“We are so excited about re-opening the Gardens”

A large gathering attended the grand opening for the Botanical Gardens.

The Ventura Botanical Gardens (VBG) held its grand reopening on Saturday, November 3. The Gardens have been closed nearly one year since the Thomas Fire. The fire swept through the entire 109 acres of the park; very few plants were spared.

Now many of the original plants are showing signs of recovery, and many new specimens have been planted. Fire-damaged walkways were repaired or rebuilt. A new hand-hewn rock staircase is now in place and the long-awaited Merewether Welcome Center is open.

Funded through the generosity of Mike and Loretta Merewether and designed by architect Martha Picciotti, the Center includes a check-in kiosk, an information center, educational space, a stage, a community gathering area, storage and a much-needed restroom.

A limited morning event, attended by hundreds was held including a ribbon cutting with Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere, along with a Welcome Center dedication. At noon, the Gardens opened to the public.

“We are so excited about re-opening the Gardens,” states Barbara Brown, VBG President, who also lost her home in the Thomas Fire. “This will be a very bright moment for a community that has struggled through a very difficult year. “

“With the regrowth and expanded plantings needed after the Thomas fire, it has become clear that ongoing financial sustainability is critical for the maintenance, operation and expansion of the Gardens,” said Joe Cahill, Executive Director. “We are implementing a membership fee, but we want visitors to enjoy the Gardens affordably, so we’ve kept the annual fee to $45 per year, or for those who aren’t members, $7 per day, children 18 and under, are free. For those who can’t afford the low annual membership, EBT cards will be accepted.”

Mike Merewether told the gathering “It was a joy to see this become a reality and thanks to all for their support.  We are so glad to be here to see it come to fruition. It feels more like Spring than Fall – a time of new beginnings.”

“The Welcome center will be an exciting place for learning, volunteering and connecting with one another and Nature. It is a testament to a good public private partnership. It is significant to me that it is exactly 100 years after the Grant family donated the land for Grant Park to the City.”

“With growth of garden and Welcome Center, comes a need for more Staff.  Thus far we have managed with a small staff and many volunteers. As Fundraising Campaign Chair, I would be remiss in not mentioning that we have many opportunities and need for financial support / naming opportunities ranging from the new stage behind us, to flower beds, trees or even steps.”

The Welcome Center was designed by Architect Martha Picciotti who stated “It’s with great pleasure that I am here today, celebrating with all of you the culmination of one of many seeds that have been planted since my involvement, beginning in 2008 with this wonderful organization and group of people. I especially want to thank the Cities Jeff Lambert and Dave Ward, without whom this would not have been possible. “

“From Joe Cahill I came to understand the importance of creating a welcome center. It had to be affordable and easy to build, as funds were limited. I was always interested in shipping container design and I met Matt Roberts, who would be selling and outfitting shipping containers in Camarillo. Matt volunteered to take over as project manager for the build out. Not only did he provide the shipping containers at cost, Matt donated hundreds of hours.”

The opening of the welcome center represents many people coming together. Major donors like the Meriwether’s, Matt, Noah Greer and Nicole Horn, who designed and supervised the installation of the entry gates, platform and landscaping, Ken Luci who donated his electrical expertise and Dave Schaub, a local builder for supervising the foundation.”

“Today my heart is full of gratitude and love for all of the wonderful people who have made the welcome center and botanical gardens possible.”

To find out visiting information and more, visit www.VenturaBotanicalGardens.com and on Facebook.

People are dismayed at the racism, gun violence and hate speech becoming prevalent

Many hundreds remembered the many victims of hate and re-affirmed their belief at Temple Beth Torah. Photos by Bernie Goldstein

by Rabbi Lisa Hochberg-Miller

On Friday, Nov. 2, at Temple Beth Torah, prayers, songs, words of healing, and unity in response to the violence in a Pittsburgh synagogue were expressed. Ventura clergy, civic leaders and people of good faith, remembered the many victims of hate, re-affirmed our belief in goodness and humanity, and welcome this Shabbat, a day of peace.

