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Roy Lee: Mandate Carbon Scrubbers for Pot Grows; "Push Back" on State Over Housing; Enact Ethics Code for Supes

Updated: Mar 25

The day after Roy Lee triumphed in Santa Barbara's most extraordinary political victory of the century, he went out of his mind with celebration.

"The next day I just went to work," Lee recalled last week.

"I tried to live a normal life," the new First District Supervisor-elect added. "I still have a family to raise, a business to run, so I just kept on my normal schedule."

Woo hoo. Lock up the kids, Tina. Watch out for Roy swinging on the chandelier

Lee's placid reaction to his historic ouster of the deeply entrenched Das Williams, an upset that no one saw coming, bespeaks the self-possession of his personality and the core of his values. It also suggests level-headed perspective, and a blue collar work ethic, both of which he'll have the chance to bring to work at the Board of Supervisors once he's sworn in early next year.

Tears and smiles. In the first expansive interview since his unlikely election win, Lee answered questions on March 21, from the genial host of Newsmakers TV, and from Josh Molina, founder of the "Santa Barbara Talks" podcast.

Roy said he is trying to take in stride the election tremor that has shaken Santa Barbara's political landscape:

"I'm trying to focus on what's important, taking my kids to water polo, focusing on the business and just trying to keep every day normal as possible, and serving in my capacity as a (Carpinteria city) council member, too."

On a personal note, Lee teared up while describing the moments after he told his parents, who brought him to the U.S. from Taiwan when he was six, the news of his achievement, and also described the gladness he felt from the reaction of his wife, Tina, "my biggest supporter."

"It means a lot to me to see her smile," Roy said.

As a practical matter, adjusting to the full-time demands of being a supervisor will require Lee to make major changes in his lifestyle and schedule. Decisions loom about how to manage Uncle Chen, the family restaurant that, in various incarnations, has served as the economic, communal and cultural center of Lee's life.

"My priority will be my county supervisor role," he said, about the move into a $112,452 taxpayer-financed, public-facing job with a staff, a stretch from the part-time duties and demands he's faced as a Carpinteria City Council member.

"I will hire somebody to replace me, two to three people here at the restaurant, so I can give my 100 percent as a supervisor," Lee said

"Maybe four," he added with a smile. "We're still figuring it out."

What is to be done? As a political matter, Lee provided broad outlines of his pending views on policy issues, from climate change, constituent service and planned personnel moves to campaign punditry, commuter rail's potential and the "perfect storm" of political factors that got him elected.

On three critical issues:

Housing. Lee said the current requirement that 20 percent of units produced by developers should be "affordable," instead of market rate, is too weak, and far too low a marker, to address in a serious way a shortage of workforce housing, aspirationally suggesting that negotiations on splits should start at "50-50, or even 60 percent affordable, 40 percent market rate."

"We cannot build our way out of this housing crisis by making most of it market rate," he said.

Lee looks favorably at the "Our Neighborhood Voices"statewide campaign to repeal and relax large portions of the one-size-fits-all mandated housing legislation that the governor and legislature shoved down the throats of every local government in California, without regard for local control.

"Right now the state has a gun to our head... 'If you don't do this, we're going to pull this trigger,' which is not how government working (with) each other should work. So maybe it's time we push back."

He described as "basically a developer's party," last week's big county meeting to preview conceptual plans for vast swaths of to-be-rezoned land in the Goleta Valley.

"A lot of developers come in and say they want to help. They want to help. To me, that's a sales pitch. They want to make money...Anybody tell you otherwise, they're lying to you. I think a key here is to work with the Housing Authority."

Cannabis. Lee acknowledged that citizen animosity towards Williams, much of it earned through the human suffering and lasting environmental, economic and land use planning impacts of his log-headed cannabis ordinance, the sleazy way it was crafted. plus Das's belligerent attitude, words and actions in response to critics.

"Carbon scrubbers," Roy answered immediately, when asked what in the ordinance needs changing "Carbon scrubbers do work. As a supervisor, I'll push for that to be part of the ordinance, to make sure that every farm has that ability to put in carbon scrubbers and get rid of the majority of the smell."

"The smell has to go first," Lee insisted, adding that the county also should look to "decreasing licenses. I think there's an overabundance of growers in our county...Cap, no increases."

Ethics. In response to questions, Lee agreed that the absence of a serious and substantive code of ethics for the Board of Supervisors and other county officials is troubling, as is the practice of board members meeting privately with lobbyists, advocates or influencers without disclosing the conversations to the public.

"Everything that we say should be public,..whatever I say to whoever, should be made public. I have nothing to hide. Besides closed sessions with legal counsel, everything that we say, in emails, through our mouths, should be known by whoever wants to look at it."

"Ethics is incredibly politicians, all we have is our integrity. Without that, we have nothing. So yes, ethics is very important, that we should pursue that."

At one point in our interview, Lee disclosed for the first time publicly that Das called him, following the last big dump of vote totals cemented Roy's victory, to acknowledge his defeat, with a very Das-like non-concession concession.

"He said along the lines of, 'Oftentimes it's people who call me to concede, but today I'm calling you,' so that's what he said in those lines."

But enough about me, what do you think of my wonderfulness?


Watch our interview with Roy Lee via YouTube below or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here. TVSB, Channel 17, presents Newsmakers TV every weeknight at 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. KCSB, 91.9 FM, airs our program at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Image: Roy Lee celebrates election night, March 5, at Uncle Chen, with campaign manager Wade Cowper (L). Josh Molina photo for Noozhawk.

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