Montecito Takes a Seat at the Table

By Gwyn Lurie   |   December 19, 2019

In a little more than 80 days (March 3) we will have the opportunity to vote for, among other things, one of two candidates vying for the First District Santa Barbara County Supervisor seat: the incumbent Das Williams or his challenger, Laura Capps.

Why does this election matter to the nine thousand plus residents of Montecito?

Santa Barbara County’s First District encompasses Carpinteria, Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, and… Montecito. Residing within that 582-square-mile District is a population of 84,456 people.

The First District Supervisor is one of a five-member Board of Supervisors of the County of Santa Barbara. Each Board Member is elected for a four-year term. The Board sets policy for more than 20 critical County departments – including the Sheriff’s Department (do we get the support we need?), the District Attorney’s Office (hard on crime or soft on crime?), the Fire Department (proactive or reactive?), Public Works and Social Services (help the homeless or disperse the homeless?). The Board oversees the County budget and adopts ordinances on local matters and establishes land use policies that seriously affect unincorporated areas (Cannabis? Airbnb? Workforce housing?).

Montecito is one of those unincorporated areas. We have no mayor. We have no police department. And sometimes it feels like – as a town perceived and portrayed as privileged – there isn’t anyone who stays up nights worrying about how we’re doing.

Well, there is now.

After the 1/9 debris flow, a candlelight vigil was held at the Sunken Gardens outside the Santa Barbara Court House which was attended by thousands. As the Montecito Union School Board President, I was asked to attend and be recognized. I believe Abe Powell, as the Fire Board Chair, was asked to be there as well. Standing on the stage that night looking out over the sea of citizens, listening to the heartfelt speeches being delivered by Mayor Kathy Murillo, Supervisor Das Williams, Congressman Salud Carbajal, Assembly Member Monique Limon, Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley, and others, I noticed that Montecito was conspicuously under-represented in the line-up of speakers.

Normally I wouldn’t have thought about it, except that in this particular instance, the catastrophe had happened to Montecito, to us. Representatives from across the county were marking and mourning the tragedy without the inclusion of our voices. It became so clear to me standing there that dreary night, raw with sadness, along with many leaders I respect and support, that to many of these people, Montecito is just a place to raise money, garner support, a place, perhaps, from which to populate Boards of Directors. But as a place valued for its ideas? Somewhere whose important priorities and intelligent voices should be heard and considered? No, not so much.

The Montecito Journal Media Group believes that it is time for a new day, when those looking for our support, and our votes, pass through here in order to more deeply understand who we are and what we need.

On Monday, January 27 at 6 pm at The Music Academy of the West in Hahn Hall, the Montecito Journal Media Group with KCRW will hold its first-ever public event: a debate between Supervisor Das Williams and challenger Laura Capps.

The debate will be moderated by me, Gwyn Lurie, and KCRW’s Jonathan Bastian. Debate participants and questioners will include representatives from the Montecito Association, Montecito Fire District Board, Montecito Sanitary District Board, the Montecito Water Board, Montecito Union School Board, Cold Spring School Board, the Montecito Trails Foundation Board, and The Partnership for Resilient Communities.

It’s important also for us to hear from you! We will be taking questions from the audience but in the interest of organization those questions need to be received and formulated in advance, so please send your Montecito relevant questions to: The questions that do not get asked that night will be run in these pages, and hopefully answered, leading up to and following the event.

Fellow Montecito residents: Our opinions matter. Our priorities matter. Our safety matters. Countless studies have shown that government works better and is far less corrupt when our leaders know that people are watching.

So, let’s pack that room! Let’s show them we care, that we’re concerned, and that we are paying attention!


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