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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 8:43 am | Fair 48º


Commentary: SB CAN Backs Farr, Sterling and Ready

Trio best represents organization's priorities, SB CAN director Deborah Brasket says.

Editor’s note: John Sterling is a former police chief of Santa Maria, despite a Noozhawk editing error that relocated him to another North County community in an earlier version of this commentary. The following article has been corrected.]

On Tuesday, Santa Barbara County voters will have the opportunity to elect new supervisors in the 3rd and 4th Districts, as well as elect a Superior Court judge. Each of these races should be extremely important to all voters. Decisions made by supervisors affect the whole county, no matter which district they represent. Who sits on our Superior Court bench will determine the outcome of cases that affect the entire county, and have the potential to uphold or overturn decisions made by supervisors.

The Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN) has been closely examining the candidates to find out where they stand on issues important to the entire county, including affordable and workforce housing, preserving agriculture and open space, and developing alternative transportation.

Doreen Farr and John Sterling for County Supervisors

The candidates for supervisor whose views and values most match our priorities are 3rd District candidate Doreen Farr and 4th District candidate John Sterling. These candidates demonstrate commitment to the SB CAN core principles of social justice, environmental protection, sustainable transportation, and conservation and expansion of affordable housing in Santa Barbara County.

Both Farr and Sterling have the experience in public service we need to lead the county. As a former planning commissioner, businesswoman and longtime community leader in both Goleta and the Santa Ynez Valley, Farr has had significant experience and success working with others to tackle complex issues that county leaders face on a daily basis. She is informed, focused and detailed in the way that she will address land-use policies, county services and constituent needs.

Sterling, a former city manager and Santa Maria police chief, believes “an informed and involved public is the key to a successful government.” He is well known for his ability to bring together people from diverse backgrounds and with differing viewpoints to solve tough problems.

When it comes to housing, both candidates support building only within urban limit lines, and near job and transportation centers. They are committed to increasing affordable and workforce housing, by building appropriate new housing, increasing rental housing and conserving existing housing, including the rehabilitation of existing units and discouraging teardowns and “gentrification.”

Unlike their primary opponents, 3rd District candidate David Smyser and 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray, Farr and Sterling do not support the concept of building “village centers” in rural areas, far from the job and transportation centers that could support them. These so-called villages promote urban sprawl and have a negative impact on agriculture. While these centers are promoted as revenue enhancers, Farr and Sterling agree that the costs of infrastructure and services needed to support such projects would likely more than offset any gains.

Farr and Sterling also understand that the construction of hotels as a way to bring revenue to the county is inherently problematic. The creation of new low-wage jobs worsens our affordable housing crisis, and affects traffic and roads, as well as social services when budgets are being severely cut. These negative impacts could well offset any increase in revenue.

Instead, Farr and Sterling bring to the table viable ways to increase the county’s revenues without affecting affordable housing and social services. Both recognize the importance of supporting existing major industries and small businesses, as well as bringing in new high-tech jobs.

Farr and Sterling also agree that preserving agriculture, open space and environmental resources are vital. Both support strong zoning that keeps agriculture in production. Farr is particularly committed to protecting environmentally vulnerable areas like the Gaviota coast. She sees the transfer of development rights as just one of several tools for moving development into urban areas away from rural land.

The need for creating alternative transportation systems that alleviate traffic congestion while reducing pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions is also recognized by both candidates.

Farr favors working with employers to reduce peak-hour traffic, as well as increasing bus routes, bike lanes and carpool options. She and Sterling believe that improving alternative transportation options is important for the transit-dependent, as well as for environmental reasons.

SB CAN endorses Farr and Sterling as the candidates who will provide leadership during a difficult budget time for the county, while preserving vital services, protecting the environment and meeting critical needs for housing and alternative transportation.

Kevin Ready for Superior Court Judge

Amid the excitement of voting for two supervisorial seats, it may be easy to overlook another important race — that for Superior Court judge.

It’s not often that a vacant Superior Court seat gets filled by an election; usually the governor will make an appointment. So it is important to take the time to learn more about each of the candidates before casting your vote. Whoever fills this seat will most likely serve for a very long time, and we need to make sure the candidate with the most experience in the widest range of practice takes the bench. The decisions made in Superior Courts can significantly affect the quality of our lives and our communities.

Because much of the focus of the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN) is related to environmental issues, we are particularly interested in electing a candidate who has a firm grasp of environmental law and land-use policies, including the crucial provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Legal questions concerning the quality of our water, the preservation of agricultural lands and open space, and the protection of endangered species and sensitive habitat are often decided in a Superior Court.

SB CAN endorses Kevin Ready as the candidate who has the broadest range of experience in areas important to our work and to the whole county.

Ready has more than 30 years of experience as an attorney in a broad range of civil, criminal and environmental law. He majored in environmental law and later, as an Army judge advocate general (JAG) officer, he earned a certificate in administrative law. He started his practice prosecuting criminal cases in federal court, and went on to practice general litigation as a partner in a private firm. For a time he taught law at the Santa Barbara College of Law, and managed BEACON, a public agency dedicated to preserving the coastline. For the past 18 years, however, he has served as a senior attorney for Santa Barbara County, where he advises county staff and supervisors on a wide variety of matters, including land use, public work contracts, public finance, environmental resources and CEQA.

The candidate with the least experience and the most narrow focus is John MacKinnon, who has less than 12 years of service as a criminal lawyer, and no experience in civil or environmental law.

Election Day isn’t far away. Now’s the time for all of us to carefully examine the candidates’ positions to determine whose views and values most match our own. SB CAN has done so, and endorses Doreen Farr for 3rd District supervisor, John Sterling for 4th District supervisor, and Kevin Ready for Superior Court judge.

Deborah Brasket is executive director of the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN). She can be reached at 805.722.5094 or at [email protected]

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