Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Friday, October 27, 2006

SBNP Reporter Melinda Burns Fired

Melinda Burns, 21-year reporter and author of the Measure D article entitled "Danger Zone, was fired today at 4:30 pm according to Craig Smith's Blog. Burns, whose article was sent to at least 40,000 homes in a huge Measure D mailer, had this to say on Craig's blog:
I love working as a journalist is Santa Barbara County. Its a great community to be a journalist in. Wendy McCaw has no legal grounds to fire me. This is an illegal firing for my leadership of the unionization effort at the News-Press. It is retaliation and I'm going to fight it.
And what about Measure D's piece that News-Press management is so upset about? Did that article have a role in her firing? Did she stand up for Measure D as well as the union? Why are they getting rid of their best people that happen to support unionization? Will they stop at nothing to run this paper into the ground? You can't replace talent like that. If you are keeping track Business reporter Frank Nelson resigned last Friday as well -- Salsipuedes.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Huff and Puff Takes on Indie

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Ampersand Publishing, LLC, owner and operator of the Santa Barbara News-Press, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against The Santa Barbara Independent. The filing charges The Independent with copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair business competition, and intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage and contract.

According to the complaint, The Independent obtained two different confidential unpublished articles belonging to the News-Press and published one of them, in violation of the copyright laws. The Independent was not authorized to possess or publish either article. The News-Press has alleged that these articles constituted trade secrets that were misappropriated by The Independent.

It is the intent of Ampersand Publishing to protect its confidential materials and trade secrets. Ampersand is seeking unspecified actual and punitive damages, injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees.

Agnes Huff Communications Group, LLC
Ágnes Huff, PhD, 310-641-2525

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

NP Workplace Violence Injunction Finally Dismissed

This from Craig Smith's Blog:

On Wednesday, the News-Press dismissed their petition for a workplace violence injunction against former business editor, Michael Todd. As the News-Press itself acknowledged in one of its by now all too familiar self-serving press releases, "Ms. Fuentes has resigned. Since Ms. Fuentes is not currently employed at the paper, pursuit of a workplace violence injunction prohibiting future wrongful conduct against Ms. Fuentes at the work site would serve no purpose."

For the whole article click on the link above. As Craig points out -- Fuentes hasn't been seen on the premises since September 9th. Makes you wonder about the strength of their suit against Michael Todd -- doesn't it? As always, contrary opinions are welcome! Nelville? Let me know what you have to say about this -- I and others may not always agree with you but as I pointed out earlier this evening, it makes for great discussion.

Measure D and The Wall

David Pritchett sent the following, worthy of it's own post:

This below is a somewhat straight news article today, but with a terribly flawed premise that further represents how the Wall between news and opinion has been decimated at NewsPress, and they (the publisher owners and Steepleton) do not even know or understand that and now they think the public does not either.

This article is about a complaint from NewsPress ownership that an election campaign mailer-advertisement for Measure D (a ballot measure the NewsPress opposes) included an image and excerpt from a recent NewsPress news article about Measure D and the transportation problems that would be addressed and resolved if Measure D were passed by the voters.

The point here is that NewsPress ownership and upper managers themselves --apparently including Steepleton because no one else would write it-- believe that the public also would interpret and assume that an image and excerpt from a news article also means that the opinion and editorial position of the newspaper must be the same as the information IN the news article. From this example, they seem to believe that news content must be consistent and support the opinion-editorial position of the newspaper as a company, and if the news content is not the same, the public would get confused or something.

Such confusion they seem to think the public now has (because they do?) appears to be why the reference to a news article in the Measure D campaign mailer "is being blasted" by the NewsPress as a company, just like the lede of this "article" by Steepleton notes.

The NewsPress as a company legally and traditionally is free to blast away in writing about anybody and anything it wants, but such blasting should be behind the other traditional wall separating opinion content from news. This blasting or complaining by the NewsPress company should be in the form of an editorial, not under the guise of a “statement” that somehow adds an illusion that their gripe has become newsworthy. Apparently, no other news organizations are biting on these statements, so NewsPress management has to pretend they are news worth writing about.

