Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Sunday, September 30, 2007

POLITICAL PLAY of the WEEK: Giddens Gaffs and Barnwell Bravado

As bemoaned last week, the Santa Barbara City Council election still has been BOOOORRR-IIIINNGG this past week. Voting starts only a week from now, as soon as the absentee ballots are mailed out on October 8. Still, some sample gleanings are offered here about a glimmer of election activities.

So far, no candidates have done much even close to spectacular for an election that some argue needs to be held separately during an off-year, odd-year election cycle so the candidates will get all the attention they deserve. The electorate is paying attention, but the candidates are not doing anything. The only lawn signs seen are a slight few scattered around, but only because Helene Schneider had some extras from her original campaign four years ago.

Giddens Gaffs

Michelle Giddens reportedly has signs in her own La Mesa neighborhood, but some casual cruising around there yesterday found none, especially along the arterial roads of Cliff Drive and Shoreline Drive. Maybe the frequent, easily found yellow signs of the same size were hers, the signs from the city about a Notice of Proposed Development?

Giddens has a web site, but it has no title via The Google search and it is hit number 30 or so down the page of results on that search. The adjacent search hit is a March 2006 news article from Riverside about how the alleged healthy air machines Giddens sells produce ozone that actually is a health hazard, despite what Laura Schlessinger says in a commercial endorsement of the ozone producers. A big article in LA Times came out on September 28, about how state regulators have banned these ozone making devices. With this blow to her business, maybe she will have to “remodel” her house with a couple more bedrooms to make room for some rent-paying boarders who, of course, will put their single-occupancy cars only in her garage.

Barnwell Bravado

Perhaps as an equal-opportunity complement to the earlier fumble Play of the Week about the Hotchkiss Chutzpah, City Council incumbent Brian Barnwell (or at least his supporters) is throwing a big party at Eos Lounge early tomorrow night, Monday, October 1.

Although I am sure that Barnwell or his hired help will accept all the donations anyone wants to pass along then, kudos to them for not asking for money specifically in the party announcement, unlike most if not all other political party invitations. This party hosting generosity seems to be a donation from Film Festival Czar Roger Durling, who seems to be fiscally flush considering all the hair color and gel he buys and uses.

Where is the Bravado? Here is the plug in the Evite party invitation for the soiree at Eos Lounge, sent to at least 430 email recipients and even more through email forwarding:

“Roger Durling and friends are hosting a re-election campaign soiree for Santa Barbara City Councilman Brian Barnwell. A voice of reason, an advocate for the arts, a protector of neighborhoods, Barnwell has the vision and experience we need on our City Council.”

Any bravado there on any of these claims?

In case anyone is wondering about Eos Lounge, this is the latest in the seemingly annual incarnation of drinking establishments at 500 Anacapa Street, northeast corner of Haley Street. This Citizen Stringer is holding a contest for the Gentle Readers who can inform most completely about the history of establishments at this fabled downtown address. Send the dates (to the nearest year if not months), name of the establishment, and other relevant notes about the history there to my clever email address at

Do not bother with complaints or whines there at that email, as I get plenty as comments entered to these Blogabarbara postings. I am not even going to check the email until a week passes, and then announce the winner as a footnote to the Play next time.

Giddens gaffs in the ozone and Barnwell boasting bravado will have to suffice as the Political Plays of the Week.

Some candidate, please, do something significant for next week, will ya?

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Friday, September 28, 2007

"Extreme" Gunman at Ralph's on Carrillo

A guy named Ralph (according to KSBY) waved a fake gun at Ralph's today on Carrillo Street. The gunman was hit with a bean bag gun (KSBY and KEYT) and Chief Sanchez pretended that it was hard to tell if it was a real gun on the KSBY interview -- using the word "extreme".

Hard to believe that wasn't just for the press, but Chief Cam certainly had a win tonight in that the "gunman" was taken down without real force. Clearly, none of us would have wanted to take this Ralph person for granted and the police did a great job at containing the area. The way the guy was holding his weapon in the air for such a long time, however, it is hard to assume that our brilliant police force didn't figure out it was a fake sooner than later -- why else would they use a bean bag gun?

Still, our boys and girls in blue did the right thing and I commend them for diffusing the tense situation on Carrillo Street.

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Community Post: DA Made Right Move with Elder Death Review Team

Got the following from a reader about the DA and Adult Protective Services (APS) --- Stanley's done good!

I was very pleased and encouraged to note that SB County DA Christie Stanley is going after those who prey upon and abuse elderly victims in our community. A new Elder Death Review Team, comprised of an alliance between the Coroner’s Office, the DA, law enforcement, public health and APS will review all deaths involving elderly and dependent adults. The Coroner’s office will notify APS of a death and APS will determine if the decedent has a history with APS – if so, the Sheriff will be notified. Ms. Stanley’s goals of reducing elder abuse and neglect of dependent adults speak directly to us as our practice is limited to this area. We are heartened to see our DA take such an interest in this most important problem.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Another WWST? How much did it cost?

Craig Smith opines that the NLRB Hearing cum waiting game could cost Wendy McCaw half a million. What was she thinking?

