Noozhawk’s Feb. 1 article, “Santa Barbara Police Department Down More Than 20% of Its Total Workforce,” about the department’s lack of hiring and retention is disheartening.

Hiring police officers often relies on many outside factors that cannot be controlled by the department. such as housing prices, national events, public sentiment, or a city councilman attempting to equate vaccines to guns and bullet-proof vests.

But retaining officers and professional staff positions has more to do with internal factors. What is going on within the department that is causing the retention problem? Is there a theme among the exit interviews? Has anyone bothered to ask the officers/staff why people are leaving? And when you get these answers, do you act on them or just file them away?

If retention is a problem, that indicates morale is down. If morale is down, the current employees will be reluctant to recommend the job to their family, friends and acquaintances. Word of mouth is the No. 1 recruitment tool, especially for law enforcement.

It may be difficult to do, but SBPD needs to point the thumb at itself, take responsibility, and stop pointing the finger at every other possibility to cast blame upon.

Taylor Ward
Santa Barbara

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Mark Patton’s Jan. 30 column, “With Mike Warren’s Death, Santa Barbara Sports World Loses Its Biggest Little Backer,” was great. My only gripe would be the reference to Warren’s time as executive director of Elings Park didn’t get more coverage.

Similar to every other organization that Warren touched, he had a huge and lasting impact on Elings Park. I was the president of the foundation for the majority of the time he was executive director. Warren came in and completely revamped the park’s sports programming, taking over the softball league responsibilities from the City of Santa Barbara, getting rugby up there, improving how field maintenance was conducted, growing summer camps, helping develop improvement plans, getting a number of physical projects approved and funded, helping to shore up finances, working with the trails groups, etc.

Bruce Giffin has played as big of a role as anyone in making Elings Park what it is today (and he continues to be actively involved in a major way with campaigns for capital improvements to the tennis facilities and other areas of the park).

It was Giffin who oversaw hiring Warren as executive director, and I still think it was one of his best accomplishments at the park, given the long-term impacts he had in a relatively short period of time.
Of course, I understand it would have taken Noozhawk a small book to capture Warren’s impacts on the various organizations he touched. Thank you for the great article. Mike Warren will be greatly missed.

Michael Fauver
Santa Barbara

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I was a bit surprised to read in the Jan. 30 article, “COVID-19 Key Focus of New Santa Barbara School District Chief Operating Officer,” that the Santa Barbara Unified School District now needs a chief operating officer, at a salary of $200,000 a year, in addition to a superintendent, at $279,000 per year.

This new position is on top of the myriad of existing administrative positions such as several assistant superintendents; public information officer(s); project manager(s); executive director of community engagement; director of secondary education; director of fiscal services; executive director of diversity, equity and family engagement; chief educational technology officer; director of facilities and maintenance; director of special education; fiscal services manager(s); mental health counselor(s); school psychologist(s), etc.

Then there are similar layers of principals and vice principals at each school in the district.

In typical fashion for any entrenched bureaucracy, the various divisions and departments are focused on their particular discipline. So now they are creating a new COO position, and hired Steve Venz to fill it, “… to connect the various departments.”

“We have all these great departments,” he explained. “My job is to basically link them together so we can work more effectively, and then when we are working more effectively, then the schools, the administrators feel more comfortable.”


I wonder how those of us who were educated decades ago without all of the extra bureaucracy ever learned anything. We were even taught reading, writing, math, history, civics, science, art, music and so on with basically just a cadre of teachers working for just a school principal. There were no multiple vice principals and certainly no cadre of departments; just one superintendent, a principal with his secretary and a school full of teachers. How did they ever do it?

It’s amazing how far we’ve progressed over the years.

Addison Thompson
Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara area schools have too much money, and are led by self-serving administrators, advised by a policy-advocating attorney. After 42 years as a public school advocate, I want to be proven wrong but the Steve Venz article underscores my point.

Venz is only one of many on the receiving end. How exactly is student learning and proficiency helped by each expenditure for consultants, attorneys and administrators?

Who loses? The Santa Barbara Unified School District elementary school students who need additional funded instruction, opportunities and mentors. Until proficiency is above 60% at all SBUSD schools, stop bandaging mega-problem of the district failing our students.

