Re-printed from the Ventura Breeze issues 2018

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

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. He succeeded Nasarenko at the conclusion of his two-year term.

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

The City Council members voted 7-0 to adopt an electoral district map for the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, which brings the arduous work to change from an “at large” election process to a district election process almost to a close. The re-districting project spans nearly four years, begun in 2014, and involved dozens of council meetings, public notices, thousands of hours of community involvement, staff dedication and input from a professional election consultant.

In the final evaluation, valid maps had to meet key requirements of the Federal Voting Rights Act (FVRA) and California Voting Rights Act (CVRA).

The Thomas Fire Benefit Festival will be held at Plaza Park on Saturday, February 3, and will kick off with a VIP Chef Experience followed with live music featuring Kevin Costner and Modern West; Olivia Newton John (on her own recovery tour after second bout with breast cancer); three-time platinum hip hop and rap artist from Ventura, Super Duper Kyle; Grammy award winner, Colbie Caillat; Ventura’s own Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and as Mark Hartley teased, there may be a few more bands added.

On Tuesday, January 23 Nuvi Mehta, the VMF Janet & Mark L. Goldenson Artistic Director, introduced the large audience gathered at the Museum of Ventura County to the artists appearing at the 2018 Ventura Music Festival. He was assisted by Executive Director Susan Scott. Refreshments and entertainment were provided at the free event.

THE VMF reminds all that “The fires have left members of the Festival staff along with numerous friends and neighbors in need of basic resources like food, clothing and shelter. Many people and organizations are rallying to meet those needs and, in time, they will be met.”

Teams of bulldozers, excavators and other heavy equipment are working throughout the Thomas Fire burn areas as CalRecycle works to clear debris. Thirty-five teams are clearing properties with an expected completion date in April. Property owners who have not signed up for the CalRecycle program, or the County’s local program, face the possibility of having their property abated by the County and the cost added to their property tax bill.

The CalRecycle program operates at no direct cost to homeowners. Under the program, properties are cleared down to clean soil and the debris is taken to a landfill. But homeowners must sign up for the program. Almost 700 properties have been approved for the CalRecycle program and approximately 50 properties have already been cleared.

CFROG (Citizens for responsible oil and gas) held a protest march in Ventura. The environmental group is working to stop the federal government’s plan to open the coastline to more oil and gas drilling. Since the 1980’s offshore oil and gas leases have virtually been put on hold. This past January the Department of the Interior released a proposal to sell oil and gas leases in federal U.S. waters, including off the coast of California.

As the largest wildfire in the state’s history, the Thomas Fire generated some staggering statistics. It burned 281,893 acres (440 square miles). At its most devastating, it was being fought by an army of firefighters more than 8,000 strong. More than 1,000 structures were destroyed. And the fire’s most-sobering statistic is the 23 fatalities – including one firefighter – which resulted from the fire and its associated debris flow.

The County of Ventura, in cooperation with the cities of Ventura, Santa Paula, Ojai and Fillmore, initiated a fire recovery process weeks before the fire was even declared contained. The Ventura County Recovers website was launched on December 10, 2017, six days after the fire started. Since then it has had more than 45,000 unique visitors and about 200,000 page views.

Community members visited Arroyo Verde Park on Friday, February 16 to celebrate its partial reopening. The park, located at Foothill and Day Roads, was closed for approximately 10-weeks to ensure safe conditions for park users and repair damage due to the Thomas Fire and January rain event.

City crews and contractors worked hard to restore and reopen this highly visited park for the community to enjoy. The work included removing burned debris, tree removal, trail repair, and installing mitigation measures for rain events. Thanks to the dedicated team, similar to those at Plano tree service, the space is now cleared of unsafe trees and debris and is now safe for civilians. Falling trees posed as the greatest risk for this mammoth task but after many grueling days, that danger has now been resolved.

Let’s play! The City of Ventura Parks, Recreation & Community Partnerships Department is proud to announce the official Grand Opening and Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony for Kellogg Park, located at the corner of Kellogg Street and Ventura Avenue, on Saturday, April 14 from 10 am-noon. Opening day festivities include live music, games of cornhole and chess, free snacks and giveaways (while supplies last). Explore the park and all of its new amenities including play and exercise equipment, a walking path, turf slide, public art, and an amphitheater.

Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation will conduct a groundbreaking ceremony for its newest affordable housing development, Phase II of Snapdragon Place Apartments, at 10 a.m., Thursday, April 5, at Snapdragon Place Apartments, 11094 Snapdragon Street, Ventura.

The event will begin at 10 a.m. with a reception in the Community Room at Snapdragon Place Apartments. The program will include a welcome address from Cabrillo and its project partners. Following the program, attendees will walk to the building site for the groundbreaking ceremony and photos.

