I hope everyone assists the committee of volunteers that is working to get rid of brine discharging water softeners. The state has issued new restrictions on chloride content in our sewer system which discharges to the Santa Clara River. Our new water treatment plant does not deal with chlorides (salt).
The state will fine Fillmore up to $50,000 per day for each day we discharge water into the river that has a chloride content above 100 mg. Our chloride content is now about 140 mg. The state is worried about the detrimental effect of high chloride water on agriculture and fish.
We have a very short time to comply with the new standards. Each brine discharging unit places one pound of salt into our sewer water each day. With an estimated 450 units being used in Fillmore, that means 450 pounds of salt each day into the system.
If you have one of these units, the city will buy it from you. Otherwise, if the units remain on line every household will have to pay an additional $21 to $31 per month. The only other alternative is to build a chloride treatment plant for $9-10 million.
Please try to help the Fillmore Chloride Control Committee by urging your neighbors to get rid of the brine units.
***
Parts of the Gazette’s website (the blog-forum) are becoming a problem. We added this feature to the new site in order to facilitate discussion of issues deemed important to the residents of Fillmore. I hope it becomes a valuable and highly used method of communication.
However, civility has broken down on a couple of threads and we have had to make some corrections. We welcome everyone using the blog but will not let the conversation degenerate into what I have seen on other blogs. Of all that personal insult? Save it for some other place.
Ironically, I have just been informed that someone has referred to me as “Hitler” because the thread on the Tazer incident was removed entirely. Well – all I can say is: I know you are, but what am I?
With that, I’ve got to get back to my censorship desk – where I wallow in the opportunity to destroy free speech.

 


 

A great deal of controversy has been raised over an incident which occurred during the Fourth of July holiday. One of two criminal suspects had to be brought down with a Tazer device, following a burglary at Rite Aid.
While the facts are well known, the Gazette is waiting for an official report before commenting on the use of force by a city fireman-code enforcement officer who assisted a Sheriff’s deputy under attack by one of the suspects who was resisting arrest.
A great deal of hostile, inflammatory rhetoric was expressed on our website blog (www.fillmoregazette.com/forum) about this incident. The same sort of indignant flaming was heard during oral communication time at the last city council meeting.
These expressions of outrage have one thing in common: they grossly misstate the facts and mislead the audience. There also appears to be some sort of underlying agenda sparking these hot complaints.
It’s my hope that the official report will be available for next week’s edition.
***
Our new pool is coming along swimmingly. (Sorry). Concrete foundations are being poured this week - see fillmoregazette.com for some color photos. The pool complex is expected to be open for business before January, ’09. One of the unintended consequences of this otherwise happy news is the fact that First Street at Orchard will soon become a traffic nightmare. Just imagine those days when the final bell at Sespe School sends streams of kids to their parent’s waiting SUVs, the Boys and Girls Club’s 50 to 80 kids play in the front yard, the high school is having a major sports event, and parents are anxiously waiting in a line of idling cars to drop their kids off for a cool swim. Oh – then there’s the normal student pedestrian traffic from the middle school and high school, and normal foot and vehicle traffic from First Street residents. The intersection of Orchard and First is already chaotic. What can we expect next year?
***
Something close to $35,000-worth of illegal fireworks citations were issued this year by our police and fire departments. I wonder if this will cover the cost of the fireworks display.

 


 

How is the newspaper business different from the laws of nature?
Answer: It isn’t. Nature abhors a vacuum just as much in the sales rack as it does in outer space. For example, no sooner had the Gazette’s space in the VONS rack been emptied (due to 11 weeks of non-payment from the market) than the void was filled with a new rack, twice as large, pregnant with Ventura Star papers. Adding a little insult to injury, the sign adorning the newly expanded edifice reads “Fillmore. Your town. Your paper” – a weaselly way of kinda-sorta saying “hometown paper”. When I think of the 7-day weeks and frequent 18-hour days the Gazette has spent publishing local news for the past 20 years, that pretension seems just a little curious. Curious, not surprising or unexpected. Let them spend the hours to earn the spurs. The spectacle of a small town weekly like the Gazette competing head to head with two billion-dollar corporations seems almost lugubrious to me (I’ve always enjoyed that word). I’ve just been in this business too long and seen too much to be surprised.
While the Gazette has had to abandon its long-standing spot at the market it will continue to serve its loyal readers at the Balden Town Center as best it can.

