Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Supervisor candidate pledges to heal divisiveness


During her 16 years as a city council member for the city of Buellton, Victoria Pointer hasn’t had any aspiration of running for a higher office.
That is until she began looking into the platforms of the four other candidates who are vying for the office of Santa Barbara County’s Third District Supervisor — a race that does not include current Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who is not seeking reelection.

“Because this position is such a pivotal seat in terms of the entire county structure I was watching very closely the attitudes, positions and platforms of the candidates and I just believe I have something much different to offer,” Pointer said during a phone interview.
Geographically the third district wraps through the heart of the county. It is defined by swathes of farmland and coastline that must be passed through before entering North or South County. As a result, the tenuous balance of power between North and South often teeters on who is at the helm of the third district — a fact that regularly brews controversy and one that Pointer hopes to see die.
“I just don’t want to see divisiveness and don’t want to see the polarization occur,” she said. “You’ve got people who are on the far right and far left [running]. That in and of itself will be very polarizing. We are one county and we need to be working together.”
Critics of Firestone maintain that during his tenure he aligned himself closely with North County supervisors, effectively stripping the balance of power from the south.
All of the third district candidates have said they hope to quell the sometimes fiery north, south bickering, but Pointer believes she’ll be best at it because she won’t vote along north, south lines, but rather issue-by-issue.
And as a three-term mayor of Buellton, Pointer said she’s proven her ability to compromise and negotiate in order to arrive at the best conclusions.
“That’s all anybody can ask for and expect,” she said. “Nobody can wave a magic wand and say ‘I’m going to be everything to everybody.’ It’s not always a perfect situation.”
Pointer, a 53-year-old mother of three who was born and raised in Santa Barbara and works in the special education department of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, said she would staunchly protect the Gaviota Coast and farmland.
“This is one of the most diverse ecosystems,” she said of the Gaviota Coast. “It is pristine and we really need to do everything we can to preserve it.”
She called any form of major development along the coast, “craziness,” and said she supports an ongoing effort to divert development of the scenic Naples area on the coast to a different site — an effort known as transfer of development rights (TDR).
However, Pointer said there are circumstances where she could foresee minor development there.
For example, she said there are dozens of homes large and small tucked away in the hills along the Gaviota Coast, most of which are out of sight. She said such cautious building could be allowed.
“One home on a 100 acre property in my opinion is not intrusive,” she said. “Some people don’t want to see anything there, but again, you’ve got to balance the right of the landowner.”
On the topic of preserving farmland, Pointer said she believes the most appropriate way to go about rezoning such land is for residents to vote.
Pointer said an effort is underway in Buellton to expand the city’s urban growth boundary, which could promote urban sprawl and consume prime farmland.
She said one group is attempting to establish a guideline that would require any rezone of farmland near Buellton to be voted on by the entire city — a process she supports.
“I think the people that live in a community should have a voice in what they see as a vision for their community,” she said.
Getting a handle on the county’s ballooning budget deficit is also a priority for Pointer, who said she is in favor of making cuts at the administrative level before levying those cuts on services.
“The county has too many managers, too many department heads and too many layers,” she said.
One cut to services currently on the table is about $8 million from the Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services, which some say could purge hundreds of mentally ill adults from services like assisted living and job training.
Pointer said this is a perfect example of where not to make cuts.
“It targets those that are in need and those that are in need are going to become needier and putting a bigger burden on the people of the county,” she said. “That’s the wrong area to make a cut. That’s going to come back and cost [the county].”
Pointer said the county also should think seriously about providing workforce housing. She said the tens-of-thousands of people who commute into the county each day not only provide critical services, but are spending their hard earned cash elsewhere.
“We have people who are traveling as afar as Kern County and the edges of Los Angeles County to come to work,” she said. “That’s crazy.”
Without naming them, Pointer criticized some of her competitors for accepting large campaign contributions that could have, “strings attached and [make] people become beholden and think that they have an alliance with those who have made the contribution.”
She said just by looking at the endorsements of other candidates it’s clear where their allegiances will fall. For example, North County Supervisor’s Joni Gray and Joe Centeno have endorsed Dave Smyser, who Firestone handpicked as his successor. Doreen Farr, a Santa Ynez resident running for the seat, has received endorsements from South County Supervisor’s Janet Wolf and Salud Carbajal.
While it’s expected that sitting supervisors would make endorsements, Pointer said these are examples of how the third district seat will continue to be one that perpetuates a north, south divide.
“[These candidates] are aligned with other elected officials already and there will be expectations and there will be a level of allegiance that’s expected,” she said.
Though one can do little about endorsements during an election year, Pointer said she would push for campaign finance reform during county elections. As it stands, Pointer said she is the only candidate to have abided by a voluntary expenditure limit, which she said restricts candidate spending to $87,000. Pointer said she’d like to make this voluntary limit part of the county code.
Whether it’s the budget, land use issues or campaign finance, Pointer said it’s unlikely any solutions will surface without a cohesive board — something she hopes to bring to the table.
“I hope to unify all of the board members and look at making decisions that are in the best interest as a whole,” she said. “This divisiveness and separation by district has got to stop because we are not doing very well and that affects every area.”
Pointer and the other four candidates will be on the June 3 primary election ballot.

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