Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jerry Prevails, Wendy Stalls, Bold Prediction for 2009

A new development in the continuing saga of the News-Press Mess yesterday awarded former editor Jerry Roberts the prevailing party in a $10 million suit (which ended up only possibly covering his legal fees -- amount TBD) only to see News-Press owner Wendy McCaw counter by trying to throw out the arbitrator off the case. With some of the arbitration information only just now becoming public, The Santa Barbara Independent says the arbitrator called McCaw's legal tactics “scorched earth,” “take-no-prisoners,” and “go-for-broke.”

The News-Press apparently wrote an article about their actions but it sits behind the pay wall of their web site. Robert's attorney Andrine Smith called the article a "shoddy piece of propaganda disguised as a news story" -- no surprise to BlogaBarbara readers who have been following the News-Press Mess over the last few years.

Seen within the rather green light of this story, one has to wonder whether the recent layoffs at the News-Press are a result of not just poor business decisions, but poor past personnel decisions on the part of Ampersand Publishing.

What will be next with the pending February 29, 2009 National Labor Relations Board hearing about using temps as reporters? Coupled with a noticeable drop in advertising and editorial -- my bold prediction for 2009 is that the News-Press will be sold at a bargain.

Note at 7 AM: I edited the post due to an initial misunderstanding on my part of the award in the case....although the suit was for $10 million, Roberts will only get his attorney fees covered in an amount yet to be determined.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BlogaBarbara Person(s) of the Year - 2008

Many thanks to all of you who put nominations in the hat for the BlogaBarbara person(s) of the Year. There were a good amount of nominations and given the events of the last year -- the result should be pretty obvious.

The BlogaBarbara Person(s) of the Year will yet again go to a group of people rather than an individual. In my mind, we would be fools not to name the many firefighters of the Gap and Tea Fire as the recipients for 2008. It is amazing to think how we went through two very serious fires this year and the work that went into fighting each of them. Our community is thankful and many of us were lucky not to have lost our home even though many of us did. We also saw an impressive display of interagency cooperation as local governments, the state, the feds and fire departments across the west worked to keep our community safe.

Runner Ups:
  • Gangs - a nomination that is worthy as their impact was far too great with an increase in violence that was noticeable everywhere.
  • Bill Mahan for organizing the height limitation ordinance. This nomination may have been a bit orchestrated but is well received for his efforts.

Other worthy nominations included:

  • Barack Obama -- who I did not consider as his achievements are more national in scope.
  • Wendy McCaw for further diminishing the quality of local news.
  • The City College Nine Plus One -- wasn't sure what this reference was about...I must have been sick that day.
  • City Bureaucrats -- for draining the life out of downtown. This might be up to interpretation in a recession but I saw the point.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

BlogaHoliday through Sunday

The de la Guerra's are gathering at their adobe this weekend and I will be unavailable for moderation of comments through Sunday night.

I will be announcing the BlogaBarbara Person(s) of the Year next week. I'm still open to accepting nominations...

Ooops! They Did It Again! Greka Oil Spills 600 Gallons

I'm kind of tired of doing these posts about new oil spills at Greka -- when will they be shut down for good? They don't deserve to be in business....this from KEYT News video:
A HAZMAT crew is trying to clean up a 600 gallon oil spill at the Greka oil facility near Los Alamos. The spill happened around 3:20 p.m. Friday on Palmer Road, just east of Highway 101.

Initial reports indicated only 10 to 15 barrels of crude oil spilled, but now, county fire officials say up to 2,000 gallons of toxic produced water and 600 gallons of crude leaked from an eight-inch underground production line.

The CHP has shut down Palmer Road to all traffic at the 101 on the west end, and Dominion Road on the east end.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Holidays!

MC from SDLG. Whatever you celebrate today, I wish you all the best and hope you have a great day of celebration. Here's a picture of the Santa Barbara Mission I took the other night -- it was beautiful!

Also, if you haven't made a nominations yet for BlogaBarbara Person(s) of the Year -- there is still time!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Stabbing at the Movies Update: "I was just doing my job". Wha?!?

