Category Archives: Opinion/Editorial

Vol. 11, No. 17 – May 23 – June 5, 2018 – Opinion/Editorial

• Hopefully the Amgen bike tour that went through Ventura brought us some positive publicity. I don’t watch channels 2-13, or listen to KFI, but I hope that those who jumped on the bandwagon to talk about how dangerous Ventura is, also informed these media outlets that they should cover this wonderful event. Media should also shine a light on the thousands of Venturans who came out to support it and who volunteered their services.

Should we have a painting party?

•In the past, I have commented on the horrible workmanship performed on the pedestrian crossing bridge that runs over the freeway to the promenade.

This is what the work consisted of per the Department of Transportation(DOT): “The department is working with the City of Ventura to provide for a safe and accessible pedestrian overcrossing that gives access to people shopping, recreating and living in the area. This polyester concrete overlay will improve the surface and the replaced handrail will provide comfort and safety for users.”

Even though painting was not in the contract for Guills, Inc. of Pasadena, I would think that for almost $400,000 they could have taken a little pride in their work and spent a day painting it.

I have contacted the DOT suggesting that they do the painting. If they won’t, perhaps Ventura could paint it (it reflects upon us) or the Ventura Breeze could have a painting party and we can all paint it. Of course, we would need permission from the DOT and probably need to provide a million-dollar liability insurance policy.

•Fire related debris removal has basically been completed. The debris removal process was performed by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery for a cost of about $67 million. About 670 properties were enrolled in the CalRecycle debris removal program and over 250,000 tons of debris has been removed.

Some properties still require soil samples to pass tests or need erosion control assessments. Others are ready (after permits) to start building, but I see more and more lots for sale as owners (some elderly) just aren’t willing to go through the re-building process.

•Even without the help of El Nino, 2017 was the third hottest year on record just slightly below the record high temperatures of 2016.

Homelessness is certainly not unique to Ventura as some may think. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has increased spending to address homelessness. Their new budget calls for $402 million to spend on programs that include homelessness prevention, rent subsidies, outreach, preservation of affordable housing, employment services and shelters. It’s all about the money.

•A judge has suspended the criminal case against Jamal Jackson, who was charged with premeditated first-degree murder for the April 18 attack that left Anthony Mele dead, ordering the defendant to undergo a mental health evaluation. The ruling came after Jamal Jackson’s public defender expressed doubt as to whether the man’s mental competency allows him to be judged at this time.

Jackson is due back in court on June 14 for a mental health competency hearing where results of his evaluation will be heard to determine if he will be able to stand trial.

• At a recent City Council meeting, a group of residents attended with a different message, the kind that we need. They held up signs that read, “Don’t use tragedy to spread hate” and spoke of a need to work together on solutions to address homelessness, as criminalizing the issue is not the solution.

Interim City Manager Dan Paranick asked residents who have possible solutions to share them with city officials. He said city staff was looking at the issue from all directions and taking into account everyone’s opinions and ideas to help solve the situation.

The city is working with the county to identify a site appropriate for a year-round shelter with necessary services. The goal is for a shelter to open in both Ventura and Oxnard and ideally be run by the same operator.

•Congratulations to Fox Jewelry (article in last issue) for raising almost $60,000 to be used by fire victims. Wonderful how most of the community has come together to help so many in need.

•Perhaps it is too easy to run for office in California. There are 28 candidates running for governor and 32 for senator. Want to run? Get 10 friends to support you and send in your $25.

•Recently Trump had the nerve to tell the French that the reason they had a mass killing is that they don’t own enough guns like we do. This statement suggests that we are much safer than the French because we own more guns, so I decided to look at the facts.

Gun ownership: France has 2.83 guns per 100,000 residents. USA citizens own 11.96 guns per 100,000 people. That means USA residents own 4.2 times more guns than the French.

Gun related deaths: France 14.96 per 100, USA 101.05 per 100. Almost 7 times more gun deaths in the USA than France.

The recent killing of 10 high school students in Texas, where everyone (I think you need to be over 6 years old) is allowed to carry a gun, didn’t stop that awful tragedy.

•The City Council has approved an ordinance that sets rules for those wishing to rebuild following the Thomas Fire. It is rather complicated but has good intentions and will expedite the process. The council listened to architect’s suggestions and concerns to help them make the guidelines.

•Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, the man suspected to be the Golden State Killer, was charged with murder in the bludgeoning deaths of Lyman and Charlene Smith in their Ventura home in March 1980, along with at least 10 other deaths. An ex-police officer, his list of crimes and murders is on-going.

I can imagine the euphoria of the police personnel who worked on this case for almost 40 years and the moment current investigators realized they had solved it (because of DNA). “We have found the needle in the haystack,” Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said at a news conference.

•As you know (I hope), we recently held an un-official naming of the St. Pats parade green pig. Hamlet was selected as the winner. It was suggested that we print a few of the other suggested names, so here they are; Greasy, Erin Go Oink, Darby O’portchop, Megan O’ Piggy, Sean O’ Bacon , Hamschock, Piggly-Wiggly, Pigasso , Ham L. Ton, Harley Hog, Iggy Piggy, Ham Solo, Cris P. Bacon, Pig A Choo, Albert Einswine and Chubby Buns.

Perhaps Green Eggs and Hamlet (thanks to Dr. Seuss) would be good. And next year at the parade, the pig might still be named Bacon. We were just having fun.

Vol. 11, No. 16 – May 9 – May 22, 2018 – Opinion/Editorial

I want to comment on the people who organized the rallies due to the recent murder. I’m sure that they feel that they are doing the best for Ventura, but I feel that they are misguided and hurting the city.

My concern is the amount of misinformation being spread by them saying that they are helping the city by ridding us of the homeless-vagrants.

