Entertaining but dishonest ads just keep rolling into my mailbox from the Brooks Firestone campaign. The first of two recent ads was quite amusing. The “Friends of Firestone” seem to think that I place a great deal of trust in the political analysis of farmers. The ad asserts that John Buttny’s quote, “The county is not equipped to handle agricultural issues,” demonstrates a failure on his part. The simple fact is that counties are not equipped to handle agricultural issues. The state of California chooses to handle agricultural issues through statewide agencies rather than county governments.
But let’s move on to the far more sinister and relevant issue of traffic, as addressed by the most recent ad. The ad, “John Buttny: 18 Years of Broken Promises,” claims that Buttny and 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall have left the city of Goleta with “a $30 million to $50 million road deficit.” Their source? An acronym: GTIP.
This seemed a little fishy to me, so I decided to do some research. I gleaned from the Santa Barbara County and Goleta websites that GTIP stands for the Goleta Transportation Improvement Plan. This was originally a county plan to improve the infrastructure of Goleta and has been in the works for a number of years.
The anti-Buttny ad complains about a “road deficit” and “past repairs that were never done.” However, its source, the GTIP, is not a description of road conditions, but a plan for future improvements. The county has already provided a majority of the funds for the plan. For example, to finish eight projects, priced at $52 million, it would cost the city of Goleta “approximately $4.5 million over the next five years” – you can find this information at www.cityofgoleta.org. The GTIP also pays for far more than roads, embracing infrastructural improvements across the board. These are not “past repairs that were never done” but improvements yet to be made. Another distinction to be made is that the county has not caused a deficit in the city of Goleta’s transportation budget. According to an anonymous source I spoke with from the Goleta Community Services Dept., their operating budget for road maintenance is only about $2 million and is provided by funding from Measure D, gas taxes and the county.
The ad goes on to state that “Caltrans may be working on freeways and overpasses, but local roads offer nothing but potholes, long stoplights and longer commutes.” Are the “Friends of Firestone” actually implying that the county should be engaged in building freeways just to show up Caltrans? Well, Firestone did get millions in inheritance money from the Firestone – like the tires – estate. Potholes and stoplights be damned! So if you want an overpass running through your backyard, I guess you should vote for Firestone.
My favorite argument from the ads is that Buttny has forced middle-class families out of Santa Barbara County in his “plan to stop growth.” Wait a minute, didn’t the last ad complain that Buttny has repeatedly attempted to develop farmland with “high-density affordable housing?” It seems to me that affordable housing would allow the middle class to remain in the county. So I’m a little confused by the two ads’ contradictions. But I guess the “Friends of Firestone” are a cryptic group of people.
So what would Firestone do differently than Buttny? If he has a problem with high-density, affordable housing, and is concerned with the lack of growth in housing, what can we expect Firestone to do if he gets elected? The only alternative I can think of is tract homes. That would also fit in with contributions to his campaign from developers. Too bad we don’t all have enough money to buy an elected official.
Shawn Moura is a sophomore history major.