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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

Randy Blames City's Sweetheart Union Deal in Library Plaza Mess; Talks Cruise Ships, State St., Rents, Paseo

Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse says he views the cost overruns and long delays in the troubled Library Plaza project as "the poster child" for the city's Project Labor Agreement with construction unions.

The project, scheduled for completion last fall at a cost of $9.3 million, now is not expected to be finished until July at the earliest, with a price tag approaching $11 million, a fiasco which the mayor ascribes largely to the PLA.

That agreement, passed by City Council in 2018 and also known as a Community Workforce Agreement, requires the city to hire only union contractors for major public works projects. The result for the library project, Rowse said, was that only two contractors, both from out of town, bid on the complex job, which has been beset by problems from ground-breaking two years ago.

In a special "Ask the Mayor" episode of Newsmakers TV, Rowse expressed hope that the debacle might be enough to convince some of his colleagues to join his opposition to the agreement, and revisit it at a time when the city has several upcoming major building projects, including a new police station. That seems like a long shot, however, in a year when three council members will be looking for support for re-election bids from the Democratic Party, which pushed the PLA onto the city and county government agendas.

In his appearance, an hour before he was scheduled to deliver a "State of the City" address at an annual South Coast Chamber of Commerce event, Rowse also discussed other key issues that now confront City Hall, stating that:

  • The city faces a "three or four percent" projected deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1, indicating it will be manageable with cost controls, despite recent declines in local sales and transient occupancy tax revenues;

  • The council vote this week imposing a 20-visit-a-year cap, and other new regulations, on the cruise ship industry, was the latest example of the lefty social engineering affliction of the council's majority, with only the mayor opposing the new measure;

  • The State Street "promenade," the lamentable result of council clinging for five years to the pandemic-era closure to traffic of nine blocks of SB's downtown corridor, is a failed policy that continues to damage business activity;

  • The ongoing, behind-the-scenes negotiations over a major new housing project at the Paseo Nuevo mall have been complicated by inflation and ongoing uncertainty about interest rates, and should not be made even more complex by a priori council efforts to make starry-eyed demands about affordable housing before there is even an actual deal;

  • He will not be endorsing in any of this year's City Council races, as incumbents Alejandra Gutierrez, Mike Jordan, and Oscar Gutierrez seek re-election, not because he opposes any of them but because of a personal desire to avoid unforeseen political entanglements.

Plus: Don't miss Josh pressing Randy to reveal the double-secret identity of his favorite colleague.

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


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


Cartoon by Jack Ziegler for The New Yorker.


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