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Simi Valley Acorn News

Spray perps with red dye?

Authorities are trying to track down the people that occupied the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by reviewing photos and videos; a slow process that will miss a great many of the perpetrators.

In the future, should such an event occur, there is far easier method of identification: Develop a red dye that cannot be washed off and spray the crowd. Banks employ such a dye placed in a bundle of money that explodes if involved in a bank robbery. Use that existing dye.

It will be easy to not only identify perpetrators but would serve as irrefutable evidence of their presence. It would also cause them shame when appearing in public.

Charles Munroe
Simi Valley


In the Jan. 8 article “New year, higher utility rates,” it was stated that the average residential use of 550 kWh will amount to an increase of $8.80 per month on Southern California Edison bills. That increase is based on 500 kWh, not 550 kWh.

There were two errors in the Jan. 8 article “Hawks take charge over skies.” The name of the bird abatement company was incorrect; the correct name is “Hawk Pros Bird Control LLC.” Also, falconer James Yu has worked with the company for four months, not four years as was reported.

Happy about pickleball lights

A big thank you goes to Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District for providing new lights for pickleball players who play at Lemon Park in the evening.

The original lighting plan at the park had no lights leading from the courts to the parking lot. Putting in new lights would have required permits and arrangements with city officials, no fun to be sure.

However, head of development, Wayne Nakaoka, created a perfect solution by adding new lights to existing poles and bringing smiles to many players, who for many years carried flashlights to their cars every night.

Can’t thank the district enough.

Bill Clark
Simi Valley

Getting things done with tact and diplomacy

While dissent among lawmakers continues to build in Washington, D.C., all was calm inside and outside Simi Valley City Hall on Monday when the council met to discuss planning commission appointments and other matters at its first meeting of 2021.

Instead of protesting outside, residents turned to Zoom to share their views with city officials during the public comments portion of the meeting Jan 11. Many of them wanted the council to redo the vote to allow Ruth Luevanos to be the mayor pro tem for 2021.

The council members were more poised and cooperative, too. The acrimony we’ve come to expect from the council didn’t surface, which was refreshing. It seems as if there was a conscious effort to quell the inflammatory rhetoric, and perhaps the events last week at the Capitol had something to do with that.

Yes, there were diverging opinions expressed about how to proceed with planning commission appointments and what questions could and couldn’t be posed to Dawn Gray, who was nominated by Luevanos to serve a two-year term on the commission (see story on Page 1).

But this time the tone was different. Ever notice how the tone of your voice can make all the difference? It can either encourage dialogue or hinder it.

It was a welcome sight to see the council members so focused and on task.

After some discussion, they voted unanimously to appoint Gray, who will now be one of five voices on the planning commission, which makes recommendations about land-use issues and proposed developments. Commissioners’ terms runs concurrent with the council member who nominated them.

Each council member chooses an appointee on the commission. But the entire council must vote to approve the individuals. In addition to confirming Gray, officials reappointed commissioners Tim Hodge, Allan Mann and John Tolson.

Appointing the commission members was one of several items on the agenda during the nearly four-hour meeting Monday.

Each topic was addressed productively.

With everything that’s going on in our nation, it was uplifting to see our elected officials start the new year on the right foot.

We know it’s not always easy to work together, especially when philosophies differ, but so much more can get done with respectful discourse. Keep it up. The people of Simi Valley need you to lead the way.

As Mayor Keith Mashburn said on Monday, our city is at a critical juncture—with COVID endangering people’s health and mental well-being, as well as their livelihoods— and it’s imperative that we focus deeply on what needs to be done.

Sheriff’s office issues statement on ‘First Amendment auditors’

A man caused quite a stir at a Camarillo restaurant in early October when he walked past diners and began filming them as they sat outdoors and ate on the patio.

After employees and customers began asking him what he was doing, he told them it was his right to film them. As he stood on the sidewalk holding his camera, he began hurling insults their way in an attempt to spark a reaction.

