BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
Bringing common sense back to Santa Barbara City Hall.
That’s a pretty succinct way to sum up the platform of Frank Hotchkiss, who hopes to unseat one of three incumbents in this November’s City Council election. Sitting in the study of his Riviera home, Hotchkiss kept coming back to that idea as he discussed the changes he plans to make if given the nod by Santa Barbara voters this fall.
“The best qualification I have is clear, common sense,” Hotchkiss said. “Wisdom, political or otherwise, is perceiving things as they are and then acting accordingly.”
Calling city leaders “out of touch” with the public, Hotchkiss further criticized the City Council for focusing on projects that are “in vogue, but don’t solve the problem they purport to.” He cited the lightblueline and pending legislation against the use of plastic bags in Santa Barbara as examples.
“I think the City Council has made so many mistakes, and the straw that broke the camel’s back was this lightblueline project,” Hotchkiss said. “...We can’t even predict the weather in three days and you are telling me this is accurate?”
Although the controversial art project has been withdrawn by its creator, Hotchkiss said he still finds fault among Councilmembers who supported the project and recently voiced their disappointment that it has been shelved.
While Hotchkiss has been publicly outspoken against the lightblueline project — even going so far as to announce his candidacy at the Cabrillo Arts Center because it is within the flood area designated by the line — he said he is not a one-trick pony.
“There is absolutely no business for us to have gangs here,” Hotchkiss said. Echoing an earlier campaign cry, he added, “If you live in Santa Barbara and you are in a gang, either get out of the gang or get out of Santa Barbara.”
If elected, he said he will push for more police officers on duty and get the city to work more closely with local schools to quash the gang problem. He also suggested using GPS tracking bracelets for gang offenders so authorities know where they are at all times.
Hotchkiss, a Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty in Santa Barbara, also called for a new stance on transportation issues, saying current city leaders are focused on making it “more and more difficult to drive our cars.” He called public transportation such as city buses impractical.
“The city is not ever going to work that way,” he said.
Instead of “forcing people out of their cars,” Hotchkiss said Santa Barbara needs to plan for a future population that is going to have individual vehicles, regardless of their fuel source. Included in that vision, he said, is planning for two cars per apartment instead of one.
Hotchkiss said he also opposes mini-roundabouts and other traffic impediments that have raised the ire of local residents in recent months.
As far as the current concept of a commuter rail to Ventura County being kicked around by local government groups, Hotchkiss called the idea “too expensive and too unsure.” Instead, he suggested increasing bus service to Ventura, Lompoc and Buellton and working on improving the existing infrastructure.
Hotchkiss also supports the removal of Spanish translations from official city documents, explaining that he sees it as a way to bring foreign language speakers into the fold rather than excluding them.
“I think it’s unfair when the city encourages people to be linguistically segregated,” Hotchkiss said.
Although he is now fluent in French, Hotchkiss said he struggled for the first three months while living in France. As he started to get a grasp on the language, he said he found the local residents there looked at him with a whole new attitude.
“If you keep addressing them in Spanish, you are really being exclusive,” Hotchkiss said.
Originally from the East Coast, Hotchkiss grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Yale University. He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, describing the experience as “mostly boring.” He even signed up for river patrols rather than remaining stationed off the coast, hoping to see a little action.
After leaving the Navy, he worked as a stage and television actor, first in San Francisco and then in Los Angeles, and also appeared in one film. Looking for more stable work in the early 1970s, he walked in off the street and got a job writing features for the Associated Press in Los Angeles.
After bouncing around from various news organizations, including City News Service and the Compton Herald-American, Hotchkiss eventually took the position as head of publications for the 1984 Olympics. After getting a publishing company to pay the Olympic committee for the privilege of creating a guide of Los Angeles, Hotchkiss said he thought, “Gee, maybe I have a head for business.”
After the Olympics, he started a public relations firm and held accounts with Adidas, Special Olympics and the Alzheimer’s Association, among others. In 1997, Hotchkiss moved to Santa Barbara with his wife, Sandra, “just when the market started to take off.”
About two weeks after arriving, he went down to City Hall, parked on the street, walked in and met the mayor, something he said he never could have done in Los Angeles.
“I thought, my God, this is the way it’s supposed to be,” Hotchkiss said. “This is a cool place.”
Although he is a member of the Riviera Association and served on a community advisory group while living in Pacific Palisades, Calif., he said that is the extent of his political experience.
“I’m not a politician,” Hotchkiss said, “and that’s a good thing in my book.”
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
BY ERIC LINDBERG