Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen was exactly right in his April 17 column, “Santa Barbara County Needs an Action Plan to Reopen, and It’s Up to Us to Deliver It.” Unfortunately, I have no confidence that he or anyone else in the local business community can actually convince the powers-that-be to do anything about it.

Time after time, local elected officials pay lip service to the needs of business while simultaneously layering more and more regulations and restrictions on them — insisting all the while that there are never any negative consequences. Even in Macfadyen’s April 24 webcast interview with Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart, Hart deflected a question about suspending onerous business costs like the living wage.

It seems to me that the COVID-19 crisis brings us to a crossroads. Either the economic pain becomes so great that politicians will realize how wrong they’ve been or citizens will become so dependent on the government in the absence of an economy that there will be no going back. I’m not betting on the first option.

R. Phillips

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As our business community struggles to find a way to rise from the ashes of the coronavirus shutdown, our local planning departments must not impede that rebirthing effort.

If you have ever attempted to get a permit to build, or even improve property, from the City of Santa Barbara or Santa Barbara County, you know how time-consuming, costly, capricious, painful and even outrageous that process often is. To date, our elected officials have been complicit, or at best have turned a blind eye to the abuse meted out daily by our planning departments upon our citizenry.

If our local businesses are to survive, our elected officials must direct our paid staff to expedite and help, rather than hinder the economic awakening when businesses come in for permits or permissions of any sort.

Jeff Havlik
Santa Barbara

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I agree with Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen that we need a plan to reopen our economy, but we cannot rely on the same “experts and leaders” who shut us down in the first place.

I am concerned that the mass frustration, which is beginning to show itself in the “reopening” demonstrations around the nation, may be counter-productive. First, it could lead to more draconian reactions from mini-despots, and second, it could lead to a new spike in infections.

Common sense must prevail, not more hysteria.

John Richards
Santa Maria

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We have been sheltering in place for nearly two months now and have only ventured out a few times to pick up groceries or takeout meals. It was a terrifying experience. The cavalier attitude of some of the young people (and some of the oldsters like us) is very scary.

People running around without protection (masks, wipes, hand sanitizer) are in denial of the risks of passing along the coronavirus to people who are at higher risk. Most doctors get it, ie. the hippocratic oath, “First, do no harm.”

Rushing to reopen is premature and puts many people at risk.

Dinah and John Mason
Santa Barbara

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UC San Francisco has provided COVID-19 antibody test kits to all 58 counties in California. These are intended to be used for random testing in order to understand the true number of infections.

The time to do that is now. Unfortunately, our Santa Barbara County Public Health Department still requires a candidate to express fever, new persistent cough and shortness of breath symptoms before being tested. This must change.

Allen DeForrest
Santa Barbara

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The photo caption in the April 23 article, “Santa Barbara Sets All-Time Daily Heat Record for Second Straight Day,” sounds lovely: “Visitors soak up the sun and warm temperatures at Goleta Beach on Thursday, a day when the thermometer hit 92 degrees, a record for the date.”

Unfortunately, the caption doesn’t describe the photo at all. There are no multitudes of visitors soaking up the sun at Goleta Beach. There are only four people visible on the entire beach, and some of them are under a protective umbrella. The beach is full, but not of people. Rather, the sand is strewn with rocks, seaweed and debris from the debris-dumping that Santa Barbara County is foisting on Goleta Beach again.

I would have been swimming at Goleta Beach, along with several other swimmers, for the past three days. But instead we had to go to Leadbetter Beach in Santa Barbara. It’s lovely there but, for me, this means I could only go swimming one day, because as a Goleta resident without a car, it takes me three times as long to get to Leadbetter Beach.

But there’s no choice. Two swimmers I know caught poison oak from swimming at Goleta Beach after the dumping began. I really wish Santa Barbara County didn’t treat Goleta as a dumping ground. Goleta Beach is a gem worth preserving.

Skona Brittain

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Thank you for publishing Joshua Molina’s beautifully written, April 18 article, “Retired Teacher Elwood Schapansky Delivers Lessons from His Garage Amid Coronavirus.” His story was just what we all needed at this time; it was inspiring, comforting and chock full of life lessons.

Right now, many of us all over the world are feeling isolated, lost, helpless and consumed with self-pity, but not Dr. Schapansky. He is physically isolated, but even at 82, he hardly feels helpless, purposeless or encumbered by self-pity.

He grew up in a home where he lacked parental praise, but that didn’t stop him from being wildly successful. In fact, what he lacked in his childhood doesn’t seem to have debilitated him at all; it seems to have repeatedly inspired him.

