Ed St. George, Santa Barbara's most outspoken and high-profile developer, believes that City Council members should serve full-time with higher salaries, while claiming some of the power now held by the City Administrator.
"Santa Barbara isn't a small town anymore," St. George said in an interview, arguing that the current weak mayor/strong administrator form of governance is not accountable to taxpayers and voters.
Paying a periodic visits to Newsmakers, the blunt and candid developer offered his latest critique of City Hall, carping at Administrator Paul Casey for five big, unfilled department head jobs and lambasting Mayor Cathy Murillo as "a disaster," while talking up the experience and knowledge of Planning Commissioner Deborah Schwartz, one of three challengers to the incumbent's re-election.
Echoing a Schwartz campaign argument, St. George said that the city charter should be revised to take some power away from the unelected bureaucracy and given to the elected council, granting them hiring and firing power over major department heads that currently resides with the Administrator -- and by by paying the seven members "75 or 80 thousand" dollar salaries, while placing limits on their outside employment.
He said, however, that he is not formally supporting or endorsing Schwartz. and looks forward to meeting entrepreneur and former legislative aide James Joyce III, the closest thing to an outsider in the race, because "the city needs change."
In a fast-moving conversation, St. George also offered his views on the announcement that the vacant Macy's building will be earmarked for office space; provided his perspective on the city's homeless policies -- and dened whispers that he was a source for the Los Angeles Magazine article that roiled City Hall this week.