A Sense of Optimism
What a ride this has been for us all. While we are not yet out of the woods of what will probably turn out to be the worst wildfire in California’s history, I write this letter with a cautious sense of optimism.
There are still over 8,000 firefighters on this fire. On 12-hour shifts, there are 4,000 firefighters working at any given time to keep our homes safe for us to return to. My words cannot express my immense gratitude and awe for all of these brave and relentless men and women who have risked their own lives on the front lines of this fire to save and protect our community and our homes. Likewise, I am so grateful to the law enforcement officials and the dozens of community volunteers who have been working every day to make sure that our we come out of this in one piece.
I also feel compelled to give a shout-out to one of the newest members of our Montecito family — Montecito Union School’s new superintendent, Anthony Ranii. This was quite an initiation into his new position. I have never felt more sure about anything as I am that the MUS Board of Trustees’s decision to hire Anthony was a great one. Every day during this tumultuous and scary ordeal, Anthony has been at center of this crisis, gathering and disseminating information to keep our community informed, making tough calls, and protecting our beloved school. In the daily correspondence Anthony has sent out, he has shown complete sensitivity to what we are all going through and not only kept us abreast of important information and decisions, but provided impressive insight into his reasoning behind those decisions.
Every time I thank Anthony for his hard and thoughtful leadership during this time, he responds by saying, “That’s my job.” But we all know there are many ways to do a job, and he has put his heart and soul into this effort and on behalf of us all. Our board wanted to hire someone who would walk over hot coals for our community. I’m not sure we knew we meant this quite so literally.
As my family was preparing to evacuate our home, I looked around for any last things to grab and realized that what I treasured most was already waiting for me in the car — my husband, our two daughters, and our three dogs. So on that note, I want to wish every one of you and your family a happy and healthy holiday, and New Year.
May 2018 be a healthy, joyful, and meaningful year for everyone.
(Ms Lurie is president, Montecito Union Board of Trustees.)
State Street Blues
On the subject of homeless on State Street, this morning I was driving up State and saw a guy with a bunch of trash around him. I hurriedly got my camera out and took a photo. I wasn’t sure if it captured the scene, so I pulled a U-turn, and as I did, saw another person asleep on the other side of the street. Then I got a clearer view of the trash guy: “Shop, Ship, Smile!” Right. And leave all of your crap on State street.
(Editor’s note: The City of Santa Barbara has put out the welcome mat for down-on-their-luck transients, so the least those down-and-outers could do would be to pick up their trash, but that is apparently too much to ask. However, in the spirit of the Christmas season, we suggest you look the other way or bring a cup of coffee and/or donuts to these unfortunates. And then, after January 1, work to figure out how to at least make them clean up after themselves. – J.B.)
Put the Fires out!
Locally, we have had the Whittier Fire, the Rey, Gap, Jesusita, Tea, Zaca, Sherpa, Gibraltar, and the list goes on since 1995 when the Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy was signed. Why so many more fires since the policy? Could it be when a remote fire is allowed to burn for weeks or months it could get out of control, and structures burn and people’s health and lives are threatened?
“Wildland fire, as a critical natural process, must be reintroduced into the ecosystem,” the policy states. Since 98 percent or more wildfires are started accidentally by humans, we should agree this is not “a natural process.”
Before 1995, both the Painted Cave and Sycamore Canyon fires were put out within days. Both the Whittier and Rey Fires contaminated Lake Cachuma, our drinking water reservoir with soot and ash, as well as possible fire retardant. This is costly and unhealthy.
Currently, the Thomas Fire is threatening the watershed of both Gibraltar and Jameson Lake, which are drinking water reservoirs for Montecito and Carpinteria. Lake Casitas has already been contaminated by the Thomas Fire.
Reportedly, the Thomas Fire costs $30 million per day. Governor Brown in Ventura last week said, “with climate change, some scientists say Southern California is literally burning up… and… is… what we can expect over the next decades.” Governor Brown said, “That’s why we have to respond, plan… and combat the larger challenge, which is climate change.”
Fires started by people is part of anthropomorphic climate change. Allowing fires started by people to burn for months at a time is not combating climate change, governor. It’s the opposite of that.
Reasonable people need to do what we can to change this disastrous federal environmental policy.
Peter Walker Hunt, AIA
(Editor’s note: The Chumash and most native Americans knew what to do: light “controlled” fires when conditions were right. It’s what we should do too. – J.B.)
Out with the Eucs
If you’re sick and tired of and irritated with having your electricity going off in Montecito every month, who and what is to blame must cross your mind.
We all know about the big blowout about 10 months ago, due to a limb falling on the relay station. The electric company got away free that time by using the old “act of God” excuse again. But at that meeting, I warned them that they now must take care of all the limbs over the high wires.
And they soon started to do something about it. But of course, they did it wrong – and every supervisor on the Board of Supervisors knows it was wrong and a cheat.
Why, you ask?
They did remove many of the limbs over the high-tension wires but did not take any height out of the tallest trees that are now losing big limbs, dropping on the wires. So, the problems continue.
The answer is simple but costly. These trees (mostly eucalyptus) must be greatly reduced or removed. This problem is due to deferred maintenance, along with electric company executives who count on public amnesia.
Who will lead the charge to stop this problem in the wealthiest country in California? When is Das Williams, our new supervisor, going to do something worthwhile?
(Editor’s note: You won’t get an argument from us; we’re all for removing most of the non-native eucalyptus trees in and around Montecito. They make a mess, are dangerous around homes and humans [because of falling limbs and a propensity to turn into exploding fireballs at the most inopportune moments], and cost a small fortune to “maintain” over the years. They also grow as fast as the most pernicious weeds. – J.B.)
Fall-ing in Paris
Three of us crossed the U.S. and the Atlantic Ocean in order to enjoy the brisk fall days in the cafes of Paris but knew we’d appreciate both the weather and our cafe au lait even more with the MJ. And so, we didn’t leave home without it.
What’s in your suitcase?
(Editor’s note: Well, gee, last year  we spent seven weeks mostly in France [my wife, Helen, is French] and actually wrote editorials and answered reader mail from Honfleur and Paris, so the MJ is imbued with beaucoup de France. – J.B.)
I am down in Mexico with my friend and fellow artist Filiberto Lomeli in Mascota, one of Mexico’s “most magical towns.” Fili was born here, and his hometown is small, like Carpinteria, but with Spanish colonial architecture dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Some families have been here for over 200 years!
I am here to research the possibilities of teaching a landscape painting workshop en plein air in October/November 2018. Thus far, Mascota is sparsely inhabited by American expats, unlike many other Mexican towns and cities.
Not only is the scenery idyllic, and architecture enchanting, but the residents are friendly and jovial, which I feel is the foundation for the “magical” ambiance of the town.
It almost feels like the land that time forgot, along with its rich prehistoric roots. It’s a world away for sure, and a great place to escape the fires behind Montecito; in fact, the only hot thing about Mascota is the fire water made here in the valley; it is a tequila they call “Raicilla,” and it is emerging in popularity here and abroad.
Anyone interested in joining us in the fall of 2018 can go to: www.thomasvanstein.net and look under “workshops.”
Thomas Van Stein
(Editor’s note: Mr. Van Stein has been a long and loyal fan of Montecito Journal over the years, and we enthusiastically support him in whatever effort he has planned. His work has graced at least three MJ covers over the years. – J.B.)