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The Milk Snatcher


Perhaps Margaret Thatcher’s memoirs can offer the Santa Barbara City Council words of wisdom regarding the Las Positas public courts giveaway. In London, some 40 years ago, I marched in a demonstration against Margaret Thatcher. As Britain’s Minister of Education, she had just abolished free school milk, to cut costs. (This was before she became Prime Minister and formed a close political rapport with President Reagan). So I, alongside thousands of outraged protesters, marched through the streets of London chanting “Thatcher, Thatcher, the Milk Snatcher – Out, Out, Out!”

Winston Churchill had introduced the free school milk program after World War II as a dietary supplement for school children. As a child, I ran out to the playground each day, during morning break, to grab my bottle of fresh milk. But in 1971, Thatcher abolished this program, and our demonstration was in protest to her callous decision.

The lady did not change her mind so it seemed our protest failed. However, in her memoirs many years later, “The Milk Snatcher” admitted that her decision to abolish free school milk was the biggest mistake of her political career. The decision caused widespread public outrage and maximum political damage, for minimal cost savings. The lesson she learned informed her subsequent decisions; so our protest was not in vain after all.

As they review their decision to give away the beloved Las Positas public courts, I hope the City heeds the call for “Public Play – Not Giveaway!” and reflects on Margaret Thatcher’s lesson learned.

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