Come for the Controversy, Stay for the Insight

Next event:
Is Legal Cannabis Good for Ojai?

Sunday, July 28, 2019
3:00-5:00PM – Matilija Auditorium
703 El Paseo Road in Ojai

$20 pre-sale, $25 at the door. Click here to get your tickets.


David Bearman, MD – Medical Director of Zona Seca
Ryan Blatz – Ojai City Council
James Fryhoff – Chief of Police
Daniel Hicks – Manager, Ventura County Behavioral Health
Chelsea Sutula – CEO of Sespe Creek Collective


The purpose of the Ojai Chautauqua is to engage Ventura County in civil discourse about controversial and highly passionate subjects. The Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s.

The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers, and specialists of the day. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying that Chautauqua is “the most American thing in America.” The Ojai Chautauqua is continuing this movement, with a special focus on encouraging civil discourse on controversial and highly passionate subjects. The feedback so far has been phenomenal. Civil discourse is dangerously absent from all aspects of contemporary life. The result of this failing is not only sad… it is dangerous. If we can develop this essential ability, we can begin to affect a positive change to many aspects of life that can extend far and wide.




The Ojai Chautauqua
Free Community Seminar Series on
The Foundations of Our Republic
Taking place the second and forth Monday evenings of each month
beginning August 12, 2019

We are thrilled to offer our first free community seminar series, taking place at the Ojai Library from 5:30 – 6:30PM on the second and forth Mondays of each month, beginning August 12. Groups will be kept small (12-18 people) in order to facilitate conversation. Registrants are invited to attend as many sessions as they would like, and can begin at any time. Reservations are required and attendees read the scheduled material prior to attending each seminar. Click here to register.


What are the fundamental principles of our Republic? Are these principles based on a view of objective reality/nature, or simply the “consent of the governed”? Are these principles changeable, and if so on what grounds? What authority is given to the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches? What are rights? Are they based on nature or consent? Are they inalienable? We invite community members to join us as we discuss these founding and subsequent documents in an effort to better understand the principles of our ongoing American experiment.

The Declaration of Independence, selected Federalist Papers, The U.S. Constitution, Dred Scott Decision and Dissenting View (edited), Lincoln Douglass Debates (edited), Letter from Birmingham Jail.

The Ojai Library
111 East Ojai Avenue
Ojai, California 93023

Upcoming Events


Is Legal Cannabis Good for Ojai?

Sunday, July 28, 2019
3:00-5:00PM – Matilija Auditorium
703 El Paseo Road in Ojai

$20 pre-sale, $25 at the door. Click here to get your tickets.


The legal history of cannabis in the United States began with state-level prohibition in the early 20th century, with the first major federal limitations occurring in 1937. Starting with Oregon in 1973, individual states began to liberalize cannabis laws through decriminalization. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, sparking a trend that spread to a majority of states by 2016. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Now that this development has been in place for some time, what outcomes have been quantified, and what benefits have been construed?

a) Has there been any change in traffic accident rates?
b) Has there been any change in crime rates?
c) Has there been any change in reduced pain medication use?
d) Has there been any change in hospitalization rates?
e) Has there been any change in adolescent cannabis use?
f) Have there been tax benefits for cities and states?
g) Has legalization changed the black market trade?

We look forward to exploring this complicated and divisive issue with a  panel of experts as they discuss these and other questions of legal cannabis. Panelists to be announced soon.




The Social Ecology of Education:
Why should all local citizens care about public and private education in the Ojai Valley?

Sunday, August 25, 2019
3:00-5:00PM – Matilija Auditorium
703 El Paseo Road in Ojai

$20 pre-sale, $25 at the door. Click here to get your tickets.


We all have concerns about the future of our Valley. Will we have enough water? Will our environmental resources and natural beauty be protected? Will local government act intelligently to manage the threat and the opportunity of growth? We are rightly concerned about these issues, but some would argue we have not paid enough attention to perhaps our most important natural resource, namely the cultivation of intelligence in our community. The need for education is not limited to young people, it extends to the adult population as well. Intelligent decisions about critical issues are not likely to be made by uneducated citizens. High-quality, local education is critical to Ojai’s future.

The effects of education on the larger community extend even further than sound decision making – since 2000, Ojai’s school-age population has been diminishing. Most public schools in the valley are operating at 60% below capacity, with one public elementary school closure last year and the possibility of future closings on the horizon. Non-profit organizations and volunteers have augmented arts instruction and other subjects where funding has been cut. Ojai also has an unusually large number of private schools. Some of these private schools are experiencing lower enrollment, but in general the private schools are seen, rightly or wrongly, as disconnected from the larger community. Finally, adult education has largely been taken on by non-profit organizations, with public offerings just receiving funding for limited programs in the last few years. In all of these cases, a coherent community vision that incorporates all of these concerns has not been present, with huge sections of our community completely separated, and perhaps disinterested, from any conversation about the current and future state of education in our Valley.

Is our public education system serving the goals of our students (young and old), and are we spending enough money to make sure that happens?
Can charter schools make a difference in education quality and attract more families to Ojai?
Can private schools play a larger role in the community?
Beyond the direct involvement of parents with school-aged children, how can the entire community become informed and energized about education in Ojai?
Informed by state and national trends, what can we, the citizens of Ojai, do to make local education differences that will affect us all?

This panel will bring together representatives from a range of public and private K-12 and college institutions, who will discuss how the Ojai community can support quality education, and why this effort is vital in sustaining the community we cherish.




View our Past Events

Since 2014 The Ojai Chautauqua has provided forums for intelligent and civil discussion. And this is only the beginning.

