Walk to School in Montecito?

Plus Carville, Direct Relief and the Stars of the Southern Sky

On Tuesday night, the Santa Barbara County Department of Public Works unveiled a draft of a long-awaited initial study that might make walking to school in Montecito a safer experience.

Cold Spring School hosted the roll out meeting for an initial draft of the “Montecito Walk to School Project Initial Study Report,” an engineering study in development since June and rumored to have cost around $50,000. A second public presentation of the report is scheduled for Thursday evening at Montecito Union School at 6 p.m. The public works department is seeking public comment on the report, before it is finalized. The report is nearly 150 pages long, and looks at problems, solutions, cost, funding and feasibility for walkways near Montecito’s elementary schools.

County Supervisor Salud Carbajal was on hand for Tuesday night’s presentation, along with Cold Spring School Superintendent Bryan McCabe and school walking route activists Don Miller and Tracey Willfong Singh. Christian Engelmann from Cal Trans attended and, both Public Works transportation manager Charles Ebeling and engineering technician Bert Johnson.

Christian Engelmann, Charles Ebeling, Don Miller, Tracey Willfong Singh, Salud Carbajal, Mary McMaster, Elisa Atwill, Eric Friedman, Brian McCabe, and Bert Johnson and a Direct Relief meeting/
J'Amy Brown

“The county has been willing to spend some resources to vigorously work on safe walking routes to school and to look for enhancements that will make walking routes more safe for children,” Carbajal said. “Once again Montecito is on the forefront of community issues. This study will serve as a template for the entire county on how to deal with school children and pedestrian issues.”

Public Works’ Bert Johnson, who wrote the bulk of the report and who provided Tuesday’s presentation, said he tried to listen to citizens’ concerns and then build active solutions. He said he hopes the study will be used as an educational tool and a source for writing funding proposals.

Don Miller, who has been an outspoken advocate in support of the pedestrian path, said he thought the report found a path to success. “I am really encouraged,” he said. “They have studied all the areas of concern. All our complaints really seem to have paid off.”

Singe, Cold Spring parent, concurred. “The county presentation is beautiful I am now filled with high expectations. This is a partnership between the county and the citizens,” she said. “If we want a safer community, it is up to each individual. We are going to contact each individual to so we can create a safe place to walk.”

Engineering estimates for conceptual enhancements in the Cold Spring School vicinity include a pedestrian landing at the northeast corner of State Highway 192 and Cold Spring Road (estimated cost: $160,000); repaired drainage at Eucalyptus Hill Road (cost estimate: $110,000); installation of shoulder backing on Paso Robles Drive (cost estimate: $40,000); and restricted parking on Paso Robles Drive (cost estimate: $15,000).

The conceptual ideas near Montecito Union School include some walkways on San Ysidro Road from Montecito Union School to North Jameson. The estimated costs, provided in the report, include three conceptual surface choices: a dirt footpath is estimated to cost $270,000; a decomposed granite walkway would cost $370,000 and a concrete sidewalk would cost approximately $530,000.

After the public meetings where comments and suggestions will be gathered, Carbajal said the next step will be to finalize the report and start seeking state and federal grants from Safe Routes to School funding. “Our county has a great record of success in getting these grants,” he said. The report is not currently available online so run, or walk, to Thursday’s meeting at Montecito Union School at 6 p.m., and get a copy. Study it, listen to the presentation, make some comments, and then do what you can to help make Montecito the most walk-friendly community in Santa Barbara County!

Cajun Cooking: Political consultant and pundit James Carville knows how to spice up a room like a dash of Louisiana hot sauce. The featured speaker at last Saturday’s Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s benefit, “Politics, Sex and Cocktails,” began by explaining how he was drawn to the event: “With an event name like ‘Politics, Sex and Cocktails,’ how could you keep me away?”

Carville gained national attention for his work as the lead strategist of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. Since then Carville served as the co-host of CNN’s Crossfire and political pundit on Situation Room. As if to keep his life interesting, Carville is married to Republican political consultant, Mary Matalin, who did not join her husband in Santa Barbara for his spicy talk.

Nearly 300 guests showed up at the Montecito Country Club to hear the Ragin’ Cajun banter about the players and the policies influencing the 2008 election. Carville wasted no time landing a few political right hooks, to the delight of the audience, who he quickly ascertained were mostly left-leaning Democrats:

On the current Republican Presidential candidate field: “You have old white guys and older white guys. Rudy Giuliani has been married more times than Mitt Romney has been hunting.”

On the up coming presidential election: “What a great time to be a democrat. I am really optimistic about our chances. We’d have to talk our way out of this next election.”

On why he thinks the Democrats are a shoe-in: “People are sick of arrogance, intolerance and fake issues.” And, “What people want today is not the Square Deal or the New Deal they want the real deal.”

On why he thinks youth will vote Democrat: “Young people have really come to their senses. They don’t want their government telling lies.”

On how he addresses political polarizations: “We [the Democrats] are not the right wing, we are just right-on everything, we are just right.

On whether his wife agrees with his position on who’s right. “There are things you just don’t get into to get through the day. In our house it’s politics,” Carville said, in his softest, most non-committal tone of the evening.

None of the guest were non-committal, however, about raging success of the Ragin’ Cajun evening. The event was chaired and planned by Suzanne Elledge, who knows a thing or two about planning. Her firm, Suzanne Elledge Planning and Permitting Services, you might recall, was the permit planner for a huge number of major Montecito project like the Biltmore Hotel revamp, the Coral Casino, the San Ysidro Ranch, the Music Academy of the West and Westmont College. Suzanne had no trouble organizing Cajun music, martinis and hors d’oeuvres to compliment Carville’s dish.

“Santa Barbara is like Mayberry with an airport” Carville mused. “But what’s going on with your daily paper here?”

As the Creole-charmed audience departed, Carville stayed at the Montecito Country Club for a dinner with a small group of high-echelon of Planned Parenthood supporters. Montage caught up with him just before he entered the private soiree to ask him a few questions, but it was Carville who had the question. “Santa Barbara is like Mayberry with an airport” he mused. “But what’s going on with your daily paper here?” Montage was intrigued Carville knew about our media gumbo, but she stifled her indigestible Tabasco-hot response. “It’s got its problems,” she drawled, leaving the indigestible specifics aside, because a guy from the Bayou should be able to keep his big, easy Mayberry dream intact.

Tricks and Treats: The biggest trick Direct Relief International had to pull out of the bag last Saturday was how to get an unusually early Montecito rainstorm out of the way in time to start of their noon outdoors friend-maker party at a beautiful Riven Rock estate.

Suzanne Elledge, James Carville, Joan Wells
J'Amy Brown

They accomplished the feat, and about 100 guests strolled the grounds including Doug Hampson, Nancy Koppleman, Elisa Atwill, Jeff Farrell, Dick and Maryan Schall, Nancy Schlosser and Barry Samuels. Some of the fun was at worktables where guests stuffed dental packets for distribution as part of the organization’s Healthy Smiles.

Direct Relief President and CEO Director Thomas Tighe welcomed guests and said Direct Relief, which was started in 1948, was about to reach its 60th birthday. In 2006, he added, Direct Relief, a medical and disaster relief agency, provided over $200 million in direct aid through medical material assistance and targeted cash grants to more than 300 healthcare facilities and organizations in 56 countries. Direct relieve provided 23.8 million courses of treatment in 2006 alone. “We have been able to push back against the notion that poverty is a death sentence,” Tighe said.

Thomas Tighe, Judy Cresap, Elisa Atwill, and Bob Cresap filling dental health packages.
J'Amy Brown

Direct Relief will hold a Healthy Smiles Dental Kit Volunteer Day on Thursday November 15, 11 a.m- 3 p.m. at 27 S. La Patera Lane, Goleta. Montage senses this organization will bring smiles to volunteers, donors and beneficiaries alike, so it seems like no trick at all to get involved.

Australian stargazer Martin George.

Seeing Stars: Westmont’s Keck Telescope will host a public viewing and lecture this Friday, October 19 at 7 p.m. in the Carroll Observatory lecture hall. World-renowned astronomer from Australia, Martin George, curator at the Launceston Planetarium of the Queen Victoria Museum, will speak on “Astronomy Down Under: Studying the Sky from Australia.” Weather permitting, the lecture will precede the public viewing event, held every third Friday of the month in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit.

George is past president of the International Planetarium Society (IPS) and chair of the IPS’s International Relations Committee. In 2005-2006, when he was president of the committee, he worked with planetariums in China and Brazil to strengthen international ties among the planetarium community. This year he has worked closely with planetariums in Russia.


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