Elections Have Consequences…
Who we vote for, in many ways, determines how, and how well, we live. This has never been more obvious than it is right now. And not just at the highest levels of government; from the ballot’s top to bottom it matters. The dangerous perspective that a single vote does not make much difference allows us to take too lightly our greatest and most important individual responsibility to not only take care of our democracy, but to take care of our families and ourselves.
We know this year’s Presidential election is important. But the outcome of our local races, in some ways, affect our daily lives and our daily mood just as much, if not more. Will our schools open safely? Are those who are defining safety following science? Is government approached ethically and transparently? Do we have the funds we need to fix our biggest problems? Do our leaders care what we have to say and include us in the governance process?
In our leaders there are the qualities that we look for and value: like truthfulness. Transparency. Humility. Ethics. Devotion to public service. An open mind. A commitment to bringing diverse perspectives to the table.
It is through the lens of these values that we make the following endorsements.
For California’s 24th U.S. Congressional District
MJ Endorses: Salud Carbajal
The child of Mexican immigrants, a UCSB graduate who served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, including active duty service during the Gulf War, 12 years as our 1st District’s County Supervisor before being elected to represent the 24th Congressional District in 2016, Carbajal has proved his commitment to public service. As an open minded, ethical, and accessible leader, we believe he has earned his reputation as a master at constituent serves and our endorsement for another term as our representative in Congress.
The most important reason we endorse Carbajal was proudly pinned to his lapel the day we spoke for this endorsement: “This is a purple ribbon worn by those who believe in the spirit and importance of bipartisanship and are committed to finding it when at all possible,” Salud explained. That is Salud Carbajal in a nutshell. Wearing his commitment to bipartisanship and inclusion on his sleeve. Or in this case, on his lapel.
Carbajal’s work within the Congressional Problem-Solvers Caucus, made up of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, is a strong example of his commitment to bipartisanship. “Our goal has always been to work to change the rules in the House, so that it could lend itself to more bipartisanship. Not to keep this partisan archaic type of rules that only promote more partisanship and divisiveness.” The Caucus has sponsored legislation on healthcare, infrastructure, immigration, and has just proposed a 1.5 trillion-dollar economic stimulus package (the fifth) and is working to push it over the line. Salud claims this as his highest priority.
While we sometimes wish Carbajal would outwardly exhibit more fiery leadership, such showmanship can create divisiveness and is arguably not what we need right now. Carbajal’s steadfast commitment to bringing people together to chip away at gridlock and partisanship and to move the political football down the field in any way possible is the hallmark of his leadership and a quality we would like to see more of in our leaders right about now.
We appreciate Carbajal’s clear view of what is and is not working, his willingness to share in the responsibility for both, and his choice to link arms with all who are willing to work together to make things better for everybody.
Here are some of Carbajal’s thoughts on the issues that rank among his priorities.
On Racial Inequities and Police Reform:
“We all must push for better outcomes. Even Democrats can do better… But… this President has reveled in the demise of many of the important gains that we made. Including the racial inequities by fueling the flames. But I don’t let Democrats off the hook. We can and should do better. Just doing the same type of status quo of institutions and only promoting the status quo. That’s why we got Trump. They thought he was going to break the mold but instead we got chaos, incompetence, and division and borderline totalitarianism…”
“Some people on the left have started this effort of defunding the police… I’m completely against the notion of ‘defunding the police.’ I am for working with all stakeholders to make sure we address systemic change and systemic racial inequalities, and to make sure we bring about reforms. Nobody can deny we need to work to enhance the trust between communities and law enforcement… And some of that involves rooting out those officers that are doing illegal things, violating people’s civil rights. They should be brought to justice… we must modify our law enforcements’ policies to insure we root out police abuse, and we can get to a point where we can continue to trust our police officers in a way that everybody’s happy.”
On the Environment:
Carbajal helped end the practice of “fire borrowing” by working to establish the first ever Fire Disaster Fund. “Year-round fire season is in great part due to climate change,” a position on which he and his opponent disagree. “I’ve initiated and cosponsored legislation that provides resources to our firefighters and our forest service personnel to have the resources they need to be more effective in fighting fires, in having access in developed roads, infrastructure… So they could get back there and fight fires. To be able to do field management throughout the year in a way that reduces the likelihood of future fire.”
