Editor’s Note:

By Montecito Journal   |   February 25, 2021

Contrary to Nick Welsh’s February 10 piece in the Santa Barbara Independent, at no point did I suggest in my Montecito Journal editorial replacing Dr. Ansorg or Van Do-Reynoso with Thomas Tighe or Charity Dean. My letter made the fairly obvious suggestion that our county would benefit from a COVID Czar that has the independence and singular focus of finding solutions to this and likely future pandemics. ~ Gwyn Lurie


I can’t say for sure when the Independent’s news editor felt the siren call to be Booster-in-Chief for Santa Barbara officialdom.

Many of his fans, myself included, were sad to see official malfeasance and misconduct, the inevitable byproduct of money and politics, mostly drop from his portfolio.

Sadder still – speaking for myself – is watching his cranky ire alight upon other media and reporters who continue to pound his old beat.

Last week, he devoted a half page of print to lambasting the Montecito Journal for two cover pieces about the County’s woeful response to the COVID epidemic, invoking a disingenuous premise.

I wrote one of them: A first-person account of being denied a vaccine after waiting weeks for my confirmed appointment. But County Health officials, having learned that pharmacies were following state, federal and CDC guidance and vaccinating those 65 plus, ordered them to immediately cease or lose their licenses.

How did the County do this? They invoked their “discretionary power” to overrule state and federal mandates, insisting that vaccines be given only to those age 75 and over. They also refused to provide future notice to those who had been registered and demanded instant compliance. Scores of seniors (many with co-morbidities) were turned away at Dignity Health Center and pharmacies throughout the county. There were plenty of gut-wrenching scenes, including a wheelchair-bound man on oxygen being turned away at Ralphs pharmacy for being only 74. 

Yet, the same Health officials he described as a “Dream Team” declined to use their “discretionary power” to remove cannabis industry workers – an estimated 6,000 people according to the County’s 2019 figures, from being at the head of the line. Nor did the Board of Supervisors intervene.

Yup, pot store employees (average age perhaps 25) and farm and greenhouse workers (average age 28) got to jump the vaccine queue into the First Tiers with doctors and surgeons, using the canard of medical marijuana. Vaccinating the cannabis industry ahead of the elderly, teachers, police, and those with co-morbidities was not a problem. Other counties, however, yanked them from the queue. (Recently pressed on the matter, Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso cited state guidance on medical marijuana then added she was “not aware” of cannabis workers getting shots, then qualified, “which doesn’t mean some have.”) In fact, many have. Just to confirm, I walked over to some of the pot farms in my neighborhood and chatted with departing employees, who confirmed they were given the okay for COVID vaccines “a while ago.”

As noted in my piece, some seniors denied vaccines later contracted COVID and are now in Cottage Hospital ICU. One has died.

One might reasonably ask, what qualifies as a bad judgment call or even negligence?

The SB immunologists and oncologists I spoke with said they had been advocating ranking by co-morbidities rather solely by age but were unable to sway health officials. 

That said, I never wrote that SB Health officials be replaced by the estimable Thomas Tighe or Dr. Charity Dean.

Their names were proffered by an array of distressed SB medical doctors as good candidates for a COVID or Pandemic Czar. 

Nor did I speak with either. If asked, my advice to both – who happen to live and work in health care in this county – would be not to make waves with the Supervisors. The current crop are hardly shy about retaliation. Just ask the vintners in Santa Ynez whose complaints to the County were rewarded by endless acres of open cannabis fields threatening their very existence; or the residents of Carpinteria (and all five districts) who filed thousands of odor complaints, resulting in the BOS ramping up even more cannabis permits, blanketing said communities with more skunk stench.

Moreover, the argument for a COVID Czar would seem to be a no-brainer as we find ourselves in the Age of Pandemics with virus mutations already happening and variants projected for years to come.

SB’s Director of Public Health is responsible for all county Health Care Centers, community health from tobacco to drug prevention, routine vaccinations, Environmental Health, water quality, animal control issues, and a wide panoply of regulatory programs. Likewise, for the Health Care Officer. The department employs over 500 people. In other words, it’s a huge portfolio – without COVID.

Battling COVID and future pandemics is a full-time job. We need our own Dr. Fauci.

A.L. Bardach

Thanks for Nothing

I am a physician and surgeon in SB, and I am appalled how vaccination in our community is handled. Physicians and healthcare providers were the first to be vaccinated, then the 75 and older and now in the next tier 65 and older along with agriculture, teacher, bankers, and homeless (to look good). How can you explain to me that husbands and wives, family of healthcare providers, are in the bottom list, while every single day they are exposed (thanks to their significant other) to the same risk as the provider itself? As usual the shoemaker son has the worst shoes… we know that the vaccine does not prevent transmission 100%, as physicians and healthcare workers are busy taking care of people, they are not good at advocating for their family, I called Cottage where I work and was told “Farida, we follow the County recommendations and don’t want to be looked at as making favoritism…” So let’s keep putting our family at risk, as they are not politically worth to be protected. Thanks.

Farida Bounoua

What a Waste

I admire the restraint of writer Jeff Kerns in his “One Size Fits All” letter of February 11-18 issue of Montecito Journal. His discussion of intents and plans by the “group” (the Committee for Water Preservation), which has taken over both the boards for Montecito Sanitary District and Montecito Water District with Bob Hazard as cheerleader, consisted of polite questions leading to his ultimate request that the conjoined districts please name the problem they plan to solve by joining the districts.

Wastewater handling is an entirely different business and technology from Water handling. To join them in one board is like putting dairy cow farmers with soybean growers to discuss how best to build an electric car.

