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An Appreciation: Doing Something in DyslexiaLand

By Cheri Rae

A friend and colleague just sent me an urgent e-mail with the subject line, “Can you do something about this?” I opened the attached photo and was surprised to see an image of a t-shirt display from a downtown shop. There were a number of slogans, but I realized immediately what he meant about “do something.”

The shirt read, “Dyslexics are teople poo.”

Not OK.
T-shirt 1
My friend who sent the picture isn’t involved in dyslexia advocacy to the level that I am, but he is pretty aware of the issue. He teaches a couple of classes at City College, and is a youth coach very committed to understanding different learning styles and adjusting his teaching and coaching accordingly.

As the mother of a son with dyslexia, as an advocate for the 1 in 5 individuals with it, as someone who raises awareness in the school district and the community, and with the concern expressed by my friend, I knew I had to “do something.”

DyslexiaLand Cover[1]So I put on my baseball cap embroidered with “The Dyslexia Project,” packed a copy of my book, “DyslexiaLand” and took a walk downtown to the t-shirt shop in question. Nestled between Restoration Hardware and Panera, the shop, Moon River, caters mostly to tourists. It is packed full with a huge selection of souvenir shirts about partying, Santa Barbara, the surf lifestyle, and the California state flag.

I went in the shop, introduced myself to the shop owners and politely expressed my concern to them: “I understand that you might not see it this way, but that slogan is disrespectful, hurtful and offensive to anyone who has dyslexia, or deals with dyslexia. Since dyslexia is so common, affecting 20 percent of the population, that’s a lot of people—and maybe they won’t want to come in to buy any of your shirts when they see that one on display outside the shop.”

At first they didn’t quite understand the concern. The gentleman who runs the shop told me that he is sent shirts from the supplier, and he just puts them on display. His co-worker was more argumentative: “You want to buy all the shirts?” she demanded. I told her no, that I just didn’t want them to carry that shirt anymore because it was so insulting. The shopkeeper explained to her the meaning of “poo,” and she seemed to understand. He turned back to me and agreed to remove the offending shirt from the outside display that evening.

When I returned home, I surfed the internet and saw that the not-so-clever slogan is sold all over the place—but this shop is the only one that’s been brought to my attention with a specific request to “do something” about it.

I went back to the shop a couple of days later, and—frankly to my surprise—the shirt was gone.

I went in and shook the owner’s hand, thanking him for making a difference and keeping his word. He smiled and dismissed me, likely happy to be done with the issue.

Back at home I asked my son—the easygoing 17-year-old who quietly deals with his dyslexia every day—what he thought, if he thought I’d made too much a deal of it. He paused for a moment, and said, “Mom, good for you for doing that. I think it’s one of those shirts where it’s just not a funny topic.”

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Getting Schooled: Students and Parents

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150When you have kids in school, those first few glorious weeks of summer vacation seem to stretch on forever. But those last few weeks seem to speed up and pass way too fast in anticipation of the next school year.

And here we are, poised and waiting for the school bells to signify the start of 2014-2015. The local economy has experienced a boom in purchases of back-to-school clothes and shoes, notebooks and backpacks, essential electronics and all those extras like locker decorations, water bottles and reusable lunch containers.

As the First Day of School approaches, parents and kids of all ages anticipate, speculate and calculate the days ahead.

And so do their teachers, administrators and a whole host of volunteers who want to start the school year off in the most positive way possible.

Early in the week, along with scores of other parents, students and school staff, I worked a few shifts at the annual Dons Derby at Santa Barbara High School, where the entire student body shows up to turn in their paperwork, pick up their schedules, and face the reality of back to school.

As I processed their newly issued student ID cards in the timeworn building known as the “little gym,” I had the chance to interact with a lot of teens.

It was a reminder that despite all the technological advances—Digital, instantaneous photography! Smart phones! Texting!—the basics of high school society really haven’t changed that much in the many years since I was a high school student. Seniors still acted like they own the place; Juniors seemed a little stressed; Sophomores seem as through they have just about got their bearings, and the new little Freshmen just seem dazed and confused.

Passing through were student government kids; jocks and the surfers; giggly girls and drama queens; the determined individualists—all mostly cooperative, polite and conscientious about accomplishing their tasks and figuring out the system. There was a small amount of sullenness among those who worked hard to be too cool for school, and only a handful who really seemed like they didn’t want to be there at all.

Most of all, a couple of mornings of work on that historic campus made me proud of these kids growing into young adults staying on path and doing their best to accomplish their high school goals in challenging times—just as more than 100 classes before them.
sbhs
At the end of this school year, graduates, including my own son, will be heading out into the “real world” to pursue their dreams and chart their course to achieve their full potential to the best of their ability. They will be grounded in the values taught by their parents, the example shown by their community and the lessons they’ve learned in school—year after year, on that long pathway from pre-school to high school graduation.

May we be worthy of fulfilling that awesome responsibility to the next generation in our midst—wherever they are on that pathway—just headed back to school in a few short days.

Part II:  teachers get schooled

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An Appreciation: Neighbors, Favors and Unexpected Rewards

By Cheri Rae

A pleasant-looking young man stood on the old front porch and knocked at the screen door. He introduced himself and I braced for the come-on. Typically, it’s someone from Los Angeles trying to sell magazine subscriptions; someone collecting money for an environmental cause playing the guilt card by showing me the pledges of support my neighbors have made; or even someone with one of those overly complicated, cockamamie stories claiming to need money for gas to get to some faraway destination.

This time it was different.

He began his story: “My name is Ben and I live a few blocks from here, where there is street cleaning. I need to park my car someplace where it won’t get towed while I visit my parents in Portland for a couple of weeks. You guys don’t have street cleaning here, so I was thinking it would work out.”

“Okay,” I replied, wondering what the gimmick was. “When do you leave?”

“My plane leaves in two hours,” he said sheepishly.

Before I could think, my critical parent voice responded: “And you just now thought about this?”

“Well, yes. It costs too much to leave the car at the airport, so I want to leave it here and I was just hoping that it would be okay with you if I put it here while I’m gone…” His voice trailed off, his eyes pleaded.

My heart softened; my nice mommy self jumped in and argued with my cynical self: He’s just a kid trying to be responsible and work things out. Why not help him? He could be one of your kids one day.

“You’re in luck,” I said, and showed him a place to park on the long parkway where it would have the least impact on the neighborhood. We would be the only residents affected, since there’s a vacation rental across the street with people coming and going all the time, and next door to that one, a neighbor who was off on vacation and never parks there anyway. This one car wouldn’t really make much difference, and no one would even notice, much less call it in for being there too long.

A few minutes later he parked the car; it sat there undisturbed, just getting dirtier day after day. And then one afternoon, I noticed it was gone. Ben must have returned home, I thought. Hoping he and his family had a nice visit, I pondered our own fast-approaching empty-nest syndrome and what it must be like for his parents to have him back home for awhile, and then to say good-bye again.

BENA couple days later, I opened the front door, and noticed a small envelope tucked in by the beveled glass. It was a Starbucks card with a handwritten note, “ Thank you for letting me park my car outside your house! Hope you enjoy Starbucks—Ben.”

I’ve always taught my kids to do more than is expected, and to express their appreciation. Obviously Ben’s parents taught him the same thing—a nice young man just making his way in life, in this Santa Barbara neighborhood, his home away from home, right where he belongs.

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An Appreciation: The Library

By Cheri Rae

doorThe very thought of the library brings me back to my childhood when I rode my bike to the local great sanctuary of books, with the cool air, the quiet rooms, the smart and helpful librarians. It was a place I could go and feel I belonged. Most of all it was the freedom to browse the card catalog and wander amongst the shelves filled with endless rows of literary works. More than that, I could take home an armful of these treasures to read on my own time, in my own room.

Reading books in the summertime provided windows on the world for a girl growing up in the small town of Orange: They took me places I couldn’t have imagined; they taught me about people I learned to admire; they helped me dream about possibilities that had never occurred to me.

When my daughter was small in Santa Barbara, every Tuesday and Thursday morning we walked to the library for storytime. Back then, the long-time childrens’ librarian Shirley Morrison read with great dramatic flair; she and her helpers opened the books and let the stories fly out, charming and delighting the audience with their enthusiasm as they unlocked the secrets held between the covers of those colorful books.

It’s been quite some time since I got to sit with a group of little kids in the library, celebrating the stories contained in books. But last Thursday, I had the chance to witness a graduation ceremony for 15 enthusiastic new readers—students at Franklin School—who were recognized for their participation in a summer reading program. These children, each of whom had read more than 10 books during the program, were termed “Reading Ambassadors.”

The library staff enthusiastically welcomed them, commended them for their achievements, and reminded them how they could read aloud in funny voices, tell jokes while they read to their friends, and point out details on pictures. As a recorded version of Pomp and Circumstance played, each child was called up by full name—resulting in giggles and laughter from their friends—and asked to sign a chart-sized document, the Reading Ambassador Promise. It read:

I hereby promise to read stories to my friends and family

And share the fun of storytelling with my community.

With proud smiles and shy handshakes, each child was recognized, applauded and appreciated for making the effort to embrace reading.

Talk about positive reinforcement! These kids received goodie bags filled with discount coupons for local products and attractions, a free book from Granada Books, stickers, and even free admission to Legoland. Since it was a hot day, they even got popsicles to eat on the library lawn.

The message they all embraced is that the library is a cool place where they fit in. Once child noted, “You can borrow books for zero dollars.” Another observed, “And there are computers.”

Smart kids: They already understand the library belongs to them, and with computers, they library provides access to written materials, even for those who may have difficulty reading, due to dyslexia or other learning differences. Downloadable audiobooks—so kids can hear with their ears, rather than read with their eyes—offer another form of access to the magical world of reading. And the library also offers adult literacy services, where well-trained volunteer tutors discreetly help grown-ups decode the elusive secrets of the written word.

The decorative arch outside our Central Library—formerly the main entrance—is worth revisiting: it depicts Plato and Aristotle and our city’s coat of arms, and surrounding them are the shields of the great libraries of the world: University of Bologna, Bibliotheque Nationale, University of Salamanca and Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

Those storied European libraries have their place. But what goes on inside our local community treasure—each and every day—is every bit as significant in providing access to the written word to individuals right here at home. And for those newly minted Reading Ambassadors, the whole world is wide open for them to discover.

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Opening Day, Play Ball

Opening Day post 2013: A Rite of Spring
Opening Day post 2012: Santa Barbara’s Baseball Legacy

By Cheri Rae

From the patriotic notes of The Star Spangled Banner to the final strains of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World, each Dons baseball game played on Warrecker Diamond at Eddie Mathews Field is a link to the great legacy of the past and the shining promise of the future.

It’s the grassy infield, the raked and tamped pitcher’s mound, the carefully chalked lines, the view of the Riviera in the distance, the sight of neighbors hanging over the fences, friends and family filling the stands, cheering on the baseball team.

From the long green stirrups to the crisp, white uniforms, the Dons represent historic Santa Barbara—the City and the School—on their home field and far away.

Over the years these baseball players who have played for this fine school have been called the Donlets, the Horsehiders and the Diamonders; they’ve been known as powerhouses, workhorses, and most of all, a great team that plays a great game with a sense of tradition and character and pride.

In this place, on this field, dreams become reality, boys become men, and history is written for all time.

Play Ball!

1914 dons

Caption 1914 : The 1914 Dons Baseball team, as seen 2014 baseball program published by the Santa Barbara Baseball Parents Association as a fund-raiser for the team. The program incudes the story about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig’s appearance Santa Barbara High on their barnstorming tour of 1927, and a thoughtful tribute to Hall-of-Famer Eddie Mathews by Ron Shelton, both standout Dons players. Shelton, of course, is the award-winning screenwriter of memorable sports films like “Bull Durham” and “Tin Cup.”

1924 Dons


Caption 1924 : The 1924 Dons Baseball team, the first year the newly built school was occupied. Note the pinstripes worn by the players, and the suits worn by the coaches.

The programs are available for $5 at the Snack Bar during Dons home games.
Go Dons! (Click to enlarge photos)

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Historic Inspiration for Santa Barbara High Schools Girls’ Basketball Team

The Santa Barbara High School lady Dons will be playing the Division 3 State CIF basketball quarterfinals tonight at 7 P.M., J.R. Richards Gym. They will host Mt. Miguel with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Here is some historic inspiration by Cheri Rae.

Although we usually think of Pearl Chase as a formidable woman of great power, vision and wisdom, she began honing those skills when she attended Santa Barbara High School (class of 1904).

She organized the girls’ basketball team and served as the captain and player/coach. The first season consisted of five games—one game against Santa Paula and three games against Ventura—and Santa Barbara finished with a record of 2-3. As literary editor of the school’s magazine she wrote, “We hope that interest in basket-ball will increase among the girls so that with more practice and skill, the new team may defeat all challengers on the basketball field, and worthily uphold the name of the Santa Barbara High School.”

Basketball team

Santa Barbara High Girls’ basketball team circa 1904. Captain, coach, player: Pearl Chase, center, holding the basketball above her head.

 

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Santa Barbara High School Wall of Fame, 2014

By Cheri Rae

There are times when Santa Barbara simply and quietly reveals itself as a place populated by individuals of extraordinary talent and vision that seem to exceed its size.

The annual induction of honorees on the Santa Barbara High School Wall of Fame is one of those times; the 2014 ceremony took place on Friday, March 14. Honorees are chosen by students of the school’s Leadership Class, along with members of the Alumni Association to honor great success stories of alumni and to inspire students of today. Previous honorees (since the Wall was established in the main hallway in 2002) include illustrious alumni in all forms of endeavor, including Santa Barbara visionary Pearl Chase; innovative financier Charles Schwab; surfer Tom Curren; clothing designer Karen Kane; modern dance innovator Martha Graham and brilliant screenwriter Ron Shelton.

Inducted into the Wall of Fame for 2014 were five distinguished Santa Barbarans well-worth celebrating:

Stephen A. Benton (1941-2003), a pioneer in holographic imaging who studied at Harvard, taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and held 14 patents. He was responsible for medical imaging and the creation of the rainbow hologram that appears on credit cards. When he was a student at Santa Barbara High, he was active in the science, radio and Latin clubs, and he won the prestigious Westinghouse Talent Search.

John Campilio, Class of 1953. With his handlebar mustache and extensive activities in supporting student athletics and establishing student scholarships, he is well known throughout the community. Along with his co-honoree, Jack Huffard, he has been instrumental in the Historic Landmark status of Santa Barbara High School. Concluding his remarks he stated, “Santa Barbara, Hail to thee.”

Jack Hufford, Class of 1950. An always-active alumnus, he oversees special school maintenance projects—including curbs, flags, sidewalks and trash cans, and has been a force to be reckoned with in raising the funds for the recent façade restoration that began in 2011, and was completed in July. He noted, “I was proud to graduate from this beautiful school ranked #4 in the world—and we’re working our butts off to take care of it.”

Ward Kimball (1914-2002). The legendary Disney animator drew Tweedledum and Tweedledee; the Cheshire Cat and Jiminy Cricket, among other memorable characters. He won an Oscar for the cartoon “It’s Tough to be a Bird,” and worked on many Disney movies and television shows. When a student at Santa Barbara High School, he played trombone in the ROTC band and graduated in the Class of 1932.

Bill Oliphant, Class of 1964. Coach O, as he’s affectionately known on the baseball field where he still coaches the frosh/soph team, recently had the field at Santa Barbara Junior High named for him. He expressed his overwhelm at receiving the honor, and remarked, “I loved coming to school here.” He told a story about when a player from Buena was heckled, “Hey, man, what’s a Don?” He answered, “Something you’ll never be.” Counseling the students in the audience, he noted, “You have 720 days in high school. Make it count.”

The Alumni Association at Santa Barbara High School, more than 4,000 strong, is a close-knit community of dedicated to remembering the accomplishments of the past; helping the students of today; and building toward the future—taking seriously the school’s motto: “Once a Don, Always a Don.”

For more information: http://sbhs.tierranet.com

WALL OF FAME MAR 2014

Wall of Fame Recipients include (left to right) jack Hufford; Bill Oliphant; Christopher Benton on behalf of his late brother, Stephen; John Campilio; photo of Ward Kimball. Photo courtesy Tim Putz.

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Happy 125th Birthday Pearl Chase

classic pearl chase with flower 80 years oldToday we celebrate the birthday of Pearl Chase, which ought to be a day of recognition in this city that owes her so much. So much of the natural and architectural beauty we see around our community is directly attributable to her influence and vision.

In her day she wielded great power, but never held political office. Throughout her long life she was honored by organizations and individuals near and far. In her later years, the community gathered for commemorate her milestone birthdays.” – Cheri Rae

Hear are some of the great stories, memories and photos of Pearl Chase to run on Santa Barbara View over the years:

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Happy Birthday, Miss Chase: A Quasquicentennial Observation (125 years)

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150In 1888 the following events happened: the establishment of Hotel del Coronado; the writing of “Casey at the Bat”; the founding of the City of San Pedro; the creation of the National Geographic Society; the development of the first photos on Kodak film—and most importantly for the City of Santa Barbara, the birth of Pearl Chase.

Saint Barbara gave her name to the City of Santa Barbara, but the woman who shaped this city was Miss Pearl Chase.

College Cutie

College Years

Pearl Chase was the city’s most influential woman of the 20th century. With her interests in public health and education; the arts and architecture; urban planning and environmental integrity, she was a true Renaissance woman who blazed her own unique trail, and compelled others to follow in her footsteps.

She commanded attention wherever she went. She learned early how to make friends and influence people. She demanded action from individuals. She expected excellence in civic involvement. She fearlessly led without aspirations for elective office. She relied on righteous indignation as a political tool.

“Government officials are really temporary—they come and go—and this constant turnover means that many citizen organizations have far greater continuity and relative importance in community affairs,” she explained. “Don’t assume leadership will come from the professions: you often won’t find it there. If you’re to succeed, you must be led by citizens and citizen groups, with the interest and support of key public agencies.”

