Vote Yes on Measures Q and R:
School Bonds for School Buildings
Currently, there are roughly 15,000 Santa Barbarans enrolled in local public schools, many of which are 40 to 50 years old with crumbling or unattended infrastructures. Once upon a time, the state might have bankrolled such capital expenditures, but given the sorry state in Sacramento, those days are long gone. If we want to install a new roof or build a new library on a Santa Barbara public school campus, we have to do it ourselves. That’s where Measures Q and R come in. Measure Q will generate roughly $75 million for bricks-and-mortar projects for area high schools and junior high schools; Measure R will generate $35 million for our elementary schools. These measures will authorize the school districts to sell bonds based on property-tax assessments. Because Measures Q and R effectively extend existing measures that would otherwise sunset, there will be no increase in assessments. These funds can’t be used for anything but capital projects, and these ballot measures authorize the creation of advisory committees to ensure the funds are spent properly. It’s a no-brainer; vote yes on Measures Q and R.
Vote Yes on Measure S: Half-Cent Sales Tax
Increase for New North County Jail
Measure S offers the community its last, best, and only real crack at building a desperately needed new county jail. With Measure S, voters have that rare opportunity to do the right thing without experiencing any fall-out at the cash register. The courts have declared our current jail — built in 1971 — to be dangerously overcrowded since 1986. On any given weekend, more than 1,000 people call the county jail home. That’s nearly 200 more than the 818 maximum for which it’s certified — no small problem when you consider that 25 percent of the population is on psychotropic drugs and nearly 40 percent have been charged with gang-related offensives. Add in the 10 percent awaiting trial on murder charges, and you can see that just stuffing men in wherever there is an empty cot is an explosion waiting to happen.
New taxes are never popular, especially during a recession. But unlike other taxes, Measure S, a half-cent sales tax surcharge, is strictly local. Its revenues will be collected locally and spent locally. A citizens’ oversight committee will ensure that funds are spent correctly. Revenue will cover not only the construction but also the jail’s operating expenses and an additional $5.4 million annually to support desperately needed programs to help break the cycle of recidivism, which now hovers at about 70 percent — a ridiculous, outrageous number that makes our present jail nothing more than a revolving door for criminals. As an extra benefit, it will generate $10 million a year for public safety agencies — fire, law enforcement, and probation — now chronically underfunded. But perhaps best of all, the state of California has agreed to pay $56 million of the $80 million needed to build a new 305-bed facility. Take it while we can get it — Measure S will save money, lives, and public safety in the long run.
Vote No on Measure T: A Total Ban on
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
Measure T is a case of political overkill in response to a problem it has no hope of solving. If passed, Measure T would ban any and all medical marijuana dispensaries from opening their doors within Santa Barbara’s urban limit lines and shut down dispensaries that now exist. Proponents contend this ban is necessary to keep pot out of the hands of school-aged children and to minimize temptation for those struggling to get — or remain — clean and sober. As a practical consideration, these goals are hopelessly naïve. But in pursuit of this impossible dream, Measure T threatens to inflict serious collateral damage upon desperate people seeking relief from life-threatening, or life-altering, illnesses. Like it or not, marijuana offers significant medical relief to an astonishing array of conditions. State voters opted to legalize marijuana for medical uses in 1996. Dispensaries — for all their shortcomings — offer the safest and most convenient access to those in most immediate need. To deny people that access seems capriciously cruel and short-sighted. We recognize that some dispensaries have, in fact, been abused by unscrupulous operators. But there are better solutions readily at hand to such abuses. For example, the Santa Barbara City Council just passed a stricter medical marijuana ordinance, limiting the number of dispensaries within city limits to just three and imposing requirements that make it among the most restrictive in the state. Nevertheless, the new prohibitionists sponsoring this measure want to use ballot-box legislation to get their way — always a dangerous undertaking. That is especially true because we have elected officials who act responsibly. Measure T qualifies as the classic case of the cure being worse than the disease, and as such, deserves to be soundly rejected.