“As a veteran myself, I have worked hard in Congress to ensure our service members and veterans have access to the services and benefits they have earned. I’ve successfully fought to improve the VA’s phone systems and transportation services so our veterans can get timely medical care, and I’ve worked across the aisle to address veteran homelessness. Our service members have stepped up to defend our country and our freedom, and I will continue working to provide for our veterans when they return from service.”
On COVID and the Economy:
“There are many people out there that are still hurting, people, unemployed, businesses that still haven’t recovered, families, institutions, local governments, workers. We need to do a lot more… the 1.5 trillion-dollar proposal meets the Democrat bottom line and the Republican top line… We think a good starting point is starting in the middle. That means pretty much funding most of the things that were included in the CARES Act. Including additional funding for areas that we have not quite covered like some frontline essential workers and schools and local governments. Continued PPE funding, idle funding. Continued unemployment insurance.”
On the Importance of this Upcoming Election:
“When it comes to the pandemic… the only conclusion you could reach is that this president botched this up. Many more lives were lost than needed to be lost… Secondly, as just decent human beings, we have a president that day in and day out belittles people, calls people names. That is not the type of leadership we want in our country at any level, let alone the presidency… The third issue I would say be fearful. Look at what this president has done embracing dictators. Look at all the lies that this president tells… He fabricates. He’s pathologically lying every day to the American people… I would ask people to be honest with themselves and to vote for somebody who is going to unite us and take us into really becoming the nation that we are all aspiring to be and that we would be proud of.”
Salud Carbajal’s Superpower:
“My willingness to work with everyone, those that think like me and those who don’t think like me. So we can find common ground so that we can make life better for everyone.”
For District 19 State Senate Seat
MJ Endorses: Monique Limón
Monique Limón is a passionate and caring leader who is not above rolling up her sleeves and doing the nitty-gritty work of protecting and advancing the interest of her constituents. Bottom line, Monique Limón consistently shows up. And it’s a good thing.
Limón grew up in Santa Barbara and has done an impressive job representing this county in the State Assembly over the past four years. We’ve been spoiled to have hometown representation in both the 37th Assembly District, which Limón took over from Das Williams, and Senate District 19 with local resident Hannah-Beth Jackson at the helm. Jackson terms out of office in January.
Our next representative in the Assembly will likely not be from here, so by sending Limón back to Sacramento as our State Senator, voters will ensure that we will continue the strong tradition of not just local, but capable representation working on our behalf in Sacramento.
Seemingly desperate to stoke fears of a socialist takeover of America, Republican businessman Gary Michaels has attempted to smear Limón as a radical leftist. “Miss Limón was trained as a socialist at Berkeley and Columbia,” Michaels states in his campaign’s YouTube video. But even a cursory look at Limón’s political career – six years on the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Trustees and a stint as Assistant Director for the McNair Scholars Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara – reveals her to be the epitome of a moderately liberal Democrat. By the way, since when is getting a pair of degrees at UC Berkeley and Columbia University either the equivalent of joining the Communist Party or a disqualifier for seeking public office?
A detailed review of Limón’s legislative track record shows that, of the 39 bills she has authored which were signed into law, 37 of those had broad bipartisan support. A 94.8 percent record of bipartisanship (on everything from oil spill management and protecting lobster fisheries to providing fair access to credit) is about as close as you can get to being the exact opposite of a Sacramento hack.
In her four years in the Assembly, Limón has fought hard to protect the interests of all her constituents in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, a much more diverse group than most realize. “When it comes to water, agriculture, and jobs, all these communities from Guadalupe and Santa Maria to Goleta or Oxnard, which is the 18th largest city in the state, look very different,” she says.
While her diverse constituency helps explain her bipartisan success in Sacramento, Limón has never lost sight of Santa Barbara and its own unique challenges. She worked on a bill that, while it failed to become law, would have improved insurance protections for victims of natural disasters such as the 2018 Thomas Fire and debris flows. “It’s an issue you are facing in Montecito, but also elsewhere,” she says. “After the Thomas Fire, we secured $25 million for prepositioning, so firefighters will have the funding in place to put people where they need to be and get them ready in time.”
