Thursday, October 23, 2008

Farr stands by experience, endorsements


During her three years as a Santa Barbara County planning commissioner, Third District supervisor candidate Doreen Farr said she wrestled with controversial issues and staunchly protected the environment.
These are some of the experiences she’s vowed to take with her to the Board of Supervisors, where the Santa Ynez Valley resident hopes to secure the Third District seat.

Farr is quick to note what separates her campaign from that of her opponent, Steve Pappas. But on big issues, such as protecting the Gaviota Coast, how to grapple with the county budget and keeping the diverse Third District on the same page, the two candidates have sung similar songs.
With just 12 days to go until election day, Farr said she is “cautiously optimistic” in her chances of winning, and “believes things are going well.”
During a recent interview in Buellton, Farr cited her experience as a planning commissioner and her lengthy list of endorsements as proof that she has what it takes to lead the diverse Third District.
Having lived in the Santa Ynez Valley, as well as the unincorporated Goleta Valley, Farr, unlike Pappas, has lived on both sides of the street as it were, and has the South Coast endorsements to prove it.
But that’s not why she’s running for office. The answer to that question is a little simpler: Farr said she believes the residents of the Third District deserve the best representation around, and she happens to be it.
“A lot of people love living in this county and sacrifice to stay here,” she said. “[I] want to give them the best representation I can.”

Finding differences

Farr acknowledges she and Pappas share similar views on big issues facing the county, but she said these similarities have tightened in recent months.
“As the campaign goes forward he says more and more things that I’ve been saying,” she said.
Farr, who has been endorsed by current South County supervisor’s Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf, as well as four other former supervisors and the majority of city council members from Goleta and Santa Barbara, said her backing alone speaks for her ability to follow through with her words.
“Just because he says the same thing that I do doesn’t mean he has the backing and support on the issues that I have,” she said of her opponent.
The issues in the Third District, which stretches from Goleta, to Vandenberg Village and Isla Vista to the Santa Ynez Valley, are wide reaching.
From protection of the Gaviota Coast, energy, the county budget crisis, preservation of agriculture land and development, it has a little bit of everything. The district’s people, and its land, are likely the most diverse in the county.
Farr said one primary difference between Pappas and her, is her support from the public safety community.
The Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, as well as the County Deputy District Attorney Association have endorsed Farr.
On top of these, Farr pointed out she has been backed by a number of environmental organizations.
“My opponent has none of that,” she said.

Gaviota Coast

While not the most pressing issue facing the county at the moment (Farr said she believes the No. 1 slot goes to the budget), protecting the Gaviota Coast ranks near the top of Farr’s list.
“This is an issue the people have been very united about,” she said, adding that county residents from north to south have joined hands in the fight against development on the wide-open coast.
With the Board of Supervisors’ approval of the Naples residential development fresh on her mind, Farr said she wished more could have been done to pear down the size, bulk and scale of the 71 homes planned for the spot.
Though the project was 10 years in the making and was the subject of countless public meetings, Farr said she believes more work should have been done to lessen the impacts, and find less impactful sites for many of the homes.
“I think we could have gotten a much better agreement than we did,” she said.
Farr said she would have also liked to see the Board of Supervisors amend a memorandum of understanding with Naples developer Matt Osgood in public.
As it happened, the board earlier this month voted 3-2 behind closed doors, with Carbajal and Wolf dissenting, to split the development into two chunks, distinguished between coastal and inland.
As a result, the California Coastal Commission will not review the inland portion, which consists of roughly 50 homes; a factor some believe will make approval far easier on the developer.
Farr pointed out that the original MOU the developer negotiated with the county was handled in public, and the amendment should have been the same way.
She said a balance must be struck between private property rights on the coast and preservation, but dismantling the one project into two different projects, “was inappropriate.”
“When you start taking the thing apart, it falls apart,” she said.

