New members take their places in city council history

When Brian Barnwell, Helene Schneider and Das Williams were sworn in as members of the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday, in addition to their new responsibilities they also received a place in history alongside such luminaries as John Nidever, who served on the council for one week, then resigned in 1856; Edith Hancock, the first woman elected to the council in 1947; S.L. (Bud) Eyman, who had an angry citizen throw a pie in his face during a council meeting in the 1970s; and Charles E. Cook, who was assassinated 1862 after serving for six months.

Along with their new seats on the dais, Barnwell, Schneider and Williams also took their places in the fifth edition of “Civic Leadership in Santa Barbara,” which traces the history of the Santa Barbara City Council from 1826 to the present. The book (available at the public library) is a labor of love by former Mayor and Councilman Hal Conklin, who began the effort in 1990 with the assistance of Carrol Villanueva, a UCSB intern.

“I’ve always loved California history. It’s been a passion of mine ever since I was a kid,” said Conklin, who holds the record for longest city council service, leaving public office after more than18 years (due to term limits). “Coming to the city of Santa Barbara of course you’re seeped in history all the time. When I was on the council I was acutely aware that I was in a long line of secession,” said Conklin, who now serves as the director of public affairs for Southern California Edison.

First incorporated as a city in 1850, most of the members of Santa Barbara’s Common Council, as it was called, were reputed to be wealthy landowners, with recognizable local surnames turned street names, such as Carrillo and De la Guerra. Among the laws of the day were a Public Intoxication Ordinance establishing a fine of $100 for any white proprietor or landlord and a fine of $2 for any Indian with the same offense and a Hog Ordinance “to prevent hogs from running at large within the limits of the city.”

While the sow problem seems to be under control, it will be up to the new council to try to weave a silk purse from the city coffers currently being drained by the state, as well as deal with pressing regional issues like neighborhood preservation, a housing shortage, the environment, traffic and growth.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on January 8, 2003.