(If you have something you think Montecito should know about, or wish to respond to something you read in the Journal, we want to hear from you. Please send all such correspondence to: Montecito Journal, Letters to the Editor, P.O. Box 50015, Montecito, CA. 93150. You can also FAX such mail to: (805) 969-6654, or E-mail to Tim@montecitojournal.net)

Trails Debate: Academic or Emotional?

May I suggest the following as you consider the appropriateness of combined trail usage by hikers, bikers, and equestrians?

Any decision should be focused on academic vs. emotionally laden facts. In other words:

- This is not an issue of good guys vs. bad guys. Each sport has their share of both.

- This is not an issue of whether one sport is more respectable or wholesome than another. All are.

- This is not an issue of what each sport invests in the trails themselves: i.e. maintenance, fund raising, etc. All do their various parts.

- This is not a matter of establishing rights to trail usage by numbers: i.e. how many participants of one sport use the trails vs. another. A large amount of public land is set aside for a very small number of people for the sport of golf.

The only two crucial factors to base a decision on are the quality of safety and the quality of enjoyment. It would be very helpful to clarify all the aspects of safety and enjoyment by having the three sports rate them on a scale of 0-10 and put them on a spread sheet for all to see.

Safety: Two sports are slow moving: hiking and horseback riding

One sport is fast moving: biking

The fact that these three sports are now “arming” themselves with both protective and warning devices is a clear admission by all that there is a heightened potential for serious safety problems when together utilizing the trails.

In all honesty, it is extremely doubtful that these devices are truly efficacious in addressing the safety problems that they are intended to avoid.

Enjoyment: Two sports utilize the trails because they are oriented towards enjoying the glorious details of nature as one also enjoys their sport: hiking and horseback riding.

One sport is oriented towards trails because such terrain is essential to the enjoyment of being able to navigate with speed over tough terrain. The enjoyment of nature, if at all, is in a much broader sense: biking.

Each sport needs to index for itself how their enjoyment level is impacted by combining the three sports on the same trails.

It is an obvious given that one’s anxiety level is greatly heightened when one is on constant guard for one’s own safety or the safety of others. The enjoyment level is correspondingly greatly reduced.

Concluding comments:

1. It needs to be recognized that hiking, biking, and horseback riding are three legitimate sports and are not going to go away.

2. It also needs to be recognized that the only commonality to all these three sports is that they require the same type of terrain.

3. Separate 24/7 trails become the common sense solution if safety and enjoyment are the basis for careful analysis of this issue. However, separate arenas need to be established with minimum jurisdiction required to insure compliance. The foils of human nature bypassing any complicated scheme need to be considered, unfortunately.

It is hoped that an intelligent solution can be found to this serious problem of trail usage. Since 9/11, we all now live under the pallor of knowing that we could be victims of unpredictable violence at any time. This same pallor has now been added to all three of our sports by mixing them on the same terrain. Today, all the more we each need our chosen sport to “transcend” us temporarily beyond the tensions of the world. Let us seek not to deprive each other of this much-needed “escape,” but instead to enhance it for all.

Susan Bruch

Montecito

Missing Facts about the Coral Casino

I was confused by your editorial (MJ #12/8) and feature articles concerning the Coral Casino. While County restrictions were strongly criticized, there were few facts to justify this position.

The Biltmore/Coral Casino is one of only a small group of luxury hotels in the world that is totally surrounded by an affluent residential neighborhood. Because of this, it is highly regulated, and is classified as a Cottage Hotel.

One of the Warner Group’s claims is that the cost of the project has risen from $35 million to $65 million. But they have never provided a breakdown of bids to show why the costs have risen. Is it due to changes in the project, material and labor cost increases, or the conditions the County has placed on the project?

They imply that it’s due to the County’s conditions. This may, or may not be so. Assuming that a part of the price increase is due to the County’s conditions; it would be helpful, before these are criticized, to determine when and why they were assessed.

The articles are critical of the 92 conditions placed on the project, 30 of which are new. “Some of those conditions seem downright punitive: Condition 34, for example, requires ‘employer purchase of, or provide discounts on, Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) bus passes or the equivalent for Coral Casino employees. ‘ Is it really Ty Warner’s responsibility to pay for his employees to come to work?”