Later in life, he became a teacher to help students feel good about themselves and to inspire them to think, not just memorize. He chose teaching to make a difference in their lives, and in the end it gives his life purpose, something he feels we must all have, something many of us are lacking, especially now.

Although he lives physically somewhat isolated, that doesn’t stop him from seeking and appreciating diversity.

Throughout his challenging life, instead of being immobilized by fear, he chose to be brave. Acting bravely in his academic pursuits, as a bush pilot, as a scientist and now as a teacher.

He also doesn’t seem to have let success go to his head; he remains both humble and human as he fires up a hot dog in seconds and then eats it on camera.

I fear our culture has become elitist as well as learned-helpless and blame-focused. If we grew up with parents who weren’t verbally supportive, or we had difficult medical challenges, or we were culturally isolated, some of us believed we were helpless in terms of making bad decisions.

Dr. Schapansky felt he grew up with nothing and, in response, he created opportunities for himself. But he didn’t stop there. He went on to create opportunities for others, something he still does today, in a garage, while social distancing in the extreme.

I can’t imagine that anyone who read Joshua’s captivating article wasn’t inspired to find a purpose, one that involves generosity and perhaps even bravery.

Joyce Dudley
Santa Barbara County District Attorney

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While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, the impacts to our school-aged children have probably been the greatest disruption. And yet it seldom gets the attention that other impacts receive.

Having served almost two decades on a local school board, I have some background on what implications the loss of months of classroom instruction will be. And though local schools are implementing remote instruction of one sort or another, only the very naïve would find this acceptable. Very few parents have the ability to home school and many don’t have the necessary technology at home for Internet instruction.

It would appear that schools will remain closed through the end of this school year in June and not reopen until the fall. I would propose that, instead, schools reopen in June and run straight through the summer, hopefully making up most of the lost time during the lockdown. I understand this would create some issues with teacher contracts, but given the enormous changes this pandemic has brought upon all of us, it would not be unreasonable to ask the teachers and administrators to forgo their summer break.

Robert Hazard

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While I appreciate Noozhawk’s dedicated local coverage and have donated to you in the past, I am deeply offended by the salacious headline of the April 21 article, “Santa Barbara Unified School District Quietly Proposes Grade Change Option for Spring Semester.” This headline is offensive and divisive at a time when we need neither of those qualities exacerbated in our already stressed community.

Promoting a narrative of secret or hidden agendas being pushed by the district makes all of our work harder. Nearly every district employee I have worked with takes their role as a public servant to heart. Our district-level and school site administrators, our teachers and our support staff work to the point of exhaustion every day trying to support students and families from all walks of life. Our current crisis is no exception.

Nellie Hill
Santa Barbara

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Hello from Sicily. We live in Santa Barbara but also have a home and business here in Italy. We have owned Gino’s Sicilian Express in downtown Santa Barbara for almost 25 years. We are thankful to all of our customers who are supporting us and allowing us to stay afloat during these tough times. We are forever in their debt, and our partner, Loren Manser, and his staff are the best you can get.

The hardest part of this is missing my four kids and five grandkids — all in Santa Barbara, but at least they have each other close by. A shout-out goes to our 22-year-old baby of the family, Isabella, a UC Santa Barbara student in her final year. We cannot be there to help her celebrate making the Dean’s List but we are very proud of her.

We are entering our sixth week of lockdown here in Sicily. It’s not so bad as we are lucky to have a lot of outdoor space. Gino and I both cook and garden so we are not short on anything and, of course, there is our wonderful Sicilian wine. Plus, five dogs and nine cats keep us busy.

Noozhawk has helped us stay connected to Santa Barbara. Thank you, and I want to send our love and best wishes to the entire community.

Connie and Ginno Milano
Pergusa, Sicily

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As a friend and supporter of birth for 50 years, and a very strong supporter of birth centers like the Santa Barbara Midwifery & Birth Center, I just want to thank Noozhawk columnist Judy Foreman for her April 19 article, “Amid COVID-19 Concerns, Midwives Offer an Alternative Birth Course.”

People need to know that they have choices even when there is no pandemic. But it’s so important now to be able to choose a safe and loving setting for birth, given the risks of entering a hospital.

From Michigan to Texas to Illinois to California I have seen every kind of birth. I’ve heard every story. I’ve witnessed incredible joy and intense pain when there is a loss of life.

About a year ago, I returned from three years of volunteering in a birth center in Rwanda. So I believe that knowledge, a peaceful and loving environment, a respect for women and their innate power, and competent professional support are the best predictors of a beautiful birth.

Foreman’s column was well done. She did a great job of presenting the facts. A few more families may know their options because of her.

