Strange Bedfellows

North and South Coast Politicos Come Together for Measure

by Nick Welsh

Measure%20D%20Jordan.jpgElected officials representing the often
acrimonious polarities of Santa Barbara County — both geographical
and ideological — gathered on Tuesday for an unprecedented display
of political unity on behalf of Measure D, the sales tax surcharge
meant to help ameliorate local freeway congestion. Joining the
usual coterie of slow-growth, predominantly liberal South Coast
politicians at a press conference held at Santa Barbara City Hall
were a handful of conservative North County politicos: 4th District
Supervisor Joni Gray, Santa Maria City Councilmembers Marty
Mariscal and Alice Patino, and Guadalupe Mayor Lupe Alvarez.
Together the group expressed support for the extension of the
original Measure D — a half-cent tax surcharge approved by voters
countywide in 1989 — and called for a quarter-cent addition to the
tax. If approved by voters in November, the new Measure D is
expected to generate $1.5 billion over the next 30 years, the great
bulk of which will go toward funding freeway decongestion projects.
The existing Measure D — which won’t expire until 2009 — has raised
$350 million thus far.

Measure%20D%20Salud%20%26%20Joni.jpgOf those gathered, Marty Mariscal’s
presence was perhaps the most striking; he has been outspoken in
his criticism of the spending priorities insisted upon by his South
Coast counterparts, notably a proposed commuter rail projected to
cost $26 million. Explaining his newfound support for Measure D,
Mariscal said, “I realized the North County will generate $750
million in sales tax revenues and the South will generate $750
million. If they want to spend some of their money on a commuter
rail, that’s their business. I hope it works. But if it doesn’t,
that money goes back into a kitty to widen the freeway.” The fact
that South Coast interests agreed to cede an additional $70 million
to the North to make this deal fly also played a role in Mariscal’s
change of heart.

Supervisor Joni Gray and Carpinteria City Councilmember Donna
Jordan both expressed strong support for the measure. Gray said
voters should ask themselves if they’ll be better off with or
without Measure D. For those who think they’d be better off without
the tax increase, Gray urged a tour of San Luis Obispo and Ventura
counties, where no equivalent to Measure D exists. “Then ask
yourself, ‘Wouldn’t I be better off with a quarter cent sales tax
increase?’” As for Jordan, she said that Measure D has paid for all
of Carpinteria’s major road repairs, and pointed out that without
it the small city would lose $750,000 a year. “In Carpinteria, we
have a saying about Measure D,” she said. “You can’t leave home
without it.”

But not everyone in Carpinteria is so enamored of Measure D.
Jordan’s fellow councilmember Greg Gandrud has filed a lawsuit
charging that some of the ballot arguments made in favor of the
measure are false and misleading. For example, he claims that only
39 percent of Measure D’s funds would be allocated to the nine
public works departments countywide for road repairs, not the 50
percent claimed. Advocates of Measure D have dismissed Gandrud’s
lawsuit as a frivolous measure designed to thwart the county’s
publishing deadline for ballot statements and arguments. That
deadline is next Monday. Superior Court Judge Denise de
Bellefeuille will hear Gandrud’s arguments on Friday.


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