Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Judgment Day Is Here For City Council Hopefuls

With a six member Santa Barbara City Council that is evenly divided in their political and ideological views, does anybody really stand a chance of being appointed to the vacant seat? The suspense over who, if anyone, can garner that crucial fourth vote may prove to be the newest drama in the "Mission Impossible" franchise.

Tonight's voting process figures to resemble something like the International Olympic Committee selecting the next host city for the summer games. Be prepared for multiple rounds of balloting.

Here is how I handicap the race. And please bear in mind, these are not endorsements nor do they reflect who I might be "rooting" for. Rather these are my predictions based on objective observations about political realities. So, I say to the many friends and acquaintances I have among the applicants and their supporters, in the words of Michael Corleone, "It's not personal. It's business."

Ruled out of the running before they ever got into the gate are applicants who in the past have been identified with one faction of the council or the other. So, despite being the best student of City government in the field, don't look for David Pritchett to make it very far. Likewise for Dianne Channing, Cathie McCammon and Brian Barnwell.

And don't expect any applicant to make it very far who had something outrageous to say when they made their presentation before the council. You know, that business about making it a felony to be homeless. I'm talking to you Nancy Sirbu. If anything ought to be a felony it should be to apply for an office without any idea of what the authority of that office encompasses. If you want to make certain types of conduct felonious you need to run for State Assembly or State Senate.

Don't look for any names you recognize because the only reason you recognize them is because they are outspoken critics of the current council. That would probably eliminate Sharon Byrne and Loretta Redd. If an appointment is made look for it to go to someone who may not have a well-known name.

I predict the successful applicant will be someone who can't be relied upon to be a consistent vote for either one side or the other on the council.

Here are the names of several applicants that I think have a chance of getting the four votes.

John Torell, a veteran of county, but not city government, he has the finance expertise that the present council could find to be an asset.

John Jostes, who as a planning commissioner is up to speed on the general plan. And of course, the same is true of former mayor Sheila Lodge, who also serves on the Planning Commission. They have different points of view and as a "no-growther" Lodge would certainly appeal to the Dale Francisco led faction on the council. But if it looks like a Lodge juggernaut, will anyone have the nerve to speak up and say, "Isn't it time we give somebody new a chance?"

Michael Jordan and Chris Casebeer come from business backgrounds and along with Naomi Kovacs, are probably viewed as being middle of the road which the newest council member most certainly will be. John Thyne, who ran for council last year also has solid business ties and probably can't be counted on to vote consistently with either faction on the council. And, as I said before, in this race that is probably that most precious of attributes.

I can't imagine that there is a more learned or wise applicant in this field than David Hughes. He once served as a Deputy City Attorney, went on to become a partner in the old line law firm of Price Postel & Parma, and is now retired. He has also promised that if appointed he will not to be a candidate when his seat comes up for election. That could make him attractive to both factions.

So, those are my predictions. Before you head over to your local neighborhood bookie and put any money down on any of these picks bear in mind, there are two kinds of fools in this world: those who predict winners and those who listen.

I was disappointed that more of the candidates who I would categorize as front-runners didn't participate in last night's online forum, the exception being Thyne. Only 11 of the 46 applicants attended. Nevertheless I thought it was a worthwhile discussion and certainly a success from a technical standpoint as well. And moderating the chat room discussion during the forum was a real hoot.

My thanks to all the good folks at CaliforniaStreamin.com who made it possible.
© 2010 by Craig Smith and www.craigsmithsblog.com