Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   March 14, 2019

The Other Side of Straws

We are writing in response to the recent editorial about straws. We generally respect Bob Hazard’s journalistic integrity and are sorry to see so many inaccuracies in this piece.

The City of Santa Barbara’s straw law goes into effect on July 1, 2019 and not on January 1, 2019 as reported in the article. It is a ban on plastic straws and stirrers, with an “on request” provision for plastic cutlery. The City of Santa Barbara’s expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) ban did go into effect on January 1, 2019 and does not include other plastic items. The editorial description conflated these two laws. In addition, AB1884, the statewide law that took effect on 1/1/19 is not a “ban” as described but an “on request” ordinance for dine-in restaurants. These establishments are still allowed to stock and provide plastic straws, they just can’t automatically add them to every beverage.

Neither of these laws were in direct response to the viral video of the sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nose or the “fabled” Great Pacific Garbage Patch. They were in fact a response to long-term advocacy from several local environmental groups, led by the Community Environmental Council (CEC) and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper (SBCK). 

The most glaring part of this editorial is the section entitled “How the Straw Ban is Working Out.” Since the law hasn’t yet gone into effect, none of these quotes are applicable, reliable, or meaningful. Employee “whispers” and “soggy paper straws” are blatant “pot stirring” in this context as there is no need to rebel against a law that is not yet in effect.

The section entitled “The Need for Balance” also contains glaring errors. The statement “no one is obeying the ordinance and law enforcement has no appetite to back the ban” is inaccurate for the obvious reason that the law has not yet gone into effect. Amending the ordinance to include compostable items is not viable because there are currently no regional commercial composting systems that accept these items. And no one involved in the advocacy for these laws have a “mission in life to ban all consumer behavior that does not conform to their own preferences.” Calling the issue “a slippery slope to deceive” is outright offensive.

Let’s be clear: No local organization is advocating for reduction of eyeglasses, computers, airplane parts, or children’s toys. Plastic is a fossil fuel-based product and as such is very durable. Items that are intended to last over time are a wise use of this limited resource. Plastic has only been in common use since the end of WWII and since then we have become very dependent upon it.

A few decades ago, single use plastics appeared on the scene. These items are also made from fossil fuels and could last for decades at a minimum but we use and toss them in an average of twelve minutes. We have used more single use plastics in this century than in all of the previous century. Nearly half of all plastic manufactured is now single use. The consumption habits of a disposable society are having serious consequences, particularly in our oceans. The “fabled” garbage patch referred to in the editorial is actually a gyre (circular ocean currents) that pulls in plastics. There are gyres full of plastic in every ocean. Plastic photodegrades so the pieces in the gyres break down into a “soup” that swirl throughout the water column. Marine animals mistake it for food, become entangled and are feeding it to their young in vast numbers. Ask any elementary school student and they will tell you that floating plastic bags look exactly like sea turtles’ favorite food – jellyfish. 

According to a report by the Ocean Conservancy, in partnership with the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic trash in the world’s oceans, and each year, 8 million tons of plastic are added to the count. That’s equivalent to one municipal garbage truck pulling up to the beach and dumping its contents every minute. By 2025, the oceans could contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish and at today’s rates there will be equal amounts of plastic and fish in the oceans by 2050.

All this has extreme consequences on marine life but it also affects land-based species like humans. Take two breaths and then thank the ocean for one of them. At least half of the air we breathe comes from plants in the ocean. Protecting our oceans is as important to human health as it is to marine inhabitants.

All this hyperbolic talk of fines and jail time is not only inaccurate, it is a distraction from the real issue: Single use plastics are having a disproportionate impact on our waste systems and our marine environments. We can either curb their use now with a small bit of inconvenience and habit change or pay a much larger price not too far down the road.

Kathi King & Charles Newman
Community Environmental Council

Tale of Two Pillows

People often ask me why I am a conservative. “You don’t look conservative at all. You live in California, you don’t eat bacon (I am a vegan); you don’t seem to believe in God (I believe in myself much more).” I keep hearing that type of comment over and over again. And yet I am as conservative as one can get. So what does it mean to me to be a conservative? Allow me to tell you this little story on this subject.

I was recently in Monterey for a month. Believe it or not but I found only one great place for morning coffee and fresh French-style pastries up there. My favorite cafe is situated in a little white historical cottage with its tiny space inside and a few metal chairs outside. Oftentimes it gets crowded and quite cold both outside and even inside. It gets so cold that one can hardly feel comfortable sitting on those metal chairs on their little patio. The owner had just two seat pillows for the whole place, so I – being not the only “always cold” person – had to “fight” for access to those two pillows every day. Therefore one day I got tired of that and decided to buy two more pillows for this place myself. Why not? Owners are busy making pastries and all I wanted was just to make me and everyone else there more comfortable. 

I ended up buying two very comfortable pillows and some kids’ books. The books were for those kids whose parents typically do not pay much attention to them in a public place and don’t care if they yell, jump or kick other customers. (Have you noticed kids and parents like that around? I bet you have.) I have five kids myself and know how to stop the chaos; among other things those colorful books do help. The owner of the place was very happy and thankful, gave me lots of kind words and smiles. My mission was accomplished and everyone seemed happy.

