Hats off to Alison and Sharon
Many quiet heroes of these last few months have escaped the deserved visibility that first responders and other notables have received in this and other local media. But, we must try to name some of these quieter-but-not-lesser heroes, and thank them as best we can and as frequently as they come to mind. From my vantage point as a resident of “Baja Montecito,” a business owner on Coast Village Circle, and president of the Coast Village Association, I witnessed many such heroes and acts of selfless, indulgent, extravagant kindness in the days and weeks following One-Nine.
Two such people, among the many I witnessed at close range, are Alison Hardey – the spirit and owner of Jeannine’s on Coast Village Road – and our own executive director, Sharon Byrne. These two, exercising their considerable personal gifts and expertise, served as guide, counselor, and friend to so many in our community who needed hugs and information as the uncertain, sad days of early January unfolded and tumbled into February and March. We simply cannot thank them enough for being there.
Alison and Sharon, you made a “there” on Coast Village that wasn’t present before these disastrous days. We needed the coffee, scones, hugs, and tears mingling to acknowledge, validate, and mark our community sense of loss. We needed information and direction and news and the details of hope that Sharon pumped out to the community in her daily email blasts. Her behind-the-screen work on behalf of our community of businesses and members was such a lifeline to shuttered businesses and their shattered owners. The combination of stare-you-in-the eyes empathy from Alison and field general leadership from Sharon kept many of us going.
Can I get an “amen” to that?
These tangible, edible, palpable gifts to our limping community resounded with generous love. Our community is grateful. The Coast Village Association is indebted to you for unexpectedly increasing our visibility in the midst of our wounded village. And I thank you personally because I love the community you two have loved so extravagantly. It is an honor to serve with you both.
Kudos to All
I would like to congratulate the folks at the Montecito Center for Preparedness, Recovery, and Rebuilding. Their selfless perseverance as a team and central source of support, information, and resources for residents, businesses, employees, and communities affected by our two greatest natural disasters – the December 2017 Thomas Fire and the January 9 debris flow – has revealed the beautiful and giving soul and nature of our Montecito community and has given fight against the disastrous results of blackened mountains and pollution-filled landscape and seascapes.
Much like Richard Mineards‘sMiscellany columns in your fine Montecito Journal, it seems appropriate to list some of their names for recognition of these life-sharing dedicated souls to say as much thanks as possible. Not all are listed or found at this writing, but should be.
In no specific order, they are: Michele Drum (California Hope), Alexis Henderson, Jessica Steele, Andrea Borgatello and family, Simmons Montecito Helping Hand, Jewish Family Federation, Marvel Hitson, Josephine Di Loretti, Gary Brown, Rob Smart, Dennis Whelan, Salvation Army, United Way, FEMA, the Beebe family, Orfale family, Natalie Oriales, Goggia family, Eric Shalla family, Dan Horgan, Bronfman family, Susan Lambrose, Eunice Jaramillo, Maribel Jarchow, Montecito Journal, and others…
If speaking for us survivors in the entire Montecito community is appropriate: we are grateful.
(Editor’s note: There are many more people and organizations to thank, Abe Powell and the hundreds of volunteers in his Bucket Brigade, for example, but actually way too many to list. Thanks for taking the time to point out just a few of them. – J.B.)
An Unhappy Soul
I have lived in Santa Barbara for 32 years. I am originally from New England. When I first moved to Santa Barbara, my initial impression was that people were entitled – snobby – and not very friendly. Now that I have lived here for this long, it is my community. I lost everything I owned in the Painted Cave Fire in 1990. I’ve raised two kids and experienced Santa Barbara differently as I became an integral part of it as a nurse, mother, and volunteer.
I have always felt, however, that Montecito was different. Although I took care of many sick humble people from there, my experience with Montecito is that Montecitans live in a bubble of their own. The amount of wealth and materialism that exists in this “village” could not have been more clearly illustrated than in the spring edition of Montecito Journal (glossy edition).
I did not expect the Journal to be full of doom and gloom about Montecito’s condition after the fires and flooding/mudflow. I did, however, expect more than a reference to “the neighborhood has changed,” “three months of disruption,” “Welcome to a Neighborhood in Transition.”
Your edition of Montecito Journal has upset Santa Barbara. Many people I know are furious. Stay in your bubble. Dig yourselves out. Montecito has enough money on their own. Some people were more than inconvenienced. They lost their lives.
