Unchained Dogs of Pokey LaFarge

Trolls, Curmudgeons, and the Explosion of City College’s International Enrollments

Thursday, August 14, 2014
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CRUNCHED NUMBERS: When I die and drag myself up to heaven, I expect it will look exactly like the Santa Barbara City College campus. And when God comes out to greet me, She ​— ​this is a Santa Barbara fantasy, after all ​— ​will radiate all the billowing wisdom, strength, and acceptance of Lori Gaskin, City College’s reigning Jefe del Mundo. The only problem with this vision is that thousands of students from all over the world are currently poaching my dream. And none of them are waiting to die to get here.

Angry Poodle

Giving urgency to such theological ruminations is that Gaskin and crew have their hands out, asking voters this November to approve something called Measure S, which will extract $288 million from the pockets of Santa Barbara property owners over the next 25 years to underwrite the cost of major construction projects befitting a campus that just won the “best community college in the nation” award. For the record, that’s a lot of construction and a lot of money. Unfortunately for Gaskin, this proposition has aroused the wrathful curiosity of Ernie Salomon, Santa Barbara’s bushy-browed troll under the proverbial bridge. By any measure, Ernie qualifies as a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, but Gaskin would be ill-advised to dismiss him as merely another occupant of Santa Barbara’s peanut gallery. Yes, Ernie experiences serious difficulty not telling people just how stupid they really are. Even so, he actually has a big heart, considerable street smarts, and gobs of energy. He also hosts his own public access TV show. Right now, Ernie is steamed about Measure S. His big question is this: “Why should Santa Barbara homeowners shell out $170 a year in additional property taxes to pay for gratuitous improvements when only 43 percent of the full-time students now attending City College actually come from the City College enrollment district?”

While Ernie and I often look at things through the same telescope, we tend to see them from the opposite ends. As a general rule, I figure if you’re lucky enough to own your own home in Santa Barbara, you’ve already won the lottery. So if you’re forced to pay what it costs to see about 10 movies a year to grease the gears of higher education, that qualifies as an acceptable shakedown in my book. But what’s no longer acceptable is City College’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the serious impacts their growing student body is having on the city’s notoriously challenged rental housing market. What’s equally unacceptable is the patiently polite, nothing-can-be-done fatalism of City Hall’s response to this problem.

In recent years, City College has emerged as ground zero for gazillions of students from Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Japan, and Brazil. Before that, they hailed from China and Ireland. Very cool and cosmopolitan. Little wonder, then, that at the sprawling apartment complex located right between City College’s East and West campuses, the new owners just installed a regulation-size flagpole with the flags of Japan, Brazil, Germany, and Sweden, not to mention those of the United States and California, flapping in the breeze. Campus officials estimate 6 percent of the student body comes from abroad. According to my math, that translates to about 1,800 bodies a school year. That number can go up even further because the campus cap on out-of-country students is 8 percent. Throw in another 4 percent to account for students hailing from outside the state, and it’s easy to understand how most classes are filled beyond capacity only seconds after enrollment starts. And that’s on top of the sizable number of students traditionally drawn to Santa Barbara from all over the state to take advantage of the school’s well-known back-door transfer privileges into UCSB, now one of the harder UC schools to get into.

I get it. City College is a great school. Who in their right mind wouldn’t go there? I also get why school officials like the out-of-state, out-of-country students. Money. In-state students taking a full load pay roughly $700 a semester in fees and tuition. By contrast, those from the outside pay $4,100. Many of these students come from wealthy families. Others are practically paid by their governments to attend, housing costs included. But here’s the deal: California’s community college system was invented to serve as the proverbial bootstraps by which those attempting to make it the hard way pulled themselves up. It was never envisioned to function as a fun-in-the-sun, educational-tourist-destination selfie that City College is now in danger of becoming.

