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Five candidates vying to be Santa Barbara County's next 3rd District supervisor debated issues Wednesday ranging from preserving agriculture and the Gaviota Coast, to gaming at the Chumash Casino and whether Isla Vista belongs in the district.

Except for an aggressive start by candidate David Smyser, though, the one-hour forum at Pea Soup Andersen's restaurant stayed mostly cordial.

Smyser, a former Solvang mayor and council member who also served for 14 months on the county Planning Commission, suggested one of his opponents - another former planning commissioner, Doreen Farr of Solvang - doesn't deserve to be the 3rd District representative on the county Board of Supervisors.

BI don't think Ms. Farr can or should represent this district,C he asserted. BUntil very recently, she's been an extreme activist in the 2nd District and a resident of the 2nd DistrictC in Goleta.

She was appointed to the Planning Commission by former 2nd District Supervisor Susan Rose, he noted.

BI don't want the former Planning Commissioner in the 2nd District making land-use decisions for the 3rd District,C Smyser added.

Farr later briefly responded: B I think Mr. Smyser has forgotten that Goleta is also part of the 3rd District.C

After the forum, she said she has been a county resident for 25 years, including six in the 3rd District portion of Goleta and four in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Touching on one of the most controversial issues pervading the Santa Ynez Valley, all the candidates said they oppose any future expansion of gambling at the casino on Highway 246 operated by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. However, they differed on how to improve strained relations between the county and the tribe.

Smyser proposed allowing a tribal representative to sit on the countywide Association of Governments board and, in turn, asking the tribe to include a county liaison in its tribal government.

Pappas vowed, if elected, to hire an acquaintance who he said is a Native American but not Chumash to the 3rd District staff, as tribal liaison.

BI think we could all use a little more cooperation and that's one way to achieve it,C he said.

Bearman acknowledged Bthe Chumash are a major economic engine in the valley,C but said he would Boppose any annexation to the (Santa Ynez) reservationC and suggested the tribe should pay its Bfair shareC to offset local impacts of casino operations.

BWe could do some creative things, maybe even put in a toll road,C he added, almost whimsically.

The luncheon forum, attended by more than 100 people, was sponsored by the Committee to Improve the North County.

Farr, Smyser, Pappas, Bearman and Buellton City Councilwoman Victoria Pointer are vying for the seat held now by Brooks Firestone, who decided not to run for a second term. Their names will appear on the June 3 ballot. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the race will be decided by a November runoff between the top two finishers.

The outcome will set the tone for numerous Board of Supervisors' decisions - especially on land-use matters - for which the swing vote often rests with the 3rd District supervisor.

Pointer has been a Buellton council member since that city formed in 1992, and formerly was a three-term mayor. She said she offers Ba moderate, alternative voice willing to work with both sides of the county. I think I can bring people together to work for a common goal and for the common good.C

Contrary to the popular belief that only rich people get elected to public office, she said, B I certainly don't fit into that category.C

Smyser, an attorney who has been endorsed by Firestone, cited his extensive experience on various boards and commissions, as well as formerly working for about 18 months as Firestone's administrative assistant. He promised to try to heal the political rifts between the generally conservative North County and the more liberal South Coast.

BPeople are sick of political divisiveness,C he said.

Other candidates insisted they would be the best choice because of their political independence.

BI'm a true independent, unbeholden to any political machine,C said Pappas, a businessman and president of the Los Olivos School District board of trustees. BThis is a major distinguishing factor between me and my major opponents … (and) absolutely essential for the 3rd District seat, which is traditionally a swing vote.C

Bearman, a physician who founded the Isla Vista Medical Clinic and worked as medical director of the Santa Barbara County Regional Health Authority, said he is Bsupported in this nonpartisan race by Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents and Greens.C

Twice he remarked: BI'm Dr. Dave Bearman, your prescription for change.C

One of the key elements of his campaign is advocating development and use of BbiofuelsC such as ethanol, which can be made from crops such as corn.

BIt is time for agriculture to wrest fuel production away from the oil industry,C he declared.

Farr said she has been a community activist for 15 years, both in Goleta and the Santa Ynez Valley, as well as serving on the Planning Commission for three years.

BI've brought people together many times to work collaboratively on different issues,C she said. BI'm very concerned about agriculture having the water it needs, and making sure agriculture has minimal conflicts from urban development.C

A question from the audience spotlighted the diverse interests within the 3rd district, when candidates were asked whether its boundaries should be redrawn to exclude Isla Vista when redistricting occurs in 2010.

BAbsolutely and unequivocally no,C Bearman replied.

Although the 3rd District boundaries aren't Bfair and equitableC now, Pointer said, Bthe (redistricting) laws are very complex and I cannot sit here and tell you that this entity should be in or that entity should be out.C

BI think it makes senseC to leave Isla Vista out of the 3rd District, Smyser said. BI would be in favor of having a more fair distribution of population.C

Farr disagreed. BAs of now, I would not favor moving Isla Vista into the 2nd District,C she said. BI think we have a very balancedC 3rd District now.

Pappas gave mixed signals on land use. BWhile I will work to ensure that property rights remain in the hands of property owners,C he said, BI will also fight to preserve our agricultural lands and our pristine Gaviota Coast from thoughtless development.C

An unabashed environmentalist, Bearman said Bpreserving the Gaviota Coast and maintaining the semi-rural character of the Santa Ynez ValleyC are central to his Bgreen agenda.C

Smyser said his support by ranchers and commercial flower and produce growers demonstrates he best understands the issues affecting agriculture.

Chuck Schultz can be reached at 925-2691, Ext. 2241, or at cschultz@santamariatimes.com.

March 20, 2008

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