Santa Paula Times

Letters to the Editor

September 28, 2007
Exceptional entertainment To the Editor:If you missed Randel McGee’s performance “Hans Christian Andersen: The Man and his Tales” Tuesday evening at Blanchard Community Library, you missed a top-of-the-line performance. Ilene Gavenman and all the staff, under Dan Robles’ direction, provide a wealth of educational entertainment for all ages.McGee was outstanding! I now know Hans Christian Andersen as never before. And dozens of Santa Paula children and their parents (and others who did not need children as “tickets” to come to the show) have met Hans. Their perception of history and literature is changed forever.Watch for future programs. They are usually for all ages. This one was incredible. I can’t drive to Broadway, but I don’t need to. I have Santa Paula Theater Center and Blanchard Community Library.Molly KingSanta PaulaSubstance over styleTo the Editor:Over the years, there is no doubt that Cabrillo Economic Development has done a good thing by providing reasonable housing for farm workers and other local people, but unfortunately - proportionally - compared to the rest of the county, and other cities in the county, too much has been sited in Santa Paula. Because CEDC is a non-profit organization, it does not have to pay real estate taxes on the properties it builds. CEDC also receives other benefits that “for profit” developers do not receive, but the city will incur costs by way of increased demands for city services, water usage and wastewater treatment. The large structure being built on Harvard next to the DMV is the latest example. Is this good planning? Judge for yourself. Do we need more such projects in the near future? Again, judge for yourself. We need more, much more, market rate and high end housing in this city to support current city services. A really nice retirement community, such as the ones flourishing in North San Diego County or Palm Springs, with fewer children to educate, fewer cars parked on streets or driving on the roads commuting, bringing less crime and graffiti - that is one direction we could go, in East Area One or even Fagan Canyon. Start thinking outside that little box, look at what has worked elsewhere, and don’t keep digging a deeper and deeper hole for ourselves. For sure, what we do not need in Santa Paula right now is Cabrillo bringing in high-powered lawyers, threatening the city with lawsuits, targeting certain council members and attempting to cause dissension on the Council and division and disharmony within the city. For Cabrillo, this may prove to be a tactical mistake, and as an IRS section 501 C organization (tax free), CEDC should move very carefully in the political realm. The present Council is moving forward in a deliberate manner and is not accepting spoon-fed pablum from the usual special interests. This Mayor is doing an excellent job, arbitrating the two sides of the table. My guess is that 80% of the people of this city and outlying areas back this Council. Who cares if they wear ties at every meeting? We’re concerned with substance here in SP, not fashion. Richard MainSanta PaulaNot in our back yardTo the Editor:Can someone explain the major discontinuity of thinking in awarding Rodney Fernandez of Cabrillo Development the Local Hero of the Year Award when we weigh Cabrillo Development’s behavior of threats and intimidation for those that oppose them? The most recent example of this was seen at the September 17 Santa Paula City Council meeting where Cabrillo demonstrated their strong-arm, militant tactics against the council members that voted against a non-compliant project.Rodney and his staff of lawyers threatened the council with lawsuits of personal liability as well as threats of lawsuits to our city. These actions by Cabrillo have cost, and will continue to cost, our citizens substantial money if they are pursued. We pay the bills. Are these behaviors what we want from heroes? Our Mayor thought that the Cabrillo behavior was so bad that he reprimanded them during this public forum.Of course, we in Santa Paula have lived with such behavior from a variety of sources for many years, but there are quite a number of us that want it to stop and who are actively working toward that end. If you review the results of our last elections, you will notice that the decided winners of both candidates and initiatives were those dealing with providing our city with a better balance of housing and quality of life. We are at the end of the road for tolerating developers, and, in some cases, the County Government to see our city as a dumping ground for bad projects including the sewage to be dumped at Toland. To the county and other cities: If you don’t want it in your back yard, please don’t put it on ours. Just walk around town; we have more than our share of undesirable projects.Larry S. SagelySanta PaulaSanta Paula needs resourcesTo the Editor:I am writing to express my views of Santa Paula city development in possible areas such as Adams Canyon.The city of Santa Paula would benefit greatly in numerous aspects of town government and town management if it got approval to expand and develop in areas like Adams Canyon. Homes that would be constructed would provide local employment opportunities and generate tax-based revenue that would support city services like the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant. A new wastewater treatment plant in Santa Paula is required by the state water quality control board to meet required state discharge requirements. Financial revenue from housing developments in Adams Canyon would provide a source of money needed to build the new wastewater treatment plant. The new homes would attract more people to Santa Paula, giving the populace a broader economic base. People coming to Santa Paula would support the businesses of the city and start new ones of their own. Revenues could also be used to build a new high school and middle school to reduce the existing overcapacity of students.I have been playing soccer in Santa Paula for nine years and I practice on the Teague Park field, which has always been in extremely poor condition. It is very important that Santa Paula finds a source of income that can be used to build new parks because it will provide many kids with extracurricular activities and good quality fields to play on. Santa Paula needs more fields because Teague Park cannot support the general public, AYSO, and club soccer teams all year long without destroying the turf. Santa Paula does not need to develop additional high-density housing complexes, because Santa Paula has a sufficient amount already. Instead, areas such as Adams Canyon should be developed, which would bring prosperity to our city. Santa Paula needs to develop Adams Canyon and other areas like it because this type of growth would provide a source of revenue that could be used for a new wastewater treatment plant, new parks, and new businesses.Eric ShideSanta PaulaStandard of livingTo the Editor:This my story, helping people:When my mother passed away I was left a single family home. It was the home that I grew up in, that was originally built by my grandfather. My grandfather came to this city in the very early 1900s, as a very young boy. He worked for the Santa Paula Citrus Association. As an employee his first job was a lemon picker at a very young age. He worked hard to feed, clothe and house his family without any help from any government agency. He strived to a better life for himself and his family. He worked himself up through the ranks from lemon picker to foreman, and had the responsibility of coordinating many crews at one time. He retired after 49 years of employment with the Santa Paula Citrus Association. He instilled into us as a family that whatever you have you need to have earned! He always helped people who were less fortunate than he was, but only if they were helping themselves.I rented that piece of property to a couple that I thought needed an opportunity. I didn’t ask for a deposit, I rented it for below the going rate for a three bedroom, two bath house. I only asked that they care for the property like it was their own. The yard was completely renovated and I asked that they maintain it. Needless to say, the property was not maintained. I asked the question, why didn’t you take care of the property? Water is too expensive! Replacing carpeting, vinyl flooring that had been new when they moved in, etc. Four thousand dollars in cleaning and repairs later…. I am sure that I am one of many that have had this experience.Now the rest of the story. A new truck, big screen TV, etc., were more important than maintaining their living conditions. I do not begrudge anybody any material things; everybody is entitled to the things in life that they can afford. The point is, you try to help people to have a better standard of living. The question is, do people want a better standard of living?The City Council members who are in favor of taking this, our city, to a higher level and the proponents of low-income housing will continue these discussions.
The solution is NOT to continue building low-income housing, but to educate these people on what should be important in their lives. The education in this country is FREE! Listening to the City Council meetings, the same things are said continuously. WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?The solution is to ENFORCE the BUILDING CODES that are already on the books REFERRING TO HOUSING and try to upgrade the current housing in our city.Maiya HerreraSanta PaulaSPESD lawsuitTo the Editor:We write to tell you about a lawsuit the Santa Paula Elementary School District filed today [9/24/07] against the Ventura County Schools Self-Funding Authority (VCSSFA). It was not a decision we undertook lightly, and we want the community to know why we voted unanimously to undertake this legal challenge.The VCSSFA is a joint powers agency, which acts in many ways like an insurance company for our District. Most school districts in the County belong to the VCSSFA. Our District has been a member since 1982, and we have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to get insurance benefits through it.The essence of our case is simple. In 2004, our District was sued by a contractor we hired to do upgrades at several of our schools. In this suit the contractor sought millions of dollars in damages against our District. We presented this claim to the VCSSFA, who then assigned, and paid, a lawyer to represent us, as they had agreed to do under the Agreement.This spring, just before the contractor’s case was set to go to trial, the VCSSFA changed its position, and informed us that they were not going to pay our attorney fees once they exceeded $350,000 (which was soon to happen), and they were not going to pay any money toward the lawsuit. They said they had no obligation to pay it.When we asked the VCSSFA to explain the legal basis for their position, we then found ourselves subjected to a relentless attack of harassment, intimidation, and threats. They told us in no uncertain terms that they were not going to pay any more than $350,000, and then they demanded that our Board of Trustees and our senior administrative team, including our retiring Superintendent, appear and answer questions under oath. Their lawyer said that if we failed to appear, or refused to answer any questions (including questions about matters that would never be allowed in a lawsuit, such as our conversations with our attorneys, our closed session meetings, and even personal privacy matters), our District would be expelled from the VCSSFA, even though we had participated and paid into the program for over 25 years.In the meantime, our lawyers, who specialize in insurance law, did two things. First, they reviewed the legal position of the VCSSFA and concluded the position was wrong. Second, they filed a Public Records Act request with the VCSSFA. What they found, among hundreds of pages produced, was a legal opinion that the VCSSFA itself had obtained from another law firm advising that the VCSSFA did have to pay our claim. The VCSSFA concealed this from us and refused to pay.We are officials who are elected by the voters and are accountable to the citizens of our cities, but the VCSSFA is made up of unelected administrators who don’t – or think they don’t – have to answer to anyone. According to the VCSSFA’s lawyer, our district has no right to sue the VCSSFA in any State or Federal Court for any reason whatsoever, and we must abide by any final decision they make.Our District operates six K-5 elementary schools, one 6-8 middle school, an early childhood education program and an after-school program, serving approximately 8,300 families living within the school district boundaries; including a large number of economically disadvantaged families. The ethnically diverse student body is served by a distinguished staff of approximately 250 certificated and 250 classified members. Over thirteen percent of households are headed by single mothers and eighteen percent of the teens are parents. The school district enrollment of 3,801 children has an ethnic composition that is 91 percent Hispanic and 9 percent Caucasian/other. The median household income is $31,000 with approximately thirty-five percent of the school-age population living below the poverty level. The current unemployment rate is 10.2 percent and the community has a large migrant population.The money at issue in this litigation is critically important to our District, not only because it is taxpayer money, but because our District critically depends on all sources of income, including insurance benefits, to sustain its vital mission in the community and the loss of money that rightfully belongs to the District ultimately affects the teachers, students, employees, citizens, taxpayers, and residents of our community. We have paid the VCSSFA for over 25 years so that the District, the community, and the taxpayers’ money would be protected if we ever were sued. Now that this has happened, the VCSSFA is refusing to honor their promise.We tried to resolve this dispute short of litigation. We proposed to mediate this dispute and recommended distinguished former California judges. The VCSSFA rejected our offer and insisted that we participate in their internal (and unconstitutional) resolution process. We have been left with no choice but to file suit.We were elected to set policy and oversee the education of the children in our community. As trustees, we owe the people of Santa Paula a fiduciary obligation to preserve our scarce funds for education. So far, this fiasco has cost us more than one million dollars – money that should have been spent on our schools and on our students – money that represents three percent of our annual budget. Because the VCSSFA has refused to honor its obligations, or to cooperate reasonably, we have been left with no choice but to sue to protect what belongs to the citizens of Santa Paula.Ofelia De La Torre, PresidentGary Marshall, ClerkMichelle Kolbeck, MemberTony Perez, MemberDan Robles, MemberTrustees of the Santa Paula Elementary School DistrictVoting with their feetTo the Editor:For thousands of years people have voted with their feet, and apparently will continue to do so for the rest of time. Many of us are concerned with one issue and let it be known loudly and clearly. Very few people see the big problem or the whole picture.Politicians and ministers will never talk about causes of any problem; they only want to talk about their solutions for a problem as they see it. When is the last time you heard a presidential candidate answer a yes or no question? You will never hear anything but a change of subject whenever a direct question comes forth.Newscasters never tell the hard truths about other peoples or nations. For example if a nation has been failing economically for hundreds of years they refer to it as an emerging nation, or a third world country. They do know the facts, that this is another nation that produces more population than they do products to support them. If people don’t learn from their past mistakes they get to repeat the past mistakes for a few hundred more years. We can give Winston Churchill some credit for reminding us about this, many years ago, during the start of World War II.Every time man produces some new technology or patents a new product they will move forward, all those that don’t have the use of these improvements in technology move backward. Unfortunately only about 5% of the world will use the new technology – which means about 95% are moving backward. Sure most people are moving backwards without technology, however some will move forward with new technology. U.S. technology is growing at the fastest rate it has ever grown.Self-preservation is the strongest motivation factor of all living things, even bacteria. Bacteria continually mutate to preserve their species. People and animals will always desert a sinking ship – look at our borders. Why are they voting with their feet?David KaiserSanta Paula