Of all the races in the County of Santa Barbara this November, the race for the 3rd Supervisorial District will have the most direct impact, even for people living outside district boundaries. The 3rd District, which encompasses everything from Guadalupe to Isla Vista, has traditionally carried the key decisive swing vote at the board of supervisors; which way blows the 3rd, blows the county.
In other words, it’s for all the marbles.
This year, the race pits two Santa Ynez Valley residents — Joan Hartmann and Bruce Porter — against one another. Both moved here about 15 years ago from places elsewhere; both are relative newcomers to the political scene, having lived full, productive, and impressive lives; and both jumped into local civic engagement about eight years ago. Of the two, we enthusiastically recommend Joan Hartmann. Her history of civic involvement, environmental knowledge, and measure-twice-cut-once temperament equip her to respond creatively and effectively to the challenges confronting county government. We’re confident Hartmann can mesh well into a new moderate, environmentally minded board majority on the county supervisors along with three-term Supervisor Janet Wolf and supervisorial newcomer Das Williams. While Hartmann is notably more soft-spoken than these other two, she’s nobody’s pushover and will not be overwhelmed by either their vehemence or volume.
Before moving to the valley, Hartmann taught public policy and environmental studies at Oberlin College and Claremont Graduate University. She worked a stint with the Environmental Protection Agency before focusing on wetlands recovery, an important issue in Santa Barbara. For three years, Hartmann served on the County Planning Commission, where she impressed observers with not just how hard she prepared but how precisely — and with such little grandstanding — she posed questions.
On the issues, we know Hartmann will leave few stones unearthed to protect the Gaviota Coast, keeping it one of the most ridiculously beautiful spots on the planet. She’s already conversant with the key parts of development proposals, ownership histories, and growth management options. Even before she was a commissioner, she led the 2008 charge to limit growth and development sprawl outside the Buellton urban limits.
Her opponent, Bruce Porter, is less specific about preserving the Gaviota Coast and definitely less informed about development issues. That’s understandable, given that he wasn’t a planning commissioner, but concerning nonetheless. Of more concern, Porter is backed by individuals who fought Hartmann’s growth-containment initiative in 2008.
On the issue of oil development, the candidates pose stark differences. Hartmann’s threshold of safety for any new oil facility would be exceptionally rigorous. Hartmann has expressed grave concern throughout the campaign about the risks from steam-injection technologies on subsurface water supplies. As county planner, she voted for tougher standards on air-quality emissions allowed by new onshore oil developments.
By contrast, a political action committee created by oil companies to get Porter elected has raised $60,000 on Porter’s behalf. Porter has insisted that oil produced under Santa Barbara’s strict environmental regulations is more socially responsible than imported oil from nations without such regulations. Also troubling is his campaign’s efforts to limit UCSB students from registering to vote.
We know Hartmann wants the job. We also know she’ll work like a fiend once she gets it. And we believe she’ll figure out a way to work well with her fellow supervisors — even those on the other side — once she’s there. We urge a vote for Joan Hartmann.