When I moved to Santa Barbara in 1989, the first historic figure I heard about was Pearl Chase. I was fascinated by stories of her leadership in setting high standards for this community in every level of civic involvement. I came to admire her fearlessness in speaking truth to power throughout her long and extraordinary life.

And, when I was moved to action as a citizen interested in historic preservation and alarmed about overdevelopment, I was inspired by her belief in citizen oversight of governmental action, and her determination to make Santa Barbara a better place for visitors and residents alike.

platebook2

Book Plate

Thanks to her example, I learned to find my voice as a journalist and a community activist in standing up and speaking out. I have long focused on a variety of quality-of-life issues that Miss Chase believed in and worked so hard to address.

In recent years, Santa Barbara has seen relentless moves to undermine, un-do and discredit the accomplishments of Miss Chase and those who worked with her to create this special place admired the world over.

Some claim that the grace, style and dignity she brought to this town are passé. Others insist that buildings should be taller, the population denser, and that there’s something elitist about heeding the past while planning for the future.

But here are still some residents who have learned from her example, who spend their time, treasure and talent to continue to make Santa Barbara a special place to live, work and play—and serve the greater good.

Pearl Chase relentlessly communicated her message using the tools of her time: personal contact, the telephone and the mail service. If she were with us today, it’s easy to imagine her blogging away, uploading videos to YouTube, posting comments on Facebook and using her own Twitter account to get the word out about current issues and events. As she noted at the age of 80: “My job is still the same. Get the message across. And make politicians and others feel they must pay attention to the people.”

signature

Signature, Click to Enlarge

Part visionary, part pragmatic community organizer, Pearl Chase associated with presidents and politicians; philanthropists and forward thinkers; influential friends close to home and across the nation. She enlisted their help to make this special community a better place.

In her time, she succeeded.

The city of Santa Barbara is sometimes called a jewel, a gem, a treasure; few visitors or even residents realize how many facets of this beautiful place—so highly prized and richly valued—can be traced back to a woman named Pearl.

November 16th, Pearl Chase’s birthday, ought to be celebrated as Pearl Chase Day in Santa Barbara, the city that owes her so much. So much of the natural and architectural beauty we see around our community is directly attributable to the influence and vision of Pearl Chase.

Today, 125 years after her birth, it’s time to remember what she did. And learn how she got it done.

–From the Introduction to Pearl Chase: First Lady of Santa Barbara, Olympus Press, 2013

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Fifty, 100, 150 Years Ago…

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150The day President Kennedy was shot. The worst day in the world. For the entire world.

For this then-10-year-old it was the end of the world. The end of childhood innocence. The end of feeling safe. Then end of America the beautiful.

It had been so very sad, in the summer, just a few months before, as we agonized over the premature birth of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. My grandmother, like so many grandmothers, devotedly prayed over rosary beads for the recovery of the infant son of our handsome young president and his beautiful wife. They looked so happy together, the young family, that nothing bad should ever happen to them. But it did.

He had something called hyaline membrane disease that kept him in an incubator, struggling to breathe until he couldn’t anymore, and the President’s tiny little baby died.

First the helpless, brand-new baby. Then, just a few months later his own father, the most powerful man in the world. Tragically, they were gone. For no reason. No reason that made any sense at all.

Poor Jackie Kennedy in her blood-stained pink dress, and then nothing but black, black, black. Poor little Caroline, left without her daddy just days before her sixth birthday. Poor little John-John so precious in his brave salute to his fallen father.

JFK50 logoIf our perfect First Family cold be torn apart, it felt like no family was safe. There was odd comfort in spending days glued to the black-and-white television where the presumed killer was—shockingly—killed. Live. While I was watching. The sad reporters made endless comparisons to the assassination of President Lincoln, and all the eerie coincidences to that equally terrible time so many years before. Another wonderful president who was a great hope for the nation.

In my 10-year-old mind, as I watched and wondered, I struggled to make sense of the past, the present, the future. The only thing I could come up with was to memorize the 100-year-old Gettysburg Address, that seemed to link the two tragic figures together over time and space.

“Four score and seven years ago…” I studied as I watched, squished in a safe little place I made for myself, between the slipcovered couch and the television console that brought us the news.  Surrounded with books and papers, some pillows and blankets, I memorized while mesmerized during those endless, bleak and empty days between the shooting and the funeral.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” What kind of a place was Dallas, I thought, what a terrible, horrible place where our President was killed. I wouldn’t want to go there, or even to Texas.

“That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  What would happen to America, when the only president I ever knew about, ever cared about—ever would care about, for all I knew—could be shot dead with whole world watching.

