I know, a better question would be: Should I change the name of this blog to The Fillmore Estate?

Lately, it’s the one municipality in our stately Ventura County I’ve scrawled about the most on here, but for good reason: it just goes to show that this tiny little enclave has seen a heckuva good amount of activity of the criminal kind.

Received a police report this weekend reporting on a supposed gang-related assault on two men … two times, no less.

According to the sheriff’s department, both men, 22 and 49 respectively, were kicked, punched and hit with a rock by the gangsters, in a pair of incidents that left the victims with moderate-to-serious injuries.

The alleged gang members? Only 16 and 17 years old.

Authorities are expected to make more arrests in this case, which makes me wonder if the Fillmore brass’d be wise to follow in the footsteps of Oxnard, where two gang injunctions are in place legally that both identify known gang members and disallow them from perpetuating certain criminal behaviors.

The injunctions have worked to reasonable success in the county’s most violent city. Could other cities have good use for an injunction as well?

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A death in the family

March 27, 2009

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L.A. CityBeat, one of our sister papers, is gone.

Our group publisher announced today that yesterday’s issue of March 26 would be the alt-weekly’s last. The paper, like so many others countrywide, has struggled to stay afloat in this economy, not to mention against the backlash of print-based publications.

It was a shock to hear the news because, like the term “sister paper” implies, it’s like losing a close member of the family. I never met anyone from CityBeat, but I did read their work and I know their editorial and production schedules were like our own here in Ventura, where it’s hard enough to pump out a quality product even when the economy is thriving and readership is high.

They will be sorely missed as a member of the Southland Publishing family.

I wouldn’t say there’s any part of Ventura County that’s a slice of bucolic paradise (Thousand Oaks likes to think it is), but I have to say my attention’s been piqued by the madness in Fillmore lately, a seemingly sleepy town that almost always fails to register on the news radar.

The past weekend alone, police begin their search for two men suspected of assaulting and carjacking another man outside a local restaurant.

Authorities have also been on the lookout for three teenage boys thought to be the culprits in a rash of graffiti “Krew” taggings across town.

And let’s not forget the case of the exploding soft drink vending machine. A Fillmore teen, according to police, was charged with blowing up the cola depository with an explosive device.

And those are just a few of the problems plaguing the kind city these days; if you remember, a few weeks ago I blogged about the internal gaffes happening down at city hall, where three top-ranking officials bid adieu to their posts.

If there was some sort of award given out for this sort of thing, Fillmore could win “most surprising newcomer in criminal activity.” Current title holder is Oxnard. Watch out!

Bury this fiasco already

March 17, 2009

The jaunty, playful bond between human and dog should remain at Cemetery Park, say petitioners.

The jaunty, playful bond between human and dog should remain at Cemetery Park, say petitioners.

I didn’t call it a fiasco. They did. About a thousand times over.

At least that’s about how many fliers petitioning a graveyard memorial project I saw plastered this weekend on every single car up and down Poli Street, the downtown thoroughfare that crosses with Cemetery Park.

Cemetery Park, to the uninitiated, is the infamous burial ground turned dog park that an army of Venturans is hoping to keep that way. They oppose an expensive project backed by city hall that calls for a series of bronze markers, a topiary garden and remembrance wall to immortalize the more than 3,000 pioneers interred there, much to the chagrin of petitioners who want a dog park, and traditionalists who want neither, preferring instead the parcel revert to its original, stoic cemetery state.

The petitions were distributed around town during Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, where the project was vehemently called a “fiasco” on the 8×11-sized papers. As of last month, the petition had garnered about 500 signatures; it’d be interesting to see how many more were obtained through last weekend’s windshield effort.

Does it qualify as propagandist on their behalf? Perhaps … but at least they could get their facts straight. The last we reported on the matter, it was verified by officials that the project would cost less than $4 million. Petitioners for the Preserve Cemetery Park awareness effort, however, still maintain that original, and rumored, dollar figure.

Three thousand, four million, six feet under … when will the fiasco end?

The Destroying Angel

March 10, 2009

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As a vegetarian, normally I’d be singing the praises of mushrooms and the nutritious culinary delight they can bring to one’s palate, but after learning of a Santa Barbara man’s death last week from accidental mushroom poisoning, I wanted to devote a blog post as a warning to people who like to scavenge for and pick wild foliage.

A quick scan of the Web reveals that the mushroom, which the man picked wild from a preserve near Arroyo Burro Beach and sauteed it with his dinner, was an amanita ocreata. Known unofficially as the “Western North American Destroying Angel,” it is highly toxic and deadly.

It can also be deceptive to the inexperienced, according to findings on the Web, because the mushrooms closely resemble varieties of the non-poisonous kind … hence the very oxymoronic nickname.

So just as a friendly reminder: be safe and careful about what you eat!

It’s hard when a paper with the barest bones of a skeleton crew has the responsibility of covering the goings on of an entire county. That’s a ratio of about 800,000 people to a scant editorial team of a token three.

Since I’ve been here, I can’t recall ever writing something about that wee, tiny little enclave of a town called Fillmore, a population of under 14,000 contributing to just a fraction of the county’s demographic (I also just discovered that we don’t even distribute our publication there). So I thought I’d take the opportunity to make some comments on the city by saying:

What the hell is going on in Fillmore?!

Since the beginning of the New Year, just under two months ago, three — count ’em, three — city officials have resigned from their posts under the most peculiar of circumstances.

Special Projects Manager Roy Payne quit last month, followed by the resignation of City Manager Tom Ristau last week. Just a few days ago, a third resignation, that of Steve McClary, the city’s administrative services manager, was announced.

It’s been surmised that the first two resignations came about after a disapproval of a city council decision to perform job performance reviews on these men. The daily paper said this, at least, but didn’t really clarify if that was the real reason.

Were these men pushed? Did they jump willingly? Was there something covert going on behind the scenes that prompted them to step down? Are these officials hiding something? Is it a case of some suppressed corruption just waiting to see the light of day? And just who’s running the town’s local government anyway? In my view, that is one too many resignations of some top officials to pass over without a thought.

These types of suspicions, I say, are the same for any town in Ventura County, or in the world, for that matter, where one wonders who really is controlling city hall.

They may say less is more, but for the time being, a more fitting name for Fillmore could be “Fill-Less.”