Couldn't you bring back The Organized or even the Illegally Fired Journalists and make life hell for a few months and have them quit in disgust for a few hundred thousand less? I would be happy to take a commission equaling the difference but do not think I could live with myself. Then again, maybe she knows what Dawn Hobbes, Tom Schultz and the like are made of.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

UCSB Study Debunks CalTrans

Ummmm, several day old news but the just-released UCSB study discredits the CalTrans proposal to install so-called suicide prevention barriers on the Cold Spring Bridge -- or is it now the Chumash Highway Bridge, doh!

"there is no evidence that a suicide prevention barrier on the Cold Spring Bridge would save lives,"

It seems more important to me to carry forward carefully-considered, facts-based, and effective suicide prevention measures and also consider any traffic calming techniques that could save lives from driving towards the casino as well. A newly-formed citizens group is calling upon CalTrans to withdraw its proposal to spend up to $1,000,000 to install such barriers. What do you think?

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

WWST? It Was Anti-Coyote!

I'm not sure what News-Press co-publisher Wendy McCaw was thinking when she took the stand and defined what bias was for the masses today. Contradictions flew left and right as she told the courtroom what it is in her world. She said she works more than 40 hours a week and 5 days a week in the office -- I wondered why the NLRB attorney's didn't ask for the sailing records for the Calixe as this statement seems to contradict public record.

My favorite misdirection from McCaw was the following quoted in The Independent:

When asked is (sic) she had a right to control the content of the news section, she replied, “I believe I have a right to that, but I don’t choose to exercise that.” Bias was a lingering problem for McCaw throughout her ownership because, as she explained, “We didn’t want the paper dictating what people should be believing.”

We didn’t want the paper dictating what people should be believing. Wow. That's rich considering the following also from The Independent about faxes she sent to her editors about articles printed in the newspaper:

...another asked why an article about a Hannah-Beth Jackson (she had written “HBJ”, though couldn’t recall on the stand why) press release did not cite the role of the Sperlings or the Wendy P. McCaw Foundation in saving the Ellwood Mesa; and a fourth said that “bad editing” was at fault for the front-page placement of a story about architect Brian Cearnal’s lawsuit against McCaw.

If WPM doesn't know who HBJ is or why lack of mention of her own foundation is showing bias, I am very surprised. I am not keeping count, but has every News-Press executive "contradicted their testimony" as of yet? Yet another article was biased, according to McCaw, because it was "anti-coyote" -- almost anthropomorphic in nature, is it because the meercats, coyotes and otters deserve to get more than the true story told? By no means are coyotes or other animals inanimate -- but this women makes sure they sit above the fold and above the banner, and then tells us she doesn't influence the newsroom.

There is likely more about this story very soon at Craig's Blog. I'm fascinated that we finally got a glimpse into -- WWST?

Before we see the typical "Let the market decide!" comments -- let me just ask those of you that want to write that whether you want to read front-page stories about the bastardized trickle-down effect McCaw talked about today? Reagonomics on animals as unbiased news -- isn't that taking laissez-faire a bit far?

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Comment to Post: Today's Editorial in the SBNP

John San Roque didn't know where to put this but I think it would be useful for discussion -- especially in relationship to Craig's post today.

I realize this completely disregards Citizen Stringer’s post, but I actually have something interesting to discuss.

Editorials in the News-Press yesterday and today, I believe, show a significant turning point. Up until now, Armstrong and the rest have taken the position that they’re right and everybody else is wrong--cabals, etc. The two recent editorials attempt to explain the position the News-Press has taken and the reasons for it. Things are going badly enough now that the NP feels the need to explain—something they’ve not condescended to do before.

For those of you who haven’t read the editorials, there’s some amazing turnabouts and comparisons. The idea that the owner “never interfere(s) with the news judgments of reporters or editors” is rejected absolutely. That wall of separation, evidently, has been torn down. Armstrong (with a straight face, I assume) draws a favorable comparison between McCaw’s current role and that of the owner of the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal. If you’re going to cite some newspaper lore and legend, might as well go big. He also throws in the example of the NY Times publication of the Pentagon Papers, giving credit to the owner for allowing it to be published. Evidently, Armstrong sees analogies between Watergate and the address of Rob Lowe’s vacant lot, or between the Pentagon Papers and a DUI arrest.

He also reveals more about his often-quoted “bias study”, saying that it was done in 2005, before any of the current acrimony. The study showed, according to Armstrong, that 2/3 of the respondents thought the “news articles were biased”. No one polled me, but I would have been in that majority because even back then I thought that the owner and editor definitely biased the news articles. As a matter of fact, I complained several times in writing about just that. Too bad the NP has never printed that study.

Anyway, I think the NP people have realized they are losing this battle for the hearts and minds of Santa Barbarans, so a change of tactics is in order. The role of the paper is being redefined, or perhaps, explained, to those of us who misunderstood what its function should be in this community. I think this is a last gasp. I could be wrong, but I think they’re ready to fold.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

POLITICAL PLAY of the WEEK: Chuckie Graham Would Go, and Did, after Blue Edge Wiped Out

The Play this week diverts again from the originally intended Santa Barbara City Council election because this campaign has been so BOOOORRR-IIIINNGG this past week.

At least the Daily Sound wrote up a substantial article last Thursday about the Council candidates forum by Santa Barbara Regional Chamber of Commerce. No other news outlet covered this apparently revealing discussion, at least the way Daily Sound news writer Eric Lindberg wrote it up.

