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Bill Macfadyen: Details Remain Scant on Circumstances of Hiker’s Death

Best of Noozhawk 09.21.12 includes a Melchiori family feud, cyclists on sidewalks, Alexa Tang's funeral and an entrepreneurial opportunity for San Marcos High School

What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. Hiker Who Died on Romero Canyon Trail Identified as Santa Barbara Woman

Nicole Peters and her three dogs went for a hike on the Romero Canyon Trail in Montecito on Sept. 14. According to authorities, just before 1 p.m. she used her cell phone to call 9-1-1, reporting that she was suffering chest pains and needed medical assistance.

Nicole Peters
Nicole Peters

Rescue teams were dispatched right away but apparently no one knew exactly where she was. Authorities traced the GPS coordinates on her phone to a location about two miles from the top of the trail off East Camino Cielo. Officials say paramedics reached her by helicopter at 2:15 p.m. but she was lying on the remote trail dead, her dogs sitting by her side.

Peters’ body was airlifted from the site. Rescue personnel hiked her dogs to safety, and then turned them over to her boyfriend.

A cause of death has not yet been released, but check back with Noozhawk for more information next week.

Peters, the director of brand operations at Deckers Outdoor Corp. in Goleta, was 36. An avid spear fisher, wind surfer and mountain biker, she graduated from Oregon State University and earned her MBA from Pepperdine University in 2007.

2. Stepmother Sues Mark Melchiori, His Ex-Wife and Construction Company for Alleged Fraud

With a headline like that, readers just had to click on it. And they did, by the thousands. A large number of them also clicked on the Forward button, relaying it out into cyberspace.

So what’s the story? Mark Melchiori, who owns the namesake construction company his late father founded, was sued last month by his stepmother, Linda Melchiori, who alleges fraud and breach of contract over a $100,000 loan she made. Also named in the lawsuit are Melchiori’s former wife, Heather, and Melchiori Construction Co.

One salacious allegation from the filing is a claim that the Melchioris’ divorce earlier this year was a scheme to hide company assets from creditors. Melchiori Construction Co. has faced a string of financial and business challenges since company founder and family patriarch Ugo Melchiori died in 2009.

Linda Melchiori claims the divorce was a way for Heather Melchiori to walk away with $8 million in assets and no debt, leaving Melchiori with $2 million and “enormous debt,” according to a complaint issued by Linda Melchiori’s attorney, Cristi Michelon.

Attorneys for both Melchioris deny the allegations against their clients.

Michael Ring of Ring & Associates, who is representing Heather Melchiori, told Noozhawk’s Lara Cooper that the divorce allegation is “outrageous” and “legally and logically devoid of any merit whatsoever.”

Melchiori’s attorney, Peter Umhoff of Seed Mackall LLP, rejected all the claims.

“While there are many statements in the lawsuit filed by Ugo Melchiori’s widow with which Mark Melchiori strongly disagrees and which are not factually correct, we are working diligently on behalf of Mr. Melchiori and the Melchiori family to resolve these issues in a professional manner that will be acceptable to all concerned,” he said.

3. Santa Barbara Police Crack Down on Freewheeling Bicyclists

Santa Barbara police rolled up on bicycle scofflaws Sept. 13, issuing 59 citations for illegally riding on downtown sidewalks and other offenses.

Officers said the crackdown was carried out for public-safety reasons. They pointed to a recent report from the California Office of Traffic Safety that ranks Santa Barbara as the fourth most dangerous city of its size in the state for bicycle-related collisions.

Noozhawk readers were quick to have their say.

“I just wish all bicyclist would obey the same rules I do in my car,” sbmother posted. “It happens all the time that they sail thru stop signs, forcing me to throw on my brakes to miss them. It’s really annoying and can be scary at times.”

Larry Saltzman had specifics.

“I remember an excruciatinig close call on De La Vina when I pulled out of a driveway very slowly because my vision was blocked by a hedge,” he commented. “A bicycle come down the sidwalk at fairly high speed and nearly rammed into me. He screamed and yelled at me, but there was no way I could have seen him and he had no business speeding down a sidewalk.

“I also have had bicycles and skate boards come up behind me when I was walking. They are quiet and you don’t always here them, making an accident easy to happen. In short I hope the police keep ticketing law breaking bicylists until they wake up. They are a minority of the bicylists on the road but they are dangerous.”

