ANOTHER DEE-TROIT? It’s horrible to contemplate, Montecito becoming a wasteland of empty chichi eateries, barren beauty salons, and echoing real estate offices.

Plastic surgeons in the unemployment line, the Coral Casino having a hard time filling cabanas, mansions going begging at 1960s prices.

How come? Well, Dan Walters, who’s been covering California politics since Jerry Brown’s first term, dropped into Santa Barbara the other day, warning that if California overtaxes the one-percenters, the state could become (gasp!) another bankrupt Detroit.

Barney Brantingham

If we keep raising taxes on the high-income elite, we could see capitalists fleeing en masse to tax-haven Nevada, depriving California of all that budget-balancing tax loot, Walters told the Radius Real Estate & Economic Forecast meeting.

Walters, a Sacramento Bee columnist who’s cranked out more than 7,500 columns over the years, warned that legislation can have “unforeseen consequences” in drying up income taxes and the flow of capital.

But the business folk who were gathered at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort relaxed a little when he noted that newly elected legislators seem more moderate than previous Berkeley-ites and that the recent legislative session was “fairly mild.” He sees rays of hope. Don’t panic, Montecito.

SEEKING SLEAZE: Before his talk, I told Walters about the time I headed up to Sacto in hopes of interviewing as sleazy a lobbyist as I could find, one bent on corrupting our Boy Scout legislators. I asked Jack O’Connell, then a Santa Barbara assemblyman and truly as pure as the driven snow, to find some cigar-chomping creep with hundred-dollar bills stuffed in his pocket.

O’Connell showed up with his wife and a young blonde lobbyist also as pure as etc., etc. No scandal there and no cigar for me, but an interesting interview anyway.

O’Connell, who went on to become state superintendent of public instruction, was at one time being urged to run for Congress (pre-Capps) and promised strong Demo support. But O’Connell had no desire to climb on the Washington merry-go-round and wisely stayed in California. Some thought he was bound for glory as governor, but that’s never happened either, wisely, no doubt.

LOVE, SEDUCTION, BETRAYAL: No, not this week’s City Council election, but Opera Santa Barbara’s staging of Puccini’s Tosca. It shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday night, November 8, and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Granada.

LIFE OR DEATH: (No, still not the election.) It’s theater at its best when two fine actors passionately debate life and death. In The Sunset Limited, “White” (played by Joe Spano) is saved from suicide under wheels of a train by “Black” (Tucker Smallwood). After they argue such issues as whether there’s really a you-know-who, the question is whether White will embrace life or head back to that train station. The play by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) is being staged through November 17 by Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura.

<b>ALL THE PRESIDENTS:</b> Doris Kearns Goodwin spoke to a sold-out crowd on Monday night.
Courtesy Photo

REMEMBER BOOKS? Who reads serious books anymore, much less goes to talks by authors? Well, cynics might be surprised to learn that UCSB’s Campbell Hall was sold out for days before Doris Kearns Goodwin’s talk on Monday night, put on by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln was the basis of the Oscar-winning movie Lincoln. And now the Pulitzer winner’s new 900-plus-page wrist-breaker, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, which was published this week, has been picked up by Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks studio.

CHICAGO SNOWED IN: Although Santa Barbara has had four female mayors in just the past 30 years, the city of Chicago has had exactly one since it was incorporated 176 years ago. In 1979 Jane Byrne broke the male monopoly in “the city of big shoulders” after Chicagoans were enraged at City Hall because a massive blizzard paralyzed the town and snow clearance was glacially slow. Incidentally, the town’s first and only woman mayor was unseated four years later by Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington.

SPEAKING OF MY HOMETOWN: Santa Barbara High’s superb theater program is staging the musical Chicago, based on the 1926 play. Roxie Hart in trouble, murder, and all that. Tonight (I’ll be there), November 7, and November 8-10.

READ ALL ABOUT IT: The Santa Barbara Independent’s website,, has been named the Best Weekly or Non-Daily Newspaper Website in North America by Editor & Publisher magazine. We beat the big boys. Check it out:


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