Traffic at the Biltmore/Coral Casino, as well as the Music Academy, and Westmont College are of great concern to their neighbors and the community. Some 80 restrictions were placed on the Music Academy project, a number of which dealt with traffic issues. Westmont College, to help reduce traffic in its residential neighborhood, has instituted car-pooling and bussing of students and employees.

In the past, when the Biltmore was asking for improvements that might increase traffic, they noted that they had, or were, instituting programs to encourage car-pooling and bussing of employees. This, they claimed, would reduce neighborhood daily traffic; and accordingly, they should be permitted to add to the traffic with their new project.

With the new restaurant at the Coral Casino, why is it then wrong to require that measures be taken to reduce some off the contemplated new traffic? It would be interesting to see if this may account for the bus pass condition. It would also be interesting to see if it was originally proposed, or agreed to by the Coral Casino.

The articles also criticized requiring the Biltmore to provide housing subsidies for no less than 8 of its employees, and requiring the Coral Casino to spend as much as $250,000 on a county-assigned historical conservator.

Did your staff check to see what the State and County are requiring of all large projects concerning affordable housing? The Music Academy was required to have two affordable units on its property. Before backing the Warner Group’s position and criticizing the County, it might be appropriate to determine the reasons for the 8 subsidized units.

Coral Casino Management petitioned the County Board of Supervisors to declare the Coral Casino an Historic Landmark. With the designation came various tax and rehabilitation savings, as well as historic recognition rights; but also came certain obligations. Does the Warner Group now contend that they didn’t know what they were doing when they petitioned to have the building declared a Historic Landmark? Do they want to do away with having to pay the $250,000 that their Historic Landmark designation caused, just as they tried to reduce the increased property tax on the Hotel after they bought it?

The Warner Group may be justified in starting a PR campaign to try and influence the press and public to help them pressure the County to reduce their costs; or they may be crying wolf, or that the sky is falling, without disclosing all the facts.

It would be helpful if the press would obtain and disclose more specific facts before it takes a position on this very complex topic.

Richard Shaikewitz

Montecito

(Publisher’s Note: demanding that employers supply housing and transportation for employees is wrong. As for car-pooling, what’s next – requiring Coral Casino members to arrive in twos and threes, rather than by themselves? Should other small businesses build housing for their employees? If not, why not? The standard seems to have been set. Should (or could) homeowners be required to build affordable housing units on their private property? Why not, if the Biltmore, the Music Academy, and Westmont must? As far as checking with state mandates to see whether other businesses have been mandated to build affordable housing, we don’t have to; wherever that’s a requirement, we are opposed to it. – TLB)

Plurality not Majority

Regarding Mr. Warner’s escalating costs on the Coral Casino remodel, I think it is important to remember one fact: when the members were originally polled on the matter 5 years ago, the option of a straightforward repair job won the vote. Mr. Warner chose to manipulate the vote so that he could have his big remodel and his new restaurant.

Perhaps if the Warner team had honored the original, legitimate vote and fixed our broken club immediately (as any responsible owner should have done) then they would not be facing such huge costs now.

Sincerely,

Daphne Moore

(Publisher’s note: The vote to do a “straightforward repair job” won a plurality as Option C, but the majority, some 66%, voted for a remodel with options A & B. No matter the outcome of the vote, Ty Warner is the owner and should have the deciding vote in the future of the Coral Casino. At this point, we wouldn’t be surprised if the club never re-opened. Remember, the remodel would have taken place years ago if it hadn’t been for a select few that were unwilling to compromise. – TLB)

Music Academy Favoritism?

We noticed mention in your last issue of the upcoming May Madness annual sale at the Music Academy. Until recently, we routinely spent several thousand dollars each year at this wonderful event and had a great time in the process. No longer. We don’t know if other attendees have also noticed, but recently sales have had a distinctly “picked over” feel, especially in the fine arts, books, and collectibles sections.

At first, we attributed this to the “eBay effect,” but when we failed to see the usual melee of art and book dealers at the last sale, we found ourselves murmuring “hmmm.” We thereafter called the Academy and – mystery solved! We were advised that the Academy has in fact been holding pre-sales for the dealers who help them with organization and setup – and would we like to assist next year? We thought about it, but declined – the “private club” aura of the gathering troubled us.

We definitely think there should be some nice way for the Academy to show its appreciation each year to the fine group of dealers who volunteer their valuable time and knowledge. But maybe best not at the expense of preserving the excitement of possible being able to find that occasional treasure among the trash. Since that’s what keeps a lot of the customers coming back each year, the event’s organizers may wish to reconsider the long-term consequences of their current practice.

