Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 9:07 pm | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 

5 Candidates Vying for Third District Santa Barbara County Supervisor

Bob Field, Jay Freeman, Joan Hartmann, Karen Jones and Bruce Porter are running for the seat; district includes Isla Vista, Goleta, Santa Ynez Valley and Vandenberg Village

Five candidates are vying in the June 7 election to represent the Third District on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors: Bob Field, Jay Freeman, Joan Hartmann, Karen Jones and Bruce Porter
Five candidates are vying in the June 7 election to represent the Third District on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors: Bob Field, Jay Freeman, Joan Hartmann, Karen Jones and Bruce Porter (Contributed)

Five people are running for the Third District seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisor, potentially setting up a showdown in the November general election.

For one of the five to get elected to the spot, currently held by Doreen Farr, he or she would need a majority of votes — 50 percent plus one — in the June 7 election.

The district stretches from Isla Vista and Goleta in the south up to the Santa Ynez Valley to the north and Vandenberg Village to the west.

The seat traditionally has been the swing vote in a frequent north-versus-south split between more conservative and liberal supervisors, respectively.

Bob Field, Jay Freeman, Joan Hartmann, Karen Jones and Bruce Porter are running for the seat — Freeman lives in Isla Vista and the rest live in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Hartmann, 65, says her lifetime of experience in local, state and federal government, along with nonprofits and business, led her to run for supervisor.

Joan Hartmann Click to view larger
Joan Hartmann

It wasn’t something she expected to do, until she heard Farr wasn’t seeking another term.

“When faced with the opportunity, I realized, yes, I can and want to do this,” Hartmann said.

She lives north of the Buellton city limits, and before moving to Santa Barbara County in 1998 worked as a college professor and in legal and budget offices for governmental agencies, including the U.S. Department of Interior.

She helped found the Southern California Wetland Recovery Project.

“For me, locally produced water and energy are the driving forces for economic prosperity, so those are absolutely key.”

San Diego has proposed becoming the first renewable energy city by 2035, and Hartmann wants Santa Barbara County to be the first county to do so, in the same time frame, she said.

Hartmann was appointed by Farr to the county Planning Commission in 2012, after she worked on Urban Growth Boundary Plans for Buellton and Goleta.

“As a planning commissioner, I worked hard to protect the Gaviota Coast, I was active in approving senior and workforce housing projects, I approved all the energy projects that came before us but was eager to make sure they protected air and water quality,” Hartmann said.

She resigned in January to run for supervisor.

In addition to her work on the Planning Commission, Hartmann volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children, and said she has insight into social-service needs.

She wants the county to establish an economic prosperity plan to help the agricultural industry.

“With climate change, there are new pests, new strains of crops that need to be developed to better handle conditions. Ag has lots of challenges, not to mention labor shortages,” she said.

A plan would help keep agriculture a major economic sector in the county, which distinguishes Santa Barbara from surrounding counties that have lost ranch lands and orchards, she said.

Bruce Porter Click to view larger
Bruce Porter

Porter, 61, retired to Santa Ynez 15 years ago after serving in the U.S. Army for 25 years.

He sees county governance as a continuation of his life of service, from graduating from West Point to recent work on local nonprofit boards including the Red Cross and Boy Scouts of America, he said.

He’s in his second term on the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District board of trustees.

“The most important issue for the county is decision-making going forward based on practicality and sound financial principles as opposed to ideology,” Porter said.

“What really sets me apart is my life experiences. My engineering background makes me more analytical in the way I approach decision-making.”

Recognizing the swing-vote nature of the Third District seat, Porter said he wouldn’t automatically align himself with other members of the board.

“What I don’t want is to enter the race saying I want to be a North County supervisor or South County. I want to be a supervisor that straddles the Gaviota Tunnel, and make decisions based on what’s best for the whole county,” he said.

Technology consultant Freeman, 34, is the only Isla Vista resident on the ballot for supervisor.

Well-known in the tech world for his software used to jailbreak iPhones, he’s been spending a lot of time at local community meetings over the past two years.

He’s lived on the South Coast since going to UCSB in 1999, and started getting heavily involved in Isla Vista politics two years ago.

Jay Freeman Click to view larger
Jay Freeman

“I’m young enough that I still think there’s hope for government,” he said.

“One reason I want to run, I feel like I’m tapping out on what I can do in the audience. I talk about a lot of issues and it’s something where at this point, I would need to be a supervisor to make the change I think needs to happen.”

Freeman organized the financial feasibility study for the proposed Isla Vista community services district, and attends local park district meetings as well as county meetings.

He saw a pattern: Whether it’s Isla Vista, Vandenberg Village, Ballard or Los Olivos, unincorporated communities were left out of decisions made for them at the Board of Supervisors, he said.

“To have to go to downtown to spend all day to provide three minutes of feedback on something is absolutely brutal and not something most people can do,” he said.

“So essentially I’m running to make sure all unincorporated areas have a voice.”

He wants unincorporated areas to have advisory committees as a structure to give feedback to the county decision-makers.

“People should not be disenfranchised by government because they live far away from government,” he said.

Another priority for Freeman is implementing sustainable energy solutions for the county.

Field, 71, describes himself as a longtime Republican and old-fashioned conservative.

Bob Field Click to view larger
Bob Field

He said he joined the race because he wasn’t happy with Porter as the conservative choice.

He’s known Hartmann for years and said she could be a great supervisor — he even donated to her campaign before joining himself, near the end of the application period.

Field said his top priority is to protect the rural agricultural character of the county.

“I think that’s why most all of us live here and most of the tourists come.”

He has a background in the high-tech industry and venture capitalism, and said the region needs more middle-income jobs.

While tourism is an economic driver, Field said he opposes “runaway tourism” such as commercializing residential zones with short-term rentals and turning agricultural land into event centers.

He joked that his slogan could be, “he’s not half as bad as people tell you he is.”

Jones, 58, is another latecomer to the game who is not a fan of Porter.

Karen Jones Click to view larger
Karen Jones

Jones describes herself as a community helper and a happy wife, mother, and grandmother. She has lived in the valley since 1995, and her husband’s family has been in the area for generations.

She holds nothing back when she talks about the main reason she’s in this race: the “reckless, irreversible, irresponsible casino expansion.”

All the other candidates in the race, she worries, won’t stand up to the development efforts to expand the Chumash Casino and place more land into trust for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

Jones said her loud, candid style is unlike the polite culture of the valley, and bemoaned the lack of candidate forums more aimed at her – perhaps a forum hosted by artists, or  “moms who like to party forum,” she laughed.

“The most important thing voters should know about me is they can trust me to be me, there’s no hidden agenda. All the things people may not like about me, loud and say things I shouldn’t, maybe we should try that now.”

The Future of Isla Vista

Freeman says that it’s critical for the community to get a municipal advisory council and planning commission, and he’ll fight for that at the Board of Supervisors. Other unincorporated areas — including Vandenberg Village and Los Olivos — need them too, he said.

He supports the community services district, but would have preferred the county agreed to raise the property tax on Service Area 31, which he says property owners were OK with.

With a utility-tax-funded community services district, “it’s unfortunate to lose money in overhead but cool that we’ll have more control over it,” he said. It’s an independent funding source where the county can’t pull the money, he added.

The other candidates agree that Isla Vista needs some form of self-governance or at least an advisory group to represent itself in county-decided issues.

Hartmann said Isla Vista is in “desperate need for a local government entity,” whatever form it takes.

“It’s a community that has tremendous energy and is ready to face the future in a new and exciting way, and I want to help that along in every way that I can. UCSB and I.V. are not fully appreciated perhaps by the county as a whole, not many of us go regularly,” Hartmann said.

“As an outsider, I don’t want to tell people to vote for the community services district, but it’s helpful to have an entity as the voice, like the Los Alamos Advisory Commission.”

“For decades Isla Vista’s been a bit lost when it comes to the county providing the right amount of services,” Porter said.

He has a so-called I.V. 2.0 proposal to add a small staff, like a city staff, to manage county-provided services in a more customer-friendly way.

It would work with or without the proposed community services district, he said.

Field said the utility-tax-funded community services district is a good idea. He sees the area as “the source of the energy that can change the economy.”

UCSB should continue doing what it’s good at, he said — “provide intellectual spark and confidence and training people need to springboard into business.”

Jones said it doesn’t make sense to have Isla Vista in the Third District with Santa Ynez Valley, though it maybe was a good fit when it was less developed.

She said the community services district could be a solution, and added that she would like to see property owners take more responsibility, even though they may not live in the area.

“I would like to have landlords have ownership beyond a deed when it comes to their property.”

Fee-to-Trust Application for Santa Ynez Chumash Indians

Santa Barbara County has appealed U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs decisions to place Santa Ynez Valley land into federal trust, thereby taking it out of county jurisdiction for planning oversight and taxation.

Camp 4, a 1,433-acre agricultural property, is proposed for tribal family housing, while the smaller properties totaling about two acres, known as Mooney and Escobar properties, would be used for landscaping, recycled water irrigation and as a Caltrans easement, according to tribal leaders.

Santa Ynez Valley groups have opposed and sued to try to stop the Chumash Casino expansion, which is finishing construction for additional hotel rooms in a 130-foot-high tower and a remodeled gaming floor.  

Jones vehemently opposes the fee-to-trust process and any casino expansion plans.

“I do believe it all will be resolved at the Supreme Court someday, in the meantime somebody has to say halt,” she said.

Field said he expects the fee-to-trust issue to be a legal battle for years, with no resolution soon. The county will have to make its case to the federal government, particularly the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, he said.

“I think our fight is with them and I think the county has to lawyer up and fight the fight.”

He said it’s a “horrible combination” to have the county continue providing services to an area that isn’t paying local taxes.

“God Bless America, they’re making money, bought hotels and are building apartment buildings. If they will just play by the same rules that everybody else plays then I don’t have any trouble with it.”

Porter opposes the fee-to-trust process for the Camp 4 property, and said the county needs to find a more effective way to engage the Chumash.  

Hartmann also said the county should work with the tribe’s new leadership, saying there may be a way to suggest boundaries on development. 

“I don’t favor more land coming into trust because the only use you can make on trust lands that you can’t on private lands is gaming, and we don’t want to see gaming outside the reservation,” Hartmann said.

“We don’t have the ability to tell them what to do on existing reservation land, that’s how we got the 12-story hotel,” Hartmann said.

Freeman said the way the county has negotiated with tribal leadership may not look good to Congress.

“I think we need to talk more about long-term regional planning for what the Chumash are going to do next and what we want them to do next, instead of getting bogged down in minutiae of a particular project,” he said.

Freeman said he hopes the tribe doesn’t put the Camp 4 property into trust because it makes it harder for people to discuss what the community wants in the future.

“That said, I can kind of appreciate what they’re doing because it’s been very difficult to sit down and have those conversations,” he said.  

Building the Northern Branch Jail

The Board of Supervisors has been weighing options on the Northern Branch Jail project, which had construction bids come in $11 million over the estimated cost.

On Monday, the board supported a plan to put the project out to bid anyway, and pull the money from the Northern Branch Jail operating fund that is intended to cover the first year’s operating costs.

Porter said cutting the Sheriff’s Treatment and Re-Entry Complex was a lost opportunity, and finding money for ongoing North County Jail operations should be a priority. The recruitment and retention issues at the Sheriff’s Department are also a concern, he said.

Hartmann believes the board should “go back to the drawing board” and change the jail into an affordable project.

“The biggest problem is it costs $18 million a year to operate, and the county has been putting money aside for operational expenses for year one, but I don’t really know how we’re going to manage outgoing years — I guess the assumption is to have revenue growth,” she said.

“That to me is the largest alarm bell in the budget, how to pay for ongoing operations at the jail.”

Field believes the county needs to get people with mental illness and minor drug offenses out of the jail, suggesting the county may need a mental hospital.

“We need to get after that problem instead of building more and more housing for criminal illegal immigrants. Now that ought to answer the question of whether I’m a conservative,” he said.

Balancing County Budget and Infrastructure Costs

Field, Hartmann and Porter all named water infrastructure as a top priority for the county.

Hartmann says her water policy experience makes her well-qualified to help increase local water security, including efforts for storm-water capture and wastewater reclamation. She believes desalination should be a last resort.

Porter said the county needs to more effectively recharge underground aquifers.

Field, who manages the mutual water company for his neighborhood in Santa Ynez Valley, said the county should work on cleaning up wastewater for groundwater injection.

He also sees desalination as a worst-case scenario water supply.

“I don’t think we should solve our water problems by aggravating our energy problems,” he said.  

Porter said the overall county budget is in “OK shape” but the county has done a poor job of addressing core infrastructure needs such as water, roads, parks and maintaining county buildings.

There is some money wasted, and one example he said was giving $30,000 to a nonprofit to make a film about the Channel Islands.

“I’m sure it’s a nice thing to do, but they could have funded a part-time librarian in rural areas where they’re seeing cutbacks and closures,” he said.

Hartmann said the county began to address infrastructure costs and unfunded pension liabilities early compared to other areas. She doesn’t believe the budget has been poorly managed, she said.

Freeman said many people were doing the wrong work, which creates structural inefficiencies in the budget. The Isla Vista Master Plan, for example, was a $1 million project that took 13 years and was scrapped because it wasn’t nimble enough to get updated over time, he said.

The county’s unfunded liabilities and debt are interfering with its ability to provide basic services, Field said.

“I think the county spends too much money on itself and not enough to taxpayers, services and infrastructure,” Field said.

He wants to cut benefits for the higher-paid employees and have increased employee contributions to pension and medical costs. Salaries could be frozen for three years while the county works on its maintenance backlog, he said.

Jones, who contended she is a “way smarter shopper than anyone else running,” said the county could be using the money in smarter ways.

“I hate that the answer to every problem is more money,” she said.

Demographics of Third District

The Third District has the second-largest number of registered voters, after the Second District, for the June election with 43,489, according to the County Elections Office.

Of those, 16,908 are registered Democrat, 12,143 are registered Republican, 12,631 listed no party preference and the rest are in the American Independence Party, Green, Libertarian or Peace and Freedom parties.

The primary presidential election is June 7 and more information about the election, including sample ballots, can be found at the Santa Barbara County Elections Office website.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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