Going long

Like the chorus line of old ladies with walkers traipsing across the stage of The Producers, the 172 members of the Ninety Plus Club honored at the 19th Annual “Celebration of Life” Birthday Luncheon exhibited vitality, athleticism and a sense of humor as they navigated the overflow crowd at the DoubleTree Resort on Nov. 21.

The event, organized by the City of Santa Barbara’s Parks and Recreation Department and funded by Santa Barbara Securities, The Hutton Foundation, the Santa Barbara Foundation and the DoubleTree Resort, was designed to honor the combined 15,899 years of wisdom and longevity of some of Santa Barbara’s most inspirational figures.

Oldest among the group was track & field legend John Whittemore of Montecito, who turned 104 on Nov. 20. Whittemore — a life-long resident who competed as recently as 18 months ago and still holds five world masters records — said he started competing in both track and baseball at Santa Barbara High. He offered this life advice: “It’s easier to keep out of trouble than get out of trouble.”

Also sharing sage advice was 92-year-old Elizabeth Johnson, who gave “enjoy life and have a great sense of humor” as her secret to a long life. Johnson, one of the first female comedy writers during the golden age of radio, certainly knows a lot about humor. “I wrote for Bergen and McCarthy and W.C. Fields and Judy Garland and Lucille Ball,” she said. Recently married to family friend Harry Johnson, whom she’s known for 50 years, Elizabeth beamed, “Harry’s always had a great sense of humor. We have a lot of fun together,” she said of her younger husband, who is only 87.

Host Larry Crandell introduced and joked with the attendees who had reached the century mark, including Whittemore; Tillie Ackerman, whose brother Rich was there but “he’s only 97”; Mary Hill; Frances Stewart; Emily Thies; Elizabeth Curtis and Leslie Gray.

Las Positas Park (now Elings Park) Founder Jerry Harwin was among the 90+ members tearing up the dance floor to the tunes of the Jerry Dokken Band. “Next year we’ll have to have a bigger dance floor,” said Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum. Other entertainment included a sing-along and a number by the Razzle Dazzle Silver Follies Dancers, a dance group of over-50 ex-professionals, founded earlier this year by Glory Lamb.

As they trooped out of the dining room, full from a gourmet meal, the seniors were handed birthday gift bags made by local Girl Scouts and filled with handmade gifts and books of local history for them to enjoy.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Nyle Utterback was champion of South Coast’s natural assets

Santa Barbara lost one of its most dedicated citizens with the sudden passing of Nyle Gene Utterback on Nov. 21 at the age of 72. Married to his wife Kay for the past 45 years, the Utterbacks came to Santa Barbara in 1963 and have been active in the community ever since.

Utterback served as a Planning Commissioner and on the Santa Barbara City Council from 1973-1977. Rain or shine, Utterback never missed a peace march. Among the many causes he championed were limiting growth in Santa Barbara, making Stearns Wharf pedestrian friendly and maintaining the Wilcox Property (now the Douglas Family Preserve) as open space.

As a research physicist for corporations such as General Motors and TRW and as a lecturer in advanced physics at UCSB, Utterback was very concerned that his work be utilized for the good of mankind and refused to do defense work.

In addition to his wife Kay, Utterback’s family includes his three daughters and their husbands: Lynda Elliott (Michael), Cheryl Tafejian (John) and Tracy Blakeley (James). He also is survived by seven grandchildren: Whitney, Tom, Melanie, Maddison, Jacob, Dylan and Hayden.

A memorial celebration will be Dec. 5 at 10:30 a.m. at the First Congregational Church, 2101 State St.

As a tribute to Utterback’s continual fight to protect Santa Barbara’s natural assets for all to enjoy, the family will be erecting a bench in one of his favorite places to assure that even more people have an opportunity to stop and reflect on the beauty of the city he loved. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made toward this public monument or to the charity of your choice.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Gamma Phis shine

UCSB sorority chapter celebrates 20 years on campus

The UCSB chapter of Gamma Phi Beta celebrated its 20th anniversary on campus last weekend by honoring four women who have served as advisors since the start of the 129-year-old sorority’s tenure on campus.

Lois Abbott said she is very proud to have served as chapter advisor since 1983. In addition to receiving the sorority’s merit award, one of its highest honors, Abbott also received a special award from the National Sister Link Chair. Abbott reflected on the changes she’s seen over the past twenty years. While the clothes are different and the emphasis or lack of emphasis on partying swings, “the heart of what we are all about is the same,” she said.

