(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)

Clarifying Differences

The public seems confused about which affordable housing program is experiencing fraud and bad press. Your recent editorial (montecitojournal.net/archive/13/6/731/) and other related stories have absolutely nothing to do with either the City or County Housing Authority. In combination, the two housing authorities operate over 7,300 affordable rental housing units for low income families, seniors and disabled persons. All of these households undergo an annual examination of income, including third party verification, household composition, a rent determination, and inspection of their dwelling unit. When occasional fraud is discovered, it is handled through repayment, eviction and/or criminal prosecution.

The program under investigation involves the smallest local affordable housing program – 395 resale controlled “ownership” units under the County’s Housing and Community Development Department. Apparently, some of the owners and lenders are not playing by the rules. These owners should be prosecuted and the lenders should lose their money. The covenants recorded against their dwelling units are contractual agreements that the owners have violated and the lenders have ignored. They should be charged with fraud and the County should secure compliance and foreclose on the units.

The City oversees a similar program. They pursue compliance with their covenants and foreclose if necessary. Title companies and lenders must be held accountable in this enforcement. They have a duty to read recorded covenants. Some lenders have lost money for not examining recorded covenants, loaning unscrupulous owners more than the value of the home and lose when the City forecloses at the resale controlled price. Assuming the County has recorded a performance deed of trust, they can similarly foreclose at the resale controlled price and leave the unscrupulous lender you discuss figuring out how they will recapture their loss.

So let’s be clear. Let’s also place blame where it belongs and go after them – the violating owners and lenders. Their dishonesty is the root of the problem.

Robert G. Pearson, Executive Director/CEO

Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara

(Publisher’s Note: We appreciate your letter and hope that this type of conversation allows us as a county/city to create a better process while helping eliminate fraud and inefficiency. Far too often programs designed to alleviate shortages backfire and actually create more shortages (in the city’s case, 7,300 units taken off the free market!), and leave the truly disenfranchised nowhere to turn. – TLB)

Sensationalistic Journalism

Let me state this right in the beginning – I am a proud County employee, I am a taxpayer, I am a voter and I am a property owner. However, I am writing this letter as a private citizen and taxpayer of this county as I am saddened by the vicious, poisonous and negative vitriol you spew against all county employees in your publication on a weekly basis. Your last two editorials as well as the opinion piece by Kim Seefeld (“Private Property Report” montecitojournal.net/archive/13/6/733/) in your Journal are the latest examples. The way you and Ms Seefeld caricaturize all County employees is that they are lazy bums and freeloaders who do not pay any taxes and are just having a “jolly old time” on taxpayer dime. Is that what you and Ms Seefeld think of the deputy sheriff who lays his life on the line every day so that you can be safe, the County firefighter who runs into the burning building to rescue your pet, the public health nurse that immunizes your child for free, the child support officer that collects maintenance support money from “deadbeat” parents so that some child could be clothed and fed, the overworked public defender that takes your case at 2 am in the morning when you are wrongly (or rightly) arrested, the counter clerk at the Planning Department who puts up with the rude abuse, although they are only enforcing the laws your (and my) elected official has put in place? I can go on but I think that by now you should be able to see what I mean.

Having worked for more than 15 years in the private sector and for Fortune 100 companies, both in the USA, Europe and Africa, and now for County government for the last two and a half years I can truly say that I have not met a more dedicated bunch of people who are constantly trying to do the best for the citizens they serve. There are many County employees who work 60-70-hour work weeks, although they are exempt from overtime and also come into work on Saturdays. Many County employees are homeowners and also struggle to make ends meet but come April 1 and December 1, they are standing in line and writing checks for $2,000, $5,000 or $10,000 for their property taxes.

Before you hold the private sector as examples of efficiency and thrift, need I remind you of the Enron, HealthSouth, the bankrupt airlines and other private sector companies? You will argue that it is not taxpayer money but who do you think ends up paying unemployment checks, paying for the now medically uninsured employees, food stamps, picking up the tab for the bankrupt pension fund – you and I. Did I see any editorials in your Journal or an opinion piece by Ms Seefeld caricaturizing all airline employees, all Enron employees as lazy bums and freeloaders? By no means am I suggesting that you should not criticize waste and fraud wherever it is found to exist, but to tar all County employees with that brush and pretend that all civil servants are dishonest freeloaders is incredibly unfair, untruthful and lazy sensationalistic journalism, which is focused on increasing circulation in order to sell ads.

Andreas Pyper

Solvang

(Publisher’s Note: First off, I am not exactly sure where I spewed, as you so kindly put it, “vicious, poisonous and negative vitriol” against all County employees. Second, I am concerned that the Affordable Housing programs, considering the irresponsible nature in which the “for sale” program is being handled, have built-in favoritism towards County/City employees. I would feel more comfortable with the program if it didn’t feel like the County/City wasn’t trying to hide something from its constituency and more records were accessible to the public. We are not fans of a system that allows – encourages even – public employee unions to lavish candidates for office with funds and labor in return for votes from those officeholders to pad payrolls with early retirement benefits and other goodies way beyond those of the private sector. If that is “spewing vitriol” against all County employees, well, I guess we’re guilty. Lastly, it is the responsibility of the public to be the watchdog for local governmental affairs. Without this balance, I can only imagine the worst. – TLB)

Basically Criminals

My heartiest congratulations to you for your editorial (montecitojournal.net/archive/13/5/728/). This is something that rarely happens – exposing publicly the government employees and elected officials who are basically criminals, only interested in furthering their own interests, and to keep their jobs.

Just imagine how much of this type of activity goes on that is never disclosed.

And raising salaries, pensions, eligible dates of retirement and who knows what keeps up as those who make up the rules dip into the trough. I am looking forward to future editorials like this.

Earl Stanfield

Santa Barbara

(Publisher’s Note: We would also like to know what is never disclosed: the percentage of County/City employees who currently rent or own an affordable unit. – TLB)

Busman’s Holiday

I went on vacation to China with my brother, Manny Carbajal, and a friend, Raul Baez, in late October. The 10-day trip also included visits to Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou. While I didn’t want to take my work with me, I did feel the need to stay connected to the community. Montecito Journal’s great mix of news, columns, calendar items, and articles happily filled that requirement.

Salud Carbajal

First District Supervisor