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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Kristen vs Barrett, Round 1: A Lively and Contentious Clash Over Substance and Style

Kristen Sneddon staunchly defended her record against an onslaught of aggressive criticism from Barrett Reed on Wednesday night, as the city council race rivals clashed in the first true "debate" of Santa Barbara's election season.

With incumbent Sneddon and challenger Reed the only two candidates running in the District 4 contest, the pair were able to speak directly to and at each other, during a lively and contentious hourlong affair produced by Newsmakers, SB Talks and TVSB.

The combative tone contrasted with the more genteel tenor of two earlier candidate forums, for mayor and council's District 6 seat, which included six and four contenders respectively, obviating the opportunity for one-on-one clashes.

"I'm running on my record of accomplishment," said council member and City College professor Sneddon. "I'm going to give myself an 'A' for effort."

"The state of our city is alarming," responded Reed, a downtown developer. "People want change and they want it now,"

The comments from the two Santa Barbara High School alums (Go Dons) summed up the night -- as well as the choice for District 4 voters -- as Sneddon contrasted what she called her "holistic...long-term visionary" perspective on public policy, with a "just one view" approach represented by her developer foe, while Reed attacked her for an "inconsistent" style and a lack of urgency in dealing with the city's multiple crises and chronic problems..

Sneddon credited herself for initiating the push to develop a long-term strategy for downtown economic revitalization via the State Street Master Planning Committee, while also highlighting her behind-the-scenes work on climate change issues, through leadership of the Sea Level Rise Adaptation Committee, and blaming the pandemic -- not the council's political and personality-driven antagonisms - for much of City Hall's recent turnover and turmoil.

Reed, however, portrayed her as part of a do-nothing City Hall culture that holds endless meeting, commissions countless studies and compiles endless reports -- "I will not simply study our problems, I'll take action" -- while cherry picking past comments and votes on issues to blame her for delays in building needed housing and for much of the "divisiveness" on the council, which he said is "repelling talent" from coming to work in city government.


The sharpest difference between the two emerged over homelessness.

Sneddon said that recent actions taken by council have put the city on "the precipice (of) long-term transformational change," through a strategy of approaching the homeless on a one-on-one basis and moving them from temporary to "bridge" to "permanent housing with wraparound services." -- "We're seeing tremendous progress like we haven't seen before," she said.

Reed responded that "it is hard to see" any progress, adding that many voters in the district have told him they are unwilling or afraid to take their families downtown because "it's a dirty, kind of scary place to be. While additional shelter is needed, the city also needs to impose greater enforcement of laws against "camping, public drug use, urination and defecation -- it's bad," he said.

Room Rater: No doubt mindful of the savagely tough grading Newsmakers has applied to Zoom backgrounds of candidates in the previous two forums, both Sneddon and Reed positioned themselves before aesthetically pleasing and well-balanced backdrops with excellent Feng shui.

Kristen: Campaign sign a good splash of color on white wall, stacked climate science books good subliminal messaging. Bonus for bromeliad plant: 9/10.

Barrett: Dramatic Will Adler shoreline photograph dominates, offset by surf board and family photo personal touches. Double bonus for Fiddle-leaf fig: 10/10.

You can watch the debate via YouTube below or by clicking through this link, and the audio version is here.

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