Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mohr on Government Employees

Former County employee Greg Mohr had an interesting opinion piece in The Santa Barbara Independent this week that speaks to our discussion on government employees over the last few days...thanks to an avid reader and County Planner for pointing it out to me.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Back Story on Onnen's Absence

To truly understand my approach to Eric Onnen's absence from the last Goleta City Council meeting, one has to review what happened the week before when a vote for employee raises for City of Goleta workers took council to the midnight hour. While watching the meeting, it was clear that Onnen was keeping the meeting going unnecessarily with questions that did not pertain to government but were more suited to his extensive experience in the private sector. He brought up bonuses, for instance, which can't be given to public employees as it would be a gift of public funds. The meeting, it seemed, continued because he did not do his homework.

He and Bennett voted against two different proposals for 3% and then 2% the second year; and, also a 3% and 3% with a review of the retirement system at a later date....City of Goleta employees haven't seen a raise in two years while the cost of living has gone up 5.3%. Bennett, who got a great deal of support from one of the largest unions in the firefighters, couldn't see fit to support a raise either.

Let's do the math. $89,000 would have allowed city workers to get a fair and reasonable raise. Onnen motioned to support $100,000 a year for two years for Girsch Park. A very worthy cause but they had only asked for $75,000 each for two years. There's $50,000. Onnen also pushed for support of funds for the Chamber of Commerce -- whose all too cozy PAC shares many of the same officers as the Chamber itself. That's $40,000. I'm not saying the Chamber wouldn't use those fund well...but a back of the napkin calculation shows that where there is a will, there is a way.

The fastest route to an SEIU stronghold in the City of Goleta (with double the rabid editorials from her man at De la Guerra) is to deny them the basics of what they are due. Unions, as we know from the News-Press debacle, aren't formed unless they have to. Onnen needs to discern the difference between private enterprise and government and realize you can't get the best and the brightest in the same way. I guess I'll give him the benefit of the doubt -- but I have to wonder why he'd miss a major vote that will matter greatly in the next election, especially if city workers will now want to become a union shop.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Absent Eric? Goleta Budget Vote Too Important to Miss...

The Santa Barbara Newroom reports that Goleta Councilmember Eric Onnen missed the big budget vote because he was sick at home. For a rookie councilmember, that's a really tough vote to miss -- especially when there is apparently a movement started to recall the last election. I bet BlogaBarbara will have more on that before you know it. In the meantime, if I was sick and a new councilmember in a new city where I was lucky to be elected, I would wear a mask and oxygen tube -- what do you think?

Interestingly enough, the Santa Barbara News-Press failed to cover the City of Goleta budget vote at all. What's up with that? As Craig pointed out today...maybe it has to do with Goleta Chamber CEO's Kristen Amyx's complaint that the News-Press doesn't cover Goleta issues.

Excuse me? Where is the SBNP PR person? This should have been a slam dunk front page story to show Amyx who covers Goleta IN HER FACE ....the truth is that she is right about the fact that they can't cover Goleta anymore. Go to The Newsroom or The Sound for that from now on.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Where's The Wall? Not at Subscriptions...

Craig Smith had a good post on Friday about Travis Armstrong's article last Thursday that continued to attack the Goleta Chamber of Commerce and their CEO Kristen Amyx. He even brought up a conversation she had with their subscription department in his article. Where's the wall? Craig explained why this is an issue well with the following:

Suppose you called Cox Cable and told them you wanted to cancel your cable TV and they responded by threatening to put every unflattering fact or rumor they can dig up about you on the news crawl that runs across the bottom of everyone else's TV screen? Well that's what the News-Press is doing. All because someone dared to cancel a lousy subscription to an even lousier paper.