The outpouring of anger and grief at the massacre of 11 people in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27 tells us that people of all faiths are as dismayed at the racism, gun violence, and hate speech that is becoming “hate d’jour” in our country.

It can be a church, a mosque, a temple, a synagogue, a pre-school, a nightclub, a high school—and it has been all these, multiple times now– because hate, when fanned by fear, so easily becomes violence.

My people is a people acquainted with Anti-Semitism. I am asked, why do people hate Jews, and I can only respond, why do people hate? We know the traditional stereotypes of Jews plied by anti-Semites. But our contemporary political world coupled with social media has fanned anti-Semitism, from a radical left bent on delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist, to right-wing nationalists who see Jews as foreign invaders.

Our college campuses are exactly where alt-right groups go to recruit young people and spread hateful ideology. We have watched the internet become a cesspool of filth, with language and visuals that are so repugnant that we can’t even describe them. There were almost 3 million anti-Semitic tweets in the year before the last election. FBI and Anti-Defamation League Statistics tells us the facts of this growing hate and the violence it begets: anti-Semitic incidents rose almost 60% in 2016, more than any other religious minority.

We are not the only victims of hatred and racism- Anti-Muslim crimes are up 19%, and in racially motivated hate crimes, African Americans were targeted in 3,489 race crimes, about half of race crimes in 2016. The neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville in August 2017 didn’t come out of nowhere. It was the expression of this hate: Noe-Nazi chants of “Jews will not replace us”, the beating of a black man DeAndre Harris, the plowing of a car into civilians, taking the life of Heather Heyer. There are almost 1,000 hate groups that exist in America, and many that describe themselves as militias. Fear, and inflammatory speech, coupled with high powered assault weapons. Is this our vision of America? Our years of complacency must be over.

It is enough to lose 11 innocent people for being in prayer on a Shabbat morning. It is incomprehensible that Vicki Jones and Maurice Stallard should go to their Kentucky Kroger’s to buy food for their families and be murdered for being black. I am left with no words that a prayer service at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston should have welcomed a white racist three years ago into their circle and then have 9 members including the pastor murdered by him, in his hopes of starting a race war. And the list goes on and on, especially when we widen the circle from racial and religious intolerance, to political intolerance, gender intolerance and general hate. Marjorie Stoneman High School, the Pulse nightclub, Las Vegas concert venues, where does mass violence end?

Our Jewish community grieves these recent deaths, and all these deaths, as do good people across this country and the world. After each massacre we hope that things will change. If we have learned anything, it is not to be complacent. There can be no co-existence with racism, or anti-Semitism, in this country or anywhere. There is no political future for a country that sees every else as “the other” and to be feared. We are better than this. These murders, and the climate that allows this violent culture to thrive, is tearing at the fabric of our country and our democracy. Like the mourner’s ribbons worn by the family members in Pittsburgh to signify that someone had been torn out of their lives, something is being torn out of the heart of decent America. Judaism teaches that we are to turn grief into good deeds. It is time, again, to speak out, for the country we want to live in.

Temple Beth Torah is located at 7620 Foothill Road.

Then the mic was opened; tributes and tears flowed

Community members came together to honor Neal Andrews. Photos by Bernie Goldstein

by Jill Forman

“Pay Tribute to This Wonderful Man” that is how Kathy Powell, the chair of Lift up Your Voice, worded a reminder for a celebration of the career of Neal Andrews. Andrews has served on the Ventura City Council since 2001, and is currently mayor. This is his last term.

Community members came together on Tuesday evening October 30 to honor Andrews for his tireless activism in the area of homeless services and celebrate what he has meant to those who often felt they were alone in their mission to help the less fortunate.

Attendees included local clergy, friends and neighbors, members of several congregations, city officials, social service workers, and homeless individuals.

