Overhead Wires = Aesthetic Blight

By Montecito Journal   |   May 24, 2018

I have lived on Santa Rosa Lane for over 30 years. The ugly power lines have always been a blight on what should be beautiful mountain views. Years ago, I asked Southern California Edison to take a look at the mess for safety reasons and to discuss the possibilities of putting the wires under the ground. The technician’s response was “They don’t bother me.”

Now, after the recent fire and subsequent mudslide disaster, the problem of the power lines goes way beyond aesthetics. Evidence seems to show that the fire was started by a poorly maintained Southern California Edison power pole. On my street, the tangled wires are dripping across and into hedges, winding around other wires, and most frightening, entwined in dead and brittle branches. An inferno waiting to happen.

Does our community have to endure another tragedy before Southern California Edison finally faces the obvious and puts their wires underground? It would be a sign that they are willing to do all they can to avert the horror of another disaster. In the name of decency and common sense, please do this now.

Daphne Moore

(Editor’s note: We are with you on this, Ms Moore, but the various utilities, both public and private (power, cable, so-called “wireless” companies, telephone land lines, et cetera), have created a deliberately confusing array of cross-purposes whose poles, antennae, and ungainly attachments encroach upon our views, so much so that it has become nearly impossible for homeowners to even begin discussions that could lead to undergrounding. They’ve also made it prohibitively expensive. I believe the only way to make this happen is legislatively. The California legislature has recently mandated that all new homes built and/or renovated in the state after 2020 must feature solar panels on south-facing roofs. If legislators can do this, why not push them to require that all utilities must be placed underground by… let’s say 2020? This could be a winning formula for a budding politician or political cause. Justin Fareed, are you listening? – J.B.

The Art of the Deal

My fingers are still crossed. Save the children.

Pedophilia must be addressed, and President Trump is as incensed as we are. I sure hope these sealed indictments are acted upon to conclude this terrible episode in our nation’s history. One of the keys is the murder of Seth Rich. Connecting the dots runs the gambit from Benghazi to the sale of Uranium One. 

Hang on!

Fred Hayward

(Editor’s note: We here at Montecito News Central came up blank when trying to decipher your missive and can’t figure out what you are referring to. But thank you for your letter. – J.B.)

Dazed and Confused

I’m a little confused about something. Maybe one of your editor’s notes can enlighten me. How is it a gunrunning convicted felon – Oliver North (remember the Contras?) – now heads up the NRA? I believe a federal judge turned down his request to own a gun.

Also, at the NRA convention recently in Dallas, no one could bring a gun. Does that violate their 2nd Amendment rights?

Thomas Carlisle
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: Well, we do remember the Contras, and yes, it was an embarrassing moment for the U.S. that sales of arms were made to Iran against the wishes of Congress, and that the money received went toward support for the Nicaragua Contras against their communist opponents. Colonel North was found guilty on three counts in connection with all that, but a federal judge vacated those felony convictions a couple years later (1991). And, since he is no longer a legally “convicted felon,” he’ll probably make a pretty good NRA president. As for the convention in Dallas, the main speaker was to be President Trump, and security requirements called for the disarming of the audience. Second Amendment rights don’t necessarily follow gun-toters into public arenas. – J.B.)

He’s for Brown

I do not normally get “publicly involved” in politics, but the upcoming election for sheriff is too important to ignore. As a 50+ year resident of Montecito and a longtime observer of local politics, I cannot fathom why anyone would think it’s time to try to replace sheriff Bill Brown with a much less experienced deputy. How do you argue with phenomenal success? Bill steered this county through one of the biggest crises in the history of Santa Barbara, during the December fire and the January mudslides. Bill has incredible experience and was recognized by experts for his leadership and control of an almost impossible string of disasters.

Bill Brown demonstrated the skills and caring that he has shown for many years as a member of the Board of Directors for the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation, as well as being involved in many other community organizations. Bill has always been an advocate of the homeless, lost veterans, the mentally ill and other minorities. He has, at the same time, managed to represent the needs of a large and very diverse county. We all deserve to have the best sheriff possible for our communities and Bill Brown is most certainly that! Vote for Bill Brown on June 5 and end this costly ego contest backed by bored and restless union members.

