Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Farr says she'll bring change to Third District


From the rowdy parties that often mark life in Isla Vista to the wide open, bucolic feel of the Santa Ynez Valley, the Third District may be home to Santa Barbara County’s most diverse population.
And it’s currently up for grabs.
After four years as supervisor of the district, Brooks Firestone has said he will not seek a second term — an announcement that came late last year and has snowballed into a five person race for the helm of the sprawling district. [For the record: the original version of this story incorrectly stated Firestone was in his second term.]

The issues in the district are as varied as the people who live there. The ever-present concern over development on the Gaviota Coast, preservation of agricultural land, and complex land use issues in the unincorporated Goleta Valley are likely to remain hot items for years to come.
While the candidates have been actively battling each other for the past several months, they are also facing the possibility of a lack-luster June 3 election, which will be conspicuously missing the usual presidential draw — a result of California moving its presidential primary to February.
Over the next two weeks, the Daily Sound will preview each of the five candidates, beginning today with Doreen Farr, a Santa Ynez Valley resident.

It is the catchword for Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and it’s what Doreen Farr says she’ll bring to the Third District if she’s elected on June 3.
As a former Second District Planning Commissioner who lived for more than two decades in unincorporated areas surrounding Goleta before moving to the Santa Ynez Valley five years ago, Farr has the rare perspective of having lived in both regions of the district.
A community activist who has been the president of the Patterson Neighborhood Association and is currently a director of the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance (an organization dedicated to preserving the rural nature of that community), Farr is no stranger to county government.
Behind her decision to seek the Third District seat, which she said was made before current Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone announced he would not seek a second term, is the direction the board has traveled during the winery owner’s tenure.
“I just saw the last few years since Mr. Firestone took office that both policy and public procedures were not going in a direction that I agreed with,” she said.
Some of the marquee disagreements Farr has had with Firestone was his refusal to support an effort by First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal to allocate $1 million this fiscal year to insure the county’s thousands of children who lack health insurance. Firestone was the lone dissenting vote.
Another instance where Firestone failed to impress Farr was when he and the other North County supervisors considered moving the public comment period to the end of the meeting. She said this would have shut out the public.
“I’m very sensitive to making sure the public first of all knows what’s going on and that they get the information in a timely manner,” she said. “I just felt like that was being degraded in many ways.”
Farr, a 56-year-old mother of three adult sons, said two of the main issues facing the third district are preservation of agricultural land and protecting the Gaviota Coast. Possible development at an area on the Gaviota Coast known as Naples is one of the main projects currently on the county’s radar.
Farr said development rights like those at Naples need to be respected and honored, “But at the same time, we have to look at all the tools we might have to manage that development so it’s the least impactful.”
But the most pressing county issue in Farr’s opinion is a fiscal crisis at the county level that is expected to require tens-of-millions in budget cuts this year.
Since many county-provided services impact people who live in the area’s cities, Farr said these cuts are a perfect example of how the supervisor race impacts all residents of the county.
“I think whenever county supervisor elections come around, whether it’s your district or not, it’s still important,” she said. “County supervisors vote on all issues in all districts, not just your own.”
Many see the Third District seat as a pivotal position where bridges between North and South County are either built or burned. While opinions abound on whether or not Firestone has been a bridge builder or burner, it’s clear a drastic division remains between the two geographical areas.
Farr said she is confident in her ability to work well with supervisors from both regions — a balancing act she became familiar with as a planning commissioner.
While preservation is one of Farr’s main talking points, she said another priority for her is to crack down on Greka Energy and other oil companies that spill oil and other pollutants on a regular basis.
During a Board of Supervisors meeting last January in Santa Maria, where the board discussed clamping down on Greka after it’s more than 400 violations over the past several years came to light, Farr asked them to shut the spill-plagued company down.
“The county I believe has always had the power to regulate them more closely than they have, including shutting them down,” she said. “I think that the county allowing this to go on… is just wrong.”
When Farr was a planning commissioner, she said Greka had just begun buying up old oil wells within the county. She said the commission approved a number of Greka projects, but she had no idea the company would amass such a lengthy list of violations.
“Little did we know that would be the first of hundreds of chances for Greka,” she said. “I believe in giving people a number of changes if they look like they’re working hard to [run] good operations, but I don’t believe in giving 400 chances.”
Farr’s list of endorsements is a who’s who of politics on the South Coast. It includes former Second District Supervisor Susan Rose, Current Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf, First District Supervisor Carbajal, Rep. Lois Capps, five of the six Santa Barbara City Council members, the Sierra Club and hundreds more.
She said the endorsements are a testament to her nature and her work while residing in this county.
“I believe the reason I have gotten these is because I do have a long history or working with these people and these groups,” she said. “I’m someone who can help facilitate and bring together people with diverse opinions.”
She said her experience in and around county government is what distinguishes her from the other hopefuls.
“I don’t see anyone else in the race that has as much experience in county issues over as long a period of time,” she said. “I really bring a whole wealth, depth, and breadth of experience that I don’t think any of the other candidates can match.”
And whether it’s a keg party in Isla Vista or a wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley, Farr said she thinks the Third District’s diversity is what makes it a special place to live.
“I call it the heart and soul of the county,” she said. “It’s the geographic heart of it on the map and it’s the soul because in it you will find all of the different kinds of communities.”


Anonymous said...

"After eight years as supervisor of the district, Brooks Firestone has said he will not seek a third term..."

Wow. Brooks only is in his first term and is not seeking reelection. That was a pretty big error....

Anonymous said...

Farr says she will bring change. The other candidate HAVE ACTUALLY BROUGHT CHANGE.

My personal opinion is that the only reason she is winning according to the independent pole is due to her campaign budget for TV.