Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   March 21, 2019

Unlike a Rolling Stone

Fresh, green, new moss is now proliferating on these 100-year-old walls at the Santa Barbara Cemetery. Proof positive that Montecito’s latest drought is over.

By the way, the drought is over. I don’t care what the experts say, look at the moss on the 100-year-old wall at the Santa Barbara cemetery.

Plants don’t have an agenda.

Dan Seibert
Santa Barbara

Money Laundering Explained

As always, I appreciate MJ publishing my letters and anytime you may comment on them. As for our National Debt rocketing past the $22 trillion mark, I know it’s all “funny money,” and I’ve read how it all works until my eyes glaze over. But, as you mention, any number of things may happen to eventually collapse the “system”, which was sort of the point of my intended to be (somewhat) humorous letter (“Down in the Dirt,” MJ # 25/9). 

Started watching “Giant Beast Global Economy” on Amazon Prime. Money laundering: fascinating through episode one that chronicles, among many other things, the 2013 collapse in Cyprus. If I understood correctly, when the banks seized up to 10% of large saver’s assets, they got a seat on the board and a share in the bank in return. Russian oligarchs now run that show, though there are some stiffer regulations to navigate. Wilbur Ross, until he became a member of the Trump team, was a prominent figure in the Cyprus machinations. Delaware, USA, seemed also to be the place to set up a shell company with minimal oversight. It was noted that Miami was built on the proceeds of money laundering in the 1980s.

Is that bad? 

Far as I’m concerned, money laundering laws (1986, Ronald Reagan) were principally put in place so the government could maintain it’s monopoly on drugs, munitions, arms, crime, etc. or at least insure it could tax the proceeds of such “illicit” (unless the government does it) activities. 

Steve Marko

(Editor’s note: Many of us are still wondering where the Obama administration came up with pallets of cash equaling $1.7 billion in U.S. dollars, British pounds, Swiss francs, and euros that were delivered to the Tehran airport on chartered planes upon the signing of the Iran nuclear deal. – J.B.)

It’s a Dangerous World

Residents of retirement communities are at an increased risk of being hurt or killed. Some elder care facilities allow people without driver’s licenses to drive on their private property, even after they have lost their driving privileges. 

How many delivery trucks do you suppose make deliveries in a day? Add to that mobile hairdressers, pet groomers, and other service providers. Don’t forget garbage trucks that back in and out of driveways. Beep beep beep when they are in reverse is little warning for those with diminished hearing. Life on planet Earth is becoming increasingly dangerous for humans. 

Please share with Lydia Zinchenko (“A Tale of Two Pillows,” MJ # 25/9) that the word “donate” is not inherently liberal. She gave something for the public good. Thank you Lydia for observing the discomfort of others and doing something about it. The word ‘donation’ can become diminished if the giver takes it off on their taxes. 

There are some spiritual types who think the giver should thank the receiver for allowing them opportunity to share. We have a ways to go until how we treat each others will be the measure of humankind. We are creating the world we want to live in with our choices.

The editorial process is at the foundation of a free press, affording the public opportunity to participate in the dialogue, so thank you for printing my letters. I would like to think we might spare a life or two and get a “Get out of Hell Free” card. Do not pass GO. 

Karen Friedman

The Race of Gentlemen

Being a very enthusiastic old-car collector, when I first heard about the possibility of The Race of Gentlemen (TROG) coming to Santa Barbara (December), I began contacting the organizers to see if I could help in some way, I was skeptical and why should I be? Mel Shultz, the originator Of TROG, and his assistant Amanda Leroux were from New Jersey and knew little of the political nature of our little heaven. Hmmm, Drag races in an oil unfriendly town on Cabrillo? 

