Up In Smoke

By Montecito Journal   |   December 20, 2018

One year ago, pretty much right now, I was looking up from Montecito Street in Santa Barbara at Montecito Peak on fire. I thought for sure all of Montecito would burn. But it didn’t, thanks to 8,000 firefighters.

Dan Seibert

(Editor’s note: Well, yes, while we can’t say Montecito was “lucky,” as we lost nearly 10% of our housing and the lives of 23 of our fellow residents in the ensuing mud-and-debris slide of January 9, it does seem that things are getting back to “normal” here. The Thomas Fire that you have chronicled became the largest and most destructive fire in California history at 281,893 acres, until the 459,123-acre Mendocino Complex Fire took out thousands of homes and many lives just a few months later. We’ll have a memorial issue on January 9th that will pay tribute to the men, women, and children whose lives were lost and the homes that were damaged and/or destroyed. The latest and last of David Myrick’s trilogy on Santa Barbara and Montecito – History Never Ends – features extensive reportage of that seminal event taken from Montecito Journal‘s coverage and written by me, as its last chapter. All of us that lived through it will certainly never forget those horrific days. The book is available at Tecolote in the upper village and at Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara. Thanks for stirring our memories. – J.B.)

The Mad Prophet

In the 1976 movie, Network, Howard Beale, as “the mad prophet,” hears a voice telling him that he has to start “telling people the truth.” He responds to the voice that he’s not Moses and “this isn’t the burning bush.” The voice says, “That’s okay, I’m not God.” The prophet then says, “Why me?” The voice responds: “Because you’re on TV, dummy!”

I bring this movie up because this country is going through its own version of Network. I’m not suggesting that President Trump is “the mad prophet,” but he represents the will of the people who are saying, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

As Network progresses however, the prophet’s popularity wanes and he is eventually finished (literally). This president is very strong-willed but he needs to step back a moment to see how he can learn to deal with the Schumers and Pelosis that are holding him back; he’s not going to last out his first term if his ratings don’t improve.

Thomas Carlisle
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: Interesting comparison and you’re not far wrong about any of it. Though, to be fair, President Trump has to learn the art of telling the truth and nothing but the truth from the start rather than letting the facts drip out over time if he hopes to improve his ratings. – J.B.)

Ethics in Journalism

In my opinion, James and Tim Buckley have the highest ethics in journalism. They welcome and print all sides of a controversy, and they let you know what their personal opinions are.

I do differ with many of the opinions and conclusions of their Associate Editor Bob Hazard. The Ethical considerations for news stories are to “… avoid … outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.” There is far greater latitude with editorials. Mr. Hazard frequently writes Montecito Journal Guest Editorials, but I’m not sure that his outside activities are known.

As the drought intensified and water rationing occurred, Mr. Hazard complained that he was losing about half a million dollars in landscaping. This might certainly affect his editorial opinions. Over two years ago, when Tobe Plough and Floyd Wicks announced they were running for the two open Montecito Water District seats against incumbent Charles Newman and retired District General Manager Tom Mosby, Mr. Hazard wrote many articles favoring Plough and Wicks. But he also had donated $5,000 towards the Plough-Wicks campaign, and may have encouraged many others to donate to their $82,521 campaign fund. I may have missed it in his writings, but Mr. Hazard never said whether he encouraged them to run, talked to Ken Coates about being their campaign manager, or helped encourage other big donors.

When the just-concluded Water District and Sanitary District campaigning began, Mr. Hazard was again one of the first to donate $5,000 to the Campaign for Montecito Water Security, raising $127,425. I’ve heard that Mr. Hazard and a few others made a list of possible candidates, and tried to talk several of them into running. A number turned them down, but others did not. Many of the same big donors to the Plough-Wicks campaign also donated heavily to the Water Security campaign. Mr. Hazard wrote many articles favoring the Water Security group. 

