Friday, May 27 , 2016, 3:12 am | Fair 58º

Bill Macfadyen: So Long, Selma Rubin

Best of Noozhawk 03.09.12 wades into pension reform, politics and ag land, picks up some oily birds and takes apart an iPhone

By William M. Macfadyen, Noozhawk Publisher | @noozhawk | updated logo |

In the annals of Santa Barbara’s environmental activism, few people have been more ardent, more effective and more revered than Selma Rubin. With her trademark hats and oversized glasses, the diminutive Rubin was a dominating local presence since she arrived on the scene in 1964.

She helped found the group, Get Oil Out, after the 1969 oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel, and she played a pivotal role in starting the first Earth Day, right here in Santa Barbara.

A tireless advocate for other liberal causes, Rubin mentored and was adored by countless young activists who grew up to become leaders in our community. The inspiration she provided, with an encouraging word and a kind smile, will be among the things that are missed the most.

Rubin died of cancer on March 9. She was 96.

1. Santa Barbara Council, City Staff Discuss Pension Reforms to Address $267 Million Shortfall

Noozhawk’s Giana Magnoli told you about the city of Santa Barbara’s gaping $267 million hole in its pension system after she attended a March 7 workshop led by Finance Director Bob Samario and his staff.

Officials blame the unfunded liabilities shortfall on expanded benefit packages and lower-than-expected investment returns. While the CIty Council has begun thinking about implementing some reforms, Samario says it will take at least 20 years for the city to climb out of the hole. Now would seem to be a good time to stop digging.

2. Schneider Moving Ahead with Gathering Signatures for Proposed Ballot Initiatives

Magnoli also reported on Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider’s seemingly one-woman quest to get three of her four proposed ballot initiatives before voters in November. She’s moving ahead with the signature-gathering phase but for the time being is not talking about a fourth measure that might have shared some sales tax revenue with the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

A few weeks ago, Schneider unveiled plans for a half-cent sales tax hike and an entertainment district business license fee, along with a city charter amendment addressing pension reform and an “advisory” measure that could steer some sales tax revenue toward public education.

Early support for the package has been tepid, at best, but opposition has been anything but. Usually reliable allies like city labor unions and the Santa Barbara County Democratic Central Committee have asked her to stop what she’s doing until there can be an open community dialogue.

Meanwhile, education officials were more than miffed at Schneider’s surprise proposal. Just a few days before her announcement, SBUSD trustees had voted to put a parcel-tax renewal on the June ballot and officials were not thrilled at the prospect of having to compete with a second school-related tax.

Come to think of it, Gov. Jerry Brown can’t be too pleased with local competition for his own statewide sales tax hike measure. Brown has been trying to clear the November ballot of rival tax measures lest voters get fed up and oppose them all.

3. Seabirds Fall Victim to Natural Oil Seeps Off Santa Barbara County’s Coal Oil Point

Volunteers with International Bird Rescue have reported an uptick in oil-cloaked seabirds this year. So far this year, Noozhawk’s Lara Cooper reported March 7, the Long Beach-based nonprofit group has tended to 140 damaged birds after run-ins with natural oil seeps, including those off Coal Oil Point near UCSB.

Bruce Allen, a founder of SOS (Stop Oil Seeps) California, weighed in with a commentary asserting that expanded offshore oil production in the Santa Barbara Channel will reduce natural seepage from oil deposits.

What do you think? Click here to join the debate that several Noozhawk commenters have started.

And if you see an oiled bird, call the rescue center toll-free at 1.877.823.6926 to report it.

4. Fairview Gardens Wary of Proposed Goleta Farmland Protection Ballot Measure

Cooper also filled you in on an interesting dust-up in Goleta between proponents of a ballot initiative to preserve local agricultural properties and the head farmer at one of the parcels in question: Fairview Gardens.

Supporters say the Goleta Heritage Farmlands Initiative is necessary to ensure that the public has the last word in ensuring that local ag land is protected, just in case elected officials have other ideas.

But Mark Tollefson, executive director of the nonprofit Fairview Gardens, 598 N. Fairview Ave., says the initiative may be well-intentioned but sends a false message about the 12½-acre property, which already is protected through the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. Tollefson, who has been fundraising for upgrades at the urban farm, insists the property is not in danger of any kind of conversion and should not be included in the initiative.

5. CellTek Owner Gilbert Ortiz Finds Valuable Niche Repairing Broken Smartphones

Noozhawk’s Alex Kacik heard about a Goleta man who was replacing broken iPhone screens so he asked him to prove it. Gilbert Ortiz, founder of CellTek, 5727 Hollister Ave., was only too happy to oblige. The result is a fascinating video of Ortiz’s handiwork, complete with tiny screws that are way too easy to lose.

Ortiz says it took him two years to master the craft but now he can make the switch in under five minutes. Prepare to be amazed and watch the video.

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Noozhawk is pleased to again be a sponsor of the International Women’s Festivals, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Saturday at SBCC’s West Campus.

This year, Noozhawk and Noozhawk LIVE are partnering with Santa Barbara so stop by our booth and say hello to Noozhawks Terry Baxter, Chris Donahue and me, Noozhawk LIVE’s Melissa Tierney and ParentClick’s Rachael Steidl and Becca Eliasen.

Click here for a complete Women’s Festival schedule.

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Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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