Category Archives: Featured News

The Ventura Police Department announces the release of a Public Crime Map

The Ventura Police Department (VPD) and LexisNexis Risk Solutions have recently partnered to provide a new way for the community to stay informed about crime in the City of Ventura. The Ventura Police Department now has an online crime map called Community Crime Map designed to alert the public about recent crime activity in their area and improve communications.

“Implementing a public and interactive crime map allows us to be more transparent with our community about crime occurring in each neighborhood,” said Commander Rick Murray. “It’s important for residents to be aware of activity in their area so they are able to take action and stay safe; Community Crime Map will help them do so.”

Ventura residents can view a map that shows all of the reported crimes in their area, sign up for neighborhood watch reports that breakdown recent crime activity near their home, school, or other places of interest, and can submit tips to the Department through an anonymous tipping feature. These special features make it even easier to access near real-time information.

Community Crime Map empowers Ventura residents to make better decisions about crime, by putting the same technology used by the Ventura Police to analyze and interpret crime activity, into the hands of the community it affects so they can make informed decisions about how to stay safe.

Community Crime Map automatically syncs with the Department’s records system to keep crime information updated and accurate online. The data is geocoded and cleaned to protect victim privacy, and all data secure and confidential. All incidents are then displayed on a map, grid, and analytics dashboard along with some basic information about each incident, including the type of crime, location type, block-level address, date, and time.

Check out the Community Crime Map at

City seeking people to work on the general plan

We are seeking volunteers to serve on a committee to help develop our next General Plan for the City of Ventura (GPAC). The General Plan guides the City’s vision, goals, policies, and actions for the next 25 years!

The GPAC will consist of 10-15 community representatives to collaborate and provide guidance throughout the General Plan Update process. The GPAC members have an important role in this process.

They will:

  • Serve as an ambassador for the community
  • Be a community advocate for the General Plan Update
  • Provide insight as to how to reach multiple populations
  • Provide insight and advice on potentially controversial issues
  • Understand sensitive community needs

Requirements for GPAC

Prospective members should be aware of the following criteria which will be used in evaluating candidates. It is critical that each person appointed to the GPAC be willing to perform all required duties for the duration of the planning process, which is anticipated to last through Spring 2023 and will include approximately 18 GPAC meetings.

GPAC members are volunteers and receive no payment for their work. Appointed or elected officials may not concurrently serve on GPAC.

A GPAC member must:

  • Be a City of Ventura resident.
  • Commit the time that is necessary to carry out the duties of a GPAC member. This includes time to learn about and stay abreast of General Plan issues, to attend committee meetings, and perform committee assignments.
  • Be genuinely interested in General Plan related matters and understand the importance of a General Plan to reflect and advance the needs of the community.
  • Understand the local community, its social and cultural needs, and be willing to communicate those needs to the committee.
  • Be able to work with others to reach a common goal.
  • Be open-minded, intellectually curious, and respectful of the opinions of others.
  • Have the courage to plan creatively and direct the effective implementation of those plans.
  • Be able to withstand pressures and prejudice that would restrict or prevent equal service to all.
  • File a Form 700 Conflict of Interest

The General Plan is the embodiment of the community’s vision for the future of Ventura. It is the City’s comprehensive framework of guiding policies on land use, housing, roads, recreation, historical and natural resources, balance of adequate water supply infrastructure, public safety services, and noise, and serves as a basis for decisions that affect all aspects of our everyday lives from where we live and work to how we move about. It is implemented by decisions that direct the allocation of public resources and that shape private development.

The 2005 General Plan was adopted August 8, 2005 and evolved from the 2000 Ventura Vision strategies reflecting the planning objectives and smart growth principles of the community. The Vision strategies set the framework for the General Plan.

Kids & Families Together

by K&FT staff

Kids & Families Together (K&FT) is a nonprofit that has been serving foster/resource, adoptive, kinship, and birth families throughout Ventura County since 2000. K&FT works with children who have experienced trauma, abuse, neglect, loss, and multiple placements. K&FT also works with caregivers who need specialized education, support, and strategies to help raise safe, healthy, nurtured children that thrive.

