Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   August 27, 2020

Save Those Trees

Walking along upper San Leandro Sunday, just west of the bridge, I noticed that many oak trees that line the road are dying. These are the beautiful trees whose canopy stretched over the road and made for a spectacular tree tunnel. But they won’t be there for long. It looks as if these are the trees that were hit by the mudflow in January of 2018 and are now showing the effects. It is probably too late to save them but if anyone knows if Santa Barbara County has an arborist, could they reach out and contact them.

Nick Thiel

‘The Steinbeck Thing’

There are times these days, when I struggle to muster up a good guffaw, but last week’s cover was just what the doctor ordered. MoJo made me laugh aloud. And other than my funny little mutt, Cozmo, (grrrr), I was all alone! Thank you so much for reminding us of our humor during these dark days. We need as many smiles, giggles, and acts of kindness as we can get, and last week, MoJo served up a full platter.

The content of the MJ‘s editorial moved me. It was a reminder of what Montecito is, and what it was to my late husband, Thom Steinbeck. Thom was a writer, but because he so favored his father, he was considered, and became a minor celebrity. It was particularly difficult for him, in that he too was an accomplished writer. Yet often, outside of Santa Barbara County, few could see past the “Steinbeck thing.” That is, until we moved to Montecito. Thom was often featured in both the local, California, national and international press, but he was granted respite here. To this warm and embracing community, Thom was just Thom, Uncle Thom, Steinbeck and according to the late, great Jonathan Winters, “Hemingway.” Here, he had friendships with fishermen, carpenters, artists, bankers, entrepreneurs, actors, musicians, waiters, other writers, and of course, many bartenders, especially those at Pierre’s Wine Bistro. How fortunate we all are to have such good luck.

Montecito and our friends here were as big a part of our love story as our partnership was. Thank you for that Montecito. Thom loved all of you and this place more than anything.

And to you, Montecito Journal, thank you for your grace and consideration in welcoming our new neighbors. The new and improved Montecito Journal is a superb representation of our community. I only hope that Meghan and Harry find as much peace, joy, and happiness in this sweet slice of heaven, as Thom and I did. Neither of us ever loved another place or community as much as Montecito.

With appreciation,

Gail Knight Steinbeck

‘Private Life Means Privacy’

The Montecito Journal‘s editorial about the tabloid culture and recent arrival of hovering helicopters and invasive cameras was spot on. I’ve lived here for over 50 years, raising kids and thriving on the quiet support of a conscious community. Your cover was a perfect blend of art, humor, and alarm. Your words were a reminder that, no matter how public the persona, private life means privacy. Creating space for people to live just as neighbors, parents, human beings means that nobody needs to feel uncomfortable. It has always been a lovely, unspoken agreement here that we don’t go “gaga” over celebs. Thank you for your personal words reminding us of our manners. I hope all will listen.

Ann Brode

Way to Go

Dear MJ,

I think you’ve done the nearly impossible with today’s editorial: creating a modicum of British tabloid-type humor and showing our new neighbors a welcoming attitude.

Wayne Siemens

Rights as Old as Man

I was surprised by Mr. Robert Bernstein’s opinion piece in the MJ August 13-20 issue, “Property vs. Humanity,” in which he advocates a radical change in property rights. He does so because he was evicted from the rental house he had occupied for 30 years. He thinks that is unfair. He explains that his landlord sold the property and the new owner evicted him. He says, ”What would you call it if someone disrupted every aspect of your life and cost you large sums of money?” I assume he thinks that he should have been allowed to stay until he decided to move out even though he took no risks with his own capital to buy it.

Mr. Bernstein doesn’t say what change he advocates other than we should favor “humanity” over “property.” I assume that means landlords should relinquish control over their property and let tenants such as Mr. Bernstein dictate how it should be run.

Mr. Bernstein, a physicist, may not be aware that poverty has been the norm for the human condition since we evolved into homo sapiens sapiens. It has only been in the last few hundred years that we have managed to crawl out of that hole. The ideas which got us here were the result of the Enlightenment which favored freedom from tyranny (rule of law), the ability to trade freely with your fellow mankind, the freedom to live your life as you wish, and, especially, the freedom to own property. Perhaps he should delve more into history, philosophy, or economics, which would explain why “property rights” are essential “human rights.”

Mr. Bernstein wishes to deprive us of our essential freedoms and substitute his desire to live off of the fruits of his landlord’s labors. History has shown that his thesis would result in a downhill slide into mass poverty. Perhaps Mr. Bernstein should have planned his future with a little more foresight and not blame property owners for his bad judgement.

Jeff Harding

Good Laws Make Good Neighbors

Some comments about Robert Bernstein’s article, “Property vs. Humanity” (13-20 August), the one with a senior lady holding a sign, “…evicted from my home of 36 years” after apparently a new owner bought the property she rented. This is a touchy subject; like many local mom and pop property owners I have a 3Bd/2Ba home in Santa Barbara County and have had the same tenant there for 33 years. If something came up and I had to sell it, I would feel awful as I know the house feels like her home, the rent is only $1,350 per month, and she would have to leave. I must not face that decision now but, what if I did? What if I needed to sell that investment house to help my son pay for his first house? What if I moved away and could no longer manage the house myself or just wanted to simplify my life? What if there was a family medical issue or I needed the cash that house represents to pay bills for an eldercare facility? (I hope I don’t need that any time soon, have you checked out those costs lately?)

