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SLO City News Year In Review

SLO City News: 2015 Year In Review

Cal Poly got a little reputation burnishing by having the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy finishing high profile projects on campus. The Institute is housed in the Warren J. Baker Center for Science and Mathematics but the public policy think-tank isn’t actually part of the school. Busy coming up with hands-on solutions to specific issues, in 2015, they got through major development milestones in all of their projects, including technology in education, energy sustainability for California and an ambitious open government project. Cal Poly computer science professor, Foaad Khosmood, worked on his biggest project to date the Digital Democracy — Open Government Program.

In the final analysis, the debate over whether or not to allow BESTshort-term, paid homestays in San Luis Obispo boiled down to a fundamental question: “How much do we trust our neighbors, and under what terms?”

For the SLO City Council, faced with final approval of an ordinance to allow the practice, that is popular with homeowners seeking to turn their spare rooms into a temporary B&B and booking the rooms on the Internet, the balance was struck by imposing a set of restrictions on the practice, while still allowing it to go forward in relative ease. Rentals of 30-days or less had long been banned in the City, intending to keep vacation rental numbers at bay. With the hiring of a special projects manager in 2014, the City dedicated some manpower to drafting a solution for the new problem, voting a new ordinance into law in January.

SLO-2015-Install-Diner061At the end of January, the SLO City News ended its run as a free weekly paper and moved to biweekly issues. The issues got bigger and a new website started archiving individual articles with searchable content. We’re still dealing with what that transition means for keeping up with everyday goings on but the public support for our more in depth coverage every other week has been heartening.

The SLO Police Department caught six store clerks in San Luis Obispo selling tobacco to minors in a Health Department funded tobacco sting, a higher number than in years past. SLOPD and the County’s Tobacco Control Program sent two teenagers into 36 local stores to try and buy tobacco products and check compliance with state laws. Six clerks sold to the decoys, some 16.7%, and one didn’t ask the boy for identification. Under the law, the teen decoys must produce proper ID if asked.

IMG_2216The City of San Luis Obispo’s webmasters knew that not too many people had selected the City’s old webpage, as their home on the Internet, but that started to change after the launch of a new City website in February. Slocity.org went live with a completely revamped look and easier public access to all areas of City business. “It’s a big step forward and it was long overdue,” said project manager James David. He added that as soon as the Google-powered search tool for the site was finished optimizing, their front-page would be even more of a “one stop shop.”

Mayor Jan Marx accepted the “Mayors Challenge to End Veteran IMG_2191Homelessness,” teaming up with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the SLO County Veterans’ Services Administration. “Our veterans have made sacrifices for our country,” she said. “Now, it is our duty to step up for those in difficult times and provide them with services and a secure roof over their heads. The City of San Luis Obispo is proud to participate in this initiative and we look forward to the continuation of coordinated efforts to put an end to veteran homelessness.” City Housing Programs Manager, Tyler Corey, said there were no figures available for just how many of the area’s homeless are veterans, but an enumeration study had been recently conducted and results were pending. The formal challenge to encourage cooperation between mayors and municipalities across the U.S. was issued by First Lady Michelle Obama and developed as a policy through HUD, “with the goal of providing access to permanent housing for all veterans by the end of 2015.” Needless to say, there are still homeless veterans.

Robby Novak, better known to the world as the “Kid President” after whirlwind success as a YouTube star, lit up Cal Poly’s Chumash Auditorium. Making the first ever college appearance in promotion of their New York Times Bestseller, “Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome,” Nowak and brother-in-law, Brad Montague, presented the behind the scenes of directing and producing all of their inspirational videos. Nowak, now 12, suffers from a rare brittle-bone disease (osteogenesis imperfecta), which has resulted in over 70 fractures during his life. That background informs the remarkable and infectious positivity that he shares with audiences. It was not mentioned however in the hour long presentation given by Montague, who covered a little bit of the family’s philosophy, which includes “Treat Everyone like it’s their Birthday” and “Hug the Haters.” The YouTube channel is still going strong and if you ever feel like you’re having a bad day, Robby will set you straight in the happiest way possible.

