Friday, July 31, 2009

IN BRIEF : Movie crew members needed

July 31, 2009 7:29 AM

SANTA BARBARA The county Film Commission is looking for crew members for a low-budget feature film with a tentative production start date of Aug. 24.

The film is called "Flying Lessons" and will be produced by Mark Johnson and Jenny Hinkey. The project is expected to take 18-20 days.

Crew positions available are key hair, key makeup, key grip, BB grip, dolly grip, script supervisor, company grip, BB electric, company electric, art department day players and production assistants.

Key positions will be paid $250, grip and electric positions will be paid $200 and PAs will be paid $125.

Send resumes to

- Morgan Hoover

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Health care debate comes home : Capps and Gallegly plan to hear from constituents during summer recess


July 30, 2009 7:17 AM

As health care climbs the ladder of urgency on a national level, congressional representatives will seek to connect with the matter on a ground level during the upcoming monthlong summer district work period, tentatively set to begin on Monday.

According to Emily Kryder, a spokeswoman for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, the congresswoman plans to perform outreach by "harkening back to her experience as a nurse."

"She does plan on talking to constituents," said Ms. Kryder. "She plans on visiting more clinics, talking to more folks."

Ms. Kryder said the congresswoman talks to constituents about health care constantly, "whether she's in the grocery store, doing something with her granddaughter. . ."

She added that Rep. Capps sees health care as a "broken system."

"It's hurting families and businesses," she said. "A lot of people have friends or family members that struggle to get affordable health care."

Tom Pfeiffer, a spokesman for Rep. Elton Gallegly, said the Thousand Oaks Republican also intends to keep health care in mind over the break.

"He does have a meeting set up with health care providers next week," said Mr. Pfeiffer, "but you won't find him on a soapbox; he's not a soapbox person. He talks to constituents all the time."

Opponents to changes in the health care system that have come out of Washington cite a variety of fears, including that the public will have to go into a government program; that insurance companies would not be able to compete with government-run insurance; long waits and increased bureaucracy to get the care they want; and that the U.S. would be left with a single-payer system, like in England or Canada.

Santa Barbara resident Elizabeth Tudor told the News-Press some sort of overhaul of the system is needed.

"Do I like my current EPO (exclusive provider organization)? Yes, but in a few months I won't be able to afford it," she said.

Ms. Tudor said the perpetually rising cost of health care is unacceptable.

"Everyone deserves to have health care," she said.

Paul Mannion, another Santa Barbara resident, said the system needs to be improved.

"When my wife was pregnant, I was unable to get insurance," said the 34-year-old, "because by law, they have to insure the baby, too."

Mr. Mannion expressed concern that insurance companies have misplaced priorities.

"It's too much about money for them," he said, "and not about helping people out."

Jerry Jackman agrees that something needs to be improved within the health care system, but he disagrees with Ms. Tudor's assertion that everyone deserves coverage.

"There could be better coverage and better care," he said, "but I doubt we can cover everybody."

Mr. Jackman, 65, said that he is on Medicare and that although not everybody can be covered, "something needs to happen."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stimulus projects to put pedal to the metal


July 28, 2009 7:10 AM

About a million dollars in federal stimulus funds were put to work yesterday when two transportation projects kicked off in Santa Barbara County.

The first of these projects is a countywide concrete repair project that will repair and replace various locations throughout the county, according to Santa Barbara County's recovery website.

The project's estimated cost is $660,000, and according to County Director Scott McGolpin, it will wrap up during the first week of September.

The contract for this project, which will target unincorporated areas of Goleta, Vandenberg Village and Orcutt, was given to D-Kal Engineering out of San Luis Obispo, who will put 21 employees to work on the project's plans.

These plans include the installation of 3,825 feet of new sidewalk and the reparation of 1,830 feet of existing sidewalk.

The project will also repair 810 feet of curb and gutter, 211 square yards of cross gutter and spandrel and 431 square yards of driveway.

Lastly, it will install 21 new curb ramps, which will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The second project that began construction yesterday was a countywide bridge rehabilitation project.

According to the county's recovery website, the project's total cost is $330,000, and, according to Mr. McGolpin, it will wrap up near the end of August.

Granite Construction was awarded the contract for the project, and it bears an employment impact of four.

The project will allow for construction in Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez and Santa Maria on San Marcos Road, Paradise Road, Happy Canyon Road, Foxen Canyon Road, Tepusquet Road, Fernald Point Lane and Turnpike Road.

While two projects are now underway, another project will begin Monday.

The upcoming project, which will also be undertaken by Granite Construction, is a countywide road rehabilitation project, estimated to cost $1,725,000.

Target areas of this project include Barker Pass Road between Highway 192 and the city limits and a portion of Calle Real.

Both projects that began yesterday are estimated to cost more than the amount provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but according to Mr. McGolpin, there are ways to make it work.

"If there are overruns or underruns," he said, "we will adjust the scope of the next wave of projects."

This "next wave of projects" includes an Old Town Orcutt street project, more road rehabilitation, a Santa Ynez shoulder widening project at Refugio Road and Roblar Avenue, a Summerland circulation improvement project and a Bradley Intersection improvement.

Santa Barbara County has received nearly $150 million in stimulus dollars, and the amount awarded to transportation and natural resource projects totals more than $10 million.

According to Long-Range Planning Deputy Director Dave Matson, $16.5 million in awarded stimulus money will go directly to county programs.

For more information, visit

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Orcutt teen wins congressional medal


July 25, 2009 7:08 AM

An Orcutt teen won the Congressional Award Gold Medal this summer after completing 400 hours of community service.

Sarah Schwab, 16, also completed 200 hours of personal development, 200 hours of physical development and a four-night tent camping trip within twenty-four months to earn the prestigious award.

Sarah joined 266 other recipients from across the nation in Washington, D.C. to receive the medal from the U.S. Congress and enjoy the city for a few days.

"It was really amazing," said Sarah of the experience. "When you're receiving that award, it's an experience you can only have once in your life."

To earn the award, Sarah devoted herself to various types of community service, particularly those supporting environmental causes and church work.

"I started my own non-profit organization," she said. "It's called the Three Amigos of Orchid, and its purpose is two-fold."

Sarah explained that the environmental non-profit strives both to increase environmental awareness and to expand awareness by creating Three Amigos branches in schools to teach younger children the importance of trees. She also volunteered three hours a week at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum.

Sarah's favorite volunteer experience was working as a Leader-in-training with her local Awana club.

"We'd have the kids play games, memorize (Bible) verses," she said. "I was able to meet a lot of sweet young girls; some came from troubled backgrounds. It's nice to know you're helping these girls."

The Gold Medal is given to those between 14 and 23 who dedicate 400 hours to community service and 200 hours to both personal development and physical fitness.

Recipients must also complete an expedition or exploration of some kind, which Sarah fulfilled through her camping trip.

"I think the philosophy behind it is that you can't do 400 hours unless you really want to help people," explained Sarah. "I thought it was fun. I was surprised how quickly I got the 400 hours."

Sarah encourages other young people to strive to earn the Gold Medal.

"When you first start out, it's very scary," she said, "but find something you're passionate about. The community needs people to donate their special talents and passion."

Sarah said her parents have been a tremendous help and a great support for her.

"They're very proud," she said. "They've been telling everyone they know!"

Ventura resident Charles Su also received the medal.

For more information, visit

Arraignment of alleged baby snatcher continued : Leianna Patricia Arzate is charged with abducting newborn from hospital


July 25, 2009 6:49 AM

A Santa Barbara County Superior court judge on Friday continued until July 31 the setting of a preliminary hearing date for a woman charged in the kidnapping of a 5-hour-old infant from a hospital maternity ward.

Judge Clifford R. Anderson granted the continuance in the case of Leianna Patricia Arzate, 33, who is charged with kidnapping a child under 14, burglary and child abuse, according to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's office. Also continued was the setting of a date for hearings on alleged probation violations of which Ms. Arzate stands accused.

Ms. Arzate has been in custody since Feb. 27 when police apprehended her in Santa Maria three hours after she allegedly took the newborn boy, Julian, from the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital maternity ward.