“I don’t know what’s so exciting about this,” one customer says to the man.

“Nothing is exciting until you approach me,” he responds.

The videographer was one of many so-called First Amendment auditors, individuals who film in public places to test free speech policies and exercise their constitutional rights.

The auditors often act pushy or unruly to provoke a heated response that they can capture on camera. The resulting confrontations are then used to create videos that are posted online, often under sensational titles like “Arrest Me! I Dare You!” that net thousands of views and dollars for the auditors.

Over the past few years, First Amendment auditors have shown up to film inside Thousand Oaks City Hall, outside the Ventura County Juvenile Justice Center and in the Ventura California Highway Patrol office. The interactions prompted some public agencies to provide additional training to their staff members.

“Recognizing that folks have the right to film on public property, we have since provided training to all employees in how to properly respond to their requests for information,” said Melissa Hurtado, a spokesperson for the City of Thousand Oaks.

In recent months, First Amendment auditors have expanded their reach, opting to film Ventura County residents on their neighborhood walks or employees at their workplaces.

Complaints about their actions have become so common that the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office sent out a news release detailing how individuals should respond to a First Amendment auditor if they encounter one in the community.

“The tactics used by ‘auditors’ have been commonly experienced by law enforcement and other governmental agencies for several years, but the targeting of private businesses is new to the Ventura County area,” the sheriff’s office wrote.

According to police, First Amendment auditors often show up in public areas where filming is legal but considered unusual in order to draw attention.

“This first step is critical, because it may be out of the ordinary to see someone filming at a business or in a government building,” officials said of the activity, which is intended to make people uncomfortable.

When individuals are asked why they are filming, they will either remain silent or make offensive comments to provoke a conflict or involve law enforcement. When officers respond, the auditors usually employ the same tactics to inspire a further confrontation.

The situation, police said, is complicated because California law states that anyone in public view does not have a reasonable, or legal, expectation of privacy. The law allows First Amendment auditors to record other individuals if they are in public places, like sidewalks.

Because of this, officers advise residents to “simply disengage and walk away” if they encounter a First Amendment auditor.

“If a confrontation does not occur, they will likely pack up their equipment and go somewhere else,” officials said. “A lack of confrontation leads to fewer videos of interest, fewer clicks on their pages and less income.”

Vaccine seekers jam county registration system

GET IN LINE —The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed to residents at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Officials hope to vaccinate up to 1,000 people a day at the site. MICHAEL COONS Acorn Newspapers

GET IN LINE —The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed to residents at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Officials hope to vaccinate up to 1,000 people a day at the site. MICHAEL COONS Acorn Newspapers

Ventura County’s seniors are going to have to wait a little longer to receive their COVID-19 shots.

New guidelines handed down Wednesday by the state called for the vaccine to be made available to all people 65 and up, which the county says it will do—once it’s finished inoculating healthcare workers who are part of Phase 1A.

Seniors are Phase 1B, and until the state’s Jan. 13 announcement, were going to be classified as those 75 and up.

Barry Zimmerman, the county healthcare agency deputy director, saidduringa1p.m.pressconference Wednesday that the county is still in the process of vaccinating people in the first phase, a group that includes between 35,000 and 40,000 people.

“The governor is making that a priority for us, to serve a greater number of the senior population,” Zimmerman said. “But I want to be clear: we are moving them (seniors) up in priority but they’re still in Phase 1B, which is our next phase to go into.”

At its current pace, the county won’t begin Phase 1B until February, Zimmerman said. He said as soon as the county receives doses of the vaccine, it schedules appointments to provide shots.

COVETED SHOT—Registered nurse Veronica Silva, left, administers the COVID vaccine to William Fernandez of Oxnard at the Ventura County Fairgrounds Jan. 12 in Ventura MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers

COVETED SHOT—Registered nurse Veronica Silva, left, administers the COVID vaccine to William Fernandez of Oxnard at the Ventura County Fairgrounds Jan. 12 in Ventura MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers

Just this week, the county began vaccinating people in a large building at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura; 500 were vaccinated Friday, 600 on Monday and over 1,000 on Tuesday.

