SoCal Edison relents and agrees to pay for costs of erecting holiday tradition on State Street.

Paul Wellman (file)

SoCal Edison relents and agrees to pay for costs of erecting holiday tradition on State Street.

Downtown Xmas Tree on the Way

SoCal Edison Relents and Pays for Costs of Erecting Holiday Tree on State Street

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
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Rather than personify the Grinch who stole Santa Barbara’s Christmas, officials with Southern California Edison agreed to absorb the cost of cutting down and hauling a massive Christmas Tree from forest land the company owns near Fresno and donating it to the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization (DO), as it’s done every year since 1997. The tree should arrive by next Wednesday, when it will be erected in the middle of State Street by the Arlington Theater in time for next week’s annual Christmas parade.

In years’ past, the tree would have been installed the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but a change in Edison’s corporate donations policy coupled with serious communication problems have made the outcome of this behind-the-scenes melodrama anything but certain. Edison officials first notified the DO last year that they would not continue donating the trees, a service not replicated anywhere else. But when DO officials sought clarification beginning in August, they reportedly heard nothing back from their Edison counterparts until October 15. At that point, Edison explained the tree gift — a centerpiece for downtown Christmas festivities — was no longer in the utility company’s budget.

DO officials started scrambling to pay for the tree on its own, but claimed that the cost would be $30,000 to $40,000, so City Hall and downtown business leaders began lobbying Edison to relent. In response, Edison first suggested it would provide the tree if the DO agreed to cover the $3,000 it cost to haul it, but ultimately agreed to absorb the entire cost of providing the tree with the expectation that it won’t do so again. Edison’s change of policy coincides with company government affairs executive — and former Santa Barbara Mayor — Hal Conklin’s imminent retirement. Conklin is retiring so he can volunteer fulltime for a non-profit planting a million trees a week in Africa and Haiti.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

What is wrong with the people in this town? A business tries to make a responsible decision to cut costs and people lose their minds because they want something for free!?! 30-40k for a tree? In case you missed it there are plenty of trees already here. There is absolutely no need to cut down such a large tree to place it in the middle of State St just because it has been done since 1997. Guess what the economy is different than it was in 1997. All of the people who think this is a necessity and want to have this behemoth should be the ones paying for it. Not bullying a company to cover the cost of their perceived entitlements. How about saying thank you to SCE for such a generous gift for so many years instead of screaming they will ruin Christmas if they don't continue. So ungrateful. This should be a lesson to anyone contemplating gifting anything like this to this town, once you start you better continue forever because it becomes the people's right to your money.

MSSB (anonymous profile)
November 20, 2012 at 9:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice of SoCal Edison to pull one more out their pocket. I know a little girl who won an art contest to light the tree and her Christmas just got a little brighter. Starting next year, what if the Parade Brigade simply picks a tree downtown somewhere to designate as THE tree that gets the big hurrah (or a different business/landlord/property management co. volunteers one), and it just changes every year? Nothing gets cut down, nothing needs to get hauled anywhere, and we still celebrate each other as a community.

SBres (anonymous profile)
November 20, 2012 at 10:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

They can afford it, in fact it's the least they can do after bleeding this state dry and burning down half of it.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 20, 2012 at 10:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Now SCE is to blame for this state's blood letting? Sorry but your dramatization is greatly lacking in facts there Mr. Volok. Also just because an individual or business can afford something does not make it okay for the community to expect them to give things away. They provide a service which they get reimbursed for, nobody it forcing you to buy into it. Go solar, or use candles. People in this town need to stop acting like they are entitled to hand outs.

MSSB (anonymous profile)
November 20, 2012 at 12:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm coming over to nationalize MSSB's TV right now.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 20, 2012 at 1 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There are people in this town who eat out of the garbage can, who are going to be cold over the holidays and who don't have shelter. I hope that the people of this wealthy town, who asked for this tree feel good about crying poor so that they could get a free tree. The only words that come to mind are Disgraceful and Shameful. To call it a celebration of Christmas just adds insult to injury. If this had anything to do with the Spirit of Christmas someone would have asked SCE to instead, donate that money to a charity that helps people in need, in the name of the citizens of Santa Barbara. Whomever in SCE that agreed to supply a tree to such a wealthy area should be fired. They too have obviously lost touch. I woner how many people could be helped with $35,000. Then SCE would get to take a write-off that they could be proud of.

SQ (anonymous profile)
November 20, 2012 at 9:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As a SCE customer and ratepayer, I am not interested in my money going to support the felling of a giant tree that will interfere with traffic on State street. Use the money for a charitable donation to something worthwhile, and let the spoiled, entitled residents of Santa Barbara buy their own if they care to do so.

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
November 20, 2012 at 9:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think they should provide two trees for creating such division in the community, send the bill to blackpoodles and SQ.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 20, 2012 at 9:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This comment thread is amazingly entertaining.

Kingprawn (anonymous profile)
November 21, 2012 at 7:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

MSSB, your comments suggest that this attitude is unique to Santa Barbara. It's not.

To the topic, I like SBres' idea of just using an existing tree but I'd modify the idea somewhat to just use one of the big trees in the Sunken Garden every year. It's public property, quite visible and not an impediment to traffic.

SezMe (anonymous profile)
November 21, 2012 at 9:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The fact that the entitlement attitude is not unique to SB does not make it okay it just makes it sad. They can decorate every tree in town for all I care. The city or community can pay for the decorations. My annoyance is the outrage expressed by some in the community that their Christmas would somehow be ruined or stolen if SCE did not provide them with a tree. How extremely shallow can you be? If a tree in the middle of town makes a difference to your Christmas you have absolutely no business celebrating Christmas in the first place.

MSSB (anonymous profile)
November 21, 2012 at 10:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

MSSB's blanket condemnation of Great Expectations within our community seems a distortion of the events before us.

A close reading of the article explains that "... City Hall and downtown business leaders began lobbying Edison to relent"; no evidence of a huge protest by the populace, nor any inkling of a hissy-fit on the part of the Downtown Organization or 'City Hall.'

Agreed that SCE has no Xmas tree debt owed, and of course Guvmint and a thinly-financed Business Support group don't want to pay if they don't have to.

Seems to me the D.O. waited until the last minute regarding this silly tree, and I thank SCE for this last -- and all past -- trees donated to our Downtown.

السلام عليكم

binky (anonymous profile)
November 21, 2012 at 10:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

MSSB assumed our Christmas would be ruined or stolen, but what would be ruined/stolen would be the continuity of community tradition, part of the few shreds of remaining fabric left in this area.
I think you can tell who has lived here and who has not by their reactions to community traditions.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 21, 2012 at 12:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I was born here at Cottage Hospital. My mother was born here as well. My grandmother moved here with her family when she was very young. My reaction to this "community tradition" that began in 1997 after I was an adult, married with children of my own has nothing to do with how long my family has lived here. This is not a timeless tradition and SCE would never have provided the tree this year had it not been for the "lobbying" of the local government and the DO. The fact that local news media projected SCE as the grinch who stole Chistmas and had plenty of readers up in arms over the change shows how very entitled this community has become. This tree is not the shred I would like to see preserved for this area. Strange that the same people screaming about tradition are the very ones pushing to make this town unrecognizable to those of us who have been here for generations.

MSSB (anonymous profile)
November 21, 2012 at 12:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You don't see me pushing for the corporate behemoths on State St. God forbid one of them give something back.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 21, 2012 at 12:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

you guys are a kick. Anyone concerned about soldiers dying in Afghanistan?

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
November 22, 2012 at 8:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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