Now before any Nelvilles accuse me again of trying to "take down" or "silence" or "attack" the NewsPress, my whole point, again, is to show another example of how the Wall of separation is going or gone among the top NewsPress deciders. They now think the public does not understand the difference either, so that is why they saw fit to send out the "statement" yesterday and morph it today into this “article” below that really is an editorial itself under the ruse of being a news article that undoubtedly no one but Steepleton would have the scruples to write.

My now-thousands of fellow Cabalists still do not want to "take down" the NewsPress. We want to restore the credibility and integrity that the newspaper had only a few months ago under the leadership of ousted Executive Editor Jerry Roberts. Besides, one just might think that an excerpt and image from the NewsPress in the county-wide Measure D mailer would be considered free advertising to boost the public perception that the NewsPress still was writing worth reading, at least by that particular news writer. Apparently, the NewsPress would rather fight than win.

text of NewsPress article:

News-Press says campaign mailer misrepresents Measure D stance
October 25, 2006
A campaign mailer by backers of Measure D is being blasted by the News-Press for seemingly attempting to mislead people into thinking the paper is in favor of the proposed sales tax increase on the Nov. 7 ballot.

In recent days, a full-color pro-D brochure featuring the paper's logo and a portion of a story that appeared on the front page, has been mailed to potential voters in Santa Barbara County. The newspaper says the piece is an attempt to give the impression it endorses Measure D.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the paper said, "We want the public to know that the News-Press is not part of this group, that we did not authorize the use of our name, or our masthead, or this article and that we -- as a matter of editorial policy -- vociferously oppose Measure D. It is important to the News-Press that this mailer does not mislead any voter or reader as to the News-Press' position."

David Basmajian, a consultant with Oakland-based campaign consultant Tramutola, said the practice is used in nearly every election. In legal terms, the practice is called fair use.

"In our past campaigns we've used a portion of an editorial or a headline or a quote," Mr. Basmajian said Tuesday. "Typically you don't need to get approval because it's a newspaper and it goes out to many people already."

They chose the Oct. 1 article by by Senior Writer Melinda Burns, which ran under the headline "Danger Zones," because "it really captures a particular point of view that we believe the voters should know about," said Mr. Basmajian.

"It's something we felt got the message across about one of the things that Measure D will do, and that's make things safer for children," he said.

The law allows campaigns wide latitude in how they use material that has appeared in newspapers, on TV and the radio, and the copyright holder has little recourse even if the content is used in a way that may be misleading.

The newspaper has urged a no vote on Measure D, but the glossy brochure could leave some thinking otherwise.

"We never intended to make it seem that the Santa Barbara News-Press was endorsing Measure D," said Mr. Basmajian. "It was simply an article that captured a partial aspect of Measure D very well."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

TKA on Public v. Private from Business Wire

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The following editorial by Travis Armstrong, editorial page editor for the Santa Barbara News-Press, addresses some issues regarding public vs. private newspaper ownership:

I've been a happy refugee from corporate journalism for nearly five years. Private independent newspapers may be the best way to preserve the printed paper from Wall Street investors who live by stock prices and quarterly results.

I worked for nearly a decade for a division of Dow Jones & Co. in Washington, D.C., then for Knight Ridder's Monterey Herald and San Jose Mercury News (where during my time there the publisher walked out because of edicts from headquarters), and for a summer while in law school for the Newhouse chain's Portland Oregonian. I've seen some of the best and worst that corporate ownership has to offer.

My education about the tentacles of corporate journalism has broadened over the last months as the News-Press has gone through its highly publicized transitional period.

The one big constant during this time has been News-Press owner Wendy McCaw's commitment to the News-Press and to the Santa Barbara community. It's been documented how our media competitors and political forces, who want to silence the News-Press editorials, have tried to use this period for their own gain.

