Category Archives: Featured News

Friendly business competition to start on April 1

Athletes and dignitaries  kicked-off the 2017 Corporate Games at Ventura Community Park. Photo by Michael Gordon

To kick-off the 2017 Corporate Games, company employees, families and friends attended an opening ceremony at Ventura Community Park on Saturday, March 25.

The festivities included a business and health fair, music, demonstrations, jolly jumpers and interactive games, arts and crafts, food trucks and more.

To help, the celebration the Aquatics Center was open to the public for free.

Nearly 80 businesses throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties are preparing for the five weeks of friendly competition, which begins Saturday, April 1 with beach volleyball, surfing, MB2 Racing, and soccer. Teams compete in four different divisions – based on company size – for gold, silver and bronze medals and a chance to be crowned Overall Team Champion during the Closing Ceremonies at Ventura Harbor on May 6.

Corporate Games is a fun way to develop team-building, plus it provides great health benefits. This year’s theme is “Play for the Fun of It!”  With a proven track record of building camaraderie through teamwork and lasting relationships among company employees, the games offer a wide variety of events so companies can tailor participation based on staff interests.

Corporate Games is hosted by the City of Ventura and many wonderful sponsors.

Schedule and information is available at www.cityofventura.net/corporategames or call 658-4738.

Water: Take 1

Claire and John Meehan are stars of the Audience Choice Awards film “Drought Wars – The Family Fights Back.”

by Jennifer Tipton

March 22nd marked the 5th annual Water: Take1 Online Short Film Awards Ceremony presented by Ventura Water. Presented at The Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center in Ventura Harbor Village, the event draws attention to the challenges facing our water supply on a local, national and global level. More specifically: how we look at it, how we use it and how we share it.

Filmmakers from around the globe were invited to create a short (less than 5 minute) film to address the topic of water, and over 50 films were submitted. Ventura Water previewed them all prior to showing only the best of the best last evening.

Before the films were screened in a movie theater setting, movie-type snacks were provided to the viewers such as popcorn, sodas and candy – very clever indeed!

The films showed tremendous diversity – some were funny, some beautiful and some shocking. Many films were submitted from other countries and it certainly demonstrated that the concerns about our water supply are not limited to home.

The Grand Prize was $1,500.00 and was awarded to “Place of Sweet Waters”. This film addresses water scarcity as a result of social misuse, a very powerful piece of work.

The Audience Choice Award went to “Drought Wars – The Family Fights Back” where the kids provide tips and tricks to save water around the house. It is a delightful piece of work submitted by our very own Meehan family!

Ventura Water teams up with several sponsorships, but new this year they forged a promotional partnership with Shorts TV where submitted films were eligible for inclusion in a film showcase that aired throughout the month of March in honor of World Water Day.

All of the film festival’s finalists can be viewed at www.watertake1.com.

Will the pig be replaced with a different mascot?

Foto: County Ventura St. Patrick’s Day Green Pig succumbs to split seam.

Photo by Michael Gordon

Sham Hock, a.k.a. Pig O’ My Heart, has hogged the spotlight at County Ventura St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the last time.

The giant inflatable pig, which has delighted parade-goers for nearly three decades, abruptly collapsed upon splitting a seam near the end of this year’s parade. The parade’s organizing committee determined the seam is unrepairable.

“It will need to go to its resting place in Pig Heaven,” said Nan Drake, co-chair of the organizing committee said. “Plans are underway for a proper Irish wake.”

Drake, however, added that plans also are underway to replace the 12-foot high by 20-foot long Sham Hock with a new parade mascot. “It will be a tough job replacing the pig and a fundraiser will have to be held,” she said.

It’s not the first time Sham Hock, which was created for $2,500 in 1990 during the parade’s early years has made news. It was kidnapped a week before the 2015 parade at a Ventura storage facility but was located by some clever detective work. A $100 reward was offered and Ventura City Councilman Jim Monahan, who is also a parade committee co-chair, received an anonymous call telling him where Sam Hock could be found. And, luckily, the giant green pig rode in the parade, as usual. The kidnappers were never identified and the reward was never paid.

City Council mulls homeless shelter

Will a homeless shelter reduce the amount of homeless in Ventura? Photo by George Robertson

by Randal Beeman

Advocates who have spent upwards of two decades lobbying the City of Ventura for a permanent emergency homeless shelter will have to wait another month for a final vote authorizing the project. After making several small changes Council members will reconsider the revised ordinance at their April 20th meeting.

At their Monday, March 20th meeting, Council members heard from a number of local advocates for the homeless, including representatives of the faith community and social service providers who explained that a full time shelter would save the City money in addition to being an ethical imperative. Several audience members related personal testimonies on the plight of our homeless population.

