Government, The Neighborhood Files

Council to Discuss Code Compliance, Navy Helicopters, Off-Leash Dog Beach at Wednesday Meeting

Leash-free dog beach trial period, increase in local helicopter traffic and the hiring of an additional code enformcement officer are on the City Council’s June 1 agenda.

By Albert Fulcher | Email the author | 2:48pm

Naval Base Coronado Commanding Officer Captain Yancy Lindsey will make a presentation on expanded helicopter operations and flight patterns, the Council will move forward with a trial for an off-leash dog beach and may hire an additional part-time Code Compliance Officer.

Each of these issues are on the agenda and up for discussion at Wednesday’s 6 p.m. City Council meeting at City Hall.

A naval flight pattern presentation related to the Navy’s proposed 30 percent increase of helicopter activity at Navy Outlying Landing Field by Capt. Lindsey is scheduled.

Federal Consistency Supervisor Mark Delaplaine with the California Coastal Commission said today that staff did not receive a decision response by the May 28 deadline and it has a one-week extension to June 3. He said a decision will come after all materials had been received and reviewed.

Click here to read an Imperial Beach Patch story about the Coastal Commission’s decision related to Navy helicopter activity increase.

The hiring of an additional part-time Code Compliance Officer is included in the Systematic Code Compliance Program update, a review of a code compliance campaign that started about six months ago.

Click here to read a previous Imperial Beach Patch story on the door-to-door code compliance program.

Council will decide to stick with the current program “as is,” to discontinue the program or temporarily suspend it, resuming “complaint based enforcement with proactive enforcement limited to blatant or egregious violations observed by City Staff or the general public.”

Both options include possibility of additional staffing for workload impacts.

City Council is looking into entering a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with IB Yappy regarding maintenance and operation of the proposed off-leash trial site between Palm Avenue and Carnation Avenue. President Jessica Lyn posted a reminder today for IB Yappy supporters to be at Wednesday’s meeting on the group’s Facebook page.

City manager’s recommendations include:

1. Enter into an MOU with IB Yappy regarding operation and maintenance of the trial off-leash area. Without this, the City should not proceed with any additional processing for an off-leash beach area.

2. If the MOU is completed, process a Coastal Development Permit and necessary environmental review.

3. Give policy direction on whether IB Yappy should be required to pay for the processing of the Coastal Development Permit and environmental review.

4. Prepare an Ordinance suspending enforcement of the on-leash provision of the Municipal Code until the trial is terminated (Maximum of 6 months).

5. If during the public hearing or during the review process there is a significant opposition or potential litigation, the City should abandon the leash free idea.

6. Consider a Workshop to discuss a City Council policy on community group requests that require considerable City staff and financial resources.

7. Consider tabling this request until there is more fiscal certainty and State budget actions are known.

Click here to read an Imperial Beach Patch story about efforts to create an off-leash dog beach for IB.

See the June 1, 2010 Imperial Beach City Council and Housing Authority agendas in this story’s attachments.

Will you be attending tomorrow’s city council meeting? Why? Should IB Yappy be fiscally responsible for city leash-free dog beach trial? Does Imperial Beach need an additional Code Compliance Officer? Tell us in the comments.

$12 Million Reasons to Worry


$12 Million Reasons to Worry


By: Albert H. Fulcher
News Editor

Prologue: Bad budget news out of Sacramento is forcing tough decisions at Southwestern College.

SWC will likely have $12 million less in 2011-12 than this year.

Tuition will jump from $26 a unit to at least $36, but hold on tight. Unit costs could go as high as $60 in the foreseeable future.

Class sections will be cut, though not drastically. In the words of the college superintendent, students with priority registration should not  “fool around” and miss their window. Late enrollers may not get any classes.

Crashing classes will be more difficult than ever in the fall.

Competition for financial aid is stiffer and processing is taking longer. Students should apply immediately.

  Bob Temple, SWC’s straight-shooting interim vice president for business and fiscal affairs, has a warning for the college community.

“If I were you folks I’d be as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” he said.

Gov. Jerry Brown has declared the drought over, but soggy Sacramento’s coffers are bone dry. Even after a little unexpected good news recently, California still faces a $15 billion budget deficit and community colleges are scheduled for a $1.5 billion cut. Student fees are climbing and state allowances are descending. A rough patch awaits Southwestern College.

Administrators and faculty are working on a contingency for a worst-case scenario—a three-year plan slicing $12 million in fiscal year 2011-12 and $11 million the next two years. Temple said the Shared Consultation Council (SCC) Budget Committee is working on an all-cuts scenario that would trim $11 million right away.

Interim Superintendent Denise Whittaker said the situation with the economy is very serious and the state may force SWC to offer fewer classes. State allocations are determined by Full-Time Equivalent Students (FTES). One FTES equals 30 credits over two semesters. Head count or overall units are not factors.

