The Tortilla Flats and friends community lost a powerful ally when Suzanne Lawrence passed away on Friday, July 30. Suzanne’s impact on our efforts is almost immeasurable. When MB Hanrahan and I took on the Tortilla Flats Mural Project in 1994, we thought we were involved in another art project. Little did we know that we would have to become amateur historians in the process. So little was documented about the original Tortilla Flats neighborhood that we had to do our own research, including the oral history interviews of many of the ex-residents (a process that continues to this day). We realized right away how rich and rewarding this process was because it offered us the opportunity to meet some of the best people of Ventura, the elders and families of Tortilla Flats.

It took Suzanne Lawrence to give us the perspective to see and understand the historical significance and value to future researchers and students of history that had been unearthed by our research. Suddenly, a real historian was on our side. When Suzanne joined our team, she elevated us to new heights as she brought her knowledge and eloquence on the lecture circuit with us to community groups, libraries and colleges. She took our rough diamond and polished it.

She started transcribing the interviews; she even organized the information by subject and location. She critiqued and advised us. Soon, she was participating in the interviews and brought her own memories of growing up in Ventura to the process and she arranged for us to interview her father, the late L.M. (Manny) Paquette, who gave us a most wonderful interview from his perspective as a fireman in Ventura of the last century.

She was active with us to the end. We will miss her greatly as we offer our heartfelt condolences to her family. She also did so much for many other community groups, we are all richer for her life.

The Tortilla Flats Archives 2010.

Moses Mora, Ventura

Suggestions for renaming Oxnard
Let’s see, a bunch of carpetbaggers (from Seattle) tell a bunch of cement lovers (Oxnard City Council) that Oxnard, evidently less than a pretty name, needs an image upgrade in order to induce more jerks from L.A. to move up here?

That’s a textbook lose-lose-lose-lose scenario, if ever there was one.

Since the Chamber of Concrete-controlled, pro-growth yes men on the Oxnard City Council can’t seem to pave some of the best farmland in the world fast enough, maybe a spiffy name change can accelerate this already shameless and clueless, warp-speed, quality-of-life-devouring process. Oxnard Shores? Oh, come now. Why not try a handle a bit closer to reality?

How about Strawberry Fields Whatever? Sooner than later, the annual Strawberry Festival will be based on photos of strawberries past. Cement City by the Sea? Why not? The city council has yet to meet any farmland that it ever liked.

Or maybe Carpetbagger Shores? That would legitimize the reality of local government of the developers, by the developers and for the developers.

But considering the ongoing traffic hell that awaits anyone going anywhere in the city limits — even the 101 freeway slows for no apparent reason through Oxnard — a town where synchronized traffic lights are an alien concept, one must ask who actually votes in Oxnard? With that said — and I can say it because I was born there — there is only one name that truly befits Oxnard.

Stupid.

Not only is it catchy, but memorable, so when some tourist is being carjacked by the homies from the ’hood under the fog, he’d probably be thinking, “Wow, I must’ve been stupid to come to a place like this.” Oxnard voters would be smart to kick out the City Council incumbents unless they miss L.A. so much they can’t wait to recreate it right here in the 805, because that’s exactly what’s happening.

And my mom assured me she brought me home to Ventura as soon as I was able to travel out of Stupid, Calif.

Bill Locey, Ventura

Supporting alternative energy
RE: New alternative fueling station opens in Ventura
Very good article. I learned a lot about the availability of alternative fuels in the land that promotes itself as so conscientious of not harming the environment. How sad that Silvas has such trouble getting an alternative fueling station built.

In that vein, I think it is time that we start transitioning from defining all ethanol as corn-based without explaining that the only reason we are still using corn-based ethanol is the lack of funding to construct crop/waste-to-refinery systems that can implement existing technologies that make ethanol from other feedstocks than corn — or that will soon make drop-in green gasoline. 

If you appreciate the problems that Silvas had in getting a distribution station built, multiply that headache by a million and you’ll have an idea of what aspiring cellulosic producers are going through.

I’d like to introduce Advanced Biofuels USA, a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to promoting the understanding, development and use of advanced biofuels. Please use our website as a resource: www.AdvancedBiofuelsUSA.org.

Joanne M. Ivancic
Executive Director
Advanced Biofuels USA
Frederick, MD 

Endangered species need our help
Thank you for placing focus on the issue of endangered species in your issue: “The disappearing Species of Ventura County” (Cover feature, 7/15). The list of federally listed species could have included endangered California least terns and black rails and several others. The California state list includes some other species like Belding’s savannah sparrows that are equally important. Regardless, the story serves to illustrate the incredible number of species under extreme duress within our county.

The significance is that a variety of habitat types are so degraded that they no longer support the kinds of life that have been present here since the last ice age. It also means that the agencies charged with wildlife protection aren’t doing a very good job. Unfortunately, that job performance is a direct result of the interest that we citizens have placed on protection of endangered species. Perhaps the fault lies with the fact that we have passed both state and federal endangered species acts. This may lead to the mistaken assumption that we have handled these issues. But the acts have never been backed by the kind of funding needed to do the work required to protect endangered species.

This is very apparent within the California Department of Fish and Game as it has lost many wardens and biologists. There is also a lack of will to prosecute violations on both state and federal level.

The large gaps in protection efforts have often been filled by local volunteers like Ventura Audubon’s least tern fencing program at the mouth of the Santa Clara River. My organization, Ormond Beach Observers has done similar work on Ormond Beach and Hollywood Beach. The California Native Plant Society has established itself as experts on area plants and often comments on planned developments. Other volunteers have helped with almost all of the species listed.

Obviously, every decision that is made regarding endangered species is very political. Sometimes the initial listing of species comes so late that recovery becomes almost impossible or the genetic diversity of the species is so compromised that long term survival is compromised. Other species like the three-spined unarmored stickleback fish exist in just a few pools that could be contaminated at any time. No serious effort exists to expand upon their habitat and to recover the species. Almost all of these species have problems associated with ever being recovered. Others like California gray whales were inappropriately delisted as an endangered species and may have to be listed again, according to the California Gray Whale Coalition.

My reason for becoming a volunteer resulted from watching nesting least terns being run over by illegal off-road vehicles on Ormond Beach. No agency was doing anything to stop this from happening. Worse yet the Ventura County Flood Control District was draining the Ormond Lagoon that provided a food source for least terns, again with no other agency taking any action to stop this illegal behavior. Clearly, items at rest tend to stay at rest. There are similar stories for each of the species listed in your story.

The bottom line is that recovery of the endangered species of Ventura County isn’t going to happen without a bunch of people taking ownership of these issues and riding herd on them until some plan of action is taken. It’s a job that meets the very definition of “fool’s errand.” But if you are so inclined, there are plenty of job openings.

Alan Sanders
President
Ormond Beach Observers