Limón also secured financial help for both Santa Barbara and Ventura County governments as well as cities and special districts to backfill their budgets in the wake of the recent disasters. “These measures were voted on in a bipartisan way,” she says. “These are the issues that matter, and how you make people whole. The past four years have definitely not been without their trials and challenges, but now I have experience that allows me to not just be effective in the State Senate, but to hit the ground running.”
We couldn’t agree more and look forward to another four years of hard work, intelligent, thoughtful leadership and solid bipartisan effort in Sacramento from Monique Limón.
37th District California State Assembly Seat
MJ Endorses: Steve Bennett
We like Steve Bennett’s emphasis on Good Government and we believe he has three key things going for him: the experience, the grassroots temperament, and the propensity to think outside the box.
Bennett’s 20 years as a public school teacher and administrator will serve him well in the state legislature, given that 50% of the state’s budget is spent on education. As will his five terms on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors dealing with health, welfare, and safety issues.
As examples of his commitment to Good Government, Bennett points to his work on, among other things, two big issues: preventing urban sprawl and campaign finance reform.
Bennett sees himself as a grassroots candidate who specializes in staying independent from special interests and challenging conventional solutions to problems.
For example, SOAR, an anti-urban sprawl initiative championed by Bennett. SOAR put a check on independent special interest money and its contribution to L.A.’s urban sprawl by necessitating that exceptions to building development plans must be brought before the people for a vote rather than being fought project by project which Bennett describes as “piecemeal destruction.”
Another example of Bennett challenging conventional thinking can be seen in his work on campaign finance reform: “I wrote the toughest campaign contribution limit law in the State of California for Ventura County to try to decrease this influence of that money… I voluntarily limited myself to $500 because I wanted to show that we ought to have candidates that collect a little bit of money from a lot of people. That’s better government.” Now in Ventura County contributions to a County Supervisor campaign are limited to $750.
How to Regulate Disrupter Industries, Like… Cannabis:
On regulations around cannabis and other disrupter industries, we like Bennett’s approach.
Bennett raises hemp as an example of a disruptor industry/crop in Ventura County where they allowed one-year permits in order to study the impacts. Once they had some evidence the county was in a better position to roll out meaningful regulations.
“So that’s how I would handle disruptor industries… to find the way to common sense roll out the regulations for that, whether it’s regulations on accountability in schools, or whether it’s regulations on crops you’re growing, or regulations on plastic bags.”
“We have to recognize that’s the nature of democracies,” Bennett says. “If you try to legislate and say, In two years this is going to be this really big problem and I’m going to take some of your freedom away from you right now because there’s going to be a problem in two years… But if you can move quickly when you see the problem, and if you can move appropriately and not overreact, or not under react, you can do good government.”
Homelessness and Other Local Issues:
Bennett sees great benefit in incentivizing local communities to tackle their own problems.
“We need to do this for the homeless,” Bennet says as an example. “Identify the homeless. These are the homeless people we’re going to solve the problem for. Now you’ve personalized them… It’s not just ‘a homeless person’… Make it manageable. Make it by community by community. And that community can take pride and say, ‘We solved the homeless problem for the one hundred homeless people that we have in our community.’
Collaboration with Our Local Leaders:
“I have a great working relationship with Salud Carbajal… we built the bike trail in front of La Conchita, that finally links our two counties together with a safe connection for people to ride.” Together Carbajal and Bennett created an organization called Cycle California Coast, to promote the improvement of the bicycling community, the bicycling infrastructure, the bicycling attractiveness of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.
Bennett is also working with Limón around shared issues like the handling of the Ventura River watershed. Together they have convened the leaders of all of the water agencies in the Ojai Valley to meet three times yearly. “I think we have done an amazing job because the grant funding that we’re able to get is coming because they’re saying, We’re funding you guys because you’re a regional applicant. There are so many examples of synergy that are coming out of that.”
Still, Bennett says he is committed to gaining an even better understanding of Santa Barbara County. “I recognize I have a lot more I need to do. And it’s put in the time. It’s sit down and talk to people… because those deep connections only come from these kind of conversations.”
Santa Barbara Unified School Board
Local school boards represent the most basic workings of democracy. They play a critical watchdog role in keeping our schools on track and setting vision and policy that directly and profoundly affects our children. But individual board members cannot do their job alone. A board is a team that is most effective when each member contributes their unique talents in working together to build consensus on important issues facing the district.