The Play this week is a story of not getting mad, but getting even.

Late last June, the Independent wrote up a revealing article about the imminent demise of Blue Edge magazine, the surfing news mag that Ampersand News-Press inherited from its acquisition of Goleta Voice a couple of years ago. Seems like the Blue Edge editor, Chuck Graham, and his staff were not kissing enough Wendy booty, so they left with some dignity and Blue Edge subsequently dulled and died after several years of consecutive monthly publications. (Unless no publication since the July edition is somehow still riding an imaginary Ampersand wave of extant publishing?)

Only three months later, a new surfing magazine debuts with a distribution from Port Hueneme to San Luis Obispo.

Deep Magazine literally hit the streets last Friday, with Chuck Graham as editor again. He still is listed as the editor of Blue Edge, as Ampersand obviously has done nothing with that website for three months.

Deepzine, "the Central Coast's Surfing and Adventure Aquatic Magagine," shares office space with Carpinteria Coastal View, as most evident by the same address and phone number. Coastal View last Wednesday included a preview article (page 13) for its new office-mate. The parent company also seems to be the same, RMG Ventures LLC.

In Santa Barbara, Deep Mag is free and so far is at local surf shops, surf-themed restaurants in the waterfront area, Open Wallet bike shop, and that haven with carbo-loading surfers: Sambo's. Distribution should grow more widespread.

The point here, Gentle Readers, is not that we really need more surfing magazines --although a Central-Coast-specific publication is great-- but rather that yet another new publication, both in print and web format, launched to compete with the vestige of the disgraced and increasingly vacuous News-Press-Mess-Less-Suppress.

According to Craig Smiths Blog
Monday morning, another Ampersand product, Goleta Valley Voice, no longer has any reporters, and one wonders why Jim Logan keeps wasting his time and life there, playing a cruel joke in his ad now going around for a writer: "This would be a good gig for somebody with a bit of experience who wants to do everything at a little paper." Everything?

Recently salsipuedesed Hannah Guzik now returned to the womb at Carp Coastal View, and many other writers, editors, and other news crew have been drifting away steadily at Guzik did. Taking over the News-Press market share is becoming so easy when they keep giving it away by abusing their employees and being who and what they are.

Many have realized this for more than a year, but the News-Press is brain dead and just survives as a zombie on reflexive breathing. Noozhawk may gobble up another huge piece of its advertisers and readers, as it is led by true publishers, editors, and business managers. Unlike their last venture, we all hope it has true web writing worth reading.

For all the Chuckie-Would-Go Grahams, Nooz Raptors, and Teamsters prevailing in federal court, this Double-Barrel Ale is for YOU!

Getting even and living well, and gobbling up market share, is the best revenge.
And that is the Political Play of the Week!!

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Liberal Amphibian

Not to be outdone, it seems liberals have created The Liberal Amphibian.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Million Little Lies and Overstated PR?

I was sent the following lines in a press release from the Santa Barbara Barbara Book Festival:

The memoir market has exploded over the past few years. Everyone wants to tell their story. The discussion of James Frey’s book, A Million Little Pieces, has raised numerous issues about the writing of memoir. How can a writer know if his memories are real or a figment of his creative imagination? How do writers deal with gaps in their memory and how does one decide what to include or omit from their memoirs?

These are some of the topics that will be discussed on the panel, “Memoir: Where Memory Meets Imagination” on September 29th, 2007 at the 9th Annual Santa Barbara Book and Author Festival held at 12:30 in the Mural Room of The County Courthouse.

The panel will be moderated by Santa Barbara author and UCSB Extension writing instructor, Diana Raab, author of the newly-released memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal.

I appreciate them including me and hope many of you consider taking part in the festival as Ms. Raab has nothing to do with this post and I am sure she has a great book -- but are the festival PR reps understating Frey's culpability? Here's a six-page treatise from Smoking Gun entitled A Million Little Lies. Our kind-of-very-own Oprah laid into him on her show as he had clearly duped her as well.

Aren't memories real and not a figment of our "creative" imagination? I think most of us could tell the difference....

Last week, Frey was offered a new book deal for a "fiction" piece for an undisclosed sum....only in America can you be skewered like Martha Stewart, have a pay day and be in the New York Times a year later.

At least the NY Times did a bit of research -- here's the last paragraph:
Reached by telephone before the announcement, Mr. Frey denied rumors that he had sold a short story collection, saying, “I have never written a short story in my life.”

But Mr. Frey published a short story last fall in a catalog for an exhibition by Malerie Marder, a Los Angeles-based artist.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Turtles with a Bit of Drama

Thinking I might see a fan site for one of my favorite characters from HBO's Emmy-winning Entourage, I followed a link a friend sent me to The Conservative Turtle. Why do I use the word drama? Not only is it a good pun if you are an Entourage fan but it fairly well describes this new blog's assertion that conservatives are being controlled with tazers in their own pond by some kind of liberal intelligentsia conspiracy. Basically THE MAN is keeping them down...either this is some revolutionary who thinks he can turn liberals on their head or it is a very funny, sardonic astro turfing decide or join the Turtle-istas.

WWTT? Chumash Highway? OMG from SYV...

It's a bit too easy to get fodder for my "What Were They Thinking?" installments. I got the following from a reader and could hardly believe what I read:

I just learned that I’ll be telling family and friends to take the “CHUMASH HIGHWAY ” to visit me at my home in the Santa Ynez valley.

