Why the S.B. City Election Matters

Wednesday, October 16, 2013
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Ballots have just arrived in mailboxes of registered voters in the City of Santa Barbara. This election season is a rare one in which there is practically nothing on the ballot except for the race for mayor and three city councilmembers in the city. It’s an “off year,” and that usually means low voter turnout. It’s the kind of election where those who vote are likely to be a good deal older, more financially comfortable and conservative than the population as a whole. And so it’s the kind of election where right-wing candidates, who would have little chance in a high turnout year, can win. And that’s made more likely this year, when there are more progressive candidates than there are seats to fill.

Moreover, one of the candidates running for reelection is Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss, former committee member of the county GOP Central Committee. Incumbents usually stand a better chance than challengers, so if the voter turnout is typical of off years, and we don’t get it together, we’ll have another four years with Frank. We need to recognize that he represents, in a rather sweet, amiable way, the most retrograde politics in the U.S.A. Here’s a sampling of his publicly aired thoughts:

• The city general plan shouldn’t be guided by concerns about climate change (like planning for ways to conserve energy, reduce emissions, promote public transit): “Conclusions and proposals based on climate change have no place in the general plan update as they are speculative at best,” he said.

• The city should not try to ban plastic bags: “As for the serious charge that plastic bags kill sea life, the good news is that plastic cannot be digested. Polyethylene is nontoxic and indigestible by birds and sea mammals. It passes right through them without effect,” he said. Of course, given the evident popularity of the ban, he wisely voted for it despite his belief that the animals just poop the plastic away.

• Mr. Hotchkiss ran initially with a declared hope to offer gang members this choice: “Get out of the gang, or get out of Santa Barbara.” This time he’s sounding more mellow: “I will … encourage people to reject the violent ethos of gang membership and turn to a more productive and satisfying way of life.” But this is a coded reference to the city’s gang injunction, a measure bitterly opposed in Latino neighborhoods.

• One of the main reasons he wants to continue to serve us: “Four years is more time to address the unsolved problem of transients, vagrants, and indigents on our streets. We should insist that they help themselves as we help them on their journey forward.”

• Mr. Hotchkiss, as you can see, has lots of street smarts. That was evident, in a public meeting called to deal with local patterns of police profiling of minority youth, when he declared: “There are some universal experiences that sometimes we relate to perhaps our color, or our stature, or our age that in fact are not related at all. I can assure you that no matter what color you are, when you see those flashing lights suddenly come on in the rearview mirror of your car, your heart is in your mouth. So please don’t think that that’s because of what you look like at all; it’s for all of us.” Members of the audience were not enthusiastic about his insights at the time.

Frank Hotchkiss is entitled to his beliefs, even when contradicted by science as well as social reality. And maybe it’s a good idea to have at least one council member who speaks for what we currently label as the “Tea Party”. But if I were a member of that party, I might feel that Hotchkiss lacks the courage of his convictions. As Election Day approaches, he tends to vote for the things he previously was denouncing. And if I were a more rational conservative, I’d be pretty embarrassed by his public presence.

So, if you were wondering whether to vote, or to contribute time and money to alternative candidates, consider that nonparticipation is essentially a vote for Frank Hotchkiss — since the folks who like the sound of his voice always do turn out.

But who to vote for? The problem is that there are four solidly liberal, environmentally conscious candidates running for three seats. A similar situation four years ago split the liberal vote, and Republican-leaning candidates were elected, including Hotchkiss. This time, the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party Central Committee tried to avoid such a split vote. The committee listened to all of the Democratic candidates seeking endorsement, and it took an early initiative to endorse a slate of three. It’s a well-balanced slate including veteran incumbent Bendy White, longtime progressive public official Gregg Hart, and a new young candidate, Megan Diaz Alley, whose personal experience and commitment is to renters, working people, minorities, and women, all of whom are presently quite underrepresented in local government.

I think Megan’s decision to run, the energy and dedication she’s been showing on the campaign trail, and the support she’s gaining from those sectors of the community who often feel left out of local politics gives all more reason to vote — and to join the campaign. While our elected officials have split their endorsements between the four Democrats running, social justice organizations have been more united. It is worth noting that many unions and the CAUSE Action Fund (formerly PUEBLO Action Fund) have endorsed Megan and Gregg, and the Women’s Political Committee endorsed only Megan.