The historic words somehow provided some comfort to a little girl who felt so lost.

There was no giving thanks that late November, only sadness everywhere. Fifty years later, I can’t even imagine I can remember anything at all that happened 50 years ago. But there it is, seared in the mind of a little girl, the most vivid of all childhood memories:  a horrifying prelude to the violent acts that followed and defined a generation—at once so hopeful and optimistic, yet ever-aware of the possibility of a tragic end at any moment in the America where we grew up.

***

On a Related Note: On the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, filmmaker Ken Burns has challenged Americans to memorize the short and moving speech for a new project called “Learn the Address.” Participants who have submitted videotapes of their recitation include President Obama, Stephen Colbert, Usher, Martha Stewart, along with countless ordinary citizens and students across the country.

Burns’s film will be broadcast on PBS in April, 2014, to benefit the Greenwood School in Putney, Vermont, a boarding school for boys with learning differences.  To learn more about how to participate:  http://www.learntheaddress.org.

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A little Election Day Inspiration to Get Out and Vote While You Still Can! Get your Ballot to City Hall by 8:00 TONIGHT!

By Cheri Rae

My correspondence with a City Staffer today:
Hi,
Thank you for working with my 21-year-old daughter, so that she could vote while she’s on her European adventure.

She called me today and was proud that she has “voted in every single election” since she turned 18.

I’m pleased that you would faciliate her participation in that essential part of democracy and very personal act of voting. I appreciate that you extended yourself to make that possible; it’s a civics lesson she will never forget. (And neither will the rest of the family!)

Thanks again!
All best,
Cheri Rae

City Staffer’s Reply :
Thank you for the compliment. I was very happy to help her. I truly believe in our election system and I usually give my grandchildren, when they turn 18, a registration affidavit with a bow on it and make sure they vote as well. It is a very important part of our democracy.

Thank you

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One Day More to Cast your Vote

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150The rising chorus of candidates proclaiming their virtues will come to an end tomorrow: no more commercials, brochures or solicitations for financial support.

And when it all comes down to it, we’ll likely prove once again that the local practice of campaigning by parading candidates in front of the public in endless forums is virtually meaningless. Because the real work and heavy lifting is all behind-the scenes in endless fund-raisers and endorsement gathering that really make the difference.

Most of this is done well before any of us is paying any attention to what’s going on behind our backs. Before it’s in front of our noses, it’s too late to make a difference. And that’s the message that’s getting through: Hardly anyone is even bothering to vote.

Nothing could be simpler than filling out a ballot while sitting on the couch and returning it in its own postage-paid envelope. But our mail-only election is indicating a return rate hovering around 30 percent.

It has long appeared that the front-runners are the ones with the most money—with a couple of candidates raising well over $100,000 in hopes of securing their seats. If money is the only thing that matters, why bother voting? Because voting still matters, each and every one.

Some people still believe in the civic duty of voting, no matter what. I know of two examples of Santa Barbara residents who are currently far from home taking the time and making the effort to vote in this election. A teacher who is currently working in the Netherlands received her ballot when a friend hand-carried it back and forth on a recent visit. And a student, currently working as a nanny in Italy, made arrangements with the City Clerk’s office to submit her voting electronically.

Maybe these two responsible citizens were more enthusiastic from afar; they didn’t have to deal with the bought-and-paid-for glossy mailers, or even the silly dust-ups over who-is-giving-money-and-endorsements-to-whom-and-why-they-were-selected-and-what-the-expectations-are-when-no-one-will-say.

They cared enough to make a special effort. And so should you.

One day before an important election in our city, I am embarrassed to see what has come of politics as usual, when voting seems far less important than the amount of money raised.

There’s something wrong when wealthy candidates simply loan themselves big bucks to fuel their campaigns. There’s something seriously wrong when the impressive amount of money raised early on is used to intimidate potential candidates from entering a race. And there’s something really wrong when most of the residents of the city feel powerless in their ability to make a difference that they don’t even vote at all.

I understand the cynicism that comes from that; however, campaign finance reform is a discussion for another day. Until then, get out that ballot and vote.

You have one day more to choose among an interesting cast of characters on the ballot—some who express idealism and are not bought-and-paid-for in the usual way. Vote for one, two or three of them to represent you on City Council. The only way to confound the force of big money is for a big turnout that turns conventional wisdom upside-down.

Let your voice be heard. Fill out your ballot today and get it to City Hall before 8 p.m. on Tuesday night. You have no right to complain if you don’t participate. VOTE!