WTF? Who made the decision to rename Hwy 154/San Marcos Pass the “CHUMASH HIGHWAY ”? Did the tribe “buy” the naming rights? Does our legislature think the casino is in jeopardy of failing and needs more public assistance?

Honestly, I’d rather live on the blue side of the “blue line” than at the end of the “CHUMASH HIGHWAY ”. Talk about property devaluation. We might as well rename Santa Ynez “CASINOVILLE” and call the valley “CHUMASH VALLEY ”. This irritates me.

Sign me, “Citizen Stringer” from Los Olivos
Well, we'll make that a lower case CS....The Lompoc Record reports that it was a unanimous vote. Without even getting into whether our representatives were on the floor of the Assembly and State Senate at the time, I have to ask why they didn't come to the residents of the Santa Ynez Valley to ask what they thought about their traffic inducing build-a-lot neighbors at the Casino getting the historic 154/San Marcos Pass renamed right after the Zaca Fire almost destroyed all that they know.

This is what Chair Vince Armenta had to say to the Record about the smoked filled room decision:
Travelers taking the scenic route from Santa Ynez to Santa Barbara cross a journey that the Chumash people have traversed for thousands of years,” Armenta said in a statement. “I'm elated that this fact was recognized by the California Legislature with their highway naming project.”

I'll be interested to see what Pedro Nava and Tom McClintock have to say about the mean time, I say it has Wilcox Property written all over it. How many of you will change what you call San Marcos Pass?

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Who will cover the Santa Barbara city beat now?

Today the well-sourced Craig Smith, of Craig Smiths Blog fame, reported that News-Press-Mess-Less-Suppress reporter Hannah Guzik is now gone since last Friday. This Guzik Salsipuedes follows a spate of copyeditors and press operators resigning during the past month or so.

As Smith wrote, Guzik was the closest resemblance of a "hard news" reporter the News-Press had, and with high seniority and experience as well, with about nine months on the job directly following her experience writing for the Westmont College power newspaper. BTW, the total news writing experience now gone from the Press is close to 400 years cumulatively.

Guzik more or less covered --as much as that means lately with them-- the Santa Barbara city government beat. Prior to her, the city beat reporters were Anna Davison for a few weeks (that worked out well, didn't it) and Josh Molina for many years. A few other intermittent business writers also covered the beat for a few days at a time, although merely paraphrasing a staff report hardly qualifies as covering a beat (but don't tell The Steepster that).

Who will be the next sacrificial pup tossed into the deep end of the pool for the city government beat? Some potential suspects:
  1. Tom Risen, a designated business writer recently infamous for discounting all the "drama" surrounding the newspaper as moved from DC and took the job while he advertised on Craigslist looking for a local pad.
  2. Maria Zate, a veteran business writer and Teamster who has written a few good city planning articles, although the zoning and affordable housing nuances often evaded her.
  3. Nora K. Wallace, veteran ace political analyst and Teamster, directed to cover way too much Chumash-centric beat of Santa Ynez Valley.
  4. Steve Malone, veteran photographer, completing the trend to fill page space with beautiful color photo spreads with the captions to suffice as the city government reporting.
  5. Angel "I'm-just-a-temp" Pacheco, who really is holding out for a Real Job with Noozhawk (yes, you saw it here first!).
  6. Scott Steepleton, because with no news writers left, no one is left to be edited, so he instead can get ahead, perhaps for the Sunday features, with more riveting preview articles on the proclamations to be bestowed during the city council meetings.
  7. Travis K. Armstrong, because what subjects may be actual news are now first disclosed in the newspaper anyway through a selectively-factual, innuendo-laced editorial, so why not just skip the middle-men and middle-women who first write up a topic as an actual news article before it is the subject of editorials.
  8. Other writers?
Any speculation, Gentle Readers, on where the new wave of Tighter And Brighter Reporting will be coming from?

Or, has the departure of the last local news reporter from the News-Press-Mess-Less-Suppress finally been a catalyst for the Wendy Freak Flag to fly with the full transformation of the T.M. Storke legacy into the local printed equivalent of a Political Perez Hilton?

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Desperately Seeking Supervisor

Community Post written by Joe Armendariz

Like many of you I was both surprised and disappointed by Brooks Firestone's decision to retire after serving only one term on the Board of Supervisors. Brooks was a fantastic supervisor and remains one of the great business and political leaders our area has produced. His work ethic was incredible and his mastery of county issues, within a very short period of time on the board, exceeded my wildest expectations.

Personally, I wish Brooks would reconsider his decision, serve another term and finish what he started, particularly in the areas of reforming the county’s land use policy, process improvement and operational effectiveness; important issues all.

But Brooks has been a public servant for many, many years and if anyone deserves to retire and spend more time enjoying his wife, kids and grandkids, its Brooks Firestone. Therefore, I have resisted the
request from many of my friends to join the chorus and call on Brooks to change his mind. Brooks made his decision and I respect his decision. These decisions aren't made lightly.

The question now is who should run to replace him?

There are some potential candidates out there who might be persuaded to run, Goleta City Council members Michael Bennett and Eric Onnen for starters. Another potential candidate that I think would be a compelling choice is Goleta Chamber of Commerce CEO Kristen Amyx. Unfortunately, from what I have heard, both directly and indirectly, none of these stellar individuals are interested in running.

