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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

The Fix Is In: How Politics, Not Policy, Shaped Housing Element; Oil Scandal, Evictions, Jail Deaths

Behind-the-scenes scheming and manuevering -- including secret development consultations with land owners, special treatment for cannabis growers, and a refusal to make use of publicly-owned property -- were key factors in producing Santa Barbara County's skewed and shoddy new state Housing Element.

The critical and controversial long-range housing strategy, adopted this week on a split vote of the Board of Supervisors,jams thousands of projected new housing units into swaths of Goleta Valley long preserved for agriculture by local planning guidelines; the vast majority of foreseen new housing development is sited in the county's Second District, while the Housing Element largely spares Montecito and other communities in the First District from the build-baby-build frenzy ignited by decrees handed down in the past few years from Sacramento.

As every school child knows, the First Distrist is represented by Supervisor Das Williams, now seeking re-election, who enlisted Lisa Plowman, the pro-development Director of Planning and Development, in crafting a state-required plan that now allows him to preen as a champion of new housing while not inconveniencing his own constituents with the aggravatations and declining quality of life being foisted on residents elsewhere in the county.

On this week's edition of Newsmakers TV, Josh Molina breaks down the raw politics behind the Das-Lisa alliance, while Ryan P. Cruz forecasts some no-holds-barred. battles over rezoning decisions necessary to enact the new housing plan, which now is to be submitted to the state for sign-off.

Nick Welsh also joins the genial host with more scandalous -- not to mention downright bizarre -- news arising from the County Administration building, as the county Public Works Department copped to two counts of criminal negligence and 12 civil charges extracted by the, um, county District Attorney in the long-running and tangled case of a persistent oil spill befouling Toro Canyon Creek. Jarndyce v. Jarndyce has nothing on these guys.

Plus: Some green shoots of progress on mental health care for inmates of Sheriff Bill Brown's jail; SB councilman Mike Jordan enjoys the sound of his own voice in the renoviction controversy; a septegenarian self-reinvention by former councilmember Brian Barnwell; a how to help the homeless stay warm this winter crusade; and the gang ranks the biggest windbags in the local political landscape.

All this and more, right here, right now on Newsmakers TV.


Check out the new edition via YouTube below, or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here. TVSB, Channel 17, broadcasts the show every weeknight at 8 p.m. and at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. KCSB, 91.9 FM, airs the program at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.


Cartoon by Lila Ash for The New Yorker.

Must-read of the week. "A Trump Dictatorship is Increasingly Inevitable. We Should Stop Pretending," by Robert Kagan in the Washington Post:

"Let’s stop the wishful thinking and face the stark reality: There is a clear path to dictatorship in the United States, and it is getting shorter every day. In 13 weeks, Donald Trump will have locked up the Republican nomination. In the RealClearPolitics poll average (for the period from Nov. 9 to 20), Trump leads his nearest competitor by 47 points and leads the rest of the field combined by 27 points. The idea that he is unelectable in the general election is nonsense — he is tied or ahead of President Biden in all the latest polls — stripping other Republican challengers of their own stated reasons for existence. The fact that many Americans might prefer other candidates, much ballyhooed by such political sages as Karl Rove, will soon become irrelevant when millions of Republican voters turn out to choose the person whom no one allegedly wants....

"The Trump dictatorship will not be a communist tyranny, where almost everyone feels the oppression and has their lives shaped by it. In conservative, anti-liberal tyrannies, ordinary people face all kinds of limitations on their freedoms, but it is a problem for them only to the degree that they value those freedoms, and many people do not. The fact that this tyranny will depend entirely on the whims of one man will mean that Americans’ rights will be conditional rather than guaranteed. But if most Americans can go about their daily business, they might not care, just as many Russians and Hungarians do not care."

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Newsmakers with JR
Newsmakers with JR
Dec 14, 2023

Thanks for your thoughts Chuck. Gettin the generational squeeze on this one...

BTW: does your trashing belittlement of "water-sucking agriculture" include cannabis?


Chuck Flacks
Chuck Flacks
Dec 14, 2023

Dear Jerry,

While I'm not privy to the machinations of the behind-the-scenes planning that you allege in regard to the County Housing Element, I must object to your characterization of new housing contributing to a "declining quality of life." Without more housing, our community withers and dies.

Ask the hundreds of people who leave the area every year because they can't afford the "quality." Ask the thousands of commuters from Ventura and points north because they can't live anywhere near where they work about their "quality" of life. Ask the employers who can't recruit the needed talent about the "quality" of their hiring processes. Ask the shopkeepers who are barely scraping by or are forced to close because of a…

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