What the County's Talking About This Week



Morro Bay pot dispensary ban to end

The Morro Bay City Council did not extend a temporary ban on medical marijuana dispensaries as it had originally planned. On June 13, the vote to extend the ban 90 more days failed to receive the required four-fifths majority. Only three Council members voted to extend the ban.

Bob Hendrix, Morro Bay city manager, said the temporary ban would have allowed city staff more time to craft zoning laws, but because there is nobody proposing to open a dispensary, he doesn't seem too worried.

"I don't think it's going to make a whole bunch of difference either way. It's kind of a technical thing."

Even without the ban, the city staff will create zoning restrictions. "We'll just go through and develop a body of language and it will go into code," said Hendrix.

Other cities in SLO County that have temporarily banned medical marijuana dispensaries include San Luis Obispo, Atascadero, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, and Arroyo Grande.

-John Peabody

Bret Cook sentenced

Former San Luis Obispo lawyer Bret Cook was sentenced on June 10 to three years and four months in prison. Cook and the District Attorney's office reached a negotiated plea. Cook had pled no contest May 9 to five felony counts, including writing bad checks, practicing law illegally, preparing and presenting false documentary evidence, and two counts of embezzlement,

Cook is believed to have embezzled between $300,000 and $600,000 from former clients. The district attorney's office and Cook's defense attorney are working to reach an agreement on the restitution that Cook must pay to former clients, said Deputy District Attorney Steven von Dohlen.

Cook was arrested in July and resigned from the state bar in September. Since then he has been in county jail. That time will count as time served for his sentence.

-John Peabody


Cambria water-tank plan approved

The California Coastal Commission approved a Cambria water tank plan on June 9. The approved plan is a smaller version than what the Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) had requested. The CCSD's original plan called for utilizing the existing Pine Knolls property, as well as annexing an adjacent portion of Monterey County Pine forest that is protected by a conservation easement. Under the new plan, which the CCSD will review and send back to the commission, encroachment off of the existing parcel shall not exceed five feet.

-John Peabody


Final Grand Jury report released

The SLO County Grand Jury released their final report this week. The jury made various recommendations regarding citizen complaint procedure to the police departments of Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, and the county sheriff's department. The grand jury notably pointed out that Morro Bay is the only police agency in SLO County that offers citizen complaint forms in Spanish.

The grand jury also examined the Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures, the Department of Health Services: Food Safety, and the Paso Robles Housing Authority.

Copies of the Grand Jury report are available at

-John Peabody


Action news gets new boss

Rarely in the world of television news these days do anchors take on the responsibilities of news director as well, and now KSBY-TV, the NBC affiliate in San Luis Obispo, has again become the rule rather than the exception.

Tony Cipolla, who has handled both chores for the last two years, has decided to relinquish his position as newsroom boss.

"When I took over as news director it was never meant to be a permanent position," Cipolla said. "After two years it was time for me to have one full-time position instead of two."

While it's common for a lot of smaller-market television news departments to operate in a dual-role environment, increasing competition has forced many to readjust their resources. KSBY News has always employed a news director, but it was confronted by an unusual (and sometimes not unusual) situation just after former news director Dave Colby was terminated when new owners (New Vision) took over in 2003.

According to KSBY general manager Tim Perry, it would have been difficult bringing in a replacement. "KSBY had a nearly a year under the new owners when resources were cut. Then the station was immediately put on the market and no news director in their right mind is going to come into the news director's position when the station is actively trying to be sold."

Cipolla, a fixture at KSBY and in the community for the past 15 years, nearly half of which as anchor, stepped in to take over the reins in the meantime.

"The situation with Tony was supposed to be temporary and temporary became a lot longer than he wanted it to be," Perry said. "When the owners we have today, Cordillera Broadcasting, took over in February this year, they saw a news director straining to do two jobs and very quickly saw we needed to get more help."

Dan Dennison, a broadcast news veteran of 30 years, will take over as news director. Hailing originally from Colorado, Dennison spent many years reporting in Denver at KUSA and later news managing in Colorado Springs at KOAA, working under the same company that now owns KSBY.

He just completed a two-year stint as news director for KHON in Hawaii upon coming to KSBY, and has already purchased a home. Dennison said he's looking forward to the job and to living on the Central Coast. "I tell my friends and colleagues, first Colorado, then Hawaii, and now this ... a perfect trifecta." Perry says the move will strengthen KSBY's news management operation.


-King Harris


World Pro Mountain Biking comes to SLO

What would Alex think?

The mountain bearing his name (also known as Cerro San Luis) is being used as the official course of the 2005 World Pro Mountain Bike Championships June 19 at the Madonna Inn. Racers, including local Travis Collins, will be ripping down Madonna Mountain in hopes of winning a new Jeep.

Officials will bring in dirt and create a course for the riders near the new expo center at the Madonna Inn, said Carrie Head of the SLO County Visitors & Conference Bureau.

"We want a lot of people to come and cheer for the race," said Head. Admission will be free for spectators.

SLO is the first stop for the "Jeep King of the Mountain" race. The other stops are Grand Rapids, Mich. and The Poconos in Pennsylvania.

According to the competition web site, racers will compete on a "Y" course. "The 'Y' features dueling competitors beginning the race on parallel dual-slalom tracks (the prongs of the Y) before converging midway down the course to race side-by-side (the crux of the Y). On this track, racers navigate banked turns, drop jumps, and rollers before an all-out sprint and tabletop leap to the finish, best described as 'two planes trying to land on the same runway at the same time.'"

Racing begins at 1 p.m.

-John Peabody


This week's news was compiled and reported on by Staff Writer John Peabody, Managing Editor King Harris, and Santa Maria Sun News Editor Andrea Rooks.


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