Yikes! A new year is upon us, bringing more cruise ships, nasty lawsuits, and attacks on Social Security, but better weather than Bakersfield, Scottsdale, and Fargo, ND.

In 2014, we should learn what sort of an art foundation we’ll have up at the Clark estate, Bellosguardo, and who’ll be running it; more about new National Labor Relations Board charges against the Santa Barbara News-Press; and a suit claiming that the late Huguette Clark was the victim of a shameful shakedown by a New York doctor and hospital.

While 22 cruise ships stopped by last year, 30 or so are planning to disgorge passengers, crew, and dollars in 2014. Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, a clean-water advocacy group, will be monitoring to make sure the ship captains keep their promise not to dump waste from these floating cities while in the city’s 12-mile boundary, according to a recent special report by Santa Barbara Independent reporter Matt Kettmann.

<b>MONEY AND POLITICS:</b> Some things never change — 2014 brings more cruise ships, lawsuits, and political lobbying.
Paul Wellman (file)

The average passenger will spend $92, according to Visit Santa Barbara, the area tourist promotion group. And the Waterfront Department gets $5 each for the average 2,600 passengers per ship and 1,000 crew members, whether or not they disembark. Are cruise ships good for Santa Barbara? Money talks, but you still hear grumbles.

NLRB vs. News-Press: Who says lightning never strikes twice in the same place? Come February 24, a National Labor Relations Board judge will consider more alleged labor-law violations against Wendy McCaw’s Santa Barbara News-Press.

The NLRB has been here before, an administrative law judge ruling that the newspaper illegally fired eight members of the newsroom union, among other violations. But a Washington, D.C., court ruled that the union was trying to usurp McCaw’s First Amendment rights and put the kibosh on the case.

Now the NLRB has filed new charges, including that McCaw refused to bargain in good faith and that she wrongly withdrew recognition of the union, among other things. With three new judges nominated by President Obama poised to join the court, the outcome might be different this time.

Huguette Shakedown: When Huguette Clark arrived at New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center, the hospital’s main objective was not her health but how to separate her from as much of her $300-million fortune as possible, according to a new lawsuit.

Although the reclusive copper heir was in good physical health for most of the time, she lived there for two decades while the hospital and her physician conducted a 20-year shakedown, according to the suit filed by the New York public administrator. Beth Israel’s cash register rang to the tune of more than $4 million, and her doctor, Dr. Henry Singman, cashed in with another $800,000, the suit contends.

The suit doesn’t include the $31 million she gave her private-duty nurse. To some, this bizarre behavior should have called into question her grasp on reality. But although Clark was lavishing huge gifts with great abandon, and the hospital was badgering her for even more, Beth Israel never thought she needed a psychiatric exam to determine her state of mind, according to the suit, which seeks more than $100 million from Beth Israel and Dr. Singman. Clark died in 2011 at the age of 104.

Executors of her will are also going after a $5 million Monet painting she gave the hospital, allegedly under pressure, plus $50 million in punitive damages.

Clark, it seems, was highly suggestible when those close to her at the hospital dropped hints. When Singman let her know that it was costing him $20,000 to paint his house, his patient soon whipped out a check to cover it. When he broke his hip in Italy, an air ambulance cost him $65,000. Clark paid the bill, according to the recent book Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.

One-Percenters: Your Social Security may not be enough to live on, but a powerful CEO lobbyist group wants to slash these meager benefits. David Cote, who runs Honeywell, along with 200 other top CEOs, are campaigning to reduce benefits and raise the retirement age. Cote, after 11 years at Honeywell, has $134 million in the company’s retirement account and figures to get a monthly check of $795,134 once he retires.

Meanwhile, America’s Social Security retirees receive an average of $1,237, which Cote and the Business Roundtable CEOs figure is way too much.


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