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EcoFacts: Two Glimpses of Farming

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

strawberries3Santa Barbara County’s top crop in 2013 was strawberries, their commercial value being nearly three times that of the next one – wine grapes. Delicious sweetness and intoxicating pleasure, these crops give us a snapshot of our region and its small farms, including the people who pick the fruits. Strawberries and wine grapes are economically robust despite the current drought. (Strawberries require much water while grapes are far more drought tolerant.) Many who partake of these can afford organic, and fortunately we have many local farmers who want to fulfill that need. For the rest, pesticide use on strawberries has increased in California in the last few years. A new regulation will limit one of them.

A world away, most of the farms in India are also small, but  they don’t worry about drought.  March was the wettest in a century and thousands of acres of crops were destroyed by the rains. Most people rely on their small farms for their living, cotton and grains are the biggest crops.  India is one of the largest producers and users of pesticides in the world. Chemicals are aggressively marketed, expensive and unregulated, education about their use is lacking and serious health effects are common, not to mention those of the soil and general environment.

Healthy sustainable farming is spreading among small farmers in India, with help from the government and the World Bank. In one large state, 15% of the land is now farmed without any pesticides. Much of this work is organized by thousands of self help groups, mainly women, who learn together and help each other employ the new agroecological techniques that will “take the poison out of the food chain.”

Saturdays with Seibert

Local views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

The water at the bird refuge has turned a nice shade of green, like Pea Soup Andersen’s pea soup. And fortunately like the soup there is no odor. Some artists were even camped out painting the scene. Across the street I saw another example of the contrast regarding homeless in Santa Barbara. On the dead grass at east beach, one guy is face down with his buddy next to him, and yards away people play volleyball.

Playing Games with Sports Blackouts

Dear Editor:
It’s bad enough for Dodgers fans who can’t watch the Boys in Blue here in Santa Barbara, because Cox doesn’t have a contract with Time Warner Cable to carry their games. It was especially bad this week, when the Dodgers played the Giants. But hockey fans were out of luck, too, as the USA station carrying the Stanley Cup Playoffs was just a blue screen with a message on it.


West Downtown Neighborhood Clean-up‏

By Sharon Byrne

Saturday, about 25 neighbors took to the streets of West Downtown: Haley, Chapala, Bath, Gutierrez and De La Vina. The team was led by Mark Gisler of the Salvation Army (‘the Sally) and myself. We picked up 40 bags of trash and weeds, cleared overgrown brush, and wiped off graffiti. We also weed-whacked a bunch of foliage, that was acting as cover for drug use and public inebriation in the area. We bagged 30+ bags of trash (!) and dragged furniture, shopping carts, and tree limbs to the curb. Afterwards, we ate a lunch at the Sally donated by Happy’s Autobody, International Autohaus, and the Sally.

The equipment was provided by the City of Santa Barbara’s Looking Good program. Councilman Frank Hotchkiss was part of the graffiti crew at 8 AM. Councilman Gregg Hart came by to view the results and thank everyone at lunch after the clean-up.


Photo credits, Sharon Byrne and the Salvation Army’s Sharon Kerr.

Who Will Be Our Next Congressional Representative? It’s a Free-For-All!

By Sharon Byrne

It’s spring, and the city’s District Elections lawsuit only just settled. People are starting to look at newly carved-up city maps, and wondering if their district is up this year, who will run, etc.

And out of nowhere, the long-awaited shift in the Congressional District 24 seat hurtled into prime time, completely eclipsing city electoral processes. Lois Capps announced she is retiring. She’s served nine full terms in Congress, since 1998.

Suddenly, a seat many have longed for is wide open.

This seat has always leaned Democratic, and still does. But the redistricting exercise of 2011 and the ‘jungle’ primary of 2012 shifted make-up of the district, as you can see below:

Politico recently noted: “The 24th District has been competitive for multiple cycles and instantly becomes a more likely pick-up opportunity for Republicans in 2016 with Lois Capps’ retirement,” said Zach Hunter, regional spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Now that it’s an open seat, expect a free-for-all, with everyone getting in.

Politico is already speculating the seat could go to Laura Capps, the daughter of Lois Capps, though her tweet on her mom’s retirement was fairly coy on whether she’d run.

The locals, however, lost zero time jumping in. Within hours of Capps’ announcement of her retirement, Mayor Helene Schneider announced she would run for the Congressional seat. This may have surprised some, including the second candidate to announce, Supervisor Salud Carbajal. Helene clearly believes in the bold move. Some chafed online that “the body wasn’t even cold yet” before Helene announced her run, which itself is a bit of a chilling commentary. But politics is about the here-and-now, and Helene is not one to sit on the sidelines and wait to be wooed into the race. She’s showing her campaign style on the big stage, so take note.

Supervisor Carbajal announced that his Congressional run the next day, touting his work on the Climate Task Force in D.C. and his bi-partisan work on the Board of Supervisors.