To date, 15,000 people in the county have received at least one of the two required shots, Zimmerman said Wednesday.

“When we get to Phase 1B, we will be dealing with the senior population as well as essential and essential workers are those on the front line, and so it would be grocery workers, agricultural workers, law enforcement and so forth,” he said.

Rush to register

The announcement came just as the county was contending with a flaw in the state’s online vaccination registration system that allows people who are not classified under Phase 1A, and even those with no connection to the county, to book an appointment to receive the vaccine at the fairgrounds.

As a result, the county’s website showed all appointments were booked within hours.

Originally, the county’s public health department was contacting sectors directly with the registration information.

“For example, all the hospital workers were notified and knew where to go to get it, and same with other areas,” said county spokesperson Ashley Bautista via email.

The problem started when the link was made publicly available.

“We decided to make that link public for those that may have been missed through direct sector outreach once we moved to Tier 1, 2 and 3 (of Phase 1A),” she said.

The county shared the information in a news release, on social media, at a board of supervisors meeting and in TV interviews.

Now it’s asking people to refrain from registering unless they fit in one of the segments included in the first round. It does residents no good to register if they can’t prove they belong to one of the approved segments, officials said.

“You will be turned away at the vaccine site and you will take a spot for someone who is in the current phase,” the county said in a published statement. “Please review Phase 1A Tier 1, 2 and 3 before registering.”

The county is now asking people who are not in Phase 1A who made appointments via the registration link to cancel them.

“People should cancel their appointments via the email confirmation sent to them and hold tight until their phase opens,” Bautista said.


Phase 1A of the county’s vaccine rollout is only for those working in a health-related field. Anyone who makes an appointment to receive the vaccine will need to show proof of employment when they arrive to receive their shot. The county hopes to move into Phase 1B, which includes people 65 and older, in early February.

New planning commissioner seated

Dawn Gray

Dawn Gray

Dawn Gray will join the Simi Valley Planning Commission when the board meets for the first time this year.

On Monday, the City Council unanimously voted to appoint Gray to the board, which acts in an advisory role to the council on development and other projects.

Gray will replace John Casselberry Jr., who resigned from the five-member board in December to accept a job out of town. He was appointed to the role in 2018 by Councilmember Ruth Luevanos.

Gray told the Acorn on Tuesday that she’s honored to be appointed to the planning commission and is looking forward to her first meeting on Jan. 20.

“I’m really looking forward to working with those who have been on a lot longer and hopefully the projects that come our way are ones that will help to beautify the city,” Gray said.

Commissioners are nominated by one council member and then approved by a vote of the entire council. Because Luevanos appointed Casselberry, she was responsible for making the nomination to replace him.



“I’m very excited to have Dawn Gray as our newest . . . commissioner,” Luevanos said. “She has volunteered for a number of community organizations and programs, demonstrating her passion and dedication to serve in our community. She is ready to make sure that housing and business needs match the varied levels of economic opportunities in our community.”

Gray has lived in Simi for 26 years. She served on Neighborhood Council No. 2 and ran for Mayor in 2018. She has a degree in accounting and is a licensed tax consultant.

Before voting, council members could ask Gray questions.

Councilmember Dee Dee Cavanaugh thanked Gray for the volunteer work she’s done in the city and asked her why she wanted to be a planning commissioner.

Gray said she’s always been concerned about the town’s development. She said there is a time to grow and a time not to grow.

“It’s important we work with the community as well as the businesses (so) we can make this a really great city for the needs that come our way,” Gray said.



Councilmember Mike Judge asked Gray if she wanted to respond to resident Joe Piechowski, who said during public comments that he disapproved of her because she had a prior run-in with police.