100_2639A new skate park opened in Santa Rosa Park and skateboarders of all ages turned out to see the completed facility. “We had over 200 children show up to our goal setting meeting for 2005-2007,” Parks and Recreation Director, Shelly Stanwyck told the City Council in April 2014. “Many of those kids are all grown up but we’ve had lots of long term involvement from members of the public to make this a great project.” The project included some $250,000 worth of public art and $1.6 million sunk into the project from a variety of city and grant funds. The 15,000 square foot project replaced a patchwork of small installations and was the culmination of a decade of work surviving several budget reprioritizations and a recession in the middle of the efforts.

If you type San Luis Obispo or SLO St. Patrick’s Day into Google this story will still be coming up in 2016 and 2017. The now infamous “St. Fratty’s Day” roof collapse sent four directly to the hospital and twice that were injured  when revelers clambered onto a garage roof and it collapsed under the weight. At least 1,000 youngsters packed a party on Hathway Avenue, off California Boulevard and near the Cal Poly Campus. Or as SLOPD Sgt. Sean Gillham said, “Coordinated through social media, several thousand college-aged young men and women poured into the residential neighborhood. Many of the revelers possessed alcoholic beverages and were wearing green clothing consistent with a pre-St. Patrick’s Day celebration.” Mayor (Jan) Marx called the behavior of the partiers, “an assault on the surrounding neighborhoods and to the reputation of the university.” Councilman John Ashbaugh said, “We should just flat-out prohibit such a gathering.” This event would have long lasting repercussions through the rest of the year.  More on that later.

An industrial solar energy plant in Eastern SLO County finally started catching rays and producing power, putting to rest nagging rumors that it had been powered up since it was completed in 2014. The Topaz Solar Farm on the Carrizo Plains’ official commissioning had been a waiting game for the plant’s operator, formerly MidAmerican Solar, Inc., but  “One of the World’s largest solar plants is fully operational,” with the “550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farm’s completion.” Topaz’ energy is sold to Pacific Gas and Electric under a long-term purchase agreement, which they estimate is equivalent to powering more than 181,000 “average California homes.” The plant uses the high voltage transmission lines that run west-east from the coast to the power grid in the Central Valley. Those lines used to connect to the natural gas-fired Morro Bay Power Plant.

Since breaking ground in 2011, MidAmerican laid out more than 8 million photovoltaic panels and fueled a temporary employment boom before wrapping up construction and, coincidentally, changing its name, becoming BHE Renewables in January.

On March 31 the City Utilities Department got approval to move $1 million out of its reserve fund to make up for “water sales revenue loss” the previous year. The City Council voted unanimously to allow a delayed increase in charges for Tier-2 water users and to increase the base charge over three years. It’s a bit of a “sticky wicket” for the folks responsible for supplying water to City residents. Always eager to encourage conservation in severe drought, the City has none-the–less relied on volume-based sales to pay for maintenance of the water infrastructure. At the end of 2015, the City was still operating in emergency mode regarding dwindling water supply.

The Ellsworth Market, which has stood on Broad Street since 1941, was given a face-lift and a new name, as the owners brought the idea of a “neighborhood corner market” into the 21st Century. Now called the “Lincoln Market & Deli,” owners Mike and Becky Hicks turned the store into a neighborhood hangout with one of the, “best craft beer selections on the Central Coast,” and yet dedicated a corner of the store to pinball — a pastime that predates even the historic location. The pairing of good beer and pinball, with six classic machines and an computer arcade terminal with hundreds of titles in it’s databanks, was the perfect draw, as SLO celebrated its Second Annual Craft Beer Week.

Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R-SLO) on April 17 officially announced that he would run for Lois Capps’ 24th Congressional District seat. Achadjian has been the local State Assemblyman since 2010. Prior to that he was a 3-term County Supervisor and prior to that was an Arroyo Grande City Councilman.

