Paul Wellman

Anarchy on the Streets

Barney Talks Driving, Reading, and Spring Arts

Tuesday, February 26, 2008
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No Insurance: One out of every four drivers you pass on the road in California is uninsured, according to recent estimates.

Sure it’s the law, but scofflaws don’t care. California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has put a screeching halt to his proposal that would allow authorities to seize license plates from uninsured autos.

Too much opposition and too complicated, opponents argue. As for tourists from other states, the percentage may not be much better. And don’t be surprised to see Poizner run for California governor in 2010.

On the Beat

Anarchy on the Streets: “I agree people are writing their own rules as they go,” fumes one Woman Driver. “Is it because we have so few police, or what? There seems to be no enforcement.”

My other gripe is pedestrians. They do not obey the ‘walk/don’t walk’ signs. Yes, they may wait until the sign says ‘walk,’ but [they] continue to cross when autos need to be able to turn right while they have the light to do so. I also dislike the fact that people, often with children, just step off the curb and go without so much as looking to be sure drivers are watching. Too many people, too many cars, total disrespect for signs and rules. [It’s] time for drastic changes and citations.”

Dear WD: As I’ve said before; police can’t be everywhere. The buck stops with us. There could be a cop on every corner and the nuts holding the wheel would still be blowing stop signs.

David Declines: Although the entire news world was debating the New York Times piece about presidential candidate John McCain, former News-Press editor David McCumber refused to run it in his Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Managing editor McCumber said he didn’t run the piece because it failed to “convincingly make the case that McClain either had an affair with a lobbyist, or was improperly influenced by her.” How about letting your readers decide instead of suppressing it, David? Or, if there are questions in your mind, how about assigning your reporters to look into the pros and cons?

Piranha at Rocks: Matador Tapas Bar and Latin Steakhouse will be opening at 714 State St., replacing Piranha, which is moving up the street to the current location of Rocks, 801 State. Similarly, the future of Mel’s Place, the longtime dive bar at Paseo Nuevo, is up in the air. The lease is on a month-to-month basis, and it looks like Mel’s will remain at least until August.

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No Whining: The Wine Cask, Santa Barbara’s clubby downtown restaurant in El Paseo, has hired a new executive chef from a Santa Monica eatery that won two (that’s two) Michelin stars. John Pettitt, 32, helped Josiah Citrin win those impressive stars at Melisse. He’ll be introduced at a press conference Thursday.

Store Closing: Millie Castro, noting that the Rite Aid drug store is closing at Goleta’s Pacific Oaks shopping center, wonders what’s going in. The store manager confirmed to me that the business will close after the inventory is liquidated, in “no less than a month.” Tony Romasanta of Islay Investments (the store’s landlord), tells me that he’s “talking to a number of people” about taking over the property and that no decision has been made. But he said it would be a retail establishment compatible with the rest of the center.

Readin’ and Writin’: The Beatles may believe in yesterday, but I believe in tomorrow, especially after dropping by the Read at Roosevelt Day. I found myself surrounded by kids and their teachers, all of who love to read. I’m inspired. (But kids, please read newspapers too. Don’t let the news die.) Speaking of reading, I’ve just plowed through about 700 pages of W. Somerset Maugham’s bio, a biography of President Franklin Roosevelt of about the same length, and a thick volume of historian-insider Arthur Schlesinger‘s memoirs. But now, for a change of pace, I’ve amused myself with This Terrible Business Has Been Good to Me, director-producer Norman Jewison‘s account of the joys (In the Heat of the Night, Moonstruck) and lows (loudmouth John Wayne calling him a “Canadian pinko”) of making movies. When I finished, I moved on to the subject of Doris Day, whose adopted home of Carmel we just visited, and how her outrageous husband managed to lose all her money and plunge her into debt and humongous problems with the IRS.

Films and Fun at UCSB: Folks at the university have lined up quite a banquet of events this spring to stimulate both town and gown.

There’ll be folks like computer geek Steve Wozniak (Wednesday, April 2 at the Arlington); concert singer Marilyn Horne (Saturday, May 17 at the glorious new Granada Theatre); the film Conspiracy, about the Nazi’s “final solution” against the Jews (Thursday, April 10 at Campbell Hall); and violinist Midori (Friday, April 11 at Campbell Hall).

John Cleese
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John Cleese

And here’s a partial list of culture and assorted other good stuff: Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, and Jack DeJohnette (Tuesday, April 15 at the new Granada Theater); Arlo Guthrie (Wednesday, April 16 at Campbell Hall); comedian Andy Borowitz (Thursday, April 24 at Campbell Hall); the Oscar nominated film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly(Monday, April 28); novelist Salman Rushdie in conversation with Santa Barbara writer Pico Iyer (Sunday, May 4 at Campbell Hall); Willie Brown, former San Francisco mayor and California Assembly speaker (Wednesday, May 14 at Campbell Hall); an evening with former Monty Python member and Santa Barbaran John Cleese (Thursday, May 15 at Campbell Hall); Marilyn Horne and Barbara Cook performing selections from the American songbook (Saturday, May 17 at the Granada); travel journalist and novelist Pico Iyer (Monday, May 19 at Campbell Hall); and the Santa Barbara Human Rights Film Festival (Tuesday, May 27- Thursday, 29 at Campbell Hall).

Barney Brantingham can be reached at or (805) 965-5205. He writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

"Dear WD: As I've said before; police can't be everywhere. The buck stops with us. There could be a cop on every corner and the nuts holding the wheel would still be blowing stop signs."

WD hits the nail right on the head. If there were a cop on every corner, some of the nuts (as you refer to them, I think they are just people who haven't had to learn manners) might blow the stop signs but after they get ticketed and all of a sudden realize they will have to pay a fine AND hiked-up insurance rates I think you will see a change in their attitude.

Let's also talk about the bicyclists who feel they are immune to traffic laws.
It all gets back to the fact that we live in a society of little accountability.

By the way, why do you highlight the gender of the driver who sent you this?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2008 at 6:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's easy, pedestrians always have the right of way, even when they are wrong. A motorist must always take responsibility for the safety of pedestrians whether or not the pedestrian is obeying the law. A pedestrian legitimately in a crosswalk "owns" the road. Patience is a virtue when driving. Uninsured motorists are criminals and should be treated accordingly. Why should they be coddled? Driving is a privilege not a right. Some, but certainly not all, bicyclists are arrogant and rude. They are reminiscent of the tiny sailboat exercising their right of way over the giant ship. Sure it's the law but are you really that suicidal? If there is a bicycle lane use it.

LasBrisas (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2008 at 11:11 p.m. (Suggest removal) seems that the right man for the job of speaking out about the crappy, rude and dangerous drivers in Santa Babylon is a woman:-)

She's right; the drivers in SB are impossible, and the bicyclists are minimally conscious parasites who use the roads, but pay nothing towards their maintenance, run down pedestrians, and kick & spit on cars who get in their way.Bikers are immune from all laws in Santa Babylon.

If nothing else, they should be cited frequently and with great abandon by the fashion police for their ongoing egregious fashion felonies in the form of those ridiculous sprayed-on shorts and silly shirts they wear in their vain attempts to be special.


Many pedestrians: also minimally conscious twits who glare at the cars forced to sit at green lights while they saunter across the street against the light, daring anyone to say a word. Newsflash: you don't own the road and you aren't going to win in an argument with a car.

How do I know?

My cousin was killed by a car as she crossed the street, in the crosswalk, and bent down to look for her earring that fell out of her ear. She was within her rights. She was in the crosswalk. She's still dead. Within her rights, but still dead.

Uninsured motorists: I am a huge insurance chicken. I won't back out of my driveway without insurance, let alone drive like that. I'm lucky that I have a good driving record and I CAN be insured. There are those who don't, and can't....and if they can, it's so expensive they can't afford it. One fender bender in a parking lot and you're screwed for years.

Not all uninsured motorists are losers, druggies who'd rather get high than pay premiums, or illegals who don't care. Many are folks on a budget who have to get to work, work odd hours the bus doesn't run, are of an age and disability status that hiking and biking are unrealistic, or maybe don't get paid for another three days and the insurance premium was due last week, but they had a medical emergency and had to pay for that instead....


It's never simple, is it?

Holly (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2008 at 1:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

All I know is that I haven't had a ticket since 1989 and my insurance rates keep going up so God help the person who incurres the slightest minor moving violation.

How long will this continue before the number of people who can't afford insurance will skyrocket to the point where most are driving uninsured or most simply cannot afford to drive?

