Blessing in disguise

In 1971, I moved to Ojai and over the years have attended outstanding events at Libbey Park, including the Ojai Music Festival, poetry festivals, Krishnamurti talks, the Blues Festival, Storytellers Festival, art exhibitions, to name only a few.

Remember those uncomfortable wooden, splintered benches that hurt? We all were so excited when the city hired David Bury to redesign a new Bowl and upgrade the park. Many of us thought how fabulous the new Bowl would be for the community with comfortable seats.  I even purchased a brick with my name on it for the new walkway. What a great opportunity to fund the city by renting out the Bowl.

Well, the Bowl was The Blessing in Disguise. We folks who live downtown are experiencing the loss of our peaceful weekends.

My 1923 wooden, not insulated, bungalow home is four blocks from the park. During some of the events, my house vibrates to the point that the windows shake, door and latches become unhinged, along with my nerves. Some of the music groups think they are playing to a 90,000-person concert. It seems that all of Ojai attended last weekend’s concert in their living rooms and gardens with a decibel level that went through our roofs all the way to the East End.  

Who would have thought the repercussions of a grand idea would be so disruptive? Please don’t get me wrong, I love music.

All we ask is that the city takes responsibility to be vigilant and regulate the decibel level of the events that are disrupting the lives of so many people until 10 p.m. 

— Bernadette DiPietro — Ojai

Ojai can do better

Re: Ojai City Councilmember William Weirick’s June 17 letter, “Betrayal of public trust”:

Ojai, please do better.

Councilmember Weirick (District 3) wrote a letter transcribing the words of Ojai Unified School District Superintendent Tiffany Morse, which were delivered at a public forum about the 2020 school bond, in which Superintendent Morse stated that a new Nordhoff High School swimming pool would be for community use. This transcription was an attack on OUSD by a sitting city councilmember.

Superintendent Morse’s statement was true, and only stated well-established California law.

Education Code 38131 states:

There is a civic center at each and every public school facility and grounds within the state where the citizens, parent teacher associations, Camp Fire girls, Boy Scout troops, veterans' organizations, farmers' organizations, school-community advisory councils, senior citizens' organizations, clubs, and associations formed for recreational, educational, political, economic, artistic, or moral activities of the public school districts may engage in supervised recreational activities, and where they may meet and discuss, from time to time, as they may desire, any subjects and questions that in their judgment pertain to the educational, political, economic, artistic, and moral interests of the citizens of the communities in which they reside.”

Over the years, OUSD has enabled countless community uses of school grounds. Some of us even remember when Ojai City Department of Recreation held children’s swimming lessons at the Nordhoff pool — that’s where my three kids learned to swim.

OUSD charges these groups “direct costs.” Direct costs are the share of costs, proportional to the use, for:

    • supplies

    • utilities

    • janitorial and other services by OUSD

           employees

    • maintenance

    • repair

    • restoration

    • refurbishment (Education Code 38134)

After it’s built, the pool can be used for supervised recreational activities. Whatever organization— city of Ojai, or Boys and Girls Club — can be required to pay direct, and only direct, costs.

OUSD cannot ask the city to contribute to the cost of constructing the pool. OUSD must pay that cost by itself. So why is Councilmember Weirick trying to horn in on the school board’s decisions about building the pool?

Because of the bullying, imperious behavior by city folks, we now have school board trustees cussing at school board meetings. If I were still on the school board, I’d probably be cussing, too. I think Ojai can, and should, do better. 

Kathi Smith — Ojai

(The writer served as a trustee on the Ojai Unified School District Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2014.)

Ojai’s youth need the arts

In Ojai, nearly 20% of the city is made up of people under the age of 18.  

The kids you see down at the gas station buying candy or disrupting the sidewalks with their skateboards have it hard.

Challenges like the pandemic, social media, climate change, and gun violence are just a few of the things these kids face.

Fortunately, the Ojai community values its youth. We invest in them through performing and visual arts programs at the local high schools, and have seen how these programs help young people to process their feelings and to heal and grow.

Many people in the community were recently moved by the incredible theater and dance productions by Nordhoff High School and Oak Grove School. They were also enlightened by the recent visual arts displays by Nordhoff at Art in the Park.  

These programs give kids a creative outlet. However, for children in elementary and middle school, the opportunities are more limited.

The Ojai Youth Entertainers Studio (OYES) offers kids from early years to age sixteen the chance to find their voice through theater arts. Kids get the chance to build performance and expression skills under the guidance of professional artists.

OYES is celebrating its 10th anniversary and has launched a vital fundraising campaign to return its programs to the pre-pandemic levels at

Now, more than ever, Ojai's kids need the arts and we need to step up to support them by donating to OYES or other local arts programs that serve our youth. 

— Sarah Otterstrom  - Ojai