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Sunday, March 24 , 2019, 11:42 pm | Fair 51º


From Our Inbox: Letters to the Editor for Week Ending May 18, 2018

In addition to the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital article on emergency preparedness during the Jan. 9 Montecito flash flooding and mud flows, and if you have not already covered it, there was a spontaneous triage center at All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church by doctors who tried but could not make it to Cottage Hospital.

Drs. Eddie Cotner, Jeff Fried, Mike Richardson and his ER wife, and Mara Sweeney, to name a few, just started to work!

Julie Taguchi M.D.
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

Thank you for Noozhawk!

Good news after my last letter to the editor! Work has begun on our street, East Valley Lane off East Valley Road in the heart of badly damaged Montecito.

The Ennisbrook Owners Association has finally accepted that our house is, in fact, part of Ennisbrook. They forgot for more than 100 days. Despite paying dues for more than 20 years; they just forgot.

The homeowners received a letter spelling out the ownership by Ennisbrook of our street and the nature preserve. They denied it publicly for months. Even in front of the annual meeting for all the members. I was there. They denied ownership, and said that “the Land Trust told them not to touch it.” Chet Work, executive director of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, said that was absolutely untrue to me personally.

Work has begun to remove the mud and dirt in front of our house in the aftermath of the Jan. 9 flash flooding and debris flows. We are due to move in June 6.

The concept of neighborhood is nonexistent on our street. Despite being a part of this lovely Ennisbrook community, not one phone call, note nor email has been received since Jan. 9 from the homeowners association. “How are you? Can we help you? Are you alive?” Nothing. It is truly shocking to me — 20 years as part of that community.

On a lighter note:

I call our lane: “Dumpster Drive”
Dumpsters are a good sign — that means debris is on the way out.
I talk to all the oak trees down by our house. I love them all ... and know them all.
I am so grateful to the Bucket Brigade. They are angels.

Penelope Bianchi

                                                                 •        •        •

As three area oil companies prepare to submit their plans to upgrade oil production in the East Cat Canyon oilfield, a growing chorus of familiar voices has appeared in local media with dire predictions of future disasters should those projects gain approval.

One writer, a principal architect of the failed Measure P anti-oil campaign, wrote to warn of impending impacts on water, air and roads. Another writer, a consistent supporter of nuclear power, wrote to warn of climate change and recommended a “switch to a strong, carbon-free energy source.”

One cold-hearted writer even chose to disparage the generous support of many local nonprofit organizations by the petroleum industry as somehow tainted. Perhaps the writers have forgotten the fact that those same arguments were promoted to Santa Barbara County voters in 2014 and were overwhelmingly rejected.

The real facts are simple. Oil production has been conducted in this area for well over 100 years, with East Cat Canyon production nearing the century mark. The many disasters predicted by the naysayers have simply not materialized, even considering the fact older production methods were not nearly as sophisticated as those used today, which are the most closely monitored and controlled in the world.

Another fact is that California’s energy-thirsty economy consumes more than 50 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel each day. California production satisfies about one-third of the state’s petroleum needs, with the remaining two-thirds most often coming from crude oil delivered by oceangoing tankers from Alaska or distant countries, some of which support regimes hostile to the United States.

In 2017, California also received 1.8 million barrels of Canadian crude, mostly via oil trains. Every barrel of oil produced by these proposed projects will reduce the need for foreign payments as well as reducing the need for oil tanker and oil train traffic.

The choice is clear, then — approve these valuable projects thatwill use time-proven safe production methods to support our local economy, jobs and families, and will produce badly needed tax revenue for our cash-strapped county.

The alternative is to deny the projects, lose well-paying jobs and local revenue, continue to support questionable foreign governments, and contribute to increased tanker and oil train traffic.

Roy Reed
Santa Maria

                                                                 •        •        •

Without a doubt, Michael Vidal is the most qualified person running for Santa Barbara City Council in the June 5 special election for the 3rd District. Michael has 20 years of leadership and financial experience, as volunteer and board member of local nonprofit organizations in the community, is a financial planner and a successful businessman.

