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Bill Macfadyen: Best of Noozhawk 12.30.11

This weekend's Noozhawk recap includes SOPA pirates and censorship, car scams, redevelopment, a look back at 2011 and some words of wisdom for 2012

1. Bill Macfadyen: Why Noozhawk Opposes SOPA, and Why You Should Care

It actually wasn’t Noozhawk’s top story this week, but I’m using my publisher’s prerogative to jump it ahead. The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, may be flamboyantly misnamed by its congressional sponsors but there can be no mistake that it’s a blunt, ugly threat to Noozhawk. And, because you’re reading this on the Internet or via a Web-enabled device, you need to understand it’s just as much of a threat to you.

The legislation, officially H.R. 3261, will go back before the House Judiciary Committee in late January. Under the bill, the federal government will require Internet service providers to block access to Web sites that infringe on copyrights. Rather than go after the sites actually pirating material, law-abiding sites would be shut down for something as innocent as a reader posting a link to an improperly credited photo somewhere else.

Noozhawk wouldn’t exist under such censorship — not because we do anything wrong but because any accusation against us, no matter how valid, would effectively take us offline until we could prove our innocence.

SOPA is a clear and present danger to free speech and free expression. Back in 1919, no less of a constitutional authority than U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. used those exact words in Schenck v. United States, a case involving the government’s ability to regulate speech that poses a threat to America. Nearly a century later, that phrase has been stood on its head and it’s the government’s regulation that actually is the bigger threat.

I know your eyes may glaze over at the mention of the First Amendment, but it’s not just “a journalist thing.” If SOPA is enacted, it will fundamentally change the Internet and the programs, services and tools on which you’ve become completely dependent over the last decade. And copyright infringement is only one aspect; I daresay that most companies — especially startups and small ones like ours — will not be able to afford the liability insurance alone.

There’s a lot of money behind SOPA but it’s not too late to stop this madness. Please join me in contacting our three elected representatives — Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — and asking them to help us defeat this bill.

Noozhawk is now fully engaged in the battle and we have comprehensive coverage coming next week. In the meantime, click here for more information on SOPA from the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose mission is to defend free speech, privacy, innovation and consumer rights in the digital world.

And shout-outs to my friends, Karen Velie of Cal Coast News in San Luis Obispo and Dylan Smith of the Tucson Sentinel, for posting my SOPA-box broadside.

2. DA’s Office Files 58-Count Indictment Against Owners of Montecito Motors

On Dec. 27, the father-son owners of the now-closed Montecito Motors were charged with 58 felonies related to an alleged scheme to defraud customers out of more than $1 million.

Chet Taylor, 71, and his son, Adam, 41, face embezzlement, tax evasion and other charges, as well as a long line of ticked-off clients of their car consignment company. Santa Barbara police say the pair concealed car sales and waited months or years before notifying owners their vehicles had been sold, while using the funds to pay personal expenses.

The Taylors — along with the elder Taylor’s wife, Jennifer, and his daughter, Sarah Taylor-Swing — pleaded not guilty Dec. 29. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 13.

3. California Supreme Court Deals Blow to Local Redevelopment Agencies

The state Supreme Court on Dec. 29 upheld a law that will eliminate 400 local redevelopment agencies around California and could divert billions of dollars to schools and other services. The ruling was a victory for first-term second-time Gov. Jerry Brown but a major blow to Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria and other cities trying to revitalize blighted areas and attract economic development and job creation. An appeal of constitutional grounds is likely.

4. Patty DeDominic: What’s On the Minds of High Achievers?

Patty DeDominic is a force. The executive coach and owner of Santa Barbara-based DeDominic & Associates started and sold two successful businesses, founded the annual Women’s Festivals and is a co-founder of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. When she speaks, entrepreneurs listen.

But so do a lot of other people, and her Dec. 28 guest column proved quite popular on Noozhawk. She wrote about high achievers, chief executive officers and organizational founders, and used their examples to exhort readers to take control of 2012 through health, wealth and time management.

I hope she’ll write again.

5. 11 for ‘11: What Were Noozhawk’s Top Stories of the Past Year?

The Noozhawk team put together our year-end Top 11 list of 2011’s major stories, and it’s a damn fine body of work. Many of these stories were our own exclusives, and all had big impacts in our community. Among the topics: police tactics, the misuse and abuse of prescription medications, education issues, political surprises, a royal visit and a tsunami surge.

I’m very proud of our staff and am blessed to work with such remarkable and devoted people. Managing editor Michelle Nelson and staff writers Lara Cooper, Giana Magnoli and Alex Kacik are as cheerful as they are indefatigable, and their commitment to quality journalism and prolific production are unrivaled locally. Sales executives Chris Donahue and Terry Baxter have been happy — and successful — warriors, battling an economy that has provided few breaks. On the backend, we couldn’t do anything without “Web guy” Edgar Oliveira and my son, Will. We’re also privileged to have an army of interns and contributors who round out our coverage and give Noozhawk the appearance of being everywhere.

I think what drives all of us is that we view Noozhawk as much more than a job; for us, it’s a cause. As pioneers in New Media, we’re determined to figure out how to make a professional local news operation successful and sustainable. We’re still not where we want to be — truthfully, I doubt we’ll ever be satisfied — but we’re close. For that, we have you to thank. Your enthusiasm and encouragement have been so important to our progress, and we’re grateful that you, our readers, keep giving us an opportunity to cover a community we love and appreciate as much as you do.

                                                                  •        •        •

It’s the 11th hour but there’s still time to make a charitable donation before the calendar flips to 2012. The following Noozhawk nonprofit clients are making end-of-year, tax-deductible appeals right now through our Web site:

» Catholic Charities-Santa Barbara County

» Community Arts Music Association (CAMA)

» Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)

» Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara County

» Friendship Center

» Girls Incorporated of Carpinteria

» Lobero Theatre Foundation

» Pilgrim Terrace Cooperative Homes

» Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse

» Santa Barbara Symphony

» Santa Barbara Teen News Network.

                                                                  •        •        •

And since I’m on the subject, allow me to ask for your ongoing support for the work Noozhawk’s team of professional journalists is doing in our community.

We not only broke the story of the SBPD alleged excessive force case and the damning federal audit of Santa Barbara County’s Psychiatric Health Facility, but we also provided the community’s first comprehensive report on the misuse and abuse of prescription medications and launched two innovative public-engagement projects: Let’s Talk Westside and the Santa Barbara Challenge.

Noozhawk routinely is the only local news source reporting the positive stories about schools, youth and nonprofit organizations that too often don’t get told. We sponsor both sbTNN and the student journalists at Dos Pueblos High School’s Charger Account, which has successfully made the transition to an all-digital format from old-school newsprint.

And our commitment to the South Coast nonprofit community includes a landmark new media grant partnership with the Hutton Parker Foundation and our iSociety coverage featuring columnists Melissa Walker and Rochelle Rose. Early next year will see the debut of additional nonprofit-related features.

We’re grateful to our advertisers who have made this possible, but the truth is that we need your help, too. If you want to see quality, professional independent news reporting continue in Santa Barbara, please help us with a donation today.

Just as you might subscribe — or formerly subscribed — to a favorite newspaper to keep up with your community news, please consider becoming a voluntary paying subscriber to Noozhawk, for as little as $5 a month, or becoming a member of our Hawks Club.

Click here to make a donation online, or mail your check to Noozhawk, P.O. Box 101, Santa Barbara 93102. Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to set up recurring credit-card transactions through our PCI-compliant payment gateway. Personal contributions to Noozhawk are not deductible as charitable donations.

Thank you for your support.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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