his new community and starting relationships with district staff members, students, parents and teachers.

Creswell was selected after a four-month search that included 51 candidates. Public input was involved and a community panel of community leaders also interviewed the five finalists and made recommendations to the board.

In selecting him Board member Mary Haffner stated “The process we went through to find our new Superintendent was thorough and inclusive. I feel very confident in our selection and I believe that David possesses the attributes and characteristics that will allow him to be very successful in Ventura Unified.”

Pastor Jim Duran was on the community panel and told the Breeze “Our panel was diversified and extremely passionate about the City of Ventura and our School District. The eight of us had extremely stimulating dialog and after two days we were able to come to an agreement for our top choice. I know that each of us felt an incredible responsibility to give the School Board the best feedback in order for them to ultimately make their decision.”

Board member Velma L. Lomax continued “We went through a very rigorous process this time, with interviews by the Board and a Community Panel as well as a written portion and oral presentation. After three long days we decided on hiring David Creswell. I feel confident we have made the best decision and that he will be a great asset to our district.”

Board member Sabrena Rodriguez said “David’s considerable experience in education, the diverse roles he has held in other districts and his stellar communication skills were all significant factors in our choosing him to lead our district. I was most excited by his obvious commitment to the welfare of the children in our community – their educational outcomes and their personal well-being.”

Lastly Board member Madhu Bajaj, President, Ventura Education Partnership “I am thrilled for David Creswell to join our community. He lives and breathes a powerful and beautiful leadership style focused on service and relationship building. And, he sees areas of opportunity to strengthen VUSD by bringing people together for the benefit of our students.”

City Council to give Museum $125,000

Museum of Ventura County given temporary fix.

On July 10 The Ventura City Council voted to give the Museum of Ventura County $125,000 dependent on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approving additional funding and set other conditions.

The Council specified that funding could last up to five years, assuming the museum meets specific benchmarks and Ventura has the money. The Museum must show how it will one day be able to support itself, start assessing a collection of 181,000 documents and artifacts, begin the process of developing an $8 million endowment and look at ways to turn its programs and offerings to be more appealing to all age groups who will visit often .

The Ventura City Council didn’t specify where the money would come from, instead directing the city staff to return with either potential sources of funding or cuts. City Manager Mark Watkins said the money could come from the general fund reserve which
the council is trying to build up to equal three months’ worth of operating expenses.

They agreed that the new half-cent sales tax should not be used to help fund the Museum.

The approval also stipulated that the Museum provide a detailed budget and plan for how it will change the way it operates, as well as meet fundraising milestones.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors Foy the no vote)a one-time contribution of $125,000 to help fund the Museum’s reorganization plan to stem a five-year trend of deficit spending and create a new business model.

The Museum’s Board Of Directors will meet to set a course to accomplish that the City and County stipulated. In part Elena Brokaw Interim Executive Director, Museum of Ventura County stated “With deep gratitude to our community, I’m delighted to report to you that yesterday the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved a one-time contribution of $125,000 to help fund the Museum of Ventura County’s reorganization plan to stem a five-year trend of deficit spending and create a new business model for the museum.’’

“This giant step forward means the museum will be able to implement an aggressive capital campaign and strategic plan for a sustainable operational mode, all while we continue to deliver fresh programming to the community and visitors.”
A capital campaign to secure an $8 million endowment within the next five years.

Engage a museum consultant to help develop an improved business model that incorporates the endowment income and reduces dependence on private donations.

Assess, inventory, catalog and properly house the museum’s one-of-a-kind collection of Ventura County history and art, which includes the County of Ventura Historical Collection.

Attract an expanded audience to diversify who the museum serves, where the museum provides programming and how the museum engages its audience in museum activities.

MVC exhibitions tell the story of the County’s past and celebrates the art and artists of our community. It operates two museums, the Main Street Museum and the Agriculture Museum in Santa Paula, as well as the MVC Research Library. In the past five years, MVC has faced significant operating deficits. In an effort to operate the County’s two most important historical museums, MVC board and staff have worked to reduce costs and expand both earned and contributed revenue, and still faced a budget gap.

“With widespread community support and funding from the County and City, we’re optimistic that our reorganization plan will be successful and the Museum will continue to be a major asset to our community’s quality of life,” Brokaw said.

Marine Staff Sgt. Robert H. Cox killed in a fatal air crash returned to Ventura

Some were not familiar with Cox, but all wanted to show their support.

Photo and article by Richard Lieberman

Staff Sgt. Robert Cox killed in a Marine Corps transport aircraft accident in Mississippi, returned home Sunday evening July 23. Cox was escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders mustering 100 plus motorcyclists. The Patriot Guard Riders are a volunteer group that escorts and serves as an honor guard to service members and first responders killed in the line of duty.

The FBI continues to investigate the deaths of 16 Marines and one Navy Corpsman who were killed when their U.S. military plane spiraled out of the sky and into a Mississippi field.

A KC-130, used as a refueling tanker, “experienced a mishap” when it corkscrewed into a soybean field about 4 p.m. at a location around 85 miles north of Jackson, the Marine Corps said. The aircraft’s debris scattered in a radius of nearly 5 miles. The Marine Corps said the plane originated from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina and it was unclear what caused the crash.

The motorcade bringing Cox’s body home started Sunday evening July 23 at Los Angeles International Airport. His remains escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders, and officers from the Santa Paula Police Department where he lived. Ventura County Firefighters lined up on freeway overpasses paying their respect for the deceased marine.

Cox’s remains were met by members of Cox’s family and 50 or more supporters lining the route. Many displaying America flags and some displaying Marine Corps flags.