A hospital surveillance photo allegedly showed her carrying a closed plastic bag that authorities say contained the newborn.

She has been held without bail because she is allegedly in violation of probation received during two previous cases involving grand theft and theft from a dependent adult.

Ms. Arzate is being represented by Deputy Public Defender J. Jeff Chambliss, who previously entered a not guilty plea on her behalf. Her case is being prosecuted by Chief Trial Deputy Josh Lynn of the district attorney's office.

Deputy District Attorney Ronald Zonen filled in for Mr. Lynn on Friday morning.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Planning commission gets earful on high density housing : Plan Santa Barbara's 'Scenario 4' comes in for heavy criticism


July 24, 2009 7:08 AM

Public ire over high density construction in the downtown area was directed at the Santa Barbara Planning Commission on Thursday afternoon.

Workshops held for the Plan Santa Barbara project in June presented the public with a summary of its economic feasibility and an unofficially recommended "Scenario 4," which, if followed, requires construction of 60 units per acre.

After a brief presentation by John Ledbetter, the principal planner for the Plan Santa Barbara project, on Mobility Oriented Development Areas and a few questions from commission members, the floor was opened to the public, who largely railed against the presented recommendations.

"I was extremely disappointed with the workshops," said Cathy McCammon. "It feels like the public was somewhat left out. The consultant didn't understand that Santa Barbara doesn't want massive monstrosities like on Chapala (Street)."

Jean Holmes spoke on behalf of the Allied Neighborhoods Association and was one of many to refer the commission to a separately devised "Scenario 5," by Gil Berry, who calls for a density rate of 22 units per acre.

"Clearly this study is not the answer to our problem," she said.

Connie Hannah, representing the League of Women Voters, compared Plan Santa Barbara to Chapala One, a mixed-use development project, which opened its doors in July, 2008.

"It's too tall, it's too massive," she said firmly. "We believe there has to be other alternatives."

Mr. Berry spoke and presented his own solution to the need for affordable housing in the city.

"The report concludes that high density is required," he said. "There is a very viable alternative; it's called the 'affordable by design' model."

Mr. Berry said his alternative "would allow a density of 22 units per acre instead of 60, which is clearly unacceptable for this community."

Other members of the public insisted that employers should supply living quarters to solve the affordable housing deficiency.

"The only way affordable housing can be made available is if housing is subsidized by employers," said Kellam Deforest.

Despite the overwhelming majority of those who spoke being heavily set against the plan, there were a few -- spearheaded by the Community Environmental Council -- who were in support of Scenario 4.

"People in my demographic aren't often able to come to a meeting in the middle of the day," said CEC member Megan Birney, "but there are a lot of us."

She pushed for the environmental advantages of the proposed scenario, saying, "Denser development has a smaller carbon footprint."

Michael Chiacos, who also represented the CEC at the meeting, went so far as to recommend even broader changes for the city, asking whether the widening of 101 between Milpas Street and Hot Springs is "really a good use of tax dollars."

In response to this question, the word "yes" could be heard loudly whispered from throughout the room.

The commission itself had concerns about the proposed scenario and Mobility Oriented Development Areas, which are the transit-friendly areas in which these higher density units would be built.

Chair Stella Larson addressed what she implied is a white elephant, the issue of "community character vs. community goals."

Mr. Ledbetter quickly answered her by refuting that these issues compete and insisting that they can both be maintained, but he admitted that at times they do conflict.

Commissioner Charmaine Jacobs expressed support for the scenario, noting that she sees similarity between current recommendations and past development in Santa Barbara.

"It's applying something that people like and use in a commercial district to our residential district," she said.

Ms. Larson emphasized the importance of maintaining the charm of Santa Barbara.

"My main concern is that aesthetic changes will be driven by lifestyle changes," she said.

Later in the day, the commission approved an application to build an eight-lot residential subdivision with a density of five units per acre at 230 Lighthouse Rd.

For more information on Plan Santa Barbara, visit

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Film on homeless to be screened

July 23, 2009 12:00 AM

SANTA BARBARA A short documentary film following the lives of four local homeless people will premier Friday evening at 7 at the Veterans Memorial Building.

"Shelter," made by Brandon Birtell in collaboration with actor Paul Walker, is premiering locally before being sent to film festivals in order to participate in a fundraising effort for Casa Esperanza Homeless Center.

The film will reveal the struggles faced by the homeless of Santa Barbara, including drug and alcohol addiction, physical and mental illness, abuse and violence.

A 7-foot memorial statue created by Morris Bear will also be auctioned off at the event.

For ticket information, call 805-884-0123 or visit

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Apollo reunion attendees recall 'exciting times'


July 22, 2009 7:36 AM

Santa Barbara will be well represented by a handful of space engineers at an Apollo Reunion in Waukesha, Wis., today and tomorrow.

Apollo was a NASA program during the 1960s and into the 1970s, which successfully landed a man on the moon.

More than 100 Apollo engineers still live in the Santa Barbara area, including Richard Kraemer, one of 120 Delco engineers who worked with MIT in Boston in 1962.

"There were some exciting times," said Mr. Kraemer, 75, who remembers his responsibilities as being quite serious. "I think the thrust was the quality of what we were doing; with lives involved, it was a dedication thing."

The Apollo reunion happens every five years and alternates between Waukesha and Santa Barbara. In 2004, it was held at Fess Parker's Doubletree.

The reunion will boast a social hour tonight, a golf outing in the morning and an afternoon educational opportunity, all of which will lead up to the reunion's main event, an evening banquet.

The banquet will feature a speech by John Kaufman, a presentation by Art Voros, a presentation by Hugh Brady's grandson Liam Brady-Cheney, a speech by Bob McMillin and a speech by Lockheed Martin Vice President of NASA Program Integration Capt. Ken Reightler.

Jim Lovell was originally scheduled to speak at the banquet, but he will now be unable to attend.

Mr. Kraemer said his experiences during the 1960s were all about teamwork.

"My job was supervising electronics; somebody else was in charge of software," he said. "The total team was about 300."

Mr. Kraemer admits, however, that there were times he felt honored personally.

"I worked with Dr. (Charles Stark) Draper, known to be the father of inertial navigation," he said. "That was pretty great for me."

The reunion will be held at the Country Springs Hotel and Western Lakes Golf Club in Waukesha.

For more information, visit

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Health Department: Add vaccine to list of back-to-school supplies


July 21, 2009 7:35 AM

The second half of summer is here, and while parents are purchasing school supplies and new clothes, they should also remember to have their children immunized.

California schools must review children's immunization records to ensure that students have received all required shots before entering school.

In 2008, Santa Barbara County kindergartners had an immunization rate of 93.3 percent, according to the county Public Health Department.

Officials say vaccines help control infectious diseases such as chickenpox, hepatitis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio.

Dr. Neil Sullivan of the Eastside Community Clinic Santa Barbara wants parents to understand the importance of these vaccines.

"There's a certain amount of people who don't want their children to have vaccines; the reasoning behind that is kind of new-agey." he said. "My approach on that is that you're being selfish. Help the rest of the world develop immunization."

Vaccines are available through private doctors, community health clinics and health department immunization clinics.

Becoming immunized helps reduce the risk of global viruses, according to Dr. Sullivan.

"We're seeing pertussis right now," he said. "We've seen measles and mumps over the last five years in pockets in the U.S."

Dr. Sullivan said his clinic immunizes about 250 people a month, but that number can double in late August and September.

"Children should not wait until September," he said. "We'll be overbooked once school starts; the sooner the better."

The clinic performs outreach to the community to get immunized on two levels, according to Dr. Sullivan.

"We have a tracking system of children; we check patient profiles to see if they need to come in," he said," and at any visit, we check a child's immunization status."

The Public Health Department also recommends that all children 6 months and older be immunized against seasonal influenza.

Dr. Sullivan supports the department's assertion that a vaccine against H1N1 flu or swine flu will be available in the fall or winter, and public health officials will provide updated information to the community when there are developments.

