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Archives for January 10, 2013

Alice Patino made history when she was elected as the first woman mayor of …

Meet the mayor

Alice Patino made history when she was elected as the first woman mayor of Santa Maria


Though the first woman to get elected to the Santa Maria City Council did so in 1930, such a victory wasn’t repeated until 1999, when Alice Patino secured enough votes to do the same.

On Dec. 18, 2012, Patino made an even larger mark on local history when she was sworn in as Santa Maria’s first-ever woman mayor.

The Sun sat down with the new mayor on Jan. 3 to talk milestones and money, safety and the city, business and being mayor. (The Sun’s questions are in bold; her responses follow.)

THE ARRIVAL: Alice Patino’s mayoral status was just a couple weeks old—she was sworn in on Dec. 18—when this photo was taken on Jan. 3.PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER

First of all, how do you like to be addressed? Are you going by mayor? Do you like madam mayor? …

When my husband addresses me, I say … “You’re supposed to say madam mayor.” Oh, I really don’t care. I’m still not even used to being called mayor. … I was driving around two days ago, and I thought, “I really got elected mayor.” You know, I’m whispering it to myself.

That’s really funny. … So what does it feel like to be Santa Maria’s first woman mayor? … When I first saw that, I thought, “Oh no, that’s got to be wrong.” … It’s pretty amazing it’s taken this long …

You know, I’m very proud of being the first woman mayor, but at the same time I just still think of myself as the mayor—and the responsibilities that come along with it and the things that you have to do transcend gender, so it really doesn’t matter. But I do see when women talk to me … women are really excited about it. … I think individually we put limits on ourselves and we shouldn’t, and … I’m not saying at age 10 or 8 that I said, “Ooh, I want to be mayor of Santa Maria.” I think we just sort of grow along different paths, and people limit themselves, their growth in many, many ways. You need to try things out and see if it fits and continue and go on in whatever role that you want to play. I like to cook. Cooking’s the same thing. You experiment with a lot of things. You make a lot of bad mistakes. You try them out on your family, but you don’t try them out on guests, you know. So it all works the same.

At the recent City Council meeting, you talked a little bit about your family. Could you tell our readers maybe a little bit more about where you come from and your background?

My grandparents came and settled here in 1928. And they came from Mexico—the Rodriguez family. They were the first Rodriguez family to settle in Santa Maria. They raised eight [children], there were eight siblings, my mother being right in the middle. My dad came here from the Midwest and was stationed at Camp Cook. My parents met and got married. And at one time we had a large family here—very, very large. In my family, it’s just my sister and I, but I had lots of cousins to grow up with and an extended family, so that was really, really nice. And then I married my husband, who was born and raised in Santa Maria—sees no reason to leave, other than to go hunting and fishing—and he also had a large family and extended family. We had two boys, two fine young men. They went all through school here, as my husband did. … I was raised in the military, so we went and came back, and we went and came back. So I lived in Germany, I lived in Japan, I lived in Alaska before statehood … Ft. Bragg, N.C., Salt Lake City, Utah. We were able to move around a lot and enjoyed other cultures. Diversity doesn’t bother me as much as maybe it bothers other people, because I find there’s so much color in other cultures, in their food and their music and the way they live. So I enjoy the diversity.

It’s boring otherwise.

Oh gosh, I know. Well, you know, in the Mexican culture, for instance, we learn how to dance at a very young age. I could never understand how these people didn’t know how to dance by the time they got to high school. “I mean, what? You don’t dance? What do you mean you don’t dance?” … Because in the Mexican culture, you know, you eat, you drink, you dance.

Jumping a little more into the specific mayor side of stuff: Being the mayor, you’re kind of the face of Santa Maria, but not everyone knows what the job actually entails, so … what are your responsibilities or duties as mayor?

THE CHANGE-OVER: When Alice Patino took the seat from outgoing mayor Larry Lavagnino, she became the first woman to hold the title in Santa Maria.

You run the meeting.

The City Council meeting?

The City Council meeting. You help put the agenda together. … I make appointments to boards and commissions, like the Parks Commission, like the Planning Commission, like [Community Development Block Grant]. And then we also serve on different boards and commissions, like I’ll be serving on [Santa Barbara County Association of Governments] and [Air Pollution Control District]. And we have quarterly meetings with the schools; we have quarterly meetings with the airport district. We meet with all these entities in Santa Maria so … we know what’s going on here. And, like in the school meetings, we meet with the superintendents and a couple of board members. And we do that with the airport district so that we know what’s going on in our community.

Do you have any meetings with larger bodies, like supervisors at the county or the APCD that would involve …

SBCAG does. That’s SBCAG.

Oh yeah. Thank you.

That’s OK. SBCAG, yeah.

Yes, the council of governments, right?

Uh huh.

So how is being mayor different, or is it different greatly from being a city council member?

I think people look at you differently … because they want to know what your goals and objectives are. They want to know what you’re going to do; they want to know what you’re going to do for the city. And I think it’s a greater responsibility because you need to provide direction, you need to provide leadership.

