Category Archives: Featured News

Breast cancer survivor tells her story

Ellen Johnson (lower right) is joined in solidarity with colleagues Stephanie Montenegro, Marc Wilde, Lynda Frank, and Katie Furlong.

by Lori Harasta

Asked how Ellen Johnson felt when she first found out she had breast cancer, she said, “Numb. Later that night, I asked my husband, ‘Did he say I have cancer?!’”

It started with a lump she found about three years ago. Biopsies in three areas of the tumor were negative, but it is the protocol of Kaiser Permanente to do surgery to remove tumors, whether or not they test positive for cancer, so Ellen complied. The next time she spoke with the doctor, she got the awful news. It was Stage 3 of an aggressive strain of cancer. The doctor was unable to get all of the cancerous tissue. Further tests showed that the lymph nodes on that side were all affected. She was going to have to have a mastectomy.

Ellen resisted at first. But reality set in when the doctor told her, “I’m trying to save your life!” She left the doctor’s office, went back to her car and cried.

First, there was chemotherapy, which made her tired. A dear friend, Suzette, accompanied her to every chemotherapy treatment. Except for the side effects, Ellen actually enjoyed the sessions. “It was an odd sense of community, all of us there sharing the experience of having cancer. The nurses were amazing! There was no sense of talking down to any of us. I enjoyed hearing their banter and teasing one another. They were upbeat, sensitive, and genuine.” The chemotherapy was followed by surgery and then radiation.

Ellen retired recently from her position as Grants Manager for Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Association. One of the things that made it easier for her to get through the treatments was strong support from her co-workers and the ability to work a flexible schedule. “My co-workers picked up the slack for me. Having their support made it so much easier to make it through.”

Her hair fell out and as a way of educating others about breast cancer, Ellen chose to wear scarves or hats instead of a wig. Indeed, conversations were opened up. She was surprised at the warm encouragement of fellow survivors she encountered who asked how she was doing and shared their own cancer experiences.

Cancer has changed Ellen’s outlook. “Anytime we face the possibility of our own mortality, it changes our priorities. I have been given the gift of seeing things more realistically. It has been a real wake-up call.”

Locals speak out on pot laws – Part 2 of 2

by Paul Peterson

Ventura citizens filled the Community Meeting Room in City Hall on September 28 to express their views on the pending cannabis regulations.

The unity in the room was palpable as numerous personal stories were presented in favor of the need for easier access to medical cannabis, delivery services, convenient storefronts and growing pot, indoors and out. Responsible suggestions and positions in favor of these issues were offered. Several seriously ill patients expressed the difficulty of traveling outside the county to get medication due to our local restrictions. The overall message to the council was clear, that citizens want and expect our city to respond to the will of the people. It seemed the questions waiting for the council’s answers at the October 9th meeting was not if but when and how fast to move.

“I’m glad we had the opportunity to hear from the community regarding the City’s policy on marijuana/cannabis. We will be providing the City Council their options and recommendation at the October 9th City Council meeting”, reported Jeffrey Lambert, Community Development Director.

It is expected that the recommendation will only include medical marijuana deliveries within the city and nothing for recreational access.

There is a great potential income to the city coffers, in addition to making sure citizens have safe access to what they have voted for, which includes the right to own and cultivate small amounts of marijuana. There are also jobs at stake. There have been a number of high profile conventions in the LA area catering to various elements of this budding new industry.

The Emerald Exchange, held in Thousand Oaks in August was a Renaissance Faire-like presentation of growers, collectives and new cannabis related products that have sprouted up around them. “We had over 1,000 attendees and over 50 brands represented”, reported event organizer Michael Katz ( It was the ancillary products that carried the day. Offerings of new derivatives from the cannabis plant including extracts used as medicine, tinctures and infusion into foods were dominant. There were seminars on the use of cannabis for treatment of PTSD, seizures and chronic pain. Celebrity stoner Tommy Chong of the comedy duo Cheech & Chong was on hand to represent his latest line of pipes. But the main focus was on multi-course meals specially prepared with varying levels of cannabis infused. Other companies offered baked goods from cookies to brownies but now extending to juices, teas, coffees, soda, beer, chocolates and desserts. The future of the pot industry seems to not only be healthy and smell good, but taste good too.