For more information about California school immunization requirements, vaccines and vaccine preventable diseases, contact a physician or go to

Monday, July 20, 2009

40th anniversary of 1st moonwalk brings nostalgia 40th anniversary of first moonwalk brings nostalgia


July 20, 2009 7:13 AM

It has been 40 years since man first walked on the moon and Neil Armstrong uttered the words, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

Some Santa Barbarans remember well what that extraordinary "small step for man" and "giant leap for mankind" was like for Americans.

"I was in an elementary school classroom," said Goleta resident Scott Nelson. "We were into rockets at the time, and it was the big one. It was just great."

Carol Schmitter, 55, remembers the experience fondly.

"I was in sixth grade," she said. "It was quite amazing. I remember seeing it with my mom and my sister."

At the time of the first moonwalk, Americans were fascinated with outer space.

"I had just graduated from high school," said Grant House, 58. "Everybody watched it, and we all felt part of it."

Mr. House, a Santa Barbara city councilman, recalls the joy that the experience brought him.

"I remember being very, very excited and happy," he said. "It was just such an accomplishment."

Greg Froelick, 52, said he was in Satellite Beach, Fla., when Mr. Armstrong took those first steps, and he could actually hear rockets taking off.

"I think I was in fourth, fifth or sixth grade," he said, "and I was excited."

Bob Grebil, 61, said he vividly remembers the experience.

"I was in a bar," he said. "I thought it was cool. I was 21, and I was working in a restaurant."

Mr. Grebil said he remembers a camaraderie between those who saw it together.

"Everybody thought it was pretty cool. We all hung out in the bar," he said.

While most did remember the accomplishment as an emotional moment in history, for some the event was overshadowed by other emotional happenings of the decade.

"I was in Orange County," said 55-year-old Ed Gover, who said he was probably excited but hardly remembers the first moonwalk. "I just remember Kennedy's death."

In other parts of Santa Barbara County, residents offered their own recollections of the historic day.

Lompoc pet store owner Gary Bauer recalls being a young student in elementary school during the historic landing. Though he doesn't recall much of the actual moment, one particular element stood out for him.

"I remember them wheeling a television into the classroom so we could watch," he said. "None of our classrooms had televisions back then."

Another Lompoc resident, Donna Van Wagenen, was 22 when the moon landing took place, and she had other things on her mind at the time.

"I was busy being pregnant," she laughed. "But it was cool. I liked the idea (of man being on the moon)."

Staff writer Nora Wallace contributed to this story.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

SBCAG approves shuffling of money between projects


July 18, 2009 7:13 AM

The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments voted to approve a complex exchange of funds between three transportation projects Thursday.

The projects include the widening of Highway 101 between Milpas Street and Hot Springs Road, the construction of a suicide barrier on the Cold Springs Bridge and the replacement of the Hollister/Ellwood interchange.

SBCAG approved the transfer because despite a delay in the provision of funds for the $12.5 million Hollister/Ellwood interchange, it did not want to delay the start of the project.

Money provided by the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) to fund the Hollister/Ellwod project, will not be available until Jan. 1 or later so funds from the State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP), which must be used within the state, will be applied to this project instead.

The Hollister/Ellwood interchange requires state and local funding sources.

STIP money totalling $1.848 million that was originally allocated for the Hollister/Ellwood project will instead be applied to a reserve for Hwy 101's widening between Milpas and Hot Springs. The reserve will be used only if the Highway 101 project's bond money expires past its gaurantee date of March 2010.

The suicide barrier on Cold Springs bridge will be completed using $1.5 million in federal stimulus money, originally intended as a reserve for the Highway101 project, which must be designated before Feb. 3.

SBCAG unanimously approved the fund transfers after members of the public expressed passionate opposition to the action. "All three of them are really important projects," said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr, whose 3rd District holds two of the three projects. "They're not only important for the safety of our residents, but for the safety of our safety personnel."

Opponents of the transfer disagree, insisting that the suicide barrier on Cold Springs bridge is unnecessary.

"Barriers have no scientific evidence of them working," said Santa Barbara resident Jarrell Jackman. "What happens is, if someone wants to commit suicide, they go somewhere else."

Ms. Farr disagrees.

"I was not convinced of their arguments," she said. "The number of suicides we've seen there has been accelerating."

The unanimity of SBCAG's vote led some opponents to question its member' commitment.

"All the people that are elected officials don't want to be the only ones against it," said Mr. Jackman. "People are afraid; you don't want to come down on the side of looking inhumane."

Long-time resident Kellam Deforest agrees, saying that the reason the vote was unanimous is "it's a feel-good project.'

Discussion of the transfer became so heated that barrier-opponent Marc McGinnes refused to stop speaking out of turn, leading to a brief recess to regain control of the meeting.

Other arguments in favor of the barrier include the safety of police officers, sent to the location to prevent suicides.

"We almost lost a sheriff's deputy," said Ms. Farr, referring to a video shown to SBCAG in which a sheriff's deputy almost fell off the bridge when trying to prevent a person from jumping.

Opponents to the barrier are adament that better training of public safety personnel will solve this danger.

"If they were properly trained," said Mr. Jackman, "they would know how to handle it."

Ms. Farr said authorities are already thoroughly trained.

"Our public safety personnel are trained to rescue people even when they don't want to be rescued," she said. "The problem is the location is so isolated it takes a long time to get out there."

Mr. Deforest said he thinks the risk could be lessened with other solutions.

"Deputies falling could be easily solved by having higher railing or wires strung from one end of the bridge to the other," he said.

Friday, July 17, 2009

UCSB to decrease enrollment, cut salaries, institute furloughs


July 17, 2009 7:02 AM

The University of California's governing board has approved an emergency budget plan that will force tens of thousands of employees to take furloughs and pay cuts.

The UC Board of Regents voted Thursday to furlough up to 80 percent of the university's 180,000 workers to help address a $813 million budget shortfall caused by deep cuts in state funding. The overall goal of the plan is to achieve an estimated $184.1 million in payroll savings from general funds for 12 months, beginning on Sept. 1, 2009.

At UC Santa Barbara, a minimum of $45 million will need to be cut, according to a statement from UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang.

"We have been in a continuous cycle of budget reductions since 2003," said the chancellor.

This $45 million, however, is three times last year's reduction.

Since 2003, the campus' reduction in state funding has totaled $102 million, or 30 percent of its current-year state budget.

In order to offset some of these lost revenues, UCSB is reducing its enrollment rates to the level it held in the 2007-08 school year and will maintain this rate until at least the 2014-15 school year.

"We expect to decrease enrollment by more than 600 students below our current projected 2009-10 enrollment level for the next five years," said Mr. Yang.

A significant amount of state funding to UCSB has been lost, and according to Mr. Yang, the state will not provide new funding for the 2009-10 school year.

"While we are still interested in the long-term goals outlined in our Long Range Development Plan, the worsening budget climate will force our trajectory to be one of contraction rather than growth in the near term," he said. "I am deeply concerned about the unprecedented sacrifices that members of our UCSB family are being asked to make."

Under the plan, employees will see their salaries reduced by 4 percent to 10 percent and will take between 11 and 26 furlough days a year, with higher-paid employees taking larger pay cuts and getting more time off. The administration still needs to reach agreements on furloughs affecting union represented employees which accounts for about a third of those affected.

The furloughs are expected to cover about a quarter of the university's budget deficit. The remainder will be addressed by a previously approved student fee increase, debt refinancing and major cuts at individual campuses, which are already laying off staff, increasing class sizes and eliminating academic programs.

UC officials say the furloughs are intended to cut payroll costs, preserve pension benefits and prevent more widespread layoffs.

Employees ranging from janitors and clerical workers to professors and chancellors will be required to take furloughs, but there will be exemptions for several groups, including most students, workers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and researchers paid with outside funding.

UCSB is one of the 10 universities that make up the UC system. The campus system, one of the country's leading public universities, is just one of many institutions being rocked by California's budget crisis.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature are struggling to close a $26 billion budget gap that is forcing deep cuts to education, health care and state services.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Board votes to change name of high school


July 15, 2009 12:00 AM

Special education proponents were represented in full force at the Santa Barbara School Board meeting Tuesday night.

The major source of contention for the advocates was the "Bridge Program" parent letter and program information sheet, which the board was scheduled to simply approve after having drafted it at a closed session.