Do you feel like your time on the council kind of led to this being mayor? Did that inform it? I mean, obviously you got the experience from that, but …

Yes, because it gives you a better background. You see areas that maybe you would like to improve upon—and that’s not taking anything away from Mayor [Larry] Lavagnino, because I think he was a very good mayor, and it’s going to be difficult to—if you want to, you know, how about a cliché—fill those shoes, but with Mayor Lavagnino … and with Mayor Centeno, there was a great deal of infrastructure put together in the city. And we have a city that has a great infrastructure. We’ve got the water lines, the wastewater, the landfill, the purchase of new land for a landfill. We have the way the streets are taken care of in Santa Maria. Go to Napa, Calif., and you can see the big difference. It’s like you can’t drive down the street in Napa without hitting 10 million potholes, and Napa’s a wealthy community. We have the Maldonado center, we have fire stations, we have all these things that provide services for the city of Santa Maria—as I feel they should. I think that’s the first thing you do is you provide services to the citizens. And we have the new regional hospital, which we weren’t responsible for as a city, but we certainly did help with the permitting, and we were partners in it. But there are areas … where we need to start cleaning up neighborhoods. I think we need to get code compliance more involved. A woman said to me today at a luncheon I went to, “Who do I call about my neighbor’s yard? Nobody lives there, and the weeds are just growing out of hand and they’re growing into my yard, and the place looks a mess.” So I told her who to call. I need to be a resource, a conduit so people can get things done, because they are the eyes and the ears for all of us that sit on the council. It’s amazing what bothers some people and what doesn’t bother some people. But people want their neighborhoods cleaned up, they want the alleyways cleaned up. They want lighting. They want their neighborhoods safe. All of this came out of the town hall meeting, and it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic group, what area of town you live in—people pretty much want the same.

You know, that sounds kind of glove-in-hand with some of the stuff that [Police] Chief [Ralph] Martin was saying.


Was that coordinated at all, or do you guys just have a similar philosophy?

Probably similar philosophy. When he first got here, I did speak to him about, what is the common thread with some of these shootings that have gone on, and answers that I didn’t have. … I know that if I have questions, people out there also have questions. And then you also have people who think, well, things should have been handled differently or could have been handled differently, and those things I don’t second guess on our police department. Because I think we have hard-working young men and women in our police department, and they want to do the best job they can, as any of us do. But you’ve got these milliseconds where you have to make a decision. How many of us can make these decisions in a millisecond when someone’s life is at stake? Probably not too many of us. So I don’t criticize them for the job they do. I do want to be supportive of our police department and make sure that they have the kind of vests they need, or the apparel they need—any kind of technology that’s going to make their job easier and better and more effective and be very supportive. From talking to Chief Martin, policing today isn’t done like it was, say, 10 years ago. Some of those methods are outmoded. I think he’s going to be bringing us up into this century with updated policing technology, and I think that’s important—anything that’s going to make our city safer, make people feel better about their neighborhoods. I think it’s extremely important, and I think he can do it. … I’ve always liked the community-based policing, but of course we had budget cuts that we needed to make, and unfortunately, that was a victim of the budget cuts. But with the Measure U—not that it’s the panacea, and I keep telling people, “It’s not going to cure everything”—but we’re going to get a lot done, I think, with Measure U.

THE OFFICE: Alice Patino is stepping into the mayor’s office after serving as a city councilwoman since 1999.

People can be jaded when there’s … the idea of just having government being this sort of “they-take-our-money-and-what-do-we-have-to-show-for-it?” But I get the feeling that right now we’re really seeing the results of some of that already. Referring again to the Chief Martin interview, he talked about being able to fill some positions that had been vacant [and] we have the new building that’s on the way. There’s some very tangible and tactile things that [are] cropping up now in Santa Maria to show this is actually what this money is going toward. It feels almost like there’s a little bit of a corner being turned.


Is that kind of vibe permeating the city?

I think so. Have you been in the old building?


Have you seen all the wires across and everything? That looks like spaghetti … and nobody knows where they go to or where they’re going or where they’ve come from or anything else. I just think, oh my gosh, that’s scary to me. Or going down into the basement, where the communication system is … . We need a police station, and we need a communications system that is top notch. Just like we have in everything else—in our fire, in our library, in our hospital—we need that communication system, because it’s not all about catching the criminals. It’s about being able to communicate public safety in the city.

Safety is one thing that Amy Asman, our managing editor … had brought up a lot with Chief Martin as well. … The police department obviously last year came under a lot of scrutiny and faced some criticism. And there was a change in leadership, but we’re talking about turning a corner, and there’s still people in the community who … don’t necessarily feel safe. What would you like them to know in terms of the direction we’re going now, in terms of the city and the police?

Maybe they need to learn more about what the police are doing. Because knowing what the police are doing … meeting with them, I feel Santa Maria is a very safe city. It doesn’t scare me to go out and walk around in Santa Maria. I have people come up and talk to me, and they won’t go any further than Macy’s and they won’t go on the west side of town. I live on the northwest side of town. I shop on the northwest side of town. And I don’t find Santa Maria scary. … And I know bad things happen in all cities. I just heard on the news about all the murders they had up in Oakland, and I think, Oh my gosh. You know? Hundreds in Oakland. And even Chief Martin said Santa Maria’s really a safe city.

THE JOB: The new mayor is ready to tackle several aspects of life in Santa Maria, including the city’s business climate.

Earlier in the year you talked to the City Council about the possibility of a … citizen’s review board, and ultimately the council decided not to move forward with that, but is that something that’s still on your—

Yeah, I would like to see it. I just really feel like that board could be real ambassadors for the city of Santa Maria. I think they could bring a lot of, maybe, issues to the attention of the City Council and deal with them at that level. … Even after some of the shootings we had, people were making … uneducated comments. And I think on a citizens’ review board, if they heard a group of citizens—or even some of those questions asked—they would probably feel more comfortable about the answers. And think it gives more transparency to the police department.

So is that something that you’re looking at pursuing this year?

