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Sunday, March 24 , 2019, 11:47 pm | Fair 51º


From Our Inbox: Letters to the Editor for Week Ending May 11, 2018

Westmont College gave Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown the 2018 Westmont Medal for his “work during the Thomas Fire in December and the deadly Montecito flash flooding and debris flows in January.”

What work was that? The heavy-handed and prolonged evacuation orders before and after the Thomas Fire? Or the 23 people killed on his watch on Jan. 9?

Between the two events, Sheriff Brown has lost all credibilty with most Montecito residents.

P. Baker

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The office of Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller is not one that usually draws a lot of attention, and when it does get attention, it’s usually for all the wrong reasons. (For example, an embezzlement scheme by a Public Works Department employee that went undetected by auditors for 10 years.)

On June 5, voters will have an opportunity to elect a new Auditor-Controller. I urge you to vote for Jennifer Christensen for that office.

I have known Jennifer Christensen for more than 15 years, and I can say without reservation that she is a person of integrity, intelligence and accomplishment. She is not a politician but rather is a financial professional who will keep a close watch on your taxpayer dollars.

In the aftermath of the January debris flows that have wreaked havoc on the county’s property tax base, strong fiscal management by the Auditor-Controller is more crucial than ever. We can’t afford another $2 million hit from an embezzlement scheme. Jennifer Christensen will use her experience in finance and accounting to ensure that internal controls are restored to the Auditor-Controller’s Office and that the employees who work there employ the highest ethical standards.

As the county’s Chief Investment Officer, she wrote the policy and made the decisions that resulted in what was touted by a former county supervisor as the “largest rainy day fund in county history.” I think it’s time that the person who created the nest-egg be given the opportunity to guard it.

Vote for Jennifer Christensen.

Craig Smith
Santa Barbara

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Thank you for your article, “Family, Friends Rally for Orcutt Man’s Success on ‘The Voice’ TV Show.” I have been watching The Voice and am thrilled that a local man, Pryor Baird, is in the top eight. It is wonderful the American Dream is still alive in small town America.

Diana Thorn

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As a long-time registered Democrat and Santa Barbara Westside voter, I was shocked to learn at the May 1 League of Women Voters District 3 Candidates’ Forum that neither new Mayor Cathy Murillo nor the members of the Democratic Committee, informed the candidate they are currently promoting, with impressive personal contributions and their fabulously endowed Democratic campaign war chest, that if elected, he will be hamstrung on a still hotly contested District 3 issue: the Westside Bike Boulevard being imposed on Chino Street.

This is because his residence, or rather, his mother’s house in which he still resides, on Chino Street, makes him unable to speak or vote on this matter, as it is a conflict of interest. Other districts will not be able to speak with him either about the irritating and dangerous traffic woes that will also soon be born by the many commuters from the Mesa who use Carrillo and Mission streets to access Highway 101 and downtown Santa Barbara during the already congested morning and evening rush hours.

The candidate, Oscar Gutierrez, is sincere, warm and lovely, a local native-son. He was incredulous that such an important subject as his legally compelled recusal had never been alluded to by any of his much more experienced sponsors. His unfamiliarity with the concept was a bit surprising in light of the numerous City Council meetings regarding the Santa Barbara Bicycle Master Plan in which our two resident council members, the past mayor and the present mayor, absented themselves completely.

With heavy financial investment in this candidate, it seems obvious our mayor and the Democratic Committee did not want him to realize that by sponsoring him they are going to be able to legally recreate the same boondoggle that then-Councilwoman Murillo used to deny any representation onthe council to the 100-plus minority majority district constituents who had trusted her to play by the rules and represent them. Instead, she betrayed that trust by shirking her duty and using the Westside as a stepping stone in her need to continue ascending the ladder of her political ambitions.

I am hurt and saddened to see someone as sweet and lovely as Oscar be used and abused, bought and sold a bill of goods by the mayor and her party. His reward, if he wins, will be constant manipulation by Murillo. If he resists, he will be subjected to weekly bullying by a mayor who feels free to do whatever she deems necessary to get her way.

Buyers and candidates of District 3, don’t get used again. Beware those whose obvious political aspirations know no limits or ethical standards.

Catherine “Lily” Bastug Vincenti
Santa Barbara

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Something strange is going on in Santa Barbara County. Unlike federal, state or local candidates for office who ride the horses of partisanship and special interests, there is one candidate for elective office who has accumulated endorsements across the board — Democrats, independents, Republicans, mayors, supervisors, other office holders and, you’ll enjoy this, even the ex-mayor of Los Angeles.

I guess you’re curious who these folks are and why they are endorsing this candidate. Here’s a partial list:

Former Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider; Lompoc Mayor Bob Lingl; Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino; Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson; former Carpinteria Mayor Mike Ledbetter; Santa Barbara County Supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino; Brooks Firestone, former assemblyman and county supervisor; and former Superior Court Commissioner Craig Smith.

And then there are three generations of county treasurers: Gary Feramisco, Bernice James and Harry Hagen.

There are many more in this eclectic and impressive group. They know how the system works and know the great need for a focused, experienced, assertive and honest Auditor-Controller.

Now, to limit the suspense, the candidate is Jennifer Christensen and the office is Auditor-Controller. This office is presently presiding over embezzlement, huge deficits, pension spiking fraud and, in general, a big fat economic mess for Santa Barbara County, and it needs a strong hand at the wheel — immediately.

Christensen is now the county’s chief investment officer, managing a $1.6 billion portfolio for the county, public schools and special districts. She develops and executes financial risk management strategies. She knows something about auditing and controlling.

Christensen has a law degree and a Master of Business Administration from USC, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA. That’s a lot of brain power.

There is not a single aspect of governance she has not touched in more than 16 years with the county. Experience like this is essential to lead the county out of the $1 billion deep hole it has dug for itself.

By way of example, Christensen served as an elected member and fiduciary of the Board of Santa Barbara County Employee’s Retirement System. She provided legal support to the Board of Supervisors as well as most county departments, including Public Works, Sheriff and Clerk-Recorder-Assessor.

Let’s remember, the Auditor-Controller is an elected, nonpartisan professional position. It is independent of the political machinery of the county. It can be a sort of a sixth supervisor — independent, elected countywide and focused on the finances of the county.

So, how does the Auditor-Controller’s decisions and actions affect you? It’s your money. After property taxes, “who’s in your wallet?”

Vote wisely on June 5.

Lee Rosenberg

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Lightning does strike twice. Yes, it does at the Lompoc Unified School District, whose Board of Education has placed on the June 5 ballot a requirement for a new school bond for the second time in two years.

This bond — designated Q2018 — is for $79 million to be spent over a period of 34 years to 2054 to pay for the schools’ maintenance requirements of about $7 million per year beginning in 2020.

The tax rate will be $60 per $100,000 of assessed property values. At payout in 2054, this bond will have cost local property taxpayers in the LUSD some $179 million with interest. A 55 percent majority of votes is all that is necessary to approve this bond because it is for “general use,” when needed. No employee salaries or benefits are permitted.Just why should taxpayers vote for this gigantic tax for a poorly defined slush fund to be used for leaky roof and cleaning pipes and toilets? They should not! Shouldn’t that work be done on the present yearly school budget for maintenance?

In 2016, the LUSD promoted Measure L2016, for $65 million, which the voters rejected.

In 2002, voters passed Measure N2002 for the LUSD to improve dilapidated bathrooms and to put in wiring for computer labs and fire alarms. This was a bond of $38 million on which property taxpayers will be paying until maturity in 2032. The writer was a member of the Citizens Oversight Committee for 2½ years and witnessed the work being done and the funds being expended.

In addition to Measure N, voters in 2002 also passed a hospital bond (Measure E), an Allan Hancock College school bond (Measure I), a Lompoc pool bond and a flood zone assessment. So Lompoc property taxpayers are paying on five bonds.

The proposed Measure Q2018 will add to this cost for bonds that the citizens in the LUSD are presently paying. If you are paying $220 per year for the present Measure N school bond, you will have added to your yearly bill $179 more for Measure Q until the present Measure N bond matures in 2032. This cost will be different for taxpayers with different property assessments, but is used here as an illustration.

In other words, it will be “more” not just an “add on” as the school district is telling voters in its expensive taxpayer-funded fliers used to sell this new tax.

In addition, the rate of tax set at $60 per $100,000 of property assessment is the highest for all of the present bonds on the ballot in the 2018 election, by double. The LUSD trustees are really hitting the Lompoc taxpayers harder than any other board in Santa Barbara County.

This new bond proposal is clearly a way around Proposition 13, which California voters passed in 1978 to limit radical increases in property taxes — like Q2018. The yearly increase in our taxes will be way more than the 2 percent limited by Prop. 13 if Q2018 is passed.

This LUSD Q2018 bond is opposed by retired school teachers and past school board members in the district for good reasons, as you will see when you read the Santa Barbara County Sample Ballot & Voter Information Guide for the upcoming election. We Lompoc voters and property taxpayers must also reject Q2018 with our NO vote on June 5.

Perhaps a less expensive better defined program would be more acceptable to the taxpayers than Q2018 appears to be.

Justin Ruhge

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