As a proponent of Santa Barbara County First District supervisor candidate Laura Capps’ campaign finance reform initiative, I was concerned to read the reasoning behind some of the opposition arguments to it in the Nov. 6 Noozhawk story, “Laura Capps Proposes Campaign-Spending Reforms for Board of Supervisors Candidates.”

Campaign contribution limits exist on the federal and state levels and are in place in many counties, as deemed constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Oddly, here in Santa Barbara, no limits exist.

It speaks volumes to how broken our system is that certain groups feel that giving thousands of dollars to politicians is the only way to be heard and exert influence, and that losing that right would take away their First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

The whole point of campaign finance reform is to create a system of integrity, whereby the playing field is leveled. These days, I want to believe that we have the power, at least at a local level, to construct our political landscape in a way that is fair and serves its constituents.

We need a candidate who makes it a priority to ensure special interest groups don’t exert undue influence because of the size of their pocketbooks.

Monica Babich

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In our community, public and news media scrutiny of the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District Board of Education and administration are seriously lacking. I consider the following information critical for trusting parents, students and the community.

Sorry to be cynical, but it is astounding to me, that a tight-knit community with a wealthy property tax base like ours, only 37.3 percent of local high school students met or exceeded California state standards in math. Only 64 percent of the students met or exceeded the state standards in English. These results are far worse than last year by -7.5 percent in math and -8 percent in English.

In addition, only 54 percent of graduating seniors met the academic requirements to qualify to attend UC or California State University schools in 2019. What?!

The average daily attendance for Santa Ynez Valley Union High School is less than 900 students. We are a basic-aid school, funded by local property tax dollars. In the past two years, the number of teaching positions declined to 43 from 54. The number of administrators stayed the same, with salaries well above the state averages for similar size schools.

The Santa Ynez Valley Union High school board needs to seriously address the decline of test scores and college readiness. Does Common Core math continue to make sense at Santa Ynez High? How will the board hold administrators accountable?

Very few parents attend school board meetings. Increased attendance at the meetings will be a first step to hold our leaders accountable.

School board meetings are typically held on the third Tuesday of the month. The next school board meeting is 4 p.m. Nov. 19 in the administration office board room at Santa Ynez Valley High, 2975 E. Highway 246.

Michelle de Werd
Los Olivos

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Buellton Union School District Superintendent Randal Haggard recently used the school-to-home communication platform ParentSquare to share the district’s political position on negotiations for new contracts for teachers and support staff.

This is the second time Haggard has used ParentSquare for this purpose, sending out information and “statistics” to a captive audience. As an educator and community member, I have great concerns regarding the superintendent’s use in this manner when it should be solely for educational and safety issues pertaining to students.

While the district certainly has a right to present its position on negotiations, Haggard’s use of ParentSquare uses a system dedicated to communications with parents for the education and safety of their children; it is NOT for the political gain and one-sided debate presented by Haggard for negotiations or for his advocacy of his 23 percent raise that he posted last spring via ParentSquare as well.

Parents did not provide their emails and cell numbers to receive information on anything other than information directly related to their children, and using the system in any other manner is abusing its purpose.

After reading the most recent post on ParentSquare, which I received at work, I sent the school board questions, all of which have gone unanswered. Instead I received a weakly worded letter from the district’s lawyer indicating I could not send an email asking such questions during the workday.

Given that teachers received the ParentSquare post during school hours, and a subsequent work email, this is perplexing, a gigantic waste of money and an unsuccessful attempt to intimidate. Regardless, the same questions remain.

What is the board’s reasoning for allowing Haggard to post details about negotiations on ParentSquare? Does the school board pre-approve the posts regarding negotiations? How does the board justify communication of this nature when it shut down communication from the public and the Buellton Education Association at a board meeting last spring?

While negotiations for the educators of Buellton continue to be of interest to the public, ParentSquare is not the proper forum for the district to post its position. Certainly the district could use its website, or like the Buellton Education Association has done, use other social media outlets such as Facebook.