“We emphasize scholarship and philanthropy,” said Abbott, citing the chapter’s consistently above 3.0 gpa and work with the Isla Vista Youth Project, among other community service activities.

Kay Graham, who served as recruitment advisor (what used to be called “rush advisor”) for 15 years, was also honored with a merit award for her work with the chapter at the Nov. 22 Founder’s Day Luncheon, which was attended by over 200 alumnae and collegians from around the country.

Another merit award honoree, Jane Habermann, has served on Gamma Phi Beta’s house corporation board since 1985. “She has handled our meetings with a style that makes our collegians feel privileged to serve on house corporation board,” said Abbott of her close friend and sorority sister.

The fourth founder of the Delta Psi Chapter, Leslie Storr, was also given the merit award for her many years of service on both the house corporation board and as property manager for the sorority’s apartment building at 890 Camino Pescadero in Isla Vista.

Gamma Phi’s sorority is a bit unusual in that it is housed in an apartment building rather than one big house.

“When we first started the chapter we had one TV in the common living room and one telephone in the hall,” said Abbott.

Little by little over the years they’ve all gotten their own TVs, their own computers, and everyone has a cell phone, she observed.

While the technology has changed (and the tattoos and the piercings) Abbott sees the character and 129-year-old mission of the Gamma Phi Betas — “to foster a nurturing environment that provides women the opportunity to achieve their potential through life-long commitment to intellectual growth, individual worth and service to humanity” — as something she remains proud to be part of.

And the Gamma Phi’s are obviously proud of Abbott, Graham, Habermann and Storr as well.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Medical marijuana issue inflames council

Put the words “marijuana” and “wasted” in the same sentence and the path usually leads to a state of inebriation. At Tuesday’s Santa Barbara City Council meeting, however, it led in the opposite direction — at least for some — to a state of frustration about wasted time, as the council heard a presentation from community activist Bruce Rittenhouse on the implementation of Proposition 215, which deals with medicinal marijuana.

Given that the state of California already passed legislation legalizing medicinal marijuana, and that when it takes effect in January, the County Health Department will be responsible for its implementation, some of the council members responded as though Rittenhouse was bogarting their precious time in bringing this issue before the council.

Councilman Gregg Hart responded to Rittenhouse with, “I do not understand what we’re doing here when the problem has been resolved. … I think, frankly, there must be some political agenda here at play.”

Rittenhouse, who first brought this issue before the council in June 2000 and frequently mentioned it as a priority during his recent failed attempt to win a seat on the council, unsuccessfully urged the council to send the matter to the Ordinance Committee.

Calling it an “issue of the milk of human kindness or lack thereof,” councilman-elect Brian Barnwell also advocated for the Ordinance Committee.

Recent council candidate Bob Cawley also spoke in support of action as he recalled his brother’s terminal cancer diagnosis 10 years ago. “If you’ve ever had a loved one who was critically ill … you’d do anything you can to make them more comfortable.”

Also voicing public support for taking action on the measure was Janet Benner, whose son died of AIDS in 1993.

Despite some obvious compassion for the cause, particularly as voiced by councilwoman Iya Falcone, the council ultimately agreed to let the State and Federal governments deal with it, despite Rittenhouse’s contention that “I doubt seriously that on January 1 this (the law going into effect) is really going to happen.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Funk Zone fate v. Coastal Commission politics

Issues like RV parking, transportation, jobs, traffic and housing may billboard the need for regional cooperation, but a shared frustration with the California Coastal Commission’s interference with local governance may be the issue that actually brings the words “regional cooperation” out of the realm of rhetoric and into action.

Ignited by Councilman and commission member Gregg Hart’s passionate testimony about the way the coastal commission disrespects the desires of local governments, on Veteran’s Day the Santa Barbara City Council voted 4-3 to withdraw a Local Coastal Plan Amendment application that had been many years in the making.

“We have a responsibility to step up and respond to this,” said Hart. Describing the commission’s mandated zoning restrictions — which would have a rigid mixed-use proportion of 30 percent commercial for any residential development on parcels 5,000 square feet or greater (90 percent of the Funk Zone) — as a “political power play,” Hart cited the commission’s recent rejection of Santa Barbara County’s plan for Toro Canyon as yet another example of the state imposing its opinion while ignoring years of community work.

“This is a great chance for us to do something positive for the entire state of California,” said Hart, as he urged the Council to organize its colleagues in the state around the issue of the commission overstepping its boundaries.

Councilmembers Iya Falcone, Roger Horton and Mayor Marty Blum voted in favor of the commission plan, while Councilmembers Dan Secord, Rusty Fairly and Babatunde Folayemi supported Hart’s position.

