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Bill Macfadyen: Things Were Looking Up for Noozhawk Readers Last Week

The sky has no limit for Best of Noozhawk 05.25.12 opportunities, a Girsh Park benefactor dies, and there are always the sagas of ADMHS and Montecito Motors

On this Memorial Day weekend, we at Noozhawk salute the brave men and women of our armed forces who died so that we may live in freedom and peace.

All gave some, some gave all. May God grant you everlasting rest. Thank you.

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A little over a year ago, a handful of professional, local independent online news publishers from around the country started a private Facebook group to share triumphs and challenges, strategies and advice, best practices and more than a few gripes. The simple connection with other pioneers was cathartic for us since we were all — in a way — like Lewis and Clark, scouting a route through a vast, unknown territory and into an uncertain future.

One of the coolest things my colleagues and I have encountered along the journey is the realization that we really are making it up as we go. Yes, we’re all running businesses, and those fundamental aspects remain constant. But each of us has customized our strategies so that the coverage of our communities is authentically local and serves the needs of our readers on a hyperlocal level. That’s why a users group like ours has become so crucial to our operations and success.

I think I’ve mentioned before that we’ve been exploring the establishment of an industry association so our hardy band of now 115-plus publishers has an organizational structure to help us grow as we mature. I’m excited to report that a steering committee made significant progress last weekend at a meeting in Chicago and that our incorporation is likely to happen in the next few months. We’re not ready to go public with the details yet, but trust me when I say that I can’t wait to share them.

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What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. Deep Partial Eclipse Will Darken Skies Sunday Afternoon

Not long after a super moon had our eyes on the skies, the sun grabbed its share of the spotlight with a deep partial eclipse.

The May 20 celestial phenomenon occurred when the new moon passed between the sun and the Earth. It was different from a total eclipse because the sun’s edges were still visible. In a total eclipse, the sun is blocked completely.

Thanks to telescopes and other viewing devices set up by the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit at Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta, hundreds of spectators were able to see the partial eclipse without damaging their eyesight.

If you missed your opportunity this year, you’ve got plenty of time to plan for the next one. The next partial eclipse that will be visible on the South Coast will be on Oct. 14, 2014.

2. Rocket Cloud Sails Over Carpinteria

An unusual, rocket-shaped cloud captured the attention of thousands of South Coast residents who saw it floating in an otherwise clear sky just before sunset on May 18. Although there was plenty of speculation about its cause, Bill Forwood, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, had a more clinical explanation: a lenticular cloud

Lenticular clouds — also known as altocumulus lenticularis — form at high altitudes, and are typically aligned with the direction of the wind. Forwood said last week’s cloud was caused by winds from the north pushing moist air over the ocean.

3. Viola Girsh, Community and Goleta Park Patron, Dies at 105

Goleta’s 25-acre Girsh Park is one of the South Coast’s most heavily used recreation facilities. Baseball, basketball, soccer, picnics, weddings, Easter egg hunts, Fourth of July fireworks and the California Lemon Festival are among the myriad of activities that keep the place bustling year-round. Its convenient location next to Camino Real Marketplace only adds to its attraction.

Despite the park’s popularity, few people can identify its namesake benefactors, Viola and Lester Girsh, who apparently preferred it that way. Over the decades, the low-key couple quietly gave money to causes throughout the area, starting with Congregation B’nai B’rith, which they helped found in the 1920s, and including the Santa Barbara Family YMCA and The Granada Theatre.

Lester Girsh died not long after Girsh Park opened in 1999. On May 22, matriarch Viola Girsh died at age 105.

A memorial service was held May 25. Girsh’s grandson, Daniel Hochman, told Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton that memorials can be made in her name to Congregation B’nai B’rith, the Girsh Park Foundation or a favorite charity.

4. County Supervisors Take ADMHS Director to Task Over Budget Report

The county Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services has perhaps the most thankless mission of all county agencies, and one of the most challenging to fund. Its enigmatic budget doesn’t make ADMHS processes and programs terribly easy to understand, as Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper well knows from her coverage of department issues and controversies the last few years.

What has been perplexing to me has been a seemingly apathetic Board of Supervisors that — at least in public — often has appeared more interested in moving through its agenda and much too deferential to staff. At least for one day, that changed during the board’s May 22 review of ADMHS finances.

At the hearing, supervisor after supervisor expressed frustration with ADMHS director Ann Detrick’s shifting explanations for why her department remains in chronic fiscal disarray. As Cooper reported, the mood from the dais appeared to be one of disbelief that ADMHS can’t get its financial house in order despite a 2011-2012 budget of $76.2 million. Each time Detrick pointed to staff cuts, a supervisor was there to note that the budget calls for staff increases — including flashpoint administrative positions.

First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal’s skepticism was representative of the board’s response.

“Unless they’re front-line services, I’m a little weary about growing the administration,” he told Detrick.

Carbajal asked county CEO Chandra Wallar to review each of the proposed positions and report back to the board.

“There’s got to be a better, more appropriate, more accountable way of running this department,” he said.

5. Montecito Motors Owners Headed to State Prison After Plea Deal

Former Montecito Motors owners Chester Taylor, and his son, Adam, on May 17 entered no-contest pleas to dozens of felony charges related to the demise of their now-defunct business in the 500 block of Chapala Street in Santa Barbara. The Taylors were accused of scamming about $1.2 million from more than two dozen clients, as well as falsifying income- and sales-tax documents.

The saga has been followed closely by Noozhawk readers, who have made each story among the most heavily read and forwarded. That persistence has continued into a second week for the latest chapter.

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There were 42,025 people who read Noozhawk this past week. If you value our unmatched breaking news and in-depth reporting on the issues that you care about, please support our experienced staff of professional journalists and help us continue to provide a vital forum for the community.

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

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