The County Split? Absolutely Not
This Tuesday, June 6, voters go to the polls to voice their preferences on a plethora of state- and county-wide races and measures. The Independent does not provide an endorsement on all potential ballot choices in a primary election. What follows are endorsements on what we deem the most critical votes — most importantly the County Split (Measure H) and 2nd District Supervisor. Don’t forget to vote on June 6.
2nd District Supervisor
An opponent once described Janet Wolf as a steel magnolia. It’s a good description. Wolf is a listener, not a shouter, and those who’ve mistaken her quietness for weakness have learned to regret it. Wolf cut her political teeth serving three terms on the Goleta School Board. For those who think school boards have a walk in the park, think again. No constituent is more intensely involved or more easily enraged than a concerned parent. Wolf began her 12-year stint on a board that was facing highly charged issues. As a cost-cutting measure, the district wanted to close two schools. Outraged parents went into overdrive, while school administrators panicked. Wolf kept her now-famous cool, but led the charge to keep both schools open. She saved one of the two schools. Wolf brought environmental reforms into the schools by finding funding for a recycling program and by reducing the use of harmful pesticides. When the Boy Scouts were under national fire for their anti-gay policies, Wolf took the lead, insisting local Boy Scout troops change or stay off campus. Not a popular position, to say the least. But she didn’t go along to get along. She went to work, instead, to secure a unanimous vote from her board colleagues.
We need a supervisor with these skills, one who can sort out the muddled issues that find environmentalists opposing social activists, and private property rights conflicting with agricultural protections. The board is now controlled by a solid 3-2 property rights-minded majority. Whoever is elected must forge meaningful political relationships with members of that majority in order to protect the quality of community life.
That’s why we support Janet Wolf.
And though this might seem a minor point, Wolf, if elected, will be the first 2nd District supervisor in decades who actually lives in Goleta. Given that the hottest land-use wars are taking place in the Goleta Valley, it is important that in Wolf we will have a supervisor who has lived there for 18 years. True, she does not have a background in land-use planning, but she has proven to be a smart, fast learner.
Living in the district — as a parent, business owner, and householder — has brought Wolf closer to the issues. She will uniquely be able to weigh the competing values associated with each undeveloped chunk of land. And though the three other candidates are all smart, serious men, we believe Wolf is the most sensitive to the crisis of housing affordability, and can bring all the players together to find solutions.
Lastly, we like Wolf because she tries to talk about issues other than land-use planning. The highest percentage of uninsured children in California lives in this county. Wolf will fight to change that. As a woman who lost her family home in the Painted Cave Fire, you can be sure Wolf will focus on securing funds for fire protection, as well as for finding solutions to traffic congestion and proper watershed management.
Janet Wolf is the best candidate and the best person to represent the 2nd District.
The Sheriff’s Department is in serious need of help. And that help must come from a new sheriff who is not part of the current infighting, public debacles, or divided loyalties now afflicting the department.
Police Chief Bill Brown fits the bill perfectly. He has the right mix of leadership skills, political savvy, and common sense. With 28 years’ experience as a law enforcement officer — 10 years as Lompoc police chief — Brown has proven to be tough, creative, shrewd, and compassionate. Chief Brown has reduced crime, built public trust, and recruited high-quality officers.
An innovative crime-fighter, Chief Brown obtained court injunctions barring known gang members from congregating in specified areas around Lompoc, becoming the only law officer in the county to do so. It proved a useful tool.
But Chief Bill Brown also knows how to combine the carrot with the stick. A genuine champion of community-oriented policing, he has built a remarkable rapport with Lompoc’s diverse ethnic, business, and agricultural communities, and has led an impressive fight against domestic violence and child abuse. When Chief Brown took over the Lompoc police force he confronted the same problem the Sheriff’s Department now faces: poor recruitment and high turnover. Brown worked within his limited resources to develop officers locally. Today, his department is at full strength, with a sizable waiting list.
Chief Brown enjoys widespread respect among law enforcement agencies throughout California. He has led both the state’s and Santa Barbara’s police chief associations, directed the regional narcotics enforcement team, and is a graduate of the FBI Academy.
By contrast, incumbent sheriff Jim Anderson has made political ineptitude a campaign virtue, repeating over and over, “I’m a cop, not a politician.” While we endorsed Anderson in the last election, we’ve been under-whelmed by his lack of judgment.
Another candidate is Sheriff’s Lieutenant Butch Arnoldi, a straight-talking, hardworking, great cop for 37 years. But he is not a politician. After watching Sheriff Anderson stumble into one political fiasco after another, it is clear that political skills are as essential to the job as being an experienced law officer.
Then there is the candidacy of Jim Thomas, who was sheriff from 1990 to 2002. He unquestionably possesses the skill, experience, and authority to handle the job. But under his leadership the Sheriff’s Department became extremely politicized.
The deputies of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department deserve to be led by a seasoned, professional law enforcement executive who has the savvy to find the monies and methods necessary to make our county safe without getting involved in polarizing politics. The man for the job is Chief Bill Brown.
The most striking thing about this year’s race for District Attorney is who isn’t running. When Tom Sneddon announced he was retiring after six terms in office, one might have expected an avalanche of contenders to enter the contest. Had that happened, we might have enjoyed a vigorous public discussion about the changing demands of law and justice in the 21st century. Instead, just the opposite has occurred. Only three contenders have announced. And only one rises to the level of viability: Christie Stanley.