Historically, City College has simply refused to address the housing needs of its students. To do so, its leaders explained, would interfere with its core mission of providing the aforementioned educational bootstraps. In other words, stop whining. But given that so many of these boots now bear the Gucci name brand, that rationale no longer applies. According to economic experts, Santa Barbara’s rents have increased at a record pace in the two years since the recovery. It now takes an income of $66,000 to “afford” ​— ​at least how the economists define it ​— ​the “average” rental. Much of this acceleration took place at exactly the same time as the spike in foreign enrollments occurred at City College. Coincidence or causality? You decide. Either way, you don’t need a PhD next to your last name to recognize the shifting demographics now afflicting the city’s lower Westside. What was once home to low-income Latino families packed in like sardines has now become “Isla Vista lite,” where City College students are now crammed in like anchovies. The demographics of the Mesa may differ, but the dynamics are the same.

Lori Gaskin, do something; City Hall, insist. Clearly, no easy or obvious solutions exist. But if you want to pick my pocket, Lori, I need to see serious effort. Otherwise, I’ll spend my money on movies, atrocious as they are. In the meantime, maybe we can all sing along to one of my favorite songs: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

I think that Ernie will have a lot of company regarding Measure S, myself included. Maybe SBCC should be building dormitories instead!

fredb93117 (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 7:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I own an apartment building one block from SBCC. It's the best investment I ever made. With IV's reputation as trashed as it is, parents want their kids attending SBCC to live close by. Also, the traffic and parking in that area have problems on school days. Rents in that area have skyrocketed. That apartment complex between east and west campus recently sold for $33M. It was a great deal at that!

Botany (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 8:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Will voters really give former Mayor Marty Blum and now SBCC trustee a half billion of their property tax dollars for the next 30 years to spend on this vast over-kill Measure S? Yikes.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 9:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Didn't the sales pitch for the last SBCC bond measure (Measure V, I believe) claim that the Measure V bond measure was all they needed for the next 30 years to spruce up the campus? Why has there been no accounting for how Measure V funds were spent and then an explanation as to why they weren't enough? I'm so liberal that Lyndon B. Johnson looks like a Tea Party member next to me and I truly believe in the bootstrap mission of SBCC (one of my kids took good advantage of it after having a lack luster high school showing). But my big question is: If Measure V was not enough how can we be assured that Measure S will be enough? Is enough even in the lexicon of SBCC or are we really having that old philosophical discussion regarding how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 10:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

All of Measure V's money has not yet been spent, Eckermann.

I am glad that SBCC rated so well, actually tied for #1 in the March 2013 Aspen Institute poll with Walla Walla Community.

It makes great advertising, see the flags in the parking lot, to attract more and more out-of-area students. On its website, SBCC says, "SBCC is renowned as the #1 community college in the nation." I don't think that's what the AI said.

But here are the Aspen Institute's considerations:
"three areas of student success:
* student success in persistence, completion, and transfer;
* consistent improvement in outcomes over time; and
* equity in outcomes for students of all racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds."

But the college has a smart rating of 43 (of 100, 59 being average) in the Find the Best poll College Measures, CNNMoney ranks SBCC 66%, "success rates of US community colleges":

With this kind of We're #1 hype, how can we believe what is being said about that gigantic bond demand?!

at_large (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 5:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You are right. SBCC is no longer #1 in the narrow criteria the Aspen Institute applied in 2012. The Aspen Institute is not even a community college ranking orgnization. This Award apperas to have been created as a publicty stunt cooked up by Jill Biden and a few large corporations who were taking hits from the Occupy crowd.

Check out the Aspen Institute website for more info. This Award ties into Obama's Race to the Top so he can brag he produced more college graduates than any other President.

Aspen Institute also admitted they had many members in the Santa Barbara area so it made sense to give SBCC one of these awards.. Moorpark and Alan Hancock are also in the running for next year's Apsen Award so how exclusive is this honor in the first place.

The real shocker is demanding the SBCC Foundation spend $250,000 on the Measure S bond marketing campaign. No wonder the SBCC Foundation Director recently resigned.

