First time incumbent Joan Hartmann is battling return candidates Karen Jones and Bruce Porter as they challenge her seat as Supervisor for Isla Vista, Goleta, Buellton, and much of the Santa Ynez Valley — here are five key questions that the News-Press offered each candidate:
What will you accomplish in your first 100 days in office?
Hartmann: By March 2021, several initiatives that I’ve led will have come to fruition.
Economic Vitality: We’ll be moving forward on several initiatives, an innovation and entrepreneurship partnership between the County and UCSB to retain more start-up companies and build workforce housing, and another partnership with Vandenberg Air Force Base to create new private-sector aerospace jobs. We’re bringing broadband internet to, and adding new educational degree opportunities in North County. All our electricity will be fossil free, a major factor in attracting new businesses and talent.
Public Safety: Borderless dispatch will assure that the closest resources respond to emergency calls. A new Black Hawk helicopter will fight fires; we will have initiated a $4,300,000 project to reduce fire risk in the Lompoc Valley, and new Community Wildfire Protection Plans and neighborhood preparedness programs are underway.
Health and well-being: The County will have new trails at Baron Ranch and Jalama Beach, and a Comprehensive Parks Master Plan. We’ll have significantly reduced our homeless population of veterans, youth, and families, and reduced the number of mentally ill in jail due to an additional annual $3,000,000 in grants the County has secured under my leadership.
And that’s just the beginning.
Jones: My first 60 days will be focused on the core functions of County government, which is to prioritize Public Safety and routine maintenance, which has frequently been deferred in order to fund the agenda items that result in the ever valued revenue, both in terms of increased taxes and campaign contributions. I will work closely with the Board Chair 4th District Supervisor Nelson in 2021 to make sure the board prioritizes placing items on the agenda that will deliver services and programs that assist all the residents of Santa Barbara County. I will instruct staff to find any spending that does not produce tangible benefits to those who live and work in Santa Barbara County and recommend suspending spending on those projects until all of the County’s deferred maintenance has been completed and Public Safety staff and programs are fully funded.As your Supervisor, I will hit the ground running with the goal to make sure your representation is honest, transparent and constituent centric. As the only candidate who is not bought and paid for by special interests, I can promise that I will not be distracted or influenced by campaign donors but rather I will be accountable to the people who put me in office; the individuals who make up Santa Barbara County.
Porter: My priority is ensuring that government representatives are accessible and available to residents of every community. In talking to folks on the campaign trail, I have come to learn that a lot of them are uncertain of how the county government has a bearing on their life and community. As Supervisor, I will find a way to increase the visibility and responsiveness our district offices and representatives have in their respective communities. In the case of Goleta and Isla Vista, which do not have a County government office, I will extend our reach and constituent services into those communities. Countywide, I will take immediate action to streamline the county planning and development department. I have heard from one county family wanting to expand their garage that the process has eaten up more than six months of their time and $20,000. This, I understand, is not an uncommon complaint. Fees can be crippling for some homeowners, and I want to find a way to lower those while speeding up the overall process.
As the county continues to develop and implement Cannabis policy and the industry grows, how will you ensure transparency in regulations and enforcement?
Jones: The first step in ensuring transparency in regulations and enforcement will be to figure out where we currently are and how we got here. In the County’s rush to turn cannabis into a revenue stream, many mistakes were made that resulted in damage to individuals, family farms and neighborhoods, not to mention public trust. There is at least an appearance of unfairness in the current approach and an apparent disregard for consequences resulting from hasty and shoddily crafted policy. It may be time for an investigation by the Civil Grand Jury to identify if any conflict of interest, unfairness or impropriety by anyone involved in devising cannabis policies exists. There is not a clear understanding by applicants for permits and the public at large in how much revenue is actually generated by this large cash crop and how much, if any, of that cash winds up in the hands of those tasked with writing and enforcing the ordinances.The County of Santa Barbara needs to develop a more detailed process to alleviate the increasing division between growers, neighboring farms and homes and to ensure that law enforcement is fully staffed to carry out enforcement on illegal growers and mitigate any public health problems associated with the increased availability and strength of marijuana products.
Porter: County Supervisors have botched Santa Barbara’s cannabis permitting process for growers and neighbors alike. In a region known for heavy handed government, Supervisors have created confusion for prospective applicants while failing to consult residents concerned about the character of their communities. Their policies left neighbors and credible cannabis growers in the dark. Because of that, we need to fundamentally re-examine our existing permitting regulations. Neighbors, vintners and traditional growers have expressed concern over odor, crop compatibility and neighborhood impact during community meetings, to their respective city councils and our County Planning Commission. I want to look at re-opening the public process to craft a new set of cannabis regulations that will protect communities and provide credible applicants with a reasonable framework to operate under. I am in no means a prohibitionist, but the County needs to explore the prospect of freezing all pending permit applications (existing permit holders will not be affected) while we find a solution to these issues.
