Council Race Gets Negative

Incumbent Councilmember Grant House Accused of Tax Troubles

Santa Barbara City Councilmember Grant House denied he had any outstanding tax problems with any government agency, as was alleged in paid TV commercials aired by Preserve Our Santa Barbara, a political action committee funded by Montecito resident and Texas housing developer Randall Van Wolfswinkel. The commercial claimed that House, a small business owner, had had a lien placed on him due to unpaid taxes. House admitted he got behind on taxes in 1991, but said that he’d taken care of it without incident at the time. House also said that he’s had no similar problems since then, and that he and his wife just got last year’s tax refunds in the mail. House has no plans to retaliate, saying that negative ad campaigns turn off Santa Barbara voters. “I think this reflects much worse on them than it does on me,” he said. “I think it reflects badly on their mothers.”

Wolfswinkel - who has reported raising $270,000 thus far in this race - is backing Dale Francisco for mayor and council candidates Michael Self, Frank Hotchkiss, and Cathie McCammon. House is the sole incumbent in a field of 13 council candidates, and he opposes Measure B, the ballot initiative that would reduce the maximum building height by one third. The Van Wolfswinkel slate is unified in their support for Measure B. In addition, House had been an enthusiastic champion of alternative transportation and traffic-calming devices, such as the bulb-out, that have elicited considerable criticism from some quarters, especially from Francisco, Self, and Hotchkiss.

Preserve Our Santa Barbara and Van Wolfswinkel have also unleashed negative mailers about mayoral candidate Steve Cushman, who is competing with Francisco for Santa Barbara’s right-of-center voters in a three-way race for mayor. (Technically, there are five candidates vying for the top spot, but the other two - Bob Hansen and Isaac Garrett - are not raising funds.) The mailers attack Cushman for having received $50,000 from billionaire Russian banker Sergey Grishin, who has owned property in Montecito for eight years and is now reportedly settling down on the South Coast. The mailer, titled “From Russia with Love”- a play on the James Bond film of the same name - questions the size of the donation and what Cushman will have to do to return the favor. Cushman was not available for comment.

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