(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, 1122 Coast Village Circle, Montecito, CA. 93108. You can also FAX such mail to: (805) 969-6654, or E-mail to tim@montecitojournal.net)

A Thankful Montecito

As the past president of the Montecito Association; and as an accredited public relations consultant; and as a longtime columnist covering Montecito; and as a taxpayer resident within the Montecito Fire District boundaries, I have observed the MFD response to Zaca Fire and I would like to offer comment:

Public Information Outreach:

Geri Simmons Ventura has demonstrated a special gift in public information response. She’s been out in front of public inquiry, and proactively produced information white papers, prior to public need. She has been way ahead of more seasoned professionals in this area. Her work, much of it without by-line credit, is being used in public information output throughout the county. (Ash flow Tips, Pyrocumulus Clouds, Smoke and Air Quality to name but a few.)

Jackie Jenkins has also demonstrated excellent public interaction skills. Her communications style is forthright, knowledgeable, educational and calming.

The pre-Zaca Wildfire Preparation ads in Montecito Journal and elsewhere have proven to be on target. I would suggest you adjust the ads now to include some of the questions the public has asked during Zaca, as people are paying attention. (Hopefully you have kept a list of kiosk questions, and if not in a post-fire debrief, these should be retrieved.)

MFD Manned Kiosks are the poster children for county kiosks. Very few of the other County kiosks are manned and for Montecito to have not only district personnel on hand, but also Forest Service spokespeople is exemplary service. Whatever additional cost has been incurred for this assistance, your community appreciates it. You have calmed fears through education, accurate information and a professional attitude. As an added benefit, you have taught your community that there are central meeting places, a place to go, where information can be garnered, especially in the event of a power outage.

Radio AM 1370 experiment has been timely and many, many people have told me how much they appreciate your system. I would recommend a district-wide letter be sent immediately, during the Zaca Fire, to ask people if they are getting reception. (Include a return postcard.) This survey, at this timely juncture, will provide important information for future decisions. In the meantime, your effort is beyond measure in the county.

MERRAG, your MFD-supported public service arm of trained emergency response volunteers, has been highly regarded throughout the county of Santa Barbara. MERRAG has been used by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff, EOC, and as information officers at the kiosks. Their response has been knowledgeable, helpful and professional. I would recommend using attention aroused by the Zaca fire to reach more trainees, as this organization has bountiful merit to our community and a larger task force, a representative from each enclave and neighborhood, would be helpful.

Leadership:

Former Montecito Fire Chiefs Herb McElwee and Ron McClain and Wildland Fire Specialist Curtis Vincent have been of great service as assignees to the Joint Incident Command. Having these Montecito representatives working with the US Forest Service on the larger picture is a great public assistance and serves Montecito as well. These ambassadors are highly respected for the jobs they have done and the service they have preformed on Zaca outside of Montecito. They have represented our community well!

Chief Kevin Wallace has demonstrated leadership on the highest level. He has shown himself to be intelligent, eloquent, accessible, patient, reassuring and a good decision-maker. His community, his professional colleagues and his peers hold him in high esteem. During the Zaca Fire Chief Wallace has made some difficult decisions and he has had to fight some battles on behalf of Montecito. He has done well for our community and we are fortunate to have his leadership.

Possible Zaca Lessons:

I hope the board will carefully review the safety of hillside homes–from a fire-asset allocation and defense position. If some homes are indefensible, identified that way by out-of-area fire departments, the owners should be notified, so safety measures can be researched and implemented. Furthermore, if wildland fire hillside defense is an issue, future building should be carefully monitored and regulated.

Often MFD is criticized for having too large a revenue base and/or reserve. I think Zaca Fire blows that argument up in smoke, as we now know what a wildland fire costs to defend. I also think it is important to note how critical Montecito is to the tax base of the county–an Oakland-style fire here would have major economic outfalls, so protection and preparation is of wide-reaching importance.

Finally, I want to compliment and congratulate the Montecito Fire District Board for the past decisions you have made, which have allowed us to be so well prepared for the Zaca fire event. You have done an excellent job, and I extend my personal thanks.

Sincerely,

J’Amy Brown

Montecito

Love Him or Hate Him, Bostick Makes Things Hot

Whew! I just finished reading the exchange between David Bostick and Ward Connerly and I must say that Bostick, love him or hate him, certainly knows how to get the cauldron to a rapid boil.

I found it interesting that Connerly did not address the two lines of attack Bostick leveled at him, namely his comments regarding the vintage Honda and the Iraq war and instead spent his entire rebuttal castigating Bostick for being a racist. While I found the "cream in the coffee" an ill-advised remark I don't think it constitutes racism because at this point almost all of us have a little cream and/or coffee in our lineage.

I also find it a bit unfair that you immediately follow Bostick's letter with a rebuttal from Connerly without giving Bostick's letter a week or so to make its effect. I look forward to his rebuttal to the rebuttal, if there is one.

In the meantime, I happen to work for a black-owned business and while my boss is quite open-minded I'd rather not tempt fate so sign me

Anonymous

Santa Barbara

(Publisher’s Note: If Bostick’s comment about “cream in the coffee” wasn’t “racist”, why is it that you are worried about repercussions from your “black-owned business”? Whether race is being used for a positive or negative cause, utilizing race to separate people is racist and of poor taste and intellect. As far as not addressing the Honda issue or the Iraq issue, Ward apparently ascertained that the brunt of Bostick’s remarks were directed at Mr. Connerly’s “right” to address issues other than those of race, so dealt with those remarks directly. As a rule, we make every attempt to elicit a response from anyone being attacked by a letter to the editor. – TLB)

Readdressing Measure K

In July the Cold Spring School, Board authorized A. Lopez & Co., an Oakland based firm that specializes in getting school bonds (property taxes) passed, to conduct a voter survey to gather information to help in their effort to try and pass a school bond similar to the one that voters rejected in the November 2006 General Election.

At the August public School Board meeting A. Lopez & Co. presented the results to the board. The results he summarized was that the voters of the District were "cheap." No member of the Board or Staff came to the defense of the voters. Instead they awarded him with a lucrative contract to assist in their effort to pass their bonds.

They are planning to put this tax measure on the ballot in the February 5 Primary Election, a time calculated to catch voters off guard. Most voters believe this matter was resolved when they defeated Measure K, however, this is not the case; at every meeting since December 2006 the board has been discussing a new attempt to pass a bond and raise property taxes.

The board has still not given the public any notification of its intentions, and seem to be waiting until the last possible moment in order to maintain an element of surprise.

I am asking that voters not cooperate when their survey company calls you (at dinner time). They are identifying those who voted “no” on Measure K in order to try and change their vote.

This huge Bond (property tax) made no sense when it was defeated in 2006, it makes less sense in 2008; higher taxes is not the answer! The board has a budget surplus of $500,000 that it can use to make needed repairs, instead, it is using taxpayers money to hire outsiders to sell us on raising our taxes for 25-30 years.

Finally, we are still paying for Measure O, which was passed in 1996. In eleven years the district has paid off less than 7% of this bond and pushed the payments out to 2027. The improvements that were promised when Measure O passed were not fulfilled. What will be different this time? Only that they will have more money for special interests.

This bond needs to be defeated or it will set a precedent for a series of bonds; the board has discussed additional bonds in future elections and in fact their contract with A. Lopez specifies a fee of $70,000 for each bond they assist in getting passed.

David Strauss

Cold Spring School District Taxpayer