But blue top saw it differently.

“It seems that the sidewalk is the only safe place to ride since the bulb-outs place cyclists right in harms way,” the poster wrote. “I still can’t understand why the bicycle community has not screamed bloody murder about bulb-outs.”

AN50 suggested something more sinister was afoot.

“This is nothing more than revenue generation,” AN50 commented. “The solution is to get those who are hostile to motor transportation out of public works and planning. They have done a fine job screwing up surface street transportation and making a mess out of everything.”

And Segways came in for a fair amount of criticism, too.

“Enforcement of existing laws doesn’t bother me - even for bicycling,” posted DaveM. “What REALLY tics me off is seeing SegWays on our bike paths and sidewalks. That is a motorized vehicle and has NO BUSINESS being on a sidewalk.”

Click here to add your spin to the din.

4. Huge Crowd Bids Tearful Farewell to Alexandra Tang

Family and friends turned out by the the hundreds to say their goodbyes to Alexandra “Alex” Tang, whose funeral service was held Sept. 14 at St. Rafael Catholic Church in Goleta.

Alex Tang
Alex Tang

Tang, 24, was killed Sept. 1 in Laguna Hills. Her 25-year-old boyfriend was arrested the next day in Mesa, Ariz., and is facing murder charges in Orange County.

The Rev. Lawrence Santos encouraged mourners to not allow the tragedy of Tang’s death to take away the beauty of life.

“Alex would love to sing — continue singing,” he said. “Keep singing the song of Alex.”

The daughter of Elizabeth and Alexander Tang DDS of Santa Barbara, Tang graduated from Bishop Diego High School and Santa Barbara City College, and she earned a psychology degree from UCSB. At the time of her death, she was working in Orange County with children with autism.

The family has asked that donations be made in Tang’s name to Domestic Violence Solutions for Santa Barbara County. Click here to visit her memorial page on Facebook.

5. San Marcos Launching Academy to Teach Students the Business of Entrepreneurship

The Santa Barbara Unified School District has several academies providing students with tremendous opportunities to gain real-world career training and skills. Next fall, the San Marcos Entrepreneurship Academy enters the field.

The exciting new program will provide SBCC marketing and business classes on the San Marcos High campus to prepare students for further study in college, as well as future business ventures. Students will also have the opportunity to intern or job shadow at local businesses during their senior year. The classes will be offered as dual SBCC enrollment at no extra cost to students.

The Entrepreneurship Academy is intended to build off of San Marcos High’s successful Kids Helping Kids, a student-run nonprofit organization spearheaded by AP Microeconomics and Macroeconomics teacher Jamie DeVries. The group’s annual charity event has raised about $750,000 for local and global organizations in the 10 years since Kids Helping Kids was founded.

Although not an academy, the Dons Net Café at Santa Barbara High is doing much the same thing in a classroom environment. Lee “Ms. B” Knodel is the tireless champion of the cause and has inspired scores of her Santa Barbara High students to venture out into the wonderful world of entrepreneurialism. The Don’s Net Café began as a team of volunteers helping low-income residents with tax preparation and over the years has grown into its own virtual enterprise class. In addition to tax prep work, smartly dressed students wearing SBHS green shirts and black ties are providing services and selling products locally and throughout the world ... profitably.

As an entrepreneur myself, I love these concepts. Raising awareness among students about the ins and outs — and rewards and heartbreaks — of running their own businesses will help them in everything they do and for the rest of their lives, even if they never try it for themselves. Our nation was founded and has flourished thanks to entrepreneurs who risked everything to build companies, develop ideas and pursue their visions. That should be celebrated — and properly taught — in our schools.

Other already established SBUSD career-related programs include The Academy at Dos Pueblos and Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy at Dos Pueblos High School; the Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership and Enrichment (AAPLE) Academy and Health Careers Academy at San Marcos High; and the Green Academy, Multimedia, Art & Design (MAD) Academy and Visual Arts and Design Academy at Santa Barbara High. (Full disclosure: I’m a MAD Academy board member.)

Speaking of academies, I’m pretty sure that Russell Granger, San Marcos High’s charismatic automotive technologies teacher, would love to turn his program into an academy. For all intents and purposes, he’s running it like one now. If you’d like to help make that a reality, call him at 805.967.4581 x250.

                                                                  •        •        •

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