 Watch the March 30, 2019 panel Preparing for the Next Wildland Fire

Moderator – Andy Gilman – Executive Director of The Agora Foundation
Sean Anderson – Professor at CSUCI
Bryant Baker – Los Padres Forest Watch
Theresa Bulla-Richards – Educator, Community Leader
Will Castagna – Chair of the Ojai Fire Safe Council
John McNeil – Ventura County Fire Division Chief


 Watch the September 30, 2018 panel The Future of Water in the Ojai Valley – Part III

Moderator – Tom Krause – President of the Ojai Chautauqua Committee
Anthony Emmert
– Assistant General Manager of United Water Conservation District
Richard Hajas – Board Member of the Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency
Susan Mulligan – General Manager of Calleguas Municipal Water District
Stephanie Pincetl – Director of California Center for Sustainable Communities
Jim Word – Board Director of Casitas Municipal Water District


 Watch the April 15, 2018 panel Water – Part II

Moderator – Tom Krause – President of the Ojai Chautauqua Committee
Tom Ash – Water Conservation Expert and Horticulturalist
Mary Bergen – Board Member of the Casitas Municipal Water District
Dan Breen – Board President of the Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency
Richard Hajas – Member of the Ojai Valley Water Advisory Group
Connor Jones – Ojai Permaculture Founder
Bruce Kuebler – Board Member of the Ventura River Water District
Alex Kim – Managing Director of the Ojai Valley Inn
Bill Weirick – Ojai City Council Member


 Watch the February 17, 2018 panel Beyond the Whistle-Blowers – What Happens Next? Power, Gender, and Writing New Rules for the American Workplace

Moderators – Cecile Ablack and  Dan Schnur
Shakari Byerly – Managing Partner of EVITARUS, INC.
Ana Cubas – Founder of the Latina Public Service Academy
Ted Johnson – Senior Editor at Variety Magazine
Cinny Kennard– Executive Director at The Annenberg Foundation
Tom Krause – President of the Ojai Chautauqua Committee


Watch the November 19, 2017 event Tourism in the Ojai Valley

Panelists Include:
Caryn Bosson, Leslie Clark, Michael Haley, Johnny Johnston, Hallie Katz, and Dennis Rice. Moderator –  Tom Krause.

The Advisory Committee Includes:
Misty Volaski, Kit Stoltz, Scott Eicher, Tim Dewer, Veronica Cole, Andrew Cantwell, Kimberly McLin, and Bill Moses.


Watch the October 20, 2017 event An Evening with Dan Schnur and Warren Olney


Watch the June 3rd, 2017 panel on Politics, Media, and Society

Moderator – Dan Schnur – Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC
Bill Burton – Managing Director at SKDknickerbocker
Ken LaCorte – 18-year Fox News veteran
Naomi Seligman – Communications Director for Mayor Eric Garcetti
John Thomas – Founder and President of Thomas Partners Strategies
Alice Walton – Leader at Ek, Sunkin, Klink & Bai


Watch the May 6th, 2017 panel on An Unconventional Presidency – Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

Moderator – Dan Schnur – Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC
Claudia Cowan – Fox News Channel San Francisco-based correspondent
Henry C. “C.J.” Jackson – writer and editor for POLITICO
Mike Madrid – Principal at GrassrootsLab
Johanna Maska – Former White House Aide and LA-based Consultant
Seema Mehta – Political writer for the Los Angeles Times


Watch the October 8, 2016, panel on the 2016 Presidential Election – Part Two – What Happens Next?

Moderator – Dan Schnur – Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC
Gail Becker – Former head of Global Communications for Edelman Worldwide
Jeff Greenfield – Award-winning television journalist and author
Adam Nagourney – LA Bureau Chief for the New York Times
Conan Nolan – KNBC political editor and host of “News Conference” program
Roberto Suro – Professor at USC and Director of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute


Watch the September 17, 2016, panel on the 2016 Presidential Election – Part One – How Did We Get Here?

Moderator – Dan Schnur – Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC
Brian Calle – Opinion editor of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Cinny Kennard – Executive Director of the Annenberg Foundation
Steve Lopez – Los Angeles Times columnist
Larry Mantle – Longtime host of “Airtalk” on KPCC
Bill Schneider – Professor of Communications at UCLA and CNN commentator


Watch the June 7, 2015, panel on Income Inequality

Moderator – Dan Schnur – Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC
Matthew Fienup – Economist, California Lutheran University
William Voegeli – Author, editor of The Claremont Review of Books
Sarah Bohn – Economist and analyst for the Public Policy Institute of California
Edward Kleinbard – Former lead staffer on a Congressional tax committee
Nelson Lichtenstein – MacArthur Foundation Chair in History at the University of California, Santa Barbara


Watch the April 12, 2015, panel on Immigration

Moderator – Herbert E. Gooch – Cal Lutheran Professor, Department of Political Science
Elton Gallegly – Former U.S. Representative
Hiroshi Motomura – UCLA scholar of immigration and citizenship law.
Abbé Kingston – Immigration Attorney
Arsenio Lopez – Executive Director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project
Ric Oberlink – Former Executive Director of Californians for Population Stabilization


Watch the November 9, 2014, panel on The Future of Fracking

Moderator – Kit Stolz – Writer
Brian Segee – Environmental Defense Center
Don Clarke – Petroleum Geologist
Craig Nicholson
– Geophysicist at UCSB
Dave Quast – Director of Energy In Depth
Henry Stern – Legislative Aide to State Senator Fran Pavley


Watch the June 22, 2014, panel on The Future of Water

Moderator – Timm Herdt – Ventura County Star
Steve Bennett – Ventura County Supervisor
Eric Bergh – Calleguas Municipal Water District
Lynn Maulhardt – President of the United Water Conservation District
Emily Friend Thacher – Ojai Citrus Farmer

1129 Maricopa Highway #156 • Ojai, California 93023
(805) 231-5974 •