As long as I've lived in these parts, there's one race for local office that has always been a snoozer. That would be for the position as a member of The Board of Trustees of Santa Barbara City College.
Over the last 25 years or so the office has attracted little attention and few challengers to the incumbents. Not this time around though. Several controversial moves have called into question the judgment of the members of the current Board. There is now a slate of high-profile challengers who are running against the four entrenched incumbents who find themselves up for reelection on the November 2 ballot.
And the rare challenge has some of the current trustees doing something they've never done before when running for the office: actually going out and meeting the voters.
Among the things that has the natives restless are the cutbacks the current board made to continuing or "adult" education classes. In February, the Board attached fees to 20 continuing education classes. And this past summer, the Board offered a reduced schedule that eliminated many long-time courses.
The discontent with the current Board goes deeper than the cancellation of a few basket weaving courses. Specific questions have been raised over the Board's refusal to continue to fund Parent-Child workshops and music programs as well as a more generalized allegation that the board has been a "rubber stamp" for the administration.
And it probably doesn't help that while the College is cutting classes and programs it is reportedly sitting on a healthy reserve fund and is refusing to consider cutting administrator's salaries.
As you might imagine, lines have been drawn. The executive board of the Santa Barbara City College Instructor's Association has endorsed three of the four challengers. On the other side, a City College dean, Dr. Doug Hersh, used the college's e-mail system to distribute a message supporting the incumbents. He also wrote letters to the editor to the News-Press, Noozhawk, Edhat, the Daily Sound and The Channels, SBCC's student newspaper, backing the members of the present Board and used his official title of "dean, educational programs," to identify himself.
When contacted by The Channels to respond to a question that had been raised as to whether this violated the Fair Political Practices Act not to mention, College policy, Hersh, who heretofore seemed eager to talk to anybody who would listen, declined to comment.
The fact that the challengers are hardly a rag-tag bunch might be what has the incumbents shivering in those caps and gowns they wear for graduation ceremonies.
In District 1, incumbent Sally Green of Carpinteria is being challenged by retired political science professor Peter Haslund. In District 3, which encompasses the city of Santa Barbara, incumbents Dobbs and O'Neill are being challenged by former Santa Barbara mayor Marty Blum and attorney Marsha Croninger. And in District 4, encompassing northern Santa Barbara, incumbent Kathryn Alexander is being challenged by accountant Lisa Macker.
According to the Instructor's Association Executive Board, Alexander's attempts to hold the administration accountable is the reason they have chosen not to endorse either her or challenger Lisa Macker. They go on to say in their e-mail that they believe, "that either candidate, if elected, will serve in the best interests of the SBCC community." As mentioned above, the Executive Board has endorsed the other three challengers.
The incumbents have their own website as do the challengers so if you're trying to educate yourself about this race, those are good starting places.
Whomever you decide to vote for one thing is sure. There will be no sleeping through this race.
© 2010 by Craig Smith and www.craigsmithsblog.com