Dr. Mark Whitehurst believes a larger arts and culture presence would grow Santa Barbara.
“We need to take the energy that we have in our community as an art and cultural destination, and put a promotion behind that — one that accents all of the fantastic things that we have, to bring together both locals and visitors, to build up our community,” the mayoral candidate told the News-Press on Monday.
The City of Santa Barbara established an Arts Advisory Committee in 1985. The City Council in 1984 intended for a commission to come from the committee, but one has yet to be formed.
Dr. Whitehurst thinks it’s time for elected officials to move a commission forward and establish an arts and culture master plan.
He boasts a list of endorsements for his candidacy on his website, including Larry J. Feinberg, Santa Barbara Museum of Art CEO and Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Director; Ruth Ellen Hoag, owner of GraySpace Art Studio, and Joan Rutkowski, board chair of Opera Santa Barbara.
Dr. Whitehurst also sees potential in Santa Barbara’s status as an environmental hub.
“Santa Barbara has all of the fundamental elements for being a world class eco destination,” he said, noting the many parks, open space and geological features.
A focus on sustainability would sustain the ecological systems, he said. He sees economic opportunities alongside environmental resilience.
A third campaign point is revitalization of a clean and safe community.
“We have 1,000 empty tree wells downtown. The streets are gummy,” he said. “You can go back as many years as you want. Nothing has been done about cleanliness.”
He is also concerned about safety. He wishes for compassionate care for mentally ill homeless people and more solutions for the homeless.
Ideas such as these are what motivated him to campaign.
“The city needed a much larger agenda; it has been operating just minding the store. And from where I stood, it was my feeling that it needed to move beyond that,” he said. “And that the people that were running, no one in particular, were not the ones to do that. They didn’t really have any big ideas.”
He describes “minding the store” as maintaining the city without taking on a large project.
He filed his campaign forms on the last day, ready with goals.
“I think most people were surprised. I have never run for office before, and I filed my papers the last day. And so there wasn’t anyone that was forewarned that I was even thinking about running,” Dr. Whitehurst said.
He is the publisher and editor of VOICE Magazine, which also publishes as CASA.
“Publishing a weekly paper like VOICE and CASA Magazine is about community building. Everything that we write is about trying to encourage people either in their positions or in their programs, or in helping the community to develop programs. Publishing is a perfect way to be a philanthropist,” he said.
Many enjoy the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, but he has sponsored it for years. He sponsors many other local events as well.
Dr. Whitehurst serves on boards and has played his violin in Santa Barbara City College’s community orchestra.
“Santa Barbara is a fabulous city with good bones, and it’s going to move forward quickly and in a very wonderful way. And I’m looking forward to being a part of that. And I appreciate the opportunity to run for mayor,” he said.
The Santa Barbara city election is Nov. 2, but registered voters should have already received ballots in the mail.