The event, jointly sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Church and Lift Up Your Voice, the church’s homeless advocacy group, was an outpouring of appreciation and gratitude. Reverend Dana Worsnop of the UU Church, said, “Neal gas been such a great partner working on issues of homelessness for this community and the city council. The church is thrilled to be able to host this party.”

Purple star-shaped balloons decorated the UU community room, ad a banner that said “Thank You Neal.” About 50 celebrants shared appetizers and talked about their experiences with Neal and the long road it has been to have a permanent homeless shelter in the city. As Andrews’ political career is ending, after 25 years of struggle, that shelter is on track to open within the next year, an event that would never have happened without his unflagging support.

“Neal has been our friend and our advocate for the city with his focus on the vulnerable,” said Kate Mills, a nurse who started and ran the One-Stop Drop-In Center when she worked for Public Health.

“It is rare,” said Sue Brinkmeyer, the chair of the Homeless Prevention Fund, “That somebody gets to hear first-hand how much he is loved and admired by so many.”

After a welcome by Rev. Worsnop who emphasized what a “strong, wonderful partner” he had been, Andrews was presented with a memory book: friends, colleagues and admirers had emailed tributes to Powell and they were mounted in a book by Kappy Paulsen, a UU member and scrap booker. Powell stated that the book is really a tribute to everyone attending, all of who had worked along with Neal to help those who need assistance.

Then the mike was opened; tributes and tears flowed. Andrews was praised for his insight and dedication, a champion who has modeled how to serve the community. An honest man, with wisdom and gravitas, who stands up for what is right even when he was the only one. “We love you…thank you…you make me want to be a better person.”

Of course, there were laughs too; someone remembered how Andrews stayed until 4 a.m. at a council meeting. “Never again,” he joked. It was mentioned that community activism is a 7-day-a-week commitment.

Karol Shulkin, who worked for Homeless Services, recounted a task force meeting with the members desperately trying to figure out how Ventura was ever going to get a shelter. Andrews said, “We need a champion.” And that’s what he became.

Mills read a list of jobs and accomplishments Andrews had held over his long career of service. And then Andrews spoke, with his voice breaking and interrupted by cheers. He made an impassioned speech that the attendees need to remain involved in public life. If something is wrong, speak up against it. If something needs doing, do it. And don’t give up. Two standing ovations followed.

It has been said that Andrews has “The soul of a Quaker and the heart of a lion.” This is one lion whose roar has shaken people up and made a difference.

Thank you Neal.

Countywide Robotics Competition held in Ventura

Robots being manipulated by student designers and programmers attempting to score points in the robotics competition. Photos by Richard Lieberman

by Richard Lieberman

On Saturday, October 27, at Holy Cross school in downtown Ventura the Ventura County Office of Education sponsored a VEX Robotics competition for middle and high school students from Ventura County. There were 24 teams and more than 150 students competing. The contest is now in its fourth year.

Local Ventura County students, relying on guidance from teachers and industry specialists, have designed, and built robots. The robots have been designed to score the most possible points in qualification matches and skills challenges.

John Tarkany Coordinator at the Ventura Office of Education has been responsible for all of student competitions in Ventura County. He has had responsibility for Mock Trial, Academic Decathlon, and the Science Fair. “We saw robotics were taking off and both the engineering and programming to build them.” Tarkany said. “We started looking at various robotic competitions and there were two that stood out First Robotics and Vex Robotics.” He added.

Students in the competition are required to program a robot and drive a robot in the competition. Each robot competing costs around $2000 to build program and compete. Each team also pays a fee to come to the event.

The first 30 seconds of each match in the contest is autonomous mode where the robot is programmed to perform a function. “I have been really impressed with some of the pre-programmed tasks.” Said Tarkany. The programming requires the robots to pick up balls and throw them at a flag and knock it over for points.

Competing teams were from grade levels from six to twelfth grades. Winning teams will compete in a statewide competition in March or April of next year.

Volunteers Needed at 2nd Annual Ventura River to the Sea Coastal Cleanup, Nov. 17

A young volunteer uses a customized bucket and trash picker at last year’s Ventura River to the Sea Coastal Cleanup.

