Part of the temporary reprieve the City of Goleta got from the District Elections Committee — which threatened a Voting Rights Act violation lawsuit in February — was to set up a Public Engagement Commission, charged with getting more people interested in civic affairs and hopefully enlarging the pool of council candidates. After some initial worry that seven people would even volunteer for the commission, 31 people stepped forward for consideration. Of the seven chosen, their longevity in town ranged from two and a half years to nearly four decades. All were politically active in some way, and all have had lengthy human resources or minority outreach experience.
The new commissioners — Rey Ybarra, Sherri Bliss, Pedro Paz, James Kyriaco, Beth Schneider, Barbara Massey, and Silvia Uribe — are also to decide if Goleta should become a charter city, which would allow it to pay its councilmembers more than $300 a month; hold all council meetings after 5 p.m.; and elect the mayor for four years instead of two. Commissioners hold four-year terms, with the exception of Kyriaco, Schneider, and Massey, who have two-year terms.
By the agreement between the city and the District Elections Committee, one committee member must sit on the commission. That person is Rey Ybarra, who had run for council unsuccessfully in 2001. Also, one member of the commission will take part in the drawing of the new district boundaries, which will take place after the 2020 Census.
The number of commissioners was increased from five to seven during a council meeting in May. Community activist George Relles had made the suggestion in the interests of greater diversity, and after some councilmembers raised doubts, Jacqueline Inda, a member of the District Elections Committee, assured them they would find potential commissioners.
Although the Old Town neighborhood was called out in the lawsuit as an unrepresented part of town, none of the new commissioners live there. Addresses were blacked out on the public copies of the applications, but they are public for the members of the commission. Of the seven chosen, two live near Fairview, four live west of Glen Annie/Storke, and one lives east of State Route 217/Ward Memorial.
At Monday’s meeting, Mayor Paula Perotte assured all the candidates that they are welcome to continue to participate. The Public Engagement Commission meetings will be open to the public and viewable online and on Goleta TV Channel 19.