Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   April 16, 2020

The Uglification of Montecito

Ever since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 – passed “to promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies” – effectively usurped the rights of local communities to police the crap someone or some company wanted to throw up on a pole or wire in order to make a few quick bucks, Montecito’s roadways have become eyesores, littered with junk put up by AT&T, Verizon, Cox Cable, Crown Castle, Fiber Tel, and who knows how many more inconsiderate and/or voracious entities.

And, because of the Telecommunications Act, every elected and/or unelected official can throw his or her hands up and claim there is nothing to be done. That their “hands are tied.”

As a 35-year resident and founder (but no longer owner/publisher) of Montecito Journal, I am appalled that we (and in retrospect, I) have simply sat by as these hordes of telecommunications companies devour the byways of our-once simple village. Wherever there are utility poles, along with them are a proliferation of cables and wires that get larger, more intrusive, bulkier, and, naturally, uglier. Utility poles have been transformed from indistinct wooden crosses into fat 40-foot-high metal and heavily laden behemoths. Our thoroughfares featuring myriad wires and cables running helter-skelter across and along them, resemble those scrambled roads one sees in documentaries of Third-World countries, rather than those of an upscale First-World “semi-rural” community.

At some point there will be so many wires hanging from pole to pole we’ll be able to hold a community limbo contest. On Middle Road, I count seven heavy cables strung along, all with various large and odious fittings, “snowshoes,” and connectors either propped up or embracing the already thick cables. Hot Springs Road, East Valley Road, School House Road, Sycamore Canyon, and… well, virtually every byway, big and small, in Montecito, is corrupted by these impediments.

If you haven’t taken a walk lately along East Valley Road between Hot Springs and Sycamore Canyon for example, where a number of our valued residents lost their lives in the recent debris flow and where a great deal of work is still required to remedy the roadway, even more cables and wires have been attached to existing and newer poles.

Shouldn’t we – or the Montecito Association, or our First District Supervisor, or even our U.S. Representative – have insisted upon the undergrounding of utility and telecommunications equipment as a requirement of renewed service there and elsewhere? Paid for, of course, by the companies that expect to profit from these connections and not Montecito taxpayers.

I do believe residents still have the ability to protest if these intrusions can be shown to mar the “aesthetics” of a community. At this point, those poles, cables, wires, and devices have practically devoured the aesthetics of much of Montecito.

Maybe I’m wrong, but if so, isn’t about time we either abolish the Planning Commissions that look the other way, the Architectural Review Boards that can “advise” homeowners what to plant in their front yards but have no thoughts about the aesthetic degradation taking place on our roadways?

I do believe also that, if the Montecito Association continues to look away from this ongoing disaster, it too should close up shop.

Sincerely fed up,

James Buckley


I am glad Mr. Brooks has chosen to skip reading the Montecito Journal. That way I will not have to read his “ignorant, vicious ranting.” What are these American values he is so proud of? It certainly is not standing with his fellow Americans in a time of crisis and great hardship. Strange that he would use the word vicious. That is how I would describe his attack on a point of view not his own. And why would that be? Does he think that is the American way? That those are values we hold dear as Americans? No, it is a favor he has done the rest of the readers of the Journal.

Carolyn Quackenbush

Deterioration of Democracy

At last, the MJ speaks for the core values of our democracy, not just for the great concentration camp of wealthy people in Montecito.

I consider myself one of them. As an immigrant from war-torn Europe, I have been “privileged” from the moment I was admitted to UCLA at $75.00 a semester 1959-1961. Such a “free” education made it possible for me to embark on a well-paid career leading to marriages to men who were equally “privileged” at public Universities. Both husband #1, a banker, and #2, a lawyer, have had great success surpassing that of their own parents. This was during the ‘60s and the ‘70s while still paying high income taxes and leading comfortable life-styles.

Mine was a typical hard-working immigrant family that barely scraped by, but agreed to allow me to attend the higher education I so cherished.

It changed all of our lives, not only materially, but spiritually and emotionally. My parents received their citizenship in 1952, exactly five years after our arrival. One of my best memories was to accompany them to the polls so that they could cast their votes for Dwight Eisenhower, who, like Churchill, was revered for “saving” Europe from the Nazis.

