Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Topless Activist Leaving Ojai

Citing police harassment, Jennifer Moss is returning to Oregon

By Daryl Kelley
Jennifer Moss, who for the past year has delighted or offended Ojai residents by biking or skating through town wearing only a G-string and flesh-colored pasties, has decided to move to Oregon, citing what she considers harassment by police and some local residents.
Moss, 32, who prefers to be known as “Earth Friend Jen” but has also been dubbed “The Pastie Lady,” was in Ashland, Ore., on Monday, renting an apartment and studio where she said she hopes to teach yoga and design a stuffed animal and organic clothing line.
She’ll move back to her native state May 5, after celebrating a friend’s birthday, she said in a telephone interview.
“I’m done with Ojai and Southern California,” said the petite and fit rollerblader, who describes herself as a social artist and environmental activist, but who some critics describe as narcissistic and disrespectful of others.
“Obviously, there’s a lot I don’t like about Ojai.” she said. “There’s a lot of nice people there, but Ojai is just another suburb of Los Angeles. I’m ready to get out of there. It’s a police state.”
In recent months, Moss has been a locus of community controversy, testing both Ojai’s renowned embrace of free spirits and the legal system’s response to those who push society’s norms and its constitutional guarantees of public expression.
She’s twice been cited by police under a county law that prohibits exposing one’s breasts as a means of artistic expression. Most recently she disrobed in the parking lot of St. Thomas Aquinas Church on Easter Sunday, prompting angry calls of complaint.
But, even as Moss prepares to leave Ojai, a town she’d hoped would be open to her iconoclastic lifestyle and near-nudity, Police Chief Bruce Norris said he has now been told by county prosecutors that the young woman violated no laws.
“We went by the letter of the law,” he said this week. “But the district attorney doesn’t believe they could get this past a jury. To me her behavior was so outlandish at the church I hoped the public nuisance (law) would cover it. The videotape (she made) showed it from start to finish.
“But,” Norris added, “the prosecutors just don’t believe it was illegal.”
Norris said his officers acted appropriately when responding to citizen complaints about Moss’ frequent near-nude appearances around town. But he said the law apparently no longer prohibits women’s exposure of their breasts in public, or in Moss’ case, the apparent exposure of breasts.
“I like Jennifer,” the chief said. “I think she was a good addition to Ojai for her free expression. But I didn’t like her flaunting her nudity. That’s not fair to the people who don’t want to see it.”
Letters and e-mails to the Ojai Valley News in recent months showed Moss had plenty of critics, and supporters.
But the intensity of public discussion — even protests to the City Council — since her Easter demonstration persuaded Moss it was time to seek another haven.
And she said she has no regrets, even about her Easter demonstration at a church, except that the public’s response was so vociferous.
“The only reason that was a mistake, is it’s creating a backlash,” she said. “I came there in the name of Jesus. Christ would know my heart, and you’re not supposed to judge me. I came there because I am the light ... This country is not free until it’s free in it’s own skin. I think it’s funny: They’re judging me while their clothes are poisoning them.”
Moss maintained that her demonstrations shined a spotlight on a more environmentally sensitive way to live. Her G-string is made of hemp. And her internet web site explains her green philosophy.
“I’m not doing this to show off,” she said. “If I wanted to be popular, I’d get a boob job, bleach my hair blond and be on the cover of Playboy. This dude wrote a story about me saying I was a narcissist. Give me a break, this whole world is narcissistic.”
The “dude” Moss referenced is filmmaker Leland Hammerschmitt of Ojai, who wrote in a guest editorial in the OVN that the skater showed “naked narcissism.” “Ojai tolerance is not eternal ... ,” he wrote. “Go away. Just stop.”
On Tuesday, reacting to Moss’ pending departure, Hammerschmitt added: “There are standards for behavior and Jennifer Moss was an acid on basic public decorum. Her aggressive attack on the Catholic Church on Easter Sunday was indefensible. I suspect that her timely move to Oregon is connected to her arrest and perhaps a simple evasion of possible prosecution.”
But Moss also had her supporters, sometimes from surprising places.
One 11-year-old Oak View girl, who first thought Moss was crazy, said she was inspired by the woman’s letter to the OVN, explaining that she dresses as she does to bring attention to environmental causes.
“So next time you see Jen, don’t stop and gawk,” wrote Callie Little. “Silently stop and thank the Earth for making someone like Jen, who is doing what she can to help an environmental problem.”
But Moss now says she’s given up on Ojai and Southern California as an area to practice her green beliefs.
“The Matilija Springs is one of the most beautiful places I go, and it’s being poisoned,” she said, referring to spraying now being done to eradicate a non-native reed. “Ojai is not the green scene. I’m out of here. Leland Hammerschmitt can have his peace.”
Moss, who grew up in a small town in Oregon and fled to Southern California for its freedom of expression, said she’s returning to her native state because of its green consciousness, and because Ashland has no nudity laws.
She says she wants to find an eco-sensitive co-op she can join. And she says she hopes to earn money making things.
“I’m going to start making my own organic clothing line,” she laughed. “That’s ironic, right?”
Will she continue her nearly bare flights on skates and bike down Ashland’s main street?
She’s of two minds on that.
One minute she says, “I’m going to get grounded, get a job and slowly move into this new place. I’m not going to do what I did in Ojai.”
But the next she’s saying she might skate through downtown Ashland completely naked next month on her birthday: “I may come out butt naked. I’ll come out in my birthday suit.”

Ojai Still Lacks Affordable Housing

Problem seen as contributing factor in labor shortage

By Linda Harmon
Affordable housing is not just an isolated problem for some. It is a major issue that directly affects everyone’s quality of life, according to speakers at a local forum Saturday. Carol Smith, City Council member and president of Ojai Valley Democrats, opened the forum Saturday pointing out that service providers are already leaving our area and that the exodus will soon create a labor shortage if housing needs are not met.
Smith continued with another statistic.“Most people think of Ojai as a wealthy community,” said Smith, “while in actuality we have many seniors on fixed incomes and 37 percent of our city is at the poverty level.”Smith doesn’t need the city’s overdue housing element to see the writing on the wall.
“The city doesn’t build housing,” said Smith, “but we need to improve on the opportunity to build affordable housing here.” Smith said a senior couple with a annual fixed income of $35,00 or $40,000 a year looking for a $770 to $800 one bedroom apartment, or a young couple with children looking for a $1,000 to $2,000 a month two bedroom, would be hard-pressed to find it in Ojai where rooms go for $500 in a tight rental market. She went on to dash hopes of those still holding on to the elusive American dream, single family home ownership. “Affordable housing in the future is most probably going to be rentals,” said Smith. “Most people buying homes now are people who have sold a more expensive home in another area. Young families buying their first homes here most likely have wealthy families. I’m lucky, my house is paid for,” said Smith. “I moved here in 1979 making $29,000 a year and bought my first house for $36,000.”
Smith then told of her own son’s family, including her two grandchildren, who recently moved to Colorado.
“He’s an emergency room nurse and couldn’t afford to live here,” said Smith. “I am absolutely against anymore exclusionary housing that would allow expensive condos to be built with only one affordable unit,”said Smith. “The Mallory Way builder probably won’t be allowed to do anything with them, unless he does something with affordable housing. They are a large part of our affordable housing stock.”
Wendy McCobb appeared as a spokesman for mobile home park issues. McCobb focused on upcoming propositions dealing with eminent domain. She vehemently opposes Proposition 98 because it contains a provision that will phase out rent control for mobile home owners across the state.
“When a person sells their coach rent control on the space will disappear,” said McCobb. “Why would anyone want to buy it if they can’t afford the rent? There goes our equity.”
McComb says a lot of her park’s residents are seniors who count on the earned equity to pay for care when needed. She feels rent control is effective and helps preserve the mobile parks, the last affordable housing in many areas.
“There are already cost of living increases built into rent control,” said McComb. “Park owners are still making a profit.”
McComb favors Proposition 99 saying it does not affect rent control and still protects people’s homes from eminent domain. In the audience, Bob Warnagieris, an executive on the board of AARP, agreed saying that Proposition 98’s advertising is very misleading and it is opposed by AARP.
Jill Martinez, who is running for the 24th congressional district and currently working for People’s Self Help Housing, next explained how her nonprofit corporation provides affordable housing in three Central Coast counties.
According to Martinez, one of their Santa Barbra developments was re-named “Miracle on Ladera Street” after the transformation of a derelict building into a shining symbol of what affordable housing can mean to residents.
“When people live in poor conditions it affects everybody,” said Martinez who described the poor health and social conditions that tenants suffer in slum-like conditions. “There is nothing wrong with people making money but not at the expense of these people.”
Martinez, working in affordable housing for 18 years, said her organization has built units starting at $400 and rehabilitated old buildings to create housing. Martinez’ cited their newest project, El Patio on Palm and Thompson in Ventura, as a chance to see their work firsthand. Their goal is to give people a leg up and give seniors stabile housing. That message hit home with the crowd and people quickly asked how to bring such a nonprofit project to Ojai.
Karen Kaminsky, Help of Ojai advocate for senior and disabled housing, next shared two stories of seniors on the Whispering Oaks waiting list, the 101-unit subsidized housing complex on Ojai Avenue.
“It takes three to five years to get an apartment,” said Kaminsky. “My 81-year-old client had been living with her son until he was forced to move in with a friend. She’s now in Casitas Springs in a goat shed waiting to get in. Another older man is up by Summit, taking care of property and animals in return for board. Now his landlords are losing their property and he can’t find a room in town for less than $500.”
“It shouldn’t be this way,” said Kaminsky . “These are the people who should be least affected. They’ve done their jobs and been good citizens. We’re not providing on any level, what these people need.”
Sue Broidy, commissioner for the Area Housing Authority of Ventura County, ended the discussion with a call to action.
“I’ve been the squeaky wheel calling for our commission to be more than a pass-through for federal money,” said Broidy. “We need to be an advocate for new affordable housing. I’m for smart, sustainable growth and I think the only organization we should invite should be a nonprofit group.”

