The recent On the Beat about District Elections recited Barney Brantingham’s ancient knowledge of the level of competence of council members who were elected under the ward system back in the ’60s; he called them “duds.”
Well Barney, much is different today. The city is a third larger, and the Internet is the source for the news, not one newspaper. In the late ’60s, citizens awoke to the “joke” that was their government on all levels. Belief in what our politicians told us was lost forever after Vietnam, Watergate, Iraq, the banking crisis of 2008. Councilmembers now earn $41,000 a year; then it was $3,000 per year (perhaps the reason for a few “duds”). Civil rights became a bellwether national issue. All of these critical events came after the “duds” you claim were the result of ward elections.
Today, Latinos all over California realize they have been ripped off by the “at large” election of councilmembers. The California Voting Rights Act was passed to prevent further manipulation and deceit.
Deceit? How? A good example just happened: The council just gave away $1.3 million of our tax dollars to fund Visit Santa Barbara, Old Spanish Days, and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Each of these organizations can raise their own funds; they don’t need and shouldn’t get tax dollars. Citizens want their streets paved, not more visitors. We had 22 cruise ships last year; hundreds of thousands come to Fiesta. Enough already! Let the hoteliers, restaurateurs, and Fiesta aficionados raise their funds the old fashioned way, by charitable donations or just plain cash.
District elections will bring district councilmembers intent on keeping their voters happy, dealing with crime, safe streets, and good planning — the things our city government must provide. Santa Barbara citizens, rightfully cynical, are no longer in the dark about their government being unfair. Change is in the air, and the air has been stale far too long.
A. Barry Cappello is a longtime Santa Barbara resident and an attorney representing certain citizens for district elections.