The North County Racing Form
Roundup of the Mayoral and City Council Contests in Five Cities
City of Buellton
Buellton’s mayor is appointed by fellow councilmembers, so there is no mayor’s race.
Two seats are up in the Buellton City Council race, and neither of the incumbents-Diane Whitehair and Dale Molesworth-are running for reelection.
Although Buellton’s urban limit line has become a major bone of contention, manifest in measures E and F, most of the six candidates running for City Council are mum on the issue. Only attorney John Dorwin and realtor Candice Signa, both of whom have been active in favor of Measure E, have taken a position.
Measure E coauthor Joan Hartmann’s explanation of this phenomenon is that Buellton City Council seats traditionally have been held by incumbents or “handed down as a bequest,” and that some candidates are “just trying to get along with the old blood.” Jon Macaluso was quoted in a SantaBarbaraNewsroom.com article by reporter Melinda Burns speaking forcefully against expansion in June 2007, when the sphere-of-influence study was first suggested, but now takes no position on the measures. Hartmann said that chiropractor James Neary “seems favorably disposed” to urban boundary lines, while retired CHP officer Dave King declined to meet with Buellton Is Our Town. And Buellton postmaster Holly Sierra, the sixth candidate, is also keeping her cards close to her chest. The Home Builders Association of the Central Coast did not specifically ask Buellton candidates their stance on measures E and F, though it sent questionnaires to candidates in all of the races probing their strategies for creating more workforce housing. The upshot is the association is not making an endorsement in the Buellton race, not even on the antigrowth measures. “I did a lot of nosing around, and didn’t find a lot of opposition” to the antigrowth measures, said the chapter’s governmental affairs director, Jerry Bunin, “so at this point, we’re not getting very involved in it. I think it’s a mistake, but we didn’t think us being the only people trying to run opposition would be a good idea.”
City of Solvang
Solvang is holding its first mayoral race since the city decided two years ago to elect a mayor instead of having one who is appointed by fellow councilmembers. There are only two contenders: Councilmember Jim Richardson is squared off against current mayor Linda Jackson, who is also the director of the Solvang Chamber of Commerce.
The nearby Chumash Casino is the number one hot-button issue in Solvang, where a dedicated contingent of residents actively deplores the current gambling operations and is on high alert against their possible expansion. Richardson chose sides when he proposed to the council a resolution declaring Solvang opposed to any such expansion; Jackson’s position was that Solvang should deal with that if and when the Chumash make a move to expand beyond their current land and operations.
One seat is up on the Solvang City Council. Twelve-year councilmember and WWII vet Ken Palmer faces two challengers in a town that has seen no candidate forums, and where none are planned. Hans Duus, a blacksmith who owns his own shop in Buellton, said he “is not coming in with any particular issues” but said his lifelong residency gives him a commitment to preserving Solvang’s characteristic charm. Lammy Johnstone, a former journalist and the owner of Olcott Communications Corporation, is interested in attracting high-end retail downtown-“Why not go after the Gucci’s?” she asked-and said the issues voters talk about most are traffic and graffiti. None of the three has an axe to grind against the Chumash Casino’s current operations. Palmer and Duus expressed a lack of enthusiasm toward expansion, but don’t claim it as an issue. Johnstone said the Chumash have been good neighbors and that it is “none of our business” if the tribe annexes the seven acres it has purchased.
City of Santa Maria
Mayor Larry Lavagnino is once again facing challenger and gadfly Ernest Armenta, who has run for city office several times before, losing handily every time.
In the City Council race, incumbents Leo Trujillo and Bob Orach are running to keep their seats from challenger Mike Cordero, a Santa Maria Police Department lieutenant. Cordero is a registered Republican who enjoys support among the law-and-order conservatives who dominate the city’s political landscape, but also among progressives, thanks to his involvement throughout the years with a number of community groups including the Rape Crisis Center and child protection boards. Cordero has a reputation for being a team player in the police department, not a boat-rocker, though during this election he has also addressed problems within the department.
The City Clerk and City Treasurer positions are also up this November, but there are no challengers to respective incumbents Patti Rodriguez and Teressa Hall.
City of Guadalupe
Guadalupe Alvarez, the mayor of Guadalupe, is running unopposed. The two City Council seats are also bound to be claimed by the two incumbents, Ariston Julian and Virginia Ponce, because they are the only candidates in the race. Former councilmember Joe Talaugon said that is because most voters are happy with the current council, which for the past four years has efficiently and fruitfully promoted urban renewal downtown as well as development on the outskirts. It has done so without the rancor that, according to Talaugon, characterized past proceedings.
