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2012 Santa Barbara County Supervisor Q&A with Peter Adam

[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series of questionnaires with the candidates running for three seats on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors in the June 5 election. This installment is the 14th District. Click here for the complete series index.]

NOOZHAWK: What, if anything, should Santa Barbara County do to make up for the loss of funding from the state of California’s elimination of redevelopment agencies?

Peter Adam
Peter Adam

PETER ADAM: Nothing. Deal with it. It was a mistake for the government to get into areas that the private sector should control anyway.

NOOZHAWK: Given the loss of redevelopment agency funds throughout the county, should the revenue-neutrality agreement with the City of Goleta be modified? Why or why not?

PA: A great many things are going to be modified due to the financial train wreck we face as a nation, state and county. That means we can’t always guarantee that every agreement that was initialed when times were good can be met under the new circumstances we’re facing. Many issues will need to be reopened and re-examined to determine whether we in fact have the financial resources
to honor all of our commitments.

NOOZHAWK: Several local jurisdictions are considering an increase in the transient-occupancy tax as a way to address revenue shortfalls. Should the county increase its bed tax?

PA: No. Increasing TOT taxes provides a disincentive for people to travel here. Besides, you’re really talking small change here anyway. The total TOT generated now is only in the $7 million neighborhood. Any increase would only be a small fraction of this.

NOOZHAWK: With gas prices at record highs and chronic budget shortfalls prevalent at all levels of government, should Santa Barbara County encourage more oil and gas development? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

PA: Yes, they should. Get out of the way. Eliminate the Energy Division of the county Planning and Development Department and let DOGGR (the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources) take over like every other county in California does.

                        |  2012 June Primary Coverage |  Complete Series Index  |

NOOZHAWK: Although realignment of California’s criminal justice system was imposed abruptly, it appears to have potential for real reform. How should the county’s justice system be re-created, and how would you ensure that the reforms are successful?

PA: I don’t know that there was real reform in the realignment program. Gov. Jerry Brown may have simply made Sheriff Bill Brown release criminals guilty of lesser offenses instead of making the state prison system release worse ones. I suppose that is sort of a step in the right direction. However, I do not know how I would “recreate” the county’s justice system. I think we need the North County jail and we need to have beds to incarcerate offenders so we can stop citing and releasing, and early releasing potentially dangerous criminals.

NOOZHAWK: Assuming funds can be found to build a North County jail, how will the county pay for ongoing operational costs?

PA: Cut from existing nonessential services. Essential services are sheriff, Fire and Public Works. Everything else is nonessential.

NOOZHAWK: What should the county be doing to address deficits in county Fire Department budgets?

PA: First, cut nonessential services. Second, change the pension system to a defined contribution plan. That will plug the hole in the bottom of the General Fund and free up more discretionary money in the budget. We may not have to do anything else. At some point, we could have to renegotiate pay and benefits, but first do the others and we may be able to solve the problem.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support reforming the county’s pension system, and if so, how aggressive should that reform be? If not, why not?

PA: Defined Benefit (DB) is the problem. Defined Contribution (DC) is the solution. If we can’t get there by negotiation, then we’ll have to get there by other means. But it is imperative to get there, some way, if we are to survive as a society. I would like to see existing retirees and existing employees voluntarily close out the DB program and get switched over to a DC or 401(k)-style program. I am not sure how we would be able to accomplish this task; it may take enabling legislation from the state or feds. But we are not alone or unique in this problem and I believe the time has come to start thinking outside of the box and create some solutions. If we do not fix this particular problem at this time, I predict we will look like Greece — fighting in the streets — within a few years. 

NOOZHAWK: Do you support Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax increases on the November ballot? What impact do you foresee if voters approve them or reject them?

PA: No. Higher taxes will only chase more producers out of this state. If they pass, I predict you will see the “Grecian formula” faster.

NOOZHAWK: What solution do you support to help prevent erosion at Goleta Beach County Park?

PA: Have no opinion.

NOOZHAWK: What changes, if any, do you think the county should be pursuing in its Housing Element?

PA: There is abundant housing in most areas of the county at this time. Values have fallen in the 40 percent area in a lot of places in the county. There are more rounds of foreclosures to come. I do not think the Housing Element is a place that we need to focus on, and it may indeed be one of the nonessential services that we should cut until times get better and it’s something we need to worry about again.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support the Goleta Heritage Farmlands Initiative and similar land-use measures? Is ballot-box zoning an appropriate practice or does it circumvent the established planning process? Explain.

PA: No, I do not, in principle. Ballot-box zoning is inappropriate. It does circumvent the process. It also has the potential to render the process mute, thereby wasting valuable time and assets of the community that engaged in the process in the first place. It also has the potential to deprive a citizen of the use of their property and reminds me a lot of “mob rule”.

NOOZHAWK: How effective is the county’s current approach to issues confronted by the Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services? What changes would you like to see?

PA: I understand that much of what ADMHS does is mandated by the state. Their budget will be squeezed just like all others over the next few years. We will have to reduce and eliminate many services. It’s not going to be pretty.

NOOZHAWK: Explain your views on efforts by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians to expand the tribe’s sovereign territory, especially in the noncontiguous Camp 4 area of the Santa Ynez Valley.

PA: While I am not opposed to tribal sovereignty, I am opposed to leapfrog expansion. When members of the tribe come out into the world with the rest of us, I believe they need to contribute to our society, which they unquestionably benefit from, just like the rest of us. They can pay their property taxes and apply for building permits just like the rest of us.

NOOZHAWK: Does the county need to change the way it oversees agencies like the Lompoc Housing & Community Development Corp.? Why or why not?

PA: Please click here for my article on the subject on my website. The short answer is the county needs to leave things like this to the private sector.

NOOZHAWK: Concerns have been raised about the rapid growth of wine tasting rooms and the potential impacts on public safety. Is the county effectively managing the issue? Explain your answer.

PA: The only safety issue I am aware of associated with a tasting room is drunken driving. The California Highway Patrol and sheriff are rigorously enforcing the law. Patrons of the tasting rooms have an obligation to be responsible. Usually, that means having a designated driver. In a recent trip to Napa, my wife and I used a tour service that does nothing but take people wine tasting. Very safe and sane. I see no reason why the beautiful back roads, country and wine industry of Santa Barbara County should not be put to as nice a use.

NOOZHAWK: What role should the county play in economic development? Is the county doing too much, too little, or the right amount?

PA: From my business perspective, the county is actively attempting to prevent business from occurring. I just spent 18 months paying $32,000 for a permit to expand an existing 60-year-old wood-frame office building by 1,168 square feet. That is outrageous. They didn’t build it for that; that was merely the permit to start construction. This is an example of how out of control the whole process is and why it needs to be severely pared down. If government gets out of the way, private enterprise will reignite within our county. It is no secret that Santa Barbara County is one of the hardest places in which to do business in the country. We do not have to accept this as our fate. It’s all in our control; we simply have to engage and change the conditions. Fortunately, these changes will be possible in the near future because there will be a financial imperative to do so.

NOOZHAWK: What is the major public issue in Isla Vista and how should the county be addressing it?

PA: Have no opinion.

NOOZHAWK: Panga boats favored by smugglers have been found abandoned with increasing frequency and marijuana eradication requires considerable annual resources. Are our shores and backcountry safe? Is the county’s approach to these problems sufficient? With respect to smuggling from offshore, are you satisfied with the federal government’s response? Explain.

PA: Law enforcement needs to be done in person. We are 79 positions short in the sheriff and jail combined. We must re-staff these positions, build the North County jail and eliminate nonessential services to pay for them.

NOOZHAWK: Rate the county’s management of issues relating to the preservation of open space. What definitive steps should it be taking?

PA: The county should not be in the business of “preserving” open space. The best way to ensure that the space will remain open is to allow its unfettered use in the highest-production agriculture that it will support. As long as someone is making money on the land, they will not seek to change the use. You can shear a sheep a lot of times, but you can only kill it once.

NOOZHAWK: What county government issue should Noozhawk cover more thoroughly?

PA: Have no opinion.

                        |  2012 June Primary Coverage |  Complete Series Index  |

Additional Resources

» Click here for Peter Adam’s campaign Website, or call 805.310.3854. Connect with Peter Adam on Facebook.

» Click here for more information on Santa Barbara County’s June 5 election.

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