One of the first lessons one learns about politics in Coastal California is that the environmental causes make strange bedfellows. Lambs lie down with lions. Leopards lie down with goats. And Republicans lie down with Democrats. Everyone is an environmentalist — be they red, blue or a hue in between. But the group hug will often stop at the tree, as observers of the County Board of Supervisors will tell you.
Two of the closest allies on land preservation, open space and environmental protection are supervisors Linda Parks, District 2, and Steve Bennett, District 1. If Bennett is the grandfather of Save Open-space and Agricultural Resources legislation, then Parks is the grandmother. These two locked arms as SOAR marched through Ventura County in the 1990s. They are generally opposed to building anything that has the slightest possibility of altering the landscape. Their votes on the board are in lockstep, often to the frustration of other supervisors, who know it is impossible to “trade votes” with Parks or Bennett on such an issue. And while Bennett sits out city issues since leaving the Ventura City Council, Parks is often believed to be working behind the scenes on issues in the Conejo Valley.
But since the two were considering runs for a Congressional seat, the divide over taxation issues has become transparent. (Bennett was in and then out of the race. Parks started as a Republican but switched to Independent status and bowed to the GOP’s Tony Strickland, who eventually lost to Julia Brownley.) For while many casual observers were surprised to see Parks running as a Republican, she does stand for some of the traditional Republican issues — thrifty government spending and lower taxes.
The most pronounced example of the divide at the moment is the eventual vote on a local sales tax for transit and transportation. Ventura County is the only place in Southern California without such a tax. Bennett has been behind such a measure any number of times and is expected to give it his full support and earnest argument. When there was something of a straw vote at a recent transportation commission meeting, Parks backpedaled away from it quickly. Recent comments about transit issues in the county indicate she still believes there is fat to be cut and that she is unlikely to support a new tax.
Politics can make strange partners, but they can only dance for so long.