Santa Barbara-Goleta, Monday, December 22, 2014

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Warming Centers to Open Christmas Eve & Night

By | Published on 12/22/2014

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The Freedom Warming Centers in Santa Barbara County will be open Wednesday and Thursday nights this week.

The centers, located throughout the county, are intended "to relieve suffering and save lives to our neighbors without homes on nights of severe weather conditions," according to organizers.

Pets and couples are allowed, and there is no sobriety condition.

The following centers will be open from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. Christmas Eve and Christmas Night, Dec. 24 and 25:

» Unitarian Society, 1525 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara.

» Veterans Memorial Hall , 941 Walnut Ave., Carpinteria. 

» University United Methodist Church, 892 Camino Del Sur, Isla Vista.

» Peace Lutheran Church, 1000 W. Ocean Ave., Lompoc.

» Salvation Army, 200 W. Cook St., Santa Maria.

For updates, call the information hotline at 805.324.2372. 

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Laundromat Fire Near Goleta Contained to Dryer

By | Published on 12/22/2014

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Adjacent businesses not affected by blaze at Turnpike Center

Santa Barbara County firefighters responded Monday to a fire at a laundromat at the Turnpike Shopping Center near Goleta, and were able to contain the blaze to a clothes dryer.

Crews were dispatched shortly after 10 a.m. to a report of a dryer fire that was spreading to the building.

The first units on scene at the Turnpike Coin Laundry, 157 S. Turnpike Road, reported light smoke coming from the structure, and described the incident as an "appliance fire."

Fire Capt. David Sadecki said the fire was limited to the dryer, and flames did not extend to other parts of the building.

Crews were able to quickly douse the fire, he said, and ventilated smoke from the building.

Adjacent businesses — which include a dry cleaners, a barber shop, a hair salon and a pizza restaurant — were not affected, Sadecki said.

Cause of the blaze remained under investigation.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Man Found Shot to Death in Santa Maria

By | Published on 12/22/2014

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Victim found in vehicle on West Morrison Avenue with multiple gunshot wounds

A man was found shot to death inside a vehicle Monday in Santa Maria, according to the Santa Maria Police Department.

Officers were called to the 1000 block of West Morrison Avenue shortly before 6 a.m., and found the victim, who had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, inside a vehicle, police said.

The man was declared dead at the scene.

Police confirmed they are investigating the killing as a homicide, and were trying to retrace the victim's movements.

Additional details were not immediately available.

Check back with Noozhawk for an update to this story.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Dan Ellington Named Head Football Coach for Santa Maria High School

By | Published on 12/22/2014

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Head varsity football coach Dan Ellington’s winning attitude is moving to Santa Maria High School.

Ellington
Dan Ellington

Ellington, who teaches special education, was recently selected to take over the athletic program from former head coach Gabe Espinoza. Espinoza will remain part of the football program, according to Athletic Director Brian Wallace.

The Orcutt resident has high hopes for the future as students, parents and boosters support a championship-caliber athletic program.

“I am excited," said Ellington, who played football and graduated from Ernest Righetti High School in 1982. “The pieces are here to have a successful program. I am looking forward to putting the pieces together."

Ellington believes athletics and academics play important roles in building responsibility, a work ethic and becoming a better citizen.

“My motto is it turns boys into men using the tools of football," he added.

For the last five years, Ellington has been the Pioneer Valley High School head varsity football coach. He also served as an instructional aide assistant there.

Ellington has more than 26 years of coaching sports under his belt.

Wallace knows Ellington is the right man for the job.

“The team will be taking a community and collaborative approach to our upcoming season," he said. “The school is pleased in Dan’s approach and we expect to have a competitive team in the future."

— Kenny Klein is a public information officer for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.

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First Church of Christ, Scientist Holding Christmas Eve Service of Gratitude

By | Published on 12/22/2014

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Those who desire to share their gratitude for the ways God has blessed them are invited to the testimony meeting on Christmas Eve at First Church of Christ, Scientist, Santa Barbara at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 24.

Time will be provided during the meeting for the public to tell others of their gratitude for the healings they have received by turning to God for health and well-being.

Experts report that gratitude is invaluable in promoting a meaningful and progressive life. The founder of the Christian Science Church, Mary Baker Eddy, understood this when she wrote: “Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more.”

The local Christian Science Church in Santa Barbara holds a weekly evening testimony meeting on Wednesdays, and this year it falls on Christmas Eve.

In recent weeks, people have shared testimonies of permanent healing they have experienced regarding health issues, relationship problems, lost opportunities and financial burdens, all because they have relied on Jesus’ teachings that God is all-loving and all-inclusive in bestowing good to all creation.

The church is a well-known Santa Barbara landmark located at 120 E. Valerio St., between Santa Barbara and Anacapa streets, where ample parking is available.

Children are welcome at the service, and childcare is also open for youngsters, while their parents attend the Christmas Eve meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m.

— Jonatha King is a publicist representing First Church of Christ, Scientist, Santa Barbara.

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Carpinteria Council on Board with Plans for Skate Park Near City Hall

By | Published on 12/21/2014

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After years of talk but with a long ride still ahead, city agrees to seriously pursue skateboard park for rippers, groms and newbies

After years of spinning its wheels, the City of Carpinteria is rolling ahead with its plan for a skateboard park.

The City Council on Tuesday night voted to pursue a skateboard park on City Hall property, at 5775 Carpinteria Ave. Mayor Gregg Carty and Councilmen Al Clark, Wade Nomura and Fred Shaw voted for the proposal. Councilman Brad Stein was absent.

Exactly where, how and when are decisions still up in the air. What is known is that the city will partner with the Carpinteria Skate Foundation to fund and run the park.

“I am in favor of the skate park and I can’t wait to see it get built,”​ Carty said. “It would be a great asset to our park system.”

A standing-room-only crowd, featuring skaters of all ages, packed the council chamber to call for a skateboard park. They said skateboard parks are safe, friendly and good for tourism. A few residents spoke at the meeting objecting to one of the proposed locations in a residential neighborhood.

“We’re not talking about building a park for hooligans and hoodlums,” Ben Pitterle said. “We’re talking about building a park for our kids.”

City staff is considering a 10,000-square-foot facility that would cost about $500,000 to build. The city has touted the need for a park, noting that Carpinteria has public facilities for traditional sports, but nothing for the skateboard community.

The city had also considered building the park on city-owned property at 395 Linden Ave., near The Spot restaurant, and at 4835 Fifth St., but both of those sites are near homes.

Many of the parents who spoke said their children had to travel 11 miles to Santa Barbara to use the waterfront skate park near Stearns Wharf. Others talked about how skating changed their lives, and offered them the focus and purpose to stay out of trouble as youths.

Steven DePinto said he grew up in a rough neighborhood and that skateboarding changed his life. He said kids need an opportunity to express themselves in a positive way.

“I don’t know any skateboarders who do drugs,” he said.

Some said skateboarding boosts tourism because families will build vacation schedules based on whether a community has a skateboard park.

“No matter where you go, which way you go, it’s going to be great,” said Pat Kistler, government relations director at the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Several children also spoke at the meeting in support of the skate park.

“We want this skate park,” said Julian Contreras, 12, with a crowd of his friends and fellow skaters standing behind him. “We don’t want to skate in the streets anymore.”

Not everyone, however, was thrilled with the idea.

“I am really frightened that someone is going to fall and get seriously hurt,”​ Carpinteria resident Kate Hutchings said. “Who’s going to pay if someone gets seriously hurt? I hope it’s not the taxpayers.”

City officials stressed that they want to work with the residents and that there is no way a skateboard park would be built in a residential area. As for liability issues, the city expects to partner with the Carpinteria Skate Foundation to figure out all those details.

At the meeting, Skate Foundation president Peter Bonning handed the council cards with 700 signatures of skateboard park supporters who he said couldn’t be at the meeting. He said he was grateful to the city for its efforts to work with the community.

“I think we have made great progress with this concept,”​ Bonning said. “It’s been a long time coming. Regardless of where it goes, we believe it’s going to be great on many levels.”

Ultimately, the city’s Planning Commission would need to approve the project. Council members acknowledge that despite the positive momentum, there’s a long way to go.

“It looks like we might get a skate park in Carpinteria,” said Clark, who added that even though the concept has been pursued for years, this is just the beginning.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Santa Barbara Plugs In to Tesla Motors Plan to Expand Site of Future Dealership

By | Published on 12/21/2014

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City Council grants request to allow expansion of Hitchcock Way operation through ‘community benefit’ code

The City of Santa Barbara has made way for a new Tesla Motors Inc. dealership to expand a soon-to-be proposed location on Hitchcock Way by deeming the project a “community benefit.”

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution finding the potential development at 400 Hitchcock Way a Community Benefit Project per city code, allocating 8,700 square feet of nonresidential floor area to the environmentally friendly car dealership in the process.

The request was granted as part of a pre-application review process.

Proposed remodel plans that the Palo Alto-based electric car maker and seller has for the three-acre site — currently Hughes Automobile Co. — required an amount of space conflicting with a Nonresidential Growth Management Program ordinance approved by the city in 2013, according to city planner Renee Brooke.

The ordinance limits total new nonresidential growth to 1.35 million square feet over 20 years, of which 600,000 square feet is reserved for Community Benefit Projects.

The three qualifying categories of such projects include community priority projects, economic development projects and development plan-new automobile sales projects.

Since Tesla falls into the latter, and because the site next to DCH Lexus of Santa Barbara has been an auto dealership since the 1960s, the council approved the designation.

What would happen to Hughes Automobiles Co. and whether the business could reopen somewhere else was not immediately known.

The site that could become the region’s first Tesla sales and service center includes an 8,377-square-foot showroom and approximately 17,433 square feet of storage and open bay structures, Brooke said.

She said Tesla plans to apply to remodel the existing auto dealership showroom by enclosing open service bays to secure its electric automobile repair center, creating 9,700 net square feet of new nonresidential floor area on the site.

Tesla would use the showroom for new automobile display and sales and operate an electric automobile repair and service center from the enclosed structures.

The dealership would also encompass 200 total parking spaces, Brooke said.

Tesla representatives have repeatedly refused to comment publicly on project plans.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Isla Vista Report Recommends Uniform Community Policing Practices, Restorative Court

By | Published on 12/21/2014

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To strengthen shared civic responsibilities among stakeholders, UC Santa Barbara trustee committee emphasizes success of policing, justice court, task force

In the minutes and hours after last spring’s murderous rampage in Isla Vista, law enforcement agencies scrambled to respond to the unincorporated Santa Barbara County area adjacent to the UC Santa Barbara campus.

Coordinated confusion was how UCSB senior Ali Guthy described the aftermath.

Blue uniform-clad UCSB police officers, Isla Vista Foot Patrol officers in green and sheriff’s deputies in tan swarmed the area, doing their jobs yet illustrating a potential problem outlined in a recent report by the UCSB Foundation Trustee’s Advisory Committee on Isla Vista Strategies.

The independent report recommended making resources and community policing training more uniform, an interesting idea for an area with so many possible first responders.

“They all look the same to us,” said Guthy, the UCSB Associated Students president who served on the trustee committee that began meeting in May. “Are they being trained the same? Isla Vista is a very unique place. That’s a specialized interaction.

“It’s just getting everyone in sync. The question is always whose job is it? The people who ultimately suffer are the people in the community.”

Establishing an Isla Vista neighborhood restorative justice court, hiring a dedicated deputy district attorney and creating a joint safety task force made up of representatives from local law enforcement, students and local residents were among the other two dozen report recommendations to improve viability and safety in Isla Vista.

The committee also hoped authorities could better compile crime data — a major frustration in developing the report, said Dan Burnham, retired CEO of Raytheon and a member of the panel.

He said statistics back community policing models as a way for officers to work closely with the community they serve, whether that means meeting regularly with residents and business owners or finding ways to unify training and resources to better communicate when it matters most.

“Not simply to fight crime but to be aware of the factors that create crime, and to do that you have to be plugged into the community,” Burnham explained. “The cars look different. The bikes look different. Is that good or isn’t it good? The solution to I.V. is not more policing.”

UCSB police and the Sheriff’s Department already cross-train to some extent, and have the same state-mandated education, but officials from both agencies believe more could be done.

Acting Undersheriff Don Patterson said the department will consider asking the county Board of Supervisors in June for funds to hire the first-ever community resource deputy exclusively serving Isla Vista, similar to the beat coordinator positions used by Santa Barbara police.

“Over the years, the population and the calls for service have increased, but the staffing levels have not,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelley Hoover said. “Now deputies are busy handling calls and it would be beneficial to have a deputy who is designated to handle community outreach services.”

UCSB police already embrace a community policing model — regularly meeting with students and residents — but Sgt. Rob Romero said the department is open to more joint, formalized training.

The model’s main challenge lies with a transient population. As a result, officers are continuously teaching students before more rotate in and out of campus and Isla Vista.

“A lot of these young people are out (on their own) for the very first time in their lives,” Romero said. “This is a growing-up age for a lot of them, and we understand, and we don’t want to ruin their good time. We don’t want to be the party poopers out there. It needs to be a combined effort from law enforcement and the community.

“Everyone can do better. We’re not the experts at everything. It’s the responsibility of the officers to do their best to explain why we do what we do.”

Community policing first came up in a separate joint task force called IV Safe, led by District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

That’s also where Dudley debuted her Isla Vista community restorative court idea.

A veteran district attorney would work from an Isla Vista office to prosecute all local cases, and a paralegal would decide whether offenses could instead go to a restorative court made up of community member volunteers.

“When you live and work in the community, you understand it better,” Dudley said of the dedicated prosecutor. “Most district attorneys haven’t even been to Isla Vista. You have a higher level of vestment in that community.”

Instead of being prosecuted and building a criminal record, a young person charged with minor offenses such as vandalism, public urination, drunk in public, minor battery or other crimes deemed an affront to the community could be sentenced by restorative court to clean up the beach, etc.

“This gives back to the community,” Dudley told Noozhawk. “What we have found is that when people do that ... the community feels better, and the person who committed the crime feels better because they actually improved the community.”

Ideally, Dudley said a joint effort from the county, UCSB and Santa Barbara City College would fund the salary and benefits of the new prosecutor, paralegal and one office staff person at $500,000 annually.

She would want at least a two-year commitment, so she needs $1 million to be safe.

All the entities like the proactive idea, but so far no one has stepped up with money, Dudley said.

“Isla Vista would not be Isla Vista without UCSB and SBCC,” she said. “In my world it seems like a win-win.

“It would be so sad if nothing came out of this report. It’s frustrating for me because I feel like I have one of the answers.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Santa Barbara Schools Link Drop in Student Suspensions to Success of ‘Restorative’ Discipline

By | Published on 12/21/2014

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The Santa Barbara Unified School District’s restorative discipline program has resulted in a significant drop in student suspensions for participating schools, and staff say the positive effects go far beyond that data.

“You come on the campus and you can see a more positive, respectful and responsible culture,” said David Ortiz, principal of La Colina Junior High School.

“It’s a philosophy, a philosophical intervention of a more responsive nature instead of a reactive perspective,” he said.

The program works in tandem with the traditional discipline system, and the criteria for suspensions and expulsions haven’t changed.

Building relationships between students and staff members is at the core of the program, which expanded to include nine schools this year.

“It’s working out great,” Santa Barbara Junior High School Principal Lito Garcia said. “It has definitely allowed us as a teaching staff to take the time to work with kids.

“I think really that’s the main reason behind the reduction in suspensions, is that the students are feeling more connected to the staff, feeling more ownership for their education and wanting to do well because of it.”

SBUSD trustees are concerned with the suspension rates for secondary schools, which — compared to total enrollment — are disproportionately high for socio-economically disadvantaged students and Hispanic or Latino students. They were glad to hear that numbers were heading in the right direction, with suspensions falling across the board.

Superintendent Dave Cash has called the restorative discipline program a “game changer.”

Among the schools that implemented restorative approaches last year, there was a 39-percent drop in total suspensions compared to the six-year average, said Aaron Harkey, a teacher on special assignment to manage the district’s program.

According to district data, the six-year average was 630 suspensions per year, with Hispanic or Latino students accounting for 81 percent of them.

For the 2013-2014 year, there were 387 total suspensions — 78 percent of which were Hispanic or Latino students. Hispanic or Latino students represented 55 percent of enrollment at those schools.

“We could just not suspend on a superficial level and say we’re doing better,” Ortiz said. “What’s better is all of us are evolving as better citizens within the school community and community at large in Santa Barbara.”

Santa Barbara Junior High, which has two full years of experience with the restorative approaches program, showed a 71-percent drop in suspensions for the 2013-2014 year, compared to its five-year average from before, Harkey said.

“Since implementation of restorative approaches at Santa Barbara Junior High, Latino representation in all suspensions decreased from an average of 87 percent in previous years to 73 percent in both implementation years,” Harkey said during a recent presentation to the Board of Trustees.

“The numbers, they’re great, they’re impressive,” Garcia said. “I am proud to see we’ve dropped the suspension rate by over 71 percent, that means over 71 percent more kids are in school.

“But there is more work to do, and I think as a district, one of our charges from Dr. Cash that we all believe in is to be culturally proficient, in the classroom with instruction and in social-emotional work with kids, across the board.”

The restorative approaches program started at Santa Barbara Junior High School in the 2012-2013 school year and expanded to Goleta Valley, La Colina and La Cumbre junior highs and Santa Barbara High School last year. This fall, Cleveland and Washington elementary schools and Dos Pueblos and San Marcos high schools were added.

Restorative approaches focus on a new perspective on discipline and the five Rs: respect, responsibility, repair, relationships and reintegration. When a problem arises, teachers rely on five questions to determine the problem, what harm was done and how it can be repaired.

Some schools have pursued these ideas on their own, but the benefit to a top-down restorative program is that schools have a common language now so it’s easier for students to know the expectations, Garcia said.

“I say it sarcastically, but what a crazy idea,” he said. “We’re teaching kids how to solve problems and be part of the solution. We’re in the business of education and we’re doing that every day with math, science, English and history, so why shouldn’t we be doing it with social issues?”

As the program expands to more schools, it can only make it better for everyone, Garcia said.

“I can’t wait to have kids start rolling in with restorative approaches under their belt,” he added. “My hope is as we have more and more students going through this experience, this eventually will spread out into the community at large.”

The restorative approaches program isn’t the easiest way to do things, but it’s the most effective, Ortiz said.

“You can still incur disciplinary consequences and still go through a restorative approach, the dialog and informal conference to formal conference,” he said. “​But the idea is that we’re going to stay with the person and care about them, support and guide them over time.”

Students may have issues with their home lives that manifest in inappropriate behavior at school, and teachers and staff become more aware of that by talking to students one-on-one, Ortiz continued.

“I’m so proud of our district and schools, but I’m going to be honest with you — many, many of our students are just incredible, caring, respectful, responsible citizens,” he said. “I wish I could take more credit. I just can’t go there because we have these kids who are just amazing.”

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Randy Alcorn: Santa Barbara County Supervisors Present Themselves with Generous Christmas Gift

By | Published on 12/21/2014

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Sometimes, government feeds at the public trough with such obvious gluttony that it confirms condemnations of its fiscal irresponsibility.

Earlier this month, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, in a quick vote, gifted itself a nearly 12 percent pay raise. At the same time, it also spread the joy of Christmas to five other elected officials, giving them raises ranging from 4 percent to 14 percent. The beneficiaries of this gift giving are the auditor/controller, the treasurer, the clerk recorder, the district attorney and the sheriff, each of whose total compensation now exceeds $200,000 per year.

Only Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam voted against these pay increases, noting that given the county’s large unfunded pension liability and deteriorating roads and other infrastructure, the supervisors shouldn’t make Santa’s list of deserving boys and girls.

Of course, the taxpayers of Santa Barbara County play Santa — willingly or not. For elected officials to have the power to increase their own compensation is like plundering Santa’s sleigh rather than asking Santa for gifts. Santa just doesn’t get the opportunity to check who has been naughty and who has been nice. Any increases in the compensation of elected officials should be approved by voters.

This latest round of self-gifting by the supervisors will cost taxpayers an additional $1.6 million per year — year after year. How many county residents would prefer filling potholes than filling elected officials’ Christmas stockings?

The rationale the county gives for increasing compensation of its elected officials is that elected officials in other counties are being paid more. This is a familiar justification employed by governments at all levels. To escalate their own compensation, even beyond fiscal prudence, governments engage in a tacit game of pay escalation whereby one or more jurisdictions increase the pay of its officials above that of other jurisdictions. The other jurisdictions then justify increasing their pay levels to match or exceed those of the instigating jurisdictions, and away we go on the next round of government gluttony.

This rationale for increasing the pay of elected officials assumes that taxpayers are either stupid or not paying attention — assumptions that are sadly often valid. If Santa Barbara County’s elected officials are so poorly compensated, why do they keep running for re-election? Why is there never a shortage of qualified people interested in running for county offices, even at those paltry six-figure salaries?

And, it’s not as if elected officials can just quit their positions and take the same position in another jurisdiction that has higher pay. Elected officials are, after all, elected, not hired. Is anyone really concerned that if the supervisors aren’t paid more they will establish residence in Orange County and run for supervisor there? Is anyone afraid that without more pay there will be no qualified candidates who will run for office?

For that matter, regardless of pay levels, do we always get qualified candidates for public office? Think of Congress. Voters are likely to be better served by candidates whose primary motivation for seeking office is not how much they can enrich themselves with that office.

Why did the supervisors give the county’s other elected county officials pay increases? Was the sheriff threatening to quit if he didn’t get this latest increase? Did the supervisors fear that, at $189,000 per year and the chance to retire relatively young with nearly full pay and benefits for life, there would be insufficient interest in the position, or that qualified candidates would look elsewhere? Why was a $12,000 salary increase necessary?

This past year’s race for sheriff was hard fought between two qualified candidates who, given the intensity of their campaigns, really wanted to be elected. Apparently their enthusiasm for the office was not diminished by a salary of $189,000. So why did the supervisors find it necessary to raise that salary by nearly $12,000?

Elected officials move on. Some climb the political ladder to higher office; some retire, often with generous taxpayer-funded benefits. The repercussions of their fiscal irresponsibility and greed, however, endure past their tenures. Remember, taxpayers not only pay for the salaries of those government officials and employees reporting for work each day, but also for a growing number of retired officials and employees reporting to the golf course each day.

The generous retirement packages that elected officials have bestowed on themselves and on public employees are not being covered by investment income alone. The resulting shortfalls in funding are, by law, the responsibility of taxpayers. Santa Barbara County taxpayers are currently on the hook for an unfunded county pension liability of about $1 billion.

Jurisdictions in California and other states are staggering under the crushing burden of public employee compensation excesses — especially retirement benefits. Some have declared bankruptcy. Given these disturbing realities, how can the county supervisors increase their pay and that of other county officials?

Merry Christmas, taxpayers.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Winds Pick Up Along South Coast, with 60 mph Gusts and Power Outages

By | Published on 12/21/2014

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Westmont College library damaged as strong gusts sweep through region in advance of warming trend through midweek

A weekend wind advisory was extended through Monday morning as gusty northerly winds whipped around Santa Barbara County’s South Coast on Sunday.

The National Weather Service said north winds of 20 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph, were expected through at least 9 a.m. Monday. Isolated gusts in excess of 60 mph were possible at higher elevations overnight on the South Coast.

Shortly after 10 p.m., the National Weather Service reported a gust of 86 mph in the Montecito foothills.

The strongest winds were forecast below canyons and passes, especially in the Montecito.

On the campus of Westmont College at 955 La Paz Road, a large oak tree toppled across the road near Clark Hall on Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday night, the wind blew out a large window on the second floor of the Roger John Voskuyl Library.

“It looks like a tornado hit,” Debra Quast, director of library and information services, wrote in an email to staff announcing that the facility would be closed for cleanup Monday.

There were no injuries in either incident, and Westmont students left for their Christmas break last week.

On Sunday night, santa ana-like conditions had pushed temperatures into the mid-70s in Montecito, where power was also flickering off and on in some neighborhoods.

Late Sunday, Southern California Edison reported six power outages affecting at least 400 customers. The utility said it expected service to be restored by 4 a.m. Monday. 

Motorists were advised to use caution on Highway 101 along the Gaviota coast, on Highway 154 over San Marcos Pass and on Highway 192/East Valley Road through Montecito.

The weather service said high surf conditions were tapering off along Central Coast beaches as a large northwest swell began to subside Sunday afternoon. Strong rip currents are still possible, however.

Gale force winds were forecast for the outer Santa Barbara Channel through Monday morning, the weather service said. Sustained surface winds of 34 to 47 knots, or 39-54 mph, were expected from Point Sal down to San Nicolas Island.

In spite of a blustery beginning to Christmas week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday should see clear skies with daytime highs in the upper 60s to mid-70s and overnight lows in the upper 40s to low 50s.

The weather is expected to cloud up by Christmas Day, with cooler temperatures reaching only into the mid-60s.

» Click here for the complete National Weather Service forecast.

» Click here for the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services. Click here to sign up for the OES’ messaging service. Connect with the OES on Facebook.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

There were no injuries when this massive oak tree fell across a roadway Sunday on the campus of Westmont College in Montecito. (Tom Beveridge photo / Westmont College via Instagram)
There were no injuries when this massive oak tree fell across a roadway Sunday on the campus of Westmont College in Montecito. (Tom Beveridge photo / Westmont College via Instagram)

Sunday’s sunset at Butterfly Beach in Montecito included a fiery, pink sky. (Dana Fisher photo / www.santabarbarafun.net)
Sunday’s sunset at Butterfly Beach in Montecito included a fiery, pink sky. (Dana Fisher photo / www.santabarbarafun.net)

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Wind Advisory in Effect for Santa Barbara County’s South Coast Through Sunday Morning

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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Gusty winds were sweeping across Santa Barbara County’s South Coast late Saturday, and the National Weather Service issued a wind advisory through 9 a.m. Sunday.

The weather service said north winds of 15 to 25 mph, with gusts to 35 mph, were expected through early Sunday. The conditions are likely to redevelop Sunday night.

The strongest winds were forecast below canyons and passes, especially in the Montecito foothills.

Motorists were advised to use caution on Highway 101 along the Gaviota coast, on Highway 154 over San Marcos Pass and on Highway 192/East Valley Road through Montecito.

High surf conditions are expected to persist along Central Coast beaches through Sunday night as a large northwest swell continues to roll in, the weather service said. Strong rip currents are possible, as well.

Northwest winds in the outer Santa Barbara Channel could reach gale force by Sunday afternoon, and authorities urged boaters and and mariners to take precautions.

Onshore, Sunday’s weather forecast is for partly cloudy skies and high temperatures in the mid-60s to low 70s.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday should be clear with daytime highs in the upper 60s to mid-70s, but the weather may cloud up by Christmas Day, with cooler temperatures reaching only into the mid-60s.  

» Click here for the complete National Weather Service forecast.

» Click here for the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services. Click here to sign up for the OES’ messaging service. Connect with the OES on Facebook.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Village Dirtbags Roll Out New Bicycles in Annual Giveaway for Vandenberg Air Force Base Youths

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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Delivering Christmas cheer, mountain biking enthusiasts mark ninth year of supporting military kids for the holidays

As members of the Village Dirtbags fitted helmets and adjusted seats Saturday, it was difficult to tell just who was more excited — the adults who make up the club or the youths getting the brand-new top-quality bikes.

This marked the ninth year the Vandenberg Village group of mountain biking enthusiasts gave away dozens of bicycles to children of military members at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“It’s such a nice event,” said Randy Baumgardner, a Vandenberg Village resident who joined the Villages Dirtbags four years ago. “There’s great energy here. I love it.

“I love serving those who serve.”

The program began in 2006, when the organization gave away 12 bikes and helmets. The numbers have grown since then, and organizers pinpointed this year’s giveaway at 125.

“We just want to support the military,” said Roger McConnell, who spearheads the bike drive that began when a high number of Vandenberg airmen were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The group works with VAFB officials to identify the recipients, focusing on kids who had a parent deployed overseas. The mission hit its target.

“It only took three or four moms to really show their appreciation and we said, ‘This is what we’re doing every year,’” McConnell said.

They don’t do any formal fundraising, instead accepting donations.

After getting her new helmet fitted, 2-year-old Narayan Peterson high-fives Randy Baumgardner, a member of the Village Dirtbags. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
After getting her new helmet fitted, 2-year-old Narayan Peterson high-fives Randy Baumgardner, a member of the Village Dirtbags. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“We ask for donations from families, friends and business associations,” McConnell said. “It just builds upon itself. They see that every dollar they put into it buys a bike, buys a helmet, gets to the kids — every dollar.”

Several businesses support the effort. PODS Moving & Storage supplies a containers for bikes, Bicycles Unlimited determines the size and type of bike kids should get and Imerys Filtration Materials donated funds to buy 15 bikes and helmets.

