Santa Barbara County Roads, Parks and Facilities Maintenance Requirement, Measure M (June 2014)

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A Santa Barbara County Roads, Parks and Facilities Maintenance Requirement Initiative, Measure M ballot question was on the June 3, 2014 election ballot for voters in Santa Barbara County, California, where it was narrowly rejected.

This initiative was designed to force the county to maintain county owned parks, roads and facilities to keep them in the same or better condition. The Santa Barbara County Controller estimated the initiative would have dictated between $18 and $22 million in additional annual spending. The measure did not approve any new taxes, bonds or new revenue of any kind. Some believed Measure M would have cost the county up to $44 million in some years.[1][2]

Election results

Measure M
Defeatedd No36,58951.91%
Yes 33,899 48.09%
Election results from Santa Barbara County Elections Office

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:[2]

Shall the County Facilities Maintenance Ordinance requiring the County to keep County owned roads, parks and buildings in their current condition or better be adopted?[3]

Impartial analysis

The following impartial analysis of Measure M was prepared by the office of the county counsel:[2]

Measure M was placed on the ballot following a petition signed by the requisite number of voters.

If approved by a majority of the voters voting thereon, Measure M would require:

  • The Board of Supervisors of the County of Santa Barbara (hereafter "Board") to maintain all County-owned roads, parks and buildings used by the public (hereafter "County facilities") in the same or better condition than existed at the time of Measure M's passage;
  • If the condition of County facilities improves above the level that existed at the time of Measure M's passage, that the Board maintain or further improve that higher level of maintenance;
  • The County Executive Officer to present an annual report to the Board about the condition of County facilities, and recommendations about keeping County facilities in the condition that existed at the time of Measure M's passage;
  • The Board to document its compliance with Measure M by adopting a resolution stating the actions taken and the statistical measurements used; and
  • The Board to implement Measure M using whatever powers the Board chooses, except that the Board could not implement Measure M by issuing debt unless that debt is separately approved by the voters.

California's "County Budget Act" expressly delegates to the Board of Supervisors what the Court of Appeal has termed the "exclusive statutory power" to adopt the County's annual budget. (Totten v. Board of Supervisors (2006) 139 Cal.App.4th 826, 830.) in the 2006 Totten case, the Court of Appeal reviewed an initiative ordinance that established a minimum annual budget for public safety agencies and found those provisions to be invalid, in part because those provisions deprived the Board of discretion to provide a lower level of funding. The Court of Appeal stated that requiring a minimum annual budget for public safety agencies would seriously impair the Board's essential government function of managing the county's financial affairs.

Article XII B, section 6 of the California Constitution, generally requires the County to fund local programs mandated by state legislation enacted before 1/1/75. Measure M does not address how to prioritize or adjust funding if, in any year, there are not enough County revenues to adequately fund both:

  • State-mandated programs enacted before 1/1/75; and
  • Measure M's requirement to maintain County facilities in the same or better condition than existed at the time of Measure M's passage.

The Totten case involved public safety agencies, while Measure M involves County facilities maintenance. However, to the extent that Measure M requires the Board of Supervisors to provide a minimum level of funding to maintain County facilities, Measure M may not be enforceable if it seriously impairs the Board's essential governmental function of managing the County's financial affairs, or the Board's ability to fund state-mandated programs. If a court holds that any part of Measure M is legally invalid, Measure M provides that the rest shall remain in force.[3]

—Michael C. Ghizzoni, County Counsel[2]

Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of May 8, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $175,000
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $75,000

Fiscal statement

The following statement of fiscal impact was prepared for Measure M by the office of the county auditor-controller:[2]

The implementation of this proposed County Facilities Maintenance Ordinance could have significant fiscal impacts on County government revenues and expenditures since it would require actions to keep all County roads, parks and buildings "used by the public" in the condition that existed at the time of passage of the Ordinance without identifying a funding mechanism. The fiscal impact on County revenues and expenditures would be dependent on: 1) the standards adopted by the Board of Supervisors to measure the condition of the infrastructure, 2) the Board of Supervisors' ability to provide the annual appropriations for facilities and infrastructure maintenance as balanced against all other County service programs, and 3) the extent to which the Ordinance is valid under California law.

Absent new revenue sources, funding the costs related to maintaining County roads, parks and buildings "in the same or better condition" would result in a major reallocation of County resources away from the services they currently support. Program services that could be decreased include Public Safety Services, Health and Human Services, Community Resources, Policy and Executive Services, and General Government and Support Services. Since many of these program services are mandated by statute, it may not be possible for the Board of Supervisors to fund the requirements of the Ordinance.

Potential funding alternatives could include: 1) pursuing new sources of revenue to specifically fund infrastructure maintenance, 2) issuing voter approved debt per the Ordinance, or 3) a combination of new revenue and voter approved debt. New tax measures such as parcel taxes or debt instruments such as general obligation bonds or infrastructure improvement bonds could be brought to the voters separately to fund this Ordinance. These funding alternatives would increase the County's revenues or other financing sources.

Since the Ordinance does not identify a specific standard to measure the condition of the infrastructure, the County used two indices for the analysis of the Ordinance and to estimate its effect on County revenues and expenditures. The County used a new Facility Condition Index (FCI) for parks and buildings and an existing Pavement Condition Index (PCI) for County roads. The County currently estimates an additional $9 to $12 million annual investment to keep its parks and buildings at the calculated FCI, and an additional $9 million annual investment to keep its roads at the calculated PCI. Therefore, an additional estimated $18 to $21 million in annual expenditures will be required to keep existing infrastructure in the "same or better condition." The Annual cost of the infrastructure condition assessments is estimated to be approximately an additional $400 thousand. It should be noted the County is more established in the measurement of pavement conditions and has been using a PCI since the early 1980s. The FCI for parks and buildings is only being studied and proposed for use within the County for the first times this year. This estimate could change after completion of the current study.[3]

—Robert W. Geis, County Auditor-Controller[2]


"Yes on Measure M" logo


The following individuals signed the official arguments in favor of Measure M:[2]

  • Peter Adam, Santa Barbara County Supervisor
  • Jim Richardson, Mayor of Solvang
  • Tom Urbanske, former Santa Barbara County Supervisor
  • Willy Chamberlain, former Santa Barbara County Supervisor
  • Dale Francisco, Santa Barbara City Councilman
  • Kathy Vreeland, Representing Buellton Chamber of Commerce
  • June B. Van Wingerden, Cut-Flower Grower
  • David H. Kent, former president of the Montecito Association
  • Gregory Gandrud, former Carpinteria City Councilman

Arguments in favor

"Vote YES on Measure M" video

Supporters of Measure M argued that critics were using scare-tactics to avoid the necessity of more maintenance spending by claiming that essential county services would have been cut if Measure M passed. Proponents argued that the costs dictated by measure M were small compared to the county's total budget and that the county supervisors would simply have had to work a little harder to balance a budget that included essential maintenance costs. They argued that Measure M simply directed the county government to do what it was supposed to do in the first place: maintain county facilities.[2]

Some proponents, including the editorial board of the Pacific Coast Business Times, argued that Measure M would have indirect benefits for the county budget. They argued that by forcing the re-prioritization of the budget, Measure M would have catalyzed much needed changes in the county's ailing pension system. Such proponents posited that, in order to find the money to pay for Measure M, the county would have had to consider significant pension reform.[4]

Official arguments

The following official arguments were submitted in favor of Measure M:[2]

This is not a tax. This does not increase our public debt. This Ordinance requires that our County's political leaders adjust spending priorities.

For many years, our elected officials have been putting off properly maintaining our roads, parks and buildings so they do other things with your tax money. Look at our roads. You will see cracks and potholes. Your favorite park may have a crumbling parking lot. County buildings lack functional ventilation systems and have leaking roofs. The small fixes that cost a dollar today will become more expensive the more we delay.

Our political leaders have become accustomed to asking the people to approve extra taxes in order to have routine maintenance performed. Measure A and Measure D are examples of such taxes. Politicians find it easy to put off what they should do - maintain our infrastructure - so they can spend your tax money on other things. The problem is not lack of money. They problem is misplaced priorities. This ballot initiative will restore our priorities to what you, the voters, always expected.

This Ordinance requires that the County's elected officials give roads, parks and buildings the priority they deserve. Maintenance is not glamorous. There is no ribbon-cutting or press release when we do the boring task of maintenance. But it must be done.

This Ordinance makes the County do what is necessary to prevent any further deterioration of our County infrastructure.

It is our responsibility as citizens to insure that our children and grandchildren do not inherit roads, parks and buildings in a third world condition. This Ordinance prevents further deterioration by establishing simple, transparent priorities. NOT by increasing debt. NOT by raising taxes.

The undersigned proponent(s) or author(s) of the primary argument in favor of ballot proposition M-2014 at the Statewide Direct Primary election for the County of Santa Barbara to be held on June 3, 2014 hereby state that this argument is true and correct to the best of their knowledge and belief.[3]

—Peter Adam, Jim Richardson, Tom Urbanske and Willy Chamberlain[2]

Peter Adam

Yes on Measure M, "Peter Adam discusses Measure M"

Peter Adam, Santa Barbara County Supervisor and author of Measure M, wrote a letter to the editor of the Santa Barbara Review, making arguments in favor of his Measure M. An excerpt of this letter is below:[5]

A year and a half ago, the people of the 4th District elected me county supervisor because my message of fiscal responsibility resonated with them. Our roads, parks and buildings were deteriorating for lack of systematic regular maintenance. Soon after assuming office, it became clear to me that the bureaucratic and political movers and shakers were not prepared to change their priorities to address our maintenance issues. To make change happen, I would need the help of you, the people.

I drafted an initiative that would be a modest first step in restoring fiscal responsibility. The initiative requires one simple thing: Don’t let things get worse. It sets a reasonable requirement and leaves the details largely in the hands of our county staff. Happily, our staff is acting more responsibly than the supervisors. In recent budget workshops, staff has outlined various scenarios for complying with Measure M. Our staff is telling the board that complying with Measure M is not an impossible task.

The opponents of Measure M — professional politicians, for the most part — don’t dispute the need for better funding for maintenance. They just don’t want to do it now. They fall back on scare tactics to defeat Measure M so that they can continue spending taxpayer money on “business as usual.”


Measure M sets a simple standard: Don’t let things get worse. Our staff has shown that we can implement Measure M and still have the new jail that we all agree we need. It’s up to you, the voters, to make it happen by voting this June.

Fifteen-thousand petitioners and I put Measure M on the ballot so that the people have an opportunity to tell their elected officials to use the taxes we give them for the purposes the people intend. This is your chance to send your county supervisors a message that you expect them to do “first things first” with your tax money. Just like you do at your home.

Vote “yes” on Measure M.[3]

—Peter Adam, Santa Barbara County Supervisor and author of Measure M[5]

Campaign finance

Peter Adam and the pro-Measure M campaign amassed about $125,000 as of May 8, 2014. Some of the chief donations are listed below:[1]

Donor Amount
Montecito-based Neighborhood Defense League $30,000
Ron Pulice, retired highway worker $5,000
Santa Maria Energy[6] $10,000
Nancy Crawford-Hall, a rancher $10,000
CalPortland, a construction company $12,500


  • The Pacific Coast Business Times editorial board published an article urging voters to approve Measure M. The editorial argued that the measure would not only have helped prioritize county spending, it would have been a step in the right direction with regard to the county's ailing pension fund. An excerpt from the editorial follows:[4]

Measure M would force the county to stop deferring maintenance and infrastructure investments at the expense of salaries and ballooning retirement obligations. It would put millions of dollars to work on construction and paving, create jobs and foster a growth-oriented attitude, particularly in the Santa Maria Valley and Lompoc.


Measure M, if it passes, is a good first step toward re-prioritizing Santa Barbara County's budget. But without meaningful pension reform that caps payouts, creates a defined contribution plan for most employees and brings down annual obligations, finding the money to pay for Measure M will be difficult.[3]

Pacific Coast Business Times editorial board[4]



The following individuals signed the official arguments in opposition to Measure M:[2]

  • Salud O. Carbajal, District 1 Santa Barbara County Supervisor
  • Doreen Farr, District 3 Santa Barbara County Supervisor
  • Joni Gray, former Santa Barbara County Supervisor
  • Joe Centeno, former Santa Barbara County Supervisor
  • Patti Stewart, retired Chief Probation Officer of Santa Barbara County
  • Bill Brown, Santa Barbara County Sheriff-Coroner
  • Joyce Dudley, Santa Barbara County District Attorney
  • S. Monique Limon, Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education member
  • Brad Stein, Mayor of the city of Carpinteria

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino also opposed Measure M.[1]

Arguments against

Opponents of Measure M argued that, because it required an additional expenditure without providing an additional revenue source, the measure would have impaired the county in its ability to provide basic services, such as public safety, library operation, healthcare services, the operation of other key county facilities and other important services. Some opponents also believed the initiative to be illegal, positing that it would not have stood up in court due to precedents granting county governments in California "exclusive statutory power" over the county budget.[2][7]

District Attorney Joyce Dudley was opposed to Measure M and was concerned that it would open the county up to expensive litigation.[1]

