Tuesday, August 18, 2009

News-Press Embraces "The Savior" And The Horse He Rode In On

When it comes to local elections the News-Press, like many of us, has been skeptical of large sums of money from outside of the area being poured into local races.

Given that history, I had a Houston hoot reading Travis Armstrong's op-ed page column of last Wednesday where he absolutely swooned over Randall Van Wolfswinkel, whom he described as possibly being the city's "new savior," at least when it comes to preserving Santa Barbara's character.

I guess in Santa Barbara, we have to take our saviors like a sailor takes his fun. Wherever he can find it. In this particular case, "The Savior" lives in Texas, although he did grow up and go to school in Santa Barbara.

In light of the fact that Builder magazine ranked his company, First Texas Homes as the 36th-largest homebuilder in the country, I'd say that makes The Savior a developer. And the News-Press normally doesn't cotton to developers.

Armstrong seemed to be trying to downplay how much money The Savior had given to several of the candidates who are on the ballot in November saying only that, "Van Wolfswinkel, so far, has contributed thousands of dollars to council candidates."

Armstrong may be shy about getting specific but I'm not. According to Campaign Disclosure Statements filed with the City Clerk's office, The Savior gave $5,000 to Michael Self, $3,000 to Frank Hotchkiss (who are both running for city council) and, as reported by the Independent, donated $25,000 to the Preserve Our Santa Barbara political action committee.

His $5,000 donation, made him the largest single contributor to the Save El Pueblo Viejo Committee which is backing Measure B, the voter initiative which would limit building heights.

In the recent past The Savior has also contributed money to Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and the Republican National Committee.

While he may be trying to keep a low profile here, his $8 million dollar Texas residence made the list of The 100 Most Expensive Homes in Dallas. The Savior recently bought a second home in Montecito, which the Zillow.com website shows as being worth a little over $3 million, which could very well make it one of the 100 least expensive homes in the 93108.

Included in Armstrong's column was a nearly 500 word statement from the The Savior himself as to why he's not such a bad guy.

The Savior says he's, "been distressed to see the impact of overdevelopment, lack of fiscal responsibility, crime and vagrancy on Santa Barbara" and that's why he has "chosen to get involved and help a broad spectrum of candidates and causes." He disavows personal financial gain as the motivating factor for his largesse.

Armstrong then asks, "shouldn't we take Mr. Van Wolfswinkel's word and judge him by his future actions?"

Well, that same suggestion was made a few years back when a certain billionaire, who recently had arrived in town, bought the local daily newspaper and pledged not to meddle in the newsroom. And we all know how that turned out.

So, yes, we will have to wait and see. While our town may be in need of salvation, we're not desperate enough to forego reserving our judgment. After all, there's a saying down in Texas, "Don't piss on my boots and tell me that it's raining."
© 2009 by Craig Smith and www.craigsmithsblog.com