Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Candidate pledges preservation, transparency for 3rd district


When Steve Pappas ran for the office of Third District Supervisor in 2004, his reasoning was simple: to change the way Santa Barbara County does business.
Four years later, Pappas’ name will once again be on the primary election ballot, and while his motives remain the same, some of the problems with the county, as he sees them, have grown worse.
“Nothing’s gotten any better over the last four years,” he told the Daily Sound in a phone interview yesterday. “And I’m very concerned about where things are headed.”

To understand how and why Pappas, a 48-year-old father of two who is the president of the Los Olivos School Board, began his drive to represent the sprawling third district, all one needs to know is the story of a 25-acre farm called Montanero.
The farm, located on Grand Avenue in Los Olivos, was once destined for a mixed-use development. There today is an open hay field and the same bucolic structures that have stood for decades. No condos, no stores, no parking lots.
The story of the farm is the story of Pappas’ political career, and as he tells it, began one evening six years ago when a neighbor frantically told him a county planning committee was hosting a meeting inside a church near his home in Los Olivos.
Pappas said a number of his neighbors and other residents huddled together at the meeting, where they were shown full-blown plans of Montanero Farm bulldozed over with high-density development. What alarmed Pappas and the others, he said, was the county officials were talking about the development as if it was a done deal.
“None of us living around that area knew anything about it,” he said. “We never got a notice, never got a flier. That was the beginning of my involvement in community activism.”
Out of the Montanero Farm incident grew the groups Preservation of Los Olivos (POLO), and later Preservation of Santa Ynez, (POSY), both founded in part by Pappas. The group’s focus on land-use issues in the Santa Ynez Valley and are vocal in their opposition to any expansion of gambling operations with the Chumash Casino.
Though Montanero Farm was ultimately saved, Pappas said the way the process was handled by the county drove him to take a keen interest in politics, which has culminated with his second effort at winning the seat of third district supervisor.
As executive director of POLO and POSY, Pappas championed preservation of farmland. So there’s little surprise he feels the single biggest issue facing the county at the moment is potential development along the Gaviota Coast.
“We’ve got to preserve our agricultural lands,” he said. “We’ve got to keep the farmers and the Ag business viable so they stay in business and we don’t lose them.”
Pappas said one of the key ways to prevent development along the coast is to negotiate Transfer of Development Rights (TDR), which generally are agreements between landowners and government to build on more appropriate parcels of land, often located in urban areas.
The county is currently engaged in this process with a parcel of land on the coast known as Naples, but Pappas is doubtful it will succeed, though he strongly believes it can and should.
“I don’t see their will to make it happen,” Pappas said. “I don’t see the county making the effort to make it work and it’s a strong concern.”
If elected, Pappas said he would champion the TDR process. If development occurs at Naples, which is at the southerly end of the Gaviota Coast, Pappas said the floodgates on other building up and down the coast could open.
The county’s current fiscal crisis, which will likely require more than $26 million in cuts for next fiscal year, is also a concern for Pappas.
While the county has outlined ambitious cuts for nearly every department, Pappas said his preference would be to cut at the administrative level before taking “off the backs of the people.”
He said one example where cuts should not be made is to the Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services, which are currently facing $8 million in cuts. If these cuts are implemented, some say they could force hundreds of mentally ill residents into homelessness.
“That doesn’t make any sense to me at all,” Pappas said of cuts to mental health.
County relations with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, which is a primary focus of POLO and POSY, is also something Pappas said he would focus on as supervisor.
He said he would attempt to regulate the Chumash more strictly by encouraging the tribe to abide by the state gaming compact, which he feels isn’t occurring. In 2005 Pappas, through POLO, was responsible for filing a lawsuit against the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a tier of the federal Department of the Interior. The lawsuit demands that residents living near Indian casinos have their say when any form of casino expansion is considered. Under current law, Pappas said residents are told they can’t participate. He said a federal judge is expected to rule in the next couple of months.
The nature of the third district, both geographically and in the boardroom, often lands the person sitting in the supervisor seat stuck between the sometimes-divisive politics of North and South County. Some see the third district as a potential bridge between the two political ideologies, but most often, Pappas said, it is a swing vote that is aligned with one side or the other.
“There won’t be a 3-2 majority on either side if I’m elected,” he said. “I’m not going in with an agenda or a predetermined course.”
Pappas described the two sides, as many others do, as the far right (north), and far left (south). But he said the vast majority of people in the third district he’s spoken to over the years want someone in the middle.
“People that live here are just trying to figure out what’s best for the community and they really don’t care what political machine is talking,” he said.
Pappas said he is non-partisan and will not bow to either side on any issue. He said this is what separates him from the rest of the pack.
He used his competitors Doreen Farr and Dave Smyser as examples. In Farr’s case, she carries the endorsements of South County Supervisor’s Janet Wolf and Salud Carbajal. North County Supervisor’s Joe Centeno and Joni Gray have endorsed Smyser, who was chosen by Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone as his successor.
“I’m not beholden to their money or their influence,” Pappas said. “I’m truly in a position to make, I think, objective and independent decisions and that’s how I’ll run it, and that’s going to be interesting because I don’t think that’s happened here in years.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here is why Pappas' claims lack credibility:

He's a life-long Republican who changed his registration so he could run as an Independent.

He is taking sole credit for doing a lot of things that actually were done by many other community activists.

About 80% of his funding comes from 3 sources, the largest land owner in the Santa Ynez Valley, a veterinarian who also owns scads of land, and himself, Pappas. He IS beholden to them.

His activism is limited to the Santa Ynez Valley, with no ties or work in behalf of Goleta, Isla Vista, Lompoc, Vandenberg Village.