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Miramar Project on the Ropes?

After not getting the green light he was looking for from the Montecito Planning Commission last night, Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso issued the following statement to the press:

“For the past 18 months we have worked to redesign our Miramar project; the result is a smaller, more efficient project, with fewer impacts on the community and consistent with all of the input we’ve heard from Montecito residents.

Despite a recommendation from County staff to approve the project, a unanimous endorsement from the Montecito Association and overwhelming community support, the Montecito Planning Commission chose to delay approval of our revised Miramar hotel project.

We are obviously very disappointed with the result, in particular with the apparent interest of some commissioners to seek significant changes to the project, which would result in months of further delay.

We appreciate the support of so many in the community and are sorry their wishes were not heard.

The result of yesterday’s meeting has now delayed our planned groundbreaking in June. We will take some time to consider whether there is still a viable path for building the Miramar hotel.”

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Help For The Seriously Mentally Ill On Our Streets: Your Voice Needed!

By Sharon Byrne

blog-mental-health-638x425I wrote earlier this year on Prop 63, the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), passed in 2004. To refresh: Prop 63 levies a 1% additional tax on the wealthiest Californians, earning over $1,000,000 annually. The MHSA directs these tax dollars to counties to care for the most acutely mentally ill. Since passage, the MHSA has collected $7.4 billion in revenues.

I know what you’re thinking:
$7.4 billion….and we have mentally ill individuals wandering our streets, homeless???? With THAT kind of money available to help them??? Everyone has encountered someone mentally ill and homeless at this point, right? People love to complain about it. I complain, to wit: I was on an early morning beach walk Tuesday, and heard shouting. A disheveled man across the street was shouting the odds at 6 AM. To himself. Or the train. Or me. Or the sidewalk. I’m not sure what exactly wound him up like that, actually.

One of the key components of the MHSA is this: Community Services and Supports (CSS) – provides funds for direct services to individuals with severe mental illness.

Why is my Shouting Man of the Early Morning not serviced by the MHSA? This is precisely who it was intended for. If he’s not in need of direct mental health services, then who the heck is? MHSA provides funding for outreach on the street. It provides funding for treatment, housing, including supportive housing, where he could receive mental health services and remain housed, rather than living on the street and screaming to himself, and the rest of us, at 6 AM.

What!?! They should do something, darn it!

Amen, brother, but ‘they’ is ‘we’, and ‘we’ can do something.

Santa Barbara County Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health Services (ADMHS) determines the services it will provide with MHSA funding. Every year, the department proposes programs to address the county’s needs for mental health, and seeks stakeholder input on them before applying for MHSA funding from the state.

Who is a stakeholder?

We all are.

Anyone interested in mental health, alcohol and drug services provided in Santa Barbara County should be providing input. And if we want our county to get serious and apply all available resources to solving the problem of severely mentally ill individuals living on our streets, then we’d better get moving. Because right now, the proposed MHSA from the county is not nearly robust enough to adequately address this problem.

So here’s what you can do:

1.    Attend the Stakeholders Meeting:
Dec 16th
9 AM to 12 PM
Ballroom at the Marriott in Buellton.
RSVP to ccontreras@co.santa-barbara.ca.us.

Feel you need more info? Learn more about the MHSA services on offer currently here: http://cosb.countyofsb.org/admhs/admhs2.aspx?id=37228&id2=38600

2. If Buellton is too far to go to a long meeting, here’s one that’s closer and requires significantly less time:
Mental Health Commission Meeting
December 19th
1 PM
Santa Barbara Children’s Clinic,
429 N. San Antonio Rd. Santa Barbara

You can speak for a few minutes at the beginning, during public comment, on the importance of providing increased services for the mentally ill in this county, including outreach, supportive services, and housing. Since there is a bucket of funds allocated by Prop 63 for this purpose, we should expect them to be used to the fullest extent possible to resolve the problem of seriously mentally ill individuals living on our streets. The current plan needs bolstering. The only way that will change is if enough of us make it clear that bolstering it is a top priority.

3. I gotta’ work…OR… another meeting just too much for my already crammed schedule. It IS the holidays, after all. Fair enough. Email your county supervisor and express your thoughts to them. That will take you all of 5 minutes. They’re not hard to get hold of, and they’re usually pretty responsive:

1st District: Salud Carbajal: scarbaja@co.santa-barbara.ca.us
2nd District: Janet Wolf: jwolf@co.santa-barbara.ca.us
3rd District: Doreen Farr: dfarr@countyofsb.org
4th District: Peter Adam: officeofpeteradam@countyofsb.org
5th District: Steve Lavagnino: steve.lavagnino@countyofsb.org

The good news is we live in a democracy, whatever you might think of its present state. You can talk to your elected representatives about this topic, and others, that concern you. You can participate in the public process to help determine the shape and scope of programs like the MHSA that address a specific community need. And you can make a difference.

You can even nudge someone who says ‘they ought to do something, darn it!’ to do something, darn it.

If we want to ensure the resources available to us are used to the fullest extent possible to help the most severely mentally ill among us…well, we can do that.

So let’s get on with it.


The Present of Being Present

By Cheri Rae

“Simplify, simplify,” wrote Henry David Thoreau in his classic meditation, “Walden.” Of course, he could have simplified the statement by reducing it to simply “Simplify.”

cherilogo-150x150The recent passing of my neighbor who lived in his van got me to thinking about the notion of simplifying the holiday season, of slowing down and becoming very conscious of the moment—of making a real practice of connecting with people and being conscious of places encountered during the holiday season.

Instead of rushing about and being preoccupied during every moment, I’ve tried to be deliberate about my interactions and simple blessings have come my way:

In the bank, the teller told me about how he used to play football for Dos Pueblos High School, and had hoped and planned to play at an elite level in college until he was injured, and he was glad that he had some grounding in business to fall back on.

During an appearance at the Shop Small Business Saturday at the Book Den, fellow author Chris Messner shared his interesting stories about his off-the-beaten-path travels in Cuba—as recorded in his book, “Cuba, Open from the Inside.” We found common ground in discussing Cuba—I had researched the social order in post-revolutionary Cuba as part of my Political Science studies in college. When I showed him my book, “DyslexiaLand,” he told me about his own challenges with dyslexia—something he even wrote about in the introduction of the book. The chance meeting seemed meant to be. We both expressed out gratitude to owner Eric Kelley for scheduling us at the same time.

In the post office, letting the gentleman with two canes get in line ahead of me had the effect of every other person in line letting him go ahead, and finish his transaction much more quickly, and much more comfortably. “I just can’t stand too long anymore,” he noted, expressing his thanks to the whole queue. We all felt good about that. And when the woman behind me needed a pen, I told her to keep it. Turned out the purple pen was her favorite color.

In the grocery store, the young woman ahead of me was buying a nice cake and candles to celebrate her grandmother’s birthday. The discussion continued with the boxboy who talked about his grandmothers—one who is fun and the one who isn’t, but who inherited “the longevity gene,” as he called it: good health and good teeth, even at 93. It reminded me of my own grandmother and how much I loved her, and still miss her to this day.

The city worker filling the “irricade” watering devices along Anapamu Street—which were purchased for the City by the Pearl Chase Society—who expressed his gratitude for the innovation and the generosity of members who love the trees as much as he does.

Slowing down, expressing gratitude and having the presence of mind to remain in the present has been a great gift—one that keeps on giving. You might want to give it to yourself—and the rest of the community! Happy holidays!


End of the Rainbow

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
End of the Rainbow
Friday after the storm, the late afternoon sun on the mountains was spectacular and the air was clear and beautiful from the rain. As the sun slipped below the remaining clouds there were several light rainbows appearing and disappearing moment by moment as the shafts of light played among the remaining clouds. It was an amazing afternoon to just enjoy our beautiful city at the end of the rainbow.

-Bill Heller


EcoFacts: Christmas and our National Character

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

holidays$In one sense, the Christmas season gives us another definition of “purchasing power”, as it is, after all, a season of giving and sharing, a time when we think more of others. If we get a charge buying things and spending money, the pleasure is even greater doing this for family, friends, and charity. And the big boost to our market economy can’t be ignored, the workings of which are viewed as “stores sell the products that people want to buy and, in turn, companies produce items that stores want to stock”. Sales get a huge boost in these weeks, and as we’ve been taught all along, this is very beneficial for our economy. In fact for a century or more it has been considered patriotic to spend our money as much as possible, more than to save it.

Business Week says today “Americans brimmed with confidence in early December as they shopped for holiday gifts, signaling retailers will see sales continue to accelerate heading into 2015.” Hooray! In this way we learn that brimming with confidence means buying lots of stuff. Successful people do this.

David M. Potter, an historian writing in his book People of Plenty 60 years ago, told of how the tremendous abundance of resources (seemingly limitless) in this country led to its economic abundance, and then our culture’s orientation towards consumption. This was transformed by the rise of marketing, what was then called advertising, which he ranked with education and religion as American institutions that have most shaped our national character. In order for companies to grow, society had to learn “to crave these goods or to regard them as necessities.” Producers of similar products all want to grow indefinitely and so must distinguish their goods and brands “if not on essential grounds then on trivial ones” to assure their place in the market.

