Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Friday, January 30, 2009

Smack Down at the County? From the BOS Agenda...

From the County Agenda for February 17, 2009 -- is County Executive Officer Mike Brown being taken down a notch? Read on....

On March 1, 2005 the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance amending Chapter 2, Article X of the County Code which established the duties, responsibilities and authorities of the County Executive Officer. The Board letter premised the recommended action upon the goal to strengthen organizational effectiveness and to establish an organizational culture that would improve operations.

The ordinance that was adopted on March 1, 2005 transferred direct oversight and control of most County Department heads from the Board of Supervisors to the County Executive Officer. Specifically and most pertinent to the current recommendation, Section 2-71 (f) provided the CEO with “full authority of the Board to select, appoint, evaluate, suspend, terminate and retain those department directors except the directors whose appointment or removal is otherwise expressly provided for in statute.”

The language adopted by the BOS did not require the CEO to inform, brief or seek the input of the Board of Supervisors regarding such actions. Section 2-71 (f) provides only that “the County Executive Officer may, from time to time, consult with the Board of Supervisors regarding the execution of these responsibilities.”

Concerns have been raised regarding the organizational effectiveness of this structure including the absence of required direct consultation with the elected Board of Supervisors on the appointment of department heads. Further, several contradictions seem inherent in Chapter 2, Article X. For example, Section 2-69 contains the statement that “As the legislative
body of the County, the board of supervisors is responsible for its efficient and effective management….and the Board has ultimate authority and control over County policy, budgetary matters and strategic direction.”

Because of these concerns, and a concern that the Board meet its legislative responsibilities, we believe that now is the appropriate time to reevaluate this aspect of the County organizational structure and to consider amending section 2-71 (f) to return the authority to the Board of Supervisors to “select, appoint, evaluate, suspend, terminate and retain” department directors who are not elected or appointed by the courts.

We hope through objective review of the ordinance including a comparison to similar aspects of duties and powers of the CEO/CAO position in other Counties, this Board will have the opportunity to establish and define its responsibilities as well as the overall county structure.

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Greka Oil Says County Ordinance 'Unconstitutional'?

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

A KEYT News reports says that Greka thinks the county ordinance designed to shut down repeat spill offenders in unconstitutional....they are even running some ineffective talking head TV ads with their CEO with zombie-like employees in the background.

When will they learn?


Monday, January 26, 2009

Community News: Transportation Workshop in Ventura

Moving the Central Coast Forward: Transportation Action Forum
January 31, 2009 at Ventura Community College

VENTURA, Calif. On Jan. 31, 2009 – Central Coast residents will gather to hear from transportation advocates about how to take action to improve public transportation. The Keynote speaker will be Senator Alan Lowenthal, Chair of the California State Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing. Other speakers and workshop participants will include Mark Criollo of the LA Bus Riders Union, Ventura City Manager Rick Cole, Santa Barbara City Councilmember Das Williams, and representatives from local transit agencies. The group will be invited to participate in creating a community strategy to improve public transportation.
The event will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Ventura Community College Cafeteria, located at 4667 Telegraph Road, in Ventura, and will end at 12 p.m. The day will start at 8:30 a.m. with registration, followed by speakers, workshops and finally a group prioritizing our transit needs.

"It's a perfect time for our communities to strategize about how to achieve enhanced public transportation alternatives for the health of our economy and our families," said Marcos Vargas, Executive Director of CAUSE, one of the partner organizations in ASERT, the Alliance for Sustainable and Equitable Regional Transportation. Other collaborating organizations are VC Cool, PUEBLO, COAST, Coastal Rail Now, Arts for Action, and Local 721 SEIU. George Roberts, a retired manager from a local grocery store, said "I like to get around without a car when I can, so I'm excited to attend and learn more about my options now, and what new ones could come in the future."

The public is welcome; admission is free but reservations are requested by e mail or phone to or to (805) 658-0810, ext 213. Gold Coast bus lines 6A and 10 travel to the college from the Ventura Transfer Center at Pacific View Mall.

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Community News: Free Tree Workshop

If you are interested in horticulture -- this would be good workshop. -- Sara

Keep your trees healthy with proper pruning techniques taught by professionals in a free public workshop. Goleta Valley Beautiful, California ReLeaf and The Central Coast Region of the California Urban Forest Council are among the co-sponsors of a Citizen Pruner Workshop on Saturday February 7th from 8 AM to 2:30 PM at the Goleta Union School District Board Room, 401 N. Fairview Avenue in Goleta, across from the Goleta Public Library.

