Army Staff Sergeant Gilbert Zavala in Afghanistan.
Army Staff Sergeant Gilbert Zavala in Afghanistan.
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Gilbert Zavala
Gilbert Zavala
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I have received frequent emails from United States Army Staff Sergeant Gilbert Zavala since he deployed to Afghanistan and I recently asked him to write an update on his experiences there to include some recent pictures that he could share with the people of the communities of Fillmore and Piru. Below is what he sent me for publishing in the Fillmore Gazette. We all here back at home wish United States Army Staff Sergeant Gilbert Zavala safe travel while in Afghanistan and on his return trip home and thank him and his family for their sacrifices they have made during his service. Staff Sergeant Gilbert Zavala is truly an American Hero!-Dick Diaz

By United States Army Staff Sergeant Gilbert Zavala in Afghanistan:
After High School many people often wonder what they want to do when they graduate. As for me I wanted to be a soldier like my father, grandfather, uncles and other relatives had been. After 14 yrs in the Army I sometimes feel like a kid again, getting to do things that few of my friends or family have done or seen. When I was a boy I played Army like many other kids and had fun doing it with all my friends, pretending I was shooting a gun and blowing things up, thinking how cool it was. One never realizes at that time and place how what you pretend to do or want to do is so far from the truth.

After just passing six months on my 4th deployment, I find myself in the Helmand Province which is the most hostile place in all of Afghanistan. So for our small operational force, we often have several missions where we have to live out of a rucksack, sleep next to our trucks in hostile areas for several days with limited food, water, ammunition and few basic amenities that we are able to carry with us. Camping and hunting with my father and brother in the Sierras comes close, but then again there wasn’t Taliban hunting us. Since we arrived 6 months ago, my team and I have been in at least 12 major engagements all of which have been in the past 4 months. Several days ago our small element came under an attack from fighters in the area next to the Helmand River. The Taliban had fired first but we soon gained the upper hand with our constant air support. The Taliban had gathered several fighters with rocket propelled grenades and Russian PKM machine guns in an open area. Almost immediately after, a small force of fighters attacked from the right side and for the next 45 minutes in one of the most intense firefights, which at one time was roughly no more than 30 yards away as we fought through the hail of bullets. With all the fighting that ensued, no American or our Afghan soldiers that were with us received any injuries. CONTINUED »

 


 
Pictured above Lois Freeman-Fox and Virginia Newman. Freeman-Fox and Newman had art work on display at the art
festival that took place this past Sunday.
Pictured above Lois Freeman-Fox and Virginia Newman. Freeman-Fox and Newman had art work on display at the art festival that took place this past Sunday.
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The new Fillmore swimming pool complex is nearing completion. The complex is expected to open in January.
The new Fillmore swimming pool complex is nearing completion. The complex is expected to open in January.
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Above, the pool has received its blue tile strip and is prepared for its final plaster coat.
Above, the pool has received its blue tile strip and is prepared for its final plaster coat.
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Adjacent to the pool is our new tennis courts, also nearing completion.
Adjacent to the pool is our new tennis courts, also nearing completion.
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Development of this field, across from the Traditions tract, as a residential area of north Fillmore is now in question due to the passage of Measure H and I. The issue now is whether or not the property owners who have complied with all existing development requirements will bring a lawsuit against the city for halting construction retroactively.
Development of this field, across from the Traditions tract, as a residential area of north Fillmore is now in question due to the passage of Measure H and I. The issue now is whether or not the property owners who have complied with all existing development requirements will bring a lawsuit against the city for halting construction retroactively.
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Measure H and Measure I both passed on November 4, 2008. City employees believe that Fillmore could be sued as a result. Land owners' opinions are extremely varied.

For development to occur, sometimes the land owner submits a building proposal to the City. More usually a developer purchases an option to buy from the landowner, submits a building proposal to the City, and waits until the City has approved the proposal before buying the property. The City has to review the proposal to ensure that it meets City and State codes, including environmental regulations. Changes can be made and the proposal resubmitted as necessary. Community Development Director Kevin McSweeney stated that only one development in North Fillmore had been approved before the election: the Reider development. That development approval was rescinded by Measure H. The Reider development had been under review for more than five years before the City was satisfied.

Measure I modifies the North Fillmore Specific Plan (NFSP) to set a maximum of 350 housing units in North Fillmore instead of a maximum of 700. It also reduces the potential density of development. Measure I modifies the Land Use Element of Fillmore's General Plan. The State requires those two plans to comply with Fillmore's Housing Element. The Housing Element must be and has been approved by State agencies. The State requires Fillmore to have plans allowing for 985 new housing units by 2014. The Fillmore Redevelopment Agency requires that 15% of the new homes built within its domain be affordable. The City's Housing Element is updated every five years. The current update is under development, and a public workshop is scheduled for November 18th. The latest draft of the Housing Element is available on the City's website at http://www.fillmoreca.com/planning_download.htm#he

City and State plans relied upon the ability of North Fillmore to contain 700 housing units, including an appropriate number of affordable housing units. McSweeney said that the housing units which would qualify to be built in the North Fillmore area under Measure I are less likely to be affordable to moderate or low income households. The density level described in Measure I goes beyond what Fillmore usually designates as "Residential Low Density". As the Housing Element reads, "This designation provides for low-density neighborhoods with detached single-family dwellings with private yards at a density of up to 7 units per acre." Measure I sets the maximum density level at 5 units per acre. The City will have to find an alternate plan for constructing 52 affordable units previously allocated to North Fillmore. McSweeney mentioned that rezoning other areas in Fillmore is a possibility. According to Fillmore's Housing Element: "On January 17, 2002, the City Council adopted an ordinance establishing a City Urban Restriction Boundary (CURB). The purpose of this ordinance is to establish an urban boundary for the City of Fillmore that accommodates a reasonable amount of future growth for the City of Fillmore, but limits additional urbanization outside of the CURB line without a vote of the citizens of Fillmore." Jamey Brooks, a proponent of Measure I, said that building outside the CURB line would have been a better idea than allocating so many units to North Fillmore, but, as McSweeney noted, a vote is required for that to happen. CONTINUED »

 


 
Part 3
City of Fillmore
City of Fillmore

Fillmore, though not yet an organized town, was already a very productive area in the early 1870s. Sheep and cattle roamed the fields and hillsides, and in a few years’ time, the lucrative business of agriculture would rule the glorious valley. As young families settled into the area, the demand for formal education was realized in 1875, with the opening of the first schoolhouse, a wooden structure measuring 20 X 30 feet. Eventually relocated in town on Central Avenue, the building served students in grades one through eight. As the town expanded, Mountain View School, with a principle and eight classrooms replaced it. Sespe School opened in 1922 with eight classrooms, an office and storage space, basement, kitchen, auditorium, and the first kindergarten in the area. Many parents living outside the school district sent their young children to Fillmore’s renowned kindergarten until non-residential attendance was prohibited three years later.

The first Fillmore High School, built in 1911, celebrated the first four graduates that year. That building, destroyed by fire in 1937, became the first junior high school in 1924, when the city erected a larger high school on Second Street and Central Avenue. The standard of excellence in schooling, attained in part by parental involvement and control, student pride and minimal distractions, continued throughout the 1950s. A new high school swimming pool and upgrades at all schools were achieved during that period.

Today, in addition to two private schools, Fillmore’s youth attend one high, one junior high, and three elementary public schools, where many make the most of contemporary teaching techniques, testing and dedicated staff, and perform to the highest of standards. Encouraging our youths to excel, several physical elements in all public schools have been refurbished or replaced. A much needed all-weather track and field complex, new swimming pool, and a modern science building are some of the recent additions at the high school. Nevertheless, inadequate funding, distractions such as cell phones and internet etc., language difficulties due to changing demographics and immigration, behavioral and drug issues necessitating the need for school resource officers, and relaxed societal mores are amongst the myriad of problems plaguing the school scene today.

School resource officers were not necessary in the early 1900’s. Nevertheless, with growth, resident night watchmen and city marshals, all under Ventura County’s jurisdiction, maintained law enforcement needs. The first City Marshall took his post in June 1914 and the Fillmore Police Department, a one-man force formed in 1925. Later on in FY (June 30) 1957-58, the Department made 17 felony and 206 misdemeanor arrests, and ticketed 297 traffic violations. An auxiliary police group of citizens was ready to respond to disasters, rescue and special events.

The city contracted with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services in June 1987, closing the book on local law enforcement. Currently, twenty-seven officers serve in various capacities including, one K-9, two gang, three detectives, plus two traffic cadets, an office manager/dispatcher, and the Chief, all committed to protecting Fillmore’s citizens. Arrests include gang and tagging activities, drug production and use, domestic violence, homicide, burglary, theft, extortion, robbery, rape, assault, driving under the influence and traffic violations. It appears that crime everywhere is increasingly violent in nature. Arrests from March 2007 through March 2008 include 221 felony arrests, 1,269 misdemeanor arrests and 2,046 traffic citations, encompassing a population three times the size of a half century ago. In the last thirty years, changes in commerce transportation from rail to trucking, expanded work related commuting distances, and two or three cars per household have all contributed to heavy traffic activity. The Department’s effectiveness and ability for rapid response lets Fillmore remain one of the safest cities in the county and the state overall.

Fillmore’s first Fire Chief, appointed in 1916, led the Fillmore Volunteer Fire Department consisting of a handful of men. Through the decades, improvements in equipment, continual training and selfless human beings have created the finely tuned machine it is today, one of the best in the state. Its responsibilities include not only responding to fires of all types, including brush, home, automobile and industrial, but medical and disaster emergencies as well, 24/7. The Department’s activities are overseen by its Chief and coordinated by three Captains, all paid positions. The three-truck department retains sixty-eight total volunteers, including eighteen paramedics and twenty-six volunteers who reside in town. Firefighters today must undergo strenuous psychological and physical preparation, in addition to continual training in ever-changing firefighting, medical and a myriad of disaster response techniques.

The Fillmore Herald reported the comings and goings in Fillmore from 1907 for nearly one hundred years. The Sun reported from 1916 -1919, and the Fillmore American, published from 1925-1932. News articles of the mid-1950s relayed some national news, but primarily reported on the vibrant local, business and governmental activities of the town, school news and scholastic achievements of the young, social clubs and personal happenings, armed service updates and a healthy dose of advertising. Except in times of great disaster and depictions of heroic efforts and neighborly kindnesses, the news was mostly upbeat, reflecting splendid times in our magnificent small town.

The only remaining local newspaper in print today is this weekly publication, The Fillmore Gazette, releasing its first edition on September 15, 1989. The front-page headlines of recent years often announce crimes or arrests, or the failings of schools etc. Generous amounts of dissension fill the “Letters to the Editor” section. Still, we also often get glimpses of our youths’ successes, kind deeds, patriotism, history, and the aspirations and debates of our town’s leaders as they try to guide us through the 21st century. Spreading the word on line, a relatively new approach in our town are The Sespe Sun and The Fillmore Gazette. Nevertheless, is it not true that wherever you read or hear the news, it is in sharp contrast to what it once was?

“Fortune Favored Fillmore” coined by Fillmore Judge Merton Barnes, was the winning entry in a 1924 town slogan contest. There have been times in Fillmore’s history that the slogan seemed less than accurate. Freezes resulted in loss of millions of dollars, fires threatened homes and businesses and heavy rainfalls caused floods. Major floods, resulting in extensive damage and loss have been recorded in 1914, 1938, 1969 and 1978, but with the exception of the failure of the St. Francis Dam on March 23, 1928, the ’69 flood is considered the worst on record due to weather, with nearly 20 inches of rain falling during the month of January. Other disasters greatly affecting Fillmore included the Spanish influenza epidemic in 1917-1918; the stock market crash in 1929 followed by the Great Depression; loss of life from wars; brush, refinery, school and business fires, and major damage from earthquakes in 1952 and 1971. At 4:31 a.m. on January 17, 1994, Fillmore’s citizens awakened to the 6.7 magnitude Northridge quake and enormous destruction, including the Fillmore Historical Museum, where much of our town’s heritage is lovingly stored in safekeeping. Nevertheless, mirroring every past disaster, and years of rebuilding, Fillmore survived. Even today, the spirit of Fillmore lives on as her citizens battle the present economic crisis.

As you have read over the past two episodes and now this one, change touched Fillmore through its one hundred and twenty years of history in many forms, some inevitable, some unavoidable and some self-inflicted. Change is progress, or is it? Perhaps progress is change. You decide. Yet, one cannot deny, Fillmore is a work in progress.

*Research materials gathered from The Fillmore Historical Museum, the Fillmore Centennial Book, The Fillmore Herald and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. Thank you to those individuals who generously contributed valuable information and lore of our town, Fillmore.

 


 
Felony Vandalism, resisting arrest, possession of graffiti tools, conspiracy to commit a crime and under the influence of a controlled substance
Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

The flood control channel adjacent to Hwy 126 East of Wells Rd has been a source of illegal graffiti activity for some time. The gang and tagging crew graffiti is highly visible from the highway and has recently been the source of complaints from citizens.

On 11-6-08 at approximately 3:15 am, deputies from the Headquarters Patrol Station responded to the area for a call of possible criminal activity occurring in the area. Deputies responded to the location and detained three suspects while two others fled on foot. One of the subjects Aaron Pacheco, 23, of Fillmore, who fled as the deputies arrived was arrested a short time later and the investigation is continuing on the identification of the 5th suspect.

The three suspects, Andrew Dominic Gonzales II, 24, Rosa Linda Johnson, 23, and Kristina Elena Rosales, 20 all from Santa Paula, who were initially detained were later determined not to be involved in the actual vandalism and were cited and released for trespassing. The fourth suspect who fled on foot, Aaron Pacheco, was arrested for Felony Vandalism, resisting arrest, possession of graffiti tools, conspiracy to commit a crime and under the influence of a controlled substance. Pacheco was subsequently booked into the Ventura County Jail.

 


 
Current City Council winners (l-r) Gayle Washburn, Jamey Brooks and Steve Conaway.
Current City Council winners (l-r) Gayle Washburn, Jamey Brooks and Steve Conaway.
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At least 86,000 votes in Ventura County remain uncounted

FILLMORE City Council
7/7 100.00%
Vote Count Percent
- GAYLE WASHBURN 1,423 15.46%
- JAMEY BROOKS 1,396 15.17%
- STEVE CONAWAY 1,239 13.46%
- M. CECILIA CUEVAS 1,190 12.93%
- OMERO MARTINEZ 1,142 12.41%
- NORRIS ''RED DOG'' PENNINGTON 1,081 11.75%
- MARCOZ HERNANDEZ SR. 885 9.62%
- ROYCE DAVIS JR. 827 8.99%
WRITE-IN 19 0.21%
Total 9,202 100.00%

FILLMORE Unified SD - Gov Brd Mem.
27/27 100.00%
Vote Count Percent
- JOHN GARNICA 2,309 31.24%
- VIRGINIA A. DE LA PIEDRA 2,166 29.30%
- JOHN HOLLADAY 1,844 24.95%
- MARK A. AUSTIN 1,051 14.22%
WRITE-IN 22 0.30%
Total 7,392 100.00%

FILLMORE City Clerk
7/7 100.00%
Vote Count Percent
- CLAY WESTLING 1,846 52.37%
- SHIRLEY J. SPITLER 1,655 46.95%
WRITE-IN 24 0.68%
Total 3,525 100.00%

FILLMORE City Treasurer
7/7 100.00%
Vote Count Percent
- NORMA E. GUTIERREZ 1,442 40.62%
- ANGELICA RICHARDSON 1,061 29.89%
- GRACE M. DONAHUE 1,028 28.96%
WRITE-IN 19 0.56%
Total 3,422 100.00%

Measure H City of Fillmore North Specific Plan Ref
7/7 100.00%
Vote Count Percent
YES 1,962 60.18%
NO 1,298 39.82%
Total 3,260 100.00%

Measure I City of Fillmore General Plan Amendment
7/7 100.00%
Vote Count Percent
YES 1,959 56.87%
NO 1,486 43.13%
Total 3,445 100.00%

Measure M Piru Cemetary Maint.
12/12 100.00%
Vote Count Percent
YES 364 82.73%
NO 76 17.27%
Total 440 100.00%

 
Fire Chief Bill Herrera
Fire Chief Bill Herrera

The City of Fillmore announced the appointment of Bill Herrera as the new chief of the Fillmore Fire Department, on October 30, 2008.
Herrera has been with the Fillmore Fire Department since 1999. In 2005 he was promoted to Captain and served in that capacity for three years. Since June 2008 he has served as interim chief, while Chief Pete Egedi was placed on paid administrative leave on April 7, 2008.
Herrera’s appointment was effective Thursday, October 30, 2008. Herrera said he is committed to continuing the strong traditions of the department, which responds to approximately 1,000 medical and fire emergency calls annually. “I look forward to meeting the challenges of the community, and working with the City Council, City staff, and our firefighters. I am committed to ensuring a strong future for the fire department.”
Egedi has been under investigation by The Ventura County Sheriff’s for allegations of misuse of funds. The investigation was completed and sent to the District Attorney’s Office around July 30th. The DA’s Office has yet to announce whether it will file charges against Egedi.
Egedi continued to receive his base pay of $79,987, and benefits of $70,887 from the City of Fillmore during the investigation. Egedi was Fillmore’s fire chief for three years, and was an at-will employee of the city, without contract.
When asked for a comment on Egedi’s termination Administrative Services Manager Steve McClary released this statement to the Gazette on Monday, November 3rd, “Regarding Mr. Egedi, as of Oct. 29, 2008 Mr. Egedi is no longer an employee of the city. As this is a personnel matter and out of respect for Mr. Egedi’s privacy rights, the City cannot comment further. The City has no information or comment regarding any investigation.”

 
The main topic of discussion at the School Board Meeting was the low academic performance of the High School.
The main topic of discussion at the School Board Meeting was the low academic performance of the High School.
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Fillmore Unified School District (FUSD) Board held the open session of its regular meeting November 4, 2008, at 6:00 p.m. in the Board Room at the District Office. The Board heard an update from the Fillmore High School (FHS) Principal, approved a higher Developer Fee, discussed middle school math, and honored Bill Herrera.

FHS Principal John Wilber reported on the WASC accreditation process, school achievement, teacher collaboration, school safety, and parental involvement. The teachers and staff are collaborating to find solutions to problems with grades, tardiness, and discipline.

FHS has historically had a relatively high number of D and F grades among Freshmen and Sophomores, particularly in Math and English courses. There are 197 students with a grade point average (GPA) below 2.0. There are over 1100 students, and almost all students have six classes. Although the number of students with D's or F's was not available, Assistant Principal Ellen Green said that 84% of the grades are C's or better, 9% are D's, and 7% are F's. Staff are considering and testing systematic solutions to the problem. Teachers have agreed that the grades are low due to unfinished homework and unfinished class assignments. Board Member Virginia De La Piedra noted that in an informal poll conducted last year, students essentially admitted that their homework was not done because they were lazy. FHS is implementing after-school tutorials, contacting parents, and clearly explaining the grading requirements to students. FHS has also been brainstorming ideas and researching methods used at other schools. Wilber noted that a school in Ventura instituted 60-minute lunch periods, and students who did not have their homework done were required to spend 35 of those minutes in class. According to Wilber, one Ventura mother said that her student went from a GPA of 1.38 to 3.5 after this policy was adopted. FHS students must have at least a 2.0 GPA and a minimum number of credits to participate in extracurricular sports.

FHS is struggling with tardy students. Staff are calling parents of tardy students and limiting tardy student's access to rallies, dances, and football games when detentions have not been served. CONTINUED »

 
Gerardo Rodriguez being put into a police car after a brief pursuit last Sunday afternoon.
Gerardo Rodriguez being put into a police car after a brief pursuit last Sunday afternoon.
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Gerardo Rodriguez, age 24, of Fillmore, was arrested Sunday, November 2, after a brief police vehicle pursuit, then on foot. At approximately 3:45 p.m. Rodriguez was arrested by Mountain View. He has been charged with evading arrest, resisting arrest, under the influence, and two (2) counts felony child endangerment. Bail has been set at $50,000 for each child endangerment felony count. There were numerous outstanding warrants on Rodriguez at he time of his most current arrest.
Rodriguez was arrested on September 22, 2008, on suspicion of theft and child endangerment, stemming from a September 14 incident at Kohls Department Store in Ventura. Rodriguez and Yanira Camargo, 22, of Fillmore, were observed stealing items for the store by a security guard. When the guard attempted to stop them, they fled on foot, leaving their 4-year-old daughter rolling in a cart through the parking lot, nearly being struck by a vehicle.
It is not clear whether the child was the same victim in Rodriguez’ most resent arrest. Rodriguez also had outstanding warrants at the time of the Kohls’ arrest.