The clarion calls of school board candidates challenging incumbents often include: the need for greater transparency, more responsiveness to parental opinion, and a myriad of ideas for curricula.
These are all important, but only when one serves on a school board do they understand why certain things cannot be transparent – personnel issues, for example, are often confidential. They come to understand that while parental input is important, it’s also complicated because every parent wants what’s best for their child, but there is no consensus on what “best” means. As for creating curriculum, this is not within the purview of a school board – though setting over-arching policy to require certain types of curriculum is.
Public school boards always matter. But like everything else in this high-pitched moment, they matter more than ever. How and what our children are taught may be the single most important factor that determines our nation’s future.
We spoke with seven of the eight candidates vying for the three open seats on the Santa Barbara Unified School Board. (We were unable to reach or locate one candidate.) Every candidate we spoke with seemed genuinely committed to improving public education. While important and interesting points were raised by every single candidate, three candidates stood out as forward-thinking, independent and fair and open-minded team players from whose unique brand of leadership Santa Barbara’s public schools will strongly benefit.
MJ Endorses Incumbents: Laura Capps and Wendy Sims-Moten and Up-and-Comer Virginia Alvarez
SB Unified School Board President, Laura Capps:
Laura Capps stands out as a courageous leader willing to stand up for what she believes, even when politically risky – exemplified by her lone opposition to removing the San Marcos Principal in what resulted in a 4-1 vote. Laura also remained an important check on Cary Matsuoka, former SB District Superintendent who we believe lacked important communication skills and inclusivity practices important for an effective leadership.
As Board President, Capps led the search to hire new SB Superintendent, Hilda Maldonado. Maldonado enters the district at an extremely challenging moment given the complicated marinade of issues facing the district and will have in Capps a partner who is strong collaborator, but not a yes person.
Laura does her homework, absorbs the views of the gamut of stakeholders, and then applies her grounded, analytical, and compassionate thinking to come up with thoughtful and reasoned positions. Having worked both in national and local politics, Laura understands the large implications of local issues and possesses a deep bench of relationships and knowledge in order to tap into best practices near and far.
We appreciate Capps’ arms distance but thoughtful approach to decisions involving school curriculum. Capps supports the recent unanimous adoption of the district’s new Teen Talk sex education program, a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum designed to help educate middle-schoolers about sexuality and sexual health. This program has generated some controversy for its graphic and personal nature. “As much as I am a progressive and I’m a person of faith, that has to stop when I’m making a funding decision because ultimately curriculum, there’s a cost involved and that’s why it comes to the board. We are a fiscal agent, but we are not charged with determining whether or not students learn in a particular way.”
On the topic of racial equity, while Capps is a strong advocative for implicit bias training, she points out that the current program is not perfect and has some transparency issues. “I think the program itself can be improved… but what I don’t like is that the whole topic of implicit bias training itself has come under assault at a time when we should be even more attuned to what students face every day… We need to do a better job of not playing a role in the systemic racism that pervades not just Santa Barbara, but our country.”
We appreciate how Capps balances her passion for education for all children and issues of equity and fairness, with her nuanced understanding of a school board member’s key role, which is to see clearly the forest while holding accountable those hired to focus on the trees.
“What I’ve learned is that it’s less about being on the right side of an issue. That’s actually not that hard. The challenge, what makes a good board member and what I believe I’ve been, is somebody who impacts a decision by asking the tough questions of the folks in charge… I kick the tires, look under the hood, and make sure that everybody else can look under the hood, too.”
SB Unified School Board Member Wendy Sims-Moten:
The seeds for a child’s success in school are planted long before they enter kindergarten. As the Executive Director of First 5 Santa Barbara County Children and Families Commission, created to support the health, early learning and well-being of children prenatal through age five and their families, Wendy Sims-Moten not only understands this, but it informs her all around perspective as a Santa Barbara Unified School Board Member.
Sims-Moten believes it’s important for every kid to feel connected. “That’s a huge piece of me continuing to run for the school board, to make sure that kids are being connected. Because education is the foundation that really sets us up for success… As a board member it is crucially important to look at the overall environment that we are governing… to make sure that students have the best educational experiences. So when they walk out of our district, they know they’re ready and they feel that they can really contribute and they feel visible and ready to take on the next role whatever that is.”
