SBCAN Editorials

  • Motorsports park a bad idea for Lompoc

    This op-ed by Ken Hough ran in the Lompoc Record and in the Santa Maria Times on Aug. 2, 2016:

    Supporters of the proposed motorsports park and drag strip tell us the noise and air pollution will be no big deal.

    Did you go to the Lompoc Flower Festival parade? I did. Did you see and hear who brought up the rear? It was members of the Lompoc Valley Motorsports Park Project.

    If they were trying to demonstrate how little noise impact the park will have, they failed. If they were trying to demonstrate how little air pollution the park will produce, they failed.

    It seemed they intended to show how much noise, smoking tires and excitement the park would generate.

    If you go to a parade, you expect to hear some noise and endure odors. But if you happen to live in a town, you likely expect to not have too much noise and to be able to breathe reasonably good air.

  • Use consensus to rejuvenate city parks

    This "Looking Forward" op-ed piece by Jeanne Sparks was published in the Santa Maria Times on June 17, 2016:

    As I lament the impending loss of historical features, mature trees and picnic tables at Buena Vista Park, I wonder what went wrong in the public-planning process.

    The park was designated by the city’s Landmark Committee as Santa Maria’s first Historic Landmark, yet the committee apparently has not been consulted in the park’s redesign. Historic aspects of the park will be lost when they could be saved.

    Buena Vista Beautifiers and staff from the Recreation and Parks Department have met to address issues. Both sides have good intentions, but we have disagreements.

    The Beautifiers have involved 40 people from 25 organizations, surveyed more than 200 people, and conducted several events in the park. Although some of the plans for the park are improvements, our most important issues were not adequately addressed. We also haven’t received the detailed cost estimate we requested.

    We believe the goals of improving safety and enhancing the park can be accomplished while preserving the unique, bell-shaped sidewalk, and the mature trees that provide wonderful shade for people and shelter for birds.

  • Orcutt Hill oil benefits less than impacts

    This "Looking Forward" op-ed piece by Ken Hough ran in the Santa Maria Times June 9, 2016:

    In a recent column, Rosemary Holmes described many of the problems with Pacific Coast Energy’s proposal to double the number of cyclic-steaming wells on its property from 96 to 192.

    Since the initial 96 wells began pumping high-pressure steam into the Diatomite formation to loosen up the thick crude oil, the oil seeps that have occurred naturally throughout recorded history increased dramatically. The California Department of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources has had to step in to shut down some of the oil production to reduce the seeps.

    When seeps occur, seep cans need to be installed to collect the oil. When seeps are discovered, bulldozers need to scrape new roads to the site, unless the seep happens to be adjacent to one of the existing dirt roads.

  • Keep the good things at Buena Vista Park

    This "Looking Forward" op-ed piece by Jeanne Sparks was published in the Santa Maria Times on MAY 6, 2016:

    Santa Maria is trying to make Buena Vista Park, it’s oldest, a kinder and more beautiful place. Although officials have some things right, the overall plan of taking out the historic bell-shaped walkway, basketball courts and picnic tables leaves much to be desired.

    A sidewalk and concrete circle installed in the 1970s portrays the El Camino Real bell. The shape works well with the circle in the center, and the sides of the bells opening out to the east. The circle should become a central area for events. Real bells like those on the highway and other features should be added to embrace the history of the park.

    The site also has four half-courts for basketball. They are in good shape except for some hairline cracks. No one complains about them. They get a lot of use, yet the city plans to tear them out because there are too many people congregating there. Isn’t that a sign of success?

    We need to plan for all age groups — toddlers, young children, teens, young adults, mature adults and seniors, as well as those with disabilities.

  • Retain views from ancestral riverbank

    This op-ed piece by Ken Hough was published on Friday, April 8, 2016 in the Santa Maria Times:

    The city of Santa Maria is about to give up one of the last beautiful views remaining in the valley — the view from the ancestral riverbank along Betteravia Road between Highway 101 and College Drive.

    The sharp incline of 20-30 feet that still partially exists from the freeway all the way out to Blosser Road shows where the river once flowed. Here and there, the top of this escarpment provides views of the valley, Nipomo Mesa and the Sierra Madre, which are not available elsewhere in the city.

    The city should ensure that developments are designed to protect those views. There should be hiking trails and benches along the escarpment, allowing continued enjoyment of the view after the land now covered in broccoli and other row crops is covered by buildings and parking lots.

    Instead, the city is in the process of approving a development that will cover the upper area of the escarpment with commercial buildings and parking between the freeway and College Drive.

