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Dune dust kicks up controversy [11] OPINION

The Canary relives her first column [21] ARTS

Dr. Chess gets kids on the board [24] ARTS

Play us a song, piano man [27]

Yeah, us. It’s been a decade since the Sun first started publishing.


We’ve changed.

See Northern Santa Barbara County [40]

You’ve changed.


Awards are sweeping the counties [67]

But we’ve all also stayed the same. Join us to reminisce and look ahead. [29]

Where they are now T

he Sun didn’t get to where it is today on its own. No opposable thumbs, see? Fortunately, this particular thumbless collection of ink and paper has had a lot of help over the years. In honor of the publication’s 10th anniversary, we tracked down a veritable rogue’s gallery of former employees. Some have gone on to different journalistic endeavors, such as former arts editor Abraham Hyatt, who sent this note via Twitter: “@SantaMariaSun I don’t know where I am but I got here via a dog sled, a traveling circus and a truck full of counterfeit plein air paintings.” (Check out more of what he’s up to at Others have moved a bit further from the business, such as former staff writer Andrew Parker, who dashed off a personal note to do with what we would: “So a few years ago, as you know, I left the Sun and the Central Coast and moved down to LA to get an MA in communication management at USC. A few years later, I got it. During that time, I interned for a few studios, production companies, etc. I also wrote a screenplay that was promptly dismissed by a contact at Focus Features. I still write some creatively, not a lot. When the spirit moves, you know how that goes. Trying to do more of it right now, for reasons I’ll get to in Andrew Parker about two sentences. So I segued out of the program at SC into a position in marketing research for Sony Pictures. Kind of a weird fit, but it paid well and was a secure position. Until last week, when I got laid off. Sony cut 20 percent of its marketing department as a way of weathering the downturn. So right now I’m unemployed (leave this part in, it sounds timely and relevant, good stuff). Next move is unsure. I’ll probably stay in LA. I live in South Pasadena, and I love it, it’s a great town. I’d like to find a gig that draws more on my journo background, we’ll see what comes of that.” Others are nowhere near the pen-and-paper world that once cradled them so gently, such as former staff writer Matt McBride, who submitted the “short version” of his current life via another former staffer’s Facebook page. He is, he reports, “living in New London CT owning one Dairy Queen myself and another with my brother and sister. Enjoying every minute. All the family is around, nieces and nephews keeping me busy. … Tell everyone I know I said hi.” Some former staffers are so different as to be almost unrecognizable, such as Andrew Rivetty, whom Sun readers might remember as Staff Writer Andrew Petty. Where they Are Now

Andrew Rivetty

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Cordelia Rackley

Start here,

go to Hancock! S

everal former Sun staffers are now plying their wordcraft trade at Allan Hancock College. A couple of them actually came to the Sun from the school, then returned there when they’d had enough. Take a look at what our journalist-turned-collegiate-PR friends are doing now:

Cordelia Rackley

former associate editor

It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since the Sun made its entrance into the Santa Maria Valley. I was both thrilled and honored to be part of its initial vision as its first associate editor for a brief period. Working with Marla and Steve (Moss) was a dream job. I loved being in the “meat” of journalism, as they say in our business, the heat of a deadline. After the Sun became established as a prospering permanent fixture in the community, I returned to Allan Hancock College’s Community Education Department, where I coordinate the publicity and marketing efforts for noncredit classes and programs. Being a public information professional in an academic environment has its rewards and challenges. I love the daily interaction with faculty and students and being able to hear first-hand about peoples’ experience with college. Better yet, I get to write about it. And I also maintain cherished relationships with the local English- and Spanish-language media through our advertising campaigns. I have the pleasure of publicizing great Community Education programs like (okay, put on PR hat here) the Faculty Lecture and International Film Series, conferences, forums, youth dance events, and wonderful classes. Who wouldn’t love all of that? It’s always great to be in a profession that affords you the ability to experience both newspaper and public relations; not many people get that opportunity. Outside of my work at the college, I continue to delight in being part of the music ministry at Grace Baptist Church and traveling. In the last 10 years, I HANCOCK

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WHERE THEY ARE NOW  from page 29

HANCOCK  from page 29

“What happens to restless former Santa Maria Sun reporters? Instead of crafting stories and sweating over deadlines, I now sculpt abs and crank out deadlifts as personal trainer in Los Angeles. “Talk about a career change, it’s been almost three years since I’ve written for a newspaper; I have my lovely wife to thank for that. With a mutual interest in staying active and healthy, we started a health and fitness business, knowing full well that there is no shortage of people who want to look like movie stars in L.A. I work out of my converted garage, teaching kickboxing and burning calories for a living—it’s like I’ve died and gone to occupational heaven. “But really, the Sun shaped the intellectual musclehead I am today with extraordinary stories that challenged my limits. I attended the Elks Rodeo and high school sports events, ran a triathlon, went sky diving in Lompoc, watched rockets launch from Vandenberg, and feasted on tri-tip and bottles of pinot noir—just to name a few of my opportunities. I did all this stuff and got paid to write about it. “After leaving the Sun in 2002, I moved to Seoul for three years to cover news across East Asia, including the tension between North and South Korea and the great tsunami of 2004. I returned to the States to work for a daily newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, where I followed the gubernatorial campaign of a political newcomer named Sarah Palin. “I’ve been to many interesting locations, and yet many of those places lack Santa Maria’s accessibility to some of life’s greatest resources: abundance of pleasant weather, outdoor activities, and welcoming people. “Central Coast residents are fortunate to live and work in a place that offers so much. The more I traveled, the more I missed Santa Maria, which may explain why I’ve landed not so far away. So, thank you, Santa Maria, for being so generous during my stay there and making such a lasting impression on me.” And some have apparently fallen off the map, such as former editor Renee Haines, who, last we heard, was in China. m

made a solo transcontinental road trip, and my husband David and I had the pleasure of going to Ireland, Mexico, New England, East Coast destinations, Utah, and sites throughout California. We’re looking forward to our upcoming 30th wedding anniversary aboard a cruise to Alaska. Life is good! Happy anniversary, Santa Maria Sun!

Contact Executive Editor Ryan Miller (who was first hired by Marla Pugh) at

Craig Shafer

former arts editor

At this moment, I’m doing research for West Side Story, along with research for Curtains, Sylvia, Songs for a New World, and a newly commissioned play, Invierno. It’s like reporting, only different. I’m still writing and writing on the arts. Where am I? I’m back at PCPA Theaterfest, which is where I came from when I joined the Sun staff in 2004 as arts editor. After my 3 1/2 years playing journalist, I’m back playing publicist—or, as my business card proclaims, Media Relations & Communications Manager. We love big titles at PCPA. When I considered leaving the Sun, it was one of those out-ofthe-blue moments. I wasn’t intending to move on; no one else I knew had a Ping-Pong table in their break room, or offices with more toys on desks, shelves, and computer monitors than a semitruck destined for Toys-R-Us. I was having the most fun since my broadcast days in the early ’80s. But life is full of surprises— often wonderful surprises. My old job opened up at PCPA and I had a chance to go back and be surrounded by dozens of the most creative and inspiring individuals (outside of the Sun) on the Central Coast. The work is demanding, creative, and collaborative. Besides my research on upcoming shows that I put into print in programs, newsletters, and on the Internet— as well as all the photography, video, and audio production—I am also privy to witnessing the daily development of young artistic talent in the conservatory. Tracking HANCOCK

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In charge!

