MORGAN HOOVER, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
August 15, 2009 7:17 AM
City candidates took advantage of the chance to present their views on pressing local matters Friday night at a forum held at Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort by the non-partisan South Coast Community Coalition.
The forum was divided into two sequences: one for city council candidates Bendy White, John Thyne, Justin Tevis, Michael Self, Bonnie Raisin, David Pritchett, Cathy McCammon, Grant House, Frank Hotchkiss, John Gibbs, Dianne Channing and Lane Anderson, and one for mayoral candidates Helene Schneider, Isaac Garrett, Dale Francisco, Iya Falcone and Steve Cushman.
The evening was moderated by former city councilman Phil Bugay, who founded the hosting coalition.
Mr. Bugay began both sequences of the forum by asking the candidates to list their top three city priorities.
Nine of the city council candidates and four of the mayoral hopefuls put the budget at or near the top of their priorities.
"Clearly my top priority is ... to get a handle on the budget," said Mr. White, kicking the evening off with a firm response.
Mr. Pritchett said he plans to use "fiscal discipline and tough love budgeting" if he is elected to the council.
Mr. Tevis said he proposes "balancing the budget without passing the burden back onto" Santa Barbara residents.
Mrs. Self called it a "huge issue" and said that she has her "hair in an absolute flame when they talk about doubling our fees."
On the mayoral side, Mr. Francisco said that the budget is the "single most important responsibility of the mayor and the city council."
Another matter that candidates named among their top priorities is public safety, often as it relates to gang activity.
Mr. Anderson said strengthening neighborhoods could be achieved through "mentorship for young people."
Ms. Channing said she wants to work for the safety of businesses and neighborhoods.
"I love Santa Barbara as much as you do," she said, addressing the audience.
Mr. Thyne said he also has strong concerns about public safety and that the city "cannot have further cuts to the number of police and fire" personnel.
Ms. McCammon said she wants "people to take back their neighborhoods."
Dr. Gibbs said the gang problem "needs to be addressed ... soon ... firmly."
About gang activity, Mr. Hotchkiss said, "Not only is it a safety problem, it's a youth problem."
Sitting Councilman Mr. House said he pairs gang violence and homelessness in the city because "in both cases, the police department is the first contact."
Mr. Garrett said he promotes a "clean, safe environment," and Ms. Schneider said she prioritizes "youth violence prevention."
Mr. Bugay then asked the candidates whether they see the city as having a spending problem or a revenue problem.
Mr. Hotchkiss answered that the city has a spending problem and that if his hand were forced, his first cut would be to city planning.
"It doesn't need to be anywhere near that expensive," he said.
Mr. Anderson said in his opinion, revenue is the problem, and he said to adjust the problem, his first method of increasing revenue would be to "increase business tax on businesses that dispense alcohol."
On the mayoral side, Mrs. Falcone was the only candidate who said the problem is with revenue rather than spending.
"Folks are not coming and spending," she said, pointing out that issues such as graffiti and cleanliness can be addressed that will foster more visits to visit Santa Barbara.
Ms. Schneider said the problem is "the organizational structure of the city."
Mr. Cushman said the city should "look to privatize some of the services" to create "smaller, more efficient government."
Other matters discussed included the living wage, campaign finance and overnight parking on city streets.
Mayoral candidate Bob Hanson was not present at the forum.
For more information on the South Coast Community Coalition, visit sccommunitycoalition.com.