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On February 6, I attended the forum between County Supervisor Das Williams and Laura Capps. I expected a thoughtful discussion about important issues. The questions were wide-ranging, from climate change and emergency response to homelessness and housing needs. And, yes, cannabis. Again and again and again, challenger Capps circled back to that issue, repeatedly attacking the incumbent’s leadership and his integrity.
I am unsettled by this negative approach from one Democrat to another. I don’t recall seeing this sort of rancor before in this community, especially at this time of negative political discourse in Washington. It shouldn’t happen here.
When the issue of poverty was raised, I was particularly interested in the answers. All research indicates low literacy and poverty are inextricably linked: Low literacy equals high poverty, in this community and across the nation. And access to appropriate education is the key to success.
Moreover, literacy is a human right.
Supervisor Williams addressed that issue. He spoke movingly about how he was a high-school dropout who worked his way out of poverty and homelessness through education, from his childhood in Isla Vista to Santa Barbara City College to UC Berkeley and UCSB. His life experience resonates with me, and I believe it informs his work on behalf of our community, and always has. In fact, when he was a State Assemblymember, he supported literacy efforts by co-sponsoring a dyslexia bill, AB 1369, to provide greater opportunity for success for the 1 in 5 who struggle needlessly in our public schools. That successful bill is now part of California Department of Education Code.
Recognizing the link between literacy and poverty should be a primary obligation of our schools — and school board members. I expected appointed Santa Barbara Unified School District Boardmember Capps would acknowledge the linkage between deep poverty and low literacy. I hoped she would take some responsibility for the district’s failure to improve reading scores or close the achievement gap during her three years of service. But she did not.
If Laura Capps chooses to run for public office again, she might remember that civility in public discourse is crucial, and so is accountability to the electorate.