We support Sims-Moten’s focus on the importance of all students feeling connected and having a positive educational experience – from high achieving kids to those in the middle.
More than any other candidate, Sims-Moten stresses the importance of data as opposed to the anecdotal, as a critical tool for assessing how and if things are working.
“Good data is really important to guide us, not necessarily to be the end-all, but to guide and say, Here’s what we’re seeing and is that really what’s happening here? And how is that matching up with the policies and programs that we’re doing?”
We endorse Sims-Moten’s commitment to using data to closely evaluate programs in order to assess their success. For example, while she supports her board’s commissioning of the current program meant to deal with issues of cultural bias, she believes strongly in closely evaluating such programs to make sure they continue to meet the district’s needs. And so do we.
On the larger subject of systemic racism, segregation, and cultural divides, we appreciate Sims-Moten’s commitment to exploring more deeply what other districts are doing, and how they’re addressing such important issues.
As for the board’s recent and controversial unanimous approval of the Teen Talk sex education junior high curriculum, Sims-Moten is matter of fact. “These kids already have this information, but we want to make sure that the information they see makes sense… That they really understand what they’re seeing and the impact of that… that kids can get good information and balance it with what they’re seeing.” As for parents who don’t agree, Sims-Moten supports every parent’s right to do what they feel is appropriate for their children, and thus supports their ability to opt out of this program. “That’s hugely important to know that you can opt out based on your values,” she said.
“For me, it’s bringing an expectation that you will and you can (succeed) and we’re going to be here to provide the opportunity for you to do so. So when we leave you, you’ve got the key.”
After 30 years working behind the scenes in Santa Barbara public schools (10 for Santa Barbara Unified and the past 20 at our very own MUS – half as the District’s Chief Financial Officer) Virginia Alvarez is stepping out as a leader in her own right. Having worked with Alvarez during her eight years on the MUS School Board, our editor believes this is a good thing for SB Unified.
No candidate has a greater understanding of fiscal management and public-school finance and that how and where we spend money directly reflects our values. Like MUS, Santa Barbara is a community-funded district – which is where Alvarez’s vast experience lies. School boards need at least one or two members who deeply read and understand budgets, and in this regard, Alvarez can hit the ground running.
Prior to the last three decades as an employee at SB Unified, Alvarez was a student there from kindergarten through SB City College. Having entered as a Spanish speaker, she understands the challenges that face a significant percentage of SBU’s student population.
“I’m bilingual… So, I think that’s going to be helpful to reach out to the community.” Given that 60% of Santa Barbara Unified composition are Latinx, and 20% are English earners, we agree. “I started as a kid below grade level, non-English speaker, sitting in the back of the classroom. And eventually I went up to the high achieving programs. So, I have that perspective,” Alvarez said.
When asked about the board’s role in moving the needle on issues concerning racial equity, Alvarez is both unequivocal and practical. “Cultural competency is so important. That’s what makes a well-rounded individual. Compassion, understanding, equity, empathy, our world would be a better place if we exercise those values… As a board, of course, we need to address those important issues and we have to do it in not only a compassionate manner, but in a very smart manner… so before making a decision of what training program to bring into the district, a board has to do its due diligence and evaluate different programs.”
Alvarez is speaking about the implicit bias training program commissioned by the district’s current board. “My feeling is that we could have done better, because I think right now the issue is being confused with the fact. The fact is we need this training, this cultural competency. But the issue is the process, the way it was done. And unfortunately, I think that’s where it’s getting convoluted. So, I think we need to have a better process, definitely… We have to make sure that this curriculum… is building bridges and not divisiveness.”
“It’s time for our community to start healing,” Alvarez says. “And feeling heard is the beginning of healing and that’s something I would really push for.” With Alvarez on the board, we believe all SB Unified stakeholders will feel more heard, including the 20 percent that can benefit from a native and fluent Spanish speaker as at least one member of the board representatives.
Montecito Fire District Board
If you live in Montecito, you likely have an appreciation for the critical role played by our incredible Fire District. The District’s five-member Board chooses its Fire Chief, helps to set budget priorities and directs resources so that the agency can provide the best (and swiftest) fire and emergency services as possible to all Montecito residents.