I would like to pursue it, yes. … I even questioned, “What is the common thread here?”—and to find out there isn’t any common thread, and these were bad guys pulling guns, you know a lot of it is [AB 109], with the … early release of criminals … . They’re going to come back into communities, they’re going to have problems … and I think those are things that we need to address. It’s a whole new wrinkle in social issues that we need to address. In the time I’ve been on the City Council, there’s been a rise in domestic violence. I get the report from the weekend. It used to be zero. Every now and then, you’d have one, two. I mean, it gets up to 11 and 14 a weekend … and we know not all of them are being reported. … That really concerns me. Those are issues we really need to deal with in the city. We’ve seen a lot of the … school shootings, the shooting in the theater; we know these are a lot of mental health issues. We don’t have mental health beds for people here to speak of. How do we deal with all the mental health issues in our community to make it a healthier community? We’re limited in money to deal with some of these things, but I want to keep in good communication with our state senator and with our state assemblyman to see what’s available out there. We can identify our issues, we can identify our problems, but I also need help from the county and from the state to get these things done. And I think it’s an important thing to do, and I will be meeting regularly with both my state senator and with my state assemblyman.

Now the district’s redrawn, it’s Capps and Achadjian, right?

It’s Hannah-Beth Jackson and Achadjian. She’s the senator.

Oh she’s the—right. Because Capps is Congress. I know these things. I really do know these things. (laughs)

I know you do. (laughs)

SBCAG and—

I know you do. So we need to have more connectivity, and they need to know what’s going on in Santa Maria, and we need to tell them what our needs are. And then Capps is our congresswoman.


And so, I think I’ve built a relationship with her office and, as the new mayor, I will build a relationship with Sen. Jackson and with Assemblyman Achadjian. I think it’s important for our city. And I think they want that also.

What are your thoughts on transparency and local government? You’ve talked a lot about that already, but do you have any—

You know, I think our City Council has always been transparent. There’s always accusations. … Probably the further you get up, like in the Assembly and in the Senate, there’s a lot less transparency. We have the Brown Act that we have to go to. The Brown Act does not pertain to the Assembly or the Senate, so they can do all the backroom deals. We don’t, since I’ve been on the City Council, we don’t get together and scheme how we’re going to do things. And most people on the council are pretty like-minded and care about Santa Maria and the future of Santa Maria.

Money is on everybody’s mind these days. What are your thoughts on job creation, furloughs? It seems like pretty regularly we get something from [city spokesman] Mark Van de Kamp saying … there’s another city furlough. How do you plan to address the city’s current financial situation going into your—

We’re going to go into urban forestry and plant money trees (laughs). Yeah, we’ve been a pay-as-you-go city, and so we don’t spend what we don’t have, and I don’t believe we can spend anything that we don’t have. So, with Measure U there, it helps us, but we’re still going into a deficit in the next year. The state comes down and is taking money from the [Redevelopment Agency], the state comes down and takes money from us and cities and counties, and we’re left there going, “Why?”—wringing our hands—and they’ll give us some phony explanation. And then people even … pass initiatives thinking, “OK, the state can’t get us anymore.” We’re just going to have to address those fiscal responsibilities as we continue to go on, and that means … you know, our bargaining groups have been so good at giving concessions because they know the problems that we’re having to deal with. And until we can ride this out, this economic storm … part of it is to be able to create a business atmosphere. And I think sometimes people have a difficult time because in order to pay for services, you have to have taxes, and you have to have businesses coming in and providing that. And every now and then we have people objecting to certain businesses that come in, and that’s not being business-friendly. We may not like that business personally, but there are people out in the community that do like it, and we have our parameters, we have our permitting process, we have all of the restrictions that come from the state and from the county, and by the time it comes to the city, I don’t think there’s any need for any more restrictions or any more fees or taxes on these businesses. And that’s why I think it’s really important that I meet regularly with [our] state senator and our state assemblyman to say, “Hey, when you’ve got these bills that are job killers, I want you to know what you’re doing to us as your constituents, because I don’t want that to continue to happen.” And I can give them instances where it’s been very, very difficult doing business in Santa Barbara County, as well as doing business in the state of California. They need to be hearing from me on a regular basis … .

Do you think—like, realistically, I know you’re just stepping into this mayoral role, and you’re going to be forging some relationships with them—do you think that they’re willing to listen? … What kind of impact do you think you can have on that?

Right now, in speaking and knowing Hannah-Beth Jackson and knowing Katcho, I think I’m going to have a good reception, and I’m looking forward to that. When I have dealt with Lois Capps … you need to inform them about the issues, what the problems are and what the needs are for you and what they can help you with. So that you’ve got this whole thing solved and all you need is their yes vote on it or you need the money from them. But I think you need to go in not just with the problems, but with the solutions, and that they’ve been thought through. And I think they’re going to be real receptive to us. I do want to see us working together. I see what’s going on in Sacramento and I see what’s going on at the federal level … everyone does, and we just shake our heads at how dysfunctional they are. …

So that’s one thing you’re excited about tackling. What are some other things you’re excited to tackle as mayor?

I’m excited to tackle the neighborhoods and the cleaning up of neighborhoods and working with code compliance. … I want to make sure our permitting process is streamlined. I plan to get together a group of businesspeople who’ve had to deal with this in Santa Maria [and staff] and say … how to get from point A to point B and not make it so onerous. What can we do? I don’t want to just say, “OK, we need money for this and we’re going to raise the fees here, we’re going to raise the fees there,” and making businesses do things that are unreasonable to do, whether it’s the landscaping, whether it’s the parking.


