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Paul Wellman

Big Love, Small Jabs at Swearing-In Ceremony

Tension Builds Between Supervisors Steve Lavagnino and Peter Adam


Jokes, hugs, songs, and inspirational quotes ​— ​briefly peppered with a few pointed comments ​— ​infused the fourth floor of the County Administration Building on Tuesday, where reelected officials and judges took their oaths of office and the Board of Supervisors performed their annual changing of the guard (pictured). Assembled by 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf, who took the helm as chair of the board after getting sworn in to her third term, the ceremony featured the Los Prietos Boys Camp color guard, two crowd-rousing songs by 13-year-old Mary-Grace Langhorne, and a speech by award-winning journalist Ann Louise Bardach, who kicked off her remarks by citing former House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

“All politics is local,” Bardach said, calling cities “microcosms of what plays out on the national stage.” Bardach alluded briefly but notably to the controversy over Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider’s stance on the Highway 101 widening (see this week’s Angry Poodle) ​— ​a “local brouhaha” on which Bardach has been vocal ​— ​before ending her remarks with another quote from O’Neill: “It’s easier to run for office than it is to run the office,” she said.

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, before handing the gavel over to Wolf, reflected on his past year as chair and first term in office; he was sworn in to his second term earlier in the morning. For the first time since 2008, Lavagnino said, the county experienced a surplus, capping off a year also marked by a shriveling unfunded pension liability, a beefy strategic reserve, and a new plan to funnel $100 million to infrastructure projects over the next decade.

Lavagnino’s comments echoed those he wrote in a recent op-ed that drew a rebuttal from 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam ​— ​the lone vote against that $100 million maintenance plan in June after his Measure M was narrowly defeated ​— ​that charged Lavagnino with wearing “rose-colored glasses.” But Lavagnino said Adam’s accusation reminded him of a quote from Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Chosen to serve as vice chair, Adam, the sole objector to pay raises for certain county employees later in the hearing, kept his statement short. “I’m usually a man of few words, and I’m going to take the opportunity to shut up and leave the aura of camaraderie perfect and whole,” he said. Wolf, looking ahead, noted the “genuine caring” the five supervisors have for each other. “I know that together we will work through some very challenging things,” she said.

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