On Saturday, November 17 from 9 a.m. – 12 noon, Ventura Land Trust (VLT) and the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation will team up to host the 2nd Annual Ventura River to the Sea Coastal Cleanup. Community volunteers are invited to participate in a large-scale trash clean up in the Ventura River estuary near the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

Check-in is at 9 a.m. at the bend in the Ventura-Ojai Bike Path near the end of Shoreline Dr. in Ventura. Look for the Ventura Land Trust and Surfrider Foundation pop-up canopies. Volunteers will be escorted into the estuary to clean and clear the area with the goal being to remove as much trash as possible before the rainy season begins and washes it onto nearby beaches and into the ocean.

All volunteers should wear long pants, long sleeves, close-toed shoes, a hat, sunscreen and bring a refillable water bottle. Tools, gloves and instruction will be provided. Volunteers younger than 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult.

To RSVP, go to venturalandtrust.org/events and, for more information, call the VLT office: (805) 643-

Ventura Land Trust (formerly Ventura Hillsides Conservancy) is dedicated to permanently preserving and protecting the land, water, wildlife and scenic beauty of the Ventura region for current and future generations. Founded in 2003, the 501(C)(3) non-profit organization is supported by over 600 members, local businesses and government partners. The land trust manages 90 acres of land along the Ventura River and is negotiating the purchase of its first hillside property. Ventura Land Trust’s offices are located in the Poinsettia Pavilion, 3451 Foothill Rd, Ventura, CA 93003. For more information, visit www.venturalandtrust.org.

9th Annual Castro Family & Ventura Police Community Foundation Toy Drive

From the 5th Annual Castro Family Toy Drive and still going strong.

The Ventura Police Department announces the 9th Annual Castro Family & Ventura Police Community Foundation Toy Drive. The community is invited to donate unwrapped toys or gift cards for the patients and siblings of the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at the Ventura County Medical Center. Donations, for ages infant to 18 years, will be accepted at the Ventura Police Department located at 1425 Dowell Drive Monday through Friday between the hours of 7:30 am and 5:30 pm from November 19 to December 14, 2018.

In 2008, Corey Castro was seven years old and was treated for Gorham’s Disease, a rare bone disease. As a patient, he was asked if he wanted to pick out a toy from the center’s toy box. Corey discovered the toy box needed more toys and asked his family if they could help fill the box for other children receiving treatment at the center. The Castro Family in partnership with the Ventura Police Community Foundation worked to make that dream a reality and has since provided toys and gifts to more than 1,500 patients and their siblings. The effort raises awareness about the only pediatric oncology and hematology center in Ventura County. Ventura Police Officers join the Castro Family in hosting a holiday party for the children and their families and help pass out gifts with Santa and Ventura Police K9s.

“Bringing joy to the brave junior crime fighters at VCMC is a humbling experience. Many of these children are fighting for their lives. We appreciate this opportunity to partner with the Castro Family and our community in providing a special evening for the children and their siblings during the holiday season,” said Commander Sam Arroyo.

Toy Drop Off Location: Ventura Police Department, 1425 Dowell Drive, Ventura, 93003

Date/Time Toy Drop Off: November 19 – December 14, Monday – Friday between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Ten bed shelter provides a safe place to live

Typically a ribbon cutting ceremony is to announce the opening of a new business. Photos by Michael Gordon

On Nov. 25, a ribbon cutting was held at the Turning Point Foundation Our Place Safe Haven located at 536 E. Thompson.

Safe Haven is the first stop on the road to recovery for mental health issues and homelessness. This 10 bed shelter provides a safe place to live where basic needs are met and the most vulnerable receive mental health treatment, assistance establishing a stable source of income, and help obtaining transitional housing with the goal of permanent housing.  Drop in services include hot meals, showers, laundry facilities, phone messages and mail delivery and case management.

