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Bill Macfadyen: In Death, Carmen Alexander’s Life Is Celebrated as a ‘Brilliant Presence’

Best of Noozhawk 02.24.12 includes another chapter in the SBCC saga, density in the eastern Goleta Valley, the Funk Zone and panga boats

By William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher | @noozhawk |

1. Open Alternative School Stunned By Sudden Death of Teacher Carmen Alexander

Teachers are often described as beloved for the outsized impact they have on their students. For Carmen Alexander, the adjective seems wholly inadequate — especially considering the outpouring of heartfelt tributes that followed her unexpected death Feb. 20.

Alexander taught at Open Alternative School on the campus of La Colina Junior High School. Fellow teachers and grateful parents say she had a love for teaching and an artistic nature.

“Carmen has the biggest heart in the world,” OAS Principal Alejandra Tashma told Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik. “She was such a brilliant presence in all of our lives.”

Alexander, an athletic 43-year-old single mother, was admitted to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital on Feb. 19 with symptoms that resembled pneumonia. She died less than 24 hours later from a mysterious flesh-eating bacteria.

The tight-knit Open Alternative School was shaken by her death, but the circumstances certainly caught the attention of the community, where the Santa Barbara native was equally well-known. Noozhawk readers have made Alexander’s story the most heavily read so far in 2012.

Alexander is survived by her three children: Sofia, a freshman at Santa Barbara High School; Sasha, an OAS sixth-grader; and Pablo, who is in third grade.

2. How SBCC Trustees Proceed After Investigation’s Scathing Report Is an Open Question

Staff writer Lara Cooper had a follow-up to her previous scoop in the SBCC Board of Trustees controversy. Thanks to a leak, Lara had the exclusive story on the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges’ preliminary report of its investigation of the trustees.

The board has been accused of violating its own rules of governance, among other things. The commission’s report bluntly addressed the allegations, which school officials and representatives insist are misleading and without context. The board has 30 days to respond.

Lara’s Feb. 19 story added comments from Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley and First Amendment lawyer Terry Francke, as well as some responses from Noozhawk readers.

3. County Supervisors to Consider Studying Higher Densities in Eastern Goleta Valley

The word “density” has long been a flashpoint on the South Coast and staff writer Lara Cooper sparked a run of reads with her advance on the Board of Supervisors’ plan to consider more of it in the eastern Goleta Valley.

At issue is a proposed update of the Goleta Valley Community Plan that would include an environmental review for the area between the city of Santa Barbara’s northwestern edge and the city of Goleta’s eastern boundary. The update would provide guidelines for possible future development in the area, including on two existing agricultural properties — one on South Patterson Avenue and the other at San Marcos Growers, 125 S. San Marcos Road.

On Feb. 20, the five supervisors voted to take a deep breath and wade into the controversy, giving the draft plan a green light.

4. Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone Signals Revival for Commercial Real Estate Market

After a years-long lull, local real estate experts say they’re seeing continued interest and activity in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, a mixed-use neighborhood around Lower State Street near the beach. The former industrial area now sports an urban wine trail, restaurants and art galleries. New condominium projects are giving the gritty neighborhood a distinct air of gentrification.

“I’m not sure how this big metamorphosis toward residential fits into the Funk Zone,” Mark Mattingly, executive vice president of Pacifica Commercial Realty, told business writer Alex Kacik, but he said it’s moving in a positive direction.

Noozhawk business columnist Craig Allen took readers on his own tour of the Funk Zone with his Feb. 19 column touting the area’s apparent growing potential as an investment opportunity.

5. Abandoned Panga Boat Found Near Refugio Beach

Yet another panga boat was found Feb. 22, this one abandoned east of Refugio State Beach. Authorities — again — are asking for the public’s help in catching the suspected smugglers who are most likely transporting illegal drugs and/or illegal immigrants.

I keep seeing breezy law enforcement descriptions of the boats as “commonly used by fishermen in developing countries,” and loosely implying that a lone desperado is somehow motoring up here all the way from Mexico. Despite The Old Man and the Sea imagery, I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s more likely that there’s a mother ship offloading cargo on the other side of the Channel Islands with instructions to head toward the lights on the distant shore. Outboard motors don’t get that great of mileage when they’re pulling water-skiers, so I can’t imagine things are any better when the boat is fully loaded.

Assuming the smuggling operation is far more sophisticated than authorities have been telling us, how long will it be before the South Coast gets to experience the deadly hell that southern Arizona ranching families and residents have been enduring over the last several years? Oh, joy. I can’t wait.

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Noozhawk extends its condolences to the family of Susan Deacon, president of the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s Board of Trustees. Deacon’s father, Dr. Carl Christol, died Feb. 22 at age 98. Want to talk about a life well-lived? Click here to read his obituary.

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