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Day Laborer Issue Heard By Council

By Nao Braverman
Nathaniel Wolper, accompanied by another local resident, added a choral performance to the lively public commentary at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
“Keep our valley safe we pray,” they sang in harmony.
Other attendants also had comments about the safety of Ojai, referencing a recent local protest, which pitted people in support of, and against, illegal immigrants. Some locals said they were shocked to see such animosity in Ojai. Others said they were bothered by Ojai’s day laborers. All asked for the issue to be addressed by the City Council.
Ashley Meier, owner of Cowboy Babies and her employee, Britney Pergson, said that the day laborers standing near the children’s clothing store stared and made inappropriate comments. Their presence made employees uncomfortable and hurt business, said Meier.
Ojai resident George Huitrado suggested that the city should find a better place for day laborers to stand. A fluent Spanish speaker, he agreed that if the city found an appropriate place, he would help communicate it to the laborers.
Another local resident, Peter Donovan, suggested building a station with an overhang and rest rooms where day laborers could comfortably wait for work.
“I do encourage the city to address this issue,” said local peace activist, Evan Austin. “Let’s do this compassionately and thoughtfully.”
City manager Jere Kersnar said that the topic had been considered before, and agreed to revisit it with city staff.
In other City Council news Mayor Sue Horgan and Councilman Joe DeVito were appointed to serve as a sub-committee, working with Kersnar to select an attorney to advise the council on the city’s Housing Element.
Although the job of providing legal counsel was previously allocated to city attorney Monte Widders, members of the public had complained of an alleged financial conflict of interest.
Widders did not believe there was such a conflict but sought a formal opinion from the Fair Political Practices Commission and recused himself in the meantime. As the written opinion is expected to take several months, the city must find an interim attorney to represent them during Housing Element discussions. The committee was thus formed so that the selection process for a special attorney could begin.
Also at the meeting, Public Works director Mike Culver asked the city to authorize the application for a $250,448 federal grant for public transportation in rural areas.
Since 1989 the city has relied on this grant to offset the costs of running the Ojai Trolley service, said Culver.
The trolley service is paid for by a combination of state, federal and county funding, with the fees also contributing a small amount to expenses.
Culver said that the annual ridership of the trolley decreased by 23 percent from 139,733 in the 2004-2005 year, to 107,660 in the 2005-2006 year when the fee was increased. There has been a successive 4 percent decrease in ridership each following year, according to Culver. He said that this could be attributed to declining enrollment in the school district, as some students take the trolley to school. Culver added that although the ridership was decreasing, the trolley still provides a necessary service. The grant application was authorized.

OUSD Closing In On Budget Decisions

Board still has $555,000 to go

By Sondra Murphy
It was another evening of unwelcome choices for the Ojai Unified School District board of directors Tuesday at Matilija Junior High Auditorium.
To date the board has reduced expenditures by $1,387,000 from its approximately $25 million budget. Needed cuts total $1,943,055.
Personnel reductions of five full-time staff members, as well as in management and support services, secretarial, maintenance, grounds, custodial, warehouse, nutrition and the high school career counselor make up the bulk of these cuts. Hourly reductions for elementary library technicians, high school athletics and activities directors, plus changes in the nutrition program, strict adherence to transportation boundaries, and site cuts of 10 percent to all departments make up the rest of the $1,032,000 agreed to by the board at the April 1 meeting.
An additional $355,000 in cuts and new revenue sources was agreed upon Tuesday. School secretarial support, implementations in the green plan, donations from the Save Ojai Schools campaign, increases in facilities use fees and a freeze on all expenditures for the rest of this school year account for that number.
The combination leaves a remainder of $555,055 to be cut by the June 3 meeting in order for the board to submit a balanced budget to the county by its deadline. Still under consideration are elementary physical education and a plan to increase Nordhoff food sales, but these would only save another $147,000. Leasing the downtown district office site for business development is also on the list as a possible long-term solution.
A citizenship incentive has been under development to make Nordhoff High School a closed campus, with juniors and seniors eligible to earn off-campus lunch passes based on several criteria. A fiscal advantage to this proposal is the potential for increased food sales at the high school. The board requested a detailed presentation of this proposal by high school staff at its next meeting.
Changes in site schedules are also being looked at for prospective savings at elementary campuses as it pertains to elementary P.E., which affects teacher preparation opportunities. Member Pauline Mercado voiced hesitation about the proposal saying, “The detail I would like to see is the day-by-day schedule mapped out … I would like some reaction from the teacher’s union, as well.”
Superintendent Tim Baird requested that the board wait on decisions impacting K-through-eight class size reductions or about closing any elementary school pending fund-raising efforts by the Ojai Education Foundation and the SOS campaign.
The proactive community involvement, including Sunday’s rally at the district office, brought fewer speakers to the meeting as a greater understanding of the budget prioritization process has been achieved. “I want to congratulate Summit School parents for their restricted donation of $30,000 for the running and maintaining of Summit Elementary,” said Baird.
District administrators have determined that another $300,000 is still needed to avoid closing a larger elementary school and PTAs and PTOs are working closely with school staff and OEF to raise that amount.
The board officially joined the SOS campaign, which allows it to accept donations procured for OUSD schools. A donation account will be established in which to collect the funds. How donated money will be used all depends on the amount raised. SOS participants are hopeful that enough will be raised to keep all elementary schools in operation, but if the funds fall short, the money will be channeled into other categories.
The next OUSD board meeting is scheduled for May 6 at 6 p.m. in the Matilija Auditorium, 703 El Paseo Road. Due to delays by the state in producing its anticipated May budget revision, the May 13 OUSD board meeting was rescheduled to May 27 at 6 p.m. Its location is still to be determined. This gives administration a chance to study any changes by Gov. Schwarzenegger and adjust numbers, if necessary, before the board reconvenes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hanstad Won't Seek Re-election

Two-termer declines to seek third, no incumbents running

By Daryl Kelley
Rae Hanstad, a calm and thoughtful voice on the Ojai City Council, has decided not to run for a third term, creating a second open council seat on the fall election ballot.
Previously, veteran Council-woman Sue Horgan had said she would not run again.
Two council seats, and the positions of city clerk and city treasurer are on the Nov. 4 ballot. The filing deadline for candidates is Aug. 8.
“For me, it’s a practical matter. I stepped out of private life eight years ago and now I need to concentrate on my career,” said Hanstad, 56, coordinator of Ventura County’s new anti-methamphetamine task force. “Plus, I think the city is in good shape, so it’s time for me to step aside.
“And I look forward to having a private life again: I would like to go to the Farmers’ Market without someone lobbing a tomato at me,” she said with a laugh. “My sons personally blame me for the lack of a skate park.”
That understated sense of humor and openness has helped Hanstad not only survive the sometimes brutal debates that swirl around Ojai city government, but thrive within them.
“I have been a centrist,” she said. “So I haven’t really made a lot of enemies. But every time you make a tough decision you make an enemy somewhere.”
Her colleagues said Hanstad has been able to walk a diplomatic line amid heated discussion.
“Rae is a very clear, straight communicator, and I think she has the respect of most everybody in town,” said city manager Jere Kersnar, whom Hanstad helped hire in 2005 as the city began to pull out of financial crisis. “She has a very good analytical mind and many times has been able to to assist the rest of the council, and myself, in getting to the heart of a matter.”
One example was Hanstad’s leadership role in securing passage of a city law in 2006 that fines parents or teen-agers who allow under-age drinking at parties $1,000, he said: “She understood the need for a social host ordinance in the community and that it could be translated so the city could do something about it.”
Horgan, appointed to the council a year before Hanstad was first elected in 2000, said working with Hanstad has been “one of the greatest joys I’ve had here.”
“She’s very calm and always works to an informed decision,” Horgan said. “She studies what’s before us, is a good listener and is fiscally astute. She provided strong leadership during the city’s turmoil.”
Indeed, it was that turmoil — seeing city budget reserves fall from $4 million to nothing over three years — that prompted Hanstad to stay on the council for a second term. And she was mayor during the year the crisis came to a head and the council began to repair the damage.
“Part of the reason I ran again was to take care of the things that happened on my watch,” she said. “And I think one of my accomplishments, the council’s accomplishments, was the structural reorganization of the city so those things won’t happen again.”
The problem, she said, was not only that the city’s tax revenue fell precipitously during a years-long Ojai Valley Inn renovation, but that the city did not take adequate steps to slow spending soon enough.
“The council did make some financial decisions based on inaccurate information by staff,” she said.
That led the council to hire budget analyst and not rehire city manager Dan Singer when his contract expired.
“Yes, the problem was the inn and the cost of repair from the (2005) storms,” she said. “But I think more than that it was poor management from the staff.”
Direct tax revenue from the Ojai Valley Inn accounts for well over $2 million, out of a total city budget of about $8 million.
”Almost everything that could go wrong did when I was mayor ... except locusts,” Hanstad joked in an e-mail. “The council spent that year working very hard to ensure there would not be a repeat, beginning with hiring new staff and establishing sound fiscal policies.”
The fix has worked, and the city is now replenishing its reserves, tucking away about $750,000 a year. That means the council’s goal of a $4-million emergency fund should be accomplished by mid-2009, officials said.
“She had very tough year,” Kersnar said. “I didn’t come until the end of that, but by all accounts, Rae did a masterful job of helping the council and the community get where it needed to go.”
With the city’s surplus growing, a pleasant task for Hanstad and Horgan during their final six months in office is to begin to plan for what to do with the extra revenue once the $4-million reserve has been reached, Kersnar said.
Still on the council’s plate this year are several related long-term planning issues: how to provide new affordable housing to meet a state mandate, what improvements to undertake downtown, how to improve Libbey and the city’s other parks, whether a rebuilt skate park will be at its present location near the school district office. That decision is up to school officials. But the city, which is contributing $100,000 to the $350,000 project, is deep into the discussion.
Hanstad, who was recruited to run for council to preserve and protect Ojai from development pressures, said that goal remains the same, and she’ll support council candidates this fall who also believe that is important.
“Ojai has changed a lot in the last eight years,” she said. “In 2000, the concerns of residents were more loudly heard.”
And one of the greatest challenges for new council members “will be balancing the needs of residents vs. the need of tourists,” she said. “It’s important to remember that Ojai is primarily a residential city.”
One reason why she has announced she won’t run so early, Hanstad said, was to spark “an early and energetic” campaign for city council.
She said she’d heard that county Fire Chief Bob Roper is considering a run, as well as attorney Len Klaif and perhaps community activist Dennis Leary. And she said she’d welcome a run by recently retired Ventura County chief executive Johnny Johnston.
“He’d be a godsend,” she said. “I do want to talk with Johnny about this. People at the county genuinely liked and respected him.”
As for Hanstad, she said she’s looking forward to a less hectic life. She currently serves on two other public boards in addition to the City Council and is working virtually full-time in her coordinator’s role with the countywide methamphetamine task force.
The mother of three young adult sons and an adult daughter, she said she’d like to focus more on her family, and on her challenging new job.
“Now I won’t be so conflicted,” said Hanstad, who moved to Ojai from New York City 27 years ago to have and raise a family. For many years she concentrated on being a mom. Then at the urging of community acitivists, including former Mayor Nina Shelley, she ran successfully for office.
“I stepped out of my private life,” she said. “And now I’m stepping back in. I’m proud of what the council has accomplished.”