The workshop is open to anyone who is interested in the planting and maintenance of trees in urban landscapes. The workshop will be taught in an easy to follow format by local and state experts in tree care. Members of the public, whether novices or those who have some experience at tree care will benefit, as well as more experienced tree care professionals looking for a refresher. Six continuing education units are available for professionals. Pruning public shade trees will be emphasized, with limited fruit tree pruning discussion.

Workshop leaders Dan Condon, Dougal House Jr., George Jimenez and Ken Knight will demonstrate techniques that professionals use to care for young public trees. Participants will get actual experience in pruning, with all work being done from the ground and no tree climbing involved. A short open book exam and field practice at the end will demonstrate proficiency and ability to assist in future public young tree pruning projects in your area. There will be ample opportunities to discuss your specific questions with the speakers.

The workshop is free if you register in advance or $10 at the door. Registration forms are available by visiting the GVB website: For more information call 685-7910. An optional box lunch is available for $7 if ordered in advance. The workshop is made possible through grants from the Central Coast Region Urban Forest Council and California ReLeaf. Other agencies co-sponsoring this workshop include the Santa Barbara School District, the City of Goleta, and California ReLeaf.

Attached courtesy photo by Ken Knight shows Arborist Dan Condon demonstrating pruning techniques at last year’s workshop.


Strickland Chooses Tabling at Borders Over Educator Meeting?

Interesting piece over at the Ventura County Star blog that accuses Sen. Tony Strickland of choosing tabling at Borders in Goleta over a meeting with educators in Ventura. Democratic activists had sent out an email about Strickland's tabling that morning as if it was October and the 19th Senate District was at stake. It left me wondering if we will ever get a break from that contentious campaign.

A post a few days prior shows Pedro Nava and his wife Susan Jordan promoting her recently announced campaign for the State Assembly. Jordan, who is director of the California Coastal Protection Network, is already campaigning hard while Nava is talking up a run for Attorney General. It's two years from now but I guess you have to start somewhere -- especially if you might run against someone more well known. I'm guessing there will be a battle royale between Jordan and someone like First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal who has been quietly raising and saving money for several years.

Welcome to the permanent campaign.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Community Post: Governor, Republicans, Are Making the Budget Crisis Worse by Targeting Home Care

By Doug Moore, Executive Director of United Domestic Workers of America

Except for the anti-tax zealots who have tied our Legislature in knots, everyone recognizes by now the gravity of our state’s budget situation. Every rational person in Sacramento now understands that we have a serious revenue problem that cannot be solved just by cutting government programs. Things like closed state offices and IOUs instead of tax refunds have a tendency to refocus the mind.

This is not to say that cuts in spending are not needed. However, in many cases, the cuts proposed by Gov. Schwarzenegger and legislative Republicans will only make the state budget crisis worse.

For example, the governor has targeted the In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, one of the most humane, cost-effective programs in state government.

IHSS keeps nearly a half million seniors and people with disabilities in their own homes and out of costly institutions. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), it costs less than $10,000 a year to provide home care to an individual under IHSS. If that person can no longer obtain home care because of cuts in IHSS, he or she will be forced to go to a nursing home or other institution. That will cost taxpayers $55,000 a year or more, according to the LAO.

And if you think the thousands of dedicated, unsung heroes who provide home care are making exorbitant incomes, think again. Here in Santa Barbara, home care workers make just $10.50 an hour.

So why on earth would you cut a cost-effective program that helps a half million of our state’s most vulnerable citizens remain independent in their own homes and communities when the alternative will cost taxpayers at least six times more?

That’s not being fiscally responsible; it’s being penny wise and pound foolish. And it’s exactly the kind of ideological, knee-jerk thinking that helped put our state in this financial mess in the first place.

Fortunately, the Democratic leaders of the State Senate and Assembly have steadfastly supported IHSS. Indeed, Senate President Darrell Steinberg recently told the Sacramento Bee: “In my view, the people who do IHSS work; they’re doing God’s work.”

To that, the members of UDW say: “Amen!”

Doug Moore is Executive Director of the 60,000-member United Domestic Workers of America, California’s only union made up entirely of home care providers. He is also an International Vice President of AFSCME, which represents some 1.4 million members.

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From Farm to Fork -- Local Food Guide Published Online and in Print

Promoting the locavore concept of eating food grown locally, this statewide project in online and print format has gotten some help from the Environmental Defense Center.

