Council debates war, peace
By Jesse Phelps
All they really wanted to do
was watch a slide show. Or maybe decide how to disburse some
funds, purchase some property or celebrate the court victory
for Los Arboles. Instead, Ojai City Council was inundated Tuesday
night with a significant group of valley citizens concerned about
the war in Iraq.
Thirty-seven speakers, many determined to take their full three
minutes, got up to voice their strong opinions about the prospect
of City Council supporting a resolution to stand against the
federal government's decision to go to war.
In a pre-emptive strike of her own, councilwoman Rae Hanstad
moved to table the item, if not the discussion, until a later
date before a single speaker was heard, citing ill-timing and
considerations about the wording of the initial draft.
"We would not intend to
inhibit public comment," said Hanstad, "But I propose
that we pull it from the agenda."
Prepared anti-war speakers came with a new draft in hand asking
the council to: protest the ongoing war with Iraq; declare the
war contrary to the interests of the people of Ojai; call for
the immediate safe return of U.S. military personnel; and urge
the federal government to adopt a "foreign policy that achieves
victory through diplomacy rather than war."
Mayor Joe DeVito, recognizing the potential for fireworks, moved
the agenda item from fifth on the docket to first and requested
that all in the audience be respectful of each speaker by holding
off on applause or jeers. It hardly mattered.
DeVito asked that speakers line up initially by who wished to
talk about whether or not council should take a decisive vote
immediately, rather than tabling the issue for future consideration.
And thus the floodgates were opened.
Speaker after speaker voiced concerns, ranging from whether Ojai
would be sending the right message to those in the field were
it to oppose the war, to the true meaning of patriotism,, to
the role of city government in international affairs.
Soon, a line had formed going out the door into the foyer. As
the speakers came and went, a striking dichotomy emerged between
those opposed and those in favor of the resolution.
Some even proposed an alternative.
Retired Army veteran Magnus Struder urged council "not to
give any consideration to the proposed anti-war resolution. Rather
I urge you to instruct staff to prepare a resolution in support
of our troops in their combat role."
Struder and several other speakers opposing the anti-war resolution
prompted enthusiastic applause from the audience, despite DeVito's
Claps and cheers also greeted the more eloquent statements on
behalf of peace and signing the resolution. When local resident
Clive Leeman vehemently followed Struder with a statement about
our disappearing freedoms, which spurred the anti-war contingent
into an enthusiastic fervor, DeVito had had enough.
He repeated his request for silence and respect of each speaker,
at which point things began to crescendo. "Pro-war people
have been clapping and you didn't stop them!" shouted one
After a bit of back and forth, DeVito put his foot down, offering
to have the police escort anyone he found to be disruptive out
the door. One speaker, Jack Harper, used his time to say, ""It's
getting a little out of hand out here and I think we should just
"I wish we could," replied DeVito.
After several more speakers, move on the council did. Despite
impassioned pleas on every side, only DeVito was willing to make
a stand, saying, "You all know how I feel about it."
The eventual vote, not on whether
to support the resolution but whether to table it until another
time, went four-to-one - with DeVito's opposing it - in favor
of putting it off.
The time was 9:45 p.m. when council finally moved on to other
The first was a presentation
by Tom Bostrom, whose firm has been busy putting together the
preliminary stages of a Master Tree Plan for Ojai. Bostrom identified
elements of the plan and priorities for reforestation in the
According to Bostrom, Ojai currently boasts about 20,000 non-native
trees (including citrus) and about 15,000 native trees (including
Though those numbers may sound
impressive, in 1850, around the time when the first White settlers
were arriving, Ojai had close to 80,000 native trees alone, many
of which were used for fuel in the days before oil and electrical
outlets. By 1950, that number had been halved, with many of the
remaining trees now of the non-native variety.
"The question," said
Bostrom, "Is what do we want by 2050?"
The council was impressed with Bostrom's graphs and charts relating
people to tree ratios and native to non-native ratios and by
the general outline of the plan. Bostrom has divided the city
into several zones and said that two approaches exist for the
The traditional approach features
symmetry, even spacing and non-native trees. The "ecological
approach" features more non-natives, age differentiation
and variable spacing.
The next step, Bostrom said,
is to take the idea to the public and begin to educate and elicit
As the meeting wore on, the council took action on several other
issues. It approved Joan Kemper's request to replace the wooden
benches at Libbey Bowl and insert new benches in the "terrace
area" adjacent to the tennis courts and facing the bowl
on the condition that the benches have a natural wood, tan finish.
It agreed to accept a gift of
property from the Ojai Library Friends and Foundation which will
eventually be used for the library's expansion. The property,
once the working office of Edward Libbey, will retain its original
facade though it may need retrofitting for earthquake safety.
The council also set dates for protocol workshops, adopted resolutions
for street lights and did, indeed, watch a slide show.
The slides, most of which depicted the businesses and beauty
of Ojai, were part of a presentation by the Chamber of Commerce
surrounding its joint venture with the city to create a community
marketing and advertising effort entitled "Visit Ojai."
The campaign, aimed to drive
tourism dollars into town, will take the form of CDs, Internet
and direct marketing and was well-received by the council, which
voted four-to-one - with Hanstad the lone dissenter - to allocate
$7,500 to go forward.
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
|Nine-year-old Katelyn Morris of Ojai shows her
support for American troops deployed overseas at a rally held
in front of Vons on Maricopa Highway Friday.