Effects of Ruling Against Redevelopment Agencies Unclear

http://imperialbeach.patch.com/articles/fate-of-redevelopment-agencies-still-blurred

IB Mayor said it is too early to tell what the ramifications are from the California Supreme Court decision to allow the abolishment of redevelopment agencies by the state Legislature.

Mayor Jim Janney said he was not surprised with the California Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday that upheld a new law that will eradicate redevelopment agencies throughout the state.

“If you read the laws, you cannot put together what has been torn apart,” he said.

Janney said on a local standpoint, the city could not anticipate what is going to happen. He said much of it depends on how long the process takes and still has to see what Sacramento will do.

“What do you do with a redevelopment agency when it goes away?” he said. “Results of this will be a combination of the state, redevelopment agencies and decisions made by the city. We are asking for legal advice on what steps we need to take in dealing with this decision. Treating redevelopment agencies as a real entity the city will do whatever it has to do. In the meantime though, as a council we have to act on something.”

The state’s high court struck down a companion statute that would have allowed local governments to keep the agencies alive by making payments to the state.

On Aug. 3, the City Council adopted a resolution authorizing the city to participate in the voluntary redevelopment program, certain to conditions and regulations. In the resolution, council reserved the right for remittance of voluntary redevelopment payments until enforcement of any provisions of the bills.

City staff reports from that council meeting disclose that with the elimination of redevelopment agencies, the city loses $1.5 million in general fund property taxes, causing a $500,000 yearly gap. Unsent bonds would be split up, proceeds reduced from $11 million to $2.75 million, and the city would lose $3 million in housing cash balance after redistribution.

If the companion statute held, the city was looking at approximately $2.86 million in its FY 11-12 payment and approximately $673,000 each year after with the voluntary program.

Nature Center Winter Camps a Big Splash with Local Kids

http://imperialbeach.patch.com/articles/nature-center-winter-camps-a-big-splash-with-local-kids

Chula Vista Nature Center provides winter camp activities for children four-years-old to 18-year-old with hands-on education of local wildlife and nature of the South Bay coastline region.

As you walk through the front door, a tank full of little “Nemo” and “Dory” fish greet you. These are a big draw to the four-year-old to third graders on the first day of Winter Camp at the Chula Vista Nature Center. Off to a great start, kids ran from one aquarium to another, each finding a new discovery of the wildlife and nature that lives in and around the South Bay coastal resources.

Divided into two camps, four to six-year-old and first through third graders spent a day full of fun activity, education and a close up view of the wildlife the Nature Center works to protect and preserve.

Wendy Spaulding, director of education and guest experience, said the day camps have been going on for about a year and a half after starting new educational programs when the Nature Center became a private non-profit entity in 2010.

“Making those connections are our main passion. This is a way to engage the community both on a revenue level, to become sustainable on our own,” she said.” And also to connect our community with the local wildlife we have here.”

With preschoolers moving to the Shark and Ray Experience, many of the kids were just as fascinate by the squid bait used in feeding as one little guy decided he would rather keep his squid eyeball in his pocket rather than feed it to the rays. Screams of excitement filled the area as a bat ray breached and splashed water everywhere in the frenzy of feeding time. Camp instructors talked about stingrays and the friendly sharks related to each other and live in local coastal waters.

Alyssa Hall, assistant camp instructor and UCSD student, said she began working with the Nature Center in March and started with the summer camps. She said the aquarium included bat rays, round stingrays, leopard sharks, shovelnose guitarfish a horned shark and a crab.

“They all eat the same food, so they will all come up for the kids,” she said. “We make sure they are nice and safe. The barbs on the rays grow like fingernails so we cut their barbs every week so they don’t get long enough so they can sting.”

Other activities for the preschoolers included a trip through the Discovery Center, playing “Red Light, Green Light” stingray style and arts and crafts, creating some of the wildlife they had seen during the day. In the afternoon, preschoolers participated in an active camp learning all the moves of the wildlife in the area.

First to fourth graders met “Mr. T,” the desert tortoise and “Mr. Rosy,” resident rosy boa up close and personal. Camp Educators Daniel Conley and Andrea Estrada instructed the kids on cold-blooded reptiles, their diets, habits and protective measures in order for them to survive in the wild. With a full day ahead of them, they also fed the sharks, and met baby sea turtles up close.

Spaulding said the Nature Center is fortunate to have a wonderful green space right in the middle of an urban environment and the goal is to get as many kids out to the area as possible.

