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Council Candidate Bonnie Raisin a Self-Described Fiscal Conservative

The native Santa Barbaran also favors redistricting but opposes the city's building-height initiative

City Council candidate Bonnie Raisin has always been close to Santa Barbara politics, and doesn’t have to look much further than her own family tree. A native Santa Barbaran, Raisin said her grandfather, William Preston Butcher, was Santa Barbara’s first city attorney, and in 1916, helped author and publish the city’s first book of ordinances.

Even further back, Raisin attributes her desire to be politically involved to her great-great-grandfather, who was a circuit rider up and down the coast of California.

Bonnie Raisin
Bonnie Raisin

“He was a pioneer,” she said. “He handed that spirit down to me. I have it in my blood.”

Raisin ran for a council seat in 1996 unsuccessfully, and she said she decided to get involved after leaving her job at Casa Esperanza earlier this year. “I thought and thought and thought about how to be of maximum service to Santa Barbara,” she said. “I cannot imagine a greater service than giving back to my place of birth.”

A self-described fiscal conservative, Raisin said she would like to see the city’s reserves replenished and be untouched. She also said she’d like to see individual city departments report to the city manager on a monthly basis, and the manager’s role expanded.

“Are they going to buy five new vehicles for the motor pool? And what is this going to cost? By doing it monthly, it wouldn’t be so difficult to understand in June when they do their annual budget reporting,” she said.

“When I talk to people on the street, it makes sense to them,” she said of monthly budget checkups.

Raisin also is a vocal proponent of redistricting for city elections, allowing six or seven distinct neighborhoods to elect their own representative on the dais. In addition to reducing campaign costs, Raisin said redistricting would force members of the council to be accountable to their own neighborhoods, as well as garnering representatives from neighborhoods not typically represented well, such as the lower east and west sides.

“I think they feel disenfranchised,” she said.

Raisin said that natives, or anyone else who has lived in Santa Barbara for any length of time, feels out of the loop of city governance. “I met with a woman who lives up in Samarkand, and she can remember when we had districts,” she said. “She could pick up the phone and talk to her council person, simple as that.”

If redistricting doesn’t get enough popular support to go forward, Raisin said she would like to see monthly meetings in each neighborhood by two councilmembers. The members would rotate, and listen to each neighborhood voice concerns in an open forum. Raisin said that would create more accountability among the council.

As for the November ballot item proposing a limit to building heights, Raisin said limiting heights is an “outsider’s response.”

“This is what happens when people retire or come from sprawling metropolitan areas like Orange County, and they want to capsulate Santa Barbara, just the way it is,” she said.

Raisin was a real estate agent for more than 22 years, and she said she’s against November’s height initiative, primarily because she doesn’t approve of “ballot box planning.”

“I understand the value of zoning ordinances and the review process for final approval,” she said. “I don’t think the height initiative is a good idea.”

Builders have enough oversight as it is, she said, and “we don’t need another ordinance of that nature, particularly by referendum. ... Do we have a right to further prohibit anything that will provide housing?”

Raisin remembered when most people lived in town and worked at locally owned businesses, but a culture of commuting began in the 1970s. “The tighter the restrictions on commercial development, the more rents are going to go up,” she said. “And high rents are going to keep people out.”

She’s also a trained alcohol and drug counselor, and she said she wished the city had its own Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services Department, separate from the county.

“Substance abuse is one of the most pressing issues surrounding the youth of our time,” she said. “It promotes violence.”

She called homelessness an “epidemic,” and said more detox beds were needed for many of those people. She also said she would like to see neighboring communities, such as Goleta and Carpinteria, help shoulder some of that burden.

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

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