John W. Blankenship

(Editor’s note: We concur. I had arranged an interview with Sheriff Brown but it never happened. Nonetheless, we agree that nothing in his record would indicate a need for him to be replaced. As a rule, Montecito Journal doesn’t endorse law enforcement candidates, such as sheriff or district attorney, so we won’t comment further except to say that Sheriff Brown has performed admirably and with dignity. – J.B.)

Change and Reform

I had the honor of working at the Santa Barbara County Jail from 2007-09 as a culinary arts instructor and a Servsafe instructor, through SBCC Adult Ed.

During this time, I was able to observe closely a very challenged population, struggling to overcome addictions, unhealthy behavioral patterns, and a yearning to experience relief and change. I viewed this environment as a rich opportunity to promote reflection, connection, and more important a sense of responsibility in how they affect their internal and external environment through the choices and actions they take.

Through a simple act such as chopping, I was able to observe how most of the population was challenged with attention deficit disorder and lack of basic awareness skills, often making it hard for them to follow instructions. It was after an inmate chopped his finger with a prepping machine due to his lack of focus that I marched to sheriff Bill Brown‘s office for advice on how to solve this problem.

Not being politically savvy, I did not know who I would meet and even wondered if such a busy man would have time to talk to me.

To my surprise, I was informed that the sheriff was busy, but that he would take a few minutes to see me. Immediately, I felt comfortable in his presence due to his openness, his genuine interest in my observations and a willingness to do something about the issue. He explained that he understood the presenting issue, which was one of the causes for the inmates to keep rotating back to life behind the cells. We discussed the project of Vipassana that strives to teach self-awareness skills through meditation in jail systems. Sheriff Bill Brown came across as very solution-oriented from the moment I met him. We were soon discussing how to incorporate these tools, observe results, and then possibly consider integrating these into the jail reformation program.

I offered to volunteer to run these meditation classes until we saw results. For a year, every Sunday, my church became to sit in silence with the female inmates from Honor Farm while guiding them on how to work with self-control, self-compassion, and compassion for others.

I have also witnessed how, thanks to the culinary program at the jail as well as the Servsafe program, many inmates have created for themselves an opportunity to reintegrate into society with skills they feel empowered with. It is in moments as such that I feel proud to belong to our community. I feel protected by authorities that are willing to listen, allow active participation, and strive for healthy changes in our disciplinarian systems. These qualities are hard to find in leaders who truly care for our system and its improvement. Currently, I am a proud board member for the Prison Yoga Project that is already working on providing self-regulating skills to the inmates, as well as an opportunity to connect with healthy awareness of their body.

Sheriff Bill Brown’s commitment to reform and offer life skills of re-integration into society is visible throughout the years, he has been in service to us through the different programs the jail offers. At the same time, his priority of safety for us is also balanced out in making sure that inmates returning to society have the right resources available to become committed and safe citizens.

I thank sheriff Bill Brown for being an inspiring model, delivering me to true respect for the authorities in whose hands our community we entrust. Without his approval, none of these positive changes could have taken place.

During the unfortunate disaster period with fires and floods, heavily affecting our community, sheriff Bill Brown never failed to reassure us that safety would be restored and again showed his commitment through the diligent work he conducted during our challenging times with natural disasters. At that time, I happened to be in Spain visiting family and his presence was visible on international TV. I couldn’t feel safer while my heart bled for our community from afar.

In conclusion, re-electing sheriff Bill Brown would be a continuation of great work and ongoing positive service rendered to our community. We are truly fortunate to have such a great leader.

Nimita Dhirajlal
Santa Barbara

(Mr. Dhirajlal is the owner of Nimita’s Cuisine on East Haley Street.)

Shy and Curious

Debbie Wasserman-Shultz recently proclaimed that the NRA was “…just shy of being a terrorist organization…”

Does that mean we should consider Ms Schultz “just shy” of being a political saboteur-terrorist when she, and the DNC, “fixed” the 2016 nominations against Senator Bernie Sanders? 

Was the FBI/CIA “just shy” of becoming a domestic political terrorism organization when it planted an informant in the Trump campaign?

Just curiously shy.

Dale Lowdermilk
Santa Barbara

A Vote for Oprah

In this time of political disarray, a “normal” politician very likely would lose to President Trump in 2020. A political outsider would have the best chance of wresting the presidency from him; after all, it worked for Mr. Trump to be an outsider.

