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Panhandling in Santa Barbara, California

The Los Angeles Times published a photo essay titled Panhandling in Santa Barbara.  One of the captions notes that Citycouncilman Randy Rowse is considering an initiative to hire private security guards on State Street to control aggressive panhandlers and unruly street people. Viewers… let’s vet the new idea via the question of the week:

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The Other View: No on Measure P

Editor’s Note: Measure P has generated more letters than any ballot measure in recent memory, so we’ll try and run some from each side leading up to election day.

By Jean Mollenkopf

We have an enviable way of life here in Santa Barbara County. Its physical beauty includes our beautiful coast and spectacular scenic interior. It is also a safe county, and that isn’t any accident. We have been blessed with well-trained public safety professionals who have been able to rely on having the resources to do their jobs: keeping us safe so we can enjoy what life here has to offer. Unfortunately, this is threatened by the misguided, deceptive Measure P.

Despite what its supporters think, the plain language of this bill will make it impossible for existing onshore oil and gas production to legally continue and will cause its gradual shutdown. When that production stops, so does the tax revenue it generates. Hundreds of jobs will be lost by multitudes of long time Santa Barbara County citizens. Local governments in Santa Barbara County, like their counterparts around the state, have been operating on tight budgets, and probably will be for the foreseeable future.

Loss of the revenue from onshore oil and gas production will blow a hole in the budgets of local government, which will be forced to cut back on public safety and other vital services. The cruel irony of Measure P is it really does nothing to achieve its stated goal. It will instead inflict very real damage on the capability of our public safety agencies to keep us safe. I urge you to Vote No on Measure P.

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Measure P Will Protect County Funds




Scott Barnett

The claims being made by the oil industry in regard to Measure P resulting in cuts to County funding are completely false and unfounded.

They quote a June 13 county report out of context, which actually says that Measure P will have, “no immediate loss in tax revenue,” and that current oil wells can continue to, “produce all their available oil.”

The reality is that we may already by losing money on having the oil industry in our County.

The public has to pay for road maintenance from heavy truck traffic as well as for environmental contamination and other impacts. In the last decade and a half, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department has responded to over 400 waste leaks and spills from oil production. We can’t afford to increase this further.

Other places have an oil extraction tax to compensate for the high costs of this industry, but we do not. The only money Santa Barbara County gets from oil companies is what they pay in property taxes. And those taxes account for only 0.6% of our total County Budget. Continue Reading →

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Santa Barbara Democratic Party Endorsements

There is another election on the horizon with vote-by-mail ballots currently arriving. Voter turnout is expected to be very low; so to whet your whistle, here the are the Official Santa Barbara County Democratic Party endorsements for November 4, 2014:

US Congressional Representative, 24th District: Lois Capps

CA State Assemblymember, 37th District: Das Williams

CA State Assemblymember, 35th District: Heidi Harmon

Vote YES on Measure P
Ban fracking and extreme oil extraction techniques in Santa Barbara County

Hope School District: Nels Henderson and Tony Winterbauer
Goleta Sanitary District: Beverly Herbert
Carpinteria School District: Michelle Robertson
Goleta Water District: Meg West
Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District: Paola De La Cruz and Jacob Lebell
Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees: Jonathan Abboud
Lompoc City Council: Darrell Tullis and Robert Cuthbert
Santa Maria City Council: Tony Coles
Santa Maria Joint Union High School District: Diana Perez

Statewide Endorsed Candidates
Continue Reading →

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Santa Ynez Grapes

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Grapes on the Vine

Wandering through the vineyards of the Sant Ynez valley. Thanks to our extreme weather this year, it’s been an early grape harvest throughout California. I love to watch the grapes develop for photo opportunities like this and just because I’ve always loved plants in general. This year I noticed early in the summer the grapes looked unusually advanced for the time of the season and with a bit of research online I found that vineyards were expecting a particularly early year. Early, but no less impressive and beautiful from the looks of things.

-Bill Heller

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EcoFacts: Climate CHANGE Climate

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

A globally coordinated day of action last weekend mobilized thousands in Paris, Berlin, Istanbul, Melbourne, Jakarta – in 162 or more countries – with the People’s Climate March in New York City being the centerpiece. An estimated 300,000 – 400,000 people showed up. This was planned to be shortly before the U.N. Climate Summit, where the need for action was evident in the meeting of government leaders and 200 CEOs. The UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon stated “climate change is the defining issue of our times.” The World Bank also announced that more than 1,000 businesses — along with 73 countries and 22 states, provinces and cities — have expressed their support for carbon pricing. Not to mention the announcement of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund selling $50 billion US worth of fossil fuel assets in an effort to fight global warming.

