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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 4:25 am | Fair 41º


Santa Barbara Police Union Not Endorsing City Council Candidates

In an unprecedented move, Santa Barbara’s police union has not issued endorsements for this year’s City Council races, with labor officials stating that they haven’t heard any candidate with the right approach to city-wide public-safety issues.

This fall, ballots will be tallied in the first race since a lawsuit compelled the city to conduct district elections for council seats, which has candidates hitting the streets to jockey for votes from their own neighborhoods, instead of in a citywide, at-large election.

The police union’s endorsement has long been coveted past council candidates, and to not issue endorsements is “unprecedented,” said Sgt. Mike McGrew, who is president of the Santa Barbara Police Officers Association.

“We have not done this before,” he noted

The POA has been interviewing candidates, but decided not to issue an endorsement.

“One thing that strikes us is that they aren’t really worrying about bigger public-safety issues that affect the entire city,” but rather are focused on neighborhood-specific problems, McGrew said.

The POA has sent out a mailer describing what McGrew called the "steady decline of the department over the last 14 years." 

The mailer says officers have had to respond to calls without back-up, and there is an increase in response times and an overall decrease in service. 

McGrew said that the POA could issue an endorsement if candidates come forward in the future with a like-minded approach.

“We want to be able to have them talk about what needs to be changed,” he said. 

“It seems to us the current council and candidates need to reveal how they’re going to strengthen their efforts to get a new building built… There’s been no strategic plan for that.”

Other city unions, which are also considered key players in the campaign process, have issued endorsements or will soon.

Tony Pighetti, president of Santa Barbara City Firefighters Local 525, said that the union will be meeting Oct. 12 to have its board vote on endorsements.

“A formal announcement will come out Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning,” he said.

Vote-by-mail ballots went out this week to city voters, and Pighetti said that the union is just now getting to its endorsements because of a busy season of firefighting.

“We had a very busy summer with fire assignments, local staffing issues and a 10-week academy, which prevented us from really getting together to jump on this earlier,” Pighetti said.

Cynthia Goena, a field representative of SEIU Local 620, which represents many city employees in various departments, said the group has endorsed candidates for two of the three council races. 

Cathy Murillo was endorsed for District 3, the Westside, and Andria Martinez Cohen for District 1, the Eastside, Goena said.

Interviews were conducted by the candidates in late August and the board approved endorsements several days later.  

Candidates were interviewed from the city’s District 2 seat, but the board declined to issue endorsements for anyone in that race, Goena said.

Ballots can be returned by mail or in person to drop-off centers at specific times. 

Those hours and locations are: 

Oct. 31 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the City Hall Lobby at 735 Anacapa St. 

Election Day, Nov. 3, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St. for any voters and a separate drop-off center for each district 

(District 1) Franklin Neighborhood Center, 1136 E. Montecito St.

(District 2) Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1740 Cliff Dr.

(District 3) Calvary Baptist Church, 736 W. Islay St.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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