Those interested in investing in this blossoming industry gathered at the MJAC Conference September 1 and 2 in downtown LA to bring cannabis product entrepreneurs together with investors. It was a Shark Tank for pot related products and services. A panel of judges awarded cash on the spot to lucky entrepreneurs. Among those were CBD pills that extract only pot’s pain relieving qualities, not the psychoactive qualities and could soon be available as a supplement over the counter. There was a stylish, odorless humidifier for home pot storage and a line of luxury aroma free purses and handbags to carry your stash to the girl’s night out. “We aren’t guilty teenagers anymore, it’s a new cannabis culture” declared the creator.

Business was also brisk at the Cannabis World Conference at the LA Convention Center September 13-15. The Reverend Al Sharpton delivered a spirited keynote address calling for legalization with diversity and fairness in the new industry. “This can’t be an industry where blacks go to jail and whites go to the bank”, he stated. Opportunity for all was the message. The presence of larger manufacturing companies bringing their expertise to the business was also apparent as the level of industry acumen rises to meet the massive pending demand. Those looking to start large or small grow farms, collectives, pot shops and related items found everything they needed to open their storefronts from products to packaging to promotion to navigating the legal hurdles. It is those legal ground rules that are the most complex, depending on where you are in the state.

That brings us back to the Ventura City Council and how they will rule and what guidelines will be set after considering their citizen’s input.

Editor: We would love to hear your thoughts on this very important issue.

Ventura Breeze celebrates 10 years providing hometown news

• WOW, WOW and WOW! Pinch me – it can’t be true that we just completed our tenth year of publication. Our first issue, on Oct.24, 2007, is shown on this cover.

Besides not knowing anything about the newspaper business when Staci Brown and I launched the Ventura Breeze, we didn’t know if Venturans would accept a very local newspaper, or if Ventura even needed one. It turns out both of these things turned out to be true. Ventura has embraced the Breeze and has come to love it. What I hear most from readers is, “We love reading the Breeze.”

There are so many people to thank, so I’m sure I will overlook some very deserving people. I want to thank our dedicated readers, our fabulous advertisers who keep us in business, our unbelievable dedicated staff, and our writers, photographers and distributors.

All of the “Breezers” deserve a hearty thank you.

A few of these people have been with us since the beginning:

  • Staci Brown – who is now the Publisher Emeritus
  • Professor Scamp – who almost made it to our 10th year issue
  • Rebecca Wicks
  • Suz Montgomery
  • Studio Nothing (Alfred J. Lewis)
  • Bill Green

A special thanks needs to go out to these people as well:

Alfred J. Lewis of Studio Nothing who does a great job laying out the paper and who also acts as my personal therapist by always telling me, “Don’t worry we will get the issue out, have we ever missed one?”

And a very sincere thank you to Senior Account Executive Breezy Gledhill whose perseverance in selling ads keeps us afloat. Without her, there wouldn’t be the Ventura Breeze for you to read. And, the best part, is that she loves doing it and our advertisers love her too.

Thanks also to Cindy Summers for making our website, and Facebook pages look outstanding, along with writing some of our articles.

And to Jaime and Ana Baker for going way beyond with their great support of the Breeze – from delivering papers, to writing articles and creating great caricatures, to setting-up our (actually their) Ventura Breeze booth at all of the events we attend.

Last, but not least, I want to give a special shout-out to my wife, Diane, who no longer says to me, “Are you nuts getting up to write at 3am, and is this still costing us money?” And, who puts up with me every day (well, some days maybe not so much).

Here are a few lows that we saw during our ten years.

We lost a few wonderful contributors and friends:

The passing of Jim Spencer, who, with wife Shirley, wrote our theater reviews. Wonderful Shirley is carrying on with their family tradition.

Nanci Cohen, a friend and contributing writer.

Professor Scamp, my buddy, who I miss dearly every day.

Lance Cole, who always had a joke to tell.

Alfred Lewis’ wonderful wife Cathi who kept Alfred focused and out of trouble (not an easy task) so he could work on the Breeze.

We also lost several Face of Ventura portrait sitters painted by Johanna Spinks. Not contributors, but they became a special part of the Breeze through their portraits and stories.

There have been many highlights, of course. Here are just a few:

Alfred, lying in a hospital bed at CMH, working on an issue on his large computer screen.

The Face of Ventura portrait series by Johanna Spinks, and the amazing party that we had at the Museum of Ventura County to celebrate it.

Winning several awards (I’m sure I’m missing some) including:

Turning Point Foundation’s Champions of Mental Health

Ventura County Area on Aging Optimal Aging Champion Award Age-Friendly Media Award

Ventura Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year

Sponsoring many non-profits and great events including Pier Under the Stars, CARL (Canine Adoption & Rescue League), and the City’s Music Under the Stars.

Appearing on radio station KVTA and CAPSTV and now having a weekly radio show on KPPQLP (that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t publish the Breeze).

Getting into trouble with our April Fools’ Day issues –

Sharing just this one. We published a story about the City Council approving an absurd Walmart concept that included golf courses, ponds and bowling alleys. A gentleman who was shocked that the Council had approved this project appeared at a City Council meeting. After assuring him that it was a joke, ex-Councilmember Carl Morehouse looked at the CAP’S camera and said, “Sheldon, we love ya, but don’t do that again.” Just the incentive that I need!

The paper going to all color and increasing in size.

And, personally, just being a big part of our glorious city. The many people who come up to me (from 13 to 93 and above) to tell me how important the Breeze is to them, and to Ventura. This alone makes it all worthwhile, and rewarding. I thank you all again for supporting us.

Here’s to the next 10!

What is a VPD VIP?

Jerry Mendelson and Paul Magie will do vacation checks on your home while you’re away.

by Jerry Mendelsohn

Ventura Police Department Volunteer

What is a VIP? Well, other than a shortcut to a definition of Very Important Person, the Ventura Police Department uses the abbreviation to identify a successful program it implemented over a decade ago–Volunteers In Policing.

Who are these people, and what do they do? Having been one for almost 7 years, allow me to simply say that each person is someone who wants to “pay it forward” by giving back to the community, has some time to volunteer, and believes in the merits of law and order.

Both men and women participate. Though most are retired, their backgrounds show talents as teachers , school administrators, corporate positions, business owners, law enforcement, and so on. Stringent background checks precede an invitation to a police “aca demy, ” and, upon graduation, it is suggested that a volunteer attempt to give a minimum of 16 hours or more of service per month .

You have probably seen VIPs around town in marked white vehicles, either vans or SUVs. They are radio-e quipped so VIPs can be in touch with the police station’s “comcenter”- -dispatch–and vice versa, for assignments and anything else with which VIPs can help. VIPs typically patrol in pairs.

The primary purpose of the VIP is to be a “visible presence” in the community and to aid the regular , sworn officers as needed, primarily to relieve them of some of the duties that might occupy their time when they could be better utilized as crime fighters involved with more serious issues that , unfortunately, impact every community .

VIPs commonly do traffic control when needed. They are permitted to issue some citations for non-moving violations, such as parking illegally, etc . Indeed , Ventura had a fairly frequent problem of people parking in designated handicapped spots but with no displayed placard.

Partially through a concerted, continual effort by the VIPs, handicapped parking violations have diminished dramatically .

VIPs often will take written reports of non-injury accidents, interacting with the victims, calling for back-up of an officer if needed, and then entering said reports into the police system, typically for insurance companies. Further, VIPs will assist officers with transportation of personal property of vagrants and others who the officers may need to take to a hospital or jail.

VIPs are called to residences to, again, take written reports on home and auto burglaries. While city resident s are invited to file online reports, many do not or are uncomfortable with doing so, so VIPs assist .

As a community service, VIPs will do vacation checks on your home while you’re away, walking

your property to verify doors and windows are secure, that there appears to be no break-in attempts, and

that your property seems OK until you return. Visible signs of an owner being away, such as door-hangers and newspapers, or trash cans left out, may be picked up and/or put away as is feasible.