As an educator, I greatly appreciate parent and community support for causes in which I believe. Naturally, a fair contract and fair compensation and benefits for those of us in the field of education are issues I feel have great importance. Interested community members can find information on social media regarding these causes and more. But teachers and support staff are not allowed to engage in any politically motivated action during work hours, and rightly so.

It was and continues to be inappropriate for Haggard to use ParentSquare in this manner. The focus of the school-to-parent communication on ParentSquare should be on the students, their education and their safety, period.

Lisa Restivo

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Given all of the daily distractions that most of us deal with, taxpayers, property owners and rate payers probably overlooked the mid-October pronouncement by the Santa Barbara City Council that the council would proceed with the formation of the City of Santa Barbara’s own utility company. The decision to proceed with this millions of dollars-plus project passed on a 6-1 vote. The title of the project at this point seems to be Community Choice Energy Santa Barbara.

In speaking with Energy Development Programs supervisor Alelia Paranteau, the city split off from the Santa Barbara County consortium effort in July and proceeded to draft a program plan for the city to be approved by the council. She advised that the cities in the county, and the county, have been meeting on this issue for some four to five years.

The stated purpose of this effort is for the city to be energy independent by 2030. To clearly understand the “what and why” of this effort and expenditure of tax dollars, it’s presumably about climate change and the Green New Deal. As has been candidly stated by some of the proponents, however, it’s really all about power and control. and changing the structure of our economic system.

Keep in mind that along with your local government now becoming your utility company, the State of California and locals have pronounced a ban on natural gas for all new construction. The new construction ban, of course, will just be the beginning and ultimately will extend to retrofitting existing structures.

This effort will be back before the City Council in December for finalization of the plan to be submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission. The expectation is that the PUC will approve the plan and the city will implement it by 2021. The reservation and buy-in fees appear to be about $3 million, which does not include all the prior staff time and related costs.

There are a number of troubling questions related to this entire process and the short timeframe that has been established — without any public exposure to speak of. Staff has indicated that the public outreach and public relations program will be conducted during 2020.

» Whatever happened to individual choice since both power and natural gas sources are now going to be dictated by government?

» What are the immediate and projected costs for the operation and maintenance of the utility?

» Since this will be a city utility, does staff have the expertise and professional knowledge to operate the utility and make the necessary decisions?

» Since solar and wind power energy cannot be stored for later use, is that energy lost?

» The solar and wind power generated will be distributed over Southern California Edison lines. When those lines are turned off, how do customers get power?

» The city utility company will be subject to the same rules and regulations dictated to existing power entities by the PUC. How is a separate entity a better option than the existing one?

» The intent is for city staff to manage and operate the utility. How many staff members will be dedicated to the project and what will be the cost factors projected out ad infinitum? What are the pension and health-care cost projections for the life of the project plus salaries and administrative overhead?

» With the intent by the city to solely rely on solar and wind power by 2030, what fallback source of power will the city have when weather conditions don’t produce sunshine for solar panels and winds are at a velocity that require the shutdown of the turbines?

» Will the “clean” energy be less expensive than regular energy? That does not appear to be the case in San Luis Obispo with solar. If the plan is subject to the PUC rules and regulations, rates will increase. (Can you name a government program that ever went away, or diminished in expense and cost over the years?)

» Should the state or a consortium of cities take over the power utilities as is presently being discussed, who ends up footing the bill for the takeover and maintenance? How does that then affect all existing and proposed Community Choice Energy entities?

The recent experience in Northern California of the shutdown and total lack of power due to wildfires, should provide a classic lesson in the fallacies of human knowledge. We take so very much for granted in this wonderful country, losing sight of the many luxuries available to us, such as energy for necessities like power for medical devices and charge stations for electric cars.

Several questions remain:

» Were taxpayers informed that their tax dollars would be spent in this manner, perhaps at the sacrifice of other program costs, when these particular council members ran for election?

» Will the voters of the community be allowed to vote on this proposal?