The intention of the letter, which is sent to parents of children who are "not fulfilling their potential" in school, is to suggest that parents enroll their children in an alternative school, or "Bridge Program."

Joan Esposito, a representative from the Dyslexia Awareness and Resource Center, along with several parents of special needs children, expressed disgust at the letter's failure to suggest that parents have their children evaluated for special needs.

"Don't dump them into another program," said Mrs. Esposito. "You are supposed to search for and serve these kids."

Dr. Robert Noel took issue with the letter's draft also, insisting upon a notation in the record that he did not participate in its drafting.

He was the only member who did not vote in favor of its approval, saying that he was tempted to call it a "fraud."

Dr. Noel presented a list of his problems with the draft of the letter, which included that it did not directly inform the parents of their rights or that their child would be officially enrolling in a "continuation school" with lowered expectations and lower-achieving children.

His list was discussed but not heeded, as councilwoman Annette Cordero insisted that the Bridge Program would not have lower expectations for its enrollees than an accredited high school.

"The district is being all but deceitful in how they're managing information on this program," said Dr. Noel, who insisted that with all the information available to the district about education, he could not support sending children from an environment with one set of standards to an environment with a lower set of standards.

Another area of concern for Mrs. Esposito at Tuesday night's meeting was an unnamed principal in the district, who she feels needs to be investigated.

She explained that this principal unethically took sides in the divorce proceedings of one of her students' parents. She also accused the principal of delaying urgent assessments of children's special needs and of wrongfully expelling a boy for bringing a "small amount of marijuana" to school after having cancer for three years with no prognosis.

"This Board does not even know what's going on in this district," said Mrs. Esposito.

She went on to question Superintendent J. Brian Sarvis's conduct, calling him a "nice, charming man," but insisting that he does not "follow through."

Other decisions made by the board Tuesday night included the official name change of Santa Barbara High School to Santa Barbara Secondary School and the approval of Harding Elementary School's application for an Early Childhood Initiative Expansion Proposal from the J.S. Bower Foundation.

Additional decisions included the approval of a new sex education curriculum video for fifth and sixth graders in the district and the approval of Alta Vista Alternative High School as the name for the district's new alternative high school.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Latest 'Potter' has midnight opening at Arlington

July 14, 2009 7:50 AM

Harry Potter fans do not have much longer to wait for the new film "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."

Tonight at one minute past midnight, the movie will be shown at the Arlington Theatre on State Street.

The movie premiered in London on July 7 and received capacity attendance despite a severe downpour.

It has been two years since the last installment of films based on the hit book series by J.K. Rowling, and according to the Associated Press, the sixth and newest movie is the best.

The film, which officially opens Wednesday, focuses on the realities of adolescence while still giving Potter fans a healthy dose of magic and Quidditch.

The AP gave the film three and a half out of four stars.

-Morgan Hoover

Memorial service for homeless draws tears, unites faith community : At gathering 17 dead so far in 2009 are mourned


July 14, 2009 7:44 AM

A group of Santa Barbarans rallied Monday afternoon to mourn the 17 homeless who have died in the city so far in 2009.

Clergy from all walks of faith gathered at the East Beach public restrooms to participate in a memorial service for departed homeless people, and artist Morris Bear constructed a sculpture for the occasion.

These particular public restrooms hold a special significance for those who attended because Ross Stiles, a Santa Barbara homeless man, was beaten there in February and later died. His death is still under investigation.

The United Clergy of Santa Barbara worked closely with Ken Williams. a social worker for the homeless, to organize the event.

"We respectfully request that the police put their efforts into solving this crime," said Mr. Williams, before handing the event over to clergy members.

Unitarian Universalist Reverend Teena Grant spoke first, explaining that the purpose of the event was twofold.

"We are here to grieve," she said, "but also to ... give meaning to their lives by cherishing every member of our community."

Episcopalian priest Mark Asman spoke next, reading Psalm 102 and encouraging listeners to hear the scripture as though they had "no power or place in his community."

The Psalm's 17th verse reads, "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer."

Father Asman prefaced his scripture reading by illustrating that in both the Christian and Jewish faiths, "God's preference for the poor" is evident.

Montecito Covenant Church pastor Don Johnson then addressed the crowd, inviting all present to "come together to honor and remember those who died in 2009."

The three clergy members then took turns reading the names of the deceased. After each name was read, a bell was rung, drawing sobs from some attendees.

Candidates for mayor, city council pick up papers to make it official : Hopefuls must file by Aug. 10


July 14, 2009 7:40 AM

Some Santa Barbara hopefuls for mayor and city council took another step forward Monday, the first day that contenders could acquire the paperwork that will make them official candidates if it is completed and returned to City Hall by Aug. 10.

The first two to arrive to pick up the paperwork were Bob Hansen and Justin Michael.

"I was there at 8 o'clock," said Mr. Hansen, 62. "I would like to be mayor, but it seems like a bit of an impossible dream."

Mr. Michael was also an early-arrival for the occasion.

"I was there at 8 a.m.," he said. "A few months ago I read a story about the mayor's race, and I didn't feel I was being represented. My platform is 'humanitarian first, politician second.'"

Neither of the two candidates feel particularly strongly about a particular political party.

"I'm registering as a Republican for this election," said Mr. Hansen. "but I don't know. I really don't think there's much of a difference between Democrats and Republicans."

Mr. Michael has elected not to run as a Republican or a Democrat.

"I'm bringing all sides to the table as a non-partisan candidate," he said. Quoting Groucho Marx lightheartedly, he added, "I wouldn't be part of any group that would have me as a member."

Helping the homeless is the central plank of Mr. Hansen's platform.

"I want to talk about real solutions to homelessness," he said. "People talk about ending chronic homelessness, but even using the word 'chronic," like, that sounds weird."

Mr. Michael believes he can help get a handle on the economy.

"Let's make Santa Barbara a microcosm for how the economy can be fixed," he said. "I intend to work with strategic economists and the tech venture community."

Others who acquired paperwork to run for mayor of Santa Barbara are Isaac Garrett, Steve Cushman and Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Helene Schneider.

Those who picked up the papers to run for city council are Michael Self, Lane Anderson and John Thyne.

City Councilwoman Iya Falcone has expressed her intention to run for mayor, but she had not yet picked up the appropriate paperwork by the end of business on Monday.

Those who have expressed intent to run for city council but have yet to acquire the paperwork are Dianne Channing, Frank Hotchkiss, Cathie McCammon, John Gibbs, Jr., Grant House, David Pritchett, Justin Tevis, Olivia Uribe and Harwood White.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Local singer to record with Wyclef Jean : Alycia Nichole, 25, was recently announced one of Wyclef's "More Bottles" contest winners


July 13, 2009 7:33 AM

A Santa Barbara songstress will travel to New York later this month to add her talents to a new song by famed hip hop artist Wyclef Jean.

Alycia Nichole, 25, was recently announced one of Wyclef's "More Bottles" contest winners.

The contest, which selected ten competitors, ended June 15 and asked contestants to perform and submit via Twitter their own remixed version of Wyclef's song "More Bottles."

The 10 winners will join him in a New York studio on July 25 to record the song's official remix, an opportunity that Alycia Nichole hopes will propel her music career and also prove to be an enjoyable experience.

"I didn't do this to win," she said. "I did it for fun! I've been a fan of his for a long time."

When the winners were announced on Twitter, the singer said, she was certain she had no chance.

"I said, 'I don't think I won,' but my husband said, 'Be patient, babe,'" said the singer. "When he said my name, I was like, 'This is a joke. Did he really just say my name?'"

Though she was excited, she tried to remain calm.

"I wanted to scream, but I didn't scream. I just squeezed my husband's hand really hard," she said, laughing.

The singer, who has released one single called "Suddenly," plans to release at least one more song before she goes to New York for her studio session with Wyclef and the other finalists.

At age 4, she began singing, and at age 13, she began singing publicly in her church. She views winning the contest as another step toward a successful singing career.

"I'm taking it as a stepping stone," she said. "I plan to stay focused on my music and what I'm already doing."

One of the talented artist's three producers is Goleta resident Rogan Allen, the producer of "Suddenly."