It has become like a mob mentality. I certainly understand why people are angry, but we need to use that energy to solve the problem, not exacerbate it.

Much false information is being disseminated that people are reacting to without confirming. For instance, the City is providing and funding “wet houses”. A wet house allows individuals to drink alcohol inside the facility. There is no such city sponsored program in Ventura, this is not true.

Also, saying Chief Corney is making up his own laws, and they are too lenient. He does not make up laws – just tries to enforce the ones that we have.

I saw signs that said the homeless are murderers and killers (isn’t that redundant?) If our homeless are indeed murderers and killers they must be going to other towns to commit these crimes and then coming back to live in Ventura because our weather is so nice. Ventura is a city of 110,000 people. In the first four months of this year we have had only one tragic murder. Hardly a high murder rate. Ventura is just slowly recovering from the fires and now we have this very adverse publicity.

I am really disturbed by having so many TV channels and KFI radio reporting on our “problem”. Was it to make the protesters feel important and powerful? Instead of helping Ventura, involving major news outlets made us look like the murder capital of the West and can only hurt our property values and tourist trade. Tourism brings in lots of tax dollars that help to support the additional police that are being called for.

In response, police have stepped up patrols to 20 hours per day along the Promenade and added security cameras which has greatly decreased the amount of vagrant/homeless people congregating there.

But the question is where did they go? I have friends that live on the east side that say they have very little homeless there. Now, if the homeless go to the east side, residents are going to call for more police involvement. Should we just tell them that’s too bad because all the police are at the promenade? Where does it end?

The city has been taking steps to reduce the homeless, but this must be done considering existing laws and the lack of funds. They started an anti-panhandling campaign, created a patrol task force and utilizing the Park Safety Ambassadors more. A homeless workshop drew almost 250 people. The workshop helped lead to new zoning that allows for overnight stays and daytime services.

Other steps include a program run by the Salvation Army that allows people who have a driver’s license and valid insurance to stay in two designated parking lots and River Haven, a transitional living facility off Harbor. The Ventura Police Department has worked to ensure every officer and dispatcher receives mental health training (many homeless have addictions or are mentally ill).

There is a much better way to solve most of the problems on the Promenade, and it is a win-win solution. The Promenade should be a destination place with many unique restaurants, street musicians, jugglers, artists, magicians, etc. A place full of folks enjoying our wonderful weather and beach. When there are many people present the homeless will leave or be more easily monitored.

Under state law, law enforcement officers and mental health professionals can commit someone against their will for up to 72 hours under very specific conditions. Even if they are “arrested”, Ventura County has 30 psychiatric beds (at our Hillmont facility) available for such patients in a county of over 850,000 people. And, even if they do get admitted, 72 hours is not long enough to stabilize someone. It then takes a court order to hold them against their will. And, again, where would they be kept and who pays?

This problem is certainly not unique to Ventura. It is worldwide, even the Roman’s had to deal with the homeless. Blaming our City Council and Chief Of Police is absurd. Chief Corney and the Ventura Police Department do an excellent job with the funds that they receive. Our City Council understands the problem and have been trying to solve it as best they can for many years considering existing laws and available funding. Some people have tried to make this a political issue, but it is a social issue that needs to be solved.

Even if it is scary to many citizens, it is not a crime for the homeless to be walking down the street talking to themselves or yelling at people. The real crime is that there are not adequate detox facilities for those who want to get off drugs, hardly any mental health facilities or adequate housing for the homeless who need support to turn their lives around and to stay warm during our winters. If there is nowhere for a person to go, they stay in a public place.

We also have a more violent homeless group because of state laws that shifted the responsibility for incarcerating many low-risk inmates from the state to counties (“prison realignment”). This allowed parole consideration for nonviolent felons, changed policies on juvenile prosecution, and authorized sentence credits. Over a year ago, Chief Corney expressed concern that these early release programs might result in a more violent homeless population (vagrants they are called), and it has.

And we have a new group of homeless, those that lived in apartments, without fire insurance, who lost everything in the fires. Some are now homeless living in their cars and some of those that lost their cars are living on the streets.

Of course, the community must work together – we cannot be divided. I welcome, and encourage, your comments to me – both positive and negative. Send them to publisher@venturabreeze.com if you want to be heard.

If you do send a note, please follow these guidelines:

Limit comments to about 300 words.

Don’t use profanity – I won’t print it.

Don’t just call me an idiot. It takes no intelligence to complain and criticize, so tell me why I am wrong and offer your solutions. Maybe I will agree with you and change my mind.

Vol. 11, No. 15 – Apr 25 – May 8, 2018 – Opinion/Editorial

 

We are all feeling the pain over the death of Anthony Mele at Aloha Steakhouse. It is a tough, tough situation. And presents an even more challenging solution.

Is the answer more police, more housing for the homeless, more mental facilities? If Ventura had the answer, we could sell it to the world. This problem is hardly unique to Ventura. Maybe we have more homeless than some cities our size, because of the great weather.

Even though this tragedy occurred on the Promenade, it could have happened anywhere in Ventura where this person, who I would assume is mentally ill, has been. Downtown, midtown, Pierpont,etc.

Folks say we need more police officers on the Promenade, or at our parks or in our river beds.

Sure we do. We want 12 police officers at each location. Maybe a police officer for each homeless person. The issue is who is going to pay for them?

Proposition O – our sales tax increase – is helping a bit(we have hired more police officers), but should all of that money be spent on law enforcement? I don’t think so and folks who voted for it wouldn’t think so either.

Many of the people who complain about us not having enough police officers also don’t want $10-$20 million executive homes in Ventura that would bring in major employers and much needed tax dollars. Unfortunately, we can’t have it both ways.

