A Lompoc Minister Pities Us

On the Beat

Smugness in the North: A Lompoc minister is telling townspeople that “it’s time to stop feeling so sorry for those folks down in Santa Barbara and so all-fired smug about ourselves.”

You all feel so superior to those poor creatures who have to live in Santa Barbara,” the Rev. Steve Petty, pastor of the First Methodist Church, observed in a recent Lompoc Record op-ed piece.

But wait, aren’t we Santa Barbarans the ones always being accused of being smug, reeking of annoying self-satisfaction? And now the good reverend is looking down on us with pity?

The Rev. Petty urged his flock to show a little compassion toward what he sees as selfish wretches doomed to live in a town overrun with drug dealers and tourists, locked in bumper-to-bumper traffic, helplessly searching for parking spots, and afflicted by reckless Rolls-driving spinsters “who can’t see over the steering wheel.”

Barney Brantingham

Well, I guess it’s always humbling to see ourselves as others see us, even if it does seem a bit over-the-top. The Rev. Petty seems to be having a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun with Santa Barbara, firing satirical darts at our lofty, heaven-on-earth attitudes about palm-studded, culture-vulture sunny Santa Barbara.

There are some who contend that Santa Barbara is like heaven,” he observes. “Yep, watching the glow of the oil platforms burning off gas at night just warms the hearts of those southern naturalists.” (Actually, it’s the South Coast that’s anti-oil development, while the North County generally favors it.) “Yes,” he continues, “it’s true that you can actually drive a car in Lompoc without fear of being run down by a Rolls-Royce driven by a spinster who can’t see over the steering wheel. But it’s not her fault the roads are so crowded, narrow and insanely one-way hither and yon.”

Lompoc, he argues, is a city where traffic jams are rare and you can get across town in 10 minutes “even if you stop at every red light on H Street.” But Santa Barbarans “can spend hours on Highway 101 and not get to Montecito because some dowager’s Pomeranian jumped out of its travel-bag home and caused her to sideswipe some college kids in a ‘67 VW bus, bringing the whole freeway to a halt while she looks for the dog.”

So far, I have refrained from making return jabs at Lompoc, but I must note that the good reverend seems to have a tendency toward sexist references about older women. And he needs to get current: UCSB students are more likely to be driving 2009 sports cars than hippie buggies.

Santa Barbara people have been known to fill up their gas tanks just to go in search of a parking space within a couple blocks of their destination! Should you decide to use one of the public parking structures, keep in mind they were engineered for all the vehicles no bigger than a Yugo.”

While Lompoc has no parking problems whatsoever, “Santa Barbara people have been known to fill up their gas tanks just to go in search of a parking space within a couple blocks of their destination! Should you decide to use one of the public parking structures, keep in mind they were engineered for all the vehicles no bigger than a Yugo” (even though Yugos are illegal in SB).

Petty also argues that Lompoc folks are far more generous than tight-fisted Santa Barbarans. “Whereas Santa Barbara people know there is no limit to how much you can spend on yourself, so there just isn’t that much left to spend on lesser causes.” (Which, of course, is a gross insult to our philanthropists who donate millions and millions to nonprofits, and to generous ordinary residents who spend big bucks on tickets to fundraisers.)

Then, of course, there is the small issue of a free press,” he goes on to say. He takes off quite properly on the egregious failings of the News-Press. But he fails to point out that this is owner Wendy McCaw’s personal failure, deplored by residents.

Where is the obligation for fairness and objectivity?” he asked. “Apparently those virtues are unimportant down there.” Actually, reverend, they’re crucially important, and we’re painfully reminded of it every day that “the local bird-cage liner,” as you delicately phrased it, deprives us of those same virtues.

We do admit there are problems in Lompoc,” he concedes. “The police will tell you, all too quickly, that there are hundreds of gang members and lots of drugs in Lompoc, and that is bad. But we need to refrain from feeling vastly superior to our larger neighbors in the county whose gang-to-citizen ratio and drug consumption is nearly 10 times higher than our own.”(Not sure where he gets this figure, but let it pass.)

Aside from the fact that there’s more money here in the south, “the rest of the ledger tilts heavily our way,” the reverend contends. “Life is more than money. That’s why the richest place on the Central Coast is here in the valley of great compassion, caring people; which also has flowers, vegetables, murals, missiles, and visitors in abundance.”

Missiles? True, we do lack them. But where to put one? Maybe next to City Hall, in De la Guerra Plaza-as long as it doesn’t violate the 60-foot downtown height limit we fought over in the last election.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns throughout the week and a print column on Thursdays.

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