Current 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall will retire from her office at the end of this year, but she is still working hard to address the needs of her constituents.
On March 2, residents of Santa Barbara County’s 3rd District will elect a new supervisor after nearly eight years of having Marshall in office. Marshall has focused much of her attention on Isla Vista during her two terms and has some advice for her successor.
Marshall said the elected candidate will need to be deeply involved in the community in order to properly represent the people.
“You can’t sit in an office and expect to be able to represent people. You have to be on the street, in the community, listening to them and understanding what their needs are and following through with them,” Marshall said. “Many times those needs are not sexy; they’re, ‘How do we get the trash out of the street?’, ‘How do we get better recycling?’, ‘How do we get more sidewalks?’, ‘How do we get our roads paved?’, ‘How do we get our trees trimmed?’ or ‘In Isla Vista, how do we get more trees?’ … Those are the kind of nitty-gritty issues that are important to all residents of the county, so my advice is, you better be prepared. You better have good soles on your shoes and good telephone skills.”
Because I.V. is an unincorporated area of the county, the 3rd District supervisor is its only direct representative. Marshall said the lack of a city government is to blame for a lot of the problems in I.V.
“I think that Isla Vista is … a third of the district, populationwise, and it has definitely got more than a third of the issues,” Marshall said. “That’s because it’s an unincorporated area, and now that Goleta has been incorporated, basically the majority of our work has been Isla Vista and the [similarly unincorporated] Santa Ynez Valley.”
In order to better serve constituents in unincorporated areas of the district, Marshall’s administration opened an office in Santa Ynez in addition to the Santa Barbara office. Marshall said one-on-one interaction with her constituents has been essential to her position, but the additional office required a larger budget than any other county supervisor.
“The reason my budget is bigger is because I have more people in the unincorporated area who depend on us for services, and that’s the reason I have an office in the Santa Ynez Valley and an office downtown,” Marshall said. “I think it would be great if someone wanted to open another office … I think, the closer the contact, the better the government.”
The state budget crisis is one of the key issues faced by the current supervisors, as well as the candidates running for the 1st and 3rd District seats. Marshall said the county will probably have to deal with the effects of state funding cuts for the next five years.
“We haven’t yet begun to understand exactly what the state budget crisis means because there has been a game of smoke and mirrors in Sacramento: a little money here, a little money there – we’re never really sure where the bouncing ball is going to land,” Marshall said.
Marshall said the county is currently allotted about $600 million from the state but only has discretion over about $150 million of that budget. The rest of the money is channeled directly into specific departments by the state. The county has had to cut $7.9 million from its budget so far, Marshall said.
“Right now we’ve lost positions in public health – that’s a critical service area,” Marshall said. “And we’re taking an incremental approach. As long as we keep getting money from the state, we keep putting it toward our programs.”