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Posted on December 3 at 7:59 p.m.
Festive holiday lights went up along Milpas today (Wednesday) thanks to the contributions of many neighborhood businesses and the extra special generosity of a few. MCA volunteers have been going door to door for donations so the association could lease the lights and then pay for things like city-mandated insurance and the holiday parade. This year, the Santa Barbara firefighters donated the holiday tree for the roundabout. Volunteers will put it up and decorate it.
The Milpas parade has always been a community effort for the kids, and it's historically been run by volunteers who take it on for a while but then fall away. New ones then have to step up to pick up the slack, but that’s a poor approach to sustainability. There was no parade in 2010. The MCA brought it back in 2011, and have been putting it on since.
If you aren't a merchant who’s paid to paint over graffiti, or had drunk transients fighting outside your office, or lost business due to the encampment around the corner or the drug dealing at the corner, or passed the guy with the shopping cart who needs to be in housing and rehab, then the work of the MCA will be lost on you. But for those who live and work here, the neighborhood is safer and cleaner than it was even a short while ago. It’s a great place to live, but those improvements depend on continued voluntary contributions.
The way to ensure progress is a business improvement district (BID). Downtown has a BID, created in 1967, that cleans their sidewalks, puts on their parade, their holiday decorations, tree, and First Thursdays. The MCA, in pursuing a BID for the Eastside businesses, was mandated to hire a consultant by the city. They were then required to present a preliminary proposal to the City Council before they were allowed to do outreach to the community-at-large. The Eastside's BID would ultimately be shaped and approved (or not) by the Eastside businesses.
Compared with Downtown, the Eastside business district plan is very modest, but sufficient to pull off events, keep things cleaner, work with the city and other agencies, and promote the businesses, both small and large, that have made this area their home. If the businesses don’t want it, there will be no BID. But this community can no longer continue to rely on the efforts of volunteers for these kinds of services on an ongoing basis. EBID is the way to provide them.
Let the businesses decide if they want a better business district.
On Making Things Better on the Eastside
Posted on November 23 at 3:19 p.m.
Congratulations to the team and its supporter network for engaging in this restorative approach since neither compassionate enabling nor cold 'move it along' tactics helps chronic street people and addicts to get their lives back together. Most residents don't recognize the huge costs associated with homelessness, and some of the parallels of the 1930s Great Depression have been conveniently forgotten with stocks over 17k as the middle class erodes. Restoring lives and helping people get off the downward spiral and back to productive functionality with some hands up instead of out is great.
On Restorative Court Celebrates Three Years of Improving Lives
Posted on November 22 at 7:54 p.m.
I wish it were so simple, but as has been said umpteen times, lumping everyone who lives rough together under the label "the homeless" makes getting to real solutions more difficult. People are without permanent homes for many reasons ranging from economic crises to mental illness to addictions to lifestyle choice. Citizens who lost their homes due to predatory financiers aren't the same as urban travelers out to live off the land with their dogs and laptops, and they're different from either the mentally ill or chemically addicted. Using public facilities like sidewalks, parks, parking spaces, and benches is everybody's right. But occupying them - taking up residence or trashing them - is something else. For example, restrooms got locked because of abuses and crime, thereby inconveniencing everyone. Pedestrians shouldn't have to step over someone sprawled across the sidewalk drunk or navigate a panhandler+dog+backpack gauntlet to get up State Street. Obnoxious jerks and predators make it tough for the many decent folks struggling just to get by and who cause no offense whatsoever. Figuring out how to tell the difference rather than over-generalizing about "the homeless" would help because treating everybody alike isn't the same as being fair, and enabling destructive choices and subsidizing chronic dysfunction aren't kindness any more than punishing the honestly helpless and harmless is justice. Rights come with responsibilities.
On The Homeless Bill of Rights
Posted on November 20 at 2:34 p.m.
"We are all gang members...be in the game"?! I rather wish Mr. Herrada had been able to say, "We were all gang members" and "out of the game." His honesty is both laudable and sad. Although he was quoted here out of context, no wonder there's a shortage of trust in Palabra's intentions, especially given the conviction of another leader of the group for serious crimes. Kidnapping, extortion, and drug offenses do tend to diminish credibility. And while there are plenty of reasons - both sociological and individual - that street gangs exist, there are no good excuses, especially when they connect with cartels and organized crime. If the organization is sincere, Palabra will do well to put some of its talk into figuring what "ex-" and "former" might mean to its future, and its success.
On Palabra Keeping the Peace?
Posted on November 16 at 11:21 a.m.
Under the proposed EBID plan - and it's still just a proposal that depends on community buy-in to move forward - control rests with the licensed businesses that would be impacted by the annual fee. That ranges from a couple hundred bucks to about $750 tops for the handful of big operations. Members would select boards and committees from among themselves to set priorities. True, the big businesses would get two votes, whereas the smaller entrepreneurs only one. So, for example, it would take two one-man auto repair shops to tie the Fess Parker, three to out-vote - assuming they even disagreed on something. It's actually a very democratic approach.
