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Monday, March 2, 2009

Goleta Shows Solidarity

City Displays Heart at Council Meeting and at Walker Memorial

By Silvia Uribe

The Condo Conversions: When I got to the meeting, there were no seats. It was a full house. Everyone was there to talk about one thing: The Rancho Mobile Home conversion from rent-controlled park to condominium ownership. Not everyone who was there lived at the park. In fact, quite a few didn't. They lived in other mobile home parks, single family homes, and condos. There were also some people who didn't live in the area, but were interested to see what the Goleta City Council would decide. The expectation was enormous!

Goleta City Council members don't have to make this kind of decision every day. Whichever side you may be on, you cannot help but think that their decision will set a precedent affecting other mobile home parks. No wonder I'm a writer and not a politician! Having people's life and future in one's hands must not be an easy responsibility to carry.

Mobile Home Coalition activists fought conversion.

One thing that caught my attention was the commitment that most of the council showed to being truthful and up front with Goleta residents. I was glad to see this, especially, after feeling the energy that was going around among the Rancho residents. Several of them were crying, and others were mad, but most were fearful.

After a very long meeting, Councilmember Michael Bennett spoke to the public in a heartfelt way, which was obviously appreciated by the public. He explained how the state's legislation took away all of the city's options, leaving them with no other alternative but to negotiate and approve an agreement with which he and the rest of the council, he said, were not happy.

Not only that, he also expressed in no uncertain terms his disapproval of park landlord Daniel Guggenheim's practices. The rest of the councilmembers supported Bennett's comments.

I left a few minutes after 11 p.m. However, even though it was clear that most of the Rancho residents were not satisfied with the decision-out of 156 tenants, only eight wanted the conversion-most liked to hear from their city leaders that they really understood what was at stake, and what the real motives for the conversion were. They appreciated the feelings of solidarity.

After that, and not being one of those directly affected by this decision, I went home with a sweet and sour feeling. On one hand, my heart was going out to all of these close-by neighbors of mine, because I could feel their fear of losing their homes; and on the other, I felt satisfied to see that the spirit of service and solidarity, with which our city was founded, is still present in the City Council.

Another Example of Solidarity: I had the privilege of attending Phil Walker's memorial. Phil was a teacher, a musician, a friend, a father, and a loving husband to former Goleta City Council member Cynthia Brock. Most of all, though, he was a beloved human being as proven by the number of people who attended his memorial. More than 200 people met at the Museum of Natural History to remember him, celebrate his life, and show their love to my friend Cynthia.

Phil Walker
Phil Walker

Politicians, his fellow UCSB professors, Santa Barbara and Goleta residents, and people who lived outside the area all listened to the stories people shared, which gave, to those of us in the audience, a clear idea of who Phil was when he was in his many other worlds, the ones that each one of us represented.

Here, again, the spirit of solidarity was so clear, and moving. I know Cynthia from work-related activities, and I didn't have as much opportunity to get to know Phil. Still, I was told that the relaxed, casual, light feeling that marked this memorial gathering was very much aligned with his personality and taste.

I gave Cynthia a hug and asked her how was she feeling. "As you can expect, given the circumstances," she said with a sad smile that showed her pain, and at the same time, her strength.

Cynthia, you and Phil have lived a life of service. Now, your friends and community are here for you!

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at the

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