For my second follow-up of the day, read the Daily Sound report on the stabbing at Metro 4 last weekend....the assailant reportedly said he was "doing his job" when keeping a customer from sneaking in a cup of coffee. Are we really supposed to believe the stabbing was over spilled milk -- errr, coffee? They must have had a prior relationship to this many of us have snuck a coffee or at least a bottled water into a theater and not been stabbed? It just doesn't seem like we are getting the whole story here!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fatburger Sign Update

Fatburger corporate marketing types must read the local blogs -- the "We're Closed" sign has changed since several local bloggers mentioned the incorrect "Palmdale" reference the other day. Thanks to an avid reader for forwarding me a photo (click to enlarge):

On a whim -- I checked their website as well. The closest Fatburger to the "93101" zip code is now in Ventura:


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stabbing at the Movies?

The Daily Sound reports a stabbing by a theater employee of a "customer" downtown at Metro 4. It's hard to believe it was an argument about the finer points of The Four Christmases, Yes Man or The Day the Earth Stood Still --- or perhaps there being too much butter on the victim's popcorn could be the cause. It will be interesting to see what their relationship was and if any of the reasons for bellicose behavior will be made public. Anyone have any reports as to what happened?

Friday, December 19, 2008

State Street Update: Fatburger Evicted?

I noticed via Edhat that Fatburger just below De la Guerra and State was evicted -- see the story at

Very strange was the notice on the window as reported by The Restaurant Guy:
This restaurant is closed. We have enjoyed serving the Palmdale community.

Wha!?! They must be closing a few restaurants to be putting up the wrong sign...can you imagine the guy in charge of putting up the signs up and down the coast? "Where am I? Doh! Gotta go to the next one!"

No news on the Fatburger website (click screenshot to enlarge) -- Santa Barbara still shows as one of their restaurants.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling their closing may be a sign of things to come...


Goleta Initiates General Plan Amendments

Based on a proposal for 300 apartments near CostCo, the Goleta Council approved two general plan amendments to make way for a mixed use project between Glenn Annie and Santa Felicia Drive. The vote, 4-1, marked the first vote for the new council and showed they are serious about increasing housing along the Hollister Corridor where shopping and transporation would be easiest. New Council Members Ed Easton voted for the amendment and Margaret Connell against citing concerns about the increase in height limits allowed for the project. For the whole story, see The Daily Sound.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Schneider to Run for Mayor

Although I was surprised to see it first on a newsstand for the News-Press, Council Member Helene Schneider has chosen to run for Mayor (KEYT Report). Good for her, she would make a very good one.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wolf Calls for Greener County Building

While Pappas spent $10,000 for one vote, Farr announced her staff and then Wolf called for a greener County Building :) I think it's time to move on...

At yesterday’s Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors hearing, Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf called for the County to “get it’s own house in order” by reconstituting the County’s Green Team as the “Conservation and Sustainability Team,” under the direction of General Services, charged specifically with developing a strategic plan and action steps within 90 days so that County Departments can begin to immediately and significantly reduce their energy consumption in existing buildings and activities. Wolf’s motion to the board calling for a bold strategic plan and action steps within 90 days was approved 4-1.

In the past year, Supervisor Wolf strongly advocated for the hiring of the County’s first-ever Energy Manager, who began work in April 2008. In a recent briefing, Wolf learned that the County could be doing much more to reduce energy costs and establish sustainable practices.

Wolf said, “While the County has been moving ahead with some good programs in conservation and sustainability, we need to quickly and comprehensively reduce energy use in our existing County buildings and practices. We need to model sustainable, energy efficient practices in the County, and we need to do it now.”

The County is in the process of certifying its carbon footprint and establishing a baseline. Wolf said, “Not only can we reduce energy consumption and save money, we could choose to bank the dollars we save and invest them in renewable energy with the goal of someday making the County ‘carbon neutral.’”


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Farr Names Planning Commissioner and Staff

While Pappas spent $10,000 to gain one vote yesterday, Doreen Farr named her commissioner and staff

SOLVANG—Today, Supervisor-elect Doreen Farr announced her Planning Commissioner-designate, Marell Brooks and her 3rd District staff, Chris Henson, Stephanie Langsdorf, Esther Aguilera, and Elizabeth Farnum.

