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Your New District Election Map Santa Barbara

After months of surveys and forums, draft 3 was chosen as the new district election map for Santa Barbara. Six regions, with about 14,500 people in each district. In all likelihood, Districts one and three will be on the ballot this fall… now let the candidates declare! (click to enlarge)

PODER Receives Cease and Desist Letter

poder_1Santa Barbara View published a controversial  flyer which was purportedly used as PODER’s Facebook cover art. According to their page, “PODER represents a constituency of oppressed and marginalized people the dominant Santa Barbara establishment has grown used to bullying and intimidating.” In response to the Facebook artwork, the Santa Barbara News-Press has reportedly sent a “cease and desist all copyright and trademark infringement” email to the group. The cover artwork has been replaced but the image still shows in the group photos.

View from the Top of Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
View From the Top of Santa Barbara

A beautiful view over Santa Barbara. This is one of the most amazing spots in Santa Barbara. The top of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Clock Tower. From here you can see from one end of the city to the other, The Mission to the Ocean. This particular angle is overlooking the sunken gardens of the courtyard with the Pacific Ocean on the right.

But before you grab your camera and head over there, you should know that currently the tower is closed for construction work. In a few months however, you’ll be able to take the elevator all the way to the top. Which will be a great help for many people who found the tight climb up the last story above where the elevator dropped them off too much of a barrier to enjoy this amazing spot.

In the mean time I will do my best to bring the beautiful views to you.

-Bill Heller

EcoFacts: Toilet to Tap

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

Eco FactsWe spend so much of our time thinking about, and doing our personal acts of consumption – eating and drinking, and with the water we use, washing.

Then there’s the outgo. We are relieved to wash, to pee and poo, but generally choose not to think much about that part, who wants to? But think for one minute and you realize how essential a well designed and maintained infrastructure is for sewage, as much as for drinking water. And with our drought and little to waste, even moreso!

I was privileged recently to have a tour with our Mayor of the El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant. It is where everything that goes through our plumbing – dishwater, garbage disposal sludge, utility sink drainage, shower water, and sewage – ends up, our average 5 bathtubs full per person – 8 million gallons per day!

Here is the process, in short. Wastewater is managed in primary and secondary tanks and systems, solids are filtered and settled out, “digestion” is helped along with aeration and biological processes, accelerating the decomposition that would naturally occur. Final solids get trucked to composting facilities. The wastewater then goes either out to the ocean, or to a tertiary system which further removes contaminants and pollutants for the water to be recylced/reclaimed, and used to water public grounds,. Currently that system is offline while a bigger and better one is being built, expected to begin operation in the early summer.

Toilet-tapI was only able to experience the large open secondary tanks, and probably should be grateful for that, but it was not at all unpleasant. And the tertiary system being built, which will handle more than half of that 8 million gallons per day, is truly impressive looking. I wondered, is toilet to tap in our future, with an even more advanced tertiary (or quaternary) system? Appealing, eh? Would probably cost less than desal. We’ll check in again in 5 years.

Saturdays with Seibert: Orange Crush

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

Friday morning, just before the sun came up I was stopped on State street at Anapamu. Looking up the street I saw something orange in the bike lane. Some kind of custom recumbent bike, or maybe electric vehicle.

Later I saw a post by Steven on Edhat, he saw the same thing and took two photos. My red truck is visible in one photo. Although this vehicle is orange it’s also very low. In the same photo as my small Toyota truck there are three full sized contractor type trucks. This driver is very brave, no flags or banners to alert drivers. Knowing how people drive in this town I wonder how long it will be until we hear about, “Orange Crush.”

(And yes I fear for this guy having been hit by an inattentive driver on the 405. I was a passenger in a big red truck towing a 40 foot trailer with outrigger canoes and we were hit, then bounced off of three other cars. So yes, bad things happen. . .)

A Call For Good Governance

By Sharon Byrne

It’s always a critical time in government. No matter what year, election, or issues, it’s critical. Ever notice that?

ggThis week’s column isn’t to advance the interest of any candidates, party, or cause. The only concern expressed is a call for good governance… on every front. We’re not in some kind of “Bell” state of affairs, i.e., rampant corruption. In the news as of late, there are some struggles looming large within our city and county government, and I just hope our elected officials and staff can navigate through them to a good end for all of us.

The recent Point-in-Time Count is disappointing: the homeless count is flat since 2013. As someone who’s worked on that problem, people are getting help, including housing. But are we drinking a storm with a teacup, so to speak? Are we putting adequate resources in play to address homelessness? Are there enough Restorative Police here in Santa Barbara? Two cops work darned hard with chronically homeless individuals. With 893 homeless counted in the city of Santa Barbara this year, and 600+ deemed chronically homeless, is 2 cops even remotely realistic to tackle this problem? On the Milpas Outreach Project, we’ve learned 10 chronically homeless individuals can keep 10 of us volunteers pretty darned busy, and take months to finally house. Santa Monica, with a 2015 count of 738 (also flat), has 10 Homeless Liaison Police. Given that State St is adopting the Milpas model and had to push for Community Service Officers, where is the horsepower and leadership from SBPD to seriously address this problem?

The county funds alcohol, drug, and mental health services. That county department, ADMHS, itself the subject of heavy criticism, offers annual training sessions for law enforcement on dealing with mental health crises. It stands to reason that SBPD is probably called out to deal with individuals experiencing mental health crises on the streets pretty regularly. So why not flood these training sessions with officers to better equip them?

ADMHS has tens of millions of dollars available through the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). Those funds can be used for increased outreach to mentally ill individuals on our streets, supportive housing for them, and other crisis services we clearly need. Can our county supervisors direct ADMHS to prioritize MHSA funds to help reduce the number of severely mentally ill individuals on our streets? Are our city leaders aggressively lobbying the county supervisors in this direction?

ADMHS also has a number of job openings on the mental health side, with a hiring backlog approaching 100 for some time. There is a fairly new emphasis in hiring for cultural competency, but it’s resulting in turning away good people that are not bilingual. Are there not options for translators or bilingual contract staff to close the gap?

At the same time the flat homeless count was released, the County Supervisors’ pay hikes made the news. Pay raises for government officials and staff are always controversial. Taxpayers resent paying increased salaries, and it’s a somewhat poor argument to use salaries in other jurisdictions as the basis for increases, rather than performance, as multiple op-ed writers have noted. The problem is gaming the system. The first county to increase their pay paves the way for other counties to follow suit, whether warranted or not. Our county supervisors make less than some of their staff. They’re not rolling in the dough. But the optics, as they say in DC, aren’t good.

Infrastructure is a huge city and county challenge across the United States. How is it that at one time we could build all these bridges, roads, and buildings, but can no longer afford to maintain them? I am not a civil engineer, so am admittedly not expert, but it seems to me it’s probably more difficult to maintain a 50 year-old Ferrari in perfect condition than it is to buy a new one. Trying to find parts alone would be an ordeal. Edison, though not a government entity, is wrestling with 100 year-old infrastructure in our downtown, built when the area was not nearly so densely commercial. That aging infrastructure can’t handle today’s load; witness the blackouts. Edison would likely find it far less onerous to wire up a new downtown yet-to-be-built versus upgrading 100 year-old infrastructure buried underground. Sometimes, maintenance is just harder than demolish / build new. We’ve built an awful lot of stuff through the industrial era, and I guess we’ve hit critical mass in what it now takes to keep it all up.

Throw in district elections, rental market squeezes, IV, public pensions, and so on, and… well, it’s a critical time, as always. Consider this a plea for good governance, whatever times we’re in.

Ice Ace: The Clear Vision of John Rodrigues

“Sculpture is the art of the intelligence.” –Pablo Picasso

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150Take one 7,200-pound block of ice, add an assortment of power tools—including a chain saw and a drill—put them in the hands of one uniquely talented individual and you’ve got art. Ice Art. Crystal-clear and freezing cold, it lasts only until the sun comes out.

John Rodrigues just returned from competing in the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he worked for days on a massive chunk of ice, turning into two large and graceful swans featuring intricately feathered wings.

ice art birdsThat experience is just another chapter in the interesting life of this author/teacher/artist/high-school dropout/college graduate/inspirational speaker. One more interesting aspects about Rodrigues: like 1 in 5 people, he has dyslexia and it’s anything but a disability.

Rodrigues struggled in the classroom—so much so that he dropped out of high school, but not before he learned the skill of ice sculpting in a special Culinary Arts program. As a teenager with this unique talent, he landed a job on a cruise ship making thousands of dollars a month as he traveled to exotic ports of call around the world. Despite all that money and all that travel, the desire to earn a college education burned within him. And he decided to return to school. “Ironically, the key to getting into college was not in trying to change my dyslexia,” he noted, “but in embracing how I learned to its maximum potential.”

from high school to harvardHe started taking classes at his local community college, eventually transferred to University of California, Berkeley, and studied at Harvard University. Today, he teaches high school math in Hemet, CA.

As part of the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s regular “Dyslexia Dialogues,” Rodrigues, author of “High School Dropout to Harvard: My Life with Dyslexia,” will be speaking at the Santa Barbara High School Auditorium on Thursday, March 26 at 7 p.m. He will share the story about his uniquely inspired pathway to success, and his recent competition in the World Ice Art Championships in Alaska. The event is free and Spanish interpretation will be available.

“John Rodrigues is an uplifting, rebellious voice who will strike a chord with anyone who has ever had a hard time marching in step in a culture of

conformity. His book is not just about how John found personal success after growing up with severe learning differences (Dyslexia and ADHD), it’s the story of his journey to accept himself by finding others labeled ‘disabled” or “not normal” who survived and even triumphed.” -Entertainment Weekly

The Last Word: Comments after Attending the Single Family Design Board Hearing

by Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150I have a book titled, “The Place You Loved is Gone.” More and more it feels like that’s what’s happening in Santa Barbara these days.

In this City, the birthplace of Earth Day, we are supposed to be environmentally aware and sensitive. We can’t even get a plastic bag in the city, and “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is supposed to be our mantra. This is a place where sustainability, smart growth, affordable housing and small, efficient housing is all that’s been talked about for years.

209 east islayBut if you want to demolish a perfectly good house and replace it with one that’s bigger, better, and way more expensive, go right ahead.

Just one of those oddities about Santa Barbara.

The demolition of the old house at 209 E. Islay will happen. And it will be replaced by the property owners’ beautiful new dream home, a Craftsman-style mansion more than twice its size.

The property owners get to build exactly what they want, and have the money to do so. Lucky for the Upper East neighbors that they don’t want to build an ultra-modern structure, but as members of the Single Family Design Board pointed out, they probably could.

What’s ironic to me is that I live in a 1912 Craftsman home in “Bungalow Haven.” It’s not nearly as grand, as large or located in as nice a neighborhood as 209 E. Islay, but it’s not in and danger of demolition, even though it’s on an R-3 lot, because we neighbors have worked together—and with the City—as good stewards, we will likely keep the historic working-class neighborhood intact. Our homes are a century old, in fine repair and lovely to live in and look at.

Money talks these days, and McMansions are big business everywhere, including the Upper East Side of Santa Barbara, coming soon.