March 14th marked the one-month anniversary since seventeen lives were senselessly taken by a shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14th.

Declared “National Walkout Day”, students from 2,800 schools across the U.S. showed solidarity for the victims in Florida.

Here in Ventura, students at Ventura High School took part as well, marching and carrying signs that read, “Students Take Action!”, “Enough! Keep Us Safe!” and my favorite, “Fear Has No Place in Our Schools!”. As they marched, the students chanted, “end the violence! no more silence!” and in one of the videos taken, you can hear a student say, “this is way more organized than I thought it would be!”.

With the video being captured by a drone, the students at Cabrillo Middle School sent out a message of love by standing together on their field and forming a heart.

On Wednesday, Mar. 28, ground was broken on the Rancho Verde Apartments, the first USDA Section 514 rental housing property to be developed by the Housing Authority of the City of San Buenaventura (HACSB). It will be the first net zero energy multifamily residential property in the City of Ventura.

In this new development, 24 USDA Rural Housing units will be constructed as a multi-family site for farmworker households. Rancho Verde Ventura LP, a limited partnership affiliated with the Housing Authority of the City of San Buenaventura, is the owner and the Housing Authority of the City of San Buenaventura will be property manager. It is located at S. Saticoy Avenue and Blackburn Rd.

The Ventura County Fairgrounds receives no tax dollars or any other State funding. The Fair and maintenance of the Fairgrounds is made possible by self-generating funds.

To best serve the public in all of these capacities the Fairgrounds is making some hard decisions on how to responsibly use the funds generated through the year. Properly maintaining the Fairgrounds is most important to ensure its safety and readiness in good times and in times of crisis. To that end the Fairgrounds has regretfully announced it will reduce spending by eliminating the Fair Parade and reducing the number of Fireworks shows.

A fire that broke out on March 27, at about 2:30 pm on Santa Cruz Island is now fully contained. The fire, driven by moderately strong winds, grew from just 20 to 100 acres in the first three hours.

The fire escaped from a prescribed small burn pile fire that had been set earlier this week. It started near the main ranch on The Nature Conservancy property.

The Ventura Breeze is holding an “un-official” Name The Green Pig Contest for the new pig that was in the St. Pats Parade to replace the one that died last year. Send you suggestions to [email protected]. They will be submitted to the pig committee for their consideration.

On April 18th at 6:23pm, a 911 call reported that a homeless man was at the Ventura Promenade yelling and “being disruptive,” according to a statement issued by Ventura Police. Because all patrol cars were on other calls, the command center staff watched the pier’s security camera for twenty minutes and determined that a man matching the caller’s description was not threatening or disturbing.

At about 6:30pm, a homeless man, Jamal Jackson (49) entered the Aloha Steakhouse patio and stabbed patron Anthony Mele (35) in the neck. Mele was eating dinner with his family and had no connection to Jackson. Aloha employees quickly responded with first aid using towels to stop Mele’s bleeding. They took Mele’s family to a back room to comfort them. Mele’s wife appeared to be in shock. His daughter was given ice-cream. Mele was taken to the hospital and later died. The tragedy marks the city’s first homicide this year.

The City of Ventura and The Trust for Public Land held the long-awaited and highly anticipated Grand Opening of Kellogg Park on Saturday, April 14, from 10 am to noon. Nestled between rolling green hills, on the corner of Kellogg and Ventura Avenue, the park features state of the art amenities including: two playgrounds (for ages 2-5 and 5-12), nature play areas, permanent cornhole stations, chess and checker tables, outdoor fitness equipment stations, an amphitheater, and ¼ mile walking path.

Five new Ventura Police Officers graduated from the Ventura County Criminal Justice Training Center’s Academy this month and are now in their next phase of field training!

Congratulations to Officer Rolls for being presented with the “Outstanding Personal Traits Award” and Officer Allen for being presented with the “Outstanding Academic Achievement & Scenario Performance Award”.

The 49 recruits, representing agencies throughout Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties completed 24 weeks of instruction provided through the combined efforts of local law enforcement agencies and other criminal justice entities.

The final results of the Breeze VERY UNOFFICIAL naming of the green pig are in. The long list of funny names sent to us by readers were submitted to a panel of Breeze staffers for review and selection. Of the names submitted over 15 received at least one vote. The winning name is HAMLET. Other names that were right behind HAMLET were PIGASSO, HAM SOLO and ALBERT EINSWINE.

And who knows, at next year’s St. Pats Parade the pig might still be named BACON. But let’s get serious, the name of an inflatable green pig is really not very important, but we had fun.