Maybe a draft Bennet or Amyx campaign is an option. If they refuse, who then?

This question is bedeviling many of us who desire common sense leadership for our county. Indeed, it's utmost on our minds as we spin our collective rolodex in search of the perfect candidate. I might have a solution to all of this.

Rather than search for the perfect person who also lacks "baggage", which, by the way, might also mean they lack experience and maybe passion too, why not reach out to the person who has the right experience, knowledge of the issues and is eager to run for the seat as well?

Why not, in other words, try something novel for a change and support a person who is the most qualified, ready and willing to run?

That is what I intend to do...


Saturday, September 15, 2007

POLITICAL PLAY of the WEEK: Hotchkiss Chutzpah

Like the Political Play of the Week, Chutzpah can be either good or bad, as long at it has an effect.

I was looking to grill up some homegrown red meat for the Play this week, especially if political corpse Jim Anderson indeed made some announcement or gave any hint that he would be running for Third District Supervisor in the Republican vacuum left after Firestone announced eight days ago that he was not seeking a second term. That teaser about Anderson initially was a comment last week at Blogabarbara, but nothing has been reported, anonymous or not, since then. Maybe Jimbo in Lompoc finally realized he actually resides in the Fourth District?

With no red tri-tip beef roasting on the endangered-Valley-Oak-fired, Santa-Maria-style barbecue pit this week, the Political Play this week has to be a lighter fair of Hotchkiss Chutzpah cream puffs.

First-time City Council candidate Frank Hotchkiss (remember him?) dissed a local second-tier political blog by refusing to provide an unrestricted statement to be posted at the invitation of the anonymous blog host. The Bluetooth-implanted Hotchkiss politely wrote that he wanted to spare the readers and Santa Barbara City voters the trouble of knowing and thinking about his views may be for Santa Barbara.

"Too often, political positions are the subject of misinterpretation, misunderstanding and endless bickering. I would rather spare us all of that," Hotchkiss wrote to that second-tier blog.

Real estate profiteer Hotchkiss apparently has nothing to write right now, but promised that he would have something to say during an upcoming candidate forum, without indicating when or where. As of blog time for this posting, only four comments have been entered about Bashful Frank, perhaps as much of a telltale sign as any about public interest in his candidacy and/or in that particular second-tier blog.

I suppose Bashful Frank will not be wearing out too many shoes walking from home to home meeting and greeting with voters in the Golden Triangle precincts. At least Michelle Giddens has a few lawn signs (paid for by Lanny Ebenstein and Jerry the Beaver) for her and her five friends who never met a Mesa McMansion they didn't like.

Upcoming sixth-place vote recipient Frank Hotchkiss insults the voters, fails to take advantage of free publicity (such as it is), and then instead reserves his 10 --and perhaps only-- minutes of fame for the candidates forum by League of Women Voters on October 11.

And THAT is the Political Play of the Week!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bureaucracy Busters!!!

This (below the line) was just published in the Santa Barbara City Administrator's report for September (page 3), apparently an initiative from the City administration and not necessarily by Council direction (not that the Council disagrees with busting bureaucracy, we presume).

A staffer in the Waterfront Dept. is the point-person for public comments about:
"improving City processes that may have become outdated or may have room for improvement."

Be nice.

Introducing the Bureaucracy Busters

Bureaucracy Busters is a recently formed interdepartmental team of staff dedicated to identifying and improving City processes that may have become outdated or may have room for improvement. These volunteers include staff members representing a diverse cross section including Department heads and general staff.

They will be working together over the next several months to identify areas of inefficiency, improve interdepartmental communication, locate potential safety issues, evaluate cost-saving ideas and discover methods to improve service to our most important customers, the public!

We invite the public to help identify areas that would improve customer services, safety, save time and money, or enhance communication. The public’s views are important when considering current City processes and procedures.

Ideas can be sent to Scott Riedman, Waterfront Business Manager, at

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Monday, September 10, 2007

WWHT? Michael Bennett Wants to Create Disneyland in Old Town

Perhaps the next Political Play of the Week could be an occasional series called What Was He or She Thinking?

The Pacific Coast Business Times reported today that Goleta Council Member Michael Bennett told his buddies at the Chamber of Commerce (or was it their PAC? -- I can't tell the difference) that he would like to create a "semblance of Disneyland" in Old Town Goleta.

Bennett thinks he can create a picture perfect Mayberry with what I guess is more hotels in Old Town as he was very excited at the Chamber/PAC meeting about the success of the new Hampton Inn and condo project. That's all well and good as it is a good enough example of a mixed-use project along a transporation corridor (although it has already increased traffic horribly -- are these folks using the bus? or walking?) -- but do we really want Orange County-style planning in Old Town?

The problem with Bennett's statement is twofold. First, we don't need to look to Orange County for ideas -- Old Town's character can be enhanced and improved as it is right now, it doesn't need to copy our mega-neighbors to the south. Second, related to Bennett's next campaign, he just wrote his opponent's get-out-the-vote mail piece! What was he thinking?

