Supporters of Measure D, the $1.6 billion countywide congestion relief measure, came up short when the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce declined to take a position on the controversial sales tax measure. Measure D proponents were hoping to have the endorsement of at least one chamber of commerce in the county to indicate support from the business community; to them, Santa Barbara’s seemed the most promising. But reportedly only one member of the S.B. Chamber actually voted to endorse it. The chamber vote came after a debate last week pitting Measure D supporters David Landecker and Gregg Hart—both former Santa Barbara councilmembers—against COLAB spokesperson Andy Caldwell and the the Taxpayers Alliance’s Joe Armendariz, also a Carpinteria city councilmember.
According to some observers, Caldwell and Armendariz scored more rhetorical points in that exchange, arguing that Measure D would take too much money out of county residents pockets while not delivering enough to any one congestion relief project to get the job done. Hart and Landecker countered that the money had to distributed to a wide array of projects in order to achieve the political support necessary to garner the two-thirds supermajority required to prevail at the polls. By spreading the money out, they argued, Santa Barbara County can leverage hundreds of millions of state and federal matching funds to see the projects through. Measure D—the half cent sales tax surcharge—was initially approved by county voters in 1989 to fund a variety of congestion relief efforts, including the widening of Highway 101. It expires at the end of 2009. Proponents are hoping not just to extend that half cent sales tax, but to add a quarter-cent to it.