Oil industry interests contributed more than half the $121,000 raised to collect signatures needed to qualify a controversial initiative slated for this November’s ballot asking voters whether they want to create an independent redistricting committee for the five Santa Barbara County supervisorial districts. The initiative is promoted by a group calling itself Reason in Government, claiming to speak for the “radical center.” The creation of an independent redistricting committee, they insisted, would remove the taint of political gerrymandering from the redistricting process, which will begin only after the 2020 Census results are in. Their critics have insisted the proposed committee would give Republicans representation disproportionate to their actual numbers and was really a front group to dilute the impact of Isla Vista’s reliably liberal voting bloc.
Liberal supervisors, such as Das Williams, insisted the effort was a political maneuver by oil companies and North County economic interests. Recent campaign disclosure reports indicate that the California Independent Petroleum Association’s Political Action Committee, called CIPAC, donated $46,000 to the effort and that individuals and trusts associated with Vaquero Energy — now proposing new onshore oil development — gave $13,500. Most contributions came from North County businesspeople, several came from San Luis Obispo developers, and none came from South County sources. Paid gatherers collected more than 16,000 signatures. Supervisors had no choice but to place the matter before voters countywide.
Supervisor Williams, working with Democratic Party consultant Mary Rose, crafted a competing measure to create an independent committee that would be more broadly based, with more members and greater representation for Democrats and independents. Voters will have a choice of which measure they prefer.