“The camp gives us the opportunity to do a little bit more in-depth with the kids than you would get on a typical visit,” she said. “We have a nice chunk of time to engage with them at their developmental level and get them excited to do a lot of things like feeding the stingrays and meeting the tortoise.”

She said its camps are a successful program that has grown in a very short time, starting with six kids and now having hundreds that sign up. She said a majority of the camp kids came from the Chula Vista area, but many come from the surrounding areas of Imperial Beach, Coronado, National City, San Diego, La Jolla and Lemon Grove. She said the Nature Center is a regional asset, but that the name is sometimes misconstrued.

“Overall, even with our school groups we have about 48 percent of visitors that come from the Chula Vista area, and the rest come from outside the area,” she said. “We are a regional asset and work with the Port of San Diego because as one of the port cities. But a lot of people still don’t know we are here.”

Spaulding said there is plenty of room for more children four-years-old to sixth graders in its January camps that run Jan. 2-6, 2012.

“If you register and say you read about Winter Camps on Patch.com, we will give an extra 15 percent off of registration fees,” said Spaulding.

Chula Vista Nature Center Winter Camp Schedule

Chula Vista Nature Center holds Winter Break Day Camps

 

Chula Vista Nature Center shows off one of Southern California's abundant raptors, the Osprey.

http://imperialbeach.patch.com/articles/chula-vista-nature-center-holds-winter-break-day-camps

Chula Vista Nature Center holds Winter Break Day Camps

Beginning tomorrow and open for preschoolers to teenagers, South Bay’s Chula Vista Nature Center holds three to five-day interactive, educational Winter Camps teaching and exploring local natural resources and wildlife during holiday break.

Nestled in the midst of the Sweetwater Marsh National Refuge’s 316-acres of coastline habitat, there is a home for the endangered Eastern Pacific Green Sea Turtle and a breeding ground for California’s rarest shorebird, the Light-footed Clapper Rail.

A hub of learning for Southern California’s nature and wildlife for more than 20 years, the Chula Vista Nature Center is not just any museum. It is a living, hands-on experience for kids of all ages that want to discover the truths and myths of the rich nature and wildlife that flourish in South Bay’s oceans, marshes and estuaries.

While the kids are out of school, the Chula Vista Nature Center’s Winter Break Day Camps is providing days filled of fun and education for children prekindergarten to 18-years-old. These varieties of two to five-day camps are Dec. 28-Jan. 6, 2012, providing education, activities and interaction, each designed for specific age groups.

Preschoolers (ages 4-6) hang out with a wise old owl, have a close encounter with a stingray, see a baby sea turtle, go to “Fish School” or even find Nemo with several interactive and physically stimulating activity camps.

First through third-graders track wildlife, feed sharks and learn how biologists care for eagles, owls and clapper rails as a “Junior Apprentice.” They study sea life in the coastal waters with “Commotion in the Ocean” and work with professional artist creating pictures and sculptures in its “Fins, Fur and Feathers Art Camp.”

Fourth through sixth graders better plan to get “wet and dirty” in five-day camps working as “The Apprentice” as they help feed and care for the animals at the Nature Center. “Dynamic Defenses” teaches the biological defense systems that plants and animals use in the nature in order to survive.

Teenagers (13-18) get two days of experience working behind the scenes with the Nature Center’s biologists. The Nature Center calls this the camp for the teen wanting a future working with animals.

Winter
Camps dates and prices

The Chula Vista Nature Center is located at 1000 Gun Powder Point Drive and is open daily to the public through winter break, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. closing at 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Calendar
of events

Imperial Beach Sunset

Chula Vista, Southern California’s Biggest Lemon (Or So Says Vanity Fair)

http://www.theswcsun.com/2011/12/13/chula-vista-southern-californias-biggest-lemon-or-so-says-vanity-fair/

Chula Vista, Southern California’s Biggest Lemon (Or So Says Vanity Fair)

A.K.A. Chula Juana, Barrio Vista, Top 10 most boring cities in the nation

By: Albert Fulcher, Tom Lord and Ernesto Rivera

Published: Tuesday, December 13th, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Dear Mr. Vachon and everyone there at Vanity Fair,

Vanity Fair does not seem to think much of Chula Vista.  Apparently one of New York’s finest tabloid writers took a turn down Broadway on his way to getting drunk in Tijuana.