Drop Off Locations:
City of Santa Barbara 
City Hall – Lobby
735 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Calvary Baptist Church
 Sizer Hall
 736 W. Islay Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Franklin Neighborhood Center 
1136 E. Montecito Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Grace Lutheran Church 
3869 State Stree t
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

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Drive! They Say.

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150We hear endless discussions, predictions and lectures about turning Santa Barbara into a car-free paradise where everyone walks and rolls to destinations all over town.  Candidates and council members, enthusiastic enviros and young professionals exude confidence over this new human-powered lifestyle they are determined to usher into reality.

Good luck to them, but I have to wonder what they’re thinking and who they’re talking to.

Like have they been in contact with many teens lately? Particularly those who are approaching the magical age of 15½ when they can qualify for their Learner’s Permit and merge into the lane where they can Learn to Drive.

There’s a nice little industry out on the streets where steel-nerved instructors take hefty checks from parents in exchange for driving lessons for their kids—saving the family from unnecessary stress, yelling, tantrums, or fear of collisions. And plenty of kids with their Learner’s Permits are begging their parents to allow them to drive anywhere and everywhere as often as possible.

When the 16th birthday dawns, it’s finally time to earn the Golden Ticket to Freedom and Adulthood: the Driver’s License. Some, as my own son did, make their appointments for the first moment of the first day they can officially take the driving test. Others, like my own daughter wait a year or two, but the idea of not driving—ever, or rarely—never enters their minds at all.

Truth is, driving is high up there on the list of teen essentials, along with smartphones, texting and hanging out. Just take a look at the completely packed student parking lots at our local high schools—and the fine luxury cars so many kids are driving from home to school and all over town. Guaranteed—those kids aren’t purchasing those shiny BMWs, Audis and Tacomas, so include parents in support of the youthful driving lifestyle.

My kids have been raised six blocks from State Street, and as a family we have walked downtown and throughout the neighborhood; biked everywhere; and hiked trails locally—and far away—since they were born.  We were even featured in a front page newspaper story about families who walk together, and photographed on the stone steps of the Riviera; COAST’s Eva Inbar was also featured in that report.

Ironically, we even have the license plate Walk SB to accompany our longtime guidebook, “Walk Santa Barbara.” It goes on a car. As much as we promote walking and hiking in our business, and our personal life, we know that cars are still essential in our modern life. And pretending they’re not is just plain silly.
WALK SB PLATE
When my daughter enjoyed her cycling adventures with Santa Barbara Middle School; when my son takes his big downhill mountain bike trips to Whistler and Mammoth, driving is the mode of transportation that takes them to their destinations where they bike on trails. For them, for many—and as the former editor of several cycling publications, I daresay most—bicycling is a fun activity, a sport, not their preferred mode of transportation.

Even the biggest proponents of the biking lifestyle in the current race for council have regularly driven to campaign events.

Sure, it would be great if we all rode bikes like they do in Amsterdam. But they ride there on specially designated, separate bicycle lanes where everyone, young and old, pedals in relative safety. But that’s far from the reality of Santa Barbara, where even the most careful cyclist is forced to pedal right alongside distracted, multi-tasking speeding drivers; dodging parked cars, unthinking individuals who fling open car doors, and even pedestrians who dart unexpectedly into the congested streets.

But this notion of a magical care-free, car-free lifestyle is a nice one—and it is about to be on full display in Santa Barbara as enthusiastic devotees plan for Santa Barbara Open Streets—a one-day shut-down of 2 ½ miles of Cabrillo Boulevard, from the Bird Refuge to the Funk Zone. They’re expecting 15,000 participants in this celebration of human power that seems like Earth Day by the Sea. Expect Zumba and yoga classes; street performances; workshops in bike maintenance and even a stroller fashion show.

The Community Environmental Council has arranged for a 5-person “Conference Bicycle,” which will offer individuals the opportunity to share a ride with political officials and community leaders.

No word on where all those who arrive by car will park them, but to avoid headaches, participants are encouraged to bike, walk or carpool down to the zone of wheel fun.

The event is sponsored by COAST (Coalition for Sustainable Transportation); Traffic Solutions (a program of SBCAG); and presenting sponsor, Yardi Systems, among others, and it raised more than $5000 on indiegogo’s crowd-funding site. For more information: http://www.sbopenstreets.org/history/

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The Super-Superintendent: Dr. David Cash’s State of the Schools Address

By Cheri Rae

Dr. David Cash

Dr. David Cash

When Dr. Cash speaks, everybody listens. Not just because he has a booming voice that resonates, but because he has something important to say, particularly when it comes to giving a State of the Schools address, as he did at a community luncheon on Wednesday, October 23 at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion.

