The City of Santa Barbara emphatically rejected the Grand Jury’s recommendation that voters should be given the opportunity to approve a new hybrid system of representation that would have citizens electing their mayor and vice mayor at large and the rest of the council members by district. The grand jury said the new system would better reflect the ethnic, economic, and geographical diversity of the city than the current all at-large system of elections does. City Hall’s letter drafted in response to the grand jury noted that the City of Santa Barbara boasts more advisory boards and commissions of all but two cities in California-Berkeley and Sacramento. These, the council letter read, give voice to Santa Barbara’s wide array of citizens. The Grand Jury had complained that these bodies were dominated by either by people who’d retired or who could afford not to work.
The letter approved by the City Council noted that City Hall was taking steps to remove economic obstacles preventing the less affluent-or less politically connected-from running for office. For example, the city will offer its public access TV airwaves to candidates free of charge. But the voters’ recent decision to increase council pay has yet to yield the bounty of qualified candidates that many predicted. Of the seven people who’ve taken out papers indicating they might run for council this November, three are incumbents, two always run, and two are political unknowns.