If a stranger should come along and pick up an essay on the history of politics in Santa Barbara County’s 3rd supervisor’s district, he or she might think they’re reading a war story. And in a way they would be correct.

Every political jurisdiction on the planet has its disagreements. Policy and ideological differences ensure that if there is room for disagreement, there’s always room for debate. It’s between two or more parties having a difference of opinion on how things should be done.

We are seeing this conflict being played out on the national and world political stages. America’s democracy is going through a transition period, as are political systems in many other nations.

From the smallest to the largest jurisdictions, differences are simply a given, and the county’s 3rd District is no exception. In fact, those of us living here for any length of time know those differences can sometimes be extreme.

One example are the continuing battles over who will sit in the 3rd District seat on the Board of Supervisors. Years ago it came down to a matter of a few votes, challenges about the legitimacy of the declared winner, and ultimately a reversal, putting the challenger who lost the original vote count in the seat.

One reason for the high level of discord is the ideological divisions within the district. There are the old-timers, who tend toward a conservative approach to politics, opposed to more recent arrivals, who generally come from big-city environments and tend toward more liberal views.

It may sound like a mess, and sometimes it can be, but the fact is that differences of opinion are what define us, making the arguments over policy all the more compelling.

And fun to be part of. Even those who choose to run for office and end up on the short end of the vote generally are thrilled by the experience. Becoming part of the conversation is what life is all about.

Those of you living in the 3rd District now have a splendid opportunity to join the debate, by answering 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann’s call for candidates for no fewer than six district boards and commissions.

These positions can be launching pads to higher offices, if that turns out to be your goal. These seats are where you learn the nuance of government service, how the real work gets done. Hartmann’s district openings include:

Behavioral Wellness Commission — An advisory board to the county Department of Behavioral Wellness and the Board of Supervisors regarding mental health and alcohol and other drug programs and services provided by the county.

Board of Architecture Review — The board reviews proposed projects and provides feedback to applicants to ensure quality architecture.

Housing Authority Board — Members serve as governing officers and the policy making body for the Housing Authority, a public corporation that constructs, maintains and operates affordable housing for low-income tenants countywide.

Human Services Commission — Members review and provide recommendations for the General Fund’s human services allocation as well as the annual Federal Emergency Solutions Grant and the federal Community Development Block Grant Public Services Grant fund.

Civil Service Commission — Oversees the civil service system administration, making recommendations on civil service rules.

Veterans Services Advisory Committee — The mission is to ensure each county veteran obtains benefits they may be eligible to receive; study special problem areas as needed and make recommendations to resolve those issues.

These are positions of importance — where the rubber hits the road with regard to directly affecting people’s lives. It can be hard work, but it’s worth it.


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