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

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
, 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
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
, and others. Sarah, former NP classified ad
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
. “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 barney@independent.com.


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