Interestingly, while she said she didn’t like the mandate at all, Councilwoman-elect Helene Schneider said she would have voted with the minority on this issue. Since Councilmembers Hart, Fairly and Folayemi are leaving in January, this means the vote would have gone the other way if it had been delayed two more months.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

WEV: Women get professional guidance

Weaving entrepreneurial passion, the desire to build wealth, and feminine energy with the nuts and bolts of business planning and development, Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) has quickly made a name for itself as the go-to organization for aspiring business owners who want to find success on their own terms.

“Like (in) that movie, The Sixth Sense, ‘I see dead people.’ I see WEV graduates everywhere,” said Barbara Lanz-Mateo, publisher/editor of Coastal Woman Magazine and herself a WEV graduate. “People have no idea how big of an impact it’s had on this community,” said Lanz-Mateo, who returns each session as a guest speaker — along with the South Coast Beacon’s own Andrea Estrada and public relations firm owner Mo McFadden — to offer expertise on P.R., marketing and media relations to WEV’s 14-week Self-Employment Training (SET) class.

“WEV began providing economic development programs to women in Santa Barbara in 1987,” said Director of Training and Client Services Marie Spaulding. In 1991, WEV established its SET program and micro-loan programs and in 1997 added a career development program. Today WEV provides services throughout Santa Barbara County and licenses its training curriculum to organizations throughout the nation.

In the last three years WEV has served more than 933 clients, in the areas of business consulting, loan consulting and SET classes, said Spaulding. WEV is growing rapidly. “For 2003 we’re projecting, 1,688 (clients served),” she said.

Among the many satisfied WEV clients is Suzy Godsey, owner of The Happy Dog, a dog walking and pet sitting service. “Without the class training I wouldn’t have been able to have a successful business,” said Godsey, who took the class a year ago and still meets weekly with her former classmates in a “Mastermind” peer accountability group. “We’re really focused,” said Godsey about the four-person group. Everybody really puts a lot of energy and effort into it, she said.

At the first class, Victoria Starr, owner of Indoor Environmental Technologies, recalls Spaulding saying, “It’s not what you’re going to learn here, it’s who you’re going to meet.” Indeed, of the dozens of women interviewed for this article, most seemed to echo Starr’s sentiments about the value of WEV.

“We are a referral society. Success comes from people helping people. Yes, we learned … experts come in on just about every topic we can think of. Those are skills that we can learn anywhere. However the bonding and the friendships that you make, those endure. Those people have opened more doors for me in this community than anything else,” said Starr, whose business specializes in commercial and residential air purifiers. “…Certainly what boosted me and gave me confidence was the way WEV alumni and my own class graduates encouraged me and got me started.”

WEV Class of 2003

“I like to think of our trainers as tour guides,” said WEV Director of Training and Client Services Marie Spaulding, as she conducted the orientation meeting for the class of Fall 2003. “We can show you the doors, but it’s up to you to … knock on doors that you’ve never even looked at before, and make phone calls that you’ve always been afraid to make. You have to ask people for help that you maybe wouldn’t have asked for yesterday. You really have to get out there and do the work yourself.”

Here are some of the 50 women out there making it happen for themselves during this Self Employment Training (SET) Session.

Barbara Bartolome started Santa Barbara Scrapbooks just a few months before enrolling in the WEV training. While she doesn’t feel she made any fatal new business mistakes, the WEV classes offer “so much more insight into how to do things an easier way,” she said. “I love the connection with all the people,” said Bartolome, whose scrapbooking business grew out of her loves of photography and genealogy. “People not only connect across generations, but they also connect across every other line that could be drawn,” she said regarding the fast–growing scrapbook craft.

“I feel like a big sister to some of the other people in class. I have a lot to add to the class (having started my business already). Everything (the instructor) said is really right on,” said Bartolome.

Another WEV classmate with experience launching a business is Monica Bulger, who in partnership with her husband, Tosh, in January launched Memorypost.com, an Internet service to celebrate life events. Bulger, a former academic, said she has found the reading assignments very helpful, along with gaining a better understanding of her target market. “We now realize that it is a family-centered website” as a result of taking the WEV class, she said. “I’ve really learned a lot about customer needs.”

“Ken Warfield at Santa Barbara Library is absolutely incredible,” said Bulger about one of the classes’ many field trips. He gave a fabulous presentation then set up another meeting and spent an hour with us. His ideas were just incredible, said Bulger.

