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Vote By Mail Applications Due Tuesday

polls_vote_countsIf you are a registered voter who would like to vote by mail, you must register by tomorrow for a one-time ballot or to permanently vote by mail. Viewers interested in voting by mail should call (800) 722-8683 by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

After 5 p.m. Tuesday, those wishing to receive a vote-by-mail ballot may pick one up in person at the county elections building, 4440-A Calle Real. Voters have until 8 p.m. on election day, November 4,  to return the ballots by mail or drop them off at any elections office in Santa Barbara County.

Four Dead Italian Stone Pines on Anapamu to be Removed Today

pines79 Italian Stone Pines were originally planted along Anapamu Street from from 1908 through 1921. Today, four of the dead Stone Pines will by taken down by the City of Santa Barbara. According to City Arborist Tim Downey, 12 more of the trees are in poor health due to the drought and bark beetles, 24 are in fair health, 26 are in good health, and 19 are in excellent health. For more information on how you can help the City of Santa Barbara help trees during the drought, specifically the Italian Stone Pines, call (805) 564-5433.

The Pearl Chase Society has stepped up, donating over $14,000+ to purchase 56 irricades which will help water the remaining trees. The irricades, pictured below, will be installed next week. If you’d like to help Keep Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, please consider becoming a member of the Pearl Chase Societymemberships start at only $30 a year and your membership will help in preserving Santa Barbara’s historic architecture, landscapes and cultural heritage.


Andree Clark Sunset Reflections

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
Andree Clark Sunset Reflections
The drought has been hard on all of the natives and visitors of California, the Andree Clark Bird Refuge and its visitors have been no exception. But standing there on a beautiful peaceful evening like this enjoying the sunset with the ducks offers a wonderful break from all the cares of the day.

-Bill Heller

EcoFacts: the Three

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

All of us living creatures are sustained by food, water and air. And we determine the quality of these, little us (really big 7 billion strong us) , in one way or another. We seem so small and insignificant, but as an engaged citizenry – no, we are not. Unengaged, we give the power to others to decide things for us.

UnclesamwantyouThe food writer, Mark Bittman, wrote recently: “To a large extent, you can fix the food system in your world today. Three entities are involved in creating our food choices: business (everything from farmers to PepsiCo), government (elected and appointed officials and their respective organizations) and the one with the greatest leverage, the one that you control: you.”

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Saturdays with Seibert

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

Last Saturday I joined 35 other paddlers from Santa Barbara Outrigger for a Rig Run. A three hour round trip paddle out to the oil platforms off of Santa Barbara. The platforms are about six miles out, and from GPS devices we paddled a total of 13.8 miles.

It was a beautiful day and the water was really blue. Bluer than I have ever seen it in the past twenty years. It’s the best time of the year to be on the water. – Dan


Hike the Santa Ynez Valley

Column by Outdoor Editor John McKinney, aka The Trailmaster, (site and store here)

Hike the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country and enjoy a couple of short trails that lead from tasting room to tasting room. Located near the little town of Los Olivos, the “Foxen Canyon Wine Trail” offers a tour from winery to winery along Foxen Canyon Road. The tour is for motorists (and some cyclists) but I’m happy to report there’s also a hiking trail to take in Foxen Canyon.

Unwind, uncork, and take a hike in the Santa Barbara wine country.
Unwind, uncork, and take a hike in the Santa Barbara wine country.

Perched atop a commanding mesa overlooking Zaca Canyon, the Santa Ynez Valley and the wilderness beyond, Firestone Vineyard is the oldest (established in 1972) estate winery in Santa Barbara County. The large (by valley standards) winery produces acclaimed Merlots, Chardonnays and Rieslings. And it boasts the first and only hiking trail, too,

During the 1990s, winery founder Brooks Firestone represented the county in the State Assembly for a few terms, before returning to expand the family business. From the earliest days of wine touring in the Santa Ynez Valley, Firestone Vineyard has been a major player and must-stop.

Hikers were pleased when Firestone constructed “Brooks’ Trail” around the vineyard. The pleasant pathway connects Firestone Vineyard with the former Curtis Winery tasting room, recently taken over by Andrew Murray Vineyards.

Andrew Murray wines are much admired, particularly for fine Rhône varieties, and it’s probably a safe bet that The Trailmaster is the one and only person who associates Andrew Murray wines with hiking. Let me explain:

Mountain and (Santa Ynez) Valley vistas are highlights of Brooks’ Trail.

A decade ago, when I was leading hiking tours of Santa Barbara for an upscale walking vacation company, Andrew Murray Vineyards was quite hospitable to our hiking groups. Andrew’s Mom (Fran Murray) was active with a wonderful group, the Santa Ynez Valley Women Hikers, and she and Andrew gave us permission to walk their property and then arranged a post-hike wine tasting. A couple times, Andrew himself did the pour and proudly explained where he wanted to go with the family business. For some of the hikers on my tour, it was the highlight of the week!

So here’s a toast to the Murrays, winemakers and hikers.

If you have a designated driver (always a good idea if you’re on a tasting tour), you can make this an even easier 1.2 mile one-way hike (mostly downhill) from Firestone to Curtis.

Plan your hike for a time when Firestone Vineyard’s tasting room is open, usually 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. daily. The main gain is open a little before and after these hours.

For a little more wine country hiking, pay a visit to Zaca Mesa Winery, which occupies a scenic plateau overlooking Foxen Canyon. The winery offers tastings and two short trails, which look a bit neglected these days. Windmill Trail (0.25 mile) climbs to a picnic area then up to a little overlook. Z Trail (0.25 mile) also climbs to an overlook (a popular promontory for exchanging wedding vows). The path winds among the region’s two kinds of oaks—coastal live and valley—helpfully identified by signs en route.

It’s uphill back to Firestone Winery but it’s an easy ascent, even after a bit of wine-tasting.
It’s uphill back to Firestone Winery but it’s an easy ascent, even after a bit of wine-tasting.

If you’re fantasizing about hiking across the valley from winery to winery and stopping at each tasting room along the trail, you’re going to be disappointed. Sauntering through vineyards in the valley is just not possible or encouraged like it is in Provence and Tuscany. We hikers are grateful to Firestone and Andrew Murray for this small sampling of Santa Ynez Valley wine-country trails, but the valley is so beautiful and enticing, we’re left thirsting for more.

The signed path begins by the picnic area, located just below the Firestone tasting room. Valley vistas are superb from the start of the trail. The trail descends to the vineyard, skirts rows and rows of grapes, and soon crosses the vineyard’s paved entry road.

Brooks Trail climbs a bit, then contours along oak-dotted slopes. Enjoy grand views of Foxen Canyon and the greater wine country. The sights and sounds of cars traveling Foxen Canyon and the rise and dip of active oil rigs amidst the rows of grape are also part of the valley scene. The path descends to Andrew Murray Winery and Visitor Center, where there are grassy picnic grounds under the shade of ancient oaks.

Directions: From Highway 101, some 45 miles north of Santa Barbara, exit on State Highway 154 (San Marcos Pass Rd.) and head east 2.5 miles to Foxen Canyon Road. Turn left and follow the winding road 4.4 miles to a junction with Zaca Station Road. Firestone Vineyard is located 0.7 mile south on Zaca Station Road. Curtis Winery is just west on the continuation of Foxen Canyon Road.

The most direct route to Firestone Vineyard is to exit Highway 101 on Zaca Station Road and proceed 2.5 miles northeast.

Santa Barbara Community Should Shoulder Student Housing Burden

The Channels editorial that was posted in the comments on Santa Barbara View.

MKcja8dTqCity College’s push to pass Measure S has brought up many skeletons in the community’s closet about student housing.