Kids & Families Together along with their community partner, Crosspointe Church Ventura, will be hosting the Harvest Fest Gift~Away event on Saturday, October 24th for the Ventura County foster/resource, kinship, adopted and birth families we serve in their programs. This annual event has always captured the heart of the Autumn (and Halloween) season and this year will be no different! This year, Harvest Fest will be a contactless, drive-thru event set up with several Trunk O’ Treat-style booths with various themes to view as families drive through.

Families will be provided store gift cards and pumpkins for decorating. Children will receive socks, toys/games and activity books, art supplies, science discovery kits, school supplies and Halloween costumes (as available based on size and quantity). Despite the current situation, this will be a fun family event with music, lots of Fall/Halloween decorations and treats! We are encouraging all of our families attending the event to dress in their favorite Halloween costumes!

2020 has been a challenging year for all of us, but with the support of or dedicated community partners, K&FT has been able to quickly adapt and continue to provide the much-needed goods and services to the families we serve. This flexibility and responsiveness have been recognized within the community, as K&FT will be the recipient of the “Exceptional Adaptability Award” presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals at an event scheduled for November.

We are grateful to our Harvest Fest partners and event sponsors that come from all over Ventura County to support our families: Crosspointe Church Ventura, The Gene Haas Foundation, Camarillo Amber’s Light Lions Club, James Storehouse, United Way, Sunrise Optimist of Ventura, Soroptimist Int’l of Conejo Valley, St, Jude’s Catholic Church, Newbury Park High School’s Wings to Grow, The Discovery

Center of Science & Technology of Newbury Park, TEAM Referral Network Oxnard Rainmakers and the Helpful Honda Team!

Volunteer opportunities are available both prior to the Harvest Fest event, to help sort, organize and prepare, along with time slots for the day of the event. To keep staff, families and volunteers safe, we are following current public health and safety regulations. All attendees will be required to wear a mask at all times.

Financial donations will support our continuing relief efforts.

To sign-up for a volunteer shift take the time to go to:

“Wall of People” demonstration for justice in Downtown Ventura

by Richard Lieberman

An estimated 200 people showed up to participate in the silent Wall of People demonstration, sponsored by Justice For All Ventura County, Veterans For Peace Ventura County and Indivisible Ventura, on Saturday October 17. The protesters were there to raise awareness and advocate for “the health of our planet, the health of the ocean, the health of women’s rights, the health of black lives, the health of LGBTQ rights, the health of people, all of us earth is home, and to protect safe legal abortion.”

Christine Burke led a demonstration in Ventura for Justice for All.

Christine Burke, president of the board of Justice for All led a demonstration in Ventura this past Saturday, October 17th. The demonstration scheduled for one hour 11:30 to12:30 pm included socially distanced members of the group lining up along California Street from Main to the California Street bridge. Chalk circles along California Street each spaced six feet apart ensured each demonstrator maintained an appropriate distance from one another following CDC guidelines. All demonstrators were also required to wear masks.

“Justice for All started when two women here in Ventura wanted to march for the injustices of the people who are being marginalized and the felt they wanted to partner with the women’s march, but also make a stand that it just isn’t women its everyone, we need justice for everybody,” she said. Contacted by the national organization that conducts the yearly women’s march the group was asked to participate this year. In answer to the national organization Burke said “Of course we will participate, but we always do it our own way.” The board of Justice for all discussed the upcoming march and protest and came up with some ideas to keep participants safe. “We wanted people to feel safe so we really couldn’t do a march, why don’t we do a wall of people standing and do a silent installation of voting for the health of our democracy, our bodies women, black lives matter, you know the whole thing.” Added Burke.

Its estimated nearly 200 people joined the demonstration along with street traffic honking horns and passerby’s signaling agreement with the protestors.

“My own personal beliefs are if you are listening to all sides which is what we want everybody to do and that’s why we are not out here saying vote for a particular person, but we want people to think through their votes, my observations of the people who are voting for Trump and support Trump they really don’t know what they are voting for and if they really listened to what was going on they might un-dig their heels.” Said Burke.

