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City Business Is Not A Collages Thrown At The Wall
Collage Photos By: George A Roberts

"The Budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the
assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome will become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance." Cicero, 55 BC

NATIONAL PARKS SERVICE
CENTENNIAL EDITION
TOPIC LISTINGS BELOW

FRONT PAGE COLUMNS
Scroll To The Right On Front Page
  • WHO LOOKED AT BROOK'S
    FINANCIAL STATEMENTS BEFORE
    OPENING ITS DOORS TO
    DOWNTOWN VENTURA?
  • WAVE GOODBYE TO BROOKS
    AND OUR TAX DOLLARS
  • HUMAN TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATION
    MEMBERS IDENTIFIED & ARRESTED
  • REFUGEE FATHER STILL
    SEARCHES FOR DAUGHTER
    ABDUCTED BY PIRATES IN 1984
    (See Bottom Of Column #4

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HEALTH & BEAUTY

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WHO LOOKED AT BROOK'S FINANCIAL
STATEMENTS BEFORE OPENING ITS"
DOORS TO DOWNTOWN VENTURA?

By: Rellis Smith
Posted: 09/10/16

Okay, let me get this straight, Brooks comes to you (city council) with a pie in the sky idea about moving their entire operation to the downtown area. All of a sudden you are all floating on clouds, you don't even think to ask for their financial books to ascertain if they even have the where-with-all to accomplish this idea.

Instead you simply let them go ahead with demolishing half of the city hall (Ivory Tower). You let them go for a minimum of 3 months without paying a red cent in rent or even the security deposit.

Now we have the Assistant City Manager Mr. Dan Baranick who was obviously in the middle of this plan saying, "he expects them to comply with their lease terms, because they are obligated to complete the tenant improvements and return the building in good operating condition under the terms of the lease". He really has to be kidding, doesn't he?

This type of thinking is why you find yourselves in the position you are in at this time. The Economic Development Manager stated that the reason the city allowed them to proceed without any upfront payment was because "she had a good relationship with Brooks" and then there was our "Ventura City Council" who had stars in their eyes thinking this plan would really kick the economy of San Buenaventura into high gear. If that is not enough, Mr. DeArkland another person that got conned said, "It's the students; they're the ones that will suffer."

Nobody mentioned the citizens of San Buenaventura that will also be suffering with the loss of a huge amount of our "Tax Money". The possibly most ridiculous statement that was issued was by Mr. Kevin Clerici director of the Downtown Ventura Partners, "the city showed leadership by acting quickly to help make the move happen."

Mr. Clerici is so used to kissing patootie to those working and tied into city hall, of course, he would say that. If he really calls what the city council did "Real Leadership" somebody really should think of distancing away from this man.

Then. Ms. Eisen reversed her course and said, "Were all screwed by Brooks. It's totally devastating." This is the first true statement made in this affair.

If any of you honestly believe that any of this owed money will be forthcoming, I have a real good deal on some swamp land for you. It is quite apparent that Brooks Institute will be entered into bankruptcy and will not pay a dime to anybody.

It's obvious that none of you have ever been in business, except Councilman Monahan, at least not one that is still viable. I have never in my life heard of actions like the ones you perpetrated in this instance. Except in the City of Bell, California.

The only way for any of you to maintain any semblance of intelligence is for all of you to announce that you will not be running for re-election. Also, any of the staff members that were part of this plan should quit pointing the finger elsewhere, own up to your lack of responsibility and fact the list to be "fired for malfeasance in office". I also hope you realize that with this ridiculous action on your part your Sales Tax increase should certainly be doomed.

Rellis Smith
rellis39@sbcglobal.net


WAVE GOODBYE TO BROOKS
AND OUR TAX DOLLARS



Before we start the main body of this column, let's make it clear, Councilmen Jim Monahan and Mike Tracy voted again signing the city property lease behind/adjacent to city hall with Brooks Institute. All others on the council voted for the project including those seeking reelection - Cheryl Heitmann and Christy Weir.

J. B. Robinson
Publisher/Editor
Our Town Biz/Town Biz

"WE'RE ALL SCREWED BY BROOKS HERE."
Quote By: Leigh Eisen, Ventura Economic
Development Manager

Column Below By: Res Publica/VREG
Posted: 09/16/16

WHEN TAXPAYERS FUNDS ARE LOST,
IT'S NEVER QUITE OVER

The Brooks Institute's closure spotlights the flaws in Ventura's approval process and how gullible some members in government are. VREG concludes the City of Ventura's $1.0 million loss was avoidable. The Ventura County Star reached that same conclusion even though their reporting was shallow.