Since we are “in the trade” as well, we hope you will appreciate our desire to have our names withheld.

Sincerely,

Former Attendees

RV Prohibition

To the best of my knowledge, the SB City RV Prohibition is tied up in court due to determinations that the street signage warning of the prohibition at many of the entrances to the city is short of Constitutional. If it were up to the City, the prohibition would be in effect.

Sincerely,

Big Big Matt

Santa Barbara

(Publisher’s Note: You are correct, although the lawyer that successfully challenged the Santa Barbara ordinance against parking on city streets was lauded recently during a big ACLU meet. Besides, it doesn’t seem as though our city council is particularly concerned with creating another ordinance that would meet constitutional muster. – TLB)

Farewell Nugget

Bye Bye, Doug and Sally Taylor. A fond and sad farewell. We're so glad we managed a booth at the Nugget on their last night as owners and were able to say good luck to Sally (didn't see Doug)! We will certainly remember the wonderful evenings spent there over the 16 plus years we've lived here.

We hope the new owners will continue the atmosphere, fun, and good food.

Sincerely,

Jean Von Wittenberg

Montecito

Howdy from the Smokies

First of all, I bid adieu to my old editor, Journal Jim. I congratulate his son, Tim, for taking over the Journal. I recently was in Denver and was the houseguest of Dr. Gordon and Anne Herrald. Of course, we spoke about Montecito and babies. It is great to get the news on what is happening in the small town I raised my 3 children in for 42 years! I remain loving the south and the beauty of the North Carolina Smokies. The Herralds are enjoying the Rockies. I think we have the mountaintops covered.

Gordon misses playing poker with Jim!

Blessings from your old columnist,

Royal Phillips

Former Montecito Resident

The No Abilities Act

Washington D.C. April 4, 2009 – Congress today approved sweeping legislation, which provides new benefits for many Americans. The Americans With No Abilities Act (AWNAA) signed into law by President Hillary Rodham shortly after its passage, is being hailed as a major victory by advocates of the millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition.

“Roughly fifty percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society," said President Rodham, a longtime AWNAA supporter.

“This is why many of them voted for me,” she continued. “We can no longer stand by and allow people of inability to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation,” she added, “employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of workers, simply because they do a better job, or have some idea of what they are doing.”

President Rodham pointed to the success of Amtrak, which has a longstanding policy of providing opportunity without regard to performance. Approximately 80 percent of Amtrak employees lack job skills, making this agency the single largest U.S. employer of Persons of Inability.

Private sector industries with good records of nondiscrimination against the inept include retail sales (72%), the airline industry (68%), and home improvement "warehouse" stores (65%).

President Rodham has also set an example, personally selecting hundreds of Nonabled people for top government positions, including many cabinet-level jobs.

Under the Americans With No Abilities Act, more than 25 million "middle man" positions will be created, with important-sounding titles but little real responsibility, thus providing a much needed illusory sense of purpose and performance. Mandatory non-performance-based raises and promotions will be required, to guarantee upward mobility and ensure a false sense of self-esteem for even the most unremarkable employees. The legislation provides substantial tax breaks to corporations that maintain a significant level of Persons of Inability in top positions, and gives a tax credit to small and medium businesses that agree to hire one clueless worker for every two talented hires.

Finally, the AWNAA contains tough new measures to make it more difficult to discriminate against the Nonabled, banning discriminatory interview questions. The only legal questions employers will be allowed to ask after the law is put into effect on January 1 2010 will be: “What is your name?” “Where do you live?” and “How can we get in touch with you?” Invasive questions such as "Do you have any goals for the future?" or "Do you have any skills or experience which relate to this job?" and "Are you awake?" will be strictly forbidden.

As a Nonabled person, I can't be expected to keep up with people who have something going for them," said Mary Lou Gertz, who lost her position as a lug-nut twister at the GM plant in Flint, MI due to her lack of notable job skills. "This new law should really help people like me."

With the passage of this bill, Gertz and millions of other untalented citizens can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Said Rodham, "It is our duty as lawmakers to provide each and every American citizen, regardless of his or her adequacy, with some sort of space to take up in this great nation."

Cabled From The Future

Via the Internet