In Brief

Gambling in Oxnard

Peter Bokron is a World War II veteran, but these days he’s fighting a battle of a different sort: To get a license for the operation of a card club in the city of Oxnard.

“I put my life on the line to retain my privileges,” the 60-year resident says. “Now I’m faced with the fact that there are five councilmen who were never in World War II dictating the law.”

Don’t let Bokron’s passion fool you, though: He doesn’t gamble. But he’d like to give others the opportunity to do so, if that’s how they prefer to spend their time (and money). And he is not interested in creating a new revenue stream for himself, either. He wants to obtain the business license for the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, a non-profit fraternal organization whose local chapter has been active in the area since 1929.

According to Bokron, who owned Olde Timers restaurant from 1952 to 1989, although gambling is outlawed in Oxnard, an amendment to the city’s gambling ordinance in 1984 exempted charitable groups from the ban. His dream is for AHEPA to open a card room somewhere in the city in which participants would rent a chair at a table and bet against each other, rather than the house. The money from the rental fees would then be donated to local and national charities, scholarships and low-income housing.

In order to make that dream a reality, Bokron is planning to circulate a petition to help bring the issue to the voters in November. To get on the ballot, he must collect 5,800 signatures within three weeks. He and other supporters will be stationed throughout the city, outside Wal-Mart and Albertsons and, from June 22 through June 25, in Plaza Park.

If he does not get enough signatures by the filing deadline, Bokron says he will attempt to enact a special election. To do that, he will need to get nearly twice the signatures, and it could end up costing the city of Oxnard $250,000. Now that’s quite a gamble.

— Matthew Singer

Santa Paula shows even more initiative

The fight for development in Santa Paula isn’t over by a long shot.

A band of about 100 residents — currently in the process of crafting a name for their group — have banded together to make way for development in Adams Canyon by drafting a new initiative for the June 2007 ballot.

“It’s a long term plan,” said Steve Smead, a lifelong Santa Paula resident and insurance agent, and one of those at the helm of the effort to see new development in the city. Smead said the new effort began after the recent defeat of Measure Y, a Santa Paula ballot measure that would have paved the way for the construction of nearly 500 upscale homes in the canyon.

Smead describes the group’s campaign as a wholly grassroots, community push to make sure the city reaps the financial benefits of new development without suffering the side effects of large-scale construction. Unlike the recent campaigns for construction in Adams and Fagan canyons, which involved developers Pinnacle Group and Centex Homes, respectively, the new campaign will leave the developers out — for now.

“A bunch of people in Santa Paula knew that this [development in Adams Canyon] would have the most financial advantages to the people in Santa Paula,” Smead said. The initiative will propose that Adams Canyon be voted into city limits, and will include various mandates for developers — including a 495-home limit, 100 acres of parks, 200 acres of open space and an area for a potential high school.

Though the construction of affordable housing wouldn’t be ruled out by the initiative, Smead said the initiative would not make it mandatory. “We are currently the low-income-housing Mecca of Ventura County, and that’s part of our problem,” said Smead, who envisions upscale housing for Adams Canyon. “Santa Paula has more affordable housing than any city in the county.”

The Santa Paula City Council has scheduled a special meeting for Monday to address issues surrounding the proposed initiative, said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. “Partially, we’re concerned that the City Council needs to be figuring these things out and not leaving the work to the public,” he said. “The City Council can also put things on the ballot without people having to do it.”

The issue of affordable housing will likely be one that is discussed. “Communities all over struggle with these issues,” Bobkiewicz said. “People want to see these nice houses that bring up property values, but there are also sons and daughters of people from Santa Paula who can’t afford to live here. It’s the California conundrum.”

— Stacey Wiebe

In Brief

Eye on pesticides

Pesticide regulations will be better enforced county-wide with the addition of two new staff members at the office of Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner W. Earl McPhail — who says increased policing of pesticide use will keep schools and homes safe. It stands to reason, then, that residents won’t be growing any extra heads on his watch.