Some critics also stressed that Measure M would have applied only to county owned roads, parks and facilities, excluding the most well-used roads and parks in the cities, especially the 226 miles of roads and 27 parks in the city of Santa Maria. Supervisor Lavagnino, while admitting that roads needed upkeep, said that Measure M was to hastily formulated and that it would not have provided expenditure with the proper priorities. Lavagnino was a supporter of the new jail project, for which the county qualified for state grants covering 90 percent of construction costs provided the county funded the remaining 10 percent and provided the $18 million per year needed to operate it. He argued that Measure M would have put an end to the proposed jail project because it would have directed needed funds towards road repair and maintenance instead.[8]

Former county supervisors Joni Gray and Joe Centeno wrote an opinion piece for the Santa Maria Times urging voters to reject Measure M. An excerpt of that article is below:[9]

As former Santa Barbara County supervisors, we remain very interested in and care deeply about the activities of the county and its political issues. Precisely because of this, we recommend a "no" vote on Measure M.

It’s important to fix roads in the county, but it’s even more important to maintain public safety. We are both greatly concerned that Measure M would not give the county the appropriate flexibility to respond to a natural or human disaster. A vote of the people would be required to alter Measure M, tying the hands of supervisors in the case of a tragedy or even looming water shortages.

If Measure M had been the law 10 years ago, today we would not have Union Valley Parkway, the Santa Maria River Bridge widening, and the Santa Maria Animal Center.

Measure M would be an unfunded mandate. No matter the economic or other circumstances, funding of certain parts of the budget would be fixed and could only increase. This would almost certainly occur at the expense of public safety.

Measure M would jeopardize funding for the North County Jail — a risk we cannot afford to take.

The roads that Measure M would fix are not in the cities of Santa Maria, Lompoc or any other city in the county. Similarly, no parks in cities would be improved.

When you dial 911, it’s essential that law enforcement picks up the phone and can respond within five minutes. That’s an essential service that has been lost in many communities. What effect would the passage of Measure M have on public safety? How could the redirection of one-tenth or more of the county general fund budget not affect public safety, when public safety is more than one-half of the general fund budget?

Measure M’s proposed goal is the right idea, but it’s the wrong way to accomplish it. It’s important to develop a plan for facilities improvement that can be implemented together with opening the north county jail, addressing other county fiscal challenges such as its pension system, and that plans for contingencies and another recession.


Measure M as designed would result in cuts in the services most needed by the middle class and would spend those funds for rural roads that serve few. It would likely result in tax increases for all of us.

Please join us in voting “no” on Measure M.[3]

—Former county supervisors Joni Gray and Joe Centeno[9]

Official arguments

The following official arguments were submitted in opposition to Measure M:[2]

There is a saying "if it seems to good to be ture, it probably is." Unfortunately that is the case with Measure M. While it is essential to maintain and improve the condition of our public facilities, this ballot initiative prioritizes maintenance over public safety and has very serious unintended consequences.

Measure M proposes no new funding yet requires huge expenditures by taxpayers. If passed, it will force cuts to existing programs that all members of our community depend upon.

Analysis shows that Measure M would require a minimum of $20 million annually in additional funding. Without new revenue, that amount would need to be cut from programs within the County's discretionary budget of $206 million. The vast majority of the discretionary budget already goes to critical public safety and health services such as patrol deputies, fire protection, emergency services and mental health care.

Ironically, while Measure M claims it will ensure that county parks, beaches and libraries are maintained, it will lead to cuts in funding required to operate those facilities and keep them open to the public.

Please join us and a wide range of groups and leaders from throughout our County including out Deputy Sheriffs and County Firefighters in voting No on Measure M<u>.

The undersigned authors of the primary arguments against ballot proposition M-2014 at the Statewide Direct Primary election for the County of Santa Barbara to be held on June 3, 2014 hereby state that this argument is true and correct to the best of their knowledge and belief.[3]

—Salud O. Carbajal, Doreen Farr, Joni Gray, Joe Centeno and Patti Stewart[2]

Campaign finance

In opposition to Measure M, activists collected about $75,000 in contributions as of May 8, 2014. Notable donors were:[1]

Donor Amount
the Chumash $25,000
Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff's Association $20,000
Santa Barbara County Firefighters Gov. Committee $10,000
Local 620 SEIU $5,000

Supervisors Lavagnino and Farr also pledged $5,000 each of their own money to fund the "No on M" campaign.[1]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Peter Adam led petitioners in their effort to push Measure M onto the ballot. Proponents collected 16,000 signatures in their initiative petition drive for Measure M, which was more than enough for a sufficient initiative petition. This forced the county supervisors to either enact the ordinance or put it before voters. Peter Adam was the only county supervisor who supported Measure M. Each of the other four supervisors voted against enacting the ordinance, opting to put it before voters instead.[1]

See also

External links

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Additional reading