Pixel Tracker

Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 2:25 pm | Fair 71º

 
 
 
 

Business Leaders Quiz Candidates for Santa Barbara Council

Representatives of five local business organizations put the hopefuls to the test on matters important to them

Local business leaders were out to identify those who would help or hamper their livelihoods Wednesday night as they took turns grilling most of the Santa Barbara City Council candidates.

Eight of the 10 candidates running for three open council seats on the Nov. 5 ballot gathered at Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort for a debate hosted by five Santa Barbara business organizations that laid out the challenges before them.

The hosting organizations included the Milpas Community Association, the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and the National Association of Women Business Owners-Santa Barbara Chapter.

“This is the night where we find out who’s got the chops to handle business,” said Alan Bleecker, president of the Milpas Community Association. “This forum is designed to keep you on your toes. We’re business people; we appreciate a great sales pitch.”

Candidates were kept to strict one-minute time limits for short answers and were forced to pick a side with “yes” and “no” placards for certain questions.

Megan Diaz Alley, Gregg Hart, Frank Hotchkiss, Michael Jordan, David Landecker, Jason Nelson, Bendy White and Lesley Wiscomb participated in Wednesday’s debate, which was without candidates Cruzito Herrera Cruz and Matthew Kramer.

All candidates — many of whom have worked in small business — said they agreed that small businesses play an important role in the local economy.

In order to show more commitment to the sector, most candidates recommended streamlining some processes.

Alley and Wiscomb said they would support some sort of buy-local campaign, while White, who is running for re-election, referred to council members as facilitators to untangle problems.

Hart emphasized that better transportation and more affordable housing could go a long way to guarantee that business stays local.

“Those aren’t going to happen because we don’t have any money,” said Hotchkiss, who is also running for re-election.

As for how to streamline processes, candidates had fewer solutions.

Nelson suggested the city provide business owners with a packet and checklist of what needs to be done to set up shop, while Alley and Wiscomb focused on more supportive city staff to help the process along.

Jordan said the city should develop an economic strategy that targets and recognizes businesses that will really return revenue.

“The city is clearly missing an opportunity,” he said.

Most candidates agreed that business owners face too many fees, that traffic is too congested and that an increase in homelessness has increased crime — subsequently affecting business on State Street.

Landecker said he would get special officers onto the street to get to know and understand the homeless population in order to move them as his one action to reduce their impact on businesses.

All other candidates were also in favor of some type of increase in law enforcement.

Several candidates said the current council has an inability to listen to residents, which is why some neighborhoods — near Milpas Street in particular — have felt ignored by the city in terms of help with revitalization efforts.

Most candidates said they were in favor of the Highway 101 widening project and a commuter rail system into the city, but noted that funding and current plans weren’t quite at a level to move forward on either.

The debate closed with candidates listing their top three infrastructure funding priorities.

Public safety was No. 1 for Wiscomb, Hotchkiss, White and Jordan, and made it onto nearly everyone’s list.

Roads and water and sewer issues made most lists, with repair of public buildings, environmental upgrades and burying utility lines also accounted for.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.