June 2014 – Another Victory for Common Sense and Terrain Consulting

Voters say ‘No’ to Measure M
June 03, 2014 11:27 pm
Erin Lennon elennon@santamariatimes.com

After months of debate, Santa Barbara County voters went to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether or not to make Measure M law.

With all precincts reporting Tuesday night, 51.29 percent of voters said no to Measure M, according to unofficial returns that included vote-by-mail ballots.

Approximately 48.71 percent of voters voted for the measure.

Had more than 50 percent of voters approved Measure M, the County Facilities Maintenance Ordinance, the county would have been required to keep all of its public roads, parks and buildings in their current condition, which would have required an additional $9 million for road maintenance and an additional $8 million or more for parks and building upkeep annually.

The measure would have kept the county’s more than $340 million deferred maintenance backlog from growing, but Measure M was not designed to shrink that backlog.

The ordinance was proposed by 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam, who earned a spot on the Board of Supervisors in 2012 after campaigning to improve the condition of the county’s infrastructure.

“This organization is a big ship,” said Adam in a previous interview about Measure M. “It costs a lot to keep it running. If you don’t pay the minimum payments, it gets worse.”

The measure came up against strong opposition from Adam’s fellow supervisors and from county department leaders, especially those dealing with public safety. Measure M’s opponents argued that the extra millions required for maintenance would have come from the county’s general fund, which is about $217 million, or about a quarter of the county’s more than $800 million budget. More than 60 percent of that discretionary fund currently goes to public safety. Those opposed to Measure M worried that the measure could put the upcoming 376-bed Northern Branch Jail at risk. The new jail will require about $17.5 million a year in ongoing funding from the county.

“The North County jail is not signed, sealed and delivered yet, and it won’t be until this fall after this vote,” said 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, during an earlier interview about Measure M. But Adam and his fellow Measure M supporters said that wasn’t accurate.

According to Adam, Measure M would have required the county to adjust spending rather than make cuts. He said nothing was going to jeopardize the North County jail, which had been in the works for decades.

“This ordinance requires that the county’s elected officials give roads, parks and buildings the priority they deserve,” wrote Adam in his official argument in favor of Measure M. The argument was also signed by former county supervisors Willy Chamberlain and Tom Urbanske.

Measure M’s opponents would like to see a phased-in approach to increasing the county’s maintenance funding, with 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal suggesting that upwards of 25 percent of the county’s future growth each year be allocated to maintenance.

“The voters, in a close vote, decided to entrust the Board of Supervisors to come up with a viable solution for our infrastructure,” said Carbajal after the votes came in on Tuesday night. He noted that the significant number of pro-Measure M votes showed the public’s interest in investing in the county’s holdings.

Former Santa Barbara County CEO Mike Brown outlined a six-pronged strategy to fund Measure M. Not only did he suggest allocating a portion of the county’s annual new revenue to maintenance, but he also suggested non-programmatic cuts and having the county collect funding left over when departments are under budget, as well as other strategies.

Currently, the county’s Pavement Condition Index score places the county’s roads in the at-risk category, and the county’s parks and buildings are in fair condition based on the Facility Condition Index.