Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Citizen McCaw Friday March 7th Premiere

I wanted to give a shout out to the producers of Citizen McCaw which will hold a premiere on Friday, March 7th. It's sure to be an excellent documentary on the News-Press Mess. After you see it, report back as to what you thought!

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why the silence? KEYT knows who is calling!

News-Press editor Travis Armstrong put KEYT on his "A" list yesterday in a blistering editorial on an alleged memo tacked to the TV station's newsroom wall which targeted area streets where there were Nielsen ratings diary holders.

Like an obstinate child that hits their head against the wall because they aren't getting enough attention for their boorish behavior, Armstrong laments that no one is calling him back to explain themselves. Is he just naive that anyone would call him back if they know they are going to get skewered in the newspaper?

The conversation he reports to have had with CJ Ward in his editorial is telling. He leads him into the issue by asking him a question he thinks any right thinking journalist would have to's a snippet:

I had KEYT anchorman C.J. Ward on the phone last week and wanted to know a bit about his news judgment.

Did Mr. Ward think it would be worth a news story on Channel 3 if a competing television station lodged a complaint with the Nielsen ratings service about KEYT? "I don't know," Mr. Ward replied.

I found this an odd response from a journalist who touts on the Channel 3 Web site his experience as a consumer reporter. Ratings are a big deal in the TV world. They help set the cost of commercials for local businesses advertising on the airwaves.

So I asked him again: Really, you don't know? Mr. Ward then said he personally would be interested in it.

It sounds to me like KEYT did the wrong thing -- but does Armstrong have to make a personal attack on CJ Ward and others in the process? He clearly didn't call with a question about his news judgment if he knew the answer he was looking for. He even feels to compelled to point out Paula Lopez is the wife of a local judge -- does she not stand on her own?

So, why wasn't this bit of information from the News-Press an anonymous source deep inside KEYT given to a real, every day reporter on the other side of the wall and left at that? Armstrong continues to put journalism on its head by masquerading editorial for news and news for editorial.

Fine, have an opinion....but shouldn't people who don't read your editorial be able to hear about this news too? It makes me question his source and question his sense of self importance that he can't give this story to the news department....

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Monday, February 25, 2008

What about De la Guerra Plaza?

Over the weekend, there was a somewhat heated discussion started by Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega -- which at one point caused me to not publish a comment for name calling. Let's keep a more civil conversation going with a couple points: is it right for the News-Press to use their editorials as a bully pulpit? or is there an inherent conflict that has more to do than with history? Does money to remodel the Plaza keep funds away from fighting crime and how might the two priorities be related? Here's how Uncle Don started it all:

Good morning. I was at the Plaza de la Guerra discussion before the Planning Commission. I was the second public speaker out of the chute. You can watch it on City TV by going to the Planning Commission part of the City website.

Basically, (and I hope we can discuss the value of the restoration plan for the Plaza), after many years of discussion, 84 years to be exact, we have finally come to the moment when perhaps we might complete what was left unfinished Plaza project in 1924.

The Plaza has become a creeping parking lot and as one planning commissioner put it, "a Plaza has become an alley". The Plaza is in bad shape. SUVs and traffic have made the Spanish Plaza disappear under double rows of parking and thereby taken away one of the sacred spots of Santa Barbara.

For the last few weeks the Newsupress has been running a series of letters on closing State Street and editorials entitled by such yellow journalism (It's a good thing Travis and Wendy don't want to start a war with Cuba!) headlines as "Rallying to save De la Guerra" or "Tearing out the Heart of Santa Barbara," "Ruining Santa Barbara History.." and other such apparent falsehoods. Today Travis has gone the next step and declared "off with your head" to a Planning Commissioner who is sympathetic to the restoration and invented a scandal to go along with it. He's like Robespierre, shouting "off with their heads" and sending them to the Guillotine.

At the meeting following me at the lecturn, was big bad Barry, the hammer, lawyer extraordinaire, who, all the while dressed in natty pinstripes (no taste these lawyers), came up to the public podium and threatened the Planning Commissioners and anyone who dared think of this Plaza restoration as a good idea. With a dash of hutzbah, he also demanded extra time at the podium. He clearly thought of himself as more important than any of us mere civilians. What a guy! I felt like I was in Rennaissance Italy with the representive of the Malatesta family.

