Category Archives: News and Notes

Ventura County’s 35th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., national holiday observance

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Ventura County is pleased to announce that its 35th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day observance and birthday celebration, will be held on Monday, January 18, starting at 10 a.m. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday, which celebrates King’s birthday, honors his legacy, and lifts up civil rights.

This is a free all-virtual, online event that will be broadcast via multiple online platforms, including Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube. The program will be rebroadcast at the Oxnard Performing Arts Center, 800 Hobson Way, Oxnard, on January 18, at 4:30 p.m., where it may be viewed with safe social distancing from parked cars.

This year’s event theme, “Lives end when we are silent…Get in trouble, good trouble.” incorporates an homage to the late civil rights hero John Lewis, who was a close associate of Dr. King and made famous the words “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.”

The keynote speaker will be Tamika Jean-Baptiste, AMGEN Executive Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging. Mrs. Jean-Baptiste has over 25 years in the biopharmaceutical field and has worked for Amgen for over 19 years, serving in the capacities of Director of Sales, Key Account Manager, and District Sales Manager. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Arkansas State University and a Global Executive MBA from TRIUM (NYU, London School of Economics, HEC Paris). Throughout her career, Tamika has been a champion for diversity and a mentor to others to find their authentic voice and professional purpose.

The event will include brief comments from elected officials, spiritual music, and a virtual Freedom March, as well as the winning speech from the annual Alpha Kappa Alpha Youth Speech Expo.

The Committee still has an online presence through its website and social media. The website address is http://www.mlkventuracounty.com. The Committee is also on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/mlkofventuracounty, and on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/MLKventura.

From its inception in 1986, the Ventura County MLK observance program has spotlighted the positive achievements and accomplishments of the youth of our community. In previous years, the Monday program has drawn hundreds of people from throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
It was necessary to cancel the program only once, on January 17, 1994, due to an earthquake.

As in previous years, this year’s program promises to be an inspirational, informative, and enjoyable experience. We invite everyone to be a part of the activities and celebration of Rev. Dr. King’s life and legacy, by logging on for our first all-virtual event.

Ventura College launches Veterinary Technology Program

Ventura College is offering a new two-year Veterinary Technology Program culminating in an Associate of Science degree. Classes begin spring 2021 at Ventura College’s East Campus in Santa Paula.

After successfully completing the first-year curriculum, students will receive a Certificate of Achievement in Veterinary Assistant, which will enable students to seek entry level employment in the field of veterinary technology while completing the Associate of Science degree requirements.

Ventura College partnered with Ohana Pet Hospital to launch the program. “Ohana is helping build a new teaching lab adjacent to the Ventura College East Campus and our Santa Paula hospital location, which are in the same building,” says Dr. Jill Muraoka Lim, a founding partner of Ohana Pet Hospital. “We are also working with the Ventura College Foundation on fundraising efforts.”

The program is seeking accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Accreditation occurs 1 to 2 years after a program has begun. The program is on course to receive accreditation by the time the initial group of students successfully complete their two-year curriculum. Students will then be eligible to take the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE) to become a Registered Veterinary Technician. Preparations for the national exam are embedded in courses throughout the program. Besides classwork, students will receive training in lab courses and participate in clinical externships at Ohana Pet Hospital.

“We are grateful for the help and support of the Ohana Pet Hospital staff,” says Dr. Kim Hoffmans, Ventura College president. “Their clinical experience brings real-world knowledge into the classroom.”

There are currently no AVMA accredited veterinary technology programs in Ventura, Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo Counties. “The Ventura College program is important in that it provides local students with a solid education to enter a profession with many diverse career paths and opportunities for growth,” says Lim. “In addition, due to a local (and national) shortage of qualified and educated veterinary technicians and assistants, this program will help fill the staffing void that all veterinary hospitals face.”

The Ventura College Foundation assists the college to successfully facilitate the corporate and campus partnership for the Veterinary Technology Program. Other foundation efforts for educational and local economic development have resulted in the development of the college’s Diesel Mechanics Program, a relaunch of the Agricultural Program (with a renovated avocado orchard and Living Learning Lab) and the Gene Haas Advanced Manufacturing Lab expansion.

“It’s important that students can apply what they learn in college to good-paying jobs in our community,” says Anne Paul King, Ventura College Foundation executive director. “The return on our corporate partners’ investment in education is immediate.”

