NOOZHAWK: What experiences from your professional or personal life make you uniquely qualified to be a Santa Barbara City Council member?
DIANNE CHANNING: I have been an involved community activist with a track record of accomplishments working with people to get things done. I chaired the View Ordinance Task Force to get an ordinance adopted by the city to help neighbors settle their conflict over views and vegetation. The ordinance was adopted in 2002. I also chaired the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance revision steering committee over a two-year period and 30 public meetings working with the staff and the public. The result was the new Single-Family Design Guidelines adopted in 2007. These guidelines prevent piecemeal development, prevent over-large homes from being built on small lots, prevent excessive grading of hillsides, and provide early noticing to neighbors of projects that impact them. I have worked for transportation funding with a coalition of community leaders and I continue to serve on the Rental Housing Roundtable to preserve rental housing and protect renters’ rights. I am a member of the Save El Pueblo Viejo steering committee and worked to get Measure B on the ballot to prevent the canyonization of our downtown. I’m a doer, not a talker and will continue to work for the betterment of our city. In addition, I have managehttp://www.noozhawk.com/noozhawkadmin/index.php?S=0&C=edit&M=edit_entry&weblog_id=2&entry_id=10130d my own business for more than 23 years. I can bring my business experience to City Hall.
NOOZHAWK: With all of the city’s fiscal challenges, why are you running now?
DC: I have been a small-business owner for 23 years through two economic downturns. The budget crisis will be resolved with careful cutting back of expenditures. However, one must take a long-range view of Santa Barbara and plan for slow managed growth, improved transportation, energy efficiency, gang prevention, wildland fire preparedness, and a vibrant business economy.
NOOZHAWK: What three steps would you take first to resolve Santa Barbara’s financial crisis?
DC: 1. We need to keep making government smaller. First, we do not fill vacant positions, except for the police force.
2. All the bargaining units need to come back to the table to negotiate salaries, furloughs and employee contributions to retirement funding. This is in their interest as a bankrupt city is not what they want.
3. We make sure that we keep Santa Barbara as a special place that tourists want to visit; the transient-occupancy tax is a significant part of the general fund.
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?
DC: I would not make cuts of public safety at this time. I would increase police bike patrols.
NOOZHAWK: Would you support increasing or adding new municipal taxes as a revenue source?
DC: No. There are not any new taxes that I believe the voters would pass and I would not further strain businesses that are struggling in this economy.
NOOZHAWK: Should any municipal services be privatized? If so, which ones?
DC: Privatization of services should always be considered if it could be demonstrated that it is in the interest of the city’s finances. However, there are often unintended consequences that must be considered, such as money leaving the local economy.
NOOZHAWK: Why do you support or oppose Measure B, the ballot measure that would restrict downtown building heights to 40 feet?
DC: I support and have been on the steering committee for Measure B because I believe our design boards and commissions need this tool to control out-of-scale development downtown. Keeping Santa Barbara’s unique character is in our interest financially since tourism is a large part of our economy.
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?
DC: The General Plan is still being formed, so I do not know what the final plan will be. I support keeping our small-town scale and identifying areas for affordable housing that are in scale with our community. I also believe we should live within our finite resources, the primary resource being water. I wholeheartedly approve of the adaptive management portion of the General Plan that allows us to gauge how we are doing in managing our finite resource.
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?
DC: I have been working on regional issues, particularly transportation and rental housing. Working regionally with other jurisdictions is essential and I have a track record of working with others to get things done. The city has a long way to go to resolve some of the regional issues of transportation and emergency preparedness. I would also like to see the city take an active role in preserving outlying agricultural resources and planning for sustainable energy sources, particularly solar.
NOOZHAWK: If elected, what is the one issue on which you would focus to improve Santa Barbara’s quality of life?
DC: I came to Santa Barbara from Orange County and I am committed to seeing that we do not have that kind of over-development. Traffic congestion, air quality and loss of our small-town feel are important quality of life issues.
NOOZHAWK: What is Santa Barbara’s most neglected neighborhood?
DC: I have been a staunch protector of neighborhoods and worked for two years and chaired a steering committee for 30 public meetings to revise the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance. There are still many needs for specific neighborhoods, such as the historic preservation of the Bungalow Haven District and the needs for parks and open space on the Westside.
NOOZHAWK: How would you control aggressive panhandling?
DC: Aggressive panhandling cannot be tolerated. I believe the recently adopted 12-point plan for State Street is a good start and I am anxious to see how it works. The plan calls for a new aggressive panhandling ordinance and the presence of a retired part time police officer. The plan includes “giving boxes” so that the compassion that motivates people to donate money to the homeless will go to things that benefit them instead of substance abuse. This plan was the result of all the stakeholders sitting down at the table, including the homeless advocates and the Downtown Organization. This type of consensus building is vital to solving our serious problems.
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?
DC: I believe we need to move forward with an ordinance that recognizes that voters asked for dispensaries and place a limit on the number that we approve.
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?
DC: As president of the Riviera Association, I was active in the drafting of the Wildland Fire Plan and the creation of the benefit assessment district for the high fire-hazard areas. The plan has succeeded with education and establishing evacuation routes, and we can be proud of the successful evacuation in the last two fires. However, we need to do a lot more work to create defensible space. I will continue to work with firefighters on this and I have their endorsement for this election.
NOOZHAWK: A grocery clerk asks you, “Paper or plastic?” You say:
DC: I brought my own bag, thank you.
NOOZHAWK: How often do you use alternative transportation?
DC: I have a bus pass and I use it about once a week.
NOOZHAWK: What is Santa Barbara’s most precious asset?
DC: Her unique character. This comes from her location, views, human scale, architecture and friendly people.
NOOZHAWK: What’s your favorite view?
DC: Stearns Wharf.
NOOZHAWK: Health care is all over the news these days. What do you do to stay fit?
DC: I have been a ballet dancer, and I still dance. I also workout at the gym, and I love to walk.
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?
DC: As long as Bud Bottoms designs it.
Click here for Dianne Channing’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