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From Our Inbox: Letters to the Editor for Week Ending May 25, 2018

Reservoir Canyon Trail Click to view larger
The views are sweeping from the Reservoir Canyon Trail near the Cuesta Grade north of San Luis Obispo. This photo was taken May 20. (Joe Giral photo)

I love Santa Barbara. I’ve lived there in the past but now live closer to San Luis Obispo.

After reading Noozhawk’s May 20 story, “Ray Ford: Pressure Builds to Reopen Some Popular Trails in Thomas Fire Burn Area,” it occurred to me to share that we have a lot of trails up here in San Luis Obispo County.

AllTrails lists 31 trails in this vicinity, ranging from easy to moderate with one or two “hard” designations.

So, as a reminder to the hike-frustrated, come on up! The wildflowers are still in bloom in some places and the number of fellow hikers is at a minimum during the week. We’re about an hour and 40 minutes’ drive to this hiking “cluster” of respite from the terrible burned and flooded areas on Santa Barbara County’s South Coast.

Joe Giral
San Luis Obispo

                                                                 •        •        •

As a very interested follower of the Julia Di Sieno trial, I find it curious that Noozhawk’s reporter, North County editor Janene Scully, reports in detail about ALL of the witnesses testifying AGAINST Di Sieno on May 23 and 24, but only reports about one of the three witnesses testifying FOR her on May 24. Seems a bit biased.

I live right in the middle of all of the players, and accordingly have a pretty good view of what transpires. Your reporting, in my opinion, does not accurately reflect this.

Phil Unander
Solvang

                                                                 •        •        •

During election time many people focus more on elections to the Senate or the House of Representatives and tend to forget about local elections or don’t pay enough attention to local elections.

As a first time voter at 18, I realize that even though elections to Congress are important, local elections are just as important if not more so. Local government provides many of the services that affect everyone’s daily life, such as public schools, the quality of our streets, the quality of our parks, the funding to our law enforcement, and many other programs.

With local government affecting our daily lives more than the federal government, I have looked into many candidates running for local office and have decided that Jennifer Christensen is the best candidate for the very important office of Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller.

Auditor is one of the most important offices in county government. The office of Auditor-Controller is in charge of the finances for the entire county. The Auditor is in charge of the budget, decides how much money each department gets, and decides how much money government programs get. With all these responsibilities that the Auditor has, I think that Christensen is the best candidate for this office.

Christensen is more than qualified to be Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller. Having worked in county finance and the Auditor’s office, she knows how to responsibly manage the finances and money for the county. Currently managing a $1.6 billion portfolio for county schools and special districts, she knows how to responsibly fund needed programs.

The other major reason I support Christensen is that she is not a politician and can see the changes that need to come to the Auditor-Controller’s office. She will choose to spend our tax dollars responsibly and clean up the Auditor-Controller’s office.

Being a first time voter, I am proud to support Jennifer Christensen because she will make Santa Barbara County a wonderful place, and will truly work for the citizens of this county.

Leyton Blackwell
Santa Maria

                                                                 •        •        •

Thanks for the laugh from Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller Theo Fallati’s May 18 endorsement of Betsy Schaffer as Auditor-Controller. Of course he wants his assistant to succeed him since they’re both part of a nepotistic little cabal that has been running — ruining? — the county’s finances for years! Noozhawk won’t report on this ethical scandal, but other newspapers have.

It’s time to clean house in the office of Auditor-Controller. It’s time for an outsider, not another insider. Vote for Jennifer Christensen on June 5.

Jay Fisher
Santa Barbara

                                                                 •        •        •

A recent incident in Los Angeles caught my attention and has really troubled me. A high school teacher was fired for his reaction and rant to a student wearing a shirt that had the word Marines on it. His diatribe on the status of anyone in the military called them the “lowest of the low” and “only the dumb and stupid people are members of the military. They are not high level thinkers, they are not academic people” to quote his exact words.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated rant that was solely his alone. I’ve experienced that undertone for quite some time as many of the ROTC units are shut down in California’s public schools. Santa Barbara High School closed the program down a number of years ago.

Many of the veterans who used to speak in public schools have been told not to show up anymore. Military recruiters are no longer allowed on school campuses.

These anti-military undertones are alarming and troubling for the future of the United States. One has to question whether our future defenders will come from only the red states like Kentucky, Tennessee and other more conservative parts of America.