“It’s become a community event,” McConnell added. “It’s not just the Village Dirtbags and Vandenberg Air Force Base.”

Club members assemble the bikes ahead of time so they just have to make last-minute adjustments to pair the bikes with their new owners.

Observing the various stations for bikes, adjustments, helmets and pictures, Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, remarked on the military precision employed by the civilian club.

“Not only is it great to get a bike for these kids, but this is going to be a huge memory for them ...,” he said. “It’s a great memory just above the doughnut and the bike.

Roger McConnell, left, who leads the Village Dirtbags bike giveaway, greets Air Force Col. Keith Balts, commander of Vandenberg Air Force Base’s 30th Space Wing. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
Roger McConnell, left, who leads the Village Dirtbags bike giveaway, greets Air Force Col. Keith Balts, commander of Vandenberg Air Force Base’s 30th Space Wing. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“I really want to thank the Village Dirtbags for doing this. It seems to be growing every year.”

In a Lompoc shopping center parking lot off North H Street five days before Christmas, youths showed up with parents to get their new bicycles.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Stephannie Fletcher, mom to DaKari Williams, 6. “I think it’s great the community is so involved with us.”

Abbie Carr, 10, tried out her bike while waiting for her siblings to get theirs.

“I really like it,” she said, adding that her previous bicycle broke. “I was hoping for a mountain bike.”

“I’m very grateful for this,” added her mom, Kathy Carr. “They all need new bikes.”

Traci Willett watched as sons Declan and Aidan were fitted for helmets.

“It is beyond awesome,” she said as Declan sat atop his first bike, five days before Christmas, which coincides with his birthday. “I think this is amazing. This is so cool.

“Oh, my gosh, buddy. Your first bike,” she exclaimed. “He’s going to love it.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Abbie Carr, 10, visits with Santa Claus after receiving her bike and helmet Saturday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
Abbie Carr, 10, visits with Santa Claus after receiving her bike and helmet Saturday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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Gerald Carpenter: French Organ Music on Menu at Trinity Episcopal Church

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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The Advent Organ Series at Trinity Episcopal Church continues at 3:30 p.m. Sunday with a free concert of “Parisian Masters of the 20th Century” by the church’s new minister of keyboard music, Thomas Joyce.

The gourmet program for this concert includes the Fantaisie-Improvisation sur “​l’Ave Maris Stella” from Cinq Improvisations (reconstituée par Maurice Duruflé) by Charles Tournemire (1870-1931); the Symphonie Gothique, Opus 70 by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937); La Nativité du Seigneur by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992); Trois Poèmes Évangéliques, Opus 2 by Jean Langlais (1907-1991); and Variations sur un Noël, Opus 20 by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971).

“Advent,” as we all know, is the Christmas season, the time of anticipation of Christ’s coming. Although she was decisively and permanently disconnected from the French state by the Revolution (1789-1793), the Roman Catholic Church has continued down to the present as a powerful force in French culture.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, French and Belgian composers have derived a considerable portion of their incomes from church commissions and church offices. Even freethinkers like Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Fauré wrote masses; as did ultra-modernists like Francis Poulenc and Olivier Messiaen.

Many, like César Franck, served most of their lives as organists in the great cathedrals. It is thus not surprising that there is a huge body of French organ music — much of it fabulous stuff — and that French organists still dominate the market.

Most of the time, alas, what plays in France stays in France — until some enterprising Anglo-Saxon Yankee like Thomas Joyce makes a raid on the pantry to serve some of it to his guests.

Admission is free for the concert at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State St. in Santa Barbara, although donations are welcome.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at gerald.carpenter@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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James Mosby to Fill Lompoc City Council Vacancy Created by Bob Lingl’s Election As Mayor

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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During special meeting Saturday, four-member council taps utilities commissioner from field of 12 applicants

The Lompoc City Council went shopping Saturday for a fifth member before choosing a lifelong resident who serves on the Santa Barbara County Parks Commission.

James Mosby was picked from a field of 12 applicants by a 3-1 vote during the two-hour special meeting Saturday.

Mayor Bob Lingl cast the lone opposition vote.

Mosby, 50, said after the meeting that the selection “kind of caught me off guard. I wasn’t really sure which direction it was going to go.”

He noted that the City Council has a tendency to go into the wee hours of the morning, and braced for the possibility the four members might not reach a consensus Saturday and would have to meet again next week.

“I am still a little shell-shocked,” he said.

Mosby has served on the Lompoc Utilities Commission for the past two years but must resign from that role with his appointment to the council.

He was named to the county Parks Commission by Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam in 2012, but expects to continue that role.

Mosby also will step down from leading the nonprofit Lompoc Valley Parks, Recreation and Pool Foundation.

A couple of years ago, Mosby was at the center of a controversy over a recreational facility on his land just east of the city, as county officials contended the use wasn’t permitted.

Running for the City Council had been on his mind, he said. 

“I had some minor plans in two years from now of potentially running, and that’s one of the reasons why I made the commitment to try to learn as much about the process of this town as I have, and made the commitment in the last four years to get involved ...,” Mosby said.

He also said he has regularly attended City Council meetings for the past four years.

Mosby submitted his application for the council vacancy on the final day.

“I saw the opportunity and the need for it, and decided to put my name in there and see what happened,” he said. “Have to start somewhere, right?”

The new council member will finish the final two years left on Lingl’s term after his recent election as mayor.

Before voting, the council heard brief statements from the dozen people who applied for the job.

Among those who applied were third place vote-getter Ann Ruhge plus other previously unsuccessful candidates — Darrell W. Tullis, David G. Grill, Robert Cuthbert, Frank Campo and Steve Chudoba.

Former Mayor John Linn, ousted in the Nov. 4 race that Lingl won, also applied.

Rounding out the field of applicants were Jenelle Osborne, Christian Martinez, John Fragosa and Adrienne Boyd.

The dozen candidates included the seven people who were unsuccessful in the races for the council and mayoral seats in the Nov. 4 election.

Others, such as Osborne and Mosby, were familiar for their roles serving on city committees. And a few of the applicants were newcomers to city politics.

While some residents had urged the council to select the third-place vote-getter to fill the vacancy, the four men were split on choosing Ruhge to fill the position during the Dec. 2 meeting.

During Saturday’s meeting, the first round of ballots to narrow the field saw Mosby get three votes, Osborne get two votes and one each for Fragosa and Tullis, City Administrator Patrick Wiemiller said.

With Mosby getting three marks on the unofficial ballot, Councilman Victor Vega made the motion to appoint him and Councilman Dirk Starbuck seconded the nomination, which passed as Councilman DeWayne Holmdahl cast the third vote.

“All of the candidates were good,” Vega said after the meeting. “But basically when it comes down to it, there were a couple who stood out from the rest.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Diane Dimond: Ominous Predictions of Worldwide Ebola Epidemic Prove Untrue

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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How is it that some of the pending catastrophes we read or hear about in the media simply fade away? What seems so cataclysmic today barely gets a mention next week.

If only irresponsible reporting was declared an actual crime, even just a misdemeanor, there might be less of it. And a lot more doubling back to correct the record when journalists come to realize they’ve been duped.

Case in point: the much ballyhooed prediction of a widespread — even worldwide — Ebola epidemic.

Consider this my mea culpa. It’s my attempt to double back to underscore what appears to be deliberate misinformation from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Back in mid-October, I, along with countless other scribes, repeated the dire WHO warnings that new cases of the deadly disease would soon reach 10,000 per week.

Wow. What a frightening prospect. So reporters everywhere dutifully repeated the breathtaking projection. WHO’s Ebola chief, Bruce Aylward, added to his prediction saying that by the “first week in December” the world would come to see the awful consequences of ignoring the Ebola threat.

Well, we’re nearing the end of the month now, and guess what the latest WHO figures show? In the first week of December there were a total of 529 new cases. It turns out that Ebola cases had peaked three weeks before the WHO held that scary news conference.

Too bad official exaggeration isn’t a crime, either.

More WHO facts: The grand total of all Ebola cases is just under 18,000. Approximately 6,400 people have died, almost all of them in West Africa.

Those are sad numbers, but a far cry from the fear-provoking prognostication of our own CDC. Earlier this year, the CDC predicted that by mid-January 2015, Liberia and Sierra Leone alone would see as many as 1.4 million cases.

What a bunch of hooey.

My eyes were opened on this subject after reading — and then double-checking — the work of Michael Fumento, a journalist lawyer who penned a column titled “The Great Ebola Lie.”

“You’ve been lied to, folks,”​ Fumento wrote. “And they’ll keep repeating this Chicken Little game as long as the media keep falling for it and the politicians keep rewarding it with billions of dollars.”

And there you have it. The motive for the exaggeration? Money.

The World Bank originally calculated that combating the spread of Ebola would cost the world $36 billion. Countries across the globe began to chip in. No matter that the bank later reduced its assessment to more like $3 billion or $4 billion.

And, guess which country is tossing a very generous $5 billion into the Ebola-fight honey pot? That’s right, the United States of America. A lot of that money is earmarked to set up more than 50 Ebola treatment centers throughout the United States.

Really?

Do you remember how many cases of Ebola were contracted here? Two. Just two Texas nurses who tended to one of the few patients who came here after contracting Ebola in West Africa. The facilities we already have proved to be more than enough to treat the victims we received. Why build more?

Look, Ebola is still a deadly problem in West Africa, and we should remain hyper-focused on developing vaccines, establishing a few more Ebola treatment centers and monitoring at-risk travelers entering the United States. But I have a nagging feeling that much of that $5 billion is being earmarked by lawmakers who drank the Kool-Aid of a vastly overstated Ebola threat — lawmakers who failed to check the predictions against the reality.

There was a time when public health experts warned of a pending AIDS pandemic among heterosexuals. Billions more dollars were allocated to counter a problem that didn't exist. Is AIDS still a scourge on the Earth? Of course it is, and it continues to effect many heterosexual black women. But the idea that the general population was at risk has now been rejected.

Driven by spasms of misguided (or sensationalized) media coverage, many people were once scared into thinking that swine flu, the Y2K computer glitch or rising sea levels were going to make our lives unbearable. Those events came and went, leaving a mark, but not the predicted catastrophe.

Let’s all put on our critical thinking caps when we hear these most ominous predictions. And to my colleagues in the media, admit when you’ve repeated exaggerations. In doing so, you both increase public awareness and your own credibility.

Diane Dimond is the author of Be Careful Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case. Contact her at diane@dianedimond.com, follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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Mark Shields: Price of Raising Political Money Too High a Price for Public Trust

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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Mark A. Hanna was a wealthy Cleveland businessman who shrewdly laid out the winning strategy and personally, out of pocket, paid all the costs required to secure the 1896 Republican presidential nomination for his fellow Ohioan, William McKinley.

Sometime after McKinley’s election and re-election to the White House, Hanna, based upon his personal experience, offered this timeless insight: “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”

The New York Times’​ Binyamin Appelbaum has become the latest in a growing number of scholars to argue that political money is not that influential in deciding the winners of congressional elections or even in affecting how the winners, once in office, will vote on policy. We should, Appelbaum writes, be less anxious about cash in campaigns because “over the past year, Americans spent more on almonds than on selecting their representatives in Congress.”

To borrow the immortal phrase of Hollywood's Sam Goldwyn, “Gentlemen, include me out.” Forget the wealthy campaign donors, who — please take my word for it — almost always write their checks not out of altruism but fully expecting a “return” on their “investment.” Instead, think about the typical House candidate, who — just to cover the costs of her campaign — has to raise an average of $18,000 a week, 52 weeks a year, every year. Beyond raising that war chest, if a congressman hopes to rise to a position of leadership within the House or to win appointment to a powerful House committee, then he has to raise money for his party’s campaign committee.

This means going to a cramped cubicle at party headquarters and, several days a week, turning into a telemarketer, calling a list of people, most of whom you don’t know, and begging for money. Because you are provided the information on a sheet, you know what the potential check writer’s legislative and policy priorities are. You emphasize how your voting record is in harmony with the potential contributor’s values, and you are careful to avoid any potential areas of disagreement.

Because the member of Congress does this for hours on end every week, it means that the member is not spending his time meeting with and listening to his constituents or mastering a subject or getting to know personally his congressional colleagues and potentially collaborating on the public’s business.

Beyond all that fundraising lies more fundraising. Why? Because of the legitimate fear that a misnamed “independent” committee, underwritten by anonymous big money, could spend millions of dollars against any at-risk incumbent, baselessly defaming and possibly destroying him politically for being sympathetic to child pornographers or worse. The one insurance policy many members of Congress believe they have against that career-threatening “nuclear option” is to stockpile millions in their personal campaign accounts — which means more hours putting the arm on everyone who lobbies you on any issue from school lunches to bridge repairs.

The casualties of the endless cycle of fundraising are, too often, the independence, integrity and ideals of those who become its prisoners, and sadly, there’s an even greater loss of public trust and confidence in our own self-government.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Toppled Trailer Spills Hay Near Vandenberg Air Force Base Gate

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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A trailer loaded with hay overturned on Highway 1 while making a left turn in front of the Vandenberg Air Force Base main gate Saturday afternoon, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The overturned vehicle was part of a double-trailer rig carrying hay bales, according to CHP emergency dispatch reports.

The crash occurred at 3 p.m., and traffic reportedly was detoured around the resulting mess for a short time, the CHP said.

A Caltrans crew was called out to clean up the spilled hay.

The driver reportedly was not injured in the wreck.

Additional details were not immediately available.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputy Shot in Training Mishap

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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A Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputy suffered an accidental gunshot wound Saturday afternoon during a training session in Goleta, authorities said.

The incident occurred at about 2:30 p.m. as undisclosed training was being conducted at a building in the 7400 block of Hollister Avenue, said Kelly Hoover, a department spokeswoman.

“Fortunately it was a minor injury, and he is being treated at a local hospital for a gunshot wound to his arm,” Hoover said.

She did not describe the nature of the training session or indicate how the deputy was shot.

The deputy’s name and other information also were not released.

Santa Barbara County firefighters responded to the incident along with American Medical Response paramedics.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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For Many Wilderness Youth Project Kids, Time in Nature a Transformative Experience — Inside and Out

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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Staff recount emotional stories of youth changing before their eyes as a result of first-time engagement with the outdoors

[Noozhawk’s note: This article is the third in a series sponsored by the Hutton Parker Foundation.]

The environment of Santa Barbara County provides an abundance of opportunities for youth and adults to embrace a variety of natural habitats, and the Wilderness Youth Project helps to inspire local kids who are curious to learn and play in the great outdoors.

“Our after-school programs with Wilderness Youth Project are all about helping kids get out into the natural world and enjoy some great free time and some unstructured play time,” associate director Erika Lindemann told Noozhawk. “And ... a number of different awareness games and times where we can focus in on things in the natural world.”

Preschool-age children benefit from exploring the boundaries of natural spaces to develop decision-making skills, while school-age kids who participate in running and playing games in the outdoors develop important team building and social skills.

“It’s the connection these kids have with nature, but also a big part of it is the connection these kids have with each other — the social aspect of it,” lead program staff member Mario Mendez said.

The Wilderness Youth Project utilizes unique mentoring and active outdoor experiences to provide youth with the opportunity to spend time in nature and become future stewards of the environment.

Staff and volunteers keep kids engaged by observing what draws their interest in the outdoors.

“In that moment where there’s some sort of engagement from the kid to something in nature, you jump in and you do nature connection techniques and questioning to try to get them even more intrigued,” Mendez explained.

Programs are offered year round and throughout the school week and weekends for children from Santa Barbara County schools, including Adams School, Adelante Charter School, Brandon School, Crane Country Day School, La Cuesta Continuation High School and McKinley School.

Although there is a local focus, WYP also has worked with youth from elsewhere, including some from the Los Angeles area who “walked out of the bus and had never even walked on uneven ground, had never really hopped on rocks or across a creek,” Mendez said.

Everyone can face an initial fear or some type of anxiety about things that are different, but the connection to nature is something that’s ingrained in each of us.

“It’s such a familiar feeling that within hours you see these kids transformed and you see that transformation — their eyes getting wide and their bodies transform,” Mendez said.

Wilderness Youth Project participants gather wildflowers during a recent outing in the Santa Barbara County backcountry. (Eric Isaacs photo / EMI Photography)
Wilderness Youth Project participants gather wildflowers during a recent outing in the Santa Barbara County backcountry. (Eric Isaacs photo / EMI Photography)

This transformational effect crosses all boundaries, and Mendez shared an emotional example that created a lasting impact for one local boy. He said the youth was from a gang family, and his father and brothers were in jail.

The touching moment occurred on a three-day trip to the wilderness above the Santa Ynez Valley. On the last day, the group formed a circle to share what they were thankful for. During the boy’s turn to share, the group finally understood why he had spent part of each day collecting wildflowers from around the camp area.

“He said that I’m thankful for all of these wildflowers that are growing because my mom sometimes takes care of this old lady,” Mendez recalled. “And before coming here on the trip he had visited the woman and told her he was going on a long weekend trip out into nature.”

The woman told him to not forget to look at all the wildflowers because that was her favorite thing when she was young, to be able to see all of the wildflowers.

“We all got really teary-eyed and started crying because this was a kid, when I met him, who showed no emotion and was on the fast track to going down the wrong path for sure,” Mendez said. “And here we were a group of peers and mentors going around for like 20 minutes collecting wildflowers for this lady!

“That was really emotional for me, that sense of empathy that was created in this boy from the nature connection,” he added. “That was a reminder for me that the work that we do touches people in a very positive way and you could see the results.”

The Wilderness Youth Project could not thrive without the support of volunteers and donors who help drive its mission. Click here for more information about the Wilderness Youth Project, or call 805.964.8096. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk contributing writer Melissa Walker can be reached at mwalker@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Fairview Gardens in Goleta was a recent destination for Wilderness Youth Project staffers Erika Lindemann and Ulises Rios and program participants Juan Escobar, Angel Estrada, Jair Jaramillo, Jesus Medina, Helene Navarrete, Osiel Ocampo, Eminnen Pachucas, Samantha Sandoval, Samuel Sandoval and Nitzy Verdusco. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)
Fairview Gardens in Goleta was a recent destination for Wilderness Youth Project staffers Erika Lindemann and Ulises Rios and program participants Juan Escobar, Angel Estrada, Jair Jaramillo, Jesus Medina, Helene Navarrete, Osiel Ocampo, Eminnen Pachucas, Samantha Sandoval, Samuel Sandoval and Nitzy Verdusco. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

Wilderness Youth Project lead program staff member Mario Mendez describes flora and fauna during an outing. (Eric Isaacs photo / EMI Photography)
Wilderness Youth Project lead program staff member Mario Mendez describes flora and fauna during an outing. (Eric Isaacs photo / EMI Photography)

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Waves of Young Surfers Join Lakey Peterson at Inaugural Leadbetter Beach Surf Competition

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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Popular local pro surfer partners with Surf Happens to help inspire kids to paddle out and follow in her wake

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

Scores of young surfers stormed Santa Barbara’s Leadbetter Beach on Saturday for the inaugural Lakey Peterson Leadbetter Classic surf competition.

The free event was open to all skill levels for youths 14 and under, and no one was eliminated in the first round.

The competition was hosted by the nonprofit Surf Happens, an arm of the Surf Happens Surf School. Organizers hope to make the Lakey Peterson Leadbetter Classic an annual December event.

The day’s events also included a surfing class to promote the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.

Peterson, 20, a champion professional surfer who grew up in Montecito, first competed in a Surf Happens Santa Barbara Surfing Series event at Campus Point when she was 9 years old. She has been a longtime Surf Happens supporter, including as a regular at the annual Rincon Classic.

Before she was 13, Peterson had won several National Scholastic Surfing Association​ titles and, at 14, won the NSSA Open Women’s Title. As a 16 year old, she was runner-up in the 2011 U.S. Open of Surfing, and earned a spot on the official Association of Surfing Professionals Women’s World Tour.

She is currently ranked No. 6 in the world on the 2014 tour.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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2 Seriously Injured in SUV Wreck at Carrillo Street Exit on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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CHP says Cadillac Escalade slammed into trees and a wall after exiting freeway; one dog reportedly killed in the crash, another hurt

Two people were seriously injured Saturday in a single-vehicle crash on Highway 101 in Santa Barbara.

The wreck occurred at about 9:30 a.m. at the northbound Carrillo Street exit ramp, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A Cadillac Escalade that was exiting the freeway went off the roadway and crashed into some trees and a sound wall, Santa Barbara Fire Battalion Chief Jim McCoy said.

He said two women — possibly a mother and daughter — were seriously hurt and had to be extricated from the wreckage.

“It was a significant extrication for our crews,” he said.

The passenger was freed rather quickly, McCoy said, and was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment of her injuries.

A Santa Barbara Animal Control officer carries a dog from the scene of a Cadillac Escalade crash Saturday. Two people suffered serious injuries in the crash, and a second dog reportedly was killed. (Urban Hikers photo)
A Santa Barbara Animal Control officer carries a dog from the scene of a Cadillac Escalade crash Saturday. Two people suffered serious injuries in the crash, and a second dog reportedly was killed. (Urban Hikers photo)

However, it took much longer to remove the second victim from the vehicle, he said.

“The driver was very entangled and up against the sound wall,” McCoy told Noozhawk. “The dashboard was down on her legs, and basically her whole capsule was crushed down on her.”

The second victim also was taken to Cottage Hospital.

The names of the victims and details on their conditions were not immediately available.

Fire crews requested that Animal Control respond to the scene to attend to two dogs that were in the SUV, McCoy said.

One dog reportedly was killed in the crash and the other was taken to a veterinary hospital.

The northbound exit ramp at Carrillo was shut down for more than an hour, the CHP said, and freeway traffic through the area was slowed by the wreck.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Letter to the Editor: Another Bad Deal

By | Published on 12/20/2014

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President Barack Obama recently stated, “Today the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.”

However, is that true? Simply put, Obama made a bad deal with the communist, dictatorial Castros. There is no democratically elected government in Cuba and the Cuban people have no say in how they live or are governed.

Our imperial president wants to economically bail out a country whose leaders are pals with Marxists and Islamic terrorists. And to make things even worse, our military is concerned Obama will make a deal with the Castros to close Gitmo, thereby releasing the most dangerous jihadists to kill again.

Once again, Barack Obama has put the interests, safety and welfare of Americans second. Why are we letting him get by with this tyranny? Will our Republic survive under two more years of his control?

Diana and Don Thorn
Carpinteria

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Santa Barbara County Police Agencies Prepare to Use Body-Worn Cameras

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Local law enforcement looks to pilot models while others are still searching after President Barack Obama's recommendation to implement the devices

Body-worn cameras have recently become a large part of a national discussion about law enforcement transparency, but many Santa Barbara County police agencies have been considering piloting the devices for some time.

To wear or not to wear the cameras, allowing a sense of accountability for officers as well as the public, has — not so surprisingly — mostly come down to finding the funds.

Before police-involved shootings in Ferguson, Mo., and the like shone a light on potential need, Santa Barbara police began investigating body-camera types.

Facing a consistent price tag of $600 to $1,000 each, Sgt. Riley Harwood said police would welcome an opportunity to find finding through a program championed by President Barack Obama earlier this month.

A proposed three-year, $263 million investment package puts body cameras and law enforcement training and reform at the center of the initiative, which would provide a 50 percent match to states or cities purchasing the devices. 

The initiative’s $75 million investment over three years aims to assist in buying 50,000 body cameras nationwide.

Included in that program would be the cost of processing and storing video — a huge IT expense, Harwood said.

Police wouldn’t be forced to make footage available to the public, as is the policy with dashboard cameras in SBPD patrol cars, but the video could be used in court cases, Harwood said.

Santa Barbara police were also holding off to find a model to mesh with its dash cameras, which were installed last year.

This Vidmic model being tested by sheriff's deputies connects with the department's radio system. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department photo)

“The cost is more significant than simply paying for units for 143 officers,” Harwood said. “If all goes well, our hope would be to get it into this budget process. Ultimately, that’s a decision the City Council would have to make.”

Technical difficulties were also hampering body camera discussions for the Santa Maria Police Department, which is currently updating all its software to accommodate a switch from a Ford Crown Victoria patrol car to Explorers and the all-wheel drive Ford Taurus.

Lompoc Police were still exploring the idea this week, but a handful of UCSB Police officers were already piloting some.

UCSB Police Sgt. Rob Romero said most of the 36 officers were still waiting on an official policy, which he expected to soon be adopted for the entire University of California System.

“As of right now, some officers are carrying their own,” he said.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department purchased 40 body cameras in October, assigned 20 of them to deputies and eight of them are actually piloting the devices, spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said. 

She said most were using VidMic units connected to patrol car radios, although a second, bigger body camera was being tested within the department should the decision be made to equip all deputies.

Sheriff's deputies are testing two possible body-worn camera models. This body cam model isn't in circulation yet. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department photo)

According to policy, deputies using body cameras must activate them during interactions with the public while on duty, with some exceptions for sensitive investigations.

Each camera runs anywhere from $300 to $550, Hoover said.

“The deputies who were selected to use the body cameras are ones who typically do not use a patrol car for their shifts and benefit the most from having the equipment, such as Isla Vista Foot Patrol deputies, school resource deputies and community resource deputies,” she said. “The video is archived on a secure, local server similar to the in-car video systems. 

“At this point and time, the reason every deputy is not equipped with a body camera is both a budget issue and an administrative choice. Even though body cameras are being used by other law enforcement agencies, the technology is relatively new and emerging and we are looking at all the potential issues surrounding their usage.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Preview: Reveling in Tradition with the Santa Barbara Revels

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Susan Keller is founder and artistic director of Santa Barbara Revels and is stage director of the current production, The Christmas Revels, An Irish Celebration of the Winter Solstice, taking place this weekend at the Lobero Theatre, with 2:30 p.m. matinees each day and an evening show at 7:30 on Saturday.

Meredith McMinn has been with SB Revels for the past three years and has a leading role in this production. In addition, she's been acting as dialect coach, helping cast members with their Irish accents.

Adam Phillips joins the ensemble this year as music director.

Each took time from their busy rehearsal schedules to share their thoughts on what makes Revels special.

Justine Sutton: With each year’s Revels show portraying a different era and culture, how is this year’s show different from past productions?

Susan Keller: This year, I'm pleased to see the next generation of revelers getting involved. Matt Tavianini has been assisting me as stage director this year, and he's poised to take the reins next year. Adam Phillips is our new music director, and he's done a fabulous job, finding and arranging many beautiful musical numbers, getting top notch instrumentalists to play with us, and preparing our wonderful Solstice Singers. Sarah Eglin is new to our Children's Chorus this year, and she has pulled together an energetic group from seven different schools. We also have amazing dancers from the Claddagh School of Irish Dance coming in as guest artists. They are so talented, and it's such a pleasure to see them dance.

Meredith McMinn: Every year is different, of course, with a different script and a different culture being showcased. This script has more realistic characters than those of the previous few years and much that's rather poignant. I'm partial to things Irish, but I think the emigrant experience is something that most people can relate to, even if they were born right here, because almost all of us have had the experience of leaving something behind to embark on something new. So there's some nostalgia and some excitement and some pure fun--just what you want in the holiday season!

Perhaps the biggest difference this year is in personnel, particularly Adam Phillips as musical director. He came into the first get-together, even before chorus rehearsals began, with the sheet music of the songs we were going to sing and he got recordings to us early on, too, which helped tremendously to learn them. He's also done beautiful arrangements of songs. The caliber of the singing is especially high, and music rehearsals have been a joy.

J.S.: So you’re the new kid on the Revels block this year. How is that for you?

Adam Phillips: I really enjoy the Revels presentation because it involves so many different people and showcases their different strengths. There is music and dance, pageantry and acting, all while striving for a high degree of authenticity. It is a great program for the holidays because it always has a common thread but is different each year. So it can be a tradition with a fun familiarity, without being a carbon copy of the year before.

Revels is perfect for me because it comprises a lot of what I love to do. I get to make music with a lovely chorus, select and arrange music for voice and instruments, and I get to sing and play guitar and mandolin. What more could I ask for?

J.S.: How is Revels different from other Christmas/winter holiday celebrations or performances?

M.M.: Most holiday shows or events are one thing or another — there are dance performances (chiefly The Nutcracker), choral concerts, plays that are either traditional (assorted versions of A Christmas Carol) or contemporary, concerts and recitals by children for families, shows by adults for children and their families, and at some special events there may be storytelling or sing-alongs. Revels has it all. Each year is a different script, but there are always some traditional Revels elements — including some audience participation — and each year's theme brings to life traditions of a different culture, at least some of which may be new to all of us.

