Barney’s On the Beat

By Barney Brantingham

The Harder They Fall: Len Wood, soft-spoken, highly respected Santa Barbara News-Press photo chief, gave notice Monday, according to sources, which attributed it in part to the ongoing Michael Todd/Ana Elisa Fuentes dispute.

Wood’s resignation after 25 years at the paper came one day after the News-Press published part-time photog Fuentes’ emotional commentary in which she blamed supervisors for not doing enough about Todd’s alleged threat to her. Insiders challenge this. Todd maintains it was all a joke.

On Tuesday, the NP fired Life section editor Andrea Huebner, reportedly for allowing Dr. Michael Seabaugh’s column, in which he criticized fellow columnist Laura Schlessinger, to run. News reporter Colby Frazier, considered pro-union, was also fired.

Union Vote Set: After weeks of wrangling, union officials announced Monday that there’ll be a September 27 election to decide whether Santa Barbara News-Press newsroom employees will be represented by the Graphic Communications Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Spirit of the Wilderness: They called Dick Smith “the conscience of the backcountry.” The Wildling Art Museum of Los Olivos is honoring the late naturalist and journalist with an exhibit of his photos, books, and sketches starting Sunday and running through January 7. The museum’s annual “Spirit of the Wilderness” will be awarded in his memory.

Dick and I hiked the county’s backcountry in the early 1960s, and through his efforts the 217,000-acre San Rafael Wilderness area was established in 1962. Dick died at 56 in 1977. In his honor, the 68,000-acre Dick Smith Wilderness in Los Padres National Forest was dedicated in 1982. He is the only Californian besides John Muir and Ansel Adams to have a federal wilderness area named in his honor.

Dick worked hard at the Santa Barbara News-Press for nearly 30 years, turning out books, covering wildfires, and keeping an eye on the U.S. Forest Service. He cared. A panel discussion of Dick and his work will be held at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History on October 22 at 4 p.m.

Big Yellow House: “Heard that the Big Yellow House was purchased by some big developer and will be turned into a high-end restaurant,” reported Hank Allen. I asked around and was told that whatever’s going in, it’s expected to reopen in a couple of months. But for now, it’s dark — except for the ghosts that supposedly inhabit the old place.

Arlington West: Following a major appeal to the community, dozens of volunteers have turned out the past two Sundays to help set up crosses at the Arlington West memorial on the beach next to Stearns Wharf. But volunteers are still needed to take them down at around 5 p.m. Arlington West leaders would like them to commit to at least two Sundays a month, if possible, according to Tom Urban.

RV for New Orleans: Ronnie Mellen told me that she’s got a fully outfitted RV, packed with clothing and canned goods to help the hurricane victims. All that’s needed is someone to drive it down there. It sleeps four to six, is “immaculate” inside and about 23 feet long, and in good condition. The idea would be for the driver to turn it over to a church or nonprofit. She has the names of some possibilities there. You can reach Ronnie at 969-9699.

Ken’s Novel: Ken Williams is a saint of the sidewalks, a social worker for Santa Barbara’s homeless for nearly 30 years. Ken, a Vietnam Marine combat vet, has just published a novel, China White, about a Vietnam CIA field agent three decades later. China white is heroin.

Letter from the Postmaster: It was from S.B. Postmaster Mary Frink and not about postage due. Mary’s a volunteer board member of the Breast Cancer Resource Center, which is having a fundraiser this Saturday from 4-7 p.m. Larry Crandell is auctioning; there will be live music, al fresco Italian fare, and Wattle Creek wines. Honorary chair is Marcia Cross of Desperate Housewives fame. Two years ago, after a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, Cross devoted herself to the cause. Info at 569-9693.

Open Lines: Ernie Salomon doesn’t mince words and he’s a guy with strong opinions. He’s kicking off his season Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 17 with journalist Lou Cannon. For an hour they’ll be kicking around Subject A: the News-Press. There’ll be open lines for callers.

Running for Music: My friend Elaine Lopez plans to head to Portland, lace up her running shoes, and take part in the Portland Marathon (26.2 miles) to raise money for the Santa Barbara High band program. The best I ever did was a 5k for fun. Elaine, whose son Aaron is in the marching band, said money raised will benefit the band, color guard, jazz band, symphonic band, string orchestra, and pep band. You can pledge per-mile by sending checks to the nonprofit Santa Barbara High School Band Boosters to her at 315 W. Los Olivos St., No. 4, 93105. (She’s paying her own travel and marathon fees.)

Texas Scramble: That’s the format for Monday’s 11th annual fundraiser for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children) at Sandpiper Golf Course. (Hole-in-one wins you a car.) Call M.J. Franco at 879-1730.

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