But, in terms of the broader newspaper industry, I've seen how a daily newspaper that's unconnected to a big corporation can be at a disadvantage because of the financial might and pull that particular chains have within the journalism community. In my view, this may be one reason the Society of Professional Journalists entered the fray regarding this newspaper but, oddly, is silent on recent flare-ups involving other papers, such as the newsroom unrest at Tribune Co.-owned Los Angeles Times.

Are corporate sponsors, friendships and other considerations at work when such groups decide whether to take a stand?

Consider this passage from Neiman Watchdog, a Web site of the Neiman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard University.

One commentator writes: "The Times publisher, Jeffrey Johnson, is now the former publisher, having been ousted. It isn't clear what the future holds for Dean Baquet, the editor. Evidently, Tribune company executives and other like-minded corporate cost-cutters can proceed without fretting about reaction from the organized journalism community. Society of Professional Journalists President Christine Tatum, an editor at the Denver Post, said her organization considers it best 'not to engage in "personnel and labor matters." The bottom line: We haven't issued any formal statements concerning the Tribune/Los Angeles Times affair because it hasn't been easy to know where the dividing line is between newsroom disagreements/blow-ups and over-the-top cost-cutting.'"

One only has to look at the society's corporate sponsor opportunities for conventions to see possible conflicts. The group's information on the society's convention hails sponsorships from Hearst Newspapers and the Wall Street Journal, while pitching "platinum level" sponsors for $50,000 and up.

Ms. Tatum says her group thinks it best not to engage in personnel and labor matters. Perhaps she might amend that statement to include: "We think it best not to engage in personnel and labor matters, if it involves newspaper chains we're connected to in any way or that have corporate money for us, but the locally owned independent press is free game. In fact, we don't even see the need to talk to their management before making judgments.”

WPC Dinner Candidate Faux Pas

This weekend's Women's Political Committee dinner was described quite well by David Pritchett for EdHat but several readers wondered whether he caught the candidate faux pas from both Margaret Connell and Cynthia's not really related to Pritchett's subject matter but it's interesting nonetheless....

Even though the WPC did not endorse fellow incumbent Jack Hawxhurst -- Margaret Connell and Cynthia Brock continued to use their stump speech about keeping together "the team" with Roger Aceves (fellow WPC endorsee and candidate for council) right there on stage. While jaws dropped and heads scratched at why they would challenge a WPC endorsement on stage at their own dinner -- Aceves apparently took it in stride by making a joke to lighten the tension the two incumbents had created. Hawxhurst who shows intolerance any chance he can get -- "Chamber of Concrete", "Sacramento is Moscow" -- unless he is on TV, knows he must ride on Margaret's coat tails. He's very lucky to have her cooperation and should praise her dearly if he is re-elected.

Why they insist on keeping together "The Team" when Hawxhurst fails to act like a team member only lowers their chances of winning....the Goleta race is worth watching. It may be the big story of the election unless Measure D wins by something crazy 75%.

More Forums on TV

Several new forums were added to the Channel 21 reptoire this week. Prop 90 and Goleta City Council are some of the new ones....

City of SB Commission Openings

If there are any of you that want to run for city council someday, there is a long history of council members having served on city commissions -- especially planning. Here's your opportunity -- too bad the deadline isn't after election day, some of you are probably busy. Kind of like a planning hearing during Fiesta? Maybe. Maybe not.

The City of Santa Barbara conducts a semi-annual recruitment drive to fill open positions on its many Commissions and Advisory Committees. There are currently several openings on numerous Santa Barbara City advisory boards and commissions. They include:

  • Architectural Board of Review (ABR)
  • Community Development & Human Services Committee
  • Creeks Advisory Committee
  • Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC)
  • Parks & Recreation Commission
  • Planning Commission
  • Transportation & Circulation Committee (TCC)
  • Water Commission

The City’s website contains detailed descriptions of each Commission and Advisory Committee, including position qualifications, length of term, contact information, and an application. Note that some positions do require certain expertise. The website address is:

The next recruitment is underway with the following schedule:

Application deadline: Friday, November 6, 2006 at 5:00 p.m.
Interviews: Tuesday, November 21, 2006 at 2:00 p.m. and Tuesday, December 5, 2006 at 6:00 p.m.

