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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 11:15 am | Fair 63º


Former Santa Barbara Mayor, Councilman Hal Conklin Announces Bid for City’s Top Post

23 years after his brief term as mayor, Conklin says his campaign will focus on expanding the public’s voice on community issues

Former Santa Barbara mayor and councilman Hal Conklin announced Monday that he is entering November’s mayoral race. Conklin served four terms on the City Council and was elected mayor in the 1990s before term-limit constraints forced him to resign a year into the job. Click to view larger
Former Santa Barbara mayor and councilman Hal Conklin announced Monday that he is entering November’s mayoral race. Conklin served four terms on the City Council and was elected mayor in the 1990s before term-limit constraints forced him to resign a year into the job.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

More than two decades after leaving the dais, former Santa Barbara mayor and city councilman Hal Conklin has launched a bid to become the city’s 50th mayor.

Before a crowd of 20 or so supporters at the Mesa Café on Cliff Drive on Monday, Conklin framed his run as an opportunity to rekindle what he describes as a loss of broad-based community collaboration and decision making on City Hall issues.

“My interest in running really is to give voice to the people,” he said.

For a while now, friends and supporters had been asking him to make another run for office, he said.

The Mesa neighborhood resident was first elected to the City Council in the 1970s, and was sworn in as mayor in 1993.

Local election-reform advocates asserted that a city ordinance barring council members from serving a fifth consecutive term applied to mayors, too. Their argument won in court, and Conklin resigned a year after becoming mayor.

Conklin has served as a public affairs director for Southern California Edison and president of the League of California Cities.

He has led a number of local and regional environmental organizations, including the Community Environmental Council and USA Green Communities.

He said November’s election, which potentially could replace more than half of the City Council, means experience like his would be vital on the dais.

“The institutional memory of Santa Barbara is disappearing,” he told supporters.

So far, the only other person in the mayor’s race is City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo, who announced earlier this month her bid to replace Helene Schneider, who is terming out.

Hal Conklin announced his run for mayor alongside his wife, Haley, at Cliff Drive’s Mesa Cafe on Monday. Click to view larger
Hal Conklin announced his run for mayor alongside his wife, Haley, at Cliff Drive’s Mesa Cafe on Monday.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

During his announcement, Conklin framed the role of mayor — and the council in general — as a facilitator of public decision-making. The legislative body has taken too tight a grip of the decision-making process since his time in office, he said.

“The No. 1 issue in people’s lives is to be heard,” he said.

Conklin told Noozhawk that even for issues that draw huge turnout at council meetings, like the Average Unit Density housing program, City Hall should be “holding dozens of individual meetings with stakeholders” out in the field, rather than relying primarily on residents coming out to council meetings.

The 4-year-old AUD program’s contentiousness and City Hall’s recent search for tweaks that would improve it are the result, he said, of the council spending an “enormous amount of time fine-tuning it at their level.”

On his to-do list, he announced, are keeping Santa Barbara a safe and family-friendly community, orienting the local economy toward 21st-century industries, protecting the city’s historical resources, supporting arts and culture, and reviving the city’s role as the regional leader in environmental sustainability.

Once the home of the environmental movement, Conklin argued that the city has been “resting on its laurels for years.”

Gary Petersen, a resident and longtime collaborator with Conklin who founded with him what was then California Green Communities, called the former mayor a “consensus builder” with the credentials needed to lead the city.

“He’s got time, he knows the private sector because he worked for Edison, he knows the nonprofit world, he knows the government world and he knows the issues-management world,” he said. “You can’t beat that.”

Conklin, who has yet to file any campaign finance statements with the city, said he would formally enter his name for the November ballot in July.

Murillo filed her paperwork in January. A former journalist and news and public affairs director at UC Santa Barbara’s KCSB community radio station, she was elected to the council in 2011 and re-elected in 2015.

Often the most reliable voice for the left on the City Council, Murillo frequently frames council issues around working-class residents’ needs and concerns.

As of Monday, only two candidates had filed paperwork to run for the three open council seats on this year’s ballot: Councilman Gregg Hart, who is running for re-election in District 6, and Eric Friedman, a former aide to Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, when he was a county supervisor, is running in District 5.

This year marks the completion of Santa Barbara’s transition to district representation, in which City Council members run in and represent one of six districts in the city. The mayor is still elected by the entire city.

To get on the ballot for City Council or mayor, a prospective candidate must file a nomination paper signed by at least 100 but no more than 200 registered voters.

The filing deadline will be sometime this summer, according to the City Clerk’s Office.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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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