Updated May 18.

Redflex fraud

There are now five guilty pleas or verdicts in federal Redflex-related cases for fraud, bribery or extortion. NO ONE should ever deal with Redflex again for anything. If Redflex were an honorable company, it would voluntarily withdraw from the U.S. market with profuse apologies for the past wrongdoings.

Also, revenue-neutral ticket camera contracts are illegal in many places because they give the for-profit camera company every incentive to set up the systems to issue the highest numbers of tickets to insure they get the contracted monthly camera costs. Revenue-neutral contracts should not be tolerated.

James C. Walker
National Motorists Association

Ode to America

America, I am your immigrant son who came to these shores for freedom and I found it here like a wondrous light, freeing my mind to grow and fulfill my creative ambitions.

It released me from the confines from whence I came and set me free to flourish in the disciplines of my own choosing. 

I unwrapped each day as if it were an oracle and it gave me the treasure of myself, beyond my past’s willingness to harness and conform me. This was my America, the land where people sought to free themselves from defeat and live their American Dream. And dream I did, as all Americans dream, without limit or hindrance toward the sacred realization that we were God’s good men building the greatest country on Earth.

Unbeknownst to all of us, a new reality was festering beneath our feet; we did not see it, as our eyes were fixed on the glittering prizes of our hoped-for achievements. Imperceptibly at first, opportunity drifted away and obscured itself in the middle distance. I blamed myself but I knew not why my dreams would fade so fast from sight, like the evening sun falling into the horizon.

The darkness is creeping toward me, minute by minute. I am defenseless against it. I see every man’s right and opportunity purged from him, his unrealized riches and his happiness confiscated by the mighty few, for the few, in blatant disregard for dream and dreamer.

The light has almost gone now as we huddle together knowing fear is all we have left, knowing the few worship darkness as the cause of their own omnipotence.

And yet I remember the spark of light in me that fueled my dreams and I am reassured; the darkness is a madman’s myth in the face of the light in me, as it pierces the darkness like starlight.

The fight begins …

Christopher Judges

Fight for environmental justice

Thanks, VC Reporter, for your Editorial (5/4/2017), “This land is your land.”  The fight for environmental justice continues.

Trump’s latest outrageous “executive order” 13792 (5/1/2017) requires review of 22 National Monuments and five National Marine Monuments to determine if these monuments should be revoked or reduced in size, so that some of these lands can be sold or leased to industrial or commercial interests. Legal experts believe Trump’s order is illegal and unconstitutional. Patagonia recently sponsored ads on PBS supporting protection of Bears Ears National Monument. (Thanks so much, Yvon Chouinard!) Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will review the Bears Ears monument first and make a recommendation to the president in 45 days. Visit https://www.doi.gov/ and click “Interior Department releases List of Monuments under Review.”

Bears Ears NM protects the amazing deserts, canyons and mountains near Canyonlands National Park. It includes 1.06 million acres of BLM land and 289,000 acres of National Forest land, including the existing Dark Canyon Wilderness. Its area surrounds the existing Natural Bridges National Monument. Please see https://www.fs.fed.us/sites/default/files/bear-ears-fact-sheet.pdf

The Bears Ears management plan will be developed with maximum public involvement, including Native American tribal governments, local and Sstate governments, permit holders and other stakeholders. The plan allows various uses, including (1) hunting, fishing and outfitting, (2) grazing and timber management and (3) off-highway vehicle and mountain-bike use in certain areas. The monument does not change the state of Utah’s jurisdiction as it relates to fish and wildlife management. Non-federal lands within the national monument are not part of the national monument unless subsequently and voluntarily acquired. 

Department of Interior will shortly publish a notice in the Federal Register officially opening the public comment period for Bears Ears NM. Written comments must be submitted within 15 days of publication of that notice. Written comments relating to all other designations subject to Executive Order 13792 must be submitted within 60 days of that date. 

Public comments to Department of Interior may be submitted online after May 12, 2017, at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20240.

Thanks, citizens, for supporting fair and wise and sustainable use of America’s public lands. This land is YOUR land, not Trump’s.

Michael Sullivan

The cost of climate change

The League of Women Voters and Ventura College recently sponsored a forum, “Climate Change is here to Stay … What Now?” The speakers included: UCSB science professors Dr. David Lea and Dr. Sangwon Suh, and Los Padres Sierra Club Chair Jim Hines. It was a mind-broadening forum that looked at the scientific facts, the societal costs, and the environmental impacts of climate change.

To those climate-change-because-of-human-activity deniers, who unfortunately are in charge of some important government agencies, let me say this: Yes, it is true that Earth’s climate has always been changing, but heretofore any change happened slowly over a period of thousands or even millions of years. What we are witnessing now is an unprecedented rapid change where, decade after decade, the planet is warming because of human activity.

