Citing allegations of opponents “push-polling” Santa Barbara residents, supporters of a Nov. 3 ballot initiative to limit building heights denounced the tactic Friday.
Advocates of Measure B, a ballot measure that seeks to restrict building heights to 40 feet on new development, held a news conference Friday on the steps of City Hall.
Surrounded by local news media and supporters, Measure B leader Bill Mahan talked about the alleged push polling rumored to have taken place in the past few weeks.
“This is about a political process being fair and truthful,” he said before introducing Mayor Marty Blum, who also condemned the tactic.
“I think it is vitally important that we get the information fairly,” she said. “And it’s very important that people keep it clean and as informative as possible.
“I truly hope that this comes out to be a straightforward election. I’ve already seen some things on one side or the other that aren’t quite right, and I really am not happy with that,” she added.
Blum wasn’t specific about what tactics she’d witnessed and on which side of the Measure B issue, but she exhorted all parties involved to follow the rules.
According to the city’s charter, callers are supposed to identify the name of the candidates or committee paying for the communications at the beginning or end of the call.
But pollsters refused to identify who was funding the polls, according to several people claiming to have received such a call. Council candidates Frank Hotchkiss and Michael Self both received calls, Mahan said, as did Gil Barry and Richard St. Clair, all of whom are supporters of Measure B.
“Push polls are completely in opposition to what is fair and truthful,” Mahan said. “We would like to know who is at the bottom of these things.”
Barry, who is also on the Measure B committee, said he received a call, and although he didn’t record the call, he wrote down several of the questions he said the caller asked him.
Questions like “Are you aware that if Measure B passes that the city will get less affordable housing?” and “Are you aware if Measure B passes, it will affect Cottage Hospital?” were two of the four questions Barry presented.
Mahan called push polls a “festering thorn in our political process,” and he challenged the media to uncover the identity of the pollers.
St. Clair said the pollsters had called his home three times in 10 days. Although the pollster wouldn’t tell him who he was representing, St. Clair said he learned the company was named Sun Surveys, based in Miami.
“This is Chicago politics right here in Santa Barbara,” he said.
Speakers at Friday’s gathering didn’t accuse any one group of being behind the alleged calls, but individuals on the other side of the issue vocally disapproved of the event.
Brian Robinson, who works on the “No on B” campaign committee, said he could neither confirm nor deny the polls, and that his group would not comment on what political strategies they’ve taken internally, including polls.
He did, however, call Yes on B’s tactics “crazy accusations and totally unverifiable.”
Robinson said he sees the push-poll accusations as a diversions from the amount of funding given to Pro Measure B groups by Texas developer Randall Von Wolfswinkel.
“That’s the story,” he said. “That’s an individual from out of town who is perverting our local political process.”
Finance filings from June show that Von Wolfswinkel, president of Arlington-based First Texas Homes, contributed $30,000 to pro-Measure B groups and $8,000 to council candidates who back the building-heights initiative.