Parting shot

The court of public opinion is a tough one in which to play ball. It’s charged with emotion, unpredictable and, ultimately, the victories won are hollow and imprecise. Do the squeakiest wheels actually represent a majority opinion, or merely a loud one?

In the case of the proposed beach basketball courts, we’ll probably never know.

Presented with a disproportionate amount of public criticism, and few supporters willing to get into the game, architect Barry Berkus recently withdrew his support for the project he’d once offered to shepherd.

“There are not a lot of hours in the day,” said Berkus, who devotes 25 percent of his time to philanthropic endeavors. “This has really turned ugly because the aggressive people went after me personally. There are a lot of letters that weren’t published, a lot of people who will not get into a fray. It’s a shame that a few can take away the dream of many … I guess I’m going to learn how to play drums on the beach.”

An active opponent of the project, Mike Larbig, said he got involved initially to try to protect the quality of his local (Shoreline) park. When that site was shot down, the new father of twins said he thought long and hard about whether to continue to fight the project. Ultimately, frustration over the process was what kept him going. Proponents never really demonstrated this big public need or desire for a court, said Larbig.

Indeed the biggest unanswered question in the whole fiasco — other than “What would Pearl Chase think about courts at the beach?” — is whether we have enough basketball courts to fulfill the community’s needs. The available public courts are in ill repair, according to Berkus. Others argue there are plenty of perfectly good courts sitting unused around town. The letters to the editors keep on coming, but the concrete facts are few and far between.

“No, there has never been a needs assessment,” said Billy Goodnick, project coordinator for the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department.

Nor has the Santa Barbara School District done a study of basketball court use, said spokeswoman Barbara Keyani.

At the end of a recent Santa Barbara City Council meeting, Councilman Gregg Hart offered his post-game analysis. Unfortunately, many of the major players in the court of public opinion had already gone back to the office to file their stories.

“I am saddened by the level of discourse in this debate. The vitriolic, mean-spirited attacks on Mr. Berkus … his motives. This is about providing a recreational opportunity for the community,” said Hart.

But sports are about a lot more than recreation. One of the fundamental values they teach is to respect the other team. In tennis, if there’s a question about a line call, you must decide in favor of your opponent. In other words, give them the benefit of the doubt.

Both Berkus’ drive to build the courts, and his opposition’s desire to preserve the beachside integrity should be commended, not criticized. Acting with the best of intentions, at least they had the courage to get in the game.

It’s not for nothing that in basketball — win or lose — you shake hands at the end of the game. It’s one court where actions speak louder than words.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Landshark may not be beached

“This shark doesn’t bite,” at least not according to J.P. Manoux, “second mate” of the Land Shark Hydra Terra vehicle, which was beached by the Santa Barbara City Council at its meeting July 1.

According to Manoux, the waterfront staff spent months “thoroughly researching the safety and sensibility of this kind of business in Santa Barbara” and expected routine approval for a one-year license agreement with the city.

Manoux’s brother Andre — who owns the $250,000 amphibious vehicle and its booking company, Land & Sea Tours — was so certain the council meeting would go smoothly, he spent the afternoon getting his Coast Guard certification.

Skipping the meeting proved a costly mistake. J.P. Manoux said the council did not vote with a completely educated point-of-view, citing misinformation about the size, noise and aesthetics of the vehicle. He is now attempting to salvage an agreement by providing the council with extensive documentation. The size of vehicle and the noise levels actually compare favorably to charter buses, according to J.P. Manoux.

Despite the Manoux’s effort to “be very respectful of the city’s position” they’ll face some rough waters in their attempt to win council approval. “When we vote on an issue, we cannot reconsider it for 90 days,” said Mayor Marty Blum.

Though the Land & Sea Tours license agreement, which would have yielded the city 5 percent of the Land Shark’s sales, is moot until October, Andre Manoux has not given up hope. He is asking the council to grant an exception to the existing ordinance that prohibits vehicles over 33 feet from entering the harbor parking lot, effectively land-locking the Land Shark. Waterfront Director John Bridley said, “The intent of that code was for parking purposes. We do have (larger) vehicles, unfortunately, that do enter the parking lot now, for purposes of delivery, drop offs, beer trucks, UPS trucks, and charter boat operators. … However, we’ve gotten our direction from the city council. We’re not expecting or anticipating further action.”

