Open Letter to Councilmember Cathy Murillo:

Everyone benefits from a vibrant and healthy business environment. We are a group of independent business owners on the Eastside seeking to organize a business improvement district (BID). We’ve worked hard over the past few years, and it has paid off: Everyone agrees that conditions in the Milpas area have dramatically improved. Through the BID, Eastside businesses will provide for a cleaner, safer business district, and sponsor promotion and special events to bring more patrons to our area. All this can be accomplished for less than $1 per day per business in most cases.

You decided to oppose the BID before we even had a chance to present it to you. You have been walking our neighborhood recruiting business owners to oppose something that will bring them more business, create jobs, and increase sales tax revenues to the city … at no cost to taxpayers. We have met with you twice to provide you with the facts about the BID. Although you know the truth, you have been deliberately spreading false information to Eastside businesses and community members.

You’ve said that the BID is a “new tax.” The BID does not result in any new taxes. It provides a mechanism for businesses in the BID to pay for enhanced services which benefit them directly and that they control directly. The businesses decide what services the BID provides (e.g., graffiti cleanup) and what community events to support (e.g., the Milpas Holiday Parade and Lights).

You’ve told business tenants that the BID will assess their landlords, who will then pass the assessment directly to tenants … that their “rents will increase.” But you know that the BID proposal excludes property owners from assessments, so there is nothing for landlords to pass through to tenants. You’ve also told people that there will be BID assessments on residences — again not true.

You claim that the ultimate goal of the BID is “gentrification” which will “drive out local businesses.” We’re proposing to pick up litter, wipe off graffiti, clean the sidewalks, do some promotion, and create some great cultural events. These things are good for businesses … the existing businesses on the Eastside.

You’ve misrepresented your personal opinion about the BID as though it were the official position of the City of Santa Barbara. Naturally, business owners are fearful of supporting something they’ve been led to believe the city opposes.

Finally, what’s wrong with events like the Trick or Treat on Milpas Street and the Milpas Christmas Parade? These events are for our area families and children, and they help promote the Milpas corridor. This year, you organized people to use the Christmas Parade as a venue to protest the BID! The same Christmas Parade that you walked in as an elected city official …

You are the only city official opposing independent business owners trying to improve their Eastside neighborhood. Yet you didn’t have any objection to renewing the downtown BIDs.

So why are you working so hard to sabotage our neighborhood’s effort to improve itself?

Milpas Community Association members signing this editorial are Gene Bantilan, Alan Bleecker, Chris Cowan, Rick Feldman, Jason Ferria, Bruce Giffin, Paul Gifford, Natalia Govoni, Santos Guzman, Jed Hendrikson, Ernie Lopez, Bea Molina, Dave Peterson, Julianna Reichard, Bob Shoppe, Natasha Todorovic, and Chris Wood.


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