“You can expect that the state is going to reduce how much FTES we get,” said Whittaker. “And we get paid a little more than $4,600 per FTES.”

SWC’s FTES base cap is currently 15,529. Whittaker said FTES figures are used to calculate how many courses you can offer. FTES levels are assigned to each of SWC’s five academic divisions (called “schools”) to be further divided by deans and department chairs to determine which specific classes are offered. In years past a popular class that was full would guarantee its continuance. Not anymore said Professor of Communication Linda Hensley. Some popular classes may be cut in favor of core transfer classes.

Whittaker said it is a tough balancing act and difficult decisions loom. Worse, the state could cut the FTES base even more in the coming months.

“The state regulates how many courses we can offer and how many students we can serve,” she said. “So we anticipate that part of the budget reduction is (the state saying) that we cannot afford to give colleges your base. We are preparing.”

Temple said the enrollment planning managing group is planning a five percent reduction and has a contingency for spring if it goes to seven percent. He said it could go as high as 15 percent. Protecting jobs, classes and student support services wherever possible are the college’s top three priorities. Temple said student service programs at SWC are important behind-the-scenes factor in student success.

“Your metrics for performance, persistence, completion and success, in my opinion, given the demographics of your district, is due largely to the student support services you have at this college,” said Temple. “We all agree we want to keep the level of support in student services where it is at because that is part of your culture.”

Whittaker said no college educator wants to see class cuts, but the district will reduce courses next fall.

“This means to our students that there will not be as many classes to take,” said Whittaker. “For our current students there will be little impact because they are in the registration queue and they already have priority.”

She made it clear, however, that returning students are on the clock and need to register now.

“If students fool around and miss their priority registration, classes are going to max out and they won’t be there,” she said. “The need is going to be greater than what we offer.”

Southwestern’s decision to fund summer classes has raised eyebrows around the county. SWC is the only San Diego County community college to offer summer classes this year and students are already flocking in from other districts as well as SDSU and UCSD.

“If you fund summer, you are taking FTES away from fall and spring,” said Whittaker. “Most students want to go to school in fall and spring, so that means a minimal summer.”

Whittaker advised students to register on time and complete financial aid requirements as soon as possible.

“Apply for financial aid early,” said Whittaker. “They say March 1, but really if you can get it in now FASFA turnaround time in non-peak periods is still three weeks most of the time. If you wait until August, you are at the peak. Even if you don’t know what you are going to do in the fall, get your stuff in the queue and fill out your FASFA form.”

Revenues for 2011-12 are projected at $69 million and expenditures more than $83 million. Plans to close the budget gap next year include $4 million from reserves, $1 million in Supplemental Early Retirement (SERP), $1 million in workload reduction, $200,000 in travel, $575,000 in Post Retirement obligation (GASB) and $125,000 in instructional supplies, hourly employment and equipment.

“If we have not reached our goals or we have not come up with a budget the board is comfortable with the idea that we might have to take other measures in the next spring and summer sessions,” said Temple. “If we do not have something you are comfortable, come March 15 we are going to have to be handing out layoff notices.”

Temple said it is a very important for administrators, faculty and employees to work together during times of crisis.

“We see wonderful things coming out of faculty and student performance whether it is great leadership or bad leadership,” said Temple. “Leaders move on, but institutions go on if the institution is the one driving those values. That is what is taking place here today, in a big way.”

Temple said 83 percent of SWC’s budget is salary and benefits. He said if you don’t want to give up jobs, classes or student support services, one of the few things left is compensation.

“We are going to all of the constituents and asking what can you do within these groups,” he said. “Salary reduction, step/column freezes, student workers, reassigned time, hourly and overtime, and the use of Prop R funds where legal and appropriate are some of the items on the negotiating table as possible solutions.”

An across-the-board salary reduction at 2.5 percent would save $1.8 million and a five percent $3.5 million, Temple said.

Professor Andy MacNeill, budget committee co-chair, said the committee has been meeting every Friday since January to reinvent the SWC budget process.

“Before we were letting the budget drive everything at this college,” said MacNeill. “What we have now is the priorities driving the budget. We are working on a three-year plan, looking towards the future.”

State level politics is fierce right now, MacNeill said. SWC Communications Officer Chris Bender attended two meetings in Sacramento with local elected officials and their staffs along with representatives of other colleges in the state. Bender said his office is doing about 50 percent government relations work now compared to just10 percent last year, he said.

“It is one thing to talk to these folks on the phone, but it is another to speak with them in person,” said Bender. “You can learn as much as from what people are not saying and are not doing. The trip was good for me because it became very clear what is not going to happen.”

What Bender predicted will not happen is meaningful cooperation between Republicans and Democrats on revenue generation and a ballot measure to extend a short-term tax currently in effort.

Bender said all colleges need more support from the state. In legislative meetings with both Republicans and Democrats, he said it was apparent that higher education will be expected to take a hit in 2011-12.