Once again, another symptom of our sick society where it gets harder and harder to simply survive from paycheck to paycheck.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2008 at 1:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"bicyclists are minimally conscious parasites who use the roads, but pay nothing towards their maintenance, run down pedestrians, and kick & spit on cars who get in their way"

1) bicyclists pay taxes like everyone else. In fact, since they cause less road wear, and since roads are funded from general tax funds, cyclists pay for more than 'their share' of the roads. So do pedestrians. Granted, that doesn't take into account the fact that a pedestrian can walk to the store and buy things that are brought in by truck.

2) bicyclists don't run down pedestrians any more than cars run down pedestrians. It is illegal for adults to ride on the sidewalk. Cops should enforce that law, but it's not like there are gangs of cyclists playing Deathhunt 2000 on the sidewalks.

3) People tend to yell when they've come close to dying. I yell when cars almost kill me, whether I'm walking or riding. Ever hear of road rage? Drivers do it too.

Like pedestrians and drivers- bicyclists come in all shapes and sizes and demeanors. We all have parents, many of us have children, most of us have jobs and pay taxes. We are all humans beings. Making gross accusations like that doesn't do anything to make the streets more respectful or civilized.

Rich (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2008 at 8:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Of course many bicyclist also have cars they use for longer trips and in this way bicyclists pay fuel tax and Measure D sales tax to support bicycle infrastructure improvements added to the roadways we all get to share.

Each pedestrian step taken and each bicyclist turn of a pedal for transportation increases heath and reduces traffic, greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil.

I typically bicycle-commute over 8 miles one-way each day between my home and work. I often see some wildlife on the way and get to work enlivened and ready for the day.

Some motorists get the idea that we all share the road. These drivers are polite and show they know how to drive alongside bicyclists.

Other drivers need to wake up am smell the coffee and realize that a thoughtless fast right turn into a fast food restaurant or other driveway may permanently injure a fellow human riding a bicycle near the gutter.

Recently bicyclist Kendra Payne was crushed and killed by a large truck going up Gibraltar and bicyclist Jake Boysel was killed on his way to school by a speeding motorist. In both cases the drivers reported not seeing the bicyclist and neither was successfully convicted of any criminal act because neither intentionally killed the bicyclist.

Pedro Nava has endeavoured to shore up state laws to support police in enforcing adequate distance be provided between motorists and bicyclists and that the interaction between motor vehicles and bicyclist get more attention in the drivers manuals and tests given by the DMV.

yojamey (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2008 at 8:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Rich is too kind.

"They are reminiscent of the tiny sailboat exercising their right of way over the giant ship."

You are the kind of jerk who doesn't deserve to drive on the roads regardless of how much you pay in taxes. The fact that you see cyclists legally driving as a nusiance who should yield to your omnipotent gas guzzlers speaks much to your behavior as a driver as well as American consciousness with respect to operating a motor vehicle.

The fact that just a few years after the Boysel murder (yes, I'll call it for what it was, despite the ignorant jury who let him "get away with it") we have people so angry at one of the most environmentally friendly methods of commuting means Santa Barbarans need a serious lesson in ethics and rules of the road.

DarkMarcsun (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2008 at 8:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I've converted from gas to foot power recently. One thing I'd like to offer: many intersections of residential with major streets are uncontrolled and feature walls and landscaping that block the view for drivers on the minor streets so they're FORCED to block pedestrians in order to see the cross traffic. This is just plain lousy planning. Of course, nobody's supposed to walk anywhere, so why bother designing so foot and wheeled traffic can coexist?

CharlesB (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2008 at 3:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Pedestrians in crosswalks with a walk (or flashing "don't walk") sign always have the right of way. Even if you want to turn right across their crosswalk. The alternative is pedestrians in the crosswalk dodging drivers who think, "I can totally squeeze in this turn before that pedestrian punk gets halfway across the street!"

rms (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2008 at 5:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Before criticizing the Seattle Post Intelligencer for not running the NY Times' story about John McCain's possible affair, please remember that the SB News Press did the same thing to Jerry Roberts, suggesting improper behavior without any proof. Even the NYT Public Editor was critical of the story. The Washington Post reporters did their own investigation and did not include the sexual innuendo. Journalistic integrity is important and even the NYT can make mistakes .

Potpourri (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2008 at 9:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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WALTERSJacklyn18 (anonymous profile)
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