Soj and Jimmy's for Sale? Got $3.1 Mill?

I've been receiving a few emails about restaurants for sale in Santa Barbara ever since my post on the changing face of State Street. Here are some exerpts:

Is the Soj up for sale? or the little "new" restaurant on the corner right next to it.....

Then there is the Peruvian restaurant on State....for sale.

Then there is Cities BBQ.... for sale.

Then a Zagat Rated Indian Restaurant downtown...for sale.


A lot of folks wonder what will become of the late, great and much-lamented Jimmy's. Well, it's up for sale and it can be yours for a measly $3.1 million.

Maybe somebody nice will buy and bring the bar -- and Willy, naturally -- back.

Fat chance.

What I wonder is whether it's been designated a historic, and thus protected, property. Last thing we need is another Starbucks or some LA-based retail outlet that specializes in clothes designed to make preteens look like drunken sorority girls. (No offense.)

Friday, October 20, 2006

NLRB Supports Teamsters

Oct. 20, 2006
To: All Media
From: The organized at SBNP

Today the National Labor Relations Board confirmed what the Teamsters union and the News-Press reporters it represents have been saying all along: management's complaints filed with the NLRB about alleged union intimidation and "confusion" are totally bogus.

Today, after conducting an investigation that included providing management with an opportunity to provide evidence to support its charges, the NLRB announced its conclusion that there is no basis for those charges and therefore dismissed them.

In short, the NLRB determined that the News-Press' absurd claims that the Union violated the law by setting up a "" website, and trying to collectively deliver a workplace demand letter to owner Wendy McCaw, were not worthy of serious consideration.

It bears emphasis that the News-Press has also filed objections to the Teamsters' recent 33-6 election victory which are virtually identical to the charges the NLRB dismissed today, offering an indication of the frivolous character of those objections as well; obviously the objections were interposed solely for the purpose of delaying the News-Press' obligation to negotiate in good faith with the union.

The News-Press itself announced on October 3 that the pending objections were "consistent" with its now-dismissed charges, thus further exposing its position to be not one of cooperation, as it professes, with the NLRB's election process -- which is designed to ensure workplace democracy -- but one intended instead to maintain workplace autocracy, notwithstanding the law requiring employee participation once the Union has demonstrated that a majority of the employees in the newsroom wants a union.

The Teamsters hope that now that its charges have been duly considered and dismissed by the neutral governmental agency empowered to prosecute and adjudicate such charges, that the News-Press will recognize that its identical objections are without basis, and withdraw them so it can begin the collective bargaining process, as the law calls upon it to do.

- 30 -

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Prop 90 Forum Tonight

There was a request for a post on Prop 90 -- as it has important local consequences, I'm happy to make a post for it. This from an Anonymous Commenter:

How about something on Prop 90 and how the City Council seems to be having an ostrich-like attitude towards this potentially devastating proposition? No city public comments on what passage of this measure would do to City planning except Development Director Paul Casey's off-the-cuff comment to the effect that 'if it passes, we all might as well go home'.

Where are the voices of the people, Das, Helene, Marty, Grant? Answer: Heads in sand, apparently wanting the people not wanting to hear.

There's a CPF-sponsored forum tonight, 6:30-8, at the Goleta Valley Community Center - maybe it will be televised.

Here's an url for the list of newspapers opposed.

Candidate Forums on Channel 21

The following are times and dates for a couple of the forums on Channel 21 -- you can also check the broadcast schedule:

Thursday, October 19
Candidates for 2nd District Supervisor, 6 pm
Candidates for SB County Sheriff, 8 pm

Friday, October 20
Candidates for 2nd District Supervisor, 9 am
Candidates for 2nd District Supervisor, 6 pm
Candidates for SB County Sheriff, 9 pm

Saturday, October 21
Candidates for 2nd District Supervisor, 9 am
Candidates for SB County Sheriff, 11 am
Candidates for 2nd District Supervisor, 8 pm
Candidates for SB County Sheriff, 10 pm

