What is your position on the issue of district elections in Santa Barbara?
Sharon Byrne, candidate for Santa Barbara City Council
“I am in favor. The current general election is a high bar for candidates to scale, and requires a lot of fundraising and work to win the neighborhoods that ring the city from the Mesa through the Foothill Rd area to the upper Eastside and over into the Coast Village Rd area. These are the high-propensity voter districts, and this is where most of our current council lives. That leads to a council not really reflective of the people that live and work here, especially those living below Canon Perdido St. It also means that only those with significant time and resources can run, or those backed by party machinery, which creates partisan politics in an non-partisan position.
The effect of an outer-rink council can be seen in zoning decisions, where controversial land uses are put below Canon Perdido, and over on the Eastside. These are low voter-turnout areas, that can’t turn an offending council out of office for these affronts, even though they are also high-density neighborhoods. Therefore, with no voter penalty, councils are free to make one-off decisions that over time bring these areas down. District elections would stop that because neighborhood representatives would be accountable to their voters. It also means there is someone on council that represents you. District elections would also lower the barriers to entry, which would help ease the partisan politics present today in council races. Candidates would only have to meet voters in their district, and raise enough funds to win their district. They wouldn’t be relying on party machinery to get them across the finish line in the wider city. The only downside is tendencies towards districts fighting to get their way, at the expense of the wider city. A solution to that is a hybrid approach, recommended by the Grand Jury in 2006, that gives four district reps, a mayor elected at large, and 2 at-large council members.”