Out of all the beverages that Ventura County Health Control must take away, why the elixir of the gods? Why?

Coffee, that magic beverage uniting our caffeinated community. The drink that binds the universe together! Imagining a world without coffee is like imagining a world experiencing an eternity of darkness from which it will never recover.

Do Ventura County health code officials care? Of course not! In just one of many examples of unnecessary enforcement, another business has been forced to suffer from the health police cracking their whips, again.

This time, it’s reported that the complimentary coffee and donuts served daily at the counter of a Camarillo hardware/gardening/pest control/DIY shop can’t be served any longer to customers.

Were they spiking the French Roast with some pesticide? WD-40 perhaps? Or some other toxic blend unpalatable to the senses?

No. In typical health department fashion, the default reason is that the store can’t serve the complimentaries because it doesn’t have the necessary facilities to do so.

In this case, “facilities” aren’t extra stirrers, or a better variety of confectionary sprinkles, but a fully installed, stainless steel sink and kitchen prep station.

Stainless steel at a hardware store? No problem! They can install one in a jiffy, right?

Right, but why should they have to? I mean, unless the shop was intent on serving up some panini, perhaps, or maybe even a buffet spread for its lunchtime patrons, a full-service kitchen station is not necessary. Unless you’re a restaurant. That’s why restaurants have full-service prep facilities, and hardware stores have … well, the hardware needed to build a kitchen!

And just because a store has the materials to build a kitchen doesn’t mean that one should be built there.

This is not the first time we’ve heard of this happening before. We Olive, the Downtown Ventura condiment and olive oil vendor, has had its battles with the health department before over similar disputes. Because the proprietor is handling foodstuff without the proper handwashing and prep necessities, the de rigueur is compromised.

According to the We Olive personnel, the Ventura County location is the only place this has happened to the company, with storefronts across the state.

That means that Ventura County health officials, who will maintain that they follow the letter of state law, are following their own unique set of rules just because they can. Sounds a lot like the way everything happens in Ventura County government, doesn’t it?

In today’s report, one customer of the Camarillo business called the coffee and donuts the store’s “little pink box of love.” In essence, does that mean the health department is espousing hate in order to achieve health?

Whatever it is, I’d like to see how the health inspector deals with those caffeine withdrawals.

http://www.vcstar.com/news/2010/feb/24/county-pulls-plug-on-free-coffee-doughnuts-at/

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Oxnard, the happiest place on earth.

Ah, those crisp, lush waves crashing against a sandy shoreline. Those rolling, verdant hills, the chiseled mountaintops sometimes capped with a fresh dusting of snow. It’s no wonder everyone is happy in Santa Barbara, otherwise known as the “American Riviera.”

So how is it that residents of Oxnard, infamous for its gang battles, Superfund-stamped pollution, and city centers devitalized by debt, trash and antiquated infrastructure, feel just as happy?

They must be insane, no? Not according to findings of a poll just released this week indicating that people in Oxnard are just as happy, if not happier, than their privileged Santa Barbaran neighbors.

The Gallup Well-Being Index numbers place the Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura area — the “Greater L.A. area,” as it’s often called — last in the top 10 cities in the nation.

OK, so Oxnard is no Detroit, Flint, Mich., or Newark, NJ, places where unemployment, crime and pollution are the most redeeming characteristics. But it still has some of the most worrisome things about it, heck, even when compared to Ventura, which doesn’t do so shabby itself in boasting crime, vagrancy, gang violence and meth labbing.

But the numbers don’t lie, and according to the findings, people in the Tri-Ventura region fared better than Santa Barbara on all counts except job satisfaction and basic access. That’s understandable, since the VC’s unemployment rate is still in the double digits: nearly 11 percent as of last count. And public transportation in Ventura? Well, that’s sometimes better left unsaid (although that’s mainly the fault of people with an addiction to their cars).

But in every other category, be it life evaluation, emotional and physical health, and overall healthy beahvior, Ventura scored with colors brighter than anything the bucolic Santa Barbara could fare with.

