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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 4:21 pm | Fair 62º


3rd District Supervisor Q&A: Doreen Farr

[Editor’s note: One of two candidate Q&As for Santa Barbara County’s 3rd Supervisorial District. Click here for Steve Pappas.]

NOOZHAWK: What specific steps would you take to straighten out Santa Barbara County’s finances and balance the budget?

Doreen Farr
Doreen Farr
DOREEN FARR: We must cut costs and raise revenue:

» Update disaster planning and the safety element and enforce fire codes, reducing costs of large scale fires.

» Create a bonus program for county employees’ implementable cost-saving ideas.

» Review previous budgets to determine if departments providing nonmandated services can be reduced.

» Support our major industries, agriculture and small businesses.

» Challenge departments to pursue government and foundation grants.

» Review county properties to see if any are underutilized and could be sold.

» Ensure the county gets its fair share of state and federal funding.

NOOZHAWK: Is the county government’s pension program a concern? Is it sustainable? How would you improve it?

DOREEN FARR: In these challenging economic times, all pension programs are a concern. A major factor in our county pension program’s sustainability is how funds are invested, from both safety and return on investment perspectives.

I would certainly want to review investment strategy and safety as well as how our county lines up with others in providing overall benefits. We need to be able to hire and retain excellent employees. And it’s important that our retirees continue to be in a position to contribute to the economic well-being of our communities after they retire.

NOOZHAWK: Do you agree with the general direction in which Chief Executive Officer Mike Brown is taking the county? Is the Board of Supervisors too influential or not influential enough? Why or why not?

DOREEN FARR: The board sets the policy and direction for staff. So if staff, even the CEO, is setting the direction, that would be an abdication of responsibility by the supervisors.

It’s clear that residents want the county’s direction to be set by the supervisors the people elect, and who the electorate can and will hold accountable — not by staff.

Mike Brown has strong financial and administrative skills. But we need to review what benefits have been gained from the various restructurings by which all the department heads except the sheriff and county clerk/recorder/assessor report to Mike Brown.

NOOZHAWK: Local and state governments are in dire financial crises. Is it prudent to simply dismiss on environmental grounds the potential revenues from the proposed expansion of Venoco’s Ellwood operation, a project that would generate $200 million or more over the next couple of decades for the county? Should economic stewardship play a role?

DOREEN FARR: Environmental and economic concerns are intertwined. A very large part of our economy is driven by tourism. An environmental disaster would have an immediate and drastic effect on our economy and government revenues.

It costs a great deal to monitor environmentally risky ventures such as oil drilling, enforcement and cleanups after spills, such as at Greka (Energy Corp.).

While we should be mindful of potential revenues that might be gained from oil operations, we must also keep in mind our dependency on our environment’s beauty and its significance as one of our county’s top revenue generators.

NOOZHAWK: The Goleta City Council believes the city got a raw deal in its revenue-neutrality agreement with the county. Did it? Should it be renegotiated? At a time of county budget concerns, how would you justify a change?

DOREEN FARR: Unlike any new city before or since, Goleta’s revenue-neutrality agreement includes sending some of its revenue to Santa Barbara County in perpetuity. That seems unfair.

But that’s the past and I’m focused on our future. If elected, I’ll pursue the principle that revenue-neutrality agreements should be transitional only, not in perpetuity. Fundamental fairness suggests that the county should revisit the in-perpetuity aspect of the current agreement and agree to a cut-off date, at which time Goleta receives all the revenue due a city, just like every other city in California.

NOOZHAWK: Between the Isla Vista Master Plan, the Regional Housing Needs Assessment requirement and UCSB’s Long-Range Development Plan, Isla Vista will see more population, building density and development. What impacts do you foresee? Should the impacts be lessened and, if so, how?

DOREEN FARR: Obvious impacts are pressures on affordable housing, water supply, traffic, public safety, recreation, etc. Some of these impacts can be mitigated, while others cannot.

As a supervisor and IV’s and Goleta’s main county official, I’ll work to ensure that UCSB’s development plans are coordinated with IV’s Master Plan and Goleta. It’s critical that we address the cumulative impacts of growth from all these different jurisdictions. My endorsements from hundreds of individuals including elected officials and key groups including the Santa Barbara County Firefighters union and the Sierra Club will be a major asset in tackling these regional challenges.

NOOZHAWK: Is the county Department of Alcohol, Drug & Mental Health Services doing too much or too little, or is it achieving the proper balance? Outline your proposals for its future.

DOREEN FARR: This department’s most challenging clients are the dually diagnosed and homeless. Some $36 million is spent on our homeless. We must review the county’s and nonprofits’ services, assessing their effectiveness. Since the county allocates only about 2 percent of general funds for these services, far less than other counties, we must carefully prioritize funds and staffing, ensuring the best coordination among county, nonprofit and other providers.

I support the comprehensive, collaborative 10-year plan to end homelessness. I’ll focus on efforts that make us eligible for additional grant funds including from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department.

NOOZHAWK: What would you do about the Gaviota coast?

DOREEN FARR: I’m committed to protecting and preserving Gaviota through conservation easements, land acquisitions and transfer of development rights (TDRs).

I have a long history of working to protect the coast, which is why I’m endorsed by League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club and am already working with local environmental leaders, virtually all of whom have endorsed me, including Linda Krop, Environmental Defense Center; environmental attorney Marc Chytilo; Mike Lunsford, the Gaviota Coast Conservancy; Phil McKenna, Naples Coalition; and Scott Bull, Surfrider Foundation. (Those listed endorse me as individuals; their organizations are mentioned for identification purposes only.)

NOOZHAWK: Aside from land use, what are your top three issues that you would emphasize as a supervisor?

DOREEN FARR: In addition to land-use-related priorities — protecting neighborhoods and the environment, housing our workers, preserving agriculture, protecting open space — my top 3 priorities are as follows:

» Ensuring the fiscal and economic well-being of our county.

» Providing a high level of essential services, including fire and police, as well as services for our most vulnerable residents — seniors, children and people with special needs.

» Providing excellent constituent service to make sure that people get their sidewalks fixed, traffic signals installed, and that they receive responsiveness and respect from county government and all its departments.

NOOZHAWK: Which current or former supervisor would you pattern yourself after?

DOREEN FARR: Although I think I have something to learn from every current and former supervisor, I am my own person. For the past 15 years I have worked in a variety of ways to improve our schools, our neighborhoods, our cities and our county — as a neighborhood and community leader, as a consultant, as a local business owner, and as a county planning commissioner.

Every election is a chance for a fresh start and a new beginning. If elected I will bring all my experience, dedication and commitment to making the 3rd District a wonderful place to live and work.

NOOZHAWK: Should Noozhawk be Santa Barbara County’s official bird?

The question is not whether Noozhawk should be the official bird, but what kind of bird should Noozhawk be? Is it the bird of paradise, the mockingbird, the canary in the mineshaft, the early bird that gets the worm, or the surfin’ bird (by the Trashmen, 1963)? Regarding the last suggestion, the lyrics seem to fit: “The bird is the word.”

Click here for more information on Doreen Farr.

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