I grew up in San Diego where everyone was related or part of the bases that exist there. Later, I was in my junior year at UC Santa Barbara in 1963 when I received my draft notice, which said: “upon graduation you will report.”

I had been in mandatory ROTC in 1960-1961 and had filled that requirement. I did not enjoy the marching and drills, and resented the intrusion into my valuable surfing time. But all of us were there together and understood something of the importance of the training.

By 1965, I graduated and joined up for naval flight school in Pensacola, Fla., spending the next five years training and flying for the Navy in Vietnam. Those five years were to shape and impact my life far beyond what I had expected. The men I served with were a great cross section of America. There were so many fine intelligent and more talented, dedicated and brighter men than myself.

That experience was to lead me, many years later after family and career, to being a part of our local veterans community. The ensuing interaction with veterans of all services and conflicts since World War II has been enjoyable and enlightening.

Military service is not for everyone, but those who do serve should be respected and not shunned. The fabric of our society includes academics, clerics, artists and many other categories, even warriors. The combination is what America is all about and has made this nation like no other.

Our history is unmatched from its birth to the present day. During all these years, our country has been blessed with leaders who were from every walk of life. George Washington was our first incredible president, and he was a general who had been a warrior nearly his entire life. Among the other veterans who occupied this great office were Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, U.S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush — all of the same mold.

All of the above leads me to May 28, Memorial Day, and the ceremonies that honor our fallen. This one day of remembrance is like no other and, hopefully, people will take time to attend. It’s free and lasts only an hour. The Santa Barbara Cemetery is a breathtaking setting and, combined with the Santa Barbara Choral Society’s 60-plus singers, the vintage military vehicles, the many uniforms and the American flags, the event is truly beautiful and memorable. The pomp and circumstance with bagpipes, bugles and a resplendent Color Guard create an atmosphere rich in patriotism, honor and remembrance.

We need to remind ourselves of our history, heritage and price that hundreds of thousands of men and women have paid for our freedom.

In conclusion, we must remember President Calvin Coolidge’s famous quote, “A nation that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.” Memorial Day commemorations are at 9 a.m. Monday at the Goleta Cemetery, 44 S. San Antonio Road, and at 10 a.m. Monday at the Carpinteria Cemetery, 1501 Cravens Lane, and the Santa Barbara Cemetery, 901 Channel Drive.

John W. Blankenship
Co-founding director, Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation
Retired lieutenant, U.S. Navy
Montecito

                                                                 •        •        •

About a year and a half ago, a group of 10 parents and grandparents from the Hope Elementary School District gathered together in an effort to help their then-struggling local schools (Hope, Monte Vista and Vieja Valley).

After unexpected expenses and accounting discrepancies hit the schools’ budgets, the district was forced to lay off teachers and other support staff, increase class sizes and reduce student services. Grounds and maintenance crews were almost discontinued, the budget for supplies was frozen, and even librarians and health clerks, whose hours were significantly cut, came close to being eliminated.

Sadly, with California being in the bottom 10 states for education spending, these types of cuts were not unheard of.

Inspired by a new superintendent and a committed and passionate school board, this group of parents and grandparents — “Friends of Hope” as they came to be known — mobilized. They met with district leadership, as well as the Hope School District Educational Foundation, and learned that a multipronged approach is what would restore the deep cuts that had been made.

The budget needed to be rebalanced, the foundation needed to increase fundraising efforts and secure local educational grants, and Friends of Hope could work on community support in the form of a parcel tax. Without any background or training, this group of concerned citizens began researching the requirements and costs to get on the ballot. They engaged a consulting firm to run a feasibility study. They spoke to the school board and recommended that the district pursue a ballot measure, including the exact dollar amount and term that would most likely be successful.

Once on the ballot, Friends of Hope began planning the campaign. They reached out to a local campaign manager for advice and learned that a door-to-door voter education program is what would give them the best chance for success. Faced with more than 3,000 likely voters in the Hope District, Friends of Hope enlisted the help of 35-plus parent volunteers who spent hundreds of hours between the end of March and the beginning of May knocking on doors, answering questions, tabling, passing out fliers, fundraising and making phone calls. They reached out to local politicians and secured the endorsement of 11 elected officials and other prominent members of the community and the Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County organizing committee. They designed lawn signs and mailers, a website, messages to school parents and social media posts — all in the effort to get the word out and convince voters of the benefits of supporting their school district.

