Executive Managing Editor
With the Nov. 8 election on the horizon, Santa Barbara County Third District Supervisor candidates Bruce Porter and Joan Hartmann participated in a formal debate on Thursday evening, discussing problems facing the county as well as the future of Isla Vista. KCSB-FM 91.9, the University of California, Santa Barbara’s radio station, hosted and broadcasted the debate, which was held at I.V. Theater.
The 3rd District, which spans the largest area of the five voting districts in the county, includes Isla Vista, Goleta, and Santa Ynez Valley, among other communities. After the November election, either Hartmann or Porter will succeed incumbent 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, following her four-year term. The 3rd District has often been the tie-breaking vote on the Board of Supervisors, tipping 3-2 decisions in either direction.
The hourlong debate featured a range of topics, many of them involving I.V. The candidates addressed Measures E and F, which would respectively create an I.V. Community Services District and a utility tax that would fund it. In recent weeks, students and local politicians have campaigned heavily to pass the measures, while local property owners have loudly opposed them.
Hartmann expressed her support for passing both measures. “No more about I.V. without I.V.,” she said, echoing the popular campaign slogan. She said the CSD would provide “highly desired” services like community-friendly policing and mandatory landlord-tenant mediation.
“Anyone who supports E without F is either cynical or naive,” Hartmann said, referring to the proposed tax to subsidize the CSD. “E can’t function without funds.”
On the other hand, Porter spoke skeptically about the CSD, saying it is “nothing but the county failing to do its job to begin with.” He said the CSD’s proposed services are redundant, since the county is supposed to fulfill those duties already.
Porter criticized the CSD for having “limited powers,” but said there was a “gold nugget” in the idea — the Municipal Advisory Council. He praised the Council’s “specific mission” of serving as a liaison between county government and I.V. residents, which he said the CSD would not mandate.
Porter then said he initially supported Measures E and F and had even attempted to donate $1,000 to the campaign. He held up a physical copy of the supposed check before accusing the CSD committee of returning the donation, and wondered aloud, “is this really about Measures E and F, or is this about some political ploy going on?” He described Measure F as “double taxation,” saying, “you have to call it what it is.”
The candidates also discussed decisions made on Isla Vista’s behalf, like the proposed amendment to the local noise ordinance back in August. The amendment would restrict I.V. residents from making excessive noise past 10 p.m. on all days of the week, whereas previously the Friday-Saturday deadline was midnight.
Hartmann called the noise ordinance amendment “sincere” in intent, noting that first responders frequently must deal with the aftermath of tragic events occurring on weekend nights in I.V. However, she criticized the lack of proper evaluation or data-driven analysis when it comes to improving safety. She said she supported a collaboration between mental health experts, rape crisis workers, students and the sheriff’s department to review data and make recommendations to reduce crime.
Hartmann also expressed support for the creation of an I.V. sobering center, where students could go for treatment, as well as for a phone safety app, which she said would allow students to set off alarms and locate others in need of help.
“Let’s get to the heart of the matter,” Porter said, slamming the proposed noise ordinance change. “In a college community, to shut down noise at 10 o’clock at night on Fridays and Saturdays is pretty ridiculous on its face.”
He criticized the fact that I.V. Foot Patrol is the only form of neighborhood governance. “They feel like they’ve got to do everything on their own, and because they’re police, they tend to do things their own way,” he said. “And that’s wrong.”
Porter later said Isla Vista is “like a third-world country,” referencing “sub-standard housing, trashed streets, broken sidewalks and streetlights held together with duct tape.”
The two vocalized support for better mental health services in the community and decreased police presence in I.V. The two were asked about Proposition 64, which would legalize the sale of recreational marijuana statewide if voted through in November. Porter said he would have to “punt” on the question as he had not fully read the proposition, saying “the devil is always in the details.”
Hartmann said “she had mixed feelings” about the mixing of marijuana with other drugs, but lent credibility to the proposition by citing support from medical health professionals and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The questions addressed to the candidates also involved environmental issues. Both candidates talked about the implications of the oil industry in the county. Hartmann even used her opening statement to reference the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill, while Porter later asserted that he had faced even more dangerous oil spills while serving in the Gulf War.
Porter spoke about the current need for the oil industry in the absence of alternative energy, though he said he looked forward to the day when technology would afford better forms of it.
“It’s not oil versus the environment,” he said, “it’s got to be the environment, period.”
Hartmann called oil “dangerous to produce, to transport and to use.” She made it clear she was opposed to “fracking,” referring to the process of hydraulic fracturing of the earth’s surface for the purpose of drilling.
A handful of student protesters shared her sentiment, arriving before the debate holding signs that read “Bruce takes [money] from big oil” and “Frack Bruce.” Before stepping in for the debate, Hartmann stood outside and took photos with the protesters, many of whom attended the debate representing student organizations like Fossil Free UCSB and California Public Interest Research Group.
Fossil Free UCSB organizer Theo Lequesne spoke about the need to protest the debate. He said it was important to draw attention to Porter’s “support from oil companies.”
Lequesne, a first year global studies doctoral student, disagreed with Porter’s claim that the community currently needs oil.
“We have the technology, we have the ability to transition to 100% reusable energy by 2026 if we start today,” he said. “We also need political will, and political will is not going to come from politicians who take money from the fossil fuel industry.”
Other attendees made clear their opposition to Porter in silent fashion. Before Porter’s closing remarks, a group of around 20 students stood up and promptly exited the theater. Porter appeared to remain calm amid the bustle of students leaving, carrying on with his closing remarks after a brief pause.
Before the walk-out, the 146-seat I.V. Theater 2 was filled nearly to capacity for the debate. KCSB News directors Nkechi Ikem and Kendra Lee served as the chief moderators. Filling out the moderating panel were Hector Sanchéz Castañeda from The Bottom Line and Supriya Yelimeli, news editor of The Daily Nexus. Both campus newspapers also sponsored the debate.
In the June primary, Hartmann garnered nearly 60 percent of the votes in the Isla Vista/UCSB voting bloc while Porter received just over 9 percent, according to Noozhawk. In the past month, Porter has campaigned more actively in I.V., where local Jay Freeman dropped from the race in June after receiving 26 percent of the primary votes.
Following the debate, the two candidates spoke briefly about their thoughts on the evening. Porter said the event was “one of the better debates that both of us have had.” He praised the debate moderators for keeping the evening “moving along” and asking a “wide range” of questions.
“We laid out some real differences,” Hartmann said, adding that she felt good about how the evening turned out.
Hartmann praised incumbent Supervisor Farr for carrying out all the projects she could during her term. “[Farr] sets a model for me,” Hartmann said.