by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer and Kimberly Rivers
We kicked 2019 off with a road trip of sorts in a fun interview with a retired teacher who now spends his days traveling the nation solo by motorcycle. Church leaders discussed spiritual and emotional exhaustion — particularly relevant in the face of Ventura County’s numerous natural disasters as well as the November 2018 Borderline shooting. The wonders of the queen bee and living underwater were both explored in in-depth features.
The decline in school enrollment countywide was a hot topic in February, as were concerns over a report that showed that Ventura County has one of California’s worst naturalization rates for immigrants who are eligible to become U.S. citizens. Two Boy Scout troops in Camarillo welcomed girls into the program for the first time, and winter warming shelters in Oxnard went from nightly to 24-hour operation.
Wildlife corridors were approved in March by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. We also looked at gut refloralization (aka fecal microbial transplant), the consequences of industrial farming, surprisingly short tax refunds and the brief, sudden influx of thousands of migrating painted lady butterflies.
We began April by looking at some sobering statistics related to the decline in insect populations. Later, women in business and leadership took center stage when we covered the 20th Annual BRAVO Awards, hosted by the Ventura County chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. We also featured an in-depth interview with Oxnard City Manager Alex Nguyen. At the end of the month, we had weed on the mind, as we put MediCannaCon, the first Ojai Medical Marijuana Conference, in the spotlight.
The city of Oxnard’s $9.2 million shortfall — and Oxnard City Manager Alex Nguyen’s efforts to “stop the bleeding” — dominated the headlines in May. Among several budget-cutting measures considered were the closing of the Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center (PACC), Carnegie Art Museum and Colonia Branch Library; canceling the Fourth of July fireworks show at Channel Islands Harbor; and laying off several city employees. The PACC ultimately received a subsidy to keep it open through the end of the year, although its future remains uncertain. And the fireworks did, in the end, go off on July 4 — paid for by five marijuana dispensaries in Port Hueneme, who collectively donated $30,000 for the cause.
Our June 6 issue came out on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which was an opportunity for us to feature 100-year-old World War II veteran Don Knapp of Ventura. Next we put our focus on Ventura College and the $12 million Miriam Schwab endowment, which is allowing the college to expand its music department like never before. Also in June, we looked at the county’s thyroid cancer rates, which are the highest in California.
For the first time the Ventura County Board of Supervisors denied a request for more drilling in an active oil field. We highlighted local nonprofits helping area veterans and a new foster care program with a revised focus of reuniting children with their families. This month included our Local Heroes featuring residents nominated by readers — Janet Barron, Linda Catlin, Megan Mescher-Cox, Dennis Kolzer, Terri Hillard Olson and Kathy Powell.
Longtime Ventura city councilman Neal Andrews passed away. The VCReporter, along with our sister publications, was purchased by Arizona-based Times Publications. A judge accepts a settlement for the victims in the 2014 Santa Clara Waste Water explosion in Santa Paula. We examined why record numbers of dead or disoriented sea mammals have been found on the coastline, and reported on the shuttered squid fishery docks at the port. The local freezer storage murder case was back in the news as an accomplice was back in court. Ventura hosted the world’s largest cornhole tournament.
The fire and deaths aboard the Conception shocked the local and statewide boating community and made national headlines. We considered the impact of legal cannabis and hemp on illegal cannabis grows in Los Padres National Forest, while the county issued permits for 4,000 acres of industrial hemp. We reported on several threats made at local schools — a trend that is continuing. Sarah Jenks Flesher was named the Artwalk 2019 artist of distinction. Our annual Best Of issue was out of this world, and recognized community favorites in dozens of categories.
Actress and author Diane Ladd shared her story of pesticide exposure in Ojai. We highlighted the 25th anniversary of the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, the county’s own athletic Hall of Fame and local efforts to support those seeking asylum. The Port of Hueneme was featured for its efforts to go green, while some are saying a planned port expansion thwarts efforts to restore Ormond Beach. For our Halloween Day issue we looked at Death Cafés, community meetups to drink tea, eat cake and demystify death. We provided ongoing coverage of the Easy Fire in Moorpark and the Maria Fire in Santa Paula.
This month we featured how the community was remembering and continuing to mourn those lost at the Borderline shooting. Also in the spotlight were the local impacts of climate change and an earthquake swarm that shook Ventura. Who can forget Chebon, the cat who, through the kindness of a stranger, was returned to his owner after missing for seven years?
The PACC is staying open, but not without controversy. We reported on the opening of Spirit of Santa Paula’s permanent homeless shelter and the “Housing Crisis 805” report from CAUSE. Ventura banned no-cause evictions while the WAVES diving program helped wounded women veterans. Oxnard’s Pacifica High School Tritons win the state football championship.
And as they say in the news business, 2019 is put to bed. From the entire team here, thanks for picking up the VCReporter. We wish you a safe and happy New Year. See you in 2020!