[Noozhawk’s note: Fourth in a series of profiles of local candidates in the June 3 election. Click here for a related feature on supervisor candidate Roger Aceves. Click here for a feature on sheriff’s candidate Sandra Brown. Click here for a feature on Sheriff Bill Brown.]
Santa Barbara County Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf has seen a lot of budget cuts in her eight years on the board, and she says she wants to work on financial stability moving forward.
“We’re at a point right now where we’re just on the cusp of that equilibrium, but we have to be really careful right now,” she said.
Even though she’s a progressive politician, she said she considers herself a fiscal conservative. She was the only supervisor to vote against a new Cuyama pool back when her first term started, she remembers.
“And so we built this crazy pool that costs us millions of dollars, and the irony is that now the pool’s closed; it doesn’t work because it has a sinkhole,” Wolf said. “When your house is falling apart and your kids want a pool, do you build a pool? No.”
While her challenger, Goleta Councilman Roger Aceves, points to deficiencies in the county governance, Wolf is proud of the Board of Supervisors’ accomplishments and has a hard time finding any disappointments.
Before being elected to office in 2006, Wolf ran a vocational rehabilitation business with Santa Maria and Santa Barbara offices and served as a Goleta Union School District trustee for 12 years.
Infrastructure funding has become a lightning rod for this election due to Supervisor Peter Adam’s Measure M, which would mandate maintenance funding to keep all county facilities in their current condition. Wolf and every other supervisor came out against it, saying it would take a hatchet to the county’s budget and put basic services in jeopardy.
The notion that the county isn’t doing any infrastructure maintenance is “really unfortunate” but untrue, she says. There is a road map plan for streets maintenance, and a building assessment is coming to the board later this spring.
“We have had a plan,” she said. “Have we spent enough money? Probably not.”
Wolf said she also wants to work on the county’s “human infrastructure.” The county lost 500 positions during the recession, and it “can’t go on a hiring binge,” but some positions need to come back to help basic services, she said.
“One of the things that has bothered all the board members is waiting times for people to see a psychiatrist," Wolf said. "We can talk about roads and buildings, but there’s also a human element that needs to be addressed.
“The safety net is just failing people.”
Public safety, her top priority, makes up 60 percent of the discretionary budget, and she praised the departments for their work.
She said there have been real successes in the way the Probation Department focuses on services as well as monitoring. Fewer juveniles are going to Juvenile Hall through assessments, treatment and other efforts, even though kids are still getting into trouble, she said.
“Then you have the sheriff, they come from different perspectives,” Wolf said. “Sometimes I feel, and this is just a feeling, that while the sheriff does believe in rehabilitation, there is still a sense that they need to be locked up and certainly for some that is absolutely the case.”
The county needs to find $16 million a year to operate the new North County Jail once it opens in 2018, and so far, the county supervisors are at a loss about where to look.
“The theory is that the economy will improve to a point where we’ll have more general fund monies to pay for the jail,” Wolf said.
The Second District includes residents in Santa Barbara and Goleta, and about 33,000 residents in the unincorporated area between the cities. She said community planning and open space are important for her district, the densest in the county.
“I have the best constituents,” she said. “I mean, people just seem pretty content, and when there is a problem they call.”
Wolf said that when people call her office, it’s usually about street repairs, trees blocking stop signs or other day-to-day issues.
The other supervisor seat on June’s ballot — held by Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino — is unchallenged, and Wolf believes the current board provides strong leadership without any animosity between them.
The perceived North County/South County 2/3 split is about rhetoric, she said.
When the three supervisors from South County districts voted differently on the Santa Maria Energy project — approving it but requiring more greenhouse gas mitigations — it was “like all hell broke loose, that we dare to have any input,” she said.
Wolf believes her eight-year track record with the county and 12 years of experience on Goleta Union’s school board are reasons to keep her in office.
“It’s just this awesome responsibility,” she said. “I have a vote. I’m one of five people who gets to vote on really important issues that I care about.”
To learn more about Wolf's re-election campaign, click here to go to her website.