On Tuesday of this week, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors went through their annual pomp and circumstance of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I don’t mean this as any disrespect to Supervisor Gregg Hart’s elevation to the position of chair of the board. I am a fan of Gregg Hart. I’ve known him for many years. Indeed, one of the most insightful things I’ve ever heard Gregg say is when he and I were driving up to an SBCAG meeting several years ago, he said I missed my calling, and that I should be a commentator on Fox News. Gregg, I agree. I’ve been waiting for their call.
What I mean by rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, is to the extent that irrespective of who runs the meetings, or whose name is on the door of the office of the director of whatever county department, one thing remains the same. The Board of Supervisors, with the capable support of talented staff from the county CEO to the office of County Counsel, seems to only manage the economic decline plaguing Santa Barbara County. And in case you question the premise of this statement, I would remind you that Santa Barbara County has the third-highest poverty rate in California. And this is unacceptable.
From the lack of affordable housing in the South County, to the absence of high-paying jobs in the North County, to the utter unpreparedness for the next extreme weather event, due to a lack of financial resources to do responsible planning, I would submit, not with glee but with a heavy heart, Santa Barbara County is not living up to its economic potential. In fact, we have a “performance deficit” as far as the eye can see. And it doesn’t have to be this way. Santa Barbara County has enough human talent and natural resources to generate a level of prosperity from Carpinteria to Guadalupe that would make the other 57 counties in California envious. Instead, we have an economic imbalance concerning some of the most critical metrics that impact local working families. And the truth is, at its very core, it is a political problem.
Every new year brings opportunity, and 2020 is no different. Our future looks bright. And as I’ve said many times, there’s never been a better time to be alive in the United States of America, or the world. The rate of change made possible by human ingenuity, innovation and technology, combined with our liberal economic system of free enterprise that is at its foundation an incentive-based social construct, we can overcome and surmount any problem we face. And it doesn’t require a bigger government, or higher taxes, or duplicative or redundant regulation; it merely requires the freeing of human initiative and the opportunity for every man, woman and child to be that which God created them to be rather than what government allows them to be.
For too long, Santa Barbara County has been governed by district supervisors who seemed to misunderstand their purpose. Rather than get elected to empower the economically challenged through more opportunities, all too often the bias is toward preserving the economic status quo. And when we maintain the economic status quo, the people who benefit the most are the people who don’t need the help in the first place. This was true of former supervisor turned hyper-partisan congressman, Salud Carbajal, whose constituency and donor base was primarily the super-rich in Montecito. It was also true of Supervisor Janet Wolf, whose primary constituency were the super-rich in Hope Ranch. And it continues to be true today with Supervisor Joan Hartmann, whose primary constituency is the super-wealthy in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Santa Barbara County needs a paradigm shift. A shift away from one that preserves the status quo, which benefits the “haves” predominantly, and focuses like a laser beam on empowering the “have nots.” And that means allowing the North County supervisors to represent their constituents, without interference from the South County donor class, in such a way that assures economic opportunities and the morality of prosperity to spread from Lompoc to Santa Maria to Guadalupe. I call on our South County supervisors and their donors, all or most of whom identify as “progressives,” to stand down so that the working families in North County can start to enjoy the economic progress they all take for granted.