As part of Noozhawk’s Nov. 2 Santa Barbara City Council election coverage, we are publishing Q&As with candidates running for mayor and City Council seats. Candidate answers may be lightly edited for spelling and formatting, but are otherwise presented as they were submitted.
For mayor, candidates include James Joyce III, Matt Kilrain, Cathy Murillo, Randy Rowse, Deborah Schwartz, and Mark Whitehurst.
Two candidates are running for the District 4 seat: Barrett Reed and Kristen Sneddon. District 5 incumbent Eric Friedman is running unopposed.
There are four candidates on the ballot for the District 6 seat, including Jason Carlton, Meagan Harmon, Nina Johnson and Zachary Pike.
Mayoral Candidate Mark Whitehurst
Noozhawk: Many residents responding to a Noozhawk survey said current City Council members have not been visible during the pandemic and are not always responsive to citizen concerns. If elected, how will you make yourself accessible to your constituents? Will you hold in-person office hours? Personally respond to emails and calls? Attend public community events?
Mark Whitehurst: When I’m mayor, I will hold personal office hours and will be quick to respond to phone calls and emails personally. I will also attend neighborhood meetings.
I see the mayor’s job as one that listens to the public, advocates for them and the city, as well as being a mediator and ambassador for the city.
Noozhawk: What is your long-term vision for downtown State Street and live/work options in the downtown core? What is your plan for reducing the number of vacant storefronts in that area?
Mark Whitehurst: Whatever develops out of the downtown promenade project will hopefully be a model for the entire city. I think the more creative the better when it comes to housing and mixed-use development. I love what the architects came up with in their charrette.
Recruiting successful businesses from our region will be a top priority — businesses with marketing plans that bring together locals and visitors should be given top priority. The city should also work to offer incentives to local entrepreneurs and make the timeline for applying and receiving the permits necessary to open doors shorter. It would also nice to offer a carrot and stick approach to vacant storefronts. There should be rewards for businesses that keep their storefronts occupied and consequences for those who fail to contribute to the vitality to the city.
Noozhawk: Can you please define equity, and what your approach would be to make city government more diverse and more representative of the community it represents?
Mark Whitehurst: Equity is equality of access and opportunity in an environment that evaluates the present situation in light of the past, especially in regard to impartiality and fairness and how past entitlements and privilege have been experienced and continue to leave their mark. Both a structure and a strategy is needed to grow equity in both government and public work environments.
Recruitments must be sent not only to major headhunters, but also to places where people who are traditionally underrepresented will have access to apply. Alternative methods of interviewing may be necessary to accommodate a wider range of applicants. Local applicants from all sectors of the city need to be made aware of job openings and how to prepare to qualify for potential careers.
To this end, city workers need to take part in the education and mentoring of local youth about potential public service careers. Our city is unique and I believe the approach and attitude here that will create equity will also be unique.
Noozhawk: How will you reduce the number of homeless encampments, unhoused people, and homeless-related nuisance crimes in Santa Barbara?
Mark Whitehurst: There are many different kinds of homelessness. I believe we need to start with increasing the number of mental health beds for both adults and children. It appears we are about 150 to 200 beds short of what we need to address the current situation centering on mental health issues. Secondly, we need to increase the stock of temporary shelter beds, tiny homes, and transitional housing. This will address the largest group of people experiencing homelessness without beds and also reduce the number of encampments.
Noozhawk: How should Santa Barbara respond to Senate Bill 9, which allows for duplex development (up to four units) in single-family-zoned neighborhoods?
Mark Whitehurst: Santa Barbara should continue to respond to all state laws that do not match up to our current situation. Cookie cutter laws interfere with the flow of business, when they don’t fit the city, like SB 9. Some neighborhoods will be impacted more than others, we need to fight for flexibility. There are some parameters in place that can be used to monitor.
Noozhawk: What can Santa Barbara do, that it’s not already doing, to reduce climate-change-related hazards for its residents and move toward a more sustainable future in terms of energy and water resources?
Mark Whitehurst: The city needs a strategy for reducing climate-change-related disasters that includes a public information plan in case of emergencies. In addition to the current reverse 9-1-1 calls, every resident should know how they should respond in the event of a disaster and where volunteers can report. There should be a message board where people can send helpful information. There needs to be a plan for pets… Everyone needs to be prepared, whether that is important documents safeguarded, batteries, food. This is not economically feasible for some families, who are doing all they can to just get food on the table for today. There needs to be a plan to assist everyone.
In addition to disaster planning and preparedness, ongoing planning for sea-level rise and coastal erosion needs to take place. We may need to do planned retreats in some areas, as well as look at the impact of higher sea level on Santa Barbara’s fresh water supply.
The city is on track to reduce its carbon footprint, but more can be done to recycle, reuse, and plan to use less. We need to support programs that educate people how to live sustainably and how to advocate for the environment, such as the program UC Climate Stewards being supported by the CEC.