A feel-good resolution exhorting city residents and employees to exercise more and eat healthier became the focus of a rhetorical shoving match pitting Santa Barbara Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss against fellow Councilmember Gregg Hart. The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) resolution will not impose any new regulatory mandates nor saddle City Hall with any additional costs, but it may prove helpful in applying for certain grants. Hotchkiss took exception with the assertion in supporting documentation that more than half the city’s residents were obese. Likewise, he suggested that the resolution’s call to break down “ethnic and socio-economic disparities” to healthy food choices would require serious dedication of additional staff. As for the suggestion that employees should be encouraged to exercise during their lunch break, Hotchkiss opined, “The idea of Mr. Armstrong [city administrator] leading calisthenics in the coffee room is just horrific.”
Hotchkiss took issue with the resolution’s fine print calling on private schools to allow the public to use their fields and basketball courts during off-hours. Hotchkiss led the charge to bar such use from the private school in his neighborhood, citing its impact on neighborhood quiet and tranquility. He also questioned the wisdom of passing such a resolution when he said 90 percent of all restaurants in town serve food that might not be deemed healthy. A semi-flustered city planner, John Ledbetter, replied that City Hall is already doing — or supporting — 95 percent of what the resolution calls for, noting that no additional resources would be required. Susan Klein-Rothschild of the County Public Health Department said when healthy choices are made easy, “the level of disease will decrease.”
Hart noted that “It must be a slow day” for the council to be debating such issues and pushed to embrace the resolution, suggesting that perhaps city resources should be dedicated to the cause. After satisfying himself that no public funds would be encumbered, Councilmember Randy Rowse acknowledged that government does have a leadership role to play in promoting healthy lifestyle choices, while noting that Winchell’s doughnut shop could experience a plunge in sales. The council approved the resolution with only Hotchkiss objecting.