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Simi Valley Acorn News

Extra letters (Oct. 23)

Time to elect new people with fresh ideas

The other day I was perusing the City of Simi Valley website and was pleased to read that the “Simi Valley City Council recently adopted an Economic Strategic Plan to enhance and further support local businesses.”
My city has a plan to grow our local economy, I thought. But when I read this “recently adopted” strategic plan, I learned it was created in 2012, around the same time that Apple launched the iPhone 5.
The strategic plan was followed by the city’s Economic Development Program, which utilized market analysis from the Nielsen Company. That came out over six years ago, around the same time the first electric vehicle charging station opened to the public in Ventura County. (There are now at least 38 EV-charging stations in Ventura County and counting.)
At a recent League of Women Voters mayoral forum, Mayor Mashburn said his emphasis will continue to be economic development for the city. Mr. Mashburn joined the City Council in 2012, the year our “recently adopted” strategic plan was published. It is fair to ask the mayor, and the entire council for that matter, exactly what he has done since to update our out dated strategic economic development program?
I submit that a city which touts an eight-year-old economic plan on its website is a city in need of new leadership. The time has come to elect people with fresh ideas to the dais.
Tammy Wirtz
Simi Valley

Possible cut to Social Security, Medicare

As a senior citizen, add yet another stress point. Donald Trump, if reelected, has made it known that he intends to end Social Security and Medicare. I have read in print and heard in the news media he’ll do this by eliminating the payroll tax, which for some millions he is already “deferring” through year’s end.
I’ve heard two estimates that either by mid-2023 or 2024 there will be no funds available for Social Security/Medicare payments.
Trump calls it deferring, but as reported, his real intentions are not to pay it back at year’s end as Barack Obama did during the Great Recession, but to eliminate it.
Of course, Congress has a say in this. But my guesstimate is, if reelected, he’ll cleverly find an end run around their lawmaking.
I invite the readers, before they vote, to go online and check out this underreported “rumor.” I can’t. No computer or smart phone. If this happens somehow, it will shorten my lifespan by two years. I’ve done the math.
Pat Dorman
Simi Valley


Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire

As a registered voter residing in Simi Valley’s District 3, I am appalled by the distinct possibility that one or more of our elected officials is actively suppressing the Latinx vote. Let me explain why I am afraid this could be true.

In late September, I received the first of three informational mailings from Mark Lunn, our county registrar of voters. To my surprise and dismay, Joe Ayala’s candidate statement was missing from the voter information guide I received. Then I was informed that Mr. Lunn’s office was going to send out a correction. Sure enough, in the first week of October I received the second mailing, but this one also was missing Joe Ayala’s statement. I have spoken with many friends across the city, and the pattern appears to be that only voters in District 3 received this second faulty mailing; friends of mine outside District 3 seem to have gotten the corrected guide that included Joe’s statement. It wasn’t until the third mailing, that arrived after my ballot, that Joe Ayala’s candidate statement was finally included.

Joe Ayala is running a historic campaign. If elected, he would be our city’s first mayor of Hispanic descent. Joe has received literally scores of endorsements from political action groups, unions and elected leaders across Southern California.

Latinx people comprise approximately 30% of Simi’s population, and are responding to Joe’s candidacy with enthusiasm. Everyone familiar with Simi Valley knows that a disproportionately high number of those Latinx voters live, like me, in District 3. The county registrar has now twice deprived us of critical information about Joe Ayala.

Is all this a coincidence? The only way to know for sure is to investigate the matter. We must stand up for free and fair elections so that everybody’s voice can be counted.

I call on county and state authorities to investigate this instance of possible voter suppression by Mark Lunn. As all Californians know, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.

Rebecca Albarran
Simi Valley


Elaine Litster for City Council

I support Elaine Litster for City Council, District 3. It has been my good fortune for many years to work with Elaine in a few community events. I have admired her quick intellect, her insight and her dependability in any project she undertook.

If she was asked to take on a project, she never hesitated in going the extra mile to make sure things were done in a timely manner and to the best of her abilities.

I have loved watching Elaine work with others as she has such a gift and talent for listening, for making others feel welcome and important. She is so well-rounded as she not only sings, but she is an accomplished pianist and harpist. I have admired not only her community involvement but also her love for her family.

Since Elaine has served on the City Council, I have noticed that she has had the best interests of Simi as a top priority. I feel she should continue to serve and be an important part of Simi Valley. Yes, I definitely support Elaine Litster for City Council.

Cathy Roberts
Simi Valley

Without reservation, I fully and wholeheartedly support Elaine Litster’s candidacy.

Huge health, social and economic issues are paramount concerns we all share. Clearly, a society built upon law and order is foundational to the tackling of these serious and pervasive problems.

Elaine strongly supports those who work to serve and protect us. In her own words, “We have an outstanding police force. It is imperative that we provide our police officers with the training, resources and tools necessary to protect our community.”

Over a span of many years, I have had numerous opportunities to work with Elaine in civic and church-related activities and have had numerous opportunities to observe her.

Elaine is a highly principled, intelligent, articulate, and personable woman. Her academic achievements are notable. She has an associate degree in interpersonal communications from Ricks College, a bachelor’s in economics from BYU and a master’s in urban planning from UCLA.

But Elaine’s skill set goes well beyond academic achievement. She also is a people person. Elaine truly cares about the welfare of individuals and, on many occasions, I have seen her work to build bridges of understanding as she collaborates with others to solve weighty problems.

Additionally, the interracial makeup of Elaine’s immediate family testifies of her deeply held belief in the inestimable value of each and every human being.

We, the residents of Simi Valley, must choose trustworthy, capable leaders who are accessible to their constituents and responsive to their concerns. Elaine Litster has proven that she is such a person.

I add my voice to the many other voices who so strongly support Elaine Litster as the City Council member representing District 3.

Sally Smith
Simi Valley


FOR THE RECORD

A clarification is required for the Oct. 16 article “County reports decline in overdose deaths.” Overdose deaths listed by city are based on where the death took place and may not be where the overdose occurred, which is why cities with hospitals— Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley—are listed as having a disproportionate number of OD deaths compared to other Ventura County cities.



Dual tragedies point to the evil of DUI

Most of us know what compels people to drink alcohol: It helps to reduce inhibition and provides a temporary feeling of relaxation and euphoria.

If done in moderation, the consumption of beer, wine and other spirits is considered acceptable in society.

What we do not know is what compels people to drink to excess, because when they do—and if they make the awful decision to sit behind the wheel of a car and drive—the results can be disastrous.

In the United States one death occurs every 50 minutes as the result of an alcohol-impaired driver, statistics show.

“Drunk and drugged driving comes with a cost—and it is one that robs us of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses and friends,” Mothers Against Drunk Driving says in its outreach to the public.

On local roads, drivers alleged to be under the influence of alcohol have caused three people to die in just the past few weeks.

On Sept. 29, a Hidden Hills socialite was arrested for impaired driving after her car struck and killed two brothers, 11 and 9 years old, in a Westlake Village crosswalk.

And on Oct. 16, a former local high school star and National Football League player was allegedly driving under the influence in Thousand Oaks when his car collided with another and caused the death of an elderly man.

The hundreds of comments we saw on social media in subsequent days expressed horror that the two defendants implicated in the tragedies—Rebecca Grossman, cofounder of the Grossman Burn Foundation, a high-profile nonprofit organization, and Mike Seidman, former Westlake High School and NFL player—are not only people of high standing in the community, but that they apparently made the singular decision to drink and drive after clearly knowing the danger of what might happen.

Who in the world doesn’t know by now that if you drink you shouldn’t drive?

How many times do we have to be told?

Modern ride-sharing services have never been more accessible, yet people who have imbibed are somehow still allowed to get behind the wheel under their own free will and drive themselves home. It’s unfathomable.

Friends don’t let friends drink and drive, do they?

Apparently they do.