Thursday May 3rd, George and Debbie Fox presented United Way of Ventura County a check for $60,900. When asked how this project came about, Debbie Fox explained, “the Thomas Fires occurred on Monday and by Thursday we decided we had to do something!”.

Before becoming Ventura Water’s new General Manager, Kevin Brown, now a retired Navy Captain, worked in the Pentagon as chairman of the Strategic Laydown Assessment for the Chief of Naval Operations, a nine-billion-dollar annual program.

With an annual revenue of around $94 miilion, Ventura Water brought in Brown specifically for his strategic planning experience for infrastructure. He had been on the job only 2 short months when the Thomas Fires erupted.

The City of Ventura has issued the first full-home Thomas Fire rebuild permits to property owners who lost their homes in the fire last December. The City of Ventura Community Development Department worked closely with the homeowners and architects to issue building permits.

The Ventura City Council took several steps early on to help residents rebuild homes on fire-damaged properties by instituting a streamlined and expedited approach. After the Thomas Fire, policy changes were made to accelerate the recovery process such as a allowing homeowners to maintain their legal nonconforming status and instituting a 14-business day turnaround for permit plan check(normally at least 6-weeks). To help review rebuilding permits, the City contracted with outside firms to support the workload and ensure Thomas Fire rebuilding applications are given priority.

The Ventura City Council adopted a Fireworks Social Host Ordinance during its regular meeting on June 18, 2018. Under the new ordinance, any homeowner, renter, or person in charge of a residence or other private property who knows or should know of the sale, use, and/or possession of any fireworks on private property are subject to a civil penalty levied by the City of Ventura.

Ventura Police Officers are investing in local youth as Detective Marchetti, Officer Rodriguez, Officer Lopez, Detective Quiorz and Detective Henderson took 20 local youth to the Dodger game on June 15. The effort, funded by the Ventura Police Community Foundation, is part of the Ventura Police Department’s efforts at crime prevention through mentorship of at risk youth.

The City Council voted on July 9 to approve moving ahead with plans to open a year-round homeless shelter. The council voted 7-0 in favor of moving ahead with city and county officials in drafting terms of the proposal. The shelter will be located at 2323 Knoll Drive, a 4-story property owned by the county. The county would lease the space to the city for a possible $1.00 per year.

Twelve years ago, Turning Point Foundation took a group of people living along in the river bottom in tents and started them on the path to hope and the promise of better things to come: A new beginning at River Haven where they have been living in cleverly-designed Geodesic domes that have surpassed their lifespan of five years by many years.

On July 27, a ribbon cutting was held to celebrate the new small houses made by Tuff Sheds as a replacement for the domes. Tuff Sheds have a 30-year guarantee.

ParkMobile, the leading provider of smart parking and mobility solutions in the US, is partnering with the City of Ventura to allow drivers to pay for metered on-street parking spaces Downtown using their mobile devices. Beginning July 17, customers can register for free through the app for iPhone, Android or online at Parkmobile.IO.

The ParkMobile app allows motorists to park, pay for parking via their mobile device, and not be required to stop or wait in line at a pay station to pay for or add time.

On Monday, August 7, 1978, Sergeant Darlon “Dee” Dowell became the only Ventura Police Officer killed in the line of duty. The City named Dowell Drive, the location of police headquarters, in Sergeant Dowell’s honor in 1979.

On August 7, 2018 Sergeant Dowell’s Family, retired Ventura Police Personnel, Ventura Police Officers and Civilian Staff held a ceremony at Ivy Lawn in honor of Sergeant Dowell’s life.

A scholarship set up in honor of Sergeant Dowell by the Ventura Police Officers Association has awarded over $100,000 to local students.

One of Ventura’s premier philanthropists, arts supporters and political activists, Helen died at age 97 peacefully on July 28. Her almost 60 years in Ventura is a virtual history of ongoing community engagement. She has been recognized over the years for her many contributions, by numerous service organizations in the areas of educational, medical, civic, youth, theater, arts, property rights and senior concerns. Ventura would not be the same without her enormous contributions.

On Saturday, August 11th, Ventura Adult and Continuing Education (VACE) celebrated its 50th Anniversary of providing Lifelong Learning to the community at the main campus on Valentine Road. In the past fifty years, VACE has offered adult education and training in over 150 locations throughout Ventura.

The Ventura County Fair is proud and happy to report another successful Fair. Celebrating the diverse traditions of Ventura County, the 143rd edition, “A Country Fair with Ocean Air” closed with thousands having come out to enjoy the 12-day event, many returning for the first time since making the Fairgrounds their home during the December Thomas Fire evacuations.

