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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 11:29 pm | Fair 44º


Letter to the Editor: Santa Barbara County’s Taxation with Incompetent Representation

Santa Barbara County has spent over $1,250,000 of tax dollars to create a Winery Ordinance. They failed. There’s more expense to come and you should be outraged at County government for allowing this to happen.

So, here’s the bedtime reading:

Approximately four years ago, Supervisor Doreen Farr of the Third District, aggregated support of two of her South County colleagues and asked the Planning & Development Department to come up with an ordinance to govern the wine industry. Now, after four years, the aforementioned expenditure and four consecutive sessions with the Planning Commission plus innumerable public outreach meetings, the Commission voted to send the fourth ordinance proposal to the Board of Supervisors. After considerable chat, the Board recommended that the wine industry and the Planners should get together to discuss yet a further iteration of the Winery Ordinance.

Note that prior to this time no interaction between leadership of the wine industry and the Planners had taken place. Why not?

Let’s pause here. With the exception of one supervisor, not one of them has ever raised a grape, cloned rootstock, knows anything about earth, making wine, generating income from winery or agricultural operations and, for that matter, has no clue what the wine industry is about. This lack of knowledge and experience extends to the Planners. Yet the Planners made every effort to squeeze the wine industry and were given the power to do so.

Tourism is inextricably linked to wine in Santa Barbara. Together, they generate approximately two billion dollars of gross income. However, in the infinite wisdom of the Planners, that critical fact was ignored.

Now, the Supervisors’ recommendation is that, finally, the Planners should consult with the winery industry, a process that should have been initiated from the start.

However, the arrogance of our county executives is now very apparent. Their “top down”, unproductive and destructive approach to control a critical segment of business is a manifestation of how the county is governed.  Governed with ignorance as a guide.

The wonderful Kabuki Theater at the Planning Commission, as presented to a patient public four times, was worth the free admission. Due to the uninformed Supervisors and Commissioners, the Planners emerged as the power, wielding a paper sword. In this theatrical presentation, the human side of five commissioners miraculously emerged. They simply understood that there was no rational basis for what they were handed by the Planners. Nonetheless, probably due to exhaustion, they defaulted and passed the messy, wasteful thing on to the Supervisors.

Throughout public comment periods, the MEGO principle (mine eyes glaze over) was operable at Commission hearings. Understandably, too. I suppose that hearing the same plea from public speakers over and over might produce that effect. When hundreds of people say the same thing to you, there can be two reactions: let your thoughts wander to a hot shower at home, or glean from it a truth upon which you must act.

The outrage of the Winery Ordinance mess should shed light on why Santa Barbara is understood to be the most business- unfriendly county in the state. We hear a lot of palaver from the current urban threesome, First, Second and Third District Supervisors, about how wonderful things are here. However, talk to builders, farmers, small businesses, industrial entities and anyone who wants to be creative in the business environment of Santa Barbara and you’ll hear a much different story.

In the coming election, I hope balance will be injected into the Board of Supervisors. Perhaps that will lead to better and less flawed governance.

Lee Rosenberg

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