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sam Tyler Press Release Calls for Pro News-Press Interviews


Santa Barbara, California

A team of local filmmakers is working on a full length documentary film on “The News-Press Story” (working title). Their cameras will be rolling at the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market on Cota Street this Saturday, September 15th, from 9:00AM to 10:30 AM. The film crew wants to talk with people who support Wendy McCaw and the News-Press. Pro McCaw and Pro News-Press comments may be on any topic, including but not limited to McCaw’s right to run her paper as she sees fit, unionization, local news coverage and advertising value. The filmmakers welcome public participation.

Production is winding down for the documentary film about the Santa Barbara News-Press. The film will premiere locally in January and later on public television.

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Obama Wrap-Up

I can't get myself to call him Barry, as we saw Citizen Stringer do the other day for the Political Play of the Week, but I am interested hearing about the speech and if any reader went to Oprah's or at least played paparazzi at Earl Warren Showgrounds. Any news?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

POLITICAL PLAY of the WEEK: Barack Obama for free

A Political Play of the Week entitled Firestone Salsipuedes was tempting, if for any reason just to use that title.

The angle about Third District County Supervisor Brooks Firestone would have been all about why did he retire to the vineyards, are enough people who count really mad enough at him, who are the credible candidates to take over in January 2009, will Doreen Farr prevail atop a rabble of Republicans splitting their voter base, just what IS Jim Anderson thinking, blah, blah, blah, blah. But somehow this mere Stringer thinks plenty of opportunity for all will be available during the upcoming months to analyze the Third District race, and no doubt by the fourth comment someone will blame Das Williams for something.

The real Political Play this week scored points even before the local game began.

After months of local hype and shallowly hidden jealousy morphing into resentment about the wholly unaffordable swanky soiree with Barry Obama partying with The Oprah at her Montecito Mansion --with no freebie tickets lavished onto pseudonymous blogger commentators-- the plague of disgusting Big Money Presidential Politics seemed to have arrived in Santa Babylon yet again. Some of us instead need to pay the monthly mortgage with that $2300 admission price to see Barry and Oprah.

But then, the announcement was made only three days ago that Barack would meet the masses at Santa Barbara Serious College. Called a grassroots rally at the Obama web site calendar of events, the event later today, Saturday, literally will be on the grass at SBCC, overlooking the ocean and a few oil rigs offshore.

What Obama really says does not matter at this point. It will be a rousing, stimulating, and uplifting speech, like dozens he will make this month and hundreds he has made. Many locals remember Bill Clinton also speaking well to thousands at SBCC in 1996.

Will Santa Barbara have to wait another 10 or 11 years for a Big Dem Presidential candidate to visit again? Will Hill visit soon and also go slumming with the unpaid masses? Hopefully, yes. For Rudy, probably not.

Barack Obama for free. On the lawn. At City College. At noon. On a Saturday. Priceless.
And that is the Political Play of the Week!!

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Cut First Ask Questions Later

My story on the McCaw by Any Other Name eucalyptus trees, torn asunder in the hundreds by those that should and do know much better, is being contested for import by action the City of Santa Barbara failed to take regarding trees along Salsipuedes Street. Although not as great in number, this is a story of perhaps hubris and arrogance on the part of the applicant; and, indecision and lack of attention on the part of the City.

The Players: Las Vegas developer Hank Hurst bought the Villa Flores Apartments at 601 East Anapamu from the Koonce Family last year for a cool $18 million in an offer they couldn't refuse. With the help of Bermant Development Company (BDC) and landscape architect Katie O'Reilly Rogers (widow of former Supervisor Tom Rogers), I have been told that virtually every interior tree has been removed and it is unclear just how many have been clear cut.

The Rub: Hurst and BDC never received final ABR approval for their landscape plans before they began the demolition of a large section of sandstone wall, the appropriation of an historic hitching post, building an unpermitted wall around the swimming pool at this complex and leaving dangerous pathways for many of the elderly who live here as their only route to their apartment during their preparation for what must be million dollar condos down the line.

With the City Historian standing in front of O'Reilly Rogers' bulldozer with a stop work order, the project went back to the Architectural Board of Review (ABR). I am told that at the ABR, O'Reilly Rogers and Bermant's team failed to mention the trees were cut or any work had already been done in the hearing. City planners sat without comment, leaving neighbors to produce photos of the actual conditions. At the second hearing, they called their unpermitted work a "Miscommunication with the
Gardner". Wow. The gardener has a lot of say -- I guess it's a lot easier to blame it on the hired help (a crew of ten) than to take responsibility.

The Tragedy: The people that live in these 50-year old apartments (99-units) tend to be elderly and it is reported that rents have been raised -- forcing many former residents to leave. New rents here list for $1,400 to $1,900 for a 600-square foot residence with no a/c, pool, parking and dirt sidewalks which I have heard are called "goat paths".

Are applicants treated differently based on who they are rather than what they are proposing? The sad thing is that BDC and O'Reilly Rogers know that they can get away with cutting first and asking questions later. Interesting that O'Reilly Rogers cut her teeth on the St. Francis project where they recently also removed trees sans permit. This is shameful behavior by the
rich and powerful that are imagining their multi-million dollar condos a few years down the line; by the City, for not recognizing this and not making them pay for their arrogance; and, the local press for not covering this like they should --- likely because of who is involved.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Firestone Will Not Run

Brooks Firestone, who recently sold much of his winery to William Foley, has announced that he will not run for reelection to 3rd District's the story at The Independent.

