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Families of Three Victims Killed by Elliot Rodger in Isla Vista File Wrongful-Death Lawsuit

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Federal complaint alleges negligence and violation of constitutional due-process rights by Santa Barbara County, Sheriff's Department and apartment owner

The families of Isla Vista mass murderer Elliot Rodger's first three victims — his roommates and their friend — have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court against Santa Barbara County, the Sheriff's Department and the companies that own and manage the apartment building where the killings occurred.

The complaint, alleging negligence and violation of constitutional due-process rights, was filed by two Southern California-based law firms — the Becker Law Group in Long Beach and McNicholas & McNicholas in Los Angeles.

A press conference is planned for Tuesday morning in Los Angeles to outline the lawsuit.

Rodger brutally stabbed to death his roommates — Weihan "David" Wang and Chen-Yuan "James" Hong — and their friend, George Chen, on May 23, 2014, before embarking on an eight-minute rampage through the streets of Isla Vista that left three others dead and 14 injured.

Rodger, who used both a handgun and his BMW sedan as weapons, then took his own life with a single gunshot to the head, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Plaintiffs in the case, filed in U.S. District Court, are Chen's parents, Junan Chen and Kelly Yao Wang; Wang's parents, Jinshuang Liu and Changshuang Wang; and Hong's parents, Lichu Chen and Wenquei Hong.

Wang, Hong and Chen were students at UC Santa Barbara. Wang and Hong shared a two-bedroom unit with Rodger at the Capri Apartments, 6598 Seville Road in Isla Vista. Chen lived in on-campus housing.

The lawsuit claims the county and the Sheriff's Department violated the 14th Amendment rights of the three murdered students by failing to adequately investigate Rodger on April 30, 2014, when deputies were dispatched to Rodger's apartment on a check-the-welfare call.

Had the deputies acted appropriately, the lawsuit contends, they would have discovered that Rodger had amassed a cache of weapons and posted threatening and disturbing videos online.

"The sheriff was expected to conduct a search of Mr. Rodger’s apartment, but failed to do so," the attorneys said in a press release. "By this point, Mr. Rodger had purchased and hidden several weapons and ammunition in his room.

"As Mr. Rodger put in his manifesto, 'If they had demanded to search my room … that would have ended everything. For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over.

"When they left, the biggest wave of relief swept over me … This incident made me realize that I needed to be extra careful. I can’t let anyone become suspicious of me … '”

Capri Apartments is named in the complaint because its managers allegedly failed to perform an adequate background check on Rodger, or warn the three deceased students that Rodger, who first moved there in 2011, had "unstable and violent propensities."

Also named in the lawsuit is Asset Campus Housing, a Houston-based company that owns the Seville apartment building.

“Despite the defendant’s knowledge of Rodger’s bizarre and violent behavior, they negligently failed to conduct any background check, withheld their knowledge of Rodger’s sadistic behavior, and in doing so, allowed the community to fall prey to his vindictive attack,” said Todd Becker, owner of Becker Law Group. 

The lawsuit cites a litany of conflicts Rodger allegedly was involved in with roommates during the nearly three years he lived at the Capri Apartments, and noted his propensity for racist and misogynistic rants.

The plaintiffs are seeking "compensatory and general damages for past, present and future psychological, emotional and physical pain, suffering, distress and injury."

They state no specific monetary award they are seeking, saying only that they "have suffered damages in an amount not presently capable of being ascertained."

They also are seeking attorney's fees and legal costs.

The Sheriff's Department issued the following statement Monday night in response to the lawsuit:

"The Sheriff’s Office cannot comment on a matter of pending litigation, and anything we might say in response would be insufficient when measured against the grief suffered by the families of those killed so tragically on May 23, 2014. Nevertheless, we continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers, and to extend our deepest sympathies to them."

The other defendants in the lawsuit could not be reached for comment.

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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Survey Finds Number of Homeless Stays Stable for Santa Barbara County

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Findings released by C3H and Common Ground show Santa Barbara with the largest population, but that the number is down significantly from 2011

Just weeks after several hundred volunteers spread out across Santa Barbara County to gather data on how many people are living without homes, the community was briefed Monday on what they found — and the work yet to be done.

About 100 people gathered at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion on Monday morning to hear about those findings from Santa Barbara's mayor, as well as a panel of housing advocates from the Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness, or C3H, and Common Ground Santa Barbara.

Since 2011, volunteers have gathered to conduct a point in time count and a vulnerability index in Santa Barbara County in order to determine how many homeless are living in the county and how to prioritize the most vulnerable people for housing.

The exercise has brought forward some valuable data about the homeless population, and the groups have had an impressive track record for housing the homeless.

Since 2013, housing providers have been able to house 284 chronically homeless people, 256 children and 133 veterans, according to Rob Fredericks of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.

Though the organization is having success housing people, the number of homeless surveyed in 2011 and this year was largely unchanged, with 1,536 people recorded in 2011 and 1,455 encountered this year.

Fredericks told Noozhawk that about half of those surveyed had become homeless less than six months prior.

"So even though we have put a lot of good resources and have had good results from housing people, more people are falling into homelessness," he said, adding that the high cost of housing and low vacancy rates do have a role to play.

Numbers from 2015 showed that Santa Barbara has the highest number of homeless, with 893 surveyed in 2015, down significantly from 1,040 people recorded in 2011. Santa Maria showed an increase in homeless surveyed, with 324 surveyed this year and 243 surveyed the first year of the survey.

"It shows we still have work to do," Fredericks said of the data.

Also of note in the data was that surveyors found that the majority of the homeless reported living in Santa Barbara County prior to becoming homeless, with another 23 percent coming from another part of the state.

"Santa Barbara isn't this national magnet for drawing homelessness," he said, adding that many of the homeless "are our neighbors."

The average person surveyed was 43 years old, but the oldest person was 83 years old.

"That's just not right, folks," Fredericks said.

Sixteen percent of people surveyed had been formerly involved with the foster care system, 33 percent had experienced domestic violence and 57 percent said they had been victims of violence or trauma while living on the streets.

Dr. David Lennon also spoke about some of the veteran data that was seen this year, including the fact that veterans are homeless longer than the general homeless population — 8.3 years versus 5.5 years.

In addition, 52 percent of those surveyed reported PTSD symptoms, and 66 percent reported having a mental health diagnosis. A quarter of the general population reported traumatic brain injury, and two-thirds of people reported mental illness.

Also surveyed this year were 132 families, a significant increase from 73 families in 2011. Most of the families surveyed were in Santa Barbara, which was home to about 53 percent, and 32 percent were in Santa Maria.

One positive note is that 74 percent of those surveyed this year were enrolled for health insurance.

Jeff Shaffer of C3H said groups are coordinating throughout the county to focus on projects that can expand housing, and are working with landlords to line up tenant for housing.

The group has had success over the past year working with businesses on Milpas Street to house chronically homeless in that area, and now nine out of those 10 people are stabilized and no longer living on the streets, Shaffer said.

Next steps are looking to expand a similar effort to State Street, and the group is in talks with the Downtown Organization to replicate Milpas' success.

Mayor Helene Schneider said one goal the city is embracing is a challenge put out by first lady Michelle Obama, which encouraged mayors across the country to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.

Since Santa Barbara will likely have to look for creative way to increase its housing stock, a landlord liaison program, modeled after a program in Seattle, is now in the works, according to Glenn Bacheller of Social Venture Partners.

That program saw almost 5,000 people housed in less than five years, and relies on a contractual relationship between social services agencies and landlords, Bachellor said.

Landlords agree to relax their tenancy requirements and then are provided with tenants who are ready for housing and provided supportive services for at least a year, he said.

It dramatically reduces the risk for landlords because if there is a loss of rent, the social service agency will fill the gap, he said, adding that 94 percent of the people are still housed a year later, and a roll-out in Santa Barbara is anticipated in the second quarter of 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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Defense Witnesses Testify in Ibarra Murder Trial

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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A judge denies additional motions to drop charges against the defendants, and a jail buddy of one of the men takes the stand

Defense attorneys in the trial of multiple men charged with the gang-related torture-murder of Anthony Ibarra two years ago called witnesses Monday aimed at raising doubts about earlier testimony linking the defendants to the crime. 

Monday marked the official start of the defense case in the trial since the prosecutor rested her case on Friday afternoon, the end of the seventh week of testimony.

Ramon Maldonado, his dad, David Maldonado, Jason Castillo, Reyes Gonzales, Anthony Solis and Santos Sauceda are charged in connection with the death of the 28-year-old Ibarra in a house on West Donovan Road in March 2013. 

Ibarra’s body was found days later in a U-Haul truck parked in Orcutt. Authorities have said Ibarra owed drug debts to the gang.

On Monday, Jose Ramirez-Melgoza, a county jail inmate sentenced to state prison earlier this year for a felony crime involving a different case, said he met Robert Stan Sosa, a co-defendant in the Ibarra murder case who testified for the prosecution, while both were in protective custody. Sosa's deal calls for a 15-year sentence for his role in Ibarra's slaying.

Sosa reportedly told his jail buddy he was looking at taking a deal with prosecutors, Ramirez-Melgoza testified.

"His view was that he had to say certain things in order for him to even receive that deal that he wanted to be on the table," Ramirez-Melgoza said. "He had to say whatever it is that the DA said, and he also did mention that if he didn't say those certain things at trial, that deal would be taken off table."

But Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen asked whether Sosa had related to his jail buddy that the entire meeting between Sosa, her and police had been recorded.

The witness also couldn’t identify who else might have heard the conversation between Sosa and him, although it took place in a big room late at night.

In his criminal case Ramirez-Melgoza was represented by David Bixby, who is the defense attorney in this case for David Maldonado.

Ramirez-Melgoza also said he only mentioned the conversation with Sosa from last summer once his own case was resolved.

“I thought it would be wise,” Ramirez-Melgoza said of the reason he waited.

Throughout the trial, defense attorneys have suggested someone other than their clients killed Ibarra.

Another witness testified about an encounter with Angel Escobar, a resident of the home where the brutal attack took place. 

Luna Foster said on the night of attack she walked with Escobar from the neighborhood near Donovan Road and Blosser Road to buy cigarettes at a convenience store at the corner of Broadway and Bunny Avenue.

En route, Escobar veered off and went elsewhere, giving her cash to buy cigarettes, Foster said. Before leaving, Escobar allegedly told the woman to say he had gone to the store with her.

“The last time I saw him is when we parted ways,” she said.

She said he only told this to a defense investigator recently, and wasn’t clear if she returned a police detective’s call or left a message.

“I have a bad memory,” she said under questioning from the prosecutor. “Things I can remember, I remember.”

Before the witnesses began testifying, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rick Brown denied motions to drop charges against the remaining defendants. On Friday he denied the motion to acquit the lead defendant, Ramon Maldonado.

Defense attorneys argued individually for acquittal, but Brown only agreed to drop a special circumstance of torture for David Maldonado, with the consent of the prosecutor. 

In his opening statement delivered Monday after deferring it weeks ago, Bixby told the jury that several people remained at the house after his client, David Maldonado, left March 17, 2013.

"What transpired after that time, Mr. Maldonado would have no idea," Bixby said, adding that while evidence shows a screwdriver caused the fatal injury who did it was when it was done is not known.

"That still remains a mystery as to this day," Bixby said.

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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Laurie Jervis: Beyond Valentine’s Day — Pairing Wine with Chocolate

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Once upon a time, someone — maybe Romeo or Juliet — decreed that chocolate is a hallmark of Valentine's Day.

Surely that person meant well, but living by the sentiment that "every day should be Valentine's Day," I'm going to go out on a limb and say the same for chocolate: Who needs a special occasion to enjoy one of life's best flavors?

Wines have also made great strides in the Valentine's romance camp, but again, please don't limit yourself to just one "holiday."

It's up to you, gentle wine aficionados, to experiment with the flavors.

Here are some white wines worth trying with chocolate: riesling (dry or semi-dry), viognier, pinot grigio (gris), pinot blanc and grenache blanc.

The candidates for chocolate could easily be white or milk chocolate, in particular those infused with flavors of citrus (think orange and lemon), lavender, cream, coconut, rose and ginger.

Ideal red wine-chocolate pairings run the lighter-to-heavier gamut from rosé to pinot noir and grenache through Gamay Beaujolais and mourvedre, to syrah and cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah. And port.

So it was in the spirit of pairing good wine and fine chocolate that four of us met about a month back. We are three writers by trade, and a chocolate professional: Jessica Foster, creator and owner of Jessica Foster Confections.

Writer Laura Sanchez, marketing manager of The Thornhill Companies, brought three wines from the J. Wilkes label: the 2013 Pinot Blanc, and the 2012 chardonnay and pinot noir, all from the Santa Maria Valley.

The Thornhill Companies owns Bien Nacido, Solomon Hills and French Camp vineyards, Bien Nacido Estate Wines, Central Coast Wine Services, Paso Robles Wine Services and several other wine labels, including J. Wilkes.

We paired the wines with several of Foster's always decadent chocolate truffles.

Our consensus: The underlying sweetness of the lavender truffle gently married with the pinot blanc.

With chardonnay, while the flavors of the green tea-infused truffle danced on our tongues, an even better pairing was the coconut and cream truffle, whose richness balanced with the wine, aged in 50 percent stainless steel and 50 percent oak.

When we reached pinot noir, we faced some indecision, for while bites of both the Madras curry and cinnamon apple-infused truffles measured up to the wine, either the wine or the truffle countered the other.

And that's the thing: Wine is a delicate beast when head to head with chocolate. Sugar, they say, always trumps the flavor nuances in wine.

And then, truth: We tried the pinot noir with Foster's milk chocolate truffle of star anise and fresh thyme. On my tongue, the spices triggered an explosion of black pepper that magnified the elegance of the wine, creating a symphony of flavors.

Our vote: "These two really complement each other."

But don't take our word for it: Rustle up friends, a selection of good chocolate and open a bottle of wine or two. Today. Tomorrow. Every day.

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via winecountrywriter@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are her own.

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Santa Maria High School Basketball Coach Eddie Gutierrez Dies

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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The head coach for the varsity girls basketball program at Santa Maria High School has died.

Officials with the Santa Maria Joint Union High District said they learned Monday morning that Eddie Gutierrez died, but added it did not occur on campus.

Gutierrez served as the head coach for the varsity girls basketball program at Santa Maria High School. He also was the security coordinator.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Eddie Gutierrez’s family and friends," SMJUHSD Superintendent Dr. Mark Richardson said.

Students and staff observed a moment of silence Monday after the campus announcement was made by school administration. 

The district also made counseling services 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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Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care Hosting 2nd Annual ‘PHorum: Perspectives in Health Care’

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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On Thursday, March 26, Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care will host its second annual "PHorum: Perspectives in Health Care."

The event will include a wine and cheese reception followed by a panel discussion highlighting issues affecting health care in Santa Barbara County.

“At last year's incredibly successful PHorum, a panel of health-care leaders provided their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities that the new Affordable Care Act would pose in our community,” said Lynda Tanner, VNHC president and CEO. “The panelists agreed to return this year to continue the conversation and to reflect on what has worked well, what challenges still exist, and what the overall impact of the Affordable Care Act has been, and will continue to be, on healthcare delivery in Santa Barbara. This year’s event promises to be a worthwhile and informative time together."

This year’s panel will be moderated by Tanner and will discuss the Affordable Care Act, which may include important topics such as access to providers and rising healthcare costs.

The panelists will include Michael Bordofsky, M.D., medical director at VNHC and president of Santa Barbara Preferred Health Partners; Steven Fellows, executive vice president and COO at Cottage Health System; Bob Freeman, CEO at CenCal Health; Fred Kass, M.D., medical director of research and wellness at the Cancer Center Santa Barbara with Sansum Clinic; and Kurt Ransohoff, M.D., CEO and chief medical officer at Sansum Clinic.

The event will also include the presentation of the Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care Community Partners in Excellence Award to Carole Dodero, NP, and Anne White, DO, Sansum Skilled Nursing Facility Department.

A question-and-answer session will follow the panel discussion.

Click here for more information and registration details.

— Flannery Hill is a publicist representing Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care.

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Laguna Blanca Hosting Free Lacrosse Face-Off Clinic with Duke’s Brendan Fowler

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Laguna Blanca School will be hosting a free Lacrosse Face-Off Clinic with Duke’s Brendan Fowler, a two-time NCAA champion and MLL Charlotte Hounds midfielder, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 7.

This free clinic is open to the community of elementary to high school aged players wishing to become dominant face-off midfielders. Check-in begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Laguna Blanca athletic fields, and equipment requirements include full pads (helmet, shoulder pads, arm pads, gloves and stick), along with cleats and lacrosse shorts.

Face-offs have become the most important part of the boys lacrosse game, and a dominant face-off man can easily win games for his team! Fowler’s experience of winning the NCAA championship twice will take any lacrosse player’s game to the next level.

Face-Off Clinic Plan:

» Fundamentals and The “Plunger”/”Pinch-and-Pop”

» Auxiliary and counter moves

» Stalemate and ground strategy

» Wing control and controlling play

» Mental and game strategy

Coaching staff includes Fowler, Ethan Shapiro (UCSB and Laguna Blanca School), Nik Hodosy-Brander (Wheaton College and Laguna Blanca School), Eric Hansen (UC Irvine and Laguna Blanca School), Zakk Souza (Lees-McRae College/semi-pro player) and Ray Robitaille (Laguna Blanca School).

Click here to register for the Laguna Blanca Face-Off Clinic. For more information, please contact Nick Morello at nickmorello@yahoo.com.

— Sydney Gardner is a publicist representing Laguna Blanca School.

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Laguna Blanca School Hosting Free ‘Women, Empowerment and Leadership’ Community Event

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Laguna Blanca School’s distinguished Global Studies Program is pleased to present an exciting free community event, "Women, Empowerment and Leadership" to celebrate the International Day of Women from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, March 9 at the Lobero Theatre.

Taking the stage, World Dance for Humanity will perform “Break the Chain,” an inspiring tribute as part of the worldwide protest against domestic violence. There will be special presentations and panel discussions that include notable speakers Janet Reineck, Ph.D., Kum-Kum Bhavnani, Ph.D., Michelle Madrid-Branch, and Carla Goldstein, J.D.

Laguna Blanca initiated the Global Studies program to educate its students about the challenges and responsibilities they face as global citizens.. Women, Empowerment, and Leadership is a free community event graciously sponsored by The Mosher Foundation and Laguna Blanca School, and is geared for students in grades 7-12 and up.

The distinguished speakers at this year’s Global Studies Symposium include:

Janet Reineck, Ph.D.

Reineck holds a Masters in Dance Ethnology from UCLA and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from UC Berkeley. She has worked in humanitarian aid and fundraising for 20 years, leading rural development projects for Oxfam and International Rescue Committee in Kosovo, and directing fund development for Direct Relief International and the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation. She started her World Dance class and community in 2010, offering local women a chance to experience the music and dance of other cultures while helping communities in need. In 2013, World Dance became World Dance for Humanity, a nonprofit that is helping 20 Rwandan communities create a sustainable future through donations of livestock, grants for small businesses, training, and school stipends.

Kum-Kum Bhavnani, Ph.D.

Bhavnani is a professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara. At UCSB, Professor Bhavnani’s specialties are women and international development, cultural studies and feminist studies. Currently, Bhavnani is a chair of the system-wide University of California committee on International Education. She also serves as chair of the UCSB Academic Senate. Bhavnani has a Ph.D. in Social and Political Sciences from King’s College, University of Cambridge, England. Her documentary film, The Shape of Water (2006), received numerous awards around the world, including Best Feature Documentary, Best Director Documentary and World Cinema Award.

Michelle Madrid-Branch, Author

Madrid-Branch is an author, speaker and global advocate for women and orphans. She has been referred to as a “world-wide voice on adoption” by Adoption Australia. She was inducted into the New Mexico Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006 and honored with the Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women by Gov. Bill Richardson. Madrid-Branch enjoyed a decade-long successful career as a television news anchor and investigative journalist, including an Emmy nomination while on-air with ABC-TV. She has three books in print — The Tummy MummyAdoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart and Mascara Moments: Embracing the Woman in the Mirror — and is currently writing a fourth. Her international upbringing allows her to feel at home anywhere in the world. With a shared passion for adventure and service, Michelle and her family have lived and traveled worldwide. Their current home is in Santa Barbara, and their two sons attend Laguna Blanca.

Carla Goldstein, J.D.

Goldstein is a co-founder of the Omega Women’s Leadership Center and its chief external affairs officer. As an attorney with 25 years of experience in public interest advocacy, she has contributed to more than 100 city, state and federal laws, and has worked extensively in city and state government on issues related to women’s rights, poverty, public health, and social justice. She is also an advisor to the global advocacy organization Women Without Borders. Currently, she teaches as part of the core faculty for the Omega Women’s Leadership Center, which is a learning center dedicated to convening, inspiring, and training women to use their leadership to bring about a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world for everybody.

For more information on Women, Empowerment, and Leadership, please contact Global Studies Symposium coordinator Bojana Hill at 805.687.1752 x527 or bhill@lagunablanca.org.

Laguna Blanca School is an Early K-12 co-educational, college preparatory day school. It guides students to greater heights by building upon its 80-year tradition of academic excellence with new and innovative teaching methods and programs. With the thriving experiential learning, LEGO, STEM, and global studies programs, competitive Condor League athletics and state-of-the-art athletic facilities, the school continues to broaden and enrich its students’ educational experience. For more information, please visit lagunablanca.org.

— Sydney Gardner is a publicist representing Laguna Blanca School.

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UCSB Scientist Links Warming Trend to Record Drought and Later Unrest in Syria

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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A growing body of research suggests that extreme weather — including high temperatures and droughts — increases the chances of violence, from individual attacks to full-scale wars. Some researchers project that manmade global warming will heighten future conflicts or argue that it may already be doing so.

Colin Kelley
UCSB postdoctoral researcher Colin Kelley. (Sonia Fernandez / UCSB photo)

New research by UC Santa Barbara’s Colin Kelley is perhaps the first to look closely and quantitatively at climate change in relation to a current war. The study, which combined climate, social and economic data, appears Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research suggests that a record drought, which ravaged Syria in from 2006 to 2010, was likely stoked by ongoing manmade climate change and that the drought may have helped propel the 2011 Syrian uprising. Kelley says the drought — the worst ever recorded in the region — destroyed agriculture in northern Syria’s breadbasket, driving dispossessed farmers to cities, where poverty, government mismanagement and other factors created unrest that exploded in spring 2011. The conflict has since evolved into a complex multinational war that has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced millions.

“While we’re not saying the drought caused the way, we are saying that it certainly contributed to other factors — agricultural collapse and mass migration among them — that caused the uprising,” said Kelley, a postdoctoral researcher at UCSB did the research for this doctorate while at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The recent drought affected the so-called Fertile Crescent, spanning parts of Turkey and much of Syria and Iraq, a region has always seen natural weather swings. Kelley and colleagues used existing studies and their own research to show that since 1900, the area has undergone warming of 1 to 1.2 degrees Centigrade (about 2 degrees Fahrenheit), with about a 10 percent reduction in wet-season precipitation. The results show the trend matches neatly with models of human-influenced global warming and therefore cannot be attributed to natural variability.

According to the scientists, global warming effected the Fertile Crescent in two ways that exacerbate any given dry year. First, weakening wind patterns that bring rain-laden air from the Mediterranean reduced precipitation during the usual November-to-April wet season. In addition, higher temperatures increased moisture evaporation from soils during the usually hot summers.

 “One of the things we tried to show in this paper is that there were very significant trends not only precipitation but also in temperature and sea level pressure,” Kelley said. “The long-term precipitation trend tended to make multiyear droughts, which occur naturally in this area from time to time, much more severe and explains why this recent drought was the most severe during the preserved record.”

Kelley says that the record drought’s effects were immediate. The study reports that agricultural production, typically a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product, plummeted by a third and as many as 1.5 million people fled from the countryside to the peripheries of cities already strained by influxes of refugees from the ongoing war next door in Iraq.

“There was a huge population shock in a very short period of time in these urban areas, which were already marginally sustainable in terms of their resources,” Kelley said. “This kind of rapid change in demographics encourages instability. The combination of large acute geographic and demographic changes created a huge vulnerability.

— Julie Cohen represents the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

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Weather Blamed in Injury Accident on Highway 101 Near Orcutt

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Weather may have been a factor in a rollover accident on Highway 101 south of Orcutt on Monday that sent a motorist to the hospital, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Firefighters responded at about 11:45 a.m. to the crash on northbound Highway 101 at the Solomon Summit, fire Capt. David Sadecki said.

A Chevy pickup overturned and came to rest on the driver's side in the center divider, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Fire crews had to stabilize the vehicle and extricate the driver from the wreckage, Sadecki said.

The patient was taken to Marian Regional Medical Center with minor injuries, Sadecki said.

"Extreme weather conditions may have been a factor in this accident," Sadecki said.

Hail and heavy rain were reported in the Orcutt area at the time of the crash.

Cause of the accident was under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.

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: Solution to Bottleneck in Area of Mission Canyon and APS

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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The city and county are in the process of creating a plan to "remedy a problem" at the bottleneck of the general area of Mission Canyon and APS.

The quick answer to solve the issue is simple. Blow out the stone walls at Mountain Drive and Mission Canyon, pull the current stone bridge and replace it with a modern bridge, widening the entire length from Foothill to APS. That is the engineer's answer to "the problem." Cars Are Basic has a 20 year experienced highway and street engineer who concurs with this position.

Political reality states this is political suicide.

Until there is a major catastrophe costing multiple lives it is DOA. Most of what the City of Santa Barbara presented was proposed by CAB a decade ago when the issue was a hot button item and CAB's position was rejected. Question: If there is a major problem, then where are the accident statistics to support it? Why has this laid fallow for a decade and suddenly been resurrected?

Cars Are Basic submits it is part of the overall issue of the further destruction of the transportation grid in the City of Santa Barbara. This is no accident.

The city, allied with anti-car factions, intentionally gave false and misleading information about scientific studies proving bulbouts make pedestrians safe. The truth, no such studies were or are available. "Outcomes" of the St. Francis traffic plan clearly show failure of its intended design. The Oak Park Plan was rejected before it could get off the ground, and the city never apologized for fraudulent testimony before Mayor Harriet Miller in destroying the successful upper De la Vina Street design, or before Mayor Marty Blum for claiming the intersection of De la Vina and State is dangerous when city stats prove it is one of the safest intersections in the city.

We could go on with more substantiated examples, but that begs the question: What to do?

The Bicycle Coalition states traffic at the bottleneck needs to slow, but the sharp curve prohibits high speeds with most cars traveling 25 mph. Some neighbors want to increase pedestrian traffic on the Rockynook side. But that increases vehicle pedestrian conflict because of Mountain Drive and APS — not a great idea.

There is a proposal to place a left turn just past the museum, stating there is a wide area to do this. CAB questions the wisdom of this because it will encourage cueing and more congestion at special events or rush hour. There is a historic westside walking path from Puesta del Sol to Foothill Road that answers the walking accessibility. A pedestrian-activated "single" crosswalk with a flasher at Puesta del Sol meets safety needs for walkers accessing the Woman's Club or Rocknook Park.

Maintaining the "Historic Rural Nature" of this transportation route is a thing of the past. What killed it? The very people who moved in and subdivided the area, adding their houses and cars to the roads, killed it. The people who are in the process of expanding and putting housing at the Museum of Natural History while hoping to incorporate it into the City of Santa Barbara for larger operations killed it.

So here is our proposal based upon political reality:

1) Move Mission Canyon Road over toward the park past bridge up to the Woman's Club, lessening the angle of the curve at the bridge.

2) Widen the Mission Canyon intersection of Foothill to move traffic more efficiently, emptying rush hour congestion.

3) Leave the right turn from APS while shortening the "run-out" making APS Los Olivos entrance easier for drivers watching traffic coming down the Mission Canyon bottleneck.

4) The Los Olivos Laguna intersection works just fine. Want safer pedestrian crossing? Put in a person-activated flasher. Remember this is a tourist draw where large buses and trolleys have to have ease of access. Personal cars are legion during tourist season. We have seen the dangerous conditions created by the city for vehicles and bikes at Mission and Laguna. No need to replicate failure.

5) The State of California instituted a 3-foot buffer for "bicyclists" on all streets. Placement of a Class II bike path is redundant and unnecessary.

None of these recommendations will satisfy everyone. It most certainly will not satisfy the anti-car factions in City of Santa Barbara transportation division. It is the best of a political nightmare.

Scott Wenz, president
Cars Are Basic

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Hail Reported in Monday Thunderstorms in Santa Barbara County

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Rainfall and thunderstorms move across the county, dropping hail on Orcutt and Santa Maria

Some pea-sized hail fell in northern Santa Barbara County Monday, and more of the stuff could drop as thunderstorms move across the area, according to the National Weather Service.

Santa Maria was getting the brunt of the stronger thunderstorms Monday afternoon, and the South Coast was expected to see its biggest rainfall around the same time, although a chance of thunderstorms would remain throughout the day, said Kathy Hoxsie, a weather specialist with the weather service office in Oxnard.

Hail reported in Santa Maria was measured at about a quarter of an inch in size.

“The strongest storms right now are still to the west, ” she said. “The storms that just dropped the hail in Santa Maria are marching directly east across the county.

“I can see at least three or four other good-looking cells that are still off the coast to the west. I would say that we still have the possibility of getting hail as the storms move across your area as well.”

As for rainfall totals, Hoxsie said accumulation was expected to vary and be relatively light — in line with the amount of water the low-pressure system dropped locally over the weekend.

“It’ll be feast or famine for those under storms,” she said. “If you’re directly under the thunderstorm, you could get a good shot of rain.”

By late afternoon, rainfall totals included Santa Barbara, 0.18 inches; Montecito, 0.24; Goleta, 0.10; Santa Maria, 0.08; Lompoc, 0.21 and zero inches in Santa Ynez.