Let’s just say “God was with them”, as at the last minute, they got their permit! One great local advocate was Seth Hammond. Single handedly, he called upon his friends to provide K-rail for both sides of the 1/8-mile track, a huge boost to the ability to stage the event! Luckily, I was in charge of all volunteers covering the entrance (ticket sales) and to the “pits”. God knows how many spectators we processed, but there was a line, actually three lines, approximately 50 yards long both Friday evening and all day Saturday. People came from all over the globe. Also, many of the racers brought their vintage Hotrods from distant places. 

A yardstick that I use to judge any event is to judge the smile factor. Employing the smile factor, TROG was a tremendous success. So, who won on this event. From my observation, everyone. Obviously the service providers. It was estimated 12 to 15 thousand people either attended or spectated. That equates to happy restaurants, hotels, motels and shopping outlets. The City got a boost with their bed and other taxes, SBPD was highlighted by sending their DRAGG car down the track, and those that participated supplying their magnificent vintage machines. 

For me, the most important realization was that of youth coming to see what was going on. Most kids today have never been exposed to mechanics. Don’t believe me? Ask any youngster how to change a tire. TROG was completely about our heritage influenced by the advent and development of the automobile and motorcycle.
Prior to decent roads and reliable vehicles, most common folks never strayed more than 50 miles from their homes. As roads became paved and more plentiful and with cars and other modes of transportation becoming more reliable with networks of “filling” stations, expansion was a result. “Go West, young man,” was a slogan, and come they did.

Even with so much enthusiasm, the question remains, will this happen again?
Why not? It’s a winner for all!

Dana Newquist

Dana Newquist (seen here with MJ and News-Press columnist Erin Graffy on the occasion of her birthday in one of Dana’s treasured vehicles) is both a gentleman and collector of antique and classic vehicles

Need for the Nets

After the Gap Fire the county of Santa Barbara got hoodwinked twice to cover our foothills with a mixture of a liquid and unrecyclable trash for the total of five million dollars each time. The liquid was supposed to keep the hillsides intact in case of a wet winter, which never came to fruition. The group proposing the installation of the ring nets are for sure lining their pockets. The first winter after a fire is always the hardest, and we have done quite well, do we really need these obstructions in our drainages?

Keith Zandona
Santa Barbara

(Editor’s note: Wow, it is said that no good deed goes unpunished. The Partnership for Resilient Communities tried to get these nets up before the rainy season and nearly succeeded. That they didn’t wasn’t their fault, but in answer to your question of whether we “really need these obstructions in our drainages,” the answer is “yes.” We’ve witnessed the safety enhancement factor in communities across this continent and all over Europe. They work, and we are pleased they are being installed. As for the group responsible for raising the money “lining their pockets,” we are among the dozens (hundreds?) of residents who donated to the cause and we know that the volunteers in charge of the effort have gone unpaid. Enough said. – J.B.)

Comfort at a Cost

In every age, humanity faces new challenges. Although technology has provided us with an unparalleled standard of living it has been mainly extractive in nature, and comes at a cost. We rely on the world’s ecosystems to be fully functioning to provide us with most of what we need to flourish: clean air, water, and healthy soils.

Unfortunately, vast areas of Earth have been degraded and turned to desert by human activity over the millennia, causing drought, poverty, and releasing carbon into the atmosphere contributing to climate change. The U.N. currently estimates that Earth has almost 5 billion acres of deforested and degraded ecosystems, an area larger than the South American continent. With a billion new people currently added to the population every twelve years, it’s apparent we are at a historical moment, like many in the past, where we need to get creative and change. Can we do it? Can we be fully adult and learn about the ecological functions of our planet, and begin to design in balance with nature? Or will we stay stuck in old Luddite patterns unwilling to change? One leads to scarcity, the other abundance, including ultimately for business.

On March 1, the UN issued a proclamation for the next decade to be the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), to solve some of our most pressing problems by restoring these huge areas that are already essentially deserts. What many still don’t know is that much of the carbon in the atmosphere was released over hundreds of years from the soil with plow agriculture. But healthy biologically alive soils are fully capable of drawing that carbon back down again.