While there is no proposal, site, or operator for the potential shelter, the City has designated a non-residential area – the Arundell neighborhood – for the facility. Council members discussed the language for an Emergency Shelter Zoning Ordinance and Map Amendment to shape the eventual size, scope, and operational guidelines. Councilmember Matt LaVere thanked audience members for their diligence on the issue, which has been a major humanitarian and quality of life concern in the community for many years.

Presently, the proposed law calls for a shelter with a capacity of 55 beds, and any potential operator would have to conform to a number of requirements including having a plan to provide security, to offering a variety of social services on site. There seemed to be a consensus among council members that this facility is needed and is long overdue, noting that any operator would be functioning under a conditional permit that would be periodically reviewed by the Council. The shelter is intended for short-term emergencies and will serve as a conduit for social services intended to keep people from returning to the streets.

Audience members who addressed the Council were overwhelmingly supportive of the idea. Stephanie Caldwell, President and CEO of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce and member of the Stakeholders Task Force on the homeless, presented a power point on the homeless problem, noting “it is more costly to keep the status quo than to house people.”

Other speakers lamented the high rental rates in the City that exacerbate the homelessness problem. John Jones, advocate for farmworker housing, noted that affordable housing had become the biggest issue in the state with some 130 bills on the issue currently being considered in Sacramento.

Other speakers implored the City to consider allowing space for pets. Cappi Patterson, representing Buddy Nation, promised that if pets would be allowed her organization would cover the cost of feeding and caring for the animals, including veterinary care. Patterson enjoined that pet ownership promotes “reliability, responsibility, and dignity.”

Another speaker spoke of innovative “Navigation Centers” that focus on getting people into housing first, then addressing issues like substance abuse and a lack of state issued ID cards after getting folks off the street, an idea that has seen success in other cities and countries.

Councilmember Christy Weir admonished that any shelter should offer some sense of privacy and dignity, instead of warehousing people in large rooms full of cots and bunk beds. After making several changes in the language and scope of the ordinance, Council members delayed taking a vote on the ordinance until the April 20th meeting in order for the public to review the changes.

In other Council business, the City accepted a grant from the National Police Dog Foundation, with Police Chief Ken Corney offering thanks to Suzanna Underwood for initiating the process along with assistance from the Wood-Claeyssen Foundation.

There was also a budget workshop presented by City of Ventura Finance and Technology Director Gilbert Garcia and staff. Garcia provided a summary of the City’s financial picture and the potential problems with pension costs and maintaining a City-owned golf course. While discussing potential use of Measure O money, (Measure O was passed by voters last November to raise the sales tax in Ventura), Councilmember Mike Tracy suggested that discussion of how that money is budgeted should be guided by the citizens advisory panel, which has yet been appointed.

 

Chamber of Commerce hosts “State of the City” breakfast

by Randal Beeman

Ventura is doing well at present, but “good times don’t last” stated Ventura Mayor Erik Nasarenko, as he discussed the ebb and flow of city government in a seamless breakfast presentation that lasted around 45 minutes at the Top of the Harbor Ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on March 9th.

Chamber President and CEO Stephanie Caldwell welcomed the large crowd to the breakfast.

Hosted by Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Stephanie Caldwell, the elite of the city’s business and government listened as Caldwell spoke of the need for the Chamber to reach all areas of our diverse city, to recruit high growth industries to Ventura, to ease the business startup process for new companies, and to address the homeless situation.

Mayor Nasarenko began his address with a snapshot of municipal finances, noting that Ventura is enjoying  a four-year budget surplus and previous draws on the cash reserves prior to 2012 are being repaid.

Under the stewardship of City Manager Mark Watkins, the city is prepared to fix streets damaged by recent storms, buckled sidewalks, clean up street medians and tree wells, and continue to fund Fire Station #4, which had previously been funded by a federal grant.

Nasarenko highlighted several new projects coming on-line, including the Community Memorial Hospital, the wing of the Ventura County Medical Center, and Kaiser Permanente’s medical suites next to the 101 Freeway.

He stated that “Patagonia and the Trade Desk are both expanding their headquarters in Ventura, VW is building a new facility, and Portside Ventura Harbor remodeling is well under way including the  addition of  220 new apartment units by 2019.”

On a cautionary note, Nasarenko spoke to the ‘fiscal pressures” on the city, including pension costs, the need to build cash reserves that meet  regional standards, the ongoing discussion about affordable housing, and the dearth of water supplies, which have not disappeared with the recent rains.

Since the early 1900s local Chamber of Commerce organizations have worked as city boosters and to represent the interests of the business community in local government. Members pay dues and elect officers. Staff are hired to run programs that further the mission of the Chamber.

