With Doreen Farr not participating, four of the five candidates for Santa Barbara County’s 3rd District seat faced questions from county watchdog Andy Caldwell for two hours during his radio show Thursday on KUHL 1440 AM. The election for the expansive 3rd District, which serves as a bridge between North and South County, includes the densely-populated Isla Vista as well as the vineyards of Los Olivos and the small town of Solvang. For the most part the candidates were tame, despite some prodding by Caldwell to make digs at each other, although there were different points of contention.
For the first hour the candidates took questions from Caldwell, and then they moved on to questions from listeners. Almost reminiscent of the ABC Democratic Presidential Debate earlier in the week, Caldwell asked some zingers of the candidates. In one question, he asked them which candidate they thought deserved to come in last place in the June race. Current Buellton city councilmember Victoria Pointer, after initially hesitating to answer the question, answered with Farr, explaining she’s “not very pleased with her positions on many of the issues.” Candidate David Smyser agreed, saying Farr “represents too much the interest of the 2nd District and not the 3rd. Dr. David Bearman tried to take the high road, saying that if Steve Pappas , Pointer or himself came out on top he would be happy. “We’re more into listening to people, more likely to do things that are reasonable,” he said. “I could not agree more,” Pappas said in his answer.
Caldwell followed that question up later with another query asking the candidates who they’d like to see finish second. Pappas said he wasn’t going to be baited into answering these types of questions. Smyser indicated Pointer would be ideal because of her experience. Pointer reciprocated the feeling, adding that Bearman and Pappas wouldn’t be good for the county because she doesn’t like “rating [a candidate] on one issue,” pointing out Bearman’s notoriety of working on medicinal marijuana issues and Pappas’s opposition to any expansion at the Chumash Casino. Both Bearman and Pappas took offense to that statement. “Don’t know if Ms. Pointer has been smoking something, but there’s nothing in my campaign literature about medicinal marijuana,” Bearman said.
Later, Pappas suggested Pointer visit his website to see his list of accomplishments and see for herself all that he has worked on over the last six years. “You can tell that comment gets me a little emotional because I’ve worked for the last six years fighting for people and fighting for their rights,” said Pappas, who ran against current Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who is retiring when his term ends this winter.
Caldwell asked about a recent Santa Barbara County Association of Governments meeting in which the board decided the City of Santa Barbara should receive a larger chunk of the state’s mandated housing allocation. While most avoided the question of whether or not the city deserved more of the housing - Pointer suggested they did - all were in agreement the system in place was flawed. “It needs to be locally determined,” Bearman said. “We’ve talked about this. I’m opposed to the state housing mandate.”
Pointer said that while she didn’t like the mandate, it was indeed a mandate, and thusly the county had to listen to the state so long as that was the law. “The housing issue that has been battled here for what seems like forever is not going to be resolved by the state housing mandate,” Pappas said. “This thing is flawed and corrupt. At end of the day we don’t achieve anything, we don’t get affordability and it doesn’t bring balance so, to make long story short, we’ve got to do away with the state mandate and find a creative solution to stop this imbalance.”
One listener called in and asked if candidates thought residents of Isla Vista, a largely UCSB student populated area, should be allowed to vote. Bearman, Pappas and Smyser all agreed that Pappas’s motto of “where you live is where you should be involved” was appropriate, although Smyser suggested that “most students would rather have a voice on State Street than in Solvang.” Pointer said the issue that really needs to be looked at is redistricting.
Other issues covered were thoughts on the $1 million initiative to fund children’s health care in the county (most avoided the question, but agreed the national healthcare system needed an overhaul), revisiting the greenhouse ordinance (all four are in favor of it), and working with constituents and other board members (not surprisingly, all said they would).
At this point it isn’t clear why Farr didn’t participate in the radio forum, although she is expected at future forums. Caldwell has already made his support for Smyser, perhaps Farr’s greatest opposition in this race, clear. To his credit, Caldwell managed to keep his personal opinions back during the forum, and allowed the candidates to answer questions however they deemed appropriate.
The election is June 3. There are two upcoming forums featuring the candidates in the coming weeks, one in North County and one in the South Coast. On April 22, there will be a forum at St. Mark’s Church, 2901 Nojoquio St. in Los Olivos. The following week, on April 30, a forum will be held at the Goleta Valley Community Center. The times for the two events are unknown.