Putting the Cart Before the Horse

By Montecito Journal   |   March 1, 2022

In a perfect universe there would be unlimited funds and proactive civil, charitable and political involvement on the Hot Springs Trail issue that seems to engender such considerable interest on the part of Bryan Rosen.

No one can reasonably dispute that his desire to clean up the trail from potentially dangerous and unsightly impediments makes sense. One need only look at the outstanding work of the Bucket Brigade to see civic volunteerism at its best, and, perhaps it can serve as a template for the Hot Springs Trail.

Unfortunately, as one can readily discern from both the tone and content of his missives to the Journal, Bryan feels the responsibility should be placed on the shoulders of others.

He suggests, for example, that the recipients of the Montecito Creek water don’t need it and can simply hook up to the District’s water.

Unfortunately it’s not that simple, and would collectively cost the current users of a mutual water company distribution network, hundreds of thousands, it not, millions of dollars.

He also neglects to mention that under a settlement reached in July of 2019, the water company is obliged to work with Fish and Wildlife for remediation and restoration of the stream bed, which costs are pro rata passed on to its shareholders.

What we are not hearing from Bryan are plausible solutions to the parking problems currently occasioned by the popularity of the trail.

Riven Rock Road, to all intents and purposes, is blocked on weekends to emergency vehicles.

Some sort of shuttle van service might make sense, but where is the pickup parking lot to be? Bryan has suggested Mt. Carmel, but they are sometimes busy on weekends. Perhaps a better choice would be near the Cold Spring School. It would be a very short run up Ashley to the trailhead.

In short, my suggestion to Bryan is to first map out a doable solution to the parking problem. Try to get both public and private funds to implement it. And, finally get those, who share his passion on this issue, to volunteer their time, talents, and perhaps vehicles to support his vision.

Absent that, I’m encouraging my neighbors on Riven Rock Road to keep on calling the police to get the illegally parked vehicles ticketed and, when warranted, towed.

Jon Emanuel

City Pensioners and their Cost

Reading through the recent Grand Jury report on Santa Barbara City pensions. It shows the city has unfunded pensions of $392,000,000. Considering the city’s current total 2022 budget is $391,968,325 which includes salaries $116,321,484 and benefits of $62,527,103 paid every year.It seems Santa Barbara needs to go on a spending diet. Jenny Craig times $392 million. Like the old joke about President Bush who when told “We’ve lost five Brazilians” asked, “How much is a Brazilian?” We might ask how much is $392M. To illustrate we did a survey of commercial buildings on State Street from Gutierrez Street to Canon Perdido. That turns out to be 718,000 square feet of buildings, restaurants, etc. The average price to buy or sell these properties is $550 per square foot. Thus: 718,000 square feet x $550 per square foot is… Drumroll. $394 million. The same amount as the city’s unfunded pension liability. The city would literally have to sell the first four blocks of State Street from Gutierrez to Canon Perdido – to pay the unfunded part of retired city employee pensions. They will of course tax us to pay this off. And the $750 million already funded pensions would take another 10 blocks up to Victoria. Knowing this, if the City wants to keep spending more of our tax money on: New City police station proposed cost: $100M – City desal plant build cost: $250M – New City Sustainability & Resilience Program: unfunded $36M per year – 28 affordable housing units: $30M – Global warming lines across town, Hotels for homeless – Empty bus lines, Giant town malls – Tax giveaways for Saks Fifth Ave – Police Equity Training Programs, ask yourself – How many more blocks of State Street shall we give away to our spendthrift city government?

Dr. Thomas Cole

Close Call

We want to thank our neighbors on East Valley that called to report a fire around 8:30 pm on Friday evening, January 28. 

My husband went to our mailbox early Saturday morning to find three firemen at our garden trying to figure out how the fire started. Fire?? What??

They explained to him that a few people on East Valley had called into the Fire Department to report smoke and possible fire. The firemen drove around trying to find the source. They found a low burning fire coming from our property.

They were there for a little over an hour putting out the fire and hot spots.

They didn’t want to bother us as they had it under control. Can you believe it?!


