Mitchell Kapor, pioneer of the personal computing revolution and the founder of Lotus Development Corporation
If there is anything to be said of the World Wide Web, it would be that society is now privileged to an infinite amount of information any time, any place, on any subject. And for those living in Ventura County, three locals have decided to take their desire for transparency in government and vigilante justice to the Internet, where visitors to their sites can find copious amounts of facts, figures and discussions on just about anything local.
Dann Daggett of PleaseHear.Us, Elidet Reyes of VenturaCountyCrimeBlog.com and an anonymous site owner at Oxnard-journal.com have found a place in Ventura County’s communities and on the information highway.
Dann Daggett of Oxnard felt an obligation to provide a service that could be used as a liaison between residents and municipalities. Although he had never been a regular at city council meetings, he understood that there was a need for a place where members of a given community could discuss and vote on local matters without having to take time out of one’s day to show up at city hall.
So, as of two weeks ago, he launched the nonprofit site, PleaseHear.Us, which is focused on topics involving the residents of Ventura, Oxnard and Tucson, where a friend is running a pilot site. Each city has its own Web page, i.e., Ventura.PleaseHear.Us, etc.
“I believe there are thousands of us that will never go to a city council meeting and never stand up,” he said. “I don’t believe it works. We get our three minutes and they say, ‘Thank you very much. Next!’ It doesn’t matter because you are still only one person with one voice who will never get up there and say what is on [his or her] mind. I want to provide another vehicle to get voices to be heard.”
Every user must create an account, which is anonymous, verifying only his or her age and zip code and checking the box indicating the city of residency. Daggett also installed software that restricts new accounts to no more than two per computer as a means to prevent fraudulent votes.
As far as getting the site to work as it is intended, he said the situation is a Catch-22.
“It doesn’t mean anything till you get enough users,” he said, indicating that a couple of the Oxnard council members said that it sounded like a good idea, but they needed to see how things would pan out first.
Members of the Ventura site have posted discussion topics including code enforcement and water rationing; Oxnard — the proposed peaker plant, the Channel Islands Harbor and trash recycling.
While still in its infancy, Daggett believes the site has a lot of potential and could spread across the county, and perhaps beyond.
Port Hueneme resident Elidet Reyes discovered her inner crime solver when her friend, businessman Gurmohinder Singh, was gunned down in front of U.S. Bank in Oxnard late last summer. In the days following the incident, she and co-founder Ellen Rodriguez created a blog roll, formerly known as 805Vigilantes.com, that had explicit details of the man caught on tape, which included information that was left out of the daily paper’s story of the incident. Within 10 days, police had tracked down the suspect, who is now being held in custody.
But Reyes’ passion to solve crimes didn’t stop with the capture of the gunman. In fact, to look more professional, she changed the name to VenturaCountyCrimeBlog.com and she and her two colleagues compiled an archive of cold case files along with frequent updates to the Web site with information on ongoing cases from the Ventura and Oxnard police departments and Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. The site has a crime library, a most wanted list and information on gang activity. The site also features links to nearly three dozen crime bloggers (local and from around the country), a live traffic feed and links to national organizations dedicated to tracking down criminals.
“It has definitely been bigger than I had imagined,” she said. “I have been able to connect with ‘America’s Most Wanted’ and meet with other crime bloggers and Crime Stoppers. We went from 100 hits a day to 1,000 hits.”
Reyes said that she feels as though she is taking a risk in running such a blog, revealing that she had received e-mails from members of the community refuting negative details of suspects listed on her site. But for the time being, her dedication to helping solve crimes supersedes any safety concerns.
While the editor of this Web site did not respond to e-mails by deadline, the Oxnard-journal.com has an array of information about Oxnard. While a bit convoluted in its organization, the site has received more than 194,000 hits.
The site has information dating back to 2003 with a discussion on a proposed casino for Oxnard, and the most recent topic of the Edison peaker plant. It appears the site hasn’t been updated for a couple of months, but the archived information makes for a good resource.