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Opinion: An open letter to Ojai and Ventura: Ventura’s water lawsuit is not just unfair, it is cruel

web 12 31 21 Mike Donohue

By Mike Donohue

There are not many things worse than “sticking it” to senior citizens or an aging population.

Whether it is a proverbial knife in the back or throwing wrenches into people’s lives and
purposely creating anxiety — these acts are cruel. 

These are the actions of the city of Ventura officials.

Sadly, we are watching a battle between
neighbors, like the classic Goliath (with a war chest) vs. David. The Ojai citizenship, both young and old, is being pummeled by our big neighbor, and it needs to stop. As I see our lovely rainfall, I think of the anxiety-provoking lawsuit delivered to nearly every citizen in Ojai. The leaders of our beloved Ventura neighbors feel compelled to skewer us. 

The average Ventura citizen does not want to sue Ojai (and feel free to write your City Council if you feel that way). Recently, I saw some smiling Ventura officials in our town, the same officials who crafted this shocking and diabolical plan.

The officials love our amazing golf courses, our peaceful wine-tasting establishments and enjoy our tranquil valley. They love it as if it is their own. When they arrive, their proverbial knives are put away and they blend into Ojai's peaceful vibe. But don’t be fooled. This lawsuit is cruel, as are the people who devised it. 

This lawsuit is not just business, this is personal, and it hurts. Our citizenship is approximately 30% older than Ventura citizens. We have a huge portion of our citizens approaching 70 and most are on fixed incomes. There are so many modest homes in this valley — it is not all star-studded! This has been a tough year, including the
surprise
— nearly every citizen is being sued by Ventura.

The lawsuit news traveled fast. Hands were shaking as Ojai folks opened
official letters, anxiety built and
unknowns unfolded. 

This was the scene at many kitchen tables, I am not exaggerating. People are being told, “You should hire a lawyer.”

Many murmured factiously, “great” (or an expletive), followed by a sigh saying a lawyer was not in the budget and, by the way, “what did I do wrong?”

This is sad and cruel. Who needs or deserves fear and uncertainty provoked by what has been
considered a great neighbor, our friend? No one likes unexpected hits to their wallets, especially
aging populations. 

Ventura officials don’t seem to care.

Ojai has reduced its water consumption more than 30 % and is in a Stage 3 drought crisis.

Ventura has built 1,000-plus apartment units and seems to endlessly develop new projects. Well, that may help the tax base, but not the water challenge. And let’s not forget, Ventura has no mandatory water rationing. 

As I drive through that great city, I see lots of thriving lawns and gardens. In the May Ventura Water Resource Report, it was stated the Ventura citizenship is “encouraged to maintain their current level of conservation.” The report went on to
carefully note that the projected water supply was less than the projected water demand and the city “was not experiencing a water shortage event.”

Well, your lovely next-door brothers and sisters in Ojai are experiencing something. We are
experiencing anxiety, fear and the unknown. We are experiencing that and more because you are suing us, thanks to the complicated lawsuit initiative led by your councilman (now supervisor) Matt LaVere and the entire Ventura City Council.

Ventura’s leadership has gone out of their way and are sticking it to the our seniors and all of our citizens, but why?

Our reservoir is about one-third full. Ventura pumps water out of that reservoir at a rather big clip and also sucks water via the monster pumps
located near our Foster Park. But that is not enough. No, Ventura will spend millions and millions of
dollars to get more and make us pay.

I suggest spending those millions on the
homeless crisis, giving your awesome Ventura city police force a bonus and other worthy endeavors, such as schools.

Please don’t spend it on lawyers or try to cruelly squeeze money out of your law-abiding neighbors. 

Venturans, our friends: Keep coming back to
enjoy our pristine valley, sip some of our wine, enjoy our golf and countryside.

But please, put away your “knife” and the sharp teeth of that City Council lawsuit against us. Let’s be great neighbors. Do the right thing and drop that lawsuit. Do the right thing. Our door is open and will be for years to come.

— Mike Donohue lives in Ojai.