[Editor’s note: One of two candidate Q&As for Santa Barbara County’s 3rd Supervisorial District. Click here for Doreen Farr.]

NOOZHAWK: What specific steps would you take to straighten out Santa Barbara County’s finances and balance the budget?

Steve Pappas

Steve Pappas

STEVE PAPPAS: To begin with, I would insist on a forensic audit by an outside auditor — I want to know where all the money has gone (some $800 million per year). Second, I would focus on “cutting the fat” on current expenses. Specifically, I would first look at the bureaucracy in the both the Planning and Development office and Department of Long-Range Planning.

I have personally experienced over the last six years a staggering amount of wasted time and money being spent on so called “community planning projects” that in many cases go nowhere.

Third, I would look for new “out of the box” revenues. The newly approved Lompoc Wind Farm is a great example of the kinds of things we need to do more of. In this case, the county will receive approximately $1 million in new revenues, the ag owners also benefit financially to help keep them viable, and the environment is protected by the expansion of a renewable energy source.

NOOZHAWK: Is the county government’s pension program a concern? Is it sustainable? How would you improve it?

STEVE PAPPAS: It is a concern. I do not support taking anything away from anyone who has already been promised something — meaning if you took a job with the county under the pretense that you would be entitled to a specific retirement then we should do everything we can to honor that promise. However, given the budget constraints facing the county, it is time to re-evaluate these pension packages going forward for new hires. We cannot afford to offer what we did five years ago.

NOOZHAWK: Do you agree with the general direction in which Chief Executive Officer Mike Brown is taking the county? Is the Board of Supervisors too influential or not influential enough? Why or why not?

STEVE PAPPAS: It’s hard to tell what direction he is taking us in and that in itself is a concern. That said, I am convinced that the current Board of Supervisors has become too far removed from the voice of the people who live here ever since the creation of the chief executive office in early 2005. I want to now pause and weigh out the pluses and minuses of having this extra layer of management between the people, the county department heads and the board to specifically assess the benefits and the downsides of the CEO office — and then go from there.

NOOZHAWK: Local and state governments are in dire financial crises. Is it prudent to simply dismiss on environmental grounds the potential revenues from the proposed expansion of Venoco’s Ellwood operation, a project that would generate $200 million or more over the next couple of decades for the county? Should economic stewardship play a role?

STEVE PAPPAS: It is not about either/or; it is about sensible balance. Environmental and economic concerns can live together in harmony. The Lompoc Windmill Farm I mentioned earlier is a perfect example of how this can happen — everyone wins.

NOOZHAWK: The Goleta City Council believes the city got a raw deal in its revenue-neutrality agreement with the county. Did it? Should it be renegotiated? At a time of county budget concerns, how would you justify a change?

STEVE PAPPAS: This is supposed to be a revenue-neutrality agreement not a “revenue-generating” agreement for the county at the expense of the city of Goleta, which has occurred over the last years. So, we need to go back to the table and work out a transitional phase out of the old terms of the current contract so that both Goleta and the county can live with the resolution instead of fighting over it for the next four years.

NOOZHAWK: Between the Isla Vista Master Plan, the Regional Housing Needs Assessment requirement and UCSB’s Long-Range Development Plan, Isla Vista will see more population, building density and development. What impacts do you foresee? Should the impacts be lessened and, if so, how?

STEVE PAPPAS: Bottom line, we must live within the limitations of our natural resources and infrastructures. We can only grow where our natural resources and local infrastructure are secure and available prior to any expansion and with the support of the local community where growth is proposed for. This is the premise we must adopt before any increase in building density or development is even considered for implementation. When I am elected, I will form a UCSB/IV advisory committee to the 3rd District office. This committee will be composed of UCSB administration, faculty, students and IV permanent residents. Together we will find a balance between the proposed growth and preservation.

NOOZHAWK: Is the county Department of Alcohol, Drug & Mental Health Services doing too much or too little, or is it achieving the proper balance? Outline your proposals for its future.

STEVE PAPPAS: I need to become more educated in this area. However, it is visually clear to me that there are more homeless and mentally ill roaming the streets and this is not good for anyone. What is not acceptable is to make the county jail the final destination for these people who need real help.

NOOZHAWK: What would you do about the Gaviota coast?

STEVE PAPPAS: I will fight to keep the homes and development off the coast line, period.

NOOZHAWK: Aside from land use, what are your top three issues that you would emphasize as a supervisor?

STEVE PAPPAS: The supervisor of the 3rd District must be independent. I am a registered nonpartisan and have been for the last five years; I practice what I preach. We must have transparency in government. The public needs to be aware, involved, and play a crucial role in the decision-making process for their communities. Safety and health for the residents must always come first.

NOOZHAWK: Which current or former supervisor would you pattern yourself after?

STEVE PAPPAS: I would not pattern myself after anyone. I am who I am and I just do my thing.

NOOZHAWK: Should Noozhawk be Santa Barbara County’s official bird?

STEVE PAPPAS: Hmmm, good question.

Click here for more information on Steve Pappas.