Chris Henson will serve as Chief of Staff, and Stephanie Langsdorf, Esther Agiulera and Eizabeth Farnum will serve as district representatives throughout the 3rd District. "One of the main tenants of my campaign was that I would be accessible and responsive to the residents of the 3rd District and County. These experienced individuals will help me in this endeavor", said Farr.

Marell Brooks, 3rd District Planning Commissioner-designate

Marell Brooks is a 30-year resident Santa Barbara County. She currently serves as a Vice President on the board of the Citizens Planning Association, a local non-profit promoting responsible land use planning and environmental protection in Santa Barbara County. Brooks also serves on the Santa Barbara County Commission for Women and as a board member of the Vandenberg Village Association.

Chris Henson

Chris Henson has served as a Senior District Representative to a member of Congress, and as coalition organizer for national non-profit organizations. Henson worked locally for Congresswoman Lois Capps for over 5 years in both Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. His work for Congresswoman Capps ranged from environmental, offshore oil and military issues to telecommunications and healthcare. Additionally, Henson's work for several non-profit organizations included the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a national non-profit based in Washington, DC that serves to reduce tobacco use and its devastating consequences in the United States and around the world.

Stephanie Langsdorf

Stephanie Langsdorf has worked locally for many years on environmental and habitat restoration issues. As the former Executive Director of Growing Solutions, a local non-profit organization focused on watershed restoration and environmental science education, Langsdorf was involved with many restoration projects from Lake Cachuma to the Santa Barbara Airport.

Esther Aguilera

Esther Aguilera brings her experience as a community organizer and social and mental health advocate to Supervisor-elect Farr's office. Aguliera has been involved with numerous local organizations including People United for Economic Justice Building Leadership Through Organizing (PUEBLO) as a Co-Chair, and The Phoenix of Santa Barbara, a local non-profit, as a counselor and case Manager to those with developmental disabilities.

Elizabeth Farnum

Elizabeth Farnum, a resident of Los Olivos, has served Santa Barbara County previously as a 3rd District Planning Commissioner and Deputy County Counsel. Farnum is a Board member for the Fund for Santa Barbara and the Land Trust of Santa Barbara County. She has vast experience on environmental, land use, and housing issues throughout the area. Farnum's work on behalf of Supervisor-elect Farr will be based in the Santa Ynez Valley, Buellton and Vandenberg Village.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

The Pappas-Farr Race is Not THAT Close!

I saw over at The Indy that Steve Pappas' $100,000 supporter thinks he was "acorned". Now that the Chicago organization has become an verb, I'm afraid it will forever be in the right wing lexicon right next to socialism.

Nancy Crawford-Hall, owner of the Santa Ynez Valley Journal, seems to think supervisorial candidate Steve Pappas came a lot closer to beating Doreen Farr than it looks on paper. With a 2.27% spread with 35,621 votes, I would be hard pressed to say he has a chance of surpassing Farr. 51% to 48% races generally do not get recounted and Pappas has apparently caused $6-7,000 of the Elections Division time up to this point. To be fair, the Elections Division didn't have to do the work but probably made a good decision in doing so as there were some questions worth answering.

This is a waste, however, of taxpayer money. Bully on Pappas for looking for integrity in the voting process but it looks as if County Clerk-Recorder Joe Holland is doing his job. A machine count which would be conducted today or tomorrow would be significantly more expensive. If there is one, Pappas and Crawford-Hall should be ready to pay for it.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is a Griswold Christmas Socially Irresponsible?

I like holiday lights just as much as the next person but I wonder if some people go a little overboard. In driving around this season, it seems that there are a few more "over the top" homes than in prior years. I wonder if one can correlate economics to the number of homes that are pulling more than their share of amps from the electric grid. A Freakanomics assessment would be interesting...

What do you think? Is is socially irresponsible to use so much electricity considering the state of the planet and the economy or would it be Scrooge-like of anyone to ask? A 'bah-humbug!' response doesn't seem to address the issue to me, however. Is having a Griswold-like Christmas just part of the deal with the holidays?

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Technology BETA at BlogaBarbara

After over 1,000 posts and almost four years of blogging, I've decided that it is time for some modernization and change to go along with the theme in our nation's capitol.

