The four men running for Santa Barbara County Sheriff debated crime prevention, youth education and budget cuts Tuesday at the Goleta Valley Community Center.
The League of Women Voters and the Junior League of Santa Barbara organized the forum, which was attended by an audience of about 50. The election for Sheriff will take place on March 5 and will be the third time a new Sheriff has been elected in 32 years.
Sheriff candidates Roger Aceves, Jim Anderson, Ugo Peter ‘Butch’ Arnoldi and Dave Dorsey prepared opening and closing statements, responded to previously prepared questions and fielded questions from the audience.
Dorsey, a retired Undersheriff, said his platform includes youth education and crime prevention. He said his endorsements from Sheriff Jim Thomas, the district attorney, and many police and fire chiefs prove his qualification.
“They know what it takes to run a Sheriff’s office because they do the work and they know me because I’ve worked with them my whole career,” Dorsey said. “I was appointed by Sheriff Jim Thomas as the [Undersheriff], which is the highest possible rank under him.”
Dorsey said his highest priority would be to continue “keeping peace in Santa Barbara County.”
“I want to create an efficient and accountable [Sheriff’s Dept.] … in order to give other dollars to other services to work with us,” he said.
Anderson, the Sheriff’s Dept. Commander, said he is the only candidate who has received national jail manager certification. He said one of his main goals is to increase the power of crime prevention programs and control jail overcrowding by working with Santa Barbara youth.
“We need to increase education in schools to send positive role models for our children at an age where we can make a difference and hopefully decrease the jail population,” Anderson said.
Arnoldi, currently the Carpinteria Station lieutenant, said he went through the entire Santa Barbara school system and rose in the Sheriff’s Dept. from a patrol officer to a lieutenant. He cited his three years of experience as Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lieutenant as a model for how he would like to create a dialogue with the public.
“In that time, I opened the lines of communication and developed mutual respect. We may not have agreed on everything, but the dialogue was there,” he said.
Arnoldi said his platform includes open and honest communication, and enhancing youth involvement by expanding the current Explore program – which allows youth to experience law enforcement firsthand – and for which he is the Senior Advisor.
“I will openly solicit ideas and criticism from the community by implementing regular monthly open house meetings,” he said. “Why must we only contact the community when there is a problem?”
Aceves said he is concerned with manpower on the frontline and police at school. He said he also intends to reach and respond to everyone in the diverse county.
“In order to reduce juvenile crime, we need to make sure we have a strong educational component in their language so they can understand the laws,” Aceves said. “There is no neighborhood watch in Spanish. Why not? We need qualified bilingual people to work and communicate to get their input and concerns.”
John Remelia, a Los Alamos resident, asked how the candidates would deal with budget cuts, due to current economic problems.
“They will be forced to cut down, but everyone sounds like they will be spending more money if they are elected,” Remelia said.
Aceves, Arnoldi, and Anderson said they would need to discuss the issue with the community in order to identify areas where cuts are appropriate. Aceves said the $400,000 recently spent on a new Sheriff’s Dept. airplane is unnecessary. Dorsey said he would follow the department’s response to similar budget cuts in the 1990s and decrease personnel.
The forum will broadcast on Channel 20 this Saturday and Sunday at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.