Most notably, though, what sets Revels apart and brings people back year after year is the sense of community it engenders. It brings together people of all ages and a wide range of backgrounds, on the stage and in the audience. Total strangers sing and dance together and share in the celebration of the turning of the seasons. Long before they leave the theater, they no longer feel like strangers to one another. Revels may be the only thing outside of a disaster that has such a broad unifying effect — without the pain! I think the slogan Susan came up with, "Join us and be joyous!," perfectly captures what Revels is all about.

For tickets, call 805.963.0761 or click here.

— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.

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Gerald Carpenter: Quire of Voyces Will Sing the ‘Song of Songs’

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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In a department store two days ago, I was standing in a long line at a cash register, watching a Christmas hire fumble items past the barcode reader while the people in front of me craned their necks to see what was holding things up and the line behind me got longer and longer.

As Tom Petty truly noted, the waiting was the hardest part, and what made it exponentially harder was the insipid pseudo-Christmas music that poured pitilessly out of the PA system. It was not music to be listened to, qua music, and it was certainly not music to connect us with any of our Christmases past; it was just music to lubricate our shopping. Stalled as I was in the line, it had the opposite effect on me. Has anyone, ever, had "A Holly-Golly Christmas"?

If this has happened to you lately, you might want to purify your audio system with an influx of sublimely, exquisitely real Christmas music of the sort which the Quire of Voyces produces in gratifying abundance.

As it happens, the Quire, under founder and director Nathan Kreitzer, will be performing their eagerly awaited Christmas concerts, called "Song of Songs," this very weekend — at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21 in the acoustically vibrant St. Anthony’s Chapel at the Garden Street Academy, 2300 Garden St.

This year, the Quire promises "a gorgeous array of choral gems by composers both ancient and modern, from Palestrina, to Durufle, to as-yet unheard, commissioned works by award-winning composers Daniel Brinsmead and Michael Eglin." They urge us to "let yourself be swept away by an exquisite collection of works based on the true meaning of Christmas."

If you have ever been to a Quire concert, you probably already have your tickets. If you haven't heard them yet, you won't believe what a treat you have in store.

Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors, and they can be purchased at the Garvin Theatre box office (City College West Campus) by phone at 805.965.5935 or at the door.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at gerald.carpenter@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Villa Serena, Carpinteria 93013

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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This exquisite gated estate is located near the beach and the Santa Barbara International Polo Fields. It offers beautiful botanical gardens and idyllic outdoor spaces, horse facilities, a pool, guest houses, a gym, children’s play park and a magical ocean view. Perfect for the ultimate executive, this elegant and charming home is ideal for grand entertaining, but offers comfort and convenience for everyday family living. Main house is 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a high-quality home, with a media room, formal dining room, gourmet kitchen, sun room, wet bar, game room and family room. Guest house No. 1 is 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. Guest house No. 2 is 1 bedroom, separate access to the kitchen, bathroom, executive home office.

Click here for more information about this property.

List Price: $3,925,000

Gary Goldberg
Broker ~ Attorney ~ Realtor®
805.455.8910
gary@coastalrealty.com
DRE Licenses #01172139 / #01208634

(Coastal Properties photo)
(Coastal Properties photo)
(Coastal Properties photo)
(Coastal Properties photo)

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4063 Naranjo Drive, Santa Barbara 93110

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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This '“turnkey”​ 4 bedroom / 2½ bathroom home is located within the desirable La Colina Park development. The owners have revamped this 2,704-square-foot, split-level home with new interior paint and updated landscaping. The upstairs consists of the master bedroom and bath, a spacious second bedroom or den, half-bath, kitchen and living room. The downstairs contains two additional bedrooms, a full bath, and a large family/media room with a wet bar. The attached two-car garage has interior access to the home and the laundry area. This property is in exceptionally clean condition! The exterior boasts a gorgeous paver driveway and lush tropical landscaping. Enjoy the community pool, clubhouse and common area shared by this neighborhood association.

Click here for more information about this property.

List Price: $1,179,000

The Richardson Team
Mike Richardson, Broker
805.451.0599
mike@mrrealtors.com
License #00635254

Kyle Richardson, Agent
805.680.3131
kyle@mrrealtors.com
License #01902531

(The Richardson Team photo)
(The Richardson Team photo)
(The Richardson Team photo)
(The Richardson Team photo)

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Ventura County Man Pleads Guilty in 2009 Murders of Faria Beach Couple and Unborn Child

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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A Ventura County man has pleaded guilty in the grisly 2009 slayings of a Faria Beach couple and their unborn child.

Joshua Packer was charged with stabbing to death Brock Husted and his wife, Davina Husted, who was pregnant with the couple's third child, after breaking into their Faria Beach home on May 20, 2009.

Packer was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, burglary, robbery, and forced oral copulation, and on Thursday pleaded guilty to all counts in Ventura County Superior Court, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Frawley of the Ventura County District Attorney's Office.

Packer's plea was part of a deal brokered by the Ventura County District Attorney's Office; he pleaded guilty in order to avoid the death penalty, and instead will be sentenced to life in prison without parole and without the possibility of appeal.

The killings occurred after Packer walked into the couple's home through an unlocked door at about 10 p.m., where the couple's 9-year-old son and Davina Husted were watching television.

Packer had a gun drawn and told Brock Husted to get down on the floor and told the young boy to retrieve money and jewelry.

The boy then hid behind the couch as Davina and Brock were taken to the master bedroom, where were both were stabbed dozens times. 

Joshua Graham Packer
Joshua Graham Packer

Packer is also charged with forcing oral copulation on Davina Husted before stabbing her and her unborn child to death, and his DNA was recovered from her body, Frawley said.

The son awoke the couple's 11-year-old daughter and the pair were able to run to a neighbor's house for help.

Perhaps most chilling is that the home invasion seemed to be totally random, and Packer had been looking to rob the home. 

There's no indication that Packer knew the Husteds, and ""there's no tie between them at all," Frawley said.

A breakthrough in the case came when Packer allegedly robbed a Thrifty Gas Station at 4069 State St. in Santa Barbara on Sept. 23, 2009, four months after the murders, and DNA collected in that case matched DNA found on the Husted's bodies.

He was arrested almost 11 months after the murders occurred.

That Santa Barbara robbery case was put on hold while the murder cases proceeded, but now will resume.

Packer's defense said that Frawley's children had met Packer, and presented it as a conflict, which would have prolonged the case by another year.

"It was a manufactured conflict," Frawley said, adding that Packer did ultimately accept the plea deal.

"We felt it was time to let them move on," Frawley said of the Husted's family.

"We're never going to get justice... [Packer] has orphaned two children and they're going to live with that the rest of their lives, but this is a way of putting it to rest, at least as far as the legal system is concerned."

Packer will be sentenced on Feb. 6.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Gordon Auchincloss Appointed Chief Assistant DA, Paul Greco as Chief Deputy DA

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced on Friday the appointment of Gordon Auchincloss as chief assistant district attorney and the appointment of Paul Greco as chief deputy district attorney for the Santa Maria office, both effective next Monday.

Auchincloss has been a deputy district attorney for the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office for 24 years. During that time he has held multiple positions and successfully prosecuted all variety of crimes.

Raised locally, Auchincloss attended high school, college and law school in Santa Barbara. He has served as a board member on the PARC Foundation and Tthe Santa Barbara Children’s Museum and has been a longstanding volunteer for the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Fighting Back Program, acting as both a mentor and a Teen Court judge.

In July 2010, Auchincloss was appointed chief deputy district attorney. In that capacity he supervised vulnerable victim crimes, including sex crimes and crimes involving domestic violence, financial crimes and misdemeanor operations. Auchincloss was also tasked with forming and supervising a new prosecution team to focus on white-collar crime, including major fraud cases, financial elder abuse and cyber crimes.

During the past four years, he has played an integral part in designing and implementing a new Truancy Program, Misdemeanor Diversion Program, Workers Compensation Fraud Program, Auto Insurance Fraud Program, Volunteer Attorney Extern Program, and is actively engaged in designing and implementing a new therapeutic court to help treat the root causes of homelessness.

Greco is a career prosecutor with the District Attorney’s Office. Prior to his promotion to chief deputy district attorney, he managed the Lompoc branch of the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office. While supervising the Lompoc location, Greco assisted in all aspects of prosecution ranging from reviewing law enforcement investigations to criminal prosecution of cases in the Lompoc community.

Recently, Greco has led the prosecution of Rebecca Sandoval for murder charges from a DUI collision in December 2013 in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Originally an Orange County native, Greco graduated from UC Davis in 1999 with degrees in political science and history. He went on to obtain his law degree from the University of San Diego School of Law.

Greco’s criminal prosecution career began in November 2004 when he became a deputy district attorney in Tulare County. After years of prosecuting high level gang members in Tulare County, he joined the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office in November 2010. Greco prosecuted gang and narcotic cases in the Santa Maria area for several years prior to his promotion to Supervising Attorney in the Lompoc office in July 2013.

Now returning to the Santa Maria area as a chief deputy district attorney, Greco will be supervising the litigation operations for both the Santa Maria and Lompoc branches of the District Attorney’s Office.    

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State Street Motel Evacuated After Report of Suicidal Man

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Officers evacuated a State Street hotel Friday afternoon after a man staying there threatened to kill himself, according to the Santa Barbara Police Department.

At about 4:30 p.m., evacuations were taking place at the Sandpiper Lodge, 3525 State St., in an effort to keep motel guests safe from the suspect, who was reportedly was in possession of guns or other weapons, Sgt. Marylinda Arroyo told Noozhawk.

More than an hour later, officers took the man into custody without incident, and he was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for a mental-health evaluation, said Sgt. Aaron Baker.

No gun was found in the man's room, Baker said, but other weapons, including knives, were confiscated.

The man's name and age and other information about the incident were not available.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Zodiac Aerospace Expanding in Santa Maria

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Aircraft seat manufacturer leases the former DenMat Holdings facility on Skyway Drive

An international firm that manufactures aircraft seats is again expanding its operations in Santa Maria.

Zodiac Aerospace has leased the old DenMat Holdings headquarters facility at 2727 Skyway Drive, according to Jerry Schmidt, principal and broker at Pacifica Commercial Realty in Santa Maria.

A huge tent has been set up in the parking lot for crews working to renovate the interior of the facility. Shipping containers also are being unloaded into the facility amid a flurry of activity at the site.

The building encompasses 75,000 square feet and will house Zodiac Seat Shells operations.

The firm already makes seat shells in its Airpark Drive facility. Another Zodiac division makes airplane cabin interiors in the 2850 Skyway Drive location, across the street from the new site.

Schmidt, who brokered the deal, said it represents “a significant expansion of jobs’ in Santa Maria.

“It’s just a long-term commitment to Santa Maria,” said Schmidt.

Zodiac officials did not return several calls and emails for comment.

The property, which is owned by NCR Corporation, was the long-time home to DenMat Holdings. before the dental products manufacturer moved to Lompoc in 2012.

“Zodiac has a lot of options to expand elsewhere,” Schmidt said, adding the firm chose to add to its Santa Maria operations.

Schmidt said Mayor Alice Patino and Etta Waterfield, former planning commissioner and newly elected councilwoman, were helpful in the process, by meeting with Zodiac representatives to support the firm opening a third facility.

"I think it's wonderful they added a new division in Santa Maria rather than go somewhere else. We're very happy to have them here," Patino said. "They are such an asset to our growing community."

Zodiac promotes literacy among its employees, she added.

“It’s a welcome expansion,” said Dave Cross, economic development director with the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great sign for Zodiac as well as very beneficial for the community. Of course, it means more jobs.”

Patino said the new manufacturing may bring approximately 100 jobs.

It also proves the Santa Maria Valley manufacturing industry “is doing very well,” Cross said. “They’re not only holding their own, they’re continuing to expand.”

For example, Atlas Copco Mafi-Trench also is expanding in Santa Maria. The firm at 3037 Industrial Parkway manufactures turboexpanders for the energy industry.

“Again the expansion is very welcome and we hope it continues,” Cross added.

Zodiac Aerospace, which has its headquarters in France, makes aerospace equipment and systems for commercial, regional and business aircraft and for helicopters and spacecraft. 

Zodiac Aerospace has approximately 30,000 employees at 98 sites worldwide with its five business segments: Zodiac AeroSafety, Zodiac Aircraft Systems, and three segments related to cabin interiors: Zodiac Cabin & Structures, Zodiac Galleys & Equipment and Zodiac Seats.

The Airpark Drive facility was formerly C&D Aerospace, which was acquired by Zodiac in 2005.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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No Injuries in Vehicle Accident, Fire in Santa Barbara

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Two-car crash occurred at about 3:30 p.m. on Sycamore Canyon Road

A vehicle went into a creek and caught on fire after a two-vehicle accident on the 1300 block of Sycamore Canyon Road Friday afternoon, according to Santa Barbara City Fire.

All occupants were out of both vehicles and had very minor injuries or no injuries, fire inspector Ryan Diguilio said.

City Fire was called out to the incident around 3:30 p.m. Friday and found one vehicle over the side of the road and on fire.

The vegetation was still wet from the rain so it didn't spread, and was extinguished by firefighters, Diguilio said. 

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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David Sirota: The Treasury Secretary’s Misperceptions About Wealth

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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By Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's reckoning, being a millionaire does not constitute living high above the ranks of ordinary people. Lew said last week that back when he was in the private sector enjoying six- and seven-figure pay packages, "My own compensation was never in the stratosphere."

Lew made that pronouncement as he sought to defend President Barack Obama's embattled Treasury undersecretary nominee Antonio Weiss from charges that as a financial executive, he is out of touch with the interests of regular people. Lew was seeking to cast his own lot with the ranks of ordinary Americans at a time of growing economic inequality.

But in doing so, Lew shed light on a uniquely American phenomenon — the tendency of extraordinarily rich people to cast themselves as everyday members of the middle class.

Earlier this year, for example, Hillary Clinton made headlines when, in response to a question about her personal fortune, she claimed her family was "dead broke" when they left the White House. That statement followed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's top aide casting those making $500,000 a year as merely upper middle class.

According to IRS data, 99 percent of American households make less than $388,000 a year, and 95 percent make less than $167,000 a year. The true middle in terms of income — that is, the cutoff to be in the top 50 percent of earners — is roughly $35,000 a year.

While Lew claims his private-sector compensation was not "in the stratosphere," the data suggest otherwise.

According to New York University records, Lew was usually paid between $700,000 and $800,000 a year as the school's vice president, while also receiving a $440,000 mortgage subsidy. Lew also earned $300,000 a year from Citigroup, with a "guaranteed incentive and retention award of not less than $1 million," according to an employment agreement obtained by Businessweek.

That agreement said that the seven-figure award would be terminated if he left for another job, but with one exception: He would indeed get the cash if he accepted "a full-time high-level position with the United States government or regulatory body." Lew was given a $940,000 bonus from Citigroup in the same week the bank received a $300 billion bailout from the federal government.

Then again, Lew is a pauper compared to Weiss. The Treasury nominee reported more than $15 million in compensation in the last two years at Lazard. Like Lew before him, Weiss would receive a massive payout from his firm if he gets a job in government.

Of course, there remains a bit of a debate about what constitutes "rich" in America. A recent New York Times poll showed 27 percent of Americans believe a family of four can be considered "rich" if its annual income is between $100,000 and $200,000, while another 20 percent say "rich" is defined as making between $200,000 and $300,000 a year.

That said, there appears to be consensus that compensation like that paid to Lew and Weiss constitutes "rich" — two-thirds of the country told the pollsters that making more than $300,000 means a household is wealthy.

While Lew's comments leave him open to charges that he is out of touch with economic reality, he is not alone, as surveys show many Americans also have misconceptions about income distribution.

A recent study by Harvard University and Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University found Americans grossly underestimate the divide between CEO and average worker pay.

Such misperceptions were recently spotlighted by comedian Chris Rock in an interview with New York magazine. Of inequality, he said: "People don't even know [about it]. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets."

David Sirota is a staff writer at PandoDaily and the best-selling author of Hostile Takeover, The Uprising and Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow him on Twitter: @davidsirota, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Downtown Carpinteria Residential Property Sold to Local Investors

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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A pair of local investors have purchased 764 and 784 Maple St., located on the corner of Maple and Eighth streets in downtown Carpinteria.

The property consists of two houses on a 10,454-square-foot lot. Dan Moll and Christos Celmayster of Hayes Commercial Group represented the seller in the transaction.

The property attracted numerous offers and sold for $1.3 million, which was 20 percent above the asking price.

The buyers are Carpinteria natives who aim to improve their hometown by renovating older residential properties in need of upgrades.

“It’s good to see the property remain in local hands with a personal investment in the community,” Moll said.

This represents the second sale of the year on Maple Street for Moll, who represented all parties in the $5 million sale of 500 to 550 Maple St. in July.

The property’s location — one block from Linden Avenue on Eighth Street — is its greatest selling point.

“The advantage of a property in such a central location is that the owner has options,” Celmayster said. “Although the property is generating income as is, there is substantial potential for improvement which the new owners intend to pursue.”

— Ted Hoagland is the marketing director for Hayes Commercial Group.

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Mark James Miller: Why We’ll Always Have ‘Casablanca,’ a Timeless Classic for Holidays

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Casablanca is not a holiday film in the sense of It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) or The Bishop’s Wife (1947) or the many incarnations of A Christmas Carol — movies that are all related directly to the Christmas season. Casablanca resembles Harvey (1950) and How Green Was My Valley (1941), and numerous other older movies that always seem to pop up on television at this time of year: Solid and wholesome entertainment with messages — and not always happy ones — laid between the lines.

But Casablanca goes a step further and embodies the spirit of the holidays with its themes of sacrifice, being concerned for your fellow human beings, and of people working together for a common and worthy goal. It appeals to the better angels of our natures and reminds its audiences that they can always choose the right path in life — and therein lies the secret of its long endurance as a classic film.

Casablanca premiered on Nov. 26, 1942, at the Hollywood Theatre in New York City. In the 72 years since, it has garnered a reputation as one of the greatest movies ever made. In 1999, the American Film Institute voted it the second-greatest film ever (behind Citizen Kane), and in 2002 the same body found it to be the No. 1 love story of all time.

The film’s performances have become legendary: Humphrey Bogart as the unhappy, cynical Rick Blaine, a divided soul with his good and evil sides battling it out, symbolized in his usual attire of a white jacket and black pants; Paul Henreid as the heroic freedom fighter Victor Laszlo, his purity reflected in his off-white suits and his courage in the prominent scar on his forehead, a reminder that he spent a year in a Nazi concentration camp; and Claude Rains as Captain Renault, the collaborator who is finally pushed even further than he is willing to go by the Germans and, moved by the sacrifice Rick makes when he gives up Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), chooses, like Rick, to do the right thing at the end.

Periodically I show Casablanca to my classes at Allan Hancock College, and I did so recently with my critical thinking class. I never do this without a bit of trepidation: Is it too “old” for younger audiences? Will they be able to relate with the nuances, the symbolism, not to mention the message of doing your part in a war that ended almost 70 years ago? Will the historical references to Vichy France, the Spanish Civil War, and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia fly over their heads?

Will they get it when Rick cautions Sasha “To come right back,” when he is instructed to take Yvonne home? Will they laugh when Captain Renault says, “I’m shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here!” and is then handed his take from the roulette wheel?

As always, I was happily surprised: They loved it. They always do.

“Timeless themes that are forever applicable despite the time that has passed,” one student wrote. “I went right home and told my husband, ‘You’ve got to see this movie,’” said another. “The next day we rented it and I watched it again.” “The movie is about doing what’s right, and that anyone can change for the better,” wrote another.

“I never realized all these expressions I’ve heard before came from this movie,” a different student wrote, a comment often made by students. They’ve heard “Round up the usual suspects,” and “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine,” and the inevitable “We’ll always have Paris,” but didn’t realize where they originated.

Casablanca opened just as the tide of war was turning in favor of the Allies. In June 1942 the Japanese were defeated at Midway. The same month Casablanca opened, the British won the crucial battle of El Alamein in Egypt and the Americans were carrying out Operation Torch in Morocco and Algeria, spelling the end of Axis ambitions in North Africa. In Russia, the Germans were deadlocked around Stalingrad, “the mass grave of the Wehrmacht,” and defeat there in January 1943 would mark the beginning of the end for Hitler on the Eastern Front.

Casablanca came out before the true horrors of the Nazi regime were known, and the Axis was still standing near its pinnacle: In Europe, the Germans ruled from France to the Volga River in Russia, and the Japanese had conquered the Philippines, Indonesia and Indo-China. The world did not yet know about The Final Solution, which was by then in full swing. Nor had it learned of the existence of the extermination camps in Poland — Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek, Chelmo, Sorbibor and Belzec — factories of death that were operating around the clock as 1942 drew to an end.

But even though these horrors were not yet public knowledge, the Western world was united in its belief that Hitler and Nazism had to be destroyed. Casablanca was conceived of as a propaganda film designed to convey exactly that message to American audiences. Do your part! Sacrifice, the way the characters in the film do, for a cause bigger than any one person. Above all, do not be like Rick Blaine, who as the story begins, “sticks his neck out for nobody,” and says, “I’m the only cause I believe in.”

Casablanca opened to mostly good reviews. The New York Times called it  “A picture that makes the spine tingle and the heart take a leap.” Time magazine, however, was less impressed: “Nothing short of an invasion could add much to Casablanca.”

Casablanca has endured as a classic for 72 years, and it is likely to endure 72 more. It transcends its historical setting and its original propagandistic message and appeals to deeply embedded human feelings.

“The film teaches us that we all have our good and bad sides,” wrote one student in her response, “and that we can choose our good side.” We will always have that tug of war between our good and evil selves, and so we will always have Casablanca as a film that embodies the spirit of the holiday season.

— Mark James Miller is a teacher and writer, and has been a part-time English instructor at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria since 1995. He is president of the Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan Hancock College, California Federation of Teachers Local 6185, and is an executive board member of the Tri-Counties Central Labor Council. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Cooperative Leader Raquel Ceja-Gonzalez Nominated for Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Raquel Ceja-Gonzalez, president of the Lompoc Cooperative Development Project, has been nominated for the 2014 Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize.

Ceja-Gonzalez
Raquel Ceja-Gonzalez

Ceja-Gonzalez, manager of Del Norte Mobile Estates and mother of three, has nevertheless found time to head the volunteer group since its inception four years ago.

In February, LCDP’s first business, an eco-friendly cleaning firm named Green Broom Brigade, won the $5,000 first prize of the People & Planet Award sponsored by Green America website. The fledgling firm drew more votes than eighty other nominees nationwide.

In November, LCDP joined with other Santa Barbara County Cooperatives to stage the first Santa Barbara County Cooperative Festival, designed to educate Lompocans about cooperatives and other community services.

Best of all, as year’s end nears, Green Broom Brigade Cooperative is on pace to double its revenue from 2013, its inaugural year.

“What I saw growing up, my parents helping others, together with my faith, led me to do the same,” Ceja-Gonzalez says. “Seeing the need of more work opportunities for the underprivileged and underrepresented in our community is what keeps me motivated to help, and not to wait for Government to take action, but for us as a community to look for solutions and learn to ‘work together’ to achieve it.”

Ceja-Gonzalez was born in South Central Los Angeles in a low-income neighborhood, where her parents struggled on minimum wage jobs. She graduated from UCSB in 1995 and has worked in property management in Santa Barbara County for 16 years, at Del Norte Mobile Estates for 11. She has also been involved with her daughters’ youth soccer teams and La Purisima Catholic Church.

She joins seven other nominees, including assistant school superintendent Sid Haro, volunteer Jon Vanderhoof, community discussion convenor Lauren Pressman, musician Bill Carlsen, gardener Jan Martinez, writer Luciana Gallegos and chef Norma Anderson.

The Peace Prize will be awarded on Sunday, Jan. 25 at Valley of the Flowers Church.

— Allie Kay Spaulding represents Valley of the Flowers Church.

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Captain’s Log: Shop Local for Last-Minute Gifts for Outdoor Enthusiasts

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Holiday shopping for outdoor enthusiasts, especially people who fish, shoot and hunt, can be a challenge. Other sports are nearly as challenging. And you are running out of time.

The best advice I can give is to go to a local mom-and-pop shop where you can find sales people who are actually knowledgeable, helpful and interested in your business.

I give the lowest scores to online shopping for two reasons. One, you are pretty much just looking at a catalog. Second, all your money leaves your community.

When you shop locally at a mom-and-pop shop, your money stays in your community. That distinction is vitally important for our economy. When you shop at big chain stores at the mall, a little of your money stays in the community because they employ (and generally under pay) locals. Most of your money, however, goes to headquarters elsewhere.

Local shops are the lifeblood of our community economy. Spread your holiday shopping cheer in your own community.

Examples of shopping for outdoor folks are entertaining and heartwarming. At my shop, Hook, Line & Sinker fishing center at 4010 Calle Real in Santa Barbara, this happens regularly in December and we are able to give loads of help by asking simple questions.

Even if the shopper is only able to provide a little bit of information, we use our own knowledge to fit together the puzzle and come up with just the right gift item.

stocking
Stocking stuffers for fisherfolk are on display on the front counter at Hook, Line & Sinker in Santa Barbara. (Capt. David Bacon / Noozhawk photo)

Sometimes the question can be as simple as, “When he (or she) brings fish home or gives it away, have you heard the name of the fish, like red snapper, or tuna, or trout?” Any shred of information might give us all of what we need to know to make a solid suggestion.

A fishing rod and reel make a deeply-appreciated gift. Or maybe some tackle items. On the front counter is a display with perfect stocking stuffers for fisherfolk. Gift certificates are much appreciated because the recipient can pick out his or her own stuff and have a blast doing it!

Next door to the bait & tackle shop is Guns of Santa Barbara and Dodge City. You can buy shooting supplies and ammo at Dodge City. These are always welcomed gifts. If you don’t know what caliber the person you are shopping for needs, buy a gift card and let them have the fun of going into a shop and picking out what they need. At Guns of Santa Barbara, you can’t buy a gun and give it as a gift, but you can buy a gift certificate and, again, allow your gift recipient to have a blast shopping right after the holidays.

Nothing would make a sporting shooter or a hunter happier than getting a gift certificate they can buy a gun with. Safety rules apply here, so make sure your gun shop gift recipient has no history of felonies, violence, abuse or mental illness.

Whether the people you buy for ski, backpack, kayak, boat, play tennis, run, shoot, hunt or fish, you can find the best gift at a local shop where you can get great help.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Santa Barbara High School’s Dons Net Café Honored as 2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Santa Barbara High School's Dons Net Café has been honored with a prestigious award by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations.

The Dons Net Café was part of the inaugural group to qualify for the year.

“We are excited to be named a Top-Rated 2014 Nonprofit,” said Amazing Grace Llanos, CEO of the Dons Net Café. “We are proud of our accomplishments, which include the 21st year as a top rated free tax site through the IRS VITA program, and the formation of 10 other student-run ventures that all ‘do some good in the world,’ giving at least 5,500 hours yearly to the Santa Barbara community.”

The Top-Rated Nonprofit award was based on the large number of positive reviews that Dons Net Café received — reviews written by volunteers, mentors and clients.

People posted their positive, personal experience with the nonprofit. John Trotti of Forester Communications wrote, “Of the many benefits of the program, the one that I see as most important is its promotion of citizenship ... the aggregation of an entire range of attitudes and behaviors that are the key to success in a society that values the individual and individual achievement. Its foundation lies in presenting its participants with challenges that relate academic pursuits with real world actions within a team-based framework ... the lifeblood of the free enterprise system.”

“Savvy donors want to see the impact of their donations more than ever,” said Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits. “People with direct experience with Dons Net Café have voted that the organization is making a real difference.”

— Kris Bergstrom is the communications director for the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

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Outdoors Q&A: Is It Legal to Bowfish in the Surf?

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Q: Is it legal to bowfish in the surf? Regulations say bowfishing is not allowed within 100 yards of the mouth of a stream. I’m guessing on the beach it is ok for finfish, like spotfin croakers? However, I do know some beaches prohibit bowfishing because they consider a bow and arrow a deadly weapon. Do you know which ones? (David T.)

A: You should check with your local police or sheriff’s department first to determine if there are any city or county ordinances prohibiting the use of bow and arrow fishing tackle. If not, it is legal to bowfish in the surf under the following conditions: Spears, harpoons and bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used for taking all varieties of skates, rays and sharks, except white sharks. Such gear may not be possessed or used within 100 yards of the mouth of any stream in any ocean waters north of Ventura County, nor aboard any vessel on any day or on any trip when broadbill swordfish or marlin have been taken. Bow and arrow fishing tackle may be used to take finfish other than giant (black) sea bass, garibaldi, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, trout, salmon, broadbill swordfish, white shark, green sturgeon and white sturgeon (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 28.95, 27.90 and 27.91).

Can You Hunt Waterfowl Not Listed in the Regulations?

