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When It Comes to Santa Barbara Council Applicants, Half Have Chance to Make Their Case

In advance of Tuesday's formal interviews, 21 of 46 hopefuls hone their pitches. How would you vote?

The panel of Santa Barbara City Council applicants would have wound completely around the downtown library’s Faulkner Gallery if all of them had showed up to Sunday’s forum. Even with about half of them, it was a big crowd.

The candidates are all vying to be appointed to fill the council vacancy created when Councilman Das Williams was elected to the Assembly last month. Williams’ replacement will be chosen by the remaining council members rather than elected by the public, which is why many of the nearly 50 applicants chose not to attend Sunday’s event, organizer Olivia Uribe said.

Families ACT!, the Santa Barbara Homeless Blog and the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee sponsored the forum, at which candidates talked about how their experience would make them valuable to municipal government.

Many of applicants have been involved in various commissions, community groups or even local government before, while others are taking this opportunity to get involved for the first time.

None of the six decision-making council members attended the forum.

Four unsuccessful council candidates from 2009 attended, including Cruzito Herrera Cruz, Cathie McCammon, David Pritchett and John Thyne, and each said their knowledge of city issues would be an asset.

Cruz brings his experience as a bean counter at H&R Block, McCammon has participated in various neighborhood and planning groups, Pritchett is a member of the city creeks and transportation advisory groups, and Thyne is an attorney and owner of real estate company Goodwin & Thyne Properties.

Other city commission members have stepped forward to apply, including transportation and circulation member Keith Coffman-Grey, Parks and Recreation Commission member Diego Torres-Santos and Planning Commissioner John Jostes.

Coffman-Grey, who has served on various community boards, including the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, said the city needs to first and foremost live within its resources. Torres-Santos, who is 18, advocated the need for a young person’s perspective, especially on long-reaching issues like the general plan update.

Jostes is a professional mediator by trade, which gives him the skills to understand all sides of a problem, he said.

It was a skill reiterated by many other contenders, pointing out that a moderate, cooperatively minded person is needed to work with both sides of the often ideologically divided City Council.

Ed Cavazos summarized the reason for his and many others’ run quite simply: “Put up or shut up.” After seeing the city’s issues as a resident, he decided it was time to make a stand, and he wants to be the “voice of reason” on the council.

Wayne Norris, a nuclear physicist, said “it’s all about efficient solutions,” especially when it comes to managing the municipal budget.

Daniel Ramirez comes face-to-face with the youth problems in the community on a daily basis as a teacher, which is a perspective the council can use right now, he said.

Dr. Barbara Mathews said her private practice gives her business know-how as well as being able to represent a broad base of constituents.

A research background could help graduate student Lori Frisbie, a mother of four who has served on school site councils.

Charles Quintero, who works as a mediator, said he has the experience to make the right decisions, not just the popular ones. He has worked on Latino gang task forces in the past, which would also be good experience on the council, he said.

Very vocal recently in the medical marijuana dispensary debate has been Sharon Byrne, who is a member of the Franklin Center Advisory Committee and is involved with the newly formed Milpas Community Association.

Blanca Flor Benedict said she doesn’t want to be right, but to find the best solution to each city problem. She has a background in counseling and intervention and has served on the Community Clinics Association.

Dr. Beverly Brott said she’s been very upset lately, especially with the recent violence in her Eastside-area neighborhood — from the murder of George Ied to the physical assault of restaurant owner Mei-jung “Mama Lu” Gaffney. Brott said her priorities are public health, safety and working to improve early education.

Richard Goodfriend, who owns a communications company, would help various members of the council come to agreement, he said.

CPA Carola Nicholson came to Santa Barbara from Argentina 30 years ago and now owns her own accounting business with eight employees. She says her lack of political affiliation makes her ideal for the appointment.

Chris Casebeer, owner of a real estate company and founding member of Men Against Domestic Violence, would work to get cooperation among the region to improve the economy, he said.

Three applicants who are still considered invalid by the city clerk’s office also attended Sunday.

Della Rosales, a former executive assistant in City Hall, knows the inner workings of government from a staff perspective.

Audrey Addison Williams, who is “not politically correct and won’t apologize for it,” said the polarization of the City Council serves no one, and she would work to do more with what the city has.

Charles Huff, who recently retired to Santa Barbara, said his perspective could help him as he has no “burden of previously made opinions.”

The applicants each answered a few questions related to homelessness, as well, and there was consensus among many of them that the issue deserves a regional response as well as a local one. The economy, mental health and addiction issues, and so many other factors can lead to homelessness, which is why no one approach is usually effective, they said.

Applicants who did not attend will also make their case to te City Council around 5 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

They are, in alphabetical order:

» Brian Barnwell

» G. Paul Berenson

» Christopher Blair

» Tom Brooks Burgher

» Robert Burke

» James Caldwell

» Dianne Channing

» Gerry DeWitt

» Brian Fahnestock

» David Hughes

» Michael Jordan

» Naomi Kovacs

» Sheila Lodge

» Alberto Pizano

» Bonnie Raisin

» Loretta Redd

» Andy Rosenberger

» Randy Rowse

» Suzanna Savage-Raftican

» Willie Shaw

» John Torell

The other three applicants considered invalid as of now are:

» Jerry Matteo

» Marilyn Rickard

» Nancy Sirbu

Click here to read each candidate’s council application.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews or @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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