------This is the Oxnard Journal -----
LEAD STORY - ¿ "Whas'sup wid dah DownTown Boys & Girls Club" ?
With the deadline now PAST for the alleged "temporary" closing of this fifty-year old landmark and life-changing club, the City of Oxnard and it's leadership faces a real problem which did not exist prior to the hasty announcement by the Boys and Girl's Club Executive Board on December 16th to close the club and fire the staff.
What the B&G Club E-Board did was open a can of rancid and festering worms creating a stench that has reached all fifty-year's worth of alumnus of this famous downtown youth club and the heart of Oxnard's citizenry. Questions, which heretofore were left unanswered are now being asked.
Why couldn't the Club remain open? What happened to the money that the City of Oxnard donated to the 7th Street facility? Do we have misappropriation of funds here? Oops! What happened to the funding sent directly to this Downtown Club by former area Congressman Elton Gallegly? General fund absorption for the concrete pad at the MVS Fifth Street Club! Another Oops! Verizon donated a large sum to this one Club and where did that money go? Shades of United Way Style mismanagement! And the money for the new computers, where did that go? A Christmas bonus for the Chief Professional Officer! What happened to the agreement to allow the 7th Street Club to remain operative after the new MVS Fifth Street opened. Oh Well! Then there's the 100-year lease agreement for the property to remain for recreation use only? The questions are more numerous to list and folks like Planning Commissioner Morey Navarro, Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez, County Supervisor John Flynn and Congressional Representative Elton Gallegly will probably be seeking answers to these and other troubling questions.
With his life's work of three decades of dedicated service to the people and children of the City of Oxnard, Club Director Ruben Herrera was given two hours to clean out his desk and turn in his keys. After Mr. Herrera left, the Board ordered that the locks be changed on the Club. For Mr. Herrera there was no appreciation dinner, no plaque, nor even a simple "thank you". What a great lesson for our kids the Board is showing.
The Board ignored pleas and offers by qualified builders to make the needed repairs 'gratis', which said repairs, the Board says are the main reasons for the closing. The building is structurally sound and survived the 1994 earthquake intact. The Board also ignored the numerous requests for improvements and needed repairs allowing the situation to deteriorate as if the original intent of the Board was to make the Club uninhabitable and thereby easier facilitate their scheme to "temporarilly" close the Club. No indication from the Board as to what "temporary" means. Six months, one year, two, or more years? Why could not the Club remain open while repairs and this infamous 'feasibility study' take place. Parents and concerned residents want to know. Also, why spend 30-thousand dollars on a feasibility study when that money could be used to do the repairs. Something is not right here.
On the issue of the Board, the make-up strangely consists of Oxnard leadership such as Councilman Dean Maulhardt, former Councilman Tom Holden, City Manager Ed Sotello, and Police Chief Art Lopez. Are we to believe that these city leaders allowed such an event to happen as the immediate closing without adequate notice and the immediate firing of the paid staff. This decision on the future of the club had to happen with all these city leaders aware, so how can they claim that they are for our youth when no adequate alternative was provided for the current 400-plus families that use the downtown club. If I were an elected official and on a Board that acted in such a manner I would distance myself quickly and publicly step-down to protect my public image. But if I were on this Board, I would not have allowed events to go as far as they have.
What is in the future? Well, the E-Board told parents that they could send their kids to either the Port Hueneme Club or the MVS Fifth Street facility. Of the 26 organized basketball teams at 7th Street, Fifth Street could only absorb four additional teams from downtown. The same with Port Hueneme. That's eight teams, now where do the 18 others go? How about the kids who call 7th Street their home away from home. No bus or van service is provided to get kids from downtown to the outlying clubs. Ever take a SCAT bus to Port Hueneme or try to get a bus to the Oxnard Airport. It's a real mess.
These past two weeks have been a death-watch on the club with families and kids visiting the club as if attending a wake. A big support BarBQ was held on Saturday December 28th and over two-hundred families signed up to support keeping the club open. Councilman John Zaragoza has been active behind the scenes, but even his request to the Board to keep the Club open another 45 days was denied by Chief Professional Officer Tim Blaylock. Imagine that, a City that Cares can't even get cooperation from a local entity, even with a seated Councilmember making that request.
What's on tap for the last day? The Girl's Basketball teams played as much as they could until the final whistle. All the Teams grouped and the parents and members that were there all met in the Gym for one last thing. A special Prayer Meeting to support the Kids and Club was arranged for this last night. Ten Minutes before closing, all got in a large cirle in the Gym and held hands and prayed. Prayer was for the club to reopen soon. People of prayer trust in God and God has the final say in this mess.
A special presentation was conducted for Ruben Herrera from the people that meant the most to him...the parents and kids. He got a two day all expense paid trip and a card and money. He will be missed, but the Parents aren't letting this one relax.
Expect big crowds at this next and all future City Council Meetings until this mess gets resolved.
Next big op to do something is to attend the special meeting for the issue of the downtown club to be held at the MVS Fifth Street Club on Monday January 13, 2003 starting at 6pm. You can bet there will be some intense questions and hopefully some substantial answers given by the Board at that meeting.
in my own words:
"As a civic leader, I am hoping that this closing will be very temporary and that rumors of redevelopment, land-grab, tearing down the Club, or a parking lot for the new housing to be built on that current open ball field will not be true, but it's not only me who has some strong concerns about motives by the powers that have control over this property and the eventual future of the kids and families it has displaced by the closure."
We need to give these kids and families something besides the street and alleys to play and congregate in and to date, no real solution has been offered or sought by those responsible for this closing.
Chair - Wilson Neighborhood (INCC)
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