The VIP may patrol school zones, with a keen eye out for suspicious loiterers or people perhaps sitting in cars who don’t belong there or are acting strangely.

Other tasks also fill up VIP shifts, but I’ve tried to identify some of the more frequent ones. Should you have any questions, comments, or concerns, you may contact the Ventura Police Department Civic Engagement Specialist at 339-4317.

Ventura City Fire Department respond to fire and extinguish in seventeen minutes

On Oct.5, at 9:22pm Ventura City Fire Department responded to a report of smoke and fire in a residential home in the 200 Block of N Ventura Ave.  Upon arrival fire crews found a fire burning underneath of a raised foundation house and extending into the interior of the home.  Firefighters extinguished the fire seventeen minutes after arrival. The home, which had burned a year earlier, was unoccupied at the time of the fire.  The cause of the fire is suspicious and remains under investigation.  No firefighters were injured as a result of this incident.

Phase 2 of the project will be developed as funds are raised.

Lots to do at Kellogg Park already.

The newest member of the City of Ventura’s Parks, Recreation and Community Partnerships division, Kellogg Park, is currently in its first phase of construction. Kellogg Park began as a community driven project to increase park area on the Westside of Ventura, and although there were no available funds to build the park, the City and its partners secured $3.5 of the $4.5 of the funds needed to construct the park through grants and donations. The first phase of the 2.41 acre park will feature community gathering spaces, an amphitheater, playground area, outdoor exercise equipment, and a perimeter walking path.

The construction at Kellogg Park is moving along quickly. People walking by can now see that play and exercise equipment have been installed, as well as, new cobble seat walls surrounding the play areas. Work has also begun on beautiful pebble mosaics. Park staff are set for an April 2018 expected completion date, of the first phase of this park. The first phase of the 2.41 acre park will feature community gathering spaces, an amphitheater, playground area, outdoor exercise equipment, and a perimeter walking path. For more information, photos and videos please visit the Kellogg Park website

City schedules open discussion on pot regulations

How should the city approach the new pending marijuana regulations?

by Paul Peterson- Pat 1 of 2

The city of Ventura has just announced it will host a community meeting for all Venturans to offer input as to how the city should approach the new pending marijuana regulations. The meeting will be held Thursday, September 28th at 6pm in the Community Meeting Room at City Hall, 501 Poli Street. The public will be asked to weigh in on issues such as marijuana store fronts, delivery services, cultivation, taxes, zoning and other related issues. The input will then be given to the city council at another public meeting on October 9th, also at 6pm in council chambers. Those who can’t attend are encouraged to email their input to This is a real opportunity for the people to speak out on this subject.

On January 1st, 2018 marijuana becomes legal to consume and cultivate for Californians over age 21. The supporting cannabis industry has been gearing up for legalization with a series of pot industry conventions and confabs throughout Southern California. The level of business acumen and innovation is surprising. More details on these gatherings along with input from the September 28 meeting will follow in a second installment for The Breeze.

Recent polls have shown national support for medical marijuana now tops 90% while support for legalization for all is now over 60%. It seems to be the will of the people. Ventura has remained on the sidelines so far as to whether the new law will be approached as a problem or an opportunity.

There has been enormous financial success for Colorado since enacting their law. Gross sales will surpass one and a half billion dollars this year resulting in tax revenues of over 116 million dollars for Coloradoans. California’s gross sales are expected to top 8 billion in a few short years.

How Ventura will fare in this coming tax and licensing windfall lies in the policies developed going forward.

It should be noted that at all the aforementioned cannabis confabs, optimism is very high and opportunities for starting new businesses were everywhere. Many women were seen as leading entrepreneurs in these new businesses, especially in food infusion and minorities seek to be equally represented as shop owners and distributors. There seems to be new opportunities for many.

