The nine questions posed to the two candidates for 2nd District Supervisor at their first forum on Wednesday provided one picture of the issues likely to absorb their attention in the dwindling weeks until the June 3 primary. A second debate is planned for April 23.
Incumbent Janet Wolf and Goleta City councilmember Roger Aceves, both longtime residents of the Santa Barbara area who have held their respective offices since 2006, each argued their points but didn’t engage in rebuttal. Issues discussed were mostly money-related (Measure M, hotel bed tax, the city’s tax-sharing deal with the county, financial disclosure rules, and the overall budget) but also veered to the environmental (Goleta Beach Park and energy production) and the philosophical (a perceived North-South County divide).
Wolf and Aceves came out on the same side on the issue of Goleta Beach; in March, Wolf spearheaded the supervisors’ vote to ask the Coastal Commission to keep the rock revetments in place. With talk of the county’s budget, Aceves suggested outsourcing some functions to save money — he said the City of Goleta does as such, a reference point he made for multiple issues — while Wolf highlighted the slight surplus expected at the end of this fiscal year.
Moving on to Measure M, Wolf called the proposed ordinance “a serious threat” to the county’s budget, particularly to funding for public safety. Aceves, although not stating his outright support of the measure, said that the City of Goleta priorities both infrastructure spending and public-safety spending. Aceves continued his — and other Goleta councilmembers’ — tirade against the city’s tax-sharing deal with the county, known as the revenue neutrality agreement (RNA). Aceves said that the $80 million in property, sales, and hotel bed tax revenue the city has given the county since Goleta became a city could have been used to makeover Old Town “twice, if not three times.” Wolf, on the other hand, reminded the audience that the agreement was approved by voters along with cityhood and condemned the issue being used as “political threat.”
When asked if they would support a rate increase of the county’s hotel bed tax — the supervisors will discuss the issue at Tuesday’s meeting — both candidates said they would, but diverged when discussing where the extra revenue should go. They also differed in what the county’s role should be in economic development. “I wish I was the Wizard of Oz and could just make that happen, but I’m not,” Wolf said, explaining the county should focus on its agriculture and tourism industries and property taxes. Aceves suggested funneling money to groups like the area’s chambers of commerce or the film commission. Energy projects likewise separated the two, with Aceves — who has received thousands of dollars in donations from North County energy companies — suggesting that “all industries have a voice at the table” (including wind and solar). Wolf said she supports solar projects and that the protection of county residents and of the environment remains at the “forefront” of her decision-making.
A question related to campaign financial disclosures ended the forum. Aceves, who has recently said that Wolf should have disclosed her donations from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) prior to the board’s dealing with SEIU-related issues, said that reform is needed.
Although the Fair Political Practices Commission states that members of city councils and boards of supervisors aren’t required to note their campaign donations, Aceves has said Wolf has erred in not doing so with her contributions from SEIU. He said he would be “glad to champion” some type of reform; at the Venoco-related city council meeting the night before, Aceves noted the $500 he received from company last November. Wolf pointed out that neither of them agreed to the county’s voluntary expenditure limits and said that she would “much rather” have the support of union workers than developers and oil companies.
The debate, held at the Bacara Resort and hosted by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region, attracted just under 100 attendees. The audience was mostly made up of local politicians and businesspeople who have already made their allegiances known.
The 2nd District includes most of the City of Goleta, some of the City of Santa Barbara, and the unincorporated region. Mail voting starts on May 5, and the last day to register to vote in the June 3 primary is on May 19.