What To Do About Water, Preserving Downtown Ojai and Possible Police Profiling

By Jay Murphy

Ojai City Council Meeting…Aug 8

Tues evening the Ojai City Council held its meeting  at City Hall with all members present; Mayor Johnston, Mayor Pro Tem Weirick, Council members Haney, Francina and Blatz as well as  City Manager Steve McCreary and Legal Council Matt Summers. The meeting began promptly at seven and concluded just before eleven p.m. with about 30 residents attending.

Routine Business

Following the roll call and the Pledge of Allegiance, the Council conducted and approved routine agenda business. Of note was the authorization to appropriate $25,000 from General Fund Reserves for CFROG (Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas) as well as a Ventura County Air  Pollution Control District (VCAPCD) grant of $60,000 to replace the city’s gas-powered landscape tools and mowers with battery-powered equipment. The council also authorized the City Manager to execute an agreement with Caltrans to clarify the city’s responsibility in maintaining road improvements. The issue of employee handbook updates were moved to a later meeting for additional research.

Public Hearings

A 22 yr old Hispanic woman addressed the Council about her experience with law enforcement on August 1 while she was walking alone along a street in an unincorporated area of the valley. She claims a law enforcement officer pulled up next to her and asked her why she was walking alone. What at first seemed like an innocent encounter turned serious when the officer pressed her about drug use and whether she was high at the time. After what sounded like a roadside sobriety test was administered, the woman was handcuffed and taken into custody where she was required to take a drug test. The results were negative and she was returned home after three hours  in custody.  The young women claims that she was treated unfairly, possibly because of profiling, and wants the City Council to look into the matter. Councilperson Francina and Weirick also brought up profiling and have heard of other incidents as well.

A second woman, another Ojai resident, came forward with a similar complaint about Ojai law enforcement claiming that she has had some “creepy” experiences with one officer in particular. The Mayor states that he also has a possible third complaint sent to him via social media.

The issue appears to be much on the minds of Ojai residents and is all over social media. Councilperson Francina has volunteered to talk to the chief  and the Council is eager for a response from law enforcement. Apparently, observing and testing pedestrians is an Ojai policy so the Council is asking for clarification as to what “triggers” such an event. Councilperson Weirick stated that it is not the duty of law enforcement to profer suggestions about “drug treatment” of pedestrians. The Council is very concerned about the issue and wants to get to the bottom of it ASAP.

The Council them moved on to the property at 334 E, Ojai Ave. and the request for design changes. The property is adjacent to the “Arcade” but is not considered to be Mission Revival style. The Council and the developer went through various options for style and colors as well as the removal of trees that their plan requires. Councilperson Francina is concerned that the trees are integral for shading but according to Councilperson Haney the type of tree is actually under-performing, relative to what could replace them.

Rosalie from the Planning Commission spoke briefly and maintains that the Planning Commission simply dropped the ball on this issue. The council resolved to send the problem back to the Planning Commission for resolution to the apparent dismay of the developer.

Water management for the Valley is always on Ojai’s mind and Angelo brought a slide presentation to describe the dilemma for the Council and audience. Although the city received 22 inches of rain this year, the future remains bleak according to Angelo. As he bluntly states it, at this pace they will be out of water by 2022. He offered some potential solutions but says no one seems interested in pumping water “up the hill” to Ojai. He states that the city could possible merge with Santa Barbara’s water but seemed to think that the city (and the county) better start getting serious about desalinization. Angelo paints a bleak water picture for the future.

Two people spoke on  the Cultural Resources Policy. They expressed concern about development injuring the cultural history of the Valley. The Council resolved to put together a “small group” to further study the issue.

The Council was also unanimous in selecting Councilperson Haney as the city’s delegate to the League of California Cities Annual Conference in Sacramento in Sept. Mayor Johnson was selected as the alternate.

Jeremy working his magic

Finally, kudos to Jeremy who for many years has been doing the on line video productions. He is a pro who has been doing this type of work for over 17 years and  works his magic in the ear of the Council chambers. You can find the video of this meeting by going to ojaicity.org/citycouncil-meeting-videos/ or viewing channel 10 in Ojai.

A copy of the Aug 8 Agenda can be found here:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B669-5iKFkTgdjlpRk9Xb2c0QzA/view

The document is interactive so click on the item of interest and you can find other related material.

Jay Murphy is retired and living in Ojai

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