Q: I know there are quite a few types of ducks that are not listed in the waterfowl regulations (e.g. teal, mergansers, etc.). If a species is not specifically mentioned, does this mean that they can or cannot be hunted? (Joe D.)

A: The waterfowl regulations apply to all species of geese, ducks and mergansers. Coots have different regulations. As long as the waterfowl species you wish to take does not have more specific regulations than the general bag limits, then that non-specified waterfowl species can be included in your general bag.

Retrieving Game from Private Property?

Q: Where can I find the regulations on retrieving game that has moved onto another’s property after being shot? I believe that it is legal but I can’t find the regs. (Joe D.)

A: There are no regulations which allow you to recover game that ends up on private property. You are expected to retrieve all game you harvest and not to cause wanton waste by failing to recover something you’ve shot, but you must get permission from the landowner to legally enter their property. If you are not able to reach them for permission, you may contact the local game warden or sheriff and request assistance.

Buying Diamondback Rattlesnakes from Texas for Taxidermy?

Q: I want to buy dead western diamondback rattlesnakes for taxidermy from a seller in Texas. From what I read in the regulations, it is OK. The shipper just needs to label the box with the contents. If this is legal, can you please provide the code section regarding buying/importing dead rattlesnakes? (Bryan W.)

A: Dead rattlesnakes can be purchased and imported into California (Fish and Game Code, section 2353). You will just need to make sure the shipment comes with a completed Declaration for Entry form identifying what it is and where it’s coming from. This declaration must be submitted to the department or a designated state or federal agency at or immediately prior to the time of entry. Declaration is not required if shipped by common carrier under a bill of lading.

This form may be photocopied. The original copy of the declaration form shall be retained by the person importing the fish or game into the state. One copy shall be mailed to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95814, within 24 hours after entering the state. One copy shall be deposited at the point of entry with any state or federal agency or officer, and one copy shall remain with the fish or game if transported by other than owner or common carrier.

“Point of entry” refers to the city or town nearest your point of entry into California.

Lobster Hooping from a Public Pier?

Q: While lobster hooping from a public pier, the maximum number of nets per person is two. Can a person with two nets deployed for crab/lobster simultaneously use a fishing rod for finfish? What about if the person has a fishing license and lobster card? (Steve G.)

A: No, the regulations state that people fishing from a public pier can fish with only two “appliances,” so the two hoop nets and one fishing rod for fin fish would total three. You don’t need a fishing license to fish from a public pier, but anyone fishing for lobsters must have a valid lobster report card.

— Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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The Howard School Debuts Music Video to Pharrell’s ‘Happy’

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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After months of impressive planning and production, The Howard School will premiere a music video of students and staff performing in a customized rendition of Pharrell Williams' record-breaking hit “Happy.”

The video was filmed in over 60 locations all over Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, with special permissions for the filming being granted by the city authorities of both localities. The scores of shots take place at such notable sites as the Santa Barbara Airport, the Santa Barbara and Carpinteria fire departments, Bacara Resort & Spa, Carpinteria’s World’s Safest Beach, and numerous community businesses.

Howard students and teachers positively light up the screen in every shot of the extraordinarily high-quality video production, written and produced by two Howard School parents, Jody Pesapane and Jason Rodriguez.

“The moment we saw what The Howard School was all about we knew it was a really special school,” said Jason Rodriguez, parent of a Howard pre-schooler. “It was thrilling to be able to share in that excitement with the entire school. The kids — and the teachers! — had an absolute blast filming and we even had professional recording artists at Rose Lane Studio in Carpinteria sing the special rendition of the song with the school’s choir.”

The Howard School’s “Happy” music video will show for the first time Friday at the school’s annual Christmas play at Reality Church in Carpinteria. The video will simultaneously be released online through the school’s Facebook page and YouTube. Pop artist Pharrell’s original video has been viewed over half a billion times on YouTube.

— Leigh-Anne Anderson is a publicist representing The Howard School.

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Bill Macfadyen: Storms Signal a Refreshing Change in the Weather — For Now

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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NoozWeek’s Top 5 finds no call for alcohol at Bo Henry’s; Helene Schneider goes it alone; R.I.P. Leni Fé Bland; Montecito micromanagement at the Miramar; and Kim Jong-un ... because

There were 81,008 people who read Noozhawk this past week. What’s my take on your top stories? I’m glad you asked, but I hope Kim Jong-un ​doesn’t take offense. (Speaking of that corpulent, commie crackpot with the Moe haircut, click here for a second-generation tribute to the Dork from Nork.)

Now back to Noozhawk’s news:

1. Gusty Winds, Torrential Rains Slam Santa Barbara County

After what seems like days weeks months years decades of going without an extended series of wet storms, Santa Barbara County has been getting pounded by an extended series of wet storms.

Few people seem to be complaining. Heck, I’m not even complaining, and my friends know how much I hate rain.

A major storm system blew in Dec. 11, accompanied by torrential rain, gusty winds and frigid temperatures. Power outages were widespread throughout the county, and localized flooding was a problem in Guadalupe and at many South Coast intersections.

The latest storm dropped more than 5 inches of rain on San Marcos Pass, more than 3 inches in Guadalupe and Santa Maria, and more than 2 inches in Goleta and Santa Barbara.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service said 76 mph winds were recorded at La Cumbre Peak, with 62 mph winds reported at the Santa Ynez Airport and wind in excess of 45 mph at the Lompoc Airport, the Santa Barbara Airport and in Santa Maria.

Unsettled conditions — and more rain — have persisted, but the forecast for Christmas week includes midweek temperatures in the upper 70s and clear skies all the way through Santa’s rounds. Once he’s back at the North Pole, it’s expected to cool down and cloud up.

Click here for the complete National Weather Service forecast.

2. Santa Barbara Bar’s Liquor License Briefly Suspended

Bo Henry’s Cocktail Lounge, 1431 San Andres St. in Santa Barbara, found its liquor license suspended after a minor was allegedly allowed inside the Westside bar.

Leslie Pond, supervising agent in charge at the Ventura office of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said an investigation concluded that the bar had allowed someone under the age of 21 to enter and remain there on Aug. 2.

The violation of the state’s Alcohol Beverage Act resulted in a five-day suspension of the bar’s permission to sell alcohol.

The license was reinstated Dec. 18, and Bo Henry’s owner Robert Henry Eringer told our Gina Potthoff that it won’t happen again.

3. Schneider Cuts Ties with Chamber of Commerce for Santa Barbara’s State of the City Breakfast

For the last 14 years, the City of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce have co-hosted a State of the City Breakfast, with the chamber doing most of the work and the mayor delivering the keynote address.

Starring as the Lone Ranger, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider.
Starring as the Lone Ranger, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider.

Although the 2015 breakfast already had been scheduled for March 20, Mayor Helene Schneider abruptly informed the Santa Barbara chamber that she’s terminating the long-standing partnership.

“We were ready to go with the event,” Ken Oplinger, chamber president and CEO, told our Gina Potthoff. “We were very excited to be able to do it for the 15th year. She was very clear this wasn’t up for discussion.”

Noozhawk left multiple messages for Schneider, who eventually responded by email — which seems to be her preferred method of communication these days. We read in her email that she wants to make the event free to increase public participation.

“The State of the City is the largest event the city has to inform the public about current municipal affairs, and there will not be a change in the actual presentation in 2015,” she had typed. “In prior years, participation at the event has been somewhat limited due to the cost associated with attending.

“The change the city is making is simply in production, and my goal is to increase participation by making admission free and open to the public.”

You know, kind of like those sparsely attended public meetings they hold every Tuesday in that big room on the second floor of City Hall.

Oplinger was diplomatic about it but, in an actual interview with Noozhawk, he noted that last year’s attendance topped 450 people, most of whom paid $60 to attend. That’s a tough act to follow, but Schneider and her strategist certainly have been adept at getting one or two people to show up for her news conferences over the last several years.

Meanwhile, it’s probably just coincidence that the business community has been outspoken in its opposition to Schneider’s​ obstinate stance against the Highway 101 widening project as it was approved.

Schneider increasingly is finding herself on the wrong side of the freeway, as was clearly evident at the Dec. 18 meeting of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments. As current vice chairwoman, she was in line to become next year’s leader at the SBCAG board’s final meeting of 2014.

In a major break with precedent, however, her colleagues voted almost unanimously to bypass her in favor of Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson as chairman, with Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf elected vice chairwoman. Schneider voted for herself but only drew the support of one other board member.

Even more telling was the parade of speakers who lined up to blast Schneider over her widening rift, many of them fellow Democrats and erstwhile allies like former county Supervisors Gail Marshall and Susan Rose; philanthropist Sara Miller McCune; activist Micky Flacks; and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, through her local representative.

“You must follow the wishes of the voters that you are pledged to serve and you must do it today,” McCune said to the board.

It’s not clear who has Schneider’s ear these days, but it sounds like she could use some fresh advice. 

4. Leni Fé Bland, Santa Barbara Arts Patron and Philanthropist, Dead at Age 99

Leni Fé Bland was less than a month away from her 100th birthday when she died Dec. 14. The near-milestone is fitting because the legacy she left in Santa Barbara is one for the ages.

Decades from now, generations of Santa Barbarans will know Leni Fe Bland’s name. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk file photo)
Decades from now, generations of Santa Barbarans will know Leni Fé Bland’s name. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk file photo)

The Montecito philanthropist, a baroness and native of England, gave away millions of dollars over the decades. Humble and petite, Fé​ Bland was an outsized powerhouse in the nonprofit community as she graciously and generously shared her wealth.

Music and the arts were near and dear to her heart, but not far behind were education, health care and help for the less fortunate in this life.

Fé Bland grew up in a family that cherished music, and she carried that commitment with her everywhere.

“A classically trained vocal artist, she was once invited to perform for a group of blind people,” according to a Santa Barbara Foundation biography. “Her performance was enthusiastically received, and thus was born a passion for helping others through music.”

Fé​ Bland single-handedly provided scholarships and financial support to hundreds of students pursuing their own musical passions.

“Leni Fé​ Bland was not only a generous patron of the arts, but also a kind, beautiful soul who loved nothing more than supporting and encouraging the next generation of talented and aspiring musicians,” Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation, told Noozhawk.

“She was deservedly admired and loved by so many.”

R.I.P.

Think you’re gonna see the Miramar Beach Resort & Bungalows built in your lifetime? Not if the Montecito Planning Commission can help it. (Caruso Affiliated rendering)
Think you’re gonna see the Miramar Beach Resort & Bungalows built in your lifetime? Not if the Montecito Planning Commission can help it. (Caruso Affiliated rendering)

5. Montecito Planning Commission Delays Decision on Miramar Resort

After a 15-year odyssey, the latest would-be developer of the new Miramar Beach Resort & Bungalows in Montecito thought final approval was within his grasp.

Los Angeles-based Caruso Affiliated, which purchased the dilapidated 16-acre property in 2007, had repeatedly revised its $200 million proposal to meet the needs, expectations and demands of nearby residents, the community, Santa Barbara County and financial backers.

Rick Caruso, CEO of Caruso Affiliated, had gotten initial approval in 2008 and modified plans were OK’d in 2011. In August, the company introduced an even more scaled-down blueprint.

Professional staff with the county Planning and Development Department had signed off, as had local agencies. The hotel concept had passed muster with the not-so-easy-to-please Montecito Association. Even many of the property’s closest neighbors were now in favor.

None of that carried any weight at the Montecito Planning Commission, whose appointees voted unanimously Dec. 15 to postpone consideration of the project until late January — at the earliest. Apparently, according to our Gina Potthoff, the commissioners have a lot of questions.

By this point in the project’s lifespan, one would think they would know the proposal inside and out but, hey, it’s Christmas! There are holiday parties to attend. Who has time for homework?

Caruso Affiliated had hoped to begin construction in midsummer with completion two years later. That’s not going to happen.

“My choice would be to build the project you’ve already approved, which will have much more impact,” Caruso told the commissioners, referring to their earlier approval of a previous — and larger — iteration. “What I can’t afford to do is be in limbo.”

Like it or not, that’s exactly where he is. Maybe he should just sell the place to the Chumash. I’m sure they’d love a South Coast casino with such easy freeway access.

                                                                 •        •        •

Oh, deer. Last week, a cow got a little pushy. This week, nature and cycling collide near Sausalito — and it’s all captured on a helmet cam.

(Silas Patlove video)

                                                                  •        •        •

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at wmacfadyen@noozhawk.com, follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Santa Barbara School District Refinances Portion of Measure V2000 General Obligation Bond

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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Just as a homeowner would take advantage of low interest rates by refinancing their home, the Santa Barbara Unified School District has made a decision that accomplishes much the same outcome as it relates to a general obligation bond.

In early December, the school district refinanced a portion of its Measure V2000 general obligation bond.

The outcome of this sale reduced the gross debt service to taxpayers by approximately $2.39 million.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District continues to do its due diligence in serving the community’s taxpayers.

— Barbara Keyani is the communications coordinator for the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

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Santa Barbara Foundation Donates KDB Collection of Classical CDs, LPs to Public Library

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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The Santa Barbara Foundation is pleased to announce the donation of an extensive collection of classical music containing 5,000 CDs and 1500 LPs to the Santa Barbara Public Library.

This donation is intended to augment the library’s own collection and will provide Santa Barbara residents with an opportunity to listen and explore great classical music they may not have heard before.

“The library is honored to provide our Santa Barbara community access to KDB's rich collection of classical music,” said Jace Turner, the supervising librarian at the library who will be curating the collection in it new home.

The impressive KDB collection was amassed over 40 years by Bob Scott, the former owner of KDB who later served as the program director for the station after it was donated to the Santa Barbara Foundation. Helping build the collection was Scott’s son, Roby, who served as the station manager and former co-owner of KDB; Richard Bickle, the station’s music director and chief announcer; and Steve Murphy, the operations director.

“We are pleased to be increasing public access to this wonderful music,” said Tim Owens, former general manager of KDB. “The collection represents a whole new world of classical music for the library — the opera collection is fantastic.”

The Santa Barbara Foundation is a longtime supporter of music, arts and culture in Santa Barbara County.

“This collection of music was lovingly assembled over four decades,” said Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “Our donation of the KDB collection to the Santa Barbara Public Library will benefit the entire community and keep this brilliant collection of classical music in the vibrant soundtrack of Santa Barbara.”

— Judy Taggart is the communications director for the Santa Barbara Foundation.

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Santa Barbara Public Library System Holiday Schedule

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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The Santa Barbara Public Library System libraries will be closed on Christmas Day on Thursday, Dec. 25 and on New Year’s Day on Thursday, Jan. 1.

Libraries will close early, at 4 p.m., on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.

The library system includes the Central and Eastside libraries in Santa Barbara, and branches in Solvang, Goleta, Montecito and Carpinteria.

Visit the Santa Barbara Public Library System online at SBPLibrary.org for information about library locations, hours, programs and services. All library programs are free and open to the public.

— Maria Gordon is an executive assistant for the Santa Barbara Public Library System.

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Arrive Early to Santa Barbara Airport This Holiday Season

By | Published on 12/19/2014

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The December holiday season is here and the Santa Barbara Airport suggests anyone departing Friday, Dec. 19 through Thursday, Dec. 25 arrive 90 minutes early in order to have a safe and enjoyable travel experience.

All flights to Seattle and Portland are at 95 percent capacity from Dec. 21 to Dec. 25, and the airport expects United, American/US Airways and Frontier Airlines to report similar enplanements.

This year, to add some holiday cheer to the John T. Rickard Terminal, the Santa Barbara Airport surprised passengers on Dec. 3 with a flash mob. The San Marcos Madrigal Choir, the Santa Barbara Festival Ballet and United gate agent Peter Kravchuk all participated in the event. The videos have been released on social media and can be seen on SBA’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

So while you’re waiting for your flight and enjoying the airport amenities, take a look at a fun holiday extravaganza!

Some up-to-date holiday travel tips:

» Parking: Lots of convenient parking within a short distance of the Airline Terminal.

» Short-term parking lot: 500 Fowler Road. Directly across from the Terminal entrance, this lot is a convenient option for those dropping off or picking up passengers. Those who travel for short durations may also wish to consider this parking option at: $20 day or $2 first hour/$1 each additional.

» Long-term parking lot: 500 Fowler Road. Located adjacent to the Terminal, this lot is but a short walk to ticketing. Rates: $12 day or $2 first hour/$1 each additional.

» Cell phone lots: At the WWII Memorial, off James Fowler Road. For those picking up passengers who do not wish to park please use this lot.

Due to the Transportation Security Administration’s security regulations in place since Sept. 11, 2001, vehicles are not permitted to park at the Airline Terminal curb unless active loading or unloading is taking place. Please review TSA’s Travel Tips to become familiar with the latest updates on prohibited items.

While you can bring wrapped gifts through the checkpoint, TSA officers may have to unwrap a gift to take a closer look inside. TSA recommends that you wrap gifts after your flight or ship them ahead of time. This way you will avoid having to open them during the screening process.

For an up to the minute flight schedule, please go to FlySBA.com. If weather becomes a factor, please call your airline.

The Santa Barbara Airport is a self-supporting enterprise owned and operated by the City Santa Barbara and serves over 700,000 passengers annually.

— Hazel Johns is director of the Santa Barbara Airport.

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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Settled with Host Mom for Santa Barbara’s Education First International

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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The family of a 17-year-old Japanese national has settled a wrongful death lawsuit with a local woman who served as a host through Santa Barbara’s Education First International.

The settlement is pending final documentation, but its confidential terms were agreed upon this month, nearly a year and a half after Vinura Hareen Wijesinghe drowned in the pool of Judith Cooper, a longtime Carpinteria resident and a host for EF foreign-exchange students since 2012.

Local attorney Jay Borgeson represented Cooper in the case and succeeded in quashing a request from the lawyer of Wijesinghe’s parents — Chinthaka and Nalika Wijesinghe, both residents of Japan — to subpoena medical records kept for Cooper at Rite Aid Pharmacy.

Borgeson informed Noozhawk of the planned settlement this week.

In the civil suit, filed in November 2013, Wijesinghe’s parents alleged negligence on the part of Cooper for hosting a party where minors drank alcohol and of EF International for hiring her.

The incident occurred on June 4, 2013, when some of the six EF students living at Cooper’s residence in the 1400 block of Azalea Drive in Carpinteria had a party where most attendees were drinking heavily — although under age 21 — near the backyard swimming pool, according to the suit.

EF International confirmed Wijesinghe was a friend of EF students, and not one himself.

The lawsuit says Cooper, who also ran a swim-lesson business from the pool called Azalea Swim Club, did not have working underwater pool lights or a sign warning a lifeguard wasn’t on duty.

Wijesinghe went into the pool with friends watching, but he never came out, and his friends assumed he left unannounced. Cooper discovered his body in the pool the next morning.

The Santa Barbara County Coroner said the death was caused by drowning, with acute ethanol intoxication.

In court documents, Cooper said she has a strict no drugs policy and 10 p.m. curfew, which was why when she found the youth drinking alcohol around that time, she made them pour it out before they left.

“It is hard to believe that while Ms. Cooper was awake … that she could not hear the children/minors playing ‘drinking games’ in the backyard, swimming in the pool, etc.” the suit states. “What is more likely is that Ms. Cooper was so heavily medicated she simply ignored the facts or was too intoxicated, medicated and comatose to do anything about it until it was too late.”

Earlier this month, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle ruled Cooper would not have to release private pharmacy records for that time and ordered the plaintiff to pay her attorney fees, totaling about $1,400.

“It has been settled to mutual satisfaction,” Borgeson said. “We’re delighted that it got resolved. It’s a tragic case for all concerned. For a family to have lost their young son was a horrible ordeal.”

EF International couldn’t be reached to comment on whether Cooper remains a host for students. Her attorney, who took over the case from a colleague, said he also wasn’t sure.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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3 Men Arrested in Old Town Goleta Stabbing Case

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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Mario Flores

Sheriff’s deputies on Thursday arrested three men on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon connected to a Nov. 21 stabbing in Old Town Goleta.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s detectives served a search and arrest warrant at a home on the 100 block of Orange Avenue Thursday morning and took two men into custody for their involvement in the stabbing, sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

“The residence is located directly in front of where a male in his 20s was stabbed following an argument with a group of males whom he was not directly acquainted with,” she said in a statement.

The victim, who was not identified, was stabbed around 5:38 p.m. Nov. 21 after a confrontation at the intersection of Orange and Mandarin avenues and was transported to the hospital.

Luis Gonzales-Guerrero

Bryan Ulloa

Mario Flores, 19, and Luis Gonzales-Guerrero, 21, both live on the property and were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting great bodily injury during a felony, and a criminal street gang enhancement, Hoover said.

A third suspect, Bryan Ulloa, 20, also of Goleta, was already in custody at the Santa Barbara County Jail on an unrelated case, according to the sheriff’s office. 

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Flooded Fire Station Forces Crew in Santa Maria to Evacuate During Repairs

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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Last week's rainfall fills the living quarters with several inches of water, causing damage to drywall, baseboards and cabinets

A quick stop at Santa Maria Fire Station No. 1 between a flurry of rain-related calls on Dec. 11 turned up an emergency a little too close to home for firefighters.

After returning from a collapsed roof at a business on Skyway Drive and before the next call, Battalion Chief Ed Hadfield stopped at the station, only to find several inches of water had flooded the facility on Cook Street, Chief Dan Orr said.

The result: Firefighters have been evicted from the station for at least a month while restoration crews remove drywall, baseboards and cabinets to dry out the facility.

“The big concern, of course, is mold,” Orr said.

The storm drain in the parking lot couldn’t handle the huge downpour while leaves and muck covered a smaller drain on the back patio.

“There was no place for the water to go,” Orr said. “It was too much water.” 

That night, fire crews in the city handled 41 calls for service in a 12-hour period.

“All the engines were out running,” he added.

Pre-existing drains in the bay where firefighting apparatus is housed meant water didn’t accumulate there. 

“The app floor was perfect, but the living space got killed,” he said. “So now we deconstruct because it’s all about getting to wherever water can go.”

Instead of housing fire engines, the bay now is filled with boxes of supplies, mattresses and bed frames while Re+New Restoration crews work inside the living quarters.

Officials estimated at least 4 inches of water filled the station that night.

Hadfield’s discovery came as the number of calls slowed down so a couple of engine crews equipped with squeegees pushed the water out, Orr added.

Fans helped dry out the flooded fire station. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Looking at a lineup of fans sitting in a hallway, Orr noted it didn’t represent even half of the drying machines set up in the station through the weekend along with a handful of massive dehumidifiers. 

"There’s a lot of moisture in there," Battalion Chief Mike Barneich noted a few days earlier.

Because the fire station is an essential services facility, it features stronger-than-normal construction material, making demolition more difficult, he noted wryly.

"Much easier to put it in than to take it out, isn't it?" he asked a worker.

Until the station is livable, Station 1 firefighters are sleeping at Station 3 on Preisker Lane. Battalion chiefs are taking temporary shelter at night in Station 5 at Suey Road.

During the day, Station 1 firefighters are remaining in Station 1's area to stay close to their likely calls, Orr said. 

Orr met with engineers to devise a plan to avoid a reoccurrence, possibly by drilling holes to help encourage drainage off site during another heavy rainfall.

The current Station No. 1 was dedicated in 2002, to replace the longtime firehouse at the corner of Cook and McClelland streets.

"I worked out of the station for almost a decade and never had anything like that happen," Barneich said.

This isn’t the first time firefighters have encountered an emergency at a Santa Maria fire station. In 1956, the city’s only station burned along with three of the four engines in an incident blamed on a spark that ignited gasoline.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Santa Maria Fire Chief Dan Orr stands in the bay at Station No. 1 where a deluge of water forced crews to box up items for temporary storage while repairs are under way. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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Resident’s 1930s-Era Holiday Village on Display at Casa Dorinda

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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Few holiday decorations have the details that Carol Cramer’s 1930s-era Christmas village boasts.

On display now through the New Year's holiday, Cramer’s wonderland features working lights on trees, canvas sails on boats, missing kitty signs, vintage cars, dogs, kids, skating parties, and even a gothic church.

“I love the joy that my holiday village brings to people. You can see their eyes sparkle as they find themselves immersed in the holiday landscape. We’ve been sharing versions of this growing village for more than a decade,” said Cramer, a Casa Dorinda resident. “Setting up this Christmas town, which has grown to nearly 100 pieces, has become one of my holiday traditions.”

Casa Dorinda, 300 Hot Springs Road in Montecito, is California’s premiere LifeCare community. Located in the heart of Montecito on the historic Bliss estate, Casa Dorinda combines private medical care and a culturally rich environment to truly elevate retirement living.

Casa Dorinda is a private LifeCare Continuing Care Retirement Community owned and operated by the Montecito Retirement Association, a nonsectarian, nonprofit, tax-exempt organization.

— Toby Ayars is a publicist representing Casa Dorinda.

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Joe Conason: Ending a Policy on Cuba That Has Failed for 50 Years

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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Listen carefully to the Republican leaders and presidential hopefuls roaring with outrage over President Barack Obama's courageous decision to normalize relations with Cuba; listen very carefully, because no matter how long or how closely you listen to them, there is one thing you will surely never hear.

You will never hear a new idea — or any idea — about bringing liberty, democracy and prosperity to the suffering Cuban people.

Instead, the furious denunciations of the president's initiative from his adversaries reveal only an intellectual void on Capitol Hill, where the imperatives remain partisan and cynical. Everyone paying attention has known for decades that the frozen relationship between the United States and Cuba has accomplished nothing — except possibly the prolongation of the Fidel Castro regime, which has long considered the embargo a plausible excuse for its own economic failures and viewed the United States as a politically convenient enemy.

Anyone who has visited the island knows that the Cubans wish nothing more than to see the embargo lifted because they know it has done nothing to advance their liberty or prosperity — just the opposite.

As Bill Clinton likes to say, the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. (He wanted to normalize relations as president, but the Cuban government clearly didn't.) The U.S. government has been doing the same thing in Cuba for nearly 54 years, yet the Republicans still don't think that's been long enough. They haven't explained how or why — or when — their policy will achieve a different result.

Opponents of change have also failed to justify why we've treated Cuba so differently than we treat other — and, in various respects, worse — authoritarian regimes with which we maintain not only vigorous diplomatic relations but massive trading partnerships and even military cooperation. The conduct of those governments is arguably more repressive in important ways; there is, for instance, less religious freedom in China and Saudi Arabia than Pope Francis found in Cuba.

To browse human rights findings from the State Department's annual reports or the online files maintained by groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International is to find at least a dozen countries with atrocious human rights records, from Chad to Turkmenistan. But the United States maintains diplomatic and trade relations with all of them.

Indeed, Republican leaders and businessmen — notably including members of the Bush family — have profited handsomely from investment in countries such as China and Saudi Arabia for many years, with scarcely a peep about human rights violations in those places. It is impossible to forget how the first President George Bush toasted the Chinese regime immediately after the massacre in Tiananmen Square — and how his opportunistic family members showed up in Beijing and Shanghai looking for a deal.

With the liberation of more than 50 political prisoners — along with American aid worker Alan Gross and an unnamed American spy — the Cubans have suddenly improved their human rights performance, while the Chinese continue to inflict horrendous repression and even torture on Tibetans, Uighurs and Han Chinese who dare to dissent. (Many of our leading Republicans don't object to torture, of course, unless it is perpetrated in foreign countries. Sometimes.)

House Speaker John Boehner accused the president of making "another mindless concession to a dictatorship." What seems truly mindless, however, is his insistence that we dare not abandon an unworkable and destructive strategy. No trade and diplomatic boycott observed and enforced by one country alone — even a powerful country such as ours — is ever going to prevail.

That is among the reasons international human rights organizations, always the most consistent and implacable critics of the Castros' abuses, have long advocated engagement rather than embargo. As Human Rights Watch notes on web pages devoted to detailing those abuses, U.S. policy has imposed "indiscriminate hardship on the Cuban people" since 1961 "and has done nothing to improve the country's human rights."

And not long after the president concluded his historic speech — among the most lucid, logical and inspiring delivered since he was re-elected — a spokeswoman for Amnesty International called his new approach "the best opportunity in (a) half-century for human rights change in Cuba."

Designed to quarantine the Cuban government, the policy that has failed for five decades has only succeeded in isolating the United States from the rest of the world. Its end is long overdue.

Joe Conason is editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JConason, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Gerald Carpenter: After Five Years, Lit Moon Theatre Says ‘Humbug!’ Again

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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Humbug!, the Lit Moon Theatre Company’s wildly popular arrangement of Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol, roars back onto the Porter Theater’s stage after a five-year absence.

