No More “Anonymous”

By Montecito Journal   |   September 13, 2018

I was pleased that President Trump stands four-square behind public disclosure on opinion pages and has come out so strongly against the use of “Anonymous” as cover for accountability. I would hope that the Journal would adhere to our president’s common sense and stop allowing letter writers to be “Anonymous” when stating their opinions in a public newspaper. We are Americans. We stand behind our opinions and stand up publicly to defend them.

Laura Wilson
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: We’ve explained our position in the past, but it has been awhile, so here it is again: Generally speaking, we prefer letter writers to identify themselves, but we also understand that publishing an opinion that may differ from the common outlook could cause injury to a business owner, say, or a school teacher, or law enforcement officer – or, well, anyone who deals with the public. If that opinion flies in the face of accepted orthodoxy, it in fact does put the letter writer at risk. For example, the names of those who signed petitions in the past are regularly exposed and, depending upon the issue, are then called out as “bigots,” “homophobes,” “xenophobes,” et cetera. In some cases, those petition signers (or letter writers) are singled out for even more abuse by groups who call for boycotts of the business, or even picket the private homes and/or offices of those offending the sensibilities of the orthodox. We allow “Anonymous” to write us because often the issues brought up can only be discussed on an anonymous basis. – J.B.)

Speaking of…

Loved Ashleigh Brilliant‘s article (“You Wouldn’t Kidney, Would You?” MJ #24/35) and fully support Michael Fisher‘s book (Surviving Kidney Disease), just wanted to mention (anonymously, please) that Dr. Marmorstein’s first name was Jerome, not Gerald (honest mistake, since everyone knew him as “Jerry”).

Santa Barbara

Roundabout Roundup

Along with many neighbors, I attended the informational meeting that the City and County of Santa Barbara arranged at the Chase Palm Park Center in late August to present proposals for roundabouts at two intersections in lower Montecito (Olive Mill and San Ysidro Roads). As a close neighbor and frequent driver-bicyclist-walker on Coast Village Road (CVR), I have concerns about how the proposed roundabouts will affect the quality of life along one of our main roadways and business districts.

Representatives of the City and County assured those of us at the meeting that safety for both pedestrians and bicyclists would be enhanced by the roundabouts, and they stated that studies have shown that fewer (and less serious) accidents occur in roundabouts than occur in intersections with stop signs. This may be statistically true, but I cannot believe that those studies made any effort to measure the impact of how roundabouts could change the character of the areas in which they have been installed.

Currently, Montecito residents and visitors who want to access beach areas on foot or by bicycle, traverse through intersections where stopped traffic allows relatively safe transit. Intersections with Stop signs offer parents with children a much easier experience than roundabouts do. CVR is also a major thoroughfare for bicyclists both recreational and for those who take the sport more seriously, so the experiences of those on two wheels should not be ignored as unimportant.

One obvious point of danger is where northbound traffic exiting at Olive Mill [that] intends on continuing northbound on Olive Mill Road travels directly across the path of bicyclists heading northbound on North Jameson toward CVR. Those vehicles will be travelling at the maximum speed the engineers allow as they enter and exit the roundabout. Bicyclists and pedestrians will be defenseless at that location.

My belief is that by adding two more roundabouts to the existing one at Hot Springs, we will be creating Highway 101 “lite” along CVR. During heavy traffic times, conditions along CVR will be just as congested as they are currently. During medium traffic times, roundabouts will allow vehicles to travel at greater speeds through the area, which in my opinion will make the road feel less like a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly area, and more like a river of cars.

During light traffic conditions, without anything other than engineered curves to slow vehicles, drivers who are oblivious to or unconcerned with the neighborhood will be able to maintain a rapid pace from one end of lower Montecito to the other. Engineers who believe that safe speeds will result from their traffic slowing curves need only study the tire marks on the existing Hot Springs roundabout island curbs, as well as the destroyed concrete and steel drain on the section coming up from under Highway 101 for contradictory evidence.

At the very least, if the car-friendly forces have their way and the two roundabouts are built, it would be imperative to keep in place both of the temporary stop signs at Butterfly and Coast Village Circle intersections, to help keep traffic speeds down. I would even support further efforts to reduce vehicle speeds along the whole route. Safety must be as much of a concern as efficiency.

Clearly, something needs to be done to improve the miserable traffic condition along CVR. I can only hope that what is created by installing two new roundabouts is as good for people as it is for cars.