January is right around the corner and Ventura’s opportunity to take advantage of a whole new industry is on the line. It appears to be the biggest new revenue source in decades for city coffers. Opposing progress might be akin to being the last dry town in a wet state, to use a prohibition example. Illustrating this, the town of Milliken, Colorado is now approving pot shop licenses to two new businesses because the nearby town of Garden City now credits pot taxes and license fees for bringing in half of their $1.3 million dollar budget. Imagine doubling a city’s income and being able to fund new projects and complete existing ones. That may be the opportunity before our city council. Citizens have a chance to express responsible views at the upcoming events September 28 and again October 9th. City funding and jobs are at stake.

The plan is to evaluate the one way conversion in six months

Were you surprised to see this?

by Jeff Hereford, City of Ventura Civil Engineer

Harbor Boulevard west of Figueroa (adjacent to the Amtrak station) has been permanently converted to an eastbound one way street. Note that the section of Harbor Boulevard east of Garden Street (adjacent to the fairgrounds) is already an eastbound one way street.

For the past couple years Harbor Boulevard west of Figueroa has been converted to eastbound one way as a part of the VC Fair traffic control set up. Since the conversion was made VPD has indicated a significant improvement to traffic flow during the 10 days of the fair, particularly when fairgoers exit the fairgrounds in the late evening. A significant amount of work has to be done each year to make this conversion which includes re-striping the roadway. The removal of the striping has an impact to the condition of the pavement and over time will require additional maintenance. In addition, there is a significant cost in making these changes each year.

With the growing number of special events at the Fairgrounds and the amount of work it takes to convert to one way each year prior to the fair, it would be beneficial to just make the one way permanent. People wanting to go to the Amtrak station will need to traverse through the fairgrounds parking lot. New signage has been installed as a part of the permanent conversion to guide motorists to the station. The fairgrounds will accommodate access to the station through their parking lot. The fairgrounds already has an agreement with the City to provide 22 parking spaces in their lot for long term parking for Amtrak passengers. In addition to coordinating with the fairgrounds we have also coordinated with the DVP (Downtown Ventura Partners)trolley. The trolley will also need to traverse through the fairgrounds parking lot. This has been discussed and there doesn’t seem to be any issues.

The plan is to evaluate the one way conversion in six months to see if there are any major issues that arise. The City, Fairgrounds, VPD, Fire, and DVP will all be involved in the evaluation. Since the striping has been done in paint rather than a more permanent striping material it can be changed back to the original layout fairly easy.

Rubicon Theatre conducts search for executive director

Company moves into 20th anniversary season.

Rubicon Theatre seeks to hire an experienced and energetic, hands-on Executive Director (ED) to take the organization to the next level. According to the Chair of the Search Committee Walt Wood, “We are especially looking for someone with a proven record of success in board and committee development, fundraising, financial management, and administration.”

Reporting to the Board of Directors, the ED will work closely with founding artistic directors Karyl Lynn Burns and James O’Neil to support and carry out the mission of the company. The ED will have responsibility for a “Capital and Comprehensive” campaign, make and manage donor solicitations, and oversee facility renovations and expansion during and after the campaign. Exceptional verbal and written skills are a necessity.

Rubicon Theatre, founded in 1998, is about to embark on its 20th Season as one of the premiere nonprofit professional theatre companies in Southern California. Rubicon Theatre Company has served more than 440,000 audience members and 45,000 students in an intimate 185-seat renovated former church built in the 1920s. Rubicon began as an actors’ and directors’ company and is committed to creating a nurturing environment for artists and creating an atmosphere where experimentation and exploration are encouraged and supported. As a result, a number of notable artists have graced the Rubicon stage, including Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Golden Globe and Obie Award-winners.

Annual programming consists of a season of 5-8 diverse shows (dramas, comedies and musicals); a Broadway concert series; festivals; special events; and education and outreach programs. The company has presented numerous World Premieres and has launched national and international tours. Last year, three Rubicon-originated or developed productions played Off-Broadway. The company has been the recipient of multiple Ovation and Indy Awards, an NAACP Award, the L.A. Drama Critics Margaret Harford Award for “Sustained Excellence,” and the N.Y. Drama Desk Award.

Interested candidates should send a cover letter and resume to Search Committee, Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura, CA 93001. Fax 667-2904. Or e-mail: No phone calls please. EOE. For complete details