The candidates for the 3rd Supervisorial District seat came together Wednesday evening to discuss the district’s biggest issues and to woo voters at the Goleta Valley Community Center auditorium.
The candidates — Dr. David Bearman, former county Planning Commissioners Doreen Farr and David Smyser, business owner Steve Pappas and former Buellton Mayor Victoria Pointer — each responded to questions on issues of importance to the district, which stretches from Old Town Goleta through the Santa Ynez Valley and over to Lompoc. The forum was moderated by Jean Reiche and sponsored by the Santa Barbara League of Women Voters.
The candidates for what is considered to be the “swing seat” on the Board of Supervisors were in accord on several points, such as the need for community plans that reflect the will of those in the community, that Goleta’s onerous revenue neutrality agreement must be changed, and that the cuts needed to balance the county’s overspent budget should fall most heavily on administration.
“If I am on the Board of Supervisors, I will return the county to the board and we will eliminate the CEO position and have the board oversee department heads the way it used to,” Pappas said.
On the issue of 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, the only panelist who wasn’t critical of the retiring supervisor was Smyser, his former chief of staff.
“There’s a lot, actually, that I agree with,” said Smyser, pointing out Firestone’s role in restructuring the county’s architectural boards of review into three equal parts, and the completion of community plans in the 3rd District. He disagreed, however, with his former boss’ recent suggestion to decriminalize marijuana.
The other candidates pointed out their disagreement with Firestone’s decisions on the Gaviota coast, increased densities in Isla Vista and his votes on mental health services spending.
The panelists agreed that a rail system between Oxnard and Goleta was a necessity, but Bearman and Pappas opposed Highway 101 widening, saying the money was better spent elsewhere.
“I have some serious concerns about widening 101,” Bearman said. “By the time 101 is widened it will already be inadequate to serve the additional transportation.”
Under the proposed new transportation sales tax measure touted by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, $1.4 million would be spent in widening Highway 101 east of Santa Barbara.
Smyser, on the other hand, was strongly in favor of getting the freeway widened, saying it should have been done with the current Measure D transportation fund, as was intended.
As far as protection of the Gaviota coast goes, a Transfer of Development Rights, or TDR, was a tool of choice for Bearman, Farr, Pappas and Pointer.
“We need to look at land trusts, and the Trust for Public Land to see how we can raise money like we did for the Sperling Reserve and buy down some of these development rights,” Farr said.
Smyser chose a different method, one that approached the Gaviota area as a set of active agricultural operations, not as open space. The thing to do, he said, was to support the agricultural operations on the Gaviota coast, which may or may not require more building.
The candidates ended the forum by agreeing that the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, the mandate by which the state dictates how much more affordable housing must be built in each county, is flawed and not accomplishing its goals.
“The bigger issue,” said Pointer, “is why is this mandate even in front of us?”
Compliance with the RHNA allocations makes a jurisdiction’s official plans for housing more legally defensible, but the candidates each planned to make changes by letting Sacramento know that the program should either be abolished or changed.