The next morning, on my way to my favorite cup of coffee I parked near the cafe and was immediately blocked by another car with a very telling vanity license plate: “Liberal.” Well I have to confess: my car has a large rear window sticker “0% liberal,” so it was very funny to watch this tandem in the parking lot. I was slow to get out so the guy got in to the cafe much faster then I did. He turned out to be another regular, ordered his drink fast and quickly jumped on one of the pillows. I was still standing in line while he started the conversation addressing me: “So, I heard you donated the pillows.”

This word “donate” struck me as something standing out reflecting the entire world order this guy had to swear by. And it is not about the semantics. It is about reflecting the perception of the reasons and purposes people do things, the perception of the relationship to others and the ever-present arrogant hierarchy liberals have constructed for themselves as being above the “deplorable” others, the always “know-betters,” intellectually superior and emotionally righteous ones chosen to patronize and indoctrinate the rest of us.

At that moment, I realized that I finally got to the conclusion of the core difference between the liberal and conservative perceptions of why and how people do things. I dealt with that avalanche of thoughts for a moment and proudly realized that I will never be a “liberal.” It’s not the way I would ever perceive the world and treat people. So I turned my had to the guy and said:

“No, I did not donate, I gave those pillows as a present to my friends here.”

I am sure he did not understand the difference between these two words or of our two worlds. Conservatives don’t treat other people as a lower hapless class in need of donations. We take care of the other people as equals to us, as our friends and neighbors. Same life, same rules. I am with those people who not far on the self-righteous cloud, and I am not playing God to give donations to others to tickle my ego. I walk on the same ground with my metaphorical and real-life pillows in my hands, the same ground where those who don’t have them walk every single day.

So, after reading this article, a liberal would look at me quite confused and (semi-quoting Charlie Sheen from the Two and a Half Men “All about the Bowl” episode) would probably ask: “So, it’s all about the pillows?” For the liberals, maybe yes, but for the real conservatives, it’s about the people and how we treat each other. And that’s the difference we have to change.

Lidia Zinchenko

Down in the Dirt

A border security national emergency and now, a $22-trillion national debt. What is a citizen to do? The government is in charge of both border security and spending. Who believes the government capable of remedying either situation, especially that of spending? 

IMO, the whole thing is rigged and nobody can feel financially secure. When the government can (and has done so) confiscate and/or tax anything from income, cash and real estate (civil forfeiture; guilty until proven innocent), to gold (FDR 1933), you can see why some folks resort to burying their loot in the ground.

I’m not worried anymore, because at my age, pretty soon I’ll be down there with all that loot.

“The state remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men.” – H. L. Mencken

Steve King

(Editor’s note: Steve, it is not real money. Our $22 trillion debt – piled on us by inconsiderate and irresponsible “lawmakers” over the past fifty years – cannot and will not be repaid. It could get really messy if the Swiss, the Chinese, the Germans, Brits, and others stop buying our debt or our dollar, but otherwise, think of your money as you would “miles” on your airline credit card. The airline can change the terms anytime it chooses, just as the fed can do whatever it wants with the “money” it has been creating and that you’ve been saving. You can spend it right now or wait until it’s worth way less. When it all collapses, government will likely “forgive” all student loans, offer government-backed 1% 100-year mortgages, guarantee all existing government pensions and switch to a different kind of employee-paid retirement system, etcetera. So, I advise you not to bury that money, as it will be as worthless as Confederate bills or unused airline miles at some point. Mencken was right: the state is the enemy, certainly of savers and the industrious. – J.B.)

Raising Lake Cachuma 

I would like to thank Pete Schenck for responding to my letter (“A Simpler Solution,” MJ # 25/8) on increasing the capacity of Lake Cachuma and educating us as to why the simple solution Gene Tyburn and I had envisaged of dredging the lake, was not so simple after all.

Not being qualified to contest Mr. Schenck’s figures, which sound very impressive, I am compelled to assume they are correct. However it is obvious that Mr. Schenck’s solution of simply adding 6″-12″ metal plates to the top of the gates that control the spillway at Bradbury Dam would come with its own set of problems that would have to be addressed, not the least of which would be the safety of the dam due to the increased pressure on it. Then there would probably be the relocation or elimination of the lakeside vendors and campsites etc. to be accommodated, which poses a loss of revenue for the County.

The part of Mr. Schenck’s missive that leaves me puzzled is how the silt deposited in the lake by the Santa Ynez River gets turned into “sludge.” Sludge, to my knowledge, is a byproduct of sewage treatment plants; hopefully there’s none of that in the area’s main water reservoir. Silt, on the other hand, is a very desirable commodity, as any student of Egyptian history knows. Farmers depend on the silt deposited by the flooding of the Nile to enrich their lands. And rather than the County maintaining a large fleet of dump trucks, I envisage the dredged silt being deposited in an area close to the lake that can be accessed by people with their own vehicles who would be able to use it on their farms, ranches and/or gardens, either for free or for a “nominal” fee to help defray the cost of the dredging. 

