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EcoFacts: Good Eco Cheer

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

Re: The state of the world. There is actually some news to celebrate, while chatting with friends and family over drinks and good food this holiday season….or at least inwardly one can be glad.

The race to get as much oil and gas from the ground as possible has slowed considerably, thanks to plunging energy prices, and in some cases, concerns about fracking. In New York State, Governor Cuomo has banned fracking following reports from state health officials, one of whom summed it up by saying that he would not want his family living nearby fracking operations. As for the other kind of gas, everyone who drives received a raise for the holiday season, spending less on it for their daily and holiday travels..

Could it be the first time in human history? This month, virtually all of the governments in the world came together, after 36 straight hours of negotiations, to strike a deal – the Lima Accord. The entire world is now on board to lower emissions from burning fossil fuels, in an effort to stave off the worst effects of climate change, understanding that the costs are both human and economic. (Could any costs be just one?)

Last month, the U.S. and China, the worlds’ biggest emitters, made a separate joint agreement to cut their emissions in the coming decades.

In one year – 2012-2013 – global renewable energy capacity (not including hydro) grew 17%. Countries with renewable energy policy targets grew from 48 to 144 in ten years. In the same period, annual new investment in renewables soared, from $40 billion to $214 billion.

bikesharePublic bike sharing programs have nearly doubled in the past three years, and are now in over 700 cities. The two largest are in China, pictured right.

In Paris, Mayor Ann Hidalgo is planning to clean up the air and traffic congestion by banning diesel vehicles from the city center and limiting four central districts of the city to bikes and pedestrians. Whoa! I suppose some negotiations will be in the works there.

Here’s to a changing world!

Last Minute Local Gifts: The Yes Store

A Santa Barbara treasure is back for their 47th year! Support your local artisans at the annual Yes Store, which has opened for the holidays at 629 State Street. One-stop shopping for arts, crafts, jewelry and other wonderful gift items at the co-op shop like no other.

Make a Promise, Don’t Drink and Drive

photoIt’s holiday party season in Santa Barbara, so please make a promise to yourself… don’t drink and drive. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office will be aggressively looking for drunk drivers over the next few weeks with plans in place for 7 DUI/Driver’s License Checkpoints and 15 local roving DUI Saturation Patrols.

The cost of cab fare is nothing compared to a $10,000 DUI or the cost of someone’s life, and the ‘inconvenience’ of not driving your own car home is nothing compared to the inconvenience of spending the holidays behind bars. In addition to reminding all drivers to drive sober, Sheriff Bill Brown is calling on everyone to be alert. If you see a drunk driver on the road, Report Drunk Drivers – Call 911! — you could save a life.  If someone you know is about to drive after drinking, take their keys and help them get home safely. “We’ve got to work together to make our roads safer this December and year-round,” says Sheriff Brown.

pdf-logoIf you need a ride, call or text Pete’s Preferred Taxi at (805) 403-5912.

The PDF left talks about rates and provides tips for taking a taxi in Santa Barbara, California.

New Directions: Travel Opportunities for Everyone

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150Thirty years ago, when spirits were high, many members of the Adult Residential Program at Devereaux prepared to spend the holidays off-campus, where they would celebrate with family and friends.

But Dee Duncan, who worked at the facility at the time, looked around and saw something amiss. A small group of residents with mild to moderate developmental disabilities had no place to go—and would be alone at the very time of year when most people gather together.

That’s when she got into action with a bold plan that would take her life in a different direction—along with the lives of thousands of clients for decades. She decided to take that group to Disneyland.

“At the holidays, you can’t have people spending it alone,” she reflects in the calm and peaceful surroundings of the backyard garden of her lovingly restored Craftsman bungalow. That’s just the kind of person Duncan is—a kind, thoughtful and imaginative innovator who does things first-class, at home, in business and in her own enthusiasm for travel.

logo2When she first had that brainstorm—the very beginning of New Directions Travel for people with disabilities—the first group of participants hadn’t had much opportunity to experience the freedom of travel or to spend holidays in a joyful, loving environment with others who cared for them.

But Duncan was determined to change that and do something special for them. She called it the Holiday Happiness Program. Three decades, and 12,000 New Directions participants later, that initial foray to the happiest place on earth has expanded to all kinds of adventures around the world.

