Breaking the mounting will-he-or-won’t-he suspense over his intentions to run for Santa Barbara City Council this November, council-appointee Randy Rowse—the self described “new kid on the block”—officially declared his candidacy. Standing in front of the ceremonial flagpoles in De la Guerra Plaza, Rowse succinctly made his case. “My goal is to keep the city safe, keep the city clean, and not spend all the money. That’s it. That’s my platform,” he said before fielding a few media questions and inviting a healthy smattering of supporters back to his restaurant, The Paradise Café, for drinks.
If City Hall wants to protect its tax base, he said, the council will need to spend more money to hire more cops as expensive, he acknowledged, as they are. Currently, the council has budgeted for 142 sworn officers; he said the target should be 150. Rowse did not elaborate how the cash-strapped City Hall would pay for the additional officers.
On the council, Rowse has provided a forum for those who contend downtown has become inhospitable to tourists and residents alike because of aggressive panhandlers and other street people given to “uncivil” outbursts and inappropriate behavior. “It is time to re-invite people who live in this town back into our town,” he declared. From the dais, Rowse, who votes more often than not with the new conservative majority, comes across as approachable, reasonable, and practical.
He said he does not plan to run as part of any slate in what’s shaping up as a showdown between the Democratic Central Committee and three members of the council’s more conservative majority—Rowse, Councilmember Michael Self and Coucilmember Dale Francisco. Rowse rejected the notion that the council is polarized ideologically, stating that with two Republicans, two independents, and three Democrats, it’s the most politically diverse and the most collegial it’s been in years.
Prior to Rowse’s appointment in December to fill the vacancy created when Das Williams was elected to the State Assembly, Democrats held a solid majority of the nominally nonpartisan council’s seats and had done so for 20 years. Almost immediately after Rowse’s appointment, Democratic Party activists began actively scouting candidates to take back the council. To that end, the Democrats came out extremely early, endorsing the slate of Deborah Schwartz (a planning commissioner), Cathy Murillo (former KCSB news director), and Iya Falcone, (former councilmember). “When they come out with ‘We’ve got to take back the City Council,’ who the hell is ‘we?’” Rowse asked.
While Rowse may eschew political slates, it’s clear that he, Self, and Francisco will appeal to those voters more concerned about law and order, fiscal restraint, and drawing the line on increased residential density. Rowse had exasperated movers and shakers within that community by waiting so long to declare his intentions. One of Rowse’s political allies jokingly threatened to waterboard him if he didn’t hurry up.
Still officially undeclared is Councilmember Dale Francisco, clearly the strategic leader of the council’s conservative bloc. Last week, Francisco said in an interview that he planned to run for reelection. But late last week, Francisco’s brother suffered a severe brain aneurysm, and he’s been forced to delay the ceremonial media theatrics of announcing his candidacy. His mother also recently passed away. Should the severity of Francisco’s family issues prove overwhelming, Sharon Byrne of the Milpas Community Association is reportedly waiting in the wings.