Community Rallies Around Ojai's Schools

$2 million budget cut from state prompts outpouring of support

By Sondra Murphy
Alongside the monthly Peddler’s Fair at the Chaparral Auditorium Sunday, hot dogs, snow cones, buttons, floral baskets, hemp bracelets, pony rides and livestock sales looked right at home. Had it been a school carnival, the state budget would have been the roller coaster ride.
This gathering had a mission. Colorful signs reading “Save Ojai Schools” were posted along Ojai Avenue, eliciting honks of support from passing cars. Each school in the Ojai Unified School District set up booths selling a variety of food and sundries, while the Ojai Education Foundation sold T-shirts and other items in a collective effort to raise $330,000 needed by June to avoid closing one large and one small school next year.
Fearing up to $2 million in anticipated revenue reductions from its approximately $25 million total budget for the 2008-2009 school year, OUSD and its supporters have joined a growing trend among state educators in asking for financial help from its community. Hundreds of teachers, administrators, coaches, politicians, board members, parents and students rallied at the downtown district office to garner support from home to compensate for budget cuts that could result in school closures and severe program eliminations.
Speakers included OUSD president Steve Fields, OUSD superintendent Tim Baird, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Chuck Weiss, Ojai mayor Sue Horgan, Ojai Federation of Teachers president Martha Ditchfield, Ventura County First District Supervisor Steve Bennett and OEF president Michael Caldwell. All were critical of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s January proposal to balance the state budget by cutting funds 10 percent across the board. If passed, the proposed budget will result in a $4.8 billion slash in education and further press the once-revered California public school system to the bottom of the list in state student spending.
“Thank you all for joining us in what I hope is not going to be our first annual Save Ojai Schools rally,” said Baird before introducing the speakers. Attendees were the proverbial choir behind the preacher, especially since the district’s staff and parent organizations have been working for months to deal with the financial shortfall.
As people spoke, it became clear that it is those without children in the public school system who need to add their voices to the protests in order to motivate state representatives into what Bennett called political courage. “The state of California has to prioritize education. It does not take courage to say ‘let’s cut everything 10 percent across the board,’” said Bennett. “(35th District Assemblymember) Pedro Nava has said he would prioritize education. I’m sorry you don’t have a representative here for the Ojai Valley to step up and say she will make education a top priority.”
37th District Assemblywoman Audra Stickland was conspicuously absent from the rally, but her Sunday editorial in the Ventura County Star regarding eliminating waste in educational funding was fresh on the minds of the SOS crowd.
“We must continue to press our legislators to fund education, but we also need to step in to help stop the bleeding,” said Fields. He borrowed the analogy of others in calling the crisis in educational funding “the perfect storm” and reviewed the combined events threatening OUSD schools: the state budget crisis; the district’s ninth year of declining enrollment; loss or reduction in school funding sources; and a significant increase in operating expenses, like utilities.
“The future of our community is in peril,” said Fields. “That’s why it’s imperative our community come together to save our schools.”
“It’s a shame we have to be here today,” said Weiss in his address. “In 1965, California was fifth in the nation in per-student-spending ratios,” he said. “We’ve been slipping ever since.” Weiss outlined the decline in school spending during the 1970s that led to the passing of Proposition 98 to guarantee a minimum amount of school funding. “Now we are 46th out of 49 states and this year the governor is talking about suspending Proposition 98.
“In the last 12 years, public education budgets have grown only 30 percent, while general revenue has increased 40 percent,” said Weiss. “Proposition 98 did not cause the deficit … yet we have to make cuts no one should have to.”
“Education is expensive, but ignorance could be fatal,” said Horgan. “We must have a competent, well-educated work force or the quality of our community will decline. Our own future is at stake.”
Ditchfield spoke of how more than 30 of her colleagues received layoff notices this spring and connected that to a loss in learning opportunities. “Student will carry that deficit forward,” she said. “Gov. Schwarzenegger should stop terminating teachers and programs.”
“This is the worst budget crisis I’ve seen in my 27 years in education,” said Baird. “We need to tell our legislators that cutting funding from our children’s’ education is not an option.”
Caldwell reminded the crowd that they only had 45 more days to raise the money needed to keep all OUSD schools open next year and maintain low class sizes. He said even if $330,000 was raised, new revenue sources must be created. “Are we going to do the same drill next year?” asked Caldwell. “We’re looking at parcel tax and vehicle license tax to increase education revenues.” Parents also discussed pooling some or all of their federal tax rebates into the SOS fund.
According to OEF treasurer Phil Caruthers, “The approximate amount of contributions generated from the April 20th rally is $17,360, including pledges.” This includes sales of t-shirts, bumper stickers, wristbands, sno-cones, popcorn, pony rides, other items and food. For more information on making a tax-deductible donation, contact the Ojai Education Foundation at ojaief.org or your neighborhood public school.
Speakers included OUSD President Steve Fields, OUSD Superintendent Tim Baird, Ventura County Superintendent of Schools Chuck Weiss, Ojai Mayor Sue Horgan, Ojai Federation of Teachers President Martha Ditchfield, Ventura County First District Supervisor Steve Bennett and OEF President Michael Caldwell. All were critical of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s January proposal to balance the state budget by cutting funds 10 percent across the board. If passed, the proposed budget will result in a $4.8-billion slash in education and further press the once-revered California public school system to the bottom of the list in state student spending.
“Thank you all for joining us in what I hope is not going to be our first annual Save Ojai Schools rally,” said Baird before introducing the speakers. Attendees were the proverbial choir behind the preacher, especially since the district’s staff and parent organizations have been working for months to deal with the financial shortfall.
As people spoke, it became clear that it is those without children in the public school system who need to add their voices to the protests in order to motivate state representatives into what Bennett called political courage. “The state of California has to prioritize education. It does not take courage to say, ‘Let’s cut everything 10 percent across the board,’” said Bennett. “(35th District Assemblymember) Pedro Nava has said he would prioritize education. I’m sorry you don’t have a representative here for the Ojai Valley to step up and say she will make education a top priority.”
37th District Assemblywoman Audra Stickland was conspicuously absent from the rally, but her Sunday editorial in the Ventura County Star regarding eliminating waste in educational funding was fresh on the minds of the SOS crowd.
“We must continue to press our legislators to fund education, but we also need to step in to help stop the bleeding,” said Fields. He borrowed the analogy of others in calling the crisis in educational funding “the perfect storm” and reviewed the combined events threatening OUSD schools: the state budget crisis; the district’s ninth year of declining enrollment; loss or reduction in school funding sources; and a significant increase in operating expenses, like utilities.
“The future of our community is in peril,” said Fields. “That’s why it’s imperative our community come together to save our schools.”
“It’s a shame we have to be here today,” said Weiss in his address. “In 1965, California was fifth in the nation in per-student-spending ratios,” he said. “We’ve been slipping ever since.” Weiss outlined the decline in school spending during the 1970s that led to the passing of Proposition 98 to guarantee a minimum amount of school funding. “Now we are 46th out of 49 states and this year the governor is talking about suspending Proposition 98.
“In the last 12 years, public education budgets have grown only 30 percent, while general revenue has increased 40 percent,” said Weiss. “Proposition 98 did not cause the deficit … yet we have to make cuts no one should have to.”
“Education is expensive, but ignorance could be fatal,” said Horgan. “We must have a competent, well-educated work force or the quality of our community will decline. Our own future is at stake.”
Ditchfield spoke of how more than 30 of her colleagues received layoff notices this spring and connected that to a loss in learning opportunities. “Student will carry that deficit forward,” she said. “Gov. Schwarzenegger should stop terminating teachers and programs.”
“This is the worst budget crisis I’ve seen in my 27 years in education,” said Baird. “We need to tell our legislators that cutting funding from our children’s’ education is not an option.”
Caldwell reminded the crowd that they only had 45 more days to raise the money needed to keep all OUSD schools open next year and maintain low class sizes. He said even if $330,000 was raised, new revenue sources must be created. “Are we going to do the same drill next year?” asked Caldwell. “We’re looking at parcel tax and vehicle license tax to increase education revenues.” Parents also discussed pooling some or all of their federal tax rebates into the SOS fund.
According to OEF Treasurer Phil Caruthers, “The approximate amount of contributions generated from the April 20 rally is $17,360, including pledges.” This includes sales of T-shirts, bumper stickers, wristbands, snow-cones, popcorn, pony rides, other items and food. For more information on making a tax-deductible donation, contact the Ojai Education Foundation at ojaief.org or your neighborhood public school.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Henney Named New Football Coach

