In Brief

In memorium

As former police chief Bob Gonzales settled into his new role as Santa Paula City Council member, it occurred to him that there was no recognition for the two officers who have died in the line of duty for the city.

According to Santa Paula Police Chief Stephen MacKinnon, those would be Marshal Henry Norman and James Barmore. Norman died in 1913 as a result of wounds received when he responded to a complaint about shots being fired; Barmore passed away 40 years later after losing control of his motorcycle while responding to an accident call.

At a formal discussion Monday night, it was decided that an ad hoc committee would plan a memorial, and is set to include MacKinnon, City Council members and citizens including James Barmore’s son, Tim Barmore.

Help wanted

The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy, an organization with a simple mission of preserving open spaces and hillside expanses in the area, is moving on up. The group is now on the hunt for an executive director to lead it through its fourth year. According to a VHC press release, the ideal candidate would be adept at garnering support from the community, monitoring fundraising, working with volunteers and board members and researching issues of land use and preservation.

VHC was founded with the intention of serving as a cooperative effort between other conservation organizations, public agencies, property owners and other citizens. No land has yet been acquired, but the agency is optimistic about on-going talks with landowners and boasts nearly $500,000 in assets.

The search is a testament to the largely volunteer-based organization’s progress, and to the healthy support of 850 paying members. The job listing has been posted to a variety of non-profit organizations within the U.S. More information may be found at www.venturahillsides.org.

Something they can all agree on

In a bipartisan show of solidarity, all female representatives currently serving in the Senate — from California’s own senators Boxer and Feinstein, to Republican senators Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, Olympia Snowe of Maine and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas — drafted an initiative focused on a universal concern: adequate afterschool resources for students.

In a letter addressed to President Bush, the 14 women urged the president to allow for a greater flow of funding for afterschool programs, citing such programs’ importance in providing children safe places to be before parents arrive home. Called the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Afterschool Initiative, the proposal was launched as Bush plans his Fiscal Year 2008 budget proposal, which is due to Congress in February. Of particular concern is the fact that none of the funding increases OK’d by the No Child Left Behind Act have been put into action.

Afterschool Alliance, a non-profit group concerned with after-hours care of children, claims that 26 states were under-funded in this area and were unable to give support to growing afterschool programs in 2006.

Remembering Dr. King

Ground was broken Nov. 13 for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, and the monument in the nation’s capital has become a local cause.

The honorary structure will be less in the tradition of the Lincoln Monument, and more in the vein of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall: To be housed on four acres, the planned monument has been described as “crescent-shaped,” and will be a stone’s throw from the Thomas Jefferson and Lincoln memorials. The $100 million needed for this endeavor will come from private donations.

Local businesses and community members have stepped up to represent Ventura County’s contribution, setting a goal of $1 million in donations. To that end, a fund-raising dinner is scheduled in Westlake, where UCLA basketball coach John Wooden will join civil rights activist and contemporary of Dr. King Reverend Clinton A. Benton. Local chanteuse Jeanne Tatum and her quintet will perform, as will a Hindu dance team. In addition to Benton’s address, the winner of the Ventura County Star’s contest, entitled “Why Dr. King Deserves a Memorial,” will speak.

The dinner is sponsored by the Ventura County Martin Luther King Jr. Naitonal Memorial Campaign and will be held Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Hyatt Hotel in Westlake Village. $150 per person, or $1,500 for a table of 10. For tickets or information on donating to the fund, call 485-7303 or 496-2982.

Feed the need

Those PODS containers behind Vons won’t fill themselves, and FOOD Share of Ventura County reminds us that contributions of non-perishables don’t only benefit strangers, but, increasingly, any family or neighbor trying to make it in a city whose cost of living is considerable.

Still, the county has fallen short of FOOD Share’s goals, and has reached only the 20 percent mark of the 170,000 pound “Holiday Challenge,” putting the count at far behind where it was this time last year. Twenty-two participating Von’s markets around the county welcome donations up until Dec. 24.

In Brief

In Brief

Homelessness: you’re on notice

On Dec. 11, the Ventura County Homeless and Housing Coalition released a 41-page draft of a plan to eradicate homelessness in the county within a decade. The report gives 20 area-specific recommendations for combating Ventura’s homeless problem.

“Ventura County is a very distinct entity,” says Cathy Brudnicki, executive director of the VCHHC. “We have cities and we have [agricultural] land. Sometimes the needs are in conflict. We have to approach it both from a rural mindset and from a city mindset.”

In a packed conference hall at the Cowan Center in Camarillo, Joseph Colletti, executive director of the Institute for Urban Research and Development, who the VCHHC hired as a consultant in creating the draft, gave an overview of the report, then broke the crowd into five study groups, each covering a different aspect of the plan: creating more affordable housing; increasing the homeless population’s access to resources; improving treatment programs; building more shelter and preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place.

At the end of the conference, each group reported back to the VCHHC and made suggestions that will be considered for the final plan, to be released next spring. The most heartening part of the event, says Brudnicki, was that people were interested enough in solving the problem of homelessness to stay until the conclusion.

“The time is now to get a harness on that interest and move the issue forward,” she says. “There are children who do not have a home in Ventura County, and that is a crime.”

Keep ‘em short

Camille Harris wanted a workshop. What she and her fellow Bungalow Neighbors ended up getting, she says, was a sales presentation. Still, she considers the meeting she and her midtown neighbors had with members of the Ventura City Council and planning commission on Dec. 7 a success, at least in getting the group’s demand across to the officials in attendance: No new three-story buildings along Thompson Boulevard and Main Street, please.

“The goal of developers is to go as high as they possibly can with as few setbacks as [possible], to get the maximum number of units onto the piece of property,” Harris says. “My question is, what is the city’s goal for density and how does that impact these neighbors and our infrastructure?” Harris says. “Nobody is asking and nobody is answering.”

At the meeting, held at Grace Church and attended by Mayor Carl Morehouse, Councilmember Christy Weir, two members of the planning commission and City Manager Rick Cole, Harris, along with several other members of the community, implored the city to consider placing a restriction of developments over three stories tall in midtown when it revises the coding for the area early next year. Cole arranged the meeting to get public input.

Current zoning regulations, which are now decades old, allow developers to build up to six stories on Thompson Boulevard and three stories on Main Street. In November, the council called for the drafting of a temporary ordinance requiring any proposed development above two stories to go through a more rigorous approval process. The ordinance is meant as a stopgap measure before the recoding is made permanent.

In addition to changing the zoning, Harris is also calling for a historical survey of the midtown area similar to the one that was conducted downtown.

“They’ve got to get that historic survey done for the coding project to have meaning,” she says.

Think twice

Drinkers, remember these words: designated driver.

It’s a good idea most of the time, but it’s especially important now. As the holidays approach, Ventura County law enforcement agencies are cracking down on DUIs.

Beginning Dec. 15, the county is launching Avoid the 14, a campaign to stop people from driving and operating boats while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and the campaign will continue for the remainder of the year.

There will be checkpoints throughout the county, as well as an increase in Coast Guard patrols.

You have been warned.

Save Darfur

The ongoing horrors happening in Darfur seem a world away, which is probably why the American government has, to date, turned a blind eye to the atrocities occurring in the region.

There is something that can be done locally to help, though. The Ventura Save Darfur Coalition has made available stickers and buttons hoping to raise awareness about the situation. The items bear the words “Save Darfur” and can be found at the following stores: Accolades, Architexture Salon, Buffalo Records, Celtic Carma Salon, Franky’s Place, Lassen’s, Matiz Salon, Seaside Chiropractic, Skin Elixir and Soultonic.

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