Regarding Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen’s Feb. 11 column, “Mask Masters Face New Phase in Unceasing COVID-19 Crisis,” I am writing to express my appreciation for his continuing efforts to focus attention on the craven and cynical (my words) actions of our public officials during the pandemic.

Too few voices in the media — or even in private — seem willing to hold themselves to the standards of logic and consistency, particularly when the cost of doing so is to be immediately dismissed as “anti-science” or a “denier.”

As a parent of two young children, I am very thankful to Macfadyen for pointing out what should be (but apparently is not) common sense: that health decisions and risk calculations should be made in most instances by individual citizens, and not by our government, especially unelected bureaucrats.

Eric Gans
Santa Barbara

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I’ve been a fan of Bill Macfadyen’s commentaries since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but his Feb. 11 column is by far his best yet.

The mere fact that the State of California set Feb. 15 as the end of the indoor mask mandate but Santa Barbara County set Feb. 16 as its own date exposes how deceitful those in charge of “protecting us” are. This isn’t about public health, it’s about power.

Robert Phillips

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It’s a small victory to get rid of masks but what sense does it make to give privilege to vaccinated people when we know they can still get COVID-19 and spread COVID-19?

Forcing the jab must have an underlying and suspicious reason. Is it any wonder we don’t trust the dictators in charge? Drop all the mandates.

Jan Lipski
Vandenberg Village

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Santa Maria city buildings have signs stating that “Masks Are Required Inside City Facilities,” yet Mayor Alice Patino and Councilwoman Etta Waterfield do not follow this directive. They have not worn masks for meetings in the City Council chambers since our country was locked down in March 2020.

Wearing a mask indoors means that you respect all the people around you, wishing not to harm them in any way. The federal government, California, Santa Barbara County and City of Santa Maria direct us in how to be safe ourselves, and to keep those around us safe.

It would be unfortunate if the actions of Patino and Waterfield led to their being infected by the coronavirus. It would be criminal if their actions infected others, or if people in Santa Maria followed their example in stores, restaurants and other public buildings.

Close to 1 million Americans have died of this virus. Many of those refused to wear masks.

It does not matter what justification leaders use for not wearing a mask. It is time for them to put their personal beliefs aside, and to lead by example. Time for them to reassure the people who elected them that they are doing all they can to keep everyone in Santa Maria safe and healthy.

Gale McNeeley
Santa Maria

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I just finished reading Mark Patton’s wonderful Feb. 6 column, “One of Westmont’s Greatest Wins Driven by Mourning and Faith,” on the Westmont/Hawai‘i game from 50 years ago. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it and share with the Santa Barbara community!

When I originally wrote my own Westmont Magazine story, “Front Row Seat to a Miracle,” my greatest source of information came from Annie (Byron) Harris, Westmont coach Tom Byron’s daughter. She gave me much history about her dad and his illness that I otherwise would have never known.

She also had kept a scrapbook of all the newspaper stories from that season and sent me pictures of all pertinent ones. I did also interview Dave Bregante, Fred DeVaughn, Charlie Mehl, Tim Walton and Ron Mulder.

What I never knew existed until just a couple of weeks ago was Patton’s 1984 newspaper story recounting the game. I only wish I had access to that when I was writing my own! There are some wonderful quotes in that story — including some from Brian Kerkering, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident not many years after.

The 1972 team was supposed to be honored, along with coach John Moore, last month but that was postponed because of COVID-19. Our team did have a reunion (via Zoom) on Feb. 4 — exactly 50 years to the day from the win over Hawai‘i. All core members of that team participated along with Ron Mulder, Annie Byron and Tom Byron Jr. It turned out to be a wonderful time of reconnecting, reminiscing, laughing and weeping together.

Thank you again for the wonderful story!

Don Volle
Paso Robles

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Mark Patton’s Westmont column was a GREAT read! My eyes watered. I’m going to share his story with my dad, Duane, who took me to Westmont games in the late 1960s.

Greg Jones
El Dorado Hills

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Mark Patton really captured so much of what it was like to live through that experience with his column on the 1972 Westmont basketball team and their coach, Tom Byron.

Byron hired me in 1967 to come back to my alma mater as his assistant coach and to work with him in student development. He became a close friend and a man I admired immensely.

Tom was all about following Jesus Christ, and walking in His Spirit. But I also found him highly competitive. We battled each other playing handball, under the gym, many times after practice. He was a purist; no racquetball for him.

God gave Tom and us a gift by allowing him to coach his final days in the fall of 1971. I could tell during those fall practices that something was not right, as the cancer was slowly draining him of his strength. But he was a fighter and never complained.

