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Santa Barbara’s Chunnel

photo 1Even in the midst of California’s mega drought, there is always one place to find water in Santa Barbara, California… the Castillo Street underpass.

District Elections Change Santa Barbara City Politics

Lanny’s Take: by Lanny Ebenstein: Provided by the Santa Barbara Sentinel

A map of the districts circa 1940 on the wall of the Cajun Kitchen at De la Vina and Mission. The institution of district elections in the City of Santa Barbara changes local politics greatly. Candidates who once would have had little to no chance are now major contenders. Incumbents who once would have been shoo-ins are vulnerable. Moreover, mayoral elections, though they remain at-large, will also be affected starting in two years.

In the first city council district, comprising Santa Barbara’s eastside, Jacqueline Inda and Andria Martinez Cohen appear to be the leading candidates but with others also in the race, including Jason Dominguez and Sebastian Aldana.

In the 3rd District, representing the westside, incumbent Cathy Murillo and challenger Sharon Byrne will compete against each other in the race that will probably dominate the coming campaign.

In the second district, on the Mesa, incumbent Randy Rowse appears to be the strong favorite.

It is likely that a number of other hopefuls will also enter the races.

An individual who is now emerging as a kingmaker in local politics is longtime Santa Barbara resident Frank Banales. Frank was born in Santa Barbara and has lived here all his life. He is now being courted by a variety of candidates for votes he can deliver, particularly on Santa Barbara’s Eastside and Westside. He was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit to create district elections; Inda and Aldana were also plaintiffs.

Having long known Jacqueline, it appears to me she is the likely favorite for the 1st District. Many people forget that she has been a candidate for office before: she ran for the Santa Barbara Board of Education in 2008. A political moderate, she is a registered Democrat and has been involved in many local organizations.

By way of contrast, Andria and Jason are new to the community. Andria has called Santa Barbara home for fewer than two years, and Jason has been a local resident less than one year. It seems doubtful to this writer that – in the inaugural district election – voters in the first district will elect someone who has lived in the community for such a short period of time as Martinez Cohen and Dominguez.

At the same time, party politics could play a significant role in the first district election, as Martinez Cohen is endorsed by the local Democratic Central Committee, and Dominguez serves as a member of that body. It is perhaps for this reason Banales has issued a stinging denunciation of party politics in local elections.

The race for the third district between Murillo and Byrne promises to be a foreshadowing of city council races to come. My guess is that each of these candidates will spend in the vicinity of $50,000 on their candidacies – and all of these dollars will be concentrated on the 3rd District, which is geographically the smallest. There will be more campaign literature, flyers, yard signs, and other political razz-a-matazz focused on the third district than has ever been the case before.

Personally, I think that’s a good thing. One thing is for certain – everyone in the 3rd District will know Murillo and Byrne by the end of the campaign in a way that has not been the case before. It will be fascinating to watch, and the outcome is definitely uncertain. Murillo has an attractive personality and is committed to her office, but is perceived politically as on the far left. Byrne has a tenacity and level of involvement in local politics that is second to none, which is why – even running against an incumbent – she has a strong chance.

Looking to the future, the mayoral race in two years will also be affected by district elections. This is because only the 4th, 5th, and 6th districts will be electing a councilmember simultaneously with the mayor – and thus there will be a higher turn-out in these districts than in the rest of the city.

Although he has given no indication to this effect, my guess is that Gregg Hart is considering a run for mayor in two years. Others currently on the city council – including Bendy White, Dale Francisco, Frank Hotchkiss, and, presuming he is re-elected, Rowse – are also potential contenders.

District elections will change the future of Santa Barbara politics – this is one thing that is certain in the transition from at-large elections. I believe district elections will be good for the city and lead to greater neighborhood representation on the city council.

Lanny Ebenstein is a longtime local resident and writer.

District Elections in Santa Barbara

By Frank Banales
Now the official campaign for District Elections begins in the City of Santa Barbara. Currently four new candidates are running in the first district, three new candidates and the incumbent in the second district and two new candidates and the incumbent in the 3rd district.

There will be many benefits from district elections. Neighborhood residents will now have a fantastic opportunity to get involved in the political process. Money won’t be as big a factor in this and future elections.

District elections will diminish the influence of party politics which have held a stranglehold in past city elections. Three of the candidates and future elected members of the City Council will be elected on the basis of the candidate’s knowledge and familiarity with the needs of the neighborhood and long-term relationships.

District Elections have already attracted more interest and involvement by neighborhood residents in a process where they can make a difference and future elections can expect even more involvement. This will lead to increased interest and involvement that will create a larger pool of potential commission appointees.

District elections will be about creating better neighborhoods because neighborhood residents will be electing neighborhood residents as their representatives. District elections are going to be awesome!

Market Forces

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150A couple of months ago, our beloved proprietors of our neighborhood corner market sold their long-term family business and moved on. And since then, the store that once stocked an eclectic selection that included fresh doughnuts and tasty samosas; Zote soap and organic fruit, has turned into a liquor store where alcohol sales are is clearly the highest priority. I used to run down there for a half-gallon of milk, a box of confectioner’s sugar, or just stop in for a chat with the family who owned the place, knew all the neighbors, and watched our children grow up.

The vibe has changed there, too; it’s no longer warm and friendly, so I just don’t go there anymore. Things change, people have to adapt. Our corner markets are great little remnants of the past, but we can do without them in today’s world where nostalgia has little value.

But when it comes to basics like groceries, we’re running out of affordable choices in Santa Barbara—or at least it’s beginning to feel that way.

b5b560b2a3012ca61a56502deffb05f0Over the years of living here, I’ve learned to make peace with onc closure after another—the little, old Von’s replaced by the incomprehensible Public Market; Scolari’s replaced by the failed Fresh Market that now stands empty in a part of town that needs a full-service grocery store; and even way-back-when, Albertson’s was replaced by Gelson’s and it moved uptown. And now that Albertson’s is gone, due to a corporate takeover by Haggen, which seems a little over its head right now with the immediate expansion of the chain from 18 to 164 stores with the completion of a single financial transaction.