Meanwhile, the story about the NLRB denying the union rehire request made a small mention in the "Other Matters" section even though it was a month long trial and most of the day's space went to an editorial on union political dues which continues to attack those on Travis' A-List. Misplaced priorities at the News-Press isn't really news to any of us -- but here's two examples where the wall continues to crumble.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Community Post: Goleta Shows Us How

A community post from a dedicated reader:
Goleta CC has approved a bond issue to help fund rental housing near Old Town. 15% of the rentals will be priced for low income affordability. The bond is thought to be self financed from the economic income generated by the new tenants. 6 million towards a 45 million project to build 200 units. The county has just reassessed their position on providing subsidized homeownership that mostly benefits the landowners/developer crowd as opposed to the “American Dream” of homeownership.

Many times over the last six months, I was told that rental units were not feasible. What helped this project was a beneficial land price by the Sumida family, years ago. Maybe what it takes is some social arm twisting of the property owners that have complimentary parcels for sale and a commitment of all the local governments to pursue this approach for affordable housing. Rental units are not subject to the potential fraud (rife in the county at 30%+) of subsidized purchases. Is it time to go into some neighborhoods and start condemning substandard housing and assist in the rebuilding of affordable rental apartments?

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Community Post: Is the News-Press anti-Catholic?

From Mic DeNiro -- not sure about the assertion made here as many newspapers go to the ugly before the beautiful but let's see what ya'll think

Today's front page of the News-Press features an article by Scott Steepleton, reporting that a judge in Los Angeles ruled that personnel files of Franciscan friars accused of molesting children in Santa Barbara can be made public, regardless of whether the clerics were charged with a crime or legal claims against them proven.

There is no question that this is a legitimate story, one in a series of articles on the situation the paper has presented over the years.

Yet noticeably absent in Sunday or Monday's edition was an article on something positive and inspirational involving the Catholic Church and Cardinal Roger Mahoney, our local archbishop and the oft-portrayed villain of the local and regional child abuse situation.

The Cardinal presided over the Diaconate Ordination held at La Playa Stadium at SBCC on Saturday. Sixty Catholic laymen were ordained as deacons, with the power to preach and to administer the sacraments of baptism and marriage, after four years of study in a program that was originated by Thomas Curry, the bishop of the Santa Barbara region of the Los Angeles archdiocese.

I would estimate that over 3000 people attended to observe and honor these men, who are committed to strengthening the Church and spreading its influence to do good.

Yet not a word from the News-Press. Is this due to inadequate staffing, laziness – it being easier to read a judge's ruling and call a few lawyers for comments than going out and doing some actual reporting – or bias against Catholics?

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Community Post: Letter to Goleta Chamber Members

Sent as an FYI by a Citizen Stringer:
Dear Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce Members:

The Chamber Board of Directors and staff have been dealing with an issue recently that I now need to bring to your attention regarding our relationship with the Santa Barbara New-Press.

My husband and I read the News-Press at home each morning before going to work. Lately there has been fewer and fewer business in Goleta stories in this paper, so there was no reason to also receive the paper in our office. Although our office used to diligently clip business and Goleta news from the paper, without any stories to save I felt it prudent to not spend money on a subscription. It was an executive decision, not a public statement.

Travis Armstrong called Friday, June 8th to ask me about the cancellation Mr. Armstrong and I have had a very productive relationship; I always considered him someone I could talk to about local Goleta issues. When he called about the subscription, I was happy to hear from him, but sorry to give him the customer feedback about why I had canceled the subscription. He was angry and very threatening. I imagine there is enormous pressure at the News-Press these days and that Mr. Armstrong is under a great deal of stress.

On Friday, Mr. Armstrong wrote an editorial questioning our volunteer Chairman of the Board. This is an unwarranted criticism as it is common for businesses and individuals to join a Chamber in communities in which they live, work, volunteer or play.

The Chamber Board of Directors has responded to Mr. Armstrong's telephone call to me by reaffirming its support of the Chamber's actions, policies and professional staff.

I look forward to my next communication with you, our membership, and getting back to the important work that is going on in the Goleta Valley, at the Chamber and in our community.

In the mean time I have flown across the country to be with my sister, who is having her first baby. If you need any assistance, please contact Anna Thomas, my administrative assistant, at

Kristen Amyx

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Community Post: Brown's New Contract Kept Under Radar

This post was written by a citizen stringer.