Sunday, October 22
•Candidates for SB County Sheriff, 9 am
•Candidates for 2nd District Supervisor, 11 am
•Candidates for 2nd District Supervisor, 8 pm
•Candidates for SB County Sheriff, 10 pm

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wife of Indie Owner Critical of Noel Endorsement

Saying she wants the "best for our children", the wife of the majority owner and President of The Santa Barbara Independent has sent an email to "everyone she knows" criticizing the Indie's editorial staff for endorsing Bob Noel's campaign for reelection to school board. Although I am loath to cut and paste a whole email that was meant for friends -- here is the main point of Jan Campbell's piece that was forwarded to me from a citizen stringer:

While I applaud the editorial freedom exercised at our paper -- I am compelled to write everyone I know to denounce their endorsement of this candidate -- someone whose disingenuous and self aggrandizing actions over the last four years have led to alienation of his fellow board members as well as School District staff and administration. This contentious "“at-odds"” persona which he touts to the media as "the lone ranger standing up for schools" has translated into wasted resources (time and money) that could have been used to support our students. Thousands and thousands of dollars have been spent on his pursuit of frivolous allegations about his fellow board members and violations of the Brown Act --– none of which proved to have one grain of truth in them.

The email urges the reader to vote for Santa Barbara Teacher Association endorsed candidates Suzy Cawthon and Kate Parker (Kate did get the Indie endorsement). What's great about this is that there is clearly a wall between ownership and editorial at The Independent -- what's not so great is that The Independent made an endorsement that had a lot of us scratch our head.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

No More Hangover Breakfasts at Esau's

I've been getting a couple of random emails recently from readers with a central theme related to the changing face of Santa Barbara. Lower State Street especially continues to slowly change...and one has to wonder whether the owners at the corner of Cota and Gutierrez have other plans for the property. First, Tad's Liquor went out of business awhile back and remains empty. On Sunday, Esau's will be closing its' doors after 30 years of hangover breakfasts and word is that the landlord was unwilling to renegotiate a new lease. They will still be in Carpinteria....but if you want to sit in their vinyl booths one last time, do so this weekend. Is the Adult Book Store next? Maybe that's a good thing.

The Acapulco closed quietly this week and reportedly had a sign on the door that said "Sorry for the Incontinence". Is that true? Prabably a pun on the forwarded email I got...No more Margarita Mondays...the email I received said that the employees and managers came in to locked doors on Monday as all the locks had been changed. I guess Pascucci's is moving in but I am unclear how their already poor service could improve at this location -- great food though and at least it's local. One more closure was reported in the Bay Cafe on Anacapa.

Another reader sent me a rant about a decidely non-sexy but important topic -- parking spaces. They asked what the deal was with our Planning Department and their heavy miscalculations on parking flow at Trader Joe's (with the Surgical Center right there); and, Peet's Coffee (with Tremblay Financial in the same space). Makes you wonder when the St. Francis Project didn't event go through the Traffic and Circulation Committee at the city -- what will happen with traffic and parking there?

Former NP Staffer Sues for Overtime

From the Associated Press:

Lawsuit claims Santa Barbara News-Press didn't pay overtime
The Associated Press

A former reporter for the embattled Santa Barbara News-Press sued the paper Wednesday, claiming it failed to keep accurate time records and stiffed employees out of overtime pay.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of former reporter Hildy Medina, seeks class-action status for as many as 200 past and present employees.

The suit claims the newspaper failed to pay overtime to employees who worked more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours a week. It also alleges the News-Press didn't provide its employees with meal and rest periods required by California law.

"It is common for employers to unintentionally violate technical violation of California's strict employment laws," said plaintiffs' attorney Bruce Anticouni, who filed the lawsuit in Santa Barbara Superior Court. "However, in my opinion, the alleged News-Press violations appear to have been willful, which would allow for the award of penalties to the affected employees."

