Friday, January 11, 2008

Armstrong's Attendance at City Council Meeting Provides Biting Moments

Former City Councilman Brian Barnwell once went down to the lower east side to investigate a complaint from one of his constituents. Before he got out of there he literally had a bite taken out of the seat of his pants. He was attacked by dogs.

Turns out Barnwell couldn't get out of his final city council meeting this past Tuesday without someone trying to take another bite out of his hide. This time the attacker was News-Press owner Wendy McCaw's favorite pit bull, Travis Armstrong.

When Barnwell gave his final farewell address to the council he lamented the fact that city government wasn't getting a fair shake from the News-Press. "I am troubled by the coverage that we get in the News-Press. I don't think that it reports what we do," Barnwell told his colleagues. He went on to say that; "When it comes from the News-Press (the coverage) is twisted and distorted, it is not the story."

An unmuzzled Armstrong, who was apparently sitting in the audience, came out growling the next day.

Never mind that there are many people who would agree with Barnwell. After all, over the past year the only thing spottier than the News-Press' coverage of city hall is the cell phone reception in Montecito.

In his op-ed column on Wednesday, Armstrong accused Barnwell of taking the low road and suggested that the source of Barnwell's enmity for the paper had its roots in the circumstances under which Barnwell's wife, former News-Press reporter, Camilla Cohee Barnwell left the paper.

That's a story that Armstrong has told before and now, like then, it raised questions about the ethics of publicly reporting the circumstances of an employee's separation from employment.

You'd think that with the scolding the News-Press recently took from labor law judge William Kocol they'd be more careful about getting into this area.

Well, Wendy's never been known for keeping her pets or her editorial page editor on a short leash.

On those same opinion pages Wednesday the News-Press published a letter from Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum. In it she addressed the proper decorum by observers in the council chambers and mentioned that two individuals displaying signs during Tuesday's meeting had to be asked to remove them.

It was a surprise that the News-Press would publish a letter from the Mayor given McCaw's well documented disdain for her. It turns out that the letter was published so that Armstrong could dispute her account of the sign incident.

Apparently the Mayor wasn't quick enough to ask that the signs be removed for Armstrong's liking.

According to Armstrong; "A couple of attention-seeking protesters showed up at the council chambers yesterday with signs that in negative terms in part seemed to suggest the News-Press played kingmaker in November's council election." Armstrong suggested that on other occasions people displaying signs were immediately asked to remove them and that Blums' delay in doing so in this instance was attributable to the anti-News-Press message of the signs.

Blums' letter stated that "she could not understand what was written on the signs." Armstrong is disputing that assertion saying in his column that Blum's letter was "missing a few facts."

A video of the meeting can be viewed at the city's website. If you're able to spot the signs and decipher what they say then you have more patience and a better eye than I do.

* * *

The News-Press has more than doubled the ad rates it charges to non-profits for classified ads.

According to a memo from UCSB Human Resources that was circulated to campus departments yesterday; "Effective January 1, 2008, the Santa Barbara News Press classified advertising rates for non-profits were increased from $1.52 to $3.42 per line."

The memo stated that the rate increase came without any advance notice.

Thanks News-Press!

* * *

San Luis Obispo's KSBY-TV is closing its Santa Barbara bureau and one of the casualties is reporter Leana Orsua.

Orsua, who had previously worked for the News-Press, left Wendy's House of Horrors only last spring to join KSBY.

* * *

The most frequent complaint from readers calling into the News-Press' customer service department lately? The recent elimination of the daily stock listings from the business section of the paper.

* * *

According to a front page story in yesterday's paper, the Wendy P. McCaw Foundation has pledged $1 million to the Ronald Reagan Ranch Center.

I wonder if that's Wendy's way of expressing her admiration for Reagan's role in busting the Air Traffic Controller's Union back in the '80s?

Return to top of page       E-Mail Me       Print This Page