In the race to fill three open seats on the Goleta City Council, only two candidates have announced their intention to run, leaving an unprecedented potential for a vacancy.
Monday marked the first day for would-be councilmembers to register for the general election in November, but as of Tuesday, only incumbent councilmen Roger Aceves and Michael Bennett have begun campaigning. The third spot, left open after Goleta Mayor Eric Onnen decided not to run, is completely uncontested.
While the opening date to register as a candidate has already passed without a third contender, incumbent Councilmember Michael Bennett said there is still plenty of time for a candidate to run and win. In past years, candidates for city council were required to file applications by August 4, but because one of the seats has been vacated by an incumbent, the city has extended the filing date by one week, allowing hopefuls to announce campaigns any time before August 11.
“It is not unrealistic that someone could already have their campaign ready,” Bennett said. “I fully expect that there will be a candidate running for the position when the time comes.”
However, according to Onnen, a late declaration of candidacy may lead to difficulty securing enough voter support by Election Day, Nov. 2.
Once elected, council members serve four-year terms and meet twice a month to discuss local legislation. Members also receive a $400 monthly stipend for their time. Omen stated that the relatively low stipend may deter people looking for a full-time job with a salary.
“Our city council has been made up of retired people, except for myself,” Onnen said. “Yes, I think if there was a different stipend it might attract more people.”
City Councilmember Margaret Connell said the low number of candidates running for the office marks a break from city history and is a contrast to hard-fought elections in the past.
“We are a fairly young city, so we have not had many elections, but the ones we have had have been pretty contested,” Connell said. “It could be that the people of Goleta are satisfied with the current state of affairs.”
However, Connell also noted that the potential seat vacancy is reflective of recent trouble the city has faced even when hiring for administrative jobs.
“One thing a little concerning is that when Councilmember Bennett needed to appoint someone to the planning commission post, it took him two to three months to get an applicant,” Connell said. “It’s hard to believe that nobody seems to be stepping up enthusiastically.”