What Does Das Williams Have to Hide? Supervisor Chickens Out of Newsmakers Interview — Again

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams (courtesy)

The greatest braggarts are usually the biggest cowards. – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

At 7:58 p.m. on Thursday, Supervisor Das Williams sent a peculiar email, cancelling a long-scheduled appearance on Newsmakers TV — the second time this year the re-election candidate cut and ran from an interview at the last minute.

We’ve been trying since 2024 began to get Williams to sit down and answer questions on camera about his record on the Board of Supervisors, as part of an ongoing series of conversations with candidates in key March 5 election races, in partnership with our colleague Josh Molina and his “Santa Barbara Talks” podcast.

Williams, who’s seeking a third term as SB’s First District Supervisor, first agreed that he’d come on the show on Jan. 26. Two days before, however, his campaign manager called it off saying Das had “a family matter come up,” while agreeing to a makeup date of Feb. 9. Then last night came word, from no less a figure than the Great Man himself: not only was he standing us up again, but he’d decided not to come on at all. Because…something:

I have a lot of respect for what you did at the News-Press. However, you do not appear to be able to be objective when it comes to my work in office, and you have made it clear to your audience that you disdain everything about me. I can’t pretend that this show engages in balanced journalism – which I deeply believe in, and think that deep down, you do too. I will be doing an energy efficient water heater inspection and trying to help someone who is losing their home find a new place to live during our scheduled time tomorrow, but I do not pretend it is merely a scheduling snafu. I don’t believe that appearing on the program is in service of the public good. I apologize for any inconvenience.

Um, okay. Energy efficient water heater inspection, indeed.

What is Das afraid of? Look, we stipulate that Newsmakers has been tough on Williams, not least for his epically disastrous county cannabis ordinance. It is the most brazenly, pro-industry such local law in California, which he cooked up in secret with a few lobbyist pals and credulous colleague Steve Lavignino, blindsiding local residents and dropping it like a noxious stink bomb on the good citizens of Carpinteria.

It is also true, however, that an “objective” view of that policy debacle, along with other of his political misadventures, aligns more closely with our media watchdog perspective, than with the scornful, sneering, and triumphalist take peddled by the candidate and his posse of sycophants. (Secret teleological memo to Das: in looking for an “objective” view of yourself, it’s generally best not to bank on your own view of, you know, yourself).

Consider: A career politician and policy shape shifter who’s been feeding at the public trough since 2003, Williams has not been subject to sustained, day-in-day-out coverage of his actions in office since 2006, when the morning paper melted down and began its long, slow slide to bankruptcy. Now, during a “campaign” without a single face-to-face forum with his challenger, Carp City Council member Roy Lee, Das blanches at the prospect of answering a few tough questions from truth-to-power journalists who’ve had the temerity to criticize him.

Williams evidently is intimidated by the mere notion of speaking with a couple of interlocutors disinclined to accept at face value his glib political spin and overweening self-regard — unlike fellow local libs who’ve taken a few shots from the Newsmakers TV gang, but still graciously accepted invites to come on the show (viz. Salud Carbajal, Monique Limon, Gregg Hart, Laura Capps, Joan Hartmann, Eric Friedman, Meagan Harmon, Kristen Sneddon, and Oscar Gutierrez, to name a few) – let alone national stature lefties like Gov. Gavin Newsom, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Senator Bernie Sanders, all of whom have cheerfully and effectively braved hostile questioning on the ignoble Fox News Channel.

As Williams seeks yet another term beyond more than two decades in office, he seems to think the election should be more coronation than campaign.

“His basement strategy is not working out,” said one veteran local pol, granted anonymity because of Das’ well-earned reputation for retribution, referring to Joe Biden’s Covid campaign of 2020. “He still should (win big), but he just can’t believe everyone doesn’t bask in his wonderfulness.”

Loyal readers and viewers may be sure that, despite this shameful retreat from accountability by a self-entitled local politician, Newsmakers will soldier on to publish analyses and commentaries on the issues about which we’d hoped to have a conversation with him — starting today, asJosh and the genial host discuss the Great Das Williams Wimp Out.

Plus: All the latest from the Third District race, and decoding a mystifying ballot measure confronting city voters.

All this, and more, right here, right now on Newsmakers TV.

Check out our political update via YouTube below or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here, TVSB, Channel 17, broadcasts the show every weeknight at 8 p.m. and on weekends at 9 a.m. KCSB, 91.9 FM, airs the program at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

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Written by Jerry Roberts

“Newsmakers” is a multimedia journalism platform that focuses on politics, media and public affairs in Santa Barbara. Learn more at newsmakerswithjr.com

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40 Comments

  1. Dirt Williams should have been dragged out of office years ago!
    I am a liberal, some would even say an extreme liberal and I can clearly see the havoc this shameless self-serving money pocketing politician has raised.
    How much longer do you all want Dirtbag Williams to abuse the public and Santa Barbara county?! Has everyone fallen into a 100 year sleep? Wake up Santa Barbara and drag him out of office and throw him into the gutter where he belongs!

  2. Das is the perfect example of a wanna-be-do-nothing-career politician… He was the Golden Boy of the Santa Barbara Democrats for decades, now he’s nothing but an embarrassment. The Dems are a Party that is Loyal if nothing else… they will vote “D” no matter HOW BAD policies are of their “Team”- Look at Gavin Newsom as another example of a POS politican who has ridden the wave and destroyed everything he’s touched…

  3. While William’s enthusiasm for all things cannabis is one of his fax pas his worst was his actions during and after the great Montecito Flood of 2018. Many residents died needlessly due to the horrible actions (or lack of) of Sherriff Bill Brown and the County Office of Emergency Management. Das not only didn’t find fault with the County’s response but defended it. Stink is bad, needless deaths are far worse.

  4. Das is the worst kind of politician. He’s never done anything other than be a politician. And as a politician he’s just served his pet special interests and what has basically been party money. I’m glad I don’t live in his district. His opponent deserves a chance. Refusing to appear on Jerry Roberts show should have the entire Democratic Party apparatus of SB county looking to dump this charlatan. Jerry Roberts is a good journalist providing a public service and also has a long long long record of being somewhat sympathetic to some of the biggest name Dems in the history of the state. In any event if Das can’t take the heat of a simple Interview he should get his dumb ass out of the kitchen and quit. Read the Montecito Journal editorial. Please get rid of him and make sure that he can’t get the Senate seat either.

  5. Longtime liberal voter here and I can’t stand Das. I agree there hasn’t been anyone else that’s posed a good challenge except for Laura Capps. I think if Capps were to run against him this round she would win. I like Roy and I hope he does well but I don’t think he has the name recognition to pull off a win outside of Carpinteria.

    Thanks to Jerry for posting an honest and transparent account of his interaction with Das. While I don’t always agree with Jerry and his news style, he is a respected journalist. His talk show with the insufferable Molina is more of a talking heads style program but for Das to say Jerry disdains him is laughable and adds to the ever growing list of cringeworthy gaffs and appearances Das has accumulated in recent years. This guy needs to stop being a representation of our community.

    • Totally agree about Das. I’m happily voting for Roy Lee. He is well equipped for the job and is coming from a place of community service and pubic good.

      Vote Roy Lee!!!

      The fact that Das won’t talk to Jerry, one of the most respected journalists in SB is for one reason and on only–FEAR. He knows that Jerry know about all there is to know. He is scared to answer real questions and figures he can coast to victory as a heavily funded incumbent. He’s probably right, but let’s prove him wrong and ship his entitled self to the private sector.

      Vote Roy Lee!

    • Oh, I will comment though, that I am entirely opposed to Laura Capps. We don’t need anymore family business political dynasties in this County or this Country. She is a nepo baby who did nothing of substance during her time on the school board, just used it as a stepping stone, she’s an empty suit.

  6. Yes, couldn’t agree more with all above comments, but let’s see what the majority democrat SB voters at large come up with. How many finally decide to give up on the rubber stamp party voting method? I’m not holding my breath.

  7. Das is far from perfect, but name any elected official who pleases all of their constituents all of the time. Das voted against a huge $6,000 raise for Joyce Dudley just six months before she retired. The raise that Dudley wanted would have spiked her retirement checks. Dudley became uposet with Das for his vote against the increase. Laura Capps and Monique Limon both left their school board seats in mid-term to run for higher office. They abandoned the children in our schools. Our schools got worse during their time on the school board. There is not one major disaster that I know of where the governmental system at the time did not break down. Our horrible floods are no exception. These events simply overpower the ability of humans to cope with them. Most will agree that Japan is one of the best organized societies in the world as far as handling disasters. Even they could not cope with Fukajima or Tsumamis. We fare no better with fires or floods. The smell of canibus farming was an unforeseen problem. No one saw it coming, Das included. It was not Das alone that voted to allow them. Most people thougt it was a great idea, as did I. Mainly to thwart crime from the illegal pot business. We were all wrong-pot crime has never been worse. Jerry Roberts and Josh Molina are both on the deeper left side of the political spectru

    m and were probably gunning for Williams. The interview people who do not agree with them in a fair manner. All in all, Das is no more better or worse than all elected officials.

      • You are probably right. Most other elected officials probably would also leave their lower positions for an offered higher one. The issue with Capps and Limon is that they were not offered a higher office. They CHOSE to leave their school board seats mid-term to run for higher office, leaving their failure to improve the horrible reading and math scores in SBA behind them!

    • the most basic important fact is that politicians should be accountable to the public; we are in a news desert in SB and across the nation in regards to local news. If Das ducks local journalists who ask tough questions, what type of information and accountability do we have? None!

    • Trying really hard to up arrow your comment. First one I’ve read with valid good comments – and with more than just the week thing. Jerry rants for a page with nothing new. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t want to be on his show. Hot air.

      • Indeed, there’s nothing in this extremely unprofessional rant from Jerry other than one attack after another on Das. Jerry is the furthest thing from neutral in regard to Das, and the majority of the comments here are grossly dishonest.

  8. TheKid5 brings up good points: Das is far from perfect but no politician is. Roy vs Williams seems more about Capps vs Williams.. both are looking to go to Congress or Senate. One grew up on the East side raised in an important, political family and one lived on the westside and even slept in their car. I always found Williams “lived experience” moving and important and a plus for a politician.

    Thekid5 ..You’re right in saying Capps and Limon stepped off the school board early. Capps had ample opportunity on the school board to implement new curriculum based on the science of reading and was well informed by many advocates but missed an important opportunity for 60% of the students who are not proficient in reading or math. Had she acted then, our teachers would be trained in the new approach now and students who experienced the worst learning loss would be so much better off .

    In 2015, Gov Brown signed in AB 1369, co sponsored by then Assemblyman Das Williams, despite strong resistance from the powerful CTA, California Teachers Association, AB 1369 passed was intended to be a law but the CTA resistance only allowed for it to be a “guideline”. AB1369 helped public schools better identify and teach children with dyslexia, a learning difference estimated to affect one in five K-12 students statewide. Wish Williams had run for school board because 10 years ago he understood the barriers to reading and took unpopular action to help try to turn it around for 20% of the students.

    Das Williams led the county’s efforts to facilitate the building of a new debris basin proposed by homeowners on Montecito’s devastated Randall Road. Even two days before the disaster, Williams got Flood Control teams to work day and night clearing the Santa Monica Debris Basin of boulders so that it functioned properly during the deluge, most likely saving lives. I also remember seeing him many times rolling up his sleeves with the Bucket Brigade and pants caked in mudd. Didn’t see other politicians helping to that degree.

    Jerry Robert’s “Newsmakers” is wonderful, informative news show that I look forward to weekly. Robert’s is no fan of Das or Gavin as he openly admits. Roberts is spot on when he states the public needs to have interviews and debates to make their choice. SB is a media desert of sorts and lack of debate is not good for democracy.

  9. The Maga self loathing republican sham poplulists have nothing to do in life other than whine and complain about anything like it is the biggest challenge in the world. The victims of evermore are the GOP. Their failure is a cesspool we are all watching swirl down the drain. The republican party is a quickly accelerating cancer eating at itself.

  10. Das is right … Jerry has been an absolute jerk toward him; witness this article. Whatever you think of Das, he has every right to refuse an “interview” with a highly biased hostile party, someone who once was professionally neutral when employed by actual news organizations but has tossed that ethic as an independent. Jerry pretending that it’s about Das being afraid is just more of the same.

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