With June 6th right around the corner, the Santa Maria Times has done a thorough job of looking at the proposed Mission County split proposal.
Starting with Randi Block's Creation of New County Would Trigger Big Changes on May 16, 2006, the voters were informed that not only would the proposed new county have a $30 million annual operating deficit, there would also be the necessity for a $5 million loan from Santa Barbara County to pay start-up costs.
In addition, Santa Barbara County Executive Officer Mike Brown stated that for the first two years of the proposed new county's existence, the County of Santa Barbara would be expected to cover services until the new county officials determine they are ready to take over. The proposed new county would have to compensate Santa Barbara County for those services.
This article also mentions that the new county would have to face the lack of a jail, probation and social services. While the state provides some revenue, it wouldn't be enough to fund all services, Brown said.
Brown also stated that the remaining Santa Barbara County would be forced to lay off approximately 2,000 employees because of a shrinking work load. "Most of these people would probably seek work in other comparable jurisdictions and move out of the area," he said.
The clear implication here is that the bedroom communities to Santa Barbara, all of them existing in the proposed new county, would experience a glut of houses on the market -- at a time when there's already too many homes for sale, with interest rates creeping higher.
On May 17, 2006, Quintin Cushner wrote Courts Have No Map If County Splits, with Gary Blair, executive officer of the Superior Courts of Santa Barbara County, stating that, "The statutes are extremely obsolete (dealing with the creation of courts in a new county), and there would have to be new legislation to take into account what takes place in a modern day court."
On May 18, 2006, Michelle Hatfield wrote Educators Worry About Duplication With County Split. The article states that Mission County would have to swallow a lot of start-up and transition costs, which means either cuts in programs or higher taxes. Jeff Hearn, superintendent of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, stated that, "I've never really felt that we lacked representation. Bill Cirone and the county education office staff have always reached out."
On May 19, 2006, Mark Baylis wrote Sheriff: Services Would Suffer With Split, with Sheriff Jim Anderson saying that North County residents would likely see a drop in service levels from their sheriff's department if Mission County is created. "We'd be going back in time 30 years," he said.
The Mission County Formation Review Commission found in its report that a new revenue source would have to be found or a current source increased (taxes) in order to properly fund the sheriff's and probation departments. The report concluded the proposed county would require a 25 percent drop in full-time sheriff's positions and a 46 percent drop in full-time probation slots.
On May 20, 2006, Malia Spencer wrote City Concerned About Grant Funds If Voters Split County. According to Celeste Coelho-Hudson, the city and Santa Barbara County work together to receive federal grant funds, with a county split having the potential to disrupt that flow.
For Fiscal Year 2006-07, the consortium of the city and Santa Barbara County received roughly $1.4 million in federal funds. Coelho-Hudson said that she was unsure if the city on its own would qualify for the program.
Randi Block concluded the series on May 21, 2006, with County Split Backers Remain Silent Supporters in Campaign. Although the Citizens for County Organization (CFCO) have not advertised through signs, television promotions or brochures for a measure that could redirect the entire future of Santa Barbara County, CFCO chair Jim Diani said, "You can't educate people to any depth by putting signs up. Will we lose because of this decision? I don't know, but I'm not playing the manipulation game."
Diani said that he's counting on residents coming out of the "woodwork" to vote to split the county. (One Tin Soldier is dying to comment on those North County people living as Diani suggests, but will remain a gentleman.)
Joyce Howerton of the Coalition Against the County Split said the lack of advertisements is due to a shrinking support base. "It's just a small group of people who brought us the issue, but the majority of Santa Barbara County just think it's a bad idea," Howerton said.
Dave Cross of CFCO chimed in again in support of the split, stating that, "It doesn't matter whether the extra vote (on the current Santa Barbara board of supervisors) is for the north or south, because it's a constant battle for power," adding that cutting bureaucracy in the proposed county by reducing the number of people receiving high salaries will compensate for reductions in general fund dollars.
For the split to be approved, a majority of voters in the entire county as well as a majority in the new county -- essentially land north of the Gaviota Tunnel -- must vote to support it.
And then finally, on May 21, 2006, the editorial at the Santa Maria Times was titled County Not Broken; No Need to Fix It.