Walking along Main Street in Ventura towards the midtown this weekend, I noticed for the first time a lawn sign announcing the Web site of a group called the Prison Hospital Action Committee, or PHAC, for short.

What was once an unofficial collection of Camarillo residents appears to be building up, stronger and stronger, in their opposition against a proposed prisoners’ medical facility a federal agent is looking to dispatch into a town still trying to shake off its bad reputation for housing a mental hospital that’s been the subject of infamy and myth in many a pop song.

According to the Web site, it looks like PHAC has about 300 members and eight volunteer groups, and they’re looking for donations to cover the costs of the anti-hospital ad campaign.

Does PHAC have its “PHACts” straight about the prison hospital? Read and be the judge: http://www.PHAC.org

Who knew that a noteworthy tract of land could mean so many things to so many people? Wednesday evening’s special city parks and rec commission meeting in Ventura was packed to the gills with people voicing their views on Cemetery Park, that quiet, green tract of land between Poli and Main streets that has been gaining quite a bit of noise lately.

The meeting was held to unveil a concept project for the cemetery-turned-dog park; erection of a memorial wall, planting of lush gardens, along with some thousands of grave markers, so costly that even the concept plans seen last night amounted to more than this writer’s annual salary.

But it looked like every penny went into the study, and the contract team behind it even took into account the terraced memorial garden, proposed for the park’s far end, as a reflection of Ventura’s local ecology and riparian habitat. It’s an attempt, they said, of recalling the “memory of the earth” as a mirror to the city’s work in recalling the memories of the 3,000 dead interred there.

I’m not so sure many of the residents in attendance at the meeting — many longtime and retired — warmed up to the glossy L.A. design of the concept and presentation. There was a sense in the room that nobody knows the needs of Ventura like they do.

Yet, if it was up to a popular vote, opinion would be split three ways: should we preserve Cemetery Park for what it once was, keep it as the parkland it is today, or agree to compromise?

It may not be that simple, according to a very perceptive audience. One man questioned the study’s lack of addressing storm drainage capacity.  Another man, the heritage of the interred’s Chumash members. And still, praise from another woman who has family buried there.

One thing I’m wondering is: are we doing this more to please the living of Ventura, or the dead?

Montecito Burning

November 14, 2008

As of last night, over 100 homes have been destroyed and people displaced from the Tea Fire in Montecito.

The blaze has officially done more damage to the area than the Zaca Fire two years ago. Firefighters are working around the clock to extinguish the fire, which, according to some reports, can be seen from certain parts of Ventura.

Every vote counts for U

November 14, 2008

The fact that ballots are still being tallied more than a week after Election Day reveals how many people turned out to exercise their right of contributing to free government. And in Ventura County, it means voters wait with bated breath to see who officially wins some very contentious, and close, political races.

None so more evident is Measure U, the proposal to usher in an official, unified school district to Camarillo.

Talk about a razor sharp, neck-and-neck race. As of Wednesday afternoon, the measure was losing by just over a 1,000-vote margin. Officially, the “no” side is leading with 38,551 votes; the “yes” side, 37,513.

No matter what happens with Measure U, it goes to show that, indeed, every vote counts.

Drop, cover and hold on!!

November 12, 2008

Get ready for the big one, Ventura County.

Tomorrow (Nov. 13) is the date of the Great Southern California ShakeOut, a precautionary earthquake drill taking place all over the region, where us Californians are privy to the testy and unpredictable nature of the San Andreas Faultline, notorious for some major seismic activity that last hit the area in July. (Here in Ventura, we felt tremors from that quake — imagine how bad it was down in L.A.)

It looks like the drill, which will take place at 10 a.m., is sort of a simultaneous duck-and-cover exercise not unlike what students and office workers familiarized themselves with during the air raid drills of World War II. In terms of emergency response, drills like this are very good practice because, as we all know, some of the most dangerous — and fatal — natural disasters are earthquakes. Raising awareness to them is important.

The ShakeOut Web site says that more than 75,000 Ventura County businesses, schools and groups are registered and will take part tomorrow morning.

To find out more about the drill, visit shakeout.org.

Hopeful for homeless health

November 10, 2008

It looks like a Ventura County goodwill project to provide some much-needed health care for the area’s homeless population is getting some much-needed financial help it deserves.

The county department of health is going to receive from state officials in health and human services, a $245,000 grant towards “Healthcare for the Homeless,” set up to provide medical care for transient and homeless people in Ventura. The good news came down today from Lois Capps’ office.

It’s the second five-year grant cycle county health has successfully lobbied for, says Kate Mills, the program’s administrator. The funds, she said, go towards primary care, vision and dental services for the homeless populations.

Currently, there are free homeless clinics located at Oxnard Public Health, Project Understanding, Conejo Free Clinic, Free Clinic of Simi Valley, Santa Paula Public Health and Ventura Public Health, according to the project’s Web site.

It’s about time we started thinking of the homeless community as a part of the community by offering this kind of outreach. A walk down Main Street in Ventura, at just about any time of the day or night, is proof that there is a very large homeless population here with the same needs for health and well being that we have.

If you or someone you know could benefit from the service, call the Ventura clinic on Loma Vista Road at 652-6694.