Letters to the Editor

By Montecito Journal   |   October 13, 2020

A Wish List, Not a Plan

We have lived on Chelham Way since 1972, and our two children attended Cold Spring School in the 1970s. Until now, we voted for every proposed bond measure for the school and have donated to the CSS Foundation. Although our children now have families of their own and live elsewhere, we are entirely willing to continue supporting Cold Spring in order to benefit the numerous kids who pass along our street. We enjoy hearing their lovely voices on their way to class. We also understand that having a terrific school district is good for the value of our property. Regrettably, and having carefully studied the “pro” and “con” websites for L 2020, we have concluded we cannot vote for this measure. The first we heard of it was the story just a few weeks ago in MJ and were disappointed to learn that there had been no town hall meetings or other opportunities for members of this community to learn about the proposal and ask questions about it. As it stands, the measure is not a plan but a wish list entirely lacking in prioritization and details. The current board should have provided much more information about the measure for us to be convinced that the money will be used wisely. Among the many unanswered questions, we wonder why there was so little information about where the new buildings will be located and whether they might block access to the campus from Stoddard Lane (the access our children used on their bikes). Why were we not told why the (undoubtedly needed) new classrooms should not be modular ones that would cost a great deal less and be installed in a few weeks? If this measure passes and construction begins, it will be two years before the new space is available, and the education of all the students will have been disrupted by noise, dust, and other environmental disadvantages that would ensue. Amanda Rowan’s excellent letter in MJ (Oct 1-8) is persuasive on these issues (and much else). Moreover, it is troubling that 17 percent of the budget currently goes to pay administrators when the overall average in California school districts is 4.5 percent. It is hard to have confidence in the current administration of the district when their website asserts that the funding would come “with robust community oversight” while they have provided nothing of the sort. Interestingly, the League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara County was “neutral” on L2020 but recommends a yes vote on Measure M2020 (a Goleta Union School District Bond Measure) with an exclamation point. Perhaps the LWVSB decided that, unlike the Goleta Board, the Cold Spring Board did not do its homework.

Sears and Marni McGee

Big Ups on Upping the Standards

Is it just I? Or has anyone else noticed the sharp improvement in editorial quality of the Montecito Journal this year? I find myself dashing off to the news’ stand to secure the latest publication these days (not forgetting the online productions, including the fab newsletter…), something I never used to do. And it’s not just the editorials, guest editorials, graphics, copy, and regular columns that shine: check out Nancy Freeman’s sublimely-written, blazingly-hot retort in the October 1 “Letters to the Editor” section. Go online to find it: you won’t be sorry. It’s one of the best pieces I’ve read in a while: biting satire and irony at their very best. Ah, such a pleasure to read that!

Well done, MJ! Keep it up!

Denise Burrows

Count Me for Andy

This is going to be a very brief letter (for me), as I do not wish to offend those readers who disagree with my lengthy missives, and also I will be amazed if it gets past the Mojo‘s censors anyhow.

