James Joyce III | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Mayoral candidate James Joyce III is calling for an equity audit of the City Charter because of the document’s male-centric language.

“On almost every page is a reference to a councilman,” Joyce said. “Almost every reference in the charter is a he. It’s very disappointing that in a city that has had so much incredible female leadership, we haven’t updated our charter to reflect that.”

Joyce said that despite cities and towns updating their charters across the county, Santa Barbara hasn’t changed its male-only references even though the charter was updated as recently as 2018, when it was amended for district-based elections. 

Assistant City Attorney John Doimas said that the city doesn’t have any legal objections to updating the language to be inclusive of female leadership. He pointed out that in recent years, every time the charter has been amended, the language has been updated, and that it’s only the older parts of the charter that include the male-specific language.

Doimas also made a point to say that Santa Barbara is also in line with a 2019 law that keeps its city leadership gender-diverse.

“I think an important thing to say, too, is a bill that was passed two years ago, AB 931, which requires after January 1, 2030, that cities with a population over 50,000 — like Santa Barbara — may not have an appointed board or commission that has 60 percent of its membership from the same gender identity. We follow that,” Doimas said.

The Charter was adopted by the City Council of Santa Barbara, California on May 2, 1967, and includes updates through the 2018 election. Joyce believes the audit will create a push for more progressive change.

“Santa Barbara has been a place where female leadership has meant so much,” Joyce said. “It’s important that our governing documents reflect that and respect the legacy of all the female leaders of this community.”

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