Craig Shafer


t takes a strong hand to guide the Sun and its ever-easily distracted staff. They kept the writers writing, the photographers photogging, and the papers rolling off the presses each week. Find out where their leadership has taken them:

Andrea Rooks (née Parker)

Where am I now? As I type this I’m standing at the kitchen counter while my 3-year-old daughter Natalie begs to watch Mary Poppins for the umpteenth time. I’m brushing her off because up until this very moment I was intently trying to fix the comma key on my laptop (which you may notice is not yet fixed). The comma key needs to be fixed because my 7-month-old daughter (who is currently napping) somehow managed to pry off the “home” key which unbeknownst to me flung a keyboard piece under the comma key. Now both keys are broken. As you’re reading this I am probably at a San Luis Obispo park or coffee shop working harder than I’ve ever worked in my entire life. I quit writing and editing for the Santa Maria Sun in December 2006 to jump headlong and full time into motherhood. Since then I worked with baby in tow part time at my church’s office for a few months and as the Sun and New Times proofreader for a few months. When Natalie turned 1 my attention became too divided for me to continue working. In July 2008 I opened an online shop to sell handmade paper crafts and fund my creative outlet. The following July my second daughter Naomi was born and my job as EDITORS

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HANCOCK  from page 31

that growth over the students’ two-year journey is a true joy and wonderment. My colleagues are directors, actors, designers, and technicians who all strive to maintain the highest level of professionalism, which serves as a model for the students here. It’s a great team, but no toys or Ping-Pong. As the “media relations” part of my title suggests, I still get to interact with the folks I so loved working with as I arrange for reviewers, feature stories, and interviews with PCPA’s actors and directors. My feature stories are limited to the theater, but it’s a broad topic and I have yet to run out of story ideas. To the Sun staff. I will forever cherish all the great times we had and the solid dedication to outstanding journalism. Thanks for the opportunity, and happy anniversary. P.S.—Ryan, I still haven’t missed a deadline! HANCOCK

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EDITORS  from page 32

mom got a heckuva lot harder. Since leaving the Sun I’ve focused on actively loving every minute of motherhood. It’s a challenge like no other. No college degree no internship no amount of on-the-job training prepared me to listen to my instincts to love unconditionally and to discipline and protect the two beautiful children I’ve been blessed with. Yes I have moments of nostalgic longing for stimulating conversations with other adults and of drawing upon years of interviewing and writing expertise. But mercifully those moments are growing fewer and farther between. No doubt as I’m pushing my daughters in the swings at said SLO park or sipping an iced Americano at a coffee shop I’ve just heard at least one person say to me “Enjoy every moment with your children. They grow up so fast.” Already I’m finding those words to be very true. (Seriously I’m sorry about the comma key!)

Kirsten Flagg

Right now, I am in a town called Bolinas, a tiny beach town an hour north of San Francisco where my friend rents a house. I just got back from a hike along the coast, reminiscent of the Cambria cliffs. A rainy winter is giving way to a lusciously green spring, and it’s good to be outside, especially after spending many long hours walking a hospital floor these last few months. I’m here recuperating from another quarter of nursing school at UC-San Francisco. I’m studying nursing, of all things. I’ll take the exam in June to become a registered nurse. I have two more years after that to

become a family nurse practitioner, but I may take a year to work as an RN. Bedside nursing is a real trip. You see people in their most vulnerable moments, stripped of their real world identity and reliant on a constantly shifting group of professionals for all their needs. And often very sick. I’m learning that nursing is an incredible way to restore some dignity to a person. And then sometimes what I do helps a patient get well, and that is pretty cool. This summer I’ll head to Tanzania to help out with a public health project to lower the incidence of Trachoma there. I just started volunteering at a free clinic. It will give me exposure to the preventive side of health care, which is where I want to be working, eventually. What else? I enjoy living in San Francisco. I live in the sunny part of town, where vegetables can grow. The lettuce is almost ready for eating in my garden, and the broccoli rabe is just popping up its head. I ride my bike around the city, dodging traffic. I go to yoga sometimes. My best to Santa Maria.

Meghan Sapp

I’ve flown more than 100,000 miles in the eight years since I’ve left the Santa Maria Sun, but a lifetime can’t be measured in distance, nor can old memories be erased by new ones. Sitting in Spain, as I am while writing this, I remember the Elks Rodeo while driving by the Plaza de Toros (and the coup we made when we at the Sun won the right to be the Rodeo’s official media partner after EDITORS

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HANCOCK  from page 32

Sarah Thien former staff writer & sports editor Just a year and four months after I left the Sun, I’m typing these words from my office on the campus of Allan Hancock College. My job title is public affairs/sports information specialist. What that means is I work to represent the college as a whole, as well as the athletic department. When I decided to study journalism, my main motivation was this: to never have a boring day at work. So far, working in public affairs hasn’t been boring. I work for the college, I work for the athletic department, and I work for every person on this campus with a story to tell—and believe me, there are many. I’ve branched out into marketing and have helped move Allan Hancock College into the world of social networking (find us at facebook. com/allanhancockcollege). I still get to attend sporting events, but instead of staying neutral, now I root for the Bulldogs. I’ve also been able to help design the new athletics website from the ground up, and I’m looking forward to its debut this spring. I couldn’t have done any of this without the learning experience I gained at the Sun. When I left, I felt a lot of the same emotions that I did on the day I graduated HANCOCK

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EDITORS  from page 34

more than 50 years with the Santa Maria Times). Nearby is the Rioja wine region, which, while famous, can in no way compare to the wines of northern Santa Barbara County. And looking out the window, you’d swear it was Nipomo and not the Basque Country. It’s not just northern Spain that looks like where our dear Sun readers are living. I’ve been through the Rhone Valley of France and been shocked at the similarities. The northern coast of Italy and even parts of Ethiopia and Kenya could make easy comparisons. But why all this wanderlust, all this running around the globe? Since leaving the Central Coast, I continued my Meghan Sapp career as a journalist writing about European agriculture (some may remember the occasional covers I would pen about local farming practices or how keen I was about the rodeo), something that took me to more than 15 European countries over the years. But Europe didn’t seem enough, and I began looking south to Africa. It’s there where I found my passion. I decided to do something that would help to reduce poverty while creating new jobs and giving people access to something they hadn’t before: energy. It has everything to do with agriculture and everything

HANCOCK  from page 34

from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. I knew I would miss my time there, but I was also ready to start a new adventure. The same thrill I got out of writing a great story for the Sun, I now get by helping people on campus get the recognition they deserve. I couldn’t have left my job as a reporter if I didn’t think I was moving on to something equally important, and I do believe that my work here is important. Students can and do change their lives here at Hancock, and if I can help them, just a little bit, then it’s been a good day. Plus, I have my own office. Did I mention that? It has a door and everything. m

to do with increasing access to food. Plus feeling good at the same time. So these days, I run an NGO that I started two years ago called PANGEA (, which keeps me flying back and forth between Europe and Africa. So if you ever want to know where I am, you can probably guess it’s in a plane.