The Ventura County Fair’s mission is to preserve, promote, and showcase agriculture and the traditions of Ventura County, this was accomplished with competitive livestock and horse shows, agricultural exhibits and baking contests.

Community Memorial Health System has once again been awarded the American Heart/American Stroke Association’s “Gold Plus Achievement Award” as well as the association’s “Target Stroke Honor Roll Elite Plus Achievement Award” which highlights the health system’s dedication to the highest standards in stroke care. Both recognitions will be featured in US News & World Report.

Community Memorial Health System (CMHS) moved a significant step closer on Wednesday, Aug. 29, to opening the new Community Memorial Hospital when President and CEO Gary K. Wilde received the keys to the new Ocean Tower at Loma Vista Road and Brent Street.

Now that CMHS has taken official possession of the newly constructed six-story building, CMHS can now begin the move-in process. It’s anticipated that the new Ocean Tower will open to patients and the public in about four months.

The Ventura Rotary Club, Ventura Downtown Lions Club and the Salvation Army of Ventura have partnered to bring the community a free Eye Clinic. Their goal and vision is to provide free eye glasses for those in need (no questions asked). Patients are seen each Thursday from 7:30- 9:30 except holidays. Walk-Ins are welcomed as well, just arrive early and ring the bell!

The Ventura City Council announced today that it has selected Alex McIntyre as the new City Manager of Ventura. McIntyre is scheduled to begin with the City in mid-November. He replaces Mark Watkins who left in December 2017 after five years in the City Manager position.

Nine new Ventura Police Officers graduated from the Ventura County Criminal Justice Training Center’s Academy on October 12, 2018. The recruits completed 25 weeks of instruction provided through the combined efforts of local law enforcement agencies and other criminal justice entities. The intense training and education prepare these recruits for the responsibilities of serving the community as peace officers.


“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.

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.

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.

On Monday, December 3, the City of Ventura held a ceremony in observance of the one-year anniversary of the Thomas Fire. The ceremony was held on the front steps of Ventura City Hall proceeding the regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

Comments were made by Deputy Mayor Matt LaVere and Fire Chief David Endaya, followed by a moment of silence to remember those who lost their lives. Traditional bagpipe music was played by the Ventura City Firefighters Pipes & Drums Corps. Handheld battery candles were held to show support and reflect the strength of our community.

On a beautiful Sunday, Dec.2 a dedication was held at Serra Cross Park located in Grant Park to celebrate the repairs made after the Thomas Fire destroyed the area. Fr. Tom Elewaut from the Mission San Buenaventura gave a blessing to the Park. New landscaping, and grass made the area look as good as it did prior to the Thomas Fire. Even though the area is now usable Grant Park remains closed, but, by reservation Serra Cross is available for private events.

At the last most recent city council meeting, a large crowd gathered to honor three outgoing members whose service spanned nearly seventy years. Attendees also saw Ventura history in the making as the new council members were seated.

Outgoing members Jim Monahan and Mike Tracy and Mayor Neal Andrews presided over the council for the last time as elected officials.

The evening was the first-time council members representing Ventura districts were seated. Members Sofia Rubalcava representing District one, Eric Nasarenko in District four, Jim Friedman in District five and Lorrie Brown in District 6.

After taking their places, the board’s first act was to unanimously choose Matt LaVere to be Mayor. The second vote was to choose Rubalcava as Deputy Mayor. The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Ventura are picked by the council rather than a public vote.

Surprising many, Ventura Unified School District Superintendent David Creswell has announced that he will resign after serving as Superintendent for only 16-months.

The announcement came after several weeks of controversy surrounding a sermon that came to light that he delivered while an elder at Redeemer Baptist Church in Riverside in 2016. Creswell worked for the Fontana Unified School District at the time of the sermon. Only School Board Trustee Mary Haffner called for his resignation.

Creswell will continue to be on district payroll until Aug. 22, 2019, the end of his contract. Creswell will be available to the district during that time to provide assistance to district management as requested.

The Vagabond Coffee Shop will close January 1st after 52 years of continuous operations. The announcement of the closing was made by Jolene McBee 74, owner of the coffee shop in early December.

Not much has changed in the last 52 years of operations. The food, the ambiance and the welcoming nature of the wait staff have stayed the same. The diner, located at 756 E. Thompson Blvd. until now has been untouched by time.

The new Ocean Tower at Community Memorial Hospital opened to patients on Sunday, Dec. 16, when all the patients were transferred from their rooms in the old Mountain Tower to their new ones in the Ocean Tower. The transfer of CMH patients to the new building took the bulk of the day on Sunday and was completed without incident. Overall 130 patients were moved.

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