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Election Q&A with Brian Barnwell

NOOZHAWK:

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Brian Barnwell
What specific actions are the City Council and the police department taking to fight gang violence? What are the benchmarks for success? What has been your involvement on this issue?

BRIAN BARNWELL: We’ve reinstituted the police bike patrols on the West and East sides. We’ve recently given almost $200,000 to the schools to increase after-school sports programs specifically for at-risk/gang-potential kids. The council last year allocated money to fully fund and fully staff the Police Department and to over-hire so there will never be a drop below the full force of 141 officers. We’ve asked the police to seek search warrants and bear down hard on known gang-member criminals, which they have done.

I have personally asked for one more truck to be added to the graffiti abatement program to get graffiti removed within 24 hours of its creation. I have asked for and will fight to create a standing joint City-County Youth Commission to coordinate all the various programs now scattered throughout the town that don’t know about each others existence. I am teaming with the Tri-Counties Central Labor Council to create an apprentice program in the high schools for at-risk kids who don’t want to go to college and can still be turned away from a life of crime.

NOOZHAWK: Would you consider an injunction banning certain individuals from wearing apparel associated with gangs?

BB: It depends on the crimes that lead to that ban. What I really want to do is intervene and get the kids back into feeling that this is their country, their city, and that they can have a good life.

NOOZHAWK: With the General Plan update in motion, what is your vision of what Santa Barbara will look like in 30 years?

BB: NO CONCRETE in any creek anywhere in the city limits of Santa Barbara. More parks in the urban areas of downtown and Outer State Street. A height limit of 40 feet downtown and 45 feet in the rest of the town, with greater setback and landscape requirements for all buildings. More pedestrian/paseos connecting residential areas to commercial areas, especially on Outer State. More dedicated bikeways and dedicated safe routes to school paths that don’t have to share space with cars. A streetcar that goes from the Arlington to Sandpiper Golf Course. With 10 minute headways. A renewed RDA that provides for all of the above and more money for schools. A third freeway lane moving smoothly with buses from Santa Barbara to Ventura. An Amtrak schedule that adds trains to the equation of inter-regional transportation. Regional government on issues of transportation, health/housing for the homeless and disadvantaged, and land use in general.

NOOZHAWK: Should Santa Barbara’s Sphere of Influence boundaries be expanded? Specifically, what should the boundaries be?

BB: Eventually, Santa Barbara and Goleta should meet somewhere in the middle of Noleta. In my ideal world, the whole South Coast has regional governance in land use and transportation.

NOOZHAWK: Should Highway 101 be widened from Milpas Street to the Rincon?

BB: Most definitely yes. The third lane should be dedicated for high-occupancy vehicles only, so the people in their single-occupancy cars can see high-tech bus loads of people whizz past, working on computers, chatting, drinking cappuccino or snoozing. And in a short time, even the Rolls-Royce fellow will be in that bus (or an even fancier bus), whizzing along at 60 mph and getting to and from Ventura in 30 minutes flat. And no need for a "station" at both ends of the route with vast parking lots. The buses will serve individual neighborhoods and areas so you literally walk to a stop near your house that will take you 35 miles to Santa Barbara faster than you can say Jack Robinson.

NOOZHAWK: Are you willing to spend local tax dollars to bring commuter rail to Santa Barbara?

BB: Commuter rail. Ah, yes. With Bogart and Bacall in a dining car right next to your table. Well, uh, to tell the truth, I’m not sure commuter rail is anything other than a sweet idea that will help with a very small piece of the interregional transportation issues. Union Pacific says it will help us get Amtrak to accommodate scheduling, but nowhere is there any talk of a real commuter-rail system. Statistics say 17,000 people come into town every day from Ventura and 10,000 from Lompoc-Sant Maria. The best that commuter rail can do is handle maybe 1,000, and that’s a stretch. As you can see, it will only make a small dent ... and it requires significant single purpose "service area/stations" at each end. I like the idea, but I’m not sure it will achieve that much. I’d love to meet Bogart, though.

NOOZHAWK: What is your opinion of street narrowing and roundabouts as traffic-control measures, and do you think they have been successful?

BB: Couldn’t say because we haven’t had any installed the way they’re supposed to be. I am disappointed in the way we "temporarily" installed the seven we have on the Upper Eastside. I was one who put the brakes on the other 16 we were supposed to have built until these seven have proven themselves worthy and have public backing. They haven’t done that yet. As to traffic calming, which means getting cars to go slower on our streets, I think speed tables are a good answer. They get you to slow down to go over them but they don’t jar your teeth lose. They cause you to travel about 25 or 30 mph instead of 40 or 50 mph. They work some places, mostly neighborhoods of residences. Some places, like connectors or arterials, shouldn’t be messed with and the road bed should be controlled with street lights in the traditional way.