Temperatures lingered around 60 degrees across the county Monday, and she said residents shouldn’t expect to see cloudless skies until Tuesday morning.

“The rest of the week looks nice,” Hoxsie said, with a dry, slow warm-up and sunny skies expected into the weekend.

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.

weather
Farmland glows in the sunshine while storm clouds obscure the Santa Ynez Mountains on Monday. The view is from Cathedral Oaks Road in western Goleta. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

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Arrest Made in Slaying of Homeless Man in Santa Barbara

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Enson Junior Lopez

An arrest has been made in the slaying of a homeless man whose body was discovered Friday on the city's Eastside, according to the Santa Barbara Police Department.

Enson Junior Lopez, 32, was taken into custody on murder charges related to the death of Ian Justin O’Brien Nichols, 40, whose bloody remains were found up against a Marborg Industries building in the 100 block of North Quarantina Street, Sgt. Riley Harwood said.

At 1:20 p.m. Friday, Lopez was located in the 800 block of Cacique Street and arrested for murder, Harwood said.  

Both men were homeless residents of Santa Barbara, and the incident is believed to have occurred during the late night hours Thursday or the early Friday.

Police responded to the scene just before 7 a.m. Friday, when first responders were dispatched for a medical emergency. 

Nichols' body had been discovered by a passerby in the area, who notified a Marborg employee, who called police.

"Upon arrival emergency personnel found Nichols, dead, on the ground in an alcove adjacent to the west sidewalk," Harwood said.

Investigation revealed that Lopez and Nichols had quarreled multiple times during the day prior to the incident, and at some point "Lopez contacted Nichols on the 100 block of N. Quarantina Street and killed him," Harwood said.

Ian Justin O’Brien Nichols

Because of the ongoing nature of the investigation, details including the cause and manner of death were being withheld, Harwood said.

He was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail, with bail set at $1 million.

Detectives are still seeking additional witnesses in this case, and Harwood said anyone who observed the interactions of the suspect and victim during the hours prior to the crime is asked to contact Detective Andy Hill at 805.897.2414 or ahill@sbpd.com.  

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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Capps Co-Sponsors Bill to Help Veterans Access Care

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, on Monday announced that she has co-sponsored legislation that would make it easier for Central Coast veterans to access the care they have earned and deserve.

The bill, House Resolution 577, would allow veterans to access non-VA care when the services they need are not available at a VA facility within 40 driving miles of the veteran’s residence.

Under the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which was signed into law last August, veterans enrolled in VA health care were issued a Veterans Choice Card to facilitate access to non-VA provider servicers when the veteran resides more than 40 miles from the nearest VA healthcare facility and/or the veteran cannot obtain an appointment at the VA within 30 days. Unfortunately, the services veterans need are often not available at the nearest VA healthcare facility.

Many Central Coast veterans live within 40 miles of a community-based outpatient clinicm, however, major medical procedures cannot typically be performed at these facilities, and too many veterans — many of whom are elderly or disabled — are forced to travel to the Los Angeles VA hospital to receive inpatient care. This bill would modify the distance requirement to account for the number of miles from the veteran’s residence to a VA facility actually providing the necessary medical service.

“Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and we need to ensure that we keep our promise to them throughout their life,” Capps said. “We should be making access to care easier for all our veterans, and this bill will go a long way to making sure veterans — especially the elderly and disabled — have that easier access to the care they need.”

Capps, along with several colleagues, will also be sending a letter to VA Robert McDonald urging him to adopt changes that would have a similar effect to the legislation.

— Chris Meagher is a press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps.

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Ambrecht & Associates Attorney Brooke Cleary McDermott Named Partner

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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McDermott
Brooke Cleary McDermott

Brooke Cleary McDermott, JD, LLM, an attorney specializing in complex estate and trust planning, estate and trust matters, and estate and gift tax controversy matters, has been named a partner at the boutique law firm of Ambrecht & Associates in Montecito.

McDermott has been with the firm since 2008.

McDermott works with individuals and families to achieve their financial, family and charitable goals by guiding them step-by-step through the estate planning process, using a variety of wealth planning strategies aimed at accomplishing both tax and family-generational planning.

She also advises individuals, families, beneficiaries, trustees and executors with regard to probate, estate and trust administration matters, including preparation of estate tax returns, IRS audits and allocation and distribution of bequests to beneficiaries.

McDermott completed her LLM (Masters of Law) in estate planning at the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Fla. She earned her JD at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Mass., and a bachelor of arts degree summa cum laude at the University of Connecticut in Storrs in 2003, where she was the commencement speaker.

A member of the Santa Barbara Bar Association, McDermott has chaired the Probate Section from 2012 to the present and lectures frequently. She is currently licensed to practice law in both California and Florida.

— Jennifer Goddard Combs is a publicist representing Ambrecht & Associates.

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Santa Barbara Mourns Veterinarian Killed Paragliding

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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The Santa Barbara community is mourning a beloved local veterinarian and pet clinic owner who fell to his death in a paragliding accident on Sunday.

Dr. Ron Faoro (St. Francis Pet Clinic photo)
Dr. Ron Faoro (St. Francis Pet Clinic photo)

Dr. Ron Faoro, 60, was owner and clinician at St. Francis Pet Clinic, 138 W. Ortega St. He had worked at the clinic since the early 1980s and was a former president of the California Veterinary Medical Association.

Authorities say Faoro and his 16-year-old daughter set out Sunday morning on a tandem paraglider descent from La Cumbre Peak above Santa Barbara.

According to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Faoro was not adequately clipped in to the harness and during the course of the ride, he became detached from the paraglider and fell to the canyon below. 

Faoro’s daughter, who was not an experienced pilot, stayed strapped into the glider and eventually crashed into a tree on a side ridge. She was rescued with only minor injuries.

Later that day, Faoro’s body was located in Rattlesnake Canyon.

Faoro fell an estimated 1,000 feet, based on eyewitness accounts, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said Monday.

The Sheriff’s Coroner’s Bureau is investigating the cause and manner of death, but Hoover noted that the investigation won’t include technical issues related to paragliding equipment or paragliding procedures. 

A native of Portland, Faoro attended the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and Washington State University School of Veterinary Medicine, according to his biography on the St. Francis Pet Clinic’s website.

He started working at the clinic not long after he graduated from veterinary school, and he lived with his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Sierra, in Santa Barbara.

According to friends, the family lost their home in the 2008 Tea Fire that swept through the foothills above Santa Barbara and Montecito.

On Monday, staff at St. Francis Pet Clinic were reeling at the news of Faoro’s death.

“It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Dr. Ron Faoro,” the clinic said in a statement.

“He was an amazing veterinarian, clinic owner, mentor and friend. At this time the family and staff has requested privacy as they struggle to handle this sudden and unexpected loss.”

John Greynald of the Santa Barbara Soaring Association expressed sadness about Faoro’s death on Monday and offered sympathies to his family.

“It’s a big shock,” he told Noozhawk.

Greynald said Faoro’s death was the first paragliding fatality in the area since 1978, when a paraglider’s equipment broke after he set sail near La Cumbre Peak.

He said Santa Barbara is a “​mecca” for free-flying, and that people come from all over the world to train and fly here.

There are thousands of flights that occur from local mountains, and on a good day, Greynald said, up to 30 pilots can be seen sailing through the hills.

“We have a very tight community,” he said. “We all know each other.”

Greynald said Faoro had recently hiked a large portion of the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail, and was planning to resume the trek with his daughter.

Conditions were good on Sunday, even though winds were strong, said Greynald, who was in the area when Faoro launched from near La Cumbre Peak.

Greynald said he suspects Faoro’s leg straps may not have been fastened, but pointed out that it’s impossible to know whether something was missed in a pre-flight check or if something went wrong later.

What he does know is that Faoro and his daughter had been in the air about five minutes before witnesses spotted Faoro falling.

“We’ll probably never know the details of what happened in the moments before his death,” he said. “We can only imagine the trauma to his daughter is overwhelming. Thank God she didn’t get hurt.”

New of Faoro's death stunned his large network of friends in California, Oregon and elsewhere, according to Faoro's long-time friend, John McGuigan, who lives in Portland.

McGuigan knew Faoro since before kindergarten and the pair attended grade school, high school and college together.

"He was always the smartest kid in any class," McGuigan said, adding that Faoro had an insatiable intellectual curiosity and became highly proficient in medicine, mycology, and the Italian language, among many other subjects.  

Faoro was also was "truly adventurous and a keen outdoorsman," and was planning to return to the Pacific Crest Trail for his next 500 mile hiking segment and then ride his bike for a week around the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon, McGuigan said.

Despite his professional success and numerous hobbies, Faoro never forgot where he came from, never forgetting his childhood friends, he said. 

"Recently, Ron gave a vehicle to a childhood friend in Portland who had fallen on hard times and needed support," McGuigan said, adding that with that vehicle, the friend was able to find a job that required personal transportation and is now gainfully employed. 

"Ron was clearly one of a kind," he said.  "Our hearts and prayers go out to Elizabeth and Sierra and Ron’s mother and two sisters in Portland.”

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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Santa Maria’s Measure U2012 Citizens Oversight Committee Issues Second Annual Report

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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On Tuesday, the Measure U2012 Citizens Oversight Committee will be making a presentation to the Santa Maria City Council as part of its Annual Report on the use of Measure U2012 tax proceeds.

This will be the second Annual Report the committee has provided the City Council on Measure U-related activities.

By way of background, on June 5, 2012, the electors of the City of Santa Maria approved Measure U2012, an additional one-quarter cent transactions and use tax. The general purpose tax became operational Oct. 1, 2012, and the first tax proceeds were received in late-December 2012.

On Sept. 4, 2012, the City Council established a five-member Measure U2012 Citizens Oversight Committee to function as an advisory committee to the City Council, ensuring the oversight of the revenue generated by, and expenses made in relation to Measure U2012 are consistent with the City Council’s intended use.

On Feb. 23, the committee met and reviewed the Measure U2012 audited financial statements as submitted by the city’s auditor, Moss, Levy & Hartzheim, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. After reviewing the audited financial statements, the committee concluded that the Measure U2012 revenues received and expenses made by city staff were consistent with the intent as set forth by the City Council.

“Measure U continues to be a valuable source of income for the city and its ability to help provide much needed public safety-related services to the community is a blessing," committee chair Trent Benedetti said. “The role of the committee provides an assurance to the voters that the tax proceeds are being used as designed — for essential city services.”

The one quarter-cent transactions and use tax is a nine-year general purpose tax, and is due to sunset on Dec. 31, 2021.

The committee’s Annual Report can be found on the city’s website by clicking here.

— Mark van de Kamp represents the City of Santa Maria.

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Santa Maria Man Jailed on Hit-Run, DUI Charges

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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A 23-year-old Santa Maria man is facing hit-and-run and DUI charges after a series of crashes on Sunday night, according to the Santa Maria Police Department.

Alvaro Riveira Garcia was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, non-injury hit and run, and driving without a license, said Sgt. Daniel Rios.

The incident began when officers were called out at 8:40 p.m. to Broadway and McCoy Lane for a hit-and-run collision, Rios said.

The victim and an off-duty officer assisted officers in locating the vehicle, which had left the scene and subsequently drove through the circular median of the round-about at McCoy and College Drive, damaging a street sign, Rios said.

The vehicle, driving on flat tires, then headed south in the northbound lanes of Bradley Road, finally coming to a stop near Foster Road, Rios said.

Santa Maria officers, with the help of the California Highway Patrol, took Garcia into custody.

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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Suspects Arrested in Robbery of Man Lured to Motel

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Erin Lucas
Erin Lucas

Tevin Morris
Tevin Morris

Santa Maria police arrested two people on robbery charges Sunday evening after the victim was reportedly was solicited for sex and taken to a motel room before being robbed of his personal property.

Lt. Daniel Cohen said Erin Lucas, 20, and Tevin Morris, 22, both of Fresno, were booked on charges of robbery, false imprisonment, kidnapping and intimidating a victim. Morris was also held for violating his parole.

According to Cohen, Lucas approached the victim, whose identity was not released, shortly before 6:30 p.m. at a gas station and offered sex in exchange for money. The victim then drove Lucas to a motel at 210 S. Nicholson Ave., where Morris was waiting near the parking lot.

Cohen said Morris then held the victim at knifepoint and walked him to a room at the motel, where the suspects robbed the victim and threatened to kill him if he called police.

Officers immediately responded and surrounded the motel. Cohen said the suspects were found hiding in a nearby motel room and were arrested without incident. They were both booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail.

Noozhawk managing editor Michelle Nelson 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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Crash Sends Vehicle Into Building in Santa Barbara

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Two people suffered minor injuries in rollover accident at Garden and Gutierrez streets

Two people were injured Monday in a rollover accident at Garden and Gutierrez streets in Santa Barbara in which a vehicle crashed into a building, according to the Santa Barbara City Fire Department.

Emergency crews were called out at 7:17 a.m., and arrived to find one vehicle on its roof against a building, and another on Gutierrez Street with moderate front-end damage, said fire Battalion Chief Robert Mercado.

One of the vehicles struck the Van Atta Associates and Blackbird Architects Office Building, narrowly missing a nearby light pole, Mercado said.

Three people were involved in the collision, and two were transported with minor injuries to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The third person declined medical treatment, Mercado said.

Fire crews also worked to clean up leaking oil, fuel and radiator fluid leaking from the vehicles.

"We did find there was some minor cosmetic damage" to the building, Mercado said, and a small gouge had been made by the vehicle into the building's exterior, but no structural damage was detected.

Traffic in the area was slowed by the crash.

Police were investigating the cause of the crash, but "it does appear someone may have been trying to make it through the intersection at the time of the collision," Mercado said.

City firefighters responded to a second rollover accident at 1:10 p.m. on southbound Highway 101 just north of Milpas Street.

The vehicle ended up on its top off the right shoulder, but no injuries were reported, Mercado said.

This accident also is being investigated by the CHP.

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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Enjoy a Day at Your Favorite Amusement Park

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Whether you are looking for an affordable vacation close to home or an exciting adventure halfway across the country, a day at the amusement park should be part of your plans.

There are plenty of amusement parks within driving distance of Santa Barbara County, so you can start planning those day trips as soon as the kids get out of school for the summer. And if you’re planning a full summer vacation elsewhere, you will literally be surrounded by amusement parks of every size, type and description.

In fact, in these vacation meccas your hardest task may be choosing the right one.

Age Considerations

Of course choosing the right amusement park is always important, whether you are staying close to home or traveling further away.

Some amusement parks cater to smaller kids, with lots of fun yet gentle rides and lots of things for the smallest travelers to enjoy.

If you are traveling with your young kids and grandkids, be sure to seek out these hidden gems for a day of fun in the sun.

If the kids in your family are a bit older, they are probably looking for few more thrills at the amusement park. If you have a roller coaster enthusiast in your family, you can plan your summer vacation around the list of the best roller coasters in your area.

Just take a look at the list of the world’s tallest, fastest and steepest coasters, then seek out the ones that lie on your vacation driving path. Many roller-coaster enthusiasts travel all around the country every summer, seeking out the biggest thrills and the newest and baddest rides at the amusement park.

Look Local

If your time is more limited, you can still find plenty of thrills at local parks. Take the time to visit a local park and see what it has to offer.

Many of us fail to take advantage of the attractions in our home towns. It would be a shame to repeat that mistake. You might even want to invest in a season pass for the family and give them a fun and affordable vacation that lasts all summer long.

But whether you are vacationing close to home to save money or embarking on a road trip across the country, it would be a shame to let the summer go by without at least a few trips to the amusement park.

These fun factories are not just for kids. In fact, the parents often enjoy the thrills and spills just as much, if not more, than their children.

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Swimming Lessons Are Important, Enjoyable for Children

By | Published on 03/02/2015

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Water fun and summer seem to go hand in hand. So, getting the kids swimming lessons could be high on your summer’s to-do list.

Not only can swimming lessons provide seasonal entertainment for youngsters, but they also teach a life-long practical skill that may help ensure their future safety around water.

Safety

The American Academy of Pediatrics stipulates that children are generally “developmentally ready for formal swimming lessons” after they turn 4 years old.

They also recommend that children under age 4 should be provided with “touch supervision” and never be beyond arm’s reach of the supervising adult.

After age 4, children can benefit immensely from learning to swim and the water safety lessons that coincide with formal swimming instruction. And some people have had success teaching babies to swim under professional supervision, although it’s not recommended by the pediatrics academy.

There are many benefits for children who participate in swimming classes. Any attempt to safeguard children around water in order to reduce a risk of drowning is ultimately beneficial.

Health

Kids enjoy many health benefits from learning to swim. Research suggests that children who swim develop both muscle strength and increased coordination.

The health benefits extend even further. Kids who take part in swimming lessons have been shown to demonstrate increased alertness.

Additionally, swimming regularly is an excellent form of exercise that can enhance kids’ fitness levels or even promote healthy fitness for children with weight concerns.

Moreover, swimming can help children build self-confidence and support their ability to self-discipline.

Recreation

Of course, participating in swimming lessons is just plain fun for most kids who enjoy learning a new skill, beating the summer heat and meeting new friends.

Many children are naturally drawn to water and enjoy its refreshing qualities. Learning to swim properly merely enhances their enjoyment of water.

Depending on the nature of the swimming course, children are likely to learn the various strokes associated with swimming, such as the breast stroke and even the doggie paddle.

Kids learn how to float and may even learn how to dive from small or great heights. Kids also learn a plethora of safety tips, such as how to help a friend who may be struggling in the water, why they should always swim with a buddy, or what to do if they experience cramping while swimming.

Many swimming classes for children are available locally. One of the first places to consider is the community pool, which typically offers summer swimming instruction sessions by age or skill level.

Channel Islands YMCA facilities, which have pools onsite, can provide information about where to find qualified swimming instruction for children in your area.

Area fitness centers and high schools are also venues that may provide instruction. Even some amusement water parks now offer swimming instruction to children during the warm summer months.

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Summer @ Laguna Prepares Your Children for the School Year Ahead

By | Published on 03/01/2015

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Music, art, science, sports and technology among the activities at Laguna Blanca’s Lower School Campus

Come August, most summer camps are said and done with. However, during this time at Laguna Blanca’s Lower School Campus, summer is just getting started.  

With engaging programs supervised by experienced Laguna Blanca staff and volunteers, Summer @ Laguna provides a chance for kids ages 4 to 10 to get that last-minute summer camp experience in.

Not to be confused with Laguna Blanca’s wildly popular Arts at Laguna program, Summer @ Laguna has children participate in a variety of activities, including music, art, science, sports and technology, all tucked within Laguna Blanca’s cozy Lower School Campus in Montecito.

“The timing of the camp is just great,” said Andy Surber, head of school and camp director Andy Surber. “It’s a great chance for our Laguna kids and kids in the community to get back into a school atmosphere.”

While kids may learn new songs in their music classes or play Minecraft in engineering classes, they are also engaged in fun ways to learn.

“We try to keep kids fresh and active by switching activities and always having a learning aspect in them,” Surber said. “Sometimes camps are zoned in on one thing, maybe just computers or music, but Summer @ Laguna has a good mix. It’s an all-encompassing experience.”

Even though the camp is only a week long, there is a lot to be learned. During the last afternoon of the camp, students have the chance to showcase their work done in art class and music class for their families and friends. Not only do families get a feel for the campus, but they also get to see what their children have accomplished during their time at camp.

In its second year, Summer @ Laguna has some fun things in store for its students, including a brand-new rock-climbing wall and the return of its LEGO engineering program. With programs like these that engage children with learning, Summer @ Laguna is the perfect end-of-summer camp to prepare your child for the upcoming school year.

Click here for more information about Laguna Blanca School’s Summer @ Laguna program.

Laguna Blanca School’s Summer @ Laguna program is open to kids ages 4 to 10. (Tara Broucqsault / Laguna Blanca School)
Laguna Blanca School’s Summer @ Laguna program is open to kids ages 4 to 10. (Tara Broucqsault / Laguna Blanca School photo)

Summer @ Laguna has some fun things in store for its students, including science experiments, a brand-new rock-climbing wall and the return of its LEGO engineering program. (Tara Broucqsault / Laguna Blanca School)
Summer @ Laguna has some fun things in store for its students, including science experiments, a brand-new rock-climbing wall and the return of its LEGO engineering program. (Tara Broucqsault / Laguna Blanca School photo)

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Local FIRST Lego League Team to Compete in Championship Robotics Tournament in May

By | Published on 03/01/2015

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Seven South Coast students just found out that they have been invited to compete in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) North American Championship Robotics Tournament at Legoland in Carlsbad from May 15-17. This will be the third time in four years that the team has been invited to this prestigious tournament.

Their team, FLL & Beyond: 2 squared + 3, consists of one ninth-grader at Dos Pueblos High School, four eighth-graders at La Colina Junior High School and two sixth-graders at Foothill School.

They are the only Santa Barbara County team in this year’s North American championship and will be competing against more than 75 teams from all over the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as from other countries.

Every August, FLL releases a Challenge based on a real-world scientific topic. Each Challenge has three parts: the Robot Game, the Project and the FLL Core Values.

The children participate in the Challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a playing field (Robot Game) within a set time (2½ minutes) and developing an innovative solution to a problem they have identified (Project), all guided by the FLL Core Values.

This year’s FLL Theme is World Class, and the kids had to come up with an innovative solution to improve the way that someone can learn. The team decided to figure out an easier way for kids to learn some chemistry, and ended up creating two brand-new games, “ChemBattle” and “Raiders of the Lost Elements.”

They had to create and give a five-minute presentation about their research and solution at the tournaments. (Scroll down the page for a video.) They even made an initial production run of their products and sold them at a local Bennett’s Education store.

At the Los Angeles Regional FLL Championship Tournament in December, FLL & Beyond: 2 squared + 3 got the highest Robot Performance score with 548 points, possibly even the highest score for all of California. (Scroll down for a related video.)

“The team is really excited to be able to help represent Santa Barbara County at a national level, especially since this is their fourth and final season with FLL,” coach Ri-Pen “Rip” Chou said.

“The kids will all be going different directions next year. My oldest daughter, Chloe, is already in the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy program, and four other team members (Lance Brown, Scott Brown, Aaron Juan and Albert Miao) will be going to high school next year.

“They have all applied to the DPEA program, and are hoping to be able to continue their passion of robots and teamwork there. My two youngest daughters, Mia and Cami, will be entering La Colina Junior High, and they will be busy with other activities.”

Chou pointed out the difficulty of reaching the national level.

“It’s very unusual and hard for a team to make it to the national level,” he said. “And we have the honor of being invited to this tournament three of the four years is just amazing.  It really shows the level of commitment and dedication these kids have put into FLL for all these years, and the incredible help and mentoring from coach Mack Fixler.

“Besides the tournaments, the team has put in a tremendous amount of time for community outreach,” he added. “They have helped several of the other local FLL teams for the last several years, gave presentations during several Science Nights, school demonstrations and to the Santa Barbara County Board of Education. Last month they helped organized and run a friendly robotics competition with FLL teams and Raytheon employees during National Engineers Week.

“It’s been quite a year for the kids, and I’m excited that the season will continue until May.”

(ripchou video)

(ripchou video)

Team FLL & Beyond: 2 squared + 3 at Bennett’s Education store, where they presented their two new invented games. (Ri-Pen 'Rip' Chou photo)
Team FLL & Beyond: 2 squared + 3 at Bennett’s Education store, where they presented their two new invented games. (Ri-Pen “Rip” Chou photo)

Team FLL & Beyond: 2 squared + 3’s robot has been dubbed 'Infinity.' (Ri-Pen 'Rip' Chou photo)
Team FLL & Beyond: 2 squared + 3’s robot has been dubbed “Infinity.” (Ri-Pen “Rip” Chou photo)

Team FLL & Beyond: 2 squared + 3 runs their robot at the Los Angeles Regional Championship Tournament last fall. (Ri-Pen 'Rip' Chou photo)
Team FLL & Beyond: 2 squared + 3 runs their robot at the Los Angeles Regional Championship Tournament last fall. (Ri-Pen “Rip” Chou photo)

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Plan for 3rd Montecito Fire Station Still Alive But Options on Hold for New Environmental Report

By | Published on 03/01/2015

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Jackson Ranch site on East Valley Road still considered first choice but board will await updated review before determining direction

The Montecito Fire Protection District’s quest for a third fire station is in limbo right now, as the district waits for a revised environmental impact report on the potential site.

A 2008 site selection study pointed to a property at 2500 East Valley Road, part of the 237-acre Rancho San Carlos, and the district got an environmental impact report. A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge invalidated that report after it was challenged in court by neighboring property owners, and the consulting firm, AMEC Earth & Environmental Inc., is redoing it.

The purchase agreement for the property lapsed at the end of 2013 and the owners, the Petan Co., didn’t want to extend the agreement.

Since 2008, the value of the property likely changed and there was organized neighborhood pushback to the potential fire station site, the Petan Co. wrote in a letter announcing that the agreement would not be extended.

“Given those circumstances, it is not fair to us nor the community to support another option agreement which could easily put parts of our property in limbo for another five years,” the letter said.

The historic Rancho San Carlos is currently listed for sale for $125 million. The ranch, which has been in the Jackson family for nearly a century, includes a 29,000-square-foot Monterey Colonial main residence designed by renowned architect Reginald Johnson in 1931, along with orchards and equestrian facilities.

The Montecito Fire Protection District didn’t close the door on purchasing a parcel of the Rancho San Carlos property but its Board of Directors met last week to discuss all the land acquisition options that were considered in 2008 — 14 different sites that were ranked based on elements such as response time and owner willingness to sell.

Ultimately, the board decided to wait for the new EIR before taking action or committing to a location, fire district spokeswoman Geri Ventura said.

“Director Peter van Duinwyk attempted to get a ‘straw vote’ on who might be in favor of moving forward with the Jackson Ranch property, but the rest of the board chose to take no action until the EIR is complete,” she said.

There’s no timeline for the draft of the new EIR, she added.

A Citygate Associates performance review study came to the board in January and consultants recommended that the district keep pursuing the 2500 East Valley Road site.

“The board can re-evaluate previously identified locations, but barring a willing seller from another site, the Rancho San Carlos location is still the most logical site,” the study said.

The district already invested $462,000 in environmental study and planning fees, and the Montecito Association has approved preliminary plans for a fire station at that site, the study noted.

The district currently has stations at 595 San Ysidro Road in the Upper Village and at 2300 Sycamore Canyon Road across from Cold Spring School.

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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Street Maintenance a Top Priority for Santa Barbarans, City Learns from Public Meetings

By | Published on 03/01/2015

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Residents press case for infrastructure in more than a dozen gatherings; officials say public-private partnerships also popular

Maintaining city streets and pavement appears to be a top priority of Santa Barbara residents, according to more than a dozen public meetings city officials held last fall and winter.

Staff had been directed by the City Council to reach out to the public and find out what was most important to residents in the wake of dwindling funds.

The city maintains that the elimination of redevelopment agencies, a decline in federal funding, and less buying power with gas tax revenue have created a gap in funding for community assets like roads and parks.

During last fall and winter, the city hosted 17 different meetings, many of which were open to the general public and others that presented information to specific organizations, the last of which was held Feb. 25.

“We got a lot of good comments and suggestions,” said Nina Johnson, assistant to the city administrator.

She said the top-ranked priorities were streets and pavement maintenance. Following that were upgrades to the police station, as well as sidewalks.

“We also received a lot of suggestions on expanding public-private partnerships,” Johnson said, as well as partnering with businesses and local philanthropists to help projects come to fruition.

Officials also heard many comments that the city should make it easier for people to donate to projects by examining their insurance requirements and municipal codes that might be barriers.

“We’ve done a lot of work in that department already,” Johnson said, adding that the Fire and Parks & Recreation departments already secure equipment through such partnerships.

One of the biggest examples is that of Children’s Library, which is partnering with the Junior League of Santa Barbara and other organizations. 

Construction on that project is under way, Johnson said.

“We want to build on that work and keep expanding,” she said.

On Tuesday, the City Council will be asked to approve a polling consultant to survey residents on how to best pay for the priorities since funding options weren’t covered at all during their previous outreach.

“The poll is going to focus on these projects and confirming interest, and if members of the public are interested in paying a tax or fee,” Johnson said.

Poll results are expected to be presented to the council by May.

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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Camp Natoma Helps Even the Most Wired-In Kids Make a Nature Connection

By | Published on 03/01/2015

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Outdoor activities, community bonds introduce campers to a refreshing and exciting experience

It’s no secret that most kids are totally plugged in with technology when they’re not at school. While there are summer camps that have children working with the latest technology, Camp Natoma gives them the chance to reconnect with nature and people.

This camp, located between San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles, offers kids the quintessential traditional camp experience. Campers participate in outdoor activities like archery, swimming and fishing.

Director Emily Starkie Zbin raves about Camp Natoma Lake explorations along Franklin Creek, which runs through the 360-acre camp grounds.

“We take them on hikes along the creek and the kids get to see turtles, frogs, fish and bugs,” Zbin said. “We really try to let the campers take the lead. If the kids are interested in rocks, for example, our counselors will give the kids more background on certain rock formations.”

While nature hikes are a favorite, the most unique feature of Camp Natoma is that children get the chance to literally sleep under the stars during their week at camp. In cots set up under the shade of oak trees, campers get cozy with the outdoors each night.

“The weather is perfect for sleeping outside,” Zbin said. “In this area, the summer is usually around 90 degrees, and the evenings are cool and perfect.”

Along with its perfect weather, safety is guaranteed for your child. The camp is located in a protected valley and each group of cots, around six to 10 kids, are supervised by two camp counselors each.

“It really is a unique experience,”​ Zbin said. “We always want kids to feel comfortable outside and to not be scared. We try to give the kids a positive experience and show them that nature can be invigorating and calming.”

Zbin, a previous camp counselor, is celebrating her sixth year as Camp Natoma’s director. She hopes children also get the chance to connect with peers their age, as well as enjoy their time away from computer and phone screens.