We asked Jason Meek, Executive Director for the Turning Point Foundation “why, after being open for many years did they have a ribbon cutting?”

He answered “Typically a ribbon cutting ceremony is to announce the opening of a new business. So why then would Turning Point have this kind of ceremony for a program that has been in existence since the 90’s? The simple answer is this: It is symbolic. The new renovation provided Turning Point additional capacity to shelter and deliver vital services to our community’s most vulnerable members.  It demonstrates that we hear their concerns and are deeply committed to addressing their needs.”

https://turningpointfoundation.org/housing/ 805-652-000.

Vol. 12, No. 3 – Nov 7 – Nov 20, 2018 – Police Reports

by Cindy Summers

Police reports are provided to us by the Ventura  Police Department and are not the opinions of  the Ventura Breeze. All suspects mentioned  are assumed to be innocent until proven guilty  in a court of law.

Vehicle Burglary Arrest

On Oct.12, at 10;30pm the victim returned to her parked vehicle inside of the parking structure located at 555 East Santa Clara Street and found the suspect sitting inside of the vehicle rummaging through the interior. After being confronted by the victim, the suspect fled. The victim followed after the suspect while simultaneously calling 911. Responding officers located the suspect and were able to take her into custody. The property she had stolen from the victim’s car was recovered and returned to the victim. At the conclusion of the investigation Jasmine Wolpe, 33 years of Ventura was booked into Ventura County Jail for the felony charge of vehicle burglary.

A review of the Ventura County Superior Court website shows that the suspect has been arrested 14 times since 2015 for various misdemeanor charges including drug possession, possession of stolen property, petty theft and delaying/ obstructing officers. According to the website, 11 of these arrests resulted in convictions.

Armed Robbery

On Oct. 18, at 7:27pm, a HMA wearing dark clothing entered a business in the 700 block of N. Ventura Avenue. He approached the employee at the counter, pulled out a gun and demanded money. The employee gave the suspect an undisclosed amount of money, and the suspect fled on foot from the business. Responding officer checked the area but did not locate the suspect.

Robbery Arrest

On Oct. 25 at 1:40pm, the suspect entered a business in the 100 block of West Main Street, selected merchandise from the store and left without paying. A store employee confronted the suspect outside of the store, and the suspect pulled out a knife, brandished it and then fled. Responding officers checked the area for the suspect and located him in the nearby neighborhood. At the conclusion of the investigation, the suspect, 28 year old Ventura resident Tyler Miskiewicz, was booked into the Ventura County Jail on the felony charge of robbery.

A review of the Ventura County Superior Court website shows the suspect has been arrested 6 times in the past 2 years. The various charges included petty theft, drug possession, under the influence of drugs, obstructing officers and possession of stolen property.

Vehicle Burglary and Arrest

On Oct. 27 at 3:54pm, the Ventura Police Department Command Center received a 911 call of a vehicle burglary in progress. The call reported seeing the suspect, later identified as 37 year old vagrant Kai Rose, reach through the open window of a neighbor’s locked vehicle and take property. He was last seen leaving the area of foot. Officers responded to the call and detained Rose several blocks away.

During the investigation, officers spoke to several witnesses and positively identified Rose as the suspect. He was also found to be in possession of property stolen from the victim’s vehicle. The property was returned to the victim. Rose was arrested and later booked into the Ventura County Jail for burglary.

According to the Ventura County Superior Court website, Rose was convicted of seven separate offenses in 2016: possession of drug paraphernalia, under the influence of a controlled substance, petty theft, resisting arrest, petty theft, and possession of a controlled substance. In 2017, he was convicted of possession of burglary tools and for 2018, he shows to have an open case for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Prowling Arrest

On Oct. 28 at 5:36pm, the Ventura Police Department Command Center received a call from a motorist reporting a subject seen walking in the roadway at Telegraph Rd. and Bryn Mawr St. The caller reported the subject appeared to be under the influence and was carrying what appeared to be a toy gun wrapped in plastic. Officers arrived on scene and began checking the area.

