On My Soapbox: To Agree or Not?

By Leslie Westbrook   |   October 1, 2020

This week I’m taking the opportunity to sound off from my soapbox, since the lead item on the Summerland’s popularity vote “yea” or “nay” for a cannabis dispensary in town, which ran a few weeks ago, created quite a little stir that resulted in three letters to the editor printed over three issues.

First, I must thank the letter writers and others who have taken the time to read my column. Much appreciated. Second, thank goodness this is a free country with a free (albeit edited) press, and we get to express our opinions.

And on that subject, I wonder: Is it more fun to agree or disagree?

I have to confess that my musings about the Summerland cannabis dispensary were muddled by an editor (without my knowledge), which affected the intention of my column. (This is a column, so I do get to opine from time to time.) Even the headline, which one letter writer, Mr. McClintock, objected to, had been changed so it reflected the survey takers’ take on the survey (“resounding support against” a dispensary) rather than my original take, which was that having only 25 percent of residents surveyed constituted a whisper, not a yelp. I also opined that residents’ opinions should hold more weight than those of business owners. But since the response rate was so low, maybe folks in them thar’ hills don’t give a rat’s ass?

Mr. McClintock brought up some good points which were pretty much in agreement with my original copy and intent. He wondered whether anyone was asked whether they wanted any new businesses in town – like, say, a pizza parlor in the old Stacky’s, or high-end home and garden stores in their former grocery store or coffee shop hangout? I can guess those results – at least from old timers — with my eyes closed. (No offense intended to those businesses!)

Another reader, Mark Brickley, who lives at the polo fields and not in Summerland (and by coincidence someone with whom I have engaged in a group Zoom game during COVID-19, thanks to a mutual friend), suggested he was just fine with the 25 percent Summerland resident response. So was the esteemed author and newspaperman Lou Cannon.

So, can we agree to disagree?

But what if only 25 percent of the people voted in our country? That would be really sad. In 2016, 58.1 percent of the voters in the USA turned out to vote in the presidential elections. I’m guessing it might be even larger this year. Basically, I’m all for, and a big proponent of, civic participation, no matter what the form or issue.

While I’m up here tooting my horn, I’m hoping everyone gets out to vote at the polls or mails in their ballot – or drops it in one of the voting boxes (addresses below*) and votes that poor excuse of a human being out of the White House. I can’t take the unraveling of our democracy, the lies, and the nepotism for another minute. November 3 – and January 20, 2021 – can’t come soon enough, if things go the way I hope they will.

Meanwhile, more rats are jumping off the White House ship – the latest (as of this writing) a dyed-in-the-wool Republican aide to Vice President Mike Pence, who couldn’t take it anymore and decided to speak up. Bravo to brave Olivia Troye – and other Republicans and those in the know who are speaking out. Trump literally has blood on his hands for the way he has handled the pandemic, as confirmed by his conversations with Bob Woodward in his latest book Rage, in addition to Ms Troye’s bird’s-eye view.

This should stoke the letter-writing machine out there.

So, what do you say? More fun to agree or argue? I much prefer arguing with people than getting into a brawl. But just think how boring the world would be if we all agreed on everything?

Kudos to Sir Harry, a Prince of a Gentleman

Appealing to Senator McConnell to respect Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s wishes: wait until after the election to appoint her replacement

Speaking of which…

During the early part of my travel writing career, I had the good fortune to meet and work as a correspondent for the great newspaper, magazine, and book editor Sir Harold Evans when he launched Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Harry, who sadly passed away on September 23 at the age of 92, was, along with Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post, one of the greatest newspaper editors of the past century. His bio is well worth examining for anyone interested in publishing and what a free press can do.

I adored Harry from the moment I met him in his large Conde Nast office on Madison Avenue in New York City (and that’s a story in itself).

“A newspaper is an argument on the way to a deadline,” Evans wrote in his 1981 memoir, Paper Chase, “If there isn’t any argument, there’s not much of a newspaper.”

Good Job on Masks, Neighbors!

Last week, there was just one new case of COVID in Montecito, Summerland, and Carpinteria; the week before it was zero. Keep washing your hands, my socially distanced friends and neighbors. We seem to be doing something right at the moment.

A Final Note

To the late great Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Thank you for inspiring generations of women and holding true to your own north star. If only the U.S. Senate would honor your dying wish, perhaps we could work toward healing our differences and forming a more perfect union.

You only have to wait until after the November 3 election results, Senator McConnell. Can’t you hold your horses?

Voting Box Drop locations near Summerland:


Carpinteria City Hall
5775 Carpinteria Avenue        

Casa de las Flores
4090 Via Real

Manning Park (Lower Manning Park Area 9)
449 San Ysidro Road and Santa Rosa Lane

Montecito Country Mart (near Vons)
1016 Coast Village Road & Hot Springs Road

Manning Park (Lower Manning Park Area 9)
49 San Ysidro Road & Santa Rosa Lane

Montecito Country Mart (near Vons)
1016 Coast Village Road & Hot Springs Road


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