And after participating in these exciting outdoor activities, your child will be refreshed and connected with a new community of people after their experience at Camp Natoma.

Click here for more information about Camp Natoma.

Connecting with a new community of friends is a goal of Camp Natoma. (Camp Natoma photo)
Connecting with a new community of friends is a goal of Camp Natoma. (Camp Natoma photo)

The pool at Camp Natoma is always a popular spot — especially when daytime high temperatures often reach into the 90s. (Camp Natoma photo)
The pool at Camp Natoma is always a popular spot — especially when daytime high temperatures often reach into the 90s. (Camp Natoma photo)

Making a splash at Camp Natoma. (Camp Natoma photo)
Making a splash at Camp Natoma. (Camp Natoma photo)

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Susan Estrich: In Presidential Politics, Money Is the First Primary

By | Published on 03/01/2015

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Money is often called the first primary, because there’s nothing else out there to be officially judged by the Federal Election Commission reports. There are no caucuses; there are no conventions; there is no voting. Real people don’t get involved in the process until well after a nominee has been chosen. The only real way to have influence in politics is to have money, or maybe to live in Iowa.

Money is easy. Since the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the Citizens United cases, the estimates of how much is and will be spent in these contests range in the ten billions. And why not, considering the size of the acquisition?

So there was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, mingling and reportedly demanding commitments from his financial supporters — excuse me, friends — while other Republicans were complaining to reporters that it was “too soon.” The sad truth is it’s never too soon.

When I was in college, I was always taught the pluralist theory, which holds that good comes from the likes of us doing our best. There always seemed to be one particular problem with this theory: Where were the chairs for the disenfranchised? As former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., so famously noted, there aren’t many PACs on Capitol Hill for poor and hungry children. There aren’t PACs for a host of other issues no less important than those the candidates will address among the fat cats at supper.

And yet we do absolutely nothing. Our democracy rests in the hands of a few, with virtually everyone else no more than a background extra.

So who are these people who sit in back rooms discussing who should lead the country? Who elected them to anything, much less to serve as the screening committee to whom every potential candidate must pay his or her dues?

Of course, everyone in Washington can tell you exactly who they are: industry groups, associations, maps color-coded to show you how many delegates they have in each of your states. Sometimes I like to think that all those circles my friend, Tully, used to draw on white boards have coalesced into something (not something he could easily stomach). This is where the money primary is being played out — in offices all over Washington where consultants working with billionaires will spend upward of billions of dollars in order to influence the outcome of our campaign. And it is all completely legal.

In Iowa and New Hampshire, you’ll have kids charging around from office to office recruiting, but they’ll probably be acting at the direction of some grand plan being hatched even now. The first primary has begun.

So would-be congress members try to keep awake during the speeches about Iowa, and no matter who you are, you’re staying in a hotel with lousy plumbing. Or at least that was the idealized version of it — that there would be participation in the process — and that was why there was so much jockeying for the order of the initial three primaries. But then came Citizens United, the decision that opened the floodgates to campaign spending and will succeed.

But I believe there is still something to be said for a system that ensures that a person allowed to achieve such enormous power first have to spend the dead of winter in Iowa and New Hampshire. I once asked a man at our campaign rally if he was supporting my candidate. “Oh,” he responded to me, “I’ve only met him twice.” There has to be something between that kind of democracy and the billionaire bingo for which there is no chair for the needy kids.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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Steven Crandell: When Philanthropy Must Lead

By | Published on 03/01/2015

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In 1984, Irene and Aaron Diamond decided to give a significant portion of the money Aaron Diamond had earned in real estate to the people and institutions of New York.

Diamond died later that same year, but his wife went forward with their philanthropy as well as their plan to put a 10-year term limit on their foundation. Irene Diamond was driven particularly by a sense of urgency about the growing AIDS epidemic.

Because of complications due to the liquidation of Diamond’s estate, the new foundation had two years to perform research before the 10-year countdown began. Then, between 1987 and 1996, the foundation awarded more than $200 million in grants. It focused on education and culture, but is best remembered for its funding of AIDS research.

In 1991, it helped create the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. The New York City Department of Health, the Public Health Research Institute Center and the New York University School of Medicine all became partners in the project. The research center came under the direction of a microbiologist from UCLA, Dr. David Ho.

“I wanted somebody young who was really committed and had a drive to do good research,” Irene Diamond told Alan R. Clyde in a 1998 edition of Foundation News & Commentary.

“Most of my search committee of eminent doctors and scientists did not agree with me at the time. They wanted me to take somebody who was already well known ...”

Instead, as reported in a case history published by Duke University’s Center for Strategic Philanthropy & Civil Society, the top job went to Ho, whom Diamond called “a young, talented, but no-name scientist.” He would later call the job offer “a chance of a lifetime.”

The center subsequently pioneered the use of combination drug therapy (protease inhibitors) to treat the disease — helping to dramatically reduce the death rate from HIV. The foundation spent $50 million on AIDS research, making it the largest private supporter of such research in America at the time.

“Without the infusion of large sums of money, the research would have been delayed,” said Vincent McGee, former executive director of the foundation. “We would have never seen the results that we did as soon as we did.”

Defining an End Point to Your Giving

Some philanthropists follow the example of the Aaron Diamond Foundation and use an aggressive results-oriented approach to carry out their giving strategy. For them, giving is most effective — and most likely to pull others in to leverage funds — when there’s a defined goal to be achieved by a certain date.

The strategic thinking behind this limited time horizon often includes the following points:

» Many social problems are most effectively fought by committing as much funding as possible while the issues are current and relevant.

» This early and intense funding can have a more decisive impact than smaller long-term grants from foundations that protect their endowments.

» Problems change over time, and a foundation endowed in perpetuity may not be flexible enough to work on new and unpredictable issues as they arise, due to outdated missions.

It’s worth remembering, however, that the management demands on such an approach can be considerable. The deadline for ending giving, while seen by some as a great advantage, can become cumbersome if it is artificial. Addressing large social problems is rarely straightforward. And donors who want to achieve results in a limited amount of time may find they have underestimated the challenge.

Still, some philanthropic advisers tell their clients that the social investment they make through grants has far greater returns than the potential financial earnings of the foundation’s endowment.

Paul Jansen is one of the founders of the nonprofit practice of McKinsey & Co. and remains a director emeritus of the organization. He says that for foundations to give only the 5 percent minimum per year represents “a tremendous cost to society.”

Foundations’ endowments exist, he argues, to do social good. It’s just a matter of when the benefit happens; in his opinion, the sooner the better.

— Author and writer Steven Crandell helps integrate story and strategy for organizations, with nonprofit foundations a particular focus. “Thinking Philanthropy” aims to provide practical, thought-provoking ideas about giving. This article was cross-posted on Tumblr. Steven can be contacted at stevencrandell@noozhawk.com, or follow him on Twitter: @stevencrandell. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Paraglider Plunges 3,000 Feet to Death in Rattlesnake Canyon Above Santa Barbara

By | Published on 03/01/2015

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Authorities say father-daughter team flying tandem when Ronald Faoro reportedly slipped from harness and fell; girl hurt in subsequent crash

A man was killed Sunday afternoon when he fell several thousand feet from a paraglider into a rugged canyon in the mountains above Santa Barbara, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

The accident occurred at about 12:30 p.m. in the area of La Cumbre Peak off the 2900 block of Gibraltar Road, Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said.

A father and daughter were flying tandem, Eliason said, and the man, who was not adequately clipped in, became detached from the paraglider and fell an estimated 3,000 feet into upper Rattlesnake Canyon.

(Officials initially said the two were tandem flying a hang-glider, but later updated to say it was a paraglider.)

The daughter, a juvenile who is not an experienced pilot, stayed with the paraglider and crashed into a tree, Eliason said.

He said the man’s body was located, and his remains were recovered.

He was identified Monday as Ronald Faoro, 60, of Santa Barbara.

A local veterinarian and owner of St. Francis Pet Clinic, Faoro was active in the local paragliding community.

Emergency crews located the daughter, who was still strapped into the paraglider and suspended on a rock face, Eliason said.

He said she suffered minor injuries, and was hoisted by a county helicopter and flown to nearby St. Mary’s Seminary at 1964 Las Canoas Road.

From there she was taken by American Medical Response ambulance to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The daughter's name was not released.

County firefighters were assisted on the incident by crews from the Santa Barbara and Montecito fire departments, the U.S. Forest Service, the sheriff's Search & Rescue Team, and AMR, Eliason said.

A UC Santa Barbara Geology Department field trip group was in the area and witnessed the accident, Eliason said, adding that members of the group were helpful in locating the victims.

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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Latest Storm Tip-Toes Through Santa Barbara County

By | Published on 03/01/2015

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It seems safe to say that the storm moving through Santa Barbara County this weekend has been something short of a gully washer.

Rainfall totals were quite modest, ranging from trace amounts in many locations to nearly three-quarters of an inch on San Marcos Pass, according to the county Public Works Department.

As predicted, precipitation amounts varied widely, and some areas got no rain at all in the 24 hours ending at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Rainfall totals included Santa Barbara, 0.22 inches; Montecito, 0.16; Goleta, 0.11; Santa Ynez, 0.10; Santa Maria, 0.05; and Lompoc, 0.03.

A dusting of snow was reported in some mountain areas.

Additional showers were possible Sunday and Monday, according to forecasters with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

They were calling for a 50 percent chance of rain Sunday and Sunday night, dropping to 40 percent through Monday night.

Again, rainfall totals were expected to be light, although with a chance of thunderstorms, some areas might experience heavier downpours, forecasters said.

Mostly sunny skies were expected Tuesday and throughout the rest of the week.

» 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 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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NASA Satellite Successfully Deploys Antenna Made in Santa Barbara County

By | Published on 02/28/2015

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Carpinteria company’s creation — launched by Delta II rocket from VAFB — will enable scientists to map and measure earth’s soil moisture from space

A NASA satellite has raised its “arm” and unfurled a huge golden antenna — an antenna built in Santa Barbara County — as the craft continues to meet critical milestones in the weeks since arriving in space.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) craft rode to space Jan. 31 aboard a Delta II rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

For launch, the large boom and mesh reflector antenna were stowed away into a compact package.

Upon deployment, the truss slowly opened, an act NASA officials likened to a camp chair, before reaching its full diameter of almost 20 feet.

“Deploying large, low-mass structures in space is never easy and is one of the larger engineering challenges NASA missions can confront in development,” said Kent Kellogg, SMAP project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“This week’s result culminates more than six years of challenging reflector and boom assembly development, system engineering and an extensive test campaign.”

Now that the milestone has been accomplished, Kellogg said, the team will turn its attention to the routine science operations that are the main focus of the mission.

The SMAP craft will gather data about the amount of water in the soil across the globe.

On Feb. 24, the team sent commands to deploy SMAP’s reflector antenna at the end of the boom.

Astro Aerospace, a Northrop Grumman Corp. company based in Carpinteria with some operations in Goleta, designed and built the boom and antenna for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The satellite’s unique assembly is an advanced, lightweight rotating deployable mesh reflector antenna system to support the collection of SMAP’s radar and radiometric measurements in space.

It is the first-ever spinning and precision mass-balanced deployable mesh reflector antenna, and is the largest spinning mesh reflector ever deployed in space, NASA officials said.

Astro Aerospace experts have preliminarily determined that the deployed natural frequency of the reflector boom assembly in orbit is nearly identical to prelaunch predictions.

“This provides confidence in the health of the deployed reflector and in its performance once spun up,” NASA officials said.

Despite being 20 feet in diameter, the reflector weighs just 56 pounds. With its supporting boom and launch restraints, the entire reflector and boom assembly weighs only 127 pounds.

“The AstroMesh Reflector is a central feature of the SMAP spacecraft, which will be used to help monitor soil moisture and thus provide critical data about the state of our planet,” said John Alvarez, general manager of Astro Aerospace.

“We are proud to have worked with the NASA JPL team to develop and produce this critical piece of hardware.”

In about a month, after additional tests and maneuvers to adjust the observatory to its final orbit some 426 miles high, ground controllers will begin the process of spinning the antenna to nearly 15 revolutions per minute.

By rotating, the antenna will be able to measure a 620-mile swath of Earth below, allowing SMAP to map the globe every two to three days, NASA officials said.

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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Boy Badly Burned After Playing with Fire in Santa Barbara Backyard

By | Published on 02/28/2015

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A local boy was badly burned from playing with fire Saturday afternoon, according to the Santa Barbara Fire Department.

Around 12:30 p.m., three juvenile boys, all reportedly 13 or 14, were in a backyard in the 700 block of California Street and at least one of them was playing with fire, fire inspector Ryan DiGuilio said.

That boy caught fire himself and was badly burned. He was in critical condition at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital as of late Saturday afternoon.

The mother of the boy who lived at the residence heard something in the backyard, saw what was going on and called 9-1-1, fire officials said.

“This is a reminder that fire’s very volatile and has a mind of its own,” DiGuilio said. “It can get out of control extremely quickly and overwhelm you extremely quickly.”

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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Diane Dimond: The Lighter Side of the Crime Beat Will Make You Laugh

By | Published on 02/28/2015

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When you’re in the business of writing about crime, sometimes you need to take a break, shake your head at the human foibles that bring people to the attention of police or to the courthouse steps. Sometimes you just have to laugh out loud.

As they say, you just can’t make up this stuff.

Police in La Porte, Texas, believe the typical teenage habit of taking selfies helped them catch a car thief. An investigation earlier this month led officers to 17-year-old Kenneth Davis. An authorized search of his phone revealed he’d filmed himself singing while driving a stolen car. Police also believe other videos of Davis suggest he was involved in more stolen-vehicle crimes.

Probably not the best idea to chronicle your own crimes. Just sayin’.

In New Lenox, Ill., Ross Crampton, 29, barricaded himself inside a home last week and caused a five-hour standoff with police. After a psych evaluation, he was free to go. Here’s where things really got stupid. Since Crampton had no one to drive him home, he hopped in an ambulance and drove the stolen ride to his friend’s house. The vehicle’s GPS system quickly located Crampton, and he was taken to jail.

Eddie Smith, 22, of Mineral Wells, Texas, decided it would be macho to hop on the Internet and brag that there were 16 outstanding warrants for his arrest. A tipster called police to report Smith’s Jan. 20 Facebook boast and ... you guessed it. Police showed up and took him into custody.

Lest you think it’s only immature young men who do crazy things, take the case of 19-year-old Kendra Sunderland, who used the library at Oregon State University last month as the backdrop for a live sex show. Cuddled up to a computer on the sixth floor, the buxom blonde, “did and with the intent of arousing the sexual desire of ... another person, expose her(self),” according to court papers.

She was charged with public indecency, which carries a one-year sentence and a fine of $6,250. Sunderland doesn’t seem to care. She believes the notoriety will help launch her modeling career. Does she realize a criminal record does not constitute a good recommendation?

You’d think anyone who believed they could get away with robbing a bank would be smarter than Matthew Semione of Daytona Beach, Fla. On Feb. 20, he handed a note demanding money to a teller at a local bank. But Semione, 26, got impatient waiting for his prize. He snatched back the note and then ran hell bent back to his truck, which attracted the attention of a sheriff’s deputy responding to the silent alarm. Semione was charged with armed robbery.

My favorite failed bank robbery story happened a few years ago in Swissvale, Pa. Dennis Hawkins, 48, disguised himself before committing his crime. This African-American man, who sported a goatee, put on a woman’s blond wig, strapped on fake breasts under a blue sweater and finished his ensemble with a pair of colorful clown pants. Hawkins used a stolen toy BB gun and actually accomplished the robbery. It was his getaway that needed work. Leaving the bank, Hawkins peeked at his loot and was promptly sprayed by a red-ink pack. He stumbled into a woman’s car in the parking lot. She quickly escaped with her keys and summoned police. As far as I can determine, Hawkins is still in prison.

I think my pick for the most audacious crime of the season has to go to a man who thought he could beat a DUI rap. Police say Brian Byers smashed his black BMW into a guardrail near his home in Sparta, N.J. He reportedly left the snowy scene but returned with an equally inebriated (and shirtless) friend and two five-gallon buckets of water. The pair threw water on the freezing roadway to simulate a black ice condition — an excuse for the accident. As luck would have it, a patrol officer spotted them. Both young men were arrested and charged with DUI and other crimes.

So what’s the takeaway? These crimes may not be that serious in the scheme of things, and we shouldn’t laugh it off when people flaunt the law. But you know what? Sometimes you just gotta laugh at the human condition.

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: War, Politics and Correcting the ‘Chicken Hawk’ Record

By | Published on 02/28/2015

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An incorrect statement left uncorrected leads often to deception, disillusion and dishonesty.

Take this hypothetical: I’ve agreed to speak at a local event, and the emcee, in her introduction, says something like, “​Mark Shields went to the University of Notre Dame, where he played basketball.” It’s true that Notre Dame is my alma mater and that I regularly played pickup games of basketball while there. But the misimpression would be created that I’d played for my school on the men’s basketball team. Before long, another imaginative emcee embellishes the intro to read, “Shields was a star college basketball player.” And error would take wing.

Recently, Jay Nordlinger (whom I do not know) of National Review wrote: “The term ‘​chickenhawk’ was coined by Mark Shields, a Democratic operative, columnist and pundit. He used it to tar Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney (et al.) ... The rule was this: If you did not serve in combat, you could not advocate American military action. ... Only combat veterans had the right to support military action.”

Nordlinger is wrong on virtually every count. Forget that I did not coin “chicken hawk,” which was used as early as 1967 by Rep. Mo Udall, D-Ariz., in a speech opposing the Vietnam War, some 12 years before I ever worked for a newspaper. Forget that I have not worked in politics for 36 years.

More important, he incorrectly defined terms. For the record, the disparaging term “chicken hawk” was reserved for those American men who during the Vietnam War, when all males 18 or older were subject to the military draft, employed a student deferment, a family contact, a contrived medical malady or even a calling to divinity school to avoid serving and who then later, as wounded and decorated Marine veteran of Vietnam Robert Timberg unforgettably wrote in the 1996 book The Nightingale’s Song, would reappear “loudly endorsing a confrontational stance with the Soviet Union, aid to the Nicaraguan guerillas, and military ventures into Lebanon, Grenada, and the Persian Gulf.” Chicken hawks, Timberg continued, were “men whose testosterone gland abruptly began pumping after age 26, when they were no longer vulnerable to the draft.”

Yes, former Vice President Dick Cheney — with his five student deferments and with his under-oath explanation “I had other priorities in the ’​60s than military service” (when 58,303 Americans of his generation were giving their lives in Vietnam) — who appears since never to have seen a world trouble spot where he would not want to send U.S. soldiers and Marines, qualifies as a chicken hawk.

The chicken hawk can be counted on to endorse a national policy of military escalation, as long as it involves no personal participation.

Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, after his successful leadership in the Gulf War, dispatched all the fawning flatterers this way: “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”

It would be irrational to say — and nobody I know has ever said it — that only Americans who have served in combat can advocate U.S. military action. By that absurd standard, of the past 11 U.S. presidents since Harry Truman, only John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush would have been qualified to serve as commander in chief.

In the last analysis, character is destiny. Just as we would spurn the self-proclaimed tax reformer who turned out to be a tax evader, we refuse to honor the call to battle from those who, when summoned to defend their nation, went AWOL. The record is corrected.

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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Santa Barbara Asks for Public Input on Drawing Inaugural Election District Maps

By | Published on 02/28/2015

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Lawsuit settlement requires six separate City Council districts, two of which must have a majority of Latino eligible voters

Now that the City of Santa Barbara has settled a lawsuit and agreed to start using district elections beginning in November, the City Council wants input on what those six districts should look like.

Plaintiffs alleged Santa Barbara’s at-large voting system diluted Latino votes and made it difficult for those voters to elect their preferred candidates, City Attorney Ariel Calonne explained at a public engagement meeting on the subject Saturday.

The court case was to go to trial in April but the settlement was finalized last week, making the meeting focus on district boundaries. The city must pay $599,500 in legal fees to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Barry Cappello, but avoiding a multimillion-dollar court payout was one of the reasons for settling, Calonne said.

City Council members and the mayor are elected on an at-large basis now, so candidates can live anywhere and voters can choose any candidates they want.

With six districts — as agreed-upon in the court settlement — at least two must have a majority (over 50 percent) of Latino eligible voters, meaning citizens over the age of 18. In draft maps, those two districts are centered around the Eastside and Westside neighborhoods.

The mayor will still be elected at-large, by all city voters.

For the November 2015 election, three of the new six districts will be implemented for the three open City Council seats. Since Councilman Randy Rowse will be up for re-election, it’s likely the district in which he lives — on the Mesa — will be on the ballot along with the two Latino-majority districts, Calonne said.

The rest of the city won’t be voting in November.

Several people at Saturday’s meeting advocated for changing to even-year city elections as a way of improving voter turnout, including Latino voter turnout, but Calonne said that can only be changed by a vote of the people.

Members of the public are invited to help design district maps and a consultant from National Demographics Corp. explained the complicated online mapping program people can use to draw their own maps of the city. It’s similar to ArcGIS with U.S. Census data, detailed local maps and satellite imaging built in.

The goal is to have six districts with equal populations, of around 14,735 residents each, that keeps neighborhoods and other communities of interest together. All the official neighborhoods from the city’s General Plan are labeled and outlined in the maps.

For people drawing maps at home, the districts should be “reasonably shaped,” contiguous and keep neighborhoods together when possible, said Doug Johnson, president of National Demographics Corp. There are three draft maps that can be used as starting points, or people can start from scratch.

The plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit will be submitting their own district maps for consideration, Cappello said at the meeting. He said he has concerns with one of the draft maps, saying the Westside neighborhood is “diluted” by adding the Pilgrim Terrace Park area, which is largely non-Latino, and the area near Leadbetter Beach that is populated with many Santa Barbara City College students and is traditionally part of the Mesa neighborhood.

That map “violated the spirit of the agreement,” Cappello asserted.

District boundary lines must be submitted to the court by early April and then to the Santa Barbara County Registrar of Voters by June or July so that office can draw out precincts before the November election.

Public input on maps will only be accepted until March 12.

The mapping tools are English-only but National Demographics Corp. has Spanish-speaking staff members who can work directly with groups, Johnson said. His tutorial during Saturday’s meeting was also interpreted for the video made by City TV.

Click here to submit maps through the online tool, or people can draw them out with pens and paper and submit them to the City Clerk’s Office at 735 Anacapa St. Maps also can be scanned and emailed to gpeirce@santabarbaraca.gov or faxed to 805.897.2623.

Another public meeting and mapping tutorial is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 18 in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

The City Council ultimately will decide which district maps to use and is holding meetings at 2 p.m. March 24 and 4 p.m. March 30, both at City Hall.

Johnson provided some tips on using the mapping program and his tutorial will be posted online on Monday, the city said. Once users create an online account, they can read how to use the program in the “learn” tab at the top and then draw maps through the “create” tab and ultimately share or submit them to the city.

Johnson emphasized that the city wants to know the reasoning behind mapping choices so it helps City Council members make their decision.

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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Letter to the Editor: Naples Again

By | Published on 02/28/2015

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Today, as I read another article about Naples up on the selling block again, about how this “Mythical Being Wants Naples,” I began to wonder “what is Naples really about”?

In reading about Naples again, it really is not about owner Matt Osgood, about development or about “environmentalists”; something about these words just doesn’t feel right, feels distracting. It doesn’t really have to do with any of these things.

It’s hard to put into words what I do feel. Because it doesn’t have to do with the past, and it especially doesn’t have to do with our old way of thinking. It doesn’t have to do with saying, “I don’t want development here,” “You’re not the right person,” “This land is not your sacred cow, and you’re not going to carve it up like a piece of meat and sell it by the pound.” On a deeper level, it’s really not about any of these things.

Let me try to get to what I am feeling, and what it’s really about. When you walk out on the land you know it’s special; you can feel it. It may sound like a cliché, but, it really does speak to you. The land has this beautiful voice; she speaks with a voice that sounds like the earth would sound if she could speak to you.

And when you hear her voice, your heart opens and you fall in love. She tells you this is the place of the ancestors, the place of ancient wisdom, a place where you can hear the laughter of the children, a place where you are loved, where you can listen to the stories of the elders, where the teachings of healing, and community, and wisdom are alive and embedded here. Where you can come and learn, be healed, be community, be at one with the earth and these teachings; most important, be with one another and at one with the beings who live here.

What it’s really about is more than this place we call Naples. This land is a sacred place, it is a repository of healing and teachings and community, it is a library if you will of wisdom, and it holds the future of our children and our community, and it really is one of the last places on this earth like it.

It lives here as an opportunity to restore our village, to come together as one community, a place where once again we live together as caretakers, where we restore a way of living together that used to be “the old way.” This way of being becomes the “new paradigm.”

We are here to build and live the “new paradigm” here on this land. It teaches us how, and we build it for our community, and as a model for all of those among us who are ailing, who also need to be restored, and we build it for our children, and the future of our community, and for the communities of this earth, because that is what this land, this place we call Naples is really about, and it is what we are about and why we are here.

We are not here to say “No, I don’t want you to build on the land,” we are here to say yes, to say yes to this land, yes to being caretakers, yes to healing a reciprocity, yes to the “old ways,” yes to the new paradigm, yes to the beings who live here, yes to the children and the elders, and yes to each other.

James Smallwood
Santa Barbara

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Letter to the Editor: Israel Has a Right to Exist

By | Published on 02/28/2015

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On March 3, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will give a historic speech to Congress, discussing the implications of a nuclear Iran and the dangers of radical Islam. His goal: to inform the American people and the world of these dangers.

The one policy that Netanyahu has never caved to is his policy of accommodating to Iran. (Jerusalem Post) He has openly and behind closed doors warned that President Barack Obama’s plan to forge a nuclear deal with Iran is dangerous. He has made it clear that Iran’s nuclear program, as well as its ballistic missile program, constitutes a threat to Israel’s very existence. And, until Obama took office, preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons has always been the norm.

Sadly, our president is no friend of our ally, Israel. In recent years, Netanyahu has released jihadist terrorists from prison, abrogated Jewish people’s rights in Jerusalem, Judea, + Samara, supported the establishment of a Palestinian state and agreed to give free electricity to the Palestinians in Gaza, while Israel was being attacked by them. All of this was done to accommodate Obama, win over the media and to appease leftists in his coalition.

For the past six years, Obama has undermined Israel’s national security and publicly humiliated Netanyahu.

On another front, Obama shocked the entire Israeli defense community when he supported the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. (Jerusalem Post) Not only was Mubarak an ally to America in the fight against Islamic terrorists, he acted as a guardian of both Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and the safety and freedom of maritime traffic in the Suez Canal.

The result of Obama’s actions: the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks the destruction of Israel and is responsible for jihadist groups like al-Qaeda and Hamas, took over. To this day, Obama supports the Muslim Brotherhood.

Recently, the attacks on Israel and Netanyahu have continued by Susan Rice, John Kerry and other Democrats. Obama is coercing Democrats to boycott Netanyahu’s speech and the Congressional Black Caucus has threatened to walk out during his speech. What a disgrace.

The actions toward Israel by this administration are dangerous and disgusting. What is Obama afraid of? The Truth?

Diana Thorn
Carpinteria

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Letter to the Editor: More Oil Company Corruption

By | Published on 02/28/2015

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Day after day, week after week, month after month, revelations accumulate as to oil companies’ environmental and moral filth — aided and abetted by California’s government.

Recently we learned that massive amounts of the carcinogen benzene — concentrations “thousands of times more than federal and state regulations consider safe” — are contained in the flowback fluids that California fracking oil companies have illegally stored in wells drilled through aquifers (underground water tables) containing clean water. Any crack or failure in those wells will contaminate water communities use for drinking and agriculture.

It was only the passage of SB4 in 2013, requiring oil companies to test and report on these matters, that brought this particular corruption to light.

Now, in the Los Angeles Times of Feb. 27, 2015, we learn that “oil producers have been dumping chemical-laden wastewater into hundreds of unlined pits that are operating without proper permits.”

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board “revealed the existence of more than 300 previously unidentified waste sites. ... more than one third ... operating without permission.”

Of course the toxic materials stored in unlined pits, many of which are adjacent to agricultural fields, are free to migrate to nearby areas or seep into ground water beneath them.

“State regulators face federal scrutiny for what critics say has been decades of lax oversight of the oil and gas industry and fracking operations in particular. The Division of Oil, Gas and Gerthermal Resources has admitted that for years it allowed companies to inject fracking wastewater into protected groundwater aquifers ...”

This corruption lies directly at the door of Gov. Jerry Brown.

In 2011, he fired California Department of Conservation director Derek Chernow and deputy Elena Miller because they would not comply with his wish to issue oil drilling permits without the thorough review required by environmental law (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 29, 2012).

The obviously intended result of their dismissal and replacement was the proliferation of fracking in the state, eventually followed by Kern County residents begging the governor to come see for himself the devastation to their health, water and crops being caused by fracking. He ignored their pleas.

Over the years, oil companies have contributed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to Gov. Brown, much of it in support of several of his favorite ballot measures.

The despicable quid pro quo arrangement between them is obvious.

“‘The state doesn't seem to be willing to put the protection of groundwater and water quality ahead of the oil industry being able to do business as usual,’ said Andrew Grinberg of the group Clean Water Action.”

No kidding!

William Smithers
​Santa Barbara

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Prosecution Rests in Santa Maria Trial of Six Defendants Charged in Ibarra Murder

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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Defense attorneys ask the judge to acquit their clients, accused of the gang-related torture-slaying of Anthony Ibarra in March 2013

The prosecution rested Friday afternoon in the Santa Maria trial of six men charged with the gang-related torture-slaying of Anthony Ibarra, and a judge began hearing attorneys’ motions about why their defendants should be acquitted before denying a request for the alleged shot-caller.