This is a huge opportunity, taking land no one wants, and by restoring it, bringing back biodiversity, restoring hydrological cycles, and helping to cool the planet’s rising temperatures. Whew! And not a moment too soon, I’m thinking. I don’t know about you, but I was getting worried. 

On Sunday, March 17, John D. Liu, journalist, filmmaker, and soil scientist was at the Lobero Theatre talking about Ecosystem Restoration and Ecosystem Restoration Camps that are forming worldwide. 

Margie Bushman
Santa Barbara

They Say It’s Your Birthday

I recently celebrated my 68th birthday. Friends and family made this a wonderful day for me. Allow me to thank people like Patrick and Ursula Nesbitt, without wishing to embarrass them for their consistent dedication to charity events – always ready to open their home for others. A remarkable example.

You can praise someone wishing favor better out of acknowledging someone for special effort.

On my birthday allow me to suggest that all of us embrace and listen to someone from the “other party.” One of America’s great strengths is that we are allowed to disagree; we meet, discuss the issues, and then part as friends. Consider the life long friendship of Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda. In truth, people can seem on opposite sides of an issue and in reality both wish to accomplish the same goals.

Please everyone reading this: try to encourage someone you meet today.

Recently, having lunch at Jeannine’s, the server said to me, “You inspire many people, Morten.” I considered these words and remembered what I always tell people I meet: “to pay off that car you owe money on and never do it again.” Put instead money in the bank, work hard, and have patience. Enjoy the climb. So many of us self-destruct our lives by our own actions, not so much by what the world does to us in general.

Lastly, may I state that the recent mention of Richard Mineards and so many compliments in his direction are so very well deserved. His cheerful and insightful perspective is always an inspiration

Thank you to my wife, Lisa Smith Wengler, for marrying me these many years ago.

Morten Wengler

Last Straw? Maybe

Per Bob Hazard‘s plastic straw letter (Grasping for Straws, MJ # 25/10), the issue has been debunked as fraudulent on KFI’s afternoon drive time John & Ken show, who’ve relied, at least partly, on Reason magazine, which has also reported on the issue. For anyone wanting what appears to be the real skinny on whether plastic straws need to be banned, regulated, etc., please check out the following link, with more found online: https://reason.com/reasontv/2018/07/17/plastic-straw-myths.
 For what it’s worth, per the Schenck vs. Bond feud, I looked up sludge, silt, sediment, and even dregs and “Sediment: material that settles to the bottom of a liquid or is deposited by water or a glacier” gets my vote.

Michael McLaughlin
Santa Barbara

Another Pretty Face

She is the Pretty Face of 21st-century Communist Revolution in America. The “faces” behind her aren’t nearly as “pretty,” however, and their sinister game plan to take over Congress via capturing the Democrat Party is chilling, to say the least. “Justice Democrats” is a real organization run by Millennials under the toxic ideological influence whose premise is that the United States of America is the crux of evil in the world, and must be overthrown. “Justice Democrats” elected seven Democrats to U.S. House in 2018. All seven parrot the same “America is a hopelessly colonial empire” and must be gutted.

“Justice Democrats” are not your grandfather’s Democrats. They present to America, and Americans, what Communism looks like in the 21st century.

David S. McCalmont
Santa Barbara

On Becoming “Special”

The sign in the parking lot that got Dale Lowdermilk thinking…

Recently, while searching for a parking spot at our local CVS, I noticed a space reserved for “Families With Children” (FWC). As I continued circling the lot with other shoppers, I began wondering why this type of “privilege” was not granted to pregnant women, the morbidly obese, or anyone with a hangover, for example, and whether a vehicle not in the favored category would be subject to towing or fines, as with violating a handicap-only space.

As I completed my third loop, I noticed the vehicle in front of me suddenly pulled in to the empty “FWC” spot. Since I had been following this same car, I was curious why the driver suddenly became eligible for that coveted space. I stopped (blocking the others in the wagon train) got out and ask why she felt she deserved to park there; her answer was “I realized that since I have children in nursery school. I’m a family with children”. I congratulated her for figuring out such a creative solution and eventually parked about four rows downstream.

