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Santa Barbara Mayor Talks Measure A Myths and Motivations

As mayor I attend many meetings and events, and I find our residents to be interested, engaged and eager to hear what is going on. These days, however, they don’t always have the means to get the news. The future of newspapers may indeed be on the Internet, so I am glad to contribute.

Thanks to Noozhawk for the opportunity to talk with Santa Barbarans on a monthly basis. As mayor I attend many meetings and events, and I find our residents to be interested, engaged and eager to hear what is going on. These days, however, they don’t always have the means to get the news. The future of newspapers may indeed be on the Internet, so I am glad to contribute.

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In future columns I hope to keep you informed on city matters. We can talk about trees, potholes, sewers and drinking water. Then there’s traffic. Slow down and pay attention, Santa Barbara! I am trying to figure out why we are having so many accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists but we will leave that to future columns. We have a pressing issue right now.

There is a city election coming up on Nov. 6 with one ballot measure and eight council candidates, three of whom are running for re-election. Local filmmaker Larry Nimmer has conducted a folksy interview and tour with each candidate and you can view his work here. Good luck with finding the best candidates. For my part, I promise to work with the three winners.

Before you vote, I want to clear up some common myths about the one local ballot measure, Measure A. This measure will move the city elections to even years to coincide with state and federal elections. If you vote yes, the next city election will be November 2010 with all the other jurisdictions. If you vote no, the next one will be November 2009, a city stand-alone election.

Why did the Council put Measure A on the ballot? One word: Money.

Election costs have been rising but lately there has been a huge jump. From 1985 to 2001, the cost of city elections rose to $167,000 from $42,000. Imagine our surprise when the bill for the 2003 election came in at $307,000. The city and county talked, wrangled, and agreed to disagree over a period of four years. We have recently settled that bill but the county Elections Office has estimated the cost for this year’s election at $600,000. Wow! The city decided to run its own election after looking at other comparable cities. We think we can do it for under $300,000.

We looked at the county’s bill and the fact that, in 2006, Measure P only cost us $35,000 because it was in an even-year election and we shared the election cost with other jurisdictions. We put all of this together and decided to ask the voters: Do you want to spend in the hundreds of thousands to have our own elections? Then vote no. Or do you want to spend tens of thousands and go in with the other jurisdictions? Then vote yes.

Myth One: The Council is trying to grab another year in office. We thought of polling our spouses to see what they thought. I believe they would prefer to have their mates back. The job is a demanding one, and we agree to serve for a period of time. No complaints. But the concept that we would try to manipulate things to get another year is just crazy.

Myth Two: Even-year elections will make city elections partisan. I don’t think so. School board elections are held in even years, and they are not partisan. Why would council elections be different?

One benefit of moving to even years is that voter turnout in odd-year elections is in the 30 percent to 39 percent range, but in even years it’s in the 70 percent to 89 percent range. I think higher voter turnout is a plus. Some argue that only the informed should vote so lower turnout is better, but I don’t buy that. Democracy depends on everyone getting out and voting.

So make sure you vote between now and Nov. 6. I already did. I look forward to serving with the winners for two more years. Or maybe three.

Mayor Marty Blum, a former elementary school teacher, was first elected to the Santa Barbara City Council in 1995 and was elected mayor in 2001 and re-elected in 2005. She can be reached at [email protected].

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