The City of SLO put new tools in the hands of police officers. Dash Cams and laptops are industry standards of sorts, but the Department joined the rest of the populace with mobile tablets replacing clunky, nailed down tech. To make it work patrol cars were IMG_5799turned into high-bandwidth mobile hotspots, with officers able to log in up to 100 feet away from the vehicle. The benefits, according to SLOPD Capt. Keith Storton, include being able to do ID checks, running plates, and filing reports on-scene. The Federal Department of Justice had the same concerns about the network that most civilians should when they do mobile banking or sensitive activity over Wi-Fi. In addition to making sure that the data stream from the City’s servers to the cars and pads is safe from hackers, the DOJ also wanted to make sure storage met its standards.

Officers on the beat toward the end of 2015 tell the SLO City News that the system is working as anticipated, although an anonymous officer did think it was strange that a young man meeting him on patrol was more interested in his Wi-Fi than anything else.

At 4 a.m. on the morning of the SLO Marathon, SLOPD officers disposed of “what appeared to be a pressure cooker” found the night before. SLOPD Sgt. John Villanti said on April 25, around 8:38 p.m. the San Luis Obispo Police Department responded to the 1900 block of Santa Barbara Street for a “suspicious device. The device was in the middle of the sidewalk in front of the Del Monte Café.” At the end of the year, there were no new leads but there were no regrets that SLOPD responded with an abundance of caution, as pressure cookers are often used to make improvised explosive devices, similar to the ones that were detonated in the domestic terror attacks on the 2013 Boston Marathon.

The writing was on the wall for San Luis Obispo’s Police Chief Steve Gesell, who was put “on paid administrative leave for an indeterminate period of time,” with Capt. Chris Staley named acting chief “until further notice.” Gesell came under scrutiny for several events between 2014 and 2015, including the police response to the “St. Fratty’s Day” party in March. Gesell told the SLO City Council that the party caught him “completely off-guard,” with only five officers on duty when he was called in the middle of the night. Information later emerged that fraternities not involved in the event had warned Cal Poly’s Student Affairs Office that a party involving thousands of students might take place. Already in the midst of a misreported expenses scandal that hit in December 2014, Gesell drew ire from local citizens for his stance on police-citizen relations that were included in a December op-ed article published in SLO City News and The Tribune, regarding the circumstances leading to riots in Ferguson, Mo.

Cal Poly faced some interesting questions as campus administrators worked on a new 20-year plan for the school. Should they sacrifice prime farmlands to development? How dense should the core downtown or campus be? What’s the best way to get from point A to B if there won’t be cars involved? For a group of visitors from the City and students May 7, the Robert E. Kennedy Library Atrium hosted the first conceptual designs from planners tasked with answering those questions for the university. Some of the first Post-it notes to go up on comment boards read: “We ARE an AG school. Clearly planners have lost sight of this!” and “Upper division students don’t want apartments on campus.”

Police Chief Steve Gesell wasn’t on paid leave for long as he reached a $120,000 agreement with the City to leave his position. The assistant city manager announced May 21 that the, now-former chief had, “reached terms … regarding his separation from employment…[which] ensures that no legal action will result from the separation, and is compliant with the severance clause in his offer of employment.” Capt. (Chris) Staley remained acting chief, rotating with Capt. Keith Storton as the City searched for a permanent chief. Gesell had a take home pay of $160,394 and a total compensation package of $264,163. While representing considerably more than six months of his base salary, the $120,000 figure is about $12,000 shy of the benefits that the City had been paying for his retirement, health and life insurance and other perks.

IMG_5286 (3000x2000)San Luis Obispo based software company, Mindbody, got much bigger. Native to SLO they already have branch offices in New York, Britain and Australia. Literally a worldwide company, they built a home just inside the SLO City Limits. You might have noticed the shiny new building and traffic signal that went in on Tank Farm Road near Broad Street. Although the new headquarters is LEED certified and suitably imposing for a modern structure, from the outside its actually rather modest for an operation that employs 900 people at the headquarters and has approximately 42,000 small business customers relying on their product. The courtyard of the new building was packed with the employees, and City and County leaders for a grand opening.

