Category Archives: Featured News

Neal Andrews elected Ventura mayor

His City Council colleagues voted 7-0 for him to be mayor.

After more than 20 years as an active businessman and community volunteer in Ventura, Neal Andrews was encouraged by many citizens of Ventura to run for City Council. He was elected on his first attempt in 2001.

Now 16-years later he has been selected to be Ventura’s mayor by the City Council.

Before founding Horizon Management Services, Neal worked in a variety of capacities with Blue Cross of California, managing their statewide system of contracting for health services and later heading Behavioral Health Access, the corporate division responsible for mental health services to Blue Cross members. He has also been a hospital administrator, chief executive of a regional joint powers agency, and a university professor.

His professional honors include being twice elected to the International Board of Directors of The Planning Forum, then the leading international professional organization in the discipline of strategic planning and management. In addition, Neal has served on the National Leadership Council for the Institute for Behavioral Health, as a Scholar-Diplomat under the sponsorship of the U. S. State Department, as a Fellow of the National Security Education Seminar and the Inter-University Colloquium on Armed Forces and Society.

He is the author of Foreign Policy and the New American Military and many papers and articles on matters of public policy, business, and health care over the years. He is a popular speaker before regional and national conference audiences including such prestigious organizations as The Conference Board, the California Medical Association, and the National Managed Health Care Congress.

Over the years, Neal has also served as the Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties representative on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Health Care Executives Association, as a Member of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the San Buenaventura Foundation for the Arts, and as an officer and board member of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, among others. He is widely known as an active citizen advocate in water quality and water conservation public policy issues in Ventura.

He is a member of Rotary, Kiwanis, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks.

Neal received his baccalaureate degree from Duke University and his graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He later completed additional post-graduate work at the Michigan State University School of Public Administration and the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

He had been the longest-serving council member to never hold the post of mayor. His colleagues voted 7-0 for him to be mayor. In December 2015, Andrews was named deputy mayor when Erik Nasarenko became mayor. He succeeded Nasarenko at the conclusion of his two-year term.

Andrews stated when the council decides on a policy, “I will be the spokesperson for that policy, even if I didn’t agree with it.”

Andrews went on “I’ll be immediately focused on hiring a new city manager (Mark Watkins is retiring this month)and devoting my energy to redistricting.” The city is creating district boundaries for the upcoming election.

When elected little did he know that his first concern would be the devastating fires that have over -whelmed Ventura.

Council member Matt LaVere, who was elected in 2016, became deputy mayor on a 7-0 vote.

Erik Nasarenko’s parents and sister were in attendance at the city council meeting . He thanked the crowd and spoke of accomplishments of which he was particularly proud. Including getting a half-cent sales tax approved and moving the city to even year elections.

Workshop on renters’ rights at Ventura County Government Center Dec. 27 at 4pm

On Wednesday, December 27, the County of Ventura, in partnership with the City of Ventura, is hosting an informational workshop to help renters understand their rights.  The workshop will provide information covering a wide variety of topics including: tenant rights and responsibilities; landlord rights and responsibilities; unexpected rent increases and price gouging; and affects to lease agreements if a housing unit was destroyed or is uninhabitable due to the Thomas Fire.

Several reports of price gouging, sudden eviction of existing tenants, landlord refusal to clean smoke and ash in units not directly damaged by the fire, and imposing illegal restrictions on new rentals have been received. This workshop will address these and other issues and provide an opportunity to ask questions from experts to help protect our residents from unscrupulous activity.

 The workshop will be held Wednesday, December 27, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Ventura County Government Center, Hall of Administration, Lower Plaza Assembly Room (LPAR), located at 800 South Victoria Avenue, Ventura, CA 93009.  The workshop is presented in partnership with the California Rural Legal Assistance, Jewish Family Services, CAUSE, the Housing Rights Center, and Many Mansions.

 For questions, please contact Tracy McAulay, County of Ventura, at 805-662-6792. Additional information about fire recovery efforts can be found at www.VenturaCountyRecovers.org.

Local Assistance Center in Ventura closing Saturday, Dec. 23

After serving for two weeks as a one-stop center for fire recovery information and assistance, the Local Assistance Center that was jointly run by the County and the City of Ventura will close its doors on Saturday, Dec. 23, at 5 p.m. Residents still seeking services are encouraged to visit the Center by Saturday, or may obtain services after Saturday at existing local County and City offices.

The County of Ventura and the City of Ventura opened the Center on Dec. 13 at the Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura to assist residents from all areas affected by the Thomas Fire. It has been staffed by a wide array of County, City, State and Federal agencies, as well as a number of non-profit organizations.

“The Local Assistance Center, which has helped 1,968 households to date, has served as a great example of how County and City government can work together to aid our residents across jurisdictions,” said County Executive Officer Mike Powers.

Residents have used the Local Assistance Center to start their recovery from the fire. Information is available on debris removal, permits, housing, rental assistance, vital records, property assessments, public assistance, crisis intervention and stress management, and even services such as replacing driver’s licenses. Health care resources are available on site to provide assistance, education, and connections to other health services in the community.