Marla Pugh

The only thing that could have made me leave the Sun in an intern’s hands (namely yours) was love. After a two-year long-distance relationship, I left San Luis Obispo to be with my boyfriend Jeff in Fairfield, Calif. We bought a house, adopted orphan cats, and then decided to make them legitimate by finally getting married. I worked at the daily newspaper in Fairfield, first as business editor and then managing editor. Then in 2005, I decided to try a new career in corporate communications. I started and manage the communications department at Copart—a $3 billion online auto auction company—and grew the department to a staff of four. I love my job and what I do. But I still drink out of my Sun mug every day! In a lot of ways, being founding editor at the Sun was the best job I ever had. We all worked long hours, and were very passionate about bringing an alternative news source to Santa Maria. But we also all had this great creative bond and just had a lot of fun together—at the paper, and socially. That showed in the pages of the Sun, because a newspaper is usually a reflection of its staff. The Sun always was lively and had spirit, and I think that was the appeal of the Sun to readers even back then. It is a paper with a lot of heart. And I’m still very proud to have been a part of that. m

Sarah Thien


Second chance to make a last impression How a former Sun staffer changed the paper and how the paper changed him BY DAVID VIENNA


don’t mean to brag, but the paper you hold in your hands right now wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for me. Well, it wouldn’t exist as it does now. It would look different. Lighter. Okay, it might not have an arts section. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I created the arts section of the Sun and, with that legacy, I humbly remain a part of Santa Maria and continue to touch each of you each week ... I did not mean for that to come out that way. I meant “your lives,” I continue to touch your lives. Forget it. If you don’t know me, I was the first arts editor of the Santa Maria Sun. I started as the calendar editor soon after the publication launched. After I’d proven I wasn’t going to dart out the door with an armload of Post-It notepads and printer toner, managing editor Marla Pugh let me pen a few arts and entertainment stories, as well as a column, which grew into a weekly thing. Thus, the section, my new position, and a pack-a-day smoking habit were born. My column, “Vienna Calling,” allowed me to delve even further into the community. If I found something that didn’t fit within the confines of an art story, it went into the column. It was a great forum for

me and helped me craft a writing style that has served me well on many snarky Facebook comment threads. While at the Sun, I did things like explore the Santa Maria punk scene, fly in a stunt biplane over Vandenberg, and work a shift as a department store Santa. I even trekked all the way to Nevada’s legendary Area 51 for a story on local UFO sightings. No, I do not know what the hell I was thinking for that last one. It was supposed to be entertaining, but a lot of people took it very seriously. On that topic, I would once again like to thank the Ventura/Santa Barbara Mutual UFO Network for offering me the position of chapter president. Sorry I had to decline or risk damaging my reputation as a serious, unbiased journalist who, while researching a story about karaoke singers at Louie B’s, may or may not have belted out a stunning rendition of “Build Me Up Buttercup.” All right, so maybe I’m making an inappropriately big deal of my influence on the publication, but I have good reason to look back on my time at the Sun with soft-focused fondness. I’m still friends with most of the people with whom I worked, including the aforementioned Marla, crime reporter Andrew Petty, and my intern Ryan Miller. Ryan and I don’t talk all that often, though. I’m not even sure what he’s doing now. I sure hope that kid landed on his feet. To this day, I implement the journalism techniques I learned from

both executive editor Steve Moss (everyone has a story) and Marla (it’s called “Happy Hour” for a reason). Marla probably had the most profound effect on my life. She perfected the balance between inspiring boss and meddling friend. In one bold example of her role as meddler, she called to tell me Larissa Collins, the paper’s associate art director, thought I was cute and that I should call her. If you were wondering, now you know working at a paper is a lot like an episode of Gossip Girl. I took Marla’s advice, and I’m so happy I did. Larissa and I were married in 2003, I quit smoking, got a haircut or two, and, in 2008, we welcomed twin boys into our lives. That year also marks the last time I had a decent night’s sleep. Since leaving the New Times Media Group family, I wrote for some reality TV shows (yes, they’re all written by someone) including ESPN2’s American Dragster, produced by Santa Maria resident Ryan Johnson, whom I first met working on a story for the Sun. Are you getting this yet? My work ethic, my career, even my family—all a direct result of my employment at the Sun. It’s actually a little freaky. My place is probably bugged. I bet paper publisher and co-owner Bob Rucker is watching me right now on an elaborate array of flatscreen displays in his mountaintop lair. When I took the Sun job, I was fresh out of college, new to California, and not really sure if I’d found a successful career or if the world would smell my fear and ferociously tear into my soft, fleshy underbelly, leaving my gristly parts for the scavengers. Not only did I find a career that I love, but I found a family I love, too. I met hundreds of wonderful people throughout Northern Santa Barbara County and each day on the job was a total blast.


I think the best example I can offer— the one that sums up my fondness for Santa Maria and the Sun—was my intern Ryan’s first day. I took him around town to see some of my favorite people and places. We ended up at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum. The place was relatively empty, so Ryan and I spent about two hours just messing around. We finger-painted, explored a cave, played with puppets, read about dinosaurs. Rather than inundate him with the technical aspects of working at a newspaper, I wanted him to know how much fun the city and the job could be ... Man, I really hope that kid landed on his feet. m David Vienna is the editor-in-chief for ConcordMusicGroup. com and writes a blog about fatherhood at He also still enjoys the chicken at El Pollo Norteño on Broadway. Send comments to that kid Ryan at

I would once again like to thank the Ventura/Santa Barbara Mutual UFO Network for offering me the position of chapter president. Sorry I had to decline or risk damaging my reputation as a serious, unbiased journalist who, while researching a story about karaoke singers at Louie B’s, may or may not have belted out a stunning rendition of ‘Build Me Up Buttercup.’


In honor of the Sun’s 10th anniversary, we asked national first-place award-winning cartoonist and all-around swell guy Ross Mayfield to deliver up his take on Northern Santa Barbara County, the paper’s coverage area. After much sweat, blood, and toil, he came through. Take a good look; you might be able to see your house.

Ten years, man! Ten years! The Sun gets a little long in the tooth BY NICHOLAS WALTER


en. Diaz. The Big One-Oh. We bought a Mustang when we turned 5. That turned out pretty well, as far as such crises go. But now that we’ve arrived at our first decade, what do we do? Do we run off with a paper half our age? How do you top a Mustang? With a boat, of course. But the important question is: What kind? Are we looking to connect with the ancient Phoenician seafarers of old? A sailboat, propelled by naught but wind and tide (okay, fine, and a diesel engine sometimes, too), slowly gliding over Neptune’s vast expanses? Yeah, Jack Sparrow/Jack Aubrey have a wicked cool look, but it takes forever for them to get anywhere. The slow life might work for some, but let’s face it: We’re not getting any younger. Speed, then? A cigarette boat could cross Lake Lopez in the time it takes to read this sentence. Sunglasses on, pounding across the water while we blare the theme from Miami Vice … yeah, we could get used to that sort of gig. We’d get there quick, no doubt. And while the Cuban

drug smuggler look is all well and good for your 5s and 6s, shouldn’t we start acting our age? What about a fishing boat, then? And not one of those pansy 20 footers on a trailer, either. We’re talking Avila fishing fleet fishing boat. A big 80 footer with room for 10 tons of fish! No, it just won’t do. Never-ending seafood would be nice, but it’d just be too easy to make fishwrap jokes. We’re driving ourselves a little nuts at this point. New Times, like big sisters everywhere, just sits back and shakes her head and makes fun of us for freaking out over 10. What does she know, anyway? After all, she’s turning 25 this year. Do you have any idea how old 25 is in independentnewspaper-years? In the end, it turns out that dreaming about buying a boat is more fun than actually buying a boat, and this way we don’t have to do any of that pesky maintenance. For now, we’ll just

get a rowboat and some rum. Other than getting neurotic about what to get ourselves, we’ve had a pretty good run since turning 5. Did you hear we got a new pad? We moved out of our offices on South Broadway over to Blosser across from the airport. Technically, it’s Skyway Drive. It’s a nice neighborhood, good schools (we have to start thinking about that sort of thing), and the neighbors haven’t even called the

cops on us yet. Looking around the area, we decided to track down some folks we talked to for our fifth anniversary, see what’s changed, and maybe what they’ve thought about us over the last decade. Seeing as we’re the Santa Maria Sun, we figured our mayor, Larry Lavagnino, would be a good start. Some things never change: He still loves us for our cartoons. He was mayor for our fifth birthday, loved our cartoons then, and still does. “They’re very apropos. Sometimes I don’t understand,” he admitted. “Most of the time I do.” He couldn’t think of anything bad to say about us (we told him he wouldn’t hurt our feelings, to no avail) so we asked him what he thought has changed about Santa Maria over the last 10 years. People. There are more of them, he said. “It’s the change that comes with a greater population: more traffic, more of everything, basically,” he said. “But there’s the good things that come with change; we wouldn’t have the cardiac center at Marian if we only had 20 or 30 thousand people.” Our mayor wasn’t afraid of a bit of nostalgia. While he sometimes wishes for the days when he was a kid TEN continued page 45

