The Santa Barbara City Council managed to avoid a divisive what-side-are-you-on showdown whether to privatize 11 unionized city greens maintenance jobs at the Municipal Golf Course for at least one year, adopting in the interim a handful of other measures designed to increase revenues and cut costs.
Nationwide, the sport of golf has been in general decline for many years, due to a combination of the recession, what’s known as the “Tiger Woods effect,” and shifting demographic realities. In the past eight years, the drop in number of rounds played at Municipal Golf Course has forced course managers increasingly to eat into reserves. In response, city parks czar Nancy Rapp proposed privatizing the golf-course’s greens maintenance function, which — depending on the details — could save $200,000-$400,000 a year. It would also come at a loss of 11 city jobs.
Councilmembers Gregg Hart and Cathy Murillo, both strongly endorsed by city unions, questioned the wisdom of replacing decent-paying jobs with low-paying ones unless the circumstances were more dire. They pushed instead to double the amount spent on marketing the Muni course. And they’ve seized on a proposal to refinance the golf course’s debt, which would save more than $100,000 a year. Given that the Muni now spends $64,000 a year more than it brings in, that qualifies as a net gain of about $36,000.
This math was enough to persuade a majority of councilmembers — key swing vote Bendy White especially — with the proviso the issue of the golf course’s long-term financial stability be revisited in one year.