Mary Jo Terrill, RN, MSW
Santa Barbara

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As we all struggle to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was startling to see Noozhawk allow Ron Fink to offer an uninformed, non sequitur opinion on our state quarantine program in his April 21 column, “COVID-19 Impact in Perspective; Is ‘The Cure Worse Than The Disease?’”

Fink has no medical bona fides, so instead he offered a facile echo of the Fox News and Rush Limbaugh line (where President Donald Trump got the phrase): “The cure is worse than the disease.” Readers have ample opportunity to hear those views everyday if they so choose. But Noozhawk is a place the community turns to for information, especially now, and so Fink’s column was in short dangerous.

The notion that this pandemic is merely in “two states” is bewildering (he means New York and New Jersey — a frequent right-wing spin code for liberal, minority, Jewish and immigrant communities). New hot spots are popping up constantly in rural and Red State communities, overwhelming hospitals and killing medical workers. The numbers are only low because we have no national testing program (no national leadership at all) and most infectious disease experts think it is far more widespread than we know. In addition, as we’re seeing in Singapore, South Korea, China and other localities, the virus is lightning fast to recycle.

Fink’s other main argument is that “lots of things kill us everyday and we don’t shut down.” This argument was recently offered on Fox by “Dr. Phil,” who opined that swimming pool drownings killed 360,000 people every year. Besides the fact that drownings number about 4,000, no one can drown by proximity. Drowning doesn’t spread on its own.

Then there is Fink’s echo of the recent reopening demonstrations that somehow his liberty is being curtailed. This is like arguing that smoking on airplanes is a freedom that airlines have taken away. Smoke drifts to other rows; this novel virus is communicable. Indeed, in its structure, it is more lethal, more infectious and more resistant to treatment than we imagined.

Opening the economy is actually the way to make what will be a couple years of economic instability much worse, as the Smithfield Foods meat processing plant in South Dakota found out when it stayed open without any modification of behavior (700 workers fell sick and the plant had to close down completely). Until there is a vaccine that is effective and offered globally, this virus will return. It will be with us in 2021 without question.

Recent studies show that while most viruses degrade as they cycle back, COVID-19 is not diminishing its impact. Imagine the virus spreading through our opened up country, through the Army, through even more hospitals, police forces, schools, restaurants, etc. after social distancing ends.

Of course, more help must be given to local economies. The Trump administration seems mostly interested in getting money to its friends in large corporations but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has done heroic work increasing help to small businesses and governments and fighting for stricter oversight.

I understand that Fink is a kind of emeritus columnist for Noozhawk and giving him space is like tolerating a cranky old uncle at a holiday table. This column was different. It is a moral hazard. Imagine during the height of the AIDS epidemic giving space to an opinion promoting the efficacy of gay conversion therapy as the best way to treat the disease. Would that really just be an opinion?

Information is a life and death matter these days. If Noozhawk wants the community to support its new digital iteration, it needs to be willing to jettison some of its amateur columnists. We need professional, informed writers now. The stakes have become too high.

Mark Rosenthal
Santa Barbara

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I could not agree more with Ron Fink’s April 21 column about the coronavirus cure being worse. It seems to me that the U.S. population has been promised perfection for so long by politicians that many now feel entitled to it. There is very little tolerance for risk.

Think about “safe zones” in colleges; think about the low tolerance bar for so many kinds of speech or behavior. An “ism” gets attached to so much and that tends to shut down the speech or the behavior.

I’m 75 years old and a 30-year cancer survivor, and trust me, denial has played a large role in my survival. Along with surgery and 56 weeks of chemotherapy, I looked to myself to do things to survive. The world seems now to look for government or a pill to save them. The risk they do take seems to be mostly when they get a reward at the other end; think smoking or drinking or drugs or, when it is necessary, think driving.

Anyway, I digress. I’d rather live a full-range life with risk than a limited-range life with all the (true) safety in the world.

Rob Salomon

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This Earth Day Week, Gov. Gavin Newsom is working to permit more dangerous, high-intensity oil drilling in Santa Barbara County. The White House is hosting oil companies to bail them out with hundreds of billions of our tax dollars. Due to the coronavirus crisis, oil is flooding the world and oil prices have collapsed.

Why are we trying to rescue a dangerous and polluting oil industry with our tax dollars, risking our precious water table and deteriorating our climate? The coronavirus crisis is our opportunity to move massive oil industry subsidies to better use, underwriting clean energy development.

I want a fat subsidy to put solar panels on my roof and an electric car in my garage. 50 percent of the price should do it! Take the $4 billion that taxpayers cough up annually to subsidize the oil industry and give it back to we the people who want to clean up our environment! Who do our government leaders work for anyway, We the People or large polluting industries?

Happy Earth Day.

Larry Bishop

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