Letters to the Editor
Tribute to a Community treasure, John Venable
It’s extremely rare to find a person that gives so much of themselves unselfishly to their community as John Venable.
John was always “there” and “ready” for whatever task that lay ahead.
He was the first to volunteer to help organize and videograph our first Village 4th Parade (1996 & on).
Beautification Day saw John picking up trash for his community.
Decorating the Community Christmas (Hathaway Memorial) Tree was a favorite task.
He was a Civic superstar having been on the Board of the Montecito Association.
A passion in nature and hiking, John became long term Trails Foundation President.
John and I served on the Montecito Fire Protection District where he played a key roll in a variety of Director functions.
Last year John was rightfully nominated to be the Montecito Village 4th Grand Marshall.
Normally, the Grand Marshall has his “own” parade vehicle.
John asked to be with me on my Fire Engine, I was humbled and honored!
Thank you for your grace and wisdom.
Our entire community will miss you!
Reject the Roundabout
My sons are fourth-generation Montecito Union alumnae. It goes without saying how much we regard our community.
Some time ago the County of Santa Barbara sent quite an elaborate mailer at tax-payer expense to our home. I never learned the scope of their target, but it should have reached every resident in our county.
With an elaborate layout and lots of color these are the points they hope to convince us of:
• Create a welcoming pedestrian feel and ease-of-use
• Promote bicycle accessibility for kids to experts
• Use drought-tolerant landscaping and visual improvements
• Maintain a semi-rural feel for a freeway frontage road
• Educate drivers to slow to 25 mph around roundabout (current speed is 35 mph)
My maternal great-grandparents settled in my neighborhood prior to 1900. I am quite familiar with the intersection. Beach-goers and other pedestrians will not feel welcome. (How many pedestrians do you see using the Hot Springs roundabout?)
How will children and/or experts feel safe riding in vehicle lanes?
How will landscaping be handled when the current visuals are unacceptable?
How would a huge roundabout “maintain a semi-rural feel”?
Stop signs are in place. The current speed is 0.
I’m asking you and the other commissioners to unanimously reject this. It doesn’t belong in our community.
Mr. McGinity‘s comments about Ashleigh Brilliant are, in the former’s own words, “somewhat off track.” To find fault with Brilliant that he did not give any support for his thesis that there is no God is not countered by McGinity’s evidence that there is one. The jury is still out on that one. Mr. McGinity’s guess that Brilliant is unhappy seems to presume that to be happy one must have kids or grandkids. This is a narrow perception of the great world beyond Montecito, where there are many fulfilled people who have elected not to have children. Finally, that Brilliant should convert to Christianity in order to have a rewarding life is absurd. (Christopher Hitchens was by all appearances a fulfilled man.) First, why Christianity, and not some other religion? Second, not all Christians are joyful and fulfilled people. Finally can one who does not believe in God simply “convert” to Christianity and adopt those beliefs that McGinity thinks make Christians a happy people. I am pleased that Mr. McGinity’s religion and offspring have given him a fulfilled life, but as Sylvester Stone wrote: “different strokes for different folks.”
All of us are thinking about keeping each other safe during this pandemic. The wildlife among us need helping hands now as always. We are fortunate to have the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network on Fairview Avenue in Goleta. A local place to take injured or sick wildlife is so important. Several friends have discovered injured animals and have been grateful to have a local place to provide loving care for our fellow creatures. I have visited their facilities on many occasions and know first-hand of their wonderful work.
As we care for each other, we need to be aware of the wildlife around us, and care for them as well. I am so proud of the SBWCN and the continuing work that they do.
My dear friend, John Venable, once street neighbor, fellow wine lover, and Montecito ally, has passed into the other room. We shared wine, dine, and lots of good time. He was hero to me. I am a better man for having known him. Our Bistro get togethers will not be the same without him. He has left his mark on many places in Montecito: The Fire Board, The Montecito Association, The Polo Club and others. His heart was big, and his love for Montecito was HUGE. He, as I do, always felt it outrageously cool to live in village where we can voice opinions and help the community first hand. May his legacy live on in good memory and may we carry on his traditions of service. He will be missed.
