Proud of his city’s accomplishments during his tenure, Robert Clarke is running for re-election to the Solvang City Council District 4 seat against Elizabeth Orona.
Mr. Clarke will have served on the council for four years in December and is the longest-serving city council member.
The News-Press asked Mr. Clarke what he has accomplished on the council.
“I think the biggest accomplishment is not one business shut down during COVID,” said Mr. Clarke, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative. “We approved the urban growth boundary. We also negotiated sheriff and union contracts. This is stuff the residents don’t see because it’s a closed session and it’s delicate. We work hard to save the residents money, but they don’t see it.”
The city of Solvang has a contract with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office for its law enforcement services.
Mr. Clarke told the News-Press about a sheriff’s contract negotiation where the city of Solvang was originally paying around $1.8 million. The county raised it to $2.4 million, and the city council negotiated it back down to about $2.1 million. Also managing the city during COVID-19 was a big accomplishment, according to Mr. Clarke.
He said the city has revisited the grant process and noted it’s not the taxpayers’ responsibility to pay for nonprofits’ good deeds.
The News-Press asked Mr. Clarke what he was most proud of.
“My common sense and my candor,” he said. “I have a reputation for having no filter and big mouth. I just look at common sense and what benefits the most residents. That is the balance with being on the council.
“I think about 60% of our budget comes from the tourist occupancy tax,” Mr. Clarke said. “If we don’t have ‘heads in beds,’ we don’t have a budget. We also offered no-interest loans to businesses, before PPP (the federal Payment Protection Program) during COVID. Every single business paid the city back.”
Mr. Clarke spoke to his goals if re-elected.
“My primary goal is to continue to manage the dictates and the rules that come out of Sacramento, telling cities what needs to be accomplished, especially in terms of housing,” he said. “It’s very difficult to fight Sacramento when they make rules for such a large state. There are some residents that are very involved, but I wish more residents understood this.”
Mr. Clarke said his strengths include his experience. “I have always run on me, not my opponent. I am very in tune because I have raised my kids here. We know what’s going on in this town and have our finger on the pulse of the residents’ needs and concerns.”
Mr. Clarke noted he’s endorsed by city council members Claudia Orona and Jim Thomas.
He said he opposes Measure U, which would increase Solvang’s sales tax by 1%, but does support citizens getting to vote on the initiative in Tuesday’s general election.
“I have sat with the commander at Vandenberg Space Base and met with officials at Diablo Canyon (nuclear power plant),” he said.
He added he has worked well with Buellton Mayor Holly Sierra, Buellton City Council candidates Art Mercado and Buellton mayoral candidate Dave King,
I think the current Buellton administration is more in tune with working with other cities,” Mr. Clarke said.’
“I work very well with leaders in other towns as well. I think I work really hard at this job and I am extremely fiscally conservative.”