Mobile home residents unheard

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Airing dirty laundry is not my style, but this issue cannot be resolved without public attention.   To my dismay, seniors are being abused by greedy mobile home park owners, and the city can do something about it and no public pressure can seem to change its reluctance to do so. The city, in its wisdom, established a rent control ordinance for mobile home parks back in 1981. In its preamble, its purpose states, “In the absence of legislative regulation, park owners have unbridled discretion and ability to exploit mobile home park tenants.” So this ordinance “protect(s) the owners and occupiers of mobile homes from unreasonable rent increases.”

The city’s Rent Review Board had not met for 10 years, so a group of residents led by Craig Hull, the president of our Ventura Manufactured-Home Resident’ Council, VMRC, worked with city officials to get the Rent Review Board seated. Finally, hope that illegal rent raises could be prevented. Unfortunately, residents still have no voice since the process for board and resident discussion has been ignored by city staff and officials. Resident issues may be stated at the end of each meeting after the business is completed. Another three-month wait and no sight of shared resident complaints on any agenda. On Feb. 16, anxious, tired, frustrated residents hoping for truth to prevail went to the meeting to voice their concerns. Even tiny increases mean that some do not eat this month. People in their ’80s or ’90’s find it too stressful to fight. Those that could, went to the meeting and were treated horribly.

It is critical that the city find a way to hear residents. As they adopted their protocols, handbook and illegal pass through maintenance costs without proper input from residents, tempers flared. Protocols can be used to include residents in discussion. Staff chooses not to engage to find truth or educate residents. What I ask of the public is to please stay on top of this story. Hundreds of seniors will soon be homeless, many with no family to rely on for help. There are many elements of this problem, too many to express here. Help from the public is needed to save those who are unable to help themselves.

The Rev. Jill Martinez

Earth to Moomjean

Was Moomjean’s Right Persuasion Student Loan ticking time bomb, part 2 (Feb. 22), an early April Fool’s joke? Moomjean, advocate of small government, live your life on your own, says the BIG government should step in and “cap student loans at two years’ worth of education.” How about raising taxpayer funding for education, thus reducing cost for a four-year program, getting the money back in higher income taxes paid by the now higher salaries? My grandson and his wife each just completed four years of medical school and are in their two-year residency programs. Earth to Moomjean, there are many advanced fields where costs are quite high and multiyear programs are quite common. He then wants BIG government to establish education unit costs based on current starting salaries for majors in those specialties. From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs, Chairman Moomjean? Then he goes beyond even noted liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, to make all student loans interest-free. After all, even liberals think interest rates should reflect the cost of borrowing plus costs for defaults. Finally, he wants BIG government to get businesses to stop considering a college degree as proof of a level of competency in anything. Is this just a joke, or did Moomjean suddenly discover that his hero Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts hit him with his student loan payments?

Norman Rodewald

Insidious inner voice

I have lost all appetite for the snarling, contentious and dismissive tone of discourse that seems to permeate political discussion. To the point where we cannot seem to agree even on basic points of reality. Or acknowledge each other’s viewpoint, however much we may disagree with it.

There is a little voice whispering inside us, calling us to huddle into tightly woven, defensive tribes and treat anyone different from us as a dangerous, insidious enemy. Telling us that the reason they see things differently is that they are mentally defective or emotionally disturbed, delusional and dangerous. That we don’t need to treat them as fellow humans unless they agree with us.

I believe that this insidious inner voice is our real enemy. I could not imagine a better way to destroy civilization. In my opinion, this spirit is what drives ISIS and terrorism, and is what drives us to attack anyone who is not a true believer — patriot, Muslim, Christian, conservative, progressive, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Hindu, Unificationist, etc., etc., etc.

If my goal was to destroy any chance of humans building a society based on harmony between cultures, religions and ideologies, I could not imagine a better weapon than this: to have everyone convinced that evil is embodied in “them” — the people different from us.

This evil little ism inflates us to think that we are the true believers, they are the heretics. We are the patriots, they are traitors. And they have no rights. We are the sane ones, they are the crazy people. We are intelligent, they are mentally defective. And they have no rights.

