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Cruise Ship Season in Santa Barbara Stinks

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

The first cruise ship of 2015 anchored off of Santa Barbara yesterday. Regarding the pollution issue, the ships might be clean but the lifeboats are something else.

My dad had a small sailboat back in the ’60s and would refer to all motorboats as, “stink pots.” He would like this photo.

EcoFacts: The Economics of Water

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

waterAn email arrived a few days ago announcing the proposed water rate increases in Santa Barbara, the revenue from which would be used to help manage our ever dwindling water supplies, and possibly reactivate a very expensive desalinisation plant that was never put into use. Much has been written on the City’s water situation with Cachuma’s level being around 28% and Gibraltar’s even lower. But, if people are paying an extra $15 or $20 a month (not including Montecito here) will they change their water use ways and conserve considerably more? Still though, water remains one of the lowest utility bills, even as its importance is rising fast due to drought, flooding and climate change. A survey of 30 cities in the U.S. shows that water prices have increased 33% since 2010, even in places where rain is plentiful, but infrastructure maintenance is not. And flooding does not bring water to drink.

Also in this past week at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, global elite have been meeting to discuss the world’s greatest challenges. “For the first time, water crises took the top spot in the World Economic Forum’s 10th global risk report, an annual survey of nearly 900 leaders in politics, business, and civic life about the world’s most critical issues. Water ranked third a year ago.” This was in the Societal Risk category. In the Environmental Risk category, extreme weather events was first.

All to say, that more focus on the subject is needed in the world’s richest places, and in its poorest, where access to clean water can be a day’s work. The comfortable have long taken it for granted because it seemed plentiful, and its price supported that view. It does always seem to end up being about economics.

Santa Barbara by Bicycle

7% of Santa Barbara residents now commute by bicycle, while accidents are up 18% year to date. A recent enforcement sting was conducted to help reduce this uptick. According to officers, the three most common infractions made by bicyclists are: riding on the sidewalks, rolling through stop signs and failing to stop at red lights.
The City has summarized the situation in the following video:

Local Views of Santa Barbara

By Dan Seibert

P120037172 degrees this past Saturday, nice change from the steady rain a week ago. I was on boat taking photos of some outrigger and SUP races when we saw a woman with dolphins circling her. I can see a camera hanging around her neck, her photos must be amazing. The water was so clear we could see down twenty feet. (click to enlarge photo)

Living on One Knee: Learning to Manage While Waiting for Managed Health Care

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150It was the week before Christmas, a time of rushing around too fast and not paying enough attention. The last person who had driven my car had moved the seat back and lowered it; I planted my foot and, when the seat wasn’t where I expected it to be, I twisted my knee.

The minute it happened, I knew something went wrong. But I thought it was just a stretch, a strain, something that would go away. Besides, I had too much to do at that time of year to deal with it: a birthday celebration for my daughter, a drive to Orange County for a shopping trip with my sister, holiday gifts to select, food to prepare, friends and family to entertain.

Through it all, I tried to ignore my throbbing, swollen knee. Well, not exactly ignore: I did the whole RICE thing, rest (as much as possible), ice, compress, and elevate. Every morning I hoped it had magically healed overnight; every morning that first step confirmed it had not.

A couple days after the holiday, my husband finally convinced me to go to urgent care to get medical assistance. But when we walked in, the place was filled with people in obvious distress with bad colds and flu, and the waiting time was three to four hours. Not possible.

So I called Sansum Clinic, the local medical clinic approved by my new Platinum insurance plan with Anthem Blue Cross, and got the first available appointment, for the second week in January. When that blessed day finally arrived, I soon learned that my co-pay had been increased from $40 to $50. Fine. I paid the money, looking forward to relief.

I finally saw the physician’s assistant, who examined my knee and said it was a classic injury. He suspected a torn meniscus. That part of the knee doesn’t heal on its own, he explained, an MRI was needed so they could figure out exactly what is going on, and what to do about it. We’d get the OK from the insurance company—which takes just a couple of days, and schedule it. I could just manage pain with over-the-counter medications, he noted.