Dana Vachon called The City of Trees a “curiously named town,” meaning he speaks no Spanish or he does not think we are muy chula.

Que lastima, pobrecito.

Then the fourth trenta espresso from Starbucks kicked in and he got mean.  Really mean.  Really, really mean.

“It is a sputtering neon error of beauty academies and pawnshops, recently terrorized by homicidal Tijuana drug gangs skilled at dissolving bodies in chemicals,” he sputtered as the caffeine terrorized his body with chemicals.

When Dr. Cheryl Cox, Chula Vista’s mayor and principal-in-chief, protested in a good-natured response, Vanity Fair dug down for some real New York vitriol.

“…apologies to the city of Chula Vista.  First, for mistaking the city’s many thrift shops for pawnshops. Second, for suggestion that the presence of gangsters skilled at dissolving bodies in chemicals cause anything more than a shrug in the populace. Third, for suggesting that the city’s many fine neon signs are sputtering, instead of shining with a steady garish glow.”

Talk about people who live in glass houses throwing rocks. Mr. Vachon should scrape some of the grime and pigeon droppings from his office window and gaze out across his own flamboyant but very flawed city.  New York fancies itself the “capitol of the world,” but it is also one of the meanest, dirtiest, most congested and rat-invested metropolises on the planet.  Not to mention the most expensive, dangerous, poorly-run and poorly-maintained places where no intelligent Chula Vistan would ever want to live.

Chula Vista has America’s best climate (just ask all the New Yorkers who have moved here) and is a rare city with rivers, the ocean, mountains, valleys and plains in its boundaries.  New York is all jammed up on an island in the middle of two dirty rivers. Some New Yorkers think they can walk on water and they are probably right.  The East River is a trundling chunky oil slick that could probably support the weight of all of its greed-monger felonious Wall Street bankers and stock market manipulators who have brought our nation to the edge of ruin.

Chula Vista is an aviary heaven and the Four Seasons Hotel of the Pacific Flyway where birds and bird watchers from around the globe come to visit. New York has birds too, of course, large flocks of pigeons and larger flocks of birds flying from the fingers of belligerent cabbies. (Road rage is apparently legal in New York, if not encouraged.)

Vanity Fair folks obviously do not think much of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, which is their loss. Mexico has one of the world’s great cultures and is a global force in art, music, fashion, food and film.  Chula Vista embraces its diverse population that includes Europeans who migrated west, Latinos who came north and Asians who sailed east.  We all share neighborhoods, schools, jobs, teams, goals and dreams. New York is home to people from many different races, of course, but they all live in their own separate neighborhoods.

Vanity Fair is the Archie Bunker of the East Coast Media and evokes his famous screed, “You don’t know nothin’ about lady Liberty standin’ out there in the harbor, with her torch on high, screamin’ out to all the nations of the world ‘Send me your poor, your deadbeats, your filthy.’  And all the nations sent ‘em here.  They come swarming in like ants. Your Spanish P.R.s from the Caribboin, your Japs, your Chinamen, your Krauts and your Hebes and your English fags.  All of ‘em come in here and they’re all free to live in their own separate sections where they feel safe. And they’ll bust your head if you go in there! That’s what makes America great, buddy!”

We do have gangs in Chula Vista, but Vanity Fair has confused  teenage graffiti painters with the organized drug cartel criminals from Mexico and Columbia. New York, as the cradle of American gang activity, has no moral ascendancy to on this issue. New York has an Academy Award-winning motion picture musical about its gangs, “West Side Story,” not to mention “The Gangs of New York.” Given the choice, we’d rather have our gangs than yours.

New York likes to boast about its arts scene – which is dazzling – but seems to forget that almost all great “New York” artists actually came from other places, including cities like Chula Vista, which has sent innumerable actors and musicians to the Big Apple.  New York is home to the great Billy Joel, but does the staff of Vanity Fair remember that he had to come to California to get anyone to listen to his music? “Piano Man” and his early hits were all written in, gasp, California.  We Chula Vistans love to remind anybody who loves music that we are home to the Cricket Amphitheatre, one of the world’s most beautiful and acoustically-perfect concert venues. But don’t take our word for it.  Ask Sir Elton John, who said during a concert that it was “the best place I have ever played.”

New York has many great things that Chula Vistans admire like the New York Times, Broadway, Columbia University, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Plaza.  It is also the place where Native Americans were slaughtered, AIDS took root in America and John Lennon was murdered. Beauty and horror. Yin and Yan. Light and darkness.