When one of the officers was on Amherst St., a resident stopped the officer and said she just observed an unknown subject with a similar description entering her side yard and he fled when she yelled at him. Officers continued searching the area and located the subject, later identified as 35 year old Santa Paula resident Fernando Jaimes, on foot a short distance away.

Jaimes was positively identified and arrested. He was later booked into the Ventura County Jail for prowling and a parole violation. The item he was carrying was mistakenly identified as a toy gun. No one was injured as a result of this incident.

A review of the Ventura County Superior Court website shows that Jaimes has been convicted 7 times in the past 3 years. The various charges included resisting arrest, drug possession, brandishing a deadly weapon, possession of stolen property, petty theft, under the influence of drugs, and possession of drug paraphernalia. In 2012, Jaimes was convicted of carjacking.

Stabbings with Arrest

On Oct. 31 at 6:02am, patrol officers responded to an incident in the 500 block of Cedar Street. Upon arrival, the officers found two stabbing victims inside of the residence. The suspect, 23 year old Ventura resident Gabrielle Nett, who was known by the victims, had fled prior to the officers’ arrival. The investigation revealed there was a disturbance inside of the house that led to the two victims being stabbed. Both victims were treated for non-life threatening wounds and transported to VCMC for additional treatment. They were both treated and later released.

Major Crimes Detectives and Crime Scene Investigators responded and took over the crime scene. The investigation led detectives to a residence in Ventura where they found the suspect. She was detained and at the conclusion on the investigation, she was booked into Ventura County Jail on the felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment.

Vol. 12, No. 3 – Nov 7 – Nov 20, 2018 – Harbor Patrol Blotter


2:02pm, received a dispatch to a person trapped in an elevator at 1591 Spinnaker Drive. Officers were on patrol in the vehicle and responded. The individual, a UPS delivery drive was extricated from the elevator unharmed.


7:30am, observed a male/female illegally camping in their vehicle in the VIM lot. A warning was issued and the couple was assisted with a jumpstart.

12:15pm, issued a warning to a male/female arguing at the Halloween Dog Costume event. The two went their separate ways and no further action taken.


4:48pm, while on patrol in Boat19, officers issued warnings to rented peddle-boat operators who were within 30ft of sealions hauled out on the dock. It is a federal crime to harass or even be within 30ft of endangered sealions.


4:16pm, during shift change, received a dispatch to a water rescue, kite surfers in distress near the Ventura Pier. Officers responded in the Fireboat along with Ventura fire, State Parks, VC sheriff helicopter and AMR medics. When officers arrived on scene they found two kite surfers performing self-rescues and making their way to the beach downcoast of the pier.


10:55pm, received a report of a submerged vessel in the Ventura Keys at 1000 block of Peninsula. Officers responded and found a 17ft center console motor boat sunk to its bimini at the dock. TowBoat US was contacted for the salvage


9:57pm, while on patrol, officers observing the welfare of a homeless woman screaming while walking towards the beach. She eventually made it to the beach without incident, except for screaming profanities.


2:40pm, received a request to assist an individual who lost her Ipad. After an exhaustive search, including assistance from the “find my Ipad” application, the lost item was discovered by officers at the Brophy Brothers restaurant in Santa Barbara


7:10am, received a report of a large disabled dive vessel just outside the Harbor requesting assistance. Officers responded and assisted the dive boat Sprectre safely return to their slip in Ventura Harbor Village.


11:50pm, received a report of a vessel operating recklessly in the main portion of the harbor from a live aboard. Officers investigated and found a vessel fitting the description of the disturbing party and made contact at the launch ramp. The operator admitted to the violation and was sternly warned to refrain from reckless and negligent operation in the future.


11:30pm, while on patrol in the vehicle, officers observed several vehicles illegally parked without permits in VHV overflow lot. Parking citations were issued to several vehicles and individual’s camping in their vehicles were asked to leave the area to find appropriate areas to camp/sleep.