“I’d say the thing that I’m most struck with is the easy encouragement and energy and everybody wants to help. It feels great to share this experience with a group of women. It makes you feel like a success even if you don’t end up starting a business,” said Natalie Castaneda, who is pursuing a business importing women’s clothing and jewelry in partnership with her best friend, Krista Caballero. “The emphasis is on indigenous women, whatever their craft is, the emphasis is on woman to woman,” said Castaneda.

“It’s hard not to feel enthusiastic. I know at different times I felt discouraged it felt like everyone could relate, it would be pretty hard to stay in a negative attitude while in the class,” said Castaneda, who graduated from college a year ago.

“They don’t teach you about business in art school, said home portrait artist Sarah Dwyer, who praised the nuts and bolts nature of the WEV course. In a sentiment echoed by several of her classmates, Dwyer said that college-level art courses really don’t tell you anything about the practical realities of making a living. “If you’re selling, that’s commerce. It’s not like it’s crass. That’s something that’s changed in me,” said Dwyer, who plans to market her original oil paintings of homes and gardens to real estate agents (“a unique closing gift”) to begin with.

“(The class is) getting me focused and realizing you have to concentrate on one thing at a time,” said Dwyer. “If I could have seen myself 10 years ago would never have believed it.” I’m starting to time myself. I clock in and out when working on multiple pieces. “(I see the class) as part of growing up, being mature,” she said.

Creating a business that will allow them flexibility with their kids is a big part of the motivation for Elan Firpo and Dawn Carlson, partners in the burgeoning Doggy Duty pet waste removal service. Initially inspired by a magazine article about unusual jobs, taking the WEV class has helped the partners to focus their business direction. “We thought we’d make it a co-op, a non-profit at first,” said Firpo. “Now we’re getting a more solid plan, looking at how to do it,” added Carlson.

The class has also helped the women refine the target audience for Doggy Duty. Market research showed that the service would appeal to average income families. “They don’t want to argue over who cleans up,” said Carlson. She also commented on having better control of her finances as a result of the WEV class, an observation echoed by many of her classmates. “I just wish I’d done it years ago,” said Firpo.

Ceramic artist C.J. Jilek is actually doing the WEV homework (estimated to be about 10 hours per week) twice — once as an artist and once as a studio owner. A former instructor and head of ceramics for the Ridley Tree Education Center, which lost funding from the Museum of Art earlier this year, Jilek sees a business opportunity for a community-based studio. “Our community has a lot of programs for clay (UCSB, SBCC, Recreation Department) … but what happens is that there’s so much equipment required and no transition place to move to,” said Jilek, who currently travels to Chico to finish her wood-fired vessels.

“I think it’s a fabulous program. I think it services all levels,” said Jilek, who is still undecided about whether to pursue her own art or the studio. (Part of the class experience) is that I can see the vision, she said. “If I do the studio I will be doing very little of my own work.”

“ARTtalk — Travel to New Places of Understanding” is the business being developed by Joy Kunz, who will complete her PhD in art history in December. Kunz plans to offer a menu of services, with a base in art history. “I want to be the consultant that meets with them to say ‘you have three days in Paris and your husband or wife isn’t a big art person or you have the kids along, and their interests are x, y and Z, so let’s see how you can make really efficient use of two hours in the Louvre,'” said Kunz.

Another component to ARTtalk will be Kunz’s services as personal art coach, where she would spend a few hours getting clients up-to-speed on the visual art world. “A lot of times they’re personal or business opportunities to be had if a person looks like they’re conversant on the major issues,” said Kunz, who also plans to offer thematic seminars.

“I think WEV is great because at the beginning you just feel all these individuals who have cooked up something in a very isolated way come together and then WEV is completely practical. …I know I’m a humanities person so I always was comfortable with saying ‘I don’t have a head for business’ or ‘I’m not great with numbers,’ but I’m seeing that’s a cop out and that’s just standing right on the path to failure, because you have to have to have both,” said Kunz.

“In a nutshell, Moonjata is about providing tools for healing. And that’s from healing and jewelry gemstones to retreats,” said Lisa Lemley of the business she is incubating through WEV. “The class really just helped me realize that I don’t really know that much about marketing. … That’s a big part of the business. It’s also pushing me to take the steps that I need to take for the business. … It’s really fun to talk to all the people about their businesses, and get excited about some stupid little step,” said Lemley.

“It’s nice to have that group setting. We get to congratulate each other on little accomplishments,” said Lemley, who has been primarily vending her jewelry at festivals to date. “In a year I’ll be moving into more of the retreat aspects of it.”