Do As I Say…
On 5/12/20 while driving on Micheltorena Street northbound, I saw an incident that really disturbs me. Five police cyclists riding their bikes, not single file, but quintuple on the road, even protruding on coming traffic driving towards them, if that wasn’t bad enough, they ran a stop light, and stop sign.
The police are always lecturing us about road safety. Maybe the Chief should lecture her subordinates before they hit the road. By the way, I have a witness.
The current pandemic brings back memories of 9/11 when I watched the Twin Towers crumble into dust.
My office was then on the 64th floor of 30 Rock and had a clear view of the Hudson River. Someone was in my office shortly after those collapses and said to me, “Look at that!” Six helicopter gunships were moving up and down the river and over the West Side for about an hour.
The following weekend we went to our home in Connecticut. My wife and I were in the yard on that Saturday afternoon with our children when we heard loud noises and looked up. Fighter bombers began swooping low in circles.
The first incident was precautionary. The second was to convey confidence.
Pearl Harbor was the seminal tragedy for my parents. My mother had been to Hawaii and lost friends whom she had first met when they were midshipmen and then my father began 34 years in the Navy.
I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. At a Connecticut boarding school, we were taking drills to go into the basements of our dorms because of fears of a nuclear war. My father was then sleeping for ten days on a cot adjoining McNamara’s office at the Pentagon. I also remember where I was standing in a hallway at that boarding school when learning that JFK had been assassinated. Much later was 9/11.
This virus may be the seminal tragedy for the current generation.
The commonality is to stay calm.
There are many reasons to oppose a roundabout at the San Ysidro intersection. Safety is by far the biggest. Empirical evidence shows roundabouts are safer and more efficient for motorized vehicles, not pedestrians and bicyclists. While they can reduce accidents for pedestrians at certain types of intersections they do not improve safety when replacing an all-way controlled stop intersection like San Ysidro. I have continuously expressed in meetings critical reasons that this roundabout cannot be put at San Ysidro. Reasons that are supported substantially from studies that show the safety issues with a roundabout at this corner would be significant and unavoidable. During the January 9, 2020 MBAR meeting again expressed those issues in detail bringing up important points on how this intersection is consistently used by the large number of elderly residents, children going to and from school, people walking their dogs to the beach, beach goers, families with wagons and large strollers with young children in tow. As well as the handful of visually impaired residents, myself included. I brought up the data that shows drivers only yield 5% of the time at most for pedestrians who step into the crosswalk and up to 24% if the pedestrian appears blind because they either are using a seeing eye dog or cane. That is unacceptable to expect any pedestrian let alone anyone who is visually impaired, elderly and especially children to ever take such a risk. A risk they will have to take three separate times just to cross the intersection in one direction. I also shared information on unconventional shaped roundabout design. According to the FHA oval and unconventional shaped roundabouts cause driver speed to increase on straight sections and increase chance of loss of control. This puts the drivers focus on the unfamiliar roundabout and not pedestrians who might be wanting to cross. To add to the safety issues, the highest times for pedestrians traffic are also during the peak times for commuters. With the roundabout there will be a constant stream of cars no longer required to come to a complete stop at the intersection like there is now giving all the pedestrians the chance to cross safely. After speaking at the meeting Mr. Rubalcava confirmed “there is nothing Ms. Wills brought up that we contest,” but still the roundabout moves forward at the expense of pedestrian safety. I urge everyone who has not attended these meetings to listen to them on line. This roundabout is to serve commuters during the freeway construction. That is why this roundabout must be done prior to the freeway widening and reinstallation of the southbound onramp at Cabrillo which Caltrans admits will reduce congestion 60%. To pose such significant risk to pedestrian safety to increase the intersection LOS current level E, not F like claimed, to only a D, not B like claimed, makes zero sense! This project severely violates the Montecito community plan. I’m honestly taken back, saddened, and shocked that our community and the fierce community members who have always worked so hard to protect Montecito are even allowing this. I love being from here and it’s more than because of its beautiful location and great weather. I love how special Montecito is and it wouldn’t be this with without the handful of residents who have worked so hard to continue to keep this wonderful little community small and special. The intersection would benefit from better pedestrian crossings but that can very easily happen with a painted cross walk and without a roundabout. Speaking for myself, someone who is now legally blind, and lives next to this intersection I depend on my ability to walk to have some sort of independence. After this roundabout is done I lose that. Even the best designed roundabouts in the country have yet been able to solve the issue for visually impaired users, even with any of the crossing methods being considered by the county for this roundabout. This is not a time to waste tax dollars in this country or state.
