For the first time in nearly 10 years, Randy Rowse won’t be on the Santa Barbara City Council, beginning early next year.
Rowse, the owner of the Paradise Cafe in downtown Santa Barbara, must step down because of term limits. His exit from the council has opened up the flood gates to council candidates looking to replace him.
Five candidates are running for the District 2 council seat, which primarily covers the Mesa.
Tavis Boise, Brian Campbell, Luis Esparza, Michael Jordan and Teri Jory are trying to win a seat on the City Council. District 2 has 10,158 registered voters.
Vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian safety on Cliff Drive, housing, the impact of Santa Barbara City College on neighborhoods, homelessness, park safety, and sea level rise are among the major issues currently facing the Mesa.
Much intrigue surrounds the possibilities.
It could be the Year of the Woman for Jory, the fitness guru who is the only woman on the ballot.
Campbell is running as a conservative family man who wants to clean up the homeless problems on the Mesa.
Jordan has the most experience in city issues, and is liked by both liberals and conservatives, which is what he believes the city needs.
Esparza is a quiet attorney who grew up on the Mesa, but has yet to distinguish himself from the pack.
Boise, also raised on the Mesa, wants to make climate change a top priority for the city.
Complicating matters, Rowse has chosen not to formally endorse anyone in the race.
“I don’t endorse as a rule, because I have enough trouble explaining myself, let alone what someone else says,” Rowse said. “This year, we also have had four seats open, and I didn’t want to get in the middle of my colleagues and their efforts. I am glad to see the competition for the 2nd district.”
The city holds a vote-by-mail election. The election is Nov. 5.
Boise grew up on the Mesa, and if elected wants to expand affordable housing, raise the minimum wage in Santa Barbara to $15, increase the number of bike lanes and enhance safety for bike riders.
His biggest issue, however, is climate change or the “climate crisis,” as he describes it.
“I am passionate about creating a sustainable, just and peaceful world,” Boise told Noozhawk. “Unfortunately these goals are only getting more and more difficult to accomplish as the climate crisis enhances our winter storms, intensifies droughts and puts our city at further risk of fire.
“The time for small contributions was two decades ago, and the time to make serious policy choices is now.”
Boise said he is running to give people’s’ grandchildren “a seat at the table.”
“We have a duty to leave this world better than we found it, and currently, by that measure, we are failing,” Boise said.
Boise, an EMT lead lifeguard for Santa Barbara County, is also passionate about surfing, paddling, kayaking, diving and most water sports.
He is the chairman of the Keiki Paddle, a nonprofit that organizes local youths for an annual paddle event that raises financial and emotional support for kids with life-threatening illnesses.
“I believe in a fair, just and responsible world,” Boise said. “One that addresses climate change, takes initiative when facing environmental degradation, and promotes a fair economy through moral capitalism. I know that I will make a good fit on the council.”
Boise had raised about $6,000 as of Sept. 21, the most recent filing period.
Campbell jumped into the race because of concerns about public safety revolving around homeless people who were taking pictures of children and throwing bottles onto school grounds while children were at school. He said the city refuses to do anything to help protect schools and parks with play structures.
A New York-native, Campbell has a law degree and promises to bring a conservative voice to the council. A husband, father and homeowner, he said the council is leaning too far to the left.
“I’m not a politician,” said Campbell, a Realtor at Village Properties. “I don’t need the income for this job. I am doing this for my kids. I am doing this for the community.”
Campbell is a straight-talker who believes the City Council needs a pragmatic, logical voice, someone who is not swayed by unions, special interests or parties.
He’s quick to fire away at Mike Jordan, a city planning commissioner who is running for the city council seat.
“I don’t have the political connections that Mike does, but quite honestly that’s a good thing,” Campbell said. “I am a very different type of candidate.”
Campbell is proud to describe himself as a Christian, who puts his family first. Other elected officials and candidates, he said, are career politicians. He brings business experience.
“Everyone has good ideas,” Campbell said. “My concern is the lack of follow-through. I work in a world where I’m accountable. I have to follow through. If I don’t, I get fired.”
He said the homeless problem is out of control and the city isn’t doing enough. There are probably as many as 7,000 homeless people in the county of Santa Barbara, he said, much more than the 1,800 stated in the most recent point-in-time countywide homeless count.
Campbell said he is connected to the business community and knows people who can use technology to more accurately find the homeless people through their smart phones. He would work with companies to house the homeless at a fraction of the price that the recent tiny homes proposal would do.
“The government says they are doing something, and they don’t actually do anything.
Campbell has chosen to run his own campaign — no political consultants. His wife Natalie Grubb and their friends and neighbors are pitching in. Between himself and his neighbors, they have knocked on more than 5,000 doors.
“Most of the council is so far to one side,” Campbell said. “We need to have balance that represents all sides.”
Campbell had raised about $22,000 as of Sept. 21.
The son of Mexican immigrants and the baby of a family of five children, Esparza works as a business law attorney in Santa Barbara. He grew up on the Mesa and attended Monroe School.
Soft-spoken and introverted, Esparza ran four years ago, and came in second behind Rowse. People asked him to run for the council seat again, he said.