What an amazing community we live in!

Valerie Alger

Support Our Librarians 

Like many members of the community, when I heard that SBPL was leaving the Black Gold Library Cooperative, I had questions. What did this mean? And was it really the right direction for our community? 

As the executive director of the nonprofit organization What is Love, working to end violence against women and girls through relationship education — specifically helping young people learn about healthy relationships — I’ve worked with Santa Barbara Public Library staff on many programs over the years, so I went straight to the source to ask what was going on. And staff were happy to explain the situation in detail.

Why did SBPL decide to leave Black Gold? SBPL staff had brought lots of ideas for improving the efficiency of services, particularly the sharing of physical library materials, over the years. The existing catalog system and mechanism for sharing materials had weaknesses. It worked well to provide access to specialty items that would only be used by a limited number of people, and older, out of print items that a library may have had at one point, but were lost or damaged and no longer available at a local branch. But for the majority of new, in-demand items, the system of delivery and shipment were a labor-intensive process that just shipped items around unnecessarily. Splintering of new jurisdictions in Santa Barbara County, first with Goleta and now with Carpinteria, meant that books to these jurisdictions were passed between more hands, increasing workload and wait times.

Also, the library catalog has multiple entries for the same titles based on different editions, making it hard to find the record for items at a local branch. It was sometimes difficult to see what formats (print, e-book, digital audiobook, audiobook on CD, etc.) items were available in — the new system helps that! Giving individual libraries more control over their catalog makes finding items in the library easier (shelf locations can tell you where exactly items are located). Library staff also shared how this new system would allow for better statistics to help inform decisions about the collection. Better yet? This system would cost significantly less, leaving more room in the budget for books and programs. 

My next question: why didn’t all the Black Gold libraries jump on this chance? And I didn’t get a good answer to that. Only after Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo decided to go to this system did the other Black Gold libraries vote to move to the same system. But they expected SBPL and SLO to pay their portion of the shared catalog, as well as their own newly signed individual contracts (after more than a year of indicating that was their plan and giving the other libraries the chance to make the switch together). SBPL staff explained that even though SBPL and SLO will be independent, it’s still possible to share materials — if the remaining libraries want to. SBPL and SLO have proposed to continue to do so. 

The decisions made by the other Black Gold jurisdictions made even less sense when you looked at what they’d be losing when they effectively pushed out SBPL and SLO from the cooperative — the five remaining Black Gold jurisdictions print collection budgets combined just barely equal Santa Barbara’s investment, and are only half as much as San Luis Obispo’s print collection budget. So it’s not surprising that historically, SBPL lends more than it borrows. SBPL staff shared their plan to ensure they’re able to continue to provide books — whether print or digital — to readers.

But as a community educator, I know that the value of SBPL is so much more than just books, and have experienced firsthand the hard work and dedication of its staff in supporting its mission of literacy and community education. If you look at the expansion of services and the amazing variety of programming that the library has offered over the last several years, its impact is undeniable. The new Library on the Go van takes services to schools, senior centers, parks, and even the hubs that serve our homeless neighbors. The library’s Stay and Play program has brought early literacy services to hundreds of families. SBPL is the only library in the county to offer one-on-one adult literacy tutoring or workforce development programs helping job seekers find employment. Throughout the pandemic, SBPL has innovated to continue to provide access and services to the community. And these are just the tip of the iceberg.

This is a complicated situation. At the end of the day, I’ve witnessed the thoughtful, intentional way the staff at SBPL approach their work. Change is hard. But I trust that SBPL is moving in the right direction. 

In community,

Christy Stillwell MA Psy.
Executive Director, What is LOVE

Cold Spring School District Governing Board Members,

I am writing to you today to express my dismay and alarm that you are considering taking on more debt (in addition to two bond measures that won’t be paid off until 2039) to help pay for a proposed building project. Respectfully, I urge you all to say “No” when this matter comes up for a vote at your February 28, 2022 Special Board meeting.

