Say It Ain’t So

I just loved Thedim Fiste's spoof of a "Dr. Laura” doll (it can't be true?) in the last Montecito Journal (www.montecitojournal.net/archive/12/23/461). After carefully avoiding her longwinded pieces twice weekly in our local daily paper, how dreadful would it be to have a "Dr." doll, replete with her ranting rhetoric!

I know there are some amusing George W. Bush dolls, but an Ann Coulter doll, vitriol and all? Next, how about a Marie Antoinette or Imelda Marcos, or any other ideas?

D. M. Kuhns

Montecito

(Publisher’s Note: Your skepticism is warranted; however, it’s true, the Dr. Laura Action Figure will ship mid-November according to her website, www.drlaura.com. We are fans of the good doctor, and hope to supplement our collection with other dolls. How about a “Mr. Whiny” Al Gore Inaction Figure, replete with timeless advice from Manbearpig (as he is known on the Internet) like "We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur," "It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it," and “I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy – but that could change." By the way, there really is an Ann Coulter doll and Marie Antoinette and Imelda Marcos seem like good candidates too! – TLB)

Montecito’s Billboard Mania

What is the City’s position on portable real estate signs? I not only saw them obstructing public walkways and wheelchair access areas, but also this past Sunday, in the street. What can be done about this “billboardization” of our public walkways?

Anonymous Postcard

Santa Barbara

(Publisher’s Note: In Montecito, “Open House” signs are placed only on days that open houses occur; “For Sale” signs are never allowed. The City of Santa Barbara has different rules. It is more lenient with signage than is Montecito. – TLB)

Saving Our Schools

The public obviously agreed with the Journal's endorsement of SB District incumbent Dr. Bob Noël (www.montecitojournal.net/archive/12/22/430/) and for good reason. The public needs access to critical information and strong leadership to reduce "bright flight" from public schools. Students need a variety of opportunities to learn and succeed. Our community reaps the benefits of educated, motivated, talented youth. Society can’t afford failure.

There’s both a leadership and fiscal crisis in the SB School District, which hits parents hard from the Montecito Union and Cold Spring school districts, where we take for granted access to information, communication, parent involvement, administrative responsiveness, and topnotch leadership. We should expect no less from the SB Secondary District, and in exchange, provide the District with better support.

We need to continue attempts to inspire and motivate two sitting trustees to do more homework and to speak up; while encouraging Trustee Nancy Harter to not only keep up her efforts to listen and observe, but to use her impressive leadership skills to hold administrators accountable. The public and local students would benefit greatly if Ms Harter's knowledge, leadership, and skills were teamed with Dr. Noël's.

With a restoration of public confidence in the system, there's unlimited potential for necessary improvements to be realized. After all, key administrators in the SB District (Superintendents Sarvis, Zettel, Sarawski, and research director Hayden), plus some principals, are all new to the Santa Barbara area within the last five years. Lacking a local historical perspective, history may repeat itself behind closed doors without oversight from our elected representatives.

Within the SB Secondary District, there are countless unmet needs on all fronts: curriculum, instructional, programming, classroom space, deferred maintenance, under-funded contingent liabilities for teacher pension benefits. Teachers assigned 150-plus students a day: 40-plus kids in class. Students correcting peer papers. GATE monies used only for testing, none allocated for instruction, programs, or supplies. Parents forced to hire private tutors to have their student's curriculum questions answered because study halls and program access is reserved for the low income, and the 40% English language learners.

Portables everywhere, except on the senior lawn at SB High as the principal points out. All this while the District continues to accept students from Ventura, Buellton, Lompoc, and elsewhere to get ADA funds due to so-called declining enrollment that exceeds physical plant capacity limitations. Specialty programs, such as music, funded by parents. At SB High, 47 students must come up with about $90,000 a year for the band program or it's a no go. Families also pay for "Academy" participation.

