Miriam “Mickey” Flacks, outspoken progressive activist and tireless advocate of affordable housing for no less than 50 years, died this past week at age 80 after struggling with cancer.
Flacks, a bona fide red-diaper baby from New York City, moved to Santa Barbara in 1969 with her husband, Dick Flacks — a well-known UCSB sociology professor — and together, the couple became mainstays of the Santa Barbara’s ever-evolving progressive-leftist-environmental coalitions.
Dick Flacks would joke that in the Flacks family division of labor, Mickey was responsible for taking care of Santa Barbara, he with the rest of the world. To that end, Mickey Flacks emerged as a tireless advocate for affordable housing, pushing and prodding developers, politicians, and bureaucrats to maximize housing options — both rental and ownership — for working families.
Both Flackses emerged out of the fusion of Jewish and Communist cultures that flourished in New York, and both would shift from the Old Left to the New Left during the 1960s. But after arriving in Santa Barbara, both threw themselves into local grassroots politics with rare zeal and an even rarer degree of stamina and durability. Where other activists would come and go, the Flackses were constant.
Mickey — famous for her quick laugh and gruff, no-nonsense appraisals — testified hundreds of times before the Santa Barbara City Council over the decades. She also served on the Santa Barbara County Housing Authority Board. Her living room was also the scene where countless city council and county supervisorial campaigns were launched and much political strategizing took place. Shortly before she died, Flacks was given a lifetime achievement award from the local Democratic party.
A public celebration of her very public life will be held at a future date after the COVID-inspired restrictions on social gatherings have passed.