If the SBCC bond doesn't make sense on its face, and it does not, spending $250,000 marketing Measure S will not put lipstick on this pig.. SBCC is exploiting their 15 minutes of fame, but are asking us to spend 30 years paying for it.

No thanks. Measure S does not pass the smell test.. Back off SBCC. You are big enough. Get state money if you have more grandious plans, but don't ask for ours.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 7:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh come on, Nick, you missed the main point. Isla Vista now is home to 7,000 SBCC students (according to the SBCC newspaper, the overwhelming majority from outside Santa Barbara County, like Elliot Rodger. `In the box' in IV the population is about 15,000 (another 7-9,000 are outside the box in UCSB housing, Storke Ranch, etc that gets counted as part of IV in the census designated place).

Yup, about 1/2 of the population of classical IV, within the box of El Colegio, the UCSB campus and the beach, is now SBCC students.

UCSB students have to go through mandatory training to avoid and manage alcohol, not commit sexual assault, keep outsiders out of IV.

The 7,000 SBCC students in IV do **NONE** of that. The SBCC students in IV are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the mayhem in IV: many of them are freshman, rich, and very irresponsible.

Lori Gaskin's response has been to totally ignore the problem and in fact she tries to blame UCSB for all the problems her school's expansion has caused in the recent years in IV. She should simply resign, she is irresponsible.

pardallchewinggumspot (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 7:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I would like to thank Nick for his explanation of the financial and social ramifications of the huge outside enrollment at SBCC on the students and renters of our area. I also thank those of you who are expressing your opinions about why Measure S is not in the best interest of the SBCC District's citizens and students.

As to Nicks description of me; I plead guilty, but I sincerely care about the Santa Barbara area, which has been my home for over 46 years.

Measure S needs to be defeated because Lori Gaskin & Co. is asking for too much money, over One-half BILLION dollars, which will be used on a building ego trip that will not further the education of our local people.

Do you really want to spend $100 million, including interest, for a new swimming pool and gym? Does SBCC really need a new and expensive entryway? Do you really want to spend about $46 million for temporary space as construction goes on? Do you want a new second campus where the Wake Center now stands and serves all of our people, young and old. Do you want to expand the size and scale of SBCC and have even more outside of the district students than the approximately 12,000 the school already has?

You are being asked to underwrite 100% of the cost of the almost 12,000 outside students at no cost to their home cities and parents.
If you had a child in school here and were asked to also pay for a child being sent here from Eureka, would you do it? This is what Gaskin & Co. are asking you to do with Measure S!

Please-Look at your current Property Tax Bill! You are already paying hundreds of dollars a year, or more, depending on your property's assessed valuation, in two separate costs: SBCC General Assessment and you are also paying off 2008's Measure V!

This bond would be the biggest dollar amount in the history of Santa Barbara County and it would be paid only by those of us south of Gaviota!

If Measure S passes and is combined with the current repayment of Measure V, you will be on the hook for about $633 MILLION dollars, to be repaid over the next 35 years!

Measure is not about education; it is about buildings!

The true interest rates and assessment amount cannot be determined at this time. They are both a guess!

Please join Glen Mowrer and me on Wednesday, Sept. 24th at
7 PM on Channel 17 for a full hour discussion of Measure S. on Ernie Salomon-Live! Our phones will be open. Call in and express your opinions either way on Measure S.

ErnieSalomon (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2014 at 11:47 a.m. (Suggest removal)

According to CNN Money, SBCC is only ranked #23 and behind two other California community colleges according to CNN's version of community college success rates - SBCC has a 67% success rate well below CNN's top college success rate of 98%. Rankings of these things obviously depend upon what one is measuring and why.