TEN  from page 42 and Santa Maria only had 10,000 people, “it ain’t gonna happen. I can’t tell someone from Fargo, North Dakota, he can’t come live here.” Just so long as they don’t bring their weather. What about our neighbors in the Valley of Flowers to the south? Does Lompoc love us? Hate us? We checked in with chief Lompocan, Mayor Mike Siminski. “I think you provide a valuable service to the community,” he said when we asked him for his two cents. That’s a good start, right? But maybe he was just buttering us up before he moved in for the kill. Steeling ourselves, we pushed on. An admitted newsaholic who watches three different news stations a night and subscribes to the Something Record* and the Something Something News Press*, Mayor Mike said he’s been reading us, too, since we first came out. Reading us? How should we take that? “I look forward to the Sun,” he said. “There’s info I get there I can’t get anywhere else.” Maybe he’s really not kidding. He also said he spends a lot of time with our opinion pages; in particular, he’s a fan of those letters he doesn’t agree with. “Wouldn’t read letters to the editor if they were only people that agreed with me,” he explained. “That’d be boring.” There it is! This guy likes people even when they disagree with him! No wonder he likes us; it’s the only explanation. Or maybe we’re just getting neurotic in our old age. Heading west, we couldn’t leave out Guadalupe. We’d raised some hell out there in our younger days; our sixth birthday party ended with us at the dunes curled up in a ball around an empty fifth of tequila. We were depressed after turning 5. We had a theme going with mayors, and Lupe Alvarez wasn’t getting off the hook. Newly elected when we talked with him for our fifth anniversary, Guadalupe’s jefe is now in his third term. Nice guy that he is, his “I look forward to the paper every week” and “there’s info there I can’t get anywhere else” got us instantly suspicious. Is there some sort of mayoral cabal for trading notes on newspaper interviews?** While he likes our format, he does wish for a bit more Guadalupe in his Sun. “I would probably appreciate more coverage on Guadalupe from time

to time,” he said. “Other than that, I think you cover a broad area that ref lects the Valley.” They’re all so … nice. It turns out that we’ve helped encourage participation in the political process in Guadalupe: When we ran a story last year on a proposed marijuana dispensary, we stirred the, well, pot. “It really encouraged residents to come to me and other council members to speak out against it,” he said. “When you get participation from residents on any issue, it’s always helpful to the elected official to make up his mind and vote the right way for their community.” Supporting the very roots of a democracy? Not bad for a 10-year-old. Realizing that three mayors might be coming on a bit much, we tried a different, but equally cuddly type: firefighter. Back in Santa Maria, Interim Chief Jeff Jones gave us our first different answer. He’s only been reading the Sun for six years.*** He still likes us, though. For Chief Jones, our substance over style is a welcome change of pace. “It seems a lot of mainstream news all comes in concise, f lashy bites. With the independents, you can get as much detail as you want.” A guy who likes us for our personality rather than our sultry good looks? And he’s a firefighter? Sorry ladies (and guys)**** he’s married. Trying to regain some of our journalistic impartiality, we asked Jones how he felt things have changed in the area over the last 10 years. For him, it was the ever increasing long arm of the state on financial matters. “With the financial challenge faced by the state, they continue to spend money a little more freely than our city does, then they come to us to help them balance their problems,” he said. “That puts the hurt on us.” Even having to do more with less, Chief Jones remained optimistic about the next 10 years. “My hope is that we’re in a recovery, looking back with fond memories on those difficult times that helped us reshape and re-hone our priorities,” he said. m Contact Staff Writer Nicholas Walter at *Must have been something wrong with the tape recorder. **We are absolutely not getting neurotic in our old age. ***Someone forgot to tell him about the mayoral cabal for trading interview notes. ****Hey, we’re progressive.




Ten who’ve been The Sun celebrates a few of the best local athletes from the past 10 years PHOTO COURTESY WILLIE FLORES

Jose Antonio Ojeda

hroughout its decade in publication, the Sun has seen countless quality athletes shine in the Santa Maria Valley and surrounding area. Some have stood out more prominently than others, going on to find success in college, amateur, and professional ranks. Here, we recognize and catch up with 10 of those athletes who have exemplified excellence, including a few to watch for the next 10 years. For readers, a caveat: This list is by no means exhaustive, and is presented in no particular order:

Jose Antonio “Tony” Ojeda— Santa Maria Boxing Club

Santa Maria’s Jose Antonio Ojeda kicked off his professional boxing career mere days before the Sun put out its first issue, and he’s been a knockout ever since. Fighting out of the Santa Maria Boxing Club, Ojeda won the California State Welterweight title in July 2006 with a unanimous decision over Juan Manuel Buendia and followed that up by winning the WBC Continental Americas title in 2007. As an amateur, Ojeda was 37-2 and won the prestigious Golden Gloves tournament. His professional boxing record is currently 17-6. Ojeda “retired” in 2008, but according to his coach Willie Flores, he’s training for a comeback to the ring. The 33-year-old has his sights on returning to action this May.

Dustin Kelly

Matt McKinley


Matt McKinney—Santa Ynez Union High School

At 6-foot-8, Matt McKinney truly stood head and shoulders above the rest of his peers in high school. As a basketball player at Santa Ynez, McKinney was All-League and All-County from 2000 to 2002. By the time he graduated, he ranked as the Pirates’ all-time leader in points and rebounds and was considered



Meghan Gnekow Jonathan Daily

SPORTSSHORTS YMCA promotes healthy lifestyles and fun

The Santa Maria Valley YMCA will be providing free health care screenings and a day of fun for families on April 17. The event features Family Olympics, bounce houses, carnival games, prizes, and dance demonstrations, as well as health care screenings by local health care professionals. Barbecue lunches will be available for $6, courtesy of the Kiwanis Club. Families that visit all booths will also have an opportunity to win door prizes during the event, which takes place from noon to 4 p.m.

The Santa Maria Valley YMCA is located at 3400 Skyway Drive. For more information, or to become a vendor, contact Brettly Biedinger at 937-8521 or e-mail bbiedinger@

Kiwanis All-Star basketball game is here

Star varsity basketball players from Northern Santa Barbara County will take the court against San Luis Obispo County All-Stars at the 20th annual Kiwanis Central Coast All-Star Basketball competition on March 28. The evening tips off at Santa Maria High School’s Wilson Gymnasium with the girls’ game at 3 p.m., followed by the boys at 5 p.m. Three-point shooting contests and a slam-dunk


contest will be featured at halftimes and between games. General admission is $6 at the door and $3 for students and children. A snack bar will also be open. Jerry Gibson of Coast Union and Courtney Cameron of Santa Maria will coach the girls’ teams. John Jensen of San Luis Obispo will coach the North boys. Gary West of Cabrillo and Kevin Barbarick of Righetti will co-coach the South boys. This event is co-sponsored by the Kiwanis Clubs of Nipomo and the Santa Maria Valley. For more information, call Gary Prober at 928-2080 or Cindy Blankenberg at 710-3794. m Sports Shorts is compiled by Staff Writer Jeremy Thomas. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, e-mail, or mail.