With the failure of Measure L2020, the constituents that you purport to represent sent a very clear message: no new construction, no new debt. Yet you have forged ahead anyway with your proposed Phase 1 project, committing the taxpayers of the district to at least $1.7 million dollars of taxpayer – funded debt that they do not want and have, in fact, already said “No” to.

I have read (twice!) the District’s 149-page submittal to the County Office of Education and the County Auditor-Controller, reporting the District’s intent to approve a Lease-Leaseback debt instrument to pay a portion of the costs for the proposed Phase 1 project. 

Following are comments and questions I have regarding that document. I would appreciate prompt, written responses.

– If the District already has $150K in “hard commitments,” why is it proposing to borrow the full $600K? Why not borrow only $450K and reduce interest costs?

– I understand that the true “Cost of Issuance” would not be known until the Lease-Leaseback debt instrument has been legally entered into, interest rates have been locked in, and fees have been paid. I understand that the estimated COI range is between $25K and $35K and that the District intends to borrow the money to pay those costs. 

Then why does the District’s cover letter, its “Disclosure of Non-Voter-Approved Debt District Certification Form,” and its “Disclosure of Non-Voter-Approved Debt” FCMAT form all state that the District intends to borrow $600K? Please explain the discrepancies that occur throughout the submittal documents ($600K? $625K? $635K?) in stating the total debt amount. 

– The submittal implies/states that the Cold Spring Foundation has agreed to take on the responsibility of paying off this proposed debt through fundraising efforts.

I wonder if this commitment (about $70K per year for about 10 years) is instead of or in addition to the Foundation’s regular yearly contribution to support the Specialist programs. Please clarify.

– In the event that the Cold Spring Foundation is unable to meet its debt service commitment (wholly or in part), the District has stated that “the debt service payments will be included in the District’s general fund operations” and that it “will make necessary adjustments to the operations to fully fund the debt.” 

What operations, specifically, would be subject to “adjustment”? Please clarify how these “necessary adjustments” over the 10-year life of the loan would affect the availability of classroom books, supplies, and materials for our students and teachers; the funding for classroom aides; and salary increases for teachers and staff.

– The District included a contract with Nixon Peabody LLP in its submittal to the County. Included in the firm’s “Scope of Engagement” is the statement that “we understand that MillerCalderon, Inc. will assist the School District with preparation for its election (the ‘Program Manager’).” Throughout the contract, Nixon Peabody makes many references as to how they would work together with MillerCalderon (the “Program Manager”) as they provide “Bond Counsel Services for 2020 Election.” Taking into consideration Nixon Peabody’s stellar reputation, I doubt they were mistaken in their “understanding” of MillerCalderon’s role.

Given that this contract was entered into and approved by the Governing Board on February 18, 2020 (prior to the November 2020 election) and given that this contract was included – unrevised – in the District’s recent submittal to the County, it is clear that MillerCalderon has been and continues to be intimately involved in the District’s election, financial, and proposed building projects affairs.

Please provide a detailed description of MillerCalderon’s “Scope of Engagement” with the District. Please also provide a copy of the District’s contract with MillerCalderon to provide “Program Manager” services to the District.

– The District has stated, on more than one occasion, that it intends to use remaining Measure C funds (about $147K) to help pay for the proposed Phase 1 project. While I strongly disagree that Measure C funds can be used to pay for new construction, my concern at this point is the fact that the District does not have a fully constituted Measure C Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee. I understand that the District’s recent outreach yielded three members – one of which doesn’t even live within the district boundaries. Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committees are legally required to have at least seven members – our committee doesn’t even have a quorum of that. And yet, a meeting was held on September 20, 2021 (attended by two lawyers) and actions were proposed and approved by only three people. 

I question the legality of the Committee’s actions on that day, given that it is not fully constituted and therefore a quorum was not present. It is also important to note that Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committees are governed by the Brown Act.

What does the District intend to do to attract more members to the Measure C Citizen’s Oversight Committee such that it can be fully constituted?

Thank you, Governing Board Members, for taking the time to read my comments and questions. I look forward to reading your prompt, written responses.


Katherine Davidson  


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