“I think they believe higher education systems in general got a pass on the first round of budget cuts,” he said. “The general feeling from both parties is the budget was balanced on the back of social services and poor people. It is going to be very difficult to ask those people to take substantial cuts again in the second round.”

Community colleges are a viable solution to the current economic problems, putting people back into the work force, Bender said. But legislators are wary of a tax extension. Republicans don’t have the appetite for it and the Democrats do not have the votes.

“There is a certain amount of logjam up there and they just don’t know what to do about it,” said Bender. “There needs to be a new mechanism and I don’t think they have come up with what that new mechanism is. We need to push legislation through local representatives that are friendly to our cause. It may or may not pass, but the point is we would begin driving the conversation instead of responding to the conversation.”

He said many creative ideas are out there and to survive the economic cycle colleges need to bring ideas to the table.

“Take the offense and start thinking of ways to generate revenue for the institution and the system as much as possible,” he said.

Tom Lord/Staff

Published:Friday, May 27th, 2011at5:28 pm

Dozens may accept early retirement


Dozens may accept early retirement


By: Albert H. Fulcher, News Editor

Published:Friday, May 27th, 2011at5:28 pm

In the midst of celebrating 50 years of service to the community, Southwestern College may lose an irreplaceable swath of its culture and institutional memory.  In a cost-cutting measure the governing board is offering special retirement incentives in hopes of taking some of SWC’s highest salaries off the books.

Professors, staff and administrators were given only one month to take advantage of a Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan (SERP) set up by the district to quickly reduce ongoing expenditures. Come July 1, many of the college’s most influential faces will be gone, taking with them institutional knowledge and years of experience.

Interim Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs Bob Temple conservatively projected a savings of $1 million per year if these positions are not replaced. If there is a large number of faculty and administrators that do not need backfilling, the savings could be greater, he said.

There has been a tremendous initial response, Temple said, but final retirement paperwork is not due until May 31. At least 28 employees need to take the plan for it to provide cost savings.  Faculty and classified leaders said they expect many more than that to take the offer.

But Temple said it is too early to tell.

“It’s like snow in Chicago,” he said. “You don’t know when you’re gonna get it or how much you’re gonna get, especially in this short amount of time.”

Temple said SERP provides opportunity for emerging programs, saves money and gives veteran employees the ability to transition. He said without time to contemplate retirement, it is a hard decision.

“I am going to just warn you while there’s a lot of people that have gone and turned in that paperwork,” said Temple. “When I look at the list and see people with 30 and 40 years of service, they are a major part of this institution. You can’t lose that without losing something of great value.”

Working with Keenan Financial Services and Vice-President of Human Resources Michael Kerns, Keenan developed a plan within 30 days. Keenan is the only company that could pull this together so quickly with a pre-approved IRS plan, said Temple. It is designed to offer incentives to those who were not planning on retiring and an added bonus for those who were planning on retiring anyway.

Temple said early retirement incentive programs are used for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they reward long service. He said while that is admirable, it is not what the college is doing now. There is a lot of work involved and if it does not save a substantial amount of money it doesn’t make sense, he said.

Interim Superintendent Denise Whittaker said many people are at retirement age and the college would probably lose some of them within the next five years.

“When you lose that much history it is going to be a shockwave and that much tradition and legacy all at once,” she said. “When you lose 28 or more it is a shock to the institution.”

One of those leaving is Barbara Speidel-Haughey, learning assistant services coordinator, who started teaching in 1973 as an adjunct and was hired in 1980 as full-time faculty. She said it is a job she loves and hates to leave after 38 years. She said she was planning to retire last year but changed her mind at the very last minute, wanting to help the college get back on its feet and get through accreditation.

“I think people not seeing a lot of familiar faces will feel like an empty hole,” said Speidel-Haughey. “What I see we will be missing the most will be the history that those of us that have been here so long and what we have contributed. I think that history is important to an institution to keep people that know the history in the present life of the campus.”

Dean Trish Axsom, school of career/technical education and learning assistance, started her career at SWC in 1983. She said she has seen two previous retirement incentive efforts where many people left suddenly. The college survived it quite well, she said, but it does change things.

“I am not so sure that it is not for the better,” she said. “Change is an odd animal. There are some changes that come about because fate comes into play, with circumstances beyond your control.”

Classified union president Bruce MacNintch said there has been quite a bit of interest in the SERP program with 59 classified that meet eligibility requirements.

“It is a little bittersweet for me to realize that some of the people that I have been working with for 18 years will be leaving us all,” he said. “Southwestern is going to be a bit different next fall.”

Axsom said she thinks the district is going in a positive direction and allowing qualified people to go sooner will save considerable money. She said leaders of any capacity have an understanding that change is inevitable and the ability to manage it benefits the college.