While it’s understandable for Oprah Winfrey to balk at running for president – after all, she’s worked hard to get to where she is today and wants to relax a little – it’s imperative that a conciliatory person becomes president. It’s time to stop the political backstabbing that’s occurring in Washington.

Please, Oprah, pick up the phone and call in. Your country is counting on you.

Peter Kastl, M.D., Ph.D.
Tulane University
New Orleans

(Editor’s note: We admire the talent and energy of Ms Winfrey, a Montecito resident, and we can’t fail to notice that she would indeed make the perfect Democratic candidate. When Oprah was America’s most popular TV talk-show host – a position now owned by Ellen DeGeneres, yet another Montecito resident – she famously gifted her audience members with all kinds of freebies. Sounds like a winning political formula to us. – J.B.)

Reform Immigration

We oppose amnesty in any way for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Anyone who wants to become an American citizen should get in line and do the deal. Dreamers should go back home or get in line. American taxpayers should not have to pay for them. To stop future violations of our national sovereignty as we had in the past eight years with that idiot, Obama, we need The Wall.

It is obvious the present process of naturalization is too long and expensive. It should be reformed to be a three-year process. If the candidate did not pass their tests in that time, then another year would be granted. If that failed, then the candidate would be deported, or placed on a temporary work program. The process was originally five years but changed to 14 in the late 1900s. Costs for newcomers should be limited to clerical processing costs. 

With anywhere from 12 to 20 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., our representatives will need to mount a draconian effort to train all these illegals in American culture, history, and English. Otherwise, we will not have an American system, as we know it today, for our grandchildren. 

In addition, we need to reform the immigration system to eliminate chain migration and race visas, and anchor babies. We need to police anyone coming to the U.S. and select them on the basis of our need and their qualifications. No one should be allowed to come here illegally or to stay illegally after visas expire. 

Justin M. Ruhge

(Editor’s note: Funny about all this. I had friends who applied for Swiss citizenship some years back. He was a Dutch citizen, she French. He had found work in Switzerland and decided they would both apply for citizenship. It was a 12-year process that required my friends to openly display their “Swissness.” They would meet at regular intervals with a minder who had apparently followed my friends’ activities rather closely. During dinner at my home, they described one such meeting, whereupon their minder had asked them why they, for example, ate so often at a local McDonald’s instead of at a Swiss-style eatery. I’ve lost contact with the couple so don’t know if they ever attained their desired Swiss citizenship, but the Swiss certainly don’t make it easy to become citizens of their country. I do believe it should be somewhat easier to become a U.S. citizen, but there should be some requirements, just as you have outlined. – J.B.)

The Soul of Mission Canyon

At the turn of the 20th century, long before there was a Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) or an Architectural Board of Review (ABR), a public place of distinction and poetry was created in Santa Barbara.

Beautiful and one of a kind, the Mission Canyon Corridor from the Old Mission to the City Landmark Historic Bridge over Mission Creek and Mission Canyon Road to Foothill is such a place. 

Here is a rare example of pre-history and history. The stream and surrounding natural environment with boulders and landforms from ancient debris flows and earthquakes are here to enjoy and learn from. Go deep into Rocky Nook and see the local geology scientists have been using as an example since our heartbreaking January disasters.

The early Santa Barbara pioneers had traveled widely, were well-educated, and valued the landscape they found here. Their thoughtfulness and talents helped to design a timeless combination of built and natural features so fitting for this space. Circulation patterns from ancient times organically curve with the land and avoid the usual grid network of streets. The emphasis is always on nature. It keeps us grounded and lifts the spirit. People who walk here love it. 

Stroll uphill to the ruins of the ancient reservoir and gristmill. Cross the footbridge through majestic native trees and see the graceful old entrance to Rockwood. Notice everything on this vernacular streetscape! You’re experiencing a unique treasure of historic resources in this world of change and uniformity.

No need to travel distant places for the extraordinary. The Mission Canyon corridor is an intact historic cultural landscape right here in our midst.

Francesca Galt
Santa Barbara

Ranchero Visitadores Shout Out

On May 5, I had the pleasure of attending the impressive 88th Annual Rancheros Visitadores Parade to Old Mission Santa Ines in Solvang.

