Who makes decisions for Goleta? Your immediate response is probably the Goleta City Council. But that is only partly true. The council makes decisions about land use, public safety, energy, parks and recreation, and the finances to support these and other functions. But there is a whole network of other bodies whose decisions affect Goleta — the Goleta Sanitary District, Goleta West Sanitary District, and, most importantly in this drought year, the Goleta Water District. These three are largely bound by the resources available — plant capacity for the sanitary districts and water supply for the Water District. They each cover areas that extend beyond the Goleta city boundaries. In many cities, including Santa Barbara, sanitation and water come within the purview of the City Council. For Goleta, it is difficult, if not impossible to consolidate all these functions under the city umbrella. What we have is not neat and tidy, but at the practical level it seems to work.
This coming November, Goletans will be voting on candidates for all these boards. After voting for President, Senator, Representative, State Senate and Assembly, keep going down the ballot and near the end you will find their names. Find out what you can about them and be sure to vote. The Water Board race is particularly important with the seemingly unending drought. The board has already instituted a moratorium on new hook ups, and without a major deluge in the next month, there will for sure be further restrictions on landscape watering. This will affect council decisions on land use, both for now and in the future.
The County Board of Supervisors also still plays a role in Goleta governance. While Goleta became a city to break the connection with the county, there are many services outside the purview of cities for which the county is responsible. They include health-care services for children, seniors and the disabled; the justice system including the DAs Office, Probation, and the jail; tax collection, elections, county parks such as Goleta Beach, and much more.
The library system is one of particular interest to Goletans at the moment. The county area CSA 3 which includes the city and East Goleta has a parcel tax for libraries. Goleta would like to put an increase in this tax on the ballot, but that would require that the county also include the same measure to cover the rest of CSA3. The supervisors are supportive of libraries but would rather have a countywide library tax rather than just one for the Goleta Valley Library. A two-thirds majority vote is necessary for passage, and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve this county wide. For the moment the issue is stalled, and our library is underfunded.
In June, there will be a primary election for the 3rd District Santa Barbara County supervisor. There are four candidates vying for this seat, and whoever wins will determine the direction of the Board of Supervisors for at least the next four years. If no candidate has a clear majority, there will be a runoff between the top two candidates on the November ballot. The 3rd District position is pivotal in that it extends from Isla Vista, through southwest Goleta, then over the mountains to Santa Ynez, Solvang, the Santa Ynez Band of the Chumash Indians, Buellton, Lompoc, and Guadalupe. This seat is critical to maintaining environmental protections and agricultural land use in large areas of the county. The 2020 Census will come toward the end of the next supervisor’s term, and the redrawing of district lines that follows may lead to major reconfiguration of county boundaries and politics. But the growth of UCSB over the next few years together with a decline in North County jobs may result in much less change in population than has been speculated.
Counties are not designed to govern urban areas, which is why many incorporations are initiated. But the supervisors do make decisions on land uses surrounding the city, including the foothills to the north, the Gaviota Coast, and agricultural lands in the east Goleta Valley. Parts of Goleta lie within both the 2nd and 3rd supervisor districts so Goleta is fortunate to have two county supervisors to talk to.
We live in a community of limited resources — land, water, energy, and infrastructure. We have to rethink our approach to housing, traffic, and energy to be able to continue to live as we have in the past. Cities like to attract business because it creates revenues, but it also creates jobs, which compounds traffic impacts and the need for housing. We should look at creating jobs where the commuters are coming from and take the cars off the road. On the other hand, we do not want the South Coast to be simply a haven for the rich and the retired.
There are no easy solutions, but above all we need an engaged citizenry paying attention.