I frequently hear the question, why doesn’t the police and City Council do something about this problem? But, I think solutions (whatever they are) are going be a collaboration between the city and the community. Resources cost money.

What is important is that we don’t let this tragedy stop us from doing the activities that we usually do and enjoy. If you frequent the Promenade, and also eat at the restaurants located there, please keep doing so. We need to support Ventura. This was, for now, a rare occurrence – don’t change your lifestyle and enjoyment of our great town.

But, yes, we need solutions. What are other cities doing about it? LA County has over 60,000 homeless they would love to know how to get control of this issue. We need ideas?

This is from the LA Times. “California’s state auditor sharply criticized the state’s response to homelessness recommending more spending in the state. California should do more to address homelessness, the audit concluded.

Please understand that I’m not trying minimize this horrible tragedy in any way. Perhaps the police should have done more but they are governed by state law regarding the arresting of the mentally ill. Perhaps looking to change existing laws regarding the mentally ill needs to be re-examined. And being homeless is not illegal, and if it was where would we incarcerate these people?

The mentally ill homeless presents its own problems and solutions. The LPS Act(see the article on page by Sheli Ellsworth for an explanation of the LPS Act) makes it difficult to arrest and help the mentally ill when they need assistance. It must be revised to make it easier for law enforcement to get mental health and medical treatment for this segment of the homeless.

We need to fix our broken mental health system and provide housing for the homeless which, of course, takes a large amount of money. More information about what is being done to change some the laws can be viewed at “Keep Cal Safe”.

Marchers called for action regarding the city’s handling of the homeless situation.

On April 23, dozens of people marched from the Promenade to City Hall to attend the City Council Meeting. The attendees demanded that the Council does more on the issue of homelessness. The crowd chanted “enough is enough” as they made their way to city hall.

Even though this topic wasn’t on the agenda the City Council gave the concerned citizens one hour speak. About 30 of them did so. Most gave emotional and personal stories of how their lives been negatively impacted by the homeless/vagrant population in Ventura. Some just vented their anger and just wanted the ”bums” kicked out of Ventura. How they are sent packing and where we they are sent to was not made clear. And who decides who the bums are?

I think that it was a shining hour for our City Council. They all sincerely thanked those that were there to express their feelings and each member told how this tragedy had personally affected them. They all agreed that this issue is out of control. Mayor Neal Andrews was almost in tears telling how this tragedy has affected his Council members. Co-owner of Aloha, Charnell Smith, was also brought to tears sitting in the audience.

Interim City Manager Dan Paranick explained some of the actions that have been taken already, and many others that will be implemented in the future. This includes more police on the Promenade, expanding the Ambassador Program and other initiatives. He said he hoped all the sides could gather together to share ideas and listen to each other to ensure the “future safety and quality of life in our city.”

Ventura Chief of Police Ken Corney stated that officers should have responded to the initial call differently and “put boots on the ground.” He also stated that there is no evidence that the homeless are being sent here from other cities.

There was considerable media coverage at the City Council meeting.

The City Council meeting was covered by many TV Stations and had a lead story in the April 24 edition of the LA Times. This negative publicity could hurt our very important tourism trade, which brings in needed tax dollars. This then translates to even less money available to help solve this problem

To review the City Council meeting, go to www.cityofventura.ca.gov- videos -available archives- city council -April 23.

To help the Mele family go to http://pierpontcouncil.org/page/Donate-Anthony-Mele.aspx.

Vol. 11, No. 14 – Apr 11 – Apr 24, 2018 – Opinion/Editorial

Mayor Neal Andrews, who has been struggling with health problems, seems to be doing much better. He recently presented his State of the City message and looked good. Poor guy finally becomes mayor and then he has to deal with the aftermath of the fire.

•I know that some people are not happy with FEMA, but consider this. If not for FEMA, Ventura would have a serious financial crisis on its hands (even with Measure O).

Thomas Fire costs:

  • Estimated cost to Ventura: $67 million
  • FEMA reimbursement: $46 million
  • CDAA reimbursement: $4 million
  • Insurance reimbursement: $12 million
  • Estimated to be paid out of pocket by city: $5 million

• We had a 5.3 earthquake off of our coast last Thursday and I didn’t even feel it. Savana the cat sure did – she went bonkers running around the house. The quake was the strongest in Southern California in many years, but caused no major damage and was not strong enough to create a tsunami. It did cause some minor slides on Santa Cruz Island.

• After the retirement of Mark Watkins, the city is looking to hire a new city manager. Assistant City Manager Dan Paranick is serving the role currently. I don’t know the inner workings of our government but as an outsider he seems to be doing an excellent job. I hope that he is being considered for the permanent position.

Our new Ventura Water General Manager Kevin Brown assumed his position just weeks prior to the Thomas Fire. He has had to deal with the many questions of why there was not sufficient water to fight the fires. I stood with firefighters watching homes burn down to the ground (still in my mind).

The Breeze has been trying to find out why there was not adequate water but we haven’t been able to obtain answers yet. I also would like to find out what is being done so we have adequate water during the next fire.

• Like all of you, I look forward to seeing if our new system of voting for city council members by district serves us well. I’m not convinced it will but will save my final judgement until after the next council election (and even before, perhaps, after seeing who runs).

• A sharp spike in vaping and the use of e-cigarettes by students has grabbed the attention of the US Food and Drug Administration. It cited a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from 2011 to 2015, and the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey noted that 1.7 million high school students said they had used e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days. A gateway drug, I think so?

•I saw on the news that a U.S. general explained that we have ISIS on the one-yard line and will soon push them into the end zone. If you don’t know football, that is called a “safety” and is good for 2 points. So when that happens will be leading 2-0, well on our way to victory.