He has done it all and would be an outstanding councilmember for Westside residents and be an asset on the City Council.

Michael has a keen mind, is a problem solver and a leader in every sense of the word. He is also an independent thinker and will not be beholden to special interest groups, politicians or PACs, unlike Oscar Gutierrez, who has received 73 percent ($12,500) of his campaign contributions to date from these groups.

We need Michael. The city of Santa Barbara needs Michael. To win, Michael needs your vote on June 5.

Vote for Michael Vidal.

Lucy Hayden-Gutierrez
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

There is a special election on June 5 to fill the Santa Barbara City Council’s 3rd District seat left vacant by Cathy Murillo when she was elected mayor. There are four candidates vying for the seat, but only two viable candidates.

One candidate has a campaign based solely on being “Born and Raised” in Santa Barbara. He has no other qualifications to speak of, and no skills that will help him govern a city with a $350 million budget. He is being supported by Murillo, who will do anything to get him elected, even giving him a $5,000 campaign contribution, which is unheard of.

Murillo is desperate to get this candidate elected. Getting him elected would mean that her agenda, which is promoted by developers and special interest groups, has the last vote needed to permit unaffordable high-density housing downtown without parking spaces, which would cause traffic and parking nightmares. It is a plan that is good for developers and property owners, but bad for residents.

The other candidate, Michael Vidal, is a financial planner, has 20-plus years of experience in leadership and nonprofit community-based volunteer work and runs his own business. His is a grassroots campaign focused on fighting for a better way to plan for the future, affordable housing, to improve infrastructure on the Westside, and to preserve the things we love about Santa Barbara, not destroy them.

This is an important election. If you live in the 3rd District, you need to make it a point to vote. It is the only way we can elect an independent voice who will fight for us.

Dana Johnson
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

The special election to fill Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo’s 3rd District seat on the City Council has the ability to Manhattanize Santa Barbara by zoning the downtown for high-density residential housing.

The plan, now championed by Murillo’s faction on the City Council, calls for 2,500 Average Unit-size Density (AUD) units in buildings that are five stories or taller while planning to use our public parking structures to satisfy the parking demand for these residential units. No parking will be required or provided.

This plan is outrageous and will simply create more housing our residents and workforce cannot afford while it props up the over-inflated property values downtown, where vacancies are increasing at the same time rents are rising and well above market rate already.

To accomplish Murillo’s plan to gentrify and redevelop downtown, a single vote on the City Council is needed. Oscar Gutierrez, if elected, will hand that vote to Murillo because he will be indebted to her.

Murillo will be solely responsible for getting him elected. She lobbied the Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County for him, locking out other more competent candidates; has given speeches at what were supposed to be candidate-only interviews; written a $5,000 check to his campaign; and is now walking the precincts for him. It is almost as if she is running for City Council and not him.

If voters want to elect a leader who understands economics and who will fight to create housing policies that will ensure that affordable housing is built and prioritized, there is only one choice. That choice is Michael Vidal.

Michael Vidal has the experience the city needs to make decisions that will benefit residents, not push them out. By choosing Michael Vidal on June 5, voters will get an independent thinker who will put their needs over investors, and give all residents a voice and a seat at the table.

Jose Arturo Gallegos
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

Over the last two months, Santa Barbara voters and residents have had the opportunity to observe and evaluate the perspectives and agendas of the four candidates running in the special election for the 3rd District seat on the City Council. Their experience, understanding, or lack of understanding, of the city, its needs and the needs of the residents has become clear to me.

Only two of the four candidates can win this race, and there is only one candidate who can serve the needs of both the Westside and the city.

One candidate, with little to recommend him, is out of touch with what residents need and will bring massive unaffordable housing projects downtown without parking, which will cause traffic and parking nightmares.

Another candidate, who has a keen intellect and an extraordinarily strong financial background, will ensure that the city puts residents and common sense first. This is the only candidate who will prioritize affordability and livability over the desires of out-of-town investors that seek to destroy the community in an effort to maximize their profits.