County CEO Mike Brown becomes even more unextractable despite costing county $$ millions.

Blogabarbara missed this as an exclusive story by a few minutes after the ubiquitous Chris Meagher of the Santa Barbara Independent posted his article Friday afternoon.

Still, here is the story written independently of the Independent.

During the Board of Supervisors meeting on June 11 immediately at the beginning and just prior to the Pledge to the flag, County Counsel Shane Stark announced that nothing was to report from the Closed Session that started earlier that morning. He noted that it was continued to the meeting later in the week to Friday, June 15. However, no report about any closed session was made that Friday morning at the Board meeting, but just after the last item for the day (the approval of the county budgets) and some flowery remarks by the retiring county Budget director. At that time, County Counsel Shane Stark said --in the legally minimal style-- "the Board of Supervisors will recess to close to consider the business previously transacted." With that, after a slight stumble about adjourning versus taking a recess, Board chair Brooks Firestone declared "We'll recess to closed session."

According to the county government TV showing of the meeting and the video archive at the county web site, the meeting then appeared to end, with the TV music swelling the the production credits rolling. However, under state law, the results of the closed session have to be announced to the public when results are concluded. The Board of Supervisors indeed did reach a conclusion about their closed-session discussion, but it was not shown on the government TV nor was it recorded on video.

The announcement following this closed session was that the County government's Chief Executive Officer, Michael Brown, would be given a two-year contract, to 2011, with a boost in retirement benefits and a extension to nine months as a severance deal. The severance means that the County would have to pay him the equivalent of nine months of pay if the County Board of Supervisors decide to terminate his job and contract. Thus, getting rid of Mike Brown would become even more expensive for the county taxpayers.

The biggest news from this closed session announcement (which was not, perhaps deliberately, shown on TV or in the video archive) was that the Board voted to retain Mike Brown as the County chief executive and extend his contract by two years. The vote was a classic 3-2 split, with Gray, Centeno, and Firestone voting to keep Brown, while Carbajal and Wolf voted to get rid of him for the good of the county.

This brings up some thought questions. After his moves to run the County government like a dictatorial corporation that has had to settle several personnel lawsuits against his actions and costing the county millions of dollars to settle, did the majority of the elected Board of Supervisors do the right thing?

Will Joni Gray and Brooks Firestone have more to answer for when they try to get reelected early next year? Or, is this just another brick in the wall for a history of bad decisions by Gray and Firestone?

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Add Another One to the Hit List Tony!

As reported at Craig Smith's Blog, Travis Armstrong continued the Soprano's theme this week with a drive by on the Goleta Chamber of Commerce and their CEO Kristen Amyx. It looks as though former News-Presser Bill Macfadyen made the list too. With promises of examining the Chamber's financial outlays in the last election, TKA seems to think he can incite a recall of the Goleta council majority. I'm no fan of the Chamber's PAC relationship in the last Goleta election -- but there certainly seems to be a conflict of interest here on Armstrong's part. He should disclose why he is attacking them and his conversation with Amyx which was reported by Craig Smith and confirmed to me by a citizen stringer....

Be careful with pulling your subscription, not only will you get a mean phone call but plenty of nasty ink.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Let's Review UCSB's Long Range Development Plan

From a citizen stringer:

A topic that needs discussion and airing is UCSB's LRDP, which is the major planning exercise for UCSB. The old one was put together in 1990, and the new one was due in 2005, and the public process has just begun for the new one. LRDP stands for `Long Range Development Plan', and that is UCSB's major blueprint for the future, like the General Plan for a City.

UCSB's LRDP website is:

In the reports there, you can read that UCSB planned in 1990 to grow to 20,000 students, 1,175 faculty, 2,650 staff, and to add 1.21 million square feet of buildings, 2,000 student beds, and 50 new faculty housing units by 2005.