SPORTS  from page 46 one of the top high school forwards in the country. As an outside hitter and middle blocker for the Pirates’ volleyball squad, McKinney won the CIF MVP and led Santa Ynez to a No. 1 national ranking and two CIF Southern Section State Championships. After graduation, McKinney went on to play basketball and volleyball on scholarship at UCLA. He entered his freshman year regarded as one of the top high school volleyball players in the country, however his college career was derailed by injuries and illness and he was forced to declare medical retirement in 2005. They say you can’t keep a big man down, though, and McKinney is proof positive. He’s currently playing professional volleyball in Puerto Rico.

Dustin Kelly— St. Joseph High School

A three-sport star at St. Joseph, Dustin Kelly was an All-Los Padres League selection in baseball, football, and basketball. In 2000, he was named first-team AllState as a quarterback and led the Knights to the CIF-Southern Section Division V championship in 2002. After graduation, Kelly went on to play baseball for Cuesta College, where he lettered twice and was named Western State Conference Co-Player of the Year in 2004. He signed a letter of intent to play for Cal Poly-SLO but instead entered the 2004 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. He was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 15th round and played in the Red Sox minor league system from 2004 to 2006. Though he’s out of the majors for now, Kelly’s passing his wisdom on to a new generation. He’s now in his third season as a volunteer baseball coach for Cal Poly Mustang baseball.

Jonathan Dally—Righetti High/ Allan Hancock College

Hailing from Santa Maria and a Righetti High graduate, Jonathan Dally emerged as a threat both running and passing the football while in college. A standout quarterback, Dally lined up behind center for Allan Hancock College in 2005 and 2006 and transferred to Cal PolyPHOTO BY AMY ASMAN

Nick Leyden


SLO in 2007. There, he broke school records as the Mustangs’ starting quarterback. His passing efficiency rating of 196.71 his junior year was good enough for second in the NCAA. As a senior, Dally passed for 1,960 yards and ran for 821 more, leading Cal Poly to the Great West Conference championship. He finished his Mustang career with 4,198 yards passing and 52 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. Dally went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft but has tried out for several pro teams. According to Cal Poly Athletics, Dally is still a student on the Cal Poly campus and is working on finishing his degree.

Meghan Gneknow—Santa Ynez Valley Union High School

Nikki Doyle— Pioneer Valley High School

As captain of Pioneer Valley’s girls’ volleyball team from 2005 to 2008, Nikki Doyle deserved all the recognition she received during her high school career. Doyle was selected First Team All-Pac-7 twice at Pioneer Valley and won the league’s co-MVP award in 2005. In addition to being named team MVP, she also earned Athletic Roundtable Athlete of the Week honors in each of her four years with the Panthers. As a senior, Doyle averaged a leagueleading 4.9 kills per game and was named to the Santa Barbara All-County Team and All-CIF Southern Section Division I Second Team. After graduation, Doyle earned a scholarship to UC-Santa Barbara, where she played sparingly. She transferred to Tennessee’s Austin Peay State University in 2009 to play for the Lady Governors as an outside hitter.

An All-CIF award winner in volleyball and basketball at Santa Ynez, Gneknow ranks as one of the Pirates’ all-time best female athletes. As a sophomore in 2000, Gneknow earned All-American accolades and was named All-Los Padres League first team in basketball. The following year, PHOTO BY SARAH THIEN she was league MVP as the Pirates made the CIF quarterfinals in 2001. Gneknow led the Los Padres League in scoring and rebounding her senior year, and was named League MVP, All-Santa Ynez County and All-Area. Her leadership helped take the Pirates to the 2002 CIF Division I Southern Section semifinals. Finishing her career as Santa Ynez’s second all-time leading scorer and top three-point shooter, Gneknow went on to play for the University of Southern California, where she was a starting guard and team captain for the Trojans. She won All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors from 2004 through 2006. After leaving USC, she served briefly as an assistant coach at Cal Poly-Pomona. She’s currently assistant women’s basketball coach at Westmont College in Santa Barbara.

Jimmy Van Ostrand— Allan Hancock College

Nikki Doyle

Instead of signing with the Pirates, Van Ostrand chose to transfer to Cal Poly-SLO. A right fielder, Van Ostrand hit .345 his first year with the Mustangs. He followed with a .297 average and 13 homeruns his senior year and was named to the all-Big West Conference team. The Houston Astros picked him up in the eighth round of the 2005 amateur draft and Van Ostrand made his professional debut with the Tri-City ValleyCats in 2006. He played for Astros’ affiliate Lexington Legends in 2007 and starred for his native Canada at the 2007 Baseball World Cup and 2008 Olympics. Van Ostrand is keeping his professional career alive, now playing for the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Astros’ Double-A minorleague club.

One of the top baseball players in Allan Hancock College’s history, Jimmy Van Ostrand’s hitting ability has taken him within reach of the major leagues. Van Ostrand hit .378 as a sophomore at Hancock in 2004. After he won Most Valuable Player and All-Conference awards as a Bulldog, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the 29th round of the 2003 draft.

She still has two years of college eligibility remaining.

Nick Leyden— SPORTSSHORTS Pioneer Valley High

School/Cal Poly-SLO

A multi-sport star at Pioneer Valley, Nick Leyden was Pioneer Valley’s first male athlete to earn a college scholarship. In addition to wrestling, baseball, and track and field, Leyden played linebacker for the Panthers. As a junior, he made 125 total tackles and garnered first-team All-Los Padres League and All-Area honors. In 2009, his senior season, Leyden led the league with 154 total tackles and won awards as defensive back of the year, All-Area Team co-MVP, and first-team AllCIF-Southern Section. His tenacity helped lead the Panthers to a 9-3 record and a spot in the CIF-Southern Section quarterfinals. Leyden is currently a defensive end for Cal Poly-SLO and is majoring in sports medicine.

Ryan Church— Lompoc High School

When the Sun was still the new kid on the block, Lompoc High’s Ryan Church was celebrating being drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 2000 Major League Baseball Draft. Church had been a standout at Lompoc in baseball, football and basketball and later played baseball for the University of NevadaReno. He was traded to the Expos in 2004 and was hitting .325 as a rookie before being sidelined by injury. When the Expos became the Washington Nationals, Church was their opening day starting outfielder. In 2007, Church set career highs with 15 homeruns, 128 hits, and 70 RBI. He was traded to the New York Mets in 2008 and looked to be having an All-Star season, until he suffered two concussions and was forced out of action. After struggling to recover from the injuries, he was shipped to the Atlanta Braves in 2009 and released. Rufino Serrano But Church’s major league career isn’t over yet. The Pittsburgh Pirates signed him in 2010 and Church has been seeing action in spring training games for the club as an outfielder. He’s joined on the Pirates’ roster by former St. Joseph star Doug Bernier.