“This will help us go a long way in getting us where we want to go,” said McPhail, who requested funding for four additional staff members, but is pleased with the two new slots he received Monday from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. Along with the two additions to McPhail’s office, the board approved a $1.5 billion budget that provides more beds for the mentally ill, increased staffing for the county’s jails and animal control efforts and increased support for other services.

McPhail, who has served as commissioner for 27 and a half years, said the approved increases and the possible addition of two more pesticide inspectors in the future — maybe even as soon as next year — could ensure that the agricultural commissioner’s office will be in tip-top shape once again.

“When I first came here, even after Proposition 13 [the People\’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation, which put a cap on and reduced property taxes in California in 1978], things were a lot better than they are now,” said McPhail, referring to the steep state-wide budget cuts that have crippled city and county budgets over the course of the last few years. “We’re still understaffed compared to what we were when I first came here, but we spend most of our time on pesticide enforcement, so our duties have changed.”

The two new inspectors — after they’ve been interviewed, hired and trained, that is — will spend the lion’s share of their workdays on the enforcement of pesticide use regulations, as well as on ensuring the safety of those who work with pesticides.

As is, McPhail said, his office is sufficiently monitoring about 15 percent of “sensitive” areas, or areas like schools and homes that sit close to spots where pesticides are used. “My largest concerns are schools, homes and industry within a mile of agriculture,” he said, adding that he expects to see a sizable jump in that 15 percent figure once the new personnel are on board and trained.

“We still have a ways to go and we’d still like to get those two [additional] positions,” McPhail said. “I just want what I need to get the job done right.”

— Stacey Wiebe

Extreme-clean slate

With healthy doses of fresh paint and plenty of elbow grease, 70 volunteers recently bestowed a major facelift on an El Rio neighborhood in need of a little TLC.

Those volunteers donated time — and two weekends in a row, to boot — to take part in the El Rio Extreme Neighborhood Makeover. The makeover is part of a national week of volunteerism originally conceived by NeighborWorks America, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing communities through affordable housing opportunities, training and technical assistance.

Local volunteers took to the streets June 3 to landscape yards, build fences and remove trash. In short, it was a major overhaul that couldn’t have been done with a can of Comet alone. On June 10, volunteers again converged in El Rio — this time in the Colonia neighborhood — to go to work on 11 houses. The volunteers again painted and cleaned, and even rebuilt a cement wall, said Jennifer Koch, communications and resource development manager for the Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation, a private, nonprofit community development corporation that provides comprehensive housing services in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

CEDC, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, sponsored the clean-up project, along with the City of Oxnard, Citibank and the neighborhood of El Rio. “Everyone deserves a safe, affordable place to live,” said Tony Porretta, Citibank’s area manager for the Central Coast. “These organizations’ efforts to revitalize neighborhoods bring us closer to that goal and benefit everyone in the community.”

Koch said the CEDC has revamped one neighborhood a year over the last five years, that the locations are chosen via a democratic process and that community members can submit makeover requests. Previous locations included neighborhoods in other cities, such as Fillmore.

“This has been a huge success,” Koch said of this year’s effort. “For instance, one of the houses selected for a makeover was the home of a woman in wheelchair whose husband died a few years ago. She can’t take care of things herself — and this made all the difference.”

— Stacey Wiebe

In Brief

Smells like teen scandal

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t buy just anything on eBay.

When copies of a video featuring local high school cheerleaders were put up for sale online, the Oxnard Union High School District made a formal complaint to the popular Web site. The auction had closed, but in keeping with eBay’s internal complaints procedure whereby consumers may object to the sale or display of offensive content, an advertisement for the video was removed.

“We appealed to eBay to remove it for two reasons: One, it was extremely offensive, especially to the parents of the girls … and two, it was offensive to us because of our responsibility to protect the safety and security of girls under our responsibility,” says attorney Jack Parham, representing both Oxnard and Carpinteria school districts. Students from both districts were featured in the video, which is a collection of clips taken from two sporting events. The videos reportedly use clips only from the outdoor football games and bear the mark of heavy editing: Close-up camera shots and still frames focus on specific parts of the cheerleaders’ bodies.