After entering approximately 500 items into evidence, Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen officially rested her case in the afternoon, culminating  the seventh week for the trial’s testimony stage.

“The People’s case is finished,” Judge Rick Brown told jurors.

Jury selection began Nov. 17 with hundreds of candidates queried before the panel of 12 plus six alternates were selected.

Defense attorneys will now present their cases next week, after Brown finishes hearing the various motions for acquittal.

Six men are on trial for the March 17, 2013, slaying of the 28-year-old Ibarra, a drug dealer who allegedly had debts to the gang. He was brutally assaulted in a house at 1142 W. Donovan Road. His body was found days later inside a rented U-Haul truck parked on a street in Orcutt.

Michael Scott, who represents the alleged shot-caller Ramon “Crazy Ray” Maldonado, said the prosecution’s case lacked corroborating evidence against his client for the charges.

He argued that two prosecution witnesses, a sister and brother who lived at the house, actually were accomplices.

"We do not have any corroboration of Mr. Maldonado doing anything to commit a crime,” Scott said.

Bramsen disagreed, saying there was no evidence the witnesses had the mental state to commit murder.

Instead, she  said, independent evidence proved Maldonado had been working with another defendant in the weeks before the murder to locate Ibarra due to drug taxes he owed the gang.

Bramsen added that plenty of corroborating evidence ties Maldonado to the crime — GPS tracking equipment he wore placed him at the residence the day of the murder, DNA on a beer can retrieved from the house, DNA on a latex glove found on the floor.

“Ramon Maldonado’s acquittal is hereby denied,” Brown said.

Defense attorney Addison Steele argued for why his client, Anthony “AJ” Solis should be acquitted, noting his man was “getting rousted because he owed money for drugs.” Because of this, Steele said, Solis wasn’t lying in wait.

“I don’t think there’s sufficient evidence to convict Mr. Solis,” Steele said, adding the trial lacked evidence Solis intended to kill Ibarra.

Before being interrupted by the end of the court day, Bramsen said she strongly disagreed with Steele’s interpretation of the law and noted evidence that Solis was aware Ibarra was in trouble with the gang.

She said one witness recalled a conversation that Solis had warned one man to stay away from Ibarra. 

“They were looking for him and anyone with him was going to get caught up,” Bramsen said.

In a text message to another defendant, Solis claimed to have found Ibarra.

And, Bramsen said, Solis was arrested with a pair of gloves in his pocket. Those gloves, similar to ones reportedly worn by several defendants the day of the attack, had Ibarra’s blood on them, she added.

Also charged in the case are Maldonado’s father, David “Pops” Maldonado, represented by David Bixby; Jason Castillo, represented by Adrian Andrade; Reyes “Pumpkin” Gonzales, represented by Tom Allen; and Santos “Lil Tuffy” Sauceda, represented by Fred Foss.

The six men are charged with first-degree murder along with several special circumstances including lying in wait, kidnap, torture and gang involvement. They also face an allegation of committing a crime for the benefit of criminal street gang.

In addition, Ramon Maldonado faces two counts of witness intimidation.

Five other people — including the teen son of Ramon Maldonado and grandson of David Maldonado — were charged in connection with the slaying but cases against them have been resolved.

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 City College Seeks Car Donations for Automotive Department Classes

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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Students in the program learn to repair and maintain vehicles and need donated cars to work on

On Thursday morning, about three dozen students were busily working on vehicles in the cavernous garage that's home to Santa Barbara City College's Automotive Service and Technology Department. 

Students worked in groups and bustled among eight vehicles, ranging from a Ford Mustang to a BMW SUV to a Toyota Sienna minivan, as part of a brakes, steering and suspension class.

The department is in desperate need of donated vehicles to become part of its permanent fleet, which rotate in and out of the garage as students work on their classwork.

About 200 students are enrolled in the SBCC program, which offers classes on everything from Auto 101, a theory class, to more specialized and advanced classes like Principles of Hybrid and Electric Drives.

Students can receive an Automotive Certificate of Achievement in one year or an Automotive Services and Technology Associates Degree in two years. 

Students graduate from the program and go on to work at independent shops, repair shops at car dealerships and tire shops among others jobs, according to instructor Bob Stockero.

The department does not do repairs on vehicles owned by community members, but is looking for donated vehicles.

Stockero, who has been with the program for 29 years, said students work on their own cars, but having "fleet cars is a benefit in so many ways."

The newest car in their fleet is a 2000 Acura.

Fewer and fewer manufacturers have stepped up to donate to the program in recent years, and they are now depending on the community to help out so the students have a variety of vehicles to work on.

SBCC students work on an assortment of vehicles during an automotive department class. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Stockero said vehicles should be running, can't have any major technical issues and no cosmetic damage. 

Hondas, Toyotas and Volkswagens are especially desirable because the students will likely be working on those types of cars when they graduate.

Stockero said he's looking for vehicles that are between 1996 and about 2008, but would also take newer cars.

"We're looking for more mainstream vehicles," he said.

Stockero said that many people are likely to trade in their vehicles when they upgrade, but a tax donation made through the Santa Barbara City College Foundation might provide a greater tax write-off than a trade-in value.

"We're just saying keep us in mind, it's a tax deduction," he said.

Anyone with questions about donating a vehicle to the Automotive Technologies can email Stockero at stockero@sbcc.edu.

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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Vandenberg Beaches to Close for Snowy Plover Nesting Season

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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Vandenberg Air Force Base leadership is scheduled to temporarily close sections of Surf, Wall and Minuteman beaches Sunday.

Beach restrictions are enforced annually on all three beaches March 1 through Sept. 30 to protect the western snowy plover, listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and its nesting habitat.

"We protect the snowy plover by employing beach closures, predator management and habitat restoration to offset adverse effects of recreational beach use during the breeding season," said Samantha Kaisersatt, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron biological scientist. "Beach closures include a prohibition on dogs, horses and kites."

Seasonal beach violations are limited to 50 for Surf Beach, 10 for Wall Beach and 10 for Minuteman Beach. Entry into any posted closed area counts as a violation. If the specified violation limit is reached at a particular beach, that entire beach will be closed for the remainder of the nesting season. Violators of beach restrictions can be fined up to $5,000 in federal court. Violators of the Endangered Species Act (e.g. crushing eggs or chicks) can face fines up to $50,000 in federal court and imprisonment for up to one year.

During plover season, the general public can still find plenty of beach access available at a portion of Surf Beach at the end of Highway 246. Recreational beach access is also available at significant portions of Wall Beach off 35th Street and Minuteman Beach on north base for the Vandenberg community.

To ensure continued access to these beaches, observe and read the posted signage to avoid violations and beach closure.

 

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Man Gets 30 Years to Life for Multiple Rape Charges

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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A man found guilty of raping multiple women, one of whom was attacked and raped in a mall bathroom stall, was sentenced to 30 years to life in state prison on Friday.

Raul Antonio Yescas
Raul Antonio Yescas

Raul Antonio Yescas, III, 25, was found guilty in July 2014 of multiple rapes as well as a special allegation that the rapes were committed on multiple victims, according to a statement from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office.

The crimes stemmed from two separate incidents, the first of which occurred one night in late 2010, when Yescas raped an 18-year-old female acquaintance, a Santa Barbara County resident, inside her car that was parked in a downtown city parking lot.

Another incident occurred in early 2011, during the midmorning hours, when Yescas broke into a bathroom stall in the women's bathroom of the upper level of the Paseo Nuevo Mall and raped a 19-year-old woman inside the stall.

That woman was a resident of Los Angeles County, and Yescas’ DNA was entered into the State of California DNA felony arrestee database after a burglary conviction and was matched in October 2012 to DNA from the 2011 rape, according to the statement.

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley commended the Santa Barbara Police Department and the Department of Justice Criminal Lab in Goleta for their work in investigating, analyzing evidence and assisting Deputy District Attorney Ben Ladinig in the prosecution of the "heinous" crimes. 

Dudley also stated that the women should be commended for their bravery "in making sure that this sexual predator can no longer endanger women."

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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Community Volunteers Help Students Celebrate Dr. Seuss with United We Read Event

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and others head into classrooms at three local schools for a special storytime

Little readers at Franklin Elementary School got a special treat on Friday as two dozen volunteers entered their classrooms for a special storytime.

Volunteers, including Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, invited children to gather around as they brought in their favorite children's books as part of the United We Read event, hosted by United Way of Santa Barbara County's Young Leaders Society.

The event took place in advance of Dr. Seuss Day, which will be Monday, also referred to as Read Across America Day.

Since its inception, the Young Leaders Society has donated more than 650 books and more than $2,000 to local schools through the United We Read program

United Way officials also presented a $200 check on Friday morning to the Franklin School Library for books and supplies.

Those funds were raised by YLS volunteers last fall during their annual Bowl-a-Thon fundraiser.

It's the sixth year the organization has held the event, and sends readers to El Camino Elementary in Goleta as well as Aliso Elementary in Carpinteria, according to United Way's Steve Ortiz.

Sixty volunteers participated at the three schools on Friday, and the organization is always looking for more volunteers, Ortiz said.

The goal is to inspire children to read so they can be successful in their educational journey, Ortiz said.

In addition to having a book read to them, the children are also given a few minutes to ask the reader questions about their lives, Ortiz said.

The event lines up with education goals that the nonprofit has for the community.

"We realized a lot of kids are reading way below grade level," Ortiz said.

The classroom appearances are just one component of the reading outreach done by United Way of Santa Barbara County. For example, many young children in low-income households have no access to books, so the Dolly Parton Imagination Library has a book mailed to more than 1,350 county children under age 5 each month, at no charge.

Brad Smith, who works at Cottage Health System, was another reader who made an appearance in a first-grade class and chose to read Curious George Rides a Train.

"It's one of the most fun things I do every year," 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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David Harsanyi: There’s Nothing Unpatriotic About Challenging Obama on Iran

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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The Obama administration values a future relationship with Iran more than it values the historic relationship it has with Israel.

Unless there's a reversal in the reported deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran, all the superficial talk about this extraordinary friendship between Israel and the United States isn't going to mean much. And the histrionics surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned speech in front of a joint session of Congress only confirm that there are plenty of people who are happy about it.

First, Americans were supposed to be outraged because Netanyahu engaged in a breach of protocol. Then we were supposed to be outraged because the speech would be given too close to the upcoming Israeli elections. (Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., is still using this excuse for his own boycott.) But if the Israeli elections — and President Barack Obama's done about everything possible to weaken Netanyahu's position — are so problematic, then the controversy should be centered on the behavior of the prime minister, not the substance of his argument. That's not the case, is it?

Administration mouthpieces warn us that the once-special relationship between the nations will collapse under the weight of a single speech — and some of those warnings have come with a hint of anticipation. The real victims of Netanyahu? American Jews. Critics suggest that challenging the president while he is in the middle of foreign policy deal-making is both a bit unpatriotic and dangerously partisan.

But the problem isn't protocol, Israeli elections, patriotism or partisanship. It's the fact that Netanyahu is going to make a powerful argument against enabling Iran to become a nuclear power. Many Americans will hear it — or of it. Many Americans will agree.

Devotion to Obama is not the same as loyalty to your country. The opposition party, in fact, has a responsibility to disrupt the president's agenda if it truly believes that it's the wrong path for the nation. This is why we have political parties. And this is why I'm pretty sure many anti-war liberals believe that the Hillary Clintons and John Kerrys of the world failed the country leading up to the Iraq War.

And seeing as I brought it up, Secretary of State Kerry sure did offer us a jaw dropper Wednesday: "The prime minister ... was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush," the former presidential candidate said. "We all know what happened with that decision."

Yes, Netanyahu supported the Iraq War, but he did not send Americans to fight — nor will his upcoming speech. Kerry, on the other hand, engaged in a cynical voted for/voted against charade driven by his own political ambitions. But there is a bigger falsehood — let's call it presumption — here. Critics of Netanyahu act as if opposing Obama's Iranian deal is tantamount to declaring war on Iran. In the long run, allowing Iran to become nuclear might well mean war. We don't know.

We do know some other things. Whereas Obama looks to be comfortable with the expansion of Iranian power with proxies in Syria and Lebanon, our allies in Israel may not feel the same way. Obama may be comfortable with the idea that Tehran can develop powerful centrifuges that put them in a position to build a bomb within a year, but that reality is probably unsettling for the Sunnis and Jews in the area. In fact, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell says that a potential Iran nuclear agreement would limit Iran to the number of centrifuges needed for a weapon but not enough for the imaginary nuclear power program it wants.

So the question is: What does the United States gain from entering a deal such as this?

Netanyahu may mention some of these apprehensions. Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, says the visit is "destructive of the fabric of the relationship." It seems unlikely that Rice would ever use the word destructive to describe Iran's obsession with obtaining nuclear weapons — but "partisanship," now, that's really corrosive. The fact is that the alliance with Israel has never been much of a partisan issue in the United States. Not until now. And even today, only a handful of reliably anti-Israel politicians and a few Obama loyalists are skipping the speech so far. According to Gallup, 70 percent of Americans still have a favorable view of Israel.

So though there is plenty of criticism aimed at the aggressive methods of Netanyahu in Israel, there will also be widespread agreement among nearly all political denominations in the Jewish state regarding the substance of his speech and the warnings about a nuclear Iran. Surely, hearing out the case of an ally that is persistently threatened by Holocaust-denying Iranian officials doesn't need to come with this much angst from Democrats. But if it does, it's worth asking why.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @davidharsanyi, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Outdoors Q&A: A Right to Fish the Oceans of This Planet Without Permission?

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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Q: If I am in need of food for myself and family, would it be a crime to catch fish from the ocean for subsistence without a license, and if so, why? With inland waters I realize that lakes are stocked, policed and maintained and this service has to be paid for via taxes, licenses and fines. That’s understandable.

I am aware of states with coastlines having a mileage limit from shore to international waters, and the area in between is overseen by the Coast Guard. Should it not be a God-given right to fish the oceans and seas of this planet without permission from the powers that be? (Doug P.)

A: In California you can legally fish from public ocean piers without a fishing license. Finfish, crabs and lobsters may be found there in different areas. All regulations must still be followed but you can fish without a fishing license in these locations only. There are also two free fishing days per year (July 4 and Sept. 5 this year), allowing people to fish in ocean and inland waters without a license on those two designated days. In addition, any children in your family can fish without a license and be entitled to legal limits until they turn 16, when a license will be required. Except for the opportunities mentioned above, subsistence fishing without a sport fishing license in ocean or freshwater is not allowed.

California waters extend from the shore (high tide line) out to three miles, federal waters stretch from three miles to 200 miles and international waters begin at 200 miles out. All waters out to 200 miles are still patrolled and managed cooperatively with the federal government. Any fish taken outside of 200 miles must still meet all fishing regulations in order to be brought back into U.S. waters, and all fish landed at California ports must additionally meet all California regulations.

Fisheries in all state and federal waters have regulations and many have strict management guidelines to properly manage the take of various species to assure overfishing does not occur which could collapse those and related fisheries. Regulations and limitations of fishing activities and take is imperative, especially in waters of a state populated by 38 million people.

Scouting for Abalone Out of Season?

Q: I belong to a small group of diving enthusiasts and we recently had a debate come up where there are varying opinions on the subject of gauging abalone. One portion of the group is stating that it is perfectly legal to freedive with an abalone gauge out of season and measure abalone with the intent of coming back during the season to retrieve the abs. I believe this would be pursuing or hunting abalone and would be against the rules. I pointed out that the new 8 a.m. rule specifically states you can enter the water but not “be searching for” abalone prior to 8 a.m. This leads me to believe if it is illegal to search for abs during a time when “take” is not permitted, then it would be illegal out of season as well. Can you help us settle this debate? (Brian M., Antioch)

A: Yes, it would be legal to dive with an abalone gauge as long as you don’t dive with an abalone iron or other means to detach abalone. As long as there is no attempt to take the abalone, and it is not handled or detached from the rocks, it would be legal.

Driving at Night with Flashlights to View Wildlife

Q: My wife and I are outdoors lovers and we don’t want to break the law. We often drive back roads or dirt roads in and around Butte County armed with only a flashlight and no weapons to view and enjoy wildlife that wouldn’t be possible to enjoy in the daylight. Is this legal? (Dan, Oroville)

A: Yes, as long as you do not have a method of take with you. You may, however, attract the attention of wildlife officers that are on the lookout for poachers using spotlights to find game. These officers may pull you over and detain you to inspect your vehicle to ensure you do not have a method of take.  There are also some vehicle code provisions that prohibit the use of a flashlight or headlight on a public highway if it is shone into oncoming traffic or prevents other vehicles from seeing traffic control devices.

Treble Hooks for Halibut?

Q: I’m planning to go fishing for halibut and have read that the rig must not exceed two hooks. Can those two hooks be treble hooks?

A: Yes, you are not limited to two hooks and so treble hooks may be used (California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 28.65).

— 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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Donna Polizzi: Orcutt a Gem of a Destination Hiding in Plain Sight

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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Take an East Clark Avenue excursion to a charming Old Town and some of the best places to wine and dine in Santa Barbara County

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

For those who enjoy the finer things in life, visiting California’s Central Coast is truly an adventure.

For the past 15 years, my family and friends have had a blast seeking out great places to enjoy on the Central Coast. From Carpinteria to Paso Robles, the area offers locals and visitors nearly 150 miles of pristine beaches, freshwater lakes, scenic golf courses, world-class wineries, art museums, historic and spectacular Spanish missions, and of course, simply breathtaking natural scenery with ocean views rivaling any others in the world.

If you want to see rolling hills so green and picturesque that you’ll think you’re in Ireland, now is the time to hop on Highway 101 to take a day trip that’s guaranteed to energize, rejuvenate and entertain you.

There is a sweet spot that I would love to share with you. If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Orcutt, a quaint little town about an hour north of Santa Barbara and 40 minutes south of San Luis Obispo, you don’t know what you’re missing. Orcutt, with a population of around 29,000, has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, with an average temperature of 71.6 degrees. But that is just the beginning.

Orcutt can be found by exiting at Clark Avenue on Highway 101 south of Santa Maria. To the east, you’ll discover the breathtakingly beautiful Presqu’ile Winery, 5391 Presquile Drive. The scenic landscape, cozy fireplace and outdoor fire pits are a great place to sip an exceptional locally produced pinot noir and chardonnay while playing a game of horseshoes, or simply sit and enjoy the spectacular views.

Another favorite winery of mine is the Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard & Winery, located only five minutes away at 3940 Dominion Road. It is a beautiful winery with a friendly staff who can show you their wine caves. Oh and the wine ... it’s well worth the drive. Norm Beko, the wine maker is a Master.

If you head west on Clark, you’ll come upon numerous other places to sip, savor and shop.

Old Orcutt, which is about five miles west on Clark, offers several blocks of great restaurants like Ca’Del Grevino café and wine bar, 400 E. Clark Ave., and the Far Western Tavern, 300 E. Clark Ave.

The Far Western is a famous, and rustic, restaurant and saloon that offers up the best steak on the West Coast, according to the California Cattlemen’s Association. It is an obvious favorite local spot to enjoy cocktails in a beautiful bar or upstairs on the terrace.

Also check out a fabulous place called Deja Vu Antiques at the Loading Dock, 315 S. Broadway St. This is an old loading dock packed full of antiques, old signs, chandeliers, beautiful furniture and hundreds of unique items that you won’t find anywhere else.

For a delicious breakfast, check out Kay’s Country Kitchen, 135 E. Clark Ave., or Jack’s, 156 S. Broadway St., which serves up omelets big enough to share and at an incredibly reasonable price.

If it’s authentic Italian food you want, Trattoria Uliveto, 285 S. Broadway St., is another local favorite for a great meal with an elegant but casual atmosphere. Co-owner Alfonso Curti, who treats his guests like longtime friends,  recently served me a “Moscow Mule” in a hammered copper mug that has hit my favorite drink list.

And whatever you do, don’t miss out on Rooney’s Irish Pub & Brewery, 241 S. Broadway St. Tim Rooney brews his own beers on site with friendly service and a motto that says it all: “There are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met.”

If you want a great pizza, Patricio’s Pizzeria is a must, at 156 S. Broadway St., Suite E. It’s the best pizza I’ve ever had, and they’re known throughout the area for their amazing crust.

All of these hot spots are literally within minutes of each other walking, so get out of your car and enjoy the great weather and friendly people.

Old Town Orcutt has so many wonderful places to visit. Take a stroll in and around the town and you’ll discover a treasure trove of quaint stores and establishments.

For antiques, visit Vintage Veranda Antiques & Mall, 225 Union Ave. For a bar open 24/7, Elmer’s is a local institution at 241 S. Broadway St., Suite 101.

For more great wine tasting, CORE Wine Co., 105 W. Clark Ave., and Lucia’s Wine Co., 125 E. Clark Ave., are known for their great wine and friendly service. Both are owned and operated by award-winning winemakers.​

Orcutt offers a wide variety of things to enjoy. It’s an experience to remember and I bet that you will come back again and again. Hopefully, I’ve enticed you to get out and get here to enjoy this amazing place that is so close to home.

— Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys to the Coast, a Central Coast travel resource providing members with a customized list of recommendations on the best places that locals want to go. She can be contacted at news@noozhawk.com. The opinions expressed are her own.

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Sundowner Winds Expected in Front of Weekend Rains

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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Gusty sundowner winds were expected to rake parts of Santa Barbara County Friday afternoon and evening in advance of a weekend storm, according to the National Weather Service.

A Wind Advisory was issued and will be in effect from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. Friday, calling for northwest winds of 15 to 30 mph, with gusts to 45 mph.

Saturday's forecast was for a 40-percent chance of rain, increasing to 60 percent by Saturday night.

"The timing the way it looks now is we'll be seeing the precipitation chances increasing during the day tomorrow, and moving south overnight," said Mark Jackson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Sunday will see showery conditions, Jackson said, and then a break before a weaker system moves through the region on Tuesday.

Most areas should receive between a tenth and half an inch of rain, with some mountain areas getting more, Jackson said.

Snow levels are forecast to drop to around 4,000 feet, which could leave a dusting on local mountains, and affect travel on major routes such as Interstate 5 over the Grapevine north of Los Angeles.

Daytime highs through the weekend are expected in the upper-50s and low-60s, with overnight lows around 50.

Sunny skies and warmer temperatures are expected to return by mid-week, Jackson said.

[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.

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Mark James Miller: Obama Must Be Wary When Releasing the Dogs of War

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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On April 2, 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. The Falklands — a collection of  dreary, windswept strips of land jutting out of the cold water of the South Atlantic Ocean approximately 300 miles off the Argentine coast — were of no strategic value and had no precious natural resources to speak of.

In 1982, the population (nicknamed “Kelpers,”) numbered less than 2,000. The Falklands were a British possession, a throwback to England’s imperial glory days when it ruled an empire upon which the sun never set.

But to the Argentines, the continued British presence on land it had claimed as its own for 150 years was an affront that could no longer be tolerated. Quickly overwhelming the tiny British garrison, the Argentine forces lowered the Union Jack, raised the Argentine flag, and announced that the Falklands were now part of Argentina and would thenceforth be known by their Argentine name, the Malvinas.

The military junta that ruled Argentina had made the same mistake countless others have made in the past and will no doubt make in the future: By opening the Pandora’s box of war, they had set in motion forces they could not control.

Argentina had calculated that the English would not fight to retake these islands that were 8,000 miles from London and of no use to them. But the nation of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, Horatio Lord Kitchener and Sir Winston Churchill was not going to acquiesce in the face of such naked aggression.

Quicker than you could say John Bull, the British had assembled an armada of more than 100 ships, many of them filled with elite Royal Marines and paratroopers, as well as two aircraft carriers boasting state-of-the-art Harrier jump jets, and set out to recapture the Falkland Islands.

What followed was one of the most one-sided military campaigns of the 20th century. The Argentines, their soldiers mostly poorly trained conscripts, were no match for the well-drilled British troops and naval forces, who, despite being outnumbered 3-to-1 on the ground, seized the initiative and never let it go.

By June 14 the Union Jack flew over the Falklands once more and the Argentine flag was lying in the dirt. The Argentine junta, which had counted on a short victorious war to revive its sagging popularity, fell from power only a few days after the war ended.

The strategy of a “short victorious war” had backfired on the Argentines just as it backfired on Czar Nicholas II of Russia when he determined on war with Japan in 1904. Instead of the quick victory he had hoped for, Nicholas saw his huge but unwieldy military subjected to one defeat after another by the Japanese, who proved to be a much stronger opponent than the Russians had counted on.

Russia’s defeats of 1904 led to the revolution of 1905, which set the stage for the czar’s eventual overthrow in 1917.

A sign in Lithuania makes this point in another way: If you are facing east, the side you see reads, “Napoleon Bonaparte passed through here on June 22, 1812, with 500,000 men.” If you are facing west, the side you see reads, “Napoleon Bonaparte passed through here on December 12, 1812, with 9,000 men.” 

Napoleon had invaded Russia on June 22, leading his Grande Army of a half-million men. But he had made the same mistake as the Argentine junta and Nicholas II — he had set in motion forces he could not control. By letting loose the genii of war he had started something he couldn’t finish. He left behind, in the vastness of Russia, 491,000 dead men, a testament to the unintended consequences war can bring.

President Barack Obama has asked Congress for authorization to wage war in the Middle East against the Islamic State. It is unclear, as of this writing, whether Congress will approve Obama’s request for “limited” action.

But as Americans, this should give us pause, for it is eerily reminiscent of a similar request to use force made by President Lyndon B. Johnson in August 1964. Johnson asked Congress to approve military action in the Gulf of Tonkin in response to reported attacks on U.S. naval forces by the North Vietnamese.

Johnson’s request called for a response to these incidents only; it was assumed, though not completely clear, that if wider intervention was called for, he would return to Congress and ask for approval to do so. But the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed by Congress, led to the Vietnam War, which did not end until 1975.

In his speech making this request for war authorization, Obama said, “I’m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war.”

Let’s hope he means it. But we should keep in mind Johnson’s words from his 1964 presidential campaign: “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

Barely six months later, he ordered the first ground combat troops into South Vietnam, and there was no turning back.

No doubt the Islamic State is evil. No doubt only force will be needed to stop it. But war and the pressures it brings about can take on a force and logic of their own, and no one knows where they will end.

Let’s not forget that before and following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, supporters of the war proclaimed that we would find weapons of mass destruction that did not exist, and once that was established, they justified the war by saying the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein in it. Now these same people are telling us that the world is not only less safe but is even more dangerous than it was in 2003 and that another war is necessary.

“Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war,” proclaimed Marc Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. But in letting those dogs loose, we need to be sure they won’t turn around and bite us.     

— 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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Drs. Steven Barkley and David Fisk: Fear the Disease, Not the Vaccine

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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One simple action could save your child’s life. It could save your friend’s child. Your neighbor. Or someone across town, someone you’ve never met but might sit next to one day at a concert.

Our work revolves around protecting and caring for our community. With this in mind, we urge you to make sure you and your family have current vaccinations.

As the number of immunized children and adults decreases, we’re now seeing more cases of certain highly infectious diseases that hadn’t appeared in the U.S. in decades. It’s a dangerous trend. At the same time that we’re fighting to cure new diseases, we’re refighting battles against ones that our parents’ generation had all but eradicated for us. Their good work is being undone.

Vaccines are a lifesaving invention that can protect us from once-rampant diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox and whooping cough. These diseases have caused thousands of deaths and can have complications that include blindness, paralysis, infertility and brain injury.

It takes a 95 percent vaccination rate to protect a community. Many of Santa Barbara’s elementary schools are reporting vaccination rates of less than 80 percent, with some hitting an alarming low of 50 percent. With that many unvaccinated children, it is no surprise that we’re seeing outbreaks of disease.

You could make the difference for those who are most fragile, those who are at greatest risk if we don’t get vaccinated. Today, most deaths from whooping cough occur in infants less than 3 months old. These infants aren’t yet old enough to be vaccinated, so their safety relies on others getting vaccinated. Every family member and caregiver in contact with an infant must be vaccinated in order to cocoon the baby from potential exposure to whooping cough.

You could make the difference for those with weakened immune systems, and for patients on chemotherapy who can’t receive certain vaccines. Their health, too, depends upon the rest of us getting our immunizations. We can protect them by getting current vaccines, including vaccines for flu and pneumonia. A high rate of immunization is our best defense against these illnesses that can lead to serious complications for people of any age.

Imagine having to tell a person that their loved one died of an entirely preventable disease. As physicians, we are sometimes placed in that heartbreaking situation because our community, or even the person’s own family, did not have the vaccinations to provide protection.

If you are a parent of a young child, chances are you were vaccinated. We urge you to give your child that same protection. It’s an important decision, and there’s a lot of misinformation circulating. If you or your child hasn’t been vaccinated, see your doctor, get your questions answered and get the facts you need about risks and benefits of vaccines.

People sometimes tell us they worry about an autism link. The report that created this fear was falsified, and the British medical journal that published the report in 1998 retracted it two years later. In all the years since then, the rigorous research has been very clear: There is no link between autism and vaccination.

Today’s vaccines are closely monitored; they are safe and highly effective. Millions of Americans receive the recommended vaccines every year, and serious side effects are extremely rare.

Some people say they don’t want to take the risk. The truth is, the very real risks from disease far outweigh any remote risks of adverse reaction from vaccines. Two in a thousand people who get measles will die from the disease. One in a million will have a severe allergic reaction from the vaccine.

Santa Barbara is a vibrant community filled with parents who want to make healthy choices for their families. We see this every day. And as doctors and parents, we follow the same advice we give to our patients: We get vaccinated, and our families do, too.

As a community, by getting vaccinated and vaccinating our children, we can protect the next generation, today’s infants, and the most vulnerable. And for that reward, the risk and effort that fall on us are stunningly small. Let’s do this together.

