Thursday, March 22 , 2018, 8:40 pm | Light Rain Fog/Mist 57º


Hib Halverson

Hib Halverson: ‘Leadership’ or Leadership, That Is the Question

I often get gas at the 76 out on Winchester Canyon Road in western Goleta; it’s one of a growing number of stations that have video screens on its pumps.

The advertising business thinks it’s struck gold by giving bored motorists something to watch when they fill up, other than increasing dollar and gallons numbers.

Personally, I’ve found it to be just more intrusive marketing. Junk mail, robo calls, gas station TV — most of the time, it’s mostly useless content.

Staring blankly at the traffic on nearby Highway 101, I held the nozzle lever wide open. Over the highway’s drone I could faintly hear a gas station TV ad “Blah, blah, blah, and I approve this message.”

Wait. What?! Political ads these things?!

Ok. The novelty had me watching.

Next up: Salud Carbajal, a Santa Barbara County supervisor running for the Democratic Party nomination for the 24th Congressional District seat held by retiring Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

Carbajal’s ad says he took a voluntary pay cut to “stand with” county employees who got 64 hours off when the Board of Supervisors ordered furloughs during the Great Recession of 2008. According to Carbajal, returning part of his salary demonstrated “leadership.”

As I twisted my gas cap back on, I wondered: How much does “standing with” county workers to demonstrate “leadership” cost a supervisor? When I got back to the office, I emailed Carbajal and asked.

“I gave up the same proportional amount of my salary that every furloughed employee was asked to give up,” he emailed back.

I sent him a follow-up asking for some numbers. He did not respond, so I did a little research.

In a 2015 story about a Board of Supervisors meeting, a local newspaper stated that Carbajal made “... a decision he ‘didn’t brag about’ to impose a furlough on himself in 2008 after the board levied furloughs on county workers. During that period, Carbajal had a cumulative, $2,600 taken out of his paycheck.”

Back then, a supervisor’s salary was $84,200, so it was 3 percent — pretty cheap “standing with,” if you ask me. In fact, it strikes me more as political optics rather than real sacrifice — especially considering Carbajal got that back and more when the supervisors voted themselves a salary bump of nearly nearly $10,000, a car allowance just short of $6,000 and — wait, there’s more — 3 percent annual cost-of-living raises in future years.

How does returning 3 percent of an annual salary demonstrate “leadership”?

I don’t think it does at all.

Real leadership would have been Carbajal and his like-minded colleagues, Supervisors Janet Wolf and Doreen Farr, voting to conduct county fiscal policy before the Great Recession in a manner that would have planned for inevitable economic downturns rather than voting massive salary and benefit increases in the period before the real estate market cratered.

Even if he had no clue about real leadership back in 2008, why didn’t his continued service on the board teach him something of the subject? Had he been a real leader, Santa Barbara County would not have built up more than $1 billion — that’s a freakin’ billion with a “B” — worth of pension debt and deferred infrastructure maintenance.

In fact, Carbajal could have shown leadership of historic proportions had he spearheaded an effort to bring some financial discipline to the county’s pension system and — perish the thought — fix some of the county’s roads.

Salud Carbajal decided not to run for re-election to the Board of Supervisors, instead wanting to try his “leadership” style on a nationwide scale. Now, he’s running for the House of Representatives.

Oh, please — spare me.

The last thing we need in Congress is more faux leadership. Clearly, we already have plenty. I wish Mrs. Capps the best in her golden years. The sooner she begins that stage of her life, the better.

What I’d like in the 24th District is real leadership. For example, how about an experienced legislator who understands how to work with either side of the aisle, has actual knowledge of finances, and who is going to tackle the biggest domestic problem facing our country: a $19,269,000,000,000 national debt ( as of 8:52 p.m. May 25, 2016) that is growing every day because the Washington political class is unwilling to balance its budget.

Congressional candidate Carbajal says he wants to beat on big oil, wallop Wall Street, combat global warming and give away college education for free. News flash, Mr. Carbajal: If the federal government doesn’t deal with its spending habits, as the debt and its interest increasingly constrains growth, stagnates the GDP and forces cuts in key services, we’re not going to need to worry about much of that dreamy progressive stuff close to your heart.

About a week later, I was back at the 76 getting gas. This time it was for my old, four-wheel-drive Blazer and, on the pump’s TV, I got to watch Assemblyman Das Williams’ ad. Now, here’s a guy with his own brand of “leadership,” but he just can’t decide where to demonstrate it.

First, he was a Santa Barbara city councilman, now a member of the Assembly. Next, he wants Supervisor Carbajal’s seat and, in four years, he’s going to run for the state Senate.

Williams is incapable of even Carbajal-style “leadership.” When he was on the City Council and city workers got furloughs during fiscal-year 2009-2010, he didn’t volunteer to return an equivalent amount of his salary.

Good grief! We need real leadership and competent money management in Santa Barbara County’​s First Supervisorial District, too, not more fiscal ignorance, lack of infrastructure maintenance and the “leadership” in political optics we’ve been getting.

I finished getting gas then looked at my old 1999 Blazer and wondered: Will our transportation infrastructure revert to dirt or gravel roads with giant potholes?

Perhaps I should take better care of this old truck because maybe I’ll need four-wheel-drive to just to get to over to Albertsons on the other side of 101.

— Hib Halverson has lived in Goleta since 2001, and has been an El Encanto Heights resident since 2010. He is a former newspaper photographer and currently works as a technical writer. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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