Starting today I invite you to test some new technology with me that I'd like to make permanent on the blog should we find it useful. is an easy to use, online file sharing service that provides users with a simple and private way to share images, video, audio, documents and other digital content through unique, user-created and controlled sharing points called 'drops.'

During this beta period, which I would imagine would be at least a couple of weeks, you can anonymously upload just about anything to

I also have a voicemail associated with this account which will convert your message to MP3. Only I can hear the message but if you are okay with me sharing the message online, say so. Again, it is anonymous so don't self-identify on a voice mail unless you are okay about me knowing who you are -- otherwise I would have no idea.

The voicemail phone number is 646-402-5686 x 85162

One of the reasons why I would like to do this on a trial basis is that there clearly is an opportunity for spam in that even just a person or two could misuse these tools and flood me with unnecessary messages. I also think it could be a useful tool for sharing files and news tips, etc. Let's see how it goes and if it doesn't work out, I won't use it!

Look for more changes as we approach the new year, I have a few ideas that I hope you agree will help continue the community building BlogaBarbara began in 2005 and take it to a new level.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Should he stay or should he go now? Anti-Noel Movement Calls for His Ouster

Now former School Board Member Nancy Harter is a level-headed, easy going person. Rarely does she raise her voice or make a fuss. She is a quiet and effective leader that I respect. She's also a school board member that has put up with fellow Board Member Bob Noel's antics and pontifications for several years. Was it a surprise that she called for his resignation given Noel's history of combat with his fellow school board members? I, for one, am not so sure Superintendent Brian Sarvis deserved Noel's call for resignation during public comment recently. To make matters worse, Noel walked out the door and didn't come back.

Here's what Harter said in a commentary published at Noozhawk:
Noel’s comments were the equivalent of a verbal hand grenade lobbed into the room while he dashed out the door and refused to participate in the closed-session discussion. He delivered a follow-up attack in the Sunday edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press, just to be thorough. This is the kind of atmosphere that he thrives in — strike out at others for perceived shortcomings, assign blame, and defy established procedures and processes for problem solving.

If you don't believe the sincerity of Nancy Harter -- maybe you would consider Chamber of Commerce President Steve Cushman who said:
“I’ve sat on 100 nonprofit boards and commissions in Santa Barbara — a hundred,” Cushman said. “I have never seen a board member attack a director of that board in public. I find it offensive.”

United Way of Santa Barbara County CEO Paul Didier and recently retired Santa Barbara City College President John Romo both added their support of Sarvis as well. If you are Bob Noel -- what do you do? If he stays there could be trouble, if he goes there could be double....

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Nominations for BlogaBarbara Person(s) of the Year

It's that time of the year again. It's December and we are all looking back at what happened in the last year.

The criteria is the same as it has been since 2006 -- for better or worse, who had the most impact on our community in the last year?

Prior winners include the fired News-Press reporters and the Zaca Fire Firefighters. If that line didn't put you in the space to nominate who I would nominate, I'm not sure what would. Far from a fait accompli, please give me your suggestions as runner-ups have always been an important part of the BlogaBarbara Person(s) of the Year process.

The BBPOY will be announced within the last couple days of December and nominations will be taken until the 25th of this month.


Monday, December 08, 2008

There Outta Be a Law: The $2 Unemployment Check

Because a young woman was a poll worker on election day and made what? $20? She received a $2 unemployment check because she had worked since being laid off.

Moral of the story is pretty sad considering she was doing a public service.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Consumer Advocacy Coalition Has Town Hall at Faulkner Gallery

The Consumer Advocacy Coalition, a recently formed group of mental health advocates, recently held a town hall meeting at the Santa Barbara Library, More than 120 people came, including a good amount of public officials in response to a shortfall in mental health funds at Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services (ADMHS) anticipated for this coming year. Complicating matters is an investigation led Auditor-Controller Bob Geis of a County practice of over billing Medi-Cal for mental health services, perhaps as much as $31.5 million.

The coalition was formed by a client of mental health services, Roger Thompson, who has said publicly that he has bipolar disorder. ADMHS Medical Director Dr. Edwin Feliciano told Noozhawk that: “The community lacks an understanding of what mental illness is. We need to educate ourselves on what services are most effective.”