Our enemy is not “them.” Our enemy is the little voice inside us telling us to attack “them.” If there is a conspiracy in this world, this is it. To win against this enemy, we have to admit our own faults, clean our side of the street, treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. Listen, show respect, find common ground. Take your enemy to lunch. Discover their humanity. 

Samuel Harley

Did we get duped or what?

At the U.S.’ founding, lawyers carved their niche and economic stake as our leaders and have reached the height of their monopolizing elite power today. From the lowliest commission to the White House and Congressional conference rooms they play with our destiny and tax money without respect for truth, without respect for our legitimate interests.

We have been educated to be controlled by lies, deception and voter fraud, subtly presented themselves as well intentioned, ballot initiatives. The political powers that be allegedly inform citizens how said ballot initiatives will affect us all, rich or poor alike. But somehow we seem to always get deceived.  Our State “plastic bag ban” is a prime example.

The initiative told us that since plastic bags are bad for the environment they must be banished. The stores will sell you reusable bags, we were told, and the cost shifted to the environment. They gave us sample reusable cloth-like bags to convince us we were doing good for future generations so we voted for the “ban.” We were sure WRONG! The stores now sell us heavy duty “reusable” plastic bags, listed on the receipts as “grocery,” or ‘hardware,” or other innocuous item. No one lists them as “environmental fund”.

The new heavy-duty plastic bags come from oil production, cost $0.10 – 0.15 each, litter the streets, block the street drains and pollute the ocean. These new bags may be “reusable” but they aren’t biodegradable. 

So, now the plastic bag companies are getting richer — because the bags are heavier they cost the vendors more. At the same time, these heavy bags are much worse for the environment. Did we get duped or what?

It’s the same problem at the city level. I still have campaign literature explaining how desperate the City of Ventura is to hire more law enforcement and fire fighters, to repair the infrastructure, etc., etc. So, after several elections where we voted down Ventura’s requested .05 cent sales tax increase, this time we gave in and handed the city the victory. Now I read that Ventura has had an excess in their budget for about four years to the tune of some millions. Did we get duped or what?

Most of the State citizens are happy the legalize marijuana side won in November. But how will we feel in five-10 years when the pesticides, and excess water use dedicated to pot farming has ruined California’s environment and agricultural economy? Shame on you Jerry, our so called “environmental governor.”  I never expected we’d be duped by you!

Ziphora Wheeler

Divestiture in fossil fuels

Trump’s energy plans make no sense. They would lock our country into yesterday’s fuels, fuels the rest of the industrial world is jettisoning.  

Yet the president has approved dangerous pipelines that will cross our land and risk our water resources, but will only add to what has been called an oil glut of market-rattling proportions. Even OPEC has cut back production. 

Promoting the coal industry is equally misguided. Even discounting the environmental hazards of this particularly “dirty” fuel, the world’s heavy users — e.g., China, Germany, Australia —have cut coal back substantially and set goals to further reduce use. 

The Scandinavians have invested heavily in green energy. Sweden and Denmark have set goals to eliminate fossil fuels entirely by 2050. They reap great benefit from extensive wind resources, The Danes, for example, utilize wind for most of their electricity and sell the surpluses to nearby nations. Both private and public funding built the wind capacity.

And an energy source once languishing under the shadow of the Fukuyama and Chernobyl disasters now sparks new interest because of safer, cleaner nuclear designs. A French company recently contracted to build a plant in the United Kingdom, and German technology will join with Chinese resources for a new facility in China. The Chinese consider nuclear energy a “green” alternative, so more projects are likely to follow. 

While the world will never be entirely finished with fossil fuels, the trend is clear. America, however, is to be sunk further into energy of reduced market viability and long term obsolescence. 

Divestiture in fossil fuels is necessary in both our public and private spheres, not only for the environment but in our national interest. 

America should not be left behind. 

Margaret Morris

District representation

Argument in favor of a “District” or “Ward” voting system:

  1. District voting insures that council members come from every part of the city.
  2. Districts give voters the feeling that they have better representation on the City Council, they also know who their representative is.
  3. The entire community feels more connected to its government because of district system.
  4. It is easier to achieve racial and economic diversity with a district system.
  5. At-Large-System makes it easier for candidates with the most name recognition to win.
  6. Election campaign costs are cheaper with district system.
  7. Ensures greater balance of representation for all geographic areas.
  8. Brings politics closer to the people.
  9. Requires elected representatives to be more knowledgeable about the needs and concerns of their district residents.
  10. Council members represent a more reasonable number of residents than with the at-large system.
  11. Encourages council members to liaise and consult with neighborhood groups and organizations.