Whether it’s signage. We passed [regulations saying] no one could have boa flags up. Do we ever enforce it? No. We said you can’t have sandwich board signs out there. And as a business person, if this helps my business, then why aren’t you going to let me have it? “Oh, we have three people who don’t like sandwich board signs. We had three people who didn’t like boas.” To me, it was a real personal thing with them. It didn’t make business sense, necessarily. Say you can have sandwich board signs, then you can regulate them and you can say, “OK, you know it can’t look like a third-grader did it and put up poster boards and stuff.” Business are changing, and they are having to be very competitive, and they have to do what they think is best for their business. I don’t know their business, necessarily. I don’t know how a tire business runs. We were in the dry cleaning business for years. I know how a dry cleaning business runs and I know what you need to do, but I don’t know your business, I don’t know different businesses, small businesses around here, and I think that we have to be very, very supportive of the small business man, small business person, because they have a difficult time. Very difficult. And when they come to the City Council and they say, “Please don’t do whatever it is you’re going to do,” and then we do it anyway, we’re not listening to them. And at the same time, we have to have expectations of them, too: that they keep up their property, they don’t have stuff stashed back there, that they have the right signage, they don’t have all the windows covered with, you know, all kinds of signs … so that Santa Maria looks like the kind of All-America City it should look like.

What are your thoughts on the open seat [on the City Council] right now? Do you have any leanings?

Oh sure, I have leanings (laugh). We just came off of an election. It has nothing to do with personalities; it has to do with fairness that the third-place—and we’ve done this before, we’ve appointed the third-place vote getter.

When was the last time that happened, do you know? I don’t need a date, but did that happen while you were on the council?

Yeah, that happened with Marty Mariscal. Yeah. And I think it’s very appropriate that when you have … 9,217 votes, that person has a constituency—just as the 9,000-some that voted for me, the 9,000-some that voted for Mr. Orach. I don’t care if it was Ms. Zuniga, Mr. Orach, or Ms. Waterfield. It’s just the honest and right thing to do.

I think that just about wraps it up. I’ve heard your phone buzz several times, [but] what is the biggest challenge you’re facing right now … ?

Probably getting organized and prioritizing and figuring out my office hours and how I’m going to address issues and—you know … people send me e-mails or letters and how I answer them, how I respond, because it’s important to respond to people. And I also want to get going on the businesses in our community. And I’ve done that in the past, where I’ll walk the streets and go into businesses and introduce myself. … People are surprised. They don’t even know what to say, so they usually don’t even answer me negatively. “What can the city of Santa Maria do to help you with your business? What little thing? I mean, empty the trash better, give you bigger bins? You know, all this.” (falsetto voice) “No, I think everything’s going fine!” You know, like who is she? But I want to hear from businesses and their challenges. Businesspeople are too busy to come to these meetings that we hold. They’re busy running a business, and their businesses don’t go from 9 to 5, and so I think it’s important for me to go to them and find out what we can do better in the city of Santa Maria. We can see what Parks and Recreation does because we can drive by the parks, we can drive by the gyms. The schools are a completely different entity in their own. But we can certainly drive through our business areas and we can drive through our neighborhoods and see what needs to be done.

One question I did forget—this is kind of jumping back a little bit—but when we were talking about money as well, that’s also a major thing that Rick Hayden works with … in terms of being the city manager. What’s the mayor’s relationship to the city manager? … A lot of people hear “mayor” and they think, “Oh the mayor runs the city,” but there’s also the person who manages the city, so what’s the relationship there?

It’s got to be a good relationship. I just don’t depend on him, [it’s] all the department heads I work with also, so I have to have that working relationship with the city manager, because the city manager is going to do what the city council wants done, and I have to be able show some leadership and responsibility in that: what we need to do and how we need to do it.

He has been around for less than a year, correct?


Is it a little more than a year? Well, about a year. … And you’re here for two weeks now. And Chief Martin has been interim here for several months and now just recently [was hired]. … All the top spots, it feels like, at the city are people new to that particular position. Is that coloring, at all, how the city is running, do you think? What’s the vibe … ?

I think the vibe is excitement, positive, growth, we’re going to move forwards. We probably all have these fresh ideas that we want to inculcate in the city. I just think that it’s a real positive thing. I know Rick has got ideas on how he wants to do things. I certainly do. And the chief has ideas. … He’s seen how things are successful and can work here, things we can take advantage of and the knowledge of other people he knows. You don’t have to go out and reinvent the wheel. I think it’s really positive. … There isn’t anything I feel negative about, you know? And I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I think together we can put together good answers. And people out in the community aren’t afraid to tell me what they think the answers are, and that’s good. Whether it’s at church, whether it’s in the grocery store or walking to the library or to the bank—any place I go, people will stop and tell me how they think I should do different things. And I think that’s important.

Well, what do you have next on your schedule today? What are you rushing off to next? Or is this the end of your day?

I think, I don’t know. I’ve had several phone calls. This may not be the end of my day. I never know.

Send comments to Executive Editor Ryan Miller at

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‘Big changes’ ahead for West Park Healthcare…

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York Guardian


West Park Healthcare Centre will be hosting a public meeting regarding its expansion project Monday, Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m.

“There are big changes happening from the original application,” said York South-Weston Councillor Frances Nunziata, who will be in attendance.

“We want the community to know there are changes from the first phase, so when construction starts people will be aware.”

Also on the agenda is a discussion about new signage for the West Park hospital that will help direct residents to the health care centre.

“West Park hospital is a real jewel, but the problem is it’s hidden,” said Nunziata. “So, we’re finally getting a visual of where it is (with the new signage).”