The County could run the project, as it would be similar to its mulch program. It is possible and probable that federal funds would be needed to advance any such solution, but with the State’s politicos maintaining such an antagonistic relationship with President Trump, at this point in time, I imagine that idea would be DOA. I am not implying that we should just throw in the towel. On the contrary, I believe the sooner we need to keep the pressure on to clean up and improve the desalinization operation. We also need to attach stringent requirements on new construction that may impact our water resources negatively.

However, if we are able to dodge the bullet this time by improving the lake’s capacity, it is evident that we are only kicking the can down the road for a few years if the issue of the influx of people moving into the area is not addressed.

Larry Bond
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: We are in great shape for the near to intermediate future: We’ll have our steel nets up and in place in time for next year’s rainy season. The desalination plant will be running full bore by the 2020/21 year, Cachuma will be nearly full by the end of this month, the Randall Road debris basin should be in action, as will all Montecito’s other debris basins, and our creeks will be deep and cleared of obstructions. Any extra cash I had or have should go towards the purchase of Montecito real estate, with a careful eye for property in the “red zone.” This is one of those once-in-a-decade-or-longer buying opportunities. As to your closing observation, we don’t have a clue as to how to address “the influx of people moving into the area” other than to welcome them to one of America’s greatest places to live! – J.B.)

The 2020 Lineup (So Far)

Here’s a preview of the group of Democrat hopefuls for the Presidency in 2020: Sen. Cory (Groper) Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Amy (Klobberstaff) Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren (D-MA), Sen. Kamala (Narcolepsa) Harris (D-CA): can she sleep her way to the top? Sen. Kirsten (Sillybrand) Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE); once Biden, twice shy… of the nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders (Socialist-VT). His wife has already run out of other people’s money; now he wants a turn. And San Antonio ex-Mayor Julian (Fidel) Castro.

For the future, look to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC: All Out of Cash). Her Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion… but wait… the total amount of money in the entire word is only $88 trillion. The Economics Department at Boston University must be so proud.

Guy Strickland
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: You left out a bunch of would-be’s and wanna-be’s, such as: former National Guardsman Tulsi Gabbard, Pete Buttigieg, Spiritual guru Marianne Williamson, John Delaney, Jay Inslee, and “$1,000-a-month-for-everyone” Andrew Yang; unannounced but potential candidates include Mike Bloomberg, Bill DeBlasio, Eric Holder, Terry McAuliffe, Sherrod Brown, Tim Ryan, Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, John Hickenlooper, Jeff Merkley, John Kerry, SethMoulton, Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Gillum, and the insufferable Eric Swalwell. At this early stage, our money is on Mr. O’Rourke to grab the nomination. – J.B.)

Celebrating the Humble Chicken

These are the latest additions to the Paul Day collection of sculptures at Craggy Range Winery in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, adding to the Charolais cattle installed in 2015. Thanks to the enthusiasm of the Peabody family, the farmyard theme continues.

Paul Day

Artist Paul Day with his bigger-than-life bronze chickens at Craggy Range Winery

A Fond Farewell

Just want to let those who either knew or met Phillip Schaeffer and may not know that he died recently. My husband, Ray, and I feel very honored to have known Phillip, who always gave more than he took. He was a true Bohemian, former madman, author of Codes to Longevity, funny, sharp, humane. We will always remember those beautiful eyes and smile and how much he loved his wife, Gita, and how much they laughed together. You can contact Gita Labrentz at dr.gita.labrentz@gmail.com.

Polly Frost

Of Driving Machines

Perhaps it is not the inherent danger you call mortality factors of our 21st century machines (“The Mortality Factor,” MJ # 25/8). Some are not held to our civil laws. This becomes problematic when humans drive Hummers and other assault vehicles that are not designed to operate safely in traffic. If a driver cannot see pedestrians in a crosswalk or on a public sidewalk as they pull in and out of parking lots they are putting human lives at risk. This includes kids on bikes and babies in strollers. Watch out for those right turns on red when you have the green light. 

Karen Friedman

(Editor’s note: When our kids attended Montecito Union School we often accompanied them on bicycles. When they were older they went by themselves too. Of the vehicles sharing the road at the time, most were no larger than a station wagon, though SUVs were just then coming into the marketplace. We would not do so today, as those big SUVs – which virtually everyone drives now – sit higher on the road and because of that make it more difficult for drivers to see smaller objects, such as tiny bicyclists, outside. Trucks and SUVs also travel faster and, since the advent of cell phones, drivers are often distracted. So, thanks for the warning. – J.B.)

Doing The Right Thing

Did New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft know that the woman giving him a massage in the Florida massage parlor was enslaved and sleeping on the same table he was on?

I think not.

We do not know for sure, but the average Joe or Jane still goes to such places because they are inexpensive and convenient.

Sex trafficking, however, is very sad and very wrong. Mr. Kraft needs to pay a fine and do community service in a real and positive way. At the same time, we all need to think twice about where we get our services. Just because we do not spend two hundred dollars for fourteen minutes doesn’t exempt us from not knowing how to do the right thing.

Steve Marko
Santa Barbara


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