Bradley Dyruff

(Editor’s note: Funny enough, I’ve been in France for the past three weeks and one thing about being in France strikes me: there are lots of roundabouts and they work quite well. More interestingly however, are the multitude of 30-km-per-hour speed zones in heavy-pedestrian areas. There is little police presence here in Saint-Malo, and I drive to school (Alliance Française) every morning and drive back to my rented studio every late afternoon. Nobody, ever – and I mean ever – drives much over the 30-km speed limit in those zones. Nobody beeps a horn at a slow driver, and every vehicle slows down and heeds the 30-km signs. Thirty km is about 25 mph and it works, so your idea of a slow zone on Coast Village is a good one. We agree too that we’d still need the Stop signs at Butterfly and the one on the east end of Coast Village Circle and CVR, just to keep things moving safely and, more importantly, slowly. – J.B.)

“Laguna,” Not “Lagoon”

I, and a great number of fellow businesses, take great exception to the use of the ill-named “Lagoon District” for our “burgeoning” business area. Per the editor of Noozhawk, Bill Macfayden, it fails entirely to recognize its etymological beginnings, namely its Spanish heritage, the ancient estuary that reached as far inland as the junior high school now filled from 1925’s earthquake debris, and even the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm training camp at the Laguna Ball Park where Public Works now has their yards.

Back in 2013-2014 during the entitlement phase for the “Mill” at Haley and Laguna streets, Darrell Becker met with a number of businesses for the purposes of distinguishing this area with a new name. “So Co” (South of Cota), among others was considered, but the final name “Laguna District” was ultimately chosen.

Recently, and without discussions with Darrell – who I consider the founding father of our new District with The Mill’s development – or the Rose Café, or my store, the Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center, with over a 120 years of combined business, we have seen someone new to our area coining the ill-conceived name “Lagoon District.” Our distain for this name is shared with a great many who have been here for a long time, along with new businesses coming in such as the exciting and newly opened Crush Wine Bar and Tasting Room at 432 Haley Street.

We all strongly feel that while “Lagoon” absolutely fails to recognize the area’s long history, the name seriously conjures inappropriate images of filthy, fetid, and stagnant waters. We are not located in the tropics, so images of a pristine South Pacific Lagoon are completely obscure. Rather, we would like people to envision our area as a vibrant, clean, and progressively developing business community that over time may rival the success the Funk Zone has enjoyed. While I know I have the support of the Noozhawk and many others, we collectively seek other media’s cooperation with our name the “Laguna District” whenever the occasion arises. 

Gary Simpson

(Editor’s note: Mr. Simpson is owner of the Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center, which falls in the center of the proposed Lagoon District. He can count on us and the Santa Barbara Sentinel to refer to his area as the “Laguna District.” – J.B.)

Water Warnings

There will be a swelling number of letters to the editor coming in on either water or wastewater; this is one of them. The discussions for supplementing our supplies of water are basically coming from the community at large, those affected by the drought, those accustomed to having uninhibited use of water. This is often seen as wondering about problems with billing and the problems stemming from the need for aggressive conservation, the hardships in dealing with lack of water needed for maintaining lush tropical vegetation, and suggesting the easy quick fix of just using recycled wastewater.

This is a highly technical area, and most of the community – not all – simply do not have the background to reach far into the subject. That limitation will now also start impacting the two agencies that are to be involved: the Montecito Sanitary District and the Montecito Water District.

Here is a warning that comes out of an industry analysis: “The single biggest problem in the membrane water treatment industry is that too few people have been adequately trained in today’s high-tech water treatment technologies. Most of us have gotten into high-tech water treatment by chance or luck, without any formal education or training.”

Although the state’s expert panel on the use of recycled water noted that any area contemplating the use of recycled water should have a well-developed and coordinated public health arm involved, such a limb simply does not exist locally. It would be interesting to hear from the various community members running for seats on the two boards what they see as the various corrections needed to infill these underlying deficits. What additional training is needed by the two agencies that will be dealing with water? Also, what are the needs in training for those coordinating via public health, what lab technology will be needed, who will fund such, and where does the overarching coordination come in?

Dr. Edo McGowan

(Editor’s note: Your letter will be read by most if not all the candidates for the two boards of directors, and we fully expect someone (or two or three) will respond. – J.B.)

On Recycling Wastewater

With an election coming up and special interests looking for an opportunity, you can expect to see misinformation in an attempt to capture the voting public. A recent Montecito Journal (On Water, MJ #24/35) featuring an article titled “Montecito Falling Behind on Recycled Water”, is an example of this tactic. The article stated “…there is no excuse for advanced communities such as Montecito to continue to dump 500,000 gallons of treated wastewater into the ocean every day….”

So, what exactly is “treated wastewater?”

Most of the food we eat and the liquids we drink, combined with the medicines and drugs we take, that don’t stay in us, leave us by way of the toilet. When we’re sick and can’t hold down food, that also leaves us through toilet use. Add to this shower, bath, washing machine, and dishwater, as well as what restaurants use.