The City College’s fact page cites the 36 percent of students who attended City College last year were from out of the county and were left with the tricky task of finding affordable housing in this picturesque town of Santa Barbara.

The accusations for lack of attention on the matter have been directed at City College, but landlords of Santa Barbara residents have been noticeably absent from the conversations.

Though the community is hyper critical of City College because of the restricted housing situation, The Channels Editorial Board, which is comprised of students who have dealt with almost every type of housing situation, feel it is also the community’s burden to bear.

According to the City College’s website, not one of the 30,687 students enrolled last year lived in a residence owned or operated by City College.

The perception of our school is one of a four-year university. But City College is just that, a city college. Even if the college attempted to solve the issue, it would be nearly impossible because of the horrendously high prices local properties are being sold at. The average one-bedroom in Santa Barbara rents for $1,378.

Harbor Heights, a 97-unit complex nestled between East and West Campus on Cliff Drive, was just sold to an unknown buyer for over $33 million dollars outbidding the City College Foundation after escrow closed in January, setting the record for price per square foot in the city.

If Measure S passes, Santa Barbara homeowners will be taxed $16.65 per $100,000 assessed worth of their property. But the likely situation is that many residents who are also landlords will be passing this tax directly onto their tenants. That means a rent hike for us, the student renters.

With private companies and buyers owning the homes in Santa Barbara, the student housing market is chalk-full of students making landlords dirty rich.

Though the community may focus the attention on City College to mend this suffering part of the system, the Ed Board believes the landlords of Santa Barbara should be making the extra push to accommodate the students that fill their very pockets with cash.

The Editorial Board has encountered almost every type of housing circumstance. From cockroaches to almost unavoidable fees and required expenses, there’s been an overwhelmingly negative review of the local landlords.

With 68 percent of the housing in Santa Barbara being built before 1970, according to the Santa Barbara Independent, many of the rental properties are in need of some serious overhaul. There are homes and apartments that have been functioning simply on temporary fixes while their tenants struggle to pay obscene amounts.

Not all landlords are unpleasant to their tenants. We urge these few to lead by example, or step in and try to spark a change. Students appreciate how you run your residences, which means we take care of them better. When a landlord doesn’t care about their tenants, the tenants in exchange don’t take care of their living space.

While City College is taking the heat for an issue that is not solely theirs in the first place, the Editorial Board is turning the issue onto the community.

If homeowners want to see the college make a change, landlords have to make it possible for it to do so. That means stabilizing the ridiculously off balance rental prices, modernizing and updating, and putting a hold on the hoarding of properties so that a solution could be attempted.

Homeowners and landlords alike will be affected by the tax brought if Measure S passes, but those who believe the students should feel the brunt of the measure have things backwards.

If there is an issue with City College’s student’s need for housing, we should be questioning those who already make the process of renting in this town so difficult.

The views and opinions in this Editorial are those of The Channels Editorial Board and not of the whole City College student body.

I Am Voting for Measure P for the Following Eleven Reasons:


I am voting for Measure P for the following reasons:

1. Measure P is about protecting our groundwater from oil industry contamination by banning Fracking and Acidification processes that mix massive amounts of clean water with hydrofluoric acid and other Fracking chemicals, injecting them into the ground under tremendous pressure creating huge amounts of toxic wastewater also disposed of by injection underground.

2. In July, 2014 California’s Oil & Gas regulators shut down 11 oil field wastewater injection wells because of suspected groundwater contamination. There are over 2,500 toxic wastewater injection wells throughout California, including one just off the Santa Barbara coast.

3. A September 15, 2014 letter from the State Water Board to the EPA confirmed toxic wastewater from oil and gas operations has been illegally injected into aquifers that supply drinking and irrigation water in the central valley. That water source is now polluted and forever unusable.