Before she could answer, City Attorney Lonnie Eldridge said a 2018 law states someone can’t be asked about criminal convictions or arrests prior to a conditional employment offer. Judge retracted his question and Gray did not to elaborate.

The council ultimately voted unanimously to appoint Gray as the newest commissioner, as well as reappoint Tim Hodge, Allan Mann and John Tolson.

Commissioners’ terms run concurrent with the council member who nominated them. Because Cavanaugh, Elaine Litster and Keith Mashburn were reelected in the fall, the commissioners they had chosen previously—Mann, Tolson and Hodge, respectively—needed to be reappointed. (Council members could also have opted to nominate someone new.)



Hodge, a 31-year Simi resident and attorney, has served on the commission since 2012, including as vice-chair in 2016 and chair in 2017 and 2019.

He has also served on Neighborhood Council No. 3, the Community Block Grant Advisory Committee, the Simi Valley Free Clinic board and the committee for the Simi Valley Vision 20/20 Project.

Hodge thanked Luevanos for appointing Casselberry, saying he had been effective and personable.

“Ms. Gray, I look forward to working with you,” Hodge said. “And thank you to the council for appointing us. . . . I look forward to two more years, or four depending on who you are.”

Mann, a real estate broker, joined the commission in 2016. He is the current chair.

The 52-year resident is a longtime Rotary Club member. He’s also a member of Simi’s Education Foundation and supports the YMCA, Free Clinic and Boys and Girls Club.



Tolson moved to Simi in 1978 and was appointed to the commission in 2018. He is director of marketing for the Chamber of Commerce, an insurance agent and member of the Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise.

He has worked with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a founding member of the Simi Valley Interfaith Council.

Ken Rice, the fifth commissioner, was appointed by Judge. Rice’s seat is up for reappointment in 2022.

Future appointments

Planning commissioners are currently nominated by a council member and approved by a vote of the entire council. At the very end of Monday’s meeting, Mayor Keith Mashburn suggested the council discuss a new way of selecting commissioners. Rather than each council member picking a commissioner to nominate, they could instead put out a call to the community to see who’s interested, much like they do for Neighborhood Councils and other advisory committees. Applications would then be reviewed by the council and the best person would be chosen.

“The way we’re doing it now (isn’t) wrong but we could improve,” he said. “As I see it, me being able to choose one person stifles many others that may be interested in serving and may have special talent in this area. My (intent is to) build a stronger . . . planning commission.”

Luevanos seconded the idea, meaning that it will come up for future discussion.

Supervisors to vote on new DA later this month

TOP PROSECUTOR—Greg Totten’s last day as Ventura County district attorney was Jan. 9. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on his replacement Jan. 26. Whomever is appointed to fill the role will serve the remaining 18 months on Totten’s term. Acorn file photo

TOP PROSECUTOR—Greg Totten’s last day as Ventura County district attorney was Jan. 9. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on his replacement Jan. 26. Whomever is appointed to fill the role will serve the remaining 18 months on Totten’s term. Acorn file photo

Ventura County is advertising for its next district attorney.

The position of top prosecutor, which pays a starting salary of $288,000, has been vacant since Jan. 9, when longtime D.A. Greg Totten stepped down to take a job with the California District Attorneys Association in Sacramento.

As is law in California, the Board of Supervisors will appoint a person to serve the remaining 18 months on Totten’s term, which ends June 2022.

At a special meeting Jan. 5, the supervisors decided on a process and timeline that would allow for them to call for applications, review resumes, conduct interviews and appoint a new department head before the end of the month.

There have been 24 district attorneys in the history of the county—all white men—but only two in the past 42 years: Totten (2002-2021) and Michael Bradbury (1978-2002).

The office has a staff of 278 regular employees and is responsible for prosecuting and investigating crimes in the county and enforcing child support orders.

Among those expected to apply: Cheryl Temple, chief assistant district attorney since August 2019. Totten, speaking to the Acorn in November, said he strongly supports Temple for the position.