Two years after a group of activists approached the City Council asking for a ban on Styrofoam products, the City started enforcing one. Members of the group, SLO Foam Free, said after the June 2 council meeting that they would now push for similar legislation on the County level. They smelled countywide victory prematurely. The City rules, which impose sanctions on business owners who don’t switch over from polystyrene containers where possible, were crafted over months of outreach, including feedback submitted through the relatively new “Open City Hall” Internet portal. Grocery store meat trays and food products imported prepackaged with the foam are also exempt. The County has not adopted such regulations to date.

Best 1San Luis Obispo Regional Airport officials were unabashedly happy as they announced an expansion of their carrying capacity, adding a third daily round trip to San Francisco on Sept. 1 and using SkyWest Airlines’ new fleet of jets. United Express, operated by SkyWest, cut the overall number of seats when it dropped from three trips a day with 28 seats per flight, to two flights with 50 each. The new flight boosted the passenger count to 150 available each way. In July 2015, Airport Manager Kevin Bumen and his staff went before County Supervisors to ask approval for a new terminal design. A groundbreaking for that project was held during the annual Airport Day in September.

As of June 7, unified joint command for the massive oil pipeline spill known as the “Refugio Incident,” in Santa Barbara County, reported, “cleanup goals have been met for several shoreline areas.” A statement released by the joint command, led by the Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency, Santa Barbara County Emergency Management Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention, said that, “Shoreline Cleanup Assessment Technique [SCAT] teams at the Refugio Incident have assessed 96.5 miles of shoreline.” With no other wildlife being reported dead or oiled in the two days before the announcement, the count of dead and injured birds stands at 58 still living and 136 dead; and the marine mammal count at 43 living and 67 dead. The incident lit a fire for members of the Coalition to Stop the Phillips 66 Oil Train Project, which held a rally in SLO the day after the spill, highlighting the damage possible from the 2.4 million gallons a day the company proposes to bring through the counties by tanker rail cars.

The San Luis Obispo County Grand Jury has a history of caring about SLO’s homeless population. That’s a legacy they maintained in 2015 with a follow up report to the 2009-10 Grand Jury’s 17-page report titled, “Homelessness in San Luis Obispo County: Are We Solving the Problem?” With the paraphrased conclusion: “No. Not really.” Thirteen findings and nine recommendations required response from nearly every municipality in the county, starting off by noting that in 2009, “more than 3,800 people in San Luis Obispo County were homeless. That number included 1,300 under the age of 18. Most sleep on other people’s couches, in cars or outside. About a hundred find beds in shelter in Atascadero (ECHO) or San Luis Obispo.” The latest report on the subject, put out by the 2014-15 Grand Jury is a little less robust. This time it’s an informational packet of five pages taking a look at the 2-year pilot program called, “Make Change Count.” That’s the program that put out seven parking meters with special markings around SLO’s Downtown to encourage donations in lieu of encouraging panhandling.” Their report concluded that the meters have, “themselves have not been a huge success as a fundraising tool.” In fact, complete failure of the program was imminent at the end of the year.

One of the things Michael Nowak misses most about his old job as music director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony is working with the educational programs grooming the next generation of classically trained artists. When the SLO City News ran into him last December that was still true, but the conductor had moved on to greener pastures. He had just finished a little project called, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and was in possession of some rare memorabilia. Still, it should be no surprise then that when Nowak and 60 of the symphony’s 76 musicians got together for a one-time charity concert June 28, proceeds of the $25 per ticket admission went to the Vocal Arts Ensemble’s Youth Strings Scholarship. The San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble presented the concert at the Clark Center in A.G. and proceeds went to the New Hope Symphony’s BEST-04“Concert for Harmony.” The artists hoped to convey new beginnings in the wake of Nowak’s acrimonious dismissal by the SLO Symphony’s Board of Directors.

