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Fire reveals South Coast

By   /   Saturday, November 22nd, 2008  /   Comments Off on Fire reveals South Coast

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Until the no-growth radicals took over its politics, the South Coast operated under a single rule – the community took care of its own.

More than a decade ago, the no-growthers suspended the South Coast rule, with the resulting exodus of thousands of middle- and working-class families to Ventura, Oxnard and Santa Maria.

Fortunately, when crunch time hits, the old-school legacy of the South Coast shows through the cracks of politics and housing.

The community’s response to the Tea Fire is a great example.

Leaders in the nonprofit sector quickly identified United Way of Santa Barbara County as the lead agency to coordinate relief efforts.

Banks, landlords, hotels and charities sent forth a torrent of goods and services toward the 210 homeowners whose properties were destroyed in what looks like the most unfortunate of accidents.

The outpouring was welcomed by victims like Doug Crawford, who heard personally from members of Santa Barbara’s city council and was inundated with information about recovery and rebuilding.

A response like this underscores the fact that the South Coast remains a tight-knit community where people are willing to put aside their disagreements in order to make a difference when tragedy strikes.

Contentiousness fades to the sidelines when events like the Tea Fire erupt in our midst. “I think we are at our best as a community when we pull together to respond to an emergency,” said Chuck Slosser, outgoing president of the Santa Barbara Foundation.

The Tea Fire should be the beginning, not the end, of a spirit of greater communication and cooperation.

Montecito’s planning commission and the city of Santa Barbara need to streamline the approval process so that housing destroyed in the fire can be rebuilt quickly, replacing lost housing stock with more fire-resistant dwellings.

Housing issues that haven’t been addressed in decades need to come back on the table. And working on a way to further the cooperation between non-profits on a regional basis will go a long way toward stretching philanthropic dollars in a difficult economy.

Keep CSU strong during cuts

California faces difficult budget choices, but making tough choices is what we pay our leaders to do.

On the other hand, making the easy choice – like cutting off funding to the California State University system – seems like an abrogation of responsibility by those at the top.

The CSU system, which includes the Channel Islands campus near Camarillo and Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, is always an easy target because it lacks the political clout of its big sister, the University of California.

But we should not sacrifice our future workforce or our future class of creative idea makers. There are better ways to meet the state’s budget needs.

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