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Connell to Run for Goleta City Council

Citing 'dismay at the direction of the new council majority,' the charter councilwoman seeks a return to office two years after she was ousted.

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Goleta council candidate Margaret Connell said she would recommend that the General Plan’s original environmental standards be upheld. (Sonia Fernandez / Noozhawk photo)

Margaret Connell, a charter member of the Goleta City Council and a onetime mayor, announced her campaign to return to the council Wednesday. Connell made her declaration in a field with Bishop Ranch in the background and with her supporters, including fellow candidate Ed Easton and Santa Barbara City Council members Helene Schneider and Das Williams, arrayed before her.

“I am running once again for the Goleta City Council because I am dismayed at the direction of the new council majority,” said Connell, adding that the majority of Mayor Michael Bennett and Council members Jean Blois and Eric Onnen had “voted repeatedly for the Chamber of Commerce and development interests.”

Connell has been a Santa Barbara school trustee and has worked with various community organizations, including the League of Women Voters, the Rape Crisis Center and the Goleta Valley Land Trust.

A member of Goleta’s inaugural City Council, Connell was one of the first council’s four-member slow-growth majority, a group that was supported by like-minded residents and environmentalists, but at the same time criticized — and sued — by local business and development interests. She and two fellow slow-growth council members were swept out of office in the last election and replaced with the more business- and development-friendly Bennett and Onnen, as well as former Santa Barbara police Officer Roger Aceves, who has, since his term began, made efforts to distance himself from the current majority.

“I campaigned as an independent,” Aceves told the audience in his speech introducing Connell, also revealing that he had asked her earlier this year to consider running again for council.

Connell promised to “maintain a dialogue with UCSB,” with regards to the environmental impacts and drain on local resources like water as the university gears up to redevelop its campus and increase its population.

As far as the upcoming approximately three-year budget deficit, Connell said the first council had anticipated the issue.

“We put money aside in anticipation of this time when there would be a shortfall,” she said, a practice that has been continued by the current council. She is in favor of renegotiating the city’s revenue-neutrality agreement, explaining that the tax-sharing percentages that were initially calculated to keep the county from just losing money did not anticipate the growth in Goleta’s revenue since incorporation in 2002..

With regards to the city’s General Plan, a document that is being reworked by the current council, Connell promised, if given the chance, to “hold fast” to the original environmental standards and to preserve public access to Haskell’s Beach.

Connell is the fourth candidate for one of two council seats in the November election. Blois has announced her intention to seek another term while Councilwoman Jonny Wallis said she will not run for re-election. The other declared candidates are Easton and native and local businessman Don Gilman.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at [email protected]

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