The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will discuss its official position on a divisive local issue Tuesday morning, as the supervisors decide whether to officially support or oppose a 30-year-old proposal to split Santa Barbara County in half.
During its Feb. 7 meeting, the board voted to set a hearing on the county split issue for Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Betteravia Government Center in Santa Maria. At the hearing, board members will decide whether to take an official position regarding the county split – a proposal to divide Santa Barbara County in half and rename the northern half “Mission County,” Board of Supervisors Clerk Wendy Ayala said. She said the board will also decide how to word the ballot measure concerning the potential county split, which is scheduled to go before voters June 6.
Ayala said she thinks the board will have a heated discussion at the meeting because several supervisors represent districts in the northern part of the county, where many residents support the county split. She said the board will decide whether to take a united position on the county split or authorize the supervisors to express their individual opinions on the issue, and could potentially allow one or more supervisors to place their arguments for or against the split on the ballot, Ayala said.
Ayala said the supervisors are ready to make a final decision about their position on the county split issue.
“The subject wasn’t even pulled for discussion, they’re all ready to go ahead with the hearing next week,” Ayala said.
According to www.missioncountyformation.org, Santa Barbara, Isla Vista and Goleta would remain in Santa Barbara County after the split. Mission County would include the cities of Solvang, Santa Maria, Lompoc and Buellton.
Santa Barbara County Action Network Executive Director Mary O’Gorman said she thinks the supervisors should put their official positions on the ballot since it could help the voters make better-informed decisions.
“We do think it’s appropriate to submit an argument on the ballot because it is important that county residents have information on the pro and con on the county split,” O’Gorman said.
Robert Royster, Executive Assistant to 5th District Supervisor Joe Centeno, said the supervisor does not want to publicly express his opinion about the split because he thinks the voters should not be influenced by what the supervisors think.
“Mr. Centeno is not really taking a position,” Royster said. “He feels very strongly that voters should decide for themselves.”
The hearing is scheduled to last 20 minutes and will be open to the public, with a portion of the time devoted to public comment. The meeting will be televised live on County of Santa Barbara T.V. Channel 20.