Letters to the Editor
Powers that Be
Just read Jim Buckley’s letter “Uglification of Montecito” and I definitely agree with his comment on the ruination of our beautiful community other than his placing some concern with the Montecito Association. The County and City ‘powers that be’ have control, I understand.
Jean Von Wittenburg
Restarting Santa Barbara
Today I went to Home Improvement again, stood in a long line limiting entry, with customers, mostly wearing masks, each carefully separated six feet apart by marks on the sidewalk. At Trader Joe’s, another popular place, customers in line with six foot separations, waiting for their turn to enter. Costco has reconfigured their parking lot to separate people as they arrive and lines on the floor inside separate customers waiting to check out. At Vons shelves are now pretty well stocked but a sign in front says you cannot enter unless you have a face covering, and again checkout lines separate customers checking out.
I would think almost every store in Santa Barbara could reopen if they followed these simple directions – customers entering wearing masks, the number of customers at any one time is limited, and again checkout lines separate customers checking out.
This would at least start the process of getting the economy open and putting people back to work who are very badly in need of a paycheck. Perhaps even restaurants with outdoor tables could allow customers to eat their take out foods at those tables with proper separation. It would be nice to eat fresh hot food again instead of lukewarm or warmed over food taken elsewhere.
It’s the County’s Turn!
While I don’t want to be the dark cloud in what is turning into a lovely SB week, can we begin talking some hard truth? Individually, we need to focus on our health and risk-factors but, collectively, we need to channel our inner Howard Beale and rage against the idea that there is a silver-lining to COVID 19 or that this should become our “new normal.” Allow me to explain.
UCSB’s Economic Forecast Project just came forth with devastating news for our private sector County economy. Historically, SB’s unemployment rate has been 4%. Well, unfortunately, things are about to get much worse – 30% of corona-closed restaurants may never reopen and hotel occupancy rates are down 85%. Between hospitality and retail we will likely lose 18,000 jobs (41,000 across all industries), leading to a 39% unemployment rate for these sectors alone.
As our local economy plummets and our Political Monarchy (i.e. Board of Supervisors) talk enforcement rather than “end game,” my question is simple: What is SB County doing to tighten its own belt? Remember, our $1.1B County employs 4,300 people and has 26 different departments/agencies. It spends more than 99% of all revenue on – you guessed it – itself! They have yet to openly address the huge fallout from the loss of more than $7B in taxable restaurant, wine, and retail sales; not to mention, non-existent transit occupancy and hotel property taxes (deferred). Bottom-line: It is time to have a DISCUSSION (two-way!) about what the County intends to do as they blindly follow (we are not SF!) the State’s general distancing guidelines that specifically state: “localism is determinative.”
Of course, in a County known for obfuscation the questions are easy but the answers well, not so much: How large is our General Fund? Solvang is laying-off workers/losing $500k each month in taxes, how much is SB losing? What will we be using our reserves for – Unfunded pensions (yes, the market is a tad down)? COLA increases? County electric cars (hybrids are not good enough)? Pet projects (e.g., our insanely over budget $111M North County Jail, etc.)? Oh, and by the way, the $6M or so in annual Cannabis Cultivation taxes (not including expenses) will not save our $1.1B county during this respiratory pandemic. Does our Supervisor-controlled CEO (yes, we have one) Mona Miyasato even own a calculator?
If, together, we can begin getting involved perhaps there is a silver-corona-lining. I don’t just mean helping each other during these unprecedented times, I also mean asking the hard questions. We can no longer accept jackboot press conferences and heads in the sand. We have done our part – time for the Board of Supervisors and City pols to do theirs. Ask the questions, send an email, stay vigilant, and please be healthy!
SB County Resident
Hi, Supervisor Williams
Today at the State Street market there was a surprising (to me) number of people strolling through the market with no masks. I politely asked several of them why and got answers like “I forgot,” “it’s in the car,” “I feel fine,” “I don’t want to,” and my favorite, “it’s my right.”
I explained that my mask was to protect him, not me, and questioned his right potentially to infect a 70-year-old with an often fatal disease. I asked him to think about it.
I very much want the markets to remain open, for many reasons economic and social, but I hope the Supervisors act quickly to rule that vendors in the farmers’ markets must refuse customers who are not masked.
City Pays Itself Well
What Will It Take? (MJ issue 16 headline asks:) Will City Leaders Rise to the Occasion?
It would seem our City leaders are more than well compensated to do just that. Please consider their salaries according to transparentcalifornia.org:
The City of Santa Barbara, total annual pay and benefits:
City Administrator – $379,428.52
City Attorney – $346,609.81
Assistant City Administrator – $310,585.62
Community Development Director – $282,465.79
Airport Director – $237,347.56
Interim Finance Director – $192,793.71
Library Director – $255,622.64
Parks and Recreation Director – $270,371.74
Public Works Director – $307,759.02
Waterfront Director – $208,688.94
Governor of California – $201,680.00