One of the biggest issues facing the District is whether to build a second station on the east end of town. This issue is currently being looked at through a joint study with Montecito, Summerland, and Carpinteria. All candidates took a similar position on this issue.
In fact, in our conversations with all four candidates vying for three open seats – three of whom are incumbents – there was very little disagreement on anything. And even the one non-incumbent challenger, Robert Kemp, agrees that the current board is doing a fine job. So, despite Kemp’s genuine enthusiasm for serving Montecito in this capacity and his efforts to join this winning team, we are subscribing to the old adage: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
MJ Endorses the Three Incumbents:
Appointed in 2015 and elected in 2016, Easton is on her second term as Board President. Easton talks openly about the collaborative and supportive nature of the current board and is particularly proud of being on the team that promoted Montecito’s current Fire Chief, Kevin Taylor. Easton believes we have a strong district and that Montecito Fire should remain a special district.
On the question of whether Montecito needs a second fire station on the east end of town, Easton is clear: “I think that’s really important and it’s certainly important to save a life in a medical emergency. I want to do everything we could in whatever form is recommended.”
Easton beams with pride when speaking of Montecito’s entire fire team. “They took us through the Thomas Fire, the ensuing debris flow, and everything. They couldn’t be more professional or kind and just amazingly well trained.” She is equally enthusiastic about the current Fire Board. “I can’t tell you how well our board works together… and if somebody has a question or isn’t sure about something, we talk about it. And there’s no drama.”
No drama? We’re in!
A 50-year resident who grew up in Montecito and still resides in the same house, Michael Lee has seen a lot. A self-professed “apolitical person,” Lee has served on the Fire Board for five years. “The Fire Department is an important aspect of the community. And I kind of look at it as I’m the go-between person for both the finances and also what the Fire Department has to support in the community. I look at the big picture.”
Lee too would like to see another station on the east end of Montecito. “I think it’s really important for people that live on that end of Montecito to have the same quality services as somebody in the central part of Montecito.
We asked Lee how vulnerable he thinks we are to another big fire. “The front country has recouped pretty well within the last three years… but I think the general fire risk in the front country is an ongoing thing, especially if you are watching the whole state. We have less risk right now because the fuels aren’t as developed, but that’s just a ticking clock… I would like to see more fuel control in the upper front country. Some of that is not in the Montecito Fire jurisdiction; it’s in Forest Service. So, there’s an issue there. But I think Montecito and this city, and Carp, have worked on trying to establish a line all the way across the front country… and I think that’s important to continue.” We agree.
Lee on the importance of board members being out there communicating with their constituents. “I believe the best idea wins,” says Lee. Again, we agree.
Lee’s superpower? “When I look at things, I look at what’s the best benefit for the community as a whole. When I look at the finances… I’m looking at what’s the best use of money that we get the biggest bang for our buck that supports everyone almost equally. I know that sounds a little cliché, but it’s not just the front country people; it’s the whole community.”
As a co-founder of the Montecito Bucket Brigade, Abe Powell is likely the most visible Fire Board member currently serving. Powell has served on the board since 2012, but his community engagement on issues of emergency preparedness and recovery dates back much further. Powell grew up in Montecito and has been involved in community resilience for 25 years. He served as the Director of Relief Services for the Mountain Drive Community Association and did a five-year stint as a volunteer firefighter with the Mountain Drive Bush Six under the umbrella of Montecito Fire.
It was after the 2008 Tea Fire, to which Powell’s mother lost her home, that he decided this community needed a stronger focus on community protection, fire prevention, and direct community engagement. “That’s why I originally ran for the board with a focus on improving our safety service, modernizing equipment and methods and reconnecting the fire department with the communities. Especially the most vulnerable communities,” Powell says.
Since 2012, Powell believes they have comprehensively revamped Montecito Fire, which includes the creation of a new community Wildfire Protection Plan, widely credited with creating conditions that allowed for the protection of Montecito during the Thomas Fire. A plan that has since been updated to address post Thomas Fire conditions.
Like his fellow board members, Powell would like to see better emergency coverage on the east side of town. But most of all Powell stresses the value of and need for greater neighbor to neighbor communication and relations especially for the purposes of sharing information during a crisis.
“The most important thing that we are trying to encourage is that neighbors get to know each other… this is a really important thing that we’ve seen in the debris flow or in earthquakes or in a fire; that neighbors know each other and that they discuss the idea of helping each other in a crisis… And that is the goal moving forward, to get as many neighborhoods as possible engaged in this way and working cooperatively to help each other get through these challenges we face.
Powell is not shy about his belief that his credentials are unparalleled. “I think if you look at my body of work just on this board, in terms of my dedication and time spent out in the community and helping people either recover from the Tea Fire or from the debris flow, I think that there’s just nobody that’s putting in anywhere near the level of work and energy and time that I’ve put into this.” Whether you find it endearing or immodest, it’s hard to argue with that.
Montecito Sanitary District
Okay, admittedly not the sexiest work in town, but the Sanitary District, as the agency responsible for the collection, treatment, and disposal of our wastewater, plays a vital role in our community’s safety, health, and wellbeing. Beyond the traditional purview of sanitary districts, increasingly they are, literally, ground zero for detecting impending widespread community infection with coronavirus and other infectious diseases. Reason enough to say: this race is not a waste of your time. (We couldn’t resist.)
On the Sanitary Board there are three open seats, for which four candidates are vying. The biggest issues seem to be:
• The viability and value of a new multi-million-dollar district office building.
• Ocean discharge and its possible uses for Montecito as recycled water.
• Montecito’s exorbitant water rates.
MJ Endorses the Three Candidates:
With 50 years of experience in the building and expansion of sewage treatment plants, Don Eversoll has a deep understanding of the important role our Sanitary District plays in our lives and many ideas about how we can put our water and our dollars to better use.
On the controversial subject of the very expensive new district building long in the works, Eversoll laments the district having spent almost $175,000 to grade the land in preparation for a new essential services building that Eversoll believes is anything but. He also objects to the grading project having commenced without a permit.
“It was sold to the community as an essential services building and unfortunately, it only houses four people. My sense is, that’s a waste. They’ve already spent more than $500,000 on architecture and grading and they haven’t even started it.”
On the subject of our water rates being notably higher than Santa Barbara’s, he offers interesting solutions. “We don’t get any break anywhere,” Eversoll says. “It seems to me that what we need to do is to hook people up to a sewer and get them off sanitary systems. We’ve got an ocean discharge and we’ve got to discuss issues with other districts to understand how we can be more efficient.”
Better uses for ocean discharge is another thing on which we support Eversoll’s thinking. “My feeling is that we can recycle the water and it should be a significant recycle, not just used for the cemetery. The irony is that Montecito Water District has the right to sell water at the cost of recycling water, it would cost more for the cemetery to purchase it than the purchase of potable water… So in my view we need to service the Miramar hotel, the San Ysidro Ranch, the Valley Club, Biltmore and the other (community) major users of irrigation water.”
Eversoll is both knowledgeable and passionate about the subject of sewage and may be the only candidate who can boast: “I know what a drop manhole is. I know what a force main is… I actually went on a tour of the sewers of Paris.”
Dorinne Lee Johnson:
We like Dorinne Lee Johnson’s land-use experience, her commitment to process and compliance issues and most importantly her successful track-record on consensus building.
As the current chair of the Montecito Association’s Land Use Committee, and a former member of the Architectural Review Board for the City of Santa Monica, Johnson brings to the table strong management, engineering, and design skills; and equally strong feelings on the importance of building code and permitting compliance. This might seem like an odd skill for a Sanitary Board Member, but with the controversial pricy building front and center, maybe not.
The other main focus for Johnson is community outreach and consensus building. And with controversial issues like this building and water recycling on the table, we could probably use a little Kumbaya. “Process to me is the main thing that I really support. I really like to work with homeowners and rate payers to help them understand the process. I take the extra time to really work with people.”
Because the usage of ocean discharge will soon be state mandated, Johnson would like to see recycled water used for hotels and other big water users. “You have the golf courses and things like that… we’d love to have homeowners, but I just don’t think that’s going to be feasible right now.” On this we think it’s important that the board’s long-term planning includes a path for homeowners to have access to recycled water, especially in light of the recent advances in toilet to tap.
