Steve Bennett calls for fiscal responsibility
Editor’s note: The News-Press is publishing a series about local candidates. The series will continue with reports on the Goleta mayoral race on Monday, a congressional race on Tuesday and a state Senate race on Wednesday.
Steve Bennett has been a supervisor for Ventura County for more than 20 years, and now he wants to bring the same ethos of fiscal responsibility he dedicated to the county to the state level by running for assemblyman of California’s 37th District.
Mr. Bennett is running against Republican Charles Cole.
Comparing when he first became a supervisor in the year 2000 to now, Mr. Bennett highlighted a stark change he’s brought about during his five terms.
Looking back to his first year, the Democratic candidate said Ventura County had no money in reserves and had five bond rating downgrades. Now the county has 15% of its budget in reserves and has the highest possible bond rating.
“Whatever level of government you serve, you have to start with fiscal responsibility. ‘No money, no mission,’ is what we say down here,” he told the News-Press.
Should he win in November, Mr. Bennett intends on combining his fiscal pragmatism with environmentalism.
He remarked that climate change is an issue he particularly hopes to tackle since the window of time in which to prevent its permanent impacts is narrowing. He wants to convince not only the state of California to join the global effort to combat climate change, but the federal government as well.
Also on his list of priorities is providing affordable housing to Californians, which he described as “an entirely broken effort.”
The practice of having market rate developers build a certain number of affordable units sprinkled throughout a complex full of market rate housing, only to have the “affordable” designation disappear after a predetermined amount of time is something Mr. Bennett wants to change.
“When we do make affordable housing, we say it has to be affordable for 20 years and then it can become market rate,” he said.
He added, “When you do build it, you build it for locals, and you build it in cooperation with local government.”
Formerly an economics teacher and administrator at Nordhoff High School in Ojai, Mr. Bennett had plenty to say on the subject of education.
Whereas the U.S. is a world leader in higher education, Mr. Bennett said American education needs to change at the K-12 level by following how other countries provide schools with national-level resources.
The purpose of education is every child developing productive skills that can make them productive citizens, so he believes that there must be a “different things for different people” approach to schooling.
This approach recognizes that certain individuals have skills that need cultivating through classes that aren’t widely taught in schools these days. Hands-on career education is one example.
Mr. Bennett grew up in Indianapolis and graduated with honors from Brown University. His wife is originally from California, and she ultimately brought him here, but he had a fair amount of familiarity with Santa Barbara because he often visited Hope Ranch, where his mother’s sister lived.
He has been involved in environmental efforts since before he started serving on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.
In 1998, he co-authored the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources initiatives, which prevented Los Angeles-style urban sprawl from approaching Ventura County. Though the SOAR initiative was originally scheduled to expire this year, it was placed back on the ballot in 2016 for renewal, passed, and will now expire in 2050.
Outside of politics, Mr. Bennett enjoys the outdoors and likes to go cross-country skiing, swimming in the ocean and kayaking.