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Education: Sacramento, We Have A Problem

By: Sharon Byrne

Why did the school bond measures fail in June? Over the years, perhaps voters have noticed that no matter how much money we hand over to Sacramento for education, our kids still test on par with Mississippi. Every year, those of us with kids in public schools face further budget cuts, and try to fill the shortages.

I was the proud parent of a 1st grader when the state budget cuts hit in 2003. We funded art, music, and PE (newly cut) with parent donations of $330 per child. The next year, the budget was worse. We did fundraisers, carnivals, and bake sales. The following year Schwarzenegger’s ballot initiatives failed. Parcel taxes arose as an emergency relief valve for crucial local school funding, until the state budget was restored.

The Great Recession was still 2 years off…

How does California stay mired in this educational morass, year after year, whether in boom times or bad?

Trot out all the usual suspects, but start also looking at the California Teachers Association. The image is apples and pencils, but with 325,000 members and annual dues collection of more than $1,000 per year from every teacher in the state, they’ve got serious muscle. In 2009, the CTA’s income was more than $186 million, all of it tax-exempt.
The California Fair Political Practices Commission reported in 2010 that the CTA had spent more than $210 million over the previous decade on political campaigning—more than any other donor in the state. They outspent the pharmaceutical industry, the oil industry, and the tobacco industry combined.

A brief look at their legislative record:

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Santa Barbara History Lesson: More than a Fandango

By Cheri Rae

I haven’t figured out yet what make me feel sicker—a recent bout with the flu or watching City Council Members admit their ignorance of Santa Barbara history.

During the hearing about the possibility of naming the new airport terminal for two hugely important figures in Santa Barbara—Dwight Murphy and Judge John T. Rickard—the information provided by the public seemed to simply astonish and overwhelm those who have been elected to serve this city.

One after another, these city leaders acknowledged they knew virtually nothing about the luminaries who helped shape this city in so many ways. There is no excuse for not knowing anything about these important citizens. Both men appear in Thomas M. Storke’s book, “California Editor.” And Dwight Murphy is mentioned in The American Guide Series classic “Santa Barbara,” as well as several of Walker A. Tompkins collections.

Ed Hartfeld published his lovely, information-packed hardcover biography about Dwight Murphy, “California’s Knight on a Golden Horse” way back in 2007. Full disclosure: I helped him find the right designer for the book and he returned the favor, by kindly inscribing my copy, “In appreciation of your efforts to save Santa Barbara.”

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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.”

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

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.

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-Bill Heller