The Mayor was keen to praise the Chamber for their support of Measure O this past November, The measure increased the sales tax in Ventura from 7.25% to 7.75%, which is expected to bring an additional 11 million dollars to city coffers this fiscal year. The law requires all of the money is spent within the city.

Dee Dowell Memorial Scholarship Award

Alex Brunk was a 2015 scholarship winner who received $3,500 from the VPOA.

The Ventura Police Officers Association (VPOA) is accepting applications for the 14th annual Dee Dowell Memorial Scholarship. The scholarships will be presented in May to honor 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.

In selecting scholarship recipients, the VPOA will consider academic achievement, school and community service, and financial needs. Applications must contain all required information and be returned no later than April 14. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Scholarship Awards:

  • 1st Place $5,000
  • 2nd Place $3,500
  • 3rd Place $2,000
  • Honorable Mention(s) $500

Applicants must:

  • Be entering his/her freshman through senior year in college;
  • Plan a course of study related to the field of public service;
  • Be a Ventura resident or have graduated from a high school in Ventura within the past three years, or a Ventura Police Department employee or employee’s child.
  • Have a grade point average of 3.0 or better (based on a 4.0 system);
  • Maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or better if selected as a recipient;
  • Submit a resume of school and community activities, including a copy of transcripts through the most recent semester;
  • Submit a typed essay of 1,000 words or less on “Service, what it means to me”;
  • Submit a letter of recommendation from a public servant.

For additional information, please contact Cpl. Cameron Goettsche at 339-4400 or email at cgoettsche@venturapd.org.  Applications are available at the front desk of the Ventura Police Department located at 1425 Dowell Dr. – named after Sergeant Dowell.

School District board voted 4-1 to fire Michael Babb

Michael Babb served as VUSD Superintendent for less than two years.

Ventura Unified School District Superintendent Michael Babb has been fired by the school board. Babb had been superintendent since July 1, 2015 replacing longtime Superintendent Dr. Trudy Tuttle Arriaga after she retired. He will receive six months of his annual salary of $215,605.

The board voted 4-1 to fire Babb without cause.  Trustee Sabrena Rodriguez voted against the firing. The decision was made at a special closed meeting.

The board emphasized that there are no alleged grievances or ongoing investigations into Babb but just felt that a new direction was necessary. Several members felt that his communication and leadership skills were not up to par.

Babb, who lives in Ventura, was previously superintendent of the much smaller Mesa Union School District. He was principal of E.P. Foster Elementary School for five years.

Deputy Superintendent Joe Richards, 60, will serve as interim superintendent until a replacement is hired by the board. Richards stated that he is not interested in filling the position permanently.

When hired Babb stated, “I came to Ventura Unified in 2001, when my own sons and daughter were small. I was a principal at E.P. Foster Elementary, and I brought my children to school with me each day. At the time, Ventura and fatherhood both were new to me, and, like all parents, I hoped and I worried. Would my kids be all right here? Would their teachers be kind? Would they be safe, make friends and learn and grow?”

“As a parent and as a leader, I have found the community and the schools in Ventura to be a rich resource, a comfort and support, a terrific place to work and to raise our children.”

“This is what I wish to preserve for us all, for you and for your children and for their children.  I am certain that if we work together as partners, if we use our collective intelligence, creativity and inspiration, if we treat one another with dignity and work cooperatively, we can provide an ideal learning environment for each one of the students in our town. I look forward to discovering together what wonders we can create by working with our hands and our hearts for their benefit.”

Ventura County’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Ventura County’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held on March 11 on Main St.

The large crowd lining the street enjoyed a gorgeous Ventura day. The Parade is sponsored by Elks Lodge No. 1430 and featured marching bands, horses, music, wonderful cars and much more.

Judges for the parade were Connie Stahl, Elks Lodge #1430; Richard Rush, California State University Channel Islands; Erika Beck, California State University Channel Islands; Sue Georgino, Georgino Development and James Lockwood, Ventura County Fairgrounds.

Ventura County’s Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2017

Community Crime Alert – Tool Thefts

During the last several weeks the Ventura Police Department has responded to over 27 crimes involving the theft of tools from tool boxes affixed to vehicles or from storage containers of businesses. The majority of the crimes have occurred in the industrial area south of the 101 Freeway between Arundell Ave. and Knoll Drive. These crimes are occurring during late night or early morning hours. The suspects are using pry tools or cutting tools to gain entry into the locations.

The Ventura Police Department has increased patrols in this area and we are asking the public to report suspicious activity to our Command Center by calling 650-8010 or 911 in the event of an emergency.