Rufino “El Animal” Serrano—Santa Maria

Fighting out of the Santa Maria Boxing Club, Rufino “El Animal” Serrano is an up-and-coming professional bantamweight boxer who’s been featured nationally in bouts on Showtime and ESPN. In 2008, at age 17, Serrano won the Golden Gloves tournament in Los Angeles. He followed that up by taking home the 2008 Desert Showdown belt, and was the 2007 and 2008 state Police Athletic League champ. After just 12 amateur bouts, Serrano stepped into the ring for the first time as a pro in 2009, earning a victory over Gilbert Amaro at the Chumash Casino Resort. The sky appears to be the limit for Serrano, who holds a 3-3 record as a pro and is currently a student at Allan Hancock College. m Staff Writer Jeremy Thomas can be contacted at

They’ve been giving you the business for a decade Pacific Coast Business Times celebrates 10 years, too BY ARIEL WATERMAN


wenty-fifth-year anniversaries are silver, 50 years are gold, and 75 are diamond jubilees. So what is a 10-year anniversary? According to Emily Post (who better to know about these things?), the 10th anniversary is tin. I think that is most appropriate for our 10th anniversary here at the Sun, because early newspapers were made with movable type manufactured out of tin, thanks to Johannes Gutenberg. But we’re not the only publication in town celebrating our 10th anniversary. The Pacific Coast Business Times is also having a tin anniversary, and these guys are no tin-horns when it comes to giving you the business! Published since March 17, 2000, the Pacific Coast Business Times is the

weekly business journal for Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties. It’s a locally owned company with offices in downtown Santa Barbara. The PCBT is delivered to subscribers’ offices and homes each Friday, and is available only by subscription. Only about 10 percent of each issue’s content is published online, particularly breaking news, at I recently spoke with Henry Dubroff, founder, chairman, editor-in-chief, and majority owner of the Pacific Coast Business Times. Dubroff has quite a pedigree, having been the editor of the Denver Business Journal and the business editor of the Denver Post. According to the PCBT’s website, he is a “past president of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and serves in leadership positions

with United Way, Ventura County Economic Development Association, the UCSB Economic Forecast Project, and California State University Channel Islands.” Whew! That’s quite a mouthful, and Dubroff had a mouthful more to share when I spoke with him about his publication. Ariel Waterman: How did the Pacific Coast Business Times get started? Henry DuBroff: Well, I did a lot of market research. The short answer is it got started when I arrived in Santa Barbara in the fall of 1999 with a checkbook in hand and business plan. I spent a couple of years studying the market and could not figure out why there wasn’t some kind of business publication in the area. While Santa Barbara County was a little bit small for a thoroughbred business journal, adding Ventura County made it a lot more viable because there were over a million people, more than 25 large private and public companies, and many small companies encompassed within those three counties. We cover business news from Westlake Village up to SLO. Having been with the PCBT from the beginning, I wear many hats, but my favorite is working in the newsroom.

AW: What local businesses are currently hot topics? HD: We cover technology, agribusiness, higher education, commercial real estate, and health care. The PCBT also reports on public companies with stock on the major stock exchange, including CKE restaurants (Hardee’s and Carl’s), Amgen, Heritage Oaks Banks, Dole Foods, and others. I am also excited about this region because it has a lot of potential for clean technology and alternative energy. Agribusiness is doing a lot of things with solar energy—for instance, there is the new solar greenhouse growing tomatoes in Santa Maria. I’m kind of bullish on this area to create jobs in the new energy economy. The Green Coast Innovation Zone is something the PCBT advocates. AW: Who would benefit most from reading the PCBT? HD: We see ourselves very much as a local version of Wall Street Journal. Each edition has news, personal finance stories, stock quotes, public information, and more. Most importantly, it is a business-to-business publication, not a consumer publication. TIMES

continued page 50

TIMES  from page 49 We sell something that has value. If you spend 50 bucks a year for a subscription (52 issues), we guarantee you’ll get at least 50 bucks’ worth of ideas for growing your business. AW: How has the PCBT become more involved with local businesses over the past decade? HD: We have a tremendous family of special reports with top players in banking, law, and accounting, commercial real estate, top women, and 40 under 40 (an annual report on 40 local business people younger than 40). We have longstanding, terrific advertising relationships with people who really believe in us. We put on six award events each year, including the Spirit of Small Business Awards, which recognizes eight to 10 small businesses each year up and down the Central Coast. In the past, these have included the Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe and Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream in Arroyo Grande. AW: What thoughts and/ or suggestions do you have for business owners in this current economy? HD: I really do think that the financial crisis in the fall of 2008 was like a giant earthquake that hit our financial sys-

I spent a couple of years studying the market and could not figure out why there wasn’t some kind of business publication in the area. tem and only the strongest businesses proved able to survive. If you can operate with cash, without a lot of debt, that is a really good thing. This is a good time for people to start companies. A lot of good companies began during the Great Depression when people became entrepreneurs of necessity, not choice. In a lot of the country, especially in the southwest and Midwest, the economy has started to get better (except Detroit). These areas of the country weren’t as leveraged on real estate. California, however, is different story because of budget problems and I believe has another 12 to 18 months of slogging through the budget mess before it gets better. But I think things have stopped going down. The real economy grew about 50 percent on the GDP (value of goods and services) and the stock market has about same value as it did before. The

actual volume of stuff America produces has grown in the past few years. Also, more companies are starting to take back work from overseas into the United States. There are more mini-call centers because of a global economy, and we have just about every foreign major car maker manufacturing vehicles in the U.S. We are also selling a lot more wine, lemons, and avocados overseas. AW: What is your take on health care? (Reporter’s note: This interview was conducted on March 15, 2010, prior to the health care reform vote on March 21). HW: The real question is if we get some insurance reform, will it be truly consumer or small business centric or government centric? We want consumerdriven health care. The nature of insurance is that insurance companies and government drive the bus, and it must be a compromise. Giving consumers as many rights as possible is the key. AW: Any suggestions for our president and our state government?

HW: President Obama needs to rethink his economic team as they don’t seem to know much about small businesses. They don’t know about the people who sign the front of the paycheck. The biggest accomplishment of all for the Pacific Coast Business Times is that for 250 times, we’ve had enough money to meet our payroll. When the payroll runs around, that’s when you have a business or don’t. California can reliably count on about $85 billion a year in tax revenue, and the bureaucrats and legislature must figure out a way to build a government that can run on that amount of money. They are like a family taking in $85 billion and spending $95 billion. Local and state government must be scaled to balance out. That’s going to be a big change and may take two or three years to work out, and it is going to be fairly ugly—but it must happen. AW: Now that you are 10 years old, how will you celebrate? HD: We are going to celebrate with a Business Hall of Fame on April 12 at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort, and welcome our local business owners to attend. (Note: Tickets cost $65; contact the Pacific Coast Business Times at 5696950.) m Ariel Waterman also wears a lot of hats, including writer, educator, wife, and grandmother. Send her a new bonnet via her editor, Ryan Miller, at rmiller@santa

Crush on the Valley: Wine grapes from the Santa Maria Valley have come into their own with wineries up and down the state buying the grapes and using the Santa Maria Valley name on their labels, according to the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association.

A growing trend Santa Maria Valley has great wine, but debate exists over whether the industry is growing BY SHELLY CONE


rive down the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail toward the Santa Maria Valley, and you can almost get caught up in a dreamy trance as you watch the rows of wine grapes wind up through the hills just outside your window. Roll that window down and you’ll think you’ve almost caught a hint of ocean air in the breeze. You’ll notice several tasting rooms, but there’s no place to eat or stop and rest between them—nothing but beautiful scenery interrupts the drive between wine tasting rooms on the drive east of Santa Maria. There’s something else missing, too: crowds. The trek is almost a lonely one, though a stop at any tasting room is bound to turn up a festive bunch of tasters. Santa Maria grapes have long captured the attention of vintners, and a handful of tasting rooms has popped up in the valley over the last decade. But while some people see the intimate tasting experiences as a positive change from the crowded wineries of Napa or even the Santa Ynez Valley, others see it as a sign that not enough has been done to nurture a burgeoning grape region. Kady Fleckenstein, executive director of the Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association—which promotes member wineries, vintners and all things wine-related—falls into the former group. She said the association has been thrilled with the changes seen over the past year because the growth of the local wine industry provides more jobs and really boosts the economy. “With the addition of more wineries comes a better quality of life, because oftentimes new restaurants and shops open in areas that receive a significant amount of wine tourism,” she said.


