Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 7:02 am | Fair 43º


Santa Barbara City Council Candidates Stress Need for Safe Streets at Forum

10 candidates line up at League of Women Voters panel to emphasize differences, tout platforms

Santa Barbara City Council candidates outlined their priorities at a League of Women Voters forum Saturday, with most saying that municipal government needs to push for clean, safe streets.

Incumbents Dale Francisco, Randy Rowse and Michael Self are all running for re-election and joined the seven challengers at the Santa Barbara Central Library’s Faulkner Gallery to talk about city finances, public safety, housing and maintaining the city’s “uniqueness.”

The city’s environmental, cultural and historical resources should all be maintained, but most of all, city government should work at a communicative relationship between itself and community groups, most candidates said at the forum.

Cruzito Cruz pushed for district-based elections, so every community of interest would have its own representative in City Hall.

When the city budget came up, candidates agreed that responsible spending is a must, and most pledged to ensure higher tax revenues by encouraging local businesses and tourism.

All 10 candidates reiterated their commitment to public safety — notably the police and fire departments — and making both locals and visitors feel comfortable when walking downtown or anywhere else in the city.

Almost all of the candidates said police and fire would be their No. 1 priorities, while others looked at public safety as a more comprehensive effort.

Street lighting, community involvement and attention to social needs are all parts of making the streets safer, they said. Community policing and citizen involvement are something many of the candidates have already been involved in, including Milpas Community Association co-founders Sebastian Aldana Jr. and Sharon Byrne.

Jerry Matteo was the only one who said the police and fire departments’ budgets need to be pared back; when financial times are tough, cuts should be examined at the biggest wedge of the pie, he said.

On discussing development incentives for rental housing, candidate answers were split.

As candidate Cathy Murillo said, about 60 percent of residents are renters and thousands more commute in to Santa Barbara every day. A good public transportation system is essential, too, said Murillo, a local journalist.

Former Councilwoman Iya Falcone, trying to win back a seat, said the city is at risk of losing working families if there isn’t more affordable housing available.

Specifically, Cruz said, affordable housing must be built equitably and reasonably, not in a way that creates more social service needs. He suggested a redevelopment agency of sorts to focus on the Eastside and Westside neighborhoods.

In the discussion of affordable housing, the availability of jobs is a factor to be considered, Rowse added. With a focus on creating career jobs, the jobs-housing imbalance has a better chance of leveling out, he said.

On the other side, Byrne said families realistically want houses with yards, not small apartments or condominiums with price tags of a half-million dollars.

Many others said the city is already built out and the high price of land makes it unrealistic to construct much new housing. With little available land, any new building should be strategic, said Deborah Schwartz, who currently serves as a planning commissioner.

Banning plastic bags in grocery stores is an idea taken up all over California, but many of the candidates were wary about pursuing a local ordinance. Most pressure for these ordinances comes from worries about pollution or landfill capacity, but Francisco said plastic grocery bags aren’t the only source of water pollution.

Before making any decisions, Aldana said, he would talk to store owners, who are the ones actually paying to provide the bags.

Some cities that pursued bans were sued, and the city should never knowingly pursue something it could be sued for, Self said. Educational efforts like Where’s Your Bag?, which focus on voluntarily changing behavior are more effective, she added.

The vote-by-mail election is Nov. 8.

The Santa Barbara Channels will broadcast Saturday’s forum. Click here for more information.

Upcoming Election Forums

» Upper East Association Forum; 7 p.m. Tuesday; The Old Mission Renewal Center Friar’s Lounge, 2201 Laguna St.

Rather than a Q&A panel, the Upper East Association will have candidates individually meet Upper Eastside residents. A short formal presentation will take place between 7:30 and 8 p.m. for candidates to answer pre-submitted questions of concern to Upper Eastside residents.

» Greater Santa Barbara Lodging & Restaurant Association Candidate Forum; 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday; Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, 633 E. Cabrillo Blvd.

The Greater Santa Barbara Lodging & Restaurant Association and the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce host the joint Santa Barbara City Council Forum and Luncheon.

» Arts Collaborative Forum; 7 p.m. Thursday; The Marjorie Luke Theatre at Santa Barbara Junior High School, 721 E. Cota St.

The Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative is focused on economic sustainability and creating collaboration among artists and arts organizations. The forum will hear each candidate’s views on the best ways to preserve and enhance Santa Barbara’s unique artistic culture.

» Mesa Neighborhood Forum; 3 p.m. Saturday; Holy Cross Catholic Church Parish, 1740 Cliff Drive

The Mesa Neighborhood Candidates’ Forum includes a Q&A portion.

» Santa Barbara Conservancy and Santa Barbara View Forum; 7 p.m. Oct. 5, Santa Barbara Central Library’s Faulkner Gallery, 40 E. Anapamu St.

The council candidate forum is presented by the Santa Barbara Conservancy and the Santa Barbara View. After opening statements, a series of questions will be asked relating to the preservation of Santa Barbara’s historic architectural resources, neighborhoods.

» Valle Verde Candidate Forum; 6:30 p.m. Oct. 6; Valle Verde Theater at Valle Verde Retirement Community, 900 Calle De Los Amigos

Candidates will have an opportunity to state their platforms, especially regarding senior issues, to residents of Valle Verde.

» Local Issues Candidate Forum; 6:30 p.m. Oct. 10; La Casa de la Raza, 601 E. Montecito St.

The Local Issues Forum is a nonpartisan, town hall-style event that will provide a unique opportunity for City Council candidates to discuss a wide variety of community concerns with the leaders of prominent local organizations and the voting public. The event is co-sponsored by the Environmental Defense Center, Transition House, La Casa De La Raza, Casa Esperanza Homeless Center, Pacific Pride Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara.

» The Youth Council and Future Leaders of America Youth’s Candidates Forum; 6 p.m. Oct. 17; Louise Lowry Davis Center, 1232 De la Vina St.

The forum will focus on youth issues, providing candidates an opportunity to share their ideas and views on those issues.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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