To inspire the 160 high-schoolers attending Cal Poly’s Engineering Possibilities in College (EPIC) summer camp July 16, American Astronaut Victor Glover admitted that he likes to put himself in impossible situations, “then try to fight my way out of it.” It was part of the “Grit” in the three core principles he told the students would serve them well on the path to success. “Be a gritty…good person… and a life long learner,” he advised. The 1999 Cal Poly engineering graduate didn’t directly evoke the school’s “learn by doing” motto while he was on stage, but he demonstrated the traits he espoused and told the campers enough about his background to start them thinking. Through supportive teachers in elementary and middle school, independent study of mathematics in high school and “getting his butt kicked” in his first year at Cal Poly, Glover charted a course, then showed where it’s led so far. “I left blood sweat and tears here at Cal Poly,” he said. “I met my wife here, I left my heart here and this place is still part of our family.”  His speech likely had an impact as the theme of “grit” came up again in December commencement.

Attention tourists! (Ok, residents might want to check this out too.) The City of San Luis Obispo is all too happy that SLO County’s second most recognizable natural landmark is just a quick bike ride away from Downtown, but they’re afraid it’s being over-visited. On July 7, the council voted 4-0-1, with Councilman Ashbaugh abstaining, to crack down on abuses of the Bishop Peak Natural Reserve. They adopted management plans to address additional resident concerns. Anyone caught hiking up the foothills towards the peak after dark, or careless dog owners, can both look forward to paying $489 in penalties. In order to wrangle the 150,000 annual visitors that the mountain attracts, the City hired three more park rangers. The City’s Natural Resources Manager Bob Hill told the Council, the new recruits would have plenty to keep their hands full. One of the primary complaints of hikers is coming across bagged doggy-droppings that an owner wanted to be seen to pick up but lacked the fortitude to carry home with them. Trash service at the trailheads is one of the improvements outlined in the plan.

The scene in the City of San Luis Obispo’s City Hall Council Chambers heading into August wasn’t exactly a United Nations summit meeting, but the City’s seal hanging next to a banner with Cal Poly’s colors did seem a little unusual. Mayor Marx and Cal Poly President, Jeffrey Armstrong, were in the same room with all the pomp and circumstance the City Council Chambers could muster. However, it wasn’t to sign anything as grandiose as a peace treaty. They simply spoke of how happy they were to have an agreement that gives the university police force the ability to respond to off-campus parties and other disturbances. Coupled with a new, “unruly gatherings” City ordinance, university police gained the authority to enforce five specific city codes in SLO neighborhoods, including the unruly gathering ordinance and noise control.

Over decades of worry about how a changing climate will affect the human race, “climate action planning” has become a certified profession. Cal Poly’s City & Regional Planning Department hosted its second California Climate Action Planning Conference, Aug. 13-14, drawing more than 160 attendees from all over California. Two years since the last conference organized by Michael Boswell, professor of city and regional planning at Cal Poly, a lot had changed, namely progress on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets implemented by the State of Calif.  By the end of the year it was a national debate, as leaders left for the COP 21 Summit in Paris.

In what could have been an occasion to toast with a good brewski, SLO Brewing Company broke ground on a new expansion location near the San Luis Obispo Regional Airport, at 855 Aerovista Pl. The expansion comes after SLO Brew co-owners Rodney Cegelski and Hamish Marshall set a December 2015 move-in date for SLO Brew’s new Downtown home on Higuera Street, clearing out for a mixed-use project in the brewery’s current location on Garden Street. Marshal later broke ground on another project in the City parking lot, now leased by his company for 99 years, behind SLO Brew’s current location in SLO.

With a Friday afternoon press release, the City of SLO announced a IMG_5140move to “shake things up,” moving Assistant City Manager, Michael Codron, into the top job in the community development department and counterpart Derek Johnson moving to administration. The announcement did not clearly explain why the change was made or needed but praised the skills of both and noted that City Manager Katie Lichtig, “worked closely with both the affected department heads to make the change.” Wayne Padilla left the position of finance director nearly simultaneously leaving Johnson “80%” in the role of finance director primarily, before he accepts the full on role in senior management some time in 2016.

The SLO City Council voted unanimously to ban the possession and sale of a whole category of psychoactive drugs in the City, after some abusers were observed to slip into a zombie-like state and commit alarming acts of violence. SLOPD Capt. Chris Staley told the SLO City News, that the City’s experience with “synthetic cannabis,” known as “Spice” and the psychoactive compounds referred to as “bath salts” started about 5-years ago. That’s about the time that his morning ritual of greeting the guys coming off the night shift started to include meeting arrestees, “in the backseat of a cruiser completely wigging out.” They were people, he explained, who could not be reasoned with and exhibited what he could only call “incredibly bizarre behavior” accompanied by bouts of “weird unpredictable violence.” So far, San Luis Obispo has not seen the kind of attack that first alerted the nation to “bath salts” in 2010, when Miami, Fla., police were forced to shoot and kill a man who was in a zombie-like stupor and feasting on the face of another homeless man. However, the incident is likely what prompted the phrase, “homicidal ideations, cannibalism and death,” to appear for the first time in SLO City Code.

The City of San Luis Obispo’s World Trade Center (9/11) Memorial Project at Fire Station No. 1 at Broad and South streets opened to the public on Sept. 11. Approved in 2014, the sculpture honors the 403 New York police officers and firefighters who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, symbolized by 403 metal posts that surround a steel I-beam that was part of the World Trade Center. More than 500 citizens came to Fire Sta. No.1, to celebrate the dedication and remember the tragedy. More than seven years after local Firefighters started work on the idea to bring a piece of the fallen World Trade Center to rest in San Luis Obispo, and five since an “I-beam” was trucked here cross country by volunteers, the final memorial was completed.

For almost 18 years, the folks at Meathead Movers, a SLO-based moving company, were helping victims of domestic abuse get out of harms way. At first fielding calls with individual, heart-breaking stories on a case-by-case basis, the company partnered with local women’s shelters and social support organizations near all of their regional offices. And so it went for many years, said Aaron Steed, CEO and co-founder of Meathead Movers, who started the 01c1c21d33f5cb12e8d6985cdc4b2140d86aecc4a6company with his brother Evan in 1997. In 2015, a pledge to offer free moves through the non-profit Good Shepherd Home in Los Angeles “went viral.” The company has carried out hundreds such moves over the years, said Steed, but only 50 or so in 2015. While the initial partnership and most of the moves for the first several years were around the Central Coast, due to a Twitter campaign (#movetoendDV) attention from other continents has been more intense than anything local.

Three former Southern California police officers were formally charged on Sept. 18 with various misdemeanor child abuse allegations in connection with a “boot camp” for “at-risk youth” held at Camp San Luis. District Attorney Dan Dow said his office filed “multiple counts of misdemeanor child abuse, including corporal punishment causing injury to a child, cruelty to a child, and battery. The 10 alleged victims are minors between the ages of 12 and 16.” Defendants were police officers with the South Gate Police Department and a Huntington Park Police employee. A fourth suspect in the case, a South Gate officer was accused in Los Angeles County. All four were among instructors at a boot camp for at-risk youth, called “Leadership, Empowerment, and Discipline” or L.E.A.D. and coordinated and staffed by police officers from Huntington Park and Southgate, according to a news release from the District Attorney’s Office.

A bill co-authored by State Assemblyman Achadjian intended to ensure safety programs at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, went into effect Oct. 1 after Gov. Brown signed it into law. Assembly Bill 361, co-authored by Sen. Bill Monning provides funding for offsite emergency services required by the operation of Diablo Canyon. The money for the program would have sunset in 2019, but the nuclear plant is still licensed to operate through 2025, and plant owner Pacific Gas & Electric wants to extend its licenses for anther 25 years.  The bill also extends the mandate and funding for an “Independent Peer Review Panel,” to continue overseeing the ongoing seismic hazard studies for the plant.

For approximately two decades, the City of San Luis Obispo has shipped a cut tree in from the Pacific Northwest on which to anchor gossamer bulbs and shiny bobbles for Christmas. In August 2015, that trend was set to end after the planting of a farm raised cedar in an elevated planter at the foot of the Mission steps. The tree was unboxed and placed in the ground with care, said city arborist, Ron Combs, with hopes that it would take hold and could later be molded into a classic, conical “holiday tree.” A spate of complaints, none of which could be found in the public record in the discussion period before the tree’s installation, led to a 4-1 City Council vote, to have the tree moved and resume buying Christmas trees for the plaza. That will wait until after the New Year, as the whole thing was rather festive for the end of 2015.