“Is it going to bring about change?  You bet,” said Axsom. “It could be really big. Is it going to be bad? I don’t think big and bad go together necessarily. Is there going to be chaos? A little bit, I think. Chaos is not necessarily bad.”

Temple said it is a life-changing decision and people are asked to make it in a very short time. People normally do not retire in times like this when the economy is unstable and there are several good reasons why people may want to stay at SWC, he said. Student and colleague relationships are a huge reason why long-term employees do not want to leave. Many professors who take the retirement plan will be able to return to teach part-time.

“To all of a sudden retire on short notice and be gone, no goodbye parties, no saying farewell, that is a difficult thing,” said Temple. “The ability to come back and teach helps transition without losing a lot of history.”

Speidel-Haughey said she stayed on because there were so many problems with the former superintendant and political things going on that she was concerned about her program.

“I wanted to ensure that tutoring services were available to students and not harmed any more than what had already happened,” she said.

Speidel-Haughey said with so many students using the Academic Success Center it is important to maintain that opportunity for students to get what they need.

“We have fantastic tutors,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that this program was as sound as we could possibly make it, to pull the loose ends together then have someone else come in and take over the program.”

Whittaker said the budget is more than 83 percent personnel and benefits, and there is not enough money in the remaining 17 percent to carve out $12 million. To balance the budget there can be only minimal backfilling. Creating an incentive for people to leave earlier than they would have is cost effective and creates a decrease in existing salary expenses.

“We probably won’t see salary increases for three to five years until the budget turns around,” said Whittaker. “A lot of people do not want to work in this environment, because it is very hard.”

Incentives provide 85 percent of a retiree’s salary and there are different payment options. It can be a one-time check or a tax shelter giving them monthly income over five years.

“We would gain $1 million for every year we do not backfill those who leave,” she said. “I anticipate to backfill a handful and it is planned that way.”

Most faculty positions can be backfilled with less expensive part-time adjuncts, Whittaker said. She said eventually the college would want to replace them with full-time professors. Classified positions are more difficult to leave vacant, she said.

“As long as you hold off as long as you can, you have that savings every year,” she said.

Axsom said the budget is one thing we cannot control. The state budget “is what it is” and colleges are reliant on state revenue for funding. Choices have to be made to remain within the budget.

“Retirement incentives are a way of encouraging people that are close to retirement,” she said. “And here is what is interesting. I was going to go next year anyway. With incentives it pencils out for me to go out now and there are other circumstances in my life that make it advantageous for me to go.”

People considering retirement may find motivation to leave, she said.

“We are all going to be replaced at some time, the question is at what level,” she said.

Axsom said faculty in her department that she spoke to are coming back as adjuncts, with the exception of one. She said it shows the professionals they are, investing a lifetime in teaching.

“It’s a calling,” said Axsom. “I feel passionate the same way. We hold a piece of its history that only we have.”

After working with some colleagues for more than 20 years, retirement is a very difficult decision, she said.

“They are not just strong bonds, they are friendships,” said Axsom. “Their commitment to the college, the programs, I feel greatly invested in it.”

Temple said the intention is to avoid lay-off. He acknowledged that instruction could be affected.

“What we are planning is not to replace anybody other than hourly on faculty,” said Temple. “There are going to be some exceptions and we are not going to be able to hire in time enough for the fall. I have encouraged and let everybody know that we are not planning on replacing any of the faculty unless we absolutely have to on a full-time basis.”

Temple said this creates the largest savings. He said the college is contemplating reorganization for administrative and classified employees. For key vacancies the college is looking at promotion from within, consolidating positions to get through difficult financial times.

Final applications are due May 20. There is a seven-day cooling off period where they have the opportunity to rescind. Temple said he should know the number of intended retirees by the end of May and then provide an accurate figure of savings. Classified personnel do not generate as much in savings, but Temple said it is necessary to offer the same program to everyone and it has to be their choice to participate in the program under IRS guidelines.

“Classifieds are the backbone of the institution,” said Temple. “There are not as many of those positions that you can do without having a major negative impact. What we need is a combination.”

Temple said faculty coming back to teach makes a good sense. It is a way for them to transition into retirement and still be part of the institution, not losing everything at once.

“They were the best people available when we hired them,” said Temple. “That doesn’t cease when they retire. Early retirement programs have a real disadvantage because you lose a huge amount of history of your institution and some really key, core people.”

Speidel-Haughey said she went through all of the agony of retiring last year. She said she spent many days in tears, lamenting, wondering if it was the right decision.

“This year of course the incentive is there, which is an extra bonus for me,” she said. “But I also know that I am doing something for the college, too. Giving back to the college financially after being here so long. This will help the college weather the storms that are coming.”

Speidel-Haughey said she loves the idea of coming back and working for the college on a different level. She said this is a great impact on the faculty, staff and always in the forefront, the students. She said the ability to come back and fill in holes.

