The “balanced” budget approved by the Santa Barbara City Council a month ago has sprung a $2.5 million leak that city administrators worry could expand substantially unless the economy rebounds. As a result, three consecutive days of special meetings have been scheduled in September to revisit the budget. Councilmember Das Williams insisted the situation is not as dire as the numbers suggest, pointing out that the council built a $1.8 million contingency fund into the recent budget for such eventualities. Meanwhile, the state just voted to take $2 million from the city’s Redevelopment Agency and to borrow another $2.3 million from the general fund. The Police Officers Association has offered to make concessions which it says are worth $240,000-but which city administrators say are worth only $80,000. Meanwhile, an $80,000 private grant that was supposed to fund the Fire Department’s emergency preparedness trainer was denied. Councilmembers had been assured earlier this summer that the grant was all but guaranteed.
With no dissent, the Santa Barbara City Council expanded the number of spaces available to people parking their recreational vehicles overnight in downtown city lots from 14 to 25. The program-administered by New Beginnings Counseling Center-was expanded because the number of people on the waiting list has exceeded the total number of available spaces.
Santa Barbara homeless activist Bob Hansen was arrested on 7/24 for petty theft and profanity at the benefit screening of the documentary film Shelter, about homelessness in Santa Barbara, held at the Veterans Memorial Building. Hansen and several other homeless objected to auctioning off a memorial statue just built to commemorate the 17 homeless people who’ve died in Santa Barbara this year. Hansen stole the box containing the silent auction bids for the statue. Despite Hansen’s efforts, the statue was successfully sold to publisher-philanthropist Sara Miller-McCune for nearly $10,000. McCune will have the statue displayed inside the Casa Esperanza homeless shelter.
About 200 residents of upper Chapala Street held a block party on 7/26, eating pasta at one very long table-20 tables running end-to-end. From Constance to Alamar streets, Chapala was blocked off to traffic, and neighbors got to know one another, played bingo, and held a raffle. Event organizers are hoping to galvanize community support for a campaign to relocate existing powerlines underground, but Sunday night’s agenda was more about celebration than strategizing.