• Ventura School Superintendent David Creswell has mandated that the Ventura Unified School District provides ethnic studies classes for all students in the coming years (with some being offered very soon). This was partially based upon Balboa Middle School (and the district) coming under attack after much bullying at the school which appeared to be racially motivated. The principal of the school was replaced.

A steering committee for ethnic and social justice studies was formed earlier this year. Members of the committee recently gave a presentation to the school board explaining their goals, and what they have accomplished so far. I think this a very good idea. Bullying of any sort remains a problem in our schools.

•A sustainable shellfish farming operation could be coming to Ventura. The Ventura Shellfish Enterprise has been in the works since 2015 to farm mussels in the federal waters off our coast. It would provide fresh, locally caught mussels and create hundreds of local jobs. The project could start within two to three years. I don’t know anything about shellfish farming, but if it brings new jobs to Ventura it sounds good to me.

•The City Council has weighed in on the national discussion on gun ownership and legislation.

City Council members Cheryl Heitmann, Matt La-Vere and Erik Nasarenko asked the council to consider a policy request designed to make it harder to own a gun. The council approved calling for stronger gun legislation. Even though this action does not have a legal ramification, it’s nice that they took a stand.

Roughly two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides and they have been increasing each year. I doubt people buy a guns with the idea that one day they will kill themselves, or a family member.

I know that “people kill people” and not guns, but it sure is easier to kill a whole bunch of people with an AK-15 Assault Rifle as compared to a knife.

•Days after Delta Air Lines announced it would stop offering discounted fares to National Rifle Association members, a top Georgia Republican retaliated, vowing to kill legislation that would hand the airline a lucrative tax break.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R) demanded that Atlanta-based Delta, one of the state’s largest employers, make a choice: Stop punishing the NRA, or watch Republican lawmakers strike down a $50 million sales tax exemption on jet fuel, of which Delta would be the primary beneficiary.

This really bothers me. Not because it is the NRA, but because states should not get involved in this type of activity. If Delta Air Lines announced it would stop offering discounted fares to employees of McDonald’s would Georgia Republicans retaliate and stop eating them?

•And, last but not least, it’s been one year since my beloved canine friend, Scamp, went to doggie heaven. If dogs don’t go to people heaven, then I’m not going. Actually, I don’t believe in heaven anyway so don’t need to worry about it. I miss the little guy every day. It’s little things such as dropping crumbs while eating. The little guy loved to “clean up” now I need to.

Vol. 11, No. 13 – Mar 28 – Apr 10, 2018 – Opinion/Editorial

• There seems to be a controversy on what the name is, of the new green pig that debuted in the recent St. Pat’s Parade. As you know, in last year’s parade Shamrock the pig died right in front of the judges.

The Ventura Breeze referred to the new pig as “the pig with no name”. Another paper called the pig Shamrock2 while a banner on the pig called it Bacon.

Speaking with some of the pig’s committee members, they all hate the name Bacon and did not approve of it being used. Also many local merchants contributed to the construction of the new pig and feel that they should have had some say in its naming.

The question also remains who owns the pig? The Elks? The pig committee? The community?

In order to resolve this controversy, I have proposed to the committee that we hold a “naming of the pig contest” that would involve all Venturan’s to select a new name.

I will keep you posted on whether this happens. In the meantime, I would love to hear what you think it should be named. Perhaps it should be called barbecue.

The original charming trolley that was no longer usable.

The new trolley.

I am very disappointed with the look of the new Ventura trolley. To me, it just looks like one of our regular blue buses that was just shrunk. The first original trolley looked more like what I think a charming trolley should look like.

In Mexico, there has been yet another killing of a journalist. A Mexican journalist who reported on politics and crime was recently shot dead in the coastal state of Veracruz. There have been 22 journalists slain in Veracruz since 2000.

• Congratulations to the El Camino High School ECTV Crew for winning a series of awards for their programs at CAPSTV. I have had some of the students produce my radio show on KPPQLP at CAP’S studio, and they are wonderful to work with. Read the CAPS article to learn more about these kids.

And speaking of kids, I’m very proud of today’s youths for ‘March for Our Lives’ led by survivors of the Florida massacre. Thousands of high school students and supporters gathered in Washington and across the U.S. on Saturday, March 24, to demand tougher gun laws from an older generation that’s delivered little change after years of mass shootings.

Participants in the rally thronged the presidential inaugural route on Pennsylvania Ave. Speakers from a stage at the foot of Capitol Hill proclaimed the beginning of a political movement.

•Appearing at the Rubicon for a few more days is “KING LEAR. The play is the story of “A narcissistic ruler who craves adulation, exiles those who question his authority, and neglects those on the fringes of society.” Perhaps this refers to a more recent “king”.

•The Ventura City Council voted 6-0 to forgive some water-and sewer-related fees for restoring homes destroyed or significantly damaged by the Thomas Fire. This vote also lets other homeowners petition for relief based on individual circumstances.

The council asked city staff to look at the possibility of using taxpayer money to help offset some of the permit fees related to water or wastewater reconnections.

Council Member Erik Nasarenko questioned why residents should have to pay anything when they have already paid into the system before the fire. Member Matt LaVere wondered if there were some creative ways the council could pay. The main concern is the legality of using city funds for this purpose which was on the minds of council members.

I feel that the City Council is trying very hard to be a fair as possible to fire victims while considering the use of city funds and other residents.

The Breeze has attempted to get answers from Ventura Water regarding this item and also why there was a lack of water to fight the fires, but we haven’t been successful yet

•I was disappointed at first to hear that the Buenaventura Art Gallery building, located on Santa Clara St., is being sold. But happy to find out that the sale will provide the Association with a large amount of money that will allow them to pursue other locations and affiliations within our art community. We have so many amazing artists in Ventura.