From your toilet, all of this in Montecito and Summerland ends up at the Montecito Sanitary District (MSD) or Summerland Sanitary District facilities. There, professionals treat your waste with a variety of chemicals and filters and other regulated procedures so it becomes treated or recycled wastewater. 

There are different levels of treatment. At MSD, treated wastewater is government-approved to be discharged through an outfall pipeline into the Pacific Ocean. The author of the article is financially backing, and steering, the campaign for The Committee for Montecito Water Security (The Committee) by promoting three selected candidates for the Montecito Water District (MWD) Board, and two candidates for the MSD Board. The Committee’s intention is to replace the one 12-year MWD incumbent – me – and the two incumbent directors running for the MSD Board.

Let’s examine why MWD does not currently use retreated wastewater.

The Committee and its candidates are promoting recycled water in their campaign. In certain communities, recycled water does add value when there is a recycled water customer base available for distribution. But MWD has completed multiple technical reports by third-party professional consulting firms on recycled water beginning in 1978 that conclude that Montecito has limited and constraining opportunities for the use of recycled water because the majority of its customers are single-family residentials that under State law do not qualify for recycled water deliveries. 

Differing Needs

In each report – including the latest done three years ago, funded by Heal the Ocean – MSD and MWD came to a similar conclusion. Our neighboring water districts are different: they have large non-residential bases. Goleta and Santa Barbara have many parks and recreational outdoor fields, as well as a strong retail and commercial customer base for recycled water deliveries; and Carpinteria has a vast underground aquifer (which Montecito does not have) for injection of highly treated recycled water for a groundwater replenishment program. 

If past studies of recycled water would have shown there were benefits to Montecito, we would have had a wastewater recycling system. But now, times have changed. Due to the current long drought and the push by environmental groups, the State is encouraging more use of recycled wastewater. MWD, in March 2018, entered into a contract with Woodard & Curran, an engineering firm to consider all possibilities the District might have for recycled water. This includes looking again at the City, Summerland, Carpinteria, the Montecito Basin, and Toro Canyon Basin. The cost was $130,000, and we received a State grant for half of that. We also just received a draft 13-page report recently that is being studied. We may find there is a use, or there may not be.

But the obvious purpose of the MJ article was to try to make the MWD Board look like they should have done more to find a way to use the treated wastewater that goes into the ocean. So far, everything the District has done has been correct and proper.

Why does The Committee want you to vote out knowledgeable incumbents to help make the board decisions that involve multi-million dollars for desalinization, recycled wastewater, State Water contract extension, and others matters? Especially when only three of five votes are necessary to pass any item. Why does The Committee want, in effect, to own and control your water and sanitary districts? Might it have anything to do with several of The Committee members, in the past, pushing for cityhood, or selling all or part of the water district? Board members with years of MWD and MSD Board experience are needed to point out problems and solutions.

Please consider re-electing the incumbents.

Dick Shaikewitz

Triple Threat

We live in a world of about 7.5 billion people and counting. There are about 1.9 billion kids on this planet. Some parents preferred to have one kid, whereas others have many. Some have kids with a big age difference, while some gave birth “back to back” – as for example, me, the mother five, three of which are triplets. Having triplets has been the greatest joy of my life, but at the same time I got triple of all-known parenting problems, and, believe it or not, mainly not at home but… with the certain outdated, odd, and unwritten polices related to multiples.

Typically, parents do not encounter the issue we had to fight against where the school assumes the role of God and twins and triplets are separated and sent to different classrooms against their and their parents’ wills. There has been some research that indicate teachers and principals at schools are frozen in old-fashioned beliefs that twins and triplets are identical not only in their appearance but in their minds and modes of conduct and, therefore, they speculate that separation of such siblings is required to assist in development of their personalities.

In fact, according to multiple research and modern-day common knowledge that opinion cannot be further from reality. Yet, absolute strangers – the school administration, with the power vested in their hands by bureaucrats – force parents all over America to split their kids for the most important part of their days growing up, questioning our ability to make decisions for our kids and know our kids’ best interests, which is what responsible parenting is all about.

In particular, it is quite bizarre to have a problem like that in California, wherein the state that vehemently protects the rights of everyone and everything except, as it has transpired in my personal experience, the basic rights of parents to decide what’s in the best interests of their own kids. My story is just one of thousands out there and it’s really disturbing – of course, it is about Montecito Union School.

Splitting Us up

When we just got to MUS, we were fascinated by this school and were very happy to get in. All of which promptly changed when the school heads notified us of their decision to split our triplets into three different classes. Even though our kids had three distinctly different personalities, at that time they had never been apart for even an hour and could not speak any English as pre-school I raised them to speak Russian at home.