Program classes are full for the spring 2021 semester. Ventura College will host information sessions and make applications available in March 2021 for the Veterinary Technology Program’s 2021-22 school year. For more information, go to www.venturacollege.edu, select Programs & Courses and type in Veterinary Technology Program in the Search box.

Pension debt continues to rise

by Venturans for Responsible & Efficient Gov’t

Ventura’s unfunded pension liabilities continued to grow in 2019 to $218.6 million. The City of Ventura continues to sink deeper into debt to pay for city employees’ present and future retirement benefits. Unfortunately, the economic reality of the city’s current public pension liabilities is not receiving the attention it demands.

Revised Unfunded Liability Figures
The new unfunded pension liabilities figures come from the 2018-2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Ventura added $3.5 million to its unfunded liabilities. Simultaneously, the market value of Ventura’s assets held by CalPERS dropped to 66.7%, a multi-year low.

A Political Hot Topic
Discussions about pensions get emotional because we’re talking about people’s future and security. Let’s be clear. We respect the work city employees do. There is no denying that fire and police perform a vital job that is both dangerous and requires a high level of training and responsibility.

Our concern is not about their work. We’re uneasy about how the city structures, accumulates and pays retirement benefits.

Neglecting The Unfunded Pension Liabilities Doesn’t Make Them Disappear
For ten years, Ventura has done little to remedy the unfunded pension liability. During that time, there have been four different City Councils. Yet, they made only a modest effort to solve the problem. Then-Mayor Bill Fulton and City Manager Rick Cole claimed in 2011 that the City of Ventura had tilled new ground by requiring the city employees to pay something toward their retirement – 4 ½%.

Yet, closer scrutiny showed employees pay their 4 ½% retirement contribution toward the employers’ portion (i.e., The taxpayers’ portion) of what Ventura sends to the CALPERS retirement plan. This accounting maneuver explicitly increases the employee’s total compensation, meaning the “contribution” counts as the employee’s income to calculate the employee’s retirement benefit when they retire.

Suggestions For Addressing Unfunded Liabilities
There are two other choices for our City Council to consider if they have the political will.

1. Make beneficiaries pay more. Capping the employer contribution at a fixed percentage of salary would cut pension costs for the city. As pension costs increase over the years, the employees will pay all the growing costs.

2. Change when retired city employees may begin collecting pensions. This alternative solution applies to new employees only. What if police and fire could vest their generous pensions in full by age 50 or 55, as they do now, but the payments did not start until age 65? At current official pension growth rates, that would more than double the fund’s value over those ten years. Also, the retirement payment period would be ten years shorter, given the same life expectancy.

Public sector employees may resist the changes but this solution makes sense. Private sector employees don’t get their full social security until 65 or even 67, depending their birth year.

Raw Political Power Behind Unfunded Pension Liabilities
Ventura’s city employee unions negotiate higher and higher salary increases disregarding any concern that the money may not be available to pay their pensions once they retire. Union negotiators believe a virtually ironclad guarantee exists for the workers to whom the city promised the pension benefits. Many Councilmembers accepted the same thing, although it’s no longer valid. A Federal Bankruptcy Court ruled otherwise in January 2015.

The impact of this decision is that CALPERS cannot stop cities from modifying pensions. Yet, the Ventura City Council appears unaware of the findings.

Editors Comments
Past retirement pension negotiations were based on union bargaining and raw political power, creating a gap between what politicians promised and what cities can really pay. It will take political will to bring the retirement benefits back to reality. Changing the system is the only way these promised benefits can be sustainable and dependable for retirees. It’s also the only way that taxpayers can afford to pay for them.

East Ventura Community Council meeting

“A Conversation About East Ventura” is the topic for panelists and those in attendance at the next Zoom meeting of the East Ventura Community Council, at 7:00 pm on Thursday, January 21st.

Newly elected City Council members as well as Stephanie Caldwell, Executive Director of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, and Brad Golden, Immediate Past Board Chair, will discuss ideas and plans for assisting East Ventura’s enhancement.

Community members in attendance will review the priorities for East Ventura improvements as previously identified at the September community forum and will help develop an action plan.

Other topics may be added to the agenda, so be sure to check the group’s Facebook page for updates.

