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Chuck Madson knows a thing or two about drug and alcohol abuse, kids and gang violence. He’s been in the midst of that triad for more than a decade as a substance-abuse counselor.

Madson has teamed with fellow Lompoc resident Tim Harrington on a crusade to create a Lompoc youth center, something the community desperately needs in the wake of youth violence and the city’s sixth homicide this year.

The pair has held a couple of focus groups, getting ideas from fellow Lompoc residents about making a sound investment in Lompoc’s future, which is exactly what a fully-functioning youth center could provide.

So far, Madson and Harrington convinced the folks at the Santa Barbara Foundation to give some seed money, which is paying for the first two focus group sessions, and more to follow in the months ahead.

The team is concentrating on four key areas: Career development, including on-the-job training with work crews and apprenticeships; education, involving tutoring, credit support, diploma and GED completion, and potential partnerships with Lompoc Unified School District and/or Hancock College; marketing and entrepreneurship; and case management and life skills, with mentorships, financial literacy and connecting with support services.

They’re getting everyone involved, which is the only way to go when trying to launch a new community venture. When the planning phase is completed, Madson and Harrington will seek investors. Are there any financial angels out there? If so, roses and personal satisfaction are guaranteed.

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We’re not certain whether roses or raspberries are appropriate for this next one. It could be both.

Roses to all of us for living in a place where we can get up close and personal with wild things. However, raspberries to those who get too close.

We’re referring to the recent sighting of a mountain lion at the Allan Hancock College Lompoc Valley Center.

The big cat was seen on the northeast side of the center near frequently-used hiking trails between the campus and highway. College officials warned everyone to keep a sharp eye out for such creatures, which while incredibly beautiful, can be extremely dangerous. That is especially true for large predators seen that close to heavily-populated areas.

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Mountain lion sightings are not so rare in North County, especially in the Santa Ynez Valley. Here’s what experts say about a confrontation: Maintain eye contact with the cat. Don’t run, because no human we know is fast enough to outrun a mountain lion. Get as tall as you can, wave your arms, yell and throw stuff.

And hope for a positive outcome.

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Roses to the Sierra Land Group, which this week donated $2.7 million to Marian Regional Medical Center, the funds to be used to create a behavioral health unit, and set up a crisis-stabilization arm to expand mental health care.

Santa Barbara County’s general lack of mental health facilities is well-documented, and the North County region has the fewest resources, often requiring patients to be transported to Santa Barbara for treatment.

The hospital's plans to create a crisis-stabilization unit would provide immediate care to those in crisis, and take both voluntary and involuntary patients.

Sad to say, but we live in an age when such services are sorely needed.

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Roses to Xenia Bradford, who this week was named acting city manager in Solvang.

She replaces David Gassaway, who apparently was invited to resign because of differences of opinion with the city’s elected leaders.

Raspberries to all elected representatives who don’t recognize the citizens’ inherent right to know what’s happening in their town. Think transparency.

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