Comments by jbc

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Posted on January 28 at 10:18 a.m.

The headline does not make grammatical sense. The lens can "turn 158" or it can celebrate its "158th birthday", but it can't "turn 158th". Right?

Just sayin'. I mean, you're a newspaper and all.

On Point Conception Lens Turns 158

Posted on November 28 at 6:47 a.m.

The appearance of a single gray hawk in California could be evidence for the effects of human-caused climate change. Or it could just be a case of an individual bird that got confused. As with things like the incidence of severe weather events, it isn't valid science to say that individual events constitute proof. Instead, people with relevant expertise need to analyze large-scale effects to distinguish the "signal" of human-caused climate change from the "noise" of scattered individual occurrences.

Unfortunately, when they do that kind of analysis, climate scientists are largely of the view that yes, humans are causing climate change, and its effects are showing up in a multitude of changes, of which tropical species being more likely to show up outside their normal ranges is one.

I was lucky enough to see this bird yesterday morning. For those trying to see it, it's important to give it its space. If excited observers make a point of continuously approaching it closely, it will flush it from its perch, disrupt its hunting, and increase the likelihood that it will move on to another area. So hang back and enjoy the view through binoculars and spotting scope.

Thanks (and congratulations!) to Eric for finding this very exciting bird. I've been lucky enough to go bird watching with Eric several times, and he's an amazingly talented birder.

For anyone who thinks they might be interested in bird watching, the annual Christmas Bird Count is coming up, and is a great opportunity for beginners to go out in the field with experienced birders while making a real contribution to the kind of science I was discussing above. And this year participation is free of charge!

Here are dates and contact information for upcoming Christmas counts:

December 16, 2012: Carpinteria, contact Rob Denholtz, Phone: (805) 684-4060.

January 5, 2013: Santa Barbara, contacts Rebecca Coulter, 805-455-7040, and Joan Murdoch, (805) 969-5132.

On First Gray Hawk Sighting in California?

Posted on December 29 at 12:31 a.m.

Thanks for organizing the count again this year, Rob! The birding was great fun, and the rain just made it that much more memorable. The five birders who joined me to bird upper and lower Santa Monica Creek were real heroes, inspiring me with their enthusiasm and dedication.

I'm really looking forward to the 2011 count.


On 10,425 Individual Birds Counted in Carpinteria Area

Posted on September 27 at 8:15 a.m.

Some corrections:

The article currently refers to "Mayor Gregg McCarty, who is seeking his third term." His name is actually Gregg Carty, and he's seeking his second term.

The article also currently refers to "Janet Sugiyama, a first time candidate." Her name is actually Janice Sugiyama.

On Hearing From Carp's Council Candidates

Posted on May 6 at 8:06 a.m.

I know it's just a side issue, but one of the things that has bothered me about the Yes on J campaign is the way they've tried to characterize the other side as dishonest. Those accusations have mostly been non-specific; Venoco is happy to say the other side is lying, but is vague about just which statements are supposed to be untrue, and what makes them untrue.

I suppose that approach might help sway a few undecided voters. But like a lot of Carpinterians, I have a pretty high opinion of the people they're accusing. Former mayors Dick Weinberg and Donna Jordan, and current mayor Gregg Carty, are among the most principled, honest people I've ever met. Whether or not I agree with all the decisions they've made, I know they take their role as public servants very seriously. They've demonstrated -- over a span of decades, in some cases -- that they are willing to keep an open mind and give all sides a fair hearing before choosing the course that they honestly believe is in the best interests of Carpinteria.

These are the people the Yes on J campaign is calling liars. I think that tells you something.

On Measure J: Paredon or Paradise?

Posted on May 3 at 8:02 a.m.

There's a small but significant error in the article. Seth Miller writes, "Venoco first attempted to get Paredon approved by the City of Carpinteria, but the City Council stonewalled the proposal..." That's not true. Neither city officials nor the city council ever "stonewalled" the original Paredon proposal. It required lengthy environmental review, true, but that review proceeded normally, and in fact was just reaching the stage where the city's planning commission and city council would have begun to hold public hearings for final certification of the environmental impact report. It was Venoco that pulled the plug on that process, canceling the original project in order to substitute the more Venoco-friendly version in Measure J.

I've heard supporters of Measure J argue that Venoco had no choice but to turn to a ballot initiative, because it was impossible for the company to get a fair hearing via the normal approval process. That argument would carry more weight with me, though, if Venoco had actually allowed that process to reach a decision. Then, if the project had been rejected, and if Venoco felt it had been treated unfairly, it could have made its case to the public. Instead, it decided that it would have a better chance of swaying voters to its side if it did so before letting the original project receive a full public airing.

Measure J is an attempt to bypass the city's oversight. It rewrites the city's planning laws to create two classes of Carpinterians: Venoco, who gets special treatment and whose interests are paramount, and everyone else. That's all it does. It doesn't prevent offshore drilling, or initiate a "full environmental review," like Venoco's misleading ads state.

Read the initiative.

On Hundreds Gather to Protest Venoco Vote

Posted on August 14 at 8:48 a.m.

I've noticed an interesting pattern over the last month or so. Every time an article about Venoco's Paredon project is posted on a local news site that allows public comments, the article qickly attracts several pro-Paredon comments very much like the ones posted above. Yet when discussions about Paredon take place in the community in real life, pro-Paredon sentiment is much less prevalent.

I don't necessarily find it odd that people would post pro-Paredon comments; there clearly are a range of valid viewpoints on this issue, including those held by Venoco's own employees and contractors, and those people deserve to have their say, just like anyone else. It's that those comments appear so quickly, and are so consistent in their language and the position being argued, despite coming from what at least at first glance appear to be a wide range of user accounts, that seems noteworthy to me.

I've seen the suspicion expressed that these comments actually are part of an "astroturf" campaign being conducted under the direction of the outside public relations firm Venoco has hired. I don't want to give in to conspiracy theories, but there certainly does seem to be a zeal and consistency to these pro-Paredon comments that I haven't seen in other community forums. Maybe that's because in real-world discussions (as opposed to online ones), it is more obvious when the speaker is actually someone who works for, or is paid as a contractor by, the project's proponent?

In the materials I've seen describing the "Carpinteria Community Initiative", Venoco has gone to great lengths to characterize its initiative as representing a broadly held sentiment in the community, rather than being something implemented by and designed to benefit a single company. Even Venoco's preferred name for the initiative appears to have been chosen to support that characterization. I'm beginning to wonder if the pattern of pro-Paredon user comments on news sites is part of the same strategy.

I encourage those reading these comments to consider the possibility that many of the voices purporting to reflect citizen support for Paredon may in fact represent a single voice: Venoco's.

On Carp Appeals Venoco's Plans for Vote on Oil Proposal

Posted on June 19 at 10:48 a.m.

I think the author of this piece may have confused the Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs with the Carpinteria Valley Association (CVA). While Citizens for the Bluffs has voiced concerns about the project, at least until now the group has not taken a public stand against it. It is the CVA -- in coordination with other groups -- that has been leading community efforts opposed to the project in recent months.

The point may be moot, since with the release of the draft EIR we now have a clearer idea of what Venoco is proposing, and as a result we may see both groups, along with other parts of the community, joining forces to oppose it. But I think it's worth noting that Citizens for the Bluffs has taken exactly the approach that Venoco spokesman Mike Edwards asks for: waiting to study the actual proposal before deciding on a response.

On Venoco Seeks Carp Expansion

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