continued page 54

WINE  from page 53


The Santa Maria area currently boasts 11 regularly open tasting rooms. In the past year, Orcutt has seen the addition of Core Wine Company’s tasting room, and Byron and Foxen wineries opened tasting rooms pouring Santa Maria wines in Los Olivos—a move that introduces the Santa Maria AVA “to a wider audience,” Fleckenstein explained. There are also five wineries without tasting rooms or that offer tastings by appointment only, and eight standalone vineyards—including the newest, Rancho Real Vineyard—that produce grapes for other labels, including wines made in other parts of the state. Three other tasting rooms are set to open in the next year: Sierra Madre, Presqu’ile, and Wine Country, formerly located in Los Olivos. Norman J. Becko of Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard and Winery on Dominion Road said he came to the Santa Maria Valley because of the quality of grapes discovered primarily by the wineries of Napa buying them. He believes, however, that the Santa Maria Valley hasn’t changed much Punching the Pinot: Winemaster Dennis Martin in the last 10 years. punched down a 2009 vintage Bien Nacido Pinot Noir “If you consider what areas just prior to press. like Temecula and Paso have done to complement the wine industry, you can see that we have actually gone backwards since nothing Dave said that’s not exactly the case. has been added to support the wine indus “I think it’s been a steady growth with a try, [such as adding] restaurants or bed and lot of higher-end wineries,” he reasoned. breakfasts, for example,” Becko said via e“Wines have gotten better because there’s a mail. “You have a 25-mile wine trail called greater diversity of wine makers than there the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail where there was before.” is nowhere to stop and have food, which is Adding to that, wineries have begun to not conducive for safe driving.” rely less on large farming operations and While the trail in question may need have turned to smaller vineyard operations some attention to develop more thriving and the view that the vineyard is a critical wine destinations, tasting rooms settling in part of the wine-making process, he said. Orcutt have found suitable space in a town The quality of Santa Maria Valley wines in the midst of renovation, while not yet has a lot to do with the fact that they come attracting the bus loads of tourists. from Santa Maria grapes, grown in sandy Core Wine Company is the latest tasting soil left over from the days when the area room to open in Old was covered by the ocean. The Orcutt. Dave Corey, vineyards also have one of the who co-owns the comlongest growing seasons in the pany with his wife, state, giving the grapes a chance Becky, has been makto ripen slower and longer, thereing wine in the Santa by enhancing their flavor profile, Maria Valley since 2001. Fleckenstein explained. But more Opening a tasting room unique than all of that is the fact was a natural progresthat the area is influenced by one sion for the winery, and of the only transverse mounOrcutt was a natural tain ranges in North or South destination, not just America. Being in the valley of because of the grapes such west-east mountain ranges or that the Coreys call creates a funnel effect, ushering Orcutt home, but also in cool ocean air from the Pacific for the fact that it isn’t Ocean. Napa or the Santa Ynez Valley. And what about sharing that breeze? “We didn’t want to be tourist driven and Fleckenstein said the association would love deal with the tour bus thing,” Dave said. to see another dozen tasting rooms over the “We wanted that one-on-one contact with next decade. people. We didn’t want to have the cattle “The progress in the local wine industry call kind of thing where you taste and then over the next 10 years is sure to bring posiyou push everyone out. We’re in there all tive changes to the Santa Maria Valley,” she the time. We wanted to be able to meet said. m people and have fun.” Though it may seem like the local wine Arts Editor Shelly Cone can be reached at industry has grown rapidly in recent years,

This place is a dump—er, integrated waste management facility Development plans continue on schedule for the Los Flores Ranch landfill project BY AMY ASMAN


ack when the Sun was still rocking elementary school status, the city of Santa Maria was just beginning to develop plans for a new landfill. And as the Sun continued to grow and carve out a niche for itself in the community, the Santa Maria Integrated Waste Management Facility did likewise in the minds of city officials. Yes, we just likened the Sun to a dump. The comparison, however, stops beyond the cluttered cave that is our newsroom—or at least New Editor Amy Asman’s desk. In a recent interview with the Sun, City Manager Tim Ness said the city has known for quite some time that its current landfill on East Main Street would reach capacity around 2018. With that in mind, the utilities department embarked on a mission to develop the most up-to-date waste facility possible. Enter the Los Flores Ranch site off Highway 101 in the Orcutt area. Selected by city officials as the most favorable location for the project, the 1,800-acre Los Flores property was purchased by the city back in 2006. If the project is

Landfill of the future: Santa Maria Utilities Department staffers plan to present to the City Council the final environmental impact report for the Los Flores Integrated Waste Management Facility in late April. If approved, the landfill will be located on 600 acres off Highway 101 in the Solomon Hills.


approved, the city plans to use approximately 600 acres for the landfill and dirt storage. The remaining 1,200 acres will be kept primarily as an open space recreational area. Still, like many development projects, the Los Flores Ranch landfill has had its fair share of controversy. At a public meeting back in July 2009, several people expressed concerns over the project, including possible negative impacts to the city’s groundwater supply, the proposed removal of 3,200 mature coast live oak trees, and the “questionable” origin of sand used to cap the current landfill. Since that meeting, city officials said they have worked extensively to mitigate the public’s concerns. Comparing the Los Flores site to past landfills in the area, Ness said the new landfill will be state-of-the-art when it comes to groundwater monitoring. “Years and years ago, Preisker Park used to be a landfill. People would take their trash and dig holes and the city would pour the trash into the holes,” he said. “Of course, regulations weren’t in place to put wells in and take samples of the groundwater, or to use clay to cap the landfill once it was full.” Once that site was full, Ness said, the city started looking for a new location. “They thought, ‘Let’s put it on the east side of town so when the northwest winds come up people won’t smell it— perfect location, no worries,” he said. “But they didn’t realize back then [the dangers] of locating a landfill next to a running stream with a large aquifer. “Since that time, hundreds and hundreds of rules and regulations have been adopted to


continued page 57

LOS FLORES  from page 57 prevent groundwater contamination,” Ness continued. According to the project’s draft environmental impact report, the city has contracted what it calls a “third party testing firm” to regularly check the water for contaminants. Additionally, Ness said the sand the city plans to use to cap the old landfill—and possibly line the new one—has been approved by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board as non-hazardous. Ness said Chevron has volunteered to transport sand from an old oil production site in the Guadalupe Dunes to the landfills. The sand does have oil residue in it, but has been labeled non-hazardous impacted soil (NHIS). “It’s saving millions and millions of dollars that city ratepayers would otherwise have to front,” Ness said. Still, the revenue savings aren’t enough to persuade some residents in favor of the sand usage. “It’s just one heck of a mess that in the long term will cause people to suffer,” former city council member Toru Miyoshi said. “The [oil companies] claim it’s not hazardous, but if it’s not hazardous, why are they trying to move it?” Miyoshi said he’s concerned that the sand will prove to be troublesome in the long run not only for health reasons, but financial ones as well. “The city assumes responsibility for the sand from cradle to grave once it accepts it,” he said. “My fear is if it’s determined to be hazardous in the future, the taxpayers will have to pay to remove it.” When asked about the concerns expressed over the sand, Ness said: “It’s been certified as safe ... The stuff people put in the landfill that we sometimes don’t catch is worse than slightly tainted sand.” Some members of the public are equally concerned over the project’s proposal to remove 3,200 oak trees. Sarah Schwab, co-founder of the Tree Amigos of Orcutt, said she’s met several times with utilities department staffers to discuss a replanting ratio and other mitigation efforts. The city is proposing a 2:1 replanting ratio. Schwab is lobbying for a larger ratio of 10:1, which is used on a voluntary basis by Santa Barbara County government. Under government code, the city isn’t legally bound to the county’s regulations because it bought and annexed the land several years ago. In an e-mail to the Sun, Schwab said she asked Utilities Engineer Steve Kahn “for any studies or data or anything that the city used to come up with their 2:1 ratio in the draft [Environmental Impact Report]. We wanted to see what data or studies they used that we were not aware of ... .” Schwab said Kahn was unable to give her adequate information. Schwab went on to say in the e-mail that she’s waiting for a copy of the EIR to check for mitigation efforts addressing the loss of carbon sequestration from the felled trees, which is a requirement under the California Environmental Quality Act. The Sun had difficulty reaching Kahn for comment as of press time. But in a previous interview, he said the city planned to change the design of the project to reduce the number of oaks impacted by the development. “I don’t want to focus on a number, but I will do everything possible to replace the urban forest population,” Kahn said. Utilities department staffers are tentatively planning to present the EIR to the City Council in late April. m Contact News Editor Amy Asman at aasman@

ANNIVERSARY.landfill add.3/25


In the box: These artifacts won’t see the light of day until 2025.