 


 

After a prolonged series of problems and confrontations over the distribution of the Fillmore Gazette in the VONS market, the paper has decided to pull out.
Since the last strike, Safeway Markets, parent company of VONS, has made many policy and management changes which make it impractical for the Gazette to continue its 20-years association with the store.
A major reason for pulling out is the fact that the Gazette has not been paid for its distribution in more than 10 weeks. For 20 years the transaction was simple and fast. The paper was delivered and paid for at the same time. Under the new policy a host of boilerplate-type requirements must be complied with in order to have invoices paid through the corporate office. This included the procurement of insurance and filing numerous other forms. The relationship has become confused and confrontational. Management, all the way up the line to corporate, has exhibited a mixture of hostility at the local level, to complete indifference at the top. Numerous personal contacts, phone calls and emails have been a waste of time.
The Gazette is looking into placing news racks outside the store.
I very much regret the inconvenience to our readers.
Martin Farrell
Publisher

 


 

As I write these words we have just received notice of a plane crash in Piru. Story and photos are posted here: http://www.fillmoregazette.com/front-page/fatal-plane-crash-piru
***
Congratulations to Fillmore Police Tagging Investigator Gene Torres for directing a highly successful task force to 7 Fillmore locations to serve search warrants and check for parole violations. The action turned up numerous guns and other stolen property. This should be enough evidence to prove that so-called “taggers” do more than cause vandalism. Members are also thieves and felons.
***
I regret to inform our readers that the Gazette will no longer be available at VONS market. In my 25 years in this business I have never before encountered such a feckless and uncooperative, and arrogant management team. Big business has changed its stripes forever in my opinion. I will skip the details. We may possibly place news racks outside the market; but this is a great inconvenience for all concerned.
The Gazette will continue to be sold in many locations around town, including Super “A” Market.
***
We have just launched the latest version of our website. Viewers will enjoy the new video capabilities as well as large format photos and many other features. We now also host a blog. We will soon add a hunting-fishing-shooting sports page, as well as an emergency preparedness page. It will take a little more time to transport all information from the old site to the new, and make our archives accessible to readers. I hope you all enjoy the new version, it has taken many months of hard work by Scott Duckett to produce it. New ideas for other additions are always welcome.
***
The City of Fillmore is under attack from two government agencies: the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board - and the Ventura County Flood Control District.
Both act exactly like fascists, or perhaps more like an old Soviet Union bureau. If we cannot get a grip on these fanatical, irrational environmental activists, this city will be driven to bankruptcy. They are demanding what seems like an unending series of water quality restrictions, with absolutely no concern for our financial future. If the L.A. new ground water scheme is forced upon our town it will cost every homeowner another $3,000 in fees. If the new flood map is approved by FEMA, two-thirds of our town will be required to purchase flood insurance. Do we need many more reasons for hating government?

 


 

A Response to Councilwoman Cuevas’ letter:
Ms. Cuevas’ letter seems to come close to missing the whole point of my criticism.
Whether $1,000 or $2,000 is irrelevant. The issue is how money earmarked as travel money for city business is spent. No one should have a problem with council members receiving $2,000 for the work they do to maintain a functioning city government. However, to tell the citizens of Fillmore that you are traveling to Puerto Rico for a NALEO conference to gain information on the issue of obesity (Ms. Cuevas’ original expressed intent) was a sham. Most reasonable people looking at that trip will quickly understand its essentially political nature: networking with nationally recognized political players. That’s the primary reason for NALEO’s existence. Every such convention has dozens of workshops, any one of which could justify a trip. The point I wish to make is, that political trip was taken for personal political purposes. Why else should Ms. Cuevas need permission? Permission of her peers on the council is not required to take a vacation. If she did not use her stipend on the trip, why ask for permission? The fact is that Ms. Cuevas asked for permission to attend the first convention and was approved. She asked again this year and was denied. I assume it was too late to apply after the policy was changed.
It would be better to abandon entirely the policy of providing money for travel on city business, with or without the assent of other council members. This would eliminate the nonsense of sham excuses. Let’s just provide $2,000 to each member as just compensation for the work they do.
Ms. Cuevas’s political and ethnic bias has cost the city more than $35,000 during the past several years – most of it wasted, like her repeated insistence on forcing Spanish films on our Towne Theatre. After years of struggle, the Theatre finally crept into the black, only to be plunged into the red again by 18 months of this unwanted, unused, and expensive venture. For as many as five or six weeks at a time not a single person would attend these films – yet Ms. Cuevas had the original 6-months experiment extended, twice.
As to Ms. Cuevas’ political intentions, I merely stated my opinion. I’m (I guess) relieved that she will not succumb to the allure of high political office.
Ms. Cuevas’ work for the city is appreciated, although I find her penchant for supporting what a high majority of residents consider overly dense housing disturbing. I note that Councilman Lee questioned the fact that next to no discussion was entertained before final approval of the Shaw project at the railroad tracks was granted.
If such a “tremendous” amount of financial benefit can be created, as you say, by concentration on your successful business and educational endeavors, why not concentrate on them exclusively? That way, you can “walk away from the criticisms, judgments, and outright lies” that seem a plague to you. However, I challenge you to identify any “lies”.
The job of Mayor Pro Tem may have been a Hobson’s choice for the council. Recalling your tantrum at being passed-over for the Mayor position, which necessitated the Mayor to recess a council meeting until you gained your composure, indicates part of the problem.
Ms. Cuevas, my criticism would cease if you would act more like a council member for all the people and less of a lobbyist for “your people” and for related personal causes.