How much of the Aspen $500,000 prize money did SBCC spend on the endless #1 swag that now drapes the campus and adorns every bit of correspondence and self-promotional media the college now sends out? If this is how they spend college revenues, don't ask local property owners to pay them any more for the next 30 years.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2014 at 1:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

In a vain attempt to avoid getting up with fleas shared by Jarvis and Ernie Salomon, I wish to be clear that I am all for taxing home owners to pay for the necessary expenses of SBCC. I just want SBCC to explain to me why the last bond measure wasn't enough and how the current bond measure will be enough. I'm willing to pay to keep the infrastructure spiffed-up. I just want to know what I'm paying for and what I paid for in the past. That kind of careful accounting seems to be lacking in all the information being disseminated. When I lived in IV in the early and middle 1970s, there were very few SBCC students living there. Now there are many SBCC students living there. SBCC needs to step up to the plate and take responsibility for using IV as a dorm or they have to provide housing on or near the SBCC campus. Like I said, I'm willing to pay, I just want to know what I'm paying for.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2014 at 6 p.m. (Suggest removal)

While I am nearly always for educational bonds, and will likely vote for Measure S, am pondering... I think Nick misses the point that it has never been in the mission of any of California's city colleges [aka Jr. Colleges in the past] to take responsibility for its students' housing, never,...oh, SB is so friggin' pretty and special THIS ultra-special community needs ITS city college to do this? Balderdash. Second, Nick and most others always praised SBCC for it's attractive track of getting it's students into UCSB easily, yet Nick now characterizes this negatively with "backdoor" -- writing "... to take advantage of the school’s well-known back-door transfer privileges into UCSB," Hey, if was YOUR kid you'd love this cool way to get two college years under your belt cheaply and then slide into UCSB.
Having said this, it may be that Gaskin has over-reached with this huge number, and my concern is that like a typical developer Gaskin focuses too much on structures and technology infrastructure, and NOT ENOUGH ON TEACHERS, their salaries, their numbers, retaining the best. Where did "face to face" teaching go?

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2014 at 9 p.m. (Suggest removal)

DrDan: as you probably know, none of this bond is for teaching; all of it is for construction. Tearing down Wake Center and rebuilding it much larger, building an Aquatics Center, building a new Sports Center. As the measure says,"Proceeds ...shall be used only for the acquisition, construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation or replacement of school facilities, including the furnishing and equipping of school facilities, and not for any other purpose, including teacher and college administrator salaries, pensions and other operating expenses."

The actual Yes or No section, says "no money for administrators' salaries" - further down, there is the paragraph of no teacher salaries, either, having left the impression that if there are no administrators' salaries there may be money for teaching.

The way it is written is a bit deceptive and not at all specific about the projects intended.

at_large (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2014 at 9:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

hafta admit it looks darned sloppy, and I have become much more suspicious of "buildings, tech infrastructure, building demolition" parts of these education bond measures... WHAT ABOUT TEACHERS?? and wonderful, creative, FACE-TO-FACE teaching with emphasis on teacher:student ratio and creative pedagogy, and NOT always based on gadgets and hi-tech BS! Thanks at_large
Gaskin has a lot to answer for; let's see what Glen Mowrer can do with Ernie on 24 Sept.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2014 at 11:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Part of Editorial:
Two bonds on California’s November ballot are too many bonds

By the Editorial Board MODESTO BEE
August 11, 2014

The Natomas School District is asking local voters to pass a $129 million building bond in November, a request that relies on a match from state funds that don’t exist.

Natomas’ projections are based on developments penciling out for homebuilders. If developers must include the cost of schools into the sticker price for new homes, it’s not good for business. That explains why homebuilders, along with architects and trade unions, are supporting the bond and paying for the campaign. (This is what we are seeing here-Ernie)

In fact, school enrollment has been on a general decline statewide for more than a decade and is expected to continue to drop at least through the next four years, according to the state Department of Finance.

Read more here:

ErnieSalomon (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2014 at 12:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Only in Santa Barbara on the same ballot:

Measure P - decreases public revenues
Measure S - increases public debt

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2014 at 3:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank California's ballot initiative process which also brought us Prop.8.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2014 at 4 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"DrDan: as you probably know, none of this bond is for teaching; all of it is for construction. Tearing down Wake Center and rebuilding it much larger, building an Aquatics Center..."

at_large (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2014 at 9:21 p.m.

