Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Measure A receives 'F' from voters


Measure A went down in flames last night during the City of Santa Barbara’s General Municipal Election, with 56.5 percent of the electorate voting no and 43.4 percent voting yes.
From the first minute results were projected on a screen at City Hall, the ballot measure trailed mightily and the gap widened through the night. The measure ended up with 5,804 yes votes and 7,554 no votes, with 1,054 voters choosing not to vote on the measure.
For many at City Hall, the demise of Measure A, which would have shifted city elections from odd to even years, was a disappointing outcome that wasn’t foreseen.

“The people of Santa Barbara are usually pretty smart,” said Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, who championed the measure along with the rest of the city council. “I guess they like to have their own election and wouldn’t mind if we spend a couple hundred thousand on it.”
The only thing Jim Kahan, who helped author the no on Measure A ballot argument, was disappointed with last night, was that the measure didn’t fail by a greater margin.
“I thought it was going to go down bigger,” Kahan said. “I’m very happy and satisfied that the people in Santa Barbara stood up for Santa Barbara values and preserving our separate identity by not merging our elections and homogenizing them into everything else.”
The council voted to put Measure A on the ballot earlier this year, citing a quote from Santa Barbara County, who usually runs the city’s elections, of about $600,000 to conduct the stand alone, odd-year election.
Facing that number, the council also opted to conduct their own election this year, which was estimated to cost about $300,000.
Measure A drew much controversy due to the fact that had it passed, Blum, and council members Grant House, Iya Falcone and Roger Horton would have received an extra year in office.
By combining the city’s election with the county, state and federal elections on even years, the city council and other proponents argued voter turnout would increase and the cost of running the election would drastically decrease.
Joe Holland, the county’s clerk recorder assessor and registrar of voters, said if the city was to hold their elections on even years, it would cost between $30,000 to $60,000.
David Pritchett, a member of the Santa Barbara Clean Elections Working Group, who was a staunch supporter of the measure, said its demise can be directly traced to the fact that only 32.6 percent, or 14,420 of the more than 44,000 registered voters in Santa Barbara cast a ballot.
“The outcome is going the way it is as a direct symptom of low voter turnout,” Pritchett said. “Imagine what the outcome would have been during a presidential year.”
According to past election years, the city has seen as much as 82 percent of the electorate cast ballots during presidential elections.
Blum noted that the low voter turnout yesterday was a direct example of what she hoped would have been changed by Measure A.
“The idea is not very many people voted and that’s why you vote for Measure A,” she said.
While Kahan and many opponents insisted combining city elections with the big dance would dilute local issues, Blum noted that the goal is to get people to vote. Period.
“I really believe in democracy,” Blum said. “I believe a 100 percent of people should be voting.”
Pritchett and Cathy Murillo, who is also a member of the Clean Elections Working Group, credited the measure’s fate to several local newspapers that spoke out against it and the lack of support it received from the Santa Barbara Police Association and the Firefighters Association.
Sgt. Mike McGrew, president of the Police Officer’s Association, said he was happy with the outcome.
“It’s worked for a long time and I think it will continue to work,” McGrew said of odd-year elections. “It’s part of what makes this town special.”
Minus Measure A, the next city election will be held in 2009, and depending on what the county’s price quote is then, the city might just be in the business of running elections.
“Based on Measure A not passing we’ll probably be doing it again in two years,” said Jim Armstrong, the city’s administrator.
Armstrong said for him Measure A was the simple question of dollars and cents.
But Armstrong said he didn’t believe the outcome would have changed had voter turnout been higher.
Murillo and Pritchett said they will push to get the measure on the ballot either in 2008 or in 2009.
“We have hope for democracy in this town,” Murillo said. “We naively thought that no one would oppose this because the numbers showed it would increase voter participation.”
But Kahan said just having higher voter turnout doesn’t mean people are paying more attention to the issues. Had Measure A passed, he said voter fatigue would have become a major factor in the even-year elections. He said 98 percent of people in the Soviet Union used to vote, but that didn’t mean it was a quality election.
Kahan said the 32.6 percent of voters that did turn out, are the ones that care about the future of their city.
He also said the failure of the measure represents residents’ distaste with the overall direction of the city.
“The bottom line is the people saw through what was being done,” Kahan said. “I see this as a big time rejection of the city council. They wanted this thing so badly.”


David Pritchett said...

I am not crediting it to the positions of the newspapers, which really only represents the views of the 3 individual editors, but rather that the Political Action Committees for the NO side will have outspent the YES side by at least 3 to 1 on the campaign expenses.

One should never underestimate the motivation to keep voter turnout low.

Anonymous said...

David P. is a wingnut, who hardly ever uses common sense in his distorted perpectives.. but in this case he is dead on right what he comments!

"one should never underestimate the motivation to keep voter turnout low"!!! thanks David for pointing this out!

PACs are political scapegoats for everything..and the better you spend, the better results you get. Politics 101~!

Anonymous said...

“The people of Santa Barbara are usually pretty smart,” said Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum

So Marty, are the people of Santa Barbara stupid for making a decison that was against your views? Thanks for the support.

Anonymous said...

My god Pritchett. Don't you realize what a factor you were in motivating people to vote against A? Please, please just stop lecturing people.