For years Heal the Ocean participated in discussions with the “Committee” as well as both Montecito Water and Montecito Sanitary districts (MWD & MSD) and expressed our concerns. We have begged the districts to join hands in their individual capacities to produce recycled water from the MSD plant. We have met and argued with the “Committee” both privately and publicly about their array of plans – which now, as then, border on the asinine.

The idea of consolidating five Wastewater Treatment Plants between Goleta and Carpinteria into one or two centralized plants, or sending wastewater miles down the coast to Carpinteria Sanitary District, have it treated there and then injected into the Carpinteria groundwater basin, then pumped out and piped back to users up the coast is wildly and physically impossible. The terrain is up and down, requiring an enormous amount of pumps and pumping (sanitary districts prefer gravity flow, because machinery requires WAY more maintenance, so as not to fail). A larger point regarding miles of pipe between here and there is best explained by example: during Heal the Ocean’s 15-year project to connect Rincon and neighboring houses on the Santa Barbara south coast for seven miles, we ran into a hard, impenetrable wall with Caltrans for one short pipe to be placed alongside a frontage road paralleling the freeway. We worked that one out with help from then-Assemblyman Das Williams.

But miles of pipe from Montecito to Carpinteria and back? Or Goleta to anywhere? Not a chance.

This group is wasting ratepayer money by conversations and studies that can go nowhere. They should have left well enough alone, especially since MSD workers are top-notch technicians (who were in fact called by frantic customers for help with their MWD water pipes during the horrendous mudslide of January 2018). MWD of course would love to have the MSD expert manpower as well as its plant. MSD’s healthy bank account, as well as the recycled water it can make, shouldn’t go to water the enormous lawns of the Cemetery, it should instead be diverted uphill to water the golf courses and big lawns of Committee members.

Good for the Soul

Santa Barbara Audubon Society thanks Ms. Joanne Calitri and the Montecito Journal for the article about Santa Barbara’s 121st Christmas Bird Count.

Birding is good for the soul, encourages local environmental stewardship, and protects birds by increasing general awareness about their abundance and diversity. Even when social distancing during a pandemic, anyone and everyone can observe birds, and be actively engaged in protecting them and doing good for our community and our environment. Novice and expert birders can work individually, and yet, still come together and interact online via social media to celebrate our avifauna.

Santa Barbara Audubon Society protects area birdlife and habitat and connects people with birds through education, conservation, and community science. For more information, please visit us at www.SantaBarbaraAudubon.org.

Katherine Emery, PhD
Executive Director
Santa Barbara Audubon Society

Out of This World

Many thanks to the Journal for publishing Tom Farr’s Science column. I greatly enjoyed his Mars and Jupiter essays and hope he’ll be commenting later this month when NASA’s “Perseverance” rover (and its nifty little helicopter “Ingenuity”) touch down on the Martian surface. The American public seems to take for granted the miracles of space exploration. We need to be reminded of the incredible technology and expertise at work.

For your readers seeking more information on the “Perseverance” mission, scheduled for a February 18 Mars landing, I recommend NASA’s colorful and informative website: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

Paul Levine

Required Viewing

I recently watched Kiss The Ground (Netflix), the amazing documentary about how regenerative farming can draw down the damaging carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and essentially begin to reverse global warming.

Regenerative farming is truly and quickly “scalable upward” in order to have a measurable global effect. 

Think big. Think “reversal” in 10-20 years. 

I’d love to see our local papers showcase some stories about how farmers in our tri-counties area (and beyond) have taken this important and urgent film to heart and are currently making changes to emulate it.

All it would take is… almost nothing.

American “factory” farmers can easily adopt a few inexpensive changes. Some are downright free. 

We all need more education on regenerative farming. It can help revive our planet and decrease global warming / climate change.

I’d also like to see Kiss The Ground become a required film to show in schools. It is that crucial. 

So, how about some stories on this concept in the coming year? Anyone?

It would be great to see pieces about how the U.S. (and other countries) are adopting regenerative practices.

Human ingenuity and innovation are there for the taking.

We all need to see the “big picture” in order to care, and to encourage farmers everywhere to make this very simple yet massive difference.

Maybe the new Administration can also step up and send the message as well, and support this mode of food production by offering subsidies for regenerative farming, rather than paying farms to “lie in fallow” for decades. 

Regenerative farming doesn’t take nearly as long, it replenishes the soil and cleans the atmosphere.

This will encourage a shifting away from the old, damaging paradigm of pesticides, herbicides, mono-cropping, and over-tilling. 

Sorry not sorry, Monsanto.

Did you know that fertile soil has its own fragile “bacterial communication network,” similar to the human / mammalian micro-biome?

Kiss The Ground turned my despair into hope.

Wouldn’t we all like to have that feeling?

Looking forward to some good reading on this.

LeeAnn Morgan 

Parking Discrimination

As a chronically ill senior citizen, for many years I have walked in the dry sand at Leadbetter Beach for cardio-vascular exercise, because walking in the dry sand is much easier on my arthritic joints than walking on hard surfaces. For many years, I have also purchased an annual waterfront parking permit so that I can park my VW van as close to the sand as possible.

This year, the City of Santa Barbara will not allow me to purchase an annual waterfront parking permit because my van contains a bed, a sink, and a pop-top, all of which were built into the van when I obtained it in 1969.

As I discovered when I moved into my current apartment, the City Parking Department requires verification of a residential address in order to receive an on-street parking permit. The City could use the same residential verification for a waterfront parking permit for vehicles like mine.

As it now stands, I am very disappointed that the City is essentially discriminating against me, and other residents like me, because of the vehicles that we drive.

Bob Keats


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