Don’t be the one who thinks it’s cute and OK if your buddy is wobbly and leaves a restaurant to drive himself home.

Don’t be the one who thinks it’s cute and OK if your friend has two drinks in less than an hour and leaves to drive herself home.

A recent Gallup poll found two-thirds of American men, women and teenagers consume at least some alcohol, and that four in 10 drink regularly. That’s millions of potential drunk drivers on the road.

Don’t let it be you.

Don’t let it be someone you love.


Positivity rate, active cases hit 5-month low

PATH TO REOPENING—Moorpark Mayor Janice Parvin, left, Supervisor Bob Huber and Huber’s chief of staff, Joel Angeles, listen to a COVID-19 press conference by the County of Ventura at The Alley in Moorpark on Oct. 21. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers

PATH TO REOPENING—Moorpark Mayor Janice Parvin, left, Supervisor Bob Huber and Huber’s chief of staff, Joel Angeles, listen to a COVID-19 press conference by the County of Ventura at The Alley in Moorpark on Oct. 21. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers

Another Tuesday has come and gone and with it, the state’s weekly report telling counties where they fall on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s color-coded Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

Ventura County remains in the second-most restrictive red tier, even as metrics like positivity rate, hospitalizations and active cases are the lowest in five months.

To move up to the third, or orange, tier in the reopening scheme, the county needs to have a seven-day average case rate of 3.9 per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of 4.9% or lower.

Ventura County easily meets the latter qualifier with a positivity rate of 2.4% but is having difficulty meeting the daily average case rate, which is 5.1, an improvement, albeit small, over last week, said Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas at an Oct. 21 news briefing in Moorpark.

“Our numbers are improving, while modest for the case rate— that is, again, the more challenging one. We did improve from 5.2 to 5.1, definitely trending in the right direction,” he said.

CASE RATE—Ventura County Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas speaks during a COVID-19 press conference at The Alley in Moorpark on Oct. 21. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers

CASE RATE—Ventura County Public Health Director Rigoberto Vargas speaks during a COVID-19 press conference at The Alley in Moorpark on Oct. 21. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers

Because a county must meet a new tier’s requirements for two weeks in a row before moving into that tier, the earliest the county could progress into the orange tier is Nov. 3.

The major changes between the red and orange tiers are increases in maximum capacity limits for many indoor activities. Some businesses that are currently outdoor only, such as family entertainment centers and wineries, are allowed to move indoors with some capacity limits, and some businesses and activities that have been closed altogether would be allowed to open if the county were to move into the orange tier. Included in these are bars, breweries and distilleries, small amusement parks and live audience sports.

If case rates weren’t in play, the county would be in the orange tier already, Vargas said.

“On the other two metrics that we follow, per the state, we are doing so very well. That is the testing positivity rate. That number is just outstanding—both overall as a county average and for all communities, including those that are most heavily impacted by COVID,” he said.

The community count is a new health equity metric the state has added to the reopening formula.

Under the additional guidelines put in place to encourage counties to focus on disparities among communities, specific communities, in addition to the county as whole, must meet each benchmark.

“Even those highly impacted communities that correspond to high density, low income, often essential, younger working individuals from those communities, these numbers are trending in the right direction,” Vargas said.

While the county isn’t there yet in terms of squeezing into the orange tier, its overall COVID numbers, including those on which the state originally said it would base reopening, are down to where they were much earlier in the pandemic.

Seven-day average positive tests have hovered around the low 40s this week (with 80 new cases reported on Wednesday), numbers the county hasn’t seen since early June.

The number of active cases has stayed around 490 (492 on Wednesday), also comparable to early June. This week, the number of hospitalized COVID-positive patients is in the high 20s (29 on Wednesday), which is where the county was in mid-June.

Since mid-September, the number of COVID-positive ICU patients has hovered around 10 (with 13 reported Wednesday), also matching early June figures.

“Currently, the state is not using hospitalization numbers in the actual formal assignment of tiers. We continue to track these numbers,” Vargas said. “They continue to be very important numbers.”

For daily Ventura County COVID numbers, go online to vcrecovers.org.


Rent control is back on ballot

LOCAL LIMITS—Proposition 21 would expand the state’s existing rent control law to allow cities to place local limits on all residential property, including single-family homes that are over 15 years old.

LOCAL LIMITS—Proposition 21 would expand the state’s existing rent control law to allow cities to place local limits on all residential property, including single-family homes that are over 15 years old.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Two years after California voters rejected a measure to expand rent control statewide, a similar initiative is on the ballot this year.

Proposition 21 would expand the state’s existing rent control law, also known as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, to allow cities to place local limits on all residential property, including single-family homes that are over 15 years old. Costa-Hawkins states that rent controls can only be placed on apartment units that were built before Feb. 1, 1995.

Under Prop. 21, cities would also be able to limit rent increases to no more than 15% at the start of a new tenancy, according to the California Voter Information Guide. The measure would exempt what officials call “mom and pop landlords” who own no more than two single-family homes.

Supporters of the proposition say it will help address the state’s housing affordability crisis, which is leaving many people homeless. The situation has been made worse by the economic impact of COVID-19.

Opponents of the initiative worry that the measure could make it harder for residents on fixed incomes to find housing and that it could have the unintended effect of discouraging the construction of affordable housing in the state.

Affordable housing advocates and providers have differing opinions about how the initiative would affect the availability of affordable housing in the state.

The Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing—a Los Angeles-based advocate for affordable housing development that has several local members including Ventura County’s Many Mansions—is in favor of the ballot measure because it gives local leaders “an additional tool to preserve affordable housing in their communities,” said Mark Martinez, policy director.

The organization also believes it is a modest reform to California’s rent control law that will still give builders incentives to build new housing in the state.

“In cities where local leaders decide to enact stricter rental control for their community, Prop. 21 could help fight displacement by keeping vulnerable communities, people with low incomes and people of color in their homes,” Martinez said. “This can help stabilize neighborhoods while as a state we invest in building more affordable housing so that everyone in the state has a safe, affordable, stable home.”

The California Housing Consortium, a nonprofit organization that advocates for affordable housing, is opposing the measure because it believes the proposition could discourage the investment in and construction of affordable housing.

The organization said the proposition doesn’t give California’s latest rent control law, Assembly Bill 1482, a chance to protect renters. AB 1482, which limits annual rent increases to 5% plus inflation, was passed in 2019 and went into effect in January.

“A big reason why we land where we land today on Proposition 21 is because California had a rent control compromise that was signed last year by the governor and that compromise deserves a chance to work,” said Ray Pearl, executive director of the consortium and a member of the Westlake Village City Council. “We’re concerned that rent control stymies investment of capital in affordable housing production.”

Cities throughout Ventura County have not taken a position on the proposition.

“The City of Camarillo is not taking a position on this or any of the propositions. If the proposition does pass, we will then analyze it to determine next steps for Camarillo,” said Michelle Glueckert D’Anna, Camarillo’s community relations officer.

Officials from Moorpark, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo and Simi Valley said their city councils have not discussed rent control but would address the topic if Prop. 21 passes this November.

“Should the proposition be successful, the city will evaluate the content of the proposition and determine a course of action, if any,” Simi Valley City Manager Brian Gabler said.


Police union political ad draws criticism

 

A pair of political ads placed by the Simi Valley Police Officers Association raised the eyebrows of residents who submitted comments at Monday’s City Council meeting.

The full-page ads ran in the Oct. 9 and 16 editions of the Simi Valley Acorn; both endorsed the reelection campaigns of Mayor Keith Mashburn and Councilmember Dee Dee Cavanaugh. Neither ad endorsed anyone in the District 3 City Council race, in which incumbent Elaine Litster is squaring off against challengers T.J. McInturff and Ryan Valencia.

In the Oct. 9 ad, the union—which represents about 115 sworn officers and police personnel—said Mashburn and Cavanaugh “understand and support the police officers fully without question.”

Several residents, whose emails were read into the public record during the Oct. 19 meeting, took issue with that statement.

