Citing concerns over transparency and cost, Councilmember Jason Dominguez announced he’s boycotting a City Council retreat this weekend. “We’re all better off the more the public is included in discussions and decisions,” Dominguez said. “Sunshine is the best bleach.” He called the $12,000 facilitator’s fee “outrageous.”
The six-hour workshop, which is open to the public and won’t include any official actions by the council, is scheduled to take place on Saturday in the Airport Administration conference room at 601 Firestone Road. “It was inspired by our full transition to district-based representation,” said Mayor Cathy Murillo, “and our desire as a council to serve the individual districts and also make decisions that benefit and enhance Santa Barbara citywide.”
Murillo said the get-together is also a chance for the council to catch its breath after a rocky start to the term: Two of its members were sworn in the day of the Montecito debris flow, a third recently joined after a contentious special election, and for the first half of the year, the governing body hobbled along with only six members. “That was challenging,” said Murillo. “We really just need to slow down and come together as people for a little while.”
More implicitly, it’s hoped among City Hall leaders that the workshop eases the friction of personalities and policy differences that often permeate and slow down council meetings. Much of that tension originates between Murillo, who, as mayor, runs the hearings by following “Rosenberg’s Rules of Order,” and Dominguez, who frequently flouts procedural rules and delays discussions with overindulgent lines of questioning.
Echoing charges of perennial council conspiracy theorist Anna Marie Gott, Dominguez accused Murillo and the workshop organizers of trying to “hide council discussions and actions.” He said issues such as State Street, “the transient crisis,” parking and traffic, and planning delays ― none of which are on Saturday’s agenda ― would be more appropriately discussed at a regular Tuesday meeting. Furthermore, Dominguez said, he teaches at a local college and needs to spend Saturday finalizing this semester’s curriculum.