Did You Know? Bonnie Donovan
The waste of money cures itself, for soon there is no more to waste.
— M.W. Harrison
Did You Know? wants to know: Since when did the taxpayers of the city of Santa Barbara authorize the City Council to donate any tax money to political organizations, especially when the city must take $15 million out of reserves to cover current operating costs due to COVID-19.
It seems that the City Council casually made an open-ended, informal, promise to fund the Healing Justice project. This came home to roost, when the Healing Justice representatives claimed $500,000 for two years’ rent. One arrogantly declared, “We are here to cash the check” during the last City Council meeting.
We have a homeless crisis that the city cannot handle. There is not enough money in the coffers to solve that problem alone. City reserves are seriously depleted. Yet the council members consider giving away as much as $500,000 for only two years of rent. That amounts to a commitment to $250,000 a year thereafter.
A council member claimed that $500,000 is only a tiny fraction of the budget for the new police station. That is akin to throwing a red herring at anti-police sentiment.
Yet another example of “feel good” virtue signaling that has nothing to do with running a municipality. Your job, city council, is to fill the potholes, clean the streets, manage zoning and prevent crime in the city for the benefit of the resident taxpayers. The problem is that the city employees take care of all of this, leaving most of the council with little to do, except nod in agreement.
We suspect that the Healing Justice leaders are neither taxpayers, nor residents of Santa Barbara. Yet they have the temerity of hucksters in pitching a demand for $500,000 from the hard-working taxpayers of Santa Barbara to City Council members who have the naivety of the uninformed. Surely, their mentors, who reportedly have amassed $100 million in donations, is the first place for Healing Justice to go to for money. It is in their mutual interests.
Santa Barbara County is awash with nonprofits who give to worthy causes. The 1,147,251 millionaires who live in California might consider contributing. Resident taxpayers of the city may, if they wish, contribute from their own pockets. The representatives of Healing Justice should do the hard work of appealing to these private organizations and individuals, and not attempt to raid city funds, which are paid for by city taxpayers solely to run city services.
If the council thinks it is its prerogative to give away any taxpayers’ money to either political or exclusive groups, there should be equity and diversity in such giving. Many ethnic groups exist who have contributed to the city of Santa Barbara and who would also like to see a city-funded cultural/community center representing their ethnic and racial contributions. The City Council should invite proposals from the following representative groups: Japanese Americans, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Salvadoran Americans, Irish Americans, German Americans, English Americans, Italian Americans, Scottish Americans — you get the drift. We could also legitimately include the many diverse religious groups, who do so much, with so little to help the community.
The list is almost endless. It does show the folly of opening Pandora’s box.
On Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council, armed with “our” open checkbook, will have further discussion of the Emergency Declaration for Homeless Encampments. Remember the Emergency Declaration cannot be approved unless beds are found for only the homeless established in these fire-prone encampments. It’s mind boggling, but this is just for 50 of Santa Barbara’s 900 homeless individuals.
This $900,000 price tag is for 120 days of lodging for 50 people. Buddy, can you spare $150 a day to house each of these 50 people, who chose to camp on fire-prone hillsides?
Only two months ago, SB Act/City Net were given half a million dollars to house “up to 25” homeless in hotels for 6 months. Where does this end? All this for people who choose to live in Santa Barbara, on your dollar. This feels like a hold-up.
“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.”
Speaking of people with their hands out, Healing Justice not only demanded two years of rent ($500,00). But last year, Healing Justice, after insisting on which players were allowed in the private meetings at City Hall, gave its list of demands, which morphed into 30 grand (of taxpayer dollars) for Juneteenth, help finding a community center, along with a demand that historic structures of merit be located, which added to the City Historian Nicole Hernandez’s workload.
Why are these financial demands the responsibility of the taxpayers and doled out by the City Council? Why would Healing Justice get a community center paid for by the citizens when other private community centers are organized and financed and operated by each community? Examples include La Casa de La Raza, the Filipino Community Center, the Greek Orthodox, the Jewish Community Center, B’nai B’rith.
On top of that, imagine if each Santa Barbara cultural group that pays to use Oak Park for their annual festival, (French, Greek, etc.) bull horned their way into 30 grand for their yearly celebration. Where is the pride, the self-reliance, the volunteer hours to make these celebrations happen that we all enjoy? Isn’t this part of our communal nature to educate our fellow man and share the joy and customs of our individual cultures as we live in this nation as Americans?
Talk about the volunteer hours: Healing Justice, which now has two to four representatives, says it should be paid for their volunteer hours, explaining “… it’s so hard and takes so much time …” What then does the city owe Anna Marie Gott, a city activist and weekly speaker at City Council and other local government meetings, for her countless hours of due diligence researching and reporting issues to the city as her civic duty?
While the City Council ponders giving money to Healing Justice, the homeless situation remains at our doorsteps, along with our housing conundrum. Consider this regarding our housing crisis, in Santa Barbara, today, home prices for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom 1,500 sq. ft. home on a 6,000 sq. ft. lot built in the 1970s is an average of $1.1 million.
The cost to build a home is about $275 a square feet. So, 1,500 x $275 = $412,500, plus landscaping and concrete work adding another $30,000. The cost without the land is approximately $442,500. In this example the underlying cost of the 6,000 square-foot lot is $657,500.
However, unused, federal, state, county and city land is already paid for and, theoretically, owned by the people, not government bureaucrats. Should we not demand that all government unused land be immediately assessed for use as sites for housing for the homeless? Homeless housing, built in bulk with a minimalist specification, as we have discussed before, could be built for less than $275 a square foot,especially if the specification included some communal facilities. How about $150 a square foot, for a prefabricated quad accommodation of a total of 2,400 square feet to house 12 people including, four children?
The many mobile home manufacturers in California would jump at the contract.
Imagine $360,000 to house 12 people — or $30,000 per person The total cost would be $27 million to house the 900 homeless people in Santa Barbara.
This housing would be mostly temporary accommodation for up to two years per resident, making it available to be used over and over as some homeless people get jobs and find their own housing situation. Some would, perhaps, remain permanent. Still it is a possible solution.
Gov. Gavin Newsom just received $490 million in the federal American Rescue Funds. Of that, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will receive $80 million to disperse to the cities within our county.
The problem these days is people assume that there is a bottomless pit of money to be spent on their preferred solutions to problems and that a bottomless pit of debt exists that we can access and carry for the same purposes. The same people want the government to either tax more or borrow more, with no thought of the consequences.
Inevitably, we will reach the bottom.
— Ayn Rand