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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 10:23 am | Fair 54º

 
 
 
 

Guadalupe Leaders Vow City Will Survive After Critical Grand Jury Report

City Council has strong response to Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report that recommended disincorporation due to financial issues

Guadalupe City Council members Jerry Beatty and Virginia Ponce were named to a committee to draft a response to the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report saying the city should disincorporate.
Guadalupe City Council members Jerry Beatty and Virginia Ponce were named to a committee to draft a response to the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report saying the city should disincorporate. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo )

In the wake of a Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report recommending disincorporation, Guadalupe’s leaders vowed Tuesday their city would survive — and thrive despite its financial woes. 

Council members individually commented on the report, “Guadalupe Shell Game Must End,” before Mayor John Lizalde appointed two members — Jerry Beatty and Virginia Ponce — to work with staff to draft a response. The city’s response, which is required to be submitted to the grand jury in 90 days, will be brought back to the full council for approval.

The grand jury report released Friday noted the ongoing financial woes faced by Guadalupe and recommended that leaders consider disincorporating the city.

Councilman Ariston Julian said the city is like anyone who has more expenses than money and must weigh what bills to pay.

“Is that called a shell game? That’s called survival,” Julian said, adding the city knows it has financial troubles.

Julian said he hopes the city’s committee looks at the grand jury and countywide attitude toward Guadalupe.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Why do they pick on Guadalupe?’” Julian asked. “I think, to me, because we don’t have a voice that can draw a lot of attention in terms of what’s happening in the county of Santa Barbara.”

Saying he disagreed with the report, Lizalde called it “heavily South County weighted.”

Guadalupe Mayor John Lizalde and other council members disagreed with the grand jury report recommending that the city disincorporate. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“In the history of the county, in dealing with Guadalupe, when they had to address things most of it was not positive,” Lizalde said. “I have to ask this grand jury, when was the last time they had really been in Guadalupe? The grand jury has not witnessed the positive activity in town.”

Lizalde noted Guadalupe had to cope with falling housing prices, a slumping economy and the state decision to disband redevelopment agencies. 

“Within two years for a city this size, that is a perfect storm,” he added.

Councilman Jerry Beatty said he was “absolutely outraged” when he first read the report he called “nothing short of a witch hunt.”

“What they were thinking they were doing is breaking us down,” Beatty said. “I think it’s making us stronger. I think it’s giving us a reason to prove them wrong and to show them that we will have a united front.”

The report did not uncover new troubles in Guadalupe, City Administrator Andrew Carter said, but recounted problems already discovered by him and staff and relayed to the grand jury.

“They didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t know, in my view,” Carter said.

In at least one instance, old information meant the grand jury report had the wrong numbers. Problems with W-2 forms led to fines and penalties the grand jury said totaled $486,000 — a number Carter said is “so incredibly infinitesimally remote it really shouldn’t be commented on.” 

Carter contends the city actually owes $14,000, and said he is waiting for the understaffed IRS to confirm the payment. 

The administrator also said the city is making progress on resolving discrepancies with Guadalupe’s garbage contractor, Waste Management Inc., and had already been reimbursed some $35,000 with more likely to be refunded. 

“We are continuing to pursue this matter,” Carter said.

Last fall, Guadalupe voters strongly passed three measures aimed at generating more revenue to help the city improve its financial woes. 

Ponce, who returned to the council with Julian in December after a two-year break, noted positive additions to Guadalupe — a new Subway sandwich shop now open, a new pharmacy coming in six months and expanded existing businesses.

She called the city “the little engine that can.”

“We’re just going to keep on going…,” she said, quoting “Si, se puede,” the motto of the farmworker labor movement.

“We’re going to make it. We can. Yes, we can,” Ponce said.

Councilwoman Gina Rubalcaba urged the community to stop criticizing those who spoke out about Guadalupe’s problems. She also noted city staff has worked loyally amid furlough days and pay cuts.

“Let us stand together and tell the grand jury, ‘Thanks but no thanks. We will remain a city of Guadalupe,’” Rubalcaba said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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