In Brief

Welcome home, Seabees

Having been deployed under the banner of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, nearly 250 Port Hueneme-based Seabees recently completed their 6-month assignments and returned home Feb. 16.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Lore Aguayo, executive officer of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, their duties were varied and far-flung, and included both military and humanitarian activities.

In Kuwait, she reports, they upgraded security at naval bases and built troop housing; in the horn of Africa, they drilled water wells, constructed schools and medical clinics; in Afghanistan, the battalion repaired airfields and readied operating bases for winter use; in Peru, they constructed water wells, built schools and medical clinics; in Spain they constructed a combat training facility for the marines. In Ethiopia, they erected a tent city for citizens displaced by flood.

“We did a lot of exceptional construction work in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Aguayo. “We were very proud of the humanitarian projects we did in the horn of Africa. Our projects went a long way to show the people that we are there to help support them.”

Now the Seabees are back and training for their next deployment, approximately 10 months from now.

The problem with torture

At Global Exchange Ventura County Supporter’s invitation, a noted expert will speak on the uses and impact of torture worldwide.

Michael Nutkiewicz is the former senior oral historian at the Shoah Foundation, a collective largely concerned with documenting the experiences of Holocaust survivors and witnesses. Since 2001, Nutkiewicz has acted as executive director of the Program for Torture Victims, a Los Angeles-based organization founded 27 years ago to address the needs of torture survivors.

PTV is a non-profit organization funded in part by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The organization offers everything from medical resources to counseling to expert witnesses at asylum trials, and was founded by two South American political refugees.

Nutkiewicz’s talk is titled “The Problem of Torture.”

Michael Nutkiewicz will speak from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 28 at the Thousand Oaks Library, 1401 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. For information, call 241-8855.

Air your grievances

The Department of Housing and Urban Development requires that, before awarding various grants — some benefiting community development and emergency shelter — the City of Oxnard must articulate a fiscal year action plan. Now the city is holding a public hearing to discuss very specific community needs, specifically the needs of Oxnard’s low-income population.

“It’s important that we get that information,” said Oxnard City Councilmember John C. Zaragoza, “and also report to [residents] on a yearly basis.”

The public is also invited to comment on issues it feels are being overlooked, ranging from affordable housing to provisions for the homeless population to public resources, services and economic development.

The hearing is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 27 at Oxnard City Hall, 305 W. Third St, Oxnard. For information, call 385-7803.

Museum of Ventura County, East County

Fresh from a name change, the Museum of Ventura County has renewed its commitment to preserving local history beyond Ventura proper by opening a “satellite location” in Thousand Oaks.

“We serve the whole county,” said Susan Gerard, the museum’s director of marketing, “and there are a number of communities we want to serve better.”

The museum’s extension will be installed at a storefront in the Thousand Oaks Shopping Center’s upper level. Its opening exhibit, titled “Tradition and Transition: The California Missions,” focuses on “that juxtaposition of the mission system” with Native American culture.

The exhibit opens Feb. 24, from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Oaks Shopping Center, Thousand Oaks. For information, call 496-7460.

Ugly Kitchens help the community

Ventura is a county of plenty and beauty. Those in the home improvement sector happen to know that there is also plenty of ugliness

So, Channel Islands Do It Best Hardware Home and Garden decided to hold the Ugly Kitchen Contest, in which contestants can submit photos of their embarrassing, not-quite-retro kitchens for a chance to win a $13,000 kitchen makeover, complete with new cabinets, new coat of paint, tile work and even a kitchen sink.

The competition will be capped off with a celebration, where local celebrities will judge the final round of sins in interior design. Admission to this event will be a suggested donation to FOOD Share.

“We had a big freeze recently,” said organizer Karine Adalian. “Because this does have to do with a kitchen, we thought FOOD Share would be a good countywide effort.”

The worst they’ve seen so far in kitchen decoration?

In Brief

Rising crime

Violent crime increased in Ventura for the second straight year in 2006, according to the Ventura Police Department.

Statistics released on Feb. 7 indicate the number of homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults in the city jumped by 12 percent last year. Gang-related crime also leapt considerably, up 176 percent from 2005.

While the overall number of reported property crimes decreased, residential burglaries rose by 7 percent.

Police attribute the overall increase to a low level of resources. Last year, a ballot measure proposing to raise funds for public safety by increasing Ventura’s sales tax did not meet the required two-thirds vote.

“[O]ur Department must, and will continue to transform itself in 2007,” a department press release read. “Through the introduction of new policies, procedures, training, education, and awareness, our department will continue to make every effort to utilize our existing personnel, and apply our resources to those areas where we can have the most impact in order to reduce crime and the fear of crime in Ventura.”

Dirty water

A local environmental organization has sent a notice of intent to file a lawsuit against two Camarillo businesses for allegedly violating the federal Clean Water Act.

Ventura Coastkeeper, a program of the Chumash conservation group the Wishtoyo Foundation, alleges that Sutter Farms, LLC and Santa Barbara Reverse Exchange Services, LLC have illegally disposed construction debris into the Arroyo Las Posas, a stream identified as an area of special biological significance under California law.

Members of Wishtoyo first observed the debris, which included pieces of metal and roofing tiles, while collecting resources along the banks of the stream near the businesses’ respective properties for a foundation project, said Mati Waiya, executive director of the Wishtoyo Foundation.

“This is not acceptable,” he said. “This is not a dump site.”

The notice gives the recipients 60 days to clean up the area before filing the lawsuit in federal court.

Waiya said the defendants have contacted the group about meeting to decide how to remedy the problem.

None of the defendants could be reached for comment.

Thawing out

Four local non-profit organizations have received grants totaling $41,000 to assist Ventura County farm workers affected by the recent crop freeze.

On Feb. 7, the Ventura County Community Foundation announced the recipients of the first grants to come from the Freeze Fund, a special fund set up by the VCCF and the United Way of Ventura County to help farm workers who have lost work as a result of the extreme cold snap that destroyed crops throughout Southern California this winter. St. John’s Health Ministries, Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services and FOOD Share will split the grant money for designated uses in specified areas of the county.

The VCCF and United Way each contributed $20,000 to the fund, while another $1,000 was donated by a local grower. The money will go toward providing farm workers in Oxnard, El Rio, Port Hueneme, Moorpark and the Santa Clara Valley with rental and utility assistance, food and basic needs supplies such as diapers and baby formula.

The nonprofits convened to determine the percentage of the total grant money each group would receive and what kind of assistance each agency was equipped to provide, said Tina Knight, vice president for programs and grants for the VCCF.

They hope to distribute a second round of funding by the end of the month, Knight said.

To Iran, with love

Can a letter stem the tide of war? Phyllis Davies thinks so.

Davies, a San Luis Obispo resident, is heading to Iran at the end of February as a member of the Quaker organization Fellowship of Reconciliation, and is asking for citizens in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to write letters to the Iranian people, urging them to encourage a peaceful resolution to the rising tensions between their country and the United States. She will distribute them there, to the regular citizens and, “if something is particularly good,” to the ayatollahs and politicians the group is scheduled to meet with.

“When you’re overseas, having a letter from someone in the United States, that’s a treasure,” said Davies, who has participated in hospice and AIDS work in 18 different countries. “Something like that builds a connection. It’s just people-to-people, and that’s what we need.”

Those who want to participate can handwrite their letters or send e-mails, leave their contact information or just sign their names — anything, as long as the message is peace.

In Brief

Feel the heat

Inspired by a popular college class on global warming, an international forum on the science of the global heat up is scheduled to take place at the University of California, Santa Barbara, through May.

Kicked off this week by Dr. James Hansen, a pioneer in climate change research, the forum will include four speakers who will address the science of climate change, energy, technology, and society as they relate to the phenomenon of global warming, said Professor David Lea of UCSB’s Earth Science Department.

“We’re trying to educate, inform and stimulate debate and action on this great challenge we’re faced with,” said Lea, who added that another aim of the forum is to avoid spreading hysteria by distilling correct information.

Lea, who teaches a course titled “Global Warming, Science and Society,” said the idea behind the forum was to reach people on another level and “the whole campus.”

For more information about the free forum, visit the Global Warming Science & Society Event Series Web site at www.globalwarmingsb.org.