"Rogan is fusion," she said. "Suddenly is sweet, soothing, with a pop touch to it but not commercial."

In the past, she has worked with musical marvel Stu Heydon, Buddy Guy's former Blues Bassist.

Her inspirations include Sam Cooke and Pattie LaBelle, and she compares her music to the early sounds of Jill Scott and Erykah Badu.

"I grew up in the '80s," she said, "but a lot of what I was listening to was '60s and '70s because my parents are in their 60s and my four brothers are in their 30s and 40s."

For more information, look for Alycia Nichole on Twitter.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fundraising campaign for Max the owl wings its way toward goal : Birds of Prey campaign has raised $78,000 to build aviary at Museum of Natural Histor


July 12, 2009 9:57 AM

A fundraising campaign to provide a home for Max the Great Horned Owl and five other birds kicked off Saturday morning at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

The Birds of Prey campaign has already raised $78,000 out of the needed $150,000 to build an aviary at the museum in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, which hosts an array of wildlife educational programs, some with the birds.

The campaign launch drew a crowd of approximately 50 and showed off Max along with the three other birds currently cared for by the program.

These three birds are Kachina, an American kestrel; Tecolita, a Western screech owl; and Ivan, a red-tailed hawk.

The aviary will be built large enough to include two other birds the museum and the Audubon Society hope to acquire once the habitat is in place.

Construction on the habitat should begin in September and last no longer than two months.

Gabriele Drozdowski is Max's trainer who, out of her home, has been directing an Audubon Society program called Eyes in the Sky.

"It's like a dream come true," said Ms. Drozdowski of the new habitat at the museum. "The birds' location is secluded, peaceful, serene."

Planning for the habitat began in 2003 after Ms. Drozdowski brought the birds to the museum for programs free of charge several times.

The exhibit, which will be the first live bird offering for the museum, will provide an opportunity for public showings of the bird every day.

These showings will be conducted largely by volunteers, according to Ms. Drozdowski.

"We have a group of 15 volunteers," she explained. "Twelve can work with the birds, and eight can present them to the public."

The birds will be taken out and fed from 2-4 p.m. every day until a maximum volunteer workforce is achieved, at which time the public will have access to view the birds for several hours a day.

Max will be in seclusion every year for approximately three months while he fosters a baby owl, but a webcam will be set up so that visitors can still see him and the young one for whom he cares.

Ms. Drozdowski has a very close relationship with Max.

"Max has been with me since he was 6 months old," she said. "The first mating season, he decided I was his new wife."

During this time, Max courted her not with flowers, but with a dead mouse every night.

"He built a nest for us on top of the book shelf," said Ms. Drozdowski, laughing. "I finally realized what was going on, and he had decided I was his wife!"

After caring for them for 18 years, Ms. Drozdowski has a special relationship with birds.

"They all become a little part of your heart," she said. "The attachment is very close. Once you work with them one-on-one, you can't look at them the same. They're such a magnificent way to get into nature."

She is especially grateful to the Audubon Society and the museum for Birds of Prey.

"It'll be rent free," she said. "We'll have water, electricity, maintenance. In Santa Barbara, that's just amazing."

For more information on Birds of Prey, visit

Citizens sound off against high density development


July 12, 2009 12:00 AM

Goleta community members expressed strong opposition to high-density development Saturday at an open workshop held by the Goleta Valley Planning Advisory Committee.

The workshop at the Vieja Valley School on Nogal Drive was intended to obtain community suggestions and feedback regarding the 1993 Goleta Community Plan, which GVPAC is now seeking to update.

The workshop was divided into seven areas -- parks, recreation, trails, open space and public views; residential land use; agricultural land use; commercial land use; environmental protection and stewardship; public safety, services and infrastructure; and mobility, circulation and parking -- to discuss, evaluate and recommend goals.

Small groups gathered at each topic's table for approximately 40 minutes before rotating.

Amidst a diverse array of topics, high-density construction was brought up and vehemently argued at each station.

"We have to protect open space," said Patricia Hiles at the parks, recreation, trails, open space and public views station, which was led by GVPAC member Valerie Olson. "We live out here because we don't want high density. We don't want to live in the city."

At the agricultural land use station, led by GVPAC member Bonnie Freeman, the same tone was present.

"We don't want to rezone land because the value will shoot up," said Patti Close, "and it will take high density (construction) to pay for it."

Concern about density was also expressed at the mobility, circulation and parking station, led by Kenan Ezal.

"I have a concern about increasing development and density along Hollister," said Carol Geer.

Robert Rainwater agreed.

"There's increased density along Hollister that's affecting traffic," he said.

At the environmental protection and stewardship station, led by Kimberly True, Don Close adamantly opposed high-density construction on the basis that the theories behind its benefits are false.

"People think high density means people will bike to work, walk to work. I don't think that's what happens," he said. "If we reduce density, we reduce cars."

Mr. Close said he is willing to accept development, but he does not believe that development should occur at the expense of the city's existing appeal.

"It should be in tune with the community that exists," he said.

GVPAC will hold a meeting on August 4 at 6 p.m. at 105 E. Anapamu St. in the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission Hearing Room.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Santa Barbara Finance Director Bob Peirson leaving his position : Departure comes after 20 years of public service


July 10, 2009 7:12 AM

City Finance Director Bob Peirson is leaving his position after more than 20 years in Santa Barbara public service because he wants to do something new, he told the News-Press Thursday.

Mr. Peirson said he has mixed emotions about leaving his post.

"I'm excited about pursuing fresh challenges," he said, "but there's sadness in leaving the family I've worked with here."

He said the decision to leave was not an easy one.

"It's not a decision you make overnight," he said. "I wanted to get through the city budget's adoption, which was on June 23. After that I focused my mind on the future."

Mr. Peirson's immediate plans include vacationing in such places as Spain and Morocco.

Recently, Mr. Peirson worked through the International City/County Management Association with the World Bank in Washington, D.C., to provide financial management training to local government finance officials from the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. He hopes to participate in this type of work in the future.

"I'm certainly hoping to do some of that," he said.

He will officially leave the position he has held since 1995 on August 28.

"I will continue to work to do what's in the best interest of the city until then," he said.

The prospect of leaving Santa Barbara is an emotional one for the long-time finance director.

"I'll miss it all -- the people most of all," he said. "It's been really satisfying to, in some small way, contribute to the city."

He explained that although he made the decision to leave, he has no negative feelings about his employment with the city.

"I've been the luckiest guy in the world," he said. "There wasn't a morning I didn't wake up looking forward to going to work. I still feel that way."

Mr. Peirson first worked for the city as its accounting manager in 1989, and two years later he was made the assistance finance director.

He has achieved a variety of accomplishments in his time in Santa Barbara, including a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting and the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, both from the Government Finance Officers Association.

Marine Life Protection Act workshop comes to Santa Barbara : Feedback solicited on six proposals for marine protected areas along the South Coast stud


July 10, 2009 7:07 AM

A workshop on the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative was held in Santa Barbara on Thursday night to allow for community feedback on six proposals for marine protected areas along the South Coast study region.

The workshop was the seventh in a series of eight, all of which took place in coastal regions where the MPAs are being proposed.

In a conference room at Fess Parker's DoubleTree resort on East Cabrillo Boulevard, six stations were set up in Science Fair style, each with respective information on these coastal regions.

The regions are Carlsbad, Orange County, Point Dume in Newport, Southern Channel Islands, Point Dume in Carpinteria and Point Conception.

An MPA is "primarily intended to protect or conserve marine life and habitat," according to public resources code.

The proposed MPAs in Point Conception, the Goleta Slough state marine reserve near the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport and the Refugio state marine conservation area on the Gaviota Coast just west of Naples, are those which will most affect Santa Barbara, according to Principal Planner Evan Fox.

"The Channel Islands stay the same in all the proposals," said Mr. Fox, who explained that this is because they are just starting to be evaluated after receiving their own set of restrictions four years ago.

Four of the proposals were presented by regional stakeholder work groups, while the remaining two were presented by external fishing groups and adopted by the stakeholders.

The four proposals from the stakeholders are Lapis 1, Lapis 2, Opal and Topaz.

