There were tears and a standing ovation Tuesday as a termed-out Dale Francisco bid farewell to his colleagues and the public after serving eight years on the Santa Barbara City Council. “I tremendously enjoyed this experience,” said Francisco, choking up. “It is absolutely one of the greatest honors of my life to represent the people of this city.”
As the council’s most outspoken conservative, Francisco earned a reputation over his two terms as a thinking man’s politician, equally measured and articulate as he was passionate about topics like public safety and fiscal stability. “You will be sorely missed, sir,” said Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss. “You’ve always been a gentleman,” said Councilmember Cathy Murillo.
Francisco said he was glad to leave the city in better shape than he found it, with reduced crime, an increased police budget, and a healthier reserve of savings for the next inevitable recession. A retired software executive, he was elected in 2008 amid public pushback over roundabouts and other city-proposed “traffic-calming devices.” Mayor Helene Schneider joked that Santa Barbara should name a roundabout in Francisco’s honor.
As Francisco stepped down, Jason Dominguez stepped up, elected in November to represent the Eastside’s District 1. Incumbents Murillo and Randy Rowse were sworn in, as well, winning the Westside’s District 3 and the Mesa’s District 2, respectively, in the first election in 47 years where voters chose their representatives by geographic region. The change was precipitated by a lawsuit contending Santa Barbara’s traditional at-large election system violated the CaliforniaVoting Rights Act.
Dominguez, a democrat, said he looked forward to representing not only his district but also differing points of view from all over the city. He’s had practice, he said, with a stepdad from the Netherlands and a stepmom from China. “I am excited to protect the future of Santa Barbara,” stated Dominguez. “We’re all part of one big family.”
And while it’s critical to recognize and preserve the city’s history, he continued, a close eye should be kept on keeping Santa Barbara competitive in this “soft economy.” He referenced Pittsburgh, his partner’s hometown, which has shifted from a reliance on steel and coal to hosting a burgeoning tech industry populated by younger workers.