Rellis Smith

Kansas farm flood memories of 1951

The recent threat of California flooding brings back memories of 1951 and all of the feelings as well.

To start out, it had been raining for almost a week and the radio news kept getting worse. It was so bad, my folks stayed up all night planning on what to do. We were awakened early to see that the water in the pasture, just beyond the garden, had advanced significantly. We went down there noting that for every wave that came in, the flood water raised by four to six inches climbing up the incline.  

The first order I remember was to go out to the corn crib and toss as much corn as possible into wagons for animal food. By the time we started throwing the chickens up into the peach trees, that wagon contained all our dirty clothes (wash day had been delayed by the heavy rains), all available food and bedding. Dad pulled the wagon by tractor to the end of the lane. There we were met by neighbors in a boat, who delivered us across the deluge of water to higher ground where said neighbors had an empty house. Dad managed to get the tractor and the cows through the water, as well.

Everybody slept on the floors and as I best remember we didn’t go hungry. I am uncertain how many days we lived there, but in a day or so, our neighbors’ family came in by boat to see how we were faring.

Since, of course, our telephone lines had been disabled and we probably didn’t even have access in the empty farm house, I remember mom requesting that they call her folks to let them know we were OK. The other thing I remember was walking down to the boat of the visitors, where we watched a mama field mouse swim to shore with all of her babies holding on to her tail. She made it and promptly hurried them out of sight and further from harm’s way. I think all present commented on how we weren’t the only ones having to fight for survival.

Finally, the water receded and we were able to return to our home where the first floor had been bathed with 20 inches of dirty flood water. We were indeed fortunate for all the aunts and uncles who arrived to help with the cleanup. I’m thinking my folks had been able to move their excess bedding and clothing from downstairs to the upstairs, saving that from ruin. The legs on the bedroom furniture, tables, chairs and china cabinet had to be scrubbed. The rug, divan and stuffed easy chair had to be discarded.  The refrigerator, washing machine and the kitchen range were shot. I remember one chest of drawers survived but the bottom drawer warped badly. It was repainted and I inherited it in my room. Since cash was in short supply all replacements had been obtained from the county sales barn.

The men worked outside. We did retain electricity and they used an electric motor to pump out the well three times.  The underground water that refilled it had been filtered by rocks and they determined it was fit to drink after they poured in gallons of bleach to disinfect it. The family heeded the medical advice that we all be vaccinated for tetanus. Dad had bought the farm from our doctor four years earlier. Now this good doctor said to forget about the yearly payment and just added any interest due to the balance.

As for farm income, needless to say just enough corn survived to feed the cows. Nothing in the garden made it. Some of the chickens had survived in the trees. Money was a big issue and dad worked for his brother tearing down cars for $1 an hour. He never returned to full time farming but later was able to hire on as a welder’s assistant for the rest of his career. Of course, he farmed part time, as well.

The flood occurred in July. The following September I was in high school, finding myself in a class of 95 while I had graduated eighth grade in a class of five.

Mom made my clothing. I remember I wanted the school’s black and gold sweater and skirt and the best she could do was buy gold and brown corduroy because the stores had sold out the black stuff. I remember the new wife of a cousin gave me her discarded sweaters and since I was bigger than she was, the fit was tight. Imagine my chagrin when the classmate I really liked asked my friends if I was trying to be a “sweater girl.” I survived and now realize it was my thinking that made my role so tough because those kids really did respect and admire me.

All of the above reminds me of the aftermath of any disasters people have to face. I surely do want to help them as we were helped.

Marilyn M. Dempsay

Know Your Neighbors: Pesticide residues on Ventura County strawberries

The smell of strawberries that wafts past me as I browse Berkeley’s local farmers market brings a wave of nostalgia. I am transported back to my high school cross-country and track practices where our team’s usual route would take us past delicious smelling strawberry fields.

