A crowd of about 45 people enjoyed some free Surf Dogs, soft drinks, friendly political debate, and a bit of live music in Oak Park on the evening of Wednesday, June 10, as part of the official launch of David Pritchett’s campaign for one of three open seats on the Santa Barbara City Council. Running on a campaign of change, the environmental scientist, civic activist, and video journalist claims he has what it takes to “steer Santa Barbara back onto the right track.”
Following the hot dogs and an introduction by Mike Marzolla, an environmental educator with UC’s Cooperative Extension program, Pritchett took the stage to animated applause from his supporters. The crowd included fellow environmentalist and City Council candidate Lane Anderson and former candidate for 3rd District Supervisor Dr. Dave Bearman. In addition to environmental and affordable housing activists, Pritchett says his supporters include leaders from civic projects in local neighboorhoods, the Franklin Center Advisory Committee, and Bob Handy, a former director of the Central Coast Democratic party.
Although he describes himself as a lifelong Democrat, he says the issues he cares most about, such as road quality, traffic congestion, bacterial contamination in Mission Creek and East Beach, affordable housing, and updating the Santa Barbara General Plan, are non-partisan. “I have supporters of all political affiliations,” he said. “It is all about the quality of life in Santa Barbara.”
Pritchett - whose wife is Cathy Murrillo, KCSB news director and contributor to the Santa Barbara Independent - said he was inspired by President Barrack Obama’s campaign and wants to bring change to the local level. He feels the city has gotten off track in many ways, and he published a ten-point plan in March on how to fix it. At the rally, he listed five of these: “exercising fiscal discipline, improving public safety, maintaining rental housing stock, expanding regional transportation systems, and conducting transparent government procedures.”
After making a declaration in Spanish - a particularly crowd-pleasing moment - Pritchett explained that he chose to launch his campaign in Oak Park because it epitomizes many of the current issues in City Council. He cites the creek, for example, as symbolizing a need to restore water quality and bring back Steelhead trout, while the cracked wading pool embodies the need to save recreation programs in the face of a budget crisis. Even the development to the nearby Cottage Hospital represents zoning changes, parking issues, and the new height ordinance.
When asked about the height ordinance, he explained, “I support it, but don’t think it’s as big of a deal as people on both sides of the debate make it out to be.” He said he supports it to protect the aesthetic beauty of the Santa Barbara skyline, but thinks a focus on affordable housing downtown is more important.
Pritchett also wants to adjust the city budget to put more patrol cops on the street to combat gang violence, but feels that they city has done a good job with the youth programs. The problem, he says, is that they are not getting kids to go to any of the programs. Rather than create new programs, he wants to meet with coordinators of pre-existing ones to improve organization and increase the referrals of at-risk youth.
After discussing his experience in local government committees and where he wants to go next with his campaign, he presented Diego Torres-Santos, a member of the Santa Barbara Youth Council, to end the rally with a song. Diego, a Pritchett supporter, said that the community needs to stand together to improve the city, and sang Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.”
Sonya Baker, a woman who attended the rally, said she likes Pritchett’s knowledge of the issues of average Santa Barbara families. “Finally, somebody who is truly of the people,” she said. Another attendee, Susan Lafond, commented, “I like that he’s an environmentalist; [the environment is] an issue we need to confront.”
Pritchett wants his campaign to be a grassroots movement, and is utilizing Facebook and Twitter. More information about his campaign, experience, and his ten-point plan can be found at his website, davidpritchett.org.