"Like wise, even if the city didn't feel the need to require a full bond, it at least could have had Brooks go through the screening process to see if it qualified for one. Had it failed the screening, an often free process that would have raised red flags", said Mike Melshenker, a surety account executive with Tolman & Wiker Insurance Services.

CITY MANAGER'S APOLOGY DIVERTS
ATTENTION FROM THE REAL ISSUES

City Manager, Mark Watkins, did the honorable thing. Mr. Watkins acknowledged the oversights and procedural problems were his fault and he took responsibility. It would be simple for the citizens to accept Mr. Watkins' apology at face value, until one looks closer. Mr. Watkins, falling on his sword, diverts attention away from the City Council's responsibility to oversee the City Manager. Council Members should have questioned City Staff's due diligence of Brooks Institute. If they had, they would have seen a tenant with 10 years of declining revenue and enrollment, a company that downsized twice in five years and a company in an industry, coming under increased scrutiny and regulation by the Federal Government.

Despite these publicly known facts, the City Council determined Brooks Institute was a worthwhile credit risk. Taxpayers were exposed to a high-risk deal without any guarantees or performance bonds to protect against default. This poor risk decision will cost taxpayers over $1.0 million. Why weren't these questions asked? *

THE REAL ISSUES

VREG is trying to learn the full details of the Brooks Institute debacle; but, the city is not being transparent. VREG filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act on August 15, 2016 to see copies of documents pertaining to the deal. The law requires the city to reply in 10 days, which it did. At the end of 10 days, the city invoked its right to extend the deadline because there are so many documents covering so many departments. The city now has until mid-September to comply. We will report on the Freedom of Information, if received, in our next edition.

Meanwhile, the clock is counting down to November 8th when voters will decide the two real issues: 1) should we pass Measure O to give the City Council $270 million more in taxes and 2) are the current city council members good stewards of our tax money? The answer to both is, "NO".

MEASURE O

The timing of the Brooks Institute loss demonstrates why voters shouldn't trust the City Council with additional money. It's the latest example of mismanagement and spending issues. Brooks Institute shows how easily a poor decision can be made that ends up costing the Citizens of Ventura millions of dollars. Make no mistake, the Brooks meltdown was avoidable.

It's a matter of trust. Add the Brooks Institute to a litany of poor financial decisions in past years. Ventura City Council invested:

PAST SPENDING DECISIONS

  1. $1.0m to study the narrowing of Victoria Avenue, NEVER DONE;
  2. $1.2m for 911 tax, NEVER REFUNDED;
  3. $9.0m for a Convention Center that was NEVER BUILT and spent on other things;
  4. $10.0m lost investments with Lehman and WAMU, due to poor oversight;
  5. $65.0m on an environmental settlement;
  6. $5.0m to promote Art City Ventura;
  7. gave a "golden parachute" gift of $150,000 on top of the usual annual retirement compensation of over $200,000, to an outgoing city attorney;
  8. spent $30,000 in legal fees to sue Ventura citizens opposing sales taxes,
  9. approved Fire Department retirement increases from 2% to 3% per year of service, impacting the annual city cost by $1.2m annually;
  10. approved $40,000 for architectural rendering of plan to create a memorial site at Cemetery Park with a total planned cost of $4.0m.
Now in 2016, this City Council spent $140,000 on a consultant for another tax initiative to educate the citizens' consideration and spent $1.2m for settlement over twice sold spaces in the parking structure. We can now add $1.2m for a poor decision to lease to Brooks Institute.

Measure O will provide $270 million over 25 years, if it passes. Do you trust today's City Council and future Councils with that much money given their current financial stewardship?

CITY COUNCIL FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP

City Council Members can, occasionally, make good decisions. The lease to Brooks was approved at the City Council meeting on February 22, 2016. Mike Tracy and Jim Monahan voted against the lease. Tracy said it was because of the below market rents.

NOT ONE COUNCIL MEMBER ASKED A SINGLE QUESTION AS TO THE CAPABILITY OR REVIEW OF THE FINANCIAL CONDITION OF BROOKS. There are five Council Members that risked your tax money, of which two are up for reelection - Cheryl Heitmann and Christy Weir.

Mrs. Weir made the motion to lease to Brooks and Ms. Heitmann seconded the motion. Ms. Heitmann also supported her vote by saying she herself had met with Brooks' management and with the Board Members of Brooks. To the average citizen, Ms. Heitmann's statement sounded like a personal testimonial. Many inside city government and elsewhere accepted her comments as a high endorsement.