If Las Vegas, Hawaii, The Grand Canyon and New York City aren’t exciting enough, how about Australia, Israel, Japan and even Galapagos Islands? And these travelers aren’t content to stay on a tour bus—they enjoy adventurous activities like hot air ballooning, surfing, snorkeling and river rafting. Just like everyone else.

newdirectionsThey stay in upscale accommodations, dine in fine restaurants and enjoy shopping sprees, visiting local attractions, meeting new people and making new friendships while traveling. Just like everyone else.

Let’s face it: dealing with all the uncertainty that travel brings can be stressful for anyone. To ensure that New Directions trips go off without a hitch, Duncan relies on a well-trained, highly experienced team of tour guides that accompanies every group. They may range from a ratio of 1:1 to 1:4 participants to guide. Traveling in these small groups allows more personalized, attentive services and a low-key non-touristy experience.

But Duncan stresses that the real secret to New Directions’ success is an approach that treats participants with “total respect.” And as great as the opportunity is for enhanced self esteem and expanded horizons that travel offers participants in the program, there’s another essential benefit: The general public learns so much when they see New Directions clients living full and active lives. Just like everyone else.

For more information about New Directions, Inc. call (805) 967-2841 or visit
Originally published in the Winter 2014-15 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine,

Stop Venoco from opening up oil wells at Ellwood


Dear Editor:

There is a key meeting today that is critical to the future of Goleta.

The State Lands Commission is meeting on Wednesday, Dec 17 in Newport Beach to consider Venoco’s proposal to drill right on the beach from an aging platform between the Bacara and UCSB that has been shut down for the past 20 years. Venoco wants to restart drilling and keep drilling on the beach for the next 20 years despite rising sea levels and storm waves that increase the risk of spills. This beach is zoned and used extensively for recreation, is surrounded by sensitive beach and wetlands, near dense residential and business areas and includes significant impacts to water quality and quality of life in our city. Tell the State Lands Commission that this is unacceptable, and that they should not certify the EIR because it is based on processing the oil at the Ellwood Onshore Facility, which the City of Goleta is looking at phasing out.

Please send something to State Lands Commission even if only a few words in an email,

Stage Two Drought Update

Yesterday, the Santa Barbara City Council received an updated on the status of the current drought and related efforts. According to the Agenda:

Water Supply Outlook
Cachuma2The water supply outlook remains unchanged from the November 18, 2014 drought update presentation. The Santa Barbara area received some moderate rainfall in early December, but the area needs pro-longed wet weather to make a significant impact on water supplies. The National Weather Service is projecting a weak El Nino weather condition and equal chances of above, below, or normal rainfall for Santa Barbara over the next few months. Due to the uncertainty in projected rainfall, staff is planning for continued drought conditions. Staff continues to work on securing additional supplemental water, accelerating drought related capital projects, and sustaining a strong message for extraordinary conservation. The most recent water conservation numbers for October 2014 show an ongoing 20 percent reduction in water use. Staff is hopeful that the drought water rates that went into effect on July 1, 2014 will encourage the community to continue sustaining the 20 percent water use reduction.

Drought Response Capital Projects
Staff is moving forward with the design and construction of capital work projects to assist with water supply during the drought. This includes the acceleration of groundwater well replacement and projects that use poor quality groundwater in place of potable water for irrigation. Groundwater wells include the Corporation Yard Well, which is currently online and whose water is being treated at the Ortega Groundwater Treatment Plant; Valle Verde Well, whose water is being pumped into the City’s recycled water system; and the new Alameda Well, that was recently awarded a contract for construction.

At the direction of Council, staff is moving forward with the reactivation of the City’s Desalination Facility. On November 17, 2014, the Request For Proposal to design, build and operate the facility was sent to the three pre-qualified firms. Responses are due back on February 5, 2014. Staff is currently working on applying for a $40 million State Revolving Fund loan for the project.

Conservation Efforts
Staff has increased the Water Conservation Outreach Program through an enhanced drought media campaign: additional targeted outreach, including increased weekly messaging through social media; online news outlets and industry contacts; presentations to community and industry groups; additional printed materials with drought messaging; targeted utility bill messaging; drought signage at City facilities; and additional trainings and workshops.

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.”


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.

Feel you need more info? Learn more about the MHSA services on offer currently here:

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:
2nd District: Janet Wolf:
3rd District: Doreen Farr:
4th District: Peter Adam:
5th District: Steve Lavagnino:

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.