So let’s go easy on thrift stores, which, by the way, help the homeless, and pawn shops, which New York has plenty more of than Chula Vista ever will.

Go ahead and be smug about being the Big Apple.  We are okay being El Gran Limón, the Powerful Pomegranate or the Almighty Avocado.  At least those fruits really grow here.  New York’s are imported from…Chula Vista.

Code Enforcement Leaves Some Homeowners in Disrepair

http://imperialbeach.patch.com/articles/code-enforcement-leaves-some-homeowners-in-disrepair

Code Enforcement Leaves Some Homeowners in Disrepair

Imperial Beach homeowners for and against the city’s code enforcement policies. When violations aren’t taken care of in time, they can lead to thousands of dollars in fines.

Frisked by Imperial Beach Sheriff's deputies before speaking to city council in August, homeowner Robert Brians said allegations that he threatened code compliance officer Tommy Simmons are false.

Single father Donald Winnie went to work one day and left his children with their nanny who doesn’t speak English. He said when he got home she was frightened and had no clue why people with badges were there, but was too afraid not to let them enter.

“She said they knocked on the door on the door and demanded to get into the house,” Winnie said. “They illegally entered my property without my permission.”

Winnie said city code compliance officer David Garcias told him an interpreter was available and that the babysitter fully understood the reason for entering his home, but that isn’t what his babysitter said.

“I told Garcias I didn’t appreciate him intimidating my babysitter to gain access into my home without my presence,” he said. “She doesn’t speak English and she did not understand who they were or why there were at the house. She was terrified when I returned.”

Winnie said he feels he has been harassed by Garcias, and he currently faces more than $3,000 in fines.

Enforcement of Imperial Beach municipal code, or code compliance, is often controversial.

Some cases have resulted in thousands of dollars in fines and drawn privacy concerns from homeowners who say they have a right to do as they please on their own property.

In public and in private, homeowners have described code compliance officer David Garcias as “heavy-handed,” a “bully” and “harasser.”

Others said code compliance is necessary and wanted by Imperial Beach residents.

Frisked by Imperial Beach Sheriff’s deputies before speaking to city council in August, homeowner Robert Brians said allegations that he threatened code compliance officer Tommy Simmons are false.

On July 24, Brians saw Simmons take pictures into his neighbors backyard while standing on top of his truck for a code compliance investigation.

Six days after an altercation between the two, a restraining order was issued against Brians, and he was arrested on his way to work on felony charges of threatening a government employee. The restraining order requires he stay 100 feet from City Hall except for City Council meetings.

“I have teenage daughters and so do many of my neighbors,” Brians said. “I don’t know how you would feel if people were taking pictures in your backyards of your kids, but we don’t appreciate it.”

Brians said he has negative experiences going back years with officers Garcias and Simmons. He feels both have demonstrated aggressive behavior with homeowners like Donald Winnie, who told Brians a code compliance officer entered his home when he was at work.

“Is this anything you care about? Can people just walk in and push around people,” Brians asked the city council.

Brians said he knows many people with their own stories of bad experiences with code compliance officers and plans to collect signatures to present at a future council meeting.

More than 500 violations were passed out by code enforcement officers across IB in 2010, more than any other city agency. With the implementation of a systematic code compliance campaign that started a year ago, code violation cases rose 70 percent by this summer and created a 30-day backlog.

When the campaign was up for review by council in June, Community Development Department director Greg Wade requested additional staff to field more cases or an amendment to the plan. The request for additional staff was denied and the campaign was temporarily stopped for modifications.

It was to appear before council again last month, but those plans were halted for a yet to be determined date in 2012.

An increase in code compliance was also recommended as part of a city plan to bolster more business opportunity on Seacoast Drive ahead of the opening of a new hotel.

“How we handle the systematic code enforcement is going to be a crucial test on how well we can maintain our case load and not get back logged again,” he said. “We believe what we will propose to council will not be nearly the level of involvement that the first go round did where we got so behind, so that is the good news.”

Wade said code compliance is necessary but he understands the controversy.

“No matter what city, code compliance is the most difficult to deal with,” he said.

He said perception can vary from person to person because they are being told what to do and might perceive code enforcement officers as being heavy handed and aggressive when it is not the case.