Therefore I will confine this letter to the local 24th Congressional District contest between Salud Carbajal and Andy Caldwell. I can agree with Salud on the issue of making sure the veterans are taken care of. He loses me however when he states, “…But this President has reveled in the important gains that we made. Including the racial inequalities by fueling the flames.” Where was he during the eight years of the Obama administration? Who has to be the most racially divisive president in the history of the republic. One has to ask, “Does Salud have racial myopia”? or did he simply turn a blind eye to Obama’s launching his overt and covert obstruction against Trump prior to Trump’s inauguration an obstruction that has effectively shortened his Presidency to approximately three and a half years. In The MoJo‘s endorsement you state that you would like to see Salud, “move the political football down the field in any way possible.” I take this to mean you want him to move more rabidly left, which is the way I took it, faster. The country has lost thousands of mostly white young men fighting Communism primarily in Vietnam and Korea. I’ve listened to the horror stories from some veterans that managed to survive the atrocities committed against young girls by the communists that they had witnessed, and it absolutely boggles my mind how any decent human being can associate with them in any way shape or form, and yet here we have Patrisse Cullors of Black Lives Matter leadership bragging that, “We are trained Marxists.” With President Trump standing steadfast against the C.C.P, it is my firm belief that it behooves all Americans of good will to support him. In short Salud you come across as too woke. It is my firm belief that, with all the very real problems in the world, the majority of Americans are sick and tired of those still carping and whining about how bad they or their ancestors had it. My advice: “Get over it.” We all have our respective crosses to bear. I do not intend to go into it now but I have also been subject to many, many instances of racism from Blacks, Mexican, but mostly Irish, and I never sniveled and whined about it, or held it against other members of those races. So, in short I will be voting for Andy Caldwell. I like just about everything Andy says, but especially making the medical profession post their fees so that patients know exactly what they are getting into. I also think his ideas on keeping the chaparral under control to ameliorate the fire conditions. The main thing that Andy says that really grabbed me was that we have to get back to the “fundamental principles established in the 9th and 10th Amendments.” Amen to that, Andy.

Larry Bond

In the Dark on School Bond

It has recently come to my attention that multiple residents of the Cold Spring School District have been threatened with court action by an employee of the district. Why? Because they have been asking questions, expressing their opinions, and sharing published information regarding the proposed bond measure and the fiscal operations of the District.

Yes, it has come to this.

Most residents of the district had no idea that the governing board and the administration were considering a bond measure until they may have read about it in the Montecito Journal last month. We are all playing catch-up here – asking questions, trying to get information, asking to have access to an “informational” webinar, hosted by the superintendent/principal, that will be presented Wednesday, October 7 (we have been denied the opportunity to participate in the webinar to present an opposing view).

There have been no community forums, no direct mailings, and no solicitation of community input regarding a needs assessment or design plan. No opportunities were directly offered to the current parents or the wider community to participate in crafting the proposed project list.

When we ask to be included, we are ignored or denied. When we request information, we are told that it doesn’t exist. When we ask questions or express opinions, we are slapped with a “cease and desist” demand or threatened with a lawsuit.

The district could have chosen to embrace the opposing viewpoints and work together with the community to reach consensus. It makes me so sad that they have chosen instead to stifle and silence and threaten community members who are just trying to find out what the hell is going on.

Respectfully,

Katherine Davidson

Measure L Deserves a Chance

Measure L would be a great benefit to Cold Spring School. The proposed $7.8 million bond was planned for the 2018 ballot, but the school board wisely decided to postpone it as a result of the Thomas Fire and devastating Montecito debris flow.

This bond is required to ensure Cold Spring School has the facilities to educate students at the highest level possible. School districts across Santa Barbara County have replaced old portable classrooms with new permanent construction. There is no reason for students at Cold Spring to be educated in decrepit and substandard facilities. It is time to replace portables at Cold Spring with new, permanent classrooms.

As reported recently in the Montecito Journal, this bond proposal has been reduced from $9.8 million to make it more economical. Under Superintendent Amy Alzina, the Cold Spring School District has been a wise steward of taxpayer funds. District reserves have increased.

The existing portables on Cold Spring Road and Sycamore Canyon Road are an eyesore and detriment to the entire community. Their replacement will be a great benefit. It’s time for the first Cold Spring bond since 2008. Measure L deserves the 55 percent support that is necessary for it to pass.

Nik Schiffmann

And the Dramedy Continues

Nancy Freeman, thank you for your continued humility and enlightenment. Using your three-legged stool as an example, Ms. Morey says: “So Ms. Freeman you come across as one Angry Bitter Woman.” Your claim is this is name calling. No, it’s descriptive, as one might say of a sheep with four hooves, that’s a sheep with four hooves.

You were not misquoted Ms. Freeman. As a courtesy, please note prior to your words being quoted I state “in paragraph (insert paragraph # here) beginning with…” These were identifiers and referenced your original post.