In the city of Oxnard, these fields border Oxnard High School on three sides. Living less than a mile from the campus, I would pass row upon row of strawberries each morning and afternoon. Walks home were spent admiring the juicy red fruits shaded by emerald leaves and empathizing with the workers as they toiled away picking strawberries under the boiling sun. I would also watch from the other side of the fence as they drove by in large vehicles, wearing masks and spraying pesticides on the crops to keep weeds and soil-borne pests at bay. During these times, the sweet strawberry scent I always anticipated would be replaced by the unpleasant odor of chemicals. Up went the “Danger: Pesticides In Use” signs, warning students not to wander too close.

Despite this I never paid much attention to the danger pesticides pose. I didn’t ask my coach or the administration any questions. I never voiced my concerns. And why not? I knew the application of chemicals less than 100 feet from my high school and home was probably not a good thing. Looking back now, I realize it was due to my lack of education about the harms of pesticides and the fact that no one else seemed concerned about their use. So I thought it was OK to ignore the voice in my head telling me things were not all right.

Flash forward a few years and I am now a student at UC Berkeley, over 300 miles from home, yet still thinking about Oxnard’s tasty strawberries and their sinister secrets. The difference is I am now better informed about the dangers of pesticides and I think the citizens of Ventura County also need to be educated. Last year, the Environmental Working Group released the Dirty Dozen List of Pesticides on Produce, which revealed that strawberries — with 98 percent of samples carrying detectable amounts of residue — topped the list at first place. Among these pesticide residues, the top three substances are known to increase a person’s risk to cancer. They can also have toxic effects on the reproductive system, the brain and a child’s development. Even more disturbing is the fact that in 2012 Ventura County was listed as having the highest regional use of chemicals in all of California, even exceeding legal limits of certain pesticides.

California is the strawberry capital of the world with a crop value of $2.6 billion. Now picture Ventura County, one of the largest cultivators of California’s strawberry crop, with many of its fields bordering schools attended by a predominantly Latino community. Not only are our children being exposed to high levels of pesticides, but there is also a disproportionate amount of minorities exposed because they cannot afford to live anywhere else. Many students’ parents are pickers, dependent on the crop for their income. These workers are at a higher risk compared to the rest of the community and when they come home from work they put their children at risk.

Within the last two years several articles have covered Rio Mesa High School located in Oxnard. Air monitors placed around the area found that the school was exposed to the highest levels of riskiest pesticides compared to other areas. Current regulations by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation stipulate that growers may not apply pesticides near schools or child day care facilities Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. within a quarter mile of the premises and such facilities must be notified before application of said pesticides. This regulation is a positive step towards keeping our children safe, but begs the question of where we draw the line between profit and the health of the community. Simply restricting the hours at which the pesticide can be applied does not change the fact that they are harmful and still being applied within the vicinity of schools and neighborhoods. 

Ventura County should be aware of the possible health risks posed by the chemicals being applied right outside their doors. I encourage concerned citizens to do their research on pesticides most commonly used on crops near their homes. If the growers won’t inform communities, then we must keep ourselves informed for the sake of our own health.

Kaitlyn Albers
Molecular Environmental Biology major
UC Berkeley

Is Trump frightening you?

Psychologists and psychiatrists say psychological stress caused by the Trump administration poses a serious threat to public health and public safety. Should Trump be arrested and prosecuted for his psychological violence against the minds over 300 million American citizens? If Trump were a terrorist causing the same kind of psychological violence to American citizens, he would be hunted down by every security agency available, at any expense, until he was in jail.

There are three kinds of violence; seemingly we only care about physical violence. Physically violent offences, even minor ones, are usually against one person by another one person. Physical violence is tangible, verifiable and always carries a jail sentence.

The psychological violence of stress/fear/mental torture/threats/anxiety, etc., has no penalty because it is not immediately tangible, verifiable or real, even though it hurts tens of millions of people to their core, reducing their ability to function, scaring them and pitching fearful families against each other. While psychological violence threatens people, it also threatens the coherence of their communities to their extreme detriment — Trump’s psychological violence is insidious, subtle and extremely torturous to millions of people simultaneously and continually and it is growing.

