Archive | July, 2012

Chick-Fil-A Controversy Coming to Santa Barbara

The tear down of the Burger King at 3707 North State Street has officially begun… in its place will be a Chick-Fil-A restaurant. People and even cities across America are boycotting Chick-Fil-A after President Dan Cathy stated that he believed “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation” when it comes to the discussion in our nation regarding what constitutes marriage. “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family,” Cathy said. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.”

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Cost of Corrections

By Loretta Redd

I find it somewhat paradoxical that with all of the conservative support for the ideals and rights of the National Rifle Association, they wouldn’t also be more proactive in funding the jails in which to house those who use guns so prolifically.

On the other hand, if we managed to remove guns from the equation between perpetrator and victim of crimes, we might substitute the challenge of funding the conversion of correctional facilities into educational campuses.

Dream on.

But speaking of dreams, Sheriff Bill Brown is closer to having his dreams of the North County correctional facility built in Santa Maria, since the Board of State and Community Corrections has just awarded another $20 million toward its construction, bringing the grants total to $80 million.

The original $60 million was provided through California’s Assembly Bill 900. It’s a bit of a stretch for most non-political folks, because AB 900 is entitled, Jobs and Economic Improvement Through Environmental Leadership Act.   Its purpose was to streamline judicial review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

I don’t understand either, but maybe it’s going to be a Green Prison, with living gardens on the rooftop, energy saving lighting, and recycled cell bars.  However they twisted it, there was still sixty million reasons for the Sheriff to love it.  Especially since the voters of Santa Barbara County had declined to fund the jail through the voting booth for the last two elections.

The State has now provided 90 percent of the costs, but the County must still come up with another twenty million or so, not to mention the annual operations costs, which add another twenty million or so.  That little inconvenience aside, by 2018 we should have a premier correctional facility, and long-overdue easing to our current jail overcrowding.

I’m hopeful that the County will do some tough negotiating on contracts and salaries between now and then, so we don’t find ourselves in a similar blackmail situation as Governor Brown.  The State prison lobby is his largest political benefactor, so he manages to meet their every demand.

Sheriff Salary Document

At the State level, prison guards are not only very, very well paid, but they are now able to accumulate an unlimited number of vacation days, and exchange them for cash- at their highest salary- when they leave.  If the guards are furloughed, or forced to take time without pay, they get that back in one lump sum as well.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal published an article suggesting that a California prison guard fared better than a Harvard graduate:

“Training only takes four months, and upon graduating you can look forward to a job with great pension, health, dental and vision benefits (forever) and a starting base salary between $45,288 and $65,364. By comparison, Harvard grads can expect to earn $49,897 fresh out of college, and $124,759 after 20 years…As a California prison guard, you can make six figures in overtime and bonuses alone.  Besides, while it costs $200,000 to go to Harvard, you receive $3050 per month for the four months of Cadet Training.”

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Thomas Storke’s Editorial Credo

In light of recent events and the rapidly-changing media landscape in Santa Barbara, here’s a great quote called My Editorial Credo, from an address by Thomas More Storke at Stanford University, June 1951.

I believe that the first obligation of a newspaper editor is to his own community and the area directly influenced by his newspaper.

I believe that an editor and publisher, better than any other single force, can form and develop character for his community.

I believe that with few exceptions, this is a lifetime job; because the development of a community is the slow development of people.

                                                       –from California Editor by Thomas M. Storke, 1958

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Sounding Off

By Cheri Rae

I’m sorry to hear the Sound go silent. Young Jeramy Gordon came to town with a good idea and almost no idea what he was getting into. And for a while, he did a fine job with his upstart publication; just about the only person who benefited from the News-Press mess of 2006.

The time was ripe for a change—but, sadly, it died on the vine.

But it wasn’t for lack of talent.

He had lots of help from local professionals who offered their expertise, their community contacts and their mature points of view to this young publisher who was getting on-the-job experience in the volatile publishing world. Many of us worked at far less than our going rate—yes, and sometimes for free—just to help him get his project off the ground.

