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Bill Macfadyen: When Push Came to Flood, Naomi Schwartz Was True to Her Word

Best of Noozhawk 06.08.12 includes Drew Barrymore wedding buzz, a mysterious fatality, school tax disappointment and a triumphant year for The Charger Account

What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. Longtime Community Leader, Former County Supervisor Naomi Schwartz Dies

Much of the community remembers Naomi Schwartz as a forceful, three-term Santa Barbara County supervisor who championed environmental and social causes with determination and effectiveness.

On the Board of Supervisors, she could come across as formidable. One on one was a different story, and she easily connected with people from any walk of life with the skill of the former elementary school teacher that she was.

Naomi Schwartz
Naomi Schwartz

Before her election as 1st District supervisor, Schwartz started in politics as chief of staff for then-state Sen. Gary Hart, D-Santa Barbara, and afterward served as chairwoman of the California Coastal Commission. Along the way she helped found The Fund for Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.

In “retirement,” she helped lead the courthouse restoration project through the Courthouse Legacy Foundation, was active on the Dean’s Council of UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Management, and took on the role of executive director of the Gildea Foundation.

Schwartz’s legacy is well-known but, to me, one of her accomplishments stands apart. On Jan. 10, 1995, torrential rain led to widespread flooding throughout the South Coast. Our neighborhood along Montecito Creek was particularly hard hit and, the next day, Schwartz, then-Santa Barbara Mayor Harriet Miller and a passel of county officials, staff and media traipsed through to assess the damage.

Supervisor Salud Carbajal, her successor but at the time her top aide, tells the story much better than I (and more often), but Schwartz listened intently to residents’ concerns and complaints about years of neglect with the creek. Standing in water still swirling above her ankles, she promised to do something about it.

In short order, Schwartz proposed a benefit-assessment district for flood control and shepherded the 1996 ballot measure to victory. It then took her several years to navigate the county’s meandering and maddening environmental review process — all the while staring down an erstwhile ally that staked out a ludicrous, extremist positions on creek “restoration” and property rights. In the end, she was at last able to get a debris basin built just off Olive Mill Road on the south side of Casa Dorinda. By the way, it works.

Naomi Schwartz was a stand-up public servant. She died June 4 of complications from stomach surgery at age 78. Rest in peace.

Schwartz’s family has asked that donations in her name be made to the Environmental Defense Center, Santa Barbara Village or Transition House. A public memorial is being planned for late July.

2. Drew Barrymore’s Wedding Draws a Crowd Outside Her Montecito Home

Heralded by circling helicopters and the obnoxious drone of a small airplane, actress Drew Barrymore and art consultant Will Kopelman were married June 2 at Barrymore’s Montecito home.

For much of the afternoon, curious onlookers paraded past and a throng of paparazzi camped across the street from Barrymore’s driveway just off the 400 block of Hot Springs Road. By nightfall, just about everyone had given up on catching a glimpse of the star of 50 First Dates and her wedding party, which included Cameron Diaz, her close friend and co-star of Charlie’s Angels; Reese Witherspoon; and Barrymore’s business partner and Charlie’s Angels producer, Nancy Juvonen, and her husband, comedian Jimmy Fallon.

Barrymore’s ceremony was a low-key affair, unlike the ostentatious 2011 wedding of Kim Kardashian and NBA player Kris Humphries that took place less than 100 yards away. Neighbors who still chafe at the memory of last summer’s nine hours of noise had to be pleased.

3. Mystery, Grief Remain in Wake of Fatal Hit-and-Run in Montecito

Allison Meadows in a photo from her Facebook page.
Allison Meadows in a photo from her Facebook page.

Allison Meadows, 26, and Lindsay Keebler, 25, reportedtly attended a party in Montecito that lasted into the early hours of June 6. According to the California Highway Patrol, the two Santa Barbara women were struck by an apparent hit-and-run driver as they walked along East Valley Road around 5 a.m.

Again according to the CHP, two “good Samaritans” happened upon the pair and, rather than calling 9-1-1, put the women in their car and drove them to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Meadows died of her injuries, which included massive head trauma, and Keebler was hospitalized in critical condition.

Late Friday, the CHP announced it had arrested Tyrone Richardson, 28, of Santa Barbara, on suspicion of vehicular manslaugher. CHP officials have been tight-lipped about the case, which remains under investigation, but they said more details are expected to be released Monday. Check back with Noozhawk as executive editor Tom Bolton and our news team continue to follow this story.

Funeral arrangements for Meadows have not yet been finalized.

4. School Parcel Taxes Fall Short of Two-Thirds Majority Needed for Approval

A clear majority of voters backed the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s two parcel-tax measures in the June 5 election. In a morale-crushing blow, however, neither garnered the two-thirds majority approval required for passage. Measure X, covering the elementary district, reached 65 percent while the high school district’s Measure W got to 64.3 percent. They each needed 66.66 percent.

Together, the two measures were expected to raise $16 million for the financially challenged SBUSD as replacements for a pair of 2008 measures that expire next summer and fund foreign language, math, science and arts programs.

It’s not yet clear what the district will do to plug what will be another budget hole, but one option could be to try again in November. SBUSD trustees are expected to discuss that possibility at their June 12 meeting.

5. Charger Account Journalists Reflect on First Year Online, Gear Up With New Editors

When Bill Woodard, the faculty adviser to Dos Pueblos High School’s student newspaper, contacted me last summer to say that he and his editors were thinking about taking The Charger Account completely online, I was out the door and on my way to Goleta in a flash. When I walked in to the campus newsroom moments later, he was still repeating “Hello? Hello?” into his phone and wondering what had happened to me.

Obviously, we at Noozhawk think we’re in the vanguard of Fossil Media disrupters but we know that today’s high schoolers don’t read print newspapers and aren’t going to wake up one morning when they’re 30 and subscribe. For us, the future is now. Anything we can do to hasten the process, count us in.

Out of those conversations about the advantages and challenges of the Web was forged a tight partnership that has been one of the most fun we’ve had at Noozhawk. We’re proud to sponsor The Charger Account and have really enjoyed working with the student journalists. Even more gratifying has been watching — and reading — their progress, both as reporters and editors but also as Web whizzes. They’ve truly taken to the format and have done a terrific job covering their school and their community.

On behalf of the Noozhawks, congratulations to The Charger Account’s Class of 2012: Rachel Amspoker, Brennon Goss, Megan Leckie, Nicole Liu, Harry Menear, Kelvin Noronha, Katie O’Brien, Tiana Raihn, Ben Sutton, Doug Trumball and former Noozhawk intern Kristen Gowdy. In just a few short months, these pioneers established a high level of standards and practices that will serve as excellent markers for which future DPHS journalists will strive.

Meanwhile, Noozhawk is looking forward to helping the next team accomplish that much and more. See you in September.

                                                                  •        •        •

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