“Do you believe supporting a body of government without question demonstrates good leadership and fiscal responsibility?” one resident’s email said.

The resident went on to express concern about the amount of money SVPOA has contributed to both Mashburn and Cavanaugh’s campaigns.

“Should citizens be concerned that your unquestioning loyalty . . . has been bought? No department should be supported without question. In doing so you’re failing to carry out your duty. If you won’t ask important questions, perhaps we should elect representatives that will.”

Another commenter wrote, “No member of the City Council should be a rubber stamp. We elected you all to serve the public interest, not any particular government agency.”

Some residents were troubled by the ads because they implied that Mashburn and Cavanaugh were the only City Council candidates who supported the police. “Don’t be fooled!” the Oct. 16 ad said. “Other candidates want to defund the police.”

Defunding the police essentially means that funding would be taken away from police departments and reallocated to other community resources, like mental health services, social work or housing.

One resident said they were “surprised and disappointed” by the ads. By not mentioning Litster, the resident said, the ads implied that she was in favor of defunding the police.

“This is inaccurate,” the resident said in their email. “Elaine has always supported and will continue to support the police department.”

All totaled, the SVPOA’s ads elicited around 15 comments from residents.

Tactics raise questions

This isn’t the first time the association’s endorsement tactics have been called into question.

In 2018, the SVPOA was accused of colluding with the three City Council candidates it was endorsing.

The complaint filed by Willard Lubka, a Thousand Oaks resident and the social justice chair for the Democratic Club of the Conejo Valley, alleged that then-candidates Mike Judge, Keith Mashburn and Bill Daniels violated the Political Reform Act of 1974, which regulates campaign finances, conflicts of interest and lobbying.

It also raised questions of how much sway the police union has over local elections.

All parties denied the allegations and the Fair Political Practices Commission declined to investigate the matter due to insufficient evidence.

Councilmembers respond

Mashburn said he knew nothing about the SVPOA’s endorsement ads until they came out in the Acorn earlier this month.

“I do support law enforcement in a general sense, nationwide,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “More than I support the police department, I support the residents of this city and want to ensure a crime-free environment and I do that through support for law enforcement.”

Litster was adamant that she does support the police.

“One of my most important priorities (is safety) and I think that is the role of the city—to keep its citizens safe,” Litster said in response to the public comments. “Regardless of what ad was run, I’m not interested in defunding.”

POA President Tim Wedemeyer told the Acorn on Tuesday that the ads weren’t intended to imply that Litster was against the police because, he said, she has been very supportive. Rather, the ads were meant to spotlight the specific candidates the SVPOA had chosen to back.

The candidates were ultimately selected by the police union’s board and it was the board that collectively decided not to endorse any District 3 candidates, he said.

“With everything going on and the negativity we’re seeing, there are people who have an anti-police agenda and some of them are running in this race. We know that Mayor Mashburn and Dee Dee Cavanaugh support the police,” Wedemeyer said.

“But that doesn’t mean that they won’t hold us accountable or ask questions about the budget or daily operations. They just understand that training and personnel are important and they support the police.”

As for the mention of candidates who want to defund police, Wedemeyer said it’s no secret that there are some candidates who want to defund the police, whether they use the term defund, reallocate or redistribute.

“When (local leaders) are talking about defunding and budgetary issues, it comes down to (reducing costs) as much as possible without any implication of what it could do to the safety of a city,” Wedemeyer said, adding that personnel would likely be the first thing cut.

Cavanaugh dismissed the idea that she had been “bought” by the SVPOA and said the claim that one-third of all her campaign contributions had come from the union was untrue.

“When it comes to outside spending by (political action committees), we as candidates don’t have control (and) you’re not allowed to negotiate with them or work with them,” she said. “I have no idea what they spent and I haven’t looked.”

On Tuesday, Wedemeyer said the law only allows the police union PAC to donate $1,000 to campaigns it supports, which it did for both Mashburn and Cavanaugh.

In a letter to the Simi Valley Acorn this week, a resident also expressed concerns about signage.