Every election helps determine the future of the town and the region. It’s a future we have every reason to be worried about — but a future that also holds promise. Take a look at Megan’s Facebook page.

Let me know what you think about all this! And if you like this post, please share it!

Dick Flacks has been on the faculty at UCSB for 45 years and is a longtime political activist in Santa Barbara.

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to reflect Frank Hotchkiss’s actual relationship with the local GOP Central Committee. He was never its chair, but was a member of the committee.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Only in Santa Barbara, and maybe Bezerkley, are centrists considered right wing.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2013 at 9:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How can Frank Hotchkiss be labeled "TEA party"? Is this based on his views of local issues? Has he made known his views on national politics? If not, this is a clear attempt by the Indy to besmirch his reputation.

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

Botany, obviously you don't watch enough MSNBC propaganda...

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2013 at 10:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Hotchkiss TV ads are creepy and scary at the same time with his fake fireside chats.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2013 at 11:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Frank Hotchkiss is our man!

Botany (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2013 at 11:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"The problem is that there are four solidly liberal, environmentally conscious candidates running for three seats. "

The writer Flacks lacks environmental consciousness.

His crop of candidates will most likely support the anti-environmental pro-growth policies that do the most damage to Santa Barbara's environment.

Relying on negative stereotyping to endorse other candidates often backfires.

I'm no fan of Hotchkiss, but the letter here is hypocritical. The candidates he endorses have nearly as many flaws both environmentally and in support of special interests (unions) that don't benefit the public.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2013 at 11:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The one who is really creepy and scary in her city ignorance is Alley who answered the question of the SBView, "What new revenue sources do you envision for the City of Santa Barbara?, with this non-answer:
“As the economy improves, the City continues to see an increase in revenue from property taxes, sales taxes and transient occupancy (bed) tax. I support expanding enforcement of existing tax collections, including business license fees and transient occupancy tax collections for short-term rentals.” – Megan Alley - See more questions/answers at: . Probably even the most hostile to the city would not be in favor of city spies poking around, peering in windows for the illegal rentals so as to collect TOT, even if possible.

If there are but two electoral evils in this race, Alley and Hotchkiss, (and there are more) Hotchkiss is the lesser. This election calls out for a none-of-the-above vote. Only Wiscomb and Landecker seem to have a grasp of the financial issues, with thoughtful ways of tackling them but both of those have baggage, the former's relatively recent, although longer than Alley's, local residence; and the latter has an overweening self-regard which seems to deafen him to other viewpoints.

As for the others, Harwood-Bendy seems to have retreated to his above-it-all aerie and doesn't answer questions - probably safer that way, although it says a lot about what he says about the SB electorate; Hart already is drawing one public salary from the County, and is greedy for an additional city salary (nice double public pension he'll get if he gets elected!) — anyone who supported term limits for Council, as we in the city did, should have a hard time voting for someone fast-talking, wiggling away from the spirit of the law.

It's been a very disappointing campaign with few newer ideas (Nelson has some) and even fewer sparkings of voter interest.

at_large (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2013 at 12:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Megan Alley is great!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2013 at 1:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No, no, no, no, no, if Frank Hotchkiss is Tea Party then I will eat my bong.

Read this carefully:

"A finding in a study on the relationship between science literacy and political ideology surprised the Yale professor behind it: Tea party members know more science than non-tea partiers.

Yale law professor Dan Kahan posted on his blog this week that he analyzed the responses of more than 2,000 American adults recruited for another study and found that, on average, people who leaned liberal were more science literate than those who leaned conservative.

However, those who identified as part of the tea party movement were actually better versed in science than those who didn’t, Kahan found. The findings met the conventional threshold of statistical significance, the professor said.

Kahan wrote that not only did the findings surprise him, they embarrassed him.

“I’ve got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I’d be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension,” Kahan wrote.

“But then again, I don’t know a single person who identifies with the tea party,” he continued. “All my impressions come from watching cable tv — & I don’t watch Fox News very often — and reading the ‘paper’ (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused Internet sites like Huffington Post and POLITICO). I’m a little embarrassed, but mainly, I’m just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.”

