Thursday, July 10, 2008

Goleta City Council race kicks off


Nearly two years after the face of Goleta politics got a major overhaul when three challengers beat out a trio of City Council incumbents, the race for two open seats this November is getting underway.

Four hopefuls have already filed initial paperwork announcing their intentions to run. Among them is current council member Jean Blois, who will be seeking a third term. The second council member up for reelection, Jonny Wallis, has not yet officially expressed her intent to seek reelection.
Also entering the race is local businessman Don Gilman, former Goleta City Council member Margaret Connell and current Goleta Planning Commissioner Ed Easton. Easton was appointed to the commission by Wallis in 2006.
At a news conference yesterday near Ellwood Elementary School, Gilman officially announced his intent to run.
Born and raised in Goleta, Gilman said one of the main reasons he’s seeking a council seat is to ensure enough housing and jobs are created to foster a well-balanced and “sustainable” community for future generations.
“I’m selfish,” he said. “I’d like my kids to be able to live here if they’d like to live here.”

Gilman said current council member Eric Onnen, Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett and Blois — the current council majority — are supporting his run.
When asked how he believes he’ll fit into the sometimes divisive council split, Gilman credited Wallis and Mayor Pro Tempore Roger Aceves for their strengths, but said he aligns himself more closely with the, “reasonable side of the council.”
Gilman said he first got involved with local politics when he attempted to navigate the local planning process and remodel his home.
“After months and months of meetings, presentations — of seemingly endless bureaucracy — I got so frustrated with personal agendas getting in the way of me providing for my family I began getting involved,” he said.
Gilman said a top priority for him will be to renegotiate the city’s revenue neutrality agreement with the County of Santa Barbara. The agreement requires the city pay the county 50 percent of its property tax revenue forever and 50 percent of its sales tax until 2012, when it will be decreased to 30 percent.
Blois said the fiscal survival of the city depends upon a more reasonable agreement for Goleta. With more revenue, Blois said the city could create a solid parks and recreation program and invest more money in law enforcement.
Blois said recent discussions by the council aimed at placing a sales tax measure on the November ballot, which many believed would have undermined Measure A, a half-cent transportation sales tax that would renew Measure D, was simply a way to show the county that Goleta is serious about renegotiating the revenue neutrality agreement.
“In order to get their attention we were going to put our own sales tax on the ballot, which would have impacted Measure A likely, but what other way could we have gotten revenue for our citizens,” she said.
Blois, 80, also said the ongoing effort by the council to make a fleet of amendments to its general plan is a priority that she would like to see finished in her lifetime.

Former council member Connell, who failed to win her seat in the 2006 General Election, said she is just exploring the possibility of running.
Whether Connell’s name ends up on the ballot or not, she said she’s deeply disturbed by the recent decisions made by the current council majority.
She said a hefty chunk of the 70 or so General Plan amendments will make it easier for developers to build, or ease environmental restrictions. As an example, she cited the roughly 33 amendments, some of which have been approved by the council, that were proposed by the Bacara Resort & Spa.
“This is something I think needs to be slowed down,” she said. “I’m not against every kind of development, but I think this council is moving ahead rather rapidly and without the kind of concern for environmental protections I think are important and are valued by people in Goleta.”
Planning Commissioner Easton, who said he has discussed his plans to run with Wallis, will officially kick-off his campaign next week.
Easton said he too is concerned with the direction of the council majority. He cited an upcoming vote by the council which will likely decide whether or not development should be allowed near Bishop Ranch.
“There are a lot of things that concern me about the direction of Goleta at this point,” he said. “Many people who know me have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to be doing.”

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