Under Lapis 1 and Lapis 2, all take would be prohibited in the Goleta Slough SMR, and the Refugio SMCA is not proposed as an MPA.

Under Opal, all take in the Goleta Slough SMR would be prohibited, and boating, swimming, wading and diving would also be prohibited. The Refugio SMCA is not proposed.

Under Topaz, the Refugio SMCA is proposed. Commercial take would be prohibited there except for urchin and sea cucumber by means of diving. Recreational take would also be prohibited except for certain fish by spear, hand, diving and hook and line.

Also under Topaz, the Goleta Slough SMR is proposed and would allow no take.

The two proposals generated by external groups and adopted by MLPA do not propose a Refugio SMCA, but they do propose a Goleta Slough SMR in which all take is prohibited.

MLPA's science and planning advisor, Satie Airame, said she was thrilled about the workshop series and found it valuable to the law's implementation.

"I believe it's an important law to implement," she said. "And I love this process because it engages different interests and group leaders."

The Initiative's planning process and existing MPA evaluation began in June, 2008.

In December, 2008, development and review began of draft MPA proposals, a process that is currently wrapping up.

The future for the MLPA Initiative lies with the California Fish and Game Commission, who will receive recommended proposals in September and make its own recommendation sometime in November or December, at which time the regulatory and environmental review process will begin.

For more information on the MLPA Initiative, visit

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pacific Pride Festival kicks off with Canary Hotel event


July 9, 2009 7:59 AM

The annual Pacific Pride Festival kicked off last night at the Canary Hotel and will continue with various events through Sunday. The main festival takes place on Saturday.

John Bowlin, the chair of the event, anticipates an exciting time for the LGBT community.

"We are offering community-building," said Mr. Bowlin, who is also the Director of Community Events for the Pacific Pride Foundation. "For some young people this might be their first coming-out experience."

Mr. Bowlin said that while the festival is always a time for celebrating diversity, it also offers opportunities that some may find unexpected.

"We have three faith establishments represented," he said, "and we have families of pride, meaning gays and lesbians who have adopted. It's a feeling of celebration for our presence here."

The foundation will host "Stilleto," which is "an official pride girl party," tonight at Whiskey Richards at 435 State St. at 9 p.m. The party will be $7 at the door and will feature DJ FTRTRSH and Luna Bella make-up artists.

Friday night's Pride Pre-party will be at Statemynt at 519 State St. with DJ Gavin Roy at what Mr. Bowlin calls "club time," or 9 p.m. to closing.

The festival itself will be Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Chase Palm Park between Garden St. and S. Calle Cesar Chavez. It is the feature event and the one about which Mr. Bowlin said he is most excited.

"Seeing Chase Palm Park filled with people is the highlight for me," he said.

Saturday night's party will be called "Splash" and will be at SOhO at 1221 State St. at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door but will be $15 at the festival earlier in the day. DJ Ducky will be featured, and Joshua Klipp will perform at midnight.

The event will close Sunday night with a free party at the Wildcat Lounge at 15 W. Ortega St. from 9 p.m. to close.

The Pacific Pride Foundation is producing the event for the third year in a row after taking a hiatus for a few years while the community produced it. Before this interval, the foundation produced the festival for 16 years.

Mr. Bowlin explained that the event is a community effort, with significant donations from sponsors such as Pacific Beverage Company, Vons, Canary Hotel and Barefoot Wine.

"We've worked hard on this since Christmas," he said. "A lot of California Prides aren't happening. A 'boutique pride,' as I like to call it here in Santa Barbara, is hard to produce, but we can offer a good festival."

The festival is particularly valuable for those individuals who are just coming out of the closet, according to Mr. Bowlin.

"It's a safe experience for them," he said. "They can observe from the sidelines or be out picnicking. It's a building block to getting involved."

The foundation encourages attendees to take public transportation to the events and is excited that venues such as SOhO and the Canary Hotel are opening their doors for the festival.

IN BRIEF : New county planning director named

SANTA BARBARA A new director of the county's Planning and Development Department was named Tuesday after a nationwide search yielded an in-state appointment.

Glenn Russell was chosen by three panels of interviewers, two of which comprised community leaders and environmental advocates and the remaining of which included local government experts.

Mr. Russell was most recently a program manager of the Project Planning Division in San Diego County's Planning and Land Use Department.

He will begin work in Santa Barbara in September with a yearly salary of $160,000.

-Morgan Hoover

IN BRIEF : Marine Life Protection Act open house in S.B.

July 8, 2009 11:50 AM

SANTA BARBARA The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is hosting eight open houses this summer, and on July 9, one will be held in downtown Santa Barbara.

The public is invited to attend the three-hour open house at 5:30 p.m. at Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort at 633 E. Cabrillo Blvd.

The purpose of the event is to discuss the draft marine protection area proposals for the MLPA south coast study region, which includes waters from Point Conception to the border with Mexico.

Community members are encouraged to provide written comments after being provided information about the draft proposals.

Members of the regional stakeholder group who helped draft the proposals will be on-hand to answer questions and participate in dialogue, along with MLPA Initiative and Department of Fish and Game staff and the MLPA blue ribbon task force.

For more information, visit

-Morgan Hoover

Telecast of memorial service brings fans to Arlington : About 200 watch Staples Center event at local theater


July 8, 2009 11:09 AM

In a half-filled Arlington Theatre, emotions ran high as fans watched the King of Pop's televised memorial service while crunching on popcorn as early as 9 a.m., proving that Michael Jackson is, even in death, an entertainer.

With every age group represented, the audience of approximately 200 applauded and cried together throughout the ceremony.

Brothers Andrew and Adrian Gutierrez of Santa Barbara sat together to watch the man of whom they were "huge fans" remembered by his family and fellow icons.

"As soon as I saw he was dead, I was super sad," said Andrew, 12. "I was just in shock."

Adrian, 20, said he too was shocked by the news of Mr. Jackson's death.

"He changed the music industry so much," he said. "It's the end of an era.'

Not attending the telecast was out of the question for these two.

"I saw that they were showing it here, and I said, 'Brother, we have to go!'" said Andrew.

Santa Barbara resident Lea Williams, 54, was on-hand to watch the ceremony at the Arlington along with other spectators.

"I remember first hearing his music in high school," she said. "It was 'ABC,' and we were all dancing to it in the locker room."

A former dancer, Ms. Williams said she is especially saddened by the loss of someone with an appreciation for the art.

"He understood rhythm incredibly," she said, shaking her head.

Her main motivation to watch the service from the theatre was curiosity, she admitted.

"I was curious who would find this compelling," she said. "And would it be emotional?"

Ms. Williams said that when she first heard Mr. Jackson was dead, she was certain that it was untrue.

"It just seemed impossible," she said. "I just kept hoping it was an Internet hoax."

Disbelief was the common thread in fan reactions to the tragic news.

Santa Barbaran Serena Razo, 37, said she thought it was a joke when her co-worker first broke the news to her.

"She asked me if I was sitting down," said Ms. Razo. "I got on TMZ, and I found out it was true."

Ms. Razo was the first to arrive at Arlington Theatre for the live screening of the service and the last to leave when it ended.

"I thought it was beautiful, very emotional," she said. "I've been a fan since I can remember, since I was two. His music has always been a part of my life."

Those in the theater watched the ceremony silently, save for an Emergency Alert System test that interrupted the broadcast's audio and drew boos and hisses from the attendees.

It seemed that Mr. Jackson's music touched everyone in a different way.

Andrew Gutierrez's favorite Michael Jackson song is "Who is it?" while his brother, Adrian, said that he loves "Wanna Be Starting Something."

Ms. Williams, a lover of anything to which she can dance, said that "Thriller" will always be her favorite, and Ms. Razo, who displayed her love of the King of Pop with a Michael Jackson T-shirt, said simply and with a note of sadness, "Billy Jean."

Chamber event to celebrate local architect's work

Morgan Hoover

July 7, 2009 7:26 AM

A local architect's work will be celebrated July 22 when the Chamber of Commerce hosts "Twilight at the Oasis," a fundraiser to be held at El Andaluz.