Has ecofacts gone too far afield? No, because economics require resources and hence determine our connection, or lack thereof, to the planet, whether as individuals or as a society. No worries though, I’ll move on to more useful topics…. hopefully. Meanwhile, MERRY GIVING!

*Charles Wheelan – Naked Economics


20 Years of Kids Day in Santa Barbara

Each year at this time, Rick Feldman throws his special brand of holiday magic and pulls in dignitaries, doctors, clinics, Santa, and more for the kids of Santa Barbara. It’s Kids Day, now a 20 year tradition in the area, held at the Eyeglass Factory on Milpas. Hundreds of kids come from all over to get free eye exams, health screenings, dental care, and more. Rick gives out loads of free eyeglasses to all the kids, and the event is his enormous gift to our region. In the most recent year, over one thousand individuals were given eye exams and free eyeglasses and, over a period of 20 years, it is estimated that over one million dollars in eye care has been provided.

Rick recalls one of the early Kids Day attendees, and a little girl that got him misty-eyed. As she proudly donned her new glasses, a news anchor asked her, ‘what does this mean to you?’ She turned to him, and proudly announced, “well now I can see!” That’s what it’s all about. 

Kids Day at the Santa Barbara Eyeglass Factory - Sunday, December 14, 9:00 am – 1 pm., 1 S. Milpas Street at the corner of Milpas & Quinientos.

John Dixon of Tri-County Produce, Mayor Helene Schneider and 1st District County Supervisor Salud Carbajal award bikes to lucky kids on Kids Day at the Eyeglass Factory.


What is Community?

Milpas on the Move, by Sharon Byrne

Often we hear the term community used in casual conversation. “I’m doing this for the community.” Or “we give back to our community.”

I looked up the word community, to see where it came from. The oldest roots are, not surprisingly, Latin. The word communitas probably evolved from communis: common, public, general, shared by all or many. There is also communitatem: fellowship, community of relations or feelings. Communitas means things held in common, an organized society, a free city. Rome was a giant, ancient metropolis, of course, but the empire spanned across Europe, and included villages of people living together, in communitas.

The next iteration is old French, 14th century, communete. That evolved to communité – everybody, commonness, community. I’ve also read this definition, which I like the most, though I think it’s questionable as to correct etymology:

Community: The origin of the word “community” comes from the Latin munus, which means the gift, and cum, which means together, among each other. So community literally means to give among each other.

That’s certainly how it feels on Milpas, with getting our holiday lights up, raising a Christmas tree in the roundabout, and putting on the big holiday parade! It feels like we’re giving among each other, in community, and that is a very sweet experience.

Here’s a look at our community putting on the holidays on Milpas!

(photos by Chris Cowan and Sharon Byrne)

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Local views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

I think I’ve worked for these homeowners for ten years. Doing the gardening, weekly maintenance. The small flagstone patio has turf that was planted too high, although the other hardscapes look great. I spent a good amount of time every week edging around the outline of each stone then mowing the area. Plus the homeowner had to water it three times a week in the summer otherwise it would dry out.

With the drought this year the owners decided to remove the turf and replace it with a ground cover. That idea was abandoned in favor of Mexican river stones. Now the owners save on water and I save by not mowing or edging every week. – Dan
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62nd Annual Downtown Holiday Parade Winners

The 2014 holiday parade winners are—Most Theme Oriented: SB All Stars; Most Creative: Santa Barbara Zoo; Most Spirited: Traditional Chinelo de Morelos Comparsa Santa Barbara; Best Performance Group: Young Singers Club; Best High School Band: San Marcos High School; Best Junior High School Band: Goleta Valley Junior High School; Best Elementary School Band: SBUSD BRAVO!; Best Drill Team: Dos Pueblos Chargers; Best Dance Ensemble: Studio B.

The 61st Annual Milpas Holiday Parade takes place Saturday December 13, 2014 at 5:30 PM. The parade route runs along Milpas from Canon Perdido to Mason St. The 29th Annual Parade of Lights takes place Sunday, December 14 and is complete with a 5-7 minute fireworks display at approximately 7 pm. The boat parade is preceded by Santa’s Village activities beginning at 3 p.m.

And, you can view all the holiday happenings on Santa Barbara View‘s new event calendar.
Pictures below, Continue reading…