County Budget

When asked what the single greatest threat to the health of the county is, Farr said without blinking, “not enough money.”
“It’s a picture that’s of great concern,” she said of the county’s fiscal future. “We’ve got some very lean times ahead. We’re going to have to make some more cuts and find new revenue streams.”
The budget is one topic Farr and Pappas both agree is a severe issue, but the candidates differ on exactly how to tighten the belt, and keep cuts as far away from health and public safety as possible.
If elected, Farr said she’d support an effort to analyze the budget over the past few years, identify what departments grew during good times, and see if cuts could be made there.
She said the county should turn to its employees and ask them where waste is occurring, and possibly offer incentives to those who are successful in making the county more efficient.
While Pappas said he does not fully understand the county’s $760 million budget, Farr said she has a handle on it.
“I understand the budget,” she said. “It’s a very complicated, long document but it’s quite understandable if you take the time and go through it.”
While Pappas said he would push for a forensic, independent audit of the budget, Farr said she’s not sure such an audit is necessary. Instead, Farr said the county’s auditor controller has done a good job identifying sticky financial situations, one of which is roughly $30 million the county amassed in faulty Medi-Cal billing, which might have to be repaid to the state.
“I think we need to ask a lot of tough questions,” she said.
Farr also said she doesn’t feel Pappas’ insistence on cutting “fat” from the county’s Planning and Development Department has merit.
The last time Farr checked, she said the Planning and Development Department was down 40 positions.
“I’m not sure that they’re at all overstaffed at this period in time,” she said. “There has to be somebody there.”

3-2 Split

The Third District is geographically sandwiched between North and South County. So it’s fitting that it is also often ideologically a bridge between what is sometimes considered a more conservative north, and liberal south. As a result, the person sitting in the Third District seat often represents a crucial swing vote.
This has been manifested in the board’s recent 3-2 vote to send Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a letter informing him of the county’s newfound support for offshore oil drilling — a decision Farr adamantly opposed.
“Overall the people of Santa Barbara County have been very proud of being considered environmental leaders,” she said.
On this note, Farr said she hopes to help push the county in a more sustainable direction by encouraging wind farms, similar to one recently approved in Lompoc, and solar energy.
The Naples development was also a 3-2 vote, and at the forefront of both of these issues, was Firestone, voting in step with North County supervisors Joe Centeno and Joni Gray.
Farr spoke out against the board majority in both of these instances, and if it had been her sitting behind the dais, neither would likely have moved forward as they are.
But regardless of how heated the discussions grow when big issues are on the table, Farr pointed out that the majority of the time the board casts unanimous votes.
She said the majority of a supervisor’s job should be aimed at community outreach, not arguing with colleagues.
“I think it’s important to remember that so much of the work of a county supervisor is day-to-day community service,” she said, noting that she will make it a priority to be available to her constituents.


While Farr was the Second District planning commissioner, she dealt with her share of complicated land-use issues. At that time, Montecito did not yet have its own planning commission, and Goleta had not become its own city.
The County Planning Commission had it all, and Farr said that experience is very similar to being on the Board of Supervisors.
As Goleta was incorporating, Farr said she left the Planning Commission to be a part of the new city’s interim staff, during which time she primarily dealt with land-use issues Goleta inherited from the county.
But Farr’s roots run deeper than that, and are imbedded in her grass-roots fight to improve traffic conditions near her former Goleta home, which ultimately ended with the formation of the Patterson Area Neighborhood Association.
For Farr, the journey to the ballot has been a long one, during which time she’s co-owned a newspaper, radio stations, a magazine and managed to keep a foot in politics as well.
And that journey, spanned over the past 25 years, is similar to a lengthy campaign.
“It’s been a long campaign,” she said. “It’s not over till’ it’s over and we’re continuing to do all the things we’ve done in the primary.”
And if things go the way of the February primary election, where Farr racked up 35.7 percent of the votes to Pappas’ 25.6 percent, Farr will end up on top.
More information about Farr’s campaign is available at

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