At Wednesday’s forum for county office candidates — held at the Goleta Valley Community Center and hosted by the League of Women Voters — current 3rd District Supervisor, Doreen Farr, and her challenger, Steve Pappas, shared the stage to present their respective positions on topics and issues.
The debate began with opening statements from each candidate. With the opportunity to speak first, Farr recapped the highlights of her tenure as supervisor thus far — noting the success of the recent ban on transporting hazardous materials on Highway 154 — and outlined the priorities of her office in the months to come, which included promoting fiscal responsibility, preserving agriculture, and protecting the Gaviota Coast.
For his opening, however, Pappas talked of his upbringing, growing up in Bakersfield, moving to Los Angeles, and then coming to Santa Barbara. “I went from a small town to a big city back to a small town,” he explained. He mentioned his family, and he talked about his experience with small business, noting his dedication in running one for over 22 years.
The Q&A session focused largely on the need to balance Santa Barbara County’s budget. On the topic of pension reform, Farr emphasized instituting bargaining agreements and alterations of retirement rates to decrease the impact on the budget, while also pointing out, “It’s a misconception that most people retire with large pensions.” Pappas focused on fiscal stability, saying, “We need to stop the bleeding” by ridding ourselves of the $6 million liability that drains the money reserve.
Moving to the topic of preserving social services for vulnerable community members, Pappas stressed the need to “actively engage the community,” helping the poor and elderly, and doing so with an eye toward maintaining a balanced budget. “There’s a human element we can’t ignore,” Pappas said, but these efforts must go forward with fiscal goals in mind. Farr, who regards the county as the most responsible agency to handle the issue, gave a brief overview of her efforts to merge three local organizations (Bringing our Community Home, the South Coast Homeless Advisory Commission, and Common Ground Santa Barbara) that focus on helping needy residents.
The candidates were also questioned about conducting effective outreach to the residents of Isla Vista, which does not have its own city council. Farr said she connects with the I.V. community by taking questions from residents at the Starbucks located on Pardall Road, as well as engaging with issues that come up with the I.V. Tenant’s Union. Pappas, however, admitted having no program for Isla Vista because, “not having the job of supervisor,” he’s unfamiliar with the issues, he said. He did provide an abstract approach, though, which he said consisted of “engaging the residents and business owners in the area to come to a balanced solution.” This community decision process is, he stated, his general recipe for solving everything.