City of Lompoc
Veteran Mayor Dick DeWees is being challenged by John Linn and Dulcie Sinn. Linn, owner of Speedy Load’um Towing in Lompoc, is also the founder of the Parks, Recreation, and Pool Foundation. Sinn, formerly Lompoc’s Family Resource Coordinator, is now in business for herself as a family healing and management consultant. They are both running strong campaigns. Depending on how the vote splits in this three-way race, one of them may succeed in finally dethroning DeWees.
Two seats are up for grabs in the Lompoc City Council race, with longtime incumbents Will Schuyler and DeWayne Holmdahl joined in democratic battle against four challengers: engineer and artist Cecilia Martner, realtor David Grill, Lompoc Hospital director of lab services Bob Lingl, and Vandenberg Air Force Base telephone systems supervisor Darrell Wade Tullis.
Lingl and Tullis both also ran in 2006. Tullis now sits on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, and he is involved in youth counseling and anti-drug and -alcohol abuse efforts. Lingl sits on the Planning Commission.
Martner, originally from Chile, is generating a lot of sizzle: Martner is calling for better services, especially protection of the Clean Air Express, for the large percentage of Lompoc residents who-like herself-commute out of the city to work. She has a PhD in chemistry from UC Berkeley and supporters have pointed out that she makes all her own clothes, including her signature hand-died silk scarves.
Grill, whose former career was as a program manager for several large aerospace companies, presents an unusual mix of policy views. He is calling for urban limit lines for Lompoc to combat residential sprawl. At the same time, he favors redevelopment of the oil industry, and instead of relying on retail stores for city revenue, he favors development of outdoor tourist industries including birdwatching tours. Also, he wants to encourage a nursing/medical technician college in town.
Measure E vs. Measure F
Buellton’s Urban Growth Boundary Measures
The North County’s most earth-shaking issue this election season is the matter of whether the City of Buellton-home to just 5,000-should absorb more territory. There are two competing measures on Buellton’s November 4 ballot, Measure E and Measure F. Both would forbid the City Council to extend urban infrastructure, such as water or sewer, or make any other move to expand into the rural lands surrounding Buellton without explicit voter approval.
The citizens who qualified Measure E for the ballot were provoked to do so by the City Council’s move to study expanding Buellton’s sphere of influence-a prerequisite for annexing territory. Buellton Is Our Town (BIOT) organized almost overnight and collected about 600 signatures-about twice as many signatures as were required, amounting to approximately one quarter of registered voters-reportedly in the course of two days in April, to qualify Measure E, their Urban Growth Boundary Lines initiative for the ballot.
The day after the signatures were counted, the City Council met and crafted Measure F, which is supported by would-be developers of property outside the city limits. The only difference between E and F are the expiration dates: Measure E would remain in effect until 2025, expiring the same year as the present Buellton General Plan. Measure F would expire in 2014.
Those against expansion have estimated that the proposed 2,000 acres in the sphere of influence that the council proposed to study could host 30,000 new people if it were developed at a density of three to four single-family homes per acre.
Proponents of expansion originally rejoined that if Buellton does not take control of its surroundings, then the County of Santa Barbara will, creating the risk of high-density affordable housing on the city’s outskirts.
Despite their ambivalence toward efforts to keep Buellton small-and exclusive-affordable housing advocates harbor no secret hope that an urban boundary line will somehow backfire to produce affordable housing just outside the city. The Buellton community plan does identify two possible locations for affordable housing outside the city limits on Highway 246. However, such developments would require an extension of the city’s infrastructure, said Dean Palius, executive director of People Helping People. That, under Measure E (and Measure F for a shorter period of time), would be impossible without the voters’ direct approval.
Moreover, both measures include exceptions to the ex-urban growth ban: The City Council may approve housing for low or moderate income housing required by state law, as well as public schools and parks.
Countywide, environmentalists, and others interested in preserving the North County’s rural character, have thrown their weight behind Measure E. They have pointed out that most of the lands surrounding Buellton are still part of the Williamson Act, meaning that the owners are committed to keeping them in agriculture-rather than developing them-for at least the next 10 years, which is the length of time it takes to withdraw from the act and its tax breaks for agricultural preservation. Besides, as with high-density housing, such developments would probably require infrastructure expansion.