I had to come along because my English at 14 was better than theirs. I had helped them register and accompanied them to the voting place just down the street in South Gate, California, at a modest little neighborhood church.

My mother, the more religious German Jew, balked at entering a church. Papa and I just laughed – we knew she couldn’t not vote for her hero, General Dwight Eisenhower. Like millions in the post-War era, they “liked Ike.” (I had wanted Adlai Stevenson.) This voting habit has been a part of my family ever since. I not only took my little son with me in Hancock Park to vote at yet another nearby church, but also his young friends. As a parent/Educator, the example of going to vote was a matter of necessity and honor.

Seventy years later I am horrified to learn that the people of Wisconsin were confined to five polling places in all of Madison and even fewer in rural areas. AND that they were forced to literally risk their lives with COVID-19 by standing in long frigid lines and crowded polling places in order to vote.

I would not have allowed my own aging parents to take such risks. I’m almost glad they are no longer alive to see the current deterioration of democracy in their “America the Beautiful.” They saw that once before in Germany in the ‘30s and barely escaped.

As our wise editor writes, “There are few things more central to our republic than our right to vote.” We must expand the means whether by more mail-in ballots, or online voting. After all, if the astronauts during the ‘50s and ‘60s were allowed to vote from far out in space, we can surely make it possible to vote from our homes at our desk, or at the mailbox.

We may have to fight for that right, and so we will.

Josie Levy Martin

The Problem with Mail-In Voting

I take issue with your recent Editorial Comment (“Voting to the Moon and Back”) where you state that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision curtailed vote-by-mail in Wisconsin and infer that if the pandemic continues, voters will have to choose between voting and getting infected with the coronavirus.

In the Supreme Court case, the narrow issue addressed was whether a lone federal court judge could, on the eve of the election, mandate that the State allow voters to vote by mail a full week after election day. Wisconsin is a no-excuse absentee voting state meaning that anyone for any reason can vote by mail. Mail-in ballots are easily obtainable. The only legal requirement for mail-in voting is that the ballots must be received on or before the day of the election. Addressing the coronavirus outbreak and the social distancing guidelines, Wisconsin officials and politicians urged voters in early March to request mail-in ballots for the April 7 election, and over one million did. The Democrat Governor, Tony Evers, steadfastly insisted before and after his stay at home order that the election not be postponed. Until he didn’t. Four days before the election he convened a special Saturday meeting of the legislature to ask for a postponement. The legislature could have postponed or delayed the election, but they decided to go forward with the April 7 date. The Democratic National Committee went to Court on April 2 and got a District Court judge to order that despite the legislature’s decision not to postpone the election, mail-in voters could have until April 13 to send in or deliver their ballots and that election officials could not release any election results until that date. He essentially ordered what the legislature refused to do, postpone the election. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed and, relying on established precedent, ruled that a District Court judge could not usurp legislative powers and interfere with an election at the last minute.

What is the relevance of this recent decision to other elections? Absolutely nothing. Indeed, the opinion states: “The Court’s decision on the narrow question before the Court should not be viewed as expressing an opinion on the broader question of whether to hold an election, or whether other reforms or modifications in election procedures in light of COVID-19 are appropriate. That point cannot be stressed enough.” (emphasis added)

Your editorial further advocates for an evolution from voting by mail to online voting. I strongly disagree and believe we should limit vote by mail to absentee or disability voters only. Voting by mail invites abuse. In 2005, after a six-month study, a bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and James Baker concluded: “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.” Suspected voting fraud due to unregistered, dead, non-resident or other unqualified voters is nothing compared to the potential for abuse that voting by mail does. Ballots are routinely delivered to the wrong addresses. Ballots get intercepted when delivered to multi-occupied residences. Most problematic, however, people can be pressured or intimidated (whether overtly or subtly) by parents, peers, teachers, custodians, caregivers, managers, or others. And some votes can simply be purchased with anything from cash to a package of cigarettes. Online voting would present the same problems, plus security, privacy, and computer illiteracy issues. Abuse of the system is almost guaranteed.