Residents will also be informed further about a new traffic light that will help divert vehicles from residential streets, to create a safer entrance and exit to Emmett Avenue, a request that, according to Nunziata, has been 20 years in the making.

Landscaping ideas will also be discussed as well as an update on the new gateway slated to be positioned at Eglinton Avenue West and Emmett Avenue.

“This is good news for the community,” said Nunziata. “I want everyone to come out and see the benefits of this expansion, it’ll be very positive.”

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Live chat recap: Preservationists argue there is still time to save WMU’s East …

East Hall, east campus, western michigan university

East Hall on Western Michigan University’s East Campus.


KALAMAZOO, MI — Preservationists and community advocates say there is still time to save Western Michigan University’s historic East Campus, but the community must mobilize to convince WMU to halt demolition plans and to organize evaluation and fundraising efforts.

On Wednesday afternoon, reporter Ursula Zerelli hosted a live chat with several people involved in the effort to save the four buildings on Western Michigan University’s East Campus, which was the birthplace of the university. In December, WMU announced plans to raze three of the four buildings that make up the original campus quad, retaining just part of East Hall for a remodeled alumni center.


David Brose, his wife, Barbara, and reporter Ursula Zerilli participate in a live chat about Western Michigan University’s plans to demolish much of East Campus.


Joining the conversation were David Brose, the chair of the Friends of Historic East Campus; Pam O’Connor, a longtime local preservationist; and Rodger Parzyck, who is owner of the Heritage Co. and has started a petition asking the university to save the buildings.

Below are some of the questions posed to the panel and their responses from the live chat. The entire conversation can be found at

Commenter Matt Milcarek: I wonder if WMU is willing to take a cautioned approach to this project, where they roll out this project in stages, giving the community a real chance to save some of the structures currently slated for demo. For example, would they be willing to only demo West Hall and the Speech and Hearing Center during the rebuilding of East Hall into the Alumni Center? This would allow them the space “needed” for parking and landscaping for the Alumni Center, while leaving the wings and North Hall for potential future rehabilitation.

David Brose: Not only has Western not given us a schedule for demolition, they haven’t given a convincing reason for the demolition of North Hall, S H, or West Hall while they have recently been looking for outside users. This is their first statement indicating they have a University use once the archives leave. Right now is not the right time to look for expansion in this region, but it is the time conserve and preserve the buildings for future opportunities. You are quite right Matt; the rehabilitation of East Hall will create a very different picture of opportunities for the campus as a whole.

Pam O’Connor: I think the best bet for re-using ANY of the buildings rests in a public participation process that begins at the beginning with ALL of the buildings. Let’s look at all the buildings in context, and be open and transparent in the process of discussing their futures — and the future of the National Register District.

Rodger Parzyck: I like the idea of a phased approach and mothballing of buildings but I think we should try saving all of the buildings on East Campus at this time. Mothballing at this time is more economical, in that it would take close to $5 million to demo the buildings which Western plans to take down. Mothballing would cost just a fraction of that.

Reporter Ursula Zerilli: Are you hopeful your efforts to save East Campus will work? Why or why not?

Milarcek: I think that it will take an overwhelming choir of people in the community to persuade WMU to take a more cautioned approach to this project. Left unchallenged, WMU could have those buildings all down by the end of spring.

Brose: I’m hopeful. I seriously believe that community sentiment and strategic economic thinking will lead the Trustees to cancel any plans to demolish the historic buildings on East Campus when maintenance is relatively inexpensive and the economy is improving. The East Campus buildings are almost certain to be as energy efficient as the kinds of new buildings going up on campus today.

Parzyck: I am always hopeful as long as the buildings are still standing. In 1985 demolition crews were starting demolition on the Masonic Temple and we were able to stop the demolition and the building has been redeveloped as a major part of the Arcadia Creek redevelopment. (Rose Street Market) That was the culmination of a 10-year battle with the county.

Pam O’Connor: Yes. Last week, I had at least 7 people tell me that they were “with me.” What does that mean? Believe me, the choir is out there, and your ideas are good about getting an additional effort organized. Please help!

Commenter Concerned_Kalamazooan: I hope the East Campus can be saved. First of all the plans for demolition need to stop. Ideally, I’d like to see WMU invest in East Campus and use the resources in ways that are meaningful to the college and its history as well as to the community. An alumni center, regional genealogy center, the Archives, a WMU museum, a gift shop, and then other options to generate revenue such as a conference center, etc.

Zerilli: David, can you update us on what FOHEC and the Historic Preservation Commission is doing about WMU’s plans?

Brose: FOHEC has prepared a rather long Open Letter to the Trustees of WMU indicating our pleasure at seeing some university use for East Hall, but expression concerns about the proposed demolition of other buildings on the campus; and requesting information regarding schedules, costs of maintenance and/or demolition, funding and funding sources, and asking whether the Administration has explored with other universities their methods and options for adaptive reuse of historic buildings. The Historic Preservation Commission has decided to send a Letter of Concern to the City Commissioners.

Reporter Linda Mah: Have there been any other fundraising efforts by supporters of East Campus over the years? Do you have any sense of if there is financial support there? Also, is there a fund through WMU Development where alums or others can donate through their estates?

Brose: In the past decade, FOHEC members have contributed over $60,000 to the East Campus Preservation Fund that is held by the WMU Foundation. FOHEC has spent approximately $50,000 to assist WMU in fundraising surveys and development prospectus. Alumni and others can contact me or FOHEC (Friends of Historic East Campus) through the WMU Development Office to discuss additional donations.

Zerilli: Do you oppose the plans to borrow $15 million to renovate East Hall into an alumni center or just the demolitions?

