Sam Ramirez and James Kyriaco
Goleta’s James Kyriaco, right, and Sam Ramirez are running for a Goleta City Council seat. Kyriaco currently serves in the position.

About 18 months ago, Goleta City Councilman James Kyriaco handpicked Sam Ramirez as his appointee to the Planning Commission.

Little did he know that he also inadvertantly selected his opponent in his re-election bid.

Kyriaco and Ramirez are battling for the District 2 City Council seat, in one of the marquee local council contests on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The two are running at a time when voters will be deciding a 1% sales tax increase and whether to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, and the community is wrestling with the look and design of Old Town Goleta.

All of this is set against a backdrop of state demands that the City of Goleta plan for 1,837 new housing units between 2023 and 2031.

The candidates are polar opposites, both in terms of style and substance.

Although a first-term councilman, Kyriaco is a political veteran who earned his start as a consultant for then-Santa Barbara City Councilmen Brian Barnwell and Roger Horton. He worked as a field representative for then-Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf and, most recently, as a human resources professional for Santa Barbara County and now the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network.

He has an A-list of local Democratic Party endorsements.

Ramirez is relatively new to the South Coast. He served two terms on the Delano City Council and now works for the City of Santa Barbara as an analyst. While he has a political background in Kern County, he’s an outsider with the local Democratic Party establishment.

His campaign is based around his independent status and that he will bring a Latino presence to the majority-Latino District 2, which stretches along the south side of Highway 101 from roughly South Patterson Avenue west through Old Town to Storke Road.

James Kyriaco

Kyriaco grew up in Santa Barbara and often talks about being raised by a single mother. He was a latchkey kid, and his working mom struggled with child care. During his time on the City Council, he has advocated for the city to facilitate more child care options and to partner with community organizations to offer child care and after-care services.

He also has focused much of his first term on Old Town, and voted in favor of new sidewalks in neighborhoods, more playgrounds and additional public parking.

Kyriaco also supports the proposed sales tax increase, officially Measure B, a position that puts him at odds with Ramirez.

“Measure B raises vital funds for fixing our roads, supporting 9-1-1 response, and cleaning up our creeks, streams and ocean without raising taxes on gasoline, groceries or medications,” Kyriaco told Noozhawk.

“Similar measures in Santa Barbara and Carpinteria are funding important community priorities. Goleta deserves quality services funded by money that can’t be taken away by the county or state.”

Also on the ballot is Measure C.

The City Council in 2020 banned the sale of flavored tobacco in Goleta, citing concerns about how the product was marketed to youth. The ban was challenged by referendum, and now the issue will appear on the ballot. A “yes” vote would put the flavored tobacco ban in place, while a “no” vote would deny the ban. The council’s action has been put on hold since the referendum made the ballot.

“We simply must put the health and safety of our kids ahead of special interests,” Kyriaco said of the measure.

He said data shows youth vaping remains an “urgent public health problem with kids back in class and flavored e-cigarettes still widely available.”

“Our children and youth deserve leadership that will take a stand and clearly state that dangerously marketed and addictive flavored tobacco vaping must be eliminated from our schools and our community,” Kyriaco said.

“The County of Santa Barbara has already done this; Goleta should as well.”

He’s also in favor of an interim striping project on Hollister Avenue through Old Town.

“Old Town residents and visitors deserve increased pedestrian and bike safety, and there are too many dangerous accidents and near misses,” Kyriaco said. “We need to protect our most vulnerable residents from accidents caused by speeding vehicles.”

The striping plan calls for reducing the four four lanes to two and adding more than 20 new angled parking spaces. It also would add bike lanes in both directions.

“It benefits pedestrians and local businesses by slowing vehicles down, while reducing noise and exhaust fumes for people outside,” Kyriaco said.

Kyriaco has raised about $54,000 for his campaign, and practically shut out Ramirez in terms of endorsements.

Sam Ramirez

Ramirez is no stranger to politics. He previously served a councilman in Delano, the Central Valley community where he grew up.

A lifelong runner and track athlete, he has expanded that theme into his political campaign, with website videos and Instagram posts showing him lacing his shoes and running in Goleta and near UC Santa Barbara.

His campaign is aggressive and he has pulled no punches going after Kyriaco, Goleta officials and the status quo.

“Goleta has been a city for the past 20 years,” Ramirez says in his video. “We know what the past 20 years has looked like, but I am focused on the next 20 years.”

He opposes the 1% sales tax increase.

“I am not supportive of the city’s proposed 1% sales tax at this time because it is clear to me that we, as a city, have not exhausted all avenues to getting our fair share from the county,” Ramirez said.

He’s referring to the city’s revenue neutrality agreement with Santa Barbara County.

When the city incorporated 20 years ago, and split from the county, Goleta agreed to give the county 50% of its property taxes and 30% of its sales taxes — in perpetuity. The actual amount varies, but ranges between about $7 million and $9 million each year.

The agreement was a condition for Goleta’s incorporation, a measure taken by the county to ensure that it wouldn’t suffer any loss of revenue from cityhood.

“I want to make clear that Goleta already pays all the taxes necessary to find the improvements needed for our community,” Ramirez said. “Unfortunately, we pay approximately half of those taxes to the county in exchange for nothing.

“Goleta has the last revenue sharing agreement of this type in the state.”

That the City Council and staff have allowed this arrangement to continue shows a lack of leadership, he said.

“Creating change takes leadership, and this issue in particular takes leadership,” Ramirez said. “With gas higher than it’s ever been, housing costs at record levels and food more expensive, this is not the time to be raising taxes.

“The city needs to finally litigate the revenue neutrality agreement it has with the County. We got a bad deal.”

Ramirez, like Kyriaco, supports the ban on flavored tobacco.

“These products are marketed directly to kids,” he said. “That’s never OK.”

Ramirez disagrees with Kyriaco on the Old Town parking and restriping project.

“It is my hope that the Hollister Avenue corridor continues to stay four lanes,” he said. “Until there is another alternate route to travel through or around Old Town, reducing to two lanes would have too much of a negative impact on the community.”

He said Goleta must invest in better parking options that include time-limited parking along Hollister, building a parking structure, and improving bicycle and pedestrian access. At a minimum, he added, all of the sidewalks along Hollister need to be improved.

“If you were to take a picture of Old Town now and compare it to the same picture of Old Town taken decades ago, aside from a few different businesses, you would not see much change,” Ramirez said.

“The lack of resources, attention and investment have contributed to some of the problems we as a city are still dealing with. Doing nothing is not an option to me.”

Ramirez has raised about $8,500 for his campaign.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.