February 4, 2023
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Editorial: Tri-Counties residents cast their ballots for tourism, quality of life


The Nov. 6 election may have told us who will hold office for the next few years, but it hasn’t resolved some of the sharp divisions in the electorate.

Schools were a major benefactor with  voters in both Ventura and Santa Barbara counties  passing school bond issues. A primary-secondary consolidation initiative in Santa Paula also passed.

Residents of the Santa Ynez Valley and South Santa Barbara County seem to have sent a message that the focus is on tourism and quality of life. On the other hand, North Santa Barbara County residents have signaled that they want more aggressive cost cutting in county government and, perhaps, a more aggressive style to pursue those cuts on the Board of Supervisors.

The city of Goleta passed an initiative similar to Ventura County’s SOAR that would  force any rezoning of agricultural land within in the city to win a vote of the people. Goleta ­— along with Carpinteria, Buellton and Solvang — voted to raise bed taxes to 12 percent, the same rate as the city of Santa Barbara.

Taken together, these changes point toward a growing recognition that the tourism industry provides a path for economic prosperity and growth without endangering the lovely landscapes and quality of life that make the region a draw for talented professionals. In particular, the extra money raised by bed taxes will help those smaller cities compete while helping to promote the region as a whole. In the Santa Ynez Valley they serve as a welcome complement to the investments made by the Chumash tribe to revitalize the hotel market.

While Goleta’s move to restrict property rights is troubling and the Business Times strongly opposed it, the measure will force developers and city leaders alike to be smarter and more creative about infill development.

In North Santa Barbara County, the tone is decidedly different. Challenger Peter Adam unseated 14-year incumbent 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray. The candidates broadly share conservative political principles and both have pointed to the county’s pension system as a target for reform. But as Adam told the Santa Maria Times, the difference is mostly about style: “She’s the mediator. I’m the prosecutor.”

Adam has advocated eliminating the county’s building department and the energy division of the planning department, which oversees oil and gas production in the county. Gray’s approach was to advocate expanding oil production, agricultural and tourism to try to generate the additional revenue needed to cover the county’s expected $14 million shortfall.

In Santa Maria, however, Alice Patino has been elected as the first female mayor in the city’s 107-year history. She’s a third-generation Santa Maria native who has been both a teacher and helped run a business. While the city faces challenges from crime and lingering effects from the recession, it still represents one of the prime areas of opportunity for economic development on the Central Coast.