Santa Barbara resident Jeff Shelton designed the three-story condominium project in Moroccan style. It includes seven homes surrounding an open-air courtyard.

The event is being held to raise money for Coastal Housing Coalition and Civic Roundtable and is being sponsored by Rabobank, Portofino Doors & Windows and Nye Peabody Sterling & Hale.

Local restaurants and wineries will provide the refreshments, and the band The Other Woman will entertain event-goers.

Attendance will be limited to 400, and tickets are on sale now at $15 for chamber members, and $20 for non-members.

Tickets can be purchased at and by calling 805-965-3023.

HONORING WALTER CAPPS : Park could open in 6 months to a year


July 7, 2009 7:23 AM

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission will face an important decision Wednesday regarding the future of Walter Capps Memorial Park.

Meeting at 9 a.m. at the County Engineering Building on Anapamu Street, commissioners will take up among other items the environmental review for the open space, which the commission will either approve or reject, according to project planner Ray Severn.

Mr. Severn expects approval will come easily because the use of the vacant lot in the 6600 block of Del Playa Drive, will not change significantly when the park is developed.

"They are minimal changes so the review will be just a brief," he explained. "There will be minimal environmental impact from the improvements."

The park would be named after the beloved former senator and UCSB professor, who died while in office.

"This is just a memorial to him," said Mr. Severn. "This is a nice thing because federal and state monies were used to buy the land."

Juan Beltranena of the county Parks Department explained that the park will represent that which Mr. Capps represented.

"There are two sides of the park: active recreation and a meadow, and a boardwalk will figuratively connect the two," said Mr. Beltranena. "An inscription on the board will have a quote."

The quote on the boardwalk will read, "We are strongest as a people when we are directed by that which united us, rather than giving in to fears, suspicions, innuendos and paranoias that divide."

Susan van Atta is responsible for the park's design.

It will include restroom facilities, paths and open space for recreational activities.

"It's a very simple park," said Mr. Beltranena. "It's quite a charming composition, to tell you the truth."

Mr. Severn explained that another positive that he draws from the park's improvement is that it will be permanent open space.

"There were narrow parcels that were purchased for this open space," he said. "It will take away from the development of the land."

If the park is approved by all authorities involved, Mr. Severn expects that it would still take another six months to a year to be opened as the official Walter Capps Memorial Park.

"The next phase will be to do final engineering," he explained. "It will take some time to do that."

Because a portion of the park is in the coastal region, the project will also have to go through the Coastal Commission, which could prove to be a lengthy process.

"Due to budgetary constraints, their staff has been reduced," said Mr. Beltranena. "Their ability to put things through is very compromised right now."

Another project-extender is the cost of construction for the restroom and walking paths.

"It may be a year, or even more depending on the funding," said Mr. Severn, "because they don't know the total construction cost."

Mr. Severn is a planner for Penfield & Smith, a company contracted by the county for the project.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

IN BRIEF : Lack: Palin sets sights on White House bid

Morgan Hoover

July 5, 2009 9:35 AM

SANTA BARBARA In Santa Barbara, Republican Leadership Council member David Lack said Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has plans to run for president in 2012.

"She's really considering running," he said, calling her decision to leave her position as governor noble.

"She owes it to the people of Alaska," said Mr. Lack. "Some people do run again even though they plan to run for president; she's showing character."

Mr. Lack said that it is too early for him to support a GOP candidate for the White House, but he insists that Gov. Palin has a special place in the party.

"She gives it that real conscious, polite conservative voice," he said, "and today she would be the leading conservative voice in the party."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Month-long probe of alleged pot growers, dealers yields arrests : Marijuana worth $800,000 is seized

Morgan Hoover

July 4, 2009 7:44 AM

Marijuana worth $800,000 has been taken off the streets by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, which arrested three men after a month-long investigation into cultivators and dealers.

Michael Shapiro, 69, of Goleta, was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and cultivation, possession and transportation of marijuana and released.

Misha Ford, 35, of Summerland was being held in lieu of $30,000 bail on suspicion of conspiracy, cultivation, transportation and possession of marijuana for sale and possession of cocaine.

Donald Bullick, 60, of Montecito, was also released after being arrested on suspicion of conspiracy, cultivation and possession of marijuana for sales and possession of psilocybin.

During warrant searches of the suspects' homes, more than 400 growing marijuana plants were found in what police are calling "sophisticated gardens." Detectives also seized five pounds of processed marijuana worth an estimated $20,000.

On top of the pot, detectives discovered four grams of cocaine, psilocybin, ecstacy pills and $18,000.

Investigators became aware of the suspects when they intercepted a parcel of marijuana that was being shipped to New York.

Investigators say the growing operation was allegedly outside the provisions of California's Proposition 215 Compassionate Use Act.

During the investigation, Mr. Ford allegedly sold marijuana openly in the presence of an undercover officer and he and Mr. Shapiro are alleged to have shipped pounds of processed marijuana to the East Coast, including New York and New Jersey.

These buds won't hit the streets. They were seized by sheriff's deputies after a probe of suspected pot dealers and cultivators.

Three were arrested in connection with a suspected illegal pot-growing and distribution operation.

Raytheon contract expected to bring new jobs to Goleta


July 3, 2009 7:24 AM

Jobs will be brought to Goleta thanks to a new a military contract secured by Raytheon Electronic Systems, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Due to the confidential nature of military agreements, officials were unable to comment on the $166.9 million Navy contract for infrared-guided missiles.

The air-to-air missile contract will reportedly provide Raytheon more than 250 jobs in Tucson, Ariz.; Andover, Mass.; and Goleta.

Raytheon officials were unsure exactly how many jobs the contract will provide or which buildings will be most impacted.

"It's too early to tell," said Lewis Brinson, a Raytheon spokesman. "We haven't made that assessment yet."

S.B. at height of year-round fire season : County Fire captain says fire danger level considered high since June 15


July 3, 2009 7:22 AM

Fire season is now considered year-round in Santa Barbara and the summer months bring the highest danger level to the area, according to Fire Captain Dave Sadecki.

"We're always in fire season," said Captain Sadecki. "Because of the frequency of fires in our area, we now evaluate it in levels, and we've been at the high level since June 15."

Capt. Sadecki said that the combination of heat, lack of rainfall and low levels of moisture in vegetation is the reason Santa Barbara is now at such risk.

"We've been in a three-year drought," he said.

But, he reminds, there are ways that community members can protect their homes.

"We recommend that people look around their homes, continually keep them updated, keep 100 feet of clearance around their homes and keep their gutters clear," said Capt. Sadecki.

The fire department also asks that residents keep their driveways clear so that in the event of an emergency, a truck can get as close to a structure as possible.

"We look for a box 12 feet wide and 13.5 feet high to drive a fire truck through," said Capt. Sadecki.

Something that many may not consider is the visibility of an address from the road.

"Make sure it's visible from the road so we can get there in an emergency," said Capt. Sadecki.

Santa Barbara residents minimized fire damage in the Tea and Jesusita fires by complying with such regulations.

"The folks of Santa Barbara have been very good historically with that," Capt. Sadecki said. "If it weren't for that, we could have lost more structures."

It is recommended that people maintain precautions year-round and not wait until summer because waiting might make the project too overwhelming or, worse, too late.

"We really want people to chip away at it all year," said Capt. Sadecki.

Because the fires have happened in such close sequence, fuel for the fires is running low.

"There have been fire breaks," said Capt. Sadecki. "I have seen pictures in which the black of the Jesusita fire burned right up against the green that just started growing from the Tea fire."

He said the landscape has significantly changed due to the blazes.

"The vegetation that burned was from like 1964," he said. "It was 20 feet high, and now it's almost like a moonscape. We'll have ten years of low vegetation levels now."

Because July 4 is fast approaching, Capt. Sadecki emphasized the importance of fireworks safety.

"Attend a public display to enjoy it in person," he said. "Amateur fireworks can be dangerous and sometimes deadly. Leave the fireworks shows to the professionals."

The fire department will increase its level of staffing today through Sunday, as the weather is predicted to be warmer and drier than normal, according to a press release from the county's fire department.

IN BRIEF : LAFCO to take up sphere of influence expansion

July 2, 2009 8:16 AM

COUNTY The Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation Commission will hold a hearing today at 2 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, 105 E. Anapamu St.

The agenda includes talk of a proposed sphere of influence for the city of Santa Barbara by less than one acre adjacent to Coyote Road and a proposed out of agency service agreement on a single-family home on the aforementioned .78 acre lot.

The purpose of these proposals is to provide sewer service to a home that is being reconstructed after it burned down in the Tea Fire.

"We need to expand the city's sphere of influence so that we can provide this house sewer service," said Bob Braitman, LAFCO Executive Officer, "and we need to annex the property."

Mr. Braitman explained that annexing the property would be a time-consuming process, and because the home will be built before that can occur, a recorded agreement will be made by the property owner that will guarantee the city future annexation.

LAFCO also plans to consider adopting a policy of "out-of-agency service agreements that would determine under what conditions urban services may be extended to agricultural parcels," according to the hearing agenda. This policy consideration comes on the heels of an event in which the city had to annex 22 acres of property in order to provide sewer services to only four acres of that land. "We want to avoid that in the future," said Mr. Braitman. LAFCO will also select a temporary committee regarding its staffing and ratify disbursements for June 2009.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

JUST THE (NUTRITIONAL) FACTS : State law requires some chain restaurants to tell consumers more about the food they eat


July 1, 2009 7:26 AM

A state law in effect today requiring large restaurant chains to provide nutrition information to the public for all menu items is being met with mixed reviews.

Beth Mansfield, manager of public relations for Carpinteria-based CKE Restaurants, which runs such popular restaurant chains as Carl's Jr., calls the law heavy-handed.

"It should be up to the consumer to handle their dietary needs," she said.

CKE is complying with the law, however, and pamphlets are provided at every restaurant location bearing complete nutrition information.

Drive-through customers will be made aware of the pamphlets by a notification on the outside menu board.

Mrs. Mansfield said that customers who requested nutrition information in the past were directed to posters, which already hung in the restaurants.

"We also have all the information on our Web site," she said, "so they can build their whole meal ahead of time."

The law applies to chains with 20 or more locations in the state. Its author, state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, said he wrote it that way to prevent placing too much of a burden on smaller family-owned restaurants.

Phase two of the law requires restaurants to list comprehensive nutrition information on menu boards.

Non-compliance with the law can result in fines of up to $500, which is a figure that will be determined by local law enforcement, according to Sen. Padilla's chief of staff, Bill Mabie.

"Typically the county health inspector will be the one to make that call," he said.

McDonald's also has posters of comprehensive nutrition information on its wall.

The popular fast -food pillar has offered the information for several years, and before this new law, offered it in five different ways, according to Danya Proud, a McDonald's spokeswoman.

In a statement she said, "nutrition information is currently available on our Web site, via a toll-free telephone number, on select product packaging, in-restaurant brochures and on the back of trayliners in nearly 14,000 McDonald's restaurants throughout the United States, including California."

At the McDonald's on upper State Street, Manager Gabriela Velazquez said she is ready and excited to make customers more aware of what they eat.

"We don't really have to change anything yet," she said, "but we are already trying something new."

She explained that every McDonald's location already has brochures in place to distribute. The upper State location prints the nutrition information for the meal that is purchased on the back of the receipt.

If it proves successful, the system will be used in surrounding McDonald's locations.

"People think that we want to hide it," said Mrs. Velazquez, "but we don't want to hide it! We want people to know we have healthier options."

She said that although McDonald's has already been offering the information for about 30 years, customers still ask for the information.

"They do it especially with new or promotional products that aren't on the poster yet," she said, "but we have that information separately and give it to them when they ask."

On a personal note, she is also thrilled with the law.

"I think it's a great thing as a consumer," she said. "You wanna know what you're eating, and sometimes I am surprised when I go somewhere that they don't have the information."

California is the first state to require chains to disclose the number of calories in each menu item.

The California Restaurant Association, which initially fought the measure, got on board after a provision was added preventing similar ordinances from being implemented on a local level.

Restaurant-goers have varied opinions about the law.

"It's a good idea because people should know what they're eating," said Terry Lammers, a 34-year resident of Santa Barbara. "They shouldn't assume that people will study it on their own."

Mr. Lammers added that "it might make (Californians) healthier."

Darren Gortz, a tour guide who leads people from all around the world through California, agrees.

"I think it's great!" said Mr. Gortz. "It's always good to know what you're eating."

But some are not as excited for the new laws.

Santa Barbara resident Janice Frecker said she hardly cares about the newly-required transparency.

"I wish we wouldn't even have chain restaurants," she said.

Neverland attraction could challenge ag land's primacy : Supervisor says temporary permits closer to a post-Jackson reality at ranch


June 30, 2009 7:00 AM

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents the district where the sprawling Figueroa Mountain Road property is located, said Monday that the 2,800 acres of land is zoned agriculture -- and because the county is so protective of its ag land, granting a permit to honor the King of Pop in the style that Memphis, Tenn., does for the King of Rock 'n' Roll could take quite a while.

That is if it happens at all.

A more likely scenario, said Mrs. Farr, who described herself as a great fan of Mr. Jackson's, is for the ranch's new owner, Colony Capital LLC, to secure permits for two- or three-day events at the ranch.

Questions about what might happen to the property started the day after the 50-year-old's death, when Tom Barrack, Colony's chairman, posted on his blog: "Neverland itself is now a mythical sanctuary to Michael and we are doing our best to accommodate the throngs of global press and fans arriving there to express their grief."

Then on Saturday, the News-Press was on hand when members of the Jackson family arrived at Neverland -- which, upon Colony's acquisition late last year reverted to its original name, Sycamore Valley Ranch -- for a catered lunch that followed a morning meeting in Los Angeles reportedly focusing on Mr. Jackson's final resting place.

Some have said that should be Neverland.

Speaking to reporters in Solvang, Mrs. Farr said she is not aware of anyone at the county level being contacted about his being laid to rest there. She further explained that such issues are a state matter.

As for whether she'd be in favor of a Neverland tourist spot, Mrs. Farr would not say.

"It would be premature to talk about it."

Since his death June 25, some have wondered whether the future would hold for Mr. Jackson what it held for Elvis Presley, whose only daughter, Lisa Marie, for a time was married to Mr. Jackson: interment at a place he called home.

Graceland, in Memphis, is where Elvis is buried.

Some say Neverland could be the King of Pop's Graceland.

Each year, fans of Mr. Presley undertake massive pilgrimages to Graceland on the anniversaries of his death and his birthday.

If activity at Mr. Jackson's final resting place parallels Mr. Presley's, tourists could descend on Los Olivos and the surrounding area on the King of Pop's birthday, August 29, and the anniversary of his death, June 25.

Tourism officials and some businesses say such a burial for Mr. Jackson at the ranch so long known as Neverland would result in a boom for the tourism in nearby Los Olivos.

"If open to the public, it would certainly become a popular tourist attraction, as Graceland is in Memphis and the Père Lachaise Cemetery is in Paris," said Shannon Brooks of the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission.

"Whether or not Michael Jackson is actually buried at Neverland, the property will be a destination for fans seeking a way to connect with him and pay their respects," she said.

Mary Harris, the executive director of the Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Association released a statement Monday that they "are not involved in plans for Neverland Ranch and respect the privacy of the Jackson family."

Los Olivos businesses could reap the benefits of a Graceland-style attraction.

"Michael Jackson is a phenomenon throughout the world," said Z Darghali, who manages the R Country Market on Grand Avenue. "It would be a hundred times the tourism that it is now."

Still, a boon could prove bittersweet.

"It would be good for business, although I hate to see it come from a situation like that," said Mr. Darghali.

Brooke Jones, a store retailer at Back at the Ranch on Edison Street, said she sees such an attraction as a boon.

"The more people up here, the better business would be," she said.

Not everyone who runs a business in the area is so confident in Neverland's draw.

Chuck Carlson, winemaker general manager at Curtis Winery on Foxen Canyon Road is an example.

"I don't think (business) is going to be affected much at all, to be honest," he said. "I think people who are coming to view something like that, we might get some of them, but I don't think they're going to make that part of their destination."