The legal action marks the latest in a bitter dispute between employees and owner Wendy McCaw. At least 16 employees have resigned since July, when nearly every top editor quit amid complaints that McCaw meddled in the newsroom.
McCaw's spokeswoman, Agnes Huff, said she couldn't comment because the newspaper's attorneys hadn't seen the lawsuit.
Last week, the newspaper filed objections with the National Labor Relations Board over a Sept. 27 election in which employees decided 33-6 to join the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The paper accused the union of coercing employees and circulating false and misleading information about the newspaper.
Attorney Ira Gottlieb, who represents the workers, rejected the claims, saying the election had been conducted fairly.
Many of the employees who resigned said McCaw intervened to nix a story about the drunken driving sentencing of editorial page editor Travis Armstrong, as well as reprimanding staff for publishing the address where actor Rob Lowe wants to build a mansion.

McCaw has countered that the former employees had injected their personal views into news coverage.
The News-Press is a 41,000-circulation daily. It has about 50 newsroom employees among a 206-person work force.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Into the Lion's Den...

A citizen stringer sent me an email about the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon today which featured the candidates for Goleta City Council going into the lion's den. It seems Council Member and Least Diplomatic "Team Member" Jack Hawxhurst left after his opening statement in protest to his car allegedly being "vandalized" last night at the Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum.

Council Member Brock purportedly went on to point out that since there is no way her team will be receiving support from the Chamber -- she would say whatever she wanted. Brock who has a not so electable habit of frowning and rolling her eyes when her opponents are speaking did stay for the whole event.

I guess the council members had a bad week once they learned that $40,000 dollars has been dropped into the race from a big, bad developer and the Chamber's not-so-separate SCPAC.

Another citizen stringer let me know that last night's candidate forum will be televised on Cox Channel 8 from 12:00 pm Thursday and Friday of this week. It's worth watching as there are clear differences between the candidates.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mister Mann Tries to Wag the Dog

This in from First District Streetfighter -- thanks very much for the tip and (one of The Remaining) Tom Schultz for the good reporting. Bennett eschewed "fat cats" the other day in the newspaper but is certainly a benificiary with Onnen of the GFR's donation. Both deny knowledge and have plausible deniability only so far as they can say Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce. Connecting the South Coast PAC (SCPAC) to these donations would complete the puzzle. The Chamber Candidate Forum (or is it SCPAC? -- it's really hard to tell when Chamber board members sit on the SCPAC board) is tonight at 7:00 pm at the Goleta Valley Community Center Holiday Inn. Should be interesting...

-- Sara

Investor says contribution not in support of Dworman


October 10, 2006 12:00 AM

New York City investor Stephen Mann, the largest donor in the Goleta council race, on Monday rejected speculation that his $9,000 contribution to a political action committee came in support of New York City investor Alvin Dworman, owner and builder of Bacara Resort & Spa.

Mr. Mann on Friday told the News-Press he gave to a group called Goletans for Fiscal Responsibility because "a change of government is required," adding, he hopes to invest in a subdivision sought by a friend he would not name. A second $5,000 donation to the group came from PCF Capital Inc., a Delaware firm.

Weekend and Monday comment at drew a line from Mr. Mann to Mr. Dworman and his local spokesman, Santa Barbara public relations specialist John Davies. One anonymous blogger noted that online records show Mr. Mann and Mr. Dworman served together as directors of RB Asset Inc., a holdings management firm. Mr. Dworman seeks new construction at Bacara in Goleta. And in recent years he has sought to boost the development potential of a property outside city limits, for new homes on both sides of Tecolote Creek and the Embarcadero housing tract.

Mr. Mann said Monday that he knows Mr. Dworman but was concerned with a different proposal, adding that Mr. Dworman has introduced him to other Goleta area business people. The friend in question seeks to develop vacant land, Mr. Mann said, reiterating that he intends to keep the person's name private.

"We're looking for a little restrained, intelligent growth," he said.

Goletans for Fiscal Responsibility has spent more than $4,600 on slate mailers promoting the campaigns of challengers Eric Onnen and Michael Bennett in the six-person race for three Goleta council seats. Both candidates said last week they were unfamiliar with the committee, its two donors or its two treasurers, who work in Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Swiss Family Robinson, Dr. Dan and the Gaviota Coast

You might remember my call to Dr. Dan in mid-September to show some transparency in that he promised to post his donors on the web (perhaps at the still empty SB Transparent Campaigns Blog). The financial statements just released tell us a little more as to why Dr. Dan did not want this information made public.