Well well well, U got a problem with aquatics? How are dolphins s'posed to attend school? Oh wait, havent U ever heard the term "a school of dolphins"?

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2014 at 4:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"NOT ENOUGH ON TEACHERS, their salaries, their numbers, retaining the best."
DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2014 at 9 p.m.


Time for teachers to rise up against the administrators getting so much $$$ while they end up on the short end of the stick.

Why isn't his happening?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2014 at 5:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ernie, Thank you for your well informed comments. Although I will be voting yes on the bond measure.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2014 at 5:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Jarvis, well said.

No on P
No on S

nativegeo (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2014 at 6:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

while Yes on S, Ernie and others could look into what Pierce College (LA) and its consortium of city colleges did with a huge bond issue THEY got a few years ago: cost overruns, embezzlement, shoddy buildings, and the upshot was that colleges like SBCC may not really be capable of running CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS like the one Ms. Gaskin envisions. Like, she's a licensed contractor and SBCC would know how to run building projects on lines this massive?
I guess Gaskin and Glen Mowrer and the SBCC Bd. will finally come forwrd, but I do need much more detail on how these funds will be spent. Warning to SBCC: you seem a bit arrogant to toss this out there and then just imagine folks will roll over and pass it, like the 70% who passed the last one, V. How about some justifications, eh?

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2014 at 9:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ernie's Modesto Bee ref is interesting; after a State water bond for ca. $6billion [likely too LOW] we may be faced with another state bond: "some legislators, builders and union leaders are hoping that once the governor finishes with the water bond, he will sign off on a second bond for the ballot, this one for $4.5 billion to build new schools and modernize existing ones. It’s a tough sell." I am ALWAYS for schools, but my more narrow focus is on STUDENTS and TEACHERS; we seldom hear about teacher:student ratios but lowering this ratio is an extremely effective method for enhancing student learning. And expensive: but so are these damned buildings, and what if we can't/don't have the funds to hire great young teachers??
Oh, sarcasm here: I know, wait, with all this "modernization" of the existing buildings, read TECH SUPPORT, we won't NEED many teachers it'll all be e-learning and Skype-teaching, MOOCs, etc.
Hire great teachers, pay them well, get the focus off aquatics centers, sports pavilions...and back onto TEACHING and LEARNING...

Read more here:

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2014 at 11:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Don't immediately assume SBCC administrators make more than the teachers. SBCC has plenty of well-paid instructors.

CEO Gaskin refused to provide the 2013 salary schedules for the Transparent California website, but you get a good picture of the range of full compensation SBCC currently is paying both instructors and administrators.

This now out of date 2012 schedule still includes the pay-out the new SBCC trustees were forced to come up with after they fired former CEO Serban.. Consequently, this 2012 link will not include CEO Gaskin's current salary.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2014 at 9:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

DolphinPod14: Sorry to disappoint you but the Aquatic Center is off the list. It was talked about, but apparently withdrawn, perhaps because Los Banos and your ocean is so close by. So....... SBCC water poloists will have to attend your school! What do you charge?

at_large (anonymous profile)
August 22, 2014 at 10:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The new swimming pool was approximately $10 million dollars in the original estimate that would be used for water polo and would also be off limits for community use according to college documents.

So that still does not tell us where the current half billion Measure S dollars are going. I feel like we are waiting for the Academy Awards envelope, please. And the winners of the SBCC half billion dollars will be...... ??????

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 22, 2014 at 10:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

DolphinPod14: Sorry to disappoint you but the Aquatic Center is off the list. It was talked about, but apparently withdrawn, perhaps because Los Banos and your ocean is so close by. So....... SBCC water poloists will have to attend your school! What do you charge?

at_large (anonymous profile)
August 22, 2014 at 10:15 p.m.

We charge nothing. We are God's gift to humankind.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
August 23, 2014 at 4:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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