The breadth of the pool of applicants is up to the board, the county’s legal counsel told the supervisors. While the supervisors could simply appoint Totten’s No. 2, they chose to hold an open call.

Supervisor Kelly Long said that while Totten had recommended Temple for the position, the board wanted to have an open recruitment to find the next D.A.

Long said she’s aware of as many as five people who have indicated interest in the job. To be considered, an applicant must be a Ventura County resident, a registered voter and licensed and in good standing with the California State Bar.

Finalists will be interviewed in public during the supervisors’ Tues., Jan. 26 meeting, which starts at 8:30 a.m. It’s possible they will name Totten’s replacement at that meeting.

Among those who will compete with Temple for the position: former Republican Assemblymember Jeff Gorell, who served as a deputy district attorney from 1999 to 2006. Gorell now works for the City of Los Angeles as the deputy mayor for homeland security and public safety.

Reached Monday, the longtime Camarillo resident confirmed he planned to apply.

“It’s my dream job,” he said in a text.

“I’ve been working in pubreleased lic safety my entire life, in law enforcement, law practice and law-making. I’m likely the only applicant to have authored written or amended many of the laws that the D.A.’s office has to enforce.”

Gorell, who was defeated by Democrat Julia Brownley in a 2014 congressional race to represent Ventura County, served two terms in the Assembly.

Another name that has been floated: current Deputy D.A. Erik Nasarenko, a council member for the City of Ventura.

Pick three

Per a motion by Supervisor Linda Parks, should the county receive more than 15 qualified applicants, each supervisor will select three top picks to interview and send those names to the county staff, which will compile a list.

The questioning will take place in the open and will be available for public viewing, though the meeting, like the supervisors’ other meetings, will be conducted online due to COVID.

Whomever the supervisors select would have the advantage of running as an incumbent in the 2022 election, which would take place June 7, Long said.

“There are some people who say that if we appoint someone today, we’re giving them a foot up, a step up for elections,” said the supervisor, who hinted at choosing someone who was not interested in running for reelection.

While supervisors can voice their preference for applicants who indicate they will not run in 2022, there’s nothing binding in it, county counsel said.

In its advertisement for the position, the county says applicants should have comprehensive knowledge of criminal law, procedure and evidentiary standards, general office management and public agency fiscal matters.

The county will accept applications until Tues., Jan. 19.

Teen remembered for kind heart, comedic charm

A LEGACY OF LIGHT— Above, Braden and his mom, Amanda Wilson, taken on his first day at Santa Susana High School. Left, Braden and his cousin Baylee Larcom in December 2015. Clarissa Larcom, Baylee’s mom and Braden’s aunt, said the two had an extremely close bond and they often called Baylee his “sister-cousin.”

A LEGACY OF LIGHT— Above, Braden and his mom, Amanda Wilson, taken on his first day at Santa Susana High School. Left, Braden and his cousin Baylee Larcom in December 2015. Clarissa Larcom, Baylee’s mom and Braden’s aunt, said the two had an extremely close bond and they often called Baylee his “sister-cousin.”

Though barely in his teens, Simi Valley’s Braden Wilson understood that the human experience was filled with both light and darkness.

In a speech to his eighth-grade class two years ago, he said there would be days when “everything is going your way . . . when you just feel happy.” But he also knew to expect days filled with sadness, days when you feel like “you are going to explode.”

Braden’s family and friends are doing their best to remember the happy times as they come to terms with his death at the age of 15 due to complications from COVID-19. The sophomore at Santa Susana High School contracted the virus after undergoing unrelated surgery last month. His condition began to spiral after he developed a rare inflammatory syndrome that’s linked to COVID, and he died Jan. 5.

He leaves behind a legacy of light. Those who knew him say his comedic charm, witty sense of humor and joyful spirit brightened their lives. He loved art, computers and gaming, but he valued family most of all.