Oscar Gutierrez, who became a Democrat earlier this year, was endorsed at the behest of Mayor Cathy Murillo who lobbied the Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County for his endorsement over more qualified lifelong Democrats. He is a cameraman, with no training or experience applicable to govern as a city councilman and competently serve the 3rd District.

Gutierrez has already demonstrated that he is a poor choice and will harm low-income residents economically, not help them. For instance, at a recent forum, he was asked what the city could do to increase revenues and boost the economy. He proposed what would in essence be a “tax” on anyone who owns a car and parks it on the street.

To increase city revenues and “solve” the city’s parking problems, Gutierrez would impose that the city move to annual residential parking permits that residents must purchase. He also proposed installing metered parking all over town. Both, he claims, would be revenue generators and boost the economy.

Residents don’t need another “tax” when they face ever-rising rents while their incomes are stagnant.

In contrast, Michael Vidal has based his campaign on the skills and training he accumulated over the course of 20-plus years, not on his place of birth. He has a business and economics degree from UC Santa Barbara, is a certified financial adviser, completely understands economics, and has a deep understanding of what it takes to make sound financial decisions.

Vidal has dedicated more than 20 years of his life to volunteering in our community, and has chosen to serve underserved residents in a variety of nonprofit organizations for decades. His financial acumen has led him to volunteer on a board that manages $3 billion in pension funds for 10,000 recipients who trust him to make sound decisions.

Vidal understands the need for affordable housing, the hard decisions that it will take to get it, and the financial burdens hard-working residents already have. He also understands that the city’s policies and goals are not in line and that to build housing — that is truly affordable for workers and residents — it will take much more effort and thought than has been done and is currently proposed.

Sound, evidence-based decisions are needed. Vidal is ready to demand this, rather than continuing to make unsound and reactionary decisions based on the fantasies of architects who simply want to redesign Santa Barbara for profit.

My hope is that voters base their vote on June 5 on not where a candidate was born but on the very real experience, training and leadership skills they have. One candidate has shown that he can do the job. The other has shown he cannot. Michael Vidal is the right choice.

Sylvia Torres
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

There are two candidates running for Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller and I have supervised both the candidates. After six years working in the office, one candidate left to become the county’s Chief Investment Officer. That position is much more suited to her background and her degree in Finance.

When she worked with me, the entire executive staff encouraged her to get an education in accounting/auditing and work toward becoming a Certified Public Accountant. She decided to get into Treasury Finance for more money and now tries to convince the voters she is qualified to be the next Auditor-Controller.

You have to ask the question: How does investing more than $1 billion and getting a money market return of 1 percent qualify you to be chief accounting officer and chief audit executive of the county: The answer is simple: It does not.

The job requirements of Auditor-Controller are to be a Certified Public Accountant (licensed), a Certified Internal Auditor (requires actual audit experience), have a degree in Accounting or be the Assistant Auditor-Controller. These qualifications are intended to ensure someone taking this highly technical job is qualified to be the chief accounting officer and chief audit executive.

Only the current Assistant Auditor, Betsy Schaffer, meets these qualifications. It is important because to earn a Certified Public Accounting license requires that an individual is not only highly competent in accounting, but also independent, objective and ethical in carrying out the duties of the office.

The other candidate, Jennifer Christensen, claims she is not a politician, but she is doing what politicians do. First, she makes false and accusatory claims about her opponent. Then she misleads voters that she is qualified to run for this office. How could she be the chief audit executive of the County when she has never conducted, led or participated in any audit of any kind?

Betsy Schaffer’s CPA license includes the attestation certification, which means she can perform and lead audits and that she has met the experience requirements and passed the ethics examination required of this rigorous discipline. Christensen cannot say the same.

On June 5, vote Betsy Schaffer CPA for county Auditor-Controller.

Theo Fallati
Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

Lynn Hogan, a Santa Barbara County employee since 1988, has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $2 million. Over the past nine years, she apparently outsmarted the Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller’s Office. Its lax internal controls, antiquated financial system, and incompetence led to theft that went on for nearly a decade.

