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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 7:01 pm | Fair 57º

 
 
 
 

Jason Dominguez Plans to Boycott Santa Barbara City Council Retreat

Jason Dominguez Click to view larger
Jason Dominguez

Santa Barbara City Councilman Jason Dominguez says he plans to skip a City Council retreat this weekend, citing concerns about the meeting’s transparency.

The council is holding an all-day session on city property at the airport, near Goleta, beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The retreat will not be televised or recorded.

Mayor Cathy Murillo said the meeting is designed to help council members understand how to navigate the city’s new district representation system. The city has hired a consultant, at a cost of $12,500, to facilitate the meeting.

The City Council occasionally holds retreats outside the council chamber, but usually they are held at city-owned meeting facilities at Chase Palm Park and Casa de las Palmas on Cabrillo Boulevard.

Murillo said both venues were booked this weekend, so the council must meet somewhere else.

The retreat will be held at the Airport Administration conference room at 601 Firestone Road.

The meetings are designed to take place in a casual environment, where council members can ditch the ties and formal jackets, roll up their sleeves and re-evaluate rules and policies, similar to a corporate retreat.

Dominguez isn’t happy with the venue.

“I'm at a loss to understand how a Saturday meeting that won't be televised, that won't be taped, and is essentially taking place in Goleta is fulfilling the city commitment to open and transparent government,” Dominguez told Noozhawk. “At a time when our city is facing potentially costly litigation for failing to comply with the Public Records Act, this sends the wrong message.

“The items on this agenda can and should be dealt with at our regular meeting place and time, Tuesday afternoons, a venue that is most likely to foster meaningful public engagement and transparency.”

Dominguez said he won’t attend the meeting. Murillo told Noozhawk that anyone is welcome at the meeting, and that there will be an open public comment period like normal council meetings.

Cathy Murillo Click to view larger
Cathy Murillo

She said the retreat will help offer council members some formal training after an abrupt start for herself as mayor and newly elected council members Kristen Sneddon and Eric Friedman. They were sworn in on Jan. 9, the day of the Montecito debris flow.

It has been stressful ever since, she said.

"It was extraordinary for our new council members, including myself as mayor, to be sworn in the day of the Montecito debris flow,” Murillo said. “And the first half of the year, we conducted city business with a six-member council. That was challenging. So this retreat workshop is also an opportunity for us to catch our breath and connect as human beings.”

She added that the meeting will allow the council members to learn how to “respond to their constituents, but still respond to the whole city.”

She said “a retreat is supposed to be a gathering away from your normal workplace.”

“It seems like a time to take a breath and talk in an informal way and, yes, the airport land is surrounded by Goleta, but it is city land,” Murillo said. “There’s plenty of parking.”

The retreat squabble is the latest dustup up between Murillo and Dominguez, who have clashed repeatedly in recent months and years.

Earlier this year, the council appointed Dominguez to serve on the Santa Barbara Association of Governments, but two weeks later reversed course when Councilman Randy Rowse flipped his vote and backed Murillo for the seat instead.

The fracas served as flashpoint for the bad blood between the two, Although both are Democrats on the nonpartisan board, they differ largely on housing policy.

Murillo said she hopes that Jason will attend the meeting.

“I wish he would go,” Murillo said. “He’s one of us, and we want to work with him. I care about the Eastside too.”

At Tuesday’s council meeting, Anna Marie Gott, a Murillo critic and ally of Dominguez, accused the council of a magic act.

“What exactly are you hiding,” said Gott, pointing to the 50 people in the room.

“Do you think any number of these people would actually show up at the airport,” she said. “That is why you won’t be holding the meeting here at the City Council.”

Dominguez on Tuesday addressed the issue, and said he has heard from many of his constituents that they can’t attend the meeting. He said if the council really needs to hold a retreat, it should be about homeless issues or something that the community is actually talking about.

“There should be priority issues we should be focused on,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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