In addition to trying to fight city hall, Land & Sea Tours is also in search of community support for the unique vehicle. Last week its phone message pushed proponents to call Mayor Blum, and this week’s message urged calls to council members as well. The pros and cons seem to be about even, according to Blum. “People are aware but not incensed. I had people stop me on the street to say thanks (for not allowing the vehicle).”

Keeping the vehicle out of the water may be easier for the council than keeping it off the streets. With harbor access denied, in order to remain commercially viable the Land Shark will run eight 45-minute land tours per day, instead of the four 90-minute amphibious tours planned. “We are a licensed sight-seeing tour business. Now we’re sort of forced to spend more time on the streets if we’re to run as a business. …We don’t want that and they don’t want that,” said J.P. Manoux.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Rising Up

There’s a startlingly small degree of separation between the general population and mental illness. One out of every three people is personally affected — either they or someone close to them are mentally ill — said Denee Jordan, clinical director of Phoenix of Santa Barbara, a nonprofit mental health agency.

Dedicated to both treatment of the mentally ill and education of the general public, the Phoenix team is “putting a lot of mythology of mental illness to rest just by being here in a neighborhood,” said executive director John Turner.

The neighborhoods are 107 East Micheltorena St., home to Phoenix House, a transitional residential treatment facility; and 1231 Garden St., headquarters for Ada’s Place, a less structured transitional care facility. Also under consideration is an additional property at 37 Mountain Drive.

“In some cases the clients are indistinguishable from other people. With services and medication some of the mentally ill can live lives that are normal,” Turner said.

The agency, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, serves clients with a variety of conditions, predominantly schizophrenia. Two years ago it added a dual-diagnosis program for mental illness and drug addiction. Usually the two illnesses are treated separately, but according to Turner, these clients need specialized treatment.

“There’s no definitive line between mental illness and substance abuse but you can’t clearly see the difference in the two behaviors” said Jordan.

The staff has been trained to understand the complex relationship between sobriety and mental health. The Phoenix program is based on an adaptation of 12-step principles used by Alcoholics Anonymous. The county is also starting a dual-diagnosis certification program that will eventually be open to the public, said Jordan.

It’s not that the mentally ill are more susceptible to addiction, “but I think that the outcome can be worse. They’re already struggling with organizing their thoughts, without introducing substances,” she said.

“Someone with mental illness symptoms may use street drugs to cope with the symptoms,” said Turner. While there are now fewer side effects associated with antipsychotic drugs, they’re still very uncomfortable, said Jordan. Getting the mentally ill to stay on their medication is a huge challenge. “It has a lot of adverse side effects. The general population thinks they just don’t want to stay on it because they’re not behaving themselves,” a misconception, according to Jordan.

Emphasizing the importance of medication compliance, Turner said one of the keys to success is for staff to check in daily with clients in the outpatient program who may be ambivalent about taking their prescriptions. “Really good rapport is key for a good relationship between staff and client.”

While Turner admits that “introducing the concept of recovery into mental health is fairly novel,” his team is committed helping clients live as normally as possible. Among the guiding values of Phoenix are being creative and seeing “fun, humor and artistic expression as central to a full life.”

In addition to her clinical work, Jordan is also a professional ballet dancer with the Plexis Dance Theatre, which performed a piece on schizophrenia last year.

“I’m a great believer in how we can really shift people from maladaptive to functional,” said Turner, who has a masters in social anthropology. “I’m interested in the mix of community and mental health. It’s exciting to see people discover recovery.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

One nation, many voices

Patriotism, defined simply by Merriam-Webster as “love for or devotion to one’s country” has become anything but simple in our recent political climate. Throughout our nation’s history, radicals, reformers, as well as those in the middle of the political road, have viewed their actions as profoundly patriotic. What better time to reflect on its meaning than this week, as we celebrate Independence Day. Here is what some South Coast residents had to say when asked, “What does patriotism mean to you?”





