Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ojai's Year In Review, July-December

• The riverfront sections of the Baldwin Road former Honor Farm property will be used for depositing 2.1 million cubic yards of silt, which will be excavated during the Matilija Dam removal project and then transported by pipeline to the site.
The project, begun in 2001, is led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and coordinates federal, state, and local governments. The project’s goal is to return the Ventura River to its natural, free-flowing state by removing the dam and that requires moving the accumulated silt now filling the dam site.
• It was another marathon five-hour meeting before the Santa Barbara Planning Commission Wednesday in an attempt to clarify issues and make a final decision on the Troesh Diamond Rock Mine Conditional Use Permit.
An Ojai crowd of about 80 again filled the meeting room alongside residents of the Cuyama region to hear the Commission vote 4-to-1 in favor of approving the mine’s C.U.P. after attaching two new restrictive measures.
• With almost half of Ojai’s planning commissioners on their side, a handful of Ojai residents asked the city staff to broaden their recommended chain store ordinance to apply to all businesses within the entire city limits at Wednesday night’s Planning Commission meeting.
• With the Diamond Rock Gravel Mine recently recommended for approval, the city of Ojai has finally decided to formally step in and get involved with the issue of gravel trucks traveling through the Ojai Valley.
At Tuesday night’s Ojai City Council meeting, city staff recommended that staff continue to monitor the Diamond Rock Mine project proposal and report back to the council on further action to be taken by the city, including possible legal procedures.

• Serious crime in Ojai continued at last year’s high level during the first half of 2007 as thefts and residential burglaries increased again, but criminal violence fell as felony assaults were down more than half, according to a new police report.
“The news is mixed,” city manager Jere Kersnar said Wednesday. “But I think there has been progress, because I worry most about (violent) crimes, and those are down.”
• A fourth traffic signal will be installed on Highway 33 in Mira Monte at the junction of Highway 33 and Villanova Road, next to Rite Aid.
•Debbie McConnell, executive director of Help of Ojai, is resigning to focus on maternal responsibilities.
• Victor Keith Stolz, 46, was found dead Thursday morning outside the Ojai Library.
• Larry Yuva, Ojai resident, founder of the Matilija Fly Fishing Club and husband of Mayor Carol Smith, went missing sometime around July 2 from his vacation home in Montana. Three days later he was found, hanging upside down in an overturned pickup.
• Help of Ojai has appointed a new executive director. J.R. Jones will take the helm of the local nonprofit agency from current director, Debbie McConnell, who earlier resigned.
• Confronted by dozens of farmers asking for relief, directors of the Casitas Municipal Water District instead imposed a 53 percent hike in the cost to irrigate crops.

• The scorching temperatures that for more than a week have turned Ojai into Blythe’s unofficial sister city have somewhat subsided, but only slightly. The highest point was reached Saturday afternoon at 109.6 degrees.
• Wilma Melville, founder of the Ojai-based National Disaster Search Dog Foundation accepted a $100,000 Purpose Prize award from the nonprofit group Civic Ventures.
• The West Campus expansion of Help of Ojai got the green light when the Ventura County Planning Commission approved the conditional use permit for its property by a 3-2 vote.
• Ojai received its first visit in recent memory from a legitimate presidential candidate Sunday afternoon when U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) came to town.
• After 10 years, Caryn Bosson is stepping down as executive director of Ojai Valley Youth Foundation.

• Despite a rare splash of September rain, the Ojai Valley experienced its driest year in recent history as a new rainfall season began this week. Indeed, precipitation for 2006-2007 may have matched the lowest ever.
• The eighth annual Ojai Film Festival had three packed theaters.
• About 20 protesters gathered at the “Y” intersection Thursday to express their indignation for President Bush’s veto of a bill to increase health care for low-income children.
• The Meiners Oaks County Water District has proposed rates that would increase the amount farmers pay to water their crops up to 500 percent or more.
• City staff finally brought forth an ordinance to protect Ojai from the proliferation of chain stores.
• Six suspected gang members were arrested after a month-long investigation.
• The Ojai City Council decided that maintaining a moderately diminished skate park was better than pouring money into a facility that would soon be replaced, and certainly better than having no park at all.

• Amid a deepening housing recession in Southern California, the Ojai area has experienced a sales rally thanks to a flurry of purchases of expensive homes in late summer and early fall, new data shows.
• Demolition of Matilija Dam and restoration of the Ventura River ecosystem received a huge boost this week when Congress overrode President Bush’s veto of a massive water projects bill.
• World-renowned physician and health care activist, Patch Adams, gained laughter and applause from an audience of more than 400 under the trees at Oak Grove School. Adams is traveling to “raise $1 million toward building a teaching center and clinic” on Gesundheit Institute’s 340 acres in West Virginia.
• The Ojai City Council finally accepted the first reading of a long-awaited ordinance to protect Ojai from the proliferation of chain stores.
• Two new gravel mine expansion applications have Ojai Valley advocates concerned about an increase in truck traffic.
• Julie Tumamait-Stenslie has been appointed to the California Native American Heritage Commission by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

• Caltrans officials offered an alternative to a proposed detour that would divert approximately 9,700 Highway 150 commuters onto a residential street for six months.
• Oaks Christian was simply too much for the Rangers to handle as they rolled to an easy 52-7 victory.
• Drought and rising water rates have ended an Ojai tradition. Boccali Farms will be eliminating its cut-your-own Christmas tree business.
• At the tail end of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, the scheduled reorganization of council members took an unexpected turn when Councilwoman Sue Horgan asked if she could swap places with Councilman Joe DeVito and serve as mayor this year instead.
• Water rates for Ojai residents would increase 35 percent next year if the California Public Utilities Commission upholds new rates adopted this week by a state administrative law judge. Critics said the hike shows the system serves private business, not the public.
• Deborah Quinn, 58, died after a rush-hour traffic collision Tuesday just south of Oak View.
• The welcome rain that soaked the Ojai Valley on Dec. 18 arrived just as predicted, leaving Ojai with less than normal amounts since the recording period began Oct. 1, but nearly 40 percent of the total for the entire 2006-2007 season.
• Kurt Brown, 24, was killed Saturday evening when the borrowed motorcycle he was riding crashed on Rice Road.

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