 


 

Geraldine “Jeri” Doud Morris passed away Sunday at Santa Paula Memorial Hospital. My condolences go out to Chappy Morris and family upon their tragic and unexpected loss. The Rosary will take place for Jeri at St. Francis Church, Wednesday, June 18, at 7:00 p.m.
Rest in peace, Jeri.
***
In the continuing controversy over the city government pay scale, the Gazette has published the pay rates for 24 city employee positions (see page 3), from City Manager to the Assistant to the Finance Director. The Gazette published only 8 positions last week. A complete list is included this week. Also, there are mid-management employees well deserving of a raise. We should consider as well the fact that a significant part of these salaries consist of “benefits”. But, I wonder why the benefits differ so much in a group insurance policy? These numbers can be compared to the salaries for 8 federal legislative, executive and judicial positions (as of 2006). Also included are the governors’ statutory salaries, taken from the Council of State Governments. The salaries of 41 governors are at, or below, $150.000 per year.
This sort of comparison seems more logical and fair than simply pointing to four other Ventura County cities (Hueneme, Ojai, Carpinteria, and Santa Paula) to see what they pay their government employees, as has been the practice. Otherwise, how can we know what criteria those four cities use to set their standards? Fillmore, the last time I looked, was the poorest city in Ventura County, and one of the smallest, at 14,000-plus population.
***
The Fillmore City Council ambushed the tax-paying residents of Fillmore during the late hours of the last regular council meeting. Councilwoman Cecilia Cuevas finally succeeded in subverting the Mayor’s position on the issue of travel and travel compensation.
It has been a long-established Council policy that council members must request permission to travel out of state when the city is footing the bill. Even travel within the state, outside the county, was restricted to League of California Cities, in Sacramento, without specific approval. It was also long-established policy that each council member was provided $1,000 travel money from which to draw, after approval. These rules simply corresponded to common sense protection against abuse of public funds. That is, ask for trip approval (does the city benefit?) and the amount of money needed to take the trip.
Mandated Council approval is prudent to prevent members from using public money for essentially private purposes, which can be made to appear somehow important to the running of Fillmore City business. In other words, it’s protection against sham excuses to cover trips for essentially personal purposes – like traveling to Puerto Rico to attend a NALEO convention, ostensibly to bring back information about the issue of obesity.
At this last meeting, with Councilwoman Hernandez absent, and only Councilman Scott Lee objecting, the Mayor grandly proclaimed his new preference for a new policy – that is, $2000 to each member to spend as he/she sees fit, with no restraints on where or why a member can travel. So, with a big smile, off to Washington D.C. goes our frequent flying Councilwoman Cuevas to another NALEO convention. It’s a hot election year don’t you know. Just imagine all the political connections Ms. Cuevas can make at city expense – especially with her new title of Mayor Pro-Tem. Maybe, just maybe, she will get to meet the great Obama!
I am disgusted with this decision and the three council members who voted for it. It reflects an irresponsible, almost juvenile, devil-may-care attitude towards city expenditures. I don’t fault the $2,000 – some Council members work hard for essentially no money. It’s how the money is spent, and where the travel takes them, for questionable purposes, that bothers me.
I, for one, am fed-up with the increasingly loose attitude, poor judgment, and policies evidenced in our Council these days. The Council has never, in the 20 years I’ve been observing it, been in such shaky condition. I strongly object to most of the dense development approved during the past several years – especially the Shaw monstrosity at the railroad tracks, which Ms. Cuevas shoehorned in with almost no discussion. City government, from the top on down, with several significant top and mid-management exceptions, needs a complete overhaul, and I worry about who might be waiting in the wings for the November election.
I predict that Councilwoman Cuevas will be working for some state or federal politician sometime during the next year or so. If she can just make those important NALEO contacts little Fillmore will quickly become a distant memory. After all, the City of Fillmore is paying for those political encounters, and she hears the call of “her people.” I haven’t heard her say this since being repeatedly reminded that all residents of Fillmore should be “her people.”
It’s not that I don’t admire political ambition. It’s just that Ms. Cuevas should pay her own way, on her own time. And our Mayor? He has to learn to say no!