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2010 Goleta City Council Candidate Q&A with Paula Perotte

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

Paula Perotte
Paula Perotte

PAULA PEROTTE: I’m “invested” in Goleta: I’ve lived and worked in Goleta for 27 years, and it’s where my husband and I raised our two daughters. Our family has benefited so much from Goleta’s schools, recreational opportunities, the beauty of its mountains and ocean, its small-town feel and its great sense of community.

As respected members of the community were encouraging me to run, notably City Council members Margaret Connell and Ed Easton, I thought about the work I’ve done for the past 15 years and made three important decisions. First was that it’s time for people like me to step up and be a part of local government. Second, I believe I am qualified. And third, I can contribute even more to Goleta by serving on the City Council. The more I thought about it and the more people said I should run, the more it made sense.

I realized I have a role to play in keeping Goleta the Good Land and I’m committed to doing so. As the city faces substantial change and challenges, I want to be part of keeping the special character of Goleta for ourselves and for future generations.

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

PP: I believe that my work and experience in this community have prepared me for the work that needs to be done on the City Council.

For more than 15 years I’ve worked at all levels of PTA, including district president responsible for 64 schools countywide. I have successfully advocated for safer routes to schools, working with state and local legislators to slow traffic in school zones, get a stop sign on Cathedral Oaks Road, add additional crossing guards, get Brandon School revitalized after having been closed for 16 years. I’ve worked in a family-owned high-tech business in Goleta and became familiar with the challenges and needs of small businesses. In my job with the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County, I work with parents to help them get services for children with special needs. I believe I have learned how to get things done by bringing people together.

So the perspective I bring is different from many other elected officials. I’m not a professional politician, but I’m used to working successfully with government and private-sector, profit and nonprofit agencies, children and adults — and I get things done. My skills at listening, working together, and making things happen will serve me well on the City Council. The endorsements I have received from a wide group of elected and appointed officials, environmental groups, Democrats, Republicans and businesses make me confident that I’ll be able to work with diverse interests for the benefit of all Goleta. Click here for a list of my endorsements.

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?

PP: The city has made great strides since its birth. It has formulated a General Plan, built an excellent staff, set a course for fiscal responsibility, and is poised for carefully managed growth without compromising Goleta’s natural and agricultural resources.

Goleta’s focus in the next years should be in the following areas:

» We must focus on fiscal responsibility: We must be fiscally prudent without sacrificing vital services. We need to increase our reserves by spending wisely and looking for new revenue sources. We need to increase our revenues by nurturing and promoting our local businesses and by continuing to seek modification of our revenue-neutrality agreement with Santa Barbara County.

» We need to create and enforce our own zoning code that will be in line with our General Plan. The code will determine not only what is built but how it’s built — how high, with what setbacks, and so on. Development shouldn’t compromise Goleta’s character or natural and agricultural resources. And zoning should help address the need for housing that’s affordable for local workers and families.

» We must be responsive to the needs of Goleta residents: We founded this city because we wanted more local control over our destiny. Residents want to make sure that they’re being informed and heard and that their elected representatives stand up for Goleta’s special character and values. We need to achieve the right balance of promoting the interests of Goletans while working regionally.

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?

PP: Goleta has a diverse economy — a mix of retail, hotels and high-tech industry, with some manufacturing. UCSB, while having significant impacts on the city, also brings economic benefits in terms of retail sales, and student employees to serve in local stores and restaurants. Entrepreneurial high-tech research-and-development companies, as spin-offs from the university, bring high-paying jobs to Goleta and will remain an important component of Goleta’s economy. The city should encourage a relationship with UCSB to attract and retain these industries.

Tourism is not currently a big part of Goleta’s economy and its hotels need to see what niche they can fill — e.g. for business and UCSB visiting faculty as well as sports teams and parents of UCSB students.

City staff can work with businesses looking to locate or expand here to facilitate the permitting process to make it go as speedily as possible without sacrificing the needed environmental analysis associated with the development.

The main industrial area of Goleta is in Old Town and ongoing efforts to take care of flooding from San Jose Creek will open up new possibilities for economic development.

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

PP: I have been weighing the pros and cons of Measure S since it was put on the ballot. In general, I would prefer more programs to prevent adding to our jail population. We need more programs that prevent crime, reduce recidivism and repeat offenders, and divert more people to treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction, and I would have preferred greater support going to these programs.

I understand the many good reasons for supporting Measure S:

» The current jail conditions are substandard for prisoners and detainees, and we’re under a court order to improve them.

» The current early release program to deal with overcrowding often leads to repeat offenders. Increasing our jail capacity would reduce early release, thus reducing crime.

» Several million dollars under Measure S would go into prevention and intervention programs meant to keep people out of jail and to reduce the number of repeat offenders.

On the other hand, I also understand why some oppose Measure S:

» None of us likes taxes and this one is regressive.

» Some believe that if we have more capacity we will jail more people, and for longer periods, rather than alleviate overcrowding.

» Some are concerned about funding the jail after the tax expires in 14 years.

Having recently toured the County Jail, I noted that jail conditions are not only substandard for prisoners, but also quite dangerous for our public-safety personnel staffing the jail. Taking all these factors into account, I have decided to 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?

PP: I understand that Goleta has been trying to negotiate with the county regarding some modification of the revenue-neutrality agreement but without success, given the county’s dire fiscal condition.

The good news for Goleta is that in 2012 all of the bed tax from the hotels and 20 percent of the sales tax now going to Santa Barbara County will be coming back to the city — around $3 million — which will alleviate many fiscal issues for the city. As the economy improves, perhaps the county will be open to discussions of other aspects of the agreement.

I have good relations with several of the county supervisors and would hope to sit down with them to talk about this matter.

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

PP: This year, council members receive $400 a month. The pay increase voted on by the council would increase this figure to $440 a month — probably not close to minimum wage given the number of hours that council members put in. Another consideration is that council members can opt not to take the increase if they choose.

No one runs for this council for the money. This is not the city of Bell. On the other hand, Goleta employees have not received a raise in two years, so it could be argued that the council should set an example by not increasing its own compensation.

To be honest, I am not sure how I would have voted on this issue.

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

PP: I have been told that public-employee salaries are not out of line with the private sector for jobs requiring comparable education and experience. However, public-sector pensions and medical benefits are often better and more secure. Goleta city employees are not in unions, but they still were given an expectation of certain benefits when they were hired.

I believe that as the cost of pension and medical insurance benefits increase, this is an area where a number of options should be discussed, with the full involvement of the employees. If changes are to be made, it should be very carefully considered and not be done in an arbitrary manner.

We do need to pay competitive salaries and benefits, or we risk increased staff turnover, loss of experienced personnel, and consequent recruiting and training costs.

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?

PP: Special districts generally are expected to support their services through fees paid by residents. The Goleta West Sanitary District is in an unusual position in that, on top of its revenue from fees, it also receives about $1.5 million in property taxes annually. Property taxes generally are for municipal and school services, not for fee-based services such as sanitary services and water.

By detaching sewer services from Goleta West, the city would obtain property-tax revenues that could be used for recreation programs, street repair and other important municipal services.

Consultants for the sanitary district and different consultants for the city have come to different conclusions as to how detachment would affect fees in the city and in the remaining part of the district in Isla Vista. Services would not be affected, however, since the city is proposing to contract with the Goleta Sanitary District for services.

While I understand the issues, I believe that this controversy could have been handled more diplomatically, with the city and Goleta West representatives sitting down together to work out an equitable agreement. I would hope that this might yet be a possibility.

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

PP: Goleta has recently signed mitigation agreements and cooperative agreements with UCSB to deal with its Long-Range Development Plan. These agreements require the city to work closely with UCSB to ensure that traffic and public safety impacts are measured and that steps are taken to mitigate them. According to these agreements, the city has joint responsibility for determining how funding from UCSB can best be used.

I applaud and, if elected, will certainly cooperate with UCSB efforts to house additional students, faculty and staff, thus not adding to our jobs/housing imbalance.

Additionally, I’d want to make sure that Goleta provides a good business climate to encourage spin-offs from UCSB that add clean, high-paying jobs to our area.

I am glad that community groups such as SUN are continuing discussions with UCSB about looking more closely at alternative transportation, public transit and water issues, all of which will become increasingly important as the student population increases.

As a council member, I would be committed to continuing the cooperative and open lines of communication with UCSB so the city and the university can prosper side-by-side in a supportive relationship.

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

PP: Certainly a lot of people in Goleta like the idea of a Target nearby. The big question for me is where should it go? Target requires a fairly large piece of ground and the traffic impacts would be huge. Most sites within the city large enough for a Target are already designated for housing or other purposes. The alternative is to see if there are existing buildings that could accommodate a Target.

Traffic is not the only impact. There are also issues concerning where retail workers would find housing in our relatively expensive South Coast housing market.

If an appropriate site could be found, and the traffic and other impacts sufficiently mitigated, it could be a sales tax boon for the city and appreciated by many Goletans and others on the South Coast.

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

PP: I support reducing the criminal penalties for marijuana, consistent with state and federal law. And I support decriminalization for medical uses.

Although I realize that marijuana, like any drug, can be abused, I am concerned that the current criminal penalties are not effective. People have access to marijuana with some negative effects.

» There is no quality control so sometimes it is tainted.

» Profits from marijuana trafficking often go to fund other more dangerous criminal activities.

» Users and sellers are filling our already crowded jails.

» Public-safety personnel who are already stretched need to spend their time on enforcing marijuana laws and incarcerating offenders.

The effects of the above often have significant negative economic consequences for all of us.

So, under the right circumstances, I favor decriminalizing marijuana use, controlling its quality and distribution, and taxing it the way we do cigarettes and alcohol. But we must do so in a way that does not create conflicts with state and federal laws.

NOOZHAWK: Name your favorite place in Goleta.

PP: It is probably Winchester Canyon where our home is located. There’s no place like home.

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?

PP: Because of my longtime involvement in PTA and schools, I’m always going to promote the skills of reading, keeping up with current events, and keeping aware of community and civic matters. Newspapers — print and electronic — provide an important way of doing all three. So without singling out any one newspaper by name, at my first meeting I would be happy to note the importance that information media play in Goleta and the lives of all residents who want to keep in touch and participate in local government.

Click here for more information on Paula Perotte’s campaign.

Related Articles

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

» Click here for Michael Bennett’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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