Archive » October 16, 2008
By Michael Jaffe
Time to Incorporate the Village of Montecito
Truth be told, I simply cannot come to grips with Montecito’s governance.
Theoretically, the unincorporated area known as Montecito is governed by the County, with special powers given to the First District Supervisor, currently Salud Carbajal. It has always bothered me that the first district supervisor is not actually elected by us – not in the traditional sense that Americans think of elections: a community holds an election and the guy with the most votes wins the job. But in Montecito’s case, the question is: what job? Running the County or running Montecito? This raises another question: when there is a conflict between the goals of the county and the goals of Montecito, how does the district one supervisor vote?
This is the problem for unincorporated areas in the county. We elect people for one job but by default they end up doing at least two. And these two constituencies – the County on the one hand and Montecito on the other - do not always share the same goals.
The question for Montecito is: how does it create governance that is obligated solely to Montecito, and which doesn’t have multiple agendas from multiple jurisdictions demanding time and support? Ask yourself: do you deserve a government whose sole allegiance is to Montecito, which answers directly to you, and which you can change if you don’t like it? Should the residents of Montecito be ruled by majority vote or cabal?
I have read the several editorials and letters that tell us that we in America do not really live in a representative democracy. The argument reeks of sophistry. They tell us that the founding fathers never intended majority rule. But I don’t think the American people believe that. Californians have given recent proof of that by voting Gray Davis out of office. In the late 1970s, tax reformers convinced Californians to pass Proposition 13. One way or another, everyone’s vote should count as one vote, but that’s not the case in Montecito where 40,000 people who don’t live here and have very different concerns dilute the one-person-one-vote concept. And it cannot be argued that this is democratic. It is not, and the majority of residents in Montecito suffer for it.
This and this alone, is the reason I am in favor of the incorporation of the Village of Montecito. And for the life of me, I cannot understand why the opponents of incorporation (they’ll probably call it cityhood, but let’s call it what it is: villagehood) are so scared of a democratically held election. They raise one objection after another: financial, housing, planning; all sorts of things. But one fact remains: there are over 21,000 cities and otherwise incorporated communities in the United States and most of them are doing just fine. If incorporation is such a bad thing, why are there so many of them? And if they can do it, why can’t we?
What rational person would reject real control over their own political fate? Imagine how much more easily we would have handled the Miramar without pressure from the county, which is more desperate to get the new bed tax revenues than pay allegiance to our community plan. And while we are on the subject, isn’t it clear that we could spend the estimated $1.3 million in transient occupancy taxes we’re likely to collect from a re-invigorated Miramar for ourselves in ways that improve our community rather than having the county spend it somewhere else?
I don’t get it. And I don’t get the opposition’s fear. Santa Barbara County is broke, hugely bureaucratic, inefficient, and rife with conflicting loyalties. We should want Montecito residents protecting Montecito. Who’s going to do a better job: The Board of Supervisors or a City Counsel composed of your neighbors and friends?
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