I still remember vividly the night of Jan. 6,1972, after the completion of his halftime words and the team had gone back on the floor. He called me aside, and said he was not sure he could make it back to the court for the second half. He said, “If I don’t make it, you and Dave Bregante can handle it.” Well, of course, that was our first loss as a team after a 10-0 start.

Those next two weeks were very difficult for us all. Tom’s final words to us were traumatic and, try as we did, Dave and I and the team lost four out of our next five games. We visited Tom in the hospital frequently and he would give us suggestions and direction.

Patton mentioned how Tom met with team members in the hospital and some of their reflections. I also visited Tom … the day he died. I might have been the last person to see him alive. That was a gift from God to me. Here was a man about to die, but he made it all about me and how much he loved me.

That was Tom Byron. All about love. He loved and encouraged others and certainly his players.

On Feb. 4, 50 years to the day of the Hawai‘i win, we had a Zoom meeting with some of the players from that team. Don Volle, Rich Prehn and Tim Walton organized and ran the session. Also present were Andrew Hill, Charles Anderson, Fred DeVaughn, Charlie Mehl and Tom’s children, Tom Jr. and Annie.

We went on for almost two hours, reminiscing and sharing about each other’s journey and lives. Tom would be so proud of these men and, of course, his own children. Each of these players are testimonies to the influence he had on their lives.

The 1972 team was defined by their chemistry and defense. That’s why they were one of the best in Westmont history. Andrew, Charles, Brian, Charlie and the intimidator, Freddie at 6-foot-9 in the middle. It didn’t hurt that they were pretty good at rebounding the ball as well.

The Hawai‘i win was no doubt a defining moment in the history of Westmont basketball. Although that might be true, history proves it’s really about relationships.

I have always maintained that the winning tradition in Westmont basketball began with Tom Byron, but I think he could not have cared less. He would care so much more about those guys he coached.

He would ask, “Are you living a life by the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, patience, gentleness, goodness and self control?”

I believe all those on that Zoom meeting last Friday night are trying to do just that.

Thanks again for a wonderful article, and for all the many others Patton has written over the years.

Ron Mulder
Westmont College kinesiology professor emeritus

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In reading through the recent Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report on City of Santa Barbara pensions, the report says the city has unfunded pensions of $392 million.

Considering the city’s current total budget is $391.9 million, which includes salaries of $116.3 million and benefits of $62.5 million paid every year, it seems Santa Barbara needs to go on a spending diet — Jenny Craig times $390 million.

We might ask how much is $392 million? To illustrate, we did a four-block survey of commercial buildings on State Street between Gutierrez Street and Canon Perdido. That turns out to be 718,000 square feet of buildings, restaurants, etc., with the average price to buy or sell these properties at $550 square foot.

Thus: 718,000 square feet x $550 per square foot is … drumroll … $394 million.

That’s the same amount as the city’s unfunded pension liability. The city would literally have to sell the first four blocks of State Street from Gutierrez to Canon Perdido to pay the unfunded part of retired city employee pensions.

The city will, of course, tax us to pay this off. Another $780 million in funded pensions has already been extracted from city taxpayers. Perhaps our new cost-conscious mayor can help.

Knowing all this, if the city wants to keep spending more of our tax money on a new police station ($100 million), desalination plant ($250 million), new city sustainability and resilience program (unfunded at $36 million per year), 28 affordable housing units ($30 million), global warming lines across town, hotels for homeless, empty bus lines, giant town malls, tax giveaways for Saks Fifth Ave., police equity training programs, $3,800 benches for indigents, we must ask: How many more blocks of State Street shall we give away to our spendthrift city government?

Dr. Thomas Cole

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Regarding the Feb. 10 story, “Santa Barbara School District Reports 56 Student ‘Suicide Incidences’ in First Semester,” when Dawson Kelly, the San Marcos High School student representative on the school board, declares that, “We are not valuing mental health education enough. We are valuing math that we won’t really use in our real life. High levels of math, high levels of history, high levels of English,” I question this as an either/or position.

In Herman Hesse’s book, Siddhartha, when interviewed by a merchant about job skills, Siddhartha responds, “I can think. I can wait. I can fast,” which equates to sustained attention, patience and commitment, skills also required for math, history, English and mental health education.

In Johann Hari’s book, Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention — and How to Think Deeply Again, he cites literacy professor Anne Mangen, who states that reading books requires us to focus “… on one thing for a sustained period” while reading from screens means “… we’re more likely to scan and skim.” When students are asked to maintain focus for a long period of time in any subject, their thinking may be akin to “… dashing around a busy supermarket to grab what you need and then get out again,” and the experience becomes “… less appealing,” and, too often, the “shopping cart” is missing key items.

Perhaps a decision to focus on the discipline of learning all subjects combined with curbing social media and cell phone use would benefit students’ mental health along with mental health support provided by the school district.

Maggie Light

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