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2009 Council Election Q&A with John Thyne
NOOZHAWK: What experiences from your professional or personal life make you uniquely qualified to be a Santa Barbara City Council member?
JOHN THYNE: Leadership experience is essential for effective service on the City Council. My life has afforded me many opportunities to gain such important experience, including my current service as CEO of three corporations — Goodwin & Thyne Properties Inc., In House Insurance Services Inc. and GTWWM Inc. (Goodwin, Thyne, Weaver Wealth Managers) — as well as being the sole practitioner of a growing law firm. In each role I am called upon to manage budgets, recruit and retain high-quality personnel, make important organizational decisions and manage day-to-day operations.
In addition to my business experience, I have a great deal of community service experience, including currently serving as president of the Santa Barbara County Bar Foundation, currently serving as a trustees of the Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law, volunteering for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, serving as past president of the California Applicant Attorneys’ Association, past president of Leadership Santa Barbara County, creating and founding programs such as GAAP (Greater Access to Assistance for People) that secured affordable legal representation for those who did not qualify for legal aid and SOAR (Students Organized Against Racism), as well as working as a volunteer for victims of domestic violence and serving as a former rape counselor.
Perhaps the most important experience of my life that makes me uniquely qualified to serve on the City Council is the one that began when I was 13 months old and continues today: that of Oldest Brother. I am the oldest of six well-adjusted, very close brothers and sisters and, throughout my life, I have dedicated myself to the best interests of my younger siblings. That is the way in which I would approach my job as a council member.
NOOZHAWK: With all of the city’s fiscal challenges, why are you running now?
JT: It is exactly because of the city’s fiscal challenges that I am answering the call to serve on the City Council. A few friends and I were discussing a suspect decision the council made (spending budget reserves to increase government employees’ salaries in a time of declining revenues) when I protested that only those willing to make the sacrifice of public service could legitimately complain about such things. Shortly thereafter, those friends asked me to step up and serve. Because I believe public service is a civic duty and because my particular skills set would be most helpful in these difficult financial times, I agreed to put myself “out there” and make the personal sacrifice implicated by service on the council.
NOOZHAWK: What three steps would you take first to resolve Santa Barbara’s financial crisis?
JT: First, I would ensure that Santa Barbara gets involved in the California Public Utilities Commission’s recently announced program to develop a statewide electric-vehicle charging station infrastructure by positioning ourselves as a leader in this burgeoning industry. Next, I would facilitate, to the extent possible, development of the Las Entradas project, provided it is in substantial conformity with the approved project that also provides additional parking for the downtown area as well as reinvigoration of the downtown area in a manner that is more friendly to citizens and tourists alike. Finally, I would work with others on the council to restructure the operating budgets of the various departments in comparison to the services they deliver and with reference to other cities our size while reviewing recent increases in those budgets.
NOOZHAWK: Public safety accounts for more than 50 percent of the city’s operating budget. With more spending cuts likely, how much would you trim from fire and police services?
JT: While it is true that police- and fire-related spending accounts for approximately 52 percent of the city’s operating budget, when including the city’s enterprise funds and capital accounts, the money spent on these public-safety organizations is closer to 25 percent of the city’s overall budget (not considering the fact that other departments like the library and Parks & Recreation play significant roles in public safety). Current police force levels are not sufficient to address public-safety matters under their purview and these levels must be restored. Cancellation of programs like DARE and cuts to PAL are costing us much more through increased crime than the money previously dedicated to those efforts. Therefore, I would not anticipate trimming from fire and police services.
NOOZHAWK: Would you support increasing or adding new municipal taxes as a revenue source?
NOOZHAWK: Should any municipal services be privatized? If so, which ones?
JT: I would encourage privatization of those municipal services that do not include nondelegable duties of the government if their provision could be made more efficient without being more expensive to citizens or resulting in any diminution in quality. That said, we must be careful about making changes in services that have longstanding implications for Santa Barbara based upon the current financial landscape. Privatization must be efficient and appropriate in all economies before being seriously considered.
NOOZHAWK: Why do you support or oppose Measure B, the ballot measure that would restrict downtown building heights to 40 feet?
JT: I do not support a procedurally abusive process like amending the city charter with a planning restriction when there will be unintended consequences, including pushing development sprawl into neighborhoods and limiting our ability to preserve the character of Santa Barbara through architectural articulations. The real problem with the recent development of unsightly buildings in the downtown area has more to do with variances granted for reduction in parking requirements that resulted in bulky luxury condominiums rather than sensible downtown, affordable housing. I am uncomfortable with government dictating the use of private property at any height and believe the council can preserve Santa Barbara’s incredible charm through application of reasonable setback, design and landscaping requirements. Height is not the only issue that threatens the historic preservation of Santa Barbara; bulk is a significant part of the problem.
NOOZHAWK: Do you feel the direction of the General Plan update is consistent with your vision? What kind of city will Santa Barbara be in 30 years?
