Few Santa Barbara politicians come as prepared, equipped, and temperamentally suited to serve in Sacramento as Das Williams, the politically restless progressive now holding down the left end of the Santa Barbara City Council. Williams is both pragmatist and ideologue, meaning he can grandstand with the best of them but also get things done. With local roots running deep, Williams will remain accessible once ensconced in the weird Twilight Zone of Sacramento. Constituent calls will be returned; their issues, addressed. The same cannot be said for the recent occupant of that seat.
During his six years on the City Council, Williams has matured into a force to be reckoned with. When it came to installing solar panels on city buildings, Williams was not afraid to mix it up with reluctant city administrators. He made his case, he persisted, and he prevailed. Without Williams, there would be no Living Wage ordinance, in hindsight probably more symbolic in its accomplishments than tangible. As an advocate of alternative transportation, Williams pushed City Hall to increase its support for MTD, and pushed MTD to make its schedules more enticing to would-be riders. Williams lead the charge to increase Redevelopment Agency funding for affordable housing. In Santa Barbara’s inevitable development wars, Williams has supported greater downtown densities in order to promote more affordable options. But more than anyone else in the so-called “smart growth” camp, Williams has reached out to the other side — traditional slow-growthers worried about losing what makes Santa Barbara special. While those efforts did not bear fruit, we were impressed he made them. As a lawmaker, Williams has demonstrated a clear understanding of all the movable parts that make up a political deal. If Williams remains true to his ideals — as opposed to his ambitions — we believe he has the potential to become an exceptional legislator.