POSTED ON June 11th, 2012
What incredible sadness we have at Heal the Ocean, when we learned late Monday that Santa Barbara’s illustrious and beloved community figure Naomi Schwartz had died earlier in the day. It seems impossible! http://www.noozhawk.com/article/ 060412_sb_community_leader_naomi_schwartz_dies/
Naomi, who is known throughout Santa Barbara as our County’s 1st District Supervisor for years…was a dear friend to Heal the Ocean, and was in fact responsible for the formation of Heal the Ocean in 1998.
I knew Naomi in the early 1970s, when Naomi was advocating for Proposition 20, the Coastal Zone Conservation Act that, when passed in 1972, established the California Coastal Commission. http://library.uchastings.edu/ballot_pdf/ 1972g.pdf
I lived in Los Angeles at the time, and was working as West Coast stringer for Ocean Science News, Washington, D.C. For some time, I covered ocean politics in California, which included writing not only about the establishment of the Coastal Commission but the California Coastal Act of 1976. When Naomi became a Coastal Commissioner, Ocean Science News assigned Hillary to write about that, too.
Naomi opposed offshore oil, and was an ardent advocate for the environment. So when in early August 1998, editorial “Another Day at the Beach” was published in a Sunday edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press, outlining in detail the outrage of local beaches being closed due to pollution, Naomi called Hillary at home that same day and asked to meet.
Together with local attorney Jeff Young, who had proofread the News-Press editorial for accuracy, I went on Thursday, August 13, 1998 to Naomi’s office, where we met with Naomi and Lois Capps aide Ben Romo in Naomi’s supervisorial office on Anapamu Street. “What can we do about this?” Naomi asked us. Jeff Young and I outlined to her five courses of action (which remain Heal the Ocean’s position today). Naomi turned to us and said the fateful words, “Hillary, you should start a public pressure group, we can’t do it by ourselves up here.”
On the following Tuesday, August 18, 1998, when protesters gathered on the steps of the County Administration Building, the supervisors, who were in session, looked down at the street where cars were honking and people were shouting and carrying signs, and Jeff Young and I were announcing the formation of Heal the Ocean. Naomi was the only supervisor to come down into this fray. She came down to speak to the crowd, and she announced that she was committed to our cause.
We fought over the years (ah, Tajiguas!), but we also collaborated, and although we differed a lot of time, Naomi and I really cared for and respected each other. At the time of her retirement from the Board of Supervisors in 2005, we had known each other for over 30 years. One of my fondest memories of Naomi will always be the private lunch we had, after her retirement, at the old 1129 restaurant on State Street. She had found romance and love. I’ll never forget her looking me square in the eye, as she always did over ocean issues, and said, “Hillary, there is life after politics, there really is. I’m going to find you somebody.”
Oh, Naomi! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You never did “find me somebody” but you paved the way of working for the ocean. Thank you for all you did for me and for all of us! Rest in Peace.
Love from Hillary Hauser, Executive Director
Heal the Ocean