It turns out there are “Customer With Child” (aka pregnant-CWC) parking exemptions in Beaumont, Texas, two counties in Wisconsin, Cornell University (for both pregnant and nursing mommies) including a comprehensive “Pregnant Workers Fairness Act” at Bunker Hill Community College (Boston). I didn’t realize that pregnancy was considered a disability. Shouldn’t the fathers, and those who identify as fathers, of these families be offered some kind of parking advantage in recognition of their domestic contribution?

Why aren’t bottle-feeders given the same respect as breast-feeders and offered a quiet, respectful, private and convenient parking space? Is a 65-year-old woman who thinks she’s pregnant eligible to use an “expectant mother” parking spot? Is a 25-year-old biological male who identifies as a 23-year-old pregnant female also eligible?

There is an argument to made for “under-represented” drivers suffering from any one of the following: infertility, Peyronie’s, ED, dry Kegel’s, incontinence, insomnia, job stress, marital problems, itchy clothing, twitching, IBS, PMS, ADD, PTSD, Crohn’s, Hep A-B-C, asthma, allergies, temporary insanity, Twinkie-withdrawal, low libido, palpitations, the vapors, hives and especially shingles. 

It also seems fair to expand the parking “exemption list” to include individuals who have experienced road rage, workplace violence, discrimination, verbal abuse, child abuse, identity theft, unfair business practices and even stage fright (aka Performance Anxiety) which can mimic a case of “bad enchiladas” (BE’s). This requires urgent access to the nearest “store entrance”. This may involve crushing the bike rack, knocking over a parked motorcycle, sales clerk or patron, in order to reach the Imodium-aisle and start a loperamide IV drip.

Is it okay to usurp a “commercial parking” or “expectant mother” space in this dire situation? 

Shouldn’t “Access Parking” planners issue handicap-zone permits and/or exemptions to those suffering from the depression and anxiety of a medically diagnosed vehicle-related phobia? Some of these disorders include ochophobia, vehophobia, amaxophobia, scophobia, sinistrophobia, dystychiphobia, gephyrophobia, hodophobia (not to be confused with hoplophobia — the fear of guns and armed citizens) and, perhaps the most serious affliction for those dealing with parking lots, agyrophobia. In the interest of editorial space, you can “Google” information on these ailments and decide if you qualify for that precious parking spot nearest the front entrance. 

Politically Correct Parking-Privileges” (PCPP) could be granted for those with environmental-diversity-inclusivity-safe space bumper stickers or window decals i.e., GLOBAL WARMING WILL KILL EVERYONE (just like it has been doing for the past 600 million years), I BELIEVE IN WIND POWER (except when it comes from cows), TAKE THE MONEY OUT OF POLITICS (except for candidates I support), SUPPORT FREE SPEECH (except on campus) and MY VEHICLE RUNS ON ELECTRONS (which are generated by coal-fire power plants).

“Special Person” (SP) parking decals could be issued to anyone who knows a movie star, a famous politician, Monica Lewinsky, a billionaire, an intellectual, an expert, a pollster, Obama, Al Sharpton, Al Capone, Al Franken, Oprah, AOC, Biden, Jussie Smollett, Tawana Brawley, supports the Green New Deal or is related to an inmate at Guantanamo Bay. 

Included in this category are thousands of misunderstood felons suffering from affluenza (Ethan Couch), 1st Degree Sleepwalking (aka “intermittent dissociative states”), sexsomnia (a form of behavior usually triggered when someone is forced to consume magic mushrooms, crack cocaine or negotiate for a prized parking space), PMS (aka “becoming a lioness to protect your children”), the Matrix Defense (aka “a movie made me crazy”) and for the snowflake Uber driver seeking a prestigious Special-Person parking decal, there is a modern, not-my-fault rationale called IIFVGH—Instant Insanity From Video Game Hypnosis (aka “Halo 3 made me kill my parents”). 

In today’s world it seems that everyone is entitled to a Special Person parking decal and a participation trophy.

Cautiously circling the parking lot,

Dale Lowdermilk
Santa Barbara

Water Deal Worth $100+ per Month?

The Montecito Water District Board (Board) is preparing to approve a 50-year Water Supply Agreement (Agreement) with the City of Santa Barbara (City) based upon the City’s Desalination Project costs. The Board and staff have worked hard to develop the terms of the Agreement and costs.

In summary, under the terms of the Agreement, the Montecito Water District (District) will purchase 1,430 acre feet per year (AFY) of water at $2,979/AFY for a total cost of $4,260,000 per year. The water will be supplied by the City from its water supply portfolio, not necessarily desalinated water. This is a wise business deal for the City. Under the Agreement the City can send the District water from any of its water sources such as the Cachuma Project, Gibraltar Reservoir, the State Water Project (SWP), etc. which will cost them approximately $100 to $600 per acre foot while charging the District up to $2,979 per acre foot. This option is especially lucrative during wet or average rainfall periods.

In addition, the Board is contemplating approving a recycled water project at District customer expense that will treat a small amount of wastewater from the Montecito Sanitary District’s plant, the majority of which will be piped across Montecito to the Birnam Wood and Valley Club Golf Courses.

Water Bills to Increase

I hope District customers are prepared for a serious increase in their monthly bills in order for the District to purchase water from the City and construct a recycled water project. The costs appear to be significant.

Since the District has 4,612 service connections, the Agreement would increase the average customer’s bill approximately $80 per month. Add to that the cost to the District for pipes to deliver desalinated water within the City and the recycled water project cost of $1,650,000 to $1,980,000 per year, which will increase the customer’s bill in excess of $40 per month. The total cost to the average customer for the Agreement, desalinated water conveyance pipes, and the recycled water project may be well over $120 per month.

My water bill (without any water for landscaping) may go from $150 per month to over $270 per month (80% + increase). However I can only guess at the cost because the District has not run an analysis on exactly how these projects are going to impact its customers’ bills. My hope is that before the District executes the Agreement with the City, a financial analysis will be performed on its cost impact to individual District customers. This cost can then be evaluated by customers who will hopefully be given the opportunity to comment publicly on the cost vs. benefit. 

This situation reminds me of what happened to the City of Solvang when they voted to participate in the State Water Project (SWP). Solvang’s customers were very upset when they received their first water bills that contained the SWP’s cost. They sued to break their contract because they didn’t feel they were adequately notified of the project’s cost. After several years of litigation and several million dollars in attorney fees, they lost the suit. I hope the District is not heading down a similar path as Solvang.

State Water Project

Is it well documented that SWP’s water supplies cannot be relied upon to meet contractual obligations. However the SWP infrastructure (conveyance facilities such as pipes) that transport the District’s entitlement of 3,300 AFY are very reliable. In fact the reliability of the infrastructure was clearly proven during the recent severe drought. The SWP was able to purchase water from agricultural entities in the Central Valley and send that water through its facilities to agencies throughout southern California, including those along the South Coast of Santa Barbara (District included). There are always water supplies for sale somewhere in the State. They can be expensive but pale in comparison to the 50 year $1/4 billion the District will be paying to the City under the terms of the Agreement.

An argument has been made that the SWP deliveries could be disrupted by a significant earthquake. This is a remote possibility but consider the following:

During normal or wet years, surface reservoirs meet the District’s water supply needs with little or no SWP water. Bradbury Dam and spillway, which impounds Cachuma Lake water, was recently reinforced at considerable cost to meet updated California Division of Safety of Dams earthquake standards. SWP facilities were constructed to high standards to last from 50 to 100 years. With proper maintenance similar facilities have lasted indefinitely. SWP serves millions of California customers. If there were a break in any part of the system, for any reason, significant resources would be brought into play that would quickly repair the damage. SWP past performance has demonstrated its reliability. 