(Editor’s note: First, we don’t understand how you could feel so strongly about an issue and then send it in anonymously. But, we felt the subject matter of your letter was something we should and could address. Montecito Journal is both a weekly community newspaper and a semi- and soon to be tri-annual glossy publication. We have spent the last six months covering virtually every detail of our dual disasters in our Montecito Journal (weekly). In fact, I’d say Montecito Journal had the best coverage of any local or national media of the events that occurred. This week’s editorial is a good example of the kind of coverage we’ve given and will continue to give.
Our glossy edition, however, is a different animal. It is out for six months and takes a good three months of preparation, so many of the articles that appeared were in the works well before the rain and the mud. We agonized over how much space we should or could have devoted to the calamities, but finally decided that, other than referring to them in the glossy’s “editorial,” we’d run with what we had planned. The message to be taken from that is that life goes on, and Montecito remains a remarkable, resilient, and desirable place to live, despite the natural disasters it has recently been heir to. To do otherwise, we believe, would have done a disservice to our readers and our advertisers. – J.B.)
A Liberal Found
I’d like to respond to Mr. [Mike] Hornbuckle‘s “Looking For Liberals” letter (MJ #24/22). I would also like to counter some claims that were made by him.
1) He said he connected with our Founding Fathers with their philosophy on government. Bad example. They had high taxes and their economic growth was due to slavery.
2) He made his point that he was frustrated with liberals who don’t have a point, why they believe in what they believe. Mr. Hornbuckle was talking to loudmouths, not real liberals. I personally get annoyed with conservatives who invoke the name of God as if God is on their side. If they really believe His word, why don’t they take His word when God says stay out of the Middle East? It’s His fight; He’ll settle it.
3) We can have a long discussion how money is allocated in this country, and why for four decades the gap between the haves and have-nots has widened. As a liberal, I too have concerns how our tax money is spent, but don’t tell me with a straight face that wars haven’t been the biggest waste of our tax dollars.
4) To answer Mr. Hornbuckle, that the U.S. is the best place to live, anywhere, anytime, is debatable. I believe the Renaissance in Europe was the best time to live.
5) Whether “these liberals” as you put it, call the president fascist and can legally vote, sorry, they have a right to vote like anyone else.
6) Mr. Hornbuckle, I have a question for you. When Christ said, “If anyone asks for your cloak, give him your tunic also,” was he a conservative or a liberal?
(Editor’s note: I’m going to stay out of this, but, seriously: the Renaissance? While many beautiful things came out of that era, it was also a time for the Black Plague and short and brutish lives for most. – J.B.)
Affirmative Action Flight Plan
Here’s something to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, especially if you fly a lot, or live under a flight path as I and millions of other Americans do. For decades, the selection process for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) air traffic controllers was rigorous. After all, one minor mistake could cost hundreds of people their lives.
But a new report from Fox News host Tucker Carlson revealed the Obama administration modified the FAA’s candidate selection process to value workplace diversity over competency, experience, and skills. According to Carlson, due to changes implemented during the Obama administration, air traffic controller candidates are now required to complete a “biographical questionnaire” before even being considered for a job with the FAA. If they don’t pass, they aren’t considered for a position, no matter how much experience they have or how qualified they are.
Fox News obtained a copy of the questionnaire and how it is scored. According to Carlson, candidates whose worst subject in high school was science, and candidates who are unemployed, receive the most points possible on the test. In contrast, licensed pilots and those with extensive air traffic control knowledge aren’t highly scored. Fox News spoke to an FAA spokesperson, who told Carlson’s show he was unsure of why the FAA screens candidates for diversity over competency. Unsurprisingly, the FAA never offered Carlson an explanation. Is there any explanation?
Michael Pearson, an attorney representing a man suing the FAA over its diversity test, told Carlson the test is intentionally designed to “weed out” experienced candidates, especially those with an aviation background. Carlson noted that hiring less-experienced candidates to control air traffic puts millions of lives at risk. So, why would the FAA make the changes? Pearson’s answer suggests the reason is just as egregious as the changes.
“A group within the FAA, including the human resources function within the FAA, including the National Black Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees, determined that the workforce was too white. They had a concerted effort through the Department of Transportation in the Obama administration to change that.”
Pearson likened the situation to the Department of Veteran Affairs hiring physicians who didn’t graduate from medical school and claiming the VA can train them better. I have had extensive experience with this sort of thing at the VA, and in my opinion, it is nothing less than pure unadulterated racism.
In his Guest Editorial (“Re-Considering Home Rule for Montecito,” MJ #24/22) Bob Hazard again repeats an inaccurate point that has appeared in MJ before. That is that the reason the 101 southbound on-ramp was removed was because the “… mayor of Santa Barbara and transportation guru fought for Milpas Street improvements… that gobbled up the precious funding needed to keep the southbound 101 on-ramp open and operating.”
