ODDZ-n-ENDZ: In dire days such as these, I make a point to aim for the capillary. If I lunged for the jugular — and actually connected — chances are good I’d drown in the ensuing flood. That’s why I rejoice in the arrival of silly season, in which political campaign managers lob verbal scuds at each other’s candidates when few people are paying attention and even fewer care. A case in point involves the ever-excitable Brian Ray, campaign manager to Dr. Dan Secord, who is running for the 2nd District supervisorial seat against Janet Wolf in this November’s election. Marking the release of the candidates’ last financial disclosure statements relating to the June primary, Ray took the offensive against Wolf, emailing press releases chock full of pseudo-incendiary quotes he placed in the mouth of his candidate. In it, Secord — who is running as an appealingly gruff combination of Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, M.D. — accuses Wolf, a former Goleta School Board member, of having “a history of deceptive fundraising in accepting money that is funneled through her handlers’ campaigns.” To the extent the charge has any merit, Secord is guilty of the same thing, though perhaps not to the same extent as Wolf. He’s referring to the fact that in the June primary, Wolf accepted $25,000 from 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal and another $18,000 from Congresswoman Lois Capps without listing the names of every donor who gave $100 or more to Carbajal and Capps during that same election cycle. In previous campaign press releases, Secord has described this as money laundering. Tough talk. But for the record, the practice, however smarmy, is perfectly legal and commonplace. Also for the record, Secord took money from the Lincoln Club — a Republican political action committee — and the S.B. Board of Realtors without listing the names of all the individual donors who gave to those organizations. In an effort to muss up Wolf’s hair and diminish her “nice lady” quotient, Secord has challenged his foe to embrace a series of campaign finance reforms that go above and beyond what current law requires. Some of Secord’s suggestions are silly, but some I like, such as reporting donations every week, as opposed to every two or three months, as is required now. But because the ideas came from Secord, there’s no way Wolf could possibly agree without appearing weak. If Secord is serious about attacking Wolf for her donors, he might want to look at his own benefactors. Not all enjoy the most benign of reputations.
In recent weeks I’ve gotten a flurry of calls from people pointing out that Secord’s campaign office in Victoria Court in downtown Santa Barbara isn’t even located in the 2nd District, but the 1st. While hardly the biggest deal in the world, in the realm of political body language, this constitutes a mild outburst of Tourette’s syndrome. It signifies you aren’t of the people you purport to represent, and in gang-speak you claim Santa Barbara, rather than Noleta and Goleta — the beating heart of the 2nd District. It is, however, consistent with Dan’s past practices. Dan threw his campaign coming-out party at Restaurant Nu, which is also located in the 1st District. According to Secord’s campaign dude, Ray, Secord got an offer he just couldn’t refuse. Landlord Jimmy Knell of SIMA Corporation is providing the digs — equidistant between Victoria Court’s tiny post office and the cozy Café Bianco — free of charge.
This news will come as a major shock to Knell’s many tenants — among which, until a few years ago, The Independent was one — who’ve never known him to be guilty of committing random acts of kindness. There are those who drive a hard bargain; in Knell’s case, it’s more a matter of hit-and-run. And that explains why he’s winning the game of Santa Barbopoly. For 10 years, Knell rented a huge space to Alpha Thrift on the 1100 block of State Street across from the Museum of Art. In that time, Alpha’s rent doubled. Just last week, Alpha left downtown for good. Their lease came due, and Knell wanted to increase the rent from $28,000 per month to more than $40,000. Ouch! “It wasn’t that much of a rent increase,” said Knell when the news first broke. If that’s not, I’d hate to see what is. For years, Café Bianco — a coffee shop, bakery, and lunch spot — has struggled inside the labyrinthine warrens of Knell’s Victoria Court to develop a loyal customer base. How did Knell reward such a valiant effort? By placing a Starbucks on the outside of Victoria Court at the corner of State and Victoria. When that happened, Café Bianco found itself forced to work three times harder just to tread water. Rumor has it that when Café Bianco’s lease came due, Knell’s agents quietly deleted the contract language that prohibited Knell from renting to competitive enterprises in Victoria Court. I know Starbucks money is hard to resist. I know nobody ever wins by being Mister Nice Guy. But aren’t landlords the least bit concerned about their image? With landlords like Knell owning and managing so much of the State Street real estate above Carrillo, none of the many millions City Hall dumps into over-the-top redevelopment schemes will do much good. Maybe if landlords like Knell were less ruthless — ruth-full? — maybe City Hall wouldn’t have to spend $25 million on a new five-story Granada parking garage to liven up that part of town. Or the umpteen millions it’s shelled out to help out with the refurbishment of the Granada Theatre.
For Dan Secord, I know it would have been hard to pass up free rent. But even at that price, I think he’s paying too much — given the company he keeps. Maybe Dr. Dan can help set things right just a little bit. If I were him, I’d make sure none of my campaign workers and volunteers darkened Starbucks’ doors. I’d make sure they spent all their latte-bucks at Café Bianco instead. I admit that qualifies more as karmic reform than campaign finance reform, but from where I sit, that’s even better. I realize nobody wants to look a gift horse in the mouth. But especially as we enter the equine extravaganza known as Fiesta, it’s important that we remember to beware of Trojan horses.
— Nick Welsh