November 24, 2023
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Our view: Common sense key trait for city council candidates


As Goleta, Santa Maria and other municipalities contemplate district elections for city council — with dire predictions about anti-business bias among candidates — James Fenkner has a better idea.

Fenkner, a self-described “radical centrist,” has launched a talent search for candidates in the upcoming Santa Barbara city elections. He is hoping that through informal networking he can begin to identify talented individuals who are not partisan but who are committed to much more sound fiscal management for the city.

A securities analyst with a CFA designation, Fenkner is hoping to identify a few individuals with real world experience, competent leadership, passion and the ability to engage on a range of issues who might be persuaded to run. He said he’s become appalled at the city’s lack of fiscal discipline, underfunded pensions and its ability to negotiate better contracts and avoid expensive litigation.

What others see as district elections that will provide a platform for candidates with narrow special interests, Fenkner sees as an opportunity. In Santa Barbara, with four open seats, a district candidate could win with 3,500 votes and perhaps as low as 2,000 depending on the district, turnout and competition.

Fenkner, who spent time in Russia working on some of the Soros initiatives, is concerned about the state of democracy in the world and here at home. He’s driven by a passion to reduce partisanship and increase the effectiveness of the public sector.

A grass roots effort to increase common sense in government strikes us as a worthy idea. “We’ve inherited the world’s best political system but it is not self-driving,” he writes in a description of his talent search.

Fenkner’s email is


It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback past developments at the Ventura County Community Foundation.

After budget cuts, restructuring and a critical state Attorney General’s report, it has a path to move forward under a new board chair and a committed CEO. Here is our take:

• Many of Ventura County’s top philanthropic efforts are relatively new. VCCF dates back to 1987 and the Reagan Library dates back to 1991. CSU Channel Islands is roughly as old as the Pacific Coast Business Times – 18 years. It is the next 50 years, not the past 30, that will really matter.

• Capacity building is key. Looking forward, recruiting talent to run nonprofits, educating a new generation of donors and board members and inculcating a culture of philanthropy are all necessary.

• Core missions must be identified. Much philanthropy in Ventura County has been about social justice and farmworker relief. New missions are emerging in education, cultural enrichment and health care. As core missions are identified some consolidation is inevitable.