One more point about voting fairness and accuracy in California. In our state, the potential for fraud with mail-in voting is compounded by the totally illogical and insidious practice of “Ballot Harvesting.” This is a practice which is banned in most states and should be banned in all. In California, it is not only not forbidden, it is specifically authorized by a law passed by our democrat-controlled legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2016. Ballot harvesting allows anyone, including paid political operatives, to collect mail-in ballots from anyone and deliver those ballots to polling officials right up until the closing of the polls on Election Day. The potential for abuse is mind-boggling. Think about retirement homes, college campuses, homeless shelters, or low-income workplaces… anywhere politicians think voters can be pressured or manipulated. Don’t think it doesn’t happen. In Orange County in the 2016 election, 250,000 mail-in ballots were dropped off on election day, resulting in not only a lengthy delay in finalizing voter tallies, but a massive change from the election day vote count resulting in the Democrat candidate winning every legislative seat in this historically conservative area. As long as ballot harvesting is legal, expect both parties to try to use it to their advantage, jabbing their thumb on the scales of justice and down the electorate’s throat.

Lawrence W. Dam

The End Game… When?

While I’m certainly enjoying my new Finnish detective addiction, cabin fever is getting more than a bit tiring. More alarming, however, is the fact that Martial law is engendering Marinetti-inspired ideas of anarchy and rebellion. Claustrophobia and an Italian heritage is a dangerous combination.

COVID-19 is serious and not something that I would ever minimize. With that said, we need to be hyper-vigilant when we’re told to relinquish our constitutional freedoms. As Dylan Thomas famously wrote, we should never go “gently into that good night.” While he was speaking about death – and this is not hyperbole – each day under house arrest a small bit of our humanness and freedom, die as well.

My fear is that our fear will keep us from asking the hard questions, especially in a county known for obfuscation. Because, without an open discussion compliance will disappear. This is not a dystopian prediction, it’s a reality that even Dr. Birx, America’s Coronavirus Response Coordinator, spoke about at her April 9 briefing, i.e. only with transparency can you expect compliance.

The Federal Reserve recently predicted a 32% national unemployment rate – 47M! out of work. This is well beyond the 24% rate we saw during the Great Depression. Early predictions had US mortality rates (I hate writing this!) in excess of 1M and now the IHME has the number at 60,400. California originally expected to need 50,000 hospital beds and today we’re looking at closer to 4,000. These numbers are devastating, but let’s remember that during the 2017-2018 flu season we lost 80k people to influenza.

Of course, data will do whatever you want it to do. Last Friday, for example, SB Sheriff Brown (complete with insulting/SNL-worthy distancing charts) was talking about enforcement and the fact that we “haven’t yet reached the peak.” Just days before, however, our own data-geek Brian Goebel, published his analysis showing that the curve had flattened between 3/30 – 4/3 and that it was now bent (confirmed on Saturday 4/11).

Individually, we need to focus on our health while collectively shining a light our friends who own barbershops, salons, wineries, boutiques, hotels, and local restaurants (Los Agaves just laid off 300 workers). Because, without these folks, SB will be SB no more.

Data is important but hope requires that we have a DISCUSSION about what the “end game” might look like and when. We paid our taxes, funded 80% of our 4,200 hardworking County employees – we are minimally owed at least a dialog. Frankly, the problem is having our lobby-centric pols defining an “essential” business because, for me, all business is essential. Is Cannabis or Costco more essential than Pane Vino, Cos Bar, Whistle Club, Shopkeepers, Summerland Antiques, Nugget, etc., all of whom can monitor occupancy rates/distancing?

With democracy comes the responsibility of vigilance, just ask Hungary. We should never get comfortable with authoritarianism so, yes, we do need to make some noise and push our Political Monarchy (i.e. Board of Supervisors) and City Officials to begin discussing “when.” Stay healthy, get involved, write an email, and together let’s help each other during these unprecedented times!

Jeff Giordano
SB County Resident

Dawn of A New Day

The Moon Will Be More Vivid
The Sun And Stars In Bright Display
When This Virus Is Behind Us
We’ll Greet The Dawn Of A New Day
Get On Your Horses All My People
We Have A Lot Of Energy To Display
Plow The Earths Rich Resources
As We Greet The Dawn Of A New Day
What Misery In Our Stay At Home
Fighting And Pushing The Devil Away
We Look And We Strive For Tomorrow
Awaiting The Dawn Of A New Day

Frank Mcginity


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