The production, directed by Lit Moon’s resident magus, John Blondell, with music by James Connolly, puppetry by Jaco Connolly, costumes by Olivia Warner and lighting by Jonathan Hicks (Westmont ‘04), will star Victoria Finlayson, Stanley Hoffman, Marie Ponce (‘10), Nina Sallinen, Paige Tautz (‘14) and Lauren White (‘14).

“Where many productions of A Christmas Carol focus on spectacle, lavish costumes and large cast scenes,” John Blondell said, “our version evokes the story out of seemingly nothing, with a few props, some lovingly made props and puppets, and a handful of actors who play many memorable characters. Humbug! is one of my favorite Lit Moon shows. Every word is Dickens'. Rather than dramatize his material and turn it into a play, we have worked very hard to theatricalize his novel, and to use storytelling, music, acting and puppets to bring his story to vivid, heartwarming life.”

As director Blondell knows well, with Dickens, as with William Shakespeare, the words do everything — all you have to do is pronounce them correctly.

“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

There are curious parallels between the two novelists, Dickens and Henry James. Their novels aren’t alike, of course, but both had ambitions to hear their words spoken on stage. Both wrote plays which made no mark whatsoever. Dickens even operated a theater for a while, with his friend, Wilkie Collins, and managed to produce some of his plays (the theater enjoyed a measure of success, the plays did not).

Where Dickens had the edge over James, in the matter of live performance of his works, was that he was a shameless and charismatic show-off. He made one fortune off his books, and another off his reading tours. He was brilliant at speaking his own words aloud — as was Mark Twain, who recouped many a bad investment with speaking tours. James, who cloaked his extreme shyness with an aloof, pompous manner, that would never have worked on an audience, was completely at the mercy of what Hugh Kenner called “other voices.” (His brother William, on the other hand, was a famous lecturer, and held the learned faculty of Edinburgh University spellbound with his talks on The Variety of Religious Experience.) If James and Dickens were still alive, remember, they would be able to live very comfortably on the royalties from the filmed versions of their novels.

Dickens was great on harangues, exposition, monologues, and soliloquies, but dialogue was another thing. His characters seldom have conversations that move the story along. A rare instance of dialogue working as it should occurs when Marley’s ghost visits Scrooge in his glacial abode. Marley has come to warn Scrooge about the trials he will soon experience, and he knows his old partner well enough to get him asking questions. Finally, he gets Scrooge to bring the conversation to the point:

“‘But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself."

“‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’”

A Christmas Carol is not an anti-capitalist screed. Dickens knew no more about business than he did about politics, and that was nothing at all. What he knew about was the human heart, and the story is about the education of Scrooge’s heart.

Humbug! A (LitMoon) Christmas Carol plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 18-20, in Porter Theater on the campus of Westmont College, 955 La Paz Road. If you have never been to Westmont before, you had better start early: Even with GPS, you could find yourself wandering around Montecito like Josef K. trying to reach Kafka’s Castle.

Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students and seniors — with the bonus that you can get one child (age 6 to 12) in for free with every adult ticket purchased (additional children’s tickets $8). To purchase tickets, call 805.565.7140 or go online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at gerald.carpenter@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Ken Williams: The Kindness of Quiet Saints Brings Light to Dark Corners of Community

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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It was a tough year.

Homelessness among children hit historic rates. Again we find ourselves at war in the Middle East, and the year ends with the tragedy of Michael Brown’s death. When the daily news causes our emotions to turn as gray as the gathering winter storm clouds, the memory of those who brought sunshine to those in need offers glimmers of hope in the face of despair.

Several years ago, two women gave me money to buy jackets for the homeless. They had decided to do this instead of giving each other Christmas gifts. They told me to give away whatever money was left over to the homeless. The hearts of these two women were incredible.

An interesting side to this story was that this lesbian couple reached out to strangers to bring joy to those without. At the same time, their LGBTQ community was under vicious assault by some who used religion as a cover for hate. The irony is striking. Here was a family unit turning their back on materialism to reach out to those who Christ viewed as his own while some, professing to be followers of this holy man, use the religion based on him to express their twisted and hateful nature.

One Christmas, a businessman and his son bought a ton of cold weather gear. I remember walking down State Street with them in a soft rain, carrying black plastic bags full of jackets, raincoats, ponchos and socks, searching out those who found the cold streets their home. In particular, we prioritized those suffering from mental illness. A teaching point for me was that these men were Jewish. It was not their holiday, but the spiritual values of these men spoke highly of who they were as well as their religion.

A good friend of mine contacted me when he heard that a brutal storm was approaching our community. He gave me money to buy hundreds of green ponchos. I will always remember the sight at the Farmers Market when I looked down State Street and saw a moving forest of green. It looked as if scores upon scores of trees had come alive and were on the move. My friend’s soul was the plant food that day.

Project Healthy Neighbors: For seven years, I was honored to shepherd this project with a group of incredibly kind-hearted people. This mobile medical clinic delivered lifesaving medical services to the homeless and poor. Our community came together to provide cold weather gear, socks, personal needs items, ponchos and, most cherished of all, new shoes. A shoe manufacturer/retailer from Los Angeles and Soles for Souls provided the bulk of the shoes. Local philanthropists gave enough money to buy what else was needed. Volunteers by the scores manned the three-day event. Professionals, including doctors, nurses, counselors and others, offered their services free of charge. All was done with love and respect for our guests. All providers and volunteers agreed that we received so much more than we gave. Sadly, this project is no more.

Jim was homeless for as long as I can remember. This one particular Christmas, he was fortunate enough to receive a large cash gift. What would you buy if you had gone without as long as he had? He gave the money to an elderly homeless woman. His spiritual values reflected highly on his Native American roots.

Summer. A mentally ill woman was slowly starving herself. She had a room at a local hotel. Her mental health issues kept her bound to the room. Terror awaited her whenever she set foot outside of it. A man, usually bare-chested with his own issues and riding one of those small bikes that look ridiculous when an adult rides them, would come to the hotel week after week to deliver a bag of food. He would go to the room and quickly depart. Week after week, this strange sight of generosity was repeated. What little cash he was able to secure was shared with another human being without preconditions.

Storyteller Children's Center in its infancy: The rent was due. Salaries needed to be paid. Our bank account was empty. The Board of Directors sat at Storyteller’s location by lower State Street. Dire straights were an understatement. A hat was literally passed around so we could collect enough money to keep the center open one more month — just one more month. Our mantra was month after month in those early days. Failure, the failure of adults to homeless children was not an option. Enough money was scraped together to keep the dream alive.

Time after time, Casa Esperanza was out of cash. Beds and, in those days, meals for the homeless were in jeopardy of being lost. But throughout, noble people with good hearts kept our moral values alive with kind donations.

Every city has more than its share of hateful people who despise and degrade those who are less fortunate than them, hardened people who judge without mercy or love. Yet our community in Santa Barbara, from rich to the poorest of the poor, is blessed with quiet saints who go out of their way to find ways to live their spiritual values. Honoring ancient texts and modern hearts, people who themselves struggle with the aches and pains of the human condition find the time and the means to soften the harsh conditions of the less fortunate. Doing so, they offer rare shafts of light in what appears to be an increasingly dark world, ruled by brutal violence and mindless commercialism.

Though there are no words to express the gratitude that so many have for hands unseen, let me thank each one of you for the lives you have touched.

Ken Williams has been a social worker for the homeless for the past 30 years, and is the author of China White, Shattered Dreams: A Story of the Streets and his first nonfiction book, There Must Be Honor. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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UCSB Political Scientist Analyzes State Power Through Lens of Recent Developments in East Asia

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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In every society, the defining currency of authority is power. Defining power, however, is, perhaps surprisingly, no simple task.

Benjamin Cohen
Benjamin Cohen

In his new book, Power in a Changing World Economy: Lessons from East Asia (Routledge, 2014), UC Santa Barbara’s Benjamin Cohen seeks to bring clarity to the issue. Co-edited with Eric M.P. Chiu of National Chung Hsing University in Taipei, Taiwan, the book features nine essays that analyze state power from the perspective of recent economic developments in East Asia.

Power is central to the study of international relations and international political economy, noted Cohen, the Louis G. Lancaster Professor of International Political Economy at UCSB, but a consensus among scholars about the basics of power is extraordinarily lacking.

Cohen sought to examine the meaning, sources, uses and limits of power in international political economy, or IPE, with each of the nine contributing scholars analyzing a separate case study through the lens of those facets of power.

According to Cohen, those case studies reveal a number of unexpected conclusions, especially concerning China. “One of the dominant questions as far as the East Asian region is concerned is the rising power of China,” said Cohen, a specialist in the political economy of international money and finance. “One of the things that we learned from these various essays is that, in many cases, Chinese power is much more limited than people had anticipated.”

Cohen explained that power is expressed in two forms: influence and autonomy. Influence, he said, is getting someone to act according to your wishes; autonomy is the ability to act independently, without constraint.

“All this casual talk about the rise of China and Chinese power overlooks the fact that to this point China’s power has been mainly in the form of greater autonomy, greater ability to act independently, not in the area of influence,” Cohen said. “They haven’t been able to actually take that capability and get others to do what they want. Some of the case studies are very clear on that.

“So one of the basic things we learned was that there are many instances in which Chinese power is much more limited than it appeared to be” he added. “Size is not power, and that’s one of the important points. That was one of the most fundamental lessons.”

Power in a Changing World Economy is the result of an invitation Cohen received from a group of Taiwanese academics.

“This was a project deliberately designed to encourage more intellectual exchange between American and Taiwanese scholars,” Cohen noted. “They said I was free to choose the subject, and so I thought this would be a good opportunity to try to sort through some of these issues in the analysis of power in international relations.”

The book project also provided an opportunity to engage a new generation of scholars in IPE. The Taiwanese contributors are relatively young, Cohen noted, with most being five to 10 years removed from completing their doctoral degrees. “I was part of the generation that created the modern field of IPE. I’m one of the few still left standing after all these years. I’m not going anywhere,” he said.

Indeed, Cohen’s own essay in the book — “The Yuan’s Long March” — is something of a preview of his next book. Set for publication in 2015, “Currency Power” will examine the widely held belief that the Chinese yuan will eclipse the dollar as the global currency — a notion that Cohen disputes.

“One of the central themes of the book is that, despite expectations to the contrary, the dollar, in my opinion, will remain the central currency of the global system into the foreseeable future, which I define as my lifetime,” he said. “There are significant problems that will make it very difficult for the yuan to challenge the dollar as the global currency. That’s not a popular view, but it’s the view that I take in the chapter. I build on that chapter to develop a more extensive discussion in the new book.”

— Jim Logan represents the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

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Santa Maria High’s Carlos Balderas to Represent U.S. in Boxing at 2016 Olympics

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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The boxing ring is leading to the Olympic rings for Santa Maria High School’s Carlos Balderas.

The senior has earned the honor to compete for a chance to represent the United States at the 2016 Olympics. Balderas recently clinched the opportunity at the WSB and World Championships Team Trial in Chattanooga, Tenn., by defeating a National Golden Gloves Champion in the lightweight final round bout.

“This is something I have been working for since I was 7," Balderas said. “I am excited to represent the United States."

The 17-year-old has been one of a dozen members of the Youth National Boxing Team since January. The team fights internationally and trains at the official Olympic Training Center in Colorado.

Balderas, 5 foot 8, has a record of 127 wins and about nine losses.

With the help of his father, Zenon, uncle Emilano and coach David, he’s practicing and training daily at the family’s home gym.

When he is not boxing, he enjoys “school and family."

Assistant Principal of Student Affairs Pete Flores, staff and students know Balderas will make America shine.

“We are extremely proud to have someone like Carlos representing SMHS at the National level of the U.S. Olympic Boxing," Flores said. “His character and determination like his boxing skills and his record, are unshakable."

— Kenny Klein is a public information officer for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.

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Santa Barbara County Launches Redesigned Website

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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Santa Barbara County has launched a new website that makes information easier to find and is easier to view on a tablet or smartphone.

Key changes include:

» Mobile accessibility: The county used responsive design to make sure the website fits on screens of all sizes.

» Social media portal: The county releases essential information through Facebook, Twitter, Nixle and YouTube. The social media portal provides a single page to connect to all county social media sites.

» Better search capability: With over 20,000 web pages and documents, finding the right information can be challenging. The new website gives users the ability to search within a specific department or the entire county website. While this function is not currently available for every department, it will be in the future.

» Increased organization: Other improvements include a press release archive and a user-friendly guide to CSBTV programming.

Assistant director for information and communications technology Jennifer Slayman highlighted the need to address mobile users.

“We researched the types of visitors that come to the site and found that almost 40 percent were using mobile devices," she said. "We also looked at what people were searching for and then we looked at how to best provide that information.”

The county is rolling out the new website in phases. More department website changes will appear in the coming months, and ICT staff will continue to address future issues to make the experience of using the county website even better.

The public is invited to send all feedback regarding the website redesign to sbcwebmaster@countyofsb.org. Click here for more information on website changes.

— Lael Wageneck is a public engagement coordinator for Santa Barbara County.

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Santa Barbara Symphony Appoints David Pratt Its New Executive Director

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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After an extensive nationwide search, the Santa Barbara Symphony is pleased to announce the appointment of David Pratt as its new executive director.

David Pratt
David Pratt

He will assume his duties on March 2, 2015.

Pratt, a native of Australia, has more than 15 years of management experience in leadership roles across the performing arts, film and entertainment sectors in the United States and Australia. Prior to joining the Santa Barbara Symphony, Pratt acted as executive director for the Savannah Philharmonic, where he delivered substantial increases in audience numbers, donations and corporate support, producing annual surpluses above targets, and introducing new and engaging programs and events.

“After a thorough strategic planning and search process, the Santa Barbara Symphony is thrilled to welcome David Pratt as our new executive director,” said Arthur Swalley, Santa Barbara Symphony board president. “We are proud to bring in a great new leader to build on our current artistic and operational excellence. Even more importantly, Mr. Pratt is uniquely qualified to lead the symphony in our next stages of growth. We look forward to welcoming Mr. Pratt to the symphony family.”

“I am very excited and honored to be joining the Santa Barbara Symphony as their new executive director,” Pratt said. “The Santa Barbara Symphony is one of the community‘s most treasured cultural assets with world-class programming, great artistic leadership and highly respected education programs. I look forward to working with the board, staff and the community to lead the organization for long-term growth and success.”

Previously, Pratt held the position of senior event mManager with the G’Day USA Festival, where he created and managed a series of arts, cultural and music events across several cities in the United States. This included a partnership with the Palm Springs International Film Festival spotlighting Australian film and a series of performances in Los Angeles with the internationally acclaimed performer and composer, William Barton and the Qantas Choir. He also identified, secured and managed multiple event sponsor partnerships contributing significant funds to the annual $2 million budget.

Prior to returning to Los Angeles in 2009, Pratt held a senior management position as commercial enterprises manager with Australia’s largest and most successful orchestra — the Sydney Symphony. He was responsible for planning the symphony’s commercial season producing highly successful performances with artists such as Roberta Flack, Nigel Kennedy and Kate Ceberano as well as overseeing the program’s annual $3.5 million budget.

From 2006 to early 2008, Pratt was the general manager of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Australia’s North East tropical region. He had unprecedented success with record attendances, surpluses, and significant increases in financial support from individuals, government, and the corporate sector. He also worked on a short-term contract earlier in 2006, managing a series of fundraising events for the Sydney Opera House with the visit of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Between 1997 and 2006, Pratt held various management positions across the film and entertainment sector in Los Angeles. He organized the 2005 Australian Film, Music, and Style Showcase for the G’Day USA Festival. In 2001, Pratt founded Australians In Film, where he built the organization into a high profile film culture association with a sizeable membership, trusted long-term partnerships with US film studios and significant corporate support. In this role, Pratt oversaw monthly film screenings and events with actors, directors, and producers working directly with industry A-listers such as Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Baz Luhrmann and Philip Noyce. In this role he also created music and art events profiling emerging artists to the Los Angeles community.

From 1997 to 2004, Pratt was the Australian Film Commissioner for Ausfilm in Los Angeles, promoting Australia’s film and TV production sector across the U.S. entertainment industry. He secured over $600 million worth of production, was the undisputable driving force for the Australian Government introducing film and TV incentives, and was the catalyst for Ausfilm’s corporate support more than quadrupling from 15 to over 60 companies.

Prior to moving to the U.S. in 1997, Pratt was general manager at the Melbourne Film Office for the State of Victoria. He secured over $1 million in re-current funding from State Government for this newly established office, won the full support and trust of the local film community, and led major marketing missions in North East Asia, USA and the UK securing thousands of dollars of business.

Pratt has a bachelor of arts, graduate diploma in business administration, and a certificate in public relations. He is passionate about music, travel and exercise.

— Kelly Kapaun is a publicist representing the Santa Barbara Symphony.

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Obama Signs Capps Bill to Name Lompoc Building for Fallen Federal Corrections Officer

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, on Thursday praised President Barack Obama for signing into law her bill, House Resolution 5562, that will designate the U.S. Post Office building at 801 W. Ocean Ave. in Lompoc as the Federal Correctional Officer Scott J. Williams Memorial Post Office Building.

The bill passed the House of Representatives on Dec. 8 and the Senate on Dec. 15.

Senior Officer Specialist Williams was killed in the line of duty at the U.S. Penitentiary in Lompoc on April 3, 1997. He served with honor and distinction as a U.S. Marine during the Persian Gulf War, where he saved the lives of his countrymen and received multiple awards, including “Marine of the Year.”

He graduated from Lompoc High School and lived in Los Alamos with his wife, Kristy, and their two daughters, Kaitlin and Kallee.

“Senior Officer Specialist Williams was a respected veteran, civil servant and beloved family man who dedicated his life to civil service and keeping our nation and community safe,” Capps said. “While our community lost Scott too soon, the naming of the Lompoc Post Office after him is a fitting tribute as we continue to honor this selfless man and keep his memory alive. I am so pleased that this effort is now law.”

Chris Meagher is the press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

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Helene Schneider Snubbed for SBCAG Board Chair Seat

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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Decision is prompted by her vocal opposition to aspects of Highway 101 widening plan

Breaking with a decade-long tradition, the Santa Barbara County Association of Government board voted Thursday to reject naming vice chair Helene Schneider as its new chair.

Schneider, who currently serves as vice chair to Fifth District County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino on the SBCAG board, is mayor of Santa Barbara and has come under fire for her opposition to the proposed Highway 101 widening project.

She has openly supported lawsuits that were filed against the project, saying the widening will cause severe traffic impacts to city intersections, and those related projects should be included in the Highway 101 widening’s planning and funding.

For the last 10 years or more, the vice chair has always been elected as chair for the following year.

More than 15 people spoke and sent letters to the board, opposing the appointment of Schneider of the new chair over concerns that she would be biased toward the project.

The board ultimately agreed, voting almost unanimously to appoint Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson as chair and Second District County Supervisor Janet Wolf as vice chair for 2015.

Buellton Councilwoman Holly Sierra voted against the motion, as did Schneider.

There was outspoken criticism of Schneider’s actions regarding the project and some came from her longtime supporters.  

Former county supervisors Susan Rose and Gail Marshall, Santa Barbara activist Micky Flacks, philanthropist Sara Miller McCune and James Joyce, a staffer for State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, all asked the SBCAG board not to give Schneider the chair seat.

“You must follow the wishes of the voters that you are pledged to serve and you must do it today,” McCune said to the board.  

The position of chair should be held by someone who agrees it’s time to move forward, Rose and Marshall said. “It’s time to finish the job.”

Some referenced a letter written to the board by Brian Robinson, urging the board to take the election seriously.

“It matters who your next chair person is,” wrote Robinson, a co-chair of the Yes on Measure A committee.

“It matters who is setting the agenda. It matters who is maintaining relationships with SBCAG’s agency partners. It matters who goes to Sacramento and Washington to advocate for this project. And it matters to your constituents.”

Other speakers raised concerns about Schneider being privy to SBCAG’s legal strategy when she has openly encouraged lawsuits against that organization, and whether she would be a strong advocate for state and federal funding.

To the second point, Schneider briefly responded and said she has and would continue to advocate for more funding, since that has been her major concern with this project.

At Thursday's meeting, the SBCAG Board also got an update on the Highway 101 project from corridor adviser Tony Harris.

In meeting with state, county, city and community groups, Harris heard the consensus that people want to get this project done, he said.

“I’m motivated to go fast,” he said.

He didn’t give an updated timeline but the next steps are for him to work on an agreement between Caltrans and SBCAG to outline the roles and responsibilities of each agency.

Harris recommends that the design work is done all at once, but construction will probably be done in phases.  

Caltrans will design the southern segment of the project, from Carpinteria to Padaro Lane, and SBCAG consultants will design the northern segment from Padaro Lane to Santa Barbara.

The main concerns are over funding, traffic during construction, visual impacts of the project and working on the related projects such as the City of Santa Barbara’s Cabrillo Boulevard/Union Pacific Railroad bridge replacement, Harris said.

There are three projects that the City of Santa Barbara wants to be pursued simultaneously with the widening project: the bridge replacement and improvements to intersections on Olive Mill Road and San Ysidro Road.

The bridge replacement is estimated to cost $30 million, a roundabout at Olive Mill Road is estimated to cost $6 million and there is not yet a cost estimate for the San Ysidro Road intersection improvements, Harris said in his presentation.

Funding for the widening project is coming from county voter-approved Measure A monies and South Coast gas taxes, but there is still a big gap between funding and the estimated cost.

There is an opportunity to share some costs with a state rehabilitation project in the same area at the same time, since there would already been construction crews and traffic control in place, Harris noted.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Rotary of Santa Barbara Honors Washington Elementary Teacher April Van Wickle

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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The downtown Rotary Club of Santa Barbara selected April Van Wickle as its outstanding elementary teacher of the year.

April Van Wickle
April Van Wickle

Van Wickle teaches at Washington Elementary School in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Since 1986, the club has honored outstanding teachers from South Coast schools each year. It awards a high school, junior high, elementary and special education teacher with a certificate and a $1,000 check to spend on classroom needs.

Van Wickle was recognized at the club’s luncheon meeting Dec. 12.

“This kind of continuing support for local educators is especially meaningful and rewarding,” said Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone, whose office coordinates the recognition with the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara. “Showcasing the exemplary efforts of classroom teachers makes a special impact on students and their schools. The annual Rotary awards provide recognition and resources for outstanding teachers to enhance the classroom experience.”

“I have been impressed with April Van Wickle from the moment I met her. April is an amazing teacher and thoughtful colleague,” Washington Elementary School Principal Sierra Loughridge said. “It is a joy to be in her class. Her enthusiasm for learning and her own curiosity are infectious.

“April inspires her students to read, write, calculate and explore. She engages all students. As a result, their academic abilities and social development are burgeoning. Her class is inclusive, active, and happy. She purposefully prepares lessons, communicates effectively with parents and is a problem solver.

“Under her watch students are safe, valued, and learning. It is an honor and privilege to nominate her for this outstanding teacher award. Her hard work and dedication are truly appreciated and she is everyone's favorite teacher. Thank you, Mrs. Van Wickle, for all you have done for so many little Wildcats!”

“I sincerely believe in a child-centered approach to teaching that honors every student,” Van Wickle said. “I enjoy establishing a relationship with each student, helping them discover their strengths. I hope to help them find their motivation to succeed. I enjoy keeping current with educational topics, like brain research, learning, and of course, common core. I am happy that I still enjoy teaching, after almost 30 years.”

"Everyone loves April and after many years as a teacher she is still in love with teaching,” said Brian Sarvis, chairman of the Teacher Recognition Committee of the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara.

Van Wickle has been an elementary teacher, mostly second grade, but has taught various combinations for 25 years. She graduated from Cal State-Long Beach, majoring in educational psychology, with a biology emphasis, and started her teaching career in Long Beach, teaching third and fourth grade for three years.

The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara meets at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays. Recipients of the club’s Teacher Recognition Awards are made with the assistance of the Teacher Programs and Support Department of the Santa Barbara County Education Office. Click here for more information.

— Kris Bergstrom is the communications director for the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

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UCSB Researchers Participate in Collaboration to Study How Plants, Animals Respond to Climate Change

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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More than half a dozen UC Santa Barbara scientists will participate in the newly funded UC-wide Institute for the Study of Ecological and Evolutionary Climate Impacts.

The initiative, which was awarded $1.9 million last week as part of the UC President’s Research Catalyst Award, will be led by UC Santa Cruz biology professor Barry Sinervo.

Part of a collaboration involving all nine UC undergraduate campuses, the UCSB researchers will use the UC Natural Reserve System (NRS) to detect and forecast the ecological impacts of climate change in California. The world’s largest system of university-administered natural reserves, the NRS offers a powerful opportunity for faculty members and students to better understand how climate change could affect California ecosystems and the ecosystem services on which people rely.

“The reserves lend themselves to this kind of study,” said Susan Mazer, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology (EEMB). She organized the campus’s contribution to the ISEECI proposal. “They represent a broad spectrum of climatic regimes because they include both latitude and elevation gradients and a variety of plant communities, which range from relatively moist coastal and montane habitats to desert. There is a lot of climatic variation captured by the reserves, which means that we can use this geographic variation as a proxy for climatic conditions that may occur over time.”

ISEECI researchers will assemble historical records, establish a new system for data collection, record the timing of the seasonal cycles of plants and animals and conduct experiments and long-term monitoring studies across the state. “A new approach to research is needed to assess the scope of biotic changes, to devise suitable conservation and restoration responses and to advise policymakers and the public on how to adapt to and mitigate potential threats to natural ecosystems, agriculture, water resources and sustainable development,” Sinervo said.

The UCSB group will integrate ongoing studies of climate and of wild populations of terrestrial and near-shore species in the NRS to monitor and to predict their responses to climate change. Mazer’s research group, which records and projects the effects of climate change on the seasonal cycles of native plants in the NRS, also is creating a seed bank to assess microevolutionary responses to climate change. Both endeavors fit nicely into ISEECI’s mandate.

A team headed by Cherie Briggs, who holds UCSB’s Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Systems Biology, is already examining climate change and the emergence of Lyme disease in the NRS as a model for tick-borne diseases. Andrew MacDonald, a Ph.D. student in the Briggs Lab, has been sampling ticks across 17 UC reserves in order to track the prevalence of Lyme disease. As part of the new institute’s work, his research could be expanded to include twice as many NRS sites as well as additional tick-borne diseases.

“Tick-borne pathogens have huge potential to be affected by climate change because the prevalence of the disease depends on what mammals are there and what climatic conditions are present in the location,” Briggs said. “Because ticks spend most of their time off of their hosts in leaf litter, they are very affected by desiccation and temperature.”

Frank Davis, a professor at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, studies the effects of climate change on tree establishment and growth in the southern Sierras and the Tehachapis, where no UC reserves exist. “Part of what we can do with this project is take our collected records of the microclimates at these places, as well as plant survival and growth, and make sure those data are brought into an NRS-focused effort,” Davis explained. “ISEECI is about networking places and networking people to do this kind of more integrated assessment of climate change biology in California.”

Additional UCSB faculty members proposed a second set of projects examining large-scale geographic (and temporal) patterns in climate, terrestrial vegetation and abiotic marine conditions. These would use remote sensing or climate modeling to evaluate historical changes in climate or plant community composition, to track or to project past and future extreme weather conditions and events and to forecast future changes in vegetation, marine biochemistry and ocean acidification. This research would also look at the frequency of extreme weather events in response to longer-term changes in climate.

Charles Jones and Leila Carvalho, associate professors in UCSB’s Department of Geography and researchers at its Earth Research Institute, seek to explore climate change impacts on biotic systems, with an emphasis on detecting and forecasting of extreme weather patterns and events. Dar Roberts, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Geography, hopes to examine how climate change affects community composition and structure across the NRS; and EEMB professor Gretchen Hofmann plans to investigate ocean acidification and hypoxia in the NRS marine reserves.

Although many in-depth studies have documented climate impacts on the NRS, they largely have been done independently, with results that are difficult to compare among studies. ISEECI will pursue a coordinated approach across broad geographic scales. Researchers will develop models to predict future changes to ecosystems and potential impacts on ecosystem services that might threaten the capacity of Californians to adapt to a changing climate.

“We hope new collaborations that we don’t foresee will also emerge as more people with a similar sensibility use ISEECI’s infrastructure and focus in on the ecology and evolution of species that are widespread across the reserves,” Mazer said.

— Julie Cohen represents the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

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Sweetwater Collaborative Launches IndieGogo End-of-Year Fundraising Campaign

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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Sweetwater Collaborative has launched an end-of-year fundraising campaign, “Getting the most out of our water, together,” via the crowdfunding website IndieGogo.

Sweetwater Collaborative seeks to raise capital needed to further its goals of ensuring water security and resilience for everyone in Santa Barbara, during times of drought or plentiful rain.

A goal of $10,000 has been set, with the campaign ending on Dec. 31.

