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2009 Mayoral Q&A with Isaac Garrett
NOOZHAWK: What experiences from your professional or personal life make you uniquely qualified to be mayor of Santa Barbara?
ISAAC GARRETT: I have volunteered to serve this community for more than 40 years, working with civic and nonprofit organizations. I have served on several city, Santa Barbara County and Santa Barbara School District committees and commissions. I served one year on the county Civil Grand Jury. Before serving six years as president of the NAACP Santa Barbara chapter, I served three years as housing chairman, three years as education chairman and three years as legal redress dhairman. During that time, I gained invaluable experience and insight as to the makeup of this city. As a real estate professional, I have had the opportunity to work for, and oppose legislation at all levels of government to protect property owners’ rights. All of the services provided above were without pay. I am a professionally trained negotiator, mediator and arbitrator.
NOOZHAWK: With all of the city’s fiscal challenges, why are you running now?
IG: The current mayor and a majority of the City Council are out of touch with the average citizen. They have mismanaged the city’s resources and allowed an increase in gang and panhandling activity. We need a mayor who will address all of the city’s problems effectively. I am that person.
NOOZHAWK: What three steps would you take first to resolve Santa Barbara’s financial crisis?
IG: 1. Freeze all hiring to fill current vacancies unless absolutely essential.
2. Ask each department head to justify the number of employees in their department to see if we could possibly reduce the number of employees.
3. Re-examine the current contracts we have with private vendors to make sure we are not being overcharged and we are getting what we are paying for.
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?
IG: I would not make additional cuts to the police and fire departments.
NOOZHAWK: Would you support increasing or adding new municipal taxes as a revenue source?
IG: No, I would not support an increase in any tax or add any new tax as long as we have a spendthrift mayor and council. That is one reason why we need to return to district elections, to be able to hold our council members accountable.
NOOZHAWK: Why do you support or oppose Measure B, the ballot measure that would restrict downtown building heights to 40 feet?
IG: I am opposed to Measure B. The measure will definitely have unintended consequences and we will not know what they are until they happen. To correct or fix the problem, we will need another vote of the people. Also, I do not believe in legislation by initiatives. We elect representatives to pass laws to represent us. If they would do what we elected them to do, there would be no need for initiatives for the voters to decide on.
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?
IG: It depends upon how the General Plan is implemented. Unless we change directions, in 30 years Santa Barbara will not be the paradise as we know it today.
NOOZHAWK: Santa Barbara’s 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?
IG: Yes, city planners should think regionally when making policy decisions. I rate the city as fair.
NOOZHAWK: If elected, what is the one issue on which you would focus to improve Santa Barbara’s quality of life?
IG: I would focus on a clean and safe environment for the entire city, not just specific areas.
NOOZHAWK: What is Santa Barbara’s most neglected neighborhood?
IG: From a safety standpoint, the Lower Eastside and Lower Westside.
NOOZHAWK: How would you control aggressive panhandling?
IG: I would work to establish two programs. 1) To educate the general public on the negative impact their contributions have on the community when they give money to the panhandlers, and them to refrain from giving. 2) I would work to establish a work program for those who are in need and would work to support their needs. If people stop giving, and they would not work, this will not be a very attractive place to be.
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?
IG: Too many dispensaries are not in the best interest of the public. The dispensaries should be strategically located throughout the city and not all in one geographical area.
NOOZHAWK: In the last year, two catastrophic wildfires have devastated foothill neighborhoods. Are stricter building codes needed or should development even be restricted in brush areas?
IG: Stricter building codes are not the answer to prevent catastrophic fire in the foothills. Fire-retardant building materials, such as roofs and exterior siding, would help. There is also fire-retardant landscaping. Homeowners can contact their insurance company or the fire department in their area. They will give them tips on how to safeguard their home as much as possible.
NOOZHAWK: A grocery clerk asks you, “Paper or plastic?” You say:
IG: I say plastic, when I don’t carry my own bag.
NOOZHAWK: When’s the last time you rode public transportation?
IG: One year ago. The public transportation is not conducive to my work schedule.
NOOZHAWK: What Santa Barbara historical figure do you admire most, and why?
IG: Mr. Richard Thomas, former city administrator. During my six years as president of the NAACP, we worked with Thomas on many problems to find solutions. In most cases it worked out to be a win-win for all parties. After working through several problems with Thomas, we came to know him as a man of the highest integrity, honest and who was not afraid to do the right thing. He never tried to cover up or make excuses for anyone as some authorities do. He dealt with a problem head-on.
NOOZHAWK: What is Santa Barbara’s most precious asset?
IG: The residences of Santa Barbara.
NOOZHAWK: What’s your favorite street?
IG: I don’t have a favorite street. If I had to choose one, I would choose the street I live on.
NOOZHAWK: Health care is all over the news these days. What do you do to stay fit?
IG: I try to eat well-balanced meals and exercise my body and mind.
NOOZHAWK: Gaveling a City Council meeting to order or to adjournment is boring. Would you use a hawk scream, sponsored by Noozhawk, instead?
IG: Only if there were benefits to the City Council, staff and the general public.
Click here for Isaac Garrett’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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