•The Gold Coast Transit District has closed several of its bus stops along downtown Main St. They say this helps speed up service on the route. I certainly hope that this is the case and the users of the bus service are happy with this. The stops were on Main at Ash, Laurel, MacMillan, Santa Cruz and Evergreen Drive. The last time that I took a bus was in 1984 for the Olympics in Los Angeles. Perhaps I should try riding a bus again.

•If you want to be even happier, move to Finland (or 16 other countries). The Nordic country is No. 1 in the World Happiness Report released by the United Nations. Following Finland in the top 10 are Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia.

America was in the 18th spot, down four places from last year. Top factors for the decline include weakened social support networks, government and business corruption and a declining confidence in public institutions. I certainly hope that we don’t continue to fall based upon our declining confidence in our leadership.

Vol. 11, No. 12 – Mar 14 – Mar 27, 2018 – Opinion/Editorial

• It’s nice that the green pig (see article) will be back in the St. Pat’s Parade because people like the pig. I’m not sure what a green pig has to do with St. Pat’s day, but what does a red-nosed reindeer have to do with Xmas?

• A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge has ordered SoCal Edison to maintain any evidence related to the possible cause of the Thomas Fire.

The motion for a temporary restraining order against the utility was filed on behalf of people who lost their homes in the Montecito mudslides.

There will be many lawsuits filed against Edison (fire and mudslides) based upon witnesses that state they saw the fire start on Anlauf Canyon Road near Steckel Park from an Edison power line.

Edison must preserve power poles and any related equipment/items that were removed. An inspection of the removed equipment at Edison’s warehouse was also ordered.

“Are you sure that we belong in here without a librarian?

• The newly opened library on Hill Road has implemented “express hours” that allows readers to use the library without staff present (like driverless cars). It becomes one of just a few in the nation to offer this service. The purpose is to provide 12 additional operating hours at low cost (just utilities).

Librarian Molly Krill will help train people to use a new card that allows them access the library from 8 to 10 a.m. every day except Thursday. Cameras will keep you honest, we hope.

Next we will have robots that open the door for you and say, “may I help you find a book or the Ventura Breeze?”

• Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seeking to stop women removing their head scarves in public, defended the garments, saying wearing them protected against “a deviant lifestyle.”

The comments were the first from Iran’s most powerful figure since the spread of a movement in which women remove their head scarves, or hijabs, in the streets. Is this his way of saying that men are a bunch of dogs that can’t be trusted? Has he been following our politics?

•Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and wife have donated $33 million to fund 1,000 scholarships for “Dreamers” immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. It’s wonderful that people with huge amounts of money help causes that they believe in. I wonder what he thinks of community newspapers (hint hint)?

• Researchers have reported smoking e-cigarettes deliver cancer-causing chemicals — and popular fruity flavors appear to be the worst. Those who vape have higher levels of the cancer-causing chemicals than nonsmokers, a team at the University of California, San Francisco, found.

They said teenagers who try vaping are poisoning themselves with many of the same chemicals that make traditional cigarettes so deadly. And it is no coincidence that e-cigarettes come in fruit flavors, chocolate, candy and other flavors that appeal to young people.

Public health groups, the Surgeon General’s office, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worry about evidence that vaping can get teens addicted to nicotine, and will lead them to smoking cigarettes.

Apparently, the “flavor” of the e-cigarette matters. The levels of acrylonitrile were higher in those who preferred fruit flavors compared to candy, tobacco or menthol flavors.

This is significant because 67% of those who use e-cigs preferred fruit flavors.

• In keeping with the decision to move to City Council district elections, the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD)board of trustees voted unanimously to move to district-based elections in 2018. They selected a map to divide up Ventura into five trustee districts. They didn’t agree on the map (the board voted 3-2 to adopt the particular map).

The district currently has an at-large system for electing board trustees, as do most school districts in Ventura County.

This is similar to the reason that the council went to district voting. The VUSD would be facing lawsuits that other districts have had to face to provide districts that reflect the racial make-up of the community.

I am opposed to district voting, so I am eager to see how it works. What if only one completely unqualified person runs in one of the districts? Or, if there are two highly qualified candidates living in the same district, only one can be elected. I know some of you think our politicians are unqualified now.

• I think that the City is trying hard to make it as easy for fire victims to re-build. A recent Ventura City Council action directed city staff to return with a plan that allows anyone who is rebuilding to qualify for the streamlined process set aside for fire victims, even if the new house has a completely different footprint and design.

The city already hired outside help and set up an extra office to deal exclusively with people impacted by the fire.

Mayor Neal Andrews and Council Member Mike Tracy voted no because of the anticipated increase in staff time and finances.

“Everyone on this City Council would love to be able to write a check to all of you to help you complete your projects,” Tracy said. “However, we have a responsibility to everyone else in the community legally and ethically to make sure that we don’t give away the barn.”

Andrews stated, “Every subsidy that we offer here comes out of something else that the city would do and therein lies the rub for me.”

The council voted to allow recreational vehicles on properties during the rebuilding process and up to two units of on-site storage facilities per lot.

Vol. 11, No. 11 – Feb 28 – Mar 13, 2018 – Opinion/Editorial

• Mayor Neal Andrews is having some health issues and has missed some recent City Council meetings. I certainly hope that he feels better soon so that he can get back to do what he loves – serving the residents of Ventura.

• Patagonia is moving forward with plans to turn the former Brooks Institute 8-acre campus into expanded offices for its outdoor clothing-equipment business. As you know, Brooks unexpectedly shut down a few years.

The property, located is at 5301 N. Ventura Ave., is located outside of city limits so it is governed by the Ventura County. Patagonia bought the campus last spring, a few months after Brooks closed.

It’s great that Patagonia will be occupying this facility and will be expanding its footprint in Ventura. They are a wonderful asset for the city and are considered one of the best companies to work for in America.

• Funny what it takes to represent a country in the Olympics. The last names of the four people representing Mexico in the Winter Olympics are Franco, Schleper, Von Hohenlohe and Dickson. Wonder if any of them have even been to Mexico?

• Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) claimed recently that people who commit mass shootings are often Democrats. The first-term Republican congresswoman made the comment at a discussion about the Florida school shooting. “It’s interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats. But the media doesn’t talk about that either.”

Even for a politician this has to be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. I don’t believe that mass murderers are asked their political affiliations, and I have never heard anyone accuse mass murderers of being Republicans.

• According to findings presented by University of California neurologist Claudia Kawas at the 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Texas, seniors drinking a moderate amount of alcohol each day (no more than 2-3 glasses of wine or beer) lowered their risk of premature death by 18% compared to seniors who exercise daily. Daily exercise for 15 to 45 minutes was found to only reduce premature death by 11 percent.

Researchers added that two cups of coffee also helped maintain longevity, lowering the risk of death by 10 percent. The biggest key to a long life that Dr. Kawas’ group found was having a hobby. Two hours of work a day on a hobby dropped the risk of death by 21 percent. E

Now, they need to find seniors who exercise, drink alcohol and coffee each day and have a hobby to see what the impact is (maybe the right combo will take them well in to their 100’s).

In either case, preemptively, I will now drink:

2 cups of coffee per day (up from the one that I started drinking 6 months ago)

2 glasses of wine (don’t like beer) per day

I am too busy to have a hobby, but do play tennis and work way over two hours a day, so I will probably live to be at least 109.

•From a May, 2012 Ventura Breeze issue:

“After an extensive three-year investigation by the Ventura Police Department, they have announced an arrest for the June 3, 2009 murder of Wendy Di Rodio. Ventura Police Department Major Crimes Investigators arrested Gina Drake, a 45-year old Ventura resident, and the niece of victim Di Rodio without incident on May 25, at a business in Somis.”

Now, after all of this time the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office has announced that Gina Drake has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

Gina Drake is expected to be sentenced to 11 years in state prison. Doesn’t seem long enough to me for stabbing ones’ aunt to death.

•If an “Illegal” kills one person (terrible of course), Trump makes the case that it proves “they” are horribly violent people which is why we need to build the wall and send them all back to where they came from. If a good legal American kills 17 (or many more with mass killings), he says we need more mental health services because where would we send them back to and what state would we build a wall around? Then he reduces funds for mental health.

•There has been many instances of bullying at Balboa Middle School. Three separate incidents this year involving Balboa students resulted in the arrest of six students and the dismissal of the principal. A new principal has been selected.

Superintendent David Creswell, who is in his first year as superintendent at VUSD, said the district has placed more school resource officers at Balboa, removed the principal and increased police patrols. He is also making sure a process is in place by which children can report to an adult if they feel unsafe or threatened.

I know that each generations says this about their youth, so I am saying it also. Today’s kids (as young as 5) are playing video games that actually give them points for killing more people in games. They are becoming desensitized to death, which might help explain the shootings at our high schools. To them, talking to grandma means texting her.

It is so important that parents carefully monitor the time and content that their kids watch on social media and the games they play. Going outside today means playing video games on the front porch.

•Many homes destroyed in the Thomas Fire have been cleared of hazardous materials and debris, the first step in rebuilding. During a report on the fire, Ventura Interim City Manager Dan Paranick told the City Council that clearing the remaining homes should be completed by the middle of April.

This is just the very beginning of the arduous task of having design plans drawn, obtaining permits and bids, building a home and then landscaping and furnishing it. I see some “for sale” signs on several lots now and expect to see more.

Not being pessimistic, just realistic. As many of you are aware, I was an architect and General Contractor for more than 30 years, so I know of what I speak. Speaking of that, if you have preliminary or final drawings for your proposed home, I would be happy to look at them to see if I can offer any suggestions or comments at no charge.

Vol. 11, No. 10 – Feb 14 – Feb 27, 2018 – Opinion/Editorial

• The Botanical Gardens Welcome Center is now being built (see article in this issue). The fire caused much damage to the Gardens, but it is very encouraging to see work progressing and green stuff starting to grow.

• At the recent fund raising concert at Plaza Park, two of the most uplifting and encouraging speeches were given by our own Police Chief Ken Corney and Fire Chief David Endaya. They gave special thanks and tribute to all of those that were involved in the fires – those that lost their homes, the first responders, behind the scenes fire and police staff, and all Ventura city employees that made wonderful contributions. It is a testament to all of them that there was not one death in Ventura because of the fires. Proud of Venturan’s for taking the fire seriously and evacuating even if not mandatory.

Is the county waiting for a child to fall through these open rails at Foster Library and suffer serious injuries or even death before they enclose them?

After so many folks died in Montecito who didn’t leave when just ‘suggested”, all future evacuations might be mandatory.

After experiencing the Thomas Fire fundraiser in Plaza Park, it makes me sad to think how great it would have been to have had similar concerts above city hall that were planned.

• In Mexico, about one journalist or photographer is killed each month because of their coverage of the drug lords and gangs. This makes it the country only second to war torn Syria for such deaths

• California added 859 new laws that will take effect this year. A slight decrease from 2016. That means that in 10 years there are almost 10,000 new laws. Scary ain’t it? These are a few of my favorites:

  • You can’t smoke marijuana in any way while driving or riding in a car on California roadways. So remember, not even if you are a passenger.
  • Schools in low income communities must provide tampons and other sanitary products to students in grades 6 through 12. Who determines what constitutes a low-income community?
  • School buses must have a child safety alert system that requires a driver to make sure no kids are left on the bus. Couldn’t they just yell, “Are there any kids left on the bus?” Though, perhaps if the kids have earphones on they won’t hear it.
  • Californians who are transgender, intersex or don’t identify as male or female can choose a gender neutral option on their birth certificates. How would they know this upon just being born?
  • No more jaywalking tickets can be issued for stepping into a crosswalk after the flashing signal begins as long as you can still cross safely before time runs out. Who decides if it is safe, the pedestrian or the police officer who writes the ticket? I’m all for eliminating these signals all together as you might know.
  • All landlords in the state must provide information about bedbugs to apartment renters. What about cockroaches and fleas?
  • Using a ball hook to handle or control elephants will be against the law in California. Reminds me of the old joke about the guy standing at Main and Ventura Ave. blowing a horn. When a friend asks what that was, he said, “This keeps elephants away.” The friend responded, “There are no elephants here.” So he responded, “See, it works.”
  • Vegetarian Augustynolophus Morrissi is now the official state dinosaur. I have requested that the Ventura Breeze be named the official state newspaper and that the grunion be the official state fish.

• To thunderous Republican applause in his First State of the Union address, President Trump announced that Guantanamo would remain open. It has been more than 10 years since a “prisoner” was sent there and operating the facility costs nearly $11 million annually per detainee. Surely we can find a place to house them that costs less than $11 million per detainee.

• Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has purchased the Los Angeles Times and two other papers for $500 million. I offered him the Ventura Breeze for only $2 million but he wasn’t interested. So, the offer stands if any of our readers are interested in purchasing the Ventura Breeze. A 10% discount is offered to Venturan’s.

• I’m glad to learn that the Ventura Unified School District along with the teacher and support staff unions have finalized their agreement for a pay increase.

The agreement includes a 2% pay increase for 2017-18 effective at an employee’s mid-year point and a onetime $400 bonus paid to each employee who has worked at least 50% of the 2016-17 work year. Also like the fact that part-time employees will also get a prorated one-time bonus in the agreement.

Not all union members were in agreement. Of those voting, 69% were in favor of accepting the agreement.

• Removing sand, rocks and even shells from the beach is illegal. It is considered “tampering with geological features.” Sounds ominous doesn’t it? Better think twice the next time that you take a bucket of sand for your cat box. You and the cat might go to jail.

• Ventura’s own clothing giant Patagonia and other retailers are involved in a legal and political battle over President Donald Trump’s plan to shrink two sprawling Utah national monuments.

Patagonia filed a lawsuit after Trump announced that Bears Ears National Monument would shrink by 85%. The lawsuit, filed in conjunction with a rock climbing advocacy group and other organizations, is among a group of litigation over the president’s move to reduce the size of the monument and also cut in half the land protected in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Vol. 11, No. 9 – Jan 31 – Feb 13, 2018 – Opinion/Editorial

• I want to compliment the City Council, Community Service Director Jeff Lambert and Chief Building Official Yolanda Bundy for the wonderful job that they are doing to help those who lost their homes in the Thomas Fire. They have set up a separate department in order to expedite the plan checking period for homes to be re-built. Plan check will be completed within 14-days compared to the usual 5-6 weeks. In addition to using City employees, outside consultants have been hired to make this possible.

Also, homes that had non-conforming setbacks (a setback is the distance which a building or other structure is set back from property lines) can be built using the same layout as previously existed and an increase in lot coverage will be allowed. If the lots are sold, these conditions will go with the lot and can be used by the new owners.

Many fees have been eliminated, and the City Council is looking at eliminating or reducing the other remaining fees as suggested by some council members. This could be difficult because of the higher salaries that the consultants are costing the City. And the fire has already cost the city millions of dollars.

You can go to City Hall and obtain more information before proceeding with your drawings, etc.

People who might have the only remaining home on their block also have major decisions to make. It would be extremely difficult to live in a home when lots are being cleared and during the noise and dust from several years of construction. And, the big challenge is that their insurance won’t pay for them to live somewhere else during this period.

• The Breeze hopes to follow a few fire victims through the entire process until their new homes are built. Dealing with insurance, plans, etc. I know that this is a difficult period for most, but if you would like to share your experience with us please let me know by emailing publisher@venturabreeze.com. In addition, for other readers, please feel free to include feel good stories, etc.

•On page 2 of this issue, you will see an ad regarding the “let’s just have fun” party that the Ventura Breeze and Secret Garden is having on Feb.11. Would love for you to join us. Just bring some food, a chair and your tuba.

•A must see event is Buyer & Cellar now playing on the Rubicon stage, starring Brian McDonald in a one person rollicking comedy. Brian is the Rubicon’s Associate Artistic Director / Director of Education and Outreach. He has been with the Rubicon for fifteen years and, in addition to all of his wonderful contributions, he teaches summer acting classes to our youth (including my grandkids). See the review on page 23.

•Portside Ventura Harbor, the Ventura Harbor’s new waterfront development, is expected to open their first phase with 56 residences for lease in the summer of 2018. More information on this, along with Harbor developments and events, can be found in the Harbor Views insert that will be included with our Feb. 14 issue (Valentine’s Day for all you lovers).

•The temporary ban on leaf blowers (to continue) has been approved by a 5-2 vote by the City Council. Member’s Monahan and Tracy voted against it. I agree with them. I don’t think blowers cause anymore ash in the air than autos and wind. All the current moratorium does is make folks mad at the gardeners who keep using them . Many of these folks have lost several customers whose homes were destroyed, and this just makes their lives a little more difficult.

I know that some cities have outlawed the blowers entirely. Perhaps this can be considered by the City Council in the future.

•Ventura has settled its lawsuit against Brooks Institute. The city had claimed the school breached its contract. Brooks has paid Ventura approximately $72,000 to settle a breach-of-contract lawsuit. This amount doesn’t even begin to cover Ventura’s losses.

Brooks closed in 2016 without any warning and left partially completed construction, including the building located behind City Hall and several buildings downtown. Massachusetts based GPHomestay bought Brooks in 2015 from the struggling Career Education Corp.

I think that the City must assume some responsibility for this calamity for not doing a sufficient job of vetting Brooks’ financials prior to leasing them 20,000 square feet. There weren’t any safeguards, such as sufficient up front money if they did go under.

•Unbelievable! This is the President of the United States lowering himself to this level. Doesn’t he have more important things to do running our country?

This is what Trump said. “The Fake News Awards, those going to the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media, will be presented to the losers on Wednesday, January 17th, rather than this coming Monday. The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!”

•Finally, Highway 101 has reopened after the massive Jan. 9 mudslide in Montecito closed the busy freeway. Caltrans had promised that it would re-open many times before it finally did.

Folks stuck north of there had to drive to Bakersfield to get here, which took 6-8 hours. Amtrak and Island Packers were the other ways to go back and forth to Santa Barbara.

•The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office is again warning victims of the fire to watch out for scams, including people posing as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) inspectors.

Officials want people to know that FEMA inspectors will only arrive once an assistance application has been completed. Inspectors will not collect any personal identifying or bank information or ask for money.

Amazing how good some crooks are at what they do, even going so far as to wear apparel that makes them look official. So please be very diligent in dealing with people that want to be of help, including those asking for money to help fire victims and first responders.

Vol. 11, No. 8 – Jan 17 – Jan 30, 2018 – Opinion/Editorial

• The Thomas Fire, which began more than six weeks ago and became the largest wildfire in modern California history, is now fully extinguished. The blaze consumed 281,893 acres in both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, destroyed 1,063 structures, most of which were in Ventura.

Infrared and helicopter sightings did not locate any active flames or heat in the fire area after the rainstorm.

Even though the Thomas fire is now completely out it is really difficult to feel good because of what has happened to our neighbors and friends in Montecito, where about 25 people have died from mudslides.

We all feel very attached to Montecito, as many of us go there to have dinner or to walk around their wonderful downtown. After visiting the Santa Barbara Zoo, many people drive through Montecito to get on the freeway.

This is a town of only about 10,000 residents, so the financial and personal impact on the city is overwhelming.

Roy Rohter, who founded St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, died in the mudslide. Ironically, Rohter’s daughter graduated from Thomas Aquinas College, from which the name Thomas Fire came from.

Sadly, many residents had received voluntary evacuation notices but decided to stay. I’m sure with future potential disasters, authorities will deliver many more mandatory evacuation notices. Some people, in mandatory evacuation areas, refuse to leave. The answer may be to always err on the side of caution and leave whether voluntary or mandatory.

We were all happy when 2017 ended and were looking forward to a new start in 2018, and then this tragedy happened. When people ask me how I am doing, I find it is difficult to say, “I’m doing well” even though these dual tragedies has no serious direct impact on me. But the loss of many friends’ homes and the deaths in Montecito makes it difficult to feel very good these days.

• There are many Venturan’s complaining and wondering why there was not adequate water while fighting the Thomas fires. We must remember that this was the largest fire in the recorded history of California. It would be almost impossible or economically feasible to prepare for a fire of this magnitude. We are attempting to find out exactly why this occurred and what future solutions might be.

This would be a similar event to experiencing 30 inches of rain in 24 hours. It would be impossible to prepare for that type of scenario also.

• Reminding you that Harrison customers can get four free bulky item pickups each year.

• Impossible to believe that even this President would use the term s—hole to describe other countries. 41% of immigrants from the s—-hole country of Africa who are over 25 years old have bachelor’s degrees compared to 32% of US born citizens. And, 16% have master’s degrees or above compared to 11% of US born. Both percentages are higher than immigrants from Norway.

Conspiracy 101: First “they” caused and controlled the Thomas Fire and the winds that spread it. Then, “they” seeded the clouds by contrails and caused the heavy rains which resulted in many deaths. Who are “they”? We are not sure but the rumor is “they” are a group of 12 that control the entire world, including perhaps 2 Martians. What “they” gain from this is not clear.

The workmanship on the Ash overpass is deplorable.

• We are all happy that the construction on the freeway overpass at the end of Ash is now complete. But the workmanship is deplorable. I mistakenly thought that this was a City of Ventura project and complained to the wrong people, but it is a Caltrans project. I am attempting to find out more from Caltrans about who the contractor was and if they have been paid. The concrete work is awful, and the handrail looks as if it was installed by someone who had been drinking too much.

And, it’s hard to believe that painting of the overpass wasn’t included in the Caltrans contract. I’ve been in contact with our City Council and hopefully, even though the bridge is not owned by Ventura, can have it painted as it certainly reflects on Ventura.

• The Ventura County Board of Supervisors has stated their opposition to new offshore oil and gas leases in the Pacific Ocean. This is based on the announcement by Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, that the federal government plans to open up the Pacific coast to new oil and gas drilling for the first time in 30 years. The plan was made possible by President Trump’s April 2017 executive order opening up the offshore plans already in place.

This is a bad idea for many reasons, one being the fact that we now have a glut of oil in this country and do not need further ocean drilling. No company has shown any interest in doing this.

• As reported on some news outlets, “Blaze Bernstein, a 19-year-old Jewish student at the University of Pennsylvania who went missing from his parents’ Southern California home, has been found dead.” What the h— does the fact that he is Jewish have to do with this tragedy? Would it have been reported that “Blaze Bernstein, a 19-year-old Presbyterian student” or “Blaze Bernstein, a 19-year-old Catholic student” was dead? Of course not.

The sad part is that his death is being investigated as a homicide and his friend that he was with has been arrested as a suspect in his death. The religion of his friend was not reported.