Viva el Perro!

ODDZ-n-ENDZ: In dire days such as these, I make
a point to aim for the capillary. If I lunged for the jugular — and
actually connected — chances are good I’d drown in the ensuing
flood. That’s why I rejoice in the arrival of silly season, in
which political campaign managers lob verbal scuds at each other’s
candidates when few people are paying attention and even fewer
care. A case in point involves the ever-excitable Brian
Ray
, campaign manager to Dr. Dan Secord,
who is running for the 2nd District supervisorial seat against
Janet Wolf in this November’s election. Marking
the release of the candidates’ last financial disclosure statements
relating to the June primary, Ray took the offensive against Wolf,
emailing press releases chock full of pseudo-incendiary quotes he
placed in the mouth of his candidate. In it, Secord — who is
running as an appealingly gruff combination of Father
Knows Best
and Marcus Welby,
M.D.
 — accuses Wolf, a former Goleta School Board
member, of having “a history of deceptive fundraising in accepting
money that is funneled through her handlers’ campaigns.” To the
extent the charge has any merit, Secord is guilty of the same
thing, though perhaps not to the same extent as Wolf. He’s
referring to the fact that in the June primary, Wolf accepted
$25,000 from 1st District Supervisor Salud
Carbajal
and another $18,000 from Congresswoman
Lois Capps without listing the names of every
donor who gave $100 or more to Carbajal and Capps during that same
election cycle. In previous campaign press releases, Secord has
described this as money laundering. Tough talk.
But for the record, the practice, however smarmy, is perfectly
legal and commonplace. Also for the record, Secord took money from
the Lincoln Club — a Republican political action
committee — and the S.B. Board of Realtors without
listing the names of all the individual donors who gave to those
organizations. In an effort to muss up Wolf’s hair and diminish her
“nice lady” quotient, Secord has challenged his
foe to embrace a series of campaign finance reforms that go above
and beyond what current law requires. Some of Secord’s suggestions
are silly, but some I like, such as reporting donations every week,
as opposed to every two or three months, as is required now. But
because the ideas came from Secord, there’s no way Wolf could
possibly agree without appearing weak. If Secord is serious about
attacking Wolf for her donors, he might want to look at his own
benefactors. Not all enjoy the most benign of reputations.

In recent weeks I’ve gotten a flurry of calls from people
pointing out that Secord’s campaign office in Victoria Court in
downtown Santa Barbara isn’t even located in the 2nd District, but
the 1st. While hardly the biggest deal in the world, in the realm
of political body language, this constitutes a mild outburst of
Tourette’s syndrome. It signifies you aren’t of
the people you purport to represent, and in gang-speak you claim
Santa Barbara, rather than Noleta and Goleta — the beating heart of
the 2nd District. It is, however, consistent with Dan’s past
practices. Dan threw his campaign coming-out party at Restaurant
Nu, which is also located in the 1st District. According to
Secord’s campaign dude, Ray, Secord got an offer he just couldn’t
refuse. Landlord Jimmy Knell of SIMA Corporation
is providing the digs — equidistant between Victoria Court’s tiny
post office and the cozy Café Bianco — free of
charge.

This news will come as a major shock to Knell’s many
tenants — among which, until a few years ago, The
Independent
was one — who’ve never known him to be guilty of
committing random acts of kindness. There are those who drive a
hard bargain; in Knell’s case, it’s more a matter of hit-and-run.
And that explains why he’s winning the game of Santa
Barbopoly
. For 10 years, Knell rented a huge space to
Alpha Thrift on the 1100 block of State Street
across from the Museum of Art. In that time, Alpha’s rent doubled.
Just last week, Alpha left downtown for good. Their lease came due,
and Knell wanted to increase the rent from $28,000 per month to
more than $40,000. Ouch! “It wasn’t that much of a rent increase,”
said Knell when the news first broke. If that’s not, I’d hate to
see what is. For years, Café Bianco — a coffee shop, bakery, and
lunch spot — has struggled inside the labyrinthine warrens of
Knell’s Victoria Court to develop a loyal customer base. How did
Knell reward such a valiant effort? By placing a
Starbucks on the outside of Victoria Court at the
corner of State and Victoria. When that happened, Café Bianco found
itself forced to work three times harder just to tread water. Rumor
has it that when Café Bianco’s lease came due, Knell’s agents
quietly deleted the contract language that prohibited Knell from
renting to competitive enterprises in Victoria Court. I know
Starbucks money is hard to resist. I know nobody ever wins by being
Mister Nice Guy. But aren’t landlords the least bit concerned about
their image? With landlords like Knell owning and managing so much
of the State Street real estate above Carrillo, none of the many
millions City Hall dumps into over-the-top redevelopment schemes
will do much good. Maybe if landlords like Knell were less
ruthless — ruth-full? — maybe City Hall wouldn’t have to spend $25
million on a new five-story Granada parking garage to liven up that
part of town. Or the umpteen millions it’s shelled out to help out
with the refurbishment of the Granada Theatre.

For Dan Secord, I know it would have been hard to pass up free
rent. But even at that price, I think he’s paying too much — given
the company he keeps. Maybe Dr. Dan can help set things right just
a little bit. If I were him, I’d make sure none of my campaign
workers and volunteers darkened Starbucks’ doors. I’d make sure
they spent all their latte-bucks at Café Bianco instead. I admit
that qualifies more as karmic reform than campaign finance reform,
but from where I sit, that’s even better. I realize nobody wants to
look a gift horse in the mouth. But especially as we enter the
equine extravaganza known as Fiesta, it’s important that we
remember to beware of Trojan horses.

— Nick Welsh

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