Was Mr. Hazard active in raising campaign funds and meetings with potential voters? It would be nice if in his next article he covered all that he did to help the five new Water District and two new Sanitary District Directors get selected and elected. I bring this up because in his last week’s Guest Editorial he praised the five new Water District Directors and said his next article would be about the two new Sanitary District Directors.

In his last article, he praised Wicks’s participation in the desal negotiations and panned my and Newman’s earlier participation in desal negotiations. Mr. Hazard was never at any of the negotiations, was unaware that Wicks only attended a few meetings, and that Newman and I only attended one or two of the negotiation meetings where we took almost no part. Further, that Newman was responsible for finding and meeting with David Moore, who Mr. Hazard praised for helping to make all this work. Mr. Hazard also forgot to mention that the board voted 5 to 0 to turn down the City’s original offer that was based on only a 20-year contract, so that after we helped pay off the City’s bond obligation, they could say “Good Bye Montecito.” He also panned Tom Mosby, our past General Manager, saying Mosby couldn’t decide if the deal was needed or not.

Is this desal deal needed? Mr. Hazard’s figures show the current cost adds an additional $4,000,000 a year to our $19,000,000 Water District Budget. He forgot to mention the $250,000 needed for loan deposits, and a possible 20-25% cost overrun, bringing the total to about an additional $5,000,000 a year. He then writes about recycled water, and fails to mention the additional $1-2,000,000 cost. There was not one word in any of his articles favoring the Water Security group as to what might be eliminated to help reduce the burden on ratepayers. Apparently Mr. Hazard and his associates are not concerned with additional rate increases; but others of us are.

Hopefully there will be one or more community meetings, and a community vote, before Mr. Hazard’s new Water District Directors sign a 50-year, quarter-of-a-billion-dollar contract with the City. Maybe what they’re doing is good, or maybe it’s not. Historically, Montecito has had 20 to 25 years of normal rain and then 5 to10 years of drought. If this continues, how happy will you be paying about 25% more on your water bill, especially during normal low use when rain is normal?

As an additional aside, at the first new water board meeting, when assignments were given to the members concerning Joint Powers meetings such as COMB or CCWA that they should attend monthly, Brian Goebel and Cori Hayman, two of the three new water board members, announced they have conflicts in the afternoons, and can’t attend any afternoon meetings. So, future water board and other meetings will be in the mornings, and other directors will have to cover any non-changeable afternoon meetings.

It would have been proper if these two had disclosed their problem earlier.

Dick Shaikewitz

(Editor’s note: Thank for the personal kudos; no doubt, Bob Hazard will have a response to your charges and observations in an upcoming issue – J.B.)

Dangerous Jobs

AERA Energy (owned by Exxon/Shell) has proposed to expand oil and gas production in Cat Canyon, southeast of Santa Maria, with up to 296 new wells.

Spokesperson Rick Rust stated on KEYT-TV on December 3 that the project uses steam injection to remove the heavy crude oil. What he did not say is that this process requires drilling through the Santa Maria groundwater, then injecting the chemical-filled wastewater into the ground, compromising the health of the aquifer on which 200,000 people in 12 cities rely for water. The aquifer is also vital to agriculture, a primary income base for North Santa Barbara County.

The “hundreds of good paying jobs” touted by Mr. Rust is an inflated number, multiplied by the life of the project, which is projected to be 35 years; direct employment in any one year will be far less than that. Additionally, oil jobs are dangerous operations whose workers will likely be driven in from Kern or elsewhere, whereas renewable energy employs locals. In Santa Barbara County, there are eight times more jobs in clean energy than in the oil industry.

 AERA’s proposal will come before the Board of Supervisors in early 2019.

 Write them or at least your Supervisor and tell them to put the health of 450,000 people in Santa Barbara County ahead of the profits of Big Oil. The Cat Canyon project is a short-term play profiting a few special interests at the long-term expense of the rest of us.

Rachel Altman 
Santa Barbara


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