The candidates for 3rd District supervisor met for another debate at Andersen’s Pea Soup restaurant in Buellton.
Approximately 250 people crowded into the restaurant building for the debate between John Buttny, Brooks Firestone and Slick Gardner. Steve Pappas did not attend due to a family medical emergency. The forum was sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association and co-sponsored by the Buellton, Lompoc and Solvang Chambers of Commerce and several other local organizations.
A central question for the candidates was what funding cuts they would make to cope with state budget constraints and to which departments they would give priority.
Firestone said the main budget cuts would be made within his own office.
“I would start with that which I could do, the 3rd District supervisor’s office itself. It’s $150,000 larger than the next office,” Firestone said. “I would take $150,000 off to start with. I’m a bargain.”
Firestone also said public safety would be his number one priority and he would not cut funds from the fire and health departments.
Buttny agreed that the county must maintain its ability to provide public health and safety to its residents.
“Police and fire have to stay as whole as possible. Next, I would maintain the safety net for public health, especially for children and seniors,” Buttny said. “We need to figure out a way not to let any one area of the workforce bear the full brunt of the cuts. We need to find a way to share the pain. That may mean we take one day off a week – a 20 percent pay cut, essentially.”
Gardner said the only solution to a budget crisis is all-around cutbacks.
“The county is run on roughly $2 million a day,” Gardner said. “We’ll need to cut back in the county. I think with good management we could save the kind of money you’re talking about.”
Candidates were also asked what they would have done to build consensus on issues that tend to divide North and South County, such as the controversial oak tree ordinance that bans the removal of certain species of oaks.
Gardner said he does not think anything would have changed if he had been supervisor when those issues came up.
“I don’t think you’re going to get a 5-0 vote. There’s too many differences between North and South County,” Gardner said.
Firestone said he would have personally participated in the creation of the ordinance if he had been supervisor, but that the final result of the actual ordinance is counterproductive.
“The oak tree ordinance, I see some real problems with that. I think it’s destructive to the oaks,” Firestone said.
Buttny said the oak tree ordinance was a 4-1 vote and that the final ordinance was a result of collaboration between agriculturists and environmentalists.
Another issue the candidates faced was how the county could work to help the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) find viable facilities for organized sports.
Firestone said there is no challenge he would rather face than establishing playing fields for the AYSO, which has had difficulty finding fields to use in the past.
“A letter came from the county two days before [an AYSO] tournament that said they were potentially subject to $50,000 in fines. It only came to $2,000 after [the county and AYSO] settled,” Firestone said. “It takes leadership and it takes opportunity. The kids should say, shame on the county, and shame on us for not having the leadership.”
Buttny said the county has been working with AYSO for the past 18 years to finalize its permits.
“[We’ve got to work with] a third party who owns the land we would have to get access over,” Buttny said. “Two things the county’s done recently: We’ve given the Alamo Pintado Triangle to the city of Los Olivos, and we’ve contributed $25,000 to the skatepark.”
Gardner said he supports building skateparks and other recreational facilities for kids to use.
“Every city should have a small area that’s dedicated to kids,” Gardner said.