He ran for office on the issue in 2012, fought for it at the budget talks in 2013, and served it up last week in the form of Measure M, which voters only narrowly rejected. Yet, after all he did to make maintenance funding the county’s hottest topic, Supervisor Peter Adam wasn’t satisfied Wednesday with the $102 million all of his colleagues voted to spend on maintenance over the next 10 years; he abstained from that decision and voted against the budget as a whole.
Before Adam’s votes, his fellow supervisors — whose patience wasn’t to be tested Wednesday — seemed to see his symbolic obstruction coming, noting his vote against last year’s budget (even with an extra $2 million for road maintenance) and shooting down his attempts to wax poetic on the principle of infrastructure funding.
“This is a huge win for you,” said an exasperated Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, of the $102 million. “I know what you’re going to say — ‘It’s not enough.’ It’s never going to be enough. We spend money on homelessness; we don’t expect to fix homelessness in the next 10 years. We can’t fix everything.”
Adam’s chief adversary on the board, Supervisor Salud Carbajal — who had been joined by Lavagnino, usually Adam’s chief ally, as well as supervisors Janet Wolf and Doreen Farr in campaigning against Measure M — expressed similar frustration with Adam. “I wasn’t elected to be a one-trick pony. In your measure losing, you won a lot, and you may want to consider being gracious,” Carbajal said. “It can’t be all or nothing. How silly is that? I don’t want to be questioned as well, as if you set the moral authority on our priorities. You’re still going to vote against it like you did last year. That’s the irony and the travesty of our process.”
Under the approved plan, the county will set aside 18 percent of its future revenue growth for maintenance costs, which will add up to more than $102 million over the next decade. Such a percentage-based plan, similar to that for the North County Jail, was oft-invoked by Adam’s four colleagues during the election as the better approach to the issue than Measure M. It will be up to county staff how that money is divided among roads, parks, and buildings and between deferred maintenance projects and ones that are preventative. The board will be able to reevaluate the figure every year and could change it depending on the economy.
Wolf and Farr — who each initially favored a smaller funding amount but went along with the 18 percent in the end — stressed the need for a balanced approach to the issue, especially given the many other services the supervisors are charged with ensuring, including those for mental health and social services.
Despite months of pushing the issue, Adam said he felt too rushed to make a decision on Wednesday and wanted the county instead to look at his suggestion: a 50-55 percent allocation. He and his staff pointed to that figure as one that would both prevent money from being added to the $341 million backlog and eliminate the backlog altogether within a number of years. That plan, coupled with freezing labor costs (which appears to be Adam’s next battle), liquidating some facilities, and ceasing to add money to the county’s rainy-day fund, was their answer to an issue Adam said is only going to get worse. “This thing is like a land mine that somebody’s going to step on,” he said. “And whenever they step on it, it’s going to hurt.”
The proceedings took on a less heated tone when talk turned to the overall 2014-2015 budget, which will see revenues ($905 million) outpace expenditures ($903 million) for the first time in years, as well as the addition of 115 positions for a 4,119-person workforce. The supervisors had an extra $2 million in onetime and ongoing funding to play with, which they divvied up among numerous projects.
Recipients included the 2-1-1 program ($49,700), the after-hours jail rides program ($10,000), and the Isla Vista lighting project ($85,000), which will now finish ahead of schedule. The supervisors also set aside $120,000 for Casa Esperanza but won’t disburse it until the organization comes before the board with more information on its fiscal standing.