 “The assistance center provided a very useful service as the County and the City and our partners responded to the substantial needs of our community and those most directly affected.   While the use of the center has decreased significantly over the last few days, the City will continue to offer a full array of direct services and assistance to folks at City Hall.  Those that still need help can contact us at City Hall or come to City Hall where we have a fire related service counter established”, said Dan Paranick, Assistant Ventura City Manager.

The Local Assistance Center will remain open on Thursday, December 21st and Friday, December 22nd 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturday, December 23rd, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The County has also opened Recovery Information Center trailers in Ojai and Santa Paula which will operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Friday, Dec. 22.  These two locations offer debris removal and permitting information, public assistance and housing/rental assistance, and connections to Health education, resources and counseling.

“We can continue to serve people effectively and efficiently through our regular channels,” said Barry Zimmerman, Director of the County Human Services Agency, which oversees the Center.   Contact information for agencies that have been present at the Local Assistance Center is attached.

To further aid fire victims, Ventura County Recovers (venturacountyrecovers.org) continues to offer a registration feature that allows residents to register their contact information to receive information on specific topics. They can also register the address of their damaged or destroyed property so that officials can proactively provide them with information and official notices related to the rebuilding process.

United Way Thomas Fire Fund

In response to an outpouring of support, United Way of Santa Barbara County is joining forces with United Way of Ventura County with a joint fund to directly support those individuals and families affected by the fire in both Counties—The United Way Thomas Fire Fund.

Local community partners have determined that the United Way organizations, in both counties, are uniquely positioned and qualified to manage the disaster fund, accept contributions, make distributions, promote the fund and provide a report to the community on how the funds were used. After the wildfire is contained, a committee of representatives from community- and faith-based organizations will be convened to assess needs and allocate money from the fund in Ventura. In Santa Barbara County, United Way of Santa Barbara County will coordinate with local partners such as the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Santa Barbara County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (SBC VOAD) to determine the most appropriate SBC VOAD member organizations and individuals to receive funding, based on the direct need of those affected. United Way of Santa Barbara County may also work to address additional support for individual victims if the wildfire emergency expands into more populated areas.

“The financial and emotional costs of the loss of homes and businesses in Ventura County, including Ojai, is immense and difficult to comprehend,” said Eric Harrison, CEO, United Way of Ventura County. “We will do all we can to ensure a solid path to recovery for our residents.”

To date, $2.25 million has been raised.

Both organizations will utilize the Ventura County systems of donating to the Fund that have already been established. One-hundred percent of the donations will support those in communities affected by the wildfires. Donations can be made by texting UWVC to 41444, online at www.unitedwaythomasfirefund.org, www.unitedwaysb.org or www.vcunitedway.org or by calling 485-6288. Checks may be sent to the United Way office at 702 County Square Drive, Suite 100, Ventura, CA 93003. Please write “Thomas Fire Fund” in the memo.

Free masks are available

N-95 masks require a tight seal to be effective.

Due to continuing unhealthy air conditions resulting from the Thomas Fire, free particulate respirators (N-95 masks) are being distributed as part of a coordinated effort of the Ventura County Public Health Department, Emergency Medical Services Agency, various County agencies, City government and multiple community based organizations. To date, over 500,000 masks have been distributed throughout Ventura County. The sites that will distribute masks are available and update routinely on readyventuracounty.org and current locations are listed below.

  • Ventura County Fair – Red Cross Shelter, 10 W. Harbor Blvd
  • EP Foster Library, 651 E. Main St. Ventura
  • Beth Torah Temple, 7620 Foothill Road
  • Barranca Vista Center, 7050 Ralston Street
  • Museum of Ventura County, 100 E. Main Street
  • Hill Road Library, 1070 S. Hill Road
  • Saticoy Library, 1292 Los Angeles Avenue
  • San Jon Yard, 336 San Jon Road
  • City Hall, 501 Poli St. (entrance at back parking lot)
  • Academic Family Medicine Center, 3291 Loma Vista Road, Building 340, Suite 201
  • West Ventura Medical Clinic, 133 W Santa Clara St
  • Ventura County Health Care Agency, 5851 Thille St
  • Ventura County Health Care Agency, 2323 Knoll Dr # 414

Please note that the N-95 masks require a tight seal to be effective and as a result the available adult sized masks will provide only limited protection for most children. N-95 masks when fitted properly provide some protection from the fine particles in smoke. Ordinary dust masks and surgical masks do not provide this protection. Limited quantities of small masks are being distributed to locations that are more likely to have a concentration of children. When properly worn, these masks should provide a tighter seal for a child’s smaller face. Please note, that only limited quantities of these masks are available. Masks are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be available as supplies last.

