Former Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone — the longest-serving superintendent of schools in the state — announced his endorsement of Laura Capps for 1st District Supervisor Friday morning at Sunflower Park.
“My favorite John Gardner quote captures why I strongly support Laura Capps and the goals of her campaign,” the 34-year veteran of county education said. “‘Put your faith in ideas, ideals, movements, and goals. Don’t put your faith in organizational forms; human beings are building the church and killing the creed.’ Laura is all about the creed.”
Capps, who sat on the Santa Barbara school board since 2016 and was elected as board president last month, was surrounded at the event by a group made up mostly of educators. The group sat around a table in the park — a laid-back setup for the announcement.
“Your whole campaign is responsive government,” said City Councilmember Kristen Sneddon, who is also a geology instructor at Santa Barbara City College. “You weren’t looking for a position to run for; you ran because people were coming to you — repeatedly. … I applaud you for making the tough decision and making these changes.”
Capps’s supporters went around the table sharing similar sentiments and focused their praise on her work in improving the local schools and tackling tough issues like child hunger and the increasing poverty rate.
Among the supporters at the table who spoke were school boardmember Kate Ford, Adelante Charter principal David Bautista, and former county supervisor and Goleta school boardmember Janet Wolf. Most of their comments danced around the tensions between Capps and her opponent, incumbent Das Williams, but no one called it straight quite like Cirone.
“Das Williams is, and always has been, the number-one champion in the cannabis industry, promoting and supporting policies that many feel are harmful for children and their families who live in the district,” Cirone said.
He went on to quote Williams as saying, “I’d rather have our schools smell like pot than lay off our teachers,” when Williams was confronted with community concerns about cannabis farms being too close to schools. The Independent was unable to verify that statement but reached out to Williams, who was unavailable for comment by press time.
Capps has long asserted that although she supports the legalization of marijuana for adult use, she believes Santa Barbara County has gone too far with pot farms and that their close distance to schools — particularly in Carpinteria — are unsafe for children. Carpinteria residents against the skunky smell invasion have looked to Capps to take Williams’s seat over the issue.
The rest of the announcement was focused on Capps and her accomplishments.
“In today’s divisive world, we need leaders with Laura’s integrity and values,” Cirone said. “We need someone who will stand up for what is right, even if it means taking on powerful interests.”
Das Williams replied to the Indy’s request for comment on January 11, saying that Cirone’s statement was “outlandish and misleading.” Williams, who lives in Carpinteria, said his daughter will be attending the community’s schools and that he wanted the best for her and all their neighbors.
“When I have walked door to door in Carpinteria, odor is an issue to folks,” Williams wrote in an email. “My office has been the leader in working to curb it, and we are making progress. It is also clear to me that most voters I have spoken to are worried about the finances of Carpinteria Unified School District and believe we need more funding for our schools. I agree with them. I have led on that front in the Legislature and here at home. They are worried about enough instructional assistants, library resources, and teachers. Carpinteria Unified gets a significant amount of its funding from property tax in the agricultural part of town. Without business there, property tax, and therefore school funding, will suffer.”