I’m writing this as a former Santa Barbara resident who still knows and loves members of your community. I don’t keep up with the news there as much as I used to since I’ve moved away. I do still visit and keep my finger lightly on the pulse of the city. So, I don’t know if it’s been said before, but the New Year’s “wish for Santa Barbara” by the publisher of the daily paper couldn’t be more cringeworthy. I grew up throughout California, and came to love its mostly kind, live-and-let-live coastal communities. Wendy McCaw exemplifies the opposite of that. While I wish everyone there well, oppose vandalism, property crimes, and generally favor the just enforcement of laws, it is in fact the trend away from those values that helped me decide to move away from Santa Barbara to a more liberally progressive, socially supportive city.
Having been a Santa Barbara regular from 19 until my late thirties, and an actively employed, taxpaying member of the community who regularly supported local businesses and charities, I saw a continual abuse and misapplication of justice. The police were more likely to issue citations for minor drug offenses, to pedestrians stepping off State Street curbs to make way for a passerby (sometimes even to make way for a group of three to five police officers walking abreast and yielding walking space to no one), or to stop unfamiliar cars, than they were to enforce pedestrian safety laws throughout the city.
As a regular walker, I was more than once hit or almost hit by vehicles traveling the wrong way, driving onto the sidewalk, or not stopping completely at the pedestrian intersection when exiting parking lots, making turns, or the like. The greatest majority of my negative experiences as a pedestrian happened closest to the law enforcement headquarters near the beautiful county courthouse. For some reason the drivers of high-end luxury automobiles, with all their stopping power, were more confident about nearly breaking my legs next to the police station than people of color were to lose their footing near State Street businesses.
As a light skinned member of the community, I’ve overheard the police brag about how they beat and displaced more vulnerable members of the community, heard the outside agencies invited to the Fiesta melees be excited about using their new equipment to hurt people, and been myself assaulted by two outside law enforcement officers who responded to a noise complaint called in by none other than a Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Deputy because I had the audacity to greet him during a parade. These guest officers shoved me and my brother, sat on him, and threatened to arrest us for disturbing the peace, all while boisterous crowds passed by and numerous State Street business burglary alarms rang out for hours without being silenced.
If Ms. McCaw and her allies want a less crime-ridden, safer, more beautiful community for all, I suggest they start by enforcing the laws that protect from abuses of power, first and foremost. If pseudo-pedestrians felt safer in the bike lanes, perhaps they would use them more.