All 38 voting precincts have tallied their ballots and three Santa Barbara City Council seats have semi-officially gone to two incumbents, Helene Schneider and Das Williams, and one newcomer, Dale Francisco.
Polls closed last Tuesday at 8:00 p.m., however, the city has yet to count 1,700 absentee ballots, according to the city clerk’s office. Of the semi-official winners, Williams received 7,315 votes, Schneider received 6,539 votes and Francisco received 6,290 votes. Additionally, Measure A – legislation that would shift the next election onto an even-year schedule – has tentatively failed with 5,804 votes for the measure and 7,554 against it.
The city will finish counting the remaining absentee ballots by Friday afternoon, and with a margin of less than 500 votes between the third and fourth most favored candidates, the results could change significantly.
Incumbent Helene Schneider said she feels confident in her lead and is already celebrating her success.
“I’m obviously very pleased that voters want me to continue at city hall,” Schneider said.
Schneider said that she already has plans for her following term, emphasizing the importance of the upcoming general plan update – a framework for how Santa Barbara will develop over the next two decades.
“The general plan update comes once every 20 years,” Schneider said. “It’s the blueprint of how you’d like to see Santa Barbara change in the next 20 years. It’s a big deal.”
Dale Francisco, the third most favored candidate and fresh face to city government, was impressed by his performance at the polls, despite his lack of government experience.
“I feel great,” Francisco said. “I also feel grateful to the people who supported me. This was a totally amateur operation. We’re a bunch of volunteers. I’m excited voters were willing to take a chance on me.”
Francisco also had a set of key issues to bring to office, one of which is to assure that Santa Barbara maintains the small-town feel the residents enjoy.
“One issue I’ve heard from people is overdevelopment,” Francisco said. “Huge multistory buildings are something we have to get under control right away. There’s a sentiment in the council to do something, but we’ve got to get it started. There should also be fairness and openness in city government and I think I’m well-placed to help with that.”
Measure A’s tentative defeat has produced a mixed response within the current council. Helene Schneider said she was frustrated and confused as to why the measure would not appeal to her Santa Barbara constituents.
“I supported Measure A,” Schneider said. “I thought reducing voter cost and doubling turnout are a good thing, but some people think otherwise.”
Dale Francisco, on the other hand, is credited as a co-author on the ballot statement against Measure A. According to Francisco, the passage of Measure A would involve the city in partisan politics of the county and national elections. He also said the measure’s purported cost savings are heavily exaggerated.
“Arguments in favor of Measure A are just wrong and disingenuous,” Francisco said. “They were using wildly inflated figures with absolutely no backing behind them. Measure A would polarize city elections. City council is meant to be a nonpartisan office because the problems cities face are by and large nonpartisan issues. I think it would’ve been a change for the worse.”
Schneider, despite her opposing viewpoint, said she believes that she and Francisco can come together in the community’s best interest.
“I’m sure Dale Francisco and I can work on issues that we both care about,” Schneider said. “We love this town so much. Dale will bring a different perspective. I look forward to seeing what he has to say.”