Six candidates in the race for Santa Barbara City Council talked about affordable housing, transportation and government representation on Thursday night at their first forum for the Nov. 5 election.
El Grito Politico was sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Latino Democrats, the CAUSE Action Fund, La Casa De la Raza, The Fund for Santa Barbara, the United Domestic Workers Union Local 3930 and the Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Megan Diaz Alley, Cruzito Herrera Cruz, Gregg Hart, Matthew Kramer, David Landecker and Jason Nelson all attended, but the other four candidates — Frank Hotchkiss, Michael Jordan, Bendy White and Lesley Wiscomb — cited previous engagements, according to LatiDems vice president Olivia Uribe.
The candidates at the forum agreed that the city needs more affordable housing, but had different views on what to do about the issue.
Kramer suggested annexing more land into the city limits to get more tax dollars and space to build, while others encouraged denser rental units.
Nelson said it was unrealistic to think about building up within existing resources, particularly water.
Moderators Uribe and LatiDems president Yesenia De Casaus asked questions submitted by all of the co-sponsors. When asked if they would support pulling the proposed gang injunction out of the Superior Court process, nearly all of them said yes.
The injunction would target 30 named individuals who allegedly have ties to the Eastside and Westside gangs and was filed by City Attorney Steve Wiley and the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.
Council candidates said they are concerned with the amount of money and effort spent on the injunction without any public meetings to gauge community support.
The City Council held a public meeting in May but hadn’t discussed the issue since the civil lawsuit was filed in March 2011. Councilman Grant House — whose term is up this year — brought up and supported the idea of having the council dismiss the civil case outright.
Moderators also asked about district-based elections, and many of the candidates supported a hybrid version that would have district and at-large spots on the City Council.
Cruz has pushed for district elections, for greater Latino representation in city government, since his 2009 campaign. Alley, Kramer and Landecker were also supportive of the idea, while Nelson and Hart said the city is small enough to work together.
Running for local office has also gotten “extraordinarily expensive,” Hart noted. White had raised the most of these candidates as of the July 31 reporting date, with $40,660, and the mayoral race has much more money, with Mayor Helene Schneider raising $91,164 for her re-election bid.
The only issue with real disagreement Thursday night was economic development and the city’s role in helping small businesses. While all agreed that affordable housing and transportation were the way to keep a work force, candidates had very different ideas on how to actually stimulate that business.
Kramer said businesses desperately need the help and suggested city-funded programs such as subsidies to train new employees, while Landecker said government needs to stay out of the way of small businesses.
Alley suggested something in-between, with the city helping entrepreneurs find tax breaks and nonprofits that give business advice.
The Nov. 5 election is vote-by-mail and will have four drop-off locations for ballots, according to the City Clerk's Office.