So what's the problem? It's clear the Newsuppress wants its parking places on the Plaza in front of their building but they don't own them, they're part of the Plaza.

It escapes me what the business problem is for them, since the Newssuppress has a large parking lot next to the Plaza, and people would only have to walk an extra ten feet to do their business with the Newspress.

Meanwhile, paranoid and out of his mind Travis, has written in ink in his paper, that this restoration project is all a plot to punish the Newsupress by a cabal of city insiders.
It's crazy folks.

Now I worked on this restoration of the Plaza for a long time and know a lot about it. (If you want, we can discuss the plan). I practically lived on the Plaza for thirteen years. And I want to tell you when Charles Storke had the Newspress, he was for the Plaza restoration. When the New York Times owned the Newspress, they were for the restoration, and even helped out in many ways.

Now times are different, Wendy is here. She sends the nasty lawyer to speak her thoughts at a community discussion. And her editorial writer, sets up a false campaign to link closing State Street with the Plaza restoration, writes poisonous and false information editorials, and calls for the head of a planning commissioner who dares to think otherwise than what Travis and Wendy want.

Needlesstosay: Don Jose de la Guerra y Noreiga is very upset.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Conversaton Starters: In the News...

A couple of news and conversation topics for the weekend:

  • Craig Smith questioned a Santa Barbara News-Press editorial from yesterday which cries conspiracy in relation to the De la Guerra Plaza redesign and parking in front of their world headquarters.

  • The Santa Barbara Independent reports that the News-Press and the Teamsters are at it again. The Teamsters, who had filed an unfair labor charge earlier this week, are now a recipient of a charge which claims Dawn Hobbs and Tom Schultz impeded delivery of the newspaper. Perhaps we should set up a boxing ring in De la Guerra Plaza....

  • Anyone miss the Amgen Tour coming through town? Was it worth the City of Santa Barbara saying they didn't want to pay for the police time? Probably....but it sure sounds like the race was exciting. Here are some pictures at edHat.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

News-Press Refuses Raises since 2006 -- is the Union the Issue? Charge Filed...

Got this from The Graphics Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters today:

=========Teamster Press Release=========

The Graphics Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters will file an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board today against the Santa Barbara News-Press, protesting the newspaper's across-the-board unprecedented, punitive, retaliatory discontinuance of its practice of offering annual raises to its newsroom employee in 2006, the year the union organized and won an election conducted by the NLRB.

Based on information recently provided to the Union by the SBNP at the Union's request, it has come to light that newsroom employees had regularly received "annual" raises since owner-publisher Wendy McCaw purchased the newspaper in 2000, with the significant and clearly not coincidental exception of the year 2006.

"The employer told us there were pre-2006 years when no newsroom employees received annual raises, but the spread sheet the employer provided a few weeks ago at our request showed the facts to be otherwise", said Ira Gottlieb, attorney for the Union. "In every post-2000 year a large number of newsroom employees did receive annual raises, and it was only 2006 in which no one at all in the newsroom received a raise".

"We asked the News-Press at the bargaining table to explain why this was so, why we should believe this was not a change in established practice intended to retaliate for the advent of the Union, and received no explanation at all." Gottlieb added. "We had no choice but to file this charge to right this wrong."

The Union is seeking an order from the Labor Board compelling the News-Press to consider and grant annual raises to all newsroom employees who worked there in 2006.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Community Post: Voice from Chapala Street

Much has been said about the large construction projects sprouting up on Chapala Street between the 300 and 700 blocks. They are undoubtedly large and out of character with Santa Barbara. (And it appears not financially successful; the first completed project, Paseo Chapala, at the corner of Chapala and De La Guerra, has not sold all of its condo units, and has been holding open houses weekly, for the past six months, for multiple unsold units.)

However, the Chapala development plague is currently infecting West De La Guerra St as well. The 100 block of West De La Guerra is mostly commercial and the 200 block is partially commercial and these two blocks look like they may be going the way of the Chapala developments.