Julie Smith’s business, Swim with Phyn, offers swimming lessons, primarily to “learn-to-swim-age children.” A former UCSB water polo player, Smith has been in aquatics for years, but only recently returned to Santa Barbara. “I am loving the class,” said Smith. “It’s so nice to be in an environment where you’re surrounding by strong, freethinking women who all are kind of on the same wavelength as you are. Most people are not entrepreneurial by nature and so when you come into a group where everyone is thinking along the same lines as you are, most people are doing it because they have goals for themselves. They want to be home with their kids or they don’t’ want to be tied down for some reason. I’ve found it so incredible. … You come up with different things that you never would have thought of.”

Small business consultant Maida Smith, who specializes in QuickBooks consulting and recruiting, hiring and training bookkeepers, described her business as a “moving beast that keeps changing.” Among the things that WEV has helped her with are the “idea of formulating your business in terms of your pricing. Looking at your personal needs in your life and going back from there. … It gives you tangible goals to work toward.”

Like most of her classmates, Smith praised the program. “I think it’s just an incredibly wonderful offering for women in the community. My two sons, I would love to see them be a part of something like this.”

Christobel Zamor has been the proprietor of Circus Hoops for the past year. She makes handcrafted, oversized Hula Hoops, teaches hoop dance fitness classes, does performance art with them, and teaches children. The business has been hugely successful, said Zamor, “But it’s been growing so fast that I found that I lacked certain fundamentals for running a business.” She said WEV has dramatically changed her business by providing an amazing support group and holding her accountable to her own goal setting.

Zamor’s overall assessment of WEV: “I think it’s outstanding. I can’t imagine going into business without it at this point. I feel like if all women had this kind of training in high school that the world would be a radically different place.”

Mandatory orientations for the next SET training will start around the second week of January, said Spaulding. Interested people should check the WEV website (www.wevonline.org) or call 965.6073 for more information. The next session will start in Mid-February.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Schneider, Williams, Barnwell Victorious

While the demographics of Santa Barbara may be polarizing into wealthy retirees and the low-wage people who serve them, the Santa Barbara City Council got a strong dose of Generation X with Tuesday night’s election of Helene Schneider, 32, and Das Williams, 29. Joining them on the council in January will be the more seasoned Brian Barnwell.

“You need a new generation every once in a while,” said Mayor Marty Blum, who endorsed Schneider and Barnwell, along with incumbent Babatunde Folayemi, who came in fourth place in the race for three seats, trailing third-place Barnwell by 857 votes in the semi-official results.

The top vote getter with 7,452, Schneider was considered the favorite with endorsements from political insiders, the police and firefighter unions, liberal groups and environmentalists. “This has really been a very positive campaign,” said Schneider, who praised the diversity of the new council and emphasized wanting to dialogue with residents as “the city is poised to set a vision for the next 10-15 years.”

Top fundraiser Williams came in second with 7,056 votes. “I am pleasantly, happily surprised,” said Williams, who had been criticized by some for his youth and idealistic vision. Unlike the other winners, Williams did not receive the police and firefighter unions’ support, previously thought to be a key to victory.

“We were impacted a bit on how we could carry our message,” said Pat MacElroy of the Santa Barbara City Firefighters for Better Government. Usually every person’s out in the precinct campaigning, so it was a lot more difficult to do last week. “We’ve had some significant staffing cutbacks, so we just don’t have as many people as we did the past couple of years. And also we have been covering for the fires, so we’ve had some people down south. … We feel like our message still got out there,” said MacElroy of the union’s PAC, which supported Schneider, Barnwell and Michael Magne, who came in sixth place in the race behind Scott Burns.

Mayor Blum said she hopes to recruit some of the election’s losers to serve on city boards and commissions. “I lost my first election,” she said. “I would hope that they would consider trying again.”

Folayemi vowed to continue to fight the good fight on behalf of the youth and under-represented in the community. “This is not the first time I’ve lost a battle,” he said at his not-quite-a-victory-party at Pascucci. “But I don’t ever lose wars.”

Unlike the other top candidates who came to Election Central to view the results, Barnwell entertained supporters all evening at the Paradise Cafe. “I knew that whatever the results would be, my being there wouldn’t influence them,” he said. “Plus, I didn’t want to leave the people who have supported me.” Even when his victory was clear, Barnwell was sociably introducing himself to patrons at the bar and encouraging them to call him at his office with their concerns.

Originally published in the South Coast Beacon on November 6, 2003.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon