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The first Saturday in 2019, and a fresh opportunity to hand out roses to the good-deed doers, and raspberries to the meanies. First, the wonderfully aromatic part:

Roses to the county Fire Department and its personnel for putting on a show at Solvang’s annual Christmas tree burn.

Nearly every Friday after Christmas for the past four decades, a massive pile of dried-out holiday trees has been set ablaze, with multiple purposes in mind — to get rid of old trees, to thrill the large crowd of onlookers that gathers every year, and most importantly as a teachable moment.

The teaching part comes when the fire crew demonstrates just how quickly a dry Christmas tree can go up in flames, potentially taking life and property with it.

We’ve watched this show many times, and it always leaves us breathless. For those who’ve never seen the annual demonstration, consider that by the time you read the last few words of this sentence, the tree burns to a crisp, creating a huge fireball.

Roses to Solvang officials and the Fire Department for a good, relevant show.

***

If you think you may be rose-worthy, have we got a job for you. A word of warning — it may not be easy.

We have roses waiting for everyone who volunteers for the annual Homeless Point In Time Count, which takes place on Thursday, Jan. 24.

The information gathered by the Point In Time Count teams is used to plan local homeless assistance systems and to raise public awareness about the issue.

Here’s the not-so-easy part: Counting the homeless population is difficult because of the lack of a clear definition of who is homeless, the general fluidity of the population, and the cyclical nature of homelessness for many people. And the count begins at 5 a.m.

Here’s why an accurate count is important: The fastest-growing segment of the homeless population is women with children. California has the biggest homeless population in the nation at more than 134,000 on any given night — and Santa Barbara County has more than its share of that population.

Feel like earning a rose? Volunteers can sign up at www.commongroundsbc.org or https://liveunitedsbc.org.

***

Enough sweetness and light. Now, for the bitter fruit.

Raspberries to all 535 members of Congress and President Trump for performing like squabbling pre-schoolers in a political showdown that closed part of the federal government during a period when workers needed their paychecks the most.

This is not just a president insisting on Congress making one of his campaign promises come true. Also in the raspberry receiving line are congressional Democrats emboldened by their takeover of the House of Representatives, then digging in and basically refusing to give the president what he wants.

The fact is that no one wins in a government shutdown.

Enough with the political games in Washington. America needs some adult leadership.

Actually, referring to the president and members of Congress as pre-schoolers does a serious disservice to real 5-year-olds, who generally get along far better than our elected leaders.

We are sure to see more partisan bickering because the November election removed some of the more moderate Senate Democrats, replacing them with Republicans more likely to support the White House policy decisions.

Maybe a lot of Americans like to see this sort of political chaos, like some people like to watch a train wreck. But we guarantee that America’s adversaries around the world are watching, some with glee, as democracy takes a beating.

Raspberries, all around.

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