The precedent-setting development is the 121 West De La Guerra mixed-used project. It is, like its Chapala breathren, obnoxiously too large. I know of what I speak, I live in the 300 block of West De La Guerra, and have to walk by it daily and have lately been watching its fiourth story being added. But the most truly obnoxious aspect of the development, and the one that could have a long-ranging legacy on future developments, is that it has a negative setback!

The front of the building extends right up to the property line; this means that the vertical construction occurs at the terminus of the sidewalk. This is truly unsightly; even Paseo Chapala doesn't attempt this form of architectural blight. But more amazingly, the second story of the 121 West De La Guerra project extends over the sidewalk! Talk about canyonization.

This type of architecture is frequently seen in Europe, but I don't recall ever seeing it in Santa Barbara. How could this have been approved? What were they thinking? Does anyone have any answers?

T. Borden

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Brianna Denison's Body Found in Reno

I saw this morning that our friends at EdHat have a link to an Associated Press story about missing Santa Barbara City College student Brianna Denison. She was found outside of Reno and was a victim of a serial rapist who had strangled her.

Saying she was a "daughter of the entire community", her mother urged someone in Reno to come forward and identify her daughter's assailant while university police vowed to do all they could "in hunting this animal down and bringing him to justice".

Let's wish the authorities Godspeed in finding Brianna's attacker...

Friday, February 15, 2008

The End of 'Anonymous': Guidelines and Comments Area Fired Up, Ready to Go

In preparation for the end of "anonymous" comments tomorrow, I've updated our guidelines, put a note near the comment link and placed a link on the left about choosing an identity.

I appreciate all of the support I've gotten from our loyal readers and commenters. Please do not decide that this will keep comments down without giving it a chance...participate, use a Blogger/Open ID or be a little less than the word "Anonymous" by using Name/URL knowing it is really the same thing.

Tomorrow is a new chapter for BlogaBarbara but tonight is still young....

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Surprise from Firestone: Decriminalize Marijuana?

It's amazing how politicians change their tune when they do not have the pressure of the next election ahead of them...see this Valentine's Day surprise from County Supervisor Brooks Firestone at KEYT News:
Santa Barbara County Supervisor Brooks Firestone is suggesting marijuana be decriminalized to reduce the number of inmates in the county's overcrowded jail. "I'd like to examine that," Firestone said at Tuesday's meeting.

Although Firestone's suggestion may be a good one for several reasons, including giving government the ability to tax joints as much as cigarettes, it isn't the reason for jail overcrowding. Sheriff Bill Brown makes some good points saying that it is less about weed than it is about a slow judicial system and deporting illegal aliens who commit crimes to their country of origin.

To be fair, I've never heard that Firestone is against or for marijuana decriminalization prior to this statement -- but it would seem without the specter of the next election, he is a bit more able to speak freely.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

BlogaBarbara FAQs: What's in a Name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet...although using the name "anonymous" when commenting will not be accepted beginning Saturday, you are not without the option of making an anonymous comment. Let's review the options:
  • Google/Blogger Username: If you have a Blogger ID because you are a blogger, your display name will appear, along with a link to your profile and your photo (if you have one).
  • OpenID: You can enter any OpenID account name like your AIM ID or LiveJournal ID, without having to have a Blogger account.
  • Name/URL: You can enter a "Nom de Blog". This allows you to use either your own name if you do not have a Blogger or OpenID or allows you to become "Juan Jose Castillo de Cabrillo y Alameda". No URL or website address is necessary for this option to work.
  • Anonymous: No identifying information is displayed. The comment is credited to "Anonymous" without a link. Any comments made with this button will be rejected beginning this Saturday, February 16, 2008.

I'm looking into whether I can just take out the "Anonymous" line to make it easier for all of us and those that might be new to BlogaBarbara.

Finally, I want to clarify what this effort is about. I'm not interested in taking away the ability to comment anonymously more than I am interested in having a more linear sense of flow to our comments and a sense of who is saying what. It will be much easier to follow who is saying what in our comments section if you were to even use a made up nickname on the "Name/URL" option. This will allow for anonymous comments but hopefully add a sense of responsibility to the process. Of course, the BlogaBarbara Guidelines still apply and I will not publish comments that are mean, use foul language, attack another commenter, etc.

In short, I am asking our readers to take another step which will take just a few seconds in order to improve the level of discussion and heighten our sense of community. I appreciate your understanding and welcome any questions you may have about this new guideline.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fairview Gardens: Where Environmental Values and Economic Values Don't Mix, Do They?

I wonder when environmentalists and union members will meet. In my lifetime?

It would make a powerful movement and could get a Democrat elected President -- maybe Barack Obama is attracting both if he could just meet with John Edwards and bring it all together. Then again, is Clinton not as far away from Edwards as I thought?

The face of change is increasingly about who has the extra couple of delegates and the Southern and rural vote. Ironically, John Edwards being a white male was his downfall but perhaps will work brilliantly to his benefit. What say you?

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Friday, February 08, 2008

The Results from Super BlogaBarbara Tuesday

You may have noticed that I chose Super Tuesday for my post on whether we should do away with anonymous comments. A bit more clear than the Democratic primary, most of you seem supportive of my proposed change that you either use a Blogger ID or at least the "Nickname" section to make comments. Thank you for your ideas and support.

As there may be some education needed for some of you to know how to do this, I found the following Blogger Help page that goes over making comments in more detail.

I plan on switching over to the new format next Saturday, February 16th. Perhaps start considering some interesting names you could use for making comments...


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Community Post: Sandman, Bring Us a Dream. Not!

Written by Anon as a Community Post:

Santa Barbara News Press Feruary 7, 2008
"What's in store for the unincorporated land near Highway 101 and upper State Street?

Residents last month were surprised to learn that a proposal to build a multi-story hotel with at least 105 rooms is winding its way through the planning process.

There had been three county meetings last year to hammer out questions about the overall concept and scope of the development proposed for the 4100 bock of State Street.

No one seemed to know about the meetings outside the county government."

"The unincorporated area between Santa Barbara and Goleta has been the focus of three years of intense scrutiny regarding development. Yet residents have never heard of the plans to remake this area."

I thought the primary goal of this medium, (the NP), was to keep the public informed.

Hmmm... why has the NewsPress been keeping the public in the dark? Is there something sinister going on here? Does the paper's management have ties to the developers? Why aren't they reporting this stuff to the public? The paper claims to have a local focus yet fails to give advance notice of important public hearings or report on the results thereof.

The Wright properties along Garden Street south of the 101 are going through public hearings and I don't recall reading anything about it. These are the properties where large hotels and an an aquarium were proposed several years ago.

Then there is the Sandman Inn on upper State Street, a hot zone for redevelopment at the ABR next Monday. A 113 room hotel being converted to a 106 ROOM HOTEL, 291 PARKING SPACESand ADDING 73 NEW CONDOMINIUMS.

Maybe the NP has blocked access from their computers to the City's web site?????

C'mon NP, show us your stuff. You are so completely dysfunctional and fail to serve the populace in a meaningful way. I really think you need professional help. Intervention has not worked. At the very least an explanation is in order.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Community Post: East or West Side -- Why is That Where the 40's Are?

A former city council candidate who did better than anyone thought and was more astute than anyone thought possible for a candidate of his age -- David Espaza, Jr. -- wrote the following thoughtful piece on the location of liquor stores in Santa Barbara. I appreciate his willingness to speak out on this important issue.

===Written by Dabid Esparza, Jr.====

The issue of liquor stores and availability of alcohol in minority neighborhoods is an issue the City Council seems unable or unwilling to tackle, saying that it is a State issue with State-level jurisdiction under the ABC (Alcohol and Beverage Control). Assemblyman Pedro Nava's office did not respond to an email request for information, not even with a canned generic response.

Though the data from the Census Bureau and my own quick research of locations selling alcohol show that, indeed, Latino neighborhoods are saturated with liquor stores, drug stores, grocery stores and the like. Milpas Street alone has nearly a dozen locations. San Andres and the Lower West Side are similar.

From my own observations:

- Some of these places have clerks who will sell to anyone, even those who are underage. Sometimes the clerks are friends or relatives of underage consumers, other times the clerks simply do not care. These types of transactions are typically conducted later in the evening, as anecdotes from people young and old have shown.

