Anna Marie Gott — one of the City Council’s most pugnacious critics — was escorted out of council chambers by Sergeant James Ella on Tuesday after repeatedly shouting, “Cathy, you are a petty tyrant!” at Mayor Cathy Murillo. The council met to vote on adoption of the budget for fiscal year 2020, but before the vote, Murillo called a recess rather than allow Councilmember Jason Dominguez to speak a second time on the budget — an unprecedented move on Murillo’s part that sparked outrage from Dominguez and prompted Gott’s yelling.
“I ask everyone to re-watch today’s council meeting, it can be found on the city website,” Dominguez said in an interview outside the chamber. “The video shows an escalation of Mayor Murillo’s pattern of stifling dissent. I was elected to stand up for the residents of Santa Barbara, and I am beholden to the voters, not to City Hall’s special interests. I’m pushing for policies that support everyday residents, we will not be silenced.” (Note: the video posted online silences the part of the meeting at which Gott shouts at Murillo.)
Following the recess, the budget was approved 6-1 with Dominguez the only councilmember in dissent. He said he couldn’t vote yes on the budget because “we’re not doing enough for homelessness and community development.” He mentioned a campaign in Ventura that discourages giving money to panhandlers and said Santa Barbara should consider the same before spending general fund dollars on homelessness. Councilmember Randy Rowse told him he was aware of three similar programs attempted in Santa Barbara that failed. It was when Dominguez attempted to respond to Rowse that Murillo shut the meeting down.
Dominguez was ultimately able to respond to Rowse after the recess and said he still felt the city should do more. Dominguez stuck to his no vote.
“Once there’s a motion on the floor, I’m ruling the debate,” Murillo said in a later interview about why she stopped Dominguez from speaking. “Everyone already got their say.” Murillo said she didn’t take issue with Dominguez voting no, but she felt he had already made his point and there wasn’t a need for a second comment. “What’s important is that we pass our budget, and I’m proud to say we did that today. I am proud of how our city functions.”