The guide is available online at Printed copies are available at certified farmers markets around the region and at select restaurants, retailers, and farm stands including: Environmental Defense Center, Fund for Santa Barbara, Isla Vista Food Co-op, The Orfalea Foundation, Fairview Gardens, Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, and Sojourner Restaurant.

The online guide itself is a good start but some of the search tools could use a bit of work. I typed in a local zip code and got different info than when I did the search by area. Both search results gave me minimal information on where local farms were and where I could buy local food. Still, it's a great idea and I wish them well.

Are you ready for a 100-mile diet though? Many economists point out that transport is only part of the total impact of food production and consumption. In the Wikipedia article listed above, it fairly points out:
...any environmental assessment of food that consumers buy needs to take into account how the food has been produced and what energy is used in its production. For example, it is likely to be more environmentally friendly for tomatoes to be grown in Spain and transported to the UK than for the same tomatoes to be grown in greenhouses in the UK requiring electricity to light and heat them.

Another part says:
According to a study by engineers Christopher Weber and H. Scott Matthews of Carnegie Mellon University, of all the greenhouse gases emitted by the food industry, only 4% comes from transporting the food from producers to retailers. The study also concluded that adopting a vegetarian diet, even if the vegetarian food is transported over very long distances, does far more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, than does eating a locally grown diet.

Is this kind of like buying a Prius with a $5,000 battery? Not really as it depends on who you buy your food from. Overall, it is a good idea to buy locally from responsible growers but I can't imagine keeping it local for every meal. The again, maybe it's time to go vegan.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day: It's Finally Arrived

Inauguration Day has finally arrived and whether you are blue or red -- you gotta admit excitement is in the air. I know several people taking the day off, others whose workplaces are taking a couple hours off, etc. History will be made today. Tell us your stories -- especially if you are blogging from Washington, DC.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Armstrong Continues Tirade Against Cabal: KEYT and Palminteri Skewered

I haven't done a post on a Travis Armstrong editorial in awhile -- mainly because I don't read the News-Press anymore and keeping up with who is in the "Cabal" and who isn't has gotten tiring over the last year or so.

Yesterday's opinion piece, however, was ridiculous in it's hatred to others. Forget that Armstrong went on about KEYT Tea Fire coverage when the News-Press coverage was less than adequate. Forget that he feels the need to judge them for laying off employees without mentioning the fact the News-Press recently laid off more than twice the amount of employees. Forget that he is fixated on the "infamous" newsroom video in rather lurid detail when the News-Press has plenty of their own problems with soap opera like drama.

This opinion took his obsessive compulsive hatred for "cabal" members too far. Armstrong included a reference to a website outlining a court case being filed against John Palminteri (

Unfortunately, the web site URL is Prime Time's own name....he must feel hijacked on several fronts. If Palminteri really committed fraud as this site suggests, I'm sure the courts will work out the details find justice for all parties involved. It is, however, a private matter and separate from the more public nature of his work life at KEYT -- which is contrary to what Armstrong suggests.

What concerns me most is that Armstrong so easily attacks people in our community when he lives in a glass house. How can he sleep at night? He must feel his choices have narrowed so much with his and the News-Press' standing in our community that he has no choice but to lash out at others. It is hard to believe that his vitriol would be accepted at any other newspaper.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Did David Pritchett really launch a City Council campaign by Facebook? Well, not quite...

Word on the street is that community activist and Off-Leash Public Affairs video producer David Pritchett apparently launched a campaign for City Council via Facebook last weekend. The truth is that a Facebook "status" post almost a month ago asked his network of friends what they thought about him running for council:

David Pritchett is thinking seriously about running for Santa Barbara City Council and wants to know your opinion about that.

Perhaps the confusion was in the wording as Facebook inevitably starts you off with the awkward “David Pritchett is…” when beginning a post on what you happen to be doing at that moment. If you’ve ever used Facebook you know that you are never sure what to do with it if you want to use the past tense. It’s also not easy to find the date as to when the post was made.

Techno-subtleties of Facebook aside, things got more confused when the item was posted outside of the relative safety of his Facebook network last weekend in a way that may have left some people thinking Pritchett was being more public about his intentions than what he had likely intended. What ensued was a Q & A grilling for a candidate who may not even end up a candidate and hasn’t even formally announced yet.

The ironic thing is that those of us involved with politics who also are technologically savvy have been waiting for candidates to get Facebook, blog, and social media savvy for several years. Das Williams did a decent job at it and others have tried – but there is a lot more candidates can do.

