Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Different Kind of "Happy" Hour

To some, "Wet Wednesday" refers to a weekly regatta at the local yacht club. To me, "Wet Wednesday" simply means any bar with a decent happy hour. But last night I gave up my "Wet Wednesday" to sit in the audience at the Santa Barbara Public Library's Faulkner Gallery where the Santa Barbara Community Action Network's Action Fund (SB CAN) hosted a candidates forum.

Candidates for Santa Barbara mayor and city council who believed that their perspectives match those of SB CAN were invited to participate. For those of you who may not know, SB CAN's perspective embraces the "HOT" principles: housing, open space and transportation.

That eliminated the naysayers, the NIMBY's and the car guys and gals who are running for office. In other words, no Dale Franscisco, Frank Hotchkiss or Michael Self at this forum.

The mayoral candidates who took part in the forum were Steve Cushman, Iya Falcone and Helene Schneider. The city council candidates who took part were David Pritchett, Grant House, John Thyne, Diane Channing, Cathy McCammon, Harwood "Bendy" White and Lane Anderson.

The mayoral candidates went first. Each made an opening statement then the floor was thrown open to questions from the audience.

Among the questions posed from the floor to the mayoral candidates were about their positions on Measure B, the building heights limit. The candidates did their best to tiptoe around the issue.

Falcone confessed that she didn't sign the petition. She said that she wanted to wait and see if the voters brought it to council. "It's a very complicated issue. I do understand the merits of Measure B. I will support whatever the people vote for."

Cushman said, "Planning by referendum is a terrible way to govern."

On the question of a living wage, Schneider pointed out that she was a member of the original coalition for a living wage and believes that people who work for the city should earn a living wage. Falcone said that she is "proud of" the living wage.

The discussion of the living wage issue provided what was the only real moment of tension between a candidate and a member of the audience. Larry Lee, who had served as chairman of the Living Wage Committee, seemed to think that Cushman's endorsement of the living wage perhaps didn't square with his prior record on it. Lee challenged Cushman about his participation on the Living Wage Committee. Cushman admitted, "I wasn't in full attendance," and then added, "I didn't think you accomplished much." Lee's response to Cushman was along the lines of, so you don't think we accomplished much but you're willing to take credit for it?

The mayoral candidates were asked (not by me) where they get their news from and whether they read the News-Press. Cushman and Falcone both stated that they still subscribe to the News-Press. Schneider's statement that she cancelled her News-Press subscription a couple of years ago drew a substantial amount of applause from the audience.

When the council candidates got their turn, Bendy White, a long-time member of the city planning commission, used his opening statement to point out that he had opposed Las Entradas, the Yanonali condos and led the opposition to Veronica Meadows.

Much of the discussion centered around affordable housing. While some candidates bemoaned the fact that people who work here have been forced to move to other places, Pritchett disagreed that people are "forced" to move elsewhere. He said, it's a matter of what kind of housing they want to live in and that we need to live within our limits and resources.

Channing said the solution is to build more affordable small housing units and develop high occupancy transit. Anderson says we should make it a priority to house people near where they work and house students near where they go to school.

House, the only incumbent in the race maintains that, we need to "pick up our end of the stick" on housing and offer good commuting alternatives.

A woman in the audience, who stated that she has a business located near State and Micheltorena, expressed concern about intimidation from the homeless people in the area. Thyne encouraged her to get the police involved and said, "If you can't get ahold of the police give me a call. I'm right up the street."

On the subject of campaign finance, a topic raised by audience member Marc McGinnes, Pritchett observed, "My friends and supporters tend to be broke." Anderson pointed out that he is not taking any contributions. His motto, "Slow Lane, the clean campaign."

McCammon, pledged not to take contributions from developers or others who have a financial stake before the City.

Unlike the mayoral candidates, the council candidates were not asked whether they read the News-Press.

And no questions from the audience about the "gang" problem, or illegal immigration.

In an experiment, I Twittered from Wednesday's forum as it happened. You can view my Twitterfeed, as well as anything else I might have Twittered about since then, here.

Inexplicably absent from the forum was mayoral candidate Isaac Garrett, who formally announced his candidacy Tuesday.

The News-Press had an article on Garrett on Wednesday's front page.

His announcement didn't get any mention at all in Wednesday's Daily Sound.

But they were all over JMikes! withdrawal from the race.
© 2009 by Craig Smith and