This would certainly help Doreen Farr who will certainly face a chosen Republican....I've got a lead on who is being considered and will report on this soon. In the meantime, what does this mean to the third district race?


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Manhattan Isla Vista?

A community post written by a rock-star reader:

We've just learned that the entire State housing mandate for unincorporated Santa Barbara County will be satisfied by new development of 1235 new dwellings in Isla Vista.

UCSB plans to add 4011 dwellings (page 21 of the LRDP) Will the Isla Vista and UCSB become South Coast's Manhattan? Will avaricious developers like Conquest, who evicted families from the Cedarwood Apartments and is now being sued by USC take over?

BTW, allegedly a Conquest official likened their company to Al-Qaeda, in the LA Times article. Is this all the consequence of Goleta's omission of IV from its Cityhood drive in 2001? Should the City of Santa Barbara, which shares a border with UCSB and IV along the airport boundaries, annex UCSB and IV?

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A McCaw by Any Other Name?

According to the Santa Maria Times, Wendy McCaw's former husband Craig didn't get a permit for removing hundreds of eucalyptus trees from his Gaviota property as his management company "didn't know" that they were a monarch habitat.

Still, why wouldn't they think twice in removing so many trees and ask someone at the County Planning Department? To their benefit, McCaw's "people" sound like they understand a bit about horticulture and want to bring native plants to the eventually large McMansion McCaw must have planned. Eucalyptus trees are hated by horticulturalists almost as much as invasive pampas grass because they are "water suckers" and not-native. Two strikes right off the bat.

I have to ask though, even if they were brought here from Australia maybe a hundred years ago -- how long do they have to be here before they are native? And, when are they not part of our ecosystem if monarchs, red tail hawks and the like nest in them?

I could go either way on deciding whether Craig McCaw was correct in trying to go native on his coastal property....but you would think his staff would make sure he wasn't breaking any laws by cutting such a large number down. The Age of Entitlement we are in doesn't just apply to the younger generation....


Monday, September 03, 2007

POLITICAL PLAY of the WEEK: Political News Reporting by SB Daily Sound

In a late posting here (maybe because a Monday holiday still feels like the Sunday that ended the prior week), the Play this time is more about who is acting as a referee rather than an actual player in the Santa Barbara game of politics.

After 17 months in existence publishing Monday through Friday, Santa Barbara Daily Sound has matured nicely as a reliable source of local news where the reporting gets to the point and does not just repeat the spin, or miss the story altogether, as is the norm at the other daily “newspaper.” And all that at Daily Sound with only two news reporters, plus an arts dude/editor who sometimes writes news and sports too.

The randomly scattered Daily Sound print distribution still sucks, but at least they have an okay web site now, no longer restricted to Microsoft software. It also is all free access to all editions.

Yes, the News-Less-Press-Suppress-Mess often gets the scoop on A story, but seldom if ever THE story for local political or usually any interest. How many articles about Lompoc crime, the opening of a Santa Maria Library, or parts 1 through 12 of the boB-the-Tortoise saga do we really need here?

Sure, Daily Sound is no News-Press at its peak 20+ months ago during the November 2005 City election, but this Little Newspaper That Can is now turning out a consistent database of the new News of Record for Santa Barbara. If only their web site had a search function, we then could find those records.

If their news content shriveled and their advertisers fled, as we have seen in the other daily with lots of unpaid content on its pages, Daily Sound readers then could see more color photos by Janelle Holcombe, the long-time local gal and Brooks Institute graduate who seems to get her ambitious photos published from only one out of three events she covers. Daily Sound has too much news text to leave much room for news photos. They really need to learn easily how to insert photos and other images into their Blogspot web site, as easily demonstrated here.

Most recently, the Daily Sound new City Beat reporter, Eric Lindberg (three months on the job and freshly graduated from USC Annenberg J-School), already is starting to write like a seasoned Josh Molina with his acute nose for barnyard epithets passing off as news. The separate profiles last week of Santa Barbara City Council candidates Frank Hotchkiss and Dale Francisco were as if Josh “don’t-make-me-use-a-Public-Records-Act-request” Molina were on the byline. (No, not going to remind some readers here who Josh Molina is or locally was.)

The point here is not that these were deep investigations of just how wacky and inexperienced these candidates really are, but rather that a profile article was done at all early in this Silly Season. Granted, those candidates were quoted extensively to reveal their true, often off-point, myopic motivations for running for City Council, but profiles of the other candidates, later comparisons among the eight candidates, and enterprise news stories certainly seem like they would be on the long-range scheduling calendar for Daily Sound reporter Eric Lindberg.

As yet another anonymous blogger commenting about local newspapers, that’s the Play of the Week!

(Suggestions for comments: this Blogabarbara posting is about local political news coverage, not the maturity of Daily Sound Publisher/Trust-Fund-Baby Jeramy Gordon and his puzzling admiration of John Stossel and Robert Novak as syndicated opinion columnists.)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

From Inside the Witness Box: Scoop on the NLRB Hearing

Community Post Written by Bob Guiliano

When the NLRB prosecution of the Santa Barbara News-Press resumes this week, courtroom observers should pay keen attention to the strategy pursued by labor board attorneys, in contrast with Barry Cappello & Co.

