Archive » December 20, 2012
Exiting councilman King reflects on term
By Jeremy Foster, Staff Writer
Dave King said he had hoped to see Buellton grow – in very conservative ways – as a council person, but thinks he won’t get that opportunity because he was outspent by an opponent who had backing from a citizens’ action group.
King served four years on council but finished third in November’s election for two seats. Former Mayor Holly Sierra was the top vote-getter, followed by first time councilman Leo Elovitz, who secured his seat with a 100-vote edge.
On Dec. 13 Sierra presented King with an honorary plaque, thanking him for his service. “I ran for council four years ago and we worked really well together,” she said.
King thanked the public for keeping council members focused and honest, and said the city still has a lot of things to accomplish.
In a phone interview Monday, King said he had hoped his message of smart but small growth would have resonated with the voters and chalked up his loss to a “campaign (by Elovitz) full of slick fliers with a bunch of empty promises and a strong marketing operation.”
“I suspect if I had spent a lot more money, it would have changed the outcome,” he said. “Who would think someone would spend thousands of dollars on a campaign for a local election?”
King finds it troubling that Buellton Is Our Town (BIOT), a community group that is focused on the city’s Visioning Plan, backed Elovitz, because the newcomer might feel beholden to the group’s priorities. Its members have proposed a plan dubbed “The Curve.” It proposes reducing the roadway from four straight lanes to two curving lanes, to improve traffic and make better use of medians as well as broadening East Avenue of Flags. King said business owners in the downtown area have opposed the strategy.
King also reflected on his four years’ work on the council.
He said he was proud that he helped hire current City Manager John Kunkel, whom he said is an “an excellent asset for the city and voice of reason.”
A 2010 contract with MarBorg Industries for solid waste services was a good investment, King said, because they offer flexible services for city events.
He was especially proud that the city approved a streetscape plan last year that paved the way for traffic safety and circulation improvements on Highway 246 between Palm Way and Avenue of Flags.
The proposal will improve sidewalks, handicap ramps and intersection crosswalks with block pavers at intersections and construct a 275-foot-long landscaped median west of Avenue of Flags. City leaders said the project will reduce accidents between the state highway and local roads and alleyways. The city awarded $800,000 to G. Sosa Construction for the downtown revitalization plan.
King said the plan was the kind of development the entire Avenue needed, and he worried that the new council would struggle to make more necessary infrastructure improvements to the area without its redevelopment agency, which was abolished by the state.
King worked for the California Highway Patrol for 25 years, mostly in Los Angeles. He said working in a large, congested city drove him to move to Santa Barbara County in 1996. He moved to Buellton with his wife Gretchen in 2004 and ran for city council four years later, adamant about keeping the area from turning into “another Isla Vista.”
He was alarmed by construction of the Juliette Walk condominiums and joined the council in achieving shorter building height-limitations included in a change to the city’s mixed-use regulations.
King described his experience behind the dais as “sometimes frustrating, sometimes exhilarating.” He worries that with the addition of Elovitz to the council, the city might move toward unsustainable development.
“I would hope that they would not foolishly spend millions on realigning the Avenue of Flags and putting a roundabout in there at the taxpayers’ expense,” he said.
The now former councilman said the downtown area needs a facelift: new sidewalks, new lighting and new infrastructure to accommodate events, farmers markets, car shows and art displays. He has pushed for facade face-lifts on old buildings and believes this will attract business people to set up shop. “That’s been the biggest complaint about the Avenue,” King stated. He said BIOT’s plan to “realign” the Avenue is tantamount to “giving a pig a facelift.”
King also opposes planning for a high-tech business park to attract jobs because he doesn’t believe the city’s infrastructure can handle a denser population.
“Highway 246 is our main road through town,” he said. “If you overstress the population here, you’re going to see traffic taking 25 minutes to travel from the Ostrich Farm to the Post Office.”
“Can we build out the town? Sure,” he added. “But we don’t have roads, fire protection and police projection to handle what we’d be growing. I just hope the city council will go in the right direction that we’ve been going in, and not overtax the town and force longtime residents to move out.”
King said he plans on staying active in the community. “We run (for office) because we’re concerned with what’s going on with our community,” he said. “To stop going to council meetings and seeing what the leaders are going after leaving office is ridiculous.”
The one-term councilman said he has not ruled out running for a second term.
“That’s to be seen,” he said.