The Council represents those who live east of Victoria Avenue, and the public is encouraged to attend and participate.

The meeting will be held online via the Zoom application. Go here to view: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88105125389?pwd=Mm9mTHFyRmtGZDhTaEUzMXI1WTU5QT09.

You will first need to download the Zoom app on your computer or smart phone. You do not need an account.  If you miss the meeting, you can always view later on the website, www.eastventura.org. The Zoom meeting will start promptly at 7:00 pm.

For more information, contact EVCC Chairperson, Deborah Meyer-Morris at eastventuracc@gmail.com.

Homes with Heart VC encourages community members to make their lives more meaningful

Local human services agency urges community support to open their hearts and homes to children and older youth in (foster)care, as additional census shows a growth in need during the pandemic.

The holidays are a special time of year filled with memories, celebrations, and annual family gatherings. It is also a time to acknowledge the families who are less fortunate who may not enjoy the same shared experiences. Ventura County Children and Family Services through Homes with Heart VC truly hopes and needs more families to step up to help children, youth, and families with mentorship, or a home for the holidays by becoming a resource family.

Homes with Heart VC is grateful for the families, organizations and circle of charities who have come forward over the years to help strengthen families in need, and urges additional families to open their hearts to children, older youth in care and their families this holiday season. Your contribution can be large or small whether your family can provide a home, a form of mentorship, or a safe place to come to for guidance, you can make a large impact in their lives and your family will receive so much more in return.

In addition to encouraging more families to come forward and help keep families safe and reunified, Homes with Heart VC is hosting a holiday donation drive where people can donate directly to the charities in Ventura County that help families and children by visiting HomeswithHeartVC.org/Charities. Please help share the holiday cheer to families in need this season. Your simple act of generosity can make all the difference for families in need of love, support and stability.

Visit HomeswithHeartVC.org/Charities and make your contribution to local charities helping youth and families today.

Recognized as a best practice leader statewide in the family recruitment and support component of child welfare, Ventura County Children and Family Services’ Homes with Heart VC, previously known as Foster VC Kids, was developed to increase the amount of loving resource families who are ready to take in children in need in Ventura County.

This initiative provides resource families with ongoing support services, trauma-informed training, and mentorship to enhance the safety, permanency and well-being of Ventura County’s youth and families.

Learn how Ventura County Children and Family Services’ Homes with Heart VC is making a difference throughout Ventura County, www.homeswithheartvc.org.

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month

by Kathy Morgan

Human Trafficking impacts between 4-6 million people annually worldwide, 71% being women and girls. Human Trafficking (HT) is the exploitation of a person for sex or labor through the use of force, fraud or coercion. It is a Human Rights crime as it deprives a person of his or her freedom and causes them irrevocable harm – both mentally and physically.

Many people believe that this is something that only happens in other places. However, California is ranked as one of the top four HT destinations in the United States with our central coast being identified as a natural transit corridor for trafficking. Trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion dollar industry annually and the second largest criminal enterprise in the world.

Traffickers consider it to be an easy way to make money as it is low risk with a renewal resource. Soroptimist International – a global volunteer organization which advocates for human rights and gender equality has been involved in projects and advocacy surrounding this issue since 1995. For HT to end there need to be efforts in Awareness and Prevention (Education to all),
Protection (Police resources and safe houses), Prosecution, and Policy changes.

Our local Soroptimist International clubs (Oxnard, Ventura and Camarillo) have sponsored STOP Human Trafficking awareness events for 13 years. Only with the public being educated and aware of this issue is there hope for ending this heinous crime. For more information go to www.stoptraffickingventuracounty.org.

If you need help or see potential abuse call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233733.

Ventura Chamber of Commerce presents check to Ventura Fire Chief to support local Spark of Love program

City of Ventura Fire Chief, David Endaya; Ventura Chamber of Commerce CEO, Stephanie Caldwell; Ventura Chamber of Commerce 2020 Board Chair, Brad Golden; and City of Ventura Assistant Fire Chief, Matthew Brock at the check ceremony.

The Ventura Chamber of Commerce presented a check for $3,500 to Ventura City Fire Chief David Endaya at a recent City Council meeting. The check to be used in support of the firefighters’ Spark of Love Program that provides new toys and sports equipment to kids in need throughout Ventura County.