For the past 26 years, Stanley — who has been endorsed by Sneddon — has worked competently and diligently in the Lompoc and Santa Maria District Attorneys offices, ultimately rising to the post of North County’s top prosecutor. Based on our experience with Stanley, we believe her to be fair, honest, and responsive — essential attributes for someone vested with the awesome powers of the District Attorney. Running against Stanley is Gary Dunlap, a skilled and colorful defense attorney with a penchant for in-your-face theatrics. Those who find train wrecks entertaining might be inclined to vote for Dunlap, but we don’t recommend it. Also running is Doug Hayes, a dedicated defense attorney and former prosecutor. One of Santa Barbara’s better known courthouse characters, Hayes can be counted on for a trenchant observation and a gracious exchange. But we’re not persuaded that either of these men have the experience or the discipline to run so vast an enterprise as the District Attorney’s office.
Arthur A. Garcia
Although the bench now occupied by Garcia is a North County position, residents countywide get to vote. We recommend Garcia because he takes his duties as a juvenile court judge every bit as seriously as they are, and brings to his bench a rare passion for the post. By contrast, most judges regard the juvenile bench as an intellectual insult and a curse.
A native of Santa Maria, Garcia was first appointed to the bench in 1996 as a Superior Court Commissioner to preside over juvenile court. In 2003, he was appointed by then-governor Gray Davis to fill the vacancy created when Judge Barbara Beck stepped down. It was an inspired choice. Garcia continued with many programs Beck had started. He has worked tirelessly to keep young offenders from becoming permanent members of the penal system and to find successful programs to help felons get off drugs. Despite his length of experience, Garcia has not become cynical. He runs a courtroom that believes the people who appear before him are human beings, and as such, are capable of redemption, not just incarceration. County voters would have to be crazy not to reelect Judge Arthur A. Garcia.
$600 Million in Library Bonds Yes
Proposition 81 calls to mind the old bumper-sticker bromide: If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. If passed, Prop 81 would authorize the state of California to sell $600 million worth of bonds to finance the construction of new libraries and to remodel and improve existing ones. Like all infrastructure demands confronting California, the need for libraries is vast.
Right now, there are about $4 billion in unmet library needs in the state, whose population is growing by half a million people a year. Prop 81 is a great deal. For every $100 spent, the proposition is designed to leverage an additional $35 from city and county governments responsible for California’s library system, meaning that, when all is said and done, it would raise $810 million. When you figure the annual debt required to make this happen, it translates to just over a dollar a year for every state resident. Remember libraries rank among the greatest social tools the human race has ever invented. Public libraries are uniquely American. In most towns, libraries have served as the physical space where the community comes together. Little wonder that in Santa Barbara, the public library ranks as the single most powerful magnet drawing people downtown. For those who enjoy the unquenchable joy of a good read, but can’t afford the high cost of books, libraries are notoriously affordable. And for those who just need a place to get out of the rain, or to hold a meeting, or to read out-of-town newspapers, or to take out books on tape, or to use the Internet, public libraries are a public miracle. But they sorely need our help. Now is not the time to begrudge them a buck a year.
The Free Pre-School Initiative Yes
On the face of it, Proposition 82 seems like a slam dunk. It promises to provide one year of free preschool to any Californian who wants it, filling a glaring social need and providing an undeniable social benefit. Prop 82 would pay for this by increasing taxes on the richest 0.06 percent of the population.
There’s a huge gap in academic achievement separating California’s white and non-white students that transcends the language barrier. A substantial reason for this is rooted in the disparity of preschool opportunities. Currently, roughly 62 percent of preschool-aged children in California are now enrolled in preschools. But that number is misleading. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, only one-third of eligible Latino children are enrolled, compared to three-quarters of all children in households earning $75,000 or more. Compounding this are the exceptionally squishy standards that currently apply to preschools; quality care is expensive and not many can afford it. The chief advantage of Prop 82 is the higher educational standards it would impose. It would help expand the training for existing preschool teachers; it would also pay for new teachers. None of this is cheap. The program is estimated to cost roughly $2 billion a year. Those revenues will be raised through a slight tax increase on individuals now earning $400,000 a year or households making twice that.
Most of that money will go to teacher pay. Under the terms of Prop 82, qualified teachers would be paid on par with K-12 public-school teachers. Admittedly, this cost makes us nervous. But what makes us even more nervous is the status quo in which the financial compensation for the vast majority of preschool teachers is abysmally sub-standard.
A host of studies show how dramatically a quality preschool education can help students master basic reading skills by the third grade, and how a good preschool education reduces the dropout rate, juvenile delinquency, and even child abuse. One recent study by the RAND Corporation estimated that for every dollar invested in preschool, society saves $2.62. Another study — based in Chicago — estimated the savings was closer to $10 for every dollar spent. People can quibble about the dollar amounts saved. They can argue that the Legislature should be doing its duty and fix these problems in Sacramento — but at this time that is no more than a pipe dream. So that brings us back to Prop 82. We need it. In the final analysis the program just makes common sense.
Voters’ Cheat Sheet
Measure H, the County Split: No
2nd District Supervisor: Janet Wolf
S.B. County Sheriff: Bill Brown
S.B. County District Attorney: Christie Stanley
Judge: Arthur A. Garcia
Prop 81: YES
Prop 82: YES