That simply is false.
The Caltrans plans for 101 eliminated the southbound on-ramp due to safety concerns (i.e., slow traffic entering on an up-hill blind ramp into the high-speed lane). The Caltrans plans always included enhancements to the Milpas interchange, which they said would alleviate the loss of the Cabrillo Boulevard on-ramp. The City disagreed, but Caltrans stuck to the position that enhanced signage to the Milpas on-ramp would direct drivers to use that on-ramp, which we know has never happened.
The issue that the City had at that time with the Caltrans plan was the lack of pedestrian and bicycle access under the railroad overpass, which Caltrans at first said would be taken care of in a subsequent funding effort but later said that no funding was available, so nothing could be done. That is now being planned in the next 101 round.
(Editor’s note: You make a good point. There was nearly unanimous agreement at the time between SBCAG [Santa Barbara County Association of Governments] and Caltrans that the 101 southbound on-ramp at Cabrillo would have to go. We objected editorially but had no voice or vote in the decision. Caltrans may have suggested that “safety concerns” were their focus, but whatever led them to make what turned out to have been the absolutely bone-headed decision to remove that entry point, we’ve been living with the results of it for way too many years. – J.B.)
The Day America Died
I worked for Bobby Kennedy. There were six if us on his plane weeks before his death on June 5, 1965: Rosey Grier, Rafer Johnson, Dick Tuck, a stringer for The New York Times, Bobby, and me. I was so fortunate as to be with him on many quiet occasions. Times when there were no press, no cameras, no crowd. He cared so much. About people. From Appalachia, from Bedford Stuyvesant, from Delano, from all over America.
He believed in us and he believed in America. Words cannot describe the loss. We are such a different country than we would have been if he had lived. We owe it to him to resurrect and fight for the values he lived and died for.
Time for Cityhood?
Montecito needs competent experienced insurance claim experts at our Recovery Center to help us. The only helpful insurance gathering for victim claimants that I’ve attended was organized and led by private citizen and former Montecito Planning commissioner J’Amy Brown. J’Amy proved herself as our valued leader during the Tea Fire.
Montecito claimants attended this public meeting only because we know information is power, strong personalities can cut through the mud, and J’Amy doesn’t waste time. She is an expert facilitator, gathers essential information, compartmentalizes issues, and knows where to go to get results. No bureaucrats, politicians, or attorneys were allowed: only victims with Thomas Fire debris flow claims willing to share to help their neighbors and identify what info and assistance is needed to recover.
The waste and cronyism at the Recovery Center and the District 1 Office sickens many too fearful or vulnerable to openly complain. Simply look at the absence of qualifications of those on our payroll starting with the newly hired “insurance expert,” without one day’s insurance experience. (She is former secretary to a local politician gifted a high-paying job justified by a fancy title without any requisite job qualifications. ) There was no open application process to find an expert insurance attorney or claim adjustor to help us become better advocates. Hiring is inside trading between youthful friends at our expense: keep the positions under $100K, or offer $99K on a six-month contract to avoid public scrutiny.
When the Recovery Center closes, we must collectively seek improvements as “Das’s Visionary” and then the “Re-build” phases begin.
In the absence of cityhood,who interviews and appoints the expert talent within Montecito that we need, want, and deserve? — Joe Cole as head of the Montecito Planning Commission? A committee of elected heads of our special districts who are Montecito residents?
Montecito’s “visionary” leader is about to be hired by supervisor Das Williams, who represents a large geographic area. There are Montecito resident architects who are experts and have offered their talents as volunteers or paid consultants.
Why are they being overlooked?
Montecito residents want locals who have lived in Montecito for decades and know our community – J’Amy, Susan, Don, Abe, resident architects, and others, along with the best technical experts anywhere, such as those privately hired by Joe Cole.
Who oversees expenditures of our public county, FEMA, and other grant money intended to help and benefit Montecito residents? I’ve yet to see or hear the County CEO at a public meeting.
At the six-month junction with maps due to be released any day, access to experts in the following areas would be welcomed: insurance claims, appeals, non-renewals, cancellations; insurance payments for future evacuations; community planning; home construction; lending sources for cost over-runs; and resident safety. Priority areas need leadership as we face the next two to five years.
Is now not the time to look again into cityhood: independent governance to be in control of our community’s future?
Denice S Adams
(Editor’s note: Montecito cityhood is just what Bob Hazard suggested needed to be discussed last issue, and it’s a development likely to come under serious consideration once again. – J.B.)
Answers to last week’s USA Quiz are from 1 to 10: Oakland, Long Beach, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Fresno, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento.