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Trent Benedetti: Santa Barbara County’s North and South — Can We All Get Along?

The horrible image of a man on the ground being beaten with nightsticks is seared in our collective memory. We live in a world changed as a result of what happened to Rodney King and the events that followed. In the midst of those events, Mr. King famously asked, “Can we all get along?”

That is a question fairly posed to the two halves of Santa Barbara County, North and South. We do not always share our geography gracefully. A split has been considered several times and voted upon as recently as 2006. But we are still together. And we still have disagreements. So what does that mean?

Agreeing is not necessary for getting along. However, mutual respect is. Hold that thought. We will come back to it.

First, Committee INC (the Committee to Improve North County) must congratulate Janene Scully, a longtime professional journalist familiar with our area, upon her selection as Noozhawk’s North County editor. By naming a North County editor, Noozhawk has clearly signaled its intent to expand coverage of North County affairs.

Perhaps comprehensive countywide reporting will somehow help both North and South answer yes to Mr. King’s question? Committee INC is hopeful.

Lest you wonder, Committee INC is comprised of citizens who want the North County to be always changing and becoming a better place to live, work and raise a family. We want safer neighborhoods, cleaner parks and better schools. We want houses priced within reach of everyone who dreams of home ownership. We want jobs for everyone, including our children and our grandchildren. And we want those jobs to pay well enough to provide economic security and upward mobility for all.

Perhaps the things we want for North County are not the same things the South County wants? That does not make either of us wrong. It makes us different. That brings us back to mutual respect; we must respect our differences.

You may prefer community gardens and gentlemen farmers. We don’t, although we have nothing against them. Our agricultural activities are conducted on a much larger scale. Each time we eat broccoli, lettuce, strawberries or the plethora of other fruits and vegetables grown in North County, we say thanks for our commercial farmers. Our farmers are like mom and apple pie — quintessential American.

You may prefer software design companies to industrial manufacturing. We don’t, although software design companies are most welcome in the North County. We value both brains and brawn. Both are essential to the manufacturing that goes on in our area. We are grateful for the manufacturers operating in the North County. American manufacturing has long been a source of jobs for the American middle class, and a strong middle class has long been vital for a strong America.

You may prefer to buy oil overseas and transport it to our ports over thousands of miles in foreign-flagged vessels. We don’t. Instead, we prefer to produce here as much of the oil we use as possible. We are fortunate to have abundant oil resources in the North County. We want to continue producing the resources already developed and continue developing the resources that are not. Oil is essential to our economy and energy independence is essential to America’s security. We think we should produce more oil here and send fewer soldiers to protect oil while it’s produced elsewhere.

We may not always agree with the South County but we respect the fact you are entitled to your preferences, just as we are entitled to ours. We hope you will respect our preferences, just as we respect yours. If we have mutual respect, we’ll get along just fine.

— 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 more columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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