The organization hosts weekly meetings held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Sundays at Unity House, 1626 Santa Barbara St. A second town hall has been scheduled for the North County on March 18 at the new Santa Maria Main Public Library.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Update on SBNP Layoffs and Voice Over

There wasn't too much new information early today about the SBNP layoffs today other than Craig Smith reporting how it all went down at De la Guerra Plaza. Apparently, security was present but there were not any awkward moments like with the May Day Massacre. Apparently, there was no severance given and laid off employees were left wondering how they were going to celebrate the holidays.

Although the newsroom at De la Guerra Plaza was saved from more blood letting for now -- several columnists were laid off from the Voice. There's a picture of the Voice's Rebecca Carol at EdHat showing the quality time she is now spending with her child. She wrote the Police Blotter -- one of my favorite columns. Other columnists who were laid off are not yet widely known but I would wager there are a few.

Matt Kettman at The Indy wrote a good article where, as I predicted yesterday, the News-Press blamed the economy as what drove this spate of layoffs and the death of two community newspapers. Don Katich was quoted as saying the economy and "out of town" union protesters were responsible for their woes.

Perhaps more telling of what the future holds for the Santa Barbara News-Press was his quote on how the newsroom now works. To the point, he was specifically asked how many reporters remain in the newsroom but could not come up with a number for Kettman's article.

“We don’t necessarily have people who just report, or have people who just do copy, or who just do management, because we all kind of jump in and do what is necessary depending on who is working that day and what stories develop….It’s a tough question to answer in today’s digital world. In the past, 20 years ago, [newsroom roles] were much more defined.”

Antithetical to union organizing and protecting the craft of journalism, I guess that means that anyone can write a "staff report"? Feigning surprise to the "digital world" when the News-Press website is a closed system -- when even the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times offer their content to the world -- is irresponsible considering today's economy. Also, his statement is ironic considering the slow speed of their website and how hard it is to navigate. If they were to make even a small effort in this area -- I would be more open to hearing him discuss the challenges of a "digital world". Clueless are they.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Firing Jesus to Save a Buck...

Jim Logan from the Valley Voice tells The Independent that 'Wendy would fire Jesus to save a buck'. Quote of the Week.

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McCaw Shuts Down Valley Voice, Lays Off 17 Employees

Craig Smith reported today that 17 people were "reorganized" at the Santa Barbara News-Press and both the Goleta Valley Voice and Valley Living in Santa Ynez were shut down. A blow to Ampersand's stated commitment to local news coverage, a news release they sent out today says they will be increasing their coverage in Goleta and Santa Ynez. From what, next to nothing?

Here's what co-publisher, Arthur von Wiesenberger had to say:
The economic forces affecting the newspaper industry are not limited to the News-Press or Santa Barbara. The challenges we face as an industry require a rededication to our core product. The actions taken today were necessary as we respond to our ever-changing industry.

Word is that Goleta Valley Voice Editor Jim Logan was let go. Laying off quality employees like Jim is not the way to solvency or better local reporting. More news on this developing story as it comes in.

One has to wonder if McCaw hadn't spent so much money with frivolous lawsuits against anyone that said 'boo' to the News-Press if these layoffs and the paper's demise would be happening today. Don't be fooled by talk of a bad economy or the big, bad union -- the News-Press could have done much to improve their situation but instead chose to report less and spend their money on expensive lawyers. As far as I am concerned, you 'reap what you sow'.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sarvis Responds to Special Education Concerns and Pulls Contract Extension

Back from my trip to see far-flung de la Guerras, I saw that in a prepared statement -- School Superintendent Brian Sarvis has responded to several board meetings of parent concerns over special education. You can read his statement over at Edhat. Noozhawk also reports that he has pulled a request for a contract extension that was made just six months into a three year contract.

Apparently, outgoing board member Laura Malakoff had placed the item on the agenda and he didn't know about it. Right. You would think he would review the agendas before they are made and posted. Further, I am sure a lot of people would love to get a contract extension two and a half years out...what about the performance review process? If I were a board member, I wouldn't extend a contract so early and would require a couple of annual reviews before a decision is made as one isn't entitled to keep an executive position like this so far in advance. Show us results!

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