Monday, October 05, 2009

News-Press Mum On Its Mayor Pick, Daily Sound Plays Softball on Saturday

Starting today, Santa Barbara City voters will get to do what the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres did in the waning weeks of the baseball season: Mail it in.

The vote-by-mail period begins today and ballots will be accepted up until 8 p.m. on November 3.

With voting about to go live, Santa Barbara's newspapers are announcing their endorsements.

The Independent was the first to weigh in, endorsing Helene Schneider for mayor and Bendy White, Grant House and David Pritchett for city council.

The Montecito Journal has endorsed Steve Cushman for mayor and Frank Hotchkiss and Bonnie Raisin for council.

And the Daily Sound endorsed Dale Francisco for mayor.

So what about the paper with the area's largest, albeit a shrinking, circulation? If the News-Press has a favorite candidate in the mayor's race they ain't sayin' who it is.

In the last Presidential election, the News-Press waited until the day before the election to announce that it was endorsing John McCain.

Coming that late, the nod to McCain was not so much an endorsement as it was a protest vote.

So far, the News-Press has only endorsed Michael Self for council. I would have thought that Francisco was a shoo-in to get the News-Press' endorsement for mayor. Obviously, the only other candidate for mayor who would have a shot at getting the paper's endorsement would be Cushman.

So what more do you need to know about either Francisco or Cushman that you don't already know?

But then again, maybe this isn't so much about the candidates as it is about Wendy being Wendy.

With ballots being turned in every day, each day that goes by without the News-Press endorsing a candidate in the mayor's race, means the paper's endorsement is worth that much less to whomever ultimately gets it.

On the same day the Daily Sound endorsed Francisco, the News-Press' Travis Armstrong wrote an op-ed page column claiming that "Santa Barbara's politicians, their local high-density developer friends, subsidized housing activists and biased journalists," are "smearing" Randall Van Wolfswinkel.

Given the fact that Armstrong and his boss, owner Wendy McCaw, have been first through the door on more smear campaigns (think Jerry Roberts, Marty Blum and Schneider) than I can keep count of, he should know a real smear when he sees one. And this one isn't.

And he should also know that when a single individual donates more than $250,000 to get candidates like Francisco, Hotchkiss, Self and Cathie McCammon elected, it should provoke some healthy skepticism as to what the donor's true motives are. Asking those questions hardly qualifies as "smearing" someone.

On Saturday, the Daily Sound ran an interview with Van Wolfswinkel conducted by opinion page columnist Cherie Cheri Rae.

The Daily Sound trumpeted the interview as an "exclusive" but if you, like me, were looking for some real insight as to who Van Wolfswinkel is and why he's spending so much money on an election he can't even vote in, you would have been disappointed.

For one thing, Rae tossed him more softballs (in the form of questions) than you'd see at a senior citizen's slow-pitch tournament.

And there was little explanation as to the circumstances under which the interview was given. Who approached who? Was the interview in person, by phone or were questions posed via e-mail? (The lack of any follow-up questions would seem to suggest the latter.)

In the "set-up" that proceeded the questions and answers it was observed that Van Wolfswinkle "owns a quite modest-by-Montecito-standards home." Whose observation was that, Van Wolfswinkel's, or Rae's?

And why didn't Josh Molina, who has been covering the city election for the Daily Sound, do this interview?

The photo that accompanied the interview, showing Van Wolfswinkel standing and talking to attorney Tony Fischer, was not a Daily Sound photo but rather one that has appeared in the campaign literature of Preserve Our Santa Barbara, the Political Action Committee that Van Wolfswinkel has virtually single-handedly bankrolled.

And on the Daily Sound's website, appearing on the same page as the interview, is an ad for Preserve Our Santa Barbara.

Many of us fear that Van Wolfswinkel may be trying to buy an election. Let's hope he hasn't bought a newspaper along the way as well.
© 2009 by Craig Smith and