“Patriotism to me isn’t blindly following the bellwether of the most powerful political trend. … Patriotism IS the unrelenting need to challenge the forces that seek to undermine all that our Forefathers created.” —Charles Rice, Gay Santa


” Patriotism is also not about waving the flag. … It is found in the responsibility we take in our daily lives to build the community we call America. Patriotism is about being well informed about what is going on in the world … being registered to vote and voting … offering constructive and civil praise and criticism to our government and being free to do so; and, it is about believing and supporting our rights granted under the Constitution.” —Marty Blum, Santa Barbara mayor

“Patriotism is the love of a nation that protects our freedom and human rights.” — Jane and George Arakelian, Jerusalem natives, Santa Barbara residents

“Patriotism … means believing that my country and the freedom it gives each individual to make the most of himself, is a unique and precious treasure that is not found anywhere else in the world.” — Sandee Beckers, community volunteer

“Pride in being an American — no hyphens in front or back of that. Joy in seeing the glorious American flag with its brilliant stars and stripes while visiting foreign nations. Love of our magnificent natural resources. Enjoying the friendship that is so typical of Americans.” –Jean Blois, Goleta city councilwoman

” … For me, patriotism means being ‘always ready’ to answer the call (whatever the mission may be) and to be an active and positive member of my local community.”– Lt. Bryan Clampitt, Coast Guard, Channel Islands Harbor

“I’ll give you two quotes (from other people). Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. Peace is patriotic.” — Mickey Flacks, community activist

“Patriotism does not mean my country right or wrong. It means being an informed citizen. One who votes. One who embraces America’s founding principles and speaks out when those principles are endangered or ignored. It means questioning the notion that America has a divine mandate to rule the world. Real patriots seek peace.”– Linda Stewart-Oaten, writer




“It’s really too bad that patriotism has become identified with a particular conservative political ideological position and that isn’t true about the history of American patriotic expression. People’s commitment to America is not to be measured by whether they wrap themselves in flags, but what they do to make the country as good as it wants to be, and preserve its values.”– Richard Flacks, UCSB professor

“Patriotism means standing up for individual rights and limited government. For liberty to prevail, we must be forever on guard against every form of tyranny.”– Gregory Gandrud, Carpinteria city councilman

“I feel patriotism means standing behind our service men and women that defend our country every day, no matter what our political views are.” — Lola Georgi, wife of Col. Daniel Georgi

“… Being patriotic is a little bit like being married. You love your spouse and more often than not feel like they are the absolute perfect fit for you. Occasionally, you may disagree on various issues, but it doesn’t mean that you stop loving and supporting them. And when the chips are down, boy, you had better be there, defending them with all your heart.”– Ashley Snyder, mother of three

“Patriotism is an addictive escape that is self-servingly pawned off on the public by corporations and governments in order to wrest freedom from individuals and prevent us from facing and overcoming our fears.” — Justin Weaver, concert manager

“Patriotism is where a person does everything they can to help all people find happiness.”– Tobias Larouche, salesman

“Patriotism is a love for your country and strong desire to protect our hard-earned constitutional rights. There is also a hope that your country will live up to your expectations by taking care of all of its citizens, using honesty and integrity, and being a positive role model for the rest of the world.” —Catherine Dishion, United Nations Association, Santa Barbara Chapter

“Patriotism is about defending our way of life, our values, and remembering those who sacrificed their lives defending our freedoms. … I like to remember the thousands of Native American men and women who have sacrificed and served in the U.S. military — from the Revolutionary War right up through the war in Iraq — so that all of us who live on this land may be free. — Jon Gregory, general manager, Chumash Casino




“Patriotism for me is the act of celebrating those who vehemently disagree with me and recognizing that our debate, and the fundamental right to disagree, is what unites us as a country.”– Ben Romo, political consultant, Romo & Associates

“… Pride of country, love of family and children, respect for differences of cultures and more, basking and relaxing in the beauty of our local community and most important, getting teary-eyed each time we sing ‘God Bless America’ and watch our flag march by!”– Catherine Lee, executive director, Montecito Association

“Patriotism is being proud of your country.”– Marley Taylor, Girl Scout cadet, age 12

Originally published in South Coast Beacon