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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Randy: State St. Car Foes "Nostalgic for Pandemic"; Homelessness "Not a Housing Problem"; Ale "Deserves Another Shot"

Provocative as ever, Mayor Randy Rowse returned to Newsmakers TV on Friday, setting forth some policy and political arguments sure to aggravate the lefty social engineering types who dominate local government.

In a lively conversation with Josh Molina and the genial host, the Santa Barbara mayor (and former high school linebacker) tackled the ideological conventional wisdom on urgent issues atop City Hall's agenda -- from the state of State Street and the U.S. Supreme Court's recent big ruling on homelessness, to the city's just-adopted climate strategy and the spirited race for the District 1 council seat.

As a political matter, Rowse's comments are significant, given his status as the one and only official elected citywide, perhaps positioning him to better reflect the cross-currents of attitudes and mood among the overall voting public.

In our interview, Hizzoner:

  • Described as "a unicorn" the alleged "State Street Promenade," expressing exasperation with the majority of his colleagues, who've refused to re-open to traffic any of the nine blocks of the city's main downtown corridor closed as an emergency measure to help restaurants stay in business during the early days of the Covid epidemic: "I'm living in the now," he said, joking that the council majority stubbornly keeping the street blocked may be "nostalgic for the pandemic," while expressing concerns he's heard from many property owners about the ongoing decline of downtown business, not to mention the red ink-stained city parking fund.

  • Said that the Supreme Court's decision about homelessness in the closely-watched City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson case, which now authorizes the arrest of people for sleeping on the street, will have little practical effect in Santa Barbara, because of the city's comprehensive and compassionate homeless policy, under which police officers here do not make such arrests. However, Rowse also flatly rejected triumphalist claims by some in the non-profit community -- "we know what works," as one leading advocate for the homeless put it this week -- while underscoring his belief that expansive mental health and substance abuse treatments, not housing, are the key to addressing the matter. "I'm not a housing-first person," he said.

  • Suggested that (despite his vote in favor of it) the city's much-ballyhooed Climate Action Plan Resolution may register with some voters as a top-down, we-know-what's-best-for-you City Hall diktat which, despite its good intentions, disdains practical concerns held by many residents about everyday transportation and energy costs and needs. Amid fierce political polarization across the country, he said, it is crucial to seek and find consensus on such complex matters.

  • Praised the work on council of District 1 representative Alejandra Gutierrez, who is locked in a tough campaign for re-election, not least because the ocal Democratic Party, which backed her last time out, now has dumped her for one of her rivals. In response to questions, Rowse acknowledged that the incumbent represents a crucial fourth vote on council against rent control proposals pushed by tenants rights advocates; while stopping short of a formal endorsement, he added that "Ale deserves another shot" for a second term.

  • Defended his support for a controversial half-cent sales tax increase proposal which council voted unanimously to put on the November ballot. Although he normally abhors tax increases, Rowse said, he fears cuts of "low-hanging fruit" expenditures in the city budget, such as libraries and recreation and parks programs, as well as the loss of revenue for the city's special housing fund. In this, at least, he is allied with progressives, including members of City Hall unions who would be the biggest beneficiaries of the tax hike.

Plus: the mayor accuses Newsmakers of aiding and abetting the spread of narcolepsy, while crediting us with helping to cure insomnia.

All this and more, right here, right now on Newsmakers TV.


Check out our conversation with the mayor via YouTube below, or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here. TVSB, Channel 17, airs the show weeknights at 8 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. KCSB, 91.9 FM, broadcasts the program at 5:30 on Monday.

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