I have no dilemma. I can’t judge what kind of woman or man that Trump or anyone else likes or dislikes. None of my business. Words like widely held and daily proven facts remain hollow. Your writings state no facts. To your credit, you do list some authors and their books. Are these the facts you reference or could they be opinions, feelings and perception? Where are the facts of racism, misogyny and other deeds? Ms. Freeman, feelings and opinions are not facts.

I am sticking with what Ms. Morey said “no one approves of sexual misbehavior toward a woman.”

I can’t find anywhere in my text where you were called a name. Please feel free to call me any one of the names you cleverly framed. I don’t mind. I’m very fond of “nasty boy” and “one hungry little boy.” Very descriptive. Might be your first accurate words. Sadly, as far as supper goes you were insensitive to my special and precious dietary needs. I’ll go without.

Congress comes and goes by vote not lies. Unfortunately, some stay longer while others leave earlier than we would like.

I love your image (not name calling) of the “Kool-Aid-Mixer-Upper” and thanks for your warning. I appreciate you citing your sources (books by Woodward, Cohen, Strzok, Trump, Bolton etc.) for all the facts you have presented. Duly noted. I get what you’re putting down. Got to go sweep the stairs, porch, and help some friends and neighbors now. Before I do, please try to remember the analogy about the sheep and don’t forget feelings and opinions are not facts.

W S Wolf (aka Nasty Boy)

Red Flags Everywhere

The recent revelations by The New York Times regarding President Trump having paid few or no taxes over the past 15 years while taking tremendous write-offs on his properties, businesses, and loans have shown that he is a serious national security risk for our country, ethics experts say. By some estimates, he has over $400 million in “personally guaranteed ” loans that are coming due over the next three to five years. Many of these loans are owed to foreign banks, foreign persons, or foreign entities. The Trump Organization has obtained several loans from Russia, as confirmed by Eric Trump in a 2014 interview. Additional loans have derived from Deutsche Bank, banks in Turkey, the Philippines, and possibly Saudi Arabia. According to Dan Coats, former Director of National Intelligence 2017-2019, these loans raise red flags that President Trump could be manipulated to sway U.S. Policy by organizations or individuals he is indebted to. Coats went on to say that even a much lower amount of debt of this nature would be an obstacle for granting an applicant even the lowest level national security clearance at an entry-level position. The potential for manipulation is substantial. Trump might well be vulnerable to financial blackmail or leverage from hostile foreign powers. And he is at this moment the person who has the highest security clearance, including our country’s nuclear codes, but yet takes friendly, unrecorded personal meetings with vicious dictators such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. Why is that?

The fact that the President has repeatedly and aggressively tried to keep this tax and financial information from the American public, and refuses to reveal his true financial picture should be of great concern to us all! We all need to know: from where or from whom do these debts emanate? What are they for? Who are his partners in these various deals? Certainly those loans that are from any foreign sources really open a Pandora’s box of foreign influence issues.

We know so far that Trump paid more in taxes in Turkey, Panama, and the Philippines than he did in the USA, which indicate many foreign financial entanglements and much foreign income. The possibility of him being “compromised” and “beholden to foreign powers” becomes ever stronger.

Trump’s lack of tax contributions mean he is not helping to support any functions of the U.S. Government: the military, our health care, our infrastructure, education, worker safety, the CDC, the National Parks, housing, and so on. He did, however, deduct $70,000 for hair styling, and paid his own children huge “consulting fees” when in fact they were already employees of his various companies! There is a very fine line between “tax avoidance” and “tax evasion,” and I would not be surprised to see him convicted of the latter at some point sooner rather than later.

Trump is not only a security threat to our nation, but his financial reality as illuminated by the Times‘ research shows us that his fictional image as a “successful businessman” is yet another hoax and sham of his persona, much like Trump University. Make no mistake: Trump only cares about himself and his own gain, and cares nothing for our people and our country. It is time for us to be rid of this dangerous and selfish man.

Cliff Ghersen
Montecito

For Child Safety and Securing a Better Future

We are writing this letter in support of Bond Measure L 2020.

This bond will provide funding for long delayed and much needed repairs and improvements to Cold Spring School.

There are not enough rooms and with a 15 percent increase in student size every year and even more coming because of the quality of education, there is simply not enough space for the class sizes.

 Portables are broken and will be unusable within the year.

The school is a hub for many in the community – the campus is kept open for sports and community members even after hours (many other school campuses do not). The school is also a site for fire and emergency vehicles during local emergencies like the Thomas Fire.

Safety of our students is important. Part of the new building will be a new office at the front of the school so they can monitor visitors on campus. The office is currently in the middle of the school because the school is over a hundred years old and was built to open-up on Sycamore Canyon.

In recent years, the Thomas Fire, mud slides and now COVID-19 have had a dramatic impact on our community. Through it all, Dr. Amy Alzina, faculty, staff, the school board and foundation have continued to provide an excellent educational experience while maintaining a group of happy and engaged students and giving back to the community.

The bond will cost people per year about $13.5 per $100,000. So… $135.00 per million dollars of your assessed value per year.

Whether you live here, work here, own property, or simply come to enjoy the facilities with family and pets – the entire community benefits from a strong local school system.

For over 100 years Cold Spring School has served the local community. We urge you to support this bond measure to maintain the safety of our children and help secure a better future for all.

Best,

Jon and Shannon Montanaro

We’re Not Fooled

Time out! Vote no on Cold Spring School Bond L2020 until after we get answers and a master plan. Cold Spring School paid leadership thinks it can sneak a third bond for $7.8 million onto our tax bills, adding to the other two CSS bonds maturing in 2038-39. Leadership chose not to inform or learn from 87 percent of the district taxpayers. So don’t ask us for money. There’s no opposition statement in your sample ballot because we were excluded for a reason. Be reminded that your “no vote” is private; and means “Let’s pause, wait a year to get it right this time.” Visit: www.OurStudentsDeserveBetter.com.

Tomorrow, for supplemental learning, parents go buy two to three new portables for $75,000 each or refurbished modulars for $45,000 to replace the portables parents, including me, bought around 2002. Tomorrow, parents go find the courage to demand that one favored ancillary teacher costing us $138,000 for 12 hours per 25 weeks a year, give back the classroom designated for her sole perusal for its intended use by district students. This teacher can Zoom from an office cubicle, or from home, or resign: everyone’s replaceable at that compensation rate. Tomorrow, parents get your dependent students out of the jammed tiny library and back into that Zoom used classroom! Find your voice. The community has your backs.

Insiders in the know are concerned and afraid of adverse consequences for speaking out. There’s much more to this bond measure than meets the bond text. There are reasons why the two top administrators and Board chose not to inform 87 percent of District residents because they knew we’d ask questions. Something is wrong at our school, very wrong.

I was asked to inform district parcel owners, after West Montecito’s ‘brick and mortar’ resident Don Miller read a Montecito JournalCover Story and posted it on NextDoor.com. I have 40 years as an informed public school activist, alum parent, taxpayer and donor who likes assignments.

Taxpayers for Responsible School Spending was created a few weeks back to message: Community Matters! Voices Matter! Money Matters! Facts Matter! History Matters! and Trust Matters! Our messaging led to taxpayers calling me for a CSS Audit, then a forensic audit. Various sensitive information was forward to me from a variety of sources. A cease and desist letter has already been sent by Yuri Calderon, who is under contract as school attorney, and on payroll as chief budget officer, and has a private practice at 7 West Figueroa that’s also somehow involved in multiple capacities, including bond manager. Who is this man who is new to our area closely monitoring NextDoor.com? Why the intimidation tactics?

As I type on October 5, Cold Spring School administration just invited parents to a Wednesday, October 7 meeting on their bond. A neighbor told Don Miller, who called Cold Spring School to ask if just possibly the district community could be invited this time. Denied! This is not how you treat the hand that feeds you.

