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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 5:04 am | Mostly Cloudy 52º


Public Officials Sound an Optimistic Tone at Carpinteria State of the Community

Chamber of Commerce event was headlined by city’s mayor, county supervisor, and UCSB economics professor

Lt. Michael Perkins of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department was among local officials who spoke Friday at the  Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 State of the Community luncheon.
Lt. Michael Perkins of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department was among local officials who spoke Friday at the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 State of the Community luncheon. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

The city of Carpinteria is looking pretty good these days, according to array of public officials who spoke Friday at the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 State of the Community luncheon.

Held at the Rincon Beach Club, the event hosted some 200 local business leaders and community notables, and featured presentations on the states of the city, the county, the school district, and the fire and sheriff’s departments.

“Carpinteria is valued by residents and visitors as a charming, authentic beach town,” said Mayor Gregg Carty. “No single industry development should detract from that. The standard by which we judge all development should be, ‘Does it make Carpinteria better?’”

Carty reviewed numerous proposed and already-underway infrastructure and development projects in and around the city, and laid out proposals for the city’s future, including more robust climate-change policies and limits on short-term vacation rentals that both allow them as well as mitigate their economic and neighborhood downsides.

The city and its water and sanitary districts, he said, were collaborating on a plan for a recycled-water system, and he urged strong support for a Rincon multiuse path that would provide better access to the coast.

Construction work on Highway 101 is to start this summer, and the project expanding the freeway to three lanes in both directions is to be completed by 2022, he said. Caltrans will be at the May 23 City Council meeting to present its plans.

Salud Carbajal, who represents Carpinteria and the First District on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, covered the county’s fiscal status.

The county, he said, has a budget of almost $1 billion, with almost $300 million socked away in its general fund, and is keeping up with funding necessities like capital improvement projects and retirees’ pensions.

“For the most part, our employees work hard and they have reasonable pensions,” he said.

Though a number of taxes are bringing in less revenue than before, the county is operating at surpluses, he added. The Board of Supervisors allocates nearly $200,000 a year to the city for tourism and business-promotion purposes.

One of the more locally contentious capital projects he and his fellow supervisors are looking to push forward is a single Santa Claus Lane beach-access point.

The plan, which would funnel beach-goers onto the sand through one safety-outfitted railroad crossing, has been criticized by some locals who argue it would make it much harder to access the beach.

Peter Rupert, the chairman of UC Santa Barbara’s Economics Department and executive director of the university’s Economic Forecast Project, gave a crash course on the state of Carpinteria, the county, and the nation’s economic statuses.

“We need to strike a balance between preservation and growth,” he said.

“But in my view, in order to do that, we really need to know what the data really look like. We really need to know what the benefits are and the costs.”

According to Rupert, Carpinteria’s 4.3 percent unemployment is better than that of the county and the state, though its 0.55 percent vacancy rate is roughly half of Santa Barbara’s already tight market.

Last year, only 20 percent of Santa Barbara County could afford the county’s average-price home, he said.

Rupert punctuated his talk by addressing the minimum wage and the state’s newly passed law raising it to $15 an hour by 2022, arguing that it discriminates against low-skilled employees who won’t be hired at wages above the value of their work.

In brief remarks, Lt. Michael Perkins of the county Sheriff’s Department, who commands Carpinteria’s station, spoke highly of the positive policing environment in the city despite what he said was a “doom and gloom” impression the media gave of law enforcement.

“The station I inherited last year is staffed with some of the most progressive, problem-solving deputies we have in our department,” he said.

The Coffee with a Cop program brings law enforcement and the community closer together, he said, adding that he hopes to introduce a Citizen’s Academy like ones in Goleta, Isla Vista, and the North County to the city.

Carpinteria Unified School District Superintendent Micheline Miglis sounded an optimistic tone despite the relatively light funding her schools receive.

Miglis discussed the district’s “Get Focused, Stay Focused” program, in which high-schoolers develop 10-year plans for their futures, and new programs like agriculture science and sports medicine introduced for older students.

Interim Fire Chief Jim Rampton, who arrived only recently at the Carpinteria–Summerland Fire District from Utah, said that his department was conducting a standards-of-cover study where fire risks, call volume, and the optimum locations for fire stations are all analyzed.

The district’s stations, he said, will soon need upgrading.

Of the 2,000 calls the fire district received last year, he said, 70 percent were medical-related, while the rest addressed actual fires.​

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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