— Steven Barkley, M.D., is the medical director of NICU an the chief pediatric medical officer at Cottage Children’s Hospital, and David Fisk, M.D., is the medical director of infection prevention and control and co-medical director of antibiotic stewardship for Cottage Health System and an infectious diseases physician for Sansum Clinic.

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Gerald Carpenter: New West Symphony Plans Three Performances of ‘Rachmaninov’ Program

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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The New West Symphony, conducted by music director Marcelo Lehninger, will play one program three times this weekend: at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27 in the Oxnard Performing Arts and Convention Center Oxnard, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28 in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks and at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 1 in Barnum Hall in Santa Monica.

Lehninger
Marcelo Lehninger

The guest soloist will be rising star pianist Sean Chen.

The program, bearing the name "Rachmaninov," will consist of three works: Igor Stravinsky's Suite No. 2 for Small Orchestra (1915), Camille Saint-Saëns' Concerto No. 2 in G-Minor for Piano & Orchestra, Opus 22 (1868) and Sergei Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2 in E-Minor, Opus 27 (1907).

As you can see, calling the concert "Rachmaninov" and promoting the evening with a picture of a brilliant young pianist is something of a bait-and-switch, since the Rachmaninov work is a piano-less symphony, and the pianist will solo in a concerto by Saint-Saëns. Yet, on the whole, I find it very easy to forgive this sleight-of-hand — the Saint-Saëns concerto is one of his most beautiful works; the Rachmaninov symphony is a flood of beautiful tunes and emotional catharses — and I only wonder why they bothered.

The Stravinsky Suite, composed in 1915 for piano and orchestrated in 1921, is a kind of mini version of L'Histoire du soldat. A sardonic neo-classicism is the pervasive mood. The composer wrote two sets of piano pieces in 1915, called Three Easy Pieces and Five Easy Pieces (Jack Nicholson fans will say "Hmmm!"). The Second Suite was arranged first, using the Three Easy Pieces and No. 5 of the Five Easy Pieces. The other four were arranged in 1925, as the Suite No. 1 for Small Orchestra. Stravinsky got a lot of mileage out of his smaller works, writing them on piano usually, then arranging them for small ensembles, and sometimes, renamed, for larger ensembles.

Saint-Saëns was as famous a pianist-composer in his day as Rachmaninov was in his, writing five brilliant piano concertos and a number of shorter works for piano and orchestra. All were premiered by the composer, and all were hits, when first performed — hits with the public, that is, rather than the critics.

As a social being, Saint-Saëns was not popular with his contemporaries, tending towards sarcasm and arrogance when he was dealing with his less intelligent or talented colleagues — that is to say, most of them. He lived a long time, beginning as a radical and ending (in the eyes of his peers) as an old fogie. He lived in the country in his later years, only coming to Paris, as he wrote to a friend, "to speak ill of Debussy."

The Second Concerto is by far his most popular, though this puzzles me, somewhat. To be sure, it is perfectly gorgeous — full of unforgettable tunes — and a dazzling showcase for the soloist. But the Fourth is equally beautiful, though in a different, spiritually majestic way. The Fifth, known as "The Egyptian," remains my favorite, probably because I heard it first, in a recording by Sviatoslav Richter, when I was a teenager. The other two are also worth reviving.

Tickets to this concert are $29 to $102. They can be purchased at one of the three venues, from the New West Symphony at 805.497.5800, or 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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Captain’s Log: Mako Shark Off Channel Islands Gives Angler a Battle to Remember

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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The sight gave us chills and goosebumps. We were several miles off the Channels Islands and had been drifting casually with a slow current and light breeze, metering out a judicious amount of chum while soaking live mackerels and chunks of fish.

Suddenly one of the guys sitting on the gunwale jumped up, hollered and pointed down into the water. We all looked over the side and watched the ominous shape of a large phantom glide gracefully under the boat. I saw enough of it to recognize it as a mako shark — and a big one at that.

We didn’t wait long. One of our heavy reels, a Penn International spooled with 80-pound line and a coated steel leader double-sleeved to a 9/0 hook, and mounted on a stout Cousins rod, zipped loudly but briefly. One guy picked it up out of the rod holder and looked to me for advice. I motioned for him to wait.

The rod tip bounced a couple of times as the shark got a better purchase on the bait and then the reel screamed as that phantom raced off. “Now!” I said. The angler spun the drag down, started reeling and set the hook hard enough to drive it through tough leather.

I always drift with the reel in gear, the clicker on and the drag backed off completely. This prevents a backlash, which occasionally occurs when a shark or other big game fish hits hard on the run, with the reel out of gear and only the clicker to slow the spool. To set the hook and fight the fish, we spin down the drag and then adjust it after the hookup. We set the clicker off when it becomes a nuisance.

We had a pretty big shark hooked up. I helped the angler make the shark work hard by coaching him to lift the rod and make the shark bend it. We watched in awe as the shark launched itself out of the water like an ICBM blasting out of a missile silo. Then it made a couple of prolonged runs that took better than half the line off the spool.

With no sign of that shark tiring, I fired up the engine and moved toward the shark while the angler reeled fast to keep the line taught. I kept the boat positioned so the stern was to the shark and the angler had the best angle.

After an hour, the battle still was not decided. The shark came near the boat twice, but it wasn’t tired enough nor close enough to think about touching the leader. After a third pass, the shark made a couple of rapid reversals and wrapped the leader around a fin. Now the mono line was against the shark’s rough skin back by the tail and the line parted before the brute could be brought to leader.

It’s a heartbreaker, but when dealing with large prime predators, it just doesn’t always go smoothly. We were going to release that big shark anyway, but we couldn’t honorably pronounce it caught because we hadn’t quite brought it to leader. No worries, another opportunity would swim by.

— 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 Dr. Douglas Mackenzie to Hold Free Seminar on Options for Nonsurgical Rejuvenation

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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Mackenzie
Dr. Douglas Mackenzie

Dr. Douglas Mackenzie will be holding a free seminar on options for nonsurgical rejuvenation at 6 p.m. March 5 at the Chase Palm Park Center, 236 E. Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara.

The focus will be on fractional lasering and the SmartSkin Microablative CO2 laser.

This customizable, fractional CO2 laser treats aging, sun damage, and laxity of the face, neck, chest and hands.

With a few days of downtime, years of damage and aging can be reversed. The SmartSkin CO2 can also improve surgical scars, acne scars, and stretch marks.

Special event-only pricing will be offered. Wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served, and a demonstration of the Intraceuticals Oxygen Facial system will be given by esthetician Sara Chavez.

This is an RSVP-only event. Guests are asked to call 805.898.0700 or email info@pacificps.com to sign up.

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‘Spring Friendraiser’ at Granada Books to Benefit Coalition Against Gun Violence

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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The Santa Barbara Coalition Against Gun Violence and Granada Books will present a "Spring Friendraiser" to benefit the Coalition Against Gun Violence from 5:30 to 7 p.m. during First Thursday, March 5 at Granada Books, 1224 State St.

Enjoy books, music, food, wine and friends.

This year the Coalition Against Gun Violence is celebrating 20 years of activism working to keep Santa Barbara a safer place to live. We invite friends and partner organizations to support CAGV by buying books from Granada Books. Browse while enjoying wine and cheese and live music.

Granada Books will donate 5 percent of its bookstore sales from 4 to 7 p.m. to the Coalition Against Gun Violence.

Please consider bringing a friend or family member and have them sign up to become a member of CAGV.

On display will be a collection of CAGV’s Gun Violence Prevention Books written by leading authors dealing with many aspects of the issue of guns in America.

All funds raised during this event are going toward CAGV’s second annual Gun Buyback on Saturday, June 13 at Earl Warren Showgrounds.

For further information, contact Toni Wellen at 805.684.8434.

— Danny Fitzgibbons represents the Santa Barbara Coalition Against Gun Violence.

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Bill Macfadyen: Flurry of Collisions Gives Road Worriers Pause in Santa Barbara County

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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3 fatalities and 5 major wrecks crash NoozWeek’s Top 5, which also says goodbye to Dr. Erno Daniel and sports a bikini line

There were 95,659 people who read Noozhawk this past week. As you’re about to see, things were pretty much a wreck around Santa Barbara County, or multiple wrecks. Five major crashes to be exact.

So, provided that my column is cool with the commissars at the Federal Communications Commission, AKA the government Министерство информации и печати, and their clandestine new “General Conduct” rules regulating what I can write on the Internet and what you can read, here’s my take on your top stories:

1. 13 People Injured in Collision of Passenger Van, Car on Highway 154 in Los Olivos

A Cadillac CTS collided head-on with a GMC passenger van on Highway 154 near Los Olivos the night of Feb. 21, leaving 13 people with a range of injuries. The 25-year-old Cadillac driver died of his two days later.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the Cadillac was traveling east at about 65 mph just before 10 p.m. when the driver turned left at Roblar Avenue — right into the path of the westbound van.

The vans’s driver — Blue Dascomb, 21, of Santa Ynez — braked and swerved but was unable to avoid a collision, the CHP said. The van veered off the roadway and overturned.

Authorities said the Cadillac’s driver — Austin Troy Bartoo, 25, of Santa Ynez — was not wearing a seatbelt and suffered major injuries in the collision.

Bartoo was transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, as were six others from the van.

Six more were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

CHP Sgt. Don Clotworthy told our Tom Bolton that Bartoo was driving while intoxicated at the time of the crash. He declined to reveal Bartoo’s blood-alcohol level, pending completion of the crash investigation, but noted it was above the 0.08-percent limit at which a driver is presumed drunk under California law.

“The cause of the accident is going to be driving under the influence of alcohol,” he said. “It’s sad, and it points out once again the danger of drinking and driving.”

Clotworthy said Bartoo was declared dead Feb. 23 and his organs were harvested for transplant.

You’d best use caution when driving through the intersection of Highway 154 and Roblar Avenue in Los Olivos these days. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)
You’d best use caution when driving through the intersection of Highway 154 and Roblar Avenue in Los Olivos these days. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

2. Major Injuries Reported in Head-On Crash on Highway 154 Near Los Olivos

Less than two days after the previously mentioned head-on collision in Los Olivos, a second occurred at the same intersection of Highway 154 and Roblar Avenue. Three people were seriously injured in that wreck, which was reported at 5:15 p.m. Feb. 23.

CalStar helicopter transported one victim to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. David Sadecki.

The other two victims were taken to the hospital by an American Medical Response ambulance.

Sadecki said one person was trapped in the wreckage and had to be extricated.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, and the CHP has not released additional details.

3. 2 Dead, Several Injured in Multiple Highway 101 Crashes

Two people were killed on Highway 101 the night of Feb. 22 in three separate crashes — two of which occurred within 40 minutes of each other.

According to authorities, a GMC pickup truck traveling north plunged into the creekbed between the northbound and southbound lanes near the Gaviota tunnel around 8 p.m. It took rescue personnel about 90 minutes to locate the vehicle in the rain and amid thick vegetation.

A passenger — a 64-year-old Lompoc woman — was declared dead at the scene, the CHP said. The driver, Mario Orellana, 52, of Lompoc, suffered moderate injuries, and was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The CHP blamed the wreck on excessive speed and slick pavement.

Just south of Orcutt about 8:40 p.m., a northbound Chevy SUV hurtled off the roadway near the top of the Solomon Grade, rolling over for about 100 feet.

Lindsey Marie Swallom, 32, of Santa Maria, died after being ejected from the vehicle, according to the CHP. She was not wearing a seatbelt, authorities said.

The driver — Raymond A. Fear II, 41, of Santa Maria — was transported to Marian Regional Medical Center with a broken clavicle and other injuries.

The CHP said Fear later was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. He was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail.

Meanwhile, three people suffered minor to moderate injuries earlier in the evening in a crash on southbound Highway 101 near the Highway 1 exit, north of the Gaviota tunnel.

All of the crashes are under investigation by the CHP. Light rain was falling throughout the region at the time of the incidents.

4. Renowned Santa Barbara Dr. Erno Daniel Dies at 68

Dr. Erno Daniel, a beloved, longtime Sansum Clinic physician specializing in internal medicine and geriatrics, died unexpectedly at his Santa Barbara home on Feb. 21. He was 68.

Dr. Erno Daniel would always see you now. (Daniel family photo)
Dr. Erno Daniel would always see you now. (Daniel family photo)

The son of professional musicians, Daniel was born in Hungary in 1946 and survived the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which was ruthlessly crushed by Soviet troops in one of the darkest chapters of the Cold War.

He immigrated to the United States in 1960 and became an extraordinarily proud U.S. citizen in 1964. That same year, he graduated from Santa Barbara High School, then earned a chemistry degree from Caltech, a master’s and a Ph.D. from UC San Diego, and attended UCLA Medical School.

After graduating from UCLA, he joined Sansum and the rest, as they say, is history. In fact, Daniel had a particular fondness for Sansum and its history, and last year he completed Noticias: The Legacy of Sansum Clinic, a book he wrote in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Daniel took an active interest in research into Alzheimer’s disease and received national acclaim for a book he wrote called Stealth Germs in Your Body. In his 35-year career, he went above and beyond providing TLC to thousands of patients, many of them multiple generations of families.

Daniel is survived by his wife of 38 years, Martha; their children, Kristina, Michael, Mary and Monica; and a half-dozen grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 28 at our Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, 1300 East Valley Road in Montecito. A celebration of his life will follow at The Fess Parker, 633 E. Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara.

Memorial donations may be made in his name to Sansum Clinic. Click here to make an online donation.

R.I.P.

Sew what? For Danielle Rocha, it’s only swimwear. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
Sew what? For Danielle Rocha, it’s only swimwear. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

5. Dos Pueblos High Grad Danielle Rocha Launches Her Own Bikini Line

Danielle Rocha is my kind of girl. And it’s not because the young entrepreneur has her own bikini company.

It’s actually because she has her own company.

Rocha, a 20-year-old alumna of Dos Pueblos High School, founded Rocha Swim last year after attending De Marcos Fashion Academy, which is run by my old friend, Jodi De Marcos.

A girl in a bikini ... because. (Rocha Swim photo)
A girl in a bikini ... because. (Rocha Swim photo)

She told our Gina Potthoff that her love of fashion and her favorite pastime of hanging out at the beach gave her the inspiration to start the company, which sells handmade Brazilian-inspired swimwear, mostly through an online store.

Rocha’s dad provided some seed funding, which enabled her to buy a couple of nicer sewing machines. A three-month Women’s Economic Ventures course helped her learn the business side.

Her swimsuits — tops, bottoms and one pieces — sell for $60 to $70 apiece. She launched her first line late last spring and a second line made its debut in January, with some styles already nearly sold out.

Although her online store isn’t the easiest to navigate (Don’t judge me; I was asked to do it by a friend), Rocha has hopes of winning a capital infusion from a FedEx small-business grant contest. Ten of the competition’s entrants will be awarded grand prizes of $25,000 each.

Rocha is up against 1,500 other businesses from around the nation, but Noozhawk readers can help her achieve her goal by voting for Rocha Swim — once a day until the contest closes at 9 a.m. March 17. Click here to vote.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week, from my peripatetic tour of the World Wide Web (Read it and try not to weep): She Takes Her Dying Pet Dog on a Bucket List Adventure.

HT to my friend, Kelly Gilfillan, CEO of Brentwood Home in suburban Nashville.

                                                                 •        •        •

Venture out on the ocean and you’ll often be chased by dolphins frolicking in your wake. Occasionally, orcas want to get in on the action, too. Think anyone on the boat needed a change of swim trunks after this?

(This Blew My Mind 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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Homeless Man Found Slain on Santa Barbara’s Eastside

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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Victim's bloody body was discovered Friday in a building alcove at Quarantina and Yanonali streets

The bloody body of a 40-year-old homeless man was found Friday just off an Eastside street, and Santa Barbara Police Department investigators have confirmed he was a homicide victim.

Officers were called out shortly before 7 a.m. to Quarantina and Yanonali streets after the body was reported by an employee of a business in the area, said Sgt. Riley Harwood​.

The remains were found in an alcove, up against a building owned by Marborg Industries, in an area frequented by transients, Lt. Brent​ Mandrell said.

The victim has been identified, Harwood said, but his name was being withheld while the investigation was continuing.

Harwood said the man definitely was a homicide victim, and "the manner appears to have been violent."

Blood was visible on the building wall at the crime scene, and around the victim's body.

The cause of death had not been determined, Harwood told Noozhawk in the early afternoon.

Crime-scene investigators from the state Department of Justice were on scene and assisting on the case.

A passerby reported the body to a Marborg employee, who called police, Harwood said, adding that investigators were still trying to locate the passerby.

Investigators confer at the scene of a homicide in Santa Barbara on Friday. A 40-year-old homeless man was found dead near Yanonali and Quarantina streets. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Harwood noted that homeless people sometimes camp in the location where the body was found.

Police have no suspects in the slaying, and it was unclear when the man died, Harwood said.

Anyone with information about the death is asked to contact Detective Andy Hill at 805.897.3716 or ahill@sbpd.com, or call anonymously to 805.897.2386.

Noozhawk Staff Writer Lara Cooper reported from the scene.

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.

Santa Barbara police were investigating a homicide on the city's Eastside on Friday. The bloody body of a 40-year-old homeless man is hidden by the shrubbery in this photo. (Urban Hikers photo)

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Four Santa Barbara County Spelling Bee Winners Advance to State Competition

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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Four local students have won the right to compete at the state level after coming out on top at the Santa Barbara County Spelling Bee, which was held Thursday at the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

Camille Cheng, a sixth-grader at Montessori Center School in Santa Barbara, took first place in the elementary division by correctly spelling “enmity.” Wesley Lin, a sixth-grader at Kellogg School in Goleta, took second place with “extraterrestrial.” Third place went to Srikar Mandineni, a sixth-grader at Hope School. His winning word was “oxidation.”

In the junior high division, Emily Vesper, a seventh-grader from La Colina Junior High in Santa Barbara, took first place by correctly spelling “blithesome.” Second place went to Alexandra Thompson, an eighth-grader from St. Louis de Montfort School in Santa Maria. Third place was won by Naomi Buchmiller, a seventh-grader from Carpinteria Middle School, correctly spelling “hyaloid.” The two top winners in each division will proceed to the state level.

Thompson
Alexandra Thompson of St. Louis de Montfort School in Santa Maria took second place in the junior high division. (Santa Barbara County Education Office photo)

Vesper
Emily Vesper of La Colina Junior High in Santa Barbara took first place in the spelling bee's junior high division. (Santa Barbara County Education Office photo)

Thanks to The Masons Lodge, The Women’s Service Club of Goleta, and Town and Country Women’s Club for their donations. This year, two donors, Rafael Saavedra and Claudia Mazzotti, donated $1,000, which was divided up among the first-, second- and third-place winners in the elementary and junior high school bees.

The 2015 Elementary State Spelling Bee, for grades 4 through 6, will be held April 18 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton. The 2015 State Junior High Spelling Bee, for grades 7 through 9, will be held May 2 at Miller Creek Middle School in San Rafael.

More information is available from Rose Koller of the Santa Barbara County Education Office at 805.964.4710 x5222.

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

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Dos Pueblos Boys Varsity Tennis Team Wins First Match of Season

By | Published on 02/27/2015

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In Thursday's boys varsity tennis season opener, the Dos Pueblos Chargers celebrated a nice win, 10-8, versus the visiting Thousand Oaks Lancers.

The focus and mental toughness were quite apparent on all of the courts.

In singles, we got three sets, thanks to Patrick Corpuz, who made use of his rocket serves to sweep in commanding fashion, giving up only four games.

Quinn Hensley was the last to finish and had three long sets. Unfortunately, the sets did not go his way; nonetheless, he kept his audience captivated with the long rallies.

Also showing good efforts in singles were Ryan Daniel, Christian Hodosy and Ryan Hodosy.

In doubles, the Chargers took seven  of nine sets. The team of Miles Baldwin and Vincent Villano played efficiently and powerfully, allowing  only three games in their sweep. Mason Dochterman and Bryce Ambrose moved brilliantly and also snagged three; and Garret Foreman and Chris Lane took one, using a variety of unusual shot selections. Also, Ameet Braganza and Ryan O'Gorman played an intense match in the third round.

We coaches are very proud of the team's performance in their first match of the season. We appreciate the wonderful group of spectators — family, friends and members from the JV team. Way to go, Chargers!

Next up for the Chargers is a road trip to play Campbell Hall next Thursday.

— Liz Frech coaches boys’ tennis at Dos Pueblos High School.

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Testing Equipment Focus of Testimony in Santa Ynez Valley DUI Trial

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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Testimony in the trial of a Santa Ynez Valley man charged with drunken driving, causing a crash that critically injured his passenger who later died, centered on the equipment the California Highway Patrol used to measure the driver’s blood-alcohol content.

Benjamin Bettencourt, 39, faces two charges related to driving while under the influence of alcohol and driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher in addition to a pair of enhancements of causing great bodily injury.

Bettencourt, a paraplegic due to injuries he received in another fatal accident in which he driving years ago, was driving Nov. 24, 2012, when his specially equipped van went off Highway 246 between Buellton and Solvang. The van struck a tree, critically injuring Jennifer Clark, 39, of Los Olivos.

The local teacher and volleyball coach died of her injuries several days later at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

One witness, California Highway Patrol Officer Scott Williams, spent Thursday in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court trial in Santa Maria testifying about the policies and practices of maintaining and operating equipment used to measure drivers’ blood-alcohol levels.

In addition to routine accuracy tests, the machines also are calibrated.

Defense attorney Darryl Genis asked the CHP officer about the procedures used to confirm the system’s accuracy and practices for calibrating the machine used to conduct field sobriety tests. Genis asked Williams when the machine was previous calibrated, but the CHP officer said he couldn’t say since his records only go back to January 2013.

“You cannot tell this jury this device was calibrated before it was used on my client?” Genis asked.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Kevin Duffy asked what happens if accuracy doesn’t come within the acceptable ranges during tests. 

At that point, Williams said, the machine would be calibrated. 

“It doesn’t happen that often,” Williams said of the number of times inaccurate readings occur.

Positive alcohol test readings are possible with a “swish and spit” of alcohol, Genis said, calling that a classic mouth alcohol while demonstrating with a sip of water he spit into a cup.

Genis asked if Williams knew that eating white bread, white rice or soy sauce can lead to field breathalyzer tests of 0.10.

“I did not know that,” Williams said.

Genis said that if the prosecutor had made the device available in the courtroom he would demonstrate, drawing an objection from Duffy.

“My point is, if there were a device here, I’ve got white rice and soy sauce. We could do the Pepsi challenge,” Genis said.

“This is not the Pepsi challenge,” Judge Rogelio Flores said, ordering the defense attorney’s comment to be stricken.

Under questioning from  Duffy, the CHP officer said a 15-minute observation period helps ensure a suspect hasn’t recently eaten food, taken a drink or otherwise done anything to affect a breath test.

“So in an abundance of caution you almost double it?” Duffy asked.

“Correct,” Williams said.

Post-crash breathalyzer tests results said Bettencourt’s blood alcohol content was 0.126 and 0.129. Tests on blood taken more than an hour later revealed a blood alcohol content of 0.088, Duffy said.

In pre-trial motions, Genis fought to get blood evidence banned from being presented to the jury. During the defense portion of the trial, Genis is expected to have an expert testify alleged flaws regarding the lab that performed the blood tests.

Earlier this week, testimony came from employees of establishments where the defendant and victim drank alcohol and ate food in the hours before the crash along with a friend who was with the pair at those locations.

The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday. It’s expected to stretch at least into mid-March, according to some estimates.

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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Fire Crews, Bomb Squad Practice Hazmat Response in Montecito Training Drill

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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Teams from local agencies work through disposing of hazardous materials and decontaminating each other in case of exposure

Montecito-area firefighting crews from multiple agencies worked Thursday morning, with many wearing head-to-toe protective gear and breathing apparatus, as part of an annual training drill to make sure they're prepared for an encounter with hazardous materials during the course of their work.

Miramar Avenue was closed down to traffic on Thursday morning as crews from the Montecito, Santa Barbara and Carpinteria/Summerland fire departments were on scene for the drill, as well as members of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department and its bomb squad robot.

Members of MERRAG, the Montecito Emergency Response & Recovery Action Group, a network of volunteers who train to respond to community disasters, also helped out. 

It was part of a required hazardous material training that each agency needs for certification, and crews worked through various scenarios, including one where radioactive material was found in a parked abandoned car.

Crews practiced how to safely approach and dispose of the material. 

"It's a great opportunity for all of these South Coast agencies to work together," said Geri Ventura, spokeswoman for the Montecito Fire Protection District.

Groups also practiced decontaminating team members with hoses and scrub brushes after being exposed to hazardous chemicals.

Crews "find" radioactive material in an abandoned car during Thursday's hazardous materials drill. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Montecito Fire Capt. Dave Andreas was overseeing one of the scenarios, and said hazardous materials are something firefighters deal with often.

"Chemicals are transported on the road every day," he said. "If there's an accident or a spill, that's when we have to come out and take care of it."

Andreas said that overturned tankers of gas or an accidental mix of household chemicals that create toxic fumes are examples of situations where hazmat skills would be required.

The drill is scheduled to continue on Friday morning.

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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UCSB’s Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity Forced to Close

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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For the second time in three months, a fraternity at UC Santa Barbara has been shut down for violating the policies of its national chapter.

The Phi Sigma Kappa National Fraternity this week suspended the charter of its UCSB chapter at 6547 Cordoba Road in Isla Vista in a decision backed by university officials.

That move comes on the heels of another fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, losing its charter in December, allegedly due to disciplinary violations that culminated with alcohol hazing that sent two members to the hospital.

In this week’s case, the national Phi Sigma Kappa organization didn’t elaborate on what the “violations of policy inconsistent with the fraternity’s founding principles” were.

But executive vice president Michael Carey told Noozhawk they were “damaging enough that we thought the only recourse we had was to close the chapter.”

According to a statement from UCSB, the closure was prompted because of “unsafe new-member education practices,” creating a dangerous environment for Phi Sigma Kappa members and the entire UCSB Greek community.

The local Phi Sigma Kappa chapter was founded in 1966, closed in the 1990s, and reopened again in 2006, said Carey, who wasn’t sure why it closed previously.

“Over the years, they’ve been a relatively good chapter,” Carey said. “It was unfortunate that we had to close the chapter, but we hope to come back and be part of the Greek community.”

Undergraduates still living in the Phi Sigma Kappa house can stay through the end of the current academic year, assuming they fulfill lease obligations and conduct themselves appropriately, said Daryl Lu, president of Signet Housing Corporation, which owns the Isla Vista property.

What would become of the house after that wasn’t yet finalized, Lu said.

“For nearly five decades, the UCSB Phi Sig chapter has been a positive member of the campus community, providing leadership in student government, the Interfraternity Council, and other campus organizations; engaging in numerous philanthropic activities; and promoting scholarship, sportsmanship, and the personal and professional development of its members,” Lu said in an apologetic written statement.

“The reputation that we earned and valued has been seriously damaged by the failure of the chapter to abide by our principles.”

A fraternity typically must wait at least four or five years to regain a charter, Carey said.

Prior to this academic year, the last time UCSB had to close a fraternity was two years ago, when the national chapter shut down Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

It’s been a tough year for Greeks on campus, but UCSB Inter-fraternity Council President Carl Provenzano said sororities and fraternities plan to stay around a long time.

“The men in Phi Sigma Kappa are a phenomenal group of guys,” Provenzano said in an email. “They are leaders on campus and in the community. Many of them are and will remain close friends of mine.

“This is not the first time a Greek chapter has closed on our campus, and it probably will not be the last. IFC is always open for expansion, and we plan to continue to grow in the future.

"The (Phi Sigma Kappa) charter can be reinstated one day, but that day will probably not be for many years.”

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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Gerald Carpenter: ‘The Insect Comedy’ Opens Friday at Westmont

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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The Insect Comedy, or The World We Live In (1921), by the brothers Čapek (Karel and Josef), will be the beneficiary of a new production in Westmont College's Porter Theatre, opening this Friday, Feb. 27, and running through March 7.

It is directed by John Blondell with sets by Danila Korogdsky, costumes by Miller James, lighting Jonathan Hicks, choreography by Victoria Finlayson, and starring nearly a score of the most talent actors and dancers at Westmont.

The premise is fairly simply: A tramp goes into a forest, falls asleep and dreams that he encounters three different insect societies — butterflies, dung beetles, ants — who demonstrate their particular resemblance to a corresponding human society — lovers, capitalists, proletarians. The points the play makes about humans, through the interactions of our insect avatars, are obvious, though none the less powerful for being easy to grasp.

A quarter-century later, George Orwell would make similar points with his fantasy Animal Farm. (Doesn't this sound like it was destined to be a John Blondell project, even though it was written well before there was a John Blondell?)

The great literary critic Walter Benjamin dubbed Paris "The Capital of the 19th Century." There is quite a strong case to be made for dubbing Vienna — or the Habsburg trinity that also includes Prague and Budapest — "The Capital of the 20th Century." This is not particularly good news, of course, since the typical Central European solution, to the insoluble problems of modern life, was suicide. Still, wherever Freud and Kafka and Schoenberg — and the Čapeks — looked, they seem to have found the future.

It was seldom pretty. Though not Jewish, the Čapeks were strongly and vocally anti-Nazi, and had Karel Čapek not died of double pnuemonia on Dec. 25, 1938 (age 48) — just after the Nazis had annexed the Sudetenland, just before they swallowed up the rest of Czechoslovakia — it's likely that he would shared the fate of Josef, who died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in April, 1945, just before the Nazi surrender ended World War Two in Europe. Even if they had both lived through the war, they would have found themselves in a Czechoslovakia firmly under the thumb of the totalitarian Soviet Union, where it remained for the next forty years.

"Today," Blondell says, "the play seems downright prophetic considering the time of its writing and the madness that was to grip Europe still 15 or so years in the future. Though written in a decidedly different time and place, the play appears completely timely, pertinent and relevant — by turns, the play depicts scenes about the perils and pitfalls of romantic love; the desire for security and safety in a perilous, hectic modern world; and the larger global threats to personal and communal living.