Brose: I don’t oppose the renovation of East Hall at all….especially if it’s to include the whole historic complex. But a bond has to be paid back and FOHEC is asking the Trustees where the money to pay this bond will come from. The demolition of Noble Lodge by WMU was paid for with money saved from Sangren Hall rebuilding, but as WMU said, the bond to rebuild Sangren Hall beyond what the state would provide was to be paid back by increasing student tuition. So the University is borrowing at a low rate of interest but it’s going to be paid back by raising student tuitions and student loans at a relatively high rate of interest. That means that bonds to rebuild East Hall AND BORROWED MONEY TO DEMOLISH THE OTHER BUILDINGS will inevitably be paid for by student tuition.

Commenter B_Molo: As an alum WMU, I’ve always been confused by the underutilization of these buildings. East campus has always seemed, to me, to be the only charming area of campus. I loved going up there. It could really be leveraged by the university to create an “ivy league” atmosphere. I would give money to alumni org and the university but don’t because I don’t think their priorities are in the right place.

O’Connor: While I think many of WMU’s priorities ARE in the right place, I think with respect to the East Campus NR historic district, you are correct!

Parzyck: I think there are a lot of people who feel the same way. I think it will be unfortunate the university may be losing sources of funding, because of this decision.

Commenter DowntownArchitect: WMU should hire a Creative Finance Consultant to find the monies to restore the entire East Campus: i.e.: $90,000,000 divided by the citizens of Kalamazoo County roughly 250,000 = $400 each would pay for the whole project. Or, the same amount divided by the citizens of the City of Kalamazoo roughly 80,000 = $1,125 each. There are other funds: $20 or other donations from every WMU alumnae would get us there. Add Economic Development grants from the City County and SW Michigan First would help. Use the Federal HIstoric Tax Credits worth +/- 20% of the money spent. Get the Governor of Michigan give one his famous Historic Preservation grants here. Make part of the project a Senior Housing Project and get HUD money involved. There are plenty of ideas out there.

Parzyck: I have started a community petition to demand that WMU seriously seeks alternatives to the demolition of buildings on the WMU East Campus. I plan on trying to post this petition online. I’ve had contact from people in Chicago and other places wishing to sign the petition, indicating there’s plenty of support for saving East Campus. If you want to sign the petition, the store Heritage Co. is located at 150 N. Edwards. We have close to 200 and we’re looking to put the petition online so alumni can sign.

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Couple clash with City Hall over vegetable garden

A war is sprouting in College Park, and the battlefield is covered with tomatoes, radishes, carrots and beets.

On one side are Jason and Jennifer Helvenston, an earthy couple who dug up their front lawn and replaced it with a vegetable garden.

On the other side is Orlando City Hall, which issued a code-enforcement citation demanding the Helvenstons get rid of the veggies and replant the yard with approved ground covers. When it comes to front yards, the city’s code requires traditional landscaping — grass and shrubs — and enforces the rule with fines as high as $500 a day.

But the Helvenstons are digging in, so to speak.

“They’ll take our house before they take our garden,” Jason says.

It’s blossomed into a fight that has drawn national attention and become a cause célèbre among gardeners across the country.

It all started about a year ago. A sustainability consultant, Jason had already built an eco-friendly addition to his house. The Helvenstons had also enrolled in an “urban chicken” pilot program run by the city, built a backyard coop and raised three egg-layers.

They wanted to cut their grocery budget with a vegetable garden, but their backyard is tiny and shaded. Jason looked at his brown front lawn and saw delicious possibility.

The couple built raised beds, installed drip irrigation and planted green beans, peppers, mustard greens, kale, onions, broccoli and more. The garden covers nearly the entire front yard, with neat rows of vegetables and a wall of tomato plants more than 6 feet tall.

The harvest has been so plentiful that the Helvenstons share their vegetables with neighbors and friends. The garden spreads joy, Jennifer said.

“When we come out and work in the garden, so many people stop,” she said. “They want to see the garden; they want to learn about the garden. We don’t want to fence people out; we want to invite people in.”

But not everyone is a fan. Pedro Padin, who lives in Puerto Rico, owns the house next door. When he visited his renter a few months ago, Padin didn’t like the look of the Helvenstons’ garden.

“It’s not that he has a small garden — he took the whole front yard,” Padin said. “It’s not a proper place to have a garden of the scale that he wants to have. If I wanted to live near a farm, I would move to the county. This is a residential area.”

Padin complained to the city, and a code-enforcement officer told the Helvenstons they had 30 days to restore the front yard to its original condition.

Instead, the Helvenstons got loud. They circulated petitions calling on Orlando to update its landscaping code. They gave media interviews and blogged about the controversy.

The brouhaha caught the attention of higher-ups at City Hall, who put the code-enforcement case on hold. Mayor Buddy Dyer has made sustainability a key plank of his administration, launching Green Works Orlando with the goal of becoming one of most environmentally friendly cities in the country.

The city itself has established four community vegetable gardens. But city officials admit the code has fallen behind the rebirth of urban gardening.

And Orlando isn’t alone. As the “local food” movement grows and more people pay attention to how food makes its way to their table, urban gardeners have run afoul of zoning rules requiring turf. More often, fights have erupted over the strict rules enforced by homeowner associations.

Like Orlando, the codes in Winter Park and Orange County don’t address front-yard gardens. Some rural areas, including Lake County, don’t restrict vegetables more than any other plant.

Orlando planners have now proposed changing the code to allow front-yard gardens. But the proposal comes with regulations designed to ensure gardens don’t run amok and to allay the concerns of homeowners such as Padin who worry about their property values.