In the SB Elementary District, parents of English language learners in the SB Elementary District given insufficient training and support to know what it takes to be effective in their essential role as part of the educational team in our culture. The elementary needs list is long but adds up to a noteworthy achievement gap in junior and senior high performance that drains too much of our limited funding into remedial programs.

Noël knows all this. Harter does too. But it will take a majority vote of the Board to enact policy change. This requires continued advocacy on our parts, or it requires patience for two more years until we can hope those elected next will work for needed improvement and results.

With Dr. Noël and Hope District GATE & High Achieving Student Advocate Tony Winterbauer capturing the highest number of votes in both districts, the message has been sent: Our top performing and other highly motivated students deserve appropriate instruction, smaller homogenous classes, and programs, like music, to secure their futures. In turn, this requires making necessary improvements a priority, accompanied by an allocation of monetary resources. Our students and teachers deserve no less.

However, my personal fear is best summed up by recently elected SB Trustee Kate Parker, a smart, observant, receptive regular at SB School Board meetings. She cited during the campaign, public apathy as a big surprise to her. Why don't more people care? Why are we so absorbed with meeting our own child's needs that we don't make time to look at the big picture and work collectively towards making improvements possible?

Collectively, community members made a difference at SBCC under the leadership of Dr. Peter MacDougall. It's a community gem, a nationally recognized example of what a community college should and can be if supported wholeheartedly by all citizens. Why not next make the SB School District a community priority?

In the meantime, we can all rest assured that our students in the SB Secondary District remain some of the highest performing within the country, advancing to the best colleges and universities. They're motivated, determined, and simply incredible young people, thanks to the love for learning and success taught by parents and teachers in their formative years. I know I remain grateful to every teacher, coach, and person who shaped the lives of my two children.

Denice Adams,

26-year local resident

Founder SAGE: Supporters of Advanced & GATE Education, Hablamos Espáñol, co-founder SBCC Business & Industry Associates & Theater Group

Local People Making Good

Wanted to compliment you on your article on the employees at Vons (“Local People” www.montecitojournal.net/archive/12/22/450/). It's nice to hear about people with disabilities with good attitudes and are making good.

Thank you.

Jean von Wittenburg

(Publisher’s Note: Why, thank you, Ma’am. – TLB)

Dear Mr. Alexander

You are always a delight, but this one (n.o.t.e.s. from downtown MJ # 12/23) was really a zinger. (I thought I was the only one who hated the Xenon headlights and startling white teeth (they are caps, right?). Is there anything we can do to protest the Xenon? They can induce migraines and petite mal seizures!

Responded via www.montecitojournal.net

(Publisher’s Note: Just one day after Jim wrote his piece he was blinded by a set of teeth that left sun spots in his eyes for days. He hopes to recover his sight before his next column is due. As for protesting Xenon, where you go, we’ll follow. – TLB)

Respecting Our Trails

John Muir, who was instrumental in founding our system of national forests, inspired Americans with the following words:

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

However, the soul-healing peace of nature is no longer available to those who hike Montecito's trails. This is, because, sadly, they have literally gone to the dogs. Darwin was of a different opinion than Muir. Darwin advised that nature is “red in tooth and claw.”

I have been an avid hiker for many years, but in the past couple it has become almost impossible to enjoy a peaceful hike due to the irresponsible behavior of dog owners, who treat the national forest as it were their own private property. Quite simply put, they deprive nature lovers of a peaceful hiking experience.

The problem is not the fault of the dogs. Dogs are animals and it is in their nature to act somewhat discourteously when encountering a stranger in a natural environment. No, my friends and fellow nature lovers, the problem is with the callous, don't-give-a-rat's-derrière attitude of the dog owners, who so cavalierly terrorize the trails, shredding the social contract by allowing their mastiffs to lunge unleashed at any and all peace-loving passersby. One does not expect dogs or mindless, narcissistic bimbos who chat on their cell phones while navigating public roads in their jihadist-nurturing, earth-destroying SUVs to care about anyone else. However, one does expect courteous behavior from civilized human beings.