Pritchett, in showing his prowess at social media, may have shown us what other candidates have been afraid of…the anonymous blogger. Me? I’m used to people attacking me in their comments and asking me questions they wouldn’t ask their mother. I’ve learned to develop a thick skin and delete mean comments. Most candidates and potential candidates don’t have a lot of experience with that.

It seems like commenters can forget or do not appreciate how a new candidate is at a huge disadvantage when the discussion turns to topics they have not had an opportunity to write a white paper about. It is the commenter’s biggest issue and something near and dear to their heart – but the candidate may just need the commenter to help them form an opinion and identify unexpected issues, and, with apologies to Neal Kinnock and Joe Biden, build a platform upon which to stand. Hopefully Facebook, and local blogs like Blogabarbara can help that happen.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pappas Lawsuit Explained....

Mea culpa -- I had a really bad day for typos yesterday. Let's see if I do better today :) -- Sara

There are a few things about the Pappas lawsuit over the Third Supervisorial District election which bother me but I'm not so sure I've been able to communicate them effectively in prior posts. The following is a list published over at Black Box Voting which succinctly states what is problematic with the lawsuit from a small-d democratic point of view:

(1) Candidate Steve Pappas proposes to eliminate the votes of entire precincts based on the contention that a few voters were ineligible. This would set a horrific precedent. Of course, you can't purge just the votes of any voters found to be ineligible, because votes are anonymous. Therefore this candidate proposes purging ALL the votes in certain precincts, eligible and ineligible, which would not only wrongfully disenfranchise legitimate voters, but would set a precedent that could allow tampering with elections by injecting a few ineligible voters in key precincts as "poison pills."

(2) This lawsuit illustrates how the Help America Vote Act can be used against voters. This kind of litigation imposes what is probably an unsustainable burden of diligence on poll workers and election officials to research every voter registration and voter who shows up to vote.

(3) Alleges "potentially improper" registrations. We don't want ineligible people voting, but we certainly don't want registering to vote to cause voter intimidation through personal investigations or harassment.

Whether Democrat or Republican, at least some of the above should bother you. Would you want your vote invalidated because of a few bad registrations for instance? Do we want county employees spending time on this so far after the fact? Finally, aren't "improper" registrations more relative to the intent of the person registering than whether the registrar signed the card as well? Maybe....but are we willing to throw away votes based more on the precinct one votes in (that happens to be filled with liberal students) than on someone's ability and intent to vote? I don't think so....

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Lesson to Lassen's: Don't Alienate Your Base

Thanks to a regular reader who sent me a link to the Californians Against Hate website. They have published a list of donors to the Yes on 8 efforts that, of course, includes our very own Select Staffing. This we knew.

Surprising to me though was the fact that Lassens Health Food gave $25,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign. When your business' main demographic are Land Rover Hope Ranchers, Granola Soccer Moms and NASCAR environmentalists -- why on earth would you go so public with large monied support for such a conservative cause? At least Apple, which gave something like $100,000 to the No on 8 campaign, is aware of who their peeps are.

Another small surprise in the list of donors at a database of donors at SF Gate is that Council Member Dale Francisco gave $100 to the No Yes on 8 campaign. $1 short of the limit for publication -- I'll chalk his rathe public, small donation to inexperience. Still, it wasn't just Republicans that got him into office.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Budget Cutbacks Loom for 2009

I saw on EdHat today that a Noozhawk article points to Goleta Library cutbacks which bums me out as it is one of my favorite places in Goleta. Yet another article on a local MSNBC article points to increases in fees at the County Clerk's and at the Planning Department.

"How does it cost so much to get copies when Kinko's only charges 10 cents," asked Donald Ricketts, attorney for California Public Records Research, a document-management company that has filed written opposition to the fee increase.

Kinko's real cost can't be more than a few cents for a copy. County Clerk Joe Holland is lowering prices on "digital copies" which is more affordable to the title companies that get discs every month....versus individuals who are more likely to pay the following:

In Santa Barbara County, the charge for individual copies of real estate documents is $3 for the first page and $1 for each subsequent page. With the increase, the fees will change to $2 per page. For example, 10 copies under the current fee structure would cost $12, but it would cost $20 under the proposed change.