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Nonprofit Needs Help In Garden

Sandoval County Master Gardeners’ Corrales-based Seed2Need program donated more than 65,000 pounds of tomatoes, chile, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and other produce to pantries in Rio Rancho, Albuquerque and Bernalillo in 2012.

Food crops are grown on plots of land donated by property owners in Corrales. This year, the program has the opportunity to increase its cultivated area from 1.5 acres to 5 acres if it can enlist help from enough volunteers, said Sam Thompson, a former coordinator for Sandoval County Master Gardeners.

“We know that the need is out there,” Thompson said.

The goal is to start planting seeds in a greenhouse in March or April, then progress to tilling the garden space and transplanting seedlings. The main effort would be during harvesting season from July through September. Seed2Need also needs volunteers to help harvest fruit from local orchards.

Volunteers can commit to as much or as little time as they can spare; 10 hours a month would be ideal, Thompson said.

Harvesting takes place one weekday and one Saturday morning and one evening each week during the summer. Volunteers will work alongside master gardeners who have been trained by New Mexico State University horticulturists through the Sandoval County extension service.

“It is also a great way to meet people within the community and to learn gardening techniques,” Sandoval County Master Gardener Penny Davis said in an email.

Davis launched the program in 2008. Since then, food pantries like St. Felix in Rio Rancho have reported the number of families seeking food assistance has increased thanks to the sluggish economy and persistent high unemployment.

Sandoval County Master Gardeners also give courses on gardening, advise homeowners on planting and landscaping, and they oversee demonstration gardens Rio Rancho, Corrales and Placitas.

In the spring, Seed2Need will launch a “Grow a Row” program, encouraging local gardeners to plant an extra row of vegetables and donate the produce to a food pantry.

“Most home gardeners grow more produce than they need and we will be providing an opportunity to make sure the produce doesn’t go to waste,” Thompson said.

Seed2Need will have a booth at the Corrales Grower’s Market where it will collect the Grow a Row produce.

For information about volunteering email

Vegetables harvested by volunteers in Sandoval County Master Gardener’s Seed2Need program. Last year the program donated more than 65,000 pounds of produce to local food pantries. The program hopes to expand this year and is seeking volunteers. (journal file)

— This article appeared on page 10 of the Albuquerque Journal

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Garden Calendar: Farmers Branch landscaping series will help gardens bloom …

GARDEN EDUCATION:North Haven Gardens, 7700 Northaven Road, Dallas, offers the following free classes. Winter Color, noon Thursday. Veggie Seeds, 1 p.m. Saturday. Onions and Potatoes, 1 p.m. Sunday. Terrariums and Dish Gardens, 10 a.m. Jan. 17.

LANDSCAPING WITH ROSES:The city of Farmers Branch will offer a

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Tips for protecting trees from storms

Even the sturdiest-looking trees can be brought down by high winds, heavy snow and ice, but there are ways you can limit the damage.

We asked experts on dealing with storm damage. Here is their advice:

• Stabilize trees around the house by cabling or tying them down, especially those that you know have structural flaws.

• Get to know an arborist or tree-care professional — now. When a storm hits, you’ll likely be prioritized as an existing customer.

• Get a pre-storm assessment to identify trouble spots. Decaying and leaning trees should be pruned, staked or removed, especially those threatening dwellings or utility lines.

• Think safety during cleanup. The stuff on the ground won’t hurt you unless downed power lines are involved. It’s what’s overhead that’s dangerous. Stress fractures or dead and broken limbs can come crashing down and do serious harm.

• Be especially careful when working with chainsaws. If a badly damaged tree is still standing, get professional help.

• Patience can be a money-saver when dealing with ice or snow loads on trees. Wait until it melts and the weight is removed to see what kind of damage was done. Trees are resilient and are capable of bouncing back.

• Plant native trees rather than exotics. Some varieties fare better than others in storms, especially trees with conical branching, those with strong branch connections and trees that are small when mature, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

• There is strength in numbers. Trees planted in groups survive better in high winds.

• Learn how to assess damage. Trees that have lost a couple of branches of significant size but with trunks mostly intact likely can be saved.

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January Gardening Tips for Cedar Creek Lake

Gardening tips: Six ideas to cultivate this winter – The Star-Ledger

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count by noting visitors to your bird feeder from Feb. 15 to 18.

The holiday madness is over and the long, cold winter stretches ahead. There are 69 days between here and spring ­— but who’s counting?

You can hibernate like bears or do something to maintain the connection between you and nature. Here are a few suggestions for keeping boredom and despair at bay.

Check out new stuff

Pleasant winter daydreams come easily with a stack of fresh, new gardening catalogs — or links to websites of specialty horticultural suppliers that intrigue you.

Head to the Garden Watchdog section of the website Dave’s Garden ( and you’ll find a free directory of 7,563 mail-order gardening companies of every stripe.

Whether you’re interested in tropical plants, deer-resistant species, hydroponic gardening or terrarium supplies, you’ll find companies devoted to your obsession. If you find something irresistible, be sure to check out the copious customer reviews before you reach for your credit card.

Try winter sowing

Sometimes, in winter, I can be caught fondling the bundles of seed packets that I store in my lunch meat drawer. There is an alternative to merely dawdling over the leftovers: winter sowing.

Not indoors, since it’s far too early for that. I’m talking about planting outdoors, in mini-greenhouses made from cast-off plastic milk cartons and translucent take-out food containers. You can just set these outside, heedless of bone-chilling temperatures, snow and sleet. When the time is right, the seeds will break dormancy and sprout.