Those two getting in the race will introduce some serious heartburn for the local Democratic party ranks around here. They’ll both be chasing Democratic party endorsements including the Democratic Central Committee, Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee. Both candidates are well regarded and respected within their ranks, making the choice painful. It could end up rather like the city council race of 2013, where endorsements were split between competing candidates. There are also elected Democratic officials’ endorsements to pursue. Expect some wailing and gnashing of teeth as they grind through the machinations of the Democratic party endorsements process.

William Ostrander, a Democrat from San Luis Obispo who played the high school thug in the film “Christine” is also running for Congress in the 24th District. He currently heads the nonprofit Citizens Congress.

So what about Das Williams or Hannah-Beth Jackson for Congress? Das is termed out of the Assembly in 2016, and probably would be expected to enter the Congressional race as an upward career move. But instead he’s entering the First District Supervisor race for the seat currently held by Carbajal. That seat is up in 2016, and Carbajal can’t run for Congress and re-election to his supervisorial seat at the same time. So the plan is for Carbajal to win Congress, and Das to become the new First District Supervisor.

Looking at the Republican field, well, it could include everyone and anyone from Mitchum to Dale Francisco to Justin Fareed, with the latter already announcing his run. Justin fired up some conservatives in 2014, invigorating them with his energy and youth, as he’s in his 20’s. He placed second in the 2014 primary.

Some have wondered if former State Senator Sam Blakeslee will get into the race. Katcho Achadjian, 35th District Assembly Rep, also announced. Both of these gentlemen hail from San Luis Obispo, which has proven to be the place Republicans go to die in Congressional elections. Fielding a San Luis Obispo Republican that can garner robust support up there is probably their best shot at winning the seat.

It’s only April, of 2015, and we’re already looking at a pretty crowded field for this race.

Let the free-for-all begin!

Chart Source:

Running the Gauntlet

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

I joke with my friends that I live 137 steps from JJ’s Liquor, it might be 144. Regardless, it’s very close. This evening I needed a Tecate refill and stepped out on the sidewalk, was almost run over by four youths on skateboards.  Whew, glad they weren’t on bikes.

As I turned into the driveway of JJ’s I saw a trio of regulars on the side. Shoot. I know these people and I feel for them. All they want is to drink. I didn’t want to enable so I turned and quickly crossed Montecito street with the green light. 7/Eleven is my second choice but this time it was overrun. 1, 2, 3… 5, omg, 7 people in front. Right underneath the signs that say no loitering.

Anyway, I got my brew, didn’t make eye contact with anyone and walked home. Then I grabbed my camera and walked back to document everything.

One more episode of my Santa Barbara View.


Earth Day, A Santa Barbara Story


Earth Day was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson following a trip he took to the Central Coast where he witnessed the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. The Senator was so outraged by what he saw that he went back to Washington and helped pass a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth. An estimated one in 10 Americans took part in the first Earth Day, observed across the country on April 22, 1970. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

Happy 233rd Birthday Santa Barbara!

Today marks the 233rd anniversary of the Founding of El Real Presidio and the City of Santa Barbara by his Majesty King Carlos III of Spain.

El Presidio de Santa Bárbara was the birthplace of Santa Barbara and home to the original founding ceremony, held on April 21, 1782.

There will be a two-day celebration this weekend which will include three events: Candlelight Dinner in the Historic Presidio Chapel, Founding Day Festival, and Rancho Roundup.  The candlelight dinner in the Historic Presidio Chapel has never been done before and will be a once-in-a-lifetime evening… for more information, CLICK HERE.

Newsman Makes News: Rob Kuznia, Former Santa Barbara Journalist wins Pulitzer Prize

By Cheri Rae

EzpbtQQlCongratulations to reporter Rob Kuznia, who won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting, along with his colleagues, Rebecca Kimitch and Frank Suraci at the Torrance Daily Breeze. It is the first Pulitzer ever for the newspaper, for a series of investigative reports about excessive financial rewards for the former superintendent at the Centinela Valley Union High School District.

After Kuznia was one of the many reporters fired in the News-Press “meltdown,” he covered school district issues here in Santa Barbara for the online publication Noozhawk. His notable series of articles there shined a light on problems in the district’s special education department, and led to the hiring of an outside agency to investigate and analyze ways to improve services.

I had the pleasure of working with Kuznia briefly at a local magazine, where both of us landed—along with a few other disenfranchised reporters—during those difficult days of local journalistic upheaval. He was soft-spoken, conscientious, thorough, and most of all, fair in his approach to his subjects.

We often used our lunchtimes to walk around the neighborhood near the office, always talking about writing, research and responsibilities to the reader. How wonderful it is to learn this news about a genuinely nice person and fine journalist who suffered personally and professionally at the hand of amateurs in the publishing business. His rise to the top of his profession is proof of the old phrase, “you can’t keep a good man down.”

Congratulations, Rob Kuznia, for this great honor based on your good work.