I was catching up on some of the other local blogs and websites over the weekend when I came across a column by Cheri Rae over at Santa Barbara View lamenting the fact that, "Santa Barbara isn’t Santa Barbara anymore."
As evidence, she cites the recent murder on Olive Street near Santa Barbara High, rising incidents of thefts in her own neighborhood and a City Hall that appears to be unresponsive to its constituents.
Undoubtedly, it's all a matter of perspective, but I don't see it that way.
Let's start with crime. When I first came here in the late '70s I worked for the County as a Deputy District Attorney and therefore pretty much knew about every crime that was committed locally. Year-in-and year out from then until now we average about 12 homicides a year, for the whole county! Murders were never confined to the seedier parts of the county. I can recall corpses cropping up in Montecito, Hope Ranch, the Upper Eastside and Goleta on the mountain side of the freeway. And there were plenty of drug busts, burglaries, robberies and thefts. The difference between now and then is that back then you didn't have a guy named Roger listening to police calls on a scanner and posting them on Edhat. Back then most crime went unreported by the media. Now, every time someone over on Milpas Street looks cross-eyed at someone else it gets posted on the Internet. The crime rate is no greater now than it was back then. It just gets covered more by the media.
And yes, those leaders in City Hall may in many ways be unaccountable, but at least they're not out-and-out crooks as is the case in the city of Bell or some other cities.
It is true you would be hard-pressed to find a mom-and-pop boutique in the downtown shopping area, as you would in many other places in this country. But, I can tell you, State Street has improved dramatically compared to what it was when I first moved here. Back then (which was well before the Paseo Nuevo Mall went up) the area on State between Canon Perdido and the freeway looked the way the area between the freeway and Cabrillo looks now. By my reckoning, the only business on lower State that was here when I arrived in 1976 and still remains is The Adult Bookstore. I guess some parts of the retail sector never lose their appeal.
I'm not advocating for the Disneyfication of our downtown but I do wish the police would do more about the panhandling problem. When I was in New York City earlier this year, it certainly seemed as if the panhandling problem in Manhattan wasn't as bad as it is on State Street, as unbelievable as that may seem.
Still, on the whole, I'll take Santa Barbara over any other place in the world. Besides, I haven't heard of anybody threatening to leave here for Orange County, other than the County Administrative Officer.