Now the Brooks deal has fallen apart, will Brooks champions, Councilmembers Heitmann and Weir, face scrutiny over the non-due diligence and oversight they gave the project? Will citizens directly ask them about the losses in the forthcoming Council Candidate Forums? What can they say in the next 50 plus days that can justify the loss of $1.0m, or more, of taxpayer money?

CONSIDER ALL THE FACTS WHEN
YOU GO TO THE POLLS

Ventura City Council claims the aging city has "urgent" needs. NOT TRUE. We have a balanced budget. The City Council even added funds to reserves. This was after the Council approved raises of 6% and up to $1,500 in bonuses. These raises were for all employees which included over 270 employees making in excess of $100,000. This also increases health insurance benefits by over $800 per month and added a $500 per month benefit, which can be taken in medical expense reimbursement. Altogether, this amounts to an 18-20% or more raise in just 18 months.

Ventura's $104,000,000 budget and 42% higher water rates should be sufficient to maintain and repair streets, improve water infrastructure and provide adequate public safety. If not, Ventura should demand new leadership.

Budget surpluses and tax revenues are growing through existing sales and property taxes. Ventura City Government must live within its means like the rest of us. This new increase to the sales tax rate is a FOREVER tax and is UNACCEPTABLE.

SO MANY ISSUES, SO LITTLE TIME

Requests are rolling in for VREG to investigate waste in local government but even more, the citizens have voiced their concerns over improprieties or possible conflicts of interest of some City Council Members, various board and commission appointments by Council Members, the possibilities of favoritism in the land use and permit process and even the possible conflicts in Downtown Ventura Partners.

All of the issues may be investigated in due time by VREG or elevated to a higher authority; however, for now, there is an election on November 8th, and if the ˝ percentage sales tax, known as Measure O, is not defeated, another $270 million will be handed over and wasted on this City Council with NO GUARANTEES on how it will be spent.

TIME TO SPREAD THE WORD

The November election is lest than two months away. It is time to talk to your friends and neighbors and tell them that they (1) need to vote NO on Measure O because it is only turning over a $270 million check to a misdirected City Council and (2) vote in more responsible City Council Members.

CONTINUED ON POLITICS PAGE
Click Here


Res Publica Editors:

R. Alviani.........K. Corse... T. Cook
J. Tingstrom.......R. Mccord.......S. Doll
R. Berry,....... C. Kistner.......W. Frank


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HUMAN TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATION
MEMBERS IDENTIFIED AND ARRESTED


By: Sergeant Eric Tennessen
Posted: 09/08/16

The first story below is about recent 2016 human trafficing organization arrests - a sting involving law enforcement agencies including the Ventura County Sheriff's Department, FBI and others. The photo above and story far below is connected to a story of a Viennese abduction that took place decades ago - one like many that has gone unsolved and one that is indirectly connected to an intellectual contributor to this newspaper.

On August 4th, 2016, a multi-agency team of investigators from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies concluded a six-month investigation and arrested five suspects for their roles in operating a large human trafficking ring encompassing nine California counties.

In February of 2016, members of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, Oxnard Police Department and the Ventura County District Attorney's Office conducted prostitution stings at local motels in Ventura County. The stings were aimed at targeting advertisements for sex found on the social website Backpage.com. Following the stings, detectives identified a potential victim of human trafficking and uncovered evidence revealing a larger group was operating across the region.

A task force was formed from local, state, and federal agencies to gather additional evidence. The investigation revealed a sophisticated human trafficking network responsible for trafficking women for the purpose of commercial sex. The network was run much like a corporation and investigators identified five members of the organization.

The head of the human trafficking ring was identified as Hsin Chieh "Jerry" Wang, 40, San Gabriel. Wang oversaw the organization and worked with a female named Defeng Hu. 33, of Corina. Hu coordinated the transportation and lodging of the victims at various motels in nine California counties. Hu was identified as the network's dispatcher and took calls from hundreds of men each month. who were answering sexually explicit ads found on Backpage.com.

Hu negotiated sex with the men and directed them to motel rooms occupied by the victims. The "sex for money" transactions ranged from $100 to $160 dollars and proceeds from the crimes were laundered through as many as 50 bank accounts at nine financial institutions. Investigators obtained substantial evidence showing that Jerry Wang and Defeng Hu were responsible for running the overall network and benefiting from the proceeds. Investigators also determined that Jerry Wang's sister, Yiwen Wang, 42, of Rosemead laundered the illicit proceeds from the commercial sex by investing in real estate. Franchise Tax Board investigators determined that Hu and Yiwen Wang both failed to report the illicit income earned from the human trafficking ring on their state income taxes.

Jiuyin Cui, 63, Alhambra and Runan Xia, 32, Chinese Nationalist were responsible for transporting women between the different motels in the nine California counties and for maintaining the motel rooms. They also provided the bare necessities for the victims, which included food, water and toiletries.

Detectives identified approximately twenty-eight victims in Central and Southern California. All of the victims were identified as Chinese women in their thirties and forties, who were in the country for a short time on what appeared to be legitimate visas. After arriving in the country, some of the victims relinquished their passports to members of the human trafficking organization. Most of the victims spoke little or no English and they were placed in motels and areas that were often unfamiliar to them. Once placed in a motel, they rarely came out of their rooms for any reason.

The victims were expected to engage in commercial sex acts from early in the morning until late at night, every day, as directed by Hu. During the investigation, some victims were found to have also been victims of physical abuse and robbery by commercial sex customers. Hu compelled the women to continue providing commercial sex acts despite their repeated objections and requests to stop working.

The victims continuously incurred debt as they were forced to pay the drivers, Cui and Xia, for transportation between motels, motel room costs, food, and in some cases, the advertisements on the Internet placed by Wang and Hu. The victims were repeatedly subjected to verbal abuse by Hu.

On August 4th, investigators executed search warrants and arrested the five subjects named above at their homes and businesses. Bail for each suspect was set at $5,000,000 by the Ventura County Superior Court. At the same time as the arrests, investigators from the FBI, local law enforcement agencies and victim services advocates from local agencies contacted eight victims who were actively operating out of motels throughout Central and Southern California. The victims were offered services, including food, shelter, transportation, clothing and medical services.

In addition to the arrests, investigators seized approximately $350,000 in cash at the various locations, froze bank accounts containing approximately $730,000, a car valued at $30,000 and froze three residential properties valued at approximately $1.8 million. These assets were frozen because investigators believed they were profits from the criminal organization and as a result of money laundering.

Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will. The Ventura County Sheriff's Office, Ventura County District Attorney's Office, Oxnard Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will continue to actively investigate potential cases of human trafficking occurring in Ventura County.

For more information on human trafficking, go to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center

Responsible Units:
Ventura County Sheriff's Office
Ventura County District Attorney's Office
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Franchise Tax Board
Oxnard Police Department

Approved By: Commander Bill Ayuba
Report: #16-28554


REFUGEE FATHER STILL
SEARCHES FOR DAUGHTER
ABDUCTED BY PIRATES IN 1984

Rewrites By: J. B. Robinson
Published: 09/07/16

On July 10, 1989 David Reyes, a staff writer for the Times, wrote about the last time that Tang Bao Can saw his daughter. Earlier this decade, Our Town Biz (an Internet newspaper) received a request from one of its intellectual contributors to publish a column regarding the kidnapped young girl. The girl is the daughter of a former Vietnam fisherman who also served in U.S. Army Intelligence during the Vietnam War and spent five years in "re-education camp" after the Communist takeover in 1975.

On October 26, 1984, during the family's painful escape from Vietnam, was the last time Tang Bao Tang saw his precious daughter. Thai pirates had boarded their drifting boat loaded with refugees in the Gulf of Thailand off Southern Thailand. The pirates robbed everything within their reach, threw young men into the sea and snatched his precious 13-year old daughter from his arms after Tang tried to stop the rape of one of three women attacked by the pirates. The renegades stole away with her and three other women. Mean while, Tang tried to stop them; however, they brutally beat him.

The pirates were apparently scared away when a helicopter flew overhead. The boat, which originally carried 110 people, drifted to Malaysia. Tang, his wife and their son, then 17, eventually reached the United States. Meantime, Tang, relocated with his wife, Thai Thi Loan, to Santa Ana, CA then still filled with the optimistic hope that his daughter, Tang Bich Hang, was still alive.

Through the years, the couple has done everything within their reach to find their missing daughter. bring his daughter safely to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. Tang reported the abduction to the United Nations and the Red Cross of which he received reports that they were still looking for his daughter with no results. He worked hard to save and make money to place an advertisement in Sunday's Bangkok Post, offering a reward of $7,500 reward for information leading to her return. Tang also offered $2,500 just for proof that his daughter is still alive. At the time, he had to wait to become a legal American (U.S.) citizen to visit Bangkok himself. However, he had friends there who were ready to reward anyone who could help.

According to David Reyes by 1989, "Orange County and other Southern California Vietnamese community leaders claimed that pirates have abducted about 3,500 women and sold into prostitution or as slave labor."

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