“Even though we’ll be running some new stuff, all of our traditions will remain in place. This program was built on tradition and I want that to continue.”

By Mike Miller
The Nordhoff Rangers football team has found its new head football coach and they stayed within the Ranger family to do it. NHS principal Dan Musick announced that the school has hired 1995 graduate, Tony Henney, to lead the football program. “I am very pleased that we were able to hire Tony. He is a terrific person and we are excited to have him as our football coach,” said Musick.
Henney was born and raised in Ojai and played for Cliff Farrar in 1993 and 1994. He was a wide receiver on the team that went to the CIF finals in 1994. Henney’s coaching career started at San Luis Obispo high school, where he was the team’s receivers’ coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2004.
He continued to lead the Tigers’ offense until 2007 and then most recently, he was hired by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as a defensive backs coach before learning of the NHS opening.
Being the head coach for the Rangers has been a longtime goal for the Ojai native. He said, “I have thought about it since I was about 7. It has always been in the back of my mind, but you can never really tell what will happen in coaching. Cliff was here for a long time and when I heard that the change was made and this position was open I started to get really excited.”
Henney was in town to meet with his new team and his coaching staff on Wednesday. He said, “I thought that the meeting went really well with the kids. They were excited to see me and I was excited to meet them. I just outlined what they can expect from me and what I will expect from them. Even though we’ll be running some new stuff, all of our traditions will remain in place. This program was built on tradition and I want that to continue,” said Henney.
The Rangers will have a little different look on offense next year according to their new coach. “We’ll run more of a pro-style offense. It is a lot like what USC runs. Our defense will be very similar to what Nordhoff has done in the past. It will be an attacking style,” he added.
The Rangers’ current players are starting off with a clean slate in the eyes of their new coach. Henney said, “I don’t know these kids that well. I have broken them down on tape obviously, but I am coming in with no preconceived notions. That is good and bad for the players. If they played well and they were good citizens, they are going to have to prove that all over again and they will have to earn playing time from me. On the flip side, a kid that might have made mistakes in the past now has a new start.”
As for the coaching staff, Henney fully intends on keeping the staff that is currently in place. “First and foremost, I want the coaching staff that is in place to stay. I am meeting with them later and I will make sure that they understand that. I will also be recruiting some of the former Nordhoff players to come help out the program. It is important to me to surround the program with former Rangers. They understand Ranger tradition,” he noted.
In closing, Henney thanked the man that he is replacing. “I’d just like to say that I am excited to be back in the community and I am ecstatic to have this opportunity. I obviously wish Cliff well at Buena. He has been a mentor to me and I really appreciate all that he has done for me and this football program.”

Bridge Repairs To Start In June

Detours, delays could take a year

By Nao Braverman
Ojai residents who reside east of the San Antonio Creek Bridge, should expect to be taking a temporary detour through the creek bottom to get home this summer. But by June 2009, bicycles should have a safe ride over the San Antonio Creek bridge as well as cars.
Caltrans officials confirmed Monday that the controversial replacement of the San Antonio Creek Bridge is now scheduled to begin in June.
Instead of diverting the East Ojai Avenue traffic onto Gridley Road, Grand Avenue and then Gorham Road, while the reconstruction takes place, many will be happy to hear that Caltrans engineers now plan to put the temporary detour through the creek bottom.
Initial plans to rebuild the 91-year-old bridge, which takes Ojai Avenue commuters across the San Antonio Creek in the East End, were met with controversy because of the proposed detour. Enraged neighborhood residents did not think it safe to divert the approximately 9,700 vehicles that would be expected to use the detour daily during construction, onto a residential road, that normally takes about 1,250 vehicle trips daily.
The 120-foot bridge, however, was deemed to be in “scour and critical condition,” and needs to be strengthened and broadened, according to agency engineers.
At a public meeting in July 2007 Caltrans engineers offered no alternative to the detour on Gridley, Grand and Gorham. At that time Caltrans engineer Steve Novotny told members of the public that a detour through the creek bottom would be nearly impossible. The Department of Fish and Game and the Army Corps of Engineers would not likely to grant Caltrans engineers the required permits to plow a temporary road into an environmentally sensitive area, he said.
Months later after much haggling from citizens, city and Public Works officials, Caltrans did offered an alternative two-phased bridge construction. Instead of the detour, the alternative would allow one lane of the bridge to remain open with a signal to regulate traffic going both ways on one lane. This, however, would slow traffic considerably, and would increase the project duration from the originally proposed six months, to two years, according to agency officials. The delay would be primarily due to the fact that Caltrans only allows construction during the official dry season, Caltrans officials said. At a December 2007 meeting, council members and citizens agreed that this alternative was almost as unfavorable as the initially proposed detour.
City manager Jere Kersnar said that city staff responded with a letter urging Caltrans to come up with another solution that involved neither a detour through residential neighborhoods, nor a two-year long traffic delay.
But this week Caltrans Public Information officer Judy Gish said that the agency currently plans to divert traffic via a creek bottom detour. Prior concerns about permits are no longer an issue, and the project is expected to go to bid in mid-May, said Gish, the bridge reconstruction plans remain the same as proposed a year ago. The currently 28-foot wide, 120-foot long structure will be expanded to 40 feet wide and 180 feet long, including a 4-foot-wide bike lane.
The project is expected to begin in June and be completed in a year, if all goes as planned. In addition to designing the new detour, Caltrans also has to build a temporary culvert system in the creek, said Gish. But as the project was initially supposed to begin in March or April, the delay is relatively short, she said.
Public Works director Mike Culver and Kersnar said they had not been informed of Caltrans’ new plans to divert traffic through the creek bottom. Both agreed that a creek bottom detour would be much better than the previously offered alternatives.
“They have been keeping me out of the loop here,” said Culver. Kersnar agreed that communication with Caltrans officials has been an ongoing struggle, but was pleased with their new plans.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rescue Group's Horse Trailer Stolen

Nonprofit’s loss includes costly tack, equipment

By Laignee Barron
A small Meiners Oaks ranch run entirely by donations and a team of 20 volunteers has been the home of California Coastal Rescue — a horse rehabilitation center — for the past eight years.
Coastal Rescue is a nonprofit organization that exists to care for abandoned, abused and retired sport horses and to find them new homes. On Wednesday night it was also the site of a theft that caused an estimated loss upwards of $10,000.
Last Wednesday night at 7 p.m. the last volunteer left the horse rescue ranch after locking up and ensuring all the horses were fine. By the next morning when the property owner was walking the ranch at approximately 10 a.m., he noticed the three-horse trailer, parked on the private property next to the horse stalls, was gone.
“He was so upset when we found out it was stolen, and kept saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Everyone was horrified that some one would actually steal it,” said cofounder and director of California Coastal Rescue, Cindy Murphree. “I was away for the week and when I came back I noticed it gone. When I asked about it everyone said they hoped I might have had it.”
That was on Saturday afternoon when Murphree returned to the ranch. After notifying the police later that day Murphree hoped it would be returned soon, but as of printing there has been no word on the whereabouts of the trailer.
At the time of the theft the trailer was being used to store equipment while the shed was cleaned out. In addition to the loss of their trailer, the ranch also lost three saddles, including a new English saddle, four blankets, eight feed buckets, all of the bridles, halters, helmets and most of the lead ropes. Without these items it’s been difficult for the ranch to keep running.
“We don’t have the funds to replace the items right now but they’re essential to any ranch. Most of the equipment was donated and the trailer was bought from grant money,” Murphree said.
The trailer was also uninsured, so there was no reimbursement to replace even half of the missing equipment.
The rescue volunteers have managed to pull together $500 as a reward offered for the return of the trailer, a white, 2001 Avenger with a California license plate number 1XD1820.
Anyone who has seen the stolen trailer and equipment is asked to phone the Sheriff’s Department at 654-9611 or California Coastal Rescue at 649-1090.
To make a much-needed and appreciated donation visit calcoasalhorserescue.com, e-mail horse@jetlink.net or mail it to P.O. Box 1646, Oak View, CA 93022.