Photos courtesy of the Wilson family

Photos courtesy of the Wilson family

“Braden held our family together. He is my only child and I can’t have any more children,” Amanda Wilson, the boy’s mother, told the Simi Valley Acorn. “He was my miracle . . . and a special light in the darkest of times. . . . He will always be so special.”

According to Clarissa Larcom, the teen’s aunt, Braden went into the hospital Dec. 10 for minor surgery after receiving a negative COVID-19 test. His recovery was progressing smoothly, but on Dec. 27 he was taken to Adventist Health Simi Valley’s emergency room because of heavy bleeding from the surgical wound.

Larcom said her nephew was transferred to UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital on Dec. 28 and once again tested negative for coronavirus. He was released from UCLA on Dec. 29, but two days later he returned to Simi’s emergency room because of COVID-like symptoms and tested positive. Despite severe COVID symptoms, Larcom said Braden was and told to recover at home.

BRAVE AND SWEET—Braden in a Halloween costume that he made with his mom in 2016. Courtesy of the Wilson family

BRAVE AND SWEET—Braden in a Halloween costume that he made with his mom in 2016. Courtesy of the Wilson family

On Jan. 2, Braden was having trouble breathing and was once again taken by ambulance to the local emergency room, where he went into cardiac arrest. Hospital staffers had to administer CPR to resuscitate him. Larcom said Braden was then transferred to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles because the Simi hospital was overrun by COVID cases.

Braden died three days later after experiencing multiple complications due to COVID. Larcom said he had developed MIS-C, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a condition in which different body parts become inflamed and shut down.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Jan. 8 there have been 1,659 cases of MIS-C cases diagnosed in the United States and 26 deaths.

Though Braden is gone, Larcom said his spirit will continue to loom large.

“Braden was and will always be the glue that keeps our family together and coming back together for family dinners and game nights,” she said. “He really loved spending time with everyone and laughing and having fun.”

SSHS Principal Matthew Guzzo said he learned of Braden’s passing Jan. 5.

“I was heartbroken and could not stop thinking about his mom and what she must be going through,” Guzzo said.

“Braden is a special young man. Everyone who knew him was better for knowing him. The loss of a student impacts everyone in the community.”

To help students and staff grieve, the district had a crisis team of counselors, nurses, psychologists and administrators available.

“Our teachers are also hypersensitive to the students’ needs during this time,” Guzzo said. “The leadership team will meet this week to explore ideas of how to honor Braden.”

When Braden wasn’t focused on his studies, he poured time into his hobbies, which included art, computers, video editing and swimming.

Wilson said her son started drawing and painting when he was young. Between the ages of 6 and 9, he won several ribbons at the Ventura County Fair for his oil paintings.

His sense of humor even landed him on “Seriously Funny Kids” in 2011 when he was a kindergartner. Heidi Klum hosted the Lifetime series and she would interact with kids to bring out their funny side.

“(Braden) was very witty, was very good at a quick comeback or one-liner,” his mom said. “I looked forward to how his humor could lighten a mood and his giggle was contagious.”

Larcom said Braden enjoyed playing video games and watching and making videos. Over the past few years he had gotten into horror movies and had made a list of favorites to watch with his mother.

Unfortunately, they only made it through three before his passing, Larcom said.

Larcom said her nephew was a “pure-spirited young man” who pushed past his fears and never gave up on anyone.

His kind-hearted nature came through in that eighth-grade speech. If you see someone having a bad day, he told his peers, “help them, listen to them and be there for them.”

Larcom was impressed by those words.

“He was truly brave and sweet and smarter than his years,” she said.

“He did things his own way and didn’t follow the norm,” she continued. “He was and forever will be our big Braden boy. We love you Braden and please continue to watch over us, especially your mother, just like you always did here on Earth every day and as she has done for you.”

Larcom and her sister, Heather Brassil, created a GoFundMe to help cover medical bills and costs for a memorial service. As of Thursday afternoon, the site had garnered more than $16,700.

Donations can be made at memorial-services.

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