Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum disagreed with Vice President Joseph Biden’s decision not to attend the National Conference held in Providence Rhode Island last week for fear of crossing a picket line of firefighters. In addition to Biden, about 30 high-ranking White House officials and cabinet members declined to attend. “I think they made a mistake,” said Blum, a former president of the Santa Barbara Teachers Union. “It sets a bad precedent.” Blum disputed that the 50 firefighters assembled outside the convention hall constituted a picket line, noting that they weren’t walking. She added that they were far enough away-across the street, in fact-that she could go in and out without crossing any line, still or moving. Blum said she was sympathetic to the firefighters’ concerns, however. “It was a legitimate dispute,” she said. “They hadn’t had a contract in nine years.” Blum said the city is applying for a $900,000 grant to retrofit city properties to be more energy efficient; she would have liked to speak with Energy Department officials about what they were looking for. “We’re mayors and we know how to talk and we like to share information, so there was no problem filling the time,” she said. In particular, Blum said she was intrigued by the idea of having volunteer mentors in the classroom, noting that test scores went up in classes where this was tried.