"Though all this sounds very serious, the play is indeed a comedy, and we are working hard for it to be at once fantastic, human and funny. [It] has been at times exciting, harrowing, confusing and thrilling to stage. The trick is to find the humanity in the situations, to create moments that feel and seem potent and recognizable, all the while hanging onto the notion that the Čapeks read human life through that of the lives of insects."

The Insect Comedy plays at 8:30 p.m. Fridays Feb. 27 and March 6, at 8 p.m. Saturdays Feb. 28 and March 7, and at 2 p.m. March 7. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, seniors and children, and they can be purchased at the door or 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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Cox Communications ‘Disappointed’ by FCC Passage of Net Neutrality Proposal

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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The following statement from Cox Communications can be attributed to Dave Bialis, senior vice president and region manager for California.

“Cox is disappointed in today’s FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband as a Title II utility-style service using 80-year-old telephone regulations. Enacting Title II is an unnecessary government overreach that goes beyond net neutrality protections and is a risk to the Internet, which has been an ever increasing robust engine of commerce, communications and learning since its creation.

"The adoption of Title II regulations leaves open the distinct possibility of new taxes and increased costs for consumers. The FCC decision is sure to be challenged in court causing a great deal of uncertainty that will have an impact on future investments and innovation.

"To be clear, Cox fully supports the net neutrality principles of no blocking, nondiscrimination and transparency. We have abided by the original net neutrality rules even after they were overturned by the court.

"Our commitment to broadband in the 'light' regulatory environment allowed Cox to be an innovator and to invest in our broadband network to the tune of more than $15 billion in the last 10 years.

"It’s time for congressional action to deliver permanent net neutrality protections that we all support.”

— Ceanne Guerra is a public relations manager for Cox Communications.

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David Sirota: Private Equity’s Private Math — Investments Come at Steep Price

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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To the casual observer, the investment returns recently announced by the California pension system might seem like cause for celebration. The state's investments in firms that buy private companies generated a 20 percent return in 2014.

California's $30 billion worth of private equity investments did not come cheap, incurring almost $440 million worth of annual management fees paid to financial firms. But the double-digit gains helped the system generate some of the best overall pension returns in the nation — positive news for taxpayers and for state workers who rely on the system in retirement.

Across the United States, similarly robust returns have proven key elements in the Wall Street sales pitch that has persuaded state and city pension overseers to entrust vast sums of money to private equity managers. The private equity industry has successfully portrayed itself as no less than a savior for underfunded pension systems. By one estimate, $260 billion of public money is now under the management of these firms.

But as Congress now considers reducing regulatory scrutiny of private equity firms, one problem complicates the narrative: A lot of the gains the private equity industry purports to have achieved are of the on-paper-only variety. Far from cash in the bank, they are instead estimates of the value of assets that have yet to be sold. Not only that, the estimates are largely self-reported by the private equity firms themselves — and new research suggests that the firms may be embellishing those estimates.

That is the conclusion of a paper by investment banker Jeffrey Hooke and George Washington University researchers. They essentially created a portfolio of publicly traded companies that they say closely resembles the kinds of privately owned companies that private equity investors buy. They then weighted their portfolio's returns to reflect the same level of debt that private equity firms typically impose on their portfolio companies.

The researchers argue that their portfolio should show roughly the same returns as the private equity industry. Yet the private equity industry's stated returns were noticeably less volatile than the publicly traded companies' returns. The researchers assert that this suggests the private equity industry uses its latitude to self-value its own portfolios in order to make its returns look "smoother" than they actually are.

"Investors may have been unfairly induced into placing monies into these investment vehicles," they conclude.

None of this should be particularly surprising. After all, allowing Wall Street firms to self-value their investments is akin to a homeowner being invited to make up her home value estimate when applying for credit. And unlike a professional home appraisal, private equity firms' estimates are difficult to verify — as the California Public Employees Retirement System notes on its website: "There are no generally accepted standards, practices or policies for reporting private equity valuations."

Considering the new research, the situation would seem to warrant more objective scrutiny of the investment industry. Yet, that's not the direction of today's legislative debate. House Republicans have criticized increased government oversight of private equity firms and lately have been pushing legislation to exempt those firms from Securities and Exchange Commission oversight that could more seriously scrutinize self-reported valuations.

Of course, if this were just an issue affecting rich investors, then perhaps it would be an example of the wealthy bilking the wealthy. But this is about billions of dollars worth of public money. If the books are indeed being cooked, then untold numbers of public employees could see their retirement savings evaporate, and taxpayers could be on the hook for some of the losses.

As the Enron debacle and the 2008 financial crisis proved, failing to strengthen oversight in the present could set the stage for a disaster in the not-so-distant future.

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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Ken Williams: America’s Promises Ring Hollow for Disabled Soldier Denied by V.A.

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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The following story highlights the frustrations of many veterans in their interactions with Veterans Affairs.

A friend of mine who served in Vietnam and received an honorable discharge has just been denied his V.A. disability claim for a life-threatening bone marrow disorder caused by exposure to Agent Orange.

If that wasn’t enough, the ingredient in this witch’s brew that links his rare disease to Agent Orange — benzene — is also one of the three main chemicals that compose napalm. This is pertinent as he spent time in combat inhaling this deadly chemical.

The V.A. instructed him, per protocol, to see a doctor for an evaluation of this condition. When he called to ask for a phone evaluation with this doctor instead of the scheduled face-to-face visit, as he had just spent 10 days in the hospital due to complications from his condition, he was informed that he had to keep the appointment in person or reschedule for God knows when.

Sensing that time was of the essence, and in need of the financial support to fight this disease, he kept the appointment. In his weakened condition, he was shocked when the doctor stated that he was confused as to how exactly he was to evaluate my friend’s condition. Blood pressure was taken along with a few other cursory, non-helpful and non-invasive tests. In all, he was with the doctor for less than 10 minutes.

My friend ended up feeling sorry for the doctor as he was put in an extraordinary and untenable position of trying to establish a condition with which he was completely unfamiliar. In fact, he whispered under his breath these same sentiments.

My friend's oncologist had previously established the life-threatening condition by multiple blood tests and an unpleasant bone marrow biopsy, as had doctors at Stanford University Medical Center. Did the V.A. really think a 10-minute exam by a doctor who was totally unfamiliar with this rare disorder could verify the medical condition?

The V.A. sent my friend correspondence stating that any new evidence be mailed to the address they said was included in the attached pamphlet. Unfortunately, no such pamphlet was attached. Repeated phone calls failed to find anyone with such an address. Finally, he was able to hunt down the address on his own. And what was the nature of the evidence he wished to submit? Two additional doctor statements tying his condition to exposure to Agent Orange and napalm. Already part of his case was a statement from a V.A. doctor stating that in all likelihood napalm and Agent Orange caused his condition.

Rep. Lois Capps’ office was finally able to submit the new evidence. Regrettably, his case was denied. It is unknown if the new evidence was considered before the case was denied. He is waiting for the written denial to see exactly what was considered at the time of denial.

In the meantime, bimonthly blood transfusions are needed to keep him alive. His bitter relationship with the V.A. keeps sliding further into a black hole. He waits for the written denial knowing that three doctors, independent of each other, including one with the V.A., have come to the same conclusion as to the probable cause of his deadly disease.

“Welcome home. Thank you for your service,” the V.A. proclaims. These statements ring rather hallow to this man. He is simply another veteran to be discarded once his service to his country was completed.

Somehow in his naivety, he assumed his country would have his back if and when the price of combat came due. I guess some would say my friend was a sap to ever really believe that.  But that was what got him in trouble in the first place — believing his country and government when they said the nation was facing dangers overseas and needed young men such as himself to defend our way of life. He learned the hard way that lies were built on top of lies. He also learned the value of the promises made so long ago by his country to take care of war-related disabilities.

There was more than angry bullets in a faraway land that he should have been careful about. Broken promises at home hurt much more than the actions of the enemy. Betrayal by citizens of one’s own community is so much crueler and has a unique pain all its own.  I’m at a loss of words as to what to tell my friend. “Thank you for your service” definitely won’t be part of the conversation.

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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No Charges Yet Against Truck Driver in Oxnard Train Crash

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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Jose Alejandro Sanchez Ramirez remains in custody in suspicion of hit and run, with bail set at $150,000

[Click here for updates to this story]

Jose Alejandro Sanchez Ramirez

Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten announced Thursday that no charges will be filed at this time against Jose Alejandro Sanchez Ramirez, the driver of the truck involved in Tuesday's commuter train crash in Oxnard that injured 30 people.

The ongoing investigation is complex and involves numerous local and federal agencies, including the Ventura County District Attorney's Office, the Oxnard Police Department and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The DA must wait until the investigation is completed before making a formal decision regarding filing charges, according to a statement released by Totten's office.

"While the charges will not be filed at this time, the arrest of (Ramirez) by the Oxnard Police Department was clearly appropriate and lawful," the statement says.

A federal team leading an investigation into this week’s commuter train crash in Oxnard said they expect to know much more on Thursday about what happened.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigators have started reviewing data from video cameras recovered from the train.

"We can confirm that the forward-facing video camera did record data. We can also say that the forward-facing cameras did record the accident sequence. It recorded the actual collision," said NTSB member Robert Sumwalt.

Sumwalt said the train’s recorders were flown to the agency’s lab in Washington, D.C., where they were being reviewed.

Preliminary information from the data recorders show the train was traveling under the speed limit of 79 mph. But much more was expected to be known by later Thursday and released at a media briefing.

"We are very early in the investigation, but I do think by tomorrow we should have some good information," Sumwalt said Wednesday.

A few minutes after leaving the Oxnard Transit Center at 5:39 a.m., Metrolink Train 102 crashed into a truck abandoned on the tracks near Fifth Street and Rice Avenue, authorities said.

Three cars flipped in the crash, the truck pulling a trailer burst into flames, and 30 people were injured, four critically.

Police said Ramirez, 54, of Yuma, Arizona, mistakenly turned onto the tracks instead of the road.

Sumwalt said the truck made it 80 feet down the tracks, where it was when the crash happened.

The driver, a mechanic with The Growers Company, Inc., of Somerton, Arizona, got out of the truck as the train headed toward it. He was later found walking and disoriented about a mile and a half from the crash scene, police said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, he was arrested on suspicion of felony hit and run with multiple injuries, police said.

Ramirez was scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon. He was being held in Ventura County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.

His attorney, Ron Bamieh, said he has filed a motion to have Ramirez released on his own recognizance.

Ramirez mistook the tracks for a road, Bamieh said, and continued driving. When he realized his mistake, he kept going, looking for a way off the tracks.

That’s when he saw the bright lights of the train 200 to 250 yards away, Bamieh said, so he ran.  

Bamieh said Ramirez tried to get help after the crash. The attorney disputed accounts that his client was found a mile and a half from the scene.

Of the 30 people injured and assessed at local hospitals Tuesday, eight were admitted. Six remained in the hospital Wednesday night, two still in critical condition.

The two in critical condition, including the train's engineer, were at the Ventura County Medical Center. The engineer's heart stopped Wednesday morning, but doctors were able to revive him, officials said.

This was not a traditional grade-crossing accident, Sumwalt said Wednesday.

The vehicle was not stuck at the grade crossing, either trapped between the gates or somehow bottomed out on the crossing itself, he said.

“What happened after it traveled westbound, why it remained there, is what we intend to find out,” Sumwalt said. “Why was that truck there? That’s a key question. And, once it was there, why did it not move?”

He said investigators likely will learn more about those issues after speaking to the truck driver and watching the video recorded from the train.

“We want to learn anything that we can from his perspective to help explain how that vehicle ended up driving down a railroad track,” Sumwalt said.

NTSB officials have reached out to Ramirez through his attorney, asking to talk to him about what happened Tuesday.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to interview the driver of that truck,” Sumwalt said.

But as of Wednesday, he didn’t know when that would happen.

Wednesday was the NTSB investigators first full day on the scene. As part of their investigation, team members are examining the interior and exterior of the train cars, which were moved to a Metrolink yard in Moorpark.

Investigators also are examining road markings and signage, traffic signals at the grade crossing and testing those signals.

In addition, investigators will look at street lighting to see if the grade crossing was adequately illuminated, and are working with the city of Oxnard to obtain traffic counts and road maintenance information.

Along with reviewing records and interviewing staff at both Metrolink and the Arizona company considered the operator of the truck involved in the crash, the NTSB team will look at 911 records and emergency response logs.

On Thursday, investigators were expected to start 3-D laser scanning of the train cars, the truck and the grade crossing. Those 3-D representations will help them continue their work once they leave Ventura County, Sumwalt said.

Marjorie Hernandez is a reporter with the Ventura County Star. Contact her at mhernandez@vcstar.com.

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Roberta Heter Joins Family Service Agency Board

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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Family Service Agency is pleased to welcome Roberta Heter to its Board of Directors.

Heter
Roberta Heter

Heter, a Lompoc resident for 50 years, comes to FSA with extensive experience in education and the nonprofit community.

She worked for the Lompoc School District for 30 years in various capacities as teacher and administrator, most recently as principal of Lompoc High School. She is also a current board member and past president of the Region XIII of the Association of California School Administrators, having served in this capacity since 1985.

She received the 2013 State Retired Administrator of the Year award and is an active mentor for current administrators. She is also a member of the Santa Barbara County Board of Education.

Additional board involvement includes terms with the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Foundation, the Lompoc Library Foundation, Lompoc Little League, Lompoc Youth Football and Lompoc Babe Ruth Auxiliaries.

Heter and husband Tom have four children, 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling and dirt track racing, where they regularly serve on the pit crews for a car they own and one they sponsor.

The Family Service Agency has long been regarded as one of Santa Barbara County’s most reliable and effective nonprofit organizations. Established in 1899, FSA continues to improve the health and well-being of the community’s most vulnerable children, families and seniors through their transformative and essential programs: Big Brothers Big Sisters, Senior Services, Family Support Services, Youth & Family Behavioral Health and School Counseling Services. Their programs combine clinical expertise, bilingual and bicultural staff, and close collaboration with other agencies. At FSA, all services are provided free or on a sliding fee/donation scale and no one is denied assistance because of an inability to pay.

For more information, visit fsacares.org or call 805.965.1001.

— Melinda Johansson is the marketing manager for the Family Service Agency.

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Assistance League Volunteers Help Assemble Smile Kits for Dental Clinics, Health Fairs

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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Volunteers from the Assistance League of Santa Barbara assembled more than 1,200 Smile Kits and other tools to teach brushing, flossing and nutrition to be used at the Eastside Dental Clinic Education Center.

Volunteers staff health fairs where our community partners request our participation; distribute Smiles Kits, play games and answer questions on  nutrition at these fairs.

The Assistance League of Santa Barbara is a nonprofit all volunteer organization that develops and implements projects to benefit children and adults in the Santa Barbara County since 1947.

— Mary Heron is the public relations chair for the Assistance League of Santa Barbara.

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UCSB Assistant Professor Jon Schuller Receives CAREER Award from National Science Foundation

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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Light: It’s all around us and is an integral part of our daily lives. Yet it continues to surprise us with its distinctive properties, such as how its various wavelengths can be utilized for imaging things invisible to the naked eye, or how it can store and transmit massive amounts of data, or how it can generate energy.

Schuller
Jon Schuller (Ian Barin photo)

Such beneficial manipulation of light is the purview of Jon Schuller, UC Santa Barbara assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, who has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to study how light interacts with certain materials, particularly those with complex and asymmetric molecular arrangements, such as plastics.

“Getting the CAREER Award is a great honor,” Schuller said. “It’s a great validation for me and my work as a young researcher.”

The award, which amounts to $500,000 over five years, will allow Schuller and his research group to examine the interactions between light and possible alternative semiconducting materials.

Whereas conventional photonic (light-manipulating) materials such as silicon crystals tend to exhibit uniform optical behaviors in all directions (isotropic), other materials, including plastics, have optical properties that differ by direction (anisotropic).

Schuller’s research group will focus on examining the complex optical properties of organic (carbon-based) materials such as plastics.

Their findings could in turn lead to developments that could enhance the performance of organic photonic devices. Additionally, the research could open new doors to the manufacture of low-cost, lightweight and flexible semiconductors that can harness and manipulate light for various applications.

“As optical engineers, we’ve been limited for the last 200 years to this very small subset of materials that nature gives us,” Schuller said. “And so what we try to do is build materials that have properties that are not found in nature.”

The potential applications for these not-found-in-nature materials could be found in the field of very high-resolution imaging, next-generation telecommunications technology and energy production and storage.

In addition to supporting scientific research, the grant will fund various associated educational and outreach-oriented efforts, including an ongoing initiative called “The Art of Science,” an annual competition that encourages researchers to express the beauty that can be found in scientific investigations. Already in its second year, the contest features the work of students who have displayed their art at the UCSB Library and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

The NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Such activities should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

— Sonia Fernandez represents the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

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Radius Report: South Coast Logs Record 103 Commercial Sales in 2014

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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Radius Commercial Real Estate & Investments has released its 2014 South Coast Commercial Real Estate Year-End Report, and we thought it couldn’t get any better.

In 2014, more commercial properties were sold in the South Coast than ever before, totaling 103 transactions and just under half a billion dollars in sales volume ($425,899,476 to be precise).

Consider that it was not long ago in 2009 when the market, in the midst of the Great Recession, sunk to a measly 35 sales. Still, perhaps it is even more impressive that at 103 deals, we not only crushed the previous record of 85 sales set in both 2005 and 2012, but we did so on the heals of a very strong 3-year stretch from 2011 to 2013 (71, 85 and 83 sales respectively).

So Are We At the Peak?

As 2014 proved, records are made to be broken. It was a record breaking year not only for Radius but for the commercial real estate market as a whole, and we really see no signs of a slowing market. Already this year there are some very large properties in escrow, the pool of buyers remains strong and there are several large properties slated to come to market. Not to mention interest rates have fallen, enticing investors to both purchase properties with leverage as well as refinance and pull more money out to look for new investments.

Radius
Last year’s 103 sales easily smashes previous records set in both 2005 and 2012 for most commercial sales in a year. How will 2015 shake out?

While we may be at the peak number of transactions due to limitations on our inventory, it does not necessarily mean prices will fall or cap rates will increase.

National Trends

According to a recent Bloomberg article, in some larger markets such as New York and Los Angeles, residential real estate markets are seeing the impact of the oil crisis and the strengthening US dollar affect home prices as foreign investors simply do not have the same buying power. Locally, it is doubtful that we will see the same impact as the number of foreign buyers is extremely limited. However, we could see a slowing in the number of transactions to be more in line with the 17-year average of 64 sales per year.

What Drove Sales?

In the fourth quarter, there were several large 1031 exchange transactions and several buyers who took their gains from other investments, but the primary factor that contributed to the swath of sales in 2014 was increased investor confidence and a general easing of the financials markets.

Simply put, banks are doing loans at or near historically low interest rates. While it is true that many buyers bought properties without loan contingencies, it was not uncommon that the money used to purchase property came from refinancing other assets, meaning that interest rates still played a large role in influencing sales.

Local Economic News

The unemployment rate in Santa Barbara County has fallen to just 5.7 percent, as reported by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics on Dec. 30, 2014. Industry sectors such as farm, leisure and hospitality, construction, financial activities, professional and business services, and educational and health services combined to add 5,600 jobs in Santa Barbara County in April 2014 alone.

radius
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 2015.

The accompanying graph tracks the unemployment rate in Santa Barbara County since 2006, and it has not been this low since October 2008, the beginning of the Great Recession.

According to a recent Noozhawk article, Santa Barbara County’s unemployment ranking in April, compared to the other 57 counties in California, positioned the county in ninth place behind Sonoma, Santa Clara and San Luis Obispo counties. In fact, the unemployment rate in south Santa Barbara county in particular is very low, around 3 percent, versus the state average of 7 percent.

Development

Big news: Entrada De Santa Barbara has broke ground! The developer received their grading permit, allowing them to level the parcel adjacent to Mountain Air Sports (previous home to Wheel Fun Rental & Hot Spots Coffee). In addition, the creek widening project at Cabrillo Boulevard where Rusty’s previously was located has also broke ground.

Several other projects are slated for development in the State Street beach front area including the children’s museum and the extension of the Harbor View Inn. Look for the lower area of State Street to be congested for the next several years as these construction projects take off.

What to Look for in 2015

You may recall, in our previous quarterly reports from 2014 we anticipated smooth sailing until interest rates inevitably rose due to the Fed abolishing quantitative easing in Oct. 2014. We suspected this would be the catalyst for slowing the current bull market.

What we did not foresee was that interest rates would actually decrease amidst the current oil crisis and the effect of the strong US dollar which deters foreign investment in the U.S. The realization we came to is something we already knew, that the market is much more dynamic than we give it credit and the future is impossible to predict.

What’s next is very difficult to say. We still believe interest rates will rise at some point, but the reality is our financial system is very complex so when rates will rise and to what degree is unknown. Rising rates will drive rising cap rates which may slow and turn the market, but until then, hold on.

Click here to download the complete report online.

— Vince Coronado is the marketing director for Radius Commercial Real Estate & Investments.

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Pioneer Valley Student Athletes to Share Joy of Reading at Elementary School

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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Pioneer Valley High School student athletes plan to make a point that reading is important at nearby Oakley Elementary School on Friday.

The uniformed athletes and few staff members will arrive at the school about 10:30 a.m. The community outreach effort is part of the National Education Association’s “Read Across America Day” program.

The students and staff will read with the youngsters and share stories about how they developed a love for reading.

“I feel honored to be able to spend time with the students and interact with them," said Ashley Ando, a senior cheerleader. “I’m probably more excited than they are."

Assistant Principal Greg Dickinson believes that community service is an important part of being a student athlete.

“We want to encourage youth from our feeder schools to get excited about reading," Dickinson said. “It’s important to teach our students the importance of giving back to local schools and the community."

The athletes represent the baseball, softball, soccer, basketball and cheerleading programs.

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

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Man Pleads Guilty to Threatening to Blow Up His Montecito Home

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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David William Tallman is sentenced to 5 years of probation for July 2014 incident

David William Tallman

A Montecito man who threatened to detonate an explosive device in his home in July 2014 pleaded guilty to three felony charges this week.

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced Thursday that David William Tallman, 66, pleaded guilty to arson of an inhabited structure, criminal threats and resisting a peace officer and one misdemeanor count of violating a court order.

Dudley said she did not offer any plea bargain in the case.

Superior Court Judge Michael Carrozzo sentenced Tallman to five years of probation, in addition to the time he has already spent in custody.

If Tallman violates probation, he could serve up to 10 years and four months in state prison, Dudley said.

Tallman has been in custody since July 7, 2014, when Dudley said he threatened to blow up his Montecito residence using acetylene gas.

The incident began about 3:15 a.m. at a home on the 1300 block of Virginia Road, when Tallman called 9-1-1 and told dispatchers he had several acetylene tanks, firearms and ammunition, and was threatening to use them to blow up his house, according to county sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

Dudley said Tallman was a jeweler, and used the acetylene tanks to make jewelry, releasing the gas and igniting it with a flame device.

He also made threats against two sheriff’s deputies who had recently taken him into custody on a mental health hold, Dudley said.

Numerous emergency personnel responded to the scene, and he was ultimately apprehended by deputies after about six hours.

Responding firefighters from the Montecito Fire Protection District found evidence of a small fire in the defendant’s residence, she said.

Dudley said Tallman was required to undergo a mental health evaluation upon his release from custody Tuesday. He also must reside in a sober living home and register as an arsonist for life.

“Arson is rarely a victimless crime,” Dudley said in a statement. “Therefore, we will continue to prosecute arsonists as we would any other violent offender.”

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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Transient Injured In Jump Off Santa Maria Rooftop

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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A transient was critically injured Thursday when he jumped from the roof of a Santa Maria restaurant, according to the ​Santa Maria Fire Department.

Crews responded to the single-story Shaw’s Steakhouse in the 700 block of Broadway about 8:30 a.m., Acting Battalion Chief Thomas Crakes said.

The man was taken by helicopter to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment of head and leg injuries, Crakes added.

His name and age weren’t available but he reportedly is a transient who was one of two people sleeping on the roof.

A worker who heard the noises on the roof yelled for them to get off, leading to the jump

Santa Maria police are looking into the incident, but it appears to be an accident, Sgt. Alfredo Ruiz said. 

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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Allan Hancock College Invites Students of All Ages to Take ‘Campus Cruise’ Tours

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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Allan Hancock College has experienced a recent spike in requests for campus tours from teachers of elementary to high school students, which helps prove no one is ever too young to go to college. Hancock administrators are encouraging parents and teachers of children of all ages to register for a tour, recently branded as the “Campus Cruise.”

“I think it is important to expose students to college at an early age,” said Vice President of Student Services Nohemy Ornelas, M.A.

Recently, four third-grade classes from Tunnell Elementary School in Santa Maria viewed the millions of dollars in upgrades and renovations made possible by Measure I, which community voters approved in 2006. Their one-hour tour included visits to classrooms, labs, Joe White Memorial Gymnasium, and other stops around the 105 acre park-like campus.

The Campus Cruise evidently impressed the young visitors.

“My favorite part was going inside of the science class because I like science a lot and I want to be a scientist when I grow up,” 9-year-old Javen Claborn said.

“My favorite part was seeing the beautiful murals and the bookstore because there were a lot of clothes, pencils, keychains and other cool stuff,” added 8-year-old Jericho Laya.

The tour is intended to inspire visitors and showcase the college, its more than 100 areas of study, as well as the state-of-the-art facilities.

“The Campus Cruise provides our community not only with an opportunity to learn about our programs, but also a chance to begin to conceptualize their futures and picture themselves as college students,” Ornelas said.

Not only did the third-graders draw pictures of what they saw on the tour, many of them said they planned to return one day as a Hancock student.

“I plan to go to Hancock because I want to have a good job,” third-grader Mikaylah Perez Cantu said.

“I want to go to Allan Hancock College because my mom and my uncle went there,” Claborn said. “I plan to go there to be like my mom and I think it is a great college.”

General guided campus tours are free and available on Thursdays from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Click here for more information or to sign up to take a Campus Cruise. For groups larger than 25 people, email cfreeland@hancockcollege.edu or call 805.922.6966 x3565 to tour the Santa Maria campus, or to visit the Lompoc Valley Center, email jadams@hancockcollege.edu or call 805.922.6966 x5249.

— Gina Herlihy represents Allan Hancock College.

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San Marcos Thespians Upbeat About Spring Musical ‘Crazy for You’

By | Published on 02/26/2015

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The San Marcos High School Performing Arts Department presents the 1992 Tony Award-winning romantic musical Crazy for You, based on the 1930 musical Girl Crazy with a book by Ken Ludwig and featuring the music of George and Ira Gershwin. Crazy for You is directed by Riley Berris.

In this hilarious tale of boy meets girl, Bobby Child (Ryan Ostendorf), the son of a wealthy banking family, struggles to make it in the world of show business. Sent to foreclose a theater in a ghost town in the middle of nowhere, Bobby falls in love with Polly (Lana Kanen), the tough and spunky daughter of the theater owner (Kellen Romano).

After realizing Bobby came to foreclose the theater, Polly rejects him. Bobby attempts to save the theater by putting on a show with his charismatic dancing showgirls (Courtney Morse, Carly Johnson, Emma Inglehart, Kaitlyn Griswell, Sommer Fox, Brooklyn Snyder, Avery Sorenson and Olivia O’Brien) and comedic local cowboys (Geoffrey Lambeth, Ricardo Leao, Ryan Diaz, Adam Childs, Jace Wright, Eli Wright, Kai Kadlec and Nick Slaughter).

Under the guise of the world-famous Hungarian director Bela Zangler (Jason Gonzalez-Larsen), Bobby tries to win Polly’s affection while avoiding the town’s saloon owner, Lank Hawkins (Michael Libera), who will do almost anything to make sure the show does not go on.

With classic Gershwin songs such as “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Slap That Bass,”  “I Got Rhythm,” "They Can’t Take That Away from Me" and "Nice Work if You Can Get It," this performance’s mix of energetic tap dancing, stunning vocals and eccentric characters makes this show an adrenaline rush not to be missed!

“Having worked under David Holmes on one of the most dramatic and tense musicals of our day last year, I decided to go in another direction to bring light and laughter on to San Marcos' stage," Berris said. "This piece has such an amazing collaborative team of artists. It has been such a blast working with two insanely talented choreographers (who the kids love!), the amazing Carolyn Teraoka-Brady on vocals, and wonderful Michael Kiyoi who conducts the orchestra. This show will be visually exceptional, and is as funny as it is heart-warming. I am so happy to have chosen such a fitting play for our group of students.”

Crazy for You plays at 7 p.m. April 30, May 1-2 and May 7-9 at the San Marcos High School Theater, 4750 Hollister Ave. in Santa Barbara.

Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for students and seniors, and $8 with a Royal Card. Buy tickets at the door, online by clicking here or by phone at 805.967.4581 x5568.

— Diego Neira is a senior production crew student at San Marcos High School.

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Mayor, Manager Promote ‘Santa Maria Way’ for Keeping City Healthy and Growing

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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A new police station is at the forefront as Mayor Alice Patino and City Manager Rick Haydon give the 'State of the City' presentation

A new police station will provide creative revenue streams for the City of Santa Maria, officials told a group of business leaders Wednesday while also sharing unique solutions to other problems facing the community.

Mayor Alice Patino and City Manager Rick Haydon gave the “State of the City” presentation Wednesday to the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce Business Development Forum.

Approximately 70 people attended the event at the Santa Maria Fairpark, where the city leaders reviewed the goals and provided updates on several projects such as the new police station on West Betteravia Road.

“The new facility comes with a lot possibilities for the city,” Haydon said.

