After months of negotiations, the city and Sterling Venue Ventures came to an agreement, allowing Sterling to host a new summer concert series at the Libbey Bowl. The Bowl, formerly managed by the Libbey Bowl Foundation and is now managed by the city, will be the focal point for various events and activities going forward in hopes of rejuvenating the venue.
Also, officials for the Ojai Unified School District had ongoing discussions about closing an elementary school in Meiners Oaks due to declining enrollment. The district board voted 4-1 in October to take the elementary school closure off the table and instead consider leasing a building to compensate for financial losses due to decreased enrollment.
Pacifica High School seniors sparked controversy in March when they took part in a “Battle of the Sexes” event and created posters that were deemed offensive with messages such as “We Enjoy our whole Month” replete with mock-bloody paint accompaniment. The students were reprimanded and the event was cancelled indefinitely.
Hillary Clinton visited Oxnard unexpectedly in June. She addressed 700 within the gymnasium, leaving 3,000 outdoors.
Oxnard’s Police Chief Jeri Williams resigned in July, choosing to return to Phoenix, Arizona, where she accepted the position of police chief. Williams will oversee 4,000 officers as opposed to the 400 she oversaw in Oxnard; she had been Oxnard’s chief since 2011. In August, Oxnard City Manager Greg Nyhoff appointed as police chief 25-year-veteran Scott Whitney who had served as the assistant city manager.
When an audit of the city’s finances began in 2015, the city’s Fire Department, which had endured cutbacks after years of mismanagement had left the city with serious fiscal problems, alerted state regulators of possible shenanigans. The city’s auditors were investigated in July and September by State Controller Betty Yee’s office. Yee cleared the city of any wrongdoing in the matter.
Dreams may be the only thing that the newly relocated Los Angeles Rams have on the field these days, but the city of Thousand Oaks is celebrating the players’ arrival. Relocating from St. Louis, Missouri, the team and its players, including first-round draft talent quarterback Jared Goff, moved to the city and set up practice headquarters while waiting for the completion of a new stadium in Inglewood, set to be completed in 2020. Meanwhile, the team held spring training camp in Oxnard prior to the Dallas Cowboys annual visit over the summer.
The 71-year-old photography school Brooks Institute brought both the best of news, when officials announced in February it would move to downtown, and the worst of news, when it stopped renovation construction in July and then consequently terminated all classes in August and shuttered the school in October. The school had declining enrollment for many years after it hit peak enrollment of 2,563 in 2005 to 350 students in 2016. It also went through several owners after it was sold by its founding family owners in 1999, plus restructuring efforts and the consolidation of its Santa Barbara and Ventura campus in Ventura. According to local developer Jim DeArkland, there are still outstanding financial contractual obligations that have not been met. City officials relayed that the city is still working out financial issues with Gphomestay, the last owner of the defunct institute.
If you were trying to float into the Ventura Harbor at the beginning of 2016, you were asking for a miracle. After an El Niño storm surge thrashed the coast in December, sand filled the harbor entrance over December and January, forcing closure due to dangerous conditions. In February, $11.6 million in funding was secured in order to clear out the sand, and the harbor reopened fully by March. Meanwhile, the Ventura Pier suffered damage to several pylons and underwent a four-month repair during which it was closed to the public. The pier reopened in April.
The city pulled out all the stops to celebrate its Sesquicentennial in March and April. Celebrations included parties across the city culminating in a concert by Ventura natives Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
Bernie Sanders made a historic stop in Ventura in May at Ventura College in front of a crowd of around 10,000. He shared his views on everything from Citizens United — the ruling that allowed for corporate money to fund political campaigns in the form of contributions — to medical marijuana.
On June 30, a pipeline in the hills above Ventura High School leaked 30,000 gallons of oil into Hall Canyon and Prince Barranca. Firefighters and first responders worked to prevent the oil from reaching the ocean and managed to stop it before it reached the beach. Cleanup continued for months after and sparked debate about pipeline safety and resident notifications in the event of future spills.
If you can’t beat them, pay them is the message from the city in June as the long legal battle over the midtown Harbor Community Church came to an end with an agreement for a $2.3 million payout in exchange for the church’s relocation. Controversy arose after the church refused to end a homeless program known as Operation Embrace that neighbors said brought crime and drug use to the residential area.
The voracious bark beetle, which has ravaged forests and drought-stricken lands throughout the state, was discovered in a Santa Paula avocado orchard in July, as well as in green waste in Ojai. The beetle is said to be responsible for untold amounts of damage to orchards, in particular avocado orchards in San Diego, where large swaths of dead trees line river embankments near the border with Mexico due to damage caused by the invasive species.
Those who would wish doom on the belied Matilija Dam, rejoice, as a coalition of conspirators has set in motion a plan this year for its removal. The Matilija Coalition, made up of members from the Surfrider Foundation, outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia and others, came to an agreement that would see holes bored into the bottom of the dam and blown upon the arrival of a large rain event, sending sediment built up over decades downriver, perhaps replenishing beaches along the coast. Activists are hopeful for a start date nearer to 2020.
While the election sent shockwaves throughout the country, there were several expected and unexpected results in Ventura County. In Fillmore, voters passed new taxes for regulating the sale of marijuana. In Santa Paula, the one-cent sales tax measure passed; in Ventura, a half-cent sales measure passed; for Ventura County, a half-cent sales tax for transportation issues failed. For Ventura County Board of Supervisor, District 3, newcomer candidate Kelly Long, whose campaign received $100,000 donation from the oil industry, replaced outgoing Supervisor Kathy Long, long known for her left-leaning stance on issues. In Oxnard, it seemed as though candidate Aaron Starr, author of Measure M, which would repeal the city’s wastewater rate increase, would have a seat on the Council, candidate Oscar Madigral won the seat by 600 votes at the last vote count update. Measure M overwhelming passed, though a judge stayed the measure pending its legality. In Port Hueneme, there was a shift in leadership as Mayor Doug Breeze stepped down in September due to health problems while newcomer Will Berg won a seat on the City Council and City Councilman Tom Figg was selected as the new mayor by his fellow City Councilmembers. Figg and Councilman Jim Hensley had been the vocal minority for the last couple of years as the city became embroiled in serious financial and legal issues.
Following the elections on Nov. 9, multiple groups carrying varying messages marched around the county, from Ventura to Thousand Oaks and everywhere in between. While some protesters, like the group that marched from San Buenaventura High School to downtown Ventura protested the vitriol of the Trump campaign, while others, like the Chumash Nation activists, showed solidarity with the North Dakota Access Pipeline protesters by setting up shop in front of the Ventura County Government Center. Students across Oxnard walked out in protest of the Trump election and marched to downtown Oxnard as well, while students of California State University, Channel Islands, held a rally on the quad. Over the entire year, however, other protests were much more locally focused, including a protest over a waste water rate increase in Oxnard, a protest in support of an offshore fracking ban and a march in solidarity with the victims of the Orlando night club terrorist attack.
A year in the courtroom
High profile trials define 2016
Hermin Martin Henderson, 51, of Ventura, was charged with felony hit and run and a misdemeanor for concealing evidence in July for a collision that led to the death of Jonathan Hernandez, 14, on Feb. 18.
Hernandez had been attempting to cross against a red light on Telegraph Road from Saticoy Road when Henderson, who was driving his tow truck at the time, struck and killed him.
In late June, the Hernandez family filed a civil suit against Henderson and his company, Double R Towing. The criminal trial has yet to be set.
A local jeweler was discovered to have switched his customers’ diamonds out for much less valuable stones. The jeweler, 54-year-old Ara Ghazarian, owner of Jewelry Unlimited on Telephone Road in Ventura, was arrested on suspicion of two counts of grand theft on June 16. Less than two weeks later, he was found dead by suicide.
Before his suicide, Ghazarian had not been formally charged for two reported switches, but by early July, over two dozen victims had come forward, all with varying stories of how much they paid or the value of items left on consignment with Ghazarian.
Ventura Police Sgt. Terry Medina estimated the total loss to be over $300,000 and that many of the stolen diamonds may never be recovered.