The 87 percent in this District are not the piggy bank, or silent majority: we are responsible and caring owners. The anchor residents with homes are here to stay, not concerned about rising property values driven by young parents moving in and out from L.A. and the Bay Area to take advantage of our number one ranked test scoring school. We all know test results reflect socio-economics or access to tutors, and that every solid students has one highly involved parent advocate. We provide students an exceptional place to learn how to learn, and to contribute as Americans. As taxpayers we care about what happens on campus to students and staff inside our beloved school.

What happens to the $4.4 million we send to Cold Spring School that increases every year as parcels change ownership. Why have administrative salaries doubled and tripled in the eight years since my daughter finished 6th? Why has administrative and ancillary staff doubled with declining enrollment from 240 to 177 students?

Tax Base

There are 1,084 parcels in the Cold Spring School district, with a wide variation in valuations from $1,659 to $30 million. What’s really interesting is the balance: 42 percent of properties are assessed under $1 million (216 parcels under $300,000); 29 percent between $1 million to $2 million, and 29 percent $2 million to $30 million. Only 45 percent of parcels take the $7,000 homeowners exemption; 55 percent do not.

At Cold Spring School historically, about half of students come from just a few nearby streets most with assessed valued parcels under $500,000: 20 from Chelham, 16 from Westmont Road, 13 from Circle Drive, seven from Paso Robles, and seven from Sycamore Canyon. Westmont Road has 41 affordable faculty housing assessed $280,000-$300,000 range, now generating few students. Students from these neighborhood streets typically walk or bike entering from Stoddard. Other students are typically dropped off at the Cold Spring Rd parking lot entrance. Cold Spring is a comparatively safe, open campus. Long-time teachers trained and proven to protect our kids. The more recent hires have their own kids attending Cold Spring.

Before looking at your tax bill, take a quick look at the financial facts for my typical street with assessed values from $1 million to $4.2 million (average $2.5 million), with 7 homes, 10 adults, and two Cold Spring students. (Other than two current CSS students, my two kids now ages 21 and 27 were the only street residents to attend CSS in 42 years, since before the 1978 Sycamore Fire destroyed the four homes here.) Of the seven homes, three take the homeowner’s exemption, the other four are taxed without a vote.

Total average 2019 Property Tax Bill for each of 7 homes: $26,818, of which $15,513 went to schools! See breakdown below. I built my home in 1985-89; the other six homes purchased by second or third owners between 2004 and 2019.

Total 1 percent tax base assessed values: $17,692,092 for average assessment of $2,527,442 per parcel.

Plus school bonds assessed for Cold Spring School, Santa Barbara Unified School District and Santa Barbara City College: $7,556 or $1,080 per parcel

In 2019, the 1 percent Property Tax of $26,818 paid per parcel, excluding bonds, the average payment to fund schools was $15,513, allocated accordingly:

• $4,176 Cold Spring

• $4,276 SBUSD

• $1,500 SBCC

• $1,031 County Education for special ed, social services.

• $3,450 ERAF- Education Revenue Augmentation Fund for non-Basic Aid Districts (equity supplemental tax)

Vote no on still another Cold Spring School bond to primarily build a Taj Mahal office building. First find out where our money goes! No major changes, not now. The other two Cold Spring bonds passed in 1996 and 2008 were restructured for maturity in 2038-39. Community, parents, teachers and learning-ready students make high quality schools! My two kids were instructed in portables and are better off because of it! One an MIT alum, the other a University of Washington shut-out Junior.

Cold Spring School alumni relate to the majority, to the working middle and professional class. They transition and fit in at Santa Barbara Unified Secondary schools, whereas others from Montecito choose private or to segregate outside of sports. Cold Spring School alumni learn how to succeed with competent instruction, opportunity, expectations, standards, adult support, and accountability. We have a grand school at Montecito Union; CSS, is the exceptional small country school.

Be thankful for what we have. Let’s do our homework to get it right this time! Vote no!

Denice Spangler Adams

 

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