So what does this all mean? Happiness, I suppose, really is a state of mind. Because true Zen, it would appear, is thinking you’ve found Utopia sitting atop a 40-foot radioactive slag pile.

Oxnard needs a flux capacitor at its disposal. Open up that public works budget!

I can’t decide if the Oxnard City Council needs to hop into a DeLorean with a mighty boost of 1.21 gigawatts and a Huey Lewis soundtrack, or if something more Victorian and H.G. Wells-ian is in order. But I propose that the solution to the identity problems of late for The ‘Nard could be solved with some obvious ventures into the realms of time travel.

Let’s face it, the city’s image has been mired, perhaps unfairly, as a place teeming with sinister gang violence, a place where the Mexican immigrant has no resources at their disposal, and a place where development is being planned and construction carried out quicker than our poor economy can handle. (The Collection? Of what?)

On top of that, the sorry situation of flood plain mapping means that all of this will wash away into the ocean, which Oxnard isn’t prepared for, either.

Past or future? Look back a half century ago, and Oxnard was this beautiful, rolling place rich with agriculture, devoid of things like gang injunctions or low-income housing quotas, because, basically, everyone was on a stable, working class income. Pretty much a polar opposite of what we have now … or could have.

Look ahead a half century, and city planners hope that Oxnard will be the city of the future, predicting a population increase of 50,000 within 20 years, and a booming economy aided by a large tourist influx. But are they getting too far ahead of themselves?

After the council delayed its decision on approving its 2030 plan this week, it sure looks like it. The plan, a document of goals the city would like to see in the next 10 years, has so many vague concepts in its pages that officials would be doing nothing less than a rush job by approving it in time for the June election.

Too many questions regarding the preservation of Ormond Beach; the future of the hit-by-the-apocalypse Halaco plant; the build-or-not-to-build Jones Ranch parcel; and others. Planners say they may need four months to examine all this stuff. That will put us at June, when voters were expected to make all this official to begin with.

The 2030 general plan needs further re-examination – maybe another full year – before Oxnard can confidently secure and solidify its own future in Ventura County before it implodes on itself. And no amount of time travel into the future will be able to replace what needs to be done in the present.

Otherwise, Oxnard might go from “The City That Cares” to “The City That Was.” And that would be an identity crisis and a half.

Ventura's charter is *almost* this old.

In Ventura, “Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers” sounds less like the intro to the Emancipation Proclamation than it does an update on the city’s charter.

For those who missed this week’s VC Reporter (please read it, and please leave comments, yes, there is another newspaper here), we reported on a new group who’d like to see the city’s charter changed.

It hasn’t quite been four score and seven years, but it’s been nearly 25 … that’s a quarter century of following rules and regs that may be long outdated. What’s worse is that a whole bunch of important stuff has happened since 1986, which we can’t ignore by leaving them out of the charter.

For instance, the charter change group pointed out that compensatory numbers for elected officials haven’t change with inflation; the charter, which stipulates a monthly allowance of $600, reflects 1980s dollars.

They also pointed out the benefits of electing a mayor. The city is growing in population; isn’t it time we had a full-time leader to be there for our needs?

Aren’t we what the charter really is all about? And our needs? Nineteen Eighty-Six was years before the Internet, so, of course, there’s no mention in the latest charter about any city info on the Web … no public document info, no meeting info, nothing in the charter which states the city must provide a good Web window for us to access.

And while the charter itself doesn’t contain a list or description of penal codes and laws, things like Megan’s Law, which is contained in the city’s lexicon as part of state law, doesn’t correspond with the charter, which it should.

In fact, when reading the charter, it’s quite vague in its wording. It makes one wonder: do we even need a charter? Every other city (except Hueneme) operates on general law, and they do just fine.

I guess the better question would be: Why have a charter when it doesn’t get updated regularly? You don’t just keep the same oil in your car for 100,000 miles. Well, you could, but your car won’t run properly.

That’s the point. Updating the city charter — and keeping up that maintenance — keeps the wheels of municipal government turning more efficiently.

Maybe a rule requiring an update to our charter every, say, 5 years or so, should be in the charter.