Slippery slope

Two-hundred-ten gallons of crude oil and 2,100 gallons of wastewater were spilled into and around about two miles of creek in the Los Padres National Forest, said Susie Geiger, public affairs manager for the oil-drilling outfit Vintage Production California, LLC.

Geiger said that recent low temperatures in the region led to the expansion, contraction and eventual breakage of pipeline running through the area on Jan. 30. Teams of clean-up specialists have since been deployed to the site, where a group of 80 people were at work this week.

“We’re very diligent with this,” Geiger said. “We take it very seriously and we want to make sure the area is as clean as it was before we got there.”

Jeff Kuyper, founder and executive director of Los Padres Forest Watch, a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the Los Padres National Forest and other public lands along the Central Coast, said he believes the number of gallons of both oil and groundwater spilled are higher than Vintage’s figures.

Kuyper said he is especially alarmed by the spill because it has covered more than two miles of creek, portions of which flow into the Sespe Condor Sanctuary and Sespe Wilderness area. “What we’ve heard is that there haven’t been any endangered animals harmed and that puts to rest a lot of our concerns,” Kuyper said, “but any time we add hundreds of gallons of oil to a pristine system, there will be impacts.”

Workers have used earthen berms, suction, absorbent pads and other means to remove the oil from the creek. Kuyper said the spill has coated between two and three miles of Tar Creek, within 1.5 miles of Sespe Creek. Forest Watch is investigating liability issues connected to the spill. “Even one oil spill is too much for a sensitive area like a national forest,” he said.

See the future

West Ventura residents who’d like an opportunity to shape the future of their neighborhood will have that chance Feb. 10, when a community workshop is scheduled to take place at E.P. Foster Elementary School.

The workshop, a segment of “Avenue to the Future,” a yearlong planning effort for West Ventura, is part of continuing efforts to implement the goals of the city’s general plan, adopted in 2005.

Planning efforts for West Ventura include a “three-pronged” approach, said Saul Aguilar, management analyst for the City of Ventura. Those three elements combine economic development strategy, development code guidelines and civic engagement goals to form a comprehensive plan that addressed the neighborhood. The general plan calls for guidelines that are specific to neighborhoods throughout Ventura, such as the Wells-Saticoy area, the Victoria corridor and Thompson and Main streets.

Information gathered at the Westside workshops will ultimately help the city craft its Westside and North Avenue Community Plan and Code, Aguilar said. “We’ve had various workshops for the economic strategy and this will be the second workshop for the community plan,” he said. “The community plan and code will set the groundwork for the physical development of that neighborhood for the next 10 to 15 years.”

For more information, visit www.cityofventura.net/westside/. The Feb. 10 meeting will take place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the E.P Foster Elementary School cafeteria, 20 Pleasant Pl., Ventura.

Monopolize this

Monopoly makes its official Ventura County debut in early March, when two Thousand Oaks Boy Scout troops host the first-ever monopoly tournament in the county.

A scholarship fund for disadvantaged Ventura County scouts will be established via proceeds from the tournament, which will also benefit the Ventura County Boy Scout Council’s Endowment Fund. So far, about $5,000 has been raised in sponsorship of the tournament, said event Chairperson Jane Lovitts, who said the troops would like to “make this a regular event.” The local tournament is the first step toward the National and World Monopoly Game Championships.

“Scouting is a really good thing for kids,” Lovitts said. “It’s a good learning experience and the scholarship fund provides for some of the underprivileged scouts who may not be able to participate in some of the activities.”

In Brief

It ain’t easy being green

Fresh on the heels of his agriculture tour around Oxnard, Assembly Member Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, was honored by the California State Parks Foundation for his commitment to California’s open spaces and natural resources. Nava’s district covers part of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

He shares the honor with California Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata, D-Oakland. According to the foundation, both politicians have kept the focus on what Traci Verado, director of legislation and policy for the California State Park Foundation, refers to as the state’s “natural infrastructure.”

With an eye on both policy and budget oriented protection of the state parks, Verado noted that Nava has demonstrated his devotion to leaving a legacy for the parks.

“It’s not easy in the face of competing priorities to keep advocating for protected open spaces,” said Verado.

She adds that with Nava there is “a commitment to taking on the tough issues related to state parks and making sure [he’s] willing to be public and vocal about them.”

The foundation cited Nava’s works to protect San Onofre State Beach from the development of a proposed toll road as evidence of his unwavering focus on California’s natural interests.

“Primarily, Assembly Member Nava has really been a champion in the last couple years for protecting the state’s investment in state parks,” said Verado.

Both Nava and Perata will be honored at the foundation’s annual Park Advocacy Day on March 26.

Making sure the kids are alright

A total of $3.28 million in After School Education and Safety Program grants was awarded earlier this month to help 29 county elementary and middle schools give their students a safe place to go after the final bell rings.

As Marcella Klein Williams, the after school programs regional lead, is quick to point out, these programs are more than just supervised playtime. The programs offer structured periods for both homework help with one-on-one tutoring and educational enrichment. The programs serve children in kindergarten through ninth grade.

“[This program] builds bridges to the instructional day,” Klein Williams said, noting that such time provides a safe after school resource for families, and also helps students improve social skills. “For sure, it’s an opportunity to help with homework, but it gives kids challenging, engaging activities to master the skills they’re learning during the instructional day.”

Such programs currently exist at 59 sites throughout Ventura County as a result of California’s 2002 Proposition 49 Initiative, but the additional funding will go far towards trying to include all students.

Fillmore, Klein Williams points out, had no after school programs prior to this funding. Now all their public elementary and junior high schools will offer this option.

The art of home ownership

A monthly Home Buying School class offered by Pinnacle Financial, in partnership with the Area Housing Authority of Ventura County, aims to teach Camarillo residents if and how they can own their own homes.

Pinnacle Financial Educational Director Elizabeth Alvarez, co-founder of this program, estimates that each monthly session lasts 45 minutes, during which time potential buyers can set up one-on-one sessions with budgeting counselors and loan experts. Even if the resident isn’t in a position to begin the process of home buying, they can craft a six month, 12-month, or two-year plan.

“About two years ago, the chamber of commerce in Camarillo asked [Pinnacle Financial] to partner with them because many of their employers were having a tough time finding their employees housing,” Alvarez said.

Using current numbers form the housing market, the Home Buying School explores the benefits of buying a house over renting.

“We compare $1,600 monthly rent to [financing] a $380,000 condo, and the economics of that over five years,” said Alvarez.

One of the resources that is looked at is the California Housing Financing Agency’s low-interest mortgages, she adds.

“There’s no sales, no pressure, no realtors,” Alvarez said.

For more information, visit www.thehomebuyingschool.com.

Burned out

The cause of the Foothill Incident fire at Hampshire Road and Foothill Drive in Thousand Oaks is still unknown, according to Ventura County Fire Department Division Chief Mike LaPlant. But one detail has been nailed down: It was the work of a human hand.

“We’re confident with the point of origin,” reports LaPlant.

It remains to be seen whether the fire was accidental or intentional. The fire burned over a three-day period and at its height required about 200 firefighters.

The Foothill Incident fire was relatively small compared to the Day Fire, the marathon burn that claimed 162,700 acres last fall and is now recorded as the fifth largest in California history. According to LaPlant, fires like the Foothill Incident occur approximately a dozen times a year.

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UPCOMING COMMUNITY EVENTS

  1. Irish Film Premier: BLACK ’47

    March 19 @ 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
  2. Ventura Water Presents the 7th Annual Water: Take 1 Film Festival

    March 21 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  3. Irish Film: Wind That Shakes The Barley

    March 21 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
  4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time *Ventura County Premiere*

    March 21 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
  5. WEEKLY SOUND BATH – THOUSAND OAKS

    March 22 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  6. BREAKING LEGS

    March 22 @ 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm
  7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time *Ventura County Premiere*

    March 22 @ 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm
  8. OLIVAS ADOBE ANNUAL USED BOOK SALE

    March 23 @ 11:00 am - March 24 @ 4:00 pm
  9. Studio Channel Islands Collector’s Choice 2019

    March 23 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
  10. AN EVENING WITH JOHN ROBLES AND CHUCUMITE At Santa Paula Theater Center

    March 23 @ 7:30 pm - 10:30 pm

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