Well, it’s finally over and in record time. District elections are now in place in Santa Barbara. Now the real work begins for the new districts and new councilmembers in tending to the business of making each neighborhood a better place for all.
There are the pundits who say it is better to govern these districts as a whole rather than let them govern themselves. A segment of the population has adhered to the thought that “these people can’t help themselves, so we must do it for them.”
Those who are elected to represent their district must realize that they also have a duty to represent the total community. As goes the community, so goes your district — the districts make the community, and one is not separate from the other. It is a balancing act, and it takes a real leader to do so, but at least each district will have a chance to elect such a person instead of begging the powers that be for support and spend thousands to get elected.
I want to thank the California Assembly for making it possible under CVRA (California Voting Rights Act) to have had the opportunity to use this act to bring district elections to Santa Barbara.
To attorney Barry Cappello, Wendy Welkom, Jasper L. Ozbirn, and their entire staff, I give my heartfelt thanks. Cappello is a villain to some and a hero to others. To me he is a hero and a friend, for if not for him, we would not have district elections in Santa Barbara. His swift adjudication of the matter of district elections was record setting while other cities have been engaged in litigation for years on the same issue, costing taxpayers millions. To you pundits, I say you got a deal at half a million.
To Judge Geck who ruled on the case, a big thank-you.
To Santa Barbara City Attorney Ariel Calonne, with his wisdom and advice to City Council, and the individual councilmembers, I commend all for conducting themselves gallantly and coming to an equitable decision on district elections.
I would like to thank the public who attended the public meetings and shared their concerned input for the implementation of a district elections plan. To the press who did a great job in reporting the story. And also thank you to the financial contributors for the expert witnesses for the case.
Finally I would like to thank the four litigants, Frank Banales, Ben Cheverez, Sebastian Aldana, and Jacqueline Inda. These people carried the ball over the goal line through some heavy criticism. They weathered the battle and did it in a very respectful manner as it should be done.
Leo Martinez is a former Santa Barbara city councilmember, 1973-77.