[Editor’s note: One in a series of four candidate Q&As for the Goleta City Council. Click here for Jean Blois. Click here for Margaret Connell. Click here for Ed Easton.]

NOOZHAWK: What do you love most about Goleta?

Don Gilman

Don Gilman

DON GILMAN: I love Goleta for many reasons, not the least of which is its small-town feel. Having traveled the world and lived overseas for two years, I can safely say that there is nowhere else on the planet that I would rather live. Goleta is a great place to raise a family, to work, and to spend time with friends. The climate is perfect, and during the winter, skiing is just a short drive away. Best of all, Goleta still has a small-town feel. Every time I go to Camino Real Marketplace, I see a friend or a neighbor who greets me with a friendly “Hello!” The people make Goleta special!

NOOZHAWK: What is the most important issue facing Goleta today? Over the next five to 10 years?

DON GILMAN: Without a doubt, the No. 1 issue facing Goleta is the Revenue Neutrality Agreement, which forces Goleta to give Santa Barbara County a disproportionate amount of our tax revenue every year in perpetuity. All things are impacted by the Revenue Neutrality Agreement: parks and recreation, purchasing an actual City Hall, Old Town redevelopment, open space protection, traffic mitigation efforts … all require funding that the city simply doesn’t have. Take Girsh Park as an example. The first City Council repeatedly turned down their requests for funding, explaining that the city simply didn’t have any money to spare. This is not why I voted for cityhood!

NOOZHAWK: If you could revise the Revenue Neutrality Agreement with the county, would you do it? If so, what would you change? If not, why?

DON GILMAN: Yes, I would change it. The existing agreement violates the guidelines given by the state Office of Planning and Research by including costs that should not have been included. Additionally, the agreement never ends, which is legally on very shaky ground. Revenue Neutrality Agreements have never been challenged in court, so their overall legality is questionable. Indeed, Citrus Heights renegotiated its agreement with Sacramento County, reducing its annual payment to $2.1 million from $5.5 million. Similarly, Rancho Cordova sued Sacramento County over its agreement and ended up settling out of court, substantially reducing its annual payment as well. I have spoken with both of these city managers and their attorneys, and am confident I have a strategy that will yield positive results for Goleta.

NOOZHAWK: Goleta, the county and California all face increasing budgetary pressures. What steps will you take to ensure Goleta’s financial security?

DON GILMAN: I would propose a two-pronged approach. First, we should work diligently to reduce or eliminate any unnecessary expenses at the city. Frankly, I have reviewed the budget thoroughly and I do not believe there is much to cut out. The city operates quite efficiently with only 45 staff for more than 30,000 residents. Second, we must pursue a comprehensive economic development strategy. Large businesses continue to leave the area at an alarming rate, and new businesses find establishing themselves in Goleta to be challenging. As a city, we must help good, clean, high-paying, high-tech companies put down roots in our community. They are the economic engine that will propel us into the future with stability and prosperity.

NOOZHAWK: Is there anything you would do differently with the General Plan?

DON GILMAN: I am in favor of strengthening the environmental protections in the General Plan. Currently, the Housing Element of our General Plan has been rejected by the state of California’s Department of Housing and Community Development twice, and has resulted in numerous lawsuits, costing the city millions of dollars in legal fees since incorporation. The General Plan should be a guiding document that lets everyone know what is important to the citizens of Goleta. Right now, various development restrictions are specified as hard-and-fast numbers, regardless of site-specific conditions. I believe each project should be optimized for the maximum amount of environmental protection possible, while balancing the overall needs of the project. This cannot be done with a cookie-cutter approach to planning.

NOOZHAWK: How will you work with UCSB to ensure its Long-Range Development Plan addresses impacts on Goleta?

DON GILMAN: I have a strong and long-term relationship with UCSB. Having graduated with a degree in nuclear engineering from UCSB, and as a Lifetime Alumni Member, the door has always been open for me. I will use that door as a Goleta City Council member to work cooperatively with UCSB to ensure that the negative impacts on Goleta of UCSB’s planned development are mitigated to the maximum extent possible. Effective negotiations begin with a strong relationship. We simply must move forward with a spirit of cooperation if Goleta truly wants to influence the overall process.

NOOZHAWK: Describe Goleta’s relationship with Venoco. Is it mutually beneficial?

DON GILMAN: Since the early 1960s, there has been an oil operation based onshore at Ellwood and offshore at Platform Holly. For over a decade, Venoco has owned these facilities. I believe it is safe to say that the relationship between Goleta and Venoco is strained. So, in my mind, we should be working closer with Venoco on issues that benefit the city, such as getting rid of the antiquated barge operation, removing the marine terminal near Devereux Slough and installing a pipeline to improve safety. The city has not really developed a cooperative and professional working relationship with Venoco. I would work to change that.

NOOZHAWK: What do you see as the future of Bishop Ranch?

DON GILMAN: I would like to see a cooperative effort between the community and the property owner. I would encourage the property owners to ascertain what the public would like to see happen to Bishop Ranch, if anything. I would then encourage the property owners to sketch out a half-dozen possible alternatives for the property that take into account the input received from the community. The goal is to get to a plan that the majority of Goleta residents are satisfied with, and that meets the goals of the property owners. While this sounds like a lofty ideal, I would point to the success of the Sperling Preserve and the Bluffs housing development, proving that it is possible, but it takes the right kind of leadership and vision.

NOOZHAWK: Should the city of Goleta grow into the eastern Goleta Valley? Why or why not?

DON GILMAN: This question is one that should be posed to the residents in the unincorporated area to our east. When I have discussed this option with these residents, the answers are mixed. Until the majority of residents want to be part of our city, I see no reason to push for annexation. My vision, though, is to create a city that would have the residents in the unincorporated area asking to be part of Goleta. Imagine that! Imagine a city that listens to its residents, that provides an amazing level of service to the community, that has an active Parks and Recreation Department, that provides funding for youth activities, and that protects our beautiful open spaces. Rather than forcing a shotgun marriage, let’s entice them with what we have to offer!

NOOZHAWK: How would you improve Goleta’s traffic circulation?

DON GILMAN: First, I would improve bicycle and pedestrian paths in key areas within our city. This is a critical first step, since so many of our residents rely on bicycles and mass transit to commute to and from their places of employment, which we, as a city, want to encourage. Next, I would make the necessary improvements to the Fairview/Highway 101/Calle Real intersections, including adding lanes, and installing pedestrian/bicycle-activated signals, among other improvements. I would also look at installing roundabouts at Hollister Avenue and Highway 217, and extending both Fowler and Ekwill roads, thus improving traffic circulation in Old Town. There are numerous other improvements, but, as is the case with the above improvements, they all take money. Again, we could sure use that $8.2 million we give to the county each year!

NOOZHAWK: Would you offer a resolution to replace the Goleta logo’s monarch butterfly with a Noozhawk?

DON GILMAN: Heck no, you guys can’t even spell!

Click here for more information on Don Gilman.