On the Beat 3-1-2007

barney_mug.jpgMetro Monopoly? “How come Metropolitan Theatres has a monopoly on the South Coast?” a reader asked. She’s heard from others that the Santa Barbara City Council and county had adopted some kind of ordinance bestowing Metro with a monopoly, allowing no other chain in. Not so. Any chain can come in and open a theater. But from my limited knowledge of the business, it might not be economically savvy for a chain to open just one or two theaters here. So I guess you’d need a bunch. And is there an audience for so many in this day of Netflix and movie rentals? Metro, meanwhile, has carefully tended its garden here, making sure no rivals gain a foothold. You noticed that when Paseo Nuevo Mall opened in downtown Santa Barbara and Camino Real Marketplace was built in Goleta, Metro had its eyes on the prize and walked off with the franchise for their movie houses.

Good Gov’t $$$: In this era of corruption, it is indeed heartening to find evidence of business investing in good government. If not for their passion for civic betterment, why else would developer Mike Towbes and the Keston family donate dollars to Goleta City Council candidates? Towbes, wife Anne Smith, and Towbes’s VP Craig Zimmerman and his wife Amy Zimmerman kicked in a total of $11,400 to Michael Bennett, Eric Onnen, and Roger Aceves, who ended up ousting the slow-growth incumbents. Bennett, Onnen, and Aceves also received $16,646 from Michael Keston, who, according to Independent reporter Martha Sadler, has been trying to develop the sprawling Bishop Ranch for years. In all, the three challengers got $120,000 from developers with both projects and lawsuits pending before the City Council. Much of this came in the last two weeks of the campaign in the form of donations between $900 and $999, just under the $1,000 reporting requirement and allowing the donations to be hidden until — guess when? — after election day. But heck, it’s all in the interest of good government.

A NP Nonperson: Once you quit or get fired from the NP you’re likely to become a nonperson. In two News-Press mentions of the Women’s Literary Festival, the name of the guest speaker was somehow left out, I’m told. The speaker and author? Starshine Roshell, a union activist who quit the NP after her column was canceled. That’s the subject of an unfair labor practice complaint now pending with the feds.

NP Newz: Sarah Sinclair, who quit the News-Press after being called on the carpet by owner Wendy McCaw for attending a going-away party, is the new Lompoc Record GM. She’ll also be responsible for classified advertising for all the Lee Central Coast Newspapers, including the Record, Santa Maria Times, Santa Ynez Valley News, and others. Sarah, former NP classified ad manager, said she quit after a meeting with McCaw and copublisher Arthur von Wiesenberger. She said McCaw told her that her loyalty had been called into question because she attended a going-away party for fired CFO Randy Alcorn. Sarah said McCaw told her, “This is war; you’re either with us or against us.”

She Quit: “Latest to resign from the News-Press is Mary Koenig, a graphic designer who had been with the paper for 10 years,” reported blogger Craig Smith. “Working in design and advertising, she hardly knew the editors and reporters at the paper, yet in the weeks and months that followed the meltdown, she came to the conclusion it was the journalists, and not ownership, who best exemplified the ideal of ‘what the purpose and heart of a paper is.’”

Chapala Monstrosities: “The monstrosities rising up on Chapala Street will destroy Santa Barbara’s uniqueness,” warned longtime civic activist Claudia Madsen. City Councilmember Brian Barnwell “will win my hero award if he can persuade the City Council to enact an ordinance limiting building height to two or three stories in El Pueblo Viejo.” After my interview with Barnwell, in which he urged banning four-story buildings in El Pueblo, Lanny Ebenstein seconded the motion and urged the ban go beyond the downtown. “Santa Barbara city development is fast becoming typified by three- and four-story condo-commercial projects that are undesirable,” he said. Commercial development should be limited “to the greatest extent possible” and conversion of some commercial into residential should be encouraged, he urged.

NP Gets the Air: A News-Press story Sunday about the UCSB Lady Gauchos reported: “Gaucho head coach Mark French refused to speak to the News-Press at the post-game press conference, and asked the News-Press staff reporter to leave the media room.” French is giving the paper’s reporters the cold shoulder in protest of the firing of veteran NP sports writer John Zant.

Zant Speaks: Larry Nimmer’s new hour-long program on the News-Press situation began airing on the Santa Barbara Channels’ Channel 17 this week. The program includes an interview with John Zant. You can reach Barney at 965-5205 or via

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