A large crowd drawn from a cross-section of the community—including parents, educators, administrators, school board members, business and non-profit leaders and politicos—got an inspiring message about educational changes coming our way, and a school district ready to cope with them.

Above all, his positive message was one accented with appreciation for a generous community that supports our schools, and for the teachers who interact daily with our children, and who are required to implement all kinds of changes with little time to prepare. As he put it, “If you know a teacher, give ‘em a hug.”

He spoke about everything new: Common Core Standards; State Testing of Student Achievement; The Local Control Funding Formula (that allows more decision-making at the local level) and the Local Control Accountability Plan (that requires public input into budgetary decisions).

He stated something we haven’t heard in education in a while: “Not everybody needs to go to Harvard! We need plumbers and electricians,” he noted, and explained that the new Common Core emphasizes “Critical thinking, collaboration, and communication,” all skills that benefit hands-on learning.

Cash also reminded attendees of the one-year anniversary of the district’s Strategic Plan—the first one in years. It features four major aims:

1)     Life, Career and College Ready Students
2)     Student, Family and Community Engagement
3)     Organizational Transformation
4)     Facilities Improvement

The Plan will be implemented with special commitment to Common Core; a technology learning environment in all schools; cultural proficiency; involvement of parents and the community; and early childhood education. It’s a big opportunity for educational transformation, and as he noted, “Performance doesn’t change unless learning occurs.”

After his prepared remarks, Cash returned to candidly answer written questions that ranged from one asking if there was a financial windfall for the district after the RDA was abolished (answer, no, because the State just took the money—prompting Cash to take a trip to Sacramento next Monday to plead his case), to one asking about dealing with transgender issues (the district has been dealing with these sensitive issues for a long time, on an individual basis, and the approach is working).

The man who inspired the district’s new motto: “Every Child; Every Chance; Every Day,” closed out by offering some personal anecdotes that reveal his level of compassion and understanding of individual students. He read a thoughtful letter by a high school student who learned a good deal about herself and others by the fine example of an admirable teacher who treated every student with respect. And he recounted how a junior high student recently told him—not knowing who he was—that thanks to the restorative justice program, school was no longer a place where he went “to get in trouble.”

And then Dr. Cash had one more statement to make, “If you know a teacher, give ‘em a hug.”

The event was sponsored by the Santa Barbara Education Foundation.

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Election Questions, or In this Campaign Season, Are we Treating Santa Barbara Like a Rare Jewel or a Cheap Bauble?

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150How does a voter find truth and integrity amongst all the campaign diversions in order to determine who would be the superior stewards of our special city for the next four years?

The state of our multi-months-long “campaign,” with its tedious line-up of forums, means no candidate ever has to answer more than a surface question. Hearing the practiced, smooth delivery of well-crafted talking points just isn’t very revealing, and hearing the word salads of also-rans is just plain irritating.

As I’ve sat in the audience of multiple forums, I’ve had time—when my mind admittedly wanders—to formulate a handful of questions about this campaign and others. I’ll just throw them out there for your consideration, in case you haven’t had time—or interest—in following the local political scene.

In general:

1)     How did the political parties take charge of our supposedly non-partisan local elections?
2)     And how did both parties get so splintered?
3)     Why don’t our “leaders” come together for much-needed campaign reform so that fund-raising isn’t such an important factor in who can even attempt to run—much less win a seat?
4)     What will it take to get a significant proportion of local voters to do more than complain—and actually vote?
5)     Why do candidates brag about “balancing a budget” when that’s one of their requirements of the job they were elected to perform?
6)     How do we inspire genuine and viable minority and independent candidates to run for City Council?
7)     Is this mail-in election actually worth it when an undisclosed number of voters don’t get their ballots?

In this race:

1)     Is City Council a full-time commitment or, a part-time hobby, or a stepping-stone to higher office?
2)     Will the voters decide that those who have already had their chance in elected office—recently and a long time ago—get another opportunity? Or will they take a chance on committed newcomers?
3)     Which three candidates think big enough to hire a well-qualified new City Attorney, after Steve Wiley’s retirement in December?
4)     Several candidates regularly tout their non-profit experience—many of which have experienced financial, efficiency and management problems: how does that non-profit experience qualify them to balance the needs of the community in governing the city?
5)     When candidates behave disagreeably in their performances in forums and in negative advertising, will we expect any different behavior if they gain a seat on council?
6)     How much of a factor are endorsements when voters don’t even know the criteria they’re based upon? Do long lists of endorsements really mean that the candidate is worthy of our support—or popular with a partisan group?
7)     What happens to the election results if there is a challenge to a particular candidate’s obvious conflict of interest?

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