I like Joe Holland but when he says the fees haven't changed in five years -- I wonder why he would be considering this when the copy fees are high versus the actual cost anyway? That isn't a fair justification for raising fees for something that takes a few moments to copy and very little cost -- even with increases in paper costs. $2 per page -- even at a generous .25 cent cost for the copy, paper and labor -- is eight times what the true cost is. I guess when you have a monopoly, you can charge what you want. What he is really doing is offsetting other costs or future costs with fee increases when he can likely get away with it.

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Friday, January 09, 2009 Comments Get Rowdy Over News-Press

Craig Smith had a small bit in one of his recent posts about discussion over at about the News-Press. Nipper himself actually commented on the Jerry Robert's suit against the paper:

Did you know that Jerry Roberts, the former News-Press Editor sued over the thread that was on Nippers about the News-Press issues? He believed that the "Hamburger" satire was about him (although his name was never mentioned in it) and he sued for $200,000. Interesting how the "champion of free speech" will use a legal hammer to smash anything written that could be remotely critical of him.

I doubt News-Press Editor Travis Armstrong would call Nipper tacky -- as he has accused Council Member Helene Schneider of late -- but I might when pressed.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Audra Strickland's Chief of Staff Finally Charged for Battery in Protest Incident

Comments are running hot over at fellow blogger Marie Lakin's (Ventura County Star) blog who writes that Assembly Member Audra Strickland's Chief of Staff is finally going to court over the fracas with anti-tobacco protestors which left a 67-year old man sprawled on the ground with his hearing aid knocked out. Joel Angeles will be in court on February 6th for several counts of battery and interfering in protester civil rights.

Why did it take so long? Lakin says the "seemingly languished on Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten's desk for an eternity before he recused himself and passed it up to the State Attorney General's office". Totten, who is a major Strickland supporter, did the right thing on a rather political timetable considering it is now months past election day.

The wheels of justice are on a different schedule than I would have them to be and sometimes I wonder what difference they make. Craig Smith, for instance, pointed out recently that it has been a year since the News-Press reporters were awarded victory from an administrative law judge yet they have seen no relief from Wendy McCaw for winning that case fair and square. Let's hope this case in Ventura gets the respect and review it deserves.

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Wendy Says Adieu to 2008, Promises Hope, Kindness and Faith in 2009

In a front page note to readers today -- Wendy McCaw said the following:
As 2009 begins a fresh start let's not wallow in the difficulties of the year that was but look to the future with hope, kindness and faith.
Let's hope she puts her money where her mouth is...given the news around several layoffs this year and the Jerry Roberts arbitration, I have to doubt we shall see the above in practice, but can't I dream? Craig Smith has similar thoughts listed over at his blog. Can we both be wrong? :)

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Note to Steve Pappas: Nothing Changes on New Year's Day.

First of all, Happy New Year to you all. I was thinking of taking a BlogaHoliday today but this news is too rich to pass up.

In an end of the year move sure to rankle taxpayer advocates, Steve Pappas is asking Superior Court to contest the November 4th Third District election. Interestingly enough, the only place the story seems to be available is over at the Santa Ynez Journal -- home of his uber-supporter Nancy Crawford Hall. A relatively even piece written by SYVJ Staff writer Leah Etling tells us the story, including a quote from Doreen Farr, but also strangely includes a full copy of Pappas' press release afterwards. Objective enough?

Pappas has already cost the Elections Office a good amount of time and money in asking for a recount for which he only gained one vote.

What's different this time? In this action, he is saying that a very specific group of voters were improperly registered and therefore their votes should not be counted. If you know anything about 3rd District politics, you are probably shaking your head right now in understanding as it is often "those damned students" who take the brunt of the losing side's ire in 3rd District contests. According to Pappas, some registration cards were turned in late, improperly filled out and represented re-registrations. There are also rules around turning in registration cards within a certain amount of days and not holding on to the cards. He also points to a Help America Vote Act (“HAVA”) which requires that a person's ID be cleared through something called the Calvalidator system -- I'll have to do some research on that as I've never heard of it.

Not being a constitutional lawyer, I'm not sure what the opposing side arguments will be other than despite any timing issues with registration cards, for instance, voters registered to vote expect to be able to vote on election day. I'm not clear a court would take that right away from them on a technicality. This effort also seems so student-centered when there were plenty of registrations accepted in Goleta and the Santa Ynez Valley during a major election as well.

Why Pappas would invest so much in a losing battle seems only centered on the fact he has a financial backer willing to spend the money. Although it seems that he has convinced himself that he is championing democracy, it's hard to think that this effort will get very far.

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