Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Montecito to explore pros and cons of city hood


The Montecito Association announced yesterday it will host three public forums this month to explore the pros and cons of breaking from county governance and becoming its own city.
The trio of forums, which will be held each of the next three Mondays, are the result of months of grumblings from residents for and against city hood.
Montecito Association President Bill Palladini said much of the discourse has appeared on the pages of the Montecito Journal — a forum he said isn’t as inclusive as a series of meetings.

“Our goal is to educate the community about all of the wide ranging issues relating to governance,” he said. “And that could mean leaving things just the way they are, just being part of the county.”
By hosting the meetings, Palladini said the association in no way favors incorporation, or remaining under county governance. He said the association simply wants to host the forums as a way to better educate the public and the association’s board members on a topic that he believes will receive more attention in the future.
“We really don’t have any agenda here but to fill our role as a community association and to better inform the public,” he said.
As it stands, Montecito is part of the unincorporated county and is governed by the Board of Supervisors. It makes up a large part of the county’s first district, which includes much of downtown Santa Barbara and stretches south to the Santa Barbara, Ventura county line. It is represented by the board’s Chair, Salud Carbajal.
Montecito, unlike many unincorporated areas, has its own planning commission and board of architectural of review, which combined with the Montecito Association, keep a tight reign on land-use.
On the surface, the only level of bureaucracy that appears to be missing is a city council, which some believe is necessary to give Montecito residents more say in local politics.
But issues with succeeding from the county are complex and are currently being experience by Goleta, which incorporated in 2001.
When an unincorporated area becomes its own city, revenue sharing agreements, called revenue neutrality, are negotiated between the future city and the county. Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett has called that city’s one of the worst in the state. The agreement requires the city to pay 50 percent of its property tax to the county, about $8.5 million last year, in perpetuity.
Palladini said questions about revenue neutrality and other important issues that deal with incorporation will be addressed at the forums.
“As a result, what we hope is we all become better informed on the many issues around incorporation good or bad, positive and negative, so that if and when it comes down to making a decision or carrying the conversation further, we’re better informed and the community is better informed,” he said.
The first meeting, titled The Incorporation Process, California Cities and Special Districts, will feature speakers Bob Braitman, executive officer of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), and David Mullinax, manager of regional affairs for the League of California Cities.
On June 23, the subject will be Economics and Finance. Speakers will include Santa Barbara County Auditor Bob Geis and Goleta City Manager Dan Singer. The final forum, Land Use Planning and Development Issues, will feature former planning commissioner and Montecito Association Board member Joan Wells, and John McGinnes, director of the county’s office of Long Range Planning.
The first forum begins at 6 p.m., with the final two beginning at 7. All three will be held at the El Montecito Presbyterian Church at 1455 E. Valley Rd.

No comments: