The backburner county-split debate heated up in the downtown public library’s Faulkner Gallery last Thursday in a well-attended public forum that flipped north-south party lines by pitting former Santa Maria planning commissioner and split resister Nancy Johnson against Santa Barbara city resident and former Boulder (CO) city manager split sympathizer Ted Tedesco. Arguing against North County secession, Johnson urged South County dwellers not to forsake the low-wage workers and county employees in the north who might be laid off or paid less in the advent of the proposed Mission County. Johnson implored the powerful South County environmentalist community not to isolate northern environmentalists in the fight to preserve open spaces from development.
Tedesco — pro-split despite overseeing a county commission that concluded it was infeasible — offered the unique argument that not only was northern economic development hampered by the anti-development south; the South County was repressed by the north, and blocked from fully realizing its more urban, progressive, and environmental values. Noting the current 3-2 north-south split on the Board of Supervisors, Tedesco asked, “Does anybody want to bank on what the Gaviota Coast will look like in five to 10 years?” Moreover, he claimed that smaller counties are more financially efficient than large counties, adding that if the north wanted to maintain current levels of social service it could easily do so with a one-cent sales tax. The forum was sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Action Network, which has taken a strong stand against the formation of a new Mission County.