In addition to having space for the department’s computer server, the station will have room to accommodate others seeking the security and reinforced structure required of a police station for housing their computer servers. At least three firms are exploring renting space for their server farms in the city building, according to Haydon.

“We see that as another way of generating additional revenue, thinking outside the box, in order to make our tax dollars go further,” Haydon added.

A new radio communications system will have the ability to link other agencies in the region and will be one of only three in the state boasting the capability, Haydon said. This could provide another moneymaking opportunity for the city.

The first occupants will move into the new police station this spring or early summer, Haydon said, and emergency dispatchers will move in this fall. 

The 70,000-square-foot facility cost the city $30 million. Santa Barbara is seeking a new police station that is expected to be 40,000 square feet, or half as big as Santa Maria’s, but cost nearly twice as much, or $65 million.

“Why is that? Because that’s the Santa Maria way,” Haydon said. “We try to be creative in what we did rather than purchasing and starting from the ground up and getting the land and building the facility.”

As for the current station, the city is exploring whether Santa Barbara County Probation Department officials or Santa Barbara County Superior Court representatives are interested in acquiring the Cook Street facility, Haydon said.

Haydon
Santa Maria City Manager Rick Haydon presents slides during Wednesday's state of the city presentation. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Funding from sale of that building would be used to renovate the old library building to house the staff from the planning, building and recreation and parks departments, some of whom currently are sheltered several blocks away from City Hall. The intent is to create a one-stop shop for residents.

Santa Maria has taken measures to battle some local issues, such as launching a task force to tackle the growing number of auto thefts in the city, officials noted.

To stem panhandling, the city has installed special parking meters at several key locations where panhandling is more prevalent, officials said. People are encouraged to put their donations into the special meters, with funding from the pilot program going to three nonprofit groups that provide bedding, food-related services, and treatment programs for homeless residents.

Haydon said the Police Department is acquiring five surveillance cameras that will be portable, with footage sent to police supervisors. The gear will be capable to reading license plate numbers.

“What we plan on doing it deploying them in certain areas of the city,” Haydon said.

For instance, one will be positioned on North Blosser Road, where street racing is a problem. Others could be deployed to target areas of prostitution, something a local business person complained about to the mayor.

“I think it’s really interesting because people don’t realize there’s trafficking going on in Santa Maria, there’s trafficking going on in Santa Barbara County. ... It’s becoming more and more of an issue,” she said.

Technology has changed prostitution with websites set up to connect prostitutes with clients, she said, adding local police are working to stop the crimes.

The city’s annual budget is $150 million, spending about $400,000 daily providing services to the community, city officials said.

“Measure U was a saving grace from the public safety standpoint for the City of Santa Maria,” Haydon said.

Before voters approved sales tax hike known as Measure U in 2012, the Police Department had a number of vacant positions and the city could staff two new fire stations, Haydon said. The additional $4 million received annually primarily pays for police and fire personnel.

During the recession, the city lost $11 million in revenue, eliminating jobs, putting employees on furloughs and getting rid of contracts. Even with Measure U, the city revenue is lagging behind the pre-recession numbers, he noted. 

The city workforce of 483 employees adds up to slightly more than four per 1,000 residents. By comparison, San Luis Obispo has eight employees per 1,000 residents, Lompoc has 7.5 and Santa Barbara has 10. The Santa Barbara comparison eliminates the marina and airport staffs.

The city plans about $2.9 million in street and road projects this year, but slightly less next year due to lower revenues blamed on falling gas prices, he said.

Patino also provided a peek at part of a business climate survey conducted by the Chamber of Commerce, revealing many local employers plan to expand their workforce or remain the same.

“We’re seeing a lot of optimism out there,” Patino said.

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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Letter to the Editor: America a Nation of Hypocrites?

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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ISIS is disgusting and demonic in its nature and methods. The world is aghast at the barbarism we see on a daily basis.

While we, as Americans, find their actions deplorable, we should look at ourselves, first, as a nation of "civility."

Since Roe vs. Wade, there have been around 50 million abortions performed here with little outcry. We look the other way, and allow the atrocities to continue from both sides of the globe.

Randy Rosness
Solvang

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Santa Barbara Parks Commission Considering More Off-Leash Dog Areas

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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MacKenzie Park and Ortega Park are among four locations listed in a feasibility study presented to the public

Santa Barbara could gain more off-leash dog park areas, and four possible locations were presented to the public Wednesday.

Dwight Murphy Field (near the Santa Barbara Zoo), Ortega Park (near Santa Barbara Junior High), MacKenzie Park on upper State Street and the Sheffield Reservoir Open Space near Mission Canyon have made the short list of contenders, according to a Draft Off-Leash Dog Areas Feasibility Study prepared by the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department.

Locals got their first glimpse of the study Wednesday during a regular meeting of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission.

Commissioners unanimously voted to recommend further evaluating those four sites plus Plaza Veracruz Park, a small downtown park they agreed was underused.

The draft study was commissioned last fall to identify possible new locations within city parks and city-owned property after residents petitioned for more off-leash space, Assistant Parks & Recreation Director Jill E. Zachary said.

Since no funding exists for adding another off-leash area, Zachary said, the department would prepare reports for future budget cycles.

And since only one public speaker showed up to the meeting, commissioners didn’t think staff should be in any hurry.

The study targeted areas that could accommodate a fenced-in, off-leash dog park, especially in areas that didn’t already have one.

After evaluating and visiting 49 parks and open-space areas, as well as the Sheffield Reservoir Open Space, which is owned by the city Public Works Department, parks staff asked to focus on the remaining four, which would involve developing conceptual designs for improvements, meeting with neighborhood residents and proper permitting.

The areas met neighborhood-compatibility and size requirements — at least a third of an acre available, but ideally up to one acre.

Dogs are currently allowed on leash in all 350 acres of accessible city park land, minus Plaza de la Guerra and the beach from the Shoreline Park Steps to the easterly city limit.

Canines are permitted off-leash in about 305 acres of unfenced recreation areas within the Douglas Family Preserve, the beach between Arroyo Burro Estuary, and the Shoreline Park Steps, Hale Park and Elings Park.

Parks staff discussed management considerations, including loss of vegetation, parking, dog aggression and neighborhood opposition.

Any new off-leash area would also need amenities such as bathrooms, depending on location, and require turf and overall park management — costs staff hadn’t yet calculated.

“Fencing is key,” said City Animal Control Officer Jeff Deming, going so far as to suggest separate areas for large and small dogs.

Commissioners were least excited about the smaller Ortega Park, where traffic is high and parking is scarce.

The eastern corner of MacKenzie Park (away from the ball fields) and Sheffield Reservoir Open Space were lauded as ways to bring an off-leash park to the northern end of town, taking pressure off the crowded Douglas Family Preserve.

Local dog owner Bob Cunningham, who takes his pet to Elings Park, suggested the commission consider finding more off-leash beach areas, possibly at East Beach.

“I’m a little hesitant to take on the additional maintenance,” Commissioner Jim Heaton said. “But (the study) does give us something to point to. I think it’s a good thing to move forward with at this point.”

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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Guadalupe Council Declines Action on Farr’s Request to Oppose Refinery Rail Spur Proposal

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Saying they needed more information from both sides on the controversial Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery rail spur project, the Guadalupe City Council declined to endorse or otherwise take action on a letter recommending San Luis Obispo County officials reject the project..

Mayor John Lizalde brought the matter to the council after receiving a letter from Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr opposing the rail spur project and asking the city to take a stand against the rail spur proposal. Lizalde said Tuesday night he sought other council members’ opinions about the letter, not the actual refinery project.

“She specifically was hoping either that council would endorse her letter or send their own letter,” City Administrator Andrew Carter said. “It is really your call what you want to do with this.”

Farr’s letter urges the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission to reject the proposal that would involve rail cars full of oil traveling through the heart of her district, which includes Guadalupe, Goleta and the Gaviota Coast.

“The proposed project is of great concern, due in part to the volatility of Canadian tar sands, and the proximity of the proposed route to highly populated areas. An accident would have catastrophic consequences for my constituents, as well as the sensitive environment of the Central Coast,” Farr said in the letter.

The Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery, which has operated on 1,600 acres on the Nipomo Mesa in southern San Luis Obispo County for nearly 60 years, has proposed to add 1.3 miles of new track, an unloading facility and pipelines at the site to transport the crude oil to processing.

“I don’t think we should take this lightly. I think if we’re going to do anything we need to do it on our own based on facts,  and there’s tons of information on the pros and cons of it,” Councilman Ariston Julian said. “I would like this community to know more about what’s happening with that,” Julian said, noting officials in Moorpark and Ventura County have opposed the project.

Both Lizalde and Councilwoman Gina Rubalcaba agreed that more information is needed. 

“It’s a big thing right now, and maybe they need to come let the community know more about it,” Rubalcaba said.

A number of groups opposed the project including the year-old Mesa Refinery Watch Group.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Guadalupe resident Jorge Gil noted that the entire city of Guadalupe is within the blast zone for the trains if an explosion occurs..

“Trains go through Guadalupe all the time. If you recall not too many years ago we had a blast zone of Corona beer,” resident Shirley Boydstun said. “Maybe nicer than oil, but things happen. … There’s a lot of what ifs.”

Saying he has mixed feelings about the project Councilman Jerry Beatty noted the refinery long history of operating safely on the Nipomo Mesa, but also expressed concerns about potential risks if a derailment did occur.

“With all due respect to Ms. Boydstun, if a Corona beer rail car derails you bring the lime and salt and have a party,” Beatty said. “If an oil tanker derails you bring a hazmat team in here, you shut the city down for weeks so there are some definite problems. I also don’t see any positive financial benefit to the community,” he said, noting the increased rail traffic could add noise for the planned DJ Farms residential development.

The proposed project involves up to five trains a week with approximately 80 tanker cars stretching 1.5 miles each via the Union Pacific Railroad.

A draft environmental impact report drew some 11,000 comments, according to the San Luis Obispo County Tribune.

Refinery officials note that the changing industry is requiring them to seek oil from other sources with rail being the only way to get the product to the site since it doesn’t have an ocean off-loading facility.

The facility already processes California crude oil received via an underground pipeline. 

The transportation of oil via rail has sparked concerns in the wake of a Quebec oil train explosive derailment that 47 people in July 2013. Last week, another oil train derailed in West Virginia, with the fire burning a house and sending oil into a nearby river and water treatment facilities.

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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Golden Inn & Village Project Raises $525,000 of $800,000 Fundraising Goal

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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With the support of the community, the Rona Barrett Foundation’s Golden Inn & Village has raised $525,000 toward the construction of the first affordable senior housing and residential care “aging in place” facility in Santa Ynez Valley that is designed to serve the community’s most vulnerable residents.

“I’m thrilled with the response,” said Rona Barrett, president of the Rona Barrett Foundation, which is championing the project. “We have received donations large and small. The most heartwarming are checks from individuals, who may only be able to afford $50 or $100 but who understand what we are trying to achieve and want to help. We love the large donations, too!”

As a condition of receiving the $23 million in tax credits that will allow the construction to begin for the GIV, the Rona Barrett Foundation must raise the remaining $275,000 by this Sunday, March 1. The foundation thanks its community partners and individual donors for donations so far toward a critical $800,000 funding goal.

The tax credits also mean that for every $1 a supporter donates to the Campaign for the GIV, an estimated $23 will be returned as community dividends in the form of local jobs, local salaries and local expenditures for equipment, transportation and supplies.

Construction for the GIV is slated to begin in March with a completion date in the fall of 2016. The Golden Inn & Village is a mixed use development in a neighborhood setting that will provide approximately 150 affordable units for low-income seniors to reside in a comfortable, supportive environment that meets their needs as they age. Services will range from independent to assisted living and memory care to hospice all on one campus. The programs and services provided will be coordinated in collaboration with multiple community partners and engage the broader community at large, avoiding duplication and leveraging strengths, while multiplying benefits to all.

The Golden Inn & Village was conceived specifically to address the needs of our senior loved ones, parents, friends, neighbors and especially orphaned seniors — those who have no one left to care for them. It is for seniors who live within our area but, with resources dwindling, are forced to survive on little more than Social Security.

For more information about or to donate to GIV, click here.

— Kelly Kapaun is a publicist representing the Rona Barrett Foundation.

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Ron Fink: Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Immigrants the Tip of the Iceberg

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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It all started so innocently with Democrats proposing to make our highways safer.

One thing I will give liberals credit for is always having a plan. They start slow and make their schemes sound innocent. For example, they sold most people on the idea that offering driver’s licenses to illegal aliens was a good idea because it would somehow make the roads safer.

Well, who could argue with that logic? The benefit to liberals was that no one could prove if their plan made the roads any safer or not. Or, did they have another more sinister goal?

So, what was the result? There is early DMV data.

According to CBSLA.com, “The Department of Motor Vehicles is so overwhelmed with requests for new driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations that it can take up to three months to get an appointment or a half-day wait in the lobby.” A DMV spokesman said the DMV is working to address the problems, but some people have to take a day off of work to handle a 15-minute transaction.

According to a Tribune News report tabulating the first month totals on Feb. 5, only 57,000 out of 415,000 tested could pass the driver’s test successfully.

OK, so hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens can’t pass the test. What’s missing here is a comparison of test results for a one-month period for legal residents. That would put this in perspective, but the reporter apparently didn’t ask that question.

Not discussed anywhere is how much this is all costing us legal citizen taxpayers. Surely the $33 fee doesn’t cover all the administrative costs.

And, what about those 358,000 who couldn’t pass the test. Are they still driving?

Keep in mind that the liberal goal has always been to circumvent the naturalization process for millions of people they call “undocumented immigrants.” So driver’s licenses were chosen in California as the entry point for their amnesty plan; but driver’s licenses are only the tip of the iceberg. What happens after the person who entered our country illegally gets a license?

This is where the Obama administration doubled down and has apparently determined that illegal aliens could be granted quasi legal status by fiat.

Let’s start with Social Security numbers. I bet you thought you had to be a citizen to get one of these, didn’t you? Well, according to a Fox News report, “Illegal immigrants who apply for work permits in the U.S. under President Obama’s new executive actions will be eligible for Social Security and Medicare, the White House says.”

A Social Security number gives you the right to work, thus millions of formerly undocumented workers can replace American citizens in the work force. You have to wonder what impact this has on the unemployment figures for citizens of the United States.

What about taxes? Some say it’s only right for a person who pays in to the system to receive benefits. I would agree with that. But Townhall.com reported that President Barack Obama’s IRS commissioner confirmed in recent Senate hearings that “the newly quasi-legalized-by-fiat immigrants (would) also be able to claim retroactive refunds for up to three years — even if they didn't file or pay taxes at the time.” Wow, talk about freebees!

Then there is the core issue — voting rights. You would think that you have to prove that you are a citizen to register to vote. You would be wrong.

Once again Townhall.com reported that during a House of Representatives’ committee hearing earlier this month that the secretaries of state from Kansas and Ohio pointed out to the committee that “for an estimated 4 to 5 million noncitizens, the president’s executive actions provide access to Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses. These are the same documents that federal law requires the states to recognize as valid forms of identification for voter registration.  Under federal law, anyone with a valid Social Security number or driver’s license number can register to vote, provided they attest that they are a U.S. citizen.”

Federal law applies to California, too, and I’ll bet that during voter registration drives no one ever checks whether the applicant is a citizen.

I think it’s a really bad policy to create a situation that would allow foreign nationals to vote in our elections, but I guess this doesn’t trouble democrats as long as they vote for them. But sometimes political necessity can adversely impact good judgment.

So now the liberal agenda item to gain more voters has been fully completed — not only could they claim they made our roads safer (a claim that cannot be verified) they have also converted millions of people to legal status, provided them with all the benefits that are afforded to citizens of the United States and created millions of new Democrat voters.

So were illegal alien drivers’ licenses a good idea after all?

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at news@noozhawk.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Take the ‘Polar Plunge’ with Special Olympics Saturday at Leadbetter Beach

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Show off your plunge power and join Special Olympics Southern California-Santa Barbara County Region’s inaugural Polar Plunge this Saturday, Feb. 28, to raise funds for local Special Olympic athletes.

Santa Barbara County law enforcement, Santa Barbara county and city of Santa Barbara firefighters, Union Bank, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, the Hutton Parker Foundation, KEYT, Cox Communications, school groups, community groups and supporters of all kinds will run, walk or “creatively enter” the 50-degree waters of Leadbetter Beach to raise money for local Special Olympic sporting events and programs.

Each Plunger will receive a t-shirt with a minimum of $50 raised. Additional incentives are available for those who raise more. Are you “Too Chicken to Plunge?” You can still register as a chicken, raise $50, but stay dry while your friends go in! People are encouraged to create their favorite costume whether they come alone or plunge with friends. Although the best costumes may be rewarded, crowds of people will cheer on participants braving the waters in costume or a swimsuit.

“Taking the Plunge is a unique way for individuals, groups, and corporations to support our athletes,” said Gina Carbajal, regional director of Special Olympics Southern California-Santa Barbara County Region. “Our ocean has frigid February waters for Santa Barbarians, so brave souls can cross this off their bucket list and raise money for Special Olympics at the same time.”

KEYT’s one and only John Palminteri will be emceeing the event and we will have our Polar Plunge mascot “Chilly” the Polar Bear (aka First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal) welcoming guests and taking pictures. We will also have our very own Santa Barbara County firefighters cooking up a delicious pancake breakfast for all our participants and sponsors.

Special thanks go out to the Law Enforcement Torch Run, Special Olympics’ largest grassroots fundraising program, for hosting the Polar Plunge. Officers representing a variety of law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California have raised over $1.3 million in 2013 through Tip-A-Cop dinners, Plane Pulls, 5K/10K runs, raffles, car shows, bike rides, Polar Plunges, Adopt-a-Cop programs, golf tournaments and other special events.

For more information or to register, click here or contact Carbajal at gcarbajal@sosc.org or 805.884.1516 x103.

— Gina Carbajal is the regional director for Special Olympics Southern California-Santa Barbara County Region.

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Therapist Laura Hout Offering Free Phone Consultations During National Eating Disorders Week

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Laura Hout, MPW, LMFT, is offering free phone consultations during National Eating Disorders Week, Feb. 22-28, for anyone needing information about eating disorders resources on the Central Coast area.

She is a member of the Binge Eating Disorder Association, a former board member of the International Association of Eating Disorders and writes frequently about the challenges of living in an obesogenic environment.

Hout is a licensed marriage and family therapist who helps individuals and families struggling with binge eating disorder, bulimia and obesity, as well as relationship/couples issues.

She created the workshop Beyond Overeating to help women and men seeking evidence-based skills and support as they overcome overeating. Workshops for March are currently forming. Click here for more information.

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Man Gets 22 Years in Prison for Stabbing Stranger with Scissors in Santa Barbara

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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A man was sentenced to 22 years in state prison Wednesday for hate crimes including an attempted murder and mayhem charge, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

Ryan Christopher Zietlow-Brown, 28, attacked a man walking down State Street with a pair of scissors on Aug. 12, 2011, stabbing him multiple times in the head.

According to the District Attorney's Office, Zietlow-Brown attacked the victim, a black man, after seeing him walking down the street with a white male co-worker singing lyrics to a well-known rap song.

Zietlow-Brown fled the area but later turned himself in to the Santa Barbara Police Department.

He was sentenced to 22 years and four months in state prison for the felony charges of attempted murder and mayhem, a special allegation of using scissors as a deadly weapon, and committing the offenses for the benefit of and in association with neo-Nazi Skinheads, a white supremacist gang, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

He pleaded no contest to the charges Jan. 6 and also admitted to the acts being hate crimes. 

“Superior Court Judge Brian Hill said today there was no doubt in his mind these acts were hate crimes and the defendant’s actions constituted premeditated attempted murder. The victim addressed the court and indicated he had never seen the defendant prior to the attack which nearly cost him his life,” the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Zietlow-Brown told the court he was a “changed man” but admitted to being a Skinhead and affiliated with White Power at the time he committed these crimes, authorities said.

“A dangerous, violent man imbued with racist beliefs and ideologies has been removed from the streets for a very long time,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Kimberly Siegel said in a statement.

These convictions constitute two strikes under the Three Strikes Law.

“Hate-motivated crimes affect not just crime victims and their loved ones, but our entire community,” District Attorney Joyce Dudley said in a statement. “It is incumbent upon all of us to insist that racism, in any form, not be tolerated in Santa Barbara County.” 

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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CHP: Driver Killed in Wreck Near Los Olivos was Drunk

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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A 25-year-old Santa Ynez man was driving while intoxicated Saturday night when he was involved in a collision on Highway 154 near Los Olivos that injured 13 people, the California Highway Patrol said Wednesday.

Austin Troy Bartoo was behind the wheel of a Cadillac CTS, headed east on Highway 154 at about 65 mph when he turned left into the path of a westbound GMC 15-passenger van driven by Blue Dascomb, 21, of Santa Ynez, according to the CHP.

Bartoo was critically injured in the crash, and was declared dead Monday at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, CHP Sgt. Don Clotworthy told Noozhawk on Wednesday afternoon.

“The cause of the accident is going to be driving under the influence of alcohol,” Clotworthy said. “It’s sad, and it points out once again the danger of drinking and driving.”

Clotworthy said he could not release Bartoo’s blood-alcohol level, but noted it was above the 0.08-percent limit at which a driver is presumed drunk under California law.

The collision occurred shortly before 10 p.m. Saturday at Roblar Avenue, the CHP said.

Seven people were transported to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital following the crash.

They included Bartoo, who was not wearing a seatbelt and suffered major injuries, the CHP said.

Bartoo's organs were harvested for transplant, Clotworthy said.

Family and friends were expressing their condolences for Bartoo on his Facebook page.

According to the CHP, Dascomb braked and swerved to the right, but was unable to avoid a collision. Authorities say the van went off the north side of the roadway and overturned, while the Cadillac came to rest blocking the westbound lane.

Five other victims went to the hospital with moderate injuries and one had minor injuries, officials said.

Six others sustained minor cuts and bruises, but were treated at the scene and were not hospitalized.

Three people were seriously injured the next night in a head-on collision at the same location.

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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UC Santa Barbara to Pitch In Funding for Permanent Fencing Along Isla Vista Cliffs

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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The safety barrier will consist of a three-rail wooden pole fence covered with chain link on the side facing land to help prevent falls

Permanent protective fencing soon will go up along the bluffs in Isla Vista after UC Santa Barbara agreed to pitch in $70,000 to get the project done.

The fencing should be up by early May, about two months after the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors accepts the university funding, which is expected to happen at Tuesday’s meeting, according to Chris Henson, chief of staff for Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who oversees Isla Vista.

UCSB will pay for construction, while the county and the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District will maintain the fence that will be built on six county-owned coastal parks along Del Playa Drive, protecting students from all-too-frequent (and sometimes fatal) cliff falls.

The 54-inch-tall safety fence — approved by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission last October — will be a three-rail wooden pole fence covered with a small-space coated diamond chain link on the side facing land to prevent climbing or sitting on it.

The sturdier option will replace temporary orange construction fence that UCSB paid to put up in May 2014.

“This contribution is another example of the university’s longstanding and ongoing commitment to the Isla Vista community,” said John Longbrake, UCSB associate vice chancellor for public affairs and communications. “Students, parents, faculty and staff members and many Isla Vista residents have advocated for this project as a way to enhance community safety. We want to acknowledge their efforts and the work of the county in securing the permits and overseeing the community design process and construction of the fence. 

“We are also grateful to our donors who have contributed generously to support safety enhancements for our students in Isla Vista, as well as for Supervisor Doreen Farr’s commitment to this project. The fence will help protect not only our students who are residents of Isla Vista, but also the thousands of Santa Barbara City College students who live in Isla Vista, as well as visitors to the community.”

University officials expect the one-time funding to cover the entire estimated costs for fence installation. If it’s more than enough, the county could use the rest for maintenance. 

The contribution is one in a long line of continuing university support for the densely populated unincorporated area of the county, where many of its students call home.

UCSB committed $2 million toward future infrastructure improvements in IV as a part of its Long Range Development Plan, $220,000 to the county to for IV street lighting and sidewalk projects and $9,000 to install temporary video cameras during Deltopia.

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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Author Lydia Davis, in Residence at UCSB, to Give Public Reading

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Lydia Davis, a fiction writer, essayist and literary translator of such works as Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust and Gustav Flaubert’s Madam Bovary, will spend three days at UC Santa Barbara as the 2015 Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence.

Lydia Davis
Lydia Davis

During her time at UCSB, Davis, recipient of the 2013 Man Booker International Prize, will give a reading from her latest collection of short stories, Can’t and Won’t.

The event will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 3 in the Corwin Pavilion. It is free and open to the public.

Made possible by a gift from Diana and Simon Raab, the writer-in-residence series gives undergraduate writing and literature students at UCSB a unique opportunity to engage with masters of the craft. The series is co-presented by the campus’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) and by the UCSB Writing Program.

“Lydia Davis is a multitalented and precise short-story writer, novelist and translator who is perceptive of the internal and external worlds,” said Diana Raab, the award-winning author of nine books that include memoir, nonfiction, poetry and journalism. “Like those she admires and translates, such as Flaubert and Proust, she is in a unique category of her own. Her writing is compelling, addictive and thought-provoking while inspiring a profound inner dialogue with her reader. We are honored to bring her to Santa Barbara.”

The writer-in-residence series invites creative writers, humanities scholars, journalists and filmmakers to UCSB to deliver public lectures or readings for the Santa Barbara community. While in residence, writers meet with students in a classroom setting to explore the craft of writing.

“What’s wonderful about Lydia Davis is that she is both a translator and a creative writer,” said Susan Derwin, director of the IHC. “She’s a great fit for the campus because she straddles these two worlds. The influence of her attuned translator’s ear is evident in her creative writing, and her fine literary sensibility guides her translations. There’s a beautiful cross-pollination between her translations and her works of fiction.”

In addition to the public reading on March 3, Davis will participate in two classroom discussions, one with students in the campus’s translation studies program and the other with students from the writing program.

“The meetings with the students will have a pedagogical focus,” noted Derwin. “Diana Raab is interested in supporting a program that will enable students to meet with accomplished practitioners of the writer’s craft. Writers speak at UCSB all the time, but students don’t often have the chance to learn from them directly. That interaction is really what Diana had in mind. It can be very inspiring for students.”

Linda Adler-Kassner, director of the writing program, called it a “privilege” for students to spend time with Davis.

“Her attention to the craft of language and the process of writing can serve as outstanding models for students, whether they are focusing on writing for civic, professional or academic contexts,” she said.

Davis has published one novel, The End of the Story, and six collections of short stories, including Can’t and Won’t, which came out last spring. Earlier collections, Varieties of Disturbance and Break It Down, were finalists for the National Book Award and the PEN/Hemingway Award, respectively.

In addition to Proust and Flaubert, she has translated works by Maurice Blanchot, Michel Foucault, Michel Leiris and Pierre Jean Jouve from the French, as well by Dutch writer A.L. Snijders.

— Andrea Estrada represents the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

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Santa Barbara Author Svetlana Meritt to Speak at Women’s Day Event

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Meritt
Svetlana Meritt

Santa Barbara author Svetlana Meritt will discuss “Feminine Wisdom in Action: Remarkable Women in the Ancient and Medieval World” at the March 7 Women’s Day Signature Event, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Butler Event Center, 3744 State St.

Meritt is the author of the recently released book Meet Me in the Underworld: How 77 Sacred Sites, 770 Cappuccinos, and 26,000 Miles Led Me to My Soul, best described as a spiritual travelogue.

The March 7 presentation honors five extraordinary women who made outstanding contributions despite living in the male-dominated world: philosopher and mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria; Byzantine empress Theodora; Hildegard Von Bingen, a writer, composer and mystic; Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Queen of France and England; and Christine de Pizane, the first professional woman writer in the Middle Ages.

For 15 years, Meritt worked as a foreign correspondent for the Serbian magazine Illustrated Politics. She interviewed such figures as the Dalai Lama, Yoko Ono and Allen Ginsberg.

After leaving her job as a journalist, Meritt and her late husband, Dwight Johnson, traveled to historic sacred sites in Europe, Africa and Asia for six years. Meritt describes her journey as a search for her creative mission in life.

Meet Me in the Underworld takes the reader on a journey from the oracles of Greece and Egyptian temples, through remnants of the Etruscan civilization in central Italy, to sites in Brittany and power centers of the Knights Templar in southern France.

Meritt teaches at Santa Barbara City College and UC Santa Barbara. She is also a professional photographer whose work has appeared in exhibitions in Belgrade and Santa Barbara.

Meritt will sign copies of her book and read an excerpt at 5:30 p.m. March 13 at the Tecolote Book Shop, 1470 E. Valley Road in Montecito.

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Williams Introduces Bill to Expand Comprehensive Crisis Care Services for Youth

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Carpinteria, on Wednesday introduced Assembly Bill 741, which would ensure that mental health services for children and youth experiencing a crisis is available and accessible.

Services include mobile crisis support teams, crisis intervention, crisis stabilization, crisis residential treatment, and rehabilitative mental health services.

AB 741 is supported by the Steinberg Institute on Advancing Behavioral Health Policy and Leadership, the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies, the California Alliance of Child and Family Services and the National Council for Behavioral Health.

“It is imperative that families have access to these critical mental health services and receive the necessary follow up support needed,” Williams said. “The absence of these effective services combined with the dwindling number of inpatient psychiatric facilities for children (less than 100 beds for children 11 years old and under) has created an urgent need for a comprehensive response.”

Currently, there are only a handful of counties that provide these alternative services and no single county provides the full continuum of crisis mental health services for children or youth.  Too often, the children are sent to local emergency rooms that are not equipped to provide ongoing mental health treatment. The crisis becomes compounded when these children are placed on a waiting list for the next available inpatient hospital bed that are located hundreds of miles away from their families, as the only option.