Luckily for taxpayers, a newly hired front-line employee from the tax collector’s office immediately noticed irregularities and reported them to a supervisor.

Since the theft was discovered, the current Auditor-Controller and Betsy Schaffer, the Assistant Auditor-Controller, have not made any significant changes. The county remains at risk.

On June 5, voters will have an opportunity to elect a new Auditor-Controller. I ask that you vote for Jennifer Christensen. Jennifer currently serves as the county’s Chief Investment Officer. She manages a $1.6 billion portfolio for the county, public schools and special districts.

I’ve worked with Jennifer for many years, and I can assure you that she is not only highly qualified for the job, but her honesty, integrity, commitment to her job and commitment to our community is unmatched. Jennifer will safeguard taxpayer money.

As a concerned taxpayer, I urge you to vote for Jennifer Christensen on June 5.

Hector S. Navarro

                                                                 •        •        •

The news release, “Crowd of Mayors Backs Independent Jennifer Christensen for Auditor-Controller,” looked like a regular news piece until I went back to the top and read it was written by Jennifer Christensen!

Isn’t that misleading and free advertising? If you are endorsing, say so, but to have it presented in this manner along with all the other local news, didn’t feel right to me.

Christine Ryerson
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

Jennifer Christensen is Santa Barbara County’s Chief Investment Officer and an experienced financial professional. It is no secret that Santa Barbara County is heading into some serious financial budget and fiscal issues. We need an experienced and well qualified individual as our Auditor-Controller.

That is why a number of past and current local mayors and county Treasurer Harry Hagen are supporting Jennifer Christensen. That is why I have voted for her. I urge you to do the same.

Stephen Pepe
Clos Pepe Vineyards LLC

                                                                 •        •        •

Betsy Schaffer is the best choice for Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller.

My name is Jim McClure, and I spent almost 30 years in the Navy as a Supply Corps officer and have an MBA from Stanford University. After retiring as a captain in the Navy, I began a second 20-year career in county government, first as a division chief in the Auditor-Controller Department, then moved on to budget director in the County Executive Officer office and then became assistant to the elected Clerk-Recorder-Assessor.

I brought to Bob Geis, the County Auditor who first hired me, the Deming management concepts I was introduced to as commanding officer of the Naval Supply Center Hawaii. Geis and many others in the Auditor-Controller’s Office adopted those management philosophies and it led to a modernization of the Auditor-Controller’s Office, a new financial system and a performance-based budget.

Betsy is a well-trained in Deming management and a diligent, professionally licensed Certified Public Accountant. She is also a brilliant analyst of how to improve processes and performance. She is a good leader of people, a key to managing 50 staff positions.

A couple of things unique about the Auditor-Controller’s Office is that it serves many agencies, like schools, cities, special districts and the county. It is a complex job and requires that you have a very strong theoretical background in accounting and auditing. It also helps that Betsy is a budget expert and a systems expert.

Betsy Schaffer is, by far, the most qualified candidate to oversee and manage the highly technical work of the Auditor-Controller’s Office. Please join me on June 5 in voting for her as the next Auditor-Controller.

Jim McClure
Retired Santa Barbara County Executive
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

I was a member of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department for more than 33 years. I worked under five sheriffs and in the capacity of an executive for three of them. I held every rank in the department and worked my way up to Undersheriff. The only rank I did not hold was the most difficult and complex rank of Sheriff.

Bill Brown took office in 2007. He was an experienced and tested law enforcement leader with command experience from the Inglewood Police Department and chief-level experience from the Moscow (Idaho) Police Department.

I first got to know him while he served as Lompoc’s police chief for 11 years. I found him to be bright, forward thinking and collaborative. Bill is a former president of the California Police Chiefs Association and is now the immediate past president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association. He is the only individual in the history of California to have held both esteemed offices. It is no surprise that the top cops in the state chose him to lead and represent them.

