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County Supervisors Decline to Issue Recommendations on Ballot Propositions

But the decision incites plenty of controversy among the board about its role in informing voters

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday not to provide recommendations on statewide propositions.

Although the board voted last week not to take a position on Proposition 23, which would suspend Assembly Bill 32 and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the supervisors will not declare recommendations on the remainder of the propositions.

Supervisor Doreen Farr said she wasn’t happy how Proposition 19, which would legalize the use, cultivation and sale of marijuana under California law but not federal law, was presented to the board by the Legislative Planning Committee.

“There is very little info in this packet to talk about; it’s essentially what’s in the information in all the voter packets,” Farr said. “I feel like if we’re here to support what the Legislative Committee did, that’s fine, but generally we’re given more information, like Prop. 23, to weigh on that.”

Supervisor Joseph Centeno said he abstained from voting because individual voters need to study the propositions without his help.

“I’m not going to sit here and tell the voters how to vote,” he said. “If any voter asks my opinion and calls me at my office, I will be glad to share my opinion.”

Centeno was opposed by Supervisor Janet Wolf, who called that motion “disturbing.” She said the board has a responsibility to help inform voters about how each proposition would affect the county.

“I’ll go ahead if we want to table the item, but it’s disturbing to me because we are leaders of the community. We should be studying these items,” Wolf said. “Look at Prop. 23 and (Prop. 26) that talks about change in vote requirement. That does impact our county on fee increases — it’s vital that we take a position.”

Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Supervisor Joni Gray agreed with Farr and Centeno. Carbajal said his positions on the propositions are already on record, but there needs to be better guidance from the commission in terms of the decision-making process.

Although Gray opined about Proposition 21 and Proposition 22, she said a discussion of the pros and cons the commission visited would help. Proposition 21 would establish a license surcharge to fund state parks, and Proposition 22 would prohibit the state from borrowing funds used for transportation, redevelopment or local government project and services.

“Why wouldn’t we want state parks to have more funding, to help our residents and economy?” Gray said. “The same for Prop. 22, which could stop them for raiding our money. ... I feel that we should’ve had a lot more information if we’re asked to make a vote.”

That didn’t sit well with Dr. Robert Johns, who provided a “tongue lashing” during public comment. He said it’s the board’s ethical and moral obligation to provide recommendations.

“A thorough tongue-lashing is at hand here, and I’m going to give it to you,” Johns said. “I know these are hot-bed issues, but we wouldn’t have the Legislative Committee go through these issues and come up with recommendations if the board was unwilling to make a decision because they are so political. I’ve come to the conclusion that you will never take a position on these because the impact on the county is desirable and undesirable to so many people.”

Wolf said the board won’t have another opportunity to revisit the propositions.

“I do think that we have to start talking about our policies because that’s what our committee is set up to do,” she told Noozhawk after the meeting. “I know it’s a lot of information, but the staff didn’t even have chance to give their report. I was surprised. It’s not good public process. We should’ve listened to the presentations.”

The Legislative Program Committee, if given the chance, would have told the board that it opposed Propositions 19 and 26, which would increase the legislative vote requirement to two-thirds for state levies and charges. It supported Proposition 25, which would change the legislative vote requirement on budget issues from two-thirds to a simple majority. It took no position on the six other measures.

Carbajal and Wolf serve on the committee.

The California State Association of Counties Executive Committee opposed Proposition 19 along with the Legislative Planning Committee, Gray said. CSAC voted against the proposition because it didn’t clarify the law enough so each county would know how it would work, she said.

“The city could legalize it and county might not, and then there is a large problem of how to go about taxing the sale,” Gray said. “It’s unenforceable and would take so many goods and resources to make it work that it’s the wrong particular measure.”

The majority of Tuesday’s meeting was spent reviewing the Commission for Women’s annual report. The board voted unanimously to approve the commission’s recommendations. The board also voted unanimously to approve the licensing of wine bars in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Noozhawk intern Alex Kacik is a graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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