- Many grocery stores and drug stores (Longs, for example) are staying open later. Often times the staffing is low, and I have observed many instances of clearly underage, and some over 21, people walk out with bottles of liquor without ever having paid for it.

- There are people who go to buy more beer and liquor when they are already inebriated, or almost there. This seems to happen more often during the evening, and even more as midnight approaches.

- Reading the Daily Sound and Police Press Releases on, underage Latinos represent a significant and likely over-representation of those cited for DUIs.

I believe the City Council needs to show some leadership in what they do. For all of their positive steps in trying to reduce crime for youth in general, and Latino youth in particular, they remain detached from issues such as this that contribute to a negative environment in Latino neighborhoods. And environment is critical in combating gangs and youth violence.

While the City Council seems to be willing to decide on the locations and business practices for Medicinal Marijuana clinics, I question, as a Latino who was born and raised here, why they would seem so apathetic when it comes to a substance that causes more destruction of families, more violence, and more injury and death.

This is an issue that Latinos have been questioning for many years, and as a child I heard older relatives and friends of the family complain that the City allows alcohol to be readily available in these neighborhoods because it doesn't care about Latinos. I don't think the Council to be opposed to action, but they appear, at least, detached from the neighborhoods.

Can the City exert influence and control over the availability and sales of alcohol? Should they limit sales to certain times, cutting of purchases earlier in the evening than the State mandated 2am? Is this just an issue for Latinos and those living in these neighborhoods? Is it an issue for the City at large?

I'd hope to answer 'yes' to all of those questions.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

La Cumbre Plaza ArtWalk Update

Got this note from an organizer of the La Cumbre ArtWalk -- good follow up to our recent post:

The update is we will not have any show dates for 2008 at La Cumbre Plaza. Management has told us the construction will be ongoing throughout the year. We were told they may re-introduce us in the Spring of 2009. We are looking for a new location for this year.
After 3 years of building a show we would hate to loose our momentum. We have many new artisans wanting to join us and musicians as well. Our goal is to find a venue that is local friendly and understands that handcrafted wares made in America is what our community wants to see. We thank the community for all their support and please continue to let La Cumbre Plaza know that you hope to see us back! We will keep you posted about our new location and if you have any ideas please go to our and leave your message.

Shelly Szekely
C.A.O.(chief artisan organizer)

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Shall we end anonymous comments?

At the end of every year, I reflect on the months past and plan for the coming year. Many of us do this around our goals for family, work and anything else we are truly committed to in life. I did the same.

On the commitment I call BlogaBarbara, I have spent the last month considering something that has ironically also come up both in emails to me and in comments sprinkled through my various posts throughout the month.

What would happen if in order to comment on a post, a reader had to either use their Blogger ID or at the very least make a "nom de blog" which they would use whenever they posted a comment? This would allow people to continue protecting their identity if they chose but also allow them to create an online sense of self.

Commenters like Don Jose de la Guerra y Noriega, Timekeeper, First District Streetfighter and the like do this and it creates a more linear sense of who they are and what they are saying over time.

We don't get this sense of who our community is when we see a drive-by anonymous comment that disses a public office holder, a prior commenter or the subject of the post without much thought at all. If you had to be more responsible for what you wrote by simply taking on a pseudonym -- would you participate? Perhaps the real question is, would you value your participation more?

There are a lot of issues past the above in making such a change.

  • How do I educate BlogaBarbara readers about this change?
  • Do I need to not only change the guidelines but put a disclaimer underneath the link to the guidelines and at the end of every post for quite some time until everyone gets it?
  • Will I need to indiscriminately not publish any comment from an anonymous that doesn't at least take on a nom de blog?
  • How does one educate new readers as to this requirement?
  • How do I teach all y'all how to do that?

I welcome your thoughts as I feel strongly that the nature of conversation on the blog needs to be elevated if BlogaBarbara is to grow and change with each of us as the years go by. I am committed to us as a community dedicated to people with different opinions able to speak their mind and still, perhaps more than occasionally, find common ground. I hope your commitment is the same.