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2010 Goleta City Council Candidate Q&A with Michael Bennett

NOOZHAWK: What motivated you to run for the Goleta City Council? Explain your decision process.

Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett

MICHAEL BENNETT: I have lived and worked in Goleta for almost 40 years. I have a passion for my community and believe I have something positive to offer in maintaining this place we call the “Good Land.” I very much enjoyed my first four years serving the residents of our community and was inspired by many to run for a second term. I believe I have made a positive difference and have worked well with my colleagues on the council.

NOOZHAWK: What unique experience or expertise do you have that is making a difference on the Goleta City Council? 

MB: In my profession as a firefighter I was exposed to making the correct decision quickly. I now have the luxury to take my time and review staff reports and input from the community to come up with what I believe is the correct course of action. I can make the difficult decisions when necessary.

NOOZHAWK: Goleta’s 10-year anniversary is not far away. Evaluate the city to date. What should be Goleta’s focus for the next 10 years?

MB: I believe the city is in a good place. We still have major work yet to finish, such as the zoning code conformity with the General Plan, the local coastal plan to be submitted to the Coastal Commission and creating a comprehensive sign ordinance. Our staff is working hard on the first two items and when they are complete will be tackling the sign ordinance issues.

I believe the next 10 years will be spent fine-tuning and refining the issues that needed to be adopted as a new city. I am optimistic that a vision for Old Town Goleta can be created that all the stakeholders can buy into. I would also hope that we will be able to build a City Hall in Old Town to meet current and future needs. I am also optimistic that the circulation improvements called out in the General Plan will be on their way to completion. I am confident that the proposed new Fire Station No. 10 in western Goleta will be up and running and that we will have been able to reintroduce the sheriff’s foot/bicycle patrol in Old Town. Having the necessary revenue to carry out the citizens’ requests will continue to be a major challenge. It will be important to keep our expenses in line with the available revenue.

NOOZHAWK: What is the most important aspect of Goleta’s economy? Is the city of Goleta helping or hindering its success? How can the city be a more effective ally for business?

MB: Goleta’s economy is derived from many sources — high tech, bio medical, retail sales ranging from mom and pop stores to big outlets from the big box stores. We are blessed by having a research university within our community, which contributes so much to our very successful start-up environment creating very successful firms.

I believe that the city is working much better with our business community than it was four years ago. The city has reached out to be a better partner in their success. Can we do a better job as a city? Yes. We need to improve our timeliness in processing requests that a business may have. I have learned that the time it takes to get something processed is probably the biggest complaint in being able to make business decisions on how quickly a business can fill a need.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support Measure S, Santa Barbara County’s “jail tax”? Why or why not?

MB: I do support Measure S. I support it because the issue has been around for 25 years and the issue never gets solved. The county Board of Supervisors has purchased the land that the jail would be built on. The sheriff has put together a comprehensive program to build and staff the new jail as well as rehabilitate the existing jail. There has also been money set aside to address the recidivism problem and improve line police and fire services. This is an additional service that requires additional revenue.

Please support Measure S.

NOOZHAWK: Since the 2008 election, there has been little apparent progress with the city of Goleta’s revenue-neutrality negotiations with Santa Barbara County. Is this a problem? What would you do to address it?

MB: The issue is being addressed and some limited progress has been made. During the negotiations conducted so far, the county has forgiven the $1.5 million Goleta was to be obligated to pay for start-up services. Negotiations are ongoing and I am still optimistic that a final resolution acceptable to both sides will be accomplished.

NOOZHAWK: The City Council recently voted to increase pay for council members. Do you agree with that decision? Why or why not?

MB: I did not agree with that decision and voted no on a 3-2 vote. The amount of the increase is certainly nominal and can only be raised once every two years. I still felt it was an inappropriate time to increase the council’s compensation when we have asked our employees to forgo raises and our overall community continues to be affected in an uncertain economy.

NOOZHAWK: Should public-employee benefits track the value of private-sector benefits? Why or why not? 

MB: I find this to be an interesting question. I have yet to have private-sector employers give me their payroll information when I have asked. I would be very interested in having a comprehensive transparent public review of like job class comparisons. Public salaries and benefits are available at any public employer (other than the city of Bell) if you ask. So I believe it is up to the private sector to make their salaries and benefits equally transparent so a fair review can be made. I would support the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce engaging in this very public opportunity to compare.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support the city of Goleta’s proposed takeover of some of the Goleta West Sanitary District operations? Why or why not? How does your position benefit Goleta residents and ratepayers?

MB: I very much believe that detaching from the Goleta West Sanitary District is beneficial to the residents of Goleta. I believe there are economies of scale to be had by the city providing the administrative functions and the Goleta Sanitary District providing the operation function by contract.

Good public policy dictates that limited tax revenue such as property taxes should be spread across a broad section of the population and to a broad range of public services. The fact is the property taxes collected by the Goleta West Sanitary District are restricted and cannot be used for operations within the district. When Proposition 13 was passed in 1978, special districts that had the ability to bill for services and get off the property tax — such as sewer and water districts — were requested to do so by the state of California. Goleta West chose not to and continues to collect a property tax. No other service district within the county collects a general property tax except to pay for bonded indebtedness allowed under Prop. 13.

My understanding is that the State Water Resources Control Board, which enforces the federal Clean Water Act, requires that service fees cover the cost of operations as well as capital expenditures. Both the city and Goleta West have hired consultants who concur that service rates will be going up regardless of whether the district remains as is or an area is detached within the city limits.

In the tax-sharing agreement, required by law to be negotiated with the county before a detachment can take place, $20 million of the accumulated property tax was set aside to pay for the expanded secondary treatment plant upgrade. I believe once the proposal is properly vetted by LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) at a public hearing, the wisdom of this proposed detachment would be ultimately supported by the LAFCO voting members.

NOOZHAWK: How can Goleta and UCSB work more closely together?

MB: I think the city is working very closely with UCSB and the best example is the recently negotiated LRDP (Long-Range Development Plan) mitigation measures for Goleta that were approved by a unanimous City Council vote as well as a unanimous UC Regents vote as recommended by the UCSB administration.

NOOZHAWK: Should Goleta find a place for a Target store inside the city limits?

MB: I do not believe that the city of Goleta is obligated to find a spot for a Target store.

NOOZHAWK: Do you support the legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?

MB: Yes, I do for one very important reason: the war on drugs has been an abject failure and the situation is only getting worse. Legalizing it will at least remove the criminality from its use and then we can direct our limited resources to far more insidious drugs like methamphetamines!

NOOZHAWK: Name your favorite place in Goleta.

MB: Lake Los Carneros at Rancho La Patera & Stow House.

NOOZHAWK: At the first meeting of the next City Council, will you hold up a “I Read It First on Noozhawk” sign for the TV cameras?

MB: No!

Click here for more information on Michael Bennett’s campaign.

Related Articles

» Click here for Roger Aceves’ Noozhawk Q&A.

» Click here for Paula Perotte’s Noozhawk Q&A.

» Click here for Reyne Stapelmann’s Noozhawk Q&A.

» Roger Aceves Stakes Out Position As ‘Man in the Middle’

» For Michael Bennett, Public Service is a Calling and a Cause

» Goleta’s Small-Town Feel Drives Paula Perotte to be a Voice for Working Families

» Reyne Stapelmann Touts Her Small-Business Perspective in Bid for Goleta Council

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