The video — entitled “Hot Cheerleaders” — was brought to the attention of the NBC 4 news channel by a private consumer. As the story was investigated and students at Oxnard High School were questioned, the school became privy to the video and alerted the district.

According to online transcripts, NBC successfully tracked down the video distributor by ordering a copy of the tape from eBay and tracing the return address to Eric Arrenado of Goleta. Arrenado subsequently refused to give an interview.

Although NBC streams clips of the video on their Web site, obtaining a copy of the controversial footage from the news station has proven difficult for both the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department and the Oxnard Union High School District. Sgt. Erik Raney recalls a drawn out negotiation between the sheriff’s office and NBC management simply to view the video in order to judge whether a crime had been committed.

The Oxnard School District was not so successful. “Channel 4,” Roger Rice, assistant superintendent of the Oxnard Union High School District, claims, “is refusing to release the tape on journalistic first amendment rights grounds.”

Meanwhile, many parents and administrators are outraged, and children’s rights advocates worry that such videos might encourage sexual predators. But is the selling of video footage taken at a public event illegal?

The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department — which has jurisdiction over the area where the video footage was taken — says no. Explains Raney, “[The video] wasn\’t marketed as being strictly pornographic, so none of those laws that cover child pornography or the marketing of child pornography played a role here.”

The lawsuit filed in the Santa Barbara Superior Court will argue that it is the district’s prerogative to protect its students both on-campus and off, at community outreach events. In addition, Parham notes the potential of trademark infringement: The cheerleaders were wearing school logos in a video from which a third party is profiting.

Rice, referring to the product as “videotaping minors for profit,” adds, “They\’re marketed as tapes the same way you would market Girls Gone Wild on spring break. They\’re for salacious purposes, trying to pander to that kind of audience. It\’s abusive to the girls.”

— Saundra Sorenson

Mud-slinging their way to the capitol

When 30 Anacapa Middle School students began repairing a wall at the Olivas Adobe two months ago, little did they suspect that their hard work might land them on a nonstop flight to Washington, D.C. But the History Channel — whose Save our History initiative funded the repairs — showed renewed interest in Project Adobe Mud-Slingers on May 25, when it named the Ventura-based venture one of 10 finalists for three grand prizes of $10,000 each.

Four students were offered an all-expense paid trip that begins early next Sunday morning. Phillip Long, Gabrielle Montanez, Braulio Terrazas and Katelynn Vargas were singled out as being at the top of the adobe class in terms of grade point average, and will be accompanied by teacher Jerry Mittelholtz and Cultural Programs Supervisor Georgeanne Lees of the City of Ventura’s Cultural Affairs Division. The group can look forward to two days in the nation’s capitol, including a moonlit tour of the monuments and a peek into the White House, capped off by lunch with journalist Cokie Roberts and the other nine finalist groups.

The final awards will be presented by First Lady Laura Bush, and are to be given in three categories: the Time Warner Cable Preservation Award, the Classroom Award and Lowe’s Community Award. According to Lees, any prize money will be put back into Olivas Adobe restoration.

— Saundra Sorenson

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … bird

“Well, they’ve had their herring now,” said Peter Sharpe, field biologist for the Institute for Wildlife Studies, after placing and feeding three bald eaglets inside a hacktower overlooking the southern portion of Santa Cruz Island.

Six new arrivals from the San Francisco Zoo were situated in their enclosures one week ago, where they’ll live until they’re ready to fly in one month. With 12 more eaglets due to arrive this summer, the total number of eagles released is 58 since 2002. Funding has come from the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program, a multi-agency effort to restore natural resources devastated by DDTs and PCBs near the Palos Verdes Peninsula, off Los Angeles, in the mid 1900s.

The reintroduction study aims to determine whether eagles released on the national park can establish a self-sustaining population. If the two chicks born in mid-April and early May on the largest of the Channel Islands are early indicators, then the prospects are positive that this next wave of bald eagles can reestablish their historic haunts.

“We’re monitoring them every couple days,” said Dave Rempel, field biologist for the IWS. “They’re acting like normal chicks. They’re growing fast, and it seems their plumages are changing by the day.”

When the eaglets are eight weeks old, biologists will fit the mottled chicks with United States Fish & Wildlife Service bands on their talons and place numbers on their wings, as well as a Global Positioning System and VHF radios on their backs to track their comings and goings.

“They’ll circle the nests and they’ll be upset,” continued Rempel, referring to the concerned parents of the eaglets, “but they won’t get aggressive with us, and they’ll go back to their nests.”

Currently, 25 bald eagles remain on the northern Channel Islands. Compared to the restoration program on Santa Catalina Island, the eagles on the northern chain are way ahead of their southern counterparts. The program on Catalina began in 1980. Since then, biologists have released 100 eagles, but only 20 inhabit the islet.

However, DDT seems to be more prevalent there and biologists are reluctant to allow those eagles to attempt hatching their chicks on their own. The chemicals cause bald eagles to lay thin-shelled eggs, but initial studies show less of an impact around the northern archipelago.

“It’s much more successful on these islands,” said Sharpe of the northern Channel Islands. “This is a better location for eagles. The islands here have eagles flying over from the mainland.”

Sharpe should know. He’s worked on the Catalina project since 1986. Funding for Catalina was suspended and is now receiving funds from outside sources. The northern Channel Islands program has solid financial backing. The Montrose Chemical Corporation, responsible for dumping the chemicals in the ocean, was ordered to pay $140 million, of which $38 million went toward restoring natural resources like the bald eagle.

Even though the releases have nearly finished, the program will continue until at least 2008. “A lot depends on their breeding and how often,” said Milena Viljoen, outreach coordinator for the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program. “Monitoring will probably continue through 2010. Part of this study is to see how bald eagles do on their own.”

The Santa Cruz Island bald eagle Webcam can be viewed via the Ventura County Office Education Web site.

— Chuck Graham

More health care for kids

One way to celebrate a job well done is to do more of the same — and that’s precisely the idea behind the launch of a second application assistance office for Health Care for Kids, a program that offers low and no-cost healthcare to kids and teens in Ventura County.

The overarching mission of Health Care for Kids is to increase enrollment in existing state insurance programs, such as no-cost Medi-Cal and low-cost Healthy Families, and to enroll kids who don’t qualify for public programs in low-cost private insurance programs, such as the plan offered by Kaiser Permanente, according to information released by the Ventura County Public Health Department.

“This is a ‘single point of entry’ model for enrolling children in either Medi-Cal, Healthy Families or other health care programs so that all Ventura County children under the age of 19 have access to comprehensive medical, dental and vision services,” Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett said of the program. Recent estimates reveal that 27,000 of 32,000 uninsured kids in Ventura County qualify for either Medi-Cal or Healthy Families, according to the public health department.

The new Ventura Health Care for Kids Office opened this week at the Ventura County Public Health Department office, 3147 Loma Vista Road, Ventura. Ted Myers, director of the Ventura County Human Services

For more information, call 1-866-481-7674, or the 211 county help line. Applications for Medi-Cal and Healthy Families can be downloaded at www.healthyfamilies.ca.gov.

— Stacey Wiebe

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UPCOMING COMMUNITY EVENTS

  1. Multiple Ones: Contemporary Perspectives in Printmedia

    August 22 @ 8:00 am - October 23 @ 8:00 pm
  2. Loni Love Headlines Levity Live

    September 20 @ 7:30 pm - September 22 @ 9:00 pm
  3. 2019 Quilt Rooms and Gardens Tour

    September 21 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
  4. 3rd Annual Southeast Ventura County YMCA Reach For The Stars Gala

    September 21 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm
  5. Premiere Party for “Beyond Function: Fiber, Wood and Clay”

    September 21 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
  6. Fundraiser for Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute (CIMWI)

    September 21 @ 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm
  7. Oxnard National Drive Electric Vehicle (EV) Showcase

    September 22 @ 9:30 am - 3:00 pm
  8. Chamber On The Mountain presents Tomer Gewirtzman, Pianist

    September 22 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
  9. Morning Stretch to Classic Rock

    September 23 @ 8:00 am - 8:45 am
  10. Dancer’s Body Barre

    September 23 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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