4. This is the tip of the iceberg with investigations into groundwater contamination just beginning. If Fracking & Acidification practices expand as envisioned by the Oil Industry, there will need to be thousands more wastewater disposal wells. Regulators have allowed disposal of toxic wastewater underground without monitoring fostering Industry claims that these technologies are non-polluting; claims now proven false.

5. In August, 2014, after years of denial under Gas Industry pressure, the State of Pennsylvania finally acknowledged that hundreds of private drinking water wells have been contaminated by Extreme oil and gas operations.

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Ballot Initiatives This Election: Surprisingly (Or Not) Unpalatable

By Sharon Byrne

ballot-measureCalifornia offers ballot initiatives as a route to direct democracy, and it is one of the things I both love and hate about this state. I love it because it gives voters a chance to enact legislation should their legislators prove too squeamish or self-interested to do their jobs. I am thinking of 2010’s Prop 20 to redraw state and congressional district lines using a non-partisan citizens’ commission, as that exercise was counter to sitting elected officials’ interest in being able to pick their voters and thus stay elected.

On the flip side, ballot initiatives can be complicated, heavy-handed, and deceptive. Prop 63 in 2004 promised acute care for the most severely mentally ill. Billions of dollars later, it’s funding conferences and glossy brochures, while mentally ill homeless individuals roam the streets. The Compassionate Use Act fooled many Californians into thinking they were allowing dying cancer patients to use marijuana for pain relief. They had no idea they were passing a toe-hold to drug legalization.

So I hesitate with ballot initiatives. I want to know who’s funding them, who wrote them, where they came from and what they really do. Succinct information is surprisingly hard to come by. We get deluged with hyperbole by the “yes” and “no” camps, but it is a hard sell to the average voter to make a careful, thoughtful analysis that takes in all the nuances on a given initiative. If facing multiple ballot initiatives…well, it might be easier mentally to just throw in the towel.

This election, we have a couple of initiatives that sound great, but give pause – S and P. Let’s deal with S first.

Full disclosure: I am the parent of a child that attends SBCC as a dual-enrollment student through the Santa Barbara High School. My daughter has taken classes at SBCC since the 8th grade. I am a huge fan of that program. I live next door to an SBCC student, and another lives behind me. These 3 kids grew up here.

Over the past 4 years, longtime Latino families have moved out of this neighborhood as rents have risen. Those homes now host SBCC kids, and I’ve met several of them over time. Late-nite parties have necessitated those meetings. These kids are all Euros or Brazilians. I often hear German, French, Portuguese and Swedish spoken on a street that used to host mostly Spanish speakers.

Someone posted photos on the Santa Barbara View recently of all the foreign co-eds now living in the lower Westside, another neighborhood that used to be dominated by Latino families.

I’ve heard the official numbers for foreign enrollment at SBCC, but it doesn’t jive with what I see in the community. And the rental squeeze is definitely on. These kids are living 8-10 to a house that formerly housed 8-10 Spanish-speakers, but I guess the college kids pay much higher dollar.

When SBCC proposed Measure S, I internally balked before I’d even heard much about it. The fallout from Deltopia, the takeover of parts of downtown causing the rental squeeze, the partying, trashing and dumping in neighborhoods by SBCC students – things are seriously out of balance between SBCC and the community. Forcing homeowners to pay the school more money to serve an increasingly foreign population – no. I particularly don’t like the college’s answer for the problems of poor student treatment of neighborhoods:

“Once they’re off campus, they’re not our responsibility.”

Not so. Many college towns in this country have successfully pushed campus administrations to significantly improve student behavior in the community. That’s responsible citizenship, and college administrations should be first in line to demonstrate that quality. After all, they’re educating our future citizenry.

As it stands, I don’t feel there’s enough ‘city’ focus at SBCC, so I won’t be voting for S.

Measure P has a similar hesitation factor for me. Fracking Ban? Sign me up. That was easy. There’s simply too much data now about fracking harms that you ought to be very wary when it turns up at your doorstep. But Measure P keeps getting undressed as a huge overreach. The county liability factor with vested rights and existing wells just keeps swirling. This seems to be a Get Oil Out Initiative, which is fine. Just say that’s what you’re up to. Don’t dress it up as one thing, when what you want to do is something else entirely. For many in the campaign industry, that’s good business. Say whatever you have to in order to get the win. Secure the toe-hold. Push for as much as you can. Initiatives are time-consuming and expensive for those wagering them. So initiatives like these ‘aim for the moon’.

For the voters, though, the feeling of being duped leaves a very sour taste, and diminishes our willingness to embrace future ballot initiatives, good and bad. Ultimately yesterday and today’s ballot initiative proponents are screwing future proponents by generating increasing voter scrutiny and distrust, so overreach and masking is really not smart long-term politics. It just makes it easier for voters to say no.

(Cough) Déjà-vu All Over Again (Cough, Cough)

by Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150A decade ago, my healthy, strong second-grade son contracted pertussis, aka whooping cough. He had been fully immunized against this bacterial disease, but he got it anyway. Of all the childhood colds and flus, aches and pains, accidents and infections, the bout with whooping cough was by far the worst—and the after-effects went on forever.

In all the heated discussion about vaccines and anti-vaccines, here’s a little light: No one hears about the broken ribs, the weakened immune systems, the damaged bronchial tubes, the lost stamina, the time away from school. The amount of time it takes to fully heal.

Because his bronchial tubes were so damaged from the weeks that turned into months of coughing spasms, my son was left with “reactive airway disease,” and was under the care of our community’s asthma guru, Dr. Liebhaber. For four years he had an inhaler, one at home, one at school. He took Advair and Singulair, and sometimes, when his breathing was bad, he had to take doses of Prednisone. The humidifier was our best friend; dry, hot weather our worst enemy. During the ashy, particulate-filled days of the Tea, Zaca and Jesusita fires, he had to leave town.

There were ugly side effects to the powerful drugs, but he needed them to get better.

It was a long, tough journey back, and now that strapping high school senior is a picture of good health.

But here come the news reports that vaccine-preventable whooping cough is back in Santa Barbara. A disease that was nearly eradicated nationwide has taken hold across the state and far beyond—and there have been a few additional breakouts in town in the past 10 years.

I’ve been keeping track because it was such an unexpected and traumatic upheaval in our lives, that included a period when our family was quarantined in our home. I researched whooping cough. Wrote about it. Spoke out about it years ago on the “Today Show” and just last year I flew across the country to appear on a medical show on Public Television called “Second Opinion.” In short, I know more about whooping cough than any parent ought to.

In the past 10 years, a few things have changed: The FDA approved a booster shot for whooping cough, and it’s supposed to be given to every incoming high school student. But now, more parents have learned about “Personal Belief waivers” and have declined to immunize their children.

Despite widespread scientific evidence debunking the link between autism and vaccines the myth continues out of the mouths of politicians and celebrities and internet anti-vaxx “experts.” And we also know that the concept of herd immunity requires individuals to take responsibility for public health, and collectively vaccinate—to protect our own children and the community at large.

But still incidence of this awful disease keeps rising. And it is awful long after the 100 days of coughing finally subside.

These new cases of whooping cough will once again raise the voices of the organic, holistic, homeopathic-for-everything, believers in the notion that thinking positive thoughts and lots of fresh air and sunshine will keep the negative things in life away. They won’t want to listen to the fact that Bordetella pertussis is one highly communicable and very nasty germ that attacks anyway, no matter how pure your diet or your thoughts. And unless and until we change our thinking, and our actions, now that it’s taken hold again, it’s never going away.

Editor’s Note: A healthy herd immunity rate is around 95 percent. Waldorf is hardly the only school that has had an outbreak of whooping cough in recent years. Plenty of other public and private schools have had them as well. A Look up the immunization rate at your child’s school: