Great Days for the Irish

Going for the Green

<b>PRESIDENTS’ EMINENCE:</b> The presidents Roosevelt, Lincoln, and Johnson formed part of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s entertaining talk at Westmont’s President’s Breakfast on Friday.

GOING FOR THE GREEN: St. Patrick’s Day in Santa Barbara is a pleasant interlude of green beer, emerald touches to one’s outfit, and listening to Paddy bands. But back in my Chicago, the Irish ran the town for decades with an iron fist, one that grasped for money and political power.

The Daleys were mayors for the better (or worse) part of about 56 years. Chi-Town hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1927. My parents were Republicans, which tended to dampen any thought of political ambition.

Barney Brantingham

In my youth, Chicago was a tough town of ethnic neighborhoods. As kids, we were very careful about crossing borders.

One day a few buddies and I ventured across town to visit a girl. We found ourselves in an Irish neighborhood. We were maybe 16. It was an innocent afternoon call of less than an hour. When we came out, a bunch of Irishmen were waiting for us. Why? We didn’t ask, just got in the car and left. We never went back or saw the girl again.

When I was a little older, a buddy, Robert Louis Stevenson by name, and I went into a smoky Irish bar far from home. “Don’t make eye contact with anyone,” he warned. I didn’t. We had a quick beer and scooted.

In Santa Barbara, we have the rival Eastside and Westside gangbangers, seemingly ready to fight at a moment’s notice to prove their cred or stake out their turf on opposite sides of town. I may be a cockeyed optimist, as the song goes, but I have this hope that district elections will lead to a new brand of east-west leadership.

Instead of the present City Council where members represent everyone but no neighborhood in particular, we’ll have one man or woman in each neighborhood to whom folks can turn to help settle problems. Like cooling off the kids. The first Eastside and Westside elections are coming up in November. May the coolest candidates win.

HER PRESIDENTS: Doris Kearns Goodwin came to town the other day for one of her fast-moving, amusing excursions into the ups and downs of presidential history. Her books include Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln; The Bully Pulpit, about Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft; and No Ordinary Time, about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during World War II.

As a young, pretty college graduate working at the White House, she told the Fess Parker audience, she feared president Lyndon Johnson was setting the stage to try to seduce her. Instead, he told her: “You remind me of my mother.” Her talk was sponsored by Westmont College.

NOT FUN AND GAMES: I’ve always been irked by the so-called city “utility” fee that shows up on my Edison electric bill every month. I figured Southern California Edison was just unfairly passing the city’s utility tax onto us.

Turns out it was actually just another way for the City of Santa Barbara to pick our pockets in a sneaky way. And a court has just slapped it down.

According to an appeals court, the city has been collecting an illegal slush fund of $600,000-$700,000 a year to use on pet projects. And it must refund the money it’s been wrongfully collecting since 2005. Many thanks to downtown hotel owner Rolland Jacks, who filed a class-action suit against the city in 2011.

Now the case is being sent back to a trial court to figure out how much the refund should be and who gets it. I’m waiting for my share. Maybe it’ll help pay for the new jacked-up water rates to pay for the desal plant, assuming that Cachuma doesn’t spill in the next few months and the council okays desal.

Oddly, I don’t hear the city making much noise pushing conservation. Saved water is free water. Luckily, we’ve had some sprinkles lately to encourage residents to turn down ​— ​or off ​— ​their lawn sprinklers. It’s time to get real.

FUN AND GAMES: You appreciate wit, craziness onstage, and boffo performances? Take in Light Up the Sky, Moss Hart’s 1948 comedy satirizing the wicked ways of Broadway folk. The play hasn’t lost its sense of fun, as two of my kids learned when we went the other night. The Theatre Group at Santa Barbara City College is staging it through March 21.


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