It is worth noting that when most school districts pursue parcel taxes or bond measures, they enlist the services of a professional campaign consulting company, costing upward of $50,000. Add to that the fees required to place a measure on the ballot, and the costs can quickly grow to six figures.

Thanks to the fundraising and volunteer efforts of Friends of Hope and the Hope District foundation, Measure S will not cost the district a dime, and the overall costs of the campaign and ballot fees are still well below what is often paid just to a consulting firm. This speaks to the true power of a committed group of citizens and their grassroots organizing.

On June 5, Friends of Hope will find out if their efforts have been successful. But passing Measure S is just one benchmark of victory. Regardless of the election outcome, the connections that have been built, the energy that has been generated for community outreach, and the bonds that have been solidified between families at the three schools will keep this district going.

The Measure S slogan has been “Great Schools = Great Neighborhoods,” which is true when you consider the impact high-quality schools have on property values, community safety and our future, but this campaign has also proven that great neighbors are equally responsible for great schools!

Suzanne Perkin
Santa Barbara

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Just read Ron Fink’s May 22 column about the California Energy Commission forcing solar electric installations on new construction and increasing housing costs. I completely agree with his opinions about the elite trying to “improve” our lives. The cost of housing is so expensive due to many factors.

He is incorrect about ONE important fact, however: “Solar systems have a shelf life and must be replaced every few years.”

That is not true at all. I have had a substantial solar electric system for 11 years at my home. Best money I ever spent.

These systems are warranted and guaranteed to last 25 years or more. Fink writes with sincerity and veracity, so unfortunately, people will read the article and believe him and be discouraged from buying a solar electric system, thinking that they will have to replace it in a few years.

Mandating a solar electric component on new construction is directly beneficial to the homeowner.

I couldn’t be happier with my system. It is hooked up to the Southern California Edison grid. I do not store the electricity in batteries. My solar panels feed into the system through the electric power pole during the day and draw from the grid at night.

It’s allowed me to economize and reduce my living costs. I’ve put in electrical heat instead of gas-powered heat. I don’t worry about having too many lights on. My place is up in the hills and we had to put in a well when we were building it 26 years ago. My well-pump is on a separate meter. I pay a $25 per month transmission fee. That’s it.

The solar provides all the power. Does it pay? I will be happy to send you copies of my bills. They have a minus sign in front of the $ and an accumulated credit year-around. It’s like buying a bond that returns more interest each year. Unfortunately, most people can’t afford to buy bonds.

It seems that solar electric does benefit the wealthy, at least for now. Isn’t that the history of civilization? Who could afford a computer 30 years ago? Who could afford a car in 1910? Who could afford to buy an airline ticket in 1950? Who could afford a cellphone in 1985?

Eventually, the masses catch up. Now, even the homeless have smart cellphones. And, I’m saving postage and paper right now.

By the way, I am not now and never have been in the solar business at all, nor do I have any investments in solar companies. I speak only from direct experience.

Seymour Fletcher
Goleta

                                                                 •        •        •

The Coalition of Youth Advocates (COYA) is an action-driven alliance of teens, increasing awareness of the health risks of tobacco and encouraging prevention policy change in Santa Barbara County. COYA wants to publically express our opinion on the pertinent issue of electronic smoking devices, such as JUUL, that are negatively infiltrating popular youth culture.

The JUUL product has a sleek design and resembles a USB flash-drive, making it easy for youth to discretely vape the nicotine-laced juice. COYA feels the JUUL product is a social justice issue because of the way Pax Labs, the manufacturer of JUUL, is capitalizing on the vulnerability of youth through strategic marketing and the use of youth-appealing flavors, such as fruit medley.

Ultimately, the use of flavors and products like JUUL are indicative of the tobacco industry’s attempt to renormalize smoking among youth and gradually introduce them to regular smoking and/or dual use. This is an alarming trend. Click here to read more about flavored tobacco.

Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that these products are safe. However, the use of salt-based nicotine in these products makes them highly addictive and dangerous. In fact, 10 puffs on a JUUL is equivalent to one traditional cigarette’s worth of nicotine. Many youth do not realize that this habit is as addictive as it is.

We at COYA are dedicated to this issue. We are urging our peers, parents, teachers and politicians to educate themselves and take all possible steps to protect our youth from these products.

Coalition of Youth Advocates
Santa Barbara

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