The Chamber’s support of this program has a rich history. Each year the Chamber hosts their annual Poinsettia Awards program, which recognizes those in the community who are doing great work in business, education, public service and the non-profit arenas. A popular component of the event is the Spark of Love toy drive. Over the years chamber members have donated thousands of toys for local kids in our community. This year due to COVID, the chamber was unable to host the annual event.

Then in partnership with Ventura Fire and Spark of Love, The Chamber planned a contactless drive through event at the Pacific View Mall, however, due to the State’s “Stay at Home” order this event too had to be cancelled.

“After speaking with Chief Endaya I knew that we could not let that stop us, we cannot let down these kids,” said Stephanie Caldwell, President and CEO of the Ventura Chamber. “I worked with our sponsors who generously agreed to use some of the funds originally earmarked for the Poinsettia Awards to support Spark of Love.”

On Tuesday, December 15, Chamber Board Chair, Brad Golden and Stephanie Caldwell presented the donation to Chief Endaya. Not only will these funds be used to purchase much needed toys for the program, but the funds will be spent right here in our own community, at local shops and sporting goods stores, increasing the power of the donation locally!

Special thanks to the generosity of members who supported the program with donations: Ventura Auto Center, Montecito Bank & Trust, California Resources Corporation, Ventura County Credit Union, Aera Energy, Christina Vanarelli, Inc. A Professional Law Corporation, Aegis Living, Bank of Sierra, Sespe Consulting, Tolman & Wiker Insurance Services, AT&T, So Cal Edison, UCLA Health and Channel Islands Designs.

The Ventura Chamber of Commerce is a membership-based organization that advocates on behalf of the business community. With nearly 700 members, representing more than 24,000 employees locally, the Chamber engages on a variety of issues that help to drive a strong local economy as The Voice of Business.

County of Ventura’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer announced

“Phin is a dynamic and results-driven leader.”

After a nationwide recruitment that garnered over 150 applicants, the County of Ventura has selected Phin Xaypangna (pronounced Pin) as the County of Ventura’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer.

“Phin is a dynamic and results-driven leader with more than twenty years of experience in diversity, equity and inclusion,” said County CEO Mike Powers. “Her extensive experience will serve our County well. We are deeply committed to ensuring that all employees and those we serve have a sense of safety, belonging, justice and equity and this position will help lead us forward in improving our efforts.”

The Diversity and Inclusion Officer will drive engagement, strategy, implementation and accountability for all County of Ventura Diversity and Inclusion initiatives to ensure that all employees and those receiving County services are treated with respect and without discrimination and that the County leverages the strength of the diverse County workforce and community.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to become Ventura County’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. The organization has made significant progress in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion. I’m excited to be leading this effort to the next level,” said Phin Xaypangna. “We must all work together and hold ourselves accountable to ensure that all residents and employees of Ventura County have the opportunity to thrive. I’m committed to operationalizing racial equity and social justice to everything we do to create equitable outcomes and making Ventura County a leader in this area.”

Xaypangna has served as the Equity and Inclusion Manager for the County of Mecklenburg in Charlotte, North Carolina a County with more than 6,000 employees and more than one million residents. She led the County’s efforts in developing diversity, equity and inclusion measures, programs and policies.

The new position, a best practice in private industry for supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, will continue and enhance work that is already in progress at the County of Ventura. In 2017, the County launched the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force comprised of leaders from across County agencies and departments. The Task Force’s mission is to enhance and strengthen systems, programs, and learning to ensure that the County has the best practices to work effectively and leverage diversity with all team members, customers, and with the community, and to improve outcomes for community members, deliver culturally responsible services, and maintain successful partnerships with community organizations.

To date, the Task Force has worked to develop and implement mandatory employee cultural competency training, created an online Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Library, created a Mentorship Program, established the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Council, supported creation of a County of Ventura Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer leadership position, and has continued the bilingual incentive premium for County employees to provide services in Spanish and Indigenous languages.

In November, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis. The resolution discusses working collaboratively with community stakeholders, law and justice agencies, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force, health care professionals, and others to address public concerns, review practices and effective allocation of resources. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer will take the lead on this collaboration.

Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) is excited to announce that Jeffrey Lambert and Tracy Tagawa have joined the VCCF Leadership Team.

