Cruisin’ for a Court Bruisin’? The City of Santa Barbara may be laying itself wide open to be sued for discrimination due to an unfair voting system. The potential charge: that its at-large system of electing the city council raises an almost insurmountable barrier for a Latino to win a council seat, although Spanish-surnamed people make up more than 30 percent of the city’s population.
One solution is holding elections by districts, as the city did until the 1960s and which the grand jury is now proposing in modified form. Back then, each district or ward had its councilmember, who was expected to answer to residents’ complaints and be knowledgeable about the needs of the ward. You had “your” councilmember. But the argument against it then was that it created a system so narrowly focused that the city’s larger concerns were too often ignored.
Now councilmembers represent everyone-and no one in particular. The current council is composed of seven very nice people, all well educated and concerned with the well-being of the community. All happen to be liberal Democrats. It’s cozy.
But people on the Westside and lower Eastside have special problems. With a district system, they’d be more likely to have a representative. The grand jury proposes a hybrid system, where the mayor and a vice mayor, whatever that is, would be elected at large while others would be elected from identifiable neighborhoods.
The City Council is mulling this, although Mayor Marty Blum said she favors keeping the at-large system. A switch would require a city charter change. Getting voter approval might be a problem, because it would mean electing only the councilmember in one’s district rather than being able to vote for all on the council. But, in effect, disenfranchising a third of the voters in low-income areas will surely lead to a lawsuit at some point.
Dope for Sale: Word on the street is that Santa Barbara teens are having a field day buying pot from “medical marijuana” sellers. Taking advantage of a state law aimed at easing the misery of patients with cancer and similar maladies, the kids are finding it easy to get stoned, and more of these dope sellers are going into business, I’m told.
Can It Pay? The Sunday Los Angeles Times featured Ty Warner’s Four Seasons Biltmore, but some in the hospitality industry claim that Ty has sunk so much money into the 1927 classic ($300 mil) that it’s impossible for the place to show a profit. Maybe so, but Ty’s a perfectionist, and with a reported $6 billion to play with, he does it his way. Christopher Lloyd, who played Doc Brown in Back to the Future and its sequels, has his Montecito pad on the market for about $11 million, according to the Times. It’s the former home of the late philanthropist Kit Tremaine. Lisa Loiacono of Sotheby’s has the listing. Lloyd has purchased a smaller home in Montecito, the Times said.
Jerry Roberts Benefit: Friends of Jerry Roberts are throwing a “festive benefit for Santa Barbara’s stand-up guy Jerry Roberts” on June 16. Hosts are ex-county supervisor Susan Rose, Allan Ghitterman, and Mercedes Eichholz. Special guest: popular blogger Craig Smith. The bash will be at 928 Las Palmas Drive, Hope Ranch, not terribly far from Wendy McCaw’s HR digs. Time: 5-7:30 p.m. RSVP by June 9. Info at 682-6208. Proceeds will go to the Lawyers Alliance for Free Speech Rights. Admission: $125. Sponsorship: $200 for Cancelled Subscribers, $500 for Fired Journalists, $1,000 for Resigned Editors, and $1,500 “And up, up and away!!! for Thomas M. Storke.” Make checks to the Lawyers Alliance, designated for Jerry Roberts.
Wendy vs. Lou: Wendy McCaw, bristling at Reagan biographer-journalist Lou Cannon’s criticism in the L.A. Times, fired back, not with facts but a smear. In Sunday’s News-Press, she hit below the belt, outrageously claiming that the plight of child porn victims was “meaningless to him.” As if that wasn’t outrageous enough, she went on to charge: “Mr. Cannon, you ignore the fact that perhaps one or more of your fellows may have engaged in this conduct. It is now apparent to all where your true sympathies lie.” Lou has now asked her to print his reply. Lots of luck, Lou. All this because Cannon dared to defend former NP editor Jerry Roberts against McCaw’s earlier smear trying to link him with child porn, with no evidence. All I can say is, fight fair.
Times Takes a Hit: Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nancy Cleeland, while taking a buyout from the L.A. Times, criticized the paper for seemingly not caring about covering the lot of the working poor. Cleeland, who won a Pulitzer for stories on Wal-Mart’s labor policies, suggested that the paper develop a beat on “economic justice” for low-paid workers instead of currently seeking to hire a “celebrity justice reporter.”
Barney Brantingham can be reached at email@example.com or 965-5205. He also writes online columns at independent.com on Tuesdays and Fridays.