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Kristen Miller: No Election Needed for Goleta City Council, But There Are Other Races to Watch

This year, the Goleta election story is unique. Three seats on the City Council were up for election (there are five seats total) and Roger Aceves, Michael T. Bennett and Paula Perotte filed papers to run for re-election. No challengers opted to run, so the election is canceled and the three incumbents will retain their seats.

So what does this mean? From the perspective of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce this is good news. We have been satisfied with the council’s direction for the past several years, noting that the council has a balance of individuals with a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints and, in general, their decisions have been logical.

Gone are the days of cliques and voting blocs. We have enjoyed a council that is open to discussion, proactive, thorough and conscientious. It also means that our community avoids a possibly contentious election and the resulting hyperbole and divisiveness.

But does it mean that nobody cares? I don’t think so. Goletans tend to be very engaged and passionate about local government. Seven candidates applied for the open seat that was appointed recently. And last year’s poll, conducted by the City of Goleta to learn about constituents’ views on the revenue-neutrality agreement with Santa Barbara County also asked questions about right-track/wrong track and general approval rating. In that survey, the city’s performance scored very well.

Interestingly, the Goleta Union School District has the same situation with its Board of Trustees. Three seats were up for election on a five-member board. Rich Mayer and Luz Reyes-Martin indicated their desire to continue to serve. Valerie Kushnerov decided not to run again and Carin Ezal filed, so all three candidates will be appointed in lieu of election. Similarly, they had six community members apply for an open seat that was filled by appointment in March.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District has a similar story with no challengers, as does our local Goleta West Sanitary District.

The Goleta Water District has a different story, as not surprisingly water issues are top of mind for everyone right now. The district has two incumbents and two challengers running for two seats. The incumbents are Bert Bertrando and Jack Cunningham and the challengers are Meg West (currently on the Goleta Planning Commission) and Charles McClure. In the fall, the Goleta Valley chamber will hold a forum to hear directly from these candidates about their priorities and plans for serving during a vitally important time for water service in Goleta.

And the Goleta Sanitary District has a race — incumbents Jerry Smith and Steven Majoewsky are being challenged by two names familiar to chamber members — Ed Easton, our former mayor and city councilman who recently resigned because he moved to a new home outside the city limits, and Phebe Mansur, an Old Town business owner who has volunteered on several community committees. Beverly Herbert is also running, which makes five candidates competing for two seats.

There are surely many factors in the equation that resulted in no election for some of these agencies, including the City of Goleta. Analysis from the Goleta Valley chamber’s perspective is that this is a positive endorsement of the city’s direction, and we agree with the assessment.

— Kristen Miller is president and CEO of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are her own.

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