SOMBRERO TOSSING: With a vacancy looming on the Santa Barbara City Council, I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring, as the cliché goes. (Why not? I need the money.)

After all, I’ve spent a half-century covering issues in fair Saint Barbara’s town and know how trivial they are compared with the problems in my hometown of Chicago. If they made the Chicago River run backward to clean up Lake Michigan, why can’t we turn the clock back in Santa Barbara?

Barney Brantingham

Go back to slant parking on lower State Street, back when downtown was so dead on weekend nights you could fire a cannon down State Street and not hit anyone. A time when silver-haired matrons could drive their pokey three-wheeled electric carts without having to encounter skinny people on skinny-tired bikes, wearing weird helmets and garish shirts.

I believe Santa Barbara is ready to regress to a more innocent time, before the confusion of one-way raceways and mega-condos. I can’t do it alone, but I think I could play the role of swing-vote on a City Council loaded with reactionaries. First, of course, I need to be chosen by the council to fill the upcoming vacancy caused by Das Williams’s election to the California State Assembly.

The problem, of course, is that the remaining council is split ideologically, conservatives against progressives. That means three against three, with both sides dead set, I am sure, against naming anyone, however qualified, who would throw the balance of power the other way.

That’s where I come in. I’m balanced. On one hand, I’m a deficit hawk, a fiscal conservative. That should appeal to the conservatives. On the other hand, I’m open-minded on social issues, which the liberals should like. Best of all, I’m not a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or member of the Socialist or Vegetarian parties. Nor am I a Flat Earther. Yet I haven’t missed an election since Eisenhower ran, not even when I was in the Army.

So I’m an ideological neuter. But when it comes to The Big Question, I will have a problem. This thing called the Santa Barbara Plan is coming up for a vote. I was too busy watching the World Series to really research it, but as I understand from reading the headlines, the council is apparently split there, too.

Many of Santa Barbara’s progressive activists have become “smart growthers” who apparently want to jam mass quantities of high-density units into downtown. The theory, as I get it, is that the units will be so cheap that all those Ventura County people who drive here to work every day will move in, leaving the freeways empty so we can drive to Ventura to shop without facing bumper-to-bumper traffic. These people are opposed by those who feel this will wreck Santa Barbara without doing much to alleviate the shortage of affordable workforce housing.

I can’t be bought on this issue, since I don’t need to do any campaigning or pay for despicable hit ads. Other office-seekers hold fundraisers and get backing from people like Texas billionaire Randall Van Wolfswinkel, who so generously backed new Councilmembers Michael Self and Frank Hotchkiss. And think of the zillions spent on senatorial and presidential races, a shamefully corrupt avalanche of dirty money that I, unfortunately, can’t grab a hunk of.

If I were in Chicago, I could leave City Hall parties with my pockets stuffed with hundred-dollar bills. Use the money to spend the holidays in Hawai‘i with the family. But in Santa Barbara, with its confounded squeaky-clean political boredom, I can’t even put the arm on biggie donors. “What for?” they’d ask. “You don’t need to campaign. Besides, they’ll never pick you.”

So I’m whipped at the get-go? No, because I’ve figured it out. I should appeal to car-loving Self because Sue and I have two of them, the last a shiny green 1994 Mercury Capri convertible with more than 100,000 miles. I know lots of real estate agents, so I can chat up Hotchkiss. Then there’s my former neighbor, Councilmember Bendy White, up there on the Riviera. Everyone seemed to fight about hedges, but Bendy and I never had a beef.

That’s three. I just need one more. But speaking of cars brings to mind a problem. I like to travel. So I’ll need an alternate. How about fellow Indy columnist Nick Welsh?

Another thought just struck me. Why fill a vacancy on the Santa Barbara City Council when one could pop up in the U.S. House of Representatives? Suppose Representative Lois Capps decided to retire in mid-term and spend her days lolling in the sun, away from Washington’s madness? I want to be free to accept Governor Jerry Brown’s interim appointment to Congress. I could lunch with President Obama and offer advice, go to State Department cocktail parties, and take junkets to Paris. Therefore, I will not seek the City Council vacancy, nor will I serve if chosen. But wait: At Sunday’s Empty Bowls fundraiser, Mayor Helene Schnei­der reminded me that House vacancies are filled by special elections, not by gubernatorial appointment.

Rats! I’m so depressed that I’m bowing out of the whole darn City Council Derby and will remain on the sidelines to just criticize. Lois, never mind.


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