The News Letter | Where There’s Smoke, There’s Barrett

Council Candidate Keeps Tripping Over the Truth

Will the real Barrett Reed please stand up? | Credit: Courtesy

Where there’s smoke — we were recently reminded yet again — there’s fire, and every time I brush past City Council candidate Barrett Reed, I catch a whiff of trouble. In every instance, he’s played fast and loose with the truth.

The first time was 2019. I’d interviewed around two dozen downtown business people, including Reed, about State Street’s retail woes. All of them cited the city’s lengthy and expensive permitting process as a major part of the problem. All of them except Reed.

Over sandwiches at Cubaneo ― part of Kim’s Service Department, a shared-space project which Reed’s development firm, Miramar Group, had recently opened ― Reed actually praised City Hall. “We think the city’s process is a good process,” he told me, and he called embattled planning director George Buell (who would later resign amid community outcry) “exceedingly rational.”

The story ran, but I soon suspected I’d been played. I learned that, at the time of our interview, Reed was trying to secure final approvals for another of his shared-space developments, Los Arcos on Anacapa Street. I worried he’d used me to brown-nose the city officials who could grease the skids on his pending application.

My suspicions were confirmed soon after when Reed announced his candidacy for council and declared the city’s review process “broken” and “unfair,” a position he knew would resonate with voters. By that time, Los Arcos had been fully approved, and Reed had gotten himself installed on the Planning Commission. He no longer needed to curry favor through the press. Was his flip-flop clever and effective? Sure. Was it sneaky and dishonest? I’d say so.

My next interaction with Reed was in the process of reporting a feature article on whether former transportation planner Rob Dayton’s involvement in an all-male Christian ministry called Believer’s Edge had blurred the line between Dayton’s personal beliefs and his professional duties.

As I researched Believer’s Edge, whose stated mission was to “influence” local institutions, including government, Reed’s name came up. So I asked him about his relationship with the group. He said he’d had only glancing interactions with them and was never regularly involved in their meetings or activities. He told the same thing to Jerry Roberts, explaining: “I’m not in that organization; it’s not a group I’ve followed; it’s not a group I’m part of.”

But, again, Reed wasn’t being truthful. In reality, he presented to the Believer’s Edge congregation a number of times. He was close personal friends with one of its founders, Johnny Mullen. They had regular family dinners and frequently volunteered together as chaplains at the County Jail. In one of his presentations to the group, he said he and Mullen used prayer and touch to heal inmates of sickness and injury. Reed even had his own profile page on the Believer’s Edge website.

This edition of The News Letter was originally emailed to subscribers on October 25, 2021. To receive The News Letter in your inbox, sign up at

Just as I was starting to document the discrepancies between Reed’s statements and reality, Believer’s Edge was completely erased from the internet. Just like that. Poof. Gone. Not only did the group’s entire website disappear overnight, but so did its profile pages, blog posts, and dozens of videos published to YouTube and Vimeo ― in other words, all evidence of Reed’s true connection to the ministry. Mullen said their web services had simply “expired.” Call me a nonbeliever.

Then there was Reed’s campaign finance blunder. He accepted $7,100 more from SIMA Corporation chair Jim Knell than was legally allowed and returned the extra funds only after a complaint was filed with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Kristen Sneddon, the incumbent councilmember Reed is trying to unseat, said the episode was “an example of how Mr. Reed attempts to work around the rules.”

Then there are his deceptive signs around town that say Reed has the support of “first responders.” While he did receive the backing of the Santa Barbara Police Department, he conspicuously is not supported by firefighters, who threw their weight behind Sneddon. Justin Kiel, head of the firefighters union PAC, isn’t happy about the misrepresentation.

“Suffice it to say,” Kiel said in a text message this week, “we are not thrilled with this attempt to mislead voters. We believe it gives a false impression to voters and tries to capitalize on the positive public image the fire department typically has, versus the challenging image issue police have faced nationwide in recent years.”

Then there’s the fact that Reed has failed to vote in a series of city elections — in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2017. When first confronted about this, he expressed confusion, suggesting a possible mix-up tied to changing his voter registration from Republican to Decline-to-State last year. Only later did Reed take responsibility for simply not voting.

Then there’s the other fact that Reed often declines to properly recuse himself from items that appear before the Planning Commission that might qualify as a conflict of interest. And as an active developer, there are a lot of those items. Instead, Reed simply doesn’t show up for Commission votes ― he calls in sick or says he has family business to attend to ― which allows him to still participate in behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations.

It wouldn’t be fair to suggest Reed is a patently dishonest person. I don’t know him nearly well enough to say that. In fact, in conversation, he’s pleasant, thoughtful, and legitimately inspiring about his ideas to make Santa Barbara better.

But what I can say is that in every one of my interactions with Reed over the last few years, the truth has had a way of twisting and turning. There’s just always a lot of smoke. And we don’t need another fire.

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