Is Agreement Needed?

During average or wet rainfall years, the District is able to meet customer water sales of 3,800 AFY by utilizing water from its surface reservoirs of Jameson Lake and Lake Cachuma. Groundwater basins can recharge during this period and minimal or no SWP water is needed. When the inevitable drought occurs the District can meet customer water demand by ultimately relying on its 3,300 AFY SWP delivery system entitlement along with 840 AFY from groundwater and Doulton Tunnel intrusion water. This water supply scenario was validated during the recent severe drought. 

This was not an accident. District customers voted years ago, at significant cost, to participate in the SWP in order to bolster the District’s water supply portfolio. We have benefitted significantly during the recent drought from their forethought and decision. In addition the District has recently opted to firm up existing supplies by participating in the Semitropic groundwater-banking program. Initially the District will deposit 4,500 AF of water in the bank and will be able to withdraw up to 1,500 AFY when needed.

Unfortunately for the City, it has the same SWP entitlement as the District but with ten times the population and 2 ½ times the water demand. The City had no choice but to construct the desalination facility in order to meet water demand even after implementing an exemplary water conservation program.

So, does the District really need to purchase extremely expensive City water based on the City’s desalination facility cost? The District has proven that it can survive an historic drought without a water supply agreement with the City. It was able to accomplish this feat by using its water supply portfolio, which included obtaining its full water supply entitlement of 3300 AFY via the SWP. However, customers with extensive water intensive landscaping were forced to make adjustments, which is probably appropriate since we live in a semi arid Mediterranean climate. It has been reported that 80% of the District’s water supply continues to be used for landscaping. 

Water Supply Portfolio Analysis

The District has many water supply sources in its portfolio including Cachuma Lake, Jameson Lake, SWP, groundwater, Doulton Tunnel intrusion, and the Semitropic groundwater bank. Each of these supplies has its own unique characteristics regarding quantity, quality, reliability, and cost. Approximately ten years ago the District performed a water supply portfolio analysis (Supply Analysis) evaluating each of these supplies and how they could be used conjunctively to ensure that the District would have a reliable water supply under various scenarios. The Supply Analysis also gave guidance to the District on when it should make certain operational decisions. For example when the Cachuma Reservoir gets to a certain water levels, when should the District begin purchasing SWP water and how much, when should the groundwater wells begin operation, etc. 

The Supply Analysis was computer based and performed by Dr. Bachman, a State expert in water matters, who fortuitously lives in Montecito. It would appear that prior to making a huge 50-year commitment to purchase City water, an updated Supply Analysis should be performed using the latest information concerning the District’s present supplies and the recent drought. Also a Supply Analysis alternative could utilize the additional water supply afforded by the Agreement in order to determine the improvement, if any, to the District’s water supply reliability. This information together with a financial analysis would give the District Board and its customers two invaluable tools to evaluate the Agreement’s cost impact and benefit. 


The District is emerging from a historical drought. Cachuma Lake is at 75% capacity and Jameson Lake is full. An expensive fifty-year Agreement is being evaluated by the District Board. With surface reservoirs recovering from the drought it would appear that it is not necessary to rush to judgment on the Agreement. A financial analysis on the impact of the Agreement as well as its impact on the District’s water supply portfolio should provide invaluable information to the Board and customers. This is a huge decision that should be made only after thoroughly examining its cost and benefit for District customers. 

My hope is that District customers are fully informed of the financial impact of the Water Supply Agreement prior to execution and that the Board and customers have the opportunity to weigh the benefit in relation to the cost. Please contact me at bob4roebuck@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments on the information contained in this letter. Thank you.

Bob Roebuck

(Editor’s note: Mr. Roebuck was employed as Santa Barbara’s Water Resources Manager for 20 years. He retired as the Montecito Water District General Manager after four years and is a professional civil engineer registered in the states of California and Florida. He and his family have been District customers for 36 years.)


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