In Brief

In Brief

 

Dead man with 1,200 guns has connection to missing Oxnard woman
Twelve-hundred firearms, two-tons of ammunition and several hundred thousand dollars in cash were found in the home belonging to a man found decomposing in a van in Pacific Palisades last week. Now, his connection to a formerly missing Oxnard woman has deepened the mystery surrounding the case.

The body of Jeffrey Lash had been decomposing for two weeks before being discovered by authorities. Lash’s fiancée, Catherine Nebron, has said that Lash died on July 4 in a parking lot in Santa Monica. Nebron and Dawn VadBunker, who had been reported missing in Oxnard on July 10, took Lash back to his home and left for Oregon.

VadBunker told family members that she would be in Santa Monica visiting her boss. Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department in Oregon discovered VadBunker’s vehicle on the morning of Wednesday, July 15, and after confirming her well-being, VadBunker told local police that she would be in touch with her family.

Nebron told authorities that she believed Lash when he said that he was an undercover agent working for the CIA, FBI and several government agencies, which explained his wealth and stash of weapons and vehicles — eight of 14 having been located around Los Angeles after Lash’s body was discovered, one being a submersible aquatic vehicle.

VadBunker’s mother told a local news affiliate that she was told by her daughter that Lash was a half-alien human hybrid. So far, authorities have not announced whether or not charges will be filed in connection with the death of Jeffrey Lash.

Kids Garden Brigade gives kids an opportunity to get hands dirty
Kids: It’s time to play in the dirt.

The Kids Garden Brigade, a project launched by the nonprofit Restore Ventura, seeks to offer kids an opportunity to learn how to grow their own garden vegetables and, in turn, learn where their food comes from.

The proposed plot, located at 572 N. Ventura Ave., next to the Senior Center, will house a chicken coop, several raised beds for gardening, a mulch pit and landscaping featuring a seating area with a canopy and paths through the garden. A small office will also be housed at the location.

Now, organizers are seeking volunteers and contributions to get the project off of the ground. Restore Ventura is seeking sponsors for fruit trees, planter box materials, a barbecue, lighting, fencing and more.

Restore’s goal of $50,000 would cover all of this plus an aquaponics system, and all donations are tax deductible. Currently, the Kids Garden Brigade meets every Thursday just a few blocks from the new proposed site.

Gerardo Gallegos, director of operations at Restore Ventura, says that the garden will give children in the neighborhood an opportunity to learn and have fun in a working environment.

“We want this to be a place where they can go and hang out and not have to find something to do it in other negative activities,” said Gallegos. “We want them to take ownership of it and say we built it and turned it into something.”
For more information and volunteer opportunities with Restore Ventura and the Kids Garden Brigade, visit www.facebook.com/RestoreVentura.

Solarize Ventura program extended
Ventura residents will have until Aug. 15 to sign up for a discounted solar panel installation after an extension to the rebate program known as Solarize Ventura.

The program, offered in partnership with the city of Ventura and the Community Environmental Council, has so far provided 70 households with solar panel installation, helping the homeowners to reduce their electricity bills.

“The Solarize program offers Ventura homeowners a streamlined process and a discounted price for solar from vetted installers,” said Jefferson Litten, the Environmental Council’s Solarize program manager.

The program opened on April 22 and offered discounted rates to homeowners who met three requirements: Live within the city of Ventura, own a suitable home for solar installation and sign a contract with a vetted installer during the designated time period.

Ventura is one of several cities in the county that offer solar installation through a group purchasing discount, including Ojai and Oxnard. For more information, visit www.cityofventura.net/es#solarize.

In Brief

In Brief

 

State Attorney General to speak at local benefit
State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris will deliver the keynote address at the Channel Islands chapter of The Links Incorporated, Women of Distinction Award Gala tonight, July 23, honoring several women who have made a difference in the community.

At this inaugural event, five women will receive awards for their contributions to society. Harris will be honored for her work raising awareness of human trafficking; Dr. Claudia Alexander, who passed away earlier this year, will posthumously be honored for her work as a scientist at NASA and Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Kiki Shepherd, founder of the K.I.S. Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes awareness of sickle cell anemia in kids; and Dr. Suzanne Fussell, a family physician who has contributed to health outreach in the community.

Funds raised at the event will be donated to area charities to assist homeless children.