In London an estimated 40,000 people marched, and the news from there as reported on the Islam Channel offers a thoughtful and refreshing perspective. Besides CO2 emissions, the report begins to explore the massive change needed economically, and even more fundamentally in our way of life, if the necessary work to avoid climate catastrophe is to happen. “The earth has a fever… shall we treat it with antibiotics or try to understand the sources of its illness?”

Here, from one of the marchers in London- “We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change and the last that can do anything about it.” Aye, there’s the rub. Massive change does not happen quickly. Is the tipping point near?

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Saturdays with Seibert: Now You See It

Wednesday morning’s fog bank accomplished what some in town wanted.  Made the cruise ship Crown Princess disappear. – Dan Seibert

Editor’s Note: The 3rd of 11 cruise ships this fall season is in the harbor today.


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Planned Parenthood Annual Book Sale

booksaAttention Readers: There are still treasures to be found between the covers of a book.

It’s 40 years and counting: The Mary Jane McCord Planned Parenthood Annual Book Sale continues through Sunday at Earl Warren Showgrounds.

Friday 9/26: 12-8
Saturday 9/27: 10-8
Sunday 9/28: 10-6

Donate books year-round at 721 E. Gutierrez Street (805) 963-2445 x 4;

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Vintage Views of Santa Barbara, California

Here is a photo of the Boeseke & Dawe Co. building as seen after the June 29, 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake. Does anyone know where this was/is? Answer below
Continue Reading →

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Busted on a Bike

By Cheri Rae

cheriIn all the recent back-and forth about bikes or cars in Santa Barbara, it seems like we’re missing something. It’s bikes and cars, and there are rules to help everyone share the road safely.

For several years, I made my living writing articles and editing magazines about the sport and utility of bicycling, and I’ve learned a lot about the right way to ride. But years before that, I learned one important lesson that seems to be lost on far too many bike riders: Stop at the STOP sign.

Every time I see a bike rider roll right through an intersection without heeding the sign, I’m reminded of the time I did the same thing. It didn’t turn out too well.


When I was growing up, my strict father was a stickler for punctuality. The surefire way to get in trouble at home when we were teenagers was arriving late—even just five minutes late. My sister and I knew it, and were usually conscientious about staying on the right side of time.

But there was this one long summer day at the local swim club where we regularly hung out; we just couldn’t seem to break away from the enticing pleasures of adolescent fun under the sun. When we could finally stay not a moment longer without risking restriction, we pulled on our Levi cut-offs and hopped on our 10-speeds. Since we were already late, we didn’t even take an extra minute to cover up our bikini tops before we headed home.

In high gear, we pedaled as fast as we could through the familiar neighborhood route on the 4-mile ride. Paying no attention to the typical rules of the road, we blasted through the wide, clear suburban intersections to beat the clock. We had made up enough time that we were on track to avoid Getting in Trouble.

We would have, too, if it hadn’t been for the cop parked down the block who caught us zooming past a stop sign just before the entrance to our subdivision. He turned on his lights and pulled us over. On our bikes. Wearing our skimpy bikini tops.

He looked, lectured and took his time. As the clock ticked past zero hour, we were out of time and officially In Big Trouble. He wrote us up and handed us our tickets for running the stop sign. He told us we were lucky and that he was doing us a favor; that maybe because he had done his job he had saved our lives.

That seemed unlikely. By then, a good 20 minutes late, the prospect of showing up so late with tickets in our hands seemed like life as we knew it was pretty much over anyway.

We faced our father: Busted, grounded, and humiliated with no plausible excuses.

We had to explain ourselves: our bad decision-making and poor judgments in choosing fun-in-the sun while we ignored the time; failing to cover up; riding recklessly through the intersections. And our run-in with the law.

Then, when the summons came in the mail, we had to go to court.

Dressed in our Sunday best, we appeared tearfully before the judge and accepted responsibility for our transgression as he sternly admonished us about the dangers of running a stop sign on a bicycle. Since the whole family showed up and we obviously showed remorse, he dismissed the charges. The judge was more lenient than our dad: We finally worked our way back into our parents’ good graces, but it took a good part of the summer before we were allowed back in the pool or on the bikes.


These days, I regularly notice cyclists ignore the rules of the road and get away with it. And it always reminds me of that hot summer afternoon, a million years ago, when my sister and I didn’t. Maybe that cop was right, that he did us a favor by teaching us a lesson we never forgot. What I know for sure is that neither of us ever again tempted fate by running a stop sign—and we’re still here to tell the story.

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Senior Development at 251 S. Hope Avenue

In a related note to Sharon’s column, the Santa Barbara Housing Authority is proposing a new development for low-income seniors at 251 South Hope Avenue, called “The Gardens on Hope”. The Gardens on Hope will be situated on a 1.75 acre lot located at 251 S. Hope Avenue, which is adjacent to Graham Chevrolet and is adjacent to a channelized section of Arroyo Burro Creek. The development will consist of 90 to 100 studio units serving low income, frail seniors, modeled after Garden Court.

