Now San Diego has avoided an encore flap of a similar nature. On Monday, the district attorney's office dismissed its felony vandalism case against Ocean Beach property owner Juvencio Adame for allegedly cutting down several small coastal evergreens known as New Zealand Christmas trees, which can have multiple roots. Adame said he did nothing of the sort, only trimming the trees on city property adjacent to his property to clear the area and reduce its use by the homeless.
The DA's Office said the decision to drop the case and end its prosecution of Adame was prompted by new evidence, including an arborist's report that the trees could grow back to their old dimensions in a few years. We don't think it's cynical to wonder, however, if U-T news coverage of the case over the weekend and the editorial board's inquiry about the case Monday morning might have changed some minds. Aides to DA Bonnie Dumanis said she didn't track this case, one of 1,200 or so vandalism cases her office considers each year.
One way or the other, we are glad this potential self-inflicted black eye isn't going to happen. Yes, there are still some murky questions remaining. But the fact that neighbors interviewed by the U-T depicted Adame as being prosecuted for doing the sort of routine upkeep that the city had failed to do showed where this case was headed — to "The Tonight Show" and "The Jimmy Kimmel Show," where San Diego would have faced fresh floggings.
This city didn't need the grief.
The San Luis Obispo Tribune: Don't shut out Salvation Army's drive
Like Santa Claus and Christmas trees, the Salvation Army's red kettles are a holiday tradition, as well as a powerful fundraising tool.
Locally, kettle campaigns raise tens of thousands of dollars for a charity that's often the last resort for desperate families in need of food, clothing, help with rent and utility bills and other necessities. But as Tribune writer Cynthia Lambert reports today, this year, those efforts are hampered by new restrictions on fundraising at certain locations.
Two shopping centers in San Luis Obispo County — one in Arroyo Grande and another in Paso Robles — no longer allow Salvation Army to set up kettles outside of stores.
In Arroyo Grande, the ban on soliciting donations affects not only Salvation Army, but also scouting groups and other nonprofits that go to high-volume shopping centers for candy and cookie sales and other fundraisers. (The company that manages the Paso Robles center could not be reached for comment on its policy.)
For the Salvation Army, this is a serious financial blow; the three kettle locations affected — Walmart and Albertsons in Arroyo Grande and Vons in Paso Robles — collectively generate as much as $35,000 per season in kettle donations.
A representative of Santa Barbara-based Investec Management Corp., which manages the Arroyo Grande shopping center, says the company is enforcing an existing "no soliciting" clause in contracts because tenants complained that some solicitors — not Salvation Army — were bothering customers with their aggressive tactics.
The property manager suggested that Salvation Army supporters mail in donations instead, or that Walmart allow the bell ringers inside that store.
Certainly, those are options. But the reason the Salvation Army kettle campaign is an effective technique is immediacy and convenience. No need to find a stamp, or an address or to write out a check. Simply drop a donation in the kettle and the donation is made.
As for moving the kettles and bell ringers inside, there would be less visibility, and that could involve legal obligations that individual stores aren't willing to assume. And frankly, some "sales tactics" — ringing bells, singing carols — are not suited to indoor venues.
We believe the simplest solution is to stick to what's worked in the past: Allow bell ringers to set up kettles on outdoor walkways and allow other nonprofits — Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, etc. — to carry on with their fundraisers as well.
To guard against overzealous solicitors, why not write up guidelines that nonprofits must follow? Make it clear that if they violate the rules, they will be banned.
We strongly urge property managers and owners to reverse course and allow fundraising to continue — with limits.
In this season of giving, permit Salvation Army to carry on its long tradition of providing a safety net for community members in need.
Santa Maria Times: Setting rules for everyone
It might seem intuitive that Santa Barbara County residents — who sit atop a huge oil and gas supply — would be given an opportunity to make their feelings known about hydraulic fracturing, one process used to extract that oil and gas.
And local citizens will have just such an opportunity — if they are willing to travel to Bakersfield or Ventura, neither of which is in Santa Barbara County, to make their views known at state-sponsored scoping hearings.
Frankly, not holding hearings somewhere on the Central Coast is not much of a surprise, for two reasons. First, bureaucratic decisions are rarely intuitive. Second, state officials overseeing oil and gas regulations pretty much know what kind of public reception to expect in Santa Barbara County.
This county has a long, turbulent history with gas and oil operations, and an equally extensive reputation as being opposed to any new development.
That legacy is unfortunate in some ways, because the oil industry has made great progress in recent years refining methods and procedures for safely extracting oil and gas.
Still, even with the sometimes-toxic public opposition to anything even loosely connected to the oil industry, you'd think officials of the California Department of Conservation could have arranged one local hearing on the contents and intentions of an environmental impact report on so-called "oil and gas well stimulation activities," more commonly known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."
The state has chosen five host cities for hearings this month and next, with Bakersfield and Ventura being the closest. The other sites are Oakland, Sacramento and Long Beach.
However, because we have ready access to the internet superhighway, local citizens wishing to express their views on proposed fracking regulations can do so by going to: www.conservation.cal.gov and finding the appropriate places to click.
The state's proposed fracking rules were made public in mid-November, and purport to "strike a balance between strong safeguards, and ensuring that California's oil and gas industry can remain strong and competitive ...."
This month and all of 2014 will be devoted to vetting the proposal, with a final plan by January 2015.
It should be a very lively debate. Fracking involves blasting a mix of chemicals and water into underground rock formations, blowing them apart so the oil and gas can be extracted. Proponents say it is the key to America becoming more energy independent. Critics are convinced fracking is a public health hazard.
As with most high-profile disputes, the truth probably lies somewhere between those two extremes.
The major problem now is that fracking is, and has been virtually unregulated. The proposed new rules at least require oil companies to disclose the chemicals used in the process, and to notify owners of neighboring properties when a fracking operation is proposed.
There are no current fracking operations in Santa Barbara County, nor are any being proposed. But the fact that this region is at the lower end of the oil-rich Monterey shale plume and its wealth of oil and gas deposits more than suggests that the Central Coast will be high on the oil industry's list of future drilling priorities.
We need to think carefully about this, especially as it seems this nation will rely on oil for years to come. Unstable political situations in other oil-rich regions of the planet point to the need for America to become more self-reliant. Still, we don't want to destroy an environment that is part of the coastal California franchise.
At least one of those scoping hearings should have been held here.