Ojai Wetlands Project Opens To Public

Besides the ecological value of the restored wetlands, it acts as a sponge to soak up storm runoff and prevent flooding.

By Nao Braverman
After being fenced in for months, tantalizing outdoor enthusiasts and curious neighbors, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy’s Meadows Preserve and wetlands restoration project is finally open to the public.
All the major grading and excavation has been completed. Tiny California poppy, lupin, and vetch seedlings, along with countless other wildflowers are popping up across the meadow, and lazy streams meander through the property collecting in several vernal pools. The fencing around the 58-acre lot along Ojai Avenue next to the Nordhoff High School football field was taken down Friday.
The project site had been surrounded by fencing since since November 2007, keeping the public out, while conservancy employees have corrected the waterways, redirected a sewer line that was in the way, and established vernal pools, said Derek Poultney, the Land Conservancy’s project manager.
Already OVLC staff have seen a tremendous influx in wildlife. The swales are filled with tadpoles, a variety of new bird species have made their nests, and a newly spotted weasel is expected to provide much-needed rodent control in the area, said Poultney. Unfortunately some less coveted wildlife also comes hand in hand with the project. Nearby residents may be getting a few more mosquitos this year, but vector control comes to the meadow and stocks the open water with mosquito fish every week, said Poultney.
The Conservancy has already begun leading frequent nature walks along trails through the walks along trails through the newly opened meadow. Volunteer docents have been offering tour participants a bit of the project site’s history.
The wetlands that are being restored did thrive until the early 1900s when settlers cleared the woodlands for cattle grazing and development.
The restoration is expected to alleviate flooding on Highway 33 by redirecting stormwater onto the wetlands retention basin. Early spring rains have proved the flood mitigation aspects successful so far, said Poultney. In addition to flood control the wetlands are also intended to improve water quality and facilitate groundwater recharge, by trapping and filtering water in the freshwater marsh and releasing it slowly back into the ground.
Already mallards, cattails, redwing blackbirds have thrived on the newly established waterways. The meandering stream has been lined with young willow branches which are expected to root and grow in the coming years.
Anyone interested in taking a guided tour along the trails through the newly opened wetlands preserve can look for upcoming nature walks posted on the Land Conservancy web site at OVLC.org. The conservancy is also training volunteers docents who can sign up for a training by calling the conservancy at 649-6852.

Lemire Memorial Bike Race Draws Crowd

This young tricyclist, one of 110 in the kids’ race at the Garrett Lemire Memorial Grand Prix Bike Race hits the course with a beaming smile.

By Sondra Murphy
Bells and whistles resonated around the Arcade Sunday as the fifth annual Garrett Lemire Memorial Grand Prix Bike Race was in full force. At the intersection of Ojai Avenue and Signal Street, kids of all ages scrambled up the giant rock wall before the orange safety rails corralled pedestrians out of the course way encircling Libbey Park.
The 85-something tempera-tures were harsh in the sun, but arches and oaks provided ample shade for spectators, as did the cool stream of racers as they looped around the course in a blur of multicolored jerseys. At the fountain courtyard, vendors and volunteers manned booths to provide information and refreshment to the hundreds who came to watch the action.
“Every year, the race just gets nicer and bigger,” said Art Lemire, father of the posthumously honored cyclist. “It’s getting to be more of a neighborhood event and people are actually enjoying it.” Lemire said he liked how people who live around Libbey Park set up chairs and had barbecues while watching the races.
“We went up against the weather,” added Lemire, “but I was amazed by how many people did come.” He said that racers were given plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, which included more than 1,000 bottles of Smart Water and a booth with electrolyte-enhanced water jugs.
One of the entry points into the courtyard was decorated with student jersey coloring contest submissions. More than 100 children entered the kids’ race and got bike helmets and medals for their efforts. Several 6- to 7-year-old competitors raced on three wheels, while training wheels were as abundant as the triumphant expressions displayed. Many sported face paint and tried for their chance to win one of 13 free bikes raffled off during the last race.
The women’s pro race included about 50 cyclists competing for a share in $2,500 during the hour-long race. Tiffany Cromwell of the Colavita-Sutter Home Team took first place a full minute ahead of the peloton.
The men’s pro 1 wrapped the day with 120 cyclists completing 45 laps before Kyle Gritters fought for the top spot and stretched across the finish line just five-tenths of a second in front of his Health Net-Maxxis teammate John Murphy and Toyota-United’s Clarke Hilton. Gritters will take the lion’s share of the $15,000 pot divvied up to the top 20 racers.

Race Winners:
Men Masters 60+
Bruce Steele
Richard Rodriguez
Timothy Marquez

Men Masters 55+
Donald Davidson
Carlos Soto
Bob Wright

Men Masters 45+
Richard Meeker
Thurlow Rogers
Keith Ketterer

Men Masters 35+
Richard Meeker
Patrick Caro
Craig Nunes

Women Cat 3-4
Natasha Hernday
Julie Nevitt
Laurie Burlchardt
Men Cat 4-5
Corey Farrell
John David Orach
Aaron Gomez

Men Cat 3
Casey Weaver
Michael Hotten
3. Graeme Gayler

Men Cat 2
Zack Simkover
2. Chance Noble
3. Gary Douville

Women Pro 1-3
Tiffany Cromwell, Colavita, Sutter Home, 1:00:17.1
Iona Wynter Parks, Colavita Sutter Home, 1:01:18.2
Rachel Tzinberg, Bicycle Johns, 1:01:21.3

Toyota Mens Pro 1
Kyle Gritters, Health Net, Maxxis, 1:49:32.3
John Murphy, Health Net, Maxxis, 1:49:32.8
Hilton Clarke, Toyota-United Pro Cycling, 1:49:32.8
For complete results, go to glmgp.com.

Locavore Group Forming In Ojai

By Sondra Murphy
Joanne and Kristofer Young have decided to change their eating habits for one year and they are inviting others in the area to join them. The Youngs are hoping to start an Ojai locavore group to eat foods produced within a 100-mile radius of home for the 2009 calendar year.
Locavore is a newly established word meaning to eat locally produced food. The New Oxford American Dictionary chose it as its 2007 word of the year. Locavores limit their foods to in-season produce and regional products and encourage each other to grow food and share harvests.
The Youngs call this project “Eat Local One Year –– Be the Change Ojai.” Kristofer Young is an Ojai chiropractor and Joanne Young is a massage therapist, so maintaining the health of the body is as important to them as maintaining the health of the environment our bodies inhabit.
“We as a society are pretty much accustomed to non-local, non-seasonal food. The average distance food travels from the farm to the plate is about 1,500 miles,” said Joanne Young. “If every U.S. citizen just ate one meal a week of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we could reduce our oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels each week.”
“What’s wonderful is that there is an enormous amount of interest already,” said Kristofer Young. “One of the things that we think is quite obvious is that there are a lot of people here in Ojai who are very involved in local and organic food.” He added that becoming a locavore locavore is another way for people to stretch themselves a little farther in their efforts to help reduce global warming.
Reading Barbara Kingsolver’s non-fiction book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” inspired the Youngs to change the way they looked at meals. Kingsolver relates her family’s experience eating off the land for a year and how it impacted her perspective as a consumer.
The Youngs said that people could participate in a variety of ways, such as choosing to eat one local fare meal per week, month or year. “People could join this group to share meals and an understanding of what grows here locally,” said Kristofer Young. “We have no idea what may come out of this.”
“Or the challenges, I’m sure,” Joanne Young tacked on. “We don’t think of this as a sacrifice, but a joy and gift we give our children and the earth.”
The Youngs hope Eat Local One Year will attract people who yearn to directly perceive the impacts that daily changes can create and think the formation of the group will result in recipe sharing, potlucks and harvest parties.
Friends will be making a documentary of the efforts and membership is not limited to Ojai residents. The Youngs are already planning to throw a locavore New Year’s bash to kick off the year.
The Youngs will hold an organizational meeting on May 10 at 7 p.m. for people wishing to get involved with the preparation and process of eating locally. They said they are still learning about food sources in their consumer zone and hope people will use the meeting as a cooperative starting point.
There are ground rules and each participant may select three food exceptions to include on their menu choices, such as coffee, brown rice or bananas. Medication and dietary supplements are automatically exempt.
To register for the May meeting, go to groups.google.com/group/eat-local-one-year or call 640-7629.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dillon Returns After Bout With Cancer

Cynthia Dillon supervises recess at Sunset Elementary School in Oak View after battling breast cancer

