The latest Best and Worse political performances in Santa Barbara:
Winner: Anna Marie Gott. Every City Hall in America needs a character like Anna Marie - an intelligent, easily offended and tightly wound private citizen who simmers with indignation at the hubris, disdain and ineptitude of those living at the public trough, and possesses not only the stubborn persistence, obsessive interest and free time to dig through the legalese and documentary minutiae cloaking official proceedings, but also the grit and guts to confront pols face-to-face.
These unsung public heroes can bang too heavy on the keys, get high scores on the annoying crankiness scale and cry conspiracy before ruling out incompetence, but they get it right often enough to make them worth the trouble: So it was with Gott, who blew the whistle on a low-ball Bureaucracy Bros bid to foist paid meter parking onto the Funk Zone.
By the time the ill-conceived plan crashed and burned in a 7-to-0 council vote, she also had the satisfaction of running rings around Mayor Cathy and her trained seal caucus over an issue on which even the independent-minded Jason, Kristen and Randy looked obtuse.
Loser: The Cabinet. When Superintendent Cary Matsuoka references the tight circle of well-compensated educrats he’s assembled at SB school district HQ, he utters the words “The Cabinet” in a reverential tone that makes them sound like the rocket scientists of the Manhattan Project.
Alas his genius team appears to have learned nothing about communications or transparency from the trainwreck they engineered over the ouster of Ed Behrens at San Marcos High School last year, to judge by their botched handling of two new personnel controversies.
We have no idea what Dan Williams, erstwhile director of Santa Barbara High School’s popular MAD academy, did or didn’t do, but the way the district managed his disciplinary case qualifies as a crime in the annals of Human Resources malpractice, as they: a) let it be known last month that Williams was being placed on administrative leave pending a mysterious “investigation” - a red flag word they had no need to wield in their statement; b) announced two weeks later an “amicable” agreement under which he's allowed back on campus until the end of the year - but then will “retire,” several decades before his Medicare kicks in.
This lose-lose process has left Williams open to unsubstantiated innuendo, allegations and smears that currently are flaying him on the internets, while simultaneously upsetting some parents who wonder why he’s back on campus if whatever he’s done, or not done, was untoward enough to lead to his, um, “retirement.”
District suits also recently announced the hiring of a new Dean of Students at San Marcos High School, apparently without bothering to peek at her social media accounts, portions of which were promptly posted on the Facebook pages of several insurgent SB parent groups, and that show her railing against “rich and…rich white” people, amid much ideological rhetoric; chalk up another self-inflicted wound for the district that's stirred up community dissension, resentment and mistrust of the supe and the acolytes and apparatchiks who surround him.
Auribus Teneo Lupum.
Images: Anna Marie Gott (Paul Wellman, Independent); SBUSD marketing material; Broken Trust (betanews.com);