Put a few slashes in the bottom of the container for drainage and a few in the cover for ventilation. Fill with a sterile potting mix and sow seeds at the depth indicated on the packet. Water gently but thoroughly and put in a sheltered spot outside.

Condensation should take care of moisture needs but if the containers become too dry, dampen the soil again and tape over some of the ventilation and drainage holes. If the potting mix stays too wet, put a few more slits in the bottom to improve drainage. This science experiment gives you an excuse to go outside and you may wind up with some cool little seedlings to transplant into your spring garden.

houseplants’ spa day

There’s nothing like a nice shower for freshening up. Your houseplants, growing dusty, dry and tired in overheated rooms, heartily agree.

Cover the tops of pots with aluminum foil or plastic wrap to keep the soil from getting overly soggy. Pop the plants in the shower, run some lukewarm water for five or 10 minutes, and leave them in there to dry. Smaller plants can be collected in the kitchen sink and rinsed with the hand sprayer.

Your plants will enjoy the treat and the spray will clean the dust off their leaves and help control populations of common indoor pests, including aphids and spider mites. If you repeat this beauty treatment two or three times during the winter, your plants will be grateful and your friends will be amused.

Count along

Ornithology is one field of science to which amateurs can make a real contribution. If you have bird feeders up, plan to report your visitors from Feb. 15 through 18 to the Great Backyard Bird Count, a joint project of the National Audubon Society and Cornell (University) Lab of Ornithology.

This is a terrific project for families or classrooms. Create a free account at, spend at least 15 minutes recording species in attendance on one or more of the designated days and enter your results on the website.

Your data will be included in the annual summary, which last year accounted for 17.4 million individual birds reported by 104,151 participants. It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure!

Spruce up tools

You probably haven’t thought about your garden tools since you tossed them into the shed last fall. The slow days of winter are ideal for giving your collection a tune-up.

My favorite rust-buster is the old-fashioned stuff known as naval jelly. This strangely pink goo is brushed on, left in place for 10 minutes or so, and rinsed off with plain water. ’Tis wonderfully effective. Follow up with a thin coat of oil or spritz of WD40.

Sharpen your pruners and you’ll be cutting plants again, instead of merely scaring them. My favorite gadget for the job is the Chef’s Choice Edgecrafter diamond file, available at Walmart or for about $30. A few swipes along the beveled cutting edge and you’re in business again.

Take a hike

New Jersey’s public gardens are treasures not nearly as well-known as they should be. Even in winter, there are trails to wander, vistas to seek out and (often) programs to stimulate your winter-weary mind.

Many of the top gardens from Ringwood to Medford are part of a consortium you’ll find at Hop over to the website and choose a location to explore. The website features links that include calendars of events for each garden.

Learn how to track winter wildlife (Jan. 19 at Duke Farms, Hillsborough), enjoy a Maple Sugar Fest (Feb. 24 at Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit) or try tai chi (Wednesdays through March 20 at Van Vleck House and Gardens in Montclair). The possibilities are endless and admission to the grounds is free.

Valerie Sudol:

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Winter gardening tips for planter boxes, rose-pruning – U


Rose Crawford, author of the “Ask Rose” gardening column. CREDIT: Don Boomer/The North County Times

Q. My husband surprised me by building some elevated garden planter boxes. they are up on legs. However, I don’t know how to fill them and am getting all sorts of conflicting advice. I plan to grow vegetables in them. Some people have told me to put gravel in the bottom so the boxes will drain better. Others have told me that gravel is too heavy and would make the boxes collapse. They recommend that I just put a lot of holes in the bottom of the boxes. Others have told me to mix empty milk jugs and yogurt cups into the soil to keep it lighter. The boxes themselves are 4 feet by 8 feet, with lots legs in the middle and are very sturdily built out of cedar. Can you offer me some advice on how to use them? Thank you. — Pat

A. You certainly have been given some strange advice, Pat. I hope mine is a little more practical. You definitely need drainage but the best way to get it is to drill holes in the bottom of the beds. Half-inch holes every foot or so should work fine. To prevent your soil from falling through the holes, just cover the bottom with a fine screen. Set your boxes in a sunny location and then fill with soil. If your native soil is good quality, use about two-thirds soil and one third compost mixed together well. Let the mixture set for a couple of weeks before plating. If you feel that you need a little fertilizer, my recommendation is to get it from Gardens Alive at Their fertilizers are organic and as well as all of the major nutrients they also contain the minor nutrients and trace elements.

Q. I just moved here from Ohio a few months ago. There are quite a few rose bushes around our yard. Much to my surprise, some of them still had roses in December. Should I cut them back as I did in Ohio or is there some other system that gardeners here use? — Edna

A. Growing roses in Southern California is quite different from growing them where the winter is severe and the ground freezes. Roses here still need to be pruned, usually this month before the new growth starts. But no, do not cut them down to the ground as you did “Back East.” Just remove approximately one-third of last year’s growth and take off any leaves. They do not always fall off in this climate. Of course, as in most other types of pruning, remove all dead or damaged wood and crossed branches. Volumes have been written about how to prune roses but there are several very basic rules that most everyone follows. Always cut to a bud eye that is facing outward. Cut out all small twiggy branches and old fragile canes. If a cane looks sick or tired, cut it back to the bud union. After you have done this, depending on the type of rose, you should still have about five strong canes left and your bush will be a fairly good size.

Rose Crawford is a certified garden consultant and a master composter who lives and gardens in Vista. She answers your gardening questions every other week. E-mail questions to

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