By Sondra Murphy
Sunset Elementary School in Oak View welcomed back its principal this week by literally rolling out the red carpet. Cynthia Dillon returned Monday after health issues kept her away since November.
“I’ve had a wonderful reception back,” said Dillon. “It makes me realize how much I’m loved.” Besides the red carpet treatment, Sunset PTA members filled Dillon’s office with fresh fruit, flowers, balloons and books.
Giving books to students is one of the projects Dillon was working on before being diagnosed with breast cancer and needing to take a medical leave. While the principal was tending to her health, parents began collecting gently used books for the project. “We had close to 100 books all sprawled out in her office for her to give to children,” said Sunset PTA President Kelley Hargett.
Welcoming back Dillon was important to the community who appreciates everything the principal has brought to the school during her four years at the helm. Dillon established a preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds and this year the school extended the grade levels to include sixth, with a seventh grade option available to students next year and the strong possibility of eighth grade the following year.
Dillon was in training when she got her cancer diagnosis and believes this helped her a lot during treatment. “I was very fit before this all started. I’m a runner and was actually training for the L.A. Marathon,” she said. “I would go out there and run with the students at recess.”
Her treatment so far has included a mastectomy and chemotherapy, the latter of which she is still undergoing. “I have a couple more rounds until May, then radiation and reconstructive surgery,” she said. “I told the kids ‘This is a wig’ and they wanted me to take it off. I said ‘No, it’s too cold.’”
With her return, Dillon got right back into the business of Sunset by talking about the expansion to include seventh graders next year. “The spots are precious,” said Dillon of the openings for seventh grade students. “We’ll have about 33 spots, so parents need to contact us now if they want their children to enroll.” Because the school has about 320 students in its population, Dillon said that parents appreciate the small school environment it offers. “Students have a much more intimate relationship with the teachers and peers,” said Dillon.
Hargett agreed that having the seventh grade option is attractive to many parents. “I think our kids are subjected to so much, that to keep the environment healthy for them is very important,” said Hargett. She said the partnership Dillon helped foster between Sunset and the Boys and Girls Club Oak View Center has also been a benefit to the community.
During her time away from Sunset, Dillon’s interim principals often collected documents for her to peruse. “We did not make any major decision without consulting her first,” said Hargett. “The concerns that we’ve had are just the concern for anybody going through cancer treatment. We’ve been concerned for principal Dillon’s health, but not about the school.”
Dillon plans to work three days a week while she finishes her treatments and looks forward to again being able to attend school meetings and activities. “I have many, many strong and supportive friends and family and people from the school who have been in contact with me throughout,” she said. “It has been wonderful. It’s just great.”

Boats Allowed Back on Lake Casitas

Fishermen must abide by restrictions to prevent quagga mussel infestation

By Daryl Kelley
Lake Casitas, one of the nation’s premier fishing venues, will be reopened to anglers who use it exclusively and follow stringent security measures to block a potential infestation of a destructive mussel, lake directors decided Wednesday.
To the delight of fishermen, the Casitas Municipal Water District board approved new rules that will allow hundreds of boats back into the huge Ojai Valley reservoir under a new system of locks, tags and quarantines to ensure they are clean and dry.
Last month, the board banned outside boats from the lake to avoid a possible contamination by alien quagga and zebra mussels, which multiple rapidly, clogging waterworks and destroying lake ecosystems.
The mussels have been found in about a dozen lakes in Nevada, Arizona and California in the last 16 months.
Lake Casitas’ new security system will be implemented in the next two to three weeks as officials receive the newly minted cable locks, notify 240 boat owners on a waiting list and inspect the vessels to make sure they have no residual water in them from past use. A 10-day quarantine would follow.
The new rules also create greater access to the lake by expanding the lake’s boat storage area, so local fishermen can leave their boats there for a fee and continue to fish regularly.
But many boaters may now opt to simply take their locked boats home for storage once the quarantine is complete, since tags placed on the $50 cable locks are supposedly tamper-proof and would be damaged if an angler removed his boat from its trailer to fish elsewhere.
A boater who tries to fool the tag system would be banned from Lake Casitas for a year, the board decided.
“I’ve been told we have the most stringent inspection process in the entire world short of decontamination,” said Rob Weiner, the park services officer who heads up the new inspection program.
“We feel like this system was developed so we can guarantee 100 percent that the boat is not coming from infested waters,” he said. “Every aspect of this tamper-proof system has been analyzed and reanalyzed.”
Boaters said they were satisfied with the new measures.
George Boston, of Ojai, who has used the lake for 48 years, said the security was warranted and praised it as “a solid proposal.” He said renewed access will make his life better.
“I retired two years ago after working for 40 years,” he said. “I use Lake Casitas continually ... (The ban) really is a severe impact to my quality of life.”
The new program also allows newly purchased or constructed boats onto the lake without quarantine after an inspection.
That solved a problem faced by a Buena High School team from Ventura that has built a solar-powered boat and wanted to test it on the lake in the next few days.
Not fully addressed, however, is how kayakers fit into the new security system.
“I scrubbed my kayak for four hours and told officers I would eat off of it if necessary (to prove its cleanliness),” said Lora McWhirter, of Oak View, who had kayaked at the lake up to three times a week. “ I love the lake as much as any of you ... I want to abide by the rules. We wouldn’t do anything to contaminate our waters.”
But officials said kayaks are often not transported on trailers, so the lock-and-tag system doesn’t work. They said they may be able to devise a locking system in a storage area at the lake.
The Casitas board said it is comfortable with the new system, if the initial inspection is exhaustive
“I think that everything that staff has developed so far is really workable,” said Director Russ Baggerly, who spearheaded the anti-mussel effort last year. “But we have to pay more attention to the initial inspection.”
Baggerly said inspectors should assume that every boat that shows up at the lake is infected, and require that the boat’s internal plumbing system be sucked dry or disinfected with chlorine to kill microscopic larvae that might be hiding inside.
Boat owners assured Baggerly that they would bring their boats to the lake in pristine condition.
“I spend more time cleaning my boat than fishing out of it,” said boater Dave Pullman, who said he sucks the water from the boat’s plumbing with a vacuum cleaner to make sure it’s dry. “That’s how I do it every day.”
Indeed, Casitas directors said the system was proposed by boaters as a way to keep mussels out but not shut down a popular bass fishery used by at least 26,000 boats a year.
“The fishermen came up with the solution,” Director Bill Hicks said.
And board President Jim Word noted that he has a personal interest in the issue as well.
“I too have a boat I’d like to get back on the lake,” he said.
For updates on how quickly the process is moving along, boaters may call the Casitas Recreation Area at 649-2233, Ext. 7, and ask for information on how inspections are going on the trailer storage waiting list.
“We’ll go through it as quickly as we can,” said district General Manager Steve Wickstrum. “We’ve got limited staff, but will try to do this as rapidly as possible.”
Since the quagga mussel threat surfaced last year in San Diego and Riverside counties, the Casitas district has been checking boats for water or vegetation that could carry the mussel’s microscopic larvae and asking boat operators if their craft have been in infested lakes and excluding those that had.
Casitas directors imposed the boat inspections in mid-November, and officials said 158 of about 2,800 screened boats have been excluded, usually because they still carried water from other lakes.
In a series of recent meetings, dozens of boaters cited the economic harm of a ban since Casitas is a premier bass fishing lake: District staffers had estimated such a ban would cost the water agency more than $600,000 a year in recreation revenue while also hurting nearby businesses.
Repeatedly, fishermen said there was no evidence that the mussels had been transported by boats in California. State officials said the mussels had infested eight Southern California lakes through a series of aqueducts, not by boat, although the initial infestation in Lake Mead was apparently from a houseboat moved from the Great Lakes area.
But some community members asked for an immediate ban, citing the billions of dollars agencies have spent in the Great Lakes region since 1988 to combat the invasive zebra mussel, which apparently migrated to the U.S. aboard freighters from the Ukraine.
One large utility in the East Bay of San Francisco responded by banning any boat from Southern California or outside the state from its reservoirs. That move came in late January after a zebra mussel was discovered near Gilroy in San Benito County, just south of the Bay Area.
It was also the first zebra mussel found in the western United States, officials said.
The quagga mussel’s migration northward, after it was discovered at Lake Mead and Lake Havasu 16 months ago, has occurred in the sprawling canal system of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Senate Race Runs through Ojai

Tony Strickland, candidate for the 19th District State Senate, speaks Wednesday to the Ojai Valley Republican Women’s Federated

By Nao Braverman
Tony Strickland, Republican candidate for the 19th District State Senate, made a special appearance in Ojai, Wednesday at St. Joseph’s Health and Retirement Center.
The former assemblyman who served two terms in the Assembly and ran unsuccessfully for
California state controller in 2006, addressed a relatively inconspicuous local group: the Ojai Valley Republican Women’s Federated.
Seated around bouquets of American flags, enjoying a catered lunch, Ojai’s Republican women asked Strickland questions on topics ranging from the local school district’s budget woes, to illegal immigration.
The Moorpark-based candidate presented some of his priorities if he is elected, which include tightening the depleted state budget, repealing sales tax on gasoline, cracking down on benefits granted to undocumented immigrants, and decreasing funding cuts to California schools, all of which struck a chord with the intimate audience made up of Republican women, mostly from Ojai.
The Ojai Valley Republican Women’s Federated, has been meeting over lunch for 55 years, according to member and past president, Mary Osborn, who invited Strickland to Ojai for the meeting. The group’s objective is to get more locals to register as Republicans, a bit of an uphill battle in the Ojai Valley, but Osborn is not discouraged.
“I feel like the conservatives are the silent majority.” she said. “It is perceived by some people that if you live in the Ojai Valley and you are a Republican you better keep quiet.”
Within the city of Ojai are 1,481 registered Republican voters, 2,171 Democratic voters and 828 “Declined to State” voters, for 33 percent, 48 percent and 18.4 percent respectively. Osborn said she believes there are more Republicans in the unincorporated areas of the Ojai Valley. But she doesn’t have any updated statistics on Oak View, Mira Monte and Casitas Springs.
These Republican women have recently been making an effort to reach out to a younger demographic. The majority of Ojai Valley Republican Women’s Federated are seniors, but Osborn sees this as a reflection of Ojai’s growing elderly population, as well as who is available at lunch time.
When the women’s group first began to meeting in 1953 it was probably more of a social club of mostly stay-at-home women of the 1950s who wanted to get together over lunch and talk about politics, said Osborn.
As things have changed, it has been more difficult for younger working women to find the time to get involved, she added.
Despite its size the Ojai Valley Republican Women’s Federated has won several national awards including an award for a small club and the “My Favorite Teacher’s award, said Osborn.
Education was clearly a priority for many of the Republican women who expressed their concern about the reduction in funding for the Ojai Unified School District. Strickland, whose wife, Audra Strickland, succeeded him in the Assembly, said he too, prioritized education.
He is known for challenging former California Gov. Grey Davis’s contracts with energy providers, which eventually lead to Davis’s recall, and traces California’s budget crisis back to Davis’ governance. But Strickland said he does ntot entirely agree with Davis’s successor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 10 percent budget cuts across the board.
“Offering an across-the-board budget cut is an easy answer,” said Strickland. “But just like in a family budget we need to consider what is most important.”
Some budgets should get cut more than others, and our children’s education, according to Strickland, can’t afford to lose much.
The Ojai Unified School District’s budget cuts have everyone in the valley thinking about the education of Ojai’s children.
Osborn agreed that the interest in improving local education could be one place that the Ojai Valley’s Republicans and Democrats find common ground.
Other than education, Ojai Valley’s Republican women value public safety, safe roads and safe schools, she said,
Strickland is concerned about the effect that cuts to public safety funding will have on crime. Jails letting prisoners out earlier due to cuts in their budgets would undeniably have a negative effect on public safety, he said.
But overall, Strickland’s motto is to look at the glass half full, and he hopes California will change for the better. His speech, appropriately titled “California’s Best Days Are Ahead.” closed with a burst of applause from Ojai Valley’s Republican Women.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

OUSD Budget Battles Heat Up

Full house hears plans to cut $1.9 million, school closures looming

By Sondra Murphy

It is often a sign that Ojai Unified School District is facing rough times when the board meetings have to be moved to Chaparral Auditorium just to accommodate the crowd.
The pledge of allegiance was a full-bodied, acoustical chorus with which to start off the democratic process of the public forum Tuesday as more than 200 staff and community members came to give their two cents about nearly $2 million in anticipated revenue reductions. This number represents about a 10 percent reduction from the approximately $25 million total budget in the 2008-2009 school year.
Many had come to previous assemblies on the subject, from the March 18 board meeting to OUSD superintendent Tim Baird’s special budget discussion last week in the same location. Sentiments shared by the community have changed little since the release of the administration’s projected budget deficit work sheet outlined the expected $1.9 million loss in revenues and itemized lists of the possible areas to eliminate in order to submit a balanced budget to the county by the end of June.
The state budget deficit combined with loss of categorical funds and declining enrollment has compounded the financial hit OUSD is expected to take. Further complicating the district’s efforts is the history of California’s annual budget adoption being perpetually tardy.
“This is a very painful process,” said board President Steve Fields as he prepared to open public comments. “It is a crisis created by the state legislature, but we are faced with the task of making cuts.”
Certificated and classified employees and parents expressing their opinions on which items should be taken off the table of elimination pretty much covered the entire list of potential reductions. District administration has prioritized these, with first-level reduction options totaling over $1 million and second-level options totaling nearly another $1.7 million.
Some, like parent and Meiners Oaks teacher Aimee Mendoza, voiced support. “We appreciate the horrible situation you find yourselves in,” said Mendoza. “As difficult as it will be, we have tremendous respect in the decision-making process of the board.”
Others shared interest in renewing efforts to pass a parcel tax to generate income for the district, especially parents representing the elementary school communities facing possible closures. Beth Kaiser questioned whether the prospect of consolidating the Mira Monte and Meiners Oaks campuses would truly be cost effective. She said that safety and discipline at large schools “becomes crowd control” and mentioned the traffic hazards and reduction in personalized service to families associated with larger schools.
Meiners Oaks parent Glenn Fout warned that closing neighborhood schools could have further negative impacts on district enrollment, a risk echoed by Summit’s Lauren Coyne.
Several teachers asked that they not be made to pay for the shortfall. John Hook compared the budget crisis to bone cancer. “First we trimmed fat, then muscle and now we are down to bare bones,” said Hook. “Teachers are the backbone of our schools.”
District library media technicians, in full force for their annual state of the libraries report, chimed in on the requests. “We strongly urge you to take library cuts off the table,” said Topa Topa LMT Carina Solecki. Later in the meeting, the library team presented data connecting strong learning skills with school libraries and projected a compelling, multiple-site slide show of OUSD students in theirs.
Almost all speakers agreed that the community needed to join forces to combat the shortfall. Letter-writing campaigns to state representatives are being organized by PTAs and PTOs throughout the district in am effort to sway legislators on the subject.
“Welcome to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Year of Education,” said Ojai parent and Oxnard Educators Association president Joe Murphy. “I’m not sure if, when he said it, that he meant he was going to kill us or fix us. I’ve been e-mailing him almost daily ever since to get clarification on that,” Murphy said, referring to Schwarzenegger’s December announcement proclaiming 2008 as California’s Year of Education.
“Where is the outrage?” Murphy asked. “Not funding our schools is crippling our economy.” He further requested the district’s leadership confront the Republican Central Committee’s “no new revenues” pledge.
“All Schwarzenegger would have to do is, with a single signature, reinstate the Vehicle License Fee, which would be a revenue source large enough to eliminate the need for educational budget cuts. The numbers are about the same,” Murphy told OVN after expiring his three-minute time limit with the board members.
Voters passed Proposition 47 in 1986, allocating most vehicle license revenues to cities and counties. In 1998, rates were reduced, but included provisions that, when money in the state’s general fund is insufficient, vehicle license fees may be raised to make up the difference. In the summer of 2003, Gov. Davis reinstated the full VLF, a move estimated to generate $4 billion per year and harshly criticized by Davis’ recall proponents. Schwarzenegger revoked the VLF shortly after his inauguration in autumn 2003.
“Had Schwarzenegger not discontinued the VLF, there would be no budget shortfall at all at this point,” said Murphy, who also suggested to the board that they team with other districts in the state to declare financial insolvency. “There are only two (financial intervention) teams, so they can’t cover all of us.”
That suggestion, as well as board member Rikki Horne’s “radical idea” about possibly using some of the district’s reserve funds, was not well-received by Baird or assistant superintendent of business, Dannielle Pusatere.
“Typically, the reserve is there for unplanned, unforeseen circumstances, said Pusatere with visible alarm. “As chief financial officer for this district, I do not recommend you use your reserves.”
Fields asked Baird to bring an in-depth report about how school district reserve funds may be used and repayment timelines to the next board meeting April 22.
Some of the board members wanted to pull items from consideration in the cuts. Horne proposed removing library cuts. Pauline Mercado wanted all school closures and the lunch program off the hit list. After much discussion, a majority was never produced. “I want to make this clear; I’m not happy with these cuts either, but if you take them off the table, they stay off the table,” said Baird. The board decided to allow staff to continue studying the different cut options –– at least until the next meeting –– before items were removed from consideration.
Baird later gave a report on the findings of the configuration committee, which has been researching data about school site grade level groupings for curricular purposes for months. Many parents in the past meetings have voiced support for establishing kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools in lieu of elementary school closures.
When the district chose to look into changing school configurations, they were looking to see if the change would improve the educational experience for its students. In studying the impact and implementation of kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools, the committee found that a switchover would produce many restrictions in the educational options of its students in relation to course flexibility, special education and remediation services, as well as create incompatibilities with current staff members.
The research suggested that K- through-eight schools were more effective in large districts with higher populations. Baird expects to be able to post the full configuration report on the district’s web site, ojai.k12.ca.us, in the near future.
By the end of the four-and-a-half-hour meeting, it seemed fairly obvious that whatever the decisions by the board, it will result in unhappy people. “The five of you have the most difficult decisions to make of anyone in this valley,” Baird told the board members.
Editor’s Note: Joe Murphy is married to reporter, Sondra Murphy. As with all persons quoted within this story, his views are not those of the Ojai Valley News.

Skaters Caught Between City, OUSD

Seventeen-year-old Dylan Lightfoot executes a front side board slide Thursday while fellow skaters Michael Welker, Jay Brosies (partially obscured), Alec Stallings, John Saunders and Jesse Marcus watch.

By Nao Braverman
Members of Skate Ojai have been waiting to get started on building a permanent, in-ground skateboard park on school district property for years. In 2003, preliminary designs for a concrete park had just been drafted, when the entire project was delayed by the city’s budget crisis.
Now that the city’s budget is nearly intact, it looks like the Ojai Unified School District’s fiscal woes might be getting in the way of Skate Ojai’s plans.
A recent proposal to the City Council, by Citizens for a New Vision for Ojai, which mentioned a suggestion to move the skate park plans elsewhere and put the proposed performing arts theater there instead, prompted some skate park supporters to question question the security of the park’s expected location on school district property.
Joan Kemper, founder of the Ojai Performing Arts Theater project, later clarified that the proposal to move the skate park had been suggested to her after she heard that the school district did not want to extend their lease to the skate park. It was just a suggestion and nothing more, she said. Although she was not even certain that the theater should be built in that location, if it were, she would be happy to have the skate park also there, as a neighbor. Kemper added that the Citizens for a New Vision were unanimously in support of the skate park project, although some members thought it would be better in a different location. She also said that if the community members wanted the Performing Arts Theater at the Chaparral School location, Ojai Performing Arts Theater might consider purchasing the property from the school district. However, if they did, they would be happy to save the portion where the skate park is located, so it could stay where it is.
The school district-owned parking lot by the bus stop in downtown Ojai, informally known as Park & Ride, was leased to the city long before the skate park was ever built.
But with the construction of the skate park, an amendment was added to the lease, ostensibly securing the skateboard park at its present location until Dec. 31, 2023.
The lease is with the city, not Skate Ojai, however, council members have publicly agreed to keep the property slated for the existing temporary skate park, and later a permanent skate park, if sufficient funds to build the facility are raised in time.
But school district budget cuts, due to statewide economic woes, and coupled by declining enrollment, have forced school district administrators and board members to focus on ways to increase their depleted budget. School district superintendent Tim Baird said that leasing the school district property at Park & Ride to another business or organization, could help the district obtain some additional, and much-needed, revenue.
“If we were having no financial difficulties at this time it would be different,” said Baird. “But we are going to have to get really creative to bring in dollars for our schools. We don’t have many assets and that property downtown is one of them. You certainly devalue a property if you put if you put something permanent there.”
Wendy Hilgers, a member of Skate Ojai, said that were the school district interested in leasing the Ojai Avenue property to founders of the proposed Ojai Performing Arts Theater, there would be no reason that the theater could not coexist with the skate park.
But Baird said he was not particularly interested in reserving the lot for the performing arts theater or anything specific at this time.
“Many people have come forth with concepts, and we are certainly open to talking with people, but no one yet has come up with a financial plan.”
Currently the city pays the school district $252 per parking space for approximately 71 spaces in the parking lot. While there are only 49 spaces currently, the additional 22 spaces replaced by the skate park, still cost the city the price of 22 spaces. The city paid a total rent of $17,892 for the entire the parking lot during the 2007 fiscal year, $5,544, just for the skate park. That number goes up each year with the cost of living increase, said city finance director Suzie Mears.
But even if the land under skate park is being paid for at this time, when the lease expires at the end of 2023, there may be other businesses that would want to rent or purchase the entire property owned by the school district at that location, including the skate park property explained school board member Rikki Horne. A lease agreement for a larger portion of school district property would, of course, be more lucrative.
“I am all for the skateboard park. But if I think about the money that we have and the jobs we are losing, I am not willing to tie up our valuable asset for longer than it already is,” said Horne. “It is not my function to say where the skateboard park should be. But if it were me, I would not build a permanent skateboard park on leased land.”
Neither Horne nor Baird spoke of any intent to break the nearly 16-year lease that the city has with the school district for the skate park property, however, neither were in favor of having a concrete park built there.
“I would have serious concerns about putting a permanent facility in that location with an impermanent lease,” said Baird. He suggested that a better location might be in a park rather than a parking lot.
In a letter to Jere Kersnar several moths ago, Baird also asked that Skate Ojai raise an additional $100,000 for the demolition and removal of the skate park after their lease has expired.
At a recent City Council meeting, the council agreed that they were eager to get started on the long-awaited project and encouraged members of Skate Ojai to begin raising funds and drafting preliminary plans for a skate park on the school district property. They hoped that in 15 years the lease might be renewed indefinitely, but if not, it would at least have a good 15-year life. That decision has been questioned by Baird and some members of the school board who are now reluctant to have concrete poured on school district property.
Baird said that, as he understood it, the 15-year lease with the city was always for the parking lot with temporary amendments for a temporary skate park. It was short term and temporary while they looked for a permanent location, he said.
But former Recreation Department director Carol Belser said that amendments to the city’s lease had always included a permanent, concrete park in its present location.
In 2003, the school board approved an amendment to their lease agreement with the city, which included the existing skateboard park as well as an expanded park.
Belser said that the expanded park was always intended to be a permanent in-ground park.
“We had never even heard of such a thing as a modular park,” she said.
The first park was a pilot park, a test run, because the community and school district had some concerns. But after it passed the nine-month trial, the effort was always to get a permanent park in that location, she said.
When the lease amendment was approved in 2003, Belser handed school board members copies of designs for a permanent park which had already been drafted. Even a conceptual design had been approved by the Planning Commission, she said.
The amended lease agreement includes an expansion of the park, including the community garden, maintained by Help of Ojai.
Karen Kaminsky, outreach advocate for Help of Ojai who also coordinates the garden volunteers, said she had always understood that part of the garden would be relinquished in the future to make room for the skate park expansion. The garden, which is used to feed seniors who are served by Meals on Wheels, would be reduced by 60 percent. But with only six core volunteers, a smaller garden would be easier to maintain, she said.
Most of the council members say they are still in favor of having the skate park refurbished at its present location, to exist for the next 15 years, as was decided at the last council discussion on the topic.
Mayor Sue Horgan said that the length of the lease is not as much of a concern as finances. If the total costs are not raised by the June 30 target date, a modular park will have to be built, she said.
But Hilgers said she was confident that the money could be raised for a concrete park, that the organization was ready to build it under their more-than-15-year lease agreement, and that Skate Ojai was not interested in building anything modular.
Dean Vadnais agreed that the lease with the school board would be sufficient, and that if and when all things fall into place, Skate Ojai will receive their pledged donation.
Hilgers said the current location had always been the preferred location for a permanent concrete park, according to members of Skate Ojai.
Former Mayor David Bury, an informal and unpaid architectural consultant of the Performing Arts Theater project, said that the decision was the school board’s to make.
“Ultimately we need to defer to them regarding the property,” he said.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Border Dispute Spills Into Ojai

Sam Zislman during Saturday’s protest while confronted by members of the Frente Contra Las Redadas del Condado de Ventura. Photo By Stacy La Mascus/Brooks Institute of Photograpahy


By Sondra Murphy
Immigration angst festered in our little pocket of paradise this weekend as Ojai Avenue was teeming with more than 50 protesters from opposite sides of the issue Saturday in the usually relaxed downtown atmosphere. About a dozen supporters of Save Our State and No More Invasion, gathered around North and South Montgomery streets with cameras ready to out people hiring undocumented workers. The remaining were counter-protesters from Frente Contra Las Redadas del Condado de Ventura (United Front Against the Raids), who rallied to support day laborers.
One Save Our State protester, choosing to be identified by her Native American name, Standing Alone, was armed with pepper spray because of her experiences with previous protests elsewhere. “Thankfully, everyone behaved, but it could have been a disastrous thing,” she said Monday. “We accomplished something that day and communicated with others. It’s not wrong to say that hiring illegals is wrong.”
Competing chants from opposite viewpoints grew ugly and no one was giving much personal data as the three-hour rally ensued. Strong emotion was infectious and inspired passing responses by locals toward both camps.
Sam Zislman held a sign that read, “Hiring illegal aliens today? Expect to be filmed and reported.” He responded to shouts to go home with, “Free speech, as a constitutional right, is not limited by county or state and I am allowed to voice my free speech where I wish.”
When Thacher junior Gaby Karefa-Johnson encountered the protest during a casual walk into town with friends, she rallied on the pro-immigration side at first. Deciding to talk to the opposition, her questions compelled a collection of adults to surround her, including Zislman and Alone.
As their conversation continued, volume increased and name-calling began. As Karefa-Johnson attempted to clarify her position, Alone perceived a threat and held up the pepper spray in defense. Karefa-Johnson managed to escape unsprayed, but crossed the street to a chorus of chants about her being a racist.
“She had no business coming back and threatening our member with two clenched fists,” said Alone. “I kept telling her ‘Please step back.’ But nobody was sprayed.”
One OVN photographer heard Karefa-Johnson asking Alone and the other woman to “get out of my face” during the encounter.
Included in the accusations being tossed back and forth was that Save our State and No More Invasion members were primarily from Los Angeles and Orange counties. Alone said that four of their participants were from the Ojai Valley.
One spectator of the commotion, who declined to give her name, said, “They say they represent every American, but they don’t represent me.” She added that she disliked that the protesters mostly came from outside of the county and were making a “spectacle of themselves.” She added that she felt that Ojai was a place of peaceful coexistence and most of its residents would disagree with such protests.
Other passersby voiced agreement with the anti-immigration stance. Tom Johnson was not a member of any group but said he is a “strong supporter of the law and national borders.” Johnson did not resort to shouting, saying it “only causes people to lose their cool, which undermines both sides.”
Several supporters of Frente Contra las Redadas del Condado de Ventura showed signs of anger at some of the chants of the protesters, but kept their retorts vocal. “The only reason we showed up to the rally is because the other groups entered our county and stood in opposition,” said an FCR-VC member who identified himself as Gavriil E.
Ojai police monitored the protests, but found no cause to interrupt the events. “For the most part, things went well,” said Sgt. Joe Evans. By mid-afternoon, the main artery through Ojai was again tranquil, but residual debates still haunt local blog sites.
For more photos of the rally and a special video by Ojai Valley News videographer Rob Clements, go to ojaivalleynews.com and click “Immigration Protest Ends Peacefully.”
Stacy La Mascus of Brooks Institute of Photography contributed to this report.