Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 1:55 am | Overcast 59º


13’s a Crowd at Council Candidate Forum

With all of the candidates on hand at a Santa Barbara church, there was time for only three questions in 90 minutes

All 13 Santa Barbara City Council candidates appeared in front of an audience of about 50 residents Wednesday night during a candidate forum on the Mesa. The event was held in Holy Cross Church’s meeting hall on Cliff Drive.

Seated behind four tables lined end to end, the army of candidates made it through only three questions in 90 minutes, in addition to each candidate giving an introduction and a summary of his or her campaign platform.

For the first question, the candidates were asked to name their top priority for the city.

Eight said the city’s budget would be their top priority, including Cathie McCammon, Bonnie Raisin, Justin Tevis, Lane Anderson, Bendy White, David Pritchett, Michael Self and John Gibbs.

Cruzito Cruz, a recent addition to the race and making his first appearance in a candidate forum, said he would emphasize education.

Anderson emphasized the budget, too, but was one of the few who suggested new revenue. A tax on homes built in high-fire areas, such as that above Foothill Road where firefighters spent time during the Jesusita Fire, was one idea, and the tax could be waived if defensible space around the home was maintained. A tax on plastic bags also was suggested.

Incumbent Grant House said his top priority would be a commitment to the community’s young people. “The city has been the convener of youth-serving agencies,” he said. “Our future really is right there. ... They really need our help.”

Other priorities also were mentioned. Dianne Channing discussed slow growth, Frank Hotchkiss talked about youths and John Thyne emphasized gangs.

For the second question, the candidates were asked to state their positions on Measure B, the city’s height-limit initiative. Nine of the candidates said they supported the measure, and four said they opposed it.

The candidates in favor of the initiative are McCammon, Tevis, Cruz, White, Channing, Pritchett, Hotchkiss, Self and Gibbs.

White introduced himself as a co-founder of Measure B, adding that he had served on the Planning Commission when many of the large projects the measure takes issue with were built.

“I supported a couple of those buildings, so I had that tough experience of admitting I had made a mistake, but I want to fix it,” he said.

Raisin, along with Thyne, House and Anderson, was among the candidates who oppose the initiative.

“We’ve got design review, single-family ordinance, Architectural Board of Review, Planning Commission and the strictest zoning laws in the state,” she said. “To add another caveat is wrong.”

Lastly, candidates were asked to describe their visions for Santa Barbara.

Pritchett emphasized that the city should get back to simpler infrastructure. “The city should not be an obstacle or a bureaucratic maze that I keep hearing people in the neighborhood trying to navigate to get the most simple things done,” he said.

Self said she would like to see the city act as a fair judge and as a manager. “I think staff has forgotten that they are our employees,” she said. “They are not there to exploit us, to intimidate us or to make life difficult.”

A forum for the Santa Barbara mayoral candidates will be held at the parish at 7 p.m. Thursday.

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

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