That’s when the new reality of “health care” kicked in. The injury occurred on December 17; the appointment was on January 8; I am writing this on January 20, and still no word. Actually, there was word: I called a couple of times and was told it was still too soon to be concerned.

Funny, I was pretty concerned about my increasingly painful knee, and the restrictions it was putting on my life. All this waiting was doing no good at all.

Last week I called to talk with the insurance liaison at the clinic. She told me that it’s her job to process and prioritize, that there were a number of cases waiting because one person was out of the office. She noted that I was lucky I wasn’t one of the ones who is dying or bleeding out. Those “emergent” cases take precedence. She told me that they have 14 business days to make a determination about whether or not to authorize the procedure (the one recommended by the medical professional who had examined my knee). She said I could appeal if they denied the MRI, suggesting maybe cortisone or physical therapy could work. She reminded me that no matter what the doctor had recommended, everything has criteria that need to be met—and that imaging procedures receive a great deal of scrutiny. She told me this is managed care.

And here’s the problem: my blasted knee hurts. Walking more than a block or two is a painful proposition, something quite humbling for an active person who wrote the book on walking Santa Barbara, for whom a sedentary life is unthinkable. Going up stairs is difficult, going down them is even worse—just at the time that the elevator is broken at the place where I work. I’ve learned to live with the pain, but it’s taking a toll by limiting my activities and affecting my mood.

I try to ignore it; sometimes I take ibuprofen, other times I take naproxen, hoping to take the edge off. The idea of taking anything stronger scares me, messes with my head, and makes me realize how easy it would be to get hooked on some painkillers while waiting for the medical procedure that would take care of the cause of the pain.

This is not health “care.” This is health business. Health bureaucracy. With people evaluated, shelved and inventoried like so many troublesome widgets.

I guess if I was paying cash for an MRI I could get it scheduled in no time. And if I could afford a fancy concierge doctor on demand, my knee would be fine by now. Apparently those hundreds of dollars we shell out every month aren’t enough to get basic medical care in a timely manner.

Somehow I don’t think this is what Universal Health Care is supposed to be, with the local health clinic serving as a way station and the insurance companies calling the shots about whether or not people get care—and how long they suffer before they get it. Or not.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of managing life on one knee in Santa Barbara. And waiting for health care to deal with it.

City of Santa Barbara Stationary Watering Devices for Historic Trees

Santa Barbara is experiencing one of the worst droughts in recent history. The City of Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department have taken a creative approach to watering the historic Italian Stone Pine trees on Anapamu by using stationary watering devices called irricades. Funding of the irricades was provided by the Pearl Chase Society.
Learn more in this short video created by City TV.

Take a Moment to Say ‘Thank You, Officer’

Letter to the Editor by Santa Barbara City Councilman Frank Hotchkiss

Letter to the Editor  by Santa Barbara City Councilman Frank Hotchkiss

Claiming police are racist idiots intent on hunting down minority miscreants just for the fun of it has unfortunately become popular among some in the United States today.

Being a cop is a dangerous, thankless and heartless job, they say, performed by people who couldn’t care less about the consequences of their actions. Beat ‘em up and lock ‘em up, particularly if they are a member of a minority.

I disagree. Police work can be dangerous, but it assuredly isn’t heartless and it most definitely isn’t thankless. In fact, it is a rewarding career aimed at helping people live their lives peacefully and happily.

One police friend once told me that being a cop is like sitting in a front-row center seat observing the drama of life. And you see it all — from the very, very good to the very, very bad.

Those of us with more mundane jobs rarely, if ever, encounter the raw substance of daily living, from violent personal conflicts to acts harming others’ person or property.

Cops see this every day. I admire their ability to remain on an even keel, and keep a smile on their face, despite a daily encounter with such people.

Is it thankless? There are times when a cop defuses a domestic situation, solves a problem that might lead to a fight, or steers a young person on a positive track instead of a journey to prison or worse. That must be very rewarding. And they have that opportunity, those decisions to make, over and over again, every day on the job.

But when people who don’t know them reflexively decry their efforts if an untoward incident occurs, then the job must seem thankless. That must make it very hard to continue in the spirit of community service, much less put their lives on the line when the situation demands.

“Politics is to blame, and I did turn my back (to the mayor of New York) out of disgust on how the country feels about cops,” said an NYPD lieutenant with 18 years on the force. (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 5, 2015).

Acknowledging that police are not perfect — who among us is? — but do their best to do it right, I would like to say to each and every one of them, “Thank you, officer.”

Forum Today on District Elections in Santa Barbara

Today at 2 pm, at the Louise Lowry Davis Center, 1232 De La Vina St., a special forum will be held to discuss the move towards district elections in Santa Barbara. The free two-hour event, titled “Will the City of Santa Barbara Return to District Elections?” is hosted by the The Santa Barbara chapter of the League of Women Voters.

Former Santa Barbara Mayor Sheila Lodge will be one of the speakers along with Jacqueline Inda, a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Santa Barbara’s at-large voting system. This November, voters will get the chance to weigh in on the proposal to elect six City Councilmembers from local districts while choosing a Mayor via the current at-large process.

A map of the districts circa 1940 on the wall of the Cajun Kitchen at De la Vina and Mission.

Open Letter to Council Member Cathy Murillo

Open Letter to Council Member Cathy Murillo

bidEveryone benefits from a vibrant and healthy business environment. We are a group of independent business owners on the Eastside seeking to organize a business improvement district (the “BID”). We’ve worked hard over the past few years and it has paid off: everyone agrees that conditions in the Milpas area have dramatically improved. Through the BID, Eastside businesses will provide for a cleaner, safer business district, and sponsor promotion and special events to bring more patrons to our area. All this can be accomplished for less than $1 per day per business in most cases.

You decided to oppose the BID before we even had a chance to present it to you. You have been walking our neighborhood recruiting business owners to oppose something that will bring them more business, create jobs, and increase sales tax revenues to the City… no cost to taxpayers. We have met with you twice to provide you with the facts about the BID. Although you know the truth, you have been deliberately spreading false information to Eastside businesses and community members.

You’ve said that the BID is a “new tax.” The BID does not result in any new taxes. It provides a mechanism for businesses in the BID to pay for enhanced services which benefit them directly and that they control directly. The businesses decide what services the BID provides (e.g. graffiti cleanup) and what community events to support (e.g. the Milpas Holiday Parade and Lights).

You’ve told business tenants that the BID will assess their landlords, who will then pass the assessment directly to tenants…..that their “rents will increase.” But you know that the BID proposal excludes property owners from assessments, so there is nothing for landlords to pass through to tenants. You‘ve also told people that there will be BID assessments on residences—again not true.

You claim that the ultimate goal of the BID is “gentrification” which will “drive out local businesses.” We’re proposing to pick up litter, wipe off graffiti, clean the sidewalks, do some promotion, and create some great cultural events. These things are good for businesses…..the existing businesses on the Eastside.

You’ve misrepresented your personal opinion about the BID as though it were the official position of the City of Santa Barbara. Naturally business owners are fearful of supporting something they’ve been led to believe the City opposes.

Finally, what’s wrong with events like the Trick or Treat on Milpas St and Milpas Christmas Parade? These events are for our area families and children, and they help promote the Milpas Corridor. This year, you organized people to use the Christmas Parade as a venue to protest the BID! The same Christmas Parade that you walked in as an elected City official……

You are the only City official opposing independent business owners trying to improve their Eastside neighborhood. Yet you didn’t have any objection to renewing the Downtown BIDs.

So why are you working so hard to sabotage our neighborhood’s effort to improve itself?


Gene Bantilan
Alan Bleecker
Chris Cowan
Rick Feldman
Jason Ferria
Bruce Giffin
Paul Gifford
Natalia Govoni
Santos Guzman
Jed Hendrikson
Ernie Lopez
Bea Molina
Dave Peterson
Julianna Reichard
Bob Shoppe
Natasha Todorovic
Chris Wood