While NLRB attorney Steven Wyllie told me to simply tell the truth on the stand, Cappello took a more complicated route of twisting the facts and distorting the truth to build false premises leading to false conclusions in his cross-examination of me. He spewed out smokescreens to cloud the courtroom with a haze of confusion.

Example No. 1: After I filed my complaint in early February with the National Labor Relations Board that my firing occured after not giving one reporter an unmerited written reprimand, Wyllie called me to say that the News-Press responded that oh, yeah, Guiliano was really fired for falsely accusing another reporter of plagiarism.

Cappello's strategy to show that I was fired for poor performance fell apart when he learned that I had kept copies of the stories, proving that quotes were plagiarized from an Associated Press story that I had given the reporter for background information. With the News-Press caught in a lie, Cappello now had to twist the facts and distort the truth to show in court that I was guilty, instead, of not giving that reporter a written reprimand for plagiarizing. Cappello knew full well that I had e-mailed Scott Steepleton of my concerns, and Scott never asked me to issue this reporter a reprimand. Since this reporter was non-union and considered a loyal McCaw subject, I was given great leeway to work with her to resolve even such a serious reporting offense as plagiarizing.

Example No. 2: My being "caught in a lie" on the stand about being concerned of a possible sexual harassment claim that might be made against me. I was warned before my first day on the job to watch out for two non-union female reporters hired after the mass exodus. First, they were new to print journalism and their reporting needed lots of editing; second, the unionized reporters and copy editors were suspicious that they were planted in the newsroom to spy and to possibly testify in January that the union vote was coerced. And I was told that one of them filed a sexual harassment claim against an editor who had chastised her for a poorly written story, and that I should watch my back too.

Since my answer on the stand to Cappello's battery of questions had to be limited to yes or no, it was impossible, thus, to explain, that yes, I was concerned about a possible complaint, but no, I had not done anything to merit one.

Example No. 3: Reporter Leana Orsua refused to write the story about the Jan. 9 NLRB hearing, telling me that part of the reason was her boss, Scott, had lied on the stand. Leana was present the day that the unionized reporters attempted to deliver a letter peacefully to Wendy McCaw, asking for clarification of beats and a wall between the newsroom and editorial page. They were NOT stomping their feet as Scott testifed. Well, I had to relay to Scott, my boss, that we were not going to have a story the next day. But I did not have to reveal what Leana said about Scott, because I did not want her to be fired for being honest with me.

And that was the day that I learned that the suspicions floating around the newsroom about Leana were false. She was not a spy, she was not going to testify that the union vote was coerced, she had the guts to stick to her principles and not report as truth what her boss lied about on the stand, and she was not inclined to file an unwarranted harassment complaint against any editor.

I personally feel that Leana is one of the nicest, most genuine persons I have ever met in my 30 years in the journalism profession. I was determined to file off the rough edges to help hone her into the fine print reporter she could be. Today I am proud to watch her as a broadcast journalist. I learned by working and talking with her that she had been forced earlier in her career to stop giving credit to outside sources of quotes in her broadcast stories, because her producer would hassle her about the short time alloted for her broadcasts. She was told, "If it was said, it was said. Just report it!" I told her that the producer was wrong! Part of my job was to watch KEYT 3 News at 11 p.m. to report to Scott if they used any of our stories without attributing them to the News-Press.

Cappello also hit me with a line of questioning as to why I did not report to Mrs. McCaw that her top editor had lied on the stand. He also made it sound like I had firsthand knowledge of a serious crime that I should have reported to police. Yeah right, like I'm going to tell the person who is manipulating Scott like a puppet that the strings got tangled up. That would have only served to get Leana in trouble. Or like I'm going to call 911 and say, "I just became aware of a crime. Please arrest my boss for extreme embellishment!" I could picture the men in white coats coming to take me away.

Example No. 4: Last but not least, my attempts to be humorous in two e-mails to Mrs. McCaw. Cappello highlighted only my tail-end jokes, but refrained from revealing the other 98 percent of my e-mails giving Mrs. McCaw serious advice on how to turn the newspaper around and get it back on course. That information will come to light at another time.

So, courtroom observers, bring your gas masks should you venture into the courtroom this week because I'm sure there will be more smokescreens filling the air. I'd recommend reviewing any books on Logic and Probability, or read a Sherlock Holmes novel to see how he uses deductive reasoning to solve crimes. You'll be better equipped to analyse Cappello's faulty line of logic.

P.S. I was not nervous on the stand as reported in some media accounts. Actually, I had been practicing Transcendental Meditation in the attorney chambers, so my alpha brain waves were practically at the level of a deep sleep. I had to snap myself alert and get psyched up before taking the stand. I thought of Muhammed Ali playing rope-a-dope with George Foreman as I anticipated the pounding I was about to receive from Cappello. If I was fidgeting, that was me blocking some of the blows. I figured he would kick my butt in that court, but I would fight back on redirect testimony and also in the court of public opinion.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Seen at Harry's Plaza Cafe

This in from a dedicated reader:

Seen in a crowded Harry's Bar and Restaurant Friday night (Aug. 31st): Jeramy Gordon, Jerry Roberts, and Arthur Nipper Von Whosinburger. No, not dining together, and probably not even aware of each other there.

Daily Sound, Old News-Press and New News-Press in the same room....