Friday, August 31, 2007

Fairness is key to campaign


Although he plans to focus on a wide array of issues in his campaign for a Santa Barbara City Council seat this fall, Dale Francisco said his overarching goal is to bring fairness back to local government.
Too often, he said, current city leaders focus on issues with a one-sided approach and turn their back on any opposition. Francisco said he is dedicated to accommodating multiple viewpoints at City Hall if elected in November.

"We have a City Council that caters to its friends and ignores everyone else," Francisco said in a candidate video statement taped on Tuesday. "It's a City Council that is out of touch, poorly informed and yet arrogantly believes it knows best."
The quick, friendly smile that usually graces his face faded as he explained how he battled against the Council in recent months over transportation issues. As the secretary for Santa Barbara SAFE Streets, Francisco filed an appeal against mini-roundabouts and other traffic calming devices proposed by the city.
"I guess I shouldn't have been, but I was shocked when they just turned us down," Francisco said.
That's when he decided to run for one of three Council seats up for grabs this fall. Although the denial of his appeal certainly miffed him, Francisco said that experience merely highlighted what he feels is a larger problem at City Hall.
"The City Council is guided by ideology instead of facts," he said.
Another perfect example of that, Francisco said, is the latest firestorm over the lightblueline art project. He said the Council was blindsided by opposition to their proposal to paint blue waves on city streets because they never sought out a true public debate. As one of two people who spoke out against the project when it came up for Council approval, Francisco said he found out about the lightblueline by reading the city staff report attached to the Council agenda.
Too many of those staff reports are one-sided as well, he said, suggesting that there is a management disconnect between city leaders and staff. Francisco said his time as a manager at a software company in San Jose will give him an advantage in directing city staff to present both pro and con arguments.
"A good manager is going to demand a complete picture," Francisco said. "...You have to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about others."
Transportation issues will be key in the Orange County native's campaign. Francisco moved to Santa Barbara in 1979 and after a five-year stint in San Jose ending in 2002, he returned and has been focused on his work with Santa Barbara SAFE Streets ever since.
In particular, Francisco said he wants to bring more engineering experience to the city transportation department, describing the current staff as largely composed of alternative transportation advocates who don't possess engineering degrees.
"It's an engineering and science discipline," Francisco said. "I'm all in favor of alternative transportation, but the people in charge of planning need to have an understanding of traffic engineering."
Plans to narrow streets and install curb bulb-outs are going to further congest city streets, he said, adding that massive housing complexes going up on Chapala Street are only worsening the problem. Francisco said he favors a height restriction on new buildings in Santa Barbara as well as setback requirements and increased landscaping.
"Reckless overdevelopment must be stopped before the town we love is lost forever," Francisco said in his video statement.
His solution for preventing overdevelopment is simply to follow existing zoning laws, he said, rather than granting modifications that let projects slip through in what he characterized as "piecemeal zoning."
As far as the current housing crunch, Francisco said eventually the city will have to limit the population and live within its resources, saying there is just no more room for development unless residents are willing to "completely change the look of Santa Barbara."
Francisco also plans to discuss public safety issues during the Council race, focusing on the homeless problem and gang violence currently plaguing the city. He described the Santa Barbara library on Anacapa Street as a "de facto homeless camp" where parents and children no longer feel comfortable visiting. He said he will press for an increased police presence downtown if elected, and work with local businesses to come up with viable solutions.
While he agreed that there are people living on local streets who have serious problems and can't take care of themselves, he said a large part of the homeless population needs to understand that getting help is not a one-way street.
"The majority of people on the streets can do something for themselves," Francisco said.
As far as the recent rise of gang violence in Santa Barbara, he called for a more visible police presence coupled with more police programs for young children explaining what will happen if they join a gang. Although he will need to delve deeper into the issue with gang officers and police officials, Francisco said his intuition tells him there is simply a need for more officers on the streets.
Francisco, 54, was born in Detroit and grew up in Garden Grove and Irvine, Calif. He lived on the East Coast for six years, holding down a number of jobs until he said he decided that getting a college education might not be such a bad idea. He moved to Santa Barbara and earned degrees at UC Santa Barbara in both computer science and English.
Francisco took various writing and computer programming jobs in the area and eventually left Santa Barbara to work for Cisco Systems, Inc., in San Jose. Since returning in 2002, he has only taken a few contract jobs, working mostly with Santa Barbara SAFE Streets and spending his free time hiking, taking history and music courses at UCSB, and learning to play cello.
For the next few months, however, Francisco said he will concentrate all his energy on running his campaign, meeting with local residents and debating community issues in candidate forums, hoping to outrun the seven other City Council hopefuls.

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