[Noozhawk’s note: Third in a series of profiles of local candidates in the June 3 election. A related feature on Supervisor Janet Wolf will run later this week. Click here for a feature on sheriff’s candidate Sandra Brown. Click here for a feature on Sheriff Bill Brown.]
Roger Aceves is aiming to have knocked on the door of every home in Santa Barbara County's Second Supervisorial District before ballots are mailed out next week for the June 3 election.
The Goleta city councilman is challenging incumbent Janet Wolf, and even though he’s a native of the area and a two-term councilman, he said he has to remind people who he is and what he’s done.
Aceves was a sheriff’s deputy and Santa Barbara police detective for decades, and served on many nonprofit boards of directors before running for City Council in 2006.
He’s also spent time on several regional government agencies such as the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and the Local Agency Formation Commission, and promises his experience will make him a responsive, cooperative supervisor.
“In the unincorporated areas, their biggest complaint is that the supervisor is not accessible," Aceves said. "They try calling her, and basic services are not being provided, like roadway maintenance.”
During an interview last week, Aceves pulled out pictures of a crumbling roadway with loose gravel and potholes that one resident had brought into his campaign office in the Calle Real Center.
“The unincorporated area needs to be treated like a city, because (residents) require the same municipal services that everybody else does,” he said.
He said he gives his cell phone number to everyone he meets, and wants to be a supervisor who is responsive to city needs, too.
“In my eight years on this council, there have been so many times we needed help from our supervisor and we didn’t get it and we’re still waiting, so my goal is to be a partner not only with the City of Goleta, but the City of Santa Barbara and work regionally,” he said. “Supervisors seem to think they need to advocate just for unincorporated areas, but they should be working with cities to find funding to finish major projects we have.”
In forums, Aceves has been advocating for efficiency in government and looking at solutions to long-term infrastructure and pension costs.
Even with pension reform, the county has to “put everything on the table” to find a sustainable system, he said. That could mean looking at defined-contribution 401k-type plans or having employees pay a larger share into their retirement contributions, he said.
Supervisors should consider using more contract jobs for short-term or part-time needs, in the same way the City of Goleta contracts for parks plumbers and tree-trimmers on an as-needed basis, he said.
“It’s not about protecting union jobs; it’s about providing the most cost effective service maximizing and leveraging the limited amount of dollars we have,” said Aceves, who noted he was “a union guy” for decades as a law enforcement officer.
The declining state of county infrastructure is at the core of Measure M, the ballot initiative that would force the county to keep all roads, parks and buildings in their current condition.
Aceves isn’t taking a side in that debate since there isn’t a firm estimate on how much money that requirement would actually cost.
Wolf and others have come out against the measure, arguing it would cripple the county’s annual budget by earmarking a large chunk for maintenance.
The stance on Measure M is indicative of his decision-making approach, he said, since he refuses to make a decision until he hears from everyone.
“I’m not going to the Board of Supervisors with a big bucket list, I just want good governance and make sure everybody’s listened to,” he said.
He points to specific examples where the board hasn’t listened to everyone, like the divisive Santa Maria Energy vote in which the supervisors approved the project but tacked on additional greenhouse gas mitigations and more cost for the company.
People packed the board room asking for that project and the extra mitigation money could be spent bringing jobs to the North County, Aceves said.
He considers himself a moderate on most issues but is registered as a Democrat, just like Wolf. He’s the one “the party doesn’t want to talk to,” he said.
If elected, Aceves says he would bring a firm leadership and transparency to the supervisor seat.
“I lead when required, and I’m a good team member when I’m not,” he said.
His leadership experience ranges from being the first male PTA president at La Patera School, turning around the Pacific Pride Foundation as president of the board, and flying to Sacramento to talk to Caltrans about the Highway 101 widening project through Montecito for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.
“I really pride myself in collaboration and bringing people together, especially opposite sides, and bringing them to resolution,” Aceves said. “That’s the hostage negotiator in me.”
To learn more about Aceves' campaign, click here to go to his website.