Our Dueling Mayors
They Know Which Fork to Use
THE BRIDGE: The mayor’s the boss, right? The brains of the outfit. The peerless leader. The bridge over troubled waters.
The man or woman the pe-pul look to. So look what’s going on in Santa Barbara: We’ve got two ex-mayors and one incumbent battling over the Measure Y luxury housing project on the June ballot.
On this score, opponents of the misleading Yes on Y campaign are ahead two mayors to one. Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and former mayor Sheila Lodge oppose Measure Y. Ex-mayor Marty Blum is in favor, which is hard for me to believe.
I thought I’d seen a few warped election mailers in my years, but the Yes on Y stuff is the worst since Randall van Wolfswinkel spent over a half-million dollars on the 2009 city election.
For one thing, you can search developer Mark Lee’s latest Yes on Y mailer in vain for a single mention, even in small print, that it’s really about a 25-unit luxury housing development called Veronica Meadows, off Las Positas Road.
When you talk about mayors, you’ve got to hark back to Chicago’s Richard Joseph (“Boss”) Daley. He didn’t need fancy-dancy cheating mailers to run the city for 21 years. He cheated the old-fashioned way. He sent out his battalion of precinct captains.
Many held city jobs they would lose if they didn’t bring in the vote. According to legend, they resorted to paying people to vote the right (Democratic Party) way, or arranged for residents long in the cemetery to cast ballots. (The Republicans, who ran the rest of Cook County, had a less-powerful and less-corrupt machine.)
Santa Barbara’s three competing mayors are all college-educated, know which fork to use at formal dinners, speak proper English, do not normally curse in public, and rarely if ever raise their voices.
Daley, from Chicago’s South Side working-class Bridgeport neighborhood, earned a law degree but still talked in the “dese, dose, and dems” idiom my mother despised. He mixed metaphors all over city hall and sprinkled malaprops throughout his public statements. “They have vilified me, they have crucified me; yes, they have even criticized me.”
Taken to task for telling Chicago’s police to shoot to kill rioters in 1968 after civil rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated, Daley denied that he’d said it and defended himself thusly: “The policeman isn’t there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder.”
Other famous quotes: “We shall reach greater and greater platitudes of achievement.” And Daley really threw a rope around this one: “We are proud to have with us the poet lariat of Chicago.”
From the glossy Veronica Meadows mailer, with its blue skies and green trees, you’d think that a group of civic-minded folks had just decided to raise money to restore a section of Arroyo Burro Creek. No way.
Believe me, you wouldn’t even be getting one in the mail if a judge hadn’t ruled that Lee’s plan to build a bridge over city parkland, as access to his project, had to go before the voters.
As for Lee’s incredible claim that a vote for Y brings a “safe route to Arroyo Burro Beach for pedestrians and bikers,” the truth is they’d have to brave 55-mph and faster traffic while crossing Las Positas to get to his bridge and beach trail.
Lee is willing to pay for a stoplight; but, as of now, Las Positas is a state highway, and Caltrans refuses to allow one. The City Council is talking about taking over Las Positas and Cliff Drive, along with the cost of annual maintenance and safety improvements, so eventually there might be a light and crosswalk. Maybe. City planners, however, have said that the best access to the project is via Alan Road, off Cliff Drive. But residents there were up in arms over the prospect of all that traffic on their street. So Lee proposed the bridge.
Yet judging from the No on Y signs, many Alan Road–ers oppose the project and criticize the creek work. At a recent press conference, homeowner Daniel McCarter, a retired city fire department captain, slammed the backers’ creek plans as highly misleading. “We were duped,” he said, standing next to his “No Bridge Over Troubled Waters” backyard sign.
Opponents of Measure Y argue that it should be voted down and that Lee should settle for five or so houses on this problem piece of land, with access via Alan Road. And forget the bridge over troubled water.