Previously Jeffrey Lambert served as Community Development Director for the City of Ventura.

Prior to joining VCCF as Chief Operating Officer, Jeffrey Lambert served as Community Development Director for the City of Oxnard and City of Ventura. Lambert has a proven track record as a public servant throughout his career and is recognized as a Certified Planner by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). He previously owned his own planning and government consulting firm, served as Community Development Director for the City of Santa Clarita, and as the Land Use Manager for Kaiser Permanente Southern California. Lambert also served on the national Board of the American Planning Association (APA) and was President of the California Chapter of APA.

Lambert graduated from the University of Southern California with a Masters in Urban Planning and previously earned his B.A. degree in Psychology and Government from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

As VCCF’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Lambert will lead the development and stewardship division, program and grants department, marketing and communications, and strategic initiatives. “I am so excited to join the VCCF in its work to improve Ventura County through philanthropy and giving to our non-profits,” he said.

Also joining the foundation as Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) is UC Santa Barbara alum, Tracy Tagawa. Prior to joining VCCF in September 2020, Tracy was Vice President & Regional Brokerage Supervisor for Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC for fourteen years. Her service region included cities within Santa Barbara County, Ventura County, and Los Angeles County where she worked diligently in identifying, analyzing, and reducing potential financial risks.  She was also responsible for all internal and external audits within her region.

With over twenty years of experience in Risk Management, Tagawa brings a passion for developing strong community relationships while ensuring compliance and risk policies are being followed. “VCCF’s dedication to partnering with the individuals and organizations within the local communities to help others is truly inspiring. I am thrilled to join VCCF and proud to be a part of this high-character and devoted team,” said Tagawa. In her role as the foundation’s Chief Compliance Officer, Tagawa’s responsibilities include the oversight of the VCCF Corporate Compliance Program and the adherence of VCCF’s fiduciary responsibilities with its clients and future fundholders.

Established in 1987, the Ventura County Community Foundation builds philanthropy in the region by stewarding legacies through careful management of charitable capital. The foundation honors donor intent by protecting endowments. The nonprofit specializes in connecting philanthropic resources with community needs for the benefit of all. The organization also serves the community through scholarships, grantmaking, and collaborative partnerships. For more information, please visit www.vccf.org.

Workforce Development Board secures programs to address barriers to employment and the COVID-19 Pandemic’s impact

The Workforce Development Board of Ventura County (WDB) was awarded a $315,000 grant by the State of California Employment Development Department to implement a National Dislocated Worker Grant (NDWG) to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the Ventura County workforce.

The funding will aid Ventura County’s response to COVID-19 by providing opportunities for employment and training services to individuals who are unemployed or underemployed as a result of the pandemic and who are unlikely to return to work in their previous occupations.  Services include training and job placement in in-demand careers, especially those where there is an increased need due to the impact of COVID-19.

The funding will also enable the WDB to provide applicant referrals to local employers, job placement assistance in high-demand sectors, job readiness workshops to build soft skills, and help with career planning through individual employment plans and online career workshops.

The WDB of Ventura County is a partner of America’s Job Center of California network.  Individuals interested in receiving employment assistance should register with America’s Job Center of California by calling 805-204-5186 or emailing AJCC-VenturaCounty@ventura.org.  For those with limited hearing or speaking, dial 711 to reach the California Relay Service (CRS). America’s Job Center of California offers no-fee employment services and training resources and will guide applicants through the registration process.

Additionally, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, the WDB of Ventura County applied for workplace grants as soon as they became available.  In April, the WDB was awarded a $450,000 grant through the Employment Development Department’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act 25% Dislocated Worker Funds. Funds went to support services that helped individuals impacted by COVID-19. These included providing equipment necessary to telework and assistance with housing, utilities, childcare, and transportation.

In June, the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) awarded $462,506 to Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties, with Ventura WDB as the lead support of the SB1 High Road Construction Careers initiative. The initiative’s purpose is to advance careers in the building and construction trades as a reliable career pathway for disadvantaged Californians.

WDB coordinates its response to COVID 19 with the Economic Development Collaborative (EDC), local business organizations, counties, cities, and chambers. For up-to-date business recovery and closure/opening information, go to the EDC website:  https://edcollaborative.com/covid19. For more on the Workforce Development Board of Ventura County, go to http://workforceventuracounty.org.