Newsmakers with JR
SB Election Rap: Meagan Harmon, Council's Downtown Rep, Talks Cops, Race, State St., Housing, Rents
As an up-and-coming Santa Barbara politician, Meagan Harmon so far has led a charmed life.
In early 2019, she was the surprise compromise pick by a bare majority of the City Council, who appointed her to fill the District 6 seat left vacant when Gregg Hart moved to the Board of Supervisors. Later that year, when Harmon was set to stand for election for the remainder of Hart's term, she avoided the effort when no other candidate signed up to run against her.
This year, as she sets out to win a term of her own, she again has yet to draw an opponent, and those who monger political gossip by profession or avocation see no signs to date of a challenger emerging.
"I look forward to the work of the campaign," Harmon told us on Thursday. "There's plenty of time for folks to throw their hat in the ring - I don’t think the filing closes until August. In any event, I will be on the ballot this year...so knock on wood I'll get a couple of votes."
A millennial real estate transaction attorney who hails from Lompoc, Harmon is a renter who lives downtown with her husband, an assistant district attorney, and young daughter. Smart, articulate and ambitious, she has quickly emerged as a major player on the council, the first elected under the still-new district system, especially on housing, economic development and police reform issues.
Along with District 4 representative Kristen Sneddon and District 5's Eric Friedman, Harmon forms a trio of incumbents seeking a return to council, while Cathy Murillo is seeking re-election as mayor, the only City Hall office elected citywide. In the Nov. 2 election, all are seeking five-year terms -- a one-time anomaly brought on the the city's transition from odd to even-year elections.
In a spirited conversation with Newsmakers, the second of our occasional series focused on the city elections, Harmon plugged her record during her first two years in office, saying, "I've been a very effective advocate for my neighbors (in) actually translating our shared values into legislative victories."
"I'm really proud of what we've been able to accomplish in the last, almost two years," she said, "particularly in the area of housing, where I believe I was instrumental in fast-tracking the downtown housing amendments...in making sure that we get tenant protections for our neighbors…as well as pushing policies that make our city more equitable for all of our residents."
In the interview, she also answered tough questions on a wide range of issues, including the pandemic ("the city should be more aggressive" in enforcing the mask ordinance, she said); the effort to create a structure for civilian review of the police department ("policing itself is a function of systemic racism"); reforming the Community Development Department ("change the culture to a customer-first culture"); new relocation benefits and eviction protections for renters ("I have a huge amount of empathy for our landlords but our tenants are facing an eviction cliff") among others.
On political matters, she said she plans to support Cathy for mayor and both Kristen and Eric for re-election, and also confirmed talk that she is working behind-the-scenes to line up support in a bid to win an appointment to the Coastal Commission from Gov. Gavin Newsom.
"My focus right now is helping in digging ourselves out of this huge (pandemic) hole that we find ourselves in, not of our own making," Harmon said. "The decisions we make in the next year are truly monumental for our city and they will guide the future of our city for generations to come."
You can watch our full interview with council member Meagan Harmon on YouTube below, or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here.
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