The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday couldn’t get the four votes necessary to allocate money to fund a report on banning single-use plastic bags or for a countywide poverty assessment.
An environmental impact report is the prerequisite for a ban on single-use bags, and BEACON, the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment, asked the supervisors to allocate up to $15,000 to help pay for the report. BEACON represents cities in both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said BEACON chose to ask member agencies in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties to support the move instead of enacting an ordinance outright. The Carpinteria City Council already directed staff to come up with language for a ban on single-use bags, both paper and plastic.
BEACON Executive Director Brian Brennan said the bags end up being a threat to the environment and wildlife, and at least 13 cities in California have banned them already.
Santa Barbara Channelkeeper’s Penny Owens said the bags have a heavy cost for cleanup and space in landfills.
“Unfortunately, recycling and education efforts just aren’t working,” she said, adding that the “Where’s Your Bag?” campaign to promote using reusable bags has seen success, but not as much as they hoped.
Andy Caldwell of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business said BEACON should stick to its “sand issues.”
“In this downtrodden economy, we worry about how people put food on the table,” he said. “You’re concerned, and so are other progressives, with how people bring home the food from the grocery store.”
Caldwell said there are already recycling programs and laws against littering in place, so the rest of society shouldn’t be punished for the acts of a few.
“Don’t make our grocery shopping more expensive and less convenient,” he said. “We would say not just no, but hell no.”
The supervisors didn’t vote to give money to the EIR effort, but voiced their support for a countywide ban. Outside of the budget cycle, allocating money requires four votes, which this item couldn’t get.
Similarly, the supervisors voted against a $60,000 county poverty assessment, saying it would be based off known data and the money would be better spent on a much-needed program.
“If I thought this study would get one family out of poverty, I would give twice as much money to accomplish that,” Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said. “Social Services Director Kathy Gallagher has been here a long time and knows more about the problem than probably any consultant we would hire.”
He said he grew up in a single-wide trailer living off food stamps and back then, he wanted programs, not a study.
Carbajal made one last attempt to convince his colleagues, saying the study would be built on existing data so the county could be more strategic about addressing needs of the poor, but the vote failed.
Supervisors also voted to freeze wages for unrepresented management and executive employees and merit step increases for unrepresented confidential employees and attorneys until June 23, 2013.
Undersheriff Jim Peterson reminded supervisors that this class of employees hasn’t had a raise since 2008 while others have, and added that many employees depend on vacation cash-outs for unplanned hardships.
While amending the benefit plan, supervisors decreased the amount of money allowed to be given out for administrative leave — paid leave for employees who worked extra hours — which cost $716,000 in 2010 and almost $576,000 so far in 2011, staff members said.
“It’s a vehicle to recognize extraordinary hours,” county counsel Dennis Marshall said.