  • Locals help turn lives around, and more

    This "Forward View" op-ed piece by Jeanne Sparks was published in the Lompoc Record on March 30, 2016:

    and in the Santa Maria Times on March 30, 2016:

    Chuck Madson moved to Lompoc after being released from the California Department of Corrections. Struggling with addiction and effects of incarceration, Chuck connected with Coast Valley Substance Abuse Treatment Center and then was hired as an adolescent counselor.

    With the support of Pastor Craig Hamlin and his son, Matt, Madson’s dream of giving back to the community was realized through projects such as Miracle House Men's Home, Feed Lompoc Food Distributions, Pay It Forward Thrifts and Gifts Store, Recovery Day in the Park, and Lompoc Community Meeting. Most of Madson’s work has been with thousands of clients in CVSATC.

    Santa Barbara County Action Network will present Madson with the Looking Forward Award during the 2016 North County Looking Forward Awards Dinner on Sunday, May 22, at 5 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel, 3455 Skyway Dr. in Santa Maria. SBCAN is honoring five individuals to thank them for their hard work.

    The dinner this year is dedicated to the memory of Joann Marmolejo for her lifelong commitment to improving the lives of working people in the community, including her 13 years of service to SBCAN.

  • Supporting basic rights for farmworkers

    This op-ed piece by Ken Hough was published on Friday, February 12, 2016 in the Santa Maria Times:

    After recent research revealed widespread labor abuses in Central Coast agricultural fields, farmworkers, advocates, and community organizations began advocating for a Farmworker Bill of Rights. They are asking the Ventura and Santa Barbara County Boards of Supervisors to set and enforce basic standards for agricultural labor. 

    If passed, this would mark the first time county governments have used their powers to address the wide range of labor abuses common in agricultural work, including extreme overwork, wage theft, and health and safety risks.

    The campaign is supported by over 80 elected officials, local businesses and organizations. These include faith-based, labor, environmental, immigrant, student, community and farmworker organizations.

    Based on nearly 600 interviews with farmworkers, research by labor attorneys, and meetings with government agency officials, farm owners, and farmworker advocates, Central Coast United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) developed a Farmworker Bill of Rights to address three major issues.

  • Reasons to deny Phillips 66 oil-train terminal

    This op-ed piece by Ken Hough was published on Thursday, January 7, 2016 in the Santa Maria Times: and the Lompoc Record:

    San Luis Obispo County has finally issued the final environmental impact report on the much-discussed Phillips 66 Santa Maria Refinery rail project in the Nipomo Dunes.

    Comments on the draft EIR were so numerous and compelling it took over a year to respond to them all and complete the final report.

    The proposed project is officially the rail spur extension and crude oil unloading facility. In fact, the current rail spur is very short and provides no capability for crude oil deliveries. The project would be a large terminal for oil trains.

    The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors have the authority to approve or deny the project. They should deny it for a host of reasons. I will focus on the potential impacts on residents of Santa Barbara County and beyond.

  • Wide-ranging efforts to thwart climate change

    This "Forward View" op-ed piece by Jeanne Sparks was published in the Lompoc Record on Nov. 12, 2015:

    This op-ed was also published as a "Looking Forward" piece in the Santa Maria Times on Nov. 13, 2015:

    World leaders will meet in Paris this month to come up with an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change.

    If we continue the way we are, the average global temperature could rise 9 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Scientists warn that an increase above 3.6 degrees will cause erratic climate and weather extremes, altered ecosystems and habitats, and risks to human health and society.

    World leaders have been meeting for several months laying the groundwork for the summit. They have created plans to limit their greenhouse gas emissions and provide financial assistance to developing countries. Key to reaching climate change targets is helping poor countries get access to clean energy, water and sanitation, gender equality, education and health, while not exceeding climate thresholds.

    We must encourage our elected officials to support the summit. We can also support the efforts of organizations that work locally, nationally and internationally to improve our world. One such organization is the Environmental Defense Fund, which works with partners in the U.S. and around the world. It has created a plan to improve climate, oceans, ecosystems and health. Check out Blueprint 2020 for more information:

  • Doing the right thing on climate change

    This "Looking Forward" op-ed piece by Jeanne Sparks was published in the Santa Maria Times on Oct. 9, 2015:

    People have debated mankind’s influence on climate since Aristotle’s time. The debate among non-scientists continues.

    However, leading climate scientists no longer debate. Numerous studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree — humans are causing global warming.

    The first calculations of the effect of carbon dioxide on climate change were made in the 1800s. By the late 1950s, scientists were arguing that carbon dioxide emissions could have radical effects on climate. By the 1970s, 62 percent of publishing scientists were predicting global warming.

    Back then, even oil giant Exxon was concerned.

    In 1977, senior company scientist James Black told Exxon management, “There is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”