After tens of e-mail, personal meetings and lengthy negotiations (yes, MUS management had to take us through all that) we still faced the wall of opposition, based primarily on the desire of MUS administration to create less stressful conditions for their own teachers. Indeed, who wants to have three kids in her class who need to learn English in addition to the regular curriculum? Too much work even for the gigantic MUS teachers’ salaries.

The trauma of this odd and unnecessary hurdle started to take its toll on our kids and we had to consult with a PhD in kids’ psychology whose expert medical opinion turned out to be the tipping point that finally convinced MUS to budge and give it a try. Of course we were warned that if kids would create any difficulties for the class dynamic or will have any learning issues, they wanted to still split kids next academic year. 

Back at It

After two successful years at MUS, our kids learned to speak and even write in English, integrated themselves into the school life, made many new friends, and became an integral part of the MUS family. We were extremely happy but… not the school. When we informed them that we were coming back for the third year, they yet again decided to “make it easier” for their teachers (should it be the opposite?) and split our kids, insisting they are ready to go their different directions. This time, they told us they wouldn’t negotiate. They basically told us they knew better what’s best for our kids and our (and the kids’) opinions didn’t count.

Shocked by the sudden resurgence of this position by the school, which we all considered to be a thing of the past, and its renewed neglect to our kids’ best interests, I did some reading. It appeared that we were not alone in this predicament, and there are quite a few fresh studies of this problem. 

Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College in London and the University of Wisconsin, which compared 878 pairs of twins from ages 5 to 7, found that twins separated early were observed to be more anxious and emotionally distressed than those who remained in the same class through their early years. That was especially true for identical twins, the British-American study noted. That study also found that twins separated later had lower reading scores than those kept in the same classroom. Nancy Segal, director of the Twins Studies Center at California State University, Fullerton, has been a proponent of this new research, writing letters on behalf of parents fighting for legislation on classroom choice.

“In our culture we appreciate uniqueness,” Dr. Segal says, “and people wrongly equate twin closeness with a lack of individuality.” The insistence on separating twins, she added, flies in the face of what psychologists know about friendship.

“There’s research that suggests that when friends are in the same class, they’re more exploratory, they cling to the teacher less,” she says. “So, if we’re worried about individuality, why do we let best friends go to school together?”

Life is Short

If some researches fully proved how outdated and unnecessary is the policy of the separation of twins at school, the other ones are just saying there is no evidence that twins or triplets in different classes are doing better than those who did not get separated. So, it all comes down to the school’s decision whether it wants to accommodate the kids’ needs or not, whether they want to have a good relationship with the family, and our local MUS was on the “not” side that caused a lot of tears and anger in our family.

To be fair, some parents want their twins or triplets to be separated due to gender differences or issues related to the kids’ relationships and desires. Some, but not all, and definitely not us. I have personally met quite a few grown-up twins and triplets in my life and listened to their stories. No matter how different they all were, all of them say that, of course, there was time to go in different directions with their siblings, but it all depended on the specific situation and must evolve naturally rather than imposed by a stranger.

I have not personally met any triplets or twins who complained about spending too much time together, but every one I met expressed sadness about not spending enough time together. It is also much easier for the parents to attend one class event, not three different ones, deal with one teacher rather than three, go to one instead of three PTA meetings, et cetera. Life is short and the precious period of childhood is even shorter. Some of us never meet anybody who will be as close as we are with our family members. There may be life without education or various material goods, but generally there is no life without family, so why do bureaucrats want – and are even able – to ruin the most important part of our existence? 

Our own MUS story ends sadly. That school seems okay with slower developing and unhealthy kids in the same classes with the others, who allow some kids to skip the homework because the parents claim their kids are not happy with it. However, they are so vehemently against our kids being in the same classroom that we have finally let it go. After all, how many times does one need to prove the problem the school is fighting against is totally made up to accommodate the teachers?

Well, as many parents in America (some of whom even have even lobbied the adoption of “Twins Law” in over 10 states), we ultimately tired of the “we do it because we can” MUS policy and have placed our kids in a private school. If the happiness of our children must have a dollar-denominated price, we are ready to pay it.

In conclusion, I hope that one day California and Santa Barbara in particular live up to their liberal slogans, follow the footsteps of other states, and the latest achievements of social studies, and on some high-enough level they adopt “Twins Law” to help kids grow up happier and allow parents like us to avoid life-changing unnecessary stress and huge additional costs.

I also hope that the MUS administration would one day develop better social skills and adjust their priorities to serve the needs of the kids and families first and before their own. That might bring back more families to Montecito and return MUS to the glory days of a 10-rated school again. 

Lidia Zinchenko


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