“We really just want to inspire community and really gather people together and remind them that this process is important. That being out here and showing and being involved in the political process its important and I think we have lost that along the way and the one thing has come out of the last four years of our government is that people have woken up to that again, on all sides“ she added.

Photos by Richard Lieberman

Mayor Matt LaVere’s 2020 State of the City

The theme of this year’s State of the City is “Focus on Recovery: Rising above a Pandemic in Ventura”. We are now 6 months into this pandemic, and all of our lives have been impacted in immeasurable ways. I hear story after story of the personal ways COVID-19 has impacted so many individuals, families and businesses in our community, and it breaks my heart – because so many of our friends and our family are struggling right now.

And I can only hope that through this despair, we find opportunities for progress and improvement. I am someone who always looks for the silver lining in difficult situations, and I believe that despite the challenges we are facing today, we can find opportunities to create a more prosperous tomorrow.

I hope many of you come to share my belief that although it has been an incredibly tough year for the City, we are well positioned for an effective recovery, and more importantly, the groundwork has been laid for future success in 2021 and beyond.

City Facilities have now been closed for close to 6 months, our commitment to serving the community and its residents hasn’t stopped. When COVID-19 hit, the City quickly transitioned operations to re-imagine City services in order to support online services for residents and businesses. The City isn’t satisfied with simply providing the same service as before, we are seeking to be better. We have aimed to improve operations, and to close service and technology gaps.

We initially struggled – the transition to digital, to moving all of our operations online was difficult and there were hiccups and delays. And I know this stressed the patience of many in our community. But we persevered. We fast tracked, we went online, we streamlined, and we accomplished all of this with a staff largely working from home. And although there were definite problems in the first months after COVID forced the City to completely change the way it did business, I believe the system we currently have in place will serve us incredibly well as we transition from recovery to future successes.

In the last 27 weeks, the City Council has had 23 council meetings, there have been 47 Boards, Commissions & Committee Meetings, and there have been numerous Administrative Hearings held by our planning department. The bottom line is that the people’s business has continued, and the City has taken extensive steps to keep important projects moving forward by adjusting our process to meet the needs of our new COVID realities.

Our crime rates are at a 20-year low thanks to the courageous and proactive work of the brave men and women who serve as our police officers. Our firefighters respond to close to 18,000 calls a year, and work around the clock to protect us. Our Public Works department continues to repair close to 50 miles of roads and sidewalks every year. Our Parks department maintains the City’s 30 parks and ensures we have access to safe and clean outdoor space. I take immense pride in the hard work of each and every City employee, and I know they are all committed to improving the quality of life here in Ventura.

It is hard to believe my 4 years on the City Council is coming to an end. For a hometown kid, it truly has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as Ventura’s Mayor. We endured so much as a City the past 4 years, from the Thomas Fire to the COVID pandemic. But we have always remained Ventura Strong, and my faith in this City and its people has never been stronger.

Tribute to Cheryl Heitmann’s many years of public service in Ventura

“I’ve been honored to have served both as Deputy Mayor and as Mayor.”

by Carol Leish

The City of Ventura and the County of Ventura have been improved with the dedicated service of Cheryl Heitmann for many years. She was involved with the Board of the Ventura County Community College District. She has also been involved on the City of Ventura City Council. This included having served as both Deputy Mayor and Mayor.

Heitmann, who has a Masters Degree in Social Work, and is a licensed Clinical Social Worker, was in private practice for 25 years. She has also worked as a probation officer, psychiatric social worker in a hospital setting, and with children in a group setting.

Besides her work as a clinical social worker, Heitmann co-owned a political consulting and fundraising group for 20 years. She also served as the executive director of the Ventura Music Festival for 7 years.

In 2002, when she heard that the Ventura County Community College District was going through challenging times, and also had no women on the board in 20 years, Heitmann realized that, ‘Getting involved on the board was something for me to consider doing since I’ve always been passionate about good pubic education. The incumbent was not running for re-election. After I got encouragement from others, along with having my own strong belief that women needed to become more involved in the political process as candidates, I decided to run.”

While serving on the Ventura City Council, Heitmann said that, ‘I’ve been honored to have served both as Deputy Mayor and as Mayor.” During her time on the City Council she has represented the city on the Economic Development Collaborative, in which she has served 4 years on the board, which included one year as the Chair. She also has served 3 years on the Gold Coast Transit District Board, in which she was the chair for her last year. She said, ‘On Council I was able to restart the Economic Development subcommittee, producing a 5-year ED strategy. I also currently serve on the school liaison committee; the homeless subcommittee; financial committee; and, the legislative committee. In addition, I currently serve on the economic development and housing committee for the National League of Cities. By serving on all of these regional and national committees, it is/has been important for the city to be able to have a seat at the table when policies are being drafted.”

“When serving as Ventura’s only third woman Mayor,” Heitmann said, “I was especially proud to have started the city’s first sister city program with Loreto, Mexico. I was also proud to have established the Ventura Council for Seniors to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our seniors which included completing a senior strategic plan. I also spearheaded the downtown Ambassador program with the support of the Downtown Ventura Partners.”

Heitmann continued by saying, “I chaired the 150th anniversary committee to plan and execute the exciting celebration of our 150 years as a city. Since, in government, many ideas and projects take several years to complete, the Veterans Home Project is especially dear to me. It will include 122 new apartments for homeless Veterans and low-income Veteran families. I brought this project forward while serving as Mayor, and it has been continuing to inch forward. Now, it is very close to putting the first shovel in the ground for the groundbreaking.”

“Serving on the city council has been an incredible experience and one that I am glad to have had. The rewards are that I have had the feeling that I have been able to contribute to bettering the quality of life in the city I love,” according to, Heitmann. “And, just as important, I’ve had the chance to meet and work with so many wonderful people, both city staff, city partners, and community members.”

Ventura would like to thank Cheryl Heitmann for her many years, since 2002, of dedicated service to the community. Ventura has become a better place from your dedicated service.

Dee Dowell Memorial Scholarship award winners announced

Dowell award winners with Ventura Police officers.

The Ventura Police Officers’ Association (VPOA) is pleased to present three scholarships to high achieving local Ventura students as the award recipients of the 17th annual Dee Dowell Memorial Scholarship.

“There is no greater honor than to be in public service,” said Officer Joseph Metz, President of the VPOA. “We are thrilled to play just a minor role in the future success of Ventura’s youth and our community.”

The first-place scholarship of $2,000 is awarded to Bailey Welch. Bailey is 17-years-old and will be attending Ventura College to pursue a course of study in Nursing. The second-place scholarship of $1,500 is awarded to Tara Martin. Tara is 19-years-old and will be attending the University of Arizona to pursue a course of study in Early Child Education. Finally, our third-place scholarship of $1,000 is awarded to Kali Garibay. Kali is 19-years-old. She is currently attending the University of Southern California and intends to continue her studies in Law History and Culture.

Each young scholar was selected after displaying remarkable academic achievement, school and community service, and financial need. Additionally, each applicant must submit an essay on “Service, what it means to me,” submit a letter of recommendation from a public servant, be a Ventura resident or have graduated from a high school in Ventura within the past three years, and plan a course of study related to the field of public service.

The VPOA thanks all applicants and congratulates the 2020 winners of the Dee Dowell Memorial Scholarship!

The annual Dee Dowell Memorial Scholarship program honors Sergeant Darlon “Dee” Dowell, who was shot and killed on August 7, 1978. Sergeant Dowell is the only officer in Ventura’s history to die in the line of duty.

WEV hosting Empowerment is Priceless

WEV Trailblazer Award recipient Brenda Allison of Coast General Insurance Brokers

Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) is hosting the 15th annual Empowerment is Priceless fundraising event (virtually) on Thursday, October 15th from 9 – 10 a.m. This year’s spotlight is on business owners facing the challenges of COVID-19 and the public is invited to attend the free event by registering online at

“Empowerment is Priceless is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Women’s Small Business Month and the amazing impact women owned businesses have on our communities and our local economy,” said WEV CEO Kathy Odell. “This year more than ever, women and minority business owners need our support to press on through these extraordinarily difficult times.”

At the event each year WEV presents the Trailblazer Award to recognize and honor inspirational businesswomen in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties who have succeeded in challenging gender norms in society through sheer passion, commitment, vision and grit. This year, Brenda Allison, founder of two successful Ventura County insurance agencies and the Chief Executive Officer of Coast General Insurance Brokers, has been selected to receive the Women’s Economic Ventures’ Trailblazer Award.

Trailblazers are active community members and philanthropists whose accomplishments serve as an uplifting example to other women entrepreneurs and Allison definitely meets that criteria. She is a long-standing member of the Rotary Club of Ventura, serves as an executive board member and human resources committee chair for Casa Pacifica, is on the supervisory committee of the Ventura County Credit Union, is the founder and past chairperson of Latinos In Business at the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce, and founder of the Cuban Culture Club of Ventura County.

“Women’s Economic Ventures is delighted to recognize Brenda Allison for her inspiring business and community leadership,” said Odell. “She has been a strong advocate for women in business and we invite the community to join us to see Brenda accept her award virtually.”

Major sponsors of the 2020 Empowerment is Priceless event are LinkedIn, American Riviera Bank, Bank of America, Coast General Insurance Brokers, County of Ventura, JP Morgan Chase & Co., La Arcada Courtyard, Montecito Bank & Trust, Pacific Western Bank, and Ventura County Credit Union. All proceeds raised will directly benefit client programs in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties including financial literacy training, Smart Entrepreneurial Training (SET), individual coaching and business advisory services, WEV en Español and WEV’s Loan Program.

Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation’s Gold Ribbon Campaign raises awareness for pediatric cancer

Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation Gold Ribbon Honoree, Susie Perry, helped host a special birthday for the Ortiz Family as their daughter, Ximena, battled cancer.

Just imagine having a child with cancer during this COVID-19 crisis–a pandemic that is leading to job loss and insecurity, financial hardship, mounting health concerns, and an overworked and exhausted health care community.

COVID-19 is creating even greater challenges for local families battling childhood cancer. Many of these families have lost their jobs and are no longer able to buy food and clothing for their families, or pay rent or medical expenses, including critical prescriptions.

During this challenging time, Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (TBCF) has been providing even more services for families, including money for rent assistance, grocery gift cards, additional emotional support groups with licensed therapists, virtual and in-person tutoring, meal and care package delivery, and virtual family fun events to keep their kids engaged. Community support has made it possible for TBCF to provide additional financial assistance to 31 local families who have been severely affected by the pandemic.

When Ximena was five, her family noticed she was having difficulties using the bathroom properly. After seeing the doctor a few times and not receiving a diagnosis, the Ortiz family noticed she had a bump on the right side of her stomach. They took Ximena to Ventura County Medical Center to receive a cat-scan, where it was discovered that she had Wilm’s tumor – a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children. The doctors told the Ortiz family Ximena would need surgery, as the tumor on her kidney was putting pressure on her veins.

Ximena went into surgery just a few short days later and began to receive small doses of preventative chemotherapy once weekly for six months. This became complicated for the Ortiz family, as the treatment location was two hours away. During this difficult time, TBCF helped support the Ortiz family as Ximena’s mom, Araceli, had resigned from her job to take care of Ximena.

To date, TBCF has helped the Ortiz family through their Direct Financial Assistance fund, which provided Araceli with food, gas and car repairs as she took Ximena to receive treatment. TBCF has also provided support to the Ortiz family with in-person and virtual Family Connection Events, where they bonded with other families going through similar situations.

Ximena’s treatment ended in December 2019, but TBCF has continued to provide support during the pandemic. Additional ways the organization has helped the family are by providing Ximena and her two siblings toys through their Project Christmas program, and by offering continued virtual support and phone check-ins. One of this year’s Gold Ribbon Campaign 2020 Honorees, Susie Perry, helped the Ortiz family by hosting a special birthday party for Ximena when she was sick.

TBCF will be hosting their annual Gold Ribbon Campaign throughout the month of September to raise funds during National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the annual in-person Gold Ribbon Luncheon at the Four Seasons Biltmore has been cancelled, which is a major source of funding for the nonprofit. This year, the Campaign is solely focused on raising funds and awareness for the organization and the families they serve.

Through donations and continued support, TBCF can help more families like the Ortiz family.

To participate in TBCF’s Gold Ribbon Campaign for National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, please visit TBCF at:

Physicians for Progress: Healing the healthcare system

Dr. Leslie-Lynn Pawson at the Ventura March for Science.

by Amy Brown

Most people are familiar with the Hippocratic Oath for physicians, which—paraphrased—binds them to treat the sick, preserve confidentiality, and pass on medical knowledge to the doctors coming after them. Physicians for Progress, a group of about 50 doctors in Ventura County, are committed to both the Hippocratic and the democratic. The organization was founded in 2017, focused on solving issues with the current healthcare system, preserving democracy, as well as protecting the environment, which directly affects everyone’s health. They share concerns about the current administration’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act, and are working to influence lawmakers to consider a single payer system, to ensure that all Americans have access to insurance and healthcare. Their endeavors so far have included advocating directly and vigorously with members of congress and state legislators, during town halls and in their offices, holding a Healthcare Forum earlier this year for Ventura residents, and raising awareness through strategic social media outreach.

Dr. Leslie-Lynn Pawson speaking at the Physicians for Progress HealthCare Forum in Ventura.

Dr. Leslie-Lynn Pawson is one of the founding members of Physicians for Progress, a family physician since 1982 who now teaches Family Medicine and Palliative Medicine at VCMC. During her long tenure in the field, she’s had many years to see what works and what doesn’t in the current healthcare system. “Every other wealthy democratic nation on this planet has a variation of single payer healthcare system that provides health insurance to 99 if not 100% of their people. We are absolutely alone as a wealthy democratic country that does not provide health insurance to everybody,” said Pawson. When asked how she and other members of the organization counter some of the typical arguments (concerns about higher costs, for example) against government-engaged healthcare, she shared “Our current system is so much more expensive! We spend 17-18% of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product), while other nations spend 10%, and they get better care for less money. Yes, our taxes will go up, but what each of our individual families will pay in healthcare will actually be less. Access will go up, availability will go up and our health outcomes will go up.”

Many doctors in the organization have seen firsthand what tragedies can happen with the capriciousness of the current health insurance system. Dr. Zadok Sacks is a double board certified internist and pediatrician and has been at VCMC since 2014. He’s seen patients lose their insurance through divorce or loss of employment, and then develop cancers that went untreated, unchecked, and ultimately metastasized. “When you see even one case like that, it’s such a shocking indictment of the way that we fail so many,” said Sacks. “Single payer would keep the same providers in place, with the same range of service, and give folks the safety net of a universally available public insurance system that will pay for all the care they need. Ultimately it is going to drive the cost of healthcare down.”

Some opponents suggest that single payer health care will eliminate competition. “I consider myself very much a capitalist,” said Dr. Clint McBride, who now teaches at the Fort Collins Family Medicine residency program, after his residency at VCMC. “People should be able to work hard and achieve differential levels of economic success. I actually think the correct place for competition in our medical system should be among hospitals and providers—if all patients had the same insurance, then they’d have the freedom to choose the doctors.” According to McBride, often the choice of which medicine a patient is prescribed is based on the type of insurance they have—not what type of medicine would actually benefit them. “I’ve had many, many patients, both in California and Colorado, go without the dose of insulin they need because they can’t afford it. I will often see patients that ration their medicine or take less than they should. They then often progress to needing dialysis or amputations and ultimately they incur even higher healthcare costs.”

McBride has words of encouragement for those who may feel powerless to effect change in something as monolithic and embedded as the current healthcare system. “You have incredible power,” said McBride. “Organize, vote—remember that generations that came before us overcame huge challenges in this country: we abolished slavery, we guaranteed women the right to vote, and we fought world wars against fascists. When you take a historical context and the magnitude of those challenges, certainly guaranteeing the right to healthcare and eradicating medical bankruptcies is a big challenge, but we’ve achieved bigger things before.”