In fact, the numbers now are 20,000 students, 1,054 faculty, 3,631 staff, 1 million square feet of buildings, 1,776 student beds, and 172 faculty housing units. The main difference is a lot more staff; the faculty housing has actually not yet been built.

The plans for the next 20 years include: adding 5,000 new students, 300 new faculty, 1,400 new staff, 5,386 student beds, and 1,800 new housing units for faculty and staff.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tony Soprano Bumps Westside Stabbing

The last couple of days have seen The Soprano's fade-to-black finale receive two front page mentions in the News-Press in recent days while The Daily Sound tells us that Another Stabbing Rocks Westside today. I guess the News-Press didn't see how someone letting the daylight in was important news. Fictional TV characters bumps a local stabbing off the front page? Ouch.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

News-Press on NLRB: Let's Tell Just Our Part of the Story

Yesterday, the News-Press ran a short "Staff Report" on two charges that were dropped but failed to mention that the NLRB is prosecuting them to reinstate the Illegally-Fired...where's the wall? Yet another example of the News-Press not giving their readers the whole story -- making the newspaper more of a PR piece than a place to get the news.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Community Post: Carbajal Warms Up to News-Press?

This from a citizen stringer -- apparently, the emails below have been making their way around the circuit. Too bad Salud didn't illucidate a little further about what the meeting was about -- inquiring constituents want to know.
-- Sara

In early May, First District Salud Carbajal was seen driving the News-Press editorialist Travis Armstrong to a private lunch meeting at Ca'Dario Restaurant, a nice Italian place where Nipper's notes that the average lunch costs $35.

One wonders why would Salud do that. Where or when does a leading locally elected official decide that the News-Press still is or is not a legitimate publication worthy of respect and business as usual? Is Poison-Pen Armstrong still anybody to care about, especially by someone apparently so solid in his office as Salud?

Carbajal's constituents have noticed and asked him nicely about his lunch meeting with Travis Armstrong. The text below is that email exchange, with Carbajal apparently writing that any concern about his meeting Armstrong is "dumb." Such email messages from County officials are public records.

Is this issue dumb or is it dumb to question a County Supervisor about such a lunch discussion, especially with that dining partner?
Message to Salud Carbajal:
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2007 14:38:07
To:Subject: Lunch with Travis

As a friend and supporter, I think you should know that the local "rumor
mill" is buzzing about an alleged "secret meeting" between you and Travis
Armstrong a week or so ago. Unfortunately, among our friends, it is hard to
imagine a more heinous rendezvous, or one that would lead to more convoluted

So many of us have made so many difficult choices in order to
"de-legitimize" our beloved local newspaper, it is distressing to hear that
their number one stooge has even been given an audience by one of our number
one spokespeople. Given all of the speculation about your political
ambitions, and the tendency of some of our opponents to circulate bad
information, it is certainly possible that this is just a fabrication being
inadvertently spread by bad gossip. But as one, like you, who wants to
have friends on all sides of the political spectrum – especially those who
buy ink by the barrel -- I also can imagine that such a meeting did, indeed,
take place.

So what is the real story? And what was the result? I'd appreciate your
reply. Thanks.
Message from Salud Carbajal:
From: Supervisor Salud Carbajal []
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 2:39 PM
Subject: Re: Lunch with Travis

How dumb. He and I met a few weeks ago. No secret about it. Rumors are
rumors. Share this with whom ever you would like. By the way it was a
lunch meeting at Cadario Restaurant.
Salud Carbajal
First District Supervisor
County of Santa Barbara

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Community Post: Goleta the Fleeceable?

This community post is from sa1:
Along with the proposed contract for police services it would appear SB County and Goleta City council have driven a stake into the heart of Goleta . The $5.63 million contract with the county equals 40% of the entire operating budget. ..for 33 policemen. These are the same individuals that are often held up as essential and needing affordable housing. The attorney’s fees were nearly $1 million. The average salary/benefits rates as shown are much higher than California averages. Never thought that a motorcycle cop would make more than a Professor of Physics or that both would claim they can’t afford to live in Goleta without gov’t housing subsidies. Is it time to ask to reassess their demands for absurd salary levels that are far above levels in the private sector? The average salary in the county is $38K and high end is $68K per the CGJ report just issued. Consider that soldiers getting shot at daily earn as little as $2000/month.