» Staff does refer to state law as to the establishment and procedures of these entities, but where in the state Constitution or anywhere else, do these elected officials have any authority to extinguish or change individual choice of power sources?

Regardless of your feelings or position on the weather, a healthy skepticism should be foremost in all evaluations of why any government entity would want to undertake the liability and responsibility for delivering power to any constituency.

The only rationale that comes to mind, is for the “power” to turn the lights on and off at will. Competitive pricing as the rationale doesn’t sell.

Also keep in mind that the City Council, with your tax dollars, will be liable in the event of any power-related lawsuit. This is whether you are in the program or not.

The imposition of Community Choice Energy Santa Barbara will include all structures and residents within the city limits. Each individual will have to officially opt out of the program if they choose to do so. Otherwise, you have no choice!

Jan Evans
Santa Barbara

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Aera Energy wants us to green light its plan to radically ramp up oil operations in Cat Canyon. The company is jointly owned by ExxonMobil and Shell. As you read this, ExxonMobil is awaiting, probably in vain, a major court verdict in a lawsuit that charges it has lied to the public for decades.

ExxonMobil knew that its business was altering the climate, bringing us more destructive wildfires, among much else. But it repeatedly deceived the public, just as the tobacco companies knew their cigarettes caused cancer but denied it.

Rather than act ethically and honestly, ExxonMobil spent millions of dollars on climate-denying think tanks and researchers to confuse the public about climate science. ExxonMobil now concedes that climate change is happening because of the burning of fossil fuels. Still the company plans to increase its oil output by 25 percent by 2025 at a time when the world should be sharply reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

Lawsuits, like the current one in New York, brought by its state attorney general, and an upcoming one in Massachusetts, are an important step for society to free itself from the grasp of this industry. Most directly, the suits can provide the billions of dollars necessary for communities to repair climate damages and fortify their infrastructure for the problems ahead.

And if these cases are successful, Big Oil will finally be forced to pay for the costs they have foisted on taxpayers.

It’s time to say a final “no” to new oil development in Santa Barbara County. No more being duped by Aera Energy and the others. No more pursuit of short-term profit for a few.

More than enough oil is available from other places to carry us through the transition to a cleaner, safer and better economy. Good and plentiful jobs, and a healthy environment, depend on clean energy.

Seth Steiner
Los Alamos

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I agree with Joe Guzzardi’s Nov. 10 column, “Open Borders, Illegal Alien Entitlements Undermine Veterans’ Sacrifices.”

I served along the Korean DMZ in the early 1960s, when many Americans believed it was their duty to serve their country that offered them so many opportunities and stood for something that was the envy of the rest of the world.

But with each passing day I increasingly ask why I bothered wearing the uniform. What are today’s young Americans in the military sticking their necks out to defend? A federal government that has all but abandoned the principles on which this country was founded and for which more than 1 million Americans have died protecting?

I think Guzzardi is wrong, however, when he says it’s impossible to know what veterans are thinking, pro or con, about an immigration policy that puts the interests of illegal aliens before those of our citizens. As a member of the American Legion, I can attest that many don’t care one way or the other.

Despite its numerous resolutions condemning illegal immigration, the nation’s largest veterans organization makes no effort to have its opposition addressed by the news media even though the issue has taken center stage since President Donald Trump’s election. Why then bother resolving “that the American Legion seize every opportunity to request an accountability of our elected officials in implementing and enforcing federal and international laws and treaties to eliminate the large numbers of individuals from foreign countries entering the United States illegally …?”

Although I’ve made my position crystal clear about our federally created immigration crisis for almost 15 years, I’ve not heard a word about the problem from any of my fellow Legionnaires in our area. At best one or two will occasionally say they agree with my published comments, adding that I should “keep up the good work.”

There was a time when I appreciated such praise, but no longer. My response today to these people is that I don’t want any pats on my back unless they are followed by “What can I do to help?”

Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day and the Fourth of July have become nothing more than lucrative marketing opportunities for a greedy business community that the federal government now views as its only important constituent.

Dave Gorak
La Valle, Wis.

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