Since 1970 the average global temperature has increased a tenth of a degree per decade. In just one decade we have lost 13 percent of Arctic sea ice. If that is not enough to make you act, think of this: There is 27 feet of potential sea level rise in the now-melting Antarctic ice shelf.

The problem we face is enormous. Even in more modern times, we seemed to think the existing climate was constant and went on to develop major cities and towns in low-lying coastal areas. Now we realize that sea level rise, caused by ice melt due to global warming, may overwhelm such areas. Moreover, global warming will produce more extreme weather patterns — deeper droughts, more severe fires and flooding events — which will wreak havoc on food supplies and economies.

Yet, we all continue to trample our carbon footprints onto our planet and into its atmosphere. This forces the land, the plants and the ocean to absorb them. Approximately 26 percent of the carbon dioxide gas dissolves into the ocean. The result is that we are acidifying the ocean and changing its pH balance. In turn, coral reefs and marine life are suffering the effects. This disruption of the world oceans’ ecosystems will cause catastrophic environmental and economic impacts.

Science and scientists have told us the facts. Yet, because of increases in human population and increases in human polluting activities, MORE carbon dioxide is going into the atmosphere every year.

Meanwhile the Department of Defense is planning for the impacts of climate change around the globe, and the mayor of Miami is studying raising roadways because of increasingly frequent urban flooding due to rising tides. To add an exclamation point, world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking just warned that if mankind doesn’t colonize another planet in the next 100 years we may face extinction.

We must come together to save our planet. There is no time for complacency. There is no time for political positioning. Today we must all be environmentalists. In the 1970s Republican President Richard Nixon gave us the Environmental Protection Act. We cannot let the current administration gut the EPA by slashing its budget. Moreover, the U.S. must continue to participate in the voluntary Paris agreement, the global emissions-cutting pact we helped author. Write to your elected officials. We need: a strong EPA, Paris agreement participation, and cleaner energy.

If we don’t come together to heal the planet, global warming will cost us everything.

Diane Underhill, President
Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation

Moral integrity

I’m writing in response to Mr. Moomjean’s column in the May 4 Reporter. Mr. Moomjeam mentions the selective blindness of liberals who demand Bill O’Reilly’s head on a platter for sexual harassment but give Bill Clinton a “pass” in the face of rape allegations.

Although it may not have been his intent, Mr. Moomjean’s column brilliantly illuminates that selective blindness isn’t the sole purview of liberals. Conservatives are just as prone to the disease. Let’s look at the facts:

  1. Not all Liberals remain supportive of Bill Clinton. In fact, one suspects his wife might have done better in the last election if the Clinton brand had retained its popularity.
  2. One wonders how conservatives gave a “free pass” to Trump’s “pussy grabbing” remarks.  One would think people who support Christian morals and family values would find this sort of sexual vulgarity repugnant.
  3. On a darker note, there are the (now hushed-up) allegations that Donald Trump forcibly raped and sexually tortured an underage girl at a “sex party” thrown by convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein. It is a known fact that Trump was a regular guest at Epstein’s parties even if the rape can’t be proved.

Of course, Trump supporters will say the rape accusation is “trumped-up”.  Just as Clinton supporters will say the rape accusation is “trumped-up.” And O’Reilly supporters will say the sexual harassment accusations are “trumped-up”. 

In the end, what saddens me is that this selective blindness seems to be part of the human condition. It causes us — both conservatives and liberals — to routinely elect immoral, unethical politicians and not hold anyone morally accountable if they are from “our” side. 

In a more perfect world all parties would insist on a high level of moral integrity from their own and be willing to blow the whistle if a candidate lacks the moral fibre to lead.

Stasi Katsikaris

My son’s confidence

To mark National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 8-12, I’d like to recognize Ms. Alicia Arora, my son Josh’s first grade teacher at California Virtual Academies @ Los Angeles (CAVA @ Los Angeles).

This is Josh’s first year at CAVA, as he attended a brick-and-mortar school for kindergarten. Although Josh spends less time with Ms. Arora, in comparison to his brick-and-mortar teacher, he has a much more special relationship with her.

Ms. Arora has gone above and beyond to help my son. Josh is a very shy child, but somehow, she has brought him out of his shell and boosted his confidence!

Ms. Arora is constantly praising Josh. If he happens to answer a question wrong, she has a way of correcting not only him, but every student in her class. Anytime Josh is having a difficult time, she is always there to help and push him a little harder. This positive reinforcement has proven to be very effective, as Josh never feels like a failure.

She has also made learning fun for Josh, instead of a chore. Ms. Arora spends once a week working with Josh one-on-one for extra help, and he looks forward to it. Josh looks up to Ms. Arora and loves seeing her happy.

Ms. Arora’s passion to teach is something that is contagious. Her voice is always full of excitement during class connect sessions. Teaching is more than a job for her; it is her calling, and I know she leaves an everlasting impression on every student that comes her way.