A few days ago, a letter signed by various officials of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI was made public in Washington, D.C. calling upon U.S. Atty General William Barr to resign over his efforts to have all charges dismissed relating to disgraced Lt. General Michael Flynn. I felt honored to have been asked to be one of the signators on that letter.
As readers may recall, Flynn was appointed as Trump’s first Director of National Security (DNI), though he had been fired by President Obama based upon prior evidence of him being untrustworthy and a possible threat to our national security. Shortly thereafter, Flynn pleaded guilty to Federal felony charges of lying to the FBI during the investigation into Russian interference in in the 2016 election to bolster Trump’s election. Specifically, he falsely denied having had certain conversations with Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak, during which Flynn promised Russia the removal of various economic sanctions against Russia if Trump was elected U.S. President. Flynn also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI over his receiving and not disclosing payments from the government of Turkey, and for not registering as an agent of a foreign government as required by Federal law. Flynn was one of the top Intelligence officials in the U.S. military before his retirement and was fully cognizant of all such laws and registration requirements.
As is usually required in the Federal Court system, for the Federal Judge to accept his multiple guilty pleas, Flynn was required to describe in his own words what he had done in violation of those laws, and he did so eloquently. His words matched the proof that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the FBI had already professionally uncovered. There is no question of Flynn’s guilt on these charges, and no question that there was a solid basis for the national security investigation that led to his convictions. Flynn was represented by one of the top law firms in the country was given ample time over multiple opportunities to defend himself against the charges but declined to do so, further substantiating his guilt.
The former Chief of DOJ’s National Security Division, Mary B. McCord, who had been directly involved in the Flynn case, even went so far as to accuse AG Barr of distorting one of her reports in that case to help justify dropping the lying charge against Flynn. McCord described it as “disingenuous for the department to twist my words” to support the motion for dismissal, and not an accurate reflection of what she had stated. She also rebuked DOJ’s assertion that the lies told by Flynn to Federal investigators were immaterial and the FBI Agents had no legal basis for questioning Flynn about them, thus precluding any prosecution. Ms. McCord contended that the FBI had sufficient reason to question Flynn and his answers were pertinent to their investigation into Flynn’s conversations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, purportedly to influence the election. It should be noted that Flynn also admitted lying to Vice President Pence about the same conversations. Barr’s motion to dismiss does not hold water – or even vodka – in this case!
As a former senior FBI field executive, I joined with over 2,000 Justice Department prosecutors and other FBI officials in signing this letter. Some of the DOJ officials who had been directly involved in the Flynn prosecution resigned from the case after Barr announced his plans for dismissal. Among those of us signing the letter, there is little question that Flynn was clearly guilty and the case was properly and professionally handled and charged within the stringent requirements of Federal laws and criminal procedures, just as recounted by Mary McCord. There were some internal administrative irregularities during the FBI’s Russia investigation, but absent any political motivation, they would not have risen to the level of a case dismissal. The only disagreements to that fact seem to be emanate from Barr, Trump, Flynn and his current lawyers, and Trump’s political supporters who have no independent knowledge of the case but when commanded to “jump”, merely ask “How high, sir?” Being a friend and supporter of a president is not a “get out of jail free” card. The Federal Judge handling the case is a hard-liner and solid speculation exists that he will not accept Barr’s and DOJ’s motions and will refuse to dismiss the case based upon the overwhelming evidence and Flynn’s multiple guilty pleas. The judge would be on firm legal ground in denying that dismissal.
Previous to this current administration, the Rule of Law was the guiding principle of our democracy and our system of justice. Our beloved country was founded upon its precepts, and I am proud to have had a role in defending that principle for over fifty years. It must prevail against all enemies, foreign and domestic! The people of America deserve nothing less.
Thomas R. Parker
Former FBI Agent