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Goleta Mayor, New Councilmen Talk Policy at Chamber of Commerce Roundtable Event

Water, government transparency and protecting community character are a few of the priorities listed by Paula Perotte, Stuart Kasdin and Kyle Richards

Recently elected councilman Kyle Richards, right, discusses the values he learned from his father that he plans to utilize in his office. Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte, left and Councilman Stuart Kasdin also attended a Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce event Wednesday. Click to view larger
Recently elected councilman Kyle Richards, right, discusses the values he learned from his father that he plans to utilize in his office. Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte, left and Councilman Stuart Kasdin also attended a Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce event Wednesday.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

Overlooking the greens and fairways of Glen Annie Golf Club, Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte and recently elected city councilmen Stuart Kasdin and Kyle Richards introduced themselves to the city in a policy roundtable luncheon put on Wednesday by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The officials said that among their 2017 priorities are securing sufficient water for the city, promoting government transparency, protecting Goleta’s natural resources and character, and spurring public engagement.

“In my six years on the Goleta City Council, one of our biggest regrets is sitting at council meetings where we’re having important discussions and looking out to a very sparse audience,” said Perotte, who was elected in 2010 and served as mayor in 2014 before being chosen by the council again for the post.

Kasdin, the new mayor pro tempore, and Richards went one-two in November’s five-candidate election, taking over from retiring Mayor Jim Farr and Councilman Tony Vallejo, who finished third in his re-election bid.

Perotte listed off a slew of technological and social breakthroughs made possible by 20th century American leaders in the face of various political and social strife, arguing that local leaders have much to emulate.

“Now as we gather here together, still at just the dawn of the 21st century, we should draw our inspiration and accomplishments from those who came before us,” she told the room of business and nonprofit leaders and local officials.

Support for businesses is key to maintaining the city’s economic development, Perotte said, as is support for agriculture, education, the high-tech industry and other sectors that promote economic vitality and provide a greater tax base for city services. 

On the mayor’s to-do list are managing parking and traffic in order to attract more shoppers, promoting public and active transportation, ensuring sufficient police and fire services, working collaboratively with other agencies to secure new water, and developing solutions to the city’s affordable housing crunch.

Echoed by her fellow council members, Perotte stressed the need to preserve the environment and natural resources, including air and water.

Kasdin, a former professor who worked for 11 years in the White House Office of Management and Budget, used his speech to emphasize the importance of government transparency.

California’s Brown Act, which regulates and requires open government meetings and their notification, prevents a quorum of council members from working out policies outside a public meeting, but is more silent on council members’ freedom to meet with outside individuals and groups, he said.

That can make hammering out policy solutions harder, he and Perotte agreed.

Undocumented access to special interests combined with low council member pay — around $6,000 a year — can open up opportunities for corruption, Kasdin added.

“If you put someone in a position of authority and then say we’re not going to pay you, it strikes me as not good government.”

Developing metrics for how and when the city notifies residents and businesses about new regulations would also facilitate local transparency, he added.

The complexity of Goleta’s zoning regulations, he said, causes confusion and apprehension for the public and businesses.

Goleta is currently developing a new zoning code. Its present zoning regulations were taken from the county’s original regulations for the area, and modified over time.

Richards, a policy analyst at UC Santa Barbara and a former Parks and Recreation commissioner, used his speech to present his background and the lessons he said he learned from his late father.

Growing up working in his family cemetery business and on their “farm-ette,” the eighth-generation Pennsylvanian said he would exercise on the dais his lessons about hard work and taking care of others and the land.

A centerpiece of Richards’ campaign was carefully managing urban growth and its impacts, and he revived that when describing a recent trip back to his home state.

“Many of the pastures that I remember from childhood are gone,” he said. “And in their place are housing developments and shopping plazas. … To some, it might seem like progress, but to me, there’s a sense of loss.”

He named other priorities as working collaboratively with local agencies on water security, improvements to Old Town, the preservation of natural resources, and city efficiency and transparency.

In February, the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce will hold its next issue and policy roundtable, to focus on the city’s library.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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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