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 James Joyce III
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?
James Joyce III: Community outreach has remained at the forefront of this campaign and is one of my biggest points. I firmly believe city leadership should include the input of the community in city decisions. In the past, the city has failed at communicating with residents.
As mayor, I would make the office more accessible, and myself available in any way necessary to the community. Communicating with the people who live here is the job of City Hall, not a box to be checked. This means communicating with our Spanish-speaking residents just as much as those who primarily speak English. It means responding to citizen concerns promptly. I want to hold more forums and town halls that provide members of the community access beyond the minutes of public comment; include more stakeholders at the table on topics such as business on State Street or affordable housing issues. This is not just a quality of life issue, this is a safety issue and one that allows for us to take a new, creative approach to finding solutions.
I want the city to invest in a constituent relationship management system that allows for more streamline and direct communication with city officials. Ultimately, such a system could be integrated into an app that could field citizen’s non-emergency requests.
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?
James Joyce III: As a small business owner myself, I know what it’s like to start and keep a business running in Santa Barbara. I’ve faced the challenges personally that many local business owners face with accessing and finding resources to support their business ventures. First, we need to streamline the permitting process, improve outreach efforts and prioritize our small business communities.
As mentioned above, we have to include the input of the stakeholders most affected in this particular issue, that being our local business owners and growing technology sector. We should hear what they have to say, what issues they face, and what support they need directly. I believe that we need to explore adaptive reuse of our downtown buildings and encourage mixed use in the downtown area. We also need to streamline our permitting process to make sure that commercial buildings in downtown Santa Barbara fit the needs of today’s local businesses.
Finally, we have had too many vacant storefronts for too long with no action. I believe that it’s time to implement a vacancy fee for downtown commercial space. If a commercial space has been vacant for 365 days or more, it’s time to impose a fee that will encourage the landlord to find a tenant for that space.
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?
James Joyce III: Equity means not just creating fair and equal access to programs and services in the city but the unhindered ability to engage in the political process and thrive within a community. I have been leading on this issue through my Coffee With a Black Guy program, and I believe in implementing more equitable educational and economic opportunities and expanding our community outreach is the simplest means to begin to deal with the inequities in Santa Barbara.
That starts with an equity audit of the city charter and examining our city’s guiding document through an equity lens and asking if it facilitates equitable outcomes for all residents.
Equity also means being proactive and not reactive about addressing concerns and recognizing that certain neighborhoods and families need more than others. Unfortunately, there are dozens of examples of great ideas, and great projects that never come to fruition because our city does a terrible job engaging the community and reaching consensus about how public works projects can best support the people.
I want to invest in a city public information office, and do a far better job at meeting people “where they are” in terms of community outreach. Our city has been woefully deficient for years is Spanish-language outreach and has only recently begun to do more.
Finally, our city needs to cast a wider net when we’re looking for employees and consultants. We need a city government that truly reflects the diverse makeup of our community. This will allow city government to do a better job at serving constituents and delivering the services that people need. We can do better, we must do better and Santa Barbara deserves better.
Noozhawk: How will you reduce the number of homeless encampments, unhoused people, and homeless-related nuisance crimes in Santa Barbara?
James Joyce III: I have proposed putting 50 new mental health beds on the site of the old police station. This would create the first step in helping to get some of Santa Barbara’s chronically unhoused residents shelter and provided with the wraparound support services that they need. This is a feasible and concrete proposal that will help make real progress in our city’s fight against homelessness.
I believe that Santa Barbara needs to double down on the individualized approach to our unhoused population. Some folks have mental health issues, some folks have substance abuse issues, some folks have economic issues. Each of these issues requires a different solution, and we cannot treat them all the same. There should be one point of contact for each individual, and the services should be provided by connecting the individual with the specific services and providers they require.
Noozhawk: How should Santa Barbara respond to Senate Bill 9, which allows for duplex development (up to four units) in single-family-zoned neighborhoods?
James Joyce III: We should be realistic about what it means for our community, but we should do everything we can to support lawsuits and new legislation that protects local controls over our zoning. Santa Barbara has limited resources, as well as growing traffic problems. We need to be realistic about how we grow our city. We know the best way to grow our city is through adaptive reuse and mixed-use in our downtown areas, close to public transit and local business.
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?
James Joyce III: Climate resiliency is a big issue for this community and a big part of my campaign. The simple answer is: build a seawall. It is highly likely that over the next 30 years, we will have more and more catastrophic weather events. We also need to be proactive about fire safety, and recognize that many fire dangers can be prevented, and that we need to reduce development in high fire areas.
I also believe that we need to invest in a new generation of green infrastructure, including solar charging stations for electric cars in all public parking lots, streamlining our permitting process for residential solar panels, and encouraging micro grid systems at the neighborhood level. We should continue to protect our green spaces, as we did with the San Marcos Foothills, a project I was proud to participate in.
In terms of water, we need to continue to diversify our water sources. Every day brings new and innovative water technologies, and the city of Santa Barbara needs to be at the forefront of implementing those technologies in the community. We have spent far too long playing catch-up, it’s time for innovation, investment, and action.