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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

How City Hall's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week Powers a Doom Loop for Santa Barbara

A budget shortfall, a deep pockets lawsuit, a growing business exodus, the breakdown of new tax plans, and election year antics all collided at City Hall this week, entangling Santa Barbara in a doom loop of political, economic and policy failure.

Awaiting the imminent arrival of new City Administrator Kelly McAdoo, City Hall bureaucrats keep spinning out one bad idea after another, in an effort to close a $7 million hole in the budget at a time when salary and benefit costs for Santa Barbara's public payroll are soaring.

"Bureaucracies are designed to perform public business," the critic Brooks Atkinson famously observed, "but as soon as a bureaucracy is established it develops an autonomous spiritual life and comes to regard the public as it enemy."

The feral political survival instincts of City Council members grasped this dynamic in several tax increase proposals churned up in the bowels of City Hall; with three of their members up for re-election this year, council overwhelmingly rejected the tone-deaf tax notions - leaving them, alas, still at square one with their $7 million shortfall problem. (Not to mix a metaphor - ed.).

In a special Coffee with Josh and Jerry edition of Newsmakers TV, the genial host and the city's alpha City Hall reporter break down the politics and policy intrigue behind the failed bid to raise parking fees and to impose yet another sales tax hike on a voting population increasingly cranky with high costs for gas, groceries and...everything, remnant of several years of inflation that now has cooled, but that remains culpable for exorbitant prices that spiked and never came down.

Amid the latest tax and fee kerfuffles (and the harsh reality of sinking Transient Occupancy Tax paid by visitors) council got more bad news in the form of several more beloved downtown businesses closing their doors, and an extraordinary lawsuit brought against the city by Disney and Hulu seeking return of hundreds of thousands of dollars dubiously collected over the last several years via an alleged video users tax. Or something.

Squarely in the middle of the city's business woes, of course, squats the seemingly intractable problem of revitalizing State Street, which currenrtly is held hostage by council stubbornness in clinging to a pandemic decision to shut off nine blocks to traffic -- not to mention a sclerotic long-term planning process forecast to produce a blueprint in, oh say, 2049 or so, nor a pedestrian population that is daily forced to cheat death amid hordes of electric bike enthusiasts who now dominate the city's main thoroughfare, the only real winners in the debacle.

Plus: Josh explains the state of play in the District One council race, so far the most competitive local race of 2024, where embattled incumbent Alejandra Gutierrez faces two substantive challengers.

All this and more, right here, right now, on Newsmakers TV.


Check out the new episode via YouTube below, or by clicking through this link. The podcast version is here. TVSB, Channel 17, airs the program, weeknights at 8 p.m. and at 9 a.m. on weekends. KCSB, 91.9 FM, broadcasts the show at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

Image: Innovation Roots

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