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We, the undersigned, are deeply disappointed by the Independent‘s endorsement of Das Williams for 1st District Supervisor. The Independent could have chosen a candidate ofimpeccable integrity, Laura Capps, Santa Barbara school board’s president, who has campaigned on a platform of introducing reform and ethics into our current supervisor swamp. A swamp, rare even for politics, where there are no limits on campaign contributions or even quarterly disclosure reports for citizens to learn who is bankrolling who and why.
Instead, you threw your weight behind Das Williams, a ruthless local politico who has been called out for his mendacity since the beginning of his career. Williams lies as casually as the sun sets — whether about his role as the architect for the county’s disastrous Cannabis Ordinance, its permitting structure, his donors, or his ever-changing biography. You could also have chosen to be neutral.
Nor did you note Williams’s history of vicious campaigning against women, be it against former supervisor Janet Wolf or coastal advocate Susan Jordan (where he photo-shopped a drink into her hand). These days, Williams employs surrogates, financed by his dark money PAC (funded by a good deal of cannabis and oil money) to smear Laura Capps with outrageous falsehoods. Indeed, Mollie Culver, who created this PAC, headed up Santa Barbara’s Cannabis Business Council, worked hand-in-glove with Williams in writing the deeply flawed ordinance. All singularly disqualifying.
Then there is the damage he has done to our county with his pay-to-play Cannabis Ordinance — establishing S.B. as the #1 cultivation cannabis site in the U.S. Never mind the health and safety impacts to school children who now smell and breathe pot fumes every day — as do too many residents throughout the five districts. How about the disastrous impacts to our avocado and wine industries, as well as home values. Again, fully disqualifying.
Although we have long championed your paper, too often, it reads as an apologist for the cannabis industry, replete with columns to sell their pot products (even vaping is just fine!), while virtually ignoring the myriad illegalities of the ordinance and its negative impacts to residents.
Certainly, your endorsement cites several of Williams’s well-documented abuses. So we wonder what level of governance atrocity would Williams need to commit to not garner your endorsement?
Let’s review: Throughout 2017, Das Williams championed and enacted the most industry-friendly cannabis regulations in the country. These regulations were developed in special closed-door sessions with cannabis lobbyists and shamefully voted on during the historic Thomas Fire and mudslides, when much of his district was evacuated.
One need look no further than the January raid of Barry Brand’s cannabis facility in Carpinteria to see the pay-to-play motivating Das Williams. On December 14, 2017, Das Williams received several thousand dollars in donations from Brand and three other marijuana cultivators. On December 17, 2017, Williams led the charge for the supervisors to adopt an “unverified affidavit” scheme that would allow Brand and other growers to accumulate hundreds of state licenses before receiving land use permits. Brand forked over another $5,000 to Williams in March 2019, about a month after the supervisors directed staff to authorize new provisional licenses. At no time since the bust, has Williams returned Brand’s tainted contributions.
Hence, the Indy’s Susan Collins-like concern rings hollow as does your stated belief that Williams has learned and will change. In fact, he has said that he would do nothing differently. Indeed, there is every reason to believe he will dig in, emboldened by your endorsement, reward his cannabis donors, and likely seek retribution against his critics.
As of this writing, a broad array of community groups, residents, schools, and business owners have retained multiple law firms to pursue legal remedies to our cannabis crisis. Attorneys have also been hired by grassroots organizations and homeowners associations while a Grand Jury, convened last year, has been reviewing evidence and complaints about the ordinance. In addition, residents have filed close to 400 odor complaints relating to cannabis and have appealed every cannabis license that has come before the county for final approval.
Most significantly, a referral was made to the U.S. Attorney for the Central District seeking a federal intervention to halt the out-of-control cannabis cultivationin Santa Barbara County. More than 100 residents representing the five districts signed the referral. Also submitted were Letters of Resolution from four major cities — Carpinteria, Solvang, Goleta, and Buellton — condemning or seeking mitigation of the Cannabis Ordinance and a Letter of Resolution from prominent Santa Barbara pulmonologists seeking an investigation into the health impacts of mass cannabis production.
All of this is the direct result of Williams’s reckless, self-serving politicking.
Consider the years of litigation ahead of us — plus the millions of dollars and countless hours that will be spent by the county and residents — all to seek protection from Williams’s grand plan to turn S.B. County into the world’s go-to cannabis mecca. Then ask yourself, how you cannot rescind your endorsement?
Cathy Ann Miller
Mario E Nargi
Sandra L Nargi
John T. Nunes
Allan M Weil
Sandra L Weil