Nature lovers, if the dog owners continue to act discourteously, terrorizing the trails by treating them as their own private property, we should warn them of the possible consequences. I grew up on a real ranch, in Colorado, where I had many dogs. They were allowed to run wild and do anything they wanted. It was private property. On private property, one can also pack a gun to protect oneself from animal attacks.

It is not against the law to pack a gun in the national forests. Nor is it against the law to hunt or to shoot an animal that attacks you.

There are certain advantages to keeping one's dog on a leash. First, it is in accordance with the law. Second, if an unleashed dog were to lunge at an elderly hiker who lost his or her balance and broke a hip, the dog owner would not have to worry so much about having a good lawyer if it were on a leash. Third, if a dog is on a leash, it is much less likely to encounter one of the many rabid animals in the forest. Fourth, it shows respect to other hikers and allows them to enjoy a peaceful nature experience. Five, it could save the dog's life.

Peace,

A Montecito Resident

(Publisher’s Note: According to the Los Padres National Forest – Forest Headquarters, it is not illegal to let your dogs run without a leash. It is, however, illegal to carry a gun. Over recent years, parks and beaches have enforced leash law leaving no other place for owners to bring their dogs except forest service land. – TLB)

Another Look

Thank you for sharing your sentiments on “affordable housing” so generously. I am beginning to understand your position. You are looking at things in terms of property values. While others experience the lack of affordable units in SB county as a survival issue. Yes, it would be nice as you suggest, "if the affordable units could be sold at market value.” I believe that is what went wrong with the Purchase Program in the first place. HUD uses exacting formulas to distribute funding with the intention that all socio-economic groups will have access to safe decent housing. The “affordable” program was intended to reach those in low-income categories. What you are suggesting would give their fair share to others with more money. That doesn't seem fair to me. No one said it was going to be easy to produce “affordable” units, especially in an affluent area. We are going to have to find a workable solution. You might think, "it is a lousy idea." It is the Law.

Before the Civil Rights Act of 1968, communities could use restrictive covenants to exclude certain populations. Fair Housing is protected under the same act. Now you have to show how development would be a detriment to health and safety. Montecito gave increased water demand as a good reason not to allow second residential units. You might feel that non-eligible individuals appropriating the HUD funding and your concern that low-income homeowners would lose money if property values plummeted are good reasons to deny a segment of the population housing. I don't agree. We can no longer just build housing for people of advantage and expect everyone else to disappear off the face of the Earth. That let them go some place else if they can't afford to live here attitude is flawed. Someplace else already has its own low-income population to house. Fair Housing says to figure out the need in each jurisdiction and develop housing to meet that need. Unless there is no need for “affordable housing” in a community any attempt to stop development will be addressed in the next Housing Element and remedied.

Montecito can vote to put time limits on getting a project approved. I also think the appeal process is too arduous and adds unnecessary expense to many viable developments. You will have to take extra care so it doesn't appear that you are using time limits as a reason to exclude any one group. Your Homeowner's Defense Fund has little input in matters where Civil Rights are involved.

Karen Friedman

Carpinteria

(Publisher’s Note: There are no “homeless” people in Montecito; there are only people that would like to live here but cannot afford it. A common definition of Civil Rights is: “Personal rights guaranteed and protected by the Constitution, i.e., freedom of speech, press, freedom from discrimination.” The guaranteed right to choose and own a home in a particular community is a manipulation of the term “Civil Right.” Last time I checked, the Constitution does not guarantee property ownership. Is it my civil right to own a boat if I cannot afford it? In one sense, society denies me my civil right to become a boat owner because I can’t afford one. Although we may skulk at this example, surely 50 years ago people would chuckle at the notion that it was anyone’s right as an American citizen to be “given” a home. – TLB)