On July 22, Victor Antonio Giovani Martinez, driving a red sedan, struck a vehicle while traveling on State Route 126 and drove away from the scene. An officer spotted Martinez exiting on Kimball Road, where a pursuit began, during which Martinez blew through a red light and collided with a motorcyclist, who was killed. The charges filed against Martinez include one felony count of vehicular manslaughter, one felony count of fleeing the scene of an accident involving death, one felony count of evading an officer causing death, one felony count of carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle, and one count of hit and run, with special allegations that Martinez committed these crimes while released on bond in a pending criminal case and that he fled the scene of a crime.
Jane Laut, 59, of Oxnard, was found guilty of first-degree murder in March over the 2009 shooting death of her husband, Dave, and lost an appeal for a new trial in August. Laut was sentenced on Aug. 23 to 50 years to life in prison. Dave was a former Olympian and had been working as the athletic director at Port Hueneme High School at the time of his death.
The trial sparked national interest and in June supporters of Jane, who say that she suffered years of mental, sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Dave, held a vigil for victims of domestic violence and called for her to be sentenced for the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
On Thursday, Sept. 22, 52-year-old Oxnard resident James Richard Schmitt, who served as a senior deputy probation officer with the Ventura County Probation Agency, was charged with two felony counts of possession of child pornography. In December, Schmitt pleaded guilty to two felony charges of possession of child pornography and is expected to receive one year in county jail and be placed on felony probation.
An investigation was launched in 2014 after Internet service provider Yahoo submitted evidence to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of a certain number of its users trafficking child pornography from the Philippines, where child pornography files and “real-time” online sex shows involving child performers are offered to international buyers. When evidence was given to the Oxnard Police Department, an investigation led to the arrest of Schmitt.
On Thursday, Nov. 3, Chelsea Sutula, 40, was taken into custody and brought to the Ventura County jail after officers from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department narcotics unit raided Sespe Creek Collective, where she is the sole officer, and the collective’s courier service, as well as her home, alleging that the operation was in violation of the Compassionate Use Act, also known as California’s Proposition 215. Sutula was later released on $20,000 bail. She was charged with possession of marijuana for sale, conspiracy and perjury.
Coincidentally, Ojai-based medical marijuana collective Shangri-La Care Cooperative and owner Jeff Kroll have also had their own legal struggles throughout the year, with Kroll’s arrest in April following raids in October 2015. Kroll then filed a complaint against the county this October for the return of property taken from both his home and business by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. On Dec. 12, an Oxnard Police investigator testified in court that Kroll was allegedly cooking concentrated marijuana with explosive chemicals, providing medical advice to members and funneling money to his personal accounts. Kroll is facing several felony charges, including manufacturing concentrated cannabis, child endangerment, money laundering, felony failure to file an income tax return and committing fraud with respect to the property of an elderly adult.
In October 2014, Ventura County Sheriff Deputy Yevhen “Eugene” Kostiuchenko was struck and killed on Highway 101 in Camarillo while performing a traffic stop. A mile from the scene of the incident, Kevin Hogrefe, now 27, was arrested for the hit-and-run crash and was under suspicion of felony DUI.
On Monday, Nov. 14, Hogrefe was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for the death of Kostiuchenko after, on Oct. 16, being found guilty of second-degree murder as well as of felony fleeing the scene of the accident. During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Hogrefe had spent six hours drinking in local bars before taking to the road.
The suspect in the shooting death of 27-year-old Spencer Turner of Ventura was arrested in Amarillo, Texas, on Thursday, Dec. 8. Twenty-three year old Sadiki Shakur, also of Ventura, was arrested after being pulled over while driving a rental car with Arizona license plates.
Michael Sullivan contributed to this article
On Jan. 1, Hawaii becomes the first state to raise the legal smoking age to 21.
Legendary British musician David Bowie dies on Jan. 10 after an 18-month battle with cancer. He was 69.
President Barack Obama gives his final State of the Union Address on Jan. 12.
Economic sanctions are lifted when the International Atomic Energy Agency announces on Jan. 16 that Iran has adequately dismantled its nuclear weapons program. Also, Iran releases four U.S. prisoners in exchange for clemency for seven Iranians imprisoned in the U.S. for sanctions violations.
A Texas grand jury concludes on Jan. 25 that Planned Parenthood is clear of wrongdoing from allegedly selling fetal tissue and organs despite a video from an anti-abortion organization. The founder of the organization and another videographer are indicted by the grand jury.
On Feb. 1, the World Health Organization declares the Zika virus outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Influential Supreme Court Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia, 79, dies on Feb. 13. He had served on the Supreme Court since Sept. 26, 1986, after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan.
In spite of a California judge’s order on Feb. 16, Apple refuses to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone of the suspected perpetrator of the 2015 San Bernardino shooting. On March 28, the U.S. Department of Justice announces that the phone was successfully unlocked without Apple’s help.
At a Ku Klux Klan rally in Anaheim, California on Feb. 27, three people are stabbed and several are arrested.
On March 6, former First Lady Nancy Reagan dies at age 94 of congestive heart failure.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning reveals on March 7 that he is retiring from the NFL after 18 seasons.
Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, marks the first state visit in 19 years by a Canadian leader when he meets with Obama in Washington, D.C., on March 10.
Merrick Garland is nominated by Obama on March 16 to serve on the Supreme Court. The nomination ignites a political standoff with Republicans, who vow to block any candidate selected by the president.
Obama becomes the first U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928 when he arrives on March 21 for a meeting with President Raúl Castro.
An airport and metro station in Brussels, Belgium are bombed on March 22, killing 35 people including three terrorists and injuring 340 others. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant take responsibility for the attacks.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signs a controversial bill on March 23, repealing LGBT protections. The Justice Department files a civil rights suit over the bill on May 9.
Al Jazeera America Cable News Network shuts down operations on April 12.
Kobe Bryant plays his final NBA game for the Los Angeles Lakers on April 13 and sets a new points record for a final game by scoring 60 points against the Utah Jazz.
Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew announces on April 20 that former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill, becoming the first black person on a banknote.
Music superstar Prince dies from an accidental prescription drug overdose on April 21 at age 57.
On May 4, California raises the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 and restricts the use of electronic cigarettes in public places.
Sadiq Khan is elected mayor of London, England, on May 6. He becomes the first Muslim mayor of any major Western city.
After having his penis removed due to cancer, 64-year-old Thomas Manning undergoes the first penis transplant in the U.S. on May 8-9 with an organ from a deceased donor.
The Senate confirms Eric Fanning on May 17 to be secretary of the Army. He is the first openly gay person to become secretary of a branch of the U.S. military.
Obama, on May 27, becomes the first U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, Japan.
Brock Turner, a former Stanford University student, is sentenced on May 30 to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. He is released on Sept. 2 after serving three months.
Boxing champion Muhammad Ali dies from septic shock at age 74 on June 3 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The final major state primaries for the 2016 presidential election are held on June 7. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the presumptive nominees for the Democratic and Republican races.
Tennis player Maria Sharapova is given two year doping suspension on June 8 by the Tennis Federation.
Omar Mateen, 29, kills 49 people and injures 53 on June 12 when he opens fire at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The attack surpasses the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Britain votes on June 23 to leave the European Union in what is popularly known as “Brexit.”
Thirty-six people are killed and nearly 150 are wounded on June 28 when three suicide bombers attack the main airport in Istanbul, Turkey.
On July 1, the U.S. military lifts its ban on transgender people serving openly in the armed forces.
During a press conference on July 5, FBI Director James Comey recommends against indicting Hillary Clinton for using a private server as secretary of state.
Video on July 5 shows 37-year-old Alton Sterling being shot several times while he is being held down during an encounter with two Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officers. The next day, a police officer fatally shoots 32-year-old Philando Castile during a routine traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
Pokémon GO is released on July 6 and becomes an instant hit with children and adults alike. On July 13, two men fall off a cliff in Encinitas, California, while playing the game.
Five Dallas police officers are killed and seven wounded in addition to two civilians on July 7 when a sniper opens fire during a peaceful protest in downtown Dallas. Suspect Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, is killed during a standoff with law enforcement.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tweets on July 15 that he has chosen Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate.
