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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.

                                                                  •        •        •

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.

                                                                  •        •        •

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» on 11.23.12 @ 10:32 PM

As Davy Crockett said, “ may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”  This was after his final defeat in an election.

» on 11.24.12 @ 11:46 AM

Excellent points. Too bad nobody cares. When you’re “represented” by Lois Capps, Hannah-Beth Jackson, Das Williams, Janet Wolf and Helene Schneider — all charter members of the Clueless Cabal — it’s time to start packing the U-Haul.

» on 11.24.12 @ 12:24 PM

yes, I’d agree with PGL. How do these people keep getting elected? And how did we get so far away from common-sense ethical people like Reagan? Really you guys? You voted for Das again??? He’s such a poser, a career politician who wouldn’t know what else to do, besides being a community organizer, if he didn’t get elected. Oh, but we tend to think community organizing is a good prerequisite for being president, so I guess that’s where Das is headed. I’m a third generation Californian and I love the place. But being self-employed, we may have to move elsewhere if the opportunity presents itself.

» on 11.24.12 @ 01:46 PM

Newsom had to go to Texas to figure out how to attract business? Good God, what an absolute oaf! Look at SF; look at the exponentially expanding regulatory environment and the highest damned taxes in the country. Maybe this twit has spent too much time in his ludicrous city and that is the problem.

All Texans are doing is trying to keep what made the country great to begin with. Read Andy Caldwell’s piece in the News Press yesterday, that about sums up where we are going wrong.

No one questions the need to preserve our state’s beauty and to protect environmental resources. But we have gone so far with this that we are now hostile to our own species. We made environmentalism the best example and the most comfortable religion for misanthropy ever known.

Those who preach balance, compromise and unity ought to try and practice what they preach.

» on 11.24.12 @ 02:40 PM

1,000% right on!  Way to go Bill there are a lot of us that believe as you do.  My wife is a native and I have been here 42 years.  When I came California was first in almost everything.

CA has what it takes to become first again BUT we need new leadership at all levels that understand what it takes to run a business for profit.

» on 11.24.12 @ 04:34 PM

Great item on California.  Since 2010 the Democrats owned the Legislature and Governor, now they own a Super Majority.  The spending goes up over 40% and the business killing regulations and taxes kept right on going.

They have 2 years of total control until the next election. 

This comment is aimed right at anyone who voted Democrat or refused to vote Republican:  You have total control and if by 2014 the spending has not gone down, the business and intellectual drain not stopped then it is time you quit the political field since you will have had 4 years.  You will have no excuses and own 100% responsibility for conditions in the State.

(Sitting back, retrenching all financial projections, grabbing a cool drink and waiting to see if the opposition has any ethics ~ not holding my breath by the way)

» on 11.24.12 @ 05:38 PM

I am proud to be second generation Scottish immigrant, first generation Italian immigrant, and native Santa Barbaran. I also lived in Texas for a couple of years when I struck out on my own after graduating high school in the Inland Empire. And, I agree with Bill MacFaydyen on his and Noozhawk’s support for private-public partnerships to bring thriving, job-producing businesses to SB. I disagree with the rest. California will always attract residents and businesses because of its many unique and attractive resources features. Blaming the Democratic-heavy legislature for California’s economic woes while ignoring the business-friendly governors in charge the past decades is selective blame-throwing. In reality, both have been captured by business, with their $millions in lobbying budgets. And remember, it is Prop 13 and its anti-democratic super-majority requirements that have allowed a minority of conservative and right-wing exremists to block much progressive legislation and resource allocation that could have solved many of our most pressing environmental and social problems. Thank god for an occasional environmentally responsible law like AB 32. We akk breath the same air here. In my view, business needs to be more vigorously regulated, not less. It is huge energy companies, industry front groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and ALEC, big insurance, and others that are wrecking the environment, blocking the development of alternative energy and energy-efficient and clean modes of transportation, blocking real health care reform, like SB 810 and 840 - universal health care - that could save the state $billions in publicly-financed emergency care, and help avoid thousands of deaths and bankruptcies due to lack of health insurance in Calif. every year. We should look for savings in government spending by ending the absurdly wasteful war on drugs, by ending endless tax loopholes and subsidies to the energy industry and other industries, like mega agri-business, that do not warrant publicly-financed corporate welfare.

» on 11.24.12 @ 07:00 PM

Don’t forget the low achieving Ca. public schools and the very dysfunctional educational bureaucracy running the entire system. Also, Ca. can take pride in having one of the most powerful and militant teacher unions in the country. They have never failed to take the opportunity to thwart any of the sensible school reforms that have been suggested over the years by many educational scholars.

» on 11.25.12 @ 01:25 PM

Johndog gets it correct.  Austerity measures, as asserted by the conservative klan, in a time of climbing out of recession makes the hole deeper.  Increased taxing and spending by any government agency in order to prime the growth pump is required.  You have to look through the lens of the larger economic picture versus how painful you see your own tax increase.  However, a legitimate gripe would be that taxes, other than a progressive income tax, should go down when prosperity returns. 

I find humor in the idea that our best talent is moving to Texas where they are considering secession.  Build a fence around TexaHoma and don’t let anyone OUT.

» on 11.25.12 @ 03:05 PM

Chuckle ... as predicted the excuses start before the ink is dry. 

721 days to go.  Tomorrow it will be 720 days…..and counting.

» on 11.25.12 @ 03:58 PM

I meant we all breathe the same air. John Douglas

» on 11.25.12 @ 06:41 PM

I also go to Texas occasionally for business.

While some of what Mr. McFadyen says may be true, it’s also a very rose-colored glasses, grass is always greener over the mountain perspective.

Take Austin, the place the Silicon Valley couple were moving to, for instance.

The two biggest employers are ... government. It’s the state capitol, and the home of the University of Texas. They and there vendors are larger than the next seven biggest employers, combined.

There’s also a price to pay for super-low taxes. Super crummy services, on a level so lame it would be totally unacceptable here.

As distressed as our public schools are, theirs are way worse.

Plus, they’re run by a politically appointed body that censors all state textbooks to edit out any inconvenient notions. Darwin and evolution, and Einstein or the Bible? Don’t put down any money on modern, mainstream science, unless you can afford to lose it all.

Until not that long ago, you could drink, drive, speed, and carry loaded firearms,
anywhere in the state, as long as you met some (very) minimal criteria.

And if you wonder about our mess in Sacramento, you definitely do not want to
ever have to deal with anyone in the Texas legislature or governor’s office, or with law enforcement or the judiciary, for any reason, unless you are very rich,
or work for a very large, prosperous corporate employer.

Texas has the highest gun ownership rate in America. Also the highest rate of
firearms that could be traced that wind up powering Mexican drug cartels. Also
the highest rate of executions in America, and one of the higher crime rates. To
all this, add the fact that many down there indicted, tried, and convicted are later
proved innocent.

One of their largest public crime labs made news a few years back when it turned out that they often just flipped a coin, rather than actually run the legally mandated DNA tests for people.

So, yes, taxes are lower. And you get what you pay for.

» on 11.25.12 @ 08:24 PM

Publius, you couldn’t be more wrong. Every reputable study has concluded that Texas is performing much better than Ca. in almost every economic category.

Rather than cite all the data, I will quote some relevant facts considering public education in the two states.

“While California has more bureaucrats, Texas has 17 percent more teachers, with 295 education employees per 10,000 people, compared to California’s 252.

The two states’ educational outcomes reflect this disparity. If we compare national test scores in math, science, and reading for the fourth and eighth grades among four basic ethnic and racial categories — all students, whites, Hispanics, and African-Americans — Texas beats California in every category, and by a substantial margin. In fact, Texas schools perform consistently above the national average across categories of age, race, and subject matter, while California schools perform well below the national average.”

“According to a report issued earlier this year by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., Texas students “are, on average, one to two years of learning ahead of California students of the same age,” even though per-pupil expenditures on public school students are 12% higher in California.”

» on 11.26.12 @ 12:59 PM

Lefty you have it exactly ass backward. Taxes go up when we are prosperous and can afford them. It is absolutely nonsensical to raise taxes when times are bad. Sucking more capital out of the markets where it gets the best ROI and throwing it at the government where it has the worst ROI is folly. To suggest such a scenario indicates that you don’t really have a grasp on economics.

As for you on the right, we have our own version of Lefty’s problem. We continue to promote and cheer lead the worst businesses for building real intrinsic value or wealth in an economy, even to the point of calling greed, piracy, looting and pillaging of companies “capitalism”. Until we stop that madness, we will in fact drive ever more Lefty’s to the left, right along with the middle.

» on 11.27.12 @ 02:12 AM

Texas = Mississippi with better roads.

» on 11.27.12 @ 12:36 PM

Ya, Willie, that ole lefty condescension and arrogance really pays the bills.

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