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<b>BIG IDEAS:</b> Rick Caruso’s Miramar Hotel plans were approved at this 2011 Montecito Planning Commission meeting.

Paul Wellman (file)

BIG IDEAS: Rick Caruso’s Miramar Hotel plans were approved at this 2011 Montecito Planning Commission meeting.


Miramar Still in Limbo

Calling Ty Warner


DUI CRACKDOWN: Contrary to all expectations, some good ideas emerge from Washington. Feds are recommending that states toughen DUI rules. Instead of 0.08 being evidence of impaired driving in California, feds suggest dropping it to 0.05. (How about 0.02?) Might scare some drinkers off the road. I’m sick about the husband-and-wife motorcyclists maimed, head-on, by a DUI suspect on Old Coast Highway. Could that have been prevented earlier in the evening? Each lost a leg, and the wife may also lose an arm. Best solution: Not a drop before taking the wheel.

Barney Brantingham

STILL MESSY: Contrary to what you might have read, the News-Press Mess is far from over. The Teamsters, representing the newsroom union, have filed a federal unfair labor practice action against Wendy McCaw, claiming that the effort to kick the union out didn’t comply with the law. No decertification vote has been held by newsroom employees and can’t be until all remaining unfair labor practices pending against the News-Press have been resolved, the Teamsters say. And there are plenty, including failure to bargain in good faith.

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH: L.A. developer Rick Caruso is always bragging about his ventures, his exciting new ideas. One was the group effort he was part of last year to buy the L.A. Dodgers for $1 billion plus. (If billionaire Caruso could come up with those big bucks, why couldn’t he round up a couple of hundred thousand to rebuild the Miramar Hotel?)

Caruso pulled out of the Dodger deal. Then there were all those reports that he planned to run for L.A. mayor. The longtime Republican even switched his party registration to Democratic ​— ​it’s a Demo town, after all.

Then he dropped out. The L.A. Times seems to love the guy and is quick to feature his many projects, the latest of which is promising to throw “a significant amount” of his cash into expanding the fancy trolley that runs through his Grove shopping center. Nearly everyone in the neighborhood hates the idea. It’s dead. Ideas galore, but he seems not to have any idea how to get our Miramar Hotel up and running.

At last report, the county and Caruso are deadlocked over details of the sweetheart deal to kick back 70 percent of Miramar bed taxes to Slick Rick. So they’re stuck in limbo and have been for months, while the ball remains in Caruso’s court, according to county officials. All this leads to mounting suspicion that what Caruso really wants is to sell the turkey. I left a message with the Caruso folks but got no reply at this writing.

You’ll recall that Ty Warner bought the wrecked Miramar but ran into so much static from Montecito critics that he gave up and sold it to shopping-mall king Caruso in 2007 for $50 million. Look, Ty, please come back. All is forgiven. I know you can make a go of it. Invest some of those Beanie Babies millions, maybe work out a tie-in with your Four Seasons Biltmore, San Ysidro Ranch, and Montecito Country Club. Write a check to Slick Rick, and let’s move on. Please.

OSCAR’S EARNEST: More than an evergreen comedy, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is one of his delightful playgrounds of wit. Epigrams whiz by. Love flowers, but all depends on the confounded name “Earnest.” In arguably the most popular play in the English language outside of Shakespeare’s, one of the all-time great characters is that of the acidic Lady Bracknell, whose very name sets your teeth on edge, and Jenna Scanlon carried it off with snappy gusto when I watched last weekend. Badly done, Earnest falls like a bad pun. But director Miller James and the cast of the Circle Bar B Ranch Dinner Theatre’s current production do Oscar proud. (It’s on the boards through July 14.)

FRANKIE AND JOHNNY: A waitress and a short-order cook, both heavily laden with backstories and baggage, have a gangbusters one-night stand. But will it ripen into a serious relationship? That’s the question in Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, directed by Saundra McClain at Ensemble Theatre Company through June 23. Then it’s curtains at the beloved old Alhecama Theatre. Ensemble will open its new home at the rebuilt Victoria Theater (the “New Vic”) on December 5 with Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.

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