Some were not familiar with Cox, but all wanted to show their support and pay respects to the family. Todd and Lori Walker said, “We are here to show our support for him and his family” Many of the supporters were veterans, but not all, several non- military supporters were there to support as well. President Donald Trump weighed in via Twitter saying “Marine plane crash in Mississippi is heartbreaking. Melania and I send our deepest condolences to all!”

The casket of Staff Sgt. Cox was carried into the Ted Mayr Funeral Home in Ventura after arriving from Los Angeles International Airport. A contingent of Marine honor guards escorted the body, after a brief ceremony.

Cox was born in Ventura and attended school in Fillmore, Ventura and Thousand Oaks. He enlisted in the Marine Corps when he was a senior in high school. Deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon. While deployed Cox earned awards for service, including Combat Action Ribbon, and a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

A memorial service for Cox was held on Saturday, July 29 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at 3501 Loma Vista Road. A funeral service followed the memorial service at Pierce Brothers Santa Paula Cemetery.

Planning Commission to act on ADU

On August 9th the Ventura Planning Commission will consider the provisions of the accessory dwelling unit ordinance.

You may review the Planning Commission Staff Report and Draft Ordinance at While the August 9th hearing has this item as No. 4, the earlier items may move rather quickly.

ADU is Item No. 4 on the agenda. Please note on the first page of the agenda is an informational box that describes how you can participate in the public hearing process and methods to provide input if you cannot attend the hearing on August 9th. The Planning Commission does value your interest. On January 9, 2017, the City Council adopted an Interim Urgency ADU ordinance.

Couple of notes of interest as you review the Staff Report and attachments:

The 11 page staff report highlights the major provisions of the ADU standards and gives rationale and context to the proposed standards. Most attachments are maps and graphics

The Ordinance is Attachment B, contained as Exhibit A of the PC Resolution. While it is about 25 pages, note that the standards are in the first 8 pages; the rest of the pages are all the different zoning regulations across numerous documents (Development Codes) that must be updated with ADU term and then remove old 2nd unit regulations. Therefore if you read through the 8 pages you are informed of the new rules.

“The project proposes the establishment of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (“ADU”)

Ordinance. This proposed ADU Ordinance would replace previous city regulations for

residential second units and carriage houses contained in the City municipal code and

the City’s form based development codes. This proposed ordinance is in response to

recent State Law amending California Government Code Section 65852.2 (“Section

65852.2”), which limits the City’s ability to regulate or limit new ADUs. Effective January

1, 2017, the two bills-Assembly Bill 2299 (“AB 2299”) and Senate Bill 1069 (“SB

1069”)-require cities to either adopt an ordinance that complies with the new

restrictions and specific standards or apply only the specific state standards set forth in

amended Section 65852.2. The draft ordinance is contained in Attachment B and these

proposed ADU regulations are discussed in the Staff Analysis section of this report.”

The following was sent by Watkins to city employees

Mark Watkins announces retirement as City Manager.

“ After much thought and discussion with my family I have decided to retire from my position as City Manager effective December 28, 2017. Working for Ventura has been a dream job for me. I was a 26-year old engineer when Amy and I arrived here in November of 1987, we welcomed the birth of our first daughter just a month later and have loved living here ever since. I took a 12 year hiatus to work for the City of Thousand Oaks and was thrilled to come back to Ventura in early 2013 as City Manager.”

“As I reflect on my time here it is easy to think of all of the physical attributes that make Ventura such a great place to live and work. We have a wonderful downtown, beautiful beaches, a great harbor, the pier and promenade, hiking in the hillsides, and cultural amenities. However, what I will remember the most fondly is all of the outstanding city employees that bring their energy and enthusiasm to work every day to continue making this one of the best cities in America.”

“ I am providing a long notice to assure a smooth transition for the organization. I have appreciated the trust the City Council has placed in me and am extremely proud of all that we’ve accomplished during my tenure. In the past 4 years we have been able to restore fiscal stability, refocus the organization on core services and infrastructure, pursue the water resources required for our future, and make headway on complicated issues such as homelessness. With Measure O funding the City is now poised to address Ventura’s highest priority needs, make critical investments in our community, and insure that Ventura remains one of the best places live, work, and recreate.”

“One of the items that I am most proud of is the employee agreements that we have reached over the past several years. We have made progress on increasing salaries and improving contributions to health benefits while balancing the other needs of the city and recognizing our increasing PERS contributions. Our employee groups and all of our employees have shown leadership and understanding in this critical area so that we can continue to have the best work force to serve our community.”

“This has been both the most challenging and rewarding positon that I have held in my 33 year career. It has been an immense pleasure to work with our outstanding department head team, city employees, and our community, and I am confident that the City organization is now well positioned for the future.”

“ I clearly remember that day in November 1987 when I walked out the front door of City Hall, looked down California Street to the ocean and historic pier, and wondered how I could be so fortunate to live and work in such a beautiful place. I still feel blessed to be in Ventura and Amy I plan to remain here and serve the community in other ways. Ventura is a 150 year old city with a rich and proud history, but I truly believe that its best years lie ahead. I am proud to have had the opportunity to serve the City and look forward to great things in the future.”

Mark Watkins-City Manager

City Council Member Matt LaVere told the Breeze “Although it has only been a short time, I have really appreciated my time on council with Mark. He has gone out of his way to work with me on issues important to Ventura. I wish him and Amy nothing but the best as they move into retirement. He leaves Ventura a better place than when he arrived, and that is the mark of a good city manager.”