Letters to the Editor Jan. 31

Measure C is needed
RANDY HANEY, Ojai City Council member
Measure C is an increase in the city of Ojai’s transit occupancy tax (TOT), which is long overdue. This a tax that is applied to individuals utilizing our community hotels, parking fees and other related fees associated to tourism. With more than 850,000 visitors coming to our community annually, it is a very simple way of allowing those visitors to contribute monies to maintain the quality of life for the Ojai residents, as well as for themselves. 
The original TOT was set in 1971 at 10 percent and has not changed in the last 47 years. It is about time the citizens of Ojai have an increase in the shared cost of maintaining our beautiful city and surrounding communities. 
A simple increase of 5 percent  will generate an additional $1.3 million to $1.7 million annually to the city of Ojai’s Capital Improvement Program, which will be utilized to mitigate the adverse impacts from tourism on our streets, parks and public buildings, along with allowing additional funds for code enforcement and climate change-related issues.
We all share a sacred place in our hearts for our community and Measure C will help to continue in our way of life and allow us to continue to share it with our many visitors.


Hurray for CMWD directors
Jan. 27, I went to a well-attended meeting because the scientist was speaking on the current water issue with its lawsuit from the city of Ventura. Because 10,000 people in Ojai are being noticed about the Ventura lawsuit and because we need water for life, everyone is interested in knowing where we stand. Near the end of the meeting, Kimberly Rivers, a reporter, interrupted the meeting with good news from the Ventura City Council meeting. Russ Baggerly, director from Casitas Water, was at that meeting in Ventura and presented an alternative to the lawsuit that is negatively affecting so many people in Ojai. The Ventura City Council voted unanimously to consider the alternative that Mr. Baggerly presented. Hurray for Russ Baggerly and Pete Kaiser!


A resolution exists to problem
Let’s review how the Ventura watershed functions. We must take a look at what it was like in this region prior to its early occupation, when it was virgin territory! This area is naturally a semi-arid climate, more on the lines of a desert. If you go above Matilija Canyon, you see vegetation that thrives on little to no water! Logically, you can concur rain events were not all year-round.
But with looking at the Ventura River, you see boulders and rocks of all sizes and shapes. These are metamorphic rocks, rocks formed under pressure while down in the ground. Through the passage of time, these rocks were released in alluvial flows when soil these rocks were contained in reached a point of saturation causing the hillside to collapse. Looking at the size of the river, it indicates repetitive high volume rainy season that was sufficient to saturate and build up a water table enough to keep a surface flow of water! The fact that the lands adjacent the flow were unencumbered by non-permeable surfaces allowed these rains to saturate into the soil assisting in maintaining the water table!
Then as time passed and homes and roadways were built, the water storage was being compromised. I understand there used to be an area along Highway 33 by Woodland called Mirror Lake which had standing water. That area now has a bicycle and equestrian path and a drainage ditch leaving it dry. There is a huge culvert that runs along the whole length of that path that funnels all the runoff completely out of the area! I don’t want to carry on, but you get the drift of a huge problem of a lack of planning for the percolation of that water in localities of where rainfall landed!
You will not be able to build on groundwater supplies without the presence of water! I mentioned this in a prior letter to the editor about MOWD’s attitude it wouldn’t be that much! Something that entered my mind while attending the watershed meeting last week was this lawsuit is leaving out huge contributors to the problem, all municipalities, the county and the state of California, which have designed, planned and constructed all the interconnecting roadways that have no way to facilitate this runoff to peculate into our underground water supply! If you’ve ever been to Lake Tahoe, in the ’90s as they redeveloped the area, old motels that were taken out were replaced with settling basins to capture runoff and purify it as it percolated in to the lake!
I know it would be difficult in this area, but something needs to be incorporated into the resolution of this problem that faces all of us! I know of one area by the east side of the 150 highway bridge where a levee could be constructed to divert water for percolating. Areas can be designed to capture water and have injection pumps pumping it into the ground.
Any new construction should be required to have water retention systems that feed into dry wells.
One thing for sure, the state of California should not be able to skate on this!


