HOT ENUFF FOR YA? If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Or, at the very least, put down that butcher knife.

I say this in response to the contrived community uproar manufactured by the Santa Barbara News-Press regarding the Light Blue Line project. For those tuning in late, the project consists of a group of eco-agiteurs who want to make a point about global warming by painting a light blue line on the streets and sidewalks of downtown Santa Barbara to show exactly where our seashore would be if Greenland’s vast preternatural ice sheets were to melt-sometime in the next 100 to 1,000 years-causing the sea level to rise 21 feet. (Big hint: Patrons hoping to snag a seat at La Super Rica Taquer-a would be well advised to wear scuba gear.) Since the Santa Barbara City Council voted a few weeks ago to donate $12,000 to the cause, the News-Press has gone ballistic, delivering almost daily diatribes against this imaginative, if modest, gesture. The results appear to bear out the old adage: If you throw enough poop at a fence, some will eventually stick.

To shush up complaints about misuse of public resources, Councilmember Helene Schneider-whose baby this has been-went to one of her well-heeled campaign donors and secured the $12,000. Naturally, this has done nothing to shut up the News-Press. That’s in part because Schneider is widely expected to run for mayor two years hence against councilmember Iya Falcone, who enjoys strong support from Travis Armstrong, the paper’s ever frothing editorial ayatollah. Falcone, by the way, initially voted for the project and the $12,000 of city funds that went with it. But last Friday, the News-Press dedicated a top-right, front-page story to Falcone’s change of heart and the pangs of regret she felt for having voted for it. It wasn’t that Falcone didn’t think global warming was real, she said, she just thought there might be better ways to educate the public. Perhaps we could hold yet another lecture or symposium where the converted could come and preach at one another.

More than any single incident, the News-Press decision to give the Falcone article front-page treatment demonstrates the depths of dementia into which the paper has so purposefully plunged. Anyone with any sense figured last Friday’s front page would carry photos of Jaime Rodriguez Jr., the 19-year-old kid who grew up in Santa Barbara and was just killed in Iraq, coming home in a flag-draped coffin. Rodriguez is the first South Coast resident to receive this tragic homecoming. Certainly, poor Jaime Rodriguez Jr. did not deserve to be buried deep inside the daily, which gave his death a few photos and an extended caption on page A-9.

I am admittedly hardly unbiased where that paper is concerned these days. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that two weeks ago, I was deposed by its attorneys attempting to get me to reveal my sources about what’s been happening inside that paper. And three weeks ago, the daily subpoenaed The Independent, demanding we turn over unpublished notes and photographs. (In both instances, we have opposed the intrusions.) In the world of journalism, there’s little more precious than protecting one’s sources. One expects the government to pay little heed to this principle, but for the News-Press to do so illustrates nicely the extent to which we’ve entered the looking-glass world of Alice in Wonderland. Owner Wendy McCaw has clearly assigned to herself the role of Queen of Hearts, and she’s doing a fabulous job.

Given what’s going on around us, the Light Blue Line controversy provides much-needed comic relief. Those with any common sense are frightened out of their wits by the fire raging around us, while the rest of us try to pretend everything’s okay. “Don’t the Martian-red sunsets look beautiful?” we say. “And doesn’t the sunlight bouncing off the ashes give everybody’s skin a gorgeous golden glow?” Given the enormity of the fire, it’s hard to imagine we couldn’t use all of Greenland’s ice melted right here, right now. Maybe we should paint a light blue line around the fire. Maybe we should hire Antonio Romero, whose Chumash rain dance back in 1990 is credited by some with delivering 1.5 inches of rain on the usually dry Memorial Day weekend. Or maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger could set aside a week in which all state residents would be asked to pray for rain, like Alabama Governor Bob Riley just did.

I’m glad to see the local real estate agents have such a great sense of humor. I especially loved the letter they sent predicting that the Light Blue Line would reduce the value of properties lying on the ocean side. If agents had to disclose that these properties might be underwater sometime in the next 1,000 years, could that hurt sales? Meaning no disrespect to Carl’s Jr., that was a real whopper. If that’s the case, you’d think buyers might be put off by the existing maps showing exactly where the water will go in the event of tsunamis and floods, which pretty much mimic the Light Blue Line estimate. And we won’t have to wait 1,000 years for those; they’re guaranteed. So big deal. I only wish it were that easy to reduce property values. If that were true, we could secure some real affordable housing just by putting a few chalk marks on the curbs, streets, and sidewalks.

In the meantime, it’s worth noting that the meteorologists tell us this year has been the driest in recorded history for Santa Barbara. Given the exceedingly parched conditions of our backcountry tinder, that dryness has everything to do with the ashes falling from the sky and all the smoke we’re inhaling. I know fire and drought are part of our natural cycle. But it’s also possible that global warming could be making them much more devastating. So the next time you smell the smoke, think about the Light Blue Line. Maybe it ain’t such a dumb idea after all.


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