Search This Blog

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Goleta Wish List

Goods and Services We Still Need

By Silvia Uribe

Life in Goleta is pretty laid back. Most of us can agree that we have many things to enjoy on a daily basis: a lovely coastline, several beaches, mountains not only to admire but with different levels of trails to hike, a small lake of our own, the bluffs-and such good weather can be found almost nowhere else, which makes it the perfect place to live.

However, the same praise cannot be heaped on the necessity of traveling to Santa Barbara, or even further away, to look for, buy, and pay sales tax on things that are simply unavailable in Goleta. Those of us who live in the northernmost part of our city not infrequently find ourselves imagining that what life would be like if we had this or that store, restaurant, or service close by. We would not have to make that 24-mile round-trip to Santa Barbara.

As we know, the holidays are almost here. This is the time when we start making wish lists of what we want Santa to bring to us, and one of the few opportunities to ask for those things that we might never otherwise get. So, I've decided to just put out there the things that, in my opinion, our city is missing, to see if city government or entrepreneurs might make my wishes come true.

Personally, I would love to be able to stay local in order to find the following:

City appearance:

* An attractive, inviting downtown where families will congregate, and spend their time and money, and where business would thrive.


* An amateur theater group to perform frequently at the Dos Pueblos High School auditorium. (I might even venture to participate in it)


* A Goleta newspaper. I join the voices of those would-be readers who have expressed this same wish over and over again.


* El Bajio Restaurant (not only delicious, but very authentic Mexican flavors), The Olive Garden, and more restaurants serving breakfast besides the ones we aleady have (Cajun Kitchen, Plaza Deli, and Jack's famous bagels).


* A shoe repair, a hair/waxing/massage salon, a tanning salon, a butcher shop, Firestone auto repair/oil change, and a seamstress.


* Ross Dress for Less, Tuesday Morning, So Good Store


* I love our great views. Kudos to our government! I encourage them to keep up the good work, and to continue protecting our agricultural land zoning, and our open spaces

Watering Holes (day):

* An on-line cafe (for those of us who don't own a computer)

Watering Holes (night):

* Live music bar. Soho type, with all kinds of music and a dancing area.

I recognize that you may or may not share my choices for what I call my wish list for Goleta. The good news is that this wish list is not finished. You're invited to add your own items to mine to let us know what you would like to incorporate into our nearly perfect, everyday life in Goleta.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to you.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at the

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Specialists vs. Generalists

By Silvia Uribe
Thinking about the way our world operates, it feels that rather than looking for solutions to make our lives not only better, but also easier, sometimes we make things more difficult. We are so invested in being efficient, that we frequently forget to actually address our needs, by making things far more complicated than they need to be. Particularly, I'm referring to how we, little by little, went from being a society of generalists - in almost every possible activity under the sun - and became a world of specialists.
When my parents were growing up, they could visit the doctor -- simply and plainly -- and that doctor was able to determine what their health issue was, its probable origin, and how to cure them or any other person in the family, when they fell sick. This doctor knew and remembered each of his/her patients personally, as he did the medical history, and what medications they responded to. Usually, the cures were quite simple, compared to today's treatments and they were, for the most part, incredibly inexpensive. When worse came to worse, people were sent to a general (again) surgeon, who was able to perform almost any kind of surgery.
When I was born, and while I was growing up, science was incredibly more advanced, and in response, some specializations were common already. There were dentists, eye doctors, cardiologists, OBGYNs, pediatricians, orthopedists, and a few more. But today, the level of specialization is almost ridiculous. I was able to find 21 different specialties, and I'm aware I'm missing many: Internal medicine, Cardiology, Haematology, Gastroenterology, Diabetes, Nutrition, Metabolic diseases, Pneumology, Pneumophysiology, Nephrology, Allergology, Immunology, Endocrinology, Oncology, Rheumatology, Infectious Deseases, Neurology, Psychiatry, Orthopedy, Dermatovenerology (huh?), Physiology, Pathological Anatomy, plus the subdivisions that some of these have. Once I got sent to see the hand specialist. It is as if my hand was a newly built machine, never seen before, and a general orthopedist wasn't given the blueprints.
If we want to look somewhere other than the medical field, we'll find that specializations go across the board. From attorneys to therapists, architects, engineers, designers, mechanics, interpreters, and accountants, it would seem that the different areas of expertise are so narrow that we are not only constraining our own mental and professional sphere, but we're also forcing those who seek services to deal with three or more specialists as opposed to one generalist, and to invest way more time and money that they would otherwise. The poor in our country, and in other countries (certainly in the Third World), don't have any of those resources. Progress, to me, means general advancement, simplification and access, and that's not necessarily what we're getting.
The story is different with consumer technology. In the last fifty years, technology has had enormous advancement; it simplifies our lives and facilitates communication among individuals. Technology also reaches more and more people every day, and thanks to it, awareness about world issues has never been higher. This is a good example of progress that we should try and replicate in other areas.
I wish the same could be said with medicine. I'm not a retrograde, but when money gets in the way of our ability to obtain health services, injustice flourishes. So much specialization could potentially be more harming than helpful, plus we might not be able or have the desire to maintain this pace for much longer. It is definitely not in our collective best interest. If we do, the disparity between the rich and the poor not only in life expectancy, but also in our general quality of life might give way to the worse social injustice ever.
Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.
Cross-Posted at

