High Risk on State Street

On the Beat

Wheelchair Target: Bob Ponce was in many a tight spot as a News-Press photo chief, covering wildfires and the like, but never faced the danger he does now just crossing State Street in a wheelchair. Bob, who retired from the paper years ago, has many health issues and has only one leg.

“Having been confined to a wheelchair and now an electric scooter since March of this year, I must now voice a strong complaint against some truly obnoxious drivers,” Bob told me. “I have been cursed at, called nasty names, and been cut off by too many drivers as I cross a street, driveway, or parking lot.

Barney Brantingham

“To my surprise, sadly, most of the offenders have been women drivers of middle age. State Street is particularly frustrating and dangerous. Drivers will take a quick glance to their left to see if there are any cars they can beat on their right turn onto the roadway and zip through without looking at me.

“I even have a bright flag on my wheelchair and scooter so that people will notice me. Cars have missed me by inches. Some of the women have even looked directly at me and proceeded to cut me off, not caring about my safety.

“Drivers, put yourselves in my place. It’s tough enough being in the chair. If you injure or kill me as I cross, you would have to live with that and it could cost you dearly financially or end your freedom.”

(Bob, let me know the next time you’re out, and I’ll bring a camera, photograph the reckless drivers, and turn the evidence over to police.)

Three’s a Crowd? Interesting. Chamber chief Steve Cushman’s trying to talk fellow conservative Dale Francisco into quitting the mayoral race. Won’t happen, natch, especially with Randall Van Wolfswinkel’s big Texas bucks behind Dale. Wolfie’s plunked down more than a quarter-million into the mayor-council-Measure B campaign and some predict he’ll hit a half million or more by election day. Some around town think that Cushman’s gambit, if successful, could conceivably lead to a conservative takeover of the now-progressive City Council. Cushman’s rationale to Dale: Look, why should we split the vote and pave the way for progressive mayoral candidate Helene Schneider to get elected? Dale, you drop out and look like a gracious guy. I get elected and voil ! There’s two conservative votes on the council.

If Wolfie’s other candidates, Michael Self and Frank Hotchkiss, get elected, conservatives take over the council. Cushman’s not saying this, but that’s the upshot, at least in the view of some City Hall watchers.

Only in S.B.: “This could only happen in Santa Barbara!” Marshall Ackerman told me. “We drove up to our usual handicap parking space in front of Tre Lune the other night. The space was occupied by what I found out later was a 1961 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. No visible handicap tag.

“In the restaurant I found the owner, a pleasant lady with her walker alongside. “You’re entitled to that space,” I said, “but where’s your tag?” “I apologize,” she said, “but I have five cars and they only supply one tag!”

Hostel Update: In answer to questions about when Fess Parker’s 100-room hostel on East Montecito Street will be finished, Richard E. Fogg of the nonprofit Anodos Group told me: “In the coming days the roof tiles will be installed, the exterior stairway will be tiled, and the building will be painted. The work should be done in weeks. The hostel will be completed and opened as soon as possible. No specific completion date is available because it depends on many factors, including where this difficult economy and the credit markets are going. But the owners are doing their best to move the project to completion as soon as possible.”

Parker was required to build the $5 million hostel as a condition of his Cabrillo Boulevard hotel projects. Meanwhile, Parker is awaiting financing for his 150-room hotel facing East Beach, now a hole in the ground.

Blues & Brews: Chef Jamie West, formerly of the San Ysidro Ranch, will be cooking up the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa’s Oktoberfest blues and brews bash tonight, October 22. GM at Ojai is a familiar Santa Barbara name, Janis Clapoff, formerly GM at the Biltmore, San Ysidro Ranch, and Simpson House Inn, and Oahu’s Halekulani Hotel.

Daddy Long Legs: Heading down Highway 101 to Ventura’s Rubicon Theatre, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a world premiere musical involving two people who communicate almost solely by letters. But Megan McGinnis quickly won my heart with her winning portrayal of an appealing 1900 college girl (and budding novelist) writing her way to love with her mystery benefactor, played by Robert Adelman Hancock.

Empty Bowls: Mark your calendars for the 12th Annual Empty Bowls luncheon, benefiting the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. For $25 you get a bowl of soup made by an area restaurant and wonderful crusty bread. (You keep the bowls made by local potters.) The November 8 luncheon, which always sells out, will be at Santa Barbara Woman’s Club, aka Rockwood.


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