This is true in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, where there are frequently no crisis beds available for youth experiencing a mental health crisis. In these cases, they are often sent to Kern or San Bernardino County, creating a hardship for the families to visit and participate in their child’s treatment. There needs to be a long term solution to provide appropriate resources and treatment for children in crisis, AB 741 seeks to provide that solution.

"Assemblymember Williams' leadership and efforts on this issue will do so much to improve the lives of children in crisis," Steinberg said. "The Steinberg Institutes mission is to inspire more elected officials to be leaders on mental health and advance long overdue legislation to fill in the gaps of mental health services in California. Assemblymember Williams and this bill exemplify what we are trying to accomplish."

It is our responsibility to ensure that every public and private health plan makes this level of crisis care available as a covered benefit to California children and youth.

— Anett Hurtado is a field representative for Assemblyman Das Williams.

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Santa Barbara Courthouse Legacy Foundation Unveils Progress of Mural Room Restoration

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Donors to the Mural Room restoration project at the Santa Barbara Courthouse on Friday got a rare look at restoration in progress, as the murals in the Mural Room are being cleaned, restored and brought back to their original glory.

Jeff Greene and his team from EverGreene Architectural Arts Inc., and Robert Ooley, Santa Barbara County architect, explained the painstaking process involved to those present — part art and part technology — using recognized museum conservation standards and documentation along with modern technology to assess, preserve and restore each of the panels.

The Mural Room, a masterpiece of the courthouse interior and painted by Daniel Sayre Groesbeck in 1929, represents 6,400 square feet of scenes from early California and the community’s past. Due to age, and the environmental impact of the elements including light, heat and most recently smoke damage from an electrical fire in 2010, it had fallen into disrepair.

The Santa Barbara Courthouse Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit, through a bid process contracted EverGreene Architectural Arts, a conservation firm, for the project. The restoration is 75 percent complete.

"This is really exciting to be able to share the restoration with our donors, the docents and the community so they can see the impact of the work being done and their contribution to this effort," said Bill Mahan, board chairman for the Santa Barbara Courthouse Legacy Foundation.

The Hard Hat Party, to thank the many donors to the project, was conceived by board members Sue Adams and Rodney Baker, co-chairs, along with board members Carol Fell and others and to share the restoration in progress, normally not seen by the public.

Next on the agenda is the restoration of the ceiling, painted by John B. Smeraldi and lighting of the Mural Room. Greene and EverGreene Architectural Arts will also be completing that phase, and Ann Kale Associates has been contracted to do the lighting design. As participants at the party learned, there is insufficient illumination for the murals coming from the two chandeliers currently lighting the room.

The restoration is a culmination of a two-year fundraising campaign by the Santa Barbara Courthouse Legacy Foundation, whose mission it is to fund conservation, preservation and restoration projects at the Santa Barbara Courthouse so that current and future generations can enjoy this important community treasure. The Santa Barbara Courthouse Legacy Foundation, founded in 2004 and working in conjunction with the County of Santa Barbara under an MOU and five-year project plan, provides funding and oversight for restoration, preservation and documentation of the historic elements of the courthouse to federal government landmark standards, for which tax dollars are unavailable, according to Mahan.

The Santa Barbara County Courthouse is a Spanish Moorish building designed by William Mooser Jr. in 1929 following a destructive earthquake in 1925. It was designated a local landmark in 1982, and in 2005, designated a National Historic Landmark, which is the highest level of federal recognition. The Mural Room is closed due to the restoration and is scheduled to be opened by June.

Click here for more information regarding the Santa Barbara Courthouse Legacy Foundation.

— Bill Mahan is board chairman for the Santa Barbara Courthouse Legacy Foundation.

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Wine + Beer Partners with JONATA, The Paring and The Hilt for Tasting Event

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Wine + Beer has lined up an extraordinary tasting event with JONATA, The Paring and The Hilt — a rare opportunity to taste a trifecta of some of the most exciting (according to Robert Parker) wines coming from Santa Barbara County.

The cost is $30 a person. Small bites will be provided by Culture Counter.

To make your reservation or more information, click here or call 805.770.7701.

What we'll be pouring at the event:

» The Paring Chardonnay 2012 — A Tropical fruit driven nose of pineapple and tangerine with a touch of light toast. Plush and velvety with great acidity. The wine achieves great density with perfectly balanced ripeness and acidity. A true testament to terrior, grape growing, and winemaking in a great vintage.

» The Hilt “The Vanguard” Chardonnay 2011— 95 points Robert Parker Crystal-clear and focused, with classic brioche, white flowers, white peach and searing minerality, this beauty flows onto the palate with laser-focus, no fat and clean, integrated acidity. Give it another year or two and enjoy through 2019.

» The Paring Pinot Noir 2012 — Ripe black cherry, tobacco, and baking spices on the nose lead as mushroom and earthiness emerge from the background and envelope the glass and intrigue. Tart red fruit on the palate finishes with beautiful length and light dusty tannins.

» The Paring Red Wine 2012 — Spicy notes of cinnamon, cardamom, Tahitian vanilla, and nutmeg lead a core of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, and scorched earth. The palate is gentle and generous with a nice core of fruit and acid with a light tannic grip and a lengthy finish.

» Jonata “El Corazon de Jonata” Red Blend 2005 — 94 Points Robert Parker "The 2005 El Corazon de Jonata is denser, richer, and more perfumed than its 2004 counterpart. The overall impression is one of a sensual/seductive wine boasting an inky/blue/purple color as well as copious amounts of blue, red, and black fruits interwoven with truffle, charcoal, and graphite scents. This full-bodied, powerful 2005 offers both significant flavor authority and elegance. It will last for 15 or more years."

» Jonata “La Tiera de Jonata” Sangiovese 2005 — 93 points Robert Parker “The 2005 La Tierra de Jonata continues Jonata’s penchant for producing the finest Sangiovese in California. A deep ruby/purple hue is accompanied by a sumptuously rich nose of strawberries, new saddle leather, licorice, roasted herbs, and spice. Expansive, round, and medium-bodied with terrific fruit purity and intensity, this amazing wine should drink beautifully for five to six years.”

— Jennifer Zacharias is a publicist representing Wine + Beer.

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Rain Expected in Santa Barbara County This Weekend

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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A storm system expected to move through the region this weekend should provide a small measure of drought relief to Santa Barbara County, but is unlikely to add much to seasonal rainfall totals.

"We're not expecting it to be an intense storm with a lot of really high rainfall rates, but we should see at least some rain throughout the area," said John Dumas, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

The storm should hit in two waves — Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon and evening, Dumas said.

He added that forecast models have not been in agreement on the exact timing.

Rainfall amounts in most areas are expected to be relatively light, between a quarter and half an inch, Dumas said.

This weather system will be colder than other recent storms, with snow levels dropping to about 4,000 feet, he added.

Overall, Santa Barbara County has received only 64 percent of normal rainfall for the rain season that began Sept. 1., according to the Santa Barbara County Flood Control District.

February typically is one of the wettest months on the Central Coast, with the city of Santa Barbara getting an average of 3.86 inches of rain.

However, with the month's end just days away, Santa Barbara has received only 0.8 inches of rain in February.

That lack of precipitation is mirrored in communities throughout the county.

Forecasters were calling for sunny skies through Thursday, with highs in the upper 60s and lows in the mid-40s.

Clouds are expected to beginning moving into the region Thursday night in advance of the storm.

Dry conditions should return next week after the storm moves through, Dumas said.

[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.

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Laguna Blanca School Hosting ‘A Celebration in the City’ for Annual Gala & Auction

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Laguna Blanca School is pleased to present its annual Auction & Gala at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14 at Bacara Resort & Spa.

This year’s theme for Laguna’s party of the year, "A Celebration in the City," promises to be an unforgettable evening of New York style and glamour.

Auction chair Sherry Hlavaty is leading a stellar auction committee of Laguna parents to produce a fabulous event that raises critical funds to support the school and brings the community together to celebrate.

This elegant event will not only celebrate the many accomplishments of the school’s students and faculty, but will inspire guests to continue supporting the academic advancement at Laguna Blanca School.

The Santa Barbara community is invited to join Laguna Blanca for a spectacular evening that will benefit the innovative programs and outstanding instruction at Laguna Blanca, ensuring the best possible learning experience for its students.

Guests can look forward to a live auction, featuring auctioneer Zan Aufderheide, a dynamic auctioneer with KLM Auctions who travels the country entertaining crowds and raising funds for organizations. Aufderheide is a graduate of Reppert School of Auctioneering and a nationally recognized stand-up comedian. She will bring a new flair of energy and enthusiasm to more than 10 live auction packages, including a one of a kind painting by internationally acclaimed artist and Laguna parent Russell Young. Sure to be a draw, Young generously donated his time and materials to work with each class in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, creating unique class art projects that will be available for bid in the silent auction.

This year’s event will also feature a special video, produced by Laguna parents Dewey and Stephanie Nicks.

A sneak peak at a few of the live auction items includes Surf Retreat on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, Beachfront Estate on Aliomanu Bay on the Serene Island of Kauai, four tickets for the most exclusive experience in the Dodger Stadium Dugout Club with round-trip private plane service from Santa Barbara to Burbank provided by Sunwest Aviation and much more.

Another important tradition at each year’s Auction & Gala is the Faculty and Staff Appreciation Raffle, where guests can support those Laguna Blanca teachers and administrative staff who have gone above and beyond to make their child’s experience at Laguna memorable and meaningful. The raffle gives the faculty and staff the chance to win trips, spa treatments, special dining experiences and more.

Bacara Resort & Spa has generously offered Laguna’s gala guests a special rate of $225 per night for rooms that evening (March 14). To reserve a room, call the Bacara Resort & Spa at 877.422.4245 and mention the special Laguna Blanca rate.

For more information about "A Celebration in the City," please contact Marcy Jacobs in the Development Department at 805.687.1752 x201 or mjacobs@lagunablanca.org.

— Sydney Gardner is a publicist representing Laguna Blanca School.

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Four High School Teams Advance in Countywide Mock Trial Competition

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Ten teams from eight public and private high schools throughout Santa Barbara County competed in the 32nd annual Mock Trial competition on Satuirday at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.

The Mock Trial competition is designed to provide an educational experience for high school students regarding key concepts of the law, the Constitution and our legal system.

On Saturday, two rounds of competition resulted in four high school teams progressing to the semifinals and finals that will be held this Saturday, Feb. 28, at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. The first round of competition begins at 9 a.m. and the second round at 1 p.m.

The winner of the local competition will represent Santa Barbara County at the State Mock Trial competition in Riverside March 20-22. The winner of the state competition will then move on to the national competition.

Participating schools this year are Cabrillo High School, Carpinteria High School, Dos Pueblos High School, Laguna Blanca High School, Pioneer Valley High School, San Marcos High School, Santa Barbara High School and Santa Ynez High School.

The competition is sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Education Office and the Constitutional Rights Foundation. It is coordinated by Ammon Hoenigman from the Santa Barbara Superior Court.

Judges of the Santa Barbara County Superior Court for the competition include Judge Thomas Anderle, Judge Michael Carrozzo, Judge Donna Geck, Judge Brian Hill, Judge Patricia Kelly, Judge Kay Kuns and retired Judge George Eskin; local attorneys include Stephen Amerikaner, Jeff Chambliss, Brian Cota, Sam Eaton, Thomas Hinshaw, Jerry Howard, Benjamin Ladinig, Susan McCollum, Raimundo Montes de Oca, Adam Pearlman, Catherine Swysen, Paula Waldman and retired Commissioner Edward DeCaro.

Students have prepared their cases with the help of teacher advisors and attorneys who volunteer their time as coaches. Local attorneys and judges volunteer their time to serve as scorers and presiding judges hearing the case. Students portray each of the principal characters of the case, People v. Shem, and in doing so, develop skills in public speaking, collaboration and critical thinking.

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

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Body’s Transformers: UCSB Researchers Examine Shape-Shifting Protein in Brain

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Like the shape-shifting robots of Transformers fame, a unique class of proteins in the human body also has the ability to alter their configuration. These so-named intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) lack a fixed or ordered three-dimensional structure, which can be influenced by exposure to various chemicals and cellular modifications.

A new study by a team of UC Santa Barbara scientists looked at a particular IDP called tau, which plays a critical role in human physiology. Abundant in neurons located in the nervous system, tau stabilizes microtubules, the cytoskeletal elements essential for neuronal functions such as intracellular transport. Lacking a fixed 3-D structure, tau can change shape so that it forms clumps or aggregates, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

The researchers’ findings appear online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“In the brain, these proteins need to change shape very rapidly to adapt to different conditions,” said co-author Joan-Emma Shea, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “It’s important to understand the relationship between protein shape and function and how can you change the shape. So we used these external agents, small molecules called osmolytes, to affect the shape or conformations of these proteins.”

The researchers not only conducted biological experiments but also ran computer simulations to understand how these small molecules change the shape of tau and, when they do so, how it affects the protein’s ability to aggregate. They found that tau’s structure — whether extended or compact — was associated with how easily it bound to other tau proteins to promote the aggregation process.

“Continual aggregation of tau can, over time, result in an accumulation of pathological aggregates known as neurofibrillary tangles,” said lead author Zachary Levine, a postdoctoral scholar in UCSB’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Department of Physics. These tangles have long been known to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

“In our computer simulations, we looked at certain chemical interactions called hydrogen bonds,” Levine explained. “We found that IDPs containing a large number of hydrogen bonds tended to take on smaller, more compact structures, but when we chemically removed them, we could create more extended protein structures. This allowed us to fine-tune what conformations tau could adopt. That’s really attractive if, say, you wanted to design a drug that intervenes in the pathological folding of IDPs.”

In order for aggregates of tau to develop, extended forms of the protein must stick together in a long sheet. The researchers exposed tau fragments to the osmolyte urea, which binds to the extended structures and prevents two of them from coming together. They were able to show that urea stopped aggregation, but the reason it did so wasn’t clear. However, subsequent computer simulations were able to reveal the interaction of urea with the tau protein, exposing underlying chemical interactions that decreased the likelihood of protein aggregation.

“The chemical structure of urea is quite similar to the backbone of tau,” Levine said. “Urea mimics the protein structure and binds to the surface, stopping other pieces of tau from binding to one another because the binding sites are already occupied by urea.”

The scientists also experimented with another osmolyte, trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which had the exact opposite effect. They found that TMAO-exposed tau formed helical structures, which have been shown in other studies to accelerate aggregation.

“With TMAO, you can see fibrils form, but with urea you don’t,” said co-author Nichole LaPointe, a researcher in UCSB’s Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB) and Neuroscience Research Institute (NRI) who conducted the experiments described in the paper. Fibrils are the beginning stages of harmful clumps or aggregates of tau. “So the predictions from the simulations are actually carrying forward into something pathologically relevant, which is the formation of these big aggregates.”

Only in recent years has technology advanced to the point where it can shed light on such microcellular functions. One of the interesting things to come out of this paper, according to co-author Stuart Feinstein, an MCDB professor and a co-director of the NRI, is the idea that various normal and pathological regulatory mechanisms alter the percentage of time proteins are spending in any one of these structures.

 “The other great thing that comes out of this sort of collaborative research is the training of young students,” said Feinstein. “In bioengineering, physics or physical chemistry, you have a lot of established people who are trying to learn biology; on the other hand, there are a lot of established biologists who are trying to learn the more physical sciences, but in both cases, it is a retrofit. The people who intuitively understand both worlds are those trained in both disciplines in their 20s and 30s. And that — along with good science — is what comes out of a collaboration like this.”

— Julie Cohen represents the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

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Bill Cirone: Vaccines Are Safe and Essential for Health of Our Children and Community

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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Local doctors are worried. School nurses are worried. Cancer patients are terrified. The number of parents opting out of vaccinating their children has now reached a critical mass, putting at risk not only their own children but the entire community. Particularly at risk are young and old alike taking anti-cancer medications, those with autoimmune diseases, infants and the elderly. The metaphoric “herd immunity” is now in grave peril.

Yet the science is unequivocal. Vaccines are safe. Period.

Given the geometric spike in cases of autism several years ago, people began casting about for an explanation of the cause. A theory was hatched that the vaccines themselves, or the binding agent that enabled several vaccines to be administered in one dose, was a possible cause. Some celebrities — not scientists, celebrities — latched on to the theory and used their celebrity megaphone to spread that disinformation.

Concerned scientists launched studies to prove or disprove the theory. The early studies, with a few hundred data points, were clear: There was no causal link. Subsequent studies have now provided hundreds of thousands of data points, nearly a million, with the same conclusion: There's no causal link whatsoever. But the misinformation persists.

There are two major contributing factors.

The first, ironically, is a function of the success of efforts to eradicate these diseases. For a while, they were gone. Young parents, concerned about their children’s safety, simply have no vision and no memory of the scourge of these childhood diseases when they were rampant. Parents were terrified. Polio, measles, mumps and whooping cough caused agony and worse among generations of children. One moment a parent would have a happy healthy child, and the next, polio would cause the child to be lame, maimed or need an iron lung to breathe. And those were the survivors.

Measles, mumps, whooping cough made children unbearably miserable, and sometimes caused lifelong side effects. One local grandfather recalls that as a young child he thought the actual formal name for public drinking fountains was “whooping cough” because whenever he ran to drink from one his mother would shriek, “NO! Whooping cough!” It’s hard now to imagine the terror parents lived with at the time.

When the causes and cures for these diseases were finally discovered, parents rushed to get their children protected. They considered vaccines a godsend. No longer would their children face the horror of these awful diseases. In time, the vaccines were so successful that these diseases were virtually wiped off the earth, or confined to small remote civilizations. Sufficient numbers of the community were vaccinated so that even if one or two cases somehow emerged, the community as a whole was safe.

Scientists estimate that safety number for “herd immunity” is 95 percent. Hence the campaign, “Strive for 95.”

In several communities we have now fallen below that number. This places at grave risk all those whose immune systems are compromised: cancer patients, those taking cancer-suppressing drugs, those with autoimmune diseases, infants too young to be vaccinated, and the elderly.

There is another group at risk, which is the second major contributing factor to the problem we face. Though the vaccines have been proven to be absolutely safe, a small number of those receiving them do not have successful outcomes and are not entirely protected. Boosters are essential, and help with this issue. But for some young people the vaccines not entirely effective. These young people can contract the disease if exposed. This factor also leads some parents to decide against vaccinating, placing their children at far greater risk.

At root, the decision to opt out of vaccinating has proven selfish. Parents always make the best decisions they can regarding their own children’s well-being, and the decision to opt out is no doubt motivated by noble impulses, but it is based on misinformation and it can proven deadly to others and to the community at large.

We have already seen evidence of this selfishness through the outbreak of measles in Disneyland. Children most at risk — those suffering from cancer or terminal illnesses, or those with compromised immune systems — often “make a wish” to go to Disneyland. They can no longer go there in safety, and those visits have been stopped. How sad that these children’s one joy has been taken away by those who profess to care about children.

It is said that in recent years we have lost the community spirit that used to be this country’s glue, binding us all together. At every level we see fewer and fewer acts done for “the good of the order,” and more done for purely self-serving purposes. This is not who we are as a nation or as a community. If we don’t act properly because it’s the right thing to do, we should at least realize that in the case of vaccines, it is in our own best self-interest.

Vaccines are safe. The community’s health depends upon the greatest possible number of people having immunity. Be smart. Be safe. Be wise. Make sure your own children are immunized, and every young person you know. This is one case where the future really does depend on us.

— Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools. The opinions expressed are his own.

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Installation of Sign Panels on Highway 101 to Continue from Santa Barbara to Goleta

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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A project to replace overhead sign panels and light fixtures on Highway 101 from Milpas Street to Fairview Avenue will continue on Sunday, March 1 with the following lane/ramp closures, weather permitting:

» Intermittent overnight lane and ramp closures will occur at various locations Sunday night through Friday morning on northbound Highway 101 from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. and on southbound Highway 101 from 8 p.m. until 7 a.m.

» These ramp closures will not exceed two to three hours while lane closures on Highway 101 will occur intermittently in various locations. No two consecutive ramps will be closed at any time unless it is necessary to ensure worker safety.

All overhead sign panels from Fairview Avenue to Milpas Street are being replaced with reflective signs to increase visibility in wet or foggy conditions. To further increase nighttime visibility and reduce energy consumption and replacement costs, all of the lighting fixtures on these overhead sign’s from Fairview Avenue to Milpas Street will be retrofitted with Inductive Sign Lights and electroliers near the Castillo Street ramps will receive LED lights.

These new electroliers will be tested for 24/7 for a five-day period. These LED lights will use 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, last 40 times longer while producing the same level of light.

This project will add 12 additional lights to improve nighttime visibility on southbound Highway 101 from the Ortega Street pedestrian bridge to the southbound Highway 101 on-ramp at Castillo Street.

Reflective strips have been installed on the median barrier and metal beam guard railings to improve nighttime delineation in select locations, while “no pedestrian crossing” signs will be added at on/off ramps to deter pedestrians from accessing Highway 101.

These improvements are intended to reduce the pattern of nighttime collisions along this section of Highway 101. The contractor for this $555,000 safety project is Traffic Development Services of Moorpark. This project is expected to be completed in April.

Caltrans reminds motorists to move over and slow down when driving through highway work zones.

For traffic updates on other state highway projects in Santa Barbara County, motorists can call Caltrans District 5 Public Affairs at 805.568.0858 or visit the District 5 website by clicking here.

— Jim Shivers is a public information officer for Caltrans.

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Village Properties Teacher’s Fund Awards $94,0000 in Grants in 2014

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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The Village Properties Teacher’s Fund continues its philanthropic support of Santa Barbara-area schools with a whopping $94,0000 awarded in grants to area teachers and classrooms in 2014.

Started in 2002 by Village Properties, the Teacher’s Fund is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. Its goal is to fund as many teacher requests as possible for the most basic materials, from books, art supplies, dictionaries, classroom rugs, science, math and reading materials to digital electronic equipment like computers, software and iPads. The Teacher’s Fund supports public and private K-12 schools.

“When we help our children receive a better education, we’re making an investment in all of our futures,” said Renee Grubb, who co-founded Village Properties in 1996. “The Teacher’s Fund is a way for all of us to enrich the lives of children through education, and to support our teachers and thank them for their tireless work in educating our children.”

One hundred percent of all donations to the Teacher’s Fund goes directly to fulfilling teachers’ requests. Additional monies to the nonprofit come from fundraisers, such as the fourth annual Teacher’s Fund Gold Tournament held last fall, which raised $73,000 in a single day.

Click here for more information about the Teacher’s Fund.

— Jennifer Goddard Combs is a publicist representing Village Properties.

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Reyne Stapelmann: What Do All Those Initials Mean After a Realtor’s Name?

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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The acronyms after a Realtor's name indicate that the Realtor has invested time and money in furthering his or her real estate education through coursework, experience and skill development.

These committed professionals go the extra mile, on top of the required coursework required for license renewal.

Below are a few of the designations recognized by the National Association of Realtors.

The e-PRO certification program teaches members how to effectively use real estate technology to grow their business and make it more efficient.

» Advanced training in using the latest technology and social media to promote your property or find your next home.

ePro

» A clear understanding of the ways that e-office strategies, rich media and social networking can benefit today's consumer in a real estate transaction.

» Excellence in adopting, implementing and promoting technology best practices.

» Ethics with commitment to use technology in a fair and responsible manner.

» Professionalism by completing an education program designed to keep one’s technical knowledge and skill sets up-to-date.

CRS

The Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) is the highest credential awarded to residential sales agents, managers and brokers.

» The CRS designation recognizes professional accomplishments in both experience and education.

» Only 3 percent of all Realtors hold the CRS designation.

CIPS

A Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designee has undergone specialized training to complete international transactions seamlessly and with reduced risk.

» The CIPS designation is the only international designation recognized by the National Association of Realtors. Only Realtors who have completed the coursework and demonstrated considerable experience in international business can call themselves a CIPS designee, and use the name and logo.

ABR

The Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) designation is designed for real estate buyer agents who focus on working directly with buyer-clients at every stage of the homebuying process.

» Valuable real estate education that elevates the agent’s skills and knowledge in the eyes of homebuyers.

» Ongoing specialized information, programs, and updates that keep the agent knowledgeable on the issues and trends facing homebuyers.

SRES

The Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation is for Realtors who want to be able to meet the special needs of maturing Americans when selling, buying, relocating or refinancing residential or investment properties.

» By earning the SRES designation, Realtors are prepared to approach mature clients with the best options and information for them to make life-changing decisions.

The Graduate Realtor Institute (GRI) designation is one of the most recognized designations in the real estate industry. The GRI is a 92-hour program that provides the real estate tools and knowledge for Realtors to meet the 21st century.

GRI designees:

» Have pursued a course of study that represents the minimum common body of knowledge for progressive real estate professionals.

» Have developed a solid foundation of knowledge and skills to navigate the current real estate climate — no matter what its condition.

» Are recognized nationally.

» Act with professionalism and are committed to serving their clients and customers with the highest ethical standard.

SFR

The Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource (SFR) certification is for Realtors who want to hone the skills that will allow them to help buyers and sellers of distressed properties.

v Direct distressed sellers to finance, tax, and legal professionals

» Qualify sellers for short sales

» Develop a short-sale package

» Negotiate with lenders

» Tap into buyer demand

» Limit risk

» Protect buyers

Information taken from the National Association of Realtors.

Reyne Stapelmann is a broker associate with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, California Properties and the 2015 president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. Contact her at reynestapelmann@cox.net or 805.705.4353. The opinions expressed are her own.

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UCSB’s Sam Sweet Guides Reptiles/Amphibians Outing at Arroyo Hondo Preserve

By | Published on 02/25/2015

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reptiles
A visitor takes a closer look at some of the amphibians and reptiles discussed during a talk with UCSB professor Sam Sweet at the Arroyo Hondo Preserve. Click here for more photos. (Robert Bernstein / Noozhawk photo)

Arroyo Hondo Preserve is a very special place along our coast managed by The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. Sam Sweet is a professor of evolution and ecology at UCSB, specializing in the amphibians and reptiles of our region.

Access to either one of these local treasures (Arroyo Hondo or Sweet) is a rare treat. But to have both together for a reptile and amphibian outing was an opportunity not to miss. Sweet donated his time to this fundraising event for the Land Trust and Arroyo Hondo.

Full disclosure of my passion for this event with Sweet: In high school I volunteered at the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. I originally planned to make a career of it until I changed life course. Sweet did not disappoint, educating me in many new ways.

We think of cold-blooded animals as more primitive than warm-blooded ones. But Sweet pointed out cold-blooded animals have many evolutionary advantages that allow them to occupy many special niches, quite literally.

Warm-blooded animals tend to be roughly spherical in shape to conserve their heat. They do not tolerate getting wet. Lizards, snakes and salamanders do very well with their long, slender shapes allowing them access to tight spaces. And they don't mind getting wet. Their energy goes for growth and reproduction instead of for maintaining body heat.

Sweet warned us that this outing would not be like bird watching.

We might see nothing at all. Reptiles and amphibians generally hide and have no evolutionary need to be visible. We were very fortunate with a group of excellent observers, some of whom were avid bird watchers. Sweet was very deft in catching what the spotters found.

His first catches were fence lizards, often called a Blue Belly. (He even noose-caught a few before our outing in case we had no more luck.)

He showed us a gland at their cloaca (combined port for reproduction and excretion). This gland secretes a waxy substance that is only visible in ultraviolet light to mark the male's territory. It also is full of pheremones.

As he held the lizards in his hand he explained: Hold them gently on top of your hand, gripping their feet in between your fingers. This way they feel like they are "king of the hill" and will not feel threatened or distressed.

Most female herps (herptiles are reptiles and amphibians) stop growing when they start to reproduce to direct their energy to reproduction. Males just keep on growing.

Sam told us that legless lizards are the most common vertebrate in our area. But they are seldom seen. They are typically buried in leaf litter where there is no clay in the soil. We saw none.

He showed us that alligator lizards and fence lizards often have ticks on them. And that these two animals are unique for being able to detoxify the lyme disease virus! He theorized that lyme disease is less of a threat here than back east because we have an abundance of these lizards. Interestingly, Sam grew up near Old Lyme, Connecticut where the disease was first named. He suspects that early exposure may give him some extra immunity.

Thanks to a self-described novice Audubon bird-watcher, we soon got to see a rattlesnake. She said she just spotted its bright skin glinting in the sunlight through the grass. Sweet brought it out with a potato rake for us to see. (Make sure the rake is forged, not welded, as welds break, he advised us.) As long as you don't actually injure the snake it will not feel threatened enough to bite. Biting wastes precious venom that it wants to conserve.

Then we moved to a wetter area near a stream and spotters in the group began to find California newts. (The first one was a dead one spotted by Sweet in the grass. It had been killed by a lawn mower and buzzing flies attracted his attention.)

A new lesson: Almost nothing eats these animals because their skin can be toxic. The toxin is closely related to the powerfully deadly alkaloid toxin of the puffer fish. In every species known, that toxin is generated by either a plant that is eaten or by a bacteria that symbiotically lives with the animal. In captivity, most animals lose their toxicity.

But not so for newts. They become more toxic in captivity. No one yet knows how they generate this toxin!

Turning over logs yielded some tiny slender salamanders. (Always be sure to gently put the logs back exactly as found!) They first appear to be earthworms until you look closely and see their tiny legs. They have no lungs nor gills and respire through their skin. There are many different species and they are genetically enormously diverse. They are far more different from each other than we are from other apes.

At the stream, Sweet spotted a California pond turtle and brought it up with a net to show us. He showed us the slightly concave plastron (lower shell) and the long, slender tail that show that it is a male.

One of Sweet's pet peeves is the introduction of non-native plants and animals. Many such species are so common we think of them as native, yet they are not. One example is the so-called "wild turkey."

One member of the group asked how he could help with local reptile and amphibian research. Sam's answer: Be willing to hike into places that take two to three days to hike in and count animals. He said he has a long list of such places that he would love to get help with.

Robert Bernstein is a local photographer and frequent Noozhawk contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.

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