Andy MacNeill, Shared Consultation Council (SCC) co-chair, said the college would look at specific areas to create greater efficiencies. Much of that depends on seeing who participates in SERP. It is going to change the structure of the college, he said.

“Remember one of our values is to keep jobs,” he said. “In talking about efficiencies one of the things we are going to look at is if people take advantage of the early retirement incentive is how can we shift things around and make it more efficient without having to replace those positions.”

Sometimes programs go with people and sometimes they need to, said Axsom. They are not viable anymore and some of that will occur by attrition.

“It is a good thing for the college to look anew at things,” said Axsom. “I really believe that most people would say that administrators are more expendable than the rank and file. That has been a tendency. Less administrators and do a little shaving.”

Temple said it is amazing how community colleges continue to do so much with so little. And after seeing it done many times it does not depend on leadership.

“It goes back to that core and values of an institution,” said Temple. “Teaching, learning, training and the commitment of that core staff.”

Whittaker is confident college will soon be off probation

 By: Albert H. Fulcher, News EditorPublished:Friday, May 27th, 2011at5:28 pm

After a dramatic change in leadership and a tumultuous spring semester, Southwestern College is waiting for a decision about its future from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). In an April follow-up site visit to review SWC’s critical March 15 accreditation report, key college leaders met with the accreditation study team to review the often-frantic work college employees did to address 10 deficiencies that placed the college on probation last winter.

SWC representatives said they thought WASC visitors were impressed by the college’s progress.  WASC commissioners meet again in June to formally evaluate Southwestern.  Interim Superintendent Denise Whittaker said she hoped the probation will be lifted soon, but state community college experts said SWC could remain on probation until early 2012.

On April 11, the WASC site visit team interviewed campus representatives to verify the report.

Dr. Mink Stavenga, co-chair of the SWC Accreditation Oversight Committee, said WASC’s Dr. Gari Browning was not sure what kind of reception the team would receive after what it had reported about the college earlier. He said the first thing Browning said is this was now a completely different institution.

“Night and day are the words she used,” Stavenga said.

Stavinga said Browning told him it is just another example of how the accreditation commission should work.

“Fortunately, we as an institution responded in a positive way,” said Stavenga. “We did not argue over findings, we took the recommendations and worked on fixing them. It is a very good example of how accreditation benefits an institution”

The goal is to better the institution all for the benefit of students, said Stavenga.  None of the WASC criticisms dealt directly with teaching and learning.

“Once we have all of these recommendations resolved it gives us an opportunity to have a direct impact on teaching and learning and taking it to a higher level,” said Stavinga.  “We are at that point. It will be even more evident this fall.”

Whittaker said the accrediting commission might feel the college needs to demonstrate sustainability. She said even though SWC accomplished a phenomenal amount, it needed to prove that the lessons are taking hold before its next report in October.

“We think, from our perspective, we exceeded their expectations,” said Whittaker. “Based on my background with accreditation, in my opinion we are no longer at the status of probation.  Internally, we are going to be fully resolved before May 20 on all of the items.  And we will be at full sustainability from now on. I think we have accomplished it all.”

Whittaker said the site visit team made it very clear that the fate of SWC’s status now lies with the commission. She said a mid-May follow up letter gave her a good idea of how the site visit went, but she cannot disclose its contents until after the commission meets in June.

“And they mean that,” she said. “It is very awkward. It is almost better if they didn’t tell me anything than giving me a letter that I can’t share. It is because the commission ultimately has the final decision.”

Whittaker plans to speak to both Browning and WASC President Dr. Barbara A. Beno to determine whether it is necessary to go to the commission meeting in June to plead SWC’s case to be taken off probation.

“If I sense that they are going to leave us on probation I may want to go and plead on our behalf that we don’t deserve to stay on probation,” said Whittaker.  “I have to weigh that option carefully and talk to them about it.”

Stavenga said classified employee representative Michele Fenlon was the organizational brain behind the WASC visit, preparing more than 200 documents.  Fenlon said the theme for this visit seemed to focus on what the college has been doing and whether or not “we got it.”  WASC officials are interested in process as well as outcome, Fenlon explained.

“We have been living it so long we were very clear on what is going on,” said Fenlon. “My overall impression of the entire visit was that I felt very good at the end of it. I felt proud.”

Fenlon said this site visit was much more relaxed than the tumultuous October 2011 encounter.

“In the previous site visits everything was very rigid, controlled, confidential and dictated,” she said. “This time there was a lot more flexibility. They allowed us to have input on how things went and how the flow went.”

Stavenga, Fenlon and librarian Ron Vess, co-chair of the SWC Accreditation Oversight Committee, had several conversations with Bowman and Browning.

“The communication we had with them was in a much more positive vein,” said Stavenga. “They were much more open with us showcasing all of the work we had done.”

Vess met with both team members.

“We were really freaked out on how this visit was going to happen,” said Vess. “We felt we had been put on notice.  It was almost like a pastor coming and asking what is your last request.”

