On the Beat

by Barney Brantingham

Gassed in Goleta: Since many people seem to be driving to Oxnard to get cheaper gas at Costco, reader John-Allen asks what’s going on with Costco’s application to the City of Goleta for a service station there? He’s heard that Costco was waiting for the mayor to sign off.

Not so, replies the city’s PIO, Kirsten Zimmer Deshler. True, Costco applied before Goleta was incorporated in 2002, but the lack of an environmental impact report is what’s holding up things, she said. To make one, a traffic analysis is needed because of all the expected demand. If people are willing to drive to Oxnard, “you can imagine what will happen here,” Kirsten told me. But the traffic study was held up until the city’s General Plan was finished. Now it is. But at a scoping meeting on the EIR, there was “tremendous input” from the public, she said. So the EIR consultants said they needed more money to deal with the comments. That request will go to the City Council in the fall.

Debby Bows Out: Debby Davison, KEYT’s beloved anchorwoman, will be saying goodbye to deadlines and is retiring (sort of) and getting married. But she promised me that although September 29 will be her last anchor broadcast, she plans to return after January 1 for special projects. “I’m not leaving the station.” Debby, who joined KEYT in 1990, said, “It’s been a joy.” As for management, “They’ve been nothing but wonderful.” On October 6 she plans to wed Dr. Dennis Phelps and be free to travel.

Journos “intimidated, threatened”? I wondered how long it would take for embattled News-Press journalists to file a complaint with the feds. The News-Press “has intimidated, threatened, coerced, chilled, and interfered” with newsroom employees’ attempts to form a union, the Teamsters charged Monday in a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board. Journos charged that the NP engaged in “illegal surveillance,” arbitrarily switched beats as retaliation and a move to get people to quit in frustration, and imposed a new “conflict of interest” rule to stifle and suppress employees’ ability and willingness to express their views on working conditions. The switch of young Shelly Leachman, with just a few months under her belt at the paper, from general assignment to the county beat, was reportedly enough to push her to quit, along with all the other chaos, thus eliminating another pro-union staffer. That makes 14 who have quit the newsroom. Meanwhile, Woman magazine editor Ann Peyrat, who didn’t work in the newsroom, has resigned.

Condo-mania? Santa Barbara used to be dubbed “a city without pity” for its seeming sneers at the plight of the homeless. But now it’s apparently found a heart — for the middle class. The City Council is proposing subsidized condos for $495,000 for families making up to $160,000, about half the market value. As I get it, up to half the units at Montecito and Calle César Chávez will be offered first to employees in nonprofits. To get a taste of what outraged Middle America thinks of this, click onto the USA Today page deadline/2006/08/subsidized_hous.html.

The Good Thief: A man walks out on a barren stage and starts telling a story about mayhem in his life. There are laughs and gasps from the audience. That’s The Good Thief, currently on the boards at Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre (see review on page 52). Conor Lovett told his story quietly the night we saw the 75-minute play by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, and held the audience in rapt attention. Afterward, we stopped for a bite at charming Tutti’s Off Main, which you’ll recall was transplanted from Coast Village Road. … Little Miss Sunshine, a feel-good movie about a dysfunctional family on the road, shed warmth back into our lives. A family falling apart comes together and the star is a little girl you’ll never forget, Olive, played by the winning Abigail Breslin. At Paseo Nuevo.

Sandy’s Hill: The last time the world heard about Sandy Hill, she was much in the news, pro and con, for disputed events on Everest’s so-called death zone in 1996, when eight climbers lost their lives and she almost died. Now, according to the current Outside magazine, Sandy, 51, divides her time among New York, Miami, and her Santa Ynez Valley ranch and vineyard.

Putting the Kibosh On: When the Society of Professional Journalists proposed awarding an ethics prize to the first nine to quit the News-Press in protest, owner Wendy McCaw mean-spiritedly tried to derail the awards, according to Editor & Publisher. We didn’t deserve it, she told the SPJ. In any case, former NP editor Jerry Roberts plans to receive the awards at SPJ’s convention in Chicago on August 26.

Incredible shrinking NP: “Imagine my surprise on Sunday to find that two entire sections have disappeared, Opinion and Business,” reported JD, “the former of which was relegated to the customary weekday position as the second-to-last page of the A section and consisted of only one page, and the latter which shrank to a page or two in the Life section. Could it be that the loss of circulation might also be coupled with a loss of advertising revenue?” (And/or staff shortage?)

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