Hartmann: Transparency and inclusion are essential for government and I have long worked to ensure that these principles guide the County. In the development of this ordinance, the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors hosted 17 public meetings. I reached out to interested stakeholders and encouraged them to participate, including: wine growers, ag, tourism sectors and impacted neighborhoods. I hosted and will continue to host special community meetings to discuss the current state of the cannabis industry and proposed changes. And I led the charge for the Board to adopt a cap on acreage. A number of people have approached me to increase opportunities for participation, as such, I requested that residents be able to easily sign up for emails about any new cannabis decisions or permits and they can do so here http://cannabis.countyofsb.org/. In the coming months I am bringing County government to the people. County staff will host community meetings to help develop the regulations around cannabis retail. Each community will have the opportunity to express what they want to see in terms of community benefit for dispensaries.
What will you do to ensure fair elections in the County, and to maintain the ethical integrity of the Board of Supervisors?
Porter: When it comes down to it, these races are more expensive than they should ever be. I know Laura Capps, who is challenging Das Williams for the first district seat, has proposed a five-point campaign finance reform that includes campaign contribution caps and candidate spending limits. Unlike other counties and state assembly races, right now, we have no cap on campaign contributions in Santa Barbara County. I think Ms Capps’ desire to improve our County’s system is a proposal worth exploring to ensure politics do not spin out of control. We should also work with our County Elections officials to ensure election integrity, a hallmark of a working democracy.
Hartmann: Transparency and ensuring full disclosure of contributions is key to ensuring fair elections and ethical integrity. Even before my election, I have been encouraging County Clerk-Recorder Registrar of Voters Joe Holland (an independently elected County official) to update how his office handles election filings. Most counties in the state now use on-line systems with searchable databases; we still use paper copies that are scanned and posted. I continue to urge his office to make these changes. We need greater transparency in contributions, and I will work with legislators to enact real reform. Two examples: Jim Buell, a resident of Nevada with vast land holdings in Santa Barbara County, has been the sole funder of a group called “Buellton First” which has donated over $65,000 to my opponent. This scheme is designed to hide the real source of the funds. Why? Next, the Republican Central Committee recently raised $100,000 from eight oil companies eager to do business in our County. They have spent $42,125.31 to support my opponent Bruce Porter, who claims to have no party affiliation and no local filing is required of these funds. The public deserves to know the sources of all campaign funds.
Jones: Offering voters an opportunity to vote for a self funded candidate with a voluntary spending limit of $2,000, I have taken the most important step to return ethical integrity to the Board of Supervisors. Currently there is a funding battle between North and South County , with ranches and oil companies being the source of most campaign contributions to the North County and Public Employee Unions and anti-oil production PACs responsible for most of the campaign contributions to South Coast candidates. The incumbent has a built-in advantage as many of those who contribute to campaigns for Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor do, so expecting the incumbent will win and treat those who donate favorably with access. The other challengers have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through PACs and although he denies any political party affiliation, has benefitted from daily political advertisement sent to Third District voters extolling his virtues and criticizing the incumbent. I am the only candidate not beholden to any financial interests. I am also the only native Californian in the race for 3rd District Supervisor. Both of my opponents moved here from out of state and claim to have a better understanding than me of how to address the needs of the people who live in Santa Barbara County. I am the only candidate with 6 grandchildren living in Santa Barbara County . My vested interest is not financial; it is personal. I love my life, my home and my family and neighbors. I understand the District, and I understand the State. I can be trusted to vote according to reason, not because of any agenda. I am independent by any measure.
What can the County and its residents do to increase emergency preparedness, protect the local environment, and practice a responsible lifestyle?
Hartmann: Emergency preparedness: I continue to work to ensure that our Fire, EMS and Sheriff have the resources they need to provide for your safety. Together, we’ve improved disaster preparedness, are instituting borderless dispatch, and have held utility providers accountable for recent disasters and power shutoffs. I championed a Traffic Safety Study of Highways 154, 246 and 101 to identify and fund upgrades. I chair the Highway 154 Safety Taskforce committed to bring improvements along this highway. I am honored to be endorsed in my re-election by both the Santa Barbara County Firefighters and Deputy Sheriffs Associations.
Environment and Lifestyle: I have championed clean energy and water wise projects along with expanded parks and trails for public health and community well-being. I spearhead the project approval for wind power energy to help lead us to fossil free energy by the end of 2021. My commitment and actions to protect our environment have earned the trust and endorsement of leading environmental organizations and leaders, including the Sierra Club. I am leading the countywide effort for a Recreation Master Plan to guide park and trail improvements. I initiated a major contribution from the County to the Santa Ynez Valley Aquatics Complex.
Jones: I was disappointed by the recent decision to not use the county owned Santa Ynez Airport as an Emergency Dispatch Center . Since being elected to serve as a Director on the Santa Ynez Valley Airport Authority I realize the advantages of having a centrally located Emergency Dispatch Center that is accessible by plane, helicopter and conventional vehicles. Our proximity to Lake Cachuma makes us a natural base when fighting fires aerially. We already have a public safety presence at the airport and room to expand. I have spent lifetime modeling a sustainable lifestyle. I am the most ecologically responsible candidate running for Third District Supervisor. As the only native Californian in the race, I have a life long knowledge of drought cycles in our state and have practiced water conservation as a way of life. I live in a 900 sq ft home built out of used redwood, recycled from the original College School . I have never owned air-conditioning and prefer ambient heating and cooling. I drive my 2015 diesel vehicle under 7000 miles per year and only fly when it is required for my work. I use locally sourced campaign materials that I created myself. I order my signs upon request and print my handbills in small batches so not to waste. I prefer to lead by example in my low carbon lifestyle and I am amused by the hypocrisy of the other candidates preaching green energy use while living large by every measure in their own lives.
Porter: With the large-scale disasters that affected our County the past few years, County leaders need to move beyond CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) programs and take a proactive role in improving community resilience. County agencies should explore partnering with groups who are experts on emergency preparedness — like the American Red Cross and Direct Relief — and respective City Governments to improve community consciousness surrounding disaster planning. The County also plays a key role in promoting ethical environmental stewardship and protecting our public lands. Thousands of large cargo ships and oil supertankers trudge through the Santa Barbara Channel each year, bound for the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Hueneme. Those ships are the largest polluters of smog-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) in Santa Barbara County and pose a threat to endangered whale species that frequent the coastal waters. The current program of voluntarily using shipping lanes outside the channel is not enough. I want to pursue a ban on commercial shipping through the Santa Barbara Channel. I also want to take an active role in eliminating food deserts in rural and low-income communities and expanding youth programming after school and during the summer months.
What will you do to reduce the rate of homelessness in the county and increase the affordability of housing?
Jones: Homelessness and affordable housing are two separate issues. The lack of affordable housing is primarily due to government intervention in the housing market. California is arguably the most regulated state and that is reflected in the housing sector. Recent affordability “fixes” from Sacramento have actually created an environment that discourages buying investment property. College loan programs have created debt among those who have historically been candidates for entry level home purchases but are now unable to qualify for a home mortgage because of their student debt. Housing is no different than any other commodity; prices are dictated by supply and demand. To solve homelessness, we must triage those living on the street to determine who needs treatment for mental illness, substance abuse or both. We need to prioritize treatment for local families. Reunification should be the most desirable outcome when dealing with those from other areas. We need additional treatment beds and one solution is renting or building those beds in the Central Valley where costs are much lower. Finally, while we devise treatment and placement plans for the homeless in Santa Barbara County, as your Supervisor I will equally respect the rights of the property owner who should not be held responsible for the problems created by the homeless industry. Individuals, families and business owners need to be protected from crimes against their property, including trespassing, aggressive panhandling and all the public health and safety issues that often accompany homeless populations.
Porter: Homelessness, housing access and affordability are an interconnected set of issues that County leaders need to take the lead in addressing. While we work toward making reasonable housing a reality for the more than 1,800 individuals experiencing homelessness, I want to expand our County’s capacity to address related issues like substance abuse, psychiatric illness and other disabilities. In 2017, the County Public Health Department proposed using community health workers to connect residents with behavioral health and other care services. I think we can apply that idea and use it to guide our efforts to better serve individuals experiencing homelessness. For too long we have treated homelessness as an enforcement issue handled by safety officials, rather than the public health issue that it is. At the same time, I do not think there’s a reason why Santa Barbara County can’t lead the state in finding solutions to our housing crisis. Every region in our county is going to have to add new units, and as Supervisor I want to examine whether we can rezone under-developed commercial or industrial areas to allow for housing, or innovative solutions (like granny flats, accessory dwelling units, or second residential units) in historically single-family neighborhoods.
Hartmann: There’s no single, quick fix to homelessness. Its many causes include mental illness, substance abuse, health emergencies, layoffs, expensive housing, and more. The County has developed a Coordinated Entry Database allowing doctors, social workers, and shelters to access the same information about homeless individuals. This makes providing services more effective and efficient. Our County dedicates over $16,000,000 annually to this challenge, including $11,000,000 for shelter, $2,300,000 for supportive services; $2,100,000 for street outreach; and $100,000 for prevention. I serve on the regional Elected Leaders Consortium on Homelessness and we’re expanding programs to reach those with mental illness with more resources and funding. The people and the Governor rank this as top priority. We’ve secured state bond funding for housing. We also provide short-term, emergency funding to help people avoid eviction when emergencies arise. We’ll continue to pursue multiple strategies including: -incentivize more mixed use housing, more use of ADU’s, and more employer efforts to provide housing for employees; – deter converting rental housing to ownership and/or mass evictions of tenants currently in affordable housing; – partner with groups such as People’s Self-Help Housing, and seek more grants to subsidize affordable housing.