I encourage everyone to support a parent’s choice in a child’s education. Online learning has been a wonderful experience for Josh, and we are so grateful that it has provided him with a teacher like Ms. Arora, someone who instills confidence and positivity!

Jennifer Catino
Point Mugu in Ventura County

Show Knight the door

Congressman Steve Knight, who represents Simi Valley and part of L.A. County, has shown his true colors. Knight just voted with other Republicans in the House to weaken health care for Americans, and in the same bill voted to give tax cuts of almost a trillion dollars to millionaires and billionaires, as if a massive tax cut for billionaires somehow helps health care.  More than 20 million Americans stand to completely lose their health insurance, and the rest face reduced health-care quality and increased costs. This is cruel and outrageous.

The voters of Ventura and L.A. Counties need to show Knight the door in November 2018. Ventura and L.A. County residents deserve congressional representatives who actually care about improving health care for their constituents, not about giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires who are doing just fine.

Phil White

No champion

There is no excuse for Trump’s continuance in office. He is a hex on America and its people. His addiction to wealth and the wealth of his fiends is going to swallow us all. We see what he is doing. We are fearful and scared. We dread each new sick idea he comes up with. The Republican sadists hellbent on destroying the poor, the old and the weak are gleefully laughing at us, smiling giddy, seduced by the madness of Trump’s own psychopathic sickness. This is Demonocracy? It sure feels that way. Soon we won’t be allowed to protest and we will lay down for that too. I think it’s high time our high-priced politicians stood up for truth, justice and the American way, instead of looking embarrassed every day as Trump destroys another bit of the America we all love.

We know what the future holds under Trump, and yet we do nothing but look at each other in the confusion he has manufactured for us. His offenses are myriad. America is allowing him to get away with his monstrousness because the old ways of checks, balances and governance do not work fast enough. They have no teeth. There are so many terrifying circumstances in Trump’s agenda now and in future (if there is a future), he promises devastation for America if not humanity. Is there nothing we can do?

All those past presidents — Clinton, Bush, Obama — have nothing to say? No attacks on Trump for us all to get behind. We have no champion. We are settling down to be part of Trump’s Caligula carnage. We are drowning in the swamp and accepting it. We are letting Trump lead us into his own depravity. Where is the FBI, the CIA? Where are their investigations? Where are their conclusions? America is in the shredder and we are all hoping for the mythical best?

The best we can hope for is common sense and honor returning to our politicians and them putting America and its people before their own bank accounts and blind ambition. Trump and his alligator administration must be stopped somehow, some way. They are carnivores and we are penned in by our own apathy.

Christopher Judges

Our precious environment

The Trump administration placed the Santa Barbara Channel directly in its sights for what would be the first new offshore lease sales since 1984 when Ronald Reagan was president. Many in our community still remember all too well the ruin caused by the 1969 blowout from Platform A — memories vividly brought back by the 2015 Refugio Oil Spill on the Gaviota Coast. These experiences remind us all that with oil and spills, it is never a question of if, but when.

The Environmental Defense Center (EDC) is fully committed to fighting this misguided attack on our climate and environment. For the past 40 years, EDC has worked in the public interest, protecting our coastal and marine environments. EDC and our clients and partners have retired 40 offshore oil leases, prevented three separate attempts to import liquefied natural gas through our coastline, and served as the lead organization fighting against risky practices such as fracking and acidizing from offshore platforms. We have made significant gains against irresponsible fossil fuel projects and will continue this work in the face of this dangerous proposal.

The people of the central coast and throughout the state of California have made it very clear: It is time to focus on cleaner and safer renewable energy sources rather than the dirty fuels of the past. The safety of our coastal communities and the future of our precious environment are too valuable to be sold for polluting, short-term corporate gain.

Owen Bailey
Executive director, Environmental Defense Center

Make a difference

When Donald Trump was first elected, I felt true despair over the viability of the democratic process. I despaired that a president who lost by 3 million votes could still end up as president, representing the very people he’d spent his campaign mocking and in some cases targeting for deportation and travel bans. Once Trump took office, he immediately began talking about withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, approved the permit to construct the Keystone Pipeline, and named fossil-fuel advocate Scott Pruitt as administrator of the EPA. I realized Trump was going beyond doubting climate change. He was declaring war on the environment. I knew I needed to take some kind of action to preserve clean air and clean water. I also wanted to preserve the natural beauty that sustains me emotionally. After all, I am a human being, not a machine placed on this planet to help corporations turn a profit. The People’s Climate Sister March gave me the opportunity to put my pledge into action and exercise my constitutional right to freedom of assembly. Once I got to the event, I was impressed by the creativity, passion and dedication of the organizers and fellow participants. I will definitely participate in future events to protect the democratic process and the environment because this event reaffirmed my belief in my ability to make a difference.

