RedCross reveals Thomas Fire relief numbers

The Thomas Fire displaced hundreds of families in Ventura County as it tore through homes and across hillsides. The American Red Cross has been on the scene since the fire began in early December providing aid to affected families via food, water, shelter and clothing, and now the nonprofit has revealed just how much effort has thus far gone into the endeavor.

Since the fire began on Dec. 4, the local Red Cross has provided relief in the form of nearly 6,000 overnight shelter stays, served more than 46,000 meals and snacks, distributed over 23,000 relief supplies, passed out more than 660 hygiene kits, and made nearly 4,500 health services contacts.

The effort was assisted by thousands of volunteers and Red Cross workers from across the country.

“We are grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who answered the call to provide relief and hope,” said Red Cross Executive Director Kimberly Coley. “The Red Cross has provided around-the-clock support to thousands of local residents affected by this historic fire.”

The organization says that it will be in the area for as long as it is needed. For more information on what assistance is available, call 987-1514.

Trump administration proposes drilling off California coast

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has released its 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Draft Proposed Plan, which proposes lease sales along the California coast, including within the Santa Barbara Channel. The last lease sale occurred in 1984 under President Ronald Reagan.

The proposal, announced by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday, Jan. 4, met with strong opposition from West Coast governors, lawmakers and environmental advocates, who say that the decision puts the West Coast in danger of future oil spills.

“This plan has the potential to put the precious marine resources of the Santa Barbara Channel at risk of dangerous oil development,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel at the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center. “After more than 30 years without any new offshore oil and gas leases, this is an irresponsible move that we adamantly oppose and will face head on.”

The EDC points to the recent 2015 Refugio oil spill as evidence that there is “no way to drill for new oil without causing devastating impacts to our coastal environment, tourism and recreation, and economy.”

The administration recently rolled back protections put in place after the 2009 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, citing “unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

Truancy down countywide in 2017

Good news, parents: Your children are learning.

In the 2016-2017 school year, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office issued 301 citations for truancy violations, down from 1,375 for the 2015-2016 school year.

The decline, however, has been attributed to reforms to the system that some had considered too harsh. In 2016, the DA’s office, along with the Ventura County Public Defender’s Office and the California Rural Legal Assistance in Oxnard, raised concerns about the truancy system. Students who accrue three unexcused absences are considered truant; two truancies and the student is referred to the Student Attendance Review Board. The old system had it that students received a citation for their first truancy; now, students are given the opportunity to attend a Review Board meeting before action is taken.

The change has resulted in significantly fewer citations for truancies.

“We recognize the value of working with parents in a constructive way to reduce truancy and benefit their children,” said Stan Mantooth, Ventura County superintendent of schools. “We’re glad to join with the District Attorney’s Office in finding non-punitive solutions to the root problems that result in students missing school.”

Whale season kicks off at Oxnard, Ventura harbors

Thar she blows! Kick back and get ready to witness the majesty of the humble whales as they begin to make their way south to breed, passing through the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary, which will provide ample opportunity for viewing from the Ventura County coast.

The season, which officially began on Tuesday, Dec. 26, continues through mid-April. Whale watching excursions are offered through Island Packers at both the Channel Islands Harbor and the Ventura Harbor, as well as at the Channel Islands Sportfishing Center.

An estimated 20,000-25,000 Pacific gray whales migrate through the Santa Barbara Channel on their way to Baja California, Mexico, to mate in the warm lagoons. Tourists also see dolphins, sea lions and all manner of birds.

For more information on whale watching excursions, call 1-800-2-OXNARD, visit, or

County warns victims of Thomas Fire of scammers

Scammers posing as unlicensed contractors may target victims of the Thomas Fire, according to a warning issued by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities say that scammers may use websites and leaflets that look legitimate, and appear to have the endorsement of the Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency and Cal Fire. Thorough vetting by homeowners looking to rebuild is strongly urged by the Sheriff’s Office when hiring contractors.

An easy way to check whether a contractor has a valid license is to verify the contractor’s license through the California Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board by visiting or cross-check the contractor through an official listing of certified companies at

Abatement set for Oxnard’s Halaco site

The abatement of the Halaco superfund site, delayed due to the Thomas Fire, has been rescheduled for Jan. 22, at which time all trespassers, abandoned vehicles and camps will be removed.

In 2017, according to the city of Oxnard, the number of police and fire calls to the site located at 6200 Perkins Road in Oxnard has increased dramatically. Serious assaults, an armed carjacking, injured people and more have all been reported. The City Council allocated $400,000 from the city’s General Fund to abate the site.

The abatement was scheduled for late December, but at a meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 27, the city decided on a few key details: dates for removal of homeless individuals from Jan. 16 to 18, with abatement on Jan. 22. Further, placement storage boxes for personal belongings on site, hiring of a towing service to remove abandoned cars and hiring of a septic truck to pump abandoned RVs before removal will be arranged.

A walk-through of the property is scheduled for Jan. 5 to notify squatters that they are on the property illegally and will need to vacate.

Oxnard recall moves forward

Former Oxnard City Council candidate Aaron Starr got some good news on Dec. 29: Ventura County Clerk and Recorder’s Office verified enough signatures to move a special election forward for each of the four City Council members subject to the recall — Mayor Tim Flynn, Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez and council members Oscar Madrigal and Bert Perello. City Clerk Michelle Ascension will add an item to the Jan. 9 agenda, a certificate of sufficiency, and will ask the council to call a special election 88-125 days from that point. Starr has already submitted paperwork to run for City Council.

Newbury Park YMCA shutters

It may be fun to stay at the YMCA, but you’re going to have to look elsewhere if you’re in Newbury Park. On Sunday, Dec. 31, the 10-year-old sports and fitness facility closed its doors.

The Miller Family YMCA, operated by the Southeast Ventura County YMCA organization, lost a reported $100,000 annually, according to an interview with President Ronnie Stone in the Thousand Oaks Acorn. The decision to close the facility, one of four in operation in the area including the Conejo Valley, Simi Valley Family and Triunfo YMCAs, was a decision made in regard to long-term financial sustainability.

The property on which the YMCA sits was sold to Heavenly Father’s Foundation to the tune of $2.85 million. The Foundation is funded by Texas billionaire Dan Wilks. The Foundation plans to lease the facility to Newbury Park’s Godspeak Calvary Chapel, whose pastor, Rob McCoy, is a member of the Thousand Oaks City Council and a friend of Wilks.