“It is simply by virtue of being told what they have to do with their own property,” Wade said. “When I watch and listen to Garcias in action, very rarely does he need to raise his voice.”

There are two sides to the story in both Brians and Winnie’s cases, Wade said.

In the case of Winnie, he said policy is not to comment on active code compliant cases, but Simmons, not Garcias, was initially involved and code compliance officers are not to enter a home without a translator.

He said an explanation of the visit was given to the woman in Spanish and she allowed Simmons access to the home.

In regards to accusations from Brians, Wade said it is not normal practice to stand in the back of trucks and take photos. He said Simmons was working with the property owner on a follow up of an active code compliance case and that the homeowner was cooperative with Simmons.

“After the picture was taken, Simmons went to the front of the property to speak with the homeowner about how progress was proceeding,” Wade said. “In this case we had seen the property before and were given direct access by the homeowner. In many complaint cases, neighbors invite them onto their property to see what they have to look at every day.”

Homeowner Chuck Quisenberry spoke to council at the meeting discussing systematic code enforcement in June. He called code enforcement a massive waste of taxpayer’s money and believes it is fueled by a small group of people that consider IB their “little Del Mar.”

“We are a bunch of working class people doing our best. We don’t need them telling us how to live our lives,” he said. “What they did do well was piss me off to come to a city council meeting, which I haven’t done since 1985.”

Quisenberry believes the city targets certain areas while ignoring larger violations nearby.

Quisenberry said he was served a notice regarding his mobile home and plants growing in his front yard. He said he refuses to pay any fines and the city has no right to tell him what he can and cannot grow.

Wade said the original notice of violation came from the city’s Public Works Department and Quisenberry had plants with large thorns growing in the public right of way.

“We are trying to protect the property owner’s own liability as well,” Wade said. “Plants growing in the sidewalk, that is a hazard or safety concern.”

“We try to make it clear on the notifications that you are not being fined, but that you could be if the violation is not corrected,” Wade said. “It is our job and there is a lot of support for code enforcement in our community.”

Homeowner Matthew Walter said when he moved into his home more than a year ago that he was told that the garage conversion did not comply. This came as a surprise to him as many other homes in the neighborhood had similar conversions done to their homes.

He was given two choices: come into compliance or demolish the garage. In choosing to demolish he said it cost him more than 300 square feet of living space, a bedroom and a bathroom.

“And I am glad they did it,” Walter said. “We discovered that prior owners, when there was no code compliance in the city, had done shoddy wiring, bad roofing and plumbing that wouldn’t drain. If the city had not done this, I would not have discovered these things until it became catastrophic.”

Walter said it makes him angry to see similar violations around him that aren’t held to the same standard.

He said he is fortunate to have the money to do the work necessary, and it is a difficult process, but he still fully supports the city’s code enforcement policies.

“I would like to see this city uniformly and systematically enforce building standards,” Walter said. “It is not right to inspect one house and not be able to look at the house next door due to case load. Uniformed and systematic code enforcement is the number one thing the city can do to improve its appearance, reputation and property values. I am not asking for more codes, I am simply asking for action to be taken for those that are on the books.”

Councilwoman Lorie Bragg said code compliance is something the community desperately wanted before the city hired its first code compliance officer in the mid 1990s.

“It has been a success,” she said. “If you look around our community today, you can see great strides that we have made in the appearance of our neighborhoods. That is what we wanted.”

Bragg said she is not in favor of disbanding code compliance but in looking at details, it could be downsized to look only for the most egregious cases.

If a homeowner receives a notice of violation, contact code enforcement. The department is willing to give extensions as long as someone contacts the office and is willing to work with the city. He said this was done at one point in the Winnie case.

“Anytime we get a reasonable request, we are willing to take that step,” Wade said. “Where we have difficulty is when there is no contact. It forces us to do what we have to do to get compliance.”

College Veterans Advocate Is Semper Fi

http://www.theswcsun.com/2011/12/12/college-veterans-advocate-is-semper-fi/

College Veterans Advocate Is Semper Fi

By: Margie Reese and Albert H. Fulcher Copy Editor and Editor-in-Chief

Published: Monday, December 12th, 2011 at 7:06 pm

A WARRIOR FOR VETERANS — SWC Veterans Services Specialist Jim Jones keeps a steady eye on returning service personnel and the issues that effect them.

Shawn Buckingham’s dreams of being a Marine pilot came to an end, but not by a surface-to-air missile or a dogfight over the sands of Iraq. His mighty dreams were shot down by the smallest but most deadly of man’s enemies.

Working as a U.S. Embassy guard he developed a life-threatening viral infection in New Delhi, India resulting in Type 1 diabetes. His dreams of flying grounded, he left the Marines and joined the private contractor Blackwater. He saw combat as a member of the Personal Protection Team in Baghdad. Buckingham was medically retired in 2007.

A shooting war in Iraq was tough, Buckingham said, but college was overwhelming. He said he quickly became discouraged with the school process, which lacked structure.

“In the military they tell you what to do and where to go,” said the accounting major. “In college I felt like I was on my own.”

Support from other veterans on campus helped turn things around for him, he said, and now he is motivated to help other veterans. Veterans need understanding from the campus community, he said, and education needs to happen on each side.

“What really motivates me are the ones I’ve lost, my friends (killed in action) who became family that I served with in the Marine Corps who don’t have the opportunity to go to school,” he said. “They gave the ultimate sacrifice and I can make sure they are never forgotten. I used to break down when I said this. We fought for the rights of everyone on this campus and everywhere to be outspoken for or against the military, or wars and they should never forget our veterans.”

During his first semester Buckingham was invited to a Student Veteran Organization (SVO) meeting where he met Jim Jones, the organization’s faculty advisor and the college’s Veterans Services specialist. Buckingham became the treasurer and is now SVO president. With the help of Jones and fellow veterans, Buckingham was able to find his way.

“My motivation for joining the SVO was meeting friends who had a shared background,” he said. “I didn’t find too much in common with other students and didn’t have the connection like I did with other vets.”

When Jones first met Buckingham he said he felt an instant brotherhood with the fellow Marine.

“Once they get connected, they start to grow,” said Jones. “It is like adding fertilizer to a flower. They start to grow much quicker and they start feeling like they are a part of the school. That is what I want to do with all of the vets.”

All veterans go through a gauntlet when they integrate back into society, said Jones. Putting the SVO together in 2007 was a necessary move for SWC. It came together quickly.

“All I had to do was find a few interested people with the military background and they instantly formed a chain and a chain of command,” he said.

Jones said he wants veteran students to get involved in community service so they can put on their resume that they did more than sit in class and take a test. He stresses the importance of developing leadership skills.

“The primary purpose of the SVO is to reach out to our veterans that are coming back from war, but it is also a healing process for our students and other veterans,” said Jones. “It is a time to connect student veterans with veterans and to let them know that we do have combat veterans on campus they can relate to.”

Combat veterans often feel isolation, do not like loud noises and are afraid of sitting next to windows, Jones said. SWC needs a place where veterans can sit quietly, meet with a counselor or to study.

“(We need) a place they can go unlike the cafeteria that is crowded and noisy and can be quite intimidating to our combat veterans,” said Jones. “If we could create a place, an environment like that where they can feel at ease, that would be ideal.”

Jones said when student veterans start talking about familiar places there is an instant connection.

“That is what I try to do, to make this campus a little bit warmer for them and to help them realize that they can go to the SVO to find a home,” he said.

It is difficult to tell how many veterans are on our campus, Jones said, though Southwestern College serves more veterans than most Southern California colleges.

“I have watched SDSU grow and have seen what they have done for their vets and the way they reached out,” said Jones. “I believe they have really set the example of how to reach out to veterans. They have an amazing setup over there and a wonderful support system. I would love to see us match that program for our veterans.”

Buckingham said he has great dreams for SWC veterans. He said there is a great need for an outreach program specifically geared to guide veterans through the “mountain of paperwork” and a mentor program to assist new veterans. A Veteran’s Center is his long-term goal.

“This could be in the form of a building or separate room where a veteran could meet other veterans, have a cup of coffee and where volunteer veterans could take a leadership position,” he said. “It would be a great opportunity to introduce the veteran to the SVO.”

Faculty Advisor Chris Hayashi, professor of psychology, said he first thought that would be impossible.

“Back when the talks first started I thought it was a pipe dream,” he said. “And now it is slowly developing into something that is realistic.”

Hayashi said veterans taught him how to conquer big challenges.

“How do you eat an elephant? Bite by bite,” said Hayashi. “What is so impressive about working with Jim and student veterans is how effectively and efficiently students get together, organize, allocate tasks and things get done.”

Jones agreed.