Sheriff Brown was instrumental in securing a new jail in the North County. The project has added hundreds of construction jobs in the county. The completed facility will enhance the safety of inmates and staff and to the citizens of the county.

Although Sheriff Brown was passionate about the need for a new jail, he was just as passionate about the need to keep individuals out of jail. He was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Prison Re-Entry Project that successfully impacted recidivism and kept former prisoners from reoffending. He also was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to sit on the state Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission. He embraces the fact that there is more to public safety than just locking people up.

I became extremely close to Sheriff Bill Brown as I served as his Undersheriff, and I still keep in close contact with him. He has navigated the department through the toughest times during the Recession.

Under his leadership, I have watched the men and women of the department respond to major events, serious crimes, fires and floods with dedication and professionalism. I have also seen him interact with public safety professionals, community groups and community members as well as other elected and appointed government officials in the most positive and collaborative manner.

Being Sheriff is not easy. Unless you’ve worked in the office, there is no way to understand the pressures and complexities of the job. Sheriff Bill Brown is an experienced and tested leader who has been recognized locally and statewide.

He is the obvious choice to lead the Sheriff’s Department and provide the highest quality of public safety services to the citizens of Santa Barbara County for the next four years.

Ken Shemwell
Former Undersheriff
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

The independent Santa Barbara County Grand Jury has issued a scathing report on Sheriff Bill Brown’s stewardship of the Sheriff’s Department’s human resources, specifically criticizing his mandatory overtime policies and his inattention to recruiting.

The grand jury report points to serious deficiencies in his leadership, but there are a lot of other warning flags, too. His North County Jail will quickly become a costly boondoggle for taxpayers as it eats up more and more of the county budget, he frequently disregards the recommendations of his commanders, his lack of transparency should be alarming to citizens, and he does not appear to have much credibility with those who serve under him, as evidenced in the overwhelming Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association endorsement of Lt. Brian Olmstead.

To that I would add serious questions about Sheriff Brown’s decision making during the recent disaster events, both before and after the Thomas Fire and the Montecito mud flows. That should be the next investigation for the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury to investigate.

It’s time for a change. Please vote for Lt. Brian Olmstead for Sheriff on June 5.

Frank Cairns
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

I do not normally get “publicly involved” in politics, but the upcoming election for Sheriff is too important to ignore. As a 50-plus-year resident of Montecito and a longtime observer of local politics, I cannot fathom why anyone would think it’s time to try to replace Sheriff Bill Brown with a much less experienced deputy.

How do you argue with PHENOMENAL SUCCESS? Bill steered Santa Barbara County through one of the biggest crises in its history, during the December wildfire and the January debris flows. He has incredible experience and was recognized by experts for his leadership and control of an almost impossible string of disasters.

He demonstrated the skills and caring that he has shown for many years as a member of the Board of Directors for the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation, as well as being involved in many other community organizations. Bill has always been an advocate of the homeless, lost veterans, the mentally ill and other minorities. He has, at the same time, managed to represent the needs of a large and very diverse county.

We all deserve to have the best Sheriff possible for our communities, and Bill Brown is most certainly that! Vote for Bill Brown on June 5 and end this costly ego contest backed by bored and restless union members.

John W. Blankenship

                                                                 •        •        •

The June 5 primary is right around the corner, and it is important people understand that Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, hasn’t been good for the Central Coast.

I believe that Carbajal has been ineffective and failed to deliver on his campaign promises. Prior to his election, he claimed to be a proponent of DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals), and a champion of the Dreamers. His vote for H.R. 195, which did not extend DACA, suggests otherwise.

If Carbajal really cared about his constituency, he would fight for the programs, and the people he promised to fight for rather than fold to appease his political allies. He votes with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democrat Elites more than 90 percent of the time, even when those votes come at the expense of his constituents.

Carbajal has become nothing more than a puppet for the Democratic Party in Washington. He votes for the money he pockets from Big Oil companies, and votes to please his superiors in Congress. He does not vote for the Central Coast, therefore we must not re-elect him.

Robert Mercado
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

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