Saturday, February 23, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 51

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on July 3rd, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 18

'Rigging' elections

I haven't had many reasons to laugh lately, but a new group backed by pretty much every major conservative donor organization in Santa Barbara County has me chortling so hard my feathers are flying off. 

I'm talking about a new ballot initiative that that may get placed on the November ballot after its authors gathered more than 16,000 signatures in an attempt to create an independent redistricting commission (see page 4).

The group, Reason In Government (RIG–what an acronym!), has its sights on the Board of Supervisors' 3rd District seat (currently filled by Joan Hartmann), if you believe the rumors swirling among the county's political insiders. On its website, RIG claims it represents the "radical center" and says it wants to bring back, you guessed it, reason in government.

But here's the thing: the group has raised more than $100,000 just to gather the signatures, according to the Santa Barbara Independent's livid left-wing pontificator, Nick Welsh. A quick glance at the most recent campaign filings from April show that of the $42,000 itemized, just about every penny came from our neighbors here in the ag, business, and Republican community. 

Nick may be overreacting here, it wouldn't be the first time he sounded like a nut job when considering conservatives in the county, but still–this group ain't backed by anyone but conservatives, at least not yet. So he may have a point. 

One other thing: the main signature gatherer was Bob Nelson, the chief of staff to 4th District Supervisor and Mr. "I don't believe in climate change" Peter Adam. You only need to watch five minutes of a Board of Supervisors meeting to know that Adam is about as ideologically right as they come in this county. 

This is not to criticize the 4th District supervisor for his beliefs, he's not just a rightwing ranter with a brilliant cowboy mustache. He sticks to his guns (no pun intended) and successfully brought more of that sweet, smokey bacon home to North County in the way of road repair with the recently passed budget, a maintenance itch he's been scratching since he first ran for office in 2012.

However, that doesn't let Reason in Government off the hook for trying to hoodwink us all into believing the bacon they're frying is for the politically neutral crowd. And the hog they are possibly salivating over is the county's 3rd District, a seat which has kept the 3-2 majority on the Board of Supervisors decidedly to the left for a decade.

It seems like RIG wants that seat back, and RIG wants to keep it. If that's the case, it's a hog's cry away from neutral.

It makes some sense to reconsider the 3rd District. It's wonky as all hell, and wraps around the county like a tiger salamander, with its head engulfing Isla Vista and its tail winding up through Vandenberg Air Force Base all the way to Guadalupe. But is RIG really the group you want to lead the charge for reform?

I agree with their statement that "informed and engaged citizens" can–and should–insist on reason in government. They should also insist on transparency from the groups that are promising it.

And thus far, RIG has been everything but honest about where it stands on the ideological and political spectrum. 

Speaking of honesty, why is it up to Santa Maria high school students to speak up about a big problem facing the valley's graduates?

I'm talking about the fact that 80 percent of the valley's high school students graduate without the appropriate requirements needed to go straight to a four-year college (see our cover story on page 10). But even more frustrating–why does the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District act like it's not a problem? 

Both its public information officer and superintendent seemed to chafe at the mention of state data kept by the Department of Education and waffled when pressed on the issue. 

Am I huffing some bad fumes down in this mine shaft or something? 

These are our kids, and you're not preparing them to go to college! Saying that it isn't a problem because you don't like the data (even though you have nothing to refute it aside from anecdotes) or that most Santa Marians don't pursue higher education is not an excuse. In fact, it's a problem, a big one, and y'all (the school district) are part of it. 

Call me unfair all you want, but I have always subscribed to the idea that if you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem, and Santa Maria's high schools and its students seem to be drowning in a sea of issues.

It's hard enough to catch up on credits for a high school student in Santa Maria as it is–the district can't even get enough teachers to fill its summer school courses because they pay a fraction of what an instructor would normally make. Talk about incentive! 

There is some light at the end of the tunnel, though.

The school district got a grant for $2 million for Career Technical Education (CTE) back in 2016, and officials claim it's helped transform how the high schools educate their students. Good! CTE is a great path to go down, because college really isn't for everyone (ask my one of my many–quite successful–cousins or uncles), but the option should be there for students. 

To argue for anything else is irresponsible, short sighted, and above all else, one lazy damn excuse. Drop the toxic mindset and do what's best for our kids. 

Speaking of toxic, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt made a last-minute surprise stop at the Casmalia Superfund site to announce a "final" five-year cleanup plan (see page 7) that will be anything but that. 

Pruitt showed up with EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator (and former Santa Barbara County supervisor) Mike Stoker to sign the plan in front a small audience of reporters and local government officials. There was a lot of back patting and posturing from the two sitting on top of a pit of so many organic and inorganic compounds that the EPA says it's easier to just send a list of chemicals NOT buried there. 

Most estimates say the Casmalia site will be dangerous for as much as a century, and while the work being done is vital and well overdue, it will all be for nothing if the government doesn't buckle down for the long haul and give the site the needed attention and oversight each and every year for at least that duration.

"Casmalia is a wonderful example of how successful the Superfund process can be when local, state, and federal partners collaborate in the name of protecting public health and revitalizing land," Stoker stated following the plan's signing. 

I agree, Mike. Now prove it. 

The Canary will always look a gift horse in the mouth. Send your thoughts to

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