Archive » October 27, 2011
Byrne strives for post on SB council
By Alonzo Orozco, Contributing Writer
With a year under her belt as Executive Director of the Milpas Community Association (MCA), Sharon Byrne has entered another arena – that of politics, as she recently filed papers in hopes of winning a seat on the Santa Barbara City Council in the November election.
Having already tackled issues of crime and homelessness in Santa Barbara’s Milpas corridor with the help of local businesses and citizens through the MCA this past year, Byrne appears poised to take her fight to another level.
“I’m a non-partisan. I feel very strongly that we need some non-partisan solutions right now,” says Byrne, who is running as an independent candidate. “I’ve had a strong track record in public safety. I feel it is the top concern for the people of the city at this time,” explains Byrne, emphasizing that the seriousness of the problem crosses all party lines.
Byrne has worked with the city council and assembly member Pedro Nava, last year organizing a gang intervention study that reviewed successful policies in Oxnard. She recently deployed the same techniques in Santa Barbara’s lower-eastside neighborhood and west downtown with similar results.
Just this past March, Byrne gathered the council down to Santa Monica to examine their policy to curb homelessness, which according to Byrne has reduced that city’s homeless population from 2,500 to 780 during the past six years. Byrne is also running on a strong platform that she describes as a need for “responsive, transparent and open government.”
“I know what it feels like to be a little citizen pounding the walls of the Citadel and have to navigate a big bureaucracy of city employees that all manage to find that the only word they can say is no, or it’s two weeks, or two months,” says Byrne.
One of Byrne’s proposals is for online polls to be posted on the city website to help avoid expensive ballot initiatives in hopes of getting the average citizen more involved in local government. She points out that often times, speakers who participate in public comment segments at city council meetings will wait two hours to voice concerns within a two-minute time limit, adding that it’s difficult for working parents to take the time to become involved in the process.
Byrne also suggests that non-profits who are granted money to deal with issues such as homelessness, be given a performance criterion to determine whether they should receive funding for the following year. The downtown resident has also put in some time in the private sector, working for Fortune 500 companies such as AT&T and Verizon, and has received endorsements from the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, and both the Santa Barbara Police and Fire Departments.
Although Byrne is confident in her capabilities, she understands the tall task ahead of her.
“I’m not naïve about how hard this (being elected as an independent) is, but I do think my chances are actually very good,” says the former small high-tech business consultant. With 10 candidates and three council seats up for grabs, it would seem to be anyone’s ball game.