Mayor Helene Schneider

Paul Wellman (file)

Mayor Helene Schneider

Helene Schneider for Mayor; Bendy White, Gregg Hart, David Landecker for City Council

Santa Barbara Independent Endorsements in City Races

Thursday, October 10, 2013
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This year, we faced the classic Goldilocks conundrum in deciding which candidates to endorse in the Santa Barbara City Council race; some were too hot, others too cold, and few just right. To an uncommon degree, however, they have all contributed to Santa Barbara’s public discourse. Ultimately, we opted for the candidates we believe are most committed to using all the tools available to promote the development of affordable housing and meaningful transportation alternatives. More than good intentions, however, we selected the candidates who bring the right mix of experience, knowledge, and stubborn creativity necessary to translate that vision into meaningful policy. Likewise, we selected those candidates we deemed the least prone to hysteria and histrionics on the matters of homelessness and public safety. Also guiding our choice was the candidates’ awareness and attitude regarding some of the looming challenges now confronting City Hall. Two years ago, the city’s Redevelopment Agency ​— ​like all such agencies statewide ​— ​was abolished by state fiat. Whether right or wrong, that action has seriously hamstrung City Hall’s ability to support affordable housing projects, invest in the arts, take care of its parking lots, and solve the problem of $250 million in unfunded pension liabilities without vilifying the frontline city employees who do the people’s work at City Hall.

Helene Schneider for Mayor

We enthusiastically endorse Mayor Helene Schneider to a second term. During the past two years, especially, Schneider has come into her own. She’s smart, open, and ubiquitous. And her grasp of detail is nothing less than exceptional. Throughout most of her term, City Hall has weathered the fiscal storm of the international recession. In that time, 80 positions were eliminated by attrition ​— ​at a savings of $8 million a year ​— ​but no employee was laid off. Four more cops were hired, and a new restorative policing program was hatched. After years of intense wrangling, a new General Plan and a plastic-bag ban were both unanimously approved. Under Schneider’s guidance the Rental Housing Mediation Task Force, which had been effectively slated for elimination, was saved, and the city increased its investment in the arts. When it appeared the state might force City Hall to sell off its downtown parking lots ​— ​as a consequence of the Redevelopment Agency’s elimination ​— ​Schneider led the successful charge to save them. In the nuts and bolts of pothole politics, Schneider has excelled. She played a key role in the restriping of Cliff Drive (Highway 225) ​— ​giving that busy, dangerous thoroughfare what’s known in the parlance as “a road diet.” Even those councilmembers who regarded such initiatives as social engineering have had to admit it’s been a success. And when it is called for, Schneider can play a mean game of hardball. By threatening to withhold the permits necessary to build the massive freeway-widening project unless certain city infrastructure needs are addressed, Schneider is definitely getting Caltrans’s attention. How that plays out, however, has yet to be seen, but without such a credible threat, we’re confident the city’s needs would have gotten shorter shrift.

Of course we don’t always see eye-to-eye with the mayor. We disagree that a gang injunction is needed in Santa Barbara. Like many in the community, we were offended that such a major policy initiative would be adopted behind closed doors without benefit of even one public hearing. A similar lack of openness doomed the package of initiatives the mayor proposed early last year, which, if passed, would have generated $12 million for City Hall and the public schools. The plan was undeniably creative and bold, but because Schneider sprang it on the community without consulting any of the key stakeholders first, she was forced to beat a strategic retreat. But even so, we were heartened to see the extent to which Schneider was willing to stick her neck out to secure new revenue streams for City Hall. Despite strong personal and political differences among some of its members, under Schneider’s guidance the council has stayed working as a highly functioning body. In this time of political shutdown, it is a gift that Santa Barbara has a government that works ​— ​and that is in no small part due to our Mayor Helene Schneider.

Harwood ‘Bendy’ White, Gregg Hart, David Landecker for City Council

Of the three council seats up for grabs, two are currently occupied by incumbents Bendy White and Frank Hotchkiss. We are happy to endorse White ​— ​who seems built into the very DNA of City Hall, given his length of service on numerous boards and commissions. While there is much to appreciate about Hotchkiss ​— ​he’s plainspoken, self-deprecating, hardworking, and gets to the point faster than any of his colleagues ​— ​we differ on too many key issues relating to housing, traffic, and the environment to endorse him. For the second and third spots, we recommend Gregg Hart and David Landecker, two progressive-minded former councilmembers. While both have notable blind spots, both bring a high level of intelligence, independence, and experience.

Harwood "Bendy" White
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Harwood “Bendy” White

We are confident all three will pursue the admittedly limited opportunities to build new housing that’s affordable to people other than millionaires. To that end, they will support strong incentives for multiple, smaller “affordable-by-design” housing units. To the extent City Hall can jigger land-use policies to encourage the development of rental housing ​— ​62 percent of the population rents ​— ​we are confident that these three will do so. This, necessarily, will be accomplished by reducing the amount of parking required for new residential development. And this change can work only by expanding the range of commuter choices available to city residents. The car must become just one of many options. Even so, all councilmembers will need to remain alive to neighborhood concerns about parking, congestion, and density.

