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Whooping Cough Aftermath: A life of complications

by Cheri Rae

The last big outbreak of whooping cough, five years ago, hit hard around here.
cThe nightmarish coughing spasms—so severe they left my then-eight-year-old son gasping for air around the clock, and both of us sleepless at night—were a grim reality for a couple of months, but the damage lingered far beyond.

Shocked by the severity of the vaccine-preventable illness, I learned everything I could and shared that new-found expertise in a memorable cover story for the Santa Barbara Independent, titled “Hundred-Day Hack.” I even ended up on the Today Show, talking about whooping cough. I never expected to address it again.

But the recent epidemic—more than 4,000 cases in California, the most in a half-century, and 45 cases in Santa Barbara County—is so bad that the Santa Barbara school district dialed up robo-calls to inform parents about it. Here’s the follow-up, the cautionary tale about life after the coughing stops. It’s bad enough to contract the disease—coming back from it can be just as difficult.

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Extension of Employment Agreement

Letter to the Editor

All of the deceptive practices carried out by the officials of the City of Bell reveal that without effective exposure of day-to-day happenings, it is possible to deceive those members of the public who try to stay informed as well as officials from other agencies, including law enforcement charged with the responsibility to be vigilant to questionable practices. Some of Bell’s executives used multiple-year employment contracts to protect themselves from possible reductions in salary which otherwise could happen during a recession.

sbsddocThe public would like to think that public officials now question their own practices and voluntarily disclose employee costs with clear and accurate descriptions of salaries and complicated benefit packages. However, as recently as September 9, 2010, the Santa Barbara School Districts Board approved a one-year extension to June 30, 2012 to the existing 2008-2011 contract for the Associate Superintendent. According to the agenda, approval was granted after more than one closed session; suggesting some discussion or disagreement. By this extension, the Associate Superintendent is conveniently protected for one year from any organizational or budget changes a newly-elected Board might seek to make.

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Santa Barbara School Board Forums

It’s all in the timing: with NBC’s weeklong initiative called “Education Nation,” the upcoming release of the critically acclaimed “Waiting for Superman,” and the issues of union protection, teacher competence, standardized testing and student achievement front and center, it’s time to pay attention to those campaigning for a seat on the local school board.

Meet the candidates, hear them respond to questions from the moderators, ask a question of your own—make an informed choice for two, among incumbent Kate Parker, Monique Limon, Loren Mason and Dean Nevins.

Upcoming events include:

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Gone, but Not Forgotten

Follow-up by Cheri Rae
SF LUST_copyThe leaking underground storage tank unearthed under the boiler room at the former St. Francis hospital demolition site was removed yesterday, and transported to Kettleman City for disposal.

And work crews are set to collect soil samples at the site to test for a number of contaminants related to the tank, according to the work plan as specified by the Santa Barbara County Fire Prevention Division.

The sludge found in the tank tested at high levels for the following contaminants:
Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH), n Butylbenzene, sec-Butylbenzene, Isopropylbenzene; Naphthalene, n-Propylbenzene, as well as Barium and Lead.

Remaining soil and groundwater samples are required to be analyzed for the following:

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The Sounds of Silence: Environmental Monitoring at St. Francis

by Cheri Rae

cIn a city as green as Santa Barbara claims to be, residents probably think that independent oversight of potentially hazardous environmental matters is a given, with impeccable procedures and reporting methods; safety and public health concerns front and center—and Conditions of Approval followed to the letter.

Not so with what’s going on at the site of the former St. Francis Hospital—now demolished to make way for Cottage’s 115-unit condo project.

Despite the unceasing high-decibel rumbling, crushing and pounding that’s reduced the building to rubble, there’s deafening silence surrounding environmental oversight of the work going on up there.

Nobody much wants to talk about the fact that the applicant for the project, Ken Marshall, negotiated the contract for his company, Dudek, to serve as the Project Environmental Coordinator (PEC) for the very same project he represented at virtually every governmental hearing held throughout the long approval process.

The City of Santa Barbara approved the contract between Cottage’s Vice-President Ron Biscaro and Marshall, the project applicant as “Principal in Charge” of environmental oversight, and even now defends the selection.

“The fact that the PEC works for Dudek, and Dudek served as the applicant/agent for this project, is not unusual,” stated Allison De Busk, City planner on the project. “We understand that there may be the perception of a conflict of interest; however, Dudek personnel have served as PECs on several projects throughout the City, and they are well-qualified in that role.”

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Also on the Docket…

The Santa Barbara City Council will be hearing Cottage’s request for additional approvals of the project this afternoon.  According to the Staff Report the condo project is now owned by Villa Riviera Real Estate Company, with former St. Francis Hospital CEO Ron Biscaro named as Chief Executive Officer.

On the Docket… More Taxes for Tourists

Today, the Santa Barbara City Council will discuss and consider another tax on tourists. The proposed hotel tax will be purportedly used to market Santa Barbara as a vacation destination. Does the American Riviera really need to be promoted?

According to officials
, the answer is yes. If the City Council approves the Santa Barbara Tourism Business Improvement District tax, hotel owners would be charged between 50 cents-to-$2 per occupied room, per night.

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Rigs to Reef and Pier to Perch

Santa Barbara is not only leading the way in the field of “Rigs to Reefs” but may be a pace-setter for the notion of what I like to call “Pier to Perch.”

Pier to PerchOil drilling once took place just offshore a half mile down-coast from Haskell’s,  Bacara Beach. Supporting the drilling apparatus was an old oil and gas pier.

Two oil wells operated until 1958. Forty-seven years later ARCO Company dismantled most of the pier but left behind eight concrete supports, which became the foundation for an artificial reef.

For nearly a half century, the cormorants and brown pelicans roosted on the pier’s old pilings; in 2005, when the pier was removed, four above-water platforms were fashioned for the birds. The artificial reef is expected to nurture marine life, including the kelp forest and assorted invertebrates plus calico bass, sand bass, halibut, perch and rockfish. — Follow-up piece on Rigs to Reef by John McKinney