Newsmakers with JR
The Pat & Randy Show: Gray Beards Defend Paul Casey -- Decry "Banana Republic" at City Hall
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
Former City Council member Randy Rowse and retired Fire Chief Pat McElroy between them spent eight decades in and around city government, operating in a host of positions - elected official, small business owner, fire fighter, labor negotiator, department head.
So Newsmakers was eager to glean their perspectives on the current period of political sturm und drang at City Hall, where an atmosphere of intrigue, scheming and back-stabbing has emerged amid the multiplicity of crises -- economic, social and governance -- that Santa Barbara faces.
"We're in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, a reckoning over racism, a crisis in housing and homelessness, natural disasters related to climate change -- so the solution is, 'let’s fire everyone?'" said McElroy. "Let’s fire the guy we don’t like? Okay whats Plan B? That’s what I want to hear -- you’re getting rid of somebody that’s been doing this for a long time – what’s Plan B? This isn't something we can fire our way out of."
"A banana republic functions that way," said Rowse. "They have a coup d’etat, and all of a sudden, they have a void of authority, a void of direction and they’re right back down to where they were before."
In their answers, the two civic senior statesman responded to questions about efforts by land developer and commercial property owners (the names Ed. St George, Jim Knell and Richard Berti come to mind) to influence a majority of council members to oust longtime City Administrator Paul Casey.
McElroy and Rowse both said that Casey is doing a first-rate job, despite chronic problems in the Community Development Department, which they said have provided an opening to attack the administrator more broadly.
"I'd say 90 percent of the city is hitting on all cylinders," Randy said.
"We’re focusing on this group that’s been really, really noisy, and they’ve had a lot of influence on council, more than I would like to see," he added. "This idea that business is trying to gang up and fire people doesn’t make any sense to me. It's that lack of esprit de coeur about the city that's concerning right now."
Said Pat: "I'm really disappointed in a few people over at City Hall that are engaging in rumor mongering, in disloyalty and gossip, and this personal posturing for upward movement is really unseemly.
"And the divisiveness that this has caused is exactly the opposite of what is needed right now. These people are not invisible and it’s not like there’s some of us that don't know that this is going on and it’s caused some of us to say…we just can’t sit here and watch this anymore without commenting about it. As a citizen I'd be ashamed of myself if I didn’t pop off now and again and this is the time for me."
In a wide-ranging discussion of City Hall operations and controversies, McElroy and Rowse also weighed in about the lack of cohesion among council members elected by district, Mayor Cathy Murillo's performance in the crisis; the call to defund the police amid Black Lives Matter protests; community criticism of Police Chief Lori Luhnow; the council's handling of Measure C funds and homeless issues, among other matters.
"This isn’t over tomorrow," McElroy said of the atmosphere of day-to-day emergency created by the Covid pandemic, the collapse of the economy and anti-racism protests. "This is something to prove yourself over the long run, and one of the things I think is, hey everybody take the termperature down a little bit, especially on city issues
"On social injustice issues, I know the urgency is there and we have to move quickly, but in terms of the city, how we manage as a city and the things we can control, let's have good, deliberative conversation and good policy that comes out of that conversation...
"I hope as things cool down a little (the) council starts working together," he added. "Right now I don’t see where this council has found itself."
Watch our complete interview with Pat McElroy and Randy Rowse by clicking below, and the podcast version is right here.