The California Faculty Association voted by a 94-percent margin to authorize a strike on the 23 campuses in the CSU system including Cal Poly, considered among the most prestigious. Due to the way the votes were tallied, said Jere Ramsey, CFA representative for the Cal Poly faculty, we may never know, “campus by campus,” how the votes broke down. Though named a “faculty” association, the CFA represents more than just teachers. Of its roughly 25,000 members throughout the CSU’s system, CFA also represents counselors, librarians and coaches. There are some 1,500 CFA members at Cal Poly alone. Regardless of the vote, the authorization does not mean that a strike is imminent. “January would be far earlier than I would expect,” said Ramsey. “We’ll do our best not to impact students; it’s not their fault. I think we probably broke down about the same as the total tally for the CSU in general, but we had a much better turn out.” Keep an eye out for this story to develop wings in 2016.

A bill that makes it illegal for a car rental company to rent, lease or sell a vehicle that has been recalled, passed in the U.S. House of IMG_7705Representatives. Congresswoman Lois Capps hailed the passage of a comprehensive transportation bill (H.R. 22) that included language from her bipartisan bill, the “Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act.”  The rental car safety legislation is named in honor of sisters Raechel and Jacqueline Houck of Ojai, Calif., in Capps’ district. Both were killed while driving a recalled Chrysler PT Cruiser rented in 2004.

SLO City Manager Katie Lichtig announced on Dec. 4, that the City has made a conditional job offer to Deanna Cantrell as the City’s new Police Chief. Cantrell was in the office by the end of December. Cantrell is the second Chef in a row to be recruited from Arizona and when the offer was made, was Assistant Chief at the Mesa Arizona Police Department, about 11 miles from where the city recruited former Chief Gesell. No word from City management about the predilection for hiring outside talent from that region of Arizona. SLO Fire Chief Garrett Olson is also from the area. Under the SLO City Charter the city manager has sole authority over hiring and firing of direct employees without the involvement of the City Council.  Both of SLO’s senior Captains had expressed interest in running the department and served terms as Acting Chief.

During a special meeting Nov. 20, the San Luis Coastal Unified School District Board took a good look at what it actually takes, and maybe what it should take, to get a diploma. A follow–up meeting, if any changes to current policy are considered, would likely take place Jan. 15, 2016 with parents, or anyone else with a stake in the matter, urged to attend.  However, said Rick Robinett, the district’s assistant superintendent in charge of educational resources, extreme changes aren’t likely. Administrators are worried about Assembly Bill 1012, which mandates that all students, even seniors have a full educational day, which kicks in with the next school year.

On Dec. 12 the Cal Poly Campus was surprisingly quiet. There were a few joggers on the paths between the hillside dorms and the campus core. The library was closed for the weekend and for a schedule change in the off-season. Aside from a few signs denoting commencement event parking and shuttle busses crisscrossing lanes normally reserved for bicycles, the only notable difference walking on campus were the number of soon-to-be grads milling about in black gowns. In many ways it was the calm after the storm. For anyone who isn’t tuned into campus culture, the calm of “dead week” followed a series of highly attended protests for diversity, and nominally, against hate. The round figure of 1,000 people, mostly students, were estimated to have attended protest rallies held Dec. 2 -3 after Matt Klepfer, president of the Queer Student Union and co-coordinator of SLO Solidarity, received a death threat via Facebook. Sent through a comically fake and outrageously anti-Semitic false identity on the website, the message was alleged to read, in part, “The day of the rope will be coming soon, and you people will be the first to go.” The alleged perpetrator is in custody, but, as 2016 breaks on the horizon, will the SLO Solidarity protests maintain momentum after a month-long break or flash in the pan, a-la the Occupy Wall Street Movement?

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