Read more:

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2013 at 1:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Meanwhile no matter who gets elected the working-class in Santa Barbara rush about frantically just trying to keep their noses above water. Most of these people will never be able to afford to buy a house in the area, and even the ones who do own homes know that when their kids come of age they will not be able to buy a home in S.B. but the good news is that plastic bags are bannned and Frank Hotchkiss will protect us from those homeless people so both sides of the political aisle will ensure the continuity of Paradise.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Even in the People's Republic of Santa Monica with it's onerous rent control, the only two classes of people that can afford to live there are the rich and the homeless. It's the nature of resort and wealthy communities. How many McDonald's employees in Palo Alto actually live in Palo Alto? Santa Monica tried to legislate affordable living, it didn't work there, it will never work here for the same reasons.

Botany (anonymous profile)
October 17, 2013 at 8:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Botany: Here is an interesting article on the PRSM also known as "The Home of The Homeless". Methinks S.B. isn't much different.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 12:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Another vote against Mr. Flacks' misleading comments toward Hotchkiss. Its one thing to disagree with policies, its another to incorrectly label someone a Tea Partier, and its an outright lie to say he was Chair of the local GOP. Bring some facts to the table, not partisan rhetoric that rings false and discredits your other statements.

Bajades (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 7:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

At least Hotchkiss admits he is a Republican, unlike Nelson, Wiscomb, and Jordan.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 8:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Time to change the red diapers on the baby the Flacks have wrapped up around this town. We don't salivate at the mere mention of "Tea Party" Dick, because it does not exist in this town.

See if your calculated buzz words can find a good home somewhere else, along with your wife's constant stream of false dichotomies and verbal bullying. But I don't think even Santa Monica is buying this progressive drivel any longer.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 11:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Funny when you think about it since the lefties tried to ditch the word "Liberals" a while back and traded it for the now equally be-smirched "progressive" label. Both labels are now a kiss of death in this town.

Slinging out unfounded "tea party" accusations as their only rebuttal iss pathetic, if not slightly amusing considering the labeling the Lib/Progs have been trying to avoid for themselves.

The sooner we get back to "independent, non-partisan and civic minded" descriptions of those still willing to run for public office in this town for NON-PARTISAN elections, the better off we will all be.

File that under good advice, Flacks. And welcome to the INP&CM party.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 11:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@botany: "Even in the People's Republic of Santa Monica with it's onerous rent control, the only two classes of people that can afford to live there are the rich and the homeless."

It's funny that you are one of the folks that complain about a few affordable housing units turning SB into Los Angeles - and then you compare SB to a place in Los Angeles.

The median annual household income in Santa Monica is about $66,000 year, as compared to Santa Barbara which is about $60,000 - with the average rent being about the same in both ($1,400/month). The fact that you don't notice the working class in Santa Monica does not mean they do not exist.

Of course, Santa Monica doesn't really need to house its workforce because it is surrounded by the rest of L.A. and has more than one major transportation corridor. Santa Monica is also a third of the size of Santa Barbara with a comparable population - so that density (whatever you mean by that) that you hate so much - your Santa Monica has it.

EatTheRich (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 12:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I didn't say Frank was a tea partier but the quotes represent the climate change denial that seems to be a feature of what gets labeled as tea party. My information is that he did serve as chair of the SB GOP.

rflacks (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 12:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, average rents are comparable because of rent control. However, most of the people that live in the rent-controlled apartments have been there 20 years or longer with no intention of moving. Once they move, the rents revert to market rates, which is substantially higher of course. For those with the idea that rent control will make SB affordable to those wanting to move into the area, sorry. Rent control is worthless to anyone moving into the area. Just like prop 13, rent control only benefits those that have been in one place a very long time.

Botany (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 12:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Santa Barbara, which is NOT where most of the jobs are anyway, is also (1) surrounded by low to moderately priced bedroom communities, (2) on a major transportation corridor ,and (3) not outside the average US commute time of forty minutes.

17% of all housing units at last count are mandated and subsidized "affordable" and mostly for low-income residents. That is more than enough for any one community to absorb.

Time to stop confusing Santa Barbara (the brand) with Montecito and Hope Ranch where the "rich" do live in isolated splendor feeding the erroneous conclusion "Santa Barbara" the city, is wealthy.

The city itself is not wealthy, and I question your statement average income in the city of Santa Barbara is $60,000. I think it is far lower but we both need a corroborating independent resource to establish that fact.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 1:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Median household incomes vs per capita income from

Estimated median household income in 2011: $60,599
Estimated per capita income in 2011: $34,820

Read more:

I guess people can afford to live here after all, except that it takes two incomes. Try marriage.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 2:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

rflacks: I have a feeling Hotchkiss's denial of global warming is based on the same level of intellectual inquiry as his conviction that plastic bags aren't relevant to marine pollution - because he went swimming in the ocean and didn't see any.
However, current global warming policy, to be reinforced at the Nov 2013 UN Climate Change Conference, ignores the dishonesty and intentional bias among IPPC members exposed in hacked Climategate emails, as well as the conclusions of around 31,500 scientists who've signed the Global Warming Petition.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 3:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

rflacks, nobody denies that the climate changes. The climate is always changing.

When you have data that says we had a medieval warming period that was much warmer than today, yet the sea levels were about the same, you should stop and ask yourself a few questions before just listening to Al Gore and the IPCC. When you realize that the medieval warming period was followed by a mini-ice age from around 1650-1850, and that we are merely coming out of that mini ice age at the moment then you realize that of course temperatures would be going up, on average.

But what really boggles the minds of those who you call "climate change deniers", is why when the data models they have put out showing exponential warming trends into the future, why have we not experienced any significant warming in the last 15 or so years?

This, even while you get the effects of large cities with their concrete and asphalt heating the atmosphere and many temperature gauges are located in cities. As cities grow, they see hotter average temperatures. I'm not saying this accounts for all of the warming, but it is an element of the data that is used to make their claims.

If you research issues related to health, monetary economics and climate change science carefully you will see monstrous disparities between the truth and what the establishment says is the truth. The establishment is backed by giant banks and corporations. Giant banks and corporations want you to believe that humans are causing global warming because they want to be given permission to write more laws and regulations that will ultimately enrich themselves and keep the smaller competitors out of their markets related to energy and food production and such. That is why the FDA exists, that is why they promote the food pyramid that has the most toxic elements as the majority/base of our diets (grains), while encouraging the consumption of a pretty good amount of sugar and all the artificial sweeteners you want.

So if you want to continue to believe that humans are the primary cause global warming, that is your choice. But I would refrain from treating those who question it like they are unintelligent when people who support MMGW theory are merely supporting the establishment which has a track record of being wrong.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 3:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Seeing the Flacks/Hotchkiss polemic is like watching people arguing about how to arrange deck chairs on a sinking ship.

Flacks makes this about race, Hotchkiss paints a rosy picture of a Land Of Opportunity. Neither one gets the BIG picture.

Even if you are a white kid growing up in a working/middle-class household with two parents in Santa Barbara, the likelyhood that you will be able to buy a house of your own when you come of age is slim. Do the numbers, see how much it costs to live in S.B. and the numbers will tell you the story. (As they say: "The numbers don't lie")

In order to have a rational discussion on the matter, both sides must face the reality that Santa Barbara is economically inhospitable to all but the well-off or those who bought in before the cost of living went through the roof.

The issue is economic, and there is no hope of improvement unless the area is affordabe for those who live here. Deal with it.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 6:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And it will never be affordable. We need to deal with that too.

Botany (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 6:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes Botany, and they refuse to deal with that. Flacks and Hotchkiss simply don't see that fact; they don't have to worry about survival, it doesn't make them bad people, it just means they are out of touch.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 9:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Flacks states considers his candidates "environmentally friendly" as he showers and flushes stolen water from the next valley over. Environmentally Friendly is the non-diversion of natural water flows, professor glass house, environmentally friendly is flowing water and the wildlife that goes along with the flowing water, it is not your morning shower.

Progressives only care about human social problems and turn a blind eye to all the other creatures that walk this earth. Human Environmentalism is all about massive urban overpopulation, not about conservation of resources and walking softly in the forest or coastal desert that is California.

Not one candidate of any label mentions that your stolen water pond is getting low, but you all will be by next summer.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2013 at 7:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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