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2010 SBCC Board of Trustees Candidate Q&A with Marty Blum

NOOZHAWK: What motivated you to run for the SBCC Board of Trustees? Explain your decision process.

Marty Blum
Marty Blum

MARTY BLUM: SBCC is beloved by all in our community. It has a national reputation as a great community college. In the past couple of years, short-sighted decision-making has caused alarm in our community.

I first became aware of this in the Adult Education Citizens’ Advisory Council, of which I am a member. Our spring meeting outlined the cuts that were made and proposed to Adult Ed. We all knew about the tight state budget, but I was unprepared for the shunting aside of ideas for fundraising. Everyone at that meeting understood the need to raise fees for some classes and the need for scholarships for those who cannot afford higher fees. However, any ideas for raising some money were told, “We can’t do that” or “Keeping track of money given at each class would require us to hire a bookkeeper.” I came away discouraged and disheartened, and realized classes in Adult Ed were being disproportionately cut.

I spoke with my friends who teach at the Parent Child Workshops and they also had butted heads with a rigid administration and had been cut more than 40 percent. For more than 60 years, the PCWs have taught parenting skills and leadership skills, but this administration was proceeding in dismantling this great program.

The credit side, 90 percent of the budget, is also experiencing top-down decisions that don’t make sense. Money donated to the Center for Sustainability was taken from it and the center was told it is no longer a priority. This is a good example of inattention by the Board of Trustees. When the faculty and community spoke up, funding was restored, but I have no idea why money was taken in the first place. Green jobs are the future, that segment is enlarging and the pay is good — all of which are needed in this difficult economy.

I realized these trustees needed to be awakened. A group of us met to find some candidates, and I was recruited. I am happy to be supported for the job of SBCC trustee.

NOOZHAWK: What unique experience or expertise do you have that will make a difference on the SBCC board?

MB: I have been a teacher in the Santa Barbara schools, an attorney with an office on State Street, a city planning commissioner, a City Council member and mayor of Santa Barbara for two four-year terms. I have handled a $200 million budget without laying off people or furloughing them.

I know how to bring people together to solve problems, I am open and approachable, and I can bring the community together with SBCC to find solutions in these difficult times. We must put the community back in community college.

NOOZHAWK: What is the most pressing challenge SBCC faces? How would you help resolve it?

MB: Besides the shrinking state budget, there is higher demand for community college services but fewer people are graduating in two years or transferring to four-year programs. I will bring new energy to a tired board, and bring the decision-making to the community, staff, teachers and students. We all need to face this recession together and find ideas and collaborations in our community. We can solve any problems if we work together as a team.

The Board of Trustees needs to set priorities, putting student success first for the credit side and the quality of life first on the noncredit side. Programs like the Center for Sustainability, the high school academies, the marine tech program and the horticulture program, among others, can find grant monies as well as collaborative support in our community.

NOOZHAWK: Public education seems to be in a perpetual state of crisis at every level in California. What can SBCC do to take more control of its destiny locally?

MB: Following the steps in my previous answer, we can save programs and come out better for our work. The Chancellor’s Office in Sacramento is supportive of all 112 community colleges in California, helping each of them reflect the community. When the first answer from the SBCC administration is “No,” no matter what question is being asked, the morale of the staff turns downward. The community suffers. The first answer should be “Let’s see what we can do together.”

NOOZHAWK: SBCC President Andreea Serban has said that the school is “one of the most fiscally sound community colleges in the state.” Do you agree? If not, what steps should be taken to make it so?

MB: I have heard the same thing from the trustees. I would not be surprised if SBCC is one of the best. The budget and reserves look good, but I would have a discussion at the trustee level about how much money is prudent to keep. This is a policy decision the current trustees have yet to make.

I also have heard that the Continuing Education side has $927,000 from donations of community members to the SBCC Foundation. Last week, the administration claimed to have a plan to spend all of it over the next five years. This is troubling to me. That money was donated a few years ago for Continuing Education. It could be used as leverage for more fundraising instead of paying for ongoing costs. This is a discussion that has not happened at the Board of Trustees, but should be put on its agenda.

NOOZHAWK: What should be SBCC’s core mission? Are credit and continuing education programs equal? Should they be?

MB: SBCC has crafted a mission statement that can be found in its course offering pamphlet. Essentially, SBCC trustees emphasize student success in transferring, in acquiring job skills, and in reaching the underserved segments of our community. In addition, SBCC serves all segments of its community in collaboration with local organizations, both on the credit and noncredit sides.

Financially the Continuing Education program is less than 10 percent of the budget, not equal to the credit side. However, Continuing Education has taken disproportionately large cuts, which squanders SBCC’s goodwill in the community.

NOOZHAWK: With state funding limitations increasingly affecting the UC and CSU systems, will SBCC graduates continue to have the transfer access they need to complete undergraduate degrees? If not, what’s the solution?

MB: I don’t think there is just one solution to access to higher education. At the SBCC level, we need to use our excellent staff in remediating and preparing students very well for more education. In addition, good counseling to match students with higher-education programs will help, and our Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara is a good source for the students financing alternatives to the UC and CSU systems.

The trustees need to be lobbying in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C., for support for funding for public educational institutions.

NOOZHAWK: To help upgrade and improve aging campus infrastructure, local voters passed Measure V. The bond was to be matched by the state of California, but instead the state has reneged. What will be the long-term impacts of “half” a renovation? What options are available to SBCC to complete its modernization plans?

MB: Goodwill in the community has been squandered with this administration. The trustees a few years ago were supported in the passage of Measure V, but without patching that good will, I don’t know if Measure V could be passed today.

Most likely another bond measure will need to be passed in the future to make up for the state’s lack of funding. In addition, federal money is available for solar panels and other energy-saving plans. That’s why the Center for Sustainability is so important.

NOOZHAWK: Besides the breathtaking views, what is SBCC’s greatest asset?

MB: The greatest asset of SBCC is the people who are the staff and the students of all ages. SBCC is located in a beautiful place, and the people who live here are very special. They are connected to the community and to SBCC in so many ways. Our staff is over-qualified for their jobs, but very dedicated. We also have a very large percentage of people who take classes on each side and who volunteer for the college.

NOOZHAWK: What is your personal connection to SBCC?

MB: My husband, Joe, taught math to undergraduates in the early 1970s. Our older son was one of the first dual-enrollment students at SBCC in the mid-‘80s, and our younger son also took classes in the late ‘90s. He loved playing in the Monday night band, currently under attack b the administration for no reason that I can find. Both succeeded in college, UC Berkeley and Harvard College.

In addition, over the years I have taken dozens of SBCC classes, learning new skills and tuning in to new issues.

NOOZHAWK: Are you a Main Campus person? West Campus? Schott Center? Wake Center?

MB: My husband and sons were all on the Main Campus and West Campus. I have taken classes at each of the venues, as well as others in town, like the Lobero Theatre.

NOOZHAWK: Do you watch the TV show, Community? Who’s your favorite character?

MB: No, but I’ll look it up and watch it. I’m always up for a new experience.

NOOZHAWK: If elected, will you help us establish a Noozhawk lab as part of the required coursework for journalism, photography, advertising and marketing, and New Media?

MB: That would be fun! I am very interested in the future of journalism. We are in a transition time with so many choices and so much information available to all of us. This makes education more important to arm each of us with ways to tell what is true and important.

Click here for more information on Marty Blum’s campaign.

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