Q & A forums held for City College Board of Trustees candidates

Channels election team

Two forums for the Board of Trustees’ candidates were held last week so the community could hear answers to questions integral to the election coming up Nov. 2.


Support for the current board is split at the college, as well as in Santa Barbara County.


Debate over who should stay or go has made this year’s selection among incumbents and challengers a highly contested race. 


The incumbents argue to leave the board unchanged. They defend the cuts to classes and adjunct faculty hours, and say the board has handled the college’s budget admirably during hard economic times.


The challengers criticize what they see as a group out of touch with public concerns. They argue that the board lacks transparency, has ignored community input, and was mistaken in its decision to hire the college’s current Superintendant and President Andreea Serban.


Both forums allowed each of the eight candidates to answer six questions. Three were chosen from the forums’ sponsors, and the respective audiences submitted three.


All were granted an equal amount of time to respond. 


Overall, Thursday’s forum, held on campus in Administration Building–Room 211, was the more engaging of the two.


Professor emeritus Dr. John Kay, a former City College faculty member, moderated the event, which was co-sponsored by the Instructors’ Association, the Associated Student Senate, the Academic Senate and Continuing Education Student Council.


Board candidates were asked about the school budget, how to balance the needs of both the college credit and continuing education programs, and decision-making style. 


In defense of the incumbents, Dr. Joe Dobbs, the acting Trustee president, and Desmond O’Neill didn’t hesitate to cite the college’s most recent state accreditation results as justification of their accomplishments.


O’Neill quoted the panel’s findings, giving City College a resounding recommendation. Dobbs was also quick to point out that the current lineup’s track record was proof that they are more than qualified to remain.


Kathryn Alexander, the board’s longest sitting member, didn’t come across as resisting change. But she did express the need for it to be gradual and not made in haste.


“What this college needs is orderly change. Not radical, upsetting change.”


Unarguably, the highest profile challenger is former Santa Barbara mayor Marty Blum. She, like the other challengers, isn’t impressed with the successes claimed by the incumbents.


They point to the fact that finding reliable information about meetings and navigating documented minutes on the college website isn’t user friendly. They also question the board members’ accessibility.


O’Neill in particular took issue with those claims and said that he was reachable, mentioning that his phone number was in the phone book.


Dr. Peter Haslund, a retired City College professor, avoided confrontational language. Instead, he acknowledged that things could be done better, but only with more community involvement.


Challengers Marsha Croninger and Lisa Macker echoed each other in their demand for more and better publically disclosed information.


Saturday’s forum, held in the Santa Barbara Public Library’s Faulkner Gallery, and organized by the League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara, saw fewer attendees and was by far tamer.


A noticeable difference from Thursday was also in some of the candidate’s responses.


Questions pre-selected were similar in topic and temperament. Once again, candidates were asked about recent controversial decisions about Continuing Education and the Board’s perceived lack of community interaction.


Where it appeared Thursday that Dobbs, O’Neill, and Sally Green were at times reading from prepared notes, including using similar talking points like “institutional memory,” the incumbents on Saturday seemed to speak more candidly.