Street narrowing? I support sidewalk widening.

NOOZHAWK: With regard to new buildings in downtown Santa Barbara, how high is too high? What should be the height limitation in terms of stories?

BB: No more than 40 feet and four stories downtown in the Pueblo Viejo, 45 feet and four stories in the rest of the town. Use the existing setbacks for apartment construction so they apply to any and all buildings above one story.  Increase landscaping. A size limit on condo units to also decrease the presence of "fat" building.

I imagine putting on my "50-year glasses" and ask what would be one of the most remarkable, beneficial and truly amazing thing we could do for Santa Barbara to make it unique and desirable beyond any other city in California. The answer: Limit building heights. While every city around us goes mad with construction frenzy, we hold to the small-town, traditional building sizes ... and we become a mecca for people to visit and admire ... and for locals to enjoy living in. Where is it written that we have to accommodate the desires of the big national commercial stores for only "their" kind of space.

NOOZHAWK: Is Santa Barbara losing its middle class?

BB: The nation is losing its middle class.

NOOZHAWK: Should the city help develop more workforce housing?

BB: We should develop an ordinance to encourage employer-employee housing. That will get us to the true target audience — people who work here. I like the Cottage Hospital example of providing housing for their nurses and midlevel employees. Help employers provide housing for their own employees. That would make for a cohesive town and get cars off the freeway, but don’t think we can house them all. No way will we be able to house 27,000 more units; that’s why housing-transportation is a single hyphenated word. We need to work on transportation so you don’t have to live here, because our houses will always cost more. We are one of the most desirable cities in the world.

NOOZHAWK: Seizing on the adoption of the Isla Vista Master Plan that will yield more than 1,400 housing units, Santa Barbara County has asked the state of California to certify that the I.V. plan satisfies the county’s unmet need for affordable housing under the 2002 Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). Is it fair to use Isla Vista’s willingness to accept increased density as a way to avoid a regional allocation of affordable housing units? How would you handle this obligation?

BB: First, to be clear: The RHNA numbers only require that you have zoning capacity for the unit count. It does not require that you build the units.

The city handles it through pyramid zoning, which says that all zoning designations can also allow housing. Unlike Goleta, where a commercial zone allows only commercial, in Santa Barbara, all of our commercial also allows apartments and condos, so the land is double- and triple-zoned and we don’t have to put housing "over there" somewhere. It also allows us to build housing downtown in the commercial areas where the services are. For the life of me, I don’t know why Goleta and the county don’t do a form of pyramid zoning along the Hollister corridor and down Calle Real, where the housing ought to be anyway, and stop scaring the single-family neighborhoods with the threat that they will be zoned apartments to meet state mandates.

NOOZHAWK: The City Council is looking at approving a new downtown transit center of up to four stories that, conceptually, would include affordable and market-rate housing, retail commercial space, a day-care center and underground parking. But under the proposal, most MTD buses would still require street parking. Do you agree with this approach?

BB: I don’t think we’ve added enough into the mix of what should go there. I propose adding an NFL football stadium, as the core money-maker to finance the project.

But seriously, the transit center needs to be a transit center, not a panacea for all the needs of the entire community. So many things have been packed in to that project, like a Christmas list of desires. First and foremost, it needs to serve transit needs. If some housing fits, that’s OK. But the building massing must be in scale with the Pueblo Viejo and, I feel, there is a need to provide green space relief.

NOOZHAWK: Measure A calls for aligning the city of Santa Barbara’s Election Day with that of the nation by moving it to even-numbered years. Proponents say this would help boost voter turnout. Opponents say it would add a year to council members’ four-year terms and lead to campaigns that are more partisan. Do you support Measure A?

BB: Measure A gives a fifth year for only one term. It doesn’t "add a year to ... four-year terms."

Here’s the deal: This year, the city budget had to include $300,000 to run our own elections because the county said it would no longer run odd-year elections and the state said they had the right to do this. So, the city is now running its own election, for $300,000. If we vote to go back to an even-year cycle, the county will do our election for plus or minus $50,000. Every city and the county are on even-year but us.

I ask all the citizens in the city ... do you want to spend $250,000 for elections or would you rather spend it on more police or more gang suppression or more parks or after-school programs, more dog parks, more art programs? I tell you, I can’t believe that there is so much opposition to Measure A. It is very good policy.

Some say our "City issues" will be lost in the larger public dialogue of national, state elections if we go even year but every city in the county does it. Most cities in the state do it. And twice as many people vote in even-numbered years. And the city clerk, who works for the council, won’t be in charge of the elections that elect the council, which will be the case if we don’t change it.

So, to recap: 1. We save $250,000 that we can spend on some far more worthy causes. 2. We guarantee twice as many voters will turn out to vote on city issues. 3. We guarantee separation of powers from elected officials and those who control elections. 4. We give the whole process back to the county where it belongs. We don’t need another level of bureaucracy in city government.