“I think one of the things they have in common are that veteran students are more focused, have the discipline, the structure and they are self-motivated,” said Jones. “They have proven to be better students, they are going to succeed. They have the stick-to-itiveness. Everyone on campus needs to understand that even though veterans may only be a few years older than traditional students, they have already lived a lifetime. Many of them got to see firsthand the atrocity of war. They may only be a few years apart, but they are miles ahead in lifetime experience. That is the difference. There is a huge gap.”

Hayashi said Jones is an effective leader even though he is not loud and outspoken.

“Jim is more of a compassionate leader,” he said. “He leads by example. He is very straightforward and at the same time he really has a great heart. I think that veteran students gravitate towards him. They have a large degree of respect for him because they recognize how much he really does care about them.”

Jones has worked at SWC for 12 years processing veteran’s benefits. He said he loves to see someone who just got out of the service come to his office with “the deer in a headlight stare” come back a few years later to hand him a ticket to a university graduation. That, he said, is “better than any paycheck.”

“When a student comes up to me and thanks me when they graduate, all I can say is that you did the walk,” said Jones. “I just pointed the direction. Just to see them grow and blossom from the time they first got out of the service when they were thoroughly confused of which direction to take.”

Hayashi said student veterans have had experiences most college students have not.

“That is something that is unique about them,” said Hayashi. “It is a different student population, no matter how you cut it. What is interesting about the student veterans is they bring diversity to the college. Not in terms of just experiences, but in terms of geographic diversity. Most of the veterans are not from San Diego, while most of our other students are from within 20 miles of here.”

Hayashi said there are many impressive female student veterans at SWC, an invisible population.

“That was one of the biggest things that I learned, what female veterans bring to the college and the needs that female veterans have,” said Hayashi. “They are amazing people, amazing students and have amazing experiences that they bring to the classroom and to the college.”

Buckingham said he enjoyed giving back to other vets through the SVO and helping other veterans through regional organizations like the annual Veteran Stand Down. SVO has a close relationship with the Warrior Foundation, serving wounded and rehabilitating veterans from all services.

SVO made a donation to the Warrior Foundation to help amputee Tim Jeffers. He was sent home to Arkansas to visit his family for a week and while he was gone the Warrior Foundation transformed his condominium and made everything adaptive to his needs. Money raised with its Wieners for Warriors fundraiser went to purchase furniture.

“He is a double amputee, he also received head injuries,” said Jones. “They got concrete cutters, electricians and a whole slew of business people together. We witnessed the homecoming and it was very touching.”

Hayashi said the Wieners for Warriors sale is a great example of how the SVO stands out. No other club on campus could sell $850 worth of hot dogs.

“It has nothing to do with the hot dogs,” said Hayashi. “It has to do with the students really promoting a good cause, being very vocal and just being real go-getters. That is what is so impressive and I have learned a lot working with the veterans. Sometimes you just have to be persistent and ask for things, not give up and things get done.”

SVO participates in “Deck the Halls” at Balboa Naval Hospital, decorating three floors for wounded service members.

“I know some of these wounded warriors are here and more are headed in our direction,” said Jones.”

Jones served 15 years in the Marines as a staff sergeant and musician in the ceremonial unit. He performed on the “Tonight Show” and many other shows, public appearances and played for every president of the United States from Gerald Ford to George Bush.

“There are a lot of things I treasure,” said Jones. “Ronald Reagan sent us presidential cufflinks as a gift. Bob Hope sent us a pin when he received a fourth star on the Walk of Fame and he wanted us to perform for that. Just to be inside that little world is so much fun. It was hard work and a lot of commitment and preparation, but it was always rewarding. I loved it.”

Jones is married and has a son in the Marines serving in Afghanistan. He volunteered. His unit is not there. He joined another unit to go.

“I am very proud of him,” said Jones. “There is a Marine side of me that says ‘Yeah!,’ but then there is the father side of me that says ‘be careful.’

As a family man, Jim Jones said he understands that not all veterans with families can do traditional college things, but if they have the time, he likes to see them connect with some of the SVO members and the events. He said it is important that they get to network, meet some of the people outside that support veterans, and make those connections. He said one student met former Assemblywoman Mary Salas and a week later, she represented veterans in the South Bay up at the state capital. Jones said that is what it is all about.

“I am very passionate about our vets,” said Jones. “More so about our student vets. I believe we have all the abilities to take care of each other.

%d bloggers like this: