Carpinteria City Councilman Joe Armendariz will serve out the rest of his council term but will not run for re-election, he said Monday night in his first public statement since being arrested Dec. 2 on suspicion of driving under the influence after a collision on Highway 101 that left him with serious injuries.
Armendariz, who also serves on the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and as executive director of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, has struggled with alcoholism for the better part of 25 years, he said in a candid statement at Monday night’s City Council meeting. The Dec. 2 accident was his second within five years apparently caused by driving under the influence. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI in 2006, also after crashing his vehicle.
He acknowledged Monday that there are likely to be people who disagree with his decision to serve the rest of his term, but he encouraged community members to tell him directly what they think. He thanked those who contacted him to express their concern, or even condemnation of his behavior.
“Indeed, there’s no excuse for the decision that I made last Friday night to get behind the wheel of a car after I had been drinking,” he said. “Whether you were concerned about my health or outraged by my behavior, I interpreted it as what it was: a moment of accountability and clarity for me. I have, as I’m sure many people who have paid attention to the story (know), been dealing and battling with the issue of alcohol for probably the majority of the last 25 years. It has been the most difficult struggle that I have ever experienced. I have a lot of power in certain areas of my life; I have no power when it comes to alcohol. I have learned the hard way how difficult this issue is, and it’s not something that’s unique to me. It’s something that many, many, many members of my family over the years have also struggled with.”
He continued: “In fact, I will say that Friday night was the first time since my mother passed away a few months ago that I was glad she wasn’t alive, because I knew how disappointed and frustrated she would have been in my behavior.”
Armendariz said he violated the trust Carpinteria residents put in him, and that his judgment was reckless, careless and thoughtless.
After the accident, Armendariz met with Mayor Al Clark and City Manager Dave Durflinger to discuss whether he should continue in his work. He said he had already decided not to run for re-election, but wants to serve the rest of his term.
“I’m here because you put me here, and I intend to stay here as long as I believe that I can be effective,” he said.
Councilmen Gregg Carty and Brad Stein said they had talked to people in the community and that no one felt Armendariz should stay in his position. Stein said the council members are “trying to hold ourselves up to a higher standard.”
“You’ve got a problem, and thank goodness no one else was involved,” Stein said. “You’re battling this demon, and it’s something that maybe it’s time to take some time to really work on the situation and deal with it.”
Two residents had similar sentiments during the public comment period Monday night, saying the accident showed poor judgment and gave citizens cause to wonder whether his personal problem ever impacted his public service.
Armendariz was arrested and cited, and released to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for treatment of his injuries, including a concussion, a compression fracture to his neck and significant bruising. The District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case and will make a decision on filing charges in the coming weeks.
Single-Use Bag Ban
Also at Monday’s meeting, the City Council voted to pursue a single-use bag ban that would nix both plastic and paper bags from large stores and plastic bags from all stores and restaurants — no matter the size.
Council members didn’t concur on a specific distinction between large and small stores, but City Manager Dave Durflinger said other cities have used square footage or gross annual sales as a way to separate them. The council also asked for another public workshop to nail down details of the ordinance, but proposed giving large stores three months to implement the changes and small stores a year.
The plastic bag ban would not include product or produce bags, such as those used for fruits and vegetables, bulk bin items, meat, prescription drugs or dry cleaning, Durflinger said.
Carpinteria used 3,270,834 single-use bags in 2010, according to city environmental coordinator Erin Maker. About 2.6 million of those bags were plastic, mostly from major grocery stores.
Even though both paper and plastic bags are recyclable — E.J. Harrison & Sons’ recycling plant recently retrofitted its facility to make the latter possible — many bags don’t make it there, Maker said.
The City Council’s goals with pursing an ordinance to ban bags include reducing the number of bags produced, protecting the environment and local habitats, and reducing litter and waste sent to landfills.
Though many residents and environmental groups, such as Carpinteria Beautiful and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, support the ban, some local businesses expressed concern about the financial implications. A double ban, which would apply to “large” stores, could force owners to provide the more costly reusable bags to customers, some said.
A representative with the California Grocers Association suggested doing what Los Angeles County has done — banning single-use plastic bags and charging up to 10 cents per paper bag. Already, the number of customers bringing in their own reusable bags is staggeringly high, at more than 75 percent, he said.
Councilwoman Kathleen Reddington pushed hard for the “double ban” and to make it effective within six months for all stores. Since so many other cities have been met with legislation from the plastics industry, she said she saw no reason to delay passing or implementing an ordinance.
However, the other members worried about the impact to small, local businesses. Thus, the City Council voted 5-0 to pursue differing regulations for different kinds of stores. The ordinance is mostly meant to target the city’s “Big Four,” as staff and council members called them — Albertsons, Vons, CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid.