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Friday, February 15 , 2019, 10:02 pm | Overcast 49º


Trent Benedetti: Minds Great and Small

In a recent candidate forum featuring the five candidates vying to become Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor, one local news outlets reported the event with the headline, “Candidates take shots at Porter during 3rd District forum.” 

The headline brought to mind a quote from American Adm. Hyman G. Rickover, who once said, “great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”

Applying the admiral’s criteria to what was written about the candidate forum would suggest there are some small minds running to represent the 3rd Supervisorial District.

According to the Santa Maria Times article, “there was a fair amount of back-and-forth, featuring mostly candidate Bruce Porter fending off attacks from the opposition, which included Joan Hartmann, Bob Field and Karen Jones.”

Ah, the politics of personal attacks. Voters in this county deserve better. How sad there is a field of small-minded people trying to tear down a fellow candidate rather than touting their own ideas.

Perhaps because their ideas have already been thoroughly discredited? Or because their ideas come from some memo prepared by a professional party hack containing nothing but shop-worn talking points?

Speaking of shop-worn, what about the role of special interest money in politics? The Service Employees International Union — a special interest if ever one existed — has contributed $25,000 to candidate Hartmann. That is a very large contribution in a Supervisorial race. What would motivate the union to such generosity?

Perhaps it is because SEIU’s very generous past support of 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf has proven to be such a good investment? Supervisor Wolf has been an unyielding supporter of SEIU.

Perhaps SEIU believes Hartmann would be another reliable vote when public employee union contracts come up for renegotiation?

On the subject of contributions, Bob Field is a contributor to Hartmann’s campaign. He made a significant contribution to Hartmann when Hartmann and Porter were the only announced candidates.

Then Jay Freeman entered the race. Many long time observers of local politics thought Freeman’s candidacy likely to reduce support for Hartmann.

After Freeman entered, Field announced his candidacy. Given his early support for Hartmann, it is fair to ask why he entered the campaign. No one thinks he will win.

Are Field and Hartmann colluding in some way in a desperate attempt to prevent Porter from winning outright in June? There is no way to know, but it does seem odd.

Field and Hartmann have similar thoughts on a wide range of issues. During his time in the Santa Ynez Valley, Field is better defined by what he opposes than what he favors — wineries, for example. 

Hartmann has opposed a lot of things that produce jobs, tax revenues and economic vitality.

Hartmann should be asked if she shares Field’s attitude about neighbors. During the forum, Field lamented that complaints about neighbors cannot be lodged with the assurance of complete anonymity.

Complaining about one’s neighbors does not seem a particularly friendly. Doing it anonymously seems almost seedy. Small minded indeed.

During the forum, only one candidate expressed disappointment at the lack of attention given 3rd District issues. If you think about it, an issue and an idea are two sides of the same coin, particularly in the context of a candidate forum.

The candidate wanting to discuss ideas was Bruce Porter, the same person Hartmann, Field and Jones were attacking.

An appropriate paraphrase of Adm. Rickover’s quote might be “great minds discuss issues; small minds attack opposing candidates.”

Will the 3rd District be better represented by a great mind? Or by a small one?

— Trent Benedetti is a member of the board of directors of the Committee to Improve North County and a longtime local business owner. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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