Trash Pickup Not Available in Evacuation Areas

Harrison Industries advises that trash pickup is not being allowed in mandatory evacuation areas until further notice. No removal of fire debris can occur from properties without a hazardous material inspection conducted by either the Environmental Protection Agency or the State Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Several areas affected by the Thomas Fire have been under mandatory evacuation.

Not only are trash trucks not permitted in some evacuation areas, no debris  bins can be provided to property owners for the purpose of fire debris removal without the authorization of the Ventura County Environmental Health Division.

On Dec. 8, the Ventura County Public Health Officer declared a Local Health Emergency to limit the public’s exposure to hazardous substances.

This Declaration enables the State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to survey damaged properties and remove household hazardous wastes at no cost to property owners. It also enables property owners to participate in a voluntary Fire Debris Clearance program administered through the State Office of Emergency Services (OES) and CalRecycle.

Property owners who opt out of the Fire Debris Clearance Program must obtain permission from the Ventura County Environmental Health Division before beginning the removal of fire debris to ensure the private debris removal, transport, and disposal is conducted in a manner that does not endanger the community.

County launches rental assistance program for fire victims

The County of Ventura Board of Supervisors has approved the use of $500,000 in General Fund to establish a rental assistance program for eligible residents who cannot return to their homes due to the impact of local wildfires.  The program, which expands upon current rental assistance programs for low-income households administered by the County of Ventura Human Services Agency, will began accepting applications Wednesday, December 13th

Eligibility criteria for the program include:  county residency; displacement from housing due to local wildfires; financial ability to maintain housing after receiving assistance; and a household income up to 120% of the median income for the local area, based on household size.  The yearly income limit for a household of one person, for example, is $84,000.  For a household of two, the income limit is $96,000, and for a household of four, the income limit is $119,880.

 “Short term rental assistance will help our lower and middle income neighbors who lost their homes get back on their feet more quickly,” said Steve Bennett, County Supervisor for the First District. “Individuals and families with children need the stability of a home to regain some normalcy in their lives and return to work or school while they make longer term plans.”

The new program may offer eligible fire victims help with:  interim housing, rental payments, replacement of household and personal items, moving and storage costs, rental deposits, utility deposits and payments, and credit counseling, as needed.  Barry Zimmerman, Human Services Agency Director stated, “We have years of experience running similar programs successfully, so we can implement this one quickly and ensure that assistance begins to flow.”

Beginning Wednesday, December 13th, information about applying for this new program may be found in English and Spanish on the Ventura County Recovers website, which provides a comprehensive source of information for all matters relating to fire recovery, and on the Ventura County Human Services Agency’s web site (www.vchsa.org/help).

Ventura County Recovers: www.VenturaCountyRecovers.org

Human Services Agency:  www.vchsa.org/help

Ventura County and City of Ventura open “One-Stop” Local Assistance Center at Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura

On Wednesday, December 13, the County of Ventura and the City of Ventura will open a Local Assistance Center at the Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura. Located at 3451 Foothill road in Ventura, the center is a one-stop resource for residents affected by the Thomas Fire.

The Local Assistance Center will be open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., for the next two weeks, and longer if necessary. The hours are subject to change depending on demand. Bilingual staff will be available to provide assistance.

The center will be staffed by representatives from the County of Ventura, the City of Ventura, and nine state agencies, including the Department of Motor Vehicles. The County is also working on providing additional service centers in the Ojai and Santa Clara Valley areas for social, health care and permitting services. The Local Assistance Center is a short-term facility and will close after the initial recovery period, but the services will remain available at the normal city and county offices.

Residents will be able to use the Local Assistance Center to start their recovery from the fire. There will be information on debris removal, permits, housing, rental assistance, vital records, property assessments, public assistance, crisis intervention and stress management, and even services such as replacing driver’s licenses. Health care resources will be available on site to provide assistance, education, and connections to other health services in the community.

The center is expected to be very busy and, although walk-ins will be welcomed, appointments are strongly encouraged. Residents with appoints will receive priority service. Appointments can be made on the Ventura County Recovers website or by calling 211. Those requiring transportation to the center can call the hotline at (805) 465-6650.

To further aid fire victims, Ventura County Recovers is now offering a registration feature that allows residents to register their contact information to receive information on specific topics. They can also register the address of their damaged or destroyed property so that officials can proactively provide them with information and official notices related to the rebuilding process.

Because there will be numerous updates to the site as new information becomes available, registering on the site will help to ensure that current information gets to the people who need it most.

The registration feature is fully accessible by mobile, tablet and desktop devices.

Cooper wants to share some puppy love with fire victims

Occupational therapist Lauren Taluy and her registered therapy dog Cooper are available to visit places supporting displaced families for Cooper to share some puppy love with those affected by the fires. Cooper is 10 years old and has been with Lauren since he was 8 weeks old, which is when he began his life as a therapy dog. Cooper’s family lives in Ventura and includes Lauren’s husband Timur and her 2 children, 4 year old Ellie and 2 year old Hudson. Please contact Lauren at 805-300-8103 or email Im.taluy@gmail.com to arrange for a visit from Cooper.