Did You Know? By Bonnie Donovan
During the Santa Barbara Fire and Police Oversight Commission’s first meeting on Jan. 26, both Police Chief Kelly Gordon and Fire Chief Chris Mailes gave an update on their departments.
The most interesting item discussed during this introductory meeting was not only the “Fire Department’s 101” and the goals for 2023. As the commission will consider the annual budgets and make recommendations to the Santa Barbara City Council and City Administrator Rebecca Bjork, Chief Mailes discussed the push to end the city’s 27 year-long contracts with the American Medical Response and endorse the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, who has also put a bid in for the contract.
The recommendation for this $100 million to $140 million contract (some figures are 200-350 million for the 10 years) is to remain with the private company AMR. The Santa Barbara County Fire Department filed a protest and then an appeal. Chief Mailes countered, “Every single fire department in the entire county is behind a county-run ambulance system.”
That’s funny because aren’t the majority of our communities served by the county fire department?
Chief Mailes said the goal is to have a medic-trained firefighter on every piece of fire equipment, to enhance the medical response by minutes, maybe seconds. We remember that the city and county have already received financing for a countywide regional fire dispatching center, which would dispatch city and county fire units only, from the same center. That annual cost of $800,000 is to the city only.
Sounds like yesterday’s news? But we wonder what we are doing to another private industry if we allow more government agencies to absorb more private enterprises.
And here is the $100 million question for the taxpayers. Sure, some of that is for equipment, but how much of that is for salaries, which add to government pensions, which increase with the salaries?
Those CalPERS government pensions and benefits far outspend the private arena, and the system of checks and balance sheets doesn’t receive the same scrutiny or fall-out as private enterprises.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors makes the final decision. And we pay for it.
Again, we ask the Redesign State Street Downtown Advisory Team, why wasn’t Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade used as an example in its presentation to the city ouncil, because after all, both Santa Monica and Santa Barbara are upscale beach towns. Well, we have a pretty good idea why, after reading an article in the Circling the News out of Santa Monica, referred to us by another perplexed citizen.
We see a lot in common with the Santa Monica Third Street Street Promenade. For one, citizens and visitors complain about the lack of safety while walking the promenade. Just like public speakers said at our city council meeting several weeks ago.
These promenades are a failure. Sadly, they’re only good as a beacon for transients and others engaged in unlawful and unsavory behavior. Loitering, illegal camping, smash and grabs, graffiti, public defecation, drug use, lewd behavior, and the mentally ill — sound familiar?
The Santa Monica promenade, like Santa Barbara, has empty storefronts (47%). One difference is State Street is a main street, and Santa Monica’s Third Street is a cross street. Another difference is the length — only three blocks long so the mass of street people is more concentrated than our street population, whose territory takes 11 blocks.
Like our Paseo Nuevo, the anchor stores — Macy’s and Bloomingdales, at the mall that spills into the Three Street Promenade — are now vacant, as are many of the mall stores.
Once a thriving shopping and dining destination for locals and tourists, the Third Street Promenade now has empty parking lots with broken elevators. A promenade property owner, John Alle said, “Let’s admit we have a problem, and let’s address it. This could be the biggest come-back story — if we take care of the issues.”
That business community did address the matter of safety. They installed a large sign warning of the danger.
You can see the story at circlingthenews.com/santamonica.
When discussing our State Street Promenade, downtown restaurant owner Kevin Bosse remarked, “The city and the people of Santa Barbara are not really being served by a process in which no one seems willing to ask hard questions or to acknowledge proven truths. If the MIG consultants cannot even tell the city council actual data and history they know to be true, then the whole thing is a con, and the fix is in.
“It looks like they are being paid over $800K to tell the SB Council what they want to hear,” he said. “The following questions should be posed directly to MIG: 1) Of the 20-plus surviving pedestrian malls in the US, how many are on main streets or thoroughfares? 2) Of those, how many are longer than four to five blocks? 3) How many of the surviving Pedestrian Malls have never had to have multiple expensive re-visioning or remodels?
“4. What are some of the specific reasons 90% of the pedestrian malls failed? Retail exodus? Vagrancy and blight? Rejection by the public in the face of the above?
“BTW, the answers to the above questions are: 1) None. 2) None. 3) None. 4) All of the above, and much more.”
So again, we see a lot of similarities between the promenades of Santa Monica and Santa Barbara.
Was the sad story of Santa Monica not used as a comparison because it did not fit the narrative that the Santa Barbara City Council wants to hear?
Like the narrative, President Joe Biden, during his State of the Union address, used a narrative that does not fit what consumers know to be reality.
Any trip to the grocery store does not fit the narrative that inflation has gone down. You name it; everything has doubled or tripled in cost. Eggs, if you can find them, have tripled in price; chicken and meat, the same. If inflation has come down, no evidence of it has appeared on the West Coast.
Speaking of eggs, a farmer’s chickens stopped producing for a year. After he bought his feed locally, his chickens started laying eggs again. Sounds like the poisonous dog food that was recalled years ago.
The president, meanwhile, was so proud to have brought gasoline prices down. However, we have yet to see gas at $2.99 a gallon as it was for an entire year before he took office.
And gasoline prices are not the only thing that affects the mysterious supply chain. California is set to lose approximately 70,000 independent truckers.
If truckers are not members of the union and are not willing to work for a corporate (union) trucking firm, they are out of business.
Being independent by nature, many truckers are leaving California for less restrictive climates. Although this restriction comes courtesy of Gov. Gavin Newsom, President Joe Biden sure fawned all over the unions.
To continue our discussion of natural gas hikes, many readers have sent us copies of their bills for comparison.
We discovered that local residents are being charged different rates for their gas commodity, and that appears to be based on their zip code. Rates range from $3.20 in the 93111 zip code to $.64 in 93427.
For example, zip code 93427 is billed at $.64 per therm, zip code 93108 at $1.52, zip code 93109 at $1.80, zip code 93105 at $2.01, zip code 93101 at$ 3.16 or $2.43, zip code 93111 at $2.79 to $3.20, zip code 93117 at 2.79, zip code 93103 at 1.80.
The commodity rate is multiplied by the number of thermal units used. The gas commodity charge wasn’t on our invoice until 2021. Could the huge increase be the $6.5 billion tax on natural gas, which was included in the $1.7 trillion budget of 2022?
It is in our best interest, as a community, to insist the government represent us, and not its special causes. It is in our best interest to demand those in public office listen to the voices of the business owners and private industries who suffer the actual cost when a deal or a venture fails. Government entities never fail. They just print more money, then put on the emperor’s new clothes and say, “Everything is just fine.” But is that the naked truth?
Bonnie Donovan writes the “Did You Know?” column in conjunction with a bipartisan group of local citizens. It appears Saturdays in the Voices section.