Many of the little Milpas merchants struggle to hang on as the city evolves. Some don't even have Internet access. Yet they are the traditional heart and soul of the area; many live and work in the neighborhood. The BID is a chance for them to pull together to get promotion they need, marketing assistance, learning opportunities, and neighborhood services like sidewalk cleaning and holiday decorations that the city doesn't provide, even to purchase the liability insurance the city requires for events that pull in customers.
If the existing businesses are strong, Milpas has a better chance of maintaining its character and holding off dreaded cookie-cutter "gentrification" because shops and restaurants in good shape can hold on, new local businesses can afford to start up, and landlords of those which don't own their spaces might feel less pressure to sell out if the existing tenants are prospering. Yes, there's a risk: raising the profile and becoming more attractive makes for a development target, more visitors, and even incursions by that dreaded species, the cruise ship passenger. But what's the choice? Stagnation? Leaving the future up to outsiders? An Eastside BID will give the neighborhood a stronger voice and a way to proactively manage some of those inevitable changes from within. Milpas can continue to be Milpas.
On Doubling Down on Milpas Street
Posted on November 15 at 11:28 a.m.
Small correction: Denton, TX, considers itself in North Central Texas, not West Texas. As apex of "the golden triangle" - Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Denton - it is where I35 splits into east and west branches to pass through the D/FW Metroplex, then reconnects south at Hillsboro. It does sit on the edge of the Barnett Shale where there has been historic dry gas production, as well as underground high pressure gas storage for winter use located just east of town. There has been some limited oil production in the county which increases as you go west.
The fear is that dirty and destabilizing enhanced extraction operations will be imposed to wring oil out of the shale which has thus far surrendered gas benignly. Recent unprecedented earthquakes in adjacent Tarrant and Parker counties where fracking has been expanded have raised alarm bells, along with water quality concerns from high pressure injection wells. However, as we've seen, the "awl bidness" tends to get its way and will spend whatever it takes to do so because oil knows it has the U.S. addicted.
Denton, which began as a farming and and then university town, is not the home hydraulic fracturing. Fracking was first tried in Kansas (other explosive means had been attempted in the 19th century), then developed further in Stephens County, OK, home of Halliburton which built a huge business around the technologies from the late forties on. (Oklahoma is also experiencing very unusual earthquake activity where fracking has been widespread.) However, there was early experimentation in Archer County, TX, which is only two counties west and north of Denton and on the same formation.
On Don't Frack with Denton, Texas
Posted on October 16 at 2:56 p.m.
An "anti-fracking and high-intensity extraction initiative" - the Indy's heading on the analysis that ultimately surrenders environmental principles to petro-intimidation and fear mongering in the name of governance - is not the same as the headline on this story: "...to Stop Drilling Ban". Drilling ban? How many ads did the oil companies have to buy to get that one? Way to go with accurate, courageous, hard-hitting journalism, folks.
On Two Cents and More with Measure P
Posted on October 16 at 9:50 a.m.
Where are the carpenters union's sign holders when we actually need them? "Shame on San Ysidro Ranch" and other estate-owning fat cats who just eat fines as a cost of making sure they and VIP guests have a nice verdant view, even if it damages the commons. Irresponsible neighbors.
On Turning Whine into Water
Posted on October 16 at 8:48 a.m.
The more petro-dollar propaganda gets pumped out to defeat the measure, the more resounding the YES on P to protect limited Santa Barbara County water supplies for the future.
Posted on October 12 at 12:03 p.m.
The opponents of (the admittedly poorly crafted) Measure P, mostly the big oil industry and those who stand to benefit directly and immediately by poking a few thousand more holes and blowing high pressure steam through the north county aquifers, want us all to join them at the Chumash Casino for a big gambling party. They say, "Trust us...we understand the risks, our sophisticated technologies can manage them, and the windfall benefits of massive expansion outweigh it all. Let us buy you off. Besides, 1969 was long ago. We've got it covered,"
The public safety unions shamefully tossed their threat-to-your-safety card in the pot to hang onto benefits. The construction trades like the SRCC carpenters want their cut of building new facilities: "Shame on Measure P". The opponents have already tried to bully the county and the voters with threats of endless lawsuits along with claims that Measure P would curtail existing operations, which almost any reading, much less legal interpretation, indicates it could not.
Honestly, why should we trust the well-funded opponents more than the people who want to mitigate the risks and take a more conservative course? Developers always want to gamble the future so they can make big bucks doing what they want to now. Does it really make sense to risk the aquifers and mess up more ground to pump a little more oil here when Texas, the Dakotas, and the filthy Canadian oil sands operations are already going crazy and fouling the atmosphere? Do we have the right to play our children's cards for them and burn their resources? The tar isn't going anywhere.
Despite its linguistic flaws, implementing Measure P to put the brakes on fracking and free-for-all expansion of more high intensity extraction methods like steam and acid makes more sense than gambling on the honorable intentions of big oil to put the long-term health of Santa Barbara County ahead of their shareholders' profits. It will be complicated to work out, and probably mean some litigation; but it's time for the people to think through resource management rather than leaving it in the hands of a few self-interested operators who talk big and leave a mess behind, and out of sight.
On Dodging Measure P Oil Slicks