With the November election looming, five candidates vying for three city council seats met yesterday evening to pitch their ideas on how they’d like to navigate Carpinteria’s future.
Candidates attending the City Hall debate answered questions on local business, Caltrans freeway work, and environmental issues.
Steve McWhirter, a second time council contender, even promoted the idea of making the beach cruiser the official ride of Carpinteria as a solution to curb parking problems.
“It’s a real symbol of who we are and what we represent,” McWhirter said.
The five contenders also spoke on the importance of attracting tourist dollars while maintaining a small town feel.
“There are few communities who offer what we have,” said Mayor Gregg Carty, who is seeking his second term. “The challenge is protecting what we have.”
Janice Sugiyama, a first time candidate, said that in order to save local and incoming business, the city must control rent costs to prevent more empty shops on Linden Avenue.
“These are hard times,” Sugiyama said. “We don’t want to increase costs on our businesses. We’ve even lost our only theater.”
Longtime city council member, Brad Stein, who is seeking a fifth term, said buying locally is what will keep business open.
“It might cost me the extra dollar but I’m glad that dollar stays within the community,” Stein said.
First Friday, where musicians, restaurants and shops line the streets of Carpinteria, was a hot topic at Saturday night’s debate.
Everyone agreed to some degree that more advertisement and holding First Friday festivities bi-monthly would boost business revenue.
Candidates spoke on contrasting ideas of whether or not the city should introduce bigger businesses to fill their empty storefronts.
Incumbent Al Clark, a 24-year Carp resident and small business owner, said that local business will have a hard time surviving if outside corporations are introduced.
“My intent is to protect small businesses from bigger business,” Clark said. “We have remained a small town. The challenge is to maintain a small town.”
When asked about the environmental challenges of Carpinteria, candidates tossed around ideas like enforcing a smoking ban in Carpinteria, cleaning runoff water to protect beaches, and preventing cookie-cutter housing projects.
“There’s only limited amount of space from the mountain to the ocean,” Clark said.
Candidates were also asked how they plan to avoid traffic problems during future Caltrans work on Highway 101.
McWhirter suggested that the city use tools like Facebook and Twitter to keep residents notified about construction plans.
Clark and Carty both agreed that plans to widen the Linden Ave. and Casitas pass bridges to three times its width would curtail Carp’s small town charm.
“Wider bridges also mean that it has to span further,” Carty said.
“We don’t want a huge infrastructure in our small town,” Clark added. “That would separate our town even more.”
Those in attendance were given a chance to speak one-on-one with candidates following the debate.