17 Deputy $114,209
8 Deputy II $119,882
5 Sergeant $139,651
1 Lieutenant $174,253
1/3 Commander $201,133

Goleta currently is forced by the city incorporation agreement to give the county half of all property and sales taxes, 40% of TOT (hotel bed tax) in addition to 40% of their operating budget for the police services. Additionally $5 million was given to the county for mitigations by the Camino Real Market Place . To date, no mitigations have taken place per the agreements. What has happened to that money? The traffic and street conditions on Storke and Hollister are terrible. UCSB has offered a mere $1.12 million to mitigate nearly 400 condo units soon to be built in this same area. The City Council is now spending tens of thousands to change the general plan from rules to suggestions…

So the question is are we better off now than we were 6 years ago or are the taxpayers getting fleeced?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Camino Cielo Fire?

John Quimby had a report about a fire on Camino Cielo last night while I was away from my computer -- anybody with info?

Update: See the story at The Daily Sound

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Da Mayor's Letter to TKA

Craig Smith and I, among others, received a copy of the following letter from Da Mayor to Travis K. Armstrong. Craig has a cogent analysis of the letter and what it does and doesn't mean.

The Slugger -- who is sure to be the subject of a Sunday column reminding people that she said she never reads his editorials -- wrote a letter that is a must read item for anyone who cares about the future of journalism in Santa Barbara.

That's two "must reads" (and two links in one paragraph) this week on the News-Press Mess. Jerry Roberts on ethics -- which I saw on a screen of an ultra-Libertarian friend of mine earlier this afternoon -- and our Mayor on the "odd" and rather twisted logic as to why she can't speak on the News-Press radio station....

A true friend of ethics in the editorial room would print the Mayor's letter verbatim because he would know that this would engender respect among his readers. A true friend of ethics in the editorial room would print many other less accusatory letters in the interest of fairness and goodwill. Would you do what Travis does? Be truthful. On the "B" side, WWTKAD?

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Jerry Roberts Fights Back

Here's a link to Jerry Roberts' must read opinion in the LA Times. To paraphrase the article -- in the bastardized words of James Carville -- "It's all about ethics, stupid".

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Signs Referring to Jake Boysel in Bad Taste

Former school board member Lynn Rodriguez is correct -- these signs we've seen regarding the possible move of The Community Academy are "unconscionable". They may have gotten permission from the parents but it simply wasn't a good idea and does not help their cause. Read about it at The Santa Barbara Newsroon.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Gay Activists and Leftist Reporters at Fault!

Here we go. The restoration of Dr. Laura has begun. A recent blog entry over at Citizen Journalism Today says gay activists put up the images on Deryk Schlessinger's MySpace page and somehow ties Jerry Roberts to the issue via a reporter at the Salt Lake City Tribune and a News-Press staff report? How much was this blogger paid? These kind of posts give bloggers a bad name. Not because I don't agree with them but because they didn't do their homework.

Interestingly enough -- the above blogger's reference to a "front page story" was likely one of the free commentaries one our citizen stringers calls Wendy's Greatest Hits. Although the page describes itself as providing "recent" commentaries" -- it's hard not to notice that only the ones with damage control written all over them make the list. If you are looking for the cabalistic conspiracy (is that a Colbert-ism?) -- you will find it there.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

NLRB Chooses Prosecution of News-Press

Craig Smith reports that the NLRB wil prosecute the News-Press for violating the National Labor Relations Act. It's about time.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Rodeo Coverage Surprising!

An avid reader points out that there's major coverage for the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo today in the News-Press -- surprising since the Fiesta Rodeo gets ignored every year for philosophical reasons. Perhaps the cute picture of the young girl trumped animal rights concerns over steer wrestling?