Yes on Measure A.

NOOZHAWK: Mayor Marty Blum recently gave her staff a grade of A minus. What grade would you give?

BB: City staff is excellent. They are dedicated and hard-working. They slip up now and again but they are sincere in their efforts to make this the best city in California.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support cities competing with the private sector for the deployment of Internet broadband networks? If so, what is your preferred financing method to build the required infrastructure?

BB: This is another "do you want the city to get into another business and have another department and another bureaucracy" sort of question. I’ve been on the council committee that is studying this issue and I haven’t come to a conclusion, except to say our broadband computer capacity is woefully below what we need to compete. Period. Should the city fix it, or should we create incentives for private enterprise to fix it? I’m not clear on that just yet.

NOOZHAWK: Have we heard the last of the "blue line"?

BB: The community knew nearly nothing about the process of how the Light Blue Line project was conceived and what it went through as part of the normal process of anything getting an approval (boards, commission, staff, permit applications, etc.). ... It wasn’t a council-initiated request. It was a group of citizens, just like most of the stuff that comes in from of us.

Let’s hope Noozhawk can begin to fill the void and tell us what’s going on in our town.

NOOZHAWK: What are your thoughts on medical marijuana? Do you agree with the mayor that it should be available in pharmacies?

BB: Yes. Regulate it. Tax it like cigarettes. Regulate the location and business hours of dispensary facilities.

NOOZHAWK: What’s your favorite neighborhood?

BB: No such thing. Love ‘em all. My first house was on the Mesa for six years and thus the Mesa has a very special place in my heart. My mom and dad lived for years in West Beach and I love that part of town. Probably the most "and now for something completely different" experience was living above Our Daily Bread for two years back in the 1970s, in old Chinatown. I ate dinner at the Sojourner five times a week and enjoyed happy hours at Jimmy’s and walked everywhere. Very cool. I raised my kids on upper Chapala, a great old 1920s house with a huge back yard for great parties. I now live on upper Castillo and, as far as feeling that you belong and knowing your neighbors and watching out for one another, it can’t be beat. I lived in an old Victorian near Alameda Park and worked with an old carpenter who also lived there and had a great time fixing old houses for the landlords in that neighborhood. The one neighborhood I’d love to try, but probably will never get to, is living on a boat in the harbor.

NOOZHAWK: What book had the most impact on your life?

BB: Jeez-o, what a question to ask a guy who majored in English and has been a reader all his life. Great books that I’ve loved and read over and over again are The Sun Also Rises, A River Runs Through It, Leaves of Grass, everything by Shakespeare, Catcher in the Rye, Lonesome Dove, everything by Twain, Dunne, Gatsby. I think the "best" American novel — dangerous ground here — is Moby Dick. As to what book had the most profound effect on my life, now that I ponder the question, it was probably FM 6-40, the U.S. Army Field Artillery Manual Cannon Gunnery. I used that book to teach gunnery and ballistics to West Point cadets and ROTC officers for two years when I was in the Army. It was with me morning, noon and night, until I memorized it ... but it was always there. Weird to think that such a book was probably the one that had the most impact on me — how to shoot cannons.

NOOZHAWK: What’s your favorite movie?

BB: I always start with Casablanca, and mention that Shakespeare in Love is a close second. From there you can slide in to comedies (M*A*S*H, Groundhog Day, some Pink Panther, almost all of Bill Murray, Office Space, Tin Cup, any Laurel and Hardy, most Marx Brothers, any Preston Sturgis, any Harold Ramis, any Woody Allen. Or action/sci-fi (The Fugitive, The Matrix, Lonesome Dove, Soldier, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, newest Bond, Total Recall, etc). Then drama/mystery (Bogart’s entire collection, anything by John Huston, anything with Robert Duval, Double Indemnity). I love movies. Very difficult question. Oh, My Fair Lady, too, and the original King Kong.

NOOZHAWK: What music are you listening to now?

BB: Norah Jones and Diana Krall.

NOOZHAWK: What kind of car do you drive?

BB: A very chic Toyota Camry, 1989.

NOOZHAWK: What do you do for a living?

BB: I’m a real estate appraiser, formerly a carpenter. But that is on hold. I’m a councilman now, full time.

NOOZHAWK: What political leader or historical figure do you draw inspiration from?

BB: Churchill and Abe Lincoln for their strength of character and wisdom. Although the historical person I’d most like to have met is Cleopatra. Imagine. She seduced the leaders of the Roman world, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, and caused them both to become dithering fools, indeed caused Antony to run from battle and later commit suicide. Who was that woman?

NOOZHAWK: Would you support an ordinance requiring that Santa Barbarans set their home pages to Noozhawk.com? Will you propose it for us?

BB: I’m there.

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