Lively scene at a restaurant and bar in the heart of Santa Barbara's entertainment district.

Jen Villa

Lively scene at a restaurant and bar in the heart of Santa Barbara's entertainment district.

Revenues for Revenues’ Sake

Subject to Whims of the City Council

Wednesday, April 25, 2012
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Mayor Helene Schneider’s multi-pronged initiative effort is being proposed not in her role as mayor, but independently as a private citizen, and therefore without input from city officials. She attempts to address problems that are at the forefront of many discussions by Santa Barbara residents, and issues that we on Council get letters and phone calls about daily.

Under California law, every new tax must be approved by a vote of the people. Taxes are classified as “general,” i.e. the revenue can be used for any governmental purpose; or “special,” meaning the revenue is dedicated to a specific governmental purpose. The mayor has chosen a general tax with no specific spending targets or limits because the threshold for approval set by state law for this type of proposal is a simple majority versus a two-thirds requirement for special taxes.

Randy Rowse
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Randy Rowse

The term “Pension Reform” is used in the proposal, but is misleading. The proposal merely revisits a time when the public safety unions agreed to the current structure as a way to cooperate with city budget issues. Going back to full employee PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) contributions will likely mean a shift back to the city of up-front salary expenses, wiping out whatever savings are touted. Furthermore, these negotiations are usually done in bargaining sessions, in good faith, and not at the ballot box. Contrary to popular belief, our bargaining units gave concessions at times when the city needed them to.

The “Entertainment District Tax” is a new business license fee affecting a number of businesses in a zone that goes from Sola Street to Cabrillo Blvd., and Santa Barbara Street to Chapala Street. Because the city is not allowed to directly tax alcohol sales, the new fee applies to businesses which serve alcohol and are open past 11 p.m more than six nights per year to “new” customers. While most people might think this targets only the clubs in a few blocks of lower State Street, it actually includes restaurants up to Sola, and on the beach, and includes 100% of the revenue of any business serving alcohol at any time, including hotels and grocery stores. This tax would be unfairly levied on businesses that have nothing to do with needed added police service. In fact, the “extra expense for police service” is not quantified by a dollar amount in the proposal. As I understand it, the usual weekend patrol force is standing by on a few blocks on State Street near the clubs during closing time. These officers are otherwise ready to deploy to anywhere in the city for service calls.

The proposed initiative mentions that these new taxes would help to fund enhanced safety, libraries, parks, etc. One part of the proposal involves giving the Santa Barbara School District half of the proceeds. While our schools are worthy recipients of our tax dollars, they have two parcel taxes on the June ballot already, and the district includes entities located outside of the city limits.

Given that previous councils have spent record high revenues and reserves into deficit, why would the voters elect to re-stoke the spending fire with no certainty of results? In addition, this proposed tax hike has no sunset like the school parcel tax and can only be repealed or amended by another election.

The Independent’s Nick Welsh published names of the donorsfor this campaign, which is composed in large part of those involved with subsidized housing and homeless services, so my guess is that those folks are counting on some of the revenue going in that direction.

The issues in these proposals are, as the mayor said, things we hear about in City Hall from citizens every day. While I do respect the effort and initiative the mayor has put forth in these ballot measures, I must voice my disagreement with any proposal set forth to raise revenues for revenues’ sake, without any template for targets and limits on spending. A half-percent sales tax may not be unreasonable, given the types of defined goals that voters normally support, but these proposals are 100% discretionary and subject to the whims of Council. In addition, our revenues have shown improvement on their own; in fact better than we cautiously anticipated. So for now, let’s choose to grow and control our revenues and expenditures together, and have you, the voters, select specific priorities in the future if that is, in fact, your desire.

Randy Rowse is a member of the Santa Barbara City Council and owner of the Paradise Cafe, a downtown restaurant and bar.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

As a restaurant and bar owner I can see why Mr. Rowse doesn't want these proposals of the mayor passed. When he writes, "Going back to full employee PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) contributions will likely mean a shift back to the city of up-front salary expenses" —yeah, this is what YOU were elected to do, Mr. Rowse, and then we can see your priorities.
The mayor is showing leadership, and demonstrating it with her pension reform ideas (NEEDED!). When you note these taxes aren't specifically directed (and I wish they went ALL to the public schools), saying "have you, the voters, select specific priorities in the future " you are again failing to take leadership responsibility, Mr. Rowse. This isn't the ancient Greeks' "direct democracry" and we already have far too much government-by-initiative or by voters' choice. Why do we have a City Council -- make some decisions.
Vote for these ideas from Mrs. Schneider!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 25, 2012 at 6:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If this tax passes I want libraries back to regular hours, funding for restorative policing and we should rehire some park maintenance staff to clean up our parks. I will go to the City Council and tell them this is what I want (or I will at least send them an email). That's how government works. I think at least 50% of City voters will agree on some reasonable expenditures to make our city cleaner, safer and smarter.

local (anonymous profile)
April 25, 2012 at 9:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The city has shown no respect for our tax dollars. From cushy salaries and pensions given to city staff, to expensive traffic calming devices, to a completely dysfuntional SBCC board of trustees squandering precious dollars. Considering how they have spent money in the past, why should we give them more money to mismanage?

Botany (anonymous profile)
April 25, 2012 at 10:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

People are forgetting that people actually do work, often times hard work, often times understaffed, long hours and many years. Why wouldn't we want to hire the best people we can and compensate them accordingly. All this brouhaha on how government should be run like a business ect then when the government tries to be a competitive employer people get upset. Do you want competent and compensated civil employees or incompetent civil employees who are more worried about making the rent than than they have energy to devote to their jobs?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 25, 2012 at 11:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

'I must voice my disagreement with any proposal set forth to raise revenues for revenues’ sake'
And I must voice my disagreement with tax cuts for the rich for who's sake? The divide widens,
and some say we are broke.

spacey (anonymous profile)
April 25, 2012 at 1:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken_Volok: It would be great to see a competent civil employee. The collective bargaining system we have makes it very difficult to get rid of incompetent people. Our civil employees who receive better compensation than those in the private sector are less competent than those in the private sector, possibly as a result of this?
Randy Rowse: Re downtown drunk tax - life isn't fair. Marijuana dispensaries are required to pay for private security for no crime-related reason at a much higher cost than the proposed new drunk tax. We don't have a need for the extra police services that you and Francisco, "fiscal conservatives" are currently requiring us to pay for based on crime statistics - they're a waste of money.
Schneider has stated that recipients of her proposed won't be announced until after the election, and based on her past experience, my bet is on SBPD, not schools.
Mr' Rowse, you're representing your views as a private citizen regarding the drunk tax, and simultaneously representing yourself as a Santa Barbara City Council member. Is that a conflict of interest and violation of Fair Political Practice rules?

14noscams (anonymous profile)
April 25, 2012 at 3:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

According to the State of California itself, not a *single* red cent of *any* of the taxes proposed this June or November for schools will *ever* see the classroom or local schools. Instead all of it will have to be used to fill in the massive hole created by an unfunded pension payment obligation to retired teachers and administators... and all of the taxes collected by these proposed ballot measures, including our Mayor, will *still* not close the gap. On top of this, there is a HUGE unfunded gap for retired health and other benefits.

When folks here say they support taxes for local schools, they are getting rolled and played by politicians. NONE of this money will ever see the classroom.

willy88 (anonymous profile)
April 25, 2012 at 8:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

you need to ref your source, Willy, "According to the State of California itself" doesn't cut it. Republicans (Willy!) and Demos alike voted for these pension deals and doubtless you voted for some of them. In capitalism and democracy there is thing called "sanctity of contract" and these FIRE and POLICE personnel as well as those awful "teachers" will get these pensions. Grow up.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 26, 2012 at 5:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I love what's billed as a lively scene in the photo! Does that girl look happy???!!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 26, 2012 at 8:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

We really need a process to layoff the bottom performers in government jobs. Mandatory reducing of the bottom 10% of performers yearly would be a good start.
Regardless of how 'good' people are there is always the bottom 10%.

loneranger (anonymous profile)
April 27, 2012 at 12:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The bottom 10 percent idea might make you feel emotionally good, but it would be grossly inefficient in itself, subject to "office politics", and end up being more expensive in the long run. Administering a government department or managing a business are not TV game shows.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 27, 2012 at 12:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

many companies and most large companies take out the bottom 5-10% of employees every year. There are many standard tools such as the GE 9 box that work very well to facilitate this.
It works.
In my thinking the biggest issue with Government staff is the gross inefficiencies which could be greatly solved by removing the low performers on a regular bases.
People are not normally bad -- just sometimes in the wrong job.

loneranger (anonymous profile)
April 27, 2012 at 3:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's boil this article down to it's fundamental message. "Hi I am Randy Rowse and I oppose this tax because it will cut into my bottom line. I prefer the current situation, where I can call the SBPD free of charge to take care of drunks(who's bar bills have made me rich) when they get out of line at my establishment.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
April 27, 2012 at 4:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Then frankly many companies are stupid to choose to replace ten percent of their workforce every year regardless. Waste of time, resources... and if everything is going good- why fix something that isn't broken? That's where dogma will get ya, high turnover and no employee loyalty.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 27, 2012 at 5:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I hope Randy Rowse runs for mayor. I'd vote for him.

native2sb (anonymous profile)
April 28, 2012 at 11:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'd make jokes at his expense.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 28, 2012 at 11:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't accept the blanket notion that government/public workers are necessarily worse or less efficient than their counterparts in private industry.

I've workled in small, medium and large-sized companies my entire career (still do) and can vouch that there are plenty of crappy employees, poor work ethics, and flawed business practices in the private sector. And when you start rubbing elbows with upper management or those with fiduciary responsibility, you learn even more! There are lots of different paths to making profit.

The thing of it is, public workers and their employers are under much more scrutiny than the private sector. In the private sector, you can sweep a heck of a lot of nasty stuff under the rug, and a lot of our operations are not open to public scrutiny or even the scrutiny of our shareholders.

And as far as I can tell, the mission of private companies are often much more focused and less diverse than those of governments or public agencies. Compare a company that makes a line of widgets to a city that has to provide myriad services to various client profiles, all under the scrutiny of the public, newspapers, etc. And regulations on governments can be just as complex as those on private entities.

The secret to a successful endeavor, whether public or private, is to have smart, well-educated, and motivated people, good leadership, clear goals, and a system that rewards success.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
April 28, 2012 at 2:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

One of the larger employers in Goleta periodically has layoffs, obstensibly to weed out lower rung performers.

However, most in our industry know that company has a flawed internal culture and ineffective management. Lots of inter-departmental rivalries, etc. And yet this company remains profitable due to the vagaries of the market.

If this company were a government, it would have been overthrown long ago.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
April 28, 2012 at 2:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

EastBeach I completely agree that we "don't accept the blanket notion that government/public workers are necessarily worse or less efficient than their counterparts in private industry." The 50 or so upper-level exec at the collapsed Lehmann Brothers who were to get unbelievable millions of dollars EACH would have cashed out if the gov't hadn't let them fall....this is "worse" and look at all the shenanigans and reproofs Goldman Sachs has been getting...

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2012 at 6:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Herschel_Greenspan so ROCKS!

Bartender Randy Rowse apparently does not understand that a sales tax with a specific purpose must pass with a two-thirds voter threshold, while a general purpose, General Fund sales tax only requires a simple majority of 50%. Or, he is practicing the spin and washing he spews about Measure Y.

Rowse makes his money selling booze and then dumping the liability of rowdy drunks and drunken drivers onto the public to pay for cleaning up the mess and enforcing the law. (Yes, Randy, your drunks cause trouble too, just like the drunks from Tonic or Dargen's).The Mayor's ballot initiative would end much of that cost-shifting, so naturally Rowse objects and as usual does not care about the public he pretends to serve as an elected city council member.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2012 at 8:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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