Complaining they have been victims of years of under-representation in county politics and vast ideological differences, residents of northern Santa Barbara County are trying to split the county in two.
If approved, the proposed Mission County will encompass Santa Ynez Valley, Lompoc, San Antonio Valley, Santa Maria, Guadalupe, Betteravia and the Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Citizens for County Organization (CFCO) backs the initiative that would split the county due to a geographical and ideological barrier, which divides the North from the South.
For the measure to appear on the 2004 ballot, the CFCO must gather signatures from 25 percent of North County registered voters in support of the split and approximately 28,000 signatures from both North and South counties. If all the necessary signatures are gathered, a five-member committee appointed by Gov. Gray Davis will study the economic feasibility of Mission County. If the committee finds the new county to be financially practical, it will appear on the ballot, where it must pass by a majority vote of both the existing county and the proposed county.
In 1978, a similar attempt to split Santa Barbara County failed because it was based too heavily in Santa Maria. The initial campaign, led by County Supervisor Harrell Fletcher, was motivated by the under-representation of North County in the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. Since 1978, the population of North County has increased dramatically, but it still has not gained greater representation in local politics. Due to the dichotomy between population and representation, the liberal policies of the politically dominant South almost always come at the fiscal expense of the more conservative North.
North and South Counties oppose each other on a wide variety of issues, including land use, urban growth and a limited versus an active government. The final decision will primarily impact funding issues, especially transportation, social services, education and taxes.