After a long summer lull that left many wondering if a race was still being run, the two candidates for the 3rd District seat on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors met Wednesday, October 1, in a community forum, and lulled their way through a quick, 45-minute discussion, with neither taking any swipes at their opponent.
In fact, the only statement from those on the stage to get a response from the crowd of about 65 people didn’t even come from the two candidates, but rather the moderator, Margaret Gordon from the League of Women Voters. At the end of the forum, she implored anyone interested to consider joining the group of politically active and aware women, whose local membership is mostly made up of an older set of women. “We are dying to get new members,” she said. “Literally.”
Despite the lack of too much excitement, the two candidates, Doreen Farr and Steve Pappas, did touch on many of the important issues facing the 3rd District, both in questions posed by the moderator and in written questions from the audience.
The two candidates aren’t too far off from one another on the issues, which Pappas readily admitted at the end of the forum, attempting to use his closing statements to differentiate himself from his opponent. Touting himself as a “pragmatic problem solver,” Pappas said his status as a registered nonpartisan will help him make decisions. “I am unbeholden to any political machine,” he explained. Farr touted her experience in leading citizen groups on opposite ends of the vast 3rd District - both on the South Coast in Goleta and in the Santa Ynez Valley - her many endorsements, and her time as a county planning commissioner.
Farr, in her opening statement, explained her priorities as improving health and safety and protecting the environment and looking out for the Gaviota Coast. “These are the priorities I hear when I go out and walk neighborhoods,” she said. Pappas indicated he’d rather not see any development on the Gaviota Coast, and expressed disappoint in how the transfer of development process had played itself out. Progress was made too late, he said, which put the county behind the eight ball. If there was going to be development, he indicated he’d try to keep it out of the ocean viewshed on the north side of Highway 101.
Both agree that offshore oil drilling should not take place off the coast of Santa Barbara. “We have so many more options before we can make the jump to offshore drilling,” Pappas said. “There’s a lot of potential that hasn’t been explored.” Promoting more energy production with no new drilling should be done, he said, like the Lompoc wind farm that was recently okayed by the county’s Planning Commission. “It’s clean energy and it’s renewable,” he said. Farr said oil companies already have leases that have not been drilled yet, and those should be exhausted before opening up more areas to drilling.
The new supervisor will be expected to deal with a budget that is stretched thin now as it is, and next year is expected to get even worse. Farr said the county needs to look at how the budget has grown over the past decade and see where it can be sized back down, but it also needs to look for places where it can generate cash. “The county can raise revenue that doesn’t impact residents,” she opined, explaining that state and federal grants could help offset the costs of programs and major projects.
Pappas, touting his experience with a $6 million budget as school board president for the Los Olivos School District, said the key is to not spend more than the county brings in. He supports a forensic audit that asks for explanations of where every dollar has been spent.
Farr came in first in the June primary with 35.8 percent of the vote. Pappas was just more than 10 points behind, with 25.6 percent. Absentee ballots go out Monday, while Election Day is November 4.