Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 8:26 am | Fog/Mist 58º


Many Residents Left Out of Capps’ Health-Care Forum

People are turned away as the Santa Barbara church quickly fills to capacity

Hundreds of people showed up Wednesday at First United Methodist Church in Santa Barbara for a health-care information session hosted by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara — and they didn’t get in.

Click here for the health-care forum story.

Those who arrived much later than 4:30 or 5 p.m. for the 6 o’clock forum had no chance of getting a seat in the 210-capacity church. People were turned away shortly after 5:30 p.m. and were angry. By the time people were let in to the church on the corner of Anapamu and Garden streets, the line stretched to Laguna Street, a block away, and continued around the corner.

Many in the line confronted Capps’ staff, who said they were out of tickets but added that the session would be available later on Capps’ Web site. The “unhappy people in line” — some of whom signed a piece of paper titled just that — stuck around afterward, talking in groups about their frustration with the venue choice.

Many people said they were suspicious of the motives behind the venue.

“How many people did she think would show up?” asked Mark Sanford, who works only a few doors down from the church.

The choice of a church irked him. “She knows damn well that God-fearing people won’t raise their voices,” he said.

For many, there wasn’t time to get off work, find parking and make it into the line before the cutoff — which turned out to be before 5 p.m.

Some people were from out of the area — one couple drove in from Santa Ynez — and couldn’t make it in time.

While there were people who expressed suspicion about the attendance being “stacked” so Capps had more supporters, there were people on both sides stuck outside when the session began.

All three of Capps’ forums this week will be held in churches with a capacity of 250 or fewer. Although the Santa Barbara church’s sanctuary can accommodate up to 500 people, according to the church’s wedding brochure, some of those in line said the session was held in the social hall, which is smaller.

Andrea Hoffman, an intern with Capps’ office, said the line was based on the honor system and that signs were not allowed inside the church. There was a sign check-in area, but many people got around the rule by wearing shirts with slogans printed or drawn on them.

Many of those left outside said they wanted to encourage Capps to hold an information session in one of Santa Barbara’s larger venues, such as SBCC.

The first person in line was E.J. Borah. The six-year Santa Barbara resident staked out her place in line at 2 p.m., and she said it was at least an hour before many more joined her. “I’m a real supporter of Lois,” she said.

There were several public officials and candidates in line, including Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf and Assembly candidate Susan Jordan.

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

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