“We are excited about our year-end campaign, and we hope that the local community recognizes and supports our work,” said Sweetwater Collaborative coordinator Barbara Wishingrad said. “We thank those who have already contributed.

"Although the recent rains are gratefully welcomed and do help to ease the drought crisis we are currently in, most of this rain just picks up pollution and runs off into the sea. Fortunately, simple solutions exist to capture and retain most of this rain in our yards, and it is one of Sweetwater’s goals to help the community implement these solutions.”

— Eric Torbet represents Sweetwater Collaborative.

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The Fund for Santa Barbara Awards $4,000 Grant to Lompoc Valley Beekeepers Association

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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The Fund for Santa Barbara has awarded a $4,000 grant to the Lompoc Valley Beekeepers Association.

On Dec. 3, LVBA president Jim Rice and director Archie Mitchell attended The Fund’s annual Grant Awards Party at the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center in Santa Barbara, where Mitchell spoke about LVBA and the association’s proposed projects for 2015.

With grant funds, the Lompoc Valley Beekeepers Association seeks to purchase observation hives and package bees for outreach to local schools and Boys and Girls Clubs, to purchase books and videos to establish a library, to host special events, to distribute a newsletter and flyers, to maintain a website and to purchase supplies necessary to maintain honeybees in the Lompoc Bird, Butterfly and Bee sanctuary.

Mitchell blazed the trail in creating a beekeepers association in Lompoc and in teaching beekeeping courses at Allan Hancock College. He wrote The Fund grant proposal seeking to provide environmental justice for honeybees and native pollinators.

“Honeybees and native pollinators are declining globally," Mitchelle said. "[T]here is justifiable concern that without more activism, the majority of citizens will sit back and watch while our food supplies are threatened by the steady decline of pollinators.”

Mitchell also seeks to change the bee ordinance in Lompoc.

The Fund for Santa Barbara is a nonprofit community foundation that supports organizations working for social, economic, environmental & political change in Santa Barbara County. This includes grassroots organizing against discrimination of all kinds, supporting the rights & dignity of working people, promoting community self-determination, organizing for peace and nonviolence, working to improve the quality of our environment, and building cross-issue/cross-constituency coalitions and alliances. The Fund raises money through donations of all sizes in order to provide grants and technical assistance. Since its founding in 1980, The Fund has awarded more than $5 million to over 900 projects. Click here to learn more.

The Lompoc Valley Beekeepers Association seeks the promotion and advancement of beekeeping through best management practices, the education and mentoring of people about honey bees and beekeeping and increasing public awareness of environmental concerns affecting honey bees. LVBKA meetings are held monthly at Flying Goat Cellars Tasting Room in Lompoc. The association is involved in community education programs, swarm removal and mentoring new beekeepers. Click here to learn more.

— Kate Griffith represents the Lompoc Valley Beekeepers Association.

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Trash Truck Overturns On Highway 217 Near UCSB

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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Emergency personnel responded Thursday to a rollover accident involving a garbage truck on Highway 217 near UC Santa Barbara, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The accident involving a Marborg truck and another vehicle occurred shortly after 8 a.m. in the eastbound lanes of Highway 217, also known as Ward Memorial Boulevard, between the university and Highway 101, the CHP said.

Only minor injuries were reported in the accident.

Some lanes were shut down in both directions due to the wreck.

Check back with Noozhawk for updates to this story.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Santa Barbara Police Department Receives Grant for Special Traffic Enforcement and Crash Prevention

By | Published on 12/18/2014

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The Santa Barbara Police Department has been awarded a $213,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety for a yearlong program of special enforcements and public awareness efforts to prevent traffic-related deaths and injuries.

The Police Department will use the funding as part of the city’s ongoing commitment to keep roadways safe and improve the quality of life through both enforcement and education.

“Our department is proud of the relationship we have with the California Office of Traffic Safety, and these funds will help us to curtail traffic deaths and/or injuries attributed to the most frequent types of traffic violations in the City of Santa Barbara. These funds will also enhance our agency’s DUI enforcement efforts.” SBPD Assistant Patrol Commander Brent Mandrell said.

After falling dramatically between 2006 and 2010, the number of people killed and injured in traffic collisions saw slight increases in 2011 and 2012. Particularly worrisome are recent increases in pedestrian and motorcycle fatalities and the dangers of distracting technologies. This grant funding will provide opportunities to combat these and other devastating problems such as drunk and drugged driving and speeding.

“California’s roadways are still among the safest in the nation,” OTS Director Rhonda Craft said. “But to meet future mobility, safety, and sustainability objectives, we must create safer roadways for all users. The Santa Barbara Police Department will be using these and other resources to reach the vision we all share — Toward zero deaths, every 1 counts.”

Activities that the grant will fund include:

» Bike pedestrian and other educational presentations
» DUI checkpoints
» DUI saturation patrols
» Motorcycle safety enforcement
» Distracted driving enforcement
» Enforcement of common vehicle code violations that cause traffic collisions
» Warrant service operations targeting multiple DUI offenders
» Compilation of DUI “Hot Sheets,” identifying worst-of-the-worst DUI offenders
» Specialized DUI and drugged driving training such as Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement and Drug Recognition Evaluator
» Court “sting” operations to cite individuals driving from DUI court after ignoring their license suspension or revocation
» Stakeout operations to observe the “worst-of-the-worst” repeat DUI offender probationers with suspended or revoked driver licenses

Funding for this program is from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

— Sgt. Mike McGrew represents the Santa Barbara Police Department.

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State Lands Commission Allows Venoco’s Goleta Oil Project to Move Forward

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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But the future of the company's nearby Ellwood processing facility remains in limbo after a City Council vote just a day earlier

The future is unclear for Venoco Inc.'s Goleta oil-production facility after two separate votes, taken just a day apart, from state and local jurisdictions that are at odds with one another.

On Wednesday, the California State Lands Commission voted unanimously to re-certify environmental documents and allow Venoco to resume oil production from a pier at Haskell's Beach near the Bacara Resort & Spa.

Wednesday's decision came just a day after the Goleta City Council voted to adopt an ordinance that could force oil company Venoco's Ellwood Onshore Facility, the processing plant for offshore oil and gas, to be shut down.

The company has two piers, known as PRC Lease 421-1 and 421-2, located on the beach just below Sandpiper Golf Course in western Goleta.

The company is applying to resume operations at the second pier, which has not produced oil since 1994, when an onshore oil spill occurred, releasing oil from a 6-inch flow line beneath the 12th tee of the golf course.

"There is no new drilling … It is the existing well," said Seth Blackmon, staff attorney with the California State Lands Commission, adding that there also wouldn't be any hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or acidization taking place.

The project would process an average of 150 barrels a day from the second pier and pipe them into the Ellwood Onshore Facility.

That facility is in a bit of limbo, however, thanks to a 3-2 vote taken Tuesday night that all but assured the City of Goleta would work to shut down the facility, over which it has jurisdiction.

The facility does not conform with the zoning designation of the land it sits on, which is specified as recreational.

The property was designated that way by the county in 1991, and was kept as recreational when the City of Goleta was formed in 2002, with its boundaries enveloping the facility.

The Goleta City Council voted this week to take steps to shut down Venoco's Ellwood oil-processing facility. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

Blackmon said the final environmental impact report had been revised, and "it really does address some of the final issues," he said.

One issue that had been modified was a separate discussion of the pressure at the Vaqueros Reservoir, which is the source of oil for the pier lease and "represents a safety risk to the region in general," he said.

Blackmon said increasing pressure of the formation was documented from 1987 to 2000, but no data is available after 2000, because the oil reservoir has not produced oil since that time.

In 2000, a methane leak was identified, and significant oil pressure was building up in the Vaqueros Reservoir, Blackmon said.

Whether that reservoir and those nearby could fully withstand pressure if it was reactivated "we don't know," he said, adding that resuming production would be the only way to gather data.

Blackmon showed photos of the piers and caissons at Haskell's Beach, on which significant work has been done,

"A lot of work has been done by Venoco to create a safe operating environment, at least as far as the piers are concerned," he said.

The Ellwood Onshore Facility permit allows for 13,000 barrels of oil per day, and the facility is processing much less than that now, he said.

Another alternative to using the facility to process the oil would be to pipe it into Exxon Mobil's Las Flores Canyon Facility, but that would require 10 miles of pipeline to be constructed and additional equipment would be required on the pier.

"This creates some significant impacts," Blackmon said, adding that whether to allow the Ellwood facility to process oil from the pier is "up to the City of Goleta."

Platform Holly, which is also operated by Venoco, also uses the Ellwood facility to process oil and gas.

The platform is expected to be operating until 2055, Blackmon said, and if the Ellwood facility is shut down, the company has an obligation to continue processing oil from the platform or the piers.

Chris Peltonen, development manager for Venoco, briefly spoke Wednesday, saying there were differences between the company and the city, and Chris Collier of the Coastal Energy Alliance said "there was definitely a split vote and a lively discussion" at Goleta's council meeting on Tuesday.

Jennifer Carmine, an attorney representing Goleta, said "the city is gravely concerned" about the risks to the beach and recreational areas from processing oil in the area.

"The EOF is a very old facility and has been a legal non-conforming use since 1991," she said, adding that it has never processed gas from the second pier, as the project proposes.

Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte said that approving the project was a "step backwards."

"Venoco has chosen to maintain this non-conforming facility while the community is growing around it," she said.

Perrotte asserted that the company has allowed its infrastructure to crumble and that the EIR was riddled with errors.

Other opponents of the project, including Jenna Driscoll of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and Linda Krop of the Environmental Defense Center, also spoke out against re-certifying the EIR.

"The city has made clear that the city is interested in ending operations at the EOF," Driscoll said.

Lands Commission Chairman Alan Gordon said that the panel's job on Wednesday was to talk about the project at hand, not about the wisdom of processing oil on the California Coast.

"Those decisions were made a long time ago," he said.

He said he'd be supporting the project, and added that processing the oil elsewhere would require an additional pipeline, that would likely run over several sensitive watersheds, which is "not a way to go."

If the city chooses to cancel the permit at the Ellwood facility, "that will be between the city and Venoco at some future date," he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Schneider Cuts Ties with Chamber of Commerce for Santa Barbara’s State of the City Breakfast

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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The State of the City Breakfast will look a bit different in 2015 after a decision by Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider to terminate a long-standing partnership to host the event with the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce.

After the chamber secured the venue for the 15th annual address, business sponsors and a date of March 20, 2015, Schneider recently informed chamber president Ken Oplinger that the city wanted to handle the event on its own and in a different way.

The mayor told Noozhawk she made the decision in an effort to increase public participation in the State of the City by offering free admission.

Last year, Oplinger said, the breakfast event cost $60 per person and was hosted at the Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort.

Oplinger said he was trying to get word about the change to the business community this week, since the decision came as a surprise.

The chamber was disappointed with the mayor’s decision, he said, because staff already worked to gather the more than $10,000 in sponsorships and even cleared the 2015 date with the city.

“We were ready to go with the event,” Oplinger said. “We were very excited to be able to do it for the 15th year. She was very clear this wasn’t up for discussion. We’ll be stepping aside.”

Beyond cost, Schneider gave few other reasons for the decision to make the change.

“The State of the City is the largest event the city has to inform the public about current municipal affairs, and there will not be a change in the actual presentation in 2015,” she wrote in an email. “In prior years, participation at the event has been somewhat limited due to the cost associated with attending.

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider

"The change the city is making is simply in production, and my goal is to increase participation by making admission free and open to the public.”

Oplinger said the 2014 address drew 25 percent more guests than in past years, with 450 people from the local business community.

“She felt there was confusion between the State of the Chamber and State of the City events because they’re so close together,” he said. “She felt it wasn’t really appropriate for the city to show any favoritism to the chamber over other groups.”

The State of the Chamber is a luncheon hosted about five weeks apart from the State of the City event, and Oplinger called it more of an annual meeting where local businesses are recognized with awards.

Losing sponsorship means missing out on the business community’s biggest chance to have the mayor’s ear and vice versa, he said, noting the chamber might soon announce a new chamber event to take place later next year.

“I think there was a real benefit to the city,” Oplinger said. “I know that her hope is she’ll still be able to do that with business and the rest of community. We’ll be looking at other options. We certainly don’t want the mayor to feel like we’re trying to eclipse her activity.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Santa Maria Police Department Undergoes ‘Complete Overhaul’ in Complying with Recommended Reforms

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Seven months later, the Santa Maria Police Department has implemented most of the independent auditors’ 57 recommendations for reforming the agency, including revised protocols for officer-involved shootings, citizens’ complaints and timely training.

Chief Ralph Martin updated the Santa Maria City Council on Tuesday night about the progress of the agency’s reforms that arose out of the botched handling of an investigation and fatal shooting of Officer Albert Covarrubias Jr. by a colleague in 2012 along with other incidents.

“I fully support the recommendations set forth by the team and we are diligently directing the department staff to implement all of the reforms,” Martin said. “We have substantially addressed a majority of the OIR (Office of Independent Review Group) recommendations and will continue to implement the remaining ones with the goal of providing the best service to the citizens of Santa Maria.”

The city hired the Office of Independent Review to conduct the audit in February 2012 and received the findings seven months ago. At the time, the chief noted that 23 recommendations had been implemented, 18 were being addressed and 16 were yet to the handled.

“The audit revealed several areas of shortcomings in the areas of use of force documentation, internal affairs investigations, citizens’ complaints and the department’s Explorer program,” Martin said.

Martin noted that the auditors devoted substantial attention to the department’s handling of officer-involved shootings, drawing heavily on the previous incidents under the prior chief.

The report focused on the on-scene post-shooting protocols, interaction with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and the function of a use-of-deadly force review board.

“Since the time of the report, the department has undergone a complete overhaul of policy and protocol to address all the deficiencies that formerly existed,” said Martin, who was hired in August 2012 on an interim basis and then permanently.

Among some recommendations, the audit said the agency “should enhance its protocols to ensure that its policies prohibiting officers from gathering in a group after a critical incident are enforced.” Another suggestion involved developing protocols to informing officers not to speak publicly about use of force or other administrative investigations in any public forum while the review is pending.

With regards to the use-of-force documentation, the audit noted improvements had been made under Martin’s leadership but suggested a series of other steps, he said.

“Most of these were policy recommendations designed to accompany the changes in protocol and procedure that we had already established,” Martin said. “The policy has been rewritten and when applied in conjunction with our already established force protocols, all OIR force recommendations will then be satisfied.”

In the past, officers failed to complete their required refresher training which has been addressed by the creation of a training sergeant position in addition to the training coordinator. Both have been instructed the Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, compliance is a top priority.

The audit suggested the agency should ensure that all officers were in compliance with the first aid and CPR refresher course. Also, the agency needed a program so the high-speed vehicle pursuit training occurs annually while a domestic violence complaints course is done every two years.

To support the training requirements, the department’s funding has been increased by approximately. $50,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year. Martin said. Future budgets will accommodate similar increased funding, he added.

“These changes have  produced remarkable results,” Martin said, adding the department’s sworn personnel will in 100 percent compliance with POST continuing professional training requirements by Dec. 31.

Other changes include revising the Explorers handbook to ban relationships and communication between the youths and officers.

The agency is also installing software what will serve as a proactive management tool to track assorted data plus monitor certain behavior that could lead to civil lawsuits and training opportunities, the chief said.

The auditors are expected to return in May, one year after initially presenting the findings. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Longtime Police Officer Chris Nartatez Reflects on North County Career

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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The sergeant rose through the ranks to chief of the Guadalupe Police Department before joining the force in Santa Maria

Chris Nartatez entered law enforcement because he found it exciting, but remained after discovering the job gave him a chance to help people.

This week will be the Santa Maria Police Department sergeant’s final stretch on the job after working in law enforcement since 1977.

He spent 16 years with the Santa Maria department plus 21 with the Guadalupe Police Department.

Working as a police officer provided multiple opportunities to help people — both the crime victims and even those he arrested, he said.

“I often say to the younger officers, 'We have the right to take someone’s liberty away, but we don’t have the right to take their dignity away,'” Nartatez said.

Nartatez received a resolution noting his "dedication, loyalty and devotion to duty" during the City Council meeting Tuesday night. 

"Sgt. Nartatez was my go-to person whenever I needed some insight or liaison," Chief Ralph Martin said. "He has the ability to quickly size up events and has the charisma to handle the most delicate of situations."

Born and raised in Santa Maria, Nartatez recalls working the fields as a youngster with his dad. He graduated from Santa Maria High School in 1976 and later from the Allan Hancock College Law Enforcement Academy.

Nartatez became a reserve police officer in Guadalupe, where he said the department's leaders accommodated the time off he needed to go on several church missionary trips to countries such as Philippine Islands and Venezuela. 

He eventually joined the force full time, quickly rising to become chief of the department in 1991.

“It’s always important to treat people good,” he said. “I had a saying when I was chief in Guadalupe: It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.”

As his career evolved, Nartatez has seen big changes in all aspects of law enforcement.

“My first police car was an old Dodge that had a red ball on the top as the emergency light, just one big revolving ball,” he said.

There were no computers in the patrol cars and their radios didn’t work very well. Officers carried revolvers, not automatic handguns. Marksmanship wasn’t the only requirement.

“We used to hand write reports, now you can dictate them,” he said, recalling writing out arrest and search warrants presented to judges.  “You had to have good penmanship back then.”

Day-shift officers in Guadalupe had to pass the department’s two bulletproof vests to their night shift counterparts.

“At that time they were kind of pricey for us so the city bought two whole bulletproof vests for us to share,” he said. 

“They didn’t purchase guns for us or handcuffs,” Nartatez added. “They only gave us a police badge and an ID card. Everything else we had to purchase. Things are definitely different now. You come to departments and they issue everything. We had to buy our own flashlights, and all those things.”

But the city struggled with finances, and Nartatez was raising a young family of four children with his wife, Roberta. After several years, he made the difficult decision to move on to another agency. 

“I love the people there,” he said. “I really didn’t have an opportunity to become a police officer because I was thrust into the chief’s job at an early age," Nartatez recalled. "Struggling with city finances and the budget — I could see it just wasn’t getting any better there, and I needed to take care of my family.”

He went from being the top cop in a small department to being one of many on the Santa Maria force in 1998.

“It was a very humbling experience,” Nartatez said. “But sometimes people need to be humbled to get a good perspective of life. I found myself competing with the other officers, and I want to say I did pretty well..”

He spent some time as a patrol officer, and later a corporal, before being promoted to sergeant in 2001.

Through his career, Nartatez has relied on his strong faith as a member of the Santa Maria Foursquare Church, where he teaches Bible studies. 

It was his faith that helped following his worst day in law enforcement — the fatal shooting that claimed the life of a cousin and colleague, Officer Albert Covarrubias Jr., on Jan. 28, 2012.

With Covarrubias suspected of having an affair with a teen Police Explorer,  Police Department leaders pushed for the officer’s arrested during a DUI checkpoint that night, despite concerns raised by Nartatez and others, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office investigation.

Covarrubias pulled his service revolver, and Nartatez tried to control him, seeing a muzzle flash to his left. The pair fell to the ground. Another officer delivered the fatal shot to Covarrubias.

Nartatez injured his ribs in the scuffle and was off work for six weeks.

“As difficult as it was … I couldn’t wait to wake up the morning to open my Bible to read about love, compassion and forgiveness. That’s what we got me through that,” he said.

The incident led to the departure of former chief Danny Macagni and the arrival of the fourth chief, Martin, since Nartatez joined the force in 1998.

“We’re in a much better place because we have a person who truly has integrity, compassion and really cares for the citizens and, to me, he truly cares for his employees here at the department,” Nartatez said.

So why retire now?

“It’s time,” he said, adding he is looking forward to traveling. “I want to spend more time with my wife, my kids, my grandkids. I just feel the Police Department is doing well with Chief Martin. A lot of positive things are happening.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Former Santa Barbara Doctor Julio Diaz Withdraws Guilty Plea; Case Will Go to Trial

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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A judge decides Diaz hadn't been properly advised by his attorney when he pleaded guilty to overprescribing charges stemming from 11 patient deaths

A U.S. District Court judge allowed former Santa Barbara doctor Julio Diaz to withdraw his guilty plea of overprescribing powerful painkillers to patients, and the case will now go to trial. 

Diaz, who operated a medical practice on Milpas Street, pleaded guilty in January to federal charges of overprescribing that led to 11 patient deaths.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney allowed Diaz to withdraw those pleas, however, deciding that Diaz had not been properly advised on the case by his attorney at the time.

A federal affidavit accused Diaz of prescribing “profound” doses of drugs, including strong painkillers such as OxyContin, Fentanyl and Dilaudid, and he has been in federal custody since his arrest on Jan. 4, 2012.

Two families who lost loved ones to prescription drug overdose have settled civil lawsuits with local pharmacies and their pharmacists who filled Diaz's prescriptions.

Diaz has been represented by a handful of attorneys since the beginning of the case and his current attorney, Katherine Corrigan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Noozhawk.  

At this point, Diaz is charged with 88 criminal counts, and there is no plea deal up for discussion, according to prosecutor Ann Wolf.

Those counts add up to nearly 1,500 years in potential prison time and millions of dollars in fines.

"Judge Carney felt that (the) defendant had not been advised by his counsel of the relevant conduct the court could consider in imposing sentence, specifically the 400 plus emergency room admissions and the 20 overdose deaths," Wolf said.

The next trial date set in the case is for May 19, 2015.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Jackson to Continue as Chairwoman of Senate Judiciary Committee

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, announced that she will continue as chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee under the leadership of new Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León.

De León announced his committee chair appointments Wednesday.

“I’m extremely honored to continue to chair this important committee,” Jackson said. “One of my priorities will continue to be ensuring that all Californians have access to justice in the wake of budget cuts that have decimated our court system. It’s important that we also continue to prioritize consumer protection and the privacy rights of Californians.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s focus includes legislation related to courts, consumer protection, privacy, equality and family law, among other issues.

Jackson has chaired the committee since January, when she was first named to the position under the leadership of former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.

— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.

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Devereux California Selling Holiday Plants, Wreaths at Camino Real Marketplace

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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The Devereux California greenhouse folks have a booth at the Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta through Friday, selling holiday succulents and wreaths.

The hours are 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

These beautiful and sturdy plants make great holiday gifts, party hostess gifts and thank yous during this joyful season. The plants sell at much less than market value, and all of the proceeds go to the Devereux California greenhouse and participants.

Next year Devereux California is celebrating its 70th year! Plans are under way to open its greenhouse to the public on a regular basis. Stay tuned for details. All donations dedicated to this cause are much appreciated.

Devereux California provides behavioral health services to adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities; emotional, behavioral disorders and mental health issues. We offer residential services, Adult Day and Life Enrichment programs, and Supported or Independent Living programs to individuals in their own homes within Santa Barbara County.

Headquartered in Pennsylvania, Devereux is the largest, nonprofit provider of behavioral healthcare in the country, operating 15 centers in 11 states.

Please contact Cassi Noel, manager of external affairs, to volunteer and/or donate at cnoel2@devereux.org or 805.968.2525 x202.

— Cassi Noel is the external affairs manager for Devereux California.

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The Samarkand to Showcase Its LifeCenter with Open House, Guided Tours

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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The Samarkand, a faith-based, nonprofit continuing care retirement community operated by Covenant Retirement Communities, invites the public to tour its $4 million showpiece, the LifeCenter, from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 8 at 2550 Treasure Drive in Santa Barbara.

Samarkand residents and staff will guide tours of the two-story, Santa Barbara mission-style building, including the state-of-the-art fitness studio and wellness clinic aerobics/multi-purpose room, Mountain View Café, Nu 2 U resale shop and the studio for the in-house TV channel.

Guests can also tour apartment homes, talk with residents about life at The Samarkand, and take in the breathtaking views of Santa Barbara’s “American Riviera” from the outdoor dining area.

The 9,527-square-foot building is the hub of resident activity at the retirement community.

It is the third building addition at the community since 2000, and its design reflects Santa Barbara’s passion for environmental sustainability. It features LEED-certified design, construction, operation and maintenance solutions.

Refreshments will be served. For information or to RSVP, click here or call 877.231.6284.

— Wendy D’Alessandro is a publicist representing The Samarkand.

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Crane School’s Day of Giving Celebrates Student-Driven Service Program

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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This Friday, Crane Country Day School sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will begin their winter break by giving back to the community through participation in the Day of Giving, a semi-annual tradition supporting Crane’s commitment to community and service learning.

The Day of Giving is an opportunity for students to engage in service projects throughout the Santa Barbara area, but it isn’t the first time in the year students are engaged in community projects.

Crane’s Upper School (grades 6 through 8) service learning course fosters a sense of civic responsibility, teaching students to care for one another and the world around them. Students work on both direct and indirect service learning projects allowing them to understand issues, research organizations, work collaboratively, volunteer off-campus, and reflect not only on the process but also on how their involvement relates to the common good.

In keeping with Crane’s program, this process is highly experiential.

Crane’s service learning coordinator, Hayward Kwit, explains: “Our Upper School program is unique in that students have ownership of their service projects from the beginning, giving them an opportunity to determine community needs and work through the steps to meet those needs.”

This semester, students chose to volunteer at ASAP Cat Shelter, Unity Shoppe, Community Action Commission Head Start and Storyteller Children’s Center.

Twice a year, in winter and in spring, student service is amplified by dedicating an entire morning to students volunteering with local organizations. This year students will be singing carols at Samarkand Retirement Community and Garden Court Independent Living, gleaning fruit for Backyard Bounty (a division of the Foodbank), stocking shelves at the Unity Shoppe and playing with preschoolers at Head Start in Carpinteria.

“Because these projects are student directed, the students are empowered throughout the entire process. They are experiencing themselves as philanthropists — donating their time and talent to make a positive impact,” Kwit said.

Crane students will head out for winter break knowing that their valuable efforts to give back to the community will resume in the new year.

Crane Country Day is a K-8 independent school dedicated to experiential education. The school's curriculum balances rigorous academics with joyful learning. For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact Erin Guerra, director of admission, at 805.969.7732 x106 or click here.

— Julia Davis is the associate director of admission for Crane Country Day School.

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Winemaker Mark Cargasacchi Nominated for Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Winemaker Mark Cargasacchi has been nominated for Lompoc’s 2014 Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize.

Cargasacchi and friends staged the first Lompoc community welcome celebration for the AIDS LifeCycle riders since they began bicycling through Lompoc in 2002.

Day Five, the Santa Maria to Lompoc stretch of the ride, is known as Red Day. On that day (in 2015 it will be June 4) local observers witness a stunning ribbon of red-clad riders trailing from Lompoc north along Highway One as far as the eye can see. Last year there were 2,300 riders, with an equal number of outriders and automobiles. Last year’s ride raised $15 million for the fight against AIDS.

Other towns along the route stage events to welcome the riders, but Lompoc never had. In 2014, Cargasacchi’s Lompoc Welcome group posted welcome signs along the Lompoc portion of the route and organized transportation from campgrounds at River Park back into Lompoc so riders could attend to shopping and banking. Cargasacchi’s party at Jalama Wines’ tasting room was well attended.

“Some of the riders were friends of mine,” Cargasacchi explained simply. “It’s a long grueling ride and I wanted to celebrate their success and provide a little entertainment.”

“People came together around Mark,” added Nick Cooper, a member of the local group.

Cargasacchi is a Lompoc native who opened Jalama Wines 12 years ago. Before returning to Lompoc, he spent several years in San Francisco and Texas working as an environmental chemist. On his return, he learned winemaking from Fess Parker.

“We’ve just released our popular La Presa Syrah,” he quipped in a commercial aside.

Cargasacchi joins eight other nominees, including assistant school superintendent Sid Haro, volunteer Jon Vanderhoof, community discussion convenor Lauren Pressman, musician Bill Carlsen, gardener Jan Martinez, writer Luciana Gallegos, chef Norma Anderson and cooperative organizer Raquel Ceja-Gonzalez.

The Peace Prize will be awarded on Sunday, Jan. 25 at Valley of the Flowers Church.

— Allie Kay Spaulding represents Valley of the Flowers Church.

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Rona Barrett: Proceed with Caution When Convincing Aging Parent to Stop Driving

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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“Dad, there’s a stop sign, there’s a stop sign!”

“What do you mean, ‘There’s a stop sign’?”

“Stop!” I was praying his hearing at 88 was good enough that he could hear me.

He slammed on the brakes. I said, “Dad, if I didn’t have a seatbelt on I would have gone through the window.”

“Aw, stop it. You’re just making a big deal out of nothing.”

Senior driving is one of the most emotionally tense scenarios seniors and their loved ones go through. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been asked, “So when do you take a senior’s car keys away from them?” My quick answer is, “You don’t.”

At least I didn’t. With my own dad, I decided it was up to me as his caregiver to help him understand that it was up to him to hand over his keys — not for me to take them away.