The 750 “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” cowboys once again rode their beautiful horses and carriages in support of the fight against breast cancer. The Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara was awarded a check in the amount of $166,000, which was raised by these wonderful people. These funds will support the treatment, research, and wellness programs at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center that are delivered to our county’s cancer patients, regardless of their ability to pay.

Insuring superior cancer care for every citizen of Santa Barbara County is the Mission of the Cancer Foundation, and we are so very grateful that for the past seven years we have been the recipient of the Rancheros Visitadores’s generosity.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Cancer Foundation, I’d like to give a “shout out” of heartfelt thanks to the Rancheros Visitadores for all their help.

Janet Smith

(Ms Smith is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Cancer Foundation.)

Share and Share Alike

Scott McCosker may have had some business to attend to in Macau, but he remembered to bring his most important reading material with him

I am heading back to Montecito, but wanted you to know that I brought your publication to Macau and ended up sharing it with some wonderful people here.

Scott McCosker

Rain and Drought

I am writing to you as the former GM of the Carpinteria Valley Water District, not as the “extra help” employee I am now for the Santa Barbara County Water Agency. I am a regular reader of the MJ and your well-written columns in particular. I am hoping to convey to you what I believe to be significant misconceptions regarding the State Water Project and State Water.

Re: Bob Hazard’s most recent On The Water Front column, I would like to point out the following: Bob states that “Table A State Water is readily available when it rains, but unavailable in drought when needed most.”

It was understood by the California Department of Water Resources and most Central Coast water buffaloes back when Santa Barbara participation in the State Water Project (SWP) was approved in 1991 that based on historical records, most of the times when the Central Coast is in a drought, Northern California is not.

For the five Cachuma Member Units, participation in the SWP was seen mainly as a way to augment Cachuma supplies during a Central Coast drought. Our recent experience just two to three years ago did not fit the historical pattern when practically the entire State fell into a severe drought. More recently, we see the north getting precipitation and not the Central Coast. Santa Maria, not connected to the Cachuma Project, saw State Water Project participation as an alternative to lesser quality and unreliable groundwater.

Later, Mr. Hazard writes, “Worse, it has a high fixed-cost component.”

The $550-million capital costs (translated into fixed costs of bond debt) necessary to construct the Coastal Branch and the contractual obligation to pay for relevant ongoing capital costs of the State Water Project were investments in infrastructure. They are not related to how much water is ordered and delivered in a given year and must be paid even if no State Water is ordered in a given year. I’ve often said it’s a bit like a mortgage obligation, whether you live in the house you own or not.

This infrastructure, including parts of the larger State Water Project and all of the Central Coast Branch system of pipes, pumps, and treatment facilities is now proving itself to be extremely valuable to the ongoing functioning of Lake Cachuma and south coast water agencies’ ability to forestall rationing, even when there are reduced annual supplies passing through the SWP system. This is possible because other water agencies throughout the State have stored more State Water than they need and are willing to market it.

I always thought the Carpinteria Valley Water District overinvested in State Water, by as much as 50 percent. It remains to be seen if this “extra” investment, enabling twice the capacity in the project that it needs, pays off in some future arrangement with other water agencies. I think and hope it will.

If climate change is indeed at work and upsetting the historical pattern of droughts in Northern California usually not coinciding with droughts on the Central Coast, we are losing some of the original value we expected to derive from the SWP. I’m not convinced this has happened yet. I see State Water as a mostly reliable source of supply of water to mitigate droughts experienced by the Cachuma member agencies and Santa Maria into the foreseeable future.

Variable State Water delivery costs are separate from fixed bond debt and other related contractual project costs. State Water, both in the form of: 1) annual deliveries as doled out by the Department of Water Resources, based on availability of water and a water agency’s right to annually request up to a certain amount (but not receive a predetermined allocation) in proportion to the agency’s financial share of capital costs; or 2) as purchased (State) Water delivered to or stored for other water agencies is now and will remain a vital source of supply for the Cachuma member agencies, as well as Santa Maria into the foreseeable future. 

Both of the above options to access State Water depend upon: 1) the Coastal Branch system of the SWP, and 2) the Cachuma Project (only for Cachuma member agencies, not Santa Maria) and are supported by both past and future capital costs related to these two projects.

Charles B. Hamilton


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