“We are trying to address the large amount of homeless kids who really need help in terms of school supplies to be successful in the system,” said Fussell. The Links has raised over $90,000 in scholarships since 1982.

The Channel Islands chapter of The Links Incorporated was founded in 1982 and serves Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties with the goal of empowering women in their communities.

The event will take place tonight from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Spanish Hills Country Club, 999 Crestview Ave., Camarillo, over dinner. Tickets are $125. For more information, visit www.ciclinksincorporated.org.

Santa Paula vice mayor announces bid for Third District supervisor
Martin Hernandez, vice mayor of Santa Paula and chief of staff to Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long, has announced his intention to run for the Third District supervisor seat being vacated by current Supervisor Kathy Long in 2016.

Hernandez has spent the last 14 years working in city and county government and began working for Supervisor Long in 2001. Prior to that he was the director of the Santa Paula Family Resource Center and served as an addiction treatment specialist with Ventura County Behavioral Health.

“I am grateful for the opportunities afforded me during my time working for Supervisor Long,” said Martin. “The network and relationships created over the years throughout our county and state place me in a unique position to bring resources when needed.”

Hernandez, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, took office as vice mayor in 2012 and has the support of Oxnard Police Chief Jeri Williams, current Fifth District County Supervisor John Zaragoza and Santa Paula Mayor John Procter.

“I can’t think of anyone better with a tenacious and energetic quality to serve as county supervisor for the Third District. I fully support Martin as the Third District county supervisor,” said Zaragoza.

SAGE employees Give Back With Backpacks
This weekend, 1,000 students in Ventura County will receive backpacks filled with the necessary items to start the school year, courtesy of employees of SAGE Publications Inc. in Thousand Oaks.

The second Give Back With Backpacks supply drive will see SAGE employees gathering on Friday to stuff backpacks in two different ways: 1. to benefit elementary students with pocket folders, wide-ruled spiral notebooks and paper, markers, crayons, colored pencils, erasers, scissors, glue sticks, pencils and a ruler; and 2. to benefit middle- and high-school students with pocket folders, college-ruled spiral notebooks and paper, fine-lined markers, pencils, pencil sharpener, erasers and more.

Each backpack is valued at $40, and SAGE budgeted $40,000 for the effort.

“As an academic publisher, at SAGE we believe that education leads to better lives and a thriving society,” said SAGE Vice President of Human Resources Roberta Isaeff. “However, [we] are aware that not all students living within our community have the resources to purchase the supplies needed for a basic education.”

Isaeff says that 980 backpacks were requested by the benefiting charities, which include the nonprofits School on Wheels, Casa Pacifica, Many Mansions and Transition House, all of which assist low-income or homeless children and families.

“We are delighted to fund this type of program since it is in keeping with our corporate philosophy about education, our reach to K-12 as well as higher education, and we are proud to provide this opportunity for involvement to SAGE employees,” said Isaeff.

In Brief

In Brief

 

Brownley calls for investigation into handling of VA claims
Congresswoman Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, on July 10 called for a special hearing to be held in light of allegations that the LA Regional Office of Veterans Benefits Administration mishandled claims documentation.

In a joint letter to Jeff Miller, chairman of the committee on Veterans’ Affairs in the House of Representatives, Brownley and Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, write that there is substantiated evidence after an investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General that inappropriate documents were found in shredding bins, notably those pertaining to current patients.

“Such actions place our veterans and their families at risk of losing benefits and being denied health care and other important VA services,” wrote the duo.

Brownley and Ruiz wrote a similar letter to Robert McDonald, secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, requesting a meeting to discuss the allegations.

The Inspector General is currently working on two reports expected to be completed by August that will highlight issues with leadership, performance, quality and training at the LA Regional Office, while the second report will address the improper shredding of documents.

The LA Regional Office of Veterans Affairs handles benefits for 706,000 veterans living in Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernadino, Riverside, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern Counties.

“I am troubled by new allegations that the Los Angeles Regional Office mishandled veterans’ claims documentation,” said Brownley in a press release. “I have asked for a hearing so that the committee can get to the bottom of these allegations and ensure veterans’ benefits claims are handled and processed in a timely and appropriate manner.”

Recycled water approved for Oxnard growers, Ventura residents
Beginning next month, as much as 165 million gallons of nonpotable water will be transported to the Oxnard plain in a move meant to tide over farmers as a pipeline from Oxnard’s purification facility is constructed, which could take up to two years.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, which oversees coastal watersheds in both Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, authorized the city of Oxnard to conduct the transportation of water from Oxnard’s purification facility by making use of the Calleguas Regional Salt Management Pipeline, a move that took several amendments to water quality and control programs in the city.

The plans allow for the transportation of the water through 2017, when the new pipeline is set to be completed.

The California Water Board says that the plans will make “great use of Oxnard’s high-quality water and benefit the community by encouraging the use of recycled water in lieu of increased groundwater pumping,” in a press release.

This morning, Thursday, July 16, at 10 a.m., Ventura Mayor Cheryl Heitmann will tour the “VenturaWaterPure” facility, a plant designed to purify water for potable reuse.

“The city of Ventura relies entirely on local water supplies, which have become limited during this unprecedented drought,” said Heitmann in a statement. “The VenturaWaterPure demonstration facility brings attention to the value of potable reuse as a renewable resource that can provide a cost-effective and sustainable supply of high-quality water.”

Gas prices jump
Pain at the pump, a symptom of the rising gas prices that have accompanied the beginning of summer, is here to stay, for now.

Since Monday, July 6, average retail gasoline prices have risen by 40.1 cents per gallon, according to GasBuddy.com, an aggregator for real-time gas prices nationwide, which surveyed 193 gas outlets daily in Ventura. Nationally, the average price for a gallon of gas is $2.76; in Ventura, the average has risen to $3.91; and in neighboring Los Angeles, as of Monday, July 13, the average was $4.07.

Despite the sudden jump, the average price is still 20.9 cents cheaper than at the same time last year, and in fact, it would seem that everyone outside of California is enjoying a lower-than-average total at the pump.

“Pump prices have surged as a result of a, hopefully, temporary stoppage of gasoline imports into the West Coast, which the region has relied upon thanks to earlier year refinery issues,” said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst. “Areas of California have set new records for highest single-day-price increase, and prices will continue to advance for a few more days before things cool off.”

The price per barrel of oil on the global commodity market, however, is hovering around $50 a barrel, making it the lowest price since 2004.

In Brief

In Brief

 

Documentary to be filmed on upcoming Surf Rodeo

John “JD” Drury had an idea: to make a film based on the real-life antics of his friends and peers. It just so happens that his friends are the proprietors of the Surf Rodeo, a celebration of all things surfing in Ventura, happening this weekend, where Drury will be, camera in hand.

The documentary Road to the Rodeo will follow the ins and outs of putting on a classic festival, such as the Surf Rodeo, from meetings full of “a whole lot of beer and Fireball” to the formation of a board-shaping contest and the “trials and tribulations” that come between.

“A day in the life of the Surf Rodeo is nuts,” said Drury, founder of the Surf Rodeo. “I think it’s something that should be captured because we don’t do Surf Rodeo for a living and it’s not something we do every day. The fact that a bunch of people get together and make this thing go down is pretty amazing.”

The documentary began filming this past Monday and will finish on Sunday, when the festival ends. Afterward, Drury and his team will begin editing and hope to have a finished product by the end of December.

One aspect of the documentary will be the board-shaping contest, which will follow amateurs on their quest to make surfboards with no prior experience, all in support of a charity of their choosing.

Drury says that catching a glimpse of the inner workings of the Surf Rodeo will be a special thing.

“At least we’re going to tell a fun story,” said Drury. “In the end, we’re making something very special.”

The Surf Rodeo will take place on Saturday, July 11, and Sunday, July 12, at Seaward Avenue and Pierpont Beach, $20-30. For more information, visit www.surfrodeo.org.

 

Ojai Playhouse rehabilitation under scrutiny

In July 2014, a water main serving Ojai ruptured, flooding the historic Ojai Playhouse. For four hours, water ran freely — under the foundation and above — forcing owner Khaled Al-Awar to completely renovate the 100-year-old building before it could be reopened.

Until January of this year, the project was going smoothly, but when the insurance money ran out, Golden State Water Company, which owns the pipeline, turned to a secondary insurer that has claimed, according to Al-Awar, that the July 2014 flooding never happened and has therefore refused to continue funding for the renovations.

The project has stalled and now, one year later, Al-Awar is no longer remaining silent. Over the Fourth of July weekend, dozens of Ojai residents held a protest in front of the Playhouse.