Apparently Haggen owners have been reading too many slick magazines about Santa Barbara and figured that the wealthy locals would just load up their Coach bags, hop in their Teslas, and happily purchase boutique-y items like a $19 bottle of honey in a fancy jar, or pay an extra $4 a pound for cherries just because the produce department has been cleaned up. I’ll give them that: the place looks much better, and it’s a lot easier to find a parking place than it was before.

But I can’t shop there anymore.

I’m going to miss the nice staff working there, the music they play, the sale prices and some of the items that Albertson’s carried: My sandwich-loving son had developed a taste for their quality Dietz & Watson deli offerings (gone), their fresh local torta rolls that were a bargain at 3 for $1 (gone), and their fresh milk in glass bottles from a family dairy in Tulare. Apparently they still carry it, but there just wasn’t any in stock when I stopped in specifically for it today. I was one of the few customers in the store.

So what started out as a shopping trip became a shopping afternoon—since I had to stop at Trader Joe’s anyway, and then on to Ralphs to purchase the items I couldn’t find at Haggen. By the time I got home after my three-stop shopping experience, the last thing I wanted to do is unpack my insulated and canvas bags, put everything away, and get started cooking.

Right now, I’m out of luck and actively shopping for another place to shop.

I don’t want or need a fancy, upscale “Santa Barbara-style” gourmet shopping experience that some out-of-state demographics expert has determined on paper is exactly what the local market will bear. Maybe they’re figuring that all those people in vacation rentals have actually displaced residents, and they’re willing to pay premium prices since they’re away from home.

Yes, we spend outrageous amounts of money to buy, even rent here. And there are some wealthy enclaves in many areas of this community. But we “regular folks” with modest incomes, fixed expenses who haven’t had a raise in years are working pretty hard, and scrambling just to stay in place—grateful to have a home and money to pay for groceries. But our ability to pay is not unlimited.

Many of us are creatures of habit, and figuring out where we shop for food is one of those personal decisions based on a whole lot of individual criteria. For me, I like a clean store with friendly employees, a good selection of fresh produce, decent prices with some regular bargains (or what seem like bargains), and a place that’s close to home and easy to navigate.

Is that really too much to ask for in today’s Santa Barbara?

Desalination Plant a Lousy Idea!

Tomorrow the Santa Barbara City Council will vote to approve the reactivation of the Charles E. Meyer desalination plant. Local activist Ernie Salomon thinks it it a bad idea:sbview_lettertotheeditor

The cost of a desal plant over the next ten years will be over $100 million and by then this council will be gone. It is a lousy idea! It should be put on hold, at least through the predicted heavy rains for this fall and winter.

During the last major California drought, from 1985 to 1991, there was enough interest in desalination that a large plant was built to serve Santa Barbara. But it was promptly mothballed after being finished in 1992. By then, with the drought over, water from traditional sources was again about two-thirds cheaper than the $3,000 per acre-foot it cost to produce the plant’s water.

No member of our city council is qualified to make such a costly decision with taking a hard look at other options and giving our people a chance to vote on this costly path.

Dolores Sunset

Santa Barbara photo to start the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Dolores Sunset
Yesterday the most amazing thing happened. We were out enjoying the beautiful day and water actually started falling from the sky. Unfortunately it came with lightning bolts, so we postponed the walk we were planning on the beach, but it was still a very welcomed change. And by the end of the day the sun streaming through the clouds was so beautiful we decided to try again. As you can see we were greatly rewarded!

-Bill Heller

Santa Barbara View’s Events Calendar

eventscalendar_300x250Looking for something to do this week in Santa Barbara. Take a look at Santa Barbara View’s Event Calender. Friday’s calendar had, Over the Rainbow: Great American Movie Musicals in the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Gardens. Last night saw the opening of Project Fiesta II and the Fiesta Museo celebration at Santa Barbara Historical Museum. This week, Willie Nelson comes to the Bowl so be sure to check it! The calendar is free to view and post to, and it is mobile friendly too.

EcoFacts: Great Unseen Waters

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

19125The water we use not only falls from above, in rain and snowmelt. Ever more critically, it flows from under us. Aquifers sometimes supply rivers, lakes, recharging them from below. Wells are drilled into them. Some are ancient, geologically sealed lakes deep under the surface of the earth, filled with pure clean “fossil water“. In many parts of the world, water that is thousands of years old is continuously being drawn to supply drinking water, to irrigate farmland or for mining and industrial practices, as the rain and mountains do not supply enough.

This water from below supplies an estimated 35% of the world’s needs. In California, it is currently 60%, much more than usual. Texas gets 80% of its water from aquifers. The amounts that remain are as yet unknown, but Nasa gravitational data indicates that a third of the world’s largest aquifers are highly stressed, they are being depleted at a much greater rate than they can be recharged. California’s Central Valley is one, others are in the Middle East, Africa and China. The Ogallala Aquifer lies under 8 midwest states, supplying as much as 30% of U.S. agriculture. It is being depleted at an annual rate equivalent to 18 Colorado Rivers.

So, this drought culture we Californians are living in? We’re in it for the long haul. We can no longer afford to waste water. I hope the farmers are beginning to understand this.

Refugio Sunset

image1(1)Welcome back Refugio beach! After being closed since May 19 due to the oil spill, Refugio State Beach re-opened Friday. Photo by Mark Sanchez, one of 15,000 Facebook Friends of Santa Barbara View.
Click to enlarge photo.