Psychological violence is similar to the third kind of violence — collateral violence, used extensively against regular people without penalty, practiced by oil companies worldwide, through their pollution of land, sea and air. Trump acts with psychological violence against regular people’s mental health and stability like carbon monoxide acts against people’s physical health, it is an invisible killer that is both subtle and sure.

Christopher Judges

Shabby journalism

Several weeks ago, I wrote a letter to your publication with the hope that you would print it. My letter was in response to the mean-spirited letters that you routinely publish from irate letters. Most of the letters are written by people are just angry because the election did not go “their” way. They have nothing constructive to add, but just wail with unveiled hostility. I can forgive them for their narr-minded, unthinking viewpoints, however I am not able to forgive you and your editorial staff for not printined the “other side” of the debate. As a person who oversees this periodical, you should be even handed in your handling of differing viewpoints. You do your readership a real disservice by being so openly biased. Perhaps you might consider your periodical “BIASED VCREPORTER – WE PRESENT ONLY WHAT WE WANT YOU TO KNOW AND WE DON’T ACCEPT OR EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE OTHER OPINIONS.” You should be ashamed at your shabby attempt at journalism.

Daniel Gross

Editor’s note: Daniel Gross’s letter was published online early February. Due to an overwhelming number of letters, we reserve print space for Ventura County residents first. Gross had sent an address in Tarzana with his original letter.

United together

I am a gay, 54-year-old man. My husband and I were married in October of 2008, just before the Proposition 8 door was slammed shut behind us, and would remain shut for five years. Needless to say, we’ve felt our share of divisive legislative marginalization.   

Feeling very ready for a new life by the sea, we recently decided to relocate from the mountain community of Lake Arrowhead, California, to Ventura where, during several visits over the past year, we noticed many more “Hillary for President” lawn signs than we had seen anywhere in Lake Arrowhead. A welcome sight indeed!

I’ve never been very political, though in my life I’ve lived through both Kennedy assassinations, Martin Luther King’s assassination, the Vietnam War and all the resulting protests and demonstrations. I’ve lived through the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Lib, Anita Bryant, Jerry Fallwell, the Moral Majority, the Reagans, the AIDS Crisis and all the homophobia that followed. I ran from a carload of gay bashers wielding crowbars who wanted to kill me for being gay in the 1980’s and lived to tell about it. I’ve lived through bullying, beatings and more, and I’m still here, for what now has to be what I believe is the most pivotal time in our country’s history.

To say that this past election, and the tumultuous public reactions to both campaigns, has been “disturbing,” is putting it mildly. During the campaign season, even my husband and I were divided for a while. I was supporting Bernie, while my husband had been a fervent Hillary supporter since her first presidential campaign in 2008. I’d certainly seen the political divides in decades past, but never in my life have I ever seen such unmasked, unbridled hatred and division unleashed with such unchecked abandon, spurred on by a man so consumed with self-interest that he would say anything to win, regardless of the moral or ethical fallout that his influence might cause.  This has gone beyond disturbing. It has been outright shocking.

For my husband and myself, it has become a call to action. After 9/11 we withstood the agony of helplessness and we are committed NOT ever to feel that way again if we can help it. So, like so many feeling the same terrible mix of disbelief and outrage that we were, when we heard about the Justice for All March happening the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, we knew we had to take part.

Being new to the area, and after feeling a bit shell-shocked from all the Trump supporters in our former community, we really didn’t know what to expect and naturally felt quite trepidatious about what the day would hold. We thought that even if there turned out to be only a handful of people, at least we would have shown our support and let those present know that they were not alone. What we didn’t expect was for the crowd of 100 or so people to grow to nearly 3,000 in only a matter of 20 or 30 minutes all around us. Young, old, gay, straight, male, female, black, white, brown, red, yellow, rich, poor and MORE … it was absolutely overwhelming!  Here we’d gone to show others they weren’t alone and instead wound up feeling cradled and supported by the enormous outpouring of love and support from this community ourselves.  It had a profoundly healing effect on all the pain, fear and disappointment we had been feeling since the night Hillary stepped onto the stage in New York to concede the race for the White House.

