Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Candidates In The Crossfire

When you've been to several candidates' forums as I have, they tend to start looking and sounding the same. Monday's mayoral candidates forum which assembled all five candidates before an audience of 80 plus at the Four Seasons Biltmore, certainly started out that way but ended up with something I didn't expect to see, Dale Francisco trying to put some distance between himself and free-spending Texan Randall Van Wolfswinkel.

A moderator's eye-view of the mayoral candidates. That's Steve Amerikaner, posing questions to the candidates who are seated at the table.

During the "crossfire" section of the forum, where each candidate gets to ask one question of one their opponents, Helene Schneider asked Francisco, if by accepting tens of thousands of dollars from an out of town developer (an obvious reference to Van Wolfswinkel) are you saying that only Santa Barbara developers are bad?

Francisco, who has vowed not to accept money from "local" developers, denied having received any money from Van Wolfswinkel who grew up here, lives part-time in Montecito and is spending mucho dinero to promote his Preserve Our Santa Barbara" slate of candidates, which includes Francisco for mayor and Frank Hotchkiss, Michael Self and Cathie McCammon for city council.

Francisco explained that Van Wolfswinkel, who made his fortune building homes, has his own political action committee and that Francisco has no control over who he endorses or how the committee's money is spent.

And they say you can't have your cake and eat it to.

I found the crossfire segment to be the most interesting feature of the forum. If nothing else it offers a hint as to who each candidate feels is the opponent they have to take a bite out of.

While Helene used her allotted question on Francisco, Steve Cushman, who must be reading the News-Press opinion pages, asked Schneider, "why do you think the public is so angry about city employee salaries and benefits?" She replied that in contrast to the budget process which takes place in open sessions of the council, negotiations with employee bargaining units takes place out of view of the public which leads to misconceptions about it.

When Francisco got his turn to ask a question of one of the other candidates he asked Cushman, how does he propose to do the jobs of both mayor and head of the Chamber of Commerce if elected? (Cushman has indicated he has no plans of leaving his present position as head of the Chamber if elected mayor.)

Cushman responded that he'll put in whatever time it takes and is a fast learner. Francisco responded that serving on the council was a full-time job and that Cushman wasn't being realistic if he thought he could hold down the two positions at the same time.

History would suggest that Cushman will have plenty of time to study up if he wants to be mayor, like another four years at least. I can't think of anyone in recent history who's gone from off the street and into the mayor's office. All of the mayors within my memory have done time on the council before being elected mayor.

I Twittered Monday's forum as it happened. If you want to see my running account of the proceedings, along with a few things I've posted since then, go to my Twitter page.

This Thursday, it's the City Council candidates turn. They'll be featured at a forum at the Faulkner gallery of the Downtown Public Library starting at 7 pm. At that same time, the mayoral candidates will have another forum at Holy Cross Church.
© 2009 by Craig Smith and www.craigsmithsblog.com