Steelhead decline indicates problem
There is increased concern about the steelhead trout and our local water use. The real concern is not actually about the steelhead trout per se but rather the trout is a figurehead or indicator of a larger concern. 
The real concern for me comes from all the times I have sat down next to a gurgling stream or a meandering river and my inner turmoil subsides to allow a sweet moment of inner peace. The times when I lay back on a river bank to look up at the sycamore trees filtering the sunshine and the birds singing and flitting about in the lush shrubs around me. Those times that helped me to let go of my troubles thanks to the beauty created by so many wonderful creatures and plants.
The reason scientists like me talk about steelhead trout is because trout is the best species to indicate whether the aquatic ecosystem we so appreciate is in good health. For me, it represents the well-being of all the riparian habitat surrounding our streams including the hundreds of species involved, many of which are endangered.
Using indicator species in an effort to deal with threats to the environment is a longstanding strategy. A strategy that can backfire when people think the concern is only about the spotted owl or the desert tortoise or a salamander. Losing one species is no big deal to most people. For me and people who understand the full range of things growing in our local riparian ecosystem, a loss of the indicator species means the loss of possibly hundreds of other species, some of which are the last of their kind driven into extinction for the crime of living where humans want to live.
The southern limit of the steelhead trout range is currently recognized as Malibu Canyon. The fires in the last three years have severely damaged the riparian habit from Malibu up past Santa Barbara. The severity, speed, extraordinary scale and frequency of those fires are explained and predicted by the global warming climate change models. Those same models also account for the unusually long and intense drought that has precipitated the water adjudication process.
People who love our local scenery and natural surroundings might consider the hundreds of species that would die off if we do not provide the water needed to support the steelhead trout as we sort through our local water issues.
Write in Quirk on March ballot
As most of you are probably aware, the city of Ventura has sued the 10,500 residents of Ojai Valley over the rights to the Ventura River Watershed. The city of Ventura, under the “leadership” of its mayor, Matt LaVere, has spent $3,000,000 in outside attorneys' fees to file this litigation rather than trying to negotiate a settlement with the various water districts involved. 
Mr. LaVere is now running to be County Supervisor for the 1st District, which includes the Ojai Valley. Somewhat boggles the mind how someone can run for office while suing his constituents!
Mr. Trevor Quirk, an attorney and Upper Ojai resident, has decided to challenge Mr. LaVere in the March 3 primary; however, due to the late date, he must run as a write-in candidate. Realistically it is not likely that Mr. Quirk can win this election, however, if Mr. Lavere receives less than 50 percent of the vote, there would be a run-off in the November general election.
Please vote on March 3 and write in Trevor Quirk for County Supervisor. 
Thanks for your consideration. If you feel the same as I do on this issue, please feel free to share this with your friends and neighbors. 


Bogus power grab; boycott Ventura
Ventura City has declared war on the property owners and citizens of the Ojai Valley and watershed users. Thousands of citizens have been served with legal notices.
I was served but refused to accept. The agent took my picture without my permission and stated that was evidence I had been served. The document is almost 100 pages in legalese. Not being a lawyer, it is difficult to comprehend except that I can be sued as a property owner because I receive water that is alleged to belong to Ventura city. Ventura city indicates it needs the water for current and “future use.” The term “future use” implies they need the water for development of the city of Ventura. This raises a serious question if Ventura is to be more fully urbanized at the expense of water users of Ojai Valley and surrounding watershed farms and ranches.
I am not a lawyer and am a small frog in the big pond but I have several questions: If the city of Ventura claims the right to Ojai Valley Water and the residents, farmers, and businesses of Ojai have been using the water since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo with Mexico, and Ventura city bases its claim to the water rights from that treaty, the city of Ventura has neglected to assert those rights for more than 150 years. 
That is “adverse possession.” The use of water rights has been open and notorious with no complaint for 150 years. The residents, farmers, and businesses have been paying taxes on the land since it was occupied. Those two facts support rights of adverse possession. Ojai and surrounding areas have exercised those rights since 1848.
Another issue goes back to the occupation of the land by Spain. The land was occupied by Indians. The right to take the land from the Indian tribes by Spain was by force and occupation. The Ventura city legal action may open the Pandora’s Box as to the rights of the original Indian inhabitants. The owners of land occupied by Ventura city residents could be in jeopardy using the same claim of ownership of the Indian tribes. Spain lost California in the Mexican War of Independence of 1821, thus creating a new issue of land ownership. The city of Ventura is using the Treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo with Mexico as the basis of their ownership of water rights. Once again, did Mexico have the right to transfer land to the United States, especially land that was owned by the missions which had lost their property under Mexican rule? One reason for escrows and title insurance is to perfect legal title to land and hence other property rights. 
Secularization of the missions under Mexican sovereignty eliminated Mission property rights until the immediate mission property was restored under American occupation. The Ventura “pueblo” had water rights, but did that include the vast unsettled areas and watershed of the entire Ojai Valley, surrounding mountains and oak forests? A pueblo is a small town, not a major inhabitant megalopolis!
I would assert that Ventura city’s claim to the land/ water rights is totally bogus and a power grab to support development in Ventura City.
The legal action seeking the water rights in Ojai is rooted in the rights of the San Buenaventura Mission’s property grants from the King of Spain but withdrawn by the Mexican government. The Treaty did not restore property rights to the mission and surrounding area. The Treaty did allow water rights to the small pueblo of San Buenaventura. Later, under American rule the immediate church property was restored to the Catholic Church
If Ventura city should prevail in this legal action, perhaps Ojai Valley could incorporate as a city and begin annexing the former Mission lands thus acquiring any water rights alleged to belong to the original Ventura pueblo under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. I think some of the residents of that neglected area might welcome an opportunity to upgrade and improve the surrounding historic community with better roads, parks, and neglected infrastructure.
As I said, “What do I know?” The lawyers know that the law is not always just but is the result of those who argue the best.
If the inhabitants of the Ojai Valley find that they cannot prevail in this water war with Ventura city, we could use the “Old Irish tactic” of a boycott of everything in Ventura city. After all, Oxnard is a more business friendly city. If the politicos of Ventura want war, the people have some formidable weapons in our arsenal. 

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