For a couple of years, Loretta Redd and I were featured columnists—she on Tuesday, me on Thursday; both of us met every Monday afternoon with our young publisher-editor, schooling him weekly in Santa Barbara issues and individuals, politics and priorities.

He gave us an open forum to express our views—and for that I am grateful. And, in return, I won a couple of statewide awards for his publication. I wrote about a number of local issues: the candidacies of JMike (remember him?) and Steve Cushman; the proposals to eliminate the Y at De La Vina and State and institute height limits; well-researched history and preservation pieces. And there were national issues: very personally revealing columns about race, adoption and gun violence. I eventually learned that a member of our community actually nominated that body of work for a Pulitzer Prize—not bad for a new, little local paper.

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Santa Barbara Unitarian Society Courtyard

Santa Barbara virtual reality/ 3D photo of the week by Bill Heller.

Another spot that caught my eye as I was driving around town one evening recently. This beautiful bit of Santa Barbara architecture is the Santa Barbara Unitarian Society on the corner of Santa Barbara and Arrellaga.

Controls from left to right:
+ Zoom in;
- Zoom out;
change the way the view moves when you drag;
toggle full screen
-Bill Heller

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Toon Op: Tunnel Vision

Solely for use on By award-winning local cartoonist Steve Greenberg.

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EcoFacts: Self Storage

Well… this is actually about stuff, which eventually becomes trash.

So here is one story of stuff, a macro story. Americans spend more on consumer goods than anyone else. This has been really good news for the home organization, container and self storage industries, all apparently recession proof.

In 30 years, average home size has grown 50% while family size has shrunk. Those extra rooms and closets are there for the filling. And happily, stuff has gotten cheaper due to technological advances and manufacturing shifting to lower wage countries. And its value has dropped with the prices, making it more disposable, less needed. If we have it and don’t need it, we usually store it. As we all know, this abundance can be stressful. Realtors sometimes suggest clearing closets because stuffed ones make potential buyers uncomfortable.

Some facts from the Self Storage Association:

  • One in ten U.S. households rent storage space, an increase of 65% in the last 15 years.
  • There are currently around 50,000 self storage facilities in the U.S. covering 2.2 billion sq. ft., or more than 78 square miles.
  • For every person in the U.S. there is 7 sq.ft. of rentable storage space. In short, our entire population could fit under the roofs of these buildings.

The Association offers businesses this ad for their marketing – “Declutterfy – Your Home, Your Office – Your Life!” sounds so good, except that after moving it all out of sight, there’s the having the storage space part.

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Santa Barbara Garden Post

August, First Fall Plantings!

Mid August plant winter seedlings in SoCal coastal areas - semi shade.

A treat from blog In My Kitchen Garden – Waltham 29, Green Sprouting Calabrese, & Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli! The joy of planting seeds is you can get varieties not available at nurseries, and plant as many as you like!

August is the time of the turn of the seasons here in coastal SoCal!

It can be blazing hot, with harvests you can’t keep up with, to planting the first seeds of your winter crops! If you have space and want to, another round of fast growers like beans, or transplants of early maturing corn, are plenty successful late summer for early fall harvest. And, as always, plant your year-rounds, beets, bunch onions, carrots, summer lettuces, radish, to keep a colorful variety for your table. Otherwise, keep harvesting and wait for September or October planting.

Design Your Fall Garden!
Come to my talk at the Goleta Library Aug 18, 10 to 11 AM! We’ll get into it in detail!

Get your seeds!
A hint about broccoli – intermingle different varieties for pest prevention!UC study explains

Plant from seeds! As your hot crop plants finish, improve that soil for fall seedlings to be started there. If there isn’t room for full space yet, start a nursery area mid month August in a semi shaded spot – celery, Brassicas: cabbage, brocs, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower, kale babies. Mid-August is one of the best times to plant Swiss chard from seeds! Move plants from the nursery area as space becomes available. But have a plan. Tall plants to the North or on the shady side, then plants of graduated sizes to the South or sunniest areas. If you are starting them in 6 packs or flats, plant mid month to be put out late Sep, Oct. If starting seeds isn’t your thing, too much tending, or you will be away and can’t keep them watered, not to worry! You can wait and do September transplants, Labor Day Weekend is perfect!

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Santa Barbara Greek Festival

By Cheri Rae, as published by Santa Barbara Seasons

With all the talk these days about Greek austerity measures, we Santa Barbarans can only wonder what could be going wrong in that ancient Mediterranean land. For most residents, the closest we ever get to Greece is the annual Santa Barbara Greek Festival held at Oak Park. It’s one of the most joyful weekends of the summer—an epicurean celebration of sumptuous foods, distinctive drinks, soulful music, lively dancing and memorable costumes.

And festival organizers assure us they’re not about to go all stoic on us this summer in Santa Barbara. A tradition for nearly 40 years, Santa Barbara Greek Festival won’t cut back on its 39th annual presentation of Greek food and culture to the community.

The festival originated in a fundraising brainstorming session with parishioners of St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, long before they built the remarkable Greek village sanctuary nestled into the Mediterranean foothill setting.

Longtime festival director Mike Pahos gives full credit to Helen Stathis for coming up with the idea that started it all. “She said, ‘You know, on the Saturday before Fiesta week, there are a lot of people here in town, because Fiesta starts on Sunday, but there is not much going on. Let’s have a little picnic at Oak Park; we will serve Greek food, have music and everything, and we will call it The Santa Barbara Greek Fiesta BBQ,’” Pahos recalls.

Photograph by Nell Campbell

”The first festival was from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and afterward, even though we all fell, exhausted, to the floor, we were pleasantly surprised that everyone seemed to enjoy the food, the singing and the dancing.”

That single fundraising barbecue grew into a major annual event for the parish, requiring months of preparation—including planning, publicity, cooperating with a maze of bureaucracies, cooking up old family recipes, and selecting and presenting an array of talent on two stages for two full days of non-stop entertainment. Add managing a small army of volunteers who run an assortment of booths—from the labor-intensive food line to the well-oiled machine that is the pastry booth, the boutique with fine jewelry and even the small chapel where religious items are offered—and the parishioners certainly have their work cut out for them!

Pahos notes an unexpected aspect of Santa Barbara at just the right time that helped ensure the success of the Greek Festival, “There was a very active folk dance community in Santa Barbara, and those dancers were a constant presence on the dance floor, which taught us a valuable lesson: never stop the music!” When the late, great Plaka Restaurant was founded—which featured owner George Alexiades performing his famous table dance—many Santa Barbarans learned the art and considerable fun of Greek dancing. And they couldn’t wait to show off their skill every summer at the Greek Festival.

Photograph by Cheri Rae

The rest is history. The Greeks were joined by the Italian, the German, the Thai, the Chinese, the French, the Caribbean and the Jewish communities—all of which produced similar festivals at Oak Park. “Summer in Santa Barbara was filled with ethnic festivals, unique in the entire country,” says Pahos. “It was magic.”

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Toon Op: Parks Sparks

Solely for use on By award-winning local cartoonist Steve Greenberg.

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High Stakes Santa Barbara Congressional Race Outcome Depends On Surprising Contingent

By Sharon Byrne

The 24th District Congressional race between Lois Capps and Abel Maldonado is one of the most watched in the country. National Republicans are taking serious interest, rubbing their hands in gleeful anticipation, as they smell a serious chance to take the seat.

Redistricting is the reason for their excitement. Look at the new district voter registration breakout:

Notice the near-even split between Dems and Republicans now. The 24th is now very competitive. Even so, there’s a longtime, popular incumbent: Capps. It’s always daunting to try to unseat an incumbent, but the challenger in this case has some distinct advantages.

Advantage 1: Maldonado is Latino. There’s a sizeable Latino vote in this district. One could reasonably predict that some traditionally Democratic Latinos will vote for him. Thus, the campaign headquarters planted squarely on Milpas St, a strategy that is clearly working. It looks like a Maldonado-for-Congress truck exploded – his signs and enormous banners dominate the area.

