Now is as good a time as any to celebrate Presidents Day and honor a couple of dead presidents. Abe Lincoln and George Washington were fine. But perhaps we should celebrate a few more than these two. After all, much of what’s ailing us stems directly from an acute shortage of deceased chief executives. At least those that dwell in our collective wallets.
If anyone thinks Santa Barbara only gets the sniffles when the rest of the country has pneumonia, take a hike up and down State Street. There are only so many art posters you can plaster over vacant storefronts and not look desperate. I mean how much lipstick can one pig wear?
A big see-ya-later goes out to Russ’s Camera shop, the latest in a long line of closed shops that once defined S.B.’s so-called small town charm and character. Meanwhile the Downtown Organization rails on about the homeless and the need to reconfigure downtown benches so that the occupants face the street and not the sidewalks. Talk about kicking the dog when it’s down. Why not host a pow-wow with downtown landlords to get some rent relief instead? Some landlords have been more than helpful in this regard; others, not so much.
The absence of dead presidents has been felt so acutely throughout all levels of Santa Barbara that pretty soon we’ll be begging for poltergeist. The County of Santa Barbara is looking at cutting $16 million. The City of Santa Barbara is getting ready to figure out what to do about a $9 shortfall; that’s after adjusting its budget last year to the tune of $10.5 million. At a certain point, that translates to real pain. Fewer cops; no after school programs for kids. And forget about crossing guards. The school district has already cut $12 million over the past four years and is now sharpening the knives to lop off another $6 million.
To steal a line from film director Werner Herzog, soon it will be every man for himself and god against all.
UCSB will be charging 32 percent more in fees. The availability of classes is being reduced such that, system wide, it’s taking students about a semester longer to graduate. Over the last two years, City College has had to bridge cumulative budget shortfalls totaling $10 million. Now they’re looking to slash another $2.6. It ain’t pretty. Widows and orphans are getting tossed overboard so fast they splash.
The rubber is currently hitting the road with the abrupt winnowing and culling of City College’s adult ed course load. City College administrators are proceeding with maximum lack of finesse, making a bad situation even worse than it needs to be. Art classes that once cost $50, we learn, will soon cost $330. The faculty is not consulted; the community is not consulted. It’s a fair accomplit. That is, of course, until there’s a great hue and cry by those adversely affected, demanding some explanation of the method to City College’s madness. Board members tell critics to shut up at a public meeting. But adult ed administrators, working under the gun of unreasonable dead-lines, back-track. Still, the damage of collective sticker shock is done. (See Ethan Stewart’s report for complete details.)
City College has always relied upon the kindness of its adult ed enrollees when the college needed a bond measure or two approved. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, a little reciprocity is in order. Hint: when the natives get restless, don’t tell them to shut up.
Also at risk in City College’s maelstrom are four popular pre-schools — the Oaks and Starr King being the two that come most readily to mind. The executive directors of these pre-schools — which are really parent-child workshops — have been paid over the eons by adult education. Parent volunteers handle much of the day-to-day classroom supervision. Some of these schools go back 61 years with adult ed. That’s a lot of tradition. But under the harsh light of new budget realities, City College administrators are wondering whether they can afford to maintain this traditional relationship. But again, the new regime running City College is getting dangerously low marks for consultation, explanation, or negotiation.
When it comes to the raw sewage of politics, poop runs both uphill and down. It’s the miracle of muck. While much of the pain we’re feeling stems from the recession, the Californians legislature — stuck in a protracted stated of infantile paralysis — has contributed unnecessarily to our woe. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hollywood’s ultimate action icon, was elected Governor to blow up Sacramento and put it back together again. When he leaves office, he’ll walk away wearing the tatters of his own considerable failure. (To be fair, nobody could have pulled it off.) And the rest of us will find ourselves stuck in a much deeper hole than when he first took office.
The most recent indicator of Arnold’s essential impotence is he can’t even successfully appoint Santa Maria’s own state Senator Abel Maldonado — one of the few genuinely moderate Republicans in Sacramento — to fill the vacant and largely meaningless position of Lieutenant Governor. Assembly Democrats — lead by our own Pedro Nava, who’s now running for Attorney General — are charging against Abel on the grounds that he’s a political extortionist. At least he got something done. Note to legislature: if you’re going to be irrelevant, at least be entertaining. Instead, such antics serve only to put the “ick” back in politicks. The only real question is by whom should we be most disgusted.
In the meantime, have a happy Presidents Day. When you’re not too busy trying to remember what Rutherford Hayes looked like (like the guys in ZZ Top) and whether Grant is actually buried in Grant’s Tomb, be sure to spend lots of money. After all, our future depends on dead presidents.