JT: The current General Plan update is not yet complete but the direction in which it is headed is relatively consistent with my vision. Santa Barbara, over the past 60 years, has grown at an average of 1 percent per year (doubling of the population every 72 years) which is appropriate if we can preserve or increase our water services through conservation, desalination and/or evolving technology. I support incentives for environmentally friendly development, including solar and wind power, and am interested in solving regional transportation challenges through public (commuter rail) and private programs (HOV lanes). The reduction of commercial space to stay within the precepts of Measure E is appropriate.
NOOZHAWK: The General Plan update will have consequences for housing, transportation and other key issues in the region. Does the city have a responsibility to think regionally when it makes policy decisions? How would you rate the city’s record?
JT: The city definitely has a duty to think regionally and the city’s record is currently about a B. We do consider the effects of our General Plan on neighboring communities but there is always room for improvement.
NOOZHAWK: If elected, what is the one issue on which you would focus to improve Santa Barbara’s quality of life?
JT: Gangs. We need to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for gangs and take them away as an option for our children. Consideration of a gang injunction that has resulted in more than a 30 percent drop in youth violence in nearby cities — including Lompoc, Oxnard and Los Angeles — is warranted and would get us part of the way there. However, we must also rededicate ourselves to our children and provide them with positive alternatives to gangs. The budget is also incredibly important but will be resolved, in part, by an improving economy.
NOOZHAWK: What is Santa Barbara’s most neglected neighborhood?
JT: The Lower Riveria/East Side, where crime is rising and families are watching their neighborhoods lose their safe character.
NOOZHAWK: How would you control aggressive panhandling?
JT: Enforcement of the recent anti-aggressive panhandling ordinance would be a good start and so I have procured the cooperation of many downtown businesses and building owners to implement the “alternative giving campaign,” which was required as a condition precedent to implementation of the ordinance.
NOOZHAWK: Santa Barbara has a plethora of medical-marijuana dispensaries, relative to other tri-county cities of similar size, but has yet to reject a single application. Why? Is that in the public’s interest?
JT: Based on state and local law there are several legal nonconforming dispensaries in town. However, they do violate federal law. I have represented building owners, business owners and neighbors for and against these dispensaries. It is a complicated issue but wherever there is an increase in crime due to the operation of a dispensary, the dispensary’s owners must be held responsible and evicted. It is not in the public’s best interests to allow multiple applications granted for this use unless there are specific safety precautions observed and revenues are closely monitored.
NOOZHAWK: Even with two catastrophic wildfires within the city limits in the last year, the danger is hardly diminished. What can the city do differently to prepare for the next one?
JT: In addition to ongoing fuel-reduction strategies and enforcement of recent defensible space requirements, the city can ensure we do not allow “brown outs” of fire stations. While it would be wonderful for us to have a fire-retardant airplane and tanker at the Santa Barbara Airport, that may require approximately $40 million, which is the entirety of our current capital budget. We must continue to participate in the mutual-aid program and ensure our public is well informed throughout the fire-suppression efforts.
NOOZHAWK: A grocery clerk asks you, “Paper or plastic?” You say:
JT: “Neither” whenever practical or whenever I have my reusable bags with me (most of the time). Despite my personal commitment, I do not support a 15-cent bag tax to shoppers for plastic bags at local grocery stores. I am fundamentally opposed to coercing changes in behavior through “sin taxes” or other legislative takings.
NOOZHAWK: How often do you use alternative transportation?
JT: Very often. I carpool every day, ride the bus occasionally, and walk when practical. As mentioned above, I support our city becoming a leader in the development of a statewide electric-car recharging station infrastructure.
NOOZHAWK: What is Santa Barbara’s most precious asset?
JT: Her citizens. We have an incredibly creative, compassionate, hard-working and talented population here.
NOOZHAWK: What’s your favorite view?
JT: Moderate ... followed closely by the view from the top of the dell on the crest of Gilbraltar Road (you can see Lake Cachuma through the Santa Ynez Mountains and the ocean from Port Hueneme to Goleta) then Franceschi Park.
NOOZHAWK: Health care is all over the news these days. What do you do to stay fit?
JT: I am practically in perpetual motion, eat as well as I can, walk and generally work out at the Santa Barbara Athletic Club (though have not been in a few months).
NOOZHAWK: The Coast Village Road roundabout is slowly nearing completion, but the island inside it is missing something. Do you support our plan to erect a Noozhawk statue there?
JT: Certainly not, but a larger than life-size rendition of Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen is obviously the right choice. ;-) [Noozhawk’s note: Trust us, no one wants to see that!]
Click here for John Thyne’s campaign Web site
Click here for Noozhawk’s candidate interview
Larry Nimmer’s “Touring with the Candidates” video (www.nimmer.net)
Click here for SBCityVote.org’s candidate statement video
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