Advantage 2: He’s moderate. So much so that local Republicans are huffing that he’s not conservative enough for them. Those mutterings won’t lead them to vote for Capps, though. Conventional wisdom is that Republicans can be counted on to vote early, and to vote Republican.

Advantage 3: Maldonado has big name recognition. That leads to…

Advantage 4: Campaign contributions. Both candidates have large war chests:

Now, if every Republican votes for Abel, and every Democrat for Lois, we’ll be looking at pretty much a dead heat, given the near-even numbers of Democrat and Republican voters.

Thus, the big story here is that the Independents will decide this race.

‘Independents’, or Indies, for short, consist of 3rd party (green pie slice), and Decline-to-State (DTS) (yellow pie-slice) voters. Note: there is an American Independent Party. They are counted in with Libertarians, Greens, and other 3rd parties. ‘Indies’ have not registered as Republican or Democrat, and can’t be counted on to predict election outcomes via traditional party registration methods.

That’s got to be making both campaigns sweat: their chance for a win comes down to betting the farm on an unpredictable crowd.

And a sizeable one at that: Indies comprise 26% of registered voters in the 24th Congressional District.

Maybe Indies can start a new chant a la Occupy:

We are the 26%!

The good news is both candidates will have to do some things differently to win the Indies. They’ll have to work a lot harder. That should benefit all voters.

Indies like moderates. We admire people who cross party lines, even buck their party, to do the right thing by the public.

Indies are also in a strong anti-incumbent mood at the moment, as the Pew Research Center points out:

The level of anti-incumbent sentiment among independents is extensive. For the first time on record, more than seven in ten independents (73%) say that most members of Congress should not be reelected. Just 37% of independent voters would like to see their representative reelected to Congress while 43% would not. (emphasis added)

Better change the Indie rallying cry to We are the 73%!!

Traditional party-aligned political operatives can’t digest DTS / Indies. They keep thinking, ‘well you’ve got to be aligned with somebody’.

While that is how one thinks when safely ensconced behind party lines with many others who all think the exact same way, Indies deliberately step outside those lines. We balk at calls to advance party agendas, because parties typically sacrifice the greater good for the party’s own advancement. No thanks.

We look at the issues. We want someone that thinks about what’s best for the public as a whole. We’re concerned about the economy; jobs; exorbitant spending on ridiculous projects while the very real needs of our citizens go unmet; the debt (each American’s share is $50k+); sensible immigration reform; health care that is affordable, accessible, AND sustainable; and most importantly, our country’s future.

We look for the candidate that wants to serve, that listens and responds with thoughtful solutions, isn’t spouting party rhetoric, and doesn’t play silly political games.

If you want to drive Indie voters into the opposition camp, keep deploying partisan tactics and vote party line. Attempt to shame Indies for not playing the role of good little Democrat or Republican. There is nothing an Indie hates more. Take a lot of money from outside the district, and/or state. Big money campaign contributions from special interests means you’ll be serving your clients, not we the people.

If you want to win Indie voters, make haste in articulating a well thought-out vision to address our collective problems in this country. Buck your party when they pursue silly aims. Prove that you can be moderate, and counted on to do the right thing by the country, and your district.

This is the first time the Congressional race for our district has depended on winning Indies. It will be very interesting indeed to see how these candidates rise to that challenge.

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Parks for People—People with Money

By Cheri Rae

For the past several years public officials have been pushing the notion of high-density housing in our community, pointing out that because of our proximity to parks and beaches—that serve as our big communal backyard—the American Dream in Santa Barbara has evolved past the need for everyone to have  a little bit of space to call their own.

There’s a little hitch in that plan, though, since increasingly, our public parks and beaches are eyed as potential revenue generators and sources of income for unbalanced budgets. Try getting anywhere close to East Beach, West Beach or Ledbetter on a nice day without having to pay for parking—or even taking a walk along Chase Palm Park, on the Breakwater or Stearns Wharf without digging into your wallet to hand over your cash to the City of Santa Barbara.

Now the County is once again considering parking fees at several public beaches, including  Rincon Beach, Loon Point, Lookout Park, Arroyo Burro Beach, Goleta Beach, Ocean Beach and Guadalupe Dunes Park.

This can prove problematic, particularly for individuals who bought into the notion of postage-stamp outdoors spaces, and who are accustomed to being able to access these beaches for fitness, recreation, sporting and socializing activities—close to the city and in remote areas—and not expecting to pay for parking. Or even able to afford it.

The Santa Barbara County Park Commission is holding a series of meetings to hear from the staff and the public about the notion of paying to play in the parks.

They include: Continue Reading →

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RIP: Santa Barbara Daily Sound

“The company is not going out of business,” founder and publisher, Jeramy Gordon told the Independent on June 27. “The Daily Sound is still alive, it just will not be in print for the next couple of days.” The Daily Sound never returned to print and yesterday, an error message greeted visitor of, below. So, after six years, without a thank you or an explanation, the Santa Barbara Daily Sound ends.

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Wisdom of the Ages

By Loretta Redd

In 1995, then mayor Harriet Miller, was quoted as saying, “It’s not enough to just do your job.  You have to project a sense of leadership to let people know that someone’s in charge.”

With that attitude, and with the interest of the financial security of the city in mind, the City Council voted to enact a policy of budgetary reserves to protect it from the see-saw effects of the economy on operating funds, or from unpredicted disasters.  Visionaries, indeed.

Though perhaps not as passionate an issue as saving the plovers, or as sexy as redesigning de la Guerra Plaza, or as compelling as watching the sea level rise above our circumferential  blue line, the importance of that decision in 1995 cannot be overemphasized.   Here’s a synopsis (PDF left):

Resolution No. 95-157 established four different reserve uses:

1. Reserve for Capital- used to cover unexpected capital needs and/or capital cost overruns. In the General Fund, the reserve should equal a fixed amount of $1 million.  In Enterprise Funds, it should be either 5% of net fixed assets or the average of capital funded in the previous three years.

2. Reserve for Emergencies- As the name implies, these reserves provide funds in the case of an emergency, such as natural disaster, during which the City would be facing increased costs immediately to respond to the emergency and potentially see a decline in revenues.  It should be funded at an amount equal to 25% of the operating budget.

3. Reserve for Future Years’ Budgets- This reserve is intended to provide funding for ongoing costs and avoiding a disruption of services during periods of naturally occurring declines in operating revenues typically associated with economic downturns.  It should be funded at an amount equal to 10% of the operating budget.

4. Appropriated Reserve- The reserve establishes an appropriation that serves as a cushion for unexpected costs.  The policy required that this be established for the General Fund and each of the Enterprise Funds in an amount equal to 1/2 to 1% of the operating budget.

The resolution requires Council approval any time the use of these policy reserves is proposed and that any use of policy reserves be accompanied, when feasible, with a plan for replenishment within a reasonable time.

While some California cities seem to govern by the motto, “A penny saved, is a government oversight,” we have been fortunate to continue significant cost savings through good city management which is demonstrated through accurate financial reporting, and relatively low liability and workers compensation payouts.

Though we have never approached the fate of cities like Stockton or San Bernadino, which today see bankruptcy as the only way out of their fiscal mismanagement,  we have nonetheless flirted with irresponsible oversight by council as recently as 2005.

If you take a moment to study the chart, you will see that the city reserves began falling in 2001, and by 2005, with a Council comprised of Mayor Blum, Barnwell, Falcone, Horton, Secord, Williams and Schneider, our reserve policies went into the “red.”   Reserves went to pay for a host of things, most of which did not rise to the level of “emergency.”

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Poll: Naming the Santa Barbara Airport Terminal

On the Docket… today, the Santa Barbara City Council will take up the discussion of naming the Santa Barbara Airport Terminal. With the Airport Commission and Santa Barbara City Council at odds… you decide, multiple selections allowed:

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