Longtime council member opposes Measure T, doesn’t see it as dominant issue
Editor’s note: This is part of the series on local candidates in advance of Tuesday’s general election.
Even as the Measure T ballot initiative has dominated headlines this election year, Carpinteria City Councilmember Gregg Carty has remained focused on his own campaign to win re-election to the board on which he’s served 16 years, including two terms as mayor.
He’s done that by stressing what he’s accomplished while on the council — and what he hopes to achieve if he wins another term in office.
His election strategy is especially important this year because Carpinteria voters are picking candidates by district for the first time, instead of choosing anyone at large who is running for a particular office.
That means Councilmember Carty finds himself squaring off against his colleague, Vice Mayor Al Clark, in the District 5 council race, in addition to political newcomer Patrick O’Connor.
“It’s been sad and disappointing to run against my fellow councilmember, Al Clark, as we were both elected in 2006 and have served together ever since,” Mr. Carty told the News-Press. “Myself, Councilmember Clark and former Councilmember Brad Stein all ran together as ‘A-B-C”’(Al-Brad-Carty).”
But even as he’s tried to stay positive and remain focused on the issues facing Carpinteria residents, he’s found himself drawn — reluctantly — into unfamiliar territory, including the shadow cast by Measure T.
“This is the first year that I’ve personally felt the ‘ugly’ side of politics,” he told the News-Press. “I did consider Councilmember Clark a friend. However, the rhetoric he has chosen to use this election is uncalled for and, frankly, confusing.
“He states he is running to ‘get Carpinteria back on track and save our city,’ yet he’s been a member of the council over the past 16 years, and we have voted in alignment on the majority of issues that have come across the city council. We’ve also served together on various committees and accomplished a lot together.
“However, with the introduction of District voting as well as Measure T, it seems my recollection of the past is much different from Councilmember Clark’s. The collective accomplishments of the past council have been thrown under the bus without logic. Members of his campaign have also spread blatant lies and harmful comments about me and my intentions.”
This includes public comments by a former mayor, which Councilmember Carty found particularly upsetting.
“While I haven’t agreed with decisions made by past and present council members, I’ve always remained respectful and have never said or done anything that warrants these types of attacks,” he said. “What makes this statement as well as others made on social media so sad and disheartening is that they are 100% unequivocally false, and have affected my wife, my children and even my young grandchildren.
“There is a strange conspiracy circulating throughout our community that I, along with other council members and city staff, are engaging in nefarious financial deadlines. I can state with utmost certainty that ALL councilmembers and city staff have always acted with honesty, integrity and transparency, and will continue to do so because of the love and respect we all have for Carpinteria.”
Despite the disruption of his friendship with Councilmember Clark, and what he considers to be surprising, hurtful negative campaign rhetoric, Councilmember Carty continues to focus on his accomplishments in office.
“One of my proudest achievements while serving on the council was working with the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County to help orchestrate the acquisition of the Rincon Bluffs Preserve,” he said.
“I strongly supported Measure X and was glad to see it passing in November 2018,” he added.
He and Vice Mayor Clark were appointed by Mayor Wade Nomura to the Budget Finance Committee during that election cycle, in part, to recommend to the council the best usage of funds raised by Measure X.
“With our recommendations, as well as the collaboration with ALL council members, we can ensure the estimated $3-4 million annually is utilized appropriately in areas such as capital improvements, youth programs and the library.”
Another “great achievement and success” was the planting of Carpinteria’s Community Garden, he said. “Personally, being an avid gardener, it was important for me that our community members had space to develop a passion for plants and agriculture. It’s so wonderful to see adults and kids learning about the earth and where their food comes from.”
Councilmember Carty also cited the assortment of youth programs, such as the Junior Lifeguard Program, as well as the upcoming construction of the skatepark, as a “huge accomplishment.
“It’s a wonderful addition to our Parks Program,” he said. “It was inspiring to witness the younger generation come together and raise money for a cause that is close to their hearts and that I know will have a positive lasting impact on generations to come.”
He’s also supported environmental issues and causes brought forth by the community, such as bans on smoking, plastic bags and Styrofoam. And he considers himself to be proactive in the fight against the rise in sea level.
“I will always be strong in support of our environment as it’s a key characteristic that makes Carpinteria, Carpinteria,” Mr. Carty said.
His primary goals if re-elected to another four-year term include finishing a dedicated senior center, completing the coastal bluffs trail from Rincon to Santa Claus Lane, protecting locally owned “mom and pop” stores downtown while shielding against the challenges of big developers, and putting forth a city-wide review of public health and safety “to ensure the safety of our citizens, be it crime, environmental or pandemic.
“Overall, the theme I plan to steward during this upcoming term is managing the goodness of Carpinteria of the past while connecting to the bright future,” he said.
“As long as I am on city council, you will never see high-rise buildings, ‘big-box’ stores, or anything else that doesn’t fit the charm and style of the jewel that is Carpinteria. What I do hope to accomplish is a revitalization of our downtown that maintains the core tenants of our general plan.”
Surprisingly, Councilmember Carty does not believe Measure T is the dominant issue facing Carpinteria. The measure was created to stop a developer’s plans to build the Surfliner Inn, a two-story boutique hotel with rooftop bar, on two downtown Carpinteria parking lots on either side of the railroad tracks.
“While Measure T is a hot-topic item, the overarching theme that I’ve identified in this election comes down to a community divided by change and how it transpires,” he said. “It’s easy to get lost in the ‘Us versus Them’ frame of mind and fail to see that the majority of our community members have a true heart and passion for Carpinteria. That’s what sets us apart from any community, beach towns or otherwise. When there is an issue, the people of Carpinteria step up and support one another.”
So what about Measure T?
“There are several important issues, but there is no single issue that takes precedence over another,” he said. “With respect to Measure T, I have publicly endorsed No on T for the sole purpose of maintaining the existing city processes and general plan that has served us well over the past few decades.”
“Yes, I, along with all other councilmembers, excluding Councilmember Clark, signed the resolution urging voters to vote no on Measure T. I did so as I do not believe growth decisions should not be made by ballot measure but as part of the established review process.
“It is truly too premature to have an opinion on the Surfliner Inn as it’s still in its infancy from a developmental standpoint. While I am open to the possibility of something being built in that location, I want to ensure that it serves the best interest of the entire community.
“The advisory vote would have been a significant cost for the city while also being non-legal binding,” Mr. Carty continued. “In addition, it’s not an appropriate or effective way to run a city as elected officials and agencies have established processes that have served us well. I am proud to see individuals come together for a cause they believe in but in this situation, I do not believe the solution is an appropriate one.”
He doesn’t think the voters’ decision on Measure T will determine who wins the District 5 council race, given that he signed the resolution and Councilmember Clark didn’t.
“I do not believe our opinion on Measure T will determine our success in this election,” he said. “Individuals that are against immediately stopping the potential development of the Surfliner Inn will vote yes on T, but I do know there are many that are supporting me for my character and decision making regarding ALL other issues. I would hope that individuals are voting for a candidate and not a singular issue.”
Councilmember Carty, 68, has lived in Carpinteria since 1959. He has four generations of family that call Carpinteria their home, “and their love is as much as mine for our community.”
He and his brother Martin founded Carty Brothers Construction, which has completed hundreds of projects within the county for 40-plus years. He is still actively working in construction on various private housing projects and renovations as well as volunteer-based projects.
“Carpinteria has a very special place in my heart, as it is the place I formed my childhood memories, developed lifelong friendships, began my nearly 40-year marriage, welcomed my two beautiful daughters, and now have the honor and privilege of helping shape the only community I’ve ever known.”