In brief

In brief…

Building Saticoy and Wells the way you want it

The future of the Saticoy and Wells communities could very well be in the hands of the residents who shape them — if, that is, they take the opportunity.

A chance to provide input and gather information about the growing communities will be offered from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, when a community dialogue and workshop will be conducted at the Moose Lodge, in Ventura. Residents are encouraged to attend the meeting to present ideas, air concerns and help the city plan for growth in the area in ways that are ideal for current residents.

In step with its revised general plan, the City of Ventura will be hosting a series of workshops designed to shape the future of the Wells and Saticoy communities, as well as other communities throughout Ventura. Different plans will be drafted for different neighborhoods, each with its own unique flavor and identity.

“After a recent adoption of a new general plan — that guides the character of Ventura over the next decades — the city is taking the next step to implement the plan by focusing on individual neighborhood community plans,” said Lisa Porras, senior planner for Ventura’s Community Development Department.

Various community concerns will be addressed at the meeting, at which residents will be encouraged to provide input on everything from community design to parking. New community plans will ultimately be the outcomes of meetings all over the city. “The Community Plan will set policies on community character, building form and building types, as well as streetscapes and parking,” Porras said.

In an effort to assist residents in forming plans and new ideas, the city has opted to partner with students from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, as well as technical consultants Clark Associates, to work with residents in the two communities to prepare a community plan for the areas, according to information provided by the City of Ventura.

For more information, access and click on the “City Departments” and “Community Development” links. The first bilingual community newsletter for the Saticoy and Wells community plan is available on the Web site, and Porras can be reached at, or at 654-7811. The Ventura Moose Lodge is at 10269 Telephone Road, in Ventura.

In brief

Oh, the tangled webs bureaucrats weave

Like most tangled messes, this one began with the best of intentions.

After the mudslide-causing, damage-doing storm of early 2005, a hefty chunk of the runway at Santa Paula Airport was washed off into oblivion. It was clear that the runway needed to be fixed — and that something had to be done to prevent additional damage during future storms. Doesn’t seem like rocket science, does it?

So, Santa Paula officials decided to strike a deal with the Nature Conservancy: The city would consider trading it 77 acres of land for wetlands conservation, essentially smack dab in the middle of the Santa Clara River, if the Nature Conservancy would allow the city to build a rock wall on a slice of land in its jurisdiction so further damage to the runway could be prevented.

“Part of the reason for doing this was to help the airport because it needed money for improvements to the rock wall,” said Santa Paula City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. Local watershed officials oversaw the project and the federal government, in the form of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, agreed to foot the bill for the improvements, Bobkiewicz said.

This is where things get sticky.

Construction of the rock wall had already begun when the California Department of Fish and Game spoke up and said an environmental impact report on the area where the rock wall was being built had to be completed before construction could be done — despite the fact that Ventura County declared the spot a disaster area.

Long story short, both parties went to court and Ventura County won.

Rewind to a couple of weeks ago, when Ventura County was pounded by rain. “All the work on the runway was done — but the protection of the work that had been done was not yet put in place. This all played out and, with the time it took to go to court, the protection wasn’t built,” Bobkiewicz said. “About $150,000 in work was wasted.”

But it doesn’t end there. Remember that other, bigger, natural disaster called Hurricane Katrina? Well, a lot of the NRCS’s money was diverted to that clean-up, which means that Santa Paula Airport is facing a $600,000 shortfall to secure the wall once and for all. A pilot channel was also dug to divert water away from the wall.

— Stacey Wiebe

$$$ Camp

We are taught how to tie our shoes. We are taught how to drive cars (and most of us actually learn. The rest of you know who you are). We are taught how to do our jobs, how to pay our taxes (sort of) and how to balance our check books. But are we ever taught how to manage our finances?

Most of us would probably say ‘yes,’ but at least one woman is saying ‘no.’ That woman is Elisabeth Donati.

“About seven or eight years ago, my then-husband and I started to have a little money to invest every month,” said Donati, president and co-founder of The Money Camp, a non-profit financial education organization. “I looked around and I noticed I didn’t know what to do with it — and I realized that none of my girlfriends could go on vacation with me, and that everyone was stressed.”

That’s when everything began to snowball for Donati, who said that, after she began thinking about how little she knew about investing money, she began noticing everyone was stressed about finances the way women with ticking biological clocks notice just how populated the world is with fresh, little babies.

“I stood up one day and realized we have a soccer camp and a zoo camp,” she said. “We have a camp for everything except money.”

Hence, The Money Camp was born. The very first money camp took place in 2002, after which they grew in popularity and started popping up all over the place. This year, there will be summer money camps between San Luis Obispo and Thousand Oaks, and even a couple in Anaheim. Donati’s money camps have even been hosted in North Carolina, Texas and Mexico City.

Money camps are offered for kids 10 and up, as well as for adults. “Since the introduction of our successful summer programs, Money Camps for Kids, literally hundreds of parents and other adults have said to us, ‘What an incredible idea,’” Donati said.

The current five-day summer camps have a limit of 30 kids — but two upcoming free, three-hour events for the whole family are slated to accommodate 300.

That event, scheduled for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 21 and Feb. 25 at the Santa Barbara County Board of Education’s auditorium, 4400 Cathedral Oaks Road, in Santa Barbara, will employ games, activities and theater to entertain and educate families. For more information, visit, or call 957-1024.

— Stacey Wiebe

In brief

On Dec. 28, Global Exchange Ventura County sponsored Peter Phillips of Project Censored at the Newbury Park Branch of the Thousand Oaks Library. To an audience of about 50 people from various corners of the county, Phillips talked about his program, a media research group that is run through the sociology department of Sonoma State University’s School of Social Sciences, which closely monitors the news published in newspapers, independent journals and newsletters. Annually, Project Censored compiles a list of 25 news stories that were under-covered or completely ignored by mainstream media.

Beginning in 1976, under the leadership of Carl Jensen, the program consisted of one classroom of about 25 media watchers. These students kicked around ideas about what the media covered or failed to cover that year, presumably from a sociological perspective, in order to find a project to pursue. The program has since grown to two classes each semester with 30 to 40 interns, plus 200 faculty and other professionals evaluating stories that the students research.

The yearly product of this activity, a publication entitled Censored (2006 this year), comes out in a book published by the Seven Stories Press. This year the top story was the Bush administration’s elimination of openness in government.

Highlighting the need for non-industry review, Phillips began his talk by discussing the unprecedented consolidation and homogenization of major news outlets. Currently, he said, only 10 major corporations control the news going to 85 percent of the population. “We can’t call it mainstream anymore,” he said, “because it doesn’t reflect the mainstream of America but of P.R. firms who create and manage the news. It is prepackaged.”

Phillips moved quickly to discuss distortions in news coming from the Middle East, particularly Iraq, praising the dispatches of independent journalist Dahr Jamail (available by podcast at He also discussed the dangers and intimidations that face truth-telling journalists who risk unemployment and sometimes financial ruin. This year’s book is dedicated to Gary Webb, an investigative reporter who exposed the CIA Contra drug links and was subsequently fired, driven from his profession and, eventually, to suicide.

Phillips also recounted his belief that the official results of the 2004 election were statistically impossible. Phillips based his remarks about the 2004 election on the high numbers involved in the exit polling (13,000), the conservative firm doing the polling, the size of the margin shown by those claiming to vote for Kerry (projected five million) and the size of the Bush victory (three million). He also mentioned that only in those states (excepting one) that used voting machines without a paper trail was there a discrepancy between the reported outcome and the exit polls, a fact that made him suspect the demonstrably vulnerable machines had produced the flawed result.

Phillips responded to a question from the audience, when a member asked if he saw himself as a liberal. He stated that progressive was the better term than liberal in this context. Historically, he said, the Progressives were more likely to be Republicans like his grandfather, people who believed in honest government and felt the press should provide citizens with the information needed to make good decisions, not to serve corporate interests.

Project Censored can be accessed at

— Margaret Morris

Change is in the wind

A brand spankin’ new study that outlines findings and insights about Ventura County’s farm workers and growers will be unveiled late this month by the Workforce Investment Board of Ventura County.

The unveiling is scheduled to take place at a conference called “Cultivating a Better Future for Ventura County Agriculture,” where a panel discussion composed of experts such as farm operators and labor organization representatives stands to shed further light on the findings.

The authors of the study — Dr. Bill Watkins of the University of California, Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project; and Dr. Charles Maxey of California Lutheran University — will discuss “perceptions of employers and farm workers on labor market conditions and trends, current workforce issues and skills sets now necessary in the agricultural industry,” according to information released by the WIB.

“This study explores concerns like increasing land costs and international price competition,” says Lynn Jacobs, WIB chair. “The results will help us educate ourselves and assist local producers in overcoming these challenges.”

Research shows that local farmers are losing business to international producers of generic crops and, in order to stay competitive, are choosing more labor-intensive and specialized forms of farming — forms that will require laborers to learn new skills. The study provides strategies to help workers make the transition.

“Even when producers strategically adapt to a market change, previous studies have shown that some worker dislocation is likely,” Jacobs says.

The event will include a keynote address by Rick Nahmias, director and producer of the KCET documentary, “The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers.”

The event is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 26 at Seminis, Inc., 2700 Camino del Sol, Oxnard. Admission is $55, and includes a copy of the study and breakfast. For more information, call (805) 652-7684 or visit

— Stacey Wiebe

Baseball woes

Big League Dreams may be further away from becoming a reality for Oxnard residents.

An appeal filed by members of the Saviers Road Design Team, a local citizens group that monitors city decisions, could delay the building of a privately owned 25-acre baseball park in College Park by a few weeks or possibly months should it be upheld by the City Council, says Chris Williamson, associate planner in the city of Oxnard’s Planning and Environmental Services Department.

The appeal, which was filed on Jan. 3, is based on claims that letters submitted by the Design Team in reaction to the project’s draft environmental impact report were not adequately responded to by the Planning Commission. Under the California Environmental Quality Act, the commission is required to allow the public 40 days to express concerns with the draft EIR and must include their responses in the final report, which was approved by the City Council in December.

According to the appeal, the report does not accurately address parking and traffic concerns resulting from the construction of the $15.2 million ballpark, nor does it discuss possible mitigation as a result of allegedly violating the guidelines for the use of federal funding.

The City Council is required to hear the appeal 30 days after its filing. Because no meeting is scheduled within the next month, though, the appeal won’t be heard until Feb. 7. At that meeting, the City Council will hear presentations from both sides and decide whether to sustain the Planning Commission’s certification of the EIR or to uphold the appeal, which would stop the city from going forward with the project until a new report is certified.

No date for groundbreaking has officially been set, Williamson says.

— Matthew Singer








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