Monday, May 21, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 11

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on November 19th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 37 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 37

Take the last train to Splitsville

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Peter Adam sure sounds like he’s itching for a split.

I was prepping myself to write about the sure-Santa-Maria-Energy-can-move-its-oil-operations-forward-in-Santa-Barbara-County-but-only-with-its-hands-tied-behind-its-back vote debacle, when in flew an opinion piece from the mustachioed supervisor. He doesn’t come right out and drop the “s” word as a goal of his after the contentious showdown that pitted southern leaders who want tighter-than-tight emissions rules against everyone else, but he does say he wants change.

His anger is just the latest flare-up in the seemingly never-ending face-off between the north and south. We northerners see Santa Barbara and its neighbors as populated with stick-in-the-mud no-growthers who’d push a homeless person out of the way to get to an injured snowy plover. And some of them are.

They see us—when and if they see us—as mud-booted hicks straining to stick our oil drills wherever we think we might score a hit. No comment.

So the fact that there have been many split supporters and suggestions—and two actual split attempts—over the years is no surprise. Actually, I’m surprised that the subject hasn’t come up more often.

An argument against one split attempt, made back in 2006 by Marianne Partridge, editor-in-chief for The Santa Barbara Independent, basically boiled down to pitying the proposed northern split-off—dubbed Mission County—because it would have no money. Its empty pockets would drive it into the arms of waiting oil executives, who would run amok, unfettered by the environmentally protective South Santa Barbara County. The real horror in that, however, was portrayed as the resulting pollution and species destruction trickling back down through the Gaviota Pass.

Plus, she pointed out, workers in the north would have to keep travelling south, anyway. Gentrification doesn’t magically disappear when new borders are drawn. After all, those Montecito floors aren’t going to mop and wax themselves. Sweating glasses of iced tea don’t magically refill.

“But perhaps the most moral, principled reason for anyone to vote against a county split,” she wrote, “is the recognition that the majority of our poor will be isolated in a virtually bankrupt new county. Surely this would be an act of cruelty.”

Doesn’t that sound so Santa Barbara?

I mean, there’s no denying that the silver spoon is stuck into the southern side of the county, but come on! There’s got to be a way to talk about us northerners without reducing us to broke, money-grubbing, oil-scrabbling caricatures who only manage to keep food on our tables and pollutants out of our water because of the help we get from our more enlightened neighbors.

So Santa Barbara.

Here’s my take. I happen to think that an environmentally cautious stance is the best stance, because once a species or forest is gone, it’s gone. Something new might come in to take its place—and that’s life, right?—but progress and destruction at the cost of the natural world always hurt us in the long run. Deny climate change or downplay microscopic plastic pellets choking our seas or blame natural seeps all you want, but no one can say this planet isn’t changing, and quickly.

But honestly, we can’t stop the tide of people and the toll they take on the Earth. Not really. The best we can do is try to mitigate and manage-—like Santa Maria Energy was already doing—and I believe that we can do that, even without Santa Barbara holding all our hands.


The Canary still doesn’t like oil spills, though. Contact her at

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