Of all the candidates, Johnson is the most focused on constituent services and consensus building. “I like to bring actual consensus to the board… I’ve always been the one to go to when a board wants to outreach to the community… Even when I was working in Santa Monica. I’d be the one that would go out to the different communities… when I was doing work for the Asian Business Association, the Black Business Association, Latinos, we all worked together…”
Johnson’s secret power: “Working with people… The mission is to make sure that there is transparency, that we engage in the community with rate payers. I think that… our mission is really to protect, preserve, and enhance our community.”
We found Edwin Martin to be a breath of fresh air. At his core Martin strikes us as an unlikely politician who takes a “says it like it is” approach to, well, everything. And we believe that more than ever there is room such honest transparency in public service.
A trial lawyer by training (in toxic issues no less), Martin says he’s been asked many times to consider a seat on this board but this is the first time he’s felt compelled to step up. Why? Because he felt there was room in the sanitary district for a little more transparency, and we agree.
“I started hearing about this project to build a building and the cost of it, it was going to be like six million dollars if not more, and I was looking around, what’s the need here? Can that money be spent on some useful service rather than someone’s vanity project? And I became convinced that that’s exactly what it was. There were mutterings of deterioration and asbestos and I’m somewhat of an authority on asbestos as a trial lawyer but there was never any documentation of such findings.” Edwin came to the conclusion that the building was intentionally allowed to deteriorate because they wanted to tear it down.
On the subject of ocean discharge, Martin says, “This is where the affluent bathe in the effluent… I wouldn’t want to go swimming in that stuff.” Martin described having attended a recent Board of Directors meeting. “They were talking about a letter they wanted to send out about how they discharge ‘clean water.’ Director Barrett said wait a minute, you can’t say that, it’s treated but it’s not clean… and they backed off of the use of that word. You’ve gotta tell the truth and explain it in factually correct ways and avoid the use of weasel words. That’s got to change and I’d like to be part of that change!”
What should that water be used for? Martin believes that 100% of the water should be treated because economies of scale is the only way you can make sense out of recycling water. “To make it useful at all it has to be treated. I think it all has to be done in harmonious cooperation with the water district because their people excel at it. But you can’t do less, and you can’t do it alone.
It is here that Martin sees an important opportunity for the Sanitary and Water Districts to work more closely together. “The treatment expense is typically borne by the water district. It’s a collaborative effort because the water district participates in the cost of treatment and the disposition of it. The MSD can in no way deal with it alone.”
Martin’s superpower: “I would like to bring to the board a sense of honest transparency, no fooling around. I have spent decades asking questions. I read things… I would not participate in anybody’s failure to tell the community the truth. It’s a personal responsibility.”
The MJ Gives a Qualified YES on Measure L
Cold Spring School District is asking the community to support a 7.8 million-dollar bond to build three new classrooms to support the needs of its growing student population – even greater since the emergence of the need for safe social distance education. The district also needs to upgrade much of its water and electrical infrastructure. The last renovation to the school was done over 20 years ago, and no doubt it’s time to do this work.
Personally, we will vote for it. Cold Spring does in fact need the money and at the end of the day it’s about supporting our community’s children and our commitment to them receiving a top-notch education in safe classrooms that are conducive to learning.
But reservations and ambivalence on the part of some community members are valid and we would be remiss to not address this. It can be argued that in some ways this bond rewards Cold Spring for not attending to long simmering financial problems left unaddressed. The district had the money, but due to what could be argued as poor fiscal management and questionable choices, it was spent elsewise.
In fairness to the current board and superintendent, this issue has been building for the better part of two decades, during which reserves should have been built up and cuts could have been made. So while the current leadership did not cause the problem, nor have they necessarily been part of the solution.
That said, Cold Spring (like the rest of us) has weathered the Thomas Fire and debris flow and now a world-wide pandemic. These have been a mind-spinning tough few years for us all so we are choosing to grant them the benefit of the doubt and support their effort to provide the our community’s children the safety and education they deserve.
For Next Edition:
Please tune for next week’s Montecito Journal for our Presidential endorsement, as well as our staff’s analysis of the complicated and important California State Ballot Propositions for which we will provide endorsements.