If I did need to sell this rental house, Mr. Bernstein would call me “unjust” or worse. He would say my tenant’s interests should supersede mine, me, the owner, the person subsiding low cost housing and maintaining it all this time. (I just replaced another $1,450 water heater last week.) And I am sure I am not alone as there are many understanding and fair property owners out there.

Mr. B would say someone should pass a law to make me unable to sell my house when I want. He bemoans the fact that owners can deduct mortgage interest and says, “the U.S… gives no such assistance to renters.” Did it ever occur to Mr. B that keeping costs down for owners helps owners keep costs down for their tenants? If laws, regulations, inspections, permits and new guidelines get passed, they increase costs for owners (which seem to happen constantly), and does he really think this will not end up raising the costs for renters? What would you do as an owner Mr. B? When your ownership costs get so high would you raise the rent? Or would you just sell? Or, have you been so careful and safe in your life not to get yourself into a risky real estate endeavor where you took on many liabilities?

Mr. B does make a good point that tenants can indeed make their own small repairs, take care of the place in which they live and act responsibly when things break down to save costs and aggravation for the responsible party – the owner. This would indeed bring goodwill to the situation. And most owners would respond reciprocally in a financially empathetic way – any many do. I know this is not always, but being a good neighbor is what we all strive for.

Unfortunately, Mr. B’s scattered comments then descend into remarks about security deposit cheaters, property owners as assault criminals, the BLM movement, healthcare access, and the Civil War. He ends with the question: “Property or Humanity?” I think Mr. Rodgers summed it up better, “Can’t we just be good neighbors to one another?”

J. W. Burk

A Small World

It was interesting reading your comparison with JFK Jr. to Prince Harry in today’s illustrious organ.

A late friend of mine, socialite K.K. Auchincloss, used to own the penthouse above Jackie O’s at 1040 Fifth Avenue, opposite the Metropolitan Museum, and I would see him occasionally in the elevator and riding his bike in Central Park.

Another old acquaintance, Richard Weiss, who used to be the weathercaster for NY’s Channel 9, was his roommate at Brown.

A small world!

If Harry can be as deft at dealing with the press as JFK Jr. he will fit into our rarefied enclave well.


Richard Mineards

The Politics of Pandering

Joe Biden has gone for months without subjecting himself to a press conference or even an interview with a responsible journalist where he would have to answer tough questions about his change of positions and his current proposals for dealing with social and economic issues. Yet, he found the time to give an exclusive interview with Cardi B, which is in the September issue of Elle magazine.

I seriously question whether Joe Biden has the faintest idea who Cardi B is or what she does, other than his handlers probably told him she was a popular rap singer and could help his image. I decided to check out this woman so deserving of Biden’s selective media time and I encourage MJ readers to do the same.

I pulled up the lyrics of her latest number one song, WAP (https://genius.com/Cardi-b-wap-lyrics), and couldn’t believe my eyes. There is scarcely one line in the song that could be published in the Montecito Journal or any newspaper. Obscene, disgusting, and degrading are the first adjectives that come to mind. To give MJ readers an idea of what the song is about, WAP are initials describing a part of the female anatomy.

I am a firm believer in the First Amendment and have no problem with a singer releasing or a customer buying a song with lurid and revolting images. Each to his or her own. But I seriously question the wisdom of a candidate for President of the United States granting an exclusive public interview with this entertainer while ducking all others. During the interview, Joe Biden reportedly said this to Cardi B: “One of the things that I admire about you is that you keep talking about what I call equity – decency, fairness, and treating people with respect.” Read the lyrics and see if you agree.

Lawrence Dam

Mail It In

Donald Trump’s shameful attempt to limit mail-in voting in the middle of a pandemic is unfortunately rubbing off on some of his supporters, as evidenced by some of the most outrageous statements. Completely quashing mail-in voting would substantially limit many people’s ability to vote because of transportation issues, work, medical issues, and senior citizens’ difficulties in getting around. Not to mention, we’re in the middle of a pandemic!

Completely quashing mail in voting would disenfranchise millions, but that’s what some desire, because polls show Democrats overwhelmingly plan to vote by mail over that of Republicans. It’s un-American and shameful that a president would say the only way he’d lose is because of a “rigged” election, as a result of mail-in voting!

How safe is mail-in voting? The conservative – yes conservative – Heritage Foundation reports 1,200 allegations of voter fraud since 2000. Of those there were only 204 allegations involving mail-in ballots, and of those, only 143 convictions. This is out of 250 million mail-in ballots cast over two decades. Do the math.

The shameful liar occupying the White House has shown himself to be completely unequipped to run our country, and will do anything to maintain power! The American people are not stupid. They know a con when they see one!

Mary Gassee
Santa Barbara


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