Seasoned campaign manager James Kyriaco dropped by the Independent offices to announce that he’s decided to leap deeper into the political cauldron and run for Goleta City Council. It’s months to go before the November election, but Kyriaco’s decision means two candidates are so far running for the two open council seats. Incumbent Roger Aceves filed papers last September and announced his candidacy for a fourth term today. The fifth council seat goes to the new mayor’s spot, a two-year post whose sole candidate so far seems to be Michael Bennett, a sitting councilmember who filed papers for the mayor’s race in February. Without an opponent, he’ll simply be appointed, as would Aceves and Kyriaco; a similar situation culminated the 2014 election.
Aceves — who is proud of that he’s helped the city increase housing through careful planning, build a healthy budget, beautify neighborhoods, and participate in gaining a commuter train — pointed out this would be the last at-large election in the city, and the first in many years for mayor. Once the city’s Public Engagement Commission finishes its work and determines if a two- or four-year stint for mayor is preferred, as well as how to raise citizen participation in the city’s political process, it’ll be on to the 2022 district elections. The candidate count so far indicates their work continues to be direly needed by the city.
The commission was organized in response to a threatened district election lawsuit and will have a hand in drawing district boundaries, based on the next Census count. The Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census has raised an outcry over a potential undercount. “We need to accurately count everyone,” said Aceves, adding that California – and 16 other states – are fighting the addition. “The lawsuits will be resolved before the Census is held,” he believed.
Kyriaco sits on the city’s Political Engagement Commission and works in the county’s Human Resources department. He is well-known in political circles, having started as a staffer on Susan Rose’s run for 2nd District county supervisor in 1998 and has been involved in just about every election since. Most recently he managed Kyle Richard’s winning Goleta Council race in 2016.
Standing for office is something that’s been on his mind since the Refugio Oil Spill, Kyriaco said. “I was running at Ellwood,” he explained, “and I saw a sign for the wetlands, right by some homes, and when I got to the beach, I found another sign: ‘Closed’ because of the oil spill. I remember thinking, ‘We need to do something about this.’”
Unafraid of policy papers — Kyriaco is famously prepared when he has appeared before the council or on the commission — he sees a need for design standards to accompany the city’s general plan. He also sees a need for an overarching vision of Goleta: “We have an amazing university next to us, we’re the gateway to Gaviota, with all our hotels, visitors, and entrepreneurs,” he said. Why not become known for wide sidewalks, electric car recharging stations anyplace you drive, and simultaneous Spanish translation for both meetings and documents? he asked.
Like Aceves, Michael Bennett has served on the council since 2006 and can always be counted on to recall pertinent details of long-distant events. His experience in leadership positions are qualities needed in a mayor, he said, explaining that in city committees, nonprofits, and his roles with County Fire, he’s been in leadership roles most of his adult life. His sense of history brings perspective to his views, “but I’ve certainly changed sometimes,” he said. “I’m always open to new approaches.”
Bennett is the city’s current representative to the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, and he’s been involved in the new train service negotiations. At the recent ribbon-cutting, he indicated that the Direct Relief warehouse opposite the platform is being purchased by the city. He envisions a comfortable waiting area with bathrooms there, bicycle storage, and larger parking and bus turn-around areas. The concessionaires would include a café to serve passengers and workers at nearby businesses, and would perhaps enliven the industrial zone.
The candidates are settled in July, said Deborah Lopez, city clerk for Goleta, and the November election cutoff for candidates is August.