The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors came close to issuing an official opinion about the county split at its meeting yesterday morning, but by the end of the meeting, the supervisors remained divided on the issue.
At the meeting, the supervisors discussed whether the board should issue a formal and unified opinion about the county split, which is a proposal to divide Santa Barbara into separate northern and southern counties. During the meeting, held at the Betteravia Government Center in Santa Maria, the board also debated over how the ballot measure regarding the split will be worded when it goes before voters on June 6. At the end of the meeting, the board failed to reach a consensus on the issue and decided to table its discussions about the split until the next board meeting on March 7.
Approximately 10 people spoke out against the county split during the meeting’s public comment period, while no one gave an opinion in favor of it. Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray and 5th District Supervisor Joseph Centenno also shared their opinions on the split at the meeting.
Gray and Centenno said they do not want the board to issue any opinions concerning the county split, because they do not want to influence the outcome of the elections. Firestone said he does not think the board should take an official position on the county split because he wants to express his individual opinion on the issue.
“I have a strong position against the county split, and I don’t think the board should take a stand,” Firestone said. “I would like to make an argument as an individual. … I think that’s more appropriate.”
Joyce Howerton, the former mayor of Lompoc and member of the Coalition Against the County Split, spoke during the public comment period. Howerton said she does not support the split, and she said she thinks the board of supervisors should oppose the measure.
“I urge [the supervisors] to come together as a board to take a stand against the split and tell the people of Santa Barbara County, ‘One county now, one county forever,'” Howerton said.
Mary O’Gorman, executive director for the Santa Barbara County Action Network, a Santa Barbara-based progressive organization that monitors local government, said she is opposed to dividing the county in half, because she does not think the split will help the supervisors resolve any of the economic and political issues that matter to Santa Barbara residents.
“Splitting would not solve any problems,” O’Gorman said. “Your responsibility as representatives of your districts is to state, on the record, as a body, [that you] oppose the split.”
Following the public comment period, 2nd District Supervisor Susan Rose said she was in favor of the board submitting an official argument against the split as part of the materials accompanying the ballot that county voters will receive. She said the board would have more influence over the election if it takes a unified stance on the issue.
“We will have more impact if we stand united,” Rose said.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal seconded the motion introduced by Rose, but after Firestone repeated his objections to the idea, the supervisors decided to postpone their decision until their next meeting in March.