Roger Ailes resigns as chairman and CEO of Fox News on July 21 following sexual harassment allegations.
On July 28, Hillary Clinton accepts the Democratic presidential nomination. She becomes the first woman in the United States to earn the presidential nomination of a major party.
A hot air balloon carrying 16 people catches fire and crashes on July 30 in central Texas. It is the deadliest hot air balloon accident in U.S. history.
The Summer Olympic Games are held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from Aug. 5 to 21.
The Justice Department releases a report on Aug. 10 concluding that the Baltimore Police Department has engaged in unconstitutional practices that led to disproportionate rates of stops, searches and arrests of African-Americans as well as excessive use of force against juveniles and people with mental health disabilities.
The 36, 274-acre Blue Cut Fire starts on Aug. 16 in San Bernardino County, California, destroying 105 homes and 216 buildings and forcing the evacuation of more than 82,000 residents.
Kellyanne Conway becomes the GOP’s first female presidential campaign manager on Aug. 16 when she is promoted by Donald Trump.
Mylan Pharmaceuticals begins facing backlash on Aug. 19 over the 400 percent price increase on its lifesaving EpiPen devices.
The world’s first self-driving taxis started picking up passengers in Singapore on Aug. 25.
San Francisco Giants Quarterback Colin Kaepernick stirs controversy when he knelt through the national anthem on Aug. 27 before an exhibition game.
Actor and comedy icon Gene Wilder, 83, dies on Aug. 29 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Catholic nun Mother Teresa is declared a saint by Pope Francis during a canonization Mass on Sept. 4.
It is announced on Sept. 8 that Wells Fargo and Company will pay $185 million to resolve claims that bank employees opened more than 2 million accounts that customers may not have known about.
The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump airs live on Sept. 26 with a record 100 million viewers.
On Sept. 28 Congress votes to override President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.
Two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh with a combined value of $100 million and that were stolen from Amsterdam, Holland, in 2002 are recovered on Sept. 30.
On Oct. 7, the Washington Post releases a 2005 tape of Donald Trump making lewd comments about a married woman and stating that he can grab women by the “pussy” without repercussions because he is famous.
Hurricane Matthew ravages Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina on Oct. 7-8 leading to record-breaking flooding and millions of power outages.
Samsung announces an official discontinuation of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on Oct. 10 after reports of the phone overheating and combusting.
FBI Director James Comey, in a letter to Congress on Oct. 28, says that the FBI will reopen its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as part of an investigation into former Congressman Anthony Weiner.
The Chicago Cubs defeat the Cleveland Indians on Nov. 2, earning their first MLB World Series title since 1908.
FBI Director Comey explains in a letter on Nov. 6 that the most recent Hillary Clinton investigation has not yielded new information or conclusions.
Lawyer Janet Reno dies on Nov. 7 at age 78 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. She was the first woman to serve as U.S. attorney general.
Donald Trump is elected as the 45th president of the United States on Nov. 8.
California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada vote to legalize recreational marijuana on Nov. 8.
Attorney General Kamala Harris is elected to the U.S. Senate on Nov. 8, becoming the first black politician to represent California and the second black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.
Anti-Trump protests erupt in several cities across the nation, starting on Nov. 9.
President-elect Trump agrees to a $25 million settlement on Nov. 18 in lawsuits regarding his now defunct Trump University.
On Nov. 20 at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, more than 300 people are injured when police use force against protesters. On Dec. 4 the Obama administration denies access of the pipeline through the reservation.
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies on Nov. 25 at the age of 90. Castro served 49 years as president of Cuba.
The deadliest fire in Oakland, California, history occurs on Dec. 2 when at least 36 people die in the blaze at a warehouse hosting a music event.
On Dec. 2, Donald Trump incites concern and criticism when he becomes the first U.S. president/president-elect since 1979 to make direct contact with the president of Taiwan.
The CIA reveals in a report on Dec. 9 that U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Explosions during a soccer game on Dec. 10 in Istanbul, Turkey kill 44 people, mostly police officers, and injure 155.
Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, the 96-year-old thoracic surgeon who developed the anti-choking technique, dies on Dec. 17 after a heart attack.