Friends of affordable housing say… “the need for affordable senior housing is growing significantly nationwide. Today, just over 34 percent of the US population is aged 50 and over, and their numbers are rising rapidly with the aging of the baby-boom generation.The populations among 65-74 year olds is set to soar from 21.7 million in 2010 to 32.8 million in 2020 and 38.6 million in 2030. Unfortunately with this growth, the number of seniors living in poverty and in need of affordable housing also continues to grow, and Santa Barbara is no exception. Within the City of Santa Barbara proper:”

  • 1 in every 14 seniors live in poverty
  • Seniors make up 13.1% of the people living in poverty in the City of Santa Barbara – the highest percentage of any area of the County
  • The trend of seniors living in poverty has continued to grow within the City of Santa Barbara
  • There are 805 senior, single person residents on the Housing Authority’s Section 8 wait list, of which 70% have annual incomes less than $15,900 (less than the annual cost of an average 1 bedroom apartment in Santa Barbara)
  • 31% of the seniors on the Section 8 wait list have a disability
  • The percentage of seniors on these wait lists has grown much faster over the past 5 years than any other segment of the Housing Authority’s wait list population

A planning Commission meeting will take place on Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 1:00PM at the City Hall Council Chambers to discuss this development, pictured below.

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The Darker Side of Aging

By Sharon Byrne, as featured in the Santa Barbara Sentinel

When I was little, we often visited our UK relatives. Grandma Byrne lived in a Home for the Aged, as Brits call them. She had a nice flat, with a parakeet, and her own furniture. The Home took them round to the shops, and on outings. She was well looked after, especially given it was government-run.

But that’s Europe for you – they take care of you from cradle to grave over there.

By contrast, the American system of care for the elderly is a bit of a crapshoot. There are good facilities, to be sure, but there are some awful ones too. Lest you think I am talking about some dreadful state-run facility for destitute elderly, egregious instances of elder abuse also occur in private facilities, the kind you pay a lot of money for.

It’s an old joke here that Santa Barbara is for the newly-wed and nearly-dead, but there’s some truth to the adage, as there are quite a few senior living communities here. The climate is gentle on older bones, and the scenery stunning. Senior living options include:

1. Independent Living
2. Assisted Living
3. Skilled Nursing Care

These are fairly self-explanatory, and the cost goes up as you move down the list. Assisted living facilities are not inexpensive, with some here running at $5,000 per month. That doesn’t include extras: hospital beds, wheelchairs, diapers, medications, bedding, and additional care-givers.

Senior living facilities aren’t charities. They’re a business, so their job is to generate revenues and minimize expenses. They must market themselves, and the brochures for some of these places look terrific. Piano in the main room, activities, gourmet meals – they sound a bit like resorts. But the reality can be quite different. Some facilities draw clients by advertising that they have an RN on site, but the staff are hourly workers without nursing skills, and the RN is never there. So who’s dispensing medication?

Economic pressures drive leaner staffs, so seniors that require too much labor can be subjected to some dreadful tactics. Someone who needs considerable assistance to use the restroom, for example, is sedated and diapered so as to reduce staff load. The family is told the senior is now incontinent. And don’t disrupt the dining room by complaining loudly about the food or causing a scene. You will be isolated to meals in your room.

One facility here has a ‘death closet’, where the recently deceased are stored while awaiting removal. A family with a loved one at this facility came to visit. The loved one had cognitive impairment issues, so the family was quite surprised to discover she was not in her room, but someone else was. When the family cornered staff on her whereabouts, they discovered to their horror that she had been moved into the ‘death closet’. The facility wanted to rent out her room at a higher rate, while still charging the family for it.

Some workers are understandably horrified by these kinds of abuses, but fear speaking out, as whistle-blowers aren’t likely to be welcomed at other facilities. The same goes for family members who protest about problems with their loved one’s care. Bills for newly necessary equipment, new requirements for a caregiver at your expense, and even eviction can ensue as retribution.

Many of us take care with our health, strive to live a long life…. and shudder at the thought of wasting away in a nursing home as our closing chapter. We also cringe with worry over subjecting our parents to potential abuse when they’re very frail. Money is supposed to be the great equalizer in this country – we believe that by having financial resources, we can insulate ourselves from being at the mercy of others, particularly when we are at our most vulnerable. But even with expensive senior care, there are no guarantees. The industry is loosely regulated, and California generously warns facilities of impending inspections.

What can you do? Review the Medicaire ratings for facilities. A Place For Mom also has great info on audits and complaints. Hire caregivers to keep eyes on your loved one when you can’t be there. Make surprise visits. Ensure your family puts these provisions in place for you.