It seems that Dr. Dan is taking money from coastal developer companies and their agents who petition the Coastal Commission. Even more interesting is that the amount he is accepting from the agents is just low enough that he does not have to recuse himself when voting. Campaign law says that a Coastal Commissioner must recuse themselves from voting when they have received contributions of more than $250 from an interested party (read agents). The developers behind the agents, however, can give larger contributions and have.

John Vallance of MAZ Properties gave $4,000 and Tim Doheny of Las Veras Ranch gave $1,000. They both have active projects on the Gaviota Coast.

MAZ Properties runs Rancho Tajiguas which is the largest parcel on the Gaviota Coast. The "Bean Blossom" project is being sought by a 10-member Swiss family living in Eurupe who are seeking 11,000 square foot homes.

The under $250 rule is further seen in a donation from Andi Culbertson who is a planning agent. One of her clients was the Dos Pueblos Associates who was trying to develop an 18-hole course along the Gaviota Coast. Another planning agent is Dave Neish who donated $225. He represented Robert and Laurie Warmington for a project which included a 10,244 square foot home and 721 square foot garage (I guess they have a car collection -- a 721 sq foot garage? I could live there).

These $250 donations are not large but as we dig deeper into the filings we have to wonder what larger donations may be connected to these agents.....hmmmm.

Who is the Mystery PAC in Goleta Race?

Tom Schultz from the News-Press did an excellent job today in covering the financial reports in the Goleta race. Although the candidates seem to have raised similar amounts of money within a few thousand dollars, there is far less of an even field when we look at PAC donations.

The South Coast PAC -- the PAC where you can't tell where the Chamber ends and it begins -- has raised more than $25,000 in the race. Most unsettling, however, to see that out-of-towners are spending money on this race. A Goletans for Fiscal Responsibility has raised more than $14,000 and locked up a few slates with $4,600 in expenditures on behalf of Bennett and Onnen.

Strangely enough, Schultz reported that the PAC lists a Shadowbrook Drive address for the organization and a Sheriff's Department uniform was seen on it's doorknob. I guess Ablitt's delivers. The committee's treasurer lives in Laguna Niguel and and another PAC member lives in Orange County as well. Expect a mailer from Hawxhurst screaming "Goleta is not for sale!". It also seems that the News-Press "no address" policy is still in place.

Bennett's quote about not having "a bunch of fat cats" was hard to digest considering the SCPAC and GFR largesse, good enough for several city-wide mailers....

Friday, October 06, 2006

Valley Voice Bias?

Is this worth the trouble considering the Valley Voice is a News-Press property? Is this worth the trouble since the Valley Voice is best read for finding out what car is being given away at the Chumash Casino? or maybe for who was drunk and disorderly last week?

Still, here it is, a month before election day and the Valley Voice hasn't done a story on the upcoming council race in probably two months. At the same time, the incumbents have a column printed every week. Since Labor Day, only incumbents not up for re-election have written the columns -- but it nonetheless allows them a space to address challengers concerns without giving the challengers space to make their case. An article this week on the passing of the General Plan quoted incumbent and candidate Jack Hawxhurst (he seems to get the quote every week even though he isn't the Mayor right now) but failed to mention the issue within the context of what should be a tight race for council.

A true community newspaper prints both sides of the story but I guess when you are owned by the News-Press it will always be more of the same.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Doc Searls' Ten Point Plan

Ran across the following on Doc Searls today thanks to an anonymous reader -- it's good stuff for our friends at the News-Press to consider...listing them below doesn't do his post justice, it's worth reading via the link above and is written under Thursday's date (10/05/06).

