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Political 'Outlaw' of Moorpark Wants Out After 24 Years

March 10, 1985|GERRY BRAILO SPENCER

Joseph C. Latunski wants to get out of Moorpark.

Known for years as a rabble-rouser throughout the eastern Ventura County community of 10,000 people, Latunski is by his own admission an "outlaw" of sorts because of his strong opinions on most subjects, particularly local politics.

Now, after living 24 years in Moorpark and after countless attempts to steer the community in the right direction, at least to his way of thinking, Latunski is trying to sell his four-acre ranch and move on with his life.

"Since I've had a heart attack, and since everything I did turned to you-know-what, for my own well-being, I've got to get out of Moorpark," he said.

Opposed to the 'Clique'

Through the years, Latunski's rabble-rousing has centered around his opposition to what he calls the Moorpark "clique." It consists of the town fathers, the big ranchers, "the people who have been here for years protecting their own interests," he said.

Latunski's method of fighting "the clique" is unusual. Usually he paints his message on the side of a car or truck and rides through the streets of the city. On some occasions, when the issue has been hot, he has been known to hook up a loudspeaker to broadcast his point of view.

Latunski is an individualist, and he says he likes being that way. To him, the less there is of most things, particularly government, the better.

"We didn't come out here to Moorpark to have all these rules and regulations," Latunski said, referring to Moorpark's incorporation as a city in 1983. "That's why I resent cityhood. Why do we need another bunch of nuts between us and God?

"First, we've got the city, then the county, the state and the federal government and then we've got God. Hey, I'd rather talk to Him direct. The hell with all those other dummies."

Hates 'Stupidity, Waste'

His battles have sometimes left a bad taste in his mouth.

"I'm bitter in what people can do to other people," said the 62-year-old retired Lockheed engineer. "If I've got a razor tongue, it's because I hate stupidity . . . and I hate waste . . . and I hate lazy people."

However, Latunski's feelings about Moorpark weren't always bitter. In the late 1950s, he and his wife, Evie, and their four young sons would ride out to Moorpark every weekend from the San Fernando Valley, looking for a place to buy.

"I wanted to get the hell out of the San Fernando Valley into Moorpark," he said. "I went through Simi and took one look and threw up, and I took one look at Thousand Oaks and threw up again."

Feared Growth

He said his distaste for those areas was based on his feeling that big developers had moved in and controlled everything. He also feared that growth from the San Fernando Valley would spill into Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks. Latunski did not see that happening to Moorpark, however.

After much looking, the Latunski family finally bought their Moorpark ranch in 1960 but could not move in because much work had to be done to make the place livable. Tired of commuting from the Valley to work on the ranch, the family began looking for a rental unit.

They found a house for $100 a month in a tract that had been deserted by the developer. According to Latunski, no one wanted to buy a home in Moorpark because of the half-dozen chicken ranches that seemed to attract a large population of flies.

Those flies soon got Latunski embroiled in a public controversy.

As he saw it, the County of Ventura "didn't give a damn about Moorpark."

"We were the dumping grounds of Ventura County," he said, "so whatever the city fathers wanted, or the clique, they would get. I said, 'Hey, what the hell is this? I come from the San Fernando Valley, (where) you go in the grocery store and, if there were three flies, the county health department comes in and shuts the store down.

"'Here in Moorpark, you didn't dare open your mouth--50 flies would get in,' I said. We had a county government where the health department wouldn't even come out. Why, there were open cesspools behind one of the biggest chicken ranches.

"The town fathers didn't want to make too much noise because the egg ranchers were money in their pocket. So, here is a little Polack who puts a sign on the side of his car, and he starts challenging the clique and the county Board of Supervisors."

Latunski said he raised such a stink about the flies that the supervisors formed a Mosquito Abatement District, the mere mention of which makes Latunski scoff.

"Hell, who did they put on the district except the brother-in-law of one of the largest chicken ranchers and other members of Moorpark's clique," he recalled.

The fly issue quieted down for a while, but soon a related controversy popped up. The part-time inspector for the district had allegedly dipped into public funds.

"Yes, there was a controversy," said Leta Yancy-Sutton, secretary for the Mosquito Abatement District since 1967. "Minutes of the district show the inspector had to reimburse the district for funds spent erroneously."

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