The PAC bought and placed signs around town that say “Simi Cops endorse” Mashburn and Cavanaugh.

But the resident said the use of “Simi Cops” is deceptive because it infers the SVPOA PAC is speaking on behalf of the Simi Valley Police Department.

In response to that concern, Wedemeyer said: “We are speaking on behalf of Simi Cops.”

On the issue of defunding

Here’s what the other candidates running for mayor, and City Council Districts 1 and 3, had to say about defunding the police. Some responses came from a Sept. 23 virtual candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters and others were in direct response to the Acorn this week.

Joe Ayala: “My father was a policeman for many years . . . so the police are near and dear to my heart in many ways. I’m not a defund-the-police type of person but I do think that . . . we should really be using some of that money (on) crime prevention and community outreach. There shouldn’t be an us-and-them attitude between citizens and police.”

Robert Clarizio: “Looking at the breakdown of the budget, it’s right in line with everybody else (but) training is a big issue. I’ve lived here my whole life and the police department has come a long way; it wasn’t even a police department when I got here. I think training with everything going on right now (is) something that needs to be discussed. I’m totally against defunding.”

Brandon Fortuna: “Personally, I believe that 48% is a tad too high. I’m looking at figures from 2018. It seems Thousand Oaks is doing about 8% to 10% less in their police budget with about the same or slightly lower crime rate. I believe we can allocate some of those funds (for SVPD) to fund more social programs (that are) a little more preventive as opposed to punitive.”

Robbie Hidalgo: “Public safety is an absolute hallmark of the city. . . . Defunding the police may go down in history as probably the worst marketing phrase ever conjured up. In order to sustain public safety, we need to consider supplementation of public safety. . . . I don’t think there’s anything wrong with us starting to learn 21st-century policing tactics. So, I’m absolutely against defunding (but) I am for supplementing it.”

Phil Loos: “Despite claims to the contrary, neither I nor any other candidate that I’m aware of has called for defunding our police. . . . What I have asked for is that every city department be held to the same standards of efficiency, accountability and fiscal responsibility.”

T.J. McInturff: “I do not want to defund our police. We have one of the best police departments in the country.”

Ryan Valencia: “I do not support defunding of our police department as we seek to improve training and development of our personnel to maintain our high-quality community policing. I (also) do not discredit the role that social services play in the preemption of crime and will look to identify areas that our county services are failing to meet, whether it be behavioral health or addiction.”

Wayne Hampton Holland III did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.


VOTING

EASY AND SAFE—Simi Valley resident Jenny Fuller places her ballot in the official county drop box at the Simi Valley Library on Oct. 20. “We’re seeing a big usage of those boxes,” County Clerk-Recorder Mark Lunn said Photos by RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

EASY AND SAFE—Simi Valley resident Jenny Fuller places her ballot in the official county drop box at the Simi Valley Library on Oct. 20. “We’re seeing a big usage of those boxes,” County Clerk-Recorder Mark Lunn said Photos by RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

Spurred by the availability of mail-in ballots and ballot boxes, voters are turning out in record numbers for the Nov. 3 election, officials report.

In Ventura County, voters have three options to return their vote-bymail ballot: official ballot drop box, in-person voting location, or via the mail with no postage necessary. Residents can sign up for free ballot tracking online at wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov.

There will also be 48 in-person voting locations open Oct. 31 through Nov. 3. Ballot processing during the election cycle is open for public observation via live webcam and there are some limited opportunities for in-person viewing. To observe via Zoom or in person at the Elections Division, call (805) 654-2664 or email election.observer@ventura.org.

 

 

EVERY VOTE COUNTS—Paulette Clements (center) and Mike Flynn (above), both of Simi Valley, return their ballots at the county drop box at the Simi Library. Officials anticipate a record turnout this year.

EVERY VOTE COUNTS—Paulette Clements (center) and Mike Flynn (above), both of Simi Valley, return their ballots at the county drop box at the Simi Library. Officials anticipate a record turnout this year.

 

 


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