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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 2:07 am | Fair 45º


Commentary: Coming Together for Measure A

Disparate groups are united behind a transportation initiative that works for all of us.

During an election year when partisan politics are all the rage, it’s refreshing to have community leaders and organizations from vastly different viewpoints and political affiliations coming together to create and support an important ballot proposal — Measure A.

Without raising taxes, this measure will provide critical local funding for transportation projects, including improving and maintaining roads and highways, reducing traffic congestion, making streets safer for walking and bicycling, improving safety along rural highways, enhancing public transit and making it more affordable. Measure A is a 30-year renewal of Santa Barbara County’s half-cent sales tax that was approved by voters in 1989 and is to expire next year.

Measure A on the Nov. 4 ballot is supported by all five county supervisors and every city council in the county. It is endorsed by organizations as diverse as SB CAN (Santa Barbara County Action Network) and COLAB (Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business), the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association and the League of Women Voters. One reason Measure A receives such well-rounded support is because all of these organizations, and dozens more, were invited by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments to take part in crafting the measure and funding expenditure plans that will meet the needs of all sectors of the community, countywide.

Participants determined at the outset that a significant proportion of the funding (13.4 percent) would go to widening Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria. This area is sometimes referred to as the “bottleneck” where traffic piles up during peak hours. Surveys had shown this was a top priority project for voters on both the South Coast and in the North County. The rest of the funding would be split evenly between the north and the south (43.3 percent each), with separate advisory committees helping to select which projects would be funded.

The South Coast, where traffic congestion is a major problem, will spend its share of funding on a commuter rail service and safe-routes-to-school programs, among other projects. The North County, which has less congestion but more miles of rural roads, will spend its share of funding on priority projects such as widening Highway 101 across the Santa Maria Bridge, expanded services for commuter buses, and increased safety along Highway 166.

Accountability is another key component of Measure A. Unlike the last measure, this one includes a Citizens Oversight Committee, representing a wide variety of geographic, social, cultural and economic interests in the county. This committee will make certain that our tax dollars are being spent according to the approved plan.

The passage of Measure A is crucial because it will enable our county to secure $522 million in state and federal matching funds that would not be available to us otherwise. Without this funding, our roads and highways will deteriorate, traffic congestion will begin to strangle our cities, our transit systems will languish, and public safety on our highways and streets will be compromised. It is sobering to imagine what our county might look like five, 10 or 20 years from now without this funding.

Creating a sustainable county means planning ahead to ensure that our transportation systems meet the needs of all members of our community and future generations. Measure A is a prime example of the kind of sound, comprehensive, long-range planning we expect our local representatives and public works directors to carry forward. But they can’t do this by themselves. They need our support and our vote. Diverse groups came together to craft a practical and balanced plan that meets the needs of all members of our community. Now voters must come together to support our efforts.

Vote Yes on Measure A. Your children and grandchildren will be glad you did.

Deborah Brasket is executive director of the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN). She can be reached at 805.722.5094 or at [email protected] This commentary originally appeared in the Santa Maria Times.

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