Time is on our side People of 2025, here’s something to remember us by BY JEREMY THOMAS


hat happens when you turn 10? If you’re a Sun staffer, you bury stuff. Just like anyone else, we long to be remembered, and we couldn’t think of a better way to leave our mark than with a time capsule. We’re leaving specific instructions behind (along with the GPS coordinates) for it not to be resurrected until March 31, 2025, the date of the paper’s 25th anniversary. As any flea market frequenter or thrift store enthusiast will tell you, there’s nothing more interesting than going through someone else’s useless junk. Our writers each picked out some items we had lying around the office to tell something of significance to our successors (or our future selves). In its own way, each trinket describes something about what was on our minds in 2010. One question on my mind now, thinking 15 years ahead, is whether or not print journalism will still exist. Sure, we’ll probably still have our archives somewhere in a steel-reinforced vault far below the Earth’s crust, but what will we want to communicate to our friends in the future about our beloved profession? First, we’re throwing in a copy of the original prototype for the Sun, printed for our advertisers way back in the year 2000. It’s included along with a photo of Bob Rucker and Alex Zuniga, co-owners of the Sun and our sister paper New Times, holding the first edition mockup like proud parents. We’re also including our ninth anniversary issue from last year, which had a “Meet the Writers” section. It’s not often we’re able to slip out from under our comfortable cloak of anonymity, but in this issue we did, so those who follow in our footsteps can put faces to our names. Last July, New Times held a battle of the bands competition for local musicians. Out of that enterprise came the New Times Music Awards CD, another item in the capsule. By 2025, most people will probably have forgotten the compact disc as a medium. Who knows? It might be a museum

piece by then. Plus, the people of tomorrow will be able to hear what the best local music sounded like in our era, if they can find something to play it on. That brings us to items representing our modern day society. I thought nothing symbolized our current political and economic climate quite like a tea bag and a $50 Monopoly bill. I considered putting a dollar in the capsule, but it was both more costefficient and more telling to use the fake one. In 15 years, Monopoly money will probably be worth more than the genuine article anyway. The tea bag, well, that’s self-explanatory. And while we do like a spot of tea here at the office, we LOVE our coffee, that most precious of fuels for journalists. It’s not a stretch to say this paper wouldn’t exist without it. For that reason, adding some coffee grinds to the capsule seems fitting. And we figure whoever goes through the trouble of digging it up will be quite thirsty after the job, so it’s good to include a Guinness, just in case Prohibition makes a return. Besides, the alcohol will only appreciate in value, which makes its inclusion an investment for the future. On the food side, we included a fridge magnet from Ichiban. The restaurant is our haunt for special occasions, where we meet up to satisfy our sushi fix. I don’t know why it’s important for you to know that, dear Proud papas: Sun co-owners Alex Zuniga (left) and Bob Rucker (right) hold the paper’s year 2000 prototype.

reader, other than to give Ichiban some free publicity and let you know we love our sushi. If you’ve ever visited our offices, you know we also love our toys. We have Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings memorabilia and action figures out the yin yang. It wasn’t easy for Arts Editor Shelly Cone to part with her Yoda, who’s been watching over her from her desk for years. But, she figured, who better to pass on our wisdom to the next generation than one of the most powerful Jedi masters in history? We’re also crazy about bouncy balls. They’re a good stress reliever to squeeze, throw, or invent new sports with. We have literally hundreds of them, so we won’t miss a few. In 2025, perhaps the game of jacks will have made a comeback and bouncy balls will once again be all the rage. Did I mention we love toys? Staff Writer Amy Asman donated her My Little Pony figurine to the cause. She had it when she first got the job as an intern so it’s got sentimental value. She also contributed a bottle cap from her favorite tea with a quote printed

Time Capsule We’re sending you back to the future Readers, we can’t have all the fun. If you think of something to add to make our time capsule complete, send your suggestions to jthomas@ The future is waiting.

on it from Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. She said the children’s classic is one of her favorite books because of its simple, heartfelt message. The quote reads: “Unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” In all honesty, journalists can be a jaded lot, so it helps to have a reminder to keep the faith, or as Amy says, “It helps keep me human.” Finally, she added a Santa Maria Area Transit 30th anniversary pin, to, you know, honor our local bus system or something. Also, it was taking up space in her desk. There must have been a fit of pin-sanity around the office, because the Best Of badge from last year’s Wizard of Oz-themed issue made the cut. It’s a reminder from our office manager Colleen how much she hates counting ballots. Well, our readers love you for it anyway. We couldn’t forget everyone’s favorite beaked wordsmith, the Canary. So the inoffice manifestation of the columnist isn’t actually a canary, but our yellow plastic parakeet has perched cage-bound in lieu of our fine-feathered friend for a long time now. He’s been looking a little stiff lately, so it’s time we gave him a proper burial, along with the Canary’s business card. And what’s in the manila envelope? Why, it’s a slew of e-mails from Gil Armijo to the Sun, decrying Joyce’s Dudley’s “henchmen” and their “racist tactics” in his recent trial. As for me, I’m including a lump of coal in the capsule. Not because I think the future excavators will have been too naughty to deserve a real gift, but because a chunk of coal might come in handy. Why? Energy researchers have predicted that by 2025, the world’s coal output will hit its peak, which means it all goes downhill from there. You’re welcome, future humans. I also added my old, trusty digital recorder to the mix. The instrument I used to conduct my interviews doubled as a way to record my twisted thoughts on long road trips. I’ve had this baby from the time I was a lowly journalism student and it served me well, for a while. But it’s time for us to part ways. Plus, I’ve got a newer model. I’m leaving a few of my interviews on it so future reporters can see how it’s done, and a voice message for whoever unearths our box (or whatever we end up putting all of this crap in). The message was not quite as profound as Voyager 1’s gold record to the aliens, but it was short and sweet: “People of the future,” I said, “Gaze upon our accoutrements from the year 2010. And enjoy.” We’re burying the time capsule March 31, the Sun’s true 10th birthday, at an undisclosed location. Maybe we’ll put it in Waller Park, under a big “W.” With any luck, the park won’t be a landfill by 2025. Anyhow, if all goes according to plan, neither Mayan End Times nor Zombie Apocalypse will prevent the Sun from rising again in 2025. Maybe some of us will even still be around. m Staff Writer Jeremy Thomas can be contacted at

Santa Maria Sun 10th Anniversary  

This is an article celebrating the Santa Maria Sun's Tenth Birthday.

Santa Maria Sun 10th Anniversary  

This is an article celebrating the Santa Maria Sun's Tenth Birthday.