Personal Stories

Ernie to the Rescue: Patti Putnam

A well-known and much loved local photographer, Scott Price, had received notice that he was being expelled from Santa Barbara’s sidewalk arts and craft show. Scott’s sole means of being able to pay his rent and buy groceries had been from the sale of his prints at this once a week Sunday show.

Santa Barbara’s Arts and Recreation Department has a standing rule that once expelled, for any reason, the offender may never be reinstated. The city inspector declared that Scott must have third-party help in order for him to operate his 48-inch wide printer, which violated the Rule that to be allowed to have a spot at the show, the artist himself must do all the work from beginning to end from the capturing of the image to the final selection, production and mounting of the print. The determination that Scott had violated this Rule was based solely on a surprise inspection of Scott’s printing facility, a corner of his garage, followed by his rejection of Scott’s offer to demonstrate how, in spite of his handicap, he could singularly, without assistance, carry out the production process.

Scott is virtually blind. He has lost 100% of his vision in one eye and 75% of his vision in the other. It is truly a wonder that this man even can live on his own and drive a vehicle in the daytime – let alone operate his own business in order to make his own independent living… a small miracle. And now his last vestige of independence and self-pride had been taken away.

Scott had all but given up. How does one virtually helpless and unsophisticated small-fry individual overturn a “guilty verdict” already rendered by the City of Santa Barbara? Scott’s so-called crime was that it would’ve been impossible for someone in his condition to be able to operate this huge printer solely by himself and even if he somehow could, it would be equally impossible for him to make visual selections as would be necessary in order to know which photo deserved actual printing. (It is the final printing process which is the expensive part). The City’s representative concluded that Scott must be lying - without any actual evidence.

Ernie Brooks, partially blind himself, caught wind of this situation and decided to investigate himself. He familiarized himself with the City’s rules, met with Scott Price and others, and then made the decision to join in the effort to restore Scott's right to sell at the art walk. A special hearing on Scott’s case had been scheduled. To overturn the guilty verdict would take something and someone very special. Ernie Brooks carefully educated the Commission on what he himself does to accomplish his work. He shared how, based on his own investigation, he was convinced that Scott Price had not violated the City’s rule at all. Ernie Brooks’ personal integrity and credibility ultimately convinced the Commission to overturn the City Inspector’s recommendation. The case closed.

Scott Price soon resumed offering his photographic treasures at the arts and craft show. If you ever see the incomparable print of seven dolphins surfing a wave, think of Scott Price and Ernie Brooks.

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