He said the meeting was relaxed and after reading all of the material, WASC representatives understood where the college was coming from.

“They understood that we got it and we understand where we have to go from this point,” said Vess. “We are at point J and working towards point Z. But we understand the road we are on, how we are going to get there and understand what is expected of us.”

Browning asked to see Fenlon and Vess, and asked them how the governing board was going to relate to the community and how the community was going to relate to the governing board. Topic of discussion was whether the governing board members were able to work as a collective policy-making body with all of their friends that helped get them there. Vess said it could be a very dangerous situation to have a governing board show favoritism to the faculty union or their friends on these committees. He said he thinks the governing board has a new attitude that is infectious to the campus.

“We talked about that for a bit and I am very sure that the governing board knows their role,” said Vess. “It has been hammered into them. We have made it very clear what their role is. We are having more impact with the community and less problems. I was very happy with our communications with the team.”

Fenlon said it is like raising a child and it the college has struggled with it. There have been learning curves where we are learning and improving as we are going, she said.

“I am so proud of what this campus has been able to accomplish,” said Fenlon. “From January to this site visit, we made a year’s worth of progress. That is a short amount of time.”

When the commission meets in June and makes a determination that the college is going to remain on probation, Fenlon said in her mind she knows that they are only looking at sustainability. During the two year process of accreditation you can move up or down in the different scales of levels.

“We really have moved mountains to get to where we are,” said Fenlon. “I won’t be offended, it will not surprise me. If we go to full reaffirmation in June that kind of will surprise me because a lot of what they are asking us to do is to integrate this thing and make it this well-oiled wheel that turns on its own no matter who is in charge, or what the leadership is.”

Stavenga said it depends on what kind of statement the commission wants to send.

“Do they want to send us a signal to reward us for our hard work or do they want to keep us on probation showing that this is a serious matter?” said Stavenga. “You need to keep your foot on the gas pedal and keep on moving.”

Former San Diego County college administrators with WASC experience warned the SWC community not to take anything for granted. They spoke to The Sun on the condition that their names would not be used.

“[Southwestern College] has done a lot of things well in the past four months,” said one administrator.  “But you did it all frantically at the last minute and WASC may frown on that.  They are very aware of process. Your process is herky-jerky and needs to be consistent.”

Another administrator said the SWC case “could go either way.”

“I hope you guys can get off probation this summer,” the administrator said. “But it could be fall or next year.  It took a while for Southwestern to dig itself into its hole. It will take a while to dig out.”

Fenlon said while the college waits it is still working. The systems set up are continuous. While attending a recent governing board meeting she said she was proud of the new board.

“I used to hang my head in shame in some of those contentious meetings,” said Fenlon. “It was refreshing to sit at the governing board and see the camaraderie and collegiality amongst them, it was not contentious like it had been for so long.”

The Human Chord

Parents need to let go for kids to grow

By: Albert H. Fulcher

Published:Thursday, May 26th, 2011at9:51 pm

She decided it was time to leave. Her destination—North Carolina. With her, she took her two very young children in search of a better life and her place in this world. Behind her, she left a loving and supporting family, a lifelong thread of friends and a father who could not bear a 2,500-mile wide hole in his heart.

I tried my best to find a logical reason for my daughter to stay. She had made her decisions for all of the right reasons. As a single mother of a four and seven year old, she found it too difficult to survive financially. She had a great job waiting for her and the ability to continue her education. Stemming from love, all my objections were emotional and selfish. In the end the only rational thing to do was to support her. We packed two cars with the bare necessities, and with two of her best friends. Traveling the southern route, we shared the beauty of the Painted Desert, the radiance of a New Mexico sunrise, hundreds of miles of nakedness through Texas, the lush, thick swamps of Louisiana and the magnificence of the mighty Mississippi River. Reaching the rolling green hills of Alabama, we gathered with family unseen for years, some of which my daughter and grandsons had never met. Even in bottomless despair, through the fresh eyes of my children, I found joy and built a lifetime of memories sharing the beauty of our country. On the road we spoke of dreams, fears and realities that bonded us closer together.

The recesses of my heart continuously reminded me that eventually I would be leaving them there alone. Only a parent can understand the profound anguish of setting their children free. There is never a time I do not see the helpless child that changed my life forever. It is a privilege in life to know such unconditional love and devotion. At the same time, I see a beautiful young, vibrant, independent woman who has her life before her and the courage to live it to the fullest. After all is said and done, isn’t this what I have worked so hard to help her achieve?

Now, back at home, I am seeing many of my younger peers trying to find their place in life. Many of them are looking at universities that take them away from their home and families. I have listened as many students tell me of the battles they face in getting their parents to understand their dreams, their future and their goals. They also tell me of their parent’s inability and refusal to let them venture away from the sanctuary of home. These students are goal-oriented and eager to pursue their path, risking getting lost on their way and the sanctuary of the family that has loved and raised them.

