Wednesday evening, Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN) hosted a forum in the library’s Faulkner Gallery for Santa Barbara mayoral and City Council candidates to explain why they should be elected and to answer questions regarding plans for addressing the city’s current and future issues.
Speaking at the meeting were mayoral candidates Steve Cushman, Helene Schneider, and Iya Falcone. (As the even took place Wednesday, Falcone had not yet been disqualified from the election for having only 95 of the required 100 valid signatures needed to appear on the ballot.) The mayoral panel was followed by one consisting of City Council candidates Harwood “Bendy” White, Cathie McCammon, Dianne Channing, John Thyne, Grant House, David Pritchett, and Lane Anderson, all of which are all seeking SBCAN’s endorsement. The majority of discussion topics throughout the forum were focused on SBCAN’s “HOT” principles - housing, open space, and transportation.
The evening kicked off with the mayoral candidates introducing themselves, sharing their backgrounds, listing qualifications, stating positions on recent issues, and explaining why they are the ideal person for the position of Santa Barbara mayor. Following the introductions was an opportunity for Santa Barbara citizens and SBCAN members to ask the candidates questions.
In response to one citizen’s disappointment in the rate of progress the low-income housing has seen in the last few years, Schneider and Falcone both called attention to the fact that 13-14 percent of all housing units in Santa Barbara are designated as subsidized housing, agreeing that Santa Barbara housing is actually fairly decent compared to some other places. Schneider acknowledged the issue of large units, and expressed hopes for a limit on maximum unit size. Falcone emphasized the need to address the population that makes an income too high for low-income housing but too low to pay for other housing options in Santa Barbara. Finding a way to get people of all income levels to their jobs in Santa Barbara was the main emphasis for Cushman, “Let’s be realistic: Santa Barbara doesn’t want anymore housing,” he said. “It’s all about transportation and regional planning.”
While none of the candidates took a solid stance on the issue of Measure B - the initiative that would cap building heights throughout the city lower than they are now - they all seemed to agree that they would support the people’s choice. Schneider stated that she was not taking a public position on Measure B. Falcone admitted to not signing the petition, and that she believes other factors must be considered as well when working on housing, but that she will support what the people vote for. Cushman stated that he opposes the government referendum.
The living wage was briefly brought up, and all three candidates expressed that they are content with where the current living wage stands. Falcone stated that she is “proud of the living wage we have,” and Cushman described it as “very appropriate.” Schneider believes that employees from public agencies should earn the living wage.
Following a small intermission, the City Council candidates each introduced themselves and gave some additional information, just as the mayoral candidates had before them.
When addressing a question regarding the 25,000 daily commuters into Santa Barbara, all the candidates seemed to agree that improvements in affordable housing and transportation were possible solutions - specifically a high-occupancy vehicle lane, a commuter rail, and regional transit. Pritchett noted the need for smaller apartments. Regarding sustainability, the shared opinion was that it is crucial for us to start living within our resources.
One concerned citizen up brought the issue of homelessness and how it affectings the daily lives of people in Santa Barbara. Many of the candidates referred to the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness and expressed a support and hope for that effort. Anderson shared that he has seen the police respond to reported disturbances with the homeless and recalled the compassion they had when dealing with the problems. A few candidates did stress police involvement - but only as a temporary solution to individual incidents. “We can’t just keep putting them in the jail,” said House. “It’s just a revolving door and it doesn’t solve anything.” Channing supports bike patrols because she feels there is a more calming community presence. Pritchett agreed with this suggestion listed another reason it would be a helpful endeavor: “More police patrols, especially on bikes, is something that’s a great idea because bikes are stealthy,” he said.
Asked about campaign contributions, the majority of the candidates simply described that they make their best efforts to keep their campaign effective with whatever donations they get - some describing whom they do or do not take contributions from. Anderson proudly explained that he is the only candidate not accepting campaign contributions.
The evening ended with the candidates clearing out of the Faulkner Gallery, leaving the SBCAN members to vote on which candidates to endorse.