If Jack T. Rickard’s name has been all but lost to the ages, a broad coalition of Rickard’s relatives, Santa Barbara civic activists, and local historians urged the City Council this Tuesday to rectify that situation by naming the new airport terminal after the man who served as city attorney and mayor in the late 1950s and as judge for 14 years beginning in the 1960s.
They argued the new terminal should bear Rickard’s name, in part because it was Rickard who figured out the loophole in state law enabling Santa Barbara to annex what’s now the 900 acres of city airport property even though this acreage lay eight miles up the coast and was not remotely contiguous to any portion of the city.
Former councilmember Tony Guntermann — who served with Rickard on the dais — said he was most impressed by the former mayor’s ability to get “to the meat of the coconut” and credited Rickard with getting state legislation passed in the 1950s prohibiting offshore oil development in state waters off the coast of Santa Barbara. Likewise, he said Rickard played a major role in the creation of Shoreline Park, approving sidewalks and paved streets for the lower Eastside, and persuading the state highway department to not build a raised Highway 101 through Santa Barbara as had been initially planned.
Historian Erin Graffy de Garcia pointed out Rickard secured a Harbor Master Plan and was involved in the creation of the city’s municipal golf course. Beyond that, it was Rickard who successfully expanded the city’s boundaries, annexing Coast Village Road to the east and Highway 154 to the west without engendering political opposition.
Rickard worked intimately with the likes of city matriarch Pearl Chase and former Santa Barbara News-Press owner T.M. Storke to promote the creation of “smokeless” industry based on the research and development potential offered by UCSB, then just forming. Essential to that vision, Rickard reckoned, was a full service commercial airport capable of handling the new generation of bigger planes then hitting the market.
Absent city control, Rickard’s champions told the council, Santa Barbara’s airport would never have made the leap and could only have accommodated smaller aircraft. It was Rickard, the council was reminded, who figured out that by extending city jurisdiction to include a 50-foot-wide ribbon of land underneath the ocean that ran up the coast to the airport, Santa Barbara could claim the airport as “contiguous” property, essential to the annexation process.
Though agitation on Rickard’s behalf has been ongoing for several years, the effort picked up steam in the past 12 months. (Santa Barbara Independent editor and co-owner Marianne Partridge has personally lobbied a majority of councilmembers on Rickard’s behalf and spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.) After a public hearing this February, the city’s Airport Commission voted unanimously not to name the new terminal after anyone. Also in the running for naming rights has been Dwight Murphy, who served on the original committee that selected the site of the municipal airport.
At Tuesday’s meeting, airport commission chair John Clarke reiterated his opposition to naming the terminal after anyone, arguing at least 18 other individuals could be deemed just as worthy as Rickard. He recounted how most people ask “Why?” and “Who?” when told there’s a campaign to name the terminal after Rickard. This prompted Partridge to reply, “That anyone could ask who — who — is Jack Rickard, we have a problem.”
Mayor Helene Schneider confessed she was initially skeptical about the effort, expressing concern it could become a “Pandora’s box.” But, she said, she was sufficiently moved by the testimony to support it. Schneider noted Pearl Chase has a park named after her and T.M. Storke has a tower named after him. Speaking of the proposed terminal naming, the mayor opined, “If not Rickard, then who?”
While the council was split on the matter — with Councilmembers Frank Hotchkiss and Dale Francisco affirmatively cool to the idea and Randy Rowse lukewarm — the council voted unanimously in favor of Councilmember Bendy White’s suggestion — who emphatically supports the naming as does Councilmember Grant House — to wait 90 days to allow the public to vet the idea.