At my neighborhood school of 184 students, two top administrators do the job done by one superintendent/principal for more than 100 years. The administrators’ combined compensation is more than $600,000 a year, or 11% of the total “tiny school” tax-funded budget when 5% is the guideline.

Moreover, the attorney/chief business officer also works for another local school district. Consulting contracts add on to district compensation. Teachers are fairly compensated at $140,000 to $185,000 for class sizes under 20 with an aide.

In 2019, per pupil Montecito elementary districts received $26,000 to $35,000 before CARES Act supplements.

SBUSD needs to replace its leadership, both administrators and its failed governing board. Taxpayers need to wake up as K-14 school revenues go up while enrollments go down.

Denice Spangler Adams

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I must admit, I’m amazed at the errors in Sara Rotman’s Jan. 28 letter to the editor about cannabinoids and COVID-19. Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), CBG, CBD and THC-A are all separate and distinct compounds.

None of them are found “in abundance” in any of the others.  All are found in varying amounts in some Cannabis sativa cultivars.

Brian Epstein
Santa Barbara

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Los Alamos is a small town that relies on Santa Barbara County for governance. But we have been suffering under its bureaucracy and its unwillingness to admit obvious shortcomings of a development plan. And the county disbanded Los Alamos’ planning advisory committee that might have reviewed a poorly conceived development project currently in the news.

More than 200 residents have signed a petition requesting that the county Planning and Development Department take community safety into account and re-evaluate the plan. This unwise development scheme has reached another stage now. And there is a new legal wrinkle.

First, a brief recap. A developer wants to build 12 dwellings on his 1½-acre lot — six without garages. After opting not to do a study, the Planning and Development Department advanced patently low estimates of additional traffic. It ignores the effects of a one-lane bottleneck and of illegal parking obstructing emergency vehicles in the fire lane.

At December’s Planning Commission hearing, two of the five commissioners had conflicts of interest; the chairman himself admitted having bought a home from the developer, and another having multiple business dealings with the developer. Neither commissioner recused.

Prior to the hearing, four commissioners had spoken with the developer, and the majority had met with him and his agent on at least two or three occasions.

Only two commissioners had accepted an invitation to hear our viewpoint and concerns, however.

Also remarkable and confounding is the Planning and Development Department’s lack of candor with regard to the developer’s right of access to a private road that the county requires us homeowners to maintain. The county document that is claimed to give access to the developer only applies to half the road.

This is a setup for unauthorized use of all of the road, and a flashpoint for future conflict. And there are still costly liability concerns that the county transportation engineer dismisses regarding accident or injury at the one-lane bottleneck.

So what’s new? The Board of Supervisors will hear this case, and new legal findings, in March. We hope the supervisors will take a fresh look and apply their wisdom.

For the sake of safety and the preservation of a neighborhood, access to the project needs to be reconfigured. A small town simply asks to be respected.

Seth Steiner
Los Alamos

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I have to admit I enjoy reading most of the stories posted by Noozhawk’s outside writers. I always enjoy writing that forces you to THINK.

But, honestly, I prefer not to read articles that truly have evidence of stating scientific evidence as nonsense. Maybe at times individuals place themselves for no reason in a higher stature.

Is it ego based on materialistic items or because they have been given an avenue and do not truly realize that what is written should apply to life in ALL. Life is important and those wanting to place themselves in an area where they can reach others have to speak the truth. The truth is the welfare for ALL, not a political view that continues to degrade the quality between us.

D.C. Collier should keep to the spiritual and stop mixing his political views among some good stories. It’s when he seems to sit above others that his writings tend to stay at that level.

Diane Shelley
Santa Barbara

•        •        •

I met Laura Capps a few years ago when I was actively advocating for sustainability in schools. Soon after, she invited me to join the sustainability committee in the Santa Barbara Unified School District, and we worked as a team to brainstorm ways to improve the sustainability measures inside K-12 schools.

Under Capps’ leadership, K-12 schools in Santa Barbara are moving forward with solar panels and on-site battery storage, which will allow schools to operate even when there are power shortages. Thanks to her, our school facilities will be future ready.

Besides her dedication to environmental causes, I have been impressed with Capps’ ability to bring people together, her kindness and her integrity. She is quick to action and is not afraid of challenges.

I support Laura Capps for Santa Barbara County supervisor, and I hope you will, too.

Vicki Ben-Yaacov

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