The positive and affirming signage. The uplifting and unifying speeches, beckoning each of us present to pledge to ourselves and each other to take a stand against all the rhetoric or policies that dared demean or divide us. The POWER of this newly formed unification of peoples from all walks of life, committed to preserving and advancing the progressive strides we’ve made OVER the PAST EIGHT years to create a climate of inclusion, diversity and love in our culture and not to allow any more hate or injustice to tear our country apart. All of us representing those who Trump and many of his constituents had sought to subject to exclusionary practice and policies, united together in a force greater than he or anyone knew possible. What an incredible day it turned out to be!

With hearts filled with pride, we all at once realized that, not only had we made a great choice in Ventura as our new home, but also that this was no mere assemblage of “minorities.” This was indeed what I now refer to as the New MAJORITY.

Rob Beltran-Yerton 

Just want peace

Pelosi Democrats want war with Russia. Agent Orange Republicans want war with Iran. War contractors and shareholders want war with anyone and everyone. What about those who just want peace?

Grant Marcus

California dream comes true

For millions of baby boomers like myself, moving to California was the key to a good life. The mythology, size and influence of the Golden State seemed to metastasize throughout American culture. From hot rods and surfing, from free love to “Soul on Ice,” California was the future.

Not for me though. I moved to Washington, D.C., over 40 years ago. I thought that was the place to make a difference, where progress was possible. I love that community; it gave me opportunities to learn and prosper and it was a great place to have a family. And it gave me the increasingly rare ability to relax after a lifetime of working with a secure middle-class retirement.

I first came to California for a vacation and to visit family when I was 30, in 1984. The cities were impressive, L.A. with its beaches and mountains, and the Jetsons-like efficiency of the freeways, and San Francisco with its bohemian history and culture.

I fell in love with the geography though. Yosemite and the Central Coast left me breathless. San Luis Obispo County seemed like something out of a dream. Over the decades, and many visits, my affection for the state increased. From the Mojave in springtime to the Sierras in winter, from Eureka to Ridgecrest, I came to view California as a nation unto itself. 

My affection for California was increasing while the perception outside the state was one of inevitable decline. Disasters of all kinds, natural and self-inflicted, became a constant theme. As the optimism and growth of post-world war California was a harbinger for the nation, so was its dysfunction and division as the 20th century came to an end. I loved visiting though, whether it was family in the Central Valley or for my job with the Navy, the last of many different occupations I had with the government.

My working life was drawing to a close, my only child graduated from college, and I was able to retire and manage the care of my elderly parents, as they aged and declined into their 90s. As a distraction from that, my spouse and I started looking at a place I had discovered through work, Port Hueneme.

Eureka! We found it. Ventura County became our sweet spot. It truly seems like one of the best places on Earth. And it’s California. Now more than ever, California may be the best hope for this country.  

David Caskey
Port Hueneme

Stunned in Ventura

I was disappointed in the autocratic and rude manner in which the Ventura City Council’s Committee for Mobile Home Rent Stabilization conducted their meeting on Thursday, Feb.16. The agenda listed a vote on whether park owners could pass the costs of common-area improvements on to mobile home owners. By improvements they meant the cost to trim trees, repave streets, repaint offices and various other routine maintenance. Tenants own their own homes and do all their own maintenance. They pay a rent-controlled fee for the lot their home occupies.

Many seniors live in mobile home parks because it is cost-efficient for those on fixed incomes or Social Security. To add to their profit, park owners add line items for maintenance and restoration of common areas to the tenants’ rent bills.

The room was filled to capacity with senior citizens worried about this issue. Most had never been to a meeting and did not know the protocol for signing up to speak. The seniors sat quietly and respectfully while the committee was read its duties and obligations. The committee then called five names and each was given three minutes to speak. Everyone thought this was a time to air general grievances. Then the chairman called for a vote on the capital improvement costs. The startled audience responded with loud boos. Several of us stood to try to explain the issue and were ordered to quit talking and sit down. One committee member even threatened to vote “yes” if we didn’t sit down. They quickly took a vote and it was a unanimous yes. Three quarters of the stunned audience left the chambers grumbling about wasted time and the perception of a pre-ordained decision.

This was a very poor example of democracy in action.

Lynne Hatfield