It is understandable as a parent footing the bill who just cannot afford the cost of long-distance education. But it is wrong to hold them back due to the insecurities of your own heart. They are at the beginning of the greatest adventure they will ever have. Their dreams and goals might not be the same as our vision for them, but they are their dreams, their goals. They are motivated, strong and yearning to learn what life has in hold for them.

Listen carefully to the dreams of your children. Learn to love the strong young adult that stands before you now and embrace the memory of that little helpless child. Trust in the foundation you helped build in them.

I left three precious pieces of my soul in North Carolina. My daughter and my grand babies are now out of reach. A day still does not go by without a tear of fear or sadness running down my cheek. But deeper than that is an unselfish love, pride and joy in seeing her take hold of her destiny, wherever it might lead her.

A broken heart can mend. But squelching the dreams of your children will haunt you for the rest of your life and possibly fester into wounds that never heal. Ridding ourselves of insecurities and selfish love is the most difficult thing for a parent to do, yet the underpinning is there, even with change. Learn to trust it. Learn to let go.


Helicopter Activity Increase Now in Hands of California Coastal Commission

The Navy submitted documents to the commission claiming no adverse effects to the community. Commission staff will decide by May 28 whether to approve the helicopter activity increase or bring it in front of commissioners to decide.

By Albert Fulcher | Email the author | May 16, 2011

A 30 percent increase in helicopter activity at Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach by 2016 is now in the hands of the California Coastal Commission.

Federal Consistency Supervisor Mark Delaplaine with the California Coastal Commission’s staff said he is receiving public input from the Navy and the cities of Imperial Beach and Coronado. Further public comments can be directed to his office, he said.

“After reviewing all of the evidence, this matter could be brought before the Coastal Commission and the matter would be reopened for public comment,” said Delaplaine. “If this action is not taken, it will be automatically approved on May 28.”

Ultimately, the commission can request the Navy do more evaluative testing, and it is not yet known when the matter would appear in front of the commission if staff decides to take that route, he said.

Comments can be mailed to:

Mr. Mark Delaplaine
California Coastal Commission
Federal Consistency Supervisor
45 Fremont Street, Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219

The Navy submitted a Negative Determination statement to the Commission on March 3 concerning the increase in helicopter activity at the Outlying Landing Field formerly known as Ream Field. 

A Negative Determination is “an explanation of why a federal agency has concluded that an activity does not affect the coastal zone.”

In the report, the Navy indicates there is no additional effect on public access and recreation, noise levels, coastal marine sources, aesthetics, emissions or environmentally sensitive habitat areas and states the community’s co-existence with the Navy since 1911 has acclimated the community to the current level of helicopter noise.

Seaside Point subdivision resident Robert Taylor disagrees, living within 1,000 feet from the fence for more than three decades. After reviewing Navy reports and doing research on sound, he said health complications, competition with the noise level and disruption of daily life are his major concerns. “My windows rattle and they are trying to tell me that the noise level is no higher than 65 decibels,” he said.

“It is loud, it’s unpleasant and it’s undesired,” Taylor said. “Nothing can compete with the noise when my house is open. We need to stick a thorn in their side and let them know that we are fed up with it. Let the Commander come stay at my house for a few days.”

City Manager Gary Brown said after several City Council discussions and two letters, the city continues to support continued investigation of the direct impact to Imperial Beach.

The city’s basic argument against an increase of traffic is if the Navy performed an Environmental Assessment (EA) rather than an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the true impact on nearby residents, schools and wildlife would be shown in the results. Brown submitted a draft of a third letter to the Navy and one to the Coastal Commission.

“A letter has been drafted to the Coastal Commission urging them not to agree with the negative determination,” Brown said.

Councilman Ed Spriggs said this cannot be swept under the rug, and the right thing is to measure the true impact on the community and the environment. He said the air traffic is already a documented high impact.

“It is unbelievable that they did not do an EIS to determine the impact,” said Spriggs. “The Navy has brushed it aside by saying the area has adapted to it over many years, but that doesn’t reduce the fact it is a high impact and very disruptive.

“It would be a totally different environment here if we lived without the Ream Field base. If you look at it like that, you can see the level of impact we are tolerating. We are not objecting to that. If they are talking about a 30 percent increase in an already high level of impact, that has to require that you look at the whole thing, from the bottom up,” he said.

“At what point does it really start having manifestations, unintentional or unanticipated? How much can a community take?” he said.

A lack of support for helicopter increase is not reflective of the city’s love for the Navy or that he doesn’t support the Navy’s co-existence in Imperial Beach, he said.

“It is that this is already a high impact, and if they go to a higher level without looking at the total range of that impact, it is really critical that it is mitigated.”

People in the community who are staunch supporters of the military and the people concerned with the flight increase have never said anything against the Navy’s contribution to the community and national defense, said Councilman Jim King.

“The issue is the impact is not addressed,” King said. “Like any other agency, the federal government has an obligation to the citizens of this country and its communities to evaluate their impacts and come up with mitigation. I think that is all we are asking for. I would like to see a full EIS.”

Mayor Jim Janney called the area formerly known as Ream Field is the second busiest airport this side of Chicago. He fully supported sending a letter to the Navy and continuing talks with them.

“It is true they don’t land 747s, but helicopters are aircraft. So I think we need to push that we already have a huge impact and you are adding 30 percent to it,” said Janney.

Brown said the Coastal Commission could make a determination at a staff level or decide to take it all the way to commissioners to decide.

“This is what we are recommending, that staff not agree with the negative determination and take it up to the Coastal Commission,” he said.

After several discussions with the Navy, Janney said at the City Council’s meeting on April 20 that the decision is not in the hands of the local Navy, but expressed doubts about whether a letter to the commission would make a difference.

“The Navy is willing to meet with people from Seaside Point and are looking at doing more testing on the noise level of the area, at Oneonta Elementary School and the estuary,” Janney said. “We are very concerned. These are official meetings where we talk about it and see if we can make better conditions here.”

Added Councilman Brian Bilbray, “I echo your frustrations with the Coastal Commission.

“For example with the Seacoast Inn, we are hauling sand out of the city instead of dumping it on our own beach because of the extra cost and time it would have taken to get the permits from the commission,” he said. “But I do believe that we need to explore every avenue, get all of our eggs in a basket if we are going to try and take the Navy on.”

Spriggs said the Coastal Commission has heard the Navy side and the city would be shooting itself in the foot by not responding to the Coastal Commission and getting Congressional officials involved. Council member Lorie Bragg agreed it would behoove the city to let the Coastal Commission know the city is not in agreement with the Navy’s findings.

“To remain silent is not fulfilling all of our due diligence,” Bragg said. “In this instance, I think we need to plead our case with them.”

City Council decided to support sending letters to the Navy and the California Coastal Commission.

How do you feel a 30 percent increase in helicopter activity will affect Imperial Beach? Tell us in the comments.

Government, The Neighborhood Files

New Imperial Beach Streets Signs May Carry Woody Logo

City Council may decide to add the Imperial Beach Woody logo to new larger street signs within the year.

By Albert Fulcher | Email the author | March 3, 2011

The City of Imperial Beach logo, a Woody with a surfboard hanging out the back, may soon be added to city street signs. The federal government now requires all major streets have larger signs with six inch letters.

On Wednesday, City Council listened to plans by city staff to install new signs, which will cost about $12,000 to implement over the next four or five years.

A final decision on the matter will be made at a future Council meeting.

Adding the Woody logo, said Public Works Director Hank Levine who came up with the idea, will cost an additional $4,000.

Mayor Jim Janney said he liked the idea.

“I believe when you are advertising or promoting a community, you keep hitting the same thing over and over again,” said Janney. “In this case it has been the Woody logo.”

Janney said if you look at the larger picture, it is not a lot of money and that it would make a strong statement for the community as these signs will cover all of the city’s major streets.

“I think it is something that brings a sense of your place to Imperial Beach,” he said.

“We need to set ourselves apart. I think it would be worth it to find a way to put them all up at once. It is a positive change and I think it makes sense to just bite the bullet and find a way to get the money and make it happen in one year.”

Councilman Ed Spriggs said the city would get a “bigger bang for the buck” by installing all new signs at once instead of over the course of four or five years.
Seacoast Drive is not part of the plan due to the street’s reduced speed limit. He said even though Seacoast Drive was not in the original plan, adding half a dozen signs to the project would enhance the look of the city and only add marginally to the cost.

“One important place we get a lot of visitors is the commercial part of Seacoast,” he said. “It seems to be inconsistent to have these newer signs coming into the area then regular signs on Seacoast Drive.”

Councilwoman Lorie Bragg asked what would happen to the old signs and Levine said they would probably be recycled and the city already has a stock of replacement signs ready to go.

Bragg said a community member called her earlier in the day with what she thought was a great idea to sell the old signs to the community.

“We are supposed to be about recycle, reuse and repurpose,” said Bragg. “We could raise money to help pay for the new signs. I know I would love to have a sign from the street that I live on. There are opportunities in town where we could take advantage of retail for this.”

City council unanimously directed city staff to get an idea of the total cost of the project and bring it back to council for a decision. Janney said to look at other community resources and non-profits to come up with the extra money needed and to look at the possibilities of creatively funding the new signs and dealing with the sale of the old ones.

If street signage is not completed by 2017 the city could be subject to loss of federal monies for road maintenance, said City Manager Gary Brown.

What do you think about adding the Woody Logo to Imperial Beach’s main streets? For? Against? Tell us in the comments.
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