It’s an exceedingly delicate balancing act: one that Bendy White clearly gets. White has already played a quiet leadership role on these matters. When the council was polarized to the point of impasse ​— ​neighborhood preservationists objected that additional densities would destroy the city’s character ​— ​White played a key role in striking a compromise.

Gregg Hart
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman (file)

Gregg Hart

Gregg Hart, a spokesperson for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), will bring to the council an obvious intelligence and sunny congeniality; he knows traffic and transportation issues like few others on the South Coast. After his having served two terms on the City Council 10 years ago ​— ​and the Planning Commission before that ​— ​we know Hart’s qualified. We remain concerned how he will juggle his council responsibilities with the full-time job he now holds down at SBCAG. More to the point, when City Hall and SBCAG find themselves at loggerheads ​— ​as they currently are ​— ​over aspects of the freeway-widening project, we’re concerned how Hart will manage his conflicted allegiances. We are persuaded that he has the energy to do both jobs, and he should recuse himself from council votes regarding the freeway.

David Landecker
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman (file)

David Landecker

David Landecker, who was forced to resign for shoplifting when he sat on the council 22 years ago, has more than redeemed himself. He was an effective and inventive executive director first of the Neighborhood Clinics and then the Environmental Defense Center. He brings with him a lifetime of experience in the nonprofit world, private business, and with organizations ranging from the Chamber of Commerce to the Citizens Planning Association. If Landecker can keep his bull-in-the-china-shop proclivities on a short leash, we’re confident he can make a valuable contribution.

Megan Diaz Alley, the most progressive candidate in the race, impressed us with her passion and energy. We’re hoping that she remains active in city politics. Likewise, we hope that Michael Jordan, a city planning commissioner and shrewdly outspoken middle-of-the-roader who did not get his campaign organized early enough to compete in this large body of candidates, will consider running again.

But for this election, we believe that Mayor Helene Schneider, Councilmember Harwood “Bendy” White, Gregg Hart, and David Landecker will serve our city best.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

No surprises here. In years past, I've used the Indy's endorsements as a voting guide. This year it will serve as a sort of "anti-guide."
We just cannot continue with the same sort of failed old politics, the familiar faces re-trotted out after exile or hiatus.
I have to take exception also with any endorsement that is "impressed" with (though not endorsing this time) someone who is clearly lacking in even the fundamentals of political thought and civic experience. "Passion and energy" are really _not_ qualifications for candidacy.

zappa (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 9:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, the Indy wants to see high density housing with cramped streets with little to no parking available. I guess that's one way to increase circulation.

Botany (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 9:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And the Indy never mentioned serious contenders Lesley Wiscomb and Jason Nelson.

Botany (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 9:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wayne Scoles is a serious contender too. I've never seen him crack a smile.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 10:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Why do you call this magazine the "Independent"? Did "Socialist" and Communist" not fare well with the focus group?
You have repeatedly given the credit to the Mayor for "weathering the storm". Come down to Faulkner's Gallery today where the city has set up shop for employee services. Tell me if those individuals getting flu shots and extra help receiving more benefits look "weathered by storms" to you...

(I better stop now, before I'm labeled "Hysterical"!)
Steve Reynalds (Write in candidate for Mayor)

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 10:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Indy endorses the property-owning, old white guy slate for city council.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 10:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's nice that the Indy is honest and up front about supporting pro-development and pro-growth candidates. Before they would claim they were pro-environment and pro-public health without mentioning their pro-development leanings.

It would be nice to hear an admission from the Indy that their support for development out weighs the negative environmental, public health, and quality of life impacts from that development that they feel is less important, as well as their support for the State of California's housing element system that overrides local control for land use and local zoning.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 10:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, surprising choices by the Independent! Sure, Bendy's good, but Ms. Schneider now courts the Montecito fat-cats (Montecito 101) for their future help with her future campaigns. WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR 4-POINT REFORM EFFORT OF LAST YEAR, Ms. Schneider? A little too radical for you or for your potential voters when you run for Lois's seat??
Try a bullet for for Megan Alley!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 11:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Endorsement of the property-owning old guys, who urge more development and increased density for the poor folks, but not for the upper east, where Mickey Flacks lives, or where Hart lives or where White lives or where Landecker lives.

Not so independent an Independent after all. Of the three independents in the race, only pro-development Jordan got a wink, while Nelson and Wiscomb were not even mentioned. Wow!

at_large (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 9:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Where a councilmember lives is irrelevant so long as they're fair.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 10, 2013 at 10:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

From the article above:

"The video that originally accompanied this story, which was provided by McGinnes, was removed after objections from one of his family members."

Connect the dots. Are people really THAT hypnotized, or is The Independent an arm of The State?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 11, 2013 at 3:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Welll, EB, I mostly agree but when most Council members [not the mayor] live in zipcodes out of our low-income areas it makes you wonder... Why don't we get bicycle cops over here in the Westside? Why couldn't some of us get a traffic light near Super Cuca's on Micheltorena [was told it was too expensive at $40,OOO]? Why are most of the members OK with packing more dense housing into Westside/lower Eastside or...anywhere but San Roque/Mission Canyon/Hidden Valley etc? or anywhere near where THEY live? At-large's comments do resonate somewhat. With respect, I feel where a majority of the Council members live does impact their decisions, at least somewhat. Let's return to ward elections.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
October 11, 2013 at 11:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@DrDan, for at_large's claim to be based on any fact at all, you'd need to cite a development on the upper east that had the potential for being "increased density" but was lobbied against by Hart or White. Can you?

Whether one supports it or not, the fact that the Cottage workforce housing project on the upper east was approved by the Planning Commission really puts a hole in that theory.

I think there are much more reasonable explanations why one might perceive increased density development in specific neighborhoods. First is existing zoning and suitable properties. The upper east is primarily zoned for single-family residences with smallish lots. That doesn't mean zoning can't be changed, but it would make it more difficult for higher density projects, even if Hart or White wanted them there.

Second, planners prefer to put increased density housing along traffic corridors. Like it or not, that increases the chances you'll see approved development along places like the Haley corridor or in the "industrial" part of the east side as opposed to places like the upper east or Mission Canyon.

There may be good reasons to have ward elections, but the facts just don't support at_large's specific claim.

Finally, anyone who's been paying attention to Bendy White knows he's difficult to peg from a development viewpoint. That might be a good thing because each development is different and needs to be evaluated in context.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 12, 2013 at 12:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

good points, most of which I can't rebut. And I'm OK with Bendy. However, on my Westside wow there is plenty of dense housing=big apartment complexes right next to the 101 already...gonna pack more in there? How?
I don't think "the Cottage workforce housing project on the upper east" puts a big hole in my theory: 1) it was fought against tooth and nail for years; 2) it's actually not that dense, I think, compared to the tenement apartment dwellings crammed into the Westside.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
October 12, 2013 at 2:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Isn't "High Density" progressive-speak for "tenement"?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 12, 2013 at 6:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The definition of "High Density" in the City of Santa Barbara is 28 to 36 dwelling units per acre:

The bulk of that zoning is located between State and the 101.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 12, 2013 at 6:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@DrDan, the Cottage workforce housing is middle of the road for what zoning and the City's General Plan allow for that neighborhood (six acres with 115 units is almost 20 dwelling units per acre):

Given the huge amount of NIMBYism exhibited by some neighbors, it's amazing they were able to pull off 20 DU per acre. I supported the workforce housing and I'm glad Bendy did too (as well as oppose Measure Y).

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
October 12, 2013 at 7:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I was sympathetic to the workforce housing up there, a bit of at least higher density [your 20 DU vs. "high" at over 28] in an area with relatively low density... But in terms of our area, it seemed like losing St Francis meant we had one less hospital [down to two now] and that the Cottage/Sansum monster would continue to grow and monopolize health care....

DrDan (anonymous profile)
October 12, 2013 at 8:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Indy is a conservative publication that supports existing power in the city. What we currently have in SB city hall doesn't work, and recycling the same political hacks sure won't help. Schneider represents Schneider. We need to elect candidates who represent the community, not the city - that's city staff's responsibility. Wayne Scoles for mayor, Cruzito Cruz for city council.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
October 15, 2013 at 12:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm voting for the Latin@ who speaks English without fabricating new words or babbling like a word salad.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 2:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Quite frankly, I'd be embarrassed to make these endorsements. What is with the Independent who has long shown itself to be nothing more than a shill for the Democratic Party.

Was hoping in light of the huge mess left by too many years of "progressive" city council majorities staring us in the face, we would finally see some independence in the Independent.

Nope, these are not my picks. Not a single one of them. We can't afford any of them.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 20, 2013 at 5:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

High-density is progressive speak for more Democrat voters.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 20, 2013 at 5:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

BTW: I do love the glam shot of Madame Mayor. Nice to see the color, style and glitter.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 9:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Here is the biggest challenge facing this city.

City CFO quoted in an article to the NewsPress that the city faces $200 million (plus) in unfunded employee pension liabilities and $200 million in unfunded city infrastructure repair and maintenance projections.

1. is the city CFO telling the truth? Then what will city council do about this; and will city staff accept this as the new reality they have to live with.

2. Is the city CFO lying or materially exaggerating this approx $400 millon in unfunded city liabilities? if so, when why does he still have his job.

3. Did the NewsPress inaccurately report what the city CFO stated. Do you have proof this is what they did to corroborate this was inaccurate reporting.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 27, 2013 at 6:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am really shocked that the NewsPress would inaccurately report anything.
That would be just amazing.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
November 4, 2013 at 9:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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