With preliminary results from the Nov. 2 election available as this issue of the Business Times went to press, former City Council member and retired restaurant owner Randy Rowse appeared headed for victory in the closely watched Santa Barbara mayor’s race.
The early results had Rowse with 40.4% of the vote, ahead of James Joyce’s 26% and incumbent Mayor Cathy Murrillo’s 24.4%.
If Rowse’s substantial lead holds up, it will be the first time in many years that a downtown business owner has taken the helm of the city. And it appears also that it will be the first time in decades that an incumbent mayor has gone down to defeat in Santa Barbara.
That there is a need for leadership in restoring downtown, tackling problems ranging from homelessness to crime to housing, is not really up for debate. Santa Barbara imports far too many workers from Ventura and Santa Maria and it had seen its fortunes slip before the pandemic dealt a devastating blow.
But there is also plenty of opportunity ahead. And Rowse has some unique chances to remake the city. Here are a few of them:
• Forge closer relationships with UCSB and the growing tech culture. A downtown incubator/accelerator has helped rejuvenate downtown San Luis Obispo. Ventura is benefiting from being home to The Trade Desk. Santa Barbara should embrace the future and become an anchor for jobs, prosperity and new businesses.
• Re-energize relationships with police and fire. Significantly, Rowse had support of firefighters and cops and also important business leaders, including Pete Jordano. The role of public safety in revitalizing downtown cannot be overstated.
• Work with state and county officials on bold new housing plans. Santa Barbara can’t duck building its fair share of housing and it has room in the downtown core to expand opportunities.
• Reduce regulation. Permits, signage and all sorts of small barriers are making it harder and harder for businesses to thrive. Cutting through red tape – while also respecting Santa Barbara traditions — will make for a more prosperous city and also expand the tax base.
After several halting efforts, it looks like Santa Barbara might be making a fresh start. It has momentum when it comes to air travel, job growth and a revitalized hotel sector. If he is declared the winner, Rowse can accelerate that momentum with a thoughtful plan — and preserve what’s unique about the city.
PATAGONIA TAKES A STAND
At a time when Facebook is under fire for accelerating divisions in our culture, one area company stands out for standing aside from the tyranny of its algorithms.
Late in 2020, Ventura-based Patagonia withdrew from advertising on the social media platform, citing concerns about its role in spreading misinformation.
Patagonia has a very strong, global brand, and cynics will point out that it has plenty of other ways of marketing its products.
But as an independent publisher with deep misgivings about the proliferation hate and lies on social media, we’ll take a minute and applaud Patagonia for dropping out of the Facebook advertising world and plotting its own path.