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Measure for Measure of Political Art

Don’t Underestimate the Mighty Lawn Sign


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Green Grass of Politics: The cognoscenti sneer at election lawn signs. They’re just feeble mom-and-pop stuff from another era, and nobody pays any attention except to steal them. Right? Wrong.

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Bendy White tells me that they were a key factor turning the tide against the Measure Y Veronica Meadows housing development on last week’s ballot. Many were surprised when No on Y won by nearly a two-to-one margin.

Barney Brantingham

“We were outspent at least ten to one and had a bare-bones budget,” said White, a leader of the No on Y campaign. So, trying to match developer Mark Lee’s $250,000 Yes on Y war chest with about $25,000, White and others launched a lawn-sign effort, which he calls “true political advertising.”

With Lee stuffing mailboxes with slick mailers portraying Measure Y as a mere creek cleanup, it looked like he would win by a tidal wave. In truth, it would have allowed an access bridge over city parkland to his 25-home project off Las Positas Road.

White attributes the 2-1 defeat of Measure Y to voter rejection of “using public land for private purposes” and also to placing “suburban housing” on open space. So now what? Residents of Alan Road had bitterly opposed access up their street, which is why Lee resorted to the so-called “bridge over troubled waters.”

Mayor Helene Schneider, an opponent of Measure Y, predicts that in view of last week’s overwhelming defeat, developer Lee will have “a tough hill to climb” trying to muster four votes on the council when and if he returns with a new plan, much less the five supermajority votes required for a specific plan. Lee would also need Planning Commission okay.

But it’s widely expected that Lee will try the Alan Road gambit again. Maybe with fewer homes. Judging from all the No on Y lawn signs I saw along the street, Lee might want to spread some curbstone love around. Get creative.

What rankles homeowners? Mounting garbage, water, and sewer fees, among other things, right? Maybe Lee could offer to lighten their load, kicking in some bucks. Build a playground. Station a mobile lending library/daycare double-wide. Something, anything. But what’s enough?

Hot Time: The gods of show business were smiling on the Circle Bar B Ranch & Dinner Theatre when firefighters were able to stomp out flames that came within seven miles of the ranch on Refugio Road. I love that old place high above the Pacific and below the Reagan Ranch, smelling more of horse manure than actors’ greasepaint.

Despite the scare, the show will go on this weekend with producers Susie and David Couch staging Regrets Only. Lots of witty one-liners in Paul Rudnick’s play when I saw it, along with a more serious theme having to do with ​— ​well, go see for yourself. The usual gang is onstage: Susie, Brian Harwell, Jenna Scanlon, Kathy Marden, Jean Hall, and Raymond Wallenthin. Joe Beck, another regular, directs. On the boards through July 15.

Schools? Drop Dead: Resentment still simmers over the Santa Barbara News-Press’s stand that helped kill the Measure X and W school parcel-tax measures. Voters came within inches of giving them the needed two-thirds approval. Despite the paper’s declining circulation and influence, if owner Wendy McCaw had come out for the measures, the thinking goes, they would have won.

Schadenfreude: That’s the German expression for taking pleasure from the ill fortune of others. Santa Barbarans who can’t spell or pronounce the apt word are taking a certain joy in the long-awaited squabble between Wendy McCaw and her legal partner in many nasty battles, Barry Cappello. Barry, believed to have made millions in legal fees from Wendy, has gone to court to try to get the $411,000 he says she owes him.

Can’t Quit Smoking? If you live in one of banker Michael Towbes’s 2,000 rental units in the area, you have to stop puffing cancer sticks in your home, not-so-sweet (cough, cough) home. See a trend coming under the state law allowing this?

Million-Dollar Wheels: Part-time Santa Barbaran Craig McCaw, cell phone pioneer/ex-hubby of publisher Wendy, just bought a $35-million car, the most expensive auto in the world. But he can afford the wheels. He’s not only worth $1.6 billion ​— ​not bad for a dyslexic, eh? ​— ​but is selling his 780-acre private James Island off the coast of Vancouver, Canada, for a cool $75 million. The race car is an apple-green 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, built for the late racer Stirling Moss.

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