Although Schneider says she received enough signatures to put the initiatives on the ballot, she doesn’t think she has enough support among the City Council to proceed with the entire package.
“Unfortunately, while enough city voters signed the petitions, the spirit of compromise I was hoping would be sparked by linking a pension reform initiative with a sales tax increase failed to ignite with my colleagues,” she said.
Schneider has said that the point of bringing her measures directly to voters was to get around the unlikely support of the City Council for the initiatives; however, she doesn’t have enough support among council members to get an advisory measure passed that would split sales tax revenues with local schools.
She said in a statement issued Tuesday that she won’t move forward with the other measures without that piece.
“While I could have submitted the petitions for the half-cent sales tax and pension reform, I made a commitment to the voters of the city who signed these petitions to include a vote on whether half of the sales tax revenue could be allocated to area schools,” Schneider said. “While voters brought this proposal three-quarters of the way home by signing the petitions, it was my mistake to rely on the council to place the complete package on the ballot, and I take full responsibility for creating such a scenario.”
When she first went public with her plan in February, Schneider told the media that she wanted to bring the city’s issues directly to voters. She fundraised and hired signature-gatherers.
She said then that it was “time to create an option for people to consider instead of having debate and nothing happens. The alternative is the status quo, which means significant funding needs and a system that needs some form of cost control with pensions, and the only way to ask on the revenue side is to go to the voters anyway.”
Most of the council members haven’t commented publicly yet one way or the other on the proposal.
“After meeting with two council members and reading public statements made by others, it appears that there are not enough votes required to place an advisory measure that would include funding for local schools on the ballot — because they disagree with either the pension reform or half-cent sales tax aspect of Invest In Santa Barbara,” Schneider said in her statement.
Councilman Frank Hotchkiss, who spoke in support of the measures when they were first announced, calls the plan “dead on arrival.”
Rowse takes issue with the fact that the sales tax revenues on the ballot wouldn’t be earmarked for a specific purpose by voters.
“There’s a certain intention in mind, but on any given Tuesday it can change,” Rowse said. “And I have a problem with that.”
Francisco called the advisory measure “flat-out bizarre” since it would give a substantial amount of sales tax revenues to school districts, some that aren’t within the city limits.
Murillo would have supported the sales tax — “a new revenue stream would have helped the city tremendously” — but it was linked to the employee benefit piece, so she couldn’t support either.
It was “uncomfortable” not to support the mayor when it was her first month in office, Murillo said, but believes labor contract changes should be made at the bargaining table, not the ballot box.
“From a union family, I take that very seriously,” Murrillo said. “And when I sat down and checked my values — which is why people elected me, for what I stand for and how I make decisions — what she was proposing didn’t sit well with that.”
Her original plan proposed a half-cent sales tax increase linked to pension reforms requiring city employees to pay the full 7 percent employee share toward retirement costs. Both would have to pass for either to be implemented, and she planned to ask the City Council to approve an advisory measure to split the sales tax revenues with local school districts.
She also proposed a new business license fee for establishments in the downtown “entertainment district” that serve alcohol and are open after 11 p.m. A disproportionate amount of police resources are spent on that area of the city after the bars close, so more resources should come from those businesses, she argued.
Initially, the education community pushed back against the mention of an advisory measure, since it was seen as competition for the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s parcel measures — which failed in June but will be back on the Nov. 6 ballot at a lower per-parcel rate — and Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30, which could result in huge education funding cuts.
Schneider stopped talking about the advisory measure altogether, removed it from her Invest In Santa Barbara 2012 website and encouraged voters to support the parcel measures.
There was concern from the business community and city labor groups as well, and the Democratic Central Committee asked her to stop signature gathering until it could discuss the measures more with her. She didn’t, saying she wouldn’t stop until she heard a reason to substantially change the measures.
After the June election, she announced she was postponing the measures to November 2013 and altering the business license fee. Instead of singling out downtown businesses, she proposed including alcohol sales in business license fees for the entire city.
Members from public safety unions, the business community and education community stood with her for that June announcement — a stark contrast from her lonely announcement in February.
“The challenges regarding providing essential municipal services and capital improvements as well as securing local funds for public education remain,” Schneider said in Tuesday’s statement. “I am pleased that the signature-gathering process created a community-wide dialogue, and I hope the conversation continues with the goal of creating lasting solutions. The success of the signature-gathering effort clearly demonstrates voter support for increases in revenue to fund needed services and an expectation that pension issues be addressed — not just at the state level but also here locally.
“I firmly believe that there are more things that unite us as Santa Barbarans than divide us. Invest In Santa Barbara asked us to look beyond our own political ideologies and focus on solving the challenges facing our community. I hope that in the near future I can work with my colleagues to find and support a proactive policy that addresses these issues. While they clearly did not support this proposal, I am open to others they may have.”