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Goleta's Future Coming Soon

Informal Survey Shows What's On Some Goletans Minds

By Silvia Uribe

The city of Goleta will hold its next City Council elections in 2010, in which Mr. Roger Aceves, Mr. Michael Bennett and Mr. Eric Onnen will be running for re-election. For those of us who follow local politics, now is the time when we start thinking about whether they should keep their jobs, and wondering who will run against them.

I asked another political aficionado if he knew who's in the pipeline, ready to take Goleta's challenges in their hands and, with new approaches, continue to move things ahead. The answer he gave me-that no one seems to be willing to take the lead and change the things that we don't like, to modernize our city and the way our government operates-was a little disheartening. No new leaders on the horizon, at this point. If a viable candidate doesn't come forward, the incumbents will run unopposed, which is not just a stamp of approval for the way things are done, but a missed opportunity to have a dialogue as to how things could be better.

To find out whether people in general are happy with the present City Council, I decided to go out and do one of my non-scientific, but very telling, surveys at the Camino Real Marketplace. After I made sure that the interviewee lived or worked in Goleta, the questions I asked were simple: 1)What do you know about City Council? 2) Can you tell me the name or names of any council member? 3) What are the most important issues facing Goleta? 4) What do you like the most and the least about Goleta? 5) In which way would you like to receive updates on what city council is working on?


Carolyn, a young mother of one who has lived in Goleta for eight years, said that she doesn't know anything about City Council. The one thing that she keeps track of is the housing problem. "There's a desperate need for housing. We're renting and landlords treat us really badly," she said. "It's really frustrating. We're treated without respect. Because of this, we bought a house in Arizona, and lived there for a while but came back because here you find very educated, interesting people from all over the world, and because it is so beautiful. Updates? Maybe a mass e-mail with a link to the latest news about Goleta might work for me."


Robert, a husband and a father of two, works at Mika's: "I don't know any of the names of Council members or the issues affecting Goleta. Look, I work a 12-hour day and I don't have time for anything else. I've worked and lived here for five years. I used to live in Colorado and it's way better there. Here I work 72 hours a week and I can barely financially make it. My wife in Colorado was a stay-at-home mom, and I was making about the same money, but my rent was $600 for a two-bedroom home. We're barely surviving and can't even save the money we need to go back to Colorado. Wages here are way low for the cost of living. We need a living wage here, otherwise the hard-working people will have to leave the area and that won't benefit anyone. I'm not really interested in politics or politicians or in knowing what they do. I'm busy trying to survive."

Mike, living the peaceful life of a retired person, told me that he doesn't know anything about our City Council members or what they do. "Here's an outstanding issue: Old Town. It needs to be rejuvenated. If they don't fix it the merchants won't be able to make it. Another one: Goleta is getting old. Just six months ago they finally started fixing the off-ramps of the freeway and the mid-sections of Hollister. A good thing: We don't have as much crime and graffiti as Santa Barbara. Kudos to whomever is responsible for that. Information: I don't want any. I won't ruin the quality of my life by paying attention to politics."

UCSB student
UCSB student

A young UCSB student-her name was inaudible in my recorder: "I don't know anything about City Council. Last week I learned about Council members going to I.V. to experience Halloween. That's all I know. I'd like to see Goleta and UCSB more integrated. Students could be volunteering more for community programs, and school kids could have more activities at UCSB. Goleta is a beautiful location and the coast line is gorgeous. Text messages make up for a good conversation among friends. City Council should send updates in the middle of the day so we could read them, and talk about them with others."

These are only four examples representing 10 people that I interviewed. None of them knew Council members' names or what they're working on, thus they were unable to evaluate their performance. Nine out of ten accepted that they're not proactive in looking for information, and none of them uses or was aware of the website. Eight out of ten were concerned about the very basics: housing, living wage, water, quality of life. Six people's personal priorities were reflected in the city's strategic plan, and seven people suggested that tidbits of information in text messages or short emails with links to the latest about Goleta would be helpful in keeping people informed.

These findings showed once more how little our involvement is in the very things that have the potential to affect our lives the most. The government's responsibility is to keep us informed of what's happening in our city, but having the information available is not enough. Should they look for more modern ways to communicate with us? On the other hand, it is in our best interest to be proactive in finding out what our government is doing in order to hold them accountable.

Maybe politicians will start behaving more responsibly when we start paying the same attention during their terms, that we paid when we elected them.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at the

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Immigration Battle

By Silvia Uribe

If you are tired of the health care debate, of the yelling from those who oppose it, and the pleads from those who want it; if you think that the insurance companies are spending too much money promoting their agenda, or you're concerned that your tax dollars are not going to be efficiently spent, you've seen nothing yet.

No matter which side of the debate we may be on, this issue affects us all and we know it. If we're healthy now - good for us. But, sooner or later, we know we will be faced with the inevitable fact that we will get sick, need surgery or treatment for something, and we all can agree, that when that happens, we would like to have the best possible health care at our reach, without having to loose everything for which we've worked so hard.

If there's this kind of turmoil about something that we all can have some degree of agreement, imagine how it will be when the next matter in the order of business comes: Immigration Reform. At least with the health care reform, we can attribute our discrepancies to political manipulation or to financial interests playing a role. Not so simple with immigration issues.

Everyone has their own ideas and biases about immigration. Everyone feels differently affected by the concept, the trends, and the laws surrounding it. Each person's level of acceptance of others varies. Words such as diversity, discrimination, privilege, and opportunity, seem to have a different meaning for each individual, depending on their background, situation, education, and personal experience. We all seem to feel entitled to certain things, but we frequently question others' feelings of entitlement.

While some feel immigrants are hardworking people that do the work no one else is willing to do, others want to portray them as people who take a great number of jobs, and blames them for lowering salaries for the rest of the workers. For some, immigrants are troublemakers, criminals that have no business in this country, while others claim that without these workers, the American economy will crumble like a sand castle. For each and every other argument there are thousands of takes.

If our president is having a great difficulty in dealing with the people on the "other side" of the health care issue, namely Republicans, and insurance companies and their millions, he really needs to be prepared for what will come his way along with the dialog on immigration. With this one, the "other side" could be each American. The president's job will be to unify us in looking ahead and focus on the collective benefit as opposed to on the individual.

Some Latino organizations, such as the National Council of La Raza, and individual community leaders, insist for the immigration issue not to be pushed out too far, and keep the topic alive in the high political circles. They are also preparing to start formal conversations during which they will present the most important points to be included in the reform. They are organizing, informing, and mobilizing their base around the country to be ready when the time comes.

Many anti-Latino, anti-immigrant groups like Minute Men and others, trying to discourage Latinos from organizing, would like to make people think that from the last marches, only harm came to immigrants. What they fail to see is that although it is true that the marches ignited hateful expressions and behaviors against Latinos, they also brought the issues of racism, discrimination, and the need for a change in immigration policy to the forefront, giving it the deserved attention from the government and the public.

The question now is; when will the president move ahead with the immigration reform? No one really knows. The more optimistic say mid-next year. Others, like me, believe that it will take longer - possibly not until sometime in 2011. Obama's reelection year is 2012, and he won't want this thing hanging over him then. Whenever it is, the truth is that the president will need to take a deep breath after the health reform, re-charge his batteries and be prepared for a fierce battle for an immigration reform that won't be easy on anyone, but it is one that our country, as a whole, desperately needs.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at