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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 9:36 am | Fair 51º


Santa Barbara Council, Mayoral Candidates Face Off in Forum

Discussions about housing and the budget dominate the event, sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Action Network

Santa Barbara mayoral and City Council candidates discussed issues facing the city now and in the near future during a forum Wednesday night.

The event was sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Action Network’s Action Fund. The interconnected “HOT principles” — housing, open space and transportation — and the city budget dominated the evening’s discussion.

The 10 attending candidates, seeking SB CAN’s endorsement, represented a wide range of experience in government, campaign strategies and positions on specific issues.

Issues relating to affordable housing were brought up by citizens and mayoral candidates Steve Cushman, Iya Falcone and Helene Schneider.

“Let’s be realistic — Santa Barbara doesn’t want any more housing,” Cushman said. It’s all about transportation and getting people of all incomes to their jobs, he said. He sees rebuilding the local economy as a primary goal, and recognized the impact of tourism and UCSB.

Falcone and Schneider addressed the issue of large units, and those who make too much money to qualify for low-income housing but can’t afford market housing.

All three support the Living Wage Ordinance, and said they don’t see rent control as something that is necessary or discussed much for Santa Barbara.

None of the mayoral candidates participating in Wednesday’s forum openly supported Measure B, the height-limit initiative, but said they most likely would support the will of the voters. Cushman opposed planning by government referendum on principle. Falcone said the initiative should have taken more than height into account, and Schneider said she wouldn’t take a public position on the matter.

“I think it’s much more of a complex issue than height,” Falcone said, mentioning that setbacks, open space and the breadth of a building all contribute to the concern of over-development.

The candidates’ experience with community involvement and government was discussed in statements and questions from the audience.

Santa Barbara mayoral candidates Iya Falcone and Steve Cushman listen to mayoral candidate Helene Schneider during Wednesday's forum
Santa Barbara mayoral candidates Iya Falcone, left, and Steve Cushman listen to mayoral candidate Helene Schneider during Wednesday’s forum. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Schneider, one of the younger members of the City Council, was asked if her age was a disadvantage. “President Barack Obama is 48 — I think I’m OK running for mayor at 38,” she said.

Seven City Council candidates were in attendance Wednesday, filling the table at the front of the room from end to end, with Lane Anderson spilling over onto the side.

Some audience members left after the mayoral candidates spoke, but council candidate David Pritchett reminded those who stayed that City Council members get one vote, as does the mayor.

With three seats up for grabs in November, Grant House is the only incumbent in the race. If one of the current council members is elected mayor, his or her seat would be filled by the candidate who finishes in fourth place in the race.

Council candidates showed more range in experience and opinions, especially on city planning, budget ideas, campaign funding and homelessness.

During a discussion about the 25,000 commuters into Santa Barbara each day, candidates generally agreed that more affordable housing and better transportation options — including regional transit, commuter rail and carpool lanes — are key ways to address the issue.

Anderson is not accepting campaign funding from anyone, but all of the other candidates saw the need to have funding to get their message out. Campaign funding statements showed vast differences in the size of contributions, from less than $100 to $20,000.

Other council candidates who participated in the forum were John Thyne, Harwood White, Cathie McCammon and Dianne Channing.

SB CAN members voted to endorse candidates from both races and will present their recommendations to the organization’s board.

Another forum is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort, hosted by the South Coast Communities Coalition.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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