Santa Barbara city election ballot
Paul Wellman

BLAND CAMPAIGN: With only about two weeks left before the Santa Barbara City Council election that ends November 8, I was afraid we’d have to import some major-league wackos to pep up the rather bland campaign.

About all we’d had was Michael Self campaigning against curb bulb-outs. Bulb-outs? Is the election going to be decided by pro-and-con gutter talk?

Would it take an 11th-hour call to someone wild and ditzy like Sarah Palin to wake up the voters, or facts-challenged Michele Bachmann and her “pray the gay away” hubby?

Barney Brantingham

Or Bible-thumping Rick Perry charging over from Texas (greenbacks from part-time Montecitan Harold Simmons spilling out of his pockets) to insist that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme” — thereby alienating geezers and geezers-to-be who might have voted for him? Perry has also put the fun back in campaigning by coming out for the flat-earth tax — I mean the loony flat tax.

We’re also missing the nastiness of last election’s mailed slasher-attacks on liberal candidates by billionaire Texan and ex-Montecitan Randall Van Wolfswinkel, who so far is sitting this one out.

Then, this week, the City Council race sparked. Incumbent Dale Francisco, pissed off over slams against him by the Police Officers Association (POA), launched a vitriolic counterattack, claiming that its leaders were out of step with the men and women in blue. Sgt. Mike McGrew fired back, saying that Francisco wanted the POA endorsement when he ran for mayor (but lost) and is just bitter about not receiving it now.

Whether or not taking on the cops is a wise move remains to be seen, but in a mixed-up race, Francisco is considered by many to be the most likely to win on November 8, along with challenger Iya Falcone.

While Santa Barbara Democrats have endorsed three candidates — Falcone, Cathy Murillo, and Deborah Schwartz — Republicans have been mighty quiet indeed. Maybe because Demo voters outnumber the GOP, and it’s felt that a Grand Old Party label would be costly, especially because the Republicans are in bad odor these days due to their Dr. No shenanigans in D.C. City Council elections are supposed to be nonpartisan, but I guess it’s okay for parties to endorse, as long as they’re in the majority.

As for the housing density issue, the council has stashed that hot potato away as a future experiment in cozy living to provide supposed affordable havens for the poor souls clogging the freeway as they drive in from Ventura County every morning, and for the young families yearning for condo space.

Murillo horrified some homeowners when she told a recent forum that she thinks 40 units per acre would do the trick. Francisco replied that downtown real estate is so expensive that affordable housing wouldn’t have a ghost of a chance of being affordable. Is high-density “smart growth” an oxymoron? Is status-quo density just selfishness, a wall against not just L.A. but the Ventura working class?

Aside from those oh-so-irksome issues, the election is really about whether the four-member conservative majority will keep running the city. Elect incumbents Francisco, Self, and Randy Rowse, add Frank Hotchkiss, who isn’t on the ballot, and you’ve got it. You’ve also got a war on higher density, pedestrians, and the homeless (over-the-top Self claims they’re “terrorizing” the town), and you’ve got climate-warming deniers who can’t even bring themselves to say the word “environment.”

The News-Press is plastering every issue in favor of the Franciscans, even devoting a front-page color photo to the three incumbents standing in De la Guerra Plaza. If you see any other candidates getting this kind of fair and balanced treatment, let me know. The News-Press is also taking great pleasure in pointing out Schwartz’s financial woes. Schwartz says that her personal problems are irrelevant to her City Council leadership, if elected.

What no one seems to be talking about is that most of the front-runners are women and winning major endorsements. When I was covering the City Council back in the 1960s, there was usually one token woman member. The Board of Supervisors was not only all male but all good ol’ boys. Now there’s a majority of women on the five-member board.

The Independent has endorsed Falcone, Schwartz, and Murillo, and the “guns and hoses” city cops and firefighters have thrown their considerable weight behind their longtime favorite, Falcone, along with Schwartz and Milpas Street advocate Sharon Byrne, who’s called for more police on the beat. Murillo lost out, as did Self, whom cops and firefighters endorsed last time, but who now has alienated them, and we’ll see if she keeps her job.


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