Heather Havens

Starbucks brews public safety concerns

Starbucks is notorious for changing neighborhood dynamics, forcing out small vendors selling coffee, stampeding adjacent properties and streets with its high traffic. The Thousand Oaks location at the intersection of Rancho and Thousand Oaks Boulevard is a classic case study, and a design enigma. If you’ve been to this location before, then you’re aware it has a traffic problem affecting public safety. The city of Thousand Oaks has had plans regarding this: Thousand Oaks Specific Plan 20.

It’s a plan with an ambitious vision to transform the landscape of T.O. Boulevard east of Moorpark Road and west of Duesenburg Drive.  For drive-thru restaurants on Thousand Oaks Boulevard, approval must come from the Thousand Oaks Planning Commission, and the property requires a special permit. This Starbucks location on Rancho Boulevard relied heavily on an ATE traffic queuing report, inferring that Starbucks would have the same traffic patterns as the Oxnard location on Channel Islands Boulevard. It projected 91 vehicles for weekday mornings (7-9 a.m.), averaging six vehicles.

If the traffic queues exceed those projections and adversely affect on-site circulation or block driveways, the applicant agrees to correct identified deficiencies in a “timely manner to the satisfaction of the City Traffic Engineer” by implementing measures. First measure: Station a Starbucks employee to take orders. Second measure: restrict the T.O. Boulevard entrance driveway to outbound traffic only. Needless to say, on-site traffic circulation has been adversely affected. It’s also a daily occurrence for the lines to stretch way out onto Rancho Road. Once actually through the drive-thru, and coffee in hand, getting out of the parking lot is another nightmare. With cars entering the drive-thru from both entrances, bottlenecks with cars from Lighting and Bulbs Wholesale and Supply — the adjacent business in the lot — getting out requires skill, patience and cooperation. Prior to Starbucks, that corner was an eyesore, but the city can’t ignore safety. The resolution says that the permit would be revoked if those measures aren’t enacted, and/or don’t help traffic circulation. So why hasn’t enforced their own rules?

Dan Kim
Thousand Oaks

Double standards

I was reading your article about the sacking of Bill O’Reilly (“The O’Really Factor,” Right Persuasion, May 4). In the article you acknowledge that he probably got fired because he was losing Fox its sponsors.

So this is purely down to a right-wing media outlet sacking one of its right-wing journalists and nothing to do with Democrats/liberals. Yet you have chosen to bring them into it out of the blue for some reason. Must you blame Democrats for everything?

In the past I remember Republicans trying to impeach Clinton. I do not remember Democrats trying to fire him. I also remember O’Reilly reporting on Clinton’s alleged wrongdoings on a regular basis. I have not seen Clinton commenting on O’Reilly’s personal life. Finally, please remember, Clinton was president of the USA once. O’Reilly was just a news commentator.

Your article did a great job though trying to squeeze these two things together as though these are somehow double standards going on. I would argue, the only double standard here is a news commentator making allegations and then being accused of similar allegations himself. Whether there is any truth in it or not, the rich and powerful always seem to be let off … so here, at least is some consistency for you to think about here.

Alex Shirley
Visiting Ventura
London, England

Losing money

Now we are told that the two San Buenaventura golf courses are costing the taxpayers of our city somewhere around $1 million per year because a few years ago when the economy was humming, the City Council at that time, after donning their Rose -Colored Glasses, decided to take out a loan of $16 million to spruce up the courses, feeling that with the economy pumping as it was the city would be making dollars hands over fist.

As the man once said, “The best laid plans of mice or men often go awry.”  The economy tanked, the golf courses were losing money hand over fist. Not only did the City Council take out the ill-thought-out loan, but they made it so restrictive that today there is almost nothing that can be done to alleviate the situation outside of continuing to pour money into the bottomless pit.  At the present time the taxpayers are shelling out a couple of hundred thousand dollars per year paying the loan off, but also spending somewhere around $750,000 to keep the losing golf courses running.

It’s time the citizens stormed the Ivory Tower, (Ventura City Hall) and force the Gang in the Ivory Tower (Ventura City Council) to once and for all remove their “Rose Colored Glasses” and start running our city the way they were elected to do.  Stop all of these personal “Pie in the Sky” projects and start paying attention to our city’s infrastructure.

Some of the other (Rose-Colored Glasses) ridiculous ideas were:  

The really ugly bus stop at the Pacific View mall: cost including repairs somewhere around $2 million.  The idea of placing art at the city’s sewer plant, cost for planning, around $600,000. The Art Colony corner of Ventura Avenue and Thompson Boulevard, loss over $4 million.  The Brooks Institute brouhaha, loss over $2 million. Redflex red light intersection cameras: loss over $10 million and still rising.

Rellis Smith