“In the beginning, they denied that there was a claim or that anything happened at the Playhouse. It delayed us for at least five months,” said Al-Awar. “They were telling me not to worry, that next week we will have an answer and then in two weeks we’ll have an answer. We’re talking about a few months now and the answer is another promise for an answer.”

What’s left of the theater is a gutted façade similar to those found on a Hollywood back lot, an empty building with bare walls and dirt floors. Al-Awar, in a letter penned to the CEO and board of directors of American States Water Company, says that its subsidiary company, Golden State Water, needs to adhere to its original promise.

“I am left to wonder whether Golden State Water meant what it told me almost a year ago, or instead, whether you are using the purported dispute with your insurers as a pretext to renege on that promise,” wrote Al-Awar.

There is no current timeframe on when the Playhouse will reopen. Nor is there a date for the reopening of neighboring The Village Jester, a pub that was also damaged by the water main break.

 

 

In Brief

In Brief

 

Railroad safetyoperation held
After an uptick in collisions involving trains, vehicles and pedestrians in the county over the past year, the Ventura Police Department and Union Pacific Railroad, in cooperation with several local agencies, have responded by scheduling a violation enforcement operation for today, Thursday, July 2, in Ventura.

Officers will be monitoring railways that run through the city of Ventura from the Santa Clara River to Emma Wood State Beach, which also include the railroad bridges over the Santa Clara River and Ventura River, and will issue tickets to pedestrians who walk adjacent to the railway and motorists who fail to yield at safety signals.

Several high-profile incidents involving train and vehicle collisions have put Ventura, Oxnard and Camarillo into the national spotlight in recent memory, including a February truck-versus-train incident that injured nearly 30 people, four critically. After the driver of the truck made a wrong turn onto the tracks, the train derailed after striking the vehicle.

Council approves Water Wise incentive program
Residents of the city of Ventura will be able to take advantage of incentives offered for conserving water, though a rebate provided for installing artificial turf has been removed.

At a meeting of the City Council on Monday, June 29, the Council approved of the program and agreed that implementation of the program is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act and gave the water general manager approval to apply for a grant worth $2.5 million

The approval also gives the mayor authority to hire Waterwise Consulting Inc., which will supply administrative services for the program.

The Water Wise incentive program had been put on hold until recently, when the City Council voted to approve new tiered water rates, which include higher rates for higher water users to fund the program.

Residents will be able to receive rebates and other incentives for removing water-hungry yards and replacing them with drought-tolerant succulents and the like.

For more information on the program, visit www.cityofventura.net/waterwise.

— Chris O’Neal

Rosalba Moran’s murder trial scheduled
The woman investigators believe left her newborn to die in a strawberry field three years ago will go on trial Sept. 29 for murder.

Rosalba Cruz Moran, 22, was already in jail for having fake identification in May 2012, when Ventura County Sheriff’s Office detectives linked her to another family member, a laborer who worked the Camarillo farm where the infant was found dead in November 2011.

Moran’s trial date was set at the most recent of several pretrial hearings on June 16. If she is convicted, she will serve her sentence in the United States despite being here illegally.

— David Michael Courtland

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UPCOMING COMMUNITY EVENTS

  1. Ojai Landscape Through the Eye of the Artist

    March 18 @ 8:00 am - May 31 @ 5:00 pm
  2. Ojai Art Center’s 42nd Annual Art in the Park

    May 25 @ 10:00 am - May 26 @ 5:00 pm
  3. WEEKLY SOUND BATH – THOUSAND OAKS

    May 29 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
  4. WEEKLY SOUND BATH – THOUSAND OAKS

    May 31 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  5. INTRODUCTION TO ANTIQUE CLOCK COLLECTING, MAINTENANCE & REPAIR WORKSHOP IN SANTA PAULA

    June 1 @ 8:30 am - 4:00 pm
  6. Fun Arts and Entertainment for All Ages at Studio Channel Islands Arts Alive Festival

    June 1 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
  7. Studio Channel Islands Arts Alive

    June 1 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
  8. Help a Horse Day at California Coastal Horse Rescue

    June 1 @ 11:00 am - 4:00 pm
  9. The 2019 OakHeart Country Music Festival

    June 1 @ 1:00 pm - 10:00 pm
  10. 4th Annual Ojai Blues Fest

    June 1 @ 1:00 pm - 10:00 pm

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