Doc Searls Ten Point Plan: Newspapers 2.0
  • First, stop giving away the news and charging for the olds.
  • Second, start featuring archived stuff on the paper's website.
  • Third, link outside the paper.
  • Fourth, start following, and linking to, local bloggers and even competing papers (such as the local arts weeklies).
  • Fifth, start looking toward the best of those bloggers as potential stringers.
  • Sixth, start looking to citizen journalists (CJs) for coverage of hot breaking local news topics
  • Seventh, stop calling everything "content".
  • Eighth, uncomplicate your websites
  • Ninth, get hip to the Live Web.
  • Tenth, publish Rivers of News for readers who use Blackberries or Treos or Nokia 770s, or other handheld Web browsers.
A value-added subscription would be worth the price. These are relatively simple things they could do and really might have to do if the present management team and owner continue at the helm -- recreate the paper entirely and become bleeding edge. Would that make a difference? It would have to be part of a much broader series of changes in my mind, but it would be a great start.

Starshine and Seabuagh Join Indie

The Independent Media Blog announced today that Starshine Roshell and Dr. Michael Seabuagh will be joining their ranks. Will this mean they will be putting a greater emphasis on local news even if it is from a health and lifestyle perspective? Sounds good to me.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Word from Al Bonowitz

If you are reading this here, then I was not given the opportunity of saying it in the News-Press.

Since May 2000, I have enjoyed serving as that paper's travel editor. It’s been quite a learning experience and I thank Bill Macfadyen, Melinda Johnson, Gary Robb and Andrea Huebner for setting me on this unexpected course and guiding me along the way. (Thanks also to my friend and former colleague Starshine Roshell, who in addition to contributing stories and an additional set of eyes to the section, encouraged me to illustrate her wonderful column on occasion, and trusted me to baby-sit her children.)

Thanks especially to everyone who participated in the section by entering the contests, contributing to the “Where I’ve Been” section, or just paging through it on Sunday.

Although I have yet to decide on my next career step, I’m pretty sure it will have to occur in a different city. If that’s the case, I hope to return for visits often and will always have fond memories of my time in Santa Barbara.

Salsipuedes, The Sequel

Craig Smith did it again and got the scoop on the latest News-Press Salsipuedes! They took our Starshine away....

Starshine Roshell and travel editor Al Bonowitz resigned today from the newsroom staff. In a letter to the NP Personnel Director and Scott Steepleton, Starshine said she was grateful "That when I look in the mirror, I won't see what you do". For the full text of the letter, visit Craig's blog through the first link above.

Goleta Finally Passes General Plan

After five long years, the Goleta City Council has now created a planning commission and approved a general plan a month before Election Day. While some have applauded the decidedly slow-growth approach -- former Capps campaigner and now director of the Coastal Housing Partnership Chris Henson told the Daily Nexus:"It’s an anti-family document, an anti-community document".

His reasoning? Without some growth, the middle class will be squeezed out of the housing market. Certainly, the 55% inclusionary rule along Hollister Avenue won't help. The inclusionary rate, which sets affordable housing percentages for new development, is the highest in the State of California and is certainly meant to discourage any affordable housing development at all. The normal rate is 25-30%.

Perhaps counting on voters not to understand the formula -- the majority of current council members have publicly shrugged off protests from housing advocates saying they are willing to test the waters with the State of California on this issue. To further complicate matters, Council Member Haxhurst takes an "us versus them" very Bush-like "you are either with us or against us" stance on the matter. If you are a pro- growther, and especially a member of the Chamber of Commece, don't expect to ever get an audience with him on these matters.

Overall, the General Plan looks to be a good document -- but some items such as the inclusionary rule were not subject to much input from the public. We will see how the voters respond to their efforts in November.

Where's the Judge?

News-Press attorney David Millstein asked Court Commissioner Colleen Stern to delay their case against Michael Todd another week so that it could be heard by a judge. This actually delays the case even more because Judge Anderle will decide only when to hear the case next Tuesday. When asked by the Daily Sound about it, Todd replied: "You'd think they'd want to be done with it, I've been lead to believe they don't want to deal with it". What exactly that meant wasn't expounded upon for obvious reasons. For more on this item, see Craig Smith's Blog.