As a country with a large population of aging baby boomers facing their golden years, you can bet this issue will generate increasing scrutiny, as it should. Our senior care options should be a lot better than this.

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On the Docket: Reactivating the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Facility

Today at their weekly meeting, the Santa Barbara City Council will discuss and consider reactivating The Charles E. Meyer Desalination Facility, which was completed in March 1992, and put into long-term standby mode in 1997. The City is preparing to reactivate the Desal Facility, should conditions continue to remain dry, to ensure that the community continues to have sufficient uninterrupted drinking water supplies.

According to the Agenda… as required by the State Water Resources Control Board, a 12-month source-water sampling program near the Desal Facility’s intake began in July 2014. The water sampling information will be used to confirm that the proposed Desal Facility will provide sufficient treatment in compliance with all State Drinking Water Regulations. Environmental studies associated with the City’s existing California Coastal Commission Coastal Development Permit were authorized by City Council on July 29, 2014. Also on July 29, 2014, the City Council approved a contract with Raftelis, Inc., to develop water rates to support reactivation and operation of the Desal Facility.

The next steps towards reactivating the Desal Facility are to begin the contractor selection effort, continue with the permitting process, and establish a framework for completing the project by fall of 2016, should the current drought persist.

The cost to reactive the plant is estimated at $32 million. The facility will reportedly produce over 3,000 acre-feet of water per year or 20% of the City’s current total.

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Smart Meters in Santa Barbara County


Comments: You did an article on Smart Meters a couple of years ago. The public fight seems to have died down, but the deception from SCE hasn’t.

Edison Smart MeterSanta Barbarians need to know that digital meters have been forced on us Opt-Out customers here in Santa Barbara. Its a worthy news item that those of us who chose the “opt out” option, for which we paid $75 one-time fee and a monthly $10 charge for two years, have been duped. They’ve gone into another round of shoving these digital meters down our throats.

I survived the first round of digital meters by protesting and participating in the SCE OPT OUT program that they were forced to offer to us. A few months after I was on the opt out list, SCE came around and put an orange OPT OUT sticker on my analog meter. I thought that was a little weird, but was happy that it was clearly marked by them. But I see that this sticker was part of the deception.

Sometime in the last 3 weeks SCE still put a digital meter on my property and removed my analog meter. But they are being super sneaky about it. First, they didn’t tell me they did it, secondly they ignored that I have a sign on my electrical box notifying them to not put a digital meter on my property, thirdly, they installed a digital meter — and on the outside of the meter they put a same orange sticker that I had on my analog meter which says “OPT OUT” so that at first glance it appears that no changes have been made.

When I called SCE to question this, they said, “The new meter is an ERT meter, not a smart meter”. This ERT digital meter actually is the same thing as a smart meter but its not called a smart meter. It is NOT an analog meter. The ERT meter carries with it the exact same concerns as a smart meter, so people all over the SB are are being deceived by SCE. This needs to be made very public. For those of us who opted out – we didn’t realize that we were not opting out of having digital meters… we were only opting out of meters that had the “smart meter” commercial name. The Opt-Out program was a total scam. SCE has completely deceived us.

The effects these meters are having are not psychosomatic. I am having headaches and heart palpitations as the meter is only 4 feet from my head where I sleep.

Please make this issue more public again.

Thank you.

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Ecofacts: Nuts for Coconuts‏

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

Coconut_Water (1)Coconut water is a perfect symbol for the confluence of globalization and marketing, for the internet-viral speeds of health claims, for our thirst for convenient and healthy alternatives to soda and tasty alternatives to water.

So recently, it was a rare thing here in the U.S., on the mainland anyway. Within a decade or so, cans, bottles and tetrapaks of it seem to be everywhere. And where does it all come from? Imagine a couple or more coconuts’ worth of water in every one of those cans sold, and that a tree only produces 50 fruits in a year. What, are coconut palms taking over large swaths of previously forested lands? Well at least that’s not happening yet. In fact much of the water comes from small growers in places like Indonesia and the Phillippines, and previously, the water was wasted while getting to the meat, which is used for the shredded stuff, coconut milk and oil. It has not been an economic boom for those farmers though, until more fair trade practices take hold.

As for health, suffice to say that coconut water’s well hyped nutritional claims are not nature’s answer to all of our bodily problems. More importantly, what we westerners drink is not the same as a freshly hacked coconut with a straw in it. Rather, it has usually been reconstituted or pasteurized, removing some of the original nutrients. But it sure does taste good. Too bad about all that packaging, all of those single use, disposed of containers, and those thousands of miles worth of shipping to get it to our lips, to quench our thirsts.

Below’s a video about the tremendous reliance on the tree and its fruit, having been used for food and shelter for millennia.

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