But it didn’t happen fast or easy; in fact, it took the patience of Job — on both our parts, and it nearly took my husband’s life.

A few days after my heart-stopping wild ride with my dad, my husband went with him and nearly had a heart attack because it was the same scenario that I had experienced. He came home and said, “Rona, we can’t let him continue to drive. It’s just too dangerous.”

I really wasn’t looking forward to the conversation I knew we needed to have. Who does? So I tried to approach my dad as I would want him to approach me — just two adults talking it out.

I began the conversation with the safety issues: his safety, his loved ones’ safety, and the safety of strangers’ loved ones should they be involved in an accident caused by his driving.

He didn’t like what he was hearing. He said it made him feel like a dependent child.

I said, “Dad, you’ve driven a car for 75 years. I know what driving means to you and this has to be tough. Driving has always meant freedom to you. But, consider the freedom from worry you’ll have. You can retire from driving. You’ve paid your dues.”

Then he so much as said, “It’s just another nail in my coffin.”

He was silent the rest of the day.

I thought, “Now, what will I do?”

The following morning he came to the kitchen table, sat down, reached into his pocket, brought out his car keys and dangled them in front of me, and said, “They’re yours. I’ll depend on you to drive me wherever I need to go.”

That my dad saw fit to hand over the keys and that I didn’t have to take them forcefully away made me profoundly grateful that we had our discussion sooner rather than later — and not in the back of an ambulance!

You can get more in-depth help on the Internet. I found this site particularly helpful: Click here.

Until next time … keep thinking the good thoughts.

— In honor of her late father, entertainment journalist, author, senior activist and Santa Barbara County resident Rona Barrett is the driving force behind the Golden Inn & Village, the area’s first affordable senior living and care facility, scheduled to begin construction in early 2015. Contact her at info@ronabarrettfoundation.org. The opinions expressed are her own.

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Inaugural California Higher Education Food Summit at UCSB to Explore Food Justice

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Aiming to forge collaborations and conversations about food justice across the state’s college communities, a multicampus team of University of California staff members has created a first-of-its-kind conference to address the issue.

A project of the nascent UC Global Food Initiative, the inaugural California Higher Education Food Summit will be held Jan. 16-18 at UC Santa Barbara.

The event, which is open to the public, is a joint effort of the UCSB Associated Students Food Bank, UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems and UC Berkeley’s Centers for Educational Equity and Excellence.

“In three years servicing thousands of hungry students at the AS Food Bank, the fact that the need is always growing is indicative of larger issues students are dealing with, such as tuition, housing, medical and other living costs,” said Tuyen Nguyen, food bank coordinator at UCSB. “The California Higher Education Food Summit is an important step toward change and resolving the problems that face our students, so they no longer have to choose between an education and food. This summit will provide an opportunity to learn from other campuses and community organizations how to better service our students and create a better food security model for UCSB and beyond.”

The three-day gathering will bring together students, staff and faculty from UC, California State University and community college campuses with community and food agency leaders at large to examine the environmental, social and economic pressures creating barriers to food access, security and justice. With a full slate of keynote talks, panel discussions and workshops, the summit’s ultimate goals are to strengthen partnerships and share best practices to inform action.

“This inaugural forum provides an opportunity for the thinkers, doers and policymakers to come together and explore where our public higher education institutions currently are when it comes to supporting student food access and security and advancing relationships with our food and farming economies with just and sustainable practices, as well as examine how concepts of justice and equity are being engaged with inside and outside of the classroom,” said summit co-organizer Tim Galarneau, a food systems education and research program specialist for UCSC’s Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. “It is our hope that the summit will serve as a catalyzing space for those working in the trenches of our public educational system on education and empowerment, student support services, budding aligned research and community partnerships, and re-envisioning the role of institutional policy to advance a just and sustainable food system.”  

The conference is being held under the umbrella of the broader UC Global Food Initiative (UCGFI), which is designed to coordinate the diverse resources of the University of California to help ensure adequate nutrition — starting with access to food — for all. Unveiled by UC President Janet Napolitano in July, the UCGFI will harness the system’s collective excellence in research, outreach and operations in a sustained effort to develop, demonstrate and export solutions — throughout California, the U.S. and the world — for food security, health and sustainability.

For its part in the larger initiative, UCSB is a key player on systemwide committees looking at issues including sustainable farming practices, better enabling small growers to become suppliers, fisheries research, student food banks and more.

Registration is under way for the first-ever food summit, where sessions will examine the thematic areas of community engagement, activism and policy, and education and research — all in the context of food justice.

For more information or to register, go to the event website by clicking here.

— Shelly Leachman represents the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

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Cappello & Noël Named One of ‘Best Law Firms’ in America by U.S. News and Best Lawyers

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Santa Barbara law firm Cappello & Noël LLP is listed in the 2015 edition of "Best Law Firms," published by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers.

The firm received a “Tier 1” ranking in commercial litigation, meaning the firm was in the highest percentile of recognized firms.

The “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on an evaluation process that includes client and lawyer evaluations, peer review surveys and review of additional information.

In addition, Cappello & Noël’s managing partner A. Barry Cappello was listed as one of the year’s “Best Lawyers.”

— Diane Zakian Rumbaugh is a publicist representing Cappello & Noël LLP.

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Paul Mann: Melissa Etheridge Rocks the House at Chumash Casino Resort

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Melissa Etheridge led her funky rocking blues band through a 90-minute set of old and new music on one of the stormiest nights in recent memory — last Thursday — at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez.

The evening started with a seasonal ceremony honoring the Toys for Tots program administered by local Marines. The concert was a fundraiser for the program, and after a pious flag ceremony, a Chumash representative presented the Marines with a $25,000 check.

Singer/guitarist Alexander Cardinale then opened the show with a short set. The well-known actor showed a humorous side throughout his set, with anecdotes like the introduction of his band, (A Mac Computer). The short but interesting set highlighted both his singing and songwriting talents.

After a brief intermission, Etheridge and her band took the stage adorned with myriad Christmas trees and festive decorations. The raspy voiced blues rocker came out swinging, literally, attacking a snare drum while she sang “I Won’t Be Alone," a cut from her new album, This Is M.E.

Then Etheridge strapped on her Les Paul guitar for a blues-drenched rendition of her hit song “I Want to Come Over," taking one the persona most closely associated with the raucous rocker. But Etheridge displayed surprising dexterity, moving between songs from her new album and some of her most classic hit songs from her 26-year career.

In addition to drums and lead guitar, the musical maven played a mean harmonica, an acoustic 12-string Ovation guitar and an electric 12-string Jerry Jones guitar. Sometimes Etheridge would just concentrate on singing, letting her veteran backing guitarist, Brandyn Porter, take the lead. The four backing musicians and two backup singers all displayed exceptional musical skills.

But it was former Fugees bassist and producer Jerry "Wonda'' Duplessis who stood out most in the band with his funky bass rhythms.

Halfway through the show, the front of the stage was opened so that a swarm of adoring fans could flood the edge of the stage.

The concert ended just as a massive front of wind and rain inundated the tiny mountain town of Santa Ynez, making for a treacherous drive back to the surrounding cities, with trees crashing across the road and electric transformers exploding in the night. It was an evening most concertgoers wont soon forget.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.

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J.T. Stone Selected as Head Football Coach for Santa Barbara High School

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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J.T. Stone has been selected as the head football coach for Santa Barbara High School.

He has an extensive amount of experience on the football field. He served as a coach at Dos Pueblos High School (2002-05), Righetti High School (2006-09), St. Joseph High School (2009-11) and then as offensive coordinator at Santa Barbara High. From August to November of this year, he was the interim varsity head coach at Santa Barbara High.

“We believe J.T. demonstrates the necessary qualities to lead our program," SBHS Athletic Director Joe Chenoweth said. "J.T. is passionate about teaching the game of football. He has high expectations for his players, coaches, staff and himself. We are excited for the future of the Dons program under his leadership."

This past spring, Stone worked in the classroom, first as a special education instructional assistant at Cleveland Elementary School (2014), then as a special education para-educator at Santa Barbara High.

— Barbara Keyani is a communications coordinator for the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

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Bill Cirone: Partnerships Make a Big Difference in the Lives of Local Students

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Partnerships were on display at the annual business appreciation breakfast of the Santa Maria Valley Industry Education Council recently, demonstrating what takes place when businesses join hands with education to make a real difference in the lives of young people countywide.

The annual Computer Connections distribution at the breakfast provided eight area students with new computers. In September and October, 10 computers had been provided, and over the past 10 years, the program awarded more than 200 computers to young people who otherwise would be on the wrong side of the digital divide that separates students with access to technology from those without.

In modern times, such tools are essential to the learning process and to the workforce. The research opportunities, the connections made through email, and the chance to take part in online learning can no longer be duplicated through any other medium. Students need Internet skills for schoolwork and for workforce preparation as well. Young people without those skills and tools will be at a real disadvantage in an ever-more-wired world.

The Computer Connections program, a model partnership with many area businesses, including Santa Maria Energy, Wells Fargo Bank and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, therefore makes a real difference in young lives.

In the South County, the Computers for Families program, another major partnership, helps bridge that divide as well. This is enlightened self-interest on the part of all our business partners — by investing in our students they help secure an educated, informed and skilled workforce and consumer base.

At the SMVIEC awards breakfast, each North County school district superintendent selected a company, individual or nonprofit organization for special recognition, in light of outstanding efforts to support education.

The broad range of honorees this year included the Altrusa International Foundation of Santa Maria, the Assistance League of Santa Barbara, Colette Hadley of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa BarbaraDel Taco No. 833, longtime educator and master teacher Georgia Schrager, Plantel Nurseries and Rabobank. The diversity and range of honorees underscores the breadth and depth of partnerships that abound.

These organizations, institutions and individuals, along with scores upon scores of others honored at the program, provided funding, program support and mentoring opportunities that will truly change young lives.

It is not possible to overstate the positive impact of these partners and all those countywide who pitch in to help students and schools.

I have always believed that the strength that comes through partnership cannot be matched by any other individual effort. That is why my office strives to form and nurture partnerships in all aspects of the programs we provide to students. Partnerships are the central thread that runs through the fabric of all we do countywide. Those partnerships create a synergy that benefits students, teachers, schools and programs.

We salute all those businesses, large and small, who provide resources or support that makes a difference in the lives of children. Partnerships are key. In this most loving and giving of seasons, we thank all our partners for their generosity of spirit.

— Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Delta High School Students Celebrate Christmas Spirit During Old Town Orcutt Parade

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Delta High School students helped others celebrate the Christmas spirit during the 53rd annual Old Town Orcutt Christmas Parade on Saturday.

The students volunteered for the Lions Club to ensure the town tradition lived on. Then, they joined the parade with a banner and rewarded the crowd with waves, smiles and plenty of Delta school pride.

“It made me proud to represent my school," Alexis Brito said. “The parade was really nice and there was a lot of little kids watching."

Maribel Castro agreed.

“Seeing everybody smiling and having a good time made me really happy," Castro said. “I’m proud to be a Delta Dragon and I want to keep volunteering even after I graduate."

The Lions Club Parade Committee told students they were very grateful and appreciative for Delta’s continued support.

“We couldn’t put on the parade without them," committee members said.

The students and staff also collected $205 for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, according to Delta science teacher Sonia Galvez.

— Kenny Klein is a public information officer for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District.

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Roxanne Dore’e Joins Union Bank Consumer Lending Group in Santa Barbara

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Doree
Roxanne Dore’e

Union Bank on Wednesday announced that Roxanne Dore’e has joined its Retail Consumer Lending team as a mortgage consultant in Santa Barbara.

Dore’e is responsible for assisting clients with their home mortgage needs. The Union Bank Consumer Lending group originates residential mortgage options to answer a variety of consumer financing needs.

Dore’e reports to managing director and regional sales manager Mike McCormick.

“We are confident that Roxanne’s depth of experience and focus on customer service will help us further serve the needs of our clients looking to purchase or refinance a home in the Santa Barbara area,” McCormick said. “Roxanne’s industry expertise and commitment to making home ownership a reality for customers will help drive the overall growth of the Union Bank Consumer Lending group.”

Dore’e has more than 23 years of banking experience. Prior to joining Union Bank, she served as a senior vice president and senior mortgage loan officer with Bank of America Home Loans. Prior to that, she served as a senior vice president with Banc of America Investment Services.

Dore’e holds a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara.

In addition, she is member of the American Paint Horse Association and American Quarter Horse Association and is an active equestrian.

— Suzanne Crosina-Sahm is a corporate communications consultant for Union Bank.

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Mentorship Works Announces ‘A Conversation with Mike Sheldon, CEO of Curvature’

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Mentorship Works announces the first event of 2015, titled “A Conversation with Mike Sheldon, CEO of Curvature” as part of the nonprofit’s lecture series.

Mike Sheldon
Mike Sheldon

The timing of the event is especially appropriate as Curvature, a provider of IT services and hardware solutions, recently announced the significant acquisition of CSU Industries, greatly expanding its service offering and broadening the company’s global reach.

“Our last event featured celebrated tech entrepreneur Kevin O’Connor (Doubleclick, FindTheBest), and we expect the conversation with Mike Sheldon to be equally engaging and informative,” said Christopher Eriksson, president of Mentorship Works. “Listening to how business leaders like Mr. Sheldon began their career and achieved their success is so important for startup entrepreneurs. Mr. Sheldon’s particular story is rooted in mentorship, which is in perfect alignment with our organization’s mission.”

Sheldon joined Curvature in 2001 following a successful career in the investment banking world. Under his leadership, Curvature has posted year over year record revenues and recently expanded operations on a global level, most notably through the company’s acquisition of CSU Industries.

He plans to share insights on the decisions and philosophies that led him to become the CEO of Curvature and lead the company to over $300 million in revenue.

“What’s special about Mike is that he is approachable and down to earth and shares his knowledge in a direct way,” added John Osley, one of Mentorship Works board members. “Mike’s a natural mentor and in large part because of the mentorship he received along the way, so his career and success is a statement on the value of mentorship.”

Mentorship Works launched in mid-2014 and provides a free service to the community connecting mentees with mentors through a proprietary selection process. The organization has completed over 30 matches to date. L. Fontana was one of the first mentees matched by the Mentorship Works system earlier this year and says of the experience, “My mentor provides solid high-­level feedback from a managerial standpoint which is exactly what is missing in my business, His wisdom and experience has been much appreciated!"

“A mentor is not a boss, teacher or parent; rather they are an expert seriously interested in another individuals’ success. We facilitate the connection based on key criteria,” Eriksson said.

All proceeds of the event will benefit Transition House of Santa Barbara. The event will include generously donated heavy hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer. Pre-­registration\ is $10, or $20 at the
door. Tickets and registration are available by clicking here.

Mentorship Works is proudly sponsored by HUB International, SocalIP, Noospheric, First Click, Cabana Home, California SDBC, the California Center for International Trade Development, Noozhawk and KZSB-­‐AM 1290.

Click here to become a sponsor.

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City of Goleta Hires Genie Wilson as Director of Finance

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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The City of Goleta is pleased to announce the addition of Genie Wilson to the city’s management team.

Wilson will join the city as the director of finance on Jan. 7.

She currently serves as the treasury manager for the City of Santa Barbara.

Prior to joining the City of Santa Barbara she worked at the City of Temecula, where she was the chief financial officer. Her impressive credentials also include time as an accountant with Moreland and Associates CPAs.

She holds a degree in business administration from California State University-Fullerton and is a certified public accountant.

“We are delighted Ms. Wilson has agreed to join our team," City Manager Michelle Greene said. "Her extensive experience in municipal government and auditing is a great match for our young city.”

— Valerie Kushnerov is a public information officer for the City of Goleta.

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Five UCSB Faculty Members Named American Physical Society Fellows

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Five UC Santa Barbara faculty members have been named 2014 fellows of the American Physical Society for their “exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise.”

This year’s additions bring the number of APS fellows from UCSB to 43.

Kaustav Banerjee, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of nanoelectronics research, was elected an APS fellow for his seminal applied physics research on nanoscale materials, devices, interconnects and circuits toward realizing ultra-low power electronics. Banerjee also is an affiliated faculty member with the campus’s California NanoSystems Institute and the Institute for Energy Efficiency.

Lars Bildsten, director of UCSB’s Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UCSB, was recognized for his numerous pioneering contributions to stellar astrophysics. Among them are thermonuclear instabilities, propagating combustion fronts, gravitational wave phenomena, time domain astronomy, stellar explosions, asteroseismology and the many ways that stars evolve and manifest themselves to observations.

David Morrison, chair of UCSB’s Department of Mathematics, was selected for his many contributions to the connection between geometry and physics, including space-time singularities and topology change in string theory, generalizations of anti-de Sitter/conformal field theory correspondence (AdS/CFT) duality and foundational work in F theory, a branch of string theory.]

Ram Seshadri, professor of materials and of chemistry and biochemistry, was honored for his major contributions to developing structure-composition-property relations in functional inorganic oxides. Seshadri was also cited for his contributions to understanding of the role of lone-pair electrons in polar and ferroic behavior, of frustrated magnetism and frustrated ferroics and of novel phosphors for solid-state lighting.

Anthony Zee, a particle theorist and member of UCSB’s Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, was elected in recognition of his unique popular writings and textbooks and for his wide-ranging impact on particle physics, quantum field theory, condensed matter physics, cosmology and biophysics.

The world’s second largest organization of physicists, APS publishes more than a dozen scientific journals, including Physical Review and Physical Review Letters and organizes more than 20 science meetings each year. Founded in 1899 at Columbia University “to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics,” APS currently has 50,000 members worldwide.

— Julie Cohen represents the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

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Santa Barbara Community Bank Hires Tom Boucher as VP/Commercial Loan Officer

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Santa Barbara Community Bank, a division of Ojai Community Bank, announced on Wednesday the hiring of Tom Boucher as vice president/commercial loan officer.

Boucher
Tom Boucher

Boucher is a Santa Barbara native with long-standing ties to the community.

Boucher began his banking career after studying physiology at Cal Berkeley, where he accepted what he anticipated to be a summer job as the messenger for Santa Barbara National Bank (eventually Santa Barbara Bank & Trust). That “temporary job” evolved into a 30-plus-year banking career.

During his 11-year tenure with Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, Boucher worked as a consumer and small business lender. After that, he worked with Montecito Bank & Trust for 19 years, where he managed branches and worked in commercial lending. Most recently, he worked with The Bank of Santa Barbara, where he also focused on commercial lending.

“I started my banking career in Santa Barbara at a time when true community banking was alive and well," Boucher said. "In this age of ever increasing institutional size and decreasing personal interaction, I look forward to working with an organization that truly understands that banking is, first and foremost, a people business.”

Married for nearly 30 years, with two grown children, Boucher is an ardent traveler and has been to all 50 states, most of Canada, and over 30 countries. He’s also an avid outdoorsman, both backpacking and ocean kayaking.

Boucher has been involved in the community for many years, and his primary interest is with youth serving organizations. He has held board positions with Girls Inc., Santa Barbara Middle School and several other local nonprofits.

“We welcome Tom to our team,” Dave Brubaker said. “He brings with him not only a foundation of strong banking experience and relationships, but he shares our banking philosophy. We’re enthusiastic about his contributions and the experience he brings to the bank.”

— Jon Leslie is a publicist representing Santa Barbara Community Bank.

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Ann Louise Bardach: Highway 101 and the Fine Art of Brass-Knuckle Politics in Santa Barbara

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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True, there is not all that much I miss about New Jersey.

Bardach
Ann Louise Bardach

Still, I fretted when we made the move here 25 years ago how I would live without the brass-knuckle, trench-war, fine art of politics that so distinguishes my home state — land of AbscamThe Sopranos and, my personal favorite, Bridgegate.

So I pined for Bayonne — until about a year ago when Providence delivered a fabulously seedy dustup right here in Paradise.

You wouldn’t think that fixing Highway 101 — the Measure A initiative approved by a whopping 79 percent of the voters to relieve the four hours of daily gridlock — would be the vehicle for so much political mischief. Think again.

As every Jersey girl knows, nothing tempts the sticky fingers of politicos more than the dangle of highway pork.

Still, who would have thunk that the mischief-maker-in-chief would be the liberal Mayor Helene Schneider, who has made derailment of the Highway 101 widening initiative her signature issue.

Certainly not the California Democratic Party, where everyone — from Gov. Jerry Brown to the county dog catcher — is seething in fury at the New York-born mayor. Nor did her cohorts on SBCAG (the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, charged with implementing the 101 expansion), foresee that Schneider would turn guerrilla warrior.

Of course, no massive public works project is perfect — and this one is hardly an exception. That said, it resolves the major issues that threaten to landlock Santa Barbara; it adds the crucially needed third lane through gridlocked Montecito, supplies an HOV lane and restores the southbound freeway entrance at Cabrillo Boulevard, thus rescuing Coast Village Road from death by bumper-car congestion.

Minds both great and small remain puzzled as to what exactly is motivating the mayor. Last year, Schneider and her consiglieri Jeremy Lindaman championed the idea of preserving left-hand freeway exits in Montecito, an idea backed by a few wealthy Montecitans who had retained Lindaman as their consultant.

Now, I am all for historical preservation — i.e., the Granada, Lobero and New Vic — but asphalt freeway exits? Moreover, Caltrans has explained ad nauseam that left-hand off-ramps, deemed unsafe, are no longer allowed in highway upgrades in the state of California — nor, for that matter, nationally.

Then the mayor opined that the funds would be better spent on local road improvements — prompting a saucy rebuke from all of SBCAG’s South Coast members. In a public letter, the mayor’s colleagues reminded her that “state and federal gas-tax funds that are being used as a portion of the funding for the widening cannot be used for local road maintenance” (their italics).

In July, the 79 percent who voted for Measure A held their collective breath to see if Schneider would prevail at SBCAG’s final vote — as Schneider’s camp had leaked they would. Instead, she got hammered with a resounding 11-2 smackdown. Her sole dance partner was none other than Peter Adam, county supervisor for the Fourth District — and the darling of the North County Tea Party.

(As it turned out, Adam was game for some horse trading and was scouting for support for his Measure M to snare funds for road improvements — an initiative whose campaign was run by, yup, Lindaman. Indeed, Schneider famously did not oppose M — to the chagrin of local Democrats. And thus was birthed the most fabulous political marriage since Richard Nixon proposed to Spiro Agnew.)

Then, in late September, even her own City Council voted down 5-1 Schneider’s entreaty to sue SBCAG.

Jubilation reigned — at least for the 79 percent — until the 59th minute of the 11th hour in October, when allies of the mayor scrambled to file two lawsuits.

One suit — deemed by wags to be something of a nuisance suit — demands a sound wall for Montecito’s wealthiest at Fernald Point. The other, filed by Marc Chytilo on behalf of three residents (though only one will disclose his name), targets items in the EIR, a 1,600-plus-page dinosaur of an environmental document, that synch up closely with Schneider’s laundry list. Both ask Judge Thomas Anderle to slap an injunction on the halfway completed 101 project. (In 2013, Chytilo, on behalf of billionaire Craig McCaw, convinced the same judge to scuttle the proposed fire station for Montecito’s eastern flank near Ortega Ridge by also challenging an EIR. Generally, EIRs tend to be as imperfect as public works projects, and such suits can prove quite lucrative for the prevailing attorney.)

At minimum, SBCAG says, the lawsuits will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and at least two more years of gridlock agony. Others fret that they might convince Gov. Brown and Caltrans to tell Santa Barbara to take a hike (literally) and give the millions to one of dozens of supplicating communities desperate for highway loot.

In the unlikely event that anyone doubted her role in the lawsuits, Schneider published an editorial in October urging more suits: “We fully encourage and will be publicly supporting private parties” [to file lawsuits], she wrote — a sentence that will surely follow her evermore. Meanwhile, the lawsuits name as defendants the very entities that Schneider is charged with serving, the City of Santa Barbara and SBCAG — and, yup, she’s “publicly supporting” them.

Last month, members of SBCAG and the public told Schneider she needed to recuse herself from any legal proceedings regarding Highway 101. To the jaw-dropping astonishment of all, she refused, although she had demanded that SBCAG staffer and Santa Barbara City Councilman Gregg Hart recuse himself on 101 issues before the City Council — with a much less significant conflict of interest. (California’s conflict-of-interest statutes are virtually toothless, and short of a video of greenbacks being shoved into pockets, they are rarely invoked — and thus rely entirely upon personal integrity. And Hart recused himself.)

Hence, Schneider gets the opportunity to learn SBCAG’s legal strategy and ferry it right back to those lawsuits she’s “publicly supporting.” But, trust me, she has said, she would not do that — around the same time that she awarded three trustee slots on the Huguette Clark estate foundation to, yup, her fat cat allies in the lawsuits (none of whom are her constituents).

But it gets even murkier than the swamps of Secaucus. Protocol, albeit not a rule, has it that the chair of SBCAG rotates between the North and South County, and as fate would have it, Madame Mayor is next in the rotation. Unless, of course, her colleagues invoke prior precedent, and borrow her cojones, and make sure that she doesn’t.

Abetted by a sleepy political class and an indolent media, there’s just no saying how far Schneider is going to ride this one. Last month, she told the Santa Barbara News-Press that she has her eye on Rep. Lois Capps’ congressional seat in 2016. Never mind that the political establishment that won her the mayorship has jettisoned her — with former backer, philanthropist Sara Miller McCune, penning a withering slap down. Schneider appears to have lined up a few replacement tycoons — and, of course, there’s Adam and the Tea Party.

But as Jersey girls and boys know, messing with traffic is a risky business. Unlike hidden taxes, gridlock traffic inflicts lasting pain and has a long half-life. Just a five-day traffic jam outside the George Washington Bridge appears to have cost Gov. Chris Christie the White House.

Then there’s Mother Nature. When (and if) Toro Canyon falls victim to a long-overdue fire, there is no fire station nearby. The mayor will have to pray that the inevitable fire strikes midday or late at night. Otherwise, the firefighters will be sitting in the gridlock with the cops, teachers, nurses and everyone else who make Santa Barbara tick — but can’t afford to live here.

As for the 99.9 percent who can’t helicopter in to their gated estates, no need to despair. Though landlocked we may be, there’s always coastal access. Look, the Chumash used canoes — and so can we! And how they’ll love a landing dock on Fernald Point!

Ahh! I’ll never be nostalgic for Newark ever again …

— Ann Louise Bardach is a PEN Award–winning journalist who opines from time to time on South Coast issues.

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Viewing at Westmont Observatory to Feature Christmas Tree Cluster

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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The Westmont Observatory opens for a free, public viewing that will include a cluster of stars resembling a Christmas tree on Friday, Dec. 19 beginning after 6:30 p.m. and lasting for several hours.

In case of inclement or overcast weather, please call the Telescope Viewing Hotline at 805.565.6272 and check the Westmont website by clicking here to see if the viewing has been canceled.

Thomas Whittemore, Westmont physics instructor, will operate the powerful Keck Telescope, a 24-inch reflector, while several members of the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit offer celestial views with additional smaller telescopes.

“We’ll turn our attention to a number of objects in Cassiopeia and Perseus, including Messier 103, the Christmas Tree Cluster,” Whittemore says. “It’s hard to believe that, as bright as this object is, it’s about 8,000 light-years away.”

The viewing will also feature NGC 457, the Owl Cluster.

“Last month most people were able to see the owl in the pattern of stars, even though the bird was upside-down,” Whittemore says.

Stargazers may enjoy NGC 869 and 884, the Double Cluster in Perseus.

“This is probably the most magnificent of open clusters in the winter sky,” he says. “It’s surprising that Messier didn’t include it with his list of 109 objects when he was scanning the heavens for comets.”

NGC 225, the Broken Heart Cluster, may also delight visitors.

“Last month there was a lot of discussion whether this grouping of stars looked like a broken heart or a sailboat,” he says.

The observatory, which opens its doors to the public every third Friday of the month, sits between Russell Carr Field and the track and field/soccer complex at Westmont. There will be plenty of free parking nearby.

— Scott Craig is the media relations manager for Westmont College.

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Thunder, Lightning But Not Much Rain From Latest Storm

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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Rainfall amounts were modest overnight Tuesday into Wednesday in Santa Barbara County, although the latest storm to move through the region was punctuated by thunder and lightning.

Most areas of the county received between a quarter and two-thirds of an inch of rain, according to the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department.

San Marcos Pass was the wettest spot, with 0.89 inches in the 24 hours ending at 8 a.m., while Guadalupe was the driest with only 0.15 inches.

Other rainfall readings included Santa Barbara, 0.45 inches; Goleta, 0.33; Montecito, 0.45; Santa Maria, 0.28; Lompoc,  0.58; Buellton, 0.55; Carpinteria,  0.44; Santa Ynez, 0.47.

