Friday, June 22 , 2018, 8:16 pm | Fair 62º


Local News

Antioch Forum Mulls Future of the School, Politics and Economy

California's financial crisis, partisanship and even marijuana legalization fuel panel discussion

The Antioch University-sponsored town hall meeting Monday painted a questionable future for California’s politics and economy, but the community spoke of a much cheerier tomorrow for the school itself.

One of five Antioch campuses across the country — all of them were originally managed from the home campus in Yellow Springs, Ohio — the Santa Barbara university now is in control of its own destiny. The community celebrated with a new board of trustees, a new Web site and big ideas — including a series of town hall meetings.

Antioch has an enrollment of nearly 400 liberal arts students, most of whom are graduate students. Starting with a new liberal studies bachelor’s degree, the university is beginning a shift to having more undergraduates than graduates, said Steve Weir, director of enrollment and financial aid.

Last fall was the largest incoming class to date, and enrollment limits placed on public universities are driving people to find alternatives. For the 2010-11 school year, Antioch is likely to be cheaper than UCSB because of the University of California system’s double-digit fee increases, Weir said.

Monday’s panel discussion featured three of the university’s trustees and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

Local journalists Lou Cannon and Jerry Roberts — who have covered California politics for decades — sat on the panel with Capps and former Santa Barbara County Supervisor Susan Rose.

With the state’s financial crisis and the issue of partisan politics on every level, the panelists had various levels of optimism for California’s political and economic future.

Rose, who moderated the discussion, said she can’t remember a period as bad as this in all her years in politics. The decision-making no doubt will be difficult, but interesting to watch, she said.

Cannon, a longtime national political writer and acclaimed presidential biographer who contributes a regular political column for Noozhawk, spoke insightfully about the prospect of bipartisan cooperation — which he said can’t be accomplished without strong leadership — and encouraging participation in the food stamps program.

Millions of people qualify for food stamps and don’t receive them — even in Santa Barbara County — because of barriers such as long lines and the requirement to be fingerprinted, he said. Increasing participation would benefit California’s economy at large, he said, since each dollar put into the program has a multiplier effect.

The issue of partisan politics was discussed at length Monday. Sacramento’s “perfect storm” of dysfunction can be traced to structural issues including gerrymandering, term limits and Proposition 13, Roberts said.

Elected officials who either feel safe in their districts or are looking ahead because of term limits don’t always think about the effects of their actions, he said.

Roberts, a former newspaper editor, also placed some responsibility on California media for not covering Sacramento well enough, especially on budgetary issues.

Although Capps said bipartisanship happens in Washington, D.C., she noted that most of it was behind the scenes — not in votes.

Capps was the most optimistic of the four, saying California could become a global leader. She emphasized green energy and the passage of the health-care reform bill to help stop the federal economy’s bleeding and to take it in a new direction. She called health-care reform “not a perfect bill by any means,” but said passing it would allow substantive reforms to build upon.

“That’s progress, as slow as it is,” she said.

Capps also said it’s sometimes important to spend in order to save — which made the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act necessary but difficult, given the consensus to return to a “culture of fiscal discipline.”

One question from the audience asked about the possible legalization and taxation of marijuana. Capps asked the audience for its opinion, and most of the crowd raised hands in support of the idea, saying it was a big revenue source.

Antioch University officials and trustees said they hope Monday’s discussion will be the first of many. It was held at the University Club of Santa Barbara, with about 130 alumni, faculty, trustees and guests in attendance.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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