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Sunday, February 17 , 2019, 4:30 pm | Partly Cloudy 55º


Randy Alcorn: All Down the Line of City Politics

Randy Alcorn takes a hard line on the Santa Barbara election as he renews Right on Target column.

Politics has many angles, but few straight lines. When electing council members Tuesday, consider those candidates who understand that the City Council’s duties are limited to local issues and to the practical matters of governing a municipality. We need to draw a few lines here in Santa Barbara before a number of troubling situations get entirely out of hand.

Lucky for us, most of Santa Barbara’s incumbent council members are fond of drawing lines. The most notorious of which was the proposed blue line to be painted along streets and sidewalks to show the extent to which the rising ocean levels from global warming would inundate the city. Protests by affected property owners and criticism by other annoyed citizens eventually scuttled this boldly proactive demonstration of ecological responsibility.

But, that shameful setback should not discourage the Council from considering other lines. One of the most important of which is the city’s bottom line, a line that is gradually being erased by the Council’s continuing capitulation to the incessantly insatiable demands of the city’s employee unions. Rather than a blue line showing theoretical sea levels, maybe the Council should erect a big billboard in De la Guerra Plaza displaying a graph that shows the deficit the city budget will incur should this largesse continue.

While public servants should not be expected to work at a discount, neither should they be paid at a premium. The porcine pay increases and beaucoup benefits that many public servants have wrested from cooperative city councils cross the line of fiscal responsibility. Elected officials do not work for public employees, elected officials work for the taxpayers. Be wary, therefore, of any candidate who has been endorsed by any of the public employee unions.

The Council displays a fondness for the party line. The living-wage ordinance clearly underlines this Council’s proclivity to emphasize utopian political philosophies and broad social issues over the mundanely quotidian work of running a city. Streets, sewers and sidewalks just do not have the same political glamour as do broader national issues like war, civil rights and “social justice.”

While it is questionable whether national and world issues are within the official purview of the city’s elected officials, there is no question that the best interests of its taxpaying citizens are not served when, to entertain council members’ delusions of political grandeur or accommodate their misguided notions of social justice, the city treasury is tapped to pursue such issues. The cost of the living-wage ordinance, a social justice brainwave, is an unnecessary burden on the city’s limited budget, and as such is a fiscally irresponsible act by those council members who enacted that misbegotten ordinance.

The blood red battle lines that warring gangs, predominantly young Hispanics, are painting on our city streets is an issue of local concern that deserves the full attention of the City Council. This sorry situation is the price the community pays for employing thousands of illegal immigrants. That labor isn’t such bargain when it is paid for in bloody violence on our streets, now is it?

An overpaid police force, bilingual accommodations and a living-wage ordinance haven’t prevented this issue from arising, nor will they. Better that the Council pass an ordinance requiring city contractors to demonstrate the legal residency status of their employees. If employers had to pay for legal labor, wage levels would increase without the city having to impose a “living-wage” ordinance.

Continuing along the line of concern for safe, sanitary streets, the Council needs to find ways to eliminate the panhandling bums that line the sidewalks. A past council seemed to have gotten this situation under control, but the compassionate neglect of recent councils has allowed the city to be re-infested by increasingly aggressive bums. A city whose primary business is tourism cannot afford to have its brand — “the best place on earth” — sullied by a stinking, surly horde of hobos, and by open gang warfare on its main thoroughfares.
Another line is that of cars constantly constipating city streets and contributing to the very global warming with which the Council is so concerned. Traffic is one variable in a linear regression where the other variable is population. A city council concerned with the ecological impacts on the city, and dedicated to preserving its unique beauty, would understand the simple linear equation that the more people who live here, the more there is congestion, pollution and demands on city resources. Whatever happened to the boundary line of population that a previous city council drew as appropriate to preserve the city?

Our council members need to walk the line, not give a line of bull.

— Santa Barbara political observer Randy Alcorn can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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