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Year in Review: Nick Welsh’s Favorite Stories of 2017

Executive Editor Nick Welsh Picks ‘Just a Few’ of His Favorite Articles from the Past Year

Executive Editor Nick Welsh contemplates the start of 2018.
Paul Wellman

As part of our year in review, we’ve asked a few of our writers and editors to suggest a few of the stories they were particularly proud of this year. Here’s what Executive Editor Nick Welsh told us.

1. ‘Santa Barbara Landlords, Tenants Reach Hard-Fought Compromise’

Although members of the Landlord-Tenant Task Force voted unanimously in favor of the new renters’ rights package, they managed to agree disagreeably.
Paul Wellman

This isn’t literature, but it gives a nuts-n-bolts look at how hard it is to move the needle, even a little, when it comes to tenant protections. Still, the needle got moved.

2. ‘State Seeks to Shut Down San Ysidro Pharmacy’

With growing concern about opioid addiction, pharmacist Steve Hoyt worries those in chronic pain could be denied the relief they need. In the meantime, a state medical agency is trying to revoke his license.
Paul Wellman

What’s happening to Santa Barbara’s independently owned pharmacies? Well, the state is shutting about five of them down because of their connection with Dr. Julio “Candyman” Diaz, whose freewheeling ways filling opioid prescriptions landed him behind bars for the rest of his life. But what about the people suffering serious pain issues? What will they do?

3. ‘Do You Wanna Arm Wrestle?’

I hate politics. I hate covering politics. Except sometimes it’s fun. Like this time.

4. ‘Mental Health Care Tops the List’

It’s been a long road for Barry Schoer, from the electroshock treatments and cattle prods of New York City’s Bellevue to Santa Barbara’s very first integrated care clinic, targeting medical and dental services for the mentally ill.
Paul Wellman

There is reason for hope. Things do change. The obvious is sometimes recognized. Local health-care potentates discovered mental-health needs remain largely unfilled and have set out to do something about it.

5. ‘Tiki Torches, Bedsheets, and ‘Very Fine People’ on Both Sides’

A handful of 'Very Fine' white nationalists.

Trump is written about so much, it’s hard to even go there. It’s even harder, however, to resist. In this column, I stumbled onto some interesting facts about Robert E. Lee, whose statue removal sparked a white supremacist riot this year.

6. ‘Ross Macdonald and Eudora Welty’s Love Letters’

Courtesy Photo

Love ain’t easy. It’s not for sissies, as the pining-from-a-distance romance between writers Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald, of Santa Barbara fame and fortune, demonstrates.

7. ‘Tony Romasanta, Santa Barbara Developer, Bows Out’

Tony Romasanta, pictured here in 2004, found himself at the center of the dispute over containing Mission Creek, which emptied into the ocean by Romasanta’s beachfront hotel.
Paul Wellman (file)

Tony Romasanta was one scary dude. His bite was much worse than his bark. But over the years, he and I talked a lot, argued more, and came to enjoy each other. Then he died. This was my farewell piece.

8. ‘Was the McDonald’s Logo Made in Santa Barbara?’

Bud Bottoms not only started Get Oil Out, built the dolphin fountain by Stearns Wharf, and sired a brood of famous thespians but also claims to have designed the original McDonald’s logo. McDonald’s corporate spokespeople will neither confirm nor deny this.
Paul Wellman (file)

Sometimes it doesn’t really matter what the truth is. This is a case in point. Did local artist and man-about-town Bud Bottoms really invent the McDonald’s logo? I hope so. I like to think so. The facts seem to line up. But I can’t say for 100 percent sure. The Independent had an issue all about hamburgers. How could I not explore the question?

9. ‘Electric Bikes Let You Zoom Uphill’

Trek Super Commuter +8
Paul Wellman

I’ve been threatening to get an electric bike for years, but have yet to pull the trigger. They’re getting better all the time. I gave a fancy model a test ride and lived to tell the tale. Just barely.

10. ‘Carrizo Plain: The American Serengeti’

Richie DeMaria

The only thing better than saying “the Carrizo Plain” is actually going to the Carrizo Plain. If silence were golden, the Carrizo Plain would be Fort Knox. If that makes sense, read on. If it doesn’t, read on as well.

11. ‘From Isla Vista to Trump’s Ear’

Sean Hannity at KCSB in 1989
Christopher Gardner

Santa Barbara has all kinds of connections to the Trump Universe, Sean Hannity being one. The onetime right-wing shock jock at Isla Vista radio station KCBX now has the president’s ear into which he screams sweet nothings almost daily. I thought it worthwhile to dredge up sordid details from Hannity’s Santa Barbara past, like how the ACLU came to his rescue and saved his homophobic bacon.

12. ‘Retail Apocalypse Hits Santa Barbara’

Though merchants blame the homeless for State Street's grim shopping vibe, high rents, vacant storefronts, and online shopping are why retail's epicenter is sliding south.
Paul Wellman (file)

Maybe the single best thing I wrote all year. But then again, maybe not. It’s about the homeless and what difference they make—and don’t make—for Santa Barbara shoppers.

13. ‘Trump’s Russian Connection Starts Right Here’

Paul Manfort (left) with his attorney Kevin Downing as he surrenders to the FBI at a D.C. courthouse.

Who knew that it was a Santa Barbara mogul who provided the connection between Trump and his onetime campaign manager and forever Putin stooge Paul Manafort? If you read this, you would. But even though I wrote it, I somehow managed to forget. Now I remember.

14. ‘City Hall Between Rock and Hard Place Over RVs’

Brandon Yadegari

Every now and again, I let some actual reporting intrude on my knee-jerk opinions regarding Santa Barbara’s (mis)treatment of the poor, downtrodden, and occasionally obnoxious.

15. ‘Abandoned Juvy Hall Turning into Mental Health Facility?’

<b>MAKING SPACE: </b> Supervisor Janet Wolf hopes to convert empty space at the abandoned juvenile hall into a 15-bed mental health facility.
Paul Wellman

Another example of moving the needle where mental-health issues are concerned. Although such stories are wonky and depressing, they are also cause for hope.

16. ‘Santa Barbara’s Massive Women’s March’

Women's March in Santa Barbara
Beverly Holley

I include this not just because of the egregiously misleading headline. Only a few of the women marching were, in fact, massive. It was the march that was massive. Way more striking than sheer numbers was the spirit displayed. It was up. It was smart. It was fun. It was joyously defiant.

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