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Bill Macfadyen: A Dance Called Texas

Best of Noozhawk 11.23.12 finds big reader interest in a Harding School principal, a bicycle vs. SUV collision, Goleta's Westar Project and Isla Vista crime

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

My wife is from Texas so I spend a lot of time in the Lone Star State. Last weekend I was in San Antonio, now I’m in Llano.

Soon after making my connection Wednesday night, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation that started a row or two behind me when a couple excitedly announced that they were moving to Austin ... on that very flight.

Amid congratulations from their seat mates and flight attendants, they told how the San Francisco baggage guy had looked at their eight suitcases and asked if they were moving to Texas, then wasn’t the least bit surprised when they said they were. Apparently, it’s not an unusual sight these days.

The couple said they had managed to sell their Silicon Valley condo, albeit at a loss, but the money was enough for them to buy a small three-bedroom house outside of Austin, where the husband would be starting a new job as a software engineer next week. The wife didn’t yet have a job but was confident she could find one quickly. They wanted to start a family but characterized their native California as a dead-end.

I dozed off listening to the joyfulness in their voices while fellow passengers shared their recommendations on where to eat, shop and get their dry-cleaning done in the Heart of Texas. They were all still chatting away when we landed a couple of hours later.

I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since. It’s reminded me of one of my favorite books, James Hunter’s A Dance Called America, an outstanding account of the blackest period in Scotland’s dark history: the Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries and the forced migration of tens of thousands of Scots to North America. The title refers to a dance that expectant emigrants came up with to express their excitement about a new life in the New World.

Scotland’s loss was America’s gain, and a case can be made that Scotland never truly recovered. Those who left were among the most driven, industrious and entrepreneurial people the world has known. Although relatively few found widespread fame and fortune, the impact they had on the United States and Canada is profound.

California has been experiencing a similar drain of human capital over the last several years, as the couple on the plane so ably demonstrated. I have to wonder if, as with the Clearances, our once Golden State is destined to the same fate as Bonnie Scotland. Majestic vistas, golf and alcoholic beverages can only take you so far.

Of course, it’s easy to snigger at Texas about this and that, and to extol California’s still vast advantages and virtues. I have no plans to move, although Texas has a state income tax rate that is increasingly attractive as California’s skyrockets to God knows where. In fact, I feel an obligation to stay and fight for California as the Land of Opportunity that drew my great-great-grandparents here in a covered wagon in the 1800s. Now, more than ever, we need men — and women — to match our mountains.

California has been spiraling out of control. Chronic budget deficits are now the norm. Since 2010, government spending has ballooned 42 percent, even after adjusting for inflation. At the same time, nearly one in four Californians is considered poor, the highest poverty rate in the country.

Our state GDP growth has been mired in mediocrity while per-capita personal income has been falling. A staggering one in 10 Californians is unemployed. Poorly written regulations are strangling the economy, with one of the worst, AB 32, still lurking.

Sadly, the Census Bureau reports that 500,000 Californians moved out of California between 2007 and 2010. You can bet that most of them were people we’re going to miss dearly, for their initiative and for their income.

So, what can we do? A good start would be our clueless political class, which demonstrates on an almost daily basis its willful ignorance of how to foster economic growth. From the governor on down to county supervisors and city council members, elected officials need to understand that California is a hostile work environment and that business is not an enemy of the state, but its salvation.

A lone star has been Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who, not coincidentally, is an entrepreneur himself and has spent most of his time working in San Francisco rather than Sacramento. The space has given him a chance to explore innovative concepts and technologies that can make government more efficient and adaptable. He’s even been to Texas to try to figure out why Texans are better than we are at attracting business and job creation.

In Santa Barbara County, two initiatives in particular show promise: the Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet (GEM) and EconNSBC (the Economic Alliance of Northern Santa Barbara County).

GEM is a public-private partnership between the City of Goleta, the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce and UC Santa Barbara. The point is to integrate the expertise and resources of the three entities to create a healthy environment for startups, including permitting, commercial real estate assistance and locating a workforce. Supporters are counting on the initiative to help the public begin to realize just how important such businesses are for our community.

EconNSBC is a nonpartisan, grassroots coalition of private-sector and community leaders focused on regional economic development, primarily in the North County. The organizers are one year into a 1,000-day roadmap to economic recovery, with goals of restoring a pro-growth, jobs-centered economy and galvanizing regional coordination to achieve it.

Noozhawk is pleased to support both undertakings and we’ll continue to report on the progress of each. Call me a dreamer but one day I’d like to hear someone exclaim that they’re moving to California for the economic opportunity. Or, better yet, to Santa Barbara County. That day can’t come soon enough.

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What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. Harding School Principal Nuh Kimbwala Placed on Paid Leave

In a Noozhawk exclusive, our Giana Magnoli reported that new Harding University Partnership School Principal Nuh Kimbwala was placed on paid administrative leave Nov. 15 after an undisclosed campus incident. Assistant Principal Vanesha Davis was named his replacement the next day. A few days later, Magnoli broke the story that Kimbwala is being investigated by Santa Barbara police following child-abuse allegations of a nonsexual nature.

Since school started, Harding parents have been complaining about Kimbwala to the Santa Barbara Unified School District, mostly about communication issues. He reportedly didn’t have Spanish translation available for the Back to School night or hold meetings among the school’s committees and advisory groups.

Kimbwala, who succeeded popular Principal Sally Kingston at the Westside Santa Barbara school in August, could not be reached for comment.

2. Bicyclist Critically Injured in Downtown Santa Barbara Collision

A bicyclist was critically injured on the night of Nov. 18 when she was hit by an SUV in the intersection of Santa Barbara and Victoria streets in downtown Santa Barbara. According to Santa Barbara police, witness accounts and surveillance video from a nearby business indicate the woman was riding through a red light when she was struck.

Talia Tashma-Rapp, 18, of Santa Barbara, was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with life-threatening injuries, said Sgt. Riley Harwood, a department spokesman.

The driver was not cited in the collision, and Harwood said alcohol was not believed to have been a factor in the crash.

3. UCSB Student Arrested on Charges of Attempted Murder

A 20-year-old UCSB student was arrested in a Nov. 18 Isla Vista brawl that sent one man to the hospital with life-threatening wounds.

Peter Cho is facing charges of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and destroying or concealing evidence after he allegedly stabbed the victim during a fight in the 800 block of Embarcadero Del Norte, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Williams said.

4. Goleta Resident Sues City, Developer Over Westar Project

The Goleta City Council may have voted to approve the long-planned Westar Mixed-Use Project on Hollister Avenue across from Camino Real Marketplace, but one opponent of the project is not giving up.

As Noozhawk’s Giana Magnoli first reported Nov. 15, Patricia Moreno filed a lawsuit claiming that the final environmental impact report is “incomplete and misleading,” and doesn’t evaluate alternatives or reasonable mitigation measures that could lessen environmental impacts of the project, which includes 274 residential units, pocket parks, stores and restaurants. Moreno is seeking a temporary restraining order and injunctions to stop the city and Goleta Hollister LLC from proceeding with the project.

5. Two Men Arrested in Isla Vista Shooting Incident

Two people were arrested Nov. 17 in connection with gunshots that were fired in Isla Vista. Sheriff’s Department officials said deputies investigating the shooting in the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde Road arrested Thomas Christensen, 21, on suspicion of shooting a firearm with gross negligence and carrying a loaded firearm that did not belong to him. Brett Harris, also 21, was arrested for resisting arrest and obstructing or delaying a peace officer. There were no injuries in the incident.

                                                                  •        •        •

There were 48,089 people who read Noozhawk this past week. If you value our unmatched breaking news and in-depth reporting on the issues that you care about, please support our experienced staff of professional journalists and help us continue to provide a vital forum for the community.

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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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