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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 11:28 pm | Fair 50º


Murillo, Dominguez Feud Over Santa Barbara Sea Level Committee Appointment

After contentious debate, council decided to add additional member to panel

Santa Barbara City Council Click to view larger
Members of the Santa Barbara City Council showed open frustration Tuesday over the appointment of Jason Dominguez to the Sea Level Adaptation Committee. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk Photo)

Santa Barbara on Tuesday formed a committee to tackle sea level rise, but not without some drama over who should sit on the panel.

Councilman Jason Dominguez accused Mayor Cathy Murillo of breaking the rules in order to avoid appointing him to sit on the committee.

“I just hate to see the rules change when I apply for something,” Dominguez said. "I just want to know which set of rules you are using."

The Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan is designed to analyze the city’s vulnerabilities to coastal hazards such as coastal flooding, wave impacts, bluff erosion, bluff slope failure, and beach erosion resulting from sea level rise.

The research would study impacts through three marker dates in 2030, 2060 and 2100. From there, the city would analyze the “feasibility, effectiveness, economic and fiscal impacts, environmental consequences, recreation impacts, and other costs and benefits” of various adaptation strategies to avoid coastal hazards.

Dominguez and Murillo have feuded politically the past couple of years, and the tension has thickened since Murillo was elected mayor last November.

Rather than appoint members to the committee based on seniority, Murillo asked the council to nominate up to two individuals, similar to an advisory committee appointment process.

"It seems like a good way to do it," Murillo said. 

Dominguez noted that the appointment should be based on seniority, like similar appointments.

Dominguez earlier this year lost a highly public battle over who should be appointed as the city representative to the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.

Dominguez was initially appointed by his colleagues to the seat, but then the council reversed course, thanks to a flipped vote by Councilman Randy Rowse.

The council majority decided to appoint Murillo to the panel, largely because she was mayor and the senior member. Dominguez has served longer than Eric Friedman and Kristen Sneddon, but not as long as Murillo. 

On Tuesday, three people on the council, Sneddon, Friedman and Dominguez, asked to be on the Sea Level Committee; only two spots were set aside for council members, with the others getting filled by two members of the Planning Commission, and one member of the Harbor Commission, Parks & Recreation Commission and Water Commission, for a total of seven.

Since there were two spots open, each member of the council was able to vote for two individuals: Friedman voted for himself and Sneddon; Sneddon voted for herself and Dominguez; Murillo voted for Sneddon and Friedman; Gregg Hart voted for Sneddon and Friedman; Rowse voted for Dominguez and Sneddon.

When it came time for Dominguez to vote, he tried to vote only for himself, until Murillo said, “You’re going to do a bullet vote now?”

Dominguez replied: “I’m just following the rules as they are being made up as we go.”

Dominguez then decided to also vote for Sneddon.

She received six votes; Friedman and Dominguez both received three votes.

Dominguez then suggested that the council appoint three members to the committee, for a total of eight on the panel.

The council agreed, so Friedman and Dominguez will join Sneddon on the panel.

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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