The district election format serves a guy like him, who has a fundraising goal of $10,000 to win a seat. When he ran the first time “there was a big learning curve,” he said.
He’s more prepared this time, he said, and believes in a field of five, just about anyone can win.
“No one is going to run away with it,” he said.
Esparza acknowledges that he’s a a bit of a mystery in the contest. He doesn’t talk much about himself, and likes to focus on the issues.
“I have always had issues with labels,” Esparza said. “But I bring the ideal mix of perspective and experience.”
If elected, he has several “plans of action.”
He thinks the city should make larger pension retirement payments now to pay off the debt sooner. He wants to find solutions other than raising taxes, noting that the sale tax is already 8.75 percent.
Esparza also has many clients from the cannabis industry. He believes the city should embrace cannabis sales because if it doesn’t, “30 underground delivery services” will dominate the market.
He said he agrees with about 90 percent of the Democratic Party platform, but also describes himself as a moderate, slightly to the right on business issues. He said he believes in “fiscal prudence.”
He has never been registered with a political party, and said he refuses to sell out or portray himself in a certain way just for an endorsement.
“I feel I bring authenticity,” Esparza said. “With me, what you see is what you get. I want to do things on my terms.”
Esparza had raised about $5,000 as of Sept. 21.
Six months ago, Mike Jordan was the early front runner to win the District 2 council seat.
He served on the city Planning Commission for 10 years, and more than a decade as a board member of both Downtown Santa Barbara and Hospitality Santa Barbara.
A centrist Democrat, he won the endorsement of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party, a historically influential group during at-large elections. It only seemed like a matter of time before the longtime planning commissioner made the jump to the council.
Then Campbell got in the race.
Campbell and Jordan are in a bit of a tug-of-war for support from current councilman Rowse, who was twice elected to office and is widely popular on the Mesa.
Rowse gave Jordan $250 for his campaign, but has not officially endorsed him.
“Mike has been very involved in city issues and serves on the Planning Commission,” Rowse said. “I support Mike.”
Campbell said that Rowse encouraged him to run. Rowse told Noozhawk he met with Campbell once in his office and encouraged him to run because “I encourage anyone to run who is interested.”
It’s a sore spot for both candidates — but it matters because in a five-person district election contest — the vote spread is not likely to be wide.
Jordan is a moderate Democrat, and was counting on winning votes from conservatives on the Mesa who might have backed Rowse.
With Campbell in the race, those voters might go with Campbell instead because of Jordan’s endorsement by the Democratic Party.
“The insertion of either political party into a council election is distasteful to me and doesn’t speak to city issues,” Rowse told Noozhawk.
Jordan is proud of his time on the Planning Commission.
“I look at it as a strength, not a weakness,” Jordan said.
Jordan is just trying to keep focused on his goal. He has knocked on thousands of door on the Mesa. He plans to represent his district — and the city — equally.
“A decision that’s good for the city must also be good for the district, and a decision that’s good for the district must also be good for the city,” Jordan said. “If not, the decision needs more work.”
Jordan said as a councilman he would work to protect what residents currently have, while working to lift up those who are less fortunate, “setting a foundation for a future that builds community rather than further separates us.”
Jordan had raised about $43,000 as of Sept. 21.
There are few titles that Teri Jory doesn’t possess: According to her own description, she is a 4th degree black belt, small business owner, community advocate, professional dancer, choreographer, figure skater and award-winning news anchor.
Now she’s hoping to add City Council member to her list of accolades.
Jory said she has knocked on the doors of 4,000 homes on the Mesa in pursuit of her goal. She said she is successful because she knows how to negotiate and collaborate.
She said she knows how to bring residents, business owners and others together to discuss issues and “reach consensus.”
“I learned negotiation from the masters,” Jory said. “My family owned the first pawn shops in Las Vegas. I came out of my mama’s belly and grew up in a pawn shop.”
She is the owner of Poise Productions, and her web site is filled with striking photos of her fitness DVDs, with titles such as “Strong and Sexy,” and “Fit and Fierce.”
The name of the company arose out of a near-death experience she had when she worked as a broadcast journalist in Arizona in the early 1990s.
Jori said she had a stalker who frequently left her death threats. The stalker eventually broke into her apartment, she said, and beat her, held a gun to her head and choked her.
Jory believed she was going to die.
“I gathered every ounce of energy I could and bit him as hard as I could,” Jory said.
The bite caused the man to let go. Jory ran to a neighbor’s house. She said the man stole her car and drove away. The police eventually shot him to death.
Jory said a person told her after the incident that she just needed to remained “poised,” a word and belief that she incorporated into her life.
If elected, she wants to focus on revitalizing State Street, improving alternative transportation choices and increasing the amount of renewable energy the city uses. She’s already started working with residents and artists to decorate utility boxes on the Mesa with art.
Jory, who has adult twin daughters, said she will serve on the council with passion and determination, and not take anything for granted.
She’s a vegetarian, doesn’t drink coffee ,and says “I have a lot of energy.”
“I feel like life is so great, but you have to make life,” Jory said. “It doesn’t just fall from the sky. Everybody has to put themselves out there and you can create your own X-factor.”
Jory had raised $44,370, as of Sept. 21.
— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.