RAINFALL TOTALS @ 8 A.M.
Santa Barbara 0.45"
Goleta 0.33"
Montecito 0.45"
Carpinteria 0.44"
Santa Maria 0.28"
Lompoc 0.58"
Buellton 0.55"
Santa Ynez 0.47"

Little runoff in local reservoirs was reported from the storm.

Forecasters were calling for a 20-percent chance of isolated showers Wednesday and Wednesday night.

Clear skies and a warming trend were expected Thursday through the weekend.

High surf was expected along local beaches through Wednesday night

[Click here for the latest forecast]

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Lightning is visible Tuesday night from Shoreline Park looking out towards Santa Cruz Island, where radar data recorded what appeared to have been a waterspout off the island during the storm, according to the National Weather Service. (Mike ,Eliason / Noozhawk photo)

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Cinema in Focus: ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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3 Stars — Challenging

For all of us in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the event of the Exodus is foundational in our understanding that God frees His people from bondage. In this primary example, the bondage is physical slavery as the Jews were enslaved for over 400 years in ancient Egypt. But the Exodus event is also an analogy depicting God’s freeing of all people who are enslaved by any form of bondage in which choice has been taken and generational sorrow has begun.

For those of us who have experienced God’s power to set us free, this event is especially important to us. Thus when a film is made on the Exodus, we come in part hoping that the story has been told respectfully and faithfully to the Scriptures as well as to see if there might be new insights we can gain about ourselves and God, slavery and freedom.

Known for his interest in but disdain for religion, Sir Ridley Scott (Hannibal, The Counselor, Kingdom of Heaven) directs this portrayal of the Exodus story based on the adaptation of the Biblical story by writers Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Jeffrey Caine and Steven Zaillian. Although clearly a difficult story to bring to the big screen without inserting creative embellishment, those who know the biblical version will be challenged not only with the decision to cast an angry boy as God (Isaac Andrews) but also to portray Moses as having no sense of his own identity as a Hebrew.

Focusing primarily on the relationship between Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) as “brothers” in the palace of the Pharaoh (John Turturro), we see the multilayered nature of the story. Imagining what it might have been like for Moses and the future pharaoh to be raised together only to become adversaries in the climactic struggle for freedom, their sibling struggle is mirrored in the spiritual realm as the gods of Egypt and the God of the Hebrews go head to head in the ten plagues. This struggle comes to its ultimate moment when Ramses’ son, considered a God of Egypt as is his father, is killed by the God of the Hebrews, while “passing over” the sons of the Hebrews.

This difficult moment in the biblical event is powerfully and disturbingly presented just as it is in Scripture. A precursor of the cost salvation requires in the death of Jesus on the Cross, it is intended to be troubling.

Also presented in the tale is a dismissive explanation of the plagues themselves. Without reference to the Egyptian pantheon that each plague represents, the court expert (Ewen Bremner) explains how the blood of the Nile drove the frogs from the water to die and then hatch gnats that caused boils on humans and brought sickness on the domestic animals, thus dismissing the belief that the God of the Hebrews was doing this. But then the tale continues as does the biblical tale and events occur that cannot be explained away. This is further shown when the sea parts and the Hebrews are saved from the vengeful Ramses as his charioteers perish in the returning tidal wave of water.

In the final analysis, the central message of the biblical event, that God frees His people from bondage by sending chosen leaders to help us, is a timeless truth that this version clearly presents. The film Exodus: Gods and Kings is therefore a worthy telling of this epic tale.

Discussion

» Most of us have experienced powers over which we have little control. Have you ever felt enslaved by anything or anyone? How have you experienced God’s power in setting you free?

» The portrayal of God as a boy with a British accent is a fascinating creative choice. If you were to portray the invisible God’s presence in Moses’ life, how would you do it?

» When Moses found Jethro (Kevork Malikyan) and his daughters at the foot of “God’s Mountain” it is clear that God is at work to prepare him for the mission of returning to Egypt as the redeemer of his people. As you look at your life, how have “coincidences” come together to prepare you for a significant task?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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Rotary Club of Santa Barbara Supports Local Foster Teens During Holidays

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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For the seventh year, the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara has teamed up with the Santa Barbara Social Services Department and the Family Care Network to purchase holiday gifts for teenagers in the foster-care system.

The Rotary Club raised nearly $10,000 in November and December to purchase items and gift cards for more than 50 teenagers living in the Santa Barbara County foster-care system. Richard Slowikowski, general manager of the Kmart store in Goleta, aided in the effort by offering a discount on all items purchased in the store for the program. Together, the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara, Kmart and the Social Services Department have amassed gifts for the foster teens to receive during their annual holiday celebration.

“Each year, our Rotary Club supports young people who are in foster care in Santa Barbara County,” says Sandy Nordhal, committee chair for the Foster Teen Program. “Several years ago, when looking for a way to make a positive impact, we realized that teenagers and young adults in the foster care system seemed to be overlooked around the holidays. They are near emancipation and preparing to enter the Santa Barbara community as independent adults, and we wanted to make their holiday special. It is easy and fun to shop for toys for children, but finding the right gifts for older teens is a little more challenging. Our Rotarians are dedicated to the project, and we hope it makes a positive difference in these the lives of these young people.”

Shannon Bell, ILP supervisor for the Family Care Network, says, “Over the past seven years, the members of the Rotary Club have generously donated the perfect Christmas gifts to a large number of foster youth in the Independent Living and Transitional Housing programs in Santa Barbara County. The goal of each program is to provide services designed to develop life skills that teach youth how to live successfully on their own.

"The Christmas donations from the Rotary Club have become an integral part of their lives as the members ensure they are purchasing gifts that will support the youth towards becoming self-sufficient and independent — whether it’s an iPad to target the youth’s educational goals, to a complete set of storage containers to target organization. The youth receive gifts that are very specific to their needs, which makes their Christmas extra special! Every year the youth express an abundance of appreciation and gratitude to all of the amazing members of the Rotary Club, and on behalf of Family Care Network Inc. and the Independent Living Program, we thank you!”

Click here for more information about the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara’s holiday foster teen drive.

The Rotary Club of Santa Barbara meets at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort in Santa Barbara for lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays.

— Chris Clemens represents the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara.

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Jackie Ruka: Six Ways to Create a Revolutionary New Year

By | Published on 12/17/2014

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If what gets you up in the morning is about what you can create versus what is stopping you, then you are on your way to a revolutionary new year. Are you ready to have a kick-butt 2015? Then read on.

Jackie Ruka
Jackie Ruka

As we say goodbye to 2014 and recap personal and global events, most people are relieved to relinquish this past year. Looking back is not necessarily the best way to determine what type of resolutions you should create. Most resolutions do not come to fruition. That is why it’s best not to make resolutions, but instead to create a revolution, which is a sudden, extreme or complete change.

For change to occur you must be the change, as Gandhi so eloquently said. Life either happens to you or you create the life you desire.

The story behind my revolution took place as I lay on my back for six months to heal from severe back pain, nerve damage and a broken identity after walking away from a six-figure career in order to save my own life. And yet, the life I created publicly appeared happy and abundant, but resembled an enormous lack of wellness or self-love behind the scenes.

Round and round I went to the point of my rude awakening, where one fateful day my impaired company car went out of control and slowly halted in front of two, 8-foot-tall Buddha statues. The road to denial had ended.

This is where the breakdown led to my breakthrough. You see, I could settle on a few goals and medication to recapture the tainted golden handcuffs of the corporate umbrella and perks, or I could choose to look at my authentic self. Choosing my health and happiness versus workaholism and wealth became paramount to a life of longevity instead of living in fear of, “What if?” The old paradigm is that success leads to happiness. However, the opposite is what led to my revolution: Happiness leads to success.

New year's resolutions are the sissy way of making small changes in far too many areas with hope that your dream life will miraculously happen. However, to truly acquire the life you desire one must define and then commit to your revolution. Here’s how:

» 1. Define your revolution. What does your true heart desire? Choose the one word for this new year that represents the theme of your revolution.

» 2. Be genuine. To believe in yourself and create positive change for sustainability in your life, go deep and get real with yourself. What motivates you? If you want to lose 12 pounds to get the good-looking guy, even though it may be a motivator, odds are you will put those pounds back on later. Your intent must be authentic to a purpose containing compassion, gratitude and altruism and not a materialistic or external focus of what you believe will make you feel better. It is about growth toward one’s potential and not about co-dependence.

» 3. Acceptance. Accept what you no longer want or need to be and just be. Perhaps you have played the “doormat” role in your life, which is no longer serving you or others to grow. The sooner you release an old way of doing things the sooner it allows new energy to align to your revolutionary theme.

» 4. Courage. It is recognizing what your fear looks like and replacing that energy towards what inspires you. In most cases, fear is an illusion you create from thoughts of scarcity. When you practice courage, there is a faith that emerges where you are deserving of all that is good.

» 5. Proactive. Goals are a great way to set the basis for being proactive. Stepping outside of your comfort zone feels scary mainly because you are unaware of what tools exist to power you forward. Being proactive requires gathering and utilizing new tools.

» 6. Never give up. The universe did not get you this far for you to fail. Whenever I have experienced moments where I was about to give up, I remember this quote: “The moment you are ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens.”

Cheers to you and your revolutionary new year!

— Jackie Ruka is a lifestyle expert who founded the Montecito-based Get Happy Zone personal development organization. She is the author of the action guide Get Happy and Create a Kick Butt Life, a Toolbox for Rapidly Activating the Life You Desire. Click here to contact her and take her Fearless Quiz online.

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Goleta Council Sets ‘Termination’ Hearing for Venoco Facility After Adopting Ordinance

By | Published on 12/16/2014

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The ordinance would establish new procedures for the city to end legal nonconforming uses, and could force the closure of the Ellwood oil and gas plant

Not only did the Goleta City Council adopt an ordinance Tuesday night that could force Venoco Inc.’s Ellwood Onshore Facility to shut down, but it set a time for a “termination” hearing.

After a lot of comment from people on both sides of the issue, council members voted 3-2 to approve an ordinance that establishes new procedures for the city to terminate a legal nonconforming use — a use that is no longer in compliance with land-use or zoning rules.

Some legal nonconforming uses voluntarily modify or end their use, but the city has an interest in terminating uses that create a public health risk or when the use goes on for too long, “thus thwarting the accomplishment of the community land use policy,” according to city staff.

Councilmen Roger Aceves and Tony Vallejo voted against the ordinance, which was adopted with the majority votes of Mayor Paula Perotte and Councilmen Michael Bennett and Jim Farr.

Under the new process, a hearing is initiated by the City Council, which also rules whether the use should be terminated and has wide discretion in its decision. If a use is terminated, the property owner or user could be ordered to modify or end that use within five years.

People can go to the Planning Commission — members of which are appointed by the City Council — to ask for more time to comply, and after that, appeal back to the City Council.

The only specific legal nonconforming project mentioned during the ordinance process is Venoco’s Ellwood Onshore Facility, an oil and gas processing plant near the Bacara Resort & Spa that has been zoned as recreational land since 1991.

Venoco believes the ordinance is a direct attack on its operations, especially since its project to reactivate a production well on Haskell’s Beach is scheduled to go before the State Lands Commission on Wednesday.

City Attorney Tim Giles said the current process to terminate a legal nonconforming use — which has never been used — is “quasi-judicial” and “cumbersome.” The new procedures are similar to other city meetings, with each side giving a presentation and public comment.

The city doesn’t know how many legal nonconforming uses exist in the city and doesn’t plan to find out, Giles said.

Aceves and Vallejo said the process should be difficult, since it could strip a person’s right to use property a certain way.

“Legal nonconforming use should exist as long as it’s done safely,” Aceves said. “I believe in the current ordinance that we have, I definitely do not support streamlining it.”

Farr pointed to the Ellwood Onshore Facility specifically, saying it is an industrial oil processing plant within the city’s urban environment, and said the new process will give the city more control over the legal nonconforming uses.

“We are attempting to maintain, if you will, the ability of our city to control our destiny into the future, so I’m very much for this ordinance,” he said.

Within minutes of adopting the legal nonconforming use termination ordinance, the City Council also decided to set a termination hearing for the Ellwood Onshore Facility of on or after March 3, 2015.

The City Council also voted to send a letter of concern to the State Lands Commission about Venoco’s project proposal. If the SLC certifies the environmental impact report and approves the project to reactivate a well on Haskell's Beach, Venoco has to get permits from the City of Goleta, which has consistently opposed the project.

The pier reactivation project and other pending projects would expand the oil processing at the Ellwood Onshore Facility, violating Goleta land-use policies that prohibit expanding a legal nonconforming use, according to city staff.

Some public comment at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting was focused on the ordinance itself while others spoke directly to whether the Ellwood Onshore Facility should be targeted for termination.

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, the Environmental Defense Center, Get Oil Out and Ellwood-area residents supported the ordinance, saying it would give the city a better tool to end legal nonconforming uses that posed a health or safety risk.

Venoco knew that the Ellwood Onshore Facility was legal nonconforming when it was purchased in 1997 and has been trying to expand that use, said Jennifer Driscoll of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr also encouraged the City Council to adopt the ordinance, saying the county had to go through a judicial-like hearing recently and the process was “a nightmare.”

Goleta-area Venoco employees said the company runs a safe operation and asked the council not to approve the ordinance.

“I just ask that you consider us when you make your decision,” said John Fry, an 18-year Venoco employee who works in Goleta.

Ian Livett, vice president of Southern California operations for Venoco, said the company stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars if it can’t capitalize on its oil lease that’s processed through the EOF.

Goleta Planning Commissioner Ed Fuller, speaking on his own behalf, opposes the ordinance and said it put too much power in the hands of the City Council.

“The list of potential abuses is limitless,” he said. “I’m sure it was not the voters’ intent to create this city so it could eliminate historically legitimate uses and structures.”

Last week, the Planning Commission decided not to make a recommendation on adopting the ordinance, as it was locked into a 2-2 vote.

Representatives from the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association objected to the ordinance, saying it posed uncertainty to businesses and homeowners with the broad discretion it gives the City Council.

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Etta Waterfield Joins Santa Maria Council as Jack Boysen Begins Second Term

By | Published on 12/16/2014

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Mayor Alice Patino proclaims Willie Green Day in honor of the departing councilman, who lost his election bid after being appointed to the seat in 2013

With a standing-room-only crowd watching, Etta Waterfield’s perseverance paid off as she was sworn in as a member of the Santa Maria City Council on Tuesday night, when Jack Boysen also kicked off his second term.

Waterfield was the top vote-getter in the Nov. 4 election, with incumbent Boysen taking second place in the race for two terms. On Tuesday night, the City Council also bid farewell to Councilman Willie Green, who lost his bid to be elected to the panel to which he had been appointed in 2013.

The new councilwoman noted the support of her husband, Buck, and her former boss, Bob Royster, executive director of the now-defunct Santa Maria Economic Development Association.

"He taught me so many things, and the word perseverance is one he etched into my mind," Waterfield said.

Waterfield ran previously and missed being elected to the council by two votes in 2012. However, the council decided against appointing her to fill the vacancy created when Alice Patino was elected mayor midway through her council term. After accepting applications, the council appointed Green to the seat in February 2013.

"I'm just grateful, humbled and so appreciative of all the voters," Waterfield added Tuesday night.

Waterfield has been executive director of the Santa Maria Police Council, advisory board member for the Salvation Army and on the Board of directors for the Santa Maria Fairpark.

Her election to the council now leaves a vacancy on the Santa Maria Planning Commission, which she served on for more than a decade. The city earlier announced it will accept applications for two terms on the Planning Commission through Jan. 2.

Boysen, who has lived in Santa Maria for most of the last 30 years, said he was taking the oath on his father's 96th birthday. 

Boysen
Jack Boysen takes the oath of office Tuesday for his second term on the Santa Maria City Council. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

He noted he promised at the start of his first term in 2010 to never make a decision based on how it would affect his chance for re-election. Instead, he said made his votes on whether it was the best decision for the city of Santa Maria.

"Now in 2014, I reiterate that pledge and I promise to make every decision for what I truly believe to be the best interest of our great city," he added.

He also shared four goals for his second year, including revising the vision for the downtown area, working with landowners to protect the city's stable supply of state water and expanding the stock of affordable housing. Attracting a four-year university is another goal.

"We need to take this out of the discussion stage and get it into the action stage," Boysen said.

He previously served on the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and also was named to the Mission County Formation Commission.

Following a 10-year career in banking, he originally came to Santa Maria with his family 30 years ago when he purchased a local business. He later started a general contracting business, then served as executive assistant to former Fifth District County Supervisor Joe Centeno and worked as chief financial officer of Good Samaritan Shelter.

Mayor Alice Patino also presented a proclamation to the departing councilman, including declaring Tuesday as "Willie Green Day."

"I want to thank you for your two years of service," Patino told Green. "You filled a time that we really needed someone like you."

"You've really made a difference," Boysen added.

Green is a part-time instructor at Allan Hancock College who has taught business law and management, executive leadership and other courses at the campus since 2000.

A 14-year resident of Santa Maria, he has previously served on two city committees, including the Block Grants Advisory Committee and on the All-America City Committee. He also serves on the Fighting Back board of directors, and on the Police Advisory Council.

The council also picked a new mayor pro-tem Tuesday night to fill in when Patino is absent. The mayor nominated Councilwoman Terri Zuniga to fulfill the role for the next year.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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As Drought Persists, Santa Barbara Council Talks Development Restrictions

By | Published on 12/16/2014

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The rain may be falling, but the City of Santa Barbara’s water resources manager didn’t mince words Tuesday, letting residents know the drought is far from over.

Joshua Haggmark presented more potential water-use and development restrictions to the Santa Barbara City Council during a monthly drought update.

He asked the council to provide general direction to staff so proper regulations could be in place if the city moves from its Stage Two drought status to Stage Three next year.

All council members seemed to agree with possibly suspending approvals of new private groundwater-well permits and with turf-water restrictions, but officials were divided on whether to prohibit building new pools or issuing building permits for projects with net new water use (with some exceptions).

November’s water reduction was on par with the required 20 percent, Haggmark said, but moderate rainfall this month hasn’t helped. He said the city needed at least eight more inches before it could see any “meaningful runoff.”

Because of that uncertainty, staff planned for persistent conditions with capital projects, such as accelerating city groundwater well replacements and preparing to reactivate the city’s desalination facility — a decision that could come in April.

Haggmark said staff was working to apply for a $40 million State Revolving Fund loan for the project.

To postpone desalination, “we need Gibraltar (reservoir) to fill and spill,” he said. “That would be a good indicator. For drought, we need Cachuma (Lake) to fill and spill in order for it to be over.”

To put the situation in context, Haggmark said Lake Cachuma contains 200,000 acre-feet of water when full, which is about 50 times larger than Gibraltar.

He estimated the city would continue meeting recycled water demand and purchasing water statewide.

“Rain on, sprinklers off” was the message from Madeline Ward, acting water resources manager.

One inch of rain could delay watering landscaping up to one week for thirsty plants, she said, and three weeks for most others.

The city estimates 50 percent of all water is used outdoors, with half of that for residential or commercial turf, said Ward, who emphasized community open spaces could be exempt from restrictions.

Employing low-water using sprinklers instead of ones that mist could also save about 20 percent per site, she said.

Phasing voluntary landscape referral, mandatory landscape referral and a partnership with Santa Barbara County to apply development restrictions to out-of-city water customers were other options.

Council members were skeptical of the impact the annual average of 15 new pools would make on water supply.

Staff said new development is approximately 1 percent of the city’s drought water supply projection (11,440 acre feet per year) for the next three years.

“The more we save now, the more options we have later, isn’t that true?” Mayor Pro Tempore Cathy Murillo said, receiving confirmation. “I don’t have faith that things are going to get that much better.”

Councilman Gregg Hart said restrictions should be based on increasing supply numbers.

“I discourage policy based on symbolism,” he said. “Fifteen pools a year isn’t a big number.”

Most council members agreed the more conservation the better, asking staff to come back in February with modified Stage Two restrictions and Stage Three recommendations.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Carpinteria Opts Out of South Coast Tourism District

By | Published on 12/16/2014

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The City of Carpinteria has decided against re-upping its membership in the Santa Barbara South Coast Tourism Business Improvement District, leaving its own business advocates in search of new funding sources.

The Visit Santa Barbara-run district aimed at increasing tourism and overnight stays in local hotels received final, unanimous approval from the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday, allowing the organization to enact a revamped South Coast TBID model billed as more equitable, effective Jan. 1.

Without Carpinteria, the district will cover only Santa Barbara, Goleta and unincorporated areas of southeastern Santa Barbara County, collecting assessment rates from local lodging customers to provide funding for marketing efforts.

The new version was expected to generate $3.1 million annually for the area, at least before the Carpinteria City Council voted against continued involvement.

That figure falls to $2.95 million without Carpinteria, Visit Santa Barbara spokeswoman Jaime Shaw said Tuesday.

Local governments approved the original South Coast TBID in 2010, with a five-year term set to expire Dec. 31, 2015.

After speaking with stakeholders in the tourism industry, Visit Santa Barbara requested changes to the TBID, and the Santa Barbara City Council approved them and early renewal in late October, as the district’s lead jurisdiction.

A Carpinteria City Council vote to continue the TBID discussion in favor of passage failed 2-2 in September, with Vice Mayor Gregg Carty and Councilman Al Clark dissenting.

Councilmen Wade Nomura and Fred Shaw supported continuing discussions, and Mayor Brad Stein did not vote due to an undisclosed conflict of interest.

The majority of the Carpinteria council didn’t approve the TBID again because they didn’t think enough local hotels showed interest — or disinterest — and said TBID didn’t provide enough advertising or TBID committee votes (only one for Carpinteria).

Clark took it a step further, alleging tourists already knew about Carpinteria and that the city did a good enough job on its own.

The decision takes funding from the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce, which received $25,000 annually in TBID the past four years, according to chamber president Lynda Lang.

“The Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce was extremely disappointed with City Council’s decision not to renew the TBID for Carpinteria,” Lang said. “TBID funds have been used exclusively by the chamber to market Carpinteria as a destination, with the intention to promote a strong economy for our community and local businesses.”

Lang said the chamber has mentioned creating its own TBID in the past, but so far it hasn’t been discussed.

The new TBID plan, which lasts through the end of 2020, was expected to generate $1.38 million more for marketing efforts that the previous one, which applied to lodging with more than four rooms and varied from 50 cents per occupied room per night to $2, depending on the average daily rate charged by each business.

The new proposal applies to all lodging businesses, and rates vary from 75 cents per occupied room per night to $4 based on the same daily rates, including escalations in years three and five.

Vacation rentals will be assessed for the first time on a per-unit basis of $2 per night instead of a per-room rate.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Los Padres’ Goleta Office Closed After Flooding

By | Published on 12/16/2014

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Last Friday morning, Andrew Madsen arrived at work to find half of his Goleta office building under water.

Madsen, who is the public information officer for the Los Padres National Forest, arrived at his Hollister Avenue office around 7:15 a.m. last Friday to find that the previous night's storms had flooded much of the office. The storm dropped 2 inches of water in an hour in some places in the county, and flooding became a problem at the office building, which  is located at 6755 Hollister Ave., Suite 150, east of Kmart and owned by Flir.

Contract crews are now working to repair extensive damage since water and mud breached a large part of the office building, which was filled with brackish water.

Since there was concern mold could develop, the office was vacated. 

The Forest Service office sits on the first floor, and the next-door offices were vacant, so it was the only one affected. Employees have been able to move most of their furniture into the vacant offices while the office is repaired.

"It impacted about half of our floor space," Madsen said. The property management company determined that the building was unsafe, and "we're moving everybody so we can expedite the process."

Crews had ripped up the building's carpet and torn out about 6 inches of the drywall as of Tuesday, Madsen said, and the office is in the process of figuring out where each of the 30 employees who worked in the building can work while repairs are ongoing, Madsen said.

Some are being moved to the Los Prietos office, Santa Maria and other stations, and others are working remotely.

The office was home to the Visitor Information Center, where employees helped anyone who walked in and had questions about camping or trails, Madsen said.

The Los Padres Association also has offices there, where volunteers coordinate for trail work, and the building hosts administrative offices for the department.

Madsen expects the office to be back in working order in six to eight weeks, and updates on the office's progress will be available by clicking here.

While the office is being repaired, Madsen encouraged those in need of forest information to call the Santa Lucia Ranger District at 805.925.9538 or the Santa Barbara Ranger District at 805.967.3481.

In the meantime, Adventure Passes are sold at Big 5 Sporting Goods, 3935 State St., and interagency senior, access and annual passes are sold at the Los Prietos Ranger Station, the Santa Lucia RD Office in Santa Maria or Channel Islands NP Visitor Center in Ventura. Passes can also be purchased online by clicking here.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Jim Hightower: Thinking of Amazon Workers This Holiday Season

By | Published on 12/16/2014

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During the hectic holiday shopping season, Jeff Bezos' Amazon.com may seem like a great option, especially for us procrastinators. Anything you want can be shipped directly to your doorstep. All it takes is a few clicks on the Amazon website and — of course — some of your hard-earned money.

The media sing the praises of Bezos' concept and business. But what you may not know is that, as head of the Amazon beast, Bezos is hard on his labor force. In fact, this past May, he was awarded a less-coveted prize by the International Trade Union Confederation: "World's Worst Boss."

Consider one of the most difficult of Amazon jobs — the "picker."

In each warehouse, hundreds of them are simultaneously scrambling throughout a maze of shelves, grabbing products. This is hard, physically painful labor, for two reasons. First, pickers must speed-walk on concrete an average of a dozen miles a day, for an Amazon warehouse is shockingly big — more than 16 football fields big, or eight city blocks — and pickers must constantly crisscross the expanse. Then, there are miles of 7-foot-high shelves running along the narrow aisles on each floor of the three-story buildings, requiring the swarm of pickers to stoop continuously.

They are directed by handheld computers to each target. For example, "Electric Flour Sifters: Dallas sector, section yellow, row H34, bin 22, level D." Then they scan the pick and must put it on the right track of the seven miles of conveyor belts running through the facility, immediately after which they're dispatched by the computer to find the next product.

Secondly, the pace is hellish. The pickers' computers don't just dictate where they're to go next, but how many seconds Amazon's time-motion experts have calculated it should take them to get there. The scanners also record the time each worker actually takes — information that is fed directly into a central, all-knowing computer. The times of every picker are reviewed and scored by managers who have an unmerciful mandate to fire those exceeding their allotted seconds.

That's not good, for Amazon has a point system for rating everyone's time performance. Score a few demerits and you get "counseled." Score a few more and you're out the door. And everything workers do is monitored, timed and scored, beginning the moment they punch in for their shift. Be one minute late, you'll be assessed half a penalty point; an hour late gets you a whole point; missing a shift is 1.5 points — and six points gets you fired.

All this for $10 to $12 an hour, which is under $25,000 a year, gross. But few make even that much, for they don't get year-round work. Rather, Amazon's warehouse employees are "contingent" hires, meaning they are temporary, seasonal, part-time laborers entirely subject to the employer's whim. Worker advocates refer to these jobs as "precarious" — on the one hand, when sales slack off, you're let go; on the other hand, when sales perk up and managers demand you do a 12-hour shift with no notice, you must do it or be fired. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Election Day, July 4 or (for God's sake) Labor Day — don't even think of taking off.

Also, technically, you don't actually work for BeZon. You're hired by temp agencies with Orwellian names like "Integrity Staffing Solutions" or by such warehouse operators as Amalgamated Giant Shipping that do the dirty work for the retailer. This gives Amazon plausible deniability about your treatment — and it means you have no labor rights, for you are an "independent contractor." No health care, no vacation time, no scheduled raises, no promotion track, no route to a full-time or permanent job, no regular schedule, no job protection, and — of course — no union.

Bezos would rather get Ebola virus than be infected with a union in his realm, and he has gone all out with intimidation tactics, plus hiring a notorious union-busting firm to crush any whisper of worker organization.

Jeff Bezos is no Santa. His treatment of workers is downright disgusting. We can let him know there are alternatives to his Amazon by doing our holiday shopping at locally owned, independent businesses. Visit American Independent Business Alliance by clicking here to get started.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JimHightower, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Vandenberg AFB Identifies Airman Found Dead in Dorm

By | Published on 12/16/2014

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A 30th Space Wing airman found dead in his dormitory residence on base on Sunday has been identified.

The airman was identified as Airman First Class Bogui W. Yann, who was assigned to the 30th Security Forces Squadron here.

"Vandenberg AFB is grieving the loss of one of our own and my heartfelt condolences go out to Airman First Class Yann's family and friends," said Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander. "Our focus now is to make sure A1C Yann's family and friends and all those affected at Vandenberg get the care and support they need. We have several resources available for  those who wish to take advantage of them during this difficult time."

The cause of death is under investigation.

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